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In This Edition

Tom Engelhardt lectures on, "How To Be A Rogue Superpower."

Uri Avnery explores, "The Grand Dilemma."

Glen Ford examines, "The U.S. War Against The World."

Chris Hedges hears Barry, "Locking Out the Voices Of Dissent."

Jim Hightower takes us on, "The True Path To American Exceptionalism."

Frank Scott asks, "Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged?"

James Donahue warns, "Our Food Is Laced With Deadly Dioxin."

John Nichols finds, "NAACP Seeks DOJ Intervention In Martin Case, Targets 'Stand Your Ground' Laws."

Robert Scheer heralds, "The Return Of Lawrence Summers, Mr. Spectacular Failure."

Glenn Greenwald reveals, "The Crux Of The NSA Story In One Phrase: 'Collect It All.'"

Paul Krugman looks at, "Hunger Games, U.S.A.."

David Sirota explains, "How Cash Secretly Rules Surveillance Policy."

Greg Palast sees, "New York Genitals Fight For Office... While Snowden Fights The Forces Of Stupid."

NSA Chief Gen. Keith Alexander wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich demands, "Why We Should Stop Subsidizing Sky-High CEO Pay."

David Suzuki concludes, "Rail, Pipeline And Climate Disasters Are Symptoms Of Oily Addiction."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Insurance Company Gets Fucked Over By Another Cancer Patient" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "It's Open Season."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Fitzsimmons, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Matt Bors, Rob Rogers, Khalil Bendig, David Shankbone, Mark Lennihan, Powazny, Privacy International.Org, Ubiquit23/Flickr, The Simpsons, The Onion, Lionsgate, The Guardian, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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It's Open Season
By Ernest Stewart

"Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal." ~~~ Martin Luther King

"There is massive propaganda for everyone to consume. Consumption is good for profits and consumption is good for the political establishment." ~~~ Noam Chomsky

"This isn't some rogue operation that a group of guys up at NSA are running. This is something that has oversight by the committees, the courts, the administration, and a 100 percent auditable process on a business record, FISA. You know, that's extraordinary oversight." ~~~ NSA Chief Gen. Keith Alexander

So let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives...
~~~ We Are The World ~~~

Were you the least bit surprised by the verdict in the Martin case? Of course you weren't, and that's the real problem. We knew with an all white jury, away down yonder in the Bush Brothers Banana Republic of Florida there was never the slightest chance of George Zimmerman paying for his 1st degree murder of Trayvon Martin. It's official, it's open season down below that Manson Nixon Line!

As much as racism played in this, even more so was George's 1% Pater and his power and privilege which played just as big a part in this as did racism! Nor is this the first time that Pater pulled a few puppet strings to save his worthless son from his crimes from rape to murder. However this time he couldn't stop the trial but puppets were dancing none the less! Have I mentioned a Florida "justice" department that dug it's feet in every step of the way from refusing to charge George with anything for what was and is obvious 1st degree murder and only charged him with second degree murder to manslaughter but only as a massive and building sense of outrage shook them to their core. With the whole world watching they had themselves a little show trial.

Like the disgruntled Detroit auto-worker who lost his job making cars and decided to hunt down and kill him the first "Jap" that he could find. When he did just that, and was caught, because he didn't have George's attorneys and connections he didn't get away with his murder, no, no, the judge threw the book at him and gave him a $3,000 fine with no jail time. The "joke" at the time was you could get a Jap hunting license in Michigan for $3,000. Look out black folks in Florida, it's huntin' season and their not hunting rabbits and gators anymore!

Welcome to 21st century America, which is starting to look a whole lot like Germany in 1933. As Martin reminded us, Hitler broke no German laws, like America he had the law rewritten just as the last five juntas have done in America. So when Obama murders you without charges, or trial, or any proof of guilt, or a jury, don't worry, it will all be legal, oops my bad, it already is legal. Just as it was perfectly legal for George Zimmerman to murder Trayvon Martin in Florida as it would have been legal in 23 other states too. And with this outraged called a verdict, there will only be more victims of racism and power to come. Nor do I have any hopes for the U.S. Department of "Justice" to do anything about it either, do you?

In Other News

I don't know how this one slipped under the radar but it did! I haven't been aware to any changes in things but I wouldn't as I seldom listen to radio and never to am radio or commercial TV but I bet it wouldn't be hard to find some on commercial cable stuff like the Military Channel or Nat Geo. I'm referring of course to what's inside The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 that amended the Smith-Mundt Act and the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1987, allowing for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and striking down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the United States. Another words we have official government Propaganda being broadcast 24/7, something that has been out lawed since 1948!

Since then, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government's propaganda arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came to an end with the implementation of a new law hidden deep within the The National Defense Authorization Act. The end result of this is we're being "treated" to "thousands of hours every week of government-funded radio and TV programs in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts." Joseph Goebbels would be so proud!

Until July 2nd, the vast ocean of U.S. propaganda being produced by the BBG such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks could only be viewed or listened to in foreign countries. The propaganda is heard and seen in 100 countries, well 101, now counting America!

The Smith-Mundt Act, a long-standing piece of legislation that has been amended numerous times over the years, perhaps most consequentially by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. In the 1970s, Fulbright was no friend of VOA and Radio Free Europe, and moved to restrict them from domestic distribution, saying they "should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics." Fulbright's amendment to Smith-Mundt was bolstered in 1985 by Nebraska Senator Edward Zorinsky, who argued that such "propaganda should be kept out of America as to distinguish the U.S from the Soviet Union where domestic propaganda is a principal government activity."

Zorinsky and Fulbright sold their amendments on common sense: American taxpayers shouldn't be funding propaganda for American audiences. However Zorinsky and Fulbright didn't have to deal with a house that is controlled lock, stock and barrel by the 1% and their tea-bagger puppet-toadies!

BBG spokes-weasel Lynne Weil insists BBG is not a propaganda outlet, and its flagship services such as VOA present fair and accurate news."

"They don't shy away from stories that don't shed the best light on the United States,"
she then pointed to the charters of VOA and RFE: "Our journalists provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate."

And if you buy Ms. Weil's bullshit folks, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that you might want to buy too, it's a real money maker! Can let you have it for a song...

And Finally

I see where General Keith Alexander was back on capital hill the other day getting his ass licked by Michigan Con-gressman Mike Rogers a neer-do-well and head of the House Intelligence Committee. Those are two words that you would agree should never be spoken in the same sentence, i.e. House Intelligence, mutually exclusive. You'll recall Keith got caught lying his ass off before Congress and ever since then the Rethuglican controlled house is doing everything they can to stem the flow of blood. You'll recall that when he was caught lying on sworn oath to Congress his excuse was, that they were only little lies, the least he could tell! Don't you want to hear the whopper he would have told all about not being able to read your every key stroke, and hear your every word! Nope, wait a minute, he's already told that one!

You may remember that it was Smirky and Von Rumsfeld that put Keith in charge on spying on us. You may also recall that all of the Generals who had an ounce of honor under Dubya quit or retired rather than serve under all that treason and sedition. Considering that there are no liberal Generals, to get those stars you must be a few light years to the right of Darth Vader so for them to leave the service you know it was war crimes, crimes against humanity that and crimes against the US Constitution that drove them away. Trouble is the general officers that stayed weren't the cream of the crop, in fact just the opposite which explains Keith's rise to power!

Therefore for illegally spying on us and lying to us Generalissimo Keith Alexander wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award! I betcha your mom would be real proud, huh Keith?

Keepin' On

Well, we didn't make enough to cover this months bills, but we came close, so close in fact, that when I added every thing I had in my wallet and my credit union account we had just enough to keep us active! Hooray, I guess?

Truth be told, I was kind of looking forward to retiring to writing a few more books, got that on my bucket list, before I bite the big one! But thanks to Marv and Jen from Chicago I'm back in the saddle again! Marv and Jen did this once before and like the knights in shinning armor that they are they saved the day again as they did a couple of years back with June's bill, so we thank you Marv and Jen so much for your help! But there's more, Marv and Jen, than just our sincerest thanks, because of your total donations, you are now joining the exalted ranks of the "Usual Suspects" with all the pomp, pageantry and circumstance that membership provides, including the official, Usual Suspect "Decoder Ring," good for decoding the 48 hour notice you'll receive just before it really hits the fan, and other important stuff! Perhaps more importantly the location of the key to the honor bar, and 4 weeks every winter at our "Usual Suspects Compound" on Maui, round trip air fair included for two! Who says the fascist have all the perks? And oh how I wish it were so, but believe me folks it ain't!

Ergo if you too think we have begun the spiral down the tubes and would like to be kept abreast of all the important information, then you, too, might consider keeping us afloat by sending in whatever you can, whenever you can: and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you and yours.


05-03-1925 ~ 07-14-2013
Thanks for rockin' that country swing!


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.

How To Be A Rogue Superpower
A Manual for the Twenty-First Century
By Tom Engelhardt

It's hard even to know how to take it in. I mean, what's really happening? An employee of a private contractor working for the National Security Agency makes off with unknown numbers of files about America's developing global security state on a thumb drive and four laptop computers, and jumps the nearest plane to Hong Kong. His goal: to expose a vast surveillance structure built in the shadows in the post-9/11 years and significantly aimed at Americans. He leaks some of the documents to a columnist at the British Guardian and to the Washington Post. The response is unprecedented: an "international manhunt" (or more politely but less accurately, "a diplomatic full court press") conducted not by Interpol or the United Nations but by the planet's sole superpower, the very government whose practices the leaker was so intent on exposing.

And that's just for starters. Let's add another factor. The leaker, a young man with great techno-savvy, lets the world know that he's picked and chosen among the NSA files in his possession. He's releasing only those he thinks the American public needs in order to start a full-scale debate about the unprecedented secret world of surveillance that their taxpayer dollars have created. In other words, this is no "document dump." He wants to spark change without doing harm.

But here's the kicker: he couldn't be more aware of previous whistleblower cases, the punitive reaction of his government to them, and the fate that might be his. As a result, we now know, he has encrypted the full set of files in his possession and left them in one or more safe places for unknown individuals -- that is, we don't know who they are -- to access, should he be taken by the U.S.

In other words, from the time Edward Snowden's first leaked documents came out, it was obvious that he was in control of how much of the NSA's secret world would be seen. It would be hard then not to conclude that capturing him, imprisoning him, trying him, and throwing away the key is likely to increase, not decrease, the flow of those documents. Knowing that, the Obama administration and the representatives of our secret world went after him anyway -- after one man on a global scale and in a way that may not have a precedent. No thought of future embarrassment stopped them, nor, it seems, did they hesitate because of possible resentments engendered by their heavy-handed pressure on numerous foreign governments.

The result has been a global spectacle, as well as a worldwide debate about the spying practices of the U.S. (and its allies). In these weeks, Washington has proven determined, vengeful, implacable. It has strong-armed, threatened, and elbowed powers large and small. It has essentially pledged that the leaker, former Booz Allen employee Edward Snowden, will never be safe on this planet in his lifetime. And yet, to mention the obvious, the greatest power on Earth has, as yet, failed to get its man and is losing the public opinion battle globally.

An Asylum-less World

Highlighted in all this has been a curious fact of our twenty-first-century world. In the Cold War years, asylum was always potentially available. If you opposed one of the two superpowers or its allies, the other was usually ready to open its arms to you, as the U.S. famously did for what were once called "Soviet dissidents" in great numbers. The Soviets did the same for Americans, Brits, and others, often secret communists, sometimes actual spies, who opposed the leading capitalist power and its global order.

Today, if you are a twenty-first-century "dissident" and need asylum/protection from the only superpower left, there is essentially none to be had. Even after three Latin American countries, enraged at Washington's actions, extended offers of protection to Snowden, these should be treated as a new category of limited asylum. After all, the greatest power on the planet has, since 9/11, shown itself perfectly willing to do almost anything in pursuit of its definition of "security" or the security of its security system. Torture, abuse, the setting up of secret prisons or "black sites," the kidnapping of terrorist suspects (including perfectly innocent people) off the streets of global cities and in the backlands of the planet, as well as their "rendition" to the torture chambers of complicit allied regimes, and the secret surveillance of anyone anywhere would only start a far longer list.

Nothing about the "international manhunt" for Snowden indicates that the Obama administration would be unwilling to send in the CIA or special operations types to "render" him from Venezuela, Bolivia, or Nicaragua, no matter the cost to hemispheric relations. Snowden himself brought up this possibility in his first interview with Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald. "I could," he said bluntly, "be rendered by the CIA." This assumes that he can even make it to a land of exile from somewhere in the bowels of the international terminal of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport without being intercepted by Washington.

It's true that there remain some modest limits on the actions even of a rogue superpower. It's hard to imagine Washington dropping its kidnappers into Russia or China to take Snowden, which is perhaps why it has put such pressure on both countries to turn him in or hustle him along. With smaller, weaker lands, however, non-nuclear allies or enemies or frenemies, don't doubt the possibility for a second.

If Edward Snowden is proving one thing, it's this: in 2013, Planet Earth isn't big enough to protect the American version of "dissidents." Instead, it looks ever more like a giant prison with a single implacable policeman, judge, jury, and jailer.

Deterrence Theory the Second Time Around

In the Cold War years, the two nuclear-armed superpowers practiced what was called "deterrence theory," or more aptly MAD, short for "mutually assured destruction." Think of it as the particularly grim underside of what might have been but wasn't called MAA (mutually assured asylum). The knowledge that no nuclear first strike by one superpower could succeed in preventing the other from striking back with overwhelming force, destroying them both (and possibly the planet) seemed, however barely, to hold their enmity and weaponry at bay. It forced them to fight their wars, often by proxy, on the global frontiers of empire.

Now, with but one superpower left, another kind of deterrence theory has come into play. Crucial to our era is the ongoing creation of the first global surveillance state. In the Obama years, the sole superpower has put special effort into deterring anyone in its labyrinthine bureaucracy who shows a desire to let us know what "our" government is doing in our name.

The Obama administration's efforts to stop whistleblowers are becoming legendary. It has launched an unprecedented program to specially train millions of employees and contractors to profile coworkers for "indicators of insider threat behavior." They are being encouraged to inform on any "high-risk persons" they suspect might be planning to go public. Administration officials have also put much punitive energy into making examples out of whistleblowers who have tried to reveal anything of the inner workings of the national security complex.

In this way, the Obama administration has more than doubled the total whistleblower prosecutions of all previous administrations combined under the draconian World War I-era Espionage Act. It has also gone after Army Private Bradley Manning for releasing secret military and State Department files to WikiLeaks, not only attempting to put him away for life for "aiding the enemy," but subjecting him to particularly vindictive and abusive treatment while in military prison. In addition, it has threatened journalists who have written on or published leaked material and gone on expeditions into the telephone and email records of major media organizations.

All of this adds up to a new version of deterrence thinking in which a potential whistleblower should know that he or she will experience a lifetime of suffering for leaking anything; in which those, even in the highest reaches of government, who consider speaking to journalists on classified subjects should know that their calls could be monitored and their whispers criminalized; and in which the media should know that reporting on such subjects is not a healthy activity.

This sort of deterrence already seemed increasingly extreme in nature; the response to Snowden's revelations took it to a new level. Though the U.S. government pursued WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange abroad (while reportedly preparing to indict him at home), the other whistleblower cases might all be considered national security ones. The manhunt against Snowden is something new. Through it, Washington is now punitively expanding twenty-first century deterrence theory to the world.

The message is this: nowhere will you be safe from us if you breach U.S. secrecy. Snowden's will surely be a case study in how far the new global security state is willing to go. And the answer is already in: far indeed. We just don't yet know exactly how far.

How to Down a Plane to (Not) Catch a Whistleblower

In this light, no incident has been more revealing than the downing of the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales, the democratically elected head of a sovereign Latin American nation, and not an official enemy of the United States. Angry Bolivian authorities termed it a "kidnapping" or "imperialist hijack." It was, at the least, an act for which it's hard to imagine a precedent.

Evidently officials in Washington believed that the plane bringing the Bolivian president back from Moscow was also carrying Snowden. As a result, the U.S. seems to have put enough pressure on four European countries (France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy) to force that plane to land for refueling in a fifth country (Austria). There -- again, U.S. pressure seems to have been the crucial factor -- it was searched under disputed circumstances and Snowden not found. So much is not known about what happened, in part because there has been no serious reporting from Washington on the subject. The U.S. media has largely ignored the American role in the downing of the plane, an incident regularly described here as if the obvious hadn't happened. This may, at least in part, be the result of the Obama administration's implacable pursuit of whistleblowers and leakers right into the phone records of reporters. The government has made such a point of its willingness to pursue whistleblowers via journalists that, as Associated Press President Gary Pruitt recently pointed out, national security sources are drying up. Key figures in Washington are scared to talk even off the record (now that "off" turns out to be potentially very "on"). And the Justice Department's new "tighter" guildelines for accessing reporters' records are clearly filled with loopholes and undoubtedly little more than window dressing.

Still, it's reasonable to imagine that when Morales's plane took off from Moscow there were top U.S. officials gathered in a situation room (à la the bin Laden affair), that the president was in the loop, and that the intelligence people said something like: we have an 85% certainty that Snowden is on that plane. Obviously, the decision was made to bring it down and enough pressure was placed on key officials in those five countries to cause them to bow to Washington's will.

One can certainly imagine that, but know it? At the moment, not a chance and, unlike in the raid that killed bin Laden, a triumphant situation-room photo hasn't been released, since there was, of course, no triumph. Many questions arise. Why, to mention just one, did Washington not allow Morales's plane to land for refueling in Portugal, as originally planned, and simply strong-arm the Portuguese into searching it? As with so much else, we don't know.

We only know that, to bring five countries into line that way, the pressure from Washington (or its local representatives) must have been intense. Put another way: key officials in those countries must have realized quickly that they stood in the way of a truly powerful urge by the planet's superpower to get one fugitive. It was an urge so strong that it overrode any other tactical considerations, and so opened the way for Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua to offer asylum to Snowden with the support of much of the rest of Latin America.

Imagine for a moment that an American president's plane had been brought down in a similar fashion. Imagine that a consortium of nations pressured by, say, China or Russia, did it and that, with the president aboard, it was then searched for a Chinese or Soviet "dissident." Imagine the reaction here. Imagine the shock. Imagine the accusations of "illegality," of "skyjacking," of "international terrorism." Imagine the 24/7 media coverage. Imagine the information pouring out of Washington about what would no doubt have been termed "an act of war."

Of course, such a scenario is inconceivable on this one-way planet. So instead, just think about the silence here over the Morales incident, the lack of coverage, the lack of reporting, the lack of outrage, the lack of shock, the lack of... well, just about anything at all.

Instead, the twenty-first-century version of deterrence theory ruled the day, even though Snowden is the proof that deterrence via manhunts, prosecution, imprisonment, and the like has proven ineffective when it comes to leaks. It's worth pointing out that what may be the two largest leaks of official documents in history -- Bradley Manning's and Snowden's -- happened in a country increasingly under the sway of deterrence theory.

Slouching Toward Washington to Be Born

And yet don't think that no one has been affected, no one intimidated. Consider, for instance, a superior piece of recent reporting by Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times. His front-page story, "In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of NSA," might once have sent shock waves through Washington and perhaps the country as well. It did, after all, reveal how, in "more than a dozen classified rulings," a secret FISA court, which oversees the American surveillance state, "has created a secret body of law" giving the NSA sweeping new powers.

Here's the paragraph that should have had Americans jumping out of their skins (my italics added): "The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said."

At most moments in American history, the revelation that such a secret court, which never turns down government requests, is making law "almost" at the level of the Supreme Court would surely have caused an outcry in Congress and elsewhere. However, there was none, a sign either of how powerful and intimidating the secret world has become or of how much Congress and the rest of Washington have already been absorbed into it.

No less strikingly -- and again, we know so little that it's necessary to read between the lines -- Lichtblau indicates that more than six "current and former national security officials," perhaps disturbed by the expanding powers of the FISA court, discussed its classified rulings "on the condition of anonymity." Assumedly, at least one of them (or someone else) leaked the classified information about that court to him.

Fittingly enough, Lichtblau wrote a remarkably anonymous piece. Given that sources no longer have any assurance that phone and email records aren't being or won't be monitored, we have no idea how these shadowy figures got in touch with him or vice versa. All we know is that, even when shining a powerful light into the darkness of the surveillance universe, American journalism now finds itself plunging into the shadows as well.

What both the Morales incident and the Lichtblau article tell us, and what we've barely taken in, is how our American world is changing. In the Cold War years, faced with a MAD world, both superpowers ventured "into the shadows" to duke it out in their global struggle. As in so many wars, sooner or later the methods used in distant lands came home to haunt us. In the twenty-first century, without another major power in sight, the remaining superpower has made those "shadows" its own in a big way. Just beyond the view of the rest of us, it began recreating its famed tripartite, checks-and-balances government, now more than two centuries old, in a new form. There, in those shadows, the executive, judicial, and legislative branches began to meld into a unicameral shadow government, part of a new architecture of control that has nothing to do with "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Such a shadow government placing its trust in secret courts and the large-scale surveillance of populations, its own included, while pursuing its secret desires globally was just the sort of thing that the country's founding fathers feared. In the end, it hardly matters under what label -- including American "safety" and "security" -- such a governing power is built; sooner or later, the architecture will determine the acts, and it will become more tyrannical at home and more extreme abroad. Welcome to the world of the single rogue superpower, and thank your lucky stars that Edward Snowden made the choices he did.

It's eerie that some aspects of the totalitarian governments that went down for the count in the twentieth century are now being recreated in those shadows. There, an increasingly "totalistic" if not yet totalitarian beast, its hour come round at last, is slouching toward Washington to be born, while those who cared to shine a little light on the birth process are in jail or being hounded across this planet.

We have now experienced deterrence theory in two centuries. Once it was brought to bear to stop the wholesale destruction of the planet; once -- and they do say that if the first time is tragedy, the second is farce -- to deter a small number of whistleblowers from revealing the innards of our new global security state. We came close enough to total tragedy once. If only we could be assured that the second time around it would indeed be total farce, but at the moment, as far as I can tell, no one's laughing.
(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).

The Grand Dilemma
By Uri Avnery

PERHAPS YOU are facing the same moral dilemma as I am:

What to think about Syria?

What to think about Egypt?

LET'S TAKE Syria first.

When it started, the choice for me was clear. There was this evil dictator, whose family had mistreated their people for decades. It was a tyranny with fascist overtones. A small minority, based on a religious sect, oppressed the vast majority. The prisons were full of political dissidents.

At long last, the long-suffering people stood up. Could there be any doubt about the moral obligation to give them all possible support?

Yet here I am, more than two years later, and I am full of doubts. It's no longer a clear choice between black and white, but between different shades of grey, or, if that is possible, different shades of black.

A civil war is raging. The misery of the population is indescribable. The number of dead terrifying.

Who to support? I envy those who have a simple yardstick: the evilness of the Americans. If the US supports one side, that side must surely be wrong. Or the mirror image: if Russia supports one side, that side must be evil.

Great powers have their interests, and intervene accordingly. But the roots of the conflict lie deeper, the issues are more profound.

WHAT WILL happen, if the government forces lose the battle and the rebels win?

Since the rebels are divided into several mutually antagonistic political and military forces and unable to set up a unified command, not to speak of a unified political movement, it is highly improbable that they would be able to set up a unified, truly democratic new order.

There are several probabilities and possibilities, none of them very appealing.

The Syrian state may break apart, with each religious and national community carving out a mini-state of its own. The Sunnis. The Alawites. The Kurds. The Druze.

Experience shows that such partitions are almost always accompanied by wholesale expulsions and massacres, as each community tries to ensure its acquisition is ethnically "clean". India-Pakistan, Israel-Palestine, Bosnia, Kosovo, to mention only some outstanding examples.

Another possibility is some form of formal democracy, in which the extreme Sunni Islamists will win fair and honest elections, under international supervision, and then go on to set up an oppressive, religiously monolithic regime.

Such a regime would probably undo several of the few positive aspects of Baathist rule, such as (relative) equality of women.

It there is continued chaos and insecurity, either the remnants of the army, or the rebel forces, will be tempted to set up a kind of overt or covert military regime.

HOW DOES all this affect present choices? Both the Americans and the Russians seem to be wavering. Obviously, they don't know what to do.

The Americans cling to their magic word, democracy, written in bold letters, even if it is only a formal democracy, without any real democratic content. But they are mortally afraid of yet another country falling "democratically" into the hands of extreme anti-American Islamists.

The Russians face an even more severe dilemma. Baathist Syria has been their client for generations. Their navy has a base in Tartus. (To me, the very idea of a naval base has an odd, 19th century flavor.) But they must be very afraid of Islamic fanaticism infecting their nearby Muslim provinces.

And the Israelis? Our government and security people are even more perplexed. They bomb arsenals of weapons which may fall into the hands of Hezbollah. They prefer the devil they know to the many devils they don't know. On the whole they wish that Bashar Assad would remain, but fear to interfere too openly.

In the meantime, supporters of both sides are rushing to the scene from all corners of the Muslim world and beyond.

Summary: a kind of fatalism is hovering over the country, everybody is waiting to see what happens on the battlefield.

THE CASE of Egypt is even more perplexing.

Who is right? Who is wrong? Who deserves my moral support?

On the one side, a democratically elected president and his religious party, evicted from power by a military coup (Putsch in German-Swiss.)

On the other side, the young, progressive, secular people in the cities, who started the revolution and feel that it has been "stolen" from them. On yet another side, the army, which had been more or less in power since the 1952 coup against fat King Farouk, and which is loath to lose its immense political and economic privileges.

Who are the true democrats? The elected Muslim Brothers, whose very character is undemocratic? The revolutionaries, who are happy to use a military coup to get the democracy they want? The army, who opened fire on the protesters?

Well, it depends on what one means by democracy.

In my childhood I was an eye-witness to the democratic ascent to power of the Nazi party, who openly proclaimed that they would abolish democracy after their election. Hitler was so obsessed with the idea of obtaining power by democratic means that his opponents in his own party called him in jest "Adolf Legalite".

It is almost banal to state that democracy means a lot more than elections and the rule of the majority. It is based on a whole set of values - practical things like a sense of belonging together, civic equality, liberalism, tolerance, fair play, the ability of a minority to become the next majority, and much more.

In a way, democracy is a platonic ideal - no country in the world is a perfect democracy (certainly not my own.) A democratic constitution may mean nothing - it was once said that the 1936 Soviet constitution enacted by Stalin was the most democratic in the world. For example, it assured the right of every republic of the Soviet Union to secede at will (But somehow nobody ever tried).

WHEN MUHAMMAD MORSI was democratically elected President of Egypt, I was glad. I rather liked the guy. I hoped that he would prove that a moderate, modern Islamism could become a democratic force. It seems that I was mistaken.

No religion - and certainly no monotheistic religion - can be truly democratic. It upholds one absolute truth and denies all others. In Western religion, this is tempered by the division of labor between God and Caesar, and in modern times by the reduction of Christianity to a mere polite cult.

American Evangelicals try to set the clock back.

In Semitic religions, there can be no division between religion and state. Both Judaism and Islam base the state on religious law (Halacha and Sharia respectively).

The secular majority in Israel has, up to now, succeeded in maintaining a reasonably functioning democracy (in Israel proper, certainly not in the occupied Palestinian territories, where the opposite of democracy prevails). Zionism was, at least partly, a religious reformation. But personal status laws in Israel are purely religious, and so are many other laws. Right-wing elements are now promoting a Judaization of the state.

In Islam, there has been no reformation. Pious Muslims and their parties want to base the law on the Sharia (in fact, Sharia means law). The example of Morsi may show that even a moderate Islamic leader cannot withstand the pressure to create a Sharia-based regime.

The revolutionaries seem to be more democratic, but far less effective. Democracy demands the formation of political parties which can come to power through elections. The young secular idealists in Egypt - and in almost all other countries - have been unable to do so. They waited for the army to provide democracy for them.

This is, of course, an oxymoron. The army, any army, is the very opposite of democracy. An army is by necessity an authoritarian and hierarchical organization. A soldier, from corporal to commander in chief, is trained to obey and to command. Hardly a good breeding ground for democratic virtues.

An army can obey a democratic government. But an army cannot run a government. Almost all military dictatorships have been grossly incompetent. After all, a military officer is an expert in one profession (killing people, a cynic would say). He is not an expert on anything else.

Contrary to Syria, Egypt has a strong sense of cohesiveness and unity, a loyalty to a common idea of Egypt forged over thousands of years. Until last week, when the army opened fire on Islamists. This may be a historic turning point. I hope not.

I hope that the shock of this event will return all Egyptians, except, of course, the loonies on all sides, to their senses. The example of Syria and Lebanon should make them shrink back from the abyss.

IN A hundred years - when some of us may not be around anymore - historians may consider these events as the birth pangs of a new Arab world, like the wars of religion in 17th century Europe or the American Civil War 150 years ago.

As the Arabs themselves would say: Inshallah! God willing!
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The U.S. War Against The World
By Glen Ford

The creation of a new world order enforced by a global military hegemon in service of international finance capital requires the dismantling of the legal norms and structures of the old order. It is a nasty process under any circumstances, but infinitely more so when the would-be hegemon is in terminal decline, as is the United States and its junior partners in Europe. No longer capable of harnessing the wealth of the world to its own advantage, yet still the unchallenged military colossus, the gasping and grasping empire seeks to thwart the material and social progress of the entire planet: it becomes the enemy of all.

Armed to the teeth, yet palsied to the core and incapable of competing in a world governed by law, the U.S. abolishes the ancient notion of national sovereignty - for everyone but its supranational self. The multi-armored aggressor wants his prey to be naked to his assault - as was much of the world in the 500 years of western European dominion over the planet. He promulgates a doctrine of "humanitarian" military intervention that recognizes only himself as the arbiter of human affairs - a posture of pure reaction and racism. Leaders of sovereign states are indicted by his kangaroo "international" courts, or murdered following unprovoked invasions, or prevented from flying while in imperial disfavor. American hit squads roam the globe, like its drones, waging dirty wars against... whomever.

Vast pipelines are built along illogical routes to seal off and lay siege to emerging powers that, in aggregate, constitute most of humanity. Having "lost" Latin America, the U.S. repossesses Africa, butchering millions, creating a checkerboard of chaos and garrison states - yet, the U.S. is now incapable of conducting commerce on any substantial scale beyond extraction. The emerging economies - China, Brazil, India, Turkey, South Korea - fill up the spaces of actual trade, in Africa and everywhere.

Deservedly friendless among the people of the Arab world, Washington, Paris and London grow ever more dependent on their former lackeys, the thieving royals of the Persian Gulf. The international jihadist network, birthed by CIA and Saudi billions as anti-Soviet cannon fodder in early Eighties Afghanistan, now comprise the foot soldiers of empire - an assignment they will cast off at the earliest opportunity, leaving the ailing hegemon and the bloodsucking royals naked in the region, save for Israel.

The casino derivatives economy that finance capital invented will soon collapse again, burying the real economy under $1,000 trillion in notional values and interlocking wagers and debts that can only be "secured" by various forms of capitalist confiscation of the assets of whole societies under the empire's domain - an underlying imperative of "austerity" and feverish privatization of the public realm.

Inevitably, the point in time approaches when the empire perceives general war as its only option. Such a moment occurred in 2003, when the U.S. launched an invasion that was to begin in Iraq and end with the seizure of Central Asia's energy resources, resulting in a U.S. choke-hold on China and sidelining of Russia. It didn't turn out that way, necessitating a complexional change of face for the humiliated empire. But, Barack Obama's charms cannot alter the contradictions inherent in finance capitalism's DNA, which grow more acute by the day. In preparation for the next great offensive, Obama has waged holier-than-thou war against international law, seeking to eliminate every speed bump in the way of a U.S. blitzkrieg.

He has also perfected George Bush's blueprint for a Constitution-free America. The virtually unopposed nature of the operation is testament to the truth of Black Agenda Report's assessment, that Obama is the more effective evil.

The so-called "long war" against "terror" - a patently fraudulent proposition, since the U.S. arms and finances the jihadists - is cover for an endless struggle to re-capture and re-enslave a planet that is not only escaping the clutches of Euro-American capital, but outgrowing it. This war, which is well under way - ask Libya and Syria - will be "total" in the sense that the United States considers itself at war with societies all around the globe (including its European "allies," whom it spies on and steals from, relentlessly, as Edward Snowden has revealed). In addition to its strictly military "full spectrum dominance" capabilities, Washington has clearly designed its cyber-warfare machinery as offensive weaponry against "enemy" populations. Just last Friday, President Obama ordered his senior security and intelligence staff to draw up a list of potential targets for U.S. cyber attacks - which actually means that the lists and contingencies have long been in existence and are active elements of U.S. war plans.

The cyber-war will be experienced at home. Almost exactly a year ago, Obama signed an executive order allowing him to seize control of all U.S. electronic media, including the Internet, under "conditions of emerging threats, crisis or emergency," i.e., any time he wants to.

The time is coming, when they will turn out the lights, so that the dirty global - and domestic - war can commence in earnest.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Locking Out the Voices Of Dissent
By Chris Hedges

NEW YORK-The security and surveillance state, after crushing the Occupy movement and eradicating its encampments, has mounted a relentless and largely clandestine campaign to deny public space to any group or movement that might spawn another popular uprising. The legal system has been grotesquely deformed in most cities to, in essence, shut public space to protesters, eradicating our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. The goal of the corporate state is to criminalize democratic, popular dissent before there is another popular eruption. The vast state surveillance system, detailed in Edward Snowden's revelations to the British newspaper The Guardian, at the same time ensures that no action or protest can occur without the advanced knowledge of our internal security apparatus. This foreknowledge has allowed the internal security systems to proactively block activists from public spaces as well as carry out pre-emptive harassment, interrogation, intimidation, detention and arrests before protests can begin. There is a word for this type of political system-tyranny.

If the state is ultimately successful in preventing us from mobilizing in public spaces, then dissent will mutate from nonviolent mass protests to clandestine and perhaps violent acts of resistance. Some demonstrators have already been branded "domestic terrorists" under the law. The rear-guard effort by a handful of activists to protect our rights to be heard and peaceably assemble is perhaps the most crucial, though unseen, struggle we currently are engaged in with the corporate state. It is a struggle to salvage what is left of our civil society and our right to nonviolent resistance against corporate tyranny. This is why the New York City trial last week of members of Veterans for Peace, along with other activists, took on an importance that belied the simple trespassing charges against them.

The activists were arrested Oct. 7, 2012, while they were placing flowers in 11 vases and reading the names of the dead inscribed on the wall in New York's Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza after the official closing time, 10 p.m. The defiance of the plaza's official closing time-which appears to be enforced against political activists only-was spawned by a May 1, 2012, protest by Occupy Wall Street activists. The Occupy activists had attempted to hold a meeting in the plaza and been driven out by police. A number of Veterans for Peace activists, most of them veterans of the Vietnam War, formed a line in front of the advancing police that May night and refused to move. They were arrested.

Many of these veterans came back to the plaza on a rainy, windy night in October to protest on the 11th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and again assert their right to carry out nonviolent protests in public spaces. They included Jay Wenk, an 86-year-old combat veteran of World War II who served with Gen. George Patton's Third Army in Europe. When he was arrested Wenk was beating a gong in the downpour as the names of the dead were read. During the October protest 25 people were seized by police for refusing to leave the park after 10 p.m. Twelve went to trail last week. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Robert Mandelbaum on Friday found the dozen activists guilty. The judge, however, quickly threw out his own verdict, calling the case a "unique circumstance." "Justice," he said, "cries out for a dismissal." His dismissal shuts down the possibility of an appeal.

"The legislative system, the judicial system, the whole national security state that's invading all of our privacy are taking away our right to dissent," Dr. Margaret Flowers, one of the defendants, told me on a lunch break during the trial. "But everything that's happening is happening legally. It's a slippery slope. People will look at this case and they're going to say, 'So what? They were in a park. There was a rule. It was closing. The police arrested them. That makes sense to me!' And they don't put it in the bigger context. That's how all of this is happening. It's all being justified. The whole system is being flipped on its head. The judicial and law enforcement system should be protecting our rights. We have the right to dissent. It's in the Bill of Rights. The question is, can we halt that slide for a second, maybe even reverse it a little bit?"

The executive, legislative and judicial branches of government have been taken over by corporations and used to protect and promote the criminal activity of Wall Street, the destruction of the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry, the looting of the U.S. Treasury by the banking industry and the corporate seizure of all major centers of power. The primacy of corporate profit trumps our right to a living wage, affordable and adequate health care, the regulation of industry and environmental controls, protection from corporate fraud and abuse, the right to a good and affordable public education, the ability to form labor unions, and having a government that serves the basic needs of ordinary citizens. Our voices, our rights and our aspirations are no longer of concern to the state. And if we try to assert them, the state now has mechanisms in place to shut us down.

Tarak Kauff, a 71-year-old veteran of the Army's 111th Airborne and former professional boxer, was one of the organizers of the Oct. 7 protest. He has been on a hunger strike for more than a month to express solidarity with the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay and in the Pelican Bay prison in California. He was gaunt. His skin was ashen and his cheeks sunken. He consumes 300 liquid calories a day and has lost 24 pounds. He was arrested in May and again in October.

"I saw clearly that the purpose of the arrest was not merely enforcing the 10 p.m. curfew," he said of the May arrests, "but the purpose was very specific in restricting the right of assembly. We decided that October 7th would be a perfect day to do it. It was 11 years of war in Afghanistan. So when we came to the Vietnam Veterans Plaza that night we had four purposes. One was to call for an end to the war, the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The second was to call for an end to all U.S. wars of empire. The third was to remember and lament those who had fallen and been wounded in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, including the civilians, including the 5 million civilians in Vietnam. The fourth was to affirm our right to assemble. If we lose the right to address these issues and to organize in public places, we have absolutely nothing."

"I'm fasting because it's a sacrifice," he said when I asked about his hunger strike. "I want to encourage other people in our movement of the necessity of sacrifice. If we want to establish anything, if we want to re-establish or ever establish any kind of democratic system, it's not going to happen without sacrifice, some kind of sacrifice. And we have a choir. I want to see that choir inspired to start sacrificing more, to take risks. We have to be willing to put our bodies on the line in some way, shape, or form, nonviolently."

According to several of the activists, some of the police officers said that they too were military veterans and disliked making the arrests but had been told by their superiors to take the demonstrators into custody to prevent another Occupy encampment.

" 'We can't let you stay,' " Kauff said he was told by a police captain. " 'It sets a bad example for the Occupy movement.'"

"After the process of being arrested began, a police lieutenant told me the Occupy Wall Street people really screwed this up for you guys," Sam Adams, who served in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, said in his courtroom testimony. "You can thank them for this."

The trial was a tiny window into how rattled the state was by Occupy, unfortunately now in disarray. The security organs know that as conditions worsen for the majority of Americans, as austerity cuts and chronic unemployment and underemployment drive tens of millions of families into desperation, as climate change continues to produce extreme and dangerous weather, there remains the threat of another popular backlash. The problem lies not, of course, with the Occupy movement, but with the reconfiguration of the government into a handmaiden of corporations that seek to squeeze profits out of the dying carcass of empire.

The corporate state's quest to control all power includes using the military to carry out domestic policing, which is why I sued the president over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act. It is imperative to defend, as the activists did in New York City, what freedoms and rights we have left. If we remain passive, if we permit the state to continue to use the law to take away our right of political expression, we will have no legal protection of resistance when we will need it most.
(c) 2013 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

The True Path To American Exceptionalism

America the Beautiful! America the Greatest! We're Number One, right?

Absolutely, naturally, and indisputably. At least that's the theocratic pronouncement of far-right-wing nativists who're presently putting forth a dogma of American "exceptionalism," using the concept as a not-to-be-questioned litmus test of your and my patriotism. Never mind that on many crucial measures of national achievements, our Good Ol' US of A has slipped a bit in recent years, and a simple-minded assertion that we're Number One doesn't make it so.

For example, in the annual rate of educational improvement - a bedrock indicator of a nation's future ability to thrive - the US has tumbled to 25th (Say it Loud and Say it Proud: We're Number 25!). Not only does that place us behind such education powerhouses as Germany, but also behind Columbia, Latvia, Portugal, and Slovenia.

Yes, America remains the world's richest nation - yet, our wealth is more concentrated in the hands of a rich elite than nearly every other nation. China has a more democratic distribution of riches than our society does. So does Bangladesh, The Congo, Haiti, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and all but six other countries.

Health care? We're only 38th (and dead last among wealthy democracies). Our tax code is the least progressive in the industrialized world; the quality of America's infrastructure ranks a poor 25th; and, in a category that not long ago was a source of great national strength and pride, the wealth of our middle class has fallen below that of 26 other nations.

In the past century, America became great - not by merely "believing" in some hocus-pocus exceptionalism, but by achieving greatness through deliberate and determined public investments in the common good. And that's our true path back to being Number One.
(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.

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged?
By Frank Scott

The decision in the Florida murder trial of George Zimmerman is being treated as a case of racism, but while the murder itself could well have been motivated by race, the jury decision hardly needed to have been.

The crippling social disease of American racism is all too often dumped on individuals or groups or locales thereby leaving the social order relatively unquestioned and allowing certain Americans to feel free of the disease and superior to those who seem to more obviously suffer its worst aspects. Thus we have divisions of the public into "minorities" and Red state - Blue state and ethnic-religious-sex Balkanized groups. These prevent coming together as a democratic majority to confront and solve social problems for the benefit of all and not just a minority of rich people and their professional class multi-cultural servants who help perpetuate their system.

While Trayvon Martin's death seems an obvious outcome of racism in America, the jury decision finding George Zimmerman innocent is no more obviously racist than the jury decision was in the famous O.J.Simpson case. The law itself - and it should be remembered that the law's purpose is the foundation and maintenance of the system, not its replacement or radical change - and the ineffective and amateurish performance of the prosecutors may have played as big a role for Zimmerman as that of the prosecution in the Simpson murder case in which many believed the decision of innocence was for reasons of...reverse racism?

Much of the "white" public was convinced of Simpson's guilt, partly because he was "black", while much of the "Black" public was convinced of his innocence, also partly because he was "black". Did racism play a role in creating that dichotomy? Does a snake have wings?

While a highly paid defense team, greatly aided by another group of ineffective and amateurish members of a prosecution team, convinced a jury of Simpson's innocence, many still believe he got off because of race and not evidence. Is there a relationship between the two cases? Is a bluebird blue?

What some called an affirmative action decision for Simpson could be seen as exactly the reverse for Trayvon Martin. His representation (?) was as botched as that of the two murdered "white" people in the Simpson case, but with a jury of none of his peers, while there was allegedly racial fairness in the O.J. jury. But just as Affirmative Action has been to the great advantage of a small minority of beneficiaries while totally neglecting a great majority who truly need help to overcome socially created obstacles, the legal-judicial process has hurt far more than it has aided while strengthening a failing system that punishes more while it rewards less. That point may be lost in the individual focus on one victim or assailant that misses the social victims who pay a heavy price of being assailed systemically, and not only by a jealous ex-husband or wannabe-vigilante.

Trayvon Martin was killed because he was young and black and thereby considered a menace by a self appointed protector of his community from such "criminal types." But Zimmerman was hardly alone in accepting that characterization and in truth, many American communities with signs claiming "neighborhood watch" or "we report suspicious activity" would have found middle class dwellers phoning the police to report a young black man wandering "their" streets. And one of those callers might well have been an upper middle class "black" wondering what that person was doing in his or her upscale neighborhood. The confrontation between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin might have been unique in its terrible outcome, but the suspicions that created it are far too common in America.

The repeated characterization of Trayvon as a "child" and not simply a minor only helped to twist material reality almost as much as the other side's depiction of him as a thug because he had gold teeth and smoked pot. The infantilization of this young man might have provoked him into cursing someone out if it had been done to his face, and in truth hardly any seventeen year old would like being called a child. But Trayvon certainly was not killed because he was a child. He died because he was seen as a young black man and thereby as a potential criminal threat, with no more evidence for that suspicion than the fact that he was: a young black man.

That crippling social disease is hardly a problem for only Florida, or one vigilante, or an alleged racist jury, which though it contained absolutely none of Trayvon's peers could easily under the circumstances find the killer innocent of murder and do so without any trace of overt racism.

The crime itself was an aspect of racism in the USA - not just Florida - but the jury decision was hardly an expression of the white-is-evil analysis coming from too many who strengthen continued divisions among Americans and make it more difficult to bring about real and not cosmetic social change by acting as a people and not just a gang of minorities in endless combat with one another. That is the law of the marketplace, but it has nothing to do with a democratic system that not just theoretically but in practice treats all people equally. Identifying some of us as being more if not totally responsible for problems that all of us share is a program for continued and greater social stress that will make solutions less possible. That's exactly what our rulers want and what we should work against.

Those ignorant enough to think Florida is uniquely racist should remember that Oscar Grant was not murdered in Florida, but in the "hip" Bay Area. Those who think Oakland, Grant's hometown, is uniquely racist should remember that Amadou Diallo wound up with nineteen bullets shredding his body, and he was in "hip" New York City. The idea that one locale or community is somehow better or worse than another in matters like race relations makes it easy to continue the disrespect and contempt that too many Americans hold for their fellow citizens.

The ugliness that led to the killing of Trayvon is a national problem. It closely concerns our history and divisions of class that make it possible for some people - of all alleged minorities - to make it, often big-time, while most people struggle to survive. The strugglers need to identify the roots of their problems, and simplistically reducing them to skin tone, immigration status, sexuality or dress code will do nothing but add to the woes we face if we don't change an environment that threatens all of us by hyphenating our citizenship and reducing us to minorities. We are the majority and we need to start acting that way.

A more direct focus on the political economics at the root of our society's problems would be a bigger help in ending racism than any false concentration on only certain political parties, geographic regions and demonic individuals as being responsible for all that is wrong with America.
(c) 2013 Frank Scott writes political commentary and satire which appears online at the blog Legalienate.

Our Food Is Laced With Deadly Dioxin
By James Donahue

Among the long list of evil things getting into the human food chain is a common chemical by-product from industrial, commercial and residential burning that goes by a general term: dioxin.

The name dioxin describes a group of hundreds of chemicals and various chemical compounds created from the burning of chlorine with hydrocarbons. It is produced in many industrial processes; most commonly in plastic plants, the bleaching process in pulp and paper mills, chemical and pesticide manufacturing, and waste incineration. Because these plants exist in almost every corner of the United States, and people still insist on burning trash in burn barrels in their back yards, you can find dioxin in the soil, our water, our food, and worst of all, in our bodies.

If you are thinking ho-hum, here we go again with another food scare, consider this.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, determines that the most potent form of dioxin is a class one carcinogen. That means it causes cancer in humans. It is mostly linked to cancers that form in the fatty areas of the body like the breast and male prostate.

Small minute amounts of dioxin are known to cause nervous disorders and a variety of health problems linked to the human reproductive system. It also is linked to heart attacks and a wide variety of other health problems.

A report by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency states that there appears to be "no safe level of exposure to dioxin," that even trace amounts of this compound can be linked to adverse health effects. Not only is it a cancer causing agent, exposure to dioxin can "cause severe reproductive and developmental problems," and "cause immune system damage and interfere with regulatory hormones."

The EPA study also found that the general U.S. population is "carrying around levels of dioxin that are probably causing, or will cause adverse health effects."

Here are some statistics that might make you sit up and take notice.

Since the chemical plants began producing dioxins in large amounts about 50 years ago, the sperm count in men worldwide has dropped to 50 percent of what it was then.

The incidence of testicular cancer has tripled and prostate cancer has doubled.

Endometriosis, the painful growth outside the uterus of cells that normally line the uterus, once a rare condition, not afflicts 5 million American women.

In 1960, a woman's chance of developing breast cancer during her lifetime was one in 20. Now it is one in eight.

Dioxins collect in the human body, mostly in the fat cells. Men have no way to get rid of dioxins. Pregnant women, on the other hand, can pass it on to their babies while they are in the womb, and later feed it to the children in fatty breast milk. Thus breast-fed babies, especially from non-vegetarian mothers, are ingesting large quantities of this deadly chemical before they can even walk.

One of the big culprits in this horror story has been our love for fast food, meat and fatty dairy products. Government studies show that dioxins also collect in the fat in farm animals, and are passed on to humans who consume these animals or their by-products that include milk, cheese, and eggs. Another high-risk food is fish, especially the fish from inland lakes and streams where dioxin levels are high.

Arnold Schecter, an international medical expert on dioxins and an advisor to the World Health Organization, said the only way for people in industrialized countries to avoid the intake of dioxins is to eat food that is low in fat. And in the United States that means our diet should be restricted mostly to fruit, grains and vegetables.

While dioxins are clearly shown to be highly toxic and a certain threat to public health and safety, world governments are doing little if anything to protect the public, according to advocacy groups like the American Public Health Association (APHA).

In the U.S., for example, no agency is monitoring dioxin levels in foods, or even looking at the health effects of dioxin and other synthetic chemicals that end up in our food. Yet the threat of dioxin, and its presence, has been known for several years.

I suspect that the reason for this is that the cost of cleaning up this particular industrial mess is so overwhelming nobody wants to take a serious look at it. Like so many other evil things we do that are affecting our environment, the production and consumption of dioxin is something neither our industrial leaders nor our government wants to deal with.

The policy seems to be to continue business as usual, bury our heads in the sand, and hope the problem just goes away.
(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

NAACP Seeks DOJ Intervention In Martin Case, Targets 'Stand Your Ground' Laws
By John Nichols

The nation's oldest and largest civil rights group responded to the acquittal of George Zimmerman with shock, anguish and a call to action.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is petitioning the United States Department of Justice to seek justice for slain teenager Trayvon Martin by filing civil rights charges against Zimmerman.

In a message posted on the groups's website and circulated nationally within hours of the announcement of the verdict, NAACP president Ben Jealous declared "We are not done demanding justice for Trayvon Martin."

As part of the NAACP campaign to get the Justice Department to open a civil rights case against Zimmerman. Jealous urged Americans to sign a petition to Attorney General Eric Holder that reads:

The Department of Justice has closely monitored the State of Florida's prosecution of the case against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin murder since it began. Today, with the acquittal of George Zimmerman, it is time for the Department of Justice to act.

The most fundamental of civil rights-the right to life-was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin. We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation.

Please address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin by acting today.

Within hours of the online posting of the petition late Saturday evening, thousands of Americans had already signed it. Other civil rights groups echoed the demand, with the Rev. CD Witherspoon of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore telling reporters: "We will be calling on the federal government to file criminal charges on the basis of civil rights violations. This was done immediately after the Rodney King verdict, and should be done if justice is not rendered by the Florida courts."

In addition to pressing for action at the federal level, the NAACP and other groups were turning attention to state capitols in the aftermath of the Zimmerman acquittal.

Jealous, who said civil rights supporters were "outraged and heartbroken" by the jury verdict, coupled his announcement of the petition with a call for the outlawing of racial profiling and a renewed commitment to "fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state."

Florida passed its "stand your ground" law in 2005. Since then, at the behest of the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council, variations on the legislation-which allows individuals who say they believe themselves to be in imminent danger to use deadly force-have been enacted by state legislatures across the country. After the killing of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, as media outlets in Florida and nationally have reported: "Police initially did not charge Zimmerman with a crime, citing Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' law."

Zimmerman, who faced charges only after a national outcry forced a review of the case, did not mount a specific "stand your ground" defense. But the issue remained a bone of contention before and during his trial; notably, the jury heard from a witness who recalled teaching about Florida's law in a college course that the defendant completed in 2010.

The sustained outcry over the February 26, 2012, shooting of Martin appears to have led the NRA and ALEC to halt advocacy on behalf of "stand your ground" laws. But the laws continue to influence criminal justice nationwide, as the Center for Media and Democracy has documented.

The NAACP, the Urban League, Color of Change, Common Cause, People for the American Way and were among many groups that pressed ALEC on the "stand your ground" issue in 2012. Several of these same groups have taken the next step and are urging legislators to strike the laws from state statute books.

"Florida's dangerous 'Shoot First' law allowed Trayvon's killer to walk free without charges for more than a month. Shoot First legalizes vigilante homicide, has demonstrated racial bias in its application, and has led to an increase in gun-related deaths in the more than two dozen states where it has been passed into law," argues Color of Change, as part of its campaign to strike down "stand your ground" laws. "These laws give individual gun owners a greater right to shoot and kill than the rules of engagement for our military during times of war grant to soldiers in war zones. 'Shoot First' must be repealed now to protect families and communities and prevent senseless deaths."

Referencing a Texas A&M University study that revealed how "stand your ground" and "Castile Doctrine" laws do not deter crime but have been linked to increased rates of homicide, Jealous has said that "Stand-your-ground legislation does more harm than good."

"Too often these laws provide cover for vigilantes and hate groups who choose to take the law into their own hand," argued the NAACP president in 2012. "They have led to an increase in homicides, and people of color seem to always get caught in the crossfire."
(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.

Larry dreams up another good idea

The Return Of Lawrence Summers, Mr. Spectacular Failure
By Robert Scheer

Tell me it's a sick joke: Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, the guy who tops the list of those responsible for sabotaging the world's economy, is lobbying to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. But no, it makes perfect sense, since Summers has long succeeded spectacularly by failing.

Why should his miserable record in the Clinton and Obama administrations hold him back from future disastrous adventures at our expense? With Ben Bernanke set to step down in January, and Obama still in deep denial over the pain and damage his former top economic adviser Summers brought to tens of millions of Americans, this darling of Wall Street has yet another shot to savage the economy.

Summers was one of the key players during the Clinton years in creating the mortgage derivative bubble that ended up costing tens of millions of Americans their homes and life savings. This is the genius who, as Clinton's Treasury secretary, supported the banking lobby's successful effort to make the sale of unregulated bundles of mortgage securities and the phony insurance swaps that backed them perfectly legal and totally unmonitored. Those are the toxic bundles that the Federal Reserve is still unloading from the banks at a cost of trillions of dollars.

But back on July 30, 1998, when he was deputy Treasury secretary, Summers assured the Senate agriculture committee that the "thriving" derivatives market was the driving force of American prosperity and would be fatally hurt by any government regulation of the sort proposed by Brooksley Born, the stunningly prescient chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Summers opined that "the parties to these kinds of contracts are largely sophisticated financial institutions that would appear to be eminently capable of protecting themselves from fraud and counterparty insolvencies. ... "

Consider the astounding stupidity of that statement and the utter ignorance upon which it was based. One financial CEO after another has testified to not knowing how the derivatives were created and why their worth evaporated. Think of AIG and the other marketers of these products that were saved from disaster only by the injection of government funds not available to foreclosed homeowners whose mortgages were wrapped into those toxic securities.

Most of those dubious financial gimmicks were marketed by the too-big-to-fail banks made legal by another piece of legislation supported by Summers and passed a year later when Clinton tapped him to be Treasury secretary. Summers was an ardent proponent of repealing the Glass-Steagall Act that prevented the merger of highflying investment houses with traditional commercial banks entrusted with the government insured deposits of ordinary folks.

The first result of destroying that sensible barrier to too-big-to-fail banks was the creation of Citigroup as the biggest bank in the world. Threatened by its wild derivative trading, it had to be saved from bankruptcy with an infusion by taxpayers of $45 billion in U.S. government aid and a guarantee for $300 billion of its toxic assets.

Summers had condemned Glass-Steagall as an example of "archaic financial restrictions" and called instead for "allowing common ownership of banking, securities and insurance firms." A decade later, while in the Obama administration, Summers worked to prevent a return to the Glass-Steagall prohibition in the Dodd-Frank legislation.

The need to restore that reasonable banking regulation implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression was acknowledged by bipartisan legislation introduced last week in the Senate by Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz. "It will take a lot of tools to get rid of too-big-to-fail, but one of them ought to be that if you want to do high-stakes gambling, good on you, but you do not get access to people's checking accounts and savings accounts," Warren told Bloomberg News on Friday in urging the return of Glass-Steagall.

As opposed to Summers, who continued to insist on the wisdom of ending essential financial regulation, McCain, who had voted for the repeal, has seen the error of that decision. "Since core provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act were repealed in 1999, shattering the wall dividing commercial banks and investment banks, a culture of dangerous greed and excessive risk-taking has taken root in the banking world," the senator said in a press release Thursday announcing the legislation.

Even Sanford Weill, who headed Citigroup after pushing for the reversal of Glass-Steagall, had the good sense to acknowledge his mistake, saying in a statement a year ago: "What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking. Have banks do something that's not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that's not going to be too big to fail." Richard Parsons and John Reed, two other former high-ranking officers of Citigroup, also have called for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall.

The question then is why Summers, the man who got it all wrong, would imagine that he could be in the running to head the Federal Reserve? Why would he ever fantasize that President Obama might turn to someone who always gets it wrong to right a still struggling economy?

Maybe because he knows Obama better than we do. After all, it was a massive infusion of Wall Street money that helped Obama get elected both times. And Wall Street, which showered Summers with almost $8 million in speaking fees and hedge fund profits during the 2008 campaign while he advised Obama, clearly would approve of this greed enabler as the next Fed chairman.
(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 Crux Of The NSA Story In One Phrase: 'Collect It All'
The actual story that matters is not hard to see: the NSA is attempting to collect, monitor and store all forms of human communication
By Glenn Greenwald

The Washington Post this morning has a long profile of Gen. Keith Alexander, director the NSA, and it highlights the crux - the heart and soul - of the NSA stories, the reason Edward Snowden sacrificed his liberty to come forward, and the obvious focal point for any responsible or half-way serious journalists covering this story. It helpfully includes that crux right in the headline, in a single phrase:

What does "collect it all" mean? Exactly what it says; the Post explains how Alexander took a "collect it all" surveillance approach originally directed at Iraqis in the middle of a war, and thereafter transferred it so that it is now directed at the US domestic population as well as the global one:

"At the time, more than 100 teams of US analysts were scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might lead to the bomb-makers and their hidden factories. But the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency's powerful computers.

"'Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, 'Let's collect the whole haystack,' said one former senior US intelligence official who tracked the plan's implementation. 'Collect it all, tag it, store it... And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it. . . . .

"It also encapsulated Alexander's controversial approach to safeguarding Americans from what he sees as a host of imminent threats, from terrorism to devastating cyberattacks.

"In his eight years at the helm of the country's electronic surveillance agency, Alexander, 61, has quietly presided over a revolution in the government's ability to scoop up information in the name of national security. And, as he did in Iraq, Alexander has pushed hard for everything he can get: tools, resources and the legal authority to collect and store vast quantities of raw information on American and foreign communications."

Aside from how obviously menacing and even creepy it is to have a state collect all forms of human communication - to have the explicit policy that literally no electronic communication can ever be free of US collection and monitoring - there's no legal authority for the NSA to do this. Therefore:

"[E]ven his defenders say Alexander's aggressiveness has sometimes taken him to the outer edge of his legal authority."

"The outer edge of his legal authority": that's official-Washington-speak for "breaking the law", at least when it comes to talking about powerful DC officials (in Washington, only the powerless are said to have broken the law, which is why so many media figures so freely call Edward Snowden a criminal for having told his fellow citizens about all this, but would never dare use the same language for James Clapper for having lied to Congress about all of this, which is a felony). That the NSA's "collect it all" approach to surveillance has no legal authority is clear:

"One Democrat who confronted Alexander at a congressional hearing last month accused the NSA of crossing a line by collecting the cellphone records of millions of Americans.

'What authorization gave you the grounds for acquiring my cellphone data?' demanded Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), waving his mobile phone at the four-star general."

I know this is not as exciting to some media figures as Snowden's asylum drama or his speculated personality traits. But that the NSA is collecting all forms of electronic communications between Americans as well as people around the world - and, as I've said many times, thereby attempting by definition to destroy any remnants of privacy both in the US and globally - is as serious of a story as it gets, particularly given that it's all being done in secret. Here's another former NSA whistleblower, from the Post article, explaining why that is:

"'He is absolutely obsessed and completely driven to take it all, whenever possible," said Thomas Drake, a former NSA official and whistleblower. The continuation of Alexander's policies, Drake said, would result in the 'complete evisceration of our civil liberties.'"

Numerous NSA documents we've already published demonstrate that the NSA's goal is to collect, monitor and store every telephone and internet communication that takes place inside the US and on the earth. It already collects billions of calls and emails every single day. Still another former NSA whistleblower, the mathematician William Binney, has said that the NSA has "assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about US citizens with other US citizens" and that "estimate only was involving phone calls and emails."

The NSA is constantly seeking to expand its capabilities without limits. They're currently storing so much, and preparing to store so much more, that they have to build a massive, sprawling new facility in Utah just to hold all the communications from inside the US and around the world that they are collecting - communications they then have the physical ability to invade any time they want ("Collect it all, tag it, store it... And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it").

That is the definition of a ubiquitous surveillance state - and it's been built in the dark, without the knowledge of the American people or people around the world, even though it's aimed at them. How anyone could think this should have all remained concealed - that it would have been better had it just been left to fester and grow in the dark - is truly mystifying.

Perhaps the coining of a punchy phrase by the Washington Post to describe all of this - "collect it all" - will help those DC media figures who keep lamenting their own refusal to cover the substance of the NSA stories begin to figure out why they should cover the substance and how they can. The rest of the world is having no trouble focusing on the substance of these revelations - rather than the trivial dramas surrounding the person who enabled us to know of all this - and discussing why those revelations are so disturbing. Perhaps US media figures can now follow that example.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

Hunger Games, U.S.A.
By Paul Krugman

Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We've gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We've even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we're talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.

The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the House passed last week.

For decades, farm bills have had two major pieces. One piece offers subsidies to farmers; the other offers nutritional aid to Americans in distress, mainly in the form of food stamps (these days officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). Long ago, when subsidies helped many poor farmers, you could defend the whole package as a form of support for those in need. Over the years, however, the two pieces diverged. Farm subsidies became a fraud-ridden program that mainly benefits corporations and wealthy individuals. Meanwhile food stamps became a crucial part of the social safety net.

So House Republicans voted to maintain farm subsidies - at a higher level than either the Senate or the White House proposed - while completely eliminating food stamps from the bill.

To fully appreciate what just went down, listen to the rhetoric conservatives often use to justify eliminating safety-net programs. It goes something like this: "You're personally free to help the poor. But the government has no right to take people's money" - frequently, at this point, they add the words "at the point of a gun" - "and force them to give it to the poor."

It is, however, apparently perfectly O.K. to take people's money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy.

Now, some enemies of food stamps don't quote libertarian philosophy; they quote the Bible instead. Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, for example, cited the New Testament: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat." Sure enough, it turns out that Mr. Fincher has personally received millions in farm subsidies.

Given this awesome double standard - I don't think the word "hypocrisy" does it justice - it seems almost anti-climactic to talk about facts and figures. But I guess we must.

So: Food stamp usage has indeed soared in recent years, with the percentage of the population receiving stamps rising from 8.7 in 2007 to 15.2 in the most recent data. There is, however, no mystery here. SNAP is supposed to help families in distress, and lately a lot of families have been in distress.

In fact, SNAP usage tends to track broad measures of unemployment, like U6, which includes the underemployed and workers who have temporarily given up active job search. And U6 more than doubled in the crisis, from about 8 percent before the Great Recession to 17 percent in early 2010. It's true that broad unemployment has since declined slightly, while food stamp numbers have continued to rise - but there's normally some lag in the relationship, and it's probably also true that some families have been forced to take food stamps by sharp cuts in unemployment benefits.

What about the theory, common on the right, that it's the other way around - that we have so much unemployment thanks to government programs that, in effect, pay people not to work? (Soup kitchens caused the Great Depression!) The basic answer is, you have to be kidding. Do you really believe that Americans are living lives of leisure on $134 a month, the average SNAP benefit?

Still, let's pretend to take this seriously. If employment is down because government aid is inducing people to stay home, reducing the labor force, then the law of supply and demand should apply: withdrawing all those workers should be causing labor shortages and rising wages, especially among the low-paid workers most likely to receive aid. In reality, of course, wages are stagnant or declining - and that's especially true for the groups that benefit most from food stamps.

So what's going on here? Is it just racism? No doubt the old racist canards - like Ronald Reagan's image of the "strapping young buck" using food stamps to buy a T-bone steak - still have some traction. But these days almost half of food stamp recipients are non-Hispanic whites; in Tennessee, home of the Bible-quoting Mr. Fincher, the number is 63 percent. So it's not all about race.

What is it about, then? Somehow, one of our nation's two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness, a contempt for what CNBC's Rick Santelli, in the famous rant that launched the Tea Party, called "losers." If you're an American, and you're down on your luck, these people don't want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don't fully understand it, but it's a terrible thing to behold.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages."
~~~ Mark Twain

How Cash Secretly Rules Surveillance Policy
By David Sirota

Have you noticed anything missing in the political discourse about the National Security Administration's unprecedented mass surveillance? There's certainly been a robust discussion about the balance between security and liberty, and there's at least been some conversation about the intelligence community's potential criminality and constitutional violations. But there have only been veiled, indirect references to how cash undoubtedly tilts the debate against those who challenge the national security state.

Those indirect references have come in stories about Booz Allen Hamilton, the security contractor that employed Edward Snowden. CNN/Money notes that 99 percent of the firm's multibillion-dollar annual revenues now come from the federal government. Those revenues are part of a larger and growing economic sector within the military-industrial complex - a sector that, according to author Tim Shorrock, is "a $56 billion-a-year industry."

For the most part, this is where the political discourse about money stops. We are told that there are high-minded, principled debates about security. We are also told of this massively profitable private industry making billions a year from the policy decisions that emerge from such a debate. Yet, few in the Washington press corps are willing to mention that politicians' attacks on surveillance critics may have nothing to do with principle and everything to do with shilling for campaign donors.

For a taste of what that kind of institutionalized corruption looks like, peruse to see how much Booz Allen Hamilton and its parent company The Carlyle Group spend. As you'll see, from Barack Obama to John McCain, many of the politicians now publicly defending the surveillance state have taken huge sums of money from the firms.

These are just examples from two companies among scores, but they exemplify a larger dynamic. Simply put, there are huge corporate forces with a vested financial interest in making sure the debate over security is tilted toward the surveillance state and against critics of that surveillance state.

In practice, that means when those corporations spend big money on campaign contributions, they aren't just buying votes for specific contracts. They are also implicitly pressuring politicians to rhetorically push the discourse in a pro-surveillance, anti-civil liberties direction.

All of this doesn't mean there is direct conspiratorial micromanagement of politicians by the military-intelligence community. It doesn't, for instance, mean that everything that comes out of surveillance defenders' mouths comes from talking points provided by Booz Allen's lobbyists. Instead, there's something much more insidious and reflexive at work.

As anyone who has worked in Washington politics and media well knows, the capital is not a place of competing high-minded ideologies. In terms of the mechanics of legislation and policy, it is a place where monied interests duke it out, where those with the most money typically win, and where a power-worshiping media is usually biased toward the predetermined winners.

In the context of money and national security, there is a clear imbalance - there are more monied interests in the business of secrecy and surveillance than there are organized interests that support transparency and civil liberties. That imbalance has consequently resulted in a political environment so dominated by security-industry cash that the capital's assumptions automatically and unconsciously skew toward that industry's public policy preferences. Those preferences are obvious: more secrecy, more surveillance, and more lucrative private contracts for both.

If the simplest explanation is often the most accurate, then this financial imbalance is almost certainly why the pro-surveillance terms of the political debate in Washington are so at odds with public opinion polling. Big Money has helped create that disconnect, even though Big Money is somehow written out of the story.
(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 .

New York Genitals Fight For Office... While Snowden Fights The Forces Of Stupid
By Greg Palast

Go ahead and shoot me. It's hopeless. My War on Stupid is facing defeat on every front.

I open up the New York Times and there's a page one story about Anthony Weiner, who is now ahead in the race for Mayor of New York.

The article is 17 column inches long. I measured. The entire profile of the candidate - every bumpy, veined inch of it - is about Mr Weiner's penis.

It is, I admit, a really famous penis. Weiner was a Congressman until two years ago when he resigned because he sent a 21-year-old woman photos of his wiener (modestly bulging from his underpants) via Twitter. Weiner was forced to resign from Congress.

Now he's back, with a front-runner status conferred by the name-recognition care of the exposure of his jockey shorts.

New York's school system, with one million students, is desperately screwed up. What is Weiner's position on privatizing the schools through the "charter" system? The Times won't tell us. It's all about Weiner's weenie. The Times only asks voters if they will forgive him for showing young ladies his Congressional junk.

I do know this (not from the Times story): Weiner said, if elected, his first act would be to remove New York's new bicycle lanes.

So I didn't need to see Weiner's underpants to know that he's a dick.

Does this mean that I'm endorsing his main opponent, Councilwoman Christine Quinn? No. I don't endorse candidates, but I do like to learn their positions on the issues. The Times, America's self-proclaimed "paper of record," had a story on Quinn yesterday. We learned all about her father, a city cop who they portray as one of those loveable, cartoonish Irish schmucks who dispenses a lot of blarney. But what is Quinn's position on charter schools? You won't get that from the Times.

Of course, the Times had other stories about Madame Quinn: a big story about her recent marriage to another woman. If she wins the election, she'll be New York's first lesbian mayor.

In other words, she would not be in the least interested in Congressman Anthony's wiener.

So there we have it: the newspaper of America's intelligentsia has brought the race for the biggest city in the Land of the Free down to a choice of genitalia.

Yes, they are trying to make us stupid. I'm beginning to believe those conspiracy freaks who think the Illuminati are stealing all our useful brainwaves for their reptile overlords from another dimension.

Of course, stupid leads to deadly.


New evidence is mounting that one of the accused Boston Marathon bombers, the deceased Mr Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had previously murdered three former friends of his on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th World Trade Center attacks.

Do the math: the prior murders happened two years before the Boston bombings.

Tsarnaev's co-killer in the 2011 murders confessed to their bad behaviour when questioned recently by the FBI. While the agents put six bullets in him before he signed the official confession, we are left with the nagging question: Are the cops really that stupid?

It turns out that the local constabulary in Waltham, a suburb of Boston, never questioned Tsarnaev, despite the fact that several of the victims' friends told the cops there was good reason to do so.

But the cops blew off the leads and let the killer go on to kill again, this time with three dead and 264 injured victims, at the Boston Marathon.

So what does this have to do with Edward Snowden? Everything.

One pinhead official said that Snowden's revelation of the National Security Agency spying on worldwide internet traffic "could have prevented another Boston" Marathon massacre.

But, of course, it didn't prevent the first Boston massacre.

And that's the point.

Snowden has been called a "traitor" and charged with crimes regarding the revelation of a private contractor analyzing "metadata" from internet traffic.

As a former professor of statistics, I should explain that "metadata" is defined by experts as, "A big load of bullshit used by consulting firms to get hundred-million-dollar no-bid contracts from government pinheads."

What Snowden uncovered is not some massive spying operation that could expose terrorist plots, but a massive invasion of the taxpayer's wallet by connected consultants.

In the meantime, the guys who could have stopped the Boston Marathon attack by using what the FBI called, "old-fashioned police methods," were too short on of both budget and brain cells to capture the killers.

Instead, they're hunting Snowden and reading European embassy emails. Terrorists worldwide want to thank the US government for this colossal act of stupid.
(c) 2013 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Deputyfuhrer Alexander,

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 ability to record every keystroke, every conversation, of every American, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Corporate whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 09-02-2013. We salute you Herr Alexander, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Why We Should Stop Subsidizing Sky-High CEO Pay
By Robert Reich

Almost everyone knows CEO pay is out of control. It surged 16 percent at big companies last year, and the typical CEO raked in $15.1 million, according to the New York Times.

Meanwhile, the median wage continued to drop, adjusted for inflation.

What's less well-known is that you and I and other taxpayers are subsidizing this sky-high executive compensation. That's because corporations deduct it from their income taxes, causing the rest of us to pay more in taxes to make up the difference.

This tax subsidy to corporate executives from the rest of us ought to be one of the first tax expenditures to go, when and if congress turns to reforming the tax code.

We almost got there twenty years ago. When he was campaigning for the presidency, Bill Clinton promised that if elected he'd end the deductibility of executive pay in excess of $1 million.

Once in office, though, his economic advisers urged him to modify his pledge to allow corporations to deduct executive pay in excess of $1 million if the pay was linked to corporate performance - that is, to the value of the company's shares. (I hate to sound like a told-you-so, but I was the one adviser who wanted the new president to stick to his campaign promise without creating the pay-for-performance loophole.)

Clinton agreed with the majority of his advisers, and a new provision was added to the Internal Revenue Code, Section 162(m), allowing corporations to deduct from their tax bills executive compensation in excess of $1 million, if the compensation is tied to company performance.

How has it worked out? Even Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, agrees it's been a sham:

162(m) is broken. ... It was well-intentioned. But it really hasn't worked at all. Companies have found it easy to get around the law. It has more holes than Swiss cheese. And it seems to have encouraged the options industry. These sophisticated folks are working with Swiss-watch-like devices to game this Swiss-cheese-like rule.

One such game has been to hand out performance awards on the basis of nothing more than an upward drift in the value of the stock market as a whole, over which the executives played no role other than watch as their company's stock price rose along with that of almost every other company.

Another game has been to back-date executive stock options to match past dips in the companies' share price, thereby exaggerating the subsequent upswing and creating fatter "performance" bonuses.

A third game has been to set the performance bar artificially low - even lower than what the companies tell Wall Street analysts to expect - so the executives are almost guaranteed to beat the threshold.

Last year 107 CEOs of Standard & Poor 500 companies got performance-based awards totaling $1.4 billion even though their companies showed negative returns relative to an index of all stocks, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Business.

Not only are shareholders taken to the cleaners by these maneuvers. So are you and I and other taxpayers.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that between 2007 and 2010, a total of $121.5 billion in executive compensation was deducted from corporate earnings, and roughly 55 percent of this total was for performance-based compensation. Given all the games, it's likely much of this "performance" was baloney.

So what's the answer? As I argued 20 years ago, keep the cap at $1 million and get rid of the performance-pay loophole. Executive pay in excess of $1 million shouldn't be deductible from corporate taxes, period.
(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, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, “Inequality for All,” will be out September 27.

Rail, Pipeline And Climate Disasters Are Symptoms Of Oily Addiction
By David Suzuki

Like smokers who put off quitting until their health starts to suffer, we're learning what happens when bad habits catch up with us. We're witnessing the terrible effects of fossil fuel addiction every day: frequent, intense storms and floods, extended droughts, rapidly melting Arctic ice, disappearing glaciers, deadly smog and pollution, contaminated waterways and destroyed habitats. Transport accidents are also increasing as governments and industry scramble to get fuels out of the ground and to market as quickly as possible.

Throughout it all, we're asking the wrong questions. Take the recent horrific disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. A train carrying fracked crude oil from North Dakota to a refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, derailed, caught fire and caused explosions that destroyed much of the town and killed dozens of people, sending millions of litres of oil into the ground, air, sewers and Chaudiere River. It's a senseless tragedy that has everyone in Canada and beyond grieving for the community's citizens and their families.

Governments and the railway company must answer numerous questions about safety regulations and practices, to prevent a similar catastrophe from ever occurring. The larger questions, though, are about the dramatic increases in fossil fuel use and transport. Sadly, industry proponents quickly exploited the situation to argue for expanding pipelines.

As growing human populations and increasing industrialization drive up the worldwide demand for fossil fuels, and as oil, gas and coal companies rush to extract, sell and burn as much as possible while markets remain strong, we're seeing ever-increasing exploitation from difficult sources - fracking, oil sands, deepsea drilling and more.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers expects oil production in Western Canada to double from three-million barrels a day to more than six-million by 2030. This means a huge increase in the amount of fuels transported around the country and the world in pipelines, rail cars, trucks and ocean tankers. According to the Railway Association of Canada, rail shipment of oil has already increased dramatically in Canada, from 500 carloads in 2009 to 140,000 this year.

It's true that rail accidents can be more devastating to human life than pipeline accidents - although when it comes to oil, pipeline breaks usually spill greater quantities and cause more environmental damage than train derailments. But shipping massive volumes of oil and gas is unsafe by either method. As we transport ever-increasing volumes of fossil fuels over greater distances to broader networks, we can expect more spills and accidents. Wastefully and rapidly burning them is also driving climate change, which experts say may even affect rail safety, as extreme heat and sudden temperature shifts can cause rails to buckle, increasing the potential for derailments.

Massive pipeline spills and devastating rail accidents are among the immediate and frightening consequences of our growing appetite for fossil fuels, but our bad habits are really starting to hit back with climate change. The homes and lives lost around the world, numerous plant and animal species facing extinction, rising health-care costs from pollution-related illness and massive clean-up efforts after flooding show that failing to address climate change is far more costly than doing something about it. Much of what we're seeing now - from increased intense rainfall and flooding in some parts of the world to extended droughts in others - is what climate scientists have been predicting for decades.

We're not going to stop using oil overnight, and we will continue to transport it, so we must improve standards and regulations for pipelines, rail, trucks and tankers. This should include safer rail cars for moving dangerous goods. Also, many environmental groups are calling for "a comprehensive, independent safety review of all hydrocarbon transportation - pipelines, rail, tanker and truck." But in the long run, we have to find ways to slow down. By conserving energy and switching to cleaner sources, we can start to move away from fossil fuels - and to use remaining reserves less wastefully.

That's the discussion we need to have, rather then getting mired in debates about transport methods. As energy writer Russ Blinch noted in a Huffington Post article, "Looking at pipelines versus rail tankers is really like asking, 'Should I drive the car with bad brakes or the one with bad tires?'"

We need to look at the big picture.
(c) 2013 David Suzuki is a well-known Canadian scientist, broadcaster and environmental activist.

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To End On A Happy Note...

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Parting Shots...

Executives at Blue Cross Blue Shield say this man is getting away with "highway robbery."

Insurance Company Gets Fucked Over By Another Cancer Patient

CHICAGO-Frustrated executives from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association announced Friday that they are getting "completely fucked over" by Allentown, PA resident Matthew Greison, a 57-year-old man suffering from an advanced form of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Stressing that this is not the first issue they have had with such patients, company sources expressed their outrage to reporters over Greison's "totally unfair" comprehensive health care benefits and claimed the skyrocketing costs of his cancer treatment have gotten out of hand.

"We got the first bill and just couldn't believe how expensive it was," said Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Scott Serota, adding that at first, he thought the invoice was a mistake. "Every visit to the oncologist ran about $140, not to mention the thousands of dollars for every MRI and CT scan, and then the chemotherapy and cancer drugs were more than $10,000 per month. And he paid for maybe-maybe-5 percent of it. The rest was dumped on us."

"It's absolute fucking bullshit," Serota continued. "I can't believe they're just allowed to get away with that."

According to reports, Blue Cross Blue Shield's expenses have only gotten more unreasonable since Greison was first diagnosed with the life-threatening disease this past March. After an initially successful chemotherapy treatment, the health insurance company was reportedly informed that the cancer was no longer in remission and was forced to pay over $125,000 for a further two weeks of inpatient care in a hospital.

Sources confirmed that such headaches for insurance companies are unfortunately incredibly common when dealing with any cancer patient.

"These assholes are just bleeding us dry here," said Serota. "We try to talk to them about it, to beg them to just sympathize with our situation, but they just kept bringing up bullshit excuses about deductibles and coinsurance payments and citing all these stupid small-print details about coverage eligibility. All they try to do is get out of paying for anything."

"Trust me, dealing with these people is a total nightmare," Serota added.

Serota went on to say that the federal government "has to step in and completely revamp this fucked-up system" and claimed that if nothing is done, many insurance companies could be stuck with increasingly costly health care bills that they will have no choice but to pay for out of their own pockets.

"The bills are really racking up at this point, and it just can't continue like this," said Serota, adding that cancer patients will only become harder to deal with if this disturbing trend continues. "For the sake of all insurance companies across the country, something has to change, and change soon. It's like cancer patients don't even care about us at all. They're only concerned about themselves."

"We're human beings, goddammit," added Serota, growing visibly incensed. "They can't just treat us like this." At press time, Blue Cross Blue Shield executives were relieved to learn that Greison's coverage had abruptly expired.
(c) 2013The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 26 (c) 07/19/2013

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