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In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald expounds, "On The 'Criminalization Of Journalism.'"

Uri Avnery explains, "In Their Own Juice."

Glen Ford returns with, "Boko Haram a Blessing For Imperialism In Africa."

Pepe Escobar weighs, "Sex, Lies And A Bunch Of Lawyers."

Jim Hightower explores how, "Corporations Shift Their Tax Burdens To You."

David Swanson names, "The Three Laws Of Pentagon Robotics."

James Donahue finds, "Pot Legalization Is U.S. Hitting Drug Cartel."

John Nichols says, "Instead Of Austerity And Slogans, Vets Need A Fully Funding And Accountable VA."

Chris Hedges introduces, "Thomas Paine, Our Contemporary."

David Sirota considers, "Christie's Budget Choice."

Paul Krugman uncovers, "Europe's Secret Success."

William Rivers Pitt is, "Sick Of Secrets."

Brittney Cooper examines, "White Guy Killer Syndrome."

The NRA wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Frank Scott sees, "A Culture Falling Apart As Fast As An Economy."

Ray McGovern returns with, "Washington Post Seeks US-Patrolled 'Safe Zone' In Syria."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz presents, "An Apology from Prince Charles," but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Me Transmitte Sursum, Caledoni."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Kelley, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Matt Bors, Pat Bagley, Auguste Milliere, Jim Wilson, Wild Bunch, Flickr, Some Cards, US State Department, Johns Hopkins University, New York Times, PandoDaily, 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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Me Transmitte Sursum, Caledoni
If it were only that easy
By Ernest Stewart

"The horror! The horror!"
Heart of Darkness ~~~ Kurtz

"If the United States is treating Afghanistan as a sovereign country, it has to prove it." ~~~ Hamid Karzai

"And throughout it all, too many in the national media, their corporate owners and their stockholders act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators." ~~~ Wayne LaPierre

Fight the good fight every moment
Every minute every day
Fight the good fight every moment
Make it worth the price we pay
Fight The Good Fight ~~~ Triumph

It's not so much of what the "kissless virgin" Elliot Rodger did, it was just that it was par for the course. It wasn't so much that he was a misogynist who thought that life and women owed him something; again, he was just par for the course. It wasn't that he was one IN a million, it was that he was one OF a million. Nothing really special at all. There are millions of white males that feel the same way! The world owes me! She made me kill her; it was all her fault, that I'm a murdering pig!

While the United Snakes places 4th in the world for percentage of rapes per 100,000, it's number one for overall rapes (around 100,000 per year); but those are just the ones reported! You'd think with that amount we'd be doing something to stop them; but what we really do is to encourage them! It goes hand in hand with the Rethuglicans' war on women. Women are perceived by many as being nothing more than a dog or a horse, not even a second-class citizen, a slave.

About one in 20 rapes are ever prosecuted, and likely as not the perps are given a slap on the wrist, and the women or girl is made to look the whore. I heard many prosecutors sum it up as boys will be boys. Meanwhile, the media -- from TV to the movies -- shows rape as nothing more than she said no, he said yes; and by the time they are through, she said yes, too. It, unfortunately, is just part of our culture.

So many males, especially white males, feel it's their right to have the women or girls they desire; and when they openly act that way they wonder why the ladies keep turning them down. Is it any wonder? To put this in perspective, consider that India -- who's constantly in the news about rape, and has a population almost 4 times ours -- has about 20 per cent of our overall rapes and 1/18th our rapes per 100,000.

We created quite a little nightmare for ourselves and our children -- just like we've created in other countries for more than 100 years. Like the Indians who first welcomed us with open arms, we repaid their kindness with mass murder of their tribes. Like Hitler's master race, we've convinced ourselves that we, too, are the master race; and we act accordingly; so instead of Rodgers acts of insanity being the atrocity that it is, thanks to our gun culture, it's pretty much par for the course with the next maniac's manifesto just around the corner. America, the "Christian Nation" has never learned anything from their bible, have they? As their god supposedly said, "Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." Huh, Elliot?

In Other News

I see where President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Monday, for Memorial Day. His trip was two-fold. To have photo ops with U.S. troops and to arrange a meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. He issued an invitation for Karzai to join him at Bagram Air Base with the troops, but Karzai declined.

Barry wanted to meet with Karzai for a little arm-twisting, because Hamid refuses to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, which lends a legal framework to the presence of at least 10,000 U.S. troops after Dec. 31. Without the BSA, U.S. troops engaged in killing Afghanistanis could be charged with war crimes, since the UN Security Council will cease issuing permissions for international use of force in Afghanistan without Afghanistan's permission.

Presidential candidate and Karzai's likely successor, Abdallah Abdallah, has said that he will sign the BSA the minute he is sworn in. So much for Barry's song and dance about all the troops going home by the end of the year; they're not going anywhere, as the fix is in!

Afghanistan's Tolo news said; "Prior to this, the U.S. foreign secretary and the security national advisor of Obama had come to Afghanistan and held talks about the security pact. However, the talks did not apparently have the desirable results." Ergo, Barry's attempt at arm twisting.

Without the US presence, and our never-ending money supply, Afghanistan's national army cannot be paid for out of the current Afghanistan budget; and therefore, the country needs US dollars just to keep its military paid and fed. Were we actually to leave, not only would the military fall apart, but the Taliban would lose their major source of income. So stay tuned, America -- same bat time, same bat channel; it ain't over yet!

And Finally

This week's Vidkun Quisling Award goes to the NRA for all their hard work as of late in keeping a steady flow of infective firearms from their 1% masters in the hands of mental defectives everywhere! Of course, it didn't start out like that. The NRA came about in 1871 by the efforts of a couple of northern Civil War generals. General George Wood Wingate and its first president General Ambrose Burnside, the inventor of sideburns! Seems the generals were quite concerned, and righteously so, that it took, on average, 1000 rounds of ammo to kill a single southern soldier. Not a good average! It soon became about gun safety and blood sports.

For 100 years, this was its reason for being: gun safety and hunting skills. It was only in the 1970s that it became something entirely different! That's when it started becoming political, and starting buying Senators and Con-gressmen by the handful! Suddenly, the gun safety laws and such that the NRA had been endorsing became the enemy, and out came we need them for protection from the government; and they wrapped themselves in the Constitution totally oblivious of the fact that semi-automatic hunting rifles are no match for helicopter gunships, Abrams tanks, and jet fighter bombers. Their bullets will bounce right off, doing no damage -- unlike what the return fire will do to them!

Normally at this point, I'd write them a nasty note; but with this bunch what would that do? Absolutely nothing! Talk about a group of loyal plastic robots doing exactly as the 1% command. The end result is that they sell guns to lunatics who just want to kill for the thrill of power, wrap it up in any psychosis that you like; but the bottom line is that. A gun that makes up for the size of your penis and gives you power over innocence!

Like the Israeli lobby, less than 2% of Americans belong to the NRA; but, like the Israelis, the NRA has power over Washington far beyond their actual membership. And as long as politicians are being bought and paid for, there's nothing to be done about it, either!

With tax exempt status, they have plenty of money to buy Congress with -- and will do so forever for their 1% masters, if we let them. To paraphrase 'Smokey' "only you can prevent the next NRA-sponsored massacre," -- question is, will you?

Keepin' On

When you're hot, you're hot -- knock on wood -- and we are. We heard from some members of the Usual Suspects. Two ladies from Texas, who wish to remain anonymous, so they shall... wait a minute? Still, their generous donations puts us within $200 of making June's bill payment, so who knows?

We've been at your tender mercies, dear readers, since 2004 when I ran out of money to pay the bills. Until 2009, when Barry took power and we kept reporting the truth about Barry as we had about Bush, we had all the support that we needed; then we lost half of our readership -- cest la guerre. Ah, the life of a soothsayer!

Ergo, if all of our effort over the last 14 years to bring you the truth, week after week, year after year, so that you at least know what to do over the last outrage was worth it, then please send us whatever you can, whenever you can; and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you and your family!


03-13-1929 ~ 05-25-2014
Thanks for the pin ups!!

04-04-1928 ~ 05-28-2014
Thanks for the everything!


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.

Michael Kinsley reviewed Greenwald's new book,
No Place to Hide, for the New York Times Book Review.

On The 'Criminalization Of Journalism'
A Response to Michael Kinsley (and the NYT)
By Glenn Greenwald

In 2006, Charlie Savage won the Pulitzer Prize for his series of articles in The Boston Globe exposing the Bush administration's use of "signing statements" as a means of ignoring the law. In response to those revelations, Michael Kinsley-who has been kicking around Washington journalism for decades as the consummate establishment "liberal" insider-wrote a Washington Post op-ed defending the Bush practice ("nailing Bush simply for stating his views on a constitutional issue, without even asking whether those views are right or wrong, is wrong") and mocking concerns over it as overblown ("Sneaky! . . . The Globe does not report what it thinks a president ought to do when called upon to enforce or obey a law he or she believes to be unconstitutional. It's not an easy question").

Far more notable was Kinsley's suggestion that it was journalists themselves-not Bush-who might be the actual criminals, due both to their refusal to reveal their sources when ordered to do so and their willingness to publish information without the permission of the government:

It's wrong especially when contrasted with another current fever running through the nation's editorial pages: the ongoing issue of leaks and anonymous sources. Many in the media believe that the Constitution contains a "reporter's privilege" to protect the identity of sources in circumstances, such as a criminal trial, in which citizens ordinarily can be compelled to produce information or go to jail. The Supreme Court and lower courts have ruled and ruled again that there is no such privilege. And it certainly is not obvious that the First Amendment, which seems to be about the right to speak, actually protects a right not to speak. . . .

Why must the president obey constitutional interpretations he disagrees with if journalists don't have to?

Last Sunday, same day as the Globe piece, The New York Times had a front-page article about the other shoe waiting to drop in these leak cases. The Bush administration may go beyond forcing journalists to testify about the sources of leaks. It may start to prosecute journalists themselves as recipients of illegal leaks. As with the Globe story, this turns out to be a matter of pugnacious noises by the Bush administration. Actual prosecutions of journalists for receiving or publishing leaks are "unknown," the Times article concedes. But this could change at any moment.

Well, maybe. And maybe journalists are right in their sincere belief that the Constitution should protect them in such a case. But who wants to live in a society where every citizen and government official feels free to act according to his or her own personal interpretation of the Constitution, even after the Supreme Court has specifically said that this interpretation is wrong? President Bush would actually top my list of people I don't want wandering through the text and getting fancy ideas. But why should he stay out of the "I say what's constitutional around here" game if his tormentors in the media are playing it?

This is the person whom Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, chose to review my book, No Place to Hide, about the NSA reporting we've done and the leaks of Edward Snowden: someone who has expressly suggested that journalists should be treated as criminals for publishing information the government does not want published. And, in a totally unpredictable development, Kinsley then used the opportunity to announce his contempt for me, for the NSA reporting I've done, and, in passing, for the book he was ostensibly reviewing.

Kinsley has actually done the book a great favor by providing a vivid example of so many of its central claims. For instance, I describe in the book the process whereby the government and its media defenders reflexively demonize the personality of anyone who brings unwanted disclosure so as to distract from and discredit the substance revelations; Kinsley dutifully tells Times readers that I "come across as so unpleasant" and that I'm a "self-righteous sourpuss" (yes, he actually wrote that). I also describe in the book how jingoistic media courtiers attack anyone who voices any fundamental critiques of American political culture; Kinsley spends much of his review deriding the notion that there could possibly be anything anti-democratic or oppressive about the United States of America.

But by far the most remarkable part of the review is that Kinsley-in the very newspaper that published Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers and then fought to the Supreme Court for the right to do so (and, though the review doesn't mention it, also published some Snowden documents)-expressly argues that journalists should only publish that which the government permits them to, and that failure to obey these instructions should be a crime (emphasis mine):

The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government. No doubt the government will usually be overprotective of its secrets, and so the process of decision-making - whatever it turns out to be - should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay. But ultimately you can't square this circle. Someone gets to decide, and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald's notion of what constitutes suppression of dissent by the established media is an invitation to appear on "Meet the Press." On the show, he is shocked to be asked by the host David Gregory, "To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden...why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?" Greenwald was so stunned that "it took a minute to process that he had actually asked" such a patently outrageous question. And what was so outrageous? . . . As the news media struggles to expose government secrets and the government struggles to keep them secret, there is no invisible hand to assure that the right balance is struck. So what do we do about leaks of government information? Lock up the perpetrators or give them the Pulitzer Prize? (The Pulitzer people chose the second option.) This is not a straightforward or easy question. But I can't see how we can have a policy that authorizes newspapers and reporters to chase down and publish any national security leaks they can find. This isn't Easter and these are not eggs.

Let's repeat that: The New York Times just published a review of No Place to Hide that expressly argues on the question of what should and should not get reported "that decision must ultimately be made by the government." Moreover, those who do that reporting against the government's wishes are not journalists but "perpetrators," and whether they should be imprisoned "is not a straightforward or easy question."

Barry Eisler, Erik Wemple, and Kevin Gosztola all have excellent replies to all of that, laying bear just how extremist it is. After reading Kinsley's review, Ellsberg had a couple questions for him:

Does Michael Kinsley think NYT's Neil Sheehan-who "aided & abetted" the Pentagon Papers stories-should be jailed too?

- Daniel Ellsberg (@DanielEllsberg) May 23, 2014

I wonder how many years Michael Kinsley now thinks I should have spent in prison for revealing the Pentagon Papers?

- Daniel Ellsberg (@DanielEllsberg) May 23, 2014

But there's a broader point illustrated by all of this. Reviews of No Place to Hide internationally (the book has been published in more than two dozen countries, in nine languages) have, almost unanimously, been extremely positive. By stark contrast, reviews from American writers have been quite mixed, with some recent ones, including from George Packer and now Kinsley, attempting to savage both the book and me personally. Much of that is simply an expression of the rule that Larry Summers imparted to Elizabeth Warren upon her arrival in Washington, as recounted by The New Yorker:
Larry Summers took Warren out to dinner in Washington and, she recalls, told her that she had a choice to make. She could be an insider or an outsider, but if she was going to be an insider she needed to understand one unbreakable rule about insiders: "They don't criticize other insiders."
My book, and my writing and speaking more generally, usually criticizes insiders, and does so harshly and by name, so much of this reaction is simply a ritual of expulsion based on my chronic violation of Summers' rule. I find that a relief.

But even the positive reviews of the book in the U.S. (such as from the Times' book critic Michiko Kakutani) took grave offense to its last chapter, which argues that the U.S. media is too close and subservient to the U.S. government and its officials, over whom the press claims to exercise adversarial oversight. This condmenation of the U.S. media, argued even many of the positive reviewers, is unfair.

But here, it wasn't just Kinsley who mounted an argument for the criminalization of journalism when done against the government's wishes. Almost instantly, other prominent journalists-NBC's David Gregory, The Washington Post's Charles Lane, New York's Jonathan Chait-publicly touted and even praised Kinsley's review.

So let's recap: The New York Times chose someone to review my book about the Snowden leaks who has a record of suggesting that journalists may be committing crimes when publishing information against the government's wishes. That journalist then proceeded to strongly suggest that my prosecution could be warranted. Other prominent journalists -including the one who hosts Meet the Press-then heralded that review without noting the slightest objection to Kinsley's argument.

Do I need to continue to participate in the debate over whether many U.S. journalists are pitifiully obescient to the U.S. government? Did they not just resolve that debate for me? What better evidence can that argument find than multiple influential American journalists standing up and cheering while a fellow journalist is given space in The New York Times to argue that those who publish information against the government's wishes are not only acting immorally but criminally?
(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.

In Their Own Juice
By Uri Avnery

ACCORDING TO press reports, President Barack Obama has decided to let Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas "stew in their own juice."

That sounds fair.

The United States has tried very hard to make peace between Israel and Palestine. Poor John Kerry has devoted almost all of his considerable energies to getting both sides to meet, to talk, to reach compromises.

At the end of nine months, he found out that it was a false pregnancy. No baby, not even a fetus. Nothing at all.

So American leaders are justified in feeling angry. Angry at both sides. Neither of them has shown any willingness to sacrifice its interests in order to do a favor to Obama or Kerry. Ungrateful, these Middle Easterners.

So it seems that the reaction is justified. You don't want to fulfill our wishes? Go to hell. Both of you.

THE IMPORTANT word in these sentences is "both".

But "both" is based on a lie.

When one says that "both" did not behave as expected, that "both" did not make the "necessary hard decisions" that "both" should stew in their own juice, one consciously or unconsciously assumes that they are equal. Nothing is further from the truth.

Israel is immeasurably stronger than Palestine in every material respect. One resembles a sleek American skyscraper, the other a dilapidated wooden shack.

Palestine is under occupation by the other half of "both". Palestinians are totally deprived of all elementary human and civil rights. Average income in Israel is 20 times higher than in Palestine. Not 20%, but a staggering 2000%. Militarily, Israel is a regional power, and in some respects a world power.

In this reality, speaking of "both" is at best ignorant, at worst cynical.

The very presentation of this picture of "both" is tantamount to acceptance of the Israeli narrative.

WHAT DOES it mean for "both" to stew in their own juice?

For Israel, it means that it can continue to build new settlements on Arab land in the occupied West Bank without foreign interference. It can make life in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip ever harsher, in the hope that more and more Palestinians will prefer to leave. Arbitrary killings of civilians by occupation troops occur every few days.

Some of us realize that this course is leading to disaster in the form of a bi-national state, in which an ever-growing disenfranchised Arab majority will be ruled by the Jewish minority. That is called apartheid. But most Israelis don't see it.

Israelis are happy, and never happier than this week. In a modern repetition of the Biblical David-and-Goliath story, the Tel Aviv Maccabi basketball team beat the formidable Real Madrid team for the European championship. National pride has risen to Olympic heights. (In a childish race, President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu each tried to waylay the winning team on its way to the popular reception in Rabin Square, in order to bask in reflected glory.)

So Israel can stew happily, the more so since the US continues to pay us their annual three billion dollar tribute, provide us with arms and use their UN veto power to protect us from international censure.

FOR THE Palestinian side of "both", stewing in their own juice means something very different.

The effort to achieve Fatah-Hamas reconciliation proceeds slowly and can break down at any moment. It depends on Abbas' success in forming a Unity Government composed of impartial "technocrats" and Hamas' willingness to give up its sole rule in the Gaza Strip.

Almost all Palestinians want unity, but ideological differences run deep (though in practice the differences are now much shallower). But even if some kind of unity is achieved and recognized by the international community against Israel's wish, what can the Palestinians actually do without violence?

They could, with the help of Saudi Arabia and the military junta in Egypt, establish some direct contact between the West Bank and Gaza and break the Israeli blockade on the Strip.

They can apply for admittance to some more international agencies and for more positive resolutions of the UN General Assembly, where the US veto does not apply but whose decisions have very little concrete effect.

They can encourage European countries and the international BDS movement to reinforce the boycott of the settlements or of Israel itself.

Altogether, not very much. The stewing period will enlarge even more the imbalance of power between "both" parties.

If the stewing lasts long enough, the "moderate" leaderships of Fatah and Hamas will be swept away, and Palestinian violence will raise its head again.

Conclusion: "Bothness", which looks so fair and impartial, is in effect a policy of 100% support for the Israeli Right.

WILL THIS strengthen anti-Israeli sentiment abroad?

Two weeks ago, a US Jewish organization dropped a bombshell: in every country around the world there exists anti-Semitism, from 91% in the West Bank to 2% in Laos. (One may wonder where Laotians find Jews to hate.)

Every fifth person on earth harbors anti-Semitic prejudices. More than a billion human beings!!!

The organization which invested so much money to finance such a world-wide poll is the (Anti-)Defamation League. I put the "anti" in brackets, because its proper name should be the Defamation League. It is a kind of Thought Police in the service of the right-wing American Jewish establishment.

(Many years ago, when I was a Member of the Knesset, I was invited to give talks at 20 high-class American universities. The hosts were the Jewish chaplains who belong to the Bnei Brith (Beit Hillel) order. At the last moment, 19 talks were canceled. In a secret letter, the Defamation League had told the chaplains that "though MK Uri Avnery cannot be called a traitor..." etc. etc. In the end, all the talks took place under the auspices of Christian chaplains.)

The publication of the devastating results of the poll exposed a curious fact: news about the rise of anti-Semitism is received by many Jews with something strangely like joy.

I have often wondered about this phenomenon. For Zionists, the answer is simple: the terms anti-Semitism and Zionism, like Siamese twins, were born at the same time. Anti-Semitism has always driven Jews to Israel, and still does (lately from France).

For other Jews, the source of the joy is less obvious. Jews in Europe have been surrounded by anti-Semites for so long, that the sight of them seems normal. Discovering them again and again gives Jews a comfortable feeling of familiarity.

And there are, of course, the innumerable employees of the League and the other Jewish organizations, whose livelihood depends on the exposure of anti-Semites. The interpretation of the poll itself is, of course, complete bullshit (sorry). People who expressed misgivings about Israeli policy were listed as anti-Semites. So are all inhabitants of the occupied territories who do not like their occupiers. Muslims in general, who see Israel in a negative light, are of course racists. A similar poll about anti-Russian racism may well achieve the same results in Ukraine.

A SIMILAR initiative is this week's congress of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

Jewish jurists may sound almost like a tautology. Every Jewish mother wants to boast of "my son, the doctor" or "my son, the lawyer". In the US and many other countries, Jewish lawyers and judges seem to be in the majority.

This meeting has a specific aim: to convince the UN to abolish UNRWA, the UN agency concerned with Palestinian refugees. It was created after the 1948 war, during which some 750,000 Palestinians fled or were driven out of the territory that became Israel. Their descendents, who are also recognized as refugees, amount now to some six to seven million.

UNRWA feeds these refugees, protects them and educates them. It is true that it is a unique institution, expressing the bad conscience of the UN. It seems that the refugees from no other country have such a specific organization to care for them.

Now the Jew-Ju's (if I may call them so) are mounting an attack, directly guided by Israel, to abolish this organization altogether. I suppose that the aim is to disband the Palestinian refugee camps which exist in several countries around Israel - Sabra and Shatila spring to mind - and disperse the refugees all over the planet, where they will be less of a pain in the neck for the Netanyahu government.

All THIS in the name of fairness and equality. Israelis and Palestinians can "both" stew in their own juice.

VERY different juices, though.
(c) 2014 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Boko Haram a Blessing For Imperialism In Africa
U.S. Training Death Squads
By Glen Ford

Militarily, Africa is fast becoming an American continent. Barack Obama, who has been president for all but the first year of AFRICOM's existence, has succeeded in integrating U.S. fighting units, bases, training regimens, equipment and financing into the military structures of all but a handful of African nations. The great pan-Africanist and former Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah's dream of a militarily united Africa has been all but realized - with Americans and Europeans in charge. Under the guise of "humanitarian" intervention, Obama has vastly expanded Bill Clinton and George Bush's African footprints, so that only a few patches on the continental map lie outside Washington's sphere of operations. Eritrea and Zimbabwe are the notable exceptions - and, therefore, future targets.

Africa is occupied territory. The African Union doesn't even pretend to be in charge of its own nominal peace-keeping missions, which are little more than opportunities for African militaries to get paid for doing the West's bidding. China and Brazil may be garnering the lion's share of trade with Africa, but the men with the guns are loyal to AFRICOM - the sugar daddy to the continent's military class. U.S. troops now sleep in African barracks, brothers in arms with African officers who can determine who will sleep next week in the presidential mansion.

The pace of U.S. penetration of West Africa has quickened dramatically since 2011, when Obama bombed Muammar Gaddafi's Libyan government out of existence, setting a flood of jihadists and weapons streaming east to Syria and south to destabilize the nations of the Sahel. Chaos ensued - beautiful chaos, if you are a U.S. military planner seeking justification for ever-larger missions. NATO's aggression against Libya begat the sub-Saharan chaos that justified the French and U.S. occupation of Mali and Niger. Hyperactive North African jihadists, empowered by American bombs, weapons and money, trained and outfitted their brethren on the continent, including elements of Nigeria's Boko Haram. The Yoruba-speaking Islamic warriors then bequeathed AFRICOM a priceless gift: nearly 300 schoolgirls in need of rescuing, perfect fodder for "humanitarian" intervention.

Nobody had to ask twice that Obama "Do something!"

The heads of Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Benin and Cameroon were summoned to Paris (pretending it was their idea) where they declared "total war" on Boko Haram, as "observers" from the U.S., France, Britain and the European Union (Africa's past and future stakeholders) looked on. French President Francois Hollande said "a global and regional action plan" would come out of the conference.

Of course, the five African states have neither the money, training, equipment nor intelligence gathering capacity for such a plan. It will be a Euro-American plan for the defense and security of West Africa - against other Africans. Immediately, the U.S. sent 80 troops to Chad (whose military has long been a mercenary asset of France) to open up a new drone base, joining previously existing U.S. drone fields in Niger, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Somalia, the Seychelles Islands, Djibouti (home to a huge French and American base), and CIA sites that need not be disclosed.

The new West African security grouping became an instant imprint of NATO, an appendage to be shaped by imperial military planners to confront enemies chosen by Washington and Paris.

What a miracle of humanitarian military momentum! The girls had only been missing for a month, and might not be rescued alive, but five neighboring African countries - one of them the biggest economy on the continent - had already been dragooned into a NATO-dominated military alliance with other subordinate African states.

It soon turned out that AFRICOM already had a special relationship with the Nigerian military that was not announced until after the schoolgirls' abduction. AFRICOM will train a battalion of Nigerian Rangers in counterinsurgency warfare, the first time that the Command has provided "full spectrum" training to Africans on such a scale.

With the American public in a "Save our girls" interventionist frame of mind, operations that were secret suddenly became public. The New York Times reveals that the U.S. has been running a secret program to train counterterrorism battalions for Niger and Mauritania. Elite Green Berets and Delta Force killers are instructing handpicked commandos in counterinsurgency in Mali, as well. The identity of one Times source leaves little doubt that the previously secret operations are designed to blanket the region with U.S. trained death squads. Michael Sheehan was until last year in charge of Special Operations at the Pentagon - Death Squads Central - where he pushed for more Special Ops trainers for African armies. Sheehan now holds the "distinguished chair" at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center. In the 1980s, he was a Special Forces commander in Latin America - which can only mean death squads.

U.S. Army Special Forces have always been political killers, most often operating with the CIA. The Phoenix Program, in Vietnam, which murdered between 26,000 and 41,000 people and tortured many more, was a CIA-Special Forces war crime. From 1975 to deep into the 80s, the CIA and its Special Forces muscle provided technical support and weapons to killers for Operation Condor, the death squads run by a consortium of military governments in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, believed responsible for 60,000 murders. Sheehan was probably involved in Operation Condor and its Central American component, Operation Charly, and has perfected the art of political murder, ever since. If he is happy and feeling vindicated by events in Africa, then U.S.-trained death squads are about to proliferate in that part of the world.

There is no question that Obama is enamored of Special Ops, since small unit murders by professional killers at midnight look less like war - and can, if convenient, be blamed on (other) "terrorists." However, history - recent history - proves the U.S. can get away with almost limitless carnage in Africa. Ethiopia's 2006 invasion of Somalia, backed by U.S. forces on land, air and sea, resulted in "the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa" at the time, "worse than Darfur," according to UN observers, with hundreds of thousands dead. The U.S. then withheld food aid to starve out Somali Shabaab fighters, leading to even more catastrophic loss of life. But, most Americans are oblivious to such crimes against Black humanity.

U.S. ally Ethiopia commits genocide against ethnic Somalis in its Ogaden region with absolute impunity, and bars the international media from the region. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama - each of them with help from Susan Rice - have collectively killed six million Congolese since 1996. The greatest genocide since World War Two was the premeditated result of the chaos deliberately imposed on mineral-rich Congo by the U.S. and its henchmen in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Paul Kagame, the current leader of Rwanda, shot down a plane with two presidents aboard in 1994, sparking the mass killings that brought Kagame to power and started neighboring Congo on the road to hell. America celebrates Kagame as a hero, although the Tutsi tribal dictator sends death squads all over the world to snuff out those who oppose him.

Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, a friend of the U.S. since Ronald Reagan, committed genocidal acts against his rivals from the Acholi tribe, throwing them into concentration camps. Joseph Kony was one of these Acholis, who apparently went crazy. Kony hasn't been a threat to Uganda or any other country in the region for years, but President Obama used a supposed sighting of remnants of his Lords Resistance Army to send 100 Green Berets to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Just last month, Obama sent 150 more troops and four aircraft to central Africa, again claiming that Kony was lurking, somewhere.

Actually, the American troops were deployed near South Sudan, which the U.S, Britain and Israel had destabilized for decades in an effort to split it off from the larger nation of Sudan. South Sudan became independent, but it remained unstable - not a nation, but a place with oil that the U.S. coveted. Many tens of thousands more are certain to die in fighting in South Sudan, but few Americans will blame their own country.

As the carnage in Congo demonstrates, whole populations can be made to disappear in Africa without most people in the West noticing. The death squads the Americans are training in Nigeria, Niger, Mauretania and Mali, and those that will soon be stalking victims in Cameroon and Benin, will not be limited to hunting Boko Haram. Death squads are, by definition, destabilizing; they poison the political and social environment beyond repair, as Central Americans who lived through the 80s can attest.

Yet, that is U.S. imperialism's preferred method of conquest in the non-white world. It's what the Americans actually do, when folks demand that they "Do something."
(c) 2014 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Sex, Lies And A Bunch Of Lawyers
By Pepe Escobar

So the ultimate politico-economic-media earthquake of the young 21st century remains the (poisonous) gift that keeps on giving. What a raw nerve Abel Ferrara, of King of New York and Bad Lieutenant fame, has now been able to strike.

An "outraged" Dominique Strauss-Kahn, aka DSK, is going to sue the producers of Welcome to New York, the movie inspired by the epic 2011 scandal that effectively terminated his career as head of the International Monetary Fund and possible future president of France.

The beauty of it is that Ferrara's soft porn spectacular is no more than a "fictionalized version"; "Devereaux" (Gerard Depardieu) stands for fallen Master of the Universe DSK and "Simone" (Jacqueline Bisset) for his multi-millionairess wife Anne Sinclair. Still, DSK's lawyerly bunch has been adamant in reminding Ferrara that their client was duly cleared by the US justice system of the charge of sexual aggression on a Guinean employee of the Sofitel New York in 2011.

DSK's former wife Sinclair, for her part, is publicly "vomiting" her "disgust" for Ferrara's alleged "anti-Semitism" (too much of a stretch) and misogyny (more plausible). Yet she won't sue. As even the Mars rover knows, the whole judicial bordello was confidentially settled by the end of 2012.

Gotta love the current hysteria-cum-PR blitz though - which somewhat mirrored the real thing back in 2011. (See Sex, power and American justice, Asia Times Online, May 19, 2011.) Welcome to New York had its mega-hyped world premiere on the margins of the Cannes Film Festival this past Saturday - under a tent on Nikki Beach, in front of the legendary Carlton, followed by a Depardieu press conference where he even quoted Shakespeare.

The shenanigans also featured a good, old-fashioned newspaper war. Le Monde got the scoop, watching the movie ahead of anyone else (and they loved it). Liberation hated it. And Le Figaro, not to be outdone, denounced "nauseous anti-Semitism"; Simone shows her Anne Sinclair avatar is shown to be an obsessive power woman, actively helping the state of Israel "with devotion and love" and coming from a family that made a dodgy fortune during World War II (one of Deveraux/Depardieu's best lines is "1945 was a good year"). Real life, meanwhile, is now sweet again for the former power couple. Sinclair is back in the limelight editing the French branch of the Huffington Post. And DSK showed up a few days ago on France 2 network pontificating about politics and economics.

Body heat

It's no secret in Paris that Sinclair and her lawyer army did everything in their power to stop this movie in its (troubled) tracks. Ferrara complained that no French producer dared to invest a single euro, using the escape route that this was "too political". Worse: French bankers, according to him, are Sinclair's "friends".

Welcome to New York cost a mere US$3 million; half from production company Wild Bunch and the rest from a consortium of private investors led by Depardieu, plus half a million dollars of tax credit from New York City. Cheap? No doubt, in more ways than one.

It's no wonder something so volatile would never be shown officially in competition in politically correct Cannes, with or without ultra-connected Sinclair trying to prevent it. So in the end what do you get by renting Welcome to New York for seven euros, or around US$10, on a wealth of video-on-demand platforms in France and, for the moment, only a few other European countries?

You get a sex machine - without the James Brown swing. Forget about the reportedly brilliant intellect of DSK/Devereaux, the man who would be president. For Ferrara - who had to re-cut the movie - this is naked sex as naked power, no intermediaries. Or sex as politics by someone who never read Foucault.

Unidimensional as it is, the whole thing is still gripping because of Depardieu's astonishing performance. He incarnates the ultimate power broker as outsized pig (there's a Pasolini touch about it), growling, grunting and snorting, screwing - or at least trying to - anything that moves and barely managing a few sentences in "Franglais" spiced with a lot of mashed-potato English. The frenzy also begs the question; how come a growling pig gets to become the head of the IMF?

The sexual confrontation involving the Sofitel Afro-Muslim housekeeping lady - one of the most fantasized scenes in the modern annals of gossip - lasts barely a minute on screen. Immediately afterwards, Devereaux goes to lunch with his daughter and her Canadian fiance, describing a bouillabaisse as "a sex party with the fish."

Ferrara, though, should not be taken at face value. He's way more subversive than that. Simone/Sinclair is indeed depicted as a nonchalant metaphor for the absolute power of money capable of corrupting absolutely anything.

In one of the very few dramatic exchanges in the whole movie, DSK/Devereaux complains it was always her dream for him to become president ("I am not capable"); moreover, she only accomplished one thing after all those years: to force him to hate himself. What's implied is that the poor boy was always escaping the boot of an imperial Mom by acting like a larger-than-life pig for which every woman is a whore. And then the sociopath would be back to Mommy all over again.

During the go-go 1980s, Baudrillard famously asked, "What are you doing after the orgy?" Ferrara answers in the Instagram era with a sequential instagram of Depardieu's obese, flaccid body pushed to the limit, exposed, decomposed and discarded by the society of spectacle. Quite the down and dirty allegory of these tawdry, trashy, futile times.
(c) 2014 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan." He may be reached at

Corporations Shift Their Tax Burdens To You

Did you scramble to get your taxes done this year, dashing to the mailbox at the last minute? Yeah, me too.

I really didn't mind paying what I owe - but I hate having to pay the taxes owed by the likes of JPMorgan Chase, Mitt Romney, Exxon, and Amazon. They're just a few of the astonishingly-profitable corporations and superrich financial hucksters who walk their tax tabs each year, thus putting the cost of everything from the military to our national parks onto our shoulders.

We constantly hear CEOs and their congressional hirelings wail about the "punishing" tax rate of 35 percent assessed on corporate profits. But they're grinning as they're crying, for they know they actually pay nowhere near that. In fact, the latest assessment by the Government Accountability Office found that U.S. corporations pay an average tax rate of only 12.6 percent, forcing workaday taxpayers to cover the multiple billions of dollars that these privileged elites dodge.

How do they do that? Simple. They duck through ridiculous loopholes in our tax laws. How ridiculous? Try the subsidy for corporate criminals. If you get a speeding ticket, do you get to deduct the fine from the income tax you owe? Ha - just try it! But JPMorgan Chase was fined more than $20 billion last year for major frauds and consumer rip offs, and its honchos have now deducted that "punishment" from the corporate tax bill, claiming it as a cost of doing business. Oh, they also get to deduct the many millions of dollars they paid lawyers to defend their blatant wrongdoing.

This is Jim Hightower saying... Well, sniff the elites, we're merely making rightful use of the deductions allowed by tax laws. But it's their lawyers who wrote those laws to legalize their thievery! And need I mention that they also get a deduction for the mega-salaries and expenses of those lawyers? So, we pay for their wrongdoings, their fines, and their lawyers.
(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.

The Three Laws Of Pentagon Robotics
By David Swanson

The three laws of robotics, according to science fiction author Isaac Asimov, are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
I would gladly have accepted a $20 million Pentagon contract for the job of pointing out these three laws.

OK, maybe $25 million.

Sadly, the Pentagon has instead hired a bunch of philosophy professors from leading U.S. universities to tell them how to make robots murder people morally and ethically.

Of course, this conflicts with the first law above. A robot designed to kill human beings is designed to violate the first law.

The whole project even more fundamentally violates the second law. The Pentagon is designing robots to obey orders precisely when they violate the first law, and to always obey orders without any exception. That's the advantage of using a robot. The advantage is not in risking the well-being of a robot instead of a soldier. The Pentagon doesn't care about that, except in certain situations in which too many deaths of its own humans create political difficulties. And there are just as many situations in which there are political advantages for the Pentagon in losing its own human lives: "The sacrifice of American lives is a crucial step in the ritual of commitment," wrote William P. Bundy of the CIA, an advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. A moral being would disobey the orders these robots are being designed to carry-out, and -- by being robots -- to carry out without any question of refusal. Only a U.S. philosophy professor could imagine applying a varnish of "morality" to this project.

The Third Law should be a warning to us. Having tossed aside Laws one and two, what limitations are left to be applied should Law three be implemented? Assume the Pentagon designs its robots to protect their own existence, except when . . . what? Except when doing so would require disobeying a more important order? But which order is more important? Except when doing so would require killing the wrong kind of person(s)? But which are they? The humans not threatening the robot? That's rather a failure as a limitation.

Let's face it, the Pentagon needs brand new laws of robotics. May I suggest the following:

1. A Pentagon robot must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon robot must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
This set of laws differs from Asimov's in a number of ways. For one thing, it completely lacks morality. It is designed for killing, not protecting. By prioritizing killing in the First Law, rather than protecting, this set of laws also allows for the possibility of robots sacrificing themselves to kill rather than to protect -- as well as the possibility of robots turning on their masters.

This set of laws differs much less -- possibly not at all -- from the set of laws currently followed by human members of the U.S. military. The great distinction that people imagine between autonomous and piloted drones vanishes when you learn a little about the thought habits of human drone pilots. They, like other members of the U.S. military, follow these laws:

1. A Pentagon human must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon human must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon human must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The job of the philosophy professors is to apply these laws to robots while neither changing them nor letting on to have figured out what they are. In other words, it's just like teaching a course in the classics to a room full of students. Thank goodness our academia has produced the men and women for this job.
(c) 2014 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Pot Legalization Is U.S. Hitting Drug Cartel
By James Donahue

It happened after we did away with prohibition. The illegal business of mob bootlegging and speakeasies went away. Why did we not think the problem we have been having with the ultra-violent drug cartels at the Mexican border wouldn't go away if we legalized marijuana?

Well, the slow shift toward the legalization of marijuana is showing signs of doing just that. As more and more states agree to permit the home growth and use of marijuana, even if only for medical purposes, the impact on Mexican marijuana growers is beginning to hit. It may not be long before Mexico will be a safe and friendly place for American tourists to visit without fear of being caught in gang warfare.

One recent report noted that even with just the states of Washington and Colorado legalizing marijuana and allowing for domestic production, Mexican farmers and cartels are watching wholesale prices slashed as high as 75 percent. They fear that if the United States keeps moving in this direction, they will be driven completely out of the pot business.

It seems that the people who make such laws in Washington and in state governments are not reading their history books. There is always someone out there willing to meet a demand for a product, especially when it is declared to be illegal. And the big money lies in black marketing. Big money attracts organized crime.

We have always recommended the legalization of marijuana in the United States. It is a much safer substance than alcohol, which the prohibitionists failed to take off the market a century ago. The harder lawmakers try to prohibit the use of these products, the more popular they appear to become.

There was a time when cocaine, heroin, amphetamine and opium were substances that could be obtained at American drug stores. They were used in pain elixirs, cough medicine and a variety of other substances. Laboratory made amphetamine was once sold openly as a performance enhancer, treatment for nasal congestion, depression and obesity.

All of the above drugs are now on the government's list of controlled and illegal substances. And all of them are readily available on the black market to anyone with the money to pay the price. Instead of pharmaceutical grade, however, these illegal substances are being cooked in private labs and often with dangerous chemicals. Thus America's insane drug war has been a total failure.

President Richard Nixon, a known amphetamine user, declared the nation's war on drugs in 1971. Since then the government has spent over a trillion dollars trying to curb narcotics use. Consequently we have about 2.3 million people in jails and prisons, with over half a million of them incarcerated for drug law violation.

In his appeal to Americans to abandon prohibition, American writer H. L. Mencken wrote: "Prohibition has not only failed in its promises but actually created additional serious and disturbing social problems throughout society. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic but more. There is not less crime, but more. The cost of government is not smaller but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased but diminished." We can insert the words drugs for alcohol in the above argument and the words ring just as true today.

It is time to legalize all of the narcotics . . . even the addictive ones . . . and put them in locked pharmacy cabinets. Addicts should be allowed to register and then buy the pharmaceutical grade drug they need for as long as they need it.

Changing the law will get organized crime out of the drug business altogether, reduce America's overcrowded prison population, and provide safer quality narcotics for the addicts that need them, at a reduced price they can afford. That means they probably won't have to steal to cover the cost of their daily "fix."
(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.

Instead Of Austerity And Slogans, Vets Need A Fully Funding And Accountable VA
By John Nichols

Dire reports about the failure of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide adequate care for those who served in this country's military forces are not just a serious issue for veterans. They are a serious issue for every American who believes the federal government can and must meet the basic commitments necessary to maintain a civil society.

Unfortunately, that seriousness is not reflected in the frenzy of finger-pointing that has developed as a response to "the public's outrage over excessive wait times and rigged record-keeping at Veterans Affairs hospitals"-an outrage that the president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union that represents caregivers for vets, refers to as "more than justified."

There is no question that the VA has a problem that must be addressed.

The question is whether the politicians in Washington are ready to address it.

The most predictable of the political careerists, Republican and Democrat, seem to think that firing VA Secretary Eric Shinseki will somehow "fix" things, or that the removal of a few failed managers will suddenly create a functional VA. But that is an absurdly insufficient response.

Depending on what reports regarding the agency reveal, there may well be a place for new leadership and a management shakeup. And those changes might briefly produce a fantasy of action and improvement. But that is all it could be: a fantasy. And a cruel fantasy, at that.

Neither the immediate crisis, nor serious issues relating to the long-term future of the VA, will be settled with a mere reorganization of upper management. The real issues are closer to the ground. The VA needs to have enough doctors, nurses and aides to provide the care that is needed-and the doctors, nurses and aides who are now on duty must have the resources and the flexibility to assure that this care is delivered in a timely and responsible manner.

That is not now the case.

"When we look deeper into this issue of extended wait times for veterans to receive an appointment, we have to recognize that understaffing is a major culprit," explains AFGE president J. David Cox Sr. "All around the country, medical facilities are understaffed, with numerous frontline care positions going unfilled. How can the VA expect to keep up with the growing needs of our nation's heroes if it doesn't properly staff its facilities?"

"According to the Independent Budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs, developed each year by leading veterans groups, funding levels will remain an estimated $2 billion short in FY 2015 and approximately $500 million short for FY 2016," the AFGE notes.

Members of Congress-at least those who pay minimal attention to veterans issues-have for some time been aware of the funding shortfall. Yet too many of them have resisted calls for action.

The reason is that the current Congress is packed with partisans who are more concerned with maintaining an austerity agenda than with caring for Americans who are in need. Too many members of Congress continue to prattle on about how government is the problem, about how spending must be cut to meet their imagined bottom lines, about how the resources are not there to keep promises to vulnerable Americans-even if the resources are always there for wars of whim and a military-industrial complex that provides daily evidence of the extremes to which waste, fraud and abuse can be taken.

The current Congress includes a striking number of members who express open antipathy to meeting the guarantees that have been made to all Americans, including veterans. These members of Congress are so unthinking in their approach, so cruel in their budgetary calculus, that they casually, in some cases gleefully, presided over a government shutdown last fall.

Republicans get blamed for advancing the austerity agenda, but it is important to remember that more than a few Democrats have compromised with it. And the difference between those who promote austerity and those who make the compromises that allow for austerity means very little to Americans who are stuck on the waiting lists that are created by budgeting that owes more to Ayn Rand tomes than accounting textbooks.

The VA crisis is a wake-up call.

It is time to get serious. It is time to abandon austerity, and to recognize that core commitments cannot be compromised in order to maintain ideological fantasies.

Senate Veteran Affairs Committee chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, tried to get ahead of a host of issues concerning veterans in February, when he proposed comprehensive legislation to improve VA healthcare, education and job-training. Though it was strongly backed by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and other organizations representing vets, the measure was blocked when most Senate Republicans opposed it. To Republicans who suggested the measure was too expensive, Sanders said, "If you think it's too expensive (to fund veterans programs), then don't send them off to war."

Last week, Sanders announced that he would reintroduce his plan to allocate $21 billion more for veterans initiatives over the coming decade. He is, as well, proposing a new VA accountability measure. The latter legislation removes bureaucratic barriers and makes it easier for the secretary of veterans affairs to make management changes that are necessary to protect those who have served in the military.

The Sanders approach recognizes the need to move beyond the failed responses of America's austerity-minded politicians while at the same time increasing accountability. It's a smart long-term fix that eschews the easy sloganeering and empty promises of those who would politicize the VA crisis.

Conscious of the urgency of that crisis, the senator plans to move quickly to get both measures to the Senate floor. "In recent years, as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 1.5 million more veterans have entered the VA health care system," says Sanders. "Congress must do everything possible to make certain that the VA has the financial resources and administrative accountability to provide the high-quality health care and timely access to care that our veterans earned and deserve."
(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.

Portrait of Thomas Paine by Auguste Milliere (1880).

Thomas Paine, Our Contemporary
By Chris Hedges

Cornel West, Richard D. Wolff and I, along with moderator Laura Flanders, next Sunday will inaugurate "The Anatomy of Revolution," a series of panel discussions focusing on modern revolutionary theorists. This first event will be part of a two-day conference in New York City sponsored by the Left Forum, and nine other discussions by West, Wolff and me will follow in other venues later this year.

Sunday's event will be about Thomas Paine, the author of "Common Sense," "The Rights of Man" and "The Age of Reason"-the most widely read political essays of the 18th century, works that established the standards by which rebellion is morally and legally permissible. We will ask whether the conditions for revolt set by Paine have been met with the rise of the corporate state. Should Paine's call for the overthrow of British tyranny inspire our own call for revolution? And if it should, to echo Vladimir Lenin, what must be done?

Thomas Paine is America's one great revolutionary theorist. We have produced a slew of admirable anarchists-Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, Dorothy Day and Noam Chomsky-and radical leaders have arisen out of oppressed groups-Sitting Bull, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Cornel West and bell hooks-but we don't have a tradition of revolutionists. This makes Paine unique.

Paine's brilliance as a writer-his essay "Common Sense" is one of the finest pieces of rhetorical writing in the English language-is matched by his clear and unsentimental understanding of British imperial power. No revolutionist can challenge power if he or she does not grasp how power works. This makes Sheldon Wolin's book "Democracy Incorporated" and his concept of "inverted totalitarianism" as important to us today as Paine's writings on the nature of the British monarchy were in 1776.

There were numerous American leaders, including Benjamin Franklin, who hoped to work out an accommodation with the British crown to keep America a British colony, just as many now believe they can work through traditional mechanisms of power, including electoral politics and the judicial system, to reform corporate power. Paine, partly because he did not come to America from England until he was 37, understood that the British crown had no interest in accommodation; today, the corporate state similarly has no interest in granting any concessions. It became Paine's job to explain to his American audience the reality of British power and what effective resistance would entail. Paine knew that the British monarchy, which wielded the global imperial power that American wields today, was blinded by its hubris and military prowess. It had lost the ability to listen and as a result had lost the ability to make rational choices. The inhabitants of New York would discover this when British warships and mercenary troops besieged the city.

Paine created a new political language. He wrote in crystalline prose. "Common Sense" was read by hundreds of thousands. It was the first political essay in Enlightenment Europe to call for a separation between civil society and the state, terms that many writers had considered interchangeable. Civil society, Paine argued, must always act as a counterweight against the state in a democracy. Power, he warned, even in a democracy, carries within it the seeds of tyranny.

Paine, as George Orwell and James Baldwin did later, used his pen as a weapon. It was a weapon deeply feared by the monarchies in Europe, as well as the Jacobins in France, who imprisoned Paine and planned to execute him for denouncing the Reign of Terror. He spoke an undeniable truth. He called his readers to act upon that truth. "My motive and object in all my political works, beginning with Common Sense," Paine remembered in 1806, "... have been to rescue man from tyranny and false systems and false principles of government, and enable him to be free."

"Where liberty is, there is my country," Benjamin Franklin once said to Paine. "Where liberty is not, there is my country," Paine replied. For Paine, the role of a citizen extended beyond national borders. The fight of those living under any system of tyranny was his fight. "When it shall be said in any country in the world 'My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of happiness': when these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government."

The key to social change, as Eric Foner pointed out in "Tom Paine and Revolutionary America," is "a change in the nature of language itself, both in the emergence of new words and in old words taking on new meanings." The call for revolution that was advanced by Paine, as by writers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, came through the new language of secular rationalism, rather than the older language of traditional religion. But Paine, unlike Rousseau and other philosophers, wrote in the everyday language of working people. He drew from their experiences. And he was the first writer to extend political debate beyond the refined salons to the taverns. He hated the erudite, florid prose of philosophers such as Edmund Burke, calling that type of philosophical and academic language "Bastilles of the word." He saw liberty as being intimately connected with language. And he knew that those who seek to monopolize power always retreat into arcane language that is inaccessible to the masses. Paine's clarity will have to be replicated. We too will have to invent a new language. We will have to articulate our reality through communitarianism in an age of diminishing resources rather than the language of capitalism. And we will have to do this in a form that is accessible. Foner cites this as one of Paine's most important achievements:

Paine was one of the creators of this secular language of revolution, a language in which timeless discontents, millennial aspirations and popular traditions were expressed in a strikingly new vocabulary. The very slogans and rallying cries we associate with the revolutions of the late eighteenth century come from Paine's writings: the "rights of man," the "age of reason," the "age of revolution" and the "times that try men's souls." Paine helped to transform the meaning of the key words of political discourse. In Common Sense he was among the first writers to use "republic" in a positive rather than derogatory sense; in The Rights of Man he abandoned the old classical definition of "democracy," as a state where each citizen participated directly in government, and created its far broader, far more favorable modern meaning. Even the word "revolution" was transformed in his writing, from a term derived from the motion of planets and implying a cyclical view of history to one signifying vast and irreversible social and political change.
Paine also understood what despotic regimes do to the soul. Despotic regimes-and here the corporate state serves as a contemporary example-make war on reason and rational thought. They circumscribe free speech and free assembly. They marginalize and silence critics. They make all institutions subservient to despotism, or in our case corporate power. They employ relentless propaganda to rob people of the language to describe their daily reality. They render them politically alienated. Those who live under despotic regimes, Paine noted, finally lose the ability to communicate their most basic concerns and grievances. And this suppression, Paine understood, has consequences. "Let men communicate their thoughts with freedom," Paine wrote, "and their indignation fly off like a fire spread on the surface; like gunpowder scattered, they kindle, they communicate; but the explosion is neither loud nor dangerous-keep them under restraint, it is subterranean fire, whose agitation is unseen till it bursts into earthquake or volcano." Finally, Paine understood that war is always the preferred activity of despotic states, for, as he wrote, war is essentially "the art of conquering at home."

Paine, who refused to profit off his writings, suffered for his courage. When he returned to England, where he wrote "The Rights of Man," he was persecuted, as he would later be persecuted in France and in America upon his final return. John Keane in his biography "Tom Paine: A Political Life" describes some of what Paine endured as a radical in late 18th century England.

Government spies tailed him constantly on London's streets, sending back a stream of reports to the Home Secretary's office. Those parts of the press that functioned as government mouthpieces pelted him with abuse. "It is earnestly recommended to Mad Tom," snarled the Times, "that he should embark for France, and there be naturalized into the regular confusion of a democracy." Broadsheets containing "intercepted correspondence from Satan to Citizen Paine" pictured him as a three-hearted, fire-breathing monster, named "Tom Stich." Open letters, often identically worded but signed with different pen names, were circulated through taverns and alehouses. "Brother Weavers and Artificers," thundered "a gentleman" to the inhabitants of Manchester and Salford, "Do not let us be humbugged by Mr. Paine, who tells us a great many Truths, in his book, in order to shove off his Lies." Dozens of sermons and satires directed at Paine were published, many of them written anonymously for commoners by upper-class foes masquerading as commoners.
The power of Paine, as in the case of Orwell or Baldwin, was that he refused to be anyone's propagandist. He may have embraced the American Revolution, as he embraced the French Revolution, but he was a fierce abolitionist and a foe of the use of terror as a political tool, a stance for which he was eventually imprisoned in revolutionary France. He asked the American revolutionaries "with what consistency, or decency" they "could complain so loudly of attempts to enslave them, while they hold so many hundred thousand in slavery." He stood up in the National Convention in France, where he was one of two foreigners allowed to be elected and sit as a delegate, to denounce the calls in the chamber to execute the king, Louis XVI. "He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression," Paine said. "For if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself." Unchecked legislatures, he warned, could be as despotic as unchecked monarchs. He hated the pomp and arrogance of power and privilege, retaining his loyalty to the working class in which he was raised. "High sounding names" like My Lord, he wrote, serve only to "overawe the superstitious vulgar" and make them "admire in the great, the vices they would honestly condemn in themselves." He ridiculed the divine right of kings. The British monarchy, which traced itself back seven centuries to William the Conqueror, had, he wrote, been founded by "a French bastard landing with armed banditti and establishing himself king of England against the consent of the natives." And he detested the superstition and power of religious dogma, equating Christian belief with Greek mythology. "All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit," he wrote. Paine posited that the "virtuous people" would smash the windows of the Christian God if he lived on earth.

His unrelenting commitment to truth and justice, along with his eternal rebelliousness, saw him later vilified by the leaders of the new American republic, who had no interest in the egalitarian society championed by Paine. Paine attacked former revolutionaries such as George Washington in the United States and Maximilien Robespierre in France who abused power in the name of "the people." He was driven out of England by the government of William Pitt and then, after nearly a year in prison, was ousted from Jacobin France. He was, by that time, an old man, and even his former champions, in well-orchestrated smear campaigns, routinely denounced him for his religious and political radicalism. The popular press in America dismissed him as "the drunken infidel." But Paine never veered from the proposition that liberty meant the liberty to speak the truth even if no one wanted to hear it. He died, largely forgotten, a pauper in New York City. Six people went to his funeral. Two of them were black.
(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."

Chris Christie

Christie's Budget Choice
By David Sirota

The most troubling aspect of 2016 presidential candidate Chris Christie's refusal this week to make necessary contributions to his state's pension system was not the budget maneuver itself - it was that almost none of the debate surrounding the move contextualized what it was really about.

The New Jersey governor depicted the maneuver as a matter of financial necessity, as if he had no other choice but to effectively use New Jersey retirees' money to balance the state's books. With New Jersey under threat of another credit downgrade, Christie was certainly dinged a bit by the political press for not better managing his state's budget. However, lost in the noise about whether or not the governor is a true fiscal conservative was any discussion of the two choices his administration has made - choices that are at the root of the budget crisis.

The first choice was Christie's decision to spend enormous amounts of New Jersey taxpayer money on lavish subsidies to corporations. As the New York Times reported two years ago, "Christie has approved a record $1.57 billion in state tax breaks for dozens of New Jersey's largest companies." As if that largesse wasn't enough, the Newark Star-Ledger reported that in 2013, Christie signed legislation that "lifts limits on how much the state can give out in economic incentives to corporations and developers."

The second choice was the Christie administration's decision to invest so much of New Jersey's pension fund in high-risk, high-fee investments. As Pensions and Investments magazine just reported, New Jersey now ranks second in the nation for public pension investments in hedge funds.

In a radio interview, Christie recently bragged that this investment scheme delivered 12.9 percent returns last year. He didn't mention that number was well below the 16 percent returns the median public pension delivered, according to Businessweek.

Comparing the New Jersey returns with the median, pension consultant Chris Tobe said the gap represents $2.5 billion in returns New Jersey could have generated had it performed like the typical public pension. Tobe estimates that $1.2 billion of that difference came from the fees paid on the hedge funds, private equity firms and other so-called "alternative investments."

With those figures in mind, let's return to Christie's pension machinations this week.

According to the Star-Ledger, Christie "said he plans to take $2.43 billion budgeted for the pension fund during this fiscal year and the next one to balance his budgets." That $2.43 billion is less than the combined $1.5 billion Christie is spending on corporate subsidies and the $1.2 billion the Christie administration spent last year on investment fees. In other words, context shows Christie isn't being forced to renege on the pension payment - he's choosing to spend money on corporate subsidies and investment fees rather than on those pension promises.

Why would he make such a choice, you ask? Simply follow the money.

Many of the corporate subsidies are going to companies that just so happen to be big donors to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie now chairs. Likewise, the pension investment fees enrich the Wall Street firms that typically bankroll presidential campaigns.

Together, the firms getting the New Jersey subsidies and the investment fees have far more political campaign cash at their disposal than the public workers whose retirements could be jeopardized by Christie's pension maneuver. And so Christie is choosing to side with the bigger money.

As a purely political tactic in the age of the billion-dollar presidential campaign, Christie's move can certainly be seen as shrewd. But let's not pretend it was a matter of necessity - it was a self-serving decision to protect the donor class.
(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.

Europe's financial and macroeconomic woes have overshadowed its remarkable,
unheralded longer-term success in an area in which it used to lag: job creation.

Europe's Secret Success
By Paul Krugman

SINTRA, Portugal - I'll be spending the next couple of days at a forum sponsored by the European Central Bank whose de facto topic - whatever it may say on the program - will be the destructive monetary muddle caused by the Continent's premature adoption of a single currency. What makes the story even sadder is that Europe's financial and macroeconomic woes have overshadowed its remarkable, unheralded longer-term success in an area in which it used to lag: job creation.

What? You haven't heard about that? Well, that's not too surprising. European economies, France in particular, get very bad press in America. Our political discourse is dominated by reverse Robin-Hoodism - the belief that economic success depends on being nice to the rich, who won't create jobs if they are heavily taxed, and nasty to ordinary workers, who won't accept jobs unless they have no alternative. And according to this ideology, Europe - with its high taxes and generous welfare states - does everything wrong. So Europe's economic system must be collapsing, and a lot of reporting simply states the postulated collapse as a fact.

The reality, however, is very different. Yes, Southern Europe is experiencing an economic crisis thanks to that money muddle. But Northern European nations, France included, have done far better than most Americans realize. In particular, here's a startling, little-known fact: French adults in their prime working years (25 to 54) are substantially more likely to have jobs than their U.S. counterparts.

It wasn't always that way. Back in the 1990s Europe really did have big problems with job creation; the phenomenon even received a catchy name, "Eurosclerosis." And it seemed obvious what the problem was: Europe's social safety net had, as Representative Paul Ryan likes to warn, become a "hammock" that undermined initiative and encouraged dependency.

But then a funny thing happened: Europe started doing much better, while America started doing much worse. France's prime-age employment rate overtook America's early in the Bush administration; at this point the gap in employment rates is bigger than it was in the late 1990s, this time in France's favor. Other European nations with big welfare states, like Sweden and the Netherlands, do even better.

Now, young French citizens are still a lot less likely to have jobs than their American counterparts - but a large part of that difference reflects the fact that France provides much more aid to students, so that they don't have to work their way through school. Is that a bad thing? Also, the French take more vacations and retire earlier than we do, and you can argue that the incentives for early retirement in particular are too generous. But on the core issue of providing jobs for people who really should be working, at this point old Europe is beating us hands down despite social benefits and regulations that, according to free-market ideologues, should be hugely job-destroying.

Oh, and for those who believe that out-of-work Americans, coddled by government benefits, just aren't trying to find jobs, we've just performed a cruel experiment using the worst victims of our job crisis as subjects. At the end of last year Congress refused to renew extended jobless benefits, cutting off millions of unemployed Americans. Did the long-term unemployed who were thereby placed in dire straits start finding jobs more rapidly than before? No - not at all. Somehow, it seems, the only thing we achieved by making the unemployed more desperate was deepening their desperation.

I'm sure that many people will simply refuse to believe what I'm saying about European strengths. After all, ever since the euro crisis broke out there has been a relentless campaign by American conservatives (and quite a few Europeans too) to portray it as a story of collapsing welfare states, brought low by misguided concerns about social justice. And they keep saying that even though some of the strongest economies in Europe, like Germany, have welfare states whose generosity exceeds the wildest dreams of U.S. liberals.

But macroeconomics, as I keep trying to tell people, isn't a morality play, where virtue is always rewarded and vice always punished. On the contrary, severe financial crises and depressions can happen to economies that are fundamentally very strong, like the United States in 1929. The policy mistakes that created the euro crisis - mainly creating a unified currency without the kind of banking and fiscal union that a single currency demands - basically had nothing to do with the welfare state, one way or another.

The truth is that European-style welfare states have proved more resilient, more successful at job creation, than is allowed for in America's prevailing economic philosophy.
(c) 2014 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear -- kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor -- with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded."
~~~ General Douglas MacArthur

Fracking site where chemical-laden water is injected at high speed into the ground.

Sick Of Secrets
By William Rivers Pitt

A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept. ~~~ Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Regular readers of this space are well aware by now of the joy I take in highlighting and underscoring the bottomless vat of genuine entertainment to be found in the foibles, follies and gut-busting failures provided on a daily basis by this country's far-right fringe. From hilariously misspelled and misapprehended protest signs - "Respect Are Country - Speak English" and "Keep Government Out Of My Medicare" leap to mind - to bottomless calamities like the "Operation American Spring" in DC this past weekend, to the "patriots" at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada pointing their guns at each other over a rumor that Eric Holder was sending a drone to kill them all, these people are well and truly the gift that keeps on giving.

The problem is that some of these brain donors are actually in charge of stuff, as evidenced by the latest doings in North Carolina on the subject of fracking.

Fracking, for those not in the know, is the process of injecting chemical-laden water at high speed into the ground, so as to extract the last vestiges of useable hydrocarbons from a particular site. Bully for those who turn whatever is extracted into folding green, but the neighbors have a tendency to find their tap water undrinkable and/or flammable thanks to the chemicals being injected into the ground, and folks in places like Oklahoma, Texas and California will tell you all about the earthquakes that happen near active fracking sites.

The state fathers of the North Carolina General Assembly, it seems, do not want you or anyone else to know the precise composition of the poisons being injected into the ground in order to lap up whatever mouthfuls of gas and oil there are to be had. Three Republican senators from that august chamber have coughed up a bill that would make it a felony to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process.

Not for nothing, and try to contain your shock, but the three North Carolina state senators pushing this bill have each received lavish campaign contributions from a lobbying firm called McGuire Woods, which represents gas and oil companies like Koch Industries and Halliburton. Far be it from me to wave the bloody shirt, but it strikes me as singularly obnoxious that elected officials are seeking to criminalize providing information to the public about why the water they drink is probably killing them because of the crud being pumped into their groundwater by the companies doling out money to keep it secret.

I know, I know, it's just the price of doing business. Just Republicans being Republicans, right? Screw the people, because all that matters is the wealth-weighted paymasters lurking just out of sight.

Speaking of which, have you heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? It's this massive multi-nation trade deal that President Obama is just wild about. The thing is, the deal is being negotiated in secret between a few government officials and a few hundred corporate representatives. The only reason we know anything about it at all is because Wikileaks got hold of a few documents pertaining to the deal and was kind enough to share them with the world by way of the internet.

The little we know: TPP would paint some 40 percent of the world's economy with NAFTA-style rules that would, among other things, ship American jobs overseas, subsume our judicial system with corporate arguments that their rights to profit are more important than the standing laws of the land, and forever alter the free exchange of information on the internet. The price of medicines will skyrocket, US companies will no longer be able to pitch their wares under the "Buy American" banner, genetically-altered life forms will be able to be patented, tobacco companies will be let off the our-product-will-kill-you leash, and Wall Street - the biggest TPP fan of all - will make a killing.

And that's just what we know about this thing that is being pushed like mad by the Democrat in the White House.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the last honest humans left in modern American politics, spoke last week at the annual Public Citizen's gathering, and underscored the impending nightmare of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal:

From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is, why are the trade talks secret? You'll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill. I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me "They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed."

Think about that. Real people, people whose jobs are at stake, small-business owners who don't want to compete with overseas companies that dump their waste in rivers and hire workers for a dollar a day - those people, people without an army of lobbyists - they would be opposed. I believe if people across this country would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then maybe that trade agreement should not happen.

Just the price of doing business, right?

So, yeah, here's the funny part: Republicans in North Carolina want to make it a crime to disclose the chemicals that the people they purport to represent are being exposed to. Meanwhile, the Democrat in the White House wants to sell you and everyone you know out to massive corporate and financial interests, and in an ancillary twist of the knife, that same Democrat's administration is trying to make it harder for you to find out about these things by warping the nature of the internet into a pay-for-play cash cow...and you know what? All of these Republican and Democratic secrets are going to make the same small group of rich people even richer.

I am mortally sick of secrets.

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

Elliot Rodger

White Guy Killer Syndrome
Elliot Rodger's deadly, privileged rage. Can I go ahead and scream yet? It's time for America to admit what it's long resisted: White male privilege kills
By Brittney Cooper

Welp. Another young white guy has decided that his disillusionment with his life should become somebody else's problem. On Saturday, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger (who, as many commenters have pointed out, had a white father and mother of Asian descent) went on a killing spree on the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara, murdering his three roommates, shooting women outside a sorority house, and hitting people with his car as he attempted to get away from police.

How many times must troubled young white men engage in these terroristic acts that make public space unsafe for everyone before we admit that white male privilege kills? While Mark Cuban is busy crossing the street at any sign of a black male in a hoodie, or clutching his wallet a bit tighter at the sign of a tatted-up white guy, he may find a bullet whizzing by his head from a young, clean-cut white man, child of a Hollywood film director, upset that he does not have a certain level of clout and status with the ladies.

The idea that it is young black men or working-class white men (which is partially what I think Cuban's invocation of tattoos attempts to encode) who make public space dangerous is belied by the fact that the problems of urban violence, which disproportionately involve young men of color, largely happen on residential terrain. Black men are not rolling onto college campuses and into movie theaters on a regular basis to shoot large numbers of people. Usually, the young men who do that are white, male, heterosexual and middle-class.

And make no mistake: From my standpoint as an armchair therapist - having read transcripts of Rodger's videos - his anger is about his failure to be able to access all the markers of white male heterosexual middle-class privilege. He goes on and on about his status as a virgin, his inability to find a date since middle school, his anger and resentment about being rejected by blond, sorority women. In fact, he claims he will "slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see." As Jessica Valenti so thoroughly demonstrates: "misogyny kills." I am struck by the extent to which Rodger believed he was entitled to have what he deemed the prettiest girls, he was entitled to women's bodies, and when society denied him these "entitlements" he thought it should become the public's problem. He thought that his happiness was worth the slaughter of multiple people.

This sense of heterosexual white male entitlement to a world that grants all one's wishes, and this destructive murderous anger that attends the ostensible denial of these wishes, is at the emotional core of white supremacy. Elliot Rodger was a late bloomer, which while socially inconvenient and embarrassing, is neither uncommon nor a problem. But because we don't have a fundamentally honest societal conversation happening about white male privilege, rooted as it is in sexism and racism, we can't even observe one of the most basic truths here: What Rodger perceived as a denial was at the very worst a delay. Our society is fundamentally premised on making sure that straight, middle-class (upper class in Rodger's case) white men have access to power, money and women.

And while we have no problem from President Obama, down to Paul Ryan, down to the preacher in the pulpit talking about pathological black masculinity, we seem wholly uninterested in talking about pathological white masculinity, which continues to assert itself in the most dangerous and deadly of ways.

In this regard, the rage at the core of Rodger's horrific acts is not unlike the kind of middle-class, heterosexual, white male rage that drives much of social policy in this country. In the era of Barack Obama, we have endured a mass temper tantrum from white men that includes a mind-boggling war on women, with an unprecedented rollback of the gains of the women's rights movement, and an attempt to decimate whole communities of color, which are disproportionately poor, through school privatization, mass incarceration (which began long before the Obama era) and the gutting of the social safety net.

I'm not calling these guys mass murderers. Of that I want to be clear. But I am saying that we cannot understand Elliot Rodger's clear mental health issues and view of himself as the supremely forsaken victim here outside a context of racism, white supremacy and patriarchy. I'm also saying that white male privilege might be considered a mental health issue, because it allows these dudes to move through the world believing that their happiness, pleasure and well-being matters more than the death and suffering of others.

This is madness.

But it is neither singular, nor anomalous. Every few years, the American public has to watch in horror as some white kid goes on a rampage, killing everything from babies to old people. Yet, neither the press nor the law will understand such perpetrators as monsters or terrorists. Few will have a conversation about white male pathology and the ways that systems of whiteness and patriarchy continue to produce white men who think like this. What is even more infuriating about this tragedy is that it could have been prevented. Rodger had been posting strange YouTube videos of himself talking about killing people over the last several weeks, so much so that his family was reportedly disturbed enough to call the police and have them come do a welfare check. But "officers concluded that he was 'polite, courteous,'" and downplayed any difficulties.

In the manifesto he released he said he was relieved that officers did not push the matter further because they would have found his weapons.

Can I go ahead and scream yet? A black or brown man would have been violently hauled into a jail and locked up at the first sign of such machinations. His property rights would have been thoroughly violated, and no matter how "polite" and "courteous" he might have been with officers, no reports would have reflected such language.

These coded terms mean that these officers were incapable of seeing this clearly troubled young white man as a threat. How many mass killings must it take to recognize that white male entitlement is potentially deadly? How many YouTube videos must one post outlining an attempt to do harm before it is taken seriously?

As yet another community attempts to make sense of this tragedy, to put itself back together again after this needless, senseless path of destruction that Elliot Rodger has wrought, I'm reminded of something my dad says: "These are funerals we didn't have to have." But as long as America refuses to deal with its white male privilege problem we will continue to have them.
(c) 2014 Brittney Cooper is a contributing writer at Salon, and teaches Women's and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers. Follow her on Twitter at @professorcrunk.

The Dead Letter Office...

Wayne give the Corpo-rat salute!

Heil Obama,

Dear Vizeprasident LaPierre,

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 shilling for the arms makers, 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 "Corporate 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 07-05-2014. We salute you Herr LaPierre, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

A Culture Falling Apart As Fast As An Economy
By Frank Scott

Each day another culturally reduced group is stricken with abuse, panic, anger and driven to what seem fresh new demands for justice.

Black youths killed by police or vigilante bullets? Check. Women raped or physically abused? Check. Workers left jobless with no hope for the future? Check. Students wondering how to pay for an education that produced low paying work? Check. Immigrants supplying the economy with profitable cheap labor and treated as sub-humans? Check. Another crazed person imitating an army and killing many people? Check.

The latest murders committed by a tortured and demented person and media labeled a "rampage" or a "massacre" has once again brought forth calls for gun control - though three of his six victims were stabbed - attention to rampant sexism and abuse of women - though three of his victims were men - and more suffering and tears for parents, friends, relatives and citizens with new fears about where to walk, shop or just try to act like a normal person without worrying about being attacked by a stranger driven mad by demons of the mind, body and marketplace.

The Isla Vista slaughter seemed provoked by a young man's deadly frustration at not getting any of the sexual commodities that we reduce women to, young and old, in the packaging and cosmeticising of them that we call the fashion business. The job we do on reducing women to painted objects squeezed into clothing that either makes them look foolish or is so revealing it provokes idiocy from men is enough to make Islamic fundamentalists who insist women be covered in robes before going out in public seem more concerned about their safety than western feminists.

Some years ago a very young child was murdered and many were shocked at photos of a sweet little girl tarted up to look like a desirable-to-perverts woman and entered into things called "beauty contests" for children no more than eight or nine years of age. The terrible crime and the attendant publicity may have led to a slight decline in this horrendous early packaging syndrome - not before at least one Hollywood production - but the trend was there much earlier and continues to this day.

We smile with favor on an economic commodity culture that strives to make women look like the most desirable sexual products available and then grieve when men taught to see them as glorified "hoes" act like crazed animals when dealing with them. That most of us - men or women - do not conduct ourselves as craven beasts or sexual sluts is no more indication of our individual purity than that we do not all bomb, stab, shoot and burn foreigners is an indication of our complete irresponsibility for the fact that our culture and political economy are profiting from such things.

Simply blaming everything on individuals, even the most demented - excluding, of course the truly powerful and most responsible - does absolutely nothing to bring about social change.

The same arguments being made about sexism and violence against women now were being made generations ago. The same outrage about racist murders is even older. Economic pain, debt, wars and environmental assaults on nature are hardly anything new, though their occurrence may seem more noticeable than ever before.

There are social roots at the base of all these things no matter how we are manipulated into simply identifying individuals as being the guilty parties, however profitable that may be to individuals on the other side of the moral ledger. The loss is something we all absorb whether we are taught to identify as male, female, persons of color, persons of no color, gays, straights, liberals, conservatives and whatever other special minority category or box we allow ourselves to be kept inside.

Our culture doesn't just create sickness: it creates profit from sickness. Drugs, therapy and more drugs won't help cure the loneliness, alienation, despair, frustration and vicious animosity that are byproducts of a system based on benefits for some only at severe cost for others.

We need to acknowledge social problems that hurt all of us in order to break the artificial barriers reducing us to minorities in order to become a majority that creates the democracy we need to benefit the same group. All of us.
(c) 2014 Frank Scott writes political commentary and satire which appears online at the blog Legalienate.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was
responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited.

Washington Post Seeks US-Patrolled 'Safe Zone' In Syria
Neocons never blush at their own hypocrisies, demanding Russia respect international law and do nothing to protect eastern Ukrainians, while demanding President Obama ignore international law and create a rebel "safe zone" in Syria
By Ray McGovern

The Washington Post's neocon editors have made another strident appeal for President Barack Obama to "abandon his passivity and do something to help" the rebels in Syria, complaining that they "continue to receive far too little help from the United States."

The Post ups the ante by boldly asserting that "Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad ... continues to launch chemical attacks ... in rebel-controlled neighborhoods." Yet, even premier Bashar-basher John Kerry has been more discreet in inching that dubious claim into the public arena.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited.

In effect, the Post's editors on Saturday called on the Obama administration to undertake a "responsibility to protect" - or R2P - mission by violating the sovereignty of Syria, i.e., by breaking international law through military action inside Syria's borders to establish and patrol a "safe zone" for the rebels.

Yet, that is exactly the opposite position that the Post took Sunday regarding Ukraine, where the Post condemned Russia for doing anything to deter the coup regime in Kiev from imposing its will on ethnic Russians in Ukraine's east.

As far as we know, all Russia has done to shield eastern Ukrainians from Kiev's recent attacks is to position troops on Russian territory near the Ukrainian border as a deterrent, although some if not most of those troops have now been withdrawn.

Still, the Post called for imposing new sanctions on Russia for not stopping the eastern Ukrainians from rejecting Sunday's elections to fill the seat of Ukraine's coup-deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.

It's not enough apparently that Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken in conciliatory terms about the election, saying he hopes to work with whoever emerges as Ukraine's new president. (That appears to be billionaire Petro Poroshenko, regarded as a pro-European pragmatist, who is reported to have won in a landslide.)

Still, the Post demanded more from Putin, insisting that President Obama enforce what even the Post acknowledged was the administration's "expansive definition of what it meant by 'disruption' [of the election], saying it would judge not just whether Moscow's agents tried to stop voting, but whether the government of Vladimir Putin tried to prevent such interference."

In other words, the Post's editors assert that the absence of evidence of actual "Russian meddling" in eastern Ukraine is not evidence of absence, as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might have said. The Post simply repeats the unsubstantiated claim from "Ukrainian government officials and Western diplomats in Kiev that Russia is backing the separatists."

But the State Department's effort to "prove" that Moscow has organized and directed the resistance in eastern Ukraine against the coup regime in Kiev led to a major propaganda embarrassment, the revelation that U.S.-peddled photographic "proof" of the Russian presence was a hoax, albeit after the photos had circulated widely in the mainstream U.S. news media.

Double Standards

So, let's see if we have this straight: If the Russians don't somehow stop the eastern Ukrainians from resisting the imposition of what they see as an illegitimate regime in Kiev, that qualifies as "Russia's meddling," deserving of punishing sanctions. Yet, the Post condemns Obama for not sending surface-to-air missiles to Syrian rebels to shoot down government aircraft and for not creating a U.S.-defended "safe zone" inside Syrian territory.

The Post's editors justify their double standards on international law by looking at the world through a decidedly neoconservative lens. Neocon geopolitical desires always trump international law as well as intellectual consistency. A decade ago, the same Post editors rationalized the invasion of Iraq based on phony claims about WMD.

Now, the new furor over Syria stems from still-unconfirmed reports that Syrian government forces have included chlorine in bombs dropped on rebel areas. Rebels claim that some casualties have resulted though no deaths have yet been shown to have come from the release of chlorine gas, which was not included in the list of chemical weapons that the Syrian government agreed to surrender last year.

Despite the new allegations and the resulting uproar, a key point about chlorine is that it is a largely ineffective chemical weapon. As chemical weapons specialist De Bretton Gordon told Reuters, "Chlorine has a host of commercial uses. Actually, it's not very toxic. Sarin is probably 2,000 to 3,000 times more toxic. You and I can buy chlorine in a shop."

But ineffective or not, lethal or not, real or not, the Post says these chlorine allegations mean that it's time for the United States to go beyond providing light weapons and non-lethal supplies to the rebels and start shipping in sophisticated weapons, which Obama has so far rejected because of fears they could fall into the hands of al-Qaeda-connected terrorists inside Syria, who are considered the most effective rebel fighters.

The chlorine gas allegations also have revived neocon hopes about dragging Obama into a U.S. bombing campaign like the one planned but called off last summer. The Post's editorial blamed Syria's "hell on earth" on the fact that Obama "has resisted advice from inside and outside his administration to act."

One Post idea is for U.S. forces "to help patrol a safe zone for them [the rebels] to evade Mr. Assad's depredations."

Besides being a violation of international law, this scheme has the-camel's-nose-under-the-tent feel of the U.S.-led intervention in Libya in 2011. That "R2P" operation quickly mission-creeped into a "regime change" that deposed Muammar Gaddafi and splintered Libya into a failed state now dominated by rival militias, including Islamic extremists like the ones who killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in 2012.

In Syria, the rebels, including the Islamic jihadists arriving from around the Middle East, have received substantial military and financial support from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf sheikhdoms, as well as light arms from the CIA. But that has not been enough to achieve "regime change" in Damascus. So, the neocons are insistent that the U.S. government must weigh in to tip the scales in the rebels' favor.

The Israeli Factor

But why should Washington care so much about sponsoring another "regime change" in the Middle East, especially given the disastrous results in Iraq and Libya? It is rather simple: Because Israel cares about preventing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from prevailing. Indeed, I define a neocon as one who has difficulty distinguishing between the national interests of Israel, on the one hand, and those of the United States, on the other. At this point, one would have to be blind not to see that the State Department continues to be dominated by neocon thinking.

Who profits from the turmoil in Syria and, specifically, the prospect of deeper U.S. involvement? Obviously, the various groups trying to overthrow Assad have a strong incentive to draw in the U.S. So, do the Saudis who are seeing their major investment in ousting Assad fall apart. And Assad is an ally of their regional enemy, Iran.

Over the past year or so, it also has become clear that the Netanyahu government in Israel continues to have a powerful incentive to get Washington more deeply engaged in yet another war in the area. This Israeli priority, also driven by Israel's view of Iran as its primary enemy, has been manifested in many ways.

A report on Sept. 6, 2013, by the New York Times' Judi Rudoren, writing from Jerusalem, addressed Israel's thinking in an uncommonly candid way. Her article, titled "Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria," noted that the Israelis have argued, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria's civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome. Rudoren wrote:

"For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad's government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.

"'This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don't want one to win - we'll settle for a tie,' said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. 'Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that's the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there's no real threat from Syria.'"

Later in September, then-Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that if Israel did have to pick a winner, it would prefer the jihadis over Assad. "The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc," he explained.

Oren, who is considered very close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, added that Israel favors the more moderate elements among the Syrian rebels, but still wanted Assad's ouster even if it would result in radical Sunni Islamists coming to power in Damascus.

"We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren't backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran," Oren said, adding that this was the case even if the other "bad guys" were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

If this is actually the way Israel's leaders look at the unconscionable carnage in Syria, they seem to believe that deeper U.S. involvement, including military action, is likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict or at least that Assad will not be able to bring the country back under his control.

More broadly, Israeli leaders seem to believe that the longer Sunni and Shia are at each other's throats in Syria and across the region, the safer Israel calculates that it is. Thus, it is key not to let Assad win. And military involvement by the U.S. would be welcomed by Israel as increasing the chances that the jihadis also would not win.

The fact that Syria's main ally is Iran, with whom it has a mutual defense treaty, also plays a role in Israeli (and Saudi) calculations. If another "regime change" can be implemented in Syria, it would be a strategic blow against Iran.

The Chlorine Issue

That the Assad government over recent months has been putting increasing pressure on the rebels and consolidating its gains requires the U.S. to step in, in the view of the Israelis and our homebred neocons. The Post's editors don't even ask you to read between the lines.

"Let's get real," they warn. "Without U.S. involvement, the worst-case predictions are coming true."

The Post's impassioned cri de coeur is a throwback to the situation in Syria last summer when a number of successes against the rebels showed that Assad might be turning the tide. The prospect of failure in the cause of "regime change" was getting very "real."

So, the neocon-dominated Post and John Kerry's neocon-leaning State Department set out to change that reality, seizing on the murky case of who released Sarin in a suburb of Damascus on Aug. 21, apparently killing hundreds.

On Aug. 30, in a speech pressing for war, Kerry declared, 35 times, that "we know" that the chemical attack was launched by the Syrian government. But the "evidence" that he provided at the time boiled down to "trust us."

Despite media and political pressure to attack, Obama was hesitant to authorize an aerial bombardment without congressional approval. That gave time for Russian President Putin to come up with a compromise plan for Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal, even as Assad continued to blame the rebels for the Aug. 21 incident.

The quieting of the war drums infuriated the neocons - and their fury has flared up periodically since then, even as the case against Assad as the guilty party in the Sarin attack crumbled.

The evidence piling up over the past several months has included two impressive investigative reports by Pulitzer Prize-winner journalist Seymour Hersh describing doubts within the U.S. intelligence community about Syria's guilt and citing sources pointing the finger at Turkey and the rebels.

Whatever the ultimate explanation of who launched the Sarin attack, it is clear that Kerry was not telling the truth about his knowns and unknowns, to borrow another expression from Don Rumsfeld.

We now know that the reliability of Kerry's information on Syria was on a par with the claims about Iraq's WMD from one of his predecessors, Colin Powell. And, thanks to Hersh's investigative reporting, we also know that the U.S. military attack that was being planned would have been "shock-and-awe - part two," a far cry from what Kerry had said at the time, that it would be an "unbelievably small, limited" war.

More Drums of War

Now, the war drums are banging again over Syria's alleged use of chlorine in some of its bombs, with the Washington Post taking its usual spot in the percussion section. Still, there has been a struggle pulling together a full orchestra to perform this new propaganda concerto.

On April 13, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power told ABC's "This Week" that Washington was looking into reports that chlorine gas was used in the Syrian village of Kafr Zeita, 125 miles north of Damascus. She added, though, that the reports were thus far "unsubstantiated."

Adding to the new furor, the anti-Assad advocacy group Human Rights Watch released a report that said that evidence it has reviewed "strongly suggests" that regime helicopters dropped improvised explosives known as barrel bombs loaded with chlorine gas cylinders on three towns in northern Syria in mid-April. The report noted that only the Syrian government operates helicopters.

On May 13, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a news conference in Washington: "We have at least 14 signs that show us that, in the past recent weeks again, chemical weapons in a smaller scale have been used, in particular chlorine," Fabius said. "Right now we are examining the samples that were taken."

It should be noted here that - for the past year or so - France has been carrying water for Saudi Arabia, which was kind enough to buy a lot of expensive French warplanes and to bail out some failing French companies. French diplomats normally are careful not to show their full hand. But Fabius let slip more than he probably intended, when he complained about how much he regretted that Obama canceled the strikes on Syria last summer. "It would have changed a lot of things," said Fabius. "But what is done is done, and we're not going to rewrite history."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on Fabius's allegations on the use of chlorine by Assad's forces. She said Fabius and Kerry had discussed "the importance of removing the remaining declared chemical weapons, but they did not discuss the specifics of what the foreign minister announced from his press conference."

On May 14 in Saudi Arabia, a reporter asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to comment on what Fabius had said the day before in Washington about the Syrian government using chlorine in a series of attacks: "Can you tell us what the American government thinks is happening and whether those are regime tactics? And what does it mean in terms of the agreement to move Syria's chemical arsenal?"

Hagel answered: "I'm aware of the French foreign minister's statement. We've not seen any evidence of the specifics of that statement. I know the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] is investigating it. ... So far have been pretty successful in getting more than 90 percent of the chemical weapons and the precursors out of Syria."

At a May 15 press conference in London, Secretary of State Kerry was asked to explain why Hagel said the U.S. had seen no evidence to support Fabius's allegations. Kerry handled the question with his customary aplomb:

"On the issue of evidence, I suspect - I haven't talked with Secretary Hagel about what was in his mind or what he was referring to with respect to that. ... And I have seen evidence, I don't know how verified it is - it's not verified yet - it's hasn't been confirmed, but I've seen the raw data that suggests there may have been, as France has suggested, a number of instances in which chlorine has been used in the conduct of war."

Apparently, having brought the world to the brink of war over Syria last summer, Kerry, the French, Human Rights Watch and the Western mainstream media are not about to cease and desist now.

We will be well advised to keep this recent history in mind as Kerry, the Post editors and others comment on Ukraine in the coming days. Caveat lector.
(c) 2014 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years - from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one- on- one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

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To End On A Happy Note...

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Parting Shots...

An Apology From Prince Charles
By Andy Borowitz

LONDON (The Borowitz Report) - In response to the international uproar created when he reportedly compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hitler, His Royal Highness Prince Charles today issued the following letter of apology to the Russian people.

My dear Russians,

Yesterday, it was reported that I compared your President Putin to Hitler. If by making this comment I have in some way offended you, I am deeply sorry. Adolf Hitler was one of the horrible villains in world history, and comparing President Putin to him was uncalled for.

What I should have said, and what I say to you now, is that this Putin chap can be a bit Hitlery at times.

Let's take, for example, his penchant for taking territory that doesn't belong to him and then adding it to his country and so forth. Would you call that behavior Hitlery or not Hitlery? From where I sit, it's more like something Hitler would do than something he wouldn't do, and so the verdict must be, yes, the chap is being rather Hitlery when he does that.

And, while we're on the subject, what about Putin's use of tanks? Also very Hitlery. Again, let me be clear: I am not calling him Hitler-but if you think you can use tanks and not come off a tad bit Hitlery, you're not right in the head.

Since I made my remarks, some British politicians have suggested that I abdicate my position as Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne. In other words, they believe that I do not have the right to free speech. If memory serves, back in the nineteen-thirties another chap went around trying to punish people for speaking their minds. I'm not going to name names, but if the shoe fits...

Yours truly,
H.R.H. Prince Charles

(c) 2014 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 14 # 21 (c) 05/30/2014

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