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In This Edition

Greg Palast wonders, "Did Chavez' Pick Steal The Election In Venezuela?"

Uri Avnery is, "In Praise Of Emotion."

Amy Goodman finds, "Terror In The West, Texas, Night."

Glenn Greenwald examines, "Why Is Boston 'Terrorism' But Not Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson And Columbine?"

Jim Hightower explains, "Putting Your Neck On The Line."

William Rivers Pitt reads his, "Random Notes From The Police State."

James Donahue introduces, "The Next Horror - Thinking Military Robots."

John Nichols concludes, "What 'The Boston Globe' Got Right and Why It Should Change How Papers Think."

Robert Scheer returns with, "US Cluster Munitions: 277 Million Boston Bombings."

Robert Reich sees, "The Dis-Uniting Of America (2)."

Paul Krugman explores, "The Jobless Trap."

David Sirota hears, "The Value Of Silence."

David Swanson says it's, "Time For A Department Of Peace."

Forest Hills Central High School, principle Terry Urquhart wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Chris Hedges details, "The Persecution Of Lynne Stewart."

Norman Solomon considers, "'Terrorism' And The Perpetual Emotion War Machine."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst "Yellow Bellied Cowards." but first Uncle Ernie considers, "Terrorist Nation Part Two."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Martin Kozlowski, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, John Sherffius, Phil Rockstroh, Stephen Chernin, Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, Mark Ralston, Matt Rourke, MoveOn.Org, Getty Images, MGM, 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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Terrorist Nation: Part Two
By Ernest Stewart

"Over the last two years, the US has witnessed at least three other episodes of mass, indiscriminate violence that killed more people than the Boston bombings did: the Tucson shooting by Jared Loughner in which 19 people (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were shot, six of whom died; the Aurora movie theater shooting by James Holmes in which 70 people were shot, 12 of whom died; and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza in which 26 people (20 of whom were children) were shot and killed. The word "terrorism" was almost never used to describe that indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes." ~~~ Glenn Greenwald

"...the techniques were necessary and are necessary to be used on a rare occasion to get information necessary to protect the American people. One such person who gave us information was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed." ~~~ George W. Bush

"This school completely ignored its legal responsibility to address student-on-student sexual harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to protect the victim. The school's failure to address the harassment sends a chilling message to students that they should remain silent in the face of sexual assault and cannot count on their school to provide a safe learning environment." ~~~ Fatima Goss Graves ~ NWLC Vice-President of Education and Employment

"This is like deja vu all over again!" ~~~ Yogi Berra

Glenn Greenwald asks a very interesting question this week, i.e., "Why is it when Muslims do something we don't like, they're terrorists, but when a white guy does the very same thing, they're killers not terrorists?"

In answer to Glenn questions, it's because the folks that run this country, with one or two exceptions, are white; and we are, without a doubt, the biggest terrorist nation on the planet; and if you begin to look at Jared Loughner, James Holmes, and Adam Lanza, oh, and let's not forget Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. All of the above were white, and all of the above were terrorists, everyone one, but not according to Fox Spews or Barry Obama. They're simply killers, no matter why they committed their crimes. Compared to the Boston terrorists, they killed many times more innocents, but aren't tarred with the epithet terrorists.

You may recall, we must have an ultra-evil enemy that needs to destroy us for our freedoms, and not because we are the biggest group of mass murders for profit in history. We're number one and the ONLY way you get to be number one is to be the meanest, nastiest, evilest sons-of-bitches that ever drew breath. Don't believe me? Just go back and look at history, and every number one you can think of from Egypt to Greece to Rome to England to Israel; well, you get the idea.

Trouble with being #1 on planet Earth is that there are dozens of other countries that want to be number one, too. Sure, we can kick ass and take names; but every time we do, we come closer to bankruptcy, and since we make next to nothing, except murder and mayhem, it's just a short matter of time before we join Rome and Athens, London and Egypt into that long, downwardly-spiralling abyss.

Oh, and did I mention all those millions of innocents we murdered for the advantage of the 1%, and no one else will be coming back to haunt us as those millions of chickens come home to roost. Our current terrorists did what they did as a lark or adventure, not so much for political reasons. As something they saw on the internet, i.e. Alex Jones was their favorite and had some roll to play in the attack. Just kids like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who you may recall, murdered twice as many as the Tsarnaev brothers did, and yet aren't terrorists. No, can't have white boys as terrorists, it might cause you to take that next step and realize that the US government, made up mostly of white men and women are terrorists, too!

In Other News

I see where a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel has reached the conclusion that President George W. Bush and his top advisers bear "ultimate responsibility" for authorizing torture in violation of domestic and international law; ergo, one would ask why aren't they being brought to justice for the war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the US Constitution?

I seem to recall that Barry was elected the first time to end the wars and bring the Crime Family Bush to justice, something he promised to do, but had no intention of doing. The reason, of course, is that he adopted those same acts of treason as his very own, and then made them even worse than they were before. If the Bush and Obama juntas are ever going to be brought to justice, it will be under a different President; and the chance that anyone vetted to run by the 1% would follow the law of the land is too minuscule to actually happen -- so reports from blue ribbon panels mean nothing.

Since the banksters and Wall Street gurus who destroyed the economy weren't rounded up and had their heads removed and all their property, both here and abroad, grabbed and put into the treasury, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for someone to wipe that smirk off Smirky's face. The Banksters, like Bush, profited greatly, and continue to do so today.

In a perfect world, they'd all be turned over to an international court for prosecution, because here in the United Snakes, they all have too many powerful friends on the court to get an honest trial. If they were tried and convicted in a US court, and even passed a higher court, it would eventually go before the Extreme court where the Crime Family Bush's Extreme Court appointments would overturn any conviction and probably throw in a "Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah" for good measure!

So, I see nothing coming from the panel's report -- honesty has nothing to do with the US government. Barry may say a couple of pretty words about it, if forced too, but will do nothing as he is as guilty, if not more so than Bush! If they tried Bush for his crimes, they'd have to try Barry, as well! There are some who are covered by the laws, and some who are above all the laws.

And Finally

I suppose by now you've heard the strange, frightening tale of Forest Hills Central High School, principal Terry Urquhart? A cheerleader/honor student got raped in school by a star athlete; when she reported this to Terry, she and her parents were told not to report it -- for if they did, this star athlete would lose his chances at a top-rated college. The parents, disgusted by Terry, said fuck you; and after a couple of weeks of getting the run-around from Terry, they reported the crime to the police; but by the time they did, just two weeks after the initial assault, he raped another girl, and still nothing was done, well, nothing to him; but his victims were harassed to the max by other students, until both of the rape victims transferred to another school. The rapist was finally punished by the schools and had to sit on the bench for two whole games. When finally brought to trial, the rapist was given a slap on the wrist, no jail time, and had to report for "counseling." Guess what I did? No, let's not see the same hands all the time... That's right, I wrote Terry a little note...

Hey Terry,

Boy, did you fuck up, huh? So, it's not rape if it's done by a star player? You must be one sick, twisted Nazi asshole, eh? The boy in question should have his balls cut off, not promoted to a good college. He needs 40 years in Jackson to think about his crimes, and so do you. You should have been all over this, instead of staying silent and telling the girl's parents to keep quiet about the rape because it would ruin his chances on playing pro ball. You did nothing, and two weeks later he raped another girl. You're supposed to be protecting the students, not abetting rape! But congratulations, you've just won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award, our weekly award for the biggest traitor in America, and now millions of folks will know your name and crime! You thought it was over when you got replaced for your crimes; but it never ends, Terry, it never ends.

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

If Terry replies, I'll share his thoughts with you!

Keepin' On

I'm having those old, "I got no money Blues," again! I seem to get them whenever the cupboard is bare and they hang around until some folks send in some donations to keep us going strong. So far, we've managed to get by, just barely, year after year, decade after decade but sooner or later we'll be gone with the wind and be a pleasant, though fading memory, of this once great nation.

Don't get me wrong, we're in this to end, provided you can give us a hand. While the folks who put us on the internet and keep us there are kind and understanding there is only so much of this and no more. If we don't pay our bills their understanding comes up just a bit short and we're cast into the wind as every body except us, is in it for the money, not for what they can do for their fellows.

Ergo, please send up what ever you can, as often as you can; and we'll keep fighting for your rights, and will do our very best to keep you informed with what's really happening, and what it means. If not for us, who ya gonna call, Fox Spews, Tush Limburger? If so, good luck with that; oh, and don't worry about being asked for money by them; they have billions in backing from their 1% masters, which you support whenever you by some GMO foods, or practically anything that this country puts out!


10-62-1952 ~ 04-18-2013
Thanks for the jams!

01-21-1941 ~ 04-22-2013
Thanks for the jams!


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


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

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

Did Chavez' Pick Steal The Election In Venezuela?
By Greg Palast

The guy in the cheap brown windbreaker walking up the dirty tenement steps to my New York office looked like a bus driver.

Nicolas Maduro, elected President of Venezuela last Sunday, did indeed drive a bus, then led the drivers' union, then drove Chavez' laws through the National Assembly as Venezuela's National Assembly chief.

And this week, the US State Department is refusing to accept the result, suggesting Maduro hijacked the vote count. But did he?Maduro came to me that day in 2004 on a quiet mission, sent by President Hugo Chavez to give me information I needed for my investigation for Rolling Stone - and to get information from me that might save Chavez' life.

For one more week you can download Palast's short documentary, The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, originally filmed in Venezuela for BBC, without charge. The central topic was the "Invisible Ring". Venezuelan intelligence had secretly taped US Embassy contractors in Caracas talking in spook-speak: "That which took shape here is a disguised kind of intelligence... which is annexed to the third security ring, which is the invisible ring."

("Invisible Ring"? Someone at the State Department has read too many Alan Furst novels.)

On the grainy film, they worried that "Mr Corey" (a code name we easily cracked) would blow his cover and begin barking, "I am from the CIA! I am from the CIA!"

"Mr Corey" was certainly not from the CIA, an agency holding on to one last fig-leaf of discretion. This crew was far more dangerous, from a spy-for-hire corporation, Wackenhut Inc. I'd been tracking Wackenhut for years, ever since their spies - more Austin Powers than James Bond - were arrested while on a black-bag job for British Petroleum. They'd attempted to illegally tape a US Congressman by running a toy truck with a microphone through the ceiling vents over the lawmaker's head.

But even clowns, when heavily armed, can be deadly. In 2002, Chavez was kidnapped with the blessing of the US Ambassador right out of the presidential palace and flown by helicopter over the Caribbean where, Chavez later told me, the President assumed he'd be invited for a swim from 2,000 feet. Instead, just 48 hours later, Chavez was back at his desk.

But Washington wouldn't quit the coup business. New documents revealed several interlocked methods ("rings") for overthrowing Venezuela's elected government.

First, US operatives would monkey with voter registrations - and if that didn't steal the election from Chavez' party, the next step was to provoke riots against Chavez' elections "theft". The riots would lead to deaths - the deaths would be the excuse for the US to back another coup d'etat to "restore order" and "democracy" in Venezuela - and restore Venezuela's oil to Exxon. (Chavez had seized majority control of the oil fields and Exxon was furious.)

Maduro had already figured the US operatives wanted to use, "The collection of [voters'] signatures... to [occur] amidst a climate of violence and uncertainty, national and international uncertainty...To cause deaths the day of the collection of signatures."

Would this be to justify another coup?

Maduro said, "Yes: The justification to tell the world Chavez is a murderer, Chavez is a dictator, Chavez is a terrorist and the OAS [Organisation of American States] should intervene and Chavez should be ousted."

This week, the warlords of the rings are back in Caracas as, per the original script, the US State Department is backing opposition claims that Maduro's win is in question. And per the old playbook, the losers are taking to the streets, seven voters are dead (mostly Chavistas, but not all) and Caracas waits for the coup's next boot to drop.

Is a manoeuvre to remove Maduro far-fetched? George W Bush promoted the botched kidnapping of 2002. But it was the progressive Barack Obama who, in 2009, newly elected President, blessed the overthrow of the elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya.

Still, it's fair to ask if Maduro and the Chavistas stole last week's presidential election?

Answer: They didn't have to. Even the Wall Street Journal accepts that, "for a majority of Venezuelans, Mr Chavez was a messiah," and Maduro, the successor Chavez chose from his deathbed, had too big a lead to lose.

Still, the election was nearly stolen - by the US-backed anti-Chavistas.

How? That's what Chavez wanted Maduro to find out from me: how could US operatives jerk with Venezuela's voter rolls? It wasn't a mere policy question: Maduro knew Chavez wouldn't be allowed to survive through another coup.

My answer: They could steal the vote the same way Bush did it in Florida - in fact, using the very same contractor. Take a look at these documents... from the pile I reviewed with Maduro:

According to this once-secret FBI memo, ChoicePoint Corp - under a no-bid contract - had shoplifted Venezuela's voter rolls, as well as the voter rolls of Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Mexico and Honduras, all of whom were on the verge of electing presidents from the political left.

I did ask myself how our national security apparatchiks could say that filching these voter rolls made our nation more secure? What were they for?

I had little doubt. In November 2000, working for the Observer and BBC Newsnight, I discovered that a subsidiary of ChoicePoint had, for Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, obtained his state's voter rolls and "purged" more than 56,000 voters, the vast majority black and poor, illegally denying them their vote. And that was how Jeb's brother, George W, won the US presidency by just 537 ballots.

And now ChoicePoint had the data to allow Homeland Security to do a Florida on Venezuela - and Honduras and the others. (In 2006, the candidate of the left, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, won the election but lost the Mexican presidency through gross ballot-box finagling.)

Chavez himself read my findings on potential elections theft - to his nation on his TV show - and then he moved swiftly, establishing an election system that Jimmy Carter, who has headed vote observer teams in 92 nations, called, "an election process that is the best in the world."

Here's how it works: every Venezuelan voter gets TWO ballots. One is electronic, the second is a paper print-out of the touch-screen ballot, which the voter reviews, authorises, then places in a locked ballot-box. An astounding 54 percent of the boxes are chosen at random to open and check against the computer tally. It's as close to a bulletproof count as you can get.

Still, the guy who lost bitched and - his bluff called - was allowed to pick all the precincts he wanted - 12,000 - to add to the audit.

And that's why the US State Department then has to turn to the threat of bullets and "Third Ring" mayhem in the streets - to undermine the legitimacy of the new Maduro government and signal the US willingness to support a new coup.

It won't succeed this time, either. Populist socialist governments have now replaced the juntas and stooges that once gave the US control of the Organisation of American States. And Venezuelans themselves won't let it happen.

What impressed me about Maduro and his boss Chavez was their reaction to the Third Ring and the attempted Florida-tion of their election. Instead of ordering mass arrests, Chavez' and Maduro's response was to strengthen democracy with a no-tricks voting system.

I should note that ChoicePoint, once exposed, apologised to Mexico's government, agreed to destroy its ill-gotten voter rolls and, soon thereafter, sold itself to a credit-rating company. Wackenhut fired its goof-ball spooks and sold itself off in pieces. Both deny knowingly breaking laws of any nation. And in Bush's US State Department, all hell broke loose, as UN Ambassador John Negroponte, sources verified, fumed over what he deemed a renegade neo-con escapade endangering remaining US oil interests. (In fact, Chevron ended up paying what I call a "coup tax".)

The vote was still close, mainly because Maduro - a sincere, competent administrator - is no singing-dancing-camera-perfect Sinatra of politics like Chavez was.

Secretary of State Kerry's challenge to Maduro's 270,000-vote victory margin struck me as particularly poignant. Because in 2004, besides Chavez, I gave another presidential candidate evidence of the Bush gang's ballot banditry: Senator John Kerry. Kerry lost to Bush by a slim 119,000 ballots in Ohio, blatantly stolen, but Kerry refused to call for a recount. It took him two years to publicly acknowledge our findings - when he introduced, with Senator Ted Kennedy, legislation to fix America's corrupted voting system, then let the proposed law die of neglect.

Chavez knew, and Kerry will never learn, that democracy requires more than a complete count - it requires complete courage.
(c) 2013 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.

In Praise Of Emotion
By Uri Avnery

IT WAS a moving experience. Moments that spoke not only to the mind, but also - and foremost - to the heart.

Last Sunday, on the eve of Israel's Remembrance Day for the fallen in our wars, I was invited to an event organized by the activist group Combatants for Peace and the Forum of Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Parents.

The first surprise was that it took place at all. In the general atmosphere of discouragement of the Israeli peace camp after the recent elections, when almost no one dared even to mention the word peace, such an event was heartening.

The second surprise was its size. It took place in one of the biggest halls in the country, Hangar 10 in Tel-Aviv's fair grounds. It holds more than 2000 seats. A quarter of an hour before the starting time, attendance was depressingly sparse. Half an hour later, it was choke full. (Whatever the many virtues of the peace camp, punctuality is not among them.)

The third surprise was the composition of the audience. There were quite a lot of white-haired old-timers, including myself, but the great majority was composed of young people, at least half of them young women. Energetic, matter-of-fact youngsters, very Israeli.

I felt as if I was in a relay race. My generation passing the baton on to the next. The race continues.

BUT THE outstanding feature of the event was, of course, its content. Israelis and Palestinians were mourning together for their dead sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, victims of the conflict and wars, occupation and resistance (a.k.a. terror.)

An Arab villager spoke quietly of his daughter, killed by a soldier on her way to school. A Jewish mother spoke of her soldier son, killed in one of the wars. All in a subdued voice. Without pathos. Some spoke Hebrew, some Arabic.

They spoke of their first reaction after their loss, the feelings of hatred, the thirst for revenge. And then the slow change of heart. The understanding that the parents on the other side, the Enemy, felt exactly like them, that their loss, their mourning, their bereavement was exactly as their own.

For years now, bereaved parents of both sides have been meeting regularly to find solace in each other's company. Among all the peace groups acting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they are, perhaps, the most heart-lifting.

IT WAS not easy for the Arab partners to get to this meeting. At first, they were denied permission by the army to enter Israel. Gabi Lasky, the indomitable advocate of many peace groups (including Gush Shalom), had to threaten with an application to the Supreme Court, just to obtain a limited concession: 45 Palestinians from the West Bank were allowed to attend.

(It is a routine measure of the occupation: before every Jewish holiday the West Bank is completely cut off from Israel - except for the settlers, of course. This is how most Palestinians become acquainted with Jewish holidays.)

What was so special about the event was that the Israeli-Arab fraternization took place on a purely human level, without political speeches, without the slogans which have become, frankly, a bit stale.

For two hours, we were all engulfed by human emotions, by a profound feeling for each other. And it felt good.

I AM writing this to make a point that I feel very strongly about: the importance of emotions in the struggle for peace.

I am not a very emotional person myself. But I am acutely conscious of the place of emotions in the political struggle. I am proud of having coined the phrase "In politics, it is irrational to ignore the irrational." Or, if you prefer, "in politics, it is rational to accept the irrational."

This is a major weakness of the Israeli peace movement. It is exceedingly rational - indeed, perhaps too rational. We can easily prove that Israel needs peace, that without peace we are doomed to become an apartheid state, if not worse.

All over the world, leftists are more sober than rightists. When the leftists are propounding a logical argument for peace, reconciliation with former enemies, social equality and help for the disadvantaged, the rightists answer with a volley of emotional and irrational slogans.

But masses of people are not moved by logic. They are moved by their feelings.

One expression of feelings - and a generator of feelings - is the language of songs. One can gauge the intensity of a movement by its melodies. Who can imagine the marches of Martin Luther King without "We shall overcome"? Who can think about the Irish struggle without its many beautiful songs? Or the October revolution without its host of rousing melodies?

The Israeli peace movement has produced one single song: a sad appeal of the dead to the living. Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated within minutes of singing it, its blood-stained text found on his body. But all the many writers and composers of the peace movement have not produced one single rousing anthem - while the hate-mongers can draw on a wealth of religious and nationalist hymns.

IT IS said that one does not have to like one's adversary in order to make peace with them. One makes peace with the enemy, as we all have declaimed hundreds of times. The enemy is the person you hate.

I have never quite believed in that, and the older I get, the less I do.

True, one cannot expect millions of people on both sides to love each other. But the core of peace-makers, the pioneers, cannot fulfill their tasks if there is not an element of mutual sympathy between them.

A certain type of Israeli peace activist does not accept this truism. Sometimes one has the feeling that they truly want peace - but not really with the Arabs. They love peace, because they love themselves. They stand before a mirror and tell themselves: Look how wonderful I am! How humane! How moral!

I remember how much animosity I aroused in certain progressive circles when I created our peace symbol: the crossed flags of Israel and Palestine. When one of us raised this emblem at a Peace Now demonstration in the late eighties, it caused a scandal. He was rudely asked to leave, and the movement publicly apologized.

To give an impetus to a real peace movement, you have to imbue it with the spirit of empathy for the other side. You must have a feeling for their humanity, their culture, their narrative, their aspirations, their fears, their hopes. And that applies, of course, to both sides.

Nothing can be more damaging to the chances of peace than the activity of fanatical pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians abroad, who think that they are helping their preferred side by demonizing the other. You don't make peace with demons.

FRATERNIZATION BETWEEN Palestinians and Israelis is a must. No peace movement can succeed without it.

And here we came to a painful paradox: the more this fraternization is needed, the less there is.

During the last few years, there has been a growing estrangement between the two sides. Yasser Arafat was very conscious of the need for contact, and did much to further it. (I constantly urged him to do more.) Since his death, this effort has receded.

On the Israeli side, peace efforts have become less and less popular. Fraternization takes place every week in Bil'in and on many other battlefields, but the major peace organizations are not too eager to meet.

On the Palestinian side there is a lot of resentment, a (justified) feeling that the Israeli peace movement has not delivered. Worse, that joint public meetings could be considered by the Palestinian masses as a form of "normalization" with Israel, something like collaboration with the enemy.

This must be changed. Only large-scale, public and heart-felt cooperation between the peace movements of the two sides can convince the public - on both sides - that peace is possible.

THESE THOUGHTS were running through my head as I listened to the simple words of Palestinians and Israelis in that big remembrance meeting.

It was all there: the spirit, the emotion, the empathy, the cooperation.

It was a human moment. That's how it all starts.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Terror In The West, Texas, Night
By Amy Goodman

The Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath has dominated the nation's headlines. Yet, another series of explosions that happened two days later and took four times the number of lives, has gotten a fraction of the coverage. It was the worst industrial accident in years. But to call it an accident ignores that it was preventable, and was quite possibly a crime, as is common with so many dangerous workplaces.

The first call came in to the 911 dispatcher at 7:29 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17. A woman at a playground noticed a fire across the railroad tracks, at the West Fertilizer Co. facility, in the small town of West, Texas, near Waco. The local volunteer fire department was mobilized. Less than 25 minutes later, a massive explosion leveled the plant, sending shock waves, debris and fire across West, ultimately killing 15 people, among them a local EMT, eight volunteer firefighters and a Dallas fire captain who was visiting his sons and joined the firefighting effort.

The call came over the emergency radio system: "We need every ambulance we can get at this point. A bomb just went off inside here. It's pretty bad. We've got a lot of firemen down."

Another call followed, with moaning in the background: "The rest home has been seriously damaged. We have many people down. Please respond."

A mushroom cloud climbed high into the sky. The explosion registered 2.1 on the Richter scale, the same as a small earthquake. 911 calls flooded in, with people reporting a bomb, many injured and others engulfed in a toxic cloud. Sixty to 80 houses were leveled.

One week later, the fires are out, most of the funerals have been held, but major questions remain unanswered. A team of up to 70 investigators is probing the source of the explosion. Reuters reported last Saturday that the plant had on site 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate. This is 1,350 times the amount that would require a facility to self-report its stockpile to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer used in industrial farming worldwide, and is stable when properly stored. It can be highly explosive when ignited, especially when mixed with fuel, as Timothy McVeigh demonstrated with the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. West Fertilizer Co. never reported its ammonium nitrate to DHS.

The concern with theft of ammonium nitrate by potential bombers is the basis for this reporting requirement. Numerous other federal and state agencies are supposed to regulate fertilizer plants, chemical storage facilities and workplaces in general. Yet OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, last inspected the facility in 1985. An inspection report filed with the Environmental Protection Agency in June 2011 listed 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, a different fertilizer, but claimed there was no serious hazard.

The West Fertilizer explosion happened just a day after the 66th anniversary of the Texas City disaster, said to be the worst industrial accident in U.S. history. Two thousand, three hundred tons of ammonium nitrate bound for France, as part of the Marshall Plan for European reconstruction and aid, caught fire aboard the ship, the SS Grandcamp. The explosion that followed killed at least 581 people, wounded 5,000 and destroyed 500 homes. You would think Texas would be sensitive to the potential hazards of this dangerous chemical. Yet Gov. Rick Perry told The Associated Press, "Through their elected officials [people] clearly send the message of their comfort with the amount of oversight." He recently touted the lax regulatory environment in Texas while trying to lure businesses there from states like California and Illinois.

April 28 is Workers' Memorial Day, commemorating the 4,500 workers who die on the job annually in the U.S. Thirteen workers, on average, go to work each day and never come home. Tom O'Connor, executive director of National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, said, "As companies decry regulations and emphasize profits over safety, workers pay the ultimate price."

Those who died in West, Texas, were workers, volunteer first responders, retirees and neighbors. Unsafe workplaces cause injury and death on a daily basis in this country, but seem to be tolerated as simply the cost of doing business. Gov. Perry declared West a disaster area and asked for prayers. But that's not enough. As legendary labor organizer Mother Jones said, "Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living."
(c) 2013 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."

Police officers aim their weapons amid a hunt for two suspects caused officers to converge on a neighborhood outside Boston.

Why Is Boston 'Terrorism' But Not Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson And Columbine?
Can an act of violence be called 'terrorism' if the motive is unknown?
By Glenn Greenwald

Two very disparate commentators, Ali Abunimah and Alan Dershowitz, both raised serious questions over the weekend about a claim that has been made over and over about the bombing of the Boston Marathon: namely, that this was an act of terrorism. Dershowitz was on BBC Radio on Saturday and, citing the lack of knowledge about motive, said (at the 3:15 mark): "It's not even clear under the federal terrorist statutes that it qualifies as an act of terrorism."

Abunimah wrote a superb analysis of whether the bombing fits the US government's definition of "terrorism", noting that "absolutely no evidence has emerged that the Boston bombing suspects acted 'in furtherance of political or social objectives'" or that their alleged act was "intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal." Even a former CIA Deputy Director, Phillip Mudd, said on Fox News on Sunday that at this point the bombing seems more like a common crime than an act of terrorism.

Over the last two years, the US has witnessed at least three other episodes of mass, indiscriminate violence that killed more people than the Boston bombings did: the Tucson shooting by Jared Loughner in which 19 people (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were shot, six of whom died; the Aurora movie theater shooting by James Holmes in which 70 people were shot, 12 of whom died; and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza in which 26 people (20 of whom were children) were shot and killed. The word "terrorism" was almost never used to describe that indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes. A decade earlier, two high school seniors in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, used guns and bombs to murder 12 students and a teacher, and almost nobody called that "terrorism" either.

In the Boston case, however, exactly the opposite dynamic prevails. Particularly since the identity of the suspects was revealed, the word "terrorism" is being used by virtually everyone to describe what happened. After initially (and commendably) refraining from using the word, President Obama has since said that "we will investigate any associations that these terrorists may have had" and then said that "on Monday an act of terror wounded dozens and killed three people at the Boston Marathon." But as Abunimah notes, there is zero evidence that either of the two suspects had any connection to or involvement with any designated terrorist organization.

More significantly, there is no known evidence, at least not publicly available, about their alleged motives. Indeed, Obama himself - in the statement he made to the nation after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured on Friday night - said that "tonight there are still many unanswered questions" and included this "among" those "unanswered questions":

"Why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?"

The overarching principle here should be that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is entitled to a presumption of innocence until he is actually proven guilty. As so many cases have proven - from accused (but exonerated) anthrax attacker Stephen Hatfill to accused (but exonerated) Atlanta Olympic bomber Richard Jewell to dozens if not hundreds of Guantanamo detainees accused of being the "worst of the worst" but who were guilty of nothing - people who appear to be guilty based on government accusations and trials-by-media are often completely innocent. Media-presented evidence is no substitute for due process and an adversarial trial.

But beyond that issue, even those assuming the guilt of the Tsarnaev brothers seem to have no basis at all for claiming that this was an act of "terrorism" in a way that would meaningfully distinguish it from Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine. All we really know about them in this regard is that they identified as Muslim, and that the older brother allegedly watched extremist YouTube videos and was suspected by the Russian government of religious extremism (by contrast, virtually every person who knew the younger brother has emphatically said that he never evinced political or religious extremism). But as Obama himself acknowledged, we simply do not know what motivated them (Obama: "Tonight there are still many unanswered questions. Among them, why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?").

It's certainly possible that it will turn out that, if they are guilty, their prime motive was political or religious. But it's also certainly possible that it wasn't: that it was some combination of mental illness, societal alienation, or other form of internal instability and rage that is apolitical in nature. Until their motive is known, how can this possibly be called "terrorism"? Can acts of violence be deemed "terrorism" without knowing the motive?

This is far more than a semantic question. Whether something is or is not "terrorism" has very substantial political implications, and very significant legal consequences as well. The word "terrorism" is, at this point, one of the most potent in our political lexicon: it single-handedly ends debates, ratchets up fear levels, and justifies almost anything the government wants to do in its name. It's hard not to suspect that the only thing distinguishing the Boston attack from Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook and Columbine (to say nothing of the US "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad and the mass killings in Fallujah) is that the accused Boston attackers are Muslim and the other perpetrators are not. As usual, what terrorism really means in American discourse - its operational meaning - is: violence by Muslims against Americans and their allies. For the manipulative use of the word "terrorism", see the scholarship of NYU's Remi Brulin and the second-to-last section here.

I was on Democracy Now this morning discussing many of these issues, as well as the legal and civil libertarian concerns raised by this case, and that segment can be viewed here:


Andrew Sullivan, back in his fight-the-jihadis mode, proclaims that - unlike President Obama - he knows exactly why the Tsarnaev brothers attacked Boston. "Of Course it Was Jihad", he declares in his headline, and adds that it was "an almost text-book case of Jihadist radicalization, most likely in the US." He then accuses me "veer[ing] into left-liberal self-parody" for suggesting today that the evidence is lacking to make this claim.

But in trying to negate my point, Andrew instead demonstrates its truth. The only evidence he can point to shows that the older brother, Tamerlan, embraced a radical version of Islam, something I already noted. But - rather obviously - to prove that someone who commits violence is Muslim is not the same as proving that Islam was the prime motive for the violence (just as the aggressive attack by devout evangelical George Bush on Iraq was not proof of a rejuvenation of the Christian crusades, the attack by Timothy McVeigh was not proof of IRA violence, Israeli aggression is not proof that Judaism is the prime motivator of those wars, and the mass murder spree by homosexual Andrew Cunanan was not evidence that homosexuality motivated the violence). Islam or some related political ideology may have been the motive driving Tamerlan, as I acknowledge, but it also may not have been. You have to produce evidence showing motive. You can't just assert it and demand that everyone accept it on faith. Specifically, to claim this is terrorism (in a way that those other incidents of mass murder at Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine were not), you have to identify the "political or social objective" the violence was intended to promote: what was that political or social objective here? Andrew doesn't have the slightest idea.

But this proves the point: "terrorism" does not have any real meaning other than "a Muslim who commits violence against America and its allies," so as soon as a Muslim commits violence, there is an automatic decree that it is "terrorism" even though no such assumption arises from similar acts committed by non-Muslims. That is precisely my point. (About the younger brother, Andrew asserts that "the stoner kid [] got caught up in his brother's religious fanaticism" but he has no evidence at all that this is true, and indeed, his friends say almost uniformly that he never evinced any religious fanaticism).

The most bizarre statement from Andrew is also quite revealing: "but does Glenn wonder why Tamerlan thought it was ok to beat his wife, whom he demanded convert to Islam?" In case Andrew doesn't know, domestic violence in the US is at epidemic levels, and the overwhelming majority of men who abuse women have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. Yet with this claim, Andrew simply assumes that any bad act done by a Muslim - even a bad act committed mostly by non-Muslims - must be caused by Islam, even though he has no evidence to prove this. This irrational, evidence-free assumption of causation that Andrew so perfectly illustrates here (any bad act committed by a Muslim is, ipso facto, motivated by religious or political Islam) is precisely what I was describing and denouncing. And it only rears its ugly head when the perpetrator is Muslim.


The New York Times today reports that "United States officials said they were increasingly certain that the two suspects had acted on their own, but were looking for any hints that someone had trained or inspired them." It also reports that "The FBI is broadening its global investigation in search of a motive." There's no reason for the FBI to search for a motive. They should just go talk to Andrew Sullivan. He already found it.

In sum, neither the President nor the FBI - by their own admission - know the motive here nor have evidence showing it, but Andrew Sullivan, along with hordes of others yelling "terrorism" and "jihad", insist that they do. That's the special species of rank irrationality that uniquely shapes public US discourse when the issue is Muslims.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

Putting Your Neck On The Line

Growing up in small-town Texas, I quickly learned about fighting, including this valuable lesson: You should never hit a man with glasses - you should use something much heavier.

This also applies to fighting for our Good Earth against rapacious profiteers - the spillers and spewers, frackers and extractors, drillers and pipeliners - who view our environment, communities, health, and happiness as barriers to commerce that must be shoved aside. The heaviest tool we have for striking back is the indomitable human spirit that, when pushed, produces a fierce feistiness, tenacity, and organized resistance.

I can even put a name to this spirit: Nancy Zorn. She's a 79-year-old grandmother from Warr Acres, Oklahoma, who's refusing to be shoved out of the way of Exxon Mobil, TransCanada Corporation, and other giants that are trying to force the massive Keystone XL pipeline down America's throat. It would carry a nasty, extra-toxic, sludge-oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to oil export facilities in Port Arthur, Texas. The crude would be piped right through Oklahoma, where TransCanada already is underway with construction.

Well, it was underway, until Grandmother Zorn literally put her neck on the line. Using a bicycle lock on April 9th, she attached her own neck to one of TransCanada's huge Earth-moving machines, halting construction. "I can no longer sit by idly," she declared. "It is time to rise up and defend our home. It is my hope that this one small action today will inspire many to protect this land and our water."

Of course, TransCanada had Nancy arrested, but it can't stop her and thousands of other spirited souls from continuing to fight this destructive corporate greed. Join them! They're organized as the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance:
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Random Notes From The Police State
By William Rivers Pitt

Woke last night to the sound of thunder,
How far off, I sat and wondered...
Night Moves ~~~ Bob Seger

I had just finished feeding and changing my infant daughter late Thursday night, and was putting her down again, when I heard a low rumble off in the distance. I walked out to my front porch and listened as the swell of sirens filled the stillness. Earlier, when the reports came that an MIT police officer had been shot down, I resisted the temptation to think it had anything to do with the two marathon bombers loose in the city since Monday afternoon. Don't jump to conclusions, I told myself as I turned off the TV. As I listened to the sound of the sirens from my porch, I said it again: don't jump to conclusions. It's probably a fire, I told myself, and went back inside to catch a couple hours of sleep before the next feeding. Three hours later, I woke up again to feed my little girl, and realized as soon as I turned the TV back on that I would not be sleeping again for a while. Those sirens I'd heard came from Watertown, which is a solidly-struck golf shot from my home. The two suspects - brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev - had shot an MIT police officer dead before leading police on a miles-long fast-rolling shootout and bomb-throwing festival that ended with a second police officer clinging to life, Tamerlan Tsarnaev dead after his brother ran him down in a frantic effort to flee, a whole neighborhood rattled to the core, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the loose somewhere in the winding, old-world neighborhoods I call home.

My neighbors and I gathered to talk about recent events while looking up at the helicopters that dotted the sky. The smokers went looking for cigarettes, the drinkers went looking for beer, the coffee-drinkers were cheered to hear that every Dunkin' Donuts would be open and set off for the one on the corner...and we all very voluntarily did what had been asked of us: stay off the streets, don't travel, and don't open your door for anyone who you don't know and who doesn't have a badge.

But guess what? Tony, one of my upstairs neighbors, hopped on his motorcycle and went to work. Bill, another of my upstairs neighbors, hopped in his car and motored right out of town. I went for a walk on two separate occasions, and when I did, I saw lots of other people also out and about, walking dogs or just enjoying what actually happened to be the nicest day of the year so far.

None of us were arrested, detained, or threatened, and we were smack-dab in the middle of the so-called "lock-down" zone.

And the Dunkin' Donuts was open.

And the Tedeschi's was open.

And the local pub was open.

And the sub shop was open.

And there were cars driving by.

Contrary to a number of addle-brained pontifications offered by people who have never set foot in the 617 area code, we were not "cowering in our homes," and Boston was not transformed into a "police state," and it was not "martial law." The governor asked us to stay inside - there was a bomber on the loose who made his own bombs, several of which were thrown out the window of a car during a miles-long shoot-out, so maybe there was also unexploded ordnance in the streets between where the brothers started running and where they stopped, and maybe the surviving brother had more such explosives with him, along with the gun he used to shoot at police in a well-recorded battle - and so we did.

How is it a police state if all the Dunkin' Donuts were open? Fascists need caffeine, too?

Or maybe it was voluntary, a city-wide community action. We're pretty good at that here in Boston. We get huge snowstorms every winter, and our public officials always ask us to remain indoors and not to drive so they can clean it up. When the blizzard hit in February, our public officials asked us to stay inside and off the roads. They were the exact same public officials who asked us to stay inside on Friday...and gloriosky! It worked!

I had a beer at my local on Saturday with a guy who lives next door to the house where they found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev bleeding out in the boat. He showed me a picture of the boat taken from his bedroom window. When a toast was raised to the way Boston law enforcement handled the situation, his was the first pint in the air.

That happened because I live here. I know better than you, and he knows better than me, how all this went down.

Work that into your argument about the people getting screwed by the police on Friday. Go ahead, I'll wait.

I have some bad news for those who think they are battering down the walls of fascism and authoritarianism by fostering and spreading what in reality is nothing more or less than misinformation and angst regarding the situation in Boston. You've joined a pretty rotten and disreputable club.

First it was CNN reporting in the middle of the week that an arrest had been made and that the suspect was being transferred to the federal courthouse, which caused a massive crowd scene outside the building and brought on a bomb threat...except CNN was wrong, there was no arrest, and they looked really stupid. Then, on Friday afternoon, it was the blivet on MSNBC going on and on about how amazing and terrible it was that suicide bombers were loose in Boston, and we need to do all sorts of crazy things because of these suicide bombers, look at the suicide bombers, look look look...except they weren't suicide bombers, because neither of them committed suicide with a bomb, and MSNBC looked really stupid.

Guess what, you intrepid sleuths with your theories about the "police state" in Boston and "martial law" and Miranda? That's you, too. You're just as bad as CNN and MSNBC. You're in the same chapter of this story, titled How I Spent A Week In April Making A Fool Of Myself In Front Of Everybody.

Comes the cry, "But but but we're just trying to get to the truth!"

No, you're not. You are masturbating in public, and you are using our city and our experience as lube. You are short-stroking the idea that you are a constitutional scholar, terrorism expert, law enforcement expert, ballistics expert, Chechen expert, lawyer, doctor, sociologist, psychologist and seer all at once, and I know it feels really good, because you can't stop no matter how many times you get the facts wrong.

I'm not asking you to stop. I'm not asking you to do anything. I am washing my hands of you, and good riddance to bad rubbish.

Feel free to call me a fascism-enabler, a lover of the police state, or whatever you will. I will wear it as a badge of honor, as it comes from hopeless self-empowering outrage junkies like you. Ever heard the old story of the man who watched a donkey pass through a hole in a fence and exclaimed, "Of course! The nose causes the tail!" That's you.

To those of you wondering what I'm talking about: yes, these people actually exist, and say these things. A decade ago, they were sending you very insistent (!!!!) emails claiming that a missile, and not a plane, hit the Pentagon, proving for sure that it was an inside job, etc. etc. etc.

( everyone who has sent me emails about that, I have a confession to make: one of my friends saw the plane fly right overhead as he was on his way to work at the Pentagon, and another of my friends - a 30-year airline veteran - lost one of his best friends, the pilot, when the plane hit the building...I never wrote back to you with this information because I knew you wouldn't believe me, because you'd figure out a way to include my friends in the massive conspiracy, because you'd just send me more stupid emails, and I just didn't have the energy to bother...sorry...but it's true...)

When you hear hoofbeats, it's probably not zebras. That's Occam's Razor, condensed.

Those who have spent this week attacking the Boston police, attacking Boston's officials, and attacking Boston's citizens have offered very few angry words for the two people who bombed the marathon and shot a couple of cops. I'm sure they have as much disgust for the perpetrators as I do, but it is telling that they have spent all their energy dumping on the people trying to deal with this frightening and unique situation and virtually no time dumping on the people who caused it.

(And yes, they have the right guy; no prosecution in the history of humanity will have more evidence at its disposal than the one to come for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev)

Worried about your civil liberties? Ask the bastards who committed murder about that before venting your spleen on the ones tasked to deal with the bombs thrown in the street and the shooting and the fleeing and the hiding and the guesswork, ask the bombers about your curtailed rights before going after the people who have to balance the Constitution against public safety when a killer is loose in a neighborhood. Ask the people who work in the aftermath of the violence who work to prevent more violence, a million miles away from anything you can remotely understand.

It was the bombers who ruptured your rights, you damned daft self-absorbed outrage-junkie jackasses. The Boston police restored them. I know that's not the hip, cool, anti-authoritarian thing to say, but it is a fact nonetheless. Period, end of file.

Boston law enforcement did their best in a terrible, dangerous and deranged situation. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is alive and in custody (memo to Los Angeles PD), and has a good lawyer actively representing his interests (for those of you who can't be bothered to understand what Miranda is and what Miranda isn't). We who live here went along with the stay-in order willingly, as it was the same one we get when two feet of snow falls, and it worked as it always does. This community works together for each other, and Friday night - after word went out that the guy had been captured alive - will stand tall in Boston's long history among the greatest party nights of all time, because we were celebrating ourselves.

If you don't believe me, if you think we're all hapless dupes playing along with the fascist takeover of America, by all means, come to Boston and see for yourselves. Ply your theories on Boylston Street.

I dare you.
(c) 2013 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 Next Horror - Thinking Military Robots
By James Donahue

This news ought to scare the hell out of humanity. Researchers for the Pentagon say they are on the brink of making autonomous robots capable of flying aircraft, operating military machinery and fighting ground wars without being controlled by ground-based operators at some distant location.

The research team, which has been working under the sponsorship of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a special wing of the U.S. Defense Department created by President Eisenhower in 1958, has revealed the development of a computer that "looks and thinks like a human brain" which can be programmed to perform specific programs and think for itself in the field.

The "thinking computer" utilizes nano-scale interconnected wires that perform billions of connections, just like a human brain, and can remember information. Each connection thus is a synthetic synapse, allowing neurons to pass electrical or chemical signals to the other cells. It is said the device is so complex it surpasses all other efforts to develop machines that work with artificial intelligence.

Researchers from University of California's Berkeley Freeman Laboratory for Nonlinear Neurodynamics and HRL, the former Hughes Research Laboratory in Malibu were involved in the project.. The Berkeley facility bears the name of Walter Freeman, who devoted 50 years to work on a mathematical model of the human brain based on electroencephalography (EEG) recordings.

Professor James K. Gimzewski, one of the researchers at the Berkeley facility, who was involved in the announcement, said this computer may behave like a human brain, but it processes information in a completely different way. Thus, he said this may represent "a revolutionary breakthrough in robotic systems."

Gimzewski noted that artificial intelligence research has struggled with finding ways to generate human-like reasoning or cognitive functions. Thus the new DARPA device offers the possibility of using what he called "an off-the-wall approach" to accomplish something like human reasoning in a machine.

While it is frightening to realize that the military is the first to develop a computerized version of artificial intelligence, researchers have been working for years toward this goal. This should not be surprising since the United States pours more federal dollars into defense than into private research laboratories.

The goal among scientists has not been for military purposes. Well known Professor Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University has warned that genetic engineering for new bodies or robotic machines with human brains may be needed if the human race seeks to survive the horrors of our dying planet, or to venture successfully into deep space with thoughts of colonizing elsewhere. In an interview with the German magazine Focus, Hawking said that because of the speed of advances in computer technology, he foresees a time when intelligent machines will be smarter than humans and will have the capability of taking over the world.

"The danger is very real," Hawking said.

He said he believes that through careful manipulation of human genes, humans can raise the complexity of their personal DNA and awaken the sleeping parts of their brains.

Hawking, a victim of ALS, a motor neuron disease that leaves him dependent on machines, finds it easy to consider the concept of cyborg technology, with direct links between human brains and computers.

"We must develop as quickly as possible technologies that make possible a direct connection between brain and computer, so that artificial brains contribute to human intelligence rather than opposing it."

While the scientific community is rushing toward developing artificial intelligence in working machines, there is opposition. It should not be surprising that much of this is coming from the religious community that argues against "playing god" when we do things that only God should do.

One real argument against creating robots that serve as soldiers for military and police service is that while such machines may be able to reason their way to an objective, they will lack empathy and be incapable of expressing love and compassion for humans or animals. There is great danger in this.

Would such machines rise up as monsters that turn against us? Scientists are very aware of this problem. A story in New Scientist once noted that most researchers involved in developing thinking robots believe certain safety issues must be addressed before such machines are unleashed into the world. In other words, robots must possess a built-in code of ethics, with protection of humans high on this list.

Thus the paradox we face is made clear. How can we
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

What 'The Boston Globe' Got Right and Why It Should Change How Papers Think
By John Nichols

When editors at The Boston Globe recognized that their city had been bombed by suspected terrorists who were still at large, they immediately mustered a substantial and experienced newsgathering team to cover one of the most tragic, frightening and unsettling moments in the long history of a great American city.

They got the story, from the epic photos of the heroism of emergency workers last Monday to the remarkable announcement on Friday night of the apprehension of the second suspect in the bombing attack.

The Globe's web headline, published minutes after the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, reflected the interests and emotions of a great city as a great newspaper should: "Alive, Conscious, Captured."

Bostonians read the Globe all last week with a passion, as they did the tenacious Boston Herald, its smaller rival in a rare competition for big-city readers. Along with the Globe's Boston readers, millions of people across the United States and around the world made the paper's website an Internet hot spot.

That most of this reading occurred online is not news. What we call "newspapers" are better described today as "newsrooms." It is silly to talk of an "old media" versus "new media" divide. A daily paper is still printed, and some of us love the experience of reading it. But, especially in rapidly-evolving "breaking news" moments, it's the website that's got the dynamism. And Twitter: the Globe now has 275,000 followers.

"This shows how vital (metro daily newspapers) are when disasters strike," Globe editor Brian McGrory told The Huffington Post. "The Globe and its website became something like a town square, where people turned for information and they got it."

The Globe's site was packed with instant and detailed coverage and analysis and superb editorials on the conflicts and concerns that arise in these moments. Some mistakes were made along the way, as is always the case when news is breaking so rapidly. But the Globe's 24/7 coverage-which placed immense demands on its staff and on its limited resources-was overwhelmingly accurate, detailed and insightful. Media writer Seth Mnookin hailed the paper's coverage of the bombing and the search for the killers as "Tireless. Dogged. Spirited."

And the Globe's coverage was something else: Free.

The paper knocked down the paywall that separated potential readers from what is usually a subscription-only website. Editors stripped a banner across the top of the webpage reading: " is currently available to all readers."

The readers came. On the day the paywall came down, the paper attracted 1.2 million unique visitors-six times the normal amount. Of course, dramatic events drew readers; of course, many of the new readers were from outside the Boston area. But the numbers were way, way higher-locally, nationally and even internationally-because readers did not have to jump through digital hoops and type in credit card numbers.

So dropping the paywall made sense from a standpoint of civic responsibility and from the classic journalistic standpoint of wanting to get new information and ideas to the broadest possible audience.

But it was not viewed as as economic success for the Globe, which is currently up for sale and wrestling with all the financial challenges that face American newsrooms. On Monday, the paywall will return.

That's understandable but, to my view, unfortunate.

It is no secret that this is an era when major media outlets are desperate to find ways to pay for journalism. In some cases, this really is because they are out of touch with their audience and because alternative media is simply more compelling. But, more often than not, this is because of a dramatic shift in media economics. Advertising revenues that once sustained vast newsgathering operations, with deep commitments to cover communities, states, the nation and the world, have collapsed. And online advertising does not begin to provide sufficient support to pay for the journalism even of popular news sites.

Many publications (including The Nation), and most major dailes, have experimented with strategies to get people to pay for news stories, columns and editorials.

the Globe erected a subscription-style paywall two years ago to try to collect revenue from readers. It has had some success with this approach, as have other publications that are experimenting with models that charge for individual articles or groups of articles.

But when all news broke loose, dropping the Globe's paywall was a "no-brainer."

The decision by the editors to collapse the paywall at a critical juncture for the city the paper has covered since 1872 was not unprecedented. A number of major papers did so when Superstorm Sandy was hitting, as did several during in the aftermath of the Boston bombing.

But the Globe's move was especially wise, and valuable. And it ought to provoke a new discussion about whether paywalls make sense, economically or journalistically.

Newsrooms needs resources to pay reporters, photographers and editors to produce quality journalism that is sufficient not only to inform citizens but to sustain a democratic discourse. And it's not wrong to ask readers, listeners and viewers to contribute. Indeed, Los Angeles Times national writer Matt Pearce announced Friday night: "If everybody in Boston doesn't pay the Globe back with a subscription after all this, not sure what more you could ask from a newspaper."

I agree. If Boston pays the Globe back with a flood of new subscriptions, I'll be thrilled.

But we ought not presume that this will be the case.

Americans who recognize the importance of not just journalism but the daily amalgamation of journalism that is produced by classic urban newsrooms-with substantial numbers of at least reasonably compensated reporters, columnists, editors, photographers, graphic specialists and all the other people who once made newspapers work and who now make news-oriented websites work-should be thinking of how to get the most news to the most people.

The huge readership-and the huge regard-that the Globe achieved during a critical week in the history of its hometown reminds us that there are a lot of readers out there who don't leap paywalls.

That's unhealthy for the future of big urban newsrooms, for the future of journalism and for the future of a vibrant and nuanced democratic discourse.

A lot of traditionalists would like to imagine that the people will eventually pay. After all, they say, newspapers have always charged for subscriptions-or copies on the newsstand.

But the Internet is different. It's built on the premise that information should be free. And even if some newspapers make some money by erecting them, veteran technology writer Mathew Ingram correctly notes that paywalls that are hailed as "successful" still are not "making up for the continuing decline in print ad revenue."

So it is that newspapers keep closing, cutting back and laying off reporters, photographers and editors.

But it's not just the economic challenge that worries me. When a paywall limits access to the journalism produced by a great city's newsroom, the public debate suffers. People can still get information, but they are edged out of the core conversations of their community-and often toward sources that reinforce rather than challenge and expand assumptions.

My point here is not to suggest that metropolitan dailies-or, to be more precise, the newsrooms that now produce the most popular news sites-can or will simply provide great reporting and analysis at no cost. What I am suggesting is that publications should be examining alternatives to paywalls.

If we learn anything from the Globe's experience of recent days, it is that it's a good idea to make information and ideas available to all readers in a moment of crisis. But why isn't it a good idea to make information and ideas available during elections? During great debate about national, state or local priorities? Or during periods when cities are "getting back to normal" after terrifying events?

In other countries, journalism is sustained with public subsidies and tax breaks-not just for muscular public broadcasting systems but for print and digital journalism. There are, as well, models for running newsrooms (like that of The Tampa Bay Times) as nonprofit or low-profit enterprises, and for leveraging foundation money and community investment to sustain journalism. Some communities-including St. Louis and Seattle-have seen the use of public radio stations as platforms for sites bring together laid-off newspaper reporters to cover local news.

People who care about journalism can and should be engaged in a wide-ranging discussion about how to sustain journalism in the twenty-first century. And this week's decision by the Globe to drop its paywall should get not just reporters, editors and publishers thinking about those alternatives. It should get citizens engaged with the issue.

Here's why:

For Boston in particular, but for the nation in general, this past week has been daunting. People haven't just wrestled with the news, they have wrestled with questions about the news means.

It is natural in such a circumstance to try to figure things out, to struggle with questions about specific events and about broad threats and deep fears. About clues and indicators. About responsibility and accountability. About the balance between public safety and civil liberties.

This wrestling with issues and ideas, this search for explanations, can be frustrating and contentious. But it's healthy. It means that people are engaged. Even when they make mistakes, they tend to do so sincerely.

What's important is that citizens have a steady flow of information and analysis and-of particular significance in so intense a circumstance-thoughtful reflection that helps steer the discussion beyond kneejerk reactions.

This is what the Globe provided. Its coverage was rich and nuanced. Its commentary was adventurous and challenging. Editorials provided comfort and perspective, reminding readers: "The fact that the Marathon takes place on Patriots Day may or may not have been a factor in the attack; it is, absolutely, a part of what makes the event unique, a celebration of both nature and history, the coming of spring and the region's connection to the Revolutionary War."

The Globe's editorial pages even found room to defend Family Guy, noting: "A real-life terrorist attack isn't an appropriate source of humor. But some snippets of old movies and TV shows are bound to prompt cringe-inducing associations in the wake of an attack; still, viewers will understand the difference between a calculated insult and an unintended coincidence. So, while Fox executives showed commendable sensitivity in taking the unusual step of removing an old 'Family Guy' episode that involved the Boston Marathon from the web, it was an unnecessary gesture."

That's one example of the Globe's many invitations to think freely, while focusing on what matters. A great paper-even if it's not read on paper-can still do this, especially if it speaks to everyone. That's what the Globe did last week. It deserves celebration and emulation-especially of the banner that reads: "available to all readers."
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Artificial limbs lined up at the COPE Center in VIentiane, Laos where victims of US cluster bombs can go to receive treatment and rehabiltative services.

US Cluster Munitions: 277 Million Boston Bombings
By Robert Scheer

The horror of Boston should be a reminder that the choice of weaponry can be in itself an act of evil. "Boston Bombs Were Loaded to Maim" is the way The New York Times defined the hideousness of the weapons used, and President Obama made clear that "anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror." But are we as a society prepared to be judged by that standard?

The president's deployment of drones that all too often treat innocent civilians as collateral damage comes quickly to mind. It should also be pointed out that the U.S. still maintains a nuclear arsenal and, as our killing and wounding hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese demonstrated, those weapons are inherently, by the president's definition, weapons of terror. But it is America's role in the deployment of antipersonnel land mines, and our country's refusal to sign off on a ban on cluster munitions agreed to by most of the world's nations, that offers the most glaring analogy with the carnage of Boston.

To this day, antipersonnel weapons-the technologically refined version of the primitive pressure cooker fragmentation bombs exploded in Boston-maim and kill farmers and their children in the Southeast Asian killing fields left over from our country's past experiment in genocide. An experiment that as a sideshow to our obsession with replacing French colonialism in Vietnam involved dropping 277 million cluster bomblets on Laos between 1964 and 1973.

The whole point of a cluster weapon is to target an area the size of several football fields with the same bits of maiming steel that did so much damage in Boston. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been active in attempting to clear land of remaining bomblets, estimates 10,000 Lao civilian casualties to date from such weapons. As many as twenty-seven million unexploded bomblets remain in the country, according to the committee.

Back in 1964 at the start of that bombing campaign, I reported from Laos, an economically primitive land where a pencil was a prize gift to students. It is staggering to me that the death we visited upon a people, then largely ignorant of life in America, still should be ongoing.

The technology to manufacture the cluster bombs and the deadly bomblets they contain has since expanded to most of the world, and they have been used by at least 15 nations. As a recent Congressional Research Service report noted:

"Cluster munitions were used by the Soviets in Afghanistan, by the British in the Falklands, by the Coalition in the Gulf War, and by the warring factions in Yugoslavia. In Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1999, NATO forces dropped 1,765 cluster bombs containing approximately 295,000 submunitions. From 2001 through 2002, the United States dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 submunitions in Afghanistan, and U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimated 1.8 million to 2 million submunitions during the first three weeks of combat in Iraq in 2003."

Israel is said to have dropped almost 1 million unexploded bomblets in Lebanon in the 2006 war against Hezbollah, which fired 113 cluster bombs filled with thousands of bomblets at targets in northern Israel.

I list all those dreary statistics to drive home the point that the horror of two pressure cooker bombs in Boston that has so traumatized us should help us grasp the significance of the 1.8 million bomblets dropped in Iraq over a three-week period.

Obama was right to blast the use of weapons that targeted civilians in Boston as inherent acts of terrorism, but by what standard do such weapons change their nature when they are deployed by governments against civilians?

On Aug. 1, 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning such weapons, became a matter of international law for the 111 nations, including 18 NATO members, that signed the agreement. The U.S. was not one of them. Current American policy, according to the Congressional Research Service report, is that "cluster munitions are available for use by every combat aircraft in the U.S. inventory; they are integral to every Army or Marine maneuver element and in some cases constitute up to 50 percent of tactical indirect fire support."

However, there is new legislation pending in Congress that would require the president to certify that cluster munitions would "only be used against clearly defined military targets" and not deployed "where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians." Lots of luck with that.
(c) 2013 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in=depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

The Dis-Uniting Of America (2)
Social Issues and The Demographic Split
By Robert Reich

My first reaction on hearing of the Senate's failure to get 60 votes for even modest measures to regulate the flow of guns into the hands of people who shouldn't have them, such as background checks supported by 90 percent of Americans, was to be furious at the spinelessness of the four Senate Democrats who voted against the measure (Mark Begich, Max Baucus, Mark Pryor, and Heidi Heitkamp), as well as the Republicans. And also with Harry Reid, who wouldn't lead the fight on changing the filibuster rule when he had the chance.

The deeper message here is that rural, older, white America occupies one land; younger, urban, increasingly non-white America lives in another. And the dividing line on social issues (not just guns, but also abortion, equal marriage rights, and immigration reform) runs between the two.

Yes, I know: Plenty of people who are rural, older, and white aren't regressives on guns, abortion, equal marriage, and immigration. And plenty who are urban, younger, and non-white are. My point is that if you want to explain what's happening in America on these non-economic issues you have to understand what's happening to the nation demographically - and why the demographic split is important.

Begich, Baucus, Pryor, and Heitkamp may be Democrats but they're also from rural, older, white America. That land has disproportionate political power in the Senate, and a gerrymandered House - which may not bode well for immigration reform over the next few months, and suggests continuing battles over "state's rights" to determine who can marry and when human life begins.

Over time, though, older, rural, white America is losing ground to a nation becoming ever younger, more urban, and increasingly non-white - a fact that threatens the former so much that it's in full backlash against the forces of change.
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Jobless Trap
By Paul Krugman

F.D.R. told us that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. But when future historians look back at our monstrously failed response to economic depression, they probably won't blame fear, per se. Instead, they'll castigate our leaders for fearing the wrong things.

For the overriding fear driving economic policy has been debt hysteria, fear that unless we slash spending we'll turn into Greece any day now. After all, haven't economists proved that economic growth collapses once public debt exceeds 90 percent of G.D.P.?

Well, the famous red line on debt, it turns out, was an artifact of dubious statistics, reinforced by bad arithmetic. And America isn't and can't be Greece, because countries that borrow in their own currencies operate under very different rules from those that rely on someone else's money. After years of repeated warnings that fiscal crisis is just around the corner, the U.S. government can still borrow at incredibly low interest rates.

But while debt fears were and are misguided, there's a real danger we've ignored: the corrosive effect, social and economic, of persistent high unemployment. And even as the case for debt hysteria is collapsing, our worst fears about the damage from long-term unemployment are being confirmed.

Now, some unemployment is inevitable in an ever-changing economy. Modern America tends to have an unemployment rate of 5 percent or more even in good times. In these good times, however, spells of unemployment are typically brief. Back in 2007 there were about seven million unemployed Americans - but only a small fraction of this total, around 1.2 million, had been out of work more than six months.

Then financial crisis struck, leading to a terrifying economic plunge followed by a weak recovery. Five years after the crisis, unemployment remains elevated, with almost 12 million Americans out of work. But what's really striking is the huge number of long-term unemployed, with 4.6 million unemployed more than six months and more than three million who have been jobless for a year or more. Oh, and these numbers don't count those who have given up looking for work because there are no jobs to be found.

It goes without saying that the explosion of long-term unemployment is a tragedy for the unemployed themselves. But it may also be a broader economic disaster.

The key question is whether workers who have been unemployed for a long time eventually come to be seen as unemployable, tainted goods that nobody will buy. This could happen because their work skills atrophy, but a more likely reason is that potential employers assume that something must be wrong with people who can't find a job, even if the real reason is simply the terrible economy. And there is, unfortunately, growing evidence that the tainting of the long-term unemployed is happening as we speak.

One piece of evidence comes from the relationship between job openings and unemployment. Normally these two numbers move inversely: the more job openings, the fewer Americans out of work. And this traditional relationship remains true if we look at short-term unemployment. But as William Dickens and Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University recently showed, the relationship has broken down for the long-term unemployed: a rising number of job openings doesn't seem to do much to reduce their numbers. It's as if employers don't even bother looking at anyone who has been out of work for a long time.

To test this hypothesis, Mr. Ghayad then did an experiment, sending out resumes describing the qualifications and employment history of 4,800 fictitious workers. Who got called back? The answer was that workers who reported having been unemployed for six months or more got very few callbacks, even when all their other qualifications were better than those of workers who did attract employer interest.

So we are indeed creating a permanent class of jobless Americans.

And let's be clear: this is a policy decision. The main reason our economic recovery has been so weak is that, spooked by fear-mongering over debt, we've been doing exactly what basic macroeconomics says you shouldn't do - cutting government spending in the face of a depressed economy.

It's hard to overstate how self-destructive this policy is. Indeed, the shadow of long-term unemployment means that austerity policies are counterproductive even in purely fiscal terms. Workers, after all, are taxpayers too; if our debt obsession exiles millions of Americans from productive employment, it will cut into future revenues and raise future deficits.

Our exaggerated fear of debt is, in short, creating a slow-motion catastrophe. It's ruining many lives, and at the same time making us poorer and weaker in every way. And the longer we persist in this folly, the greater the damage will be.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts"
~~~ Abraham Lincoln

The Value Of Silence
By David Sirota

Can you hear yourself think? Can you manage more than bursts of confusion and anger? Can you feel your own humanity anymore? I'll admit it - I've had trouble this week, too. After an explosion like the one in Boston, it is indeed hard to hear one's own internal monologue, much less meditate on such horrific events. Polluting that sacred quiet of the mind is both the haunting boom of the bombs themselves and even worse, the noisy coda that we've become so accustomed to.

Sensory overload, of course, is the deafening effect of the Catastrophe Aftermath - one of the last unifying and consistent rituals in our atomized nation. Yes, regardless of whether the tragedy is a school shooting or a terrorist attack, the epilogues of these now-constant mass casualty events have become prepackaged productions that seem less like reality than scripted television dramas.

You know how it goes. Cable outlets blare breaking news chyrons. Twitter explodes with declarations that we are "all from (insert city name) today." Websites post videos of viscera and other disaster porn. Pundits wildly speculate about perpetrators. The president promises justice. Law enforcement press conferences review body counts. Municipal officials insist the community will "stand united." Funerals commence. A media icon says something outrageous. Other media carnival barkers then react to the bombast. Ultimately, the whole episode becomes another excuse to limit civil liberties and is forgotten by all but those personally affected.

In submitting to this automated formula, a screen-addicted nation has created a distracting defense mechanism - one that further dehumanizes events, which are already, by definition, an assault on our humanity. In the process, we make it more difficult to muster the soul's ability - and, perhaps, desire - for genuine reflection.

At this point in a column published during the official Catastrophe Aftermath, a writer is supposed to authoritatively offer solutions.

But I have none. And you know what? That's OK because it is entirely human to lack answers right now. All I can offer up are thoughts that shouldn't be drowned out by the noise.

One is about context. The images from Boston are not merely of mayhem and heroism. With the attack occurring on the day our taxes are due, they should remind a tax-hostile country of the value of public investment - in this case, in first responders who miraculously limited the casualties. They should also generate a sense of sympathy for those in places like Iraq and Syria who face terrorism-related carnage every day.

Another thought is about fear. At one level, it is appropriate. With our country's wars increasing the possibility of retributive blowback, with the Department of Homeland Security recognizing the threat of domestic anti-government terrorism, and with a heavily armed society not addressing its mental health crisis, we should (unfortunately) expect periodic massacres. But at another level, fear shouldn't consume us - after all, terrorism is still on the decline worldwide.

Still another thought is about people. The Boston bomber reminds us of the cliche that people suck. But the many who ran toward the blast to save lives remind us that most people do not suck.

One final thought: I arrived at these not-so-profound revelations only when I shut off the screen and opted for introspection instead of the false comfort of flashing pixels. I did this because, as security expert Bruce Schneier, suggests, terrorism "is a crime against the mind" - and therefore one way to combat it is to immerse the mind in a bit of silence. Doing so denies the terrorists their desired glory, allows for the consideration of unanswerable questions and, thus, lets one remember what it means to be truly alive.

That may be the best - if not the only - way to honor the dead and find meaning in such a senseless atrocity.
(c) 2013 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota .

Time For A Department Of Peace
By David Swanson

I'm honored to have accepted the position of Secretary of Peace in the newly formed Green Shadow Cabinet. Of course, I cannot contrast my positions with those of the actual Secretary of Peace, as the United States has no such position.

There is a Secretary of War, although that title was changed to Secretary of Defense 66 years ago. It was changed the same year George Orwell wrote his masterpiece, 1984, in which he suggested that language is sometimes used as a disguise. In fact, ever since the War Department became the Defense Department, its business has had less than ever to do with defense and more than ever to do with promoting the use of war-making as an instrument of national policy. President Dwight Eisenhower observed and warned of this worsening situation 52 years ago in one of the most prescient but least heeded (even by Eisenhower) warnings since Cassandra told the Trojans to be wary of giant horses.

There is a Secretary of State, but the State Department has come to work arm-in-arm with the Defense Department, marketing weaponry to foreign governments, building coalitions for wars, imposing deadly sanctions as preludes to wars, presenting bogus arguments for wars at the United Nations, and holding the world's governments accountable for human rights abuses based less on the extent of the abuses than on the governments' relationships with the Pentagon. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Israel don't have greater civil liberties and popular democratic rule than Iran; the State Department just acts as if they do.

Our entire government claims to be for peace, but it has become common to state one's support for peace, and then qualify it with the assurance that one is not against any wars. This is usually meant to convey understanding or affection for members of the U.S. military. But you can respect people while condemning what they do. If our understanding and affection are broadened to include Afghans and Pakistanis and Yemenis, then we are obliged to oppose what the War Department is doing to them. Supporting "peace on earth" in December, or peace in our hearts, or peace through war is not enough. We need to be working for peace -- the absence of war -- year round. We invest roughly a trillion dollars in war preparations every year, roughly half of federal discretionary spending, roughly half of world military spending. With no credible enemy in sight, and with no beneficial war observable in our history, great quantities of fear-mongering and much beautification of history are required to get us to tolerate this. The Pentagon is investing $65 million of our money in a Vietnam Commemoration Project aimed at making that war look less horrible than it was.

A University of Massachusetts study found that investment in education or infrastructure or green energy or even in tax cuts for working people produces significantly more jobs than does the same investment in the military. As tiny and much-exaggerated cuts to the military may soon actually materialize, we should take the opportunity to begin a conversion process. We can retool and retrain and convert from a war industry to a peace industry without anyone having to suffer in the process, and with money to spare.

And if we take away the idea of justifiable killing in war, and if we continue to eliminate the death penalty from additional states, we may begin to move our culture in a direction that helps bring our epidemic of violence at home under control as well. That could be a project for a Department of Peace. It's not that some other department couldn't do it. But thus far, none is.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Schulrektor Urquhart,

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 decision to protect the rapist and not who he raped, 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 "Corpo-rat whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-25-2013. We salute you Herr Urquhart, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Lynne Stewart at a news conference in New York City in 2002.

The Persecution Of Lynne Stewart
By Chris Hedges

Lynne Stewart, in the vindictive and hysterical world of the war on terror, is one of its martyrs. A 73-year-old lawyer who spent her life defending the poor, the marginalized and the despised, including blind cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, she fell afoul of the state apparatus because she dared to demand justice rather than acquiesce to state sponsored witch hunts. And now, with stage 4 cancer that has metastasized, spreading to her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs, creating a grave threat to her life, she sits in a prison cell at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is serving a 10-year sentence. Stewart's family is pleading with the state for "compassionate release" and numerous international human rights campaigners, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have signed a petition calling for her to be freed on medical grounds. It is not only a crime in the U.S. to be poor, to be a Muslim, to openly condemn the crimes committed in our name in the Muslim world, but to defend those who do. And the near total collapse of our judicial system, wrecked in the name of national security and "the war on terror," is encapsulated in the saga of this courageous attorney-now disbarred because of her conviction.

"I hope that my imprisonment sends the wake up call that the government is prepared to imprison lawyers who do not conduct legal representation in a manner the government has ordained," she told me when I reached her through email in prison. "My career of 30 plus years has always been client centered. My clients and I decided on the best legal course, without the interference of the government. Ethics require that the defense lawyer DEFEND, get the client off. We have no obligation to obey [the] 'rules' government lays down.

"I believe that since 9/11 the government has pursued Muslims with an ever heavier hand," she wrote, all messages to her and from her being vetted by prison authorities. "However, cases such as the Sheikh's in 1995 amply demonstrate that Muslims had been targeted even earlier as the new ENEMY-always suspect, always guilty. After 9/11, we discovered that the government prosecutors were ordered to try and get Osama Bin Laden into EVERY Muslim prosecution inducing in American Juries a Pavlovian response. Is it as bad as lynching and the Scottsboro Boys and the Pursuit of Black Panthers? Not as of yet, but getting close and of course the incipient racism that that colors-pun?-every action in the U.S. is ever present in these prosecutions."

Stewart, as a young librarian in Harlem, got an early taste of the insidious forms of overt and covert racism that work to keep most people of color impoverished and trapped in their internal colonies or our prison complex. She went on to get her law degree and begin battling in the courts on behalf of those around her for whom justice was usually denied. By 1995, along with former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Abdeen Jabara, she was the lead trial counsel for the sheik, who was convicted in September of that year. He received life in prison plus 65 years, a sentence Stewart called "outlandish." The cleric, in poor health, is serving a life sentence in the medical wing of the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina. Stewart continued to see the sheik in jail after the sentence. Three years later the government severely curtailed his ability to communicate with the outside world, even through his lawyers, under special administrative measures or SAMs.

In 2000, during a visit with the sheik, he asked Stewart to release a statement from him to the press. The Clinton administration did not prosecute her for the press release, but the Bush administration in April 2002, the mood of the country altered by the attacks of 9/11, decided to go after her. Attorney General John Ashcroft came to New York in April 2002 to announce that the Justice Department had indicted Stewart, a paralegal and the interpreter on grounds of materially aiding a terrorist organization. That night he went on "Late Show with David Letterman" to tell the nation of the indictment and the Bush administration's vaunted "war on terror."

"Rev up the military industrial complex," Stewart wrote when I asked her what purpose the "war on terror" served. "Keep the populace terrorized so that they look to Big Brother Government for protection. Cannon Fodder for the 'throwaways' in our society-young, poor, uneducated, persons of color." Stewart's 2005 trial was a Punch-and-Judy show. The state demanded an outrageous 30-year prison sentence. It showed the jurors lurid videos of Osama bin Laden and images of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers, and spun a fantastic web of Islamic, terrorist intrigue. To those of us who covered groups such as al-Qaida and the armed Islamic groups in Egypt-I was based in Cairo at the time as the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times-the government scenarios were utterly devoid of fact or credibility. The government prosecutors, for example, blamed numerous terrorist attacks, including the killing of 62 people in 1997 in Luxor, Egypt, on the sheik, although he publicly denounced the attack and had no connection with the radical Islamic group in Egypt that carried it out. And even Manhattan District Judge John Koeltl instructed the jury more than 750 times that the photos of Osama bin Laden and the 2001 World Trade Center attacks were not relevant to the case. Stewart was sentenced to 28 months. The Obama administration appealed the ruling. The appeals court ruled that the sentence was too light. Koeltl gave her 10 years. She has served three.

Her family's appeal for a "compassionate release" must defy the odds. Human Rights Watch and Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) noted in a 2012 report, "The Answer is No: Too Little Compassionate Release in US Federal Prisons," that the Federal Bureau of Prisons rarely even bothers to submit compassionate release requests to the courts. Since 1992, the bureau has averaged two dozen motions a year to the courts for compassionate release. The bureau does not provide figures for the number of prisoners who seek compassionate release.

"No messy side effects-vomiting, diarrhea-thank goodness," Stewart wrote to me about her cancer care. "I have one more treatment and then they have used all the poison it's safe to use. I am bald but the hardest for me to endure, who has always relied on her memory and quick wit, is the chemo brain that slows and sometimes stops me.

"I am up at 4:30 [a.m.] and wait till the 'Count' is over and have a shower etc.," she noted of her daily routine. "I get dressed and take a short rest (feet up) until breakfast at 6 am. I am in a room with 6 other women-the unusual mix of inmates and I rely on them to help me with just about everything-getting to the clinics, picking up meds, filling my ice bucket, helping with my laundry, etc. At 9:00 every day, they laughingly say, I go to the 'office.' That means email or the law library where I correspond and meet with women who need my help. I go back up by 10:30 and take a short nap till lunch. Meals here are meager and not well prepared. Of course, I have favorites-the hamburgers (beef THIN patty) served every Wednesday in every federal prison for lunch. Some of the women count their time in terms of how many hamburger days they have left! We are served cut up iceberg lettuce with a little red cabbage and carrots with meals and I have used my commissary purchases to concoct some more exotic dressings than those offered here.

"After lunch I go back to bed for a longer nap and then up for mail call-lots of letters, newspapers, magazines etc." she wrote, "a time of the day I sometimes shed a few tears at the love and intensity of those who have written to state their support. Then supper and back to bed and reading-pure pleasure-much fiction (mysteries, Scottish etc. and authors I love Morrison, Sarmargo). [There is] some conversing with my roommates and then after the 9:00 pm count I am off to sleep. I have a hospital bed that is next to large windows-no bars. I can see the Trinity River, barely. Trees. This view of nature is responsible for keeping me alive in the real sense.

"I hoped that there would be common cause among the women here because we are all confronted by totally arbitrary authority every minute of every day," she went on. "Prison is a perverse place of selfishness and sometimes generosity but not much unity. There are a few and we recognize each other but by and large the harsh realities of people's origins and the system have ruined most of us. It is particularly horrendous to realize the number of children that the prison system rips from their mothers' arms, thus creating yet another generation to feed the beast of prison industrial complex.

"I fear we are headed into a period of ever increasing cruelty to those who can least stand it," she wrote. "As corporate agendas become national agendas there is a profound disrespect for all those who are not able to even get to the starting line. We do not love the children except when they are massacred-the daily mental, emotional deaths in the public schools are ignored. We are now a nation of Us and Them. I would HOPE that the people would recognize what is happening and make a move. After all, who in the fifties could have predicted the uprisings of the sixties? There must be a distaste and willful opposition to what is happening and a push to take it back-local movements scaring the HELL out of the Haves."

In a 2003 speech at a National Lawyers Guild convention in Minneapolis, Stewart eloquently laid out her mission as an advocate, and more important as a mother and a member of the human race.

"For we have formidable enemies not unlike those in the tales of ancient days," she told the gathering. "There is a consummate evil that unleashes its dogs of war on the helpless; an enemy motivated only by insatiable greed - The Miller's daughter made to spin gold - the fisherman's wife: Midas, all with no thought of consequences. In this enemy there is no love of the land or the creatures that live there, no compassion for the people. This enemy will destroy the air we breathe and the water we drink as long as the dollars keep filling up their money boxes.

"We now resume our everyday lives but we have been charged once again, with, and for, our quests, and like Hippolyta and her Amazons; like David going forth to meet Goliath, like Beowulf the dragon slayer, like Queen Zenobia, who made war on the Romans, like Sir Galahad seeking the holy grail," she said. "And modern heroes, dare I mention? Ho and Mao and Lenin, Fidel and Nelson Mandela and John Brown, Che Guevara who reminds us 'At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.'Our quests like theirs are to shake the very foundations of the continents.

"We go out to stop police brutality -? To rescue the imprisoned -? To change the rules for those who have never ever been able to get to the starting line much less run the race, because of color, physical condition, gender, mental impairment," she said. "We go forth to preserve the air and land and water and sky and all the beasts that crawl and fly. We go forth to safeguard the right to speak and write, to join; to learn, to rest safe at home, to be secure, fed, healthy, sheltered, loved and loving, to be at peace with ones identity."

From prison Stewart wrote to me in closing, "I have been fortunate to live a charmed life-parents who loved me without qualification (yes, we fought about Vietnam and my African American husband but I never doubted that they would always be there for me). I had children when I was young enough to grow with them. Today they are the backbone of my support and love. I came to politics in the early sixties and was part of a vibrant movement that tried to empower local control of public schools to make the ultimate changes for children and break the back of racism in minority communities. My partner/husband Ralph Poynter was always-60 years and counting-in my corner and when at a less than opportune moment I announced my desire to go to law school, he made sure it happened. I had a fabulous legal career in a fabulous city-championing the political rights of the comrades of the 60's and 70's and also representing many who had no hope of a lawyer who would fight for them against the system. I have enjoyed good friends, loved cooking, had poetry and theater for a joy. I could go on and on BUT all of this good fortune has always meant only one thing to me-that I have to fight, struggle to make sure EVERYONE can have a life like mine. That belief is what will always sustain me."
(c) 2013 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

'Terrorism' And The Perpetual Emotion War Machine
by Norman Solomon

As a perpetual emotion machine -- producing and guzzling its own political fuel -- the "war on terror" continues to normalize itself as a thoroughly American way of life and death. Ongoing warfare has become a matter of default routine, pushed along by mainline media and the leadership of both parties in Washington. Without a clear and effective upsurge of opposition from the grassroots, Americans can expect to remain citizens of a war-driven country for the rest of their lives.

Across the United States, many thousands of peeling bumper stickers on the road say: "End this Endless War." They got mass distribution from back in 2007, when a Republican was in the White House. Now, a thorough search of the MoveOn website might leave the impression that endless war ended with the end of the George W. Bush presidency.

MoveOn is very big as online groups go, but it is symptomatic of a widespread problem among an array of left-leaning organizations that have made their peace with the warfare state. Such silence assists the Obama administration as it makes the "war on terror" even more resolutely bipartisan and further embedded in the nation's political structures -- while doing immense damage to our economy, siphoning off resources that should go to meet human needs, further militarizing society and undermining civil liberties.

Now, on Capitol Hill, the most overt attempt to call a halt to the "war on terror" is coming from Rep. Barbara Lee, whose bill H.R. 198 would revoke the Authorization for Use of Military Force that Congress approved three days after 9/11. Several months since it was introduced, H.R. 198 only has a dozen co-sponsors. (To send your representative and senators a message of support for Lee's bill, click here.) Evidently, in Congress, there is sparse support for repealing the September 2001 blanket authorization for war. Instead, there are growing calls for a larger blanket. Bipartisan Washington is warming to the idea that a new congressional resolution may be needed to give War on Terror 2.0 an expansive framework. Even for the law benders and breakers who manage the executive branch's war machinery, the language of the September 2001 resolution doesn't seem stretchable enough to cover the U.S. warfare of impunity that's underway across the globe . . . with more on the drawing boards.

On Tuesday afternoon, when a Senate Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on "targeted killing," the proceedings underscored the great extent of bipartisan overlap for common killing ground. Republican super-hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham lauded President Obama for "targeting people in a very commander-in-chief-like way." And what passed for senatorial criticism took as a given the need for continuing drone strikes. In the words of the subcommittee's chairman, Sen. Dick Durbin, "More transparency is needed to maintain the support of the American people and the international community" for those attacks.

This is classic tinkering with war machinery. During the first several years of the Vietnam War, very few senators went beyond mild kibitzing about how the war could be better waged. In recent years, during President Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan that tripled the U.S. troop levels in that country, senators like John Kerry (now secretary of state) kept offering their helpful hints for how to fine tune the war effort.

The "war on terror" is now engaged in various forms of military intervention in an estimated two-dozen countries, killing and maiming uncounted civilians while creating new enemies. It infuses foreign policy with unhinged messages hidden in plain sight, like a purloined letter proclaiming "What goes around won't come around" and telling the world "Do as we say, not as we do."

Political ripple effects from the Boston Marathon bombings have only begun. While public opinion hasn't gotten carried away with fear, much of the news media -- television in particular -- is stoking the fires of fear but scarcely raising a single question that might challenge the basic assumptions of a forever "war on terror."

After a city has been traumatized and a country has empathized, a constructive takeaway would be that it's terribly wrong to set off bombs that kill and maim. But that outlook is a nonstarter the moment it might be applied to victims of U.S. drones and cruise missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. The message seems to be that Americans should never be bombed but must keep bombing.

The death of Richie Havens days ago is a loss and reminder. Each of us has only so many days ahead. We may as well live them with deeper meaning, for peace and social justice. To hear Havens performing the song "Lives in the Balance" written by another great musician, Jackson Browne, is to be awakened anew:

I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die

And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Martin Kowlowski ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Authorities On Alert As Hundreds Of Crazed Sociopaths Enter Congressional Chambers

Parting Shots...

Yellow Bellied Cowards
By Will Durst

And now for a few choice words about the recent Senate vote which scuttled universal background checks on gun purchases. And the first three of those words are... Yellow- Bellied Cowards. Here's a couple more. Gutless Craven Chicken-Hearted Invertebrates. Dastardly Lily- Livered Spineless Jellyfish with the moral compunction of inbred Piranhas crowded into a too- small tank filled with liquid meth.

That giant arrogant pimp known as the NRA should be laughing hysterically after its lackeys trashed the ephemeral spirit of compromise that had settled over Washington like a soft dawn mist. Ninety percent of Republicans voted against an issue 90 percent of the American people support. A bipartisan bill that was so watered down, it was translucent. Leaked moisture all through the Senate chamber to a depth of a half-inch. Would have easily supported two schools of guppies.

The senators that deigned to speak before scurrying down their greasy little wormholes to bunk in the nether regions of hell, whined that pro-gun forces punish politicians for votes, while pro gun-control forces don't. Nobody mentioned the right thing to do or keeping automatic weapons out of the hands of felons or making the country or our schools safer. You know, their job.

The NRA, itself worried about being primaried from the right by other gun associations, encouraged its well-compensated hookers to compete among themselves to see who could lie most outrageously. Numerous senators claimed the bill would lead to a national gun registry even though the very bill they spoke of included provisions to specifically prohibit such a thing. Perhaps it needs to be spelled out in simpler language like: "Gun Registry -- Bad. Not Good. No- Go. Not Going to Happen."

Besides, exactly what is wrong with a national gun registry? You have to register a car. Most cities mandate bicycles be licensed. You need a card to take a book out of a library for crum's sakes. Proving that some people are much more comfortable with guns than they are books. Which is part of the problem.

In what was surely meant as an inside joke, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn complained the bill would raise taxes. Why stop there? And child pornographers will camp in your back yard practicing Shariah law with uncircumcised goats riddled with Chinese bird flu.

This time the NRA may have overreached. Perpetrated an outrage too far. A revulsion too great. Could very well have created its own Frankenstein monster. Ninety percent is a big figure. You'd think even the most casual of voters might tend to remember when someone turns their back on the country, jumps up and down on a litter of new born puppies then parties. And it would only take a committed few to throw their allegiance to candidates who pledge loyalty to the nation rather than a lobby that focuses on weapons of mass destruction.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wasn't kidding. The GOP's path is clear. It is doomed to be the rich, white guy, anti-science, pro-gun, stupid Party. Destined to slowly strangle on its own gurgling incoherencies until it is no longer comprehensible or relevant. Couldn't happen soon enough to a nicer bunch of rich white guys. And their grinning gun-toting treacherous minions.
(c) 2013 Will Durst's, e-book "Elect to Laugh!" published by Hyperink, is now available at, Amazon and many other fine virtual book retailers near you. Go to for more info. Will Durst's new one- man show "BoomerAging: From LSD to OMG" opens previews at the Marsh, San Francisco on April 16th. Go to

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 17 (c) 04/26/2013

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