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In This Edition

Sam Harris discusses with Paul Bloom, "The Roots Of Good And Evil."

Uri Avnery reveals, "The Judaization Of Israel."

Glen Ford sees, "Detroit As Dred Scott."

Amy Goodman says, "Typhoon Haiyan Demands Climate Action At The UN Summit In Warsaw."

Jim Hightower reports, "Congress Critters Kiss Wall Street Butt For Cash."

David Swanson demands that we, "Stop Drone Killings."

James Donahue finds, "Arctic Release Of Methane Now At Deadly Levels."

John Nichols concludes, "Candidate Or Not, Elizabeth Warren Has The Right 2016 Message."

Chris Hedges introduces, "The Revolutionaries In Our Midst."

Michael Winship returns with, "Real-Life Hunger Is No Game."

Paul Krugman explores, "The Plot Against France."

David Sirota examines, "The Defense Industry's Grand Bargain."

William Rivers Pitt sends, "An Open Letter To All Breathing Republicans."

Illinois state Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich considers, "Pragmatists, Ideologues, And Inequality In America."

Robert Scheer denotes, "The True Patriots In Congress Trying To End NSA Tyranny."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion announces, "Nation Not About To Start Giving A Shit About Canadian Politics" but first Uncle Ernie sings, "It's The New Splendid Lady Come To Call."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Kevin Siers, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, MTSOfan, Kevin Lamarque, Murray Close, Matt Rourke, Ban Weaponized Drones.Org, Reuters, Flickr, NSFWCorp.Com, The Economist, Cook County Sheriff's Office, Shutterstock, AP, Lionsgate, 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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It's The New Splendid Lady Come To Call
By Ernest Stewart

'Cause it's the new Mother Nature takin' over
It's the new splendid lady come to call
It's the new Mother Nature takin' over
She's gettin' us all, yeah, she's gettin' us all
No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature ~~~ The Guess Who

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..." ~~~ President Woodrow Wilson

"Redefining marriage has far-reaching implications for our society. While some children in non-nuclear parent homes do OK, the risks increase for children when they're raised apart from both biological parents." ~~~ Illinois state Rep. Tom Morrison

'Cause I'm a man with a whole lot on his mind
Just out there somewhere, travelling in time
Traveller In Time ~~~ Uriah Heep

They're calling it, "Super Typhoon Haiyan;" and it was the most powerful storm ever recorded. It came ashore in the Philippines with 200 mile an hour winds and a storm surge or tidal wave three stories tall; and most everything it covered got sucked out to sea when it retreated. The devastation that was left in its wake was truly unbelievable! Most of the central Philippines were wiped out!

In its wake an estimated 10,000 people died, 700,000 were left homeless, with over 2 1/2 million people affected, even though they had plenty of warning -- with most folks escaping inland. However, it's five days later, and not much has been done to help the victims, who are struggling to find food and water -- even though there's plenty of food stockpiled; it just isn't getting out to the needy yet.

Meanwhile in Poland, at the UN climate change conference, there's a similar much-to-do-about-nothing that the last climate confidence achieved at their 2009 summit in Copenhagen. The US is heming and hawing like they did in 2009, with nothing new or urgent to add. When asked whether the US had any plans to increase its emissions target in the international talks, US negotiator Trigg Talley said the "focus for us now is to meet the existing target, of cutting emissions by 17 per cent between 2005 and 2020." "I think that we are on the right track to achieve it," he said, noting President Barack Obama's plans to cut emissions from power plants, boost renewable energy and other measures.

Meanwhile, Poland and others countries argue against cutting back on coal-fired electrical plants because that would destroy their economies; so I really don't see any much-needed, urgent, progress coming from this -- especially as the US refuses to lead, much like we've done since Barry took over from Bush -- both of whom spending most of their time in office ignoring global warming whenever possible. Heck of a job, Mr. Presidents!

I'm having a deja vue all over again, aren't you? Ya'll may remember when Nero fiddled while Rome burned? Same principle, with the same results expected. Your tax dollars at work, America!

In Other News

So, how did you celebrate Armistice Day? You did celebrate it, right? You know, the only date on the American calendar that celebrated peace?

You may recall that World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles -- hence its title. However, fighting had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of "the war, to end all wars." That worked out well, huh?

In November of 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. The original concept for the celebration was for a day to celebrate peace.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far-reaching war in human annals, and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday-a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day."

Seems simple enough, huh?

Then along came the fascist takeover of Washington in the 50's, (you may recall the witch hunts?) and Armistice Day a day of peace became Veterans Day -- a celebration of killers. The 83rd Congress, at the urging of the military/industrial complex, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of wars.

Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated:

"In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."
Screw you, Ike; I refuse to honor veterans on Armistice Day; instead, I honor peace! How about you, America?

And Finally

Illinois became the 15th state to legalize gay marriage last week -- but not without much moaning of the bar by some Rethuglican members of the state house, such as Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) who tried to disguise his homophobia by wrapping himself in the bible the way that they like to do. Let's forget for a minute that the star of the new testament was obviously gay. Not to mention the 1st amendment of the US Constitution, and what the founding fathers had to say about the bible verus the Constitution; but the truth has never been a stumbling block to a rat-winger on a roll.

You may recall that the founding fathers had this to say on the subject, not to mention Honest Abe! These quotes are just the tip of the iceberg!
"The United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian doctrine." ~~~ George Washington

"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." ~~~ Thomas Jefferson

"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church." ~~~ Thomas Paine

"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature." ~~~ Thomas Jefferson

"The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma." ~~~ Abraham Lincoln

"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." ~~~ President John Adams as he signed the Treaty of Tripoli

"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." ~~~ John Adams

"Our civil rights have no dependence on religious opinions, any more than our opinion in physics and geometry." ~~~ Thomas Jefferson

"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise...the legal establishment of Christianity [results in] superstition, bigotry, and persecution." ~~~ James Madison

Thomas Paine rejected all denominations of Judeo-Christian faith, saying, "I disbelieve them all."

Ben Franklin and Ethan Allen were deists, believing the universe functions independently of any god, with Allen writing: "I am not Christian."

"Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society." ~~~ George Washington in a letter to Sir Edward Newenham, June 22, 1792

"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites." ~~~ Thomas Jefferson in Notes on Virginia

"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." ~~~ Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

"What influence, in face, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been guardians of the liberties of the people." ~~~ Jame Madison
Now compare and contrast with Dwight Kay...
"The other thing I didn't hear today was the fact that this nation was built on the scriptures. And then came the Constitution. Is that not right?"

"I think it is," Kay continued. "Our Constitution has always looked to the scriptures for its guidance and its columns and its foundations and its leanings, its underpinnings. And, yet, I've heard nothing today about the scriptures. The only thing I have heard is about human rights."

"So I guess we have walked away, we have backed away from our heritage in this nation, which we seem to do quite regularly for the expediency of what we wish to do in the moment," he remarked. "And, ladies and gentlemen, that's pride. That's the belief you're better than the very foundations of this nation which we find in the scriptures."
Ergo, Dwight wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

Ya'll remember watching Johnny Carson? With Doc getting spaced in the background, Ed would ask Johnny various questions; Johnny would mention that it was cold outside, and Ed would ask him, "How cold is it," and Johnny would reply, "It was colder than a Narc's heart;" and the camera would pan to Doc -- who was smirking. If you'd like, you might ask me, when I say, "we are broke and still needed to raise $600," and you'd say, "How broke are you, Uncle Ernie?" and I'd say "We're so broke that we can't afford to pay attention" and funny or not, that's how we are.

We are, however, ever so close to breaking even for the year; but as they would say in the US Army, "Closeness only counts in Horse Shoes and Hand Grenades," to which I would reply, "And atomic weapons!" But that's about it, folks. On December 12th, we'll begin our 14th year -- working for the truth and for you. It seems like only yesterday when Tony "Light-Fingers" Scalia and his gang-of-five overthrew the legal government of Al Gore in a judicial coup d'etat and gave us Smirky the Wonder Chimp and totalitarian rule by the 1%, and the end of the American Republic, and the nightmares to come.

If you think the "commodity" of truth is an important tool in the weeks and years to come, then you might want to send us whatever you can, whenever you can, to keep us fighting for truth and sending it out to the world. No one here takes a salary; all we need to do is to break even -- please help us if you can. Got no money, I can dig it; believe me, I can; so if you like what we do, tell your friends and help us unplug as many as we can from the Matrix!


06-02-1924 ~ 11-13-2013
Thanks for the film!


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


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

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

The Roots Of Good And Evil
An Interview with Paul Bloom
By Sam Harris

Paul Bloom is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology at Yale University. His research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with special focus on morality, religion, fiction, and art. He has won numerous awards for his research and teaching. He is a past president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and a co-editor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, one of the major journals in the field. Dr. Bloom has written for scientific journals such as Nature and Science and for popular outlets such as The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic. He is the author or editor of six books, including Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil.

Paul was kind enough to answer a few questions about his new book.


Harris: What are the greatest misconceptions people have about the origins of morality?

Bloom: The most common misconception is that morality is a human invention. It's like agriculture and writing, something that humans invented at some point in history. From this perspective, babies start off as entirely self-interested beings-little psychopaths-and only gradually come to appreciate, through exposure to parents and schools and church and television, moral notions such as the wrongness of harming another person.

Now, this perspective is not entirely wrong. Certainly some morality is learned; this has to be the case because moral ideals differ across societies. Nobody is born with the belief that sexism is wrong (a moral belief that you and I share) or that blasphemy should be punished by death (a moral belief that you and I reject). Such views are the product of culture and society. They aren't in the genes.

But the argument I make in Just Babies is that there also exist hardwired moral universals-moral principles that we all possess. And even those aspects of morality-such as the evils of sexism-that vary across cultures are ultimately grounded in these moral foundations.

A very different misconception sometimes arises, often stemming from a religious or spiritual outlook. It's that we start off as Noble Savages, as fundamentally good and moral beings. From this perspective, society and government and culture are corrupting influences, blotting out and overriding our natural and innate kindness.

This, too, is mistaken. We do have a moral core, but it is limited-Hobbes was closer to the truth than Rousseau. Relative to an adult, your typical toddler is selfish, parochial, and bigoted. I like the way Kingsley Amis once put it: "It was no wonder that people were so horrible when they started life as children." Morality begins with the genes, but it doesn't end there.

Harris: How do you distinguish between the contributions of biology and those of culture?

Bloom: There is a lot you can learn about the mind from studying the fruit flies of psychological research-college undergraduates. But if you want to disentangle biology and culture, you need to look at other populations. One obvious direction is to study individuals from diverse cultures. If it turns out that some behavior or inclination shows up only in so-called WEIRD (Western Educated Industrial Rich Democratic) societies, it's unlikely to be a biological adaptation. For instance, a few years ago researchers were captivated by the fact that subjects in the United States and Switzerland are highly altruistic and highly moral when playing economic games. They assumed that this reflects the workings of some sort of evolved module-only to discover that people in the rest of the world behave quite differently, and that their initial findings are better explained as a quirk of certain modern societies.

One can do comparative research-if a human capacity is shared with other apes, then its origin is best explained in terms of biology, not culture. And there's a lot of fascinating research with apes and monkeys that's designed to address questions about the origin of pro-social behavior.

Then there's baby research. We can learn a lot about human nature by looking at individuals before they are exposed to school, television, religious institutions, and the like. The powerful capacities that we and other researchers find in babies are strong evidence for the contribution of biology. Now, even babies have some life history, and it's possible that very early experience, perhaps even in the womb, plays some role in the origin of these capacities. I'm comfortable with this-my claim in Just Babies isn't that the moral capacities of babies emerge without any interaction with the environment. That would be nuts. Rather, my claim is the standard nativist one: These moral capacities are not acquired through learning.

We should also keep in mind that failure to find some capacity in a baby does not show that it is the product of culture. For one thing, the capacity might be present in the baby's mind but psychologists might not be clever enough to detect it. In the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Furthermore, some psychological systems that are pretty plainly biological adaptations might emerge late in development-think about the onset of disgust at roughly the age of four, or the powerful sexual desires that emerge around the time of puberty. Developmental research is a useful tool for pulling apart biology and culture, but it's not a magic bullet.

Harris: What are the implications of our discovering that many moral norms emerge very early in life?

Bloom: Some people think that once we know what the innate moral system is, we'll know how to live our lives. For them it's as if the baby's mind contains a holy text of moral wisdom, written by Darwin instead of Yahweh, and once we can read it, all ethical problems will be solved.

This seems unlikely. Mature moral decision-making involves complex reasoning, and often the right thing to do involves overriding our gut feelings, including those that are hardwired. And some moral insights, such as the wrongness of slavery, are surely not in our genes.

But I do think that this developmental work has some interesting implications. For one thing, the argument in Just Babies is that, to a great extent, all people have the same morality. The differences that we see-however important they are to our everyday lives-are variations on a theme. This universality provides some reason for optimism. It suggests that if we look hard enough, we can find common ground with any other neurologically normal human, and that has to be good news.

Just Babies is optimistic in another way. The zeitgeist in modern psychology is pro-emotion and anti-reason. Prominent writers and intellectuals such as David Brooks, Malcolm Gladwell, and Jonathan Haidt have championed the view that, as David Hume famously put it, we are slaves of the passions. From this perspective, moral judgments and moral actions are driven mostly by gut feelings-rational thought has little to do with it.

That's a grim view of human nature. If it were true, we should buck up and learn to live with it. But I argue in Just Babies that it's not true. It is refuted by everyday experience, by history, and by the science of developmental psychology. Rational deliberation is part of our everyday lives, and, as many have argued-including Steven Pinker, Peter Singer, Joshua Greene, you, and me, in the final chapter of in Just Babies-it is a powerful force in driving moral progress.

Harris: When you talk about moral progress, it implies that some moralities are better than others. Do you think, then, that it is legitimate to say that certain individuals or cultures have the wrong morality?

Bloom: If humans were infinitely plastic, with no universal desires, goals, or moral principles, the answer would have to be no. But it turns out that we have deep commonalities, and so, yes, we can talk meaningfully about some moralities' being better than others.

Consider a culture in which some minority is kept as slaves-tortured, raped, abused, bought and sold, and so on-and this practice is thought of by the majority as a moral arrangement. Perhaps it's justified by reference to divine command, or the demands of respected authorities, or long-standing tradition. I think we're entirely justified in arguing that they are wrong, and when we do this, we're not merely saying "We like our way better." Rather, we can argue that it's wrong by pointing out that it's wrong even for them-the majority who benefit from the practice.

Obstetricians used to deliver babies without washing their hands, and many mothers and babies died as a result. They were doing it wrong-wrong by their own standards, because obstetricians wanted to deliver babies, not kill them. Similarly, given that the humans in the slave society possess certain values and intuitions and priorities, they are acting immorally by their own lights, and they would appreciate this if they were exposed to certain arguments and certain facts.

Now, this is an empirical claim, drawing on assumptions about human psychology, but it's supported by history. Good moral ideas can spread through the world in much the same way that good scientific ideas can, and once they are established, people marvel that they could ever have thought differently. Americans are no more likely to reinstate slavery than we are to give up on hand-washing for doctors.

You've written extensively on these issues in The Moral Landscape and elsewhere, and since we agree on so much, I can't resist sounding a note of gentle conflict. Your argument is that morality is about maximizing the well-being of conscious minds. This means that determining the best moral system reduces to the empirical/scientific question of what system best succeeds at this goal. From this standpoint, we can reject a slave society for precisely the same reason we can reject a dirty-handed-obstetrician society-it involves needless human pain.

My view is slightly different. You're certainly right that maximizing well-being is something we value, and needless suffering is plainly a bad thing. But there remain a lot of hard questions-the sort that show up in Ethics 101 and never go away. Are we aspiring for the maximum total amount of individual well-being or the highest average? Are principles of fairness and equality relevant? What if the slave society has very few unhappy slaves and very many happy slaveholders, so its citizens are, in total and on average, more fulfilled than ours? Is that society more moral? If my child needs an operation to save his sight, am I a better person if I let him go blind and send the money to a charity where it will save another child's life? These are hard questions, and they don't go away if we have a complete understanding of the empirical facts.

The source of these difficulties, I think, is that as reflective moral beings, we sometimes have conflicting intuitions as to what counts as morally good. If we were natural-born utilitarians of the Benthamite sort, then determining the best possible moral world really would be a straightforward empirical problem. But we aren't, and so it isn't.

Harris: Well, it won't surprise you to learn that I agree with everything you've said up until this last bit. In fact, these last points illustrate why I choose not to follow the traditional lines laid down by academic philosophers. If you declare that you are a "utilitarian," everyone who has taken Ethics 101, as you say, imagines that he understands the limits of your view. Unfortunately, those limits have been introduced by philosophers themselves and are enshrined in the way that we have been encouraged to talk about moral philosophy.

For instance, you suggest that a concern for well-being might be opposed to a concern for fairness and equality-but fairness and equality are immensely important precisely because they are so good at safeguarding the well-being of people who have competing interests. If someone says that fairness and equality are important for reasons that have nothing to do with the well-being of people, I have no idea what he is talking about.

Similarly, you suggest that the hard questions of ethics wouldn't go away if we had a complete understanding of empirical facts. But we really must pause to appreciate just how unimaginably different things would be IF we had such an understanding. This kind of omniscience is probably impossible-but nothing in my account depends on its being possible in practice. All we need to establish a strong, scientific conception of moral truth in principle is to admit that there is a landscape of experiences that conscious beings like ourselves can have, both individually and collectively-and that some are better than others (in any and every sense of "better"). Must we really defend the proposition that an experience of effortless good humor, serenity, love, creativity, and awe spread over all possible minds would be better than everyone's being flayed alive in a dungeon by unhappy devils? I don't think so.

I agree that how we think about collective well-being presents certain difficulties (average vs. maximum, for instance)-but a strong conception of moral truth requires only that we acknowledge the extremes. It seems to me that the paradoxes that Derek Parfit has engineered here, while ingenious, need no more impede our progress toward increased well-being than the paradoxes of Zeno prevent us from getting to the coffee pot each morning. I admit that it can be difficult to say whether a society of unhappy egalitarians would be better or worse than one composed of happy slaveholders and none-too-miserable slaves. And if we tuned things just right, I would be forced to say that these societies are morally equivalent. However, one thing is not debatable (and it is all that my thesis as presented in The Moral Landscape requires): If you took either of these societies and increased the well-being of everyone, you would be making a change for the good. If, for instance, the slaveholders invented machines that could replace the drudgery of slaves, and the slaves themselves became happy machine owners-and these changes introduced no negative consequences that canceled the moral gains-this would be an improvement in moral terms. And any person who later attempted to destroy the machines and begin enslaving his neighbors would be acting immorally.

Again, the changes in well-being that are possible for creatures like ourselves are possible whether or not anyone knows about them, and their possibility depends in some way on the laws that govern the states of conscious minds in this universe (or any other).

Whatever its roots in our biology, I think we should now view morality as a navigation problem: How can we (or any other conscious system) reduce suffering and increase happiness? There might be an uncountable number of morally equivalent peaks and valleys on the landscape-but that wouldn't undermine the claim that basking on some peak is better than being tortured in one of the valleys. Nor would it suggest that movement up or down depends on something other than the laws of nature.

Bloom: I agree with almost all of this. Sure-needless suffering is a bad thing, and increased well-being is a good thing, and that's why I'm comfortable saying that some societies (and some individuals) have better moralities than others. I agree as well that determining the right moral system will rest in part on knowing the facts. This is true for the extremes, and it's also true for real-world cases. The morality of drug laws in the United States, for instance, surely has a lot to do with whether those laws cause an increase or a decrease in human suffering.

My point was that there are certain moral problems that don't seem to be solvable by science. You accept this but think that these are like paradoxes of metaphysics-philosophical puzzles with little practical relevance.

This is where we clash, because some of these moral problems keep me up at night. Take the problem of how much I should favor my own children. I spend money to improve my sons' well-being-buying them books, taking them on vacations, paying dentists to fix their teeth, etc.-that could instead be used to save the lives of children in poor countries. I don't need a neuroscientist to tell me that I'm not acting to increase the total well-being of conscious individuals. Am I doing wrong? Maybe so. But would you recommend the alternative, where (to use my earlier example) I let my son go blind so that I can send the money I would have paid for the operation to Oxfam so that another child can live? This seems grotesque. So what's the right balance? How should we weigh the bonds of family, friendship, and community?

This is a serious problem of everyday life, and it's not going to be solved by science.

Harris: Actually, I don't think our views differ much. This just happens to be a place where we need to distinguish between answers in practice and answers in principle. I completely agree that there are important ethical problems that we might never solve. I also agree that there are circumstances in which we tend to act selfishly to a degree that beggars any conceivable philosophical justification. We are, therefore, not as moral as we might be. Is this really a surprise? As you know, the forces that rule us here are largely situational: It is one thing for you to toss an appeal from the Red Cross in the trash on your way to the ice cream store. It would be another for you to step over the prostrate bodies of starving children. You know such children exist, of course, and yet they are out of sight and (generally) out of mind. Few people would counsel you to let your own children go blind, but I can well imagine Peter Singer's saying that you should deprive them of every luxury as long as other children are deprived of food. To understand the consequences of doing this, we would really need to take all the consequences into account.

I briefly discuss this problem in The Moral Landscape. I suspect that some degree of bias toward one's own offspring could be normative in that it will tend to lead to better outcomes for everyone. Communism, many have noticed, appears to run so counter to human nature as to be more or less unworkable. But the crucial point is that we could be wrong about this-and we would be wrong with reference to empirical facts that we may never fully discover. To say that these answers will not be found through science is merely to say that they won't be established with any degree of certainty or precision. But that is not to say that such answers do not exist. It is also possible to know exactly what we should do but to not be sufficiently motivated to do it. We often find ourselves in this situation in life. For example, a person desperately wants to lose weight and knows that he would be happier if he did. He also knows how to do it-by eating less junk and exercising more. And yet he may spend his whole life not doing what he knows would be good for him. In many respects, I think our morality suffers from this kind of lassitude.

But we can achieve something approaching moral certainty for the easy cases. As you know, many academics and intellectuals deny this. You and I are surrounded by highly educated and otherwise intelligent people who believe that opposition to the burqa is merely a symptom of Western provincialism. I think we agree that this kind of moral relativism rests on some very dubious (and unacknowledged) assumptions about the nature of morality and the limits of science. Let us go out on a scientific limb together: Forcing half the population to live inside cloth bags isn't the best way to maximize individual or collective well-being. On the surface, this is a rather modest ethical claim. When we look at the details, however, we find that it is really a patchwork of claims about psychology, sociology, economics, and probably several other scientific disciplines. In fact, the moment we admit that we know anything at all about human well-being, we find that we cannot talk about moral truth outside the context of science. Granted, the scientific details may be merely implicit, or may remain perpetually out of reach. But we are talking about the nature of human minds all the same.

Bloom: We still have more to talk about regarding the hard cases, but I agree with you that there are moral truths and that we can learn about them, at least in part, through science. Part of the program of doing so is understanding human nature, and especially our universal moral sense, and this is what my research, and my new book, is all about.
(c) 2013 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

The Judaization Of Israel
By Uri Avnery

ON MY 16th birthday, in 1939, I rushed to the district registration office of the Government of Palestine to change my name officially.

I shed the German name I was given at birth and adopted the Hebrew first and surname I had chosen.

It was more than a mere change of names. It was a declaration: a divorce from my past in the Diaspora ("exile" in Zionist parlance), from the tradition of my German-Jewish forebears, from everything that was "exilic". "Exilic" was the worst insult you could throw at anyone at the time.

It said: I am a Hebrew, a part of the great adventure of creating the new Hebrew nation, the new Hebrew culture, the future Hebrew state that was to come into being once we had driven the British colonial regime out of the country.

THIS WAS the normal thing to do. Almost all my friends and acquaintances did so the moment they legally could.

When the state was founded, it became official policy. You could not join the diplomatic service or obtain a senior commission in the army if you bore a foreign name.

And indeed, could one imagine an Israeli ambassador in Germany called Berliner? Or an Israeli ambassador in Poland called Polonsky? Or an Israeli Prime Minister called Grun (Ben-Gurion's former name)? A Chief of Staff of the army called Kitaigorodsky (the former name of Moshe Dayan?) Or an Israeli international soccer star called Ochs?

Ben-Gurion was a fanatic in this matter. It was, perhaps, the only matter on which we agreed.

THE CHANGING of names symbolized a basic ideological attitude. Zionism was based on a total negation of the Jewish Diaspora, its way of living, its traditions and expressions.

The Founding father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, now officially designated here as "the Visionary of the State", envisioned the total disappearance of the Diaspora. In his diary he foresaw that after the founding of the "Jewstate" (wrongly translated as the "Jewish State"), all the Jews who wished to do so would settle in Israel. They (and only they!) would henceforth be called Jews. All the others would finally assimilate in their host nations and cease being Jews. (This part of Herzl's teachings is completely and deliberately obliterated in Israel. It is neither taught in the schools nor mentioned by politicians.)

In his diaries, which are of high literary value, Herzl did not hide his contempt for the Diaspora Jews. Some passages are positively anti-Semitic - a term that was invented in Germany after Herzl's birth.

As a pupil in an elementary school in Palestine I was imbued with this contemptuous attitude. Everything "exilic" was beneath contempt: the Jewish shtetl, Jewish religion, Jewish prejudices and superstitions. We learned that "exilic" Jews were engaged in "air businesses" - parasitical stock exchange deals that did not produce anything real, that Jews shunned physical work, that their social setup was a "reverse pyramid", which we were to overturn by creating a healthy society of peasants and workers.

In my company in the Irgun underground, and later in the Israeli army, there was not a single kippah-wearing fighter, though some wore peaked caps. Religious people were objects of pity.

The prevalent doctrine was that religion had indeed played a useful role throughout the centuries in holding Jews together and enabling the survival of the Jewish people, but that now Hebrew nationalism had taken over that role, making religion redundant. Religion, it was felt, would soon die out.

Everything good and healthy was Hebrew - the Hebrew community, Hebrew agriculture, Hebrew kibbutzim, the "First Hebrew City" (Tel Aviv), the Hebrew underground military organizations, the future Hebrew state. Jewish were "exilic" things like religion, tradition and useless stuff like that.

Only when the full extent of the Holocaust became known, near the end of World War II, did this attitude turn into profound remorse. There was a feeling of guilt, of not having done enough for our persecuted relatives. The shtetl assumed the glow of infantile memories, people started to long for the warm Jewish home, the idyllic Jewish existence.

Even then, Ben-Gurion refused to accept the idea that Jews may live outside Israel. He refused to deal with Zionist leaders living abroad. Only when the new state was in dire economic straits and desperately needed Jewish money did he finally agree to go to the US and ask the Jewish leadership there to come to the aid of Israel.

SINCE THEN, Jewishness has made a huge comeback. The small group of religious Jews who had joined Zionism from the beginning is now a large and powerful "national-religious" movement, the core of the settlers and the extreme right, a pivotal party in the present government.

The anti-Zionist "God-fearing" ("haredim") Orthodox community are an even bigger force. Though all their eminent rabbis at the time had condemned and cursed Herzl and his supporters, they now use their clout to extort immense sums of money from the state. Their main aim is to keep a separate, religious, school system, in which their children don't learn anything but scriptures. They prevent their young men from being drafted into the army, so as to avoid them from coming into any contact with ordinary youth, especially women. They live in a ghetto.

A recent alarmist TV documentary quoted demographers who forecast that in thirty years or so the haredim will constitute the majority of Jewish citizens in Israel, by virtue of their enormous birthrate. This would turn Israel into something similar to today's Saudi Arabia or Iran.

Even now, certain towns and neighborhoods in Israel that are dominated by the Orthodox, are closed to any kind of traffic on Saturdays. Women wearing short sleeves - as all non-Orthodox women do in the hot Israeli summer - are spat upon and sometimes beaten. EL AL does not fly on Shabbat, nor are there any bus or train services throughout the country.

With an Orthodox majority in the state, this would become the general rule. No traffic of any kind on Saturdays, no shops open on religious holidays, no non-kosher food in the shops or in the restaurants (there is plenty now), no secular laws, no circumventing the laws forbidding marriage between Jews and non-Jews, a strict moral code enforced by the police.

The secular population, now in the majority, would probably escape from such a country to greener Jewish pastures in New York or Berlin.

All this was broadcast this week on Israeli TV.

A BILL now being debated in the Knesset would overturn the present doctrine of Israel being a "Jewish and democratic state" and replace it with the doctrine that Israel is "the nation-state of the Jewish people".

That is presented as the fulfillment of Zionism, but is in fact the very negation of Zionism. The process has come around 360 degrees and arrived back where it started. Instead of the ghetto in the shtetl, Israel itself would become a large ghetto. Instead of negating the Diaspora, the entire Diaspora would become a part of Israel - without having a say in the matter. The state would no longer belong to its citizens (both Hebrew and Arab) but to Jews in Los Angeles and Moscow.

The very idea is, of course, ridiculous. Jews are basically an ethnic-religious world-wide community which has existed for 2500 years without the need for a homeland. Even at the time of the Hasmonean kingdom, most Jews lived outside Palestine. Their abstract connection with Eretz Israel is like the connection of Indonesian and Malian Muslims with Mecca - a holy place to be mentioned in prayers and an object of pilgrimage, but not claimed as a sovereign earthly possession. Until the rise of European nationalism, Jews made no effort for all these centuries to settle there. Indeed, it was forbidden by Jewish Law to go to the Holy Land en masse.

Israeli nationalism, on the other hand, is rooted in a physical homeland, bound up with national sovereignty and citizenship - concepts foreign to religion.

Early Zionists were forced by circumstances to combine the two opposed concepts. There was no Jewish nation in existence, Palestine belonged to another people. By necessity they invented the formula that for Jews, unlike other people, nation and religion are one and the same. To justify their claim to the country, atheists argued - and still do - that God Almighty had promised the land to the Jews in a deal made some 3500 years ago.

The Israeli government now demands, as a condition for making peace, that the Palestinians officially recognize this formula - "Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People". If they refuse, it means that they are resolved to annihilate us, like Hitler, and therefore we won't make peace with them.

For me, this is absurd. I want the Palestinians to recognize the State of Israel, pure and simple (in return for our recognition of the State of Palestine). It's not their business how Israel defines itself (as it is not for us to decide how the Palestinian state will define itself.)

It's for us - and us only - to decide whether our state will be Jewish or just Israeli.

THAT'S WHERE the matter of names come in.

Lately, only very few people have been adopting new Hebrew surnames. Most retain their German, Russian or Arab ones. I see this as a regression, sliding back into a ghetto.

When I was interviewed this week on the army radio network (strangely the most liberal outlet in the country), my young interviewers attacked me for holding this opinion. They see the semi-compulsory changing of names that was practiced in the early days of Israel as an act of oppression, a violation of privacy, almost a rape.

Most Israelis nowadays are content to retain the names of their Polish, Russian, Moroccan and Iraqi forebears. They are unaware that these names symbolize the re-Judaization of Israel.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Detroit As Dred Scott
By Glen Ford

Kevyn Orr, the state-appointed Emergency Financial Manager who holds dictatorial powers over Detroit, was attempting to clarify his current views on whether retiree's pensions can be cut if the city goes bankrupt. Back in June, Orr tried to ease city workers' and retirees' fears - and lower their union's defenses - by telling creditors that pensions were "sacrosanct." Indeed, pensions are explicitly immune from slashing under the Michigan state constitution. Once Orr moved to bankrupt the Black metropolis, he proposed to throw Detroit's pensioners into the common mix of "creditors" whose final payouts would depend on what's left after the "super-priority" bankers are made whole. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes this week asked Orr what he would tell a retiree, now, about the status of his previously "sacrosanct" pensions? "I would say his rights are in bankruptcy now," Orr replied. "I would say his rights are subject to the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution."

The Supremacy Clause establishes the U.S. Constitution as "the supreme law of the land," with federal law trumping state law in any conflict between the two. Orr interprets federal bankruptcy law as rendering Detroit's pensioners' protections null and void. He subscribes to the Chief Justice Roger Taney school of bankruptcy, which views the non-rich as "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the [moneyed classes], either in social or political [or legal] relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the [rich] man was bound to respect."

It is more than ironic that Orr, the Black corporate operative, seems to channel the ghost of Chief Justice Taney. When the Dred Scott decision was handed down, in 1857, the slaveholding classes and their partners in northern textiles and shipping dominated all three branches of the federal government. Abraham Lincoln's election, three years later, seemed to threaten their supremacy, so the slavocracy responded with secession. After the Civil War, power concentrated in the hands of industrialists and financiers, whose intra-capitalist conflicts were resolved, a little over a century later, with the total hegemony of Wall Street, which now controls all three branches of government and both major political parties.

The rest of society - especially the never-fully-emancipated Blacks - have no rights that the Lords of Capital and their henchmen intend to recognize. Since finance capital creates nothing, reproducing itself through manipulation of money (and the creation of new forms of "money" in the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives universe, dwarfing the real economy), it is driven to devour all things of value in the social and physical environment. This requires that the public sphere be legally, morally and politically delegitimized - so that it can be monetized and digested. The process is made infinitely easier when the targeted institutions and populations are widely viewed as illegitimate, morally debased, and socially unworthy of protection, i.e. "Black." In America, race - more properly, white supremacy - has always been the magic wedge, the great source of exceptions to previous notions of law, the quicksand under the path to social progress. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the best place to create the corporate template for the New Urban Order, is Detroit, the nation's Blackest metropolis. In fact, the corporate logic of bankrupting Detroit was so obvious, Kevyn Orr and his coconspirators could hardly avoid blabbing out the whole plan.

The first step in requesting bankruptcy "protection" is to show that one has bargained in good faith with one's creditors, yet found no other way out. Kevyn Orr almost let the cat out of the bag by rushing so quickly to formally recommend bankruptcy for Detroit. Orr's haste made the decision look "premeditated," testified Andy Dillon, the former state treasurer. If Orr never seriously pursued a settlement with the city's unions, then he acted in "bad faith" in pulling the bankruptcy "trigger." But, of course, he was simply keeping faith with the Lords of Capital, who are rewriting the rules of urban American existence, just as they are creating a global legal order that transcends national sovereignty through the two decades-long, bi-partisan "free trade" marathon. Detroit's bankruptcy, and its aftermath, is the domestic counterpart of NAFTA and all of the treaty's infernal legal offspring. Both exercises are intended to make capital "sacrosanct" in the eyes of the "law."

Humankind will have to save itself by wholly illegal means. Hopefully, most of you already knew that.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Typhoon Haiyan Demands Climate Action At The UN Summit In Warsaw
By Amy Goodman

Typhoon Haiyan, a storm of historic proportions, has devastated the largely impoverished population of the Philippines. Thousands of people are dead, hundreds of thousands are stranded with almost no food or water, and millions have been impacted. The struggle to survive competes with the race to bury the dead, treat the wounded and suffer through the onslaught of tropical storms in Haiyan's wake. In seeming synchrony, halfway around the world, thousands of negotiators, scientists, politicians and journalists are gathering for the annual United Nations Climate Change summit, held this year in Warsaw, Poland. The changing seas that this week have whipped the Philippines demand a sea change in the worldwide response to global warming.

As "COP 19" opened in Warsaw - the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol - one courageous climate negotiator took center stage, demanding action on climate change.

"What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness," said Naderev "Yeb" Sano, representing the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, as the summit opened. "We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw." This was not his first appeal to the U.N. body. Last year, when the summit was in Doha, Qatar, and not long after Typhoon Bopha killed 1,100 people in the Philippines, Sano implored the gathered negotiators, holding back tears: "The outcome of our work is not about what our political masters want. It is about what is demanded of us by 7 billion people. I appeal to all: Please, no more delays, no more excuses. Please, let Doha be remembered as the place where we found the political will to turn things around."

Doha did not turn things around. Report after report reinforces the science: Catastrophic climate change is accelerating. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the association of more than 1,800 scientists that is leading the global study of climate change, and which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore in 2007, recently released its fifth assessment report. With increasing certainty, the IPCC reports, the climate is changing, and humans are the cause.

Jeff Masters is a meteorologist and founder of the popular weather website Weather Underground. Unlike most U.S.-based television weather forecasters, who rarely link extreme weather events to climate change, Masters regularly makes the connection. He said on "Democracy Now!" news hour, "The proportion of these sorts of high-end Category 5 storms has increased ... when we do get them there's a higher proportion of them coming in at these super-high intensities." Masters and the IPCC point out that no individual weather event can be directly attributed to climate change, but that the frequency and intensity of the storms will increase.

While the science is dry and peer-reviewed, the reality on the ground is grim and deadly. Typhoon Haiyan (which is called Yolanda in the Philippines) is the latest, epic example. Superstorm Sandy, one year ago, hit New Jersey and New York City, shutting down one of the largest cities on the planet.

It's too soon to call the U.N. climate summit in Warsaw a failure. Earnest negotiators have gathered in Poland, alongside activists both inside the National Stadium, where the conference is being held, and outside, in the streets. Activists from Greenpeace called attention to Poland's intense dependence on coal-fueled power plants by projecting messages onto the huge smokestacks stating "Climate Change Starts Here." At the same time, 28 other Greenpeace activists face seven years in prison in Russia for protesting the first exploratory oil-drilling rig in the Arctic. The two journalists covering them face the same charges.

Many consider Warsaw just a steppingstone to the climate summit planned for Paris in 2015, conceding that immediate action is not possible. Why? At the climate summit in 2011, in Durban, South Africa, a representative of the youth delegation addressed the closing plenary, expressing frustration with the slow progress. Anjali Appadurai said: "You've been negotiating all my life. ... Long-term thinking is not radical. What's radical is to completely alter the planet's climate, to betray the future of my generation, and to condemn millions to death by climate change. What's radical is to write off the fact that change is within our reach."

Yeb Sano is not giving up, either on his family, many of whom were directly hit by Typhoon Haiyan, or on the process. As he closed his statement at the opening session in Warsaw this week, he announced, "I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate ... during this COP, until a meaningful outcome is in sight."
(c) 2013 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co- author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

Congress Critters Kiss Wall Street Butt For Cash

On the day before Halloween, the ethically-challenged members of our lobbyist-haunted House of Representatives did a perverse imitation of "Profiles in Courage," turning that body into "Profiles in Spinelessness."

In particular, they cravenly caved in to an outrageous and dangerous demand by Wall Street whiners. Such financial powerhouses as Citigroup just hate having their profiteering recklessness restrained by the regulatory reforms passed after their 2008 financial meltdown. Even though the shockwaves from that Wall Street collapse continue to devastate America's middle class, the banking elite have completely recovered - including recovering their swaggering arrogance and ability to sway money-hungry congress critters with rich campaign donations.

Thus, a majority of the House happily did Wall Street's bidding, passing a major bill that undercuts the reforms so banks can return to the risky casino games that wrecked our economy. Of course, the members insist that banker money didn't influence them. For example, Rep. Jim Himes, the second-largest recipient among Democrats of Wall Street cash, asserted after the vote that money "hardly determines, thank goodness, how legislators think about these issues."

Really? Then why did they let Citigroup lobbyists write the bulk of the bill? And why did they let Wall Street lobbyists orchestrate the debate by handing out talking points and questions for members to parrot during consideration of what became known as "Citigroup's bill?" Even a Republican staffer warned against simply mouthing the industry's lines: "I know that some of our members are inclined to whore," he wrote in an email," but we cannot be apes."

Yet, for this Halloween trick-and-treat show, the majority of House members did, indeed, pose as apes and parrots for Wall Street.
(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.

Stop Drone Killings
By David Swanson

Happy 96th Armistice Day!

At the United Nations this month, Brazil, China, Venezuela and other nations denounced U.S. drone wars as illegal.

Click here to add your voice in support of the rule of law. Or -- if you've already signed -- please forward this to friends.

In the countries where the drones strike, popular and elite opinion condemns the entire program as criminal. This is the view of Pakistan's courts, Yemen's National Dialogue, Yemen's Human Rights Ministry and large numbers of well-known figures in Yemen. Popular movements in both Pakistan and Yemen continue to protest against the killing.

Wouldn't we see it the same if the constant buzzing and threat of death were over our heads? Click here to help ban weaponized drones everywhere.

The Geneva-based human rights group Alkarama agrees: "Whether they hit civilians and/or alleged al-Qaeda combatants and associates, the U.S. targeted killings policy in Yemen constitutes a blatant violation of international human rights law."

Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights agrees: "Any of these attacks are completely illegal. It's not about who they're targeting, or whether it's a civilian or whether it's a so-called combatant. ... These drone attacks are absolutely 100% illegal."

Sarah Ludford, Member of the European Parliament, agrees: "U.S. drone killings operate in disregard of the long-established international legal framework about when it is lawful to kill people."

If you agree too, please click here. And forward this far and wide.

Joy First of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, recently told the judge who was trying her for the crime of protesting drone kills at CIA headquarters: "According to the Nuremberg Principles, if we remain silent while our government is engaged in illegal activities, then we are complicit, we are equally guilty of being in violation of international law and of going against our most dearly held values. It is our responsibility as citizens, as taxpayers, as voters to speak out."

Joy quoted Robert Jackson, the U.S. chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, who said: "The very essence of the Nuremberg Charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state." And she added: "Your honor, the bottom line is that thousands of innocent people are dying and it is up to all of us to do everything we can to stop the pain and suffering and death being inflicted on these people by our government."

The least we can do is add our voices.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Methane in the artic

Arctic Release Of Methane Now At Deadly Levels
By James Donahue

During the years when scientists were warning us about the "greenhouse effect" of carbon dioxide from the mass burning of carbon based fuels, it was also theorized that if the heating Earth caused the Arctic ice to melt there would also be a huge release of methane gas entrapped in the ice that would intensify the problem.

While the media is not reporting it, the worst scenario imaginable is now happening as the Arctic ice is, indeed, disappearing at an alarming rate. The methane which has been trapped in that ice and deep below the ocean for millions of years started to be released in October, 2013, at "a staggering rate" according to Arctic News. This has world scientists and researchers alarmed, but to date, except for a short video titled "Last Hours," the danger has not been making headlines.

Why are scientists and the media staying silent about this looming catastrophe? Writer Dorsi Lynn Diaz, in a report in the on-line publication Examiner said: "At this point, and the critical state we are in, I think they know we are in such a major crisis that they really can't make this headline news. They are dancing around the subject trying to figure out what to do and how to proceed with a situation that is blowing all their projections out of the water."

Diaz also wrote that this is "something that is so huge, so frightening and so mind boggling that if people were to wrap their minds around this there would be a mass uprising and mass panic. So we are left in the dark about the potential extinction of our species because certain special interest groups want to continue to profit from the use of fossil fuels and certain governing agencies do not want to create mass panic."

Dennis Hayes, founder of Earth Day Network said: "As Last Hours makes clear, humankind must choose to rein in its carbon emissions now, or Nature will rein them in for us."

Why is the release of so much methane so dangerous? A report in Arctic Times notes that methane has an immediate global warming potential of 120 times that of carbon dioxide. Thus 20 picograms of methane would have an initial greenhouse effect equaling over 2,400 picograms of carbon dioxide.

Once methane gas gets into the atmosphere, it slowly begins to break down into carbon dioxide but the report says that a large release, like that occurring in portions of the Arctic region, "could cause hydroxyl depletion in the atmosphere, extending the lifetime of methane to decades."

A pictogram, which measures this gas at the rate of a portion of one-trillionth of a gram, seems to be such a small amount that it should not concern us. But there already exists a certain level of methane gas in the world's atmosphere, and a certain amount is being steadily released from the Earth each day. Environmental researchers at Columbia University estimate that a release 1,250 parts per billion per day is a "livable level." But the USGS readings show that the release now occurring in the Arctic is now above 1,950 parts per billion daily.

So how will all of this additional methane affect our world and our lives? A report in Above Top Secret noted: "The seas, lakes and oceans are now pluming deadly hydrogen sulfide and suffocating methane. Hydrogen sulfide is a highly toxic water-soluble heavier-than-air gas and will accumulate in low-lying areas. Methane is slightly more buoyant than normal air so it will all around, but will tend to contaminate our atmosphere from the top down."

"These gases are sickening and killing oxygen-using life all around the world, including human life, as our atmosphere is increasingly poisoned. Because both gases are highly flammable and because our entire civilization is built around fire and flammable fuels, this is leading to more fires and explosions."

The writer suggested in a series of articles that the increased mixture of methane in the air may be the cause of the unexplained "booms," large balls of lights and explosions occurring in the sky at various places around the world, sinkholes, increased volcanism, increased heat waves and increasingly intense storms.
(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.

Candidate Or Not, Elizabeth Warren Has The Right 2016 Message
By John Nichols

It is no secret that, should Hillary Clinton decide to mount a White House bid in 2016, she is well positioned to become the first woman president of the United States. It is hard to find a pollster who does not share the view of veteran Democratic analyst Doug Schoen: "Clinton not only leads the Democratic field in polls but also leads potential Republican challengers."

To be specific, according to the latest NBC News poll, Clinton is the favored candidate of 66 percent of prospective 2016 Democratic primary voters. Her appeal cuts across demographic lines, taking in those who view her candidacy as "historic," those who share her views and those who simply see her as a winner. Just 14 percent opt for an alternative at this point. (In a Public Policy Polling survey from earlier this month, Clinton's at 67 percent among Democrats) In NBC's hypothetical November 2016 pairing, Clinton beats the "hot" Republican prospect of the moment, Chris Christie, by a 10 point margin nationally. "Clinton [is] benefiting from the same demographic trends that helped propel President Barack Obama to win the election in 2008 and re-election in 2012," argues a poll analysis, which also suggests that "other prominent Democrats would likely avoid the race if Clinton decides to throw her hat into the ring."

But if Hillary Clinton does not run, or if she runs poorly, does that mean that there will be no woman bidding for the presidency?


In addition to the men whose names get tossed around-Vice President Joe Biden, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and some have even suggested Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (though he proudly sits as an independent) -there are a number of prominent Democratic women whose names have surfaced as potential contenders: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and, above all, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

There's been a flurry of speculation this week-in a New Republic piece, in Bloomberg, Business Week and in Capital Hill journals such as The Hill and Politico-about the prospect that Warren might challenge the Clinton from the left for the Democratic nod. Warren does not appear to be stoking the speculation. She joined all sixteen Democratic woman in the Senate to sign a "secret" letter, circulated earlier this year by California Senator Barbara Boxer urging Clinton to run. That fits with Warren's public pronouncements; asked in May by The Boston Globe if she might seek the nomination, Warren responed: "No, no, no, no."

Pressed on whether that was a "definite no," Warren replied: "No, no, no, no, no" -adding another "no" for emphasis.

But Warren would not be the first presidential "no" who became a "yes."

Circumstances change over the long arc of America's endless campaigns. Frontrunners decide not to make races, or stumble along the course of the campaign. There are a fair number of progressives who would love to see Warren take on Clinton. There are even more who want her at the ready should Clinton drop back or fail to gain traction.

But Warren is not just a fall-back contender-or even a progressive alternative to the centrist Clinton. She is more than just a prospective candidate. She is a purveyor of ideas, whether advanced on the campaign trail or in the Senate, that really do make her what Politico suggests: "Wall Street's Nightmare."

What is appealing about the prospect of a Warren bid-against Clinton or in a race without Clinton-is the determination of the Massachusetts senator to reach far beyond the traditional space filled by centrist and even liberal Democrats. She goes to where Bill de Blasio went in a progressive populist bid that swept him into New York's mayoralty with an almost fifty-point margin of victory.

Warren's message, in the Senate and beyond, is that Democrats can and should have an economic agenda that speaks to the great mass of Americans.

And when she delivers it, as she did at last summer's AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles, she can and does sound like a very appealing presidential prospect.

Warren, the country's best-known advocate for regulation of Wall Street and the big banks who conceived and organized the establishment of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before her election in 2012 to the US Senate, kicked off the labor convention an address that was equal parts William Jennings Bryan, Mother Jones and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"Our agenda is America's agenda," she declared to thunderous cheers from the assembled delegates. "The American people know that the system is rigged against them and they want us to level the playing field. That's our mandate. That's what we're here to do."

"However tough the challenge, however steep our climb, I am proud to stand with you, to march with you, and to fight side-by-side with you," Warren continued, as delegates began rising to their feet and joining her in shouting: "Our agenda is America's agenda and if we fight for it, we win."

It was a rare political moment, one that had AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka musing aloud: "if we could only clone her."

It wasn't just the energy of Warren's speech, not just the unapologetic stance and the clenched fist in the air.

It was the content.

While too many Democrats come across as mere spectators to the great political and economic battles of what Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan would make an age of austerity, Warren chose the opening night of the labor federation's convention that she is prepared not just to fight but to lead.

She did so not from a place of caution, or compromise, but from a place populist determination. She decried "a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Business." She ripped Republican governors, objecting to the fact that "in Wisconsin Scott Walker and the legislature he controls have declared war on working families by ripping the guts out of collective bargaining agreements."

But the real muscle of Warren's speech, the element that had The Washington Post saying it "reinforced the potential Warren has for higher office," was a refusal to bend to the lie of austerity and the conventional wisdom that says there is no alternative to cuts and compromises with the corporate agenda.

"On almost every issue of economic concern, our values are America's values, and our agenda is America's agenda," Warren told the crowd, reminding convention delegates that the cause of economic justice is not a minority mission:

* "We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement-and you know what? So do more than 80 percent of people. Wall Street will fight us, but the American people are on our side."

* "We believe in raising the minimum wage-and so do 71 percent of people. The Republicans will fight us, but the American people are on our side."

* "We believe in preventing cuts to Social Security benefits-and so do 87 percent of Americans. The Washington insiders will fight us, but the American people are on our side."

* "We believe in rebuilding our infrastructure and in passing legislation to create jobs-and so do 75 percent of Americans. The Tea Party will fight us, but the American people are on our side."

* "We believe that the sequester is stupid. And, you know what? A majority of Americans-including a majority of Republicans agree with us too."

Warren recognizes something that too many prominent Democrats-not just in the Clinton camp but across the leadership ranks of the party-have a hard time fathoming. The problem is not that Democratic party is too populist. The problem is that the party is too cautious when populism is called for.

Too many Democratic leaders have been too slow to declare, as Warren did in Los Angeles, "We have a mandate-a mandate to build a fair tax code, one that isn't rigged to give breaks to big oil and billionaires while it crushes working families. We have a mandate to invest in the future-in infrastructure, in research and innovation, and in education. And we have a mandate to create jobs-jobs right here in America, jobs for hard working people!"

That's the language that gets economic justice advocates-who have fought long enough in the trenches to know what is needed-excited. Massachusetts Nurses Association president Donna Kelly-Williams was not alone around the time of the AFL-CIO convention when she said of Warren, "I would love to see her run in 2016."

The battlelines for 2016 have yet to be drawn. The race is not over; in many senses it is not even begun. And the voice of Elizabeth Warren, as a presidential candidate, as a prospective presidential candidate, as a vice-presidential prospect, as a non-candidate seeking to influence the direction of her party and the greater campaign, is a vital one. Indeed, she is providing the language that populists, progressives and, hopefully, Democrats will employ-no matter who is running in 2016-to take on and finally defeat the false premise of austerity.
(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.

Jeremy Hammond in a March 2012 booking photo from
the Cook County Sheriff's Office in Chicago.

The Revolutionaries In Our Midst
By Chris Hedges

NEW YORK-Jeremy Hammond sat in New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center last week in a small room reserved for visits from attorneys. He was wearing an oversized prison jumpsuit. The brown hair of the lanky 6-footer fell over his ears, and he had a wispy beard. He spoke with the intensity and clarity one would expect from one of the nation's most important political prisoners.

On Friday the 28-year-old activist will appear for sentencing in the Southern District Court of New York in Manhattan. After having made a plea agreement, he faces the possibility of a 10-year sentence for hacking into the Texas-based private security firm Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor, which does work for the Homeland Security Department, the Marine Corps, the Defense Intelligence Agency and numerous corporations including Dow Chemical and Raytheon.

Four others involved in the hacking have been convicted in Britain, and they were sentenced to less time combined-the longest sentence was 32 months-than the potential 120-month sentence that lies before Hammond.

Hammond turned the pilfered information over to the website WikiLeaks and Rolling Stone and other publications. The 3 million email exchanges, once made public, exposed the private security firm's infiltration, monitoring and surveillance of protesters and dissidents, especially in the Occupy movement, on behalf of corporations and the national security state. And, perhaps most important, the information provided chilling evidence that anti-terrorism laws are being routinely used by the federal government to criminalize nonviolent, democratic dissent and falsely link dissidents to international terrorist organizations. Hammond sought no financial gain. He got none.

The email exchanges Hammond made public were entered as evidence in my lawsuit against President Barack Obama over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Section 1021 permits the military to seize citizens who are deemed by the state to be terrorists, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities. Alexa O'Brien, a content strategist and journalist who co-founded US Day of Rage, an organization created to reform the election process, was one of my co-plaintiffs. Stratfor officials attempted, we know because of the Hammond leaks, to falsely link her and her organization to Islamic radicals and websites as well as to jihadist ideology, putting her at risk of detention under the new law. Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled, in part because of the leak, that we plaintiffs had a credible fear, and she nullified the law, a decision that an appellate court overturned when the Obama administration appealed it.

Freedom of the press and legal protection for those who expose government abuses and lies have been obliterated by the corporate state. The resulting self-exile of investigative journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Poitras, along with the indictment of Barrett Brown, illustrate this. All acts of resistance-including nonviolent protest-have been conflated by the corporate state with terrorism. The mainstream, commercial press has been emasculated through the Obama administration's repeated use of the Espionage Act to charge and sentence traditional whistle-blowers. Governmental officials with a conscience are too frightened to reach out to mainstream reporters, knowing that the authorities' wholesale capturing and storing of electronic forms of communication make them easily identifiable. Elected officials and the courts no longer impose restraint or practice oversight. The last line of defense lies with those such as Hammond, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning who are capable of burrowing into the records of the security and surveillance state and have the courage to pass them on to the public. But the price of resistance is high.

"In these times of secrecy and abuse of power there is only one solution-transparency," wrote Sarah Harrison, the British journalist who accompanied Snowden to Russia and who also has gone into exile, in Berlin. "If our governments are so compromised that they will not tell us the truth, then we must step forward to grasp it. Provided with the unequivocal proof of primary source documents people can fight back. If our governments will not give this information to us, then we must take it for ourselves."

"When whistleblowers come forward we need to fight for them, so others will be encouraged," she went on. "When they are gagged, we must be their voice. When they are hunted, we must be their shield. When they are locked away, we must free them. Giving us the truth is not a crime. This is our data, our information, our history. We must fight to own it. Courage is contagious."

Hammond knows this contagion. He was living at home in Chicago in 2010 under a 7-a.m.-to-7-p.m. curfew for a variety of acts of civil disobedience when Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning was arrested for giving WikiLeaks secret information about military war crimes and government lies. Hammond at the time was running social aid programs to feed the hungry and send books to prisoners. He had, like Manning, displayed a remarkable aptitude for science, math and computer languages at a young age. He hacked into the computers at a local Apple store at 16. He hacked into the computer science department's website at the University of Illinois-Chicago as a freshman, a prank that saw the university refuse to allow him to return for his sophomore year. He was an early backer of "cyber-liberation" and in 2004 started an "electronic-disobedience journal" he named Hack This Zine. He called on hackers in a speech at the 2004 DefCon convention in Las Vegas to use their skills to disrupt that year's Republican National Convention. He was, by the time of his 2012 arrest, one of the shadowy stars of the hacktivist underground, dominated by groups such as Anonymous and WikiLeaks in which anonymity, stringent security and frequent changes of aliases alone ensured success and survival. Manning's courage prompted Hammond to his own act of cyber civil disobedience, although he knew his chances of being caught were high.

"I saw what Chelsea Manning did," Hammond said when we spoke last Wednesday, seated at a metal table. "Through her hacking she became a contender, a world changer. She took tremendous risks to show the ugly truth about war. I asked myself, if she could make that risk shouldn't I make that risk? Wasn't it wrong to sit comfortably by, working on the websites of Food Not Bombs, while I had the skills to do something similar? I too could make a difference. It was her courage that prompted me to act."

Hammond-who has black-inked tattoos on each forearm, one the open-source movement's symbol known as the "glider" and the other the shi hexagram from the I Ching-is steeped in radical thought. As a teenager, he swiftly migrated politically from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party to the militancy of the Black Bloc anarchists. He was an avid reader in high school of material put out by CrimethInc, an anarchist collective that publishes anarchist literature and manifestos. He has molded himself after old radicals such as Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman and black revolutionaries such as George Jackson, Elaine Brown and Assata Shakur, as well as members of the Weather Underground. He said that while he was in Chicago he made numerous trips to Waldheim Cemetery to visit the Haymarket Martyrs Monument, which honors four anarchists who were hanged in 1887 and others who took part in the labor wars. On the 16-foot-high granite monument are the final words of one of the condemned men, August Spies. It reads: "The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voice you are throttling today." Emma Goldman is buried nearby.

Hammond became well known to the government for a variety of acts of civil disobedience over the last decade. These ranged from painting anti-war graffiti on Chicago walls to protesting at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York to hacking into the right-wing website Protest Warrior, for which he was sentenced to two years in the Federal Correctional Institute at Greenville, Ill.

He said he is fighting as "an anarchist communist" against "centralized state authority" and "exploitative corporations." His goal is to build "leaderless collectives based on free association, consensus, mutual aid, self-sufficiency and harmony with the environment." It is essential, he said, that all of us work to cut our personal ties with capitalism and engage in "mass organizing of protests, strikes and boycotts." Hacking and leaking, he said, are part of this resistance-"effective tools to reveal ugly truths of the system."

Hammond spent months within the Occupy movement in Chicago. He embraced its "leaderless, non-hierarchical structures such as general assemblies and consensus, and occupying public spaces." But he was highly critical of what he said were the "vague politics" in Occupy that allowed it to include followers of the libertarian Ron Paul, some in the tea party, as well as "reformist liberals and Democrats." Hammond said he was not interested in any movement that "only wanted a 'nicer' form of capitalism and favored legal reforms, not revolution." He remains rooted in the ethos of the Black Bloc.

"Being incarcerated has really opened my eyes to the reality of the criminal justice system," he said, "that it is not a criminal justice system about public safety or rehabilitation, but reaping profits through mass incarceration. There are two kinds of justice-one for the rich and the powerful who get away with the big crimes, then for everyone else, especially people of color and the impoverished. There is no such thing as a fair trial. In over 80 percent of the cases people are pressured to plea out instead of exercising their right to trial, under the threat of lengthier sentences. I believe no satisfactory reforms are possible. We need to close all prisons and release everybody unconditionally."

He said he hoped his act of resistance would encourage others, just as Manning's courage had inspired him. He said activists should "know and accept the worst possible repercussion" before carrying out an action and should be "aware of mass counterintelligence/surveillance operations targeting our movements." An informant posing as a comrade, Hector Xavier Monsegur, known online as "Sabu," turned Hammond and his co-defendants in to the FBI. Monsegur stored data retrieved by Hammond on an external server in New York. This tenuous New York connection allowed the government to try Hammond in New York for hacking from his home in Chicago into a private security firm based in Texas. New York is the center of the government's probes into cyber-warfare; it is where federal authorities apparently wanted Hammond to be investigated and charged.

Hammond said he will continue to resist from within prison. A series of minor infractions, as well as testing positive with other prisoners on his tier for marijuana that had been smuggled into the facility, has resulted in his losing social visits for the next two years and spending "time in the box [solitary confinement]." He is allowed to see journalists, but my request to interview him took two months to be approved. He said prison involves "a lot of boredom." He plays chess, teaches guitar and helps other prisoners study for their GED. When I saw him, he was working on the statement, a personal manifesto, that he will read in court this week.

He insisted he did not see himself as different from prisoners, especially poor prisoners of color, who are in for common crimes, especially drug-related crimes. He said most inmates are political prisoners, caged unjustly by a system of totalitarian capitalism that has snuffed out basic opportunities for democratic dissent and economic survival.

"The majority of people in prison did what they had to do to survive," he said. "Most were poor. They got caught up in the war on drugs, which is how you make money if you are poor. The real reason they get locked in prison for so long is so corporations can continue to make big profits. It is not about justice. I do not draw distinctions between us."

"Jail is essentially enduring harassment and dehumanizing conditions with frequent lockdowns and shakedowns," he said. "You have to constantly fight for respect from the guards, sometimes getting yourself thrown in the box. However, I will not change the way I live because I am locked up. I will continue to be defiant, agitating and organizing whenever possible."

He said resistance must be a way of life. He intends to return to community organizing when he is released, although he said he will work to stay out of prison. "The truth," he said, "will always come out." He cautioned activists to be hyper-vigilant and aware that "one mistake can be permanent." But he added, "Don't let paranoia or fear deter you from activism. Do the down thing!"
(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."

David, 6, whose family receives money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also know as food stamps, eats dinner in Philadelphia.

Real-Life Hunger Is No Game
By Michael Winship

Coming soon to a theater near you: famine! The second film in The Hunger Games trilogy, "Catching Fire," opens wide on November 22, based on the hugely popular novels of a post-apocalyptic world in which poverty and starvation force young people into a desperate but oh-so-glamorous, televised competition to the death.

With the movie's release come some especially crass and bizarre product tie-ins, including the Cover Girl Hunger Games assortment of nail polishes called "Capitol Colors" (the name makes sense if you're familiar with the books or films) and my personal favorite, the Subway Restaurants line of "Fiery Footlongs," described on the MTV News website as "Sriracha-powered hoagies that hope to cure the hunger games happening at lunchtime in your tummy."

So let me get this straight: fast-food submarine sandwiches are being used to market a motion picture about people who will do anything to survive a dystopian society in which there's nothing to eat? Yikes.

All this might be even more darkly comic if not for the fact that here in the real world, Washington is playing a Hunger Game of its own and the results are devastating. Yes, winter is coming, the holidays are on their way, and on November 1, the United States government cut food stamp benefits by 13.6 percent.

To those of you who aren't deficit hawks circling over the Potomac keeping a precise count on this sort of thing, this will constitute a federal budget savings of $5 billion for fiscal year 2014 and another $6 billion from fiscal 2015 through 2016. Meanwhile, this has a real and drastic impact on every one of the 48 million Americans - that's one in seven of us - who receives the aid, now officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. (The cut marks the end of extra funding that was put into the program as part of the stimulus package in 2009.) Forget the crude stereotypes and cliches, by the way: close to half of the households receiving help from SNAP have someone working and 61 percent of the recipients are white.

The reductions have been described as "unprecedented" by the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a loss of approximately $9 per person per month, or $36 a month for a family of four. This leaves each person affected with $1.40 less per meal, which not only stretches the food dollar past the breaking point for poor families on assistance but leads to the purchase of cheap foods filled with empty calories that do little for nutrition or overall health.

And typical of a Congress unable to think more than a step ahead, if at all, not only do we face these immediate reductions in SNAP payments but further slashing of the food assistance budget as the House and Senate try to come up with a farm bill acceptable to both sides. Democrats in the Senate propose additional cuts to SNAP of $4.5 billion over the next 10 years while Republicans in the House seek a whopping $39 billion.

Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen, left, and Liam Hemsworth portrays Gale Hawthorne in a scene from The Hunger Games.

If ever there was such a gathering of the pennywise and pound foolish as this current band of representatives, I'd like to hear about it. For one thing, they fail to take into account the estimation that every dollar of SNAP assistance actually generates $1.70 in economic activity - that's money spent on food in grocery stores, bodegas and big box giants like Wal-Mart and Target that then goes toward paying their workers and suppliers and on and on. Thus the poor may be better job creators than say, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who claims the program "lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency."

But worse may be the failure to contemplate the long-term effect of these cuts not only on poor adults but future generations. As Reid Wilson reported in The Washington Post, "SNAP benefits disproportionately help families with children. More than 21 million children - one in four children in the country today - live in households that participate in the program. More than two-thirds of the $5 billion the government saves will come from households that include children."

A Bronx mother whose SNAP allotment has been reduced to $250 a month told The New York Times that she denies herself things she wants, like coffee and sugar, to favor her young one. "I try to get most of the things my daughter eats because I can hold the hunger - I'm an adult - but she cannot," Ingrid Mott said, "They don't understand when there's no food in the fridge."

As a mother, she instinctively knows, as Mariana Chilton of Children's HealthWatch does, that when children are hungry "it has disastrous effects on their health and their cognitive, social and emotional development... SNAP not only buffers children from hunger but also helps them to grow, to be healthy, to learn, and to develop their full potential."

Related data backs this up. A new study from the University of Denver finds that the neurological impact on children growing up in poverty increases the odds of mental health problems and perhaps even mortality. Pilyoung Kim, director of the university's Family and Child Neuroscience Lab, told Bloomberg News, "Living in poverty at a young age can cause long-lasting changes in brain development, which contribute to difficulties in regulating of emotions and future devastating health outcomes, including mental illness and high mortality and morbidity in adulthood."

Other recent research from the University of Georgia connected childhood poverty to compromised immune systems and, according to the progressive website ThinkProgress, "puts them at greater risk for developing conditions such as obesity, cancer, hypertension, stroke, and cardiovascular disease at a young age."


Find out how you can help children eat this holiday season. Use Feeding America's food bank locator to contact your local food bank. And a 2009 report from Cornell found a connection between children raised in poverty and poor working memory. "It's critical for learning," Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell, explained to The Washington Post. "If you don't have good working memory, you can't do things like hold a phone number in your head or develop a vocabulary."

Even before the cuts, monthly food stamps for most families only last about two and a half weeks - that's according to Amalia Swan, outreach director at a food bank in Syracuse, NY. Now more than ever, many will be turning to food banks like hers for help - but such programs are stretched to the limit.

The first Hunger Games movie sold $700 million worth of tickets worldwide, and last year, its studio, Lionsgate Entertainment, established a partnership with the United Nations' World Food Program as well as Feeding America, the largest US network of food banks. Good for them. But here's a thought for those companies like Cover Girl, Subway and others who stand to make money from their product tie-ins: if you're not already doing it, donate profits to the food banks and soup kitchens around the country. Show you know that hunger is not a game.
(c) 2013 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

The Economist's front cover

The Plot Against France
By Paul Krugman

On Friday Standard & Poor's, the bond-rating agency, downgraded France. The move made headlines, with many reports suggesting that France is in crisis. But markets yawned: French borrowing costs, which are near historic lows, barely budged. So what's going on here? The answer is that S.& P.'s action needs to be seen in the context of the broader politics of fiscal austerity. And I do mean politics, not economics. For the plot against France - I'm being a bit tongue in cheek here, but there really are a lot of people trying to bad-mouth the place - is one clear demonstration that in Europe, as in America, fiscal scolds don't really care about deficits. Instead, they're using debt fears to advance an ideological agenda. And France, which refuses to play along, has become the target of incessant negative propaganda.

Let me give you an idea of what we're talking about. A year ago the magazine The Economist declared France "the time bomb at the heart of Europe," with problems that could dwarf those of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. In January 2013, CNN Money's senior editor-at-large declared France in "free fall," a nation "heading toward an economic Bastille." Similar sentiments can be found all over economic newsletters.

Given such rhetoric, one comes to French data expecting to see the worst. What you find instead is a country experiencing economic difficulties - who isn't? - but in general performing as well as or better than most of its neighbors, with the admittedly big exception of Germany. Recent French growth has been sluggish, but much better than that of, say, the Netherlands, which is still rated AAA. According to standard estimates, French workers were actually a bit more productive than their German counterparts a dozen years ago - and guess what, they still are.

Meanwhile, French fiscal prospects look distinctly nonalarming. The budget deficit has fallen sharply since 2010, and the International Monetary Fund expects the ratio of debt to G.D.P. to be roughly stable over the next five years.

What about the longer-run burden of an aging population? This is a problem in France, as it is in all wealthy nations. But France has a higher birthrate than most of Europe - in part because of government programs that encourage births and ease the lives of working mothers - so that its demographic projections are much better than those of its neighbors, Germany included. Meanwhile, France's remarkable health care system, which delivers high quality at low cost, is going to be a big fiscal advantage looking forward.

By the numbers, then, it's hard to see why France deserves any particular opprobrium. So again, what's going on?

Here's a clue: Two months ago Olli Rehn, Europe's commissioner for economic and monetary affairs - and one of the prime movers behind harsh austerity policies - dismissed France's seemingly exemplary fiscal policy. Why? Because it was based on tax increases rather than spending cuts - and tax hikes, he declared, would "destroy growth and handicap the creation of jobs."

In other words, never mind what I said about fiscal discipline, you're supposed to be dismantling the safety net.

S.& P.'s explanation of its downgrade, though less clearly stated, amounted to the same thing: France was being downgraded because "the French government's current approach to budgetary and structural reforms to taxation, as well as to product, services and labor markets, is unlikely to substantially raise France's medium-term growth prospects." Again, never mind the budget numbers, where are the tax cuts and deregulation?

You might think that Mr. Rehn and S.& P. were basing their demands on solid evidence that spending cuts are in fact better for the economy than tax increases. But they weren't. In fact, research at the I.M.F. suggests that when you're trying to reduce deficits in a recession, the opposite is true: temporary tax hikes do much less damage than spending cuts.

Oh, and when people start talking about the wonders of "structural reform," take it with a large heaping of salt. It's mainly a code phrase for deregulation - and the evidence on the virtues of deregulation is decidedly mixed. Remember, Ireland received high praise for its structural reforms in the 1990s and 2000s; in 2006 George Osborne, now Britain's chancellor of the Exchequer, called it a "shining example." How did that turn out?

If all this sounds familiar to American readers, it should. U.S. fiscal scolds turn out, almost invariably, to be much more interested in slashing Medicare and Social Security than they are in actually cutting deficits. Europe's austerians are now revealing themselves to be pretty much the same. France has committed the unforgivable sin of being fiscally responsible without inflicting pain on the poor and unlucky. And it must be punished.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
~~~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Defense Industry's Grand Bargain
Or, how we agreed to cut spending and export the bomb.
By David Sirota

Translated from Washington-speak, the trite phrase "grand bargain" is basically a trumped up label for what used to be called compromise - though, even that's being charitable. In the current vernacular, it means Congress enacting big cuts to programs Americans don't want cut in exchange for small tax changes that lots of citizens support - but that Corporate America hates. In other words, the phrase is designed to put a cheery label on another heist. The only thing "grand" about such a bargain is the fact that proles get thrown a few bones (which, to be fair, is unusual these days).

Lately, of course, we've been told that any "grand bargain" is - to use yet another "Double Down"-esque cliche - "off the table." Evidently, Democratic lawmakers' eagerness to betray their old "lockbox" promises and join Republicans in slashing Social Security is not enough to get Republicans to even discuss ending massive corporate subsidies written into the tax code. In quite bizarre fashion, the GOP's undying fealty to those subsidies is effectively protecting fixed-income seniors from getting another financial kick in the dentures.

The sound and fury over the prospect of this particular "grand bargain" will no doubt attract all the attention over the next few months. Yet, there is another grand bargain that is already being implemented by Washington's national security elites - and this bargain is being felt across the globe.

The story of this other grand bargain starts, as every current political story seems to, with the Tea Party.

While the D.C. punditburo smugly declared the Tea Party-engineered government shutdown an ideological loss for the right, it unfortunately was the opposite. Conservatives managed to make once-controversial sequester cuts the new White House-approved baseline from which future budget negotiations now start. That kind of institutionalized austerity is a huge victory for the right's drown-government-in-the-bathtub ideologues.

Normally in these situations, there's a convergence of interests whereby a policy victory for those conservative ideologues is also considered a victory for the lobbyists, corporate-owned politicians and private contractors in both parties who comprise Permanent Washington. But while that transpartisan elite surely doesn't object to cuts to stuff like food stamps, and while that elite is probably more than happy that sequestration and budget austerity have hamstrung regulatory agencies, that elite is also very concerned about cuts to the sacrosanct National Security State.

Indeed, when it comes to spending on non-military matters, Permanent Washington is with the right - but when it comes to spending on the bloated National Security State, Permanent Washington typically sounds like a Big Government-loving socialist conspiracy.

Of course, D.C. is first and foremost is worried about cuts to the national security apparatus not because it is genuinely concerned about defending the country. After all, with military leaders arguing that debt poses a grave national threat, it is hard to pretend that wasting this much money on defense spending does anything but weaken - rather than strengthen - America's security. No, Permanent Washington is fretting over sequestration cuts to the defense budget because - whether through lobbying clients, campaign contributions or government contracts - Permanent Washington is itself financially tied to taxpayer spending on the military, the CIA, the NSA and other defense-related agencies.

The political problem, though, is that all the tough-on-spending rhetoric from both parties in Washington has boxed in the defense industry's congressional and White House allies. Politicians have given so many speeches about balanced budgets, uttered so many odes to tightening the belt, offered up so many prophecies of fiscal bankruptcy and ginned up such anti-spending fervor that even the most reliable military spendthrifts in the Republican Party are suddenly being forced to try to live up to their austerity rhetoric.

Not surprisingly, some of them have tried to meld their affinity for defense largesse with their hatred of the social safety net, and then repackage their politics under the banner of budget-balancing fiscal responsibility. Specifically, they rail on debt, and then insist that huge cuts to Social Security, Medicare and social safety net programs can - and should - finance ever-more subsidies their campaign contributors in the defense contracting industry. Ignoring the deficits they created under George Bush, these extremists portray their positions as pay-as-you-go conservatism. In reality, though, it is old-school let-them-eat-cake-ism - the kind that slashes the safety net to further expand a defense budget that is already so huge officials have completely lost track of $2 trillion.

Others like Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are simply defending the Pentagon cuts on the merits. With the Senate Republican leader facing a Tea Party primary challenge back at home, he is abandoning his career as a loyal supporter of ever higher defense spending bills. Today, he is recasting himself as a full-scale libertarian. Yes, according to Politico, McConnell now is now claiming "victory for conservatives precisely because (the budget) continues sequestration, the automatic spending cuts that have hit the Pentagon and the sprawling defense industry especially hard."

If this were the end of the story, then perhaps this really would be an unvarnished victory over the out-of-control Military-Industrial Complex and National Security State - a victory not just for the anti-government right (or the anti-war left) but for the majority of voters who want the defense budget reduced. But, of course, this isn't the end of this story. For all the agitprop pretending the defense contracting industry is somehow the powerless and persecuted victim, that industry remains a multi-billion-dollar colossus with an army of lobbyists and a physical presence in almost every congressional district in the country. With that kind of power, it didn't just see the sequestration and abruptly decide to give up its post-World War II reign over American politics. Instead, it engineered a grand bargain.

In this particular deal, the defense contracting industry saw the possibility for a left-right political coalition against Pentagon spending and reacted with a deft lobbying pivot focusing on weapons exports. As the Lexington Institute's Loren Thompson described it, the defense industry and its client politicians are aiming to "compensate for plummeting domestic demand" - read: cuts to U.S. weapons procurement budgets - "by facilitating foreign arms sales." It was a wildly successful move, as the same Democratic president who floated some defense spending cuts and the same congressional Republicans who sequestered the Pentagon budget joined together to recompense the defense industry by radically deregulating the international arms market.

This side of the grand bargain started back in 2010, when the White House and Congress inserted language into an Iran sanctions bill that deregulated the arms export approval process. The U.S. then delayed the international Arms Trade Treaty - and once the Obama administration belatedly signed the pact, the Senate swiftly positioned itself to block it. At the same time, the Obama administration - with no serious objection from congressional Republicans - began circumventing a 2008 statute prohibiting arms exports to nations that use child soldiers. It also started working to undermine an international pact against cluster bombs (not coincidentally just before facilitating exports of cluster bombs to the Middle East).

Summing up the situation, ProPublica reported this year that the moves collectively mean "thousands of parts of military aircraft, such as propeller blades, brake pads and tires will be able to be sent to almost any country in the world, with minimal oversight – even to some countries subject to U.N. arms ebargos." Additionally, the news organization reports that "U.S. companies will also face fewer checks than in the past when selling some military aircraft to dozens of countries." That's on top of both parties resurrecting the Reagan-era idea of using arms exports to empower rebels to wage U.S. proxy wars.

The predictable result of all this has been an arms export bonanza for the defense industry. As Table 4 of a recent Congressional Research Service report documents, U.S. arms exports to the developing world almost quadrupled in just Obama's first term. Overall, the New York Times reported last year that "weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high" $66 billion - or "more than three-quarters of the global arms market." The Pentagon told Congress that it ultimately aims to get that export number up to over $100 billion a year.

Thompson may be right that a grand bargain which trades budget cuts for a deregulated arms export market may ultimately result in a net reduction in revenues to the defense contracting industry. But that hasn't occurred yet. The more than $40 billion increase in annual arms sales that has happened under Obama is larger than the $37 billion cut to Defense Department spending brought on by sequestration. In other words, so far in this grand bargain, the military budget cuts have been relatively small and the arms exports have been huge, likely meaning a net revenue gain for the arms industry.

To be sure, Fortune magazine is right to point out that at least some of this is driven by geopolitics.

"Weapons transfers are also a subtle yet potent form of diplomacy," the magazine noted. "By arming its allies, the U.S. can spread the burden of policing hot spots...and arms exports give Obama's State and Defense departments tremendous negotiating clout with buyers."

That, however, doesn't negate the financial machinations that are also at work. The defense contracting industry is big business, and it made a shrewd shift in the face of a changing budgetary politics. It traded some of its reliance on domestic Big Government socialism for a lucrative brand of international free-market fundamentalism. In the process, the industry crafted a grand bargain that successfully played to Washington's ideological opposition to government spending and its ideological support of market-based solutions and/or "public/private partnerships."

Sure, watchdog groups warn that this will mean better-armed child soldiers, stronger dictators, weaker international anti-proliferation initiatives and a generally more violent world. And yeah, it may also endanger the United States if either newly armed regimes and rebels turn against America or if the armaments we gave them fall into enemy hands.

But for all the saccharine political rhetoric to the contrary, those grave human rights and national security concerns are considered unimportant in a capital whose grand bargains are all about protecting the corporate bottom line.
(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 .

An Open Letter To All Breathing Republicans
By William Rivers Pitt

But you feel fine, you say? Bloodwork normal, all tests clear, no lumps, no limps, no memory lapses, no problems at all?

Wait a while. Live a little longer. Sooner or later, you will make the list.

According to the American Medical Association, more than 81 million people currently suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 11 million people currently suffer from some form of cancer.

According to the American Diabetes Association, almost 24 million people currently suffer from diabetes; the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that half of all Americans could suffer from the disease by the year 2050.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that some 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or lupus, 21 million of whom are disabled due to the condition.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than five million Americans are currently afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, a number that will shortly spike as our aging population grows older.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, some 400,000 Americans currently suffer from MS.

According to the National Parkinson's Foundation, between 50,000 and 60,000 new cases of Parkinson's are diagnosed in America each year.

The CDC estimates that close to a million people a year become infected with herpes.

More than a million Americans are infected with AIDS.

Some 79 million Americans are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), a disease that causes cancer in both women and men.

That, right there, is more than half the country.

That, right there, is you. Sooner or later, and sure as sunrise, you can count on it.

If you're not sick right now, you will be, so if you're one of the people fighting the Affordable Care Act, wouldn't it be an example of enlightened, conservative self-interest to make sure this law is as robust as can be?

I know, I know, Democrat socialist Kenyan no-birth-certificate president and all that, plus Benghazi for good measure, but seriously: he's going to be out of office in three years, and for sure and certain you're going to get sick someday if you aren't already. The ACA makes sure your insurance company can't shaft you if your inevitable illness becomes too expensive for their balance sheet.

How is that not conservative? For the love of God, the whole idea was created in the first place by the Heritage Foundation before getting successfully road-tested by a Republican governor. Once upon a time, that kind of policy pedigree was worthy of a parade in Republican circles.

You are almost certainly going to get sick at some point along your personal timeline. This is unavoidable, and while your guns may give you a degree of psychological protection from ominous neighbors in hoodies, you can't shoot cancer, or stroke, or dementia, or diabetes...and one of these days, one of those things is going to ring your doorbell, and that's your ass, financially, if you're not covered.

The No. 1 reason for bankruptcy in America is medical expenses.

If you're not sick, you will be, because we are fragile creatures all.

Please stop deploying Denial-of-Service tools to disrupt the process.

Please stop forwarding flatly deceptive articles about "Obamacare" ruining lives.

Please take some time to understand why a very small percentage of insurance policies are getting re-defined or cancelled. Cliff Notes version: those policies didn't cover anything, and the insurance companies involved were pretty much basically stealing.

Please read the Book your party has claimed sole ownership of.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Matthew 25:41-45 says, "'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me.'"

John 3:17-18 says, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

Of course the Affordable Care Act is fragile. All things human are, including you.

Especially you.

For you will be sick one day. It is inevitable. Unavoidable. We are made to ail, to suffer, and to die.

Enlightened self-interest is the Republican way.

How are you feeling today?

Think about it.
(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.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Illinois Unterfuhrer Kay,

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 blaming your homophobia on religion it order to deny equal rights for everyone, 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 "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio was the center of attention on Wednesday as he visited City Hall.

Pragmatists, Ideologues, And Inequality In America
By Robert Reich

How will the 2016 election be framed? What will be America's choice?

If the coverage of last week's two big winners offers a guide, the choice will be between "pragmatism" and "ideology."

The Washington Post called Chris Christie's huge gubernatorial victory a "clear signal in favor of pragmatic, as opposed to ideological, governance."

But the mainstream media used a different adjective to describe Bill de Blasio, last week's other landslide victor. The New York Times, for example, wrote of "the rise of the left-leaning Mr. de Blasio."

Again and again, Christie is described as the pragmatist; De Blasio, the lefty.

But these appellations ignore what's happening to an America in which almost all the economic gains are going to the richest 1 percent, median household incomes continues to drop, and the number of Americans in poverty continues to rise.

Given America's surging inequality, the pragmatist is De Blasio, who proposes to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to fund pre-school and after-school programs for the children of the poor and hard-pressed middle class.

The cost of child care is taking a huge bite out of the paychecks of many working parents, some of whom have been forced to leave their kids alone at home or rely on overburdened neighbors and relatives. A small surcharge on the incomes of the super-rich to pay for well-supervised child care is a practical and long-overdue response.

Meanwhile, the real ideologue is Christie, who vetoed an increase in the minimum wage in New Jersey. The current minimum of $7.25 is far lower than it was three decades ago in terms of purchasing power, and the typical minimum-wage worker is no longer a teenager but a major breadwinner for his or her family.

Apparently Christie isn't aware that many employers - including Walmart, the largest employer in America - don't pay their employees enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Which means the rest of us end up subsidizing these employers indirectly by devoting our tax dollars to Medicaid, food stamps, housing, and other assistance needed to make up for the lousy wages.

In fact, New Jersey voters found a way to circumvent Christie's ideological opposition to a raise in the minimum wage. They approved an amendment to the state constitution that raises the minimum to $8.25 (still too low) and subsequently indexes it to inflation.

The so-called "pragmatic" Christie also frowns on gay marriage and abortion rights, which puts him in the company of many Tea Partiers. But because Christie himself isn't a Tea Partier, and had the temerity to be seen in the friendly company of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy's devastation, he appears pragmatic in comparison to them.

The media is casting Christie as the pragmatist and De Blasio as the ideologue because of what's happened to their respective parties.

The civil war that's engulfed the Republican Party - pitting the Tea Party against the establishment GOP - is an admitted headache for Republicans focused on the 2016 presidential contest. For them, the size of Christie's win is a huge relief.

The Democratic Party, by contrast, has been the very model of civility. Establishment Democrats, mostly funded by big business and Wall Street, have dominated ever since Bill Clinton "triangulated" and moved the Party rightward.

Progressive Democrats and organized labor - those who the late Paul Wellstone described as the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" - have been remarkably tractable. Although they forced Obama to pull the nomination of Larry Summers, they've been all but ignored on the big stuff having to do with widening inequality.

When progressives wanted Wall Street banks to reduce the mortgages of underwater homeowners as a condition for getting bailed out, the White House and most congressional Democrats turned a deaf ear.

Progressives also pushed to go over the fiscal cliff and end the Bush tax cuts, sought a "public option" for health insurance, wanted an Employee Free Choice Act that would make it easier to form unions, tried to resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act as part of financial regulation, objected to the President's proposed "chain-weighted CPI" for Social Security and cuts in Social Security.

On all these they got nowhere. Yet progressives in the Democratic Party took their lumps without declaring civil war.

Had the President and congressional Democrats reflected the Party's historic roots and risen to the challenge of widening inequality, De Blasio's proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy to finance better schools wouldn't appear conspicuous or even ideological. It would be another pragmatic attempt to deal with the nation's challenge of reversing the scourge of inequality.

In other words, Christie appears pragmatic and De Blasio ideological only in comparison with their own parties.

But in terms of where America is and what it needs, now and in the foreseeable future, these two labels should be reversed.
(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.

The True Patriots In Congress Trying To End NSA Tyranny
By Robert Scheer

Good old George can stop spinning in his grave. Yes, that George, our most heroic general and inspiring president, who warned us in his farewell address "to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. ..." It's an alert that's been ignored in the nation's hysterical reaction to the attacks of 9/11 that culminated in the NSA's assault on our Constitution's guarantee of "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. ..."

That right was reaffirmed boldly and righteously Monday, for the entire world to hear, by F. James Sensenbrenner, the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which unanimously had produced the USA Patriot Act. Speaking on Monday at the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament, Sensenbrenner blasted the misuse of the Patriot Act by the NSA and other government agencies entrusted with ensuring the nation's safety.

"But the NSA abused that trust. It ignored restrictions painstakingly crafted by lawmakers and assumed a plenary authority we never imagined," the Wisconsin congressman said. "Worse, the NSA has cloaked its operations behind such a thick cloud of secrecy that even if the NSA promised reforms, we would lack the ability to verify them.

"The constant stream of disclosures about U.S. surveillance since June has surprised and appalled me as much as it has the American public and our international allies," Sensenbrenner continued. "I have therefore introduced legislation along with Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that will curtail surveillance abuses and restore trust in the U.S. intelligence community."

Their bill is titled the "USA FREEDOM Act," the acronym a shortcut for United and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring. As Sensenbrenner points out, "The title intentionally echoes the Patriot Act because it does what the Patriot Act was meant to do-strike a proper balance between civil liberties and national security."

The Sensenbrenner-Leahy bill, endorsed by the ACLU and the National Rifle Association, more than 100 bipartisan members of Congress, leading Internet companies and major newspapers, stands in principled contrast to the one pushed through the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who has long been the most shameful apologist for the antics of the NSA.

A historic moment of shame was noted by Sensenbrenner in his remarks to the European Parliament committee: "On October 31, in an 11-4 vote, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted for the first time in our country's history to allow unrestrained spying on the American people. I am committed to a different approach."

His proposed law bans bulk collection of personal data by the NSA as well as other agencies under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and National Security Letter statutes but, as Sensenbrenner notes, it does not prevent government agencies from doing the hard work of protecting the nation:

"The USA FREEDOM Act would end the NSA's bulk collection of data under the Patriot Act whether it pertains to Americans or foreigners. The U.S. government would still be able to follow leads and obtain data when it has a reasonable suspicion that someone is connected to terrorism, but it would no longer be able to collect data indiscriminately in bulk from innocent people."
A ban on bulk collection, the "general warrants" employed by agents of the English crown, was abhorrent to the colonists as a fundamental violation of the sovereignty of the individual, thought to be indispensable to the survival of a free people. It is a principle developed in English common law, legislated by the Massachusetts Bay Colony and at the heart of the Fourth Amendment providing sanctuary in one's home, person and thoughts. Today's pretend patriots have shred that principle, wielding the power of a new technology of surveillance that dictators of old could never have imagined.

"Despite the expense," Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen wrote in their recent book, "everything a regime would need to build an incredibly intimidating digital police state-including software that facilitates data mining and real-time monitoring of citizens-is commercially available right now. ... By indexing our biometric signatures, some governments will try to track our every move and word, both physically and digitally."

That was written in April, before the Edward Snowden revelations, and the assumption was that such nefarious governments would never be our own. We now know otherwise, and it underscores the wisdom of our nation's founders in designing a system of government that separates and properly limits governmental power even when the wise folks who wrote our Constitution administer it.

That was the inherent wisdom of George Washington, no slouch when it came to protecting the nation's security, but ever aware that it will be lost if the individual liberty of the citizen is squandered. Thankfully, there are still a few political leaders like Leahy the Democrat and Sensenbrenner the Republican who can unite on that point. How reassuring to have bipartisan unity on protecting civil liberty and resisting jingoism, just as Washington had urged:

"In offering you, my Countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend ... to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign Intrigue, to guard against the Impostures of pretended patriotism. ..."
Go George! A couple of congressmen have heard you.
(c) 2013 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in- depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Kevin Siers ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Nation Not About To Start Giving A Shit About Canadian Politics

WASHINGTON-Despite Toronto mayor Rob Ford's recent controversial admission to having smoked crack cocaine, Americans across the country confirmed Wednesday that, Rob Ford or no Rob Ford, there's just no way they're about to start giving a shit about Canadian politics-no way in hell.

"Yeah, sorry, not happening," said 37-year-old Harrisburg, PA resident Daniel Cooke, echoing the thoughts of millions of Americans who told reporters they will continue happily ignoring any and all stories about the Canadian government, the politics of Canada, or scandals involving Canadian politicians. "Frankly, that guy could have been having sex with an underage boy in the middle of a parliament meeting or whatever the hell they have over there and I still wouldn't give a shit. I don't know or care to know who he is, where he's from, or what he did. What I do know is that if you think I'm going to start paying attention to what's going on with politics in Toronto or Nova Scotia or Ontario City or wherever the fuck then you're going to be very disappointed."

The U.S. populace went on to confirm that, unless Martin Short were to somehow be elected prime minister, their interest level in Canadian politics would remain at this level indefinitely.
(c) 2013 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 44 (c) 11/15/2013

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