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In This Edition

Edward Snowden joins us with, "NSA Surveillance Is About Power, Not 'Safety.'"

Uri Avnery finds Israel in a, "Self-Boycott."

Glen Ford examines, "Nelson Mandela's Long Death."

Norman Solomon looks, "Under Amazon's CIA Cloud: The Washington Post."

Jim Hightower warns, "Wall Street Regulator Replaced By Wall Street Conciliator."

David Swanson imagines, "Peace In The Pentagon."

James Donahue says let's go trippin', in, "Author Claimed Jesus Was A Mushroom."

John Nichols reports, "Judge Rules Against NSA Spying; Congress Should Do The Same."

Chris Hedges with a must read, "The Play's The Thing."

Joel Hirschhorn shares, "Memories Of South Africa."

Paul Krugman explains, "Why Inequality Matters."

David Sirota asks of the, "Labor And The Information Economy: Which Side Are You On, Ed?"

William Rivers Pitt declares, "Here Lies America: Shot To Death."

US Senator Patty Murray D/Wa wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich concludes, "When Charity Begins at Home (Particularly the Homes of the Wealthy)."

Thom Hartmann returns with, "Federal Judge Ruled That The NSA Is Likely Violating The Fourth Amendment, And More."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reads, "Children's Letters To Megyn Kelly" but first Uncle Ernie sez according to the FBI, "I'm A Terrorist!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Ed Stein, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf, Lee Lorenz, Robert Shetterly, Shannon Stapleton, Ozier Muhammad, Ted S. Warren, Jonathan Ernst, The Internet Cafe, Parker Brothers, Reuters, AP, The New York Times, The New Yorker, MSNBC, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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I'm A Terrorist!
And according to the FBI, you're a terrorist, too!
By Ernest Stewart

"The Towers didn't fall down because airplanes hit them. They fell down because of explosives went off inside. Demolition." ~~~ US Army Major General Albert Stubblebine

"If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live." ~~~ Maurice Maeterlinck

"This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration's cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way. It's a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work." ~~~ US Senator Patty Murray

Fight the good fight every moment
Every minute, every day
Fight the good fight every moment
Make it worth the price we pay
Fight The Good Fight ~~~ Triumph

I see where Fatherland Security and their sub groups, The NSA and FBI are now classifying more than half the US population as Terrorists. What you thought they were spending tens of billions of dollars on Concentration Camps, oops my bad, "Happy Camps" just for the fun?

For example, "A Department of Justice memo instructs local police, under a program named 'communities against terrorism,' to consider anyone who harbors 'conspiracy theories' about 9/11 to be a potential terrorist." As Dubya and Jesus said, "You're either with us or against us!" So if you're anti-war, they see you as a terrorist, no matter what your conscienc, god or devil says about it!

Another act of terrorism in their eyes is, "Excusing violence against Americans on the grounds that American actions provoked the problem." This is an apparent reference to thinking such as the "blowback" doctrine, which criticizes US foreign policy and links alleged errors in that policy, such as the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, to terrorist activity. So 1 + 1 = 2 is now a potential act of terrorism; imagine that! In fact, law enforcement veteran James Wesley Rawles warned that "the Department of Homeland Security is being trained to consider as potential terrorists, those who had expressed 'libertarian philosophies, 'Second Amendment-oriented views,' 'Self-sufficiency' (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies,) 'Fear of economic collapse,' 'fears of Big Brother or big government,' and 'Declarations of Constitutional rights and civil liberties.'" Seems to me that just about includes everyone as is, does it not? Is there anyone across the political spectrum that doesn't believe at least part of that?

You may recall back in 2009 when the Department of Homeland Security issued a report describing returning Iraq veterans as potential terrorists. To be fair, they might be on to something here? I know when I got out of the Army I wanted to have a little talk with LBJ and Robert McNamara at the point of my old 155 howitzer. You may also recall why the wild, wild, west was so wild, viz., Civil War vets!

Isn't it funny how there's no mention of potential terrorists in Washington DC, the home of the biggest terrorist group in the world!??! Not only the Con-gress and the White House and the Extreme Court, but all these sub groups like the NSA, FBI and Fatherland, oops, don't want to give it away, Homeland Security!

Of course, we're still not quite there yet, and won't be until they expand their list to include everyone as a potential terrorist; shouldn't be too much longer now! It might be a good time to do something about it, while you still can! I think you'll find when you're strapped into a boxcar for the ride to the camp, it may be a little too late!

In Other News

I got to wondering the other day about what might be in my honey. I like to eat a teaspoonful everyday; but should I? After all, with hives being poisoned by pesticides, various fungus, and gmo poisons, how much of that is transferred into the honey? Somehow, I have a feeling that when beekeepers lose their colonies, they'll still sell off the honey to make a buck from the disaster.

Beyond the honey, if bees keep dying off at this rate, we're going to be facing a horrific agricultural crisis very rapidly in the United States. Last winter, 31 percent of all U.S. bee colonies were wiped out. The year before that it was 21 percent. These colony losses are being described as "catastrophic" by those in the industry, and nobody is quite sure how to fix the problem. Ergo, we may be seeing the last of certain crops that count on honey bees to pollinate them.

Consider that bees have been used throughout the centuries to poison people by feeding them honey made from poison plants. Every culture from New Zealand to Mexico knew of certain plants that would pass through bees without harm, but kill humans - and made use of this knowledge.

Eventually, people learned how to game the system. Small doses of raving honey, also called "fresh honey" because it came in early spring, were used recreationally. When opium started growing, many used honey cultivated near opium fields to get high. Others noticed that chestnut honey had a hypnotic effect. In New Jersey, early beekeepers sold honey made from the flowers of the Mountain Laurel, supposedly as a tonic, but actually to get people high. Imagine that, getting stoned on honey! I wonder if I could get some of that honey to spread on my purple rye bread? Yum!

Honey poisonings have gone down as beekeeping turned professional; but even now we're not entirely out-of-the-woods. Amateur beekeepers still experience occasional accidental poisonings, especially in early spring in the southeastern United States, when rhododendrons are the only plants out, and in the southwest desert, where oleander thrives. We may be poisoning the bees; but they're capable of doing the same to us, if we're not careful. I wonder if any of that honey gets thrown away?

So, after careful thought, I've decided to make this jar of honey my last jar of honey until I can find a local beekeeper that I can trust.

And Finally

Ever since Papa Smirk had Reagan hit, the one thing that has scared me was that things began to happen out in the open. Sure, the various crimes and such hadn't changed an iota; but all that murder and mayhem began to be done out in the open -- right in front of us, with a smirk and a dare for any of us to do anything to stop it, with a nayh, nayh, nayh, nayh, thrown in for good measure.

The latest example was Washington Senator Patty Murray who has pretended to be on our side for the last 20 years and has kept her crimes, until now, behind closed doors. Not anymore, she's come out of the closet, thrown those locked doors wide and came down in favor of Paul Ryan's budget, a budget like all of Ryan's budgets, where the rich get richer and the rest of us get screwed. Not only that, but there was no debating, no quid pro quo; nope, unemployment is going to run out right after Christmas for millions, no real increase that helps the poor, old, sick or hungry; well, actually, they're going to throw out a pittance from the sequester for the people; but the vast amount of sequester savings goes to the Pentagoons. Why am I not surprised? Are you?

Ergo, Patty wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award for selling us out to Paul Ryan. Perhaps she'd like to run as a Rethuglican next time; but no, there's no real difference between the Rethuglicans and Demoncrats as Patty so deftly proves; so, why bother? She is, after all, just following in the foot steps of the Caveman!

Keepin' On

Thanks to a newbie, "George from Dearborn" and his nice check, we are but $300 from reaching our goal -- a goal we must reach in two more editions or shut down until we can raise that sum. Thank you so much, George, for your help; your check will be put to good use, keeping us fighting the good fight for you and yours!

George has been reading us for a year; but, until recently, was living on unemployment, but got called back to work and thought he'd share the wealth. If a few more of you would do the same, I wouldn't have to come to you, week after week, cap in hand, to beg a few alms, to keep us in the fight. And guess what? That would suit me just fine!

Therefore, if you can, why don't you; if you're working, why won't you? So, please send us whatever you can, whenever you can; and we'll keep you informed about the latest government-sponsored disaster, and how it might effect you and yours. You won't get the truth on TV and in most newspapers and forget about talk radio, period! But you can always get the truth here; and if that's important to you, won't you keep us fighting the good fight for everyone?


08-02-1932 ~ 12-14-2013
Thanks for the film!

10-22-1917 ~ 12-15-2013
Thanks for the film!

1-12-1926 ~ 12-16-2013
Thanks for the music!

8-08-1929 ~ 12-18-2013
Thanks for sticking it to the man!


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


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

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

The public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the 'consent of the governed'
is meaningless. . . The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed." ~~~ Edward Snowden

NSA Surveillance Is About Power, Not "Safety"
An open letter to the people of Brazil
By Edward Snowden
The following letter was published in the Brazilian newspaper A Folha in Portuguese and this original text was provided via the Facebook page of Glenn Greenwald's husband David Miranda:
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government's National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist's camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a world-wide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I went in front of that camera with open eyes, knowing that the decision would cost me family and my home, and would risk my life. I was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to understand the system in which they live.

My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning. Never have I been so glad to have been so wrong. The reaction in certain countries has been particularly inspiring to me, and Brazil is certainly one of those.

At the NSA, I witnessed with growing alarm the surveillance of whole populations without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and it threatens to become the greatest human rights challenge of our time. The NSA and other spying agencies tell us that for our own "safety"-for Dilma's "safety," for Petrobras' "safety"-they have revoked our right to privacy and broken into our lives. And they did it without asking the public in any country, even their own.

Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world. When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more. They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target's reputation.

American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not "surveillance," it's "data collection." They say it is done to keep you safe. They're wrong. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement - where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion - and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever. These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power.

Many Brazilian senators agree, and have asked for my assistance with their investigations of suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens. I have expressed my willingness to assist wherever appropriate and lawful, but unfortunately the United States government has worked very hard to limit my ability to do so -- going so far as to force down the Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from traveling to Latin America! Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.

Six months ago, I revealed that the NSA wanted to listen to the whole world. Now, the whole world is listening back, and speaking out, too. And the NSA doesn't like what it's hearing. The culture of indiscriminate worldwide surveillance, exposed to public debates and real investigations on every continent, is collapsing. Only three weeks ago, Brazil led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to recognize for the first time in history that privacy does not stop where the digital network starts, and that the mass surveillance of innocents is a violation of human rights.

The tide has turned, and we can finally see a future where we can enjoy security without sacrificing our privacy. Our rights cannot be limited by a secret organization, and American officials should never decide the freedoms of Brazilian citizens. Even the defenders of mass surveillance, those who may not be persuaded that our surveillance technologies have dangerously outpaced democratic controls, now agree that in democracies, surveillance of the public must be debated by the public.

My act of conscience began with a statement: "I don't want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. That's not something I'm willing to support, it's not something I'm willing to build, and it's not something I'm willing to live under."

Days later, I was told my government had made me stateless and wanted to imprison me. The price for my speech was my passport, but I would pay it again: I will not be the one to ignore criminality for the sake of political comfort. I would rather be without a state than without a voice.

If Brazil hears only one thing from me, let it be this: when all of us band together against injustices and in defense of privacy and basic human rights, we can defend ourselves from even the most powerful systems.
(c) 2013 Edward Joseph Snowden is a US former technical contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who leaked details of top-secret US and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.

By Uri Avnery

CAN A country boycott itself? That may sound like a silly question. It is not.

At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the "Giant of History" as Barack Obama called him, Israel was not represented by any of its leaders.

The only dignitary who agreed to go was the speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, a nice person, an immigrant from the Soviet Union and a settler, who is so anonymous that most Israelis would not recognize him. ("His own father would have trouble recognizing him in the street," somebody joked.)

Why? The President of the State, Shimon Peres, caught a malady that prevented him from going, but which did not prevent him from making a speech and receiving visitors on the same day. Well, there are all kinds of mysterious microbes.

The Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had an even stranger reason. The journey, he claimed, was too expensive, what with all the accompanying security people and so on.

Not so long ago, Netanyahu caused a scandal when it transpired that for his journey to Margaret Thatcher's funeral, a five hour flight, he had a special double bed installed in the El Al plane at great expense. He and his much maligned wife, Sara'le, did not want to provoke another scandal so soon. Who's Mandela, after all?

ALTOGETHER IT was an undignified show of personal cowardice by both Peres and Netanyahu.

What were they afraid of?

Well, they could have been booed. Recently, many details of the Israeli-South African relationship have come to light. Apartheid South Africa, which was boycotted by the entire world, was the main customer of the Israeli military industry. It was a perfect match: Israel had a lot of weapon systems but no money to produce them, South Africa had lots of money but no one who would supply it with weapons.

So Israel sold Mandela's jailers everything it could, from combat aircraft to military electronics, and shared with it its nuclear knowledge. Peres himself was deeply involved.

The relationship was not merely commercial. Israeli officers and officials met with their South African counterparts, visits were exchanged, personal friendship fostered. While Israel never endorsed apartheid, our government certainly did not reject it.

Still, our leaders should have been there, together with the leaders of the whole world. Mandela was the Great Forgiver, and he forgave Israel, too. When the master of ceremonies in the stadium mistakenly announced that Peres and Netanyahu had arrived, just a few boos were heard. Far less than the boos for the current South African president.

In Israel, only one voice was openly raised against Mandela. Shlomo Avineri, a respected professor and former Director General of the Foreign Office, criticized him for having a "blind spot" - for taking the Palestinian side against Israel. He also mentioned that another moral authority, Mahatma Gandhi, had the same "blind spot".

Strange. Two moral giants and the same blind spot? How could that be, one wonders.

THE BOYCOTT movement against Israel is slowly gaining ground. It takes three main forms (and several in between).

The most focused form is the boycott of the products of the settlements, which was started by Gush Shalom 15 years ago. It is active now in many countries.

A more stringent form is the boycott of all institutes and corporations that are dealing with the settlements. This is now the official policy of the European Union. Just this week, Holland broke off relations with the monopolistic Israeli Water Corporation, Mekorot, which plays a part in the policy that deprives Palestinians of essential water supplies and transfers them to the settlements.

The third form is total: the boycott of everything and everyone Israeli (Including myself). This is also slowly advancing in many countries.

The Israeli government has now joined this form. By its voluntary no-representation or under-representation at the Mandela ceremony, it has declared that Israel is a pariah state. Strange.

LAST WEEK I wrote that if the Americans find a solution to Israel's security concerns in the West Bank, other concerns would take their place. I did not expect that it would happen so quickly.

Binyamin Netanyahu declared this week that stationing Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley, as proposed by John Kerry, is not enough. Not by far.

Israel cannot give up the West Bank as long as Iran has nuclear capabilities, he declared. What's the connection, one might well ask. Well, it's obvious. A strong Iran will foster terrorism and threaten Israel in many other ways. So Israel must remain strong, and that includes holding on to the West Bank. Stands to reason.

So if Iran gives up all its nuclear capabilities, will that be enough? Not by a long shot. Iran must completely change its "genocidal" policies vis-a-vis Israel, it must stop all threats and utterances against us, it must adopt a friendly attitude towards us. However, Netanyahu did stop short of demanding that the Iranian leaders join the World Zionist Organization.

Before this happens, Israel cannot possibly make peace with the Palestinians. Sorry, Mister Kerry.

IN THE last article I also ridiculed the Allon Plan and other pretexts advanced by our rightists for holding on to the rich agricultural land of the Jordan Valley.

A friend of mine countered that indeed all the old reasons have become obsolete. The terrible danger of the combined might of Iraq, Syria and Jordan attacking us from the east does not exist anymore. But -

But the valley guardians are now advancing a new danger. If Israel gives back the West Bank without holding on to the Jordan Valley and the border crossings on the river, other terrible things will happen.

The day after the Palestinians take possession of the river crossing, missiles will be smuggled in. Missiles will rain down on Ben-Gurion international airport, the gateway to Israel, located just a few kilometers from the border. Tel Aviv, 25 km from the border, will be threatened, as will the Dimona nuclear installation.

Haven't we seen this all before? When Israel voluntarily evacuated the whole Gaza Strip, didn't the rockets start to rain down on the South of Israel?

We cannot possibly rely on the Palestinians. They hate us and will continue to fight us. If Mahmoud Abbas tries to stop it, he will be toppled. Hamas or worse, al-Qaeda, will come to power and unleash a terrorist campaign. Life in Israel will turn into hell.

Therefore it is evident that Israel must control the border between the Palestinian state and the Arab world, and especially the border crossings. As Netanyahu says over and over again, Israel cannot and will not entrust its security to others. Especially not to the Palestinians.

WELL, FIRST of all the Gaza Strip analogy does not hold. Ariel Sharon evacuated the Gaza settlements without any agreement or even consultation with the Palestinian Authority, which was still ruling the Strip at that time. Instead of an orderly transfer to the Palestinian security forces, he left behind a power vacuum which was later filled by Hamas.

Sharon also upheld the land and sea blockade that turned the Strip practically into a huge open-air prison.

In the West Bank there exists now a strong Palestinian government and robust security forces, trained by the Americans. A peace agreement will strengthen them immensely.

Abbas does not object to a foreign military presence throughout the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. On the contrary, he asks for it. He has proposed an international force, under American command. He just objects to the presence of the Israeli army - a situation that would amount to another kind of occupation.

BUT THE main point is something else, something that goes right to the root of the conflict.

Netanyahu's arguments presuppose that there will be no peace, not now, not ever. The putative peace agreement - which Israelis call the "permanent status agreement" - will just open another phase of the generations-old war.

This is the main obstacle. Israelis - almost all Israelis - cannot imagine a situation of peace. Neither they, nor their parents and grandparents, have ever experienced a day of peace in this country. Peace is something like the coming of the Messiah, something that has to be wished for, prayed for, but is never really expected to happen.

But peace does not mean, to paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, the continuation of war by other means. It does not mean a truce or even an armistice.

Peace means living side by side. Peace means reconciliation, a genuine willingness to understand the other side, the readiness to get over old grievances, the slow growth of a new relationship, economic, social, personal.

To endure, peace must satisfy all parties. It requires a situation which all sides can live with, because it fulfills their basic aspirations.

Is this possible? Knowing the other side as well as most, I answer with utmost assurance: Yes, indeed. But it is not an automatic process. One has to work for it, invest in it, wage peace as one wages war.

Nelson Mandela did. That's why the entire world attended his funeral. That's, perhaps, why our leaders chose to be absent.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Nelson Mandela's Long Death
By Glen Ford

Had Nelson Mandela gone quickly to the grave when a lung infection recurred in March of this year, the world might not have experienced such a fantastic volume of political obituaries on his legacy. The nine-month deathwatch, culminating in an unprecedented send-off by nearly 100 heads of state, provided the space and time for a global examination of, not only the great man's personal saga, but the tragic trajectory of the South African liberation struggle. Mandela's long death became a wake, at which the body of his life's work -and that of his comrades in the African National Congress (ANC) -was on display for collective view, commentary, and assessment.

When a dying Black man is lavished with praise by virtually all the imperial villains of the world, that is news, indeed. As corporate journalists wrote, and then rewrote, their obituaries for the still breathing Mandela, they revisited the critical period when a real revolutionary transformation was averted in South Africa through the miraculous ministrations of "Madiba." For the first time, the "mainstream" media explored the terms of the deal that was struck to reconcile the demands of global capital and the white minority with the aspirations of the Black majority. Thus, a discussion that had previously been largely limited to the financial pages, on one hand, and left publications like this one, on the other, became far more general.

In the dimming twilight of Mandela's life, the actual history of the "transition" to Black rule was illuminated for the larger public. A straight line could now be drawn connecting the ANC's early Nineties pact with capital and the massacre of 34 striking Black miners at Marikana, in August, 2012. Foreign audiences could now understand how Cyril Ramaphosa, a former mine workers union leader, a deputy president of the ANC (and presidential contender), became a billionaire board member of the corporation that owns the Marikana mine. South Africa's 2011 United Nations vote in favor of a no-fly zone over Libya, ultimately resulting in the murder of Muammar Gaddafi, a great supporter of the armed struggle against the white regime, makes perfect sense in the context of Mandela's and the ANC's capitulation to imperialism, two decades earlier.

For non-South Africans, especially, Mandela was the personification of the ANC and the embodiment of the South African struggle. His living aura was a prophylactic against serious analysis of the ANC's abandonment of the 1955 Freedom Charter, which called for redistribution of the country's land and nationalization of the mines and banks. When death began to hover, this spring, Mandela's aura was insufficient to limit the scope of the thousands of political obituaries that were being prepared for distribution.

Ronnie Kasrils, a former fighter in the ANC's armed wing who became intelligence minister under Black rule and served as a high official in both the ANC and the South African Communist Party, broke the silence in June. "From 1991 to 1996 the battle for the ANC's soul got under way, and was eventually lost to corporate power," he wrote in an article for the Guardian. "We were entrapped by the neoliberal economy -or, as some today cry out, we 'sold our people down the river.'"

Kasrils, known as "Red Ronnie," is white. Now that the "deal" is common knowledge, there are attempts to blame it on white communists -to absolve Mandela in much the same way as Black Obama apologists claim that his white advisors tricked or pressured their icon into pursuing anti-Black, reactionary policies. But the communists, who were multi-racial, and the ANC (also multi-racial) were thoroughly commingled in the South African leadership; they share responsibility for the betrayal of the revolution. "An ANC-Communist party leadership eager to assume political office (myself no less than others) readily accepted this devil's pact, only to be damned in the process," said Kasrils. "It has bequeathed an economy so tied in to the neoliberal global formula and market fundamentalism that there is very little room to alleviate the plight of most of our people."

On Democracy Now! last week, host Amy Goodman repeatedly tried to get Kasrils to acknowledge or admit that Nelson Mandela had been a member of the South African Communist Party's Central Committee. Kasrils said he would have known if that had been the case, and accepts Mandela's denial of membership. But Goodman's pursuit of the matter avoids the central fact of Kasril's testimony: that the leading figures in the commingled ANC, SACP and COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) all endorsed or acquiesced to the "sell-out."

If the Nineties capitulation had been engineered by a small clique in the leadership, then one could blame the debacle on a few individuals. But the whole forward motion of the South African revolution was turned around, so that when John Pilger interviewed Mandela shortly after he assumed the presidency, he is told the course is irreversible. "...for this country, privatization is the fundamental policy," said Mandela.

To make sure that the capitalist road was irreversible, the deal included the near-instant creation of a Black business class hopelessly tied to international capital -like Cyril Ramaphosa and other high ranking ANC members -which would provide the African social base for capital's continued political dominance of the country. When South Africa rises up, once again -and it will -the poor will have to cut and hack their way through this new class of Black compradors. They, too, are Mandela's children.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Jeff Bezos recently acquired the Washington Post, but the company that made him his real fortune,, is also under a multi-hundred million dollar contract with the CIA for computing services.

Under Amazon's CIA Cloud: The Washington Post
By Norman Solomon

News media should illuminate conflicts of interest, not embody them. But the owner of the Washington Post is now doing big business with the Central Intelligence Agency, while readers of the newspaper's CIA coverage are left in the dark.

The Post's new owner, Jeff Bezos, is the founder and CEO of Amazon -- which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA. But the Post's articles about the CIA are not disclosing that the newspaper's sole owner is the main owner of CIA business partner Amazon.

"Propaganda largely depends on patterns of omission and repetition. If, in its coverage of the CIA, the Washington Post were willing to fully disclose the financial ties that bind its owner to the CIA, such candor would shed some light on how top-down power actually works in our society."

Even for a multi-billionaire like Bezos, a $600 million contract is a big deal. That's more than twice as much as Bezos paid to buy the Post four months ago.

And there's likely to be plenty more where that CIA largesse came from. Amazon's offer wasn't the low bid, but it won the CIA contract anyway by offering advanced high-tech "cloud" infrastructure.

Bezos personally and publicly touts Amazon Web Services, and it's evident that Amazon will be seeking more CIA contracts. Last month, Amazon issued a statement saying, "We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA."

As Amazon's majority owner and the Post's only owner, Bezos stands to gain a lot more if his newspaper does less ruffling and more soothing of CIA feathers.

Amazon has a bad history of currying favor with the U.S. government's "national security" establishment. The media watch group FAIR pointed out what happened after WikiLeaks published State Department cables: "WikiLeaks was booted from Amazon's webhosting service AWS. So at the height of public interest in what WikiLeaks was publishing, readers were unable to access the WikiLeaks website."

How's that for a commitment to the public's right to know?

Days ago, my colleagues at launched a petition that says: "The Washington Post's coverage of the CIA should include full disclosure that the sole owner of the Post is also the main owner of Amazon -- and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA." More than 15,000 people have signed the petition so far this week, with many posting comments that underscore widespread belief in journalistic principles.

While the Post functions as a powerhouse media outlet in the Nation's Capital, it's also a national and global entity -- read every day by millions of people who never hold its newsprint edition in their hands. Hundreds of daily papers reprint the Post's news articles and opinion pieces, while online readership spans the world.

Propaganda largely depends on patterns of omission and repetition. If, in its coverage of the CIA, the Washington Post were willing to fully disclose the financial ties that bind its owner to the CIA, such candor would shed some light on how top-down power actually works in our society.

"The Post is unquestionably the political paper of record in the United States, and how it covers governance sets the agenda for the balance of the news media," journalism scholar Robert W. McChesney points out. "Citizens need to know about this conflict of interest in the columns of the Post itself."

In a statement just released by the Institute for Public Accuracy, McChesney added: "If some official enemy of the United States had a comparable situation -- say the owner of the dominant newspaper in Caracas was getting $600 million in secretive contracts from the Maduro government -- the Post itself would lead the howling chorus impaling that newspaper and that government for making a mockery of a free press. It is time for the Post to take a dose of its own medicine."

From the Institute, we also contacted other media and intelligence analysts to ask for assessments; their comments are unlikely to ever appear in the Washington Post.

"What emerges now is what, in intelligence parlance, is called an 'agent of influence' owning the Post -- with a huge financial interest in playing nice with the CIA," said former CIA official Ray McGovern. "In other words, two main players nourishing the national security state in undisguised collaboration."

A former reporter for the Washington Post and many other news organizations, John Hanrahan, said: "It's all so basic. Readers of the Washington Post, which reports frequently on the CIA, are entitled to know -- and to be reminded on a regular basis in stories and editorials in the newspaper and online -- that the Post's new owner Jeff Bezos stands to benefit substantially from Amazon's $600 million contract with the CIA. Even with such disclosure, the public should not feel assured they are getting tough-minded reporting on the CIA. One thing is certain: Post reporters and editors are aware that Bezos, as majority owner of Amazon, has a financial stake in maintaining good relations with the CIA -- and this sends a clear message to even the hardest-nosed journalist that making the CIA look bad might not be a good career move." The rich and powerful blow hard against the flame of truly independent journalism. If we want the lantern carried high, we're going to have to do it ourselves.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co- founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Wall Street Regulator Replaced By Wall Street Conciliator

The scandalous saga of the Wall Street bailout continues, for bank regulators are now watering down Congress' pathetically weak reforms.

However, during the past four years, one fellow has shown some regulatory backbone, proposing rules to prevent a repeat of the whole sorry saga. He is Gary Gensler, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and he has dared to push the Treasury Secretary and other major bank overseers to join him in seriously limiting Wall Street's cavalier proliferation of complex "derivatives." Analysts describe these convoluted schemes as "poorly disclosed, poorly understood, and could lay waste to the economy."

Good for Gensler, right? Yes! But of all the agency heads who're involved in writing new banking rules, guess which one was not invited this year by President Obama to stay on the job. Yes, the tough one, the one actually trying to protect the people, the one not afraid to offend Wall Street greedheads: Gary Gensler.

He's being replaced by Timothy Massad, who appears to be more of an industry lapdog than a watchdog. Massad, a career insider, has been a corporate lawyer for banks, a lickspittle lieutenant for Treasury Secretary Timmy Geithner (an infamous Wall Street softie), and a blocker of tough provisions to stop big banks from unfairly squeezing hard-hit homeowners.

Apparently, Gensler wanted to keep doing his work at this once-obscure agency - staying on guard against financial connivers trying to twist the rules to legalize banker robbery. But Wall Streeters certainly didn't want him there, and Obama bowed to them, displacing the one guy, the one regulatory chief, who had the guts and gumption to stand up to coddled bankers.

Not only is Gensler gone, but Wall Street gets a regulator who's being entrusted to return the agency to obscurity. What a disgrace.
(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.

Peace In The Pentagon
By David Swanson

I'm a huge fan of peace studies as an academic discipline that should be spread into every corner of what we call, with sometimes unclear justification, our education system. But often peace studies, like other disciplines, manages to study only those far from home, and to study them with a certain bias.

I recently read a book promoting the sophisticated skills of trained negotiators and suggesting that if such people, conversant in the ways of emotional understanding, would take over the Palestine "peace process" from the aging politicians, then ... well, basically, then Palestinians would agree to surrender their land and rights without so much fuss. Great truths about negotiation skills only go so far if the goal of the negotiation is injustice based on misunderstanding of the facts on the ground.

I recently read another book discussing nonviolent resistance to injustice and brutality. It focused on a handful of stories of how peace was brought to various poor tribes and nations, usually through careful, respectful, and personal approaches, that appeased some tyrant's ego while moving him toward empathy. These books are valuable, and it is good that they are proliferating. But they always leave me wondering whether the biggest war-maker on earth is left out because war isn't war when Westerners do it, or is it, rather, because the military industrial complex requires a different approach. How many decades has it been since a U.S. president sat down and listened to opponents of militarism? Does the impossibility of such a thing remove it from our professors' consideration?

Here in Virginia's Fifth District, a bunch of us met with our then-Congressman Tom Perriello a few years back and sought respectfully and persuasively to bring him to oppose and stop funding the war on Afghanistan. Perriello was and is, in some quarters, considered some sort of "progressive" hero. I've never understood why. He did not listen. Why? We had majority opinion with us. Was it because we lacked the skills? Was it because of his sincere belief in so-called humanitarian wars? Or was it something else? The New York Times on Friday reported on the corruption of the organization where Perriello was hired immediately upon his electoral defeat. The Center for American Progress takes funding from weapons companies and supports greater public funding of weapons companies. The Democratic National Committee gave Perriello's reelection campaign a bunch of money just after one of his votes for a bill containing war money and a bank bailout (he seemed to oppose the latter). White House officials and cabinet secretaries did public events with Perriello in his district just after his vote.

I know another member of Congress who wants to end wars and cut military spending, but when I ask this member's staff to stop talking about social safety net cuts as if they only hurt veterans rather than all people I can't even make my concern -- that of glorifying veterans as more valuable -- understood. It's like talking to a brick military base.

My friend David Hartsough was one, among others, who spoke with President John Kennedy when he was President, urged him toward peace and believed he listened. That didn't work out well for President Kennedy, or for peace. When Gorbachev was ready to move the Soviet Union toward peace, President Ronald Reagan wasn't. Was that because of sincere, well-meaning, if misguided notions of security? Or was it senility, stupidity, and stubbornness? Or was it something else? Was it a system that wouldn't allow it? Was something more than personal persuasion on the substance of the matter needed? Was a new way of funding elections and communicating campaign slogans required first? Would peace studies have to revise its approach if it noticed the existence of the Pentagon?

Of course, I think the answer is some of each. I think reducing military spending a little will allow us to be heard a little more clearly, which will allow us to reduce military spending a little further, and so on. And part of the reason why I think it's both and not purely "structural" is the opposition to war that brews up within the U.S. military -- as it did on missile strikes for Syria this past summer. Sometimes members of the military oppose, protest, or even resist wars.

Another type of book that has proliferated madly is the account of military veterans' activism in the peace movement during the Bush presidency -- with always a bit on what survived of that movement into the reign of the Nobel Peace Laureate Constitutional Law Professor President. I've just read a good one of these books called Fighting For Peace: Veterans and Military Families in the Anti-Iraq War Movement by Lisa Leitz. This book, as well as any of them, provides insights into the difficulties faced by military and veteran peace activists, and military family member peace activists, as well as the contributions they've made. I've become an associate (non-veteran) member of Veterans For Peace and worked for that group and with other groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out because of the tremendous job they've done. The non-military peace movement needs to work ever harder at welcoming and encouraging and supporting military and veteran peace activism. And vice versa.

Different risks are involved. Different emotions are involved. Would you march against a war if it might ruin your own or a loved one's career? To stretch the definition of war-maker a little, would you take a job with Lockheed-Martin if you oppose war? What if you oppose war but your child is in the military -- would you be proud of his or her success and advancement into an elite murder team? Should you not be proud of your child?

The contributions of military and former military peace activists have been tremendous: the throwing back of medals, the memorials and cemeteries erected in protest and grief, the reenactment of war scenes on the streets, the testimony confessing to crimes no one wants to prosecute. New people have been reached and opinions changed. And yet, I want to say there is a downside.

Most peace activists have never been in the military. Most books about peace activists are about the military ones. This distorts and diminishes our understanding of what we're doing. Most victims in our wars -- and I mean statistically almost all of them -- are on the other side, but most writing done about victims is about the U.S. military ones (assuming aggressors are victims). The giant cemeteries representing the dead in Iraq are orders of magnitude too small to be accurate. This severely distorts our understanding of one-sided slaughters, allowing the continuation of the myth of war as a contest between two armies.

Eliminating war would logically involve eliminating the war-making machine, but veteran and military opponents of war, more often than others, want the military preserved and used for good ends. Is that because it makes sense or because of personal identification? Nationalism is driving wars, but military peace activists tend, more than others, to favor "good patriotism" or "true patriotism." Must a peace movement that ought to celebrate international law and cooperation follow that lead?

Leitz quotes Maureen Dowd claiming that veterans have "moral authority" to oppose war, unlike -- apparently -- those who have opposed war for a longer period of time or more consistently. Imagine applying that logic to some other offense, such as child abuse. We don't suggest that reformed child abusers have the greatest moral authority to oppose child abuse. What about shoplifting? Do reformed shoplifters have the greatest authority to oppose shoplifting? I think that in any such situation, the former participants have a particular type of perspective. But I think there's another valuable perspective in those who have opposed a crime. Some veterans, of course, were in the military before I was born and have worked for the abolition of war longer than I've breathed. I don't think their past diminishes them in any way. I also don't think it does what Dowd thinks it does.

Dowd's idea may be that some wars are good and some bad, so we should trust those who've taken part in wars to make the distinction. I'd disagree with the conclusion even if I agreed with the premise. I don't think it's a premise the peace movement should accept. Peace is as incompatible with some wars as it is with all wars.

Accounts like Fighting for Peace bring out the segregation of military from civilian culture in the United States, a product of standing armies and standing foreign bases. I once spoke on a panel with a Democratic veteran candidate for Congress who thankfully lost but who advocated for everyone joining the military so that everyone would be familiar with what the military was. I have another proposal: everyone join civilian life, close the bases, dismantle the weapons, disassemble the ships, put solar panels on the runways, and give the Pentagon a new role to play. I think it would make a fine roller skating rink.

In the meantime, we should try to understand and work with each other to reduce the military, and that requires doing so without promoting it or joining it.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Author Claimed Jesus Was A Mushroom
By James Donahue

The late author John Marco Allegro stirred serious controversy in the ranks of the Christian church in 1970 when his book, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross was published.

The book, which examined the origins of Christianity based on ancient fertility cults, examined the links to ancient fertility cults and the ingestion of psychedelic plants like Amanita muscaria, peyote and psilocybin in an attempt to "perceive the mind of God."

Allegro pointed to paintings and other art works in the Vatican that depict the ritual ingestion of the red and white Amanita Muscaria as an important component of the Eucharist. He argued that Jesus never existed but, instead, was a mythological creation of early Christians under the influence of psychoactive mushroom extracts.

Allegro, an archaeologist who also was a published scholar following years of research of the Dead Sea Scrolls, fell under extreme ridicule among religious scholars because of the book. Since his death in 1988, however, the Christian church has fallen on harsh criticism largely because of the practice of pedophilia revealed in not only the Roman Catholic churches, but also in many secular churches. The harsh conservative doctrines linked to the church and to many elected government legislators also has hacked away at the popularity of church teachings. Consequently, many religious scholars, perhaps influenced by a shift in public opinion, have looked at Allegro's theories with a more favorable eye.

For example, Allegro notes that numerous paintings on the walls of the cathedrals and Vatican buildings in Italy depict the distinct red and white colors of the Amanita muscaria. He interprets one such fresco in the Plaincourault Chapel to be an accurate depiction of the ritual ingestion of this hallucinogenic mushroom during the Eucharist. Today the mushroom is replaced by the wafers said to be "the body of Christ."

The celebration of the winter solstice, or Christmas, is filled with strange traditions that were brought into the United States from cultures all over the world. Many of them point directly to the use of the Amanita muscaria as an important part of the event.

The parallels between Christmas traditions and many pagan rituals are strangely linked to this particular mushroom. For example, the Amanita usually grows under pine trees. This is where the custom of bringing pine trees inside the homes and then placing brightly wrapped gifts at the base is believed to have originated. The Amanita's top is a bright red with white spots.

In Northern Europe and Russia this mushroom was especially prepared for human consumption, which sent users into a psychiatric mental state where they belived they saw God. Local shamans, dressed in red coats and black pants and boots, gathered the mushrooms in sacks and then visited the homes to deliver them Amanita as gifts. This was the early image of the modern Santa Claus.

The people had to receive special instruction on how to prepare the mushroom before daring to eat them. Eating the red tops or consuming the Amineta after it is just harvested is very toxic. The mushroom had to be cut up in pieces and then hung before the fireplace to dry before the ritual was held. The drying reduces the toxicity of the mushroom and increases its potency. Sometimes the mushroom pieces were strung on strings, and sometimes they were placed inside stockings before they were hung before the fire. Also sometimes the mushroom was placed on the boughs of the pine trees to dry. Thus the ritual of decorating the tree.

Nearly everything about the Christmas story can be traced back to the Amanita mushroom. In Siberia the snows sometimes were so heavy that the shaman had to deliver the mushrooms by dropping down through a smoke hole in the roof.

The reindeer that live in that part of the world, feed on the Amamita mushrooms. A side effect of consuming the Amanita is that it causes the cheeks and nose to glow, thus adding to the Santa Claus story whose cheeks were glowing.

One writer in an article dealing with this subject complained: "The whole complexity of the modern Christmas mythos is an unexplainable mess without the magic mushroom, the story is completely unintelligible."
(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.

Judge Rules Against NSA Spying; Congress Should Do The Same
By John Nichols

Civil liberties advocates on the left and the right have argued for many years-but especially in the aftermath of revelations this year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden-that spying by the National Security Agency disregards privacy protections outlined in the Fourth Amendment and is surely unconstitutional. Indeed, as the American Civil Liberties Union has argued, the NSA's "unconstitutional surveillance" represents "a grave danger to American democracy."

Now, a federal judge has recognized the constitutional concerns.

"I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval," wrote US District Judge Richard Leon.

Judge Leon's decision, which will surely be appealed, focuses attention on legal challenges to the spying program. But it also serves as a reminder that Congress can and should act to defend privacy rights.

"The ruling underscores what I have argued for years: The bulk collection of Americans' phone records conflicts with Americans' privacy rights under the U.S. Constitution and has failed to make us safer," says Senator Mark Udall, D-Colorado, a supporter of legislation to end the bulk collection program. "We can protect our national security without trampling our constitutional liberties."

Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said: "Judge Leon's ruling hits the nail on the head. It makes clear that bulk phone records collection is intrusive digital surveillance and not simply inoffensive data collection as some have said. The court noted that this metadata can be used for 'repetitive, surreptitious surveillance of a citizen's private goings on,' that creates a mosaic of personal information and is likely unconstitutional. This ruling dismisses the use of an outdated Supreme Court decision affecting rotary phones as a defense for the technologically advanced collection of millions of Americans' records. It clearly underscores the need to adopt meaningful surveillance reforms that prohibit the bulk collection of Americans' records."

The senators had reason to be enthusiastic about Judge Leon determination that legal challenges to the massive surveillance program are valid. So valid, in fact, that he issued a preliminary injunction against the program. The judge suspended the order, however, in order to allow a Justice Department appeal.

But Judge Leon was blunt regarding the strength of the challenge that was brought after Snowden revealed details of the agency's spying in The Guardian.

"I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison... would be aghast," the judge wrote with regard to the NSA program for surveillance of cell phone records.

"The court concludes that plaintiffs have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the government's bulk collection and querying of phone record metadata, that they have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their Fourth Amendment claim and that they will suffer irreparable harm absent...relief," Judge Leon wrote in response to a lawsuit brought by Larry Klayman, a former Reagan administration lawyer who now leads the conservative Freedom Watch group.

The case is one of several that have been working their way through the federal courts since Snowden disclosed details of the NSA program.

Legal challenges to NSA spying are not new, and they have failed in the past.

Challenging the FISA Amendments Act (FAA)-the law that permits the government to wiretap US citizens communicating with people overseas-Amnesty International and other human rights advocates, lawyers and journalists fought a case all the way to the US Supreme Court in 2012. In February 2013, however, the Justices ruled 5-4 that the challengers lacked standing because they could not prove they had been the victims of wiretapping and other privacy violations.

The Justice Department has continued to argue that plaintiffs in lawsuits against the spying program lack standing because they cannot prove their records were examined. But Judge Leon suggested that the old calculus that afforded police agencies great leeway when it came to monitoring communications has clearly changed.

Suggesting that the NSA has relied on "almost-Orwellian technology," wrote Judge Leon, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia bench. "The relationship between the police and the phone company (as imagined by the courts decades ago) nothing compared to the relationship that has apparently evolved over the last seven years between the government and telecom companies."

The judge concluded, "It's one thing to say that people expect phone companies to occasionally provide information to law enforcement; it is quite another to suggest that our citizens expect all phone companies to operate what is effectively a joint intelligence-gathering operation with the government."

This case will continue in the courts, as will others.

But it is also in Congress. A left-right coalition that extends from Congressmen Justin Amash, a libertarian-leaning Republican, to Congressman John Conyers, a progressive Democrat, has raised repeated challenges to the NSA spying regimen.

Now, Congress needs to step up to what Congressman Alan Grayson, D-Florida, refers to as "the spying-industrial complex."

A number of members are ready. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders responded to Judge Leon's ruling by saying: "In my view, the NSA is out of control and operating in an unconstitutional manner. Today's ruling is an important first step toward reining in this agency but we must go further. I will be working as hard as I can to pass the strongest legislation possible to end the abuses by the NSA and other intelligence agencies."

The outlines for legislative action have already been presented by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups that work on privacy issues.

"Congress should not be indifferent to the government's accumulation of vast quantities of sensitive information about American's lives," Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU's deputy legal counsel told the House Judiciary Committee in July. "This Committee in particular has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the government's efforts to protect the country do not compromise the freedoms that make the country worth protecting."

Jaffer told the committee,

Because the problem Congress confronts today has many roots, there is no single solution to it. But there are a number of things that Congress should do right away:

* It should amend Sections 215 and 702 to expressly prohibit suspicionless or "dragnet" monitoring or tracking of Americans' communications.

* It should require the executive to release basic information about the government's use of foreign-intelligence-surveillance authorities, including those relating to pen registers and national security letters. The executive should be required to disclose, for each year: how many times each of these provisions was used, how many individuals' privacy was implicated by the government's use of each provision, and, with respect to any dragnet, generalized, or bulk surveillance program, the types of information that were collected.

* Congress should also require the publication of FISA court opinions that evaluate the meaning, scope, or constitutionality of the foreign-intelligence laws. The ACLU recently filed a motion before the FISA court arguing that the publication of these opinions is required by the First Amendment, but Congress need not wait for the FISA court to act. Congress has the authority and the obligation to ensure that Americans are not governed by a system of secret law.

* Finally, Congress-and this Committee in particular-should hold additional hearings to consider further amendments to FISA, including amendments to make FISC proceedings more transparent.

Members of Congress, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, have moved on a number of these fronts. Now it is time for concerted action.

The Congress does not have to wait for the legal wrangling to be resolved. It can, and should, act in defense of civil liberties.
(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.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson is pictured in his
neighborhood in Seattle in this photo taken on May 30, 2003.

The Play's The Thing
By Chris Hedges

I began teaching a class of 28 prisoners at a maximum-security prison in New Jersey during the first week of September. My last class meeting was Friday. The course revolved around plays by August Wilson, James Baldwin, John Herbert, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Miguel Piñero, Amiri Baraka and other playwrights who examine and give expression to the realities of America's black underclass as well as the prison culture. We also read Michelle Alexander's important book "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." Each week the students were required to write dramatic scenes based on their experiences in and out of prison.

My class, although I did not know this when I began teaching, had the most literate and accomplished writers in the prison. And when I read the first batch of scenes it was immediately apparent that among these students was exceptional talent.

The class members had a keen eye for detail, had lived through the moral and physical struggles of prison life and had the ability to capture the patois of the urban poor and the prison underclass. They were able to portray in dramatic scenes and dialogue the horror of being locked in cages for years. And although the play they collectively wrote is fundamentally about sacrifice-the sacrifice of mothers for children, brothers for brothers, prisoners for prisoners-the title they chose was "Caged." They made it clear that the traps that hold them are as present in impoverished urban communities as in prison.

The mass incarceration of primarily poor people of color, people who seldom have access to adequate legal defense and who are often kept behind bars for years for nonviolent crimes or for crimes they did not commit, is one of the most shameful mass injustices committed in the United States. The 28 men in my class have cumulatively spent 515 years in prison. Some of their sentences are utterly disproportionate to the crimes of which they are accused. Most are not even close to finishing their sentences or coming before a parole board, which rarely grants first-time applicants their liberty. Many of them are in for life. One of my students was arrested at the age of 14 for a crime that strong evidence suggests he did not commit. He will not be eligible for parole until he is 70. He never had a chance in court and because he cannot afford a private attorney he has no chance now of challenging the grotesque sentence handed to him as a child.

My stacks of 28 scenes written by the students each week, the paper bearing the musty, sour smell of the prison, rose into an ungainly pile. I laboriously shaped and edited the material. It grew, line by line, scene by scene, into a powerful and deeply moving dramatic vehicle. The voices and reality of those at the very bottom rung of our society-some of the 2.2 million people in prisons and jails across the country, those we as a society are permitted to demonize and hate, just as African-Americans were once demonized and hated during slavery and Jim Crow-began to flash across the pages like lightning strikes. There was more brilliance, literacy, passion, wisdom and integrity in that classroom than in any other classroom I have taught in, and I have taught at some of the most elite universities in the country. The mass incarceration of men and women like my students impoverishes not just them, their families and their communities, but the rest of us as well.

"The most valuable blacks are those in prison," August Wilson once said, "those who have the warrior spirit, who had a sense of being African. They got for their women and children what they needed when all other avenues were closed to them." He added: "The greatest spirit of resistance among blacks [is] found among those in prison."

I increased the class meetings by one night a week. I read the scenes to my wife, Eunice Wong, who is a professional actor, and friends such as the cartoonist Joe Sacco and the theologian James Cone. Something unique, almost magical, was happening in the prison classroom-a place I could reach only after passing through two metal doors and a metal detector, subjecting myself to a pat-down by a guard, an X-ray inspection of my canvas bag of books and papers, getting my hand stamped and then checked under an ultraviolet light, and then passing through another metal door into a barred circular enclosure. In every visit I was made to stand in the enclosure for several minutes before being permitted by the guards to pass through a barred gate and then walk up blue metal stairs, through a gantlet of blue-uniformed prison guards, to my classroom.

The class, through the creation of the play, became an intense place of reflection, debate and self-discovery. Offhand comments, such as the one made by a student who has spent 22 years behind bars, that "just because your family doesn't visit you doesn't mean they don't love you," reflected the pain, loneliness and abandonment embedded in the lives of my students. There were moments that left the class unable to speak.

A student with 19 years behind bars read his half of a phone dialogue between himself and his mother. He was the product of rape and tells his mother that he sacrificed himself to keep his half brother-the only son his mother loves-out of prison. He read this passage in the presentation of the play in the prison chapel last Thursday to visitors who included Cornel West and James Cone.

Terrance: You don't understand[,] Ma.


Terrance: You're right. Never mind.


Terrance: What you want me to say Ma?


Terrance: Ma, they were going to lock up Bruce. The chrome [the gun] was in the car. Everyone in the car would be charged with murder if no one copped to it ...


Terrance: I didn't kill anyone Ma... Oh yeah, I forgot, whenever someone says I did, I did it.


Terrance: I told 'em what they wanted to hear. That's what niggas supposed to do in Newark. I told them what they wanted to hear to keep Bruce out of it. Did they tell you who got killed? Did they say it was my father?


Terrance: Then you should know I didn't do it. If I ever went to jail for anything it would be killing him … and he ain't dead yet. Rape done brought me into the world. Prison gonna take me out. An' that's the way it is Ma.


Terrance: Come on Ma, if Bruce went to jail you would'uv never forgiven me. Me, on the other hand, I wasn't ever supposed to be here.


Terrance: I'm sorry Ma … I'm sorry. Don't be cryin'. You got Bruce. You got him home. He's your baby. Bye Ma. I call you later.

After our final reading of the play I discovered the student who wrote this passage sobbing in the bathroom, convulsed with grief.

In the play when a young prisoner contemplates killing another prisoner he is given advice on how to survive prolonged isolation in the management control unit (solitary confinement, known as MCU) by an older prisoner who has spent 30 years in prison under a sentence of double life. There are 80,000 U.S. prisoners held in solitary confinement, which human rights organizations such as Amnesty International define as a form of torture. In this scene the older man tells the young inmate what to expect from the COs, or correction officers.

Ojore (speaking slowly and softly): When they come and get you, 'cause they are gonna get you, have your hands out in front of you with your palms showing. You want them to see you have no weapons. Don't make no sudden moves. Put your hands behind your head. Drop to your knees as soon as they begin barking out commands.

Omar: My knees?

Ojore: This ain't a debate. I'm telling you how to survive the hell you 'bout to endure. When you get to the hole you ain't gonna be allowed to have nothing but what they give you. If you really piss them off you get a ‘dry cell' where the sink and the toilet are turned on and off from outside. You gonna be isolated. No contact. No communication.

Omar: Why?

Ojore: 'Cause they don't want you sendin' messages to nobody before dey question some of da brothers on the wing. I.A. [internal affairs officers] gonna come and see you. They gonna want a statement. If you don't talk they gonna try and break you. They gonna open the windows and let the cold in. They gonna take ya sheets and blankets away. They gonna mess with ya food so you can't eat it. An' don't eat no food that come in trays from the Vroom Building. Nuts in Vroom be spittin', pissin' and shittin' in the trays. Now, the COs gonna wake you up every hour on the hour so you can't sleep. They gonna put a bright-ass spotlight in front of ya cell and keep it on day and night. They gonna harass you wit' all kinds of threats to get you to cooperate. They will send in the turtles in their shin guards, gloves, shank-proof vests, forearm guards and helmets with plexiglass shields on every shift to give you beat-downs.

Omar: How long this gonna go on?

Ojore: Til they break you. Or til they don't. Three days. Three weeks. You don't break, it go on like this for a long time. An' if you don't think you can take it, then don't start puttin' yerself through this hell. Just tell 'em what they wanna know from the door. You gonna be in MCU for the next two or three years. You'll get indicted for murder. You lookin' at a life bid. An' remember MCU ain't jus' 'bout isolation. It's 'bout keeping you off balance. The COs, dressed up in riot gear, wake you up at 1 a.m., force you to strip and make you grab all your things and move you to another cell just to harass you. They bring in dogs trained to go for your balls. You spend 24 hours alone one day in your cell and 22 the next. They put you in the MCU and wait for you to self-destruct. An' it works. Men self-mutilate. Men get paranoid. Men have panic attacks. They start hearing voices. They talk crazy to themselves. I seen one prisoner swallow a pack of AA batteries. I seen a man shove a pencil up his dick. I seen men toss human shit around like it was a ball game. I seen men eat their own shit and rub it all over themselves like it was some kinda body lotion. Then, when you really get out of control, when you go really crazy, they got all their torture instruments ready-four- and five-point restraints, restraint hoods, restraint belts, restraint beds, stun grenades, stun guns, stun belts, spit hoods, tethers, and waist and leg chains. But the physical stuff ain't the worst. The worst is the psychological, the humiliation, sleep deprivation, sensory disorientation, extreme light or dark, extreme cold or heat and the long weeks and months of solitary. If you don't have a strong sense of purpose you don't survive. They want to defeat you mentally. An' I seen a lot of men defeated.

The various drafts of the play, made up of scenes and dialogue contributed by everyone in the class, brought to the surface the suppressed emotions and pain that the students bear with profound dignity. A prisoner who has been incarcerated for 22 years related a conversation with his wife during her final visit in 1997. Earlier his 6-year-old son had innocently revealed that the woman was seeing another man. "I am aware of what kind of time I got," he tells his wife. "I told you when I got found guilty to move on with your life, because I knew what kind of time I was facing, but you chose to stick around. The reason I told you to move on with your life was because I didn't want to be selfish. So look, man, do what the fuck you are going to do, just don't keep my son from me. That's all I ask." He never saw his child again. When he handed me the account he said he was emotionally unable to read it out loud.

Those with life sentences wrote about dying in prison. The prisoners are painfully aware that some of them will end their lives in the medical wing without family, friends or even former cellmates. One prisoner, who wrote about how men in prolonged isolation adopt prison mice as pets, naming them, carefully bathing them, talking to them and keeping them on string leashes, worked in the prison infirmary. He said that as some prisoners were dying they would ask him to hold their hand. Often no one comes to collect the bodies. Often, family members and relatives are dead or long estranged. The corpses are taken by the guards and dumped in unmarked graves.

A discussion of Wilson's play "Fences" became an exploration of damaged manhood and how patterns of abuse are passed down from father to son. "I spent my whole life trying not to be my father," a prisoner who has been locked up for 23 years said. "And when I got to Trenton I was put in his old cell."

The night we spoke about the brilliant play "Dutchman," by LeRoi Jones, now known as Amira Baraka, the class grappled with whites' deeply embedded stereotypes and latent fear of black men. I had also passed out copies of Robert Crumb's savage cartoon strip "When the Niggers Take Over America!," which portrays whites' fear of black males-as well as the legitimate black rage that is rarely understood by white society.

The students wanted to be true to the violence and brutality of the streets and prison-places where one does not usually have the luxury of being nonviolent-yet affirm themselves as dignified and sensitive human beings. They did not want to paint everyone in the prison as innocents. But they know that transformation and redemption are real.

There are many Muslims in the prison. They have a cohesive community, sense of discipline and knowledge of their own history, which is the history of the long repression and subjugation of African-Americans. Most Muslims are very careful about their language in prison and do not curse, meaning I had to be careful when I assigned parts to the class.

There is a deep reverence in the prison for Malcolm X. When the class spoke of him one could almost feel Malcolm's presence. Malcolm articulated, in a way Martin Luther King Jr. did not, the harsh reality of poor African-Americans trapped in the internal colonies of the urban North.

The class wanted the central oracle of the play to be an observant Muslim. Faith, when you live in the totalitarian world of the prison, is important. The conclusion of the play was the result of an intense and heated discussion about the efficacy and nature of violence and forgiveness. But by the end of a nearly hourlong discussion the class had unanimously signed off on the final scene, which I do not want to reveal here because I hope that one day it will be available to be seen or read. It was the core message the prisoners wanted most to leave with outsiders, who often view them as less than human.

The play has a visceral, raw anger and undeniable truth that only the lost and the damned can articulate. The students wrote a dedication that read: "We have been buried alive behind these walls for years, often decades. Most of the outside world has abandoned us. But a few friends and family have never forgotten that we are human beings and worthy of life. It is to them, our saints, that we dedicate this play." And they said that if the play was ever produced, and if anyone ever bought tickets, they wanted all the money that might be earned to go to funding the educational program at the prison. This was a decision by men who make, at most, a dollar a day at prison jobs.

We read the Wilson play "Joe Turner's Come and Gone." The character Bynum Walker, a conjurer, tells shattered African-Americans emerging from the nightmare of slavery that they each have a song but they must seek it out. Once they find their song they will find their unity as a people, their inner freedom and their identity. The search for one's song in Wilson's play functions like prayer. It gives each person a purpose, strength and hope. It allows a person, even one who has been bitterly oppressed, to speak his or her truth defiantly to the world. Our song affirms us, even if we are dejected and despised, as human beings.

Prisoners are given very little time by the guards to line up in the corridor outside the classroom when the prison bell signals the end of class. If they lag behind they can get a "charge" from the guards that can restrict their already very limited privileges and freedom of movement. For this reason, my classroom emptied quickly Friday night. I was left alone in the empty space, my eyes damp, my hands trembling as I clutched their manuscript. They had all signed it for me. I made the long and lonely walk down the prison corridors, through the four metal security doors, past the security desk to the dark, frozen parking lot. I looked back, past the coils of razor wire that topped the chain-link fencing, at the shadowy bulk of the prison. I have their song. I will make it heard. I do not know what it takes to fund and mount a theater production. I intend to learn.
(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."

Cape Town

Memories Of South Africa
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Earlier this year I had the great pleasure to visit South Africa. Compared to most Americans, the passing of Nelson Mandela brought tears to my eyes many times as I recalled being in many of the places being shown on countless news shows.

In particular, I was fortunate in spending significant time with several black elderly South Africans who knew Mandela and were prisoners also, and who spoke in considerable detail about the horrors of living in the apartheid society. Nothing I have seen and heard on many news outlets has presented the true horrors of what life was like for not only blacks but also other people of color in the apartheid society. There were virtually no freedoms whatsoever for nonwhites and the blacks suffered the most. I recall listening to these apartheid experts and feeling absolutely bewildered that the apartheid government and society could actually have been created and prospered for so many decades.

What those who follow news closely should have learned is that the South African apartheid government was supported by the US and so many other countries for a very long time. Why? Mainly because this hideous government was clever enough to position itself against Soviet communism. And when it came to choosing between fighting the evil oppressive apartheid government versus making it an ally against the Soviets in the cold war, the US and many other democracies supported apartheid. A terrible, terrible historic reality. But if we are to learn anything from the brilliant, moral teachings of Mandela is that we must have the will power to forgive all those who supported apartheid and move on.

I find it sickening that those nuts on the far right want to remember and condemn Mandela for flirting at times with communism while at the same time not condemning the many Republicans who had political power and supported apartheid. They also have hedged their positive views of Mandela, making them, not him, look small and stupid.

While in South Africa I had opportunities to speak to many whites and blacks and get a sense of current realities. Yes, one can easily see an integrated society, especially in popular public spaces, even upscale shopping areas. But the deeper reality is that with 30 percent unemployment and only 10 percent paying income tax it also is readily apparent that acute economic inequality prevails. There are huge numbers of poorly educated, desperate blacks stuck in poverty, which helps explain a high crime rate. But I also saw a true rising black middle class. A highlight was being brought to a restaurant in Soweto for lunch at a modest black owned restaurant, which was fine, as well as seeing many, many neighborhoods there where the housing was clearly well renovated and maintained.

But it was also apparent that the whites hold on to most of the wealth in South Africa. An interesting visible sign of reality is that large single family homes in wealthy areas uniformly had remarkable security, including major barbed wire fences and signs warning of an armed response.

Everywhere one can see the widespread love and respect for Mandela, though sometimes the commercialization of his name and likeness is somewhat disappointing.

Like many other tourists, I visited the beautiful city of Cape Town and visited Robbin Island and the prison where Mandela spent so many years. Though large and sterile it was luxury compared to the Nazi concentration camps, something that I think many Jewish people could not help noting. I have found it fascinating that Mandela was able to make such positive use of his time in prison because he had access to many reading materials, and also that he was given surgery for prostate cancer.

For a good view of the core problem of social and economic inequality still inflicting South Africa I recommend an article in the New York Times. What the world must keep in mind is that South Africa is a nation with remarkable difficulties and challenges that lacks political leadership on a par with the genius of Mandela. Though apartheid is gone racial divides still exist: "Just 22 percent of white South Africans and a fifth of black South Africans live in racially integrated neighborhoods. Schools remain heavily segregated, too: Only 11 percent of white children go to integrated schools, and just 15 percent of black children do."

Interestingly, what I have not seen noted in news stories is how immigrants from other African countries have flowed into South Africa and taken many, many decent jobs.

I end with strongly recommending that people go to South Africa and spend time in Johannesburg and Cape Town as well as enjoying a marvelous safari trip in the country.
(c) 2013 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy =Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Why Inequality Matters
By Paul Krugman

Rising inequality isn't a new concern. Oliver Stone's movie "Wall Street," with its portrayal of a rising plutocracy insisting that greed is good, was released in 1987. But politicians, intimidated by cries of "class warfare," have shied away from making a major issue out of the ever-growing gap between the rich and the rest.

That may, however, be changing. We can argue about the significance of Bill de Blasio's victory in the New York mayoral race or of Elizabeth Warren's endorsement of Social Security expansion. And we have yet to see whether President Obama's declaration that inequality is "the defining challenge of our age" will translate into policy changes. Still, the discussion has shifted enough to produce a backlash from pundits arguing that inequality isn't that big a deal.

They're wrong.

The best argument for putting inequality on the back burner is the depressed state of the economy. Isn't it more important to restore economic growth than to worry about how the gains from growth are distributed?

Well, no. First of all, even if you look only at the direct impact of rising inequality on middle-class Americans, it is indeed a very big deal. Beyond that, inequality probably played an important role in creating our economic mess, and has played a crucial role in our failure to clean it up.

Start with the numbers. On average, Americans remain a lot poorer today than they were before the economic crisis. For the bottom 90 percent of families, this impoverishment reflects both a shrinking economic pie and a declining share of that pie. Which mattered more? The answer, amazingly, is that they're more or less comparable - that is, inequality is rising so fast that over the past six years it has been as big a drag on ordinary American incomes as poor economic performance, even though those years include the worst economic slump since the 1930s.

And if you take a longer perspective, rising inequality becomes by far the most important single factor behind lagging middle-class incomes.

Beyond that, when you try to understand both the Great Recession and the not-so-great recovery that followed, the economic and above all political impacts of inequality loom large.

It's now widely accepted that rising household debt helped set the stage for our economic crisis; this debt surge coincided with rising inequality, and the two are probably related (although the case isn't ironclad). After the crisis struck, the continuing shift of income away from the middle class toward a small elite was a drag on consumer demand, so that inequality is linked to both the economic crisis and the weakness of the recovery that followed.

In my view, however, the really crucial role of inequality in economic calamity has been political.

In the years before the crisis, there was a remarkable bipartisan consensus in Washington in favor of financial deregulation - a consensus justified by neither theory nor history. When crisis struck, there was a rush to rescue the banks. But as soon as that was done, a new consensus emerged, one that involved turning away from job creation and focusing on the alleged threat from budget deficits.

What do the pre- and postcrisis consensuses have in common? Both were economically destructive: Deregulation helped make the crisis possible, and the premature turn to fiscal austerity has done more than anything else to hobble recovery. Both consensuses, however, corresponded to the interests and prejudices of an economic elite whose political influence had surged along with its wealth.

This is especially clear if we try to understand why Washington, in the midst of a continuing jobs crisis, somehow became obsessed with the supposed need for cuts in Social Security and Medicare. This obsession never made economic sense: In a depressed economy with record low interest rates, the government should be spending more, not less, and an era of mass unemployment is no time to be focusing on potential fiscal problems decades in the future. Nor did the attack on these programs reflect public demands.

Surveys of the very wealthy have, however, shown that they - unlike the general public - consider budget deficits a crucial issue and favor big cuts in safety-net programs. And sure enough, those elite priorities took over our policy discourse.

Which brings me to my final point. Underlying some of the backlash against inequality talk, I believe, is the desire of some pundits to depoliticize our economic discourse, to make it technocratic and nonpartisan. But that's a pipe dream. Even on what may look like purely technocratic issues, class and inequality end up shaping - and distorting - the debate.

So the president was right. Inequality is, indeed, the defining challenge of our time. Will we do anything to meet that challenge?
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don't care."
~~~ Nelson Mandela.

Can the leopard change his spots?

Labor And The Information Economy: Which Side Are You On, Ed?
By David Sirota

For a reminder of fear's determinative impact on the 21st century labor market - even at the highest reaches of the information economy - look no further than last week's on-air meltdown by radio host and MSNBC personality Ed Schultz.

Though branding himself as a pro-union populist, Schultz snapped and devoted segments of his radio show to railing on allies of organized labor who asked him to support a union drive in his own workplace.

Before getting to the details of that implosion, it is worth first thinking about how tomorrow's historians will generally perceive this era of labor relations. They will likely marvel at the correlation between record-level inequality and declining union membership. Economically, this correlation makes sense. Even when workers are more productive than ever, when they have less collective bargaining power they are not surprisingly less able to obtain a fair share of the (record) corporate revenues they are generating. Additionally, with management having a disproportionate share of revenues, companies can - and increasingly do - deploy those revenues against any whiff of union organizing.

Then again, at a cultural level, the correlation between Dickensian economics and the decline of unions makes less sense. With the situation so great for shareholders and executives and yet so comparatively terrible for the workers, it stands to reason that the attendant proletarian angst would create an optimal climate for labor organizing - and not just among workers in low-skill industries like fast food. It stands to reason that high-skill industries would also see a revolt - especially since polls show a majority of Americans approve of unions.

Now sure, there is a nascent - and much needed - uprising happening right now in pockets of the service economy. Likewise, in the information sector, WashTech, IEEE, Alliance@IBM, the Programmer's Guild, the Freelancer's Union and (most powerfully) the Writer's Guild have scratched and clawed their way to a foothold. Additionally, in the information-economy hub of Seattle, socialist Kshama Sawant just made history by winning a citywide office on a platform demanding a unionization effort at However, these examples have together been the exception not the rule. Why?

Some of it probably has to do with a labor brand that has been soiled by this era's corporate-financed flood of anti-union propaganda. Some of it has to do with unions own mistakes. And in the information economy in particular, some of it has to do with many high-skill workers ignoring strong arguments for unionization and believing that unions would automatically be a detriment - rather than an economic boost - to their creative work. Though this latter view is belied by the longtime success of, say, Hollywood unions in simultaneously preserving creative freedom and strengthening the economic position of labor (actors, writers, directors, etc.) vis-a-vis management (the studios), many information workers reflexively believe, in the words of TechDirt's Mike Masnick, that unionization inherently "slow(s) down the pace of innovation." That said, a huge part of why unions have had such trouble in much of the information economy has to do with raw fear. Remember: this is a country whose management class - even in sometimes left-leaning industries like high tech and at left-branded companies - is openly hostile to the notion of unions. Because a pay-to-play political system provides that management class with disproportionate political power, this is consequently a country where workers are routinely fired for daring to exercise their basic organizing rights under federal law. Indeed, according to a Cornell University study, up to a third of workers who engage in union activity end up being fired for their organizing activities. Such firings are officially illegal, but not surprisingly, the management class's bought-and-paid-for government has defanged the agency that's supposed to punish employers for such firings. The fear all this sows has created a gap between worker aspirations and worker actions that was summed up in survey data cited by Occidental College's Peter Dreier: "58 percent of non-managerial workers would join a union if they could (but) they won't vote for a union, much less participate openly in a union-organizing drive, if they fear losing their jobs for doing so."

In other words, many information economy workers who might want to form a union in their workplace are effectively intimidated into backing off their aspirations. This is particularly true when those workers see alleged icons of worker solidarity fearfully echoing management's ugly anti-union agitprop the moment union solidarity becomes a personal question for them.

Which brings us to Ed Schultz.

An old Limbaugh clone is asked: Which side are you on?

For years, Schultz was a barely noticed cookie-cutter conservative radio host in the mold of Rush Limbaugh. As Salon's Justin Elliott reported a while back, Schultz bashed immigrants, opposed abortion and made fun of homeless people. From those years firmly anchored on the right-wing side of the class war, he has a deep familiarity with anti-union agitprop.

Nevertheless, as George W. Bush's presidency deflated the popularity of conservatism and inflated the popularity of pro-worker populism, the ratings-hungry Schultz abruptly rebranded himself a progressive champion of unions. While it certainly looked like an unscrupulous act of shameless hucksterism, Schultz's move was definitely a smart tactical shift. Branding-wise, it correctly assumed that an audience of rank-and-file Democratic political junkies was so desperate for their own hyper-macho Limbaugh they would cheerily ignore Schultz's right-wing past. Ultimately, Schultz's makeover not only helped him vacuum in union money but also got him a television show on MSNBC just as that network was simultaneously trying to rebrand itself as a left-leaning outlet.

With high-profile labor conflagrations in Wisconsin providing plenty of grist for the mill, Schultz's formula was humming along just fine. Sure, every now and again he would lose control and let his inner right-wing firebreather out. For instance, there was the time he called one of his critics a "slut" and then defended Limbaugh from critics after he did the same thing. There was the time when he angrily attacked liberals for echoing United Nations human rights investigators and raising questions about the killing of Osama bin Laden. There was also the time when in touting his newly formulated working-class brand, Schultz bragged about making so much money that he now only flies on private jets.

Yet, despite this rightwing aristocrat version of Ed Schultz peeking out from time to time, his cynical-but-shrewd calculation basically worked. From the safe confines of his television and studios and with nothing personal for him on the line, he was able to present himself as a champion of worker rights and a supporter of organized labor - one who effectively encouraged workers to take risks in their own workplaces to join a union. As expected, his Democratic audience cheered him on - and obediently ignored his ugly past.

But then a few months ago, in the midst of all his private jetsetting, there was a big hitch as an organizing drive started in his own workplace - and not just any old organizing drive either.

This particular campaign aims to unionize an NBC-affiliated production company called Peacock Productions - a goal NBC management appears to oppose. The campaign is being led by the Writers Guild of America East, which (together with its Western affiliate) has succeeded in organizing collective economic power for many rank-and-file workers in the creative class. So this thing is real and could be a precedent-setter for the burgeoning non-fiction sector within the larger media and entertainment sectors. If the organizing drive overcomes management's opposition and is successful, it would be no small accomplishment considering those sectors have seen their share of workplace abuses and labor strife.

Of course, "if" is the key word - and the difference between "if" and "when" will likely be predicated in part on the industry's most famous media icons.

As journalist Glenn Greenwald has most recently shown, today's technology-powered multi-platform media has given many of these icons huge independent followings, and that has provided them with potentially more leverage over the media oligarchs than ever. If, say, TV hosts decide to use that fame-enhanced leverage to publicly support low-paid behind-the-scenes workers who make non-fiction television shows possible, those workers have a real shot to gain collective bargaining rights and reap a bigger share of media industry profits. On the other hand, if those hosts stay silent - or use their platform to publicly denigrate the campaign - they probably have the singular power to crush union drives in their infancy.

Taken together, then, this is a moment asking these icons labor's age old question: Which side are you on?

This should be a very simple question for Schultz. Sure, it is certainly possible that the higher worker-bee wages gleaned from a successful organizing drive might be used by Schultz's bosses to plead poverty and deny Schultz a raise when the host's own $4 million-a-year contract is up for renewal. But, then, Schultz is the self-billed champion of unions who uses workers as his program's visual props, and who built his multimillion-dollar brand almost exclusively on his public alignment with labor. Hence, standing with workers in his own workplace should be a no brainer for him, right?

It doesn't seem that way.

That's the logical conclusion from Schultz's series of on-air explosions late last week after published a report contrasting MSNBC host Chris Hayes' openness to the union drive with Schultz's insults aimed at groups like that are pressuring him to support the union drive. In one on-air explosion about the story, Schultz berated me and others for urging him to support the labor organizing drive. Specifically, he slammed supporters of workers at Peacock Productions for "class envy" and "income envy" - plutocratic platitudes that are straight from the very anti-union politicians that the rebranded Schultz now regularly lampoons.

In another segment, Schultz took a call from In These Times labor correspondent Mike Elk, who has been bravely reporting from the frontlines of a vicious assault on an autoworkers' organizing drive in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Under interrogation by Elk, Schultz refused to answer the reporter's pointed questions about whether or not Schultz supports the union drive at the production house in question. Though Schultz made a general non-committal comment about supporting collective bargaining, he categorically refused to answer questions about whether he supports the specific union drive in his workplace.

Taken together, Schultz's answer to the big "which side are you on question" seems to be "not the union's side."

How fear shapes the information economy's labor market

One way to understand all this is to see it as an unstable prima donna losing control again and returning to where his old right-wing, union-loathing, immigrant-bashing, homeless-hating heart is. In that interpretation, all the jealousy and envy rhetoric from Schultz and all the bragging about his wealth, celebrity and private jets are just cliched expressions of this era's more pervasive "I got mine, so screw everyone else" zeitgeist. In this view, in short, it is just the archetypal story of the charlatan in the costume of a fight-for-the-little-guy populist reflexively exposing himself as a proud member of the country club's tophat-and-monocle crowd.

Another way to understand this, though, is to see the whole episode as an example of something far more systemic and significant. In this view, this is not just another red-faced talking-points-parroting gasbag making millions by screaming into a microphone and promoting the old Gordon Gekko catechism. Instead, Schultz may have genuinely had a change of heart from his days as a conservative blowhard, and he may superficially believe in workers' right to organize. Yet, for all his efforts to portray himself as a heroic and fearless Colonel Kilgore in the face of an anti-worker onslaught, and for all his attempts to build a new brand as a pro-labor populist urging other workers to risk their jobs by joining union organizing drives, Schultz may simply not have the courage of his own purported convictions when the issue becomes personal.

Remember, from a rebranding effort that has him regularly touting worker rights, Schultz knows that workers are so often fired with impunity. He also knows that if he stands with the organizing drive in his own workplace he and his $4-million-a-year lifestyle could be put at risk. Put another way, this talk show host knows that pro-union talk isn't cheap - it can be quite lucrative, but only if it isn't backed up by any action on his part in his own workplace. He thus knows that he personally has to risk his own standing with management to embody his alleged pro-labor convictions - and he seems completely terrified by the prospect of such a risk.

And so while Schultz's angry tirade last week against those asking him to support the organizing drive may have sounded like macho kick-some-ass bravado, it probably was instead the whimpering voice of cowering fear in the face of the media oligarchs. That fear is evidently so powerful that when confronted with the situation in his own workplace, Schultz has abruptly dropped his power-to-the-people populism and is now loyally parroting the management class's most banal anti-union talking points about "class envy" and "jealousy."

That kind of rhetoric from Schultz is no doubt music to the ears not only of the media oligarchs in both the news and entertainment industry, but really to everyone in management class of the entire information economy. After all, here is one of the most famous icons of pro-union sentiment not only belittling labor allies with "class envy" rhetoric, but also effectively telegraphing that his hypocritical contortions (he's for labor in general, but won't publicly and explicitly stand with labor in his own workplace) come from a deep fear of the information economy's management class.

To be sure, Schultz may soon change his tune on the union drive now that his meltdown so humiliatingly spotlighted his own hypocrisy. Either way, though, the message to rank-and-file information economy workers has already been sent. That message is crystal clear: if a guy who built his new brand on labor and who also has real potential leverage over management is nonetheless so deathly frightened of publicly standing with labor in an organizing drive in his own workplace, then the average information-economy employee with far less leverage should also be frightened - and should relinquish any small hope for collective bargaining rights in the future.

Put another way, by virtue of his position and his sudden reversal, Schultz is transmitting the management class's most Machiavellian warning of all. It is a warning that most efficiently stops organizing drives before they ever happen. And that warning is simple: "Be afraid, be very afraid."

Fear as the accepted standard in the information economy

To be sure, there is no justification for Schultz's hypocritical actions. However, it is natural for him to feel pangs of fear when considering the idea of personally embodying his professed pro-labor convictions. That's because, as mentioned before, thousands of workers are fired every year for exercising their organizing rights - and in many cases, the employers are not seriously punished for such illegal acts.

TV hosts with platform leverage over management - just like, say, highly specialized Hollywood writers and Silicon Valley engineers - certainly have greater defenses against similar treatment. Unlike most worker-bees in the information economy, these individuals often have stronger contracts, they know management has invested valuable capital in them, and they know (like Greenwald, for example) that their notoriety and following gives them a chance to move to another outlet if they are mistreated or fired.

That said, Schultz and others like him also know they are not immune from being terminated for exercising their union rights. So there is real risk, especially when such legally questionable firings are so standardized and so accepted that it's not even considered minimally controversial inside the industry itself.

To appreciate that reality, consider this Inside Cable News dispatch about Hayes' meeting with union organizers (emphasis added):

He just crossed a line he shouldn't have crossed and put himself on the bad side of NBC corporate. That he may have only just listened without ever having any intention of trying to intervene on their behalf is irrelevant. From NBC's standpoint he stuck his nose into a situation he shouldn't have...and NBC will be keeping score as to who is on their side and who isn't.

If this wasn't officially approved, I can almost guarantee NBC will be talking with Phil Griffin if it hasn't already and it will be saying "What the hell is going on over in your shop? Your employees are running around like loose cannons getting involved in things they shouldn't be. Do something about it!" And Griffin will then take Hayes to the woodshed. I can't say with 100% certitude that this isn't a firing offense because I don't know how secure Hayes' position inside MSNBC really is. But this sort of betrayal, and from NBC's standpoint this is a betrayal if it wasn't signed off on in advance, is the kind of thing people lose jobs over.

Under federal law, it is illegal to take a worker "to the woodshed" (read: harass, intimidate or terminate) for meeting with union organizers. Yet, such punishments are now so pervasive and violations of labor law are now so accepted as AOK within the information economy that prominent industry publications like Inside Cable News don't even bother to contextualize such punishments as potentially illegal. Just as bad, they actually slam people like Hayes for supposedly committing acts of "betrayal" for daring to exercise what are ostensibly their statutorily protected rights. Yes, even among the trade press that is supposed to objectively cover the information economy, even a better-protected worker like a TV host even thinking about forming a union is depicted as "crossing a line he shouldn't have crossed."

For Hayes (or any other similarly positioned host who follows his path), standing on his stated pro-union principles and courageously crossing this line could mean anything from being yelled at to being moved out of prime time. But as Inside Cable News notes, it (thankfully) probably won't mean being fired - mind you, not because such firing could run afoul of the law, but because MSNBC is experiencing some unrelated turmoil that prioritizes some sense of personnel stability. But what about other information economy voices?

For instance, in the media sector of the information economy, will people like Charles Davis be blacklisted from writing for media outlets because he wrote a scathing Vice dispatch on exploitative labor practices in the industry? Will Schultz and his cronies make sure that Elk (or me, for that matter) never appear on MSNBC again for reporting on the Peacock Productions union drive? Will other MSNBC hosts follow Schultz's lead and bash allies of that union drive for supposedly representing "income envy"?

The same questions pervade the tech sector of the information economy. Will Apple store workers like Cory Moll who meet with union organizers be blacklisted by the industry? What about Amazon employees who do the same thing - will they be blacklisted by the company's notoriously anti-labor CEO? What about call center employees who try to organize a union - will they be fired?

In all these cases it is difficult to offer a definitive answer. However, the fact that the answer to all of those questions is not a very clear "no" highlights the fear that defines labor management relations in the information economy. This is a fear that the management class has continued to sow and it is a fear that may continue to limit the labor movement's reach into the information economy.

That outcome, in fact, is all but guaranteed if information-economy workers with the most leverage either stay silent or worse, shroud anti-union behavior in the brand of pro-worker populism.
(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.

Jimmy Greene holds a photo of his daughter, Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, one of the victims of the
shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as he comforts his wife, Nelba Marquez-Greene.

Here Lies America: Shot To Death
By William Rivers Pitt

There was snow that morning, so the hiss of flakes against the windows was a constant companion as I got her ready for the day. I watched her eat a bowl of cereal and drink a glass of orange juice, helped her shrug into her winter coat, made sure her laces were tied, and held her hand as we managed the icy walk to the car. She kissed my cheek before stepping out into the controlled mayhem of the sidewalk in front of the school. I watched her as she was swallowed by the mob of children flowing in the schoolhouse door. I think I saw her look back and smile.

I was barely home before the phone rang. Something happened, something happened, I don't know what, but something happened. Turn on the news, and it's a view from a helicopter above her school, armored cops with rifles raised ("Like the ants that fight," you randomly remember from a Thomas Harris novel) swarming through the front door, children streaming out of the side of the building, is that her? Is that her? Where is my daughter?

No, that's not her, none of the screaming, hysterical, traumatized children on CNN are my baby, my baby is still in the building, face down in an ocean of blood and tangled in a pile of other dead children. Someone shot my baby so many times she doesn't have a face. Her jawbone is gore on the classroom wall, and I have to bury her with a closed casket so no one at the funeral throws up at the sight of her.

Welcome to the nightmare. As a parent, that scenario is one of many I am forced to deal with in my mind now, thanks to the Sandy Hook massacre.

I consider myself enormously fortunate, however, to have to deal only with the fear of someone randomly massacring my daughter. The reality of that horror is a national phenomenon. By a conservative estimate, at least 194 children have been killed by guns in the year since Sandy Hook. There have been more toddlers killed by toddlers with guns than there have been American adults killed by terrorists in this fading calendar year. The average age of the children who were killed by guns since Sandy Hook is six years old.

The folks who build small coffins for a living are enjoying a boom time.

The hard facts of the bloodbath:

1,500 state gun bills have been introduced in the year since the Newtown massacre and, of those, 109 are now law, according to The New York Times. Seventy of the enacted laws loosen gun restrictions, while just 39 tighten them. And, though largely symbolic, some 136 bills nullifying federal gun regulations were sponsored in 40 states. In Colorado, two pro-gun control lawmakers were booted from office in historic recalls and a third stepped down in anticipation of a similar fight.

The nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, which promotes government openness and transparency, reviewed lobbying, spending and policies at the state and federal level over the years and, along nearly every metric, rights advocates have trounced opponents.

The gap between direct contributions in favor of gun rights and those in support of gun control is stunningly large, with gun-control contributions amounting to just 6.5 percent of what gun-rights advocates raised from 1989 through the 2012 elections.

Gun rights candidates and causes raised $29.4 million in direct contributions to candidates, parties, and PACs at the federal and state level. Gun control causes raised just $1.9 million, according to Sunlight-provided data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money In State Politics. In seven states-Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming-no contributions whatsoever were made in support of gun control.

Though support for stricter gun laws spiked slightly recently, it's falling back down to its historically low levels, according to Gallup data. But while support for stricter laws has fallen, support for loosening restrictions has remained relatively steady. Instead, support for making no changes has climbed.

If a pill, or a car, or anything else was killing as many children a year as guns, there would be a national panic, and a recall, and bi-partisan legislation in Congress to make sure it never happens again. An epidemic of toddlers painting the walls with their siblings' blood because Dad couldn't be bothered to police his firearm? Bah and feh, whatever, because freedom.

More than one million people in America have been killed by guns since 1980. For perspective, imagine if every living soul in Austin was put to the sword, or San Francisco, or Columbus, or Indianapolis, or Charlotte, or Memphis, or Boston, or Nashville. If every man, woman and child in any of those places were summarily executed, it still would not equal the number of people who have died by guns since Ronald Reagan won his first presidential election.

In Uganda and Sudan, you can get an AK-47 assault rifle for the bargain-basement price of one chicken. In America, it's a little more expensive, but not much more difficult, to do the same.

I opened this article with a fantasy about finding out that my daughter had been slaughtered in her school. Doing so made me literally sick, but I am at an utter loss to come up with any other way to make the bleeding fact of all this real enough to warrant attention. We have armed ourselves to the teeth at the same time as we have stopped giving a damn about each other, and so every massacre happens to someone else, somewhere else, tough luck, better you than me...and that's why we can't get a handle on this grotesquely obvious problem.

It isn't NRA money, or right-wing pressure groups that bears all the responsibility for this. Neither would stand a chance against the kind of unified front represented by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Remember MADD? They changed the country, changed the culture, because too many kids were getting scraped off windshields and sent home to their parents in zippered sacks.

We don't have the kind of grassroots public advocacy against the epidemic of gun deaths that we had against drunk-driving deaths, even though it is children who do the dying all over again. There is nothing close to that kind of campaign happening anywhere.

We just don't care enough to make it stop, because it happens to other people, right?

That, right there, is why and where this country lost its way. The fact that we can't keep thousands of our citizens from dying by guns, and that even attempting to do so amounts to political suicide, is a shameful epitaph.

Here Lies America: shot to death. Please omit flowers.
(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...

Patty gives the Corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Murray,

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 selling out the poor, sick, hungry and elderly along with the military to Paul Ryans budget, 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 Murray, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

When Charity Begins at Home (Particularly the Homes of the Wealthy)
By Robert Reich

It's charity time, and not just because the holiday season reminds us to be charitable. As the tax year draws to a close, the charitable tax deduction beckons.

America's wealthy are its largest beneficiaries. According to the Congressional Budget Office, $33 billion of last year's $39 billion in total charitable deductions went to the richest 20 percent of Americans, of whom the richest 1 percent reaped the lion's share.

The generosity of the super-rich is sometimes proffered as evidence they're contributing as much to the nation's well-being as they did decades ago when they paid a much larger share of their earnings in taxes. Think again.

Undoubtedly, super-rich family foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are doing a lot of good. Wealthy philanthropic giving is on the rise, paralleling the rise in super-rich giving that characterized the late nineteenth century, when magnates (some called them "robber barons") like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller established philanthropic institutions that survive today.

But a large portion of the charitable deductions now claimed by America's wealthy are for donations to culture palaces - operas, art museums, symphonies, and theaters - where they spend their leisure time hobnobbing with other wealthy benefactors.

Another portion is for contributions to the elite prep schools and universities they once attended or want their children to attend. (Such institutions typically give preference in admissions, a kind of affirmative action, to applicants and "legacies" whose parents have been notably generous.)

Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the rest of the Ivy League are worthy institutions, to be sure, but they're not known for educating large numbers of poor young people. (The University of California at Berkeley, where I teach, has more poor students eligible for Pell Grants than the entire Ivy League put together.) And they're less likely to graduate aspiring social workers and legal defense attorneys than aspiring investment bankers and corporate lawyers.

I'm all in favor of supporting fancy museums and elite schools, but face it: These aren't really charities as most people understand the term. They're often investments in the life-styles the wealthy already enjoy and want their children to have as well. Increasingly, being rich in America means not having to come across anyone who's not.

They're also investments in prestige - especially if they result in the family name engraved on a new wing of an art museum, symphony hall, or ivied dorm.

It's their business how they donate their money, of course. But not entirely. As with all tax deductions, the government has to match the charitable deduction with additional tax revenues or spending cuts; otherwise, the budget deficit widens.

In economic terms, a tax deduction is exactly the same as government spending. Which means the government will, in effect, hand out $40 billion this year for "charity" that's going largely to wealthy people who use much of it to enhance their lifestyles.

To put this in perspective, $40 billion is more than the federal government will spend this year on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (what's left of welfare), school lunches for poor kids, and Head Start, put together.

Which raises the question of what the adjective "charitable" should mean. I can see why a taxpayer's contribution to, say, the Salvation Army should be eligible for a charitable tax deduction. But why, exactly, should a contribution to the Guggenheim Museum or to Harvard Business School?

A while ago, New York's Lincoln Center held a fund-raising gala supported by the charitable contributions of hedge fund industry leaders, some of whom take home $1 billion a year. I may be missing something but this doesn't strike me as charity, either. Poor New Yorkers rarely attend concerts at Lincoln Center.

What portion of charitable giving actually goes to the poor? The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews looked into this, and the best he could come up with was a 2005 analysis by Google and Indiana University's Center for Philanthropy showing that even under the most generous assumptions only about a third of "charitable" donations were targeted to helping the poor.

At a time in our nation's history when the number of poor Americans continues to rise, when government doesn't have the money to do what's needed, and when America's very rich are richer than ever, this doesn't seem right.

If Congress ever gets around to revising the tax code, it might consider limiting the charitable deduction to real charities.
(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.


Federal Judge Ruled That The NSA Is Likely Violating The Fourth Amendment, And More
By Thom Hartmann

In today's On the News segment: On Monday, a Bush-appointed Federal District Court judge ruled that the NSA is likely violating our Fourth Amendment rights; the House may have passed a budget, but that doesn't mean there won't be another economic showdown; if you're going to protest oil drilling, there are few better ways than showing up with a giant wind turbine; and more.


Thom Hartmann here - on the news...

You need to know this. On Monday, a Bush-appointed Federal District Court judge ruled that the N.S.A. is likely violating our Fourth Amendment rights. In a 68-page ruling, Judge Richard J. Leon called the government's collection of so-called meta data "almost Orwellian," and he was unconvinced by the government's argument that these massive spying programs serve the public interest. He wrote that our government failed to illustrate "a single instance in which analysis of the N.S.A.'s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive." Judge Leon made clear that he believes the plaintiffs can prove that government spying violates our Fourth Amendment rights, and issued an injunction to halt the programs. However, he stayed - or put on hold - his own ruling, pending the outcome of the inevitable appeal, "in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case the the novelty of the constitutional issues." So for now, the government can keep on spying, while privacy advocates and civil rights groups continue their fight to stop government surveillance. Although this ruling does not yet prevent the N.S.A. from snooping on our communication data, it is the first successful legal challenge against that spying agency. And, it's a sign that our court system could put an end to these massive surveillance programs. Judge Leon wrote that James Madison himself - the author of our Constitution - would be "aghast" to learn of these invasive spying programs. But, it's possible that he would also be proud of the activists, advocates, citizens, and judges who are using that very same document to protect Americans' Fourth Amendment rights.

In screwed news...

The House may have passed a budget, but that doesn't mean there won't be another economic showdown. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan says that the Republicans in Congress are looking to hold our economy hostage over the debt limit, even though they don't even know what they want yet. On Sunday, Representative Ryan said, "[Republicans are] going to meet and discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit. We don't want nothing out of this debt limit." So, the pension cuts, the expiration of long-term unemployment benefits, and the piles of cash for the Pentagon that the Republicans got in the Murray-Ryan budget were all for nothing. Democrats gave up all that and more, and the Republicans haven't even started their list of demands for the next showdown. And, much of the austerity in that budget is permanent. So, Republicans will get to keep their pension cuts, and then continue pushing more extreme policies on working Americans in the debt limit deal. We must find a way to stop this hostage taking - and reverse this austerity - before there's nothing left to give up in the next economic showdown.

In the best of the rest of the news...

If you're going to protest oil drilling, there are few better ways than showing up with a giant wind turbine. And, that's exactly what fifty people did on Monday in North West England. The environmental activists showed up at IGas's exploratory drilling site at 5:30am, where they unloaded and assembled a 17-meter wind turbine blade to block the entrance of the site. The group then left, leaving the giant blade in place in front of the entrance, and decorated it with a giant red Christmas bow. Sandra Denton, one of the protestors, said, "We've delivered this early Christmas gift to IGas to remind them that we don't need damaging, risky and polluting energy sources like oil and gas to power the UK." Another protestor Pearl Hopkins said, "We'd like renewable energy for the future - not the destruction of our towns and countryside with thousands of drill sites." Together, these activists found a unique way to bring international attention to the dangers of fossil fuels, and they even managed to show a little holiday spirit.

According to, radiation levels are down slightly from yesterday's readings, but they're still higher than they'd like to see. Near the East coast, Charleston, West Virginia is averaging 43 counts per minute, with spikes of 70. In the Midwest, Lakewood, Colorado is down to an average of 60 counts per minute, with peaks of 84, and Craig, Montana is sitting at 40, with spikes of 67. In the Southwest, Chandler, Arizona is down slightly to 45 counts per minute, with highs of 70, and Henderson, Nevada is sitting at 47, with spikes of 75. In the Northwest, Portland, Oregon is hovering at 33 counts per minute, with highs of 56, and Seattle, Washington is averaging 30, with spikes of 48. reminds us that their alert level is 100 counts per minute, and they're working hard to bring us this important information.

And finally...

The rotunda in the Wisconsin State Capital building is getting a little crowded. After religious groups set up a nativity display, the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics group responded with a "Festivus" pole, and a "Winter Solstice Nativity" scene featuring Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, and Charles Darwin. And now, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is also represented among the holiday display. Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation said, "The rotunda is getting very cluttered, but if a devotional nativity display is allowed, then there must be 'room at the inn' for all points of view." The newest display features a poster of the Flying Spaghetti Monster which reads, "he boiled for your sins" and "be touched by his noodly appendage, before it's too late!" And, in anticipation of the "war on Christmas" rhetoric, the sign also reads, "Think this is ridiculous? We agree! Religious ideas should not be promoted within the halls of government. Protect the separation of church and state, it protects us all." But, it's safe to say that Fox so-called News will ignore that logic... and go right back to their top story about Santa's skin tone.

And that's the way it is today - Tuesday, December 17, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann - on the news.
(c) 2013 Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at his website and find out what stations broadcast his radio program. He also now has a daily independent television program, The Big Picture, syndicated by FreeSpeech TV, RT TV, and 200 community TV stations. You can also listen or watch Thom over the Internet.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Ed Stein ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Children's Letters To Megyn Kelly
By Andy Borowitz

Dear Megyn Kelly,

For Christmas, could I please have a black Power Ranger? Thank you.

Bobby, age six


Dear Bobby,

Unfortunately, we do not have any Power Rangers in stock in the color you requested. Colors available include: white.

Merry Christmas,
Megyn Kelly

P.S.: Bobby, because you're only six, you probably don't know this, but when you use the words "black" and "power" together, they become swear words. Never say that again.


Dear Megyn Kelly,

For Christmas, I would please like a white My Little Pony.

Jessica, age five


Dear Jessica,

I just checked, and we do have a My Little Pony in the color you requested. However, I see from the postmark on your letter that you live in the South Bronx. Sorry! Megyn Kelly's sleigh does not deliver there.

Merry Christmas,
Megyn Kelly


Dear Megyn Kelly,

My big brother says you're not real, and I say you are. Who's right?

Madison, age four


Dear Madison,

If you believe in Megyn Kelly in your heart, then Megyn Kelly is real. On the other hand, if you don't believe in Megyn Kelly, then you're not real. That means your brother doesn't exist, so stop talking to him.

Merry Christmas,
Megyn Kelly


Dear Megyn Kelly,

What color is the President?

Cody, age five

***** Dear Cody,

Historians are in agreement that a real President is always white. He just is. Now, some people like to make believe that President Obama is a real President, and they get really upset when they learn the truth. Here's what Megyn Kelly thinks: if you believe in your heart that President Obama is President, he still isn't.

Merry Christmas,
Megyn Kelly


Dear Megyn Kelly,

For Christmas, could I please have a black Power Ranger? Thank you.

Bobby, age six


Dear Bobby,

I already warned you never to say that. Now I'm contacting the police.

Merry Christmas,
Megyn Kelly
(c) 2013 Andy Borowitz

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