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In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald with a must read, 'The Snowden Saga Begins: 'I Have Been To the Darkest Corners Of Government, And What They Fear Is Light.'"

Uri Avnery sees, "A National Hero."

Glen Ford with another brilliant essay, "Kidnapped Girls Become Tools Of U.S. Imperial Policy In Africa."

Pepe Escobar concludes, "Putin Displays Ukraine Chess Mastery."

Jim Hightower reveals, "The GOP's Minimum Wage Nuttiness."

David Swanson considers, "Possibly The Biggest Unknown Known Risks Exposure."

James Donahue warns of, "The Insanity Of Destroying Our Fresh Water."

John Nichols wonders, "Democrat? Green? Independent? The 'Run Bernie Run' Jockeying."

Chris Hedges reminds us of, "The Power Of Imagination."

David Sirota tells, "An LA Story That's All Too Familiar."

Paul Krugman explains, "Crazy Climate Economics."

Medea Benjamin gives, "10 Reasons To Love Uruguay's President Jose Mujica."

Ryan Gallagher finds, "British Spies Face Legal Action Over Secret Hacking Programs."

Pam Bailey and the Grocery Manufacturers Association wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich examines, "The Six Principles Of The New Populism (And The Establishment's Nightmare)."

Frank Scott explores an, "Economic Hate Crime."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Poll: 56% Of Voters Say Country Better Off Than It Was 4 Eons Ago" but first Uncle Ernie sees Barry going, "Tit For Tat."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Taylor Jones, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Laura Poitras, Keith Tucker, Clay Bennett, Elizabeth Parker, Rich Pedroncelli, John William Waterhouse, Charles Henry Granger, Barry Batchelor, Pable Porciuncula, AFP/Getty, PA Wire, USAF, Parker Brothers, AOL, AP, The Onion, 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."

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Tit For Tat
By Ernest Stewart

"This exercise provides unique training opportunities to incorporate the most current technology and techniques in support of our mission. Continued focus and investment in our strategic capabilities allow USSTRATCOM to deter, dissuade, and defeat current and future threats to the U.S. and our allies." ~~~ Admiral Cecil Haney, commander, U.S. Strategic Command.

"The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable. The fact that the retreat is happening simultaneously over a large sector suggests it was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating sections of the glaciers. At this point, the end of this sector appears to be inevitable, a conservative estimate is it could take several centuries for all of the ice to flow into the sea." ~~~ Eric Rignot, of UC Irvine and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

"I am very proud that Vermont is taking the lead in a growing national movement to allow the people of our country to know what is in the food they eat. GMO labeling exists in dozens of countries around the world and should exist in the United States." ~~~ Senator Bernie Sanders

"Success follows those who champion a cause greater than themselves." ~~~ George Alexiou

From our "What Goes Around, Comes Around" Department, the Pentagoons announced on Sunday that the "U.S. Strategic Command this week is conducting a massive nuclear arms drill designed to deter and detect strategic attacks on the United States and allies." Ten B-52 heavy bombers and six B-2 bombers are slated to take part in the "nuclear deterrence" exercise.

A Sunday press release announcing the May 12-16 "Global Lightning" exercise explicitly noted that the event's timing is "unrelated to real-world events." You may recall, however, that Russia on Thursday conducted its own large-scale nuclear response drill under the supervision of President Putin. That exercise was widely promoted in Russian media and included the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile and submarine-fired ballistic missiles.

"Exercise Global Lightning 14 has been planned for more than a year and is based on a national scenario," U.S. Strategic Command said. And if you buy that folks, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might want to consider buying, too! It's a great little moneymaker!

You old folks may remember a way back to 1962 and the "Missiles of October" where Kennedy and Khrushchev fumbled around and almost started WWIII. Why am I having a deja vu all over again about Vlad and Barry? Neither of which, when it comes to foreign policies, is playing with a full deck. Let's all hope that Putin doesn't raise the ante over "Global Lightning!"

In Other News

More bad news on the global warming front this time from NASA. According to NASA:

"A rapidly melting glacial region of Antarctica has passed 'the point of no return,' threatening to increase sea levels. The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable," said Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA estimates the glaciers, in the Amundsen Sea region, contain enough water to raise global sea levels by 4 feet. United Nations researchers in September said sea levels "have risen by 19 centimeters (7.5 inches) since the Industrial Revolution, and may rise an additional 26 centimeters to 98 centimeters by 2100."

"This sector will be a major contributor to sea level rise in the decades and centuries to come," Rignot said in the statement. "A conservative estimate is it could take several centuries for all of the ice to flow into the sea."

The trouble is that when it does melt this little section of Antarctica, ice pack will raise sea levels by 13 feet; this will, for example, put most of Florida underwater -- not to mention parts of Manhattan and thousands of miles of world coastal areas as well as putting many South Sea Islands completely underwater -- and it's reached a point where this is unstoppable! Did I mention this is just a drop in the bucket of all the glacier ice in Antarctica? You may recall that back in the day Antarctica was ice-free and had dinosaurs!

"The alarming thing about the glacial evidence is that the rate of change is happening at a human timeframe as opposed to a geological timeframe," said John Skalbeck, a professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. "It's the rate of change that has geoscientists most alarmed. We've not seen these types of rates from the geological past."

Do you remember those time estimates on global warming from just ten or even five years ago? Predicting things that would happen in 50 or 100 years; those same things are happening right now! Remember? As Bette Davis said in "All About Eve," "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!" Better strap yourself in tight, America!

And Finally

I see where the criminals over at the Grocery Manufacturers Association are going full steam after Vermont had the gall to require their clientele label all the various GMO poisons in their food. After several wins in keeping GMO labeling down in several states, the tide has finally turned and the dominoes are beginning to fall for labeling!

They suggest that they're not really against labeling, but don't want 50 different laws for America, and suggest we go to the FDA and Con-gress to get a standard law. Of course, they know that there's absolutely no chance of that happening as they have bought and paid for the FDA and Con-gress to keep from doing what 90% of America wants! So you know what I did, right? I wrote their spoke-weasel Brian Kennedy the following note!

Hey Brian,

I guess they must pay you a fortune, a lot more than the standard 30 pieces of silver for being their spokes-weasel and the focus of all that hate? I bet you get a 1000 emails a day from folks giving you and the corpo-rats their thoughts and their hatred for you fronting for them poisoning our food with GMOs. And since, finally, all of your money couldn't stop one of the states from passing a law that makes your corpo-rats label their foods containing GMOs, you're up telling more lies with your pathetic damage control. You sure are going to be busy with Vermont being the first in 50 dominoes to fall! One would've thought if GMOs were the boon to mankind you say they are, you'd insist on GMOs being labeled to show your pride -- instead of doing everything your money can buy from Con-gress and the FDA -- so your clients can continue making that extra penny by using these poisons instead of regular food.

Sure, we'd like a federal GMO labeling law; but since you and your corpo-rat pals own the FDA and all of "Foggy Bottom," there's no chance of that happening; so we'll take our victories one at a time, whereever we can get them, until the corpo-rats get rid of their poisons in our food supply.

Ergo, it's my pleasure to inform you the Grocery Manufacturers Association CEO Pam Bailey wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award! This is our weekly award for the biggest traitor, or in this case, traitors, in America. Congratulations, Pam; I bet your mother is so proud! Consider, Brian, that at this point, a honorable man, would fall on his sword!

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine
P.S. I eat nothing but organics and I bet you do too, huh Brian?

You can leave Brian and Pam your thoughts by emailing them at:

In case you are wondering what Corpo-rats are fighting labeling laws so that they can continue poisoning us, here they are...

A.T. Kearney, AB SCIEX, Abbott Nutrition, Accenture, ACH Food Companies, Acosta Sales & Marketing Company, Advantage Sales and Marketing, Aimia, American Spoon Foods, AmeriQual Foods, Andros UK Limited, Aon Risk Solutions, Ardagh Group, Aurora Organic Dairy, Azuma Foods International, B&G Foods, Bain & Company, Ball Corporation, Barilla America, Basic American Foods, Bayer CropScience, BeaconUnited, Bell-Carter Foods, Bellisio Foods, Bemis Company, Beverage House, Big Island Candies, Bimbo Bakeries USA, bioMerieux, Blue Diamond Growers, Booz & Company, Boycott, Bruce Foods Corporation, Bumble Bee Foods, Bunge North America, Burdette Beckmann, Burris Logistics, Bush Brothers & Company, Buycott, C. H. Guenther & Son, C.B. Powell, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, California Natural Products, Campbell Soup Company, Can Corporation of America, Capgemini Consulting, Cargill, Carlton Fields, Catalina, CEO Search Partners, CHEP, Chiquita/Fresh Express, Clabber Girl Corporation, Clement Pappas & Company, Clemmy's, Colgate-Palmolive Company, ConAgra Foods, Consorcio CĂ­tricos Dominicanos, Continental Mills, Corporation, Covance Laboratories, CRA, Creative Foodworks, CROSSMARK, Crown Holdings, Cyba Stevens Management Group, D.D. Williamson & Co., Daymon Worldwide, Dean Foods Company, Decernis, Del Monte Foods Company, DelGrosso Foods, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Diamond Foods, Dole Packaged Foods Company, Dow AgroSciences, DSC Logistics, DSM Nutritional Products, dunnhumby USA, Durrset Amigos, E. & J. Gallo Winery, Ecolab USA, El Encanto, Elanco, Energizer Holdings, Ernst & Young LLP, ES3, Eurofins Scientific, Exponent, Faribault Foods, Ferrero USA, Florida Products, Flowers Foods, Foster Clark Products Ltd., Freight Handlers, Furmano Foods, GE, GENCO, General Mills, Georgia-Pacific, Giorgio Foods, GMA, gmo, GMO Labeling, Godiva Chocolatier, Golden Specialty Foods, Gossner Foods, Goya de Puerto Rico, Goya Foods Great Lakes, Grandma Brown's Beans, Grant Thornton LLP, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Grocery Manufacturers Association, H.J. Heinz Company, Hanover Foods Corporation, Hardy & Bacon LLP, Harlow-HRK Sales & Marketing, Hewlett-Packard Company, Hirzel Canning Company, Hoopeston Foods, Hormel Foods Corporation, House-Autry Mills, HRCP, Hunt Executive Search, Hussmann Corporation, I-522, icix, Idahoan Foods, Infor, Inmar, Intermec Technologies Corporation, Inventure Foods, IRI, Jasper Products, JBT FoodTech, JDA Software, JOH, Johnson Foods, Jones-Hamilton Company, Jyoti Natural Foods, Kagome, Kane Is Able, Kellogg Company, Kerry Ingredients & Flavours, Kikkoman Foods, Knouse Foods Cooperative, KPMG LLP, Kraft Foods Group, Lakeside Foods, Land O'Lakes, Lang Pharma Nutrition, Large & Singer, LDS Church, LLamasoft, Lowenstein Sandler PC, Marakon, Mariani Packing Company, Mars, Martek Biosciences Corporation, McCain Foods, McCormick & Company, McDonald's Corporation, McIlhenny Company, McKinsey & Company, Mead Johnson Nutrition Company, MeadWestvaco Corporation, Merisant Company, Michael Foods, Microsoft Corporation, MOM Brands, Mondelez Global, Monsanto Company, Monterey Mushrooms, Moody Dunbar, Morgan Foods, Morton Salt, Mosaic Sales Solutions, Musco Family Olive Co., Nampak, National Fruit Product Company, Nestle, Niagara Bottling, Nielsen, North America, Nu-Tek Food Science, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Old Dominion Freight Line, Oracle, Oregon Fruit Products Company, Owens-Illinois, Oy Transmeri Ab, Paradise Tomato Kitchens, PBM Products, PECO Pallet, Pepsico, Peravia Industrial, Perrigo Nutritionals, Pfizer Nutrition, Pharmavite, Pinnacle Foods Group, Pinterest, Post Foods, POWER Engineers, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Procurian, Protest, QAD, QMI-SAI Global, Ralston Foods, Reckitt Benckiser, Rehrig Pacific Company, Reily Foods Company, Resource, Retail Solutions, Rich Products Corporation, River Run Foods, Robert Rothschild Farm, Rockwell Automation, Roka Bioscience, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, Ruiz Foods, RW3 Incorporated, S.C. Johnson & Son, Safeway,, SAP Americas, Saticoy Foods Corporation, Schawk, Seafood Products Association, Sealed Air Corporation, SellEthics Marketing Group, Shearer's Foods, Shook, Siemens AG, Signature Brands, Silgan Containers Corporation, Silliker, Smithfield Foods, Snyder's-Lance, Solae, Sonoco Products Company, Southern Classic Food Group, Starbucks Coffee Company, Stericycle ExpertRECALL, Strategic Solutions, Sun-Maid Growers of California, Suncore Products, Sunny Delight Beverages Company, Syngenta Corporation, Target Corporation, Tasty Baking Company, Tata Consultancy Services, TelerX Marketing, Teradata Corporation, Terra Technology, Tetra Pak, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, The Boston Consulting Group, The Clorox Company, The Coca-Cola Company, The Hershey Company, The Hillshire Brands Company, The Integer Group, The J. M. Smucker Company, The Mushroom Company, The National Food Laboratory, The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley, The Procter & Gamble Company, The Sun Products Corporation, The United States Pharmacopeial Convention, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Thomas, Tip Top Canning Company, Traitor Brands, Tree Top, TreeHouse Foods, Two Chefs on a Roll, U.S. Bank, Unilever, University of Phoenix, Vanee Foods Company, VWR International, Waste Management, Waters Corporation, Welch Foods, WhiteWave Foods Company, Wipro Technologies, Wm Bolthouse Farms, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company.

Feel free to boycott all of them!

Keepin' On

What a difference a week makes! We'd like to thank Bernice from Michigan, a first timer, for sending in a nice check! Thanks Bernice! And if I'm not mistaken a very nice donation from Dr. Phil or more likely from Mr. Jack, (I get those two confused) both of them are "Usual Suspects!" I'm guessing it was either Dr. Phil or Mr. Jack as it came from a Cassville Ga. zip code and not from their zip code but did come in their handwriting! Either way these two donations put us well on the way to paying at least one of our bills! So thanks Ya'll for the help.

If I could get the rest of the Usual Suspects to make a similar donation we could pay off all three bills and be set for another year. If you'd like to see us continue the fight against the "dark side" and you're wondering what to do with that fat refund check from Uncle Sam I have a few thoughts on that subject, that I'd like to share! Can you guess what they are? I knew that you could! You might want to consider keeping us fighting for your rights by sending in a donation via, cash, check or money order!

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!


02-05-1940 ~ 05-12-2014
Thanks for the art!

03-26-1948 ~ 05-12-2014
Thanks for the music!

09-14-1977 ~ 05-13-2014
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.

The Snowden Saga Begins: "I Have Been To the Darkest Corners Of Government, And What They Fear Is Light"
By Glenn Greenwald

This essay is a shortened and adapted version of Chapter 1 of Glenn Greenwald's new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Security State.

On December 1, 2012, I received my first communication from Edward Snowden, although I had no idea at the time that it was from him.

The contact came in the form of an email from someone calling himself Cincinnatus, a reference to Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the Roman farmer who, in the fifth century BC, was appointed dictator of Rome to defend the city against attack. He is most remembered for what he did after vanquishing Rome's enemies: he immediately and voluntarily gave up political power and returned to farming life. Hailed as a "model of civic virtue," Cincinnatus has become a symbol of the use of political power in the public interest and the worth of limiting or even relinquishing individual power for the greater good.

The email began: "The security of people's communications is very important to me," and its stated purpose was to urge me to begin using PGP encryption so that "Cincinnatus" could communicate things in which, he said, he was certain I would be interested. Invented in 1991, PGP stands for "pretty good privacy." It has been developed into a sophisticated tool to shield email and other forms of online communications from surveillance and hacking.

In this email, "Cincinnatus" said he had searched everywhere for my PGP "public key," a unique code set that allows people to receive encrypted email, but could not find it. From this, he concluded that I was not using the program and told me, "That puts anyone who communicates with you at risk. I'm not arguing that every communication you are involved in be encrypted, but you should at least provide communicants with that option."

"Cincinnatus" then referenced the sex scandal of General David Petraeus, whose career-ending extramarital affair with journalist Paula Broadwell was discovered when investigators found Google emails between the two. Had Petraeus encrypted his messages before handing them over to Gmail or storing them in his drafts folder, he wrote, investigators would not have been able to read them. "Encryption matters, and it is not just for spies and philanderers."

"There are people out there you would like to hear from," he added, "but they will never be able to contact you without knowing their messages cannot be read in transit." Then he offered to help me install the program. He signed off: "Thank you. C."

Using encryption software was something I had long intended to do. I had been writing for years about WikiLeaks, whistleblowers, the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous, and had also communicated with people inside the U.S. national security establishment. Most of them are concerned about the security of their communications and preventing unwanted monitoring. But the program is complicated, especially for someone who had very little skill in programming and computers, like me. So it was one of those things I had never gotten around to doing.

C.'s email did not move me to action. Because I had become known for covering stories the rest of the media often ignores, I frequently hear from all sorts of people offering me a "huge story," and it usually turns out to be nothing. And at any given moment I am usually working on more stories than I can handle. So I need something concrete to make me drop what I'm doing in order to pursue a new lead.

Three days later, I heard from C. again, asking me to confirm receipt of the first email. This time I replied quickly. "I got this and am going to work on it. I don't have a PGP code, and don't know how to do that, but I will try to find someone who can help me."

C. replied later that day with a clear, step-by-step guide to PGP: Encryption for Dummies, in essence. At the end of the instructions, he said these were just "the barest basics." If I couldn't find anyone to walk me through the system, he added, "let me know. I can facilitate contact with people who understand crypto almost anywhere in the world."

This email ended with more a pointed sign-off: "Cryptographically yours, Cincinnatus."

Despite my intentions, I did nothing, consumed as I was at the time with other stories, and still unconvinced that C. had anything worthwhile to say.

In the face of my inaction, C. stepped up his efforts. He produced a 10-minute video entitled PGP for Journalists.

It was at that point that C., as he later told me, became frustrated. "Here am I," he thought, "ready to risk my liberty, perhaps even my life, to hand this guy thousands of Top Secret documents from the nation's most secretive agency -- a leak that will produce dozens if not hundreds of huge journalistic scoops. And he can't even be bothered to install an encryption program."

That's how close I came to blowing off one of the largest and most consequential national security leaks in U.S. history.

"He's Real"

The next I heard of any of this was 10 weeks later. On April 18th, I flew from my home in Rio de Janeiro to New York, and saw on landing at JFK Airport, that I had an email from Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker. "Any chance you'll be in the U.S. this coming week?" she wrote. "I'd love to touch base about something, though best to do in person."

I take seriously any message from Laura Poitras. I replied immediately: "Actually, just got to the U.S. this morning... Where are you?" We arranged a meeting for the next day in the lobby at my hotel and found seats in the restaurant. At Laura's insistence, we moved tables twice before beginning our conversation to be sure that nobody could hear us. Laura then got down to business. She had an "extremely important and sensitive matter" to discuss, she said, and security was critical.

First, though, Laura asked that I either remove the battery from my cell phone or leave it in my hotel room. "It sounds paranoid," she said, but the government has the capability to activate cell phones and laptops remotely as eavesdropping devices. I'd heard this before from transparency activists and hackers but tended to write it off as excess caution. After discovering that the battery on my cell phone could not be removed, I took it back to my room, then returned to the restaurant.

Now Laura began to talk. She had received a series of anonymous emails from someone who seemed both honest and serious. He claimed to have access to some extremely secret and incriminating documents about the U.S. government spying on its own citizens and on the rest of the world. He was determined to leak these documents to her and had specifically requested that she work with me on releasing and reporting on them.

Laura then pulled several pages out of her purse from two of the emails sent by the anonymous leaker, and I read them at the table from start to finish. In the second of the emails, the leaker got to the crux of what he viewed as his mission:

The shock of this initial period [after the first revelations] will provide the support needed to build a more equal internet, but this will not work to the advantage of the average person unless science outpaces law. By understanding the mechanisms through which our privacy is violated, we can win here. We can guarantee for all people equal protection against unreasonable search through universal laws, but only if the technical community is willing to face the threat and commit to implementing over-engineered solutions. In the end, we must enforce a principle whereby the only way the powerful may enjoy privacy is when it is the same kind shared by the ordinary: one enforced by the laws of nature, rather than the policies of man.
"He's real," I said when I finished reading. "I can't explain exactly why, but I just feel intuitively that this is serious, that he's exactly who he says he is."

"So do I," Laura replied. "I have very little doubt."

I instinctively recognized the author's political passion. I felt a kinship with our correspondent, with his worldview, and with the sense of urgency that was clearly consuming him.

In one of the last passages, Laura's correspondent wrote that he was completing the final steps necessary to provide us with the documents. He needed another four to six weeks, and we should wait to hear from him.

Three days later, Laura and I met again, and with another email from the anonymous leaker, in which he explained why he was willing to risk his liberty, to subject himself to the high likelihood of a very lengthy prison term, in order to disclose these documents. Now I was even more convinced: our source was for real, but as I told my partner, David Miranda, on the flight home to Brazil, I was determined to put the whole thing out of my mind. "It may not happen. He could change his mind. He could get caught." David is a person of powerful intuition, and he was weirdly certain. "It's real. He's real. It's going to happen," he declared. "And it's going to be huge."

"I Have Only One Fear"

A message from Laura told me we needed to speak urgently, but only through OTR (off-the-record) chat, an encrypted instrument for talking online securely.

Her news was startling: we might have to travel to Hong Kong immediately to meet our source. I had assumed that our anonymous source was in Maryland or northern Virginia. What was someone with access to top-secret U.S. government documents doing in Hong Kong? What did Hong Kong have to do with any of this?

Answers would only come from the source himself. He was upset by the pace of things thus far, and it was critical that I speak to him directly, to assure him and placate his growing concerns. Within an hour, I received an email from Verax@******. Verax means "truth teller" in Latin. The subject line read, "Need to talk."

"I've been working on a major project with a mutual friend of ours," the email began. "You recently had to decline short-term travel to meet with me. You need to be involved in this story," he wrote. "Is there any way we can talk on short notice? I understand you don't have much in the way of secure infrastructure, but I'll work around what you have." He suggested that we speak via OTR and provided his user name.

My computer sounded a bell-like chime, signaling that the source had signed on. Slightly nervous, I clicked on his name and typed "hello." He answered, and I found myself speaking directly to someone who I assumed had, at that point, revealed a number of secret documents about U.S. surveillance programs and who wanted to reveal more.

"I'm willing to do what I have to do to report this," I said. The source -- whose name, place of employment, age, and all other attributes were still unknown to me -- asked if I would come to Hong Kong to meet him. I did not ask why he was there; I wanted to avoid appearing to be fishing for information and I assumed his situation was delicate. Whatever else was true, I knew that this person had resolved to carry out what the U.S. government would consider a very serious crime.

"Of course I'll come to Hong Kong," I said.

We spoke online that day for two hours, talking at length about his goal. I knew from the emails Laura had shown me that he felt compelled to tell the world about the massive spying apparatus the U.S. government was secretly building. But what did he hope to achieve?

"I want to spark a worldwide debate about privacy, Internet freedom, and the dangers of state surveillance," he said. "I'm not afraid of what will happen to me. I've accepted that my life will likely be over from my doing this. I'm at peace with that. I know it's the right thing to do." He then said something startling: "I want to identify myself as the person behind these disclosures. I believe I have an obligation to explain why I'm doing this and what I hope to achieve." He told me he had written a document that he wanted to post on the Internet when he outed himself as the source, a pro-privacy, anti-surveillance manifesto for people around the world to sign, showing that there was global support for protecting privacy.

"I only have one fear in doing all of this," he said, which is "that people will see these documents and shrug, that they'll say, 'We assumed this was happening and don't care.' The only thing I'm worried about is that I'll do all this to my life for nothing."

"I seriously doubt that will happen," I assured him, but I wasn't convinced I really believed that. I knew from my years of writing about NSA abuses that it can be hard to generate serious concern about secret state surveillance.

This felt different, but before I took off for Hong Kong, I wanted to see some documents so that I understood the types of disclosures the source was prepared to make.

I then spent a couple of days online as the source walked me through, step by step, how to install and use the programs I would need to see the documents.

I kept apologizing for my lack of proficiency, for having to take hours of his time to teach me the most basic aspects of secure communication. "No worries," he said, "most of this makes little sense. And I have a lot of free time right now."

Once the programs were all in place, I received a file containing roughly twenty-five documents: "Just a very small taste: the tip of the tip of the iceberg," he tantalizingly explained.

I unzipped the file, saw the list of documents, and randomly clicked on one of them. At the top of the page in red letters, a code appeared: "TOP SECRET//COMINT/NO FORN/."

This meant the document had been legally designated top secret, pertained to communications intelligence (COMINT), and was not for distribution to foreign nationals, including international organizations or coalition partners (NO FORN). There it was with incontrovertible clarity: a highly confidential communication from the NSA, one of the most secretive agencies in the world's most powerful government. Nothing of this significance had ever been leaked from the NSA, not in all the six-decade history of the agency. I now had a couple dozen such items in my possession. And the person I had spent hours chatting with over the last two days had many, many more to give me.

As Laura and I arrived at JFK Airport to board a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong, Laura pulled a thumb drive out of her backpack. "Guess what this is?" she asked with a look of intense seriousness.


"The documents," she said. "All of them."


For the next 16 hours, despite my exhaustion, I did nothing but read, feverishly taking notes on document after document. One of the first I read was an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, which had been created by Congress in 1978, after the Church Committee discovered decades of abusive government eavesdropping. The idea behind its formation was that the government could continue to engage in electronic surveillance, but to prevent similar abuse, it had to obtain permission from the FISA court before doing so. I had never seen a FISA court order before. Almost nobody had. The court is one of the most secretive institutions in the government. All of its rulings are automatically designated top secret, and only a small handful of people are authorized to access its decisions.

The ruling I read on the plane to Hong Kong was amazing for several reasons. It ordered Verizon Business to turn over to the NSA "all call detail records" for "communications (i) between the United States and abroad; and (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls." That meant the NSA was secretly and indiscriminately collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans, at least. Virtually nobody had any idea that the Obama administration was doing any such thing. Now, with this ruling, I not only knew about it but had the secret court order as proof.

Only now did I feel that I was beginning to process the true magnitude of the leak. I had been writing for years about the threat posed by unconstrained domestic surveillance; my first book, published in 2006, warned of the lawlessness and radicalism of the NSA. But I had struggled against the great wall of secrecy shielding government spying: How do you document the actions of an agency so completely shrouded in multiple layers of official secrecy? At this moment, the wall had been breached. I had in my possession documents that the government had desperately tried to hide. I had evidence that would indisputably prove all that the government had done to destroy the privacy of Americans and people around the world.

In 16 hours of barely interrupted reading, I managed to get through only a small fraction of the archive. But as the plane landed in Hong Kong, I knew two things for certain. First, the source was highly sophisticated and politically astute, evident in his recognition of the significance of most of the documents. He was also highly rational. The way he chose, analyzed, and described the thousands of documents I now had in my possession proved that. Second, it would be very difficult to deny his status as a classic whistleblower. If disclosing proof that top-level national security officials lied outright to Congress about domestic spying programs doesn't make one indisputably a whistleblower, then what does?

Shortly before landing, I read one final file. Although it was entitled "README_FIRST," I saw it for the first time only at the very end of the flight. This message was an explanation from the source for why he had chosen to do what he did and what he expected to happen as a result -- and it included one fact that the others did not: the source's name.

"I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end. I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon, and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed for even an instant. If you seek to help, join the open source community and fight to keep the spirit of the press alive and the internet free. I have been to the darkest corners of government, and what they fear is light.

Edward Joseph Snowden, SSN: ***** CIA Alias "***** " Agency Identification Number: ***** Former Senior Advisor | United States National Security Agency, under corporate cover Former Field Officer | United States Central Intelligence Agency, under diplomatic cover Former Lecturer | United States Defense Intelligence Agency, under corporate cover."

(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: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Security State. has just been released. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn's column was featured at Guardian US and Salon. His last bookbook 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.

A National Hero
By Uri Avnery

JUST BEFORE Israel's 66th Independence Day, the country acquired a new national hero.

If it is true that every nation gets the national heroes it deserves, it was a rather worrying spectacle.

THE VIDEO clip that turned David Adamov from an anonymous soldier into a national figure was taken with a Palestinian camera in Hebron.

Such video cameras have become the bane of the Israeli army. They have been widely distributed to young Palestinians throughout the occupied territories by Israeli peace organizations, especially B'Tselem.

The clip starts with the scene in Hebron. In the middle of Shuhada street stands a solitary soldier with a green beret and a rifle. He looks like any soldier, with the short beard now in vogue among Israeli youngsters.

Some kind of discussion develops between the soldier and elderly Palestinians in the street. But the camera turns to a Palestinian teenager, unarmed, who approaches the soldier, pushing his face very close to him and touching his shoulder with his hand.

The soldier reacts angrily, swinging his rifle. At this moment, another teenager enters the frame and passes the soldier from behind.

The soldier, obviously feeling threatened, swings around and cocks his rifle, ready to shoot. Threatening both teenagers, he tries to kick one, all the time uttering a stream of foul language. Then he notices the photographer, orders him to to stop filming and curses his mother in the most vulgar terms. End.

THIS CLIP was shown that evening on all three main Israeli TV channels.

For those of us who know the reality in the West Bank, there was nothing special about it. Scenes like this happen all the time. If the soldier does not kill anyone, it's just routine. If he does kill, the army announces that an investigation has been opened. Generally that is the last anyone hears of it.

What was special is that the whole scene was photographed and broadcast. Army orders forbid soldiers to behave like this when photographers are present, and especially to threaten the cameramen. Painful experience has taught the army that such clips, if broadcast abroad, can seriously undermine Israeli propaganda (officially called "explaining").

Even more unusual was the announcement of the Army Spokesman that same evening, that the soldier had been judged by his superiors and sent to army prison for 28 days.

ALL HELL broke loose. The social media sprang into action. Hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of soldiers declared their solidarity with the soldier who became known as "David Nahlawi".

("Nahal" is an army unit founded originally by David Ben-Gurion to further his idea of combining army service with "pioneering" agricultural work. Hence the green beret. The idea is as dead as Ben-Gurion himself, and the unit is now an ordinary infantry brigade. The ending "awi" is Arabic adopted by Hebrew slang.)

Many soldiers, including officers, flooded the internet with photos of themselves hiding their faces behind self-made signs saying "I am David Nahlawi." Some did not even bother to hide their faces.

After 24 hours the number of pro-David "likes" passed a hundred thousand, most of them posted by soldiers. It was the first military mass rebellion in the annals of the Israeli army. In some armies, it would be called a mutiny, punishable by death.

Faced by a totally new situation, for which it was quite unprepared, the army lost control. It published a statement coming close to an apology.

The Army Spokesman, it appeared, had been mistaken. David was not sentenced to prison for threatening to kill Palestinians (perish the thought!), but for something that happened a few hours before the incident: David had beaten up his direct commander and another soldier. The Hebron incident had not yet been investigated, and therefore David had not yet been judged for it.

There was another correction. In the first day after the clip was shown, the news spread that one of the Palestinian youths had been carrying a knuckle-duster, a clear proof of his aggressive intention and of the danger the soldier found himself in. Then the media carried a correction: an analysis of the clip showed that there was no knuckle-duster or any other weapon. It was just a string of Muslim prayer-beads.

THE INCIDENT raises a number of questions, each more serious than the other.

The first and obvious one: why did the army send a lone soldier to guard a street crossing in the middle of Hebron on his own, a town where supreme tension rules even on the quietest of days?

Hebron is clustered around the "Tombs of the Patriarchs" which harbor the (false) graves of Abraham and Sarah, which, like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, are holy to both Jews and Muslims. 160,000 Muslims daily confront the few hundred fanatical Jews and Jewesses who have settled there, and who openly declare that their aim is to bring about the expulsion of all Muslims from the entire city.

Hebron is Apartheid City. The main street where the incident took place (appropriately called in Arabic "martyr's street") is closed to Arabs. Incidents can break out any time.

So why did the local military send a lone 19-old soldier to guard a street there?

Any soldier, even a normal one, sent to do guard duty alone in a dangerous place, may easily panic. In the clip David definitely looks frightened.

But David is not an ordinary soldier. According to the army itself, just a few hours before he was sent to this post, he attacked his superior and a comrade, beating them up in what sounds like a hysterical rampage. A few hours later, after already being sentenced to prison, he was sent out on this lonely task.

It is not the sane judgment of Private David that is in doubt, but the sanity of the officer who ordered him there.

THE WHOLE situation goes far beyond the dimensions of a local incident, which happily ended without victims.

It shows the reality of the occupation, in which a population of millions of human beings is living without defense and rights, completely dependent upon the mercies of every single soldier.

This Israeli army is no worse than any other. It is a mirror of its society, composed of the humane and the sadists, the sane and the mentally disturbed, rightists and leftists, Ashkenazi and Oriental. Judging from his family name (Adamov) David Nahlawi seems to be of Bukharan origin, the Oriental side of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Suheib Abu-Najma, the 15-year old Arab boy involved who looks even younger, was lucky. A Palestinian of any age, walking in any street, cannot be sure what kind of soldier he will come across, and what his mood may be. His life may depend on it.

That is the essence of occupation.

BUT THE significance of the incident goes far, far beyond these lessons. It is revolutionary - in the original sense.

For the first time in the history of Israel, and perhaps of the world, the internet is providing the basis for a rebellion of the soldiers against the army.

One may consider the mutiny on the battleship Potemkin in Odessa, 1905, or the uprising of the Petrograd garrison of February 1917, in order to compare it to the totally different situation in today's world of the internet. Now, in less than 24 hours, hundreds of thousands of soldiers can openly defy the army command, turning the army into an empty vessel.

Once this has been shown, the mutinous capabilities of the social media are unlimited. It puts an end to the sacred assumption that the army obeys the civilian elected authority. It also puts an end to the assumption that a military coup can only be carried out by a junta of senior officers, the "colonels". Now simple soldiers, incited by some rabble-rousers, can do it.

Binyamin Netanyahu was left, literally, speechless (something very unusual for him). So was Moshe Ya'alon, the Defense Minister, a former incompetent Chief of Staff. So was the present Chief of Staff, Benny Ganz, who in this crisis was shown to be helpless.

In the specific situation of Israel, this is extremely dangerous. Of course, it is easy to imagine a Potemkin-like situation, where the simple soldiers rise up against the brass in the name of equality, but that is sheer fantasy. With the army rank and file composed of teenagers, who are indoctrinated from the age of three in the spirit of Jewish victimhood and superiority (both), such a rebellion, if it occurs, is bound to be right-wing, perhaps even fascist.

Until this week, such a rebellion seemed impossible. When Ariel Sharon deployed the army in 2005 to evict a few thousand settlers from the Gaza Strip, no soldier dared to refuse. Now, with the capabilities of the social media, the story could end quite differently. The next time the army is ordered to remove a settlement, there may be mass refusal carried by the internet.

THERE IS a message in this for every army in the world.

A new historical era has begun. Any army can rebel by internet.

Army prisoner David Adamov can be proud of himself.
(c) 2014 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Kidnapped Girls Become Tools Of U.S. Imperial Policy In Africa
By Glen Ford

A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the "international community" and the Nigerian military "Do something!" about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged "news" products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been "doing" to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried "not a single television news story about Boko Haram" in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn't mean the Nigerian army hasn't been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country's mostly Muslim north.

The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read - which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband's place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls - would have learned in the New York Times of the army's savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb "Without Asking Who They Are," according to the NYT headline. "They don't ask any questions," said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. "When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot," said a student. "They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don't hear from them again."

The Times' Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army's "all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency." He reported:

"All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semidesert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram - a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents - for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it." In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.

In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: "The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint."

All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extrajudicially murdered, "most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri." An additional 950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria's military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: "Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation," he said. "There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis."

Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. "In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot," Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. "As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to 'shoot him in the chest not the head - I want his hat.'"

These are only snapshots of the army's response to Boko Haram - atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram's ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group's offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member - only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)

None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram's "side" in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military's culpability in the group's mad trajectory - the same military that many newly-minted "Save Our Girls" activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.

The bush to which the Boko Haram retreated with their captives was already a free-fire zone, where anything that moves is subject to obliteration by government aircraft. Nigerian air forces have now been joined by U.S. surveillance planes operating out of the new U.S. drone base in neighboring Niger, further entrenching AFRICOM/CIA in the continental landscape. Last week it was announced that, for the first time, AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.

The Chibok abductions have served the same U.S. foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa, which were conjured-up to justify the permanent stationing of U.S Special Forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, in 2011, on humanitarian interventionist grounds. (This past March, the U.S. sent 150 more Special Ops troops to the region, claiming to have again spotted Kony, who is said to be deathly ill, holed up with a small band of followers somewhere in the Central African Republic.) The United States (and France and Britain, plus the rest of NATO, if need be) must maintain a deepening and permanent presence in Africa to defend the continent from...Africans.

When the crowd yells that America "Do something!" somewhere in Africa, the U.S. military is likely to already be there.

Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM's founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called "the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa"). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush's legacies in the Congo, where U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 - the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world's newest nation - the culmination of a decades-long project of the U.S., Britain and Israel to dismember Africa's largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the U.S. touches, these days.

Most relevant to the plight of Chibok's young women, Obama led "from behind" NATO's regime change in Libya, removing the anti-jihadist bulwark Muamar Gaddafi ("We came, we saw, he died," said Hillary Clinton) and destabilizing the whole Sahelian tier of the continent, all the way down to northern Nigeria. As BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka writes in the current issue, "Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict." The once-"shadowy" group now sported new weapons and vehicles and was clearly better trained and disciplined. In short, the Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa - thus justifying a larger military presence for the same Americans and (mainly French) Europeans who had brought these convulsions to the region.

If Obama has his way, it will be a very long war - the better to grow AFRICOM - with some very unsavory allies (from both the Nigerian and American perspectives).

Whatever Obama does to deepen the U.S. presence in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, he can count on the Congressional Black Caucus, including its most "progressive" member, Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of the U.S. Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Lee, along with Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and fellow Californian Karen Bass, who is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on African, gave cart blanch to Obama to "Do something!" in Nigeria. "And so our first command and demand is to use all resources to bring the terrorist thugs to justice," they said.

A year and a half ago, when then UN Ambassador Susan Rice's prospects for promotion to top U.S. diplomat were being torpedoed by the Benghazi controversy, a dozen Black congresspersons scurried to her defense. "We will not allow a brilliant public servant's record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state," said Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

As persons who are presumed to read, Black Caucus members were certainly aware of the messy diplomatic scandal around Rice's role in suppressing United Nation's reports on U.S. allies' Rwanda and Uganda's genocidal acts against the Congolese people. Of all the high profile politicians from both the corporate parties, Rice - the rabid interventionist - is most intimately implicated in the Congo holocaust, dating back to the policy's formulation under Clinton. Apparently, that's not the part of Rice's record that counts to Delegate Norton and the rest of the Black Caucus. Genocide against Africans does not move them one bit.

So, why are we to believe that they are really so concerned about the girls of Chibok?
(c) 2014 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Putin Displays Ukraine Chess Mastery
By Pepe Escobar

Russia's celebrations of the 69th anniversary of the defeat of fascism in World War II come just days after Ukrainian neo-fascists enacted an appalling Odessa massacre. For those who know their history, the graphic symbolism speaks for itself.

And then a geopolitical chess gambit added outright puzzlement to the trademark hypocrisy displayed by the self-proclaimed representatives of "Western civilization."

The gambit comes from - who else - Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is now actively mixing chess moves with Sun Tzu's Art of War and Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. No wonder all those American PR shills, helpless State Department spokespersons and NATOstan generals are clueless.

Unlike the Obama administration's juvenile delinquent school of diplomacy - which wants to "isolate" Putin and Russia - a truce and possible deal in the ongoing Ukrainian tragedy has been negotiated between adults on speaking terms, Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then discussed and finally announced in a press conference by the president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Didier Burghalter.

The deal will hold as long as the regime changers in Kiev - which should be described as the NATO neo-liberal, neo-fascist junta - abandon their ongoing "anti-terrorist operation" and are ready to negotiate with the federalists in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

Putin's gambit has been to sacrifice not one but two pieces; he'd rather have the referendums this Sunday in Eastern Ukraine be postponed. At the same time, changing the Kremlin's position, he said the presidential elections on May 25 might be a step in the right direction.

Moscow knows the referendums will be erroneously interpreted by the misinformed NATOstan combo as an argument for Eastern Ukraine to join Russia, as in Crimea. They could be used as pretext for more sanctions. And most of all Moscow is keen to prevent any possible false flags.

Yet Moscow has not abandoned its firm position from the start; before a presidential election there should be constitutional changes towards federalization and more power for largely autonomous provinces. It's not happening anytime soon - if at all.

With the Kiev NATO junta making an absolute mess of "governing"; the International Monetary Fund already running the disaster capitalism show, Russia cutting off trade and energy subsidies, and the federalist movement growing by the minute after the Odessa massacre, Ukraine is so absolutely toxic that Moscow has all the time in the world on its side. Putin's strategy is indeed Tao Te Ching meets Art of War: watch the river flow while giving enough rope for your enemy to hang himself.

You're with us or against us

Putin asking the people in the Donbass region to postpone the referendum - which will take place anyway - unleashed a fierce debate, in eastern Ukraine and across Russia, over a possible Russian betrayal of Russian speakers in Ukraine.

After all, the NATO neo-liberal, neo-fascist junta has unleashed an "anti-terrorist operation" against average Ukrainians where even the terminology comes straight from the "you're with us or against us" Cheney regime.

And once again the Disinformer-in-Chief is - who else - US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is "very concerned about efforts of pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, in Lugansk to organize, frankly, a contrived, bogus independence referendum on May 11." It's "the Crimea playbook all over again and no civilized nation is going to recognize the results of such a bogus effort."

It's hopeless to expect Kerry to know what he's talking about, but still: the people in Donbass are not separatists. These are average Ukrainians - factory workers, miners, store clerks, farmers - who are pro-democracy, anti-NATO junta and - oh, the capital crime - Russian speakers.

And by the way, you don't need to be Thomas Piketty to identify this as classic class struggle; workers and peasants against oligarchs - the oligarchs currently aligned with the NATO junta, some deployed as regional governors, and all planning to remain in charge after the May 25 elections.

The people in Donbass want federalism, and strong autonomy in their provinces. They don't want to split from Ukraine. Against the US-prescribed, Kiev-enforced "anti-terrorism" onslaught, they have their popular defense committees, local associations and yes, militias, to defend themselves. And most of all "bogus" referendums to make it absolutely clear they won't submit to a centralized, oligarch-infested junta.

So the referendums will go ahead - and will be duly ignored by the NATOstan combo. The May 25 presidential election will go ahead - right in the middle of an "anti-terrorist operation" against almost half of the population - and will be recognized as "legitimate" by the NATOstan combo.

Way beyond this cosmically shameful behavior of the "civilized" West, what next?

Nothing will make the ironclad hatred the NATO neo-liberal neo-fascist junta with its Western Ukraine neo-nazi Banderastan supporters feel against the eastern Donbass go away. But then, in a few months, all Ukrainians will feel in their skins what the IMF has in store for them, irrespective of location. And wait if the new president - be it chocolate billionaire Petro Porashenko or holy corrupt "Saint Yulia" Timoschenko - doesn't pay Gazprom's US$2.7 billion energy bill.

Once again, Putin does not need to "invade" anything. He knows this is not the way to "rescue" eastern and southern Ukraine. He knows the people in the Donbass will make life miserable for the NATO junta and its May 25 offspring. He knows when Kiev needs real cash - not the current IMF self-serving Mob-style loans - nobody in his right mind in the political midget EU will be forthcoming. Nobody will want to rescue a failed state. And Kiev will have to beg, once again, for Moscow's help, the lender of first and last resort.

Lao Tzu Putin is far from going to checkmate. He may - and will - wait. The exceptionalist empire will keep doing what it does best - foment chaos - even as sensible Europeans, Merkel included, try somewhat for appeasement. Well, at least Washington's prayers have been answered. It took a while, but they finally found the new bogeyman: Osama Bin Putin.
(c) 2014 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan." He may be reached at

Dennis calls for a government shutdown

The GOP's Minimum Wage Nuttiness

Anyone who works full time, ought not live in poverty. Period.

Raising the minimum wage above the poverty level, is not a question of economics (even though it would be a big plus for our economy), but a question of morality. Who are we as a people, a nation - especially in the richest nation in the world - if we dishonor the work ethic with a wholly-unethical wage floor? It's disgraceful, which is why three out of four Americans support raising the floor, including a majority of Republicans.

Yet, the wage stays stuck at the unconscionable level of $7.25 an hour because Republican leaders are stuck on the low-wage dogma dictated by corporate elites.

At a forum in April, GOP congress critter Dennis Ross of Tampa was confronted by a fast-food worker who asked him to support a minimum wage hike. "Who's going to pay for it?" snapped Ross, who's paid $174,000 a year by us taxpayers. A person in the audience rose to say he'd gladly pay a little more for a hamburger so workers could be paid a decent wage - a comment that prompted applause from the crowd. Yet Ross railed against the very idea of a minimum wage: "If the government's going to tell me how much I can get paid... then we have a serious problem in this country."

Yes, we do have a serious problem, and its name is Dennis Ross. Or, let's call it Lamar Alexander. The Republican Senator from Tennessee said of the minimum wage, "I do not believe in it." Indeed, he "believes" in the immorality of letting executive-suite kleptocrats set sub-sub-sub-subpoverty pay scales to impoverish America's workforce. Or, how about John Boehner, the GOP Speaker of the House, he's gone operatic on the issue, declaring that he would "commit suicide before I vote [to raise the] minimum wage."

These guys aren't just out of touch - they're nuts!
(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.

Possibly The Biggest Unknown Known Risks Exposure
By David Swanson

A petition to the President and the Attorney General has just been posted by several organizations, including one I work for, asking that the Department of Justice stop threatening New York Times reporter James Risen with prison if he refuses to reveal a confidential source.

This story, among other stunning features, I think, threatens to expose an unknown known of the highest magnitude -- by which I mean, not something lying outside Donald Rumsfeld's imagination, but something that everyone paying attention has known all about for years but which would explode the brains of most consumers of corporate media if they ever heard about it.

Here's a great summary of the matter at the Progressive. The focus there and in the petition is on the threat to freedom of the press. But read this offhand bit of the explanation carefully:

"The information concerns a source for a chapter in Risen's terrific 2006 book, 'State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.' That chapter dealt with a scheme to give the Iranians faulty blueprints for a nuclear weapon."
Not only is the Justice Department (universally understood to take its orders from the White House) trying to pressure a reporter to reveal a source, but it's trying to pressure a reporter to reveal a source who told him that the United States gave Iran plans for building a nuclear bomb.

Imagine if the general public had a clue that this had happened!

Rather than reporter, I should probably be saying author. And I should stop attaching the insulting modifier "New York Times" in front of "reporter". Because this was a story published in a book. The same book included several interesting stories that I don't think ever made it into major media outlets.

One exception was a story about NSA mass-surveillance. The New York Times had sat on that story for over a year and explained that failure as a desire not to inform the public of what its government was up to prior to an election (the 2004 election). When the book came out, the New York Times finally reported the story. But if the Times or other outlets have informed the public that the CIA gave Iran nuke plans, I've missed it. This shocker certainly has not been extensively covered.

The genius plan was to give Iran nuclear bomb plans with some little portion altered. But reportedly it was quite clear to scientists -- yes, even in Iran they have scientists -- which bit had been altered.

The result was not the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb program. As Gareth Porter's new book documents in detail, Iran has never had a nuclear bomb program, and we've simply been lied to about that fact for 35 years.

But, here's the point: if your Uncle Homer knew the sort of moron stunts the CIA was engaged in with a nation marketed for 35 years as a force of evil, the result would out-do by far the outrage heard last summer when Obama and Kerry proposed joining a war in Syria on the side of al Qaeda (which everyone had been told was Evil Inc. up to that moment).

Don't Obama and Holder risk bringing more attention to this lunacy by prosecuting James Risen? Can they really trust the Press Corpse (sic) to bury the substance of the story?

More to the point: Will we let them? Please sign the petition to the President and the Attorney General.
(c) 2014 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Insanity Of Destroying Our Fresh Water
By James Donahue

My wife and I chose to buy our retirement home on Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula because it is surrounded by fresh water. The peninsula juts north out into Lake Superior. Not many miles to our south is Lake Michigan. And to the east is Lake Huron.

There was method in our madness. While we are ravaged by the winter storms that sweep our area, and we are dependent on the trucking of much of our food from warmer climates, we are enjoying some of the best and purist fresh water left anywhere in the world.

The lakes near us are but three of the five Great Lakes, which collectively hold the largest body of fresh water left on the planet. After living in Arizona where big corporations like the Peabody Coal Company are sucking dry the massive underlying reservoir of fresh water just to slide strip mined coal through long slushes to company power plants that supply most of the electricity used in Southern California, and reading horror stories about the industrial waste, huge droughts, floods and storms that are destroying most other natural water supplies, we chose the last good and abundant water supply to be found anywhere.

Our belief was backed the an agreement between the states bordering the Great Lakes and the Canadian government, known as the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact of 1985, and its annex of 2001 which gives states the power to manage how the water of the lakes can be used and protected. We believed the agreement would protect the Great Lakes from the ravages of big industry.

Now we read a statement by James Weakley, president of the Lake Carrier's Association, who warns: "Lake Michigan water is being shipped by boat loads over to China. By using a little known loophole in the 2006 Great Lakes Compact, Obama Minions are allowing Nestle Company to export precious fresh water out of Lake Michigan to the tune of an estimated $500,000 to $1.8 million per day profit."

Nestle, which sells various popular brands of drinking water in small plastic containers, found in gasoline stations, party stores and grocery stores everywhere, is selling Lake Michigan water under the brand name Ice Mountain.

How can anybody do this? It seems that there was an effort to stop Nestle from its operations on Lake Michigan and the case ended up in court, where a judge ordered the pumping of lake water to cease. But then an appellate court overturned the ruling and the company came to an agreement.

This agreement, dubbed the "bottled-water loophole," hinges on wording in the compact that bans removing water from the lakes in containers greater than 5.7 gallons. The authors of the compact were thinking of truck tankers or piping the water. The ban does not mention bottled water. Thus Nestle is sucking water from the lakes at its Mecosta facility and pouring it in bottles which are sold commercially around the world. And to date, they are getting away with it.

Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who co-chairs the Council of Great Lakes Governors that exists to preserve the Great Lakes, approved a controversial plan by a Canadian company to open a sulfide mine near Marquette, near Lake Superior in 2012. In spite of protests by conservationists and the local Native American tribes, construction of the mine is moving ahead. Sulfide mines drain acid poisons into the local water system and this mine has the potential of dumping poison into the most pristine of all the Great Lakes. To date it is one of the few lakes where fish can be safely caught and eaten without the risk of mercury or other industrial poisonings. This may not be the case after this mine goes into production. (But the mine will offer jobs to a job-starved local economy.)

We remember British Petroleum (BP) because of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and dumped 206 million gallons of crude oil that devastated the coastline, wrecked commercial fishing, and put thousands of workers out of their jobs.

While all of this was making headlines, British Petroleum spilled 1,600 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan from its refinery at Whiting, Indiana. To date the company has never paid for the cleanup of this mess even though it was a clear violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

These are among the worst of the various plants that are still dumping chemicals and other toxins into the lakes. While the Environmental Protection Agency has been using state and federal laws to contain much of the industrial waste, and launch clean-up efforts, there is still pesticide and fertilizer runoff from the farms.

In short, humans are recklessly and thoughtlessly destroying the last great reservoirs of clean drinking water on Earth. The human body is composed of about 65 percent water. We all need water to live. In fact, we can all go longer without food than we can water to stay alive. Yet we treat water like it is a natural commodity that we will always have flowing from our taps.

Big corporations are already buying up natural water rights to some of the best sources of fresh spring water in the world. The day is soon coming when bottled water will be our only source of fresh water. And you can be assured that we will pay dearly for every drop.
(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.

Democrat? Green? Independent? The 'Run Bernie Run' Jockeying
By John Nichols

Northampton, Massachusetts-When Bernie Sanders said in a Nation interview in March that he was prepared-not at all certain, but prepared-to run for the presidency, that got a lot of political activists thinking.

They were thinking about the prospect of a presidential run by a progressive populist who speaks bluntly about the need for a "political revolution" to tip the balance away from oligarchy and toward democracy. But they were also thinking about the ballot line on which the senator from Vermont might seek to build a movement-driven campaign not just for the presidency but for a new American politics.

Sanders caucuses with the Senate Democrats, but he has never been a Democrat. He started in politics as a candidate seeking statewide posts in the 1970s on the ballot line of Vermont's left-wing Liberty Union Party. He was elected mayor of Burlington in 1981 as an independent who went on to beat the Democrats and the Republicans in election after election. His tenure in Burlington spurred local third-party activism, laying the groundwork for the Vermont Progressive Party, which is today one of the most successful state-based progressive parties in modern American history. Sanders was elected to the US House and the US Senate as an independent. And his criticisms of the compromises made by both major parties-harsher toward the Republicans, but plenty pointed toward the Democrats-are central to the message he delivers on the stump, in media appearances and in Washington.

So, if Sanders were to run for the presidency, would he do so as a Democrat, taking on the prospective candidacy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and perhaps others in the 2016 caucuses and primaries?

Would he consider running as a Green, embracing a party that has secured and maintained ballot lines in states across the country and that has had significant success electing local officials in a number of regions?

Or would he mount an independent campaign, perhaps with an eye toward building a new party politics that combines economic populism, environmental advocacy and a commitment to social justice?

There are now "Run Bernie Run" websites, "Draft Bernie" Twitter accounts and "Ready for Bernie" Facebook pages. Groups are petitioning, organizing meetings and making appeals to the senator and to the grassroots activists who the senator says would have to be the essential players in any insurgent campaign.

Last weekend, Progressive Democrats of America, a group that has worked for a decade to get the party to turn left-with an explicitly economic populist and anti-war agenda summed up by its slogan "Healthcare Not Warfare"-presented Sanders with petitions signed by close to 12,000 activists who are asking the senator to run as a Democrat.

The petition drive, initiated by Tim Carpenter, a veteran political organizer and PDA National Director who died last month, is not finished. But an appearance by Sanders Saturday at PDA's national conference in Northampton prompted the decision to deliver the first stack of signatures. "We want him to know that there's enthusiasm for a run, and to run as a Democrat," said actress Mimi Kennedy, the PDA board chair who delivered the petition that announces, "We, the Undersigned, make this call for a primary challenge in full recognition of the need to prevent the current crazed, mean, and dangerous incarnation of the Republican Party from seizing total power; and...We, the Undersigned, do declare that we will knock on doors, donate, make phone calls, use social media, and do everything we can to elect Bernie Sanders the next president of the United States."

At the same time, individual Green Party activists are arguing that Sanders, who has long been outspoken on a range of economic and social justice, peace and sustainability issues that animate the party, should seek a Green endorsement and a place on the party's November ballot lines. A petition declares: "Senator Bernie Sanders must run for president as a Green Party candidate if he wishes to remedy any of the grave problems that he speaks about."

A recent article in Socialist Alternative, the national newspaper of the group with which Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant is allied, made the argument that Sanders, a democratic socialist, should try to do nationally what Sawant did last fall with her development of a movement-based candidacy that upset the traditional political calculus in Seattle. "Our view, again, is that there has not been a more propitious time in modern American history to begin to build a pro-working class political force. Kshama Sawant's resounding success is a very small indication of what is possible if progressive forces, and especially a section of the labor movement, decided to make a decisive break with the Democrats," declares the piece. "We are not, of course, pretending that a mass party of the 99 percent could be built overnight, but if Sanders decided to run as an independent left candidate for president on the basis of using his campaign to help galvanize the forces to launch such a party, it would be an enormous step forward. Concretely, his presidential run could be linked to a national effort to stand a slate of credible left candidates in local and national races in 2016 on an independent basis."

Sanders admits that he wrestles with the issue. As recently as Friday night, when we participated in a town meeting in Northampton where "Run, Bernie, Run" chants broke out several times, the senator reflected on the question at some length, asking rhetorically, "What's the advantage of running as an independent? The advantage of running independent is, right now, most people in this country do not have a lot of faith in either political party. So when you say you're an independent, people say 'Well, you're not a Democrat or a Republican, that's pretty good.' What's the disadvantage? The big disadvantage would have to build an entire political infrastructure. That, in itself, would cost a huge amount of money and require people to do nothing else but try to get you on the ballot. We want to talk about issues, right? Now, getting on the ballot is important and we have to explain democracy to folks as well. But, more importantly, our energy should be on talking about national healthcare, distribution of wealth and all of the issues we feel strongly about..."

Sanders has considered the various possibilities, and he says he can see the appeal in each approach. Yet, he says that he would not run as a November spoiler. That means that to mount a third-party or independent campaign, he and his supporters would need to build a big enough movement to be a serious contender in a race with the Democrats and the Republicans-or be prepared to fold the outsider run before the November vote.

The history of prominent progressives who have tried the third-party and independent route-from Eugene Victor Debs to Theodore Roosevelt to Bob La Follette to Norman Thomas to Henry Wallace to Benjamin Spock to Ralph Nader-is a frustrating one. While there are many historical examples of third-party and independent presidential campaigns forcing the major parties to address issues, and even to change direction, there are fewer examples of sustainable movements that have been developed. And there is just one example of a radical party that cracked the upper tier of American politics: the Republicans of the 1850s.

With that history in mind, the senator mentioned in Northampton that running as a Democrat offered the advantage that "it's kind of easy to get on the ballot, you're in the debates-that's a big deal-and the media can't quite ignore you."

Sanders will be testing that theory in coming weeks. Having already visited the first Democratic primary state of New Hampshire, for an April speech at St. Anselm College in Manchester, Sanders will travel next weekend to Iowa, where he will appear as the featured speaker at the Clinton County Democratic Party's annual dinner.

Jeff Cox, a former Johnson County (Iowa City) Democratic Party chair who has been organizing an effort to get the senator to mount a campaign in the 2016 caucuses, says Sanders could renew "the kind of New Deal Democratic approach to economics that has been lost to the Democratic Party."

That is an argument that Sanders has considered, and plenty of analysts will take from the New Hampshire and Iowa visits a signal of his intentions. Yet, when I asked on Friday if he had settled the issue in his own mind, the senator's reply was "Nope."

That may frustrate activists of various partisan and ideological stripes. But to my mind, there is something healthy about a broad exploration of approaches to a broken politics. At his most frustrated, Gore Vidal, himself a former Democratic candidate for the US House from New York and the US Senate from California, observed, "Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates." In such a circumstance, a freewheeling consideration of the various routes to getting a serious discussion of issues, a broader range of candidates and more genuine choices is an encouraging development. A good part of that discussion is focused at this point on Sanders. But it need not begin or end with him. The real point is to engage in a deep discussion, at once idealistic and practical, about how to get a better politics-and to make real the promise of American democracy.
(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.

John William Waterhouse's painting "Miranda-The Tempest" portrays a moment from
the Shakespearean play "The Tempest," in which Miranda is Prospero's daughter.

The Power Of Imagination
By Chris Hedges

Those in the premodern world who hoarded possessions and refused to redistribute supplies and food, who turned their backs on the weak and the sick, who lived exclusively for hedonism and their own power, were despised. Those in modern society who are shunned as odd, neurotic or eccentric, who are disconnected from the prosaic world of objective phenomena and fact, would have been valued in premodern cultures for their ability to see what others could not see. Dreams and visions-considered ways to connect with the wisdom of ancestors-were integral to existence in distant times. Property was communal then. Status was conferred by personal heroism and providing for the weak and the indigent. And economic exchanges carried the potential for malice, hatred and evil: When wampum was exchanged by Native Americans the transaction had to include "medicine" that protected each party against "spiritual infection."

Only this premodern ethic can save us as we enter a future of economic uncertainty and endure the catastrophe of climate change. Social and economic life will again have to be communal. The lusts of capitalism will have to be tamed or destroyed. And there will have to be a recovery of reverence for the sacred, the bedrock of premodern society, so we can see each other and the earth not as objects to exploit but as living beings to be revered and protected. This means inculcating a very different vision of human society.

Our greatest oracles have sought to impart this wisdom. William Shakespeare lamented the loss of the pagan rituals eradicated by the Reformation. When Shakespeare was a boy, the critic Harold Goddard pointed out, he experienced the religious pageants, morality plays, church festivals, cycle plays, feast and saint days, displays of relics, bawdy May Day celebrations and tales of miracles that made up the belief system during the reign of the medieval Catholic Church. The Puritans, the ideological vanguard of the technological order, would eventually ban or greatly weaken all of these, and they made war on the Elizabethan and Jacobean theaters for celebrating these premodern practices.

The London authorities in 1596 prohibited the public presentation of plays within city limits. Theaters had to relocate to the south side of the River Thames. The Puritans, in power under Cromwell in 1642, closed the London theaters. In Puritan New England at about the same time the authorities banned games, revels and "harlotry plays." In 1644 the Puritans tore down Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Within four years all other theaters in and around London had been destroyed. The Puritans understood, in a way that is perhaps lost to us today, that Shakespeare subverts modernity.

Shakespeare portrays the tension between the premodern and the modern. He sees the rise of the modern as dangerous. The premodern reserved a place in the cosmos for human imagination. The new, modern, Machiavellian ethic of self-promotion, manipulation, bureaucracy and deceit-personified by Iago, Richard III and Lady Macbeth-deformed human society. Shakespeare lived during a moment when the modern world-whose technology allowed it to acquire weapons of such unrivaled force that it could conquer whole empires, including the Americas and later China-instilled through violence this new secular religion. He feared its demonic power.

Oracles were revered in premodern societies. These oracles were in touch with realities and forces that lay beyond the empirical. All societies have oracles-such as Thomas Paine, Emma Goldman, W.E.B. Du Bois and James Baldwin in the United States-but in a modern society they are pushed to the margins, ridiculed and often persecuted. Those who spoke out of their vision quests in Native American society, or from Delphi in ancient Greece, did not employ the cold, clinical language of science and reason. They spoke, rather, in the nebulous language of love, tenderness, patience, justice, redemption and forgiveness. They paid homage, and called on us to pay homage, to the mysterious incongruities of human existence. A society that loses its respect for the sacred, that ignores its oracles and severs itself from the power of human imagination, ensures its obliteration.

Reason makes possible the calculations, science and technological advances of industrial civilization. But reason does not lift us upward to the heavens. It does not bring us into contact with the sacred. It does not permit us to curb our self-destructive urges. Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Emily Dickinson, Marcel Proust, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Lorraine Hansberry and August Wilson mocked the myth of human progress and the folly of hubris. They, like Shakespeare, warned that conflating technological advancement with human progress deforms us.

Prospero in Shakespeare's "The Tempest" is master of an enchanted island where he has absolute power. He keeps the primitive Caliban and the spirit Ariel as his slaves. The play is about liberty, love and the capacity for awe. It reminds us that the power unleashed in the wilderness can prompt us to good if we honor the sacred but to monstrous evil if we do not. There are few constraints in the wilderness, a theme that would later be explored by the novelist Joseph Conrad. Imagination triumphed in "The Tempest" because those who were bound to their senses and lusts were subjugated. However, overseas in the American colonies, as Shakespeare knew, the poison of dark passions embodied by the Calibans and evil dukes of the world had unleashed an orgy of greed, theft and genocide.

Those who worship themselves, the essence of the modern, commit spiritual suicide. In love with himself after seeing his reflection in a pond, Narcissus is doomed, as many in the modern world are, by vanity, celebrity and the need for admirers and sycophants. Narcissists master the arts of manipulation, seduction, power and control. They eschew empathy, honesty, trust and transparency. It is a form of mental illness.

It is through imagination that we can reach the dark regions of the human psyche and face our mortality and the brevity of existence. It is through imagination that we can recover reverence and kinship. It is through imagination that we can see ourselves in our neighbors and the other living organisms of the earth. It is through imagination that we can envision other ways to form a society. The triumph of modern utilitarianism, implanted by violence, crushed the primacy of the human imagination. It enslaved us to the cult of the self. And with this enslavement came an inability to see, the central theme of "King Lear." Imagination, as Goddard wrote, "is neither the language of nature nor the language of man, but both at once, the medium of communion between the two-as if the birds, unable to understand the speech of man, and man, unable to understand the songs of birds, yet longing to communicate, were to agree on a tongue made up of sounds they both could comprehend-the voice of running water perhaps or the wind in the trees. Imagination is the elemental speech in all senses, the first and the last, of primitive man and of the poets."

All of the great visionaries and leaders of the Indian tribes, from medicine men like Black Elk and Sitting Bull to warriors such as Crazy Horse, in the presence of the natural world heard it speak to them, in the same way it spoke to Shakespeare, Dickinson or Walt Whitman. All elements of life, especially those that lie beyond articulation, infuse the human imagination. The communion-accentuated by vision quests, the sanctity of dreams, odd occurrences, miracles and the wonder of nature, as well as rituals that take place within a communal society-blurs the lines between the self and the world. This ability to connect with the sacred is what Percy Shelley meant when he wrote that poetry "lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world and makes familiar things as if they were not familiar." We are reminded at that moment of the wonder of life and our insignificance in the vastness of the cosmos, reminded that, as Prospero said, "we are such stuff as dreams are made on." Too often this wisdom comes too late, as it does when Othello stands over the dead Desdemona or Lear over his executed daughter, Cordelia. This wisdom makes grace possible. Songs, poetry, music, theater, dance, sculpture, art, fiction and ritual move human beings toward the sacred. They clear the way for transformation. The prosaic world of facts, data, science, news, technology, business and the military is cut off from the mysteries of creation and existence. We will recover this imagination, this capacity for the sacred, or we will vanish as a species.
(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."

An LA Story That's All Too Familiar

By David Sirota

When a city is forced to spend more on Wall Street fees than on basic public services, it is the sign of trouble. When that city is one of America's biggest population centers, it is the sign of a burgeoning crisis.

That's the key takeaway from a recent report looking at what has been happening in Los Angeles over the last few years. Published by the union-backed Fix LA Coalition, the report details how the city has slashed its spending in the wake of revenue losses from the Wall Street-engineered financial crisis. Yet, as the analysis shows, the city is nonetheless still being crushed by Wall Street - in this specific case, it is being forced to spend $300 million a year on financial fees. For some context, that's more than the city spends each year maintaining all of its roads.

So what specifically are these fees? According to the data, roughly $200 million worth of fees go to Wall Street money managers who oversee some of the city's pension investments. Yet, that's only a conservative estimate gleaned from analyzing documents that are publicly available. Because there's no one central accounting of the fees, and because other fees may be secret, the report notes that, just like in most locales, "neither the boards nor the investment staff employed by the boards know (exactly) how much they pay in total fees."

Moving forward, Los Angeles is now on the hook for $65.8 million worth of new fees in the next 14 years, thanks to a 2006 interest-rate swap deal.

"(Those) deals were sold on the assumption that they would save L.A. taxpayers money," notes the report. "But after the banks crashed the economy, the federal government drove down interest rates as part of the bank bailout, and now the banks are reaping a windfall at taxpayers' expense."

If this latter part of the story sounds familiar, that's because it is all too common.

Indeed, as my PandoDaily colleague Nathaniel Mott and I reported this week, this particular scheme has plagued cities across the country.

For instance, a recent study by former Goldman Sachs investment banker Wallace Turbeville documented how an interest-rate swap deal was a big driver of Detroit's fiscal crisis. In his report documenting Wall Street's demands for "upwards of $250-350 million in swap termination payments," Turbeville concluded that "a strong case can be made that the banks that sold these swaps may have breached their ethical, and possibly legal, obligations to the city in executing these deals."

Likewise, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi documented how interest-rate swaps in connection with a water treatment plant were at the heart of Jefferson County, Alabama's infamous bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, a front-page New York Times story in 2010 showed how a swap deal in Denver orchestrated by then-superintendent Michael Bennet blew a hole in the city's school budget. In 2013, Bloomberg News reported that "Wall Street banks collected $215.6 million that Denver's public schools paid to unwind swaps and sell bonds" - a sum that "is about two-thirds of annual teaching expenses."

Recounting all of this is enough to depress anyone, but there is at least some sliver of good news. As of this week, Los Angeles city councilor Paul Koretz is proposing to exclude the banks at the center of the interest-rate scheme from any future business with the city unless those banks renegotiate the terms of their rapacious deal.

While this may not be a comprehensive solution, and while it may not work perfectly, it is a start. Indeed, the proposal shows that there are still ways for cities to start combating Wall Street's most destructive schemes. The fight is certainly long overdue, but better late than never.
(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.

Crazy Climate Economics
By Paul Krugman

Everywhere you look these days, you see Marxism on the rise. Well, O.K., maybe you don't - but conservatives do. If you so much as mention income inequality, you'll be denounced as the second coming of Joseph Stalin; Rick Santorum has declared that any use of the word "class" is "Marxism talk." In the right's eyes, sinister motives lurk everywhere - for example, George Will says the only reason progressives favor trains is their goal of "diminishing Americans' individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism."

So it goes without saying that Obamacare, based on ideas originally developed at the Heritage Foundation, is a Marxist scheme - why, requiring that people purchase insurance is practically the same as sending them to gulags.

And just wait until the Environmental Protection Agency announces rules intended to slow the pace of climate change.

Until now, the right's climate craziness has mainly been focused on attacking the science. And it has been quite a spectacle: At this point almost all card-carrying conservatives endorse the view that climate change is a gigantic hoax, that thousands of research papers showing a warming planet - 97 percent of the literature - are the product of a vast international conspiracy. But as the Obama administration moves toward actually doing something based on that science, crazy climate economics will come into its own.

You can already get a taste of what's coming in the dissenting opinions from a recent Supreme Court ruling on power-plant pollution. A majority of the justices agreed that the E.P.A. has the right to regulate smog from coal-fired power plants, which drifts across state lines. But Justice Scalia didn't just dissent; he suggested that the E.P.A.'s proposed rule - which would tie the size of required smog reductions to cost - reflected the Marxist concept of "from each according to his ability." Taking cost into consideration is Marxist? Who knew?

And you can just imagine what will happen when the E.P.A., buoyed by the smog ruling, moves on to regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

What do I mean by crazy climate economics?

First, we'll see any effort to limit pollution denounced as a tyrannical act. Pollution wasn't always a deeply partisan issue: Economists in the George W. Bush administration wrote paeans to "market based" pollution controls, and in 2008 John McCain made proposals for cap-and-trade limits on greenhouse gases part of his presidential campaign. But when House Democrats actually passed a cap-and-trade bill in 2009, it was attacked as, you guessed it, Marxist. And these days Republicans come out in force to oppose even the most obviously needed regulations, like the plan to reduce the pollution that's killing Chesapeake Bay.

Second, we'll see claims that any effort to limit emissions will have what Senator Marco Rubio is already calling "a devastating impact on our economy."

Why is this crazy? Normally, conservatives extol the magic of markets and the adaptability of the private sector, which is supposedly able to transcend with ease any constraints posed by, say, limited supplies of natural resources. But as soon as anyone proposes adding a few limits to reflect environmental issues - such as a cap on carbon emissions - those all-capable corporations supposedly lose any ability to cope with change.

Now, the rules the E.P.A. is likely to impose won't give the private sector as much flexibility as it would have had in dealing with an economywide carbon cap or emissions tax. But Republicans have only themselves to blame: Their scorched-earth opposition to any kind of climate policy has left executive action by the White House as the only route forward.

Furthermore, it turns out that focusing climate policy on coal-fired power plants isn't bad as a first step. Such plants aren't the only source of greenhouse gas emissions, but they're a large part of the problem - and the best estimates we have of the path forward suggest that reducing power-plant emissions will be a large part of any solution. What about the argument that unilateral U.S. action won't work, because China is the real problem? It's true that we're no longer No. 1 in greenhouse gases - but we're still a strong No. 2. Furthermore, U.S. action on climate is a necessary first step toward a broader international agreement, which will surely include sanctions on countries that don't participate.

So the coming firestorm over new power-plant regulations won't be a genuine debate - just as there isn't a genuine debate about climate science. Instead, the airwaves will be filled with conspiracy theories and wild claims about costs, all of which should be ignored. Climate policy may finally be getting somewhere; let's not let crazy climate economics get in the way.
(c) 2014 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine; and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular. This is no time for men . . . to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities."
~~~ Edward R. Murrow

A former Uruguayan guerrilla leader, President Jose Mujica is showing world leaders a new way to govern.

10 Reasons To Love Uruguay's President Jose Mujica
By Medea Benjamin

President Jose Mujica of Uruguay, a 78-year-old former Marxist guerrilla who spent 14 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement, recently visited the United States to meet with President Obama and speak at a variety of venues. He told Obama that Americans should smoke less and learn more languages. He lectured a roomful of businessmen at the US Chamber of Commerce about the benefits of redistributing wealth and raising workers' salaries. He told students at American University that there are no "just wars." Whatever the audience, he spoke extemporaneously and with such brutal honesty that it was hard not to love the guy. Here are 10 reasons you, too, should love President Mujica.

1. He lives simply and rejects the perks of the presidency. Mujica has refused to live at the Presidential Palace or have a motorcade. He lives in a one-bedroom house on his wife's farm and drives a 1987 Volkswagen. "There have been years when I would have been happy just to have a mattress," said Mujica, referring to his time in prison. He donates over 90% of his $12,000/month salary to charity so he makes the same as the average citizen in Uruguay. When called "the poorest president in the world," Mujica says he is not poor. "A poor person is not someone who has little but one who needs infinitely more, and more and more. I don't live in poverty, I live in simplicity. There's very little that I need to live."

2. He supported the nation's groundbreaking legalization of marijuana. "In no part of the world has repression of drug consumption brought results. It's time to try something different," Mujica said. So this year, Uruguay became the first country in the world to regulate the legal production, sale, and consumption of marijuana. The law allows individuals to grow a certain amount each year and the government controls the price of marijuana sold at pharmacies. The law requires consumers, sellers, and distributors to be licensed by the government. Uruguay's experience aims to take the market away from the ruthless drug traffickers and treat drug addiction as a public health issue. Their experiment will have reverberations worldwide.

3. In August 2013, Mujica signed the bill making Uruguay the second nation in Latin America (after Argentina) to legalize gay marriage. He said that legalizing gay marriage is simply recognizing reality. "Not to legalize it would be unnecessary torture for some people," he said. In recent years, Uruguay has also moved to allow adoption by gay couples and openly gay people to serve in the armed forces.

4. He's not afraid to confront corporate abuses, as evidenced by the epic struggle his government is waging against the American tobacco giant Philip Morris. A former smoker, Mujica says that tobacco is a killer that needs to be brought under control. But Philip Morris is suing Uruguay for $25 million at the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes because of the country's tough smoking laws that prohibit smoking in enclosed public spaces and require warning labels, including graphic images of the health effects. Uruguay is the first Latin American country and the fifth nation worldwide to implement a ban on smoking in enclosed public places. Philip Morris, the largest cigarette manufacturer in the United States, has huge global business interests (and a well-paid army of lawyers). Uruguay's battle against the tobacco Goliath will also have global repercussions.

5. He supported the legalization of abortion in Uruguay (his predecessor had vetoed the bill). The law is very limited, compared to laws in the US and Europe. It allows abortions within the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy and requires women to meet with a panel of doctors and social workers on the risks and possible effects of an abortion. But this law is the most liberal abortion law in socially conservative, Catholic Latin America and is clearly a step in the right direction for women's reproductive rights.

6. He's an environmentalist trying to limit needless consumption. At the Rio+20 Summit in 2012, he criticized the model of development pushed by affluent societies. "We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means - by being prudent - the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction," he said. He also recently rejected a joint energy project with Brazil that would have provided his country with cheap coal energy because of his concern for the environment.

7. He has focusing on redistributing his nation's wealth, claiming that his administration has reduced poverty from 37% to 11%. "Businesses just want to increase their profits; it's up to the government to make sure they distribute enough of those profits so workers have the money to buy the goods they produce," he told businessmen at the US Chamber of Commerce. "It's no mystery--the less poverty, the more commerce. The most important investment we can make is in human resources." His government's redistributive policies include setting prices for essential commodities such as milk and providing free computers and education for every child.

8. He has offered to take detainees cleared for release from Guantanamo. Mujica has called the detention center at Guantanamo Bay a "disgrace" and insisted that Uruguay take responsibility to help close the facility. The proposal is unpopular in Uruguay, but Mujica, who was a political prisoner for 14 years, said he is "doing this for humanity."

9. He is opposed to war and militarism. "The world spends $2 billion a minute on military spending," he exclaimed in horror to the students at American University. "I used to think there were just, noble wars, but I don't think that anymore," said the former armed guerrilla. "Now I think the only solution is negotiations. The worst negotiation is better than the best war, and the only way to insure peace is to cultivate tolerance."

10. He has an adorable three-legged dog, Manuela! Manuela lost a foot when Mujica accidentally ran over it with a tractor. Since then, Mujica and Manuela have been almost inseparable.

Mujica's influence goes far beyond that of the leader of a tiny country of only 3 million people. In a world hungry for alternatives, the innovations that he and his colleagues are championing have put Uruguay on the map as one of the world's most exciting experiments in creative, progressive governance.
(c) 2014 Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK, which has organized seven humanitarian delegations to Gaza. She is author of Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.

British Spies Face Legal Action Over Secret Hacking Programs British spy agency
GCHQ (pictured above) stands accused of adopting illegal hacking tactics.

British Spies Face Legal Action Over Secret Hacking Programs
By Ryan Gallagher

The United Kingdom's top spy agency is facing legal action following revelations published by The Intercept about its involvement in secret efforts to hack into computers on a massive scale.

Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, has been accused of acting unlawfully by helping to develop National Security Agency surveillance systems capable of covertly breaking into potentially millions of computers and networks across the world.

In a legal complaint filed on Tuesday, the London-based civil liberties group Privacy International alleges that the hacking techniques violated European human rights law and are not subject to sufficient safeguards against abuse. The complaint cites a series of details contained in a report published by The Intercept in March, which exposed how GCHQ was closely involved in the NSA's efforts to rapidly expand its ability to deploy so-called "implants" to infiltrate computers.

GCHQ and the NSA have developed an array of the sophisticated surveillance implants, according to documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, with each of the spy tools tailored for a different purpose. Some are used to compromise large-scale internet networks so that the spies can sweep up private data as it is passing through them. Others infect specific computers with malicious software that effectively gives the agencies total control of a target's machine - enabling them to take covert snapshots using its webcam, record audio using its microphone, log what is being typed on the keyboard, collect data from any removable flash drive that is connected, and snoop its Web browsing history.

Privacy International argues in its 21-page legal complaint that the hacking tactics are more intrusive than more traditional eavesdropping methods, and that, if left unchecked, they could amount to "one of the most intrusive forms of surveillance any government has conducted:"

In allowing GCHQ to extract a huge amount of information (current and historical), much of which an individual may never have chosen to share with anybody, and to turn a user's own devices against him by coopting them as instruments of video and audio surveillance, it is at least as intrusive as searching a person's house and installing bugs so as to enable continued monitoring. In fact, it is more intrusive, because of the amount of information now generated and stored by computers and mobile devices nowadays, the speed, ease and surreptitiousness with which surveillance can be conducted, and because it allows the ongoing surveillance to continue wherever the affected person may be.
The case is the latest in a string of actions against GCHQ in the United Kingdom following the Snowden disclosures. But it is the first to focus specifically on the legality of hacking techniques used to infiltrate computers and spy on communications. It has been lodged with the U.K.'s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a special judicial body that handles complaints about the conduct of spy agencies.

Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, said in a statement on Tuesday that GCHQ's hacking programs were "done under a cloak of secrecy without any public debate or clear lawful authority," adding that "unrestrained, unregulated government spying of this kind is the antithesis of the rule of law and government must be held accountable for their actions."

A GCHQ spokesperson declined to comment on the complaint, saying only that the agency's work is "carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight."
(c) 2014 Ryan Gallagher is a Scottish journalist whose work at The Intercept is focused on government surveillance, technology, and civil liberties. His journalism has appeared in publications including Slate, the Guardian, Ars Technica, Huffington Post, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Financial Times, the Independent, and the New Statesman.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Vorstandsvorsitzende Bailey

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 keep from having to label GMO poisons in American food, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Corpo-rat whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the 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 Frau Bailey, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Six Principles Of The New Populism (And The Establishment's Nightmare)
By Robert Reich

More Americans than ever believe the economy is rigged in favor of Wall Street and big business and their enablers in Washington. We're five years into a so-called recovery that's been a bonanza for the rich but a bust for the middle class. "The game is rigged and the American people know that. They get it right down to their toes," says Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Which is fueling a new populism on both the left and the right. While still far apart, neo-populists on both sides are bending toward one another and against the establishment.

Who made the following comments? (Hint: Not Warren, and not Bernie Sanders.)

A. We "cannot be the party of fat cats, rich people, and Wall Street."

B. "The rich and powerful, those who walk the corridors of power, are getting fat and happy..."

C. "If you come to Washington and serve in Congress, there should be a lifetime ban on lobbying."

D. "Washington promoted moral hazard by protecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which privatized profits and socialized losses."

E. "When you had the chance to stand up for Americans' privacy, did you?"

F. "The people who wake up at night thinking of which new country they want to bomb, which new country they want to be involved in, they don't like restraint. They don't like reluctance to go to war."

(Answers: A. Rand Paul, B. Ted Cruz, C. Ted Cruz, D. House Republican Joe Hensarling, E. House Republican Justin Amash, F. Rand Paul )

You might doubt the sincerity behind some of these statements, but they wouldn't have been uttered if the crowds didn't respond enthusiastically - and that's the point. Republican populism is growing, as is the Democratic version, because the public wants it.

And it's not only the rhetoric that's converging. Populists on the right and left are also coming together around six principles:

1. Cut the biggest Wall Street banks down to a size where they're no longer too big to fail. Left populists have been advocating this since the Street's bailout now they're being joined by populists on the right. David Camp, House Ways and Means Committee chair, recently proposed an extra 3.5 percent quarterly tax on the assets of the biggest Wall Street banks (giving them an incentive to trim down). Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter wants to break up the big banks, as does conservative pundit George Will. "There is nothing conservative about bailing out Wall Street," says Rand Paul.

2. Resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act, separating investment from commercial banking and thereby preventing companies from gambling with their depositors' money. Elizabeth Warren has introduced such legislation, and John McCain co-sponsored it. Tea Partiers are strongly supportive, and critical of establishment Republicans for not getting behind it. "It is disappointing that progressive collectivists are leading the effort for a return to a law that served well for decades," writes the Tea Party Tribune. "Of course, the establishment political class would never admit that their financial donors and patrons must hinder their unbridled trading strategies."

3. End corporate welfare - including subsidies to big oil, big agribusiness, big pharma, Wall Street, and the Ex-Im Bank. Populists on the left have long been urging this; right-wing populists are joining in. Republican David Camp's proposed tax reforms would kill dozens of targeted tax breaks. Says Ted Cruz: "We need to eliminate corporate welfare and crony capitalism."

4. Stop the National Security Agency from spying on Americans. Bernie Sanders and other populists on the left have led this charge but right-wing populists are close behind. House Republican Justin Amash's amendment, that would have defunded NSA programs engaging in bulk-data collection, garnered 111 Democrats and 94 Republicans last year, highlighting the new populist divide in both parties. Rand Paul could be channeling Sanders when he warns: "Your rights, especially your right to privacy, is under assault... if you own a cellphone, you're under surveillance."

5. Scale back American interventions overseas. Populists on the left have long been uncomfortable with American forays overseas. Rand Paul is leaning in the same direction. Paul also tends toward conspiratorial views about American interventionism. Shortly before he took office he was caught on video claiming that former vice president Dick Cheney pushed the Iraq War because of his ties to Halliburton.

6. Oppose trade agreements crafted by big corporations. Two decades ago Democrats and Republicans enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since then populists in both parties have mounted increasing opposition to such agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, drafted in secret by a handful of major corporations, is facing so strong a backlash from both Democrats and tea party Republicans that it's nearly dead. "The Tea Party movement does not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership," says Judson Philips, president of Tea Party Nation. "Special interest and big corporations are being given a seat at the table" while average Americans are excluded.

Left and right-wing populists remain deeply divided over the role of government. Even so, the major fault line in American politics seems to be shifting, from Democrat versus Republican, to populist versus establishment - those who think the game is rigged versus those who do the rigging.

In this month's Republican primaries, tea partiers continue their battle against establishment Republicans. But the major test will be 2016 when both parties pick their presidential candidates.

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are already vying to take on Republican establishment favorites Jeb Bush or Chris Christie. Elizabeth Warren says she won't run in the Democratic primaries, presumably against Hillary Clinton, but rumors abound. Bernie Sanders hints he might.

Wall Street and big business Republicans are already signaling they'd prefer a Democratic establishment candidate over a Republican populist.

Dozens of major GOP donors, Wall Street Republicans, and corporate lobbyists have told Politico that if Jeb Bush decides against running and Chris Christie doesn't recover politically, they'll support Hillary Clinton. "The darkest secret in the big money world of the Republican coastal elite is that the most palatable alternative to a nominee such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas or Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky would be Clinton," concludes Politico.

Says a top Republican-leaning Wall Street lawyer, "it's Rand Paul or Ted Cruz versus someone like Elizabeth Warren that would be everybody's worst nightmare."

Everybody on Wall Street and in corporate suites, that is. And the "nightmare" may not occur in 2016. But if current trends continue, some similar "nightmare" is likely within the decade. If the American establishment wants to remain the establishment it will need to respond to the anxiety that's fueling the new populism rather than fight 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.

Economic Hate Crime
By Frank Scott

"Any government with both the power and the will to remedy the major defects of the capitalist system would have the power and the will to abolish it altogether."

Economist Joan Robinson was analyzing the situation a generation ago but her words are a call to create such a government now. Our global problem is not only a perpetually war making empire but also the economic basis of its imperial system. The evidence seemed clear to only some scholars in the past, but it is becoming more obvious to anyone who notes the signs of breakdown in the present. They are political, social and environmental, all due to the economics of private profit at public loss. This lethal combination threatens not just a crumbling empire, but all of humanity.

The market system under private control in which all goods and services are produced for purchase that profits some at the expense of many has gone as far as civilization can tolerate.

However rooted it might be in fiction or delusion, Capital has been able to maintain a trickle down program to keep a middle class comfortable enough to perpetuate its dream of a material equality which would prevail and grow. Workers in the western world could see the potential for a progressively better life since so many of them seemed to be living it under capitalist social democracy. But that era ended late in the 20th century and the sinking sensation many now feel is not merely personal or even national; it is profoundly social and global.

A generation in the west saw working people rise to a status dubbed middle class, representing gains for them at unnoticed loss for people in the rest of the world. Minority profits always come at serious loss to the majority, a reality that can no longer be hidden. Worse, the cultural environmental assault that reduces the foundations of life - earth, water and air - to no more than profit making commodities is causing changes that spell more general doom if the process is allowed to continue.

Even if consciousness controllers could keep us in a mental state accepting this system, a diminishing material reality is forcing us to note massive and growing problems that cannot be solved by belief systems. However we may be reduced to think ourselves personally or psychologically isolated, all of us are threatened by what was once air and water pollution and has now become rising sea levels, shrinking land masses and radical climate changes.

The problems created by capitalism have become so obvious that many of its true believer economists are forced to notice failings that are not aberrations but endemic to the system. They propose changes, but they call for a return to policies that helped the last near collapse of the previous century. At that time, enlightened capital - not a total oxymoron - saw the possibility of revolution if the contradictions of free market fundamentalism prevailed. So they created a more liberal economic structure that called for government investment in life support systems from which private enterprise could not turn a profit.

Working people could not afford to create profits for the private sector by purchasing housing, electricity and other necessities, so government would provide financing, job creation and services to take care of these things, at taxpayers' expense. The rich paid a slightly higher tax rate, easily affordable to them, but the bulk of the financial burden for social services, as in diminished form today, was, and is born by the greatest mass of the population.

This primitive social democratic phase in the USA - more highly developed in Europe - has been under assault and led to austerity programs cutting social services and the entire public sector and leading to greater inequality than ever before. It is easy to depict the ruling wealthy as greedy or evil - though some of them are - but they are only doing what the system dictates:

Increasing private profits by lowering wages and benefits for workers while lowering taxes for themselves. This creates greater profits for them, which they, according to legend, use to create more jobs. The way the tooth fairy creates more teeth.

The illusion of a better future was possible for some workers in the developed world because billions of people in the less developed world assumed the horrendous burden of having greater profit accumulated on their continued poverty. That could not last.

We must not mistake this as simply an end to arrogant western power or specifically the domination of the USA over the world. Capitalism is moving at different speeds in the newer environs of Russia, China and other entries into private profit making assaults on the public and the natural environment humanity depends on for survival. But cultural differences in war making still mean mass murder and cultural differences in capitalism only use different languages to do the same thing:
Extract private profit from humans and nature that lead to the loss and detriment of much larger segments of humanity and the planet that is our home.

This can be called a free market, for some, an entry to riches previously inconceivable, for a few, and a host of other terms and buzz words that cloud a collective future of doom under a cover of psycho-economic-religious babble.

Whether life was created in six days, six millennia or six trillion years, whether by an explosion of nothing or an invention of something with a penis, it will come to an end if we continue using it to briefly benefit only some at ultimate cost to the many. That is the essence of anti-democratic capitalism and it must be radically transformed by a truly democratic government as called for in the opening quote. And it must happen everywhere, or humanity will wind up nowhere.
(c) 2014 Frank Scott writes political commentary and satire which appears online at the blog Legalienate.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Taylor Jones ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Poll: 56% Of Voters Say Country Better Off Than It Was 4 Eons Ago

WASHINGTON-With many respondents saying the country has made notable strides during that time, a poll published Wednesday by the Pew Research Center revealed that over half of American voters believe the United States is better off now than it was four eons ago.

"Obviously things aren't perfect, but on the whole I'm pleased with our breathable atmosphere and the lack of massive asteroid impacts, which is something you couldn't say a few eons back," poll respondent David Freeman told reporters, noting that while the economy could be stronger, he thinks America has moved forward since existing as the roiling mass of molten stone it was just a few billion years ago.

"We've still got a long way to go, but it's easy to take for granted that we live in a nation where organic molecules are plentiful and water is a substance that exists. All things considered, I think we're doing okay."

The poll found, however, that more than 4 in 10 voters feel the U.S. is considerably worse off than it was four eons ago and called for a return to the country's 450-degree Fahrenheit roots.
(c) 2014 The Onion"

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Issues & Alibis Vol 14 # 19 (c) 05/16/2014

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