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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh returns with, "The United States Of Whatever."

Uri Avnery examines, "The False Torch."

Glen Ford reviews, "Perpetual War - and Obama's Perpetual Con Game."

Matt Taibbi wonders, "Why Didn't The SEC Catch Madoff? It Might Have Been Policy Not To?"

Jim Hightower points out, "Political Fronts Posing As Charities."

Glenn Greenwald explores, "Reader-Funded Journalism."

James Donahue studies, "The Complexities Of Thinking About Parallel Universes."

John Nichols reports, "Senator's Call Stirs Movement To Get Congress Focused On Economic Justice."

Robert Scheer concludes, "China Benefits From Bush's Folly."

Robert Reich sees, "Economic Storm Clouds Ahead"

Paul Krugman should know that, "The Geezers Are All Right."

David Sirota tells, "Washington's Fairy Tales."

David Swanson reviews, "An Anti-War Blockbuster."

Headmaster Betty Warren of the Escambia Academy wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Norman Solomon says, "Bradley Manning Is Guilty Of 'Aiding the Enemy' -- If the Enemy Is Democracy."

Noam Chomsky returns with, "Eve Of Destruction (Or How To Destroy A Planet Without Really Trying)."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst does, "The Tangled Tango" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "The Kangaroo Court Begins."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mike Luckovich, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Derf City, Black Agenda Report, Chemistry Daily, Hiroko Masuike, J. Scott Applewhite, Getty Images, Big Noise Films, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

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The Kangaroo Court Begins
By Ernest Stewart

"This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy -- material he knew, based on his training, would put the lives of fellow soldiers at risk." ~~~ Capt. Joe Morrow US Army prosecutor

It's good news week
Someone's dropped a bomb somewhere
Contaminating atmosphere
And blackening the sky

It's good news week
Someone's found a way to give
The rotting dead a will to live
Go on and never die.
It's Good News Week ~~~ Hedgehoppers Anonymous

"None of my other friends were going to wear it. Then I just thought, 'This is what I've been waiting on; I feel like I have a right to wear it.' I wore it on the field and I don't think they even saw it until I got up to the stage to get my diploma." ~~~ Chelsey Ramer

"I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy." ~~~ Kahlil Gibran

After several years of torture, Bradley Manning finally comes to a Kangaroo court and trial, not by a jury of his peers, but a jury appointed by our corpo-rat president! Bradley is charged with many things, but the most egregious is "Aiding the Enemy." If that is the case, then the Pentagoon must think that truth is the enemy! Even they admit that no US soldiers were hurt by the revelations. No, the only ones hurt, made to look foolish, or traitorous or both, are the politicians!

This is just a small part of Barry's war on truth and truth tellers. How dare anyone reveal what these political criminals have been up to in our name. In Barry's world all his dirty deeds, or Bush's dirty deeds or any dirty deeds done by any politicians, any time since before the revolution is a state secret and anyone who dares to tell those truths should be tortured and then murdered, just like Bradley Manning was, and will be. If he should escape the death penalty from the court, then sometime in the near future Bradley will have an accident or will commit suicide with a little help -- have no doubt about that!

No, an example must be made of Bradley, so the truth will never come out again. It's bad enough that most folks look at him as a hero who should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor; but, on top of it all, he's gay!

Meanwhile, the army that he's being charged with betraying, when they're not busy blowing up kindergartens, are busy raping their fellow soldiers to the tune of some 36,000 rapes a year (as testified before Con-gress this week), none of whom ever get punished for their crimes, but usually get promoted; isn't that a nice message to send to the ladies? I mean, why cause a fuss -- good soldiers are hard to come by, right? Then John McCain came out against raping fellow soldiers; but, one must recall that when Johnny was in, he almost sunk a US aircraft carrier by screwing around, and after being captured, made 33 audio tapes for the enemy -- each one an act of treason and yet, somehow, became a hero and US Sinator. Isn't it funny how things work out in Corpo-rat America, America?

In Other News

There is good news coming from Michigan. Michigan's self appointed emperor is trailing badly in the polls. The Koch brothers' puppet, who declared war on blacks, women and unions, the so-called nerd, Rick Snyder, who claimed when running for office that he was only going to serve one term, looks to do just that, much against his will. The tea bagger who is guilty of treason and sedition and who should be punished for that, but won't be, since he's a member of the 1%. He, who happily cut off welfare, but waited to the middle of winter to throw tens of thousands of children out in the street, decided that he'd run again. Trouble is, the people of Michigan have had enough of this tea bagger and his 1% corpo-rat pals, and are set to throw the bums out come November 2014. Rick is currently 24 points down from where he was four years ago!

Of course, Rick isn't the only one that's going bye-bye. Other evil tea bagger Rethuglicans are joining Rick in the unemployment line. Florida's Rick Scott is about to meet a similar fate for the same reasons, as is Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania's governor. All Koch Brothers' puppets, and all traitors to a man. Along with them should go most all the tea baggers in the House and Senate, as well as the various state Houses and Senates.

Of course, Rick and his pals may call off the elections and dare us to do anything about it. Couldn't happen? Of course it could. What have we done to stop the destruction of the Constitution and Bill of Rights? So far, nothing! Also, replacing the Rethuglicans with Demoncrats is hardly a change, is it? Barry, who could've been our best president ever, turned out to be worse than Dubya! And all the Senators, and people too, I might mention, who were finally awake and attacking Dubya, suddenly got real quiet, rolled over and went back to sleep when Barry did the very same things, and got quieter still when he did them even worse than Dubya and Cheney. All we've gotten out of them since is that to "just be patient" for this reason or that; Barry is only waiting for the right time to turn into the person they thought they elected; but anyone who was paying any attention at all to Sinator Obama knew he was a criminal by his voting record. I know, it's his evil white side that makes him look and act like Hitler, huh?

So, even if we get rid of the tea baggers, they'll be replaced by someone as bad, if not worse. Sure, there are a handful of Demoncratic Senate and House members that are with us, but not enough to matter; and they, too, will, no doubt, change their tune, as well, when Barry pulls their strings. Remember Kucinich and Grayson, who each went on and on for over a year on how they'd never, ever, vote for Obamacare if there wasn't a Medicare option, then turned right around and voted to sell us out to the insurance goons without that option. Remember? Before we get any relief, we're going to have to change the system; and that's something Americans are not willing to do, are you?

And Finally

Perhaps you've heard the strange twisted story of how Creek Indian student Chelsey Ramer says her diploma and transcripts are being withheld by the school until her family pays a $1,000 fine after she wore an eagle feather as part of her graduation attire, something that that others had done with no problem, for years!

"Ramer said she felt like she and three of her fellow Creek Indian students were being unfairly punished for something that was allowed in the past.

"My freshman year I went to graduation and students were wearing feathers and they didn't get in any trouble," she said. "I don't think they asked permission. So, we asked for permission about two or three months before graduation. (Betty Warren) turned us down and said if we wore our feathers, we would be pulled off the field."

So, you know what I did, right? I wrote Betty this little note...

Hey Betty,

Boy did you fuck up. huh? Can't have those pesky red skins graduating with all those lovely Lilly white children, can we? So, was I surprised to find Alabama populated with a bunch of racist, redneck yahoos? No, not in the slightest, and it's good to see you upholding that centuries-old tradition! Since she didn't sign ze papers, Frau Warren, you can't fine her a thousand dollars; ergo, the best thing you could do, before falling upon your sword, would be to get her diploma and papers to her and her family with a incredibly sincere apology for being such a heartless, stupid moron. Then, fall on your sword before the lawsuit which will certainly be a shocker to the board members, followed by their apology to her family and your pink slip happens. Still, I must thank you for the laugh I got when reading this... "We count it a privilege that you and your son/daughter have chosen to attend Escambia Academy. We have an outstanding school and I can assure you everything possible will be done to meet the personal and educational needs and goals of your son/daughter." That's some funny shit, Betty, especially that part, "...everything possible will be done to meet the personal and educational needs and goals of your son/daughter." For example, wearing a feather for graduation.

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

PS. Betty no longer works for the Escambia Academy as she was fired one week after the incident!

Ergo, Betty wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

Another week and zero chump change in the old p.o. box. I've seen people throw more money than what we owe out the window of their car in order to make room in their pockets. Of course, the person who did that was rich beyond your wildest explanations (See Uncle Ernie's Hollywood Daze)!

Compared to any other Ezine that I am aware of, you get the most bang for your bucks with us, as we could publish for 5 years on what the others require for 3 months; and, in some cases we could go on for 20 years! Plus, you have the added advantage of reading the truth, instead of whatever song and dance some politician gives to the others who publish it word for word, when not a drop of it is the truth.

As this "moving paper fantasy" of a government is about to collapse under it's own weight and take you with it, wouldn't it be handy to know what the truth is and how it relates to you and yours? After being strapped inside a white box car on the way to a Happy Camp is no time to figure out that you've been lied to, nor will it be easy to explain to the kids that mommy and daddy are morons. Perhaps it would be to your advantage to know what's happening before it hits the fans, and be able to avoid the worst of what's to come? If so, you'll want to keep us active in the fight to restore the old Republic and keep the truth that's so hard to find out there coming to you every week. If that's the case, please send us what you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you!


01-19-1923 ~ 05-31-2013
Thanks for the laughs!

06-27-1945 ~ 06-04-2013
Thanks for the music!

08-08-1921 ~ 06-06-2013
Thanks for the films!


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


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

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

The United States Of Whatever
Ecocide And The Soul Of A Nation
By Phil Rockstroh

The reality of and the outward toll inflicted by greenhouse gas engendered Climate Change is clearly evident (to all but the corrupt and devoutly ignorant) e.g. increasingly destructive and deadly tornadoes and hurricanes, destruction of marine life, severe droughts and rapacious wild fires -- landscapes of death, scattered debris and shattered lives.

But what are the psychical affects of chronic denial, noxious indifference and compulsive prevarication as related to a matter as all encompassing and crucial as our relationship with the climate of our planet?

Our current catastrophe of estrangement, termed "our way of life", we experience as a denuding of resonance, meaning, and purpose, as a prevailing sense of emptiness and unease, as a craving for distraction, as an inchoate longing for change and transformation, yet a diffidence to the point of paralysis insofar as any means to expedite longing and libido into societal-altering action.

Estrangement from nature is estrangement from the landscape of the soul. The cosmos and the soul carry the same blueprint; the forces were forged in the same fires of infinity. In matters, galactic and quotidian, there is not a form that rises, waxes and wanes in nature that does not have an analog in our human physicality, faculties, and endeavors.

To turn a blind eye to the natural world, as we have done, translates into psychical ecocide. Perception is degraded. Language truncated. Life becomes dispossessed of purpose and meaning. Apropos, the rise and banal persistence of: The United States of Whatever.

Under these circumstances "whatever" translates into, inner and extant, deadly super storms, ecocide, and desertification (including and related to the desertification of language). As we decimate the earth's biodiversity, we diminish our lexicon. Our thoughts cannot take wing; our imaginings cannot take root and flower; our passions cannot flow; our putrefying pathologies cannot be composted.

Divested of an eloquence of thought, expression, and action -- devoid of a deep connection to and denied of constant dialog with earth, sky, wind and water -- we cannot retain enough humanity to remain viable as a species.

By evincing a state of mind that is indifferent to the wanton destruction of our planet's interdependent web of biodiversity, we lay waste, on a personal and collective basis, to the evolving, vital ecosystem of the psyche, thereby creating a bland, dismal, corporate monoculture, that is both manifest and internalized. The emptiness of life in the neoliberal corporate/consumer state has grown increasingly unbearable; the carnage inflicted on our planet is indefensible; and its present trajectory is tragically untenable.

Our last, best option is a top-to-bottom re-visioning. In diametric opposition, at paradigm's end, we are witness to the deranged marriage of the profligate and the parsimonious. The covert offshore bank accounts of the greed-maddened hyper-wealthy and the teeming landfill are dismal emblems of late capitalist madness.

The moribund mythos (manic in the face of its undoing) of "productivity" exists at the core of the capitalist delusion. Discussing the matter with a capitalist true believer is like talking to an obsessive lunatic about his vast collection of string and his compulsive hoarding of rubber bands and bread ties.

Behind the situation is the crackpot pragmatism of state capitalism e.g., that all things must have a practical purpose, in order that they be exploited for maximum productivity, as a means of generating obscene sums of wealth for a tiny (loose knit) cabal of global economic elite. (Yet the motives driving the mania of a system geared to perpetual growth, conveniently, are omitted from almost all mainstream discussions of the matter.)

One's humanity is restored by tears and the marriage of eros and empathy. We must grieve for the harm we have wrought and guffaw at our egoist folly; we must shed copious tears and be seized by outright, sustained laughter. Self-awareness is tantamount to salvation, and an experience akin to rebirth is bestowed by the apprehension of the ridiculous nature of vanity and empty striving.

Then and only then, do conditions become favorable for restoration and re-visioning. Thus, grace falls as a forgiving rain.

In May of last year, my family laid my father to rest. Shortly after my return to New York City from Georgia, we received the news that my wife, Angela, was pregnant. Thus, fate fitted me with the garments of fatherhood. The clothing of the son sent to the consignment shop, I stood in awe, and with more than a little trepidation, before unfolding circumstance.

Grief and longing mingled and merged within me. At night, I dreamed of friends from my youth who have died over the passing years. With increasing frequency, during this past year, I have had reoccurring dreams involving one post-adolescent friendship, in particular, the period surrounding the dawning of our awkward and painful puberty.

Chuck was redheaded, freckled, bespectacled, bully-bedeviled -- a bright, sensitive, wounded soul, who would later succumb to the ravages of alcoholism. We shared an enthusiasm for books. We read Tolkien, of course, but also Camus, Celine, even Cervantes (having an ardor for books was a quixotic propensity in those days in the deep south, and I suspect it still is).

We collected tropical fish -- their bright, color-emblazoned markings stood in vivid contrast to the desolate, laboring class milieu that was foisted as our fate.

"You two, heads-in-the-clouds, noses-in-books losers will have to face the real world one day, and, I'll tell you what, that will be one sorry-ass sight," some figure of grim authority would bandy at us.

"Do you understand what I'm saying, boy?"


"Yes, what?"

"Yes, I understand."

"You, show some respect for your elders, by answering, 'Yes, sir.' Do you understand me?"

"Yes," I replied, earnestly...having grown obtuse by the anxiety inflicted by attempting to appear submissive to the demands of unreasonable power.

"Look here, smart-ass. I've about had my fill of your insolence."

Nonplussed. I would have said anything to end the encounter. But some life-bestowing daemon would stir within...most likely, it was the same inner, trickster entity responsible for occluding my ability to comprehend what this authoritarian jerk-rocket was demanding of me.

"What is your problem, boy? Just what kind of a stupid animal are you?" -- an inquiry that provided an opening for the daemon.

"I was raised by raccoons, sir."


"My parents were killed by your Klansman relatives. I escaped into the woods. And I was adopted by nocturnal, fur-bearing mammals. I'm untrainable. I scurry through the darkness. I bite when cornered. My destiny has been forged by fate. I am Raccoon Boy, enemy of racists and power mad freaks. I have to confess, it is my reverence for my poor, slain parents that will not allow me to address you with deference nor grant you respect, as you have demanded. In short, I can either submit to calling you sir or I can betray my destiny. But I cannot do both. Therefore, do with me what you will. But you will never again sleep easy...for my raccoon brothers and sisters will track you down and you will wish we had never met. You will never again hear a rustling in the underbrush and not be stricken with the knowledge that you are in the presence of your doom."

These sorts of responses would often end such encounters. In the south, in those days, crazy people were given a great deal of latitude.

At present, in my nighttime dreams of the time, I often find myself in the company of Chuck at the intersection of two major streets that cut through the area near our school, North Decatur and Clairmont Road. In waking life, Chuck and I, in order to avoid confrontations with neighborhood boys who viewed us as "hippie faggots" did not venture beyond this demarcation point. The landscape beyond was fraught with peril.

Even in adult life, Chuck never ventured far from home, and when he did, he was fortified with drink. Many times, at transition points in my life, my soul summons dreams of Chuck and me, our hearts...filled with yearning -- yet we stand diffident, to the point of paralysis, at the intersection of North Decatur and Clairmont Road.

The world outside of the boundaries decreed by outward circumstance and imposed by one's fears is fraught with uncertainty to the degree that it is veiled in mystery. There are legions of authoritarian bastards and mindless bullies about. Regardless, one must venture forth. One does have allies -- the spirit of departed friends and inner daemons with quicksilver wit et al.

The future is always uncertain. But Raccoon Boy will be there to meet what comes.

Climate Change denial. Political duopoly. The corrosive effect of empire, maintained by militarism, on a foundering republic. The noxious food manufactured and consumed under corporate state oligarchy. The catastrophic consequences that the demise of the public commons has on the human personality, in combination with the societal repercussions of a populace that receives the vast majority of information from within the bubble of an enveloping media hologram attendant to a grid of authoritarianism that determines and degrades the criteria of almost all experience in the corporate state.

Yet these unhinged conventionalities do not create a catalyst to action, but inflict angst, ennui, and anomie. How can this be? By what means does passivity before and complicity in one's own debasement become normalized? By small bribes as reward for compliance and severe consequences for attempts at defiance...that is how. This state of affairs serves as the sine qua non for any reign of oppression and cultural track towards catastrophe.

If an individual is coerced into conformity by his/her livelihood being threatened, even by implicit means, angst will be experienced. As a result, one will attempt to find a means of relieving the incurred sense of unease. And this is where the small bribes, that serve as palliatives to ease angst, come in.

If challenging (seemingly) implacable power results in a termination of employment or a stint of incarceration, of which, a record will follow one through life, most will find the repercussions of defying authority unbearable. One's image of oneself would be endangered, or so it seems, by such a circumstance.

Yet what are the consequences of submission, in regard to one's sense of self? Because, in order to submit, an individual must shunt from consciousness the painful implications of one's predicament, a general diminution of perception occurs. Thus, for example, Climate Change denial is but part and parcel of a larger, enforced cosmology of deception, both personal and societal in origin.

At our present rate, the oceans and seas of the world will be dead in less than half a century. Humankind has become a mindless, devouring leviathan. Slice open our collective belly and the ill-gotten bounty of our besieged earth will be disgorged.

What is the music of the spheres? asked Schopenhauer. "Munch. Munch. Munch."

Yet, tone-deaf, and rapacious, we are devouring the world in a manner that is closer in form to a banal pop song; a pestilence of ditties, resonant of the landfill, is descending in the form of consumerist locust.

When our days are denuded of depth, meaning and inspired purpose, we gorge our bellies in an attempt to alleviate the ache of emptiness. The operatives of the corporate/commercial hologram have induced us to devour the planet like a serving of Hot Pockets. Yet the emptiness within only grows. We have been enticed to believe that remedy will be found in more of what caused our misery in the first place. Relief, even redemption, will be found in yet MORE. Thus, we come upon the insatiable leviathan that glides within. We are lodged in the monster's belly, wherein we mistake his impersonal appetite for our own. In this way, the consumer is consumed by the collective.

How does one sate a force that is insatiable? By seizing back one's unique identity. The angel whose name is Enough arrives within one's reclaimed human voice. It comes down to this: ecology or catastrophe. Because one's humanity is formed and rounded by one's limits, we must be open to the infinity of forms that is the ecosystem of the soul but not allow vanity to attempt to claim dominion over what is ungovernable. Thus, one regains one's soul by speaking in a human voice. Yes, it is tinged with universal fire, but, to we human beings, its home is the hearth of the human heart, within which empty appetite is transmuted into the yearnings of the heart; thereby, empty motion becomes emotion; passion deepens into compassion.

The matter does not involve searching for redemption nor striving for perfection; instead, it involves awakening to the vast multiverse of the dreaming heart. Therein, the oceans are teeming with vivid life.

And where there exists the implicate order of the soul there exists the wherewithal to rise up and resist the forces that lay siege to one's innate humanity.
(c) 2013 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

The False Torch
By Uri Avnery

YA'IR LAPID, the freshman parliamentarian and Treasury Minister, has declared that from now on he will deliver all his important speeches outside the Knesset, confining his Knesset appearances to the legal minimum.

The reason: members from the opposition interrupt him. He cannot marshal his thoughts when interrupted. Since he is used to making his speeches with the help of a teleprompter, without interruptions of any kind, this bothers him.

What does that tell us about him?

During my 10 years in the Knesset, I made about a thousand speeches from the rostrum, some sort of record. It was always my fervent hope to be interrupted. The interjections enlivened the speeches, allowed me to retort, clarified points, attracted press coverage.

I was also a very frequent interrupter myself. I thoroughly enjoyed making "Zwischenrufe," as the Germans call parliamentary interjections, saying in half a dozen words what I would otherwise have needed a whole speech to express.

This give-and-take is the essence of parliamentary debate. It tests your quickness of mind, mastery of the subject and general alertness. Without it, Knesset debates would be just a dull exercise in wordiness.

I remember one minister who would be totally derailed by interruption. It was Ariel Sharon. Interrupted in the middle of a sentence, he became flustered and had to start anew. But he was a veteran general, and generals are not accustomed to being interrupted by lesser mortals.

So here was this (relatively) young man, a journalist and TV personality, who cannot bear his thoughts - such as they are - to be interrupted.

WHAT ARE these precious thoughts that cannot stand being interrupted?

For several months now Lapid has been the center of interest in Israeli politics. And not only in Israel. Time Magazine, doggedly remaining ridiculous after anointing Binyamin Netanyahu as Israel's "King Bibi", placed Lapid among the world's 100 most influential people. So by now we should have an inkling of what Lapid really thinks.

During his extremely successful election campaign, with the help of local pollsters and American advisors, Lapid carefully selected a few themes and stuck to them.

There were three main promises:

First, to save the middle class, which, he maintained, had been downtrodden under previous governments.

Second, to achieve "equality of (bearing the) burden", that is to compel ultra-orthodox youngsters to serve in the army like everybody else. Since the founding of the state, tens of thousands of these young men and women have been exempted - as have the Arab citizens, though for quite different reasons.

Third, to restart the "political process" (the term used in Israeli parlance to avoid the awful word "peace") in order to achieve a "permanent solution" (ditto) based on two states.

As it turns out, all three promises were blatant lies.

NO ONE quite knows what the "middle class" is. But it must be assumed that they lie somewhere in the middle between the stinking rich and the abject poor. That may mean almost the entire population or at least a large part of it.

It is not easy to pin down Lapid's social-economic proposals, since he changes them all the time. The public has already grown used to the spectacle: in the morning Lapid proposes some measure to reduce the deficit (say, by the raising of tuition fees), by noon a howl of protest engulfs the government, in the evening the proposal is quietly dropped.

However, the draft budget for the current and the next year is now almost complete. The huge deficit - for which Lapid is not to blame - will be covered by - well, the middle class.

Taxes on the rich will remain minimal. Multinationals and other big companies will pay almost no taxes at all. Services for the poor will be cut. But the brunt of the burden will be borne by the middle class indirectly - value-added and other taxes will raise Israel's already very high cost-of-living even higher. Salaries for the middle class in Israel are lower than in almost all other developed countries.

It is clear by now that Lapid, though the main beneficiary of the huge social protests two years ago, is in fact, like Netanyahu, an ardent admirer of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

All this brings to mind the words of King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon: "My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions!" (Kings I, 12:14) The tycoons already love him.

THE MOST important member of Lapid's party, after himself, is Jacob Perry, a person who happens to be a very rich tycoon and former chief of the Shin-Bet. Just now the report of a commission he heads has been issued, concerning the army "burden."

Ostensibly, this is a great victory for the anti-orthodox camp. At long last, the mass exemption of the orthodox youth from army service will be abolished. Except for a few "exceptional Talmud students" - about 1800 per year - they will all serve their three years like ordinary male mortals.

But look at the report under the microscope, and a quite different picture emerges. The mass induction of orthodox youths will take place in practice only in four years or more. That, in Israeli politics, is equal to eternity - at least. By that time, after the next election, Lapid and his band may already be history.

Under the plan, orthodox men will be inducted only on reaching 21, when practically all of them are already married and have at least two children. This will make their service much too expensive for the army, which doesn't want them in the first place. All other recruits are inducted at 18.

Also, as of today, all orthodox men who are now 21 years old or older will be freed altogether from duty.

The army's lack of enthusiasm for the whole project can well be understood. It now appears that in the much-touted "orthodox battalion" of volunteers which is currently serving, there are only a tiny number of real orthodox soldiers. In reality, their ranks are filled by other kippah-wearing specimens.

The whole thing is an exercise in deception. In practice, there is no power in Israel that could possibly compel the masses of orthodox youth to serve against their and their rabbis' will and faith.

The only victor of the affair is Lapid's adopted political blood-brother, Naftali Bennett. This new Minister of Economy and Religious Service, the representative of the settlers and other "national-religious" extremists, has rejected another part of the Perry report. Pupils of the religious pre-military schools, who now serve only 16 months (less than half of the time secular soldiers serve) would be compelled to serve 20 months. These "settlement yeshivot" are known as hotbeds of racism and ultra-nationalism, but their pupils don't want to serve as long as their secular brethren. Bennett succeeded in reducing the extension to one whole month: his war-loving protegees will serve only 17 months.

This week Lapid performed a masterpiece of public relations: he threatened Netanyahu with a major cabinet crisis if his demand about a quite unimportant detail was not accepted. Netanyahu gave in and Lapid won. Hail to the victor!

SO WHAT about Lapid, the Man of Peace?

During the election campaign, he appeared to be a man of the "center-left". His whole bearing was that of "one of us", the secular, liberal center of the public, which is also identified with a vague desire for peace.

Lapid mouthed the appropriate vague phrases in favor of the two-state solution. But the suspicions of his adoring devotees should have been raised by his decision to open his campaign in - of all places - Ariel "University", the flagship of the settlers. He also proclaimed that Jerusalem would never be divided.

On the morrow of the election Lapid struck his deal of unbreakable and unshakable brotherhood with Bennett, the extreme rightist. As the classic Hebrew saying goes: "Not for nothing did the sparrow go to the raven."

This week Lapid granted an extra 50 million shekels to Ariel "University", a huge bribe to the settlers at a time when social services are being cut to the bone. His budget does not strike a shekel from the government's massive support for the settlements.

In an interview with the New York Times, Lapid disclosed his plan for peace: a Palestinian state with "temporary borders" (which means in practice less than half of the West Bank, leaving them with some 11% of historical Palestine.) Also, Jerusalem would remain united under Israeli control.

Mahmoud Abbas reacted almost at once: this is absolutely unacceptable. Even the untiring John Kerry could not bring the parties together on that basis.

ALL THIS has not helped Lapid. The public, including many (if not most) of his voters have been disillusioned by their hero. This early in his new political career, he already stands revealed as a shallow individual, good-looking but untrustworthy, well-spoken but insincere. The "new politics" which he promised look suspiciously like the tired old policies - or worse.

That is far more serious than the question of Lapid's future career, or lack of it. It is of crucial importance for Israel that a new generation of activists for peace and social justice build a new force that will be able to compete in the next elections. The searing disappointment in Lapid may, unfortunately, push young people far away from politics.

This Shining Torch (the literal meaning of Ya'ir Lapid's name) is close to being extinguished. Let's hope that a more serious and more sincere bearer of the torch will appear in time. But not too much time.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Perpetual War - and Obama's Perpetual Con Game
By Glen Ford

Barack Obama is a master trickster, a shape-shifter, and a methodical liar. The man who has arrogated to himself the right to kill at will, anywhere on the globe, accountable only to himself, based on secret information and classified legal rationales, now says he is determined that Washington's "perpetual war" must one day end - sometime in the misty future after he is long gone from office. He informed his global audience of potential victims that he had signed a secret agreement (with himself?) that would limit drone strikes to targets that pose "a continuing, imminent threat to Americans" and cannot be captured - a policy that his White House has always claimed (falsely) to be operative. He promises to be more merciful than before, "haunted" as he is by all the nameless deaths, although he admits to having done no wrong.

He is a man of boundless introspection, inviting us to ride with him on his wildly spinning moral compass. But, most of all, he is not George Bush - of that we can be certain, if only because he is younger and oratorically gifted and Black. "Beyond Afghanistan," he said, "we must define our effort not as a boundless 'global war on terror,' but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America." Thus, magically, he redefined the U.S. war on terror out of existence (in perpetuity) by breaking the conflict down to its daily, constituent parts, while simultaneously affirming that America will soon travel "beyond Afghanistan" despite the fact that many thousands of Special Operations troops will continue their round the clock raids in the countryside while drones rain death from the skies for the foreseeable future.

Such conflicts, we must understand, are necessitated by the "imminence" of threats posed to U.S. security, as weighed and measured by secret means. His Eminence is the sole judge of imminence. He is also the arbiter of who is to be detained in perpetuity, without trial or (public) charge, for "association" with "terrorists" as defined by himself. He has no apologies for that.

America must turn the page on the previous era, because "the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11." A reevaluation is in order, since "we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11." In that case, why not call for repeal of the layers of war on terror legislation that have accumulated over the last 12 years, including Obama's own NDAA preventive detention bill? Or, he could simply renounce these measures and refuse to employ them as a matter of policy. Instead, the president defended his own maximalist interpretation of the law, and claimed that the legal basis for his kill-at-will authority is firmly rooted in the Congress's 2001 Authorization of Military Force (AMUF). Although he made vague reference to changes that Congress might make in the AMUF, there was no substantive indication that he sought to impose restrictions on his own or any other president's authority to wage war precisely as he has for the last four years.

Obama's blanket interpretation of AMUF - the legal logic - had previously been considered a state secret. It was news to much of the U.S. Senate, too, until assistant secretary of defense Michael Sheehan, in charge of special operations (death squads) at the Pentagon, told lawmakers earlier this month that the AMUF allows Obama to put "boots on the ground" anywhere he chooses, including "Yemen or the Congo," if his classified logic compelled him to do so.

The senators were stunned - although it is no secret that Obama has already put U.S. Special Forces boots on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan, and has sent a combat brigade on permanent posting on the continent. Central Africa is one part of the world in which al Qaida has found little traction. The purported "bad guy" hiding in the bush, Joseph Kony, is the Christian leader of the remnants of the Lord's Resistance Army. Obama authorized the deployment under the doctrine of Humanitarian Military Intervention, or Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a war-making notion that is, at best, ill-defined under international law and non-existent in U.S. statutes. However, if Obama is sincere (!) in wanting to phase out AMUF, as he averred last week, he's always got R2P as a backup.

Death squad honcho Sheehan is a believer in the perpetual lifespan of AMUF, which he considers operative until al Qaida has been consigned to the "ash heap of history" - an eventuality that is "at least 10 to 20 years" away. Since this is the guy who carries out Obama's kill orders (the identity of his counterpart in the CIA is, of course, a secret), one would think that Sheehan and Obama would be on the same page when it comes to al Qaida and AMUF. But then, we are told that page has turned.

Obama is very good at flipping pages, changing subjects, hiding the pea in his hand while we try to figure out which bowl it's under. His call for Congress to come up with a substitute for AMUF - without yet offering his own version - is a ploy to more explicitly codify those powers assumed by Bush and expanded upon by the Obama administration. Or, the Congress can do nothing - a very likely outcome - and Obama can pretend to be the reluctant, self-restrained global assassin, preventive detainer and regime changer for the rest of his term.

Not a damn thing has changed.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Why Didn't The SEC Catch Madoff? It Might Have Been Policy Not To
By Matt Taibbi

More and more embarrassing stories of keep leaking out of the SEC, which is beginning to look somehow worse than corrupt - it's hard to find the right language exactly, but "aggressively clueless" comes pretty close to summing up the atmosphere that seems to be ruling the country's top financial gendarmes.

The most recent contribution to the broadening canvas of dysfunction and incompetence surrounding the SEC is a whistleblower complaint filed by 56-year-old Kathleen Furey, a senior lawyer who worked in the New York Regional Office (NYRO), the agency outpost with direct jurisdiction over Wall Street.

Furey's complaint is full of startling revelations about the SEC, but the most amazing of them is that Furey and the other 20-odd lawyers who worked in her unit at the NYRO were actually barred by a superior from bringing cases under two of the four main securities laws governing Wall Street, the Investment Advisors Act of 1940 and the Investment Company Act of 1940.

According to Furey, her group at the SEC's New York office, from a period stretching for over half a decade through December, 2008, did not as a matter of policy pursue cases against investment managers like Bernie Madoff. Furey says she was told flatly by her boss, Assistant Regional Director George Stepaniuk, that "We do not do IM cases."

Some background is necessary to explain the significance of this tale.

There are four main laws that the SEC uses to regulate the financial sector. At least as far as numbers go, the agency has a fairly extensive record of enforcement actions with the first two, which are aimed at the securities markets.

The first of those is the Securities Act of 1933, also commonly known as the "Blue Sky laws," which among other things set down the rules mandating public disclosure of pertinent information to investors in securities. The second is the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which governs securities already issued, and includes the laws barring insider trading. Both of these laws are primarily intended to prevent fraud in the securities markets.

But the agency's record is a little spottier when it comes to the other two key pieces of legislation, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and theInvestment Company Act of 1940. These are the agency's main tools for prosecuting fraud and malfeasance involving people who manage other people's money - mutual funds, hedge funds, investment managers. Somebody like Bernie Madoff, who took billions from investors and simply stole the money instead of investing, would largely be regulated under the latter two acts.

Kathleen Furey joined the SEC in September of 2004, starting as a law clerk in the Enforcement Division. She steadily rose within the agency and was promoted three times over the next three years.

Then in 2007, Furey started work on a case that involved Value Line, a high-profile family of mutual funds that was being accused of charging tens of millions of dollars in bogus commissions. The company had appeared on the SEC's radar via a referral in 2004, but the agency's higher-ups had not yet approved a formal investigation, which is necessary for the issuance of subpoenas.

When she tried to take that next step in the Value Line case, Furey says she was denied. This is when she says Stepaniuk filled her in on his "We don't do IM cases" policy. Upset, and convinced that the Assistant Director of the New York office did not have the authority to unilaterally non-enforce two major portions of the SEC's regulatory mandate, Furey appealed to Stepaniuk's superior in the NYRO.

According to Furey's complaint, this official, instead of helping her and paving the way for the investigation to proceed, gave Furey two options. He said she could either recant her statement about being told not to pursue "IM cases," or she could go to the SEC Inspector General.

Incidentally, Furey in her internal arguments over this case specifically warned that the agency needed to begin enforcing section 206 of the Investment Advisers Act, which barred money managers from employing "any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud any client or prospective client." She warned that pursuing cases under that statute "may save the agency from future embarrassment." Section 206 was the exact statute that the SEC ultimately employed both in the Value Line case (many years later), and in the case against Bernie Madoff.

This background is key to understanding the timeline of the SEC's response to both the Madoff story and Investment Management cases in general.

In Furey's complaint, she cites statistics that provide unsettling evidence that there was, in fact, some kind of policy in place that prevented her group from going after investment advisers. During the period from January 1, 2002, through January 20, 2009, Stepaniuk's group did not file a single case under the Investment Advisors Act (IAA) or Investment Company Act (ICA).

During this time frame, Stepaniuk reportedly approached the SEC's Commission 60 times with requests to to file cases or to open formal investigations, which, again, is necessary to file subpoenas. Out of those 60 cases, only one, the Value Line investigation opened on April 18, 2008, was an Investment Management case.

In a not-so-amazing coincidence, April 18, 2008 happened to be the same day that the SEC's Inspector General released a report that in part addressed the office's apparent mishandling of that same Value Line case. In other words, the SEC seemed not to move on Value Line until it became a public issue.

Even more damning, however, was the reaction after the Madoff story broke, toward the tail end of 2008. The scandal was incredibly embarrassing to the SEC, which had failed to investigate Madoff despite being tipped off in extraordinarily detailed fashion by investigator Harry Markopolos over eight years before.

It came out that Madoff had not merely stolen from his clients but not conducted any trades at all, simply bilking money in the most primitive conceivable Ponzi scheme. This meant that the SEC would have been able to uncover the fraud with even the most cursory examination at any time during the fund's existence.

Unsurprisingly, by the start of 2009, the SEC was being hammered by members of Congress in both parties - institutionally a terribly troubling development, given that Congress controls the regulator's budget.

So how did the agency respond? After having conducted no "IM cases" at all for years, that NYRO group's next nine cases from January 2009 on were all IAA or ICA cases.

When I contacted the SEC, I made it clear that if they could produce any evidence that Furey's statistics were off, that Stepaniuk's unit had in fact filed IAA or ICA cases during the relevant time period, then I probably wouldn't write about her complaint.

But when I pressed the agency for specifics on that question, they responded with red herrings.

First, they sent a list of 14 IM cases pursued by the SEC's New York Office between 2006 and 2009. When I asked how many of those were pursued by Stepaniuk's group, it turned out that only one of them was - a case against Henry "Hank" Morris, a top fundraiser for New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi. But that case was charged in March 2009, right after the Madoff story broke. This was completely consistent with what Furey had claimed, that her group had essentially not pursued IM cases until after Madoff.

When I pointed this out, they sent yet another list of cases, two of which appeared to have been filed by Stepaniuk's group prior to the Madoff case. One of those, SEC vs. Kevin Dunn, involved a stockbroker for MetLife who was accused of swindling the widow of a Port Authority policeman who died in 9/11.

While no doubt a worthy matter to pursue, this, too turned out not to be an "IM case." Dunn was exclusively charged with violations under the old-school '33 and '34 Acts. The only references to the IAA in the entire case were two totally extraneous facts.

One was that MetLife, which was not charged in the case at all and merely happened to be Dunn's employer, was a registered Investment Adviser. Two was that Dunn, as a condition of his punishment, agreed to be barred from any affiliations with any registered broker-dealer or investment adviser in the future. This is a common regulatory/punitive throw-in and had nothing to do with what kind of case it was.

Claiming that this was an IM case was not much different than sending on a case involving a stockbroker who had committed insider trading while flying over a registered Investment Company office in a hot air balloon - and claiming that was an "IM case." It was silly.

The other case I was sent was . . . SEC vs. Value Line!

The fact that the SEC would try to discredit Furey and sell its own sterling record of investigating investment management cases by citing the same troubled investigation that had caused Furey to blow the whistle in the first place should tell you a lot about how disorganized the agency now seems to be.

The SEC did note that the Inspector General, years back, could not find corroborating evidence for Furey's claim that Stepaniuk had told her there was a policy against "IM cases." But what was or wasn't said is not of primary relevance to the story.

What is highly relevant is that Furey was unquestionably on record - in emails and other complaints - complaining about the lack of action in this arena even before the Madoff story broke. And there's little doubt that this unit's actual record of pre-Madoff IM cases in the rest of the 2000s is essentially nonexistent.

This being the SEC, the story unfortunately did not end with a key unit of the agency merely failing to regulate an entire sector of the finance world until a $60 billion Ponzi scheme exploded in its face. In this incident they've also continued to show an inability to deal with whistleblowers, a problem that of course has been epidemic in the last two presidential administrations, but has been particularly acute in the SEC.

Noted author William Cohan described Furey's post-whistleblowing struggles within the SEC in great detail in a Bloomberg piece.

As Cohan explains, Furey went through all the usual nonsense after coming forward and complaining about the failure to bring "IM cases": She was shunned by superiors, kept away from sensitive work and taken off the promotion track.

Moreover, when Furey in 2010 asked then-NYRO director George Canellos if her career was being held back by her whistleblowing, he gave an interesting answer. She says he responded by saying that there were people in the New York office who were "not fans" of what she had done.

Canellos today mans one of the SEC's top jobs. Along with Andrew Ceresney, who worked with new chief Mary Jo White as a partner at her old firm Debevoise and Plimpton, he runs the SEC's enforcement division.

Furey contends that for a time, she was being compensated at a level not commensurate with her actual duties - without getting too wonky, Furey believed she was being paid as an "SK-14"-level civil servant while she was in fact handling the duties of an "SK-16." When Canellos and other officials did not respond to her complaints directly, she requested an external "desk audit," a government procedure in which an outside official assesses the duties of an agency employee.

Furey received a perfect score of 1,760 out of 1,760 from the outside auditor, who agreed that she was working at the SK-16 level and recommended that, if she remained in that position, she be promoted.

The SEC and Canellos instead stripped her of her duties, essentially demoting her and not implenting the recommendation of the desk audit, an action rare enough that the agency's human resources department apparently had to do research to see if it was legal (according to Furey's attorney, this checking was done only after the demotion).

The SEC, meanwhile, contends that Furey only temporarily held the higher position, filling a spot vacated by a promoted official, and that the agency had to demote her. "As a general matter, managers are not permitted to indefinitely assign work above an employee's grade level," says SEC spokesman John Nester. "If there is not a higher level position that has been approved for filling, managers are required to remove the higher level duties."

Beyond that, neither Stepaniuk nor Canellos has any comment on Furey's allegations.

While a lot of this will seem like a meaningless intramural squabble to outside readers, it points to a larger pattern within the agency. For years, people who come forward and try to press the SEC to pursue important cases have often been treated very poorly, if not with outright hostility.

This has been true of people outside the SEC, like Harry Markopolos or Leyla Wydler, who came forward with information about the Stanford Ponzi scheme, only to be ignored by the SEC. Both the Madoff and Stanford cases, which incidentally were both "IM cases," snowballed into far bigger disasters than was necessary because the agency identically blew off those two whistleblowers.

The agency also has a poor record with whistleblowers within the SEC, like onetime investigator Gary Aguirre, who famously won a $755,000 wrongful termination settlement against the SEC after he was fired for trying to press an insider trading case against future Morgan Stanley chief John Mack.

Aguirre, ironically, now represents Furey, and it sometimes feels like we're re-living the same stories over and over again with this agency. The same kinds of blindly political creatures keep getting promoted to the top jobs, while hardworking line investigators who are just trying to do the work keep running into the same kinds of ludicrous intra-office difficulties. They have to get a clue eventually - don't they?
(c) 2013 Matt Taibbi

Ron gives the corpo-rat salute!

Political Fronts Posing As Charities

I think of a "social welfare charity" being like The Little Sisters of the Poor - not The Little Koch Brothers of the Plutocracy. Yet, the brothers have created their very own social welfare charity, which they used as a political front group for funneling $39 million into campaigns against Democrats last year. Interesting, since, under IRS rules, 501(c)(4) "charities" are supposed to do philanthropic work for the welfare of all, not political hatchet jobs for billionaires. In fact, the law bans these tax-exempt entities from spending more than 49 percent of their funding on political efforts to promote their "issues."

Yet, hundreds of these (c)(4)s - mostly right-wing - are flagrantly violating the tax law by operating primarily as political fronts for funneling secret corporate donations into raw, partisan campaigns. How did they get their privileged status as charities? By outright lying to the IRS, then defying the agency to stop them as they dump millions of corrupt dollars into our elections.

For example, American Action Network, a (c)(4) created by Wall Street lobbyists, has spent two-thirds of its revenue on elections, including putting up $745,000 from secret donors to elect Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. How ironic, then, that Johnson is now one of the tea party mad dogs howling at IRS officials. It's scandalous, Johnson shrieks, that some tea party groups have not been given (c)(4) status, because IRS agents have had the temerity to question whether the groups actually are charitable enterprises - or just rank political outfits fraudulently posing as charities.

Tea Party groups should not be singled out for IRS scrutiny, but neither should they be allowed to cheat by shamefully masquerading as Little Sisters of the Poor. That's the real scandal.
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Reader-Funded Journalism
This model is vital in sustaining real journalism: it fosters independence, invests readers in the work that is done, and keeps journalists accountable to individuals
By Glenn Greenwald

Many news outlets around the world, in the age of the internet, have struggled to find an economically sustainable model for supporting real journalism. The results, including for some of the largest, have been mass lay-offs, bureau closures, an increasing reliance on daily spurts of short and trivial traffic-generating items, and worst of all, a severe reduction in their willingness and ability to support sustained investigative journalism. All sorts of smaller journalistic venues - from local newspapers to independent political blogs - now devote a substantial portion of their energies to staying afloat rather than producing journalism, and in many cases, have simply ceased to exist.(Photo: Chemistrydaily)

Virtually all aspects of real journalism have been negatively affected by these difficulties. Economic suffering, of course, plagues an endless number of realms beyond journalism. But there are special dangers when true journalism cannot find a means to fund itself.

As governments and private financial power centers become larger, more secretive, and less accountable, one of the few remaining mechanisms for checking, investigating and undermining them - adversarial journalism - has continued to weaken. Many of these large struggling media outlets don't actually do worthwhile adversarial journalism and aren't interested in doing it, but some of them do. For an entity as vast as the US government and the oligarchical factions that control it - with their potent propaganda platforms and limitless financial power - only robust, healthy and well-funded journalism can provide meaningful opposition.

For several years, I've been absolutely convinced that there is one uniquely potent solution to all of this: reader-supported journalism. That model produces numerous significant benefits. To begin with, it liberates good journalists from the constraints imposed by exclusive reliance on corporate advertisers and media corporations. It enables journalism that is truly in the public interest - and that actually engages, informs, and inspires its readers - to be primarily accountable to those readers.

Most importantly, this model elevates the act of journalism into a collective venture, where readers are invested in the adversarial pushback against powerful institutions that good journalism provides.

Reader-supported journalism also democratizes political discourse and injects otherwise excluded perspectives; it does so by enabling the funding of a platform for those who want to cover issues and advocate perspectives unwelcome in most large corporate conglomerates. It provides a crucial alternative to the easiest careerist path for journalists to make a living: working for and serving the most powerful and wealthiest corporate factions. Under this model, it is only the journalists who people perceive are providing a real public value who are supported.

And, probably most importantly, this model elevates the act of journalism into a collective venture, where readers are invested in the adversarial pushback against powerful institutions that good journalism provides. Readers become a part of it and the causes it advances, rather than just passive recipients of a one-way monologue. In sum, it's vital that journalism be funded not only by large corporate interests with homogenous agendas but by citizens banding together as well.

This model is not entirely new. The great independent journalist IF Stone was able to produce his path-breaking newsletter of the 1950s and 1960s only as a result of reader support. The emergence of political blogs at the beginning of the last decade, which really did produce several unique voices and had some genuine impact on the political discourse, was driven in part by some advertising but in many cases primarily by annual reader donations; in many cases, they still are. Various forms of public radio and television have long relied on voluntary donations, and political magazines from Mother Jones to National Review still do.

The New York Times has had great success in relying on voluntary reader donations. Its subscription "paywall" is, by design, very easily circumventable by anyone who expends minimal effort, because that model is really a means of asking its readers to voluntarily support its journalism with donations. Andrew Sullivan's efforts this year to rely exclusively on reader support produced such intense media attention precisely because everyone knows that reader-supported journalism is the one promising model for enabling different kinds of journalism to exist.

Ever since I began political writing, I've relied on annual reader donations to enable me to do the journalism I want to do: first when I wrote at my own Blogspot page and then at Salon. Far and away, that has been the primary factor enabling me to remain independent - to be unconstrained in what I can say and do - because it means I'm ultimately accountable to my readers, who don't have an agenda other than demanding that I write what I actually think, that the work I produce be unconstrained by institutional orthodoxies and without fear of negative reaction from anyone. It is also reader support that has directly funded much of the work I do, from being able to have research assistants and other needed resources to avoiding having to do the kind of inconsequential work that distracts from that which I think is most necessary and valuable.

For that reason, when I moved my blog from Salon to the Guardian, the Guardian and I agreed that I would continue to rely in part on reader support. Having this be part of the arrangement, rather than exclusively relying on the Guardian paying to publish the column, was vital to me. It's the model I really I believe in.

It is an indispensable factor in my independence. It enables me to work far more effectively by having the resources I need and to spend my time only on the work which I actually believe can have an impact. It keeps my readers invested in the work I do and keeps me accountable to them. And it's what enables me to know that I'll be able to continue focusing on the issues and advancing the perspectives which I think are vital regardless of who that might alienate. I've spent all of this week extensively traveling and working continuously on what will be a huge story: something made possible by being at the Guardian but also by my ability to devote all of my time and efforts to projects like this one.

Currently, this is not the conventional way journalism is funded in establishment circles, but I'm convinced it's the better way. For a deeply struggling field, and whether they want it or not, this is the way of the future: the short-term future at that, and I think that's a very positive development. I'm truly appreciative of all readers who spend their time coming here, and grateful for those who in the past have supported the work I do. Those who wish to do so this year can do that here.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

The Complexities Of Thinking About Parallel Universes
By James Donahue

Writers of science-fiction and esoteric matters like to talk about parallel universes and envision how life forms can magically move from the present universe to another, somewhat like our own but different, by simply getting into a machine and pushing a button.

I have been guilty of suggesting that aliens freely visit our world by shifting from their universe to ours in those strange UFOs and then going back again. After our misadventures with space exploration, it seemed a more plausible explanation for alien visitation than believing another race of beings could, or would travel light miles from other galaxies or constellations to visit Earth.

Within the last century physicists and mathematicians have developed a string theory that makes the concept of parallel universes more plausible. The concept is plausible, at least mathematically. From a reality standpoint, the probability of our ever finding a way to easily travel from one universe to its twin appears to be out of our grasp.

The string theory suggests that, at its core, the universe we live in is composed of subatomic strings within a closed loop, or circle. According to the theory, everything in the universe can be explained in terms of these microscopic strings, or loops. To get a grasp on this, think of the tiny atom with protons and electrons in motion around neutrons, much as planets spin around our sun and millions of solar systems spinning around in a constellation and each constellation spinning about within a galaxy, and so on.

It all seems to work in remarkable order, and yet when the mathematicians and physicists start working out all of the complex equations, based upon the string theory, they come up with a remarkable number of possibilities for parallel universes, all similar but all uniquely different from our own.

One article by Margaret Wertheim quotes physicist Joseph Polchinski as estimating as many as 10 to the power of 60 solutions to these equations. That would count out to a million billion billion billion billion billion billion possible universes. I think there would be a lot of zeros in a figure like that.

Wertheim quotes Stanford University physicist Andrei Linde who she says has developed a theory of "eternal inflation." He suggests that there exists an "infinite bubbling sea of universes, each as real and concrete as our own. "In Linde's thory, each universe is a unique bubble of space and time equipped with its own laws of physics and its own cosmic history. These other universes may differ wildly from our own, possessing different kinds of matter, different kinds of forces, even different numbers of dimensions," she wrote.

Then there is Lee Smolin, a specialist in quantum gravity at Perimer Institute in Canada, who suggests that baby universes constantly "bud" from older universes from the heart of black holes.

Of course there is the belief among the occultists that each human, possessing a piece of the soul or God within them, generates his or her own universe from mere existence and thought. We all live in our own unique universe that overlaps and interacts with the universes of the people we come in contact with each day. We also believe that we have the mental ability to shape and change our universes as we choose.

I enjoy carrying this concept one step farther. That is to say that each time we make a choice in life, we are, in effect, splitting our universe into two parts. In one universe we take the left road and in the other universe we turn right. We consciously follow the choice that we make and continue on that path. But in the new universe, there is a clone of ourselves following the other path and living out its consequences.

With somewhere between six and seven billion people on this planet, all actively generating multiple new universes every day, it is conceivable that Polchinski's impossible number of parallel universes, calculated from the string theory way of looking at things, might be quite right.
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Senator Tammy Baldwin

Senator's Call Stirs Movement To Get Congress Focused On Economic Justice
By John Nichols

When Tammy Baldwin delivered her first floor speech on the Senate floor late last month, she did not expect to create a national stir-let alone a movement.

But Baldwin's progressive-populist call for a refocusing of Congress on issues of wealth and poverty struck a chord that is echoing across the country, as thousands of Americans sign on daily to an "I Stand With Tammy Baldwin" petition that has become a social-media sensation.

What resonated from Baldwin's speech was the newly elected senator from Wisconsin's absolute rejection of the narrow Washington consensus on economic issues. Dismissing the empty rhetoric of austerity of the Republicans and of the Democrats who compromise with them, Baldwin explained that America was having a different conversation altogether. Recalling recent travels in her home state, the senator said, "Wisconsinites have told me that the powerful and well-connected still seem to get to write their own rules, while the concerns and struggles of middle-class families go unnoticed here in Washington."

Speaking for those Wisconsinites, Baldwin told the Senate:

* "They see Washington happy to let Wall Street write their own rules, but unable to help students pull themselves out of debt."

* "They see Washington working to protect big tax breaks for powerful corporations, but unwilling to protect small manufacturers from getting ripped off by China's cheating."

* "They see Washington bouncing from one manufactured fiscal crisis to the next, but never addressing the real and ongoing crisis of our disappearing middle class."

The senator correctly diagnosed an old disease: "The truth is, while you hear a lot about the wide distance between Democrats and Republicans, the widest and most important distance in our political system is between the content of the debate here in Washington and the concerns of working families in places like Wisconsin. That distance parallels the large and growing gaps between the rich and the poor...between rising costs and stagnant incomes...between our nation and our competitors when it comes to education and innovation. And it's really hurting people."

Baldwin's message made perfect sense to Maine State Representative Diane Russell, a progressive populist Democrat who learned about the speech when the senator posted an article about it on Facebook. A fan since the days when Baldwin-then a congresswoman-flew back from Washington to join the 2011 protests at the state capitol against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's anti-labor agenda-Russell thought Baldwin's first statement to the Senate made more sense than anything else she was hearing from DC.

"I loved it so I blew it up a bit," she said of Baldwin's statement. "She deserves to be as much of a hero as Senator [Elizabeth] Warren.

Russell, who identifies herself as a "Social Media Maven," started the "I Stand With Tammy Baldwin" petition with the words, "In the US Senate last week, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (WI) spoke some serious truth to power..." Within hours, she had thousands of signatures. Within says, she had close to 15,000.

Russell doesn't know quite where her online organizing is headed. But, at the least, she says she is proving that Americans are more interested in "courage and smarts" than the standard recitation of talking points by politicians who are too busy listening to the buzz in Washington to recognize that "it's really hurting people."
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

China Benefits From Bush's Folly
By Robert Scheer

Imperialism doesn't pay. Of course, it never did for the common folk recruited to invade another country, or the natives they conquered. But still, the thought persists that occupying foreign lands-particularly as in the case of Iraq, soaked in oil as well as blood-is a winner.

True, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, with its nonexistent WMDs and virulent hostility to the religious fanatics that attacked us on 9/11, was a false target for a war on terror. And yes, a Shiite-run Iraq is now closely allied with co-religionists in Iran and Lebanon, whereas Hussein had once been our ally in containing the power of the ayatollahs. But "we" now control Iraq's vast oil reserves, some hawks will still argue in the manner of the idiot savant Paul Wolfowitz, who as then-deputy defense secretary promised that the oil would pay for the war. Only they, like he, have once again been proved wrong.

That myth of wealth following the flag can finally be put to rest with the report in Sunday's New York Times headlined "China Is Reaping Biggest Benefits of Iraq Oil Boom." What the Chinese have demonstrated is that in the modern world, to the conquerors do not go the spoils. The United States has spent well over $3 trillion on its Iraq War, while suffering and inflicting much mayhem. Yet it is the studiously neutral government of China that has most clearly benefited from George W. Bush's folly. Beijing refused to play the militarist's game but coolly picked up the winner's prize.

"Since the American-led invasion of 2003, Iraq has become one of the world's top oil producers," the Times reports, "and China is now its biggest customer." Almost half of Iraq's oil production already is shipped to China, and those once vilified commies, reincarnated as today's robber barons, are bidding for an even larger stake in Iraq's oil field production. The Cold War is indeed over, but China's red capitalists have won.

While the United States remains mired in the outdated task of establishing military hegemony through a vast network of advanced bases and sophisticated weaponry, the Chinese have emerged as the world's most nimble entrepreneurs, shrewdly covering their bets without the distraction of patriotic flag waving.

"We lost out," Bush Defense Department official Michael Makovsky admits to the Times. "The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint, they are benefitting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply."

Actually, the Chinese had quite a bit to do with the war in that they profited from the interest on the loans they made that floated the U.S war debt. This debt will continue to increase as we remain stuck with the bill for that Fifth Fleet protecting the shipping lanes connecting Iraq's oil with China's ever expanding economy.

What all this underscores is that America, driven by an obsession with foreign enemies and burdened with a huge permanent military economy, lost its original sense of purpose, as outlined by George Washington in his Farewell Address:

"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce but forcing nothing."

Not exactly the tone of our policy toward China during the Cold War, or with Iraq more recently. Possessed of an armed forces power dwarfing all that came before, we have been drunk on the elixir of military confrontation. Ignoring the plea of Washington's farewell effort "to warn against the mischiefs of foreign Intrigue, to guard against the Impostures of pretended patriotism," we wallowed in that very imposture.

A nation born in revolt against the preoccupations of empire came to embrace foreign military conquest as its raison d'etre. Particularly during the era of post 9/11 hysteria, the arrogance of unquestioned nationalist power has come to define our political culture. How ironic that the once ossified police state of communist China should now threaten us with a free market alternative.

The next time we feel the need to go to war-Iran comes to mind-we might be cautioned by Beijing's startling turnaround. This was the government that would never abandon its revolutionary politics, it was commonly said. And now an Iraq Oil Ministry official is quoted in the Times as saying of the Chinese: "They are practical people. They don't have anything to do with politics or religion. They just work and eat and sleep." Sounds like how we used to be.
(c) 2013 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in=depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Economic Storm Clouds Ahead
By Robert Reich

Economic forecasters exist to make astrologers look good. But the recent jubilance is enough to make even weather forecasters blush. "Just look at the bull market! Look at home prices! Look at consumer confidence!"


I can understand the jubilation in the narrow sense that we've been down so long everything looks up. Plus, professional economists tend to cheerlead because they believe that if consumers and businesses think the future will be great, they'll buy and invest more - leading to a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But prophesies can't be self-fulfilling if they're based on wishful thinking.

The reality is we're still in the doldrums, and the most recent data gives cause for serious worry.

Almost all the forward movement in the economy is now coming from consumers - whose spending is 70 percent of economic activity. But wages are still going nowhere, which means consumer spending will slow because consumers just don't have the money to spend.

On Thursday the Commerce Department reported that consumer spending rose 3.4 percent in the first quarter of this year. But the personal savings rate dropped to 2.3 percent - from 5.3 percent in the last quarter of 2012. That's the lowest level of savings since before the Great Recession. You don't have to be an economic forecaster, or an astrologer, to see this can't go on.

Yes, home prices are rising. The problem is, they're beginning to rise above their long-run historical average. (Before the housing crash they were were way, way above the long-run average.) So watch your wallets. We've been here before: The Fed is keeping interest rates artificially low, allowing consumers to get low home-equity loans and to borrow against the rising values of their homes. Needless to say, this trend, too, is unsustainable.

What about the stock market? It's time we stopped assuming that a rising stock market leads to widespread prosperity. Over 90 percent of the value of the stock market - including 401(k)s and IRAs - is held by the wealthiest 10 percent of the population.

Moreover, the main reason stock prices have risen is corporate profits have soared. But that's largely because corporations have slashed their payrolls and keep them low. Which brings us full circle, back to the fundamental fact that wages that are going nowhere for most people.

Not even fat corporate profits are sustainable if American consumers don't have enough money in their pockets. Exports can't make up for the shortfall, given the rotten shape Europe is in and the slowdown in Asia.

So don't expect those profits to continue. In fact, the new Commerce Department report shows that corporate profits shrank in the first quarter, reversing some of the gains in the second half of 2012.

And, by the way, the full effect of the cuts in government spending hasn't even been felt yet. The sequester is going to be a large fiscal drag starting next month.

Look, I don't want to rain on the parade. But any self-respecting weather forecaster would warn you to zipper up and take an umbrella. Don't be swayed by all the sunny talk. There are too many storm clouds ahead.
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Geezers Are All Right
By Paul Krugman

Last month the Congressional Budget Office released its much-anticipated projections for debt and deficits, and there were cries of lamentation from the deficit scolds who have had so much influence on our policy discourse. The problem, you see, was that the budget office numbers looked, well, O.K.: deficits are falling fast, and the ratio of debt to gross domestic product is projected to remain roughly stable over the next decade. Obviously it would be nice, eventually, to actually reduce debt. But if you've built your career around proclamations of imminent fiscal doom, this definitely wasn't the report you wanted to see.

Still, we can always count on the baby boomers to deliver disaster, can't we? Doesn't the rising tide of retirees mean that Social Security and Medicare are doomed unless we radically change those programs now now now?

Maybe not.

To be fair, the reports of the Social Security and Medicare trustees released Friday do suggest that America's retirement system needs some significant work. The ratio of Americans over 65 to those of working age will rise inexorably over the decades ahead, and this will translate into rising spending on Social Security and Medicare as a share of national income.

But the numbers aren't nearly as overwhelming as you might have imagined, given the usual rhetoric. And if you look under the hood, the data suggest that we can, if we choose, maintain social insurance as we know it with only modest adjustments.

Start with Social Security. The retirement program's trustees do foresee rising spending as the population ages, with total payments rising from 5.1 percent of G.D.P. now to 6.2 percent in 2035, at which point they stabilize. This means, by the way, that all the talk of Social Security going "bankrupt" is nonsense; even if nothing at all is done, the system will be able to pay most of its scheduled benefits as far as the eye can see.

Still, it does look as if there will eventually be a shortfall, and the usual suspects insist that we must move right now to reduce scheduled benefits. But I've never understood the logic of this demand. The risk is that we might, at some point in the future, have to cut benefits; to avoid this risk of future benefit cuts, we are supposed to act pre-emptively by...cutting future benefits. What problem, exactly, are we solving here?

What about Medicare? For years, many people - myself included - have warned that Medicare is a much bigger problem than Social Security, and the latest report from the program's trustees still shows spending rising from 3.6 percent of G.D.P. now to 5.6 percent in 2035. But that's a smaller rise than in previous projections. Why?

The answer is that the long-term upward trend in health care costs - a trend that has affected private insurance as well as Medicare - seems to have flattened out significantly over the past few years. Nobody is quite sure why, but there are indications that some of the cost-reducing measures contained in the Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare, are actually starting to "bend the curve," just as they were supposed to. And because there are a number of cost-reducing measures in the law that have not yet kicked in, there's every reason to believe that this favorable trend will continue.

Furthermore, there's plenty of room for more savings, if only because recent research confirms that Americans pay far more for health procedures than citizens of other advanced countries pay; that the price premium can and should be brought down, and when it is, Medicare's financial outlook will improve further.

So what are we looking at here? The latest projections show the combined cost of Social Security and Medicare rising by a bit more than 3 percent of G.D.P. between now and 2035, and that number could easily come down with more effort on the health care front. Now, 3 percent of G.D.P. is a big number, but it's not an economy-crushing number. The United States could, for example, close that gap entirely through tax increases, with no reduction in benefits at all, and still have one of the lowest overall tax rates in the advanced world.

But haven't all the great and the good been telling us that Social Security and Medicare as we know them are unsustainable, that they must be totally revamped - and made much less generous? Why yes, they have; they've also been telling us that we must slash spending right away or we'll face a Greek-style fiscal crisis. They were wrong about that, and they're wrong about the longer run, too.

The truth is that the long-term outlook for Social Security and Medicare, while not great, actually isn't all that bad. It's time to stop obsessing about how we'll pay benefits to retirees in 2035 and focus instead on how we're going to provide jobs to unemployed Americans in the here and now.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The Greatest Purveyor of Violence in the World Today is My Government"
~~~ Rev. Dr. Marin Luther King jr.

Washington's Fairy Tales

By David Sirota

As social media accelerates the velocity of political news, fact-free stereotypes and reductionist shorthand are increasingly substituted for accuracy and nuance. Coastal blue states are now typically presented in the national press as one giant Berkeley campus while heartland red states are portrayed as a confederacy of "Dukes of Hazzard" sets. In this cartoonish mythology, liberals are all Birkenstock-clad socialists, conservatives are all Boss Hoggs - and politics is a perpetual conflict between these two warring tribes.

The trouble, of course, is that the folklore has a diminishing connection to reality. Case in point is the narrative that now defines the Washington debate over gun control.

This week, in a piece summarizing that narrative, Time magazine's White House correspondent Michael Scherer asserted that television ads pressuring lawmakers to support background check legislation will harm Democratic politicians who represent Republican-leaning states. About the ads, Scherer asked: "Is it better to teach wavering Democrats that there is a cost to voting against gun control, even if it jeopardizes Democratic control of the Senate, which is needed to enact gun control?"

In this case, the fact-free mythology promoted the stereotype that claims all conservatives are gun extremists. From that stereotype came Time's assumption that most conservative voters automatically oppose mandated background checks for gun purchases, and that therefore those voters will punish Democratic senators who support background checks. The assumption, in other words, is that there are only two sides to the gun debate, and that rank-and-file conservative voters are uniformly against all firearm regulations, no matter how modest those regulations are.

What's amazing - and horrifying - is that this kind of schlock is considered serious analysis in Washington, despite concrete facts proving it false.

For instance, months before Time's article, a March poll by Schoen LLC found that 84 percent of voters in the red state of Arkansas support background check legislation.

Likewise, a May survey by Public Policy Polling found that Democratic incumbents in the red states of North Carolina and Louisiana "helped their cause for re-election with their recent votes in support of background checks." More specifically, the survey found "70 percent of voters in each of their states support such checks" and also found that the incumbents' "constituents say they're more likely to vote for them next year because of their votes." These results were subsequently corroborated in PPP's follow-up polls in Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee.

This dissonance between the manufactured story and the clear reality of gun politics exemplifies a larger dynamic. On issue after issue, reporters, pundits and politicians in Washington increasingly tell themselves stories about America that simply aren't true. Those fairy tales often pretend the nation is far more conservative than it actually is - and that has serious negative consequences.

For example, as I've previously reported, the fairly tales are likely why the University of California's recent nationwide survey of lawmakers found that "conservative politicians systematically believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are ... while liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents' conservatism."

Similarly, the fairy tales tend to cast majoritarian legislation like the background check bill as politically impossible, which in turn becomes self-fulfilling conventional wisdom in Washington. The ensuing gridlock consequently fuels the crisis of legitimacy now seen in the polls - the one in which more and more Americans now say the government doesn't understand or care about the rest of the country.

Washington, no doubt, writes that disillusionment off. The ruling political and media class probably tells itself it is just because Americans are dumb. But, as always, the real story is the converse: It is because Americans are smart - and getting smarter.
(c) 2013 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota .

An Anti-War Blockbuster
By David Swanson

There's no end to the pro-war movies we're subjected to: countless celebrations of bombs, guns, and torture. They come in the form of cartoons, science-fiction, historical fiction, dramas, and reenactments pre-censored by the CIA. Movies show us the excitement without the suffering. War in our theaters resembles almost anything else more than it resembles war.

Journalists appear in our movies too, usually as comic figures, talking-head air-heads, numskulls, and sycophants. In this case, the depiction is much more accurate, at least of much of what passes for journalism.

But, starting in June, a remarkable anti-war / pro-journalism film will be showing -- even more remarkably -- in big mainstream movie theaters. Dirty Wars (I've read the book and seen the movie and highly recommend both) may be one of the best educational outreach opportunities the peace movement has had in a long time. The film, starring Jeremy Scahill, is about secretive aspects of U.S. wars: imprisonment, torture, night raids, drone kills.

Dirty Wars won the Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival 2013 and, recently, the Grand Jury Prize at the Boston Independent Film Festival. Variety calls it "jaw-dropping ... [with] the power to pry open government lockboxes." The Sundance jury said it is "one of the most stunning looking documentaries [we've] ever seen." I agree.

Typically, information that does not support our government's war agenda appears only on the printed page, or perhaps in a power-point presented to the usual heroic crowd of aging white activists gathered outside the range of corporate radar. But stroll through an airport and you'll see hardcopies of Dirty Wars displayed at the front of the bookstores. Check out the movie listings in June and July, and you're likely to see Dirty Wars listed right alongside the latest super-hero, murderfest, sequel of a sequel of some predictable Hollywood hackery.

I wrote a review of the book some time back, after which I picked up a job helping to promote the film. But I'm promoting the film because it's a great film, which is different from calling it a great film because I'm paid to promote it. And my interest remains less in selling the film tickets than in recruiting those who see the film into an active movement to change the reality on which the film reports.

This is not Zero Dark Thirty. You can't walk into Dirty Wars supporting drone strikes, night raids, and cluster bombs and walk out with your beliefs reinforced. Most viewers of Dirty Wars will leave the theater believing that U.S. wars make the United States less safe. In that moment, when people who are usually otherwise engaged have come to realize that the Department of So-Called Defense endangers us (on top of impoverishing us) is when we should sign those people up to take part in activities the following week and month and year.

The film opens by contrasting embedded war journalism -- the regurgitation of spoon-fed propaganda -- with what the viewer is about to see. And what we see is investigative journalism. The film begins by providing us with an understanding of night raids, including from the point of view of family members who have survived them. We see the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tell Scahill that night raids that kills civilians should not be investigated. And then we see Scahill investigate them, his search leading him to secretive branches of the U.S. military involved in a variety of dirty tactics in various countries.

The film does have a failing. It doesn't tell people anything they can do about the horrors they're exposed to. But, of course, activism is possible and far more effective than any journalism -- good or bad -- will tell you.

One of the stories told in the film and the book of Dirty Wars is the story of the destruction of al Majala. On December 17, 2009, U.S. Tomahawk missiles and incendiary cluster bombs rained down on the tiny Yemeni village of al Majala, killing 21 children, 14 women, and 6 men, and burning all the homes and their contents. The government of Yemen falsely claimed responsibility. Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye disproved that claim.

Shaye reported on the carnage, including photographing missile parts labeled "Made in the United States." He reported on subsequent U.S. strikes in Yemen, working with the Washington Post, ABC News, Al Jazeera, and other outlets.

Shaye is in prison in Yemen for the crime of journalism, at the insistence of President Obama. A coalition has launched a petition today urging Obama and Yemen to set Shaye free. Fans of Dirty Wars who want to begin to do something to end the crimes committed in their names can be sent to

While the United States was searching for its citizen Anwar Awlaki to kill him, Shaye repeatedly tracked him down and interviewed him. These were tough and serious interviews, with Shaye asking Awlaki how he could possibly support acts of violence. Awlaki's image was not helped. But the U.S. government began warning media outlets not to work with Shaye, falsely accusing him of supporting al Qaeda. The Yemeni government kidnapped Shaye, threatened and released him, then snatched him again and gave him a one-sided "trial," universally denounced as a sham by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

On February 2, 2011, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, under public pressure, had drawn up, printed out, and was prepared to sign a pardon of Shaye. But Saleh received a phone call from President Barack Obama, who opposed release of the journalist. Saleh ripped up the pardon.

The White House is feeling a little pressure over recent revelations of government spying on and seeking the prosecution of U.S. journalists. It took the targeting of a U.S. journalist for prosecution to start people like Chuck Todd and Dana Milbank chattering about Obama treating journalism as a crime. But have you heard U.S. media outlets raising concerns over the imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist at the instruction of the U.S. president?

There is much else that we are not regularly told to be found in Dirty Wars. Organizations that would like to help promote this film and organize around it in U.S. cities should contact me. With any luck, together we'll change the conversation to one aware of and unaccepting of acts of murder anywhere on earth.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Schulleiter Warren,

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 racism against American Indians, 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 "Democratic whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 07-06-2013. We salute you Frau Warren, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Bradley Manning Is Guilty Of "Aiding the Enemy" -- If the Enemy Is Democracy
By Norman Solomon

Of all the charges against Bradley Manning, the most pernicious -- and revealing -- is "aiding the enemy." A blogger at The New Yorker, Amy Davidson, raised a pair of big questions that now loom over the courtroom at Fort Meade and over the entire country:

* "Would it aid the enemy, for example, to expose war crimes committed by American forces or lies told by the American government?"

* "In that case, who is aiding the enemy -- the whistleblower or the perpetrators themselves?"

When the deceptive operation of the warfare state can't stand the light of day, truth-tellers are a constant hazard. And culpability must stay turned on its head.

That's why accountability was upside-down when the U.S. Army prosecutor laid out the government's case against Bradley Manning in an opening statement: "This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy -- material he knew, based on his training, would put the lives of fellow soldiers at risk."

If so, those fellow soldiers have all been notably lucky; the Pentagon has admitted that none died as a result of Manning's leaks in 2010. But many of his fellow soldiers lost their limbs or their lives in U.S. warfare made possible by the kind of lies that the U.S. government is now prosecuting Bradley Manning for exposing.

In the real world, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, prosecution for leaks is extremely slanted. "Let's apply the government's theory in the Manning case to one of the most revered journalists in Washington: Bob Woodward, who has become one of America's richest reporters, if not the richest, by obtaining and publishing classified information far more sensitive than anything WikiLeaks has ever published," Greenwald wrote in January.

He noted that "one of Woodward's most enthusiastic readers was Osama bin Laden," as a 2011 video from al-Qaeda made clear. And Greenwald added that "the same Bob Woodward book [Obama's Wars] that Osama bin Laden obviously read and urged everyone else to read disclosed numerous vital national security secrets far more sensitive than anything Bradley Manning is accused of leaking. Doesn't that necessarily mean that top-level government officials who served as Woodward's sources, and the author himself, aided and abetted al-Qaida?"

But the prosecution of Manning is about carefully limiting the information that reaches the governed. Officials who run U.S. foreign policy choose exactly what classified info to dole out to the public. They leak like self-serving sieves to mainline journalists such as Woodward, who has divulged plenty of "Top Secret" information -- a category of classification higher than anything Bradley Manning is accused of leaking.

While pick-and-choose secrecy is serving Washington's top war-makers, the treatment of U.S. citizens is akin to the classic description of how to propagate mushrooms: keeping them in the dark and feeding them bullshit.

In effect, for top managers of the warfare state, "the enemy" is democracy. Let's pursue the inquiry put forward by columnist Amy Davidson early this year. If it is aiding the enemy "to expose war crimes committed by American forces or lies told by the American government," then in reality "who is aiding the enemy -- the whistleblower or the perpetrators themselves?"

Candid answers to such questions are not only inadmissible in the military courtroom where Bradley Manning is on trial. Candor is also excluded from the national venues where the warfare state preens itself as virtue's paragon.

Yet ongoing actions of the U.S. government have hugely boosted the propaganda impact and recruiting momentum of forces that Washington publicly describes as "the enemy." Policies under the Bush and Obama administrations -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and beyond, with hovering drones, missile strikes and night raids, at prisons such as Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and secret rendition torture sites -- have "aided the enemy" on a scale so enormous that it makes the alleged (and fictitious) aid to named enemies from Manning's leaks infinitesimal in comparison.

Blaming the humanist PFC messenger for "aiding the enemy" is an exercise in self-exculpation by an administration that cannot face up to its own vast war crimes.

While prosecuting Bradley Manning, the prosecution may name al-Qaeda, indigenous Iraqi forces, the Taliban or whoever. But the unnamed "enemy" -- the real adversary that the Pentagon and the Obama White House are so eager to quash -- is the incessant striving for democracy that requires informed consent of the governed.

The forces that top U.S. officials routinely denounce as "the enemy" will never threaten the power of the USA's dominant corporate-military elites. But the unnamed "enemy" aided by Bradley Manning's courageous actions -- the people at the grassroots who can bring democracy to life beyond rhetoric -- are a real potential threat to that power.

Accusations of aid and comfort to the enemy were profuse after Martin Luther King Jr. moved forward to expose the Johnson administration's deceptions and the U.S. military's atrocities. Most profoundly, with his courageous stand against the war in Vietnam, King earned his Nobel Peace Prize during the years after he won it in 1964.

Bradley Manning may never win the Nobel Peace Prize, but he surely deserves it. Close to 60,000 people have already signed a petition urging the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the prize to Manning. To become a signer, click here. Also, you can preview a kindred project on the "I Am Bradley Manning" site, where a just-released short video -- the first stage of a longer film due out soon -- features Daniel Ellsberg, Oliver Stone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Phil Donahue, Alice Walker, Peter Sarsgaard, Wallace Shawn, Russell Brand, Moby, Tom Morello, Michael Ratner, Molly Crabapple, Davey D, Tim DeChristopher, Josh Stieber, Lt. Dan Choi, Hakim Green, Matt Taibbi, Chris Hedges, Allan Nairn, Leslie Cagan, Ahdaf Soueif and Jeff Madrick.

From many walks of life, our messages will become louder and clearer as Bradley Manning's trial continues. He is guilty of "aiding the enemy" only if the enemy is democracy.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Eve Of Destruction (Or How To Destroy A Planet Without Really Trying)
Humanity imperiled and the path to disaster
By Noam Chomsky

What is the future likely to bring? A reasonable stance might be to try to look at the human species from the outside. So imagine that you're an extraterrestrial observer who is trying to figure out what's happening here or, for that matter, imagine you're an historian 100 years from now -- assuming there are any historians 100 years from now, which is not obvious -- and you're looking back at what's happening today. You'd see something quite remarkable.

For the first time in the history of the human species, we have clearly developed the capacity to destroy ourselves. That's been true since 1945. It's now being finally recognized that there are more long-term processes like environmental destruction leading in the same direction, maybe not to total destruction, but at least to the destruction of the capacity for a decent existence.

And there are other dangers like pandemics, which have to do with globalization and interaction. So there are processes underway and institutions right in place, like nuclear weapons systems, which could lead to a serious blow to, or maybe the termination of, an organized existence.

How to Destroy a Planet Without Really Trying

The question is: What are people doing about it? None of this is a secret. It's all perfectly open. In fact, you have to make an effort not to see it.

There have been a range of reactions. There are those who are trying hard to do something about these threats, and others who are acting to escalate them. If you look at who they are, this future historian or extraterrestrial observer would see something strange indeed. Trying to mitigate or overcome these threats are the least developed societies, the indigenous populations, or the remnants of them, tribal societies and first nations in Canada. They're not talking about nuclear war but environmental disaster, and they're really trying to do something about it.

In fact, all over the world -- Australia, India, South America -- there are battles going on, sometimes wars. In India, it's a major war over direct environmental destruction, with tribal societies trying to resist resource extraction operations that are extremely harmful locally, but also in their general consequences. In societies where indigenous populations have an influence, many are taking a strong stand. The strongest of any country with regard to global warming is in Bolivia, which has an indigenous majority and constitutional requirements that protect the "rights of nature." Ecuador, which also has a large indigenous population, is the only oil exporter I know of where the government is seeking aid to help keep that oil in the ground, instead of producing and exporting it -- and the ground is where it ought to be.

The richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died recently and was the object of mockery, insult, and hatred throughout the Western world, attended a session of the U.N. General Assembly a few years ago where he elicited all sorts of ridicule for calling George W. Bush a devil. He also gave a speech there that was quite interesting. Of course, Venezuela is a major oil producer. Oil is practically their whole gross domestic product. In that speech, he warned of the dangers of the overuse of fossil fuels and urged producer and consumer countries to get together and try to work out ways to reduce fossil fuel use. That was pretty amazing on the part of an oil producer. You know, he was part Indian, of indigenous background. Unlike the funny things he did, this aspect of his actions at the U.N. was never even reported.

So, at one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster. At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible. Unlike Ecuador, and indigenous societies throughout the world, they want to extract every drop of hydrocarbons from the ground with all possible speed.

Both political parties, President Obama, the media, and the international press seem to be looking forward with great enthusiasm to what they call "a century of energy independence" for the United States. Energy independence is an almost meaningless concept, but put that aside. What they mean is: we'll have a century in which to maximize the use of fossil fuels and contribute to destroying the world. And that's pretty much the case everywhere. Admittedly, when it comes to alternative energy development, Europe is doing something. Meanwhile, the United States, the richest and most powerful country in world history, is the only nation among perhaps 100 relevant ones that doesn't have a national policy for restricting the use of fossil fuels, that doesn't even have renewable energy targets. It's not because the population doesn't want it. Americans are pretty close to the international norm in their concern about global warming. It's institutional structures that block change. Business interests don't want it and they're overwhelmingly powerful in determining policy, so you get a big gap between opinion and policy on lots of issues, including this one.

So that's what the future historian -- if there is one -- would see. He might also read today's scientific journals. Just about every one you open has a more dire prediction than the last.

"The Most Dangerous Moment in History"

The other issue is nuclear war. It's been known for a long time that if there were to be a first strike by a major power, even with no retaliation, it would probably destroy civilization just because of the nuclear-winter consequences that would follow. You can read about it in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. It's well understood. So the danger has always been a lot worse than we thought it was.

We've just passed the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was called "the most dangerous moment in history" by historian Arthur Schlesinger, President John F. Kennedy's advisor. Which it was. It was a very close call, and not the only time either. In some ways, however, the worst aspect of these grim events is that the lessons haven't been learned.

What happened in the missile crisis in October 1962 has been prettified to make it look as if acts of courage and thoughtfulness abounded. The truth is that the whole episode was almost insane. There was a point, as the missile crisis was reaching its peak, when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote to Kennedy offering to settle it by a public announcement of a withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. missiles from Turkey. Actually, Kennedy hadn't even known that the U.S. had missiles in Turkey at the time. They were being withdrawn anyway, because they were being replaced by more lethal Polaris nuclear submarines, which were invulnerable.

So that was the offer. Kennedy and his advisors considered it -- and rejected it. At the time, Kennedy himself was estimating the likelihood of nuclear war at a third to a half. So Kennedy was willing to accept a very high risk of massive destruction in order to establish the principle that we -- and only we -- have the right to offensive missiles beyond our borders, in fact anywhere we like, no matter what the risk to others -- and to ourselves, if matters fall out of control. We have that right, but no one else does.

Kennedy did, however, accept a secret agreement to withdraw the missiles the U.S. was already withdrawing, as long as it was never made public. Khrushchev, in other words, had to openly withdraw the Russian missiles while the U.S. secretly withdrew its obsolete ones; that is, Khrushchev had to be humiliated and Kennedy had to maintain his macho image. He's greatly praised for this: courage and coolness under threat, and so on. The horror of his decisions is not even mentioned -- try to find it on the record.

And to add a little more, a couple of months before the crisis blew up the United States had sent missiles with nuclear warheads to Okinawa. These were aimed at China during a period of great regional tension.

Well, who cares? We have the right to do anything we want anywhere in the world. That was one grim lesson from that era, but there were others to come.

Ten years after that, in 1973, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. It was his way of warning the Russians not to interfere in the ongoing Israel-Arab war and, in particular, not to interfere after he had informed the Israelis that they could violate a ceasefire the U.S. and Russia had just agreed upon. Fortunately, nothing happened.

Ten years later, President Ronald Reagan was in office. Soon after he entered the White House, he and his advisors had the Air Force start penetrating Russian air space to try to elicit information about Russian warning systems, Operation Able Archer. Essentially, these were mock attacks. The Russians were uncertain, some high-level officials fearing that this was a step towards a real first strike. Fortunately, they didn't react, though it was a close call. And it goes on like that.

What to Make of the Iranian and North Korean Nuclear Crises

At the moment, the nuclear issue is regularly on front pages in the cases of North Korea and Iran. There are ways to deal with these ongoing crises. Maybe they wouldn't work, but at least you could try. They are, however, not even being considered, not even reported.

Take the case of Iran, which is considered in the West -- not in the Arab world, not in Asia -- the gravest threat to world peace. It's a Western obsession, and it's interesting to look into the reasons for it, but I'll put that aside here. Is there a way to deal with the supposed gravest threat to world peace? Actually there are quite a few. One way, a pretty sensible one, was proposed a couple of months ago at a meeting of the non-aligned countries in Tehran. In fact, they were just reiterating a proposal that's been around for decades, pressed particularly by Egypt, and has been approved by the U.N. General Assembly.

The proposal is to move toward establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region. That wouldn't be the answer to everything, but it would be a pretty significant step forward. And there were ways to proceed. Under U.N. auspices, there was to be an international conference in Finland last December to try to implement plans to move toward this. What happened?

You won't read about it in the newspapers because it wasn't reported -- only in specialist journals. In early November, Iran agreed to attend the meeting. A couple of days later Obama cancelled the meeting, saying the time wasn't right. The European Parliament issued a statement calling for it to continue, as did the Arab states. Nothing resulted. So we'll move toward ever-harsher sanctions against the Iranian population -- it doesn't hurt the regime -- and maybe war. Who knows what will happen?

In Northeast Asia, it's the same sort of thing. North Korea may be the craziest country in the world. It's certainly a good competitor for that title. But it does make sense to try to figure out what's in the minds of people when they're acting in crazy ways. Why would they behave the way they do? Just imagine ourselves in their situation. Imagine what it meant in the Korean War years of the early 1950s for your country to be totally leveled, everything destroyed by a huge superpower, which furthermore was gloating about what it was doing. Imagine the imprint that would leave behind.

Bear in mind that the North Korean leadership is likely to have read the public military journals of this superpower at that time explaining that, since everything else in North Korea had been destroyed, the air force was sent to destroy North Korea's dams, huge dams that controlled the water supply -- a war crime, by the way, for which people were hanged in Nuremberg. And these official journals were talking excitedly about how wonderful it was to see the water pouring down, digging out the valleys, and the Asians scurrying around trying to survive. The journals were exulting in what this meant to those "Asians," horrors beyond our imagination. It meant the destruction of their rice crop, which in turn meant starvation and death. How magnificent! It's not in our memory, but it's in their memory.

Let's turn to the present. There's an interesting recent history. In 1993, Israel and North Korea were moving towards an agreement in which North Korea would stop sending any missiles or military technology to the Middle East and Israel would recognize that country. President Clinton intervened and blocked it. Shortly after that, in retaliation, North Korea carried out a minor missile test. The U.S. and North Korea did then reach a framework agreement in 1994 that halted its nuclear work and was more or less honored by both sides. When George W. Bush came into office, North Korea had maybe one nuclear weapon and verifiably wasn't producing any more.

Bush immediately launched his aggressive militarism, threatening North Korea -- "axis of evil" and all that -- so North Korea got back to work on its nuclear program. By the time Bush left office, they had eight to 10 nuclear weapons and a missile system, another great neocon achievement. In between, other things happened. In 2005, the U.S. and North Korea actually reached an agreement in which North Korea was to end all nuclear weapons and missile development. In return, the West, but mainly the United States, was to provide a light-water reactor for its medical needs and end aggressive statements. They would then form a nonaggression pact and move toward accommodation.

It was pretty promising, but almost immediately Bush undermined it. He withdrew the offer of the light-water reactor and initiated programs to compel banks to stop handling any North Korean transactions, even perfectly legal ones. The North Koreans reacted by reviving their nuclear weapons program. And that's the way it's been going.

It's well known. You can read it in straight, mainstream American scholarship. What they say is: it's a pretty crazy regime, but it's also following a kind of tit-for-tat policy. You make a hostile gesture and we'll respond with some crazy gesture of our own. You make an accommodating gesture and we'll reciprocate in some way.

Lately, for instance, there have been South Korean-U.S. military exercises on the Korean peninsula which, from the North's point of view, have got to look threatening. We'd think they were threatening if they were going on in Canada and aimed at us. In the course of these, the most advanced bombers in history, Stealth B-2s and B-52s, are carrying out simulated nuclear bombing attacks right on North Korea's borders.

This surely sets off alarm bells from the past. They remember that past, so they're reacting in a very aggressive, extreme way. Well, what comes to the West from all this is how crazy and how awful the North Korean leaders are. Yes, they are. But that's hardly the whole story, and this is the way the world is going.

It's not that there are no alternatives. The alternatives just aren't being taken. That's dangerous. So if you ask what the world is going to look like, it's not a pretty picture. Unless people do something about it. We always can.
(c) 2013 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire.

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The Tangled Tango
By Will Durst

As part of the brash rash of wire-brush scouring on the Teflon coating that routinely seals the Obama presidency, a large heavy-duty cast-iron deal has been made of the IRS conducting audits on Tea-Party affiliated organizations. But scratch the surface and it makes a sort of perverse sense.

Tea Party and Associates are what you might call... anti- tax. Like meringue is anti-diet. So much so, they eschew the easy road by denying their name was taken from the early tax rebellion, but rather claim it an acronym of "Taxed Enough Already." These guys are strict.

On the other hand, the IRS is, for lack of a better phrase, less anti-tax. You could go so far as to say the IRS is pro- tax. Although employees undoubtedly consider their task following the letter of the law rather than the grisly art of squeezing blood from 300 million turnips. Type AB Rh negative preferred please.

These ornery combatants are mortal enemies along the lines of the mongoose and the cobra. Sheep and wolf. Electric vehicles and Oklahoma. Sarah Palin and The Learning Channel. Irish skin and Equatorial Guinea. The guy from IT support and everybody else in the fricking office. Panty hose and coffee table corners. Cheese and cat hair.

Nobody wants the government targeting dissenters: that's way too Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. Uncomfortably reminiscent of Burma, and that doesn't mean the romantic Pindaya caves either. The 1984 Orwellian nightmare of Winston Smith revisited. But neither should we forget the Tea Party's stated goal is to shrink the government and get rid of the IRS. Then ostensibly teach the rest of us how to pave our own roads by making mud bricks in our ovens.

How difficult is it to understand that people whose philosophy preaches something is evil might garner a bit of extra scrutiny from the folks whose very jobs they are threatening? Just like a "Legalize Pot" bumper sticker might prompt a cop to sniff the air inside a car after he stops it. The same way you don't mock the stewardess's hairstyle within earshot, then expect extra peanuts.

That's not profiling, its human nature. A reflex. Common sense. Besides, this isn't two beloved groups we're talking about here. The Tea Party versus the IRS. It's a battle for the bottom. The disdained versus the detested. A fight between stinky and yucky. With anybody caught in the middle destined to emerge with a few of the sticky bits on their shoes.

Out of 296 applicants, not one Tea Party organization was denied non-profit status. Admittedly, some had to wait. And that's what the major charges boil down to: the IRS making things difficult. Imagine that. An inconvenient interaction with the government. Next thing you'll try to tell me that insurance companies employ delaying tactics. Can't wait for Obamacare to kick in, right?

But for now, the party has been put back into the Tea Party. They're waving their flag of victimization wild and high and are once again protesting like its August of 2009. A Reenergized Tea Party: the last thing the Obama administration needs. As a matter of fact the only people dreading it more would have to be the entire rest of the Republican Party.
(c) 2013 Will Durst's, the recipient of 7 consecutive nominations for Stand Up of the Year, Will Durst's new one- man show "BoomerAging: From LSD to OMG" is presented every Tuesday, at the Marsh, San Francisco. Go to... for more info. Use code "boomer" for discount tix.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 20 (c) 06/07/2013

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