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In This Edition

Greg Palast returns with, "PART 2: BP Covered Up Blow-out Prior To Deepwater Horizon."

Uri Avnery recognises, "Stupid And Mean And Brutal."

Matt Taibbi demands, "Don't Let Business Lobbyists Kill The Post Office."

Ralph Nader visits, "The World's Largest Open-Air Gulag."

Jim Hightower exposes, "The Citizens United Gang."

Glen Ford returns with, "Trayvon Killing Reveals Unreconstructed White Nationalism On The March."

James Donahue explores, "ALEC."

Dave Swanson puts, "Torture On Trial."

Marilyn Katz expounds upon, "Our Bodies, Their Politics."

Phil Rockstroh considers, "The Big Empty."

Paul Krugman studies, "The Amnesia Candidate."

Amy Goodman warns, "The NSA Is Watching You."

Robert Reich explains, "Why 'We're On The Right Track' Isn't Enough."

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols finds, "Not Just Labor Rights; Scott Walker Is Also Dismantling Women's Rights."

Chris Floyd examines, "The Way Of The Drone."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Hookers Downgrade US Credit Rating" but first Uncle Ernie declares, "Willard Wins Again."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of R.J. Matson, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, John Deering, Pat Bagley, Louis Hellman, Eco Watch.Org, Cartoon Meme.Com, Justin Sullivan, Lawrence H. Beitler, Ben Goossens, CC-BY, Getty Images, Boeing, The Borowitz Report, In These Times,Com, 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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Willard Wins Again!
God-boy sweeps primaries
By Ernest Stewart

"I'm happy to learn that after I speak, you're going to hear from Ann Coulter. That's a good thing. I think it's important to get the views of moderates." ~~~ Willard Romney

"A couple of torpedoes would stagger the thing, and then you've got the Alamo, the Maine, the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin and 9/11 all over again, with Iran in the crosshairs." ~~~ John LaForge

"USDA will remain in its oversight role and USDA inspectors will still be in every plant, looking at each carcass to ensure the safety of chicken products and providing them with the USDA seal of approval for wholesomeness." ~~~ Ashley Peterson Ph.D

"Before giving, the mind of the giver is happy; while giving, the mind of the giver is made peaceful; and having given, the mind of the giver is uplifted." ~~~ Buddha

I would hope by now that the most diehard Ron Paul fans would at last see the light. The light emanated from Willard "The Boy Who Would Be God" Romney as Willard swept all five primaries Tuesday, winning with an average 2/3 majority. In only one race did Ron place second with 24% of the vote (Rhode Island), to Willard's 63%.

It should also be time for the Newtster to drop out as he didn't win Delaware, and managed to garner only 27% of the vote to Willard's 56.5%. He said he would if he didn't win; and he didn't so, how about it, Newt? Isn't it time you crawled back under your rock for a while -- at least until you shed your skin? Newt hasn't dropped out yet, though he promises to do so next week. When has Newt ever kept a promise?

It looks like Santorum did the right thing, dropping out before he had to face reality in his home state of Pennsylvania, where he managed to eek out a second place win over Ron Paul by a 18.3% to 13.2% margin, but placed a distant second to Willard's 58%.

So to the diehards anyone but Willard Tea-bagger, the writing is now on the walls -- baring an assassination, Willard is your boy, whether you like him or not. Of course, you could vote for the Republican centrist Obama; but I'm guessing you hate him more than Willard. Or, you could do what the vast majority of Americans do: either vote Green or sit this one out. This is because the majority, i.e., the folks left of center, haven't had a candidate since John Kennedy in the major parties, and are tired of voting for the slightly lesser of two horrible evils!

The primaries will go on and on regardless of the fact that Willard has the nomination sewn up; there are still hundreds of millions to be spent on propagandizing the Sheeple in the land where only money talks!

In Other News

What I warned you about in January has come to fruition. Barry has ordered that outdated, outmoded 51-year old aircraft carrier USS Enterprise into the Persian Gulf to act as a big fat target to the Iranians, hoping to start WWIII! Can't you see the headlines, Iranians attack Captain Kirk and the Enterprise. Trekkie fans would be up in arms!

This would accomplish many things for Barry and the boys. First it would give them a reason to attack Iran, like the way we baited the Japanese at Pearl Harbor with an antiquated mothball fleet of WWI Battleships in a harbor that was 30 feet deep. If the Iranians don't bite, it would be an easy thing to stage a false flag attack like we did on 9/11! Like the Israelis tried back in 1968, when they attacked the USS Liberty to blame it on the Egyptians!

Secondly, we wouldn't have to retire the Enterprise, which is a budget buster all by itself. It would cost far more to scrap the Enterprise, what with its eight reactors and fuel than what it cost to build it to begin with. The Enterprise was our first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and is the oldest ship still in service in the Navy -- with the exception of Old Ironsides, viz, the USS Constitution, which was built in 1797, but is technically still in service.

The Enterprise's battle group of a heavy missile cruiser, three missile destroyers, a submarine, and about 2000 Marines, joins the ultra-modern USS Lincoln and her battle group, as well as a couple of amphibious assault groups.

You may recall that in January, when Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta first said he would send the Enterprise to the Gulf "to send a direct message to Iran," the price of gas shot up and stayed up. If all goes according to plan, $10 a gallon gas will seem like the good old daze, once all hell breaks loose in the Gulf. There will be dancing for joy in boardrooms across America, as our oil companies and weapons producers get ready to soak us for all that we are worth.

And Finally

Ah, America, here's your tax dollars at work!

Rumor has it that as early as next week, the government will end debate on a cost-cutting, modernization proposal it hopes to fully implement by the end of the year. A plan that is setting off alarm bells among food science watchdogs, because it turns over most of the chicken inspection duties to the companies that produce the birds for sale. Ergo, letting the Foxes guard the hen house. I wonder how this "experiment" will turn out, don't you?

The USDA says that it can save $85 million over three years by laying off 1,000 government inspectors and turning over their duties to company monitors who will staff the poultry processing lines in plants across the country. Does anyone, except me, have a problem with this?

The poultry companies expect to save more than $250 million a year because they, in turn, will be allowed to speed up the processing lines to a dizzying 175 birds per minute with one USDA inspector at the end of the line. Currently, traditional poultry lines move at a maximum of 90 birds per minute, with three USDA inspectors on line. That's about three birds a second. Can you inspect three birds a second? Can anyone? The National Chicken Council assures us that the remaining inspector will inspect every carcass as they go whizzing by at three carcasses a second!

According to OMB Watch, (a government accountability newsletter)
"cutbacks at the USDA have coincided with a significant rise in salmonella outbreaks." (Imagine that!) The group says "...2010 was a record year for salmonella infection, and 2011 saw 103 poultry, egg and meat recalls because of disease-causing bacteria -- the most in nearly 10 years."

The USDA, which has been running a pilot program of the changes in 20 US poultry plants, says the new system is not about cost-cutting, but about bringing food safety up to date. I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs.

Less inspection is safer!

In background briefings, the agency will not answer, on the record, questions; the USDA says it plans on increasing the number of scientific tests to look for microbiotic diseases invisible to human eye inspectors. But the agency has not been able to furnish data that shows an increase in lab testing during the 12 year pilot program. A funny thing that, eh?

While watchdog groups insist a combination of increased testing and government inspection is needed to lower salmonella and other disease outbreaks from chicken, the National Chicken Council says on its website that while "plant employees would have an expanded role in inspecting carcasses," USDA inspectors will still be in the plant. And "we are confident that modernizing the poultry inspection system will enable us to build on our success in providing delicious, safe and wholesome food to our customers."

I wrote the national chicken council a letter, but got a song and dance in return without a single answer to any of my questions. Then I wrote USDA spokesman Michael Jarvis the following letter...

Hey Michael,

So you'll be firing 1000 inspectors, and this will make our chicken safer, huh? I'd trust the corpo-rats about as far as I could comfortably spit out a very large sewer rat to do the right thing; and I have no doubt that the rat would taste better than the under-inspected chicken. So now I have to add chicken to the growing list of foods that aren't safe to eat, thanks to the USDA and FDA. I'm not surprised since we've been blessed by all the untested GMO poisons that you allow and are not labeled with a big red warning label, BEWARE FRANKENFOODS.

It's bad enough that the USDA and the FDA have been bought and sold by Big Agra; but we have to eat these poisons unless we're rich enough to be able to afford a diet of organic foods -- like your 1% bosses eat. So the Foxes are guarding the hen house, when compared to the other atrocities that our food supplies have become isn't all that bad. Still, I'm sure my friends and family will thank you for getting me off the one last meat I still eat. So good-bye to dinosaur meat. Like the goodbyes I've already said to swine flu pigs, downer/mad-cow cattle, two-headed Franken fish, Franken vegetables, and Franken pigs from Canada!

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine
PS. Thanks Michael for writing next week's editorial for me!

If you'd like to add your two cents worth to Michael...

I'll let you know if Michael writes me back!

Keepin' On

Thanks to a nice donation from a couple of ladies from Texas, whose names I won't mention as they've asked me not to, we're about half way to raising the money we need to pay our June bill, which means we need to raise $100 a week until then to make the bill. Yikes. Then there is a similar bill that is due in July, that fortunately we've paid about half of last month and another similar bill that is due in September/October!

I need to raise $125 a week, every week to pay the bill around here, with three bills spread over five payments to keep publishing the magazine, year after year, fortunately advertising pays for half our bills or it would be twice as bad than it is!

If you can help us to keep on keeping on, please send us what you can, whenever you can, and I promise we will put it to good use, keeping Issues & Alibis Magazine alive -- sending you things that you really need to know, but the MSM and the government are going out of their way to keep hidden from you -- much to your disadvantage. Just go to the donations page and follow the instructions there. You'll feel better when you do!


10-16-1931 ~ 04-21-2012
Burn Baby Burn!

02-11-1947 ~ 04-23-2012
Thanks for the music!


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) 2012 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 11 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

PART 2: BP Covered Up Blow-out Prior To Deepwater Horizon
By Greg Palast

Evidence now implicates top BP executives as well as its partners Chevron and Exxon and the Bush Administration in the deadly cover-up-which included falsifying a report to the Securities Exchange Commission.

Yesterday, revealed that, in September 2008, nearly two years before the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP rig had blown out in the Caspian Sea-which BP concealed from U.S. regulators and Congress.

Had BP, Chevron, Exxon or the Bush State Department revealed the facts of the earlier blow-out, it is likely that the Deepwater Horizon disaster would have been prevented.

Days after the Deepwater Horizon blow-out, a message came in to our offices in New York from an industry insider floating on a ship in the Caspian Sea. He stated there had been a blow-out, just like the one in the Gulf, and BP had covered it up.

To confirm this shocking accusation, I flew with my team to the Islamic republic of Azerbaijan. Outside the capital, Baku, near the giant BP terminal, we found workers, though too frightened to give their names, who did confirm that they were evacuated from the BP offshore platform as it filled with explosive methane gas.

Before we could get them on camera, my crew and I were arrested and the witnesses disappeared.

Expelled from Azerbaijan, we still obtained the ultimate corroboration: a secret cable from the U.S. Embassy to the State Department in Washington laying out the whole story of the 2008 Caspian blow-out.

The source of the cable, classified "SECRET," was a disaffected U.S. soldier, Private Bradley Manning who, through, provided hot smoking guns to The Guardian.

The information found in the U.S. embassy cables is a block-buster.

The cables confirmed what BP will not admit to this day: there was a serious blow-out and its cause was the same as in the Gulf disaster two years later-the cement ("mud") used to cap the well had failed.

Bill Schrader, President of BP-Azerbaijan, revealed the truth to our embassy about the Caspian disaster:

"Schrader said that the September 17shutdown of the Central Azeri (CA) platform...was the largest such emergency evacuation in BP's history. Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition. ... Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was 'a lot of mud' on the platform."

From other sources, we discovered the cement which failed had been mixed with nitrogen as a way to speed up drying, a risky process that was repeated on the Deepwater Horizon.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, calls the concealment of this information, "...criminal. We have laws that make it illegal to hide this."

The cables also reveal that BP's oil-company partners knew about the blow-out but they too concealed the information from Congress, regulators and the Securities Exchange Commission. BP's major U.S. partners in the Caspian Sea drilling operation were Chevron and Exxon.

The State Department got involved in the matter because BP's U.S. partners and the Azerbaijani government were losing more than $50 million per day due to the platform's shutdown. The Embassy cabled Washington:

"BP's ACG partners are similarly upset with BP's performance in this episode, as they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this event even to its ACG partners."

Kennedy is concerned about the silent collusion of Chevron, Exxon and the Azerbaijani government. "The only reason the public doesn't know about it is because the Azerbaijani government conspired with them to disappear the people who saw it happen and then to act in concert, in collusion, in cahoots with BP, with Exxon, with Chevron to conceal this event from the American public."

Kennedy's particular concern goes to the connivance of the State Department, then headed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in the cover-up and deception. Chevron, noted Kennedy, named an oil tanker after Rice who had served on the oil company's board of directors. "BP felt comfortable-and Chevron and Exxon-in informing the Bush State Department, which was run by Condoleezza Rice," he said, "and they felt comfortable that that wasn't going to come out."

The U.S. Securities Exchange Commission requires companies to report "material" events. BP filed a "20-F" report in 2009 stating, "a subsurface gas release occurred below the Central Azeri platform," suggesting a naturally occurring crack in the seafloor, not a blow-out. This contradicted the statements of three eyewitnesses and the secret statement of BP's Azerbaijan President in then WikiLeaks cable.

"The three big actors, Chevron, Exxon and BP all concealed this from the American public," concludes Kennedy. "This is a criminal activity."

And why would the Azerbaijan government cover up a disaster costing it $40 million to $50 million a day? According to another insider, Les Abrahams, it has to do with at least $75 million in bribes that he paid to Azeri officials in Baku.

Abrahams was a BP executive in Baku in the 1990s working simultaneously, at BP's insistence, with MI6, British intelligence. We met with Abrahams in London who told us he was joined in his payoff runs by BP's CEO and Chairman Lord Browne who insisted on handing over a "sweetener" himself.

BP refused to be interviewed for this investigation, but did answer our questions in writing. The company will neither confirm nor deny the 2008 Caspian Sea blow-out. As to the failure to tell Congress and US regulators and the SEC about the blow-out, BP states only that it informed the government and regulators of Azerbaijan. However, the company does implicate its partners (Chevron and Exxon). BP states it, "shared the facts of its investigation with the Azerbaijan government, regulators, partners and within BP."

In response to further questions, BP does not deny the payment of bribes to Azerbaijan officials by company executives. It should be noted that at the time, that, unlike under U.S. law, Britain had not made bribery of foreign officials a crime.
(c) 2012 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at. Greg will be providing investigative reports for

"Stupid And Mean And Brutal"
By Uri Avnery

"In blood and sweat / A race will arise to us / Proud and generous and brutal..." Thus wrote Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, the founder of extreme right-wing Zionism, who was also a writer and a poet. Present-day Likud leaders see him as their forefather, much as Stalin saw Karl Marx.

The world "brutal" stands out, because it seems implausible that Jabotinsky really meant it. His Hebrew was not very good, and he probably meant something like "hard" or "tough."

If Jabotinsky saw today's Likud, he would shudder. His was a 19th century mixture of extreme nationalism, liberalism and humanism.

Paradoxically, brutality is the only one of the three traits that is prominent in our life today, especially in the occupied Palestinian territories. There is nothing there to be proud of, and generosity is something associated with the despised leftists.

THE ROUTINE, everyday brutality that governs the occupied territories was caught on video this week. A searing flash in the darkness.

It happened on Route 90, a highway that connects Jericho with Beth She'an along the Jordan River. It is the main road of the Jordan valley, which our government aims to annex to Israel one way or another. It is reserved solely for Israeli traffic and closed to Palestinians.

(There is a Palestinian joke about this. During the post-Oslo negotiations, the Israeli team insisted on retaining this road. The Palestinian chief negotiator turned to his colleagues and exclaimed: "What the hell, if we have got 89 other roads, why insist on this one?")

A group of young international pro-Palestinian activists decided to demonstrate against the closure of the road. They invited their Palestinian friends to a jolly bicycle ride along it. They were stopped by a unit of the Israeli army. For some minutes they faced each other: the cyclists, some with Arab keffiyehs (headdresses) draping their shoulders, and the soldiers with their rifles.

The drill in such a situation is for the army to call the police, who are trained for this job and who have the means for non-lethal crowd dispersal. But the commander of the army unit decided otherwise.

What happened then was shown on a video clip taken by one of the protesters. It is clear, unambiguous and unequivocal.

The officer, a lieutenant-colonel, is standing opposite a fair-haired young man, a Dane, who was just looking on, neither saying nor doing anything. Nearby, protesters and soldiers are standing around. No sign of violence anywhere.

Suddenly the officer raises his rifle, holding it horizontally, one hand on the butt and one on the barrel, and then he drives the squared-off end of the magazine hard into the young Dane's face. The victim falls backward on the ground. The officer grins with satisfaction.

IN THE evening, Israeli TV showed the clip. By now, almost every Israeli has seen it a hundred of times. The more one sees it, the more one is shocked. The sheer brutality of this completely unprovoked act makes one flinch.

To veterans of demonstrations in the occupied territories, there is nothing new in this incident. Many have suffered brutality in many different forms.

What was unusual in this case was that it was caught on camera. And not a hidden camera. There were quite a lot of cameras around. Not only those of the protesters, but those of army photographers, too.

The officer must have been aware of this. He just did not give a damn.

The undesired publicity caused a national uproar. Obviously it was not the act itself that upset the military and political leadership, but the publicity it attracted. Coming at the same time as the glorious defense of Tel Aviv airport by 700 policemen and policewomen against the terrifying invasion of some 60 international human rights activists, such additional publicity was definitely unwanted.

The army Chief of Staff condemned the officer and promptly suspended him. All senior officers followed suit, the Prime Minister himself spoke out. As is well known, our army is "the most moral in the world," so what had happened was the unpardonable act of a single rogue officer. There will be a thorough investigation, etc etc.

THE HERO of the affair is Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner ("Iron Man", in German).

Far from being exceptional, he seems to be the quintessential army officer, indeed the quintessential Israeli.

The first thing TV viewers noticed was the kippah on his head. "Well of course," many murmured to themselves. For decades the national-religious movement has systematically infiltrated the officers' corps of the armed forces, starting from officers' induction courses and climbing up, with the aim of having one of their number end up as the army Chief of Staff. By now, kippah-ed lieutenant colonels are common - a far cry from the kibbutzniks who dominated the officers corps at the birth of our army. At the time of the incident, Eisner was a deputy brigade commander.

The national-religious movement, to which the core of the settlers belong, was also the home of Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin and of Baruch Goldstein, the mass-murderer of the Muslims in the mosque in Hebron.

One of the pillars of this movement is the yeshiva Merkaz Harav ("Center of the Rabbi"), where Eisner's father was a prominent rabbi. During the evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlers by Ariel Sharon, Eisner Jr. was among the protesters. Last year Eisner was photographed on the very same spot on Road 90 fraternizing with extreme rightist demonstrators, who also protested on bicycles there.

He did not take the rebukes lying down. With unprecedented impertinence, he attacked the Chief of Staff, the Commander of the Central Front and his division commander for suspending him. He waved his bandaged hand to prove that he was attacked first and acted in self-defense. He even produced confirmation from some doctor that one of his fingers was broken.

That is highly improbable. First of all, the way he holds his rifle in the video would have been impossible with a broken finger. Second, the video shows that his act was not in reaction to any violence. Third, there were several army photographers around, who shot every detail (to be used as evidence if protesters were brought to trial in a military court). If any act of violence had taken place, their videos would have been displayed by the army the same day. Fourth, Eisner similarly struck two women protesters in the face and one male protester on the back- unfortunately off camera.

He fervently insists that he did the right thing. After all, he did break up the demonstration, right?

But he was not entirely without remorse. He publicly admitted that it "may have been a mistake to act this way in the presence of cameras." With this the army and many commentators wholeheartedly agreed: they did not criticize his brutality, but his stupidity.

AS AN individual, Eisner is not very interesting. If armies refrained from enlisting stupid people, where would we be?

The trouble is that Eisner is not an exception, but rather a representative of a norm. There are some excellent people in the army, but Eisner typifies many officers who come out of the military melting pot.

And not only in the army. To paraphrase Jabotinsky: our educational system now produces "a race / stupid and mean and brutal." How could it be otherwise after 60 years of relentless indoctrination and 45 years of occupation? Every occupation, every oppression of another people, corrupts the occupier and makes the oppressor stupid.

While still a teenager I worked as a clerk for an Oxford-educated, Jewish-British lawyer, many of whose clients were members of the British colonial administration. I found them mostly nice, intelligent and courteous with an engaging sense of humor. Yet the British administration acted with an astonishing lack of intelligence.

At the time I was a member of the Irgun, whose aim was to drive them out of the country. At my home there was an arsenal of guns, which were used to kill them.

Living between the two worlds, I constantly asked myself: how can these nice English people behave so stupidly?

My conclusion was that no colonial masters can behave intelligently. The colonial situation itself compels them to act against their better nature and their better judgment.

As a matter of fact, during the first years of the Israeli occupation, it was widely praised as "enlightened" and "liberal". The then Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, gave orders to treat the Palestinians as generously as possible. He let them trade with the enemy and listen to enemy broadcasts to their heart's content. In a gesture without precedent, he kept open the bridges between the West Bank and Jordan, an enemy country. (I joked at the time that Dayan, never having read a book, did not know that this was unthinkable.)

Behind this policy there was no benevolence - just a belief that if the Arabs were allowed to live their daily lives in peace, they would not rise up, but put up with an eternal occupation. Indeed this worked more or less for some 20 years. Until a new generation started the first intifada and the occupation became - well, stupid, mean and brutal. Along with the officers in charge.

TWO DAYS ago, Israel observed the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. In this connection, I would like to quote Albert Einstein, a Jew and a Zionist:

"Should we be unable to find a way to honest cooperation and honest pacts with the Arabs, then we have learned absolutely nothing during our two thousand years of suffering and deserve all that will come to us."
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Don't Let Business Lobbyists Kill The Post Office
By Matt Taibbi

The Times has an editorial today about the future of the U.S. Postal Service:

Postal officials say they must close about 3,700 underused post offices (there are 32,000 nationally) while offering alternative services through local businesses. They also want to consolidate hundreds of regional processing centers and eliminate Saturday mail deliveries.

An aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was warning me about this last week. There are organic reasons for all of this: The U.S. Postal Service is staring down the same barrel trained at our magazine and newspaper businesses, i.e. its revenue model is being wiped out by the internet.

But politics also plays a huge part in this. In 2006, in what looks like an attempt to bust the Postal Workers' Union, George Bush signed into law the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. This law required the Postal Service to pre-fund 100 percent of its entire future obligations for 75 years of health benefits to its employees – and not only do it, but do it within ten years. No other organization, public or private, has to pre-fund 100 percent of its future health benefits.

"No one prefunds at more than 30 percent," Anthony Vegliante, the U.S. Postal Service's executive vice president, told reporters last year.

The new law forced the postal service to come up with about $5.5 billion a year for the ten years following the bill's passage. In 2006, before those payments kicked in, the USPS generated a small profit. Not surprisingly, the USPS is now basically broke.

The 2006 law also bars the Postal Service from offering "nonpostal services," which means the USPS can't, say, open up a bank, or an internet cafe, or come up with any new entrepreneurial ideas to generate new income, as postal services do in other countries.

The transparent purpose of this law, which was pushed heavily by industry lobbyists, was to break a public sector union and privatize the mail industry. Before the 2006 act, the postal service did one thing, did it well, and, minus the need to generate profits and bonuses for executives, did it cheaply. It paid for itself and was not a burden to taxpayers.

Post offices also have a huge non-financial impact: In a lot of small towns, the post office is the town, and shutting them down will basically remove the only casual meeting place for people in mountain areas and remote farming villages and so on. Of course, there's always one Wal-Mart for every dozen or so post offices, so people I guess can drive the extra twenty miles and meet there ...

This is a classic example of private-sector lobbyists using the government to protect its profits and keep prices inflated. Sen. Sanders is pushing a bill that would delay the end of Saturday delivery for two years, and prevent a number of post-office closings, but the writing is on the wall, unless there's a public outcry. So definitely write your congressman and ask him to roll back Bush's idiotic law, and at least give the Post Office a chance to sink or swim on its own.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

The World's Largest Open-Air Gulag
By Ralph Nader

Have you heard much lately about the 1.5 million Palestinians illegally imprisoned by the Israeli government in the world's largest open-air Gulag? Their dire living conditions, worsened by a selective Israeli siege limiting the importation of necessities of life - medical items, food, water, building materials, and fuel to list a few - has resulted in an 80 percent unemployment rate and widespread suffering from unlawful punishment, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment in Israeli jails.

The horrific conditions were a result of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in late 2008, ignited by Israel's breaking of a truce with Gaza on November 4. Fourteen hundred people died, nearly three hundred of them children, and thousands were injured. The terror bombing of the Gazan population smashed into homes, hospitals, schools, ambulances, mosques, subsistence farms, UN facilities, and even the American International School. Israeli bombers destroyed over 30 members of one extended family in their home. That toll alone was three times the amount of Israeli fatalities, which included friendly fire.

The humanitarian crisis in crowded Gaza - about twice the size of the District of Columbia - "is now more dire than ever." That is the judgment of Norwegian physician and professor of medicine, Dr. Mads Gilbert, who just finished a ten-day speaking tour in the U.S. Dr. Gilbert, returning from a recent visit to Gaza, was one of the only two foreign doctors inside Gaza during the massacre of December 2008 to January 2009.

He says: "During the Israeli attack, I saw the effects of new weapons including drones, phosphorous and also DIME [Dense Inert Metal Explosives], which leave no shrapnel, but I witnessed their capacity to cut a child in two; they also leave radioactive traces."

Today, anemia and protein deficiency are widespread, reports Dr. Gilbert, especially among little children. UN and other relief supplies are inadequate, and UN humanitarian relief staff is often harassed by Israeli officials. Rebuilding pulverized Gaza is seriously obstructed by Israel blocking the imports of building materials.

Dr. Gilbert comments that he has "worked in other desperate situations in other places and Gaza is unique in a number of respects. It's a captive population - usually if civilians are being attacked, there's a safe place they can take refuge and then come back to their homes when the fighting has stopped. That doesn't exist for the people in Gaza since they are effectively imprisoned by the Israeli siege."

Writing in the prestigious British medical journal "The Lancet" in early 2009, Dr. Gilbert provided clinical details of the slaughter, including the destruction of ambulances and medical facilities that tend to the dying and the wounded.

He described a "shattered, attacked, and drained health-care system trying to help an overwhelming amount of casualties in a war between clearly unequal powers, where the attacker spares no civilian lives - be it man, woman, or child - not even the much-needed health workers of all professions."

It is no wonder the Israelis banned all foreign reporters, including those from the U.S. - the very country that provided the weaponry - thereby preventing the world from seeing the carnage as it happened.

The media ban made it possible for George W. Bush and president-elect Barack Obama to get away with describing this aggressive war with the identical phrase "Israel has the right to defend itself." But apparently, the Palestinians do not have any way to defend themselves against the second-most modern military arsenal in the world; and their pleas about who broke the truce and started the bloodshed are unheeded.

Crude, garage-built Palestinian rockets are no match for modern precision missiles, helicopter gunships, bombers and drones. Fortunately for the Israelis, the rockets failed to reach any population centers 99 percent of the time. It was a mystery even to the Israelis why the unchallenged Israeli air force and ground artillery did not knock out the primitive Gaza launching sites, given its spies, informants and knowledge of every block in Gaza.

Reporters would have dug out these stories were they allowed inside Gaza. Since 2009, the focus of both the Israeli and U.S. government toward Iran has taken Gaza, the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, and the swallowing up of more land in the Palestinian West Bank, off of the news screens in the West.

It is remarkable how successful the Israeli propagandists have been in controlling the news coverage. They have even sidelined prominent retired Israeli security, military and political leaders, who along with civic and peace advocates are seeking a two-state solution, an end to confiscation of Palestinian land and houses, and debunking war talk against Iran, designed for domestic political purposes in Israel and the U.S.

For example, Meir Dagan, director of the Mossad - Israel's CIA - from 2002 until 2010, called bombing Iran "the stupidest thing I ever heard." In agreement are many other Israelis in the know. But, as in the U.S. during the months before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, experienced voices of realism and sanity are not heard. Nor are sobering words of candor, as voiced by Israel's founding father, David Ben-Gurion, who said, of the dispossessed Palestinians years ago, "we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?"

Isn't bringing these prominent Israeli truthsayers, peace advocates and military refuseniks to the U.S. Congress for their first-ever public hearing way overdue? At stake is peace or more wars in the Middle East. Also at stake is the possibility of another U.S. "war of choice" against Iran and the likely uncontrollable consequences that such belligerency would provoke. Would members of Congress let the AIPAC lobby block Israelis from coming here to present such testimony?

Or are the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees, chaired respectively by Democratic Senator John Kerry and Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, satisfied with following their party lines?
(c) 2012 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

"The Citizens United Gang"

The Lone Ranger was a masked man who was out to bring bad guys to justice. Ed Conard is a masked man who is out to bring bad guys to power.

A multimillionaire financier who was a top henchman in Bain Capital, Mitt Romney's old outfit of corporate plunderers, Conard is currently riding with the small but fearsome Citizens United Gang, which has taken over presidential politics. Unlike the James Gang and other robbers of yore who who stole from banks and railroads, these thieves are bankers and high-rolling railroaders. Thanks to the Supreme Court's edict in the infamous Citizens United case, they are now able to use unlimited amounts of their corporate wealth to create SuperPACs that are proving to be devastating weapons against democracy.

Conard is one of a handful of financial elites who've put a million dollars or more into Romney's SuperPAC, enabling it to whack his opponents and take the GOP nomination with an unprecedented barrage of venomously-negative advertising. Conard is known as a masked robber because he tried to disguise his million-dollar involvement by using the fake name of "W Spann." Incredibly, that's not illegal - but it was so glaringly odd that Romney's campaign had to fess up to Conard's real name.

Speaking of names, the Romney SuperPAC is called "Restore Our Future." Whose future does it mean? The mega-donors', of course. This was candidly confessed by another member of The Citizens United Gang, hedge fund hustler Ken Griffin who says he's in Romney's SuperPAC because, "I think [the ultra-wealthy] actually have insufficient influence [in Washington]."

So they're using their millions to purchase a presidency that promises to extend the un-regulated, tax-subsidized system that enriches them at the expense of the rest of us. It's legalized thievery by the rich.
(c) 2012 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.

Welcome to Indiana

Trayvon Killing Reveals Unreconstructed White Nationalism On The March
By Glen Ford

"This is a moment when America should be proud," wrote New York Times in-house Negro columnist Charles M. Blow, last Saturday after George Zimmerman was finally charged with second degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. "America," in Blow's interpretation of events, "has heard the calls for justice from a Florida family." Blow celebrates an "America" that "rose up" to do the right thing by marching in the streets and signing petitions. "With the force of public pressure at its back, the system kicked into high gear" - albeit more than 40 days after the Sanford police department had shrugged off Trayvon's killing as an inconsequentiality. Blow acknowledges that Zimmerman still might not go to trial, and could be acquitted under Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Nevertheless, he says, "satisfaction must be taken in the fact that the system recognized the value of Trayvon's life and the tragic circumstances of his death."

In this fawning and grateful Negro's view, "America" has acquitted itself well. Having credited the whole of "America" and "the State of Florida" for taking "up the cause of the dead boy," the Timesman appends his piece with two incomplete sets of data from an ABC/Washington Post poll, to show how "Americans" assess the quality of justice in Trayon's shooting, and the criminal justice system's overall treatment of Blacks and other minorities.

"In this fawning and grateful Negro's view, "America" has acquitted itself well."

Blow displays only the poll's results for the combined opinions of Blacks and whites: a fictional America in which 51 percent "don't know enough" about Trayvon's death to have an opinion, 44 percent feel the shooting was unjustified, and 4 percent believe Zimmerman had the right to kill him. However, the full poll details the real America, the profoundly racist society in which Blacks and whites have vastly different worldviews. The racial breakdown shows 8 out of 10 Blacks believe the shooting was unjustified, with just 19 percent saying they don't know enough to have an opinion, while only 38 percent of whites - slightly over 1 out of 3 - are willing to call the killing unjustified, and 56 percent claim lack of sufficient knowledge.

In the real America, it was overwhelmingly Blacks, joined by a distinct minority of whites, that "rose up" for Trayvon - not a collective "nation who refused to forget him," as Blow wrote. Blow also tagged his drooling piece with incomplete survey responses to the question, "Do you think blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment as whites in the criminal justice system or not?" When Black and white answers are combined, 55 percent agree that non-whites are not accorded equal treatment, while 37 percent believe the system is fair. But the racial breakdown shows 84 percent of African Americans see the criminal justice system as racially biased, while slightly less than half of whites do.

Blow finds the basic facts of a racially differentiated America inconvenient to his ode to the nation's infinite powers of redemption - because it's all a lie. What white American majorities have been collectively attempting to redeem for the past 40 years, is a White Man's Country. That's why they have voted Republican in presidential elections since 1968, with Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy. That's why, in the wake of the Black Freedom Movement of the Sixties, white electorates in every state put in office politicians that methodically constructed an overwhelmingly non-white Prison Gulag that now warehouses 1 out of every 4 incarcerated persons on the planet, half of them African American. That's the essential truth of Michelle Alexander's New Jim Crow, under which Blacks are criminalized as a people in order to return them to the status of a subjugated class.

The Stand Your Ground-like laws that have been enacted by more than two-dozen states are very public manifestations of unreconstructed white nationalism on the offensive. It is true that the legal templates are drawn up by ALEC, the right wing legislative collective, and the National Rifle Association. However, these are anything but backroom conspiracies. The speed with which such laws have swept much of the nation is proof that they are popular vote-getters among whites. Politicians find success in marketing Stand Your Ground as freeing their constituents from prohibitions against the use of deadly force against non-whites. "Shoot the Blacks" is a winning political platform.

Anybody that speaks of the U.S. as on a trajectory to a post-racial society is setting non-whites up for racist attack. Groveling Black mouthpieces for white corporate media like Charles Blow are among that group. At the top of the list is Barack Obama, whose campaign trail "Philadelphia Speech" baldly stated that racism was not endemic to American life and history, and characterized those Blacks who disagreed as having been psychologically damaged by past battles. That a Black president can be gratefully applauded by African Americans - and publicly pilloried by some whites - for deigning to acknowledge the humanity of his own, hypothetical child ("If I had son, he'd look like Trayvon") says volumes on the devaluation of Black life in America.

Resistance to white nationalist resurgence must take many forms. It will require a movement that surpasses the mobilizations of the Sixties, which defeated de jure apartheid only to see the erection of a vast police state based on the organizing principle of racial containment and oppression. So bold have the racists become, they now seek to empower white citizens in general with lethal privileges to defend white space, wherever it is claimed - a reversion to lynch law, on top of police terror.

African American perceptions of the growing racial threat crystallized with the Trayvon Martin murder, as the groundswell of protest - most significantly, among Black youth - attests. Zimmerman's invocation of the Stand Your Ground Law brought it all home: white electorates have put in place legal mechanisms allowing them to kill African Americans at will. It is the specter most horrifically depicted in the photo of two young Black men lynched by a jubilant mob of thousands in Marion, Indiana, in 1930. Those same folks are still out there, in numbers large enough to tear down barriers to freelance lynch law in at least half the states. Welcome (back) to America.
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Shadowy Manipulator Of State Governments
By James Donahue

It is known in government circles as ALEC. This is an acronym for American Legislative Exchange Council, an extreme right-wing organization that few of us have ever heard of but one that for the last 30 years has been silently controlling state legislative action designed to serve corporate interests and drain us financially.

One writer has described ALEC as the "ultimate smoke filled back room" with such powers as the Koch Brothers, big tobacco, the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry pulling the strings.

On the surface, ALEC takes on the appearance of a good idea. Its membership is mostly comprised of state legislators who pay a membership fee that allows them to attend regular collective meetings, retreats and discuss model legislation. It appears to be a justified way for elected state legislators to pool their ideas and keep abreast of how other states are handling the issues of the day.

But the dark secret ingredient in this mix is the other unseen and unnamed members. Actually they are the ALEC corporate contributors that pay millions to gain access to those legislators and promote corporate-crafted legislation.

ALEC is in reality the ultimate state lobby operation that uses its manipulative resources to sell, buy or coax state legislators to introduce and push for passage of state laws favoring big business interests often at the expense of constituents.

The setup behind ALEC has been extremely successful. While the media and the public has eyes trained on corruption in Washington, there has been little attention paid to the goings on at state levels. And it is here where the dirty deeds have been secretly going on.

One report noted that in 2009 alone, ALEC was behind the introduction of 826 state bills, with 115 of them approved and signed into law.

The agency has worked against climate change control, blocking competative imports of prescription drugs, blocking local communities from offering low-cost municipally-owned broadband access to the Internet, relaxed auditing and accounting controls on insurance companies, pressing to force seniors to submit to reverse mortgages on their homes to be eligible for Medicaid and protecting the asbestos industry from lawsuits by mesothelioma patients.

To coin an old phrase: this appears to be only the tip of the iceberg. For more in-depth information as to what ALEC is up to we recommend the website ALEC Exposed at: We also recommend that you examine the bills the elected state representative and senator in your own district voted for in the last two years before you go to the polls in November. If you have a chance to shake their hands in public rallies, ask about their involvement in ALEC. Make sure they haven't sold out to big corporate interests.

The exposure of ALEC is slowly coming to light after a lot of damage has been done. Such groups as Common Cause, Progressive Change Committee and Color of Change are working to conduct a petition campaign to stop this behind-the-scenes deal making. They have been using e-mail and Twitter to reach a lot of people. As of last week, at least 60,000 people have signed the petition or written their elected legislators.

PCC's state organizing director James Ploeser suggests that the organization is targeting participating corporations, forcing them to stop financing ALEC. The current target is AT&T.
(c) 2012 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

Torture On Trial
Legal and Humane Frameworks for Opposing Torture
By David Swanson

Cases come in by the thousands from all over the world. A man was beaten and whipped. A woman was beaten and raped. A boy was hooded with three empty sand bags in 100-degree heat all day, starved, beaten, and kept in stress positions. Alleged suicide victims had their hands tied behind their backs, had boot prints on their heads, or turned out to have been electrocuted. There are torture victims covered with cigarette burns, and torture victims with no visible injuries. They need the expert assistance of doctors and lawyers to heal, to win asylum, and to create any sort of accountability in courts of law.

I've participated in countless nonviolent protests of torture, including congressional lobbying, panels and seminars, online petition writing, bird-dogging of politicians and judges and professors. I've met victims and told their stories and reviewed their books. But I had never spent a day with a crowd of lawyers and doctors who deal with the medical and court struggles arising out of torture cases, not until I attended a conference in February at American University in Washington, DC, entitled "Forensic Evidence in the Fight Against Torture."

The doctors, lawyers, and others attending and speaking at the conference were from the United States and many other countries. It was not lost on them that they were addressing something different from a "natural" disaster. In their public comments and private discussions I found universal agreement that torture has gained dramatically greater, world-wide public acceptance during the past decade, and that the United States has been the leader in promoting that greater acceptance. While Juan Mendez, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, pointed his finger at Hollywood movies and TV shows in which harsh interrogation techniques succeed in aiding crime solvers, several experts independently told me that by granting legal immunity to torturers, the United States has led by example.

It may be hard to recall that a mere decade ago torture was almost universally condemned here, and had been almost universally condemned in the Western world for centuries (racist exceptions for slavery excluded). By 2004, 43 percent of U.S. respondents to a Pew Research Center survey were saying that torture was often or sometimes justified to gain key information. By 2009, 49 percent said so. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that public support for torture increased in the United States from 27 percent in 2004 to 42 percent in 2010. AP-GfK polling found U.S. public support for torture at 38 percent in 2005, increasing to 52 percent by 2009.

That was the society I left behind as I entered the conference rooms of AU's Washington College of Law to join an international gathering of professionals who still viewed torture as the evil it had been considered by the authors of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which included an absolute ban on "cruel and unusual punishment."

In broad historical terms, many forms of violence are being eliminated or are diminishing significantly in frequency, in the United States and abroad. But the flipside of recognizing that there is nothing "inevitable" or "natural" about cannibalism or infanticide or the burning of witches, or-for that matter-fist fights, spanking, child abuse, spousal abuse, or cruelty to animals, is that trends away from such practices can easily be reversed. We may be living through such a reversal on torture.

Some of the torture cases discussed at the conference involved U.S. victims; most did not. Some implicated governments that receive support from the United States, such as that of Bahrain. So the United States is unable to advocate against torture from a persuasive position to governments it opposes, not only because of its own conduct but also because of the conduct of governments it supports, including the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan. This problem was confirmed for me by various conference attendees, including U.S. government grant recipients and some federal employees.

Our government helps fund support of torture victims, both through the Office of Refugee Resettlement and through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), both of which create grants to aid the victims of torture by any government other than the United States. The United Nations, partially funded by the United States, provides grants without that limitation. I spoke with participants at the conference who worked at centers in the United States helping torture victims from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Fiji, and other countries. There is a National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs that was holding its own meetings in DC around the same time. While these groups were new to me, I had worked in the past with the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition, an organization that seems to bridge the gap between treating victims and addressing the root problem of torture acceptance through political mobilization.

Examination of how individual cases of torture are being addressed suggests another trend of recent years. Even as torture has been gaining acceptance, a nonprofit complex of treatment centers and non-governmental organizations has been developing the tools with which to more expertly diagnose, document, and testify on torture, and to aid the victims. While in the United States best-selling books by former president George W. Bush and former vice president Dick Cheney contain passages in which both openly admit to authorizing the waterboarding prisoners, numerous other nations have been codifying the procedures of the "Istanbul Protocol: Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," published by the United Nations in 2004. This conference, in fact, was the culmination of a three-year project funded by the European Union.

While both of these trends-the acceptance of torture and the development of a professional system of response to it-lead to greater public awareness of torture, they have opposite effects in terms of the amount of torture that occurs. It's not clear whether torture is on the rise or is declining in practice, but I heard at the conference many stories of systematic state torture and careful documentation thereof, and many stories of aid provided to victims including helping them to obtain asylum. I didn't hear any stories of top government officials being held seriously accountable for torture.

The possible exception to that rule is Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt overthrown by nonviolent protest in 2011. Speaking at the conference, Mostafa Hussein of the El Nadim Center for Psychological Treatment and Rehabilitation in Egypt told the story of Khaled Mohamed Saeed, a young man who was beaten to death by Egyptian secret police in June 2010. The police lied about the cause of death, but photos of their victim's horribly disfigured corpse went viral online, and public pressure grew. Experts from the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) produced a report. (The IRCT was a sponsor of the conference I attended.) Eventually two low-ranking police officers were given seven-year prison sentences, an outcome widely seen as insufficient after decades of systematically torturing thousands. Saeed was seen as a martyr, and the resulting outrage was channeled into the movement that took over Tahrir Square in Cairo in January 2011 and drove Mubarak out of power. Protesters painted Saeed's portrait on the wall of the Ministry of the Interior.

But Hussein told me that the public prosecutor hasn't changed, and dictatorship hasn't been dismantled. Although activists entered the Ministry of the Interior in March 2011, he said, they brought away very few documents, destroying many more. Omar Suleiman, the former head of Egyptian intelligence, is out of office and being sued by an Australian who says Suleiman oversaw his torture in Egypt on behalf of the United States prior to shipping him to the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Suleiman is also accused of having performed a key service for the United States by torturing Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi until he said that Saddam Hussein was tied to al Qaeda, a statement al-Libi later recanted and which conflicts absurdly with the facts. Will Suleiman be brought to justice? Mostafa Hussein wasn't holding his breath. "Only the faces have changed," he said of the new Egyptian government.

After Tunisia and Egypt, the Arab Spring of 2011 emerged in the tiny Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain, a protectorate of the United States and Saudi Arabia, and the port where the U.S. Navy keeps its Fifth Fleet. Bahrain has hired U.S. police chief John Timoney, who made his name by infiltrating and brutalizing nonviolent protesters in Miami and Philadelphia, to lead the crackdown on protesters in Bahrain. On the weekend of the conference on torture in DC, U.S. friends and allies of mine were being tear-gassed, beaten, and arrested in the streets of Bahrain. Speaking at the conference was Dr. Ala'a Shehabi, a British-born Bahraini civil rights activist, economist, writer, and a founding member of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) established in January 2012.

Shehabi said that, according to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry established by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, 3,000 protesters have been arrested in the past year, 500 of whom are still in prison. 4,500 people have lost jobs. There has been systemic excessive force and torture, with over sixty documented deaths, according to Shehabi. The commission's report finds that torture has been used systematically as a deliberate government policy both for compelling confessions and for retribution and punishment. The report also found a culture of impunity and recommended prosecutions. But, said Shehabi, there hasn't been a single conviction, and torture continues, including at the National Security Agency, the basement of which the commissioners were not permitted to enter. The judicial system in Bahrain still allows forced confessions as evidence and dismisses all allegations of torture.

A forensic doctor from Turkey, working for the IRCT, also attended the conference. She had produced expert opinions on torture cases in Bahrain that disproved claims made by the government, which routinely blames the deaths and scars of torture on responses to "resisting arrest." This is dangerous work in Bahrain, where doctors and lawyers who try to help are themselves targeted. Thus far, fifty doctors have been prosecuted for treating protesters. Some doctors, having lost their jobs and been tortured themselves, are helping out at the rehabilitation center. However, Bahraini doctors are not allowed to study, be licensed in, or practice forensic medicine. That's a job for the government. Not one psychologist has been found willing and able to assist. And only a handful of lawyers are putting up a defense for those charged with crimes for nonviolent demonstrations.

The man sitting next to me during the discussion of Bahrain turned out to be Mohammed Isa Al-Tajer, a lawyer currently representing over 150 protesters in Bahrain. He was himself imprisoned for three and a half months, tortured, and kept in solitary confinement last year. When he was arrested on April 15, 2011, the government also seized his computers, documents, mobile phones, and office keys, compromising his clients' confidentiality. He still faces charges.

At the conclusion of a discussion of all-too-similar torture practices in Mexico and Zimbabwe, someone asked about the value of offering trainings for police in the requirements of the Istanbul Protocol. Exactly zero people in the room expressed a belief that such trainings would have much value in these countries. One person expressed the opinion that it would be of greater value to get these nations to ratify the optional protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which would allow monitoring of interrogation sites. Others responded to this with accounts of secret sites and even ad hoc torture sites, which in Zimbabwe have even included hospitals. Several people passionately declared that the only thing that would actually work to stop the torture would be to end impunity and hold individuals accountable, especially the most powerful individuals. Ala'a Shehabi said that what was needed was fundamental governmental change from dictatorship to democracy.

Of course, a government can call itself a democracy while treating torture as a legal policy option. On the Monday following the conference, the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, filed a ruling against a petitioner seeking asylum who claimed that he would likely be tortured if sent back to India. Regardless of the merits of that ruling, it was made by Judge Jay Bybee, who had been appointed to his position by President George W. Bush after obediently signing off on memos legitimizing torture in the U.S. Department of Justice.

The asylum process was a major topic at the conference. Doctors and lawyers from Germany, New Zealand, and the United States described their experiences providing expert reports and testimony for asylum seekers. Roger Haines from New Zealand provided evidence that expert forensic reports detailing ingested substances, lesions found on the body, bone fissures or fractures indicating blunt force trauma, and so forth can make the difference in obtaining asylum. He also noted that an expectation has now developed that weighs against applicants lacking such reports. One example he cited was a case from Canada decided against the applicant by the Convention Against Torture committee in 2010. This man had been arrested and tortured in 1995 in Uzbekistan, Haines said. He fled to the United Arab Emirates and then to Germany, where his request for asylum was rejected. He tried to seek asylum in Norway, using a false name, and was rejected. He then tried Canada in September 2001 and was rejected "on credibility grounds." Canada pointed out that he had no medical report from Uzbekistan. The CAT committee also rejected his claim, pointing out that he had no medical report from 1995 in Uzbekistan or from 2001 in Canada. Haines pointed out that torturers don't usually provide medical reports with their services and that a report from six years later might not have shown anything at all.

The truth is that many torture victims don't have visible injuries. Mental injuries can be examined by experts, whose testimony can at least suggest the likelihood that someone has been tortured or not. Their testimony can also assist judges and officials in understanding why torture victims might have difficulty coherently retelling their entire experience.

Mendez, the U.N. Special Rapporteur, described torture as prevalent and widespread: "Some time ago we thought abolition was around the corner." But, he added, no one thinks that now. Instead, he said it will take much more work and imagination to eradicate it. Mendez then proceeded to argue for an inclusive definition of the actions to be abolished. In Mendez's view, solitary confinement and death row (for any period of time) meet the threshold of both "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" and torture, both of which are illegal. The United States has tens of thousands of people in solitary confinement, and still allows the death penalty. Mendez believes solitary confinement for over fifteen days should be absolutely forbidden. (Incidentally, following the conference Mendez formally accused the U.S. government of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment towards Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who was held in solitary confinement for almost a year on suspicion of being a major source for WikiLeaks.)

Mendez argued for greater educational efforts by forensic scientists. "In daily life," he said, "we talk about torture without the details. But it is the details that make a difference to our moral sense." He also proposed forensic science as an alternative to harsh interrogation in the task of solving crimes, a moral and legal but also more effective alternative. That may be a lesson that even Hollywood is learning to accept as it proliferates crime-solving dramas with forensic scientist heroes.

Mendez rejected the notion that torture can work. Of course, some confessions will be true, he said, but others won't be, whether in the imaginary ticking time-bomb scenario or otherwise. Meanwhile, he added, societies pay a heavy price for engaging in torture, damaging innocents and their families but also the institutions that do the torturing.

Let me end on something of a positive note.

It comes from the remarks of Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers in the UK. He has acted in significant recent human rights cases in the UK, including those of Al Skeini, Al-Jedda, and that of Rose Gentle, who sued Prime Minister Tony Blair for the death of her son as a soldier in Iraq. Shiner represents the family of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi man kicked and beaten to death while in British custody in 2003. The UK, Shiner explained, has done everything in Iraq that the United States has, including hooding prisoners. But the UK judicial system allows torture cases to be brought to court.

Shiner and his colleagues argued that hooding qualifies as cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, that it had been banned by the Ministry of Defense, and that all such policies of modern scar-free torture (hooding, stress positions, and deprivation of food, water, or sleep) had been banned by the UK in 1972. But British troops were hooding Iraqis, including Baha Mousa, with multiple sand bags in extreme heat for many hours. In Baha Mousa's case and every other case known, Shiner said, the hooding was combined with other exacerbating factors creating medical risk. In this case, as well, the IRCT helped out with a statement pointing to numerous medical risks from hooding, including asphyxia and heat-related problems. Hooding also distances the torturer and thereby exacerbates torture, makes identification of the torturer by the victim more difficult, and spreads as a practice when photos are released, as in the case of the images of U.S. Army torture from Abu Ghraib prison brought to public attention in 2004.

So, why was hooding standard practice in Iraq? Shiner answered his own question: The invasion was illegal. It was an invasion along with the United States. The United States does not respect international law. And records were not being kept.

Shiner and his colleagues compelled the government of the UK to hold an extensive inquiry on the case of Baha Mousa, which released a report in September 2011. On October 3, 2011, the High Court ruled on another case brought by Shiner, that of Alaa' Nassif Jassim al-Bazzouni. The court ruled that hooding is always cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. Shiner welcomed the decision, noting it means no UK forces anywhere may be associated with hooding and that any UK troop who thinks another state is hooding is required to report it.

I discussed the Baha Mousa case with a Professor Vivienne Nathanson, who was attending the conference from the British Medical Association. She pointed out that a doctor and a chaplain had witnessed hooding and beating but had done nothing, and that the report had recommended prosecution. "Sins of omission need to be prosecuted," she said, as the day's meetings wrapped up and the world went about its business.

Video of the conference is at
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Our Bodies, Their Politics
The last few months have made abundantly clear what women must do: Rid America's capitols of misogynists.
By Marilyn Katz

In the first half of 2011, close to 1,000 measures related to reproductive health and rights were introduced into state legislatures.

The first "women's group" that I was involved in was not born out of feminist theory or organized by intellectual women on campus. Rather it was in 1966 in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, and its members were poor African-American moms on welfare and thirtysomething (looking 50) Appalachian women, newly arrived from Kentucky and West Virginia.

Not much older than me, many of the women in the group provided physical testament to the possible effects of multiple childbirths while young and poor. The work of the group ranged from food co-ops to welfare reform, from rent strikes to learning to read. The impetus for the group, however, was a clear-eyed view that welfare was a "women's issue," and the need - among the Appalachian women in particular - for protection and camaraderie in the face of their husbands' explosive anger upon learning that "their" women were seeking information about birth control from government VISTA volunteers. Back then the outraged cry from men was not about "religious freedom," but about male prerogative and the duties of women.

I have been reminded of those meetings in recent months by the series of controversies surrounding the contraception mandate in the federal healthcare reform law - from the exclusion of Sandra Fluke's testimony at congressional hearings (GOP Rep. Joe Walsh said the birth control debate is "not about women") to Rush Limbaugh's virulent rant (and limp apology), to the barely audible denouncements of his statement by the Republican presidential candidates.

Contrary to the posturing of politicians and bishops alike, religious freedom is not the core issue. Consider, for example, the Catholic hospitals, schools and universities that have, for many years and with little fuss, provided insurance that covers birth control in the states that require them to do so.

The reality is, as it was 40 years ago in Uptown, that the debate about birth control is firstly and fundamentally about women - their rights and their lives. From Biblical times on, women - who bear the brunt as well as the joy of childbearing - have struggled to curtail unwanted pregnancies, often resorting to extreme measures in the face of possible death or the poverty that another child might bring.

More than 500,000 women die around the world each year from pregnancy-related causes, according to the World Health Organization. A majority of those deaths occur in developing countries, but only a century ago American women faced similar fates. It was not until the 20th century that pregnancy-related death rates in the United States declined - a result of modern medicine, better sanitation and the advent of modern female contraception. According to a 2011 study, more than 99 percent of "sexually experienced" American women, including 98 percent of such Catholic women, use or have used non-natural (i.e., not abstinence or the "rhythm method") birth control.

In the past year, as elected Tea Partiers have aligned themselves with religious fundamentalists, Republicans in the House have introduced eight anti-choice bills, each of which received the support of the same 225 GOP representatives. In the first half of 2011, close to 1,000 measures related to reproductive health and rights - from those curtailing contraception to those mandating transvaginal ultrasounds - were introduced into state legislatures. Of the 28 states controlled by Republicans, 26 have passed laws that limit women's reproductive choices. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 55 percent of American women of reproductive age lived in states characterized as "hostile" to abortion in 2011 - up from 31 percent in 2000.

The danger is to women, but among us also lies the remedy. Perhaps we owe a debt of gratitude to the Limbaughs of the world - they have brought to public view and hopefully to public attention the attack on women's reproductive health and rights that has been steadily building over the past years. And while it would be uplifting to get Limbaugh off the air, the real task is ridding our nation's legislative bodies of misogynists. Women fought for and won a great deal in the last century. It's time to say on the Web, in the streets, and of most importance and effect, in the ballot box: We're not going back.
(c) 2012 Marilyn Katz is the founder and president of Chicago-based MK Communications. An anti-war and civil rights organizer during the Vietnam War, she served with Lee Weiner (one of the Chicago 7) as co-head of security during the August 1968 protests at the Democratic National Convention.

The Big Empty
Eating Cheetos with the hungry ghosts of the corporate state
By Phil Rockstroh

Due to the consolidation of wealth and privilege into fewer and fewer hands, thus requiring escalating amounts of officially mandated surveillance and brutality to maintain social order, the natural trajectory of unregulated capitalism tends towards hyper-authoritarian excess, even towards fascism. Moreover, by the standards of capitalist ideology, and exacerbated by the rigged nature of economic and social arrangements -- large segments of society are deemed losers, and, resultantly, will grow restive, if scapegoats aren't invented to mitigate a sense of humiliation and displace rage. Accordingly, rightist demagogic fictions can seize the psyches of large segments of the general public: immigrant interlopers wreck the economy; minority layabouts suck-up public funds; gays and women, possessed of dubious morality, destroy the nation's moral fabric; lefties are driven to challenge the system, but only because of their spite, borne of jealousy.

The "purer" the form of capitalism the faster the rise of fascism. There is a dark and bitter grace to this: Fascism is the deranged agency that sends the capitalist machine into systemic runaway, thus the system crashes and burns -- and out of its ashes and debris...a more humane system can come into being.

Although the yearning for freedom is inborn, as is the case with the development of any skill or talent, one must open oneself to its promise by discipline and practice. Otherwise, attempts at exercising freedom -- free will's dance with resistant and changing circumstance -- can be an ugly sight to behold.

Witness the following litany of the lost evinced by us, the denizens of late-stage capitalism: The dismal air haunted and minds distracted ... cluttered by the ceaseless chatter of those dim ghosts of human discourse known as text messages and tweets; the parade of preening narcissists and prattling sub-cretins that is celebrity culture and Reality Television; the joyless bacchanal termed the nation's epidemic of obesity.

Experiencing freedom involves risk, imagination, and discipline. In contrast, choosing between purchasing a bag of Cheetos or a bag of Doritos ... amounts to not quite the same thing. Resisting the call to freedom leaves an individual empty, and bag after bag of salted snack food will not sate the hollow ache within when one chooses the benumbing safety of culturally proffered palliatives over living out the truth of one's being.

A thousand text messages will never replace a single kiss...because a kiss conjures both the soul's numinosity and brings earthly complications -- the stuff of freedom.

When your heart aches, you are experiencing or being beckoned towards your destiny. Depending on the choices that you make, you can become waylaid at a fast food drive-thru or risk the road towards freedom that unfurls before you.

Hint: The excessive heft acquired by your hindquarters will begin to shrink as you begin a long distance trek in the direction of freedom.

What forces unloose titanic appetites...devoid of reason and restraint? Why is more than you can ever need never enough?

How is it that a trillion dollars can be spent on military weaponry, but the collective psyche of this nation continues to be gripped by nebulous fear?

Expressed in mythopoeic lexicon: The appetite of a Titan (e.g., the limit-devoid greed and empty appetite of late capitalism) will grow so random and ravenous that he will devour his own young, while his presence will cause the young to construct Icarusian wings...but an (infantilized by the internalization of consumerist impulsiveness) adult-child of the corporate state can never devour enough sky, thus put enough distance between himself and his own titanic need to escape earthly circumstance...until his wings of wax are undone by the steadfast sun, and he is returned to the inhuman eternity of the sea's briny womb (e.g., languishing in the media hologram, avoiding the implications of personal destiny-denied and global-wide ecocide).

The appetite of the earth is insatiable. Life must live on death. To become fully human, one must make peace with this fact by an acceptance of limits, by drawing lines of demarcation between necessity and titanic want.

Storytellers, poets, novelists i.e, myth makers have told this ageless tale of woe and warning for millenia. To ignore the admonition above amounts to insertion of your name into the following list: Tantalus, Midas, Lady Macbeth, George Babbitt, Captain Ahab, Gatsby, Cthulhu, Fred C. Dobbs, Marquise de Merteuil, Patrick Bateman, Mr. Burns, Gollem, the denizens of both Goldman Sachs and your local mall's food court...Ignore the warning and insert your name here: (........................).

One needs one's emptiness every bit as much as one has the need to be "fulfilled." How so? Because room is required within so that new awareness can grow. Therefore, love your inner, empty places. It is the method that you live your way into the future.

From time to time, I have been asked, how does one cope with the ever increasing "complexity" of our age. Short answer: It would be ill-advised to become adapted to a madhouse.

Instead, attempt to view complexity as future compost. At this stage, a song of grief is as resonate as a song of ebullience...Rot ensures renewal; the future is compost and compost is the future. Thus: Rejoice in the reek. Mortification restores our humanity, turning us away from the tyranny of unchecked proliferation. It bestows us with the ability to love our limits.

In this, it is synonymous with grace.

In a nation defined by vast wealth disparity and the deprivation it causes others on the planet, by means of impoverished lives and ecological devastation, taking more than one's share contributes to the vast harm done. The corporate food industry wrought epidemic of obesity in the U.S. is a microcosmic representation of a global-wide system of macro-imperialism.

There is a need in both the besieged psyche of an individual and its societal analog -- in our own case, in the collective psyche of a declining nation -- to worship and fear phantoms and view flesh and blood as phantasmal. As a culture, for example, we elevate celebrity culture to cultic status while ignoring the suffering of the poor; the teabagger crowd is accepted as a legitimate political movement, not as corporate state Astroturf; that there exist people known as Islamo-Fascists; and the acceptance as fact by all too many the noxious corporate media fiction that the energies of the Occupy Wall Street movement have faded -- but the outcomes of the overpriced theatrical artifice of U.S. election cycles represents the democratic expression of the political will of a free people.

Phantoms arrive in the psyche when one refuses life's ongoing invitation to commune with flesh and blood beings; to engage the rigors of insightful thought; to know both the agony and the release of heart-opening engagement and falsity-cleaving insight.

Apropos: "The foundation of all mental illness is the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering." ~~~ Carl Jung

As we are surrounded by gibbering, imploring media phantoms, our hunger to regain a resonate relationship with the world at large grows...yet the corporate state proffers drive thru window cuisine. We give them our life blood -- and, in return, we settle for an evening at Applebees. And the plundering class insist we are privileged to be offered this...that our plight could be worse...we could spend our hours languishing in one of their foreign sweatshops.

As the one percent has acquired their grotesquely bloated assets, large segments of the American middle and laboring classes have acquired larger and larger amounts of excess body fat. As corporate executives have sweetened their salaries with limitless perks and multimillion dollar bonuses, their workforce has sucked down copious portions of high fructose-based soft drinks and obesity-engendered disease has increased accordingly.

"Soul enters only via symptoms, via outcast phenomena like the imagination of artists or alchemy or "primitives," or of course, disguised as psychopathology. That's what Jung meant when he said the Gods have become diseases: the only way back for them in a Christian world is via the outcast." ~~~ James Hillman

To the mind of a child, his/her parent's view of the world constitutes the very architecture of their psyche. The world carries the imprimatur of their parents' face. A child's character begins to develop when he/she begins to compare what they carry within, forged by paternal admonition and action, to their experiences outside the home. If the child remains in a passive position, then his/her personal destiny becomes arrested. This is the poisoned apple proffered to the dormant beauty within us all. Conversely, we must accept the small, hidden aspects of our character (our helpful dwarves) that dwell in a deep forests within, far from the cold castles of paternal expectation, to be able to awaken to hidden potential.

Life in an authoritarian state, which is paternalistic by nature, arrests the psyche's drive to self-awareness; it puts one to sleep with infantilizing bribes -- e.g., all the bright and shiny things of the consumer state -- as it manipulates by means of coercive fear -- e.g., the looming dragons of poverty and police state intimidation.

"In Freud's time we felt oppressed in the family, in sexual situations, in our crazy hysterical conversion symptoms, and where we felt oppressed, there was the repressed. Where do we feel that thick kind of oppression today? In institutions--hospitals, universities, businesses; in public buildings, in filling out forms, in traffic..." ~~~ James Hillman

There exist few viable alternatives within the present political set-up to address the degradations inflicted by the corporate state and the machinery of duopoly in place to maintain the systems reach and power -- and there will not arrive a mainstream prince to confront the vain usurpers and slay the institutional dragons who cling to power in the present era. This is an unpleasant truth, but it is true nevertheless. The sooner one faces this reality: the hopelessly corrupt nature of the present system -- the closer we, collectively, move towards the creation of alternative arrangements when the current one collapses from its own corruption.

Poets of previous generations warned that one's soul could be lost in blind pursuit of vaults of riches and limitless knowledge. It is difficult not to laugh in derision or weep in anguish for a people who sell their soul for access to the contents of a convenience store. Addiction to fattening food speaks of our inner emptiness; so called Reality Television relates to our hunger for social engagement and communion; the images that haunt the corporate state media hologram attract us because we long for the images that rise from the soul.

In timeless stories, such as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, the awakening kiss of a princely figure should not be misapprehended with gender-based overtones of exclusively male power and dominance. Instead, the symbolic prince should be read as -- the possibility that unfolds as one's true calling when one awakens to one's circumstance. In our time, this timeless tale plays out as: The ongoing challenge we have been given to face and struggle against the life-devouring, institutional dragons of corporate state governance.

Of course, there will never arrive a tacked-on, Disneyesque "happily ever after" ending. There is no distant kingdom of the mind that exists beyond the reach of harm or corruption. If there were, new stories would cease to unfold. By this method, this world beckons us to live out our own unique tale.
(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

The Amnesia Candidate
By Paul Krugman

Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? If you've been following his campaign from the beginning, that's a question you have probably asked many times.

But the question was raised with particular force last week, when Mr. Romney tried to make a closed drywall factory in Ohio a symbol of the Obama administration's economic failure. It was a symbol, all right - but not in the way he intended.

First of all, many reporters quickly noted a point that Mr. Romney somehow failed to mention: George W. Bush, not Barack Obama, was president when the factory in question was closed. Does the Romney campaign expect Americans to blame President Obama for his predecessor's policy failure?

Yes, it does. Mr. Romney constantly talks about job losses under Mr. Obama. Yet all of the net job loss took place in the first few months of 2009, that is, before any of the new administration's policies had time to take effect. So the Ohio speech was a perfect illustration of the way the Romney campaign is banking on amnesia, on the hope that voters don't remember that Mr. Obama inherited an economy that was already in free fall.

How does the campaign deal with people who point out the awkward reality that all of the "Obama" job losses took place before any Obama policies had taken effect? The fallback argument - which was rolled out when reporters asked about the factory closure - is that even though Mr. Obama inherited a deeply troubled economy, he should have fixed it by now. That factory is still closed, said a Romney adviser, because of the failure of Obama policies "to really get this economy going again."

Actually, that factory would probably still be closed even if the economy had done better - drywall is mainly used in new houses, and while the economy may be coming back, the Bush-era housing bubble isn't.

But Mr. Romney's poor choice of a factory for his photo-op aside, I guess accusing Mr. Obama of not doing enough to promote recovery is a better argument than blaming him for the effects of Bush policies. However, it's not much better, since Mr. Romney is essentially advocating a return to those very same Bush policies. And he's hoping that you don't remember how badly those policies worked.

For the Bush era didn't just end in catastrophe; it started off badly, too. Yes, Mr. Obama's jobs record has been disappointing - but it has been unambiguously better than Mr. Bush's over the comparable period of his administration.

This is especially true if you focus on private-sector jobs. Overall employment in the Obama years has been held back by mass layoffs of schoolteachers and other state and local government employees. But private-sector employment has recovered almost all the ground lost in the administration's early months. That compares favorably with the Bush era: as of March 2004, private employment was still 2.4 million below its level when Mr. Bush took office.

Oh, and where have those mass layoffs of schoolteachers been taking place? Largely in states controlled by the G.O.P.: 70 percent of public job losses have been either in Texas or in states where Republicans recently took control.

Which brings me to another aspect of the amnesia campaign: Mr. Romney wants you to attribute all of the shortfalls in economic policy since 2009 (and some that happened in 2008) to the man in the White House, and forget both the role of Republican-controlled state governments and the fact that Mr. Obama has faced scorched-earth political opposition since his first day in office. Basically, the G.O.P. has blocked the administration's efforts to the maximum extent possible, then turned around and blamed the administration for not doing enough.

So am I saying that Mr. Obama did everything he could, and that everything would have been fine if he hadn't faced political opposition? By no means. Even given the political constraints, the administration did less than it could and should have in 2009, especially on housing. Furthermore, Mr. Obama was an active participant in Washington's destructive "pivot" away from jobs to a focus on deficit reduction.

And the administration has suffered repeatedly from complacency - taking a few months of good news as an excuse to rest on its laurels rather than hammering home the need for more action. It did that in 2010, it did it in 2011, and to a certain extent it has been doing the same thing this year too. So there is a valid critique one can make of the administration's handling of the economy.

But that's not the critique Mr. Romney is making. Instead, he's basically attacking Mr. Obama for not acting as if George Bush had been given a third term. Are the American people - and perhaps more to the point, the news media - forgetful enough for that attack to work? I guess we'll find out.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything-you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him."
~~~ Robert A. Heinlein ~~~

The NSA Is Watching You
By Amy Goodman

Three targeted Americans: A career government intelligence official, a filmmaker and a hacker. None of these U.S. citizens was charged with a crime, but they have been tracked, surveilled, detained-sometimes at gunpoint-and interrogated, with no access to a lawyer. Each remains resolute in standing up to the increasing government crackdown on dissent.

The intelligence official: William Binney worked for almost 40 years at the secretive National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. spy agency that dwarfs the CIA. As technical director of the NSA's World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, Binney told me, he was tasked to "see how we could solve collection, analysis and reporting on military and geopolitical issues all around the world, every country in the world." Throughout the 1990s, the NSA developed a massive eavesdropping system code-named ThinThread, which, Binney says, maintained crucial protections on the privacy of U.S. citizens demanded by the U.S. Constitution. He recalled, "After 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA," as massive domestic spying became the norm. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2001.

Along with several other NSA officials, Binney reported his concerns to Congress and to the Department of Defense. Then, in 2007, as then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was being questioned on Capitol Hill about the very domestic spying to which Binney objected, a dozen FBI agents charged into his house, guns drawn. They forced aside his son and found Binney, a diabetic amputee, in the shower. They pointed their guns at his head, then led him to his back porch and interrogated him. Three others were raided that morning. Binney called the FBI raid "retribution and intimidation so we didn't go to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and tell them, 'Well, here's what Gonzales didn't tell you, OK.'" Binney was never charged with any crime.

The filmmaker: Laura Poitras is an Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, whose recent films include "My Country, My Country," about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and "The Oath," which was filmed in Yemen. Since 2006, Poitras has been detained and questioned at airports at least 40 times. She has had her computer and reporter's notebooks confiscated and presumably copied, without a warrant. The most recent time, April 5, she took notes during her detention. The agents told her to stop, as they considered her pen a weapon.

She told me: "I feel like I can't talk about the work that I do in my home, in my place of work, on my telephone, and sometimes in my country. So the chilling effect is huge. It's enormous."

The hacker: Jacob Appelbaum works as a computer security researcher for the nonprofit organization the Tor Project (, which is a free software package that allows people to browse the Internet anonymously, evading government surveillance. Tor was actually created by the U.S. Navy, and is now developed and maintained by Appelbaum and his colleagues. Tor is used by dissidents around the world to communicate over the Internet. Tor also serves as the main way that the controversial WikiLeaks website protects those who release documents to it. Appelbaum has volunteered for WikiLeaks, leading to intense U.S. government surveillance.

Appelbaum spoke in place of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, at a conference called Hackers on Planet Earth, or HOPE, as people feared Assange would be arrested. He started his talk by saying: "Hello to all my friends and fans in domestic and international surveillance. I'm here today because I believe that we can make a better world." He has been detained at least a dozen times at airports: "I was put into a special room, where they frisked me, put me up against the wall. ... Another one held my wrists. ... They implied that if I didn't make a deal with them, that I'd be sexually assaulted in prison. ... They took my cellphones, they took my laptop. They wanted, essentially, to ask me questions about the Iraq War, the Afghan War, what I thought politically."

I asked Binney if he believed the NSA has copies of every email sent in the U.S. He replied, "I believe they have most of them, yes."

Binney said two senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, have expressed concern, but have not spoken out, as, Binney says, they would lose their seats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Meanwhile, Congress is set to vote on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA. Proponents of Internet freedom are fighting the bill, which they say will legalize what the NSA is secretly doing already.

Members of Congress, fond of quoting the country's founders, should recall these words of Benjamin Franklin before voting on CISPA: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
(c) 2012 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.

Why "We're On The Right Track" Isn't Enough
What Obama's Plan Should Be For Boosting the Economy
By Robert Reich

President Obama's electoral strategy can best be summed up as: "We're on the right track, my economic policies are working, we still have a long way to go but stick with me and you'll be fine."

That's not good enough. This recovery is too anemic, and the chance of an economic stall between now and Election Day far too high.

Even now, Mitt Romney's empty "I'll do it better" refrain is attracting as many voters as Obama's "we're on the right track." Each man is gathering 46 percent of voter support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS poll. Only 33 percent of the public thinks the economy is improving while 40 percent say they're still falling behind financially - an 11 point increase from 2008. Nearly two-thirds are concerned about paying for housing, and one in five with mortgages say they're underwater.

If the economy stalls, Romney's empty promise will look even better. And I'd put the odds of a stall at 50-50. That puts the odds of a Romney presidency far too high for comfort. Need I remind you that Romney enthusiastically supports Paul Ryan's wildly regressive budget, and as president would be able to make at least one or possibly two Supreme Court appointments, and control the EPA and every other federal agency and department?

The Obama White House should face it: "We're on the right track" isn't sufficient. The President has to offer the nation a clear, bold strategy for boosting the economy. It should be the economic mandate for his second term.

It should consist of four points:

First, Obama should demand that the nation's banks modify mortgages of homeowners still struggling in the wake of Wall Street's housing bubble - threatening that if the banks fail to do so he'll fight to resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act and break up Wall Street's biggest banks (as the Dallas Fed recently recommended).

Second, he should condemn oil speculators for keeping gas prices high - demanding that the oil companies allow the Commodity Futures Trading Corporation to set limits on such speculation and instructing the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute oil price manipulation.

Third, he should stand ready to make further job-creating investments in the nation's crumbling infrastructure, and renew his call for an infastructure bank. And while he understands the need to reduce the nation's long-term budget deficit, he won't allow austerity economics to take precedence over job creation. He'll veto budget cuts until unemployment is down to 5 percent.

Finally, he should make clear the underlying problem is widening inequality. With so much of the nation's disposable income and wealth going to the top, the vast middle class doesn't have the purchasing power it needs to fire up the economy. That's why the Buffett rule, setting a minimum tax rate for millionaires, is just a first step for ensuring that the gains from growth are widely shared.

The President can still say we're on the right track. But he should also say he's not content with the pace of the recovery and will do everything in his power to quicken it. And he should ask the American people for a mandate in his second term to make the economy work for everyone, not just those at the top.

Such a mandate can be put into effect only with a Congress that's committed to better jobs and wages for all Americans. He should remind voters that congressional Republicans prevented him from doing all that was needed in the first term, and they must not be allowed to do so again.
(c) 2012 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 Dead Letter Office...

Tom gives the corpo-rat salute!

Heil Obama,

Dear der Sekretar Vilsack,

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 Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your plans of letting the corporate foxes guard the hen houses, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Democratic whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-28-2012. We salute you Herr Vilsack, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Not Just Labor Rights; Scott Walker Is Also Dismantling Women's Rights
By John Nichols

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has attacked the rights of working people to organize unions and to speak up in their workplaces and the political life of their communities, their state and their nation.

He has attacked the right of citizens to dissent and to have a voice in the legislative process.

He has even attacked voting rights, with a draconian Voter ID bill that is seen as the most restrictive in the United States.

The list of assaults on basic rights is so long that it is not surprising that close to 1 million Wisconsinites have petitioned for the recall and removal of Walker in a June 5 election.

The list of reasons for voting Walker out of office is so long that it is hard to imagine what more could be added to it.

But there is the matter of what the governor's critics refer to as "Scott Walker's War on Women."

Because Walker signed anti-choice laws enacted by legislative Republicans who do not believe women can or should make decisions regarding their own bodies, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has decided to suspend providing certain basic health services to women. Among other things, Planned Parenthood will stop providing drugs to women for abortions in the first nine weeks of pregnancy-a method the provider says are used in about a quarter of the abortions it provides in Wisconsin.

Why? The law signed by Walker criminalizes a physician's failure to follow specific protocols laid out by the the anti-choice legislators-and interest groups-that drafted the legislation.

"In just one year, we have seen how women can lose ground in their health care options as a result of who holds power," explains NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin executive director Lisa Subeck.

Specifically, Subeck is referring to Act 217-a law that, she correctly notes, adds unnecessary and intrusive restrictions for abortion providers and subjects physicians to felony criminal penalties.

"It is unacceptable that women in Wisconsin are losing health care options because Governor Walker has enacted a law that is hostile to abortion providers, and that means women in Wisconsin will suffer," says Subeck. "This is what happens when out of control politicians like Scott Walker practice medicine without a license and interfere in the relationship between doctors and their patients. In the end, it is women who lose out."

She's right.

So, too, is state Representative Chris Taylor, when she argues that "this is indicative of what is to come from Scott Walker and legislative Republicans. They will stop at nothing to make abortion and birth control illegal in every circumstance."

If Walker remains in office, women will lose more services, more basic protections and more rights.

That's movement in the wrong direction for women, and for Wisconsin. And it has to stop.

But it won't stop for so long as Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch remain in office.

That's why leading advocates for women, including former Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, state Senator Lena Taylor and state Representative Terese Berceau, are actively campaigning to recall Walker-along with former Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum, who used to be a Republican. That's why former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, a gubernatorial candidate, and three other women are running as Democratic challengers to anti-choice Republcans in the recall elections.

They recognize that this is a moment when Wisconsin will decide whether it is on the right side of progress-for women and for families.
(c) 2012 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 publshed by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

The Way Of The Drone
Emblem for an Empire of Cowards
By Chris Floyd

A few months back, I reposted here an article that I wrote 10 years ago, before the invasion of Iraq: a fictional scenario of how the Terror War would play out on the ground of the target nations -- and in the minds of those sent to wage these campaigns. I was reminded of that piece by a story in the latest Rolling Stone.

The RS story, by Michael Hastings, depicts the drone mentality now consuming the US military-security apparatus, a process which makes the endless slaughter of the endless Terror War cheaper, easier, quieter. I didn't anticipate the development in my proleptic piece; the first reported "kill" by American drones, in Yemen, had taken place just a few weeks before my article appeared in the Moscow Times.

(One of the victims of this historic first drawing of blood was an American citizen, by the way. Thus from the very beginning, the drone war -- presented as noble shield to defend American citizens from harm -- has been killing American citizens, along with the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of innocent men and women around the world being murdered without warning -- and without any chance to defend themselves or take shelter -- by cowards sitting in padded seats behind computer consoles thousands of miles away, following orders from the even greater cowards who strut around the Pentagon, CIA headquarters and the White House.)

But what brought my earlier piece to mind was a brief mention of the "military slang" now being used to designate the victims of the drones. Below are a few snippets from my 2002 post, a fictional email by an occupation soldier to a friend:

Yo, Ed! I'm looking out the window of Watchtower 19 in Force Zone Seven. They're loading up the dead wagon. Three friendlies, two uncardeds, the usual collateral - and one bug. We zapped the market before the bug got his hard-on - another one of those Czech AK-47 knock-offs that our friendly neighborhood warlord keeps bringing in. He says he doesn't know how the bugs get hold of them - they drop down from heaven, I guess.

... I'd just come off night patrol in Deep-City Zone, hardcore bugland, backing up some Special Ops doing a Guantanamo run on terrorperp suspects. Banging down doors, barrel in the face of some shrieking bug-woman in her black bag, children scuttling in the dark like rats, the perp calling down an airstrike from Allah on our heads. You know the drill. You know the jangle. Not even the new meds can keep you blanked out completely.

 So there's always the overstep somewhere. Woman's cheekbone cracking from a backhand, some kid stomped or booted out of the way. Some perp putting his hand in one of those damned dresses they wear, going for who knows what - Koran? Mosquito bite? Scimitar? Czech special? - and you open up. More shrieking, more screaming - and then the splatter on the wall.

In the new Rolling Stone story, Hastings tells us how America's brave drone warriors view their victims:

For a new generation of young guns, the experience of piloting a drone is not unlike the video games they grew up on. Unlike traditional pilots, who physically fly their payloads to a target, drone operators kill at the touch of a button, without ever leaving their base - a remove that only serves to further desensitize the taking of human life. (The military slang for a man killed by a drone strike is "bug splat," since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.)

"Bugs" being "splattered." This is what Barack Obama -- who has expanded the drone death squads beyond the imaginings of George W. Bush -- and all of his brave button pushers and joystick riders think of the defenseless human beings they are killing (including 174 children by last count).

This has been the attitude underlying the Terror War since its beginnings. When I wrote my piece with its "bug" imagery, I was only reflecting what was already obvious and pervasive, both in the military-security war machine and in much of the general public. Anyone designated by those in power as an "enemy" -- for any reason, known or unknown, or for no reason at all -- is considered a subhuman, an insect, whose destruction is meaningless, without moral content, like swatting a fly on the wall. (As, for example, in this 2008 piece about a figure much lauded by progressives at the time: "Crushing the Ants.")

There is not only a tolerance for this official program of state murder; there is an absolute enthusiasm for it. Our rulers heartily enjoy ordering people to be killed. (And to be tortured, as we noted here last week.) It makes them feel good. It makes them feel "hard," in every sense of the word. As Hastings notes:

From the moment Obama took office, according to Washington insiders, the new commander in chief evinced a "love" of drones. "The drone program is something the executive branch is paying a lot of attention to," says Ken Gude, vice president of the Center for American Progress. "These weapons systems have become central to Obama." In the early days of the administration, then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel would routinely arrive at the White House and demand, "Who did we get today?"

Here are some examples of what Rahm and his then-boss, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, were "getting" with their flying deaths squads:

But for every "high-value" target killed by drones, there's a civilian or other innocent victim who has paid the price. The first major success of drones - the 2002 strike that took out the leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen - also resulted in the death of a U.S. citizen. More recently, a drone strike by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2010 targeted the wrong individual - killing a well-known human rights advocate named Zabet Amanullah who actually supported the U.S.-backed government. The U.S. military, it turned out, had tracked the wrong cellphone for months, mistaking Amanullah for a senior Taliban leader. A year earlier, a drone strike killed Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, while he was visiting his father-in-law; his wife was vaporized along with him. But the U.S. had already tried four times to assassinate Mehsud with drones, killing dozens of civilians in the failed attempts. One of the missed strikes, according to a human rights group, killed 35 people, including nine civilians, with reports that flying shrapnel killed an eight-year-old boy while he was sleeping. Another blown strike, in June 2009, took out 45 civilians, according to credible press reports.

And of course there is this, the follow-up to the "extrajudicial killing" of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. After killing al-Awlaki -- without ever charging him with a single crime -- the Obama administration then murdered his 16-year-old son (as we noted here last year). Hastings writes:

In the days following the killing, Nasser and his wife received a call from Anwar's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who had run away from home a few weeks earlier to try to find his now-deceased father in Yemen. "He called us and gave us his condolences," Nasser recalls. "We told him to come back, and he promised he would. We really pressed him, me and his grandmother.

The teenage boy never made it home. Two weeks after that final conversation, his grandparents got another phone call from a relative. Abdulrahman had been killed in a drone strike in the southern part of Yemen, his family's tribal homeland. The boy, who had no known role in Al Qaeda or any other terrorist operation, appears to have been another victim of Obama's drone war: Abdulrahman had been accompanying a cousin when a drone obliterated him and seven others. The suspected target of the killing - a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula - is reportedly still alive; it's unclear whether he was even there when the strike took place.

The news devastated the family. "My wife weeps every day and every morning for her grandson," says Nasser, a former high-ranking member of the Yemenite government. "He was a nice, gentle boy who liked to swim a lot. This is a boy who did nothing against America or against anything else. A boy. He is a citizen of the United States, and there are no reasons to kill him except that he is Anwar's son."

The boy was probably killed in a "signature strike," where bold and brave CIA analysts sit back in their chairs and observe people going about their business in a foreign country far away. If their activities look "suspicious" according to some arbitrary, secret criteria, then they can be slaughtered instantly by a drone missile -- even if the attackers have no idea whatsoever who the targets are or what they are actually doing. Plotting terrorism, or praying? Organizing jihad, or holding a wedding? Building bombs, or having lunch? The attackers don't know -- and can't know. They simply put down their Cheetohs and fire the missile. Who cares? It's just "bug splatter."

And the fact is, no one does care. As Hastings notes, this hideous program of murder and terror has been fully embraced by the political elite and by society at large. And our rulers are now bringing it back home with a vengeance, putting more and more Americans under the unsleeping eye of government drones watching their every move, looking for the "signature" of "suspicious" behaviour. Hastings notes:

In the end, it appears, the administration has little reason to worry about any backlash from its decision to kill an American citizen - one who had not even been charged with a crime. A recent poll shows that most Democrats overwhelmingly support the drone program, and Congress passed a law in February that calls for the Federal Aviation Administration to "accelerate the integration of unmanned aerial systems" in the skies over America. Drones, which are already used to fight wildfires out West and keep an eye on the Mexican border, may soon be used to spy on U.S. citizens at home: Police in Miami and Houston have reportedly tested them for domestic use, and their counterparts in New York are also eager to deploy them.

History affords few if any examples of a free people -- in such a powerful country, under no existential threat, undergoing no invasion, no armed insurrection, no natural disaster or epidemic or societal collapse -- giving up their own freedoms so meekly, so mutely. Most Americans like to boast of their love of freedom, their rock-ribbed independence and their fiercely-held moral principles: yet they are happy to see the government claim -- and use -- the power to murder innocent people whenever it pleases while imposing an ever-spreading police state regimen on their lives and liberties. Sheep doped with Rohypnol would put up a stronger fight than these doughty patriots.

Hasting's story should be read in full. In its straightforward marshalling of facts and refusal to simply parrot the spin of the powerful (something we used to call "journalism," kids; ask your grandparents about it, they might remember), it lays out the hideous reality of our times. I am tempted to call it an important story -- but I know that it will sink with scarcely a ripple into the abyss of our toxic self-regard. A few will read it and be horrified; the rest will stay riveted on the oh-so-exciting and oh-so-important race to see who will get to perpetuate this vile and murderous system for the next four years.
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd

The Cartoon Corner...

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~~~ Gary Markstein ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Hookers Downgrade US Credit Rating
Shortchanging by Secret Service Draws Strong Rebuke
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - Days after Secret Service agents shortchanged a group of prostitutes in Colombia, the international trade group representing hookers downgraded the United States' credit rating from AAA to B.

The strong rebuke from the International Alliance of Professional Escorts came after a Secret Service agent reportedly paid one of its members $30 for an $800 service, or only 4% of the stated price.

The statement from the International Alliance of Professional Escorts said that in downgrading the United States' credit rating it was sending a clear message that its "members should be aware that doing business with the government of the United States carries with it a significant risk."

"We are urging our members to avoid conducting transactions with the United States and to focus on more reliable customers, like the International Monetary Fund," the statement added.

Just hours after the announcement from the escorts' group, the U.S. Congress passed the following resolution blasting the Secret Service for its actions: "We strongly denounce the Secret Service for consorting with prostitutes, which has traditionally been Congress's role."

But it was not all bad news this week for the Secret Service, which today reported a 5000% jump in enlistment.

The agency said that enlistment offices across the country have been packed with prospective agents, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who abruptly dropped out of the Presidential race to join.
(c) 2012 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 17 (c) 04/27/2012

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