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In This Edition

Tom Engelhardt examines, "Why Washington Just Can't Stop Making War."

Uri Avnery explains, "The Descenders."

Glen Ford answers, "Who Sank Detroit - The 'Hip Hop Mayor' Or Wall Street?"

William Rivers Pitt sees, "America On Fire."

Jim Hightower watches as, "Wall Street Magicians Make Reform Disappear."

David Swanson reveals, "Awkwardest And Most Authoritative Ever Comments On Drones."

James Donahue is, "Repairing Our Broken Government."

John Nichols warns, "Beware Of Paul Ryan's Lose-A-Battle, Win-A-War Strategy."

Chris Hedges with an absolute must read, "Let's Get This Class War Started."

Greg Palast explores, "Naughty Nuns, Bad Bankers And Ballot Bandits."

Paul Krugman reviews, "Lousy Medicaid Arguments."

David Sirota finds, "Huge Number, Tiny Punishment."

Medea Benjamin reports, "$40 Million Allocated For Drone Victims Never Reaches Them."

Illinois Senator Dick (The Dick) Durbin wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich warns of the caveman caving, "What To Expect During The Cease-Fire."

Norman Solomon tells why, "Why Snowden's Passport Matters."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion announces, "God Reveals He Occasionally Eats Humans" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Then They Came For Me."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Sack, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Lalo Alcaraz, Zach Roberts, Llloyd Dangle, Karen Mallonee, Carolyn Kaster, Fred R. Conrad, Bans Weaponized Drones.Org, Motivated Photos.Com, Internationaltimes.It, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Flickr, NSFW Corp, The White House, Reuters, AP, The New York Times, 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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Then They Came For Me....
By Ernest Stewart

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
First They Came ~~~ Martin-Niemoller ~ 1937

"Today it is becoming harder to speak out, with the inception of the Patriot Act, the president has legislated free speech to be a crime." ~~~ Frank Serpico

"We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is." ~~~ Congressman Marlin Stutzman, R.-Ind.

"How would your life be different if... You decided to give freely, love fully, and play feverously? Let today be the day... You free yourself from the conditioned rules that limit your happiness and dilute the beautiful life experience. Have fun. Give - Love - Play!" ~~~ Steve Maraboli

I see where Fatherland Security, oops, Homeland Security is getting ready to stop the riots in New York City that they expect to happen on November first, when Barry steals part of everyone's food stamps to give to the 1%. HLS has gone so far as to spend an extra $80,000,000 to prepare for the riots -- and the following Marshal law from the teeming masses of hungry people.

I rather doubt there'll be any food riots, at least this time around, over what will average as an eleven dollar loss; but, with what Ryan, Boner, and company have up their sleeves, along with 5th column Demoncrats like Dick Durbin, that day may not be too far off. Most folks will replace their meals by buying extra Obama Noodle packs, er, Ramen Noodle packs; no, I like Obama Noodles; it is, after all, an old American tradition to nickname Presidential faux pas -- like they did when tens of thousands of folks set up housekeeping on the Anacostia flats in Washington DC in what they called Hooverville; this was just one of 100's set up coast-to-coast for people who lost everything during Hoover's Great Depression! You may recall, Hoover called out the Army -- a large force led by "Doug-out" Doug MacArthur, with George Patton sending his tank battalion right through the camp, while Dwight David Eisenhower got his only combat experience leading the calvary charge that preceded the tanks into some 15,000 unarmed men women and children. After Barry gets his Grand Bargain and cuts off tens of millions, I'd watch out for such riots!

No money for food stamps; but $80 million to prepare for the reactions of a lot of hungry people. Of course; we'll all pay in the end with higher taxes, higher costs at the supermarkets, from less money spent on groceries, and more groceries stolen to make up for the missing food stamps which weren't enough in the first place; they'll be raising their prices to make up for it; and will, no doubt, lay off some folks, as well.

This whole thing's been in the works for years; and, this time, will just be a dry run to work out the kinks from the system -- like what happened to black folks in New Orleans after Katrina. You'll recall they got sent off to Happy Camps to work out the logistics. We're very near that time when the round-ups will begin. Homeland Security didn't buy those 1.2 billion rounds of ammo or build all those new Happy Camps for nothing. They have plans for both; and will, no doubt, put those plans into action. All they need is an excuse; and, one way or the other, they'll get it before too long!

In Other News

It was 12 years ago, October 26, 2001 when PNAC, the RNC, the Crime Family Bush, and their 1% masters signed into a law a bill that began the rapid theft of our rights, and began the the total destruction of the Bill of Rights! That was the day Con-gress passed that act of treason called the "Patriot Act;" don't you just love American euphemisms? For example, Operation Steal The Oil was called Operation Iraqi Liberation. I wonder if the remaining Iraqis feel liberated....

This Saturday being the 12 anniversary of the Traitors Act, there'll be demonstrations against the Patriots Act and its offspring, the NSA, spying on Americans in Washington DC. Here's the info if you'd like to go...

As the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees plan upcoming hearings on U.S. surveillance programs and data collection, the StopWatching.Us coalition today announced that it will bring thousands to the nation's capital to demand surveillance law reform. This mass action on Saturday, October 26, will bring together over 3,500 people to demand Congress investigate the NSA's mass surveillance programs, institute needed reforms, and hold responsible parties accountable for misleading lawmakers and the American people. The StopWatching.Us petition signed by over 500,000 will be delivered during this historic rally for surveillance reform to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the USA PATRIOT Act.





Stop Watching Us: Rally Against Mass Surveillance


12pm - 12:30pm: Gathering and Pre-Rally at Columbus Circle

12:30 - 1:30pm: March to Capitol Hill Reflecting Pool

1:30pm - 3pm: Rally at Capitol Hill Reflecting Pool


Thomas Drake, former NSA senior executive, US Air Force and Navy veteran, computer software expert, and whistleblower

Governor Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate

Dennis Kucinich, former Member of Congress and two time Presidential Candidate

Bruce Schneier, security technologist and fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and author of 12 books, including "Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World"

Naomi Wolf, author, critic, activist, and co-founder of The American Freedom Campaign

Lt. Dan Choi, Iraq veteran who fought for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Rainey Reitman, activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Laura W. Murphy, director of the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union

Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press

Shahid Butler, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Khalilah Barnes, Administrative Law Counsel at Electronic Privacy Information Center

Kymone Freeman, director of the National Black LUV Fest

YACHT, Los Angeles-based conceptual pop group

Malachi Byrd, member of the DC Youth Poetry Slam Team

Black Alley, DC-based "soul-garage" band

Wafa Ben Hassine, writer and human rights advocate

Not4Prophet, Hip Hop MC, political Punk Rocker, graffiti writer, and community organizer

The StopWatching.Us coalition, which The Atlantic Wire called "perhaps the most diverse collection of groups in the modern history of American politics," is comprised of more than 100 organizations, companies, and public figures. Coalition members include Access, ACLU, Ben & Jerry's, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Code Pink, Demand Progress, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), EFF, Fight for the Future, Free Press, FreedomWorks, Generation Opportunity, the Libertarian Party, Mozilla, Public Knowledge, reddit, Restore the Fourth, Students for Liberty, ThoughtWorks and Young Americans for Liberty.

To speak to a rally organizer, or a member of the coalition, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.716.1953 or

More information about the rally is available on the StopWatching.Us coalition website,

If you're going, drop me a line, and give me your perspective on it!

And Finally

In about seven weeks, we'll know the true cost of the tea-bagger shutdown. That's when another panel of Rethuglican and Demoncrat Sinators and Con-gressmen will bargin our rights away in order to give more tax breaks to the 1%. If Barry's said it once, he's said it 100 times, viz., he's more than willing to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block for his "Grand Bargain!" Most folks think the only thing standing between Barry and our sellout is the Demoncratically-controlled Sinate. That certainly isn't the case (actually it's been the Rethuglicans that have so far refused to sign on to it), as this week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner Sinator Dick (the Dick) Durbin proudly announced last Sunday on Fox Spews. Dick's all ready for the Grand Bargain, and made that clear to Fox host Chris Wallace. Dick told these lies with a straight face. You may be familiar with these lies as they've been told in one form of the other by the 1% and their minions since the 1980s.

"Social Security is gonna run out of money in 20 years. The Baby Boom generation is gonna blow away our future. We don't wanna see that happen."

Social Security, even though it's been robbed of $ trillions over the years to pay for pet pork projects, has over $2,000,000,000,000 in surplus, and could be easily fixed to where it could pay out even more -- so that even the poor had a livable wage by simply taking the top limit off of the taxes so the that the millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share, too, instead of stopping the tax at $113,700. That, all by itself, would pay us up through the next century and beyond.

Just ask your Con-gressman or Sinator why they want to cut Social Security and Medicare. Let them know that you know that neither of them have anything what-so-ever to do with the budget, as they pay for themselves; why does he or she want to steal from the elderly, sick, poor and hungry? Just be prepared for a song and a dance of Hollywood proportions and lies like you never heard before; but don't you buy it for a nano-second. Let then know you know the truth, and payback will be a bitch if they dare to do it! Otherwise, those neoliberal Demoncrats will join with their neoconservative pals and rob us of the little we have left!

Keepin' On

Got dem ole, "Mother Hubbard Blues" again, ya'll! Went to the cupboard to fetch another bone; but the cupboard like our PO Box was empty again; and it couldn't happen at a worse time! We're still $700 short of paying the bills for the year and time is running out; so, needless to say, a little help, if you would be so kind!

We've had to raise money since my bank account ran out back in 2004 to the tune of about $12,000 a year -- half of which is picked up from our sponsors, which leaves the other half of the bill to ya'll. So far, we've just gotten by because the readership is behind what we do. No one here, including yours truly, makes a nickel out of anything connected to the magazine and its archives. Most of us do it because we have to, because nobody else will; and it needs to be done!

If knowing what the truth is is important for you and yours in this day and age, as this country goes to hell in a hand-basket, then you might want to keep us fighting for the truth, and for you. We are not owned or operated by any 1% puppet masters; there is no spin -- no song and dance, no smoke and mirrors, just the unvarnished, un-polished truth -- deal with it. If that peaks your interest, then please send us what-ever you can, when-ever you can, and we'll keep fighting the good fight!


01-23-1932 ~ 10-20-2013
Thanks for the films!

01-29-1934 ~ 10-20-2013
Thanks for the films and the music!


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.

As the US military builds the most sophisticated (and expensive) 'blowback machine' in
world history, Engelhardt explores the age-old question: What planet are we living on?

Why Washington Just Can't Stop Making War
The US 'Blowback Machine' and the coming era of tiny wars and micro-conflicts
By Tom Engelhardt

In terms of pure projectable power, there's never been anything like it. Its military has divided the world -- the whole planet -- into six "commands." Its fleet, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups, rules the seas and has done so largely unchallenged for almost seven decades. Its Air Force has ruled the global skies, and despite being almost continuously in action for years, hasn't faced an enemy plane since 1991 or been seriously challenged anywhere since the early 1970s. Its fleet of drone aircraft has proven itself capable of targeting and killing suspected enemies in the backlands of the planet from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia with little regard for national boundaries, and none at all for the possibility of being shot down. It funds and trains proxy armies on several continents and has complex aid and training relationships with militaries across the planet. On hundreds of bases, some tiny and others the size of American towns, its soldiers garrison the globe from Italy to Australia, Honduras to Afghanistan, and on islands from Okinawa in the Pacific Ocean to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Its weapons makers are the most advanced on Earth and dominate the global arms market. Its nuclear weaponry in silos, on bombers, and on its fleet of submarines would be capable of destroying several planets the size of Earth. Its system of spy satellites is unsurpassed and unchallenged. Its intelligence services can listen in on the phone calls or read the emails of almost anyone in the world from top foreign leaders to obscure insurgents. The CIA and its expanding paramilitary forces are capable of kidnapping people of interest just about anywhere from rural Macedonia to the streets of Rome and Tripoli. For its many prisoners, it has set up (and dismantled) secret jails across the planet and on its naval vessels. It spends more on its military than the next most powerful 13 states combined. Add in the spending for its full national security state and it towers over any conceivable group of other nations.

In terms of advanced and unchallenged military power, there has been nothing like the U.S. armed forces since the Mongols swept across Eurasia. No wonder American presidents now regularly use phrases like "the finest fighting force the world has ever known" to describe it. By the logic of the situation, the planet should be a pushover for it. Lesser nations with far lesser forces have, in the past, controlled vast territories. And despite much discussion of American decline and the waning of its power in a "multi-polar" world, its ability to pulverize and destroy, kill and maim, blow up and kick down has only grown in this new century.

No other nation's military comes within a country mile of it. None has more than a handful of foreign bases. None has more than two aircraft carrier battle groups. No potential enemy has such a fleet of robotic planes. None has more than 60,000 special operations forces. Country by country, it's a hands-down no-contest. The Russian (once "Red") army is a shadow of its former self. The Europeans have not rearmed significantly. Japan's "self-defense" forces are powerful and slowly growing, but under the U.S. nuclear "umbrella." Although China, regularly identified as the next rising imperial state, is involved in a much-ballyhooed military build-up, with its one aircraft carrier (a retread from the days of the Soviet Union), it still remains only a regional power.

Despite this stunning global power equation, for more than a decade we have been given a lesson in what a military, no matter how overwhelming, can and (mostly) can't do in the twenty-first century, in what a military, no matter how staggeringly advanced, does and (mostly) does not translate into on the current version of planet Earth.

A Destabilization Machine

Let's start with what the U.S. can do. On this, the recent record is clear: it can destroy and destabilize. In fact, wherever U.S. military power has been applied in recent years, if there has been any lasting effect at all, it has been to destabilize whole regions.

Back in 2004, almost a year and a half after American troops had rolled into a Baghdad looted and in flames, Amr Mussa, the head of the Arab League, commented ominously, "The gates of hell are open in Iraq." Although for the Bush administration, the situation in that country was already devolving, to the extent that anyone paid attention to Mussa's description, it seemed over the top, even outrageous, as applied to American-occupied Iraq. Today, with the latest scientific estimate of invasion- and war-caused Iraqi deaths at a staggering 461,000, thousands more a year still dying there, and with Syria in flames, it seems something of an understatement.

It's now clear that George W. Bush and his top officials, fervent fundamentalists when it came to the power of U.S. military to alter, control, and dominate the Greater Middle East (and possibly the planet), did launch the radical transformation of the region. Their invasion of Iraq punched a hole through the heart of the Middle East, sparking a Sunni-Shiite civil war that has now spread catastrophically to Syria, taking more than 100,000 lives there. They helped turn the region into a churning sea of refugees, gave life and meaning to a previously nonexistent al-Qaeda in Iraq (and now a Syrian version of the same), and left the country drifting in a sea of roadside bombs and suicide bombers, and threatened, like other countries in the region, with the possibility of splitting apart.

And that's just a thumbnail sketch. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about destabilization in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have been on the ground for almost 12 years and counting; Pakistan, where a CIA-run drone air campaign in its tribal borderlands has gone on for years as the country grew ever shakier and more violent; Yemen (ditto), as an outfit called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula grew ever stronger; or Somalia, where Washington repeatedly backed proxy armies it had trained and financed, and supported outside incursions as an already destabilized country came apart at the seams and the influence of al-Shabab, an increasingly radical and violent insurgent Islamic group, began to seep across regional borders. The results have always been the same: destabilization.

Consider Libya where, no longer enamored with boots-on-the-ground interventions, President Obama sent in the Air Force and the drones in 2011 in a bloodless intervention (unless, of course, you were on the ground) that helped topple Muammar Qaddafi, the local autocrat and his secret-police-and-prisons regime, and launched a vigorous young democracy... oh, wait a moment, not quite. In fact, the result, which, unbelievably enough, came as a surprise to Washington, was an increasingly damaged country with a desperately weak central government, a territory controlled by a range of militias -- some Islamic extremist in nature -- an insurgency and war across the border in neighboring Mali (thanks to an influx of weaponry looted from Qaddafi's vast arsenals), a dead American ambassador, a country almost incapable of exporting its oil, and so on.

Libya was, in fact, so thoroughly destabilized, so lacking in central authority that Washington recently felt free to dispatch U.S. Special Operations forces onto the streets of its capital in broad daylight in an operation to snatch up a long-sought terrorist suspect, an act which was as "successful" as the toppling of the Qaddafi regime and, in a similar manner, further destabilized a government that Washington still theoretically backed. (Almost immediately afterward, the prime minister found himself briefly kidnapped by a militia unit as part of what might have been a coup attempt.)

Wonders of the Modern World

If the overwhelming military power at the command of Washington can destabilize whole regions of the planet, what, then, can't such military power do? On this, the record is no less clear and just as decisive. As every significant U.S. military action of this new century has indicated, the application of military force, no matter in what form, has proven incapable of achieving even Washington's most minimal goals of the moment.

Consider this one of the wonders of the modern world: pile up the military technology, pour money into your armed forces, outpace the rest of the world, and none of it adds up to a pile of beans when it comes to making that world act as you wish. Yes, in Iraq, to take an example, Saddam Hussein's regime was quickly "decapitated," thanks to an overwhelming display of power and muscle by the invading Americans. His state bureaucracy was dismantled, his army dismissed, an occupying authority established backed by foreign troops, soon ensconced on huge multibillion-dollar military bases meant to be garrisoned for generations, and a suitably "friendly" local government installed.

And that's where the Bush administration's dreams ended in the rubble created by a set of poorly armed minority insurgencies, terrorism, and a brutal ethnic/religious civil war. In the end, almost nine years after the invasion and despite the fact that the Obama administration and the Pentagon were eager to keep U.S. troops stationed there in some capacity, a relatively weak central government refused, and they departed, the last representatives of the greatest power on the planet slipping away in the dead of night. Left behind among the ruins of historic ziggurats were the "ghost towns" and stripped or looted U.S. bases that were to be our monuments in Iraq.

Today, under even more extraordinary circumstances, a similar process seems to be playing itself out in Afghanistan -- another spectacle of our moment that should amaze us. After almost 12 years there, finding itself incapable of suppressing a minority insurgency, Washington is slowly withdrawing its combat troops, but wants to leave behind on the giant bases we've built perhaps 10,000 "trainers" for the Afghan military and some Special Operations forces to continue the hunt for al-Qaeda and other terror types.

For the planet's sole superpower, this, of all things, should be a slam dunk. At least the Iraqi government had a certain strength of its own (and the country's oil wealth to back it up). If there is a government on Earth that qualifies for the term "puppet," it should be the Afghan one of President Hamid Karzai. After all, at least 80% (and possibly 90%) of that government's expenses are covered by the U.S. and its allies, and its security forces are considered incapable of carrying on the fight against the Taliban and other insurgent outfits without U.S. support and aid. If Washington were to withdraw totally (including its financial support), it's hard to imagine that any successor to the Karzai government would last long.

How, then, to explain the fact that Karzai has refused to sign a future bilateral security pact long in the process of being hammered out? Instead, he recently denounced U.S. actions in Afghanistan, as he had repeatedly done in the past, claimed that he simply would not ink the agreement, and began bargaining with U.S. officials as if he were the leader of the planet's other superpower.

A frustrated Washington had to dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry on a sudden mission to Kabul for some top-level face-to-face negotiations. The result, a reported 24-hour marathon of talks and meetings, was hailed as a success: problem(s) solved. Oops, all but one. As it turned out, it was the very same one on which the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq stumbled -- Washington's demand for legal immunity from local law for its troops. In the end, Kerry flew out without an assured agreement.

Making Sense of War in the Twenty-First Century

Whether the U.S. military does or doesn't last a few more years in Afghanistan, the blunt fact is this: the president of one of the poorest and weakest countries on the planet, himself relatively powerless, is essentially dictating terms to Washington -- and who's to say that, in the end, as in Iraq, U.S. troops won't be forced to leave there as well?

Once again, military strength has not carried the day. Yet military power, advanced weaponry, force, and destruction as tools of policy, as ways to create a world in your own image or to your own taste, have worked plenty well in the past. Ask those Mongols, or the European imperial powers from Spain in the sixteenth century to Britain in the nineteenth century, which took their empires by force and successfully maintained them over long periods.

What planet are we now on? Why is it that military power, the mightiest imaginable, can't overcome, pacify, or simply destroy weak powers, less than impressive insurgency movements, or the ragged groups of (often tribal) peoples we label as "terrorists"? Why is such military power no longer transformative or even reasonably effective? Is it, to reach for an analogy, like antibiotics? If used for too long in too many situations, does a kind of immunity build up against it?

Let's be clear here: such a military remains a powerful potential instrument of destruction, death, and destabilization. For all we know -- it's not something we've seen anything of in these years -- it might also be a powerful instrument for genuine defense. But if recent history is any guide, what it clearly cannot be in the twenty-first century is a policymaking instrument, a means of altering the world to fit a scheme developed in Washington. The planet itself and people just about anywhere on it seem increasingly resistant in ways that take the military off the table as an effective superpower instrument of state.

Washington's military plans and tactics since 9/11 have been a spectacular train wreck. When you look back, counterinsurgency doctrine, resuscitated from the ashes of America's defeat in Vietnam, is once again on the scrap heap of history. (Who today even remembers its key organizing phrase -- "clear, hold, and build" -- which now looks like the punch line for some malign joke?) "Surges," once hailed as brilliant military strategy, have already disappeared into the mists. "Nation-building," once a term of tradecraft in Washington, is in the doghouse. "Boots on the ground," of which the U.S. had enormous numbers and still has 51,000 in Afghanistan, are now a no-no. The American public is, everyone universally agrees, "exhausted" with war. Major American armies arriving to fight anywhere on the Eurasian continent in the foreseeable future? Don't count on it.

But lessons learned from the collapse of war policy? Don't count on that, either. It's clear enough that Washington still can't fully absorb what's happened. Its faith in war remains remarkably unbroken in a century in which military power has become the American political equivalent of a state religion. Our leaders are still high on the counterterrorism wars of the future, even as they drown in their military efforts of the present. Their urge is still to rejigger and reimagine what a deliverable military solution would be.

Now the message is: skip those boots en masse -- in fact, cut down on their numbers in the age of the sequester -- and go for the counterterrorism package. No more spilling of (American) blood. Get the "bad guys," one or a few at a time, using the president's private army, the Special Operations forces, or his private air force, the CIA's drones. Build new barebones micro-bases globally. Move those aircraft carrier battle groups off the coast of whatever country you want to intimidate.

It's clear we're entering a new period in terms of American war making. Call it the era of tiny wars, or micro-conflicts, especially in the tribal backlands of the planet.

So something is indeed changing in response to military failure, but what's not changing is Washington's preference for war as the option of choice, often of first resort. What's not changing is the thought that, if you can just get your strategy and tactics readjusted correctly, force will work. (Recently, Washington was only saved from plunging into another predictable military disaster in Syria by an offhand comment of Secretary of State John Kerry and the timely intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin.)

What our leaders don't get is the most basic, practical fact of our moment: war simply doesn't work, not big, not micro -- not for Washington. A superpower at war in the distant reaches of this planet is no longer a superpower ascendant but one with problems.

The U.S. military may be a destabilization machine. It may be a blowback machine. What it's not is a policymaking or enforcement machine.
(c) 2013 Tom Engelhardt is co-founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

The Descenders
By Uri Avnery

THOSE WHO are interested in the history of the Crusades ask themselves: what brought about the Crusaders' downfall? Looking at the remnants of their proud fortresses all over the country, we wonder.

The traditional answer is: their defeat in the battle of the Horns of Hattin, twin hills near the Lake of Galilee, in 1187, by the great Muslim Sultan Salah ad-Din (Saladin).

However, the Crusader state lived on in Palestine and the surroundings for another hundred years.

The most authoritative historian of the Crusades, the late Steven Runciman, gave a completely different answer: the Crusader kingdom collapsed because too many Crusaders returned to their ancestral homelands, while too few came to join the Crusaders. In the end, the last remnants were thrown into the sea (literally).

THERE ARE vast differences between the Crusader state that existed in this country for two hundred years and the present State of Israel, but there are also some striking similarities. That's why their history always attracted me.

Lately I was reminded of Runciman's conclusion because of the sudden interest of our media in the phenomenon of emigration. Some comments bordered on hysteria.

The reasons for this are two. First, a TV network reported on Israeli descenders abroad, second, the award of the Nobel chemistry prize to two ex-Israelis. Both caused much hand-wringing.

"Descenders" (Yordim) is the Hebrew term for emigrants. People coming to live in Israel are called "ascenders" (Olim), a term akin to pilgrims. Probably the word has something to do with the fact that Jerusalem is located on a hill surrounded on all sides by valleys, so that you have to "go up" to reach it. But of course there is an ideological Zionist connotation to the terms.

Before the founding of our state and during its first few decades, we saw ourselves as a heroic society, struggling against great odds, fighting several wars. People leaving us were looked upon as deserters, like soldiers running away from their unit during a battle. Yitzhak Rabin called them "trash".

What made the TV story so frightening was that it showed ordinary middle-class young Israeli families settling for good in Berlin, London and New Jersey. Some of their children were already speaking foreign languages, abandoning Hebrew. Terrible.

Until lately, "descending" was mostly attributed to misfits, lower-class people and others who could not find their place in ordinary society. But here were normal, well-educated young couples, Israeli-born, speaking good Hebrew. Their general complaint - sounding rather like an apology - was that they could not "end the month" in Israel, that their middle-class salaries did not suffice for a decent living, because salaries are too low and prices too high. They singled out the prices of apartments. The price of an apartment in Tel Aviv is equivalent to 120 months' average middle class income.

However, sober research showed that emigration has actually decreased during the last few years. Polls show that the majority of Israelis, including even a majority of Arab citizens, are satisfied with their economic situation - more than in most European nations.

THE SECOND reason for hysteria was the award of the Nobel Prize to two American Chemistry professors who were educated in Israel, one of them born in a Kibbutz.

Israel is immensely proud of its Nobel laureates. Relative to the size of the country, their number is indeed extraordinary.

Many Jews are deeply convinced that the Jewish intellect is superior to that of any other people. Theories about this abound. One of them is that in medieval times, European intellectuals were mostly celibate monks who did not bequeath their genes to any offspring. In Jewish communities, the opposite happened: the rich were proud to marry their daughters to especially gifted Torah scholars, allowing their genes to start life in privileged circumstances.

Yet here were these two scholars who left Israel decades ago to graze in foreign meadows, continuing their research in prestigious American universities.

In former years, they would have been called traitors. Now they only cause profound soul-searching. One of the two had left Israel because the highly-regarded Weizmann Institute did not offer him a professorship. Why did we let him go? What about all the others?

Actually, this is not a specifically Israeli problem. Brain-flight is taking place all over the world. An ambitious scientist longs for the best of laboratories, the most prestigious university. Young minds from all over the world flock to the US. Israelis are no exception.

We have good universities. Three of them figure somewhere on the list of the world's hundred best. But who can resist the temptations of Harvard or MIT?

THE SUDDEN disillusion caused Israelis to take a hard look at Israeli academia. It appears that our standards are slipping all along the line. Our universities are under-funded by the government, the number of professors and their quality decreasing. High-school students are slipping in their exams.


Immense funds are swallowed by the army, whose demands grow from year to year, though our security situation is improving all the time.

Our eternal occupation of the Palestinian territories is a drain on our meager resources. So are the settlements, of course. Our government invests in them huge sums of money. The exact amounts are a state secret.

In the long run, a small country with limited resources cannot sustain a huge army, as well as an occupation regime and hundreds of settlements, without depriving everything else. One single fighter plane costs more than a school or a hospital or a laboratory.

BUT MY worry about emigration is not limited to material considerations.

People do not leave for material reasons only. They may think that they are emigrating because life in Berlin is cheaper than in Tel Aviv, apartments easier to find, salaries higher. But it is not only the strength of the attraction of foreign lands that counts - it is also the strength or weakness of the bond to the homeland.

In the years when "descenders" were considered trash, we were proud of being Israeli. During the fifties and sixties, whenever I presented my Israeli passport at any border control, I felt good. Israel was viewed with admiration throughout the world, not least by our enemies.

I believe that it is a basic human right to be proud of one's society, one's country. People belong to nations. Even in today's global village, most people need the sense of belonging to a certain place, a certain people. No one wants to be ashamed of them.

Today, when presenting his passport, an Israeli feels no such pride. He may feel a sense of contrariness ("us against the whole world"), but he or she is conscious of his country being considered by many as an apartheid state, oppressing another people. Every person abroad has seen countless photos of heavily armed Israel soldiers confronting Palestinian women and children. Nothing to be proud of.

This is not a subject anyone ever speaks of. But it is there. And it is bound to get worse.

Jewish Israelis are already a minority in the country ruled by Israel, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. The majority of subjects deprived of all rights is growing by the year. Oppression will necessarily grow. The image of Israel throughout the world will get worse. Pride in Israel will fade.

ONE EFFECT is already becoming obvious.

A prestigious recent poll conducted among American Jews shows a marked loosening of the attachment young Jews there feel for Israel.

The American Jewish scene is dominated by elderly professional leaders who were never elected by anyone. They exert immense power over American political life, but their influence in their own community is slipping. Young Jewish Americans are no longer proud of Israel. Some of them are ashamed.

These young Jews do not, in general, stand up to protest. They are afraid of providing ammunition to the anti-Semites. They are also educated from childhood that we Jews must stand together against the Goyim who want to destroy us.

So, instead of raising their voice, they keep quiet, leave their communities, disappear from sight. But this process can be utterly disastrous for Israel, Our leaders rely completely on the stranglehold they have on American politicians. If these perceive that the Jewish support of Israel is diminishing, they will be quick to liberate themselves.

THERE IS another aspect to the Zionist part of the equation.

Zionism is supposed to bring Jews to Israel. That is what it is all about. But Zionism can be a two-way street.

Israel declares itself to be "the State of the Jewish People". Jews all over the world are considered de facto Israeli nationals. But if there is no basic difference between a Jew in Haifa and a Jew in Hamburg, why stay in Haifa when life in Hamburg seems to be so much better?

I have campaigned for decades to exchange Zionist theology for a simple Israeli patriotism. Perhaps the time has finally come to do so - after turning Israel into a country we can be proud of again.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Who Sank Detroit - The 'Hip Hop Mayor' Or Wall Street?
By Glen Ford

Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit's former "Hip Hop Mayor," emerged from behind bars last week, just long enough to be re-embedded in the public mind as the burly, 6'4" personification of all that is wrong with "urban" - i.e. Black - America. The judge sentenced him to 28 years on two dozen counts of racketeering, extortion, bribery and fraud that may have cost the city some tens of millions of dollars during his eight years in office. Yet, the mega-swindle of his career, the $1.4 billion derivatives deal that that could cost Detroit twice that much over the next two decades and represents one-fifth of the city's total obligations to creditors, appears nowhere in the indictment or sentencing.

In the twisted world of finance-dominated, late-stage capitalism, the 2005 ultra-complex interest rates swap-plus-loans monstrosity that Kilpatrick arranged with Wall Street banks was perfectly legal - as is the convoluted derivatives scheme that Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr plans to submit to a bankruptcy court on behalf of Detroit's unwilling residents, next week - a formula for the banks to swallow Detroit's assets whole.

Kilpatrick's greatest crime against the people of Detroit was committed in league with - or rather, under the detailed and exquisite direction of - Wall Street, and was, therefore, not deemed to be a crime, at all. But the resulting insolvency of a major city requires a Black villain - a Wanted Poster Child, if you will. Kilpatrick fits the bill, the self-made stereotype of Black political venality, perfectly crafted for white supremacist consumption.

On the day of his sentencing, the New York Times ran an article that skillfully blurred the relatively more minor crimes for which Kilpatrick was convicted, with the fiscally fatal 2005 derivatives deal, for which he and his Wall Street co-conspirators remain legally blameless. The Times might as well have run a riff on the old Dixie headline: "Black Buck Runs Amuk: Major City Destroyed by Negro Rule." The story gives the impression that Kilpatrick was finally facing the music for his interest rate swap sins in "a corruption scandal so vast that prosecutors say it helped accelerate Detroit's march toward bankruptcy." Nothing could be further from the truth. The ex-mayor won't serve a day for his financial instruments chicanery (for which he was feted on Wall Street and given an award - see the picture at top). Eight years later, Kilpatrick's derivatives pact with the devils of Wall Street is slated to morph into Kevyn Orr's derivatives deal and payout to the same parties - leaving a foreign bank in line for possession of everything of value in the city.

In the United States, racism has always been the bankers' best friend. Mass white supremacism is what put Euro-Americans to "flight" from perfectly good housing in places like Detroit, two generations ago, creating vast "economic development" possibilities in the farmlands surrounding the urban core. The advent of (white) suburbia changed the relationship of housing to the overall economy in the United States, with the banks as the primary beneficiaries.

White racism also allowed Wall Street to impose a subprime mortgage regime on virtually every Black neighborhood in the United States, across the whole spectrum of African American income earners. Years before the housing bubble finally burst, Detroit, by far the Blackest big city in the country, had been irreversibly stripped of its tax base. The Black Buck didn't run amuk - white men in lower Manhattan and the City of London did.

However, the Black Misleadership Class are perfect foils for the Lords of Capital. Deeply in thrall of power and money, they become helplessly drunk in the presence of banksters. Jefferson County, Alabama, commission president Larry Langford, the former mayor of Birmingham, sank the county in a cesspool of derivatives deals, finally resulting in bankruptcy in 2011. Langford was sentenced to 15 years in prison, not for his scheming with the likes JP Morgan, but for other scams involving criminals of only middling wealth.

Langford and Kilpatrick were no more capable of fashioning the fiscal time bombs that blew up their jurisdictions than were Miami's Liberty City Seven capable of bringing down the Sears Tower. Derivatives are creatures of Wall Street, designed by the bankers that market them for sale to other bankers or to whatever non-banking fools that can be lured into the instruments' deadly coils, where the victims marinate. The Lords of Capital are preparing for a feast, such as the nation has never seen. But the feeding frenzy cannot begin in earnest until the supporting political narrative is firmly in place. This being America, the justification is ready-made: The irresponsible, profligate, corruption-prone Blacks, with their ghetto pathologies, are the problem. Austerity is the answer - especially in those localities where African Americans are too tightly concentrated - under the firm fiscal management of Wall Street.

A specially selected Negro corporate lawyer, Kevyn Orr - who craves the good life as much as Kwame Kilpatrick and lives in a $5,100 a month penthouse; a gift, he claims, of a rich admirer - will next Wednesday submit to a bankruptcy judge a proposal to restructure Detroit's debt. The $350 million scheme, financed by Britain's giant Barclay's bank, would pay off the Wall Street banks that ensnared (a very willing) Kilpatrick and other Detroit leaders in a web of derivatives and loans. With the original corporate conspirators now made whole, the Brits would then "move to the head of the line," as people's lawyer Tom Stephens explains, as Detroit's super-priority creditor - meaning, Barclays gets paid first when the city's assets are liquidated or otherwise dispensed.

This is the real crime against the people, and only the people can stop it.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson

America On Fire
By William Rivers Pitt

At this moment, a sizable percentage of southeastern Australia is on fire. More than 62 separate wildfires are raging, the three largest of which are poised to merge into a single monstrous "mega-fire" that could eventually threaten the suburbs of Sydney, or even the city itself.

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed, power has been lost in thousands of others, and the entire state of New South Wales is under a state of emergency. If those three large fires merge, fire officials are deeply pessimistic about their ability to get the situation under control.

The rural area where the conflagration began is prone to wildfires, though not at this unprecedented scale, but that did not stop New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell from successfully spearheading an effort to slash millions of dollars in funding from the Rural Fire Services that are now desperately trying to contain the destruction.

Mr. O'Farrell is a fiscal conservative, because of course he is. "There is not much we can do except wish those extraordinary volunteers and paid firefighters out there every success and every luck," said O'Farrell earlier this week.

He's exactly right, too. Cut their funds and wish them luck as the flames lick their heels. It's the conservative way.

Here on the other side of the world in America, another sort of fire is threatening to burn out the futures of millions of people. A bunch of billionaires are working hammer and tong with their bottomless pockets, their hired Congressional stooges, their idolaters in the press, and all those useful idiots who hate government but love Medicare and always vote, to destroy Social Security and Medicare because government programs that actually work really well are the enemy, and must be scourged.

At the forefront of this crusade is the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which has already spent a billion dollars trying to convince Congress to come together on a "Grand Bargain" that eviscerates the social safety net represented by Social Security and Medicare, which are only the two most successful and important government programs besides the GI Bill.

Peterson's wingman is billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, formerly of Duquesne Capital, who is spending gobs of cash trying to convince young people that Social Security is the reason they're looking down the barrel at an increasingly grim economic future. Wall Street Journal columnist James Freeman described on Monday how the heroic Druckenmiller "has been touring college campuses promoting a message of income redistribution you don't hear out of Washington. It's how federal entitlements like Medicare and Social Security are letting Mr. Druckenmiller's generation rip off all those doting Barack Obama voters in Generation X, Y and Z."

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect had this to say about the conniving nonsense being spewed by Druckenmiller and his pals in the press:

Where to start? If you itemize all the reasons why recent college graduates face a wretched economy, Social Security doesn't even make the list. What does make the list are unreliable jobs that pay lousy wages, the aftereffects of a financial bubble created on Wall Street, and unaffordable college that leaves graduates starting life with more than a trillion dollars worth of debt.

The biggest lie in Druckenmiller's crusade is the premise that the income distribution problem is somehow generational and that he, as a billionaire, has anything whatever in common with most college students or most recipients of Social Security. One of his pitches to students is that Social Security is excessive because he, a very wealthy man, receives it but doesn't need it.

But for the vast majority of the elderly, Social Security is a lifeline, and a meager one at that. Some two-thirds of all seniors depend on Social Security for half of their income. Fully 46 percent of elderly widows and other unmarried seniors depend on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income. The entire projected 75-year shortfall in the Social Security trust funds that conservatives make such a big deal about is around one percent of GDP per year. We could make it up with modest tax increases on wealthy people like Druckenmiller.

Mr. Kuttner's excellent analysis of the reasons why young people today face a brutal economic future left out a few things. Spending on "defense" in America accounts for almost five percent of GDP, and that's just the stuff on the books. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were funded via supplemental spending bills outside the federal budget, and that tab has twelve zeroes on it (Read: more than $1,000,000,000,000 and counting).

Then there is the Black Book, the secret stuff we aren't allowed to know about, because freedom and stuff. Plus all the handouts to corporate America. Plus the incredibly kind tax rate for billionaires like Drukenmiller, who like as not have stashed a vast chunk of their fortunes in secret overseas bunkers so as to be spared the agony of paying a pittance in taxes to help the workers who made them rich when they get old and sick.


And yet, as ever, the impulse in America's delusional center-right-and-more-right political discourse is to ignore these glaring problems - which are, in themselves, very simple solutions if they could ever be properly addressed - and go after Grandma and the Social Security check she depends on, and which she has already paid for.

In Australia, the fear is that the fires being battled by heroic public servants who got their funding cut were initially started by arsonists. In America, the arsonists are in Congress, on Wall Street, and in the White House to no small degree.

As these budget negotiations commence, and cuts to Social Security and Medicare are bandied about as "the responsible thing to do," it is the American people who will have to stand on the fire line and contain the pyromaniacs in whatever way we can.
(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.

Wall Street Magicians Make Reform Disappear

What amazing alchemist Wall Street bankers are! They can turn failure into gold and reform into business as usual.

These sorcerers have pulled off both tricks right in front of us since their 2007 collapse. They turned that gross failure into an ongoing multitrillion-dollar bailout by us taxpayers to restore them to even-grosser profit levels. Then, while the public howled for lawmakers to shackle their greed, these bewitching bankers reached into their magic hat and pulled out the massive Dodd-Frank reform law that - hocus pocus! - adds up to the status quo. And, as a West Texas farmer once told me, status quo is Latin for "the mess we're in."

Wall Street's greatest deception is the claim that they're brave risk takers who put their money into enterprises that create America's economic growth. Bovine excrement. One, as we've seen, they're not investing in enterprises; they're frittering away America's investment funds on ridiculous, get-rich-quick gambling schemes. Second, they're not risking their money or that of their shareholders, but ours. When we deposit money with Chase, Bank of America, etc., we make a practically-zero-interest loan to them that they take to global gambling tables. Of the $2.4 trillion held by JPMorgan Chase, for example, $2.2 trillion is borrowed from us. It's our cash they're risking. And when their convoluted gambles fail, as in 2007, everything collapses... and they'll run to Washington again demanding a bailout.

So the reform that matters is to make them put, say, half of their own money into each roll of the dice, rather than piling 90 percent of each risk on our backs. But does the Dodd-Frank "reform" law do that? No - it allows these "too-big-to-fail" banks to stack 95 percent of their risks on us. That is Wall Street's dirtiest trick yet.
(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.

Awkwardest And Most Authoritative Ever Comments On Drones
By David Swanson

The comments come from Malala and the U.N. respectively.

President Obama invited Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls' education, to meet with his family. And she promptly explained that what he is doing works against her agenda and fuels terrorism.

Malala is a victim of violence in Pakistan, having been attacked by religious fanatics opposed to her work. But Obama may not have expected her to speak up against other forms of violence in her country.

Malala recounted: "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact."

President Obama may also have not expected most people to notice or care. The corporate media have virtually ignored this part of a widely-reported meeting.

It's up to us to surprise everyone with the depth of our interest and concern. Almost 100,000 have thus far signed a petition to ban weaponized drones, soon to be delivered to the U.N., the I.C.C., the State Department, the White House, Congress, and embassies.

The United Nations has released a report on "armed drones and the right to life" (PDF). The report begins by noting that, as of now, weaponized drones are legal:

"Although drones are not illegal weapons, they can make it easier for States to deploy deadly and targeted force on the territories of other States. As such, they risk undermining the protection of life in the immediate and longer terms. If the right to life is to be secured, it is imperative that the limitations posed by international law on the use of force are not weakened by broad justifications of drone strikes."

Drones, the U.N. Special Rapporteur reports, risk making war the normal state of affairs:

"Peace should be the norm, yet such scenarios risk making its derogation the rule by privileging force over long-term peaceful alternatives. . . . Given that drones greatly reduce or eliminate the number of casualties on the side using them, the domestic constraints - political and otherwise - may be less restrictive than with the deployment of other types of armed force. This effect is enhanced by the relative ease with which the details about drone targeting can be withheld from the public eye and the potentially restraining influence of public concern. Such dynamics call for a heightened level of vigilance by the international community concerning the use of drones."

The U.N. Charter and this report seek to make war an exceptional state of affairs. This is a very difficult, and a morally depraved thing to attempt with an institution that deserves total abolition. War does not work as a tool with which to eliminate war. But, even within that framework, the U.N. finds that drones create extra-legal war:

"An outer layer of protection for the right to life is the prohibition on the resort to force by one State against another, again subject to a narrowly construed set of exceptions. The protection of State sovereignty and of territorial integrity, which onoccasion presents a barrier to the protection of human rights, here can constitute an important component of the protection of people against deadly force, especially with the advent of armed drones."

The strongest excuse for war is the claim of defense against an actual attack. The next best thing is to pretend an attack is imminent. The Obama Administration has famously redefined "imminent" to mean eventual or theoretical -- that is, they've stripped the word of all meaning. (See the "white paper" PDF.) The U.N. doesn't buy it:

"The view that mere past involvement in planning attacks is sufficient to render an individual targetable even where there is no evidence of a specific and immediate attack distorts the requirements established in international human rights law."

U.S. lawyers at Congressional hearings have tended to maintain that drone killing is legal if and only if it's part of a war. The U.N. report also distinguishes between two supposedly different standards of law depending on whether a drone murder is separate from or part of a war. Disappointingly, the U.N. believes that some drone strikes can be legal and others not:

"Insofar as the term 'signature strikes' refers to targeting without sufficient information to make the necessary determination, it is clearly unlawful. . . . Where one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict. Strikes on others confirmed to be civilians who are directly participating in hostilities or having a continuous combat function at the time of the follow-up strike could be lawful if the other international humanitarian law rules are respected."

The complex mumbo-jumbo of multiple legal standards for multiple scenarios, complete with calculations of necessity and distinction and proportionality and collateral damage, mars this report and any attempt to create enforceable action out of it. But the report does, tentatively, find one little category of drone murders illegal that encompasses many, if not all, U.S. drone murders -- namely, those where the victim might have been captured rather than killed:

"Recent debates have asked whether international humanitarian law requires that a party to an armed conflict under certain circumstances consider the capture of an otherwise lawful target (i.e. a combatant in the traditional sense or a civilian directly participating in hostilities) rather than targeting with force. In its Interpretive Guidance, ICRC states that it would defy basic notions of humanity to kill an adversary or to refrain from giving him or her an opportunity to surrender where there manifestly is no necessity for the use of lethal force."

Pathetically, the report finds that if a government is going to pretend that murdering someone abroad is "self-defense" the action must be reported to the U.N. -- thereby making it sooooo much better.

A second UN report (PDF) goes further, citing findings that U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians, but failing to call for prosecutions of these crimes. That is to say, the first report, above, which does not list specific U.S. drone murders of civilians, discusses the need for prosecutions. But this second report just asks for "a detailed public explanation."

The fact that an insane killing spree is counter-productive, as pointed out to Obama by Malala, in case he hadn't heard all his own experts, is not enough to end the madness. Ultimately we must recognize the illegality of all killing and all war. In the meantime, prior to the U.N.'s debate on this on the 25th, we can add our names to the growing movement to ban weaponized drones at
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Repairing Our Broken Government
By James Donahue

Outspoken Libertarian Ron Paul warned in a recent radio interview that the nation is so polarized over issues like health, finance, the environment, war and civil rights that he predicts a total collapse of government in the near future.

If it happens, Paul believes the time will be ripe for a complete rebuilding of our system of government. "I think we should anticipate that, and look at it as an opportunity . . . Less government and more freedom is what we need." Paul, who is credited with launching the Tea Party movement, may be right when he warns of a pending government collapse. But his Libertarian ideas, and the more radical thoughts promoted by the Tea Party, appear to be more disruptive than helpful when it comes to fixing what has gone wrong in Washington.

A government collapse such as Paul is describing would quickly lead to a military takeover and if necessary, a call for marshal law. And that kind of national control would not be conducive to rebuilding anything. What is desperately needed is a Constitutional Convention, with great minds like those who drafted our original blueprint for Washington, collectively drafting a revised document of law to fit the needs of our radically changed nation.

We might start by incorporating some of the ideas outlined by George Mason, one of the men involved in drafting the original Constitution. Mason refused to sign that document because he said it was flawed. For example he argued strongly for, and got the Bill of Rights added in the first ten Constitutional Amendments.

But his other concerns, detailed in a draft titled "Objections to This Constitution of Government," were ignored mostly for political reasons and the original constitutional convention members thought they lacked the time to make any additional changes.

Mason believed the Senate was too powerful, the Congress was not designed to be a true representation of the people, and the federal judiciary was "so constructed and extended" as to render justice unattainable and "enable the rich to oppress and ruin the poor." This is exactly what has happened.

Mason also believed the President was given too much unbalanced power and would be receiving counsel from a secretarial staff of his own choosing. He suggested that the nation be run by a team of up to three presidents with staggered elected terms. He thought the office of vice-president should be eliminated.

He warned that the House of Representatives as it was designed "can never produce proper information in the legislature or inspire confidence in the people; the laws will therefore be generally made by men little concerned in, and unacquainted with their effects and consequences." He was right about this too.

Mason saw a problem in giving the Senate the power of controlling the nation's money and setting the salaries of the president and the appointed officers who were "not the representatives of the people or amenable to them." Indeed, it did not take the Senate long before passing the control of the nation's monetary system over to the Federal Reserve, a creation of private representatives of the nation's largest banks. The Reserve was a bad idea that needs to be shut down.

Mason worried about the issue of separation of church and state. He warned that to allow the church or any other religion to have influence over the two houses, executive office or judicial branch would "leave our country wide open for hostile take-over." And this, too, has been happening, although in more subtle ways than Mason imagined.

He also pressed for a weak central government, strong state governments, and the abolition of slavery. Had these issues been added to the Constitution the United States may have avoided the Civil War, one of the bloodiest stains on the nation's history.

Nearly all of Mason's ideas should perhaps be given serious consideration if the nation ever attempts to draft a new constitution. Other changes that we propose would include setting term limits on all elected legislators, giving the President only one term but perhaps extending it to six or eight years, and making the Supreme Court a body of elected judges with term limits.

The Constitution should also set limits for campaigns. Candidates should be allowed only a few weeks of public campaigning, have extreme spending limits for promoting their cause, and the media must provide equal time for all candidates, from all political parties, to be heard in public debate. The old two-party system has failed us and the time is ripe for more diversification in government leadership.

The practice of lobbying for candidates or political causes must be separated from the use of money or material gifts to help persuade legislators to "do favors" for certain corporations or powerful people in their districts. It should be made a crime to pay for political favors, punishable by stiff fines and prison.

The concept of "empire building" should be prohibited and the executive office should be stripped of the self-appointed freedoms it has created to send American troops to war anywhere in the world without a declaration of Congress.

Education, saving the environment and public health and liberty should become high priorities in national guidelines. And above all, America should rebuild its image as a place for people of all nationalities and creeds to gather to live in peace and harmony with one another. Our borders should be open to all.

This was the America our forefathers envisioned. If we can keep the gangsters and big money interests out of the picture, there is no reason why we can't collectively learn from past mistakes and write the new constitution needed to make it happen.
(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.

Beware Of Paul Ryan's Lose-A-Battle, Win-A-War Strategy
By John Nichols

The conventional wisdom is that the Republicans got nothing-except some historic disapproval numbers and a lot of internal backbiting-from the whole shutdown showdown.

But there are different Republicans, with different intentions, and not all of them were frowning as the week of their party's public shame came to a conclusion.

It is certainly true that Texas Senator Ted Cruz has become a political punch line-the Canadian-born Republican whom Democrats would most like to see the Grand Old Party nominate for president. House Speaker John Boehner's name is likely to enter the lexicon as an antonym for "leadership." Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is going to be spending an inordinate amount of time discussing the term "Kentucky kickback." And it may even be dawning on the Tea Partisans that the whole "defund Obamacare" gambit was a charade.

The real point of the exercise in chaos that the country was just dragged through was the chaos itself.

And the beneficiary of it all is the Republican who has suddenly stepped back into the limelight after laying low through most of the shutdown: House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

Fully aware that the American people have no taste for a "grand bargain" that might see the implementation of at least some of his Ayn Rand–inspired "survival-of-the-fittest" proposals for means-testing earned-benefit programs, for taking the first steps toward privatization of Social Security, for turning Medicare and Medicaid into voucher programs, Ryan has for years been looking for an opening that makes his proposals seem "necessary."

The 2012 election, when he was his party's "big ideas" guy, and its nominee for vice president, confirmed that there was no electoral route to advance his agenda. Americans rejected Ryan, overwhelmingly. He could not even carry his home state for the Romney-Ryan ticket, which was defeated by a 5 million popular-vote margin and a 332-206 Electoral College blowout. Ryan knew that it would take more to get his opening. And the crisis of the past several weeks in Washington provided it.

Some analysts were surprised when Ryan voted against the deal to temporarily end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. They shouldn't have been. While it's true that Ryan-an enthusiastic backer of the 2008 bank bailout-is a reliable vote for the agenda of the Wall Street speculators who fund his campaigns, he wasn't going against his political patrons when he joined 143 other House Republicans in voting "no." Rather, the Budget Committee chairman-who just reported raising more than $1 million in fresh campaign funds in the third quarter of 2013-was voting to strengthen his own hand as he steps into the ring for the next stage of an inside-the-Beltway fight that is far from finished.

The deal that ended the shutdown set up a high-stakes conference committee on budget issues. If there is to be a "grand bargain," this is where it will be generated. And Ryan-the most prominent of the fourteen Democrats, fourteen Republicans and two independents on the committee-is in the thick of it.

The Budget Committee chairman says it would be "premature to get into exactly how we're going to" sort out budget issues.

But no one should have any doubts about the hard bargain he will drive for. In the midst of the shutdown, Ryan jumped the gun by penning a Wall Street Journal op-ed that proposed: "Reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code..."

"Here are just a few ideas to get the conversation started," Ryan wrote. "We could ask the better off to pay higher premiums for Medicare. We could reform Medigap plans to encourage efficiency and cut costs. And we could ask federal employees to contribute more to their own retirement."

Translation: Get ready for the radical reshaping of Medicare so that it is no longer a universal program. Make way for more price-gouging by the private companies that sell supplemental insurance. Launch a new assault on public employees who have already been hit with wage freezes and furloughs.

And Ryan will not stop there.

He never does.

That's why the Democrats on the conference committee-led by Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray, D-Washington-must be exceptionally wary.

"Chairman Ryan knows I'm not going to vote for his budget, and I know he's not going to vote for mine," says Murray. "We're going to find the common ground between our two budgets that we both can vote on and that's our goal."

The thing to remember that Ryan is working to get cuts to earned-benefit programs onto that common ground.

Ryan cast his "no" vote on the deal that set up the conference committee in order to begin organizing his troops for a fight that will set up the next shutdown and debt-ceiling struggles. The committee has a deadline of December 13. That makes its report-or the lack of one-the first deadline on a schedule that proceeds toward new continuing resolution and debt-ceiling votes in January and February. That creates tremendous pressure for a deal, and Ryan's at the ready.

That answer to his supplications must be a firm "No."

That's what Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, is proposing. Sanders, one of a member of the conference committee says: "it is imperative that this new budget helps us create the millions of jobs we desperately need and does not balance the budget on the backs of working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor..."

Sanders' office notes:

"The Senate budget protects Medicare while the House version would end Medicare as we know it by providing coupons for private health insurance. Unlike the House budget, the Senate resolution does not repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would prevent more than 20 million Americans from getting health insurance. The House version would eliminate grants for up to 1 million college students while the Senate plan protects Pell grants. The House version would kick up to 24 million Americans off of Medicaid while the Senate budget would protect their benefits. The Senate budget calls for new revenue while the House version would provide trillions of dollars in tax breaks mainly for the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations offset by increased taxes on the middle class."

Ryan would be more than happy to settle for a "common ground" agreement that opens the way for a little bit of privatization, a little bit of movement toward vouchers, a little bit of means testing, a little bit of an increase in the retirement age. But if he gets that, the big "blink" that everyone was talking about during the shutdown fight will have happened.

If that is where this thing ends, it might not be the Democrats who get the last laugh.

It might yet be a Republican named Paul Ryan.
(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 rich are different from us," F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have remarked to
Ernest Hemingway, to which Hemingway allegedly replied, "Yes, they have more money."

Let's Get This Class War Started
By Chris Hedges

The exchange, although it never actually took place, sums up a wisdom Fitzgerald had that eluded Hemingway. The rich are different. The cocoon of wealth and privilege permits the rich to turn those around them into compliant workers, hangers-on, servants, flatterers and sycophants. Wealth breeds, as Fitzgerald illustrated in "The Great Gatsby" and his short story "The Rich Boy," a class of people for whom human beings are disposable commodities. Colleagues, associates, employees, kitchen staff, servants, gardeners, tutors, personal trainers, even friends and family, bend to the whims of the wealthy or disappear. Once oligarchs achieve unchecked economic and political power, as they have in the United States, the citizens too become disposable.

The public face of the oligarchic class bears little resemblance to the private face. I, like Fitzgerald, was thrown into the embrace of the upper crust when young. I was shipped off as a scholarship student at the age of 10 to an exclusive New England boarding school. I had classmates whose fathers-fathers they rarely saw-arrived at the school in their limousines accompanied by personal photographers (and at times their mistresses), so the press could be fed images of rich and famous men playing the role of good fathers. I spent time in the homes of the ultra-rich and powerful, watching my classmates, who were children, callously order around men and women who worked as their chauffeurs, cooks, nannies and servants. When the sons and daughters of the rich get into serious trouble there are always lawyers, publicists and political personages to protect them-George W. Bush's life is a case study in the insidious affirmative action for the rich. The rich have a snobbish disdain for the poor-despite well-publicized acts of philanthropy-and the middle class. These lower classes are viewed as uncouth parasites, annoyances that have to be endured, at times placated and always controlled in the quest to amass more power and money. My hatred of authority, along with my loathing for the pretensions, heartlessness and sense of entitlement of the rich, comes from living among the privileged. It was a deeply unpleasant experience. But it exposed me to their insatiable selfishness and hedonism. I learned, as a boy, who were my enemies.

The inability to grasp the pathology of our oligarchic rulers is one of our gravest faults. We have been blinded to the depravity of our ruling elite by the relentless propaganda of public relations firms that work on behalf of corporations and the rich. Compliant politicians, clueless entertainers and our vapid, corporate-funded popular culture, which holds up the rich as leaders to emulate and assures us that through diligence and hard work we can join them, keep us from seeing the truth.

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy," Fitzgerald wrote of the wealthy couple at the center of Gatsby's life. "They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

Aristotle, Niccola Machiavelli, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith and Karl Marx all began from the premise there is a natural antagonism between the rich and the masses. "Those who have too much of the goods of fortune, strength, wealth, friends, and the like, are neither willing nor able to submit to authority," Aristotle wrote in "Politics." "The evil begins at home; for when they are boys, by reason of the luxury in which they are brought up, they never learn, even at school, the habit of obedience." Oligarchs, these philosophers knew, are schooled in the mechanisms of manipulation, subtle and overt repression and exploitation to protect their wealth and power at our expense. Foremost among their mechanisms of control is the control of ideas. Ruling elites ensure that the established intellectual class is subservient to an ideology-in this case free market capitalism and globalization-that justifies their greed. "The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships," Marx wrote, "the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas."

The blanket dissemination of the ideology of free market capitalism through the media and the purging, especially in academia, of critical voices have permitted our oligarchs to orchestrate the largest income inequality gap in the industrialized world. The top 1 percent in the United States own 40 percent of the nation's wealth while the bottom 80 percent own only 7 percent, as Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote in "The Price of Inequality." For every dollar that the wealthiest 0.1 percent amassed in 1980 they had an additional $3 in yearly income in 2008, David Cay Johnston explained in the article "9 Things the Rich Don't Want You to Know About Taxes." The bottom 90 percent, Johnson said, in the same period added only one cent. Half of the country is now classified as poor or low-income. The real value of the minimum wage has fallen by $2.77 since 1968. Oligarchs do not believe in self-sacrifice for the common good. They never have. They never will. They are the cancer of democracy.

"We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are," Wendell Berry writes. "Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all-by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians-be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us. How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing."

The rise of an oligarchic state offers a nation two routes, according to Aristotle. The impoverished masses either revolt to rectify the imbalance of wealth and power or the oligarchs establish a brutal tyranny to keep the masses forcibly enslaved. We have chosen the second of Aristotle's options. The slow advances we made in the early 20th century through unions, government regulation, the New Deal, the courts, an alternative press and mass movements have been reversed. The oligarchs are turning us-as they did in the 19th century steel and textile factories-into disposable human beings. They are building the most pervasive security and surveillance apparatus in human history to keep us submissive.

This imbalance would not have disturbed most of our Founding Fathers. The Founding Fathers, largely wealthy slaveholders, feared direct democracy. They rigged our political process to thwart popular rule and protect the property rights of the native aristocracy. The masses were to be kept at bay. The Electoral College, the original power of the states to appoint senators, the disenfranchisement of women, Native Americans, African-Americans and men without property locked most people out of the democratic process at the beginning of the republic. We had to fight for our voice. Hundreds of workers were killed and thousands were wounded in our labor wars. The violence dwarfed the labor battles in any other industrialized nation. The democratic openings we achieved were fought for and paid for with the blood of abolitionists, African-Americans, suffragists, workers and those in the anti-war and civil rights movements. Our radical movements, repressed and ruthlessly dismantled in the name of anti-communism, were the real engines of equality and social justice. The squalor and suffering inflicted on workers by the oligarchic class in the 19th century is mirrored in the present, now that we have been stripped of protection. Dissent is once again a criminal act. The Mellons, Rockefellers and Carnegies at the turn of the last century sought to create a nation of masters and serfs. The modern corporate incarnation of this 19th century oligarchic elite has created a worldwide neofeudalism, where workers across the planet toil in misery while corporate oligarchs amass hundreds of millions in personal wealth.

There is no way within the system to defy the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry or war profiteers. The only route left to us, as Aristotle knew, is revolt.

Class struggle defines most of human history. Marx got this right. The sooner we realize that we are locked in deadly warfare with our ruling, corporate elite, the sooner we will realize that these elites must be overthrown. The corporate oligarchs have now seized all institutional systems of power in the United States. Electoral politics, internal security, the judiciary, our universities, the arts and finance, along with nearly all forms of communication, are in corporate hands. Our democracy, with faux debates between two corporate parties, is meaningless political theater. There is no way within the system to defy the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry or war profiteers. The only route left to us, as Aristotle knew, is revolt.

It is not a new story. The rich, throughout history, have found ways to subjugate and re-subjugate the masses. And the masses, throughout history, have cyclically awoken to throw off their chains. The ceaseless fight in human societies between the despotic power of the rich and the struggle for justice and equality lies at the heart of Fitzgerald's novel, which uses the story of Gatsby to carry out a fierce indictment of capitalism. Fitzgerald was reading Oswald Spengler's "The Decline of the West" as he was writing "The Great Gatsby." Spengler predicted that, as Western democracies calcified and died, a class of "monied thugs" would replace the traditional political elites. Spengler was right about that.

"There are only two or three human stories," Willa Cather wrote, "and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."

The seesaw of history has thrust the oligarchs once again into the sky. We sit humiliated and broken on the ground. It is an old battle. It has been fought over and over in human history. We never seem to learn. It is time to grab our pitchforks.
(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."

Naughty Nuns, Bad Bankers And Ballot Bandits
By Greg Palast

On May 6, 2008, 12 fraudulent voters, dressed as nuns, attempted to cast ballots in the presidential primary in Indiana.

Luckily, ten of them were caught, stopped cold by Indiana's new voter photo ID law. The law had been found to be constitutional by Federal Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

It turns out the nuns that Posner's ruling turned away were, in fact, nuns. All the sisters had photo driver's licenses, but they had expired (the licenses, not the nuns). The Sisters of the Holy Cross, had, mercifully, given up driving (they were pushing 90 years of age.)

It was a cute story that ran nationwide. What wasn't so cute, and ran nowhere in the US press, was that 72,000 black voters were blocked at the polls by this Posner-blessed photo ID law.

It was Posner's decision that first allowed states to return to the Jim Crow vote suppression tactics that we thought had vanished with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

In his newly released autobiography, the aging Posner, hearing the wings of mortality and the gavel of Judgment Day coming down, admits that he was stone cold wrong. Posner now concedes that that the voter ID rule was a Republican partisan ploy in intent and viciously racist in practice.

Posner, seeking forgiveness, says it wasn't his fault. He wasn't "really given strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disfranchise people [who are] entitled to vote."

Sorry, Your Honor, you're still going straight to Hell. For fibbing.

In fact, Judge Posner was presented with a statistical analysis by Professor Matt Barreto of Washington University detailing, by race, the hundreds of thousands of poor voters who do not have, believe it or not, passports or other newly required ID.

And in case the judge couldn't understand the statistics of Barreto's analysis, he could have read the comic book version, right here. [And so can you: Download the entire comic/legal treatise for free: Steal Back Your Vote, by Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., with comics by Ted Rall, Lloyd Dangle and bubble text by Zach Roberts.]

Judge Posner's excuse at the time he ruled: A voter ID law would prevent fraudulent voting, someone voting under someone else's name. But, Your Honor, you were told that, in a review of records going back 100 years, Indiana had not discovered a single case of voter identity theft.

Now Posner wants us to believe that he's shocked - shocked! - at the racial and partisan result of his ruling. He says, "Indiana's requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo ID [is] now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than fraud prevention."

Judge Posner and the Bank Busters

Who cares about this Posner guy? You should.

Posner, who teaches at the University of Chicago Law School, is correctly described as the most influential judge of our generation. Lord help us.

I'm not saying he's acted as Satan's consigliere, but that's only because I don't believe in the devil. Evil is human, often humans with professorships.

While famed for giving constitutional color to Indiana's Ku Klux voter ID law, Posner's real influence was in his judicial review of the regulations on business.

In yet another recent book, the prolific Posner blames the 2008 collapse of the world financial system on the elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act, on banking deregulation and on "hostility to taxation and to government in general."

While not a stunning observation, I was still stunned: The attacks on Glass-Steagall and calls for the deregulation of banking had their intellectual origin in The Journal of Law & Economics. This ultra-right-wing slough of corporation-kissing pornography was founded by Chicago economists Gary Becker, George Stigler and ... Richard Posner.

Posner and the so-called "law and economics movement" was violently hostile to virtually all regulation, from food and drug safety to the minimum wage. Pollution laws? Eliminate them all! Looney, yes, but Posner's acolytes and movement fellow-travelers soon ruled the federal bench, appointed, like Posner himself, by Ronald Reagan.

The highfalutin sophistry of Posner, Stigler and their fellow Chicago professor Milton Friedman, sprinkled intellectual fairy dust on the markets-uber-alles crowd in Washington. This high-toned bullshit transformed lobbyists' wish-lists and corporate greed grabs into quests for "freedom" and "market solutions."

In his weak mea culpa over the bust of his bank deregulation dreams, Posner claims that the crash engendered by deregulation was "not anticipated."

You've got to be joking, Your Honor. At the time the Glass-Steagall Act was shattered, economist Joseph Stiglitz (not to be confused with Stigler) was crying frantically about the disaster to come. Even one of their Chicago students stood up and asked if they were insane or just crazy. (I was warned by another famed professor to shut the f--- up or I'd find myself tossed out on my keister.)

Police Batons and Free Markets

Look, I don't care if Professor Posner can save his soul by recanting a lifetime of professorial gibberish and horrific rulings.

What's important to understand is the nexus: attacking voting rights, attacking worker and consumer rights, are of one piece: the right-wing free-marketeers' deep-rooted distrust of democracy.

Throughout their writings (until now), the Friedman-Posner-Stigler crowd all disparaged the rights of citizens to determine the social contract, the rules of economic play. To them, voters are fools, not to be trusted with telling corporations or cops how to run our world.

This fascist bend (and I use the term advisedly) came shining through in one of Posner's infamous outbursts from the bench. Background: The Chicago police were known for beating the crap out of peace demonstrators and, demonstrating or not, minority kids. The ACLU sued when cops arrested citizens and reporters who attempted to film the police and their batons. Posner tried to stop the ACLU lawyers from even arguing their case, saying, "I'm always suspicious when the civil liberties people start telling the police how to do their business."

Well, Judge Posner, I'm always suspicious of a robed Torquemada who believes that corporate "persons" have civil liberties but person-persons have none.

I'm sure Judge Posner would have been thrilled to see the police "do their business" on Zach Roberts, our Palast team photographer. Here's a photo Zach took at Occupy Wall Street just as a police baton was coming down on his head - and on our camera.

Unfortunately, former Chicago law professor Barack Obama clearly took a little too much Posner with him to the White House, as we see in the charges against Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden and in the witch-hunt for "leakers" that makes Richard Nixon look like Thomas Jefferson.

Judgment Day

I have this vision. Posner gets to the Pearly Gates, and despite the testimony against him by ten pissed-off nuns, he's admitted to heaven. But before Posner can enter the Kingdom of Paradise, Saint Peter stops him and says, "Not so fast, professor. Did you remember to bring your photo ID?"
(c) 2013 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.

Lousy Medicaid Arguments
By Paul Krugman

For now, the big news about Obamacare is the debacle of, the Web portal through which Americans are supposed to buy insurance on the new health care exchanges. For now, at least, isn't working for many users.

It's important to realize, however, that this botch has nothing to do with the law's substance, and will get fixed. After all, a number of states have successfully opened their own exchanges, doing for their residents exactly what the federal system is supposed to do everywhere else. Connecticut's exchange is working fine, as is Kentucky's. New York, after some early problems, seems to be getting there. So, a bit more slowly, does California.

In other words, the technical problems, while infuriating - heads should roll - will not, in the end, be the big story. The real threat remains the effort of conservative groups to sabotage reform, especially by blocking the expansion of Medicaid. This effort relies heavily on lobbying, lavishly bankrolled by the usual suspects, including the omnipresent Koch brothers. But it's not just money: the right has also rolled out some really lousy arguments. And I don't just mean lousy as in "bad"; I also mean it in the original sense, "infested with lice."

Before I get there, a word about something that, as far as we can tell, isn't happening. Remember "rate shock"? A few months ago it was all the rage in right-wing circles, with supposed experts claiming that Americans were about to face huge premium increases.

It quickly became clear, however, that what these alleged experts were doing was comparing apples and oranges - and as Ezra Klein of The Washington Post pointed out, oranges that, in many cases, you can't even buy. Specifically, they were comparing the premiums young, healthy men were paying before reform with the premiums everyone - including those who previously couldn't get insurance because of pre-existing conditions - will pay under the new system. Oh, and they also weren't taking into account the subsidies many Americans will receive, reducing their costs.

Now people are signing up for policies on state exchanges and, to a limited extent, on the federal exchange. Where are the cries of rate shock? Anecdotal evidence, which is all we have so far, says that people are by and large happily surprised by the low cost of their insurance. It was telling that when Fox News eagerly interviewed some middle-class Americans who said they had been hurt by the Affordable Care Act, it turned out that none of their guests had actually checked out their new options - they just knew health reform was terrible because Fox News told them so.

Now, about those lousy Medicaid arguments: Last year's Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act did strike down one provision, the one that would have forced all states to accept an expansion of Medicaid, the already-existing program of health insurance for the poor. States are now free to reject that expansion. Yet how can states justify turning down a federal offer to insure thousands of their citizens, one that would cost them nothing in the first year and only trivial amounts later? Sheer spite - the desire to sabotage anything with President Obama's name on it - is the real reason, but doesn't sound too good. So they need intellectual cover.

Enter the same experts, more or less, who warned about rate shock, to declare that Medicaid actually hurts its recipients. Their evidence? Medicaid patients tend to be sicker than the uninsured, and slower to recover from surgery.

O.K., you know what to do: Google "spurious correlation health." You are immediately led to the tale of certain Pacific Islanders who long believed that having lice made you healthy, because they observed that people with lice were, typically, healthier than those without. They were, of course, mixing up cause and effect: lice tend to infest the healthy, so they were a consequence, not a cause, of good health.

The application to Medicaid should be obvious. Sick people are likely to have low incomes; more generally, low-income Americans who qualify for Medicaid just tend in general to have poor health. So pointing to a correlation between Medicaid and poor health as evidence that Medicaid actually hurts its recipients is as foolish as claiming that lice make you healthy. It is, as I said, a lousy argument.

And the reliance on such arguments is itself deeply revealing, because it illustrates the right's intellectual decline. I mean, this is the best argument their so-called experts can come up with for their policy priorities?

Meanwhile, many states are still planning to reject the Medicaid expansion, denying essential health care to millions of needy Americans. And they have no good excuse for this act of cruelty.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"A good soldier is a blind, heartless, soulless, murderous machine. He is not a man. His is not a brute, for brutes kill only in self defense. All that is human in him, all that is divine in him, all that constitutes the man has been sworn away when he took the enlistment roll. His mind, his conscience, aye, his very soul, are in the keeping of his officer. No man can fall lower than a soldier-it is a depth beneath which we cannot go."
~~~ Jack London

Huge Number, Tiny Punishment
By David Sirota

In America, there is ample evidence that speeding tickets do not deter drivers from breaking the speed limit. So why does anyone expect a speeding ticket to stop the kind of systemic Wall Street fraud that cratered the economy only a few short years ago?

This should be this week's big question as the Obama administration excitedly leaks news of a multi- billion- dollar settlement with JP Morgan Chase over allegations that the bank and its subsidiaries engaged in rampant securities fraud in the lead up to the financial crisis of 2008.

Though its details have not yet been fully disclosed, the settlement is already being trumpeted by its proponents as a "record penalty" - in hopes that the buzzword "record" seems like an impressive feat. But a look at what the topline number means in context suggests the announcement is hardly a sign of a belated get- tough- on- Wall- Street attitude by the Wall Street- funded Obama administration. It instead looks like a speeding ticket- esque slap on the wrist - and a harrowing reminder of just how dangerously financialized the American economy has become.

The critical contextualizing data points - the ones being omitted from the coverage of the settlement - can be found in JP Morgan Chase's annual earnings statements. As you'll see when you peruse them, between 2005 (the first year it is accused of defrauding investors) and today, the bank recorded a total of $652 billion in revenue, or an average of roughly $81.5 billion of income every year. For its crucial role in the mortgage- backed securities heist, the bank is now being asked to cough up $13 billion. Wall Street- worshiping let- them- eat- cakers like Rupert Murdoch would have us believe the government's request is an act of theft by a Marxist White House. Yet, $13 billion is not only less than the $22 billion to $33 billion cost of the specific transactions in question - it is also only a mere 2 percent of the $652 billion JP Morgan Chase raked in since it started committing the alleged crimes in question.

This is where the speeding ticket metaphor comes in. If JP Morgan was an ordinary American named John Morgan who made the median $50,000 a year, a fine of 2 percent of Mr. Morgan's gross income (aka revenues) is the proportional cost of a single speeding ticket. Granted, it would be a relatively expensive $1,000 speeding ticket, but with surcharges, court costs and insurance premium increases, such a ticket price is not something entirely out of the ordinary - and it is not an amount that typically prevents Mr. Morgan from speeding again.

What should be out of the ordinary - but isn't - is only getting a slap on the wrist for doing what JP Morgan and its properties Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual are accused of doing. After all, according to the allegations against them, they sold fraudulent securities which then created a ripple- effect of losses for pension funds and public agencies, ultimately costing consumers and taxpayers huge money. As just one example of those losses, the federal government - read: taxpayers - has spent $187.5 billion floating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after mortgage- backed securities destroyed their balance sheets.

In other words, what JP Morgan Chase is accused of doing isn't the equivalent of average guy John Morgan momentarily revving his Camry up to 80 in a 65 mile per hour zone. It is the equivalent of John Morgan commandeering a Bigfoot Monster Truck and driving over people's houses at 100 miles an hour while fleeing the City Hall treasury he just robbed - and then only being assessed a moving violation by public officials somehow congratulating themselves for being "tough on crime."

As mentioned above, social science research tells us that speeding tickets don't deter minor infractions like speeding - so, again, why should we expect such slaps on the wrist to deter far bigger crimes like, say, defrauding investors and laying waste to the global economy?

The answer is: we shouldn't. We should instead see the settlement announcement as yet another example of the government expecting the public to get confused by seemingly huge numbers, and then making sure fines are so comparatively small that they become to Wall Street just a rounding- error cost of doing fraudulent business.

To appreciate why that word "comparative" is so important and what it really means in the world of banking, think again about that $13 billion number. It sounds like a huge amount - and if a penalty of that size was assessed against a leading company in most industries, perhaps it would be enough to send a real message of deterrence. But the financial industry is not most industries. It is a grotesquely outsized Godzilla that now represents more than 8 percent of the entire economy.

That financialization of American society - which is a very new phenomenon - comes with all sorts of negative effects. One of them is to make a seemingly huge $13 billion penalty into kabuki theater. Indeed, in the context of the industry's monstrously huge annual profits, such a fine is not an income- calibrated European- style speeding ticket designed to deter future behavior - it is headline- grabbing spectacle designed to create the illusion of law enforcement without any serious attempt to deter future law breaking.

Another effect of financialization is Wall Street's power to turn its outsized profits into massive campaign contributions and consequently create an entirely separate legal architecture for itself - one that tends to fetishize soft speeding- ticket- esque fines and avoid the punitive punishments doled out to other criminal enterprises. That ends up making a mockery of both the constitutional notion of "equal protection under the law" and the (once) sacred principle of punitive damages.

The good news is that despite President Obama fawning over JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, his administration's Justice Department was evidently too embarrassed by PBS Frontline's recent blowtorching to take criminal prosecution of Dimon's bank entirely off the table - at least for now. That's real progress from just a few months ago, when - before the PBS special - the administration's similarly weak speeding ticket for HSBC also included a blanket promise to suspend any criminal charges whatsoever.

But, then, despite the progress don't forget: there's a big difference between the theoretical possibility of prosecution and actual prosecution - especially when Justice Department officials have already been lauded as heroes for assessing mere speeding tickets.
(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 .

In this Wednesday, March 20, 2013 photo, the grandson of Afghan villager Ghulam Rasool, 12
year old Ahmed Shah, center, recalled the attack on his village in the yard of his house
where he and his family found refuge in the village of Khalis Family Village, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan.

$40 Million Allocated For Drone Victims Never Reaches Them
By Medea Benjamin

Recent reports on US drone strikes by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN have heightened international awareness about civilian casualties and have resulted in new calls for redress. The Amnesty International drone report "Will I be next?" says the US government should ensure that victims of unlawful drone strikes, including family members, have effective access to remedies, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation. The Human Rights Watch report "Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda" calls on the US government to "implement a system of prompt and meaningful compensation for civilian loss of life, injury, and property damage from unlawful attack."

Several human rights groups have approached lawmakers asking them to sponsor legislation calling for such a fund. But congresspeople have been reluctant to introduce what they consider a losing proposition. Even maverick Congressman Alan Grayson, who is hosting a congressional briefing for drone victims from Pakistan on October 29, turned down the idea. "There's no sympathy in this Congress for drone strike victims," he said.

But unbeknownst to Grayson, the human rights groups and drone strike victims themselves, Congress already has such a fund.

The peace group CODEPINK recently discovered that every year for the past four years, a pot of $10 million has been allocated for Pakistani drone strike victims. That would make a total of $40 million, quite a hefty sum to divide among a few hundred families. But it appears that none of this money has actually reached them.

The Pakistani Civilian Assistance Fund was modeled after the ones that exist in Iraq and Afghanistan, where money was allocated to help alleviate the suffering of civilians harmed by US military operations as part of a strategy to "win hearts and minds." In the case of Pakistan, where the CIA operates its drones, the money is supposed to go directly to the families of innocent drone victims, or for needs like medical expenses or rebuilding homes.

But Tim Rieser, the long-time staffer for Senator Patrick Leahy who has worked to get this Pakistani civilian assistance fund included in the yearly Foreign Operations budget, expressed his exasperation about the use of the funds. "It's been like hitting a brick wall every time we push the administration to use these funds for drone victims, since for years they wouldn't even acknowledge the existence of drone strikes," said Rieser. "I seriously doubt that any of this money has reached the victims it was intended to help."

Instead, it appears that the Conflict Victims Support Fund gets farmed out to US-based non-governmental organizations like International Relief and Development that, after taking their cut, provide humanitarian assistance for Pakistanis who are not drone victims and are not even living in the tribal areas of Waziristan where the US is carrying out the strikes.

Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of Civilians in Conflict, agrees with Rieser that the funds are being misused. "Sure, it's not easy to assess damage and compensate families in Pakistan where there are no boots on the ground to do a military investigation and where the drone operations are covert," said Holewinski. "But the State Department does have personnel in Pakistan, including AID staff, and they could work with communities to figure out what harm occurred, why, by whom, and then determine what the civilians need/want/expect in order to feel dignified and assisted."

Doing this, however, would require cooperation from the CIA, which carries out the drone strikes while refusing to talk about them, and it would contradict the US government assertion that the drone strikes have caused only a handful of civilian casualties.

To make up for the US lack of help, the Pakistani government says it steps in to offer assistance. But the victims covered in the Amnesty report said they either did not receive compensation from the Pakistani government or that it was inadequate. The family of 68-year-old Mamana Bibi, who was killed in North Waziristan while tending her crops, was furious when they were offered $100, given that their costs for medical expenses, repairs to their home and loss of livestock totaled about $9,500.

A 45-year-old Pakistani farmer told investigators of another report, Living Under Drones, that after his home was destroyed by a drone, he didn't have the $1,000,000 rupees [US $10,500] to build a new house, so he and his family live in a rented room. "I spent my whole life in that house, my father had lived there was well....I belong to a poor family. I'm just hoping that I somehow recover financially," he said.

If this farmer had lived in Afghanistan and had been harmed by a drone, he would have been entitled to compensation for loss of life, medical problems and/or property damage. The payments in Afghanistan are usually small (about $5,000 for a death or injury or $5,000 for property damage), but this can make a big difference to a poor family. But next door in Pakistan, there is no help. This inconsistency is the reason staffer Tim Reiser pushed for the Pakistan fund and now thinks a Yemen fund should be created. "Anywhere innocent people are harmed due to our mistakes, we should help them out," says Rieser. Even John Brennan, CIA chief who is the mastermind of President Obama's drone policy, said during his confirmation hearing that he thought the US should offer condolence payments-in fact, he thought the US was already doing that.

Most activists in the US and abroad are focusing, rightly so, on trying to stop the drone killing spree. But those already harmed deserve help. Mohamad al-Qawli, who just formed a network of drone strike victims in Yemen, thinks it's the least the US should do. Al-Qawli's brother was killed in a drone strike, leaving behind a distraught wife and three young children. "In our tribal culture, if someone commits a crime or makes a terrible mistake, they have to acknowledge the wrongdoing, apologize and provide restitution. The US government won't even acknowledge the wrongful death of my brother, much less apologize and compensate his family. Could it be that my tribal culture is more evolved than the justice system of the United States?" Al-Qawli asks.
(c) 2013 Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK, which has organized seven humanitarian delegations to Gaza. She is author of Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.

The Dead Letter Office...

Dick gives the corpo-rat salute!

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Durbin,

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 willingness to give up Social Security and Medicare for a "grand bargain," 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 "Demoncratic whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 11-30-2013. We salute you Herr Durbin, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

What To Expect During The Cease-Fire
By Robert Reich

The war isn't over. It's only a cease-fire.

Republicans have agreed to fund the federal government through January 15 and extend the government's ability to borrow (raise the debt ceiling) through Feb. 7. The two sides have committed themselves to negotiate a long-term budget plan by mid-December.

Regardless of what happens in the upcoming budget negotiations, it seems doubtful House Republicans will try to prevent the debt ceiling from being raised next February. Saner heads in the GOP will be able to point to the debacle Tea Partiers created this time around - the public's anger, directed mostly at Republicans; upset among business leaders and Wall Street executives, who bankroll much of the GOP; and the sharply negative reaction of stock and bond markets, where the American middle class parks whatever savings it has.

The saner Republicans will also be able to point out that President Obama means it when he says he won't ever negotiate over the debt ceiling. The fact that he negotiated over it in 2011 is now irrelevant.

On the other hand, there's a significant chance of another government shutdown in January. By then we'll be well into the gravitational pull of the 2014 midterm elections. Every House member is up for reelection - mostly from safe (often gerrymandered) districts in which their major competitors are likely to be primary opponents from the Tea Party right.

These opponents will be challenging them to show what they've done to sandbag Obamacare and shrink the size of government. The President and the Democrats have made it clear they'll protect Obamacare at all costs. Which means the real action between now and January 15 will be over the federal budget. The threat of another government shutdown is the only major bargaining leverage House Republicans possess in order to get what they consider "meaningful" concessions.

We know the parameters of the upcoming budget debate because we've been there before. The House already has its version - the budget Paul Ryan bequeathed to them. This includes major cuts in Medicare (turning it into a voucher) and Social Security (privatizing much of it), and substantial cuts in domestic programs ranging from education and infrastructure to help for poorer Americans. Republicans also have some bargaining leverage in the sequester, which continues to indiscriminately choke government spending.

The Senate has its own version of a budget, which, by contrast, cuts corporate welfare, reduces defense spending, and raises revenues by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.

Here, I fear, is where the President is likely to cave.

He's already put on the table a way to reduce future Social Security payments by altering the way cost-of-living adjustments are made - using the so-called "chained" consumer price index, which assumes that when prices rise people economize by switching to cheaper alternatives. This makes no sense for seniors, who already spend a disproportionate share of their income on prescription drugs, home healthcare, and medical devices - the prices of which have been rising faster than inflation. Besides, Social Security isn't responsible for our budget deficits. Quite the opposite: For years its surpluses have been used to fund everything else the government does.

The President has also suggested "means-testing" Medicare - that is, providing less of it to higher-income seniors. This might be sensible. The danger is it becomes the start of a slippery slope that eventually turns Medicare into another type of Medicaid, a program perceived to be for the poor and therefore vulnerable to budget cuts.

But why even suggest cutting Medicare at all, when the program isn't responsible for the large budget deficits projected a decade or more from now? Medicare itself is enormously efficient; its administrative costs are far lower than commercial health insurance.

The real problem is the rising costs of healthcare, coupled with the aging of the post-war boomers. The best way to deal with the former - short of a single-payer system - is to use Medicare's bargaining power over providers to move them from "fee-for-services," in which providers have every incentive to do more tests and procedures, to "payments-for-healthy-outcomes," where providers would have every incentive to keep people healthy. (The best way to deal with the latter - the aging of the American population - is to allow more young immigrants into America.)

More generally, the President has been too eager to accept the argument that the major economic problem facing the nation is large budget deficits - when, in point of fact, the deficit has been shrinking as a share of the national economy. The only reason it's expected to increase in future years is, again, rising healthcare costs.

Our real economic problem continues to be a dearth of good jobs along with widening inequality. Cutting the budget deficit may make both worse, by reducing total demand for goods and services and eliminating programs that lower-income Americans depend on.

The President has now scored a significant victory over extremist Republicans. But the fight will continue. He mustn't relinquish ground during the upcoming cease-fire.
(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.

Why Snowden's Passport Matters
By Norman Solomon

When the State Department revoked Edward Snowden's passport four months ago, the move was a reprisal from a surveillance-and-warfare state that operates largely in the shadows. Top officials in Washington were furious. Snowden had suddenly exposed what couldn't stand the light of day, blowing the cover of the world's Biggest Brother.

Cancelation of the passport wasn't just an effort to prevent the whistleblower from getting to a country that might grant political asylum. It was also a declaration that the U.S. government can nullify the right to travel just as surely as it can nullify the right to privacy.

"Although I am convicted of nothing," Snowden said in a July 1 statement after a week at a Moscow airport terminal, the U.S. government "has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum."

Since 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has affirmed with clarity: "Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution." The only other words of Article 14 specify an exception that clearly doesn't apply to Snowden: "This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations."

The extent of the U.S. government's scorn for this principle can be gauged by the lengths it has gone to prevent Snowden from gaining political asylum. It was a measure of desperation -- and contempt for international law -- that Washington got allied governments of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy to deny airspace to the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales in early July, forcing the aircraft to land for a search on the chance that it was carrying Snowden from Moscow to political asylum in Bolivia.

Although Snowden was able to stay in Russia, revocation of his U.S. passport has been a crucial weapon to prevent him from crossing an international border for any reason other than to come home to prison in the United States.

Just as the decision to revoke Snowden's passport was entirely political, any remedy will be political. The law has nothing to do with it, other than giving the Secretary of State the power to revoke his passport.

Unfortunately, that option was established in the case of Philip Agee, the CIA agent who revealed wrongdoing and became a CIA foe. He lost a legal fight to regain his revoked passport when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him in 1981.

Thurgood Marshall was one of the dissenting justices in that 7-2 decision on Haig v. Agee. The other was William Brennan, who wrote that "just as the Constitution protects both popular and unpopular speech, it likewise protects both popular and unpopular travelers."

Justice Brennan added: "And it is important to remember that this decision applies not only to Philip Agee, whose activities could be perceived as harming the national security, but also to other citizens who may merely disagree with Government foreign policy and express their views."

Clearly winning the right to travel for "both popular and unpopular travelers" is a political battle ahead. A step in that direction has begun with an online petition telling Secretary of State John Kerry to restore Snowden's passport. Thousands of signers have posted cogent -- and often eloquent -- personal comments alongside their names.

"I urge you to immediately reinstate the passport of Edward Snowden, a U.S. whistleblower who has educated the public about threats to our privacy and precious constitutional rights," the petition says. "Due process is fundamental to democracy. Your revocation of Mr. Snowden's passport contradicts the words of many U.S. leaders who have often criticized other governments for violating the principle of freedom to travel." (The petition, launched by, has gained more than 25,000 signers since mid-October.)

Whether sending missiles across borders or using the latest digital technology to spy on vast numbers of people, the U.S. government relies on military violence and chronic secrecy in an ongoing quest to exert control over as much of the world as possible. The agenda reeks of impunity and arrogant power. Revoking Edward Snowden's passport is in sync with that agenda. We should challenge it.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co- founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Steve Sack ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The Divine Creator says He enjoys eating a human being from time to time "as a snack."

God Reveals He Occasionally Eats Humans

THE HEAVENS-Speaking candidly during a rare interview this Thursday, God Almighty, Our Lord and Heavenly Father, revealed to the public that He occasionally eats human beings.

The Supreme Being, who spoke to reporters today about His dietary habits, said that Homo sapiens don't comprise a regular part of His food consumption, but noted that every once in a while He "feels like eating a human" and will then pick one out from earth and eat the person alive.

"It's not something I do very often, but yes, I have been known to eat humans from time to time," said God, claiming that while He didn't consider human beings "an everyday kind of meal, per se," they do occasionally make for a decent snack. "In fact, sometimes I'll suddenly catch myself nibbling on a human being without even realizing it. They're nice and chewy and bite-size, and there's always a lot of them just lying around so I figure, hey, why not."

"Sometimes I put the remains back where I found them and make it look like a murder or something," the Eternal One continued. "But most of the time I forget to do that and the person just disappears."

Saying that He had no personal taste preferences for gender or race, the Maker of Heaven and Earth reported being open to eating human beings from all across the world and remarked that every few years He would scoop His hands across one of the world's major coastlines and pick out a variety of human beings to eat at once.

He Who Commanded Light to Shine Out of Darkness also told reporters that while He once tended to eat human beings who were elderly or infirm, He recently found that eating people in their prime "tasted just as good, so no reason not to eat them too."

"My favorite part is the legs," The Divine Creator proclaimed. "Usually, when I pick out a human being, I'll tear off their legs from the rest of their body and eat them first. Then I'll eat the arms and then the heads."

"If I have more room left then I eat the rest of the body," He added. "But by then I'm usually full, so I throw it away."

The all-knowing, all-powerful deity also acknowledged that though He doesn't technically require any form of edible sustenance at all to survive, He simply "enjoys the taste of human beings" and planned on continuing to eat more for the foreseeable future.

When asked if He felt any qualms about devouring the very members of creation that He made in His own image, God simply stated, "No."

"Back in the early days of humanity, I definitely ate way more humans than I do now," said God, remarking that He would regularly eat handfuls of human beings throughout every day of the Middle Pleistocene era. "But over the millennia, I've definitely eaten my share of human beings...Jimmy Hoffa, Ambrose Bierce, the Lindbergh baby, every dead body that's ever existed, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper...."

"Hell, I even ate Jesus Christ," God added. "That was a good meal."
(c) 2013 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 41 (c) 10/25/2013

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