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In This Edition

Sam Harris finds, "No Ordinary Violence."

Uri Avnery explores, "Ovadia's Choice."

Glen Ford reports, "Wall Street Bets A Quadrillion Of Everybody Else's Money."

William Rivers Pitt returns with, "Rust Never Sleeps."

Jim Hightower discovers, "Monsanto Buys A Food Prize."

David Swanson sees, "Two Kinds Of Countries: Israel's Dangerous Path."

James Donahue says, "How Dare They Consider Attacking Social Security."

John Nichols finds, "Judge Who Framed Voter ID Laws As Constitutional Says He Got It Wrong."

Chris Hedges considers, "The Folly Of Empire."

Glenn Greenwald gives, "The Perfect Epitaph For Establishment Journalism."

Paul Krugman floats, "The Dixiecrat Solution."

David Sirota and Matt Taibbi explore, "The Myths Behind Public-Employee Pension Reform."

Joel S Hirschhorn considers, "Tea Party Terrorists."

Wisconsin Con-gressman Reid Ribble wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explains, "Why Giving Republican Bullies A Bloody Nose Isn't Enough."

Ray McGovern observes, "Snowden Showing Dangerous Symptoms Of Patriotism."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "New Poll Finds Americans View Death Of Close Relative More Favorably Than Congress" but first Uncle Ernie sings, "We're Going Down."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rob Rogers, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Khalil Bendib, Mr. Fish, Mrs. Betty Bowers, Larry Downing, Adrees Latif, J. Scott Nation Books, Shutterstock, Reuters, AP, Mother Jones, The Guardian, The Onion, 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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We're Going Down
By Ernest Stewart

I'm going down
Down, down, down, down, down
Going Down ~~~ Jeff Beck Group

INDIAN 1: Well, I think it's about time . . . the way the corn's been growing for the last two or three generations . . .
INDIAN 2: Look at that herd of Buffalo. They're ready.
INDIAN 1: Everything's living the Great Spirit's way. In harmony.
INDIAN 2: He'll be here soon.
INDIAN 1: The true white brother's coming home. Remember what the Great Spirit said? If we did what we were supposed to do and lived according to the plan?
White brother would finish his work in the East and come back to us.
INDIAN 2: It'll be nice to have the family together again.
CONQUISTADOR 1: Buenos Dios, amigos!
Temporarily Humboldt County ~~~ The Firesign Theatre

"There's been a promise made and for those of you in that are in their retirement years, you lived and planned your life based on a promise by your government. And so somehow we have to establish a phase out of the current Social Security system to a new system, and that will have to happen over time. It could happen in a single generation, it will probably require a fair amount of change in retirement age. ... I envision a shift in how that system works so that by the time you get there you are not only responsible for your own, but we've made tax law available to help you be responsible for your own, and that the government can't take that money from you and give it to somebody else. That is in fact, a Ponzi scheme." ~~~ Wisconsin Con-gressman Reid Ribble

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." ~~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I predicted a month ago, there would be no government default; but, as I also predicted, this last-minute deal would cost the American people a lot more than it should. And I'm not talking about the twenty four billion dollar the House wasted on the shutdown, i.e., no money for hungry children, but plenty to squander on their childish actions.

Of course, the agreement dosen't fund either problem, just puts them both off to January and February, when they'll begin the dance again -- plenty of time to write in the demise of Social Security that Ryan and Ribble want -- as Reid caves in again to their blackmail demands. Anyone surprised by Harry's actions? I didn't think so!

They haven't released the details yet as they want to postpone the public finding out about this sell-out until after the dirty deed is written into law. Boner and Cantor and Ryan must be dancing a jig of joy over Harry's capitulation! You see kidnapping and blackmail pay off if you're a politician as no doubt the Sheeple will reelect these corpo-rat stooges again and again.

As I said a month ago, this was just smoke and mirrors to entertain and confuse the Sheeple; and as you can see, it works every time. Come the January shutdown, and come it will, the real reasons for this song and dance will become apparent, even to the Sheeple; but by then, it'll be too late as the cavemen Barry and Harry sign off on an American nightmare the likes of which hasn't been seen since the 1930s. A nightmare where all the entitlements you worked so hard for and paid so much for are stripped away, one by one, with everything being turned over to the banksters, as America swirls down the rat-hole and turns into a third-world country. 2014 will be the year we go under, unless YOU do something about it; and I have no doubt that YOU won't!

UPDATE: Wondering why Mitch McConnell signed on to those bills? How about a $3 billion bribe for the Sinator's favorite pork barrel project; amongst others pieces of pork written into those bills. I told you Harry and Barry would cave, and they did! Billions for pork, paid for by those food stamp cuts that take effect next month for everyone!

In Other News

So, what did you do for Indian Genocide Day? Did you run over to the reservation and drop off some nice, warm, comfy, small pox-infested blankets. If you did, it wouldn't have been the first time or the tenth time for that matter. In fact, it's an old American tradition! God Bless Vespucciland!

I don't care what the wise guys say, Columbus Day is just so wrong on so many levels. It just goes to show what happens if you lose a war to us. We'll make a holiday of a man who was much more than the adventuring, swash-buckling explorer; he's just another genocidal maniac, whose actions killed every man, women and child throughout the Caribbean -- some 12 million souls. All of them dead within 50 years of Chris's arrival. Another man like Chris, who made his vast fortune by stealing from the natives and then sending out the US army to slaughter other Indians who just a few months before were helping him overthrow English rule for their lands, so they could be sold to white settlers; you know, the father of our country -- the mass murderer George Washington, who, by a strange coincidence, had his own American holiday, too! Imagine that!

From the early 17th century forward, we made hundreds of treaties with the natives, with most being broken by us long before the ink was dry on the treaty. Even when Indian tribes won in court, including the Supreme Court, those great pronouncements meant nothing. I mean, how many divisions does the Supreme Court have compared to the US Army? So, for 400 hundred years, we made war against every native man, women and child, until their power was broken, and everything they had was ours. After that, we were ready for the world stage, and off we went to expand the empire -- in 1898, stealing Spain's old empire and added it to our own. Just like the American natives, the world-wide natives under our tender mercies learned a horrible lesson!

The good news for the natives is that this empire -- like every other empire before us -- will soon join the rest in the dustbin of history. And, no doubt, we'll feel the tender-loving care of another empire -- one that wants to bring us democracy, and steal everything that isn't nailed down -- and most of what is! Our masters have bred generations of folks who don't know how to think, so they have no idea that what goes around, will eventually come around -- and in spades! I think the Firesign Theatre said it best in "Temporarily Humboldt County."

And Finally

I see where Wisconsin has produced another fascist moron the likes of Scott Walker or Paul Ryan, another member of the "Koch Brothers Gang" Con-gressman Reid Ribble. Herr Ribble has finally come out of his closet, demanding your social security be placed on the altar of the government lockdown.

Reid wants to raise the retirement age as folks aren't dying off a year or two after retirement like they did in the 30's; in fact, back then, most folks died before they could retire. Reid would also tack on a chained CPI cost-of-living formula which would steal upwards of $45,000 from the average retiree before they died and make it a means-testing before you could even get any benefits.

Herr Ribble would do this by using fiscal deadlines to his advantage to get this act of treason through Congress by allowing an increase in the debt ceiling for six weeks; then, in those six weeks, attach Social Security legislation to a longer-term increase in the debt ceiling. Herr Boner annoucned a similar plan last Thursday which fortunately went nowhere.

So, you know what I did, don't you? I left Reid a little note on his Facebook page!

Hey Reid,

So you want to steal my hard-worked-for Social Security, do you? Reach right out there and grasp that third rail, you traitorous, Nazi moron.

Now that your political career is over, what next Reid? I'm hoping for about 30 years up the river in some dank, dark, hell hole -- as you deserve nothing less!

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

As always, if Reid was to grow a pair, and write me back, I'll share his reply with you! All you Facebook members, give Reid a piece of your mind, too; and tell him that Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

We'd like to thank Terry from Mt. Pleasant for his nice donation this week. Thanks, Terry; with your help, all we need to raise now is $700 to keep this thing going. That's about 5% of what we need to bring in every year, just to break even. Seems a lot; but some of the for-profit folks have to raise our yearly total, every week!

For those of you newbies, back in 2007-2009, we published weekly articles that had nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with staying alive after this moving paper fantasy comes crashing down like the Hindenburg did over Lakehurst! Ergo, whether you've read them before or not, it might pay to go into the archives section of the magazine and read them while you can. Most of them are things there are cheap to make, but may keep you and yours alive and well. Others on how to grow a garden, what crops to grow, where to find non-GMO seeds, etc.. How to make clean water, power; articles on living off the land, articles on just about everything you need to know, all written by experts in their fields. A data base for you that will be lost if we go under!

So, if what we do for you has some merit in your eyes, won't you please send us as much as you can, as often as you can; and we'll keep on keeping on for all of our readership. Time is running out, so now would be the time to send us over the top; and, as always, if we bring in more than what we need, what's left over will go to next year's bills!


10-30-1938 ~ 10-16-2013
Thanks for the films!


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.

Malala Yousafzai

No Ordinary Violence
By Sam Harris

A young man enters a public place-a school, a shopping mall, an airport-carrying a small arsenal. He begins killing people at random. He has no demands, and no one is spared. Eventually, the police arrive, and after an excruciating delay as they marshal their forces, the young man is brought down.

This has happened many times, and it will happen again. After each of these crimes, we lose our innocence-but then innocence magically returns. In the aftermath of horror, grief, and disbelief, we seem to learn nothing of value. Indeed, many of us remain committed to denying the one thing of value that is there to be learned.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, a journalist asked me, "Why is it always angry young men who do these terrible things?" She then sought to connect the behavior of the Tsarnaev brothers with that of Jared Loughner, James Holmes, and Adam Lanza. Like many people, she believed that similar actions must have similar causes.

But there are many sources of human evil. And if we want to protect ourselves and our societies, we must understand this. To that end we should differentiate at least four types of violent actor.

1. Those who are suffering from some form of mental illness that causes them to think and act irrationally. Given access to guns or explosives, these people may harm others for reasons that wouldn't make a bit of sense even if they could be articulated. We may never hear Jared Loughner and James Holmes give accounts of their crimes, and we do not know what drove Adam Lanza to shoot his mother in the face and then slaughter dozens of children. But these mass murderers appear to be perfect examples of this first type. Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter, is yet another. What provoked him? He repeatedly complained that he was being bombarded with "ultra low frequency" electromagnetic waves. Apparently, he thought that killing people at random would offer some relief. It seems there is little to understand about the experiences of these men or about their beliefs, except as symptoms of underlying mental illness.

2. Prototypically evil psychopaths who feel no empathy for others and may even derive sadistic pleasure from making the innocent suffer. These people are not delusional. They are malignantly selfish, ruthless, and prone to violence. Our maximum-security prisons are full of such men. Given half a chance and half a reason, psychopaths will harm others-because that is what psychopaths do.

It is worth observing that these first two types trouble us for reasons that have nothing to do with culture, ideology, or any other social variable. Of course, it matters if a psychotic or a psychopath happens to be the head of a nation, or otherwise has power and influence. That is what is so abhorrent about North Korea: The child king is mad, or simply evil, and he's building a nuclear arsenal while millions starve. But even here, very little is to be learned about what we-the billions of relatively normal human beings struggling to maintain open societies-are doing wrong. We didn't create Jared Loughner (apart from making it too easy for him to get a gun), and we didn't create Kim Jong-il (apart from making it too easy for him to get nuclear bombs). Given access to powerful weapons, such people will pose a threat no matter how rational, tolerant, or circumspect we become.

3. Normal men and women who cause immense harm while believing that they are doing the right thing-or while neglecting to notice the consequences of their actions. These people are not insane, and they're not necessarily bad; they are just part of a system in which the negative consequences of ordinary selfishness and fear can become horribly magnified. Think of a soldier fighting in a war that may be ill conceived, or even unjust, but who has no rational alternative but to defend himself and his friends. Think of a boy growing up in the inner city who joins a gang for protection, only to perpetuate the very cycle of violence that makes gang membership a necessity. Or think of a CEO whose short-term interests motivate him to put innocent lives, the environment, or the economy itself in peril. Most of these people aren't monsters. However, they can easily create suffering for others that only a monster would bring about by design. This is the true "banality of evil"-whatever Hannah Arendt actually meant by that phrase-but it is worth remembering that not all evil is banal.

4. Those who are moved by ideology to waste their lives in extraordinary ways while doing intolerable harm to others in the process. Some of these belief systems are merely political, or otherwise secular, in that their aim is to bring about specific changes in this world. But the worst of these doctrines are religious-whether or not they are attached to a mainstream religion-in that they are informed by ideas about otherworldly rewards and punishments, prophecies, magic, and so forth, which are especially conducive to fanaticism and self-sacrifice.

Of course, a person can inhabit more than one of the above categories at once-and thus have his antisocial behavior overdetermined. There must be someone somewhere who is simultaneously psychotic and psychopathic, part of a corrupt system, and devoted to a dangerous, transcendent cause. But many examples of each of these types exist in their pure forms.

For instance, in recent weeks, a spate of especially appalling jihadist attacks occurred-one on a shopping mall in Nairobi, where non-Muslims appear to have been systematically tortured before being murdered; one on a church in Peshawar; and one on a school playground in Baghdad, targeting children. Whenever I point out the role that religious ideology plays in atrocities of this kind-specifically the Islamic doctrines related to jihad, martyrdom, apostasy, and so forth-I am met with some version of the following: "Bad people will always do these things. Religion is nothing more than a pretext." This is an increasingly dangerous misconception to have about the human mind.

Here is my pick for the most terrifying and depressing phenomenon on earth: A smart, capable, compassionate, and honorable person grows infected with ludicrous ideas about a holy book and a waiting paradise, and then becomes capable of murdering innocent people-even children-while in a state of religious ecstasy. Needless to say, this problem is rendered all the more terrifying and depressing because so many of us deny that it even exists.

To imagine that one is a holy warrior bound for Paradise might seem delusional, but we live in a world where perfectly sane people are led to believe such floridly crazy things in the name of religion. This is primarily a social and cultural issue, not a psychological one. There is no clear line between what members of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and al Shabab believe about Islam and the "true" Islam. In fact, these groups have as good a claim as any to being impeccable Muslims. This presents an enormous threat to civil society, which apologists for Islam and secular liberals can now be counted upon to obfuscate. A tsunami of stupidity and violence is breaking simultaneously on a hundred shores, and people like Karen Armstrong, Reza Aslan, Juan Cole, John Esposito, and Glenn Greenwald insist that it's a beautiful day at the beach. Their determination that "moderate" Islam not be blamed for the acts of "extremists" causes them to deny that genuine (and theologically justifiable) religious beliefs can inspire psychologically normal people to commit horrific acts of violence.

For weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing, we seemed determined to remain confused about the motives of the perpetrators. Had they been "radicalized" by some nefarious person, or did they manage it themselves? Did Tamerlan, the older brother, have brain damage from boxing? Were his dreams dashed by our immigration laws? Experts on terrorism took to the airwaves and gave their analysis: These young men behaved as they did, not on account of Islam, but because they were "jerks" and "losers."

Or was it just politics, with religion as a pretext? The New York Times reported that the Tsarnaev brothers were "motivated to strike against the United States partly because of its military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan." Many people seized on this as proof that U.S. foreign policy was to blame. And yet the only plausible way that Chechens coming of age in America could want to murder innocent people in protest over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be for them to accept the Islamic doctrine of jihad. Islam is under attack and it must be defended; infidels have invaded Muslim lands-these grievances are not political. They are religious.

The same obscurantism arose in response to the Woolwich murder-when two jihadists butchered a man on a London sidewalk while shouting "Allahu akbar!" Their actions were repeatedly described as "political"-and the role of Islam in their thinking was reflexively discounted. Why political? Because one of the murderers spoke of British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq invading "our lands" and abusing "our women." Few seemed to wonder how a Londoner of Nigerian descent could feel possessive about Afghan and Iraqi lands and women. There is only one path through the wilderness of bad ideas that reaches such "political" concerns: Islam.

Take a moment to consider the actions of the Taliban gunman who shot Malala Yousafzai in the head. How is it that this man came to board a school bus with the intention of murdering a 15-year-old girl? Absent ideology, this could have only been the work of a psychotic or a psychopath. Given the requisite beliefs, however, an entire culture will support such evil. Malala is the best thing to come out of the Muslim world in a thousand years. She is an extraordinarily brave and eloquent girl who is doing what millions of Muslim men and women are too terrified to do-stand up to the misogyny of traditional Islam. No doubt the assassin who tried to kill her believed that he was doing God's work. He was probably a perfectly normal man-perhaps even a father himself-and that is what is so disturbing. In response to Malala's nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, a Taliban spokesman had this to say:

"Malala Yousafzai targeted and criticized Islam. She was against Islam and we tried to kill her, and if we get a chance again we will definitely try to kill her, and we will feel proud killing her."

The fact that otherwise normal people can be infected by destructive religious beliefs is crucial to understand-because beliefs spread. Until moderate Muslims and secular liberals stop misplacing the blame for this evil, they will remain part of the problem. Yes, our drone strikes in Pakistan kill innocent people-and this undoubtedly creates new enemies for the West. But we wouldn't need to drop a single bomb on Pakistan, or anywhere else, if a death cult of devout Muslims weren't making life miserable for millions of innocent people and posing an unacceptable threat of violence to open societies.

Malala did not win a Nobel prize this week, and it is probably good for her that she didn't. She absolutely deserved it-far more than several recent recipients have-but this recognition would have made her security concerns even more excruciating than they probably are already. Her nomination is said to have noticeably increased anti-Western sentiment in Pakistan-a fact that deserves some honest reflection on the part of Islam's apologists. If for nothing else, we can be grateful to the Taliban for reminding us of what so many civilized people seem eager to forget: This is both a war of ideas and a very bloody war-and we must win it.
(c) 2013 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co=founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

Ovadia's Choice
By Uri Avnery

WHEN RABBI Ovadia Yosef first appeared on the national scene, I heaved a deep sigh of relief.

Here was the man I had dreamed of: a charismatic leader of oriental Jews, a man of peace, a bearer of a moderate religious tradition.

"Rabbi Ovadia," as everybody called him, who died this week at the age of 93, was born in Baghdad, came to Palestine as a boy of 4, gained huge respect as a religious scholar. During the 1948 war he was the chief rabbi of Egypt, later he became the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel. When his appointment was not renewed, as a result of some obscure political intrigue, he founded a new political party, Shas, which quickly became a force in Israeli politics.

He first attracted my attention when, contrary to most other prominent rabbis, he decided that Jewish religious law, the Halakha, allows giving up parts of Eretz Israel for the sake of peace. The "saving of lives" takes precedence.

BEFORE WE proceed, let's define some terms. "Sephardic" and "oriental" are often confused. But they are not quite the same.

Sepharad means Spain. Sephardic Jews are the descendents of the Jews who were expelled from Spain by their Most Catholic Majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492. Almost all of them shunned Christian anti-Semitic Europe and settled in countries under benevolent Muslim rule, from Morocco to Bulgaria.

The Ottoman Empire was based on a system of "millets", religious-ethnic communities which governed themselves under their own leaders, laws and traditions. The Jews throughout the empire were governed by the Hakham Bashi, the chief rabbi, who was, of course, a Sephardi. This was a secular appointment – in Jewish law there is no chief rabbi, no Jewish pope. All rabbis are equal, every Jew can follow the rabbi of his choice.

When the British took over, they were prevailed upon to appoint an Ashkenazi chief rabbi too. Since then we have two chief rabbis in this country, one Sephardi and one Ashkenazi, each upholding the traditions of his community.

However, the great majority of Jews from Islamic countries are not Sephardis. Nowadays they prefer to be called "Mizrahim" (eastern, oriental). Still, the terms Sephardi and Oriental overlap and have come to mean more or less the same.

THE NUMBER of people who took part in the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia has been estimated at 800 thousand – more than the total Jewish population in the country on the day the State of Israel was founded. Even assuming that this number is vastly overblown, the event was extraordinary. Jerusalem was practically blocked, the car bearing the body could hardly reach the cemetery.

All these hundreds of thousands, all male, were wearing the "uniform" of orthodox Jews – black garments, white shirts, big black hats. Many were weeping and moaning. It bordered on mass hysteria.

The eulogies of religious and secular leaders and commentators were limitless. He was called the greatest Sephardi Jew of the last 500 years, a "Great in the Torah" whose teachings would echo for centuries to come.

I must confess that I have never quite understood his greatness as a thinker, religious or otherwise. He always reminded me of what Yeshayahu Leibowitz once told me: that the Jewish religion had died 200 years ago, leaving nothing behind but an empty shell of rituals.

Rabbi Ovadia wrote 40 books of judgments and interpretations of religious law. While Ashkenazi rabbis generally tend to make it harder to comply with religious injunctions, Yosef tended to make it easier. In this he followed Oriental tradition, which was always much more moderate (as was Islam, until recently).

Yosef allowed widows of fallen soldiers to marry again (a complicated procedure under the Halakha). He decided that the Ethiopian Falashas were Jews, and thereby enabled them to come to Israel under the Law of Return. In innumerable individual cases, he made it easier for people to evade stringent restrictions. Since in Israel large areas of private affairs, such as marriage and divorce, are ruled by religious law administered by rabbis, this was very important for secular people, too.

But a profound thinker? A modern sage? I have my doubts. As one commentator dared to point out, the new pope has, in a few months, done more to change the theological and social outlook of his church than rabbi Ovadia in his lifetime. Reform Judaism has done far more to modernize Judaism than Yosef.

BUT MY initial appreciation of and final disappointment with the rabbi does not concern religious questions.

Rabbi Ovadia was a towering figure in Israeli politics. Almost half of all Jewish Israeli citizens are of oriental origin. Until his appearance, this was an underprivileged class, remote from the centers of power, often humiliated, quite disunited. All attempts to turn them into a political force failed miserably.

And than the rabbi came. He founded a powerful party that often served as the arbiter of Israeli politics. He gave the Orientals back their lost dignity. He united them. It was a huge achievement.

But for what? I had hoped that once the Oriental Jews regained their self-respect, they would remember their past, the Golden Age of Jewish-Muslim cooperation in medieval Spain, when Jewish poetry flourished in the Arabic language, when the great religious thinker Moses Maimonides was the personal physician of Saladin, the Muslim leader who vanquished the Crusaders.

In this hope I chose Yosef's protege and political standard-bearer, Aryeh Deri, as Man of the Year for my news magazine at the tender age of 29. Like his master, Deri, born in Morocco, was a man of peace and openly advocated a settlement with the Palestinians.

But the dream evaporated. The Shas party became more and more right-wing and supported extreme anti-Arab policies. The Rabbi, a great expert in Arabic and Hebrew curses, cursed the Arabs as much as he did his Jewish opponents. (Once he announced that on the day of Shulamit Aloni's death there would be a feast. Aloni, a leftist leader, did not feast on the day of Yosef's death.)

There are many reasons – psychological and sociological – for the Oriental community becoming anti-Arab and anti-peace. It's not only Yosef's and Deri's fault. But they did not do anything to counteract it. On the contrary, they ran with the crowd, accelerating the process.

Rabbi Ovadia ruled the Shas party like a pope, anointing and deposing its leaders at will. The party has no democratic institutions, no internal elections. The Rabbi made all decisions himself. By joining the anti-Arab chorus, he committed a grave sin – though he never repealed his judgment allowing the giving up of occupied territories to save lives.

BEING THE party of the downtrodden, it could have been expected that Shas would at least be the leader of social protest.

And indeed, Rabbi Ovadia and his underlings talked endlessly about the plight of the Oriental masses, the poor and disabled. But in real life, they did absolutely nothing to alleviate that plight by government policy, social reform, strengthening the welfare state and such. Indeed, their opponents accused them of intentionally keeping their electorate in ignorance and poverty, so as to keep them in a state of dependency.

As a matter of fact, Ovadia and his party used their considerable political power of extortion to extract from the government immense amounts of money for their independent educational system, and for nothing else. This system extends from kindergarten to higher yeshivot. In them nothing is taught but holy texts, rather like Muslim madrassas. Their graduates are unfit to join the labor force. Of course they do not serve in the army.

The day after the funeral, when Binyamin Netanyahu made his condolence visit to the family, the sons did not talk with him about peace or social reform. They talked only of the evil design to make their youngsters serve in the army.

Malicious tongues speak about the Yosef family's control of a huge private economic empire, based on the kosher-certification industry. Admirers of Rabbi Ovadia insisted on having their food certified as strictly kosher by persons trusted by him – for a price, of course. No one knows how much capital has been amassed by this Yosef family empire.

FOR NON-ORTHODOX Jewish Israelis, who are still the majority, Rabbi Ovadia was an eccentric, rather endearing, personality.

Television loved his way of affectionately slapping the faces of all his visitors, high or low. His curses have become part of folklore. (Once he called Netanyahu a "blind goat.")

His dress made him distinctive. Even after he was dismissed from the post of Sephardic Chief Rabbi, he insisted to the end on wearing the gold-braided Turkish uniform of that office.

Like most leaders of this type, he leaves no successor. There is no second Rabbi Ovadia, and there will not be for a long time. To build authority on personal leadership, charisma and erudition takes decades. No candidate is in sight. Even the survival of the Shas party under Deri is not assured.

For me, it is a sad story. Israel is crying out for a great Sephardic leader, able to mobilize the masses for peace and social progress.

I just hope that he will appear before the Messiah.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Wall Street Bets A Quadrillion Of Everybody Else's Money
By Glen Ford

The clock is ticking, we are told, on the "good faith and credit" of the United States government, which might technically be unable to pay its bills after October 17 if the two corporate parties don't make a deal on the debt limit. Congressional Republicans and the White House are "playing Russian roulette with the global economy," says an editorial in the Dallas Morning News, warning of impending "economic Armageddon" as financial markets "crater," the economy stalls and interest on future federal borrowing skyrockets.

Given that capitalism has entered a terminal stage of acute and escalating crises, the Dallas editorialists may be right; anything could set off another spasm of financial mayhem in a system that is ever more unstable. However, it is the "markets" - a euphemism for the financial capitalist class - that are the ultimate source of instability, the folks who play Russian roulette 24-7 and have dragged humanity to a place where an actual Armageddon is only a twirl of the chamber away. In this game, everybody's head is in play.

It is proper that the corporate press speak of the impending fiscal threat - a minor one, in the maelstrom of crises that beset the system - in gambling terms. An increase of interest rates by a few basis points (fractions of a percent) on trillions of borrowed dollars amounts to quite a chunk of public money, to be paid directly into the accounts of these very same private "markets" that are supposedly biting their nails with anxiety over the budget. The Dallas Morning News and its fellow corporate propaganda spores spread the myth that the "markets" (bankers, hedge funds, etc.) crave stability, when the vital statistics of the real world of finance capitalism scream the opposite.

The Lords of Capital (the "markets") are pure gamblers who have transformed the global financial marketplace into a machinery of perpetual uncertainty, in which all the wealth of the world is bet many times over by people who don't actually own it, in a casino whose operators scheme against each other as well as their patrons, most of whom are not even aware that they are in the game - much less, that it is Russian roulette.

The notional value of derivative financial instruments is now estimated at $1.2 quadrillion - that is, one thousand two hundred trillion dollars. This statistic is fantastic in every sense of the word, amounting to 16.7 times the Gross World Product, which is the value of all the goods and services produced per year by every man, woman and child on the planet: $71.83 trillion. Derivatives are valued at six times more than the total accumulated wealth of the world, including all global stock markets, insurance funds, and family wealth: $200 trillion. The great bulk of known derivative deals are held by banks that are considered too big to be allowed to fail, with the top four banks accounting for more than 90 percent of the exposure: J.P. Morgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs.

We are told that derivatives are simply bets between knowledgeable partners - hedges against loss - and that every time one of these financial institutions loses, another gains, so that there is no net loss or threat of global collapse. But that's a lie. Never in the history of the world has finance capital so dominated the real economy, and only in the past two decades have derivatives been so central to finance capitalism. The players do not know what they are doing, nor do they care. The meltdown of 2008 was caused primarily by derivatives, requiring a bailout in the tens of trillions of dollars that is still ongoing, with the Federal Reserve buying up securities that no one would purchase - that is, bet on - otherwise. Yet, the universe of derivatives deals has grown much larger than in 2008, effectively untouched by President Obama's so-called financial reforms.

The casino has swallowed the system. The sums the players are betting are not only far larger than the value of the rest of their portfolios, but six times larger than the combined assets of every human institution and family on Earth, and almost 17 times bigger than the worth of humankind's yearly output. Even if the whole planet were offered as collateral, it could not cover Wall Street's bets.

"Detroit has been rendered a failed city by the full range of derivatives and securitization." The events of 2008 demonstrated that derivatives collapses, like other speculative financial events, behave as cascades of consequences, rather than orderly "resolutions." Derivatives deals infest or overhang every nook and cranny of the U.S. and other "mature" economies, poisoning pension systems and municipal finance structures. Detroit has been rendered a failed city by the full range of derivatives and securitization. When the casino is the economy, everyone is forced to play, and the poor go broke first.

Reformers of various stripes tell us that derivatives can either be regulated to a less lethal scale or abolished, altogether, while leaving Wall Street otherwise intact. That's manifestly untrue. Finance capital creates nothing, reproducing itself through the manipulation of money. The derivatives explosion occurred because Wall Street needed a form of "fictitious" capital to continue posting ever higher profits, and ultimately, fictitious portfolios full of tradable bets. Derivatives deals are the ultimate expression of financial capitalism: they are primarily bets on transactions, rather than investments in production. The rise of derivatives signals that capitalism has run its course, and can only do further harm to humanity. The derivatives economy - all $1.2 quadrillion of it - is the last stage of capitalism.

If the Occupy Wall Street movement had understood this, and articulated the necessity to overthrow and abolish Wall Street, its impact would have been far more profound. As it stands, Americans are directed to quake in fear as the clock ticks down to some technical federal budgetary deadline on October 17 - as if that's the sword of Damocles hanging over the world.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Rust Never Sleeps
By William Rivers Pitt

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." ~~~ Abraham Lincoln

At exactly 10:11 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday night, the 218th vote required to forestall the wrath of stupid people was cast in the US House of Representatives.

Whoop de freakin' do.

I honestly don't know where to begin. The breadth and depth of this land mass of abject Fail is genuinely breathtaking. The right-wing trucker protesters coming to "arrest" Congress who were chased off by a traffic cop. The Confederate flags waved in front of the White House that houses a Black family, folded into a veteran's protest that got co-opted by Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, who yowled about not using veterans as pawns even as they shoved veterans out of the way in order to get in front of the red lights of the news cameras.

Heritage Action, the activist wing of the Heritage Foundation, has been the hood ornament of the "Defund Obamacare" movement since President Obama won re-election in 2012. The final attempt by House Speaker John Boehner earlier this week to present a legislative alternative to a Senate takeover of the process - thus salvaging a shred of integrity for himself and the chamber he allegedly leads - was dashed to bits by a letter from Heritage Action warning against any concessions. That one letter scattered his caucus like geese. Just after 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, however, Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham presented himself on Fox News, of all places, and said, "Everybody understands that we'll not be able to repeal this law until 2017."

Wait, what?


At one point on Tuesday, the House GOP's island-of-misfit-toys idea of a good deal was to strip their own Congressional staffers of their health insurance, because damn it, someone has to get hurt to make this whole mess worthwhile. Not long after that punctured trial balloon hissed out of existence came another lumpy Hindenburg trailing a banner that read, "Contraception Clause," which also, after a few ticks, crashed and burned. After that, there was some muttering and growling about the House passing something, anything, and then blowing town so as to leave the Senate holding the bag. As they couldn't even come to a consensus on the wetness of water, however, that quasi-terroristic tactic never saw the light of day.

And then there was Ted Cruz, Republican Senator from Texas, who has been declared politically dead by the entire "mainstream" news establishment. Did Mr. Cruz ravage the GOP's image root to branch by leading this quixotic charge against the Affordable Care Act? Every poll says "Yes." Does he give a tinker's damn what anyone thinks? His face, and his bank account, say "No." Mr. Cruz has been fundraising on this for a while now, so you can kiss his ass. He doubled his fundraising take this quarter, raking in close to a million dollars, and received a hero's triumphant welcome at the base-of-the-GOP-base Values Voters Summit. All this is why he ran for the Senate in the first place: Teddy ain't care, and if you happen to be one of the flock who bought into his "Kill Obamacare" rhetoric, consider yourself right and properly sheared. You are his useful idiot, and he thanks you for your patronage.

The flabby cry of Republican Senator Lindsay Graham on Tuesday afternoon - "We won't be the last political party to overplay our hand. It might happen one day on the Democratic side. And if it did, would Republicans, for the good of the country, kind of give a little? We really did go too far. We screwed up." - speaks for itself. Carve that on his tombstone. As far as political epitaphs go, few have deserved this one more than he.


The government will have sufficient funds to remain open until the middle of January. The debt ceiling has been lifted until the first week of February. As it turns out, the foreshortened deadlines - particularly in regard to the budget - were actively sought by Senator Harry Reid. Had the deal to keep things running encompassed more time, the sequester would have been locked in for another full budget year. Mr. Reid, it seems, wants to attempt to do away with sequestration in the upcoming budget talks before that happens, and from a position of strength. Maybe he'll get rid of it, maybe he won't, but he wants to try. Given the sudden spine he has displayed throughout all this, I am willing to let him take a hack at it.

And as we are on the subject of praise, let us give due respect to the President of the United States. Mr. Obama has taken all manner of flak from "smart people" who say he should be more like Lyndon Johnson and work Congress, massage Congress, glad-hand Congress, and that his failure to do so somehow makes him equally culpable in this fiasco. This is, in point of fact, piebald nonsense. It requires a very special misunderstanding of history to believe that members of Congress in Johnson's day bear any resemblance whatsoever to the meth-addled barn swallows we endure today.

The president's bargaining position throughout this process amounted to "No," and then "No," and then "No," and then "No," and then "No," and then "No," and then "Please proceed," once his opposition collapsed upon itself in disarray and raced to be the first to offer surrender. Politically speaking, this was a rout, and the man holding all the cards hardly said a word.

And so much for the bullshit.

According to Standard & Poor's, this nest of gibberish cost the country $24 billion . An analysis by the much-respected Macroeconomic Advisers puts the total tab for all the budget/debt limit/shutdown mayhem unleashed by the GOP since 2010 at $700 billion, with an additional cost of 900,000 jobs. Very smart people are making the point that the larger damage has already been done , default or otherwise. On the smaller scale, millions of people - government workers, veterans, the disabled, the poor, children - have already felt the lash, and got a full taste of genuine fear when it looked like they were actually going to put the car into the wall.

Anyone you know who has the gall to call this a "victory" is an idiot. Aside from the actual pain this thing caused is the fact that all the Democrats won in the end is a few months of government, and a few months of not looking economic Armageddon in the teeth. The GOP just got a budget CR that operates at the sequestration level they set the last time we spun this Merry-Go-Round, and a faction of their party will try this hostage-taking thing again after the New Year to get even more. Of course they will.

This was a zero-sum gain, and a lot of people lost, badly. It was a nifty exercise in disaster capitalism, more proof of the power of the shock doctrine, and nothing more. Whoever tries to tell you otherwise is selling something.

Finally, anyone who says this mess spells the end of the Tea Party phenomenon is fooling themselves. If anything, the re-branded right-wing created by the Koch Brothers and pimped by CNN will greet the dawn on Thursday morning re-invested in the idea that Jesus hates the poor, women and all brown people, just goddamn because. They see themselves as victims even when they win. Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and the rest of the sharpies will be there to egg them on and pick their pockets. Mark my words: these people have learned no lessons, ceded no ground, and are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Also, there is there is still the Trans-Pacific Partnership to contend with, plus Chained CPI and Medicare means testing (both of which Mr. Obama floated not long ago, which will make an appearance in the budget debate, mark my words), plus the Keystone XL pipeline, plus the ongoing voter restriction efforts, plus the all-important 2014 midterm elections, plus, and plus, and plus, and plus, etc.

Take this to heart, friends and neighbors: rust never sleeps, and there is never, ever any rest for the weary.
(c) 2013 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.

Monsanto Buys A Food Prize

As Lily Tomlin has noted, "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up."

For example, imagine if a prestigious group announced that this year's "World Environmental Prize" will be awarded to BP for its unique contribution to the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. Too absurd, you say?

Right, but try this one: An Iowa group announces that the "World Food Prize" will go to Monsanto for pushing its patented, pricey, genetically-tampered Frankenseeds on impoverished lands as an "answer" to global hunger. This would be so morally perverse that the "cyn" in cynical would be spelled S.I.N. Yet, it's actually happening.

Rather than encouraging sustainable farming and self-sufficiency in impoverished communities as a way to alleviate poverty and malnutrition, the World Food Prize has been "won" by a profiteering, biotech, seed-and-chemical monopolist that's the freakish opposite of sustainability. Monsanto is globally infamous for bullying family farmers, bribing and corrupting governments, stiffing independent scientific inquiries into its hokum, running false ads and fraudulent PR campaigns, and going all out to keep consumers from knowing that the crops produced by its seeds contain alien, bioengineered DNA and have not been tested for longterm health and environmental problems.

Why would this avaricious outfit get any sort of award, much less one that can give it a false legitimacy as a corporate "savior" for the world's poor? Perhaps because Monsanto is a major funder of the World Food Prize. Indeed, the foundation that hands out the award is headquartered in downtown Des Moines in a historic building that recently got a spiffy remodeling, thanks to a $5 million donation from - you guessed it - Monsanto.

How cynical is that? Even Lily Tomlin wouldn't have imagined it.
(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.

Two Kinds Of Countries: Israel's Dangerous Path
By David Swanson

There are two kinds of countries or societies or places to live. In the first kind, decent, fair, kind, and respectful treatment of every person takes precedent over anyone's preferences for how a culture changes or how much effort is expended trying to slow the change of a culture, or which cultures mix with each other, or which groups intermarry. In this first type of society - admittedly a nonexistent ideal - people identify with humanity and welcome any member of humanity into their group of associates, their neighborhood, and their family. Desire to keep some corner of the globe inhabited by people with a particular skin color or language isn't just slightly outweighed by diligent observance of individuals' rights. Instead, such sectarian or tribal desire doesn't exist. And its absence leaves room for concern over war, environmental destruction, hunger, poor healthcare, illiteracy, and all sorts of problems not involving the exclusion of some people from a group.

In the second kind of society, importance is placed on creating or maintaining a population that is exclusively or predominantly of a particular appearance or background, religion or ethnicity. Such a society strays, mildly or moderately or extremely, from democracy, as its demographic project conflicts with people's rights to immigrate, marry, practice or abandon religion, and speak and behave as they choose. Valuing some types of people over others leads toward anti-democratic positions and leaves a society open to easy manipulation through fear and prejudice, distracting energy away from real problems that might appear harder to solve. In extreme cases, this type of society becomes fascist. Hatred and violence become admirable. Lynchings and apartheid and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and sadistic punishment follow.

The nation of Israel claims to be both a democracy and a Jewish state. It can't be. Similarly, the United States cannot be a Christian nation or a white nation and a democracy. A poll in Israel in 2012 asked, "Israel is defined as both a Jewish and democratic state. Which is more important to you?" 34% said Jewish, while 22% said democratic, but 42% said that both were equally important. People in that 42% misunderstand the necessity to choose, as they no doubt do choose every day. The same poll asked, "Speakers should be prohibited from harshly criticizing the State of Israel in public ... ," and 20% agreed, while another 29% strongly agreed. Hmmm, is that the democracy or the Jewish state talking?

Max Blumenthal's new book, "Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel," is 400 pages of fascistic horrors, a dystopian vision of where the United States or most any other country could go and where Israel has gone. Of course, Israel uses World War II to justify its outrages, just as the United States uses World War II to justify its military presence in 177 other nations. The United States arms Israel and protects it from legal consequences for crimes. U.S. companies and individuals and universities and churches fund and take part in Israel's brutality. U.S. Congress members listen to Israeli war propaganda as attentively as do Knesset members. So, there are perhaps extra reasons for those of us in the U.S. to pay particular attention to Israel's fascistic tendencies.

And what do these consist of? Well, permanent war, permanent crisis, fear-mongering, racism, legal and popularly imposed segregation and harassment. False beliefs about past and current crimes of the Israeli military are so openly willful that Israel has a contest show on television for amateur propagandists. Crimes by soldiers or civilians go unpunished or lightly punished when the victims are non-Jews. These crimes include lynchings, assaults, torture, harassment, humiliation, eviction, home destruction, job discrimination, and constant traumatization. Soldiers always nearby. Drones always buzzing overhead. Artificial sewage called Skunk sprayed through open windows of homes. The star of David painted on homes and businesses destroyed to intimidate non-Jews. Crowds gathered on a hill to watch and cheer for the bombing of Gaza like Washingtonians picnicking in Manassas to watch a civil war slaughter. Israeli soldiers openly describing themselves as fascists. Trials with pre-determined outcomes. Incarceration of masses of people in concentration camps.

Blumenthal's portrait of Israel is a partial one to be sure, but a terrifying one nonetheless. He contrasts the relentless hatred and abuse he documents with brief moments of imagining something else. At a restaurant in Haifa, writes Blumenthal, "seated at a long table in Fatoush's outdoor garden, listening to a melange of English, Arabic, and Hebrew amid a crowd of Palestinians, Jews, and internationals, it is sometimes possible to imagine the kind of place Israel could be if it ever managed to shed its settler-colonial armor."

That place is not a Jewish democracy or a white democracy or a European democracy. That place is a democracy, and a democracy is a place where you're happy for your son or daughter to get married because they're in love, not because of the ethnicity of their beloved.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

How Dare They Consider Attacking Social Security
By James Donahue

It seems that the Tea Party gang in and around Washington wants to include things like Social Security, Medicare, veteran's assistance, food stamps and other government programs serving the poor and elderly when they talk about spending cuts. Just the threat of doing this when our government is wasting so much money on defense, Homeland Security and stuffing the pockets of the wealthy makes my blood boil.

When I was a young man just getting into the labor market I was shocked to see just how much the government was cutting from my weekly paycheck and pouring into a mandated social security program. My wife at that time was working in a hospital facility where union workers, also in a rebellious mood, were fighting to get out of forced Social Security payments and, instead, create their own retirement program.

It didn't take a genius then to calculate just how much money could be generated by just setting aside this same portion of our weekly paychecks and simply placing the money in a long-term savings account that paid a relatively low interest rate on the money accumulating in the account. If we had been given the option of doing what that hospital union sought to do, both my wife and I would have accumulated a handsome nest egg to cover our retirement years.

But it was not to be. The union lost its battle. And we were both forced to give up that portion of our earnings each week to that government program. We were told it was for our best interest. And perhaps it was. If given the option it is very likely we would have procrastinated about that plan to set aside anything in the interest of retirement. So for most Americans, the forced retirement savings plan was, indeed, the best option. And, we had no choice.

We always believed that the money was ours when we retired. We were promised that it went into a special account that made monthly payments to retired Americans once they reached 65 years of age and went home to tend their gardens, write books, travel and do the other things they didn't have time to do when punching time clocks. They promised us that the account was safe from prying hands and we believed that.

During those early years we were well aware that most of the retirees never lived more than a year or two after they retired, so they never had a chance to get much of the money they invested back. One economist told me the Social Security program was depending on this to keep it solvent. My wife and I were optimists, however, and we wanted to believe that we would live long enough to get most if not all of our investment back.

We both had professions that we knew we could use long after we reached retirement age, so we never worried much about being forced by the corporations we labored for into really going to the old rocking chair when we reached 65. But things changed. I was forced into early retirement at age 55 and my wife developed health problems that forced her into early retirement at about age 60. Advancements in medicine indeed expanded the average life expectancy for elderly Americans and the so-called "baby boom” from World War II that created an imbalance in the money being poured by workers into the Social Security program became subjects of debate among Washington politicians about the health of the program. This, of course, was untrue. The Social Security program had been so successful it had accumulated a massive multi-trillion dollar balance of cash which, if left untouched, should have kept the program solvent for a very long time, even if we were living longer.

The problem has been that the Washington politicians couldn't leave that fund alone. They began "borrowing" from the Social Security Trust Fund during World War II and have been unable to resist borrowing more and more of this money ever since. In an effort to soften the blow, I suppose, the government invented the 401K program, allowing workers and employers to invest additional money into stock in the hope that there would be a second nest egg waiting retirees. With the instability of the stock market I am not too sure the 401K program is working out that well. We got into it too late to find out.

Today the looting of the SS fund has become so ramped that there is a real threat that the demands of seniors will cause what is left in the fund to run dry.

What the political thieves in Washington are really saying when they attack Social Security is not that the program is too costly. Their secret worry is that they have run the nation so deeply in debt they cannot afford to pay back the stolen money. Thus they are verbally attempting to shift the blame on the seniors, and claiming the Social Security program is no longer solvent. Don't believe it.

The big banks, the military war machine, and the big corporations have been busy looting our tax money for years, and given the power to do it by the Supreme Court which has gone rogue, without any easy way for us to pull in the reigns except stage another violent revolution. And nobody wants to go that route. So Americans find themselves slaves to the crooks that now control the nation.

The sad thing is that a lot of senior citizens, unemployed workers and wounded veterans in America are now totally dependent on those Social Security, welfare and veterans checks coming regularly each month. It is not a lot of money but at least for the seniors, the money covers the basic costs of living, keeps food on the table, some gas in the car, and covers basic medical costs. A lot of next generation Americans, finding themselves out of work or unable to live on the wages paid them, are moving in with their parents and tapping into those social security checks too.

If these and the food stamp payments stop, all hell is going to break loose. Payments for heat and electricity won't be made, nobody will be shopping in the malls and grocery stores, and general commerce will be dramatically reduced. It will be a recession worse than anything we have ever experienced.

We also predict that the bankruptcy courts will be overwhelmed.
(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.

Judge Who Framed Voter ID Laws As Constitutional Says He Got It Wrong
By John Nichols

When the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago issued a critical 2007 ruling defending the constitutionality of Voter ID laws, Judge Richard Posner authored the decision.

The arguments Judge Posner made for upholding Indiana's Voter ID law framed out some of the essential underpinnings for the 2008 determination of the US Supreme Court-in the case of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board-that has since served as a justification for the enactment of ever harsher laws in states across the country.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, "a total of 34 states have passed voter ID laws of some kind." Not all of those laws have been implemented, with a number of them facing court challenges.

With the status of voting issues protections complicated by the Supreme Court's June, 2013, decision to invalidate key sections of the Voting Rights Act, the wrangling over Voter ID laws in states such as North Carolina and Texas has only become more legally complex and confusing.

So it should count for something that Judge Posner now says that he was mistaken in his 2007 decision.

Indeed, the judge's rethink ought to inspire a national rethink-about not just Voter ID laws but the broader issue of voter rights.

In his new book, Reflections on Judging, Judge Posner writes, "I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion (affirmed by the Supreme Court) upholding Indiana's requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo ID-a law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than fraud prevention."

Judge Posner, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, is not stopping there.

In an interview with HuffPost Live, Mick Sacks asked: "Do you think that the court got this one wrong?"

"Yes," replied Judge Posner. "Absolutely. And the problem is that there hadn't been that much activity with voter identification…(The 7th Circuit judges) really given strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disfranchise people (who are) entitled to vote."

Posner continued:

"There was a dissenting judge, Judge (Terence) Evans, since deceased, and I think he (was) right. But at the time I thought what we were doing was right. It is interesting that the majority opinion was written by Justice (John Paul) Stevens, who is very liberal, more liberal than I was or am.... But I think we did not have enough information. And of course it illustrates the basic problem that I emphasize in book. We judges and lawyers, we don't know enough about the subject matters that we regulate, right? And that if the lawyers had provided us with a lot of information about the abuse of voter identification laws, this case would have been decided differently."

Judge Posner should have paid closer attention to the detailed amicus brief filed in 2006 by the Brennan Center for Justice, which explained how the Indiana law threatened to "exclude many eligible voters from participating in our democratic process."

But the jurist, one of the most prominent on the federal bench, has now come around.

Judge Posner is making a bigger point about the challenges judges face in making determinations about complex and controversial concerns.

That broader point is certainly worthy of discussion.

But the specific point Judge Posner is making about Voter ID laws ought not be lost on Americans as state legislatures and courts continue to wrestle with voting rights issues.

Because Voter ID requirements have been widely criticized as weighing more heavily of specific classes of voters-people of color, students, low-income voters, the elderly-legitimate concerns have been raised about equal protection and a host of other constitutional concerns.

The Supreme Court's 2008 ruling has been used to defend Voter ID laws as constitutionally credible.

Now, the judge whose decision helped to shape that decision says he was wrong.

The case against Voter ID laws has always been compelling. Voter ID laws respresent "solutions" in search of a "problem" that the Brennan Center describes as a "myth." They are unduly burdensome and threatening to democratic participation by substantial portions of the nations voting-age population; the American Civil Liberties Union explains that "more than 21 million Americans do not have government-issued photo identification; a disproportionate number of these Americans are low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, and elderly." And where Voter ID requirements involve costs for those seeking, Attorney General Eric Holder has said: "We call those poll taxes."

But as solid as the case against Voter ID laws has always been, Judge Posner's admission of error should-at least for honest observers-make that case a good deal stronger.
(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 Folly Of Empire
By Chris Hedges

The final days of empire give ample employment and power to the feckless, the insane and the idiotic. These politicians and court propagandists, hired to be the public faces on the sinking ship, mask the real work of the crew, which is systematically robbing the passengers as the vessel goes down. The mandarins of power stand in the wheelhouse barking ridiculous orders and seeing how fast they can gun the engines. They fight like children over the ship's wheel as the vessel heads full speed into a giant ice field. They wander the decks giving pompous speeches. They shout that the SS America is the greatest ship ever built. They insist that it has the most advanced technology and embodies the highest virtues. And then, with abrupt and unexpected fury, down we will go into the frigid waters.

The last days of empire are carnivals of folly. We are in the midst of our own, plunging forward as our leaders court willful economic and environmental self-destruction. Sumer and Rome went down like this. So did the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Men and women of stunning mediocrity and depravity led the monarchies of Europe and Russia on the eve of World War I. And America has, in its own decline, offered up its share of weaklings, dolts and morons to steer it to destruction. A nation that was still rooted in reality would never glorify charlatans such as Sen. Ted Cruz, House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Newt Gingrich as they pollute the airwaves. If we had any idea what was really happening to us we would have turned in fury against Barack Obama, whose signature legacy will be utter capitulation to the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex and the security and surveillance state. We would have rallied behind those few, such as Ralph Nader, who denounced a monetary system based on gambling and the endless printing of money and condemned the willful wrecking of the ecosystem. We would have mutinied. We would have turned the ship back.

The populations of dying empires are passive because they are lotus-eaters. There is a narcotic-like reverie among those barreling toward oblivion. They retreat into the sexual, the tawdry and the inane, retreats that are momentarily pleasurable but ensure self-destruction. They naively trust it will all work out. As a species, Margaret Atwood observes in her dystopian novel "Oryx and Crake," "we're doomed by hope." And absurd promises of hope and glory are endlessly served up by the entertainment industry, the political and economic elite, the class of courtiers who pose as journalists, self-help gurus like Oprah and religious belief systems that assure followers that God will always protect them. It is collective self-delusion, a retreat into magical thinking.

"The American citizen thus lives in a world where fantasy is more real than reality, where the image has more dignity than the original," Daniel J. Boorstin wrote in his book "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America." "We hardly dare face our bewilderment, because our ambiguous experience is so pleasantly iridescent, and the solace of belief in contrived reality is so thoroughly real. We have become eager accessories in the great hoaxes of the age. These are the hoaxes we play on ourselves."

Culture and literacy, in the final stage of decline, are replaced with noisy diversions and empty cliches. The Roman statesman Cicero inveighed against their ancient equivalent—the arena. Cicero, for his honesty, was hunted down and murdered and his hands and head were cut off. His severed head and his right hand, which had written the Philippics, were nailed onto the speaker's platform in the Forum. The roaring crowds, while the Roman elite spat on the head, were gleefully told he would never speak or write again. In the modern age this toxic, mindless cacophony, our own version of spectacle and gladiator fights, of bread and circus, is pumped into the airwaves in 24-hour cycles. Political life has fused into celebrity worship. Education is primarily vocational. Intellectuals are cast out and despised. Artists cannot make a living. Few people read books. Thought has been banished, especially at universities and colleges, where timid pedants and careerists churn out academic drivel. "Although tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully rule over foreign peoples," Hannah Arendt wrote in "The Origins of Totalitarianism," "it can stay in power only if it destroys first of all the national institutions of its own people." And ours have been destroyed.

Sensual pleasure and eternal youth are our overriding obsessions. The Roman emperor Tiberius, at the end, fled to the island of Capri and turned his seaside palace into a house of unbridled lust and violence. "Bevies of girls and young men, whom he had collected from all over the Empire as adepts in unnatural practices, and known as spintriae, would copulate before him in groups of three, to excite his waning passions," Suetonius wrote in "The Twelve Caesars." Tiberius trained small boys, whom he called his minnows, to frolic with him in the water and perform oral sex. And after watching prolonged torture, he would have captives thrown into the sea from a cliff near his palace. Tiberius would be followed by Caligula and Nero.

"At times when the page is turning," Louis-Ferdinand Celine wrote in "Castle to Castle," "when History brings all the nuts together, opens its Epic Dance Halls! hats and heads in the whirlwind! Panties overboard!"

The anthropologist Joseph Tainter in his book "The Collapse of Complex Societies" looked at the collapse of civilizations from the Roman to the Mayan. He concluded that they disintegrated because they finally could not sustain the bureaucratic complexities they had created. Layers of bureaucracy demand more and more exploitation, not only of the environment but the laboring classes. They become calcified by systems that are unable to respond to the changing reality around them. They, like our elite universities and business schools, churn out systems managers, people who are taught not to think but to blindly service the system. These systems managers know only how to perpetuate themselves and the system they serve, although serving that system means disemboweling the nation and the planet. Our elites and bureaucrats exhaust the earth to hold up a system that worked in the past, failing to see that it no longer works. Elites, rather than contemplate reform, which would jeopardize their privilege and power, retreat in the twilight of empire into walled compounds like the Forbidden City or Versailles. They invent their own reality. Those on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms have replicated this behavior. They insist that continued reliance on fossil fuel and speculations will sustain the empire. State resources, as Tainter notes, are at the end increasingly squandered on extravagant and senseless projects and imperial adventures. And then it all collapses.

Our collapse will take the whole planet with it.

It is more pleasant, I admit, to stand mesmerized in front of our electronic hallucinations. It is easier to check out intellectually. It is more gratifying to imbibe the hedonism and the sickness of the worship of the self and money. It is more comforting to chatter about celebrity gossip and ignore or dismiss what is reality.

Thomas Mann in "The Magic Mountain" and Joseph Roth in "Hotel Savoy" brilliantly chronicled this peculiar state of mind. In Roth's hotel the first three floors house in luxury the bloated rich, the amoral politicians, the bankers and the business owners. The upper floors are crammed with people who struggle to pay their bills and who are steadily divested of their possessions until they are destitute and cast out. There is no political ideology among decayed ruling elites, despite choreographed debates and elaborate political theater. It is, as it always is at the end, one vast kleptocracy.

Just before World War II, a friend asked Roth, a Jewish intellectual who had fled Nazi Germany for Paris, "Why are you drinking so much?" Roth answered: "Do you think you are going to escape? You too are going to be wiped out."
(c) 2013 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

The Perfect Epitaph For Establishment Journalism
'If MI5 warns that this is not in the public interest who am I to disbelieve them?', says the former editor of The Independent
By Glenn Greenwald

Like many people, I've spent years writing and speaking about the lethal power-subservient pathologies plaguing establishment journalism in the west. But this morning, I feel a bit like all of that was wasted time and energy, because this new column by career British journalist Chris Blackhurst - an executive with and, until a few months ago, the editor of the UK daily calling itself "The Independent" - contains a headline that says everything that needs to be said about the sickly state of establishment journalism:

In other words, if the government tells me I shouldn't publish something, who I am as a journalist to disobey? Put that on the tombstone of western establishment journalism. It perfectly encapsulates the death spiral of large journalistic outlets.

Lest you think that the headline does not fairly represent the content of the column, Blackhurst, in explaining why he would never have allowed his newspaper to publish any of the documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, actually wrote:

If the security services insist something is contrary to the public interest, and might harm their operations, who am I (despite my grounding from Watergate onwards) to disbelieve them?"

Most people, let alone journalists, would be far too embarrassed to admit they harbor such subservient, obsequious sentiments. It's one thing to accord some deference or presumption of good will to political officials, but the desire to demonstrate some minimal human dignity, by itself, would preclude most people from publicly confessing that they have willingly sacrificed all of their independent judgment and autonomy to the superior, secret decrees of those who wield the greatest power. Chris Blackhurst has obviously liberated himself from these inhibitions, though not entirely, as he infuses insincere caveats like this into his paean to the virtues of obedience: "I'm cynical about officialdom, having seen too many cover-ups and appalling injustices carried out in our name." One would think that most journalists (particularly those who edit a newspaper called "The Independent") would want to maintain at least a pretense of independent thought and thus refrain from acknowledging such cringe-inducing things about themselves.

Still, what Blackhurst is revealing here is indeed a predominant mindset among many in the media class. Journalists should not disobey the dictates of those in power. Once national security state officials decree that what they are doing should be kept concealed from the public - once they pound their mighty "SECRET" stamp onto their behavior - it is the supreme duty of all citizens, including journalists, to honor that and never utter in public what they have done. Indeed, it is not only morally wrong, but criminal, to defy these dictates. After all, "who am I to disbelieve them?"

That this mentality condemns - and would render outlawed - most of the worthwhile investigative journalism over the last several decades never seems to occur to good journalistic servants like Blackhurst. National security state officials also decreed that it would "not be in the public interest" to report on the Pentagon Papers, or the My Lai massacre, or the network of CIA black sites in which detainees were tortured, or the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, or the documents negating claims of Iraqi WMDs, or a whole litany of waste, corruption and illegality that once bore the "top secret" label. Indeed, one of the best reporters in the UK, Duncan Campbell, works for Blackhurst's newspaper, and he was arrested and prosecuted by the UK government in the 1970s for the "crime" of disclosing the existence of the GCHQ. When Blackhurst sees Campbell in the hallways, does he ask him: "who are you to have decided on your own to disclose that which UK officials had told you should remain concealed?"

The NSA reporting enabled by Snowden's whistleblowing has triggered a worldwide debate over internet freedom and privacy, reform movements in numerous national legislatures, multiple whistleblowing prizes for Snowden, and the first-ever recognition of just how pervasive and invasive is the system of suspicionless surveillance being built by the US and the UK. It does not surprise me that authoritarian factions, including (especially) establishment journalists, prefer that none of this reporting and debate happened and that we all instead remained blissfully ignorant about it. But it does still surprise me when people calling themselves "journalists" openly admit to thinking this way. But when they do so, they do us a service, as it lays so vividly bare just how wide the gap is between the claimed function of establishment journalists and the actual role they fulfill.
(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.

Enemies of the People!

The Dixiecrat Solution
By Paul Krugman

So you have this neighbor who has been making your life hell. First he tied you up with a spurious lawsuit; you're both suffering from huge legal bills. Then he threatened bodily harm to your family. Now, however, he says he's willing to compromise: He'll call off the lawsuit, which is to his advantage as well as yours. But in return you must give him your car. Oh, and he'll stop threatening your family - but only for a week, after which the threats will resume. Not much of an offer, is it? But here's the kicker: Your neighbor's relatives, who have been egging him on, are furious that he didn't also demand that you kill your dog.

And now you understand the current state of budget negotiations.

Stocks surged last Friday in the belief that House Republicans were getting ready to back down on their ransom demands over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. But what Republicans were actually offering, it seems, was the "compromise" Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, laid out in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article: rolling back some of the "sequester" budget cuts - which both parties dislike; cuts in Medicare, but with no quid pro quo in the form of higher revenue; and only a temporary fix on the debt ceiling, so that we would soon find ourselves in crisis again.

I do not think that word "compromise" means what Mr. Ryan thinks it means. Above all, he failed to offer the one thing the White House won't, can't bend on: an end to extortion over the debt ceiling. Yet even this ludicrously unbalanced offer was too much for conservative activists, who lambasted Mr. Ryan for basically leaving health reform intact.

Does this mean that we're going to hit the debt ceiling? Quite possibly; nobody really knows, but careful observers are giving no better than even odds that any kind of deal will be reached before the money runs out. Beyond that, however, our current state of dysfunction looks like a chronic condition, not a one-time event. Even if the debt ceiling is raised enough to avoid immediate default, even if the government shutdown is somehow brought to an end, it will only be a temporary reprieve. Conservative activists are simply not willing to give up on the idea of ruling through extortion, and the Obama administration has decided, wisely, that it will not give in to extortion.

So how does this end? How does America become governable again?

One answer might be that we somehow stumble through the next 13 months, and voters punish Republican tactics by returning the House to Democratic control. Recent polls do show a large Democratic advantage on the generic House ballot. But remember, Democratic House candidates already "won" in 2012, in the sense that they received more votes in total than Republicans. Yet the vagaries of district boundaries - partly, but not entirely, the result of gerrymandering - meant that the Republican majority in seats remained, and it would probably take a really huge Democratic sweep to dislodge G.O.P. control.

There is, however, another solution, and everyone knows what it is. Call it Dixiecrats in reverse.

Here's the precedent: For a long time, starting as early as 1938, Democrats generally controlled Congress on paper, but actual control often rested with an alliance between Republicans and conservative Southerners who were Democrats in name only. You may not like what this alliance did - among other things, it killed universal health insurance, which we might otherwise have had 65 years ago. But at least America had a functioning government, untroubled by the kind of craziness that now afflicts us.

And right now we have all the necessary ingredients for a comparable alliance, with roles reversed. Despite denials from Republican leaders, everyone I talk to believes that it would be easy to pass both a continuing resolution, reopening the government, and an increase in the debt ceiling, averting default, if only such measures were brought to the House floor. How? The answer is, they would get support from just about all Democrats plus some Republicans, mainly relatively moderate non-Southerners. As I said, Dixiecrats in reverse.

The problem is that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, won't allow such votes, because he's afraid of the backlash from his party's radicals. Which points to a broader conclusion: The biggest problem we as a nation face right now is not the extremism of Republican radicals, which is a given, but the cowardice of Republican non-extremists (it would be stretching to call them moderates).

The question for the next few days is whether plunging markets and urgent appeals from big business will stiffen the non-extremists' spines. For as far as I can tell, the reverse-Dixiecrat solution is the only way out of this mess.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too."
~~~ Marcus Aurelius

The Myths Behind Public-Employee Pension Reform
By David Sirota and Matt Taibbi

Since the once-great city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy, Americans everywhere are in a panic. Is my city next? Is my state facing financial disaster? From Wisconsin's controversial Gov. Scott Walker to New Jersey's Chris Christie, politicians all over seem to be telling us the answer is yes. The fiscal end is nigh, these leaders say, if America doesn't act soon to slay one of the last great budgetary dragons held over from the entitlement age: our allegedly outmoded, unsustainably expensive system of state and municipal pensions.

In the new fable, state and municipal workers are presented as the welfare queens of our age, historical anachronisms living fat and happy in the competition-free panacea of public service, and shamelessly living off the tax dollars generated entirely by the innovation of America's true workforce - its go-getting private-sector employees, who long ago stopped expecting their bosses to give them real health and retirement plans.

To them, the old-fashioned defined-benefit pension plan, the one that guaranteed a unionized state worker extensive health benefits and a sizable monthly retirement check until his (invariably too-distant) death, is the glaring budgetary inefficiency of our age, the first place we must turn to make the fiscal cuts if we don't want to become the next Detroit.

Pension reform advocates have cited these tales to make their legislative pitches. In state after state, politically active billionaires such as former Enron executive John Arnold, finance-sector think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, and foundations viewed as centrist, such as the Pew Center on the States, have all pushed to cut public workers' guaranteed retirement income, transform pensions into 401(k)-style individual accounts, and turn over the management of pension money to, well, people like the hedge-fund CEOs on the board of the Manhattan Institute. Such reforms are then portrayed as benevolent and transparent initiatives to protect taxpayers and balance budgets.

To a lot of Americans, these purported pension solutions seem logical because the underlying stories about public pensions are compelling. Most Americans know a retired cop or teacher collecting a pension check. Few know a hedge fund CEO.

But are those stories true? It is a particularly important question for California, as Arnold begins financing a ballot initiative campaign to radically alter the state's pension system.

When we evaluated the ubiquitous pension narratives (Taibbi for a lengthy feature in Rolling Stone and Sirota for a report for a progressive think tank, the Institute for America's Future) we both found the same three problems.

One was that the legend of the lazy, budget-devouring public-sector employee as the cause of America's fiscal crises has in many cases been carefully manufactured by Wall-Street-funded organizations. Their goal is to pretend that modest retirement benefits are the cause of pension shortfalls. They promote this story even though data show that stock market declines from fraud in the financial services industry were most responsible for those shortfalls. The second problem is that the pension initiatives put forward by these reformers and the conservative politicians they back often propose moving America's public pension money into labyrinthine and extremely expensive "alternative investment" programs. This is done in the name of saving taxpayer money, even though these "alternative investments" involve fees paid to billionaire money managers that are often nearly as high as the cuts to public worker benefits. In many cases, that means little real savings for taxpayers and less income for retirees - but a huge payout to Wall Street.

The third and most disturbing thing we both found is that many states have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide the details of these pension reform plans. That means public workers are kept in the dark about where their money is being invested and about how much of their dwindling nest egg is being blown on fees for high-risk Manhattan hedge funds and private equity firms.

This secrecy is particularly alarming.

In more than a dozen states, legislators have enacted exemptions for hedge funds and other alternative investments to laws such as the Freedom of Information Act. Other states simply fail the transparency test. Rhode Island illustrates what that kind of thing means in practice. There, state Treasurer Gina Raimondo cited the need to protect Wall Street's proprietary information as a justification to hide the cost estimates of the new pension system she championed in 2012. Only after that system was ratified by the state Legislature did former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer Ted Siedle estimate that the reforms will take the roughly $2.3 billion cut to workers' cost-of-living adjustments over 20 years and use it to pay roughly $2.1 billion in new hedge-fund fees. Raimondo later relented and disclosed at least $70 million in fees for next year alone.

To justify retirement benefit cuts, reformers point to a 30-year, $1.38 trillion gap in state pension finances as supposed proof that states are broke. However, that annual $46 billion shortfall is small in comparison to the at least $80 billion that the New York Times estimates that states and cities spend each year on subsidies for corporations. But because these subsidies are often hidden, the Times notes that it remains impossible to "know the value of all (the) awards" or "how many jobs are created" from them.

Thanks to this lack of transparency, the result is preposterous trade-offs such as the following: Rhode Island giving an infamous $75 million loan guarantee to Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's doomed video-game company, while simultaneously pleading poverty and cutting retirement benefits for police and firefighters in the name of budget austerity.

Obviously, public pension shortfalls need to be addressed. But without transparency, pensioners cannot evaluate their retirement income prospects, journalists cannot accurately report on state budgets, and lawmakers cannot make informed decisions about pension legislation. That serves no one, except the wealthy special interests now profiting from an ongoing information vacuum.
(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 .

Tea Party Terrorists
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

By now all conscious people have seen how American Tea Party Republicans, especially those in the House of Representatives and Senate, are widely seen as radical, unreasonable, mad, stupid, extreme, anarchists, delusional and worse. My view is that the best and most useful way to see these people is this: They are political terrorists.

They have developed their own form of violence. They are filled with hatred. Sure, they see themselves as the only genuine US patriots, but that should not fool anyone. They can and do twist, undermine and distort provisions in the US Constitution. The power they now wield has been developed over many years by the actions of more mainstream Republicans, especially manipulating House districts through gerrymandering.

They are ready and willing to bring down the US government and even the global economy despite rhetoric often used to cloak their real goals with tactical objectives like ending Obamacare. The biggest mistake people make is not seeing just how fundamental, counter-democratic and nihilistic their real goals are. Nor should they be seen as legitimate Libertarians.

Face reality, these Tea Party terrorists in Congress did not work hard to go to Washington, DC to compromise and govern; they went to bring down the system. Their antics have amped up public discontent with the federal government. Fine, the terrorists surely love to see that result because they think it builds support for them. They do not want a government that works; they want a very different kind of government. Taking the oath of office for them is a farce. They see themselves as persecuted, when they should be prosecuted.

The core of their thinking is that their long term goals transcend everything seen by the rest of us as terrible near term consequences and pain. No matter how much harm is caused to many millions of people in the US and worldwide they are willing to pursue their beliefs. Tea Party zealots should be seen as revolutionaries trying to overthrow the US government, political system and economy, not figuratively but literally. Moreover, to the extent that there are elected Tea Party believers in both the House and Senate, their efforts are also akin to an attempted coup. Forget the notion that when the time comes these terrorists will act reasonably. They have the passion (or insanity) to go all the way.

The main irony is that this Tea Party revolution does not use guns, so widely held and defended by multitudes of Americans that many of us associate with those on the conservative right and with revolutions. But not all violence or revolutions require guns.

The absence of guns and explosives should not mislead the general public and media about the true nature of these political terrorists. What everyone should start fearing is what these terrorists may do in the future if they do not succeed very much in the immediate policy battles in the House and Senate. They are not likely to limp away. They are more likely to escalate their tactics. Some talk about the Tea Party movement becoming a national third political party, but I doubt this. These terrorists and subversives are unlikely to expend their energy on trying to convince the majority of Americans to more widely elect them to important positions rather than Republicans and Democrats. This is not the path for true revolutionaries. Politicians with very big egos and ambitions, like Senator Ted Cruz, are likely to distance themselves from the Tea Party at an appropriate time.

How can these political terrorists be defeated? One key action that has already begun is to remove funding for their many organizations. What we now see is that some of the billionaires on the right rightfully fear the collapse of the national and global economy that supports them. For self-preservation they act reasonably. This may not totally kill the Tea Party movement, but it can cripple its power and impact.

Second, we need more mainstream media focus on the true nature of the movement and, especially, how it undermines democracy and the US Constitution, and not merely as a fight between Democrats and Republicans with mainly short term objectives. In 2011 there was some legitimate use of the term terrorist. For example, William Yeomans said of some House members "they have now become full-blown terrorists;" "They have joined the villains of American history who have been sufficiently craven to inflict massive harm on innocent victims to achieve their political goals." Things have gotten a lot worse since 2011.

Third, we need more of the general public to openly express their denial and condemnation of the Tea Party movement. Sure, vote out congressional incumbents, but pay particular attention to Tea Party candidates that should be rejected. Fight for overturning gerrymandered districts.

I write this as the government shutdown continues and a few days before the debt ceiling hits with its feared default of federal payments. Even though more mainstream Republicans may step in, finally, and thwart Tea Party objectives, no one should stop despising and fearing the Tea Party movement. Sure, in any revolution there are casualties, but what this Tea Party movement is willing to sacrifice and harm is far too much to support. Yes, we need a Second American Revolution, but not one so driven by very stupid, obsessed and irrational people.
(c) 2013 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy =Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Dead Letter Office...

Reid relaxes on the shore of Lake Michigan and enjoys a fine Cuban Cigar,
a glass of Lime Kool Aid, and a bag of Koch Brother's bribes!

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Ribble,

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 tying the resolution of the lock down to gutting social security, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 11-30-2013. We salute you Herr Ribble, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Why Giving Republican Bullies A Bloody Nose Isn't Enough
By Robert Reich

Now is the time to lance the boil of Republican extremism once and for all.

Since Barack Obama became president, the extremists who have taken over the Republican Party have escalated their demands every time he's caved, using the entire government of the United States as their bargaining chit.

In 2010 he agreed to extend all of the Bush tax cuts through the end of 2012. Were they satisfied? Of course not.

In the summer of 2011, goaded by an influx of Tea Partiers, they demanded huge spending cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling. In response, the President offered an overly-generous $4 trillion "Grand Bargain," including cuts in Social Security and Medicare and whopping cuts in domestic spending (bringing it to its lowest level as a share of gross domestic product in over half a century).

Were Republicans content? No. When they demanded more, Obama agreed to a Super Committee to find bigger cuts, and if the Super Committee failed, a "sequester" that would automatically and indiscriminately slice everything in the federal budget except Social Security and Medicare.

Not even Obama's re-election put a damper on their increasing demands. By the end of 2012, they insisted that the Bush tax cuts be permanently extended or the nation would go over the "fiscal cliff." Once again, Obama caved, agreeing to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000.

Early this year, after the sequester went into effect, Republicans demanded even bigger spending cuts. Obama offered more cuts in Medicare and a "chained CPI" to reduce Social Security payments, in exchange for Republican concessions on taxes.

Refusing the offer, and seemingly delirious with their power to hold the nation hostage, they demanded that the Affordable Care Act be repealed as a condition for funding the government and again raising the debt ceiling.

This time, though, Obama didn't cave - at least, not yet.

The government is shuttered and the nation is on the verge of defaulting on its debts. But public opinion has turned sharply against the Republican Party. And the GOP's corporate and Wall Street backers are threatening to de-fund it.

Suddenly the Republicans are acting like the school-yard bully who terrorized the playground but finally got punched in the face. They're in shock. They're humiliated. They're trying to come up with ways of saving face.

With bloodied nose, House Republicans are running home. They've abruptly turned negotiations over to their Senate colleagues.

And just as suddenly, their demand to repeal or delay the Affordable Care Act has vanished. (An email from the group Tea Party Express says: "Are you like us wondering where the fight against Obamacare went?") At a lunch meeting in the Capitol, Senator John McCain asked a roomful of Republican senators if they still believed it was possible to reverse parts of the program. According to someone briefed on the meeting, no one raised a hand - not even Ted Cruz.

It appears that negotiations over the federal budget deficit are about to begin once again, and presumably Senate Republicans will insist that Obama and the Democrats give way on taxes and spending in exchange for reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling for at least another year.

But keeping the government running and paying the nation's bills should never have been bargaining chits in the first place, and the President and Democrats shouldn't begin to negotiate over future budgets until they're taken off the table.

The question is how thoroughly President Obama has learned that extortionist demands escalate if you give in to them.
(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.

In this image made from video released by WikiLeaks on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, former National Security Agency
systems analyst Edward Snowden, center, receives the Sam Adams Award in Moscow, Russia. Snowden was awarded the
Sam Adams Award, according to videos released by the organization WikiLeaks. The award ceremony was
attended by three previous recipients. Snowden, who is charged by a U.S. court with violating the Espionage Act
for disclosing the classified NSA programs, has been granted asylum in Russia. At right is
Raymond McGovern, a former CIA official, at left is former NSA executive Thomas Drake.

Snowden Showing Dangerous Symptoms Of Patriotism
President Obama says he welcomes the debate on post-9/11 surveillance of Americans and the world, but that debate was only made meaningful by the disclosures of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who was then indicted and sought asylum in Russia, where he just met with some ex-U.S. intelligence officials, including Ray McGovern.
By Ray McGovern

I've had a couple of days to reflect after arriving back from Moscow where my whistleblower colleagues Coleen Rowley, Jesselyn Radack, Tom Drake and I formally presented former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden with the annual Sam Adams Associates award for integrity in intelligence.

The thought that companioned me the entire time was the constant admonition of my Irish grandmother: "Show me your company, and I'll tell you who you are!" I cannot remember ever feeling so honored as I did by the company I kept over the past week.

That includes, of course, Snowden himself, WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison (and "remotely" Julian Assange) who, together with Russian civil rights lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, helped arrange the visit, and - last but not least - the 3,000 Internet transparency/privacy activists at OHM2013 near Amsterdam, whom Tom, Jesselyn, Coleen and I addressed in early August and who decided to crowd-source our travel. (See: "In the Whistleblower Chalet" by Silkie Carlo)

As representatives of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, we were in Moscow last Wednesday not only to honor Snowden with the award for integrity, but also to remind him (and ourselves) that we all stand on the shoulders of patriots who have gone before and pointed the way.

Because of speaking commitments he could not break, Pentagon Papers truth-teller Dan Ellsberg, whom Henry Kissinger called "the most dangerous man in America" and who in 1971 was vilified as acidly as Ed Snowden is being vilified now, could be with us only in spirit. He did send along with us for Ed the video of the award-winning documentary that uses Kissinger's epithet as its title, together with Dan's book Secrets, in which he had inscribed a very thoughtful note.

Ellsberg's note thanked Snowden for his adroit - and already partially successful - attempt to thwart what Snowden has called "turnkey tyranny," that is the terrifying prospect of a surveillance-driven government tyranny ready to go with the simple turn of a key.

Two at our table - Ed Snowden and Tom Drake - enjoy with Dan the dubious distinction of having been charged with espionage under the draconian Espionage Act of 1917 that is so much favored by the administration of President Barack Obama and other zealous protectors of the national security state and its multitude of secrets.

Call me naive, but I had no sense that I was cavorting with treasonous criminals. Rather, it seemed crystal clear that Ed Snowden is simply the current embodiment of people so castigated when they feel compelled to speak out, as Ed did, against gross violations of the Fourth Amendment.

Compelled? Well, yes, compelled. Those of us like Snowden, who took a solemn oath "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic" recognize that our oath has no "expiration date."

During interviews, I found it easy to put the Snowden disclosures into perspective regarding the seriousness of the Bush and Obama administration crimes against the Fourth Amendment by simply reciting that key part of our now-fractured Bill of Rights; it's just one sentence:

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

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper may be able to tell Congress with impunity (in his own words) "clearly erroneous" things, but neither he, nor his duplicitous sidekick NSA Director Keith Alexander, nor complicit Senators and Representatives, nor the President himself can easily bend the Fourth Amendment that far out of shape once people read the text.

And that, of course, explains why co-conspirators in Congress like House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein call the kettle black by branding Snowden a "traitor." And it is also why former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden and House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers indicate publicly, as they did two weeks ago, that they would like to see Snowden's name added to the infamous "Kill List" for the President's approval.

That list renders the Fifth Amendment "quaint and obsolete," the words used by George W. Bush's White House counsel Alberto Gonzales when troublesome legal restrictions might otherwise impinge on what the White House wished to do.

American Traditions

At our dinner with Ed Snowden, Coleen Rowley reminded him that his willingness to expose injustice fit in with a patriotic tradition modeled by Founders like Benjamin Franklin even before the American Revolution.

Coleen recounted how Benjamin Franklin got himself in deep trouble in 1773, when he acquired and released confidential letters from the British governor of Massachusetts to the Crown showing that the colonial authorities did not think the American colonists should enjoy the same rights as British citizens in England. Franklin was fired from his post as Postmaster General and called a traitor and every other name in the book - many of them the same epithets hurled at Snowden.

More poignant still was a reading from Albert Camus beautifully rendered aloud by Jesselyn Radack, who related some of Camus writings to Snowden's testimony (earlier read on his behalf by Jesselyn) to the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on Sept. 30.

Snowden wrote: "The work of a generation is beginning here, with your hearings, and you have the full measure of my gratitude and support."

What follows is how Jesselyn Radack presented the quotes from Camus:

Edward Snowden, you are in good company. "The Wager of Our Generation" is how Albert Camus described what you have called "The Work of a Generation," when he spoke of a similar challenge in 1957, the year he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And the similarity between Snowden and Camus does not end there. The official Nobel Prize citation praised Camus for "his clear-sighted earnestness illuminating the problems of the human conscience of our times."

In 1957, Camus expressed hope in "the quality of the new generation and its increased unwillingness to adopt slogans or ideologies and to return to more tangible values." He wrote: "We have nothing to lose except everything. So let's go ahead. This is the wager of our generation. If we are to fail, it is better, in any case, to have stood on the side of those who refuse to be dogs and are resolved to pay the price that must be paid so that man can be something more than a dog."

Camus rejected what he called the "the paltry privileges granted to those who adapt themselves to this world," adding that, "those individuals who refuse to give in will stand apart, and they must accept this. Personally, I have never wanted to stand apart. For there is a sort of solitude, which is certainly the harshest thing our era forces upon us. I feel its weight, believe me. But, nevertheless, I should not want to change eras, for I know and respect the greatness of this one. Moreover, I have always thought that the maximum danger implied the maximum hope."

In December 1957, the month he won the Nobel Prize, Camus strongly warned against inaction: "Remaining aloof has always been possible in history. When people did not approve, they could always keep silent or talk of something else. Today everything is changed and even silence has dangerous implications."

And concrete dangers - like "turnkey tyranny."

A key figure in the French Resistance, Camus in July 1943 published a "Letter to German Friend," which began as follows: "You said to me: 'The greatness of my country [Germany] is beyond price. Anything is good that contributes to its greatness. Those who, like us young Germans, are lucky enough to find a meaning in the destiny of our nation must sacrifice everything else.'

"'No,' I told you, 'I cannot believe that everything must be subordinate to a single end. There are means that cannot be excused. And I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don't want for my country a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive.' You retorted, 'Well, then you don't love your country.'"

Edward, that may have a familiar ring to you. But, of course, the truth is the very opposite. Let us take one more cue from Albert Camus, who emphasized that, "Truth needs witnesses."

We are honored, Edward, to be here at this time and place to be your witnesses. You have the full measure of our gratitude and support.

End of Jesselyn Radack's presentation.

People have been telling me how eloquent Ed Snowden was in responding to the award. And although DemocracyNow! hosted us for 40 minutes on Monday, we four did not have time to point to small, but significant, things like the fact Ed's remarks were totally ad lib; he did not know he would be asked to give remarks until I whispered it to him right after Tom Drake presented him with the traditional Sam Adams corner-brightener candlestick holder.

One of the things that impressed me most was Ed's emphasis on the "younger generation" he represents - typically those who have grown up with the Internet - who have (scarcely-fathomable-to-my-generation) technical expertise and equally remarkable dedication to keeping it free - AND have a conscience. My first personal exposure to the depth, breadth and importance of this critical mass of those often dismissed as "hackers" came at the OHM2013 conference outside of Amsterdam in early August.

The James Clappers and Keith Alexanders of this world simply CANNOT do what they see as their job of snooping on the lot of us on this planet without this incredibly talented and dedicated generation. They CANNOT; and so they are in deep kimchi. If only a small percentage of this young generation have the integrity and courage of an Ed Snowden, the prospect is dim that repressive measures in violation of citizens' rights previously taken for granted can succeed for very long without full disclosure.

That is the good news. And with each new Snowden-enabled disclosure of infringements on our liberties, it becomes more likely that an awakened public will create sustained pressure for restoration of our Constitutional rights, and for holding accountable those senior government officials who have crassly violated those rights, and continue to violate Ed Snowden's rights simply because he made it possible for us to know the truth.
(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.

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~~~ Rob Rogers ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

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Parting Shots...

New Poll Finds Americans View Death Of Close Relative More Favorably Than Congress

WASHINGTON-According to a poll released Friday by the Pew Research Center, the favorability rating of the U.S. Congress has sunk so low that the legislative body is now looked upon more negatively than the death of a close relative.

"When asked whether they would prefer to select a casket for their child or endure the forthcoming congressional showdown over the debt ceiling, 89 percent of Americans said they would rather bury their own offspring," said Pew spokesperson Diana Shostak, adding that the figure went up to 96 percent when it was specified that the political brinksmanship could go on for weeks without a single piece of legislation ever making it to the floor for a goddamn up-or-down vote.

"Watching one's grandmother weep uncontrollably at the impending death of her husband of 60 years, having the agonizing conversation about whether to pull the plug on his life support unit, and looking on as he gasps for his final breaths—these situations all enjoyed higher approval ratings than any individual member of the House or Senate." The poll also found that the prospect of suffering one's own death by slow asphyxiation was viewed four times more favorably than anything having to do with filibusters.
(c) 2013 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 40 (c) 10/18/2013

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