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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky returns with, "Red Lines In Ukraine And Elsewhere."

Uri Avnery reveals, "A Shameful Chapter."

Glen Ford wonders, "Jail The Bankers? Obama Has Been Their Staunchest Defender."

Pepe Escobar explores, "NATO's Soft War On Russia."

Jim Hightower says, "Some Congress Critters Deserve A Permanent Vacation."

David Swanson finds, "Mayor From Okinawa To Bring Surprising Message To Washington."

James Donahue examines, "The Problem Of Plastics Pollution."

John Nichols announces, "Doubling The Minimum Wage Is On The Agenda In Seattle-And Nationally."

Chris Hedges considers, "The Post-Constitutional Era."

David Sirota concludes, "We're All Just Grenades In The Partisan Wars."

Paul Krugman says Republicans are, "Inventing A Failure."

William Rivers Pitt asks, "Cliven Bundy: Clown Car Or Trojan Horse?"

Glenn Greenwald informs on, "Keith Alexander Unplugged: On Bush/Obama, 1.7 Mllion Stolen Documents, et al."

Roy Moore, Alabama's Supreme Court Chief Justice wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich tells, "The Four Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Inequality."

Matt Taibbi sees, "The Divide: American Injustice In The Age Of The Wealth Gap."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "In Landmark Decision, Supreme Court Strikes Down Main Reason Country Was Started " but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Global Warming Is Here: Whether You Believe In Science Or Not!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Horsey, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Bob Englehart, Elaine Thompson, BB Sams, Trevor Paglen, Olle Johansson, Sebastian Derungs, Ronda Churchill, Mary Altaffer, Alex Wong, Spiegel & Grau, Getty Images, The New York Times, Flickr, AP, Ecology.Com, Reuters, Common Dreams, The Intercept, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Vidkun Quisling Award...
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."

How long can you tread water?

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Global Warming Is Here: Whether You Believe In Science Or Not!
By Ernest Stewart

"There is an air of unreality in debating these arcane points when the world is changing in such dramatic ways right in front of our eyes because of global warming." ~~~ Al Gore

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." ~~~ First Amendment to the US Constitution

"It would bother me if a judge told me how I had to believe." ~~~ Roy Moore

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another." ~~~ Charles Dickens

Some real bad news from the National Climate Assessment which is where it's at for current and future impacts of carbon pollution on the United States. And what comes out of its latest report is very bleak indeed! It says, "...inaction will devastate much of the arable land of the nation's breadbasket - and ruin a livable climate for most Americans." Something that's been known about for the last 50 years, but which everyone chose to ignore in search for another dollar or two!

"American's face choices" explains the Congressionally-mandated report by 300 leading climate scientists and experts, which was reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences. "We're already seeing serious climate impacts - such as more extreme heat waves, droughts, and deluges - and additional impacts are 'now unavoidable;' but just how bad future climate change is will still largely be determined by choices society makes about emissions."

Some of what we have to look forward to includes:

The rise in temperatures...

The heat waves in 'the do-nothing case' are unimaginably brutal. In the A2 scenario, across most of the United States, the hottest days - those that occur only once in 20 years - will be about 10 F to 15 F hotter by late in the century. So those rare 105 F days will be 115 to 120 F days.

Loss of soil moisture...

One of the most dangerous consequences of that staggering rise in heat is a drop in soil moisture - basically precipitation minus evaporation - a key indicator of drought. Places that don't see any drop in precipitation will still see a drop in soil moisture when it is hotter because of the evaporation -- the drying out of the soil in the hot sun. Even worse is that much of the Southwest is projected to see less precipitation.

For example, the Dust Bowl was a sustained decrease in soil moisture of only about 15%. Some parts of the Southwest are, on average, permanently in a Dust Bowl. Large parts of the Southwest AND Great Plains are so close to the edge that in years with slightly less precipitation and/or slightly more heat, they will routinely be in a Dust Bowl.

Evidence indicates that the human influence on climate has already roughly doubled the probability of extreme heat events such as the record-breaking summer heat experienced in 2011 in Texas and Oklahoma. At the same time, in some regions, prolonged periods of high temperatures associated with droughts contribute to conditions that lead to larger wildfires and longer fire seasons.

On rainfall...

For those of you in the Northeast who thought you'd noticed deluges becoming more intense, you were right. Thanks to climate change, when it rains, it pours, literally. Ironically, what this means is that even in the regions that are expected to see a drop in precipitation, more of the precipitation they do get will be in the form of deluges, which are so intense they can wash away topsoil and generally fail to alleviate droughts."

And that folks, is just the tip of the iceberg; in some ways, that's the least of our problems when compared to losing vast stretches of our coastline where 100 million Americans will be affected and may have to learn to tread water for quite a while! When large areas of farmland are gone and turned to desert, what are you going to eat? Climate change is Mankind's worst challenge for survival that we've ever had to face. The sooner we stand and face it, the better off we'll all be!

In Other News

I see where the Extreme Court of the United States upheld a New York town's practice of starting town meetings with official sectarian prayers. The practice was challenged by residents of Greece, New York who objected to hearing government prayers -- the vast majority of which were expressly Christian invocations, as a condition of attending public meetings. Sure, mythology and your local government go hand in hand in so many other ways, why not this one, too?

"We are disappointed by today's decision. Official religious favoritism should be off-limits under the Constitution," said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. "Town-sponsored sectarian prayer violates the basic rule requiring the government to stay neutral on matters of faith."

The ACLU filed a friend of the court brief supporting the residents of Greece, New York. Arthur Eisenberg, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union had this to say:
"The constitutional requirement that church and state must be separated rests, in part, on the understanding that when government supports one religion over others, people who are not members of the favored religion are made to feel like outsiders by their government."
You may recall that thirty years ago, in Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), the Extreme Court upheld the Nebraska Legislature's practice of opening its sessions with nonsectarian prayers delivered by a chaplain.

The ACLU said this about that:
"The issue in this case is whether the Greece town board may open its meeting with sectarian prayers that have been overwhelmingly Christian in practice. In its amicus brief, the ACLU urges the Court to overrule Marsh and hold that any official governmental prayer violates the separation of church and state. If the Court is unwilling to go that far, the ACLU argues that official sectarian prayers should be prohibited under the Establishment Clause to preserve the core constitutional principle that the government cannot favor one religion over another."
Is anyone surprised that the Extreme Court ruled that the town's prayer practice does not violate the Establishment Clause, when it so obviously does?

And Finally

While the North certainly has its problems that need to be rectified, when compared to the South they are light-years ahead. Every day you hear about the insanity that goes on down below that Manson/Nixon line; and this week is no different.

Ya'll recall Alabama's supreme court chief justice Roy Moore? You may remember good ole boy Roy was removed from the bench by the Feds for insisting he wouldn't remove a statue of the 10 commandments that he'd made and installed in the Alabama supreme court building. After his removal, Roy went underground for ten years, but popped back up last election cycle and got reelected as the Alabama supreme court's chief justice. This proves that the majority of voters in Alabama are morons; and the next time they want to secede from the union, I say, we let them!

Roy was orating the other day and said only his mythology was real, i.e., "Buddha didn't create us, Mohammed didn't create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures. They didn't bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship. Let's get real, let's go back and learn our history. Let's stop playing games." So you can imagine what kind of justice a non-Christian will receive from his court. While this was bad enough, Roy didn't stop there; no, he continued: "The United States has lost its way when it started removing God from governmental decisions and stopping prayer in schools and during political meetings. You can't be happy unless you follow God's law."

How can a man who only respects his own religion be expected to protect the religious rights of others? Similarly, how can a man who admittedly puts his faith above the nation's laws be expected to interpret the law correctly? That unruly teenager that curses his or her parents could be put to death by stoning if Roy had his way! See what I mean? Ergo, Roy wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award! I couldn't find an addy for Roy except for this phone number. You might want to call it and leave your thoughts for Roy, as I did!

Supreme Court of Alabama ~~~ (334) 229-0700.

Keepin' On

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

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

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

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


12-10-1948 ~ 05-02-2014
Thanks for the music!

11-30-1918 ~ 05-02-2014
Thanks for the film!

05-29-1925 ~ 05-05-2014
Thanks for the film!


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


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

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

Vladimir Putin - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009

Red Lines In Ukraine And Elsewhere
By Noam Chomsky

The current Ukraine crisis is serious and threatening, so much so that some commentators even compare it to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Columnist Thanassis Cambanis summarizes the core issue succinctly in The Boston Globe: "(President Vladimir V.) Putin's annexation of the Crimea is a break in the order that America and its allies have come to rely on since the end of the Cold War - namely, one in which major powers only intervene militarily when they have an international consensus on their side, or failing that, when they're not crossing a rival power's red lines."

This era's most extreme international crime, the United States-United Kingdom invasion of Iraq, was therefore not a break in world order - because, after failing to gain international support, the aggressors didn't cross Russian or Chinese red lines.

In contrast, Putin's takeover of the Crimea and his ambitions in Ukraine cross American red lines. Therefore "Obama is focused on isolating . Putin's Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state," Peter Baker reports in The New York Times.

American red lines, in short, are firmly placed at Russia's borders. Therefore Russian ambitions "in its own neighborhood" violate world order and create crises.

The point generalizes. Other countries are sometimes allowed to have red lines - at their borders (where the United States' red lines are also located). But not Iraq, for example. Or Iran, which the U.S. continually threatens with attack ("no options are off the table").

Such threats violate not only the United Nations Charter but also the General Assembly resolution condemning Russia that the United States just signed. The resolution opened by stressing the U.N. Charter ban on "the threat or use of force" in international affairs.

The Cuban missile crisis also sharply revealed the great powers' red lines. The world came perilously close to nuclear war when President Kennedy rejected Premier Khrushchev's offer to end the crisis by simultaneous public withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba and American missiles from Turkey. (The U.S. missiles were already scheduled to be replaced by far more lethal Polaris submarines, part of the massive system threatening Russia's destruction.)

In this case too, the United States' red lines were at Russia's borders, and that was accepted on all sides.

The U.S. invasion of Indochina, like the invasion of Iraq, crossed no red lines, nor have many other U.S. depredations worldwide. To repeat the crucial point: Adversaries are sometimes permitted to have red lines, but at their borders, where America's red lines are also located. If an adversary has "expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood," crossing U.S. red lines, the world faces a crisis.

In the current issue of the Harvard-MIT journal International Security, Oxford University professor Yuen Foong Khong explains that there is a "long (and bipartisan) tradition in American strategic thinking: Successive administrations have emphasized that a vital interest of the United States is to prevent a hostile hegemon from dominating any of the major regions of the world."

Furthermore, it is generally agreed that the United States must "maintain its predominance," because "it is U.S. hegemony that has upheld regional peace and stability" - the latter a term of art referring to subordination to U.S. demands.

As it happens, the world thinks differently and regards the United States as a "pariah state" and "the greatest threat to world peace," with no competitor even close in the polls. But what does the world know?

Khong's article concerns the crisis in Asia, caused by the rise of China, which is moving toward "economic primacy in Asia" and, like Russia, has "expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood," thus crossing American red lines.

President Obama's recent Asia trip was to affirm the "long (and bipartisan) tradition," in diplomatic language.

The near-universal Western condemnation of Putin includes citing the "emotional address" in which he complained bitterly that the U.S. and its allies had "cheated us again and again, made decisions behind our back, presenting us with completed facts - with the expansion of NATO in the East, with the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They always told us the same thing: 'Well, this doesn't involve you.'"

Putin's complaints are factually accurate. When President Gorbachev accepted the unification of Germany as part of NATO - an astonishing concession in the light of history - there was a quid pro quo. Washington agreed that NATO would not move "one inch eastward," referring to East Germany.,p> The promise was immediately broken, and when Gorbachev complained, he was instructed that it was only a verbal promise, so without force.

President Clinton proceeded to expand NATO much farther to the east, to Russia's borders. Today there are calls to extend NATO even to Ukraine, deep into the historic Russian "neighborhood." But it "doesn't involve" the Russians, because its responsibility to "uphold peace and stability" requires that American red lines are at Russia's borders.

Russia's annexation of Crimea was an illegal act, in violation of international law and specific treaties. It's not easy to find anything comparable in recent years - the Iraq invasion is a vastly greater crime.

But one comparable example comes to mind: U.S. control of Guantanamo Bay in southeastern Cuba. Guantanamo was wrested from Cuba at gunpoint in 1903 and not relinquished despite Cuba's demands ever since it attained independence in 1959.

To be sure, Russia has a far stronger case. Even apart from strong internal support for the annexation, Crimea is historically Russian; it has Russia's only warm-water port, the home of Russia's fleet; and has enormous strategic significance. The United States has no claim at all to Guantanamo, other than its monopoly of force.

One reason why the United States refuses to return Guantanamo to Cuba, presumably, is that this is a major harbor and American control of the region severely hampers Cuban development. That has been a major U.S. policy goal for 50 years, including large-scale terror and economic warfare.

The United States claims that it is shocked by Cuban human rights violations, overlooking the fact that the worst such violations are in Guantanamo; that valid charges against Cuba do not begin to compare with regular practices among Washington's Latin American clients; and that Cuba has been under severe, unremitting U.S. attack since its independence.

But none of this crosses anyone's red lines or causes a crisis. It falls into the category of the U.S. invasions of Indochina and Iraq, the regular overthrow of parliamentary regimes and installation of vicious dictatorships, and our hideous record of other exercises of "upholding peace and stability."
(c) 2014 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co- author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire.

A Shameful Chapter
By Uri Avnery

HOW WOULD the US react to a declaration that the Palestinians would not conduct negotiations with an Israeli government that includes semi-fascist parties?

With outrage, of course.

How does the US react to an Israeli statement that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas?

With full approval, of course.

FOR ANYONE interested in Israeli-Palestinian peace, the prospect of domestic Palestinian reconciliation is good news.

For years now we have heard Israeli spokespersons announcing that it's no use making peace with half the Palestinian people and continuing the war with the other half. Mahmoud Abbas is a plucked chicken, as Ariel Sharon tactfully put it. It's Hamas which counts. And Hamas is planning a Second Holocaust.

Under the recent Palestinian reconciliation agreement, Hamas is now committed to supporting an all-Palestinian government of experts agreed on by both parties. The Israeli extreme right-wing government is burning with rage. It will never, never, never negotiate with a Palestinian government that is supported by Hamas.

Hamas must first recognize Israel, stop all terrorist activities and undertake to respect all previous agreements signed by the PLO.

That's OK, Abbas declares. The next government will be appointed by me, and it will fulfill all three conditions.

That's not enough, Netanyahu's spokespersons declare. Hamas itself must accept the three conditions, before we deal with a government supported by Hamas.

Abbas could respond in kind. Before dealing with the Netanyahu government, he could say, all factions in the Israeli government must declare their support for the Two-State Solution, as Netanyahu has done (once, in his so-called Bar-Ilan speech.) At least two parties, Naftali Bennett's "Jewish Home" and Avigdor Lieberman's "Israel our Home", as well as a great part of the Likud, would refuse to do so.

One can envision a ceremony in the Knesset, in which every cabinet minister would stand up and declare: "I hereby solemnly swear that I fully and sincerely support the creation of the State of Palestine next to the State of Israel!" The Messiah will arrive first.

Of course, that is immaterial. The stand of individual parties or ministers is unimportant. It is the policy of the government which counts. If the next Palestinian government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and respects all previous agreements that should be enough.

WHY IS the Palestinian reconciliation agreement good news for peace?

First of all, because one makes peace with a whole nation, not with half of it. A peace with the PLO, without Hamas, would be ineffective from the beginning. Hamas could sabotage it at any moment by acts of violence (a.k.a. terrorism).

Second, because by joining the PLO and eventually the Palestinian government, Hamas accepts in practice the policy of the PLO, which has long ago recognized the State of Israel and the partition of historic Palestine.

One should remember that prior to the Oslo agreement, the PLO itself was officially described by Israel (and the USA) as a terrorist organization. At the time of the signing on the White House lawn, the PLO charter was still in force. It called for the destruction of the illegal State of Israel and the return of practically all its citizens to their counties of origin.

For many years, this charter was denounced by Israeli politicians and academics as an insurmountable obstacle to peace.

Only after the Oslo agreement came into force, did the PLO National Council abolish these clauses of their charter in a festive ceremony, attended by President Bill Clinton.

Hamas has a similar charter. It, too, will be modified once Hamas joins the government.

It is one of the ironies of history that in the past, Israel covertly supported Hamas against the PLO. While all Palestinian political activity in the occupied territories was suppressed, Hamas activities in the mosques were allowed.

I once asked a former Shin Bet chief if he had created Hamas. His answer was: "We did not create them, we tolerated them."

The reason was that at the time Arafat's PLO was considered the enemy. Arafat himself was relentlessly demonized as the "Second Hitler". Everybody fighting against Arafat was considered an ally. This attitude continued to prevail for a year after the outbreak of the first intifada, when the Shin Bet realized that Hamas was much more dangerous than the PLO, and started imprisoning (and later assassinating) its leaders.

At present, an undeclared state of ceasefire (tahdiya or "stillness") prevails between Israel and Hamas. Clearly, Hamas has decided that its ambitions as one of the two major Palestinian political parties are more important than the "violent struggle" against Israel. Its main aim is to attain power in the future Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Like so many former liberation organizations around the world, including Begin's Likud, it is transforming itself from a terrorist organization into a political party.

AS COULD have been foreseen, the US has followed suit and fully accepted the Israeli line. It has threatened the Palestinian Authority with what amounts to a declaration of war if the reconciliation agreement is carried out.

The American peace initiative has ground to a halt. The full truth about it can and must now be told.

It was doomed to failure before it even started. There was not the slightest chance of its bearing fruit.

Before the facts become buried under an avalanche of propaganda, let's state clearly how it ended: not by Abbas joining international bodies, not by Palestinian reconciliation, but by the refusal of Netanyahu to fulfill a solemn and unequivocal undertaking: to release certain Palestinian prisoners on a certain date.

The release of prisoners is an extremely sensitive point for the Palestinians. It concerns human beings and their families. These particular prisoners, some of whom are Israeli citizens, have been in prison for at least 21 years. Netanyahu just did not have the strength of character to fulfill his promise and confront a wild campaign of incitement unleashed by the extreme Right.

He preferred to end the "negotiations".

THE PERFORMANCE of John Kerry can only be described as pitiful.

It started with the appointment of Martin Indyk as the manager of the negotiations. Indyk had worked as an employee of AIPAC, the main lobby of the Israeli Right. AIPAC'S main task is to terrorize the American Congress, whose members - senators and representatives - quake at the very sight of its agents.

To install such a person as an impartial mediator between Israel and the Palestinians was just plain chutzpah. It told the Palestinians right from the beginning what was in store.

The second act of chutzpah was to start the talks without first obtaining from Netanyahu a list of the concessions he was ready to make. Throughout, the Israeli side refused to present a map of its proposed borders, even after the Palestinian side produced their own map.

This charade went on for nine months, in which not an inch of progress was made. The parties met and talked, talked and met. Apart from Netanyahu's ridiculous demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as "the nation-state of the Jewish people," there was nothing on the table.

Tzipi Livni, a very minor politician, basked in the limelight on the glamorous international stage, and would have loved to go on forever without achieving anything at all.

The Palestinian representatives were also interested in continuing, even without purpose, in order to pass the time without an internal explosion.

The whole exercise revolved around one simple question: was President Obama ready to confront the onslaught of the united forces of AIPAC, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Republicans, the Evangelicals, the right-wing Jewish establishment and the Israeli propaganda machine?

If not, Kerry should not have even started.

THIS WEEK, in a private meeting, Kerry stated the obvious: that if Israel continues with its present policy, it will become an apartheid state.

There is nothing revolutionary in this. Former president Jimmy Carter used the term in the title of his book. In Israel, independent and left-wing commentators do so every day. But in Washington DC all hell broke loose.

The hapless Kerry rushed to apologize. He did not mean it, God forbid! The Secretary of State of the mighty USA asked for little Israel's forgiveness.

And so the piece reached its shameful finale on a dismal fading chord.
(c) 2014 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Jail The Bankers? Obama Has Been Their Staunchest Defender
By Glen Ford

The Obama administration is in a makeover frenzy, cosmetically cleaning up its corporatist act for the sake of the lame duck president's legacy and endangered Democrats in Congress. Evils must be reapportioned in the public mind, so that the balance between lesser and greater abominations is perceived to tilt in the Democrats' favor - a tough trick, given the beating the party's base constituencies have taken since 2008 at the hands of the duopoly Dem-Rep tag-team. Historical revisionism is, thus, the order of the day.

Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General who successfully intervened in federal court to prevent the retroactive release of thousands of mostly Black prisoners convicted under the old 100-to-1 crack cocaine laws, now acts as point man for his boss's program of charitable sentencing commutations. Obama's compassionate mood-swing occurred at whiplash speed; in his first six years in office, he had granted fewer clemencies than any president since Dwight Eisenhower. Obama's brazenly hypocritical and slap-dash new program "will not represent any significant or permanent change to the nation's universal policy of mass incarceration, mainly of poor black and brown youth," as Bruce Dixon has written, but is designed purely to rehabilitate the president's image among Black voters. With one empty gesture, the president's record on criminal justice is revised.

Obama then takes his political theater troupe on a comedy tour. Attorney General Holder pretends to threaten Wall Street bankers with jail time - a notion so hilarious it should have had them rolling on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange. Jail the bankers? Obama has been their staunchest defender, the man who saved George Bush's original bank bailout from defeat (weeks before the 2008 election), and has since configured the entire financial structure of the American State to the service of his most important constituents: Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs. "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks," Obama reminded the banksters in his Oval Office, back in 2009. He has never failed them, presiding over the infusion of roughly $30 trillion (2011 figures) directly into their accounts or as guarantees of their business transactions - roughly twice the Gross Domestic Product of the United States. Ain't that love?

Eric Holder told his joke about jailing the bankers during a stand-up that was posted on the Justice Department's website on Monday. Actually, it was only an inference - a bit of comic relief. "I intend to reaffirm the principle that no individual or entity that does harm to our economy is ever above the law. There is no such thing as 'too big to jail,'" said Holder, clarifying his statement of last year, that "the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult to prosecute them."

Has the Obama administration picked up the pitchfork? Could JP Morgan chief Jamie Dimon, whom Obama called a "friend" and "one of the smartest bankers we've got," be headed for the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado?

Does the Syndicate take orders from street hustlers? Barack Obama has a better chance of winding up behind bars than Dimon and his fellow oligarchs. Let's not forget who the boss is, here in the U.S.A.

Holder failed to mention the names or corporate logos of those who might be targeted for doing "harm to our economy," but his office no doubt encouraged the press to speculate that French bank BNP Paribas and some Swiss banks might be on the list - which makes sense. The French bank is charged with violating U.S. sanctions on trade with Iran and other targets of U.S. economic aggression. That puts them at odds with the national security state. The Swiss banks are alleged to have helped Americans hide their money from U.S. taxes, which is mainly a crime of individuals. Neither of the cases directly involve the Big Five U.S. banks that are the core institutions of U.S. finance capital, the guys that "are so large that it does become difficult to prosecute them," as Holder said last year. They are the circle in the center of the Ruling Circles. Their impunity is infinite. Holder and Obama work for them.

Routine prosecutions of corporate crimes are actually at historically low levels under Obama, despite tsunamis of scandals, including several "Crimes of the Century." Under the pressures of Obama history revisionism, Holder will snare some fat white faces to create the impression of a crackdown on corporate bad actors, confident that all Wall Street types look alike to the average consumer of news. Most people make little distinction between a Bernie Madoff, who lived like a king on a giant Ponzi scheme, and Jamie Dimon, who IS a king of the American Empire, with all the immunities accorded to those at the top of the Ruling Class. Bernie Madoff will die in prison. Jamie Dimon, whose bank turned a blind eye to Madoff's Ponzi scheme and profited handsomely from it, remains on the top of the world (although JP Morgan Chase was fined $2 billion).

Throughout the whole of this administration - the past that Obama now wants you to forget - Holder "ruthlessly maneuvered every case against the oligarchs into his own jurisdictional arena, in order to protect the banksters from aggressive prosecution," as we pointed out in BAR in November, 2013. Holder acted, not as a prosecutor, but as the Lords of Capital's defender and guardian.

JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon and each of his peers in the top U.S. banks could be sentenced to 20 years and $5 million fine for violating the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law passed following the 2001 recession that requires corporate chiefs to personally certify that documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission are accurate and that the corporation's internal controls are adequate. Every case of bankster wrongdoing "settled" by Holder's Justice Department is, almost by definition, proof of chief executive guilt under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

A report from the Real Economy Project shows how Wall Street's (known) crimes are methodically decriminalized by Justice Department "settlements." Holder uses his offices to immunize the big fish, and allow the corporations to escape with a fine. His own pattern of behavior is so clear as to also be indictable - if there were a State apparatus that was not controlled by the Ruling Class.

But, there is not, because Wall Street's rule is "hegemonic"; both the Democrats and Republicans are their servants, as are the main media.

The history of the last six years tells us, unequivocally, that the five biggest banks, and the people who run them, are not just beyond the reach of the State, they control the State.

There can be no fundamental change without the utter destruction of the banks and the financial Ruling Class. Not broken into smaller pieces, but broken, totally. All else is reform and tinkering - which is worthwhile, but don't call it Revolution or Social Transformation or Socialism.
(c) 2014 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

NATO's Soft War On Russia
By Pepe Escobar

Poor NATO. Damned Soviets. The benign North Atlantic Treaty Organization has spent two decades "trying to build a partnership" with Russia. But now, "clearly the Russians have declared NATO as an adversary, so we have to begin to view Russia no longer as a partner but as more of an adversary," according to NATO deputy secretary-general Alexander Vershbow, a former US diplomat/ Pentagon employee.

The hot lava irony of a Pentagon hack carping about "Russia clearly trying to re-impose hegemony" is enough to put the Vesuvius to shame. But that's only a minor plot twist in NATO The Expandables (the movie).

NATO - still in the process of being epically humiliated on a daily basis by a bunch of Pashtuns with Kalashnikovs in Afghanistan - is now considering "new defensive measures" to deter "evil" Russia from "aggression" against NATO members, mostly the Baltic states. And that will mean deployment of "more substantial numbers of allied combat forces to Eastern Europe" - mostly Poland. Permanently. Or, in Pentagonese, "semi-permanent unit training rotations." As if any doubt remained that Cold War 2.0 is here to stay.

NATO will "debate" the issue - in its usual muddy waters fashion - over the summer, and the result will be announced at a meeting in Wales in September, presided by Emperor Barack Obama himself.

Any analyst not embedded in the Pentagonese matrix knows that key European Union powers Germany and France - which have solid economic and business ties to Russia - will never buy this new spin for Cold War 2.0. As for other sizable NATO members, they are simply broke, and/or have better (economic) fish to fry at home.

Informed opinion also knows that were Cold War 2.0 to progress, payback will be handsome - as in, just for starters, Russia simply killing the Northern Distribution Network, which allows NATO's escape route from its sterling performance in Afghanistan.

Vlad the contemplator

Nonetheless, NATO spin remains relentless; there's "no sign of Russian troops withdrawing from the Ukraine border;" the US is sending "non-lethal" military aid to Ukraine (as in what? Baseball bats?); US ground forces are being sent to Poland. And all this to fight "separatists" and "pro-Russian" militants in Eastern Ukraine.

Rubbish. These people need to study geography, not to mention NATO's own charter. Ukraine is not even part of NATO, to start with. And the majority of Eastern Ukrainians don't want to annex themselves to the Russian Federation. What they want is strong autonomous provinces, free from Kiev meddling, in a cadre of a federal, Finlandized Ukraine. All one needs is to ask those Ukrainians who are now controlling 23 cities - and counting - in the Donbass, which accounts for over a third of Ukraine's GDP.

Meanwhile, adults are talking, unlike the Obama administration's proponents of the juvenile delinquent school of diplomacy. Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were on the phone on Workers Day. Putin once again stressed Kiev should halt its repeated "anti-terrorist" offensives, and launch an inclusive national dialogue. That does not seem likely.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also felt compelled to remind Pentagon head Chuck Hagel that Russia will not "invade" anything, unless Kiev uses their military against unarmed civilians - which is exactly what the latest Kiev provocation in Slavyansk is all about.

US Think Tankland is frantically downgrading NATO hysteria about "aggressive Russia" as a "measured response". That fools only the hopelessly misinformed. After creating a failed state in Libya and the Afghanistan fiasco, global Robocop NATO, in its quest for "purpose" and meaning, cannot stop from fabricating an enemy.

Some gloss is offered via what is described as shifting the "strategic focal point" - from Afghanistan? - to the Baltics plus Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The Pentagon as well as Vice-President Joe Biden has promised to "increase training" with "eastern NATO partners."

Putin, meanwhile, is just applying Sun Tzu. He might as well be calmly cross-legged contemplating the waters of the Volga. So far away from that nonsense about Moscow "aggressively" invading the Baltic states. By the way, it could be done in a heartbeat; and NATO would never see it coming. But Moscow does not want, or need, any such escalation.

The bottom line: global Robocop NATO can only survive if it faces a mortal threat. So what better platform to "harmonize" NATO than a "hostile" Russia? Either that, or keep licking those Pashtun-inflicted wounds in the Hindu Kush.
(c) 2014 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan." He may be reached at

Mitch gives the Corpo-rat salute

Some Congress Critters Deserve A Permanent Vacation

They're back. They're rested. They're ready!

Our Congress critters, that is. They've returned to their workplace after enjoying a badly-needed, two week, Easter vacation. After all, it had been a full four weeks since their last vacation in March, and meanwhile they'd been doing a lot of heavy lifting. You know - passing a jobs bill, raising the minimum wage, and extending longterm unemployment benefits for millions of desperate folks who've been unable to find jobs. Yessiree, our legislative leaders have been working like mules to strengthen America's hard-hit middle class.

Oh, wait. My mistake - they haven't passed any of that stuff. In fact, the GOP House, along with Republicans in the Senate, have been working overtime to kill any bills to lift up America's workaday families. Still, as you might imagine, killing bills can plumb tucker you out, so those lawmakers (or, in this case, law killers) undoubtedly needed a break.

Sure enough, now that they're back at the Congressional grindstone, they seem full of pep, ready to say "no" again and again. Only a week after returning, for example, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell rose up on his hind legs, mustered a burst of negative energy, and zapped dead a Democratic proposal to hike America's minimum wage. As a result of Mitch's legislative labor of love, millions of hard-working people will remain stuck in poverty-wage jobs for the foreseeable future. Who benefits from such a Dickensian effort? McDonald's, Domino's Pizza, Taco Bell, and other multibillion-dollar giants that profit by holding down their own workers.

The widening chasm of income inequality in our "Land of Opportunity" is no accident - it exists and grows worse by political design. Americans would be better off if those designing lawmakers just stayed on vacation.
(c) 2014 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Mayor Susumu Inamine

Mayor From Okinawa To Bring Surprising Message To Washington
By David Swanson

Imagine if China were stationing large numbers of troops in the United States. Imagine that most of them were based in a small rural county in Mississippi. Imagine -- this shouldn't be hard -- that their presence was problematic, that nations they threatened in Latin America resented the United States' hospitality, and that the communities around the bases resented the noise and pollution and drinking and raping of local girls.

Now imagine a proposal by the Chinese government, with support from the federal government in Washington, to build another big new base in that same corner of Mississippi. Imagine the governor of Mississippi supported the base, but just before his reelection pretended to oppose it, and after being reelected went back to supporting it. Imagine that the mayor of the town where the base would be built made opposition to it the entire focus of his reelection campaign and won, with exit polls showing that voters overwhelmingly agreed with him. And imagine that the mayor meant it.

Where would your sympathies lie? Would you want anyone in China to hear what that mayor had to say?

Sometimes in the United States we forget that there are heavily armed employees of our government permanently stationed in most nations on earth. Sometimes when we remember, we imagine that the other nations must appreciate it.

We turn away from the public uproar in the Philippines as the U.S. military tries to return troops to those islands from which they were driven by public pressure. We avoid knowing what anti-U.S. terrorists say motivates them, as if by merely knowing what they say we would be approving of their violence. We manage not to know of the heroic nonviolent struggle underway on Jeju Island, South Korea, as residents try to stop the construction of a new base for the U.S. Navy. We live on oblivious to the massive nonviolent resistance of the people of Vicenza, Italy, who for years voted and demonstrated and lobbied and protested a huge new U.S. Army base that has gone right ahead regardless.

Mayor Susumu Inamine of Nago City, Okinawa, (population 61,000) is headed to the United States, where he may have to do a bit of afflicting the comfortable as he tries to comfort the afflicted back home. Okinawa Prefecture has hosted major U.S. military bases for 68 years. Over 73% of the U.S. troop presence in Japan is concentrated in Okinawa, which makes up a mere 0.6% of the Japanese land area. As a result of public protest, one base is being closed -- the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The U.S. government wants a new Marine base in Nago City. The people of Nago City do not.

Inamine was first elected as mayor of Nago City in January 2010 promising to block the new base. He was reelected this past January 19th still promising to block the base. The Japanese government had worked hard to defeat him, but exit polls showed 68% of voters opposing the base, and 27% in favor of it. In February U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy visited Okinawa, where she met with the Governor but declined to meet with the mayor.

That's all right. The Mayor can meet with the State Department, the White House, the Pentagon, and the Congress. He'll be in Washington, D.C. in mid-May, where he hopes to appeal directly to the U.S. government and the U.S. public. *He'll speak at an open, public event at Busboys and Poets restaurant at 14th and V Streets at 6:00 p.m. on May 20th.* A great summary of the situation in Okinawa can be found in this statement: "International Scholars, Peace Advocates and Artists Condemn Agreement To Build New U.S. Marine Base in Okinawa."

An excerpt:

"Not unlike the 20th century U.S. Civil Rights struggle, Okinawans have non-violently pressed for the end to their military colonization. They tried to stop live-fire military drills that threatened their lives by entering the exercise zone in protest; they formed human chains around military bases to express their opposition; and about a hundred thousand people, one tenth of the population have turned out periodically for massive demonstrations. Octogenarians initiated the campaign to prevent the construction of the Henoko base with a sit-in that has been continuing for years. The prefectural assembly passed resolutions to oppose the Henoko base plan. In January 2013, leaders of all the 41 municipalities of Okinawa signed the petition to the government to remove the newly deployed MV-22 Osprey from Futenma base and to give up the plan to build a replacement base in Okinawa."
Here's background on the Governor of Okinawa.

Here's an organization working to support the will of the public of Okinawa on this issue.

And here's a video worth watching.
(c) 2014 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Problem Of Plastics Pollution
By James Donahue

The plastics industry has become a major part of our lives since World War II. This synthetic material, a by-product of crude oil, appears in everything from women's nylons to golf clubs and the bodies of our cars.

Most of the computer I am using to write this story is comprised of plastic, as is the fabric of the office chair on which I sit, and the material in the carpet under my feet.

Plastic can be made to resemble almost anything. It has been developed to have the strength of iron, and thus is used in the manufacture of more and more automobile parts.

The downside: Plastic has been a relatively inexpensive product to make so it is used for packaging soft drinks, food products, fast foods, drinking straws and a variety of other throw-away items that litter the sides of our roads.

It is used in making garbage, laundry and shopping bags and packaging wrappers that end up in our landfills. Many of the other discarded plastic products that quickly outwear the usefulness show up as part of the refuse placed inside the plastic garbage bags.

Most plastic does not break down or rot so it has an indefinite life span. Thus all of the plastic products we make will probably still be mixed in the soil of this planet thousands of years from now.

Ships at sea toss garbage bags and plastic products overboard. I believe that garbage scows carrying refuse from major cities also are disposing of their loads in the world's oceans.

Recent studies have shown about 3,500 particles of plastic per square kilometer in the sea off the southern African coast. In fact, surveys of 50 South African beaches from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town show an increase in plastic pollution of 190 percent between 1985 and 1989. Plastic rubbish is found in the oceans all over the world, including the Antarctic regions.

A report said the "plastic rubbish found on beaches near urban areas tends to originate from use on land." This includes packaging material used to wrap other products. In the more remote areas, the pollution seems to be coming from passing ships.

The problem of rubbish from ships became acute enough that Congress in 1987 passed the Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act that bars ships from dumping rubbish within 25 nautical miles of land.

But the act only applies to ships in United States territory, and has no effect on vessels traveling in the rest of the world.,p> While it is floating around in the seas, plastics appear to be breaking down into tiny microscopic particles and man-made fibers that can now be found everywhere in the world, a study by scientists at the University of Plymouth in the UK discovered.

"Even remote and apparently pristine layers of sand and mud are now composed partly of this microscopic rubbish, broken down from discarded waste," the report in the journal Science said.

The report said most samples contain a range of plastics or polymers that include nylon, polyester and acrylic. The team also found that creatures that feed on contaminated plankton have plastics inside their bodies. Thus humans who eat sea life are also consuming these plastic particles.

The long-range effects of this pollution are not yet known, the report said.

The larger particles of plastic are found to be a threat to marine life. For example, turtles are particularly affected by plastic pollution. They get entangled in (plastic) fishing nets and many have been found dead with plastic bags in their stomachs. It is believed that they mistake these floating semi-transparent bags for jellyfish and then die from choking or being unable to eat.

One report said an estimated 100,000 marine mammals die each year in the world's oceans by eating or getting entangled in plastic rubbish. Many seals and other mammals get caught up in large plastic objects and drown or die from exhaustion or starvation.

Birds and especially marine bird species are found to be eating and dying from consuming plastic particles. A study of blue petrel chicks at South Africa's remote Marion Island found that 90 percent of them had plastic in their stomachs. The plastic was apparently fed to them accidentally by their parents.
(c) 2014 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Demonstrators in downtown Seattle

Doubling The Minimum Wage Is On The Agenda In Seattle-And Nationally
By John Nichols

The dramatic progress of the movement to make the minimum wage a living wage was highlighted on May Day when Seattle Mayor Ed Murray unveiled a plan to double the base pay for workers over the coming decade.

A year ago, President Obama and others saw raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25-an-hour to $9-an-hour as the great leap forward.

This week, the newly elected mayor of one of America's largest and most prosperous cities proposed a plan that would, in a series of steps over the coming decade, take the base wage as high as $18 an hour. Something big is happening; the activist coalition Working Washington hailed the announcement of the mayor's plan as "an incredible accomplishment." Recalling "strikes, marches, boycotts and other mobilizations" by fast-food workers in Seattle that raised the call for a $15-an-hour basic wage, the labor-backed group noted that, "Less than a year later, we are on the verge of achieving a $15 minimum wage that ensures every worker in Seattle can support themselves, afford the basics, and contribute to the economy."

Even as they celebrate the progress that has been made, however, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and others say they hope to improve upon the mayor's plan. The councilmember says she'll be working in coming weeks for changes that would speed up the implementation of wage increases, eliminate loopholes for big businesses and protect the interests of workers who rely on tips. "Our work is far from done," says Sawant, who has helped to organize a grassroots "15 Now" movement for a rapid increase in wages. "This is a historic moment to recognize the power of grassroots organizing," she said after the mayor's plan was announced. "It is a call to action."

Seattle and the state of Washington have histories of recognizing the need to raise wages so that working people will not face the reality of putting in a forty-hour week while remaining stuck in poverty. The current minimum wage for Washington workers is $9.32-an-hour, the highest state rate in the nation. But the basic premises of the debate were jolted last fall by the election to the city council of Sawant, an Occupy activist and Socialist Alternative candidate who made advocacy for a $15 wage central to her bid. At the same time, voters in the nearby city of Sea-Tac backed a $15-an-hour proposal.

The Seattle election results shook that city and the nation into a new way of thinking about the minimum-wage debate. The "Fight for $15" movement of fast-food workers, which Sawant and others credit for laying the groundwork for wage-hike campaigns in Seattle and cities across the country, has been strengthened by the fact that its proposals were being embraced by voters and policymakers. Activists nationwide are ramping up demands for wage hikes that will address poverty and income inequality. And instead of proposing only incremental changes that might be grudgingly accepted by business interests and conservative politicians, progressive Democrats have begun to notice the polling data that shows broad support for major wage increases.

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama embraced a proposal by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and California Congressman George Miller for a $10.10 hourly wage, and that popular position has become a baseline standard for progressives seeking state and federal posts in the 2014 election cycle.

But in expensive cities like Seattle, $10.10 an hour can still be a poverty wage. So, according to The Seattle Times, "Murray's plan calls for the city's minimum wage to climb to $15 an hour, phased in over three to seven years depending on the size of business and whether workers receive tips or benefits in addition to salary. After that, the wage would be tied to the Consumer Price Index, with estimates showing it rising above $18 an hour by 2025."

Outlined with the aid of a large "Income Inequality Advisory Committee," and assembled after weeks of negotiations involving council members, community activists, labor and business, the Murray plan comes with significant support. And it is moving forward rapidly. After setting a May 5 session to begin reviewing the proposal, Seattle Councilmember Sally J. Clark, who chairs the council's Select Committee on the Minimum Wage and Income Inequality, said, "It's my hope we can launch quickly into our review and decision-making."

Moving to double the minimum wage may sound bold, and there will still be plenty of naysaying in Seattle and nationally. But we've been here before. President Harry Truman, fresh from his 1948 re-election on a platform that promised to renew the liberalism of the New Deal era, proposed an across-the-board increase in the federal minimum wage from forty cents an hour to seventy-five cents an hour. Truman also proposed raising the base wage to $1 per hour in some industries. Truman adviser Clark Clifford said the president wanted "to strike a new high ground."

Truman did not get everything he asked for from a Congress where conservative Republicans and Southern Democrats resisted progressive legislation. But by the fall of 1949, the president was signing a seventy-five-cent-an-hour minimum wage into law.,P> What's significant is that Truman nearly doubled the wage in a year. Seattle's "15 Now" activists are concerned that Murray's plan, while generally headed in the right direction, drags the process out. They've been petitioning for a citywide vote on raising the base wage to $15 an hour by January 1, 2015.

"The fact that the City Council of a major city in the US will discuss in the coming weeks raising the minimum wage to $15 is a testament to how working people can push back against the status quo of poverty, inequality, and injustice. The movement, starting with fast food workers nationwide, and pushed forward by SeaTac and 15 Now, is forcing business and the political establishment to accept raising our wages," says Sawant. "The proposal that has been announced is a result of the pressure from this movement. Unfortunately, it also reflects the attempt of business to water down what the working people of Seattle want. While business has lost the public battle on 15, they were given a seat at the table to pursue their wish list, while low-wage workers were left out."

Sawant says she will work for "a strong $15" with grassroots organizing and in council debates on the plan advanced by Mayor Murray.

In particular, she seeks to narrow the timeline for implementation of wage increases by large businesses such as McDonald's and Starbucks.

"Every year of phase-in is another year that a worker has to live in poverty," the councilmember explained. "So we have to keep fighting. We will keep building the pressure from below." Specifically, Sawant says, "We still need a backup option should the city council fail to pass 15, which is why we need to keep up the pressure through signature collection [for the initiative proposal]."

And don't think that this is just a Seattle thing. Fast-food workers and their allies across the country will be rallying in coming weeks for a $15 wage, and there are campaigns in communities and states across the country for wage-hike resolutions and referendums. What was once a debate about the minimum wage is becoming a debate about a living wage.
(c) 2014 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Activist Lauren DiGioia is arrested Jan. 3, 2012, during a demonstration in New York
City's Grand Central Station held to call attention to the National Defense
Authorization Act, signed by President Barack Obama on the previous New Year's Eve.

The Post-Constitutional Era
By Chris Hedges

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear our case concerning Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process, means that this provision will continue to be law. It means the nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power-one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights. It means that the consent of the governed-a poll by showed that this provision had a 98 percent disapproval rating-is a cruel joke. And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty.

"In declining to hear the case Hedges v. Obama and declining to review the NDAA, the Supreme Court has turned its back on precedent dating back to the Civil War era that holds that the military cannot police the streets of America," said attorney Carl Mayer, who along with Bruce Afran devoted countless unpaid hours to the suit. "This is a major blow to civil liberties. It gives the green light to the military to detain people without trial or counsel in military installations, including secret installations abroad. There is little left of judicial review of presidential action during wartime."

Afran, Mayer and I brought the case to the U.S. Southern District Court of New York in January 2012. I was later joined by co-plaintiffs Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Alexa O'Brien, RevolutionTruth founder Tangerine Bolen, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla.

Later in 2012 U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest declared Section 1021(b)(2) unconstitutional. The Obama administration not only appealed-we expected it to appeal-but demanded that the law be immediately put back into effect until the appeal was heard. Forrest, displaying the same judicial courage she showed with her ruling, refused to do this.

The government swiftly went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. It asked, in the name of national security, that the court stay the district court's injunction until the government's appeal could be heard. The 2nd Circuit agreed. The law went back on the books. My lawyers and I surmised that this was because the administration was already using the law to detain U.S. citizens in black sites, most likely dual citizens with roots in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. The administration would have been in contempt of court if Forrest's ruling was allowed to stand while the federal authorities detained U.S. citizens under the statute. Government attorneys, when asked by Judge Forrest, refused to say whether or not the government was already using the law, buttressing our suspicion that it was in use.

The 2nd Circuit overturned Forrest's ruling last July in a decision that did not force it to rule on the actual constitutionality of Section 1021(b)(2). It cited the Supreme Court ruling in Clapper v. Amnesty International, another case in which I was one of the plaintiffs, to say that I had no standing, or right, to bring the NDAA case to court. Clapper v. Amnesty International challenged the secret wiretapping of U.S. citizens under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The Supreme Court had ruled in Clapper that our concern about government surveillance was "speculation." It said we were required to prove to the court that the FISA Act would be used to monitor those we interviewed. The court knew, of course, that the government does not disclose whom it is monitoring. It knew we could never offer proof. The leaks by Edward Snowden, which came out after the Supreme Court ruling, showed that the government was monitoring us all, along with those we interviewed. The 2nd Circuit used the spurious Supreme Court ruling to make its own spurious ruling. It said that because we could not show that the indefinite-detention law was about to be used against us, just as we could not prove government monitoring of our communications, we could not challenge the law. It was a dirty game of judicial avoidance on two egregious violations of the Constitution.

In refusing to hear our lawsuit the courts have overturned nearly 150 years of case law that repeatedly holds that the military has no jurisdiction over civilians. Now, a U.S. citizen charged by the government with "substantially supporting" al-Qaida, the Taliban or those in the nebulous category of "associated forces"-some of the language of Section 1021(b)(2)-is lawfully subject to extraordinary rendition on U.S. soil. And those seized and placed in military jails can be kept there until "the end of hostilities."

Judge Forrest, in her 112-page ruling against the section, noted that under this provision of the NDAA whole categories of Americans could be subject to seizure by the military. These might include Muslims, activists, Black Bloc members and any other Americans labeled as domestic terrorists by the state. Forrest wrote that Section 1021(b)(2) echoed the 1944 Supreme Court ruling in Korematsu v. United States, which supported the government's use of the military to detain 110,00 Japanese-Americans in internment camps without due process during World War II.

Of the refusal to hear our lawsuit, Afran said, "The Supreme Court has left in place a statute that furthers erodes basic respect for constitutional liberties, that weakens free speech and will chill the willingness of Americans to exercise their 1st Amendment rights, already in severe decline in this country."

The goals of corporate capitalism are increasingly indistinguishable from the goals of the state. The political and economic systems are subservient to corporate profit. Debate between conventional liberals and conservatives has been replaced by empty political theater and spectacle. Corporations, no matter which politicians are in office, loot the Treasury, escape taxation, push down wages, break unions, dismantle civil society, gut regulation and legal oversight, control information, prosecute endless war and dismantle public institutions and programs that include schools, welfare and Social Security. And elected officials, enriched through our form of legalized corporate bribery, have no intention of halting the process.

The government, by ignoring the rights and needs of ordinary citizens, is jeopardizing its legitimacy. This is dangerous. When a citizenry no longer feels that it can find justice within the organs of power, when it feels that the organs of power are the enemies of freedom and economic advancement, it makes war on those organs. Those of us who are condemned as radicals, idealists and dreamers call for basic reforms that, if enacted, will make peaceful reform possible. But corporate capitalists, now unchecked by state power and dismissive of the popular will, do not see the fires they are igniting. The Supreme Court ruling on our challenge is one more signpost on the road to dystopia.

It is capitalism, not government, that is the problem. The fusion of corporate and state power means that government is broken. It is little more than a protection racket for Wall Street. And it is our job to wrest government back. This will come only through the building of mass movements.

"It is futile to be 'anti-Fascist' while attempting to preserve capitalism," George Orwell wrote. "Fascism after all is only a development of capitalism, and the mildest democracy, so-called, is liable to turn into Fascism."

Our corporate masters will not of their own volition curb their appetite for profits. Human misery and the deadly assault on the ecosystem are good for business. These masters have set in place laws that, when we rise up-and they expect us to rise up-will permit the state to herd us like sheep into military detention camps. Section 1021(b)(2) is but one piece of the legal tyranny now in place to ensure total corporate control. The corporate state also oversees the most pervasive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. It can order the assassination of U.S. citizens. It has abolished habeas corpus. It uses secret evidence to imprison dissidents, such as the Palestinian academic Mazen Al-Najjar. It employs the Espionage Act to criminalize those who expose abuses of power. A ruling elite that accrues for itself this kind of total power, history has shown, eventually uses it.
(c) 2014 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

We're All Just Grenades In The Partisan Wars
By David Sirota

It is hardly controversial to say that one of the big turnoffs about American politics is its disconnect with even the most grim human consequences. No matter how serious the issue, the political class seems pathologically determined to present everything as a fun-and-games, red-versus-blue battle whose only important consequences have to do with the next election. As politicians, operatives and reporters focus primarily on the horse-race discussion of ever-more-grave issues, the life-and-death human ramifications for millions of people are effectively written out of our democratic discourse.

There are plenty of examples of this odious dynamic, but perhaps this era's textbook case comes from a recent article in Politico magazine about natural gas exploration in Colorado - and more specifically, the extractive process known as fracking.

The context for the article is key: It appeared only weeks after the release of a Colorado School of Public Health study showing a potential link between birth defects and proximity to Colorado fracking sites. That study followed others showing possible links between fracking in Colorado and health hazards such as water and air pollution.

Birth defects and toxic pollution - this is serious and macabre stuff. You might therefore think that politicians would refrain from insinuating that such issues are important only for how they might affect the next election. You might also think that even the most hardened politicos would be sure to at least pay lip service to the idea that actual lives - not just professional politicians' careers - are at stake.

But, of course, you would be wrong.

Over the course of Politico's 2,500-word article, there are only scant mentions of health implications. Instead, the piece teems with quotes from various Colorado pols about a ballot measure to let communities regulate fracking. Most of those quotes, though, aren't about whether that ballot measure will help protect ordinary people from being poisoned.

They are about political prevarication and whether the ballot measure will help or hurt the electoral chances of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Senator Mark Udall, D-Colo.

In one exchange, for instance, Hickenlooper casts the issue as just another bloodless matter of tactics and economics. "Striking the right balance between local control and private property rights is the next big challenge," he said.

In another section, Hickenlooper's chief of staff casts the ballot measure not as addressing an extraction practice possibly imperiling young children, but one primarily imperiling politicians. "It's like setting off a grenade in a closet - you never know if someone's going to get killed," he said - the "killed" being the politicians' election chances, not the masses of ordinary Coloradans possibly being harmed.

But the most revealing quote of all came from Republican Josh Penry, a failed gubernatorial candidate now working in the fossil fuel industry. Despite all the news of birth defects and health problems, he caustically depicted the entire issue as merely of concern to professional officeholders, gleefully claiming the ballot measure is "a slow motion train wreck for Mark Udall and every other Democrat up and down the ballot."

I could go on, but I won't. This display of arrogance and self-absorption from Colorado's political class is but a microcosmic example. Indeed, no matter where you are reading this column, there are examples of real-life catastrophes with real-life ramifications being treated by political elites as just more "grenades" in their self-serving political wars.

In those wars, social emergencies are treated as partisan battlefields, and politicians are the field generals using human beings as cannon fodder. Worst of all, life-and-death crises are now viewed exclusively as political weapons rather than as pressing problems that need to be solved.
(c) 2014 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist, a staff writer at PandoDaily and the best-selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.

Inventing A Failure
By Paul Krugman

Last week, House Republicans released a deliberately misleading report on the status of health reform, crudely rigging the numbers to sustain the illusion of failure in the face of unexpected success. Are you shocked?

You aren't, but you should be. Mainstream politicians didn't always try to advance their agenda through lies, damned lies and - in this case - bogus statistics. And the fact that this has become standard operating procedure for a major party bodes ill for America's future.

About that report: The really big policy news of 2014, at least so far, is the spectacular recovery of the Affordable Care Act from its stumbling start, thanks to an extraordinary late surge that took enrollment beyond early projections. The age mix of enrollees has improved; insurance companies are broadly satisfied with the risk pool. Multiple independent surveys confirm that the percentage of Americans without health insurance has already declined substantially, and there's every reason to believe that over the next two years the act will meet its overall goals, except in states that refuse to expand Medicaid.

This is a problem for Republicans, who have bet the ranch on the proposition that health reform is an unfixable failure. "Nobody can make Obamacare work," declared Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, a couple of weeks ago (when it was already obvious that it was working pretty well). How can they respond to good news?

Well, they could graciously admit that they were wrong, and offer constructive suggestions about how to make the law work even better. Oh, sorry - I forgot that I wasn't writing jokes for the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

No, they have in fact continued to do what they've been doing ever since the news on Obamacare started turning positive: sling as much mud as possible at health reform, in the hope that some of it sticks. Premiums were soaring, they declared, when they have actually come in below projections. Millions of people were losing coverage, they insisted, when the great bulk of those whose policies were canceled simply replaced them with new policies. The Obama administration was cooking the books, they cried (projection, anyone?). And, of course, they keep peddling horror stories about people suffering terribly from Obamacare, not one of which has actually withstood scrutiny.

Now comes the latest claim - that many of the people who signed up for insurance aren't actually paying their premiums. Obviously this claim is part of a continuing pattern. It also, however, involves a change in tactics. Previous attacks on Obamacare were pretty much fact-free; this time the claim was backed by an actual survey purporting to show that a third of enrollees hadn't paid their first premium.

But the survey was rigged. (Are you surprised?) It asked insurers how many enrollees had paid their first premium; it ignored the fact that the first premium wasn't even due for the millions of people who signed up for insurance after March 15.

And the fact that the survey was so transparently rigged is a smoking gun, proving that the attacks on Obamacare aren't just bogus; they're deliberately bogus. The staffers who set up that survey knew enough about the numbers to skew them, which meant that they have to have known that Obamacare is actually doing O.K.

So why are Republicans doing this? Sad to say, there's method in their fraudulence.

First of all, it fires up the base. After this latest exercise in deception, we can be fairly sure that Republican leaders know perfectly well that Obamacare has failed to fail. But the party faithful don't. Like anyone who writes about these issues, I get vast amounts of mail from people who know, just know, that insurance premiums are skyrocketing, that far more people have lost insurance because of Obummercare than have gained it, that all the horror stories are real, and that anyone who says otherwise is just a liberal shill.

Beyond that, the constant harping on alleged failure works as innuendo even if each individual claim collapses in the face of evidence. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a majority of Americans know that more than eight million people enrolled in health exchanges; but it also found a majority of respondents believing that this was below expectations, and that the law was working badly.,P> So Republicans are spreading disinformation about health reform because it works, and because they can - there is no sign that they pay any political price when their accusations are proved false.

And that observation should scare you. What happens to the Congressional Budget Office if a party that has learned that lying about numbers works takes full control of Congress? What happens if it regains the White House, too? Nothing good, that's for sure.
(c) 2014 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"You made your rulers mighty, gave them guards, So now you groan 'neath slavery's heavy rod."
~~~ Solon ~ (638 BCE-558 BCE)

Cliven Bundy, a rancher embroiled in a land dispute with the federal government,
speaks to the reporters near Bunkerville, Nev., April 19, 2014.

Cliven Bundy: Clown Car Or Trojan Horse?
By William Rivers Pitt

The ongoing saga of freeloading Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is, on the surface, a perfect masterpiece of right-wing clown car stupidity. I'm sure you're already familiar with the story: Bundy, who refuses to acknowledge the existence of the federal government, has been grazing his cattle on federal lands for the last twenty years while refusing to pay grazing fees, said fees amounting to about the cost of a can of Campbell's tomato soup per cow. The feds ordered Bundy to pay the fees he owed, ordered him to get his cattle off publicly-owned property, and let him know when they would be coming to enforce these orders in person.

And that's when the clown car burst open. Between the end of March and April 10th, Bundy supporters whipped each other into a frenzy on social media, grabbed their AR-15s and AK-47s, and swooped down on the Bundy ranch to defend their newest freeloading patriot hero from the federal usurpers of the Bureau of Land Management. Once they arrived at the ranch, they were asked to sign in under a large banner that read "MILITA SIGHN IN," because of course that happened.

Fox News, and especially Sean Hannity, immediately began hyping the story all day and night, elevating Bundy to the status of instant Founding Father. How could they resist? Here was a guy who denies the existence of the US government while riding his horse on federal lands with an American flag strapped to his saddle. Cognitive dissonance is the meat and mead of Fox News, and the dissonance in that one image was weighty enough to bend the very light.

It took about two weeks for everything to go sideways.

First, Mr. Bundy delivered his now-infamous rant about Black people being happier picking cotton as slaves, a statement he doubled down on later by comparing himself to Rosa Parks before saying that if Black people didn't like his opinions, it's because "Martin Luther King hasn't gotten his job done yet."

Skreeeeeeech went the needle off the record. Every right-wing media personality and politician who had rushed to publicly embrace Cliven Bundy immediately fled his presence as if he were covered in Goliath tarantulas. I think there still may be a Hannity-shaped hole in the studio wall at Fox News.

His ardent gun-toting supporters at the ranch stood their ground...until a few days ago, when there was a sudden falling-out between Bundy's own ranch security - commanded by a man actually named Booda Bear - and a contingent of Oath Keepers who had come to the ranch because Jesus, or something. Their leader, one Stewart Rhodes, informed Booda Bear (God, I could type his name all day) that he had "intel" from a "source of intelligence of high value" that Eric Holder and the Justice Department were going to deploy a "hot drone strike" against the Bundy Ranch within the next 24 hours. Because of this, the fearless leader was forced to re-deploy his stalwart troops off the ranch and into hotels with room service back in town.

This did not sit well with Booda Bear, who told Radio Free Redoubt's John Jacob Schmidt, "This is a battle front in some sense of the word and to remove them is kind of, ah, that's some yellow curd, ya know, spineless backbone piece of shit maneuvering right there. He had pretty much said, 'Well, I need to pull my guys back so they can allocate resources to the exterior of the area,' meaning go into the next town and get hotel rooms, get showers, gamble, eat steak dinners, while we're out here on the battle front...and just so everybody knows, as Booda, head of security for the Bundy family, I can swear on the white skin that covers my ass there will not be an Oath Keeper - there WILL NOT BE AN OATH KEEPER allowed to set foot on the internal ranch property."

And so not with a bang, but with a Derp, solidarity at the Bundy ranch "battle front" fell to dust that swirled and eddied around the white skin of Booda Bear's ass.

It is all too easy to lay waste to this whole barge of absurdity with an avalanche of mockery, to blow it off, laugh it off, and enjoy the sight of Bundy's right-wing supporters heading for the hills after he went all jump-down-turn-around-pick-a-bale-of-cotton in a video that went viral in less time than it takes to misspell a banner.

But there's some very serious and troubling stuff here, and it cannot be ignored or buried beneath the eruption of stupid we've witnessed to date. First of all, these armed yahoos actually managed to successfully fend off federal agents who were attempting to uphold and execute the law. That sets a terrible precedent, one that will almost certainly inspire more armed yahoos to point rifles at people somewhere down the line. They're still on the Bundy ranch, they've started setting up "checkpoints" along the roads around the ranch, and the feds still have to execute those orders, so this thing is not over yet...

...and note you well: here in America, you can point a high-powered rifle at federal officers and get off scot-free with your gun still in your hand. Sit down at a peaceful Occupy protest on the campus of UC Davis in California, however, and you get a gushing face full of Mace for your trouble...while the cop who sprayed you gets $38,000 in compensation for anxiety and depression."

Far more insidious is the fact that, until he pulled his little "What, Me Racist?" number for all the world to see, Mr. Bundy's most dedicated supporters were a couple of billionaire brothers named Charles and David Koch. The Koch Brothers, if truth be told, could not give less of a damn about Cliven Bundy and his band of merry men, but until Bundy blew out like an old, racist tire, they were intensely interested in using him as the avatar for a fight they've been waging for twenty years: placing control of publicly-owned federal lands back into the hands of the states, so the states can lease or sell those lands to companies like Koch Industries for cattle grazing, mining, drilling, fracking, and lumbering.

Right now, those lands are protected from such activities, but the Koch Brothers were hoping to ride Cliven Bundy's cause to a massive land grab. The fact that Cliven Bundy upended the intentions of the Koch Brothers by being a racist idiot on television does not change their intentions one whit. They want to drill, to mine, to frack, and to profit off those lands that belong to us, for now.

So, as matters currently stand, Cliven Bundy can certainly be quantified as a human clown car. Do not, however, lose sight of the real story here: Mr. Bundy was also a Trojan Horse filled with Koch Industries drilling equipment until he blew it. Bundy may be gone from the news soon, but the Koch Brothers still want that land, because the world is not enough for guys like that, which is why, to no small degree, the rest of us can't have nice things like clean air and water that doesn't catch on fire coming out of the tap.
(c) 2014 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade

Keith Alexander Unplugged: On Bush/Obama, 1.7 Mllion Stolen Documents, et al.
By Glenn Greenwald

The just-retired long-time NSA chief, Gen. Keith Alexander, recently traveled to Australia to give a remarkably long and wide-ranging interview with an extremely sycophantic "interviewer" with The Australian Financial Review. The resulting 17,000-word transcript and accompanying article form a model of uncritical stenography journalism, but Alexander clearly chose to do this because he is angry, resentful, and feeling unfairly treated, and the result is a pile of quotes that are worth examining, only a few of which are noted below:

AFR: What were the key differences for you as director of NSA serving under presidents Bush and Obama? Did you have a preferred commander in chief?

Gen. Alexander: Obviously they come from different parties, they view things differently, but when it comes to the security of the nation and making those decisions about how to protect our nation, what we need to do to defend it, they are, ironically, very close to the same point. You would get almost the same decision from both of them on key questions about how to defend our nation from terrorists and other threats.

The almost-complete continuity between George W. Bush and Barack Obama on such matters has been explained by far too many senior officials in both parties, and has been amply documented in far too many venues, to make it newsworthy when it happens again. Still, the fact that one of the nation's most powerful generals in history, who has no incentive to say it unless it were true, just comes right out and states that Bush and The Candidate of Change are "very close to the same point" and "you would get almost the same decision from both of them on key questions" is a fine commentary on a number of things, including how adept the 2008 Obama team was at the art of branding.

The fact that Obama, in 2008, specifically vowed to his followers angered over his campaign-season NSA reversal that he possessed "the firm intention -once I'm sworn in as president -to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future" only makes that point a bit more vivid.

AFR: Can you now quantify the number of documents [Snowden] stole?

Gen. Alexander: Well, I don't think anybody really knows what he actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don't have an accurate way of counting. What we do have an accurate way of counting is what he touched, what he may have downloaded, and that was more than a million documents.

It's hard to recall a better and clearer example of how mindless and uncritical the American media is when it comes to the unproven pronouncements of the U.S. Government. Back in December, 60 Minutes broadcast a now-notorious segment of pure access journalism in which they gullibly disseminated one false NSA claim after the next in exchange for being given exclusive(!) access to a few Secret and Exciting Rooms inside the agency's headquarters. The program claimed that Snowden "is believed to still have access to 1.5 million classified documents he has not leaked." On its Twitter account, 60 Minutes made this claim to promote its show:
How Edward Snowden managed to steal an alleged 1.7 million documents from the NSA. Sunday:

-60 Minutes (@60Minutes) December 13, 2013

Mike McConnell, the vice chairman of Booz Allen and former Director of National Intelligence in the Bush administration, then claimed that "Snowden absconded with 1.7 million to 1.8 million documents."

Ever since then, that Snowden "stole" 1.7 or 1.8 million documents from the NSA has been repeated over and over again by US media outlets as verified fact. The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, citing an anonymous official source, purported to tell readers that "among the roughly 1.7 million documents he walked away with -the vast majority of which have not been made public -are highly sensitive, specific intelligence reports." Reuters frequently includes in its reports"Snowden was believed to have taken 1.7 million computerized documents." Just this week, the global news agency told its readers that "Snowden was believed to have taken 1.7 million computerized documents."

In fact, that number is and always has been a pure fabrication, as even Keith Alexander admits. The claimed number has changed more times than one can count: always magically morphing into randomly chosen higher and scarier numbers. The reality, in the words of the General, is that the US Government "really [doesn't] know[] what he actually took with him" and they "don't have an accurate way of counting." All they know is how many documents he accessed in his entire career at NSA, which is a radically different question from how many documents he took. But that hasn't stopped American media outlets from repeatedly affirming the inflammatory evidence-free claim that Snowden took 1.7 million documents. As usual, even the most blatantly unreliable claims from National Security State officials are treated as infallible papal pronouncements by our Adversarial Watchdog Press.

There's an equally vital point made by Alexander's admission. The primary defense of the NSA and its defenders is that one need not worry about the staggering sums of data they collect because they have implemented very rigorous oversight mechanisms and controls that prevent abuse. Yet Edward Snowden spent months downloading a large amount of highly sensitive documents right under their noses. And not only did they have no idea that he was doing it, but now - even after spending large sums of money to find out - they are still completely incapable of learning which documents he took or even how many he took. Does that at all sound like a well-managed, tightly controlled system that you can trust to safeguard your most personal data and to detect and prevent abuse of this system by the tens of thousands of people who have access to it?

AFR: What is your personal opinion on the decision to award a Pulitzer Prize to the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers for their "revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy?

Gen. Alexander: I'm greatly disappointed that we have rewarded those who have put so many lives at risk. I think that's the best way to say that. . . . At the end of the day, I believe peoples' lives will be lost because of the Snowden leaks because we will not be able to protect them with capabilities that were once effective but are now being rendered ineffective because of these revelations.

There are few things in life more ironic than being accused by U.S. Generals, including those who participated in the war in Iraq, of being responsible for the loss of lives. For that sort of irony, nothing will beat that episode where the US Pentagon chief and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that WikiLeaks - not themselves, but WikiLeaks - has "blood on its hands" by virtue of publishing documents about the U.S. war in Afghanistan. In the world of the U.S. National Security State and its loyal media, those who go around the world killing innocent people over and over are noble and heroic, while those who report on what they do are the ones with "blood on their hands."

But what makes this claim so remarkable is how often it is made and how false it always turns out to be. The accusation about WikiLeaks was ultimately demonstrated to be false. The same was true of the identical claim made about NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, and the leaker who exposed the Bush-era warrantless eavesdropping program, and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, and virtually every other person who has brought unwanted transparency to what the U.S. Government is doing in the dark. But accusing whistleblowers and journalists of causing the deaths of innocent people is a tactic people like Gen. Alexander continue to embrace because it's virtually never pointed out by our stalwart media how many times that claim has been proven to be an utter fabrication.

* * * * *

The release date for my book on the NSA, privacy, and our reporting of the surveillance story, No Place To Hide, is next Tuesday, May 13, at which time all of the previously unpublished NSA documents that are reported on in the book will be placed online, with free access, at the book's website.
(c) 2014 Glenn Greenwald. is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth book, No Place to Hide, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world, will be released in April 2014. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn's column was featured at Guardian US and Salon. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book"How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

The Dead Letter Office...

Roy gives the corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear Oberrichter Moore

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge John (the enforcer) Roberts.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your attempts to make Christianity Alabama's official religion and placing your mythological laws above US law, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

From 1979 to 2011, the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent,
while the average income of the top 1 percent grew over 10 times as much-by 200.5 percent.

The Four Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Inequality
By Robert Reich

Even though French economist Thomas Piketty has made an air-tight case that we're heading toward levels of inequality not seen since the days of the nineteenth-century robber barons, right-wing conservatives haven't stopped lying about what's happening and what to do about it.

Herewith, the four biggest right-wing lies about inequality, followed by the truth.

Lie number one: The rich and CEOs are America's job creators. So we dare not tax them.

The truth is the middle class and poor are the job-creators through their purchases of goods and services. If they don't have enough purchasing power because they're not paid enough, companies won't create more jobs and economy won't grow.

We've endured the most anemic recovery on record because most Americans don't have enough money to get the economy out of first gear. The economy is barely growing and real wages continue to drop.

We keep having false dawns. An average of 200,000 jobs were created in the United States over the last three months, but huge numbers of Americans continue to drop out of the labor force.

Lie number two: People are paid what they're worth in the market. So we shouldn't tamper with pay.

The facts contradict this. CEOs who got 30 times the pay of typical workers forty years ago now get 300 times their pay not because they've done such a great job but because they control their compensation committees and their stock options have ballooned.

Meanwhile, most American workers earn less today than they did forty years ago, adjusted for inflation, not because they're working less hard now but because they don't have strong unions bargaining for them.

More than a third of all workers in the private sector were unionized forty years ago; now, fewer than 7 percent belong to a union.

Lie number three: Anyone can make it in America with enough guts, gumption, and intelligence. So we don't need to do anything for poor and lower-middle class kids.

The truth is we do less than nothing for poor and lower-middle class kids. Their schools don't have enough teachers or staff, their textbooks are outdated, they lack science labs, their school buildings are falling apart.

We're the only rich nation to spend less educating poor kids than we do educating kids from wealthy families.

All told, 42 percent of children born to poor families will still be in poverty as adults - a higher percent than in any other advanced nation.

Lie number four: Increasing the minimum wage will result in fewer jobs. So we shouldn't raise it.

In fact, studies show that increases in the minimum wage put more money in the pockets of people who will spend it - resulting in more jobs, and counteracting any negative employment effects of an increase in the minimum.

Three of my colleagues here at the University of California at Berkeley - Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester, and Michael Reich - have compared adjacent counties and communities across the United States, some with higher minimum wages than others but similar in every other way.

They found no loss of jobs in those with the higher minimums.

The truth is, America's lurch toward widening inequality can be reversed. But doing so will require bold political steps.

At the least, the rich must pay higher taxes in order to pay for better-quality education for kids from poor and middle-class families. Labor unions must be strengthened, especially in lower-wage occupations, in order to give workers the bargaining power they need to get better pay. And the minimum wage must be raised.

Don't listen to the right-wing lies about inequality. Know the truth, and act on it.
(c) 2014 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27.

The Divide: American Injustice In The Age Of The Wealth Gap
By Matt Taibbi

An excerpt from Matts new book "THE DIVIDE: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap."

Over the course of the last twenty years or so, America has been falling deeper and deeper into a bizarre statistical mystery.

Take in the following three pieces of information, and see if you can make them fit together.

First, violent crime has been dropping precipitously for nearly two decades. At its peak in 1991, according to FBI data, there were 758 violent crimes per 100,000 people. By 2010 that number had plunged to 425 crimes per 100,000, a drop of more than 44 percent.

The decrease covered all varieties of serious crime, from murder to assault to rape to armed robbery. The graphs depicting the decline show a long, steady downswing, one that doesn't jump from year to year but consistently slumps from year to year.

Second: although poverty rates largely declined during the 1990s, offering at least one possible explanation for the drop in violent crime, poverty rates rose sharply during the 2000s. At the start of that decade, poverty levels hovered just above 10 percent. By 2008 they were up to 13.2 percent. By 2009 the number was 14.3 percent. By 2010, 15.3 percent.

All this squares with what most people who lived in Middle America knew, and know, instinctively. Despite what we're being told about a post-2008 recovery, despite what the rising stock market seems to indicate, the economy is mostly worse, real incomes are mostly declining, and money is mostly scarcer.

But throughout all this time, violent crime has gone down. It continues to decline today. Counterintuitively, more poverty has not created more crime.

The third piece of information that makes no sense is that during this same period of time, the prison population in America has exploded. In 1991 there were about one million Americans behind bars. By 2012 the number was over 2.2 million, a more than 100 percent increase.

Our prison population, in fact, is now the biggest in the history of human civilization. There are more people in the United States either on parole or in jail today (around 6 million total) than there ever were at any time in Stalin's gulags. For what it's worth, there are also more black men in jail right now than there were in slavery at its peak.

See if this syllogism works, then.

Poverty goes up;

Crime goes down;

Prison population doubles.

It doesn't fit, unless some sort of alternative explanation comes into play. Maybe all those new nonviolent prisoners fit into some new national policy imperative. Maybe they all broke some new set of unwritten societal rules. But what?

While on a visit to San Diego to do research for this book, I heard a crazy story.

The subject was the city's P100 program, under which anyone who applied for welfare could have his or her home searched preemptively by the state. Ostensibly, authorities were looking for evidence that the applicant had a secret job or a boyfriend who could pay bills, or was just generally lying about something in order to cheat the taxpayer out of that miserable few hundred bucks a month.

One Vietnamese woman, a refugee and a rape victim who had only recently come to America, applied for welfare in San Diego. An inspector came to her door, barged in, and began rifling through her belongings. At one point, he reached into her underwear drawer and began sifting around. Sneering, he used the tip of the pencil eraser to pull out a pair of sexy panties and looked at her accusingly. If she didn't have a boyfriend, what did she need these for?

That image, of a welfare inspector sneeringly holding up panties with a pencil end, expresses all sorts of things at once. The main thing is contempt. The implication is that someone broke enough to ask the taxpayer for a handout shouldn't have sex, much less sexy panties.

The other thing here is an idea that being that poor means you should naturally give up any ideas you might have about privacy or dignity. The welfare applicant is less of a person for being financially dependent (and a generally unwelcome immigrant from a poor country to boot), so she naturally has fewer rights.

No matter how offensive the image is, it has a weird logic that's irresistible to many if not most Americans. Even if we don't agree with it, we all get it.

And that's the interesting part, the part where we all get it. More and more often, we all make silent calculations about who is entitled to what rights, and who is not. It's not as simple as saying everyone is the same under the law anymore. We all know there's another layer to it now.

As a very young man, I studied the Russian language in Leningrad, in the waning days of the Soviet empire. One of the first things I noticed about that dysfunctional wreck of a lunatic country was that it had two sets of laws, one written and one unwritten. The written laws were meaningless, unless you violated one of the unwritten laws, at which point they became all-important.

So, for instance, possessing dollars or any kind of hard currency was technically forbidden, yet I never met a Soviet citizen who didn't have them. The state just happened to be very selective about enforcing its anticommerce laws. So the teenage farsovshik (black market trader) who sold rabbit hats in exchange for blue jeans outside my dorm could be arrested for having three dollars in his pocket, but a city official could openly walk down Nevsky Avenue with a brand-new Savile Row suit on his back, and nothing would happen.

Everyone understood this hypocrisy implicitly, almost at a cellular level, far beneath thought. For a Russian in Soviet times, navigating every moment of citizenship involved countless silent calculations of this type. But the instant people were permitted to think about all this and question the unwritten rules out loud, it was like the whole country woke up from a dream, and the system fell apart in a matter of months. That happened before my eyes in 1990 and 1991, and I never forgot it.

Now I feel like I'm living that process in reverse, watching my own country fall into a delusion in the same way the Soviets once woke up from one. People are beginning to become disturbingly comfortable with a kind of official hypocrisy. Bizarrely, for instance, we've become numb to the idea that rights aren't absolute but are enjoyed on a kind of sliding scale.
(c) 2014 Matt Taibbi

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ David Horsey ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

In Landmark Decision, Supreme Court Strikes Down Main Reason Country Was Started
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - In what legal experts are calling a landmark decision, on Monday the United States Supreme Court struck down what many believe to be the main reason the country was started.

By a five-to-four vote, the Court eliminated what grade-school children have traditionally been taught was one of the key rationales for founding the United States in the first place.

"The separation of church and state has been a cornerstone of American democracy for over two hundred years," said Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority. "Getting rid of it was long overdue."

Calling the decision "historic," Justice Antonin Scalia was guarded in predicting what the Court might accomplish next. "Last year, we gutted the Voting Rights Act, and today we did the First Amendment," he said. "We'll just have to see what's left."
(c) 2014 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 14 # 18 (c) 05/09/2014

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

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