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In This Edition

Tom Engelhardt with an absolute must read, "The Making Of A Global Security State."

Uri Avnery reminds us to be careful what we wish for in, "Triumph And Tragedy."

Glen Ford examines, "Rep. Clyburn: Putting Obama First - And Civil Liberties, Peace And Justice, Last."

Matt Taibbi remembers, "Michael Hastings, Reporter."

Jim Hightower tells, "The Biggest Shock Of NSA's Secret Domestic Spying."

Chris Floyd returns with, "Follow The Money: The Secret Heart of the Secret State."

James Donahue warns of, "Sex Horror: Xenoestrogens."

John Nichols observes, "A Perilous 'Searching For Monsters To Destroy' In Syria."

Robert Scheer exposes, "The Terror Con."

Robert Reich reviews. "The Two Centers Of Unaccountable Power In America, And Their Consequences."

Paul Krugman gives, "Structural Excuses."

David Sirota explores the, "Permanent Washington's Backlash To Edward Snowden."

David Swanson becomes just a wee bit sarcastic in, "Syria: Pros And Cons."

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Stephen Benavides reveals the future, "Indefinite Surveillance."

Norman Solomon returns with, "Uncle Sam and Corporate Tech: Domestic Partners Raising Digital Big Brother."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "A majority of Americans said they wouldn't mind have an autocratic leader like this, who would make all their decisions for them." but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Oh Brave New World!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Gary Markstein, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Daryl Cagle, Muzaffar Salman, Connie Zhou, Kevin Lamarque, Lisa, Flickr, Reuters, Getty Images, Jay Ward, Rolling Stone, The Onion, UTMB Health, 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."

The Liar's Club

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Oh, Brave New World!
By Ernest Stewart

"This in no way minimizes the difficulties ahead. But given the various ways the G-8 could have gone, we believe that on the key issues of political transition, humanitarian support and chemical weapons investigation, it's very helpful to have this type of signal sent by these eight countries." ~~~ Ben Rhodes ~ White House deputy national security adviser.

Psychologist and writer Timothy Leary has likened human beings to bugs and has suggested that human development is only the larval stage of a much longer evolutionary chain. ~~~ Ian Pyper ~ Bugs Of The Future Primitive: A Coloring Book

"This particular amendment would interfere with the FDA's science-based process to determine what food labeling is necessary for consumers. It's also important to note that around the world now we are seeing genetically modified crops that have the ability to resist crop diseases and improve nutritional content and survive drought conditions in many developing countries. We see wonderful work being done by foundations like the Gates Foundation and others, that are using new techniques to be able to feed hungry people." ~~~ Senator Debbie Stabenow D/Michigan

"I came. I saw. I conked out!" ~~~ Alfred E. Neuman

Well, I see that our national embarrassment was out and about again. Barry was off for a little golf and world domination plans with his G-8 Junta pals at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

After two days arguing amongst themselves, the G-8 leaders published "sweeping goals for tightening the tax rules on globe-trotting corporations that long have exploited loopholes to shift profits into foreign shelters that charge little tax, or none." The trouble is that the initiative aimed at the Googles and Apples of the world to get them to pay higher taxes was only a wish, one with absolutely no teeth; therefore, it's worthless.

Their declaration on Syria said the country needs a new coalition government with "a top leadership that inspires public confidence." Whatever that means? Inspires who? Damascus or Tel Aviv? It made no reference to the U.S., British or French, who've been sending weapons to rebels who are the same groups we're fighting everywhere else in the Middle East!

Russia refused to back any declaration that made Assad's ouster an explicit goal, arguing that "it would be impossible to start peace talks with a predetermined outcome." To which talk British host and national embarrassment, Prime Minister David Cameron, declared it was "unthinkable that President Assad can play any part in the future government of his country. He has blood on his hands. He has used chemical weapons." He said this with a straight face, tongue and cheek to keep from cracking up, as Britain is a well-known user of chemical weapons. Barry had to leave the room to keep from losing it on camera!

Putin immediately rejected Cameron's views as "unproven." And referring to last month's butchery of an off-duty British soldier in London by alleged ax-wielding Muslim extremists, Putin warned Cameron that the weapons sent to Syria might end up being used to kill people in Europe, considering, after all, who they're being sent to. He said:

"There are many such criminals in the ranks of the (Syrian) opposition, such as those who committed the brutal murder in London. Do the Europeans want to provide such people with weapons? ... We are calling on all our partners to thoroughly think it over again before taking this very dangerous step."

So in other words, nothing, as usual, was accomplished, except the big budgets spent getting these clowns plus two Euro big shots to the country club and beyond.

Barry then flew off to Germany to play a round of "The Naughty Bavarian Maiden and the Fourth Waffen SS" with Frau Merkel as the maiden, and Barry as a Tiger Tank! Oh, the idle rich!

In Other News

As you may have noticed over the years, I never do book reviews or music reviews, or any reviews for that matter. I vowed back in 98 not to do any more fluff pieces when the world was going to hell in a handbasket. There have been plenty of book, music, art and auto reviews in the magazine over the years. You may remember James and Mike doing many of them -- with the lion's share being done by Victoria, all editors of Issues and Alibis, but never by Moi! Till now!

Yep, I fell off the review wagon, and I'm gonna break the vow I swore upon President Clinton's honor. Actually, it's a bit too late for that, huh? Be that as it may, I'd like to introduce to you (just in case you're not hip) the work of Ian Pyper and his latest celebration of primitive art; "Bugs Of The Future Primitive: A Colouring Book."

I turned onto Ian's work doing pre-production work on "W The Movie" way back yonder in the early spring of 2005. As "W" has mostly green screen (1350 green screen scenes) we used the artwork of a couple dozen artists, both new and up and coming, as well as the old masters like Ian. Ian's work, if you've seen the movie, is everywhere. So collecting his "primitive" works is like a single color on a palette and every other color a different type of vision, hence I was practically drooling to see the coloring book when it came out last month; I had great expectations -- have no doubt about it!

Now, maybe it's just me; and ya'll know who I am, so when I say that I wasn't disappointed; and, in fact, I am bedazzled by the brilliance of a simple coloring book, you know that's exactly how I saw it. You'll recall that on average we hated about 85% of every book, piece of music, video, etc., that's been submitted for review; we're no pushovers.

Ian's premise is that in some ways we share a lot of things with bugs. Bugs create societies; they build flood-proof, air-conditioned cities that stand up even against Mother Nature; they farm crops and domesticate other insects; they divide up labor; they have societal care for their young, not to mention having armies and making war. Any of that ring any bells, hu-mans? They also share with man the ability to evolve...

Cue Twilight Zone theme... Camera pans across the room and comes to rest on a man dressed in a black suit, smoking a cigarette. He looks directly into the camera and speaks... "Respectfully submitted for your approval, a world where Mankind is gone from a radioactive burst; and therein hangs the tale! The only things surviving the war are the bugs; and they are beginning to evolve, in a small, dark corner of, the Twilight Zone!"

This is some deep, funny, sh*t folks!

You're going to need to buy at least two copies of this book, one for the kids and one for you to color, frame, and hang upon the wall, your vision of his vision, or, as I'm doing with my second copy, cutting them out and framing them, and hanging them up throughout my life style. Well done, Ian, well done, indeed! Thanks for sharing the dream and the wonderful little "bugs' world" that you've created!

If you want to have as much fun as I've had, just go over here and help yourself to a copy or two of "Bugs Of The Future Primitive" by Ian Pyper. Tell 'em Uncle Ernie sent ya!

And Finally

You may recall that, Debbie's first statement as a freshman Senator was, "I can't wait to get to Washington and work with President Bush." Interesting start, considering how she ran opposed to the President and all of his programs as a liberal Democrat. That's how she started; and, if anything, she's moved farther to the right ever since, while pretending to be a liberal. How does she do it, you might ask? It's easy, because Michigan Democrats are every bit as stupid as Michigan tea baggers are -- not a single functioning brain cell!

This week, she sent me a flyer telling me how she fights for local school systems to use local produce so our kids can have healthier meals at school. You see, she's really concerned about our kids getting not only enough food, but proper food, too.

But like Barry, her actions speak louder than her sound bites and photo ops. When Bernie Sanders submitted a rider to her new farm bill, she shot it down as it was to give federal backing to any state wanting to require labeling of all products that contain GMO poisons; nope, can't have that, even though 9 out of 10 Americans want it. But what she didn't shoot down from her bill was kicking millions of hungry kids off the SNAP program. Got to pay for those billion dollar tax breaks for our overlords, someway, eh? So you know what I did, right? No, let's not see the same hands all of the time... that's right, I wrote her a letter, filled out a form on her Senate site, and called her Washington office asking this...

Hey Debbie,

Just got your flyer about how concerned you are that are kids get a healthy meal at school and how they should buy local healthy foods; but; of course, after taking that $750,000 bribe from Big Agra this year you have no problems if the local food are GMO poisons.

Seems like you also have no problem cutting millions of hungry children off of the SNAP program; funny thing that, huh? You seem to be what Tweety Bird called a hypo-twit? Also, I see where you also cut Senator Sanders' amendment from the bill to get US government backing for states who demand GMO poisons be labeled in all food products sold in their states; one might think you've been bought and paid for by Monsanto, Debbie!

Just two questions, Debbie...

One: Why are you trying to kill us with GMO foods?

Two: How can you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning without cutting your worthless throat; how can that be, Debbie? It's bad enough that you're a 1 per-center stooge, but then you insult us by pretending to be otherwise -- pretending to care about our children's health, when you obviously don't!

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

PS. Congratulations, Debbie; you just won the Vidkun Quisling Award. Our weekly award for the biggest traitor in the country!

If Debbie is your Sinator, too, you might want to contact her and give her a piece of your mind?

Keepin' On

Well, the old PO Box wasn't quite bare this week. I received a new coloring book from the British artist Ian Pyper as I wrote about above; and, while this was a wondrous thing indeed, and I look forward to enjoying it for many years to come, unfortunately, it don't pay the rent and Mr. Landlord is a bitch, if you know what I mean?

As I'm sure you know by now, we are a non-profit; boy, are we ever a non-profit, and have had to come before you, from time to time, with cap in hand to make up the difference of what the advertising pays and what we need to break even; and we have to break even to keep on bringing you the real stories -- the truth, week after week after year after year after decade after... well, you get the point, huh?

Ergo, if our otherwise-free service is a help in determining what to do about our latest disaster and how that might affect the ones you hold dearest, then please take a stroll over to our donations page and send us whatever you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you and yours!


08-20-1922 ~ 06-16-2013
Thanks for the laughs!

01-28-1980 ~ 06-18-2013
Thanks for the news!

01-20-1924 ~ 06-19-2013
Thanks for the music!

09-18-1961 ~ 06-19-2013
Thanks for the film!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 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.

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The Making Of A Global Security State
The Five Uncontrollable Urges of a Secrecy-Surveillance World
By Tom Engelhardt

As happens with so much news these days, the Edward Snowden revelations about National Security Agency (NSA) spying and just how far we've come in the building of a surveillance state have swept over us 24/7 -- waves of leaks, videos, charges, claims, counterclaims, skullduggery, and government threats. When a flood sweeps you away, it's always hard to find a little dry land to survey the extent and nature of the damage. Here's my attempt to look beyond the daily drumbeat of this developing story (which, it is promised, will go on for weeks, if not months) and identify five urges essential to understanding the world Edward Snowden has helped us glimpse.

1. The Urge to be Global

Corporately speaking, globalization has been ballyhooed since at least the 1990s, but in governmental terms only in the twenty-first century has that globalizing urge fully infected the workings of the American state itself. It's become common since 9/11 to speak of a "national security state." But if a week of ongoing revelations about NSA surveillance practices has revealed anything, it's that the term is already grossly outdated. Based on what we now know, we should be talking about an American global security state.

Much attention has, understandably enough, been lavished on the phone and other metadata about American citizens that the NSA is now sweeping up and about the ways in which such activities may be abrogating the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Far less attention has been paid to the ways in which the NSA (and other U.S. intelligence outfits) are sweeping up global data in part via the just-revealed Prism and other surveillance programs.

Sometimes, naming practices are revealing in themselves, and the National Security Agency's key data mining tool, capable in March 2013 of gathering "97 billion pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide," has been named "boundless informant." If you want a sense of where the U.S. Intelligence Community imagines itself going, you couldn't ask for a better hint than that word "boundless." It seems that for our spooks, there are, conceptually speaking, no limits left on this planet.

Today, that "community" seeks to put not just the U.S., but the world fully under its penetrating gaze. By now, the first "heat map" has been published showing where such information is being sucked up from monthly: Iran tops the list (14 billion pieces of intelligence); then come Pakistan (13.5 billion), Jordan (12.7 billion), Egypt (7.6 billion), and India (6.3 billion). Whether you realize this or not, even for a superpower that has unprecedented numbers of military bases scattered across the planet and has divided the world into six military commands, this represents something new under the sun. The only question is what?

The twentieth century was the century of "totalitarianisms." We don't yet have a name, a term, for the surveillance structures Washington is building in this century, but there can be no question that, whatever the present constraints on the system, "total" has something to do with it and that we are being ushered into a new world. Despite the recent leaks, we still undoubtedly have a very limited picture of just what the present American surveillance world really looks like and what it plans for our future. One thing is clear, however: the ambitions behind it are staggering and global.

In the classic totalitarian regimes of the previous century, a secret police/surveillance force attempted, via every imaginable method, including informers, wire tappers, torture techniques, imprisonment, and so on to take total control of a national environment, to turn every citizen's life into the equivalent of an open book, or more accurately a closed, secret file lodged somewhere in that police system. The most impressive of these efforts, the most global, was the Soviet one simply because the USSR was an imperial power with a set of disparate almost-states -- those SSRs of the Caucasus and Central Asia -- within its borders, and a series of Eastern European satellite states under its control as well. None of the twentieth-century totalitarian regimes, however, ever imagined doing the same thing on a genuinely global basis. There was no way to do so.

Washington's urge to take control of the global communications environment, lock, stock, and chat room, to gather its "data" -- billions and billions of pieces of it -- and via inconceivably powerful computer systems, mine and arrange it, find patterns in it, and so turn the world into a secret set of connections, represents a remarkable development. For the first time, a great power wants to know, up close and personal, not just what its own citizens are doing, but those of distant lands as well: who they are communicating with, and how, and why, and what they are buying, and where they are travelling, and who they are bumping into (online and over the phone).

Until recently, once you left the environs of science fiction, that was simply beyond imagining. You could certainly find precursors for such a development in, for instance, the Cold War intelligence community's urge to create a global satellite system that would bring every inch of the planet under a new kind of surveillance regime, that would map it thoroughly and identify what was being mapped down to the square inch, but nothing so globally up close and personal.

The next two urges are intertwined in such a way that they might be thought as a single category: your codes and theirs.

2. The Urge to Make You Transparent

The urge to possess you, or everything that can be known about you, has clearly taken possession of our global security state. With this, it's become increasingly apparent, go other disturbing trends. Take something seemingly unrelated: the recent Supreme Court decision that allows the police to take a DNA swab from an arrestee (if the crime he or she is charged with is "serious"). Theoretically, this is being done for "identification" purposes, but in fact it's already being put to other uses entirely, especially in the solving of separate crimes. If you stop to think about it, this development, in turn, represents a remarkable new level of state intrusion on private life, on your self. It means that, for the first time, in a sure-to-widen set of circumstances, the state increasingly has access not just -- as with NSA surveillance -- to your Internet codes and modes of communication, but to your most basic code of all, your DNA. As Justice Antonin Scalia put it in his dissent in the case, "Make no mistake about it: As an entirely predictable consequence of today's decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason." Can global DNA databases be far behind?

If your DNA becomes the possession of the state, then you are a transparent human being at the most basic level imaginable. At every level, however, the pattern, the trend, the direction is the same (and it's the same whether you're talking about the government or giant corporations). Increasingly, access to you, your codes, your communications, your purchases, your credit card transactions, your location, your travels, your exchanges with friends, your tastes, your likes and dislikes is what's wanted -- for what's called your "safety" in the case of government and your business in the case of corporations.

Both want access to everything that can be known about you, because who knows until later what may prove the crucial piece of information to uncover a terrorist network or lure in a new network of customers. They want everything, at least, that can be run through a system of massive computers and sorted into patterns of various potentially useful kinds. You are to be, in this sense, the transparent man or transparent woman. Your acts, your life patterns, your rights, your codes are to be an open book to them -- and increasingly a closed book to you. You are to be their secret and that "you" is an ever more global one.

3. The Urge to Make Themselves Opaque

With this goes another reality. They are to become ever less accessible, ever more impenetrable, ever less knowable to you (except in the forms in which they would prefer you to know them). None of their codes or secrets are to be accessed by you on pain of imprisonment. Everything in the government -- which once was thought to be "your" government -- is increasingly disappearing into a professional universe of secrecy. In 2011, the last year for which figures are available, the government classified 92 million documents. And they did so on the same principle that they use in collecting seemingly meaningless or harmless information from you: that only in retrospect can anyone know whether a benign-looking document might prove anything but. Better to deny access to everything.

In the process, they are finding new ways of imposing silence on you, even when it comes to yourself. Since 2001, for instance, it has become possible for the FBI to present you with a National Security Letter which forces you to turn over information to them, but far more strikingly gags you from ever mentioning publicly that you got such a letter. Those who have received such letters (and 15,000 of them were issued in 2012) are legally enjoined from discussing or even acknowledging what's happening to them; their lives, that is, are no longer theirs to discuss. If that isn't Orwellian, what is?

President Obama offered this reassurance in the wake of the Snowden leaks: the National Security Agency, he insisted, is operating under the supervision of all three branches of the government. In fact, the opposite could be said to be true. All three branches, especially in their oversight roles, have been brought within the penumbra of secrecy of the global security state and so effectively coopted or muzzled. This is obviously true with our ex-professor of Constitutional law and the executive branch he presides over, which has in recent years been ramping up its own secret operations.

When it comes to Congress, the people's representatives who are to perform oversight on the secret world have been presented with the equivalent of National Security Letters; that is, when let in on some of the secrets of that world, they find they can't discuss them, can't tell the American people about them, can't openly debate them in Congress. In public sessions with Congress, we now know that those who run our most secret outfits, if pushed to the wall by difficult questions, will as a concession respond in the "least untruthful manner" possible, as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper put it last week.

Given the secret world's control over Congress, representatives who are horrified by what they've learned about our government's secrecy and surveillance practices, like Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, can only hint at their worries and fears. They can, in essence, wink at you, signal to you in obscure ways that something is out of whack, but they can't tell you directly. Secrecy, after all.

Similarly, the judiciary, that third branch of government and other body of oversight, has, in the twenty-first century, been fully welcomed into the global security state's atmosphere of total secrecy. So when the surveillance crews go to the judiciary for permission to listen in on the world, they go to a secret court, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court, locked within that secret world. It, in turn, notoriously rubberstamps whatever it is they want to do, evidently offering no resistance whatsoever to their desires. (Of the 6,556 electronic surveillance requests submitted to the court in Obama's first term in office, for instance, only one was denied.) In addition, unlike any other court in America, we, the American people, the transparent and ignorant public, can know next to nothing about it. And you know perfectly well why: the overriding needs of secrecy.

What, though, is the point of "oversight" if you can't do anything other than what that secret world wants you to do?

We are, in other words, increasingly open to them and they are increasingly closed to us.

4. The Urge to Expand

As we've known at least since Dana Priest and William Arkin published their stunning series, "Top Secret America," in the Washington Post in 2010, the U.S. Intelligence Community has expanded post-9/11 to levels unimaginable even in the Cold War era. Then, of course, it faced another superpower, not a small set of jihadis largely located in the backlands of the planet. It now exists on, as Arkin says, an "industrial scale." And its urge to continue growing, to build yet more structures for surveillance, including a vast $2 billion NSA repository in Bluffdale, Utah, that will be capable of holding an almost unimaginable yottabyte of data, is increasingly written into its DNA.

For this vast, restless, endless expansion of surveillance of every sort and at every level, for the nearly half-million or possibly far more private contractors, aka "digital Blackwater," now in the government surveillance business -- about 70% of the national intelligence budget reportedly goes to the private sector these days -- and the nearly five million Americans with security clearances (1.4 million with top security clearances, more than a third of them private contractors), the official explanation is "terrorism." It matters little that terrorism as a phenomenon is one of the lesser dangers Americans face in their daily lives and that, for some of the larger ones, ranging from food-borne illnesses to cars, guns, and what's now called "extreme weather," no one would think about building vast bureaucratic structures shrouded in secrecy, funded to the hilt, and offering Americans promises of ultimate safety.

Terrorism certainly rears its ugly head from time to time and there's no question that the fear of some operation getting through the vast U.S. security net drives the employees of our global security state. As an explanation for the phenomenal growth of that state, however, it simply doesn't hold water. In truth, compared to the previous century, U.S. enemies are remarkably scarce on this planet. So forget the official explanation and imagine our global-security-state-in-the-making in the grips of a kind of compulsive disorder in which the urge to go global, make the most private information of the citizen everywhere the property of the American state, and expand surveillance endlessly simply trumps any other way of doing things.

In other words, they can't help themselves. The process, the phenomenon, has them by the throat, so much so that they can imagine no other way of being. In this mood, they are paving the way for a new global security -- or rather insecurity -- world. They are, for instance, hiking spending on "cybersecurity," have already secretly launched the planet's first cyberwar, are planning for more of them, intend to dominate the future cyber-landscape in a staggering fashion, continue to gather global data of every sort on a massive scale, and more generally are acting in ways that they would consider criminal if other countries engaged in them.

5. The Urge to Leak

The massive leaks of documents by Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have few precedents in American history. Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers leak is their only obvious predecessor. They are not, however, happenstances of our moment. They are signs of what's to come. If, in surveillance terms, the urge to go global and impose ultimate secrecy on both the state's secrets and yours, to prosecute whistleblowers to the maximum (at this point usually via the Espionage Act or, in the case of Manning, via the charge of "aiding the enemy," and with calls of "treason" already in the air when it comes to Snowden), it's natural that the urge to leak will rise as well.

If the surveillance state has reached an industrial level of operations, and ever more secrets are being brought into computer systems, then vast troves of secrets exist to be revealed, already cached, organized, and ready for the plucking. If the security state itself goes global, then the urge to leak will go global, too.

In fact, it already has. It's easy to forget that WikiLeaks was originally created not just for American secrets but any secrets. Similarly, Manning uploaded his vast trove of secrets from Iraq, and Snowden, who had already traveled the world in the service of secrecy, leaked to an American columnist living in Brazil and writing for a British newspaper. His flight to Hong Kong and dream of Icelandic citizenship could be considered another version of the globalizing impulse.

Rest assured, they will not be the last. An all-enveloping atmosphere of secrecy is not a natural state of being. Just look at us individually. We love to tell stories about each other. Gossiping is one of the most basic of human activities. Revealing what others don't know is an essential urge. The urge, that is, to open it all up is at least as powerful as the urge to shut it all down.

So in our age, considering the gigantism of the U.S. surveillance and intelligence apparatus and the secrets it holds, it's a given that the leak, too, will become more gigantic, that leaked documents will multiply in droves, and that resistance to regimes of secrecy and the invasion of private life that goes with them will also become more global. It's hard from within the U.S. to imagine the shock in Pakistan, or Germany, or India, on discovering that your private life may now be the property of the U.S. government. (Imagine for a second the reaction here if Snowden had revealed that the Pakistani or Iranian or Chinese government was gathering and storing vast quantities of private emails, texts, phone calls, and credit card transactions from American citizens. The uproar would have been staggering.)

As a result of all this, we face a strangely contradictory future in which ever more draconian regimes of secrecy will confront the urge for ever greater transparency. President Obama came into office promising a "sunshine" administration that would open the workings of the government to the American people. He didn't deliver, but Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, and other leakers have, and no matter how difficult the government makes it to leak or how hard it cracks down on leakers, the urge is almost as unstoppable as the urge not to be your government's property.

You may have secrets, but you are not a secret -- and you know it.
(c) 2013 Tom Engelhardt is co-founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

Triumph And Tragedy
By Uri Avnery

NO OPERA by Richard Wagner could have been more dramatic. It looked as if it was directed by a genius.

It started low-key. A little piece of paper was thrust into the hand of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol as he was reviewing the Independence Day parade. It said that Egyptian troops were entering the Sinai peninsula.

From there on alarm grew. Every day brought menacing new reports. The Egyptian president, Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, issued blood-curdling threats. UN peacekeepers were withdrawn.

In Israel, worry turned into fear, and fear into fright. Eshkol sounded weak. When he tried to raise public morale with a speech over the radio, he stumbled and seemed to stutter. People started talking about a Second Holocaust, about the destruction of Israel.

I was one of the very few who remained cheerful. At the height of public despair, I published an article in Haolam Hazeh, the news magazine I edited, under the headline "Nasser has Walked into a Trap." Even my wife thought that was crazy.

MY GOOD cheer had a simple reason.

A few weeks before, I had given a talk in a Kibbutz on the Syrian border. As is customary, I was invited to have coffee afterwards with a select group of members. There I was told that "Dado" (General David Elazar), the commander of the Northern sector, had lectured there the week before, and then had coffee. Like me.

After swearing me to secrecy, they disclosed that Dado had told them - after swearing them to secrecy - that every evening, before going to bed, he prayed to God that Nasser would move his troops into the Sinai desert. "There we shall destroy them," Dado had assured them.

Nasser did not want the war. He knew that his army was quite unprepared. He was bluffing, in order to please the Arab masses. He was egged on by the Soviet Union, whose leaders believed that Israel was about to attack their main client in the region, Syria, as part of a worldwide American plot.

(The Soviet ambassador, Dmitri Chuvakhin, invited me for a talk and disclosed the plot to me. If so, I said, why not ask your ambassador in Damascus to advise the Syrians to stop their border attacks on us, at least temporarily? The ambassador broke into laughter. "Do you really believe that anyone there listens to our ambassador?")

Syria had allowed Yasser Arafat's new Palestinian Liberation Movement (Fatah) to launch small and ineffectual guerilla actions from its border. They also spoke about an Algerian-style "popular liberation war". In response, the Israeli Chief of Staff, Yitzhak Rabin, had threatened them with a war to change the regime in Damascus.

Abd-al-Nasser saw an easy opportunity to assert Egypt's leadership of the Arab world by coming to the defense of Syria. He threatened to throw Israel into the sea. He announced that he had mined the Straits of Tiran, cutting Israel off from the Red Sea. (As it transpired later, he had not sown a single mine).

Three weeks passed, and the tension became unbearable. One day Menachem Begin saw me in the Knesset lobby, drew me into a side room and implored me: "Uri, we are political opponents, but in this emergency, we are all one. I know that your magazine has a lot of influence on the younger generation. Please use it to raise their morale!"

All the reserve units, the backbone of the army, were mobilized. There were hardly any men to be seen in the streets. Still Eshkol and his cabinet hesitated. They sent the chief of the Mossad to Washington to make sure that the US would support an Israeli action. Under growing public pressure, he formed a National Unity government and appointed Moshe Dayan as Minister of Defense.

WHEN THE bow was strained to near breaking point, the Israeli army was unleashed. The troops - mostly reserve soldiers who had been abruptly torn from their families and who had been waiting with growing impatience for three weeks - flew like an arrow.

I was attending the Knesset session on that first day of the war. In the middle of it, we were told to go to the bomb shelter, because the Jordanians in nearby East Jerusalem had begun to shell us. While we were there, a friend of mine, a high-ranking official, whispered in my ear: "It's all over. We have destroyed the entire Egyptian Air Force."

When I reached home that evening after driving through the blackout, my wife did not believe me. The radio had said nothing about the incredible achievement. Radio Cairo was telling its listeners that "Tel Aviv is burning". I felt like a bridegroom at a funeral. Israeli military censorship forbade any mention of victories - the airwaves continued to be dominated by terrible forebodings.

Why? The Israeli government was convinced - quite rightly - that if the Arab countries and the Soviet Union realized that their side was nearing disaster, they would get the UN to stop the war at once. This indeed happened - but by that time our army was well on its way to Cairo and Damascus.

Against this background, when the victory was announced, it looked immense - so immense, indeed, that many believed in an act of God. Our army, which had been formed in the small State of Israel as it was at that time, conquered the entire Sinai peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. From the "Second Holocaust" to miraculous deliverance, in just six days.

SO, WAS it a "defensive war" or an "act of naked aggression"? In the national consciousness, it was and remains a purely defensive war, started by "the Arabs". Objectively speaking, it was our side which attacked, though under utmost provocation. Years later, when I said so in passing, a leading Israeli journalist was so upset that he stopped talking with me.

Be that as it may, the Israeli public reaction was stupendous. The entire country was in delirium. Masses of victory-albums, victory-songs, victory-this and victory-that amounted to national hysteria. Hubris knew no bounds. I cannot claim that I was entirely untouched by it.

Ariel Sharon boasted that the Israel army could reach Tripoli (in Libya) in six days. A movement for a Greater Israel came into being, with many of Israel's most renowned personalities clamoring for membership. Soon the settlement enterprise was under way.

But, as in a Greek tragedy, hubris did not go unpunished. The gold turned to dust. The greatest victory in Israel's history turned into its greatest curse. The occupied territories are like the shirt of Nessus, glued to our body to poison and torment us.

Just before the attack, Dayan had declared that Israel had absolutely no intention of conquering new territory, but aimed solely to defend itself. After the war, Foreign Minister Abba Eban declared that the pre-1967 armistice line was "the border of Auschwitz."

Since generals "always fight the last war", it was generally assumed that the world would not allow Israel to keep the territories it had just occupied. The "last war" was the Israeli-French-British collusion against Egypt in 1956. Then, US President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Bulganin had compelled Israel to return the conquered territories up to the last inch.

The former border (or "demarcation line") had an inward bulge near Latrun, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, that cut the main road between the two cities. Immediately after the six days of fighting, Dayan hastened to evict the inhabitants of the three Arab villages there and to eradicate any sign that they ever existed. They have been replaced by a national park financed by the government of Canada and well-meaning Canadian citizens. The writer Amos Kenan was an eye-witness and, on my request, wrote a heart-rending report on the horrible eviction of the villagers, men, women, children and babies, who were made to march on foot under the scorching June sun all the way to Ramallah.

I tried to intervene, but it was too late. I did succeed, however, in halting he demolition of the town of Qalqilya near the border. When I appealed to several cabinet ministers, including Begin, the demolition was stopped. A neighborhood that had already been demolished was rebuilt and its inhabitants were allowed to return. But more than a hundred thousand refugees, who had been living in a huge refugee camp near Jericho since 1948, were induced to flee across the Jordan.

Slowly, the Israeli government got used to the astonishing fact that there was no real pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. In a long private conversation I had with Eshkol on the morrow of the war, I realized that he and his colleagues has no intention whatsoever of giving back anything unless compelled to do so. My suggestion to help the Palestinians set up their state was met by Eshkol with gentle irony.

Thus the historic opportunity was missed. It is said that when God wants to destroy somebody, he first makes them blind - as he smote the men of Sodom (Genesis 19:11).

The vast majority of today's Israelis, anyone less than 60 years old, cannot even imagine an Israel without the occupied territories.

On the 46th anniversary of that great drama, we can only wish that it had never happened, that it was all a bad dream.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Rep. Clyburn: Putting Obama First - And Civil Liberties, Peace And Justice, Last
By Glen Ford

If one good thing has come out of Barack Obama's ascension to the White House, it is that his rise has exposed the appalling backwardness of the Black Misleadership Class -a petty and puny-minded cohort whose worldview is so narrow, it can accommodate only one issue: the political fortunes of the First Black President. Nothing else matters to these incredibly parochial political midgets -not issues of war and peace, nor the precarious state of planetary ecology, not even the economic well-being of the masses of Black Americans. Certainly, not civil liberties. Only Obama.

Congressman James Clyburn is supposed to represent the interests of more than half a million South Carolinians, the majority of them Black. One might expect a Black congressman to have more than a passing interest in the Bill of Rights and protection of civil liberties. The revelation that Uncle Sam is building up a dossier on everyone with a telephone and a computer connection should be at least mildly upsetting to anyone that calls himself a Black leader. But Congressman Clyburn has but one priority: to protect the image and legacy of Barack Obama.

Rather than thank whistleblower Edward Snowden for revealing the massive scope of government spying under Obama, Congressman Clyburn sees a conspiracy against the president. Otherwise, how could a 30-year-old white boy who dropped out of high school get in a position to blow the whistle on the Obama administration. "I haven't gotten to where I am in politics without relying on my gut," said Clyburn. "And my gut tells me this is an effort to embarrass the president."

Clyburn's gut isn't a bit queasy about the dramatic expansion of the National Security State, as long as Big Brother is Black. What gives Clyburn angry bowels is the idea that a white guy with a GED had a secret security clearance. "Where did he get the intellectual capacity to be allowed access to all this data?" fumed Clyburn. The better question is, Where did Snowden get the moral courage to go up against rapidly growing fascism with a Black face?

Julianne Malveaux is considered quite gifted, intellectually. She's an economist, author, political commentator and former president of historically Black Bennett College, in North Carolina. But she, too, seems more upset about young Snowden's fat salary at a law firm in Hawaii, than about threats to everyone's civil liberties. Malveaux sounded like Congressman Clyburn's echo. "I am still trying to figure out," she said, "how a young white man with a GED was able to infiltrate both the respected firm Booz Allen and also the CIA, to earn a wage of more than $200,000 a year, and to know enough to whistle-blow."

Snowden learned computers at a community college and got his security clearance while training to be a Green Beret. He left the military after breaking both legs, but kept his clearance -and the rest is history, right up there with Wikileaks and the Pentagon Papers. No doubt, white privilege did play a role in Snowden's gaining access to Big Brother's secrets. There have also been lots of times when white privilege was put to good use for the Black Liberation Movement, and in the cause of peace. What makes certain Black folks mad at Edward Snowden, is that he embarrassed their president -which, for the Black Misleadership Class, is the greatest crime imaginable.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Michael Hastings, Reporter
By Matt Taibbi

There's a scene from Michael Hastings' first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad, where he describes being at a school assembly in his hometown of Malone, New York. He was in the fifth grade and his school ("a very small Catholic school in a very small town") had brought in a returning veteran to describe his experiences in the first Iraq war. Michael put it this way:

We listened to a returning veteran who couldn't have been older than twenty. I raised my hand and asked him: Did you carry an M-16, and does an M-16 have automatic and semiautomatic fire? And if so, is there a switch on the gun? (Yes, it was both, and there is a switch). He described trying to dig a foxhole in the desert, and how he went on a mission for two days, observing the enemy from a distance.

I was riveted. It was like being in the presence of a celebrity ...

I remember reading this years ago and thinking how very much it reminded me of a famous scene from Serpico, where the now-grown ace policeman describes being a boy watching the cops show up at a crime scene:

All of a sudden the crowd just parted, like the Red Sea, you see? And there were these guys in blue, and I said, 'They know.' What do they know? What do they know?

I didn't know Michael Hastings very well, but one thing about him was always obvious - he was born to be in the news business, he loved it, he was made for it. He wrote about Iraq and Afghanistan as places he had always been destined to visit. By that I mean not those countries particularly, but those places as global hot spots, the trouble zones, the places where the news happened. "I am finally here," is how he described reaching Baghdad, and that was the lead-in to the school assembly story. Most people would describe Baghdad as a place one finally leaves. But Hastings, his whole life, he wanted to go to those places, he ached to do this job. He wanted to be one of those people who "knew."

I repeat that I didn't know him all that well, and I say this even though I've read his excellent books. Michael was refreshingly old-school in an Internet age when everybody overindulges in premature autobiography. He was all reporter. His mantra was "a fact in every sentence" and he once humorously admonished young journalists to never even talk to editors about "prose" or wanting to be a "writer" (he typed that word like an evidence tech holding a piece of decomposing brain with a rubber glove). For him it was all about getting the story, and at the terribly young age of 33 he was obviously already a master at that.

Most people know him from the story he wrote about General McChrystal, for his big scoops - a pure reporter measures his or herself by scoops, and Michael had some huge ones. But the wonderful thing about his work was his promiscuous fascination with facts of all kinds, news-cycle-shaking or not. He swallowed up extraneous details of all varieties and that fleshed out his books and stories, making the narratives three-dimensional, authoritative and believable, just the way they're supposed to be.

His particular specialty was quickly adopting the local jargon, mastering the social geography of a new place, what things were called, where key people hung out. His books are full of these joyously-reported little insider details, like the fact that mercenary firms in Iraq like Blackwater and Triple Canopy were nicknamed "Bongwater and Triple Comedy," or that an old British fort behind a soccer stadium in Kabul was the place for clandestine meetings, "spook central," as he explained in The Operators.

What people don't realize about the kinds of books Michael wrote is that they're like novels, except that novelists get to invent every prop in every scene; Michael had to learn every single one of these little details either from personal experience or from a source, and I don't recall ever hearing that he got any of them wrong.

I don't know how he got the sources he did, except to say that in person he seemed immensely likeable, enthusiastic, smart; his books also show him to be a little bit of a chameleon, seamlessly speaking in the acronym-laden jargon of FOB America, the archipelago of military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan where he made his career. Reading his dialogues from airports and convoys and hotel lounges, you can see him subtly adjusting his tone or his opinions depending on the situation, sometimes to fit in better, sometimes to challenge people to shake something loose. "Being a contrarian, I argued with my antiwar colleagues," he wrote about the Iraq war in I Lost My Love, "taking on the neoconservative talking points just to see how they felt . . ."

The few times I did meet Michael came in the wake of his sudden celebrity after the McChrystal story broke, and I remember being very surprised at how calmly he was taking it all, how unimpressed he was by - well, by himself, I guess. He may have been preparing since the fifth grade for the fame that comes with big scoops as well, for all I knew, but that didn't really seem like the explanation. It seemed more to me that he was just fascinated by what he'd learned on the job, and talking about it on TV was just a natural thing to him. He was just into it.

He wasn't even old enough yet to know how young he still was, if that makes any sense. Not long ago, he said that you have to act like reporting is "more important to you than anything else in your life - family, friends, social life, whatever." That's one of those things you say when you're young, but it's an idea that turns out to be a pleasure to outgrow. It's a cruel thing that he may have missed the chance to find that out. But not many other things got by him. He was really that good. We will all miss him.
(c) 2013 Matt Taibbi

The Biggest Shock Of NSA's Secret Domestic Spying

It's good to know that our friendly, uber-secret National Security Agency is out there every day, protecting our freedom. By violating it.

A whistleblower has literally blown the lid off NSA's seven-year, super-snoop program of rummaging electronically through about a billion phone calls made every day by us average Americans. This revelation even prompted Al Gore to tweet: "Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?" It's definitely not just you, Al - this latest explosion of the Fourth Amendment is so mega-awful that authorities had to invent a new word for the process: Metadata mining.

Most shocking, however, is the tin-eared, who-cares reaction by both Republican and Democratic leaders to this outrageous meta-surveillance of our private lives. For example, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham blustered that, "It doesn't bother me one bit that NSA has my number." Hey, Lindsey, it's not your number we're worried about - it's NSA's collection of our entire country's numbers. Then came Sen. Saxby Chambliss: "We have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint," he blathered. Hello, Sen. Clueless, no one knew to complain since y'all kept the program secret from us!

And President Obama was even more ridiculous. He tried to rationalize his wholesale invasion of our privacy by declaring that Congress knew about the program, as did a special spy court, that routinely reviews and blesses it, so it's all legit. In a perplexed voice, Obama said "If people don't trust the White House, Congress, and federal judges, then we're going to have some problems here."

Gosh sir, We the People have now learned that all three branches of government have furtively conspired for seven years to violate our privacy - so, no, we don't trust any of them. And, yes, that is a biiiiiiig problem.

(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.

Follow The Money: The Secret Heart of the Secret State
By Chris Floyd

No one, anywhere, has been writing about the deeper and wider implications of the Snowden revelations than Arthur Silber. (I hope you're not surprised by this.) In a series of powerful, insightful essays, Silber has, among other things, laid bare the dangers of the oddly circumscribed 'gatekeeper' approach of the journalistic guardians (at, ironically, the Guardian) of Snowden's secrets, particularly their slow drip-feed of carefully self-censored tidbits from the famous Powerpoint presentation that Snowden secreted from the bowels of the United Stasi of the American intelligent apparat. Eschewing the Wikileaks approach, the guardians at the Guardian have not let us judge the material for ourselves, opting instead to adopt, unwittingly, the same approach of the apparat: "we are the keepers of knowledge, we will decide what you need to know." As Silber notes, this doesn't vitiate the worth of the revelations, but it does dilute their impact, leaving gaps that the apparat -- and its truly repulsive apologists all through the 'liberal media' -- can exploit to keep muddying the waters. He explores these ramifications, and others, in "In Praise of Mess, Chaos and Panic" and Fed Up With All the Bullshit."

In his latest piece, "'Intelligence, Corporatism and the Dance of Death," he cuts to the corroded heart of the matter, the deep, dark not-so-secret secret that our secret-keepers are trying to obscure behind their blizzards of bullshit: it's all about the Benjamins.

After noting the gargantuan outsourcing of "intelligence" to private contractors like Booz Allen -- the very firm that employed Snowden -- Silber gives a quick precis of the essence of state-corporate capitalism (see the originals for links):

The biggest open secret all these creepy jerks are hiding is the secret of corporatism (or what Gabriel Kolko calls "political capitalism"):

There is nothing in the world that can't be turned into a huge moneymaker for the State and its favored friends in "private" business, at the same time it is used to amass still greater power. This is true in multiple forms for the fraud that is the "intelligence" industry.

The pattern is the same in every industry, from farming, to manufacturing, to every aspect of transportation, to the health insurance scam, to anything else you can name. In one common version, already vested interests go to the State demanding regulation and protection from "destabilizing" forces which, they claim, threaten the nation's well-being (by which, they mean competitors who threaten their profits). The State enthusiastically complies, the cooperative lawmakers enjoying rewards of many kinds and varieties. Then they'll have to enforce all those nifty regulations and controls. The State will do some of it but, heck, it's complicated and time-consuming, ya know? Besides, some of the State's good friends in "private" business can make a killing doing some of the enforcing. Give it to them! Etc. and so on.

Silber then goes on:

... But that's chump change. The real money is elsewhere -- in, for instance, foreign policy itself. You probably thought foreign policy was about dealing with threats to "national security," spreading democracy, ensuring peace, and whatever other lying slogans they throw around like a moldy, decaying, putrid corpse. The State's foreign policy efforts are unquestionably devoted to maintaining the U.S.'s advantages -- but the advantages they are most concerned about are access to markets and, that's right, making huge amounts of money. Despite the unending propaganda to the contrary, they aren't terribly concerned with dire threats to our national well-being, for the simple reason that there aren't any: "No nation would dare mount a serious attack on the U.S. precisely because they know how powerful the U.S. is -- because it is not secret." How does the public-"private" intelligence industry make foreign policy? The NYT story offers an instructive example in its opening paragraphs:

When the United Arab Emirates wanted to create its own version of the National Security Agency, it turned to Booz Allen Hamilton to replicate the world's largest and most powerful spy agency in the sands of Abu Dhabi.

It was a natural choice: The chief architect of Booz Allen's cyberstrategy is Mike McConnell, who once led the N.S.A. and pushed the United States into a new era of big data espionage. It was Mr. McConnell who won the blessing of the American intelligence agencies to bolster the Persian Gulf sheikdom, which helps track the Iranians.

"They are teaching everything," one Arab official familiar with the effort said. "Data mining, Web surveillance, all sorts of digital intelligence collection."

See how perfect this is? All the special people are making tons of money -- and, when the day arrives that the U.S. wants to ramp up its confrontational stance with Iran, well, there's the UAE helping to "track the Iranians" with all the tools that the U.S. has given them and taught them to use. And how easy would it be to get the UAE to provide the U.S. with just the right kind of new and disturbing "intelligence" that would get lots of people screaming about the "grave Iranian threat"? You know the answer to that: easy peasy. A wink and a nod -- and off the U.S. goes, with bombing runs or whatever it decides to do. But whatever it does will be determined in greatest part not by a genuine threat to U.S. national security (there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Iran's leaders are all suicidal), but by what will make the most money for the State and its good friends.

Silber then underscores once more the highly instructive principle laid out by Robert Higgs:

I remind you once again of what I call The Higgs Principle. As I have emphasized, you can apply this principle to every significant policy in every area, including every aspect of foreign policy. Here is Robert Higgs explaining it:

As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.

When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the "peace process" never gets far from square one, etc., etc. - none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.

....It's all about wealth and power. Here and there, in episodes notable only for their rarity, "the intelligence world" might actually provide a small piece of information actually related to "national security." Again, I turn to Gabriel Kolko:

It is all too rare that states overcome illusions, and the United States is no more an exception than Germany, Italy, England, or France before it. The function of intelligence anywhere is far less to encourage rational behavior--although sometimes that occurs--than to justify a nation's illusions, and it is the false expectations that conventional wisdom encourages that make wars more likely, a pattern that has only increased since the early twentieth century. By and large, US, Soviet, and British strategic intelligence since 1945 has been inaccurate and often misleading, and although it accumulated pieces of information that were useful, the leaders of these nations failed to grasp the inherent dangers of their overall policies. When accurate, such intelligence has been ignored most of the time if there were overriding preconceptions or bureaucratic reasons for doing so.

Silber concludes:

...The intelligence-security industry isn't about protecting the United States or you, except for extraordinarily rare, virtually accidental occurrences. It's about wealth and power. Yet every politician and every government functionary speaks reverently of the sacred mission and crucial importance of "intelligence" in the manner of a syphilitic preacher who clutches a tatty, moth-eaten doll of the Madonna, which he digitally manipulates by sticking his fingers in its orifices. Most people would find his behavior shockingly obscene, if they noticed it. But they don't notice it, so mesmerized are they by the preacher with his phonily awestruck words about the holy of holies and the ungraspably noble purpose of his mission. Even as the suppurating sores on the preacher's face ooze blood and pus, his audience can only gasp, "We must pay attention to what he says! He wants only the best for us! He's trying to save us!"

What the preacher says -- what every politician and national security official says on this subject -- is a goddamned lie. The ruling class has figured out yet another way to make a killing, both figuratively and literally. They want wealth and power, and always more wealth and power. That's what "intelligence" and "national security" is about, and nothing else at all. When you hear Keith Alexander, or James Clapper, or Barack Obama talk about "intelligence" and surveillance, how your lives depend on them, and why you must trust them to protect you if you wish to continue existing at all, think of the preacher. Think of his open sores, of the blood and pus slowly dribbling down his face.

All of them are murdering crooks running a racket. They are intent on amassing wealth and power, and they've stumbled on a sure-fire way to win the acquiescence, and often the approval, of most people. They are driven by the worst of motives, including their maddened knowledge that there will always remain a few people and events that they will be unable to control absolutely. For the rest of us, their noxious games are a sickening display of power at its worst. For us, on a faster or slower schedule, in ways that are more or less extreme, their lies and machinations are only a Dance of Death.

There is much more in Silber's essays; go read them all now, if you haven't done already.
(c) 2013 Chris Floyd

Sex Horror: Xenoestrogens
By James Donahue

They are called xenoestrogens, part of a new field of xenohormones and they are being found everywhere we use or come in contact with chemicals. And they are affecting our health in ways you can't imagine.

The word xeno means foreign. Thus a xenoestrogen means a foreign, or synthetic form of the hormone estrogen. A recent report notes that some of the 100,000 registered chemicals used in the world today have hormonal as well as toxic and carcinogenic effects on the people who come in contact with them. Plastics are among the worst offenders. Plastic water containers, milk containers, soft drink bottles, food wrappers, dishes and spoons are found to leach chemicals that classify as xenoestrogens. So do canned processed foods placed in plastic lined cans, plastic hospital IV bags, plastic water pipes, weed killers, detergents, food preservatives, skin care lotions, shampoos and many household cleaning solutions that contain certain chemicals.

Why are xenoestrogens a problem? Have you wondered why male erectile disfunction has become such a marked problem and we are seeing television ads for a line of new products that help men have sex? Hasn't it occurred to you that this might be abnormal and that something is going haywire with our environment?

Blame it on xenoestrogens. They upset the normal hormone balance in men, women, children and even animals. They rob the male sex drive, stimulate male breast development, and are linked to female breast cancers. When injected into male animals they literally cause chemical castration.

Nearly everything we eat or drink now comes in contact with plastic containers or wrappers before they get on our table. Sometimes we put the food on plastic dishes and eat it with plastic spoons, forks and knives. The plastic leaches a chemical called bisphenol-A, found to be an xenoestrogen directly linked to breast cancer.

Birth control pills used by women contain a synthetic form of estrogen that also classifies as a xenoestrogen. So does diethylstilbestrol, a chemical hormone fed by farmers to livestock to help them grow and fatten up for slaughter.

The pesticide DDT also is a major problem. If you thought this chemical was out of production and not a problem in the United States just because we banned its use, guess again. There is more DDT being manufactured in the US today than ever before, but it is all being marketed in other countries that do not prohibit its use. The produce we buy from Mexico and other countries, that ends up on our tables, is often laced with DDT, and we eat it. DDT has been found to be an xenoestrogen.

Thus we can blame the male need for Viagra and other male erection narcotics on the American chemists that promised a great new world and gave us a poisoned environment.

The plastics industry and other chemical giants argue that the chemicals listed among the xenoestrogens are generally too "weak" to harm. But consider that just 2 to 5 parts per billion of the bisphenol-A that leaches from plastic bottles is found to be enough to stimulate growing cancer cells in the female breast. And tests have shown that chemicals that affect the hormone systems of the human body are occurring at from 100 to 1000 times in greater concentration than that of normal human hormones.

Because of the way we live it is almost impossible for people in developed countries to avoid contact with xenoestrogens. But one writer, Dr. Elizabeth Smith, offers the following suggestions in an in-depth article she produced on this subject:

--Use glass or ceramics to store food and water and never heat food while it is wrapped or contained in plastic.

--Use a simple detergent with less chemicals for both laundry and dish cleaning. Also use simple soaps for shampoo and body washing. Never use fabric softeners or dryer sheets.

--Gardeners use natural pest control and avoid pesticides. Never use herbicides. Instead, try a cup of salt per gallon of vinegar.

--Avoid all synthetic chemicals.

--Be a vegetarian. If you must eat meat, look for hormone free meats. Also buy organic produce grown without pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizer or hormones. Grow your own food if possible.

--Use condoms without spermicide for birth control instead of birth control pills.

--Avoid skin creams and other products that contain hormones. When applied to the skin hormones are directly absorbed by the body and are 10 times more lethal than that taken orally. Never use skin lotions that contain the preservative paraben.

(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

A member of a rebel group called the Martyr Al-Abbas throws a handmade weapon in Aleppo June 11, 2013.

A Perilous 'Searching For Monsters To Destroy' In Syria
By John Nichols

The Constitution is clear. Written by revolutionaries fresh from a protracted battle against a colonial empire that was forever involving them in wars of whim, the document was designed to assure that the powers of war making and military adventuring would never be concentrated in the hands of a monarch-or a president. So it is that, while the American president has from the founding of the republic been designated as the commander-in-chief, it is the Congress that retains the sole power to declare wars and to set terms for the engagement of the United States in the country in the "attachments and entanglements in foreign affairs" against which George Washington warned.

While it can be argued that presidents have the authority to act unilaterally to repel attacks and defend the country, there is far less justification for the wars of whim and casual military engagements that have come to define the United States in the latter part of the twentieth century and the first part of the twenty-first. Yet, since 1941, succeeding executives have entered into wars, military engagements and schemes to aid foreign armies without ever seeking or receiving congressional authorization.

Often, the US has policed the world without the informed consent of the American people, and without any evidence of the popular support that ought to be achieved before any country mingles its destiny with the struggles of distant lands.

Such is the case with the Syrian imbroglio.

That Syria has degenerated into crisis is clear.

That the violence on the ground is atrocious, and horrifying, goes without saying.

But the notion that the Syrian mess is an American problem, or that the United States can or should choose a favorite in the fight, is highly debatable. There is no defense for the actions of the Syrian government, but only the most casual observers presume that the rebels are universally committed to noble and democratic ends.

The American people "get" that the Syrian conflict is complicated, and that any US involvement there had the potential to make untenable demands on this country's future. Polls by the Pew Research Center and various media outlets have found high levels of opposition to even the most minimal of US engagement with the rebels.

Roughly two-thirds of Americans have consistently said that the United States does not have a responsibility to intervene in the Syrian conflict. Late last year, Pew found that 65 percent of Americans oppose any move by the United States and its allies to provide arms to anti-government forces in Syria.

Since the Obama administration-under pressure from Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, and other hawks-announced this month that the United States would aid the Syrian rebels, opposition to the move has actually risen. Indeed, the latest polling shows that 70 percent of Americans oppose the United States and its allies sending arms and military supplies to anti-government groups in Syria. A mere 20 percent favor the initiative.

Yet, Obama is taking the next step toward an active US role in the conflict.

Public opinion is not the only measure to be applied in weighing military engagements. But the wisdom of the people ought not be casually dismissed-especially when it comes to questions of whether their country should involve itself in distant civil wars.

If ever there was a time when congressional oversight needed-make that required, if one inclined toward a literal reading of the Constitution-this would seem to be it.

But Congress is disengaged and dysfunctional.

The House and the Senate choose not, for the most part, to govern. And they are especially resistant to governing when it comes to checking and balancing presidential decisions to embark upon military endeavors that carry with them the prospect of escalation and blowback. The Congress relies too frequently on the convoluted and constitutionally-dubious War Powers Act as an out for avoiding direct responsibility.

This is deeply unfortunate, not just in the immediate moment but on the long arc of history.

The United States is ill-suited to a career of empire, as former Secretary of State John Quincy Adams reminded the Congress in 1821.

"Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will [America's] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy," Adams explained four years before he would assume the presidency. "She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit."

It was an understanding of the many threats that go with the search for monsters to destroy that led the framers to rest the war-making power with the Congress. Now, however, Congress is resistant to taking up the basic work of oversight.

Indeed, its inclination is toward writing blank checks.

During the recent debate over the National Defense Authorization Act, Congressman Chris Gibson, R-New York, and John Garamendi, D-California, submitted a bipartisan amendment that would have removed "Sense of Congress" language-previously added to the NDAA-which might be read as signaling support for US military interventions and engagements in Syria. Only 123 members of the House (62 Republicans, 61 Democrats) supported the amendment, while 301 members (168 Republicans and 133 Democrats) opposed it.

Garamendi is generally a supporter of President Obama, as are most of the sixty Democrats who joined him in supporting the amendment. They understand that congressional oversight does not weaken or undermine the executive; rather, it establishes a framework in which presidents, their aides and military commanders can operate.

It is not a matter of partisanship that argues for congressional action. It is a combination of common sense and respect for the Constitution.

In arguing for the amendment, Gibson made the wise case that "we need to proceed with more caution-having a full and robust debate on the situation in Syria and how and if the United States should be involved. As we saw in Libya-operations I opposed from the start-it is critical we use the utmost caution when involving Americans overseas."

That was the common sense argument. But it did not prevail.

This is troubling.

It made even more troubling by the fact that the practical argument made by the congressman from New York is, as well, the constitutional argument.

A Congress that cedes its authority to check and balance the military manipulations of the executive branch does not merely diminish its own stature. It undermines the separation of powers that is essential to keeping the United States from involving herself "beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom."

No war of whim should ever be embarked upon without a declaration from Congress.

No military endeavor-and that certainly includes the arming of rebels in foreign conflicts-should ever be engaged in without oversight from the US House and the US Senate. That's a standard that ought to be applied by congressional conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, no matter who sits in the White House.
(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.

The Terror Con
By Robert Scheer

For defense contractors, the government officials who write them mega checks, and the hawks in the media who cheer them on, the name of the game is threat inflation. And no one has been better at it than the folks at Booz Allen Hamilton, the inventors of the new boondoggle called cyberwarfare.

That's the company, under contract with the National Security Agency, that employed whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the information security engineer whose revelation of Booz Allen's enormously profitable and pervasive spying on Americans now threatens the firm's profitability and that of its parent hedge fund, the Carlyle Group.

Booz Allen, whose top personnel served in key positions at the NSA and vice versa after the inconvenient collapse of the Cold War, has been attempting to substitute terrorist for communist as the enemy of choice. A difficult switch indeed for the military-industrial complex about which Dwight Eisenhower, the general-turned-president, had so eloquently warned us.

But just when the good times for war profiteers seemed to be forever in the past, there came 9/11 and the terrorist enemy, the gift that keeps on giving, for acts of terror always will occur in a less than perfect world, serving as an ideal excuse for squandering resources, as well as our freedoms.

Just ask New York Times columnists Thomas Friedman and Bill Keller. Rising to the defense of NSA snooping on a scale never before imagined in human history, they warn us that if there was a second 9/11-type attack, we would lose all of our civil liberties, so we should be grateful for this trade-off.

"I believe that if there is one more 9/11-or worse, an attack involving nuclear material-it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it," Friedman wrote in his June 11 column.

No nation in history has ever possessed such an imbalance of military superiority and the ability to ward off foreign threats without sacrificing its core values. Never has this country been as vulnerable to foreign attacks as when the founders approved our Constitution with its Fourth Amendment and other protections of individual sovereignty against an intrusive government. They did so out of the conviction that individual freedom makes us stronger rather than weaker as a nation. In short, they trusted in the essential wisdom of the people as opposed to the pundits who deride it.

Defending Friedman's column, Keller wrote Sunday:

"Tom's important point was that the gravest threat to our civil liberties is not the NSA but another 9/11-scale catastrophe that could leave a panicky public willing to ratchet up the security state, even beyond the war-on-terror excesses that followed the last big attack."

So it's the panicky public's fault and not the ill-informed work of establishment journalists like Friedman, who led the charge to war with Iraq based on phony claims about terrorism.

Once again, Friedman has a misplaced faith in the work of the intelligence community. The NSA snooping was quite extensive before 9/11 and certainly in full force prior to the Boston Marathon attack, but did not prevent either event. Indeed, our much-vaunted spy agencies still have not come up with an explanation of how 19 hijackers, 15 from our ally Saudi Arabia, managed to legally enter this country and learn flying skills while under our government's watch.

Nor have those intelligence agencies explained why the only three countries that recognized the Taliban government sponsors of al-Qaida were that same Saudi Arabia as well as our other friends in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. For information on the UAE connection, the NSA might check with its buddies at Booz Allen Hamilton.

As The New York Times reported Saturday: "When the United Arab Emirates wanted to create its own version of the National Security Agency, it turned to Booz Allen Hamilton to replicate the world's largest and most powerful spy agency in the sands of Abu Dhabi. It was a natural choice: The chief architect of Booz Allen's cyber strategy is Mike McConnell, who once led the NSA and pushed the United States into a new era of big data espionage. It was Mr. McConnell who won the blessing of the American intelligence agencies to bolster the Persian Gulf sheikdom, which helps track the Iranians."

Tracking the Iranians, you say? But they're not the enemies who attacked us on 9/11, and indeed they are Shiites, who were implacably hostile to the Sunni fanatics of al-Qaida. The reasoning makes sense only if you follow the money that the UAE can pay. "They are teaching everything," one Arab official told The New York Times about Booz Allen's staffers. "Data mining, web surveillance, all sorts of digital intelligence collection."

How great. Now, it's not just the government we elect but also those everywhere, even in desert emirates, that can mine our data.

"The NSA data mining," Keller assures us, "is part of something much larger. On many fronts, we are adjusting to life in a surveillance state, relinquishing bits of privacy in exchange for the promise of other rewards."

Behold McConnell. While director of national intelligence from 2007-09, he did much to inflate the threat of cyberterrorism; he then returned to the private sector and was rewarded with $4.1 million his first year back at Booz Allen, solving the problem he had hyped while heading the NSA. There's a guy who knows how to play the game.
(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.

The Two Centers Of Unaccountable Power In America, And Their Consequences
By Robert Reich

There are two great centers of unaccountable power in the American political-economic system today - places where decisions that significantly affect large numbers of Americans are made in secret, and are unchecked either by effective democratic oversight or by market competition.

One goes by the name of the "intelligence community" and its epicenter is the National Security Agency within the Defense Department. If we trusted that it reasonably balanced its snooping on Americans with our nation's security needs, and that our elected representatives effectively oversaw that balance, there would be little cause for concern. We would not worry that the information so gathered might be misused to harass individuals, thereby chilling free speech or democratic debate, or that some future government might use it to intimidate critics and opponents. We would feel confident, in other words, that despite the scale and secrecy of the operation, our privacy, civil liberties, and democracy were nonetheless adequately protected.

But the NSA has so much power, and oversight of it is so thin, that we have every reason to be concerned. The fact that its technological reach is vast, its resources almost limitless, and its operations are shrouded in secrecy, make it difficult for a handful of elected representatives to effectively monitor even a tiny fraction of what it does. And every new revelation of its clandestine "requests" for companies to hand over information about our personal lives and communications further undermines our trust. To the contrary, the NSA seems to be literally out of control.

The second center of unaccountable power goes by the name of Wall Street and is centered in the largest banks there. If we trusted that market forces kept them in check and that they did not exercise inordinate influence over Congress and the executive branch, we would have no basis for concern. We wouldn't worry that the Street's financial power would be misused to fix markets, profit from insider information, or make irresponsible bets that imperiled the rest of us. We could be confident that despite the size and scope of the giant banks, our economy and everyone who depends on it were nonetheless adequately protected.

But those banks are now so large (much larger than they were when they almost melted down five years ago), have such a monopolistic grip on our financial system, and exercise so much power over Washington, that we have cause for concern. The fact that not a single Wall Street executive has been held legally accountable for the excesses that almost brought the economy to its knees five years ago and continues to burden millions of Americans, that even the Attorney General confesses the biggest banks are "too big to jail," that the big banks continue to make irresponsible bets (such as those resulting in JP Morgan Chase's $6 billion "London Whale" loss), and that the Street has effectively eviscerated much of the Dodd-Frank legislation intended to rein in its excesses and avoid another meltdown and bailout, all offer evidence that the Street is still dangerously out of control.

It is rare in these harshly partisan times for the political left and right to agree on much of anything. But the reason, I think, both are worried about the encroachments of the NSA on the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, as well as the depredations of "too big to fail or jail" Wall Street banks on our economy, is fundamentally the same: It is this toxic combination of inordinate power and lack of accountability that renders both of them dangerous, threatening our basic values and institutions.

That neither Republicans nor Democrats have done much of anything to effectively rein in these two centers of unaccountable power suggests that, if there is ever to be a viable th
(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.

Structural Excuses
By Paul Krugman

I promised in an earlier post to say something about why these days I tend to get annoyed when I hear the phrase "structural reform," especially in Europe.

Part of the reason is that the phrase sounds good, but could mean lots of things. In many cases "structural reform" is code for eliminating worker protections and/or sharply cutting social benefits. Sometimes this may be necessary - let's face it, France has made it much too attractive to retire at 55 - but such things should be called by their proper names, not wrapped in vague language that conceals the nature of the pain.

That brings me to a second problem: whenever some catchphrase becomes part of what Very Serious People say because it sounds Serious, it's time to stop using the phrase, to force the VSPs to talk about what they really mean. In the US context, "entitlement reform" is VSP boilerplate - I mean, who can be against reform? But there's a world of difference between trying to move away from fee for service medicine - a reform I support - and, say, raising the Medicare age, which would be a terrible policy. These things should not be lumped together.

But the main thing about "structural reform" in Europe is the role it plays in discussion of macroeconomic policies. Instead of reflecting on the fact that Europe is sinking deeper into depression five years into the slump, and clearly needs less austerity and more aggressive monetary expansion, the usual suspects start talking about the need for structural reform. And my sense is that this talk of reform has, in practice, become less a real demand for specific actions than an excuse for not facing up to the reality of macroeconomic disaster, and a way to avoid discussing the responsibility of Germany and the ECB, in particular, to help end this disaster.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."
~~~ John F. Kennedy

Permanent Washington's Backlash To Edward Snowden
Government has too many Americans convinced that the whistle-blower is somehow worse than the crimes he reports
By David Sirota

Whether in celebrity culture or in our Facebook-mediated interactions, we live in the age of the human being as a public brand. So there's nothing surprising about the reaction to this week's disclosures about the National Security Agency's unprecedented surveillance program. In our cult-of-personality society, that reaction has been predictably - and unfortunately - focused less on the agency's possible crimes against the entire country than on Edward Snowden, the government contractor who disclosed the wrongdoing.

Almost universally, the government officials, pundits and reporters who comprise Permanent Washington have derided Snowden and those who helped him disseminate his disclosures. For instance, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., bashed him for committing "treason" while Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called for the arrest and prosecution of the journalists who broke the NSA snooping story. Likewise, establishment pundits from CNN's Jeffrey Toobin to the New York Times David Brooks loyally defended government's national security agencies by respectively assaulting Snowden as a "narcissist" and a loser who "could not successfully work his way through the institution of high school." Meanwhile, plenty of Obama loyalists - many of whom criticized the Bush administration for much less invasive surveillance - took to Twitter to berate Snowden as an attention-seeking traitor.

Though they failed to show that Snowden's disclosures endanger national security, these attacks do tell an important story - not about the whistleblower, but about America.

First and foremost, the backlash reveals that Permanent Washington doesn't work for We the People - it works to protect itself. We know this because whereas Snowden is vilified for disclosing information that's inconvenient to Permanent Washington, those who leak classified information that is advantageous to Permanent Washington are left alone.

Yes - most of those slamming Snowden expressed no outrage when the White House recently leaked Obama-glorifying information about the president's assassinations of alleged terrorists. Same thing when it came to John Brennan. As Reuters' Jack Shafer notes, after the president's counterterrorism adviser leaked administration-defending information about a terrorist attack, "instead of being prosecuted for leaking sensitive, classified intelligence, Brennan was promoted to director of the CIA" - and few of those now complaining about Snowden expressed any outrage.

"The willingness of the government to punish leakers is inversely proportional to the leakers' rank and status, which is bad news for someone so lacking in those attributes as Edward Snowden," Shafer correctly concludes.

Of course, Permanent Washington's self-interested assaults on Snowden will inevitably find some support among the general public. The question is: why?

This gets to the second way that this week's events expose far more ugly truths about us than about Snowden.

In a democratic society, as Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald put it, "we're supposed to know virtually everything about what (government officials) do: That's why they're called public servants." That's why, until given reason not to, we should naturally sympathize with - and support protections for - whistleblowers like Snowden.

But that's the thing: Our core notions about transparency and self-governance have been under withering assault by Permanent Washington. Over time, that assault has succeeded in convincing many Americans to embrace the authoritarian view that says whistleblowers are a bigger problem than the government crimes they expose.

To understand what's wrong with that attitude, consider the critics through the prism of history.

Those castigating Snowden probably would have insisted that the biggest crime of the Vietnam War was Daniel Ellsberg publishing the Pentagon Papers. They likely would have also said that the biggest crime of Watergate was Deep Throat blowing the whistle.

It is the same authoritarian argument against Snowden today - and until we wake up to the real agenda at work, Permanent Washington will continue undermining civil liberties and America's democratic ideals in any way it can.
(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 .

Syria: Pros And Cons
By David Swanson

Mr. President, if I were a professional con artist paid to give you the pros and cons on engaging in a war in Syria, here's what they would be:

As you know, former president Clinton, probably understood by many to also be speaking on behalf of his wife, has called you a wuss. Virtually nobody remembers or cares that you said "I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place." The majority of Americans, exercising that mindset, want you to get us into a new war in the first place if the alternative is having a wuss in the White House. I don't have a poll on that, but trust me.

This is not contradicted by public opposition to U.S. engagement in the war in Syria (as seen in the polls). If U.S. casualties are minimized and if the financial cost can come out of the base DOD budget -- at least at first -- then the political cost is negligible while the political gain is enormous. Unless you drag this out. The military budget is being increased right now, and in violation of the sequester, and nobody gives a rat's ass. They think it means jobs and non-wussiness. Unless you drag it out.

With regard to claims of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, the best approach is to claim certainty, and to insist on the necessity of secrecy for the evidence. You've had a great deal of success with this approach on drone kills, NSA programs, etc. Let the conversation focus on a demand for the evidence. This allows you to talk about the scary dangers requiring secrecy, and to question whether your opponents have the appropriate level of patriotic barbarism.

Meanwhile, everyone has completely forgotten that both sides in Syria are using hideous weaponry and committing horrible atrocities, while we're only aiding one side rather than both. Nobody, in this framework, will be capable of thinking about the internationally condemned weapons we deploy, or wondering whether killing Syrians to prevent Syrians from being killed by the wrong kind of weapons even makes sense in our humanitarian (wink wink) scenario. Much less will the legality or morality of using war to prevent war be questioned or even be questionable. Keep the focus on the extensive evidence of chemical weapons use by Assad, one of the few individuals in the world -- we should say constantly -- evil enough to do such a thing. Stop mentioning Syria at all. Always refer to Assad.

Key also is swiftness. Get this battle started! Get progress and movement toward victory underway immediately. If possible get a very small number of Americans killed, and killed by Assad. Remember that the resistance to the 2003 invasion of Iraq shriveled away once the invasion happened, and that the same sort of resistance is not even here now for you. Your image is firmly established as a non-killer. Your telling the New York Times about your kill list terror-Tuesday meetings did nothing to change that. Your bin-Laden announcement did nothing to change that. The danger for you is not Texan sadist. The danger for you is Wuss.

The secondary danger is drawing the thing out. You've been able to escalate and prolong the war on Afghanistan for five years only because you've labeled it your predecessor's war. The House just voted that you only get another year-and-a-half there unless they vote again. I know, I know, it's cute how they think we give a shit what they vote for. But Syria is not Bush's war. If you drag it out you'll be in trouble. And here's why you might: The people of Syria are largely against the rebels and will be even more strongly against the United States or NATO. There won't even be a momentary flowers-and-chocolate welcome. Both sides are heavily armed already, and the more popular side is winning. You're proposing to fight on the less popular side in support of overthrowing a more popular government in exchange for a government that could end up opposed to Iran, but which will also be opposed to the United States, not to mention its opposition to restraint in mutilating and murdering blasphemers. There will be a temptation to try to fix and control what is guaranteed to be broken and uncontrollable. And that's if the whole thing doesn't expand internationally into a broader war involving several nations and costing you practically as much as Wussihood.,P> So, what you need is swiftness and overwhelming strength, devastation sufficient to shock and awe the Syrians as it were. And then get the hell out of there and leave those people to their catastrophe. That would be my advice. You don't need, and the weapons makers and contractors who will show you their gratitude don't need, a lengthy war in order to profit. You need an example of a successful war that can be held up as potentially needed again. Because, of course -- while you must absolutely not say this yet -- this is what will get you into Iran. And Iran is where the real men go, Mr. President.

You need to clamp down on Senator McCain and all other voices connecting Syria to Iran. The two need to be separate and happen sequentially. You need to control the media by continuing to beat the existing sticks of intimidation, while offering some carrots as well. Do they want to break the story of the chemical weapons evidence? Do they? Do they? Then they need to watch what they say. This can be a win-win for everyone involved, Mr. President. The footage of the bombing of Syrian air defense batteries in urban centers will be stunning. It should come before the Fourth of July.

Footage from the ground in those cities, however, should be banned under the threat of indictment for aiding the enemy. This is important. Syria is not Libya. A lot more people are going to die, and we do not want those images except in one key case. We want the death of Assad on every television. And we want it from a bomb, not a night raid. We want to justify the killing of tens of thousands through the killing of someone so demonized that his killing justifies all killing. At that point, you can forget anyone caring about the fate of Syria. Just look at Iraq. It's worse off right now than Syria is, and I can count on one hand the number of Americans who give a damn.

Courage, Mr. President! Don't be a wuss!
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Debbie gives the corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear UberFuhrer Stabenow,

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 farm bill which takes billions out of the mouths of hungry children and puts it into the pockets of our 1% Overlords, 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 Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 07-06-2013. We salute you Frau Stabenow, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Deputy Fuhrer Holder

Heil Obama

Indefinite Surveillance
Say Hello to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014
By Stephen Benavides

Passed in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) set the groundwork for surveillance, collection, and analysis of intelligence gathered from foreign powers and agents of foreign powers, up to and including any individual residing within the U.S., who were suspected of involvement in potential terrorist activity. On October 26, 2001, a little over a month after 9/11, President George W. Bush signed the USA Patriot Act into law. Two provisions, Sec. 206, permitting government to obtain secret court orders allowing roving wiretaps without requiring identification of the person, organization, or facility to be surveyed, and Sec. 215 authorizing government to access and obtain "any tangible thing" relevant to a terrorist investigation, transformed foreign intelligence into domestic intelligence.

NDAA 2014 builds on the powers granted by both the Patriot Act and FISA by allowing unrestricted analysis and research of captured records pertaining to any organization or individual "now or once hostile to the United States." Under the Patriot Act, the ability to obtain "any tangible thing" eliminated any expectation of privacy. Under NDAA 2014 Sec. 1061(g)(1), an overly vague definition of captured records enhances government power and guarantees indefinite surveillance.

On May 22, 2013 the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, one of several Armed Services Committees, met to discuss the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014. The main subject of the hearing was Sec. 1061, otherwise known as Enhancement of Capacity of the United States Government to Analyze Captured Records. This enhancement provision of NDAA 2014 would effectively create a new intelligence agency, one with the authority to analyze information gained under the Patriot Act, FISA, and known spying programs such as PRISM.

Sec. 1061(a) authorizes the Secretary of Defense to "establish a center to be known as the 'Conflict Records Research Center'" (Center). The main purpose of the center, according to the bill text, is to create a "digital research database," one with the capability to "translate" and facilitate research on "records captured from countries, organizations and individuals, now or once hostile to the United States." The authorization also says the Center will conduct research and analysis to "increase the understanding of factors related to international relations, counterterrorism and conventional and unconventional warfare, and ultimately, enhance national security." In order to make the Center run, and to accomplish such an incredibly broad scope of "research," the Secretary of Defense needs the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to cooperate in coordinating "information exchanges important to the leadership of the United States Government." That coordination would require participation of all 16 member agencies and departments of the U.S. Intelligence Community. This would leave James Clapper, the man accused of lying to Congress about the National Security Agency's (NSA) domestic spying program known as PRISM, in de facto direction of another federal surveillance and data analysis agency. And while the Center would be officially directed and overseen by the Secretary of Defense, without unfettered access to secret and top secret information, the Center would become the Center would be completely ineffective. These information exchanges would most likely include data and records generated by the mass surveillance of everyday people under PRISM, as well as surveillance of those identified as "potential terrorists" or " high value targets" by any one of those 16 intelligence agencies now in operation.

The proposed Center's information exchanges rely on captured government records. Under the NDAA 2014, Sec. 1061(g)(1), a captured record is defined as "a document, audio file, video file, audio file, video file, or other material captured during combat operations from countries, organizations, or individuals, now or once hostile to the United States." But considering that the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) allows the War on Terror to exist in a perpetual and permanent state of combat operations and that the American public is already existing under an expansive surveillance state, any record may qualify as a "captured record." Thus, any captured document, audio file, video file, or other material could potentially be submitted to this new intelligence agency for research and analysis, all in the name of national security and counterterrorism, as deemed appropriate by the swelling government surveillance class.

The NDAA 2014 enhancement provision extends and consolidates the government's authority to further gather and analyze records and data captured during any national security or terrorist related investigation, not just combat operations. But it does so combat operations, but it does so without creating any explicit restriction against violating an individual's right to privacy, conducting unwarranted searches and seizures, or violating due process for individuals as guaranteed by the Constitution. That's eerily similar to the NDAA 2013 Sec. 1021, which codified the indefinite military detention of American citizens without requiring they be charged with a specific crime or given a trial. Under NDAA 2013, Sec. 1021 allowed the military detention of civilians without a writ of habeas corpus, when a person "was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces." Under NDAA 2014, anyone is now subject to surveillance, not based on support of al-Qaeda or its associated forces, but based merely upon whether or not an individual is, or once was hostile to the U.S. The question of what constitutes "hostility", is left completely unanswered.

The new enhancement provision, as well as the previous NDAA's indefinite detention mandate, goes to show how far the legislation has strayed from its stated purpose. According to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-California), the NDAA "authorizes funding for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths, and for other purposes."

Instead, the NDAA has become the vehicle for the Executive Branch and Department of Defense to bypass Congress and legislate away any perceived right, liberty, or privilege that conflicts with permanent war and indefinite surveillance.

In 2012, in an attempt to stop that "indefinite detention" provision, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) introduced an amendment that would have prohibited the government from detaining citizens indefinitely using military force. That proposed law, otherwise known as the Feinstein Amendment easily passed the Senate floor, but was later removed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan). After removal of the only specific language that would guarantee the US government would be prohibited from interpreting the Act illegally, President Obama, also a Democrat, signed NDAA 2013 into law.

If passed in its current state, NDAA 2014 would authorize approximately $552 billion in total defense spending, with $86 billion going directly to war spending. This amount exceeds what is allowed under the automatic austerity measures that went into effect as of March 1, 2013. According to a report released in April 2013 by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, if personnel, operation and maintenance costs continue to rise, they may consume the whole of the defense budget by 2024, drying up funds for construction, procuring weapons, or military family housing. Any program created by the Enhancement Provision of NDAA 2014 would necessarily burden an already overwhelmed working class that has been hardest hit by austerity measures.

While the NSA swears that no citizen was spied on under PRISM, the very fact that cell phone metadata and online activity was gathered from millions of individuals guarantees that information was taken illegally from innocent people. We're told that the government is attempting to minimize the amount of information captured from Americans, and that all of that information is being kept in specialized and restricted servers in order to protect our constitutional rights. But that's difficult to believe when the Department of Justice is currently fighting the release of a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court opinion that details unconstitutional government surveillance.

If indefinite detention became the primary reason for opposing NDAA 2013, then the enhanced provision authorizing unlimited indefinite surveillance may become the may fuel the most outrage against NDAA 2014. If passed in its current state, NDAA 2014 will further guarantee that people exist not only under indefinite detention and permanent war, but also under indefinite surveillance by its government.
(c) 2013 Stephen Benavides is a political activist/analyst, software developer, and former union organizer from Dallas, Texas. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Texas and has done graduate research in econometrics and economic theory. He writes about science, politics, economics, technology, security and sci fi at

The Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp office building is seen in McLean, Virginia June 11, 2013

Uncle Sam and Corporate Tech: Domestic Partners Raising Digital Big Brother
by Norman Solomon

A terrible formula has taken hold: warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.

"National security" agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. "Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors," the New York Times noted. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.

"Much of the coverage of the NSA spying scandal has underplayed crucial context: The capacity of the government to engage in constant surreptitious monitoring of all civilians has been greatly enhanced by the commercialization of the Internet," media analyst Robert McChesney pointed out this week.

Overall, he said, "the commercialized Internet, far from producing competition, has generated the greatest wave of monopoly in the history of capitalism." And the concentration of online digital power is, to put it mildly, user-friendly for the surveillance state.

It's a truly odious and destructive mix -- a government bent on perpetual war and a digital tech industry dominated by a few huge firms with an insatiable drive to maximize profits. Those companies have a lot to offer the government, and vice versa.

"The giant monopolistic firms that rule the Internet -- Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Version, AT&T, Comcast, Microsoft -- all have tremendous incentive to collect information on people," McChesney said. "There is a great deal of profit for these firms and others to work closely with the national security apparatus, and almost no incentive to refuse to participate. In short, there is a military-digital complex deeply embedded into the political economy and outside any credible review process by elected representatives, not to mention the public."

Central pieces of the puzzle -- routinely left out of mainline media coverage -- have to do with key forces at work. Why such resolve in Washington's highest places for the vast surveillance that's integral to the warfare state?

What has not changed is the profusion of corporations making a killing from the warfare state in tandem with Washington's quest for geopolitical positioning, access to fossil fuels and other raw materials -- and access to markets for U.S.-based industries ranging from financial services to fast food.

Let's give credit to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman for candor as he wrote approvingly in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree: "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

On Wednesday, I had a brief on-air exchange with Friedman, live on KQED Radio in San Francisco.

Solomon: "I think it's unfortunate the sensibility that Thomas Friedman, who's a very smart guy, has brought to bear in so many realms. For instance, we heard a few minutes ago, asked about Iraq and the lessons to be drawn -- quote, ‘We overpaid for it.' ‘We overpaid for it.' Which is sort of what you might call jingo-narcissism, to coin a term. Just the dire shortage of remorse, particularly given Thomas Friedman's very large role in cheering on, with his usual caveats, but cheering on the invasion of Iraq before it took place. Full disclosure, this is Norman Solomon, I chronicled his critique in my book War Made Easy, his critique of foreign policy, and he did cheerlead -- in his sort of kind of erudite glib way, he did cheerlead the invasion of Iraq before it took place. Just as, as I chronicle in the book, he was gleeful in his columns about the bombing of Serbia, including Belgrade, civilian areas, just chortled and very very gleeful about that bombing. One other point I'd like to make. His recent column about NSA surveillance is absolutely a formula for throwing away the First Amendment gradually in stages. The idea that somehow we should relinquish the sacred Fourth Amendment, a little bit at a time, maybe not a little bit at a time, because if there's terrorism that takes places in a big way again in this country then hold onto your hats -- I mean, that is formulaic as an excuse, may I say a bit of a craven way, to accept this attack on our civil liberties."

Host: "Norman, let me thank you for the call and get a response from Tom Friedman."

Friedman: "Well first of all, I would invite, I wrote a book called Longitudes and Attitudes that has all my columns leading up to the Iraq War. And what you'll find if you read those columns is someone agonizing over a very very difficult decision. To call it cheerleading is just stupid and obnoxious. Okay. Number one. And on the question of the Fourth Amendment, as has been pointed out, there actually has been no case of abuse that has been reported so far with this program. Believe me, if there were one, two, ten or twenty, then I think we'd be having a very different debate. And so to simply -- he says I'm dismissing the Fourth Amendment, which is ludicrous, I'm terribly agonized over this whole business -- but to simply blithely say, ‘Oh, you're just trying to use the threat of another terrorist attack,' as if that isn't a live possibility, as if we haven't had three or four real examples of people trying to do things that had they gotten through I think would have led to even worse restrictions on privacy and civil liberties."

Well, that's Thomas Friedman, in sync with the downward spiral of fear, threats, militarism and corporate consolidation. What a contrast with the clarity from Robert McChesney.

A week before the Guardian began breaking stories about NSA surveillance, McChesney appeared on FAIR's "CounterSpin" radio program to talk about the findings in his new book Digital Disconnect. He warned that we "have an economy dominated by a handful of monopolistic giants working hand in hand with a national security state that's completely off-limits to public review, to monitor the population." And he said: "It's not a tenable situation for a free society."
(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."

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Gary Markstein ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

A majority of Americans said they wouldn't mind have an autocratic leader like this, who would make all their decisions for them.

U.S. Citizenry Admits It Could Kind Of Go For Charismatic Authoritarian Dictator

WASHINGTON-According to a Pew Research Center poll conducted this week, the overwhelming majority of Americans admitted they would actually be fairly interested in having a magnetic, forceful dictator oversee and control all aspects of American society.

Citing the relative simplicity of the citizen's role in a totalitarian state, the U.S. populace said it could definitely see itself supporting a decisive, iron-willed demagogue, with citizens agreeing that the idea of entrusting all political, economic, social, and military decisions to a single bold despot actually sounded "pretty good" to them.

"When I think about it, submitting my will and personal beliefs to an all-powerful leader doesn't seem half bad," said survey respondent Jillian Medrano of Cocoa Beach, FL, who referred to the democratic process as "kind of a hassle." "I don't really want to bother with forming opinions about candidates or weighing multiple viewpoints on an issue, so if an egomaniacal autocrat just got up on a balcony and delivered a political message that we all had to support without question, it would make things a lot easier for me."

Citizens all across the nation agreed that seeing sights such as this on a regular basis might be pretty inspiring.

"There's just something kind of nice about throwing your hands up and letting a tyrannical demagogue tell you what to do, where to go, and how to think," Medrano added. "As long as I'm not in one of the ethnic or religious groups he's arbitrarily chosen to persecute, I think it would actually be pretty cool."

According to the Pew survey, 71 percent of Americans would be okay with blindly adopting the views and goals of an electrifying military ruler, while 84 percent of citizens admitted they would prefer waiting in line at a set place and time to receive food rations, basic household provisions, and medications from the state instead of having to rely on themselves to choose and procure such necessities.

In addition, 98 percent of U.S. citizens said they would gladly welcome an omnipotent one-party government apparatus that could quickly and effectively deal with societal problems as it saw fit without any input from them whatsoever.

"There's a streamlined aspect to authoritarianism that's very appealing to the modern American citizen," said the director of the University of Chicago's Sociology department Ellen Ornelas, who went on to explain that time-consuming citizen obligations like jury duty would be made obsolete by totalitarian statehood, which summarily convicts offenders without a trial of their peers. "It's a comparatively freeing model of civic engagement that requires nothing more than unquestioning obedience to a strong, charismatic leader with an ironclad vision for the future, and today's U.S. population thinks it's a style of government they could get behind."

In addition to the appeal of simply kicking back and relinquishing responsibility to someone else, Americans said there were a number of other added perks associated with installing an authoritarian government. In particular, citizens expressed interest in succumbing to the seductive energy of a cult of personality; adopting a fervent, cohesive sense of national unity; and partaking in the ceremonial grandeur of military parades in which big, shiny missiles would be driven through the streets of major U.S. cities to cries of "Long live our leader!"

Moreover, American citizens claimed they would feel a sense of comfort by seeing photographs, murals, and statues of the dictator in every public space throughout the country, saying that, in a way, it would almost be as if a protective father figure were always watching over them.

While many survey respondents acknowledged that forced labor camps and widespread shortages of electricity would be less than ideal, they affirmed that such negative aspects of the totalitarian regime would be more than offset by the attractive prospect of never again having to make any major decision about their lives.

"All I'm saying is if a dynamic, larger-than-life personality in military regalia seized control of the government and said this is how it's going to be from now on, I think I'd be up for it," said Virginia resident Jonathan Bunn, who admitted that learning a few formal salutes and spontaneously crying in joy whenever the leader appeared in public actually sounded "kind of fun." "It would be a huge load off to just give in to a megalomaniacal despot's grand, stirring rhetoric and no longer be burdened with having to engage in any critical thought whatsoever. I could definitely get on board with that."

"I think we should just give an autocratic state a shot for a decade or two and see how it goes," Bunn added. "It's not like I vote anyway, so it wouldn't even be that big a deal."
(c) 2013 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 22 (c) 06/21/2013

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