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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky reveals, "The Gravest Threat To World Peace."

Uri Avnery examines, "Weird Elections."

Sam Harris explores, "The Riddle Of The Gun."

Robert Reich explains, "The Hoax Of Entitlement Reform."

Jim Hightower takes us, "Deep Inside The 'Taxpayer Relief Act' - Cui bono?"

Naomi Wolf writes, "A Letter To Kathryn Bigelow On Zero Dark Thirty's Apology For Torture."

Danny Weil joins us with, "Amsterdam's Plan to Resettle "Antisocial Tenants" In Containment Camps Set To Begin This Month."

John Nichols recalls, "What Gerda Lerner Taught Us."

Chris Hedges takes us to a, "State Of Fear."

Joel S. Hirschhorn warns of, "Technology Servitude."

Paul Krugman reveals, "The Big Fail."

Phil Rockstroh considers, "Late Stage Capitalism And The Shame Haunted Life."

Bill McKibben weighs, "Obama Versus Physics."

Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Matthew Rothschild concludes, "The New Congress: A Victory For Diversity."

Adam Keller says, "Perhaps With A Lot Of luck."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Republicans Apologize To Top 1.5 Per Cent" but first Uncle Ernie sez we're, "On A Highway To Hell."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bob Engelhart, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Mr. Fish, John Darkow, Paul Buck, 350.Org, Carol Simpson, Zorin Denu, Friedrich Rohrmann, Chang W. Lee, New York Times, The New Yorker, The White House, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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On A Highway To Hell
By Ernest Stewart

Livin' easy, livin' free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Askin' nothin', leave me be
Takin' everything in my stride
Don't need reason, don't need rhyme
Ain't nothin' I'd rather do
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too, yeah
Highway To Hell ~~~ AC/DC

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population." ~~~ A Christmas Carol ~ Charles Dickens

"If Senator Kruse had education experience, he would know that students across the country are already doing that every day in the public school classroom. They question everything, and I think a teacher who's actually doing their job will answer those questions." ~~~ Indiana State Senator Tim Skinner

"Why are...poor people more ready to share their goods than rich people? The answer is easy: The poor have little to lose; the rich have more to lose and they are more attached to their possessions. Poverty provides a deeper motivation for understanding your neighbors, welcoming others and attending to those who are suffering. I would go so far as to say that poverty helps you understand what happiness is, what serenity is in life." ~~~ Piero Gheddo

Someone made an analogy the other day from a couple of rock classics, viz., Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" and AC/DC's "Highway To Hell." They said it's a stairway because only the few are going up; but since most of us are going down, a stairway won't do; so we need a highway to get the crowds to Hell. While I'm an Atheist and don't believe in the heaven and hell mythology, I do believe the analogy caught the reality of our current situation.

While most of the people aren't evil, they are certainly willing to not only let evil exist, but will go along, to get along, with it. That's why the Matrix is so popular with the Sheeple. It's a pretend world that shields them from reality and allows them to live their little lives with their "eyes wide closed." The trouble is, not only do they eventually believe the lies and bullshit that's being fed to them by the 1%, but they instruct their children to do the same. We long ago reach the point that the big lie doesn't have to be rammed down their throats anymore, because they have bought it and will self-censure themselves and their children, too. It comes down to self inflicted slavery. Like the tea baggers who bought the Koch Brothers rhetoric, the Obamabots have bought his bullshit, too; and there isn't, to quote George Wallace, "... a dime's worth of difference between the two parties." I know, as I've had countless arguments with Obamabots who otherwise are perfectly normal folks; but when it comes to Barry they are blind as a bat, desperately clinging to the warm comfort of the Matrix. Trouble is, there is a price to pay for such blindness!

So, you ask what could be wrong with carrying around a security blanket? For one thing, they're no longer in need of that blanket, as Fatherland Security and the other "security services" i.e., the FBI, CIA. TSA, NSA, DIA, DEA, NGA, NRO, AIA, CGI, MCI, NI and AI are watching your every move to protect you from yourself. Isn't that comforting?

What's not so comforting is last year was the hottest year on record, which is what happens when you buy all those 1% corpo-rat lies. The good folks down under are reaping the rewards with their current summer. A summer so hot that they had to invent a new color for the heat index graphs as it's currently 126 degrees in the shade. Of course, I've been there and done that, as I wrote in "Uncle Ernie's Hollywood Daze." I once crossed Death Valley on the I-15 freeway. Although my car was full of summer coolant in order to drive it, I had to unlatch the first hood latch so it would open a bit and let cooler air into the engine compartment as it, too, was 126 degrees in Death Valley that sunny afternoon. When I pulled up and out of the valley, the temperature dropped down to a cool 107; and I went on my merry way! Death Valley was one thing, in the middle of July, around 1 in the afternoon; however, the Outback is another. We have this outrageous weather because our corpo-rat masters and their bought-and-paid-for minions in Con-gress lied to us for decades -- until there is nothing that we will do to stop it. Interestingly enough, a new poll puts Con-gress' ratings at just under 9% -- below things like cockroaches, head lice, traffic jams, and colonoscopies. Genghis Khan and NFL replacement refs, to name just a few things, are better liked than Con-gress. Trouble is, we're not the only ones.

For example, those master polluters up in Canada, eh, (an area the size of Florida) are turning central Canada's lakes and rivers -- some of which flow into the US -- into a toxic disaster area. A new report lays the blame without a doubt at the oil companies feet for this ecological disaster and the new Keystone XL Pipeline. A pipeline that will run from the Canadian border to the Texas seashore, carrying one of the nastiest substances on Earth right through the heart of America with a pipeline that is made to fail and will turn the middle of America into a toxic sewer. And to top it off, the oil flowing through it won't even be fueling our cars but will be sold to places overseas! Now you can see just the tip of the iceberg of things to come; and it's not a pretty picture!

Yes, I know that Barry has his doubts about it; but you know what Barry's word is worth, don't you? Of course you do; but you won't admit it, will you? Not while you are safe and serene in your warm, comfortable Matrix, all plugged into the lies to come. I would trust Barry to tell the truth about something about as far as I could comfortably spit out a very large sewer rat; and I have no doubt that the rat would taste far better than Barry's words! We are so screwed, America, and well along, on that "Highway To Hell!"

In Other News

Then, there was Danny Weil's article on the final solution of the excess population problems in Amsterdam and a similar program underway in San Francisco that had flown under my radar. Don't you just hate it when things fly under your radar? However, thanks to Dr. Weil, that is no longer a problem!

It seems the urban planners on both sides of the big ditch have come up with a solution to the large, ever-growing homeless problem: shipping containers! Do you remember when you were a kid and mom and dad bought a new washing machine, or dryer, or stove, or if you hit the jackpot, a new refrigerator or freezer! Back in those "Happy Daze," all those machines came in great, big cardboard boxes, which, when empty, turned into an instant fort, or doll house, or secret rendezvous for those of us playing doctor! However, it's not so much fun if you and your family get kidnapped and placed inside a shipping crate, far away from everyone else, with others like you in "scum villages" surrounded by guards. These are the supposed "trouble makers," whatever that means, as it's not defined. Shouldn't they be arrested, charged with a crime, then tried in a court of law, and only then locked up, if they are, as implied, criminals? And since not only do they remove the offending citizen, but they move his family with them, kind of like what we did to the US citizens who were of Japanese and German ancestry during WWII. Couldn't find a contact number or address for the Mayor of Amsterdam, so I just left this at the Amsterdam home page on Facebook:

"I see that "liberal Amsterdam" is turning into Nazi Germany with all the new Concentration Camps being set up to get rid of the excess population. You now have ways of making them cooperate, Ja wohl?

Do explain why the "scum village" people aren't being arrested for crimes and sent to jail, unless, of course, they haven't broken any laws? Also, why are the children of these "scum people" being punished, too? What are they guilty of, cheating at hopscotch? I'd ask these questions of your mayor, Mayor Hitler, oops, my bad, Mayor Eberhard van der Laan, why you've decided to put on the armbands and Jack Boots, but there is no way to contact him, funny thing that, eh?

I recall that summer back in the 70's, I spent in Amsterdam taking a walking tour of the coffee shops, and I remember thinking that I had found Heaven on Earth; now it seems like I just found Hell.

What's next for the Dutch? Sending your panzer columns into Luxemburg? Can I get a, heil van der Laan?

You can kiss your tourist industry good bye; well, except for all those fascist looney toons throughout Europe making a bee line to your borders to apply for the job of death camp, er, scum village guards. How does it feel to be tools of the 1%, Amsterdam? Oh, and one more thing, thanks for helping me write this week's editorial!"

If after reading Dr. Weil's article, you might want to visit that page and comment, too? Then go here! Meanwhile, out on the left coast, the city fathers have come up with a similar scheme that's not quite to the point of Amsterdam's yet; but they're working on it. In Frisco, they have this bright idea of renting those same shipping containers to the homeless and working poor at the rate of $1600 a month. I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs!

The San Francisco City Council and Mayor are quite insane.

In order to do this, as it was illegal to do so under the old health and safety laws, they rammed through some new laws. My first thought is that the unemployed or working poor can't afford $1600 a month, even if it was the nicest shipping crate in town! When the only housing you can get is a shipping crate at $1600 a month, I think it's time to get out of town -- especially in a town where it's illegal to sit down or close your eyes in public!

And Finally

Indiana's national embarrassment, state Senator Dennis Kruse, has been at it again! Dennis introduced a bill on the first day of the new legislative session that would give public school districts the authority to mandate daily recitations of the Lord's Prayer in public classrooms. Dennis outlines his reasons for committing this act of treason...

"In order that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen, the governing body of a school corporation or the equivalent authority of a charter school may require the recitation of the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of each school day. The prayer may be recited by a teacher, a student, or the class of students."

According to the Indianapolis Star, Kruse's bill "is in direct violation of the Constitution!" The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that mandating school prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Even other Republicans in the Indiana senate don't think much of Kruse's bill, with Republican Senate President Pro Tempore assigning it to a committee often considered a graveyard for legislation.

This is not the first time Sen. Dennis Kruse, who also happens to chair the Senate education committee, has tried to inject Christianity into public schools. Last year, he led a push to introduce creationism into the science curriculum; and when that failed, he tried to pass a bill that would have required teachers to provide "some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true."

Ergo, Dennis wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

Well, here we are again, with me wondering if there is anybody out there who still cares? I guess I'll find out when I get to the p.o. box on Saturday. Of course, post-xmas with all those many bills coming due is not really the time to judge things; but I really have no other choice.

Even blind folks are beginning to get the drift of the impending market crash that maybe just one cut in Social Security or Medicare away. We need to keep spending until folks get back to work; but with the government giving out some $9 billion dollars to the Corpo-rats to move US jobs overseas that was part of those just signed fiscal cliff bills; ergo, I wouldn't look for any new jobs in the weeks and months ahead.

Yet, here we are, month after month, year after year, decade after decade working for you and yours at no cost to you; is that fair? Is it fair that we work for free and then have to pick up the costs for publishing without charging a subscription fee which most e-magazines do? If you're a fair person, shouldn't you send us what you can, whenever you can, to help pay the bills? Shouldn't you?


10-06-1928 ~ 01-01-2013
Thanks for the film!

04-30-1920 ~ 01-03-2013
Thanks for the good fight!

07-30-1930 ~ 01-04-2013
Thanks for the film!


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


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

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

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a diagram displaying Iran's
nuclear weapon as he addresses the United Nations General Assembly, September 27, 2012.

The Gravest Threat To World Peace
By Noam Chomsky

Reporting on the final U.S. presidential campaign debate, on foreign policy, The Wall Street Journal observed that "the only country mentioned more (than Israel) was Iran, which is seen by most nations in the Middle East as the gravest security threat to the region."

The two candidates agreed that a nuclear Iran is the gravest threat to the region, if not the world, as Romney explicitly maintained, reiterating a conventional view.

On Israel, the candidates vied in declaring their devotion to it, but Israeli officials were nevertheless unsatisfied. They had "hoped for more 'aggressive' language from Mr. Romney," according to the reporters. It was not enough that Romney demanded that Iran not be permitted to "reach a point of nuclear capability."

Arabs were dissatisfied too, because Arab fears about Iran were "debated through the lens of Israeli security instead of the region's," while Arab concerns were largely ignored - again the conventional treatment.

The Journal article, like countless others on Iran, leaves critical questions unanswered, among them: Who exactly sees Iran as the gravest security threat? And what do Arabs (and most of the world) think can be done about the threat, whatever they take it to be?

The first question is easily answered. The "Iranian threat" is overwhelmingly a Western obsession, shared by Arab dictators, though not Arab populations.

As numerous polls have shown, although citizens of Arab countries generally dislike Iran, they do not regard it as a very serious threat. Rather, they perceive the threat to be Israel and the United States; and many, sometimes considerable majorities, regard Iranian nuclear weapons as a counter to these threats.

In high places in the U.S., some concur with the Arab populations' perception, among them Gen. Lee Butler, former head of the Strategic Command. In 1998 he said, "It is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East," one nation, Israel, should have a powerful nuclear weapons arsenal, which "inspires other nations to do so."

Still more dangerous is the nuclear-deterrent strategy of which Butler was a leading designer for many years. Such a strategy, he wrote in 2002, is "a formula for unmitigated catastrophe," and he called on the United States and other nuclear powers to accept their commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to make "good faith" efforts to eliminate the plague of nuclear weapons.

Nations have a legal obligation to pursue such efforts seriously, the World Court ruled in 1996: "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control." In 2002, George W. Bush's administration declared that the United States is not bound by the obligation.

A large majority of the world appears to share Arab views on the Iranian threat. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has vigorously supported Iran's right to enrich uranium, most recently at its summit meeting in Tehran last August.

India, the most populous member of the NAM, has found ways to evade the onerous U.S. financial sanctions on Iran. Plans are proceeding to link Iran's Chabahar port, refurbished with Indian assistance, to Central Asia through Afghanistan. Trade relations are also reported to be increasing. Were it not for strong U.S. pressures, these natural relations would probably improve substantially.

China, which has observer status at the NAM, is doing much the same. China is expanding development projects westward, including initiatives to reconstitute the old Silk Road from China to Europe. A high-speed rail line connects China to Kazakhstan and beyond. The line will presumably reach Turkmenistan, with its rich energy resources, and will probably link with Iran and extend to Turkey and Europe.

China has also taken over the major Gwadar port in Pakistan, enabling it to obtain oil from the Middle East while avoiding the Hormuz and Malacca straits, which are clogged with traffic and U.S.-controlled. The Pakistani press reports that "Crude oil imports from Iran, the Arab Gulf states and Africa could be transported overland to northwest China through the port."

At its Tehran summit in August, the NAM reiterated the long-standing proposal to mitigate or end the threat of nuclear weapons in the Middle East by establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Moves in that direction are clearly the most straightforward and least onerous way to overcome the threats. They are supported by almost the entire world.

A fine opportunity to carry such measures forward arose last month, when an international conference was planned on the matter in Helsinki.

A conference did take place, but not the one that was planned. Only nongovernmental organizations participated in the alternate conference, hosted by the Peace Union of Finland. The planned international conference was canceled by Washington in November, shortly after Iran agreed to attend.

The Obama administration's official reason was "political turmoil in the region and Iran's defiant stance on nonproliferation," the Associated Press reported, along with lack of consensus "on how to approach the conference." That reason is the approved reference to the fact that the region's only nuclear power, Israel, refused to attend, calling the request to do so "coercion."

Apparently, the Obama administration is keeping to its earlier position that "conditions are not right unless all members of the region participate." The United States will not allow measures to place Israel's nuclear facilities under international inspection. Nor will the U.S. release information on "the nature and scope of Israeli nuclear facilities and activities."

The Kuwait news agency immediately reported that "the Arab group of states and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member states agreed to continue lobbying for a conference on establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction."

Last month, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Israel to join the NPT, 174-6. Voting no was the usual contingent: Israel, the United States, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

A few days later, the United States carried out a nuclear weapons test, again banning international inspectors from the test site in Nevada. Iran protested, as did the mayor of Hiroshima and some Japanese peace groups.

Establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone of course requires the cooperation of the nuclear powers: In the Middle East, that would include the United States and Israel, which refuse. The same is true elsewhere. Such zones in Africa and the Pacific await implementation because the U.S. insists on maintaining and upgrading nuclear weapons bases on islands it controls.

As the NGO meeting convened in Helsinki, a dinner took place in New York under the auspices of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an offshoot of the Israeli lobby.

According to an enthusiastic report on the "gala" in the Israeli press, Dennis Ross, Elliott Abrams and other "former top advisers to Obama and Bush" assured the audience that "the president will strike (Iran) next year if diplomacy doesn't succeed" - a most attractive holiday gift.

Americans can hardly be aware of how diplomacy has once again failed, for a simple reason: Virtually nothing is reported in the United States about the fate of the most obvious way to address "the gravest threat" - Establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
(c) 2013 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Gaza In Crisis.

Weird Elections
By Uri Avnery

IN A few hundred years, a professor looking for an especially esoteric subject will ask his students to research the Israeli elections of 2013.

The students will come back with a unanimous report: the results of our research are incredible.

Faced with at least three grave dangers, they report, Israeli parties and voters just ignored them. As if joined in a conspiracy, they tacitly agreed among themselves not to talk about them. Instead, they bickered and quarreled about totally insignificant and irrelevant issues.

ONE REMARKABLE fact was that the elections were called early - they were not due till November 2013 - because of the Prime Minister's declared inability to obtain Knesset approval for the annual state budget.

The proposed budget was shaped by the fact that the state had developed a huge deficit, which made drastic measures inevitable. Taxes had to be raised dramatically and social services had to be cut even more than during the last four years of Binyamin Netanyahu's stewardship.

(This, by the way, did not deter Netanyahu from making election speeches about the Israeli economy being in excellent condition, far superior to the economies of the major Western countries.)

For comparison: the recent elections in the United States were also held in the shadow of a severe fiscal crisis. Two basic conceptions about the solution were presented by the antagonists, the main debate was about the deficit, taxes and the social services. This went on even after the elections and a kind of compromise was achieved just in time to avert national bankruptcy.

Nothing of the kind in Israel. There was no debate at all.

True, the Labor Party, expected to garner about 15% of the vote, indeed came out with a grandiose economic plan for the next years, composed by an assortment of university professors. However, this plan was quite irrelevant to the crucial problem facing the state on the day after the elections: How to stop the hole of tens of billions of shekels in the 2013 budget.

The Likud did not say a word about the budget which it had intended to present to the Knesset. Neither did the Labor Party mention it, nor any of the other dozen or so parties that were competing.

When we put our ballot papers into the ballot box, what are we voting for? For higher taxes, surely. But taxes on whom? Will the rich pay more, or will the fabled "middle class" pay more? What will be cut - aid to the disabled, the sick, the old, the unemployed? What about the immense military budget? The settlements? Is Israel going to lose its favorable international credit rating? Are we going to slide into a severe recession?

It is obvious why no party wants to go into details - any serious proposal would cause it to lose votes. But we, the people - why do we let them get away with it? Why don't we demand answers? Why do we accept fatuous generalities, which no one takes seriously?

Riddle No. 1.

ISRAEL IS faced with a severe constitutional crisis - if such a term is applicable to a state without a constitution.

The ODME ("Only Democracy in the Middle East") is threatened from within, along a wide front.

The most immediate danger faces the Supreme Court, the strongest remaining bastion of what was once a flourishing democracy. The court tries - rather timidly - to resist the most egregious actions and bills of the right-wing Knesset majority. Applications to the court to annul glaringly anti-democratic legislation are postponed for years. (Including my own application to annul the law that levies huge penalties on anyone advocating a boycott of the products of the settlements. The case - "Avnery v. the State of Israel" - has been postponed again and again.)

But even this timid - some would say cowardly - performance of the Supreme Court arouses the fury of the right-wingers. Naftali Bennett, the leader of the fastest rising party in these elections (up from 6% to 12% in a few weeks) promises to stuff the court with his favorites.

Israeli judges are appointed by a committee, in which sitting judges play a major role. Bennett and his allies in the Likud want to change the rules, so that rightist politicians will choose the judges. His declared aim: to put an end to "judicial activism", deprive the Supreme Court of the power to annul anti-democratic laws and block administrative decisions, such as those about building settlements on private Palestinian land.

The Israeli media are already to a large extent neutralized, a creeping process not unsimilar to what the Germans used to call Gleichschaltung.

All three TV channels are more or less bankrupt and dependent on government handouts. Their editors are practically government appointees. The printed press is also teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, except the largest "news" paper, which belongs to Sheldon Adelson and is a Netanyahu propaganda sheet, distributed gratis. Bennett repeats the ridiculous assertion that almost all journalists are left-wingers (meaning traitors.) He promises to put an end to this intolerable situation.

Benett's assertions are only slightly more extreme that those of the Likud and the religious parties.

In the annual gathering of the heads of Israel's diplomatic missions in the world, a very senior diplomat asked why the government had announced the building of a huge new settlement in East Jerusalem, a decision denounced throughout the world. The question was loudly applauded by the diplomats. Netanyahu's spokesman, until recently the most senior Orthodox kippa-wearing army officer, curtly told the diplomats to resign if they have problems with government policy.

A few weeks ago, the commanding general in the occupied West Bank decided to elevate the status of the college in the Ariel settlement to the rank of a university. It may be the only university in the world which was given its charter by an army general.

There is, of course, not the slightest sign of democracy or human rights in the occupied territories. The Likud threatens to cut off international funding to all the NGOs which try to monitor what is happening there.

Does this process of de-democratization evoke a furious debate in these elections? Not at all, just a few feeble protests. The issue is not a vote-catcher.

That's riddle No. 2

BUT THE most puzzling riddle concerns the most dangerous threat: the question of peace and war. It has almost completely disappeared from the election campaign.

Tzipi Livni has adopted negotiations with the Palestinians as a kind of election gimmick - without emotions, avoiding the word "peace" as far as possible. All other parties, with the exception of the small Meretz and Hadash, don't mention it at all.

In the coming four years, the official annexation of the West Bank to Israel may become a fact. Palestinians may be confined to small enclaves, the West Bank may be filled with many more settlements, a violent intifada may break out, Israel may be isolated in the world, even the crucial American support may weaken.

If the government continues on its present course, this will lead to certain disaster - the entire country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River will become one unit under Israeli rule. This Greater Israel will contain an Arab majority and a shrinking Jewish minority, turning it inevitably into an apartheid state, plagued by a permanent civil war and shunned by the world.

If pressure from without and within eventually compels the government to grant civil rights to the Arab majority, the country will turn into an Arab state. 134 years of Zionist endeavor will come to nought, a repetition of the Crusaders' kingdom.

This is so obvious, so inevitable, that one needs an iron will not to think about it. It seems that all major parties in these elections have this will. Speaking about peace, they believe, is poison. Giving back the West Bank and East Jerusalem for peace? God forbid even thinking about it.

The weird fact is that this week two respected polls - independent of each other - came to the same conclusion: the great majority of Israeli voters favors the "two-state solution", the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and the partition of Jerusalem. This majority includes the majority of Likud voters, and even about half of Bennett's adherents.

How come? The explanation lies in the next question: How many voters believe that this solution is possible? The answer: almost nobody. Over dozens of years, Israelis have been brainwashed into believing that "the Arabs" don't want peace. If they say they do, they are lying.

It peace is impossible, why think about it? Why even mention it in the election campaign? Why not go back 44 years to Golda Meir's days and pretend that the Palestinians don't exist? ("There is no such thing as a Palestinian people...It is not as though there was a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away. They did not exist." - Golda Meir, June 13, 1969)

So that's riddle No. 3.

THE STUDENTS in a few hundred years time may well come to the conclusion: "Those Israeli elections were really weird, especially considering what happened in the following years. We have found no reasonable explanation."

The professor will sadly shake his head.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Riddle Of The Gun
By Sam Harris

Fantasists and zealots can be found on both sides of the debate over guns in America. On the one hand, many gun-rights advocates reject even the most sensible restrictions on the sale of weapons to the public. On the other, proponents of stricter gun laws often seem unable to understand why a good person would ever want ready access to a loaded firearm. Between these two extremes we must find grounds for a rational discussion about the problem of gun violence.

Unlike most Americans, I stand on both sides of this debate. I understand the apprehension that many people feel toward "gun culture," and I share their outrage over the political influence of the National Rifle Association. How is it that we live in a society in which one of the most compelling interests is gun ownership? Where is the science lobby? The safe food lobby? Where is the get-the-Chinese-lead-paint-out-of-our-kids'-toys lobby? When viewed from any other civilized society on earth, the primacy of guns in American life seems to be a symptom of collective psychosis.

Most of my friends do not own guns and never will. When asked to consider the possibility of keeping firearms for protection, they worry that the mere presence of them in their homes would put themselves and their families in danger. Can't a gun go off by accident? Wouldn't it be more likely to be used against them in an altercation with a criminal? I am surrounded by otherwise intelligent people who imagine that the ability to dial 911 is all the protection against violence a sane person ever needs.

But, unlike my friends, I own several guns and train with them regularly. Every month or two, I spend a full day shooting with a highly qualified instructor. This is an expensive and time-consuming habit, but I view it as part of my responsibility as a gun owner. It is true that my work as a writer has added to my security concerns somewhat, but my involvement with guns goes back decades. I have always wanted to be able to protect myself and my family, and I have never had any illusions about how quickly the police can respond when called. I have expressed my views on self-defense elsewhere. Suffice it to say, if a person enters your home for the purpose of harming you, you cannot reasonably expect the police to arrive in time to stop him. This is not the fault of the police-it is a problem of physics.

Like most gun owners, I understand the ethical importance of guns and cannot honestly wish for a world without them. I suspect that sentiment will shock many readers. Wouldn't any decent person wish for a world without guns? In my view, only someone who doesn't understand violence could wish for such a world. A world without guns is one in which the most aggressive men can do more or less anything they want. It is a world in which a man with a knife can rape and murder a woman in the presence of a dozen witnesses, and none will find the courage to intervene. There have been cases of prison guards (who generally do not carry guns) helplessly standing by as one of their own was stabbed to death by a lone prisoner armed with an improvised blade. The hesitation of bystanders in these situations makes perfect sense-and "diffusion of responsibility" has little to do with it. The fantasies of many martial artists aside, to go unarmed against a person with a knife is to put oneself in very real peril, regardless of one's training. The same can be said of attacks involving multiple assailants. A world without guns is a world in which no man, not even a member of Seal Team Six, can reasonably expect to prevail over more than one determined attacker at a time. A world without guns, therefore, is one in which the advantages of youth, size, strength, aggression, and sheer numbers are almost always decisive. Who could be nostalgic for such a world?

Of course, owning a gun is not a responsibility that everyone should assume. Most guns kept in the home will never be used for self-defense. They are, in fact, more likely to be used by an unstable person to threaten family members or to commit suicide. However, it seems to me that there is nothing irrational about judging oneself to be psychologically stable and fully committed to the safe handling and ethical use of firearms-if, indeed, one is.[1]

Carrying a gun in public, however, entails even greater responsibility than keeping one at home, and in most states the laws reflect this. Like many gun-control advocates, I have serious concerns about letting ordinary citizens walk around armed.[2] Ordinary altercations can become needlessly deadly in the presence of a weapon. A scuffle that exposes a gun in a person's waistband, for instance, can quickly become a fight to the death-where the first person to get his hands on the weapon may feel justified using it in "self-defense." Most people seem unaware that knives present a similar liability. According to Gallup, 16 percent of American men carry knives for personal protection. I am quite sure that most of those men have not thought through the legal, ethical, and game-theoretical implications of drawing a blade in a moment of conflict. It is true that brandishing a weapon (whether a gun or a knife) sometimes preempts further violence. But, emotions being what they are, it often doesn't-and the owner of the weapon can find himself resorting to deadly force in a circumstance that would not otherwise have called for it.

Some Facts About Guns

Fifty-five million kids went to school on the day that 20 were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Even in the United States, therefore, the chances of a child's dying in a school shooting are remote. As my friend Steven Pinker demonstrates in his monumental study of human violence, The Better Angels of Our Nature, our perception of danger is easily distorted by rare events. Is gun violence increasing in the United States? No. But it certainly seems to be when one recalls recent atrocities in Newtown and Aurora. In fact, the overall rate of violent crime has fallen by 22 percent in the past decade (and 18 percent in the past five years).

We still have more guns and more gun violence than any other developed country, but the correlation between guns and violence in the United States is far from straightforward. Thirty percent of urban households have at least one firearm. This figure increases to 42 percent in the suburbs and 60 percent in the countryside. As one moves away from cities, therefore, the rate of gun ownership doubles. And yet gun violence is primarily a problem in cities. It is the people of Detroit, Oakland, Memphis, Little Rock, and Stockton who are at the greatest risk of being killed by guns.

In the weeks since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, advocates of stricter gun control have called for a new federal ban on "assault weapons" and for reductions in the number of concealed-carry permits issued to private citizens. But the murder rate has fallen precipitously since the federal ban on assault weapons expired in 2004, and this was also a period in which millions of Americans began to carry their guns in public. Many proponents of gun control have observed that the AR 15, the gun that Adam Lanza used to murder 20 children in Newtown, is now the most popular rifle in America. But only 3 percent of murders in the U.S. are committed with rifles of any type.

Seventy mass shootings have occurred in the U.S. since 1982, leaving 543 dead. These crimes were horrific, but 564,452 other homicides took place in the U.S. during the same period. Mass shootings scarcely represent 0.1 percent of all murders. When talking about the problem of guns in our society, it is easy to lose sight of the worst violence and to become fixated on symbols of violence.[3]

Of course, it is important to think about the problem of gun violence in the context of other risks. For instance, it is estimated that 100,000 Americans die each year because doctors and nurses fail to wash their hands properly. Measured in bodies, therefore, the problem of hand washing in hospitals is worse than the problem of guns, even if we include accidents and suicides. But not all deaths are equivalent. A narrow focus on mortality rates does not always do justice to the reality of human suffering. Mass shootings are a marginal concern, even relative to other forms of gun violence, but they cause an unusual degree of terror and grief-particularly when children are targeted. Given the psychological and social costs of certain low-frequency events, it does not seem irrational to allocate disproportionate resources to prevent them.

We should also remember that mass killings do not depend on guns. Much was made in the press about the fact that on the very day 20 children were murdered in Newtown, a man with a knife attempted a similar crime at an elementary school in China. At The Atlantic, James Fallows wrote:

Twenty-two children injured. Versus, at current count, 18 20 little children and nine eight other people shot dead. That's the difference between a knife and a gun.

Guns don't attack children; psychopaths and sadists do. But guns uniquely allow a psychopath to wreak death and devastation on such a large scale so quickly and easily. America is the only country in which this happens again-and again and again. You can look it up.

This is more tendentious than it might sound. There has been an epidemic of knife attacks on schoolchildren in China in the past two years. As Fallows certainly knows-he is, after all, an expert on China-in some instances several children were murdered. In March of 2010, eight were killed and five injured in a single incident. This was as bad as many mass shootings in the U.S. I am not denying that guns are more efficient for killing people than knives are-but the truth is that knives are often lethal enough. And the only reliable way for one person to stop a man with a knife is to shoot him.

It is reasonable to wish that only virtuous people had guns, but there are now nearly 300 million guns in the United States, and 4 million new ones are sold each year. A well-made gun can remain functional for centuries. Any effective regime of "gun control," therefore, would require that we remove hundreds of millions of firearms from our streets. As Jeffrey Goldberg points out in The Atlantic, it may no longer be rational to hope that we can solve the problem of gun violence by restricting access to guns-because guns are everywhere, and the only people who will be deterred by stricter laws are precisely those law-abiding citizens who should be able to possess guns for their own protection and who now constitute one of the primary deterrents to violent crime. This is, of course, a familiar "gun nut" talking point. But that doesn't make it wrong.

Another problem with liberal dreams of gun control is that the kinds of guns used in the vast majority of crimes would not fall under any plausible weapons ban. And advocates of stricter gun laws who claim to respect the rights of "sportsmen" or "hunters," and to recognize a legitimate need for "home defense," simply give the game away at the outset. The very guns that law-abiding citizens use for recreation or home defense are, in fact, the problem. In the vast majority of murders committed with firearms-even most mass killings-the weapon used is a handgun. Unless we outlaw and begin confiscating handguns, the weapons best suited for being carried undetected into a classroom, movie theater, restaurant, or shopping mall for the purpose of committing mass murder will remain readily available in the United States. But no one is seriously proposing that we address the problem on this level. In fact, the Supreme Court has recently ruled, twice (in 2008 and 2010), that banning handguns would be unconstitutional.

Nor is anyone advocating that we deprive hunters of their rifles. And yet any rifle suitable for killing deer is just the sort of gun that will allow even an unskilled shooter to wreak absolute havoc upon innocent men, women, and children at a range of several hundred yards. There is, in fact, no marksman on earth who can shoot a handgun as accurately at distance as you would be able to shoot a rifle fitted with a scope after a few hours of practice. This difference in accuracy between short and long guns must be experienced to be understood. Having understood it, you will in no way be consoled to learn that a madman ensconced on the rooftop of a nearby building is armed merely with a "hunting rifle" that is legal in all 50 states.

The problem, therefore, is that with respect to either factor that makes a gun suitable for mass murder-ease of concealment (a handgun) or range (a rifle)-the most common and least stigmatized weapons are among the most dangerous. Gun-control advocates seem perversely unaware of this. As a consequence, we routinely hear the terms "semi-automatic" and "assault rifle" intoned with misplaced outrage and awe. It is true that a semi-automatic pistol allows a person to shoot and reload slightly more efficiently than a revolver does. But a revolver can be reloaded surprisingly quickly with a device known as a speed loader. (These have been in use since the 1970s.)[4] It is no exaggeration to say that if we merely had 300 million vintage revolvers in this country, we would still have a terrible problem with gun violence, with no solution in sight. And any person entering a school with a revolver for the purpose of killing kids would most likely be able to keep killing them until he ran out of ammunition, or until good people arrived with guns of their own to stop him.

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, 47 percent of all murders in the U.S. are committed with handguns. Again, only 3 percent are committed with rifles (of any type). Twice as many murderers (6 percent) use nothing but their bare hands. Thirteen percent use knives. Although a semi-automatic rifle like the one Adam Lanza carried in Newtown offers a terrifying advantage over a handgun at distances beyond 20 yards or so, I see no reason to think that the children he murdered would be alive today had he been armed with only a pistol (he is reported to have shot them repeatedly and at close range). The worst mass shooting in U.S. history occurred at Virginia Tech in 2007. Thirty-two people were killed and seventeen injured. The shooter carried two handguns (a Glock 9 mm and a Walther .22) of a make and caliber that will remain legal and ubiquitous unless all handguns are banned. (Again, this is not going to happen.)

It is true that rifles like the one used in the Newtown attack fire rounds at a much higher velocity than handguns do. These bullets also tend to tumble and fragment in the body, which makes them more lethal. However, one cannot say in every case that an assault rifle in the wrong hands is a greater threat to innocent life than a handgun. Rifle rounds travel at such high velocity that they sometimes pass through a person's body before tumbling or fragmenting-doing less damage than one would expect from a handgun round. Conversely, these bullets are so light and frangible that they are sometimes stopped by barriers such as doors and wallboard. It is also generally easier to grab the barrel of a rifle and wrest it away from a shooter than it is with a handgun. And rifles are far more difficult to conceal. Approaching the doors of Sandy Hook Elementary, Adam Lanza probably looked every inch the dangerous lunatic with a gun. Had an armed guard been at the school, this could have allowed for a defensive response. Given these facts, it is difficult to say that assault rifles pose a greater risk to the public than handguns do.

Regarding ammunition itself, there is not much more to say, because any type suitable for home defense or hunting-and, therefore, bound to remain legal as long as guns are sold-is also perfect for killing innocent people. The only other variable to consider is the number of rounds a gun can hold, because this dictates the frequency with which a shooter must pause to reload. Here the path to increased public safety is reasonably clear. In California and New York, for instance, one cannot buy magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. As a consequence, the moment at which a shooter can be tackled by bystanders comes after every 10 shots. Ten is a lot better than 30, of course, but it still requires the action of a true hero (probably several) who just happens to be standing close enough to the shooter to attempt to bring him down, and who is lucky enough to be alive and uninjured after the last barrage. As Goldberg notes, with understandable despair and amazement, the security plans at many schools encourage students to spontaneously arm themselves with pencils and laptops and engage a shooter directly in defense of their lives-all the while forbidding the lawful possession of firearms on campus, no matter what a person's training. As Goldberg says, "The existence of these policies suggests that universities know they cannot protect their students during an armed attack."

More Guns Are Not The Answer-Until They Are

Coverage of the Newtown tragedy and its aftermath has been generally abysmal. In fact, I have never seen the "liberal media" conform to right-wing caricatures of itself with such alacrity. I have read articles in which literally everything said about firearms and ballistics has been wrong. I have heard major newscasters mispronounce the names of every weapon and weapons manufacturer more challenging than "Colt." I can only imagine the mirth it has brought gun-rights zealots to see "automatic" and "semi-automatic" routinely confused, or to hear a major news anchor ominously declare that the shooter had been armed with a "Sig Sauzer" pistol. This has been more than embarrassing. It has offered a thousand points of proof that "liberal elites" don't know anything about what matters when bullets start flying. Consider the sneering response of the New York Times editorial page to Wayne LaPierre, the NRA vice president, after he suggested that we station a police officer at every school in the country:

His solution to the proliferation of guns, including semiautomatic rifles designed to kill people as quickly as possible, is to put more guns in more places. Mr. LaPierre would put a police officer in every school and compel teachers and principals to become armed guards.... Mr. LaPierre said the Newtown killing spree "might" have been averted if the killer had been confronted by an armed security guard. It's far more likely that there would have been a dead armed security guard-just as there would have been even more carnage if civilians had started firing weapons in the Aurora movie theater.

The phrase "designed to kill people as quickly as possible" should tell us everything we need to know about the author's grasp of the issue. The entire editorial is worth reading, in fact, because it makes the NRA's response to Newtown seem enlightened by comparison.

Gun-control advocates appear unable to distinguish situations in which a gun in the hands of a good person would be useless (or worse) and those in which it would be likely to save dozens of innocent lives. They are eager to extrapolate from the Aurora shooting to every other possible scene of mass murder. However, a single gunman trying to force his way into a school, or roaming its hallways, or even standing in a classroom surrounded by dead and dying children, would be far easier to engage effectively-with a gun-than James Holmes would have been in a dark and crowded movie theater. Even in the case of the Aurora shooting, it is not ludicrous to suppose that everyone might have been better off had a well-trained person with a gun been at the scene. The liberal commentariat seems to have no awareness of what "well-trained" signifies. It happens to include an understanding of what to do and what not to do when the danger of shooting innocent bystanders exists. The fact that bystanders do occasionally get shot, even by police officers, does not prove that putting guns in the hands of good people would be a bad idea. Gun-control advocates seem always to imagine the worst possible scenario: legions of untrained, delusional vigilantes producing their weapons at a pin drop and firing indiscriminately into a crowd.

Most liberals responded derisively to the NRA's suggestion that having armed and vetted men and women in our schools could save lives. Some pointed to a public-service announcement put out by the city of Houston (funded by the Department of Homeland Security), in which the possibility of having guns on the scene was never discussed. Several commentators held up this training video in support of the creed "More guns are not the answer." Please take a few minutes to watch this footage. Then try to imagine how a few armed civilians could respond during an attack of this kind. To help your imagination along, watch this short video, in which a motel clerk carrying a concealed weapon shoots an armed robber. The situation isn't perfectly analogous-the wisdom of using deadly force in what might be only a robbery is at least debatable. But is it really so difficult to believe that the shooter might have been helpful during an incident of the sort depicted in Houston?

Needless to say, it is easy to see how things can go badly when anyone draws a firearm defensively. But when an armed man enters an office building, restaurant, or school for the purpose of murdering everyone in sight, things are going very badly already. Imagine being one of the people in the Houston video trapped in the office with no recourse but to hide under a desk. Would you really be relieved to know that up until that moment, your workplace had been an impeccably gun-free environment and that no one, not even your friend who did three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be armed? If you found yourself trapped with others in a conference room, preparing to attack the shooter with pencils and chairs, can you imagine thinking, "I'm so glad no one else has a gun, because I wouldn't want to get caught in any crossfire"? Despite what the New York Times and dozens of other editorial pages have avowed in the weeks since Newtown, it isn't a vigilante delusion to believe that guns in the hands of good people would improve the odds of survival in deadly encounters of this kind. The delusion is to think that everyone would be better off defending his or her life with furniture.[5]

Unarmed people can be trained to respond intelligently to violent emergencies, and the appropriate drills seem well worth doing. (If you watch the linked video, you will see that rather than simply terrifying students, these drills can be fun and empowering.) Of course, there are no guarantees when tackling a man with a gun, and training of this kind makes sense only for students above a certain age. But such "active shooter" drills, if widely taught, would probably reduce the threat of mass killings. However, when a massacre is under way, nothing can substitute for the presence of other armed men and women who have been trained to fight with guns. That is why one bothers to call the police. And those who are horrified at the idea of stationing a police officer in every school should be obliged to tell us how long they would like to wait for the police to arrive in the event that they are needed. Declaring schools to be "gun-free zones" makes them especially good places to commit mass murder-this is more NRA propaganda that happens to be true. With the exception of the attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every mass shooting since 1950 has taken place where civilians are forbidden to carry firearms.

As the parent of a daughter in preschool, I can scarcely imagine the feelings of terror, helplessness, and grief endured by the parents of Newtown. But when I contemplate atrocities of this kind, I do not think of "gun control"-because it seems extraordinarily unlikely that a deranged and/or evil person will ever find it difficult to acquire a firearm in the United States. Rather, I think of how differently the situation might have evolved if the school had had an armed (and, I have to emphasize, well-trained) security guard on campus. I also think of how differently things might have gone if the shooter, who seems to have shown signs of mental illness for years, had been more intrusively engaged by society prior to the attack.

But my thoughts soon return to the armed guard, because our laws generally do not allow us to prevent crime-even when a person's bad intentions are reasonably well understood. As someone who has received repeated death threats-several of them from the same person-I know that little can be done in advance of an attack. In fact, our laws do not even allow us to keep the most violent criminals permanently off our streets. Eighty percent of the people languishing in our maximum-security prisons will eventually be released back into society-many having become more violent for their time behind bars-and 70 percent of those will return to prison after committing further crimes. We live in a country where nonviolent drug offenders receive life sentences but a man who rapes a fifteen-year-old girl and cuts her arms off with a hatchet can be paroled for good behavior after eight years (only to kill again). I do not know what explains this impossible distortion of priorities, but given that it exists, I believe that good, trustworthy, and well-trained people should have guns.

Preventing low-frequency events like school shootings is probably impossible. If we enact laws that allow us to commit young men who merely scare us to mental institutions, we will surely commit thousands upon thousands of young men who would never have harmed anyone. This leads me to believe that if we care about minimizing the harm caused by the next school shooter, we should focus on stopping him at the doors of the school. To be sure, hiring enough guards to protect our nation's schools would be a daunting task. The security industry is notorious for poor quality control, and there is even reason to worry that some police officers have insufficient training with their guns. But it is clearly possible to hire as many competent guards as we want, should this become a national priority. This is entirely a question of money, not of whether it is possible to enlist, train, and equip 100,000 highly qualified men and women to protect our children.

As I said at the outset, I do not know how we can solve the problem of gun violence. A renewed ban on "assault rifles"-nearly the only concrete measure that anyone is talking about-will do very little to make our society safer. It is not, as many advocates seem to believe, an important "first step" in achieving a sane policy with respect to guns. It seems likely to be a symbolic step that delays real thinking about the problem of guns for another decade or more. By all means, let us ban these weapons. But when the next lunatic arrives at a school armed with legal pistols and a dozen ten-round magazines, we should be prepared to talk about how an assault weapons ban was a distraction from the real issue of gun violence.

One of the greatest impediments to actually solving the riddle of guns in our society is the pious concern that many people have about the intent of the Second Amendment. It should hardly need to be said that despite its brilliance and utility, the Constitution of the United States was written by men who could not possibly have foreseen every change that would occur in American society in the ensuing centuries. Even if the Second Amendment guaranteed everyone the right to possess whatever weapon he or she desired (it doesn't), we have since invented weapons that no civilian should be allowed to own. In fact, it can be easily argued that original intent of the Second Amendment had nothing to do with the right of self-defense-which remains the ethical case to be made for owning a firearm. The amendment seems to have been written to allow the states to check the power of the federal government by maintaining their militias. Given the changes that have occurred in our military, and even in our politics, the idea that a few pistols and an AR 15 in every home constitutes a necessary bulwark against totalitarianism is fairly ridiculous. If you believe that the armed forces of the United States might one day come for you-and you think your cache of small arms will suffice to defend you if they do-I've got a black helicopter to sell you.

We could do many things to ensure that only fully vetted people could get a licensed firearm. The fact that 40 percent of all guns in the U.S. are legally purchased from private sellers without background checks on the buyers (the so-called "gun show loophole") is terrifying. Getting a gun license could be made as difficult as getting a license to fly an airplane, requiring dozens of hours of training. I would certainly be happy to see policy changes like this. In that respect, I support much stricter gun laws. But I am under no illusions that such restrictions would make it difficult for bad people to acquire guns illegally. Given the level of violence in our society, the ubiquity of guns, and the fact that our penitentiaries function like graduate schools for violent criminals, I think sane, law-abiding people should have access to guns. In that respect, I support the rights of gun owners.

Finally, I have said nothing here about what might cause a person like Adam Lanza to enter a school for the purpose of slaughtering innocent children. Clearly, we need more resources in the areas of childhood and teenage mental health, and we need protocols for parents, teachers, and fellow students to follow when a young man in their midst begins to worry them. In the majority of cases, someone planning a public assassination or a mass murder will communicate his intentions to others in advance of the crime. People need to feel personally responsible for acting on this information-and the authorities must be able to do something once the information gets passed along. But again, any law that allows us to commit or imprison people on the basis of a mere perception of risk would guarantee that large numbers of innocent people will be held against their will.

Rather than new laws, I believe we need a general shift in our attitude toward public violence-wherein everyone begins to assume some responsibility for containing it. It is worth noting that this shift has already occurred in one area of our lives, without anyone's having received special training or even agreeing that a change in attitude was necessary: Just imagine how a few men with box cutters would now be greeted by their fellow passengers at 30,000 feet.

Perhaps we can find the same resolve on the ground.

(1) The importance of storing and handling firearms safely, and of never growing complacent about this, is impossible to exaggerate. In 2010, 606 people died in accidental shootings, 62 of them children. But deadly risks are everywhere: Six times as many people accidentally drown each year (in non-boating-related incidents), and 700 of them are children-this is in a country where 47 percent of homes have guns. There is no question that putting a pool in your yard is as serious a decision as buying a gun. This is another point about which "gun nuts" happen to be correct.

(2) According to one source cited by Goldberg, concealed-carry permit holders not only commit fewer crimes than members of the general public-they commit fewer crimes than police officers. It is certainly possible that in states with stringent requirements, civilians who take the trouble to go through the permitting process will be an unusually scrupulous bunch. Eight million people have been issued concealed-carry permits in the United States. But many more gun owners carry illegally, or legally in states that do not require permits (Gallup reports that 12 percent of Americans say they sometimes carry a gun for self-defense.)

(3) Although Adam Lanza seems to have been the prototypical mass shooter-white, male, mentally unstable, and living outside a large city-the epidemic of gun crime in America is mostly the product of urban gang activity. The black community continues to commit and to suffer more than its fair share of this violence. According to the Children's Defense Fund, gun deaths among white children and teens have decreased by 44 percent over the past three decades, while deaths among black children and teens increased by 30 percent. Blacks account for only 15 percent of the youth population but suffer 45 percent of all child and teen gun deaths. Black males aged 15 to 19 are eight times as likely as their white peers, and two-and-a-half-times as likely as Hispanics, to die by a bullet.

The problem of gangs is distinct from the problem of guns. Gang membership answers to a variety of social needs-protection and status foremost among them. But, as is the case with many social problems, gangs answer to a need that they themselves create. A person's reputation within a gang depends upon his demonstrated willingness to harm outsiders. Therefore, the very norms by which one raises one's status within a gang makes gang membership necessary for personal safety. Needless to say, most of the resulting mayhem is accomplished with guns.

Our misguided war on drugs is surely an important factor where gangs are concerned. This is another vicious circle: Like Prohibition before it, the war on drugs renders the sale of illicit drugs extraordinarily profitable while requiring that drug dealers function outside the law, protecting their investment and turf with guns. If we ended our war on drugs, the money that finances most gang activity would disappear, as would one of the primary reasons for gang violence. No doubt, gangs would remain. But with the war on drugs abandoned, our police, courts, and departments of corrections could focus on the real problem of violent crime.↩

(4) [Added 1/4/13] In fact, a revolver can be reloaded even faster than that.

(5) Of course, in many situations, even the best-trained guard would have no chance to draw his gun defensively, or would be unwise to do so. Picture the President of the United States moving through a crowd or delivering a speech: In the event of an assassination attempt, the job of his security detail is to immediately disrupt the shooter's aim, bring him to the ground, and disarm him-and to get the president to safety. Drawing their weapons and returning fire, especially in a crowd, is not part of the plan. But the tactics appropriate to having a dozen guards protecting a high-risk target in a crowd do not extend to every situation involving an active shooter. And one can easily think of circumstances in which members of the Secret Service would need their guns.
(c) 2013 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

The Hoax Of Entitlement Reform
By Robert Reich

It has become accepted economic wisdom, uttered with deadpan certainty by policy pundits and budget scolds on both sides of the aisle, that the only way to get control over America's looming deficits is to "reform entitlements."

But the accepted wisdom is wrong.

Start with the statistics Republicans trot out at the slightest provocation — federal budget data showing a huge spike in direct payments to individuals since the start of 2009, shooting up by almost $600 billion, a 32 percent increase.

And Census data showing 49 percent of Americans living in homes where at least one person is collecting a federal benefit - food stamps, unemployment insurance, worker's compensation, or subsidized housing — up from 44 percent in 2008.

But these expenditures aren't driving the federal budget deficit in future years. They're temporary. The reason for the spike is Americans got clobbered in 2008 with the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. They and their families have needed whatever helping hands they could get.

If anything, America's safety nets have been too small and shot through with holes. That's why the number and percentage of Americans in poverty has increased dramatically, including 22 percent of our children.

What about Social Security and Medicare (along with Medicare's poor step-child, Medicaid)?

Social Security won't contribute to future budget deficits. By law, it can only spend money from the Social Security trust fund.

That fund has been in surplus for the better part of two decades, as boomers contributed to it during their working lives. As boomers begin to retire, those current surpluses are disappearing.

But this only means the trust fund will be collecting from the rest of the federal government the IOUs on the surpluses it lent to the rest of the government.

This still leaves a problem for the trust fund about two decades from now.

Yet the way to deal with this isn't to raise the eligibility age for receiving Social Security benefits, as many entitlement reformers are urging. That would put an unfair burden on most laboring people, whose bodies begin wearing out about the same age they did decades ago even though they live longer.

And it's not to reduce cost-of-living adjustments for inflation, as even the White House seemed ready to propose in recent months. Benefits are already meager for most recipients. The median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year. Nearly 70 percent of them depend on Social Security for more than half of this. The average Social Security benefit is less than $15,000 a year.

Besides, Social Security's current inflation adjustment actually understates the true impact of inflation on elderly recipients — who spend far more than anyone else on health care, the costs of which have been rising faster than overall inflation.

That leaves two possibilities that "entitlement reformers" rarely if ever suggest, but are the only fair alternatives: raising the ceiling on income subject to Social Security taxes (in 2013 that ceiling is $113,700), and means-testing benefits so wealthy retirees receive less. Both should be considered.

What's left to reform? Medicare and Medicaid costs are projected to soar. But here again, look closely and you'll see neither is really the problem.

The underlying problem is the soaring costs of health care — as evidenced by soaring premiums, co-payments, and deductibles that all of us are bearing — combined with the aging of the boomer generation.

The solution isn't to reduce Medicare benefits. It's for the nation to contain overall healthcare costs and get more for its healthcare dollars.

We're already spending nearly 18 percent of our entire economy on health care, compared to an average of 9.6 percent in all other rich countries.

Yet we're no healthier than their citizens are. In fact, our life expectancy at birth (78.2 years) is shorter than theirs (averaging 79.5 years), and our infant mortality (6.5 deaths per 1000 live births) is higher (theirs is 4.4).

Why? Doctors and hospitals in the U.S. have every incentive to spend on unnecessary tests, drugs, and procedures.

For example, almost 95 percent of cases of lower back pain are best relieved by physical therapy. But American doctors and hospitals routinely do expensive MRI's, and then refer patients to orthopedic surgeons who often do even more costly surgery. There's not much money in physical therapy.

Another example: American doctors typically hospitalize people whose diabetes, asthma, or heart conditions act up. Twenty percent of these people are hospitalized again within a month. In other rich nations nurses make home visits to ensure that people with such problems are taking their medications. Nurses don't make home visits to Americans with acute conditions because hospitals aren't paid for such visits.

An estimated 30 percent of all healthcare spending in the United States is pure waste, according to the Institute of Medicine.

We keep patient records on computers that can't share data, requiring that they be continuously rewritten on pieces of paper and then reentered on different computers, resulting in costly errors.

And our balkanized healthcare system spends huge sums collecting money from different pieces of itself: Doctors collect from hospitals and insurers, hospitals collect from insurers, insurers collect from companies or from policy holders.

A major occupational category at most hospitals is "billing clerk." A third of nursing hours are devoted to documenting what's happened so insurers have proof.

Cutting or limiting Medicare and Medicaid costs, as entitlement reformers want to do, won't reform any of this. It would just result in less care.

In fact, we'd do better to open Medicare to everyone. Medicare's administrative costs are in the range of 3 percent.

That's well below the 5 to 10 percent costs borne by large companies that self-insure. It's even further below the administrative costs of companies in the small-group market (amounting to 25 to 27 percent of premiums). And it's way, way lower than the administrative costs of individual insurance (40 percent). It's even far below the 11 percent costs of private plans under Medicare Advantage, the current private-insurance option under Medicare.

Healthcare costs would be further contained if Medicare and Medicaid could use their huge bargaining leverage over healthcare providers to shift away from a "fee-for-the-most-costly-service" system to a system focused on achieving healthy outcomes.

Medicare isn't the problem. It may be the solution.

"Entitlement reform" sounds like a noble endeavor. But it has little or nothing to do with reducing future budget deficits.

Taming future deficits requires three steps having nothing to do with entitlements: Limiting the growth of overall healthcare costs, cutting our bloated military, and ending corporate welfare (tax breaks and subsidies targeted to particular firms and industries).

Obsessing about "entitlement reform" only serves to distract us from these more important endeavors.
(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, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

Deep Inside The "Taxpayer Relief Act" - Cui bono?

Well, finally - in the 11th hour and 59th minute - Republicans and Democrats negotiated a fiscal reform package, which they touted as the "American Taxpayer Relief Act."

But if you had been allowed to peek behind the curtain during the deal-making, you would've noticed that the Dems and Repubs were not alone - and some taxpayers were getting extra-special relief. Captain Morgan, Bacardi, and other Caribbean rum peddlers, for example, were at the table, picking up a half-billion-dollar-a-year liquor subsidy; NASCAR wheeled in to win a multimillion-dollar loophole for building racetracks; railroad conglomerates hauled off a $165-million bundle for maintaining their own tracks; Disney and other fabulously-wealthy Hollywood studios reeled in a $75 million subsidy for making movies; and Big Coal mined the negotiations for a federal giveaway to buy safety equipment and provide safety training for their workers.

But the big dogs in the room, as usual, were Wall Street hucksters. Tucked inside the "reform" bill is Sec. 322, opaquely titled "Extension of subpart F exception for active financing income." In plain English, that line of gobbledygook will move $9 billion this year from our public treasury into the already-overflowing coffers of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and other fiefdoms of high finance.

Worse than the giveaway, however, is the provision's purpose. As explained by the excellent watchdog group, Citizens for Tax Justice, Sec. 322 essentially underwrites the financing of corporate offshoring - a $9 billion subsidy for moving more U.S. jobs to foreign countries.

Italians have a useful phrase that applies here: Cui bono - Who benefits? Yes, this Republican-Democrat compromise has some good provisions, but deep inside, it's the same old corporate ugliness.
(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.

Director Kathryn Bigelow holds her 2010 Academy Award for The Hurt Locker.

A Letter To Kathryn Bigelow On Zero Dark Thirty's Apology For Torture
By peddling the lie that CIA detentions led to Bin Laden's killing, you have become a Leni Riefenstahl-like propagandist of torture
By Naomi Wolf

The Hurt Locker was a beautiful, brave film; many young women in film were inspired as they watched you become the first woman ever to win an Oscar for directing. But with Zero Dark Thirty, you have attained a different kind of distinction.

Your film Zero Dark Thirty is a huge hit here. But in falsely justifying, in scene after scene, the torture of detainees in "the global war on terror", Zero Dark Thirty is a gorgeously-shot, two-hour ad for keeping intelligence agents who committed crimes against Guantánamo prisoners out of jail. It makes heroes and heroines out of people who committed violent crimes against other people based on their race -something that has historical precedent.

Your film claims, in many scenes, that CIA torture was redeemed by the "information" it "secured", information that, according to your script, led to Bin Laden's capture. This narrative is a form of manufacture of innocence to mask a great crime: what your script blithely calls "the detainee program".

What led to this amoral compromising of your film-making?

Could some of the seduction be financing? It is very hard to get a film without a pro-military message, such as The Hurt Locker, funded and financed. But according to sources in the film industry, the more pro-military your message is, the more kinds of help you currently can get: from personnel, to sets, to technology - a point I made in my argument about the recent militarized Katy Perry video.

It seems implausible that scenes such as those involving two top-secret, futuristic helicopters could be made without Pentagon help, for example. If the film received that kind of undisclosed, in-kind support from the defense department, then that would free up million of dollars for the gigantic ad campaign that a film like this needs to compete to win audience.

This also sets a dangerous precedent: we can be sure, with the "propaganda amendment" of the 2013 NDAA, just signed into law by the president, that the future will hold much more overt corruption of Hollywood and the rest of US pop culture. This amendment legalizes something that has been illegal for decades: the direct funding of pro-government or pro-military messaging in media, without disclosure, aimed at American citizens.

Then, there is the James Frey factor. You claim that your film is "based on real events", and in interviews, you insist that it is a mixture of fact and fiction, "part documentary". "Real", "true", and even "documentary", are big and important words. By claiming such terms, you generate media and sales traction -on a mendacious basis. There are filmmakers who work very hard to produce films that are actually "based on real events": they are called documentarians. Alex Gibney, in Taxi to the Dark Side, and Rory Kennedy, in Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, have both produced true and sourceable documentary films about what your script blithely calls "the detainee program" -that is, the regime of torture to generate false confessions at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib -which your script claims led straight to Bin Laden.

Fine, fellow reporter: produce your sources. Provide your evidence that torture produced lifesaving -or any -worthwhile intelligence.

But you can't present evidence for this claim. Because it does not exist.

Five decades of research, cited in the 2008 documentary The End of America, confirm that torture does not work. Robert Fisk provides another summary of that categorical conclusion. And this 2011 account from Human Rights First rebuts the very premise of Zero Dark Thirty.

Your actors complain about detainees' representation by lawyers -suggesting that these do-gooders in suits endanger the rest of us. I have been to see your "detainee program" firsthand. The prisoners, whom your film describes as being "lawyered up", meet with those lawyers in rooms that are wired for sound; yet, those lawyers can't tell the world what happened to their clients -because the descriptions of the very torture these men endured are classified.

I have seen the room where the military tribunal takes the "testimony" from people swept up in a program that gave $5,000 bounties to desperately poor Afghanis to incentivize their turning-in innocent neighbors. The chairs have shackles to the floor, and are placed in twos, so that one prisoner can be threatened to make him falsely condemn the second.

I have seen the expensive video system in the courtroom where -though Guantanamo spokesmen have told the world's press since its opening that witnesses' accounts are brought in "whenever reasonable" -the monitor on the system has never been turned on once: a monitor that could actually let someone in Pakistan testify to say, "hey, that is the wrong guy". (By the way, you left out the scene where the CIA dude sodomizes the wrong guy: Khaled el-Masri, "the German citizen unfortunate enough to have a similar name to a militant named Khaled al-Masri.")

In a time of darkness in America, you are being feted by Hollywood, and hailed by major media. But to me, the path your career has now taken reminds of no one so much as that other female film pioneer who became, eventually, an apologist for evil: Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl's 1935 Triumph of the Will, which glorified Nazi military power, was a massive hit in Germany. Riefenstahl was the first female film director to be hailed worldwide.

Leni Riefenstahl at Nuremberg, 1934, directing Triumph of the Will Leni Riefenstahl
directing her crew at the Nazi party rally in Nuremberg, 1934, for her film Triumph of the Will.

It may seem extreme to make comparison with this other great, but profoundly compromised film-maker, but there are real echoes. When Riefenstahl began to glamorize the National Socialists, in the early 1930s, the Nazis' worst atrocities had not yet begun; yet abusive detention camps had already been opened to house political dissidents beyond the rule of law -the equivalent of today's Guantanamo, Bagram base, and other unnameable CIA "black sites". And Riefenstahl was lionised by the German elites and acclaimed for her propaganda on behalf of Hitler's regime.

But the world changed. The ugliness of what she did could not, over time, be hidden. Americans, too, will wake up and see through Zero Dark Thirty's apologia for the regime's standard lies that this brutality is somehow necessary. When that happens, the same community that now applauds you will recoil.

Like Riefenstahl, you are a great artist. But now you will be remembered forever as torture's handmaiden.
(c) 2013 Naomi Wolf author, social critic, and political activist is the author of The New York Times bestseller "The End of America" (Chelsea Green) and, more recently, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. Wolf's landmark international bestseller, The Beauty Myth, challenged the cosmetics industry and the marketing of unrealistic standards of beauty, launching a new wave of feminism in the early 1990s.

Amsterdam's Plan to Resettle "Antisocial Tenants" In Containment Camps Set To Begin This Month
By Danny Weil

Amsterdam is famous for liberal policies such as those that help it attract tourists who want to buy sex and smoke pot in coffee shops, but now it has announced an illiberal social containment and human disposability scheme to house what the Dutch are calling "antisocial tenants." The plan is to warehouse live bodies - or an ever-mounting population of surplus labor - in converted shipping containers.

San Francisco approved something similar in September of this distressful year of 2012 in what the city described as an attempt to house workers and the poor. Officials who passed revisions to the building code claim that, whereas the average rent in June was $2,734, the "micro spaces" would capture a market price of $1,200-$1,500. San Francisco's new building code now allows for spaces as small as 220 square feet to be built and occupied under the auspices of supplying "affordable housing."

For as much as $1,500, one can currently live in the "Paris of the West Coast" containment cell - in the same city where four billionaires out of the 94 in California reside and where the 1 percent have profited from skyrocketing housing costs for years.

In Amsterdam the Situation Is Even Graver

To the unsuspecting eye, Amsterdam appears like a libertarian Disneyland. The Labor party mayor recently gave the government's promise that the city would tolerate marijuana sales at pot-selling coffee shops even after the passage of a new law tightening down on drug tourism and the popular prostitution spots continue to attract customers and garnish lavish social attention. Yet scratch and sniff the social libertarian Disney landscape and the "new Amsterdam" reveals its stench.

The significant news now is that official plans to dispatch "nuisance neighbors" to "scum villages" made from shipping containers are poised to take effect.

Labor Mayor Eberhard van der Laan, who approved of the public plan, told The Guardian that his new £810,000 policy to confront what the Dutch officials are also calling "antisocial behavior" is being effected to protect victims of social abuse and homophobia from harassment.

Bartho Boer, spokesperson for the mayor, never really defined the new doublespeak terms "anti-social behavior" or "nuisance neighbors" for The Guardian, but he did specify that the new containment camps, or what have been referred to as "villages" by the corporate media, are not for "the regular nuisance between two neighbors where one has the stereo too loud on Saturday night" but for "people who are extremely violent and intimidating and in a clear situation where a victim is being repeatedly harassed."

Victims of increased austerity who are pilloried as guilty of causing what the Dutch are calling "extreme havoc" are to be evicted from their current homes and placed in the new temporary containment units. The Dutch authorities announced that containment homes will be isolated outside residential areas and located in industrial-zoned segments of the city.

In an effort to rationalize the isolationist containment policy of human disposability, Boer and others are engaging in word-smithing with an extraordinary fervor. In reality, these containment camps are nothing short of modern day concentration camps to be filled with what has been now been identified by the capitalist class and elites as human detritus.

The Amsterdam government says they anticipate moving around ten families a year into the program, which is scheduled to start in January of 2013.

The Guardian quoted Boer on the government's preferred moniker for the shipping-containers-cum-housing: "We call it a living container," he said.

Evidencing the carceral spirit of the punitive new law housing "antisocial tenants" in containers with showers and kitchens, a spokesman for the mayor told The Telegraph: "The aim is not to reward people who behave badly with a new five-room home with a south-facing garden. This is supposed to be a deterrent."

People housed in the containers will also be able to meet with doctors, social workers and parole officers, according to The Guardian. The containment units will, of course, require beefed-up security, and thus can be expected to be heavily policed.

Always consistent with his respect for disarming rhetoric, Boer balks at the term "scum villages", preferring to call them "scum houses." That is, according to The Guardian, "because we don't want to put more than one of these families in the same area."

This isn't the first time the Dutch tried such policies. The country has a history of such procedures. In the 19th century, so-called "troublemakers" were moved to special villages in Drenthe and Overijssel according to

Boer, however, dismisses history by insisting the rancid policy is essential and that the administration has learned from its mistakes, promising not to repeat them. All of this is supposed to be designed to comfort the mainstream Dutch public who like to think of themselves as socially liberal. Even more importantly, it helps build an ideological architecture that works to assure that the warehousing of surplus labor is done with efficiency, rapidity and calibration both for the present and for a dystopic future.

Currently, there are several small-scale trial projects of a similar nature already in progress in the Netherlands, including a location near Amsterdam where ten shipping container homes have been set up for persistent offenders, according to RT.

In the Orwellian world that is unfolding throughout Western civilization, Boer as quoted in The Guardian sums up the new turnkey totalitarianism embraced by the Dutch and no doubt soon to be emulated by other so-called liberal democracies: "They are taken care of so the whole situation is not going to repeat at the new house they are in." The whole grand plan for handling an increasing disposable population is the "soft totalitarianism" of tyrants. But in a society where buying and selling is the basis of all that is considered human liberty, perhaps we cannot rule out that more and more people will attain the status of surplus labor, unable to find work, housing, or satisfy basic needs, and will then be consigned to "scum villages" or "containment camps."

The question for those of us not yet consigned to containment camps is what, if anything, we will do about their creation.
(c) 2012 Danny Weil is a writer for Project Censored and Daily Censored. He received the Project Censored "Most Censored" News Stories of 2009-10 award for his article: "Neoliberalism, Charter Schools and the Chicago Model / Obama and Duncan's Education Policy: Like Bush's, Only Worse," published by Counterpunch, August 24, 2009. Dr. Weil has published more than seven books on education in the past 20 years. You can also read much more about the for-profit, predatory colleges in his writings found at,, and Project where he has covered the issue of the privatization of education for years. He can be reached at His new book, an encyclopedia on charter schools, entitled: "Charter School Movement: History, Politics, Policies, Economics and Effectiveness," 641 pages, was published in August of 2009 by Grey House Publishing, New York, and provides a scathing look at the privatization of education through charter schools.

What Gerda Lerner Taught Us
By John Nichols

Fifteen years ago, when Milt Wolff, the last commander of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, spoke at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, I attended the event with a pair of University of Wisconsin history professors, Gerda Lerner and George Mosse.

I had known Wolff for years and, like many Wisconsinites, I was close to the man Wolff had come to honor, Clarence Kailin, a Madison native who fought with the Lincolns against Franco and the fascists in a Spanish Civil War that anticipated World War II. Wolff and Kailin well recalled their "good fight" in Spain and their struggles on behalf of social justice at home with appropriate passion and an energy that belied their advancing years.

But what struck me most powerfully that day was the intense engagement of my academic friends, two of the twentieth century's most revered historians, with the international brigadeers who had rallied to defend Spanish democracy. Neither had fought in Spain. Yet both traced roots of their political consciousness and their scholarship to the great anti-fascist struggle that animated the global left in the 1930s and 1940s.

Mosse, the son of one of Berlin's most prominent Jewish families who died in 1999 at age 80, was spirited out of Germany as the Nazis rose to power, arriving in Britain on his own at age 15 and eventually making it to the United States.

Lerner, the daughter of Viennese Jews who died January 3 at age 92, joined the anti-Nazi resistance as an Austrian teenager and spent her eighteenth birthday in a fascist jail before immigrating to the New York in 1939.

Both Lerner and Mosse would complete their education in the United States (the New School and Columbia for Lerner, Haverford College and Harvard for Mosse) and both would became definitional figures in the new era of American historical inquiry-informed by personal experience and sympathy for neglected and betrayed peoples-that demanded academic institutions and society examine a broader history. Along with Howard Zinn, they began to reveal untold stories and unrecalled truths and, in so doing, invited new generations of students and scholars to burst the tight shackles of the discipline.

Mosse, a gay man, examined the cultural roots of racism, sexism and especially homophobia with a stunning series of books that included Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism, Masses and Man: Nationalist and Fascist Perceptions of Reality and The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity. His scholarship and activism laid the groundwork for the expansion of LGBT studies. Indeed, he used a portion of the fortune he obtained through restitution of family properties that had been expropriated by the Nazis, to endow LGBT studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. A Haverford College journal article that reflected on Mosse as one of the school's most distinguished graduates noted that "his struggles with personal identity both as a Jew and a gay man sharpened Mosse's precision at untangling-and making sense of-history from the perspective of an outsider."

Like Mosse, Lerner wrestled with questions about the role of minorities-be they anti-fascist radicals in Austria or abolitionists in the pre–Civil War South. But over time she became most interested in the role of a majority group: women. She titled one of her most influential essay collections: The Majority Finds Its Past: Placing Women in History. Even majorities could be "invisible" to the powerful, and those who write the histories of the powerful. My friend Matt Rothschild says of Lerner: "Her whole life, in a way, was an effort to make visible the invisible-and to honor it." Lerner echoes that view: "I was part of the invisible, first in the underground as an anti-fascist, then as an immigrant, then as a leftwing radical. My life experience was counter to the mythology."

Lerner countered the mythology early in her career by focusing attention in particular on the experience of African-American women. Then, at Sarah Lawrence, she created the nation's first Women's History graduate program. A decade later, having joined Mosse on the faculty of the influential UW history department, Lerner developed the nation's first PhD program in women's history. So great was her contribution that an appreciation of her career by the American Association of Retired People blog noted, "If you know about the Seneca Falls Declaration and the 5,000 women who braved catcalls and projectiles to march down Pennsylvania Avenue during President Woodrow Wilson's 1913 inauguration to demand the right to vote, you ought to thank Gerda Lerner for keeping the history of the women's movement in America from being forgotten."

Along the way, Lerner co-founded the National Organization for Women and served as president of the Organization of American Historians in 1981 and 1982, a tenure notable not merely for her own accomplishments but for the fact that it coincided with the beginning of the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Lerner was no fan of Reagan. Nor was Mosse.

It was their shared frustration with an ahistorical remark by the fortieth president that animated both Lerner and Mosse at that gathering to honor the Lincoln vets. They recalled how, in 1986, Reagan had defended interventions on behalf of Central America's right-wing dictators and economic elites on the grounds that Americans had in the 1930s gone to Spain to defend a democratically elected government in its struggle against fascists and economic elites who would impose a right-wing dictatorship. "He did not know his history," Mosse said, with a scolding voice and a wry smile. "We should treat the struggle against the Nazis, against fascism, very seriously," said Lerner, a bit sterner in her delivery. "The anti-fascists, the opposition, the Socialists, the radicals, the Jews who resisted," she continued. "It is so important to get the history right."

This was, for Gerda Lerner, an essential premise. She learned lessons from struggle, from solidarity in the face of repression, that would define her scholarship and our understanding of the role and potential of history in defining and directing our contemporary activism. When she was imprisoned in Vienna, 18-year-old Gerda Hedwig Kronstein (her late husband, with whom she co-wrote the script for the film Black Like Me, was Carl Lerner) was held in a cell with several young women who had been active in the anti-fascist resistance to the Nazis. The jailers limited rations for Jews, but the young socialists, as gentiles, were given full rations. Week after week, they shared their food with Gerda, keeping her strong until her family was able to arrange for her to leave Austria.

"They taught me how to survive," Lerner wrote in her brilliant autobiography, Fireweed. "Everything I needed to get through the rest of my life, I learned in jail in those six weeks."

What she learned about resistance and solidarity and the hidden history of what happens when women help one another to survive and thrive, Gerda Lerner taught the rest of us. It is a lesson that has transformed America's understanding of itself, and of our radical potential.
(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.

State Of Fear
By Chris Hedges

Shannon McLeish of Florida is a 45-year-old married mother of two young children. She is a homeowner, a taxpayer and a safe driver. She votes in every election. She attends a Unitarian Universalist church on Sundays. She is also, like nearly all who have a relationship with the Occupy movement in the United States, being monitored by the federal government. She knows this because when she read FBI documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) through the Freedom of Information Act, she was startled to see a redaction that could only be referring to her. McLeish's story is the story of hundreds of thousands of people-perhaps more-whose lives are being invaded by the state. It is the story of a security and surveillance apparatus-overseen by the executive branch under Barack Obama-that has empowered the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to silence the voices and obstruct the activity of citizens who question corporate power.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, said in a written statement about the released files: "This production [of information], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI's surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protesters organizing with the Occupy movement. These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America."

The FBI documents are not only a chilling example of how widespread this surveillance and obstruction has become, they are an explicit warning by the security services to all who consider dissent. Anyone who defies corporate power, even if he or she is nonviolent and acting within constitutional rights, is a suspect. These documents are part of the plan to make us fearful, compliant and disempowered. They mark, I suspect, a government attempt to end peaceful mass protests by responding with repression to the grievances of Americans. When the corporate-financed group FreedomWorks bused in goons to disrupt Democratic candidates' town hall meetings about the federal health care legislation in August 2009, Eric Zuesse of the Business Insider notes, "there was no FBI surveillance of those corporate-organized disruptions of legitimate democratic processes. There also were no subsequent FreedomWorks applications for Freedom of Information Act releases of FBI files regarding such surveillance being used against them-because there was no such FBI campaign against them."

The combination of intimidation tactics by right-wing fringe groups, which speak in the language of violence and hate, with the state's massive intrusion into the personal affairs of the citizen is corporate fascism. And we are much farther down that road than many of us care to admit.

"When activists took up relatively long-term residence in Zuccotti Park in New York City on Sept. 17 [in 2011], their message of outrage was a mirror to my own after we bailed out the banks with our tax dollars, then watched them get off scot-free without even a token attempt to help fix the wreckage they'd created," McLeish told me over the phone when I called her home. "I personally lost considerable income and my retirement with the economic collapse, as well as more than half the value of my home. I could see the people around me struggling, too. I have friends, neighbors and family members that the banks refused to help, who lost their homes or were forced to pay for costly attorneys to defend themselves against fraudulent foreclosure attempts. People couldn't sell their homes, as they were worth so much less than what they'd paid for them. Homes all over the area, including in my neighborhood right near the downtown [of Ormond Beach, Fla.], were abandoned due to the foreclosure crisis-and left to rot by the banks. Strip malls were emptied as businesses went bankrupt and closed their doors. More and more homeless people were wandering through the neighborhood-people you could tell had never been homeless, just by virtue of what and how much they carried with them. Families were sleeping behind big-box stores, and my area was featured on national news repeatedly for the number of homeless families."

"These are some of the things that prompted me to create a Facebook page for Occupy in my area in solidarity with the courageous activists camping in Zuccotti-the only group to fully give voice to what I saw as the issue: the corruption of pretty much everything from the economy to the environment to our social safety nets to our democratic system of governance due to corporate greed," she said. "The message of OWS [Occupy Wall Street] resonated deeply and moved me to action."

The FBI documents obtained by the PCJF show that government security services began to monitor the activities of Occupy activists before the Zuccotti Park encampment was established. They revealed that when McLeish met with about 40 other activists in Daytona Beach, Fla., several undercover law enforcement officers were present.

"None of them identified themselves as law enforcement to meeting attendees, though a Homeland Security agent approached me afterward, probably because I facilitated the meeting," McLeish said. "When the agent approached me after the meeting, it was pretty unnerving. I decided the best way to deal with it was head on. I responded with, 'I'm so glad you're here! There's a group making threats against us. I assume that's why you've come.' I think he was surprised. I don't think he acknowledged knowing about the threats from an online gun group. He said he wanted to make sure we weren't infiltrated by troublemakers. He asked if we'd meet with law enforcement to find out what we were allowed to do. I said I'd be happy to do so. He said he would check into the threats. He said he would put me in touch with someone from the Daytona Beach Police Department."

"I can't remember exactly when we met with Daytona Beach Police Department the first time," she said. "It could have been the next day or the day after. There were about six or seven of us, and I think it was three officers: Deputy Chief Ben Walton, who is now retired, and two other high-ranking officers. If I remember correctly, I pretty much began the discussion by stating that we were aware of our right to protest. We would be glad to coordinate as much as possible to make the Police Department's job easier, but not to the point of infringing upon our rights."

"We agreed upon very low police presence-one to a few officers-on the basis of the threats made by the online gun group, but not for surveillance on citizens engaged in peaceful protest," she said.

The daylong event she and the other activists held on Oct. 15, 2011, was attended by more than 300 people. The past president of the local NAACP chapter spoke, as did a leader in the teachers union who was also a member of the school board, a couple of members of the postal union, the leader of a homeless coalition who was homeless himself, and a member of the Daytona State College Environmental Club. A female uniformed officer was present. McLeish noticed a man with a professional camera taking photographs of individual protesters in the crowd. She saw him later the same day amid several police officers. One officer confirmed that the photographer was with law enforcement but would not give more information, McLeish said.

Daytona-area activists during the fall of 2011 continued to organize events, including sidewalk marches to banks. In most cases they notified the police in advance. At one big event, men in plain clothes and standing with folded arms surrounded a seated group as it held a teach-in.

"It was extremely intimidating, not to mention the effect on people walking by who might have joined us if it weren't for these heavy-handed tactics," McLeish said.

The local activists set up an Occupy encampment every weekend in December 2011.

"There were no incidents of any kind," McLeish said of the camp in Daytona. "No one spoke aggressively to an officer at any time. No one drank or used drugs. We had clearly posted rules to that effect at the camp. There was no violence whatsoever, verbal or physical-as was the case with any event we organized, and we had quite a lot of them. Further, we clearly expressed that while we would act in accordance with our rights, we would not violate any laws."

"Given the lengths we went to, you can imagine my dismay as I saw Daytona repeatedly mentioned in national news as one of the main areas under surveillance by the FBI, Homeland Security, as well as some unknown 'private partner' agency," she said. "We were being investigated, according to the released FBI documents, as if we were a 'terrorist' group engaged in 'criminal activity.' I checked the released pages to see what could only be references to me-my name, age, and phone number. Though redacted, they indicate that any search of people connected with domestic terrorist groups is likely to turn up my name."

Since the spring of 2012 McLeish has co-hosted a morning radio show called "Air Occupy" (also streamed online) with Liz Myers and Jerry Bolkcom. They have interviewed, among others, Alexa O'Brien, the organizer of US Day of Rage, and Carl Mayer, the lead attorney in the case Hedges v. Obama, a challenge to the indefinite detention clause of the National Defense Authorization Act. Immediately after "Air Occupy" posted on YouTube the interview about the lawsuit against the NDAA, YouTube permanently banned the radio show on the ground of "violating community standards"-a ban that usually is imposed for graphic, violent or gory images or pornography. According to YouTube's guidelines, a poster is allowed three "strikes" before an account is terminated. "Air Occupy" had received no notice of "strikes" or warnings of any kind from YouTube.

McLeish worries about how being a target of FBI attention will affect her life. "Can the inclusion of my name and information on a federal law enforcement domestic terrorist watch list impact my ability to make a living and provide for my children?" she asked. "Can I be subject to retribution of some kind through the NDAA's new provisions or to federal surveillance due to interviewing other activists or in addition to my involvement in Occupy protests? I can't afford an attorney to protect myself."

"What does such surveillance and militarized response mean for our democratic system of governance as more and more people in our country and abroad struggle to survive and are moved to protest stark economic inequalities, mass unemployment and unfair working conditions, and impoverished living conditions?" she asked.
(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."

Technology Servitude
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Everywhere I look outside my home I see people busy on their high tech devices, while driving, while walking, while shopping, while in groups of friends, while in restaurants, while waiting in doctor offices and hospitals, while sitting in toilets - everywhere. While connected electronically, they are inattentive to and disconnected in physical reality.

People have been steadily manipulated to become technology addicted. Technology is the opiate of the masses.

This results in technology servitude. I am referring to a loss of personal freedom and independence because of uncontrolled consumption of many kinds of devices that eat up time and money. Most people do not use independent, critical thinking to question whether their quality of life is actually improved by the incessant use of technology products that are marketed more aggressively than just about anything else.

I for one have worked successfully to greatly limit my use of technological innovations, to keep myself as unconnected as possible and to maximize my privacy and independence. I do not have a smart phone; I do not participate in social networking; I do not have any Apple product, nothing like an IPod, IPad and similar devices. I have never used Twitter or anything similar, or sent a text message. I do use the Internet judiciously on an old laptop. Email is good and more than enough for me. I very rarely use an old cell phone.

So what have I gained? Time, privacy and no obsession to constantly be in touch, connected, available, informed about others. Call me old fashioned, but I feel a lot more in control of my life than most people that I see conspicuously using their many modern devices. They have lost freedom and do not seem to care about that. When I take my daily long walks I have no device turned on, no desire to communicate, nor to listen to music; I want to be in the moment, only sensing the world around me, unfiltered and uninterrupted by any technology.

I am not hooked by advancing technology, not tethered to constantly improved devices, not curious about the next generation of highly priced but really unnecessary products, not logged on and online all the time. I have no apps or games.

Those who think interactions with people through technology devices are the real thing have lost their sanity. Technology limits and distorts human, social interactions. Worse yet, people have lost ability and talent for actually conversing to people face to face, responding to nonverbal nuances, or through intimate writing with more than just a few words.

Consider these findings: "Researchers from the University of Glasgow found that half of the study participants reported checking their email once an hour, while some individuals check up to 30 to 40 times an hour. An AOL study revealed that 59 percent of PDA users check every single time an email arrives and 83 percent check email every day on vacation."

A 2010 survey found that 61 percent of Americans (even higher among young people) say they are addicted to the Internet. Another survey reported that "addicted" was the word most commonly used by people to describe their relationship to technology. One study found that people had a harder time resisting the allure of social media than they did for sex, sleep, cigarettes, and alcohol.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found that 44 percent of cellphone owners had slept with their phone next to their bed. Worse, 67 percent had experienced "phantom rings," checking their phone even when it was not ringing or vibrating. A little good news: the proportion of cellphone owners who said they "could live without it" increased to 37 percent from 29 percent in 2006.

The main goal of technology companies is to get you to spend more money and time on their products, not to actually improve your quality of life. They have successfully created a cultural disease that has gone viral. Consumers willingly surrender their freedom, money and time in pursuit of what exactly? To keep pace with their peers? To appear modern and sophisticated? To not miss out on the latest information? To stay plugged in? I do not get it.

I see people as trapped in a pathological relationship with time-sucking technology, where they serve technology more than technology serves them. I call this technology servitude. Richard Fernandez, an executive coach at Google acknowledged that "we can be swept away by our technologies." Welcome to virtual living. To break the grand digital delusion people must consider how lives long ago could be terrific without all the technology regalia pushed today.

What is a healthy use of technology devices? That is the crucial question. Who is really in charge of my life? That is what people need to ask themselves if they are to have any chance of breaking up delusions about their use of technology. When they can live happily without using so much technology for a day or a week, then they can regain control and personal freedom and become the master of technology. Discover what there is to enjoy in life that is free of technology. Mae West is famous for proclaiming the wisdom that "too much of a good thing is wonderful." Time to discover that it does not work for technology.

As to globalization of technology servitude: Is this worldwide progress what is best for humanity? Is downloaded global dehumanization being sucked up? Time for global digital dieting.
(c) 2013 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy -Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Big Fail
By Paul Krugman

It's that time again: the annual meeting of the American Economic Association and affiliates, a sort of medieval fair that serves as a marketplace for bodies (newly minted Ph.D.'s in search of jobs), books and ideas. And this year, as in past meetings, there is one theme dominating discussion: the ongoing economic crisis.

This isn't how things were supposed to be. If you had polled the economists attending this meeting three years ago, most of them would surely have predicted that by now we'd be talking about how the great slump ended, not why it still continues.

So what went wrong? The answer, mainly, is the triumph of bad ideas.

It's tempting to argue that the economic failures of recent years prove that economists don't have the answers. But the truth is actually worse: in reality, standard economics offered good answers, but political leaders - and all too many economists - chose to forget or ignore what they should have known.

The story, at this point, is fairly straightforward. The financial crisis led, through several channels, to a sharp fall in private spending: residential investment plunged as the housing bubble burst; consumers began saving more as the illusory wealth created by the bubble vanished, while the mortgage debt remained. And this fall in private spending led, inevitably, to a global recession.

For an economy is not like a household. A family can decide to spend less and try to earn more. But in the economy as a whole, spending and earning go together: my spending is your income; your spending is my income. If everyone tries to slash spending at the same time, incomes will fall - and unemployment will soar.

So what can be done? A smaller financial shock, like the dot-com bust at the end of the 1990s, can be met by cutting interest rates. But the crisis of 2008 was far bigger, and even cutting rates all the way to zero wasn't nearly enough.

At that point governments needed to step in, spending to support their economies while the private sector regained its balance. And to some extent that did happen: revenue dropped sharply in the slump, but spending actually rose as programs like unemployment insurance expanded and temporary economic stimulus went into effect. Budget deficits rose, but this was actually a good thing, probably the most important reason we didn't have a full replay of the Great Depression.

But it all went wrong in 2010. The crisis in Greece was taken, wrongly, as a sign that all governments had better slash spending and deficits right away. Austerity became the order of the day, and supposed experts who should have known better cheered the process on, while the warnings of some (but not enough) economists that austerity would derail recovery were ignored. For example, the president of the European Central Bank confidently asserted that "the idea that austerity measures could trigger stagnation is incorrect."

Well, someone was incorrect, all right.

Of the papers presented at this meeting, probably the biggest flash came from one by Olivier Blanchard and Daniel Leigh of the International Monetary Fund. Formally, the paper represents the views only of the authors; but Mr. Blanchard, the I.M.F.'s chief economist, isn't an ordinary researcher, and the paper has been widely taken as a sign that the fund has had a major rethinking of economic policy.

For what the paper concludes is not just that austerity has a depressing effect on weak economies, but that the adverse effect is much stronger than previously believed. The premature turn to austerity, it turns out, was a terrible mistake.

I've seen some reporting describing the paper as an admission from the I.M.F. that it doesn't know what it's doing. That misses the point; the fund was actually less enthusiastic about austerity than other major players. To the extent that it says it was wrong, it's also saying that everyone else (except those skeptical economists) was even more wrong. And it deserves credit for being willing to rethink its position in the light of evidence.

The really bad news is how few other players are doing the same. European leaders, having created Depression-level suffering in debtor countries without restoring financial confidence, still insist that the answer is even more pain. The current British government, which killed a promising recovery by turning to austerity, completely refuses to consider the possibility that it made a mistake.

And here in America, Republicans insist that they'll use a confrontation over the debt ceiling - a deeply illegitimate action in itself - to demand spending cuts that would drive us back into recession.

The truth is that we've just experienced a colossal failure of economic policy - and far too many of those responsible for that failure both retain power and refuse to learn from experience.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it."
~~~ John Lennon

Late Stage Capitalism And The Shame Haunted Life
You Can't Kill Trauma With A Gun
By Phil Rockstroh

"Memory believes before knowing remembers." ~~~ William Faulkner

In an era of corporate-state colonization of both landscape and mental real estate, when the face of one's true oppressors is, more often than not, hidden from view, thus inflicting feelings of anxiety borne of powerlessness over the criteria of one's life and the course of one's fate, often, to retain a sense of control, people will tend to displace their anger and shame. Firearms provide the illusion of being able to locate and bead down on a given target. (How often does a person without wealth, power, and influence have any contact with -- or even a glimpse of -- the financial and political elite whose decisions dictate the, day by day, criteria of one's existence?)

Beginning in childhood, carrying the noxious notions of the adult world, the viral seeds of mental enslavement to shame and the concomitant attempt to protect ego-integrity through psychological displacement are spread child to child.

All too often, internalized shame robs a child of his innate identity before it has a chance to jell. This is one, among multiple social factors, by which the collective mindset of capitalist/consumer state forcefully usurps an individual's mind and holds it in torment.

Therefore, it is imperative for an individual, marooned in the shame-haunted miasma of the capitalist/consumer paradigm, to reclaim his/her own name. Even if the process entails (as it as played out in my own story) a descent into the underworld of memory and a confrontation with the ghosts therein.

A personal encounter with the raging ghosts of memory: Late autumn. 1965. Atlanta, Georgia.

At my back, as I stepped from the yellow school bus, and hurried in the direction of the small, two story apartment building, a seething cacophony of taunts and insults seemed to buffet me forward. Marc Leftcoff had sneered that the apartment complex where my family dwelled was, "The Projects" -- that he proclaimed to be "a roach nest for losers, unemployed rednecks and divorced hussies -- only a place white niggers would live."

(And no, I didn't grow-up in a Quentin Tarantino movie. People, even children, spoke like that in those days.)

Months earlier, on my first day of school -- after our family had moved from Birmingham to Atlanta, where my sister's and my new school district included white, laboring class families (often shattered and reconfigured by divorce and second and third marriages) and neighborhoods of affluent, upper middle class Jewish families -- I was debriefed by Josh Corbin.

"So," he clicked, his tongue producing a percussive, supercilious sound by creating a vacuum at the top of his mouth. "Are you upper-class, upper-middle class (like we are) just plain middle class, lower-middle class, or poor (he emitted that clicking sound at the word, poor). You look poor. What is that you have on -- Kmart Specials (click). My clothes come from Saks in New York. My Mother and I buy them there when we visit our relatives in New York City, three or four times a year."

I had no idea what he was talking about. But, I detected, through the mind-diminishing haze of my naivety, a discernible menace in his tone.

"You should really have your parents buy you some presentable clothes...What's the matter, can't they afford to buy you anything decent?"

I scanned his outfit. A little alligator seemed to be smirking at me from his shirt. Why did this kid have shiny dimes glinting from the surface of his oxblood loafers? ("Why insert pennies when you can afford dimes," Corbin was inclined to boast?)

And what was the meaning of that clicking sound that he kept making with his mouth?

Later, I apprehended the sound pertained to the fact that I, and my family, had been labeled, "White Trash."

Of course, I was ignorant of the social implications of the term, but, nevertheless, an image formed in my mind: My family had been dismissed as tossed-away refuse, reeking like garbage in the Georgia sun...weightless as windblown litter. Inconsequential: our existence...only a foul odor, fleetingly detected, and deserving, when noticed at all, of the contempt of society's betters.

My heart felt as though it had been ripped into tatters in a windstorm of shame. It seemed as though all I knew about myself had been negated.

This is how shame works on a person. Internalized shame seems to commandeer a person's DNA and replicate itself into the cellular structure of his being.

In the thrall of internalized shame, one is gripped by the compulsion to hide his face from the world. One's own thoughts and feeling seem a foul pestilence from which to flee. Thus, a person will come to believe that the only way to absolve oneself of one's inherent reek (Marc Leftcoff claimed he had seen my father shirtless and announced to our classmates that he "stunk like a rutting nigger") was to become someone have a family blessed with money and nice have a smug alligator gazing upon life from Saks Fifth Avenue-procured shirts, and have dimes glinting unto creation from the tops of one's polished loafers. This is one, among multiple means, that the capitalist/consumer state forcefully usurps one's mind and holds it in torment.

After school, buffeted by these sessions of shaming, I would take refuge in the wooded areas near my home. There, sheltered among the pines, popular trees, and ancient oaks of the Georgia Piedmont, I would seek solace in books and my own wild imaginings.

I recall writing a story in my loose leaf notebook involving a lonely, bullied boy, who, shaken by shame and humiliation, played hooky from school.

Hiding out in a section of woods near his school, he was bitten, while exploring a deep ravine, by a venomous copperhead snake camouflaged by a carpet of pines straw. The incident was witnessed by a grizzled hermit/wizard who dwelled in a secret cave in the woods. The boy is revived by an elixir of anti-venom of the wizard's devising that had the unattended side effect of bestowing the boy with the ability to bring inanimate objects to life...which, the boy, much to the distress and consternation of the old wizard, utilizes to transform the Izod alligators adorning his school yard tormentor's clothing into agents of vengeance that devour the offending parties.

Anger dwells as deep as the pain leveled by being shamed and humiliated. From road rage, to internet trolling, to the compulsion to humiliate women in certain forms of porn, to right-wing radio ranters, to violent video games, to gun-sown episodes of mass murder -- the shame-besieged psyche of the American male, in vain, attempts to mitigate a psychologically devastating sense of powerlessness.

The actual progenitors of his torment reside in the ghostly domain of personal memory as well as are veiled from view by a class-stratified economic system that serves as an analog of childhood humiliation.

But such prodigious amounts of pain do not remain buried. In the current day U.S., there are multiple factors that bar access to collective memory: the heap of fragmented images constituting the mass media multi-scape and its attendant 24 hour news cycle; suburban atomization and urban alienation; a cultural refusal to confront the true nature of the nation's history, other than through hagiography, because to face our past would serve to bring us to a rude awakening regarding where we stand at present.

Cue: Existential dread. We are approaching the endgame of (global) capitalism; the system is headed straight to the landfill (its own creation) of history (that is, if global, late stage capitalism doesn't bury the human species first by means of ecocide). Therefore, it is imperative, as we move towards the future, that we straddle the past, as we become attuned to the lamentation of the ghosts of memory, personal and collective.

Otherwise, the unhinged among us, psychically bearing the things we bury, literalize our denial, even by acts of murdering the living (even school children) in a futile attempt to kill the raging ghosts of memory deferred.

There has been a deadly legacy wrought by social structures that inflict shame and thus sows seeds of inarticulate rage. By the malefic vehicle of these tormented individuals, who are lashing out like a wounded animal, we can apprehend much about the death-besotted trajectory of U.S. culture.

Deep emotional scars can warp libido; thus, in our age of corporate state hyper-authoritarianism, obsessive materialism, and neo-puritan pathology, all too many people have become terrified of their own passion, from sweat plangent lust to incandescent enthusiasm, right down to even accepting the shadows and perfumes borne of an inner life, and have withdrawn into forms of self-exile, such as addiction, alienation, depression, compulsive materialism, and narcissistic striving.

We are convinced we know our own mind...that the decisions we make are based on logic and the wisdom gathered from experience. We believe our night-borne dreams and seemingly random, daylight imaginings are furtive shadows, inconsequential to the choices we make moment by moment as we navigate the linear timescape of our days.

Yet, what if you were visited by a rude angel who revealed to you how your mind had been usurped -- the moments of your day harnessed for agendas not your own; your life had been waylaid by interlopers (e.g., Madison Avenue, family legacies, social pressures) who you do not remember granting entrance into your mind?

What kind of a tale of horror is this, you would demand? How did it come to this? Angel, you would cry out, what kind of a cruel joke is this? Why me?

And the angel would simply flash you eternity's impersonal grin and tell you it is not personal. You have done the very human thing of gathering thoughts and beliefs like a bower bird gathers shiny objects. You have mistaken the bauble-stippled nest of found material for the honey-hive of your soul.

In contrast, passion arrives as a surging flood; the caress of silver moonlight on dark water; a golden fire blazing through one's blood. But its purpose does not end there i.e., in a fleeting incandescence of the soul. The energies of a fast moving wildfire must be transmuted into the persistence inherent to a stalwart heart -- the maintenance of an interior hearth.

Those who evince passion will suffer. Worse, those who demur will suffer confinement in a cold, protective lock-up of their own construction. The union of passion and suffering, with much patience and persistence, transforms winged passion into a deep-dwelling compassion. Luminous angels are drawn earthward to weep.

Life beckons, but all too many ignore the call or defer adherence until it is too late...Too often people confuse a sense of purpose with an obsession for seeking safety; they long for purity, and fear the sublime awkwardness that allows you to lose your balance and fall into your essential self.

By embodying the latter, you have entered a realm that exist beyond success and failure, because when you venture into the heart of creation, you venture deep into your own being. The more passion you evince in life the deeper you inhabit your own humanity.

The only failure in life comes to be when you dismiss destiny's invitation to dance.

The death-besotted, collective psyche of the late capitalist state reveals the consequences of a culture-wide refusal to heed the call.

"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." ~~~ C.G. Jung
(c) 2013 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.


Obama Versus Physics
Why Climate Change Won't Wait for the President
By Bill McKibben

Change usually happens very slowly, even once all the serious people have decided there's a problem. That's because, in a country as big as the United States, public opinion moves in slow currents. Since change by definition requires going up against powerful established interests, it can take decades for those currents to erode the foundations of our special-interest fortresses.

Take, for instance, "the problem of our schools." Don't worry about whether there actually was a problem, or whether making every student devote her school years to filling out standardized tests would solve it. Just think about the timeline. In 1983, after some years of pundit throat clearing, the Carnegie Commission published "A Nation at Risk," insisting that a "rising tide of mediocrity" threatened our schools. The nation's biggest foundations and richest people slowly roused themselves to action, and for three decades we haltingly applied a series of fixes and reforms. We've had Race to the Top, and Teach for America, and charters, and vouchers, and... we're still in the midst of "fixing" education, many generations of students later.

Even facing undeniably real problems -- say, discrimination against gay people -- one can make the case that gradual change has actually been the best option. Had some mythical liberal Supreme Court declared, in 1990, that gay marriage was now the law of the land, the backlash might have been swift and severe. There's certainly an argument to be made that moving state by state (starting in nimbler, smaller states like Vermont) ultimately made the happy outcome more solid as the culture changed and new generations came of age.

Which is not to say that there weren't millions of people who suffered as a result. There were. But our societies are built to move slowly. Human institutions tend to work better when they have years or even decades to make gradual course corrections, when time smooths out the conflicts between people.

And that's always been the difficulty with climate change -- the greatest problem we've ever faced. It's not a fight, like education reform or abortion or gay marriage, between conflicting groups with conflicting opinions. It couldn't be more different at a fundamental level.

We're talking about a fight between human beings and physics. And physics is entirely uninterested in human timetables. Physics couldn't care less if precipitous action raises gas prices, or damages the coal industry in swing states. It could care less whether putting a price on carbon slowed the pace of development in China, or made agribusiness less profitable.

Physics doesn't understand that rapid action on climate change threatens the most lucrative business on Earth, the fossil fuel industry. It's implacable. It takes the carbon dioxide we produce and translates it into heat, which means into melting ice and rising oceans and gathering storms. And unlike other problems, the less you do, the worse it gets. Do nothing and you soon have a nightmare on your hands.

We could postpone healthcare reform a decade, and the cost would be terrible -- all the suffering not responded to over those 10 years. But when we returned to it, the problem would be about the same size. With climate change, unless we act fairly soon in response to the timetable set by physics, there's not much reason to act at all.

Unless you understand these distinctions you don't understand climate change -- and it's not at all clear that President Obama understands them.

That's why his administration is sometimes peeved when they don't get the credit they think they deserve for tackling the issue in his first term in office. The measure they point to most often is the increase in average mileage for automobiles, which will slowly go into effect over the next decade.

It's precisely the kind of gradual transformation that people -- and politicians -- like. We should have adopted it long ago (and would have, except that it challenged the power of Detroit and its unions, and so both Republicans and Democrats kept it at bay). But here's the terrible thing: it's no longer a measure that impresses physics. After all, physics isn't kidding around or negotiating. While we were discussing whether climate change was even a permissible subject to bring up in the last presidential campaign, it was melting the Arctic. If we're to slow it down, we need to be cutting emissions globally at a sensational rate, by something like 5% a year to make a real difference.

It's not Obama's fault that that's not happening. He can't force it to happen. Consider the moment when the great president of the last century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was confronted with an implacable enemy, Adolf Hitler (the closest analog to physics we're going to get, in that he was insanely solipsistic, though in his case also evil). Even as the German armies started to roll through Europe, however, FDR couldn't muster America to get off the couch and fight.

There were even the equivalent of climate deniers at that time, happy to make the case that Hitler presented no threat to America. Indeed, some of them were the same institutions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for instance, vociferously opposed Lend-Lease.

So Roosevelt did all he could on his own authority, and then when Pearl Harbor offered him his moment, he pushed as hard as he possibly could. Hard, in this case, meant, for instance, telling the car companies that they were out of the car business for a while and instead in the tank and fighter-plane business.

For Obama, faced with a Congress bought off by the fossil fuel industry, a realistic approach would be to do absolutely everything he could on his own authority -- new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, for example; and of course, he should refuse to grant the permit for the building of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, something that requires no permission from John Boehner or the rest of Congress.

So far, however, he's been half-hearted at best when it comes to such measures. The White House, for instance, overruled the EPA on its proposed stronger ozone and smog regulations in 2011, and last year opened up the Arctic for oil drilling, while selling off vast swaths of Wyoming's Powder River Basin at bargain-basement prices to coal miners. His State Department flubbed the global climate-change negotiations. (It's hard to remember a higher profile diplomatic failure than the Copenhagen summit.) And now Washington rings with rumors that he'll approve the Keystone pipeline, which would deliver 900,000 barrels a day of the dirtiest crude oil on Earth. Almost to the drop, that's the amount his new auto mileage regulations would save.

If he were serious, Obama would be doing more than just the obvious and easy. He'd also be looking for that Pearl Harbor moment. God knows he had his chances in 2012: the hottest year in the history of the continental United States, the deepest drought of his lifetime, and a melt of the Arctic so severe that the federal government's premier climate scientist declared it a "planetary emergency."

In fact, he didn't even appear to notice those phenomena, campaigning for a second term as if from an air-conditioned bubble, even as people in the crowds greeting him were fainting en masse from the heat. Throughout campaign 2012, he kept declaring his love for an "all-of-the-above" energy policy, where apparently oil and natural gas were exactly as virtuous as sun and wind.

Only at the very end of the campaign, when Hurricane Sandy seemed to present a political opening, did he even hint at seizing it -- his people letting reporters know on background that climate change would now be one of his top three priorities (or maybe, post-Newtown, top four) for a second term. That's a start, I suppose, but it's a long way from telling the car companies they better retool to start churning out wind turbines.

And anyway, he took it back at the first opportunity. At his post-election press conference, he announced that climate change was "real," thus marking his agreement with, say, President George H.W. Bush in 1988. In deference to "future generations," he also agreed that we should "do more." But addressing climate change, he added, would involve "tough political choices." Indeed, too tough, it seems, for here were his key lines:

"I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody is going to go for that. I won't go for that."

It's as if World War II British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had declared, "I have nothing to offer except blood, toil, tears, and sweat. And God knows that polls badly, so just forget about it."

The president must be pressed to do all he can -- and more. That's why thousands of us will descend on Washington D.C. on President's Day weekend, in what will be the largest environmental demonstration in years. But there's another possibility we need to consider: that perhaps he's simply not up to this task, and that we're going to have to do it for him, as best we can.

If he won't take on the fossil fuel industry, we will. That's why on 192 campuses nationwide active divestment movements are now doing their best to highlight the fact that the fossil fuel industry threatens their futures.

If he won't use our position as a superpower to drive international climate-change negotiations out of their rut, we'll try. That's why young people from 190 nations are gathering in Istanbul in June in an effort to shame the U.N. into action. If he won't listen to scientists -- like the 20 top climatologists who told him that the Keystone pipeline was a mistake -- then top scientists are increasingly clear that they'll need to get arrested to make their point.

Those of us in the growing grassroots climate movement are going as fast and hard as we know how (though not, I fear, as fast as physics demands). Maybe if we go fast enough even this all-too-patient president will get caught up in the draft. But we're not waiting for him. We can't.
(c) 2013 Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, co-founder of His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

The Dead Letter Office...

Sinator Kruse

Heil Obama,

Dear Indiana state Uberfuhrer Kruse,

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 many attempts to inject mythology and mythological chanting into public school classrooms, 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 "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-15-2013. We salute you Herr Kruse, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The New Congress: A Victory For Diversity
By Matthew Rothschild

A new day dawns on Congress, and, thankfully, it's a more diverse day.

A record number of women - 20 of them -- now have seats in the U.S. Senate.

As incumbent Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland noted this week, "In all of American history only 16 women had served. Now there are 20 of us."

There are also more Latinos and Asian Americans in Congress than ever before, including Mazie Hirono, the new Senator from Hawaii. She's the first Buddhist and the first Asian American woman to be a Senator.

A record number of openly gay and lesbian members of Congress are also now serving.

Let me read the roll in the House: David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Sean Patrick Maloney, of New York, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Jared Polis of Colorado, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Mark Takano of California. Of these, I know Mark Pocan personally, and let me tell you, he's a man of terrific integrity.

And in the U.S. Senate, of course, there's another friend, the astonishing Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

In her election-night victory speech, Baldwin said: "I am well aware that I will have the honor to be Wisconsin's first woman U.S. Senator, and I am well aware that I will be the first openly gay member ... but I did not run to make history. I ran to make a difference!"

All of these new elected officials have made history, and in so doing, they've already made a difference.
(c) 2013 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Perhaps With A Lot Of luck
By Adam Keller

Opinion polls without number. Several polls per week, almost one every day. Israel's political system is addicted to opinion polls, perhaps even more so than in other countries. Is it really certain that Binyamin Netanyahu will go on being Prime Miinister of Israel? Or is everything still open? Can things still change drastically during the two and half weeks remaining until Election Day? Can the continuing fall of the Likud Party in the polls plus the increasing tendency of oppositional forces to unite into an impressive large bloc, create a new reality?

Among the flood of polls striving to predict the results which would be published on the morning of January 23, a slightly different survey - testing fundamental, long-term positions. On the initiative of the American Jewish billionaire Danny Abraham, who is for many years active in efforts to promote a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, two major Israeli polling institutes were charged, those of Minna Tzemach and Rafi Smith, to check - each one separately and without knowing of the other - how the citizens of Israel would vote in the case that their government asks them to approve by referendum an agreement designed to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Respondents were presented with detailed outlines of the agreement in question:

* Two states - Israel for the Jewish people and Palestine for the Palestinians;
* Palestinian refugees having the right to return only to their new country;
* The Palestinian state would be demilitarized;
* The boundaries would be based on the 1967 lines with exchanges of equal-sized territory. Those exchanges would take into consideration Israel's security needs and would retain the large settlement blocs in Israeli hands;
* Jewish Jerusalem would be under Israeli sovereignty and the Arab neighborhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty;
* The Old City would be under neither side's sovereignty, but rather would be administered jointly by Israel, the Palestinians and the United States;
* The agreement would be implemented only after the Palestinians held up all the obligations at their end, especially the war on terror, and the United States approved of the agreement.

The two polling institutes got similar results: if and when a government is established in Israel which will achieve an agreement with the Palestinians (and the Americans) on such a basis, it will gain the support of no less than two-thirds of the citizens of Israel. Furthermore, such an agreement would also gain support of the majority among the voters of the two main right-wing parties. 57% of the voters of the ruling Likud Party, 47% among those of Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home Party, the rising star in the ultra-nationalist constellation who is challenging Netanyahu from the right.

It thus seems that somewhere in the misty future, the citizens of Israel might vote overwhelmingly in favor of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. But in the here and now, at the general elections due to take place in Israel two and a half weeks from now, the citizens - according to all polls up to today - seem likely to give a clear Knesset majority to the parties which strongly oppose such an agreement.

More than half of the Likud voters are willing in principle to support a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on 1967 borders. But there is no reason to suppose that in practice this would deter them from going to the polls and giving a mandate to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who staunchly opposes the same boundaries and who was willing to enter into a public confrontation over it with the President of the United States. Almost half of the supporters of the Jewish Home Party are ready in principle to support an agreement with a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, but this is no impediment to their empowering Naftali Bennett, who is altogether opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state in whatever boundaries, and whose plan calls for annexing sixty percent of the West Bank and leaving the Palestinians enclosed in a collection of narrow enclaves, with "autonomy under the supervision of the IDF and Shin Bet" (sic). Half of the voters for both these parties are willing in principle to support a peace agreement with the Palestinians, but in practice they are about to fill Knesset seats with dozens of extreme right Members as well as those from the even more extreme right, who are completely opposed to even the most petty and cosmetic of concessions.

The fact is that most of the Israeli public completely believe what they had been repeatedly told over the past twelve years: there is no partner, the Palestinians do not want peace, there is no chance for peace, and all talk of peace is a pipe dream.

In short: if an Israeli government ever reaches a peace agreement with the Palestinians and presents it as a fait accompli to the approval of the Israeli public, the public will give its blessing to such a government and to such an agreement. But the Israeli public will not lift a finger to bring such a government into being or to get the government to sign such an agreement. The public would not come out en masse into the streets to demand peace, nor provide a parliamentary majority to the parties which support peace. The public would wait for somebody to once upon a time present it to them ready made.

So, how is it ever going to happen? Probably we need help from outside, a great lot of it. You can sometimes hear diplomats - especially American ones - saying things like "We can't replace the parties themselves, we can't want an agreement more than the parties want it." But otherwise it will just not work. The International Community must get involved, far more than it ever was - if only because assorted religious and nationalist fanatics, playing with fire very near to a very sensitive powder keg, are not a regional problem but a global one.

An international involvement is needed - an involvement far stronger, far more intensive than ever before, of all who can in any way get involved. The President of the United States should get involved and push hard and refuse to be intimidated by powerful Congressional lobbies. The leaders of Europe and Japan, and Russia and China and anyone else holding any kind of leverage should make maximum use of it. And civil society organizations throughout the world should join the effort and work from below wherever they can. And Jews worldwide need to realize that the way to help Israel and ensure its future is not by following orders and directives emanating from the government offices in Jerusalem. Quite the contrary.

And then, if all of us have a lot of luck, eventually an agreement will be signed, and the citizens of Israel will vote and approve it by a large majority and will accept the need to get out of the Territories which were under Israeli rule for decades and never became part of Israel. There would be no outburst of great enthusiasm, and we will probably witness no dancing in the streets. Rather, it would be a majority united by a sober hope - "Well, the whole world pressured us, and the government probably knows what they are doing. Let's give it a chance and see how it goes, maybe after all we will have some peace and quiet."

The Palestinians, in their own referendum at the same time, will have to accept that their cherished dream, the dream of the Return to hundreds of cities and villages destroyed in 1948, will remain a dream. A harsh and painful concession. There will certainly be no dancing in the streets there, and yet they too are likely to give the agreement a chance in a spirit of sober hope. "Well, it's probably the maximum we could have gotten, let's give it a chance and see how it works out. Maybe after all the Occupation would really end and we would really and truly have a state." And then? We will certainly not live in Heaven, but maybe we can start to build a normal life on both sides of the border between the state of Israel and the State of Palestine.

All of this, in the best case and assuming all of us have a lot of luck. One can certainly think of much worse possibilities.
(c) 2013 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

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Republicans Apologize To Top 1.5 Per Cent
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-In the aftermath of the fiscal-cliff deal, Republicans in Congress issued a heartfelt apology to the top 1.5 per cent richest people in America, offering "messages of profound condolence" for allowing their taxes to increase slightly.

"Our hearts go out to them," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), still teary-eyed after hanging up the phone with a multimillionaire in Orange County, California. "We came to Washington to do the work of 1.5 per cent of the American people, and we didn't get it done."

The House Speaker said that he had spoken to several members of the top 1.5 per cent who were "understandably despondent" over seeing their taxes rise marginally as a result of the deal: "Some of them were so upset they even considered moving to Canada, until they found out the taxes were higher there."

Mr. Boehner said that he tried to offer the wealthy consolation by reminding them that because of an increase in payroll taxes, millions of middle-class and working-class Americans would be suffering more than they would: "That usually put them in a better mood."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) assailed the fiscal-cliff legislation today, calling it "a classic example of putting 98.5 per cent of the American people ahead of the rest of the country."

Offering words of hope to the top 1.5 per cent, Mr. Cantor said, "In a few months we'll have the next debate about the debt ceiling. As God is my witness, we will try to do a better job of bringing this nation to the brink of Armageddon."

But to billionaires such as Harland Dorrinson, a longtime super-donor to the G.O.P., such assurances ring hollow: "If the fiscal-cliff deal is the kind of performance we can expect from Republican politicians, what's the point of owning them?"
(c) 2013 Andy Borowitz

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