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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh is, "Walking In An Anthropocene Wonderland."

Uri Avnery sees the horror in an, "Angel Face."

Amy Goodman discovers, "Obama's New Normal: The Drone Strikes Continue."

Norman Solomon asks, "Is MoveOn Less Progressive Than The New York Times Editorial Board?"

Jim Hightower exclaims, "Christmas: War!"

David Swanson considers, "The War On Marriage On Christmas."

Robert Scheer examines, "Bill O'Reilly's War On Jesus."

John Nichols reports, "Scott Walker Goes All 'Duck Dynasty' On The First Amendment."

Chris Hedges finds, "Food Behind Bars Isn't Fit For Your Dog."

Ray McGovern says, "'The Only Thing We Have To Fear...' Is The CIA."

Paul Krugman explores, "Bits And Barbarism."

David Sirota states the obvious, "Edward Snowden Is The Whistleblower Of The Year."

William Rivers Pitt sings of, "Laney's Christmas."

US Rep. Doug Lamborn R/Colorado wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich tells, "The Meaning Of A Decent Society."

Thom Hartmann concludes, "The Senate Is Abandoning The Unemployed."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion returns with, "Obama Has That Sex Dream About Nation Again" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Everything Is Illegal Somewhere!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Gary Varvel, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Micah Ian Wright, Matt Rourke, Michael Lawton, Pete Souza, Flickr, Patriot Boy, Politifake.Org, CompliancEX.Com, General Atomics, AP, A&E, USPS, 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."

Police recruits give the corpo-rat salute!

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Everything Is Illegal Somewhere!
By Ernest Stewart

"Everything is illegal somewhere!" ~~~ Duke Crocker

"Orders issued by judges thousands of miles away would undercut the commanders' authority" and "granting the habeas corpus petitions would distract from the military offensive abroad to the legal defensive at home." ~~~ Federal Appeals Court Judge Karen Henderson

"If someone says to me Happy Hanukkah or something like that, I apply that to my own religion. I'm not offended by that person's acknowledgement of their religion. And so, we live in a pluralistic society. We need to have more tolerance of the diversity and pluralism of our society." ~~~ Rep. Doug Lamborn R/Colorado

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone;
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.
Old Mother Hubbard ~~~ Sarah Catherine Martin

Did you know that elected officials taking bribes from corporations is illegal in most countries; but it's not illegal here; in fact, there are over twelve thousand lobbyists in DC alone; so, not only is it not illegal, but it's actually encouraged.

Did you know that corporate goons, like the Koch Brothers, buying elections with their vast wealth is illegal in quite a few countries around the globe? But not here in these United Snakes. Here's it's all the rage.

I bet you didn't know that forcing people to buy corporate insurance after making back-room deals between the government and insurance goons is illegal in most all the countries on Terra? Here it's called ObamaCare!

Are you hip to the fact that in most of the countries throughout Earth murdering your own citizens, men, women and CHILDREN, without proof of a crime, without charges, without a trial, without a jury is illegal.'s a Tuesday afternoon at the White House!

In most countries, working with and for another country as a fifth columnist is considered treason. In America, it's just showing up to bow and scrape before AIPAC and getting your 30 pieces of silver.

Throughout most of the world, starting a war is considered a war crime! Here, it's an easy way to make a buck!

I could go on; but life is short; but then, you get the picture. It doesn't have to be this way. You could put a stop to these crimes if you wanted to; it is within your power to make these criminal prosecutions instead of being another day in America!!!

In Other News

I see where the inmates at our concentration camp in Afghanistan at Bagram will continue to be tortured and abused, including sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual assault, rape and dehumanization. Because a three-judge panel said so. I wonder how those judges would rule if they were kidnapped in another country to be sent to Bagram to be tortured indefinitely? I'm pretty sure they'd change their tunes the first time a broomhandle was shoved up their ass. Of course, Karen might like that? Most are there because they were sold to us for money, and like the 95% of the inmates who were at Gitmo, they're innocent of any crime.

In a 44-page decision, penned by George H. W. Bush-appointee Judge Karen Henderson, "the habeas corpus petitions filed by five captives at Afghanistan's infamous Bagram military prison-known to some as the 'Other Guantanamo'- were rejected."

The petitions were invoking the men's rights to challenge unlawful detention -- rights recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court for Guantanamo Bay inmates. Karen claimed there are "significant differences between Bagram and Guantanamo" because "our forces at Bagram... are actively engaged in a war with a determined enemy."

Michael Doyle, writing for McClatchy said, "One might wonder whether a 'war' has changed into an 'occupation,' and whether that affects the legal analysis."

The truth is, Michael, there can be no legal status when we kidnap and torture innocents -- something to our great shame at which we are very good!!!

And Finally

The last time I looked at The Bill of Rights it said in Amendment One: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The fact is the First Amendment shows you how important the Founding Fathers thought it was -- having been under the yoke of the Church of England -- a little something thought up by Henry the 8th so he could grant himself a divorce and get at another woman.

Of course, the far right always ignores this fundamental law so they can shove their idea of a fascist right-wing god down our throats, i.e., Republican Jesus -- in order to control us even more so. When Colorado's national bad joke, Rep. Doug Lamborn, decided to make Christianity our official religion, I wasn't surprised at all. Dougie has written a resolution to "save Christmas" that offers an US government-endorsement of the religious holiday.

During his appearance on Fox & Friends, Rep. Lamborn claimed he supported "tolerance of the diversity and pluralism of our society," but failed to mention that his resolution only refers to Christmas, which is, you guessed it, against the law of the land. Yes, it's only a resolution, so it has no binding effect what-so-ever on the law; and it makes him a hero to his fundy supporters and an asshole to the rest of us. Therefore, we award the Vidkun Quisling Award to Dougie this week!

Keepin' On

Got dem old Mother Hubbard Blues again; and time is all but gone! Still $300 short for the year, and nothing but Christmas cards in the po box. Trouble is, I can only legally keep publishing through the next edition. I will continue to write a piece as there is no cost involved with that; and I do have contractual obligations to perform.

I've been walking a fine line since my old SDS daze; and have no doubt like Nixon's I'm on Barry's watch list, too. So, while on the Internet, I must somewhat watch my P's & Q's or end up on the top bunk down in Gitmo for my defense of the Constitution and my demand for equal rights for all, period.

If you like to keep the magazine intact and above board, please send us whatever you can as often as you can; and we'll in return keep you informed about the shenanigans and acts of treason committed by your elected officials. After all, someone should be keeping score, and telling you the truth, shouldn't they? Who ya gonna call?


01-10-1936 ~ 12-19-2013
Thanks for the porn!

11-10-1919 ~ 12-23-2013
You should have stuck with poetry! Burn baby burn!


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.

Walking In An Anthropocene Wonderland
But I'll know my song well before I start singing
By Phil Rockstroh

According to a recent, exhaustive study commissioned by the US Department of Energy and headed by a scientific team from the U.S. navy, by the summer of 2015, the Arctic Ocean could be bereft of ice, a phenomenon that will engender devastating consequences for the earth's environment and every living creature on the planet.

Yet, recently, Chuck Hagel, US Defense Secretary, said (in defiance of common sense and even a modicum of sanity) that the US military will escalate its presence in the Arctic, due to the fact that "[the] potential for tapping what may be as much as a quarter of the planet's undiscovered oil and gas."

Secretary of Defense? More like Commissar of Mass Suicide.

This situation is like a family of self-destructive drunks inheriting a brewery.

Sans hyperbole, it is exactly like making the choice to exist as fatally self-involved consumers as opposed to multidimensional human beings possessed of heart, mind and soul.

I mean, just what kind of suicidal clowns flounce through life gibbering on about bacon straws, cupcakes, online images of kitty cats, and the latest Playstation model when the specter of extinction looms and their psychotic leaders are doubling down on the criteria of doom?

This is like giving Charles Manson the codes to nuclear missile silos.

In the Anthropocene Epoch, in our manic flight from consequence and accountability and our attendant estrangement from empathic imagination, we have come to regard all the things of the world as fodder for our empty appetites, as commodified, meretricious objects that exist to distract us and then be discarded. By our actions, we are destroying the living things of the world by caprice. The fetishization of mechanization and its concomitant soulless and habitual reductionism has mortified our psyches inflicting alienation that we attempt to remedy with the palliative of perpetual media distraction.

Devoid of the musk and fury of true communal engagement, this communion with electronic phantoms only exacerbates our alienation and decimates one's ability to evince empathy, when, conversely, empathy is the quality required to feel the suffering that hyper-capitalist industrialization has wrought. If we are to pull back from the brink of extinction, we must lament what has been lost to cupidity.

Yet, one must resist the temptation to become intoxicated by grim prophesy. It is possession of the qualities of sadness and gravitas that separates an individual bearing accurate augury from false prophets. The tears of the world will saturate the soul of an individual who lives in the truth of our era of Climate Chaos and global-wide ecocide.

"And I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinking, But I'll know my song well before I start singing..." -- Bob Dylan, A Hard Rain Gonna Fall

Allow the images of thinning polar icecaps, of oceanic acidification and depletion, and of the 150 to 200 species of plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals that become extinct on a daily basis to permeate your heart and mind. Thus, you will know the tears at the heart of things.

Then decide what your song will be, arrange it according to your individual talents, and start to sing. Because we must end this paradigm or it will end us.

The changes we yearn for must be first glimpsed and nurtured in the heart. Creative expression (e.g., art, poetry, fiction, inspired prose) serves as the quickening agent of dreams. Language constellates from the quanta of possibility, where it gains scope and shape, so that ideas can become manifested by means of action and form.

The heart must be allowed to dream, grief, and yearn before the world itself even becomes possible.

When thwarted, life becomes seized with the quality of a reoccurring nightmare. Due to the ongoing, relentless destruction of the earth's biosphere, the next episode of the planet's periodic, epoch-ending Great Die Offs will not be caused by an earth-decimating comet but an earthbound (and apparently equally mindless) source i.e., us. Although we have been graced with life with all its possibilities and abundance, it has become apparent, we have fallen in love with Extinction.

Self-absorption, hubris and ignorance are traits that Unnecessary Death finds irresistible thus moves in for the seduction. The air is redolent with the intoxicating perfume of self-deception. When possessed by feelings of indestructibility, one feels immortal while dancing on the precipice overlooking a yawning abyss. Intoxicated: The rules of gravity don't seem applicable. Yet the delusion of being imbued by the immortal makes consummation with Death inevitable. This is the manner that an addict is dispatched from the world. A compulsion to remain high provokes a jealous fury from the spurned ground and she smothers the errand consort in an endless embrace.

To avoid this lamentable fate, we, as a species, must listen to the earth's entreaties. To demur, we invite our undoing. Ecocide should be regarded with the same sense of abhorrence as genocide, for the two abominations align to the same destination: The world shattered beyond recognition; mountains of corpses looming over a hideous and forsaken valley of denial.

Late capitalism's putrefying paradigm has but one remedy for the devastation reaped by the system...insanely, more production and more consumerism. Bafflingly, despite the vast carnage inflicted and multiple promises betrayed, why does the storyline of the capitalist/consumer state still resonant with so many? Consumerism, in the US and elsewhere, is one of the few activities in the capitalist paradigm whereby fantasy and human libido merge (albeit a facsimile thereof). The mall, the big box store, even upscale stores and department stores are phantasmagoric agoras, much like the fairways of old style roving carnivals wherein the modus operandi of carnies was to bamboozle gullible, repressed rubes by bait-and-switch scams involving the commodification of curiosity and desire.

The social repression, attendant atomization and ennui inherent to existence in the corporate/consumer age give rise to a form of a pent-up longing for release. And that is where the bait-and-switch comes in, vis-a-vis Edward Bernay's and his mercenary misappropriation of his uncle, Sigmund Freud's theories regarding the dreamscape of desire (i.e., Eros). When we approach the dominion of Eros, we enter the realm of both beauty (Eros' mother Aphrodite) and soul, Psyche (Eros' eternal mate). Although the union of Eros and Psyche is fraught with mistrust, betrayal, outside interference (both human and divine), estrangement, struggle, the lover's shattered bond wends, ultimately, toward rapprochement. (Familiar tumult to anyone who has pursued art and surrendered to love.)

In short, to survive the exploitation of the consumer paradigm, it becomes imperative to regain one's soul. First step: the reclamation of beauty. Hint: The quality cannot be found in a retail outlet.

Beauty reveals herself in the longings of the heart. Tell me what you long for and I will tell you who you are. Hint: You are not the sum total of your consumer preferences.

Living things are closer to works of art: never finished, yet ever alluding to something hidden, subtle, and sublime -- an immense and deathless quality within that we long to quantify, but remains elusive. This is what we concretize -- despoil -- when we seek consumer gratification.

Eric Hoffer summarized the hapless state of being thus: "You can never get enough of what you don't need to make you happy."

That is why the following incantation cast by the dark magicians of the consumer paradigm seizes the psyche, literally steals one's soul: "No one can eat just one."

Attention: Consumer State shoppers: The world was never your oyster -- nor your salt-spiked snack food. Beware, although you believe you possess the consumer item, in reality, the consumer item possesses you.

The heart is untamable. It is not a poor creature in a circus that can be goaded and bribed into performing demeaning tricks. When we attempt to dominate and coerce it into accepting the dishonest, the artificial, and the demeaning, the heart will lash out, sink into sorrow, or even damage its host.

My heart grieves yet will not cease to yearn that we, as a species, will begin to resist, heart, mind and spirit, the reckless course that the economic elite have set us upon. We do not have the luxury of acting as though the carnage wrought by the Anthropocene Epoch is not upon us. We cannot deceive ourselves that the crisis can be ignored.

By choosing to retreat from the challenge, one exiles oneself from the heart's landscape -- a state of being comprised of angst and ashes. In this limbo of destiny deferred, the heart turns away from you. Your face will have become unrecognizable to it. Yet the moment one calls it by its name a rapprochement can begin.

How not to be a bystander in your own life:

Be attentive to the things of the world that evoke within you quicksilver enthusiasm or roil you with apprehension.

Remain open...allow yourself to be remade by the interplay of innocence and transitory wonders and eternal forms.

Tell the story of it all, in your own time and in your own way, and whenever and wherever you can.

Never bore your audience.

The above can be achieve by telling an honest tale. In short, like an inspired storyteller who appropriates artifice to limn reality, you will be able to lie the truth. If you do so, people will be moved or angered -- but they will not be bored.

Before us, the denizens, operatives, propagandists and enforcers of the old order grow more certain of their convictions in direct proportion to its accelerating rate of decay. Stoned-faced phalanxes of soldiers and bristling clutches of militarized cops stand guard before the entrances of shoddy, swaying towers. But lies cannot be built to last. The lipless grins of a billion skulls mock the illusory staying power of deceit, while the perennial yearnings of the heart and its perpetual coupling with the eternal present endure. Love songs ring out among the rot of empires.
(c) 2013 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Angel Face
By Uri Avnery

SEEING HER face on the TV screen, one is struck by her beauty. It is the face of an angel, pure and innocent.

Then she opens her mouth, and what pours out is vile and ugly, the racist message of the extreme right. Like seeing a cherub parting its lips and revealing the teeth of a vampire.

Ayelet Shaked may be the beauty queen of the present Knesset. Her name is enticing: Ayelet means gazelle, Shaked means almond. But she is the instigator of some of the most outrageous right-wing initiatives in this Knesset. She is also the chairwoman of Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home faction, the nationalist-religious party of the settlers, the most radical rightist party of the current government coalition.

Her latest exploit is a bill which is now being debated in the Knesset, which would levy a huge tax on donations given by foreign "political entities" to Israeli human rights associations, those who advocate a boycott of Israel (or of the settlements only), the indictment of Israeli officers accused of war crimes in international courts, and more.

All this while immense sums of money are flowing from abroad to the settlements and their supporters. A large share of these sums is practically donated by the US government, which allows their exemption from US income tax as philanthropic. Much of it comes from American Jewish billionaires of dubious repute.

IN A way, this Gazelle is the face of an international phenomenon. All over Europe, extreme fascistic parties are flourishing. Small despised fringe groups suddenly expand into large parties with a national impact. From Holland to Greece, from France to Russia, these parties propagate a mixture of super-nationalism, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and immigrant-hatred. A deadly witches' brew.

The explanation seems to be simple. All over the place, the economic crisis has hit the people hard. Unemployment is high. Young people cannot find jobs. The victims look for a scapegoat on which to vent their anger. They choose the foreigner, the minority, the helpless. That has been so since antiquity. That's how a failed painter named Adolf Hitler became a historic figure.

For politicians without vision or values, this is the easiest way to success and prominence. It is also the most despicable.

An Austrian socialist said more than a century ago: "Anti-Semitism is the socialism of the fools."

Social reformers may believe that the whole thing is instigated by the world's billionaires, who are concentrating an ever larger part of the world's assets in their hands. The gap between the upper 1% and everybody else is growing relentlessly, and the beneficiaries are financing radical right-wingers to divert the anger of the masses in other directions. Stands to reason.

HOWEVER, TO my mind the economic explanation is too simple. If the same phenomenon appears at the same time in so many different countries, with different economic situations, there must be more profound reasons. There must be some elements of Zeitgeist in it.

I think that we are witnessing a basic cultural breakdown, a crisis of accepted values. This kind of upheaval generally accompanies social changes, often caused by economic and technological breakthroughs. It is a sign of social dissonance, of disorientation. On the eve of the Nazi revolt, the German writer Hans Fallada wrote an immensely successful book called "Kleiner Mann was nun?" (Little Man, What Now?), expressing the despair of the newly disinherited masses. Many little men and women around the world are in the same situation now.

In Israel, too.

LAST WEEK, we saw a spectacle that would have shaken our grandparents to the core.

Some 300 black people, many of them barefoot in the biting cold of an exceptionally severe winter, were walking dozens of kilometers on a central road. They were refugees who had managed to flee from Sudan and Eritrea, to walk all the way through Egypt and the Sinai and had crossed the border into Israel. (Since then, a wall has been erected along the Sinai border, and this stream has practically stopped.)

There are now about 60,000 such African refugees in Israel. Thousands of them are crowded in the most run-down slums of Tel Aviv and other cities, causing deep resentment among the locals. This has proved a fertile breeding ground for racism. The most successful agitator is another beautiful member of the Knesset, the Likud's Miri Regev, a former army chief spokeswoman, who is inciting the inhabitants and the country in the most primitive and vulgar manner.

Looking for a solution to the problem, the government built a large prison in the middle of the desolate Negev desert, unbearably hot in summer and unbearably cold in winter. Thousands of black refugees have been crowded there without trial for three years. Some called it a concentration camp.

Israeli human rights associations - the same as above - applied to the Supreme Court, and the imprisonment of the refugees was declared unconstitutional. The government thought again (if thinking is the right word) and decided to circumvent the decision. Not far from the forbidden prison a new prison was built, and the refugees were put there for one year each.

No, not a prison. Something called "Open Live-in Facility". We are good at naming things. We call that "verbal laundry".

This "open" desert prison is closed during the night, but inmates are free during the day. However, it is far from anywhere. The inmates must register three times during daytime - thus making it impossible to go anywhere, not to mention finding work.

It is from this "open" prison that the valiant 300 have walked out and marched all the way to Jerusalem, some 150 kilometers, in order to demonstrate in front of the Knesset. It took them three days. They were accompanied by a few Israeli human rights activists, mostly female, their light faces very conspicuous among all the black heads.

In front of the Knesset they were brutally attacked by specially trained riot police. Each demonstrator was surrounded by half a dozen bullies and violently thrown into a bus, which brought them to the old non-open prison.

I AM dwelling on this incident because I am profoundly ashamed.

Racism is not a new thing in Israel. Far from it. But whenever we accuse our gazelles of racism, they answer that this is pure libel. There is a conflict between us and the Palestinians, strict security measures are called for, this has nothing to do with racism, God forbid.

This is a very dubious argument, but at least it has some plausibility.

But we have no national conflict with the refugees. No security considerations are involved.

It is racism, pure and simple.

Let's imagine that suddenly, in a remote corner between Eritrea and the Sudan, a Jewish tribe had been discovered. Its 60,000 members want to come to Israel.

The country would be in a delirium. The red carpet would be rolled out in Ben-Gurion airport. Both the President and the Prime Minister would be there, ready with their most banal speeches. They would receive an "absorption subsidy", free housing and work.

So it's not an economic problem, nor a question of absorption, housing or employment. It's not even a question of skin color. Black Jews from Ethiopia are readily welcomed.


No room here for other people. They would take away our jobs. They would change the demographic balance. This, after all, is a Jewish State!

OR IS it?

If this were a Jewish State, would it treat refugees this way?

A hundred memories float into our minds. Of Jews being hounded from country to country. Of the mighty United States of America rejecting Jewish refugees on a German ship, fleeing from Nazi persecution. And later exterminated in the death camps. Of the Swiss pushing back Jews escaping from the concentration camps who had made it to their border.

Remember "The Boat Is Full?"

If this really were a Jewish state, would it try to bribe African states to accept these refugees without asking what would happen to them there? For a refugee from the hell of Darfur, Zimbabwe is as foreign as New Zealand (unless one subscribes to the theory that "all blacks are the same".)

If this really were a Jewish state, would the Minister of the Interior, a Likud functionary, send his force of goons to go hunting for refugees in the streets?

No, this is not a Jewish state. The Bible commands us to treat the stranger in our midst as we would want to be treated ourselves. "Also, thou shalt not oppress a stranger, for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt!" (Exodus 23:9)

(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Obama's New Normal: The Drone Strikes Continue
By Amy Goodman

There has been yet another violent attack with mass casualties. This was not the act of a lone gunman, or of an armed student rampaging through a school. It was a group of families en route to a wedding that was killed. The town was called Radda-not in Colorado, not in Connecticut, but in Yemen. The weapon was not an easy-to-obtain semiautomatic weapon, but missiles fired from U.S. drones. On Thursday, Dec. 12, 17 people were killed, mostly civilians. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has consistently tracked U.S. drone attacks, recently releasing a report on the six months following President Barack Obama's major address on drone warfare before the National Defense University (NDU) last May. In that speech, Obama promised that "before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured-the highest standard we can set." The BIJ summarized, "Six months after President Obama laid out U.S. rules for using armed drones, a Bureau analysis shows that covert drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan have killed more people than in the six months before the speech." In a nation that abhors the all-too-routine mass killing in our communities, why does our government consistently kill so many innocents abroad?

One significant problem with assessing the U.S. drone-warfare program is its secrecy. U.S. officials rarely comment on the program, less so about any specific attack, especially where civilian deaths occur. As Obama admitted in the speech, "There's a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties and nongovernmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties." The BIJ's estimate of the death toll from U.S. drone strikes during the past 12 years in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is well over 4,000.

While the U.S. media shower attention on the hypothetical prospects that in the next few years, will deploy clever little drones to deliver your holiday orders, it is important to take a hard look at what these airborne robots are actually doing now. "Democracy Now!" correspondent Jeremy Scahill has been exposing U.S. covert warmaking for years, most recently in his book and film "Dirty Wars." The film was just shortlisted for an Oscar for best documentary. After the Academy Award nomination was made, he told us, "I hope that people pay attention to these stories, that Americans will know what happened to the Bedouin villagers in al-Majalah, Yemen, where three dozen women and children were killed in a U.S. cruise missile strike that the White House tried to cover up."

In his NDU address, Obama said, "We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people." Neither Obama nor any of his aides have explained just what kind of threat the wedding convoy presented to the American people. The government of Yemen, following local custom, made reparations to the victimized families, reportedly delivering 101 Kalashnikov rifles and a little over $100,000.

These rural villages in Yemen are caught in the middle of a violent conflict, as Human Rights Watch wrote in an October report titled "Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda." Just one month to the day before Obama gave his address at the NDU, Farea al-Muslimi, an eloquent young Yemeni man who spent a year attending a U.S. high school, spoke before a congressional hearing. Six days before he testified, a drone strike hit his village of Wessab. Farea said: "What Wessab's villagers knew of the U.S. was based on my stories about my wonderful experiences here. ... Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads, ready to fire missiles at any time. What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab." He ended his testimony with the hope that "when Americans truly know about how much pain and suffering the U.S. air strikes have caused ... they will reject this devastating targeted killing program."

The scenes of senseless violence in the U.S. form a list of sorrow and loss: Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, Littleton. With the ongoing work of committed activists, courageous journalists and responsible officials, perhaps Americans will recite as well the names Gardez, Radda, al-Majalah, Mogadishu and the many more sites of drone strikes still cloaked in secrecy.
(c) 2013 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co- author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

Is MoveOn Less Progressive Than The New York Times Editorial Board?
By Norman Solomon

The New York Times is hardly a progressive newspaper -- but when it comes to the surveillance state and ongoing militarism of the Obama White House, the establishment's "paper of record" puts to shame.

And so, the same day that the Times editorialized to excoriate President Obama for his latest betrayal of civil liberties, MoveOn sent out a huge email blast sucking up to Obama.

The Times was blunt in its Saturday editorial: "By the time President Obama gave his news conference on Friday, there was really only one course to take on surveillance policy from an ethical, moral, constitutional and even political point of view. And that was to embrace the recommendations of his handpicked panel on government spying -- and bills pending in Congress -- to end the obvious excesses. He could have started by suspending the constitutionally questionable (and evidently pointless) collection of data on every phone call and email that Americans make."

But, the newspaper added: "He did not do any of that."

As the Times editorial went on to say, "any actions that Mr. Obama may announce next month would certainly not be adequate. Congress has to rewrite the relevant passage in the Patriot Act that George W. Bush and then Mr. Obama claimed -- in secret -- as the justification for the data vacuuming."

Let's reiterate that the Times is far from a progressive outlet. It serves as a highly important megaphone for key sectors of corporate/political elites. Voicing the newspaper's official stance, its editorials are often deferential to spin and half-truths from favored political figures. And much of the paper's news coverage feeds off the kind of newspeak that spews out of the Executive Branch and Congress.

But on crucial matters of foreign policy, militarism and surveillance, the contrast between Times editorials and MoveOn is stunning. The "progressive" netroots organization has rarely managed to clear a low bar of independence from reprehensible Obama policies.

Instead, millions of people on MoveOn's list are continually deluged with emails pretending that Republicans are the only major problem in Washington -- while nearly always ignoring Obama administration policies that are antithetical to basic progressive values.

And so, on the same day the New York Times was ripping into Obama's latest affront to civil liberties and privacy rights, MoveOn was sending out a mass email that began by quoting from Obama's 2008 convention acceptance speech -- as though his five-year record as president still makes him an apt source of inspiration: "The change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington."

After five years, MoveOn seems not to have noticed what the New York Times editorial board has often pointed out: that some of the change Obama has brought to Washington has not been in a progressive direction. As the Times put it in a follow-up editorial Sunday, at his latest news conference Obama "insisted that there was no evidence that the phone surveillance program was being abused -- a truly disturbing assessment given all the revelations since June."

As usual, the MoveOn email did not include a single word of criticism, much less challenge, of Obama. Instead, the email blamed Congress for all the political obstacles to needed "change."

This is typical. Year after year of the Obama presidency, MoveOn has been routinely silent on such crucial matters as U.S. drone and cruise missile strikes across borders, war in Afghanistan, assaults on press freedom and whistleblowers, and methodical undermining of precious civil liberties.

The intertwined warfare state and surveillance state have little to fear from MoveOn. And that's tragic.
(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."

Christmas: War!

Ah, 'tis the season for family, friends, eggnog, chipmunks singing Christmas carols - and all-out, no-mercy, blow'em-all-to-hell WAR.

Not war like in Afghanistan. No, no - this is the far-right's God-awful "War on the War on Christmas." In this season of Peace on Earth, these delusional hucksters are fomenting hatred of... well, of whom? Blasphemist-liberal-Democrat-atheist-humanists, they shout - those heathens who actually go around saying "Happy Holidays," rather than "Merry Christmas," as Jesus taught us to say. Or was it Constantine the Great in the Fourth Century who came up with that?

Never mind, the rightists' point is that diabolical lefties - ie, Marxists - are out to ban Christmas entirely. No less of a heroic defender of the faith than Sarah Palin has even written a thin book about this devious plot, revealing that "Happy Holidays" is merely "The tip of the spear in a larger battle to... make true religious freedom a thing of America's past." Luckily, note the Merry Christmas crusaders, such bright lights as Gov. Rick Perry of Texas are pushing state laws to by-pass the silly US Constitution and allow Christian icons and ceremonies into our schools. "A creche in every public space," is their cry, "a cross on every city hall." To hell with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, etcetera - this is war!

No, this is hokem, hoodoo, camel dung. It's also insulting that they would attempt to create a fictional piece of religious discrimination, whine that they are a repressed minority, and equate it with war. First, Jews, Muslims, and others don't get to brand public spaces as their religious property. Second, about three-fourths of Americans are Christian, so drop the martyr pose. And third, war really is hell, with blood, lifelong trauma, and death - so stop pretending you're in one.
(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.

The War On Marriage On Christmas
By David Swanson

Very rarely does our government ask us what to have a war on. The proposal for missile strikes into Syria was a rare occasion when public pressure and other factors compelled Congress to demand a say. Public pressure then compelled Congress to say No.

But daily drone buzzings over various nations aren't occasions for public debate. We aren't being asked about another decade in Afghanistan or cooking up a future war on Iran. And our current president and his predecessor combined have wiped out eight wedding parties(six in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, and one in Yemen earlier this month) without our having ever been asked about any of them.

What if we were?

There are various ways a debate over whether to launch a war could go. In a highly-informed debate, we might investigate whether a war would violate the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the U.N. Charter, and the U.S. Constitution. We might ask how many adults, children, and infants would likely be killed, injured, and traumatized, how many refugees created, what sort of environmental damage, what economic cost, what erosion of our civil liberties, what heightened secrecy in government, what increase in violence throughout our culture and the country attacked, what likely blowback for decades to come, and what obvious alternatives are available to violence. But, of course, if we asked all that, then we'd never have any wars.

In a more plausible scenario, we might expect a debate to squeeze its way onto our televisions that would ask questions like: How many U.S. troops will die? How much will it cost? Why are we on the same side as al Qaeda this time? How will it end once begun? How does bombing more people express our support for suffering people? Or, depending on the circumstances, maybe even this: Haven't we been arming that dictator for decades -- why the urgency to overthrow him now?

But how would a debate over whether to send hellfire missiles screaming into a wedding party look? What if such a debate were to develop in our news media this Christmas season?

In areas of frequent drone strikes, people are often afraid to get together in large numbers. In Yemen, parents resort to home schooling for fear of letting their children out of the house. Few and far between are the events deemed important enough to risk violating that rule. One such event is a wedding.

How much, we might hear our pundits ask, could be saved by killing 15 people at a wedding as opposed to killing them each separately? (If the missiles alone cost $1 million each, the answer is well over $14 million.) What element of surprise might be gained in obliterating people whose minds are distracted by love and friendship and an important right of passage? What fear and respect might be placed into the minds of the survivors? Let's say one of the wedding couple survives and the other doesn't; which one would it be most desirable to let live? Does it matter what kind of dress the bride is wearing? Should fashion consultants be brought in by the Pentagon, or should morning talk shows contribute that analysis as part of their patriotic duty? Should the missiles hit just as little kids bearing flowers enter the scene?

The debate may sound absurd, but its creation would actually be a significant step toward sound government. We ought to vote on or be represented by officials who vote on important decisions for us. We ought to be informed, engaged, and consulted. Therefore, a debate before the next wedding strike is a perfectly reasonable proposal -- unless of course we're going to unilaterally stop blowing up weddings. Far be it from me to suggest anything that rash.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Bill O'Reilly's War On Jesus
By Robert Scheer

Maybe it is time to put Christ back in Christmas. Bill O'Reilly annually demands we acknowledge that the man, or myth, that has been moved to the center of this once pagan ritual be properly identified with a religion, or philosophy as he puts it, that carries a moral message. True, the nation's early Puritan settlers considered the holiday somewhat blasphemous, but we obviously are in need of moral guidance from any quarter that is plausible.

So, what would Jesus do about the profound inequality of opportunity that both the pope and our president have identified as the most pressing moral crisis of our time? O'Reilly didn't cotton to the statements of either man and took particular umbrage over the comments that the spiritual leader of his own Catholic faith made in late November: "... Pope Francis said that income inequality is immoral. ... I don't know if Jesus is going to be down with that."

It is a timely question to ponder when many of us honor the purported moment of Christ's birth with a last minute burst of shopping so desperate as to suggest the gluttony of the Roman Empire that led the early Christians to revolt in disgust. It is an indulgence much in evidence today, as the pope warns: "The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalance and, above all, their lack of concern for human beings. ..."

Score one for the pope. Although there is much to argue about in Christ's enduring legacy, divinely inspired or not, there can be no doubt that equality of opportunity is explicit in the core Christian doctrine that every infant has a soul as significant as that of any other, and that we all will be judged by how well we respect the sanctity of the lives of those born into the most forlorn of circumstance.

That is also the crisis of the moment. As President Obama stated recently in pledging, once again, that he would treat the growing inequality of opportunity as "the defining challenge of our time," he noted "the premise that we're all created equal is the opening line in the American story." That precept drew heavily upon the predominant Christian faith of the settlers even as they betrayed it in their treatment of this land's original natives and its imported slaves.

Clearly the nation's founders skipped Christ's tale of the Good Samaritan in Luke where a compassionate response to a disheveled wretch is offered as the necessary requirement for eternal salvation. But it is the sentiment that informed Pope Francis' recent apostolic exhortation condemning the growing worldwide gulf between the super-rich and the vast majority of more humble folk:

"The thirst for power and possessions knows no limit. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the rule. ... Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God."
Quite a challenge for our nation that largely continues to request at every public occasion that God bless America. We are a country, as our president tells us, where "the problem is that alongside increased inequality, we've seen diminished levels of upward mobility in recent years. A child born in the top 20 percent has about a 2-in-3 chance of staying at or near the top. A child born into the bottom 20 percent has a less than 1-in-20 shot at making it to the top. ... The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe."

What we stand for is a launching pad for multinational corporations that wantonly exploit the resources and peoples of this planet with abandon. All the while, these modern plunderers are protected by the massive military power of a U.S. government that those same corporations refuse to support with the profits they have buried abroad. In return, they stuff the shopping malls, real and virtual, with an intoxicating display of imperial spoils that most of our citizens can barely afford.

Sorry, Bill, Jesus is not going to be down with that; trust the pope on this one.
(c) 2013 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in=depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Scott Walker Goes All 'Duck Dynasty' On The First Amendment
By John Nichols

Scott Walker will never be accused of displaying a high regard for the First Amendment.

The Wisconsin governor who tried to close the state Capitol to mass protests against his anti-labor policies, and who then engineered a rewrite of rules so that veterans, grandmothers, teachers and firefighters were arrested for singing, has offered ample evidence of his disregard for the rights to speak freely, to assemble, to petition for the redress of grievances

So it came as a surprise when Walker suddenly announced that First Amendment concerns had led him to sign a new Wisconsin law that makes it significantly harder to get schools to drop Indian logos, mascots and team names that Native Americans, educators and community members have identified as objectionable. Indeed, Walker has adopted a position that reinterprets the US Constitution's free speech protection in a far more adventurous way than the folks who are currently arguing about the controversial statements of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson.

Walker readily admits that many Wisconsinites view the school nicknames as "seriously offensive." And he says he personally supports "moving away" from the use of them.

In a letter to Wisconsin's tribal leaders, the governor wrote: "I share many of your concerns about some of the mascots and nicknames used in Wisconsin and across America. If it were up to me personally, I would seek viable alternatives that were not offensive to Native Americans."

So why didn't Walker veto the measure-which Wisconsin Indian Education Association spokeswoman Barbara Munson decried as "institutionalized racism"-and just let existing law stand?

Walker says it has something to do with the First Amendment.

"If the state bans speech that is offensive to some, where does it stop?" asked Walker. "A person or persons' right to speak does not end just because what they say or how they say it is offensive."

But a school district is not a person, like Duck Dynasty's Robertson, who was suspended from the A&E program after making statements that drew loud objections from civil rights groups. Robertson's supporters have countered criticisms from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Human Rights Campaign, among others, by arguing that, as an individual citizen, Robertson has every right to say what he thinks.

Nor is a school district a private enterprise, like A&E, which has faced threats of boycotts from Americans who are uncomfortable with Robertson's statements.

A school district is a public entity, which is supposed to serve all the people in a community.

"School districts are creatures of the state, bound to abide by state standards," Milwaukee attorney Brian Pierson. who had helped defend the existing state law in court, explained to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel."A school district doesn't have a First Amendment right to adopt an Indian mascot any more than it has a First Amendment right to adopt the swastika as school symbol or 'white supremacy' as school slogan."

The issue never was-and is not now- "a person or persons' right to speak."

In fact, when Walker signaled he would make a First Amendment argument for his decision to sign the legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin objected.

"This is a bogus appropriation of the First Amendment," explained executive director Chris Ahmuty. "The governor apparently does not understand that the First Amendment protects citizens from government censorship. Government programs are not allowed to offend, harm or otherwise discriminate against citizens on the basis of the First Amendment. The First Amendment simply doesn't apply when it's the government taking action."

Noting that "school team names, mascots, logos and all that go along with them are the responsibility of the public school district," Ahmuty explained that it was entirely appropriate for a public school district or the state Department of Public Instruction to take steps to address offensive names.

"Why would a public school district want to harm some of its students?" asked Ahmuty, who added, "Free speech is no justification."
(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.

Aramark World Headquarters in Philadelphia.

Food Behind Bars Isn't Fit For Your Dog
by Chris Hedges

Shares in the Philadelphia-based Aramark Holdings Corp., which contracts through Aramark Correctional Services to provide the food to 600 correctional institutions across the United States, went public Thursday. The corporation, acquired in 2007 for $8.3 billion by investors that included Goldman Sachs, raised $725 million last week from the sale of the stock. It is one more sign that the business of locking up poor people in corporate America is booming.

Aramark, whose website says it provides 1 million meals a day to prisoners, does what corporations are doing throughout the society: It lavishes campaign donations on pliable politicians, who in turn hand out state and federal contracts to political contributors, as well as write laws and regulations to benefit their corporate sponsors at the expense of the poor. Aramark fires unionized workers inside prisons and jails and replaces them with underpaid, nonunionized employees. And it makes sure the food is low enough in both quality and portion to produce huge profits.

Aramark, often contracted to provide food to prisoners at about a dollar a meal, is one of numerous corporations, from phone companies to construction firms, that have found our grotesque system of mass incarceration to be very profitable. The bodies of the poor, when they are not captive, are worth little to corporations. But bodies behind bars can each generate $40,000 to $50,000 a year for corporate coffers. More than 2.2 million men and women are in prisons and jails in the U.S.

Crystal Jordan, who has spent 23 years as a corrections officer in New Jersey and who works at the Burlington County Jail, and another corrections officer at the jail, who did not want to be named, told me that the food doled out to prisoners by Aramark is not only substandard but often spoiled. For nearly a decade Jordan has filed complaints about the conditions in the jail, including persistent mold on walls and elsewhere, with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state and county officials. The results of her complaints have been negligible.

"The big shift came in 2004 when the state got rid of the employees who worked in the kitchen and gave the food service contract to Aramark," said Jordan, who has sent several complaints about jail kitchen conditions to state and county authorities. "The food was not great [earlier], but the officers ate it along with the prisoners. Once Aramark came in, that changed. The bread was stale. I saw food in the kitchen with mold on it. The refrigerator broke down and the food was left outside in the cold or trucked in from another facility. Those who ate the food began to get sick. The officers demanded the right to bring in their own food or order out, which the jail authorities granted. But the prisoners had no choice. Diarrhea and vomiting is common among the prisoners. A few weeks ago one of the officers got a bowl of the prisoners' chili. We all told him not to eat it. He ended up with diarrhea in the bathroom."

Many of those incarcerated in prisons or jails such as Union County Jail in Elizabeth, N.J., where Aramark runs the food service, echo Jordan's account. They say that sickness and persistent hunger are becoming a routine part of being incarcerated.

"The food gives everybody in the jail diarrhea," said James Gibbs, 52, who recently spent two weeks in Union County Jail and previously had spent two years there. "There was never enough food. People were hungry all the time."

Al Gordon, 45, said he was in Union County Jail when nearly everyone came down with food poisoning from tacos. "It was awful," he said when we spoke in Elizabeth. "All the prisoners, except the ones who were vegetarian and who did not eat the meat in the tacos, had diarrhea for three days. Whenever we tried to eat anything for those three days we threw it back up. We were all sweating and felt dizzy."

Gordon had a job in the jail's kitchen, where he helped prepare the food, usually under the supervision of two Aramark employees. "There were mice running around and mice droppings everywhere," he said. "The utensils for cooking were dirty. Many of the prisoners preparing the food would use the bathroom and then not wash their hands or wear gloves. Hair fell into the food. The bread was stale and hard. And the portions we were required to serve were real small. You could eat six portions like the ones we served ... and still be hungry. If we put more than the required portion on the tray the Aramark people would make us take it off. It wasn't civilized. I lost 30 pounds. I would wake up at night and put toothpaste in my mouth to get rid of the hunger urge. The only way a person survived in there was to have money on the books to order from the canteen, but I didn't have no money. It was especially bad for the diabetics, and there are a lot of diabetics behind bars."

Aramark has been plagued by scandal across the country, but this does not seem to affect its ability to get new state and county contracts. More than 270 prisoners were sickened in April 2008 at Florida's Santa Rosa Correctional Institution after eating Aramark chili. Some 50 prisoners at Colorado's Larimer County Detention Center became ill in February 2008 after eating Aramark chili. Prisoners in Clayton County, Ga., were not served hot food from October 2009 to the following Jan. 22 because the pressure cookers in the jail kitchen were inoperable. In February 2009 a Camden County, N.J., health report found that the Aramark-run kitchen in the county jail had "mice throughout kitchen and storage area." Mouse droppings were discovered in butter. Several food items, including grits, chicken, rice and beef, were not stored at temperatures low enough to protect against contamination. Prisoners at the county jail in Santa Barbara, Calif., went on a hunger strike last summer to protest the Aramark food, and inmates at Bayside State Prison in New Jersey went on a hunger strike in October for the same reason. Prisoners in Macomb County, Mich., are currently eating only cold food because of a mold problem in the jail kitchen. And auditors at Florida's Department of Corrections have charged that Aramark billed the state for $5 million worth of "phantom" meals.

Aramark, the largest institutional food conglomerate in the world, assigns company employees to prison and jail kitchens to oversee the prisoners who do the cooking. Food is carefully measured and weighed under supervisors' eyes so prisoners do not receive more than the fixed amounts. (Even the garbage is weighed.) Cheap soy products are regularly substituted for meat. Rice, potatoes and pasta are the staples of most meals. The best that most prisoners can do, if they have money in their accounts, is pay for the limited food items, such as packets of instant soup, pouched mackerel and candy, that are sold by prison commissaries. Persistent hunger, corrections officers and former prisoners say, is now part of doing time.

"The kitchen where the food for the inmates is prepared in Burlington is a disaster," Jordan said. "The walk-in freezer is corroded. You can't open it because of the stench inside. Stagnant water, mold and mildew is everywhere. The food vans that bring food from Mount Holly have maggots and no refrigeration. I have seen inmates served bread that has hair on it, luncheon meat that has mold on it, spoiled fruit and food on the trays that have bugs in it. But this is part of the deep cuts throughout the prison system. We have had periods in the jail when the inmates had no toilet paper, no sanitary napkins, no soap, and no surgical gloves for the officers, and there has been no bleach or Lysol available to disinfect the jail. Officers bring in their own personal supplies. We buy toilet paper and hand it out to the inmates ourselves."

Jordan filed a complaint Oct. 25 with the Burlington County Department of Health Inspection, a copy of which she gave me, contending that Aramark employees had hidden a food van during a health inspector's visit to the jail so it could not be checked.

Eric J. Foss, the chief executive officer and president of Aramark Corp., who made $8,055,495 in total compensation for the 2012 fiscal year, probably spends more feeding his dog, if he has one, than his corporation does feeding the average prisoner. Abuse and exploitation of the poor have characterized the twisted pathology of the rich throughout history. Charles Dickens in novel after novel chronicled the cruelty and avarice of the privileged who, so they could satiate their gluttonous appetites and hedonism, deprived the poor of food and workers of a living wage. Our prison system, indeed our whole society, now replicates the corrupt Dotheboys Hall in Dickens' novel "Nicholas Nickleby." The headmaster, Wackford Squeers, the 19th century version of our corporate masters, feasts while the boys in his charge are made to go hungry.

"This is twopenn'orth of milk, is it waiter?" said Mr. Squeers.

"That's twopenn'orth, sir," replied the waiter.

"What a rare article milk is, to be sure, in London!" said Mr. Squeers, with a sigh. "Just fill that mug up with lukewarm water, William, will you?"

"To the wery top, sir?" inquired the waiter. "Why, the milk will be drownded."

"Never you mind that," replied Mr. Squeers. "Serve it right for being so dear. You ordered that thick bread and butter for three, did you?"

"Coming directly, sir."

"You needn't hurry yourself," said Squeers, "there's plenty of time. Conquer your passions, boys, and don't be eager after vittles." As he uttered this moral precept, Mr. Squeers took a large bite out of the cold beef, and recognized Nicholas.

"Sit down, Mr. Nickleby," said Squeers. "Here we are, a breakfasting, you see."

Nicholas did not see that anybody was breakfasting, except Mr. Squeers; but he bowed with all becoming reverence, and looked as cheerful as he could.

"Oh, that's the milk and water, is it, William?" said Mr. Squeers.

"Very good; don't forget the bread and butter presently."

At this fresh mention of the bread and butter, the five little boys looked very eager, and followed the waiter out, with their eyes; meanwhile Mr. Squeers tasted the milk and water.

"Ah," said that gentleman, smacking his lips, "here's richness! Think of the many beggars and orphans in the streets that would be glad of this, little boys. A shocking thing hunger is, isn't it, Mr. Nickleby?"

None of the reports of rancid food or meager portions in jails and prisons around the country affect the growing trend of states and counties turning their food service operations over to private corporations. Aramark has a new $145 million, three-year contract to feed Michigan's 45,000 prisoners. It took over the prison food service in that state earlier this month. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union representing the 370 former state workers who have lost their jobs there, have protested the privatization. The union notes that the company ran out of food twice within the prisons since it began operating Dec. 8. But Michigan state officials estimate that replacing the unionized workers and using the food service company will save $12 million to $16 million a year. And in our corporate state, where corporations exploit the most vulnerable and siphon off massive sums of public money without outside restraint or regulation, that apparently is all that counts.
(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."

President Harry S. Truman

'The Only Thing We Have To Fear...' Is The CIA
President Truman's true warning on the CIA
By Ray McGovern

Fifty years ago, exactly one month after John Kennedy was killed, the Washington Post published an op-ed titled "Limit CIA Role to Intelligence." The first sentence of that op-ed on Dec. 22, 1963, read, "I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency."

It sounded like the intro to a bleat from some liberal professor or journalist. Not so. The writer was former President Harry S. Truman, who spearheaded the establishment of the CIA 66 years ago, right after World War II, to better coordinate U.S. intelligence gathering. But the spy agency had lurched off in what Truman thought were troubling directions.

Sadly, those concerns that Truman expressed in that op-ed - that he had inadvertently helped create a Frankenstein monster - are as valid today as they were 50 years ago, if not more so.

Truman began his article by underscoring "the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency ... and what I expected it to do." It would be "charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without Department 'treatment' or interpretations."

Truman then moved quickly to one of the main things bothering him. He wrote "the most important thing was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions."

It was not difficult to see this as a reference to how one of the agency's early directors, Allen Dulles, tried to trick President Kennedy into sending U.S. forces to rescue the group of invaders who had landed on the beach at the Bay of Pigs, Cuba, in April 1961 with no chance of success, absent the speedy commitment of U.S. air and ground support.

Wallowing in the Bay of Pigs

Arch-Establishment figure Allen Dulles had been offended when young President Kennedy had the temerity to ask questions about CIA plans before the Bay of Pigs debacle, which had been set in motion under President Dwight Eisenhower. When Kennedy made it clear he would NOT approve the use of U.S. combat forces, Dulles set out, with supreme confidence, to mousetrap the President.

Coffee-stained notes handwritten by Allen Dulles were discovered after his death and reported by historian Lucien S. Vandenbroucke. They show how Dulles drew Kennedy into a plan that was virtually certain to require the use of U.S. combat forces. In his notes, Dulles explained that, "when the chips were down," Kennedy would be forced by "the realities of the situation" to give whatever military support was necessary "rather than permit the enterprise to fail."

The "enterprise" which Dulles said could not fail was, of course, the overthrow of Fidel Castro. After mounting several failed operations to assassinate him, this time Dulles meant to get his man, with little or no attention to how the Russians might react. The reckless Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom then-Deputy Secretary of State George Ball later described as a "sewer of deceit," relished any chance to confront the Soviet Union and give it, at least, a black eye.

But Kennedy stuck to his guns, so to speak. He fired Dulles and his co-conspirators a few months after the abortive invasion, and told a friend that he wanted to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds." The outrage was very obviously mutual.

When Kennedy himself was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, it must have occurred to Truman - as it did to many others - that the disgraced Dulles and his unrepentant associates might not be above conspiring to get rid of a president they felt was soft on Communism and get even for their Bay of Pigs fiasco.

'Cloak and Dagger'

While Truman saw CIA's attempted mousetrapping of President Kennedy as a particular outrage, his more general complaint is seen in his broader lament that the CIA had become "so removed from its intended role ... I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. ... It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government." Not only shaping policy through its control of intelligence, but also "cloak and dagger" operations, presumably including assassinations.

Truman concluded the op-ed with an admonition that was as clear as the syntax was clumsy: "I would like to see the CIA restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President, and that whatever else it can properly perform in that special field - and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere." The importance and prescient nature of that admonition are even clearer today, a half-century later.

But Truman's warning fell mostly on deaf ears, at least within Establishment circles. The Washington Post published the op-ed in its early edition on Dec. 22, 1963, but immediately excised it from later editions. Other media ignored it. The long hand of the CIA?

In Truman's view, misuse of the CIA began in February 1953, when his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, named Allen Dulles as CIA director. Dulles's forte was overthrowing governments (in current parlance, "regime change"), and he was quite good at it. With coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) under his belt, Dulles was riding high by the late Fifties and moved Cuba to the top of his to-do list.

The Truman Papers

Documents in the Truman Library show that nine days after Kennedy was assassinated, Truman sketched out in handwritten notes what he wanted to say in the op-ed. He noted, among other things, that the CIA had worked as he intended only "when I had control."

Five days after the op-ed appeared, retired Admiral Sidney Souers, whom Truman had appointed to lead his first central intelligence group, sent a "Dear Boss" letter applauding Truman's outspokenness and blaming Dulles for making the CIA "a different animal than the one I tried to set up for you."

Souers specifically lambasted the attempt "to conduct a 'war' invading Cuba with a handful of men and without air cover." He also lamented the fact that the agency's "principal effort" had evolved into causing "revolutions in smaller countries around the globe," and added: "With so much emphasis on operations, it would not surprise me to find that the matter of collecting and processing intelligence has suffered some." (Again, as true today as it was 50 years ago.)

Clearly, the operational tail of the CIA was wagging its substantive dog - a serious problem that persists to this day.

Fox Guarding Hen House

After Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, the patrician, well-connected Dulles got himself appointed to the Warren Commission and took the lead in shaping the investigation of JFK's assassination. Documents in the Truman Library show that Dulles also mounted a small domestic covert action of his own to neutralize any future airing of Truman's and Souers's warnings about covert action.

So important was this to Dulles that he invented a pretext to get himself invited to visit Truman in Independence, Missouri. On the afternoon of April 17, 1964, Dulles spent a half-hour one-on-one with the former president, trying to get him to retract what he had written in his op-ed. Hell No, said Harry.

Not a problem, Dulles decided. Four days later, in a formal memorandum of conversation for his old buddy Lawrence Houston, CIA general counsel from 1947 to 1973, Dulles fabricated a private retraction for Truman, claiming that Truman told him the Washington Post article was "all wrong," and that Truman "seemed quite astounded at it."

A fabricated retraction? It certainly seems so, because Truman did not change his tune. Far from it. In a June 10, 1964, letter to the managing editor of Look magazine, for example, Truman restated his critique of covert action, emphasizing that he never intended the CIA to get involved in "strange activities."

Dulles and Dallas

Dulles could hardly have expected to get Truman to recant publicly. So why was it so important for Dulles to place in CIA files a fabricated retraction? I believe the answer lies in the fact that in early 1964 Dulles was feeling a lot of heat from many who were suggesting the CIA might have been involved somehow in the Kennedy assassination. Columnists were asking how the truth could ever be reached, with Allen Dulles as de facto head of the Warren Commission.

Dulles had good reason to fear that Truman's limited-edition Washington Post op-ed of Dec. 22, 1963, might garner unwanted attention and raise troublesome questions about covert action, including assassination. He would have wanted to be in position to dig out of Larry Houston's files the Truman "retraction," in the hope that this would nip any serious questioning in the bud.

As the de facto head of the Warren Commission, Dulles was perfectly positioned to protect himself and his associates, were any commissioners or investigators - or journalists - tempted to question whether Dulles and the CIA played a role in killing Kennedy.

And so, the question: Did Allen Dulles and other "cloak-and-dagger" CIA operatives have a hand in John Kennedy's assassination and in then covering it up? In my view, the best dissection of the evidence pertaining to the murder appeared in James Douglass's 2008 book, JFK and the Unspeakable. After updating and arraying the abundant evidence, and conducting still more interviews, Douglass concludes that the answer is Yes.

Obama Intimidated?

The mainstream media had an allergic reaction to Douglass's book and gave it almost no reviews. It is, nevertheless, still selling well. And, more important, it seems a safe bet that President Barack Obama knows what it says and maybe has even read it. This may go some way toward explaining why Obama has been so deferential to the CIA, NSA, FBI and the Pentagon.

Could this be at least part of the reason he felt he had to leave the Cheney/Bush-anointed torturers, kidnappers and black-prison wardens in place, instructing his first CIA chief Leon Panetta to become, in effect, the agency's lawyer rather than leader.

Is this why the President feels he cannot fire his clumsily devious Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who had to apologize to Congress for giving "clearly erroneous" testimony in March? Is this why he allows National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander and counterparts in the FBI to continue to mislead the American people, even though the intermittent snow showers from Snowden show our senior national security officials to have lied - and to have been out of control?

This may be small solace to President Obama, but there is no sign that the NSA documents that Snowden's has released include the Senate Intelligence Committee's 6,300-page report on CIA torture. Rather, that report, at least, seems sure to be under Obama's and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein's tight control.

But the timorous President has a big problem. He is acutely aware that, if released, the Senate committee report would create a firestorm - almost certainly implicating Obama's CIA Director John Brennan and many other heavy-hitters of whom he appears to be afraid. And so Obama has allowed Brennan to play bureaucratic games, delaying release of the report for more than a year, even though its conclusions are said to closely resemble earlier findings of the CIA's own Inspector General and the Constitution Project (see below).

Testimony of Ex-CIA General Counsel

Hat tip to the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, who took the trouble to read the play-by-play of testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee by former CIA General Counsel (2009-2013) Stephen W. Preston, nominated (and now confirmed) to be general counsel at the Department of Defense.

Under questioning by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, Preston admitted outright that, contrary to the CIA's insistence that it did not actively impede congressional oversight of its detention and interrogation program, "briefings to the committee included inaccurate information related to aspects of the program of express interest to Members."

That "inaccurate information" apparently is thoroughly documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee report which, largely because of the CIA's imaginative foot-dragging, cost taxpayers $40 million. Udall has revealed that the report (which includes 35,000 footnotes) contains a very long section titled "C.I.A. Representations on the C.I.A. Interrogation Program and the Effectiveness of the C.I.A.'s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques to Congress."

Preston also acknowledged that the CIA inadequately informed the Justice Department on interrogation and detention. He said, "CIA's efforts fell well short of our current practices when it comes to providing information relevant to [the Office of Legal Counsel]'s legal analysis."

As Katherine Hawkins, the senior investigator for last April's bipartisan, independent report by the Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment, noted in an Oct. 18, 2013 posting, the memos from acting OLC chief, Steven Bradbury, relied very heavily on now-discredited CIA claims that "enhanced interrogation" saved lives, and that the sessions were carefully monitored by medical and psychological personnel to ensure that detainees' suffering would not rise to the level of torture.

According to Hawkins, Udall complained - and Preston admitted - that, in providing the materials requested by the committee, "the CIA removed several thousand CIA documents that the agency thought could be subjected to executive privilege claims by the President, without any decision by Obama to invoke the privilege."

Worse still for the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee report apparently destroys the agency's argument justifying torture on the grounds that there was no other way to acquire the needed information save through brutalization. In his answers to Udall, Preston concedes that, contrary to what the agency has argued, it can and has been established that legal methods of interrogation would have yielded the same intelligence.

Is anyone still wondering why our timid President is likely to sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee report for as long as he can? Or why he will let John Brennan redact it to a fare-thee-well, if he is eventually forced to release some of it by pressure from folks who care about things like torture?

It does appear that the newly taciturn CIA Director Brennan has inordinate influence over the President in such matters - not unlike the influence that both DNI Clapper and NSA Director Alexander seem able to exert. In this respect, Brennan joins the dubious company of the majority of his predecessor CIA directors, as they made abundantly clear when they went to inordinate lengths to prevent their torturer colleagues from being held accountable.
(c) 2013 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years - from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one- on- one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Bits And Barbarism
By Paul Krugman

This is a tale of three money pits. It's also a tale of monetary regress - of the strange determination of many people to turn the clock back on centuries of progress.

The first money pit is an actual pit - the Porgera open-pit gold mine in Papua New Guinea, one of the world's top producers. The mine has a terrible reputation for both human rights abuses (rapes, beatings and killings by security personnel) and environmental damage (vast quantities of potentially toxic tailings dumped into a nearby river). But gold prices, while down from their recent peak, are still three times what they were a decade ago, so dig they must.

The second money pit is a lot stranger: the Bitcoin mine in Reykjanesbaer, Iceland. Bitcoin is a digital currency that has value because ... well, it's hard to say exactly why, but for the time being at least people are willing to buy it because they believe other people will be willing to buy it. It is, by design, a kind of virtual gold. And like gold, it can be mined: you can create new bitcoins, but only by solving very complex mathematical problems that require both a lot of computing power and a lot of electricity to run the computers.

Hence the location in Iceland, which has cheap electricity from hydropower and an abundance of cold air to cool those furiously churning machines. Even so, a lot of real resources are being used to create virtual objects with no clear use.

The third money pit is hypothetical. Back in 1936 the economist John Maynard Keynes argued that increased government spending was needed to restore full employment. But then, as now, there was strong political resistance to any such proposal. So Keynes whimsically suggested an alternative: have the government bury bottles full of cash in disused coal mines, and let the private sector spend its own money to dig the cash back up. It would be better, he agreed, to have the government build roads, ports and other useful things - but even perfectly useless spending would give the economy a much-needed boost.

Clever stuff - but Keynes wasn't finished. He went on to point out that the real-life activity of gold mining was a lot like his thought experiment. Gold miners were, after all, going to great lengths to dig cash out of the ground, even though unlimited amounts of cash could be created at essentially no cost with the printing press. And no sooner was gold dug up than much of it was buried again, in places like the gold vault of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where hundreds of thousands of gold bars sit, doing nothing in particular.

Keynes would, I think, have been sardonically amused to learn how little has changed in the past three generations. Public spending to fight unemployment is still anathema; miners are still spoiling the landscape to add to idle hoards of gold. (Keynes dubbed the gold standard a "barbarous relic.") Bitcoin just adds to the joke. Gold, after all, has at least some real uses, e.g., to fill cavities; but now we're burning up resources to create "virtual gold" that consists of nothing but strings of digits.

I suspect, however, that Adam Smith would have been dismayed.

Smith is often treated as a conservative patron saint, and he did indeed make the original case for free markets. It's less often mentioned, however, that he also argued strongly for bank regulation - and that he offered a classic paean to the virtues of paper currency. Money, he understood, was a way to facilitate commerce, not a source of national prosperity - and paper money, he argued, allowed commerce to proceed without tying up much of a nation's wealth in a "dead stock" of silver and gold.

So why are we tearing up the highlands of Papua New Guinea to add to our dead stock of gold and, even more bizarrely, running powerful computers 24/7 to add to a dead stock of digits?

Talk to gold bugs and they'll tell you that paper money comes from governments, which can't be trusted not to debase their currencies. The odd thing, however, is that for all the talk of currency debasement, such debasement is getting very hard to find. It's not just that after years of dire warnings about runaway inflation, inflation in advanced countries is clearly too low, not too high. Even if you take a global perspective, episodes of really high inflation have become rare. Still, hyperinflation hype springs eternal.

Bitcoin seems to derive its appeal from more or less the same sources, plus the added sense that it's high-tech and algorithmic, so it must be the wave of the future.

But don't let the fancy trappings fool you: What's really happening is a determined march to the days when money meant stuff you could jingle in your purse. In tropics and tundra alike, we are for some reason digging our way back to the 17th century.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"History can come in handy. If you were born yesterday, with no knowledge of the past, you might easily accept whatever the government tells you. But knowing a bit of history--while it would not absolutely prove the government was lying in a given instance--might make you skeptical, lead you to ask questions, make it more likely that you would find out the truth."
~~~ Howard Zinn

American Hero

Edward Snowden Is The Whistleblower Of The Year
By David Sirota

For months, a debate over Edward Snowden's status has raged. In the back and forth, one question about this icon who disclosed NSA abuses has dominated: Is he or is he not a whistleblower with all the attendant protections that should come with such a designation?

As of this week's federal court ruling saying the NSA's data collection programs are probably unconstitutional, that debate is finally over. After all, if the most basic definition of a government whistleblower is one who uncovers illegal or unconstitutional acts, then the ruling proves Snowden is the dictionary-definition of a whistleblower.

Of course, there still remains a cottage industry of tough-talking saber rattlers slamming Snowden not merely for being in a foreign country, but more revealingly, for the disclosures themselves. These demagogues often invoke the age-old law-and-order cliches about classified information. Yet, based on what we now know, their criticism of Snowden actually puts them on the side of those who are systemically violating the very laws and constitution that they purport to love.

To see that, you can behold this week's court ruling that proves Snowden's disclosures didn't, to paraphrase his detractors, just expose legal-but-troubling behavior or programs that were already public. If the disclosures only did that, then sure - it might be fair to deny him whistleblower status. But the ruling proves his disclosures have exposed far-reaching crimes. Just as important, the ruling is not an isolated incident - on the contrary, it adds to an entire (and growing) body of evidence proving that Snowden's disclosures blew the whistle on criminality by the NSA and top officials. Among that body of evidence are the following facts:

* As the New York Times reported, in 2011 a federal court "found that the (NSA) had violated the Constitution and declared the problems part of a pattern of misrepresentation by agency officials in submissions to the secret court." The Times notes that one of the examples cited by the court was an "NSA program that keeps logs of all domestic phone calls ... which came to light in June as a result of leaks by Mr. Snowden."

* Reporting on records of a secret government audit provided by Snowden, the Washington Post reported that "the National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008."

* Snowden's disclosures proved that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress when he denied the NSA was collecting data about Americans. As Obama administration prosecutors in the Roger Clemens trial would tell you, lying to Congress is a crime. In Clapper's case, his potentially criminal lying was so blatant that even the Republican author of the Patriot Act has called for him to be prosecuted. Snowden's disclosures provide the basis for such prosecution.

Now sure, the opinion-based speculation about Snowden's social status - is he a narcissist or a hero? is he unpatriotic or a patriot? - can and will continue. But from a legal perspective, this former NSA contractor is clearly a whistleblower - one entitled to the most basic whistleblower protections. If those protections are not properly outlined in federal law, then Snowden's acts should prompt whistleblower law to be reformed and strengthened. That's the least he deserves.

He certainly does not deserve the ire directed at him. At the very minimum, he does not deserve to have House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers publicly offer to help extrajudicially execute him with a drone strike (yes, that really happened).

What he really deserves, though, is a nation's thanks for exposing - and hopefully halting - the violations of civil liberties happening in our midst.
(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.

Laney's Christmas
By William Rivers Pitt

My daughter celebrated her first Christmas today. She doesn't know from presents or Santa or Christmas trees just yet. She likes the lights, and the wrapping paper, and a good nap after a bottle, just like her father. She likes, in other words, the simple stuff of the season because she doesn't know any better. The wild-eyed child-greed of "I WANT" spawned by toy commercials is still a ways off, because she doesn't know from television, thank God.

She doesn't know about Congress yet, either, and I envy her that. A few short hours from now, unemployment benefits for more than a million people will expire because Congress could not be bothered to renew them, because helping the neediest among us is no longer the Christian thing to do in the brave new world of 21st century America.

Charlie Pierce, as usual, said it best:

"This decision was consciously taken by a Congress so soaked in electorally convenient religiosity that its members believe that people -- other people, naturally, and their children -- will be strengthened in their moral character by completely avoidable deprivation. That the mothers and fathers out there, avoiding the gazes of their children because of the simple expectations there that they cannot meet, will be better, stronger, and moral people for the pain that causes them to look away as the lights on the tree begin to blur with their tears."
I could spend these column inches talking about the carnival of overt cruelty that Congress has become in the name of Jesus, or something. I could talk about a president who speaks with sky-splitting eloquence about the gap between rich and poor in America, even as he actively seeks fast-track authority to approve the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade "deal" that will turn that gap between rich and poor into a yawning chasm. I could talk about a president who speaks so well on environmental issues while trembling on the verge of approving the Keystone XL pipeline, a border-to-border time bomb filled with the worst of the worst the petroleum industry has to offer.

I could speak of a government divorced from the people it supposedly exists to serve, of skyrocketing poverty and joblessness and homelessness, of food banks overwhelmed by need, of veterans and old people used as bargaining chips, of children born in the last five years who have never known Christmas at all because Christmas ceased to exist in all but name after their families were financially obliterated. I could speak of other families awash in money, the titans of Wall Street and the banking industry, for whom those "Buy a luxury car for Christmas" commercials are made. They will eat well, thanks to the money they stole, but because they are too big to fail, and because they own Congress, they remain untouched by the law for the serial crimes they have committed, and continue to commit.

Because there must be hope, because I will always try to find hope, because there is always reason for hope, I choose instead to write about Laney Brown of West Reading, Pennsylvania. Seven months ago, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. All options for her recovery were exhausted. The term of her life was measured in days.

Recently, she told her family that her last Christmas wish was to hear carolers at her door. By way of social media and the local news, her family put the word out about Laney's last wish. On Friday night, a few people arrived outside her door, and then a few more, and then a few hundred, and then a few thousand, until finally some ten thousand people stood shoulder to shoulder on Chestnut Street in West Reading and sang to Laney.

Laney Brown passed away early this morning with her family at her side. But on Friday night, she heard the carolers. She heard them all.

Laney Brown could be my daughter, or yours. We are all our brother's and sister's keeper, and so Laney Brown belongs to each and every one of us. That so many people came out to give her comfort, to grant her wish, and to comfort her family in this darkest of hours, is proof positive to me that far more people believe that than don't.

And that is why, despite all the King's horses and all the King's men, despite all the greed and malice and deliberately-inflicted deprivation that takes place as a matter of public policy and "responsibility," despite the grotesque perversion of simple morality that has so gruesomely twisted the fabric of life in America, we will someday prevail, and find a better way, and make a better place.

There are more of us than them. We are better than that, and Friday night on Chestnut Street hammered that truth home for all time.

Goodbye, Laney. I also sing to you.
(c) 2013 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Lamborn,

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 trying to make an official religion no matter what the bill od rights says, 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 Iron Cross 1st class 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 Herr Lamborn, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Meaning Of A Decent Society
By Robert Reich

It's the season to show concern for the less fortunate among us. We should also be concerned about the widening gap between the most fortunate and everyone else.

Although it's still possible to win the lottery (your chance of winning $648 million in the recent Mega Millions sweepstakes was one in 259 million), the biggest lottery of all is what family we're born into. Our life chances are now determined to an unprecedented degree by the wealth of our parents.

That's not always been the case. The faith that anyone could move from rags to riches - with enough guts and gumption, hard work and nose to the grindstone - was once at the core of the American Dream.

And equal opportunity was the heart of the American creed. Although imperfectly achieved, that ideal eventually propelled us to overcome legalized segregation by race, and to guarantee civil rights. It fueled efforts to improve all our schools and widen access to higher education. It pushed the nation to help the unemployed, raise the minimum wage, and provide pathways to good jobs. Much of this was financed by taxes on the most fortunate.

But for more than three decades we've been going backwards. It's far more difficult today for a child from a poor family to become a middle-class or wealthy adult. Or even for a middle-class child to become wealthy.

The major reason is widening inequality. The longer the ladder, the harder the climb. America is now more unequal that it's been for eighty or more years, with the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of all developed nations. Equal opportunity has become a pipe dream.

Rather than respond with policies to reverse the trend and get us back on the road to equal opportunity and widely-shared prosperity, we've spent much of the last three decades doing the opposite.

Taxes have been cut on the rich, public schools have deteriorated, higher education has become unaffordable for many, safety nets have been shredded, and the minimum wage has been allowed to drop 30 percent below where it was in 1968, adjusted for inflation.

Congress has just passed a tiny bipartisan budget agreement, and the Federal Reserve has decided to wean the economy off artificially low interest rates. Both decisions reflect Washington's (and Wall Street's) assumption that the economy is almost back on track.

But it's not at all back on the track it was on more than three decades ago.

It's certainly not on track for the record 4 million Americans now unemployed for more than six months, or for the unprecedented 20 million American children in poverty (we now have the highest rate of child poverty of all developed nations other than Romania), or for the third of all working Americans whose jobs are now part-time or temporary, or for the majority of Americans whose real wages continue to drop.

How can the economy be back on track when 95 percent of the economic gains since the recovery began in 2009 have gone to the richest 1 percent?

The underlying issue is a moral one: What do we owe one another as members of the same society?

Conservatives answer that question by saying it's a matter of personal choice - of charitable works, philanthropy, and individual acts of kindness joined in "a thousand points of light."

But that leaves out what we could and should seek to accomplish together as a society. It neglects the organization of our economy, and its social consequences. It minimizes the potential role of democracy in determining the rules of the game, as well as the corruption of democracy by big money. It overlooks our strivings for social justice.

In short, it ducks the meaning of a decent society.

Last month Pope Francis wondered aloud whether "trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness...". Rush Limbaugh accused the Pope of being a Marxist for merely raising the issue.

But the question of how to bring about greater justice and inclusiveness is as American as apple pie. It has animated our efforts for more than a century - during the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Great Society, and beyond - to make capitalism work for the betterment of all rather merely than the enrichment of a few.

The supply-side, trickle-down, market-fundamentalist views that took root in America in the early 1980s got us fundamentally off track.

To get back to the kind of shared prosperity and upward mobility we once considered normal will requir
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27.

The Senate Is Abandoning The Unemployed
By Thom Hartmann

Three days after Christmas, 1.3 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits. And, another two million will stop receiving assistance if Congress doesn't extend long-term benefits by June. Our nation is barely pulling out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and we're abandoning those who are out of work because of this economy. The unemployment rate is officially sever percent, but there are still at least three unemployed workers applying for every open job.

People on long-term unemployment aren't sitting around collecting checks – they're fighting like hell to be given a chance to get back to work, but the competition they face is intense. Rather than our government stepping up to be the employer of last resort, Republicans in Congress make the absurd argument that cutting off this economic lifeline will somehow help out-of-work Americans suddenly find that nonexistent job.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that the Senate will vote in early January on a temporary extension of unemployment benefits, and that it's "just the first step" toward addressing income inequality in our nation. But, that date means that – even in the best case scenario – more than a million Americans will see a delay in unemployment benefits, which could be much longer if Republicans hold up or block the upcoming vote.

It is utterly un-American to abandon those who need our help. Our nation learned from history, and recognized the importance of keeping people from falling through the cracks, yet here we are, repeating those mistakes once again. We shouldn't be cutting unemployment benefits, we should be investing and creating jobs, which are the only real ways to help Americans get back to work.
(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
~~~ Gary Varvel ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The president in the midst of experiencing yet another sex dream about all 313 million American citizens.

Obama Has That Sex Dream About Nation Again

WASHINGTON-After awaking from a restless sleep in the Presidential Bedroom, a disoriented and lightly perspiring President Barack Obama informed reporters early Tuesday morning that he had just had that weird sex dream about the entire nation again.

"Whoa, that was intense," said Obama, recounting his recent dream in which he once again found himself participating in a frenzied bout of sexual intercourse with all 313 million Americans. "It started out like it normally does, with me walking through the Rose Garden until I come across my junior high school teacher Miss Thornton. She starts to take off her shirt, but before you know it, we've been joined by every American citizen from all 50 United States and they're all taking off their clothes."

"It's like the third time I've had this dream in the last month," he continued.

According to Obama, his persistent sex dreams always feature the president engaging in elaborate yet somewhat indistinct carnal acts with the entire country, including actress Diane Lane, the entire population of the Pacific Northwest, poet Maya Angelou, the board of trustees of General Mills, the town of Blanco, TX, the starting five of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, and Philadelphia grocery clerk Michael Bailey.

As explained by the commander-in-chief, the recurring fantasies invariably consist of an unending string of sexual encounters with each and every one of his constituents-including residents of the Great Lakes region, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, and the membership of the AFL-CIO-with the scenarios routinely skirting conventional logic as Obama hazily makes love to hundreds of millions of his fellow Americans.

"At one point we're all somehow in my old bedroom in Chicago-I don't know how we got there-and I'm hooking up with [Jonesboro, AR resident] Deborah Aponte and the nation's autoworkers," Obama said, his breath quickening as he described erotic episodes that also included extended bouts of sex with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, an attractive female jogger he saw running past the White House earlier in the week, and Nebraska. "Then Debbie asks me if I want to take a bath, just the two of us, so then we're naked in the tub. But I look up and the entire city of Houston is just standing there watching us."

"And then the full faculty and student body of the University of Iowa walks in the room," Obama added.

The president noted that while many of the participants in his nocturnal sex romp remain "a little fuzzy," he can still recall several of the more prominent role-players, including journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin and Westchester County, as well as a general mixture of celebrities and public figures whom he has been attracted to in the past, familiar voting districts, and states and cities he hasn't thought about in years.

Obama emphasized that he has never consciously thought about the majority of the American people in a sexual context while he is awake.

"I remember there was this one part where we were all outside in what looked like an apple orchard or something and I was in this wild orgy with [Baltimore graphic designer] Patricia Desmond, [Transportation Secretary] Anthony Foxx, and the country's hispanic population," said Obama, admitting that he can't quite recall if he was receiving oral sex from his old college girlfriend or the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. "And then I noticed that my wife and [Chicago alderman] Michael Zalewski were making out with each other and they invited me to join in."

"That part was weird," the president added.

While Obama admitted that the frequency of his sex dreams involving himself and the nation has lately been uncommonly high, with the president claiming that he's had dozens of such dreams ever since he was elected to his first term, the commander-in-chief told reporters that he saw nothing particularly unusual about his ongoing fantasies.

"Everyone has dreams like these from time to time, so I don't think it's anything to worry about," Obama said, adding that he used to have similarly sex-charged dreams about the entire citizenry of Illinois when he was serving as the state's junior senator. "The mind works in strange ways, and I'm sure that there's just some weird part of my subconscious that lusts after every single one of the people whom I govern over that manifests itself in these crazy, sexy dreams. So it's no big deal."

"And they're definitely way better than those fucked-up nightmares I keep having about the entire population of Croatia," Obama continued.
(c) 2013 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 50 (c) 12/27/2013

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