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In This Edition

Seymour Hersh wonders, "Whose Sarin?"

Uri Avnery explores an, "Unholy River."

Glen Ford finds, "Detroit On The Auction Block."

Frank Scott returns with, "The Nuclear Menace: Iran? Are You Serious? Or Delirious?"

Jim Hightower follows, "Geithner's Magical Trip Through The Revolving Door."

David Swanson concludes, "What Didn't Kill Mandela Made Him Stronger."

James Donahue discovers, "Fungus Found Feeding On Nuclear Toxins."

John Nichols recalls, "Nelson Mandela's Universal Declaration Of Human Rights."

Chris Hedges sees Barry, "Shooting The Messenger."

Ray McGovern demands Barry, "Fire The Liar."

Paul Krugman examines, "The Punishment Cure."

David Sirota asks, "For Stimulus, Do Stadiums & Server Farms Beat Pensions & Social Security?"

William Rivers Pitt says, "It Only Hurts When I Laugh."

US Senator Debbie Stabenow wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich has, "One Answer To Low-Wage Work: Redistributing The Gains."

Tom Hayden is, "Dismantling The Myth Of Bill Bratton's LAPD."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst recalls, "The Top 10 Comedic News Stories Of 2013" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "When The Going Gets Weird...."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Scott Stantis, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Ruben Bolling, Kin Cheung, Hallie Bateman, Seth Wenig, The American Phytopathological Society, Gage Skidmore, Flickr, Reuters, CNN, AP, London Review of Books, Office of Director of National Intelligence, 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."

Strange bedfellows Paul Ryan and his bitch Patty Murray!

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When The Going Gets Weird...
By Ernest Stewart

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro!" ~~~ Raoul Duke

"He really stood out to us as someone who has changed the tone and the perception and the focus of one of the world's largest institutions in an extraordinary way." ~~~ Nancy Gibbs ~ Time magazine's managing editor

"Let them eat cake!" ~~~ US Senator Debbie Stabenow

"Round up the usual suspects!"
Casablanca ~~~ Captain Renault

I keep expecting to see Rod Serling appear beside Rand Paul or John Boehner or Paul Ryan, perhaps beside all three of them while they stand around a microphone moving their lips and telling new lies...

Cue the Twilight Zone theme... Camera slowly pans away from the the three across the room, and comes to rest on a man dressed in a black suit, smoking a cigarette. He looks directly into the camera and speaks... "Respectfully submitted for your approval, the last hurrah, from a once mighty country, when all the chickens come home to roost, in a small dark corner of, the Twilight Zone!"

Thanks to that bright idea of a sequester the Rethuglicans demanded, and the Caveman went along with, we now have fast approaching sequester part 2.0. You'll recall when the Rethuglicans shut down the government for 16 days last October; and if this new date isn't dealt with, they'll shut the government down again on January 15th, allowing for funding only through February 7th. Last time, you'll recall it cost us billions for the shutdown and tens of billions more in pork to grease the palms of various tea-baggers who withheld their votes until they were paid off!

There's another temporary measure afoot that frees up a little money from the sequester; but most of the Rethuglicans are beginning to hem and haw and make noises for another shutdown, or worse, a default. They know better; but, you'll recall that's never stopped them before. Have no doubt, the money freed up will go to the Pentagoons and their corpo-rat pals. As it is, they gobble up more than half of the pie -- 51.4%. There's more money spent on defense than all the other programs combined! Be happy that Barry didn't get his way; he wanted 57% for the Pentagoons. Perhaps if we stopped murdering folks all around the globe, we wouldn't need so much?

Our Vidkun Quisling award winner Michigan Senator Demoncrat Debbie Stabenow is cheerfully chipping in upwards of $9 billion in cuts to SNAP aka food stamps for the new farm bill; but don't worry, there's still $10's of billions of dollars in pork welfare for big Agra written in it. Can you hear the music, America? Do do do do. Do do do do. Do do do do...

In Other News

I see where the fascist Bozos that run Time Magazine chose the Pope over Edward Snowden as their Man of the Year. Why am I not surprised? They're hailing Pope Frank as the Volks Pope and I thought the last Pope, i.e., the "Panzer Pope" was the "Volks Pope?"

I can see why they chose Frank over Edward as just a glance at some of their former choices brings their reasons into sharp focus. For example, they made Adolf Hitler man of the year in 1938. Old Joseph Stalin won the honors not once but twice in 1939 and 1942! Nikita Khrushchev won the "honors" in 1957. Charles de Gaulle won in 1958.

Americans also won the awards some notable folks were Lyndon Baines Johnson like Stalin won twice in 1964 and 1967. General William Westmoreland won in 1965. Richard Milhous Nixon won in 1971 and his hand puppet Henry Kissenger won in 1972.

Other famous fascists who won were King Faisal in 1974. Anwar Sadat won in 1977. Deng Xiaoping won twice in 1978 and in 1985. Ayatollah Khomeini won in 1979.

Like LBJ, Stalin, and Xiaoping, Ronald Reagan won twice, in 1980 and again in 1983. Like the above, Mikhail Gorbachev won twice in 1987 and 1989!

Other winners include George H. W. Bush in 1990. Bill Clinton won twice in 1992 and 1998. Newt Gingrich in 1995. George W. Bush who won twice in 2000 and 2004. Rudolph Giuliani won in 2001. Vladimir Putin won in 2007. Barack Obama won twice in 2008 and in 2012. Ben Bernanke won in 2009 and Mark Zuckerberg won in 2010.

Talk about a rogues gallery of mass murdering psychopaths; so, after thinking it over, I've come to the conclusion that Snowdon shouldn't have his name sullied by association with these monsters, and that the Catholic prelate Pope Francis is indeed the perfect choice!

And Finally

I see where one of my Sin-ators Debbie (let them eat cake) Stabenow is up to no good again. Debbie's latest bright idea is to cut another $8 billion out of the SNAP program (food stamps) and save that money for her 1% puppet masters. Debbie loves to talk about how she is really concerned about hungry children; but her lies are starting to catch up with her; and it's about time!

So you know what I did, huh? If you said, "I bet you wrote her a letter," then you can stay after class and clean the erasers! There'll be cookies and tea for afters! Therefore, I wrote...

Hey Debbie,

I see that the ultra-rich need more of my food stamps; so you've decided to steal $8 billion more for your 1% puppet masters. Funny, I didn't see a word about that at your site. What shall I eat? Let me guess, Debbie, cake? I guess I can come by your house for breakfast, lunch and dinner, huh? I'd be willing to bet, if I had any money, that your fat ass won't be missing any meals, eh? Perhaps you could steal that $309 dollars I get from social security too, I'm guessing that's next on your list on your war against the elderly, the poor, the hungry and the sick. Of course, there will be plenty of cash for the banksters and all of our illegal, immoral war crimes, right? I'm sure we won't run out of money for drones to kill babies with! Do explain yourself Debbie, I dare ya! I guess you'll have to dream up some more new lies about how you care about starving children and the like as the old lies, are now obvious lies. I guess we can all go to the supermarket and steal enough to eat until we're caught and sent to prison where there at least you can get 3 squares a day. You'd better hope that there isn't a just god, Debbie -- cuz paybacks will be Hell, literally! Burn, baby, Burn!

Oh, and one other thing, Debbie; you've won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award, our weekly award for the biggest traitor in the country. I bet your mama's proud!

Your pal,
Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

If you have some words of wisdom for Debbie, and you're from Michigan, just go to her Senate site and leave a message:

Or join her on Facebook @

Or call her at: (202) 224-4822

And tell her Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

Thank almighty Zeus for our "Regular Suspects!" I heard from Jack & Jill from Washington DC a.k.a. Doctor Phil who brought our balance down to just $350. I've said it before, and I'll happily say it again, if not for the "Regular Suspects" we'd have gone the way of the Dodo Bird or honest politicians, years ago. Needless to say, thank you, Jack, Jill and Phil, for picking up about 10% of our operating costs in 2013!

Trouble is, it's not fair to have the same group of people paying every one's way. Yes, I am well aware that most of our readership has just their noses above water and couldn't afford the stamps much less a donation; and all we ask of them is just to spread the word about us amongst your friends. However, those of you still working nine to five, and who read us on a daily or weekly basis, should chip in your fair share. And for those of you who can afford it, please pick up your tab and one or more of the tabs for the folks who have nothing. This magazine is for all, those who can afford and those that can't and since it's leftist, there are many more have nots, than there are haves. If this were another rat-wing mag, I'd never have to raise a penny as the PACs would take care of us, instead of the people.

Therefore, if you can, won't you please, send us what you can, whenever you can, to keep us fighting for the old Republic. Fighting for a Constitution and Bill of Rights that are followed by all. Fighting for the right to privacy and personal freedom and for peace; for all the people!


03-17-1943 ~ 12-08-2013
Thanks for the film!

06-26-1922 ~ 12-09-2013
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.

Whose Sarin?
By Seymour M. Hersh

Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country's civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded - without assessing responsibility - had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order - a planning document that precedes a ground invasion - citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

In his nationally televised speech about Syria on 10 September, Obama laid the blame for the nerve gas attack on the rebel-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta firmly on Assad's government, and made it clear he was prepared to back up his earlier public warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a 'red line': 'Assad's government gassed to death over a thousand people,' he said. 'We know the Assad regime was responsible ... And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.' Obama was going to war to back up a public threat, but he was doing so without knowing for sure who did what in the early morning of 21 August.

He cited a list of what appeared to be hard-won evidence of Assad's culpability: 'In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighbourhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.' Obama's certainty was echoed at the time by Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, who told the New York Times: 'No one with whom I've spoken doubts the intelligence' directly linking Assad and his regime to the sarin attacks.

But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration's assurances of Assad's responsibility a 'ruse.' The attack 'was not the result of the current regime,' he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information - in terms of its timing and sequence - to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: 'The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, "How can we help this guy" - Obama - "when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?"'

The complaints focus on what Washington did not have: any advance warning from the assumed source of the attack. The military intelligence community has for years produced a highly classified early morning intelligence summary, known as the Morning Report, for the secretary of defence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; a copy also goes to the national security adviser and the director of national intelligence. The Morning Report includes no political or economic information, but provides a summary of important military events around the world, with all available intelligence about them. A senior intelligence consultant told me that some time after the attack he reviewed the reports for 20 August through 23 August. For two days - 20 and 21 August - there was no mention of Syria. On 22 August the lead item in the Morning Report dealt with Egypt; a subsequent item discussed an internal change in the command structure of one of the rebel groups in Syria. Nothing was noted about the use of nerve gas in Damascus that day. It was not until 23 August that the use of sarin became a dominant issue, although hundreds of photographs and videos of the massacre had gone viral within hours on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites. At this point, the administration knew no more than the public.

Obama left Washington early on 21 August for a hectic two-day speaking tour in New York and Pennsylvania; according to the White House press office, he was briefed later that day on the attack, and the growing public and media furore. The lack of any immediate inside intelligence was made clear on 22 August, when Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the State Department, told reporters: 'We are unable to conclusively determine [chemical weapons] use. But we are focused every minute of every day since these events happened ... on doing everything possible within our power to nail down the facts.' The administration's tone had hardened by 27 August, when Jay Carney, Obama's press secretary, told reporters - without providing any specific information - that any suggestions that the Syrian government was not responsible 'are as preposterous as suggestions that the attack itself didn't occur.'

The absence of immediate alarm inside the American intelligence community demonstrates that there was no intelligence about Syrian intentions in the days before the attack. And there are at least two ways the US could have known about it in advance: both were touched on in one of the top secret American intelligence documents that have been made public in recent months by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor.

On 29 August, the Washington Post published excerpts from the annual budget for all national intelligence programmes, agency by agency, provided by Snowden. In consultation with the Obama administration, the newspaper chose to publish only a slim portion of the 178-page document, which has a classification higher than top secret, but it summarised and published a section dealing with problem areas. One problem area was the gap in coverage targeting Assad's office. The document said that the NSA's worldwide electronic eavesdropping facilities had been 'able to monitor unencrypted communications among senior military officials at the outset of the civil war there.' But it was 'a vulnerability that President Bashar al-Assad's forces apparently later recognized.' In other words, the NSA no longer had access to the conversations of the top military leadership in Syria, which would have included crucial communications from Assad, such as orders for a nerve gas attack. (In its public statements since 21 August, the Obama administration has never claimed to have specific information connecting Assad himself to the attack.)

The Post report also provided the first indication of a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime's chemical weapons arsenal. The sensors are monitored by the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that controls all US intelligence satellites in orbit. According to the Post summary, the NRO is also assigned 'to extract data from sensors placed on the ground' inside Syria. The former senior intelligence official, who had direct knowledge of the programme, told me that NRO sensors have been implanted near all known chemical warfare sites in Syria. They are designed to provide constant monitoring of the movement of chemical warheads stored by the military. But far more important, in terms of early warning, is the sensors' ability to alert US and Israeli intelligence when warheads are being loaded with sarin. (As a neighbouring country, Israel has always been on the alert for changes in the Syrian chemical arsenal, and works closely with American intelligence on early warnings.) A chemical warhead, once loaded with sarin, has a shelf life of a few days or less - the nerve agent begins eroding the rocket almost immediately: it's a use-it-or-lose-it mass killer. 'The Syrian army doesn't have three days to prepare for a chemical attack,' the former senior intelligence official told me. 'We created the sensor system for immediate reaction, like an air raid warning or a fire alarm. You can't have a warning over three days because everyone involved would be dead. It is either right now or you're history. You do not spend three days getting ready to fire nerve gas.' The sensors detected no movement in the months and days before 21 August, the former official said. It is of course possible that sarin had been supplied to the Syrian army by other means, but the lack of warning meant that Washington was unable to monitor the events in Eastern Ghouta as they unfolded.

The sensors had worked in the past, as the Syrian leadership knew all too well. Last December the sensor system picked up signs of what seemed to be sarin production at a chemical weapons depot. It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian army was simulating sarin production as part of an exercise (all militaries constantly carry out such exercises) or actually preparing an attack. At the time, Obama publicly warned Syria that using sarin was 'totally unacceptable'; a similar message was also passed by diplomatic means. The event was later determined to be part of a series of exercises, according to the former senior intelligence official: 'If what the sensors saw last December was so important that the president had to call and say, "Knock it off," why didn't the president issue the same warning three days before the gas attack in August?'

The NSA would of course monitor Assad's office around the clock if it could, the former official said. Other communications - from various army units in combat throughout Syria - would be far less important, and not analysed in real time. 'There are literally thousands of tactical radio frequencies used by field units in Syria for mundane routine communications,' he said, 'and it would take a huge number of NSA cryptological technicians to listen in - and the useful return would be zilch.' But the 'chatter' is routinely stored on computers. Once the scale of events on 21 August was understood, the NSA mounted a comprehensive effort to search for any links to the attack, sorting through the full archive of stored communications. A keyword or two would be selected and a filter would be employed to find relevant conversations. 'What happened here is that the NSA intelligence weenies started with an event - the use of sarin - and reached to find chatter that might relate,' the former official said. 'This does not lead to a high confidence assessment, unless you start with high confidence that Bashar Assad ordered it, and began looking for anything that supports that belief.' The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war.


The White House needed nine days to assemble its case against the Syrian government. On 30 August it invited a select group of Washington journalists (at least one often critical reporter, Jonathan Landay, the national security correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, was not invited), and handed them a document carefully labelled as a 'government assessment', rather than as an assessment by the intelligence community. The document laid out what was essentially a political argument to bolster the administration's case against the Assad government. It was, however, more specific than Obama would be later, in his speech on 10 September: American intelligence, it stated, knew that Syria had begun 'preparing chemical munitions' three days before the attack. In an aggressive speech later that day, John Kerry provided more details. He said that Syria's 'chemical weapons personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations' by 18 August. 'We know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.' The government assessment and Kerry's comments made it seem as if the administration had been tracking the sarin attack as it happened. It is this version of events, untrue but unchallenged, that was widely reported at the time.

An unforseen reaction came in the form of complaints from the Free Syrian Army's leadership and others about the lack of warning. 'It's unbelievable they did nothing to warn people or try to stop the regime before the crime,' Razan Zaitouneh, an opposition member who lived in one of the towns struck by sarin, told Foreign Policy. The Daily Mail was more blunt: 'Intelligence report says US officials knew about nerve-gas attack in Syria three days before it killed over 1400 people - including more than 400 children.' (The number of deaths attributable to the attack varied widely, from at least 1429, as initially claimed by the Obama administration, to many fewer. A Syrian human rights group reported 502 deaths; Medicins sans Frontieres put it at 355; and a French report listed 281 known fatalities. The strikingly precise US total was later reported by the Wall Street Journal to have been based not on an actual body count, but on an extrapolation by CIA analysts, who scanned more than a hundred YouTube videos from Eastern Ghouta into a computer system and looked for images of the dead. In other words, it was little more than a guess.)

Five days later, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence responded to the complaints. A statement to the Associated Press said that the intelligence behind the earlier administration assertions was not known at the time of the attack, but recovered only subsequently: 'Let's be clear, the United States did not watch, in real time, as this horrible attack took place. The intelligence community was able to gather and analyse information after the fact and determine that elements of the Assad regime had in fact taken steps to prepare prior to using chemical weapons.' But since the American press corps had their story, the retraction received scant attention. On 31 August the Washington Post, relying on the government assessment, had vividly reported on its front page that American intelligence was able to record 'each step' of the Syrian army attack in real time, 'from the extensive preparations to the launching of rockets to the after-action assessments by Syrian officials.' It did not publish the AP corrective, and the White House maintained control of the narrative.

So when Obama said on 10 September that his administration knew Assad's chemical weapons personnel had prepared the attack in advance, he was basing the statement not on an intercept caught as it happened, but on communications analysed days after 21 August. The former senior intelligence official explained that the hunt for relevant chatter went back to the exercise detected the previous December, in which, as Obama later said to the public, the Syrian army mobilised chemical weapons personnel and distributed gas masks to its troops. The White House's government assessment and Obama's speech were not descriptions of the specific events leading up to the 21 August attack, but an account of the sequence the Syrian military would have followed for any chemical attack. 'They put together a back story,' the former official said, 'and there are lots of different pieces and parts. The template they used was the template that goes back to December.' It is possible, of course, that Obama was unaware that this account was obtained from an analysis of Syrian army protocol for conducting a gas attack, rather than from direct evidence. Either way he had come to a hasty judgment.

The press would follow suit. The UN report on 16 September confirming the use of sarin was careful to note that its investigators' access to the attack sites, which came five days after the gassing, had been controlled by rebel forces. 'As with other sites,' the report warned, 'the locations have been well travelled by other individuals prior to the arrival of the mission ... During the time spent at these locations, individuals arrived carrying other suspected munitions indicating that such potential evidence is being moved and possibly manipulated.' Still, the New York Times seized on the report, as did American and British officials, and claimed that it provided crucial evidence backing up the administration's assertions. An annex to the UN report reproduced YouTube photographs of some recovered munitions, including a rocket that 'indicatively matches' the specifics of a 330mm calibre artillery rocket. The New York Times wrote that the existence of the rockets essentially proved that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack 'because the weapons in question had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the insurgency.'

Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at MIT, reviewed the UN photos with a group of his colleagues and concluded that the large calibre rocket was an improvised munition that was very likely manufactured locally. He told me that it was 'something you could produce in a modestly capable machine shop.' The rocket in the photos, he added, fails to match the specifications of a similar but smaller rocket known to be in the Syrian arsenal. The New York Times, again relying on data in the UN report, also analysed the flight path of two of the spent rockets that were believed to have carried sarin, and concluded that the angle of descent 'pointed directly' to their being fired from a Syrian army base more than nine kilometres from the landing zone. Postol, who has served as the scientific adviser to the chief of naval operations in the Pentagon, said that the assertions in the Times and elsewhere 'were not based on actual observations.' He concluded that the flight path analyses in particular were, as he put it in an email, 'totally nuts' because a thorough study demonstrated that the range of the improvised rockets was 'unlikely' to be more than two kilometres. Postol and a colleague, Richard M. Lloyd, published an analysis two weeks after 21 August in which they correctly assessed that the rockets involved carried a far greater payload of sarin than previously estimated. The Times reported on that analysis at length, describing Postol and Lloyd as 'leading weapons experts'. The pair's later study about the rockets' flight paths and range, which contradicted previous Times reporting, was emailed to the newspaper last week; it has so far gone unreported.


The White House's misrepresentation of what it knew about the attack, and when, was matched by its readiness to ignore intelligence that could undermine the narrative. That information concerned al-Nusra, the Islamist rebel group designated by the US and the UN as a terrorist organisation. Al-Nusra is known to have carried out scores of suicide bombings against Christians and other non-Sunni Muslim sects inside Syria, and to have attacked its nominal ally in the civil war, the secular Free Syrian Army (FSA). Its stated goal is to overthrow the Assad regime and establish sharia law. (On 25 September al-Nusra joined several other Islamist rebel groups in repudiating the FSA and another secular faction, the Syrian National Coalition.)

The flurry of American interest in al-Nusra and sarin stemmed from a series of small-scale chemical weapons attacks in March and April; at the time, the Syrian government and the rebels each insisted the other was responsible. The UN eventually concluded that four chemical attacks had been carried out, but did not assign responsibility. A White House official told the press in late April that the intelligence community had assessed 'with varying degrees of confidence' that the Syrian government was responsible for the attacks. Assad had crossed Obama's 'red line'. The April assessment made headlines, but some significant caveats were lost in translation. The unnamed official conducting the briefing acknowledged that intelligence community assessments 'are not alone sufficient'. 'We want,' he said, 'to investigate above and beyond those intelligence assessments to gather facts so that we can establish a credible and corroborated set of information that can then inform our decision-making.' In other words, the White House had no direct evidence of Syrian army or government involvement, a fact that was only occasionally noted in the press coverage. Obama's tough talk played well with the public and Congress, who view Assad as a ruthless murderer.

Two months later, a White House statement announced a change in the assessment of Syrian culpability and declared that the intelligence community now had 'high confidence' that the Assad government was responsible for as many as 150 deaths from attacks with sarin. More headlines were generated and the press was told that Obama, in response to the new intelligence, had ordered an increase in non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. But once again there were significant caveats. The new intelligence included a report that Syrian officials had planned and executed the attacks. No specifics were provided, nor were those who provided the reports identified. The White House statement said that laboratory analysis had confirmed the use of sarin, but also that a positive finding of the nerve agent 'does not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible for the dissemination.' The White House further declared: 'We have no reliable corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used chemical weapons.' The statement contradicted evidence that at the time was streaming into US intelligence agencies.

Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin. At the time, al-Nusra was operating in areas close to Damascus, including Eastern Ghouta. An intelligence document issued in mid-summer dealt extensively with Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, a chemical weapons expert formerly of the Iraqi military, who was said to have moved into Syria and to be operating in Eastern Ghouta. The consultant told me that Tariq had been identified 'as an al-Nusra guy with a track record of making mustard gas in Iraq and someone who is implicated in making and using sarin.' He is regarded as a high-profile target by the American military.

On 20 June a four-page top secret cable summarising what had been learned about al-Nusra's nerve gas capabilities was forwarded to David R. Shedd, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. 'What Shedd was briefed on was extensive and comprehensive,' the consultant said. 'It was not a bunch of "we believes'". He told me that the cable made no assessment as to whether the rebels or the Syrian army had initiated the attacks in March and April, but it did confirm previous reports that al-Nusra had the ability to acquire and use sarin. A sample of the sarin that had been used was also recovered - with the help of an Israeli agent - but, according to the consultant, no further reporting about the sample showed up in cable traffic.

Independently of these assessments, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assuming that US troops might be ordered into Syria to seize the government's stockpile of chemical agents, called for an all-source analysis of the potential threat. 'The Op Order provides the basis of execution of a military mission, if so ordered,' the former senior intelligence official explained. 'This includes the possible need to send American soldiers to a Syrian chemical site to defend it against rebel seizure. If the jihadist rebels were going to overrun the site, the assumption is that Assad would not fight us because we were protecting the chemical from the rebels. All Op Orders contain an intelligence threat component. We had technical analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, weapons people, and I & W [indications and warnings] people working on the problem ... They concluded that the rebel forces were capable of attacking an American force with sarin because they were able to produce the lethal gas. The examination relied on signals and human intelligence, as well as the expressed intention and technical capability of the rebels.'

There is evidence that during the summer some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were troubled by the prospect of a ground invasion of Syria as well as by Obama's professed desire to give rebel factions non-lethal support. In July, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, provided a gloomy assessment, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee in public testimony that 'thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces' would be needed to seize Syria's widely dispersed chemical warfare arsenal, along with 'hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers.' Pentagon estimates put the number of troops at seventy thousand, in part because US forces would also have to guard the Syrian rocket fleet: accessing large volumes of the chemicals that create sarin without the means to deliver it would be of little value to a rebel force. In a letter to Senator Carl Levin, Dempsey cautioned that a decision to grab the Syrian arsenal could have unintended consequences: 'We have learned from the past ten years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state ... Should the regime's institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.'

The CIA declined to comment for this article. Spokesmen for the DIA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said they were not aware of the report to Shedd and, when provided with specific cable markings for the document, said they were unable to find it. Shawn Turner, head of public affairs for the ODNI, said that no American intelligence agency, including the DIA, 'assesses that the al-Nusra Front has succeeded in developing a capacity to manufacture sarin.'

The administration's public affairs officials are not as concerned about al-Nusra's military potential as Shedd has been in his public statements. In late July, he gave an alarming account of al-Nusra's strength at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. 'I count no less than 1200 disparate groups in the opposition,' Shedd said, according to a recording of his presentation. 'And within the opposition, the al-Nusra Front is ... most effective and is gaining in strength.' This, he said, 'is of serious concern to us. If left unchecked, I am very concerned that the most radical elements' - he also cited al-Qaida in Iraq - 'will take over.' The civil war, he went on, 'will only grow worse over time ... Unfathomable violence is yet to come.' Shedd made no mention of chemical weapons in his talk, but he was not allowed to: the reports his office received were highly classified.


A series of secret dispatches from Syria over the summer reported that members of the FSA were complaining to American intelligence operatives about repeated attacks on their forces by al-Nusra and al-Qaida fighters. The reports, according to the senior intelligence consultant who read them, provided evidence that the FSA is 'more worried about the crazies than it is about Assad.' The FSA is largely composed of defectors from the Syrian army. The Obama administration, committed to the end of the Assad regime and continued support for the rebels, has sought in its public statements since the attack to downplay the influence of Salafist and Wahhabist factions. In early September, John Kerry dumbfounded a Congressional hearing with a sudden claim that al-Nusra and other Islamist groups were minority players in the Syrian opposition. He later withdrew the claim.

In both its public and private briefings after 21 August, the administration disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra's potential access to sarin and continued to claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons. This was the message conveyed in the various secret briefings that members of Congress received in the days after the attack, when Obama was seeking support for his planned missile offensive against Syrian military installations. One legislator with more than two decades of experience in military affairs told me that he came away from one such briefing persuaded that 'only the Assad government had sarin and the rebels did not.' Similarly, following the release of the UN report on 16 September confirming that sarin was used on 21 August, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: 'It's very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.'

It is not known whether the highly classified reporting on al-Nusra was made available to Power's office, but her comment was a reflection of the attitude that swept through the administration. 'The immediate assumption was that Assad had done it,' the former senior intelligence official told me. 'The new director of the CIA, [John] Brennan, jumped to that conclusion ... drives to the White House and says: "Look at what I've got!" It was all verbal; they just waved the bloody shirt. There was a lot of political pressure to bring Obama to the table to help the rebels, and there was wishful thinking that this [tying Assad to the sarin attack] would force Obama's hand: "This is the Zimmermann telegram of the Syrian rebellion and now Obama can react." Wishful thinking by the Samantha Power wing within the administration. Unfortunately, some members of the Joint Chiefs who were alerted that he was going to attack weren't so sure it was a good thing.'

The proposed American missile attack on Syria never won public support and Obama turned quickly to the UN and the Russian proposal for dismantling the Syrian chemical warfare complex. Any possibility of military action was definitively averted on 26 September when the administration joined Russia in approving a draft UN resolution calling on the Assad government to get rid of its chemical arsenal. Obama's retreat brought relief to many senior military officers. (One high-level special operations adviser told me that the ill-conceived American missile attack on Syrian military airfields and missile emplacements, as initially envisaged by the White House, would have been 'like providing close air support for al-Nusra'.)

The administration's distortion of the facts surrounding the sarin attack raises an unavoidable question: do we have the whole story of Obama's willingness to walk away from his 'red line' threat to bomb Syria? He had claimed to have an iron-clad case but suddenly agreed to take the issue to Congress, and later to accept Assad's offer to relinquish his chemical weapons. It appears possible that at some point he was directly confronted with contradictory information: evidence strong enough to persuade him to cancel his attack plan, and take the criticism sure to come from Republicans.

The UN resolution, which was adopted on 27 September by the Security Council, dealt indirectly with the notion that rebel forces such as al-Nusra would also be obliged to disarm: 'no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [chemical] weapons.' The resolution also calls for the immediate notification of the Security Council in the event that any 'non-state actors' acquire chemical weapons. No group was cited by name. While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad's stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone. There may be more to negotiate.
(c) 2013 Seymour Hersh

Unholy River
By Uri Avnery

SO HERE comes John Kerry again, for the umpteenth time (but who is counting?) to make peace between us and the Palestinians.

It is a highly laudable effort. Unfortunately, it is based on a false premise. To wit: that the Israeli government wants peace based on the two-state solution.

Unwilling - or unable - to recognize this simple truth, Kerry looks for a way around. He tries approaches from different directions, in the hope of convincing Binyamin Netanyahu. In his imagination he hears Netanyahu exclaim: "Now, why didn't I think of that?!"

So here he comes with a new idea: to start by solving Israel's security problems and doing away with its worries.

Let's not talk for now about the other "core problems," he says. Let's look at your concerns and see how to meet them. I have brought with me an honest-to-goodness combat general with an honest-to-goodness security plan. Have a look at it!

This approach is based on the false premise - the offspring of the overall premise - that the "security concerns" cited by our government are genuine. Kerry is expressing the basic American belief that if reasonable people sit around a table and analyze a problem, they will find a solution.

So there is a plan. General John Allen, a former commander of the war in Afghanistan, puts it on the table and explains its merits. It addresses many worries. The main subject is the insistence of the Israeli army that whatever the borders of the future State of Palestine, Israel must continue for a long, long time to control the Jordan valley.

Since the Jordan valley constitutes about 20% of the West Bank, which together with the Gaza Strip constitutes altogether about 22% of the former country of Palestine, this is a non-starter.

For our government, that is its main value.

THE JORDAN, one of the most celebrated rivers in world history, is actually a smallish creek about 250 km long and a few dozen meters wide. Its sources are on the Syrian highlands (a.k.a. the Golan Heights) and it ends ingloriously in the Dead Sea, which is actually an inland lake. Not much of a river.

How did it attain its present strategic importance?

The following account is simplified, but not far removed from what actually happened.

Immediately after the June 1967 war, when all the Palestinian lands had fallen into Israel's hands, groups of agricultural experts swarmed over the West Bank to see what could be exploited.

Most of the West Bank consists of stony hills, very picturesque but hardly suited to modern agricultural methods. Every inch of arable land was used by the Palestinian villages, using terraces and other ancient methods. No good for new kibbutzim. Except the Jordan valley.

This valley, part of the huge Syrian-African rift, is flat. Lodged between the river and the central Palestinian mountain ridge, it also has ample water. For the trained eye of a kibbutznik, it was ideal for agricultural machinery. It was also sparsely populated.

Almost all important Israeli leaders at the time had an agricultural background. Levy Eshkol, the Prime Minister, had been responsible for many years, before the establishment of the state, for the Jewish settlement effort. The Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, was born in a kibbutz and grew up in a Moshav (cooperative village). The Minister of Labor, Yigal Allon, was not only a renowned general of the 1948 war but also a leader of the largest kibbutz movement. His mentor was Israel Galili, another kibbutz leader, the eminence grise of Golda Meir.

IT WAS Allon who provided the military pretext for keeping possession of the Jordan valley.

He devised a security plan for the post-1967 Israel. Its central plank was the annexation of the valley.

Known as the "Allon Plan", it had - and still has - a strong hold on Israeli political thinking. It was never officially adopted by the Israeli government. Nor does there exist an authorized map of the plan. But it has been endlessly discussed.

The Allon Plan provides for the annexation of the entire Jordan valley, the shore of the Dead Sea and the Gaza Strip. In order not to cut off the rest of the West Bank from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (also named for the river), the Plan left open a corridor between the two territories, near Jericho.

It was generally assumed that Allon intended to return the West Bank to the kingdom. But he did not really care. When I accused him from the Knesset rostrum of foiling the establishment of a Palestinian state, he sent me a note saying: "I am ready for a Palestinian state in the West Bank. So why am I less of a dove than you?"

THE MILITARY foundations of the Allon Plan were not entirely ridiculous - at the time.

One must remember the situation in, say, 1968. The Kingdom of Jordan was officially an "enemy country", though there was always a secret alliance with its kings. Iraq was a strong state, and its army was highly respected by our military. Syria had been beaten in the 1967 war, but their army was still intact. Saudi Arabia, with its enormous wealth, stood behind them. (Who could have even imagined that the Saudis would some day become our allies against Iran?)

The Israeli military nightmare was that all these military forces would suddenly come together on Jordanian soil and attack Israel, cross the river, unite with the West Bank Palestinians and invade Israel proper. At a certain point, between the West Bank town of Tulkarm and the Mediterranean Sea, Israel is only 14 (fourteen) kilometers wide.

That was 55 years ago. Today this picture is indeed ridiculous. The only possible military threat facing Israel comes from Iran, and it does not include an attack by massed troops on land. If Iranian missiles come flying towards us, Israeli troops on the Jordan river will be mere onlookers. They will have nothing to look at. The challenge will be met long before the missiles come near.

As for warning stations, they can be located in my apartment in Tel Aviv. The 100 or so kilometers from here to the Jordan will make no difference.

The same goes for other "security concerns", such as keeping warning stations in the West Bank.

The American general will listen politely and be hard put not to burst out laughing.

TODAY, THE Jordan valley is practically Arab-free. From time to time the few remaining Palestinians are mistreated by the army, in order to convince them to go away.

There are several Jewish settlements along the valley, put there by the Labor Party when it was still in power. The inhabitants don't employ labor from the neighboring Palestinian villages, but cheaper and more efficient workers from Thailand. The very hot climate - the entire valley lies below sea level - allows for the growing of tropical fruit.

The only remaining Palestinian township is Jericho, a green oasis, the lowest town on earth. The Palestinian chief negotiator, Sa'eb Erekat, lives there (though in 1948 his father was the leader of the Palestinian fighters of Abu Dis, now a suburb in annexed East Jerusalem.) Sometimes the participants in Kerry's "peace negotiations" meet there. Erekat, a nice person I used to meet at demonstrations, is in a state of resignation - in both senses.

ASSUMING FOR a moment that the general convinces Netanyahu that his security plan is wonderful and solves all our military problems, what difference would it make?

None whatsoever.

Instead, other "concerns" would come to the fore. There is an inexhaustible supply.

The same goes for the other story that fills Israel's newspapers and TV programs these days: the expulsion of the Bedouins in the Negev.

The Bedouins have inhabited that Sinai-Negev desert since times immemorial. Ancient Egyptian stone paintings show their characteristic beards (the same beard I brought home from the 1948 war, after fighting in the Negev).

During the first years of Israel, entire Bedouin tribes were displaced and expelled. The pretexts sound eerily familiar: to forestall an Egyptian attack from the south.

The real reason was, of course, to get them off their land and replace them with Jewish settlers. US history buffs will be reminded of the treatment of the native Americans. The Army (our army) conducted several major operations, but the Bedouins are multiplying at a ferocious rate, and now they are back up to a quarter of a million.

Being Bedouins, they live dispersed with their goats over large areas. The government is trying (again) to get them out. The bureaucrats want to "Judaize" the Negev (while trying at the same time to "Judaize" the Galilee). But they are also inimical to the idea that such a relatively small number of people is occupying such large tracts of land, even barren land.

Planners in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are drawing up all kinds of schemes to concentrate the Bedouins in townships, contrary to their traditional way of life. On paper, the plans look reasonable. In reality, they are designed to achieve the same as the plans for the Jordan valley: take land away from the Arabs and turn it over to Jewish settlers.

Call it Zionist, nationalist or racist, it is hardly an attitude conducive to peace. That should be the real concern of John Kerry and John Allen.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

With startling speed, a bankruptcy judge has moved Detroit to the auction block,
with the banksters pre-positioned to pick the bones of the Black metropolis.
Racism makes Wall Street's mission infinitely easier. "Detroit is the golden
opportunity to shape anti-democratic legal precedents that can be applied,
nationwide, with the least resistance from the white American public."

Detroit On The Auction Block
By Glen Ford

The corporate plan to abolish the last vestiges of urban democracy in the United States is proceeding on a "hyper fast track" with this week's court ruling that Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy "protection." Judge Steven Rhodes quickly made clear that the only parties to be protected in his venue are the bankers that will get first crack at the Black metropolis's remaining assets. Public workers' pensions, he ruled, are not entitled "to any extraordinary attention" under federal bankruptcy law, despite the Michigan state constitution's prohibitions against tampering with or diminishing pension benefits. The stage is now set for Kevyn Orr, the state-imposed Emergency Financial Manager, to put Detroit in hock to Britain's Barclays Bank for $350 million, in order to pay off Bank of America and UBS for a 2005 derivatives deal with the city. Barclay's would then become Detroit's "super-priority" creditor - King Predator - with first dibs on all city incomes and assets over $10 million.

The trial on Detroit's "restructuring" begins December 17 in Rhodes' court but, based on his conduct since assuming jurisdiction, there is little doubt of the outcome. The judge is an empathetic hangman who listens patiently to the pleas of the people - and then swiftly condemns them. He agreed with the pensioners that Orr had failed to negotiate in "good faith" with the unions, but then ruled that the petition for bankruptcy had been filed in good faith - which somehow negated Orr's bad faith negotiations.

Municipal bankruptcies are very rare, and tend to be long and tortuous legal ordeals, but Rhodes has greased the skids for the banksters to gulp down the city like fast food. He is on an accelerated Wall Street schedule, and there is no time to waste. Detroit is the golden opportunity to shape anti-democratic legal precedents that can be applied, nationwide, with the least resistance from the white American public. The city is guilty of excessive Blackness (82%) and must be punished. In a racist society, Detroit's bankruptcy fits perfectly the legal maxim that "hard cases" or "great cases" make "bad law." Whites can be expected to applaud a negative judgment on a Black city, with little thought to the ramifications for their own situations. Michigan voters, who rejected the idea of state emergency managers in a referendum, nevertheless favored Orr's filing of bankruptcy for Detroit. Whites have always made exceptions to common notions of justice when it comes to African Americans, resulting in grotesquely bad laws.

Wall Street is counting on reflexive racism to smooth the path to a new legal and social order, where capital is unencumbered by democratic constraints. Having already succeeded in disenfranchising a majority of the Black population of Michigan, there are now fewer legal impediments to doing the same thing to whites. After all, thanks to the Black Freedom Movement of the Sixties, the law is race-neutral.

Kevyn Orr, Judge Rhodes and Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder work for the banking cartel - as does President Obama and the leaders of the Democratic Party, who have done nothing to interfere with the urban doomsday process that is unfolding in Detroit. (Barclays Bank and UBS, the prime beneficiaries of Orr's restructuring plan, were just this week cited for taking part in a massive conspiracy to rig global LIBOR interest rates, in what has been called the greatest financial collusion of the century.) Finance capital, which creates nothing, is confiscating the wealth of the world. In the U.S., a thin veneer of democratic structures stands in the way. Therefore, restructuring is in order. What better place to start than in Detroit, a city filled with people who can be made exceptions to democratic norms.

Soon, the exception will become the rule.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The Nuclear Menace: Iran? Are You Serious? Or Delirious?
By Frank Scott

While alleged representatives of american democracy foam at the mouth over the fictional threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon, the real world existence of thousands of such weapons passes almost without notice, most especially those held by religious fanatics whose narrative leans heavily on potential doom coming at any moment and whose reality seems to work for just that end. But that's only in the eyes, ears and forcibly emptied minds of many western consumer-citizens, occupied with going into debt for the holy days of shopping and left with little time to contemplate material reality, especially since it is rarely presented to them in an individually understandable and socially coherent form.

After wreaking havoc on the democratic process in Iran many years ago when the USA and Britain conspired to destroy an elected government and replace it with a royal puppet of the west, the Iranian revolution of 1979 placed that nation on a hate list on a par with the old Soviet Union. In fact, these Muslims were painted as possibly bigger threats to mindless consumption and earth raping than the evil commies since they were driven by faith in god, something the west only uses for political manipulation of its voting consumers.

Sincere belief in a religious moral code among a people with real grievances against the west was quite frightening. The attacks on Iran since 1979 have been ongoing and deadly, both in financing wars against that nation and organizing political economic crimes that can take as many lives as a war.

Any efforts by Iran to take its place among others in what passes for an international community, that is, to actually participate in the creation of a real global community of nations, has been met by furious opposition in the west. It should be understood that "the west" amounts to the USA, Israel and its few lapdogs in Europe. Israel is not physically located in the west but it plays a western role in the fading but still deadly neo-colonial control of international majorities by a minority deeming themselves chosen people-master race-exceptional nations, and this with no evidence to back their alleged superiority except their massive military power able to waste millions of lives.

This is like a 400 lb brute pillaging, raping and murdering while considering himself a god for pleasuring and having power over so many women and not noticing that they are now armed, their numbers have grown and that he is close to being surrounded by them. Unfortunately, once he does notice, his desperate irrational fear and wrath will cause him to rape and murder even more - while insisting he is spreading more joy - until he is finally subdued. That is a simple description of the global situation as imperial capital, threatened as never before, strives to survive not only in its usual bloody fashion but even more dangerously by increasingly couching its crimes in the language of democracy and diplomacy.

Humanity - not just Iranians - needs to maintain hope for a better future, but also to be far more careful and wary of the growing danger even as possibilities for success grow. The empire is under stress everywhere and it is straining to maintain itself at any cost, however cosmetic the language employed by its leadership and their puppets. There may never have been a time of greater hope for the human race but conversely, humanity has never been living under the threat represented by a dying system which could take all of us down with it. National identity, such as presently strived for in Iran and countless other places formerly entirely under the boot heel of capital may be an important short term step in the direction of salvation, but internationalism is the giant step we need to take towards a better future for all.

The problem we confront is international and its solution will ultimately call for a democratic internationalism such as the world has never known before. Without it, we may face a future far more bleak than the worst forecasts of the present.
(c) 2013 Frank Scott writes political commentary and satire which appears online at the blog Legalienate.

Timmy gives the corpo-rat slaute

Geithner's Magical Trip Through The Revolving Door
Timmy Geithner has landed.

The Secretary of the Treasury in President Obama's first term resigned early this year, and we lost track of him for months. But in November, Geithner reappeared, having spun himself through Washington's revolving door - whoosh, whoosh, whoosh - and flung himself all the way up to Wall Street, landing softly in the cushy quarters of Warburg Pincus, one of America's top 10 private-equity empires. Yes, the guy who was responsible for rescuing and regulating Wall Street's too-big-to-fail, multibillion-dollar, financial casinos is now president of one.

Writing in The New Yorker magazine, Andrew Huszar says we need not be surprised that the former treasury chief is cashing in on his insider knowledge and contacts. Huszar worked at the New York Federal Reserve bank when Geithner became president of that powerful supervisor of Wall Street firms. He says that rather than promoting knowledgeable regulators from within the Fed, Geithner broke with tradition (and prudence) to put top bankers from JPMorgan Chase, American Express, Goldman Sachs, and other powerhouse firms in key regulatory positions. In other words, the new honcho built his own revolving door in the New York Fed, bringing in bankers to regulate themselves.

Thus, when Obama promoted Geithner to head the Treasury Department, Huszar was again unsurprised that our nation's overseer of banksters quickly proved to be their comforter and protector. "Geithner never publicly advocated for the truly forceful and clean revamp of Wall Street," writes Huszar, instead using his influence to convince "Obama and other lawmakers to be more accommodating to the big banks."

Whether spinning from the inside out, or from the outside in, Geithner is proof the Washington-Wall Street revolving door serves bankers, not the public interests. We need to weld that door shut.
(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.

What Didn't Kill Mandela Made Him Stronger
By David Swanson

Nelson Mandela's story, if told as a novel, would not be deemed possible in real life. Worse, we don't tell such stories in many of our novels.

A violent young rebel is imprisoned for decades but turns that imprisonment into the training he needs. He turns to negotiation, diplomacy, reconciliation. He negotiates free elections, and then wins them. He forestalls any counter-revolution by including former enemies in his victory. He becomes a symbol of the possibility for the sort of radical, lasting change of which violence has proved incapable. He credits the widespread movement in his country and around the world that changed cultures for the better while he was locked away. But millions of people look to the example of his personal interactions and decisions as having prevented a blood bath.

Mandela was a rebel before he had a cause. He was a fighter and a boxer. Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that South Africa benefited greatly from the fact that Mandela did not emerge from prison earlier: "Had he come out earlier, we would have had the angry, aggressive Madiba. As a result of the experience that he had there, he mellowed. ... Suffering either embitters you or, mercifully, ennobles you. And with Madiba, thankfully for us, the latter happened."

Mandela emerged able to propose reconciliation because he'd had the time to think it through, because he'd had the experience of overcoming the prisons' brutality, because he'd been safely locked up while others outside were killed or tortured, and also -- critically -- because he had the authority to be heard and respected by those distrustful of nonviolence.

The CIA had Mandela prosecuted in 1963. He might have been given the death penalty. Alan Paton testified in court that if Mandela and other defendants were killed the government would have no one to negotiate with (this at a time when both sides would have rather died than negotiate anything).

The U.S. government considered Mandela a terrorist until 2008, when he was a 90-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner (and most Nobel Peace Prize winners were not yet in the habit of engaging in terrorism).

But many here in the United States and around the world brought pressure to bear on the Apartheid government of South Africa in a manner similar to what is now being developed to pressure Israel. The times were changing. A door was just cracking open. And Mandela negotiated it right off its hinges, even as violence rolled on in Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, and the Middle East. Mandela showed another way -- or, rather, the first and only way that involved actually accomplishing positive change.

Mandela had flaws, and traits that many would consider flaws. Either his sex life or his economic reform agenda (not that he stood by the latter) would have disqualified him from politics in the United States even had he not been on the list of terrorists. His second wife suffered in the movement outside the prisons, turning toward anger and hatred even as her husband turned toward empathy and forgiveness.

Mandela did not adopt an ideology or a religion that imposed nonviolence on him. Rather, he found his way to tools that would work effectively, and to the state of mind that would give him the strength to implement them. He found, not only empathy but great humility. He sought fair elections but not a candidacy. Urged to become a candidate he committed to serving only one term. As the election results came in, reports are that he stopped the counting before his lead could grow so large as to exclude minority parties from the government. He credited the movement with the victory and invited his former jailer to his inauguration.

Danny Schechter has produced a fantastic new book about Mandela, called Madiba A to Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela. It's based on the making of a documentary series that's based on the making of the new film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which is in turn based primarily on Mandela's autobiography.

In the book, Schechter speculates on how the corporate media will cover Mandela's death. "Which Mandela will be memorialized? Will it be the leader who built a movement and a military organization to fight injustice? Or a man of inspiration with a great smile whom we admire because of the long years suffered behind bars?" It's a rhetorical question now and always was, but I wish the answer could have been something other than those two choices. I wish the answer were Mandela the man who negotiated a peaceful change, who forgave, who apologized, who sympathized, who showed a way for nations to live up to the standards of our children, whom we routinely urge to settle their problems with words rather than aggravating their problems with violence.

The United States needs that example when speaking with Iran. Colombia needs it as the possibility of peace glimmers in the distance there. Syrian builders of movements and military organizations that fight injustice need that example desperately.

When will we ever learn?
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Fungus Found Feeding On Nuclear Toxins
By James Donahue

Paul Stamets, possibly the world's top specialist in fungus and mushroom research, has touted the theory that the many existing fungal species on the planet may be capable of healing our bodies and even saving the Earth from the toxins we have damaged it with.

Now researchers at the ruined Chernobyl nuclear powered electric generating plant in the Ukraine, have discovered a strange black goo-like substance growing on the interior walls of the highly radioactive facility that appear to be proving Stamets right.

The slimy substance was collected by robotic machines that recently entered the plant, where no human has dared to go since the plant exploded in a meltdown and burned in a 1986 disaster, Examination of this substance, which appears to be growing on the walls, found it to contain a collection of several fungi that not only survives the radioactivity, but appears to be feeding on it.

Experiments in the lab found that the fungi grows significantly faster when exposed to gamma radiation at 500 times the radiation level measured at Chernobyl. In other words, the fungi appears to be doing what humans cannot do at Chernobyl. It is busy cleaning up the mess left at the site and possibly making the plant and the toxic ground for miles around fit for human, animal and vegetation to safely live there again.

Granted, the work of the fungi is a slow process. It may take a human lifetime or more to save the area. But this natural living instrument from the Mother Earth is busy eating away at the toxins.

What is amazing researchers is that the fungi appear to be using melanin, a chemical found in human skin, in the same way plants use chlorophyll, to do its work. One report noted that the melanin molecule alters the very chemistry of the gamma rays flying around inside the plant.

The discovery has the scientific world puzzling with possibilities for future use of fungal spores. If the Japanese workers can get the looming disaster at Fukishima under control, and save the damaged nuclear plants there from exploding then sending toxic radiation all over the Northern Hemisphere, there is a possibility that this area also can be rescued by the same black goo found growing at Chernobyl.

In fact, some researchers are considering modifications in the spores that can be sprayed around in the toxic buildings and then letting them feed freely on the radioactive isotopes.

Other thoughts are that similar spore mixtures might help solve problems facing future astronauts as they travel through space and survive the constant gamma ray bombardment from the sun. Various fungi that might grow on future space craft might prove to be a healthy food for space travelers.

Indeed, if people thought Stamets was a bit odd because of his intense lifelong interest in mushrooms, they are having second thoughts today. It appears that Stamets is not only right with his theories, he may have only scratched the surface in the kind of research that this new discovery at Chernobyl will spawn.
(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.

Nelson Mandela addresses crowd at a Port Elizabeth rally on April 1, 1990.

Nelson Mandela's Universal Declaration Of Human Rights
By John Nichols

The South African Constitution minces no words regarding access to medical care.

"Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care," the document declares, adding that: "The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realization of each of these rights."

At a time when the United States is engaged in an archaic debate over whether to even try and provide universal access to health care, most other countries well understand the absurdity of conditioning access to basic human needs - including access to health care, housing and education - on the ability to pay.

That understanding was championed by Nelson Mandela, whose life and legacy is being honored this week by President Obama, members of Congress and leaders from around the world. Fittingly, the memorials for Mandela will coincide with this week's 65th anniversary of the adoption (on December 10, 1948) by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - a document that the former South African president revered as a touchstone for nation building and governing.

Mandela, a lawyer by training and a student of constitutions, steered South Africa toward a broad understanding of human rights. When his country adopted its Constitution in 1996, he announced that: "The new constitution obliges us to strive to improve the quality of life of the people. In this sense, our national consensus recognizes that there is nothing else that can justify the existence of government but to redress the centuries of unspeakable privations, by striving to eliminate poverty, illiteracy, homelessness and disease. It obliges us, too, to promote the development of independent civil society structures."

There are many reasons to honor Mandela. And there is much to be borrowed from his legacy.

But it is absolutely vital, as we focus on this man, to recall his wise words with regard to human rights - and the role that government had in assuring access to those rights.

Mandela embraced the great vision of the 20th-century idealists who, at the end of World War II, recognized a responsibility to address the inequality that fostered fear, hatred and totalitarianism. It was an American, Eleanor Roosevelt, who reminded Americans seventy years ago that: "At all times, day by day, we have to continue fighting for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, and freedom from want-for these are things that must be gained in peace as well as in war."

President Franklin Roosevelt, with his 1941 "Four Freedoms" speech, had begun to scope out the broader definition of human rights, speaking not just of First Amendment liberties but also of a "freedom from want - which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world."

After her husband's death in 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt carried the vision forward in her dynamic role as the first chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. She oversaw the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that affirmed: "Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality."

The declaration also held out the promise that: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

When the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was celebrated in 1998, Mandela addressed the UN General Assembly.

"Born in the aftermath of the defeat of the Nazi and fascist crime against humanity, this Declaration held high the hope that all our societies would, in future, be built on the foundations of the glorious vision spelt out in each of its clauses," said Mandela, who had in the preceding decade made the transition from prisoner to president of South Africa. "For those who had to fight for their emancipation, such as ourselves who, with your help, had to free ourselves from the criminal apartheid system, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights served as the vindication of the justice of our cause. At the same time, it constituted a challenge to us that our freedom, once achieved, should be dedicated to the implementation of the perspectives contained in the Declaration."

Mandela accepted that challenge, and explained that it remained unmet in much of the world.

"The very right to be human is denied everyday to hundreds of millions of people as a result of poverty, the unavailability of basic necessities such as food, jobs, water and shelter, education, health care and a healthy environment," he said. "The failure to achieve the vision contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights finds dramatic expression in the contrast between wealth and poverty which characterizes the divide between the countries of the North and the countries of the South and within individual countries in all hemispheres."

The president of South Africa was explicit in his criticism of leaders who failed - by "acts of commission and omission" - to address civil and economic injustice.

"What I am trying to say is that all these social ills which constitute an offence against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not a pre-ordained result of the forces of nature or the product of a curse of the deities. They are the consequence of decisions which men and women take or refuse to take, all of whom will not hesitate to pledge their devoted support for the vision conveyed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he explained.

Looking to the future, Mandela concluded, "the challenge posed by the next 50 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by the next century whose character it must help to fashion, consists in whether humanity, and especially those who will occupy positions of leadership, will have the courage to ensure that, at last, we build a human world consistent with the provisions of that historic Declaration and other human rights instruments that have been adopted since 1948."
(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 supporter holds a picture of Edward Snowden, a former NSA employee who
leaked top-secret information about U.S. surveillance programs, outside
the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong on June 13, 2013.

Shooting The Messenger
By Chris Hedges

There is a deeply misguided attempt to sacrifice Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond on the altar of the security and surveillance state to justify the leaks made by Edward Snowden. It is argued that Snowden, in exposing the National Security Agency's global spying operation, judiciously and carefully leaked his information through the media, whereas WikiLeaks, Assange, Manning and Hammond provided troves of raw material to the public with no editing and little redaction and assessment. Thus, Snowden is somehow legitimate while WikiLeaks, Assange, Manning and Hammond are not.

"I have never understood it," said Michael Ratner, who is the U.S. lawyer for WikiLeaks and Assange and who I spoke with Saturday in New York City. "Why is Snowden looked at by some as the white hat while Manning, Hammond, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange as black hats? One explanation is that much of the mainstream media has tried to pin a dumping charge on the latter group, as if somehow giving the public and journalists open access to the raw documents is irresponsible and not journalism. It sounds to me like the so-called Fourth Estate protecting its jobs and 'legitimacy.' There is a need for both. All of us should see the raw documents. We also need journalists to write about them. Raw documents open to the world give journalists in other countries the chance to examine them in their own context and write from their perspectives. We are still seeing many stories based on the WikiLeaks documents. We should not have it any other way. Perhaps another factor may be that Snowden's revelations concern the surveillance of us. The WikiLeaks/Assange/Manning disclosures tell us more about our war crimes against others. And many Americans do not seem to care about that."

The charge that the WikiLeaks dump was somehow more damaging to the security and surveillance state because it was unedited, however, is false. Snowden's revelations to the journalist Glenn Greenwald, which are ongoing, have been far more devastating to the security apparatus than the material provided by Manning. Among the four larger data sets released by Manning-collectively 735,614 documents-only 223 documents were charged against the Army private first class under "reason to believe such information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation," as stated in the Espionage Act. Specifically there were 116 diplomatic cables, 102 Army field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, and five Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, as the journalist Alexa O'Brien has reported.

As O'Brien points out, many of the individual documents that resulted in charges have not been identified and those that have been are turning out to be very, very benign. For example, the government prosecuted the soldier, then known as Bradley Manning, for three detainee assessment briefs from Guantanamo Bay that were nothing more than profiles of the "Tipton 3," British citizens who were held for years without trial or charges before finally being released. The information Manning made public was not top secret. There was much in the WikiLeaks release that was already public or unclassified. All the leaked material had been widely circulated to at least half a million military and government officials as well as private contractors. It had no serious impact on U.S. operations at home or abroad. Even then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in a letter to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, admitted that a Department of Defense review of the leaked Manning documents had "not revealed any sensitive intelligence source and methods." But what the leaks did do was expose the deep cynicism of U.S. policy, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the plethora of government lies about what was happening under U.S. occupation. The WikiLeaks material documented several important war crimes that the government had covered up. Manning wrote, correctly, in a letter last October to The Guardian newspaper: " ... [T]he public cannot decide what actions and policies are or are not justified if they don't even know the most rudimentary details about them and their effects."

Manning, whose material was published by WikiLeaks as the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in his court-martial at Fort Meade, Md., on 22 charges, including espionage, exceeding authorized access, stealing U.S. government property and wanton publication.

The Snowden case differs substantially from Manning's. The Snowden leaks are top secret. They expose the National Security Agency's wholesale abuse of privacy across the world and repeated lies told by senior officials, including President Barack Obama, to cover up the massive capture, monitoring and storage of electronic communications of Americans and others. Snowden's revelations, unlike most of the revelations from Manning and WikiLeaks, detail current, ongoing operations. And these violations are being committed not only against foreigners but against us. Snowden is hated as much as any of the other leakers by the security and surveillance apparatus. He has done, arguably, far more damage than WikiLeaks by exposing the illegality of our surveillance state. It will not assist him if he or his supporters try to parse his way out of his legal problem-some of the charges against him are under the Espionage Act, which was used to charge Manning-by attempting to differentiate himself from other courageous whistle-blowers. The government propaganda machine, working feverishly to discredit Snowden, as well as Greenwald, the reporter who made public the Snowden documents, considers all leakers and their allies to be traitors. It doesn't make distinctions among them. And we shouldn't either.

The attempt to paint Snowden as prudent in his disclosures and Manning, Assange, WikiLeaks and Hammond as reckless will not protect Snowden. It myopically lends credibility to the relentless attacks by the government against Manning, Assange, WikiLeaks and others, such as Hammond, who has courageously and at great personal sacrifice opened a window into the nefarious world of the power elite.

If the corporate state were legitimate it would be worthy of more judicious and careful consideration. If the corporate state truly cared about the common good it would have to be treated with more deference. If the war on terror was, in actuality, a war to protect us rather than an excuse to enslave us we could take as serious our leaders' warnings about loss of secrecy. But our corporate overlords are gangsters in pinstriped suits. They care nothing for the rule of law. They have put into place the most sophisticated system of internal security in human history. They have shredded our most basic constitutional rights and civil liberties. They have turned the three branches of government into wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. They have seized control of the systems of information to saturate the airwaves with lies. They distort the law and government regulations to advance their own pillage and exploitation of us, as well as the ecosystem, which now totters toward global collapse. They have arrogated the right to assassinate U.S. citizens and to rain terror and death from the skies across the planet even though we have not declared war on any state that is being attacked by drone aircraft. There is no internal mechanism left, whether the courts, electoral politics, the executive branch of government or the traditional press, by which these corporate elites can be reigned in or held accountable. The corporate state, in theological terms, is about unchecked exploitation and death. And if the corporate state is not vanquished, and vanquished soon, the human species will not survive.
(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."

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

Fire The Liar
By Ray McGovern


FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Fire James Clapper

We wish to endorse the call by Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Committee on the Judiciary, that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should be removed and prosecuted for lying to Congress. "Lying to Congress is a federal offense, and Clapper ought to be fired and prosecuted for it," the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview with The Hill. "The only way laws are effective is if they're enforced."

Sensenbrenner added, "If it's a criminal offense - and I believe Mr. Clapper has committed a criminal offense - then the Justice Department ought to do its job."

This brief Memorandum is to inform you that we agree that no intelligence director should be able to deceive Congress and suffer no consequences. No democracy that condones such deceit at the hands of powerful, secretive intelligence directors can long endure.

It seems clear that you can expect no help from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to which Clapper has apologized for giving "clearly erroneous" testimony, and who, at the height of the controversy over his credibility, defended him as a "direct and honest" person.

You must be well aware that few amendments to the U.S. Constitution are as clear as the fourth:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Even the cleverest lawyers cannot square with the Fourth Amendment many of the NSA activities that Clapper and Feinstein have defended, winked at, or lied about.

Only you can get rid of James Clapper. We suspect that a certain awkwardness - and perhaps also a misguided sense of loyalty to a colleague - militate against your senior staff giving you an unvarnished critique of how badly you have been served by Clapper. And so we decided to give you a candid reminder from us former intelligence and national security officials with a total of hundreds of years of experience, much of it at senior levels, in the hope you will find it helpful.

*Statements by DNI Clapper re Eavesdropping on Americans*

March 12, 2013

Sen. Ron Wyden: "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

Clapper: "No, Sir."

Wyden: "It does not?"

Clapper: "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect but not, not wittingly."

(7-minute segment of Clapper testimony; link)


June 6, 2013

In a telephone interview with Michael Hirsh of the National Journal:

Clapper: "What I said [to the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 12] was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens' e-mails. I stand by that."


June 8, 2013 Excerpt of interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell:

Mitchell: "Senator Wyden made quite a lot out of your exchange with him last March during the hearings. Can you explain what you meant when you said that there was not data collection on millions of Americans?"

Clapper: "... in retrospect, I was asked - 'When are you going to start- stop beating your wife' kind of question, which is meaning not - answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no. So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying No. ...

"And this has to do with of course somewhat of a semantic, perhaps some would say too - too cute by half. But it is - there are honest differences on the semantics of what - when someone says 'collection' to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him."

(link to full NBC transcript)

(Full video - 27 min.)

(Most relevant segment)


June 9, 2013

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of Senate Intelligence Committee on "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos (after he showed video of Clapper testimony on March 12, 2013, denying that NSA collects "any type of data" on Americans): Stephanopoulos: "Senator Feinstein, I have to confess, I have a hard time squaring that answer with what we learned [from the Snowden disclosures] this week."

Feinstein: "Well, I think this is very hard. There is no more direct or honest person than Jim Clapper. ... You can misunderstand the question."


June 11, 2013

Sen. Ron Wyden issued the following statement regarding statements made by Clapper about collection on Americans:

"One of the most important responsibilities a Senator has is oversight of the intelligence community. This job cannot be done responsibly if Senators aren't getting straight answers to direct questions.

"When NSA Director Alexander failed to clarify previous public statements about domestic surveillance, it was necessary to put the question to the Director of National Intelligence. So that he would be prepared to answer [in his testimony on March 12], I sent the question to Director Clapper's office a day in advance.

"After the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer. Now public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives."


July 2, 2013

Clapper sends a letter to Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, in which he refers to his March 12 testimony denying that NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans." Clapper: "My response was clearly erroneous - for which I apologize."

A spokesman for Wyden, Tom Caiazza, said that a staff member in the Senator's office had asked Clapper to correct the public record after the March hearing, which he "refused" to do. Caiazza explained:

"Senator Wyden had a staff member contact the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on a secure phone line soon after the March hearing to address the inaccurate statement regarding bulk collection on Americans.

"The ODNI acknowledged that the statement was inaccurate but refused to correct the public record when given the opportunity. Senator Wyden's staff informed the ODNI that this was a serious concern. Senator Wyden is deeply troubled by a number of misleading statements senior officials have made about domestic surveillance in the past several years."


Mr. President, are you not also troubled by those misleading statements? We strongly believe you must fire Jim Clapper for his lies to the Congress and the American people and that you must appoint someone who will tell the truth.
(c) 2013 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years - from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one- on- one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

The Punishment Cure
By Paul Krugman

Six years have passed since the United States economy entered the Great Recession, four and a half since it officially began to recover, but long-term unemployment remains disastrously high. And Republicans have a theory about why this is happening. Their theory is, as it happens, completely wrong. But they're sticking to it - and as a result, 1.3 million American workers, many of them in desperate financial straits, are set to lose unemployment benefits at the end of December.

Now, the G.O.P.'s desire to punish the unemployed doesn't arise solely from bad economics; it's part of a general pattern of afflicting the afflicted while comforting the comfortable (no to food stamps, yes to farm subsidies). But ideas do matter - as John Maynard Keynes famously wrote, they are "dangerous for good or evil." And the case of unemployment benefits is an especially clear example of superficially plausible but wrong economic ideas being dangerous for evil.

Here's the world as many Republicans see it: Unemployment insurance, which generally pays eligible workers between 40 and 50 percent of their previous pay, reduces the incentive to search for a new job. As a result, the story goes, workers stay unemployed longer. In particular, it's claimed that the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which lets workers collect benefits beyond the usual limit of 26 weeks, explains why there are four million long-term unemployed workers in America today, up from just one million in 2007.

Correspondingly, the G.O.P. answer to the problem of long-term unemployment is to increase the pain of the long-term unemployed: Cut off their benefits, and they'll go out and find jobs. How, exactly, will they find jobs when there are three times as many job-seekers as job vacancies? Details, details.

Proponents of this story like to cite academic research - some of it from Democratic-leaning economists - that seemingly confirms the idea that unemployment insurance causes unemployment. They're not equally fond of pointing out that this research is two or more decades old, has not stood the test of time, and is irrelevant in any case given our current economic situation.

The view of most labor economists now is that unemployment benefits have only a modest negative effect on job search - and in today's economy have no negative effect at all on overall employment. On the contrary, unemployment benefits help create jobs, and cutting those benefits would depress the economy as a whole.

Ask yourself how, exactly, ending unemployment benefits would create more jobs. It's true that some of the currently unemployed, finding themselves even more desperate than before, might manage to snatch jobs away from those who currently have them. But what would give businesses a reason to employ more workers as opposed to replacing existing workers?

You might be tempted to argue that more intense competition among workers would lead to lower wages, and that cheap labor would encourage hiring. But that argument involves a fallacy of composition. Cut the wages of some workers relative to those of other workers, and those accepting the wage cuts may gain a competitive edge. Cut everyone's wages, however, and nobody gains an edge. All that happens is a general fall in income - which, among other things, increases the burden of household debt, and is therefore a net negative for overall employment.

The point is that employment in today's American economy is limited by demand, not supply. Businesses aren't failing to hire because they can't find willing workers; they're failing to hire because they can't find enough customers. And slashing unemployment benefits - which would have the side effect of reducing incomes and hence consumer spending - would just make the situation worse.

Still, don't expect prominent Republicans to change their views, except maybe to come up with additional reasons to punish the unemployed. For example, Senator Rand Paul recently cited research suggesting that the long-term unemployed have a hard time re-entering the work force as a reason to, you guessed it, cut off long-term unemployment benefits. You see, those benefits are actually a "disservice" to the unemployed.

The good news, such as it is, is that the White House and Senate Democrats are trying to make an issue of expiring unemployment benefits. The bad news is that they don't sound willing to make extending benefits a precondition for a budget deal, which means that they aren't really willing to make a stand.

So the odds, I'm sorry to say, are that the long-term unemployed will be cut off, thanks to a perfect marriage of callousness - a complete lack of empathy for the unfortunate - with bad economics. But then, hasn't that been the story of just about everything lately?
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen."
~~~ Friedrich Nietzsche

For Stimulus, Do Stadiums & Server Farms Beat Pensions & Social Security?
Cities are spending big on subsidies - but as progressives push to expand Social Security, data about economic development tells an important story
By David Sirota

Yesterday in San Francisco, activists surrounded a Google shuttle bus in protest of the city's tax-subsidized gentrification and its widening gap between rich and poor. Two years after Occupy Wall Street captivated the nation, this kind of righteous economic angst is now the defining political emotion of the moment, with no less than President Obama and the Pope both recently inveighing against economic inequality.

All of this means we will probably soon be seeing protests like yesterday's in San Francisco in other parts of the country. And, as I wrote last week, all of those protests will likely channel the zeitgeist of Detroit - a place that has become the most iconic symbol in the economic debate. There, as if proudly advertising its reverse-Robin Hood class war, the city is simultaneously seeking bankruptcy to avoid pensions payments, while pledging $400 million to build a new hockey stadium.

Whether or not Detroit's bankruptcy survives an expected legal challenge lead by the city's largest union, events in the Motor City are already reverberating throughout the country. Cities and states are now looking to the Motor City as a potential pension-slashing precedent setter. In fact, in the same week as the Detroit bankruptcy ruling, Illinois gutted its public employee pensions. Meanwhile, most opportunistically of all, Libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R) has proposed using the Detroit as a laboratory for a grand experiment with disaster capitalism.

The moral argument against all of this should be obvious, but it is also worth repeating: reducing the average municipal retiree's $19,000-a-year subsistence stipend to preserve corporate subsidies and to give sports teams gleaming new palaces is grotesque. The problem, though, is that today's politicians aren't as brazen as Marie Antoinette and so their "let them eat hockey tickets" agenda is rarely promoted in such honest terms. Instead, those decisions - whether in Detroit or elsewhere - are most often presented by politicians like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) as pragmatic, dispassionate and apolitical choices aiming to prioritize the venerated concept of "economic development."

This line of reasoning is supposed to end the conversation because, hey, who's against economic development, right? But such seemingly airtight talking points should actually raise an as-yet-unasked question - one that has nothing to do with morals and everything to do with dollars and cents.

The question is: are all the much-ballyhooed subsidies to corporations truly a better way to support a local economy than paying out promised retirement benefits to public employees?

If this particular query seems jarring, that's because in the increasingly demagogic discussion about public budgets, usually only corporate subsidies - and not pensions - are viewed in economic-development terms. Indeed, in the argot of today's skewed political conversation, pensions tend to be depicted only as drags on local economies that help nobody except for supposedly greedy police officers, firefighters, teachers, sanitation workers and other municipal employees. Meanwhile, the $80 billion in annual subsidies that states, counties and cities hand out to corporations are depicted as sacrosanct instruments of job creation and rising-tide-lifts-all-boats development.

But in purely cost-benefit analysis terms, is that a fair or even vaguely accurate way to assess economic development decisions? The short answer is: no.

The lesson from sports and tech

The best way to detect the problem with the economic development mythology surrounding subsidies is to look at the sports and tech worlds.

In the former, the fact that the capital and maintenance costs of more and more private stadiums are paid for with public dollars is rarely portrayed as an ongoing bailout of the Sports-Industrial Complex. Instead, the subsidies are typically presented by boosters like Snyder as "public-private partnership(s) that will lead to a number of construction jobs and more tax revenue" - endeavors that he says aim "to do as much as possible to grow" the local economy.

Yet, as the Brookings Institution documented in its exhaustive study, sports facilities have "an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment...No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment (and) no recent facility has been self-financing in terms of its impact on net tax revenues."

It's the same thing in various parts of the tech universe.

When it comes to data storage, for example, behemoths like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Verizon (among others) have secured massive taxpayer subsidies from states and municipalities on the promise that new server farms will generate jobs and boost local economies. Yet, there is mounting evidence that these subsidies do not meet those promises. Likewise, when it comes to software developers and online services, ballooning taxpayer subsidies are all the rage, even though many of the attendant promises of job growth and economic stimulus haven't been met.

Of course, those are just two prominent and well-documented examples that we know about - but there's an entire universe of corporate subsidies that happen in an information vacuum. As the New York Times reports, many governments do not even know if the subsidies they enacted were "worth it, because they rarely track how many jobs are created." The Times adds that "even where officials do track incentives, they acknowledge that it is impossible to know whether the jobs would have been created without the aid."

In Rumsfeldian terms, the combination of these known knowns (many subsidies rip off taxpayers) and known unknowns (many governments don't collect subsidy performance data) should at minimum inform America's economic development conversation. More specifically, these facts probably should deter lawmakers and reporters from pretending that corporate subsidies are tried and true ways to successfully support local economies.

However, the opposite is happening. In the name of economic development, states and cities simultaneously cutting pensions and preserving these subsidies are effectively implying that the subsidies are somehow more crucial to local economies than paying out retirement benefits - even though data suggests otherwise.

Pensionomics 101

There's plenty of evidence proving that funding programs like food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Social Security is one of the best ways to quickly stimulate an economy - and certainly a more reliable way to do so than giving rich people and huge corporations more money. This shouldn't be particularly surprising. After all, safety-net and retirement income programs deliver resources not to cash-hoarding corporations that have been letting money sit idle but instead to the particular populations that are most likely to quickly spend the money on basic necessities.

That truism applies to pensions. As the National Institute on Retirement Security reports, "For each dollar paid out in pension benefits, $2.36 in total economic output was supported (and) for every dollar contributed by taxpayers to state and local pension funds, $11.45 in total output is supported in the national economy."

Such benefits are at least as effective a tool of local economic development as any corporate handout. After all, as the National Conference of State Legislatures documents, "More than 90 percent retire in the same jurisdiction where they worked," which means that "over $175 billion in annual benefit distributions from pension trusts are a critical source of economic stimulus to communities (and) act as an economic stabilizer in difficult financial times."

The choice for budget-strapped states and cities, then, isn't what we are led to believe it is by the political and media class - it isn't between job-boosting corporate subsidies and economy-draining pensions. It is between preserving corporate subsidies that often create few jobs and preserving pensions that are all but guaranteed to pump money into a local economy.

A question of political incentives

Questions beget more questions, and so there's one more: If it is really true that paying out pension benefits rather than preserving business subsidies is a more reliable way to stabilize and support a local economy, then why are lawmakers in Detroit and elsewhere considering simultaneously slashing public pensions and preserving the corporate subsidies?

One answer is wealthy campaign donors (sports franchise owners, CEOs, corporate shareholders, industry titans, etc.) who disproportionately benefit from governments' corporate subsidies. These oligarchs spend far more on bankrolling political campaigns than, say, $19,000-a-year pensioners do. And so in the face of budget crises, donation-seeking politicians are prone to preserve their donors' business subsidies and balance budgets through cuts to pensioners' stipends - even though that may be terrible macroeconomic policy (this pay-to-play dynamic, by the way, is only intensified by Wall Street, which also makes big campaign contributions and stands to gain when states and cities cite budget pressures as a rationale to convert traditional pensions into 401(k) style systems).

Another answer is a bread-and-circuses political culture. To put it bluntly, in an America that fetishizes shiny things, voters have rewarded politicians who prioritize "public-private" projects that result in ostentatious bling - stuff like big new stadiums, supermodern server farms and sleek office towers. That bling may be a monument to waste, fraud, cronyism and destructive economic policy, but it at least looks like progress - especially when it obscures or geographically displaces outright blight. By contrast, politicians proposing to simply preserve or - gasp! - expand stuff like pensions or Social Security expose themselves to nasty charges of welfare queen-ism.

The good news is that for all the efforts to make the "Robocop" franchise's satirical vision of Detroit a reality, there is at least some evidence that a competing dynamic may emerge - one that casts subsidies as waste and the social safety net as stimulus.

On the subsidy side, for instance, in California, as the political class pushes to both cut public employee pensions but preserve the profligate state's corporate subsidies, voters in the state capital are mounting a ballot initiative to reject a quarter-billion-dollar subsidy for a new NBA stadium. Similarly, in the politically conservative Atlanta suburbs, Tea Party groups, progressives activists and a Democratic county commissioner are together fighting a plan by Republican politicians and the business lobby to spend $300 million of taxpayer money on a new professional baseball stadium.

At the same time, on the social safety net side, the Democratic Party's rising star Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is using her platform to not only oppose the White House's possible cuts to Social Security but also make an economic-stimulus case for expanding Social Security.

The bad news, though, is that the old political incentives and vernacular still dominate. Yes, it is still easier for a politician to raise big money by supporting subsidies even when those subsidies do not create jobs, and it is still easier to cast pensions as another set of "entitlements" rather than admit they are critical pillars of economic development. Until those incentives and that language changes, "let them eat hockey tickets" will be the rule - not the exception.
(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.

Ted Cruz speaking at the 2012 Liberty Political Action Conference in Chantilly, Virginia.

It Only Hurts When I Laugh
By William Rivers Pitt

No one has recently said to me, "You can only get so angry," and escaped with their hide intact, probably because I tend to spend my time with people who know better, and the people who know me know better than to try and tell me I'm making too much of things in this diseased day and age, when "things" make plenty of themselves without my help.

Sometimes, however, you just have to laugh. It's either that or firebombing.

Case in point:

There is currently in print a Ted Cruz coloring book for children. This is the cover. It is called "Cruz To The Future," and that cover has birds and bushes and soon-to-be-extinct monarch butterflies...and Ted, with a blue suit and a porn-clown smile, shooting a Double Fonzie at a tree.

Oh, the tree. Dear God and Sonny Jesus, the fa-chrissakes tree.

The roots spell out "ROOTS," but look suspiciously like the Flying Spaghetti Monster (bless His noodly appendage). Then there's grass, a fact given away by the large "GRASS" etched in the grass - get it? "Grass"..."Roots" clever - before we move up the trunk (labeled "TEA PLANT") which eventually bifurcates into two separate branches.

This is all very deep. I hope you're keeping up.

The main branch, which is branded with the legend "U.S. CONSTITUTION," leads to several leaves with labels on them. "Opportunity" and "Diversity" are two leaves, "Freedom" and "Inclusion" are two others...but then we reach higher to find a leaf that reads "Lower Taxes," and one other, the highest of them all, that reads, "White House." Which is hilarious, if you think about it.

Wait, sorry, I said, "think."

The other branch is branded with the legend, "TEN COMMANDMENTS." There are but two leaves sprouting from this branch: "Free Enterprise," and above it, "Gun Rights." Take a second and come to grips with that little slice of psychotic Christian Dominionist nonsense.

Yeah, that happened.

And that's just the cover. The guts of the nuts could inspire a statue to look sideways and blink:

* Ted Cruz Is A Man Of Great Virility And Stamina: Many "career establishment politicians are far too out of shape, old or overweight to even perform such a magnificent feat" as standing on the Senate floor and talking for over 21 hours. But not Ted Cruz!

* Ted Cruz Can See The Future: Cruz spoke with "clairvoyant precision" about the "quickly approaching Obama Care disaster."

* Cruz Is The Constitution's Guardian: Ted Cruz is a "passionate fighter for limited government, economic growth, and the Constitution."

* Providing Health Care To People Who Can't Afford It Is Worse Than War: Cruz's failed stand against the Affordable Care Act "was so important because millions of citizens believe Obama Care is worse than any war. At least American soldiers have weapons with which to defend themselves."

Upon encountering this reality, my brain slithered out of my left ear, crawled into the bathroom, and wept piteously for hours with its face pressed into the cold porcelain truth of the toilet base. I don't blame it, and am frankly glad it left for a while; had it stayed, that would have been me on the bathroom floor, wailing into the o-ring about the burdens of the age.

You can only get so angry, and then someone comes up with a Ted Cruz coloring book. Call it God's own little valve release: all the steam hisses out in a gale of bewildered hilarity, and you die a little inside.

Until you find out that Ted Yoho, the GOP House Rep. from Florida, has scheduled plans to host a gun training event on December 14th, the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, and then all the funny goes out of you like the whole wide world just punched you in the gut.

Twenty children slaughtered. Twenty-six people dead in total. You can listen to the 911 calls if you're of a mind, because they're out there now. There are few days in our history that we as a nation have suffered that were worse day than December 14, 2012...but hey, let's have gun fun with an elected official on the one-year marker of that day. A Yoho spokesman told the Gainesville Sun that the timing was entirely a coincidence.


It should be safe to treat people like Cruz and Yoho as walking absurdities. Doing so has the added advantage of accuracy: they are absurd, and offensive, and cruel, and silly, and stupid, and wrong.

Doing so, however, is not at all safe; they are also far more powerful than they deserve to be, far more powerful than any sane society should ever let people like them become.

I want to laugh. I really do.

But that's the thing. The joke, in the end, is on us.
(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...

Debbie gives the corp-rat slaute

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Stabenow,

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 gleefully cutting back another $8 billion in food stamps, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 12-31-2013. We salute you Frau Stabenow, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

One Answer To Low-Wage Work: Redistributing The Gains
By Robert Reich

The President's speech yesterday on inequality avoided the "R" word. No politician wants to mention "redistribution" because it conjures up images of worthy "makers" forced to hand over hard-earned income to undeserving "takers."

But as low-wage work proliferates in America, so-called takers are working as hard if not harder than anyone else, and often at more than one job.

Yet they're still not making it because the twin forces of globalization and technological change have reduced their bargaining power and undermined their economic standing - while bestowing ever greater benefits on a comparative few with the right education and connections (and whose parents are often best able to secure these advantages for them).

Better education and training for those on the losing end is critically important, as will several of the other proposals the President listed. But they will only go so far.

The number of losers is growing so quickly, and so much of the economies' winnings are going to a small group at the top - since the recovery began, 95 percent of the gains have gone to the richest 1 percent - that some direct redistribution of the gains is necessary.

Without some redistribution, the losers are likely to react in ways that could hurt the economy. They'll demand protection from global markets they believe are taking away good jobs, and even from certain technological advances that threaten to displace them (rather than smash the machines, as did England's 19th-century Luddites, they'll seek regulations that preserve the old jobs).

Without some redistribution, our ever-increasing number of low-wage workers won't have enough money to keep the economy going. (This is one reason why the current recovery has been so anemic.)

And without some redistribution, America's growing army of low-wage workers may fall prey to demagogues on the right or left who offer convenient scapegoats for their frustrations.

One way we already redistribute is through the Earned Income Tax Credit, a wage subsidy for the working poor, which, at about $60 billion a year, is the nation's largest anti-poverty program. It's like a reverse income tax - larger at the bottom of the wage scale (now around $3,000 for incomes around $20,000) and gradually tapering off as incomes rise (vanishing at around $35,000).

The EITC subsidy should be enlarged and extended further up the wage scale before tapering off.

How to pay for this? By cutting subsidies and special tax breaks for the oil and gas industries, big agribusiness, military contractors, hedge-fund and private-equity partners, and Wall Street banks. And by capping individual tax deductions (deductions are the economic equivalent of government subsidies) for gold-plated health care plans, lavish business junkets and interest on giant mortgages.

In other words, we can finance much of this redistribution to the working poor by ending unnecessary redistributions to the wealthy.
(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.

Incoming NYPD commissioner William Bratton and mayor-elect Bill de Blasio

Dismantling The Myth Of Bill Bratton's LAPD
Bill de Blasio touts his police commissioner pick as a "progressive visionary," but Bill Bratton's record tells a different story.
By Tom Hayden

The return of William Bratton as New York's top cop raises questions about how far reform of stop-and-frisk laws will go. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has extolled the incoming chief for implementing "constitutional" stop-and-frisk policies during his Los Angeles tenure.

Stop right there and frisk Bratton's Los Angeles record. It's not what you might think.

The LAPD's current inspector general, Alex Bustamante, is combing incomplete data from the LA Bratton era, 2002-2009, but certain facts are clear. Violent crime declined in LA during those seven years. Bratton achieved his stated goal of "freeing" the LAPD from a federally imposed consent decree. Public opinion toward the LAPD rose to favorable levels in the African-American and Latino communities. But the numbers on "stops" [LA terminology for stop-and-frisk] point towards racial profiling and a possible ticking time bomb.

First, a comparison. Bratton personally commissioned a 2009 Harvard study of the LAPD which showed an escalation of stops- both pedestrian and motorists-from 587,200 in 2002 to 875,204 in 2008, equally or surpassing the stop-and-frisk numbers in New York, where the policy was ruled unconstitutional and was a central issue in de Blasio's campaign. Well over 70 percent of 2008 LAPD stops in inner-city precincts were of African American and Latinos, a ration similar to New York's.

There was a "steep increase" in arrests for minor crimes, known as Part Two [loitering DUI, disorderly conduct], in keeping with the Bratton philosophy of "broken windows" policing, while arrests for serious [Part One] crimes such as homicide and rapes declined to only fifteen percent of total arrests from 2003-2007. Broken communities, not broken windows, are the real socio-economic crisis in LA, and Bratton's approach simply served to perpetuate the divide. The priorities set by Bratton were untouched by police reform because of they were considered "police management decisions to use arrest powers more aggressively for less serious crimes."

The Harvard report found a 17 percent increase from 2006-2008 in the use of non-lethal force [stun guns, bean bags, etc] in the predominately black Central Bureau. "A troubling pattern in the use of [non-lethal] force," the report concludes, "is that African Americans, and to a lesser extent Hispanics, are subjects of the use of force out of proportion to their share of involuntary contacts with the LAPD."

Only 1.6 percent of 2,368 citizen complaints of officer "discourtesy" were upheld. There was a total rejection of 1,200 racial profiling complaints during 2003-2008.

Bratton was out of Los Angeles one-third of the time in certain years, when he was often in Washington DC, London and, of course, New York. The NY City Council will have a significant role to play in monitoring the Bratton policies, a power that was delegated to federal monitors in the case of Los Angeles.

De Blasio might find Bratton's finesse at avoiding consent decrees useful as the mayor grapples with the issues ahead. What other reason there might be for the choice of Bratton is unknown, but Bratton remains a high-profile, internationally-known, celebrity-befriending figure with great ambitions.

Bratton's departure from LA left a lingering question about conflicts of interest that deserve renewed scrutiny. He worked in 2001 as a paid consultant under Michael Cherkasky of New York-based Kroll Inc., who had just been appointed as the federal monitor over the department. Bratton became chief in October 2002. That meant that the monitor was monitoring his former consultant. While Bratton labored to have the consent decree lifted, he continued some sort of relationship with Cherkasky, since four months after the federal decree was ordered lifted, Cherkasky hired Bratton for a lucrative job at Altegrity Inc., which Bratton had created only one month before. Leaving the LAPD with the consent decree lifted, Bratton next rose into the sphere of global security counseling, where transparency tends to be non-existent. The Los Angeles Times' Tim Rutten's comment on Bratton is worth considering as he arrives to reform New York policing:

In other words, the monitor gave the court advice that helped cement Bratton's reputation as the country's leading police chief, then just weeks later the two enter into a lucrative business arrangement built on that very reputation.
Many in the LA civil liberties community, from the ACLU's Ramona Ripston to civil rights lawyer Connie Rice, supported Bratton during his stay, perhaps in comparison to Los Angeles' long history of abusive policing. No doubt those endorsements carried weight with de Blasio's incoming team. But the co-optation of his critics also eroded a once-aggressive civil rights community in Los Angeles, one which forced the city into federal receivership and reform. That too is a legacy for New Yorkers to monitor carefully as Bratton tries to make stop-and-frisk "constitutional."

Candidate de Blasio promised to end a "stop-and-frisk era." But Mychal Denzel Smith says the mayor-elect's pick for police commissioner undermines that goal.
(c) 2013 Tom Hayden is a former state senator and leader of 1960's peace, justice and environmental movements. He currently teaches at PitzerCollege in Los Angeles. His books include The Port Huron Statement [new edition], Street Wars and The Zapatista Reader.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Scott Stantis ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The Top 10 Comedic News Stories Of 2013
By Will Durst

Be still your beating hearts. As we exultantly find ourselves in this festive place once again. The most wonderful time of the year. When squealing children race home from school to check and recheck their favorite news websites. Husbands and wives fight for possession of the living room tablet. Grandparents double up on their meds. Relax, everybody. It's finally here. Yes, you may consider the Top Ten Comedic News Stories of 2013 officially released.

Some years make it darn near impossible from which to strain a few meager laughs. As amusing as a broken crutch on the edge of a toxic waste dump. But enough about Detroit. Because in terms of funny comedy humor, this year was lush and fecund like a tropical rain forest. Horsemeat discovered to be a major component of IKEA's meatballs. And the teachable moment here could be not to look to Swedish furniture manufacturers for our nutritional needs.

It is pivotal to understand that the Top Ten Comedic News Stories of 2013 are in no way to be confused with the Top Ten Legitimate News Stories of 2013. No. No. No. They are as different as soy beans and lug nuts. Bluetooth and dental floss. Palm fronds and those weird cone- shaped collars that dogs wear to keep from chewing their butts.

These are the stories and events of the year thus far, that most lent themselves to mocking and scoffing and taunting as determined by the executive council of the Comics, Clowns, Jesters & Satirists Union. Which, as you probably have already guessed, is... me.

Number 10. The president becomes a lame duck four months into his second term. Beyond lame duck. More of a quadriplegic platypus. Barack Obama Leadership Skills. Like saying Fukushima sushi. Paula Deen at the Apollo.
9. Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner attempts a comeback. And he proves once again that his name is also the source of most of his problems.
Pope Francis turns out to be a liberal Democrat while Pope Benedict stays busy updating his Christian Mingle profile.
To escape government persecution, world class leaker Edward Snowden runs first to China and then to Russia. Which is like joining the army because "you're tired of people telling you what to do."
Ted Cruz rallies fellow Tea Partiers by reading Green Eggs & Ham on the floor of the Senate, then misinterprets the moral of a book aimed at kindergarteners.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admits using crack during "one of his drunken stupors." Yes, plural. Subsequently sees his approval rating shoot up 5 points. Not saying Obama should replicate this strategy, but if the big fat shoe fits...
Spying revelations shock America. Turns out the only way to keep the NSA from following our every move, is by becoming one of their employees.
Dennis Rodman becomes a roving ambassador. Ambassador Worm. What's next -- Mike Tyson, Poet Laureate. Kim Kardashian, Molecular Chemistry Consultant. Tim Tebow, NFL QB.
Government shutdown. America comes excruciatingly close to defaulting. Again. And you know what happens then. We have to move back in with Britain.
Affordable Care Act website debacle. Most people decide it would be easier to let the NSA handle the whole thing. After all, they have all our information and probably know which plan best fits.
(c) 2013 Will Durst's, the recipient of 7 consecutive nominations for Stand Up of the Year, Will Durst's new one- man show "BoomerAging: From LSD to OMG" in its final extension: through Dec 17 every Tuesday at the Marsh, San Francisco. Go to... for more info. Use code "boomer" for $10 tix. And come see the latest Will & Willie podcast taping. Monday @ 6pm @ the Gold Dust Lounge @ 165 Jefferson.

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Iraq Deaths Estimator

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 48 (c) 12/13/2013

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