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In This Edition

Sam Harris totals, "The High Cost Of Tiny Lies."

Uri Avnery examines, "The Assassination."

Glen Ford finds, "Democracy: Going Down For the Count In Detroit."

Norman Solomon explores, "The Obamacare Disaster And The Poison Of Party Loyalty."

Jim Hightower reports, "Big Lies Win Pyrrhic GMO Victory For Big Food."

David Swanson states, "All Drone Politics Is Local."

James Donahue announces, "Fukushima: The Disaster May Have Only Just Begun."

John Nichols believes, "Bernie Sanders Might Just Have To Run For President."

Chris Hedges calls for, "Feeding The Flame Of Revolt."

Greg Palast considers, "Rand Paul's Zombie-nomics Versus Janet Yellen."

Paul Krugman wonders is our economy in, "A Permanent Slump?"

David Sirota concludes, "There Really Are Two Americas: Republistan And Democravia."

William Rivers Pitt warns, "Please Don't Take the "2016" Bait."

The Walton Family wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich reveals, "What Walmart Could Learn From Henry Ford."

Robert Scheer says to, "Be Thankful For the People Struggling To Limit NSA Spying."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst studies, "The Foggy Crystal Ball" but first Uncle Ernie is, "Remembering Dallas."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Andy Singer, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Drew Angerer, Paul Sandy, Gage Skidmore, Rena Schild, Yow Chuan, Rich Pedroncelli, AP, Flickr, Shutterstock.Com, TEPCO, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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Remembering Dallas
By Ernest Stewart

"If the American people knew what we have done, they would string us up from the lamp posts." ~~~ George H.W. Bush.

"I have let my constituents down, my country down and, most importantly, my wife and child down," ~~~ Trey Radel

"Why should a company like Wal-Mart - who made $10 billion last year alone - be able to force taxpayers to foot the bill for their health-care costs?" ~~~ John Sweeney

Help, I need somebody
Help, not just anybody
Help, you know I need someone, help
Help ~~~ The Beatles

It's that time of the year again when people my age remember what they were doing when the Walt Disney version of America ceased to be and reality set in. When two four-man CIA hit teams, under the direction of George H.W. Bush, committed acts of treason and sedition in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.

In my case, I was in between classes at O.L. Smith Junior High School in Dearborn, Michigan. I was walking down the hall when my Metal Shop teacher, the muy macho Mr. Marx, came walking down the hall crying like a baby saying, "They've murdered the President!" If you're my age, I'm sure you have similar memories.

A couple daze later, I watched with Grandmother Sizemore as a mafia hit man named Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, a former CIA stooge, who had patsy written all over him. Oswald, who had been charged with murdering a policeman, not killing JFK, got shot to death on live television, much to the horror of Granny S., and the fascination of yours truly. Even though it was ten days before my fifteenth birthday, I could clearly smell a rat or cabal of rats!

Any doubts of the cover-up vanished after the "Warren Report" came out; there was no doubt that the commission had covered up the sanction. There were drinks all around and a new President, LBJ, who promised to follow ze orders and the fix was in. This was done with the help of a former CIA director, Allen Welsh Dulles, and a fascist Con-gressman from Michigan, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., who knew how to follow ze orders. The Warren Report cover-up was born! Gerry knew how to follow orders so well that he became the first President of the United States who wasn't elected by the people, but put in place to pardon old Tricky Dick by the Trickster himself. Let's not forget the rewards for the Crime Family Bush, i.e., 20 years of the Presidency (What, you thought old Dementia Head was in charge for eight years did you? Really?).

Had there been any doubts about this, they were certainly removed by Abraham Zapruder's film of the motorcade, wherein you can clearly see JFK's head snap backwards and his brains blow out in a vee shape all over the trunk of the Lincoln. This was done by a CIA assassin dressed as a policeman up on the "Grassy Knoll."

The Lincoln, which had just prior to the four shots lost its Secret Service protection (imagine that), suddenly regained said protection as Jackie crawled out on the trunk trying to pick up the larger pieces of JFK's brains as the limo sped past the three "hobos" (all CIA hit team members) standing down by the viaduct -- just in case. While up in front of the "The Texas School Book Depository Building," you can see Papa Smirk and another spook smiling. You may also remember that the CIA planted the "magic bullet" on the stretcher in the hospital and then later stole the x-rays that showed Kennedy was killed by a shot from in front of the limo, proving conspiracy.

You may also recall that the members of the conspiracy included Roger Blough of US Steel, Air Force General Curtis Lemay, and Lyndon Baines Johnson! Since then, every President, including Barry, has gone along with whatever the ruling elite wants. Isn't it great to be an American?

In Other News

As I've often thought when someone goes needlessly berserk over things, they usually are guilty of doing whatever it was they were bitching about. You know, the ones that bitch about gays are generally gay themselves, and just haven't come out of the closet; so when Rethuglicans go crazy over drugs, you can bet your bottom dollar that they're using them!

A good example of this is Florida's newest congressman, Trey Radel, a tea-bagger from the Fort Myers-Naples area district. You'll recall he sponsored several bills trying to force everyone on food stamps to take drug tests before they could get any food. So I wasn't surprised when the Con-gressman got poped in a government sting for buying an 8-ball of coke! According to the Fort Myers News-Press...
"The freshman congressman, who represents a solidly-Republican district in southwest Florida, said at his court appearance that he'll enter a rehab program. He will also pay a $250 fine on the misdemeanor charge. Radel, 37, vowed that he'll "come out of this stronger" and told Judge Robert Tignor that he wants to "continue serving this country."

Radel is believed to be the first sitting member of Congress charged with a drug crime since then-Rep. Frederick Richmond, D-N.Y., who was convicted in 1982 on charges of drug possession and tax evasion. Radel was caught buying drugs in what a senior Drug Enforcement Administration official described as a sting operation that was part of an investigation by several federal agencies into a drug ring in the nation's capital. A drug dealer who told law enforcement officials that one of his customers was a member of Congress helped set up a buy on Oct. 29 and Radel bought the cocaine, the official said. The DEA official was not authorized to speak publicly about the case."

Of course, he only got a slap on the wrist; are you surprised? The con-gressman's arrest comes as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been stripped of his powers by the City Council for smoking crack, drinking, and boorish behavior. No such luck with Trey; he be back in Con-gress after the Christmas break?

And Finally

The Walmart store in Canton Ohio apparently really cares for its employees because for several years now, and with corpo-rat blessings, I might add, the store runs a food drive for their workers. One might think they offer their customers this chance to help out their employees; but you'd be wrong if that is what you thought. Fact is, they have their donation boxes in the employee-only areas of the store!

You heard me right, they want their underpaid employees to donate cans of food for their underpaid employees! I'm going to repeat that for those of you on drugs!

The trillion dollar company is too cheap to pay a living wage because the needy Waltons just can't seem to live on their multi-billion dollar yearly salaries.

Therefore, Walmart wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award! I betcha Sam is real proud of his offspring!

Some good news, though; when "unhappy Wal-Mart (WMT) workers were getting ready to stage protests on the Friday that followed Thanksgiving in 2012, the world's biggest retailer was threatening employees with reprisal on national TV and elsewhere. That was illegal, according to a Nov. 18 statement by the National Labor Relations Board. The decision comes two weeks before this year's Black Friday, when Walmart workers plan to protest again."

According to the NLRB, Walmart also "unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees" in 13 states for protesting working conditions. And in four states, Walmart "unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined, and/or terminated employees in anticipation of or in response to employees' other protected concerted activities."

Keepin' On

At this moment, the continuation of the magazine is in some doubt. Nothing has come in during the past three weeks; and even though we only owe $600, it looks like we won't raise it in time.

Normally, I would pick it up before it came due out of my own pocket; but I've gone from the middle class to the back of the food stamp line, and couldn't pick it up in time. Even though I paid into Medicare since its inception, they want to take 1/3rd of my already-poor Social Security check -- which is only 1/5th of what it should be -- to pay for Parts A & B; and I thought Obamacare was bad!

Ergo, if this is to continue, we need your help desperately; and we need it now! Whether you're a newbie or a member of the "Usual Suspects," we need your help now. Ya'll know what's at stake here; so if you can, please send us whatever you can, as often as you can and we'll be here bringing you, every week, the truth that is so hard to find. Truth that you need to know in order to figure out what to do in this madhouse known as America.


12-19-1935 ~ 11-17-2013
Thanks for teaching me how to write a screen play!


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 High Cost Of Tiny Lies
By Sam Harris

Last Christmas, my friends Mark and Jessica spent the morning opening presents with their daughter, Rachel, who had just turned four. After a few hours of excitement, feelings of holiday lethargy and boredom descended on the family-until Mark suddenly had a brilliant idea for how they could have a lot more fun.

Jessica was reading on the couch while Rachel played with her new dolls on the living room carpet.

"Rachel," Mark said, "I need to tell you something very important... You can't keep any of these toys. Mommy and I have decided to give them away to the other kids at your school."

A look of confusion came over his daughter's face. Mark caught Jessica's eye. She recognized his intentions at once and was now struggling to contain her glee. She reached for their new video camera.

"You've had these toys long enough, don't you think, Sweetie?"

"No, Daddy! These are my Christmas presents."

"Not anymore. It's time to say good-bye..."

Mark began gathering her new toys and putting them in a trash bag.

"No, Daddy!"

"They're only toys, Rachel. Time to grow up!"

"Not my Polly Pockets! Not my Polly Pockets!"

The look of terror on his daughter's face was too funny for words. Mark could barely speak. He heard Jessica struggling to stifle a laugh as she stepped around the couch with the camera so that she could capture all the action from the front. Mark knew that if he made eye contact with his wife, he would be lost.

"These Polly Pockets belong to another little girl now... She's going to love them!"

That did the trick. His daughter couldn't have produced a louder howl of pain had he smashed her knee with a hammer. Luckily, Jessica caught the moment close-up-her daughter's hot tears of rage and panic nearly wet the lens.

Mark and Jessica immediately posted the footage of Rachel's agony to YouTube, where 24 million people have now seen it. This has won them some small measure of fame, which makes them very happy.

No doubt, you will be relieved to learn that Mark, Jessica, and Rachel do not exist. In fact, I am confident that no one I know would treat their child this way. But this leaves me at a loss to explain the popularity of a morally identical stunt engineered for three years running by Jimmy Kimmel:

As you watch the above video and listen to the laughter of Kimmel's studio audience, do your best to see the world from the perspective of these unhappy children. Admittedly, this can be difficult. Despite my feelings of horror over the whole project, a few of these kids made me laugh as well-some of them are just so adorably resilient in the face of parental injustice. However, I am convinced that anyone who takes pleasure in all this exploited cuteness is morally confused. Yes, we know that these kids will get their candy back in the end. But the kids themselves don't know it, and the betrayal they feel is heartbreakingly genuine. This is no way to treat children.

It is true that the tears of a child must often be taken less seriously than those of an adult-because they come so freely. To judge from my daughter's reaction in the moment, getting vaccinated against tetanus is every bit as bad as getting the disease. All parents correct for this distortion of reality-and should-so that they can raise their kids without worrying at every turn that they are heaping further torments upon the damned. Nevertheless, I am astonished at the percentage of people who find the Kimmel videos morally unproblematic. When I expressed my concern on Twitter, I received the following defenses of Kimmel and these misguided parents:

• People have to learn how to take a joke.
• It's only candy. Kids need to realize that it doesn't matter.
• Kids must be prepared for the real world, and pranks like this help prepare them. Now they know to take what authority figures say with a grain of salt.
• They won't remember any of this when they are older-so there can't be any lasting harm.
These responses are callous and crazy. A four-year-old cannot possibly learn that candy "doesn't matter"-in fact, many adults can't seem to learn this. But he can learn that his parents will lie to him for the purpose of making him miserable. He can also learn that they will find his suffering hilarious and that, at any moment, he might be shamed by those closest to him. True, he may not remember learning these lessons explicitly-unless he happens to watch the footage on YouTube as it surpasses a billion views-but he will, nevertheless, be a person who was raised by parents who played recklessly with his trust. It amazes me that people think the stakes in these videos are low.

My daughter is nearly five, and I can recall lying to her only once. We were looking for nursery rhymes on the Internet and landed on a page that showed a 16th-century woodcut of a person being decapitated. As I was hurriedly scrolling elsewhere, she demanded to know what we had just seen. I said something silly like "That was an old and very impractical form of surgery." This left her suitably perplexed, and she remains unaware of man's inhumanity to man to this day. However, I doubt that even this lie was necessary. I just wasn't thinking very fast on my feet.

As parents, we must maintain our children's trust-and the easiest way to lose it is by lying to them. Of course, we should communicate the truth in ways they can handle-and this often demands that we suppress details that would be confusing or needlessly disturbing. An important difference between children and (normal) adults is that children are not fully capable of conceiving of (much less looking out for) their real interests. Consequently, it might be necessary in some situations to pacify or motivate them with a lie. In my experience, however, such circumstances almost never arise.

Many people imagine that it is necessary to lie to children to make them feel good about themselves. But this makes little moral or intellectual sense. Especially with young children, the purpose of praise is to encourage them to try new things and enjoy themselves in the process. It isn't a matter of evaluating their performance by reference to some external standard. The truth communicated by saying "That's amazing" or "I love it" in response to a child's drawing is never difficult to find or feel. Of course, things change when one is talking to an adult who wants to know how his work compares with the work of others. Here, we do our friends no favors by lying to them.

Strangely, the most common question I've received from readers on the topic of deception has been some version of the following:

What should we tell our children about Santa? My daughter asked if Santa was real the other day, and I couldn't bear to disappoint her.
In fact, I've heard from several readers who seemed to anticipate this question, and who wrote to tell me how disturbed they had been when they learned that their parents had lied to them every Christmas. I've also heard from readers whose parents told the truth about Santa simply because they didn't want the inevitable unraveling of the Christmas myth to cast any doubt on the divinity of Jesus Christ. I suppose some ironies are harder to detect than others.

I don't remember whether I ever believed in Santa, but I was never tempted to tell my daughter that he was real. Christmas must be marginally more exciting for children who are duped about Santa-but something similar could be said of many phenomena about which no one is tempted to lie. Why not insist that dragons, mermaids, fairies, and Superman actually exist? Why not present the work of Tolkien and Rowling as history?

The real truth-which everyone knows 364 days of the year-is that fiction can be both meaningful and fun. Children have fantasy lives so rich and combustible that rigging them with lies is like putting a propeller on a rocket. And is the last child in class who still believes in Santa really grateful to have his first lesson in epistemology meted out by his fellow six-year-olds? If you deceive your children about Santa, you may give them a more thrilling experience of Christmas. What you probably won't give them, however, is the sense that you would not and could not lie to them about anything else.

We live in a culture where the corrosive effect of lying is generally overlooked, and where people remain confused about the difference between truly harmless deceptions-such as the poetic license I took at the beginning of this article-and seemingly tiny lies that damage trust. I've written a short book about this. Its purpose is to convey, in less than an hour, one of the most significant ethical lessons I've ever learned: If you want to improve yourself and the people around you, you need only stop lying.

(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 Assassination
By Uri Avnery

FROM THE first moment, I did not have the slightest doubt that Yasser Arafat was assassinated.

It was a matter of simple logic.

On the way back from the funeral, I happened upon Jamal Zahalka, a member of the Knesset for the nationalist Arab Balad party, who is a highly qualified doctoral pharmacist. We exchanged views and came to the same conclusion.

The findings of the Swiss experts last week only confirmed my conviction.

FIRST OF all, a simple fact: people don't just die for no reason.

I visited Arafat a few weeks before it happened. He seemed in reasonably good health. Upon leaving, I remarked to Rachel, my wife, that he seemed more sharp and alert than during our last visit.

When he suddenly became very ill, there was no obvious cause. The doctors at the French military hospital, to which he was transferred at the insistence of Suha, his wife, and where he died, conducted a thorough examination of his body. They found no explanation for his condition. Nothing.

That by itself was very strange. Arafat was the leader of his people, the de facto head of a state, and one can be sure that the French doctors left no stone unturned to diagnose the case.

That left only radiation or poison. Why was no poison detected at the autopsy? The answer is simple: in order to detect a poison, one must know what one is looking for. The list of poisons it almost unlimited, and the routine search is restricted to a small number.

Arafat's body was not examined for radioactive polonium.

WHO HAD the opportunity to administer the poison?

Well, practically anybody.

During my many visits with him, I always wondered at the lax security precautions.

At our first meeting, in besieged Beirut, I wondered at the trust he put in me. It was known at the time that dozens of Mossad agents and Phalangist spies were combing the city for him. He could not be sure that I was not a Mossad agent myself, or that I was not followed, or that I was not unwittingly carrying some locating device.

Later, in Tunis, the security search of his visitors was perfunctory. The security precautions of the Israeli Prime Minister were immeasurably more stringent.

In the Ramallah Mukata'a ("compound"), no security measures were added. I had meals with him several times, and wondered again at his openness. American and other foreign guests, who were (or seemed to be) pro-Palestinian activists were invited by him freely, sat next to him and could easily have slipped poison into his food. Arafat would joke with his guests and feed them choice tidbits with his hand.

Certain poisons do not need food. Slight physical contact is enough.

YET THIS man was one of the most threatened persons in the world. He had many deadly enemies, half a dozen secret services were bent on his destruction. How could he be so lax?

When I remonstrated with him, he told me that he believed in divine protection.

Once, when he was flying in a private jet from Chad to Libya, the pilot announced that the fuel had run out. He was going to crash land in the middle of the desert. Arafat's bodyguards covered him with cushions and formed a ring around him. They were killed, but he survived almost without a scratch.

Since then he became even more fatalistic. He was a devout - though unostentatious - Muslim. He believed that Allah had entrusted him with the task of liberating the Palestinian people.

SO WHO carried out the assassination?

For me, there cannot be any real doubt.

Though many had a motive, only one person had both the means and a profound and lasting hatred for him - Ariel Sharon.

Sharon was furious when Arafat slipped through his fingers in Beirut. Here was his quarry, so near yet so far. The Arab-American diplomat Philip Habib managed to make an arrangement which allowed the PLO fighters, including Arafat, to withdraw with honor from the city, with their arms. I was lying on the roof of a warehouse in Beirut Harbor when the PLO troops, flags flying, were driving by to the ships.

I did not see Arafat. His men were hiding him in their midst.

Since then, Sharon made no secret of his determination to kill him. And when Sharon was resolved to do something, he never, but never, gave up. Even in much smaller matters, if he was thwarted, he would return to his effort again and again and again, until he succeeded.

I knew Sharon well. I knew of his determination. Twice, when I felt that Sharon was nearing his goal, I went with Rachel and some colleagues to the Mukata'a to serve as a human shield. Later we had the satisfaction of reading an interview with Sharon, in which he complained that he had not been able to carry out the planned assassination because "some Israelis were staying there."

THIS WAS much more than a personal vendetta. He - and not only he - saw it as a national aim.

For Israelis, Arafat was the embodiment of the Palestinian people, an object of abysmal hatred. He was hated more than any other human being after Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann. The generations-old conflict with the Palestinian people was personified by this man.

It was Arafat who had resurrected the modern Palestinian national movement, whose supreme aim was to thwart the Zionist dream of taking possession of all the country between the sea and the Jordan. It was he who had led the armed struggle (a.k.a. terrorism). And when he turned towards a peaceful settlement, recognized the State of Israel and signed the Oslo Accords, he was even more hated. Peace was bound to give back a lot of territories to the Arabs, and what could be worse?

The hatred of Arafat had long since ceased to be rational. For many, it was a total, physical rejection, a deadly brew of hate, aversion, enmity, mistrust. In the forty or so years after he appeared on the stage, millions upon millions of words had been written about him in Israel, but I truly believe that I have never seen a single positive word about him.

For all those years, an entire army of paid propaganda hacks conducted a relentless demonization campaign against his person. Every conceivable accusation was thrown at him. The assertion that he had AIDS, which is now so prominent in the Israeli covert propaganda effort, was invented then in order to mobilize homophobic prejudices. Needless to say, no evidence of homosexuality was ever presented. And the French doctors found no trace of AIDS.

IS THE Israeli government capable of deciding to carry out such a deed? It is an established fact that it is.

In September 1997, an Israeli hit squad was sent to Amman to assassinate Khalid Mishal, the Hamas leader. The chosen instrument was levofentanyl, a deadly poison that leaves no traces and produces effects like a heart attack. It was administered by a slight physical touch.

The act was bungled. The killers were detected by passers-by and fled into the Israeli embassy, where they were besieged. King Hussein, generally an Israeli collaborator, was furious. He threatened to hang the perpetrators unless a life-saving antidote was provided at once. The then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, caved in and sent the Chief of the Mossad to Amman with the required medicine. Mishal was saved.

Later, in 2010, another squad was sent to assassinate another Hamas operative, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel. They bungled the job, too - though they succeeded in killing their prey by paralyzing and then suffocating him, they were filmed by the hotel cameras and their identity disclosed.

God knows how many un-bungled murders have been carried out this way.

Israel, of course, is not alone in this field. Before, a Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, was ill-advised enough to displease Vladimir Putin. He was killed by the same radioactive polonium as Arafat, but before he died an alert doctor detected the poison. Even before, a Bulgarian dissident was poisoned by a tiny pellet fired from an umbrella,. One must assume that every self-respecting secret service has such like means of murder.

WHY DIDN'T Sharon kill Arafat before? After all, the Palestinian leader was besieged for a very long time in his Ramallah compound. I myself saw Israeli soldiers a few meters away from his office.

The answer is political. The US was afraid that if Israel was seen killing the PLO chief, a hero to tens of millions around the Arab world, the region would explode against the US. George Bush the son forbade it. The answer was to do it in a way that could not be traced to Israel.

This, by the way, was quite usual for Sharon. A few weeks before his 1982 invasion of Lebanon, he told the US Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, about his plan. Haig forbade it - unless there was a credible provocation. Lo and behold, a dastardly attempt was made on the life of the Israeli ambassador in London, the provocation was duly deemed to be intolerable and the war started.

For the same reason, the Netanyahu government now strenuously denies Israeli involvement in the assassination of Arafat. Instead of bragging about the successful operation, our powerful propaganda machine asserts that the Swiss experts are incompetent or lying (probably they are also anti-Semites), and that the conclusions are wrong. A respected Israeli professor is trotted out to declare that it is all nonsense. Even the good old story about AIDS is called out of retirement.

Sharon himself, in his endless coma, cannot react. But his old assistants, all of them seasoned liars, repeat their mendacious stories.

TO MY mind, the assassination of Arafat was a crime against Israel.

Arafat was the man who was ready to make peace and who was able to get the Palestinian people to accept it. He also laid down the terms: a Palestinian state with borders based on the Green Line, with its capital in East Jerusalem.

This is exactly what his assassins aimed to prevent.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Democracy: Going Down For the Count In Detroit
By Glen Ford

The post-Civil Rights era vision to consolidate Black Power through purely electoral means in the major cities of the United States has all but evaporated. Wherever possible, capital has reclaimed the urban centers for upscale white habitation, most often with the active collaboration of a venal Black political class concerned primarily with its own upward mobility. Always eager allies of high finance, the aspiring Black elite shares the general white assumption that concentrations of lower class Blacks are pathological, by definition. This Black Misleadership Class never conceived of building great Black cities - only of great individual careers that could be launched on the voting strength of de facto African American majorities in the wake of Sixties white flight.

Urban "renaissance" in the form of ethnic cleansing was just fine, as long as the collaborationists were awarded lucrative contracts in the process. The Black masses - who, like most Americans, prefer not to think of themselves as "masses" - seldom caught on to the game until it was too late. The promised new infrastructures of urban "transformation" turned out to be the engines of Black banishment from formerly (or soon to be formerly) Chocolate Cities like Washington DC and Atlanta. Black Chicago loses population share year by year, Black Harlem slips into history, and even Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy and Brownsville become promised lands for the white gentry.

Some cities, including New Orleans and Detroit, were, in the words of Public Enemy, "too Black, too strong," with African American majorities of 67 and 80-plus percent, respectively. Hurricane Katrina brought those numbers down to manageable size, creating the conditions for near-instantaneous Disaster Capitalist renaissance, in 2005. That same year, in Detroit, the so-called "Hip Hop Mayor," Kwame Kilpatrick - actually the spoiled, morally degenerate spawn of the historical Black Misleadership Class - strapped the Black metropolis into a suicide vest wired with interest rate swap derivatives. Similar devices are embedded in the fiscal structures of cities around the country, ready to bring down what's left of home rule so that capital can feast on the public space, unconstrained.

The scheme is general, part of the worldwide offensive by Wall Street and its global annexes to absorb the public sphere wherever it exists, reducing humanity to total dependence on the dictatorship of money. In the United States, the finance bourgeoisie's bacchanal is, like all American politics, organized along racial lines - the perfect, crowd-pleasing cover for the destruction of Black voting rights on a scale not seen since the death of Reconstruction. In place of an already straitjacketed, comprador-dominated home rule, Michigan's Republican Gov. Rick Snyder governor imposed his own regent in the noxious form of Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr, who was until this year a bankruptcy attorney from the multinational firm Jones Day, which is the mercenary legal arm for much of the Fortune 500, including most of the banks that have conspired to destroy Detroit's tax base.

This summer Orr, acting as the one-man embodiment of Detroit's now-powerless executive and legislative branches, requested that the city be declared bankrupt. Federal Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven Rhodes finished hearing testimony last Friday on whether Orr, possibly the most hated man in Detroit, has met all the criteria for Chapter 9 law, including having negotiated in good faith with its creditors. These include the city's retirees, whose pensions are protected by Michigan's constitution and, therefore, do not consider themselves "creditors" who can be forced to take a "hair cut," in Wall Street parlance, in a municipal bankruptcy proceeding. Until just days before he announced his proposal to cut pensions on June 14, Orr pretended that he both respected those protections and thought there was only a "50-50" chance that he would try to pull the bankruptcy trigger. Even Judge Rhodes thought he smelled a rat, although that doesn't mean he won't rule for the rodents. He asked Jones Day lawyer Bruce Bennett - who is, in this Alice in Wonderland legal world, acting as Detroit's lawyer and, therefore, the lawyer for former Jones Day employee Kevin Orr - if Orr hadn't acted in bad faith by misleading the retirees.

"I'm the wrong person to ask," Bennett said.

"You're his lawyer," the judge replied, repeating, "You're his lawyer."

Bennett maintained that, even if Orr had been misleading, "it was corrected three...or four days later.... Mistakes happen."

Marie Antoinette, who was beheaded for her class arrogance, was a model of empathy compared to Jones Day's Bennett, who said of the retiree's plight: "This is an issue to which, in a lot of ways, the city is indifferent. Not emotionally indifferent, but legally indifferent."

Sounds like what a Virginia plantation owner would say about selling his excess slaves "down the river" to Louisiana's cane fields. He might claim to feel their pain, but is entitled to market his property. Detroit's new owners' "good faith" goes no further than that. It is an antebellum relationship, dressed up for the new millennium.

Earlier in the week, Judge Rhodes rejected the NAACP's challenge to Kevyn Orr's Emergency Financial Manager powers on the grounds that they unconstitutionally disenfranchise a majority of Michigan's African American citizens. The judge said the public has a more "substantial interest in the speedy and efficient resolution of a municipal bankruptcy case that affects as many people and institutions, and as much of the local, regional and national economy, as this case does." He said the NAACP could continue its suit after the bankruptcy is done. In other words, the people's right to vote is secondary to working out the financial claims brought by derivatives-wielding bankers. If the people's franchise stands in the way of Lord's of Capital's right to "restructure" Detroit to their liking, then the franchise must be rendered inoperative, at least until the spoils have been divvyed up - that is, until all the issues that matter have been made moot.

A great deal has been mooted in Detroit, whose fate will become the model, the legal precedent, for the rest of the country. We are witnessing the death of, not just dreams of urban Black power, but of previous notions of American democracy, itself.

There's no need to run and tell Obama. His attitude toward Detroit's plight is very much like that of Jones Day lawyer Bennett: The president is "Not emotionally indifferent, but legally indifferent," as shown by his refusal to address the disenfranchisement of most of Michigan's Black citizens. After all, they can still exercise an effective vote for Democrats in federal elections. What other use are they?
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

At the height over the battle over healthcare reform, progressives tried over and over again to put single-payer on the table.

The Obamacare Disaster And The Poison Of Party Loyalty
by Norman Solomon

Four years ago, countless Democratic leaders and allies pushed for passage of Barack Obama's complex healthcare act while arguing that his entire presidency was at stake. The party hierarchy whipped the Congressional Progressive Caucus into line, while MoveOn and other loyal groups stayed in step along with many liberal pundits.

Lauding the president's healthcare plan for its structure of "regulation, mandates, subsidies and competition," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in July 2009 that the administration's fate hung in the balance: "Knock away any of the four main pillars of reform, and the whole thing will collapse-and probably take the Obama presidency down with it." Such warnings were habitual until Obamacare became law eight months later.

Meanwhile, some progressives were pointing out that-contrary to the right-wing fantasy of a "government takeover of healthcare” - Obama's Affordable Care Act actually further enthroned for-profit insurance firms atop the system. As I wrote at the time, "The continued dominance of the insurance industry is the key subtext of the healthcare battle that has been raging in Washington. But that dominance is routinely left out of the news media's laser-beam concentration on whether a monumental healthcare law will emerge to save Obama's presidency.”,p. "Obamacare is a mess largely because it builds a revamped healthcare system around the retrenched and extended power of insurance companies-setting back prospects for real healthcare reform for a decade or more."

Today, in terms of healthcare policy, the merits and downsides of Obamacare deserve progressive debate. But at this point there's no doubt it's a disaster in political terms-igniting the Mad Hatter Tea Party's phony populism, heightening prospects for major right-wing electoral gains next year and propagating the rancid notion that the government should stay out of healthcare.

That ominous takeaway notion was flagged days ago on the PBS NewsHour by commentator Mark Shields, who worried aloud that "this is beyond the Obama administration. If this goes down, if ... the Affordable Care Act is deemed a failure, this is the end-I really mean it-of liberal government, in the sense of any sense that government as an instrument of social justice, an engine of economic progress... Time and again, social programs have made the difference in this country. The public confidence in that will be so depleted, so diminished, that I really think the change-the equation of American politics changes.”

At this pivotal, historic, teachable moment, progressives should not leave the messaging battle about the ACA to right wingers and Obama loyalists. While critiquing the law for its entanglement with the profit-voracious insurance industry, we should fight for quality healthcare for everyone-definitely including the people who live in states where right-wing officials are blocking expansion of Medicaid coverage. (In a recent Nation article, historian Rick Perlstein cited a grim example of a chronic mentality: "the policy wizards in the Obama White House build a Rube Goldberg healthcare law that relies on states to expand Medicaid and create healthcare exchanges, and then are utterly blindsided when red-state legislatures and governors decline.”) We should challenge all efforts to deny the human right of healthcare.

What we should not be doing is what is now doing-proclaiming that the Obamacare law is just fine. In a November 14 email blast, subject-lined "Obamacare in serious trouble," MoveOn acknowledged that the rollout "has been badly botched" but flatly declared: "Obviously, the law itself is still really good.”


The problems with Obamacare involve far more than simply bad website coding. They're bound up in the enormous complexity of the law's design, wrapped around a huge corporate steeplechase for maximizing profits. As a Maine physician, Philip Caper, wrote this fall, the ACA "is far too complicated and therefore too expensive to manage, full of holes, will be applied unevenly and unfairly, be full of unintended consequences, and be easily exploited by those looking to make a quick buck." The ACA is so complicated because it has been so relentlessly written for the benefit of-and largely written by-insurance companies.

Along the way, the "individual mandate" cornerstone of the ACA-required by government yet actually enriching the private insurance industry-is a tremendous political boost to demagogic GOP leaders. I'm not engaging in hindsight here. Like many others, I saw this coming before the ACA became law, writing in March 2010: "On a political level, the mandate provision is a massive gift to the Republican Party, all set to keep on giving to the right wing for many years. With a highly intrusive requirement that personal funds and government subsidies be paid to private corporations, the law would further empower right-wing populists who want to pose as foes of government 'elites' bent on enriching Wall Street.”

Obamacare is a mess largely because it builds a revamped healthcare system around the retrenched and extended power of insurance companies-setting back prospects for real healthcare reform for a decade or more. Egged on by corporate media and corporate politicians, much of the public will blame higher premiums on government intervention and not on the greedy insurance companies which, along with Big Pharma, helped write the law in the Obama White House and on Capitol Hill.

It should now be painfully obvious that Obamacare's little helpers, dutifully reciting White House talking points in 2009 and early 2010, were helping right-wing bogus populism to gather steam. Claiming that the Obama presidency would sink without signing into law its "landmark" healthcare bill, many a progressive worked to throw the president a rope; while ostensibly attached to a political life preserver, the rope was actually fastened to a huge deadweight anvil.

In the process, the political choreography included a chorus of statements by Congressional Progressive Caucus members before ultimate passage of the Affordable Care Act. Having previously removed the words "single payer" and "Medicare for all" from their oratorical vocabulary while retaining the laudatory language-and after later excising the words "public option" in a similar way-those legislators still pretended that passage of the ACA would be an unalloyed positive triumph. Like the president, they resolutely oversold Obamacare and made believe it would bring about an excellent healthcare system.

With such disingenuous sales pitches four years ago, President Obama and his Democratic acolytes did a lot to create the current political mess engulfing Obamacare-exaggerating its virtues while pulling out the stops to normalize denial about its real drawbacks. That was a bad approach in 2009. It remains a bad approach today.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co- founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Big Lies Win Pyrrhic GMO Victory For Big Food

If you doubt that big money and lies can pervert elections, look at Initiative 522 in Washington State. It had been put on the ballot by a grassroots coalition of consumers, organic producers, environmentalists, and others who want honesty in food labeling.

The initiative would've required grocery manufacturers that slip genetically manipulated organisms into their products to state that fact on their food labels. But the industry ran a dishonest, multimillion-dollar PR campaign, including ads to scare voters by falsely claiming that the truth-in-labeling provision would jack up each family's annual food costs by an average of more than $450.

Especially dishonest (and likely illegal) was the industry's crude attempt to keep voters from knowing who was funding the attack ads. A front group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, set up a dummy campaign account called "Defense of Brand," which really was a Hide-the-Brand artifice. It let big-name food giants put some $11 million into the no-labeling campaign, without revealing their participation and angering consumers.

But the state attorney general exposed this dodge and forced the giants to fess up. Behind this hoax-within a hoax-within another hoax were such names as Campbell Soup, Coke, Nestle, and Pepsi. With their money and deceptions, they prevailed in the vote, but that same combo of cash and lies also infuriated millions of consumers and others across the country who seek nothing more than a basic level of corporate integrity - and a minimal level of control over the food they bring into their homes.

The GMO profiteers can run, but finally they won't be able to hide from the growing number of Americans who're onto them - and literally fed up with their tactics. GMO labeling laws are currently being pushed in some 20 other states - the fun is just beginning.
(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.

All Drone Politics Is Local
What Localities and States Can Do About Drones
By David Swanson

Charlottesville, Va., passed a resolution that urged the state of Virginia to adopt a two-year moratorium on drones (which it did), urged both Virginia and the U.S. Congress to prohibit information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into court, and to preclude the domestic use of drones equipped with "anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being," and pledged that Charlottesville would "abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones."

St. Bonifacius, Minn., passed a resolution with the same language as Charlottesville plus a ban on anyone operating a drone "within the airspace of the city," making a first offense a misdemeanor and a repeat offense a felony.

Evanston, Ill., passed a resolution establishing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones in the city with exceptions for hobby and model aircraft and for non-military research, and making the same recommendations to the state and Congress as Charlottesville and St. Bonifacius.

Northampton, Mass., passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing with drones, affirming that within the city limits "the navigable airspace for drone aircraft shall not be expanded below the long-established airspace for manned aircraft" and that "landowners subject to state laws and local ordinances have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the airspace and that no drone aircraft shall have the 'public right of transit' through this private property," and urging the state and Congress and the FAA "to respect legal precedent and constitutional guarantees of privacy, property rights, and local sovereignty in all matters pertaining to drone aircraft and navigable airspace."

See full text of all resolutions at

Other cities, towns, and counties should be able to pass similar resolutions. Of course, stronger and more comprehensive resolutions are best. But most people who learned about the four resolutions above just leaned that these four cities had "banned drones" or "passed an anti-drone resolution." The details are less important in terms of building national momentum against objectionable uses of drones. By including both surveillance and weaponized drones, as all four cities have done, a resolution campaign can find broader support. By including just one issue, a resolution might meet fewer objections. Asking a city just to make recommendations to a state and the nation might also meet less resistance than asking the city to take actions itself. Less can be more.

Localities have a role in national policy. City councilors and members of boards of supervisors take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rulebook for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate. In 1967, a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey, 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known." Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc. No locality is an island. If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate. If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders. And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for any city or state to keep them out.

How to pass a local resolution: Every city or county is different, but some rules of thumb are applicable. To the extent possible, build understanding of the issues. Invite speakers, screen films, hold conferences. To the extent possible, educate and win over elected officials. Make the case that localities have a responsibility to speak on national issues to represent the interests of local people. Make the case that the time to act is before the problem expands out of control. Most states are considering drone legislation, so refer to that activity in your state. Make clear that you are aware of countless benevolent and harmless uses of drones but that you are prioritizing Constitutional rights and want exceptions made for uses that do not endanger self-governance rather than drones being made the norm and restrictions the exception. The Congressional Research Service says drones are incompatible with the Fourth Amendment. The U.N. Special Rapporteur says drones are making war the norm. If possible, propose the weakest resolution you can, and ask the local government to put it on the agenda for consideration; then propose the strongest possible resolution you dare. You may end up with a compromise, as happened in Charlottesville. Work the local media and public. Pack the meeting(s). Take advantage of every opportunity for the public to speak. Unlike at the state or national levels, you are unlikely to face any organized opposition. Make your most persuasive case, and make a great show of public support. Equate a "No" vote with support for cameras in everyone's windows and armed drones over picnics. Equate a "Yes" vote with prevention of racial profiling, activist profiling, and the targeting of all sorts of groups that can be recruited into your campaign.

STATES: See full text of all resolutions at

Oregon has passed a law banning weaponized drones in all cases and banning drone use by law enforcement unless they have a warrant, they have probable cause without a warrant, or for search and rescue, or for an emergency, or for studying a crime scene, or for training (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Virginia has passed a law banning local and state (but not federal or National Guard) government drone use for two years unless various color-coded alerts are activated or there is a search or rescue operation or for training exercises or for drone-training schools, and strictly banning (for two years) any state or local weaponized drones.

Florida has passed a law banning law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather information unless they think they have some sort of reason to do so (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Idaho has passed a law banning drone surveillance "absent reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct" except in pursuit of marijuana in which case no such suspicion is needed (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Illinois has passed a law banning drones except for law enforcement agencies that have a warrant or when the Secretary of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or they are reasonably suspicious it's needed or are searching for a missing person or are photographing a crime scene or traffic crash scene (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Tennessee has passed a law banning law enforcement drones unless the Sec. of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or there's a warrant or there's suspicion without a warrant (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Texas has passed a law banning the capturing of images with drones except for ... too many exceptions to list.

Congressman Grayson passed an amendment to a DHS funding bill banning DHS from using weaponized drones, a step that must be repeated each year for this and other agencies unless a full national or international ban is put in place.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Workers remove nuclear fuel rods from a pool at the Unit 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daii-chi nuclear power plant on Monday.

Fukushima: The Disaster May Have Only Just Begun
By James Donahue

How can we explain the corporate media's strange silence about the disaster still unfolding at Japan's earthquake and tsunami destroyed Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant complex since it began in 2011.

The disaster left about 19,000 people dead, millions homeless and forced an untold number of plant workers to literally sacrifice their personal lives and health to enter the radioactive plants. They were poisoned even though they were wearing protective suits to do whatever they could to repair the cooling system and prevent four of the six plants in the complex to go into complete meltdown. It didn't work. All four plants either went into meltdown or exploded anyway as make-shift cooling systems failed and the radioactive rods overheated. Thousands of tons of highly radioactive waster have been leaking daily into the open ocean from special tanks and containers quickly constructed in an early effort to prevent such leakage. Most fish and other sealife in the Pacific, especially near Japan, is considered unsafe to eat.

Radioactive fallout was recorded all across the United States and Canada within days of the disaster. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPC) officials assured Japanese people that the disaster was under control and that the radiation leaks at the plant would have little effect on residents of Tokyo and that homes and crops located within a radius of a few miles were safe. Public officials went on television to publically eat food grown in fields not far from the disaster area to assure people that the food from Japan was safe.

Many of these same people who ate the radiated food have since died from radiation poisoning. But we have heard little about this. It is only now that we are learning that the City of Tokyo was so contaminated that Japanese officials were seriously considering evacuating the city. But Japan lacks room for relocating that many people. Tokyo residents were consequently not told of the danger and still live and work in a city that is killing them.

President Barack Obama told the American people shortly after the disaster that the U. S. is safe from radiation and that food grown and processed along the west coast is safe to harvest and eat. That may have been the case when he said it, but the damage is still drifting its way across the Pacific Ocean and radiation levels on the west coast are rising.

TEPCO this week began the delicate and very dangerous removal of spent fuel rods from an elevated, cracking and leaking water reservoir located about 100 feet from the ground at the Number 4 reactor. The rods are packed in like sardines, many of them bent and twisted. Thus this is a dangerous and ultra sensitive project. One mistake during the operation could cause a massive explosion that would have the potential of blowing up all six nuclear plants.

A story in Japan Times said such an explosion could release 14,000 times the amount of radiation released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Yet failure to separate those fuel rods may be the same disaster just waiting to happen. Officials said another earthquake or just the collapse of the cracking and damaged building could cause it to release all of that radiation into the atmosphere anyway.

Some officials have warned that such an explosion and release of radiation would put the entire northern hemisphere of the world at great risk, possibly making it uninhabitable for thousands of years.

The area was recently struck by a 7.1 magnitude quake and small tsunami that left a lot of people holding their breath. TEPCO officials assured us that the six plants remained unaffected by the new quake. Can we believe them? A recent article in Russia Today said a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory has calculated that massive packets of radiation from Fukushima are forming and slowly drifting toward the U.S. West Coast.

The story warned that "within one year, it will have spread over the entire western half of the North Pacific, and in five years we predict it will reach the U. S. West Coast." Co-author of the report, Claus Boning, wrote: "The levels of radiation that hit the U.S. coast will be small relative to the levels released by Fukushima. But we cannot accurately estimate what those levels will be because we do not know for certain what was released by Fukushima."

This is because TEPCO officials have reportedly been going to great lengths to cover up the full extent of the disaster and the release of radiation.

TEPCO officials say it may take up to a year to remove all of the toxic fuel rods from those damaged plants and move them to another safer location. In the meantime, we all should be holding our breath that the rods can be safely removed, and all goes well.
(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.

Bernie Sanders speaking in 2011.

Bernie Sanders Might Just Have To Run For President
By John Nichols

Bernie Sanders is not burning with presidential ambition. He doubts that he would consider bidding for the nation's top job if another prominent progressive was gearing up for a 2016 run that would provide a seriously-forcused and seriously-competitive populist alternative to politics as usual.

But if the fundamental issues that are of concern to the great mass of Americans-"the collapse of the middle class, growing wealth and income inequality, growth in poverty, global warming"-are not being discussed by the 2016 candidates, Sanders says: "Well, then maybe I have to do it."

This calculation brings the independent senator from Vermont a step closer to presidential politics than he has ever been before. With a larger social-media following than most members of Congress, a regular presence on left-leaning television and talk radio programs-syndicated radio host Bill Press greeted the Sanders speculation with a Tuesday morning "Go, Bernie, Go!" cheer-and a new "Progressive Voters of America" political action committee, Sanders has many of the elements of an insurgent candidacy in place.

But the senator is still a long way from running.

In interviews over the past several days, Sanders has argued with increasing force that the times demand that there be a progressive contender in 2016.

"Under normal times, it's fine, if you have a moderate Democrat running, a moderate Republican running," the senator told his hometown paper, the Burlington Free Press. "These are not normal times. The United States right now is in the middle of a severe crisis and you have to call it what it is."

So, says Sanders, there must be a progressive alternative to the conservative Republican politics of austerity and the centrist Democratic politics of compromise with the conservatives.

"(The) major issues of this country that impact millions of people cannot continue to be swept under the rug," Sanders told Politico on Monday. "And if nobody else is talking about it, well, then maybe I have to do it. But I do not believe that I am the only person that is capable of doing this."

The independent senator has high praise for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has recently been talked up by some progressives as a prospective primary challenger to the frontrunner for the party's 2016 presidential nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Unlike Clinton, Warren has a reputation for taking on Wall Street, big banks and corporate CEOs, and Sanders hails the Massachusetts senator as a "real progressive." But Warren says she is not running.

So what happens if Warren stands down? And what if other liberal and populist presidential prospects, such as Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, fail to gain traction?

Then, says Sanders, he'd consider a run.

That sounds casual. But it isn't. Sanders has stipulations regarding a candidacy.

Though he is a proud independent, he would not run as a November "spoiler" who might take away just enough votes to throw the presidential election to a right-wing Republican.

And he has little taste for "educational" campaigns that seek to raise issues-either on an independent line or in a Democratic primary dominated by a Clinton juggernaut-but do not seriously compete for power.

If Sanders were to run-and that remains a very big "if"-he says he would do so with a strategy for winning.

That strategy, whether the senator were to mount a presidential bid as an independent or as a Democrat, would not be built around insider ties or connections; Clinton already has much of the party establishment locked down. And it certainly would not rely on raising the most money, explains the sponsor of a Constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling and get big money out of politics.

When we spoke recently about the challenges facing progressive candidates, Sanders said what most politicians will not:

"This small handful of multi-billionaires control the economics of this country. They determine whether jobs stay in the United States or whether they go to China. They determine how much we're going to BE paying for a gallon of gas. They determine whether we're going to transform our economic system away from fossil fuel. Economically, they clearly have an enormous amount of power. And, now, especially with Citizens United, these very same people are now investing in politics. That's what oligarchy is. Oligarchy is when a small number of people control the economic and political life of the country-certainly including the media-and we are rapidly moving toward an oligarchic form of society."
Sanders actually likes the prospects of taking on the oligarchs, saying: "And I think you can bring people together to say: Look, we may have our disagreements, but we don't want billionaires deciding who the next governor is going to be, the next senator, the next President of the United States. As someone who believes in that type of grassroots organizing, I think it's a great opportunity."

So any presidential run by Sanders would rely on small contributions and grassroots support. But the core of the strategy would be that challenge to oligarchy, with its focus on values and ideas that have been too long dismissed by prominent presidential contenders and the media that covers them.

In effect, say Sanders, he would only run if he thought that he could fill the great void in the American political discourse, and in so doing inspire voters to reject old orthodoxies in favor of a new populist politics that would have as its core theme economic justice.

When we spoke about what is missing from American politics, Sanders told me that the president America needs would begin the discussion, as Franklin Roosevelt did, by calling out the plutocrats and their political and media minions.

Imagine, explains Sanders, if Americans had a president who said to them: "I am going to stand with you. And I am going to take these guys on. And I understand that they're going to be throwing 30-second ads at me every minute. They're going to do everything they can to undermine my agenda. But I believe that if we stand together, we can defeat them."

The senator explained the concept that would, necessarily, underpin a presidential bid:

"If you had a President who said: 'Nobody in America is going to make less than $12 or $14 an hour,' what do you think that would do? If you had a President who said: 'You know what, everybody in this country is going to get free primary health care within a year,' what do you think that would do? If you had a President say, 'Every kid in this country is going to go to college regardless of their income,' what do you think that would do? If you had a President say, 'I stand here today and guarantee you that we are not going to cut a nickel in Social Security; in fact we're going to improve the Social Security program,' what do you think that would do? If you had a president who said, 'Global warming is the great planetary crisis of our time, I'm going to create millions jobs as we transform our energy system. I know the oil companies don't like it. I know the coal companies don't like it. But that is what this planet needs: we're going to lead the world in that direction. We're going to transform the energy system across this planet-and create millions of jobs while we do that.' If you had a President say that, what kind of excitement would you generate from young people all over this world?"
Whether Sanders runs or not, the prospect of such a speak-truth-to-power presidency is an appealing one. And the senator from Vermont is right: Americans do not just deserve such an option. In these times, they need the serious progressive alternative that they have for too long been denied.
(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.

Feeding The Flame Of Revolt
By Chris Hedges

NEW YORK-I was in federal court here Friday for the sentencing of Jeremy Hammond to 10 years in prison for hacking into the computers of a private security firm that works on behalf of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, and corporations such as Dow Chemical. In 2011 Hammond, now 28, released to the website WikiLeaks and Rolling Stone and other publications some 3 million emails from the Texas-based company Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor.

The sentence was one of the longest in U.S. history for hacking and the maximum the judge could impose under a plea agreement in the case. It was wildly disproportionate to the crime-an act of nonviolent civil disobedience that championed the public good by exposing abuses of power by the government and a security firm. But the excessive sentence was the point. The corporate state, rapidly losing credibility and legitimacy, is lashing out like a wounded animal. It is frightened. It feels the heat from a rising flame of revolt. It is especially afraid of those such as Hammond who have the technical skills to break down electronic walls and expose the corrupt workings of power.

"People have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors," Hammond told me when we met in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan about a week and a half before his sentencing.

I did not hope for justice from the court. Judge Loretta A. Preska is a member of the right-wing Federalist Society. And the hack into Stratfor gave the email address and disclosed the password of an account used for business by Preska's husband, Thomas Kavaler, a partner at the law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel. Some emails of the firm's corporate clients, including Merrill Lynch, also were exposed. The National Lawyers Guild, because the judge's husband was a victim of the hack, filed a recusal motion that Preska, as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was able to deny. Her refusal to recuse herself allowed her to oversee a trial in which she had a huge conflict of interest.

The judge, who herself once was employed at Cahill Gordon & Reindel, fulminated from the bench about Hammond's "total lack of respect for the law." She read a laundry list of his arrests for acts of civil disobedience. She damned what she called his "unrepentant recidivism." She said: "These are not the actions of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela ... or even Daniel Ellsberg; there's nothing high-minded or public-spirited about causing mayhem"-an odd analogy given that Mandela founded the armed wing of the African National Congress, was considered by South Africa's apartheid government and the United States government to be a terrorist and was vilified, along with King and Ellsberg, by the U.S. government. She said there was a "desperate need to promote respect for the law" and a "need for adequate public deterrence." She read from transcripts of Hammond's conversations in Anonymous chat rooms in which he described the goal of hacking into Stratfor as "destroying the target, hoping for bankruptcy, collapse" and called for "maximum mayhem." She admonished him for releasing the unlisted phone number of a retired Arizona police official who allegedly received threatening phone calls afterward.

The judge imposed equally harsh measures that will take effect after Hammond's release from prison. She ordered that he be placed under three years of supervised control, be forbidden to use encryption or aliases online and submit to random searches of his computer equipment, person and home by police and any internal security agency without the necessity of a warrant. The judge said he was legally banned from having any contact with "electronic civil disobedience websites or organizations." By the time she had finished she had shredded all pretense of the rule of law.

The severe sentence-Hammond will serve more time than the combined sentences of four men who were convicted in Britain for hacking related to the U.S. case-was monumentally stupid for a judge seeking to protect the interest of the ruling class. The judicial lynching of Hammond required her to demonstrate a callous disregard for transparency and our right to privacy. It required her to ignore the disturbing information Hammond released showing that the government and Stratfor attempted to link nonviolent dissident groups, including some within Occupy, to terrorist organizations so peaceful dissidents could be prosecuted as terrorists. It required her to accept the frightening fact that intelligence agencies now work on behalf of corporations as well as the state. She also had to sidestep the fact that Hammond made no financial gain from the leak.

The sentencing converges with the state's persecution of Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Barrett Brown, along with Glenn Greenwald, Jacob Appelbaum, Laura Poitras and Sarah Harrison, four investigative journalists who are now in self-imposed exile from the United States. And as the numbers of our political prisoners and exiled dissidents mount, there is the unmistakable stench of tyranny.

This draconian sentence, like the draconian sentences of other whistle-blowers, will fan revolt. History bears this out. It will solidify the growing understanding that we must resort, if we want to effect real change, to unconventional tactics to thwart the mounting abuses by the corporate state. There is no hope, this sentencing shows, for redress from the judicial system, elected officials or the executive branch. Why should we respect a court system, or a governmental system, that shows no respect to us? Why should we abide by laws that serve only to protect criminals such as Wall Street thieves while leaving the rest of us exposed to abuse? Why should we continue to have faith in structures of power that deny us our most basic rights and civil liberties? Why should we be impoverished so the profits of big banks, corporations and hedge funds can swell?

No one will save us but ourselves. That was the real message sent out by the sentencing of Jeremy Hammond. And just as Hammond was inspired to act by the arrest of Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning, others will be inspired to act by Hammond and the actions taken against him. And we can thank Judge Preska for that.

Hammond is rooted in the Black Bloc. As he was escorted out of the courtroom on the ninth floor of the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl St. on Friday he shouted to roughly 100 people-including a class of prim West Point cadets in their blue uniforms-gathered there: "Long live Anonymous! Hurrah for anarchy!" In a statement he read in court he thanked "Free Anons, the Anonymous Solidarity Network [and] Anarchist Black Cross" for their roles in the fight against oppression.

Hammond has abandoned faith not only in traditional institutions, such as the courts, but nonviolent mass protest and civil disobedience, a point on which he and I diverge. But his analysis of corporate tyranny is correct. And the longer the state ruthlessly persecutes dissidents, the more the state ensures that those who oppose it will resort to radical responses including violence. "Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable," John F. Kennedy said. And the corporate state is not only making peaceful change impossible but condemning it as terrorism.

In late October I spent an afternoon with Hammond in New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he had been held for 20 months. He said during our conversation, parts of which his lawyer requested be published only after his sentencing, that he believed that the sole way the people will now have any power is to rise up physically and seize it. My column last week was about that interview, and now I am including previously withheld parts of the conversation.

Hammond defines himself as "an anarchist communist." He seeks to destroy capitalism and the centralized power of the corporate state. His revolutionary vision is "leaderless collectives based on free association, consensus, mutual aid, self-sufficiency and harmony with the environment." He embraces the classic tools of revolt, including mass protests, general strikes and boycotts. And he sees hacking and leaking as part of this resistance, tools not only to reveal the truths about these systems of corporate power but to "disrupt/destroy these systems entirely."

He participated in the Occupy movement in Chicago but found the politics of Occupy too vague and amorphous, a point on which I concur. He said Occupy lacked revolutionary vigor. He told me he did not support what he called the "dogmatic nonviolence doctrine" of many in the Occupy movement, calling it "needlessly limited and divisive." He rejects the idea of acts of civil disobedience that protesters know will lead to their arrest. "The point," he said, "is to carry out acts of resistance and not get caught." He condemns "peace patrols," units formed within the Occupy movement that sought to prohibit acts of vandalism and violence by other protesters-most often members of the Black Bloc-as "a secondary police force." And he spurns the calls by many in Occupy not to antagonize the police, calling the police "the boot boys of the 1 percent, paid to protect the rich and powerful." He said such a tactic of non-confrontation with the police ignored the long history of repression the police have carried out against popular movements, as well as the "profiling and imprisonment of our comrades."

"Because we were unprepared, or perhaps unwilling, to defend our occupations, police and mayors launched coordinated attacks, driving us out of our own parks," he said of the state's closure of the Occupy encampments.

"I fully support and have participated in Black Bloc and other forms of militant direct action," he said. "I do not believe that the ruling powers listen to the people's peaceful protests. Black Bloc is an effective, fluid and dynamic form of protest. It causes disruption outside of predictable/controllable mass demonstrations through 'unarrests,' holding streets, barricades and property destruction. Smashing corporate windows is not violence, especially when compared to the everyday economic violence of sweatshops and 'free trade.' Black Bloc seeks to hit them where it hurts, through economic damage. But more than smashing windows they seek to break the spell of 'law and order' and the artificial limitations we impose on ourselves."

I disagree with Hammond over tactics, but in the end this disagreement is moot. It will be the ruling elites who finally determine our response. If the corporate elites employ the full force of the security and surveillance state against us, if corporate totalitarian rule is one of naked, escalating and brutal physical repression, then the violence of the state will spawn a counter-violence. Judge Preska's decision to judicially lynch Hammond has only added to the fury she and the state are trying to stamp out. An astute ruling class, one aware of the rage rippling across the American landscape, would have released Hammond on Friday and begun to address the crimes he exposed. But our ruling class, while adept at theft, looting, propaganda and repression, is blind to the growing discontent caused by the power imbalance and economic inequality that plague ordinary Americans at a time when half of the country lives in poverty or "near poverty."

"The acts of civil disobedience and direct action that I am being sentenced for today are in line with the principles of community and equality that have guided my life," Hammond told the courtroom. "I hacked into dozens of high-profile corporations and government institutions, understanding very clearly that what I was doing was against the law, and that my actions could land me back in federal prison. But I felt that I had an obligation to use my skills to expose and confront injustice-and to bring the truth to light."

"Could I have achieved the same goals through legal means?" he said. "I have tried everything from voting petitions to peaceful protest and have found that those in power do not want the truth to be exposed. When we speak truth to power we are ignored at best and brutally suppressed at worst. We are confronting a power structure that does not respect its own system of checks and balances, never mind the rights of its own citizens or the international community."

"My first memories of American politics was when Bush stole the election in 2000," he told me at a metal table as we met at the prison in a small room reserved for attorney visits, "and then how Bush used the wave of nationalism after 9/11 to launch unprovoked pre-emptive wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. In high school I was involved in publishing 'underground' newsletters criticizing the Patriot Act, the wars, and other Bush-era policies. I attended many anti-war protests in the city [Chicago] and was introduced to other local struggles and the larger anti-corporate globalization movement. I began identifying as an anarchist, started to travel around the country to various mobilizations and conferences, and began getting arrested for various acts."

He said that his experience of street protest, especially against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, was seminal, for he saw that the state had little interest in heeding the voices of protesters and others in the public. "Instead, we were labeled as traitors, beaten and arrested."

"I targeted law enforcement systems because of the racism and inequality with which the criminal law is enforced," he admitted in court. "I targeted the manufacturers and distributors of military and police equipment who profit from weaponry used to advance U.S. political and economic interests abroad and to repress people at home. I targeted information security firms because they work in secret to protect government and corporate interests at the expense of individual rights, undermining and discrediting activists, journalists and other truth seekers, and spreading disinformation."

An FBI informant, Hector Xavier Monsegur, posing as an Anonymous member and using the online name "Sabu," prodded Hammond to break into Stratfor and informed him of technical vulnerabilities in websites of the company.

"Why the FBI would introduce us to the hacker who found the initial vulnerability and allow this hack to continue remains a mystery," Hammond said as he faced the judge.

"As a result of the Stratfor hack, some of the dangers of the unregulated private intelligence industry are now known," he said. "It has been revealed through WikiLeaks and other journalists around the world that Stratfor maintained a worldwide network of informants that they used to engage in intrusive and possibly illegal surveillance activities on behalf of large multinational corporations."

At Sabu's urging, Hammond broke into other websites, too. Hammond, at Sabu's request, provided information to hackers enabling them to break into and deface official foreign government websites, including some of Turkey, Iran and Brazil. The names of these three countries are technically under a protective court order but have been reported widely in the press.

"I broke into numerous sites and handed over passwords and backdoors that enabled Sabu-and by extension his FBI handlers-to control these targets," Hammond said.

"I don't know how other information I provided to him may have been used, but I think the government's collection and use of this data needs to be investigated," he went on. "The government celebrates my conviction and imprisonment, hoping that it will close the door on the full story. I took responsibility for my actions, by pleading guilty, but when will the government be made to answer for its crimes?"

"The hypocrisy of 'law and order' and the injustices caused by capitalism cannot be cured by institutional reform but through civil disobedience and direct action," Hammond told the court. "Yes, I broke the law, but I believe that sometimes laws must be broken in order to make room for change."
(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."

Rand Paul's Zombie-nomics Versus Janet Yellen
By Greg Palast

Will Sen. Rand Paul, misunderstanding the voices of the undead, block the appointment of Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve Board?

No joke. Tea Party fave Paul told The Wall Street Journal he would have preferred Milton Friedman, the free-market fanatic, to the liberal-ish Yellen. But, as a stunned Journal reporter informed the senator, Milton Friedman is, alas, some years dead.

Unbowed, Paul contends he is channeling Friedman from beyond the grave, invoking the Nobel Prize economist to support the senator's quest against Yellen's well-known commitment to easy money policies at the Fed.

Paul has written, "One need not be an economist or mathematician to wonder whether printing money out of thin air is a sound way to help the economy."

You're more than correct, Senator. If you don't know why America is printing more dollar bills, then you definitely are not an economist nor a mathematician.

As a former student of the late professor Friedman, I'm quite certain that Milty would have been thrilled by Yellen's push to mainline more greenbacks into the US economy.

If you return to your seance, Senator, and ask Friedman's ghost about "printing money out of thin air," you'd find out he all but invented the idea. Or, throw away the Ouija Board and read Friedman's A Monetary History of the United States 1867-1960, his Nobel-winning work, in which he argued convincingly that the Federal Reserve could have prevented the Great Depression had it radically pumped up the money supply.

Friedman's - and Yellen's - greatest fear is not inflation, but deflation, a disastrous fall in prices because of starving the economy of dollars.

Senator Paul moans that, since the market crash of 2008, the Federal Reserve has printed $3.6 trillion and dumped these dollar bills, ink still wet, into the financial system. Paul is waiting for the day when the printing of all these dollars suddenly will cause the price of a can of tuna to soar to $7,000.

But despite the Fed's smoking-hot printing press, the price of tuna is perilously close to falling. Price inflation today stands at a teeny-weeny 1.2 percent.

It's time for Senator Paul and daddy Congressman Ron Paul and their followers in gold-foil hats to admit that adding trillions to the money supply has not caused hyper-inflation. After a quarter-century of hysterical warnings from the two Pauls, the hyperinflation spaceship never landed and little green dollar men did not eat up the planet.

An Idiot's Guide to Gold-Buggery

The Pauls have told us horror stories of the German hyper-inflation of the early 1920s, when you had to schlep a wheelbarrow full of currency to buy a loaf of bread. The cure Paul pere hawks, is a return to the gold standard, raising zombie economic theories from the grave, where Friedman buried them.

As Friedman warned, there's something far worse than having to pay for a loaf of bread with bags of currency, and that's having to pay for a loaf of bread with a bag of gold.

Notably, the Tea Party, not the guys in the goofy wigs on Fox TV, but the real one in Boston in 1773, was formed principally to protest King George's reimposing the gold standard on the colonies.

The colonies faced a crisis. Bricks of gold don't have babies; and so, when an economy grows rapidly as did early America, there simply is not enough money to represent that new trade and wealth because the currency is limited by a fixed and arbitrary amount of metal.

Here's why. When the money stock stays flat as production and work force grows, each dollar buys more of that production. Sounds good? No way. A monstrous fall in prices and wages means workers and businesses get less for their output and can't pay off old loans. To simplify: When a farmer borrows $100 for land and seed then sells his corn for $50, the farmer goes bust.

The American colonies faced such ruin when gold-backed currency was insufficient to fund our massive expansion. A revolutionary leader of the time explained the insurgent solution, "Happy for us that we fell upon the Project of giving a Credit to Paper."

Happy days ended when the British Parliament counterattacked with the Currency Act of 1764 that, "renders our Paper Money no legal Tender." King George, to shackle the States to the crown's metal-based currency, required purchasing a tax-stamp for each case of tea, which had to be paid for in His Majesty's "pounds sterling."

So the dissidents threw the tea into the ocean.

A century and a half later, after World War I, the British Parliament did it again, reimposing the gold standard. The United States and most of the world joined Britain in the golden noose. Economies strangled and dangled. The Great Depression eased only when FDR, in one of his first acts of office, rescued the United States, setting the dollar free of gold and letting fly the "Federal Reserve Note," created out of thin air - just like America itself.

And while your beloved Friedman did not care for the government caring for people's welfare via New Deal programs, my professor did praise FDR's printing press for expanding the money supply.

In today's hearing, Janet Yellen might remind the Senate of economist J.M. Keynes warning about, "Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back."

Senator Paul, if you are going to listen to the voices of deceased economists, at the least, listen carefully.
(c) 2013 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.

A Permanent Slump?
By Paul Krugman

Spend any time around monetary officials and one word you'll hear a lot is "normalization." Most though not all such officials accept that now is no time to be tightfisted, that for the time being credit must be easy and interest rates low. Still, the men in dark suits look forward eagerly to the day when they can go back to their usual job, snatching away the punch bowl whenever the party gets going.

But what if the world we've been living in for the past five years is the new normal? What if depression-like conditions are on track to persist, not for another year or two, but for decades?

You might imagine that speculations along these lines are the province of a radical fringe. And they are indeed radical; but fringe, not so much. A number of economists have been flirting with such thoughts for a while. And now they've moved into the mainstream. In fact, the case for "secular stagnation" - a persistent state in which a depressed economy is the norm, with episodes of full employment few and far between - was made forcefully recently at the most ultrarespectable of venues, the I.M.F.'s big annual research conference. And the person making that case was none other than Larry Summers. Yes, that Larry Summers.

And if Mr. Summers is right, everything respectable people have been saying about economic policy is wrong, and will keep being wrong for a long time.

Mr. Summers began with a point that should be obvious but is often missed: The financial crisis that started the Great Recession is now far behind us. Indeed, by most measures it ended more than four years ago. Yet our economy remains depressed.

He then made a related point: Before the crisis we had a huge housing and debt bubble. Yet even with this huge bubble boosting spending, the overall economy was only so-so - the job market was O.K. but not great, and the boom was never powerful enough to produce significant inflationary pressure.

Mr. Summers went on to draw a remarkable moral: We have, he suggested, an economy whose normal condition is one of inadequate demand - of at least mild depression - and which only gets anywhere close to full employment when it is being buoyed by bubbles.

I'd weigh in with some further evidence. Look at household debt relative to income. That ratio was roughly stable from 1960 to 1985, but rose rapidly and inexorably from 1985 to 2007, when crisis struck. Yet even with households going ever deeper into debt, the economy's performance over the period as a whole was mediocre at best, and demand showed no sign of running ahead of supply. Looking forward, we obviously can't go back to the days of ever-rising debt. Yet that means weaker consumer demand - and without that demand, how are we supposed to return to full employment?

Again, the evidence suggests that we have become an economy whose normal state is one of mild depression, whose brief episodes of prosperity occur only thanks to bubbles and unsustainable borrowing.

Why might this be happening? One answer could be slowing population growth. A growing population creates a demand for new houses, new office buildings, and so on; when growth slows, that demand drops off. America's working-age population rose rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, as baby boomers grew up, and its work force rose even faster, as women moved into the labor market. That's now all behind us. And you can see the effects: Even at the height of the housing bubble, we weren't building nearly as many houses as in the 1970s.

Another important factor may be persistent trade deficits, which emerged in the 1980s and since then have fluctuated but never gone away.

Why does all of this matter? One answer is that central bankers need to stop talking about "exit strategies." Easy money should, and probably will, be with us for a very long time. This, in turn, means we can forget all those scare stories about government debt, which run along the lines of "It may not be a problem now, but just wait until interest rates rise."

More broadly, if our economy has a persistent tendency toward depression, we're going to be living under the looking-glass rules of depression economics - in which virtue is vice and prudence is folly, in which attempts to save more (including attempts to reduce budget deficits) make everyone worse off - for a long time.

I know that many people just hate this kind of talk. It offends their sense of rightness, indeed their sense of morality. Economics is supposed to be about making hard choices (at other people's expense, naturally). It's not supposed to be about persuading people to spend more.

But as Mr. Summers said, the crisis "is not over until it is over" - and economic reality is what it is. And what that reality appears to be right now is one in which depression rules will apply for a very long time.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is apt to spread discontent among those who are."
~~~ H.L. Mencken

There Really Are Two Americas: Republistan And Democravia
One reason for the stark divisions in Washington is that lawmakers represent two starkly different populations-with huge differences in wealth, color, and more.
By David Sirota

If you've watched the high-profile legislative fights of the last few years and found yourself thinking the two parties in the House of Representatives must represent separate countries, you might not be too far off the mark.

In the Senate, the two-lawmakers-per-state structure creates the moderating possibility of legislators from different parties representing the same set of voters. But the House's single-member districts divide it into a body of two separate countries that do not overlap. That separation is exacerbated by rampant gerrymandering and America's increasingly ideologically ghettoized geography. The result is that when it comes to the U.S. House, John Edwards was right to say there are "two Americas" and Barack Obama was wrong to insist that "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America."

In practice, this means that when trying to pass legislation, Speaker John Boehner and his party's leadership only have to market their ideas to the specific nation that lies within Republicans' 234 districts. It means, in other words, that Republicans are empowered to embrace positions that differ from both House Democrats and America as a whole.

The most obvious way to see this was during the government shutdown, when the House Republicans only had to sell their anti-government posture and their budget stonewalling to disproportionately conservative voters within their own distinct country. But the effects of this separation are also felt on other specific issues.

When it comes to the House, John Edwards was right to say there are "two Americas" and Barack Obama was wrong to insist that "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America."

With this in mind, we spent the last few weeks digging through Census data on congressional districts to get a CIA World Factbook-style portrait of the two countries in the House-the one within all the GOP districts (Republistan) and the one within all the Democratic districts (Democravia). The full results are in a table at the bottom of this post.

We did this with a very simple question in mind: How do the differences between the two nations represented in the House correspond to the larger policy differences between the parties?

For starters, take the recent food-stamp cuts championed by House Republicans and opposed by House Democrats. The House GOP represents a country where only about 12 percent of residents receive those benefits, while the House Democrats represent a country where more than 15 percent of residents receive those benefits. That gap does not fully explain the parties' differences over food stamps. But with Republistan less financially reliant on food stamps than Democravia, it may exacerbate those differences.

The periodic battles over federal funding for public-transit systems provide another example. To an America where 5 percent of all residents-or more than 15 million people-rely on public transportation to commute to work every single day, proposals to cut those resources can seem misguided. Such initiatives must seem even more destructive to a House Democratic Caucus that represents a country where almost 9 percent of residents use public transportation to get to their jobs. But in the separate country House Republicans represent, only 1.4 percent of residents use public transportation. That means almost 13 million of those 15 million people who rely on public transportation live in House Democratic districts. Consequently, House Democrats defend such funding while House Republicans push not merely to reduce such funding-but to entirely eliminate it.

The same political dynamic could shape the upcoming debate over tax reform. A full 69 percent of housing in Republistan is owner-occupied, but owners only live in 58 percent of the housing in Democravia. With Republistan having a much larger population, it probably has tens of millions more people than Democravia who potentially benefit from the home-mortgage interest deduction. Not surprisingly, House Republicans have been more skeptical of proposals to limit the deduction, while Democrats have seemed more open to the idea.

Of course, district-by-district Census data show that no demographic difference between the House's two countries is more severe than the racial divide. While it isn't news that GOP districts tend to be whiter than Democratic districts, how much whiter is notable.

Today, whites with no Latino background make up 74 percent of Republistan. That contrasts both with Democratic districts (50 percent non-Latino white) and America as a whole (63 percent non-Latino white). In all, the Republican House represents about 124 million non-Latino white people-51 million more than the country represented by Democratic House members. At the same time, the country House Republicans represent is only 11.7 percent Latino, 8.6 percent African American and 3 percent Asian American, meaning only about 20 million Latinos, 14.5 million African Americans, and 5 million Asian Americans live in their country. By contrast, Democravia is 23 percent Latino, 16.5 percent black, and 7 percent Asian American, meaning it has 33 million Latinos, 24 million African Americans, and 10 million Asian Americans. In all, despite being a country with 23 million fewer total people, Democravia has a whopping 27 million more people of color than Republistan.

These figures tell us a lot about the politics of race. For instance, in terms of political support inside of Republistan, these figures suggest House GOP leaders risk relatively little when they work to gut the Voting Rights Act, tacitly endorse punitive measures against Muslims and immigrants, and bash the federal government for civil-rights enforcement actions that protect people of color. The data from Democravia also suggest that House Democrats have a strong incentive to take positions in support of civil rights.

Immigration is a similar story. Public-opinion surveys show that people of color tend to be among the strongest supporters of immigration reform. Not surprisingly, those reforms are being championed by House Democrats, who represent a country in which almost 48 percent of residents are people of color and almost 26 percent of residents are foreign born. Also unsurprising is that in an America that is almost 35 percent non-white and almost 15 percent foreign born, polls show immigration reform is popular. But the country of 168 million people that House Republicans represent is only 24 percent non-white and 10 percent foreign-born. So Republicans represent a country where blocking immigration reform can be good politics.

The GOP House represents 51 million whites more than Democrats do. Despite having 23 million fewer people, Democravia has 27 million more people of color than Republistan.

None of this to imply that all white people support GOP positions on race issues, nor is it to insinuate that all people of color support Democratic positions on those issues. It is only to suggest that in Republistan the people of color and immigrants who tend to oppose House Republicans' civil rights and immigration policies have comparatively little voting power. Similarly, the numbers suggest that in Democravia, the people of color and immigrants who tend to support Democratic positions on those issues have comparatively more political power.

Despite the cliche that demography is destiny, there are plenty of other factors that sculpt the parties' legislative positions. Money, for instance, plays a big role in deciding elections and, thus, influencing legislators' positions. Who actually turns out to vote in elections-as opposed to who merely lives in a district-also affects the political calculations of members of Congress. And party ideology plays a role.

But in a gerrymandered House that lets the parties answer only to their own countries and nobody else, overall demographics are certainly one major factor in legislative outcomes. That's especially the case at times like the present when the acutely large demographic divides between the two countries are germane to the biggest legislative questions of the day.
(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 .

Hillary 2016.Buttons at the Ready for Hillary office in Alexandria, Virginia, July 26, 2013.

Please Don't Take the "2016" Bait
By William Rivers Pitt

By now, pretty much everyone has heard about columnist Richard Cohen stepping on his meat (again) on the pages of the Washington Post. Bi-racial families make "conventional" Americans want to "gag," right, great, thanks, Rich. It's not as bad as that day in November of 2000 when he endorsed George W. Bush over Al Gore, him being the big "liberal" on the Post's editorial page and all, but it's pretty damn bad.

Given his long-standing track record for this kind of crap, any other civilized nation on the planet would have Richard Cohen gainfully employed shooing pigeons away from statues in the park instead of polluting the national discourse with his quaint racist drivel, but that's a complaint for another day.

Having said all that, what drove me absolutely nuts about this particular Cohen article was not his little nugget about conventional gaggers. What drove me nuts was the fact that he dropped it in the middle of a long, windy article about the challenges New Jersey's GOP Governor Chris Christie will face if he decides to run for president in 2016.

Let me be perfectly clear: screw Chris Christie. Furthermore, screw Hillary Clinton. And since we're on the subject of erstwhile 2016 candidates almost a thousand days away from the next presidential election, screw Elizabeth Warren, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and everyone else who has been insinuated into this utterly idiotic topic.

If you happen to be among those who have spent the precious breath of life talking about any of these people, or anyone else allegedly running for president three years from now, please stop. You are part of the problem, and frankly, you're making me crazy. Get your priorities straight, and turn off the damned television "news."

One cannot swing one's dead cat by the tail without striking some "mainstream news" talking head holding forth on the chances for Hillary, Christie and whoever else in the 2016 election. It is the laziest, most insipid non-story these "journalists" could be reporting on, so of course they are flooding the airwaves with it ... and a lot of people who should know better are taking the bait.

I don't know what percentage of politically-minded people pride themselves on being "outside the mainstream" or "ahead of the game," but if what I'm seeing in real-world conversations as well as all over the internet is any evidence, a whole lot of people have the "mainstream news" fishhook buried through their lip and deep into their gumline.

The 2016 election is all they're talking about on TV, so of course, piles of people who pride themselves on being immune to that pestiferous influence are regurgitating the same crud, because irony is always awesome.

Why do I find all this so irritating? Because there is a tremendously important - dare I say historically pivotal - congressional midterm election happening less than a year from now, and nobody is talking about it. The "news" isn't covering it, which means turnout will be low again, so once more, the craziest 30 percent of yahoo right-wing gun-sucking Jesus-shouting woman-hating gay-bashing America will make this incredibly important decision for the rest of us, and we will get screwed as usual.

The election in 2014 will choose 100 percent of the House of Representatives and 33.3 percent of the Senate. It will choose legislators and governors and school board members and city councilors - the people who do most of the actual governing in America - from sea to shining sea. It will decide, to no small degree, whether President Obama can get anything done aside from rear-guard back-and-fill actions against avowed domestic terrorists in Congress.

The "mainstream" news people clearly don't give a wet fart about the 2014 election cycle. Maybe that's because "Hillary" and "Christie" are big names that drive ratings...and maybe it's because the seemingly-eternal low turnout that happens every midterm (because the importance of midterms is chronically under-reported) opens the barn doors for the kind of congressional maniacs who make it easier for the "mainstream" news people to do their jobs, because all they're good at is reporting on car wrecks.

Just a theory.

Instead of seeing this raw, basic fact for what it is, instead of focusing on the enormously important challenge less than a year away, what I see is a bunch of people who should know better buying into the mainstream-approved 2016 conversation model. If I'm talking about you, here's a hard fact: you're not "outside the mainstream" or "ahead of the game." You're not even interesting. You're a hooked fish, about to be jerked into the suffocating light and thrown into a bucket to drown in the air.


This obsession with presidential elections is a lot of the reason we are down in the ditch. People need to stop buying into the mainstream media's incessant starhumping urge to focus only on the race for the Oval Office, to the detriment of elections that actually decide who will be running the country. Midterm elections are by orders of magnitude more important than presidential elections on every meaningful level, and when they get ignored, we get the kind of congressional disaster zone we currently endure. As we have learned, a deranged Congress makes the presidency all but irrelevant, and harms us one and all.

The "Elizabeth Warren 2016" phenomenon is a perfect example of this. Senator Warren sits where Ted Kennedy once sat, and Ted Kennedy did more good for Americans than all the presidents he outlasted combined, and he did so without ever becoming president himself. Senator Warren has the potential, and the clear intention, of doing the same kind of good for the people. Because we are obsessed with the presidency and apparently wholly ignorant of the fact that most of the best governing that can happen in America needs to happen in Congress, people want to jerk her up by the roots before she's even been there a year, throw her into a presidential election three years away, and ignore all she can accomplish right where she is.

Presidential elections are big, shiny things that tend to suck all the oxygen out of the room. The next one is three full years away. In the meantime, it would be nice if people actually focused on the incredibly important elections happening less than a year from now. The future you save may be your own.
(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 Walton Familie,

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 paying slave labor wages, 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 "corporate 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 Walton Familie, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

What Walmart Could Learn From Henry Ford
By Robert Reich

Walmart just reported shrinking sales for a third straight quarter. What's going on? Explained William S. Simon, the CEO of Walmart, referring to the company's customers, "their income is going down while food costs are not. Gas and energy prices, while they're abating, I think they're still eating up a big piece of the customer's budget."

Walmart's CEO gets it. Most of Walmart's customers are still in the Great Recession, grappling with stagnant or declining pay. So, naturally, Walmart's sales are dropping.

But what Walmart's CEO doesn't get is that a large portion of Walmart's customers are lower-wage workers who are working at places like ... Walmart. And Walmart, not incidentally, refuses to raise its median wage (including its army of part-timers) of $8.80 an hour.

Walmart isn't your average mom-and-pop operation. It's the largest employer in America. As such, it's the trendsetter for millions of other employers of low-wage workers. As long as Walmart keeps its wages at or near the bottom, other low-wage employers keep wages there, too. All they need do is offer $8.85 an hour to have their pick.

On the other hand, if Walmart were to boost its wages, other employers of low-wage workers would have to follow suit in order to attract the employees they need.

Get it? Walmart is so huge that a wage boost at Walmart would ripple through the entire economy, putting more money in the pockets of low-wage workers. This would help boost the entire economy — including Walmart's own sales. (This is also an argument for a substantial hike in the minimum wage.)

Walmart could learn a thing or two from Henry Ford, who almost exactly a century ago decided to pay his workers three times the typical factory wage at the time. The Wall Street Journal called Ford a traitor to his class but he proved to be a cunning businessman.

Ford's decision helped boost factory wages across the board — enabling so many working people to buy Model Ts that Ford's revenues soared far ahead of his increased payrolls, and he made a fortune.

So why can't Walmart learn from Ford? Because Walmart's business model is static, depending on cheap labor rather than increased sales, and it doesn't account for Walmart's impact on the rest of the economy.

You can help teach Walmart how much power its consumers have: Stand with its workers who deserve a raise, and boycott Walmart on the most important sales day of the year, November 29.
(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.

Be Thankful For the People Struggling To Limit NSA Spying
By Robert Scheer

On Monday the Supreme Court, ruling on an emergency petition, declined to do the right thing and hear a case challenging the massive government surveillance of Americans, revealed by the leaks from Edward Snowden. For the time being, the court acceded to the Obama administration's argument that it has the legal right to continue its unprecedented bulk collection of American phone records without any restraint. That throws the ball back to Congress, where a historic battle, crossing party lines, is already underway.

On one starkly polarizing side is the dark figure of Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat and reigning chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. One of the first to denounce Snowden for treason for letting the public know the ugly truths about government spying she had long concealed, Feinstein already has pushed a bill though her committee that provides the NSA's spying with additional legal cover. It validates the "backdoor search provision" that the government, including domestic organizations such as the FBI, has misused to justify sifting through material ostensibly collected for foreign intelligence investigations to conduct warrantless surveillance on Americans in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"For the first time, the statue would explicitly allow the government to proactively search through the NSA data troves of information without a warrant," the ACLU's Michelle Richardson told The Guardian on Friday. She added, "This Fourth Amendment back door needs to be closed, not written into stone." Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., one of the dissenting members of Feinstein's committee, blasted the "backdoor search provision" at the heart of her bill and said in a statement that it "would give intelligence agencies wide latitude to conduct warrantless searches for American phone calls and emails. ..."

As opposed to the Feinstein bill, one offered by another Democratic senator, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and supported by Wyden would require a specific warrant to search the NSA database for information on U.S. nationals. Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has co-sponsored that bill with his House counterpart, F. James Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs that chamber's judiciary committee.

A decade ago, Leahy and Sensenbrenner helped draft the USA Patriot Act, which they now believe has been abused by the executive branch and underscore the point by labeling their new legislation the USA Freedom Act. Sensenbrenner has been at pains to present his bill as contrary to the Feinstein measure, which he assailed as an effort "for the first time in our country's history to allow unrestrained spying on the American people."

Leahy, in a Nov. 4 interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, defended his legislation's effort to rein in the NSA's bulk collection: "The NSA says because we can collect every one of your phone calls and imprints and everything else, we need to be able to do it in case someday we need it. Well, you can imagine if the local police department said, 'We're just going to break into your house, steal everything out of your files, everything out of your records, because someday we may need it,' everybody would be in an uproar. But if they can do the same thing electronically, we ought to say wait a minute. Also, I get the response when I criticize them, they say, 'we're going to be very careful, we're going to protect these records.' Baloney. This is the same NSA that couldn't protect their greatest secret from a 29-year-old subcontractor who stole them all. ..."

But what if Snowden had not revealed that shocking information on the vast government surveillance system that was hidden from the American public but known to Feinstein and other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee? In announcing their own sweeping surveillance reform bill in September, the four senators on Feinstein's committee who dissented-Democrats Wyden, Mark Udall of Colorado and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky-expressed frustration in having to keep the dimensions of the surveillance program from the American public before Snowden's leaks.

"The significant reforms in this bill," Sen. Udall said at the time, "are especially important in light of declassified reports that show what Sen. Wyden and I have known for years. The National Security Agency has been unable to properly manage existing surveillance programs. This has led to the abuse of Americans' privacy and misleading statements made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and we've only seen the tip of the iceberg."

There you have it, legislators from both sides of the congressional aisle have risen in response to the Snowden leaks with serious demands for reform to protect the privacy of Americans from public officials, including President Obama and Sen. Feinstein, who are craven iceberg deniers.
(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
~~~ Andy Singer ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The Foggy Crystal Ball
By Will Durst

What the heck is going on here, people? Did someone drop the flag signaling the start of the 2016 presidential election race in secret? Was there a furtive whispered "go now" left on the voice mail of all the major players in the 202 area code? 36 months before the election? Is it possible to earn extra credit by skipping this one and moving right on to 2020?

The most recent media-consumed fever-dream boils down to Chris Christie versus Hillary Clinton. Although, two weeks ago, Ted Cruz was the presumptive GOP nominee. Didn't Hillary use up her inevitability card in 2008? When she was destined to face off against Rudy Giuliani? How'd that end up?

But a lack of consistency hasn't kept the talking heads from jabbering their HD faces off. Money is being raised. Polls conducted. Seriously? Can't we wait until the midterms are over? Winter Olympics? Thanksgiving?

Predicting the nominees right now is like betting on what the weather will be like in Wisconsin in April. Ten years from now. If everyone is so damn clairvoyant, why don't they throw some money down on lottery tickets? These modern day alchemists might be better off focusing their skills on spinning straw into gold.

A week in politics is a lifetime. A month is two eternities. But three years is like an afternoon at your great aunt's, while uncle Harry with the mole on his nose that 4 inch hairs grow out of, shows slides of their recent trip to the Azores.

We're not talking jumping the gun, this is more like jumping the application of the lane chalk. Think of all the stuff that could happen between now and 2016.

By the year 2016, Hillary Clinton could be on trial for domestic abuse.
By the year 2016, Chris Christie might have left politics for his one true love, the field of competitive eating.
By the year 2016, Joe Biden might have single- handedly pulled 6 Navy Seals out of a burning helicopter. And two puppies.
By the year 2016, the oceans could rise so high that California and Florida are totally taken out of the electoral equation.
By the year 2016, the Tea Party might be holding its annual convention in the banquet room of a Casper, Wyoming Applebee's.
By the year 2016, the primaries may come down to whoever looks best in a full-body containment suit.
By the year 2016, Mitt Romney could very well have had a new user-friendly operating system installed.
By the year 2016, Elizabeth Warren might have resigned the Senate and moved to China to organize Apple workers.
By the year 2016, John Edwards could have found Jesus and rehabilitated himself. Probably not.
By the year 2016, Rick Perry, in the midst of another execution frenzy, may have accidentally signed an order resulting in his own.
By the year 2016, Sarah Palin might have said something so monumentally silly that her head exploded.
By the year 2016. Democrats might be holding their annual convention in the banquet room of a Cambridge, Massachusetts Olive Garden.
By the year 2016, Jeb Bush might change his last name to something less polarizing, like Hitler. Or Nixon.
By the year 2016, the city of Chicago could still be in flames from the celebration that followed the Cubs winning the World Series. Probably not.
(c) 2013 Will Durst's, the recipient of 7 consecutive nominations for Stand Up of the Year, Will Durst's new one- man show "BoomerAging: From LSD to OMG" in its final extension: through Dec 17 every Tuesday at the Marsh, San Francisco. Go to... for more info. Use code "boomer" for $10 tix. And come see the latest Will & Willie podcast taping. Monday @ 6pm @ the Gold Dust Lounge @ 165 Jefferson.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 45 (c) 11/22/2013

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