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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh warns of the, "Tyranny Of The Reasonable: Popular Complacency In An Era Of Economic Exploitation And Perpetual War."

Uri Avnery puts himself, "In Their Shoes."

Joe Conason tells, "What Margaret Thatcher Really Meant To England And The World."

Glenn Greenwald repeats, "The Soft, Weak Chinese Cite Concerns For International Law And Due Process."

Jim Hightower passes on, "The Wisdom Of The Wealthy."

William Pfaff explores, "Anonymous Murder From A Safe Distance."

James Donahue wonders, "Are Rich Corporate Powers The Real Rulers Of The World?"

John Nichols watches, "Two Million Petitioners Urge Rejection of 'Chained-CPI' Social Security Cut."

John Atcheson asks of, "Keystone XL's Impact Statement: How Stupid Do They Think We Are?"

Robert Reich reviews, "The Stealth Sequester."

Paul Krugman evaluates, "Insurance And Freedom."

David Sirota concludes, "The Reagan Revolution Is Over."

David Swanson is bewildered by, "Scientology For Agent Orange Victims."

Ted Nugent wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Chris Hedges examines, "The Hijacking Of Human Rights."

Norman Solomon says it is, "Time To Bell The Obama Cat."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Facebook Unveils New Waste Of Time" but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Real Democrats Do Not Cut Social Security!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Keith Knight, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Andy Thomas, Lalo Alcaraz, Jerry Holbert, Kirk Anderson, Carlos Osorio, Toronto Star,, Flickr, Zuma, Rex Features, Getty, Senior Airman Larry E. Reid Jr., USAF, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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Real Democrats Do Not Cut Social Security!
By Ernest Stewart

"Real Democrats do not cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid ever. We are here to tell the President that we do not have his back on this proposal. We are also here to tell Congress that we will have the back of those who are going to defend Social Security and that we are prepared to primary those who will not." ~~~ Jim Dean

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.
"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"
"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."
"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor, then?" said Scrooge.
"Both very busy, sir."
"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."
A Christmas Carol ~~~ Charles Dickens

"If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year. Why are you laughing? Do you think that's funny? That's not funny at all. I'm serious as a heart attack." ~~~ Ted Nugent ~ April 2012

"Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In!" ~~~ Michael Corleone

Well, it just hit the fan. Barry released his 2014 budget; and either he is the dumbest president of all time, or he is just the fascist stooge that the Demoncrats and Rethuglicans keep insisting that he isn't. I think he is a lot of both. Of course, he comes to this honestly as the people reelected him to do just what he set out to do back in 2006 -- dismantle Social Security and Medicare. Oh, you didn't realize that? Then you need to pay attention! Here's what Barry's 2014 budget calls for...

$3.77 trillion in spending.

$744 billion deficit.

$580 billion in net revenue from higher taxes on wealthy income earners.

$50 billion in road repair and mass transit spending.

$210 billion in savings from lower interest payments.

$400 billion in health care savings, primarily through higher costs imposed on doctors, hospitals and drug companies.

$200 billion in new discretionary spending cuts divided equally between defense and non-defense programs.

$230 billion cut in Social Security.

$370 billion in Medicare savings by cutting payments to drug companies and providers but also by making some seniors pay more.

You may recall in his 2013 budget, Barry sought $3.80 trillion in spending and projected a deficit of $901 billion.

Since Barry is a lame duck, he can continue doing what ever his puppet masters want him to do without worrying about reelection. However, his Demoncratic colleagues are under no such protection, and have no doubt if they vote for it and it passes, they can kiss their political career goodbye, and might as well go get a job bribing other Con-gressmen as the plans have already been made to challenge them in primaries while supporting those who voted against it. We'll also name the Demoncrats as the anti-Social Security party which will no doubt delight the Rethuglicans, and no doubt give them control of the Senate in 2014. Then they can get around Barry by majority vote. As I said before the election, so what if the Rethuglicans have control? At least they've never signed on for stealing from the elderly; they may be dumb, but they're not dumb enough like Obama to reach out and grab that third rail.

In Other News

I see that debtors prisons are making a comeback, along with the depression. Although they were ruled illegal in a 1983 United States Supreme Court decision which declared this practice to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, not to mention Federal imprisonment for unpaid debt has been outlawed by the federales since 1833.

Of course, that's not stopping politicians and courts across the land from breaking those laws in order to make an extra buck from the poor, and only the poor. Everyone else would just pay a small fine and go their merry way. Don't have the money? Then it's off to jail until you do, except, of course, if the poor had the money to begin with they wouldn't be here now. All this does is make it all the harder for the poor; but since they have no money, the court or city or county ends up having to pick up the tab for the court, appeals, incarceration, etc. So, it's a lose-lose situation for everybody. But just because something is stupid and illegal, that fact has never stopped a U.S. politician from doing something that was stupid and illegal!

When one thinks of debtors prisons, workhouses, and the like, you think of Dickensonian London -- not 21st century America. Trouble is, what lands a person in jail isn't because they failed to pay a city fine or bill, but because they didn't pay a private bill, or didn't get a notice of a pending suit; and the next thing they know, they're going to jail on the authority of a collection agency. I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs!

They control the horizontal; they control the vertical!

While it's now happening all over the country, a hot bed for this treason is a group of counties in northern Ohio stretching from Sandusky all along the Lake Erie lakeshore to the "mistake-on-the-lake" Cleveland. Not a big surprise there, especially since they lost their funnel to the trough, Dennis Kucinich, who kept that area alive for years, long after all the heavy industry had pulled out.

You may recall that two years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported, "...after interviewing twenty judges across the country, the number of borrowers who were threatened with arrest in their courtrooms had surged since the financial crisis began." Then added that "Some borrowers who were jailed had no idea before being locked up that they were sued to collect an outstanding debt because of sloppy, incomplete or even false documentation. It is becoming more and more common for debtors to serve time in jail, some debtors are even required to pay for their time spent in jail - which, exacerbates their dire financial situations."

If allowed, there comes a time in all fascist regimes where they start thinning out the herd. I think that time is fast approaching in this country; and this trend is just the very tip of the iceberg. Ten years ago, when Bush started building the new Happy Camps and started bringing the existing camps up to snuff, I thought it was going to be the Mexicans and Muslims rounded up and sent to them; but now I think they're going to go after the most vulnerable first. The same ones that Barry keeps trying to sell out to the Rethuglicans, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the hungry. The rich have never liked the poor that they created; now they have the power to do something about it!

And Finally

From our, "It Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Guy" department, comes this week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner, the Motor City Madman, old sh*t britches himself, your favorite coward and mine, Ted Nugent!

I'm so old I remember Ted when he was just a hippie, speed freak, guitar hero wannabe. Who'd stay awake for a week on cocaine and speed and play mindless guitar riffs until you wanted to kill him. Still, I liked that old Ted, helpless and harmless as he was. What I think happened is he was just being his "normal" self, and it drove old Fred Bear over-the-edge and he put an arrow in Ted's brain! Now, wouldn't that explain a lot of things? I mean, wouldn't it?

Perhaps Ted wants to get rid of that sissy-Mary Wayne LaPierre and take over the NRA. Sure, Ted's crazy; but so is Wayne. Wayne was so crazy, he was too crazy to be drafted; and so was Ted, who showed up at the Ft. Wayne induction center covered in smeared feces with a big pile in his pants that spilled out for all to see. Yep, Ted is qualified, he's crazy and a coward, which seems to be the prime qualifications to run the NRA!

Ted has also been making threatening speeches against the President; his latest faux pas was calling for support when he kicks in the door of the enemy camp! In Ted's own words...

The left dominates the public discourse. And here we are, with the Chicago gangster, ACORN rip-off scam-artist-in-chief because we, who know better, were silent. I suppose we were being tolerant and moderate. And the Nugent guy, well he's a radical. And again, it's not about me. I don't want a pat on the back. I don't need one. I don't seek one. It's inconsequential.

But when I kick the door down to the enemy's camp, would you help me shoot somebody? Just help me clear the room. And again, that's a metaphor ladies and gentleman, I'm not recommending shooting anybody. It's a metaphor of how to counterpunch the enemy if someone is willing to be on the frontline.

Ted went on recalling what he said last April...

If Barack Obama becomes the President in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year. Why are you laughing? Do you think that's funny? That's not funny at all. I'm serious as a heart attack."

He concluded his remarks with a call for the audience to "ride into that battlefield and chop [Democrats] heads off in November." Ted continued...

That's why I said almost a year ago, Cam, and people recoiled in horror. And I know it caught a lot of my friends off-guard, when I said if this America-hater, if this freedom-hater, if this enemy of America becomes the President again, I'll either be dead or in jail. And remember when I was on the stage with you and some people chuckled?


NUGENT: So we find humor in a disastrous statement from a guy who is on the front lines, who has been in the front lines of the war against gun ownership for at least forty-plus years. So it's funny that I might be dead or in jail. And that is so indicative of how callous and disconnected some are, because you are talking about arbitrary, punitive, capricious draconian felonies.

So, for calling for acts of treason and sedition, Ted Nugent wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

Hey, we made our first due bill of the year with two weeks to spare! Thanks to the help of Ernie from Ontario, half of July's bill has been paid. Ernie is, as you must know by now, one of the "usual suspects." A group of men and women from around the world who are of a like mind and who are our most fervent supporters. Without whose help we would have gone under like 95% of the rest have over the years and decades.

They support us because we are here ferreting out the truth and bringing it to the light of day 24/7/365! I've always found that you can deal with the truth as bad as it might be; but you must know what it is -- and what it means. We will tell you what it is -- what it means to you and yours is up to you. With all the MSM and most of the Internet owned and operated for the sole benefit of the 1%, the truth in this day and age is very hard to come by, indeed; is it not?

Therefore, I would think it would be to your advantage to help keep us afloat. If you can, won't you please send us what you can, as often as you can; and we'll put it to good work -- like we did with Ernie from Ontario's nice donation! June's bill is due in about 9 weeks, and the 2nd part of July's bill due 4 weeks after that; so, please help us if you can! Also, for you Facebook members, please "like" us, as we've moved the Forum section of the magazine over there! And like the old Forum, please feel free to say hi or post an article!


10-22-1942 ~ 04-08-2013
Thanks for the film!

10-13-1925 ~ 04-08-2013
Ding Dong The Witch is dead!


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


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

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

Tyranny Of The Reasonable: Popular Complacency In An Era Of Economic Exploitation And Perpetual War
By Phil Rockstroh

Throughout the course of human affairs, scheming elitists -- let's call them the Plundering Class -- have devoted their days conceiving strategies and executing agendas that serve to enrich the fortunes of a ruthless few (namely themselves) by an exploitation of the harried and hapless multitudes. They scheme, hire silver tongued flacks and muster soldiers to do their biding, while, all too often, the rest of us squander the fleeting days of our finite lives in their service. They plot while we hope. They hoard the bounty of the world while we hoard resentments (generally misplaced upon those equally as power-bereft as we are).

"The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed." -- Ernest Hemingway

Yet we vulnerable nobodies are free to lie the truth, while self-impressed schemers merely lie. We can live artfully, while they have enclosed themselves in prisons of artifice.

They wage wars of choice to gain power, acquire plunder, and leave a wasteland of rubble and ashes in their wake. They pursue economic agendas that exploit the things of the world (and that includes rendering the inner landscapes of all concerned a psychical wasteland...and, yes, that includes their own). This is the meaning of the overused (yet terrifying in its implications) term...losing one's soul i.e., the dismal state of affairs of having a soulless agenda -- but not a life. The soul -- being an ever persisting, always dying multiverse of living images -- cannot be reduced to a PowerPoint presentation. You cannot conceive and execute a scheme that will suffuse the hours of your life with resonance, depth and meaning, but you can scheme (as is the mode of mind and the modus operandi of the Plundering Class) your way into creating a hell on earth. In this way, the elites of our soul-decimated age have been successful beyond their most self-deceiving expectations.

Is not the relentless shallowness of the corporate/consumer culture a type of a lie -- and a pernicious one at that? Not even taking into account the effects of being plied and pummeled by the relentless legerdemain of a nearly all-enveloping commercial media, a stultifying social milieu has evolved in which the individual is coerced, by means, both overt and subliminal, to construct a false self, a cipher persona, in order to adapt to the demeaning demands of corporate authoritarianism.

A tyranny of the reasonable is in place under corporate hegemony, in which the unique and unruly nature of human character is deemed inappropriate to a workplace environment -- an outright affront to the "team player" esprit de corps of the corporate state. Thus, those adapted to embodying the lie inherent to living a superficial life are considered a company asset (until, of course, perennial rounds of downsizing begin) while truth-tellers carry qualities of the chronically unemployable, and whistleblowers become objects for federal prosecution.

Yet, there is a place, an indomitable domain within you that allows you to live with truth...that allows you to live so deeply within your authentic nature that you can live beyond yourself. Finding this place is crucial: For if you cannot bear what is true (often uncomfortably so) about yourself, it is impossible to discern the true nature of others.

Consequently, life is reduced to a series of provisional deceits. The ability to love becomes atrophied. The world becomes a prison constructed of petrified longing and misapplied aggression. One falls easy prey to peddlers of false hope and propagandists who promote wars based on lies.

In contrast, it is essential to maintain a sanctuary within where shame cannot trespass -- where your luminous (but inhuman) daimon is allowed rendezvous with transitory, mortal longing -- where the daimon's outrageous demands cross-pollinate with grim, earth-shackled realities, thus allowing for not only the bloom of radiant possibility but the ability to apprehend a self-serving lie and nip it in the bud.

This is the place where love is born and abides. It stands before us, every moment of every passing hour. It takes an acquired, all too common myopia, to lose sight of it. Not all truths are created equal. At times, true statements can be launched with malevolent intent. Such declarations of fact should be avoided for the sake of all concerned (e.g., "Your child was served with a large dollop of the ugly gene distributed so generously in your family"). In contrast, calling out an insidious lie told in the pursuit of a selfish agenda serves the benefit of all, but the promulgator of the self-serving fiction (e.g., a lie such as: "Evidence indicates that the despotic ruler of (fill in the blank of a resource rich or strategically located nation) has become a threat to life and to the liberty of the world at large; therefore, we have no choice but to invade with the full force of our military might and establish the democracy that decent people everywhere yearn for"). The same applies to convictions borne of convenient self-deception (e.g., "I support the troops deployed in the aforementioned invasion...or else people might accuse me of supporting the terrorists."

For an individual, by far, the biggest danger in trafficking in transactional lies arises from losing awareness of the demarcation point between where the lie starts and you begin -- your existence reduced to a fixed smile (and a clutch of hidden resentments) that announces the presence of a counterfeit life. By losing the recognition that you are lying, your life becomes a lie. Often, a comforting lie can be as insidious as an outright prevarication. Building a worldview based on comforting lies translates into a habitual muting of the senses -- a white noise of the mind takes hold drowning out the unique music that forms the core of one's consciousness...obliterating, the quality Kabir averred is: "The flute of interior time [that] is played whether we hear it or not. What we know as 'love' is its sound coming in."

"Where else," the poet asks, "have you heard a sound like this?"

Sometimes, in art, one must lie -- create artifice -- to trudge in the direction of truth. Yet when governments lie, and those lies, in time, are regarded as historical fact, the lies may become fixed in place, as obdurate as marble monuments, in the collective mind of the populace, even as the culture that was created by those lies comes apart by the wisdom-bereft actions of an ignorant public.

Through it all -- and despite the efforts of even the most relentless prevaricators -- the mysterious nature of life - its unfathomable vastness, its endless intricacies, ambiguities, gradations of truths and variability of outcomes -- provides life with a redemptive quality. The phenomenon allows us, although not often enough, to avoid the hubris of claiming we are privy to all-encompassing, monolithic truth, for, as history reveals, that way lies oppression, stagnation of imagination, murder and madness.

Few things mitigate a compulsion to lie as does admitting bafflement and committing to a sustained attempt to learn to live within the unfolding mystery inherent to earthly life. Said mode of being should not be confused with the unfortunate fate of drifting through life as a wishy-washy cipher. Conversely, the approach allows one to remain open to, thus be enriched by, a wide range of life-enhancing, certainty-shattering, wisdom-garnering experiences.

Moreover, a tenacious angel resides in states of absence. To remain connected to the heart of existence, we must continue to love those things that have been irretrievably lost to us. Accepting one will never be privy to omniscience allows seeds of possibility to take root in the cracks and fissures of the soul that have been wrought by heartbreak.

Antithetical to the overreach of empire and the dynamic of addiction inherent to the consumer state, limits allow us to love the things of the world that stand before us. A kind of deliverance is achieved by arriving at the demarcation point yawning between What Is Gone Forever and Things That Can Never Be. This is one of the locations of the soul where grace approaches us -- a junction where we have been waylaid by circumstance and pierced by grief.

Consequently, we are held in place long enough to not habitually rush past beauty.

The individual who finds an implicate order within -- who keeps hold of the golden thread of his true nature as he wends through the baffling labyrinth of social convention and official deceit -- will make an ally of fate. His true name will be emblazoned upon his heart and will ring across the devouring abyss of a conformist age.

In bleak contrast, how can a people whose consciousness and concomitant mode of being was forged in a furnace of cultural perfidy be capable of building anything of enduring worth? The facile fades, even as the lie that gave rise to millions of deceitful heirs lives on (e.g., The citizenry of the U.S. who have shunted from consciousness and expunged from memory, the millions of slaughtered human beings (from Central America to Central Asia, from Southeast Asia to the Persian Gulf) resultant from the imperial ambitions of the nation's ruling elites).

We claim we know who we are. We believe the fictions we spin regarding our identity and our interactions with the world. But, to a large degree, we are composed of the very things we are unaware of about ourselves -- the things that we find too uncomfortable to admit inform our actions and form the foundation of our fate.

Propagandists, corporate and political, know this: They know how to manipulate those resistant to self-awareness, by plying them with flattering lies and pummeling them with contrived fears. These overpaid, professional liars know how to trap us in cages constructed of our cherished convictions. This is why, as a general rule, human beings prove so easy to control.

If you find what you have been habitually avoiding, you might blunder upon who you are.

Antithetical to the process of self-awareness: The quintessence of duplicity we know as corporate man is not interested in connection nor exploration; he craves control. He is not moved by mystery; he has an agenda. He does not know life; he possesses a facile contrivance of being.

But the currents of time will erode his counterfeit world. He will be left with nothing, because, in the long run, he will only possess his own emptiness.

Yet, you cannot force truth upon the deceived. If a deluded soul is fortunate enough to stumble upon it, he will have found it beneath the rubble of his collapsed convictions. His most treasured, now shattered, verities will glint like shards in moonlight, as irascible circumstance has forced him to question all he insisted was true.

This is the means by which wars are avoided. Here is located the point of departure where a subversion of a corrupt order begins.
(c) 2013 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

In Their Shoes
By Uri Avnery

OBAMA IN ISRAEL: Every word right. Every gesture genuine. Every detail in its place. Perfect.

Obama in Palestine: Every word wrong. Every gesture inappropriate. Every single detail misplaced. Perfect.

IT STARTED from the first moment. The President of the United States came to Ramallah. He visited the Mukata'a, the "compound" which serves as the office of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

One cannot enter the Mukata'a without noticing the grave of Yasser Arafat, just a few paces from the entrance.

It is quite impossible to ignore this landmark while passing it. However, Obama succeeded in doing just that.

It was like spitting in the face of the entire Palestinian people. Imagine a foreign dignitary coming to France and not laying a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Or coming to Israel and not visiting Yad Vashem. It is more than insulting. It is stupid.

Yasser Arafat is for the Palestinians what Gorge Washington is for Americans, Mahatma Gandhi for Indians, David Ben-Gurion for Israelis. The Father of the Nation. Even his domestic opponents on the left and on the right revere his memory. He is the supreme symbol of the modern Palestinian national movement. His picture hangs in every Palestinian office and school.

So why not honor him? Why not lay a wreath on his grave, as foreign leaders have done before?

Because Arafat has been demonized and vilified in Israel like no other human being since Hitler. And still is.

Obama was simply afraid of the Israeli reaction. After his huge success in Israel, he feared that such a gesture would undo the effect of his address to the Israeli people.

THIS CONSIDERATION guided Obama throughout his short visit to the West Bank. His feet were in Palestine, his head was in Israel.

He walked in Palestine. He talked to Palestine. But his thoughts were about the Israelis.

Even when he said good things, his tone was wrong. He just could not hit the right note. Somehow he missed the cue.

Why? Because of a complete lack of empathy.

Empathy is something hard to define. I am spoiled in this respect, because I had the good fortune to live for many years near a person who had it in abundance. Rachel, my wife, hit the right tone with everyone, high or low, local or foreign, the old and the very young.

Obama did so in Israel. It was really amazing. He must have studied us thoroughly. He knew our strengths and our weaknesses, our paranoias and our idiosyncrasies, our historical memories and dreams about the future.

And no wonder. He is surrounded by Zionist Jews. They are his closest advisors, his friends and his experts on the Middle East. Even from mere contact with them, he obviously absorbed much of our sensitivities.

As far as I know, there is not a single Arab, not to mention Palestinian, in the White House and its surroundings.

I assume that he does receive occasional briefings about Arab affairs from the State Department. But such dry memoranda are not the stuff empathy is made of. The more so as clever diplomats must have learned by now not to write anything that may offend Israelis.

So how could the poor man have possibly picked up empathy towards the Palestinians?

THE CONFLICT between Israel and Palestine has very solid factual causes. But it has also been rightly described as a "clash between traumas": the Holocaust trauma of the Jews and the Naqba trauma of the Palestinians (without suggesting equivalence between the two calamities.)

Many years ago in New York I met a very good friend of mine. He was an Arab citizen of Israel, a young poet who had left Israel and joined the PLO. He invited me to meet some Palestinians at his home in a suburb of New York. His family name, by the way, was the same as Obama's middle name.

When I entered the apartment, it was crammed full with Palestinians - Palestinians of all stripes, from Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, the refugee camps and the Diaspora. We had a very emotional debate, full of heated arguments and counter-arguments. When we left I asked Rachel what, to her mind, was the most outstanding common sentiment of all these people. "The sense of injustice!" she replied without hesitation.

That was exactly what I felt. "If Israel could just apologize for what we have done to the Palestinian people, a huge obstacle would have been removed from the road to peace," I answered her. It would have been a good beginning for Obama in Ramallah if he had addressed this point. It was not the Palestinians who killed six million Jews. It was the European countries and - yes - the USA which callously closed their doors to the Jews, who were desperately trying to escape the lot awaiting them. And it was the Muslim world which welcomed hundreds of thousands of Jews fleeing from Catholic Spain and the inquisition some 500 years ago.

OUR CONFLICT is tragic, more than most. One of its tragedies is that neither side can be entirely blamed. There is not one narrative, but two. Each side is convinced of the absolute justice of its cause. Each side nurses its overwhelming sense of victimhood. Though there can be no symmetry between settlers and natives, occupier and occupied, in this respect they are the same.

The trouble with Obama is that he has completely, entirely, totally embraced one narrative, while being almost completely oblivious to the other. Every word he uttered in Israel gave testimony to his deeply-rooted Zionist convictions. Not just the words he said, but the tone, the body language, all bore the marks of honesty. Evidently, he had internalized the Zionist version of every single detail of the conflict.

Nothing like this was in evidence in Ramallah. Some dry formulas, yes. Some honest efforts to break the ice, indeed. But nothing that touched the hearts of the Palestinians.

He told his Israeli audience to "put yourselves in the shoes of the Palestinians". But did he do so himself? Can he imagine what it means to wait every night for the brutal banging on the door? To be woken by the noise of bulldozers approaching, wondering whether they are coming to destroy your home? To see a settlement growing on your land and waiting for the settlers to come and carry out a pogrom in your village? Being unable to move on your roads? To see your father humiliated at the road blocks? To throw stones at armed soldiers and brave tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and sometimes live ammunition?

Can he even imagine having a brother, a cousin, a loved one in prison for many, many years because of his patriotic actions or beliefs, after facing the arbitrariness of a military "court", or even without a "trial" at all?

This week, a prisoner called Maisara Abu-Hamdiyeh died in prison, and the West Bank exploded in rage. Israeli journalists ridiculed the protest, stating that the man died from a fatal disease, so Israel could not be blamed.

Did any of them imagine for a moment what it means for a human being to suffer from cancer, with the disease slowly spreading through his body, deprived of adequate treatment, cut off from family and friends, seeing death approaching? What if it had been their father?

THE OCCUPATION is not an abstract matter. It is a daily reality for two and a half million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - not to mention the restrictions on Gaza.

It does not concern only the individuals practically denied all human rights. It primarily concerns the Palestinians as a nation.

We Israelis, perhaps more than anyone else, should know that belonging to one's nation, in one's own state, under one's own flag, is a basic right of every human being. In the present epoch, it is an essential element of human dignity. No people will settle for less.

The Israeli government insists that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the "Nation-State of the Jewish People". It adamantly refuses to recognize Palestine as the "Nation-State of the Palestinian People". What is Obama's position on that?

FOLLOWING THE visit, Secretary of State John Kerry is now working hard to "prepare the ground" for a "resumption" of the "peace talks" between Israel and the PLO. Many quotation marks for something so flimsy.

Diplomats can string together hollow phrases to conjure up the illusion of progress. That is one of their main talents. But after a historic conflict lasting some 130 years, no progress towards peace between the two peoples can be real, if there is no equal respect for their national history, rights, feelings and aspirations.

As long as the US leadership cannot bring itself to that point, the chance of its contributing to peace in this tormented country is close to nil.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

What Margaret Thatcher Really Meant To England And The World
By Joe Conason

Amid all the suffocating claptrap celebrating Margaret Thatcher in the media, only the British themselves seem able to provide a refreshing hit of brisk reality. Over here, she is the paragon of principle known as the "Iron Lady," devoted to freedom, democracy and traditional values who bolstered the West against encroaching darkness. Over there, she is seen clearly as a class warrior, whose chief accomplishments involved busting unions and breaking the post-war social contract.

Promoting the economic doctrines of the far right-whose eager acolytes in the tea party today revere her-Thatcher helped to hasten the decline of the venerable English village whose values she claimed to represent. "There is no better course for understanding free-market economics than life in a corner shop," she once wrote, recalling her upbringing in the little grocery store that her father operated in the town of Grantham. But as a left-leaning British writer observed acidly, her "free-market policies led to the domination of small-town life by supermarkets and other powerful corporations."

In the hometown she left behind, factories were shuttered and coal mines closed, owing to her policies-which may be why not so long ago, the vast majority of the town's residents expressed opposition to erecting a bronze statue of her.

Indeed, much as she emphasized her humble roots-a theme echoed constantly in the American media-the less romantic fact is that Thatcher's path to 10 Downing Street was paved with the fortune of her husband Denis, a millionaire businessman. It was not an image that matched her self-portrait as a hardworking grocer's daughter, but it turned out to be the template for the policies she pursued as prime minister-cracking down hard on unruly workers; cutting aid to the poor, even milk for children, and privatizing public services for better or worse, but always to the benefit of the financial class.

At the same time that she and her ideological companion Ronald Reagan were smashing labor on both sides of the Atlantic, with lasting consequences for equality and democracy, they voiced support for workers in Eastern Europe, where unions rose up against Stalinism and Soviet domination. Workers' rights were to be defended in the East and abrogated in the West.

Three decades later, her ideological heirs continue to prosecute class warfare against public and private sector workers, seeking to deprive them of the same rights that she and Reagan supposedly held sacrosanct in communist Poland. To fulfill the Thatcherite crusade against organized labor, America's Tea Party governors are now undermining and virtually abolishing the right to unionize in their states.

The justification for this sustained assault on working families, then and now, was to prevent inflation and promote economic growth. Yet the result of Thatcher's policies was unemployment that hovered around 10 percent during most of her rule, and inflation that remained around 5 percent. Hardly a roaring success, even when measured against the current weak recovery.

In a statement released by the White House, President Obama said that her death meant the loss of "one of the world's great champions of freedom and liberty"-a peculiar tribute from the first black U.S. president, considering that Thatcher, like Reagan, defended the apartheid regime in South Africa from its Western critics.

She opposed the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress who later became South Africa's first democratically elected president, referring to him as a "terrorist." In 1984, she reversed longstanding British foreign policy by hosting a state visit by white South African president P.W. Botha. And although she defeated Argentina's military junta in the Falklands war, Thatcher befriended the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet-even inviting him to her home in England when he was under investigation for human rights atrocities.

Here in America, at least, the pap mythology surrounding Thatcherism-its putative successes and purity of purpose-contrasts with the reality of a cruel and contradictory ideology whose malignant impact lives on without its namesake.
(c) 2013 Joe Conason is the editor in chief of

Convicted murderer Naw Kham being led to his execution in China.

The Soft, Weak Chinese Cite Concerns For International Law And Due Process
Beijing considers but rejects drone-killing an elusive foreign killer hiding in the jungle claiming sovereignty issues and the need for a trial
By Glenn Greenwald

A heinous act of wanton slaughter, committed on 5 October 2011, dominated Chinese news for months. Two Chinese cargo ships were found adrift on the Mekong River, a major trade route for China, near the Thai-Burmese border, with 13 Chinese crew members brutally killed, summarily stabbed or shot with their hands bound behind their backs and their mutilated bodies dumped in the water. The Chinese government suspended passenger and cargo traffic on the river, while the Chinese public was furious at the government's failure to protect against violence on the Mekong and "increasingly critical of government agencies not perceived as taking a strong enough stand to defend the country."

The suspected mastermind of the massacre was quickly named by the Chinese: Naw Kham, the Burmese leader of the largest drug trafficking gang in the so-called Golden Triangle, where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand converge. A major manhunt for Naw Kham ensued under the direction of Liu Yuejin, head of China's antinarcotics bureau in its Ministry of Public Security. But it proved exceedingly difficult to find him because he was hiding in the vast mountainous jungles of Laos, which he knew well and which had a network of loyalists to protect him that included, according the experts in the region, operatives within the Burmese and Thai armies and the Laotian security forces.

Moreover, the Chinese were limited by both political constraints and technological capabilities in what they could do in that region. The Global Times noted that ""some analysts had even said the hunt for Naw Kham could be as difficult as the hunt for Bin Laden," while Chinese newspapers quoted others as saying that "the overseas manhunt was more difficult than that of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, in that the only preliminary clue [about Naw Kham] was a suspect portrait taken 20 years ago." On at least three occasions when the Chinese were convinced they had located him, they were unable to secure the cooperation of government and local police officials quickly enough or overcome the protection of local villagers, who engaged in firefights with police forces trying to apprehend him. That enabled Naw Kham to disappear across the border into the jungle of Myanmar.

As a result of these obstacles, the Global Times reported back in February, China seriously considered using a drone strike in Myanmar to kill him: "an unmanned aircraft to carry 20 kilograms of TNT to bomb the area". That option was rejected because, the report said, the Chinese were intent on capturing him alive and trying him in court. This morning, the New York Times provides more details on this decision-making process:

"The Chinese were so intent on catching up with Mr. Naw Kham that security forces considered using a drone to kill him.

"The drone idea was eventually abandoned even as Mr. Naw Kham outfoxed his pursuers in Myanmar's mountainous jungles, said Mr. Liu, a precise man with a photograph of himself at a Mao heritage site on his office wall.

"The Chinese news media reported that Mr. Liu's superiors had ordered that Mr. Naw Kham be captured alive. Mr. Liu, whose antinarcotics bureau runs a fleet of unarmed drones for surveillance in China's border areas, insisted that the idea was shelved because of legal restraints.

"'China using unmanned aircraft would have met with problems,' he said. 'My initial reaction was that this was not realistic because this relates to international and sovereignty issues."

What kind of weak, soft, overly legalistic government worries about trivial concerns like international law and "sovereignty issues" when it comes to drone-killing heinous murderers for whom capture is difficult? Why not just shoot Hellfire missiles wherever you think he might be hiding in weaker countries and kill him and anyone who happens to be near him? Or if you are able to find him, at least just riddle his skull with bullets, dump his corpse into the ocean, and then chant nationalistic slogans in the street and at your political conventions. Who would ever want to give a trial to such a heinous and savage foreign killer of your citizens, particularly if it means risking the lives of your soldiers to apprehend him?

What China did instead was conduct what the NYT this morning calls a "methodical and unyielding" law enforcement investigation over the course of six months. Using informants and following up on leads, they learned of Naw Kham's plans to escape to Laos. In April of last year, the Laotian police, acting in concert with the Chinese, apprehended him as he attempted to flee. He was quickly flown back to China and put on trial, which was nationally televised. In September, he pleaded guilty to the killings and was sentenced to death; after he withdrew his plea, his final appeal was rejected in December; and he was executed by lethal injection last month.

In contrast to the strong and just US - which not only boldly drone-kills whomever and wherever it wants without regard to irritating trivialities like sovereignty but even tried (unsuccessfully) to pressure the Afghan government to execute its accused "drug lords" with no trials - the weak and soft Chinese are actually celebrating their own impotence. As the New York Times put it in February: "'We didn't use China's military, and we didn't harm a single foreign citizen,' Mr. Liu bragged after the arrest in April 2012." Note the word "brag": the Times has to infuse something negative into the success of the Chinese in avoiding killing foreign civilians and relying on law enforcement processes rather than military strikes to apprehend an elusive killer.

Indeed, in reporting on this episode, the New York Times twice tried to depict it as proof of the growing Chinese menace. In February, it said that the mere possibility that China would use a drone strike "highlights China's increasing advances in unmanned aerial warfare, a technology dominated by the United States and used widely by the Obama administration for the targeted killing of terrorists" (by "terrorists", the Times means: people accused of being terrorists by the US government with no due process). Then this morning, the Times claims that China's apprehension of Naw Kham in cooperation with other governments shows, as the headline put it, that "Beijing Flaunts Cross-Border Clout in Search for Drug Lord" and that "the capture shows how China's law enforcement tentacles reach far beyond its borders into a region now drawn by investment and trade into China's orbit, and where the United States' influence is being challenged."

So even when China refuses to use weapons the US routinely uses, by citing precepts of international law, respect for the sovereignty of neighboring countries and at least the pretense of due process, this shows that China is a growing threat to US interests in the region. At some point, either China or Russia or someone else is going to start drone-killing people in other countries, and the only thing certain to happen is that US political and media circles will erupt with condemnation without the slightest sense of irony or shame (provided that it's done by a government that is not a US client). The fact that China's restraint is depicted in US media circles as evidence of the growing threat it poses highlights the mindset that drives this.

There are, of course, ample reasons to treat Chinese claims with great suspicion. One expert quoted in the Times speculated that China's restraint may have been due to its lack of confidence in its drone technology (that sounds unconvincing: if they wanted to just kill him and didn't trust their drones, they could have used a fighter jet). Either way, he noted that if they don't already have full drone-killing capability they will shortly. When that happens, he said, "they surely will have America's armed drone practice as a convenient cover for legitimating their own practice." But at least for now, America stands alone as the only country to embrace this model.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

The Wisdom Of The Wealthy

One of the finest benefits that our global society derives from having an elite class of superrich individuals is the priceless advice they offer to the rest of us.

For example, America was blessed last year with the special wisdom of Mitt Romney. As he struggled to get traction among the common people for his presidential campaign, he reached out to the youthful spirits who had sparked the Occupy Wall Street protests. In a father-knows-best tone, Mitt informed them that political anger toward financiers who've achieved financial success is wrongheaded. Rather, he lectured, they should emulate the rich - "Take a shot, go for it, get an education. Borrow money from your parents," he advised.

Lest you think that Romney's perspective is peculiarly American, get an earful of Gina Rinehart. She owns Australia's largest mining empire and is the world's richest woman, holding $30 billion in personal wealth. Last year, she offered this insight on what the riffraff of her country need to do to get ahead: "If you're jealous of those with more money... do something to make more money yourself - spend less time drinking... and more time working."

Did I mention that Gina got to the top the old fashioned way? Not by working her way up, but by inheriting her fortune from Daddy Rinehart.

Ironically, while this fabulously rich lady admonishes the laboring masses that harder work is their ticket to more money, she has campaigned aggressively to slash Australia's minimum wage. How low? Speaking at the posh Sydney Mining Club, Rinehart expressed fondness for the African model: "Africans want to work," she explained, "and its workers are willing to work for less than $2 a day."

Such social and economic perceptiveness is why Gina, Mitt, and their ilk are so appreciated by the world's workaday people.
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Anonymous Murder From A Safe Distance
By William Pfaff

War is war and murder is murder. The law draws the distinction. The American armed drone is a weapons system of war, not of policemen. And even if it were a police weapon (as it may, one fears, become in the future), the United States Department of Defense and the CIA are not police forces, nor has the United States a commission to police the world of its radicals, jihadists and religious fanatics, although for too many years it has acted as if it did.

Nor is the United States constitutionally at war. President George W. Bush declared war on "terror" after the 9/11 attacks, which is legally meaningless, and the U.S. Congress responded with a joint resolution authorizing the president to use all necessary and appropriate force against those responsible for the attacks. That still was not a declaration of war, but it was interpreted by the U.S. government, the U.N. Security Council, NATO and most major nations to represent a legally legitimate position of self-defense-which it obviously was not, although it was a matter of legitimate retaliation.

However, the people currently being killed by the United States' armed drones had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, even if they undoubtedly approved, or now approve, of those attacks, considering them legitimate acts of Arab retaliation against American complicity in Israel's military annexation and occupation of territories legally belonging to Palestinians, Washington's enforcement of devastating civilian sanctions on Iraq, and the continuing presence of U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia, in proximity to Muslim sacred sites.

Therefore, it is reasonable and necessary to say that the drone attacks are the continuation of an undefined state of conflict between the U.S. government and Muslim individuals and groups hostile to the United States and to some of its Arab allies, and who aim mainly to establish radical Muslim religious governments in various Islamic states. However, since 2001, none of these groups has managed to succeed in committing acts of war against the United States, although groups have plotted attacks that failed or were thwarted. What the Islamists do with and to their own countries is their affair.

However, it is nonsense to treat these and the other bands of self-appointed jihadists, Muslim Brotherhood activists, national insurgents, veteran Fedayeen, and sometime-professional kidnappers and pirates as if they were waging Professor Huntington's famous war of civilization against the United States and its allies, with a view to ruling the world.

The vast majority of America's Muslim enemies throughout the Middle East, Africa and Southern Asia are fighting because the United States is there. It is not the other way around. Osama bin Laden conceived the 9/11 attacks because U.S. military forces were occupying his country, and this in his mind was an affront to his religion. The best way, and indeed the only way, to call off this so-called titanic collision of civilizations would be for the United States to call off the war with the Muslims. Only America can do this.

Anatol Lieven has a splendid and thoroughly knowledgeable article in the April 4 issue of the New York Review of Books, on the politics of disengaging from the war in Afghanistan. He concludes that it would be dishonorable and unreasonable for the United States "to walk away from all this with the declaration that it is 'a matter for the Afghans themselves.'"

It would be, but after all that has passed, I cannot believe that the present government and Congress of the United States is capable of rescuing an honorable settlement to this war, especially as both Congress and the president seem to remain persuaded that the war's formal end should nonetheless see a contingent of U.S. troops left behind after their scheduled departure at the end of 2014. The advocates of staying on say, "Look at Iraq today." Indeed, but if the U.S. had left a force behind to "stabilize" Iraq, would this have succeeded? I feel certain that this would have merely prolonged the war's horror.

The drones are evidence that the U.S. is incapable of disengaging from wars that have left ruin in their wake, poisoned Islamic relations with much of the Western world and, with the torture, humiliation and perpetual and illegal imprisonment of its enemies, in defiance of the norms of civilized behavior, destroyed America's "honor" and the decent respect of mankind it once enjoyed.

Is Washington ready now to end its war in the Middle East-its war with the Islamic Middle East and South Asia? Of course not. Now we have the drones executing mass destruction on the family and tribal scale, in the worst American military tradition, established in Vietnam and Iraq, of anonymous murder from a safe distance, in this case from the White House itself. Who talks about legality, morality-or dishonor?
(c) 2013 Visit William Pfaff's website for more on his latest book, "The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy."

Are Rich Corporate Powers The Real Rulers Of The World?
By James Donahue

The failure on the part of America's elected leadership to take the logical steps to repair the nation's economic woes, tax the big corporations and wealthy individuals earning billions, and create real jobs for the struggling "middle class" appears to be the result of a silent take-over of the nation by the very wealthy.

This control of Washington has been going on for years from behind an imaginary curtain of secrecy. It is only in recent years that the understanding that the United States has shifted from a Democracy to the Plutocracy has made itself known. The concept of a Republic was lost almost from the start.

Plutocracy simply means rule by the rich. Those with their hands on the wealth also hold the power. They finance the counterfeit public elections while the corporate-owned media stirs public interest over false issues that are, in truth, a sham. The "two-party system" has become a sham. It doesn't matter whether the Republicans or the Democrats take control in Washington. The winners of the elections are rarely, if ever, the people.

Thus the daily political circus going on in Washington, and published daily on our television screens and in print, is all a show. It is designed to make us believe our elected representatives are fighting on our behalf, but cannot agree on which direction to go. And behind closed doors, deals are being made that are designed to strip away the wealth and health of the nation and hand it over to the greedy few that hold the real keys to the kingdom.

A stunning report by Michael Brenner for Counter Punch puts what has happened to Washington politics in perspective. Brenner wrote: "The devolution of the Democrat Party from being the representative of ordinary people to being just 'another bunch of guys' is a telling commentary on how American politics has degenerated into a plutocracy. The party's rolling over to accommodate the interests of the wealthy has been a theme of the past four years."

This may help explain how the aggressive Monsanto Corporation succeeded in slipping what is now called The Monsanto Protection Act into a complex spending legislative bill that not only won approval in the House and Senate, but was signed into law earlier this year by President Barack Obama.

That ugly piece of legislation now gives Monsanto power over the U. S. Food and Drug Administration and makes the company immune from federal courts in cases calling for the suspension or punishment for genetically engineered food products found to be dangerous to the people or the environment.

With this kind of power, Monsanto, which has been aggressively forcing its modified seeds into farm fields not only in North America but around the world, appears to be jockeying into a position of almost total control of the world's food supply.

Not only this but a story by Sarka-Jonae Miller that recently appeared in Natural News notes that Monsanto and other corporations like Royal Dutch Shell and Nestle are busy buying up groundwater rights and aquifers at a time when fresh drinking water sources are drying up.

Miller warned that the privatization of water and the corporate control of public water sources may soon mean that everybody must pay for the water they drink. He predicted prices of $4 for a gallon of water.

When you put all of these issues involving Monsanto together, it appears obvious that this company's long-range plan is to literally rule the world. When one major corporation controls the world's food and water supplies, it also controls the people who must labor to buy it.

It is an ugly scenario that must be stopped quickly if it is not already too late. It is obvious that our elected leadership and our corporate-owned media are already working against us.

Brenner also warned that another dimension of the "consolidation of America's plutocracy" has been the control of the media. Thus the corporations control "the means to shape how the populace understands public matters and, thereby, to channel thought and behavior in the desired direction."

A big example of media control has been its failure to "challenge the falsehood that Social Security and Medicare are the main cause of our deficits and whose imminent bankruptcy puts in jeopardy the American economy. Who even bothers to inform the public that these two programs' trust funds draw on a separate revenue source from the rest of the budget?" Brenner wrote.

It appears that all of the hoopla over national and state elections, which now dominates our television news screens almost non-stop even though elections occur once every two years, is all part of the big corporate game. It is all a lie.
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Two Million Petitioners Urge Rejection of 'Chained-CPI' Social Security Cut
By John Nichols

US Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressman Mark Takano, Congressman Mark Pocan and leaders of organizations that oppose President Obama's anticipated assault on Social Security will go to the White House Tuesday to present petitions signed by an expected two million Americans who reject the president's proposal for "chained-CPI."

The "chained-CPI" scheme would restructure cost-of-living adjustments in a way that cuts Social Security benefits for millions of seniors and veterans.

Sanders has vowed to "do everything in my power to block President Obama's proposal to cut benefits for Social Security recipients through a chained consumer price index."

And he's got allies. He'll be joined at the White House by representatives of Social Security Works, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the National Organization for Women, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, the Campaign for America's Future and

The advocacy is important, as Obama has yet to submit his budget. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, couples his outspoken opposition to the "chained-CPI" proposal with a message, "It's not too late to stop this."

It is the hope that Harkin is right that has inspired the dramatic response to news of the president's proposal. Americans really are, as Democracy for America's Jim Dean notes, rising up in passionate opposition to any cut in Social Security-but, especially, to a cut proposed by a Democratic president.

Yet, most indications are that President Obama is still preparing a budget plan that would cut Social Security with the "chained-CPI" scheme. White House talking points regarding the budget plan still state that it includes "particular proposals in this plan like the CPI change."

The White House is already trying to soften the blow, with rhetorical flourishes and technical arguments, but Harkin is right when he says: "Call it whatever you want-the chained CPI is still a cut to those who need help the most."

By any reasonable measure, the fight over "chained CPI" is, at this point, between progressives and the White House.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has already rejected the Obama budget plan-sight unseen. The question now is whether Obama will go ahead with the plan to compromise Social Security in order to reach a "grand bargain" that certainly appears to be out of reach.

If he does, it will be Obama who is putting Social Security cuts on the table-along with, some reports suggest, means testing for Medicare.

The president, who was reelected as the choice of Americans who seek to preserve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, may be prepared to abandon a commitment that has defined Democrats for decades.

Progressives have been blunt in stating that they will not follow Obama's lead if he proposes cuts. "Americans all over the country depend on every single dollar they get from Social Security to put food on the table and pay for housing," Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, and Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, announced late last week. "Using chained CPI will shift more costs onto already struggling American families, seniors, veterans-including our 3.2 million disabled veterans who also depend on the Social Security calculation for their Veterans Affairs benefits-individuals with disabilities, and children on survivors' benefits."

But the critical question is whether Democrats will tell a Democratic president that he cannot count on their support for cuts to Social Security.

Most House Democrats signed a February letter to the president that declares: "We remain deeply opposed to proposals to reduce Social Security benefits through use of the chained CPI to calculate cost-of-living adjustments. We remain committed to making the changes that will extend solvency for 75 years, but Social Security has not contributed to our current fiscal problems and it should not be on the bargaining table."

The 107 signers of that letter-which was circulated by Ellison, Grijalva, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, John Conyers of Michigan, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Wisconsin's Pocan-make up a majority of the House Democratic Caucus. Another 30 House Democrats have signed or agreed to the sentiments of a letter (circulated by Florida Congressman Alan Grayson and Takano, a California Democrat) that says: "We will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits-including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need."

Those are the sentiments of FDR Democrats, who recognize that their party is-and should continue to be-defined by a historic commitment to maintain programs created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson.

The problem, of course, is that pressures for loyalty to party principle are sometimes trumped by pressures for loyalty to the agenda of a party's sitting president.
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Keystone XL's Impact Statement: How Stupid Do They Think We Are?
By John Atcheson

This just in: building a pipeline to carry the dirtiest oil ever used, creating 17% more greenhouse gasses than conventional oil and hastening the greatest environmental disaster ever faced by humanity, has no negative environmental impact. At least that's the conclusion of the Environmental Impact Statement issued by the State Department ...

Dateline Mayflower Arkansas: According to some estimates, more than 150,000 gallons of bitumen ran through the streets and yards of Mayflower Arkansas, spewing fumes and posing a risk to health, property, and wildlife when the Pegasus pipeline, owned be ExxonMobile burst ...

In related news, A tax loophole for tar sands that allowed ExxonMobile to avoid paying into the Oil Liability Trust Fund means US taxpayers will likely get stuck with the bill ... the loophole could ultimately cost Americans $400 billion ...

Elsewhere in the news, The National Safety Council gave ExxonMobile a Safety Award on April 5th for its leadership and "comprehensive commitment to safety and excellence." The award was presented at a fundraiser in Houston. Oh, a Safety Award. At a fundraiser. To one of the most profitable companies in history. I feel better...

Breaking News: Indian Country Media Network features a video campaign opposing the use of ports in British Columbia for tar sands released on the 24th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez Disaster. Some 80% of BC residents oppose allowing tar sands to pass through BC ...

Dateline New Orleans: BP called its first witness in the civil trial against its Deepwater Horizon disaster which spewed some 4 million barrels of oil into the gulf. Some legal experts suggest BPs best hope may be to convince the Judge they were just a little negligent, as opposed to grossly negligent ...

News you may have missed, Since the gulf disaster less than a year ago, there have been 15 major oil spills, 8 of them involving ruptured pipelines resulting in tens of millions of barrels of oil spewing into the environment.

Which brings us back to that XL EIS, which suggests the probability of a leak is negligible.

Wait a minute. How stupid do they think we are?

Basically, the US government and the oil industry are trying to slip this past a gullible public with vague assurances of safety and promises of jobs and economic growth.

The comment period for the Environmental Impact Statement on the XL Pipeline closes on April 22, the shortest public comment allowed, for one of the most important decisions humanity will ever make.

But the fact that pipelines leak, and tar sand bitumen is notoriously hard to clean up is the least of the problems with the EIS.

The real problem is that it assumes we must continue to use fossil fuels in much the same way, and at the same quantities that we do now, for the foreseeable future.

As a result, they are able to construct an absurd argument - that the continued use of fossil fuels - the gravest threat to our environment the world has ever faced since the dawn of human existence - has no environmental impact.

It is done with the skill of the sophist and the tools of wizards, witches and warlocks.

The Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed XL pipeline fails to ask the right question. It addresses GHG emissions from the construction and operation of the pipeline - which is tantamount to asking tsunami victims if their leaky faucet bothers them. It addresses operation and maintenance of the pipeline, another gnat on an elephant. And incredibly, it addresses the effect of climate change on the operation of the pipeline itself ... yes, ask not what billions of barrels of crude tar sands can do for global warming; ask instead, what global warming can do to tar sands transport. Really.

In a section marked Life Cycle Analysis, it concludes that the carbon intensity of alternative to tar sands will go up, so the increased carbon emissions of tar sands won't matter as much, if at all.

But wait a minute. What if we didn't use more oil? What if we used less? We have the technology to cut oil use drastically. Plug-in hybrids and electric cars get the equivalent of about 100 miles per gallon, they are cheaper to run, and they are much cleaner, even if they use relatively dirty fossil fuels to charge their batteries. And in many areas they can use renewables which are becoming cost competitive with new fossil fuel power. Moreover, the grid has enough off-peak power to charge an enormous fleet of electric cars with existing capacity.

So at this point, the decision to use oil is not destiny, it is choice. And if it's a choice, the entire basis of the XL EIS is null and void.

Now let's look at the question of whether we should make the choice to get off oil. The environmental issue is a slam dunk. If we stay above an atmospheric concentration of 350 ppm carbon dioxide for any length of time we court disaster - and for you fundamentalists out there, it's disaster of biblical proportions. We are currently 396.8 ppm. So our emissions have to go down, and go down now.

There has been a lot of talk about the pipeline creating jobs and fueling economic growth. In actuality, it will do neither. Here's why. Clean energy investments create three times as many jobs per dollar invested as fossil fuels do. So in essence, each dollar we put into fossil fuels at the expense of clean energy actually costs us jobs and that slows growth.

The EIS sidesteps the real issue: We must get off fossil fuels as rapidly as possible. Expanding our use of fossil fuels with dirtier oil is a form of madness we simply can't aford.
(c) 2013 John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson's book reviews are featured on

The Stealth Sequester
By Robert Reich

So far, the much-dreaded "sequester" - some $85 billion in federal spending cuts between March and September 30 - hasn't been evident to most Americans.

The dire warnings that had issued from the White beforehand - threatening that Social Security checks would be delayed, airport security checks would be clogged, and other federal facilities closed - seem to have been overblown.

Sure, March's employment report was a big disappointment. But it's hard to see any direct connection between those poor job numbers and the sequester. The government has been shedding jobs for years. Most of the losses in March were from the Postal Service.

Take a closer look, though, and Americans are starting to feel the pain. They just don't know it yet.

That's because so much of what the government does affects the nation in local, decentralized ways. Federal funds find their way to community housing authorities, state unemployment offices, local school districts, private universities, and companies. So it's hard for most Americans to know the sequester is responsible for the lost funding, lost jobs, or just plain inconvenience.

A tiny sampling: Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts is bracing for a cut of about $51 million in its $685 million of annual federal research grants and contracts. The public schools of Syracuse, New York, will lose over $1 million. The housing authority of Joliet, Illinois, will take a hit of nearly $900,000. Northrop Grumman Information Systems just issued layoff notices to 26 employees at its plant in Lawton, Oklahoma. Unemployment benefits are being cut in Pennsylvania and Utah.

The cuts - and thousands like them - are so particular and localized they don't feel as if they're the result of a change in national policy.

It's just like what happened with the big federal stimulus of 2009 and 2010, but in reverse. Then, money flowed out to so many different places and institutions that most Americans weren't aware of the stimulus program as a whole.

A second reason the sequester hasn't been visible is a large share of the cuts are in programs directed at the poor - and America's poor are often invisible.

For example, the Salt Lake Community Action Program recently closed a food pantry in Murray, Utah, serving more than 1,000 needy people every month. The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium is closing a center that gives alcohol and drug treatment to Native Alaskans.

Some 1,700 poor families in and around Sacramento, California are likely to lose housing vouchers that pay part of their rents. More than 180 students are likely to be dropped from a Head Start program run by the Cincinnati-Hamilton County (Ohio) Community Action Agency.

Most Americans don't know about these and other cuts because the poor live in different places than the middle class and wealthy. Poverty has become ever more concentrated geographically.

A third reason the sequester is invisible is many people whose jobs are affected by it are being "furloughed" rather than fired. "Furlough" is a euphemism for working shorter workweeks and taking pay cuts.

Two thousand civilian employees at the Army Research Lab in Maryland will be subject to one-day-per-week furloughs starting on April 22, for example, resulting in a 20 percent drop in pay. The Hancock Field Air National Guard Base is furloughing 280 workers. Many federal courts are now closed on Fridays.

Furloughs spread the pain. The hardship isn't as evident as it would be if it came in the form of mass layoffs. But don't fool yourself: A 20 percent pay cut is a huge burden for those who have to endure it.

Bear in mind, finally, the sequester is just starting. The sheer scale of it is guaranteed to make it far more apparent in coming months.

Some 140,000 low-income families will lose their housing vouchers, for example. Entire communities that depend mainly on defense-related industries or facilities will take major hits.

If you thought March's job numbers were disappointing, just wait.

With the sequester, America has adopted austerity economics. Yet austerity economics is the wrong medicine at exactly the wrong time. Look what it's done to Europe.
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

Insurance And Freedom
By Paul Krugman

President Obama will soon release a new budget, and the commentary is already flowing fast and furious. Progressives are angry (with good reason) over proposed cuts to Social Security; conservatives are denouncing the call for more revenues. But it's all Kabuki. Since House Republicans will block anything Mr. Obama proposes, his budget is best seen not as policy but as positioning, an attempt to gain praise from "centrist" pundits.

No, the real policy action at this point is in the states, where the question is, How many Americans will be denied essential health care in the name of freedom?

I'm referring, of course, to the question of how many Republican governors will reject the Medicaid expansion that is a key part of Obamacare. What does that have to do with freedom? In reality, nothing. But when it comes to politics, it's a different story.

It goes without saying that Republicans oppose any expansion of programs that help the less fortunate - along with tax cuts for the wealthy, such opposition is pretty much what defines modern conservatism. But they seem to be having more trouble than in the past defending their opposition without simply coming across as big meanies.

Specifically, the time-honored practice of attacking beneficiaries of government programs as undeserving malingerers doesn't play the way it used to. When Ronald Reagan spoke about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, it resonated with many voters. When Mitt Romney was caught on tape sneering at the 47 percent, not so much.

There is, however, an alternative. From the enthusiastic reception American conservatives gave Friedrich Hayek's "Road to Serfdom," to Reagan, to the governors now standing in the way of Medicaid expansion, the U.S. right has sought to portray its position not as a matter of comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted, but as a courageous defense of freedom.

Conservatives love, for example, to quote from a stirring speech Reagan gave in 1961, in which he warned of a grim future unless patriots took a stand. (Liz Cheney used it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article just a few days ago.) "If you and I don't do this," Reagan declared, "then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free." What you might not guess from the lofty language is that "this" - the heroic act Reagan was calling on his listeners to perform - was a concerted effort to block the enactment of Medicare.

These days, conservatives make very similar arguments against Obamacare. For example, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has called it the "greatest assault on freedom in our lifetime." And this kind of rhetoric matters, because when it comes to the main obstacle now remaining to more or less universal health coverage - the reluctance of Republican governors to allow the Medicaid expansion that is a key part of reform - it's pretty much all the right has.

As I've already suggested, the old trick of blaming the needy for their need doesn't seem to play the way it used to, and especially not on health care: perhaps because the experience of losing insurance is so common, Medicaid enjoys remarkably strong public support. And now that health reform is the law of the land, the economic and fiscal case for individual states to accept Medicaid expansion is overwhelming. That's why business interests strongly support expansion just about everywhere - even in Texas. But such practical concerns can be set aside if you can successfully argue that insurance is slavery.

Of course, it isn't. In fact, it's hard to think of a proposition that has been more thoroughly refuted by history than the notion that social insurance undermines a free society. Almost 70 years have passed since Friedrich Hayek predicted (or at any rate was understood by his admirers to predict) that Britain's welfare state would put the nation on the slippery slope to Stalinism; 46 years have passed since Medicare went into effect; as far as most of us can tell, freedom hasn't died on either side of the Atlantic.

In fact, the real, lived experience of Obamacare is likely to be one of significantly increased individual freedom. For all our talk of being the land of liberty, those holding one of the dwindling number of jobs that carry decent health benefits often feel anything but free, knowing that if they leave or lose their job, for whatever reason, they may not be able to regain the coverage they need. Over time, as people come to realize that affordable coverage is now guaranteed, it will have a powerful liberating effect.

But what we still don't know is how many Americans will be denied that kind of liberation - a denial all the crueler because it will be imposed in the name of freedom.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; that until there is no longer any first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; that until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; that until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all, without regard to race -- until that day, the dreams of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained"
~~~ Speech by ~ H.I.M. Haile Selassie I ~ California 28th February 1968

The Reagan Revolution Is Over
Why the GOP has failed to capitalize on nostalgia for the ex-president: The nation has changed and so has the party
By David Sirota

The reason the Onion's spoof about Ronald Reagan being raised from the grave to lead today's Republican Party still remains one of the funniest political satires in recent memory is because it rings so true. With the GOP in such disarray, you get the sense that the only thing that unifies the conservative movement is a visceral hatred of America's first African-American president and a cultlike worship of the Gipper. You also get the sense that if Republican leaders could have, they would have done exactly what that Onion spoof suggested - reanimate the corpse of Ronald Reagan and run him for president in 2012 - and for good reason. According to a stunning new national poll released today by the National Geographic Channel, Reagan would have demolished Obama in a head-to-head match-up.

As the coverage of Margaret Thatcher's death this week reminds us, the 1980s still define us in so many ways. The National Geographic Channel poll, timed to the Sunday premiere of the channel's three-night "The '80s: The Decade That Made Us," is chock-full of revealing findings about why exactly that is.

Some of the survey's findings are fun but trivial (83 percent of us do not want shoulder pads to make a comeback), some are confounding (men like Harry and Sally as a couple way more than women do), and some are downright important to understanding the present political moment.

For instance, the vast majority of the country thinks things were better back then than they are now, and almost 4 in 5 believe the government ran better in the 1980s than it does now. That 4 in 5 disproportionately comprises those who actually lived in the 1980s, likely because back then - as opposed to now - more Americans could still personally remember past eras when the government successfully accomplished things and took on major high-profile challenges.

Consistent with such general nostalgia for the 1980s is the eye-opening finding that 58 percent of Americans say they would vote for Reagan over Obama in a hypothetical presidential match-up. Amazingly, Reagan would win against Obama in every age, gender and income group.

The first question these results evoke is why does Reagan remain so well known, venerated and relevant almost a quarter-century after he left office? It's a vexing question, considering the fact (as evidenced by the latest round of Reagan headlines this week) that he somehow remains more relevant to today's politics than the other presidents who left office far more recently. So again, why?

Part of it has to do with the incredible amount of resources poured into constructing and sustaining all the collective efforts of the so-called Ronald Reagan Legacy Project. Thanks to that effort, Reagan is now constantly invoked in the present moment's political squabbles.

Through this legacy-building process, Reagan has also posthumously benefited from two factors that have convinced many to see him as a rare example of a transpartisan statesman.

First, thanks to the propaganda of the legacy building efforts, his record has been gradually sanitized - when Reagan appears on our television now, he is most often saying laudable stuff like "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" and isn't decrying welfare queens, blowing the racist dog-whistle of states' rights or evading questions about the Iran-Contra scandal.

Second, because today's post-Reagan Republican Party has moved so far to the extreme right, Reagan now in retrospect looks like a pragmatist - a uniter, not a divider.

Indeed, as a tax-raising, pro-deficit-spending, Social Security-protecting, pro-gun control, pro-amnesty president who spoke out for the right of workers to organize unions, and who diplomatically engaged America's most feared international enemies, Reagan today looks like an admirable moderate in comparison to the wildly unpopular fringe conservative elements that run today's GOP.

Because of that, a guy who used to be seen as a divisive conservative firebrand now benefits from a convergence: He is at once still loved by nostalgic rank-and-file Republican partisans but is now also admired by many independents and Democrats because his positions in retrospect seem centrist - or even liberal - by today's standards.

In that sense, conservative activists behind the Reagan Legacy Project may have created a monster for themselves. By keeping Reagan front-and-center in almost every political debate at the very moment today's Republican Party has so obviously discarded actual Reagan policies and positions, those conservatives have created a constant reminder to voters who love Reagan that today's GOP is, in fact, not the party of Reagan.

If you need a timely reminder of how that dynamic plays out in real time, consider this week's aforementioned Reagan headlines - the ones about the politics of gun control and same-sex marriage.

On the former issue, news organizations reported on an ad blitz reminding Americans that Ronald Reagan was an outspoken supporter of the popular background check policy that Senate Republicans are threatening to filibuster. On the latter issue, Reagan's daughter made news noting that her father would find himself at odds with today's GOP, which still officially refuses to support legalizing civil unions, much less same-sex marriage. And because Reagan Legacy activists have so successfully kept Reagan relevant to current politics, those news items generate big headlines, thus reiterating a negative message about the extremism of today's Republican Party.

This gets to the second and even more important question. Even though Reagan represents so much of what the GOP no longer is, he is still branded as a Republican and could defeat a relatively popular sitting Democratic president. So, then, why haven't today's Republicans figured out a way to somehow turn that reality into big national victories at the polls?

One straightforward answer is race and geography. As the National Geographic survey shows, though Reagan wins against Obama in every age, gender and income group, when the Reagan-Obama match-up is broken down specifically along racial/ethnic and geographic lines, a whole new picture emerges. In urban America, Obama beats Reagan by 51-49 and even more tellingly, among non-whites, Obama beats Reagan by a 62-38 gap.

As the victims of so many Reagan policies, city-dwellers and people of color clearly do not forget or willfully ignore the ugliest parts of Reagan's record, and with this country becoming both more urban and more non-white, that's a big problem for the Republican Party. So even if the GOP could, in fact, reanimate the corpse of Reagan himself or somehow find a current Republican politician to embody the Reagan zeitgeist, that still might not be enough to win them elections in an ever more citified and diverse America.

But, then, in trying to leverage Reagan's memory for its own benefit, the GOP faces an even bigger obstacle: the party has obviously abandoned what about Reagan is now so appealing to so many Americans. Regardless of whether today's memory of the 40th president is historically accurate, many nonetheless perceive Reagan to have at least been a mature compromiser not bound by a hard-edged ideology that is out of step with mainstream public opinion.

Polls show America rightly sees today's GOP as exactly the opposite of that - petulant, ideologically driven and inflexible. Thus, no matter how much voters may pine for the 1980s and Reagan's "morning in America," they are not likely to see today's iteration of the Republican Party as the flux-capacitor-powered DeLorean that's going to get us there.

In a lot of ways, that's good news. Having spent years writing and researching the 1980s for my book "Back to Our Future," I relearned why we shouldn't want to go back to the 1980s - and why our continued obsession with the 1980s is fraught with problems. I'm as much of a fan of 1980s movies, TV shows, video games and other kitsch as anyone, but the 1980s sowed the seeds of many of the biggest crises we face today – so I'm hardly bummed out by the Republicans being unable to figure out how to capitalize on nostalgia for Reagan and the 1980s.

What I am bummed out about is the fact that our politics have become so polarized that Reagan is seen as a moderate with broad appeal. That, more than anything, is a frightening commentary on just how extreme American politics has become since the 1980s. Maybe it will also be a wake-up call warning the country that if Reagan is now a moderate, then we're further away from "morning in America" than we may think.
(c) 2013 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota .

Scientology For Agent Orange Victims
By David Swanson

The phrase "adding insult to injury" is no doubt being redefined in several online dictionaries this week following news of a U.S. effort to sneak one of our dumber religions (and that's saying something) into the minds of Vietnamese suffering from Agent Orange.

If you're not familiar with Agent Orange, here's a short summary from Veterans For Peace:

"Three million Vietnamese suffer the effects of chemical defoliants used by the United States during the Vietnam War. In order to deny food and protection to those deemed to be 'the enemy,' the U.S. defoliated the forests of Vietnam with the deadly chemicals Agent Orange, White, Blue, Pink, Green and Purple. Agent Orange, which was contaminated with trace amounts of TCDD dioxin -- the most toxic chemical known to science -- has disabled and sickened soldiers, civilians and several generations of their offspring on two continents. Millions of Vietnamese are still affected by this deadly poison and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers. It has caused birth defects in hundreds of thousands of second and third generation children in Vietnam and the U.S."

And here's the latest news from the Associated Press:

"THAI BINH, Vietnam (AP) -- North Vietnamese army veteran Nguyen Anh Quoc grimaces as he forces down the last of the 35 vitamins he takes each morning. After decades of suffering from illnesses he believes were caused by exposure to Agent Orange, he is putting his faith in a regime advocated by the Church of Scientology.

"'I have to take them,' the 62-year-old said at a treatment center established with the help of a Scientology-funded group. 'They will clean up my body.'

"The center, a converted mushroom farm in northern Vietnam, owes as much to Scientology's desire to expand around the world, away from scandal in the United States, as it does to pressure in Vietnam to try to help aging veterans still suffering from the effects of war.

"Many medical experts regard the treatment -- a 25-day vitamin and sauna regime -- as junk medicine or even dangerous. But for now at least, it has found fertile ground here.

"The Vietnamese advocacy group overseeing the program in Thai Binh province wants to offer it to all 20,000 people suffering from ailments blamed on dioxins in Agent Orange. U.S. airplanes sprayed up to 12 million gallons of the defoliant over the country during the Vietnam War to strip away vegetation used as cover by Vietnamese soldiers.

"The advocacy group, which has the implicit support of the government, has almost completed a two-story accommodation block for patients and is raising funds for a much larger complex, with 15 more saunas than the five it currently has.

"'I have seen so many desperate families that their tears have dried up,' said Nguyen Duc Hanh, the head of local branch of the Vietnam Association of Agent Orange Victims in Thai Binh. 'I don't know what the scientists say about its effectiveness, but the patients say it improves their health. They should be able to experience it before they die.'

"Scientologists believe the regime, which includes massive consumption of vitamins, four-hour sauna sessions and morning runs, can 'sweat out' toxins stored in body fat. There are no peer-reviewed studies to back this claim. . . .

". . . In 1991, Scientology offered 'rundown' treatments in Russia to people suffering symptoms related to radiation exposure following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The church still refers to the mission in its online literature, claiming numerous successes, but Russia banned it from performing medical treatment in the country in 1996.

"Last year, a French court upheld fraud charges and fined the church $791,000 for its efforts to persuade people to take the 'rundown.'"

I know: let's sell it to the Vietnamese! It's not as if we've done them enough harm yet!
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Wahnsinniger Nugent,

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

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Suzanne Nossel at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Hijacking Of Human Rights
By Chris Hedges

The appointment of Suzanne Nossel, a former State Department official and longtime government apparatchik, as executive director of PEN American Center is part of a campaign to turn U.S. human rights organizations into propagandists for pre-emptive war and apologists for empire. Nossel's appointment led me to resign from PEN as well as withdraw from speaking at the PEN World Voices Festival in May. But Nossel is only symptomatic of the widespread hijacking of human rights organizations to demonize those-especially Muslims-branded by the state as the enemy, in order to cloak pre-emptive war and empire with a fictional virtue and to effectively divert attention from our own mounting human rights abuses, including torture, warrantless wiretapping and monitoring, the denial of due process and extrajudicial assassinations.

Nossel, who was deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs under Hillary Clinton in a State Department that was little more than a subsidiary of the Pentagon, is part of the new wave of "humanitarian interventionists," such as Samantha Power, Michael Ignatieff and Susan Rice, who naively see in the U.S. military a vehicle to create a better world. They know little of the reality of war or the actual inner workings of empire. They harbor a childish belief in the innate goodness and ultimate beneficence of American power. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, the horrendous suffering and violent terror inflicted in the name of their utopian goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, barely register on their moral calculus. This makes them at once oblivious and dangerous. "Innocence is a kind of insanity," Graham Greene wrote in his novel "The Quiet American," and those who destroy to build are "impregnably armored by ... good intentions and ... ignorance."

There are no good wars. There are no just wars. As Erasmus wrote, "there is nothing more wicked, more disastrous, more widely destructive, more deeply tenacious, more loathsome than war. Whoever heard of a hundred thousand animals rushing together to butcher each other, as men do everywhere?" Erasmus asked. But war, he knew, was very useful to the power elite. War permitted the powerful, in the name of national security and by fostering a culture of fear, to effortlessly strip the citizen of his or her rights. A declaration of war ensures that "all the affairs of the State are at the mercy of the appetites of a few," Erasmus wrote.

There are cases, and Bosnia in the 1990s was one, when force should be employed to halt an active campaign of genocide. This is the lesson of the Holocaust: When you have the capacity to stop genocide and you do not, you are culpable. For this reason, we are culpable in the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda. But the "humanitarian interventionists" have twisted this moral imperative to intercede against genocide to justify the calls for pre-emptive war and imperial expansion. Saddam Hussein did carry out campaigns of genocide against the Kurds and the Shiites, but the dirty fact is that while these campaigns were under way we provided support to Baghdad or looked the other way. It was only when Washington wanted war, and the bodies of tens of thousands of Kurds and Shiites had long decomposed in mass graves, that we suddenly began to speak in the exalted language of human rights.

These "humanitarian interventionists" studiously ignore our own acts of genocide, first unleashed against Native Americans and then exported to the Philippines and, later, nations such as Vietnam. They do not acknowledge, even in light of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our own capacity for evil. They do not discuss in their books and articles the genocides we backed in Guatemala and East Timor or the crime of pre-emptive war. They minimize the horror and suffering we have delivered to Iraqis and Afghans and exaggerate or fabricate the benefits. The long string of atrocities carried out in our name mocks the idea of the United States as a force for good with a right to impose its values on others. The ugly truth shatters their deification of U.S. power.

Nossel, in the contentious year she headed Amnesty International USA before leaving in January, oversaw a public campaign by the organization to support NATO's war in Afghanistan. She was running Amnesty International USA when the organization posted billboards at bus stops that read, "Human Rights for Women and Girls in Afghanistan-NATO: Keep the Progress Going." Madeleine Albright, along with senior State Department officials and politicians, were invited to speak at Amnesty International's women's forum during Nossel's tenure. Nossel has urged Democrats to stay the course in Iraq, warning that a failure in Iraq could unleash "a kind of post-Vietnam, post-Mogadishu hangover" that would lamentably "herald an era of deep reservations among the U.S. public regarding the use of force." She worked as a State Department official to discredit the Goldstone Report, which charged Israel with war crimes against the Palestinians. As a representative on the U.N. Human Rights Council she said that "the top of our list is our defense of Israel, and Israel's right to fair treatment at the Human Rights Council." Not a word about the Palestinians. She has advocated for expanded armed intervention in countries such as Syria and Libya. She has called for a military strike against Iran if it does not halt its nuclear enrichment program. In an article in The Washington Quarterly titled "Battle Hymn of the Democrats," she wrote: "Democrats must be seen to be every bit as tough-minded as their opponents. Democratic reinvention as a 'peace party' is a political dead end." "In a milieu of war or near-war, the public will look for leadership that is bold and strident-more forceful, resolute, and pugnacious than would otherwise be tolerated," she went on. In a 2004 Foreign Affairs article, "Smart Power: Reclaiming Liberal Internationalism," she wrote: "We need to deploy our power in ways that make us stronger, not weaker," not a stunning thought but one that should be an anathema to human rights campaigners. She added, "U.S. interests are furthered by enlisting others on behalf of U.S. goals," which, of course, is what she promptly did at Amnesty International. Her "smart power" theory calls on the U.S. to exert its will around the globe by employing a variety of means and tactics, using the United Nations and human rights groups, for example, to promote the nation's agenda as well as the more naked and raw coercion of military force. This is not a new or original idea, but when held up to George W. Bush's idiocy I guess it looked thoughtful. The plight of our own dissidents-including Bradley Manning-is of no concern to Nossel and apparently of no concern now to PEN.

Coleen Rowley and Ann Wright first brought Nossel's past and hawkish ideology to light when she became the executive director of Amnesty International USA a year ago. Rowley and Wright have written correctly that "humanitarian interventionists," in or out of government, see no distinction between human rights work and the furtherance of U.S. imperial power. Nossel, they noted, "sees no conflict between her current role and having been a member of the executive staff whilst her President and Secretary of State bosses were carrying out war crimes such as drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan and shielding torturers and their enablers in the Bush administration from prosecution." (For more on this see Rowley's article "Selling War as 'Smart Power.' ") Is this the resume of a human rights advocate in the United States? Are human rights organizations supposed to further the agenda of the state rather than defend its victims? Are the ideas of "humanitarian interventionists" compatible with human rights? Are writers and artists no longer concerned with the plight of all dissidents, freedom of expression and the excesses of state power? Are we nothing more than puppets of the elite? Aren't we supposed to be in perpetual, voluntary alienation from all forms of power? Isn't power, from a human rights perspective, the problem?

The current business of human rights means human rights for some and not for others. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, the Peace Alliance, and Citizens for Global Solutions are all guilty of buying into the false creed that U.S. military force can be deployed to promote human rights. None of these groups stood up to oppose the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan, as if pre-emptive war is not one of the grossest violations of human rights.

The creed of "humanitarian intervention" means, for many, shedding tears over the "right" victims. Its supporters lobby for the victims in Darfur and ignore the victims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza. They denounce the savagery of the Taliban but ignore the savagery we employ in our offshore penal colonies or our drone-infested war zones. They decry the enslavement of girls in brothels in India or Thailand but not the slavery of workers in our produce fields or our prisons. They demand justice for persecuted dissidents in the Arab world but say nothing about Bradley Manning.

The playwright and fierce anti-war critic Arthur Miller, the first American president of PEN International, fearlessly stood up to McCarthyism and was blacklisted. He denounced the Vietnam War. He decried the invasion of Iraq. PEN, when it embodied Miller's resistance and decency, stood for something real and important. As the U.S. bombed Iraq into submission and then invaded, Miller, who called the war a form of "mass murder," said indignantly: "It's a joke that the U.S. government wheels out the Geneva Convention when they themselves have turned away or flouted so many international treaties."

The posing of government shills such as Nossel as human rights campaigners and the marginalization of voices such as Miller's are part of the sickness of our age. If PEN recaptures the moral thunder of the late Arthur Miller, if it remembers that human rights mean defending all who are vulnerable, persecuted and unjustly despised, I will be happy to rejoin.

All systems of power are the problem. And it is the role of the artist, the writer and the intellectual to defy every center of power on behalf of those whom power would silence and crush. This means, in biblical terms, embracing the stranger. It means being a constant opponent rather than an ally of government. It means being the perpetual outcast. Those who truly fight for human rights understand this.

"Whether the mask is labeled Fascism, Democracy, or Dictatorship of the Proletariat, our great adversary remains the Apparatus-the bureaucracy, the police, the military ... ," Simone Weil wrote. "No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this Apparatus, and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others."
(c) 2013 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

Time To Bell The Obama Cat
By Norman Solomon

The story goes that some mice became very upset about the cat in the house and convened an emergency meeting. They finally came up with the idea of tying a bell around the cat's neck, so the dangerous feline could no longer catch victims unawares. The plan gained a lot of enthusiastic praise, until one mouse piped up with a question that preceded a long silence: "Who's going to bell the cat?"

In recent days, the big cat in the White House has provoked denunciations from groups that have rarely crossed him. They're upset about his decision to push for cuts in Social Security benefits. "Progressive outrage has reached a boiling point," the online juggernaut MoveOn declared a few days ago.

Obama's move to cut Social Security is certainly outrageous, and it's encouraging that a wide range of progressive groups are steamed at Obama as never before. But this kind of outrage should have reached a "boiling point" a long time ago. The administration's undermining of civil liberties, scant action on climate change, huge escalation of war in Afghanistan, expansion of drone warfare, austerity policies serving Wall Street and shafting Main Street, vast deference to corporate power. . . The list is long and chilling.

So is the evasive record of many groups that are now denouncing Obama's plan to cut Social Security. Mostly, their leaders griped in private and made nice with the Obama White House in public.

Yet imagine if those groups had polarized with President Obama in 2009 on even a couple of key issues. Such progressive independence would have shown the public that there is indeed a left in this country -- that the left has principles and stands up for them -- and that Obama, far from being on the left, is in the center. Such principled clarity would have undermined the right-wing attacks on Obama as a radical, socialist, etc. -- and from the beginning could have gotten some victories out of Obama, instead of waiting more than four years to take him on.

Whether or not Obama's vicious assault on Social Security is successful, it has already jolted an unprecedented number of longtime supporters. It should be the last straw, suffused with illumination.

That past is prologue. We need to ask: Do such groups now have it in them to stop pretending that each of the Obama administration's various awful policies is some kind of anomaly?

From this spring onward, a wide range of progressive groups should be prepared to work together to effectively renounce Obama's leadership.

We need to invigorate political options other than accepting the likes of President Obama -- or embracing self-marginalization.

For progressives, there's not a lot to be gained by venting against Obama without working to implement a plausible strategy for ousting corporate war Democrats from state power. Nor is there a useful path for third parties like the Green Party in races for Congress and other partisan contests; those campaigns rarely end up with more than a tiny percentage of the vote, and the impacts are very small.

This spring, there's a lot of work beckoning for progressives who mean business about gaining electoral power for social movements; who have no intention of eliding the grim realities of the Obama presidency; who are more than fed up with false pretenses that Obama is some kind of ally of progressives; who recognize that Obama has served his last major useful purpose for progressives by blocking a Romney-Ryan regime from entering the White House; who are willing to be here now, in this historical moment, to organize against and polarize with the Obama administration in basic terms; and who, looking ahead, grasp the tragic folly of leaving the electoral field to battles between right-wing Republicans and Democrats willing to go along with the kind of destructive mess that President Obama has been serving up.

A vital next step is staring us in the face: get to work now to develop and launch grassroots progressive campaigns for next year's primaries that can defeat members of Congress who talk the talk but fail to walk the walk of challenging Obama's austerity agenda.

Who are those congressional incumbents who call themselves "progressive" but refuse to take a clear stand against slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits? I have a little list. Well, actually it's not so little.

As of today, after many weeks of progressive lobbying and pleading and petitioning nationwide, 47 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have refused to sign the letter, initiated by Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano, pledging to "vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need."

After all this time, refusal to sign the Grayson-Takano letter is a big tipoff that those 47 House members are keeping their options open. (To see that list of 47, click here.) They want wiggle room for budget votes on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits. Most of them represent a left-leaning district, and some could be toppled by grassroots progressive campaigns.

By itself, lobbying accomplishes little. Right now, it's time to threaten members of Congress with defeat unless they vote against all efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. Click here if you want to send that message directly to your representative and senators. The best way to sway members of Congress is to endanger their seats if they aren't willing to do the right thing. In the real world, politics isn't about playing cat and mouse. It's about power.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

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This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Keith Knight ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Facebook Unveils New Waste Of Time
By Andy Borowitz

MENLO PARK (The Borowitz Report)-Before a rapt audience at Facebook headquarters Thursday, Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg unveiled new software that he promised "will totally change the way you are wasting your life."

Explaining the development of Facebook's new phone software, Home, Mr. Zuckerberg said, "Our research showed that Facebook users still had a few hours a day when they were leading somewhat healthy and productive lives. Our new software will change all of that."

Mr. Zuckerberg said his developers had worked for months developing Home, "which seizes control of your phone and makes it good for little other than Facebook-much like many Facebook users themselves."

By bombarding the user with status updates on a twenty-four-hour basis, he boasted, "Home transforms Facebook from just a social network into something akin to a neurological disorder."

As the audience applauded that pronouncement, Mr. Zuckerberg added, "At Facebook, we want to be a million voices inside your head."

When one member of the audience worried whether Home would give Facebook even more access to private information about one's life, Mr. Zuckerberg reassured the questioner, "After using Home for several weeks, you will have no life."

While clearly proud of his latest product, Mr. Zuckerberg gave notice that he did not intend to rest on his laurels: "At Facebook, we will never stop striving to replace real experience with something soulless and empty."
(c) 2013 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 15 (c) 04/12/2013

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