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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh returns with, "Fear In A Handful Of Dust: The Sacred Vehemence Of Imagination In A Soulless Age."

Uri Avnery watches, "The Battle Of The Titans."

Glen Ford finds, "Obama And Holder Let Gangsters Pay Fine, Continue Business As Usual."

Ewen MacAskill confirms, "NSA 'Collected Details Of Online Sexual Activity' Of Islamist Radicals."

Jim Hightower points out that, "Billionaires Reap A Cornucopia Of Farm Subsidy Cash."

David Swanson reports, "Switzerland Shows U.S. How To Handle CEOs."

James Donahue finds, "Humanity In Self-Destruct."

John Nichols warns, "Don't Be Fooled: Scott Walker Is No Reformer."

Chris Hedges is, "Shielding A Flickering Flame."

Ralph Nader asks, "Can Right And Left Rally Against Walmart?"

Paul Krugman wonders, "California, Here We Come?"

David Sirota concludes, "Ending Fire Zone Subsidies Is No Ayn Rand Fantasy."

William Rivers Pitt examines, "Black Thursday: Thanksgiving In The Consumer Wasteland."

New Zealand high court judge John Priestly wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explains, "How The Republican Tempest Over The Affordable Care Act Diverts Attention From Three Large Truths."

Thom Hartmann reminds us, "Without Reagan's Treason, Iran Would Not Be A Problem."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz says, "Iran's Supreme Leader Hopes Nuke Deal Distracts Attention From Obamacare" but first Uncle Ernie foresees, "The Never-Ending War."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jen Sorensen, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Brennan Linsley, Greg Sailor, Karen Szczuka Teich, Morry Gash, Czarek Sokolowski, Wikimedia, AP, The New York Times, The New Yorker, 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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The Never-Ending War
By Ernest Stewart

Things are getting strange,
I'm starting to worry
This could be a case for Mulder and Scully
Mulder and Scully ~~~ Catatonia

"Run your business in harmony with God's laws. This will keep you on an ethical footing. Seek to please God in everything you do." ~~~ David Green

"No court has ever found a for-profit company to be a religious organization for purposes of federal law!" ~~~ Solicitor General Donald Verrelli "I'll turn back every boat!" ~~~ Tony Abbott

"I don't want to live in the kind of world where we don't look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I can't change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit." ~~~ Charles de Lint

It never ends; it never ends! America's longest-running war, the Afghanistan War, looks to go on forever -- wasting more lives, draining what is left of our treasury and eventually turning America into a third-world country, just like Afghanistan! See, what goes around, comes around!

You may remember we've been murdering folks and turning cities into dust in Afghanistan since October 7th of 2001. For over twelve years, we've been wasting our treasure and our youth for no good reason that I can see. In about a quarter of that time, we fought and destroyed the two largest armies on the planet, and bombed their cities back to the Stone Age, and ended the Second World War. Of course, 68 years later, we still occupy Germany, Italy, and Japan; but, for the most part, we quit killing them, and they us, but not so in Afghanistan. In fact, if our peace laureate has his way, we'll be doubling down on Afghanistan for another 11 years, and the killing and the drones will continue -- as will our losses!

Sure, Barry inherited this war crime from Dubya; but he soon made it his own! You'll recall that when the great peacemaker came to office, there were approximately 32,000 troops in Afghanistan; shortly thereafter, Barry raised the stakes to some 100,000 American children and twice that amount of soliders of fortune; and for them, the money's right as they're still there, while Barry was forced to withdraw half of those troops to a current level of approximately 47,000 troops.

Since he promised to withdraw the rest by the end of next year, we've been doing a lot of scrambling to keep this drain on our wallets and youth going for at least another ten years. We've been bargaining with the Afghanis at the end of a gun barrel; but, so far, the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign the deal. Which is strange as we put the former Oil Man in power to do our bidding; but so far, no go.

What Hamid should remember is that we put him in office; and we can take him out and put a more pliable man in his place come April 2014, when his term of office ends. Have no doubt, if Hamid doesn't sign, the next guy will. Of course, Hamid would sign now if we would meet a few of his concerns, like:
"He'd like the U.S. to stop killing civilians and stop kicking in people's doors at night. He'd like the U.S. to engage in peace negotiations. He'd like innocent Afghan prisoners freed from Guantanamo. And he'd like the U.S. not to sabotage the April 2014 Afghan elections."
All I can say is good luck with that, Hamid; so I'm sure there won't be any movement on extending the war until after the first of the year. Perhaps while Barry is getting his "grand bargain" with the Rethuglicans worked out. Who would notice Afghanistan while the focus is on the poor, hungry, sick, and elderly having their rights stripped away -- to funnel even more money to the 1%! I'll notice; that's for damn sure, and so will you!

In Other News

I see where John "The Enforcer" Roberts and all the other members of the Extreme Court said on Tuesday they'd take up a case involving a firm seeking to limit the availability of birth control to female employees enrolled in a company health plan on religious grounds. Not a church, mind you, but a for-profit company! The Extremes announced they'd hear arguments soon in the case between "the US government and a chain of home decor stores which refuses to purchase health coverage covering certain contraceptive methods."

The Obama administration is challenging the refusal of Hobby Lobby Stores to underwrite coverage for certain contraceptive methods. Not all methods like pulling it out or anal, just some.

The family-owned chain based in Oklahoma says: "We manage our business in a manner consistent with biblical principles." "We believe that it is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured. He has been faithful in the past, and we trust Him for our future," it says on its website.

Lobby Hobby has been joined by the religious bookstore Mardel and Hemispheres, two other companies owned by David Green and Lobby Hobby in their brief. They have all refused to abide by the new health care law's requirement that it provide health insurance coverage for four methods of contraception (two abortive pills and two types of IUDs), or pay a fine.

The chain has not challenged other methods agreed to by the federal government, i.e., contraceptive pills, diaphragms and other barrier methods. However, it objects to the four specific methods on grounds that "they are comparable to abortion." Picking and choosing their employees health for purely mythological purposes! Mythological purposes that the employee's may not agree with, thereby forcing a religion on someone as a condition of work. And you wondered where the one percenters were going next with their power trips, huh?

In their brief, Lobby Hobby argued "by providing insurance coverage for contraceptives that could prevent a human embryo from implanting in the uterus, they themselves would be morally complicit in 'the death of [an] embryo.'"

A federal appeals court agreed, ruling that the legal requirement was counter to the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Can you guess who appointed those justices? If you said the Crime Family Bush and Ronald Ray Guns, you may stay after class and clean the erasers!

And Finally

For our third time, we're giving the Vidkun Quisling Award to a non-American. Now, it's not that there aren't plenty of deserving folks here in the United Snakes (you wouldn't believe how many); but every once in a while, someone stands out above the rest and shows more than others the true American spirit, to such a degree that it makes you want to stand to attention and salute old gory, oops my bad, old glory!

Such a person is New Zealand high court judge John Priestly, who shows that joie du vie in his ruling against a man from the Pacific island nation of Kiribati; 37-year-old Ioane Teitiota had petitioned the court for legal asylum status because his island nation is being wiped out by global warming, and has imperiled his ability to live in his home country of Kiribati. Kiribati, officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The permanent population is just over 100,000 on 800 square kilometres in what used to be called "The Christmas Islands."

Kiribati, with an average elevation of only 6.5 feet about sea level, is among the countries scientists say is most vulnerable to rising oceans and stronger storms, both of which increase as climate change continues to make its impact felt.

Judge Priestly ruled, "By returning to Kiribati, he would not suffer a sustained and systemic violation of his basic human rights such as the right to life...or the right to adequate food, clothing and housing."

I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs. The judge didn't see any problems...

As long as Mr. Teitiota could tread water!

Radio Australia reported:
The judge rejected the argument from Mr Teitiota's legal team that he was being "persecuted passively" by the environment because climate change was a threat to him that the Kiribati government was powerless to control.

"Novel and optimistic though these submissions are, they are unconvincing and must fail," Mr Priestley wrote.

"On a broad level, were they to succeed and be adopted in other jurisdictions, at a stroke, millions of people who are facing medium-term economic deprivation, or the immediate consequences of natural disasters or warfare, or indeed presumptive hardships caused by climate change, would be entitled to protection under the Refugee Convention."

He said there had been numerous similar claims under international law for climate change refugee status by people from low-lying countries such as Tonga, Fiji and Bangladesh, none of which had succeeded.

"It is not for the High Court of New Zealand to alter the scope of the Refugee Convention in that regard," he said. "Rather that is the task, if they so choose, of the legislatures of sovereign states."
Therefore, for upholding the highest principles of rich Nations over Poor nations judge Priestly wins this week's "Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

There may be hope for us yet? Guess what? We heard from a couple members of the famous/infamous "Usual Suspects" group, who were able to reduce the amount we need to raise to $450. We'd like to thank Ernie from Ontario and Richard from New Hyde Park for their gracious help! Time after time, they've both stepped up to keep us keepin' on, for you and yours. Thanks, guys; we won't forget! Oh, and all of our helpers should be on the lookout for a piece of Edward Gorey artwork which will be winging its way into your snail mail box sometime during those Happy Holidaze to come! Just our way of asking, "can you dig it?"

For you newbies, we've been working night and day to keep you up-to-date on what's really happening, and how it might affect you and yours since the 12-12-2000 coup d'etat went down. We bring you each week the minds who know what's happening and can relate it in a way that everyone understands. The truth in this day and age is a very hard thing to find; ergo, here we are for you! We're soothsayers; we're truth tellers; and some of you will hate us for it; but c'est la guerre!

There is no charge for Issues & Alibis; you don't have to join and pay a subscription to get all of it; it's free -- all of it, for everyone, everywhere. If you can get onto the Internet, it's there for all to see. Trouble is, the Internet is not free; we all work for nothing, other than our personal satisfaction; but the magazine costs money; so what our advertising doesn't make, we need to get from our readership to help pay the bills. If you think all of our hard work is important, and you still have a job, would you please send us what you can, as often as you can, and we'll stay here in the trenches fighting for us all! Rock on ya'll!


08-09-1963 ~ 11-23-2013
Thanks for the laughs!

05-27-1946 ~ 11-27-2013
Thanks for the film!


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


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

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

Fear In A Handful Of Dust: The Sacred Vehemence Of Imagination In A Soulless Age.
By Phil Rockstroh

From the picture window of our family's eighth floor apartment, at the intersection of 23rd Street and Avenue C, we have a view of the inhuman currents of the East River and the dehumanizing, vehicular currents of the FDR expressway. The tenor of the river is timeless while the FDR's voice is mindlessly addict on a dope run -- evincing the urgency of an errand undertaken to relieve distress but trajectory hurtles towards annihilation.

Like the misnomer known as freeways, wherein one is enslaved to speed and forward motion, the spirit of our age is manic. One reacts; there is no time to reflect. In contrast, the river speaks the language of the deathless heart of creation. The river sings of ensoulment. It does not seek; it is.

Because the spirit of the age is frantic, surface level, and going nowhere -- and fast. The soul of the world harbors a quality of sadness. When it speaks, nowadays, it does so in a lament -- a dirge for exquisite things lost. Unlike raging spirit, the soul carries the sadness of the veritable bones of the earth.

Take caution when you seek to commune with soul, because you have entered a realm that is not only timeless but one that lacks mercy regarding the self-important constructs we human beings hold, cherish, and enshrine. As one queasy poet (T.S. Eliot) reported, appropriating The Book of Ecclesiastes, the soul will show you "fear in a handful of dust." Another poet (Pablo Neruda) declared, "I know the earth and I am sad."

Yesterday, our nine month old required a diaper change, and my wife and I, being on Lexington Avenue in Midtown at the time, slipped into Bloomingdales to use the changing station accommodations within. As we navigated our way through Edward Bernays' consumer simulacrum, I was gripped and grappled by grief. A sense of alienation descended on me like the arrival of an Old Testament angel, one whose mission was to throw me to the ground and pin me in the dust of my vanity. I feared I might begin to weep outright.

The dark magicians of the consumer age have the heart-usurping hustle down. They have us in the thrall of misappropriated desires as the soul of the world weeps for the carnage attendant to our cupidity.

I held my tears in check. But, this morning, upon first glimpse of the FDR and the East River, I wept outright.

The sicknesses of the soul are mirrored in the disorders of a culture and vice versa. In turn, tracing symptoms is a path to the soul. The symptoms are the soul's means of attempting to be heard. But, all too often, whether it be the obtuse ego of an individual or the obtuse, egoistical guardians of the status quo will refuse to acknowledge the symptoms. The reigning power structure will attempt to deny, marginalize, and demonize the soul's message...its plea for attention, its attempt to gain entry into the protected sanctums of power. Its entreaties are dismissed as merely the complains of misfits -- or overreacted to as dangerously radical.

Often a collapse, a breakdown, a depression -- some sort of unsolvable crisis is required before the soul's message is heard.

The economy is chronically depressed. Isotopes of Fukushima are carried on currents of wind and wave. The oceans and seas are rising from humankind-created greenhouse gas Climate Change. The world's oceans are being destroyed. The human element evinces the pathology displayed in psychoanalytic consulting rooms: The economic elite are psychopathic; Tea Party types exhibit paranoid displacement while liberals exhibit neurotic insularity.

Pain and pathology are extant. A crisis is imminent. The sooner the process of listening to soul-borne dispatches begins the sooner the dissonance attendant to the culture's cacophony of shattered minds and occluded hearts will begin to dissipate. If not, prepare yourself for a dark night of the soul that will seem endless in duration.

By what means do we as a people -- who are all too often myopic, self-absorbed, manic in the pursuit of vain agendas, in the thrall of relentless necessity, alienated by the circumstances of a shallow era and buffeted by the machinations of a self-serving political and economic elite whose hubris embodies the criteria of classical tragedy -- transform random events into soul-saturated meaning?

One might ask: How is such a thing even possible? Then add: It is sheer fantasy to even suggest that soul exists.

Indeed, it is...for fantasy itself is one of the means by which soul reveals itself. Accordingly: Reveal the yearnings of your heart and be in dialog with your true nature.

To renounce fantasy is sheer fantasy, and a dismal variety of it at that, and one made all the more lamentable by the mindset of self-proclaimed pragmatist types who do not realize that compulsive reductionism is a form of fantasy. We, as a culture, are in the waning years of the cultural fantasy of state capitalism. A clue to the hypertrophy riddling the system is the rise of fascistic elements within the state, for fascism is the vehicle by which capitalism destroys itself, by a form of societal murder/suicide. (The pandemic of mass shootings is the personal microcosm of the cultural macrocosm.)

If the heart, one's wellspring of dreams, is regarded as a mere pump, then the mind languishes in a soul-desiccated wasteland. Under such dire circumstances, one is advised to dream oneself awake. And that does not translate into lapsing into unconsciousness. Withal, it suggests...reaching down and touching the bones of the earth and a steadfast communion with Anima Mundi i.e., literally, the soul of the world.

The earth is under siege; therefore, the act will be painful. As noted above, her oceans are being destroyed; her fauna and flora are being decimated. When we denude the seas of abundance, our dreams will mirror the cataclysm. How else would one explain the dearth of imagination that is so-called Reality Television and Celebrity Culture?

We must come back to fantasy to keep a grip on reality.

Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the late James Hillman, the founder of the school of Archetypal Psychology and the man responsible for bringing Neoplatonic Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino's concept of Anima Mundi (i.e., The Soul of The World) to the modern imagination, visited my friend, writer and Hillman's official biographer, Dick Russell, in Los Angeles. During the course of a discussion of the event, Hillman averred, "[In the U.S.] the towers haven't fallen yet."

Russell related Hillman's quote, a couple of weeks ago, last Saturday, at a reading and presentation revolving around his recent biography of Hillman, The Life and Ideas of James Hillman, Volume One: The Making of a Psychologist [Helios Press, Skyhorse Publishing] that I attended at The C.G. Jung Center of New York. Shortly thereafter, during a break for lunch, I slouched into Chipotles (which was the only vegan fare I could locate in the area and was less than a block from the Center) for a lunch of beans and rice, garnished with hot sauce. The fast food eatery's interior design was a melange of traditional fast-food eatery decor (if there is such a thing) and faux post-modernist industrial design, yet was adorned in Aztec iconography, with the soundscape consisting of a mix of loud pop music, ranging from the 1960s to the present.

There was a violence to the disparate epochs and clashing societal milieus and if history and memory had been forced into a massive particle accelerator and smashed to psychical quanta and then reconfigured.

The thought occurred to me: The towers have fallen...but they arose again, not in the form of solid state architecture, but as a veil of culture-wide, consumer age illusion, a collective phantasm that only appears to be solid yet surrounds us as obdurate as stone towers. This edifice of electrons obscures the House of Usher-type decay and dissolution of the age.

Yet there is neither a center to hold nor give way...simply a nexus of never-was. To chronicle our to limn a landscape, eavesdrop on, and hurl invective at phantoms. The soul of the age has simply ceased to be.

Will the excesses and tumult of this era serve as a passage to cultural transformation or simply deliver meaningless tragedy, a witless farce, a cautionary tale for the hopelessly obtuse? As in classical tragedy, will denouement arrive only after the stage is littered with corpses...the avoidable carnage resultant from the hubris of a flawed hero whose vanity and compulsion for upward ascension engender his fall and inflicts torment upon those close to him. Or are there autochthonic forces at work? Is a type of liberation, borne of devastation, coming to the fore? Is there hidden meaning attempting to reveal itself from within the inchoate jumble of events?

Let us consider the redemption inherent to ruin -- the manner that a new order that initially appears as a relentless antagonist, an amoral trickster, or an angel of vengeance. How we bray -- even to the point of becoming gripped by animal panic -- when we are in the midst of being transfigured by ancient forms that arrive in novel guises.

Often what is required is not redemption but re-imagining: simply, the ability to open oneself to the timeless forms of the imagination. At present, we are gripped by the fantasy of perpetual growth but buffeted by incessant images of violence, violation, decay, decline, zombification, emptiness, manic compensation, cynicism, and profound hopelessness. The abyss yawns before us. We lurch in extremis, even as we are ensconced in a void of vanity and avoidance. Under the present neoliberal order, we text, make FaceBook entries and tweet, as we proceed ever closer to the precipice of global ecocide. We careen along when what is called to become frozen in mortification, stopped in our tracks, and then have our souls, personally and collectively, thawed out of deepfreeze by hot, huge tears borne of lamentation.

Over the top? Damn straight. The times call for us to explore the soul's topography of exaggeration, and this is propitious because it is not possible to exaggerate the peril we face if we cling to the status quo of neo-liberal levied wealth disparity and planet-wide ecocide.

Yet those in power are doing just that -- and that fact should summon forth rage. Plangent, ringing rage. Not an anger that inflicts helpless, fist pounding -- but an anger that summons forth libido. A societal-wide chorus of focused vehemence that can begin to dismantle the structures of an ossified order.
(c) 2013 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

The Battle Of The Titans
By Uri Avnery

THIS IS not merely a fight between Israel and the US. Nor is it only a fight between the White House and Congress. It is also a battle between intellectual titans.

On the one side there are the two renowned professors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. On the other, the towering international intellectual Noam Chomsky.

It's all about whether the dog wags the tail or the tail wags the dog.

SIX YEARS ago the two professors shocked the US (and Israel) when they published a book, "The Israel lobby and US Foreign Policy," in which they asserted that the foreign policy of the United States of America, at least in the Middle East, is practically controlled by the State of Israel.

To paraphrase their analysis, Washington DC is in effect an Israeli colony. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are Israeli occupied territories, much like Ramallah and Nablus.

This is diametrically opposed to the assertion of Noam Chomsky that Israel is a US pawn, used by American imperialism as an instrument to promote its interests.

(I commented at the time that both sides were right, and that this is a unique dog-tail relationship. I even quoted the old Jewish joke about the rabbi who tells a plaintiff that he is right, and then says the same to the defendant. "But they can't both be right!" remonstrates his wife. "You are right, too!" he answers.)

INTELLECTUAL THEORIES can seldom be put to a laboratory test. But this one can.

It is happening now. Between Israel and the US a crisis has developed, and it has come into the open.

It's about the putative Iranian nuclear bomb. President Barack Obama is determined to avert a military showdown. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is determined to prevent a compromise.

For Netanyahu, the Iranian nuclear effort has become a defining issue, even an obsession. He talks about it incessantly. He has declared that it is an "existential" threat to Israel, that it poses the possibility of a second Holocaust. Last year he made an exhibition of himself at the UN General Assembly meeting with his childish drawing of the bomb.

Cynics say that this is only a trick, a successful gimmick to divert the world's attention away from the Palestinian issue. And indeed, for years now the Israeli policy of occupation and settlements has has been advancing quietly, away from the limelight.

But in politics, one gimmick can serve several purposes at once. Netanyahu is serious about the Iranian bomb. The proof: on this issue he is ready to do something that no Israeli prime minister has ever dared to do before: endanger Israeli-American relations.

This is a momentous decision. Israel is dependent on the US in almost every respect. The US pays Israel a yearly tribute of at least three billion dollars, and in fact much more. It gives us state of the art military equipment. Its veto protects us from UN Security Council censure, whatever we do.

We have no other unconditional friend in the world, except, perhaps, the Fiji Islands.

If there is one thing on which practically all Israelis agree, it is this subject. A break with the US is unthinkable. The US-Israeli relationship is, to use a Hebrew expression much loved by Netanyahu, "the rock of our existence."

So what does he think he is doing?

NETANYAHU WAS brought up in the US. There he attended high school and university. There he started his career.

He does not need advisors on US affairs. He considers himself the smartest expert of all.

He is no fool. Neither is he an adventurer. He bases himself on solid assessments. He believes that he is able to win this fight.

You could say that he is an adherent of the Walt-Mearsheimer doctrine.

His present moves are based on the assessment that in a straight confrontation between Congress and the White House, Congress will win. Obama, already blooded by other issues, will be beaten, even destroyed.

True, Netanyahu was proved wrong the last time he tried something like this. During the last presidential elections, he openly supported Mitt Romney. The idea was that the Republicans were bound to win. The Jewish casino baron, Sheldon Adelson, poured money into their campaign, while at the same time maintaining an Israeli mass-circulation daily for the sole purpose of supporting Netanyahu.

Romney "couldn't lose" - but he did. This should have been a lesson for Netanyahu, but he didn't absorb it. He is now playing the same game, but for vastly higher stakes.

WE ARE now in the middle of the fight, and it is still too early to predict the outcome.

The Jewish pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, supported by other Jewish and Evangelical organizations, is marshalling its forces on Capitol Hill. It's an impressive show.

Senator after Senator, Congressman after Congressman comes forward to support the Israeli government against their own president. The same people who jumped up and down like string puppets when Netanyahu made his last speech before both houses of Congress, try to outdo each other in assertions of their undying loyalty to Israel.

This is now done in the open, in an exhibition of shamelessness. Several Senators and Congressmen declare publicly that they have been briefed by the Israeli intelligence services, and they trust them more than the intelligence agencies of the USA. Not one of them said the opposite.

This would have been unthinkable if any other country was involved, say Ireland or Italy, from which many Americans are descended. The "Jewish State" stands unique, a kind of inverse anti-Semitism.

Indeed, some Israeli commentators have joked that Netanyahu believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the famous - and infamous - tract fabricated by the secret police of the Czar. It purported to expose a sinister conspiracy of the Jews to rule the world. A hundred years later, controlling the US comes near to that.

The senators and representatives are no fools (not all of them, in any case). They have a clear purpose: to be re-elected. They know on which side their bread is buttered. AIPAC has demonstrated, in several test cases, that it can unseat any senator or congressman who does not toe the straight Israeli line. One sentence of implied criticism of Israeli policies suffices to doom a candidate.

Politicians prefer open shame and ridicule to political suicide. No kamikaze pilots in Congress.

This is not a new situation. It is at least several decades old. What is new is that it is now out in the open, without embellishment.

IT IS difficult to know, as of now, how much the White House is cowed by this development.

Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry know that American public opinion is dead set against any new war in the Middle East. Compromise with Iran is in the air. This is supported by almost all the world's powers. Even the French tantrums, which have no clear purpose but to throw their supposed weight around, are not serious.

President Francois Hollande was received in Israel this week like the harbinger of the Messiah. If one closed one's eyes, one could imagine that the happy old pre-de Gaulle days were back again, when France armed Israel, supplied it with its military atomic reactor and the two countries went on escapades together (the ill-fated 1956 Suez adventure.)

But if Obama & Kerry hold fast and stay their course on Iran, can Congress impose the opposite course? Could this turn into the most serious constitutional crisis in US history?

As a sideshow, Kerry is going on with his effort to impose on Netanyahu a peace he does not want. The Secretary of State did succeed in pushing Netanyahu into "final status negotiations" (nobody dared to utter the word peace, God forbid), but nobody in Israel or Palestine believes that anything will come out of this. Unless, of course, the White House puts the whole might of the US behind the effort - and that seems more than unlikely.

Kerry has allotted nine months to the endeavor, as if it were a normal pregnancy. But the chances of a baby emerging at the end of it are practically nil. During the first three months, the sides have not progressed a single step.

So who will win? Obama or Netanyahu? Chomsky or Walt/Mearsheimer?

As commentators love to say: Time Will Tell.

In the meantime, place your bets.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Obama And Holder Let Gangsters Pay Fine, Continue Business As Usual
By Glen Ford

Imagine if Charles "Lucky" Luciano and his "Commission" representing the five reigning New York Mafia families plus the Chicago mob had been immune from law enforcement meddling in their activities, from the establishment of the "Syndicate" in 1931 to the present day. By now, Luciano's gangster heirs would be the unchallenged rulers of economic and political life in the United States and, by imperial extension, the entire capitalist world.

JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon is the man Lucky Luciano dreamed of becoming. A friend and golfing partner of President Obama, Dimon sits at the top of the ruling financial pyramid whose "commissioners" include the heads of Bank of America, CitiGroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Their syndicate owns the cops, prosecutors, judges and major political parties and is, therefore, immune from criminal prosecution: the true "Untouchables," too big to jail. So big, it will require a revolution to dislodge them from hegemonic power.

The latest Obama administration "settlement" of JP Morgan's ongoing criminal enterprise amounts to a $13 billion fine, a mere speed bump in the unbroken spree of lawlessness that "helped create a financial storm that devastated millions of Americans," in the words of Associate Attorney General Tony West. Although it is "the largest penalty in history," Dimon and his fellow banksters are also the richest criminals in history - the most powerful cartel of all time - who can easily afford the levy. The bursting of their housing securities bubble may have wrecked much of the global economy in 2008, but Dimon and his boys made out like pure bandits in the aftermath, consolidating their positions at the center of a dying system. JP Morgan emerged as the biggest U.S. bank in terms of assets, a gleaming tower standing amid the ruins it created. Such is the logic of late stage finance capitalism: catastrophe becomes "creative destruction," which begets greater economic monopoly, resulting in unchallengeable political supremacy, which makes Dimon too big to jail, whether he's actually a friend of Obama, or not.

There is no reason whatsoever to believe that the $13 billion fine will have any measurable impact on JP Morgan's business plan. So far, the Obama administration has assessed a total of $28 billion in penalties against the Dimon mob, with no discernible effect. This time around, however, Obama's prosecutors have imposed the equivalent of mandatory community service on the corporate malefactor, as an alternative to actual justice. Part of the $4 billion set aside to help struggling homeowners will go towards knocking down abandoned or foreclosed homes in the urban neighborhoods laid waste by JP Morgan and its cohorts in the racially-targeted subprime mortgage frenzy. That's like compelling the Mafia to do upkeep on the cemeteries where its victims are buried, in lieu of prison terms or execution.

Yet, Justice Department mouthpiece Tony West claims the eyesore clearance penalty will "rectify" some of the harm done to "areas hardest hit by the financial crisis." But, of course, it doesn't even come close. Whole communities have been wounded beyond repair. Black wealth took its deepest dive in history, with reverberations that will impact future generations. Many thousands of people have died from the social trauma inflicted by Jamie Dimon and his syndicate - and that's just in the United States. Globally, millions have perished due to the actions for which the settlement is supposed to atone.

Back in the Spring, the Huffington Post noted that Attorney General Eric Holder was attempting to retract his famous admission that banks like JP Morgan are too big to jail. Holder's original statement, in March, was:

"I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large."
Two months later, in May, Holder amended his remarks, to say:
"Let me make something real clear right away. I made a statement I guess in a Senate hearing that I think has been misconstrued. I said it was difficult at times to bring cases against large financial institutions because [of] the potential consequences that they would have on the financial system. But let me make it very clear that there is no bank, there's no institution, there's no individual who cannot be investigated and prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice.... Let me be very, very, very clear. Banks are not too big to jail. If we find a bank or a financial institution that has done something wrong, if we can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, those cases will be brought."
Clearly, Holder was lying, second time around. If there were ever a serial financial gangster, it's Dimon. There are no better candidates for racketeering prosecution on the face of the Earth than the Big Six banks and their executives: the pinnacle of the ruling class.

However, it is wrong to deride Holder and Obama as merely timid in the face of Wall Street's awesomely destructive power. Rather, they are instruments of finance capital's hegemony. Holder has ruthlessly maneuvered every case against the oligarchs into his own jurisdictional arena, in order to protect the banksters from aggressive prosecution by wayward state officials. Holder's "settlements" are designed to insulate the banks from the rule of law, since, at this stage of systemic decay, the Lords of Capital can no longer function within existing legal constraints. The public sphere must be privatized; the urban centers, like Detroit, must be disenfranchised; the financial cartel must be allowed to absorb an ever greater proportion of the real economy into its derivatives casino; wealth must flow from the bottom to the top, without pause; and a planetary corporate code must be established through "free trade" treaties that supersede the sovereign laws of nations. All of the Obama administration's marching orders flow from these imperatives.

Obama and Holder are guardians of the emerging new order, which does not yet have a legal code - and may well prefer to forgo such niceties, entirely. In the meantime, corporate Democrats and Republicans will give lip service to the law while the Mafia of Money runs the show.

And, you can take that to the bank.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The NSA is said to have targeted 'radicalisers' by collecting
details that could undermine them, including online viewing habits.

NSA 'Collected Details Of Online Sexual Activity' Of Islamist Radicals
Document leaked by Edward Snowden shows agency sought out 'vulnerabilities' such as looking at explicit material online
By Ewen MacAskill

The NSA has been collecting details about the online sexual activity of prominent Islamist radicals in order to undermine them, according to a new Snowden document published by the Huffington Post.

The American surveillance agency targeted six unnamed "radicalisers", none of whom is alleged to have been involved in terror plots.

One document argues that if the vulnerabilities they are accused of were to be exposed, this could lead to their devotion to the jihadist cause being brought into question, with a corresponding loss of authority.

As an example of vulnerabilities, it lists: "Viewing sexually explicit material online or using sexually persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls."

The names of the six targeted individuals have been redacted. One is listed as having been imprisoned for inciting hatred against non-Muslims. Under vulnerabilities, the unnamed individual is listed as being involved in "online promiscuity" as well as possibly misdirecting donations.

Shawn Turner, press spokesman for the US director of national intelligence, in an email to the Huffington Post, said it was not surprising the US government "uses all of the lawful tools at our disposal to impede the efforts of valid terrorist targets who seek to harm the nation and radicalise others to violence."MO< The article was written by the former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who met the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in May and was given a large cache of leaked documents.

One of the documents says the aim is to look at "six prominent, globally resonating foreign radicalisers," the audiences they reach and potential vulnerabilities.

It says: "Communications profiles of these English-language radicalisers reveal that very few of contacts noted were associated with terrorism, suggesting that the target audience includes individuals who do not yet hold extremist views but who are susceptible to the extremist message."

Vulnerabilities identified include: "publishes articles without checking facts"; "deceitful use of funds"; "charges exorbitant speaking fees"; "attracted to fame"; and "glamorous lifestyle."

One of the six is described as a "US person", meaning a citizen or permanent resident, but the others are not identified other than to say they are living outside the US. A document said a significant proportion of their audience was in Pakistan.
(c) 2013 Ewen MacAskill

Billionaires Reap A Cornucopia Of Farm Subsidy Cash

As we approach our annual feast of Thanksgiving, please join me in expressing our nation's deepest, heartfelt feelings for an extra-special group of America's farmers: Thbbllllttttt.

That raspberry goes out to the 50 billionaires who've been farming the US farm subsidy program for years, harvesting a cornucopia of taxpayer cash for themselves or their corporate empires. The diligent watchdogs of the Environmental Working Group matched their own farm subsidy database with the "Forbes 400" list of richest Americans to unmask these Gucci-wearing Old MacDonalds. E-I-E-I-O, what a ripoff!

Among the richest of these faux-farmers are three Walmart heirs, whose personal wealth totals $100 billion. Then there's investment huckster Charles Schwab, sitting on a $5 billion wad of wealth, yet pumping half-a-million dollars worth of rice subsidies into his California duck hunting resort. Also, corporate take-over artist Henry Kravis, who has amassed some $5 billion in wealth, took more than a million dollars from us to subsidize safflower, sunflower, and other crops raised on two of his ranches.

Especially jarring is the presence of such multibillionaire right-wingers as oil and entertainment tycoon Philip Anschutz and nuclear waste mogul Harold Simmons. They've expressed disdain for government spending on poor people and other "takers," yet they've gladly taken more than $500,000 each in farm payments.

Actually, the Working Group's tally understates the total haul by these mega-rich tillers of our public treasury. Many also harvest crop insurance subsidies, but Congress has dutifully outlawed disclosure of these names to the public, even though it's our money they receive.

In fact, these billionaires' most profitable ag products are the congress critters they keep in their corrals.
(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.

Switzerland Shows U.S. How To Handle CEOs
By David Swanson

In Switzerland a petition from 100,000 people, or about 1.25% of the population, creates a public referendum. By this means, last March, Swiss voters created strict limits on executive pay.

On November 24, the Swiss will vote on whether to take a further step -- limiting executive pay to no more than 12 times the lowest salary in the company. Such a maximum wage policy allows the CEO pay increases, but only if workers get at least a twelfth as much.

A movement in the U.S. is asking: If Switzerland can do it, why can't we?

The Swiss are also set to vote, on a date yet to be set, to create a guaranteed basic income of $2,800 (2,500 Swiss francs) per month for every adult. That's about $16 per hour for a full-time worker, but it's guaranteed even for those who can't find work.

You know what country can afford such a measure even more easily, given its vast supplies of wealth? The United States of America.

Here in the United States, had the minimum wage kept pace with productivity since the 1960s it would now be $21.72 an hour, or $3,722 a month. The Congressional proposal of $10.10 an hour, which President Obama now says he supports, equals $1,751 a month for a fulltime job. The actual U.S. minimum wage of $7.25, which does not apply to all workers, makes $1,242 a month. But only if you can find work.

That's less than half what the Swiss are voting on, and Swiss workers also have their healthcare paid for, public transportation widely available, quality education and higher education free or affordable, 14 weeks paid parental leave, and a nearly endless list of other advantages provided by the government.

A basic income guarantee, currently practiced in Alaska and once supported by President Richard Nixon and the U.S. House of Representatives, would be far more efficient than targeted support programs, because every individual would receive the exact same check, with no stigma attached to it; and, yes -- believe it or not -- people who could find work would still work.

Switzerland has a greater percentage of its population made up by immigrants than the United States does. Switzerland has four national languages. What allows Switzerland to practice democracy so much more effectively?

Two major parts of the answer are obvious. Switzerland doesn't fight wars, and it doesn't redistribute its wealth upward creating an overclass of multibillionaires.

Perhaps its time to begin moving our own country in a peaceful, prosperous direction. A growing number of people have decided to try.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Humanity In Self-Destruct
By James Donahue

A new book by American ecologist Dr. Ellis Silver has caused a stir among the scientific community. Silver suggests that humans are not of this Earth, and may have been placed here thousands of years ago by an alien race as a punishment because of our inability to get along.

In a sense, Silver argues, we are all in a kind of prison. He does not believe we have a chance of being released from this mess until we learn how to lay down our weapons and reach out to one another in love and kindness.

While many humans consider themselves "civilized," our actions demonstrate our failure, to date, to show our alleged alien captors that we have really learned our lesson. Even the appearance of great teachers like Jesus, Mohammad, the Buddha and Krishna, who all established religious followers under the commandment of loving our fellow man, failed to achieve the goals they were sent here to do.

If anything, the establishment of various religious belief systems helped divide humanity even further. Instead of hating people because of the different color of their skin, their ethnic and language differences and territorial issues, we now found that people who did not worship God in the way we chose to be heathans and without value.

We have conducted terrible campaigns designed to attempt to rid the world of the types of people that were either offensive to what we believed, or because they were simply in our way as we set about to create "empires" of our own kind. Hitler attempted to eradicate the Jews. American's did the same thing with the Native Americans. The Christians conducted the "crusades" against unbelievers throughout the Middle East and Europe. Catholics and Protestants in Ireland were at war with each other for years. The white Europeans made slaves of African blacks. The African black tribes have set about hating and murdering one another for years. Now the Christians are at war with the Islamic people of the Middle East under the guise of a "war on terror."

This sickness runs so deep that we have virtually destroyed our planet in our quest to destroy one another. We have invented such hineous weapons of war that we can virtually destroy entire nations at the push of a button. And in doing so, we may succeed in destroying ourselves and all living things on the planet. We have come that close to annihilation of everything.

Now, as it was during the Dark Ages, we have established a deadly separation of humanity by creating differences in wealth. A small number of very wealthy people have seized the last remaining resources and consequently the wealth in the world. The others find themselves in slavery to those who rule through control of the money. Thus the masses are organizing for rebellion, which could be very bloody.

Such a revolution would involve pitchforks fighting against the powerful military industrial complex. It would be the story of David and Goliath all over again.

In the meantime the careless manufacture of a nuclear electric generating complex at Fukushima, Japan, has gone out of human control following a massive earthquake and tsanami that caused two of the four plants to go into total melt-down. Scientists at the site are even now trying to carefully separate hundreds of highly radioactive cores that could explode at the wrong touch and thus cause the entire complex to explode. They warn that such an event could wipe out all life in the Norhtern Hemisphere of the world.

Tons of radioactive waste and water have been pouring into the Pacific Ocean at Fukushima since the disaster began two years ago. It has polluted the ocean and all of the sea life.

The terrible explosion at the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil well drilling site in the Gulf of Mexico, and British Petroleum's decision to further pollute the waters by dumping tons of chemicals designed to "hide" the oil by sending it in small parts to the bottom of the sea, has virtually killed all sea life in the gulf and parts of the Atlantic Ocean, but has sickened many people who live and work along the gulf coast.

These two events and many more smaller but similar disasters have left the great oceans of the world filled with toxic chemicals, the animals dying, and have upset the balance of life on the planet. Now the dolphins and whales are found to be dying from a "mysterious" illness that scientists cannot explain.

We have stripped our great forests, poisoned our land, filled the skies with toxic gasses from industrial pollution, and shamelessly allowed factories to spew tons of carbon dioxide into our skies. So much CO2 has collected that people are choking from lung diseases and we have created a greenhouse effect that is now warming our planet. Some scientists warn that we may already have reached a point of runaway warming and that the heating cannot be reversed, even if we stopped burning fossil fuels everywhere, immediately, which we will not be able to do.

Now the heating earth is melting the great ice caps at the North and South Poles, which in turn is releasing high concentrations of Methane, a more toxic gas than CO2.

World leaders meeting in Warsaw to discuss proposed cuts in greenhouse gases released from coal burning factories were wrangling over who cuts what and how much to cut. The worry is that forcing such restrictions will destroy industry and subsequently wreck the wealth now enjoyed by the power figures that control the world. Their efforts appear to be a bit late and far too short to do any good now. The world these "leaders" want to continue controlling is rising up to bite them all in the ass.

What these idiots have forgotten, if they ever understood it at all, is that the Earth is a sentient being. And it appears that she has had enough of humanity. The great typhoon that leveled portions of the Phillipine Islands, the massive earthquake that destroyed the plants at Fukushima, that bands of violent tornadoes and harsh winter storms that are now marching across the landscape of much of the world, may be only the beginning of the hardships looming for this world.

The Great Mother, who has nourished us for so many thousands of years, seems to have decided it is time to clean house. We may expect billions to perish in the years to come. It is a terrible scenario but one that we blindly brought upon ourselves.

Indeed, Dr. Silver may be quite right when he wrote that humans were sent to Earth as a form of imprisonment. We were sent to either learn to get along and love one another, or suffer in the hell of our own making. It looks like that latter is now happening.
(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.

Scott Walker

Don't Be Fooled: Scott Walker Is No Reformer
By John Nichols

Could there be irony greater than that of a career politician appearing before a gathering of political donors in a city far from his home state to declare that he is an outsider and a "reformer"?

Not likely.

Indeed, it would take a mighty tone-deaf politician to miss the surreal moment in which he found himself.

Meet Scott Walker.

The Wisconsin governor has spent much of the month of November scrambling around the television studios, luxury hotel suites and corporate-funded "think tanks" of Washington and New York, desperately attempting to position himself as a Republican presidential prospect. And he has done so without any sense of irony.

And an expectation that the national media will be gullible enough to believe that the most divisive governor in the modern history of Wisconsin-polls show that his classic swing state is almost evenly divided between those who approve and disapprove of the governor-can somehow run for the presidency as a consensus builder. Walker is now being pitched by the co-writer of the governor's 2016 campaign book-Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge-as the ideal GOP candidate for the presidency.

Of all the "compelling potential standard-bearers" for the party, argues Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, "none is better positioned to energize the conservative grassroots while winning the center than Scott Walker."

Thiessen imagines Walker "as an across-the-board, unflinching, full-spectrum conservative" with an ability to appeal "to persuadable, reform-minded, results-oriented independents."

That may be what Walker says. But that's not the assessment of state Senator Dale Schultz, a Republican who has worked with Walker for two decades and who enthusiastically backed Walker in 2010.

This year, Schultz opposed Walker's approach to a state budget process that the senator said veered-on everything from school funding to academic freedom to tax policy to local control-into territory that was "way too extreme."

Schultz, a veteran legislator from rural western Wisconsin, criticized Walker for "passing up an opportunity to show independent leadership."

"No amount of rhetoric or sloganeering will cover up the influence of an out of state billionaire funded and driven agenda," declared Schultz. "This is not the Wisconsin agenda I've fought for over 30 years, and it's not the Wisconsin agenda I hear from people as I travel around my district and across the state."

Walker and his allies are doing everything they can to foster the fantasy that the governor as an outsider, a reformer, the antithesis of poilitics as usual. That was certainly the agenda last week, when Walker appeared in New York City before a November 18 gathering of top check writers for Republican candidates, Walker ripped the Democrat he hopes to run against in 2016-Hillary Clinton-for her long record of public service. Hillary Clinton "wasn't just secretary of state, wasn't just a U.S. senator, wasn't just the first lady. She's been a product of Washington for decades."

Always at the ready for some self-promotion, Walker told the Republican crowd in New York that "if we're going to beat somebody like Hillary Clinton, we've got to have somebody from outside of Washington, who's got a proven record of reform."

So, let's review: Clinton's the insider and Walker's the outsider, right?

Not so fast.

Though she spent many years in Arkansas, Clinton has certainly done her time in Washington. And she is certainly no innocent when it comes to the maneuverings and manipulations that take place in the capitals of states and nations. So even if she is not a "product" of Washington, she is certainly no newcomer to the political game.

And what of Walker?

The governor conveniently forgot to mention that he began his own political career at age 22 and has, since then, run twenty-three years primary and general election campaigns in twenty-three years-making him one of the most determined careerists in American politics. And even before he finishes his first term as one of the nation's most embattled governors, Walker is bidding for the presidency-so much so that he did not bother to correct a questioner in New York who began: "Since you're clearly running for president..."

The problem with careerists is that they are often more interested in their careers than in challenging power.

In a word, they are: intimidated.

But Walker says that's not him.

The governor's new book seeks to portray this would-be presidential contender as an fearless political warrior, ever at the ready to advance his ideals.

That, like Walker's suggestion that his austerity agenda has been successful, is a fantasy grounded in his ambition rather than reality.

In fact, Walker is one of the most intimidated politicians in America.

When Walker ran for governor in 2006, he framed a reform message that talked about ending crony capitalism and addressing the influence of special-interest campaign money and lobbying on the state budget process. In meetings with the state's newspaper editorial boards, he pitched himself as a different kind of Republican who would not play insider political games. Walker earned some high marks when he "vowed to run as an underdog battling party insiders"-except from party insiders, who were unimpressed with his campaign.

In March 2006, just days after Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman visited Wisconsin, and barely a week after a visit to the state by Vice President Dick Cheney, Walker folded his gubernatorial campaign.

No "unintimidated" stand against the Washington power brokers. No fight to the end on behalf of his ideals. No faith that a grass-roots campaign could beat the money power.

Four years later Walker was back, with a better fundraising operation. This time, he had all the right connections. National donors, like Charles and David Koch, made maximum contributions to his campaign, and then gave even more money to groups making "independent" expenditures on Walker's behalf.

He won, and in February 2011, when he got a call from someone he thought was David Koch, Walker played along with the caller's talk about "planting some troublemakers" to disrupt peaceful protests against the governor's anti-labor policies. Walker writes in his book that "we never-never-considered putting ‘troublemakers' in the crowd to discredit the protesters." Yet, when he was talking to someone he thought was a billionaire campaign donor, the governor said: "We thought about that." If we take Walker at his word-that he never considered using agents provocateurs-then why didn't he say so at the time? Was he intimidated by someone he thought was a major campaign donor?

The same question arises regarding Walker's conversation with Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, who gave $500,000 to his 2012 campaign. Walker has said he has "no interest in pursuing right-to-work legislation" to weaken private-sector unions. Yet, when Hendricks asked him about right-to-work legislation, Walker did not say, "We're not going to do that." Rather, he told Hendricks his "first step" would be to attack public-sector unions as part of a "divide-and-conquer" strategy.

Walker wants a frequently obtuse national media and grassroots Republicans to imagine that he is "unintimidated." And perhaps that is the case when he is picking on teachers and nurses and anyone who might dare to join a public-employee union. But when the party bosses and billionaire donors come calling, he's just another politician telling the money power what it wants to hear.
(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.

A man lights a candle in a place where a border wall stood during World War II
separating the Warsaw ghetto from the rest of the town, in Warsaw, Poland, on
April 21, 2013, during a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Shielding A Flickering Flame
By Chris Hedges

With the folly of the human race-and perhaps its unconscious lust for self-annihilation-on display at the U.N. Climate Talks in Warsaw, it is easy to succumb to despair. The world's elite, it is painfully clear, will do little to halt the accelerating destruction of the ecosystem and eventually the human species. We have, through our ingenuity and hubris, unleashed the next great mass extinction on the planet. And I suspect the reason we have never discovered signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is because extraterrestrial societies that achieved similar levels of technological development also destroyed themselves. There are probably more wreckages of advanced civilizations, cursed by poisoned ecosystems, floating through the universe than we imagine.

The death spiral we face means that resistance will increasingly break down along two lines-those who have children and those who do not. It is one thing to sacrifice one's self. It is another to sacrifice one's children. No matter how grim and apocalyptic the world becomes, a parent is compelled to protect his or her child. One cannot totally give up hope. When resistance becomes an act of almost certain futility and suicide, and this is what is fast approaching, violent confrontation will mean the extermination of your children. And that is too much to ask of a parent. Parents-and I am one-do not make great revolutionaries. We have to go home to put a child to bed. Those who do not have children more easily rise up. Most parents, for this reason, are able to embrace only nonviolent protest. And nonviolent mass protest offers, as long as we remain in a period of relative stability, our best hope. Resorting to violence would, right now, make things worse. But as societies unravel, as desperation becomes worldwide, both nonviolence and violence will do little to alter our impending self-destruction. In the coming struggle against the global corporate elite there will be two sets of priorities-those of parents and those of fighters. These differing priorities will have to be respected if we are to build a cohesive movement. There are some things a mother or a father cannot, and perhaps should not, do.

The dichotomy between the role of parents and the role of fighters in times of extremity was delineated in Hanna Krall's remarkable book "Shielding the Flame," a narrative that drew on the experience of Dr. Marek Edelman, who when he died in 2009 was the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Edelman, 23 years old when he helped lead the April 1943 uprising, refused to hold up his actions as more moral than those who walked with their children to the gas chambers. After all, he said, by the time of the uprising he and the other resistance fighters knew that "it was only a choice as to the manner of dying."

The uprising lasted three weeks, ending when the Germans razed the Warsaw Ghetto. Edelman was the only commander of the uprising to come out alive. He escaped through the sewers and was carried away from the ghetto on a stretcher by some of the few remaining members of the underground, posing as members of the Polish Red Cross. A sign reading "Typhus" was placed on his body, and the terror of that disease among the German soldiers ensured his passage through checkpoints. One of the women carrying the stretcher, Dr. Alina Margolis, later became Edelman's wife. During part of the 1979-1992 war in El Salvador, Margolis lived in my house in San Salvador. She was working in a refugee camp for Médecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, an organization she helped found. She and Edelman were fierce anti-Zionists, publicly denounced Israel's occupation and repression of the Palestinians, and defended the right of Palestinian people to resist that occupation, even through violence. They saw in the Palestinian struggle their own fight against German occupation during World War II. I deeply respected them.

"... [T]o die in a gas chamber is by no means worse than to die in battle, and ... the only undignified death is when one attempts to survive at the expense of somebody else," Edelman told Krall. He said of parents and children who were deported to the death camps: "Those people went quietly and with dignity. It is a horrendous thing, when one is going so quietly to one's death. It is infinitely more difficult than to go out shooting. After all, it is much easier to die firing-for us it was much easier to die than it was for someone who first boarded a train car, then rode the train, then dug a hole, then undressed naked. ..."

And yet, at the same time, Edelman noted that everyone, even the young ghetto fighters, needed "somebody to act for, somebody to be the center of his life." To be totally alone was to be drained of purpose and meaning. This was true even for those who faced certain death. "To be with someone was the only way to survive in the Ghetto," he told Krall. "One would secret oneself somewhere with the other person-in a bed, in a basement, anywhere-and until the next action one was not alone anymore. One person had had his mother taken away, somebody else's father had been shot and killed, or a sister taken away in a shipment. So if someone, somehow, by some miracle escaped and was still alive, he had to stick to some other living human being. People were drawn to one another as never before, as never in moral life. During the last liquidation action they would run to the Jewish Council in search of a rabbi or anybody who could marry them, and then they would go to the Umschlagplatz [where Jews were forced to gather for transportation to the death camps] as a married couple."

"When one knows death so well, one has more responsibility for life," he said. "Any, even the smallest chance for life becomes extremely important. A chance for death was there all the while. The important thing was to make a chance for life."

Edelman noted the collective self-delusion that prohibited the Jews in the ghetto-as it prohibits us-from facing their fate, even as the transports were taking thousands daily to the Nazi death camp Treblinka. The Germans handed out oblong, brown loaves of rye bread to those lining up outside the trains. Those clutching the loaves, desperately hungry and overjoyed with receiving the food, willingly climbed into the railway carriages. In 1942 the underground sent a spy to follow the trains. He returned to the ghetto and reported, in the words of Krall's book, that "every day a freight train with people would pass that way [to Treblinka] and return empty, but food supplies were never sent there." His account was written up in the underground ghetto newspaper, but, as Edelman remarked, "nobody believed it." " 'Have you gone insane?' people would say when we were trying to convince them that they were not being taken to work," Edelman remembered. " 'Would they be sending us to death with bread? So much bread would be wasted!' "

Edelman castigated the head of the Jewish Council, Adam Czerniakow, for committing suicide. The official killed himself by swallowing cyanide on July 23, 1942, the day after the mass deportation of the Jews to Treblinka began. "There was only one man who could have declared the truth out loud: Czerniakow," Edelman said. "They would have believed him. But he had committed suicide. That wasn't right: one should die with a bang. At that time this bang was most needed-one should die only after having called other people into the struggle." Edelman went on to say that Czerniakow's suicide was the "only thing we reproach him for."

"We?" Krall asked.

"Me and my friends," Edelman said. <"The dead ones. We reproach him for having made his death his own private business. We were convinced that it was necessary to die publically, under the world's eyes."

Traditional concepts of right and wrong, Edelman pointed out, collapse in moments of extremity. Edelman spoke to Krall about a woman doctor in the ghetto hospital who poisoned the sick children on her ward as the Germans entered the building. "She saved children from the gas chamber," Edelman said. "People thought she was a hero. So what, then, in that world turned upside down, was heroism? Or honor? Or dignity? And where was God?"

Edelman answered his own question. God, he said, was on the side of the persecutors. A malicious God. And Edelman said that as a heart surgeon in Poland after the war he felt he was always battling against this malevolent deity who sought to extinguish life. "God is trying to blow out the candle and I'm quickly trying to shield the flame, taking advantage of His brief inattention."

"He is not terribly just. It can also be very satisfying because whenever something does work out, it means you have, after all, fooled Him."

The forces of life, including the ecosystem, are being transformed into forces of death. The monster Typhoon Haiyan is only one of the first tragedies. Nature and global elites seeking to exploit the planet's last drops of blood and its repressed masses are joining to make the days of descent squalid and terrifying. And in this extremity we will have to find our place. There will come a time, if there is no radical change, when we too will be forced to choose how we will die, whom we will cling to, what we will risk. There will be no moral hierarchy to resistance. We will be pulled one way or another by fate and love. And these different routes of resistance will all be legitimate as long as we do not, as Edelman said, attempt "to survive at the expense of somebody else."
(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."

Can Right And Left Rally Against Walmart?
By Ralph Nader

One of the most profitable corporations in America is having a holiday food drive. Sounds good-it's the least Corporate America can do for those struggling to make ends meet while big companies rake in record profits and give so little back. But wait... there's a catch. The food drive is for the company's own underpaid, poverty-stricken workers. You really can't make this stuff up.

Earlier this week, it was reported that a Walmart store in Canton, Ohio is asking for food donations for its own employees. Photos of the food donation bins circulated online showing signs that read: "Please donate food items here so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner." (That's if they even have a chance to-Walmart stores are open on Thanksgiving and are beginning their "Black Friday" deals at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day to get a jump on the holiday shopping madness.)

Walmart is America's largest employer with a workforce consisting of 1.3 million "associates." The company made nearly $17 billion in profit last year. So why can't Walmart afford to pay its own store workers enough for them to enjoy a holiday meal with their families? The answer is Walmart doesn't really care about its workers.

If the Walmart food donation drive doesn't get you properly steamed, then consider that Walmart CEO, Mike Duke, makes approximately $11,000 an hour-he took home about $20.7 million last year, plus ample benefits. Still not mad? It has also been recently been reported that Duke has a retirement package worth more than $113 million! That is 6,200 times larger than the average 401k savings of a non-executive level Walmart employee! (Check out this recent report which charts other massive CEO pensions in relation to those of average workers.)

One final fact to really get your dander up-The Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, have accumulated more financial wealth than the entire bottom 40% of the population of the United States or 313 million Americans. That's six Waltons worth a combined $102.7 billion!

No matter what one's political leanings may be, the problem of massive income inequality and insatiable corporate greed is worsening year-by-year as CEO salaries rise, overall corporate profits soar and worker salaries stagnate. Liberal or conservative-all Americans should be outraged by this trend.

I recently wrote to conservative anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist to bring both sides of the political spectrum together on this troubling issue. In the past, Mr. Norquist and I have backed popular, reasonable policies, such as putting the full text of government contracts online, rolling back corporate welfare and opposing the civil liberties restrictive Patriot Act. As someone who claims to care about taxpayer protection, the issue of poverty-level wages and their major effect on taxpayers should be an important issue for Mr. Norquist.

Here's why-low wages at the ten largest fast food chains cost taxpayers $3.8 billion per year. Fifty-two precent of families of fast food workers have to rely on government assistance. McDonald's' "McResource" help line goes so far as to advise workers who cannot make ends meet from their poverty-level wages to sign up for government food stamps and home heating assistance. Is it fair that taxpayers have to shell out $1.2 billion a year to subsidize McDonald's paying its workers while the fast food giant rakes in $5.5 billion in profit?

Walmart is even worse-according to a study from the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce study, a single Walmart Supercenter store in Wisconsin can cost taxpayers upwards of $1.75 million in public assistance programs. If taxpayers have to cover over $1 million for just one 300-employee superstore, consider how much Walmart is costing taxpayers each year at their 4,135 stores in the United States. According to the 2012 "Walmart Associate Benefits Book", which is distributed to employees, the company also advises its workers about getting on public assistance. Is this a fair or reasonable burden on taxpayers as Walmart reports $17 billion in profits?

Over the past five years, Walmart has had enough excess funds to buy back billions in its own stock. Walmart reportedly spent $7.6 billion last year buying back its shares. These funds are enough to raise the salaries of the lowest paid workers by $5.83 an hour. Catherine Ruetschlin, policy analyst at Demos, stated in a recent release: "These share repurchases benefit an increasingly narrow group of people, including the six Walton family heirs. But buybacks do not improve the fundamentals of the firm. If the funds were used to raise the pay of Walmart's 825,000 low paid workers, it would not harm the retailer's competitive ability and would add no cost to the consumer."

(See the recent report from Demos titled "A Higher Wage is Possible")

The quickest way to lessen reliance on food stamp, EITC and Medicaid outlays is to raise the federal minimum wage. Raising the wage has the backing of 80% of Americans, 69% of Republicans, and even writers from The National Review and The American Conservative magazines. So why isn't their more rage from the other end of the political spectrum? Even Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney both supported raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation-at least until Mitt Romney flip-flopped on the issue during the 2012 election.

The support of Grover Norquist and the Congressional followers of his no-tax pledge would be a significant boost for thirty million struggling workers who make less today than workers made in 1968, inflation adjusted. With a doubling in both worker productivity and the cost of living, there is no excuse for such a decline in their livelihoods.

Mr. Norquist, join this fight to protect taxpayers. Underpaid workers (who are also taxpayers) and their families need your support.
(c) 2013 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non- fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

California, Here We Come?
By Paul Krugman

It goes without saying that the rollout of Obamacare was an epic disaster. But what kind of disaster was it? Was it a failure of management, messing up the initial implementation of a fundamentally sound policy? Or was it a demonstration that the Affordable Care Act is inherently unworkable?

We know what each side of the partisan divide wants you to believe. The Obama administration is telling the public that everything will eventually be fixed, and urging Congressional Democrats to keep their nerve. Republicans, on the other hand, are declaring the program an irredeemable failure, which must be scrapped and replaced with ... well, they don't really want to replace it with anything.

At a time like this, you really want a controlled experiment. What would happen if we unveiled a program that looked like Obamacare, in a place that looked like America, but with competent project management that produced a working website?

Well, your wish is granted. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you California.

Now, California isn't the only place where Obamacare is looking pretty good. A number of states that are running their own online health exchanges instead of relying on are doing well. Kentucky's Kynect is a huge success; so is Access Health CT in Connecticut. New York is doing O.K. And we shouldn't forget that Massachusetts has had an Obamacare-like program since 2006, put into effect by a guy named Mitt Romney.

California is, however, an especially useful test case. First of all, it's huge: if a system can work for 38 million people, it can work for America as a whole. Also, it's hard to argue that California has had any special advantages other than that of having a government that actually wants to help the uninsured. When Massachusetts put Romneycare into effect, it already had a relatively low number of uninsured residents. California, however, came into health reform with 22 percent of its nonelderly population uninsured, compared with a national average of 18 percent.

Finally, the California authorities have been especially forthcoming with data tracking the progress of enrollment. And the numbers are increasingly encouraging.

For one thing, enrollment is surging. At this point, more than 10,000 applications are being completed per day, putting the state well on track to meet its overall targets for 2014 coverage. Just imagine, by the way, how different press coverage would be right now if Obama officials had produced a comparable success, and around 100,000 people a day were signing up nationwide.

Equally important is the information on who is enrolling. To work as planned, health reform has to produce a balanced risk pool - that is, it must sign up young, healthy Americans as well as their older, less healthy compatriots. And so far, so good: in October, 22.5 percent of California enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34, slightly above that group's share of the population.

What we have in California, then, is a proof of concept. Yes, Obamacare is workable - in fact, done right, it works just fine.

The bad news, of course, is that most Americans aren't lucky enough to live in states in which Obamacare has, in fact, been done right. They're stuck either with or with one of the state exchanges, like Oregon's, that have similar or worse problems. Will they ever get to experience successful health reform?

The answer is, probably yes. There won't be a moment when the clouds suddenly lift, but the exchanges are gradually getting better - a point inadvertently illustrated a few days ago by John Boehner, the speaker of the House. Mr. Boehner staged a publicity stunt in which he tried to sign up on the D.C. health exchange, then triumphantly posted an entry on his blog declaring that he had been unsuccessful. At the bottom of his post, however, is a postscript admitting that the health exchange had called back "a few hours later," and that he is now enrolled.

And maybe the transaction would have proceeded faster if Mr. Boehner's office hadn't, according to the D.C. exchange, put its agent - who was calling to help finish the enrollment - on hold for 35 minutes, listening to "lots of patriotic hold music." There will also probably be growing use of workarounds - for example, encouraging people to go directly to insurers. This will temporarily defeat one of the purposes of the exchanges, which was to make price comparisons easy, but it will be good enough as a short-term patch. And one shouldn't forget that the insurance industry has a big financial stake in the success of Obamacare, and will soon be pitching in with big efforts to sign people up.

Again, Obamacare's rollout was a disaster. But in California we can see what health reform will look like, beyond the glitches. And it's going to work.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world - bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are whores for power and oil with hate and fear in our hearts."
~~~ Hunter S. Thompson

Ending Fire Zone Subsidies Is No Ayn Rand Fantasy
Colorado's governor has a new plan to help keep taxpayers off the hook for developers' irresponsible decisions
By David Sirota

In the American West, "zoning" is often viewed as a taboo term. Indeed, despite a population boom and the rise of major cities in the region, this area is still seen as the wide-open frontier. The libertarian zeal that comes with that frontier spirit naturally leads many to believe they should be able to build whatever they want wherever they want.

One obvious problem with that attitude, though, is how the inevitable costs associated with willfully irresponsible development decisions are borne not just by the decision-making property owner, but by all taxpayers. Such is the case with firefighting. Over the last decade, as so much suburban sprawl has reached into known wildfire zones, governments are still on the financial hook for protecting homes from blazes. That's not frontier freedom. That's forcing taxpayers who make responsible residential decisions to subsidize - and thus encourage - irresponsible development decisions.

The bad news is that such incentives have helped create a crisis. As the Denver Post previously reported, between 1990 and 2000, more than a third of all homes built in America were built in the so-called Wildland-Urban Interface - aka the fire red zones. As climate change intensifies wildfires, this situation means all taxpayers could face skyrocketing firefighting costs to defend red-zone development.

In Colorado, this crisis is acute, as I-News Network notes that "one of every four Colorado homes is in a red zone." But that gets to the good news: With the costs now so daunting, Colorado is considering reforms that could serve as a national model to change the incentives.

As the Post reports, a fire task force established by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is proposing "that lawmakers charge fees on homes built in woods, rate the wildfire risk of the 556,000 houses already built in burn zones on a 1-10 scale and inform insurers, and establish a state building code for use of fire-resistant materials and defensible space."

In sum, the initiative aims to force red-zone residents to pay more of their own fire protection expenses, and to pay those expenses on the front end. It is both shrewd politics and much-needed policy.

Politically, Hickenlooper is evading a full-on confrontation with frontier culture by avoiding a push for laws that would explicitly restrict development in wildfire areas. Such zoning statutes are almost certainly necessary in the long term, but proposing them today might doom the first steps of a reform effort. So the governor is instead saying that frontier fetishists can still make irresponsible development decisions, but they will bear far more of the additional expenses that accompany such decisions.

Policy-wise, such a change would be no small accomplishment. Headwaters Economics estimates that wildfire fighting expenses have averaged $1.8 billion a year for the last five years, but that if even half of the still-untouched red zone is developed, those costs could more than double. The watchdog group notes that such an increase is inevitable "unless there is a financial disincentive to building homes on fire-prone lands." Financial disincentives are exactly what Hickenlooper's task force could create.

Of course, this plan might strike skeptics as a step toward a dystopia whereby social services like fire protection are available only to those who can pay. But that misses the distinction between this and an Ayn Rand fantasy. Hickenlooper's plan stipulates that those making responsible residential decisions are entitled to basic fire protection services at no additional cost. But his plan also aims to make sure that all taxpayers and the insurance market are no longer encouraging - and subsidizing - egregiously irresponsible decisions.

Though real estate developers may detest that principle, it shouldn't be all that controversial. It should be common sense in the era of climate-intensified wildfire.
(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 .

Black Friday

Black Thursday: Thanksgiving In The Consumer Wasteland
By William Rivers Pitt

Tony Rohr was the general manager of the Pizza Hut in Elkhart, Indiana, until just the other day, when the company decreed that his restaurant was to be open for business on Thanksgiving for the first time in Rohr's long experience. For the sake of his own family, who wanted him to be with them for the holiday, and for the sake of all the other employees and their families, Rohr refused to do as they said.

Of course he was fired, but he went down swinging. "I am not quitting. I do not resign, however I accept that the refusal to comply with this greedy, immoral request means the end of my tenure with this company," wrote Rohr in a scathing letter to his former employer. "I hope you realize that it's the people at the bottom of the totem pole that make your life possible."

And so Tony - who started as a cook and worked his way up the ladder - will sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with his family today not knowing where his next paycheck will be coming from. Mr. Rohr has become, in a uniquely American way, a martyr to the new normal in this country. Never mind the fact that Thanksgiving is probably the last day most people would think to frequent a fa-chrissakes Pizza Hut - the restaurant will spend more money having the lights and ovens on than they will make from customers, bank on it - and focus on the singularly vile practice of robbing workers of a long-cherished day with family in order to maybe make a few extra bucks.

It's happening all over the place. Turn on a television, wait for the commercial break, and in no time you will hear something along the lines of CAN'T WAIT FOR BLACK FRIDAY? GOOD, BECAUSE WE'RE ALSO OPEN ON THURSDAY WITH STUFF AND DOORBUSTERS AND MORE STUFF AND LOOK AT ALL THIS STUFF YOU HAVE TO HAVE THIS STUFF OH MY GOD SO MUCH STUFF WHAAAARGARBL AND P.S. BLACK FRIDAY TOO!!!

From The Los Angeles Times:

At this rate, shoppers hoping to get in on "Black Friday" deals will have to eat their turkey for lunch, as both Target and Toys R Us announced plans to open Thanksgiving evening. In its earliest opening ever, Target said it will welcome bargain hunters at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 28, joining a veritable stampede of retailers, including Macy's, J.C. Penney and Staples.

Target said most stores will stay open until 11 p.m. on Friday and also will stay open for at least 14 hours on Christmas Eve and 15 hours the day after Christmas. As for the employees running the holiday shift, Target said it "works closely with its team members to understand scheduling preferences" and pays such workers time and a half.

Gosh, thanks for that.

Black Friday may be important to the retailers who depend upon the orgasmic gush of consumer spending to put their earnings for the year "in the black" - where the term came from, if you didn't know - but it has metastasized into perhaps the most gruesome display of everything that has gone sideways in American society.

Once upon a time, it was fun in its own odd way, I suppose, but, people camp out for days in department store parking lots, risk stampedes, fist-fights and the occasional hail of gunfire in order to get their glutton on one day after a holiday dedicated to being thankful for what they have. Someone will die in a store on Friday over a flat-screen television or a power tool. That annual sacrifice upon the altar of More Stuff has become as predictable as the tides.

And now, that's not enough. Now, they are forcing workers to give up this cherished holiday - and yes, "forcing," because Tony Rohr can tell you everything you need to know about what happens when you refuse orders to work on Thanksgiving - in order to service the insatiable maw of American consumerism run amok. Dollars to doughnuts, the CEOs who are demanding their employees sacrifice their Thanksgiving celebrations with family are big "family values" guys. They will be with their families, you can sure-God count on it.

And yet, something to be thankful for: there is push-back. A handful of Whole Foods workers went on strike at two Chicago-area stores to protest being required to work on Thanksgiving. The supermarket chain caved, and the stores will remain closed.

More significantly, protests by workers at some 1,500 Walmart locations across the country are planned for Black Friday. The action has so thoroughly spooked the powers-that-be that a judge in Maryland has barred protesters from company property on Friday, presumably because the First Amendment is only for people who meekly submit to poverty wages, rotten working conditions and the surrender of beloved holidays like Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, however, pretty much every employee of all the companies that have chosen to steal Thanksgiving will be forced to sacrifice their holiday and smile at sweaty, aggressive lunatics who actually think shopping on Thanksgiving is a positive good.

For the record, and not to put too fine a point on it: if you join the human crudwave of shopping on Friday, you are an asshole. If you actually endorse the theft of people's Thanksgiving holiday by frequenting those open stores today, you are a Very Special Breed Of Asshole, a whole Bag of Assholes, with extra assholes on the side.

You are, among other things, supporting this:

One year after the Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh, many retailers that sold garments produced there or inside the Rana Plaza building that collapsed last spring are refusing to join an effort to compensate the families of the more than 1,200 workers who died in those disasters.

A handful of retailers - led by Primark, an Anglo-Irish company, and C&A, a Dutch-German company - are deeply involved in getting long-term compensation funds off the ground, one for Rana Plaza's victims and one for the victims of the Tazreen fire, which killed 112 workers last Nov. 24.

But to the dismay of those pushing to create the compensation funds, neither Walmart, Sears, Children's Place nor any of the other American companies that were selling goods produced at Tazreen or Rana Plaza have agreed to contribute to the efforts.

The only way to stop all this is to make it unprofitable, and a good way to make it unprofitable is to stay home on Thursday and Friday.

As for myself, I will be with family and friends today, and tomorrow. My wallet will remain in my pocket. I devoutly hope the same can be said for you and yours. I will raise a toast to Tony Rohr, who tried to do the right thing for the workers under him and lost his job because of it.

Cheers to you, Tony. I place you high in my constellation of ordinary heroes who take a stand, and then take a hit, for all the very simple things most us know to be right and true and just, the things that are being stolen from us, one piece at a time.

UPDATE: Speaking of push-back, the Pizza Hut in Elkhart turned on a dime and offered Mr. Rohr his job back after taking a world of public heat. No word yet on whether Mr. Rohr has accepted their offer.

Happy Thanksgiving.
(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 Richter Priestly,

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 telling global warming victims to go tread water, 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 "judicial 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 Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 11-30-2013. We salute you Heir Priestly, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

How The Republican Tempest Over The Affordable Care Act Diverts Attention From Three Large Truths
By Robert Reich

Having failed to defeat the Affordable Care Act in Congress, to beat it back in the last election, to repeal it despite more than eighty votes in the House, to stop it in the federal courts, to get enough votes in the Supreme Court to overrule it, and to gut it with outright extortion (closing the government and threatening to default on the nation's debts unless it was repealed), Republicans are now down to their last ploy.

They are hell-bent on destroying the Affordable Care Act in Americans' minds.

A document circulating among House Republicans (reported by the New York Times) instructs them to repeat the following themes and stories continuously: "Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance." "Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs." "The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk."

Every Republican in Washington has been programmed to use the word "disaster" whenever mentioning the Act, always refer to it as Obamacare, and demand its repeal.

Republican wordsmiths know they can count on Fox News and right-wing yell radio to amplify and intensify all of this in continuous loops of elaboration and outrage, repeated so often as to infect peoples' minds like purulent pustules.

The idea is to make the Act so detestable it becomes the fearsome centerpiece of the midterm elections of 2014 - putting enough Democrats on the defensive they join in seeking its repeal or at least in amending it in ways that gut it (such as allowing insurers to sell whatever policies they want as long as they want, or delaying it further).

Admittedly, the President provided Republicans ammunition by botching the Act's roll-out. Why wasn't up and running smoothly October 1? Partly because the Administration didn't anticipate that almost every Republican governor would refuse to set up a state exchange, thereby loading even more responsibility on an already over-worked and underfunded Department of Health and Human Services.

Why didn't Obama's advisors anticipate that some policies would be cancelled (after all, the Act sets higher standards than many policies offered) and therefore his "you can keep their old insurance" promise would become a target? Likely because they knew all policies were "grandfathered" for a year, didn't anticipate how many insurers would cancel right away, and understood that only 5 percent of policyholders received insurance independent of an employer anyway.

But there's really no good excuse. The White House should have anticipated the Republican attack machine.

The real problem is now. The President and other Democrats aren't meeting the Republican barrage with three larger truths that show the pettiness of the attack:

The wreck of private insurance. Ours has been the only healthcare system in the world designed to avoid sick people. For-profit insurers have spent billions finding and marketing their policies to healthy people - young adults, people at low risk of expensive diseases, groups of professionals - while rejecting people with preexisting conditions, otherwise debilitated, or at high risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. And have routinely dropped coverage of policy holders who become seriously sick or disabled. What else would you expect from corporations seeking to maximize profits?

But the social consequences have been devastating. We have ended up with the most expensive healthcare system in the world (finding and marketing to healthy people is expensive, corporate executives are expensive, profits adequate to satisfy shareholders are expensive), combined with the worst health outcomes of all rich countries - highest rates of infant mortality, shortest life spans, largest portions of populations never seeing a doctor and receiving no preventive care, most expensive uses of emergency rooms.

We could not and cannot continue with this travesty of a healthcare system.

The Affordable Care Act is a modest solution. It still relies on private insurers - merely setting minimum standards and "exchanges" where customers can compare policies, requiring insurers to take people with preexisting conditions and not abandon those who get seriously sick, and helping low-income people afford coverage.

A single-payer system would have been preferable. Most other rich countries do it this way. It could have been grafted on to Social Security and Medicare, paid for through payroll taxes, expanded to lower-income families through Medicaid. It would have been simple and efficient. (It's no coincidence that the Act's Medicaid expansion has been easy and rapid in states that chose to accept it.)

But Republicans were dead set against this. They wouldn't even abide a "public option" to buy into something resembling Medicare. In the end, they wouldn't even go along with the Affordable Care Act, which was based on Republican ideas in the first place. (From Richard Nixon's healthcare plan through the musings of the Heritage Foundation, Republicans for years urged that everything be kept in the hands of private insurers but the government set minimum standards, create state-based insurance exchanges, and require everyone to sign up).

The moral imperative. Even a clunky compromise like the ACA between a national system of health insurance and a for-profit insurance market depends, fundamentally, on a social compact in which those who are healthier and richer are willing to help those who are sicker and poorer. Such a social compact defines a society.

The other day I heard a young man say he'd rather pay a penalty than buy health insurance under the Act because, in his words, "why should I pay for the sick and the old?" The answer is he has a responsibility to do so, as a member the same society they inhabit.

The Act also depends on richer people paying higher taxes to finance health insurance for lower-income people. Starting this year, a healthcare surtax of 3.8 percent is applied to capital gains and dividend income of individuals earning more than $200,000 and a nine-tenths of 1 percent healthcare tax to wages over $200,000 or couples over $250,000. Together, the two taxes will raise an estimated $317.7 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Here again, the justification is plain: We are becoming a vastly unequal society in which most of the economic gains are going to the top. It's only just that those with higher incomes bear some responsibility for maintaining the health of Americans who are less fortunate.

This is a profoundly moral argument about who we are and what we owe each other as Americans. But Democrats have failed to make it, perhaps because they're reluctant to admit that the Act involves any redistribution at all.

Redistribution has become so unfashionable it's easier to say everyone comes out ahead. And everyone does come out ahead in the long term: Even the best-off will gain from a healthier and more productive workforce, and will save money from preventive care that reduces the number of destitute people using emergency rooms when they become seriously ill.

But there would be no reason to reform and extend health insurance to begin with if we did not have moral obligations to one another as members of the same society.

The initial problems with the website and the President's ill-advised remark about everyone being able to keep their old policies are real. But they're trifling compared to the wreckage of the current system, the modest but important step toward reform embodied in the Act, and the moral imperative at the core of the Act and of our society.

The Republicans have created a tempest out of trivialities. It is incumbent on Democrats - from the President on down - to show Americans the larger picture, and do so again and again.
(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.

Without Reagan's Treason, Iran Would Not Be A Problem
By Thom Hartmann

As news of a US-Iranian nuclear deal spread like wildfire this weekend, the mainstream media began to ask its usual set of questions. Is the deal for real? Can we trust the Iranians? Are the mullahs just using a temporary break in sanctions to buy enough time to build a bomb?

Ever since the Second Bush administration labeled Iran part of the "Axis of Evil," the media has portrayed the Iranian government as a scheming theocracy, so the discussion of the "two-faced Persians" isn't all that surprising.

But aside from being wildly racist, this portrayal is also wildly inaccurate. That's because the biggest threat to an American-Iranian accord comes from President Obama's enemies at home - Congressional Republicans - not from the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Already Republican leaders in the Senate are calling for more sanctions against Iran. Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that doing so is the only way to ensure a long-term deal between the U.S. and Iran.

The call for sanctions also has support in the House. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Michigan says that he backs any Senate plan to tighten restrictions on Iran's economy.

Republican attempts to sabotage a Democratic president's deal with Iran are nothing new, however.

Just ask Jimmy Carter.

In 1980 Carter thought he had reached a deal with newly-elected Iranian President Abdolhassan Bani-Sadr over the release of the fifty-two hostages held by radical students at the American Embassy in Tehran.

Bani-Sadr was a moderate and, as he explained in an editorial for The Christian Science Monitor earlier this year, had successfully run for President on the popular position of releasing the hostages: "I openly opposed the hostage-taking throughout the election campaign.... I won the election with over 76 percent of the vote.... Other candidates also were openly against hostage-taking, and overall, 96 percent of votes in that election were given to candidates who were against it [hostage-taking]." Carter was confident that with Bani-Sadr's help, he could end the embarrassing hostage crisis that had been a thorn in his political side ever since it began in November of 1979.

But Carter underestimated the lengths his opponent in the 1980 Presidential election, California Governor Ronald Reagan, would go to screw him over.

Behind Carter's back, the Reagan campaign worked out a deal with the leader of Iran's radical faction - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini - to keep the hostages in captivity until after the 1980 Presidential election.

This was nothing short of treason. The Reagan campaign's secret negotiations with Khomeini - the so-called "October Surprise" - sabotaged Carter and Bani-Sadr's attempts to free the hostages. And as Bani-Sadr told The Christian Science Monitor in March of this year, they most certainly "tipped the results of the [1980] election in Reagan's favor."

Not surprisingly, Iran released the hostages on January 20, 1981, at the exact moment Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.

The "October Surprise" emboldened the radical forces inside Iran. A politically weakened Bani-Sadr was overthrown in June of 1981 and replaced with Mohammed Ali Rajai - a favorite of Khomeini's. These radical forces today are represented by people like former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, hard-liners who oppose any deal with the United States and, like Khomeini in the 1980s, will jump at any chance to discredit the current moderate presidency of Hassan Rouhani.

The October Surprise also led to the deaths of thousands of innocent people around the world, and in Central America in particular. Reagan took money from the Iranians and used that money to kill nuns in Nicaragua.

But those are just the most obvious results of the October Surprise. Again, if Carter were able to free the hostages like he and Bani-Sadr had planned, Carter would have won re-election. After all, he was leading in most polls in the months leading up to the election. And if Reagan were never elected, America would be a much more progressive nation.

Flash-forward thirty-three years, and once again a Democratic President is trying to negotiate in good faith with Iran. President Obama has made a deal with the moderate Iranian President that - if everything goes as planned - will solve a major international crisis.

But like President Carter's deal, President Obama's deal is opposed by Republicans who have proven time and time again that they will stop at nothing to sabotage a Democrat in the White House.

And while there is no proof that Republican Senators are secretly asking Ayatollah Khameini to violate the terms of this weekend's nuclear deal, their obsession with slamming Iran with more sanctions is just as dangerous. We know what happened the last time a deal with Iran fell through because of Republican sabotage. Who knows what could happen this time?

A long-term Iranian nuclear deal would be a once in a generation chance for the United States to rethink its foreign policy. President Obama should go for it. But he should watch his back. Because if history tells us anything, it's that Republicans are more than willing to betray their country for a little short-term political gain.
(c) 2013 Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at his website and find out what stations broadcast his radio program. He also now has a daily independent television program, The Big Picture, syndicated by FreeSpeech TV, RT TV, and 200 community TV stations. You can also listen or watch Thom over the Internet.

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Iran's Supreme Leader Hopes Nuke Deal Distracts Attention From Obamacare
By Andy Borowitz

TEHRAN (The Borowitz Report)-The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told reporters today his nation agreed to a deal on its nuclear program in the hopes that it would distract attention from the trouble-plagued rollout of Obamacare.

"It's true, we've resisted any deal on nukes for over three decades," the Ayatollah said. "But when we saw how much trouble Obama was having with his Web site, we realized it would be uncaring of us not to try to help him out."

The Ayatollah said he was not "overly optimistic" that signing a nuclear treaty with the West would be sufficient to distract attention from the President's Obamacare woes, but, he added, "You never know. Every little bit helps."

He said that he and Iran's leaders will be putting their heads together in the days and weeks ahead to see "if there's anything else we can do to help Obama out of this health-care mess."

"One idea we're tossing around is to get the Iranian people to stop chanting, 'Death to America,' the way they have for the past thirty-four years," he said. "At the very least, maybe dial it back until he gets that Web site straightened out."
(c) 2013 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 46 (c) 11/29/2013

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