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In This Edition

Robert Parry sees, "Ukraine, Through The US Looking Glass."

Uri Avnery exclaims, "In One Word: Poof!"

Margaret Kimberley announces, "NYPD Punishes Black Victims."

Pepe Escobar goes a bit Gonzo in, "Breaking Bad In Southern NATOstan."

Jim Hightower finds, "Fast Food Chains Stealing From Low-Wage Workers."

David Swanson concludes, "Rumsfeld Personifies Our Society."

James Donahue recalls, "The Annual Rite Of The Eostre Holiday."

John Nichols considers, "Bernie Sanders Versus Citizens United."

Chris Hedges orates on, "The Myth Of Human Progress And The Collapse Of Complex Societies."

David Sirota explores, "The Chicago Way."

Paul Krugman counts, "Three Expensive Milliseconds."

Amy Goodman warns of, "The Grand American Tradition Of Violent White Supremacy."

William River Pitt asks, "'WTF Bombs?.'"

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explains, "Happy Tax Day, And Why the Top 1% Pay A Much Lower Tax Rate Than You."

Matthew Rothschild tells, "How The Ukraine Crisis Could Pose A Nuclear Threat."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Zuckerberg Vows Facebook Will Shoot Down Google Drones" but first, Uncle Ernie demands, "One Law For Everyone."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Greenberg, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Rich Pedroncelli, Hok Life.Com, Ingfbruno, 41 Action News, Wikimedia Commons, A.P., The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Intercept, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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One Law For Everyone
By Ernest Stewart

"I support gay marriage. I believe they have a right to be as miserable as the rest of us." ~~~ Kinky Friedman

"But the story gets better. Harry Reid's son, Rory Reid, was the chief representative for a Chinese energy firm planning to build a $5-billion solar plant on public land in Laughlin, Nev." ~~~ Joseph Farah

"Taking coal out of the mix of energy sources used in the United States doesn't make sense when more coal is now used in China." ~~~ Senator Joe Manchin

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

I see that finally the ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan filed a lawsuit on Monday to guarantee that the marriages of 300 same-sex couples performed last month are recognized by the state.

"As a matter of law and fundamental fairness, the state is obligated to extend the protections that flow from marriage to all those who celebrated their weddings last month. Doing anything less treats legally married gay and lesbian couples like second-class citizens, and adds to the confusion and instability these loving families have endured,' said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director.

You may recall that the once honorable US Con-gressman, now Attorney General Bill Schuette, was a little bit late off the starting line when Federal Judge Bernard Friedman struck down Michigan's ban on the freedom to marry, ruling it violates federal law. He let a day go by, thereby allowing some 300 couple to get legally married after four county clerks opened their offices to issue marriage licenses.

A few daze later, Michigan Emperor Rick Snyder announced that, while the marriages were legal, the state would not recognize them for the purposes of providing state benefits, usuallly afforded to married couples. His decision was followed by an announcement by the federal government that it'd recognize the marriages for federal purposes. Because of Herr Snyder's refusal to recognize the marriages of the 300 couples, these families are precluded from enjoying the many benefits of marriage in Michigan, including providing health insurance to spouses, jointly adopting children, and ensuring the financial stability of their families. Ergo, in stepped the ACLU to speak for those couple, which included:
Glenna Dejong and Marsha Casper, of Ingham County, who have been together for 27 years and were the first same-sex couple to get married in Michigan.

Bianca Racine and Carrie Miller, of Oakland County, who have been together for three years. Racine is in the National Guard; however, Miller will not be recognized as her spouse by the state Veterans Affairs agencies.

Martin Contreras and Keith Orr, of Washtenaw County, who've been together for 28 years, but worry about the state's refusal to recognize their marriage on health benefits and state income taxes.

Samantha Wolf and Marnee Rutledge, of Ingham County, who have been together for two years. Rutledge has ongoing health concerns stemming from a car accident. She would like to be covered on her wife's health insurance.

Frank Colasonti, Jr. and James Barclay Ryder, of Oakland County, who have been together for 26 years. Colasonti would like to adjust his pension plan to provide Ryder with continued survivor benefits and health care in the event of Colasonti's death.

Kelli Callison and Anne Callison, of Washtenaw County, who have been together for five years and have a two-year-old son. They would like to jointly adopt their son.

James Anteau and Jared Haddock, of Oakland County, who have been together for 16 years. Anteau would like Haddock to be covered under his health insurance as his spouse.
The lawsuit argues that once same-sex couples are legally married in Michigan, they gain protections that cannot be taken away retroactively. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution compels state officials to recognize those protections, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the appeal of Judge Friedman's ruling.

The lawsuit is separate from the original federal case challenging Michigan's gay marriage ban, which is on appeal before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That case was brought by private attorneys on behalf of an Oakland County lesbian couple: April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who've been together for more than a decade and are raising three adopted children. The ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief in that case. Rethuglicans, you gotta hate'em, I know that I do!

In Other News

There's been a lot of idle speculation surrounding Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. At the least about the government overreacting. Bundy owes a million plus for grazing his cattle on government lands and should've been arrested quietly by a couple of county sheriff deputies at his house and then taken to court. But Fatherland Security always likes to make much ado about nothing.

However, with it going down, the way that it did, some interesting facts came out about Nevada's senior Senator Harry Reid and his Chinese pals who wanted that land to build a massive solar farm. You'll recall, China's been paying our bills for decades now, and has a few trillion worthless greenbacks and before she joins Russia and much of the rest of the world in dropping dollars as the world's standard currency, she's been trying to buy up properties all over America and buy into various schemes to at least get something out of her investments.

For example, the Wall Street Journal came out with this back in 2012 concerning oil and gas and China and their two energy companies CNOOC and Sinopec, both owned by the state. This is just a drop in the bucket of what they've been up to; but it does give you some idea of what's going down.
Colorado: CNOOC gained a one-third stake in 800,000 acres in northeast Colorado and southwest Wyoming in a $1.27-billion pact with Chesapeake Energy Corporation.

Louisiana: Sinopec has a one-third interest in 265,000 acres in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale after a broader $2.5-billion deal with Devon Energy.

Michigan: Sinopec gained a one-third interest in 350,000 acres in a larger $2.5-billion deal with Devon Energy.

Ohio: Sinopec acquired a one-third interest in Devon Energy's 235,000 Utica Shale acres in a larger $2.5-billion deal.

Oklahoma: Sinopec has a one-third interest in 215,000 acres in a broader $2.5-billion deal with Devon Energy.

Texas: CNOOC acquired a one-third interest in Chesapeake Energy's 600,000 acres in the Eagle Ford Shale in a $2.16-billion deal.

Wyoming: CNOOC has a one-third stake in northeast Colorado and southeast Wyoming after a $1.27-billion pact with Chesapeake Energy. Sinopec gained a one-third interest in Devon Energy's 320,000 acres as part of a larger $2.5-billion deal.
Did we mention that Harry has been reaping some nice checks for his reelection campaign for years from China for his help? If you want to know what's happening, America, always remember to follow that old money trail!

And Finally

Only one day after the Center for Public Integrity's reporting series on denials of black lung benefits to coal miners was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) defended the controversial law firm at the center of the investigation.

As he stepped to the podium of the National Western Mining Convention in Denver on Tuesday, Manchin heaped praise upon Jackson Kelly, a sponsor of the event and the law firm implicated in unethically concealing medical evidence of miners dying of black lung.

"I want to thank my dear friends at Jackson Kelly," exclaimed the senator. In his remarks, Manchin also noted that his former staffer, Kelly Goes, is now an employee of the firm.

Manchin took over Robert Byrd's seat in the Senate in 2010, he's also the former Governor of West Virginia and has a long history with Jackson Kelly!

The Center for Public Integrity story revealed that Jackson Kelly has systemically denied coal miners black lung benefit claims by withholding unfavorable evidence and shaping the opinions of doctors called upon in court. CFPI Reporter Chris Hamby's investigation "suggests that there has been a pattern and practice by lawyers at the Jackson Kelly law firm which has compromised the integrity of the black lung benefits program and potentially tainted numerous decisions adversely affecting coal miners and their survivors," wrote Representatives George Miller (D-California) and Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut) in a letter to the Department of Labor last year.

Manchin is a close ally to the coal industry. At the conference, he touted his new legislation that would block the EPA from implementing new regulations on coal power plants. Jackson Kelly, according to its website, has represented the coal industry since the mid-19th century. Manchin received a plus $50,000 bribe, er, donation from Jackson Kelly.

Keepin' On

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

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

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

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


~ 04-15-2014
Thanks for the thoughts!


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


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

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

Ukraine, Through The US Looking Glass
By Robert Parry

The acting president of the coup regime in Kiev announces that he is ordering an "anti-terrorist" operation against pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine, while his national security chief says he has dispatched right-wing ultranationalist fighters who spearheaded the Feb. 22 coup that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych.The Times' front page on Wednesday was a bizarre story by David M. Herszenhorn accusing the Russian government of engaging in a propaganda war by making many of the same points that you could find - albeit without the useful context about Parubiy's neo-Nazi background - in the same newspaper.

On Tuesday, Andriy Parubiy, head of the Ukrainian National Security Council, went on Twitter to declare, "Reserve unit of National Guard formed #Maidan Self-defense volunteers was sent to the front line this morning." Parubiy was referring to the neo-Nazi militias that provided the organized muscle that overthrew Yanukovych, forcing him to flee for his life. Some of these militias have since been incorporated into security forces as "National Guard."

Parubiy himself is a well-known neo-Nazi, who founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine in 1991. The party blended radical Ukrainian nationalism with neo-Nazi symbols. Parubiy also formed a paramilitary spinoff, the Patriots of Ukraine, and defended the awarding of the title, "Hero of Ukraine," to World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, whose own paramilitary forces exterminated thousands of Jews and Poles in pursuit of a racially pure Ukraine.

During the months of protests aimed at overthrowing Yanukovych, Parubiy became the commandant of "Euromaidan," the name for the Kiev uprising, and - after the Feb. 22 coup - Parubiy was one of four far-right Ukrainian nationalists given control of a ministry, i.e. national security.

But the U.S. press has played down his role because his neo-Nazism conflicts with Official Washington's narrative that the neo-Nazis played little or no role in the "revolution." References to neo-Nazis in the "interim government" are dismissed as "Russian propaganda."

Yet there Parubiy was on Tuesday bragging that some of his neo-Nazi storm troopers - renamed "National Guard" - were now being sicced on rebellious eastern Ukraine as part of the Kiev government's "anti-terrorist" operation.

The post-coup President Oleksandr Turchynov also warned that Ukraine was confronting a "colossal danger," but he insisted that the suppression of the pro-Russian protesters would be treated as an "anti-terrorist" operation and not as a "civil war." Everyone should understand by now that "anti-terror" suggests extrajudicial killings, torture and "counter-terror."

Yet, with much of the Ukrainian military of dubious loyalty to the coup regime, the dispatch of the neo-Nazi militias from western Ukraine's Right Sektor and Svoboda parties represents a significant development. Not only do the Ukrainian neo-Nazis consider the ethnic Russians an alien presence, but these right-wing militias are organized to wage street fighting as they did in the February uprising.

Historically, right-wing paramilitaries have played crucial roles in "counter-terror" campaigns around the world. In Central America in the 1980s, for instance, right-wing "death squads" did much of the dirty work for U.S.-backed military regimes as they crushed social protests and guerrilla movements.

The merging of the concept of "anti-terrorism" with right-wing paramilitaries represents a potentially frightening development for the people of eastern Ukraine. And much of this information - about Turchynov's comments and Parubiy's tweet - can be found in a New York Times' dispatch from Ukraine.

Whose Propaganda?

However, on the Times' front page on Wednesday was a bizarre story by David M. Herszenhorn accusing the Russian government of engaging in a propaganda war by making many of the same points that you could find - albeit without the useful context about Parubiy's neo-Nazi background - in the same newspaper.,p. In the article entitled "Russia Is Quick To Bend Truth About Ukraine," Herszenhorn mocked Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev for making a Facebook posting that "was bleak and full of dread," including noting that "blood has been spilled in Ukraine again" and adding that "the threat of civil war looms."

The Times article continued, "He [Medvedev] pleaded with Ukrainians to decide their own future 'without usurpers, nationalists and bandits, without tanks or armored vehicles - and without secret visits by the C.I.A. director.' And so began another day of bluster and hyperbole, of the misinformation, exaggerations, conspiracy theories, overheated rhetoric and, occasionally, outright lies about the political crisis in Ukraine that have emanated from the highest echelons of the Kremlin and reverberated on state-controlled Russian television, hour after hour, day after day, week after week." This argumentative "news" story spilled from the front page to the top half of an inside page, but Herszenhorn never managed to mention that there was nothing false in what Medvedev said. Indeed, it was the much-maligned Russian press that first reported the secret visit of CIA Director John Brennan to Kiev.

Though the White House has since confirmed that report, Herszenhorn cites Medvedev's reference to it in the context of "misinformation" and "conspiracy theories." Nowhere in the long article does the Times inform its readers that, yes, the CIA director did make a secret visit to Ukraine last weekend. Presumably, that reality has now disappeared into the great memory hole along with the on-ground reporting from Feb. 22 about the key role of the neo-Nazi militias.

The neo-Nazis themselves have pretty much disappeared from Official Washington's narrative, which now usually recounts the coup as simply a case of months of protests followed by Yanukovych's decision to flee. Only occasionally, often inserted deep in news articles with the context removed, can you find admissions of how the neo-Nazis spearheaded the coup.

A Wounded Extremist

For instance, on April 6, the New York Times published a human-interest profile of a Ukrainian named Yuri Marchuk who was wounded in clashes around Kiev's Maidan square in February. You have to read far into the story to learn that Marchuk was a Svoboda leader from Lviv, which - if you did your own research - you would discover is a neo-Nazi stronghold where Ukrainian nationalists hold torch-light parades in honor of Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.

Without providing that context, the Times does mention that Lviv militants plundered a government weapons depot and dispatched 600 militants a day to do battle in Kiev. Marchuk also described how these well-organized militants, consisting of paramilitary brigades of 100 fighters each, launched the fateful attack against the police on Feb. 20, the battle where Marchuk was wounded and where the death toll suddenly spiked into scores of protesters and about a dozen police.

Marchuk later said he visited his comrades at the occupied City Hall. What the Times doesn't mention is that City Hall was festooned with Nazi banners and even a Confederate battle flag as a tribute to white supremacy.

The Times touched on the inconvenient truth of the neo-Nazis again on April 12 in an article about the mysterious death of neo-Nazi leader Oleksandr Muzychko, who was killed during a shootout with police on March 24. The article quoted a local Right Sektor leader, Roman Koval, explaining the crucial role of his organization in carrying out the anti-Yanukovych coup.

"Ukraine's February revolution, said Mr. Koval, would never have happened without Right Sector and other militant groups," the Times wrote. Yet, that reality - though actually reported in the New York Times - has now become "Russian propaganda," according to the New York Times.

This upside-down American narrative also ignores the well-documented interference of prominent U.S. officials in stirring up the protesters in Kiev, which is located in the western part of Ukraine and is thus more anti-Russian than eastern Ukraine where many ethnic Russians live and where Yanukovych had his political base.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland was a cheerleader for the uprising, reminding Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their "European aspirations," discussing who should replace Yanukovych (her choice, Arseniy Yatsenyuk became the new prime minister), and literally passing out cookies to the protesters in the Maidan. (Nuland is married to neoconservative superstar Robert Kagan, a founder of the Project for the New American Century.)

During the protests, neocon Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, took the stage with leaders of Svoboda - surrounded by banners honoring Stepan Bandera - and urged on the protesters. Even before the demonstrations began, prominent neocon Carl Gershman, president of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, had dubbed Ukraine "the biggest prize." [For more details, see's "What's the Matter with John Kerry?"]

Indeed, in my four-plus decades in journalism, I have never seen a more thoroughly biased and misleading performance by the major U.S. news media. Even during the days of Ronald Reagan - when much of the government's modern propaganda structure was created - there was more independence in major news outlets. There were media stampedes off the reality cliff during George H.W. Bush's Persian Gulf War and George W. Bush's Iraq War, both of which were marked by demonstrably false claims that were readily swallowed by the big U.S. news outlets.

But there is something utterly Orwellian in the current coverage of the Ukraine crisis, including accusing others of "propaganda" when their accounts - though surely not perfect - are much more honest and more accurate than what the U.S. press corps has been producing.

There's also the added risk that this latest failure by the U.S. press corps is occurring on the border of Russia, a nuclear-armed state that - along with the United States - could exterminate all life on the planet. The biased U.S. news coverage is now feeding into political demands to send U.S. military aid to Ukraine's coup regime.

The casualness of this propaganda - as it spreads across the U.S. media spectrum from Fox News to MSNBC, from the Washington Post to the New York Times - is not just wretched journalism but it is reckless malfeasance jeopardizing the lives of many Ukrainians and the future of the planet.
(c) 2014 Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'.

In One Word: Poof!
By Uri Avnery

POOR JOHN Kerry. This week he emitted a sound that was more expressive than pages of diplomatic babble.

In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee he explained how the actions of the Israeli government had torpedoed the "peace process."They broke their obligation to release Palestinian prisoners, and at the same time announced the enlargement of more settlements in East Jerusalem. The peace efforts went "poof.”

"Poof"is the sound of air escaping a balloon. It is a good expression, because the "peace process" was from the very beginning nothing more than a balloon full of hot air. An exercise in make-believe.

JOHN KERRY cannot be blamed. He took the whole thing seriously. He is an earnest politician, who tried very very hard to make peace between Israel and Palestine. We should be grateful for his efforts.

The trouble is that Kerry had not the slightest idea of what he was getting himself into.

The entire "peace process"revolves around a basic misconception. Some would say: a basic lie.

Namely: that we have here two equal sides of a conflict. A serious conflict. An old conflict. But a conflict that can be solved when reasonable people of the two sides sit down together and thrash it out, guided by a benevolent and impartial referee.

Not one detail of these assumptions was real. The referee was not impartial. The leaders were not sensible. And most importantly: the sides were not equal.

The balance of power between the two sides is not 1:1, not even 1:2 or 1:10. In every material respect - military, diplomatic, economic - it is more like one to a thousand.

There is no equality between occupier and occupied, oppressor and oppressed. A jailer and a prisoner cannot negotiate on equal terms. When one side has total command of the other, controls his every move, settles on his land, controls his money flow, arrests people at will, blocks his access to the UN and the International courts, equality is out of the question.

If the two sides to negotiations are so extremely unequal, the situation can only be remedied by the mediator supporting the weaker side. What is happening is the very opposite: the American support for Israel is massive and unstinting.

Throughout the "negotiations"the US did nothing to check the settlement activity that created more Israeli facts on the ground - the very ground whose future the negotiations were all about.

A PREREQUISITE for successful negotiations is that all sides have at least a basic understanding not only of each other's interests and demands, but even more of each other's mental world, emotional setup and self-image. Without that, all moves are inexplicable and look irrational.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, one of the most intelligent people I have met in my life, once told me: "You have in Israel the most intelligent experts on the Arab world. They have read all the books, all the articles, every single word written about it. They know everything, and understand nothing. Because they have never lived one day in an Arab country."

The same is true for the American experts, only much more so. In Washington DC one feels the rarefied air of a Himalayan peak. Seen from the grandiose palaces of the administration, where the fate of the world is decided, foreign people look small, primitive and largely irrelevant. Here and there some real experts are tucked away, but nobody really consults them.

The average American statesman has not the slightest idea of Arab history, world-view, religions, myths or the traumas that shape Arab attitudes, not to mention the Palestinian struggle. He has no patience for this primitive nonsense.

SEEMINGLY, THE American understanding of Israel is much better. But not really.

Average American politicians and diplomats know a lot about Jews. Many of them are Jews. Kerry himself seems to be partly Jewish. His peace team includes many Jews, even Zionists, including the actual manager of the negotiations, Martin Indyk, who worked in the past for AIPAC. His very name is Yiddish (and means a Turkey).

The assumption is that Israelis are not very different from American Jews. But that is entirely false. Israel may claim to be the "Nation-State of the Jewish People”, but that is only an instrument for exploiting the Jewish Diaspora and creating obstacles for the "peace process." In reality there is very little similarity between Israelis and the Jewish Diaspora, not much more than between a German and a Japanese.

Martin Indyk may feel an affinity with Tzipi Livni, the daughter of an Irgun fighter (or "terrorist" in British parlance), but that is an illusion. The myths and traumas that shaped Tzipi are very different from those that shaped Martin, who was educated in Australia.

If Barack Obama and Kerry knew more, they would have realized from the beginning that the present Israeli political setup makes any Israeli evacuation of the settlements, withdrawal from the West Bank and compromise about Jerusalem quite impossible.

ALL THIS is true for the Palestinian side, too.

Palestinians are convinced that they understand Israel. After all, they have been under Israeli occupation for decades. Many of them have spent years in Israeli prisons and speak perfect Hebrew. But they have made many mistakes in their dealings with Israelis.

The latest one was the belief that Israel would release the fourth batch of prisoners. This was almost impossible. All Israeli media, including the moderate ones, speak about releasing "Palestinian murderers,' not Palestinian activists or fighters. Right-wing parties compete with each other, and with rightist "terror-victims," in denouncing this outrage.

Israelis do not understand the deep emotions evoked by the non-release of prisoners - the national heroes of the Palestinian people, though Israel itself has in the past exchanged a thousand Arab prisoners for one single Israeli, citing the Jewish religious command of "redemption of prisoners.”

It has been said that Israel always sells a "concession" three times: once when promising it, once when signing an official agreement about it and thirdly when actually fulfilling the undertaking. This happened when the time came to implement the third withdrawal from the West Bank under the Oslo agreements, which never happened.

Palestinians know nothing about Jewish history as taught in Israeli schools, very little about the holocaust, even less about the roots of Zionism.

RECENT NEGOTIATIONS started as "peace talks”, continued about a "framework" for further negotiations, and now the talks have degenerated to talks about the talks about the talks.

Nobody wants to break off the farce, because all three sides are afraid of the alternative.

The American side is afraid of a general onslaught of the Zionist-evangelical-Republican-Adelson bulldozer on the Obama administration in the next elections. Already the State Department is frantically trying to retreat from the Kerry "poof”. He did not mean that only Israel is to blame, they assert, the fault lies with both sides. The jailer and the prisoner are equally to blame.

As usual, the Israeli government has many fears. It fears the outbreak of a third intifada, coupled with a world-wide campaign of de-legitimization and boycott of Israel, especially in Europe.

It also fears that the UN, which at present recognizes Palestine only as a non-member state, will go on and promote it more and more.

The Palestinian leadership, too, is afraid of a third intifada, which may lead to a bloody uprising. Though all Palestinians speak about a "non-violent intifada”, few really believe in it. They remember that the last intifada also started non-violently, but the Israeli army responded by deploying snipers to kill the leaders of the demonstrations, and more suicide bombing became inevitable.

President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has responded to the non-release of the prisoners, which amounted to a personal humiliation, by signing the documents necessary for the Palestinian State to join 15 international conventions. The Israeli government exploded in anger. How dare they?

In practice, the act means little. One signature means that Palestine joins the Geneva Convention. Another concerns the protection of children. Shouldn't we welcome this? But the Israeli government fears that this is one step nearer to the acceptance of Palestine as a member of the International Criminal Court, and perhaps the indictment of Israelis for war crimes.

Abbas is also planning steps for a reconciliation with Hamas and the holding of Palestinian elections, in order to strengthen his home front.

IF YOU were poor John Kerry, what would you say to all this?

"Poof!"seems the very minimum.
(c) 2014 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

NYPD Punishes Black Victims
By Margaret Kimberley

In the United States the blind folded figure representing justice is a sham. Not only can she see but she also has her thumb firmly on the scales that she holds for dramatic effect. All evidence points to the fact that justice in this country is far from blind. She sees skin color quite clearly and makes sure that anyone of a darker hue is placed under lock and key for any and every reason.

In New York City, shooting victims are victimized twice if they have so much as an unpaid summons for an open container of liquor. That is what happened to Andre Daly, who survived a shooting only to be arrested himself. Daly didn't appear in court to pay a summons for having a glass of wine in public. The unpaid fine was a misdemeanor and a mere $25, but no matter. As he lay wounded in the hospital he was shackled to his bed and became as much a prisoner of the system as an inmate in a prison cell.

The purpose of American criminal injustice is only partly to keep the population safe from crime. In reality, it is meant to keep certain groups, black people most obviously, under the control of law enforcement and thereby rendered vulnerable to any form of attack the system can devise.

Daly disputes that the police had cause to give him a summons in the first place, but police in New York City and elsewhere have one mantra, one reason for being, and that is to keep black people under surveillance and over policed. People like Daly can be stopped, searched and often arrested without justification. During the worst days of New York's stop and frisk campaign nearly 500,000 were stopped for having a bulge in their clothing or making a "furtive movement."

Receiving a summons for a small amount of money may seem innocuous, but it can be life or death for black people. It leads an individual into the perilous world of law enforcement where they are now more easily included within the reach of a vicious system. When the lack of child care prevented Daly from going to court, he unwittingly became at risk of experiencing far more serious problems.

Not only was his medical care compromised but his family didn't have the right to visit him as they would any other hospital patient. Their visits were limited to once per day and they too became under the watchful eye of the police.

The game show Jeopardy ought to have a new category, "Things that only happen to black people." The shackling of people with minor criminal charges certainly fits that description. Only black people would simultaneously have to endure a criminal background check even as they receive medical care after being assaulted.

The legal efforts to stop practices like this must certainly continue, but there has to be a serious and unflinching discussion about why these legally sanctioned abuses exist at all. The stain of chattel slavery is not just a moral one but one which afflicts us now in the 21st century.

This legacy mandates that the black population remain under physical control at all times. Harsh laws are enacted ostensibly against drug trafficking or non-payment of child support but every law enforcement system initiative ends the same way, with black people at risk when they walk down the street, or drive or even get sick. The legal mechanisms which terrorize black people have been perfected with each one feeding upon another and preventing escape, even when suffering from gunshot wounds. The expression "adding insult to injury" doesn't begin to describe this awful practice.

The police, judges and politicians couldn't expand the reasons for keeping black people incarcerated unless they had both the tacit and explicit approval of the majority of the population. Most white New Yorkers thought that stop and frisk was just fine. Like their counterparts in the rest of the country they think that George Zimmerman should have been acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. Speaking of insult and injury, they also think of themselves as the victims of racism instead of people like Andre Daly.

That is the ugly truth which must be spoken and spoken out loud. Most white people have varying degrees of hatred and or fear of black people. As a result, little children can be handcuffed when they have tantrums, mothers are jailed for enrolling children outside of their school districts and black men can be jailed or shot by the police at any time.

Yes Andre Daly and people like him must get justice for their mistreatment at the hands of the NYPD. But a larger justice eludes everyone unless the monster of race hatred is called by its name and condemned to disappear.
(c) 2014 Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley@BlackAgendaReport.Com.

Breaking Bad In Southern NATOstan
By Pepe Escobar

ON THE ROAD IN PROVENCE - To quote Lenin, what is to be done? Back to Brussels and Berlin? A close encounter with dreary Northern NATOstan, consumed by its paranoid anti-Russia obsession and enslaved by the infinitely expandable Pentagon euro-scam? Perhaps a jaunt to Syria war junkie Erdogastan?

,b. Talk about a no contest. Joie de vivre settled it; thus The Roving

Eye hooked up with Nick, The Roving Son, in Catalonia, and armed with La Piccolina - Nick's vintage, go-go '80s Peugeot caravan powered by a Citroen engine - we hit the road in Provence, prime southern NATOstan real estate. Instead of breaking crystal meth, non-stop breaking of fine infidel liquids and choice Provencal gastronomy.

Call it a subterranean, non-homesick, non-bluesy investigation into the economic malaise of Club Med nations; the pauperization of the European middle class; the advance of the extreme right; and the looming prospect of an economic NATO. All within the framework of exceedingly cool family quality time. And subversively enough, with both laptop and mobile turned off.

Does God drink Bandol?

We were fortunate enough to catch the inaugural week of the Van Gogh Foundation in Arles - with its remarkable entrance portal inscribed with Van Gogh's enlarged signature; its suspended garden of colored mirrors; and a crack exhibition on the master's chromatic evolution up to the frenetic 15 months he lived in Arles. A few minutes contemplating La Maison Jaune (1888) is an intimation of immortality, revealing what exceptionalism is really all about.

Aesthetic illuminations were a given - from Baux castle at sunset to sipping a Perrier mint on a terrace overlooking the countryside around hilltop Gordes; from a starry night in the open at the Colorado Provencal (intriguingly trespassed by a military helicopter flying low, Baghdad surge-style) to debating the merits of each variation of chevre de Banon - that Epicurean "cheese of exception" wrapped up in chestnut leaves.

And then the crossing to the Grand Canyon of Verdon - the most American of European canyons, attacked on different angles from both the north and south rim, including a trek along the old Roman trail and a close encounter with the jagged, chaotic, ghostly rock silhouettes of Les Cadieres (chairs, in Provencal) - the Verdon's answer to the Twin Towers. Call it a quirky Provencal take on Osama and al-Zawahiri trekking the Hindu Kush.

As we descended from the Col de Leques, the owner of a mountainside cafe told us he had just opened for the whole season, lasting until mid-September. But here, in early April, the Verdon was bathed in silent glory, except for the occasional badass biker.

Then - as in Godard's Pierrot Le Fou - a dash towards La Mediterrane. First stop in Front National-controlled Toulon - so proper, so regimented, so fearful even of non-immigrant skateboarders, yet displaying a monster NATO cargo ship in full regalia.

It's impossible to have a plateau de moules in mid-afternoon at the port, but at the Ah-Ha Chinese restaurant there are Verdon canyons of food are available around the clock, which once again goes to show how Asia's entrepreneurial drive has left Europe in the dust.

Cue to a Platonic banquet at the venerable Auberge Du Port in Bandol - orgiastic bouillabaisse paired with the best local wine, which would be a close match between Bastide de la Ciselette and Domaine de Terrebrune. None of these infidel liquid marvels, by the way, have been touched by globalization.

There's hardly a single millimeter of free land space in the coast around Marseille - that's part of a well-known dossier, the environmental destruction of southern NATOstan. Still we managed to find a relatively secluded grove for the appropriate Rimbaud mood (la mer, la mer, toujours recommence).

Then the dreaded moment reared its ugly head - at Sanary-sur-Mer, where Huxley wrote Brave New World at his Villa Huley and Thomas Mann held court in the Chemin de la Colline. Brecht in fact might have sung anti-Hitler songs out of a table at Le Nautique; so after debating with Nick the comparative merits of Beneteau sailing boats, I finally decided to stop with all that Brechtian distancing and walked to the nearby kiosk to buy the papers, order a cafe au lait, and turn on the mobile.

Not impressed is an understatement. One week off the grid, and the same sarabande of paranoia, frenetic pivoting and monochromatic exceptionalism. Yet, there it was, like a pearl at the bottom of the turquoise Mediterranean, buried in the info-avalanche: the definitive news of the week, perhaps the year, perhaps the decade.

Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller had met with China National Petroleum Corporation chairman Zhou Jiping in Beijing on Wednesday. They were on their way to sign the 30-year, mega-contract deal to supply China with Siberian natural gas "as soon as possible." Probably on May 20, when Putin goes to Beijing.

Now this is the genuine article. Pipelineistan meets the strategic partnership Russia-China, as solidified in the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with the tantalizing prospect of pricing/payment bypassing the petrodollar, otherwise known as the "thermonuclear option". Ukraine, compared to this, is a mere sideshow.

Welcome to the Brussels rat-o-drome

It was on the road from the Mediterranean back to Arles via Aix-en-Provence that it hit me like an Obama drone. This whole trip was after all about the sublime chevre wrapped up in chestnut leaves in Banon, those "rose petal" bottles of wine; in Bandol, artisan producers and season mountain folks spelling out their fears in village markets and unpretentious chateaux. This was all about economic NATO.

The Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement is a top priority of the Obama administration. Tariffs are already almost negligible across most products between the US and the European Union. So a deal is essentially about a power grab over continental markets by Big American Agro-Business (as in an invasion of genetically modified products), as well as American media giants. Call it a nice add-on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - which in a nutshell means an American takeover of the heavily protected Japanese economy.

Southern NATOstan does offer glimpses of a European post-historical paradise - a Kantian rose garden protected from a nasty Hobbesian world by the "benign" Empire (the new denomination of choice, coined by - who else - neo-cons of the Robert Kagan variety). Yet the main emotion enveloping southern NATOstan, as I witnessed since the start of 2014 successively in Italy, Spain and France, is fear. Fear of The Other - as in the poor interloper, black or brown; fear of perennial unemployment; fear for the end of middle-class privileges until recently taken for granted; and fear of economic NATO - as virtually no average European trusts those hordes of Brussels bureaucrats.

For nine months now, the European Commission has been negotiating a so-called Trade and Investment Partnership. The "transparency" surrounding what will be the largest free-trade agreement ever, encompassing more than 800 million consumers, would put North Korea's King Jong-eun to shame.

The whole secret blah blah blah revolves around the euphemistic "non-tariff obstacles" - as in a web of ethical, environmental, juridical and sanitary norms that protect consumers, not giant multinationals. What the behemoths aim for, on the other hand, is a very profitable free-for-all - implying, just as an example, the indiscriminate use of ractopamine, an energy-booster for pork that is even outlawed in Russia and China.

So why is the Obama administration suddenly so enamored of a free-trade agreement with Europe? Because US Big Business has finally found out that the Holy Grail of an economic pivoting to China won't be so holy after all; the whole thing will be conducted under Chinese terms, as in major Chinese brands progressively upgrading to control most of the Chinese market.

Thus Plan B as a transatlantic market submitting 40% of international trade to the same big business-friendly norms. Obama has been heavily spinning the agreement will create "millions of well-paid American jobs". That's highly debatable, to say the least. But make no mistake about the American drive; Obama himself is personally implicated.,p. As for the Europeans, it's more like rats scurrying in a secret casino. As much as the National Security Agency monitors every phone call in Brussels, average Europeans remain clueless about what they will be slapped with. Public debate over the agreement is for all practical purposes verboten for European civil society.

European Commission negotiators meet only with lobbyists and multinational CEOs. In case of "price volatility" down the road, European farmers will be the big losers, not Americans, now protected by a new Farm Bill. No wonder the direct and indirect message I received from virtually everyone in the Provencal countryside is that "Brussels is selling us out"; in the end, what will disappear, in a death by a thousand cuts manner, is top-quality agriculture, scores of artisan producers with a savoir-faire accumulated over centuries.

So long live hormones, antibiotics, chlorine and GMOs. And off with their heads in the terroir! NATO issuing threats to Russia is such a lame, convenient diversionary tactic. As La Piccolina left Provence carrying its share of sublime artisan goods, I could not but understand why the locals see an economic NATO future with such Van Goghian apprehension.
(c) 2014 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan." He may be reached at

Fast Food Chains Stealing From Low-Wage Workers

No matter how small the haul is, a thief is a thief, right? If a poverty-wage fast-food worker sneaks out a couple of burgers to take home to the kids, the bosses yell: "Thief!"

But what do you call it when the bosses steal from those same workers? How about outrageous, disgusting - or simply unbelievable? Well, believe it or not, it's happening every day in multiple ways, and not by a few bad apples, but in what has become routine corporate practice by McDonald's, Burger King, Domino's, and other hugely-profitable giants.

Technically it's called "wage theft," and it involves such slick-fingered moves as erasing hours from employee time cards, requiring off-the-clock work, not paying for overtime hours, refusing to reimburse workers for gas they bought while making deliveries, or inventing uniform fees and other deductions that illegally drop pay below the minimum wage.

Come on - isn't it shameful enough that these global behemoths pay rock-bottom wages, without them circling back like low-life pickpockets to steal from their own employees? This is not just corporate thievery, it's thuggery.

How low can fast-food greed go? So low that the top bosses at headquarters play a sleazy game of Hide & Seek, pretending that they have nothing to do with this rip off. Personnel practices, they airily claim, are left to local franchisees, who are "independent business owners." Bovine excrement! Corporate central dictates how much mustard each franchise can put on a bun, so to think that it doesn't monitor every dime in payroll is a ludicrous lie.

In a recent survey of fast-food workers, nine out of ten said they have had wages stolen by their bosses. This thievery has become business as usual, and it's worse than shameful - it's slimy. For more information, go to the National Employment Law Project:
(c) 2014 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Rumsfeld Personifies Our Society
By David Swanson

When Donald Rumsfeld used to hold press conferences about the Iraq war, the press corps would giggle at the clever ways in which he refused to actually say anything or answer any questions.

In a new film about Rumsfeld called *The Unknown Knowns*, the aging criminal is occasionally confronted with evidence that what he's just said is false. He maintains a frozen grin and acts as if nothing has happened. The film's director, interviewing Rumsfeld, never presses the truly uncomfortable points.

The closest the film comes to asking Rumsfeld about the wrongness of launching a war on Iraq is with the question "Wouldn't it have been better not to go there at all?" Not "Wasn't it illegal?" Not "Do you believe 1.4 million Iraqis were killed or only 0.5 million?" Not "When you sleep at your home at the Mt. Misery plantation where they used to beat and whip slaves like Frederick Douglass how do you rank the mass slaughter you engaged in against the crimes of past eras?" Not "Was it at least inappropriate to smirk and claim that 'freedom is untidy' while people were destroying a society?" And to the only question that was asked, Rumsfeld is allowed to get away with replying "I guess time will tell."

Then Rumsfeld effectively suggests that time has already told. He says that candidate Barack Obama opposed Bush-era tactics and yet has kept them in place, including the PATRIOT Act, lawless imprisonment, etc. He might have added that President Obama has maintained the right to torture and rendition even while largely replacing torture with murder via drone. Most crucially for himself, he might have noted that Obama has violated the Convention Against Torture by barring the prosecution of those responsible for recent violations. But Rumsfeld's point is clear when he notes that Obama's conduct "has to validate" everything the previous gang did wrong.

I've long included Rumsfeld on a list of the top 50 Bush-era war criminals, with this description:

"Donald Rumsfeld lives in Washington, D.C., and at former slave-beating plantation "Mount Misery" on Maryland's Eastern Shore near St. Michael's and a home belonging to Dick Cheney, as well as at an estate outside Taos, New Mexico. He took part in White House meetings personally overseeing and approving torture by authorizing the use of specific torture techniques including waterboarding on specific people, and was in fact a leading liar in making the false case for an illegal war of aggression, and pushed for wars of aggression for years as a participant in the Project for the New American Century." The National Lawyers Guild noted years ago :
"It was recently revealed that Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and John Ashcroft met in the White House and personally oversaw and approved the torture by authorizing specific torture techniques including waterboarding. President Bush admitted he knew and approved of their actions. 'They are all liable under the War Crimes Act and the Torture Statute,' Professor [Marjorie] Cohn testified. 'Under the doctrine of command responsibility, commanders, all the way up the chain of command to the commander-in-chief, are liable for war crimes if they knew or should have known their subordinates would commit them, and they did nothing to stop or prevent it. The Bush officials ordered the torture after seeking legal cover from their lawyers.'"
This doesn't come up in the movie. Rumsfeld does shamelessly defend abusing and torturing prisoners, and maintains that torturing people protects "the American people," but he passes the buck to the Department of Justice and the CIA and is never asked about the White House meetings described above. When it comes to Abu Ghraib he says he thought "something terrible happened on my watch" as if he'd had nothing to do with it, as if his casual approval of torture and scrawled notes about how he stands up all day and so can prisoners played no part. (He also claims nobody was killed and there was just a bit of nudity and sadism, despite the fact that photos of guards smiling with corpses have been made public -- the movie doesn't mention them.) Asked about abuses migrating from Guantanamo to Iraq, Rumsfeld cites a report to claim they didn't. The director then shows Rumsfeld that the report he cited says that in fact torture techniques migrated from Guantanamo to Iraq. Rumsfeld says he thinks that's accurate, as if he'd never said anything else. Rumsfeld also says that in the future he believes public officials won't write so many memos.

The central lie in Rumsfeld's mind and our society and *The Unknown Knowns*is probably that irrational foreigners are out to get us. Rumsfeld recounts being asked at his confirmation hearing to become Secretary of So-Called Defense "What do you go to sleep worried about?" The answer was not disease or climate change or car accidents or environmental pollution or starvation any actually significant danger. The answer was not that the United States continues antagonizing the world and creating enemies. There was no sense of urgency to halt injustices or stop arming dictators or pull back from bases that outrage local populations. Instead, Rumsfeld feared another Pearl Harbor -- the same thing his Project for the New American Century had said would be needed in order to justify overthrowing governments in the Middle East.

Rumsfeld describes Pearl Harbor in the movie, lying that no one had imagined the possibility of a Japanese attack there. The facts refute that endlessly repeated lie.

Then Rumsfeld tells the same lie about 9-11, calling it "a failure of imagination." What we're going through is a failure of memory. These words "FBI information ... indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York" appeared in an August 6, 2001, briefing of President George W. Bush titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."

The movie does a decent job on Rumsfeld's pre-war lies. Rumsfeld tells the camera that nobody in the Bush administration ever tied Saddam Hussein to 9-11. Then the film shows old footage of Rumsfeld himself doing just that. Similar footage could have been shown of numerous officials on numerous occasions. Rumsfeld has clearly been allowed such levels of impunity that delusions have taken over. He rewrites the past in his head and expects everyone else to obediently follow along. As of course Eric Holder's Justice Department has done.

Rumsfeld, in the film, dates the certainty of the decision to invade Iraq to January 11, 2003. This of course predates months of himself and Bush and Cheney pretending no decision had been made, including the January 31, 2003, White House press conference with Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at which they said they were working to avoid war, after Bush had just privately proposed to Blair a string of cockamamie ideas that might get a war started.

Bizarrely, the film's director Errol Morris asks Rumsfeld why they didn't just assassinate Saddam Hussein instead of attacking the nation of Iraq. He does not ask why the U.S. didn't obey the law. He does not ask about Hussein's willingness to just leave if he could keep $1 billion, as Bush told Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar that Hussein had offered. And even the question asked, Rumsfeld refuses to answer until he makes Morris complicit. Morris had used the word "they," as in "why didn't *they* just assassinate him?" whereas he clearly should have used the word "you," but Rumsfeld makes him repeat the question using the word "we" before providing an answer. We? We were lied to by a criminal government. We don't take the blame as servants to a flag. Are you kidding? But Morris dutifully asks "Why didn't *we* just assassinate ... ?"

Rumsfeld replies that "We don't assassinate" and tries hard not to grin. Morris says "but you tried" referring to an attempt to bomb Hussein's location. Rumsfeld excuses that by saying it was "an act of war." This is the same line that human rights groups take on drone murders. (We can't be sure if they're illegal, because President Obama may have written a note and hid it in his shoe that says it's all a part of a war, and war makes murder OK.)

Rumsfeld blames Iraq for not avoiding being attacked. He pretends Iraq pretended to have weapons, even while blaming Iraq for not turning over the weapons that it claimed not to have (and didn't have). The veteran liar lies that he thought he was using the best "intelligence" when he lied about Iraqi weapons, and then passes the buck to Colin Powell.

Rumsfeld and the nation that produced him didn't turn wrong only in the year 2001. Rumsfeld avoided Watergate by being off to Brussels as ambassador to NATO, a worse crime one might argue than Watergate, or at least than Nixon's recording of conversations -- which is all that this movie discusses, and which Rumsfeld describes as "a mistake." Asked if he learned anything from the U.S. war that killed 4 million Vietnamese, Rumsfeld says "Some things work out, some things don't." I think he expected applause for that line. On the topic of meeting with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, Rumsfeld is allowed to describe his mistake as having been filmed shaking hands with the man he calls a dictator. But he's never asked about having supported Hussein and armed and assisted him, including with weapons that would later (despite having been destroyed) form the basis of the pretended cause of war.

After giving the fun-loving sociopaths of fictional dramas a bad name for two hours, this real person, Donald Rumsfeld, blames war on "human nature" and expresses pretended sadness at future U.S. war deaths, as if 95% of the victims of U.S. wars (the people who live where the wars are fought) never cross his mind at all. And why should they?
(c) 2014 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Annual Rite Of The Eostre Holiday
By James Donahue

The celebration this weekend is to Eostre, the pagan goddess of spring and fertility. It was never meant for Jesus.

The Roman Catholic Church scooped up the trappings of the pagan rites of spring the turned it into a celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. In essence the holiday marks the end of winter, the rising of Ra, the Sun, and the rebirth of the green and growing foods from the earth.

Labeled as the holiest holiday among Christians and Jews, for different reasons, the celebration has become a complex mixture of bunnies, baby chicks, painted chicken eggs, candies delivered in baskets filled with fake grass, and ladies wearing new spring hats. Some celebrate by going to church at sunrise because this is the time Jesus was allegedly supposed to have risen from the dead.

Many of us wonder why Easter has become such a hodge-podge of traditions ranging from mysterious visits by Easter rabbits that bring gifts and candy to Easter Parades and the display of Lilies.

The crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus is part of the story, but this also is part of an ancient pagan mythology that dates back to Semiramis, wife of Mesopotamian ruler Nimrod who declared herself mother of the reborn god Marduke. She proclaimed it a virgin birth. That was the first Jesus story. After Marduke came the Persian sun-god Mithra, the Egyptian solar god Horus, the Far Eastern god Buddha, and the Indian god Krishna. All of these follows died, some of them by crucifixion, then rose from the dead after three days. They promised to return and take all people who believed in them to heaven. Their life stories parallel the Bible story of Jesus.

It was the Roman emperor Constantine who advanced the cause of Christianity after his conversion from Mithraism. At the time he came to power, Rome ruled the known world, from Britain to North Africa. He made Christianity the official religion throughout Europe. From there it spread to the New World when the Europeans settled North America.

The Americans carried the celebration of Easter to fantastically new levels than the folks in the old world ever did.

The mixing of rabbits, colored eggs, candy and the other trappings of the holiday appear to have happened when the Christian holiday got mixed in with pagan rites of spring, which, when you get right down to it, is what Easter is really all about.

For example, in the Western culture, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the full moon on or after the spring equinox on March 21. Thus Easter can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25. It may never fall on the real date that Jesus died. That he rose from the dead is a myth that is yet to be proven. The Jewish Passover is associated with the mix, since the Bible story maintains the crucifixion occurred during the time of this religious event as well.

The spring celebrations once honored the pagan goddess Eostre, also known as Ishtar and Oestre. She was the goddess of spring and fertility. Thus the decorating of eggs, showing of blooming flowers and newborn animals like baby chickens all are symbols of newness and rebirth. The rabbit, known for its ability to reproduce its numbers quickly, also became a symbol for the fertility of the season.

It is all about sex and the planting of crops for a new season. Notice too, that the very name of the goddess Eostre, Ishtar or Oestre is updated to the word Easter. The celebration, if you want to participate, is to her, not to Jesus. It has been so for thousands of years.

There is a story about how the Easter Bunny came into being. It seems The Goddess Eostre took pity on a wounded bird that could no longer fly and transformed it into a white hare, then blessed it with the ability to lay eggs in many colors, but only on one day of each year. When the hare later offended Eostre, she banished it to the stars as the constellation Lepus. The hare was only permitted to return to earth on Eostre's feast day each year and give its special eggs as gifts to the children.

The Easter basket had it origins in Germany, where children traditionally placed their hats in secret places on the night before Easter. If they were good, they were told the 'Oschter Haws" would leave colored eggs and treats in their hats. When the German immigrants came to America, the hats and bonnets evolved into baskets.

There is another story that the coloring of eggs is a tradition that dates back to about the Thirteenth Century. It is said that eggs were a forbidden food for Catholics during the Lenten season, so people painted and decorated them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting. They were eaten on Easter as part of the celebration.

Easter egg hunts and egg rolling are contemporary and very American traditions. The first White House egg roll was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. Some people think of egg rolling as symbolic of rolling the stone away from the tomb of Jesus.

Easter candy mostly includes egg-shaped chocolates, rabbit shaped chocolates, and jelly beans, which look like small eggs. Sam Born invented the concept of the marshmallow Peep in the 1950s and that is now included among the traditional Easter candies.

New Yorkers have held a traditional Easter Parade since the mid-1800s. This event was made popular by the 1948 film Easter Parade starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, with music by Irving Berlin. Now other cities across America also hold Easter Parades.
(c) 2014 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Bernie Sanders Versus Citizens United
By John Nichols

Citizens United is not just the default reference for US Supreme Court decisions-including the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling-that have ushered in a new era of corporate dominance of American elections. It's the name of the conservative group that encouraged Chief Justice John Roberts and the most activist Court majority in American history to tear the heart out of what were already weak campaign finance laws.

Citizens United still exists as an activist group that produces documentaries-ACLU: At War with America, Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration, Fire From the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman, America at Risk: Hosted by Newt and Callista Gingrich-and organizes gatherings that highlight right-wing policies and politicians. On Saturday, Citizens United will host something of a kickoff for the Republican presidential race in the first-primary state of New Hampshire.

Organized in collaboration with the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Citizens United's "Freedom Summit" has attracted as confirmed speakers many of the leading contenders for the GOP nod. Indeed, Greg Moore, the director of AFP-New Hampshire, is talking up the summit as the first "cattle call" of 2016.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul will be there.

So will Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

And former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

And perennial (if never quite announced) contender Donald Trump.

It is a safe bet that no one at the Freedom Summit will object to the latest Supreme Court decision to steer more big money into politics-in the case of McCutcheon v. FEC-or to the corruption of American democracy and governance by bottom-line corporations and self-serving billionaires.

But across town, on the same day, the objection will be raised.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will be in Manchester Saturday for "a free town hall meeting and discussion on the economy and what we can do to save the middle class" at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on the campus of Saint Anselm College. Like some of the Republicans who will be in New Hampshire this weekend, Sanders has talked about running for president. And he acknowledges that a visit to the first-primary state will stir speculation about a possible bid.

But the independent senator says he is months away from any kind of decision.

What he is decided about, however, is the absolute absurdity of the high court's approach to cases like Citizens United and McCutcheon.

"What world are the five conservative Supreme Court justices living in?" asks Sanders. "To equate the ability of billionaires to buy elections with 'freedom of speech' is totally absurd. The Supreme Court is paving the way toward an oligarchic form of society in which a handful of billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson will control our political process."

He has also decided that a constitutional amendment is needed to push back against Supreme Court decisions that threaten to make the dollar more consequential than the vote in American elections.

The "Democracy is for the People" amendment, sponsored by Sanders and Congressman Ted Deutch, D-Florida, is one of several proposed by members of Congress in response to the national outcry over the Citizens United decision-an outcry that, so far, has seen sixteen states and close to 600 communities demand that the Constitution be amended to address the crisis created, and now compounded, by the court.

It reads:

Section I. Whereas the right to vote in public elections belongs only to natural persons as citizens of the United States, so shall the ability to make contributions and expenditures to influence the outcomes of public elections belong only to natural persons in accordance with this Article.

Section II. Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to restrict the power of Congress and the States to protect the integrity and fairness of the electoral process, limit the corrupting influence of private wealth in public elections, and guarantee the dependence of elected officials on the people alone by taking actions which may include the establishment of systems of public financing for elections, the imposition of requirements to ensure the disclosure of contributions and expenditures made to influence the outcome of a public election by candidates, individuals, and associations of individuals, and the imposition of content neutral limitations on all such contributions and expenditures.

Section III. Nothing in this Article shall be construed to alter the freedom of the press.

Section IV. Congress and the States shall have the power to enforce this Article through appropriate legislation.

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

"Clearly, if we are to retain the fundamentals of American democracy, we need to overturn the Supreme Court decision," explains the senator, who argues that the time has come for "overturning Citizens United."
(c) 2014 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

The Myth Of Human Progress And The Collapse Of Complex Societies
By Chris Hedges

The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville's "Moby Dick." Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.

Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship's 30-man crew-there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel-is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which in a previous encounter maimed the ship's captain, Ahab, by dismembering one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod's destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed-just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.

"If I had been downright honest with myself," Ishmael admits, "I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing."

Our financial system-like our participatory democracy-is a mirage. The Federal Reserve purchases $85 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds-much of it worthless subprime mortgages-each month. It has been artificially propping up the government and Wall Street like this for five years. It has loaned trillions of dollars at virtually no interest to banks and firms that make money-because wages are kept low-by lending it to us at staggering interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent. ... Or our corporate oligarchs hoard the money or gamble with it in an overinflated stock market. Estimates put the looting by banks and investment firms of the U.S. Treasury at between $15 trillion and $20 trillion. But none of us know. The figures are not public. And the reason this systematic looting will continue until collapse is that our economy [would] go into a tailspin without this giddy infusion of free cash.

The ecosystem is at the same time disintegrating. Scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, a few days ago, issued a new report that warned that the oceans are changing faster than anticipated and increasingly becoming inhospitable to life. The oceans, of course, have absorbed much of the excess CO2 and heat from the atmosphere. This absorption is rapidly warming and acidifying ocean waters. This is compounded, the report noted, by increased levels of deoxygenation from nutrient runoffs from farming and climate change. The scientists called these effects a "deadly trio" that when combined is creating changes in the seas that are unprecedented in the planet's history. This is their language, not mine. The scientists wrote that each of the earth's five known mass extinctions was preceded by at least one [part] of the "deadly trio"-acidification, warming and deoxygenation. They warned that "the next mass extinction" of sea life is already under way, the first in some 55 million years. Or look at the recent research from the University of Hawaii that says global warming is now inevitable, it cannot be stopped but at best slowed, and that over the next 50 years the earth will heat up to levels that will make whole parts of the planet uninhabitable. Tens of millions of people will be displaced and millions of species will be threatened with extinction. The report casts doubt that [cities on or near a coast] such as New York or London will endure.

Yet we, like Ahab and his crew, rationalize our collective madness. All calls for prudence, for halting the march toward economic, political and environmental catastrophe, for sane limits on carbon emissions, are ignored or ridiculed. Even with the flashing red lights before us, the increased droughts, rapid melting of glaciers and Arctic ice, monster tornadoes, vast hurricanes, crop failures, floods, raging wildfires and soaring temperatures, we bow slavishly before hedonism and greed and the enticing illusion of limitless power, intelligence and prowess.

The corporate assault on culture, journalism, education, the arts and critical thinking has left those who speak this truth marginalized and ignored, frantic Cassandras who are viewed as slightly unhinged and depressingly apocalyptic. We are consumed by a mania for hope, which our corporate masters lavishly provide, at the expense of truth.

Friedrich Nietzsche in "Beyond Good and Evil" holds that only a few people have the fortitude to look in times of distress into what he calls the molten pit of human reality. Most studiously ignore the pit. Artists and philosophers, for Nietzsche, are consumed, however, by an insatiable curiosity, a quest for truth and desire for meaning. They venture down into the bowels of the molten pit. They get as close as they can before the flames and heat drive them back. This intellectual and moral honesty, Nietzsche wrote, comes with a cost. Those singed by the fire of reality become "burnt children," he wrote, eternal orphans in empires of illusion.

Decayed civilizations always make war on independent intellectual inquiry, art and culture for this reason. They do not want the masses to look into the pit. They condemn and vilify the "burnt people"-Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Cornel West. They feed the human addiction for illusion, happiness and hope. They peddle the fantasy of eternal material progress. They urge us to build images of ourselves to worship. They insist-and this is the argument of globalization ¬¬-that our voyage is, after all, decreed by natural law. We have surrendered our lives to corporate forces that ultimately serve systems of death. We ignore and belittle the cries of the burnt people. And, if we do not swiftly and radically reconfigure our relationship to each other and the ecosystem, microbes look set to inherit the earth.

Clive Hamilton in his "Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change" describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that "catastrophic climate change is virtually certain." This obliteration of "false hopes," he says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth-intellectually and emotionally-and rise up to resist the forces that are destroying us.

The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the earth-as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury-as well as unrivaled military and economic power for a small, global elite-are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence. But even as our economic and environmental systems unravel, after the hottest year [2012] in the contiguous 48 states since record keeping began 107 years ago, we lack the emotional and intellectual creativity to shut down the engine of global capitalism. We have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward.

Complex civilizations have a bad habit of ultimately destroying themselves. Anthropologists including Joseph Tainter in "The Collapse of Complex Societies," Charles L. Redman in "Human Impact on Ancient Environments" and Ronald Wright in "A Short History of Progress" have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to systems breakdown. The difference this time is that when we go down the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The long struggle between the human species and the earth will conclude with the remnants of the human species learning a painful lesson about unrestrained greed, hubris and idolatry.

Collapse comes throughout human history to complex societies not long after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity.
(c) 2014 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

Rahm gives the corpo-rat salute

The Chicago Way
By David Sirota

In America, there is regular ol' corruption, and then there is Chicago Corruption, with a capital "C." America's third largest city is so notoriously corrupt, all you have to do is say "Chicago politics" and many people instantly start making jokes about payoffs and reciting lines from "The Untouchables."

Yet, while the Windy City's brand of corruption is extreme, it is also emblematic, as a recent spate of revelations prove.

Chicago is facing a pension shortfall for its police officers, firefighters, teachers and other municipal workers. If you've followed this story, you've probably heard that the only way Mayor Rahm Emanuel can deal with the situation is to slash those workers' pensions and to jack up property taxes on those who aren't politically connected enough to have secured themselves special exemptions.

This same fantastical story, portraying public employees as the primary cause of budget crises, is being told across the country. Yet, in many cases, we're only being told half the tale. We aren't told that the pension shortfalls in many locales were created because local governments did not make their required pension contributions over many years. And perhaps even more shocking, we aren't told that while states and cities pretend they have no money to deal with public sector pensions, many are paying giant taxpayer subsidies to corporations - subsidies that are often far larger than the pension shortfalls.

Chicago exemplifies how corruption is often at the heart of this grand bait and switch.

According to a report by the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First, the supposedly budget-strapped Windy City - which for years has not made its full pension payments - has mountains of cash sitting in a slush fund controlled by its poverty-pleading mayor. Indeed, as the report documents, the slush fund now receives more diverted property taxes each year than it would cost to adequately finance Chicago's pension funds.

Yet, Emanuel is refusing to use the cash from that slush fund to shore up the pensions. Instead, his new pension "reform" proposal cuts pension benefits, requires higher contributions from public employees, raises property taxes - but also quietly increases his slush fund.

Why, you ask, would Emanuel refuse to relinquish some of the half-billion dollars a year that is going into his slush fund? Perhaps because he has been using it to enrich Chicago's corporate class, including some of his biggest campaign donors.

For example, just after Emanuel took office, he used the slush fund to finance a $7 million subsidy that will benefit a grocery chain. The CEO of that chain's parent company gave Emanuel's campaign $25,000.

Emanuel also delivered a $29 million subsidy to support a new skyscraper development plan. Opponents of the subsidy told CBS that the money is simply financing "a very expensive corporate plaza" for the building. Now here's the kicker: The building will house the new Chicago headquarters of a law firm whose employees have given Emanuel more than $125,000.

Then there is Emanuel's $55 million subsidy for a new hotel near Chicago's convention center. An investment company that owns a major stake in the construction firm gave Emanuel's campaign $31,500.

Not to sound like a broken record, but again: This same thing occurs in states and cities across the country. The wealthy corporate interests who bankroll politicians have for years convinced those politicians to not make required pension payments and to instead spend the cash on taxpayer subsidies - the kind that happen to go to those politicians' donors.

Now that the bill for such irresponsibility is coming due, those bankrolled politicians are trying to protect the subsidies their donors so cherish by trying to balance budgets primarily through punitive measures against taxpayers and public employees.

Unfortunately, in this massive wealth transfer, corrupt Chicago is not the anomaly. It is a microcosm.
(c) 2014 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist, a staff writer at PandoDaily and the best-selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.

Three Expensive Milliseconds
By Paul Krugman

Four years ago Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, abruptly canceled America's biggest and arguably most important infrastructure project, a desperately needed new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. Count me among those who blame his presidential ambitions, and believe that he was trying to curry favor with the government- and public-transit-hating Republican base.

Even as one tunnel was being canceled, however, another was nearing completion, as Spread Networks finished boring its way through the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Spread's tunnel was not, however, intended to carry passengers, or even freight; it was for a fiber-optic cable that would shave three milliseconds - three-thousandths of a second - off communication time between the futures markets of Chicago and the stock markets of New York. And the fact that this tunnel was built while the rail tunnel wasn't tells you a lot about what's wrong with America today.

Who cares about three milliseconds? The answer is, high-frequency traders, who make money by buying or selling stock a tiny fraction of a second faster than other players. Not surprisingly, Michael Lewis starts his best-selling new book "Flash Boys," a polemic against high-frequency trading, with the story of the Spread Networks tunnel. But the real moral of the tunnel tale is independent of Mr. Lewis's polemic.

Think about it. You may or may not buy Mr. Lewis's depiction of the high-frequency types as villains and those trying to thwart them as heroes. (If you ask me, there are no good guys in this story.) But either way, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to save three milliseconds looks like a huge waste. And that's part of a much broader picture, in which society is devoting an ever-growing share of its resources to financial wheeling and dealing, while getting little or nothing in return.

How much waste are we talking about? A paper by Thomas Philippon of New York University puts it at several hundred billion dollars a year.

Mr. Philippon starts with the familiar observation that finance has grown much faster than the economy as a whole. Specifically, the share of G.D.P. accruing to bankers, traders, and so on has nearly doubled since 1980, when we started dismantling the system of financial regulation created as a response to the Great Depression.

What are we getting in return for all that money? Not much, as far as anyone can tell. Mr. Philippon shows that the financial industry has grown much faster than either the flow of savings it channels or the assets it manages. Defenders of modern finance like to argue that it does the economy a great service by allocating capital to its most productive uses - but that's a hard argument to sustain after a decade in which Wall Street's crowning achievement involved directing hundreds of billions of dollars into subprime mortgages.

Wall Street's friends also used to claim that the proliferation of complex financial instruments was reducing risk and increasing the system's stability, so that financial crises were a thing of the past. No, really.

But if our supersized financial sector isn't making us either safer or more productive, what is it doing? One answer is that it's playing small investors for suckers, causing them to waste huge sums in a vain effort to beat the market. Don't take my word for it - that's what the president of the American Finance Association declared in 2008. Another answer is that a lot of money is going to speculative activities that are privately profitable but socially unproductive.

You may object that this can't be right, that the invisible hand of the market ensures that private returns and social returns coincide. Economists have, however, known for a long time that when it comes to speculation, that proposition just isn't true. Back in 1815 Baron Rothschild made a killing because he knew the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo a few hours before everyone else; it's hard to see how that knowledge made Britain as a whole richer. It's even harder to see how the three-millisecond advantage conveyed by the Spread Networks tunnel makes modern America richer; yet that advantage was clearly worth it to the speculators.

In short, we're giving huge sums to the financial industry while receiving little or nothing - maybe less than nothing - in return. Mr. Philippon puts the waste at 2 percent of G.D.P. Yet even that figure, I'd argue, understates the true cost of our bloated financial industry. For there is a clear correlation between the rise of modern finance and America's return to Gilded Age levels of inequality.

So never mind the debate about exactly how much damage high-frequency trading does. It's the whole financial industry, not just that piece, that's undermining our economy and our society.
(c) 2014 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like the evil spirits at the dawn of day."
~~~ Thomas Jefferson

This photo provided by 41 ActionNews, shows Frazier Glenn Cross. Cross is accused of
killing three people outside of Jewish sites near Kansas City on Sunday April 13, 2014.

The Grand American Tradition Of Violent White Supremacy
By Amy Goodman

Another U.S. shooting spree has left bullet-riddled bodies in its wake, and refocused attention on violent, right-wing extremists. Frazier Glenn Miller, a former leader of a wing of the Ku Klux Klan, is accused of killing three people outside two Jewish community centers outside Kansas City, Kan. As he was hauled away in a police car, he shouted "Heil Hitler!" Unlike Islamic groups that U.S. agencies spend tens of billions of dollars targeting, domestic white supremacist groups enjoy relative freedom to spew their hatred and promote racist ideology. Too often, their murderous rampages are viewed as acts of deranged "lone wolf" attackers. These seemingly fringe groups are actually well-organized, interconnected and are enjoying renewed popularity.

In April 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a study on right-wing extremists in the United States. The 10-page report included findings like "The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment." It controversially suggested military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could potentially be recruited to join hate groups. The report provoked a firestorm of criticism, especially from veterans groups. The Obama administration was just months old, and newly appointed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano withdrew the report, apologizing for it during a congressional budget hearing.

Mark Potok is a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been tracking right-wing hate groups and Frazier Glenn Miller for years. Potok said, about that report, "a real problem with the Department of Homeland Security ... ever since a particular report on the right wing was leaked to the press in April of 2009, DHS has sort of cowered. They essentially gutted their non-Islamic domestic terrorism unit."

The SPLC was co-founded in 1971 by civil-rights lawyer Morris Dees. It began suing white supremacist groups in the 1980s, representing clients that the groups threatened, beat and harassed. Potok described Frazier Glenn Miller as "one of the best-known white supremacist activists in the country for a very long time ... active for more than 40 years in the movement. He joined, as a very young teenager, things like the National States' Rights Party, a descendent of the American Nazi Party." Miller formed his own wing of the Klan, which marched publicly in military fatigues. He had dealings with another supremacist group, The Order, that gave him $200,000 from the more than $4 million stolen through bank robberies and armored-car holdups.

After being sued by the SPLC, Frazier Glenn Miller agreed to a settlement in one case, but violated the terms of the agreement and was found guilty of criminal contempt. While out on bond, he disappeared, issuing a crudely typed "Declaration of War," specifically targeting Morris Dees for murder. He was eventually arrested. Potok told me, "He was initially charged with conspiracy, very serious charges, in 1987 that could have sent him to prison for 20 or 30 years. But he cut a deal with the federal government and agreed to testify ... against his comrades. That wound up meaning a mere five-year sentence for him, and he served only three years."

Miller cooperated with federal prosecutors, testifying against 13 white supremacist leaders. He was released from prison and was assisted, it is believed, by the Federal Witness Protection Program as he relocated to Nebraska and changed his last name to "Cross." Frazier Glenn Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, lost credibility with other white supremacists and faded into relative obscurity. He occasionally ran for office in Missouri, after running virulently racist campaign ads on radio. Then he went on his murderous rampage this week. "Perhaps if he had been in prison all those years rather than a witness in this trial," Potok reflected, "we wouldn't have experienced what we saw in Kansas City the other day."

Potok and the SPLC track the recent rise of right-wing hate groups. When I asked him about the FBI's focus on animal rights and environmental groups, he replied, "The idea that eco-terrorists, so-called, are the major domestic terror threat, which was in fact said to Congress a couple of times by FBI leaders during the Bush years, I think is just patently ludicrous ... no one has been killed by anyone in the radical animal-rights movement or the radical environmentalist movement." The SPLC will soon release a report that links registered members of two prominent white supremacist online forums to more than 100 murders in the United States-in just the past five years.

While law-abiding Muslims are forced to hide in their homes, and animal-rights activists are labeled as terrorists for undercover filming of abusive treatment at factory farms, right-wing hate groups are free to organize, parade, arm themselves to the hilt and murder with chilling regularity. It's time for our society to confront this very real threat.
(c) 2014 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now,!" a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

Remembering the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings in Copley Square of Boston, Massachusetts.

'WTF Bombs?'
Taking Back the Boston Marathon
By William Rivers Pitt

One year from now, when the new spring sunlight shines down upon Boston's best day, we will be in the streets to cheer the runners and remember the lost. We will never forget, but we will not cower or crouch. We will be there with family and friends to celebrate the place and the time and the event that is uniquely and completely ours. It will not be taken from us by anyone, ever. This is Boston. - "Climbing Heartbreak Hill," William Rivers Pitt, 17 April 2013

The first hint that something had gone terribly wrong came via a text message on my phone. My friend David, an endurance runner with several marathons under his belt was running his first Boston Marathon, and it was a very big deal, because he is a Boston boy born and bred, and had come home to do this incredible thing we had grown up watching and cheering together.

I was in my apartment in Brighton, in the process of missing the marathon for the first time in my life, because my daughter was only two weeks old and I wasn't going to be more than ten feet from her side. David's wife Michelle was down on Boylston Street waiting for him with their two young sons. She and I had been texting back and forth on his progress. I couldn't be there, but I wanted to know the minute he crossed the line, so I could share in his achievement in some small way.

At 2:45 p.m., Michelle texted me that he had just crossed the finish line.

Four minutes later, at 2:49 p.m., I received another text from her. It read, "wtf bombs?"

I turned on NECN, the New England version of CNN, more out of curiosity than concern, because Boston is a very old city with very old utilities, and stuff goes "Boom" all the time. A transformer could have shorted out, a water main could have burst, or a couple of cars could have collided - very common events, all, that Michelle may have mistaken for explosions. In the space of five minutes, NECN's coverage transformed from happy, lighthearted reporting on the doings of the day to confusion, and then to darkness.

Because she was not mistaken. She was, in fact, right in between the two bomb sites when the first went off, and then the second, and she was caught in the tidal surge of panic with her two children as some ran away from, and others toward, the sound and the smoke and the screaming. Michelle and her boys took shelter in a storefront, and spent the rest of the day trying to find David, which they eventually did, unharmed.

My friend David, his wife Michelle, and their two sons will carry the events of that day with them forever.

My friend Mike was only steps away from the second bomb when it went off, and he saw every horrible thing that is aftermath, the blood, the bodies, the severed limbs, people on fire on the sidewalk, other people frantically putting them out and applying tourniquets to the places where a leg or a foot used to be.

Everyone in Boston was not there when it happened, but everyone who was in Boston for the marathon last year has a story to tell about that day.

Almost everyone.

I did not know Martin Richard, the eight-year-old boy who died on Boylston Street a year ago today in an explosion that left his father without a leg, on fire, and riddled with shrapnel, that took his sister Jane's leg, that put a ball bearing through his mother Denise's eye, that left his older brother Henry remarkably unmarked but deeply scarred all the same. I did not know Lu Lingzi, the Boston University graduate student from China who died steps away from Martin Richard. I did not know Sean Collier, the MIT police officer allegedly gunned down by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev during their wild, bomb-hurling flight across the city three days after the Marathon attack.

I knew Krystle Campbell. She worked behind the bar at the Summer Shack on Dalton Street next to my bar, right off Boylston and two blocks from where she died one year ago today. My bar only serves beer and wine, so my friends and I would often tromp down the sidewalk to the Shack for Jameson shots when the mood arose. More often than not, it was Krystal who would pour for us, flashing her brilliant smile and bright blue eyes.

She was transferred to another restaurant well before the bombs went off, and I never saw her again until I saw her picture in the paper one year ago this week, and it will bother me for the rest of my life that I can't remember our last conversation. Her hometown of Medford is building a peace park in her honor, in honor of everyone who was lost and wounded, in honor of the marathon itself, and in honor of a city that is stronger now at the broken places, but ineffably and irretrievably sadder as well.

Boston is recovering, but has not yet recovered. All of us who were in the city on that terrible day, and the days that followed, are changed for having been through it. When, some months later, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry tried to sell the country on the idea that flipping cruise missiles into Syria would not actually be like a real war, my reaction was immediate and dynamic: Really? It sure as hell will be like a real war to the civilians on the receiving end of the detonations...and I think now, to no small degree, my reaction was grounded in what happened at the marathon. The new American pastime is being blase about blowing up strangers in faraway places...until it happens to your town, your friends, your heart. My family and I moved from Boston to New Hampshire four months after the marathon, yet a part of me is forever in that old city, and always will be.

"wtf bombs?"

I still have that text on my phone. I can't bring myself to delete it. Even in its 21st-century garbled American online-ese, it sums up perfectly the astonishment of the day. The Boston Marathon is the singular event of the city, a party from pillar to post heralding spring and athletic achievement and the deepest sense of community, and one year ago today, two people chose to tear it up. Beyond the death and agony those two caused is the sorrow-freighted fact that such a wonderful, unique event will never, ever be the same.

Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, Sean Collier and Krystle Campbell have no stories to tell. They are the story, they and those who survived and now live lives permanently changed. I have tried over this last year to honor them with my words, to remember them, and I have shed tears for them more times than I can count. Even now, a year later, my hands shake when I try to explain all this.

I can think of only one way to honor them properly. On Sunday, I will climb into my car and navigate the springtime-muddy dirt road that leads to Route 101. I will turn east, cross the border from New Hampshire to Massachusetts, and find Route 2. As I pass the Belmont exit, where the road rises, I will see the skyline of Boston laid out before me. I will slip through Cambridge, pass through Watertown, park my car at Murph's house in Brighton, and on Monday morning, I will go to the marathon.

That day will not belong to the bombers. It will belong to us. I will honor the lost and the scarred and the city entire as best I can by reclaiming that day with my simple presence.

If you're looking for me on Monday, you'll find me on Boylston Street.
(c) 2014 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Uber Fuhrer Manchin,

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

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Happy Tax Day, And Why the Top 1% Pay A Much Lower Tax Rate Than You
By Robert Reich

It's tax time again, April 15, when our minds turn toward paying the taxes we owe or possibly getting a tax refund. But what we don't think about enough is whether our tax system is fair. The richest 1 percent of Americans are now getting the largest percent of total national income in almost a century. So you might think they'd pay a much higher tax rate than everyone else.

But you'd be wrong. Many millionaires pay a lower federal tax rate than many middle-class Americans.

Some don't pay any federal taxes at all. That's because they're allowed to deduct from their taxable income such things as large interest payments on mortgages for huge homes, also the costs of business entertainment and conferences (aka vacations at golf resorts), and gold plated health care plans.

Some also take advantage of tax loopholes that let them park some of their earnings in offshore tax havens like the Bahamas or the Netherlands Antilles.

And other loopholes that allow them to treat some income as capital gains - subject to a much lower tax rate than ordinary income. If you happen to be a hedge-fund or private-equity manager, there's a capital gains loophole designed especially for you.

Consider the Social Security payroll tax and the situation is even more lopsided. That tax applies to every dollar of income up to a cap - which this year is $117,000. Anything earned above the cap is not subject to Social Security taxes at all - meaning anyone with a high income pays a much smaller percentage of it in Social Security taxes than most people do.

Put these all together and you see why Warren Buffet, the second richest person in America, pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, as he readily admits.

State and local taxes are even more regressive. The poorest fifth of Americans pay an average state and local tax rate of over 11 percent, while the richest fifth pay only 5.6 percent. This isn't small change. State and local taxes account for about 40 percent of all government revenues.

Believe it or not, Republicans want to make all this worse by cutting taxes on the wealthy even more. Paul Ryan's new budget doesn't just slice Medicare, education, and food stamps. It also lowers the top federal tax rate to 25 percent.

When the rich are let off the hook in all these ways, the rest of America has to pay more in taxes to make up the difference - or have services cut because government doesn't have the funds.
(c) 2014 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27.

How The Ukraine Crisis Could Pose A Nuclear Threat
By Matthew Rothschild

As the crisis in Ukraine reaches new levels, the tension between Russia and the United States is rising dangerously.

After Putin's moves to take over the Crimea, the United States sent six 5-15 fighter jets on NATO air patrols over the Baltic and delivered 12 F-16 fighters to Poland. It also deployed a U.S. destroyer to the Black Sea.

On Monday, a Russian jet came near that destroyer.

"Officials at the Pentagon on Monday protested what they described as a provocative flyover by a Russian attack aircraft that flew at close range for 90 minutes over a U.S. Navy ship that had been sent into the Black Sea," the Washington Post reported.

These maneuvers raise the question as to whether U.S. or Russian leaders have put their nuclear weapons systems on higher alert, as happened during tense periods of the Cold War.

The Pentagon won't confirm or deny whether U.S. nuclear forces have been placed on higher alert.

"In general, we don't discuss our force posture," said one defense official. "DoD is closely monitoring the situation and remains in close contact with the State Department and interagency, along with our Allies, Partners and NATO."

Nor would the U.S. Strategic Command confirm or deny any change in nuclear war-fighting posture.

"As a matter of policy, we do not discuss operational procedures, to include changes in alert status," said a U.S. Strategic Command spokesperson. "U.S. Strategic Command conducts global operations and one of its priorities is to partner with the other Combatant Commands, Services and appropriate U.S. Government agencies to defend the interests of the United States and its allies at the direction of the President."

Experts who monitor U.S. nuclear policy doubt that Washington or Moscow would be foolish enough to put their nuclear weapons systems on higher alert.

"It would be just mind-blowing if these guys did something like that," says Winslow Wheeler, who is the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.

"I would be shocked if they were," says Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

And Bonnie Urfer at Nukewatch says she has seen no reports of heightened activities at the nuclear weapons sites.

But if the crisis escalates further, there is the possibility that Washington or Moscow might rattle their nuclear sabers, and that's a highly risky game to play.

As Noam Chomsky warned, early in the Ukraine crisis, it "could lead to a nuclear missile confrontation."
(c) 2014 Matthew Rothschild is the senior editor of The Progressive Magazine, which is one of the leading voices for peace and social justice in this country. Rothschild has appeared on Nightline, C-SPAN, The O'Reilly Factor, and NPR, and his newspaper commentaries have run in the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Times, the Miami Herald, and a host of other newspapers. Rothschild is also the author of a book entitled You Have No Rights: Stories of America in Our Repressive Age (New Press, 2007).

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To End On A Happy Note...

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Parting Shots...

Zuckerberg Vows Facebook Will Shoot Down Google Drones
By Andy Borowitz

MENLO PARK, CA (The Borowitz Report)-One day after Google outbid Facebook for a manufacturer of solar-powered drones, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg served warning that his company was prepared to blow Google's drones out of the skies.

At a presentation for Facebook employees at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Zuckerberg announced plans to build a $24 billion Facebook laser shield, a global network of satellites capable of identifying and incinerating Google drones in midair.

Zuckerberg delighted his audience with a brief animated demonstration showing a Facebook satellite locking in on a Google drone and obliterating it with a green laser.

"Unfriended, bitch," said Zuckerberg, to a roaring ovation from his employees.

Within an hour, Google responded with a stern warning of is own, vowing, "Any act of aggression against Google drones will not stand."

To that end, the company announced that it was prepared to shoot down Facebook's laser satellites with a long-range super cannon called Google Gun.
(c) 2014 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 14 # 15 (c) 04/18/2014

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