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In This Edition

Ray McGovern asks, "Gen. Hayden's Snow Job On Snowden - Or - Have You Finally No Shame?"

Uri Avnery receives, "A Gift From Europe."

Glen Ford considers, "Trayvon And White Madness."

Chris Hedges explores, "Mind Rape And The Christian Right."

Jim Hightower considers, "Charles Koch's Wonder World Of Hairdressernomics."

David Swanson exposes, "TPP: The Terrible Plutocratic Plan."

James Donahue warns of "Terrorism: The False Generation Of Domestic Fear."

John Nichols concludes, "Detroit Really Is Too Big To Fail."

Tom Engelhardt sees, "Planet Earth As A US Military Base."

Glenn Greenwald reports, "Democratic Establishment Unmasked: Prime Defenders Of NSA Bulk Spying."

Paul Krugman wonders, is "Detroit, The New Greece."

David Sirota says, "Don't Buy The Right-Wing Myth About Detroit."

Greg Palast introduces, "The Frog Who Crushed The Planet."

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

Robert Reich studies, "Detroit, And The Bankruptcy Of America's Social Contract."

Norman Solomon with an absolute must read, "Congress: Obama's Willing Executioners Of The Fourth Amendment."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst considers "Yellow Roses And Pink Sneakers" but first, Uncle Ernie points out, "The Treason And Sedition Of Rick Snyder And Kevyn Orr."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bob Gorrell, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Mr. Fish, Harry Nits, Carlos Osorio, Rebecca Cook, William Banzai, Scott Olson, Getty Images, Reuters, Haaretz, Communications Workers of America,, 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."

The seditious traitors Rick Snyder and Kevyn Orr

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The Treason And Sedition Of Rick Snyder And Kevyn Orr
By Ernest Stewart

"...Bankruptcy could actually improve city services in the future, because less of the city's budget will have to be spent on "legacy costs" such as pensions, retiree health care and debt service. I know many will see this as a low point for in the city's history. If anything, this gets us on the path towards improved services." ~~~ governor Rick Snyder

"Senator Lindsey Graham's saber rattling is reckless and seriously undermines U.S. and international efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. The Senator's call for war and a push for new Congressional sanctions could become a serious setback to U.S. efforts to reinvigorate nuclear diplomacy once Iran's new president takes office in August." ~~~ Jamal Abdi ~ NIAC Policy Director.

"We want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country, rather than saying 'Oh, we're just fine now.' We're not saying that at all. What we're saying is, we need to analyze all these additional policies, these subsidies, this cronyism, this avalanche of regulations, all these things that are creating a culture of dependency. And like permitting, to start a business, in many cities, to drive a taxicab, to become a hairdresser. Anything that people with limited capital can do to raise themselves up, they keep throwing obstacles in their way. And so we've got to clear those out. Or the minimum wage. Or anything that reduces the mobility of labor." ~~~ Charles Koch

I guess there is no one to blame
We're leaving ground
Will things ever be the same again?
It's the final countdown...
The Final Countdown ~~~ Europe

It hit the fan in Michigan the other day. Governor, oops, my bad, Emperor Snyder, who is the Koch brothers' lap dog, has finally been able to destroy the unions with his Chapter 9 filing for bankruptcy. Of course, Rick didn't do it; he made his puppet Kevyn Orr, Detroit's appointed Guillotiner do it. Just the appointment which overthrew Detroit's elected officials and replaced them with Orr makes both Snyder and Orr seditious traitors; however, don't hold your breath waiting for them to be drawn and quartered ala Braveheart. This is funny to me as Michigan Republicans are always calling for the restoration of old English law whenever they find there's no American law with which to punish a leftist. Of course, I've reminded these wackos on many occasions that we fought two, long, hard, bitter wars so we wouldn't have to put up with old English law! You do remember the Revolution and the War of 1812, right?

The whole point of Snyder's bullshit is to do the bidding of the Koch brothers, two muti-billionaires who have more money than they could spend in ten lifetimes, trying to get rid of the middle class so that they can have more money from working the slaves to death -- which is what you have, folks, without a middle class, just the kings and their slaves! Who do you think you'll be in the new world order, a king or a slave?

Your typical Michigander is like your typical Sheeple, too busy with petty things to pay attention to the monsters that are destroying them. Rick will destroy their unions and make them work for next to nothing; but come election day, they'll vote him back in, so you really can't blame Rick or Barry or any of our overlords for what they do -- for the people are too dumb to see what's right before their very eyes!

There can be multi-trillion dollar bailouts for Wall Street, but nary a dime for America and Americans. Rick is fixing to steal billions of dollars in retirement accounts from city employees and their families; one of the first targeted was the retirement funds of police officers and firemen who were killed in the line of duty. What kind of scumbag Nazi would even consider such a thing? Another bright idea is to take the art collection from the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of the finest collections of art in the country, and sell it off to his rich friends for pennies on the dollar. Can't happen, huh? You may recall that the first thing Rick did upon taking office was a multi-billion dollar tax break for the uber-wealthy, while throwing some 20,000 children off welfare and into the streets in January during a record cold snap. Such a sweetheart, huh?

All that Rick proposes won't do anything to solve Detroit's woes, but only make things worse; crime will skyrocket; many will simply starve to death -- which is, after all, the Koch brothers' plan to get rid of the excess population -- just a modest proposal! I saw a photo-toon the other day talking about all the really awful Rethuglican governors and what they've done or want to do that left out Rick. Rick should've been at the top of the list; there's nothing that the others have done that Rick hasn't done in spades. No, the Rethuglican and Demoncratic plan to turn America into a third world country is well under way; and if you don't put a stop to this, they'll certainly do their masters' bidding and make everyone's life a living hell! And leading the charge is Snyder, Orr, and the Koch Brothers. Tell me again, America, why do you keep buying the Koch Brothers' products and paying for your own execution and well as the execution of your children and their children, too! WHY?

In Other News

I see where America's favorite gay Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is back at it again. Lindsey said on Tuesday that he plans to introduce a resolution authorizing war with Iran if "nothing changes" regarding the Islamic Republic's nuclear program by the end of the year. Since they want nuclear power for medicine and electricity and not bombs if they change for Lindsey it won't be to our advantage!

"If nothing changes in Iran, come September, October, I will present a resolution that will authorize the use of military force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb," Graham told a "cheering" audience at a conference put on by the reactionary Christians United for Israel.

"The only way to convince Iran to halt their nuclear program is to make it clear that we will take it out, the last card to play in a very dangerous situation." This is of course an act of war and Iran would be within its rights, just it is developing nukes for peaceful purposes, to attack us at their leisure. They, of course, wouldn't, even if they had missiles with nukes on board as we would with our 10,000 H-bombs wipe them off the face of the Earth!

But experts and former top officials have been warning that ratcheting up pressure and rhetoric against Iran - particularly after Iranians just elected the most moderate presidential candidate available to them - would be counterproductive. "While it will take time to secure an agreement to resolve all concerns, diplomacy will only succeed if we are prepared to leverage existing sanctions and other incentives in exchange for reciprocal Iranian concessions," said a letter signed by 29 former government officials, military officers, diplomats, and national security experts.

Graham has been suggesting, directly and indirectly, the use of military force against Iran for quite some time:

September 20, 2010: "If you use military force against Iran, you've opened up Pandora's box. If you allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon, you've emptied Pandora's box. I'd rather open up Pandora's box than empty it."

November 6, 2010: "[If President Obama] decides to be tough with Iran beyond sanctions, I think he is going to feel a lot of Republican support for the idea that we cannot let Iran develop a nuclear weapon."

November 6, 2010: "Instead of a surgical strike on their nuclear infrastructure, I think we're to the point now that you have to really neuter the regime's ability to wage war against us and our allies. And that's a different military scenario. It's not a ground invasion but it certainly destroys the ability of the regime to strike back."

May 18, 2012: "We should tell the Iranians, no negotiations, stop enriching, open up the site on the bottom of the mountain, a secret site. Then we will talk about lifting sanctions. You are not going to get to enrich uranium any more, period."

October 21, 2012: "I think the time for talking [with Iran] is over."

Why would Lindsey say such things? I think I have an idea. It applies not only to Lindsey but to other closeted gays in the Rethuglican party. Some who would like to come out, but can't as it's suicide to do so as a Rethuglican! So, you get things like their "war on women" which I'm willing to bet they'd subside if they only would come out. But trapped in a lie begins to warp your mind to the extent of being homophobic and a war-monger! Of course, war with Iran will no doubt end in WWIII. Lindsey thinks a few bombing raids and it will be over, without having to send American ground troops in to a situation that makes Iraq and Afghanistan look like a "Swiss Picnic" by comparison. There's no chance that will work because at the first attack, Iran will fire its top-of-the-line Russian anti-ship missiles which we have yet to figure how to defend against -- which means that whatever battle fleet is in range will certainly end up on the bottom of the ocean; and I guarantee that will send in the ground troops; and you'll also have ten or twenty dollar a gallon gas when Saudi oil is targeted, which is right after they attack our fleet. Fortunately, there's no chance for Lindsey's plans to be put into play as most Senators want no part of another unwinnable war! I'd like to remind Lindsey that of the 100s of wars or mini-wars we've been in since WWII, we've won exactly none!

And Finally

The Koch brothers win this week's Vidkun Quisling Award. If you were to spend one million dollars a day, every day for three years, you would've spent about 2% of their fortune. Trouble is, they'd have more than made up for that billion dollar shopping spree long before you spent your first billion at a million dollars a day; just so you know where these traitorous ghouls are coming from, when they plead their case to get rid of the minimum wage, that minimum wage is too good for the likes of you; the minimum wage is different in most states; it ranges from a whole $6.15 in Minnesota to the top rate of $9.19 in Washington state.

Now if you slept in your van, if you were lucky enough to have a van parked "down by the river" and ate nothing but Ramen noodles, you might just get by, if nothing goes wrong; and what could go wrong in that situation, I wonder? Now add your mate and the kids. Still, it could be worse, you could be living in a tent city? Yes we shouldn't think about our friends and neighbors living in their camping equipment 24/7/365, should we? But that's what the Kochs are aiming for.

Yes, good idea, Kochs; let take that away from them -- those lazy sods' layabout and take them where they can do us all some good -- into one of our spacious new Happy Camps! Let's see what a 14-hour work day will do for their bottom line, eh, Koch's? That's what they say; all you need is to be free is loss of all those programs that keep our heads above water. Did I mention they've made an instructional commercial to sell you on it? Check it out, ya'll! Koch’s new ad "explains" that if you earn $34,000 per year, then you're fortunate, because you're in the top one percent of the world. He's not a one per-center, you are! You lucky minimum wage earner you! See why The Koch Brothers win this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

Heard from a bunch of you this week; some of whom are sending in what they can when they can; I certainly hope so. If I had a nickel for every time someone says it's in the mail, but isn't, I'd have so much money that I wouldn't be bugging you now to raise the final $1600 we need to get by for another year, and we have about 10 weeks to raise it.

Trouble is, the cupboard was bare again as it often is. Gone are the days when just a couple of you would pony up to the bar and pay all the bills for the year. I'm guessing that those folks have passed on, so I'm not looking for someone else to save the day; although that happened with July's bill, it was the only time this year that's happened; and I don't expect it again, which just leaves you!

We've been counting on you since 2004, when I ran out of money; and so far so good; but you can't count on it to happen. So, if you want to keep reading the truth week after week, year after year, then you need to step up and give us a helping hand. I've paid enough bills this year to guarantee that I'll be able to keep writing my rants; but the rest of it will disappear, if we fail to raise the money that we need to keep on keeping on. So, if you'd please send us what you can, whenever you can, we'll be here for you, when you need the truth the most!


12-03-1952 ~ 07-19-2013
Thanks for the laughs!

08-04-1920 ~ 07-20-2013
Thanks for getting to the truth!

02-29-1944 ~ 07-22-2013
Thanks for the film!


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


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

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

Mike gives the corpo-rat salute!

Gen. Hayden's Snow Job On Snowden - Or - Have You Finally No Shame?
By Ray McGovern

Gen. Hayden's Glass House

Former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden should not throw any more stones, lest his own glass house be shattered. His barrage Friday against truth-teller Edward Snowden and London Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald invited a return rain of boulders for Hayden committing the same violations of constitutional protections that he is now excusing.

Writing as "CNN Terrorism Analyst," Hayden read from the unctuous script previously used by "Meet the Press" host David Gregory on June 23 when he questioned Greenwald's status as a journalist. Hayden claimed Greenwald deserves "the Justice Department's characterization of a co-conspirator."

But the principal target of Hayden's ire was Snowden. After lumping him together with despicable characters like CIA's Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen of the FBI, and others who spied for the U.S.S.R. - and then disparaging "leakers" like Bradley Manning - Hayden wrote, "Snowden is in a class by himself."

But it is Michael Hayden who is in a class by himself. He was the first NSA director to betray the country's trust by ordering wholesale violation of what was once the First Commandment at NSA: "Thou Shalt Not Eavesdrop on Americans Without a Court Warrant." Not to mention playing fast and loose with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

While Hayden has implicitly offered a second-grader kind of excuse, that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney "made me do it," that does not let Hayden off the hook.

I have found it helpful lately to read the one-sentence Fourth Amendment during TV and radio interviews in order to provide necessary context and a backdrop against which viewers/listeners can gauge how the recent revelations about NSA operations comport, or do not, with the strictures in the amendment. Thankfully, the language is pretty straightforward and specific:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Peer Review

Former NSA directors are not normally given to criticizing the performance of their successors. We know, however, about the passionate disapproval with which two of Hayden's predecessors reacted to the revelations in the Dec. 16, 2005 New York Times article, "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts," by journalists James Risen and Eric Lichtblau.

Risen had ferreted out explosive information on eavesdropping (and other highly questionable operations) several months before the 2004 presidential election, disclosures that would have given American voters some important information regarding whether Bush deserved reelection or not.

But the Times, in its wisdom, acquiesced to the Bush administration's demands that the story be spiked - not because the article was inaccurate, but precisely because it was so accurate, and embarrassing. The White House gave the Times the familiar warning that disclosure would "damage national security."

But as 2005 drew to an end, the newspaper could wait no longer, since Risen's book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, was already in galley and about to be published. The book contained, literally, chapter and verse on the illegal activity authorized by NSA Director Michael Hayden at the behest of Bush and Cheney. (And given the way court decisions are going these days, it is seeming more and more likely that James Risen is headed for jail if he insists on the First Amendment rights of a journalist and continues to refuse to divulge his sources.)

When the Times finally published the story in December 2005, the Bush administration scrambled to defend the warrantless eavesdropping, a demonstrably gross violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) expressly forbidding eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant. The White House immediately asked Hayden, then Deputy Director of National Intelligence, to play point man with the media, helping hapless Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defend the indefensible.

Hayden's perfidy was too much for Gen. Bill Odom, who had been NSA Director from 1985 to 1988. Odom was seething as he prepared to be interviewed on Jan. 4, 2006, by George Kenney, a former Foreign Service officer and now producer of "Electronic Politics." Odom blurted out, "Hayden should have been court martialed." And President Bush "should be impeached," added the general with equal fury.

Odom ruled out discussing, during the interview itself, the warrantless eavesdropping revealed by the New York Times three weeks earlier. In a memorandum about the conversation, Kenney opined that Odom appeared so angry that he realized that if he started discussing the still-classified issue, he would not be able to control himself.

Why was Gen. Odom so angry? Because he, like all uniformed officers (as well as many civilian officials), took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; because he took that oath seriously; and because he had done his damndest to ensure that all NSA employees strictly observed the prohibition against eavesdropping on Americans without a warrant.

Also deeply disappointed was former NSA Director Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, who led NSA from 1977 to 1981 and actually played a key role in helping shape the FISA law of 1978. (Before he retired, Inman had achieved virtual sainthood in Official Washington as one of the country's most respected intelligence managers, although he was known for looking the other way - or as he put it, "pulling up his socks" - when the powers-that-be were spinning the facts or exceeding their legal powers.)

Hayden's Record

From the Bush/Cheney White House perspective, Hayden had performed quite well working with the supine mainstream media to defend the Bush/Cheney illegal eavesdropping programs. For services performed, Hayden was nominated on May 8, 2006, reportedly at Cheney's urging, to replace CIA Director Porter Goss, who had retired abruptly on May 5 after just seven controversial months as director.

So the nomination of Hayden to lead the CIA was very much on the minds of Inman, Risen and others who gathered for a public discussion at the New York Public Library that same afternoon, May 8, 2006. Participants were brought up short when Inman took strong issue with Hayden's flouting of FISA:

"There clearly was a line in the FISA statutes which says you couldn't do this," said Inman, who went on to call specific attention to an "extra sentence put in the bill that said, 'You can't do anything that is not authorized by this bill.'"

Inman spoke proudly of the earlier ethos at NSA, where "it was deeply ingrained that you operate within the law and you get the law changed if you need to." Risen quipped about how easy it would have been to amend the FISA statute after the 9/11 attacks when the American people were demanding revenge: "In October 2001, you could have set up guillotines on the public streets of America."

Attorney General Gonzales, however, knew that there were still institutional obstacles to the NSA figuratively decapitating the Fourth Amendment. At a press conference on Dec. 19, 2005, three days after the Risen/Lichtblau disclosures in the *New York Times*, Gonzales was asked why the administration did not seek new legislation to enable it to conduct the eavesdropping program legally. He responded:

"We have had discussions with Congress in the past - certain members of Congress - as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible."

This was not the only hint at the time that the surveillance program was so huge in scope and so intrusive that even a servile Congress, typically reluctant to turn down any project labeled "anti-terrorist," would not have blessed it. Really, could even a doormat Congress be expected to approve "Collect Everything?"

Inman's Short-Lived Criticism

By happenstance, I found myself with a front-row seat watching honor among thieves play out, i. e., how the Washington Establishment generals and admirals cover for one other. Inman's remarks at the New York Public Library had been written up by Steve Clemons in his blog, The Washington Note.

Worse still for Hayden, Democracynow's Amy Goodman showed video clips of Inman's undisguised criticism of Gen. Hayden on the morning of May 17, less than a week before the Senate Intelligence Committee took up Hayden's nomination to be CIA director. Something needed to be done ... and quickly.

Specifically, Inman needed to be called to atone for his unspeakable sin of candor - the more so since he enjoyed quasi-sainthood on both sides of the aisle in Congress. So there I sat on May 17 in the anteroom of the CNN/New York studio of Lou Dobbs, who wanted to talk to me about my mini-debate two weeks earlier with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Iraq.

Into the waiting room rushed a breathless Bobby Ray Inman. I am then told that he has just been given part of my time, since he needed to discuss the nomination of Michael Hayden to head the CIA. I had read Steve Clemons's blog and was well aware of Inman's remarks on May 8. As he rushed to don a borrowed tie, I had just enough time to give him an atta-boy for his honesty at the library and to express the hope he would stay on message with Lou Dobbs. Naïve me!

Watching the monitor I saw Inman give his highest recommendation for Gen. Hayden as supremely qualified to head the CIA. That, I thought to myself, is how the system works. Hayden's nomination sailed through the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 23 by a vote of 12 to 3 and the full Senate on May 26 by 78 to 15.

A whiff of conscience showed through during Hayden's nomination hearing to become CIA Director, though, when he flubbed the answer to what was supposed to be a soft, fat pitch from Bush administration loyalist, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri, then vice-chair of the Senate intelligence overlook committee:

"Did you believe that your primary responsibility as director of NSA was to execute a program that your NSA lawyers, the Justice Department lawyers, and White House officials all told you was legal, and that you were ordered to carry it out by the President of the United States?"

Instead of the simple "Yes" that had been scripted, Hayden paused and spoke rather poignantly - and revealingly: "I had to make this personal decision in early October 2001, and it was a personal decision ... I could not not do this."

Why should it have been such an enormous personal decision whether or not to obey a White House order? No one asked Hayden, but it requires no particular acuity to figure it out.

This is a military officer who, like the rest of us, swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; a military man well aware that one must not obey an unlawful order; and an NSA director totally familiar with the FISA restrictions. That, it seems clear, is why Hayden found it a difficult personal decision.

Knowing the Law

No American, save perhaps Admiral Inman and Gen. Odom, knew the FISA law better than Hayden. Nonetheless, in his testimony, Hayden conceded that he did not even require a written legal opinion from NSA lawyers as to whether the new, post-9/11 comprehensive surveillance program - to be implemented without court warrants, without "probable cause," and without adequate consultation in Congress - could pass the smell test.

Hayden said he sought an oral opinion from then-NSA general counsel Robert L. Deitz, whom Hayden later brought over to CIA as a "trusted aide" to CIA Director Hayden! (In the fall of 2007, Hayden launched Deitz on an investigation of the CIA's own statutory Inspector General who had made the mistake of being too diligent in investigating abuses like torture).

Interestingly, Hayden did not pass the smell test for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, who on May 25 took a principled stand against his nomination and voted against it the following day. In his brief but typically eloquent one-minute speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Obama was harshly critical of both Hayden and President George W. Bush. Obama insisted that "President Bush is not above the law; no president is above the law." His words did not ring as hollow then as they do now in retrospect.

To his credit, I suppose, President-elect Obama did get rid of Hayden - for cause, as I tried to explain in "What's CIA Director Hayden Hidin'" on Jan. 15, 2009. I ended that article with the following word of "good riddance." (It was hardly prophetic - rather a very safe bet):

"The sooner Hayden is gone (likely to join the Fawning Corporate Media channels as an expert commentator, and to warm some seats on defense-industry corporate boards) the better. His credentials would appear good for that kind of work."
(c) 2013 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years ==from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one=on=one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

A Gift From Europe
By Uri Avery

ON MY 70th birthday, I received a gift from Yitzhak Rabin: he signed the document recognizing the existence of the Palestinian people, after many decades of denial. He also recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as its representative. I had demanded this, almost alone, for many years.

Three days later, the Oslo agreement was signed on the White House lawn.

This week I received another gift of similar magnitude, obviously in anticipation of my 90th birthday, which is due in less than two months.

No less an institution than the European Union has declared what practically amounts to a total boycott of the settlements, 15 years after Gush Shalom, the peace organization to which I belong, had issued a call for such a boycott.

The European decision says that no Israeli institution or corporation which has any direct or indirect connection with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights will receive any contract, grant, prize or suchlike from the EU or any member state. To assure compliance, every contract between Israelis and the EU will contain a paragraph stating that the settlements are not part of Israel.

A friend of mine sent me a message consisting of one word: Mabrouk (Congratulations, in Arabic).

If all this sounds a bit megalomaniac, please make allowances. I am just happy.

WHEN WE decided to organize our boycott in 1998, we had several interconnected aims in mind.

A boycott is an eminently democratic instrument, a form of non-violent resistance.

Every single individual can decide for himself or herself whether to join the boycott or not.

Also, every individual can decide whether to boycott all the enterprises on the recommended list, or exclude some. Some of our supporters refused to boycott the Golan settlements, which they considered different from the others, some refused to boycott the East Jerusalemites. A famous artist declared that he was quite unable to live without the excellent Golan wines.

Many enterprises in the settlements did not go there for ideological reasons - capitalists are not generally known for their ideological fervor - but because the Israeli government gave them (stolen) land for free, as well as all kinds of grants, exemption from taxes and other incentives. It made economic sense for a corporation to sell their very high-priced site in Tel Aviv and get free land in Ariel. A boycott may counterbalance these gains. Contrary to getting out into the streets and joining a demonstration, not buying something in the supermarket is a private affair. In a demonstration, one may get tear-gassed, water-cannoned or clubbed. One exposes oneself and may be put on a list somewhere or even dismissed from a government job.

Everybody can boycott. One doesn't need to join an organization, sign a petition, identify oneself. Yet one has the satisfaction of doing something useful, in accordance with one's convictions.

But our main purpose was conceptual. For decades, successive Israeli governments have striven to eradicate the Green Line from the map and the minds of the people. The main aim of the boycott was to reinstitute the real borders of Israel in the public mind.

We distributed many thousands of copies of the list of settlement enterprises, all on request.

The Israeli government paid us the unique compliment of enacting a special law that penalizes all calls for a boycott of the settlers' products. Every person who feels harmed by such a call can demand unlimited compensation, without having to prove any actual damage. This could amount to millions of dollars.

We asked the Supreme Court to strike down this law, but the court has been dragging its feet for several years already, obviously afraid of passing judgment.

YET WHILE we were doing this, the European Union did the opposite. It practically helped to finance the settlements - the very settlements it declared illegal.

Actually, the new measures are not new at all. The agreement between the EU and Israel exempts Israeli products from European customs, as if Israel were a European country. Israel is already a participant in the European football league, the Eurovision Song Contest and other events and organizations. Israeli universities receive huge research grants from Europe and take part in European scientific projects.

All these agreements are in principle restricted to Israel proper and do not apply to the settlements. Yet for decades, the Brussels super-government had consciously closed both its eyes.

I know, because I myself traveled to Brussels years ago, to protest against this practice, explaining to commissioners, officials and parliamentarians that they are in practice encouraging the settlements and inducing companies to relocate there. I was given to understand that they sympathize with our stand but are powerless, because several European countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, block all attempts in the Union to act against apparent Israeli interests.

It seems that this obstacle has now been overcome. So I am happy.

IN ISRAEL, the government received the news with consternation. Just a few days earlier, they could not have dreamed that this was possible.

In Israel, the European Union is an object of ridicule. Secure in the knowledge that we have absolute control of US policy, we could treat the EU with contempt, though it is our major trading partner. A large share of Israeli exports, including military equipment, goes there.

Government leaders are now sputtering with rage. Not one single politician has dared to speak in favor of the European decision. Right and Left are united in condemning it. Binyamin Netanyahu declared that only Israel would decide where its borders were, and this only in direct negotiations. Never mind that he has obstructed significant direct negotiations for years.

Naftali Bennett, the Minister of Economy, who also happens to be the chief representative of the settlers, rejected the decision out of hand. Only a few days before, this political genius (and self-declared "brother" of Ya'ir Lapid) had announced that there was absolutely no pressure on Israel.

Lapid himself voiced his opinion that the European step was a "miserable decision."

Bennett now proposes to punish Europe by stopping all EU humanitarian projects in the West Bank. (Recalling the joke about the Polish nobleman whose Jew had been beaten up by another nobleman and who threatened: "If you don't stop beating my Jew, I shall beat your Jew!")

But the most telling argument marshalled by Israeli leaders was that the European decision was undermining the valiant efforts of John Kerry to start negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

This is the height of chutzpah. For months now, Netanyahu and his government has been doing everything possible to prevent the hapless Kerry from achieving his goal. Now they use his fruitless efforts as a fig leaf for the settlements.

The Labor Party's Shelly Yachimovich, the official "Leader of the Opposition", contented herself with repeating the call for negotiations. No hint of criticizing the settlers, for whom she has publicly declared her sympathy.

AS USUAL in such situations, Israeli public opinion started a search for those to blame. But there is no one around.

Israel has no Foreign Minister, only a deputy, who happens to be one of the most extreme right-wingers in the Knesset. The last minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is facing trial for corruption, and the job is being kept open for him. Netanyahu obviously believes that no judge would dare to convict the fearful Lieberman, after the Attorney General has already shrunk back from indicting him on the most severe charges.

With no minister (officially, the Prime Minister is filling the vacuum) and a demoralized foreign service, there could be no prior warning.

Some people claim that the European decision was actually a pro-Israeli gesture, since it forestalls a general boycott of Israel, which is advocated by a growing number of personalities and NGOs around the world. A boycott of the settlements is the minimum.

In this respect too, the Europeans have also adopted a stance that my friends and I have advocated for years.

Contrary to several Israeli leftists, I believe that a general boycott of Israel is counter-productive. While our boycott is designed to isolate the settlers and drive a wedge between them and the bulk of the Israeli population, a general boycott (called BDS) would drive almost all Israelis into the arms of the settlers, under the venerable Jewish slogan "The whole world is against us!" It would strengthen the argument that the real aim is not to change Israeli policy, but to wipe out Israel altogether.

True, there are some good reasons for a general boycott, including the historic example of the boycott of Apartheid South Africa. But the Israeli situation is quite different.

THE TERM "boycott" was coined in 1888 in a situation not dissimilar from ours now. It was about foreign domination, land and settlers.

In Ireland, then under British occupation, there was a famine. Charles Boycott, the agent of an absentee English landlord, evicted local tenants who were unable to pay the rent. An Irish nationalist leader called on his countrymen not to attack Boycott physically, but to shun him. All his neighbors stopped all dealings with him, working for him or speaking with him. Boycott became the word for ostracizing.

The EU boycott of the settlements and their supporters will have a major economic impact. No one knows yet how much. But the moral effect is even more significant.

Even if massive Israeli-American pressure thwarts or at least postpones the European action, the moral blow is already devastating.

It tells us: The settlements are illegal. They are immoral. They inflict a huge injustice on the Palestinian people. They prevent peace. They endanger the very future of Israel.

Thank you, Europe!
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Trayvon And White Madness
By Glen Ford

When Trayvon Martin was murdered by a "creepy-ass cracker" in February, 2012, an outraged Black America mobilized to force the State of Florida to put the perpetrator on trial. Seventeen months later, in the words of President Obama, "a jury has spoken," affirming Florida's original contention that Trayvon's death was not a criminal act.

The White House also wanted Trayvon to be forgotten. Three weeks after the shooting, speaking through his press secretary, the president declared, "obviously we're not going to wade into a local law-enforcement matter." A few days later, Obama sought to placate Black public opinion with a statement of physical fact: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

In the wake of the acquittal, Obama's press people have announced he'll stay out of the case while Attorney General Eric Holder pretends to explore the possibility of pursuing civil rights charges against George Zimmerman. Holder told the sorority sisters of Delta Sigma Theta that Martin's death was "tragic" and "unnecessary," but a federal prosecution of Zimmerman is highly unlikely. The government would have to prove that Zimmerman was motivated by racial animus - a fact that is as obvious to Black America as a mob lynching at high noon at Times Square. However, except for the fact that he murdered a teenager, George Zimmerman is no more provably racist in a U.S. court than most white Americans - which is why the Florida cops and prosecutors initially refused to arrest him, why the jury acquitted him, and why the bulk of the corporate media empathized with the defense.

The white public at-large shares with Zimmerman the belief - a received wisdom, embedded in their worldview - that young Black males are inherently dangerous. From this "fact" flows a reflex of behaviors that, to most whites, are simply commonsensical. If young Black males are inherently dangerous, they must be watched, relentlessly. Black hyper-surveillance is the great intake mechanism for mass Black incarceration. Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watchman, was acting on the same racist assumption that motivates police across the country, which is why the cops in Zimmerman's trial were more valuable to the defense than to the prosecution. The same goes for the prosecutors and judge, much of whose daily lives are organized around the inherent dangerousness of young Black men.

Naturally, the cops testified that they saw no racial animus in Zimmerman's actions - just as they would deny that their own hyper-surveillance of Black communities is motivated by animus. The jury, like the vast majority of white Americans, approves of the Black surveillance regime, and of those civilians that also keep an eye out for "crime" - which is synonymous with "Black males." As juror B37 put it, Zimmerman's "heart was in the right place" - meaning, she saw Zimmerman's profiling and pursuit of Trayvon as well-intentioned and civic-minded; clearly, not malicious. Something "just went terribly wrong" - an unfortunate turn of events, but not a crime. The unanimous verdict shows the other jurors also perceived no malice - no racial motivation - by Zimmerman.

In fact, white folks in general do not think it is racist or evidence of malice to believe that Black males are a prima facie threat; it's just a fact. Therefore, it is "reasonable" that civilians, as well as cops, be prepared to use deadly force in confrontations with Black males.

The answer to the question: What would a reasonable person do? is essential to American law. Police, prosecutors, judges and jurors base their decisions on their own subjective perception of the state of mind of people who harm or kill, and the reasonableness of their actions. To most white people, it is reasonable to reflexively suspect young Black males of having criminal intent, and reasonable to fear for one's life in a confrontation with such a person. "Not guilty" is reasonable, when everyone that counts shares the same assumptions as the perpetrator.

Black people cannot fix that. We cannot change white people's warped perceptions of the world, although, Lord knows, we've tried. It has been 45 years since passage of the last major civil rights bill, the Fair Housing Act, yet housing segregation remains general, overwhelmingly due to white people's decisions in the housing market, based on their racial assumptions. So powerful is the general white racist belief in Black criminality and inferiority, the mere presence of African Americans on or near property devalues the land. This is racism with the practical force of economic law. The same "law" has locked Black unemployment at roughly twice that of whites for more than two generations - an outcome so consistent over time it must be a product of the political culture (racism) rather than the vicissitudes of the marketplace.

The Brown Supreme Court decision is nearly 60 years old, yet school segregation is, in some ways, more entrenched than ever - again, because of white peoples decisions. Not only is school segregation on the rise, but charterization is creating an alternative public-financed system designed primarily for Black and brown kids. In many cities, whites can only be retained in the public schools by offering them the best facilities and programs. School desegregation has largely been abandoned as a lost cause, because of the whites' "intransigence" - a euphemism for enduring racism: a refusal to share space with Black people.

But, the criminal justice system is white supremacy's playground, where racial hatreds, fears and suspicions are given free rein. One out of eight prison inmates on the planet are African American, proof of the general white urge to purge Blacks from the national landscape. Trayvon Martin fell victim to the extrajudicial component of the Black-erasure machine.

White people don't think they are malicious and racist; rather, they are simply defending themselves (quite reasonably, they believe) from Black evildoing. That whites perceive themselves as under collective attack is evident in the results of a Harvard and Tufts University study, which shows majorities of whites are convinced they are the primary victims of racial discrimination in America. Such mass madness is incomprehensible to sane people, but racism is a form of mental illness, in which the afflicted perceive things that are not there, and are blind to that which is right in front of their eyes.

To live under the sway of such people is a nightmare. Most of African American history has been a struggle to mollify or tame the racist beast, to find a way to coexist with white insanity, possibly to cure it, or to make ourselves powerful and independent enough that the madness cannot harm us too badly. George Zimmerman's acquittal is so painful to Black America because it signals that our ancient enemy - white supremacy - is alive and raging, virtually impervious to any legal levers we can pull. The feeling of impotence is heightened by the growing realization that the Black president - a man who, in his noxious "Philadelphia" speech, denied that racism had ever been endemic to America - cannot and will not make anyone atone for Trayvon.

We have been in this spot before - or, rather, we have always been in this spot, but have for the last 40 years been urged to imagine that something fundamental had changed among white Americans. Trayvon smacks us awake.

We must organize for self-defense, in every meaning of the term, and create a Black political dynamic - a Movement - that will make our enemies fear the consequences of their actions.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Mind Rape And The Christian Right
By Chris Hedges

Noel Lyons, a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 1976 to 1981 and once one of the country's top professional skiers, found herself in a Vail, Colo., hospital in the spring of 2010 after another round of binge drinking. "I had given up on myself," she would say later. Her boyfriend and sister decided she needed rehabilitative help. Because their resources were limited, they turned to the free Total Freedom Program, a Florida ministry for women and men that identifies itself as Christian.

Cate Iannello, the wife of the leader of Total Freedom Program, "Pastor Guy," met Lyons in July 2010 at the Orlando airport and drove her to what she called "the girls' house," a yellow ranch house in a nondescript neighborhood of nearby Ocoee. Lyons says she arrived "scared out of my mind" and holding a decorative pillow with the image of a buffalo on it. Because the pillow had "past associations" that could evoke demons, she was soon told to put it in the trash. Lyons walked into the living room with the pastor's wife. She met a woman there who introduced herself as Connie Prince, "the house mom"-a position Lyons herself would assume eventually. She was introduced to about five other "girls," all white and ranging in age from the 20s into the 50s, who lived in the house.

The house mom rifled through Lyons' bag of clothes. She pulled out particular garments and told her, "Well, you won't be wearing that." Prince confiscated the small amount of money Lyons had, her Ambien sleeping pills, cellphone and phone card.

"Later on I found out it was inappropriate or had accursed symbols," Lyons said of the confiscated clothes when we met at the home of a friend outside Philadelphia where she was staying.

Lyons, now 50, toured the group house with a woman named Susan. Susan, in her early 20s, showed Lyons the bedroom the two women would share. It had bare walls and three beds with mismatched sheets, three dilapidated dressers and one closet. Lyons was then taken to the kitchen, where she sat with other women at a table for prayers and dinner. Afterward the women went into the living room for Lyons' "praying in" ceremony. She was instructed to sit on the floor. The women sat in a circle around her.

"Then they make sure I had no tattoos, which are accursed items," Lyons said. New arrivals with tattoos had to be specially anointed to excise the demons that the ministry claimed were embedded in tattoos.

The circle of women prayed over her, including in the gibberish of "tongues," and anointed her with oil. The women walked through the house after the ceremony. They said more prayers in tongues to rid the house of demons. They dipped their fingers in oil and marked the doorjambs with the sign of the cross to drive out evil spirits. "It's called the Housecleaning Prayer," Lyons said. "And a lot of times they'll put a cross over the beds where our heads rest."

Lyons began to speak to me in a stream of nonsensical sounds to imitate praying in tongues. She instinctively crossed her arms over her chest. "It's like in chanting," she said. "I'm holding my heart because I believed that the enemy was trying to get my heart. So I'm always covering my heart."

She was given a rules handbook and told she had to sign an "intake form" promising to obey the community's edicts. She read in the handbook that she would be forbidden to contact anyone except her immediate family for nine months, which distressed her because of her relationship with her boyfriend in Vail. The form said she would forfeit the right to sue the ministry, which she found odd. She refused to sign the form without a lawyer. She went to her room distraught and frightened, unsure of what to do. She could not sleep. In the middle of the night she went outside and thought about hotwiring one of the cars in order to leave, but, she said, "I had nowhere to go, and I had no money. I had no contact with anyone." At 5:30 a.m. she was told it was time for the ritual morning prayers.<> "The house mom leads the prayers and everyone has to be in unison with the prayers." She called these "the paper prayers" because they were printed out on sheets.

"You say your warfare prayer, your deliverance prayer, your third dimensional warrior prayer, it'll make sense to you later on," she explained. "It's all warfare praying."

Lyons was told to go to a designated spot in the house "where you're supposed to communicate with God and have your 'David cave time' with him." Before the start of her "David cave time," Lyons, frustrated by being unable to do her normal physical workout, did sit-ups and push-ups in the living room. As she exercised, "people are just walking by, not talking to me," she said.

Lyons was told she was allowed only one cup of coffee a day. She was told that she was permitted to speak by phone only with immediate family members and only when a person of the community monitored the conversation.

Every resident, she found, was expected to be an informant if she or he saw someone break the rules. Many of those at the ministry compound had recently come out of prison and were in the facility as a halfway house requirement.

The female residents "become a posse," Lyons said. "Remember, a lot of these people came from prison. None of the people are qualified to do anything. A lot of these people are supposed to be in a house that transitions them to the real world."

Breakfast was served at 6:30. And on her first morning in Ocoee she was taken to "morning intercession," which would occur every day for the three months of Lyons' initial indoctrination. It was held in a place called the "war room" in another house on the cul-de-sac where the group owns four or five houses. The war room was open and lined on two sides by single rows of folding chairs. The men sat on one side. The women sat on the other. Lyons was told when she entered the war room that she was not permitted to talk to or have eye contact with the men either there or outside. Segregation of the sexes was rigidly enforced. Courtship and relationships could be carried out within the community only if they were approved and mediated by the pastor. Relationships outside the community were forbidden.

All new arrivals during their first three months spent every morning and every afternoon in the war room "doing teachings," which consisted of listening to recordings from Pastor Guy Iannello's Eternal Library of 800 Teachings. They were required to take copious notes. Lyons showed me a stack of about a dozen white legal pads filled with her notes. After three months, if program approval was granted, a resident was permitted to get an outside job to help support the ministry. By that time, residents typically had severed ties with most friends and relatives.

The morning routine included recorded religious music followed by prayer. There were prayers for orphans, single mothers or fathers and those who had been abandoned. Then the group prayed in tongues. She wondered: "What does this have to do with helping me with my problem?"

At 8:30 a.m. on her first full day at the compound she was taken to the office to see "Mom," the pastor's mother-in-law. She was given a lengthy form and told to circle all her "sins," such as sex before marriage, lesbianism, sodomy, masturbation, adultery, oral sex, abortion, vanity, self-pity, swearing or cursing. She circled the words that applied to her. It was only later, she said, that she was told that each of these sins was "identified as a demon."

Lyons, who during our meeting had a box of literature, videos and other materials of the ministry, handed me a tattered red book titled "Prayers." She opened the book to Page 36. I read the four pages known as the "Sin List." It included hundreds of sins, among them "loving to curse," "killing," "Baal worship" and "sacrificing children to demons."

Lyons complained to Mom that she could not speak in tongues, to which Mom replied: "Yabba dabba doo. Just start saying, 'Yabba dabba doo,' and the Holy Spirit will help you. Fake it until you make it." Mom told Lyons she was "being rebellious" and that "rebellion is witchcraft." "That was a huge thing that they played on," Lyons said, "that whole rebellion thing."

She still refused to sign the forms. She was ushered into the pastor's office to see a video called "You Can't Fight What You Can't See." All who were inducted into the community were required to watch it. She met with Iannello on the second day. He told her to sign the forms and give the program two weeks. She signed.

Because Lyons' second night at the compound was a Tuesday, she was taken with the other members of the community to Way of Grace Church in Ocoee. The eight female residents of the Total Freedom Program community sat on one side of the church, and the 20 male residents sat on the other. About 15 outsiders joined them. Lyons listened to a sermon on obedience to God. Mom told her later that God had put the message in the preacher's heart to address Lyons' rebelliousness.

On Friday nights the group held services in the sanctuary of the Ocoee Oaks Church.

During the daily indoctrination Lyons sat in the war room from 8:30 to noon listening to recordings and taking notes. She went back after lunch to sit there from 1 to 4. During the rest of the day she was confined to her house.

"I was trying to do some [physical] exercise," Lyons said. "They're like, 'You can't do that. You have to put God first. If you get done with God, then you can exercise.' "

She repeated to me the core of the pastor's message: "You came here thinking you had a problem with drugs and alcohol, but this is a Holy Spirit stickup and this is Holy Spirit boot camp. You're going to find the Holy Spirit. You're going to find your hope and your faith. You're going to find God. You're going to find that which you didn't have. You're going to be disciples of God."

"The constant theme is a chain of command, of authority, God being the ultimate authority," Lyons said, "and that he [God] assigned people to you to watch over you, your spiritual father."

"It's very much like boot camp in the Army," she said. "Pastor Guy used to be in the [Navy]. He also used to be a big drug lord. Then he got saved, supposedly. So now he has this ministry on the cul-de-sac. A lot of the programming is to get you thinking there's obedience and there's rebellion-[and rebellion] is what caused your problems in the first place. They get you hooked into a different way of thinking that your problem is demons."

"They made me get a food stamp card," she said, handing me a copy of her application for food stamps. "Then when I got my food stamp card it went to the house mom. The house mom who bought the groceries used all of our food stamp cards."

By the end of the three months Lyons was broken and obedient. She was permitted to look for an outside job. She wanted nothing to do with those who had been her friends before she went to Florida. She believed they were heathens and conduits of demons into her life.

She was assigned to work in the group's office promoting ministry events. She called merchants and asked them to donate items or services for silent auctions. She worked in the office for two months. She then took a job at a Dillard's Department store. She would work there for more than two years. The ministry took rent, her tithe-10 percent of her income-and utility costs from her pay. She also had to pay the ministry $5 a day to be driven to Dillard's, four miles away. "They [were] nickel-and-diming me to death," Lyons said.

Lyons said that those who did not work at outside jobs worked for the ministry as "slave labor" and never could save "enough money to leave."

During her time in Total Freedom Program she saw herself as a part of the ministry. She dutifully confessed all urges, defined as sins, to her prayer group. She was given greater responsibilities within the ministry, including being a house mom. She was filled with self-loathing for "everything that was natural in me." "Anything that comes before God is an idol," she said. "Exercise, my whole past experience, friends. I started to feel like I had this Job experience, this lose-everything experience."

Lyons had been turned. She was terrified of demons, which other church members said they could see around her in the form of lizards. She fervently recited the litany of required prayers. She dutifully attended the meetings and services. She imposed the rules on others. At night, during her required "Bedtime Warfare Prayer," she would repeat to herself:

Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus and repent every thought, spoken word, deed, that was displeasing to You and any uncompleted vow that I committed to.

I break every curse that was placed on me either self-imposed or put by any demonic source and anything spoken over me that was not from You.

I curse every corruptible seed that was implanted in me and I command them to wither and die and I loose myself from every spirit associated with those seeds. Allow your righteous seeds to grow and bear fruit for Your glory.

I apply the blood of Jesus over my house upon the roof, walls and floors, upon all members, possessions, automobiles, and my spirit, soul body and dreams in Jesus Name.

I bind up any spirits of terror, fear, nightmares, or torment, every mind-binding, evil, foul, lying and unclean spirit that may try to come and torment me in any way tonight and I muzzle the voice of the stranger. Satan, you and any evil spirit in your kingdom that could be in or around our properties, I bind you and drive you out in the Name of Jesus. Any astral projections or soul travel spirits that could be in or around our property, I command you, in the Name of Jesus, to go back where you came from.

Father, please send Your warring angels to watch over me and to hold back the forces of Satan and his kingdom while I sleep. Send your ministering angels to come and minister to me as I sleep. Holy Spirit please come and flow though me, giving me dreams, visions, health, supernatural rest and let me wake up refreshed. I pray all this in Jesus name.

Patrice, a woman who had left the community, began to talk to Lyons outside the compound. She urged Lyons to get out of the group because it was "unhealthy." Lyons during a visit from her sister managed to pack her belongings and flee the compound. The group, unable now to hold her, told her she could leave but would fail in the outside world.

After she moved out, Lyons' job went sour because she failed to make sales quotas. She had few friends at work because her indoctrination had made her "a freak," she said. She did not engage in what the ministry called "secular talk."

She gravitated to Christian megachurches that she now calls "sub-cults." The trauma, emotional abuse and manipulation Lyons suffered at the hands of Total Freedom Program were familiar to me because of the two years I spent investigating the Christian right for my book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America." In the closed world of the Christian right, pastors, "disciplers" and "prayer partners" define all doubt, questioning or "backsliding" as a sin and the work of Satan. Submission to authority becomes the only proper way to serve God. Critical judgment is abolished. Religious cliches shut down independent thought. All other ways of living become a compact with the demonic. A persecution mentality is pounded into adherents, making them deeply distrustful of outsiders. It is an ideology of fear and abject obedience to authority. And all those who walk away are condemned and branded as apostates. Lyons' story is the story of millions of Americans who live or have lived inside these hermetically sealed systems of "Christian" indoctrination.

Eventually, Lyons recovered enough of herself to leave Florida. Before she departed she packed documentation of her stay at the Iannello complex, hoping some reporter would tell her story as a warning to others. Through friends she contacted me.

When Lyons drove out of the Ocoee area last week-in her 1991 Honda Civic, with some 236,000 miles on it and duct tape holding up the dashboard-it was emotionally wrenching for her. She repeated over and over to herself in the car: "I've got to keep going, I've got to keep going. I gotta get out of here now. I gotta get out of here now."

She continues to be haunted by the indoctrination. She is struggling to shake off a belief system that defined as evil her natural instincts, her thoughts, and her desires for personal happiness and independence. Her speech remains infected with the jargon of the ministry. She says her fight now is to become whole.

The experience with the program "sucker-punched me," she said. "They took away my self-respect and my self-esteem. They eviscerated me. They took the life out of me. Any natural instinct I had was condemned. I'm doing better [now], but I maintain a certain numbness because of the damage. I never fought so hard, once I realized my predicament, to get myself back."
(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."

Charles Koch's Wonder World Of Hairdressernomics

One thing I've come to value in the last couple of years is the altruism and keen economic insights of the fourth richest man in America: Charles Koch.

Even though Koch was raised rich and has now amassed a personal fortune of about $34 billion, he recently gave us a deeper sense of his true worth, measured not in dollars, but in values: "We want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country," he declared. Excellent thought - FDR couldn't have put it better! Noting that a big problem for the poor is that the Powers That Be "keep throwing obstacles in their way," Koch cut to the chase, saying, "We've got to clear those out."

Yes, Charlie, I'm with you! Clear out such barriers as the offshoring of middle class jobs, union busting, poorly funded schools, and the lack of affordable healthcare, housing, and child care.

Good God, no! barked Koch. It turns out he intends to "help" poor people by eliminating - ready? - "the minimum wage." Why? Because, explains this clueless son-of-the-rich, having a wage floor "reduces the mobility of labor."

In case you don't dwell in the plutocratic, narcissistic, Ayn-Randian fantasyland where the Kochs hang out, "labor mobility" is right-wing psychobabble for social Darwinism. Remove all remnants of America's economic safety net, they coldly theorize (while wallowing in their nests of luxury), and the poor will be "freed" to become billionaires. As Charles puts it, with no protections, the disadvantaged would have to scramble just to live, thus freeing them to "start a business... drive a taxicab... become a hairdresser."

What a visionary he is! Where you see massive, debilitating poverty, but he sees a Brave New World with millions of billionaire hairdressers! And the Kochs wonder why they're considered kooks.
(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.

TPP: The Terrible Plutocratic Plan
By David Swanson

Remarks July 21, 2013 at an Occupy Harrisonburg (Va.) Event.

Thanks to Michael Feikema and Doug Hendren for inviting me. Like most of you I do not spend my life studying trade agreements, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is disturbing enough to make me devote a little time to it, and I hope you will do the same and get your neighbors to do the same and get them to get their friends to do the same -- as soon as possible.

I spend most of my time reading and writing about war and peace. I'm in the middle of writing a book about the possibility and need to abolish war and militarism. I hate to take a break from that. But if we think trade and militarism are separate topics we're fooling ourselves.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a big fan of the supposed wonders of the hidden hand of the market economy says, "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

Of course, there's nothing hidden about that fist. The TPP is planned to include the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam, with Japan expected to be added this month, and with the ability to expand to any other Pacific nation even after the treaty is created -- if it is created. The U.S. military works closely with the militaries of all of those nations, encourages their militarization, and keeps its own troops in most of them. The U.S. military is currently building up its presence in the Pacific -- including even in Vietnam, where McDonald's also opened its first store this week. In a presidential debate last year President Obama described the TPP as part of a strategy to counter China and exert U.S. influence in Asia, the same rationale behind the naval base on Jeju Island and all the rest of the military build up around China's borders. In this year's State of the Union, Obama said the TPP and an agreement with the European Union were priorities for him this year.

There is also, of course, nothing hidden about the hand of corporate trade agreements. These are not agreements aimed at maximizing competition by preventing monopolies. These are very lengthy and detailed agreements that include protection and expansion of monopolies. Rather than relying on the magic of the marketplace, a corporate trade agreement relies on the influence of lobbyists. Just as the corruption of the military industrial complex helps explain a global military buildup in the absence of a national enemy -- I mean an enemy that is a nation, not a handful of criminals who ought to be indicted and prosecuted rather than blown up along with whoever's nearby -- so, too, the corporate ownership of our government explains our government's trade policies.

What is hidden, in another sense, is the detailed negotiated text of the proposed TPP treaty. Some 600 corporate advisors are helping the U.S. government write the text. Some of these advisors come from those benevolent, public-interest firms known as Monsanto, the Bank of America, Chevron, and ExxonMobil. The rest of us are shut out. The government gathers up our every communication, but we aren't allowed to see what it's doing in our name. We don't influence the text and we don't get to see it. Some courageous person or persons willing to risk charges of aiding the enemy (even if there is no enemy) has made parts of what is in the TPP known.

I dealt with corporate trade agreements a little when I worked as press secretary for Dennis Kucinich for President in 2004. Basically my job was to tell any media outlet that would listen that we were going to end wars, create single-payer healthcare, and abolish NAFTA. But mostly we were going to end wars. I remember in the 2008 campaign, a whole bunch of Democratic primary candidates lined up on a stage for a huge labor-organized debate in a football stadium. Kucinich said he would abolish NAFTA, get out of the WTO, and create bilateral trade agreements with nations, agreements that left in place protections for workers, consumers, and the environment. The applause suggested most people there agreed. But every other one of the candidates refused to say they would end NAFTA. Instead, every one of them, including Barack Obama, said they would re-negotiate NAFTA to fix it by adding in the protections it was missing. Most of them, of course, didn't get elected. The one who did seems to have had a change of plans. The TPP has been under negotiation for 5 years.

A year and a half ago, some of us were living in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., and there was another camp just over in McPhearson Square, and the Occupy Movement had gone national through corporate television and newspapers. A Senate committee was holding a hearing on new corporate trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and Korea. After the lobbyists got their seats, there were a few left for the public, and I took one. The senators were discussing how they would mitigate the damage of what they were about to support. They planned to try to help find jobs for some of the people they would throw out of work. I thought I should point out to them that they could just leave everybody in their current jobs. I was hoping they would realize that on their own. I didn't want to be rude and interrupt. But it seemed an important enough point. So I spoke up. And they arrested me.

Then the senators discussed Korean and U.S. tariffs on beef. A woman in the audience spoke up and asked why we couldn't just leave the Korean beef in Korea and the U.S. beef in the United States instead of shipping beef both ways across the ocean. They arrested her. They arrested everybody who said anything. In the first year of the previous agreement made with Korea, U.S. exports to Korea fell 10% and the U.S. trade deficit with Korea rose 37%. The same sort of results are likely with a new one.

On the plus side, Congress was kept safe from interruptions. The charges carried some months in jail, as I recall. Four of us made deals in court that kept us out of jail but banned us from Capitol Hill for 6 months. In the next courtroom over, some friends were convicted of speaking out against torture when some committee chairman hadn't asked them to. And straight across the hall, that same day, another friend was told she'd completed her probation for having interrupted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Capitol, a punishment imposed even though Netanyahu had thanked her for speaking and bragged about how she'd have been treated worse in Iran -- although the assault she suffered in the U.S. Capitol put her in a neck brace.

The First Amendment is not doing much better than the Fourth Amendment these days. I know that some of you will say nobody should interrupt anyone. How would I like to be interrupted myself? Et cetera. But how much has the corporate media that dominates our communications system, and does so with our subsidies, told us about the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Unless we can organize enough of these meetings, someone is going to have to interrupt someone to get the word out.

Maybe the first thing I would interrupt a super bowl or a state of the union to tell people about the TPP is that it creates corporate nationhood. This is something I started to focus on after interviewing Lacey Kohlmoos of Public Citizen on my radio show. Public Citizen has a website set up at Another coalition has created Another is at And then there's a cross-border effort to organize against the TPP at You can find pretty much everything I have to say, and much more, at those websites. You can sign up and get involved with ongoing campaigns as things develop at those websites.

Many of us have heard of corporate "personhood." Corporations have been given the Constitutional rights of persons by U.S. courts over the past 40 years, including the right to spend money on elections. By corporate nationhood I mean the bestowing of the rights of nations on corporations. The TPP, drafts of which have been leaked to Public Citizen, has 29 chapters, only five of which -- according to Public Citizen's thinking -- deal with trade. The others deal with things like food safety, internet freedom, medicine costs, job off-shoring, and financial regulation. Treaties, according to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, are -- together with the Constitution itself -- the supreme law of the land. So U.S. laws would have to be made to comply with the TPP's rules.

The United States is party to treaties banning war and torture. Some treaties are treated more like helpful suggestions than the supreme law of the land. That would not be the case with the TPP. Our federal and state and local governments would have to obey the TPP. And if they didn't, corporations could force them to. A corporation could take the U.S. government or other nations' governments to court (or rather, a special tribunal) and overturn their laws. That's corporate nationhood. A bunch of corporate lawyers would make their case to a tribunal made up of three corporate lawyers taking a break from themselves arguing such cases in order to rule on some of them. These three lawyers would answer to no electorate and be bound by no precedents. There would be no appeals process. They would be empowered to order any amount of compensation whatsoever, to be paid to corporations by tax payers.

So, if the United States has a healthcare policy or an environmental or workplace policy or a banking or internet or other public policy that a few corporate lawyers can convince three other corporate lawyers fails to comply with the TPP, the policy will be overturned, the law rewritten, and compensation ordered to be paid by the public treasury to the corporations that suffered from having to provide healthcare or from having to refrain from poisoning a river, or whatever. We don't know all of the details -- I'll get to some of them shortly. But this framework is an outrage no matter what they turn out to be. And it's an expansion of something already being tried under existing corporate trade agreements. says: "Tribunals have already ordered governments to pay over $3.5 billion in investor-state cases under existing U.S. agreements. This includes payments over toxic bans, land-use policies, forestry rules and more. More than $14.7 billion remain in pending claims under U.S. agreements alone. Even when governments win, they often must pay for the tribunals' costs and legal fees, which average $8 million per case. The TPP would expand the scope of policies that could be attacked.

"The proposed TPP foreign investor privileges would provide foreign firms greater 'rights' than those afforded to domestic firms. This includes a 'right' to not have expectations frustrated by a change in government policy. Claiming such radical privileges, foreign corporations have launched investor-state cases against a broad array of environmental, energy, consumer health, toxics, water, mining and other non-trade domestic policies that they allege undermine their 'expected future profits.'

"Some of the investor-state attacks now underway are:

Chevron trying to evade liability for its Ecuadorian Amazon toxic contamination;

Phillip Morris attacking Australia's cigarette labeling policy;

Eli Lilly attacking Canada's drug patent policy; and

European firms attacking Egypt's post-revolution minimum wage increase and South Africa's post-Apartheid affirmative action law."

Corporate trade agreements like the TPP don't impose something as dangerous as corporate nationhood as part of the cost of some other benefit. These agreements have no clear upside, unless it's inexpensive, poorly made products that poorly paid people can afford to buy. Most destructive public policies are justified by jobs. We'll chop down that forest for jobs. We'll build a bigger military for jobs. We'll mine coal for jobs. We'll concentrate wealth beyond medieval levels for jobs. But corporate trade agreements eliminate, or at least export, jobs.

The United States had about 20 million manufacturing jobs before NAFTA, and lost about 5 million of them, including the closure of more than 60,000 facilities. Imports have soared while the growth of exports has slowed. Millions of service jobs have been offshored too, of course. The TPP is referred to by those who have seen drafts of it (and you can read some draft chapters online) as NAFTA on steroids. It expands on NAFTA's policies. The TPP would provide special benefits to, and eliminate risks for, companies that offshore jobs. Vietnam's wages are even lower than China's. An average day's wage in China is $4.11. In Vietnam it's $2.75.

The TPP will push U.S. wages downward. And if NAFTA's impact on Mexico is any guide, the TPP won't end up being seen as beneficial to Vietnam either, especially when some other country decides that it can pay workers even less than Vietnam does.

The TPP will also move U.S. government contracting jobs to foreign companies by banning buy-American procurement policies. The ability of U.S. firms to bid on government contracts in the other participating countries will not begin to balance this out. And in every country involved, the foreign companies will be less accountable to the people whose money is being spent. Also banned will be preferential treatment for sweat-free businesses, minority-owned businesses, women-owned, or environmentally-friendly businesses. Not only does the TPP make corporations into governments, but it also makes governments into corporations, requiring that they work purely to maximize profits -- although the profits are for the corporations.

The TPP doesn't end there. When it comes to food safety and workplace safety and other consumer or environmental protections, an agreement like this could require that all nations enforce a high standard, even the highest standard of any of the nations, or a higher standard than any nation now meets -- after all, the agreement would create an even playing field for all and ought to be seen as an opportunity to collectively raise the standards. The TPP, as drafted, does just the opposite. It would require the United States to import meat and poultry that doesn't meet U.S. safety standards. Any U.S. food safety rule on pesticides, labeling, or additives that is higher than international standards could be challenged as an "illegal trade barrier." Malaysia and Vietnam are big seafood exporters. High levels of contaminants have been found in Vietnam's seafood. (I can't imagine why!) The FDA only inspects 1% of imported seafood now. Local seafood producers struggle as it is. The pollution involved in shipping seafood around the globe probably won't work wonders for future seafood either. And don't imagine we'll all just buy local and "vote with our wallets." The TPP will impose limits on labeling where food comes from, labeling GMO foods, labeling foods dolphin-safe, etc. You won't know where your food comes from or how it was produced unless you grow it or buy it from a neighbor who grew it. But the odds will be stacked even more heavily against the small farmer if the TPP is enacted.

Once everyone's gotten good and sick by eating TPP food, just wait to see what the TPP does to healthcare. Corporations with national rights will be able to overturn domestic patent and drug-pricing laws. The big drug companies will be able to raise prices with extended monopolies over drugs and over surgical procedures. People in need of inexpensive generic drugs will be denied them, and many of those people will die. The TPP, in the end, may turn out to be more deadly than any war. The TPP would threaten provisions included in Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans' health programs to make medicines more affordable. Foreign corporations will also be able to challenge laws on toxics, zoning, cigarettes, alcohol, public health, and the environment -- anything that they could claim might cost them profits. NAFTA doesn't go as far as the TPP, but these things are already happening under it. says: "Canada lifted a ban on a gasoline additive already banned in the U.S. as a suspected carcinogen after an investor attack by Ethyl Corporation under NAFTA. It also paid the firm $13 million and published a formal statement that the chemical was not hazardous."

Under the TPP, the United States could increase its exports of so-called natural gas, and that will mean more fracking. And laws to protect the environment, including the human beings, where the fracking is done could be challenged by corporations as limiting their future profits. The same problems arise with tar sands. Even under existing corporate trade agreements, governments have already paid over $3 billion to foreign corporations, and over 85% of that has been the result of challenges to oil, mining, gas, and other environmental and natural resource policies. This includes payments by the governments of Mexico and Canada to U.S. fossil fuel corporations.

The United States has been growing accustomed to secret laws. The PATRIOT Act, for example, according to numerous members of Congress, has been secretly "reinterpreted" to mean things radically at odds with and worse than what the words of the bill -- horrible as they were -- meant. The TPP could become public, and bits of it keep leaking out, but it outdoes the PATRIOT Act in size and breadth. It would rewrite laws. It would even put in place laws very intentionally rejected by Congress following a very public process.

Last year there was a big struggle over SOPA, a bill that was marketed as copyright protection but ultimately rejected as internet censorship -- following a great deal of public, and even some corporate, pressure. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU, the TPP would largely recreate SOPA while no one's watching. Unless, of course, we start watching. Under the TPP, internet service providers will be able to monitor user activity, remove internet content, and prevent certain people from accessing certain content. Downloading a song could be treated the same as a large-scale for-profit copyright violation. The TPP would impose copyright protections for 120 years for corporate-created content. Breaking digital locks (and no, I don't really know what those are) for legitimate purposes, such as using Linux or accessing closed captioning for the deaf or audio-supported content for the blind could result in fines.

Then there are the laws that we dream our government might enact that the TPP would prevent, such as reasonable regulation of Wall Street. Under the TPP a government could not ban the toxic derivatives and other risky financial "products" that helped crash the economy. A firewall could not be put back in place between different types of financial institutions. Senator Elizabeth Warren wants to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, arguing that it prevented economic crashes for a half century from the 30s through the 80s. The TPP would forbid it. A huge movement that I've been working with wants to impose a Robin Hood tax, a tax on financial transactions. Some nations' governments have begun to agree. The TPP would forbid it. If our government creates and then abides by the TPP it will be asked for more bankster bailouts. If it creates and does not abide by the TPP, corporate tribunals will make it pay the bailouts as punishment for imposing regulations. Our government is doing this to itself because it is broken. Elections are broken. Communications are broken. Secrecy is out of control. Whistleblowers are persecuted. Bribery is institutionalized. Parties have replaced branches. And a culture of shortsighted greed and subservience has supplanted anything resembling statesmanship.

The TPP will, as the flyer for this event stated:

* Prevent effective regulation of Wall Street

* Trade good-paying careers for sweatshop labor

* Destroy family farms

* Accelerate global warming in the name of profits

* Keep the public in the dark

* Place corporate rights above our national sovereignty

* Crush our ability to support local economies

* Weaken and undermine democracy at home and abroad

President Obama wants to fast-track the TPP. Industry groups this week have been demanding that Congress approve fast-tracking. Corporate trade agreements are not treated as treaties requiring a two-thirds vote in the Senate. Rather, they are treated as requiring a simple majority in both houses. If Congress allows fast-tracking, that means the thing can't be amended. And it can't be filibustered. It must be simply voted on as is, with the most horrible bits included along with the only moderately horrible parts. Most Congress Members had no time to read the PATRIOT Act before they voted on it, and of course the public had not seen it. Congress has not seen the TPP yet either. There are three chapters in the draft text that no one has leaked even the titles of.

Fast-track authority expired in 2007 and Congress refused to renew it. Urging Congress to continue rejecting fast-track could be part of a comprehensive campaign aimed at getting Congress to take itself seriously, a campaign that might include repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force which essentially handed war powers over to the president. Regardless, stopping fast track would help stop the TPP. And it wouldn't stop decent trade agreements that can withstand the light of day. There have been over 500 trade agreements created since 1974, and fast track has been used for only 16 of the worst ones.

As a candidate, Obama said he would replace fast track and make sure that Congress played a strong and informed role in trade agreements. Now he's seeking fast track. If he gets it, the TPP will become likely in every gory detail.

The TPP can be stopped. Others have been since NAFTA passed, including the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which failed following huge public protests. In the case of the FTAA, the negotiation documents were made public. Not this time. But offers these words of encouragement:

"Since the 'Battle in Seattle,' the World Trade Organization has had an impossible time moving forward, as was seen in the failure of the Millennial and Doha Rounds of the WTO. We also stopped the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. And at least 14 other corporate trade agreements have not been completed because of widespread public opposition. This is hopeful news, and together we can stop the TPP also, which will be a tremendous victory for the people against transnational corporate power!" has a map where you can find or create actions around the country. Groups are encouraged to hold TPP Tuesdays, dedicating Tuesdays to educational or nonviolent resistance events. In August, when Congress Members are expected to be in their districts and senators in their states. We should bird-dog them, lobby them, meet with them, interview them, pressure them, protest them, until they agree to make the TPP public and to stop fast track. Former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk has said that if the contents of this agreement were known it could not be signed because it would be so unpopular.

The Backbone Campaign, online at, has great ideas for props and banners and puppets. They've even been holding training camps, teaching things like action planning, light projection, song and dance flash mobs, guerilla theatre, fundraising, giant banner construction and deployment -- including with helium balloons, blockades, rappelling, etc. I recommend contacting them or organizing a similar effort.

Maybe TPP opposition can be a catalyst for a resurgence of Occupy Harrisonburg and Occupy Everywhere. We are going to have to get organized and we are going to have to occupy. We need to keep moving the money out of the big banks. We need to advance worker ownership and community power. We need to become independent of the outrageously corrupt political party that we're supposed to hate and the outrageously corrupt political party that we're supposed to like. We need to stop cheering when President Obama gives speeches opposing his own policies. I can't recall once demanding that President Bush give a speech. We always wanted something more substantive than that.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Terrorism: The False Generation Of Domestic Fear
By James Donahue

The whole concept of terrorism is not new. It has been going on for centuries because it has been an effective way for the servile of the world to strike out at their oppressors, no matter how powerful.

What is new about the current "War On Terrorism," launched by the Bush Administration following the sensational aerial assaults of September 11, 2001, has been the virtual size and scope of the attacks and government generated counter-attacks against entire nations deemed "guilty" of financing and supporting terrorist bombing attacks against American targets both at home and abroad.

America shifted from a nation at peace to a nation at war with an invisible enemy in a single day on 9-11. While there appeared to be general consensus that a secret Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organization called al-Qaeda and led by a tall, skinny mad-man named Osama bin Laden was behind the 9-11 attacks, there were too many things about that story, spoon fed to us by our own government, that never made sense.

For example: how did a group of young men from Saudi Arabia succeed in entering the United States, train to fly large commercial air liners, and then manage to gain control of four planes at the same time using only box cutters, and successfully fly them into the sides of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon? Why was President George W. Bush caught reading "My Pet Goat" to children in Florida, leaving Vice President Dick Cheney in charge of government affairs that fateful morning? And why did Cheney call down the Air Force fighter jets dispatched to intercept the run-away air liners before they did their damage? Why were all the surveillance tapes from all of the cameras that observed the planes hitting the buildings, especially the Pentagon, quickly confiscated by the FBI and never made available to the public? And why did the World Trade towers . . . not just the two that were hit but a third tower nearby, all implode into rubble as if they were hit by professional demolition experts?

Those are but a few of the more burning questions still remaining unanswered about the 9-11 attack.

Another problem we have had with the events following that assault has been the decision by President Bush to send troops into Afghanistan to attack that entire country when it was determined that the villains appeared to have been from Saudi Arabia who merely planned their attack in Afghanistan? And why did Bush quickly divert the war effort to Iraq, which was found to have been in no way connected to the 9-11 attack?

And why did Congress almost unanimously pass the complex and controversial Patriot Act within weeks of the attack? Most of our elected legislators later admitted that they never took the time to study or hold hearings on this destructive piece of legislation. They just obediently slipped it into law, thus opening our letters, telephone calls, and Internet communications to government observers without first getting court orders to do so.

And why did Mr. Bush create the Department of Homeland Security during those same confusing weeks, when most people were stirred to a state of fear by the rhetoric flowing from our television screens.

Since those days Americans not only went off to launch two unprovoked and unnecessary wars in the Middle East, but we have lived under a yoke of constant observation by our government. It was the Orwellian vision of 1984 springing into reality before our eyes. We still can't board an airplane without being virtually strip searched.

There have been those constant and ever vague "terrorist alerts" about information received by the FBI about planned new terrorist attacks on new U.S. targets ranging from nuclear power plants to water filtration plants and government offices. Of course the Islamic terrorist groups successfully blew up U.S. government installations overseas by exploding bombs strapped to themselves. The attacks only intensified the fears among people on the home front.

We watched in disbelief as billions of tax dollars were funneled into local police agencies, furnishing them with armored vehicles, riot gear and everything needed to turn them into military-type units operating under a new layer of bureaucracy under the guise of providing "homeland security."

Was the danger ever as great as we were led to believe?

A new book, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism by Trevor Aaronson reveals how we have all been successfully duped to willingly give up our rights in exchange for protection from a non-existent enemy. Aaronson told in his book how the FBI fabricated hundreds of cases of alleged terrorist plots, going so far as to provide the money and bombs, and then rushing in to make arrests after instigating the alleged attack by unwitting defendants who had no connection to real terrorist organizations.

During the 10 years following 9-11, Aaronson said he found reports of over 500 cases where defendants were charged with federal crimes of international terrorism. Of these he said about 250 of them were charged "with things like immigration violations or lying to the FBI" which somehow got them linked to terrorism. "Their charges did not involve any sort of terrorist plot," he said.

Of the 500, he said about 150 cases were caught in sting operations "that were solely the creation of the FBI." And of these, he said only about five people were really charged with international terrorism who were involved in a real plot and either had weapons they created or were in some way connected to international terrorists.

These cases included Najibullah Zazi who nearly bombed the New York subway system, Faisal Shahzad, who delivered a bomb to Times Square that failed to go off. Also there was Jose Padilla, the dirty bomber, Umar Abdul Mutallab, the so-called Nigerian "underware bomber" caught at Detroit, and of course, Richard Reid, the guy that attempted to bomb a flight to Miami with a device hidden in his shoes. The latter two were caught by passengers in the aircraft they were flying in, not the FBI.

Why is the FBI so involved in creating a false terrorism story? It all involves money, Aaronson wrote. He called it "bureaucratic evil." The way it works is this. Every year Congress allocates a counter-terrorism budget of $3 billion to the FBI, which has become the largest part of that agencies' budget. If the FBI doesn't spend the $3 billion in one year, the appropriation will be cut the following year. Thus, for its own survival, the FBI is forced to create reports of its achievements in stopping terrorism.

All government agencies work the same way, from federal levels to state and county and city levels. Thus you may get an understanding of how corrupt our system of government has gotten, and why our tax dollars are wasted.
(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

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder presents his third state budget before
the state Legislature in Lansing, Michigan, Thursday, February 7, 2013.

Detroit Really Is Too Big To Fail
By John Nichols

Does anyone seriously doubt that, if Detroit were a "too big to fail" bank, it would have been bailed out long ago? Or that its pensioners, rather than facing the threat of cruel cuts as part of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's scheme to steer the city into brutal bankruptcy proceedings, would instead have pocketed hefty bonuses?

To ask the question is to answer it.

If the 2008 bailout of the biggest players in the financial sector-Carlos Osorioand policy-making over the ensuing years-tells us anything, it is that Congress and the Federal Reserve take care of Wall Street.

America's great cities? Not so much.

The political dynamic in Washington has been tough on America's cities for a long time. And it is worse now, as austerity advocates seek to shred a safety net that is vital for urban America. But there are some in DC who recognize that the federal government has both a responsibility and an opportunity-as Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah, a leader of the Congressional Urban Caucus, suggested Friday- "to analyze Detroit's fiscal situation and intervene on the city's behalf."

This does not mean that a bailout on par with what the bankers got is in the offering for struggling cities and counties across the country. Not on John Boehner's watch.

Yet, Washington cannot avoid this issue and expect the United States to return to robust economic health. The link between the economic viability of American cities and the economic viability of America is too great for that.

To this end, President Obama and serious members of Congress must speak up about the vital importance of federal interventions not merely on behalf of cities but also on behalf of the people who live in major municipalities that cannot be allowed to fail. Cities and counties provide front-line services to tens of millions of America's most-vulnerable citizens, and municipal employees and retirees use the checks they have earned providing those services to keep local economies functioning. Austerity cuts, whether they are imposed by appointed officials with no other options or bankruptcy courts, do real damage far beyond the cities where they are imposed. The urgency of Detroit's circumstance has highlighted the need for what one Congressman calls a "rethink" of Washington's approach to cities that-for all their troubles-remain essential engines of the American economy. This rethink must, necessarily, recognize that the era in which Washington can neglect American cities and expect the American economy to survive unscathed is finished.

The headlines from Detroit tell us as much.

But it's not just the Motor City.

Detroit is in the news because of Snyder's move. But Detroit is not alone-not in a country where more than 80 percent of Americans now live in urban areas, and where communities from California to Alabama are wrestling with bankruptcy processes.

Michigan Governor Snyder has targeted Michigan cities outside Detroit for state-imposed austerity, using an "emergency manager" law that he reworked and reinstated even after Michigan voters scrapped a similar measure in a 2012 statewide referendum vote. Beyond Michigan, in states across the country, major cities teeter on the brink of insolvency.

No one suggests that officials in Detroit or Saginaw or Flint-or the other struggling American cities-did everything right.

But only the most deliberately disengaged commentator would imagine Washington to be blame-free in all this. America's urban communities-and many not-so-urban communities-have for decades been battered by free-trade policies that foster deindustrialization, by tax policies that encourage offshoring, by all the missteps and misdeeds of Congress and successive presidents.

Washington did plenty to create the crisis. Yet, as Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee notes, "For too long lawmakers and regulators have stood aside as cities grapple with budget deficits, unfunded pensions and crumbling infrastructure."

Kildee, a Democrat who served as Genesee County (Flint) Treasurer and CEO of the Genesee Land Bank before his election to Congress, is urging Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to work with Congress to address what the congressman warns-correctly-is "the systemic failure of U.S. cities."

"I would ask if you would think about how you would advise Congress or how the Fed itself might pursue policy that would have the effect of potentially avoiding-but certainly mitigating-the economic effect of municipal financial failure," Kildee told Bernanke at a House Financial Services Committee last week.

Since his election to Congress in 2012, Kildee has been warning Washington that the crisis faced by cities extends far beyond the headline-grabbing troubles faced by Detroit.

"In my work across the country, this is something much bigger than a failure of management, but a structural failure," the congressman argues. "Cities failing will be a national problem, one way or another, and I suggest perhaps at a different juncture we might pursue some thought about how the federal government might intervene."

The "rethink" that Kildee proposes is rooted in an understanding that failing cities undermine the states in which they are located-and the nation as a whole. And, he argues, there are ways to intervene.

"Our system of municipal finance is broken. States and the federal government need to rethink the way they support cities and metropolitan areas," explains Kildee. "For example, community development block grant programs, which Republicans in Congress have proposed cutting by over 40 percent, is the wrong approach that would be damaging the vitality of many U.S. cities, in some cases even exacerbating their decline. It's time that we start thinking about the long-term sustainability and funding mechanism for cities and suburban areas that are the powerhouse engines of our economy."

Kildee's not alone in stepping up. He's one of the newest members of Congress, but in the struggle to aid Detroit, he's joined by one of the senior members: Congressman John Conyers, who has represented the Detroit area since the mid-1960s.

Conyers warned long ago that free-trade policies would devastate American cities, and he's been a steady advocate for investment in urban America. But now, he says, Congress needs to recognize and respond to the risks that arise when municipalities are in crisis.

While Kildee is prodding Bernanke to engage, Conyers wants the House Judiciary Committee to examine "the increasing use of Chapter 9 bankruptcy by municipalities and other jurisdictions facing financial distress and the ramifications such bankruptcy filings are having on impacted jurisdictions and the nation as a whole."

In particular, Conyers is interested in examining the role that financial distress and bankruptcy pressures play in assaulting pension rights and in hastening the privatization of essential public services. As Conyers notes, the pressure to privatize is often at odds with the public interest in transparency and the long-term stability of communities.

There are already plenty of politicians stepping up to say what Washington can't do in response not just to Detroit's needs but also to those of hundreds of cities and counties nationwide. But that's austerity talking, not common sense. Common sense says that the federal government, which has played a part in undermining the economic prospects of American cities, needs to start playing a useful role.

No matter what that role is, there will be those who call it a "bailout." In reality, it's a smart investment not just in cities but also in the American people. After all, as Congressman Kildee reminds us, "While you can dissolve a corporation through bankruptcy, you cannot simply 'dissolve' a place where hundreds of thousands of people live, work and raise their families."
(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.

Planet Earth As A US Military Base
By Tom Engelhardt

It could be any week on that great U.S. military base we know as Planet Earth and here's the remarkable thing: there's always news. Something's always happening somewhere, usually on more than one continent, as befits the largest, most destructive, most technologically advanced (and in many ways least successful) military on the planet. In our time, the U.S. military has been sent into numerous wars, failed to win a single one, and created plenty of blowback. But hey, who has to win a specific war when it's "wartime" all the time?

These last weeks were the American military equivalent of a no-news period. Nothing really happened. I mean, yes, there was the war in Afghanistan, the usual round of night raids, dead civilians, and insider attacks. Nothing worth spending much time on, other than whether the U.S. might, in frustration over Afghan President Hamid Karzai, exercise the "zero option" after 2014 and leave -- or not. And yes, there was that drone attack last week in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan that killed three "militants" (or so we're told), despite the complaints of the country's new government. (I mean, what say should it have in the matter?)

And there was the news that Washington was seeking an "expanded role" for its military in the Philippines, where the question of the month was: Could the Pentagon "position military equipment and rotate more personnel" there, "while avoiding the contentious issue of reestablishing American bases in the country" -- so said "officials from both countries," according to the New York Times. After all, if we call the places where our troops are stationed "Philippine bases," what's the problem? And, believe me, no one wants to hear a lot of whining about it from a bunch of Filipinos either!

And don't forget about those American drones now flying over Mali from a base recently established in Niger, part of a blowback-generating set of Pentagon operations on the African continent. They got a little attention last week. And one more thing, conveniently on the same continent: since Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey put in calls to their Egyptian counterparts as they were launching a military coup in an ongoing pre-revolutionary situation, the Pentagon has, it seems, never been less than in touch with its Egyptian military pals, a crew significantly trained, advised, and paid for by Washington.

And that's just what made it into the news in the most humdrum military week of 2013. On the other hand, in "Iraq Invades the United States," Eduardo Galeano, one of the great global writers, offers a little upside-down tour of U.S. military history -- from 1916 to late tomorrow night -- via eight little excerpts from his new book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History, reminding us of what some really newsworthy moments were like. Think of it as a kind of highlight reel from almost a century of the American way of war.
(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).

One of the most vocal supporters of the Obama White House's position on
yesterday's NSA debate: GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Democratic Establishment Unmasked: Prime Defenders Of NSA Bulk Spying
NYT: "The Obama administration made common cause with the House Republican leadership"
By Glenn Greenwald

One of the worst myths Democratic partisans love to tell themselves - and everyone else - is that the GOP refuses to support President Obama no matter what he does. Like its close cousin - the massively deceitful inside-DC grievance that the two parties refuse to cooperate on anything - it's hard to overstate how false this Democratic myth is. When it comes to foreign policy, war, assassinations, drones, surveillance, secrecy, and civil liberties, President Obama's most stalwart, enthusiastic defenders are often found among the most radical precincts of the Republican Party.

The rabidly pro-war and anti-Muslim GOP former Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King, has repeatedly lavished Obama with all sorts of praise and support for his policies in those areas. The Obama White House frequently needs, and receives, large amounts of GOP Congressional support to have its measures enacted or bills its dislikes defeated. The Obama DOJ often prevails before the US Supreme Court solely because the Roberts/Scalia/Thomas faction adopts its view while the Ginsburg/Sotomayor/Breyer faction rejects it (as happened in February when the Court, by a 5-4 ruling, dismissed a lawsuit brought by Amnesty and the ACLU which argued that the NSA's domestic warrantless eavesdropping activities violate the Fourth Amendment; the Roberts/Scalia wing accepted the Obama DOJ's argument that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue because the NSA successfully conceals the identity of which Americans are subjected to the surveillance). As Wired put it at the time about that NSA ruling:

The 5-4 decision by Justice Samuel Alito was a clear victory for the President Barack Obama administration, which like its predecessor, argued that government wiretapping laws cannot be challenged in court.

The extraordinary events that took place in the House of Representatives yesterday are perhaps the most vivid illustration yet of this dynamic, and it independently reveals several other important trends. The House voted on an amendment sponsored by Justin Amash, the young Michigan lawyer elected in 2010 as a Tea Party candidate, and co-sponsored by John Conyers, the 24-term senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. The amendment was simple. It would de-fund one single NSA program: the agency's bulk collection of the telephone records of all Americans that we first revealed in this space, back on June 6. It accomplished this "by requiring the FISA court under Sec. 215 [of the Patriot Act] to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation."

The amendment yesterday was defeated. But it lost by only 12 votes: 205-217. Given that the amendment sought to de-fund a major domestic surveillance program of the NSA, the very close vote was nothing short of shocking. In fact, in the post-9/11 world, amendments like this, which directly challenge the Surveillance and National Security States, almost never get votes at all. That the GOP House Leadership was forced to allow it to reach the floor was a sign of how much things have changed over the last seven weeks.

More significant than the closeness of the vote was its breakdown. A majority of House Democrats supported the Amash/Conyers amendment, while a majority of Republicans voted against it:

The full roll call vote is here. House Speaker John Boehner saved the Obama White House by voting against it and ensuring that his top leadership whipped against it. As the New York Times put it in its account of yesterday's vote:

Conservative Republicans leery of what they see as Obama administration abuses of power teamed up with liberal Democrats long opposed to intrusive intelligence programs. The Obama administration made common cause with the House Republican leadership to try to block it.

In reality, the fate of the amendment was sealed when the Obama White House on Monday night announced its vehement opposition to it, and then sent NSA officials to the House to scare members that barring the NSA from collecting all phone records of all Americans would Help The Terrorists™.

Using Orwellian language so extreme as to be darkly hilarious, this was the first line of the White House's statement opposing the amendment: "In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens" (i.e.: we welcome the debate that has been exclusively enabled by that vile traitor, the same debate we've spent years trying to prevent with rampant abuse of our secrecy powers that has kept even the most basic facts about our spying activities concealed from the American people).

The White House then condemned Amash/Conyers this way: "This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process." What a multi-level masterpiece of Orwellian political deceit that sentence is. The highly surgical Amash/Conyers amendment - which would eliminate a single, specific NSA program of indiscriminate domestic spying - is a "blunt approach", but the Obama NSA's bulk, indiscriminate collection of all Americans' telephone records is not a "blunt approach". Even worse: Amash/Conyers - a House bill debated in public and then voted on in public - is not an "open or deliberative process", as opposed to the Obama administration's secret spying activities and the secret court that blesses its secret interpretations of law, which is "open and deliberative". That anyone can write a statement like the one that came from the Obama White House without dying of shame, or giggles, is impressive.

Even more notable than the Obama White House's defense of the NSA's bulk domestic spying was the behavior of the House Democratic leadership. Not only did they all vote against de-funding the NSA bulk domestic spying program - that includes liberal icon House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who voted to protect the NSA's program - but Pelosi's deputy, Steny Hoyer, whipped against the bill by channeling the warped language and mentality of Dick Cheney. This is the language the Democratic leadership circulated when telling their members to reject Amash/Conyers:

"2) Amash/Conyers/Mulvaney/Polis/Massie Amendment – Bars the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act (as codified by Section 501 of FISA) to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who may be in communication with terrorist groups but are not already subject to an investigation under Section 215."

Remember when Democrats used to object so earnestly when Dick Cheney would scream "The Terrorists!" every time someone tried to rein in the National Security State just a bit and so modestly protect basic civil liberties? How well they have learned: now, a bill to ban the government from collecting the telephone records of all Americans, while expressly allowing it to collect the records of anyone for whom there is evidence of wrongdoing, is - in the language of the House Democratic Leadership - a bill to Protect The Terrorists.

None of this should be surprising. Remember: this is the same Nancy Pelosi who spent years during the Bush administration pretending to be a vehement opponent of the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program after it was revealed by the New York Times, even though (just as was true of the Bush torture program) she was secretly briefed on it many years earlier when it was first implemented. At the end of June, we published the top secret draft report by the Inspector General's office of the NSA that was required to provide a comprehensive history of the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program secretly ordered by Bush in late 2001. That report included this passage:

"Within the first 30 days of the Program, over 190 people were cleared into the Program. This number included Senators Robert Graham and Richard Shelby, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Counsel to the Vice President David Addington, and Presidential Assistant I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby."

So the history of Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi isn't one of opposition to mass NSA spying when Bush was in office, only to change positions now that Obama is. The history is of pretend opposition - of deceiving their supporters by feigning opposition - while actually supporting it.

But the most notable aspect of yesterday's events was the debate on the House floor. The most vocal defenders of the Obama White House's position were Rep. Mike Rogers, the very hawkish GOP Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Echoing the Democratic House leadership, Bachmann repeatedly warned that NSA bulk spying was necessary to stop "Islamic jihadists", and she attacked Republicans who supported de-funding for rendering the nation vulnerable to The Terrorists.

Meanwhile, Amash led the debate against the NSA program and repeatedly assigned time to many of the House's most iconic liberals to condemn in the harshest terms the NSA program defended by the Obama White House. Conyers repeatedly stood to denounce the NSA program as illegal, unconstitutional and extremist. Manhattan's Jerry Nadler said that "no administration should be permitted to operate beyond the law, as they've been doing." Newly elected Democrat Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, an Iraq War combat veteran considered a rising star in her party, said that she could not in good conscience take a single dollar from taxpayers to fund programs that infringe on exactly those constitutional rights our troops (such as herself) have risked their lives for; she told me after the vote, by Twitter direct message, that the "battle [was] lost today but war not over. We will continue to press on this issue."

In between these denunciations of the Obama NSA from House liberals, some of the most conservative members of the House stood to read from the Fourth Amendment. Perhaps the most amazing moment came when GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner - the prime author of the Patriot Act back in 2001 and a long-time defender of War on Terror policies under both Bush and Obama - stood up to say that the NSA's domestic bulk spying far exceeds the bounds of the law he wrote as well as his belief in the proper limits of domestic surveillance, and announced his support for Amash/Conyers. Sensenbrenner was then joined in voting to de-fund the NSA program by House liberals such as Barbara Lee, Rush Holt, James Clyburn, Nydia Velázquez, Alan Grayson, and Keith Ellison.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Democrat Ron Wyden continues to invoke unusually harsh language to condemn what the NSA is doing under Obama. Here is some of what he said in a speech this week at the Center for American Progress, as reported by the Hill: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Tuesday urged the United States to revamp its surveillance laws and practices, warning that the country will 'live to regret it' if it fails to do so.

"'If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live to regret it ... The combination of increasingly advanced technology with a breakdown in the checks and balances that limit government action could lead us to a surveillance state that cannot be reversed,' he added... .

"The government has essentially kept people in the dark about their broad interpretations of the law, he said. Wyden tells constituents there are two Patriot Acts: One they read online at home and 'the secret interpretation of the law that the government is actually relying upon.'

"'If Americans are not able to learn how their government is interpreting and executing the law then we have effectively eliminated the most important bulwark of our democracy," he said. ...

"'This means that the government's authority to collect information on law-abiding American citizens is essentially limitless', he said."

Wyden's full speech - in which he makes clear that it is solely the disclosures of the last seven weeks that have enabled this debate and brought about a massive shift in public opinion - is remarkable and can be read here. That's a senior Democrat and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee sounding exactly like Edward Snowden - and the ACLU - in denouncing the abuses of the American Surveillance State. Meanwhile, as soon as the House vote was over, Rep. Rush Holt, a long-time Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, introduced "The Surveillance State Repeal Act" that would repeal the legislative foundation for this massive spying, including the once-and-now-again-controversial Patriot Act, which the Obama administration in 2011 successfully had renewed without a single reform (after Democrat Harry Reid accused opponents of its reform-free renewal of endangering the Nation to The Terrorists).

To say that there is a major sea change underway - not just in terms of surveillance policy but broader issues of secrecy, trust in national security institutions, and civil liberties - is to state the obvious. But perhaps the most significant and enduring change will be the erosion of the trite, tired prism of partisan simplicity through which American politics has been understood over the last decade. What one sees in this debate is not Democrat v. Republican or left v. right. One sees authoritarianism v. individualism, fealty to The National Security State v. a belief in the need to constrain and check it, insider Washington loyalty v. outsider independence.

That's why the only defenders of the NSA at this point are the decaying establishment leadership of both political parties whose allegiance is to the sprawling permanent power faction in Washington and the private industry that owns and controls it. They're aligned against long-time liberals, the new breed of small government conservatives, the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, many of their own members, and increasingly the American people, who have grown tired of, and immune to, the relentless fear-mongering.

The sooner the myth of "intractable partisan warfare" is dispelled, the better. The establishment leadership of the two parties collaborate on far more than they fight. That is a basic truth that needs to be understood. As John Boehner joined with Nancy Peolsi, as Eric Cantor whipped support for the Obama White House, as Michele Bachmann and Peter King stood with Steny Hoyer to attack NSA critics as Terrorist-Lovers, yesterday was a significant step toward accomplishing that.
(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.

Detroit, The New Greece
By Paul Krugman

When Detroit declared bankruptcy, or at least tried to - the legal situation has gotten complicated - I know that I wasn't the only economist to have a sinking feeling about the likely impact on our policy discourse. Was it going to be Greece all over again?

Clearly, some people would like to see that happen. So let's get this conversation headed in the right direction, before it's too late.

O.K., what am I talking about? As you may recall, a few years ago Greece plunged into fiscal crisis. This was a bad thing but should have had limited effects on the rest of the world; the Greek economy is, after all, quite small (actually, about one and a half times as big as the economy of metropolitan Detroit). Unfortunately, many politicians and policy makers used the Greek crisis to hijack the debate, changing the subject from job creation to fiscal rectitude.

Now, the truth was that Greece was a very special case, holding few if any lessons for wider economic policy - and even in Greece, budget deficits were only one piece of the problem. Nonetheless, for a while policy discourse across the Western world was completely "Hellenized" - everyone was Greece, or was about to turn into Greece. And this intellectual wrong turn did huge damage to prospects for economic recovery.

So now the deficit scolds have a new case to misinterpret. Never mind the repeated failure of the predicted U.S. fiscal crisis to materialize, the sharp fall in predicted U.S. debt levels and the way much of the research the scolds used to justify their scolding has been discredited; let's obsess about municipal budgets and public pension obligations!

Or, actually, let's not.

Are Detroit's woes the leading edge of a national public pensions crisis? No. State and local pensions are indeed underfunded, with experts at Boston College putting the total shortfall at $1 trillion. But many governments are taking steps to address the shortfall. These steps aren't yet sufficient; the Boston College estimates suggest that overall pension contributions this year will be about $25 billion less than they should be. But in a $16 trillion economy, that's just not a big deal - and even if you make more pessimistic assumptions, as some but not all accountants say you should, it still isn't a big deal.

So was Detroit just uniquely irresponsible? Again, no. Detroit does seem to have had especially bad governance, but for the most part the city was just an innocent victim of market forces.,P> What? Market forces have victims? Of course they do. After all, free-market enthusiasts love to quote Joseph Schumpeter about the inevitability of "creative destruction" - but they and their audiences invariably picture themselves as being the creative destroyers, not the creatively destroyed. Well, guess what: Someone always ends up being the modern equivalent of a buggy-whip producer, and it might be you.

Sometimes the losers from economic change are individuals whose skills have become redundant; sometimes they're companies, serving a market niche that no longer exists; and sometimes they're whole cities that lose their place in the economic ecosystem. Decline happens.

True, in Detroit's case matters seem to have been made worse by political and social dysfunction. One consequence of this dysfunction has been a severe case of "job sprawl" within the metropolitan area, with jobs fleeing the urban core even when employment in greater Detroit was still rising, and even as other cities were seeing something of a city-center revival. Fewer than a quarter of the jobs on offer in the Detroit metropolitan area lie within 10 miles of the traditional central business district; in greater Pittsburgh, another former industrial giant whose glory days have passed, the corresponding figure is more than 50 percent. And the relative vitality of Pittsburgh's core may explain why the former steel capital is showing signs of a renaissance, while Detroit just keeps sinking.

So by all means let's have a serious discussion about how cities can best manage the transition when their traditional sources of competitive advantage go away. And let's also have a serious discussion about our obligations, as a nation, to those of our fellow citizens who have the bad luck of finding themselves living and working in the wrong place at the wrong time - because, as I said, decline happens, and some regional economies will end up shrinking, perhaps drastically, no matter what we do.

The important thing is not to let the discussion get hijacked, Greek-style. There are influential people out there who would like you to believe that Detroit's demise is fundamentally a tale of fiscal irresponsibility and/or greedy public employees. It isn't. For the most part, it's just one of those things that happens now and then in an ever-changing economy.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring." ~~~ Nuremberg convention

Don't Buy The Right-Wing Myth About Detroit
Conservatives want you to think high taxes drove people away. The real truth is much worse for their radical agenda
By David Sirota

In the wake of Detroit's bankruptcy, you may be wondering: How could anyone be surprised that a city so tied to manufacturing faces crippling problems in an era that has seen such an intense public policy assault on domestic American manufacturing? You may also be wondering: How could Michigan officials possibly talk about cutting the average $19,000-a-year pension benefit for municipal workers while reaffirming their pledge of $283 million in taxpayer money to a professional hockey stadium?

These are fair questions - and the answers to them can be found in the political mythology that distorts America's economic policymaking.

As mythology goes, the specific story being crafted about Detroit's bankruptcy is truly biblical - more specifically, just like the fact-free mythology around the Greek financial collapse, it is copied right from the chapter in the conservative movement's bible about how to distort crises for maximum political effect.

In the conservative telling of this particular parable, Detroit faces a fiscal emergency because high taxes supposedly drove a mass exodus from the city, and the supposedly unbridled greed of unions forced city leaders to make fiscally irresponsible pension promises to municipal employees. Written out of the tale is any serious analysis of macroeconomic shifts, international economic policy failures, the geography of recent recessions and unsustainable corporate welfare spending.

This is classic right-wing dogma - the kind that employs selective storytelling to use a tragic event as a means to radical ends. In this case, the ends are - big shocker! - three of the conservative movement's larger long-term economic priorities: 1) preservation of job-killing trade policies 2) immunity for corporations and 3) justification for budget policies that continue to profligately subsidize the rich.

Pretending Detroit and the NAFTA era are unrelated.

The bait-and-switch on the first two objectives is fairly easy to see.

Detroit isn't just any old city - it happens to be the biggest population center in the state hit the hardest by the right's corporate-written trade agenda. Indeed, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the state lost more jobs than any other from NAFTA (43,600, or 1 percent of its total job base) and lost another 79,500 jobs thanks to the China PNTR deal. And that's just two of many such trade pacts. Add to this the city's disproportionate reliance on American auto companies which made a series of horrific business decisions, and Detroit is a microcosmic cautionary tale about what happens when large corporations are allowed to write macro economic policy and dictate the economic future of an entire city.

If told, this cautionary tale would likely spark a discussion about revising current trade deals, regulations, public investment and industrial policy in general. That is, it would spark precisely the discussion that the conservative movement and the corporations that fund politicians don't want America to have. So the right works to make sure that discussion is short circuited by a narrative that focuses the Detroit story primarily on taxes and public pensions.

That is, of course, by design. The less Detroit prompts serious questions about trade policies and the auto industry, the less Detroit can be used as a rationale for changing those conservative, corporate-enriching policies and that industry. Likewise, the more taxes and retirement benefits can be blamed for Detroit's downfall, the more Detroit's tragedy can be used as a clarion call by the right to slash both.

Focusing on pensions to protect corporate welfare and tax cuts.

That brings us to how this all plays into the right's push to enact ever more regressive tax cuts, protect endless corporate welfare and legislate new reductions in workers'Rebecca Cook guaranteed pensions.

These latter objectives may seem unrelated, but they all complement each other when presented in the most politically opportunistic way. It's a straightforward conservative formula: the right blames state and municipal budget problems exclusively on public employees' retirement benefits, often underfunding those public pensions for years. The money raided from those pension funds is then used to enact expensive tax cuts and corporate welfare programs. After years of robbing those pension funds to pay for such giveaways, a crisis inevitably hits, and workers' pension benefits are blamed - and then slashed. Meanwhile, the massive tax cuts and corporate subsidies are preserved, because we are led to believe they had nothing to do with the crisis. Ultimately, the extra monies taken from retirees are then often plowed into even more tax cuts and more corporate subsidies.

We've seen this trick in states all over America lately. In Rhode Island, for instance, the state underfunded its public pensions for years, while giving away $356 million in a year in corporate subsidies (including an epically embarrassing $75 million to Curt Schilling). It then converted the pension system into a Wall Street boondoggle), all while preserving the subsidies.

Similarly, in Kentucky, the state raided its public pension funds to finance $1.4 billion a year in tax subsidies, and then when the crisis hit, lawmakers there slashed pension benefits - not the corporate subsidies.

The list of states and cities following this path goes on - but you get the point. In the conservative narrative about budgets in general, the focus is on the aggregate annual $333 million worth of state and local pension shortfalls - and left out of the story is the fact that, according to the New York Times, "states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies in the form of tax loopholes and subsidies."

The mythology around Detroit, then, is just another version of this propaganda.

So, for instance, from the administration of right-wing Gov. Rick Snyder, we are hearing a lot of carping about the $3.5 billion in pension obligations that are part of the city's overall $18 billion in debt. The focus leads casual onlookers to believe that - even though they on average get a pension of just $19,000 a year - municipal workers' supposed greed single-handedly bankrupted the city. What we aren't hearing about, though, is the city and state's long history of underfunding its pensions, and using the raided money to spend billions of dollars on corporate welfare.

For a good sense of some of the most expensive, absurd and utterly wasteful boondoggles in the Detroit area over the last few decades, read this piece from Crain's Detroit or see this 2011 article entitled "Detroit's Corporate Welfare Binge" by Detroit News columnist Bill Johnson. Alternately, recall this is in the heart of a region whose governments infamously spent $55 million of taxpayer money in 1975 (or a whopping $180 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) on one professional football stadium, then spent another $300 million on yet another football stadium, then sold off the original stadium for just $583,000. Or, just note that Detroit is the largest city in a state that, according to the New York Times, spends more per capita on corporate subsidies - $672 or $6.6 billion a year - than most other states.

By focusing the blame for Detroit's bankruptcy solely on workers' pensions, rather than having a more comprehensive discussion that includes both pension benefits and corporate giveaways, the right can engineer the political environment for the truly immoral reality mentioned at the beginning of this article - the one highlighted this week by the Associated Press story headlined "Arena Likely Still On Track, Business As Usual For Sports Teams Despite Bankruptcy Filing." Yes, that's correct: at the same time government officials are talking about slashing the meager $19,000-a-year pensions of workers who don't get Social Security, those officials are promising that they will still go forward with a plan to spend a whopping $283 million of taxpayer money on a new stadium for the Red Wings.

Notably, a political environment that encourages these kind of immoral decisions is beneficial not merely to the corporate interests who directly benefit from such giveaways, but also to the Wall Street investors who still own the outstanding bonds that financed some of the subsidies. Taken together, then, a skewed discussion about budget shortfalls that excludes scrutiny of these subsidies and focuses only on worker pensions predictably ends up prioritizing the financial interests of corporate welfare recipients and Wall Street bondholders over municipal retirees.

It's the same dynamic on taxes. From the right, Detroit is being cited in the discussion about budget shortfalls as proof of the need for austerity. Yet, we aren't hearing much about why in the face of such shortfalls Snyder just devoted $1.7 billion to a new corporate tax cut that will likely exacerbate the state's deficit, nor are we hearing much about why state law compelled Detroit to forfeit other desperately needed tax revenues. Again, the goal here is to make sure that the conversation is one that only is about cutting retirement benefits - not one that adds the prospect of progressive tax reform to the debate.

For his part, Kevyn Orr - the unelected "emergency manager" imposed on Detroit by Snyder - insists he will be evenhanded in distributing the pain of the city's bankruptcy. But with Wall Street bondholders intensifying their push to make sure all the pain is felt by public employees, and with the right's blame-the-workers narrative preventing any real discussion of corporate subsidies and tax policies, it's a good bet the $19,000-a-year pensioners are going to bear a disproportionate share of the sacrifice. After all, out of all of this situation's players - corporations that want public subsidies, bondholders, rich folk who want more tax cuts, right-wing Synder administration officials and municipal workers - the retirees earning benefits just above the poverty line have the least amount of political power.

So, as always, they probably won't be at the negotiating table. Instead, they'll almost certainly be where they usually are: on the menu, exactly where the conservative movement wants them.
(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 .

The Frog Who Crushed The Planet
Did a French Yuppie really create the Finance Crisis?
By Greg Palast

You just knew it had to be one of those brie-biting, Sartre-spewing, overly-garlicked Frenchmen who pushed the Earth's finance system over a cliff.

This week, US prosecutors finally began the trial of the only person on the entire planet whom they have charged with the financial crimes that sank worldwide stock markets by trillions in 2008 and left millions homeless and jobless, from Detroit to Manchester.

Amazingly, say prosecutors, it all came down to a single Frenchman, Fabrice "Fabulous Fab" Tourre, only 29 years old at the time. Even Julius Caesar waited until he turned 51 to bring the known world to its knees.

Here's the story which his defence team does not dispute:

In August 2007, hot-shot hedge fund manager John Paulson walked into Goldman Sachs with a brilliant plan to cash in on the US housing crisis.

He paid Goldman to announce that Paulson would invest a big hunk of his fund's wealth, $200 million, in securities tied to the US mortgage market's recovery. A few lucky investors would be allowed to give Goldman their billions to bet with Paulson that Americans would never default on their home mortgages.

It was a con. Secretly, Paulson would bet against the mortgage market, hoping it would collapse - making sure it would collapse. All he needed was Goldman to line up the suckers to put up billions to be his "partners".

It was Goldman's and Paulson's financial version of Mel Brooks' The Producers, in which a couple of corrupt theatre producers schemed to suck investors into a deliberate flop.

Throughout 2007 and 2008, Paulson & Co. worked with Goldman to create the financial equivalent of Springtime for Hitler.

Paulson personally chose the group of mortgages for the fund. Rather than pick the least risky, he deliberately loaded the fund with sub-prime losers. To polish this turd, Goldman and Paulson paid a highly respected risk analysis firm, ACA, to endorse the selection. Paulson and his vice president met with ACA to assure them of the value of the crappola - never telling ACA that, in fact, Paulson would profit if the securities failed.

Based on Paulson's pitch, ACA endorsed the value of these "synthetic derivatives" securities. This led rating agencies Moody's and S&P - recipients of fat fees from Goldman - to give the package an AAA rating - that is, marking them as safer than US Treasury notes.

In just a few weeks, by August 8, 2008, the securities lost 99 percent of their value.

The dupes paid up. One, Royal Bank of Scotland, handed over nearly a billion dollars ($840,909,090) to Goldman. Goldman then quietly shifted the loot, minus its fee, to Paulson & Co.

For more on Paulson and what he bought with your money, see Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.

The payout busted RBS. But don't shed tears. The Bank of England and British taxpayers took over the bank and covered the loss.

The collapse of RBS and the billions lost by others in the scheme fuelled a panic which caused banks in the US to shut their lending windows, refusing to re-finance sub-prime mortgages. Over two million American families now faced eviction.

Paulson was thrilled. Each default and eviction just made Paulson & Co. richer, altogether pulling in a profit for his hedge fund of over $3.5 billion on the Springtime-for-Hitler game. Paulson's personal earnings on this economic tragedy exceeded one billion dollars.

I happened to be in Detroit that August, at the home of auto union member Robert Pratt. He'd already received his eviction notice. Like almost all black home buyers in the USA, he was steered to a "sub-prime" mortgage. Under a formula years later deemed to be "predatory", his payments suddenly doubled. Pratt's mortgage balance grew to $110,000 on a home worth $30,000. The bank would not refinance, so Pratt prepared to move into his car with his wife and four kids.

Government watchdogs hunted for the financial crimes perpetrators, and, discovering the Goldman/Paulson fraud, brought charges against... the French kid. Goldman had leant Fabrice Tourre to Paulson to take on flunky tasks, including putting together a 28-page "flip book" to lure European banks into the scam.

In a text message discovered by investigators, Fabrice admitted to a friend that he couldn't understand the insanely complex derivatives Paulson had crafted with Tourre's bosses at Goldman. He did, though, grasp that the strange securities were, he wrote, "monstrosities". A collapse was coming that would "bring down the whole house", leaving Fabrice standing in a ruined planet - with a fat bonus.

What did the Feds do to Paulson? He received... a special tax break.

Am I defending the Fabulous Fabrice, the French-fried scapegoat? After all, he was just along for the ride. But he was deeply thrilled to carry water for the Bad Boys. And the charges against him are merely "civil", meaning he won't get jail time even if found guilty.

And what about Goldman, whose top brass knew of the entire game? The Securities and Exchange Commission did fine Goldman for its duplicity - a sum equal to 5 percent of the cash Goldman got from the US Treasury in bail-out funds.

After Goldman's con became public, its CEO Lloyd Blankfein was hailed as a visionary for offloading mortgage-backed securities before the shit hit the finance fan. Blankfein hailed himself for, he said, "doing God's work". God did well. Blankfein's bonus in 2007 brought his pay package to $69 million for the year, a Wall Street record.

Rather than prison or penury, Blankfein was appointed advisor to both the business and the law school at Harvard University.

So here's the lesson all Harvard students are taught: If you can't do the time, don't do the crime... unless your booty exceeds a billion.
(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 Generaldirektors Koch,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge John (the enforcer) Roberts.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your attempts to get rid of all minimum wages, 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 Kochs, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Detroit, And The Bankruptcy Of America's Social Contract
By Robert Reich

One way to view Detroit's bankruptcy - the largest bankruptcy of any American city - is as a failure of political negotiations over how financial sacrifices should be divided among the city's creditors, city workers, and municipal retirees - requiring a court to decide instead. It could also be seen as the inevitable culmination of decades of union agreements offering unaffordable pension and health benefits to city workers.

But there's a more basic story here, and it's being replicated across America: Americans are segregating by income more than ever before. Forty years ago, most cities (including Detroit) had a mixture of wealthy, middle-class, and poor residents. Now, each income group tends to lives separately, in its own city - with its own tax bases and philanthropies that support, at one extreme, excellent schools, resplendent parks, rapid-response security, efficient transportation, and other first-rate services; or, at the opposite extreme, terrible schools, dilapidated parks, high crime, and third-rate services.

The geo-political divide has become so palpable that being wealthy in America today means not having to come across anyone who isn't.

Detroit is a devastatingly poor, mostly black, increasingly abandoned island in the midst of a sea of comparative affluence that's mostly white. Its suburbs are among the richest in the nation. Oakland County, for example, is the fourth wealthiest county in the United States, of counties with a million or more residents. Greater Detroit - which includes the suburbs - is among the nation's top five financial centers, the top four centers of high-technology employment, and the second-biggest source of engineering and architectural talent. Not everyone is wealthy, to be sure, but the median household in the region earns close to $50,000 a year, and unemployment is no higher than the nation's average. The median household in Birmingham, Michigan, just across the border that delineates the city of Detroit, earned more than $94,000 last year; in nearby Bloomfield Hills - still within the Detroit metropolitan area - the median was more than $150,000.

The median household income within the city of Detroit is around $26,000, and unemployment is staggeringly high. One out of 3 residents is in poverty; more than half of all children in the city are impoverished. Between 2000 and 2010, Detroit lost a quarter of its population as the middle-class and whites fled to the suburbs. That left it with depressed property values, abandoned neighborhoods, empty buildings, lousy schools, high crime, and a dramatically-shrinking tax base. More than half of its parks have closed in the last five years. Forty percent of its streetlights don't work.

In other words, much in modern America depends on where you draw boundaries, and who's inside and who's outside. Who is included in the social contract? If “Detroit" is defined as the larger metropolitan area that includes its suburbs, “Detroit" has enough money to provide all its residents with adequate if not good public services, without falling into bankruptcy. Politically, it would come down to a question of whether the more affluent areas of this “Detroit" were willing to subsidize the poor inner-city through their tax dollars, and help it rebound. That's an awkward question that the more affluent areas would probably rather not have to face.

In drawing the relevant boundary to include just the poor inner city, and requiring those within that boundary to take care of their compounded problems by themselves, the whiter and more affluent suburbs are off the hook. “Their" city isn't in trouble. It's that other one - called “Detroit."

It's roughly analogous to a Wall Street bank drawing a boundary around its bad assets, selling them off at a fire-sale price, and writing off the loss. Only here we're dealing with human beings rather than financial capital. And the upcoming fire sale will likely result in even worse municipal services, lousier schools, and more crime for those left behind in the city of Detroit. In an era of widening inequality, this is how wealthier Americans are quietly writing off the poor.
(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.

Congress: Obama's Willing Executioners Of The Fourth Amendment
By Norman Solomon

It's now painfully clear that the president has put out a contract on the Fourth Amendment. And at the Capitol, the hierarchies of both parties are stuffing it into the trunks of their limousines, so each provision can be neatly fitted with cement shoes and delivered to the bottom of the Potomac.

Some other Americans are on a rescue mission. One of them, Congressman Justin Amash, began a debate on the House floor Wednesday with a vow to "defend the Fourth Amendment. That's really what his amendment -- requiring that surveillance be warranted -- was all about.

No argument for the Amash amendment was more trenchant than the one offered by South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan, who simply read the Fourth Amendment aloud.

To quote those words was to take a clear side: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Edward Snowden's heroic revelations have made it possible for some House members from both parties to blow away the fog that shrouds so much tap dancing on Capitol Hill. When the Amash amendment went to the floor, there was no place left to hide.

To their historic shame, 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats voted against Amash's amendment (while 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats voted for it). That's how the measure lost, 217-205.

The record of the House vote tells us a lot. Top Republicans—including Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy—voted with Obama policies to keep smothering the Fourth Amendment. So did top Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

The stench at the pinnacle of GOP power hardly surprises most Democrats. But on civil liberties—as on so many other profound issues—a similar odor is emanating from the upper reaches of Democratic power on Capitol Hill, where Pelosi and Hoyer are far from the only Democrats who have become reflexive servants of indefensible Obama policies.

Consider some of the other Democratic luminaries in the House who voted against the Amash amendment: The Democratic National Committee's chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's former chair Chris Van Hollen. The DCCC's current chair, Steve Israel.

Some of the other Democrats who voted no on the Amash amendment include progressive-aura lawmakers like Ami Bera (Calif.), Joaquin Castro (Texas), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Joe Kennedy (Mass.), Annie Kuster (N.H.), Nita Lowey (N.Y.) and Louise Slaughter (N.Y.)

Deserving special mention for their deplorable votes against Amash's amendment are Sheila Jackson Lee from Houston and Jan Schakowsky from Chicago. Both are vice chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

I've been critical of the Progressive Caucus for enabling Obama's rightward moves by doing scant pushback. But credit where due: on Wednesday, aside from Jackson Lee and Schakowsky, the other six officers of the Progressive Caucus and a large majority of its more than 70 members supported the Amash amendment. Eloquence in the floor debate came from John Conyers (the lead co-sponsor of the Amash amendment), Jared Polis, Zoe Lofgren and Jerrold Nadler.

Yet they were no match for the White House, with its media spin machine and behind-the-curtain arm twisting.

President Obama has a firm grip on levers of power, and anyone who thinks that his administration has been chastened enough to tread more carefully on civil liberties is engaged in wishful thinking.

While the House has grown somewhat restive, the Senate has remained notably pliant for the surveillance state. An egregious—and, for some, surprising—example is Al Franken, who declared his support for the NSA surveillance program when news of it broke in early June. "I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people," Franken said. From his Senate office, one press release after another has been packed with blather like overstuffed sausages.

Franken is now saying he'll introduce a bill for "transparency" because the public will support the current surveillance programs if they grasp what's really involved: "I think that if there were greater transparency, Americans would have a better understanding of these programs." Count on transparency to be a buzzword cloak for more of the same.

Another Democratic senator, Ron Wyden, has been vastly more candid. At a forum the day before the Amash amendment vote, Wyden said that for surveillance, as far as the Obama administration is concerned, "the authority is essentially limitless."

An ACLU staff attorney, Alexander Abdo, was driving at the same point when he wrote days ago: "Perhaps the most fundamental problem with the NSA's constitutional theory is that it has no limit. If the constitution is blind to the collection of our data and limits only the NSA's later uses of it, then the NSA truly can 'collect it all' now and ask questions later. Our emails, phone calls and internet activities would all be very simple for the NSA to collect under the NSA's theory. But it could go much further. It could put video cameras on every street corner, it could install microphones in every home and it could even remotely copy the contents of every computer hard drive."

All three branches of the U.S. government are now largely under the control of forces with stunning contempt for basic legal processes required by the Bill of Rights. Mere words and mild reforms from members of Congress may mollify the gullible, but only a direct challenge to the Obama administration's policies can rise to the level of the current historic imperative to restore civil liberties in the United States.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bob Gorrell ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Yellow Roses And Pink Sneakers
By Will Durst

Normally when the general public ponders Texas, a whole lot of big sky and rugged individualism and generosity of spirit springs to mind. The thought of progressive politics is probably farther away than Bedouin olive trays are to an armadillo. But that's exactly what's going on right now as the country's most heroic representatives try their darndest to protect the Lone Star State's most precious commodity. The lives of our precious yellow roses. Our lady folk.

Things have gotten hotter than a stolen load of chili peppers on I-10 during rush hour since a couple of Texas state troopers respectfully confiscated one or two tampons from female gallery members during a legislative debate on a bill that would guarantee the medical safety of prairie princesses in trouble who have lost their way. And now, a whole slew of crazy-with-the-heat Eastern busybody biddies have gone and made a big ole fuss over what was an itty-bitty little thing. You ask me, some of these gals are more confused than a flock of starving goats on AstroTurf.

Because, hooo weee, all hell broke loose three ways to Sunday. From the pitch of their yell, you'd have thunk the barn burned down, the creek dried up and the plow done broke. Hold your horses, little ladies. No sense making a mountain out of a molehill. Don't you get it? All we're doing is looking after your best interests here. Simmer the heck down before you bust a bustle.

Every decent god-fearing person across this grand land agrees that abortions are a crime against nature and we're just following the lead of you darn liberals so intent on protecting people from themselves. No need to get your petticoats in a bundle. If loving you is wrong, we don't want to be right.

You know what happened? Its funny, you're going to laugh like a mule in a whore house. What it was, was a big old misunderstanding. We were worried that a few no-good professional Yankee rabble-rousers might whip our meadow treasures into some hysterical frenzy that would cause those ranch jewels to start tossing feminine products from the balcony. And you and I and he and she all want that the same way turkeys want trousers.

Little darlings, you got to believe us, your welfare is our only concern. And that is why... we let the boys with the guns in. See, the whole dang thing was done with your protection in mind. Listen here. Don't get your dander up. This situation only marginally concerns you. This is politics, and it's complicated: a lot more going on than you need to know about. Don't you worry your pretty little heads, we got the situation under control like 40 pitchforks on a haystack.

You just sit back and let us men folk take care of everything. If you really want to help, why not bake us up a nice plate of those award-winning peanut butter cookies of yours? Honey, don't you pay those commie pinko lesbians no never good mind. They're more full of wind than a bean-eating horse. Some of those gals make hornets look cuddly. And you go right on wearing those pink sneakers if it suits you. All us good ol boys think they sure look cute.
(c) 2013 Will Durst's, the recipient of 7 consecutive nominations for Stand Up of the Year, Will Durst's new one- man show "BoomerAging: From LSD to OMG" is presented every Tuesday, at the Marsh, San Francisco. Go to... for more info. Use code "boomer" for discount tix.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 27 (c) 07/26 /2013

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