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In This Edition

Ray McGovern explains, "How War On Syria Lost Its Way."

Uri Avnery sees, "A Good War."

Glen Ford examines, "Obama's Humiliating Defeat."

Norman Solomon demands, "Next Step For Peace In Syria-Stop The 'Lethal Aid'."

Jim Hightower is, "Finding The Money To Fund Higher Education For All."

David Swanson reminds us to, "Give The Sierra Club Credit For Taking On The U.S. Marine Corps."

James Donahue tells, "Why George Wouldn't Sign The Constitution."

John Nichols shines a light on, "Blocking The Public's Right To Know About ALEC."

Chris Hedges explores, "The Origins Of Our Police State."

Glenn Greenwald takes us, "Inside The Mind Of NSA Chief Gen. Keith Alexander."

Paul Krugman sings all we are saying is, "Give Jobs A Chance."

David Sirota debunks, "The Commando In The Mirror."

Matthew Rothschild says, "Shed No Tears For Larry Summers."

Red Lobster wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich lectures on, "The Myth Of The "Free Market" And How To Make The Economy Work For Us."

Amy Goodman finds, "Americans Say No To Another Middle East War."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports on, "Putin's 'Modern Love'" but first, Uncle Ernie sings, "Shot Through The Heart And You're To Blame..."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mr. Fish, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Education Arena.Com, DBI Architects, Inc., Politico.Com, Aamir Qureshi, Mikasi, People Over Politics, Save Pagan Island.Com, Oleg Popov, Reuters, Getty Images, The Simpsons, Warner Brothers, Parker Brothers, 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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Shot Through The Heart And You're To Blame...
By Ernest Stewart

"Shot through the heart and you're to blame..." ~ Bon Jovi

"Everyone should have health insurance? I say everyone should have health care. I’m not selling insurance." ~~~ Dennis Kucinich

"I'm not black, but there's a whole lots a times I wish I could say I'm not white." ~~~ Frank Zappa

"The Good Fight is the one we fight because our heart asks it of us. The Good Fight is the one that's fought in the name of our dreams." ~~~ Paulo Coelho

Another day, another massacre, just another day in American life. Did you realize that every day, on average, another 87 Americans will lose their life to gun violence? Sure you can blame the NRA; and have no doubt, some of this carnage is directly caused by their lobbying, oops, my bad, buying various members of Con-gress. However, you can also trace this violence to the US government, who've been on a 115-year blood binge on mostly brown-skinned peoples throughout the world. Do you, too, laugh out loud when you see a Navy commercial touting their mass murdering as a "A Global Force For Good?" Consider, America, when totaled up, more people have died in the streets of America since 1968 than have died in all the wars in American history. Over one million Americans have died or been seriously wounded in that short span. Oh, and let's not forget the third part of this bloody triumvirate, you, the American people, who do nothing to stop it!

As George Carlin use to say: "We like war, we are war-like people. We like war, because we are good at it. You know why we are good at it? Because we did a lot of practice."

We are, and always have been, a very violent society -- way before we were a country, we were genocidal maniacs. Combine that fact with the fact that we're a product of the weapon. We didn't invent the weapon; the weapon invented us. Murder has been ingrained in us for millions of years. Bring those things together with the end of the middle class, with no safety net, and you have today's carnage; and with the economy going to hell in a hand basket, you can expect lots more people losing control and striking out, not at the people responsible, but more likely as not, people who had nothing to do with it -- but happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Then there is the unnecessary "war on drugs;" you would have thought the feds would've learned something, anything, from the roaring twenties; banning drugs worked out well, then, didn't it? Today it fuels thousands of gangs and drive-bys as they fight for turf -- something that would disappear overnight if we legalized drugs. Those 20's were fueled not only by all that money, but by the WWI vets who were trained to be killers by their government -- just like the wild, wild west was caused by millions of civil war vets, as was the Navy killer who was also trained to kill without a second thought. If you can murder anyone -- from the elderly to babes in arms without a second thought -- if some short fat man with stripes on his shoulders wearing a girl scout beanie tells you to, what do you expect, America? People aren't a switch; you can't just turn them on and off! Yet, we have a pot-smoking president who's doubled down on those dangerous pot smokers; Barry is what Tweety Bird called a hypo-twit -- not to mention a mass murderer -- who at this moment is trying to figure out a way around the Constitution to murder even more in Syria.

So, with the president leading the way, is anyone really surprised at our homicide rate? Sure, we kill about the same amount per year, i.e., 32,000 folks a year with our automobiles as we do with guns; but hardly any of that rate was on purpose; they're called accidents for a reason. The carnage isn't going to stop, but only get worse! If you think all this violence couldn't happen to you, you might recall what old "Dirty Harry" once asked... "You got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?"

In Other News

Well, I see where Barry's back-room deal and sell out with the insurance goons is about to start on the 1st of October. You may recall that the single-payer option was never on the table; yet Barry lied his ass off, saying it was when it wasn't; before it was even proposed, he'd assured the insurance goons that the fix was in and not to worry.

You may also recall that various pretend liberals swore to almighty Zeus that they'd never vote for it in a million years; but as soon as Barry jerked their puppet strings, they danced and voted to their master's delight. You know who they were, right? Dennis Kucinich, who must've said he'd never vote for it at least 1000 times -- and then turned right around and did. You may also recall Dennis is no longer in the House -- funny thing that, huh?

Another one who lost at the next election, but has somehow managed to weasel his way back into the house, i.e., Alan Grayson, like Kucinich, must've said 1000 times, too, how he'd never, ever, vote for it until Barry jerked his chain. Funny how Alan hasn't said a word about it since. Trouble with Alan, no one believes a word he says now-a-daze; go ahead and ask him about it and see what he says. He told me he is only looking forward. I'm having a deja vu right now, aren't you?

Meanwhile, the Rethuglican controlled-House is about to have their 42nd vote on Obamacare; but, of course, these votes are only for appearances; their 1% masters have been licking their chops in anticipation of the huge trillion dollar windfall that they're about to reap.

I, fortunately, won't be joining in as I get what everybody wanted to begin with, i.e., Medicare -- come December 1st, which is an option that everyone wanted. Instead of all the confusion and such the 2000 page Obamacare Bill is causing, a simple single sentence could've been used, i.e., "Medicare for everyone who wants it from birth to death." Simple, huh? You don't have to buy it; but it is there if you want it. For a small fee added to your Medicare payments, this could've been done -- bringing America in line with the rest of the Industrial World and giving everyone not just half of the uninsured, a real option for health care. C'est la vie, America!

And Finally

I've had all that I can stand with racism in this country. It is so ingrained in here from before the Revolution to this very day that I see no chance of it ever going away. Why black folks would want to live here is beyond me, especially down below that "Manson/Nixon" line.

Yes, I was incredibly naive as a child when I marched with Doctor King and did my bit, thinking that someday we could achieve his dream; but 50 some years down the line, it seems to be as bad, if not worse, than it was back in the day. Yeah Barry's on the throne; but I have no doubt that Dr. King would've had no problem calling him out for being the Uncle Tom corpo-rat goon that he is.

Then I come across this... So you know what I did right? All of you who said I bet he wrote them a nasty letter may stay after class and clean the erasers!

Hey Mike,

Boy, did you fuck up, huh? Talk about a billion dollars worth of bad publicity for Red Lobster, thanks to your stupidity. So a black employee called a "nigger" by one of your redneck customer base is sent home, instead of receiving a little compassion; you come on like Darth Vader, and no doubt, will cost the company millions, if not billions in lost revenue. The only thing the company can do now is apologize profusely to Miss Jenkins, give her a nice raise and fire their spokes-weasel, i.e., you, Mike, and promise it will never happen again, or, continue goose-stepping along and take the loss. I wonder which choice they will choose, don't you, Mike?

Needless to say, I'll never visit such a fascist company such as Red Lobster again! Besides, Ruby Tuesday has better shrimp!

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine
PS. Congratulations, you've just won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

As always I will publish any reply that I get.

You might like to leave them your thoughts at:

And tell them Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

It is getting a little better! We'd like to thank George & Karen from Indianapolis for their nice donation! Thanks to them, we are down to $1000 to pay off this year's bills. Did I mention that they're newbies? As much as we love and need our regular suspects, it's so nice in this day and age to meet new folks who feel like we do. Thanks, ya'll!

However, we are fast running out of time to keep us from going under. November 4th will soon be here and without your help, we still may be going under, which in this time may be fatal to a whole bunch of us. Like all those folks living in their car or their camping tents. As bad as that is, there are some who would be happy to have a tent to keep the weather off of them with winter on its way! They, too, thought that being middle class and all that this couldn't possibly happen to them -- until it did!

Ergo, if you still have a job, like what we do for you and yours, shouldn't you step up and pay your fair share? Our "Usual Suspects" not only pay their fair share, but also pick up the shares for those who can't but would if they could. So, if you can, please send us what you can as often as you can; and we'll keep fighting the good fight against the forces of darkness and evil, viz., the Con-gress and their corpo-rat pals!


04-28-1930 ~ 09-18-2013
Thanks for the film!


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


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

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

President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with His Highness
Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, in the Oval Office, Sept. 13, 2013.

How War On Syria Lost Its Way
By Ray McGovern

The just announced U.S.-Russia agreement in Geneva on a "joint determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons (CW) program in the soonest and safest manner" sounds the death knell to an attempt by Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to get the U.S. into the war in Syria.

Equally important, it greatly increases the prospect of further U.S.-Russia cooperation to tamp down escalating violence in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. That the two sides were able to hammer out in three days a detailed agreement on such highly delicate, complicated issues is little short of a miracle. I cannot remember seeing the likes of it in 50 years in Washington.

Just two short weeks ago, the prospect of a U.S. military strike against Syria looked like a done deal with Official Washington abuzz with excitement about cruise missiles being launched from American warships in the Mediterranean, flying low toward their targets and lighting up the night sky of Damascus like the "shock and awe" pyrotechnics did to Baghdad in 2003.

On Aug. 30, Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to seal the deal with an impassioned address that declared some 35 times that "we know" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had crossed President Barack Obama's "red line" against using chemical weapons with an Aug. 21 attack and needed to be punished.

Along with Kerry's speech, the White House released a four-page "Government Assessment" declaring with "high confidence" that Assad's regime was guilty of the attack on a Damascus suburb that killed precisely "1,429" people and "at least 426 children." Though the white paper included not a single verifiable fact establishing Assad's guilt - nor did it explain where its casualty figures came from - the assessment was accepted as true by most of the mainstream U.S. news media.

At that moment, Israel and its many backers had every reason to believe they had won the day and that at least the first stage of the retribution would be delivered before President Barack Obama flew off on Sept. 3 to Europe and to the G-20 summit. But then came a series of disappointments for them, beginning with Obama's abrupt Aug. 31 decision to seek congressional authorization.

Still, the prevailing attitude was that the Israel Lobby would simply get to work whipping members of Congress into line with a variety of arguments (and a mix of threats and inducements) to ensure that a use-of-force resolution was passed and sent to the President's desk.

The confidence was so high that there was no need to disguise what was afoot. Usually the mainstream media avoids mentioning the extraordinary influence of the Israel Lobby on Congress, but this time the New York Times displayed unusual candor describing who was egging on the march to war.

An 800-Pound Gorilla

In an article posted online Sept. 2, the Times reported, "Administration officials said the influential pro-Israel lobby group Aipac was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Mr. Assad. ... One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called Aipac 'the 800-pound gorilla in the room,' and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, 'If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line' against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, 'we're in trouble.'"

This warning about "loss of credibility" is a familiar one, artfully promoted in Saturday's Wall Street Journal in an article by Leon Aron titled "America, Syria and the World." Aron quotes a long list of Israel loyalists like Brookings Saban Center's Kenneth M. Pollack, who warn that foreigners may come to view us as wimps if strong action is not taken against Syria.

A contrary point of view was expressed by former U.S. Ambassador Chas Freeman, who commented: "There is another possibility, however. And that is that they have come to see us as bullies, prone to resort to force rather than diplomacy when problems arise. The latter possibility puts a whole different face on Obama's hesitation to go to war with Syria."

In any case, to the surprise of many Washington insiders, the dreams of U.S. bombs raining down on another Mideast country began to slip away as many members of Congress listened to their constituents speaking out against war, and some even disbelieving the administration's assessment because no hard, checkable evidence was being revealed to the American people.

Morose at CNN

As the march toward war began meandering off in unexpected directions, I was lucky enough to observe, up-close and personal, the angry reaction of some of Israel's top American supporters on Monday evening. That was after Russia drew Obama a new map for how to reach the desired destination of removing chemical weapons from Assad's arsenal without going to war.

After doing an interview on CNN International, I opened the studio door and almost knocked over a small fellow named Paul Wolfowitz, President George W. Bush's former under-secretary of defense who in 2002-2003 had helped craft the fraudulent case for invading Iraq. And there standing next to him was former Sen. Joe Lieberman, the neocon from Connecticut who was a leading advocate for the Iraq War and pretty much every other potential war in the Middle East.

Finding myself in the same room with two gentlemen responsible for so much misery in the world, I fell back on my recent training in non-violence, as we watched Piers Morgan try earnestly to spin the day's astounding events. On the tube earlier, Anderson Cooper sought counsel from Ari Fleischer, former spokesman for George W. Bush, and David Gergen, long-time White House PR guru.

Fleischer and Gergen were alternately downright furious over the Russian initiative to give peace a chance and disconsolate at seeing the prospect for U.S. military involvement in Syria disappear when we were oh so close. After some caustic and condescending outbursts, an almost surreally disconsolate mood set in. It looked like these fellas were not going to get their war.

Later remarks by Lieberman and Wolfowitz reflected a distinctly funereal atmosphere. I felt I had come to a wake with somberly dressed folks (no pastel ties this time) grieving for a recently, dearly-departed war.

Among Lieberman's vapid comments was the hope-against-hope assertion that President Obama, of course, could still commit troops to war without congressional authorization. I thought to myself, wow, here's a fellow who was a senator for 24 years and almost our vice president, and he does not remember that the Founders gave Congress the sole power to declare war in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.

So I dug into my back pocket, pulled out my little copy of the Constitution, and carefully tore out Article 1. Then I lurked in the ornate elevator waiting area for Joe and Paul to come out. After the usual pleasantries (all politicians feel compelled to "remember" you once you say your name as though they should), I said, "Joe, I couldn't believe what you said about the President not being required to get the approval of Congress before attacking a country like Syria. So, here; I tore out Article 1 of the Constitution for you; I have another copy, so you can keep it. Go home, read it, and see if what you just said is correct."

It was a bad evening for war and for those pundits who like to joke about "giving war a chance." For those of us who think war is not such a good idea - and truly should only be considered as an absolutely last resort - it was an uncommon day for rejoicing at the failure of the warmongers to again send young men and women to kill folks who pose no threat to us.

Salt in the Wounds

As sad as the war proponents were - including the cable news channels cheated out of some great video of flashing bombs illuminating the shattered buildings of ancient Damascus - they would face another humiliation in reading Thursday's New York Times, which published an op-ed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He made sensible points about the value of international law prohibiting one country from attacking another except in self-defense or with approval of the United Nations Security Council.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and an Israeli favorite, spoke for many Washington insiders by saying, "I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit." [For more on this topic, see's "Rewarding 'Group Think' on Syria."]

Menendez had just cobbled together and forced through his committee a resolution, 10-to-7, to authorize the President to strike Syria with enough force to degrade Assad's military. Now, at Obama's request, the resolution was being put on the shelf.

Events were now moving swiftly away from a U.S. missile strike. Obama dispatched Kerry to Geneva to work out an agreement with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But the hope for war still was not fully extinguished.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was still rooting for a chance to revive the military option and - like Lieberman - suggesting that the President didn't really need congressional approval and shouldn't be deterred by popular opposition either.

At a breakfast session with reporters on Sept. 11, Levin said, "I just don't think you can be guided, when it comes to this kind of an issue, by public opinion polls. ... It would not be a surprise at all to me, even if there were no congressional authority, that he [Obama] would use his Article 2 authority" as commander in chief. (Not incidentally, Levin has been the recipient of more money from AIPAC-related organizations than any other member of Congress.)

At this point, Israel and its lobby had every reason to be disappointed in another longtime close friend, John Kerry. He had succeeded in driving the war, which was to be fought over Obama's "red line," into what football fans might call the "red zone" but Kerry was unable to push the plan for missile strikes over the goal line.

Instead, Kerry clearly is under new orders from President Obama to figure out a way in cooperation with Minister Lavrov to defuse the crisis. Putin, Obama, Lavrov and Kerry have just won some laurels from the people around the world hoping to advance the cause of peace. But they won't have the luxury of resting on them, while so many others in and around Syria have powerful incentives to reverse the progress made.

One still has to wonder what might revive prospects for U.S. missile strikes. Some in the Middle East are worried about the possibility that radical jihadists among the Syrian rebels might try to derail peace talks by launching a chemical weapons attack against Israeli targets with the hope that the provocation will be blamed on the Assad regime and set off a rush to retaliate.

Whether likely or not, it is a threat that the cooler heads in the Obama administration should anticipate and be ready to head off.
(c) 2013 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years - from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

A Good War
By Uri Avnery

HERE IS another Jewish joke: A hungry young Jew sees an announcement outside a local circus: anyone who climbs to the top of a 50 meter pole and jumps onto a tarpaulin below will win a prize of a thousand rubles.

Out of desperation he goes in, climbs the pole and shudders looking down.

"Jump! Jump!" the ringmaster shouts.

"Jumping is out of the question!" the Jew shouts back. "But how do I get down again?"

That's how Barack Obama was feeling, a moment before the Russians provided the means.

THE TROUBLE with war is that it has two sides.

You prepare a war meticulously. You have a perfect plan. Future generals will study it in their academies. But once you make the first move, everything goes awry. Because the other side has a mind of its own and does not behave the way you expect.

A good example was provided exactly 40 years ago today (by the Hebrew calendar) with the Egyptian and Syrian attack on Israel. According to our planning, they shouldn't and they couldn't have done so. No way. They knew that our forces were superior and their defeat inevitable.

The chief of army intelligence, the man responsible for the overall evaluation of all intelligence gathered, coined the famous phrase: "low probability." So, while hundreds of items indicated that an attack was imminent, the government of Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan still managed to be surprised when the Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal and the Syrians advanced down to the Sea of Galilee.

Some time before, I had warned the Knesset that the Egyptians were going to start a war. No one took any notice. I was no prophet. I had just returned from a peace conference with Arab delegates, and a very highly-placed Egyptian former colonel told me that Anwar al-Sadat would attack, if Israel did not accept his secret peace proposals and withdraw from Sinai. "But you can't win!" I protested, "He won't attack in order to win, but in order to get the frozen situation moving again," he responded.

SINCE THEN, the phrase "low probability" has had an ominous ring in Israeli ears. No one ever used it. But during the last two weeks, it has made a sudden comeback.

Incredible as it sounds, it was given new life by our army command. Eager to have the Americans attack Syria, and faced with a run on gas masks in Israel, they announced that there was a very low probability that Bashar al-Assad would retaliate by attacking Israel.

He wouldn't dare, of course. How could he? His army is bogged down in fighting with the rebels. It is inferior to our army anyhow, and after two years of civil war it is even weaker than usual. So it would be madness on his part to provoke us. Absolutely. Very, very low probability.

Or is it?

It certainly would be, if Assad's mind worked like that of an Israeli general. But Assad is not an Israeli general. He is the Syrian dictator, and his mind might work quite differently.

What about the following scenario:

The Americans attack Syria with missiles and bombs, with the intention of underlining the Red Line. Just a short, limited, action.

Assad declares Israel responsible and launches his missiles against Tel Aviv and Dimona.

Israel retaliates with a heavy attack on Syrian installations.

Assad declares that the civil war is over and calls upon all Syrians, and the entire Arab and Muslim world, to unite behind him to defend holy Arab land against the common Zionist enemy, the oppressor of the Palestinian brothers.

The Americans will rush to the defense of Israel and - - -

Low probability? My foot!

THEREFORE, I was as relieved as Obama himself when the Russians helped him to climb down the pole. Wow!

What will happen now to the chemical weapons? I don't really care very much. I thought from the beginning that the hysteria about them was vastly overblown. Assad is quite capable of committing all the atrocities he wants without poison gas.

It should be remembered why his father produced this gas in the first place. He believed that Israel was developing nuclear weapons. Not being able to aspire to such expensive and technically advanced devices himself, he settled for much cheaper chemical and biological weapons as a deterrent. According to a secret 1982 CIA report, Israel was producing such weapons itself.

So now we are in for a long process of negotiations, mutual recriminations, inspections, transfers of materials, and so on. Good for many months, if not years.

In the meantime, no American intervention. No regional war. Just the usual mutual bloodletting in Syria.

ISRAEL IS furious. Obama is a wimp. A coward. How dare he listen to American public opinion? Who will ever believe him again?

After this red line was crossed, who will believe in the much broader line Obama has drawn in the sands of Iran?

Frankly, nobody. But not because of Syria.

There is absolutely no similarity between the situation in Syria and in Iran. Even if the "limited" action had led to a bigger operation, as was quite possible, it would still have been a small war with little effect on American national interests. A war with Iran is a very different matter.

As I have written many times before, a war with Iran would immediately lead to the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, a world-wide oil crisis, a global economic catastrophe with unimaginable consequences.

I repeat: there will be no American - and no Israeli - attack on Iran. Period.

ACTUALLY, OBAMA comes out of this crisis rather well.

His hesitation, which evoked so much contempt in Israel, does him credit. It is right to hesitate instead of rushing into war. In war, people get killed. Even a surgical strike can kill very many people. In laundered military language, it's called "collateral damage".

We should know. Years ago, Israel started a tiny little operation in Lebanon and unintentionally killed a lot of people in a UN refugee camp.

Also, Obama did use military force the way it should be used: not for fighting, if fighting can be avoided, but for giving weight to diplomatic pressure. The Russians would not have moved, and Assad would not have bent to their pressure, if there had not been the credible threat of an American military strike. Even Obama's decision to ask for congressional approval was right in this context. It provided the breathing space which made the Russian initiative possible.

Yes, the Russians are back in the Great Game. They will also play a role in the coming confrontation with Iran. They are just too big to ignore. And Vladimir Putin is too shrewd a player to allow himself be shoved aside.

For viewers with a literary bent, the interplay between Obama and Putin is fascinating – such different characters, such different motivations. Like the sword-wielding and the trident-wielding gladiators in the ancient Roman arena.

And the UN is back again, too. The good old UN, so inefficient, so weak, but so necessary in situations like these. God bless them.

BUT WHAT about Syria? What about the ongoing massacre, a.k.a. civil war? Will it go on forever? Can this crisis be turned around into a solution?

I think that it is possible.

Now that the US and Russia are not at loggerheads, and Iran is speaking with a much more reasonable voice (Thank you for your Rosh Hashana greetings) we might perhaps cautiously, very cautiously, think about a solution.

I can, for example, imagine a joint American-Russian initiative along the following lines:

Syria will be reorganized as a federal state, similar to Bosnia or Switzerland.

It will be composed of confessional cantons along existing lines: Sunni, Alawi, Kurdish, Druze etc.

Instead of the all-powerful president, there will be a collective or rotating presidency. That will solve the personal problem of Assad.

This is a solution everybody can live with. I don't see any other that can be adopted without much bloodshed. I don't think that one can go back to the status quo ante. The alternative to this solution is endless bloodshed and the breaking up of the state.

If anything like this solution is adopted, this crisis may yet bear valuable fruit.

Showing once again that the only good war is a war avoided.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Obama's Humiliating Defeat
By Glen Ford

It was a strange speech, in which the real news was left for last, popping out like a Jack-in-the-Box after 11 minutes of growls and snarls and Obama's bizarre whining about how unfair it is to be restrained from making war on people who have done you no harm. The president abruptly switched from absurd, lie-based justifications for war to his surprise announcement that, no, Syria's turn to endure Shock and Awe had been postponed. The reader suddenly realizes that the diplomatic developments had been hastily cut and pasted into the speech, probably only hours before. Obama had intended to build the case for smashing Assad to an imperial peroration -a laying down of the law from on high. But his handlers threw in the towel, for reasons both foreign and domestic. Temporarily defeated, Obama will be back on the Syria warpath as soon as the proper false flag operations can be arranged.

The president's roiling emotions, visible through his eyes, got in the way of his oratorical skills. But then, he didn't have much material to work with, just an endless string of prevarications and half-truths strung almost randomly together. Obama, who was reluctantly asking permission from Congress to violate the most fundamental tenets of international law - permission that Congress is not empowered to give -framed Syria as a rogue nation because it has not signed a treaty on chemical weapons like "98 percent of humanity." This makes Syria ripe for bombing. The president does not explain that Syria's neighbors, Israel and Egypt - both U.S. allies - have also not signed the treaty. He does not suggest bombing Tel Aviv or Cairo.

Obama claims that the U.S. has proof that "Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces." Not a shred of evidence has been presented to back up this narrative - which, under the circumstances, tends to prove it is fiction. On the other hand, there are credible reports (everybody's reports are more credible than the Americans), that rebels under U.S. allied control were told to prepare to go on the offensive following an American retaliation to a chemical attack that would be blamed on Assad's forces - a story whose logic conforms to what actually occurred and answers the common sense question, Who profits?

Obama will not for long accept diplomatic delays in his war schedule. On Tuesday night, he was already priming the public to accept Assad's guilt the next time chemical weapons explode in Syria. "If we fail to act," said the president, "the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons." American and allied secret services will gladly arrange a replay.

Early in the speech, Obama raised the specter that, because of Assad's mad chemical predilections, "our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield." Moreover, "If fighting spills beyond Syria's borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel." At this point, the president was arguing for a punitive strike, and had taken on the persona of warlike Obama.

Near the end of the speech, Obama responds to those who want Assad "taken out" right away and permanently, rather than merely "degrading" his forces with calibrated strikes. Now speaking as the "moderate" Obama, the president makes the case that Assad has no "interest in escalation that would lead to his demise, and our ally, Israel, can defend itself with overwhelming force."

The two Obamas are matched with two corresponding Assads. One Assad is a menace to the whole neighborhood and to himself, while the other Assad knows who to mess with and takes no risks with his own survival.

It would seem logical that the latter Assad, who is not prone to suicidal actions, would not launch a chemical attack just a few miles away from United Nations inspectors that had just arrived in the country at his government's request.

The point here is not to argue with Obama's logic, but to show how inconsistent, opportunistic and, at times, incoherent his reasoning is. He has not the slightest interest in truth or simple logic, only in what sounds right in the immediate context. Obama mixes his personas, and those of his nemesis, at the drop of a hat, because he is shameless and absolutely cynical - as befits a mass murderer.

Barack Obama pretends to believe -at least I hope he's only pretending - that it was his idea to wait for a congressional debate before blasting Syria to smithereens. "So even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security to take this debate to Congress." He didn't take the debate to Congress; the congressional detour was forced on the White House on August 31 when it became clear that Obama lacked both domestic and foreign support for a speedy strike. That was Obama's first big defeat. The second was a knockout, after Russia and Syria seized on Secretary of State John Kerry's "joke" about Assad giving up his chemical weapons, at which point Obama's handlers advised him that his political position was, for the time being, untenable. He arrived in front of the cameras shaken, angry, and humiliated - with a patched together script and a mouth full of crow.

The president who claimed that he could bomb the sovereign nation of Libya for seven months, overthrow its government and kill its president, without triggering the War Powers Act - and, further, that no state of war exists unless Americans are killed - told his Tuesday night audience that he opposes excessive presidential power. "This is especially true," said Obama, with a straight face, "after a decade that put more and more war - making power in the hands of the president and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people's representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force."

In truth, it was the likelihood of rejection by American "people's representatives" - just as British Prime Minister Cameron's war plans were rejected by Parliament - that derailed Obama.

It took more than 1,500 words before Obama acknowledged the existence of the real world, in which he was compelled to "postpone" a congressional vote on the use of force while the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain work on a UN resolution "requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons and to ultimately destroy them under international control." Syria has already agreed to the arrangement, in principle. Obama must bear, not only the bitter burden of defeat, but the humiliation of having to pretend that the UN route was his idea, all along.

Expect him back on the war track in no time flat. What else is an imperialist to do?
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The flood of arms from outside powers like the US and Russia will only fuel the bloodshed, warn experts.

Next Step For Peace In Syria-Stop The 'Lethal Aid'
By Norman Solomon

Now that public pressure has foiled U.S. plans to bomb Syria, the next urgent step is to build public pressure for stopping the deluge of weapons into that country.

Top officials in Washington are happy that American "lethal aid" has begun to flow into Syria, and they act as though such arms shipments are unstoppable. In a similar way, just a few short weeks ago, they-and the conventional wisdom-insisted that U.S. missile strikes on Syria were imminent and inevitable.

But public opinion, when activated, can screw up the best-laid plans of war-makers. And political conditions are now ripe for cutting off the flow of weaponry to Syria-again giving new meaning to the adage that "when the people lead, the leaders will follow."

Contrary to what many assume, the latest polls show that a large majority of Americans are opposed to the U.S. government sending weapons to Syria. For instance, in a CNN/ORC survey taken September 6-8, a whopping 85 percent of people nationwide answered "not either side" when asked whether the United States "should take the side of the Syrian government, or take the side of the Syrian rebels, or not take either side."

A recent ABC News/Washington Post Poll-asking "Do you support or oppose the United States and its allies supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels?"-found that 70 percent "oppose."

The results of the new polling could hardly be clearer. The vast majority of Americans are opposed to the U.S. government doing what it's doing-sending weapons into Syria to fuel the flames of a horrific war.

Collectively-in much the same way people upended the conventional wisdom that President Obama was sure to fulfill his announced desire to launch missiles at Syria-we have a real chance to put a stopper in the pipelines bringing weapons and other military supplies to Syria. We must, again, challenge the calculus in Congress and disempower the war-crazed leaderships of both parties.

This is no longer just an idea-it's now a nationwide campaign. The launch came on Monday (September 16). That day, more than 15,000 people sent emails to their senators and representative in Congress urging them to stop the shipments of weapons to Syria.

Those emails told lawmakers: "As a constituent, I urge you to halt all 'lethal aid' in the Syrian conflict. The last thing Syria needs is more weapons, ammunition and other military supplies. The U.S. government and allies should stop sending lethal aid to rebels in Syria, while working for a reciprocal cutoff of all military assistance to the Syrian government by Russia and Iran."

(If you'd like to send that message to your senators and representative, as well as to President Obama, click here.)

This campaign has begun in hopes that many other groups and individuals will take it up-demanding an end to supplying weapons for the Syria conflagration. As nationwide polling numbers show, most of the public already agrees with us. What remains is for a wide array of political activists to galvanize that agreement into a powerful political force, so we can overwhelm Congress on the weapons-to-Syria issue as just occurred on the bomb-Syria issue.

The United States has now joined with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other allies-directly supplying weaponry to an array of fighters against the Syrian government. That aid supplements the longtime U.S. role in helping several countries to airlift weapons and other military equipment to rebel forces.

"The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria," the Washington Post reported last week. Those shipments have combined with "separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear-a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria's civil war."

But as the RootsAction appeal points out, "Recent days have shown that diplomacy is possible to avert even more catastrophic events in Syria. Contrary to scoffers, Russia and the United States could help to quash the war flames instead of fueling them with more gasoline. By halting its own shipments of weapons into Syria and exerting pressure on its allies to do the same, the United States could induce Russia and its ally Iran to stop supplying the Syrian government with weapons-and to work for a ceasefire."

Now, with a big opening in U.S. politics, this is crucial work toward peace in Syria. Let's get it done.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Finding The Money To Fund Higher Education For All

Question: Is making higher education available to every American more important to our national interest than letting Wall Street profiteers make a few more billions-of-dollars each year?

Answer: Of course. Yet, our political leaders - pushed by Wall Street lobbyists - have been making the opposite choice for years. As a result, banksters have loaded students down with a mountain of high-interest loans, rising from just over $2 billion a decade ago to nearly a trillion last year. Worse, the financiers - either banks or government lenders - have become the gatekeepers of advanced education, shutting out thousands of young people wanting to get ahead, but not able to hurdle the formidable financial barrier.

This is enormously costly to America - and completely unnecessary. The smart choice - as we learned from the GI Bill after World War II - would be to make college and professional training free. Universal access to higher education - ie, free access - produces a very high return on the public's investment, while also producing widely-shared prosperity and a broadly educated citizenry.

Of course, an up-front investment in a smarter, more productive, more democratic civilization is pricey. So where do we get the money to do what America needs? Get it from where it went. Wall Street's superrich speculators are now making millions of super-fast, robotic financial transactions per second, generating trillions of dollars a year for them - but producing nothing of real value for us, while distorting and endangering markets.

Put a tiny tax on each of those automated gambles by speculators, and more than enough money will come into the public coffers to free-up higher-ed for all. For information, check out United States Students Association:
(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.

Pagan Island

Give The Sierra Club Credit For Taking On The U.S. Marine Corps
By David Swanson

In this moment in which the public will and a bit of nerve in Congress have made refusing to let a president launch a bunch of missiles into a foreign country a reality and therefore mainstream and respectable (rather than vaguely treasonous as it might have been widely understood a decade ago or depicted by the corporate media a couple of weeks ago), there are signs of possible wider outbreaks of sanity.

Syria's crisis was brought on in part by climate induced drought and water shortage. The solution of sending in missiles (blocked for now) or of sending in guns (underway as we speak) misses that source of the problem and in fact exacerbates it. The U.S. military is our greatest consumer of petroleum, which it consumes in the course of fighting wars and occupying countries to control petroleum. Add in the depleted uranium, napalm, cluster bombs, white phosphorous, and other weapons use and testing, and one would think that environmentalists, sooner or later, would at least notice the existence of the U.S. military as a problem to be dealt with. Consider that the roughly $1 trillion spent by the United States and roughly $1 trillion spent by the rest of the world on militarism every year could coat the planet with sustainable green energy sources beyond the wildest imaginings of those sources' proponents, and you'd think war addiction would be the first thing environmentalists would want to cure.

Typically, you'd be disappointed. Every once in a while, there are signs of possible progress. Some environmental groups have spoken up against the naval base construction on Jeju Island. And the Sierra Club is now speaking up boldly and straightforwardly against the U.S. Marine Corps' plan to identify and destroy a new Vieques (the Puerto Rican island destroyed by U.S. bomb testing over decades). The Marines have found a rich and beautiful island, falsely called it desolate and uninhabitable (despite the fact that many species live there, including homo sapiens), and proposed to render it just that. The Sierra Club is among those calling the Marines on the lie and the outrageous proposal:

Pagan Island, one of a string of volcanic islands that make up the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI), is an ancient home to the Chamorro people and the habitat of unique animals and plants, many of them endemic, rare and endangered. Those natural and cultural resources are being put at risk by a plan by the U.S. Marines to use the island as a live-fire training ground. In scoping documents related to the environmental impact statement required for that plan to go forward, the Marines have characterized Pagan Island as being "desolate and uninhabitable."

Under a contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sierra Club member Mike Hadfield of the University of Hawaii and his research team spent two weeks on Pagan Island, traversing it and cataloging biological resources found there. ...

Pagan Island has been inhabited by Chamorro people for more than 2,000 years, as attested by remains of ancient villages. It continues to be the home of a small population of Chamorros, and many more want to return to their ancestral homelands. Recent articles from Marianas newspapers, which can be found on the Save Pagan Island website, tell of the connection many people feel with Pagan and other northern islands and their desire to return to them.

A transfer of our major resources from war making to environment saving is the clearest path to survival and prosperity, so every time a bridge is built between peace and environmental activism is a moment worth celebrating.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Why George Wouldn't Sign The Constitution
By James Donahue

This is not a story about George Washington. This is about another man involved in framing the U. S. Constitution, bringing about the Bill of Rights, and influencing the way our nation operates today. His name was George Mason, someone few of us have ever heard of and rarely, if ever, mentioned in American history books.

This is probably because Mason, although an elected representative from Virginia to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, refused to sign to ratify the Constitution. This was because he said he did not believe it established a wise and just government, and set up a formula for "a corrupt, tyrannical aristocracy" instead of the republic that was being sought.

Mason said his primary objection to the document, as it was originally written, was that it lacked a Bill of Rights. It was through his insistence that our Bill of Rights was later added in the first ten Constitutional Amendments.

His other concerns were outlined in a draft titled "Objections to This Constitution of Government," which he distributed to the convention before the document was signed. It called not only for a "Declaration of Rights" but warned that the Congress was not truly representative of the people, the Senate was too powerful, the federal judiciary was "so constructed and extended" as to render justice unattainable and "enable the rich to oppress and ruin the poor," and the President was given too much unbalanced power and would receive counsel from his own appointed staff.

Mason perceived the House of Representatives as only "a shadow only of representation; which can never produce proper information in the legislature or inspire confidence in the people; the laws will therefore be generally made by men little concerned in, and unacquainted with their effects and consequences."

He wrote that the Senate would have "the power of altering all money bills and of originating appropriations of money, and the salaries of the officers of their own appointment, in conjunction with the president ... although they are not the representatives of the people or amenable to them."

Mason supported a three-person executive instead of a single president. He saw this is a form of a monarchy. He believed the office of vice-president was unnecessary and perhaps a problem. The vice-president's only real duty was to act as president of the senate "thereby blending the executive and legislative powers."

He also argued for the separation of church and state. To allow the church or any other religion to have influence over the two houses, executive office or judicial branch would "leave our country wide open for hostile take-over." Mason stood before the convention, presenting his arguments numerous times, and in the end, managed to make a few important changes in the final document.

He pressed for a weak central government, strong state governments and the eventual abolition of slavery. Mason was a slaveholder, as were other members of the convention. Yet he recognized slavery as wrong and thus advocated the slow but deliberate reduction of slavery, and an immediate prohibition of slavery in states where it was not yet practiced. But he was unsuccessful in getting this written into the constitution.

After the Constitution was ratified and George Washington was elected President, Mason declared a general disgust in the direction the nation was heading and resigned from politics.

Had the founding fathers listened to Mason and followed his wise counsel, America would probably have avoided the Civil War, and perhaps appear as a much better influence on the world stage than it is today.
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Blocking The Public's Right To Know About ALEC
By John Nichols

In the two years since the ALEC Exposed project revealed the role that the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council plays in shaping the laws of states across the nation, the group has had a much harder time hiding its meddling.

In fact, so much national attention has been paid to ALEC's role in promoting restrictive voter ID laws and controversial Stand Your Ground initiatives that ALEC officials announced last year that they would shut down the task force that was responsible for promoting those measures.

But ALEC is still putting representatives of corporations together with state legislators to craft "model legislation"-especially with regard to economic and regulatory issues. And the group's national treasurer has come up with a novel scheme for keeping the projects secret.

The Wisconsin Republican says she is exempt from open-records laws, and her state's Republican attorney general says that's cool with him.

Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir, a key confidante of Governor Scott Walker who serves as ALEC's national treasurer, has for months been stonewalling a legitimate open-records request from the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which worked with The Nation on the 2011 ALEC Exposed project that revealed how the corporate-funded council has been working with state legislators across the country to enact measures developed by special interest groups.

As Vukmir has emerged as one of the most prominent figures in ALEC, the Center for Media and Democracy has sought information regarding bills she has proposed in cooperation with the national group. Because of her refusal to cooperate with those requests, CMD is suing to force her to turn over the records.

Vukmir is not the first legislator to try to thwart the public's right to know. Just last year, CMD had to sue a group of Wisconsin Republican legislators to get them to turn over ALEC-related documents under the open-records law.

But Vukmir has taken things to a new, and bizarre, level.

She's claiming that a constitutional protection against targeting legislators with nuisance lawsuits exempts her from following the open-records laws that was established by the legislator-and that legislators, state officials and the courts have respected for decades.

She's serious about this, as is her staff.

When a process server went to her office to deliver paperwork regarding the lawsuit, one of Vukmir's top aides was-according to a document filed in regard to the case-verbally abusive, physically aggressive and threatening. When another process server went to the office, the abuse continued.

Vukmir-with support from Republican Attorney General JB Van Hollen-is advancing an interpretation of the open-records law that claims members of the Legislature do not have to obey the rules when the state Assembly and Senate are in session. Since the Legislature is, for all intents and purposes, permanently in session, Van Hollen is effectively arguing that the open-records law should no longer apply in any meaningful way to the Legislature.

This is radical stance that raises a big question.

Brendan Fischer, a CMD lawyer, asks: Why are they willing to try to torpedo the open-records law to keep Vukmir from having to defend her position?

The answers that suggest themselves are these.

First, since Walker (an ALEC alumni) and his allies took charge in 2011, Wisconsin has seen a steady importation of proposals regarding unions, public education and a host of other issues. Instead of thinking for themselves, Walker and legislators like Vukmir seek to implement a national agenda shaped by corporate campaign donors and groups like ALEC. This is no secret. It's been widely reported that Vukmir and other top legislative allies of the governor regularly fly off to ALEC conferences with corporate titans.

But specfic revelations regarding Vukmir's involvement, particularly with regard to the crafting of legislation, could provide citizens with a clearer picture of who is pulling the strings. And that is a detail that the senator and the attorney general appear to be determined to keep hidden.

Second, and perhaps even more importantly, under Walker and a number of the hyperpartisan Republican governors elected in 2012, traditional models of responding to the great mass of citizens have been abandoned. The operating premise coming from these governors is one of: You're either with us or you're against us. Van Hollen, as a Wisconsin constitutional officer, should be with the people. Unfortunately, in this case he has chosen partisanship- like Vukmir, he's an active Republican- over the rule of law. And the public interest.

Why? What is so vital about keeping ALEC details secret?

When state Senate Jon Erpenbach, a prominent Wisconsin Democrat, was sued two years ago by a conservative group seeking records of his email communications with constituents, the senator says, "I sought the advice of Attorney General Van Hollen, who is a constitutional officer sworn to represent the Legislature without prejudice. He refused to provide any counsel other than to tell me to acquiesce to the conservative organization's request."

Yet, in Vukmir's case, Van Hollen's lawyers are attacking the very same open-records law.

Erpenbach concludes: "If you are protecting ALEC, the attorney general will jump to represent you. But if you are protecting citizens, he apparently cannot be bothered."

It is tough to argue with Erpenbach's determination that Van Hollen and the Department of Justice are engaging in "blatant partisan and political actions."

It is always unsettling when law enforcement officials enforce one set of rules for their allies, and another for their opponents.

It is even more unsettling when this is done to prevent citizens from knowing what a state is doing in their name, and with their tax dollars, but without their informed consent.

If legislators in Wisconsin, or any other state, do not have to abide by the open-records laws they enact, then "the public's right to know" is a slogan-not a reality.
(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 Origins Of Our Police State
By Chris Hedges

ELIZABETH, N.J.-JaQuan LaPierre, 22, was riding a bicycle down a sidewalk Sept. 5 when he noticed a squad car pulling up beside him. It was 8:30 on a hot Thursday night at the intersection of Bond Street and Jackson Avenue here in Elizabeth, N.J. LaPierre had 10 glass vials of crack cocaine-probably what the cops were hoping to find-and he hastily swallowed them. He halted and faced the two officers who emerged from the cruiser.

"We are tired of you niggers," he remembers one of the officers saying. "We're tired of all this shooting and robberies and violence. And we are going to make you an example."

He was thrown spread-eagle onto the patrol car.

"What I bein' arrested for?" LaPierre asked.

A small crowd gathered.

"Why you harassin' him?" someone asked the cops. "He ain't resisting. Why you doin' this?"

One of the officers went though LaPierre's pockets and took his keys and $246 in cash. LaPierre kept asking why he was being arrested. He was pepper-sprayed in the face. One officer threw him onto the street, and, while he was handcuffed, the two cops kicked and beat him.

"What you beatin' my nephew for?" his uncle, Antoine, said to the cops.

"It was so hot on my face," LaPierre said of the pepper spray when we met a few days ago. "I was gasping for air."

More police arrived. They pushed back onlookers, including the uncle. LaPierre was gagging and choking. He was dragged across the asphalt. By the time the beating was over, blood was coming out of his mouth. He was unconscious. The assault was caught on a camera, even though when the police saw they were being recorded they pointed a flashlight beam into the lens.

The only visible crimes LaPierre had committed was riding a bicycle on a sidewalk and failing to wear a safety helmet.

Police abuse is routine in Elizabeth, as it is in poor urban areas across the country. This incident did not make news. But it illustrated that if you are a poor person of color in the United States you know what most us are about to find out-we have no civil liberties left. Police, who arrest some 13 million people a year, 1.6 million on drug charges-half of those for marijuana counts-carry out random searches and sweeps with no probable cause. They take DNA samples from many of those they arrest, even some eventually found to be innocent, to build a nationwide database. They confiscate cash, cars, homes and other possessions based on allegations of illegal drug activity and direct the proceeds into police budgets. And in the last three decades the United States has constructed the world's largest prison system, populated with 2.2 million inmates.

As in most police states, cops serve as judge and jury on city streets-"a long step down the totalitarian path," in the words that U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in 1968 when he decried expanding police powers. And police departments are bolstered by an internal surveillance and security apparatus that has eradicated privacy and dwarfed the intrusion into personal lives by police states of the past, including East Germany.

Under a series of Supreme Court rulings we have lost the rights to protect ourselves from random searches, home invasions, warrantless wiretapping and eavesdropping and physical abuse. Police units in poor neighborhoods function as armed gangs. The pressure to meet departmental arrest quotas-the prerequisite for lavish federal aid in the "war on drugs"-results in police routinely seizing people at will and charging them with a laundry list of crimes, often without just cause. Because many of these crimes carry long mandatory sentences it is easy to intimidate defendants into "pleading out" on lesser offenses. The police and the defendants know that the collapsed court system, in which the poor get only a few minutes with a public attorney, means there is little chance the abused can challenge the system. And there is also a large pool of willing informants who, to reduce their own sentences, will tell a court anything demanded of them by the police.

The tyranny of law enforcement in poor communities is a window into our emerging police state. These thuggish tactics are now being used against activists and dissidents. And as the nation unravels, as social unrest spreads, the naked face of police repression will become commonplace. Totalitarian systems always seek license to engage in this kind of behavior by first targeting a demonized minority. Such systems demand that the police, to combat the "lawlessness" of the demonized minority, be, in essence, emancipated from the constraints of the law. The unrestricted and arbitrary subjugation of one despised group, stripped of equality before the law, conditions the police to employ these tactics against the wider society. "Laws that are not equal for all revert to rights and privileges, something contradictory to the very nature of nation-states," Hannah Arendt wrote in "The Origins of Totalitarianism. "The clearer the proof of their inability to treat stateless people as legal persons and the greater the extension of arbitrary rule by police decree, the more difficult it is for states to resist the temptation to deprive all citizens of legal status and rule them with an omnipotent police."

Once you are branded a felon, as Michelle Alexander points out in her book "The New Jim Crow," you are "barred from public housing by law, discriminated against by private landlords, ineligible for food stamps, forced to 'check the box' indicating a felony conviction on employment applications for nearly every job, and denied licenses for a wide range of professions." And this is for people who might have had only a small quantity of drugs, perhaps a few ounces of marijuana. There are 6 million people who because of felony convictions are permanently shut out from mainstream society. They are second-class citizens, outcasts. The war on drugs-aided by hundreds of millions of federal dollars along with federal donations of high-velocity weapons, helicopters, command vehicles and SWAT team military training-has become the template for future social control. Poor people of color know the truth. They were the first victims. The rest of us are about to find it out.

LaPierre was taken unconscious to a hospital. He woke up with both hands handcuffed to a gurney. He was vomiting blood. Two of the glass vials, each worth $10 on the street, came up with his vomit. The police, ecstatic, had the drugs they had hoped to find when they stopped him.

"It's over for you," he heard an officer say. "You're goin' down."

"You spittin' at an officer?" one of the cops said laughingly. "Your boys are not here to protect you now, are they?"

LaPierre could not see. He heard the officers discussing the charges and making sure the official story was coherent. One officer, inexplicably, yanked out some of LaPierre's hair, braided in cornrows, and stuffed the hair into the handcuffed man's pants "on my private parts."

"Trying to disarm an officer," he heard one say as they tallied the charges. "Possession. Resisting arrest. Starting a riot." By the time he was transferred out of the hospital five days later there would be nine charges and a $35,000 bail.

"During the last couple of days the police have been telling people in the neighborhood that if they go to court to testify about the beating of JaQuan they will be arrested and go to jail too," Myrtice Bell, LaPierre's grandmother, told me.

LaPierre, who was on probation for allegedly resisting arrest during another routine stop, a charge he says was false, and who has a pending charge of being in a vehicle with other men in which an illegal weapon was found by police, appears destined to be swallowed into the vast prison system. He will become, if he is railroaded into prison, one more person among the more than 2 million behind bars in the U.S. His experience, and the experience of others in poverty-stricken communities, should terrify us. Our failure to defend the rights of the poor in the name of law and order, our demonization of young black men, our acceptance that they can be stripped of the power to protect themselves from police abuse or find equality before the law, mean that their fate will soon become ours.
(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."

Keith gives the corpo-rat salute

Inside The Mind Of NSA Chief Gen. Keith Alexander
A lavish Star Trek room he had built as part of his "Information Dominance Center" is endlessly revealing
By Glenn Greenwald

It has been previously reported that the mentality of NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander is captured by his motto "Collect it All." It's a get-everything approach he pioneered first when aimed at an enemy population in the middle of a war zone in Iraq, and has now imported onto US soil, aimed at the domestic population and everyone else.

But a perhaps even more disturbing and revealing vignette into the spy chief's mind comes from a new Foreign Policy article describing what the journal calls his "all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine." The article describes how even his NSA peers see him as a "cowboy" willing to play fast and loose with legal limits in order to construct a system of ubiquitous surveillance. But the personality driving all of this - not just Alexander's but much of Washington's - is perhaps best captured by this one passage, highlighted by PBS' News Hour in a post entitled: "NSA director modeled war room after Star Trek's Enterprise." The room was christened as part of the "Information Dominance Center":

"When he was running the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a 'whoosh' sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather 'captain's chair' in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.

"'Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,' says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits."

Numerous commentators remarked yesterday on the meaning of all that (note, too, how "Total Information Awareness" was a major scandal in the Bush years, but "Information Dominance Center" - along with things like "Boundless Informant" - are treated as benign or even noble programs in the age of Obama).

But now, on the website of DBI Architects, Inc. of Washington and Reston, Virginia, there are what purports to be photographs of the actual Star-Trek-like headquarters commissioned by Gen. Alexander that so impressed his Congressional overseers. It's a 10,740 square foot labyrinth in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The brochure touts how "the prominently positioned chair provides the commanding officer an uninterrupted field of vision to a 22'-0" wide projection screen":

The glossy display further describes how "this project involved the renovation of standard office space into a highly classified, ultramodern operations center." Its "primary function is to enable 24-hour worldwide visualization, planning, and execution of coordinated information operations for the US Army and other federal agencies." It gushes: "The futuristic, yet distinctly military, setting is further reinforced by the Commander's console, which gives the illusion that one has boarded a star ship":

Other photographs of Gen. Alexander's personal Star Trek Captain fantasy come-to-life (courtesy of public funds) are here. Any casual review of human history proves how deeply irrational it is to believe that powerful factions can be trusted to exercise vast surveillance power with little accountability or transparency. But the more they proudly flaunt their warped imperial hubris, the more irrational it becomes.
(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.

Give Jobs A Chance
By Paul Krugman

This week the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee - the group of men and women who set U.S. monetary policy - will be holding its sixth meeting of 2013. At the meeting's end, the committee is widely expected to announce the so-called "taper" - a slowing of the pace at which it buys long-term assets. Memo to the Fed: Please don't do it. True, the arguments for a taper are neither crazy nor stupid, which makes them unusual for current U.S. policy debate. But if you think about the balance of risks, this is a bad time to be doing anything that looks like a tightening of monetary policy.

O.K., what are we talking about here? In normal times, the Fed tries to guide the economy by buying and selling short-term U.S. debt, which effectively lets it control short-term interest rates. Since 2008, however, short-term rates have been near zero, which means that they can't go lower (since people would just hoard cash instead). Yet the economy has remained weak, so the Fed has tried to gain traction through unconventional measures - mainly by buying longer-term bonds, both U.S. government debt and bonds issued by federally sponsored home-lending agencies.

Now the Fed is talking about slowing the pace of these purchases, bringing them to a complete halt by sometime next year. Why?

One answer is the belief that these purchases - especially purchases of government debt - are, in the end, not very effective. There's a fair bit of evidence in support of that belief, and for the view that the most effective thing the Fed can do is signal that it plans to keep short-term rates, which it really does control, low for a very long time.

Unfortunately, financial markets have clearly decided that the taper signals a general turn away from boosting the economy: expectations of future short-term rates have risen sharply since taper talk began, and so have crucial long-term rates, notably mortgage rates. In effect, by talking about tapering, the Fed has already tightened monetary policy quite a lot.

But is that such a bad thing? That's where the second argument comes in: the suggestions that there really isn't that much slack in the U.S. economy, that we aren't that far from full employment. After all, the unemployment rate, which peaked at 10 percent in late 2009, is now down to 7.3 percent, and there are economists who believe that the U.S. economy might begin to "overheat," to show signs of accelerating inflation, at an unemployment rate as high as 6.5 percent. Time for the Fed to take its foot off the gas pedal?

I'd say no, for a couple of reasons.

First, there's less to that decline in unemployment than meets the eye. Unemployment hasn't come down because a higher percentage of adults is employed; it's come down almost entirely because a declining percentage of adults is participating in the labor force, either by working or by actively seeking work. And at least some of the Americans who dropped out of the labor force after 2007 will come back in as the economy improves, which means that we have more ground to make up than that unemployment number suggests.

How misleading is the unemployment number? That's a hard one, on which reasonable people disagree. The question the Fed should be asking is, what is the balance of risks?

Suppose, on one side, that the Fed were to hold off on tightening, then learn that the economy was closer to full employment than it thought. What would happen? Well, inflation would rise, although probably only modestly. Would that be such a bad thing? Right now inflation is running below the Fed's target of 2 percent, and many serious economists - including, for example, the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund - have argued for a higher target, say 4 percent. So the cost of tightening too late doesn't look very high.

Suppose, on the other side, that the Fed were to tighten early, then learn that it had moved too soon. This could damage an already weak recovery, causing hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars in economic damage, leaving hundreds of thousands if not millions of additional workers without jobs and inflicting long-term damage as more and more of the unemployed are perceived as unemployable.

The point is that while there is legitimate uncertainty about what the Fed should be doing, the costs of being too harsh vastly exceed the costs of being too lenient. To err is human; to err on the side of growth is wise.

I'd add that one of the prevailing economic policy sins of our time has been allowing hypothetical risks, like the fiscal crisis that never came, to trump concerns over economic damage happening in the here and now. I'd hate to see the Fed fall into that trap.

So my message is, don't do it. Don't taper, don't tighten, until you can see the whites of inflation's eyes. Give jobs a chance.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it."
~~~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Commando In The Mirror
By David Sirota

If the term "news" is defined, in part, as information that's new, then it is amazing that gun violence in America even generates headlines anymore.

That may sound caustic after yesterday's most recent shooting spree, but, then, gun violence now claims 87 American lives each day, and has killed or wounded almost a million Americans between 2001 and 2010. In historical terms, more people have died from gun violence in America since 1968 than have died in all U.S. wars combined.

The tragic mass murder at the Washington Navy Yard was just the latest spectacular - and spectacularly horrific - example of an all-too-mundane status quo. Indeed, in the context of overall gun homicide statistics, the only thing truly out of the ordinary in Washington yesterday was a U.S. Senate that refuses to pass the most minimal gun regulations suddenly citing gun violence in southeast D.C. as a rationale for an emergency siesta.

That macabre absurdity was topped only by the insanity from my home state of Colorado last week. Here, just days before the Navy Yard killings, the same state that hosted two of the most famous gun massacres in American history saw the gun lobby successfully depose two state senators who dared vote for embarrassingly modest gun regulations. Despite those recall elections being marred by voting chaos, the national press corps predictably swooped in to stage a public celebration of the NRA once the results were tallied from Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Following the tried and true formula of genuflecting to whatever interest group happens to seem most powerful at any given moment, reporters and pundits almost universally portrayed low-turnout elections decided by a few thousand votes as nothing less than a resounding national mandate to end the push for minimal gun control.

To the NRA's likely delight, this orgy of exaggeration and gun triumphalism didn't just frighten lawmakers all over the nation, it also drowned out the far more important piece of gun-related news in the last few days - the news of yet more indisputable evidence that the gun lobby's election-winning "more guns, less crime" shibboleth is a blatant lie.

"Yet more" is the operative phrase here. Though you wouldn't know it from the firearms discourse in American politics, and though you certainly wouldn't know it from the entertainment industry's steady stream of musclebound Gun Heroes, there has been plenty of definitive proof that in America, where there are more guns and fewer gun regulations, there is more gun violence. Take a moment and just behold the breadth of the data:

In 2000, University of Pennsylvania economist Mark Duggan published a study entitled "More Guns, More Crime" in which he proved that "changes in homicide and gun ownership are significantly positively related." As Forbes noted, the documented correlation between gun ownership and homicide "comes about because guns lead to more homicides" not because "an increase in homicides leads more people to buy guns." Forbes also pointed out that Duggan's study was one of many that thoroughly obliterated the propaganda of gun extremists' favorite pseudo academic, "More Guns, Less Crime" author John Lott. Duggan's results were subsequently corroborated by Harvard University researchers.

In 2009, the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine published a study showing that "individuals in possession of a gun were 4.46 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession" and that "among gun assaults where the victim had at least some chance to resist, this adjusted odds ratio increased to 5.45 times."

In 2011, Harvard University researchers reported that "the evidence is overwhelming (that) a gun in the home is a risk factor for completed suicide (and) killing women in their homes." Meanwhile, the same report found "no credible evidence of a deterrent effect of firearms or that a gun in the home reduces the likelihood or severity of injury during an altercation or break-in."

In 2012, Mother Jones analyzed 30-years worth of mass shootings and discovered that "the rate of mass shootings has increased in recent years—at a time when America has been flooded with millions of additional firearms and a barrage of new laws has made it easier than ever to carry them in public places, including bars, parks, and schools." At the same time, the magazine reported that "in not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun" while "in other recent but less lethal rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, those civilians not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed."

In May of 2013, the Associated Press reported on a study from Boston Children's Hospital that proved "states with the most gun control laws have the fewest gun-related deaths." In total, AP noted that "states with the most laws had a 42 percent lower gun death rate than states with the least number of laws." Children's Hospital was likely interested in the topic since gun violence now kills twice as many American children as cancer kills.

That brings us to this week. While the national press corps was busy showering the NRA with reverential rhetoric about its political power in Colorado, relatively few noticed Boston University's landmark study documenting a "robust correlation” over 30 years between "estimated levels of gun ownership and actual gun homicides at the state level, even when controlling for factors typically associated with homicides." As an example of what a "robust correlation" means, look at the study's finding about Mississippi. In just that one state, if gun ownership were at the national average rather than higher than the average, the data trends suggest the state's homicide rate would be a whopping 17 percent lower. That means 80 fewer Mississippians losing their life every year.

Quite obviously, these fact run counter to the standard agitprop from anti-gun-control activists. They typically cite the murder rate in a place like Chicago as alleged proof that gun control doesn't work - somehow unquestioningly assuming that the murder rate in such places wouldn't be even higher without those gun laws. They then narcissistically depict themselves and Gun-Owning America as an army of SEAL-level citizen-soldiers possessing the same life-saving firearm expertise as Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Commando." In this cartoonish rendering, the more guns around, the safer everyone else is because, in the words of NRA president Wayne LaPierre: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

What's incredible is not that a million-dollar-a-year shill like LaPierre can utter such horseshit with a perfectly straight face. That's just a dollars-and-cents reflection of the going market rate for a professional lobbyist's soul. No, what's incredible here is that polls show most Americans still believe the same horseshit about guns making us safer - even though our nation is a near-perfect experiment proving the opposite.

This is not a particularly secret experiment, mind you. After all, even if you haven't been exposed to all the aforementioned studies and data, you probably have a basic sense of the macro numbers, and those macro numbers are stark. As the Washington Post documents, this country at once sports the world's "highest gun ownership per capita rate" and one of its highest gun violence rates. To paraphrase LaPierre, that suggests the primary thing that helps a bad guy with a gun is a country awash in guns - so awash, in fact, that the Post notes American now has twice as many guns per capita as Yemen, the violence-plagued war-torn nation that is the next highest on the gun-ownership list.

But, then, Colorado's election results - and Congress's almost certain refusal to even discuss gun control after the Navy Yard shooting - confirm the lamentable reality that in some parts of the country, gun facts only minimally shape political outcomes. With national polls showing consistent support for gun control, that hardly means the overall push for gun control is dead. But it does mean that no matter how much evidence accrues proving that gun regulations reduce gun death, no matter how much data shows that fewer total guns means fewer episodes of gun violence, and no matter how many body bags pile up, sensible firearm regulation remains politically unattainable in many locales. It also probably remains unattainable in a U.S. Senate where 11 percent of the population has enough representation to stop any piece of legislation.

Some of that depressing reality is the result of money from the gun lobby having made puppets out of too many legislators. Some of it is because potentially pro-gun-control legislators probably don't want to face the inevitable death threats that come with merely trying to prevent violent criminals and domestic abusers from legally possessing firearms. But let's be brutally honest - a lot of it also is because at the rank-and-file voting level, there are plenty of Tugg Speedmans and Homer Simpsons who are deeply committed to seeing Commando Schwarzenegger in the mirror.

Though it goes unmentioned, this is the true mythology at work. Yes, for all the manly men hollering about the Second Amendment while dressed up in tricorn hats or packing heat at presidential events, the hardcore opposition to background checks, magazine limits and other modest gun regulations has absolutely nothing to do with the constitution. We know this because even the most conservative Supreme Court justices acknowledge such regulations comply with the founding document. The constitutional rhetoric and references to the Founding Fathers from gun extremists, then, is just a cheap method of shrouding dumb-jock machismo in the veneer of snooty pretension. The calculation is that simply holding up an assault rifle and screaming an 18th century-ish word like "tyranny" or "liberty" both credentials one as a constitutional scholar and hides the very personal mythology that really fuels much of America's gun politics.

In that mythology, the gun owner dismisses all the data proving that guns make homes less safe and endanger people (including gun owners themselves) because he believes that while all the other idiots may shoot their eyes out, he is a Commando who won't make mistakes. Likewise, all the evidence proving that gun regulations actually succeed in reducing gun violence is viewed as unimportant to the individual because he views his Schwarzenegger-like acumen as the best form of protection for him - everyone else be damned. Meanwhile, before the viscera is even scrubbed off the asphalt, the same mythology instantly reimagines every mass murder as proof that if only someone with a gun had been at the scene of the crime, the day would have been saved.

Of course, during such paroxysms of firearm violence, it's a guarantee that at least one person with a gun definitely was at the scene of the crime: the villain. Sure, gun control won't stop all of those "bad guys" - nobody is arguing that it will. But the data clearly prove that those bad guys are empowered by the "more guns, less regulation" ideology. Constructively addressing that reality requires an America that is finally willing to look in the mirror and reject the alluring fantasy.
(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 .

Shed No Tears For Larry Summers

By Matthew Rothschild

So Larry Summers is out of the running as Fed chief, and what a relief that is.

He helped deregulate Wall Street when he was in the Clinton Administration, and that led to the stock market collapse and the Great Recession, which began five years ago this week.

And in the Obama Administration, he low-balled the first stimulus package, which is one big reason why the unemployment rate has yet to fall under 7 percent.

Plus, when he was president of Harvard, Summers made an appallingly sexist comment that cost him his job there.

He's just not a guy who should wield a lot of power.

He could be the most arrogant man in America, and that's not a contest I'm eager to referee.

His arrogance, and his coziness with Wall Street, cost him his coveted spot at the head of the Federal Reserve.

And it cost him because progressive Democrats in the Senate stood their ground and told Obama in no uncertain terms that they wouldn't confirm him.

As Bernie Sanders said: "It was unlikely he would have been confirmed by the Senate. What the American people want now is a Fed chairman prepared to stand up to the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, not a Wall Street insider whose deregulation efforts helped pave the way for a horrendous financial crisis and the worst economic downturn in the country since the Great Depression."

So that's two big victories for progressives in the last two weeks.

No war in Syria.

And no Summers at the Fed.

Hey, I can get used to this.
(c) 2013 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Red Lobster,

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 overt racism, 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 "Corpo-rat 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 Red Lobster, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Myth Of The "Free Market" And How To Make The Economy Work For Us
By Robert Reich

One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the Right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the "free market" is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government. So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity - to make the economy work for us - are unwarranted constraints on the market's freedom, and will inevitably go wrong.

By this view, if some people aren't paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren't worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they'll earn next month or next week, that's too bad; it's just the outcome of the market.

According to this logic, government shouldn't intrude through minimum wages, high taxes on top earners, public spending to get people back to work, regulations on business, or anything else, because the "free market" knows best.

In reality, the "free market" is a bunch of rules about (1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); (2) on what terms (equal access to the internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections? ); (3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?) (4) what's private and what's public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); (5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on.

These rules don't exist in nature; they are human creations. Governments don't "intrude" on free markets; governments organize and maintain them. Markets aren't "free" of rules; the rules define them.

The interesting question is what the rules should seek to achieve. They can be designed to maximize efficiency (given the current distribution of resources), or growth (depending on what we're willing to sacrifice to obtain that growth), or fairness (depending on our ideas about a decent society). Or some combination of all three - which aren't necessarily in competition with one another. Evidence suggests, for example, that if prosperity were more widely shared, we'd have faster growth.

The rules can even be designed to entrench and enhance the wealth of a few at the top, and keep almost everyone else comparatively poor and economically insecure.

Which brings us to the central political question: Who should decide on the rules, and their major purpose? If our democracy was working as it should, presumably our elected representatives, agency heads, and courts would be making the rules roughly according to what most of us want the rules to be. The economy would be working for us.

Instead, the rules are being made mainly by those with the power and resources to buy the politicians, regulatory heads, and even the courts (and the lawyers who appear before them). As income and wealth have concentrated at the top, so has political clout. And the most important clout is determining the rules of the game.

Not incidentally, these are the same people who want you and most others to believe in the fiction of an immutable "free market."

If we want to reduce the savage inequalities and insecurities that are now undermining our economy and democracy, we shouldn't be deterred by the myth of the "free market." We can make the economy work for us, rather than for only a few at the top. But in order to change the rules, we must exert the power that is supposed to be ours!
(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.

Americans Say No To Another Middle East War
By Amy Goodman

The likelihood of peace in Syria remains distant, as the civil war there rages on. But the grim prospect of a U.S. strike has been forestalled, if only temporarily, preventing a catastrophic deepening of the crisis there. The American people stood up for peace, and for once, the politicians listened. Across the political spectrum, citizens in the U.S. weighed in against the planned military strike. Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, were inundated with calls and emails demanding they vote "no" on any military authorization.

The media credits Russian President Vladimir Putin with extending a lifeline to President Barack Obama, allowing him a diplomatic way to delay his planned attack. But without the mass domestic public outcry against a military strike, Obama would not have needed, nor would he likely have heeded, an alternative to war.

At center stage was Secretary of State John Kerry, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Sept. 4. Anti-war activists from Code Pink sat silently behind him, their hands held high, painted red, symbolizing blood. Kerry asserted: "Now I remember Iraq. ... Secretary Hagel and I both voted in the United States Senate. Both of us are especially sensitive to never again ask any member of Congress to vote on faulty intelligence. And that is why our intelligence community took time, that's why the president took time to make certain of the facts ... in order to scrub and rescrub the evidence and present the facts to the American people."

Days earlier, Kerry used the phrase "we know" close to 30 times in his Aug. 30 case for war against Syria. "So now that we know what we know, the question we must all be asking is what we will do," Kerry said, reminiscent of similar pre-war ramblings of Donald Rumsfeld, who actually said: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time," Abraham Lincoln famously quipped, "but you cannot fool all the people all the time." After 12 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, thousands dead, tens of thousands maimed and trillions of dollars spent, the U.S. public won't take the rehearsed oratory of an appointed official as sufficient grounds for war. Citizens of the United Kingdom weighed in, pushing their Parliament to vote against a military strike.

What are the facts? The regime of Bashar al-Assad stands accused of a heinous attack using chemical weapons, on August 21, in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. A United Nations chemical-weapons inspection team arrived in Damascus, remarkably, three days before the attack. Its mission was to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use from last spring, in the towns of Khan al-Assal, Sheikh Maqsood and Saraqeb. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon redirected the team to investigate Ghouta, and, after protracted negotiations with the Assad government, the weapons inspectors were allowed to do their work.

In their 40-page report, the inspectors summarize "clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used." They did not say who launched the missiles, but they did examine the remnants of several of the rockets used. The team, directed by Swedish chemical weapons expert Ake Sellstrom, performed swift and exacting work under difficult circumstances (they were fired on by a sniper on their way to Ghouta).

A war crime was committed in Ghouta. Kerry says "we know" it was Assad. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov countered, "We have serious grounds to believe that it was a provocation," suggesting the Syrian rebels staged the attack in order to draw the U.S. military into their fight against the Assad regime.

As a result of this week's developments, serious progress has been made. Syria has agreed to put its chemical weapons under international control. Iran, which strongly supports the Assad regime, has a new president, Hassan Rouhani, who will come to New York next week to address the United Nations General Assembly. He is expected to speak on the same day as President Obama. More importantly, Rouhani and Obama may actually speak to each other, the first meeting between U.S. and Iranian presidents since 1979.

The terrible, ongoing tragedy in Syria, and the U.S. public's persistent opposition to a military strike, could possibly create an opening for a much broader peace in the Middle East.
(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
~~~ Mr. Fish ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Putin's 'Modern Love'
By Andy Borowitz

TO: Jill Abramson, Executive Editor, the New York Times
FROM: Vladimir Putin

Dear Jill,

Thanks for your kind words about my Op-Ed in today's Times. I've been checking your Web site every five minutes and I see it's the second most popular story, right after the Science Times article about middle-aged men and estrogen.

Since my writing seems to be such a big hit with your readers, I thought I'd submit a "Modern Love." Let me know what you think! :)



Modern Love
by Vladimir V. Putin

They say love is like a polar bear. If you want to take it in your arms and hug it, first you must be sure that it is properly drugged. Or perhaps love is like a tiger. If it escapes from the zoo and starts charging at you, you must shoot it with a tranquilizer dart. Whether it is a polar bear or a tiger, though, one thing is true: you must make love drop to the ground, preferably with some kind of drug, or it will maul you to death and eat you.

I was lonely, vulnerable. I had just come off a relationship that had seemed so promising, but now she was far away, in Siberia. It is true that I had sent her there, but the fact remained: I was alone.

Did I mention that love is like Siberia? I should have, because love can be quite cold sometimes. And it also can seem very far away, which Siberia is. (Unless you are in Siberia yourself.)

So there I was, lonely and vulnerable, the tranquilized polar bear of my heart lying in an unconscious white furry heap at my feet.

And that's when I saw her. On TV.

I had never seen such a beautiful face, such a lithe and lissome frame. I had never seen such a delicate and precious creature as this, and I have hang-glided with endangered cranes.

I summoned my houseboy, Dmitri, who joined me in front of the TV. We watched in silent wonder for a minute or so, and then I asked him, "What is she doing?"

"I believe in America that is called 'twerking.' "

"I must have her."

Days passed. With Dmitri's aid I sought her out. We tried Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I sent her a Vine video of me kickboxing a tranquilized shark. No response.

I went to St. Petersburg for the G20. All around me, people were speaking of Syria, but all I could think about was my goddess with the foot-long tongue.

Love is like a flock of endangered cranes. It will take you soaring into the clouds, but if you are not careful it will send you hang-gliding into the side of a mountain, your brains falling to the earth in tiny gray jelly bits.

I excused myself from the G20, saying that I was trying to solve the crisis in Syria. In actuality, I was calling Dmitri to see if she had Vined me back.

"Have you heard anything from her?" I asked.

"No, but I have some ... discouraging news. From TMZ."

"TMZ? What is TMZ?"

"It is like KGB. They seem to have information on everyone."


"It seems that she has a boyfriend. Someone named Liam."

I put down the phone and looked out the window, at the gray skies of St. Petersburg. My heart suddenly felt like frozen tundra, and my love, a drugged polar bear, was about to fall to that tundra with the bear-like thud that bears make when they fall down suddenly. It was as if all the endangered cranes had suddenly tumbled from the sky, shot down by the antiballistic missiles of cruel fate. Love was a lot of things, it seemed to me, and all of them were pretty bad.

But then it occurred to me: a love such as the one I had for the one who twerked so majestically might come around only once in a lifetime. Who was I to give up on such a love? Who was this Liam to stand in my way?

I picked up the phone again and spoke to Dmitri.

"I want Liam shot with a tranquilizer dart."

I put down the phone. Love is a lot of things, I have learned—bears, tigers, cranes—but why try to define it? When all is said and done, love means shooting at something and making it fall down. That, I have learned, is the most modern love of all.
(c) 2013 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 36 (c) 09/20/2013

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