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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi asks of, "Obama's New Education Proposal: Change, Or Changed Subject?."

Uri Avnery says, "Poor Obama."

Glen Ford introduces, "The Dreamer With A Kill List."

Medea Benjamin reports, "John Kerry Sells A War That Americans Aren't Buying."

Jim Hightower finds, "A Food Fight Arises Out Of America's New "Jobette" Economy."

David Swanson explains, "Caveman Credibility And Its Costs."

Mark Karlin declares, "What Congress Will Be Voting On Is Another War, Not A 'Limited Punitive Strike.'"

John Nichols discovers, "Amid Outcry, President Honors Demand For Syria Vote."

Chris Hedges warns of, "The Last Chance To Stop The NDAA."

Glenn Greenwald considers, "Obama, Congress And Syria."

Paul Krugman with, "Love For Labor Lost."

David Sirota examines, "The New High School Diploma."

Matthew Rothschild introduces, "John Kerry, Warmonger."

Jim DeMint wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich reminds us, "Before The Battles Resume In Washington: A Reminder About What's Really At Stake."

Amy Goodman returns with, "Obama And Putin: Time For Diplomacy On Syria."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion gives, "The Case For And Against Intervening In Syria" but first, Uncle Ernie wonders, "Is Obama Wagging The War Dog?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Horsey, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Mr. Fish, Mad Magazine, R.J. Matson, Mike Wrathell, Tom Tomorrow, Kristoffer Tripplaar, Jewel Samad, This Week, AFP, Getty Images, Corbis, The Onion, NBC News, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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Is Obama Wagging The War Dog?
By Ernest Stewart

"This is not Iraq. This is not Afghanistan. There is nothing similar in what the president is contemplating. There are others who are willing to fight, others who are engaged. And the issue here is not whether we will go and do it with them, it's whether we will support them adequately in their efforts to do it." ~~~ John Kerry

"I have to leave early tonight. I have to fly out to L.A. I couldn't get a direct flight, I have to make a stop at the Empire State Building." ~~~ Gilbert Gottfried

"[Health care is] such a personal service, it's such a big part of the economy. If [Democrats] can control that, they can control most areas of our lives." ~~~ Jim DeMint

Hang on.
Help is on its way.
I'll be there as fast as I can.
Hang on
Help Is on Its Way ~~~ The Little River Band

Are you beginning to suspect that Obama bombing Syria just might be Obama wagging the dog, trying to get us to un-focus on his spying on us and his other Big Brother plans -- you know, Happy Camps and such?

As the talking heads keep saying, Syria has the largest poison gas collection in the Middle East; it used to be Israel, which now places second as they have several 100 A-bombs and no longer need the sarin! What is left out of the "talking heads journalism" is just like in owning nukes, we have more poison gas than the rest of the world combined, and have no problems using it, or phosphorous, or nuclear weapons, for that matter! But it's OK when we use them, right? What if Russia says it was the rebels who launched the gas and starts hitting them with missiles? Then what?

Starting another useless, needless, illegal, immoral war sure got your mind off Big Brother, did it not? Made you forget about Manning, Snowden, and the rest, didn't it? Of course, when Barry heads out on his trip to Sweden and Norse land and then off to Russia for the G-20, it's bound to be a point of contention between Barry and Putin, I'd guess! Unless, of course, Barry bombs Damascus whilst there.

Much is being made of Barry being forced to face Con-gress to get his new war; and, if the past is of any consideration, I'm sure Barry thinks he has a lock on Con-gress, or he wouldn't bring the Constitution into it with his obvious hatred for it. However, it looks like he's about to get shut down; but rest assured, as Vice-Fuhrer Biden keeps pointing out the Fuhrer can do whatever the Fuhrer wants and will attack Syria regardless of what the Constitution or any treaties we've signed to the contrary, say. Barry can do whatever Barry wants; because you're not going to stop him. You know what he does to people who oppose him, don't you? Ask Manning what happens! Have you got that kind of courage?

In Other News

It's that time of the year again when that traveling clown circus known as 9/11 comes into view. It's bad enough that we'll be subjected to those same old lies from "we didn't know it was going to happen," to "let's roll!" Not to mention the PNAC, the RNC and the Crime Family Bush have never been brought to trial for this act of treason and murder!

For a lot of folks, 9/11 became the end of American democracy; the trouble with that sentiment is, you can't end what you've never had, which members of my generation thought was the Kennedy Sanction; but we were wrong, too!

We were modeled on the Roman Empire, which may explain why we were an empire long before we became a country! The major differences are, one, we elect our emperors and then they step down when their term is over, at least so far they have, and two, the Romans had Tribunes, who spoke for the people and had veto powers over the Senate and Emperor, which we replaced with a House of Representatives, who are supposed to speak for the people too, but don't, and have veto powers over our emperor, but seldom use!

No, what 9/11 is about is doing the things that used to be done behind closed doors right out in the open, for everyone to see, and then daring anyone to say anything about it. Ask Manning how that worked out for him! Watch what Barry does when he gets shut down by the House over his Syrian intrigues, which have nothing to do with poisonous gas, and everything to do with our Banksters' desires!

And Finally

Former national embarrassment and Senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint has been keeping busy since he left the Sin-ate as president of the Heritage Foundation (that spinning sound you may hear in the background is William F. Buckley Jr.); he's been spreading lies and bullshit faster than he could ever do in the Senate; and that's really saying something.

Jim added his two cents worth at a town hall meeting the other night in Wilmington, Delaware. He came out screaming and drooling against Medicare and Medicaid because they were "un-American" and built on the principles of "socialism and collectivism!" The hell you say, Jim!

I don't want to burst Jim's bubble; but every good thing we have in America is a direct result of socialism. Of course, Jim and his 1% pals don't need it, so we can give that money to them and let the sick and dying pull themselves up with their boot straps. However, the rest of us do need socialism, and couldn't live without it, and neither could you. Without socialism, i.e., taxes for things we all need and use, things that we couldn't get on our own, but can if we come together. You know, things like, Social Security, Medicare, public schools from grade school to colleges. Public libraries and museums. Public roads and infrastructure like electric grids, bridges, sewer systems, railroads, airports and the like. Let's not forget police and firemen. How long could we last without the army, navy, air force, coast guard and the marines? We'd last about a minute after all the horrific things we've done around the world for the last 115 years, and all of the armed services are here because of socialism. You may also recall that Jim was in the Senate, he never bitched about his socialist health care and other socialist perks, just like his hero Ayn Rand, had no problem with social security and those other social perks. They're what Tweetie Bird would call a "hypo-twit!"

Now compare and contrast with Jimbo who proudly proclaims:

"I cannot think of anything that's more un-American than national government-run health care. Those who believe in those principles of socialism and collectivism, we've seen over the centuries, they see as their Holy Grail taking control of the health care system."

Needless to say, DeMint's against Obamacare, too; I believe he's in favor of the Rethuglican health care plan called "Carousel!" Whether or not that's true, Jim still wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award! Stick that up your Blue Cross, Jim!

Keepin' On

I've been thinking of making a headstone for the magazine along the same lines as the ones I've made for Democracy and Journalism over the years -- something I can put on the head of the magazine when the time comes. Something along the lines of...

Issues & Alibis Magazine
12-12-2000 ~ 11-08-2013
Rest in Peace

...on a nice granite headstone.

Yes, another week and nothing in the kitty. With $1300 due the first week in November, it's beginning to look like we're not going to make it this time around. Yes, it's pretty much this way, this time of the year. We've managed to get 2/3rds of our bills paid that weren't covered by the advertising, i.e., of the $11,800 that our yearly bill total we've gotten and paid all but this last $1600 bill of which we've raised $300 so far.

If you believe that what we do for you and your family is worth our salt, then you should send us as much as you can, as often as you can; and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you and yours. A fight to reestablish our old Republic and place all those politicians that have committed crimes against the Constitution and Bill of Rights -- not to mention war crimes and crimes against humanity behind bars where they belong and from where they can no longer hurt us and destroy this country. Whether we live or die is totally up to you, America... tick-tock, tick-tock, tick tock!


04-07-1939 ~ 08-31-2013
Thanks for the entertainment and the knowledge!

11-26-1918 ~ 09-02-2013
Thanks for those great reads!


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.

President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall meeting at Binghamton University during his two-day bus tour.

Obama's New Education Proposal: Change, Or Changed Subject?
By Matt Taibbi

It's been a strange week in the history of Barack Obama's presidency. On Sunday, the NSA scandal exploded in one of the clumsiest political gaffes in recent memory, with British authorities (with American foreknowledge) snatching up Glenn Greenwald's Brazilian partner David Miranda and preposterously detaining him at an airport for nine hours, citing a subsection of the West's increasingly dystopian, Matrix-like anti-terrorism laws.

By Tuesday, shameless pro-administration flacks like Jeffrey Toobin were going on TV and doing the dreary work of dirtying up Miranda in the press, comparing him to a drug mule and blasting critics who think the whole freedom-of-the-press thing confers "magic immunity sauce." Add in the indefensible 35-year sentence for Chelsea Manning, and there were progressives following this revolting national-security story a few days ago who probably found themselves pining for the civil liberties panacea that was the Bush administration.

Think about it: on Monday and Tuesday, the Democratic Party was the face of a repressive new global security state which improbably had forced Vladimir Putin's Russia into the role of earth's symbolic defender of individual liberty, and in a mirroring irony had turned journalists like Greenwald into the dissidenti of our age, with Brazil the new Vermont and Greenwald's Guardian articles the new samizdat.

But now it's Friday, and what do we see in the news? Lots and lots of coverage of the President's suddenly-urgent new road show around America's college campuses, where he's stumping for his "bold" new plan to reduce tuition costs. Obama on Monday and Tuesday was Darth Vader; today, he's being feted in the New York Times for his ostentatiously progressive-sounding new plan to help the student demographic. From the Times editorial board this morning:

President Obama has been accused of promoting small-ball ideas in his second term, but the proposal he unveiled on Thursday is a big one: using sharp federal pressure to make college more affordable, potentially opening the gates of higher education to more families scared off by rising tuitions. While there are questions to be answered about his plan, his approach - tying federal student aid to the value of individual colleges - is a bold and important way to leverage the government's power and get Washington off the sidelines.

The Times should have looked more closely at the fine print of Obama's proposal, which in theory would create a government rating system that would tie student aid to performance (by both students and universities). The key number in it is a date. This is from Time:

Obama will also ask Congress to tie those ratings to federal student aid by 2018...

One friend on the Hill laughingly called it "complete bullshit" and stressed the loose time frame, noting that we won't even know what the rating system looks like until 2015, and then nothing actually happens until 2018. Which, conveniently, is two years after the President leaves office.

"The president's current 'Bus Tour' is just another, agonizing, frustrating whitewash, to be blunt," is how Alan Collinge of, who was a key source in a feature we ran on this very topic (skyrocketing college costs) just last week. Collinge too was unimpressed by the "feckless" proposal that might "eventually" be implemented. "The schools have come up against far stronger attempts to tie school performance to aid," he said, "and they have reduced them to soft oatmeal."

The problem with this proposal, which is the problem with many of this President's proposals and speeches, is that you just never know. The plan he and his people come up with could, at least in theory, turn into something that significantly changes the landscape and helps reduce college costs. He could turn out to be right on this thing. But we most likely won't have a hint one way or another until next year at least, and we apparently won't know for sure until well into the second year of the Cory Booker or Ted Cruz presidency.

In the meantime, most mainstream critics will hold their tongues and won't blast Obama's road show as a transparent change-the-subject gambit designed to solidify his highly disillusioned base ahead of an approaching fiscal showdown. Few have even gone as far as Time did in making careful note of this crucial context:

The roll-out comes in the midst of a weeks-long economic push by the President focused on improving the stability of the middle class. Obama is mounting a public relations effort that builds on his 2012 campaign themes in advance of a fiscal showdown with congressional Republicans this fall over the budget and the debt limit. The White House is seeking to drive up the President's underwater poll numbers before that confrontation.

That this "bus tour" is political groundwork for the upcoming fiscal battle was pretty clear from Obama's speech at the University of Buffalo earlier this week, which incidentally got rave reviews inside the Beltway. In his opening remarks, the President set the tone for his education proposal by talking about the general challenge of turning around the fucked/dead manufacturing economy (it can't be a coincidence that they picked towns like Buffalo and Scranton to present this education plan):

THE PRESIDENT: So reversing this trend should be, must be, Washington's highest priority. It's my highest priority. (Applause.) I've got to say it's not always Washington's highest priority. Because rather than keeping focus on a growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs, we've seen a faction of Republicans in Congress suggest that maybe America shouldn't pay its bills that have already been run up, that we shut down government if they can't shut down Obamacare.


Within a day after the President released his proposal, White House press people were emphasizing to reporters that some Republicans were already complaining about rating-system plan to control costs and blasting it as more socialism. The Times editorial dutifully summed up the administration's talking points about the Republican response:

Many of these ideas - in particular, tying financial aid to performance - need Congressional approval, meaning instant opposition from Republicans who reject anything Mr. Obama wants. Already, several prominent Republicans were expressing predictable complaints about government meddling and even the slippery slope toward "federal price controls." But Mr. Obama is absolutely right to make increased college access a high administration priority...

This is how you do politics in this country. You're taking water over some monstrous screw-up (and my God, what have they been thinking with this Greenwald/Miranda/NSA business?), so you work fast to 1) change the subject, and 2) make sure the other party is tossed on the wrong side of whatever new set of goalposts you've just put up.

Barack Obama is so frustrating. He can give quite a speech. He says just enough of the right things to give pause, and sometimes genuinely seems to be in touch with the pain of the vanishing middle class. He has the appearance, on occasion, of the politician of your dreams - intelligent, forward-thinking, even-keeled, just. You want to believe in him, you really do.

But just taking this week for instance, there's just no way around the math. This new education plan may or may not turn into something five years from now. But right now, it's all words.

What's not words is that the White House has been engaged all summer in a lunatic defense of a vast and apparently illegal domestic espionage program and tossed a young soldier in prison for three decades for exposing war crimes and torture. What's also not words is that in a matter of months, not years, the President is going to need his base shored up and his poll numbers elevated to win what promises to be yet another drawn-out battle over the budget.

Does that mean the education proposal is insincere? That Obama will drop it once the NSA business cools down, or after the Democrats win the fiscal debate in congress? No, it doesn't automatically mean that. But it is what it is. This President has a gift for talking about the future, but his record on right now is beginning to suck enough that you have to wonder.
(c) 2013 Matt Taibbi

Poor Obama
By Uri Avnery

POOR OBAMA. I pity him.

Right at the start of his meeting with history, he made The Speech in Cairo. A great speech. An uplifting speech. An edifying speech.

He talked to the educated youth of the Egyptian capital. He spoke about the virtues of democracy, the bright future awaiting a liberal, moderate Muslim world.

Hosni Mubarak was not invited. The hint was that he was an obstacle to the bright new world.

Perhaps the hint was taken. Perhaps the speech sowed the seed of the Arab spring.

Probably Obama was not aware of the possibility that democracy, virtuous democracy, would lead to Islamist rule. He tried to reach out tentatively, tenderly, to the Muslim Brothers after they won the election. But probably at the same time, the CIA was already plotting the military takeover.

So now we are exactly where we were the day before The Speech: ruthless military dictatorship.

Poor Obama.

NOW WE have a similar problem in Syria.

The Arab Spring begat a civil war. More than a hundred thousand people have been killed already, and the number grows with every passing day.

The world stood by, looking on passively. For Jews, it was a reminder of the holocaust, when, according to the lesson every boy and girl learns at school here, "the world looked on and kept silent."

Until a few days ago. Something has happened. A red line has been crossed. Poison gas has been used. Civilized mankind demands action. From whom? From the President of the United States, of course.

Poor Obama.

SOME TIME ago Obama made a speech, another one of Those Speeches, in which he drew a red line: no arms of mass destruction, no poison gas.

Now it seems that this red line has been crossed. Poison gas has been employed.

Who would do such a terrible thing? That bloody tyrant, of course. Bashar al-Assad. Who else?

American public opinion, indeed public opinion throughout the West, demandeds action. Obama has spoken, so Obama must act. Otherwise he would confirm the image he has in many places. The image of a wimp, a weakling, a coward, a talker who is not a doer.

This would hurt his ability to achieve anything even in matters far removed from Damascus – the economy, health care, the climate.

The man has indeed talked himself into a corner. The need to act has become paramount. A politician's nightmare.

Poor Obama.

HOWEVER, SEVERAL questions raise their heads.

First of all, who says that Assad released the gas?

Pure logic seems to advise against this conclusion. When it happened, a group of UN experts, no nincompoops they, were about to investigate the suspicions of chemical warfare on the ground. Why would a dictator in his right mind provide them with proof of his malfeasance? Even if he thought that the evidence could be eradicated in time, he could not be sure. Sophisticated equipment could tell.

Secondly, what could chemical weapons achieve that ordinary weapons could not? What strategic or even tactical advantage do they offer, that could not be provided by other means?

The argument to disprove this logic is that Assad is not logical, not normal, just a crazy despot living in a world of his own. But is he? Until now, his behavior has shown him to be tyrannical, cruel, devoid of scuples. But not mad. Rather calculating, cold. And he is surrounded by a group of politicians and generals who have everything to lose, and who seem a singularly cold-blooded lot.

Also, lately the regime seems to winning. Why take a risk?

Yet Obama must decide to attack them on what seems to be very inconclusive evidence. The same Obama who saw through the mendacious evidence produced by George Bush jr. to justify the attack on Iraq, an attack which Obama, to his great credit, objected to right from the beginning. Now he is on the other side.

Poor Obama.

AND WHY poison gas? What's so special, so red-lining about it?

If I am going to be killed, I don't really care whether it is by bombs, shells, machine guns or gas.

True, there is something sinister about gas. The human mind recoils from something that poisons the air we breathe. Breathing is the most elementary human necessity.

But poison gas is no weapon of mass destruction. It kills like any other weapon. One cannot equate it to the atomic bombs used by America on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Also, it is not a decisive weapon. It did not change the course of World War I, when it was extensively used. Even the Nazis did not see any use for it in World War II – and not only because Adolf Hitler was gassed (and temporarily blinded) by poison gas in World War I.

But, having drawn the line in the Syrian sand for poison gas, Obama could not ignore it.

Poor Obama.

BUT THE main reason for Obama's long hesitation is of quite a different order: he is compelled to act against the real interests of the United States.

Assad may be a terrible son-of-a-bitch, but he serves the US, nevertheless.

For many years the Assad family has supported the status quo in the region. Israel's Syrian border is the quietest border Israel has ever had, in spite of the fact that Israel has annexed territory that indisputably belongs to Syria. True, Assad used Hizbullah to provoke Israel from time to time, but that was not a real threat.

Unlike Mubarak, Assad belongs to a minority sect. Unlike Mubarak, he has behind him a strong and well-organized political party, with an authentic ideology. The nationalist pan-Arabist Ba'ath ("resurrection") party was founded by the Christian Michel Aflaq and his colleagues mainly as a bulwark against the Islamist ideology.

Like the fall of Mubarak, the fall of Assad would most likely lead to an Islamist regime, more radical than the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The Syrian sister-party of the brothers was always more radical and more violent than the Egyptian mother-movement, (perhaps because the Syrian people are by nature of a far more aggressive disposition.)

Moreover, it is in the nature of a civil war that the most extreme elements take over, because their fighters are more determined and more self-sacrificing. No amount of foreign aid will prop up the moderate, secular section of the Syrian rebels strongly enough to enable them to take over after Assad. If the Syrian state remains intact, it will be a radical Islamist state. Especially if there are free, democratic elections, as there were in Egypt.

As seen from Washington DC, this would be a disaster. So we have here the curious picture of Obama driven by his own rhetoric to attack Assad, while all his own intelligence agencies work overtime to prevent a victory of the rebels.

As somebody recently wrote: it is in the American interest that the civil war go on forever, without any side winning. To which practically all Israeli political and military leaders would say: Amen.

So, from the US strategic viewpoint, any attack on Assad must be minimal, a mere pinprick that would not endanger the Syrian regime.

As has been noted, love and politics create strange bedfellows. At the moment, a very strange assortment of powers are interested in the survival of the Assad regime: the US, Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and Israel. Yet Obama is being pushed to attack him.

Poor Obama.

TRYING TO understand the mindset of the CIA, I would say that from their point of view, the Egyptian solution is also the best for Syria: topple the dictator and put another dictator in his place.

Military dictatorship for everybody in the Arab region.

Not the solution Barack Obama would have liked to be identified with in the history books.

Poor, poor Obama.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Dreamer With A Kill List
By Glen Ford

Just before launching yet another unprovoked war to preserve the empire, Barack Obama stopped by the Lincoln Memorial to star in the commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington. He was joined by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, the men most responsible for pulling the Democratic Party deep enough into the corporate camp to afford the billion dollar elections that brought Obama to power. The pretense was that the presidents were there to show solemn respect for the Movement that defeated official American apartheid. The truth is, they came to take possession of the occasion - a gift from their minions in the Black Misleadership Class, who believe nothing has value until it is blessed and possessed by Power.

Literally no one will remember what Al Sharpton was barking about at last Saturday's mass gathering on the Mall; he said not a word that was not slavishly consistent with White House talking points. Nor, in his role as the administration's chief pit bull and overseer, did Sharpton allow any of the vetted mic-seekers to utter a syllable that might discomfort his masters (although oblique digs at the Republican side of the corporate duopoly were permissible).

If the commemoration were simply another pep rally for Democrats, like the "One Nation" rally staged at the Mall by the same actors just before mid-term congressional elections in 2010, it would rank among the Black Misleadership Class's many petty corruptions. However, this week's events sent a message to the world that the historical Black struggle for social justice and peace was nothing more than a ploy to achieve proximity to Power.

The grave-markers of the martyrs of the Black Freedom Movement - in their thousands - have been reduced to cobblestones on the road to the Obama presidency. In Sharpton's grasping, narrow vision, the great mass struggles of half a century ago amounted to nothing more than Blacks bum-rushing the velvet ropes so they could party with the elite. No social transformation, just a change of coloration. No world peace, just a piece of the imperial pie.

The problem, of course, is not Sharpton's personal vulgarity and corruption, but the worldview that he shares with the whole cabal of Black misleaders. To put it simply, they never agreed with Dr. Martin Luther King on the need for a "revolution" that is "international in scope" and would force the United States to "repent of her modern economic imperialism," as historian Paul Street notes in this issue. They do not share Dr. King's socially transformational "dream." Indeed, they have no core vision at all, other than that Black American individuals be widely represented within structures of power in the United States: Black titans of Wall Street, Black generals and - the ultimate prize - a Black president.

In that sense, the Black Misleadership Class's "dream" arrived in 2008. Barack Obama is the great prize, the racial victory that must be defended at any and all costs. The collapse of the Black economy, the evisceration of the Constitution, mass Black incarceration, multiple and constant U.S. wars against weaker peoples - none of this can be allowed to tarnish or undermine the embodiment of Black progress, Barack Obama. Which is why it is perfectly logical to Sharpton and Ben Jealous and their ilk that Obama star in the March on Washington commemoration, as both the symbol and the personification of "The Dream." It is the dream of those who want nothing more than to become full-fledged partners in U.S. imperialism.

It is inconceivable that Dr. King would share the stage with a president who was at that moment preparing a savage and illegal attack on a sovereign country. Dr. King's voice has been censored and his dream vandalized, repackaged and presented as a gift to a corporate agent with a Kill List.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

John Kerry Sells A War That Americans Aren't Buying
If Congress approves military action in Syria, they will fail to represent the people who elected them.
By Medea Benjamin

It was September 19, 2002, and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was scheduled to address the Senate Armed Services Committee about why it was necessary to invade a country that never attacked us: Iraq.

I was so concerned about the pending war that I flew to Washington DC from my home in San Francisco. It was the first congressional hearing I had ever witnessed. My heart was pounding as my colleague Diane Wilson and I pulled out banners that read "UN inspectors, not US war", and proceeded to ask Rumsfeld our own questions: how many innocent Iraqis would die, how many US soldiers, how many of our tax dollars would be poured into this war of choice, and how much money would Halliburton make from the war. We were hauled out of the room by the Capitol police.

Fast forward to September 3, 2013, and I found myself in a hearing with Secretary of State John Kerry telling members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee why it was necessary to invade a country that never attacked us: Syria. By now I'm a pro, having attended countless hearings over the last decade. My CODEPINK colleagues and I came prepared. We took out signs that read "Syria Needs a Ceasefire, Not War" and "No US Attack on Syria", and we rubbed red paint on our hands to signify that the blood of Syrians would be on the administration's hands if it went ahead with the attack.

With an intense feeling of deja vu, I got up to speak right after Secretary Kerry gave his opening remarks. Kerry had said he was proposing limited strikes, not a war. It sounded to me just like the false "cakewalk" argument from the Iraq war sales pitch. I responded that lobbing cruise missiles into another country's sovereign territory was indeed a war, and that the consequences could be devastating. I also insisted that the American people - and the entire global community - did not support US military intervention. I was hauled out by Capitol Police, arrested and charged with "disorderly conduct", a charge I have received many times over the last 11 years.

Kerry responded to my intervention by evoking his youth. "You know, the first time I testified before this committee when I was 27 years old, I had feelings very similar to that protester," he said, referring to when he spoke out against the Vietnam War in 1971 as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. "And I would just say that is exactly why it is so important that we are all here having this debate, talking about these things before the country, and that the Congress itself will act representing the American people." We are telling our elected officials that if they are truly concerned about the violence that has killed more than 100,000 Syrians, they should pressure the administration to invest its considerable influence and energies in brokering a ceasefire and seeking a political settlement.

But what does it mean to represent the American people? In the case of Iraq, the US public had been whipped up by the government and the media to believe that Saddam Hussein played a key role in the 9/11 attacks. That's why a clear majority - 60 percent - supported the Iraq invasion. This time, the public is what some call "war-weary" - but I would call "war-wise". This time, 60 percent of Americans have not bought the government and media hype and are instead opposed to this intervention.

In the congressional vote for the Iraq war, almost all the Republicans lined up to support the war, along with 40 percent of the Democrats. But now that the war is not pushed by a rough-and-tumble Texas Republican but by a more refined, sweet-talking, Nobel Peace Prize-winning Democrat, it's unclear how the votes will shake out. Many of the traditional anti-war Democrats have become pro-war, and we in CODEPINK find ourselves applauding the stand of Tea Party favourites like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul or small-government Republicans like Michigan Congressman Justin Amash. Amash has been outspoken in his criticism of military action, holding town halls across his district to discuss the issue. He tweeted that 95 percent of those he met with opposed US military action in Syria.

There is little time left to stop this new, mad rush to war. Just as the British people put pressure on their members of parliament and insisted they steer clear of this American folly, so, too, the American people are mobilising. We are making our opposition known in town hall meetings throughout the country, and in a flood of calls, petitions, emails and visits to our elected officials. At both the Senate and House hearings, officials mentioned that their constituents were overwhelmingly opposed to intervention.

We are insisting that there are much better ways than cruise missiles to tell the Syrian people that we care. We are calling for increased US support for the more than two million refugees who are overwhelming the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. With the UN's financial needs only 40 percent fulfilled, the billions of dollars that our government would spend on war would be far better spent addressing the mounting refugee crisis.

We are also telling our elected officials that if they are truly concerned about the violence that has killed more than 100,000 Syrians, they should pressure the administration to invest its considerable influence and energies in brokering a ceasefire and seeking a political settlement. This is obviously no easy task. Neither Syrian President Bashar al-Assad nor the divided rebel forces (including the growing al-Qaeda elements) are eager to sit down for talks, as both sides think they can win through force. Yet in the end, this civil war will end with a political settlement, and the sooner it happens, the more lives saved.

The clock is ticking, with President Obama and Secretary Kerry frantically selling a war that the American people don't want to buy. If Congress goes ahead and approves military action, they - unlike their British counterparts - will fail to represent the people who elected them.
(c) 2013 Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK, which has organized seven humanitarian delegations to Gaza. She is author of Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.

A Food Fight Arises Out Of America's New "Jobette" Economy

Establishment economists are asking: Why are so many people so glum? The Great Recession ended in 2009, they note, and job creation is picking up. So come on people – get happy!

With Labor Day in mind, maybe we should clue these economists into one big reality behind our so-called "recovery": Most Americans haven't recovered. In June, median household income was still $3,400 less than when Wall Street's crashed our economy in 2007.

Why? Because those new jobs are really "jobettes," paying poverty wages, with no benefits or upward mobility. In the Great Recession, about 60 percent of the jobs we lost were middle-wage positions, paying approximately $14 to $21 an hour. Most of those jobs have not come back. Instead, of the jobs created since the recovery began, nearly six out of 10 are low-wage, paying less than $14 an hour. A central fact of the new American economy is that all of the wealth gains go to the top, with working-class people falling into poverty, increasingly unable to make a living at their jobs.

To grasp this widening inequity, befuddled economists might bite into a burger or pizza. Seven of the 12 biggest corporations that pay their workers the least are fast food giants. Yum! is one. Workers in this conglomerate (which owns Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell), average $7.50 an hour. In contrast, the CEO hauls off $20 million every year, even as Yum! lobbies against any hike in our nation's minimum wage.

This is no way to run a business, an economy, or a society. It's shameful. And, at last, these ultra-rich exploiters are beginning to be publicly shamed by grassroots coalitions holding one-day strikes with thousands of fast-food workers across the country. As one church leader put it, "It's a matter of justice." Yes – and that's what Labor Day has always been about.
(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.

Caveman Credibility And Its Costs
By David Swanson

Sending a bunch of $3 million missiles into Syria to blow stuff up will kill a great many men, women, and children directly. It will also kill a great many people indirectly, as violence escalates in response -- an established pattern recognized even by the war-promoting Washington Post.

Refugees are fleeing Syria in greater numbers as a result of the U.S. government's threat to send in missiles. The refugees have all sorts of opinions of their government, but by many accounts they overwhelmingly oppose foreign missile strikes -- a position on which they agree with a large majority in the United States.

Not only is President Obama's proposal guaranteed to make things worse, but it risks making things dramatically worse, with threats of retaliation now coming from Syria, Iran, and Russia. The U.S. media is already describing the proposed missile strikes as "retaliatory," even though the United States hasn't been attacked. Imagine what the pressure will be in Washington to actually retaliate if violence leads, as it so often does, to more violence. Imagine the enthusiasm for a broader war, in Washington and Jerusalem, if Iran retaliates. Risking a major war, no matter how slim you think the chance is, ought to be done only for some incredibly important reason.

The White House doesn't have one. President Obama's draft resolution for Congress reads, in part:

"Whereas, the objective of the United States' use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;

"Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process;"

In other words, the missiles have nothing to do with ending the war. The war will only end through peace negotiations. All parties should "urgently" and "constructively" pursue that process. And yet, here come the missiles!

Missile strikes will enrage the Syrian government and encourage the opposition. Both sides will fight more fiercely. Both sides will be more seriously tempted to use any weapons in their arsenals. Missiles will prolong and escalate the war.

Steps toward ending the war could include: halting CIA and other military assistance; pressuring Russia and Iran, on one side, and Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states on the other, to stop arming the war; and bringing both sides to a peace conference in Geneva. Is the United States urgently and constructively taking these steps? Of course not.

What about basic humanitarian aid? The U.S. government is just not interested in providing it, not on anything remotely approaching the scale of the weaponry flowing into the war.

President Obama's stated objective is to deter the future use of chemical weapons. But missiles may encourage that very thing by escalating the war. There are other steps that could be used to reduce the future use of chemical weapons. For one thing, the United States could stop using, developing, and stock-piling chemical weapons. Most nations do not do so. The White House and the U.S. media have begun saying that Syria holds the biggest chemical weapons supply "in the Middle East," rather than "in the world," as President Obama said last week. The world-record-holder is the U.S. government.

The U.S. government has admitted to using white phosphorous and new types of napalm as weapons against Iraqis. The best way to discourage that behavior is not to bomb Washington.

The U.S. government has used chemical weapons against "its own people" (always far more outrageous in the eyes of the U.S. media than killing someone else's people) from the military's assault on veterans in the Bonus Army to the FBI's assault on a religious cult in Waco, Texas. The best way to discourage this behavior is not to bomb Washington.

The U.S. could also stop supporting the use of chemical weapons by certain nations, including Iraq's use of chemical weapons against Iranians. The U.S. could sign onto and support the International Criminal Court. And the U.S. could abandon its role as top weapons supplier to the world and leading war-maker on earth. Less war means less use of all weapons, including various internationally sanctioned weapons that the United States both uses and exports, such as cluster bombs and depleted uranium.

Obama's intention to "disrupt," "prevent," and "degrade" can be taken seriously only at the risk of much higher casualties, as sending missiles into supplies of chemical weapons is extremely risky.


The purpose of missile strikes, according to the corporate U.S. media is, of course, not the reduction of chemical weapons use, but the maintenance of "credibility."

We don't all teach our children that when they disagree with another child on the playground they must either murder that child or lose their credibility. But our televisions and newspapers feed that type of message to us nonetheless, through news about the next possible war. Julie Pace of the Associated Press warns:

"For more than a week, the White House had been barreling toward imminent military action against Syria. But President Barack Obama's abrupt decision to instead ask Congress for permission left him with a high-risk gamble that could devastate his credibility if no action is ultimately taken in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack that crossed his own 'red line'."

And here I would have thought that bombing countries in the name of "democracy" against the will of an overwhelming majority at home was costing our government what little credibility it might have had. Didn't Britain gain in credibility when its Parliament represented its people and said "No" to war on Syria? Doesn't that step do more for the image of democracy in Western Asia than a decade of destabilizing Iraq has done? Couldn't the U.S. government do more for democracy by leaving Syria alone and dropping its support for brutal governments in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, etc.?


And shouldn't a credible enforcer of the rule of law obey the law? Under no possible conception is it legal for the United States to send missiles into Syria. The Kellogg-Briand Pact bans any such action. The most common excuse for ignoring that ban is the U.N. Charter and its loopholes for wars (wars that are defensive or U.N.-authorized). A U.S. attack on Syria is not defensive, and the White House isn't seriously pretending it is. A U.S. attack on Syria is not U.N. authorized, and the White House isn't pretending it is or pursuing such authorization in any way. Other U.S. wars carried out in violation of these laws have put up a pretense of internationalism by cajoling some other countries to help out in minimal ways. In this case, that isn't happening. President Obama is proposing to uphold international norms through an action that the international community of nations is against. France looks like the only possible, and at this point unlikely, partner -- not counting al Qaeda, of course.

A president also cannot go to war without Congress. So, it is encouraging that President Obama has now suggested he will try to rise to the standard of George W. Bush and bother to lie to Congress before launching a war. But if Congress were to say yes, the war would remain illegal under both the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. And if Congress were to say no, President Obama has indicated that he might just launch the war anyway.

If you look at the resolution that Obama has proposed that Congress pass, it doesn't grant permission for a specific limited missile strike on a particular country at a particular time, but for limitless warfare, as long as some connection can be made to weapons of mass destruction in the Syrian conflict. The White House has made clear that it believes this will add exactly nothing to its powers, as it already possesses open-ended authorizations for war in the never-repealed Afghanistan and Iraq authorizations, which themselves added exactly nothing to White House war powers, because the president is given total war power through the Constitution in invisible ink that only the White House can see.

Already, there are moves in Congress to re-write Obama's draft, in order to -- in fact -- give him limited powers to strike Syria. But those limited powers will allow exactly the disastrous action discussed above. And there is no reason to believe the limitation will hold. President Obama used a limited U.N. resolution to do things it never authorized in Libya. Missiles into Syria that provoke a response from Iran will provoke screams for blood out of Congress and the White House, and all laws be damned.


All of the above remains the same whether the Syrian government used chemical weapons or not. The way to end a war is to arrange a cease-fire, de-escalate, disarm, cool tensions, and start talking. Pouring gasoline on a fire doesn't put it out. The way to uphold the rule of law is by consistent example and through prosecutions by courts, not vigilantism. This remains the case whether the Syrian government has done what President Obama claims or not.

It is important, however, that so few people around the world and in the United States are willing to take Obama's word for it. If Obama's goal is to "send a message," but most people in the Middle East disagree with him on the facts, what kind of message will he possibly be sending? That is, even if his claims happen to be true, what good is that if nobody believes U.S. war justifications anymore?

The super-healthy skepticism that has now been created is not all attributable to Iraq. The world has been flooded with false claims from the U.S. government during the wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and even Syria, as well as during the drone wars. Past claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons have fallen flat. And the current claims come packages in lies, including lies about the Syrian government's willingness to allow U.N. inspections, and the speed with which it allowed them. The U.S. government discouraged the use of inspectors, seeking to rush into war on the basis of its own assertions. The White House has produced a dodgy dossier lacking in hard evidence. Analysts see little basis for confidence in White House claims. Insiders are risking "espionage!" accusations to voice their doubts.

And should it be true that someone in the Syrian military used chemical weapons, the White House clearly has nothing but its own suspicions and desires to suggest that the order came from the top, rather than from some rogue officer with an interest in provoking an attack. Circumstantial evidence, of course, makes that more likely, given the bizarre circumstance of the incident occurring less than 10 miles from the U.N. inspectors' hotel on the day they arrived.

Maybe it's just too difficult to hold a proper investigation during a war. If so, that is not something to be deeply regretted. Obama's proposed response would be disastrous. Our priority should be avoiding it and ending the war. Creating a better climate for criminal investigations is just one more reason to bring the war to an end.


While hawks and profiteers within and without the U.S. military favor bombing Syria and just about any other military action one might propose, many are resisting. They include the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and numerous officials risking Edward Snowden / Chelsea Manning treatment by talking to the Washington Post, and others to the New York Times. The military does not clearly understand its new proposed role as punisher of a crime that it itself regularly commits, and it does not share in Obama's claimed confidence that a limited action will remain limited.


House Speaker John Boehner asked President Obama these as-yet-mostly-unanswered questions:

* What standard did the Administration use to determine that this scope of chemical weapons use warrants potential military action?

* Does the Administration consider such a response to be precedent-setting, should further humanitarian atrocities occur?

* What result is the Administration seeking from its response?

* What is the intended effect of the potential military strikes?

* If potential strikes do not have the intended effect, will further strikes be conducted?

* Would the sole purpose of a potential strike be to send a warning to the Assad regime about the use of chemical weapons? Or would a potential strike be intended to help shift the security momentum away from the regime and toward the opposition?

In fact, the White House has been clear that it has no intention to shift momentum in the war.

* If it remains unclear whether the strikes compel the Assad regime to renounce and stop the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or if President Assad escalates their usage, will the Administration contemplate escalatory military action?

* Will your Administration conduct strikes if chemical weapons are utilized on a smaller scale?

* Would you consider using the United States military to respond to situations or scenarios that do not directly involve the use or transfer of chemical weapons?

* Assuming the targets of potential military strikes are restricted to the Assad inner circle and military leadership, does the Administration have contingency plans in case the strikes disrupt or throw into confusion the command and control of the regime's weapons stocks?

* Does the Administration have contingency plans if the momentum does shift away from the regime but toward terrorist organizations fighting to gain and maintain control of territory?

* Does the Administration have contingency plans to deter or respond should Assad retaliate against U.S. interests or allies in the region?

* Does the Administration have contingency plans should the strikes implicate foreign power interests, such as Iran or Russia?

In fact, the White House is claiming that none of these disasters will occur. But the Speaker is clearly well aware that they might.

* Does the Administration intend to submit a supplemental appropriations request to Congress, should the scope and duration of the potential military strikes exceed the initial planning?

The proposed limited strikes, using Raytheon's $3-million Tomahawk missiles (tastefully named for a weapon of a people the U.S. military ethnically cleansed) is expected to cost many millions and possibly $1 billion, should nothing go wrong. That money, spent on aid for victims of this war, rather than on escalating the violence, could save a large number of lives. Failure to so spend it is an immoral act.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

What Congress Will Be Voting On Is Another War, Not A 'Limited Punitive Strike'
By Mark Karlin

After 12 years of US executive branch deceit, the US Congress is on the verge of backing another war in the Middle East -- this time with a vote.

Make no mistake about it. Obama doesn't mean a word of limiting his actions as commander in chief to a limited strike to punish the Syrians for allegedly using Weapons of Mass Destruction. (As to who dispersed them in a rather primitive fashion it is still not clear, despite alleged definitive statements from White House representatives.)

The odds of the US launching a combined sea-based and airforce bombing attack on the Syrian military command and elite forces, but not provoking some sort of counter-action from Syria, Iran, Hezbollah or even the Al Qaeda rebels who are fighting the Assad regime are about zero. Remember how long it took NATO and the US to degrade the Libyan armed forces before the fall of Gaddhafi? Does anyone anywhere truly believe that Obama intends to stop at one strike as compared to using the strike as the kindling wood.

So we can assume the White House and the pentagon are aware that the counterattack will result in Obama authorizing a full-scale military assault on Syria, although without infantry on the ground (but you can be sure special forces and paramilitary intelligence units are already in Syria as they were in Libya). Needless to say, an attack on US interests or Israel will quickly see NATO nations, including the now sidelined UK, fall in line with a "coalition of the reluctant" to force regime change.

As we noted yesterday in "The White House Keeps Us in Fear to Preserve Military Dominance Over Oil," fear has, since 9/11, been the main emotional manipulator of Americans, allowing the executive branch to project military power without interference. Put simply, the use of fear allows the White House to act militarily to manage regional interests in the Middle East to allow for continued and unimpeded access of the West to its vast oil reserves.

Just remember this: the US military is the largest consumer of petroleum in the world. In one respect, the war machine acts to preserve its own supply of oil without which it could not function, whatever the reserves in the US and elsewhere.

This is really what President Obama is speaking about when he talks about actions being taken to ensure our "national security." In this case, our national security is a double entrende meaning to invoke in citizens fear for their personal well being and that the paternal government is protecting us. But it also means that war is necessary (at least four of them in the Middle East, if we include Syria, since 2000) to preserve the national security economic interests of the United States -- and a steady fuel supply for the US armed forces.

The Middle East is a complex area -- filled with its own internal factions of religious, political and ethnic identities -- but the mission of the US empire is to play whatever "Great Game" is necessary to ensure that these conflicts don't get in the way of the free flow of oil.

As we noted yesterday, Obama said this point blank in a PBS interview when he cited as his third reason for striking Syria: "if we are clear about the free flow of energy throughout the region that affects the entire global economy...," then one can understand the need for dealing with Syria.

In the early part of the 1900s, the British navy (the largest military armada in the world at the time because the UK was the largest empire at the time) switched from powering their fleet from coal to oil. Some historians argue that this was the "official" beginning of the "Great Game" to control the flow of oil in the Middle East. (Although, of course oil has also been the primary energy source for the modern industrial revolution, along with the increasingly controversial use of coal in particular applications.)

Now, the Russians and the Chinese, to an increasing extent (although the Chinese are concentrating on Africa in regards to oil, they have made inroads the Middle East including Iraq of all places), are part of the behind the scenes back story to the "Great Game."

And as much as we can all have compassion for the victims of chemical weapons, remember that up to 60 million people were killed in WW II. War is the biggest WMD there is, regardless of the way in which people are slaughtered.

With a Congressional vote authorizing a transparent cover story of a "punitive strike" for alleged but still unproven use of chemical weapons, it would be an authorization to go to war with Syria. That is because the US strike will open up the doors of Hell.

Which players in the "great game" will become part of the chaos in a ratcheted up war with ongoing US involvement (despite Obama's promises) -- in which 100,000 have already died -- will unfold in the weeks ahead.

Over the last 12 years, hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers have died in Middle Eastern wars in which the US has had a major role. Approximately -- according to Secretary of State John Kerry -- 1500 Syrian civilians were horribly massacred in the sarin chemical release.

But on the scale of life, the destruction wrought by wars for oil, including ethnic conflicts manipulated by Western powers (such as the Iran/Iraq wars in the '80s when the US initially backed Saddam Hussein, including a classic photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking his hand in Baghdad on behalf of President Reagan, in which millions died) is the real Weapon of Mass Destruction.

And the US regularly employs that WMD to ensure less our personal security than our comfortable way of life and profits for the military-industrial-surveillance complex.

War is profitable, as is oil.

More profitable than the lives of non-Americans in distance lands who live and work amidst the ground-based fuel that powers the industry, lifestyle and profits of the United States.

Although Syria is not a major supplier of oil, it's location and geo-political position make it a vital pawn in the "Great Game."
(c) 2013 Mark Karlin is an editor at Buzzflash and Truthout

Amid Outcry, President Honors Demand For Syria Vote
By John Nichols

In an extraordinary development that reflected both the level of division regarding military intervention in Syria and the power of the popular outcry from Americans who want their Constitution to be respected, President Obama on Saturday indicated that he will ask Congress for authorization to use force against the Middle Eastern country.

Obama, who had seemed to be on track to launch missile strikes without the approval of the House and Senate, faced loud objections from House members. More than 150 Democratic and Republican members signed letters demanding that the president ask for the approval of Congress before taking any action. The White House took note when Democrats such as California Congressman John Garamendi pointedly declared that "the president has the responsibility to seek authorization from our nation's elected leaders before initiating military action."

On Saturday, in a White House Rose Garden announcement that shocked much of official Washington, the president agreed.

"We should have this debate," Obama announced, just days after the British Parliament rejected Prime Minister David Cameron's appeal for authority to join the United States in intervening in Syria.

Now Obama has set up a similar test. While the president continues to assert that he has the "the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization," he acknowledged Saturday that "I'm also mindful that I'm the president of the world's oldest constitutional democracy. I've long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

With that expression of regard for the system of checks and balances, the president would be hard-pressed to go ahead with a military intervention that the House or Senate rejected.

Indeed, though he will lobby for the strike, Obama clung Saturday to his past association with antiwar sentiment. "A country faces few decisions as grave as using military force, even when that force is limited," he said. "I respect the views of those who call for caution, particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that I was elected in part to end."

Because Congress does not return from its current recess until September 9, the president's decision appears to delay what had seemed to be an imminent strike. It has also created an opening for opponents of this military intervention to press members of the House and Senate to vote "no."

Obama left no doubt that he wants to take action. He said Saturday that he is "prepared to strike" Syria, in response to reports of chemical weapons attacks in that war-torn country. "I have decided that the US should take military action against Syrian military targets," said the president, who described the desired action as "limited in duration and scope."

The key word in that statement was "should"-as opposed to "will."

NBC News reported that most members of the president's national security team wanted the president to act without Congress. But the growing demand for a vote-coming not just from Republicans who usually oppose the president but from Democrats who are often aligned with him-led the president on Saturday to acknowledge the objection to going to war without the constitutionally mandated authorization from Congress: "Over the last several days, we've heard from several members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree."

"While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective," said Obama. "We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual."

How much of a break there will be from business as usual remains unclear.

The White House will ask for limited authority to take necessary steps "to prevent and deter the use of chemical weapons." The actual language of the request is important, as will be the language of the proposal that is debated by the House and Senate.

There should be a difference between an "authorization of the use of force," which ought to be limited, and a "declaration of war," which is far more sweeping. But the lines were blurred by former President George W. Bush, who used an authorization for the use of force in Iraq to initiate a full-scale war.

Fears about mission creep are real, not just in Congress but among the American people-50 percent of those questioned in an NBC poll this week said they did not want a US attack on Syria even if there is confirmation of a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government on civilians.

When it comes to military intervention, skepticism and questioning is valid-and potentially definitional. There are members of Congress, such as Michigan Republican Justin Amash, who say the House could well reject the president's request.

Of course, the White House will lobby hard. And, if the past is any indication, the media coverage of the debate will err on the side of the White House.

But the president has now said that there is no need to rush to war.

The space that has been created allows for sorting through the facts, for debating the options and for House and Senate votes on whether to intervene militarily in the affairs of another distant land.

This is as the founders intended when they wrote a Constitution that gives the power to declare war not to an all-powerful commander-in-chief but to an unwieldy Congress.

As one of the essential figures in the development of the Constitution, George Mason, said: "I am for clogging rather than facilitating war."

The president's decision to delay action until he hears from Congress respects the Constitution's language, and its intent.

Now, Congress must do the same by taking its responsibility seriously enough to demand facts, to consider whether acts of war are justified and to determine whether the United States-as opposed to the United Nations-should be the police officer of the world.

For his part, the president has shown respect for the role of Congress is a system of separated powers. He must be clear now that, like David Cameron, he will respect the decision of the legislators-even if it clogs rather than facilitates war.

To do so would move the United States toward a restoration of the rule of law that was disregarded under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and that has yet to be restored.
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

The Last Chance To Stop The NDAA
By Chris Hedges

I and my fellow plaintiffs have begun the third and final round of our battle to get the courts to strike down a section of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that permits the military to seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities. Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran, the lawyers who with me in January 2012 brought a lawsuit against President Barack Obama (Hedges v. Obama), are about to file papers asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear our appeal of a 2013 ruling on the act's Section 1021.

"First the terrorism-industrial complex assured Americans that they were only spying on foreigners, not U.S. citizens," Mayer said to me recently. "Then they assured us that they were only spying on phone calls, not electronic communications. Then they assured us that they were not spying on American journalists. And now both [major political] parties and the Obama administration have assured us that they will not detain journalists, citizens and activists. Well, they detained journalist Chris Hedges without a lawyer, they detained journalist Laura Poitras without due process and if allowed to stand this law will permit the military to target activists, journalists and citizens in an unprecedented assault on freedom in America."

Last year we won round one: U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York declared Section 1021 unconstitutional. The Obama administration immediately appealed her ruling and asked a higher court to put the law back into effect until Obama's petition was heard. The appellate court agreed. The law went back on the books. I suspect it went back on the books because the administration is already using it, most likely holding U.S. citizens who are dual nationals in black sites in Afghanistan and the Middle East. If Judge Forrest's ruling were allowed to stand, the administration, if it is indeed holding U.S. citizens in military detention centers, would be in contempt of court.

In July 2013 the appellate court, in round two, overturned Forrest's ruling. All we have left is the Supreme Court, which may not take the case. If the Supreme Court does not take our case, the law will remain in place unless Congress strikes it down, something that federal legislators have so far refused to consider. The three branches of government may want to retain the ability to use the military to maintain control if widespread civil unrest should occur in the United States. I suspect the corporate state knows that amid the mounting effects of climate change and economic decline the military may be all that is left between the elite and an enraged population. And I suspect the corporate masters do not trust the police to protect them.

If Section 1021 stands it will mean that more than 150 years of case law in which the Supreme Court repeatedly held the military has no jurisdiction over civilians will be abolished. It will mean citizens who are charged by the government with "substantially supporting" al-Qaida, the Taliban or the nebulous category of "associated forces" will be lawfully subject to extraordinary rendition. It will mean citizens seized by the military will languish in military jails indefinitely, or in the language of Section 1021 until "the end of hostilities"-in an age of permanent war, for the rest of their lives. It will mean, in short, obliteration of our last remaining legal protections, especially now that we have lost the right to privacy, and the ascent of a crude, militarized state that serves the leviathan of corporate totalitarianism. It will mean, as Forrest pointed out in her 112-page opinion, that whole categories of Americans-and here you can assume dissidents and activists-will be subject to seizure by the military and indefinite and secret detention.

"As Justice [Robert] Jackson said in his dissent in the Korematsu case, involving the indiscriminate detention of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, once an unconstitutional military power is sanctioned by the courts it 'lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority,' " Mayer said.

In our lawsuit the appellate court never directly addressed the issue of using the military to hold citizens and strip them of due process-something that is clearly unconstitutional. Instead, the court held that I and the other plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case. It said that because none of us had been imminently threatened with arrest we had no credible fear. This was an odd argument. When I was a New York Times reporter I was, as stated in court, arrested and held by the U.S. military in violation of my First Amendment rights as I was covering conflicts in the Middle East. In addition I was briefly detained, without explanation, in the Newark, N.J., airport by Homeland Security as I returned from Italy, the court was told.

During the five years I covered the war in El Salvador the Reagan administration regularly denounced reporters who exposed atrocities by the Salvadoran military as "fifth columnists" for the rebel movement, a charge that made us in the eyes of Reagan officials at the very least accomplices to terrorism. This, too, was raised in court, as was the fact that during my seven years as a reporter in the Middle East I met regularly with individuals and groups, including al-Qaida, that were considered terrorists by the U.S. government. There were times in my 20-year career as a foreign correspondent, especially when I reported events or opinions that challenged the official narrative, that the U.S. government made little distinction between me and groups that were antagonistic to the United States. In those days there was no law that could be used to seize and detain me. Now there is.

Journalist Alexa O'Brien, who joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff along with Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and others, was incorrectly linked by the security and surveillance state to terrorist groups in the Middle East. O'Brien, who doggedly covered the trial of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, co-founded US Day of Rage, an organization dedicated to electoral reform. When WikiLeaks in February 2012 released 5 million emails from Stratfor, a private security firm that does work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Marine Corps and the Defense Intelligence Agency, it was revealed that the company was attempting to tie O'Brien and her organization to Islamic radicals and websites as well as jihadist ideology. Fred Burton, Stratfor's vice president for counterterrorism and corporate security and a former deputy director of the counterterrorism division of the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, and Thomas Kopecky, director of operations at Investigative Research Consultants Inc. and Fortis Protective Services LLC, had an email exchange over this issue. Kopecky wrote: "I was looking into that US Day of Rage movement and specifically asked to connect it to any Saudi or other fundamentalist Islamic movements. Thus far, I have only hear[d] rumors but not gotten any substantial connection. Do you guys know much about this other than its US Domestic fiscal ideals?" Burton replied: "No, we're not aware of any concrete connections between fundamentalist Islamist movements and the Day of Rage, or the October 2011 movement at this point." But that soon changed. Stratfor, through others working in conjunction with the FBI, falsely linked US Day of Rage to al-Qaida and other Islamic terrorist organizations. Homeland Security later placed her group on a terrorism watch list.

This will be the standard tactic. Laws passed in the so-called war on terror will be used to turn all dissidents and activists into terrorism suspects, subjecting them to draconian forms of state repression and control. The same tactic was used during the anti-communist hysteria of the 20th century to destroy union leaders, writers, civil rights activists, intellectuals, artists, teachers, politicians and organizations that challenged entrenched corporate power.

"After 12 years of an undeclared permanent war against an undefined enemy and multiple revelations about massive unconstitutional spying by the government, we certainly hope that the Supreme Court will strike down a law that replaces our civilian system of justice with a military one," said Mayer. "Unless this happens there will be little left of judicial review during wartime."

Afran, a law professor at Rutgers University, asked last week during a conversation with me: "Does the Army have to be knocking on your door saying, 'Come with me,' before there will be the ability to challenge such a law?" He said the appellate court's ruling "means you have to be incarcerated before you can challenge the law under which you're incarcerated."

"There's nothing that's built into this NDAA [the National Defense Authorization Act] that even gives a detained person the right to get to an attorney," Afran said. "In fact, the whole notion is that it's secret. It's outside of any judicial process. You're not even subject to a military trial. You can be moved to other jurisdictions under the law. It's the antithesis of due process."

The judges on the appellate court admitted that we as plaintiffs had raised "difficult questions."

"This is a way of acknowledging they're troubled by the apparent lack of constitutionality of the law," Afran said during our conversation. "But they were not willing to face the question head on. So, in effect, they said, 'Well, when someone's threatened with arrest, then we have a concrete injury.' But no one's going to be threatened with arrest. They'll simply be arrested. They're not going to send a letter saying, 'By the way, on Thursday next we're going to place you in military custody.' ... The whole point of the law is that they're going to come in and take you [in secrecy]."

The appellate court stated that the law does not apply to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. In reading the law this way the justices were saying, in effect, that I and the other plaintiffs had nothing to fear. Afran called this a "circular argument." The court, in essence, said that because it did not construe the law as applying to U.S. citizens and lawful residents we could not bring the case to court.

"They seem to accept a lot of what we said, namely that the whole history of the jurisprudence, of the court decisions, is that American civilians cannot be placed in military custody," Afran said. "And they accept the idea that Section E of the statute says, 'Nothing herein shall be construed to affect existing authorities as to the detention of U.S. citizens.' So on the basis of that they say this is not meant to add any new powers to the government and since the government doesn't have power over civilians in this way the law can't be extended to civilians. The problem is by saying there's no standing, they deprive the district court of entering an order, saying and declaring that the statue does not apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, lawful residents in the U.S."

The court, in essence, accepted the principle that citizens cannot be taken into military custody but refused to issue a direct order saying so that would be enforceable.

"We have the absurdity of the court of appeals, one of the highest courts in the country, saying this law cannot touch citizens and lawful residents, but depriving the trial court of the ability to enter an order blocking it from being used in that way," Afran said. "The lack of an order enables future [military] detentions. A person may have to languish for months, maybe years, before getting a court hearing. The [appellate] court correctly stated what the law is, but it deprived the trial court of the ability to enter an order stopping this [new] law from being used."

"A law is not constitutional just because habeas corpus says you have a right to go to court to try to get out," Afran said in speaking about the legal mechanism by which someone might challenge custody. "The citizen is entitled not to be detained in the first place absent probable cause. Habeas corpus is a remedy of last resort. It's not there to justify the use of unconstitutional detention laws."

The Supreme Court takes between 80 and 100 cases a year from about 8,000 requests. There is no guarantee our appeal will ever be heard. If we fail, if this law stands, if in the years ahead the military starts to randomly seize and disappear people, if dissidents and activists become subject to indefinite and secret detention in military gulags, we will at least be able to look back on this moment and know we fought 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."

Obama, Congress And Syria
The president is celebrated for seeking a vote on his latest war even as his aides make clear it has no binding effect
By Glenn Greenwald

It's a potent sign of how low the American political bar is set that gratitude is expressed because a US president says he will ask Congress to vote before he starts bombing another country that is not attacking or threatening the US. That the US will not become involved in foreign wars of choice without the consent of the American people through their representatives Congress is a central mandate of the US Constitution, not some enlightened, progressive innovation of the 21st century. George Bush, of course, sought Congressional approval for the war in Iraq (though he did so only once it was clear that Congress would grant it: I vividly remember watching then-Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden practically begging the Bush White House to "allow" Congress to vote on the attack while promising in advance that they would approve for it).

But what makes the celebratory reaction to yesterday's announcement particularly odd is that the Congressional vote which Obama said he would seek appears, in his mind, to have no binding force at all. There is no reason to believe that a Congressional rejection of the war's authorization would constrain Obama in any way, other than perhaps politically. To the contrary, there is substantial evidence for the proposition that the White House sees the vote as purely advisory, i.e., meaningless.

Recall how - in one of most overlooked bad acts of the Obama administration - the House of Representatives actually voted, overwhelmingly, against authorizing the US war in Libya, and yet Obama simply ignored the vote and proceeded to prosecute the war anyway (just as Clinton did when the House rejected the authorization he wanted to bomb Kosovo, though, at least there, Congress later voted to allocate funds for the bombing campaign). Why would the White House view the President's power to wage war in Libya as unconstrainable by Congress, yet view his power to wage war in Syria as dependent upon Congressional authorization?

More to the point, his aides are making clear that Obama does not view the vote as binding, as Time reports:

To make matters more complicated, Obama's aides made clear that the President's search for affirmation from Congress would not be binding. He might still attack Syria even if Congress issues a rejection."

It's certainly preferable to have the president seek Congressional approval than not seek it before involving the US in yet another Middle East war of choice, but that's only true if the vote is deemed to be something more than an empty, symbolic ritual. To declare ahead of time that the debate the President has invited and the Congressional vote he sought are nothing more than non-binding gestures - they will matter only if the outcome is what the President wants it to be - is to display a fairly strong contempt for both democracy and the Constitution.


There are few things more bizarre than watching people advocate that another country be bombed even while acknowledging that it will achieve no good outcomes other than safeguarding the "credibility" of those doing the bombing. Relatedly, it's hard to imagine a more potent sign of a weak, declining empire than having one's national "credibility" depend upon periodically bombing other countries.


According to the Guardian's Spencer Ackerman, Secretary of State John Kerry, this morning on CNN, said this when asked whether the Congressional vote would be binding: "[Obama] has the right to do this no matter what Congress does."
(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.

Eric gives the corpo-rat salute

Love For Labor Lost
By Paul Krugman

It wasn't always about the hot dogs. Originally, believe it or not, Labor Day actually had something to do with showing respect for labor.

Here's how it happened: In 1894 Pullman workers, facing wage cuts in the wake of a financial crisis, went on strike - and Grover Cleveland deployed 12,000 soldiers to break the union. He succeeded, but using armed force to protect the interests of property was so blatant that even the Gilded Age was shocked. So Congress, in a lame attempt at appeasement, unanimously passed legislation symbolically honoring the nation's workers.

It's all hard to imagine now. Not the bit about financial crisis and wage cuts - that's going on all around us. Not the bit about the state serving the interests of the wealthy - look at who got bailed out, and who didn't, after our latter-day version of the Panic of 1893. No, what's unimaginable now is that Congress would unanimously offer even an empty gesture of support for workers' dignity. For the fact is that many of today's politicians can't even bring themselves to fake respect for ordinary working Americans.

Consider, for example, how Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, marked Labor Day last year: with a Twitter post declaring "Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success." Yep, he saw Labor Day as an occasion to honor business owners.

More broadly, consider the ever-widening definition of those whom conservatives consider parasites. Time was when their ire was directed at bums on welfare. But even at the program's peak, the number of Americans on "welfare" - Aid to Families With Dependent Children - never exceeded about 5 percent of the population. And that program's far less generous successor, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, reaches less than 2 percent of Americans.

Yet even as the number of Americans on what we used to consider welfare has declined, the number of citizens the right considers "takers" rather than "makers" - people of whom Mitt Romney complained, "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives" - has exploded, to encompass almost half the population. And the great majority of this newly defined army of moochers consists of working families that don't pay income taxes but do pay payroll taxes (most of the rest are elderly).

How can someone who works for a living be considered the moral equivalent of a bum on welfare? Well, part of the answer is that many people on the right engage in word games: they talk about how someone doesn't pay income taxes, and hope that their listeners fail to notice the word "income" and forget about all the other taxes lower-income working Americans pay.

But it is also true that modern America, while it has pretty much eliminated traditional welfare, does have other programs designed to help the less well-off - notably the earned-income tax credit, food stamps and Medicaid. The majority of these programs' beneficiaries are either children, the elderly or working adults - this is true by definition for the tax credit, which only supplements earned income, and turns out in practice to be true of the other programs. So if you consider someone who works hard trying to make ends meet, but also gets some help from the government, a "taker," you're going to have contempt for a very large number of American workers and their families.

Oh, and just wait until Obamacare kicks in, and millions more working Americans start receiving subsidies to help them purchase health insurance.

You might ask why we should provide any aid to working Americans - after all, they aren't completely destitute. But the fact is that economic inequality has soared over the past few decades, and while a handful of people have stratospheric incomes, a far larger number of Americans find that no matter how hard they work, they can't afford the basics of a middle-class existence - health insurance in particular, but even putting food on the table can be a problem. Saying that they can use some help shouldn't make us think any less of them, and it certainly shouldn't reduce the respect we grant to anyone who works hard and plays by the rules.

But obviously that's not the way everyone sees it. In particular, there are evidently a lot of wealthy people in America who consider anyone who isn't wealthy a loser - an attitude that has clearly gotten stronger as the gap between the 1 percent and everyone else has widened. And such people have a lot of friends in Washington.

So, this time around will we be hearing anything from Mr. Cantor and his colleagues suggesting that they actually do respect people who work for a living? Maybe. But the one thing we'll know for sure is that they don't mean it.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach."
~~~ Aldous Huxley

The New High School Diploma
By David Sirota

Whether or not President Obama's recent education-themed speeches are in direct response to Matt Taibbi's must-read Rolling Stone magazine article on the college loan crisis, it is great news that the White House is now taking the crisis more seriously. The credit bubble in college loans has ballooned into a systemic threat to the nation's economy. Additionally, as Taibbi documents, economic and political trends are now forcing an entire generation into a truly no-win situation: Either don't get a post-secondary education and harm your job prospects, or get a post-secondary education and condemn yourself to a lifetime of debt.

The economic trend fueling this perfect storm is about job credentials. Peruse employment data and you'll see that the New York Times was right when it declared that "the college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job." Though the Times notes that the weak economy means the job outlook for college grads "is rather bleak," it is even more bleak if you don't have a post-secondary degree.

So, yes, some form of higher education is now increasingly as necessary as a high school diploma. Yet, in our financing models, America still isn't treating it as such. Just consider the critical difference between how high school and college education programs are funded.

The former is funded by broad-based taxes and few would ever suggest changing it to an individual tuition system. Why? Because we've come to view access to high school as a right. This view is based not just on notions of morality but also on an economic calculation. Basically, we know we need a workforce with as many high school graduates as possible, and we've decided that forcing young people to go into crushing debt to get a high school degree would deter many from getting the degree.

Yet, even though we know that higher education is also increasingly an economic necessity, we do not have the same funding model or outlook for college.

Instead, we still predicate access to higher education on a student's wealth and/or their willingness to go into crushing debt.

This brings us to the political trend that is contributing to this perfect storm. Even though policymakers obviously know higher education is increasingly an economic necessity, financially speaking, they are still treating it as a luxury by predicating it on the user fee/tuition model.

No doubt, shifting our policies to treat post-secondary education as equally necessary as high school - and therefore worthy of similar fiscal treatment - requires a paradigm shift in thinking.

It requires us to see higher education as not just 4-year university programs, but also 2-year community college programs and vocational and technical education.

It also requires us to address the problems raised by Taibbi in his look at why college is so expensive.

But perhaps most important of all, it requires us to reject the assumption that it is impossible for the wealthiest country in the world to provide public higher education that doesn't force students into debt. We -thankfully - don't apply that assumption to high school education, and we should stop applying it to higher education.

Of course, universal free post-secondary education will not, unto itself, solve America's economic problems. But that doesn't mean access to higher education has nothing to do with a nation's economic success. As the data prove, education is a factor.

America already knows and has built consensus around that truth when it comes to high school. Now it's time to do the same for post-secondary education.
(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 .

Kerry speaking on 'This Week' on Sunday

John Kerry, Warmonger
By Matthew Rothschild

John Kerry is not exactly inspiring confidence as Secretary of State.

He's become the biggest cheerleader for war against Syria in the entire administration.

At the Senate hearings yesterday, he wouldn't even rule out putting boots on the ground in Syria, even though President Obama had assured us on Saturday that this wouldn't happen.

Asked directly about it, here's what Kerry had to say: If chemical weapons were at risk of falling into the hands of Al Qaeda types in Syria, he said: "I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a President of the United States to secure our country."

He then backtracked and tried to slam the door shut on putting U.S. ground troops there, but if you were listening, you had to conclude that this door is still kind of open.

And anyway, why is the U.S. planning an action that logically will help Al Qaeda types in Syria, who are opposed to the Assad regime?

Kerry also repeated Obama's falsehood from Saturday that the President has the authority to attack Syria without authorization from Congress. By saying so, Kerry shows himself to be ignorant or disdainful of the Constitution and of the War Powers Act.

Once more, a majority of the American public doesn't want war. And once more, the political class is intent on dragging us into it.

To be sure, if it is proven that Assad used chemical weapons, that would be a war crime.

But remember, at the Nuremburg trials, Justice Robert Jackson said the greatest war crime of all was waging an aggressive war.

And that's what John Kerry and Barack Obama seem prepared to commit-unless we organize and stop them.
(c) 2013 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

The Dead Letter Office...

Jim gives the corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer DeMint,

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 constant attacks on Medicare and Medicaid, 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 "Rethuglican 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 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 11-30-2013. We salute you Herr DeMint, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Before The Battles Resume In Washington: A Reminder About What's Really At Stake
By Robert Reich

Congress will reconvene shortly. That means more battles over taxes and spending, regulations and safety nets, and how to get the economy out of first gear. Which means more gridlock and continual showdowns over budget resolutions and the debt ceiling.

But before the hostilities start again and we all get lost in puerile politics and petty tactics, it's useful to consider what's really at stake for our economy and democracy.

For much of the past century, the basic bargain at the heart of America was that employers paid their workers enough to buy what American employers were selling. Government's role was to encourage and enforce this bargain. We thereby created a virtuous cycle of higher living standards, more jobs, and better wages. And a democracy that worked reasonably well.

But the bargain has been broken. And until it's remade, the economy can't mend and our democracy won't be responsive to the majority.

First, a bit of history. Back in 1914, Henry Ford announced he was paying workers on his Model T assembly line $5 a day - three times what the typical factory employee earned at the time. The Wall Street Journal termed his action "an economic crime."

But Ford knew it was a cunning business move. The higher wage turned Ford's auto workers into customers who could afford to buy Model T's. In two years Ford's profits more than doubled.

Yet in the years leading up to the Great Crash of 1929, employers forgot Henry Ford's example. The wages of most American workers stagnated even as the economy surged. Gains went mainly into corporate profits and into the pockets of the very rich. American families maintained their standard of living by going deeper into debt, and the rich gambled with their gigantic winnings. In 1929 the debt bubble popped.

Sound familiar? It should. The same thing happened in the years leading up to the crash of 2008. The lesson should be obvious. When the economy becomes too lopsided - disproportionately benefiting corporate owners and top executives rather than average workers - it tips over.

It's still lopsided. We're emerging from the depths of the worst downturn since the Great Depression but nothing fundamentally has changed. Corporate profits are up largely because payrolls are down. Even Ford Motor Company is now paying its new hires half what it paid new employees a few years ago.

Employee pay is now down to the smallest share of the economy since the government began collecting wage and salary data sixty years ago; and corporate profits, the largest share.

This is a losing game for corporations over the long term. Without enough American consumers, their profitable days are numbered. Europeans are in no mood to buy. India and China are slowing dramatically. Developing nations are in trouble.

Republicans claim rich people and big corporations are job creators, so their taxes must not be raised. This is baloney. In order to create jobs, businesses need customers. But the rich spend only a small fraction of what they earn. They park most of it wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

The real job creators are the vast middle class - whose spending drives the economy and creates jobs. But as the middle class's share of total income continues to drop, it can't spend as much as before. Nor can most Americans borrow as they did before the crash of 2008 - borrowing that temporarily masked their declining purchasing power.

As a result, businesses are still reluctant to hire and pay decent wages. Which is why the recovery continues to be so anemic.

As wealth and income rise to the top, moreover, so does political power. Corporations and the rich are able to entrench themselves by keeping low tax rates and special tax breaks (such as the "carried interest" loophole that still allows private equity and hedge fund managers to treat their incomes as capital gains), and ensuring a steady flow of corporate welfare to their businesses (special breaks for oil and gas, big agriculture, big insurance, Big Pharma, and, of course, Wall Street.)

All of this continues to squeeze public budgets, corrupt government, and undermine our democracy. The issue is not and has never been the size of our government; it's who the government is for. Government has become less responsive to the needs of most citizens and more responsive to the demands of the monied interests.

The Republican response is to further reduce taxes on the rich, defund programs for the poor, fight unions, allow the median wage to continue to drop, and oppose any limits on campaign contributions or spending. It does not take a great deal of brainpower to understand this strategy will lead to an even more lopsided economy, more entrenched wealth, and a more corrupt democracy.

So as Congress reconvenes and the battles resume, be clear about what's at stake. The only way back to a buoyant economy is through a productive system whose gains are more widely shared. The only way back to a responsive democracy is through a political system whose monied interests are more effectively constrained.

We must remake the basic bargain at the heart of America.
(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.

Obama And Putin: Time For Diplomacy On Syria
By Amy Goodman

"Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence." So said Pope Francis, addressing the crowd on Sunday in the Vatican City's St. Peter's Square. He was speaking about the crisis in Syria, as President Barack Obama ramped up a planned military strike there. "I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people," the pope said.

The distance from St. Peter's Square to St. Petersburg, Russia, parallels the gulf between the pope's hopes and the president's plans. Obama, attending the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg, will lobby world leaders to support a military strike against Syria so that the U.S. is not acting alone. What a squandered opportunity for doubling down on diplomacy, with this global summit set in Russia, the Syrian regime's main sponsor.

Diplomacy prospects were diminished from the outset, when Obama canceled a planned bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that was to take place immediately after the G-20. Obama was enraged by Russia's decision to grant temporary political asylum to National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden. This G-20 meeting is the first major gathering of world leaders following Snowden's revelations of massive spying by the United States. Many G-20 members have been targeted by the NSA's myriad spy programs.

With the decision by the British Parliament against supporting the military strike (the first time the House of Commons voted against a prime minister's request for military authorization in more than 150 years), Obama will be isolated in his quest. You could say he is up against a wall of "BRICS," as the planned strike is opposed by the five member nations of the BRICS coalition: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

On the home front, President Obama surprised many when he said he would seek congressional approval to strike Syria, though he said he is not bound by its decision. Obama's frontman for the effort is Secretary of State John Kerry. Before both the Senate and House Foreign Relations committees, Kerry made the case for a "limited" military authorization. One consistent concern voiced by congressional members of both parties is the possibility that U.S. troops would be drawn into the civil war.

But Kerry undermined his own assurances that there would be no U.S. "boots on the ground" when he reflected, "In the event Syria imploded ... and it was clearly in the interests of our allies and all of us-the British, the French and others-to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements, I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country."

But what could happen with a "limited" attack? Earlier this summer in Aspen, Colo., David Shedd, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (the Pentagon's CIA), made a rare public appearance. Shedd predicts "ongoing civil war for years to come" in Syria. He thinks the conflict could spill over into Iraq and Jordan, and was "most concerned about Lebanon falling."

There are now 2 million Syrian refugees living just beyond its borders, in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, putting enormous pressure on these countries. More than 4 million Syrians are internally displaced. Many more are fleeing Syria in anticipation of a U.S. attack. After touring the crowded camps this week, Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, said on the "Democracy Now!" news hour that he is opposed to a U.S. attack: "Our concern is that a military strike ... offers the potential of widening the conflict, turning it into a wider regional conflict, inflicting the potential for more civilian casualties."

Why would the U.S. risk killing innocent Syrian civilians to punish the Syrian regime for killing Syrian civilians?

What if a military strike was not an option? Obama could spend his time in Russia lobbying the G-20 world leaders to pressure Putin to use his influence to convince Syria to negotiate. Iran, another Syria ally but not a member of the G-20, has a new president, Hassan Rouhani. There are openings. All parties agree that, ultimately, the solution to the Syrian crisis will be political, not military. Why not start now?
(c) 2013 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ David Horsey ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The Case For And Against Intervening In Syria

While the Obama administration has been considering an armed intervention in Syria following the gassing deaths of hundreds of Syrian civilians, a vocal movement in Congress and among the general public has emerged in opposition of any U.S. military role. Here are the arguments for and against American involvement in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation:


It's the right thing to do, maybe

Let American people finally sleep at night after years of being tormented by thoughts of innocent Syrians dying

Will put thousands of honest, diligent American Tomahawk cruise missiles back to work

We're the good guys

Syrian people deserve to be free of a psychotic, oppressive dictator for a few weeks

Moral obligation to our defense industry

Footage of missiles being launched off decks of ships, green night-vision images, aerial shots of explosions-all that good stuff

Have plenty of money, a fresh, rested military-why not?

Be nice to throw Kathryn Bigelow a bone

Chance for Obama to put an exclamation point on an already great year

It's been a while since we did one of these things


Someone might be hurt, or even die

Could turn Russia and Iran against U.S.


Fear of setting a precedent of military action without U.N. approval

Slight, almost infinitesimal chance intervention might be a completely ineffectual act that even further destabilizes the region, touching off massive anti-American sentiment while allowing jihadist radicals to take power

Painful memories of intervening in Rwandan genocide

It's hard

Bashar al-Assad just had a baby. A baby!

Bush invaded a foreign country. If Obama invades a foreign country, he will be like Bush. It is not good to be like Bush.

If we ever want to patch things up with Assad, this won't exactly make that conversation a cake walk

Situation might work itself out

(c) 2013 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 34 (c) 09/06/2013

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