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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky is, "Recognizing The 'Unpeople.'"

Uri Avnery explains, "The Stolen War."

Matt Taibbi over looks, "Credit Card Firms."

Ralph Nader is having deja vu, "Iran: The Neocons Are At It Again."

Jim Hightower on, "The GOP's Menu Of Mediocrity."

Helen Thomas stands back as, "Candidates Collide."

James Donahue considers the, "Next Evil Act: Stripping Americans Of Citizenship."

Mike Whitney wonders, "After Iran, Venezuela?"

David Swanson says, "Corporate Personhood Worse, Ending It Easier, Than You Think."

Michael Ratner joins us with, "Guantanamo At 10: The Defeat Of Liberty By Fear."

Paul Krugman exposes, "America's Unlevel Field."

Chris Floyd explores, "Extraordinary Measures."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship ask, "Is This Land Made For You And Me?"

Florida House member Charles Van Zant wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

John Nichols examines why, "It's Scott Walker's Party."

Carl Gibson with an admonishment, "Grow Up, Ron Paul."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports the, "Nation To Bring In Revenue By Offering Official United States Of America Franchise Opportunities" but first Uncle Ernie observes, "New England Madness."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Greenberg, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, ACLU.Org, Keith Tucker, Wolf Grulkey, John Moore, Andrew Harrer, Beginner Books, Getty Images, Josu Sein, E Cards, 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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New England Madness
By Ernest Stewart

"Most people are so lazy, they don't even exercise good judgement!" ~~~ Alfred E. Neuman

"By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law. In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side." ~~~ Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

"I was effectively pro-choice when I ran for office. When I became governor of Massachusetts, the first time a bill came to my life that dealt with life, I simply could not side with--with taking a life, and I came on the side of life. Every bill that came to my desk, every issue that related to protecting the sanctity of life, I came down on the side of life. I'm pro-life. I'm not going to apologize for becoming pro-life. I'm proud to be pro-life." ~~~ Willard Romney

So when you see your neighbor carryin' somethin'
Help him with his load
And don't go mistaking Paradise
For that home across the road.
The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest ~~~ Bob Dylan

New Hampshire may have the most recognizable state motto in the country, "Live Free Or Die." A statement almost as famous as Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death!" from a speech he made to the Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775. Patrick went on to say that the "King was a tyrant, a fool, a puppet & tool to the Ministry," He said "there was now no Englishmen, no Scots no Britons, but a Set of Wretches Sunk in luxury..." When given the opportunity to take the death he desired by the British governor, Patrick took it all back! In the same spirit of which I think the New Hampshire folk may have decided to take death by the results of their primary poll? So much for the famous New England level-headedness, eh?

Results for the New Hampshire Republican Primary ~ U.S. Presidential Primary

Jan 10, 2012 (99% of precincts reporting)

Mitt Romney ~ 97,339 or 39.3% of the vote.
Ron Paul
~ 56,601 or 22.9% of the vote.
Jon Huntsman
~ 41,796 or 16.9% of the vote.
Newt Gingrich
~ 23,329 or 09.4% of the vote.
Rick Santorum
~ 23,204 or 09.4% of the vote.
Rick Perry
~ 1,762 or 0.7% of the vote.
Michele Bachmann
~ 349 or 0.1% of the vote.
~ 3,259 or 1.3% of the vote.

As you can see, Willard won by a large margin; but don't get me started on Willard, or we'll be here all day!

The next stop on this "3-ringed circus of the damned" will be down in the land of the boll weevil, where the laws are medieval -- way down yonder in South Carolina. I used to live in South Carolina with the good old boys, down where Paul, Newt, and the two Ricks hope to do much better amongst the southern cognoscenti. A land where Willard and Jon and their magic underwear probably won't fare as well in the land of the American Taliban as they did with the Yankees? Stay tuned, America, it could get just a wee bit bumpy!

In Other News

In case you were wondering what Barry is going to do with his new powers to have US citizens disappear without charges, trial, or any oversight, I think I may know what he's up to!

While mom and dad were worrying about what to serve and what decorations to use for their big Super Bowl Party, Obama quietly launched the "Bureau of Counterterrorism," which will coordinate with the United States Department of Homeland Security, amongst other departments! Look out, American Muslims; look out, you Occupiers!

Spokes-weasel Dan Benjamin told reporters:

"The bureau will lead in supporting U.S. counterterrorism diplomacy and seek to strengthen homeland security, countering violent extremism, and build the capacity of partner nations to deal effectively with terrorism." (Like with those terrorist occupiers!)

Now add into this mix the fact that Con-gress is considering HR 3166 and S. 1698, also known as the "Enemy Expatriation Act," sponsored by Joe Lieberman (F-CT) and Charles Dent (R-PA). (Anyone surprised by that combo of criminals?) This bill would give the US government the power to strip Americans of their citizenship without being convicted of being "hostile" against the United States. Since the Occupy movement began, conservatives have been trying to paint the protesters as terrorists and hostile to the government's acts of treason.

That pretty much wraps it up, doesn't it? I wonder where former US citizens can go once they've been stripped of their citizenship? My guess would be to a new "Happy Camp!" Can you see how this is all coming together? If not, go back to planning that Super Bowl party -- might as well enjoy yourself while you still can!

And Finally

Have you heard the latest from the former "Bush Brother's Banana Republic" once also known as Florida? Those kooky funsters down in the Florida house have a bright, shiny-new idea, thanks to Florida Rep. Charles Van Zant. Charles proposes a whole new bunch of hoops to jump through for a woman who needs an abortion, and if all the hoops aren't perfectly jumped through, the doctor can get life in prison for preforming an abortion -- even if the woman's life is at stake! In which case she'll probably die, if Chuck gets his way!

Among the conditions a doctor would need to meet, and therefore a woman is subjected to are:

Certification in writing by two physicians that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the termination of a pregnancy is necessary to prevent the death of the patient;

Two doctors certify in writing to the fact that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the termination of a pregnancy is necessary because to continue the pregnancy would unreasonably reduce the likelihood of successful treatment of a life-threatening disease of the patient; or

A doctor certifies in writing that a medical emergency existed and another doctor was not available for consultation prior to termination of the pregnancy and that medical condition must be "clearly described."

The measure also mandates that doctors provide some women and minors who have been treated by the facility with information regarding adoption and a statewide list of attorneys available to provide volunteer legal services for adoption. If a doctor fails to meet these requirements, or provides abortion services in any other case, including rape or incest, they would face the possibility of the spending rest of their life behind bars.

Charles is just projecting the hate for women from his favorite cult group the American Taliban, a.k.a., the Baptists.

Wait for it...

You know it's coming, don't ya...

It's just a matter of time...

Here it is...

So I wrote Chuck a letter...

Hey Charles,

Boy, did you f*ck up, huh? So, you, by means of your bizarre cult, may decide what can go on in a women's body? Here's a rule of thumb, Charles: got no womb, then shut the fuck up you, Nazi asshole! Why are you Rethuglicans always trying to put yourself into other peoples' bedrooms and in doctor's offices? Some sort of voyeur fetish I would guess, not to mention a power trip? You should keep your nose out of strange women's vaginas! Don't get hurt, Chuck, as there isn't a doctor in the state of Florida that will fix you up!

Congratulations, you just lost half the vote, except of course, for some of your Stepford wives, huh? Still, Chuck, I have to admit I do like your shiny new Jack Boots and that Corpo-rat armband is to die for; oh, and thanks for helping me write next Friday's editorial. And one more thing, Chuck, you've just won the Vidkun Quisling Award for the week of January 13th - the 19th! This is our weekly award for the biggest traitor in the United States! I bet your mom's proud? I bet your mom wishes she would have aborted you! I know I do!

Your radical pal,

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

If you'd like to give Chuck your opinion on the matter, you may at:

Tell'em Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

As I mentioned in "Uncle Ernie's Hollywood Daze" I knew this multi-millionaire kid who at age 24 was worth about $50 million and would get about $100 million more on his 25th birthday and a huge block of stock with voting rights in his family's corporation when he turned 30. In the book he's known as Hollywood John.

On several occasions, I've seen him pull out a wad of money out of his pocket -- well over $1,000 -- and throw it out the car window in order to make room in his pocket for drugs. I told him the next time that he started to do this, he should take a cruise down Hollywood Blvd and throw the money at a bag lady or other poor person where it might do some good. He'd just laugh and say, "Ernest you're such a liberal!" Actually John, like the founding fathers, I'm a radical!

Currently in America, there are 412 billionaires and 3,100,000 millionaires -- the 1%. So you'd think at least one of them could throw some of their pocket change out the window at me, so I wouldn't have to come before you every week with cap in hand and beg for a few dollars to keep the magazine going to do the important work that we do. If you thought that, then you'd be wrong. I had a couple of them 5 & 6 years ago that would pick up the costs of publishing, but they died and I've been coming to you to beg for money ever since. So far, some of you have done what you could to help us keep our head above water, and we thank you so much for doing so; the rest of you need to get up off your fat, bloated, American wallets, and send us what you can to keep us going. 2012 is shaping up to be very nervous year where it may all come down and hit the fan and if we're not here to warn you, who will? Who ya gonna call, America? Who can you trust?


07-29-1926 ~ 01-05-2012
Thanks for the tips!


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) 2012 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 11 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Recognizing The 'Unpeople'
By Noam Chomsky

On June 15, three months after the NATO bombing of Libya began, the African Union presented to the U.N. Security Council the African position on the attack - in reality, bombing by their traditional imperial aggressors: France and Britain, joined by the U.S., which initially coordinated the assault, and marginally some other nations.

It should be recalled that there were two interventions. The first, under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, adopted on March 17, called for a no-fly zone, a cease-fire and measures to protect civilians. After a few moments, that intervention was cast aside as the imperial triumvirate joined the rebel army, serving as its air force.

At the outset of the bombing, the A.U. called for efforts at diplomacy and negotiations to try to head off a likely humanitarian catastrophe in Libya. Within the month, the A.U. was joined by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and others, including the major regional NATO power Turkey.

In fact, the triumvirate was quite isolated in its attacks - undertaken to eliminate the mercurial tyrant whom they had supported when it was advantageous. The hope was for a regime likelier to be amenable to Western demands for control over Libya's rich resources and, perhaps, to offer an African base for the U.S. Africa command AFRICOM, so far confined to Stuttgart.

No one can know whether the relatively peaceful efforts called for in U.N. Resolution 1973, and backed by most of the world, might have succeeded in averting the terrible loss of life and the destruction that followed in Libya.

On June 15, the A.U. informed the Security Council that "ignoring the A.U. for three months and going on with the bombings of the sacred land of Africa has been high-handed, arrogant and provocative." The A.U. went on to present a plan for negotiations and policing within Libya by A.U. forces, along with other measures of reconciliation - to no avail.

The A.U. call to the Security Council also laid out the background for their concerns: "Sovereignty has been a tool of emancipation of the peoples of Africa who are beginning to chart transformational paths for most of the African countries after centuries of predation by the slave trade, colonialism and neocolonialism. Careless assaults on the sovereignty of African countries are, therefore, tantamount to inflicting fresh wounds on the destiny of the African peoples."

The African appeal can be found in the Indian journal Frontline, but was mostly unheard in the West. That comes as no surprise: Africans are "unpeople," to adapt George Orwell's term for those unfit to enter history.

On March 12, the Arab League gained the status of people by supporting U.N. Resolution 1973. But approval soon faded when the League withheld support for the subsequent Western bombardment of Libya.

And on April 10, the Arab League reverted to unpeople by calling on the U.N. also to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza and to lift the Israeli siege, virtually ignored.

That too makes good sense. Palestinians are prototypical unpeople, as we see regularly. Consider the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs, which opened with two articles on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

One, written by Israeli officials Yosef Kuperwasser and Shalom Lipner, blamed the continuing conflict on the Palestinians for refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state (keeping to the diplomatic norm: States are recognized, but not privileged sectors within them).

The second, by American scholar Ronald R. Krebs, attributes the problem to the Israeli occupation; the article is subtitled: "How the Occupation Is Destroying the Nation." Which nation? Israel, of course, harmed by having its boot on the necks of unpeople.

Another illustration: In October, headlines trumpeted the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who had been captured by Hamas. The article in The New York Times Magazine was devoted to his family's suffering. Shalit was freed in exchange for hundreds of unpeople, about whom we learned little, apart from sober debate as to whether their release might harm Israel.

We also learned nothing about the hundreds of other detainees held in Israeli prisons for long periods without charge.

Among the unmentioned prisoners are the brothers Osama and Mustafa Abu Muamar, civilians kidnapped by Israel forces that raided Gaza City on June 24, 2006 - the day before Shalit was captured. The brothers were then "disappeared" into Israel's prison system.

Whatever one thinks of capturing a soldier from an attacking army, kidnapping civilians is plainly a far more serious crime - unless, of course, they are mere unpeople.

To be sure, these crimes do not compare with many others, among them the mounting attacks on Israel's Bedouin citizens, who live in southern Israel's Negev.

They are again being expelled under a new program designed to destroy dozens of Bedouin villages to which they had been driven earlier. For benign reasons, of course. The Israeli cabinet explained that 10 Jewish settlements would be founded there "to attract a new population to the Negev" - that is, to replace unpeople with legitimate people. Who could object to that?

The strange breed of unpeople can be found everywhere, including the U.S.: in the prisons that are an international scandal, the food kitchens, the decaying slums.

But examples are misleading. The world's population as a whole teeters on the edge of a black hole.

We have daily reminders, even from very small incidents - for instance, last month, when Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives barred a virtually costless reorganization to investigate the causes of the weather extremes of 2011 and to provide better forecasts.

Republicans feared that it might be an opening wedge for "propaganda" on global warming, a nonproblem according to the catechism recited by the candidates for the nomination of what years ago used to be an authentic political party.

Poor sad species.
(c) 2012 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.

The Stolen War
By Uri Avnery

IS THERE no limit to the villainy of Hamas? Seems there isn't.

This week, they did something quite unforgivable.

They stole a war.

FOR SOME weeks now, our almost new Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, has been announcing at every possible opportunity that a new war against the Gaza Strip is inevitable. Several commanders of the troops around the Strip have been repeating this dire forecast, as have their camp-followers, a.k.a. military commentators.

One of these comforted us. True, Hamas can now hit Tel Aviv with their rockets, but that will not be so terrible, because it will be a short war. Just three or four days. As one of the generals said, it will be much more "hard and painful" (for the Arabs) than Cast Lead I, so it will not last for three weeks, as that did. We shall all stay in our shelters - those of us who have shelters, anyway - for just a few days.

Why is the war inevitable? Because of the terrorism, stupid. Hamas is a terrorist organization, isn't it?

But along comes the supreme Hamas leader, Khaled Mash'al, and declares that Hamas has given up all violent action. From now on it will concentrate on non-violent mass demonstrations, in the spirit of the Arab Spring.

When Hamas forswears terrorism, there is no pretext for an attack on Gaza.

But is a pretext needed? Our army will not let itself be thwarted by the likes of Mash'al. When the army wants a war, it will have a war. This was proved in 1982, when Ariel Sharon attacked Lebanon, despite the fact that the Lebanese border had been absolutely quiet for 11 months. (After the war, the myth was born that it was preceded by daily shooting. Today, almost every Israeli can "remember" the shooting - an astonishing example of the power of suggestion.

WHY DOES the Chief of Staff want to attack?

A cynic might say that every new Chief of Staff needs a war to call his own. But we are not cynics, are we?

Every few days, a solitary rocket is launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel. It rarely hits anything but an empty field. For months, now, no one has been hurt.

The usual sequence is like this: our air force carries out a "targeted liquidation" of Palestinian militants in the strip. The army claims invariably that these specific "terrorists" had intended to attack Israelis. How did the army know of their intentions? Well, our army is a master thought reader.

After the persons have been killed, their organization considers it its duty to avenge their blood by launching a rocket or a mortar shell, or even two or three. This "cannot be tolerated" by the army, and so it goes on.

After every such episode, the talk about a war starts again. As American politicians put it in their speeches at AIPAC conferences: "No country can tolerate its citizens being exposed to rockets!"

But of course, the reasons for Cast Lead II are more serious. Hamas is being accepted by the international community. Their Prime Minister, Isma'il Haniyeh, is now traveling around the Arab and Muslim world, after being shut in Gaza - a kind of Strip-arrest - for four years. Now he can cross into Egypt because the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' parent organization, has become a major player there.

Even worse, Hamas is about to join the PLO and take part in the Palestinian government. High time to do something about it. Attack Gaza, for example. Compel Hamas to become extremist again.

NOT CONTENT with stealing our war, Mash'al is carrying out a series of more sinister actions.

By joining the PLO, he is committing Hamas to the Oslo agreements and all the other official deals between Israel and the PLO. He has announced that Hamas accepts a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. He has let it be known that Hamas would not contest the Palestinian presidency this year, so that the Fatah candidate - whoever that may be - would be elected practically unopposed and be able to negotiate with Israel.

All this would put the present Israeli government in a difficult position.

Mash'al has some experience in causing trouble for Israel. In 1977, the (first) Netanyahu government decided to get rid of him in Amman. A team of Mossad agents was sent to assassinate him in the street by spraying his ear with an untraceable poison. But instead of doing the decent thing and dying quietly from a mysterious cause, like Yasser Arafat, he let his bodyguard chase the attackers and catch them.

King Hussein, Israel's longstanding friend and ally, was hopping mad. He presented Netanyahu with a choice: either the agents would be tried in Jordan and possibly hanged, or the Mossad would immediately send the secret antidote to save Mash'al. Netanyahu capitulated, and here we have Mash'al, very much alive and kicking.

Another curious outcome of this misadventure: the king demanded that the Hamas founder and leader, the paralyzed Sheik Ahmad Yassin, be released from Israeli prison. Netanyahu obliged, Yassin was released and assassinated by Israel seven years later. When his successor, Abd al-Aziz Rantissi, was assassinated soon after, the path was cleared for Mash'al to become the Hamas chief.

And instead of showing his gratitude, he now confronts us with a dire challenge: non-violent action, indirect peace overtures, the two-state solution.

A QUESTION: why does our Chief of Staff long for a little war in Gaza, when he could have all the war he desires in Iran? Not just a little operation, but a big war, a very very big war.

Well, he knows that he cannot have it.

Some time ago I did something no experienced commentator ever does. I promised that there would be no Israeli military attack on Iran. (Nor, for that matter, an American one.)

An experienced journalist or politician never makes such a prediction without leaving a loophole for himself. He puts in an inconspicuous "unless". If his forecast goes awry, he points to that loophole.

I do have some experience - some 60 or so years of it - but I did not leave any loophole. I said No War, and now General Gantz says the same in so many words. No Tehran, just poor little Gaza.

Why? Because of that one word: Hormuz.

Not the ancient Persian god Hormuzd, but the narrow strait that is the entrance and exit of the Persian Gulf, through which 20% of the world's oil (and 35% of the sea-borne oil) flows. My contention was that no sane (or even mildly insane) leader would risk the closing of the strait, because the economic consequences would be catastrophic, even apocalyptic.

IT SEEMS that the leaders of Iran were not sure that all the world's leaders read this column, so, just in case, they spelled it out themselves. This week they conducted conspicuous military maneuvers around the Strait of Hormuz, accompanied by the unequivocal threat to close it.

The US responded with vainglorious counter-threats. The invincible US Navy was ready to open the strait by force, if needed.

How, pray? The mightiest multi-billion aircraft carrier can be easily sunk by a battery of cheap land-to-sea missiles, as well as by small missile-boats.

Let's assume Iran starts to act out its threats. The whole might of the US air force and navy is brought to bear. Iranian ships will be sunk, missile and army installations bombed. Still the Iranian missiles will come in, making passage through the strait impossible.

What next? There will be no alternative to "boots on the ground". The US army will have to land on the shore and occupy all the territory from which missiles can be effectively launched. That would be a major operation. Fierce Iranian resistance must be expected, judging from the experience of the eight-year Iraqi-Iranian war. The oil wells in neighboring Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states will also be hit.

Such a war would go far beyond the dimensions of the American invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan, perhaps even of Vietnam.

Is the bankrupt US up to it? Economically, politically and in terms of morale?

The closing of the strait is the ultimate weapon. I don't believe that the Iranians will use it against the imposition of sanctions, severe as they may be, as they have threatened. Only a military attack would warrant such a response.

If Israel attacks alone - "the most stupid idea I ever heard of," as our former Mossad chief put it - that will make no difference. Iran will consider it an American action, and close the strait. That's why the Obama administration put its foot down, and hand-delivered to Netanyahu and Ehud Barak an unequivocal order to abstain from any military action.

That's where we are now. No war in Iran. Just the prospect of a war in Gaza.

And along comes this evil Mash'al and tries to spoil the chances of that, too.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Credit Card Firms
They Don't Just Steal From Cardholders
By Matt Taibbi

Great story out this morning by Bloomberg reporter Thom Weidlich, detailing yet another devious and dirty scheme in the consumer credit industry.

The story outlines the misfortunes of a successful Park City, Utah restaurant called Cisero's that is best known for serving the movie stars and film glitterati attending the nearby Sundance film festival. The restaurant is engaged in a legal battle with its bank, but the larger struggle is between the restaurant and major credit cards like Visa and MasterCard.

It's a complex tale, but the gist of it is that the credit-card companies invoked arcane provisions of operating contracts with the merchant, and unilaterally "fined" the restaurant for enormous sums of money without proving any of the charges. Some of that money was actually debited from the merchants' account before they managed to close it.

When a restaurant opens for business, it signs service contracts with middleman firms that allow them to accept charges from Visa and MasterCards. These middleman firms process the charges on behalf of the issuing cards, and also debit the accounts of merchants for things like debit fees.

The problem is that when merchants like these restaurant owners in Utah sign their service contracts, they also have to agree to a series of draconian security rules, under which they are automatically liable to the card companies if the card companies suspect fraud or lax security procedures.

In the case of the Utah restaurant, Visa and Mastercard both claimed that the restaurant allowed charges from fraudulently used cards, and also violated security rules by keeping the data for too many customer accounts on their company computer.

From Weidlich's piece:

Unknown to [the owners of Cisero's], data on 8,107 customers' accounts had been stored in their computer system, they said. That was fewer than the 10,000 threshold for a fine to be imposed under Visa's rules that certain customer data shouldn't be stored on a merchant's computer, they said.

Visa later said 32,581 accounts were on Cisero's computer, without explaining how it got that number...

The credit companies never proved any of these allegations, never gave the restaurant an opportunity to answer the charges, and simply moved, through their middleman firms, straight to debiting the restaurant's account.

The two credit card companies each ultimately claimed preposterous levels of fraud:

Visa decided the "actual fraud" was $1.26 million and calculated Cisero's total liability for noncompliance at $1.33 million, according to court papers. The restaurant's "total pre-cap liability" was put at $511,513, the couple said in court papers, and ultimately Visa said Cisero's owed $55,000...

MasterCard said it could assess $100,000 against the restaurant but was imposing only $15,000, they said. The card company later added $13,850 in loss claims by issuing banks based on fraudulent cards supposedly made with data stolen from Cisero's system...

As Cisero's lawyers pointed out, the way the numbers kept shifting, as though Visa and MasterCard were simply making them up as they went along, suggested strongly that the whole business was less about merchant fraud and a lot more about just randomly taking money from small business owners who can't fight back:

"These various shifting numbers based on unexplained calculations" show that the "process is little more than a scheme to extract steep financial penalties from small merchants," Cisero's said in court papers.

The most galling part of the story is that the "fines" claimed by Visa and Mastercard were part of a fine-print arrangement that is virtually impossible for merchants to learn about, much less defend against. If you want to have a restaurant, you must allow credit card charges -- but if you allow credit card charges, you have to sign, sight unseen, an agreement that says you can be fined tens of thousands of dollars every time a credit card firm thinks your security procedures are bad:

When the restaurant and US Bancorp entered their first contract, "arcane operating rules -- over 1,000 pages in length -- were not publicly available to merchants and did not contain provisions on data security," the McCombs said in their complaint.

The couple said they had no chance to negotiate over terms and no choice but to sign.

"Restaurants must be able to accept electronic payments from Visa and MasterCard to stay in business," they said in the complaint. Not accepting customers' cards "is simply not an option for Cisero's."

This story is another example of the central complaint against financial companies. They occupy a place in society in which they are a trusted part of our infrastructure. We allow many of our creditors to debit our bank accounts freely because we trust them not to simply steal our money without justification.

But the Bloomberg piece is just one more example of financial companies violating that trust. Episodes like the Utah business are apparently not uncommon, and other merchants have complained in recent years of an increasing tendency toward systematic overcharging in other areas:

The dispute is the latest in the contentious relationship between merchants and the card networks.

In 2003, in a suit brought by Cannon's firm, New York-based Constantine Cannon LLP, Visa and MasterCard agreed to pay $3 billion to settle claims they overcharged on debit-card swipe fees.

Merchants last year successfully lobbied for federal legislation limiting the debit fees. Trade groups and merchants including the National Restaurant Association have filed an antitrust suit against the networks in federal court in Brooklyn, New York that is still pending.

Nobody minds banks and creditors being greedy. But we can't live with big firms simply taking money out of bank accounts for no reason, and daring people to sue to get the money back. That's theft by bureaucratic force, not mere greed.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

Iran: The Neocons Are At It Again
By Ralph Nader

The same neocons who persuaded George W. Bush and crew to, in Ron Paul's inimitable words, "lie their way into invading Iraq" in 2003, are beating the drums of war more loudly these days to attack Iran. It is remarkable how many of these war-mongers are former draft dodgers who wanted other Americans to fight the war in Vietnam.

With the exception of Ron Paul, who actually knows the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, the Republican presidential contenders have declared their belligerency toward Iranian officials who they accuse of moving toward nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime disputes that charge, claiming they are developing the technology for nuclear power and nuclear medicine.

The inspection teams of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) that monitor compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran belongs, have entered Iran numerous times and, while remaining suspicious, have not been able to find that country on the direct road to the Bomb.

While many western and some Arab countries in the Gulf region have condemned Iran's alleged nuclear arms quest, Israel maintains some 200 ready nuclear weapons and has refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty, thereby avoiding the IAEA inspectors.

Israelis in the know have much to say. Defense minister, Ehud Barak, responded to PBS's Charlie Rose's question "If you were Iran wouldn't you want a nuclear weapon?" with these words:

"Probably, probably. I don't delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel. They have their history of 4,000 years. They look around and they see the Indians are nuclear. The Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear as well as North Korea, not to mention the Russians."

The Iranian regime, with a national GDP smaller than Massachusetts, is terrified. It is surrounded by powerful adversaries, including the U.S. military on three of its borders. President George W. Bush labeled Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, one of the three "axis of evil," and Teheran knows what happened to Iraq after that White House assertion. They also know that North Korea inoculated itself from invasion by testing nuclear bombs. And all Iranians remember that the U.S. overthrew their popular elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and installed the dictatorial Shah who ruled tyrannically for the next 27 years.

Recently, Iran has experienced mysterious cyber sabotage, drone violations of its air space, the slaying of its nuclear scientists and the blowing up of its military sites, including a major missile installation. Israeli and American officials are not trying too hard to conceal this low level warfare.

Israel military historian--strategist Martin van Creveld said in 2004, that Iranians "would be crazy not to build nuclear weapons considering the security threats they face." Three years later he stated that "the world must now learn to live with a nuclear Iran the way we learned to live with a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear China....We Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us...thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany."

U.S. General John Abizaid is one of numerous military people who say that the world can tolerate a nuclear Iran--which, like other countries, does not wish to commit suicide.

Using the "Iranian threat," served Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who on his first tour of duty back in 1996, speaking to a joint session of Congress, made a big point of the forthcoming Iranian bomb.

Somehow the Iranians, who were invaded in 1980 by a U.S.-backed Saddam Hussein, resulting in a million casualties, and who have not invaded anybody for 250 years, are taking a very long time to build a capability for atomic bomb production, much less the actual weapons.

In mid-2011, Meir Dagan, recently retired head of Israel's "CIA," repeated his opposition to a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, adding it would engulf the region in a conventional war.

He further took the Israeli government to task for failing "to put forth a vision," noting that "Israel must present an initiative to the Palestinians and adopt the 2002 Saudi Arabia peace proposal, reiterated since, that would open full diplomatic relations with some two dozen Arab and Islamic countries in return for an Israeli pullback to the 1967 borders and recognition of a Palestinian state."

The war-mongers against Iran have often distorted Iranian statements to suit their purpose and kept in the shadows several friendly Iranian initiatives offered to the George W. Bush Administration.

Flynt L. Leverett, now with Brookings and before a State Department and CIA official, listed three initiatives that were rejected. Right after the Sept. 11 attacks, Iran offered to help Washington overthrow the Taliban. The U.S. declined the offer. Second, in the spring of 2003, top Iranian officials sent the White House a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve questions regarding its weapons programs, relations with Hezbollah and Hamas and a Palestinian peace agreement with Israel. This proposal was rebuffed and ignored.

Third, in October 2003, European officials secured an agreement from Iran to suspend Iranian uranium enrichment and to pursue talks that Mr. Leverett said "might lead to an economic, nuclear and strategic deal." The Bush administration "refused to join the European initiative, ensuring that the talks failed," he added.

A few days ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iran was developing a capability for making nuclear weapons someday but was not yet building a bomb. So why is the Obama Administration talking about a western boycott of Iran's oil exports, so crucial to its faltering, sanctions-ridden economy? Is this latest sanction designed to squeeze Iranian civilians and lead to the overthrow of the regime? Arguably it may backfire and produce more support for the government.

Backing the Iranian regime into such a fateful corner risks counter-measures that may disrupt the gigantic flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Should that occur, watch the prices of your gasoline, heating bill and other related products go through the roof--among other consequences.

Isn't it about time for the abdicatory Congress to reassert its constitutional responsibilities? It owes the American people comprehensive, public House and Senate hearings that produce knowledgeable testimony about these issues and all relevant history for wide media coverage.

The drums of war should not move our country into a propagandized media frenzy that preceded and helped cause the Iraq invasion with all the socio-cide in that country and all the costly blowbacks against U.S. national interests?

It is past time for the American citizenry to wake up and declare: Iran will not be an Iraq Redux!
(c) 2012 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

The GOP's Menu Of Mediocrity

And away we go!

Not just into a new year, but - zap! - suddenly we find ourselves catapulted into the turbulent Twilight Zone of the 2012 presidential election. On only the third day of the year, while most of us Americans were still groggy from New Year's Eve parties, Iowa voted. Well... sort of.

The media's breathless coverage of Iowa's Republican caucuses offered a blizzard of statistics, but missed two crucial ones. First: 5.4%. That's the percentage of Iowa's eligible voters who ventured out to pick from the GOP's rather unappetizing menu of Mitt, Rick, Ron, Newt, the Other Rick, and Michele. Second: zero. That's the number of delegates that the Hawkeye Hullabaloo allocated to the candidates. You see, the 25 actual voting delegates that Iowa will send to the Republican presidential nominating convention this summer will be chosen in a separate, arcane series of meetings. The caucuses are just for show - a glorified straw poll.

But what a show it was! All six of the active contenders kept slipping on their own ugly records, lies, or slapstick misstatements. Mired in the muck of negativity and ultra-right-wing goofiness, this was a dispiriting Republican group.

In a December commentary, I noted that people have coined useful phrases to describe groups of animals - a gaggle of geese, for example, or a pride of lions. But what should we call this bunch? Readers responded with such juicy suggestions as a pandermonium of right wingers, an egoswarm, a klutz cluster, a cawcaphoney (with apologies to crows), a giggle of candidates, a flub of Republicans, a pod of nimrods... and, simply, an embarrassment.

Okay, even if you're a pure-blooded Republican, having seen these six in action, don't you have to ask yourself, in the words of the old Peggy Lee song, "Is that all there is?"
(c) 2012 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.

Candidates Collide
By Helen Thomas

The leading Republican candidates made their last-minute blitz for supporters in Iowa. They each personalized their credentials. The election struggle was a classic, with the candidates trying to out-rival each other over their dedication to conservatism.

A call for smaller government, lower taxes, and balancing the budget topped the agendas of nearly all the ultra-conservative candidates. One wonders why they seek to be at the helm of a powerless federal government.

Candidate Ron Paul hopes to eliminate the Social Security system, which has been in effect since 1935 when former President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the Social Security Act in his New Deal. He supports Medicare, if it is run at the state level.

Paul, a medical doctor, took the strongest stand against the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The other candidates in the Republican race took a more conservative stance, but none offered any viable solution to the nation's economic woes. All ridiculed "Obamacare," President Barack Obama's health care program, and called for its elimination.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had a sudden leap in the polls - riding high one moment, and a flash in the pan the next. He nearly finished last, barely beating Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Utah Governor and Ambassador Jon Huntsman in the Iowa caucus. Gingrich is liked, but his baggage - three marriages - seemed to hurt him in conservative Iowa.

Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania congressman and senator, gave Bachmann a run for her money on conservative issues. Santorum is not only against abortion, but seems to oppose birth control as well. He opposes same sex marriage, and took heat in 2005 for an article he wrote in a Catholic publication implying there may be a connection between the church's sex scandal and liberalism, which both center in Boston. Not only is he Catholic, he regularly attends Latin Mass in Northern Virginia. Campaigning paid off for Santorum, who showed up at 99 precinct battles and attended nearly 400 town meetings. Despite a late entry, Santorum finished with an impressive 24 percent of the votes in the Iowa caucus - second only to Mitt Romney.

Texas Governor Rick Perry had a late start, but has fizzled out. Perry denounced big government and praised free enterprise as our economic solution. He had a quick rise in support when he first appeared on the national stage, but his flubs and senior moments ultimately cost him the candidacy.

The clear front-runner before and after the Iowa caucus is Mitt Romney, businessman and former governor of Massachusetts. Romney has been viewed as the only candidate who could possibly give Obama a run for his money. Romney is the only moderate Republican candidate who has not aligned with the Tea Party.

The Republican Party presidential nomination for 2012 ultimately became a showdown between Romney and Santorum, as they each struggled to be to be the front-runner in the Iowa caucus. The Iowa contest is the first in a string of other contests in New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Florida.

Santorum's sudden rise as a close No. 2 to Romney shook up the race and brought into question the direction of the Republican Party. The party has rarely faced such a politically philosophical divide. Only a few votes separated Romney, who has deep pockets and well-padded resources to go the mile. He even managed to buy an ad in Times Square as we watched the ball fall directly in front of his ad on national television as we rang in the New Year.

The Iowa battle did not resolve the future of the Republican Party. Each of the Republican candidates called the current election the most important for the nation. We have not seen an election of this importance since ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater ran against former President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. All we can do is watch and hope the Republicans will ultimately choose a more moderate candidate.
(c) 2012 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Next Evil Act: Stripping Americans Of Citizenship
By James Donahue

First it was the National Defense Authorization Act, cleverly attached by Senate Republicans to a military appropriations bill that literally blackmailed President Barack Obama to sign it. This wicked little piece of legislation now gives the military the power to arrest and detain Americans both at home and abroad without formal charge or even a trial if suspected of "terrorist" activity.

Now Congressmen Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Charles Dent (R-PA) are co-sponsoring the Enemy Expatriation Act. If this piece of legislation makes its way through the two houses and gets attached to something that blocks a presidential veto, it will give the federal government the power to strip Americans of their citizenship without being convicted of hostile acts against the United States.

Both of these bills are steering this nation into a strange form of dictatorial power over its citizens by stripping even more of their Constitutional rights.

As blogger Stephen D. Foster Jr. wrote in his analysis of the Lieberman-Dent bill: "You can be stripped of your nationality for engaging in or purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States." He suggests that since the "War on Terror is a little ambiguous and encompassing, any action could be labeled as supporting terrorism. Since the Occupy movement began, conservatives have been trying to paint the protesters as terrorists."

And there, in a nutshell, may be the heart of the thinking among the secret power figures that are controlling the minds and hearts of our "elected" member of Congress. What better way to stop the Occupy movement than with military force if they can make it legally possible.

And you can be sure that the thugs that have been controlling the reins of our government want the Occupy Movement stopped. That is because the movement is coming from the grass roots, it is growing and it is beginning to have an impact.

The people have been stripped of the wealth that was once shared among all who wished to work for a decent wage. In most areas they have been stripped of their right to collectively bargain, they have lost the good paying jobs they once enjoyed, their health insurance has disappeared as have vacation and sick time benefits. Many have now lost their homes and the quality of life they once enjoyed. The only thing keeping them going have been the state and national unemployment and jobless benefit programs, and most Republican legislators threaten to take that away as well.

If the Office of Homeland Security is given the power to sic the military on the Occupy protesters, branding them as terrorists, we predict a bloody rebellion not unlike what we have been witnessing in Egypt, Syria, Iran and other places in the world. Hungry, homeless and desperate people have nothing to lose and they will rise up against tyranny.

We saw it happen last year in Egypt and Libya. Our own Civil Rights Movement brought about change, as did the apartheid movement in South Africa. Mohandas Gandhi successfully led a peaceful revolution against British Rule in India early in the Twentieth Century. The French rose up against the ruling class during the French Revolution. Our own nation was founded by revolution against the British crown.

It all boils down to this. Angry mobs of people in open revolt will stand up against great armies with pitchforks and stones to fight for equality whenever injustice occurs. Sometimes it takes a while before something triggers the revolt. But sooner or later it begins.

The street revolts that began in Tunisia in December, 2010, leading to the overthrow of long-time dictator Zine E. Abidine Ben Ali, appears to have triggered similar revolts known as the Arab Spring throughout the Middle East. Now we read of demonstrations in the streets of Moscow, Yemen, Sudan and places few of us have ever heard of in the Far East.

While Americans have been quickly losing their rights as free citizens, and a police/military type of system appears to be rising up with the help of advanced technology designed for crowd control, we may still possess the right of free elections. And the Occupy Movement may just be enough to bring about changes needed in state and national governments this year to stop the insanity before there is bloodshed on our streets.

But the provisions that allow our military to arrest, jail and take away the citizenship of Americans without due process must not be allowed to stand in the laws passed by our twisted-minded legislators.
(c) 2012 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

After Iran, Venezuela?
By Mike Whitney

"The build-up against Venezuela that began during the George W. Bush administration has rapidly accelerated under Obama."
~~~ Eva Golinger, author of "The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela" ~~~

Attorney and activist Eva Golinger has written an excellent piece on US-Venezuela relations that's posted on her website Postcards from the Revolution. Golinger details the astonishing turnaround that Chavez has effected since he took office 12 years ago. Not only has Chavez routed the predatory oligarchs who once dominated Venezuelan politics, but his revolutionary social programs have also raised the standard of living for the poor and middle classes while strengthening the institutions that have transformed Venezuela into one of the hemishpere's most vibrant democracies. Venezuela has seen a 50 percent reduction in poverty since Chavez took office in February, 1999. Venezuelans are now guaranteed free, universal healthcare, a K-through-college education, and civil liberties that are protected under the constitution. US citizens have every reason to be envious of the social safety net Chavez has created for his people via his Bolivarian Revolution.

Naturally, Chavez's progressive policies have raised a few eyebrows in Washington where his successes are seen as a threat to the established order. Corporate mandarins regard Chavez as a troublemaker and they're doing whatever they can to get rid of him ASAP. This is why one never reads anything positive about Chavez or his accomplishments in the US media, because the corporate bosses hate him, as they do anyone who diverts money from the 1 percent at the top of the economic foodchain to the 99 percent at the bottom.

US-Venezuela relations have continued to deteriorate under Barack Obama, who has turned out to be as big a disappointment to Chavez as he has to his supporters in the US. The Obama administration continues to fund the stealth network of US-backed NGOs that have been working around-the-clock to depose the democratically-elected leader for more than a decade. Golinger has written extensively on U.S. government agencies and their persistent meddling in Venezuela's politics. Here's an excerpt from Golinger's post:

"Ever since the US-supported coup attempt against President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela failed in April 2002, Washington has been pursuing a variety of strategies to remove the overwhelmingly popular South American head of state from power. Multimillion-dollar funding to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela through US government agencies, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has increased exponentially over the past ten years, as has direct political support through advisors, strategists and consultants- all aiming to help an unpopular and outdated opposition rise to power.

US government agencies, including the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, National Directorate of Intelligence and the Pentagon, have pumped up their hostile language towards the Venezuelan government in recent years. The major oil-producing nation has been placed on the countless, and baseless "lists" produced annually by Washington, including "failure to cooperate with counter-narcotics efforts," "failure to aid in the war on terror," "trafficking in persons", and others, that are based on political decisions instead of concrete, substantial evidence to support their accusations. These classifications have enabled Washington to justify not only the millions of US taxpayer dollars channeled to anti-Chavez groups fronting as NGOs, but also to increase military presence in the region and convince public opinion that Hugo Chavez is an enemy." ("War on Venezuela: Washington's False Accusations Against The Chavez Government", Eva Golinger, Postcards from the Revolution)

So, things have not improved under Obama at all, in fact, they've gotten worse. The US congress-whose public approval rating has plunged to single digits-is also beating the war drums against Chavez trying to garner support for direct intervention.

While Obama has refrained from name-calling or explicit accusations; his underlings in and out of the bureaucracy never hesitate to connect Chavez to Iran or to suggest links between Chavez and terrorism. Obama's role in the smear campaign is as clear as his role in eviscerating the Bill of Rights with his recently-passed NDAA.

Here's more from Golinger:

"Other "commentators" and "analysts" are busy writing blogs and columns warning of the growing terrorist threat south of the US border. These dangerous, unfounded accusations could easily be used to justify an attack against Venezuela, as weapons of mass destruction was used against Iraq and "protecting the population" was used against Libya. ....Time again, Venezuela has shown there are no "terrorist training camps" on its soil. Nor is it secretly building a bomb to attack the US. Venezuela is a nation of peace. It does not invade, attack or threaten other countries."

So, what does a peaceful country like Venezuela need to do to avert a confrontation with the United States?

Venezuela needs to become more like neighboring Colombia that Obama and others regularly hold up as a model of "democracy" in the region. Colombia -where human rights abuses and targeted assassinations are routine and where the US spends billions on a drug eradication program (Plan Colombia) that routinely sprays toxic (re: poison) chemicals on crops, livestock, water supplies and children.

Here's a little background from Aljazeera:

"In 2008, Colombian soldiers were revealed to have murdered possibly thousands of civilians and then dressed the corpses in FARC attire in order to receive bonus pay and extra holiday time. Juan Manuel Santos (who is now Colombia's president) was serving as defence minister ...when the "false positives" scandal broke.... Despite this and other details - such as that, since Uribe's assumption of office, more trade unionists have been assassinated in Colombia than in the rest of the world combined ...(Even so).....the country has been applauded by the US State Department and the Inter-American Development Bank as a regional role model in confronting security threats ensures the fortification of a system in which profits depend on the perpetuation of insecurity."("Private security and 'the Israelites of Latin America'", Belen Fernandez, Aljazeera)

So, this is how one becomes America's friend; just follow orders, kill and imprison your own people, (preferably trade unionists) and allow the corporate looting to go unchecked. No wonder the repressive Saudi dictatorship consistantly ranks so high on Washington's Friend's List.

So, what's in store for Chavez, who's done nothing except raise living standards, strengthen the rule of law, and make the world a better place for ordinary working people?

The Obama administration presently has its hands full with its wars in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. But as soon as Obama is finished "liberating" Tehran, it'll be on to Venezuela. You can bet on it. After all, Venezuela sits on the biggest ocean of oil in the world, "over 500 billion barrels". That means it's only a matter of time before WMD and Al Qaida training camps are discovered in Caracas.
© 2012 Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He can be reached at

Corporate Personhood Worse, Ending It Easier, Than You Think
By David Swanson

Don't take it from me. Take it from the book being published today that will mainstream the movement to end corporate personhood: "Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do, And What You Can Do About It," by Jeff Clements with foreword by Bill Moyers.

Clements traces the development of the legal doctrine of corporate personhood back long before the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision two years ago this month, in particular to President Richard Nixon's appointment of Lewis Powell to the Supreme Court in 1972. Led by Powell's radical new conception of corporate rights, Clements shows, the court began striking down laws that protected living breathing persons' rights in areas including the environment, tobacco, public health, food, drugs, financial regulation, and elections.

In 1978 the Supreme Court ruled that corporations had speech rights that prevented banning their money from an election, a conclusion that might have been nearly incomprehensible a decade earlier before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and various corporate foundations began filling our public discourse with phrases like "corporate speech." In 1980 Congress forbade the Federal Trade Commission from protecting children or students from junk food advertising and sales. In 1982 corporate speech rights in the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a state law that had attempted to block energy companies from promoting greater energy consumption. In the 1990s, the Monsanto corporation, whose genetically engineered drug was banned in many countries, won the right to include it in milk in the United States and the "right not to speak," thereby overturning a law requiring that milk be labeled to indicate the drug's presence.

Decision after decision has extended corporate rights to a position of priority over actual human rights on everything from food and water and air to education and healthcare and wars. The ground has shifted. In 1971 Lewis Powell argued on behalf of the cigarette companies that they had a corporate person's right to use cartoons and misleading claims to get young people hooked on nicotine, and he was laughed out of court. In 2001, the Supreme Court struck down a state law banning cigarette ads within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds. The reason? The sacred right of the corporate person, which carries more weight now than the rights of the people of a community to protect their children ... er, excuse me, their "replacement smokers."

And why do corporate rights carry so much weight? One reason is that, as Clements documents and explains, "transnational corporations now dominate our government" through election spending. This is why a civilized single-payer health coverage system like those found in the rest of the wealthy nations of the world is not "practical." This is why cutting military spending back to 2007 levels would mean "amageddon" even though in 2007 it didn't. This is why our government hands oil corporations not only wars and highways but also massive amounts of good old money. This is why we cannot protect our mountains or streams but can go to extraordinary lengths to protect our investment bankers.

"Since the Citizens United decision in 2010," Clements writes, "hundreds of business leaders have condemned the decision and have joined the work for a constitutional amendment to overturn expanded corporate rights." You might not learn this from the corporate media, but there is a widespread and growing mainstream understanding that abuse by oversized mega-corporations has been disastrous for ordinary businesses as well as communities, families, and individuals. Clements' turns out to be a pro-business, albeit anti-U.S. Chamber of Commerce, book.

And what can be done? We can build an independent, principled, and relentless Occupy movement and include as a central demand the amending of the U.S. Constitution to end corporate personhood. Clements' book offers a draft amendment, a sample resolution, a collection of frequently asked questions (and answers), a list of organizations, websites, resources, books, and campaigns.

This is doable, and it is what we should do this election year so that in future election years we might actually have elections.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Guantanamo military prison, where 'enhanced interrogation techniques' are used.

Guantanamo At 10: The Defeat Of Liberty By Fear
The unprecedented executive powers assumed by both presidents since 9/11 have crippled America's body politic
By Michael Ratner

On 11 January 2002, the United States began showing major signs of what I call "Guantanamo syndrome", after one of the ailment's first and most enduring symptoms. That was the day when the Bush administration transferred the first 20 detainees to Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after being assured by its Department of Justice that the location placed detainees outside of US legal jurisdiction.

But the first hint of our national illness appeared earlier, in the weeks following the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers, when the Bush administration took the lid off unlimited executive power. This is the lid that nobles, who had endured centuries of rulers imprisoning anyone who ticked them off and holding them indefinitely without having to state or prove any kind of case, affixed in 1215 with the Magna Carta. It's the lid that the original framers tightened to the specifications of the United States when they ratified the Constitution in 1790.P

But after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers, Americans feared our still-unknown assailants far more than we feared the implications of unchecked executive power. We could not get the lid off that particular petri dish fast enough. Less than a week after 11 September 2001, Congress passed the Authorisation for Use of Military Force, which grants the president unlimited power to use force against anyone in the world - any nation, organisation, person, associated forces and so forth that the president determines was, in any way, involved in 9/11. Military Order #1, passed two months later, authorised the president to direct the capture of any non-citizen anywhere in the world allegedly involved in international terrorism, and detain that person indefinitely without access to the remedy of habeas corpus. (In another example of the deterioration of Americans' rights post-9/11, that power can now be applied to citizens as well.)

Together, these acts, plus the Bush administration's declaration of a so-called MU<"war on terror," doubled as publicity stunt and power grab. By treating the assaults of 9/11 as acts of war rather than crimes, despite the fact that laws of war apply to battles between countries, the White House could "go cowboy". And so it did, eschewing the Constitution, kicking down doors, taking prisoners at will, and doing whatever it liked with them - without any heed for international law and without caring whether those prisoners were the right ones or not.

Most of post-9/11 America was a fairly easy sell for these shenanigans. People were still gasping from the impact of the assaults on New York and DC - nerves still shot from the anthrax scare that followed and the nightly footage of crews digging through the rubble of the Twin Towers. The Bush administration played on the public's fears of further attacks, its desire for retribution and its thirst for someone else to "Find and Punish the Bad Men". Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld advertised the camp at Guantanamo Bay as a holding pen for "the worst of the worst." Attorney General John Ashcroft solemnly intoned, "Terrorists have no constitutional rights."

Combined, these actions let loose a contagion of fear and lawlessness that bred Guantanamo and its many attendant ills.

Ten years later, the effects of Guantanamo syndrome are still with us, possibly forever. What began as emergency measures under the 43rd president of the US have now hardened into law under the 44th. The actions that seemed so plainly toxic to me and my colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2001 have become a long-term, manageable chronic illness for most Americans: indefinite detention and military commissions, hidden prisoners, abuse and possibly torture (now outsourced to America's friends abroad), extraordinary renditions, domestic surveillance and a war without end.

Guantanamo numbers 171 men today - many of them held since the camp's opening nearly 10 years ago, and some cleared but still wasting away out of sight and out of mind. That number also includes 46 who have been approved for "indefinite detention", who will probably live and die there. In some cases, this is because the primary "evidence" against them has been elicited under torture, and even the most conservative judges have ruled that this renders their "confessions" invalid. In other cases, the administration is allowing detainees it considers "dangerous" to languish without trial so long as neither the Congress nor courts insist otherwise. First, the Bush administration claimed, and now the Obama administration still claims, that either they were in groups associated in some way with 9/11 or terrorism, or they are dangerous.

The story of Guantanamo's 10th anniversary and the deterioration of civil and human rights in post-9/11 America is a story about what fear will do - the breakdown of a body politic that occurs when a country attacks its own constitution in the name of defending it.
(c) 2012 Michael Ratner is the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He is co-author with Margaret Ratner Kunstler of "Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century".

America's Unlevel Field
By Paul Krugman

Last month President Obama gave a speech invoking the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt on behalf of progressive ideals - and Republicans were not happy. Mitt Romney, in particular, insisted that where Roosevelt believed that "government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities," Mr. Obama believes that "government should create equal outcomes," that we should have a society where "everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk."

As many people were quick to point out, this portrait of the president as radical redistributionist was pure fiction. What hasn't been as widely noted, however, is that Mr. Romney's picture of himself as a believer in a level playing field is just as fictional. Where is the evidence that he or his party cares at all about equality of opportunity?

Let's talk for a minute about the actual state of the playing field.

Americans are much more likely than citizens of other nations to believe that they live in a meritocracy. But this self-image is a fantasy: as a report in The Times last week pointed out, America actually stands out as the advanced country in which it matters most who your parents were, the country in which those born on one of society's lower rungs have the least chance of climbing to the top or even to the middle.

And if you ask why America is more class-bound in practice than the rest of the Western world, a large part of the reason is that our government falls down on the job of creating equal opportunity.

The failure starts early: in America, the holes in the social safety net mean that both low-income mothers and their children are all too likely to suffer from poor nutrition and receive inadequate health care. It continues once children reach school age, where they encounter a system in which the affluent send their kids to good, well-financed public schools or, if they choose, to private schools, while less-advantaged children get a far worse education.

Once they reach college age, those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to go to college - and vastly less likely to go to a top-tier school - than those luckier in their parentage. At the most selective, "Tier 1" schools, 74 percent of the entering class comes from the quarter of households that have the highest "socioeconomic status"; only 3 percent comes from the bottom quarter.

And if children from our society's lower rungs do manage to make it into a good college, the lack of financial support makes them far more likely to drop out than the children of the affluent, even if they have as much or more native ability. One long-term study by the Department of Education found that students with high test scores but low-income parents were less likely to complete college than students with low scores but affluent parents - loosely speaking, that smart poor kids are less likely than dumb rich kids to get a degree.

It's no wonder, then, that Horatio Alger stories, tales of poor kids who make good, are much less common in reality than they are in legend - and much less common in America than they are in Canada or Europe. Which brings me back to those, like Mr. Romney, who claim to believe in equality of opportunity. Where is the evidence for that claim?

Think about it: someone who really wanted equal opportunity would be very concerned about the inequality of our current system. He would support more nutritional aid for low-income mothers-to-be and young children. He would try to improve the quality of public schools. He would support aid to low-income college students. And he would support what every other advanced country has, a universal health care system, so that nobody need worry about untreated illness or crushing medical bills.

If Mr. Romney has come out for any of these things, I've missed it. And the Congressional wing of his party seems determined to make upward mobility even harder. For example, Republicans have tried to slash funds for the Women, Infants and Children program, which helps provide adequate nutrition to low-income mothers and their children; they have demanded cuts in Pell grants, which are designed to help lower-income students afford college.

And they have, of course, pledged to repeal a health reform that, for all its imperfections, would finally give Americans the guaranteed care that everyone else in the advanced world takes for granted.

So where is the evidence that Mr. Romney or his party actually believes in equal opportunity? Judging by their actions, they seem to prefer a society in which your station in life is largely determined by that of your parents - and in which the children of the very rich get to inherit their estates tax-free. Teddy Roosevelt would not have approved.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"War is the spectacular and bloody projection of our everyday living. We precipitate war out of our daily lives; and without a transformation in ourselves, there are bound to be national and racial antagonisms, the childish quarreling over ideologies, the multiplication of soldiers, the saluting of flags, and all the many brutalities that go to create organized murder."
~~~ J. Krishnamurti ~~~

Extraordinary Measures
Shredding the Curtain of an Enduring Atrocity
By Chris Floyd

Wise man William Blum has spent decades shredding the tired pieties of empire to reveal the rotten reality of the American war-and-domination machine, as it churns its way back and forth across the world, chewing up individual lives and whole countries. And so, as you might imagine, he has a few choice words to say about the bogus "end" to the American war crime in Iraq, recently praised to the highest heavens by our presidential Peace Laureate as "an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making."

Here are few excerpts from Blum's take on this extraordinary achievement, from his latest "Anti-Empire Report." (Go here to sign up for the newsletter.)

"Most people don't understand what they have been part of here," said Command Sgt. Major Ron Kelley as he and other American troops prepared to leave Iraq in mid-December. "We have done a great thing as a nation. We freed a people and gave their country back to them."

"It is pretty exciting," said another young American soldier in Iraq. "We are going down in the history books, you might say." (Washington Post, December 18, 2011)

Ah yes, the history books, the multi-volume leather-bound set of "The Greatest Destructions of One Country by Another." The newest volume can relate, with numerous graphic photos, how the modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a quasi failed state; how the Americans, beginning in 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one dubious excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly, ... how the people of that unhappy land lost everything - their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives ... More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile ... The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium ... the most awful birth defects ... unexploded cluster bombs lying anywhere in wait for children to pick them up ... a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris ... through a country that may never be put back together again ...

Blum also quotes the Peace Laureate's final judgment of this vast swamp of carnage and corruption, in the Fort Bragg speech that Obama gave to some of the crime's factotums and cannon fodder on the occasion of the withdrawal of all the American armed forces (except of course for the ones, in uniform and out, who remain behind in their thousands):

"This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making. And today, we remember everything that you did to make it possible. ... Years from now, your legacy will endure. God bless you all, God bless your families, and God bless the United States of America."

Yes, God bless us for killing, wounding, traumatising, imprisoning, displacing or exiling millions of innocent people in a country that never attacked us and posed no threat to us. God bless us for killing hundreds of thousands of children through our years of sanctions, invasion and occupation. God bless us, God bless us, God bless us every one, every one of us a precious sunbeam for the Lord!


And as we noted here last month, the American war crime in Iraq just keeps rolling on. This week saw yet another spate of mass slaughter in yet another series of bombings in the virulent sectarian warfare which was spawned, set loose, empowered and fomented by the invaders, who very deliberately -- with malice aforethought -- divided their new "Iraqi" government along strict sectarian lines, arming and paying death squads and militias on both sides of the Sunni-Shia divide to rip each other -- and Iraqi society -- to pieces. The mass murder this week is a direct result and a direct responsibility of the Americans who instigated, carried out, supported -- and praise -- the "extraordinary achievement" of this endless atrocity. "Nine years in the making," yes -- and still going strong!
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd


Is This Land Made For You And Me?
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Over the next few weeks, on the air and on our new website,, we'll be talking a lot about "winner-take-all" politics and how economic inequality - the vast gap between the rich and everyone else- isn't the result of market forces and Adam Smith's "invisible hand." It has been deliberately, politically engineered.

But first, as they used to say on radio, a musical interlude. The traveling medicine show known as the race for the Republican presidential nomination has moved on from Iowa and New Hampshire, and all eyes are now on South Carolina. Well, not exactly all. At the moment, our eyes are fixed on some big news from the great state of Oklahoma, home of the legendary American folk singer Woody Guthrie, whose 100th birthday will be celebrated later this year.

Woody saw the ravages of the Dust Bowl and the Depression firsthand; his own family came unraveled in the worst hard times. And he wrote tough yet lyrical stories about the men and women who struggled to survive, enduring the indignity of living life at the bone, with nothing to eat and no place to sleep. He traveled from town to town, hitchhiking and stealing rides in railroad boxcars, singing his songs for spare change or a ham sandwich. What professional success he had during his own lifetime, singing in concerts and on the radio, was often undone by politics and the restless urge to keep moving on. "So long, it's been good to know you," he sang, and off he would go.

What he wrote and sang about caused the oil potentates and preachers who ran Oklahoma to consider him radical and disreputable. For many years he was the state's prodigal son, but times change, and that's the big news. Woody Guthrie has been rediscovered, even though Oklahoma's more conservative than ever - one of the reddest of our red states with a governor who's a favorite of the Tea Party. The George Kaiser Family Foundation has bought Guthrie's archives - his manuscripts, letters and journals. A center is being built in Tulsa that will make them available to scholars and visitors from all over the world.

Among its treasures is the original, handwritten copy of this song, Woody Guthrie's most famous - This Land Is Your Land. The song extols the beauty of the country Guthrie traveled across again and again; its endless skyways and golden valleys, the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts. Yet his eye was clear, unclouded, and unobstructed by sentimentality, for he also wrote in its lyrics:

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

"Is this land made for you and me?" A mighty good question. The biggest domestic story of our time is the collapse of the middle class, a sharp increase in the poor, and the huge transfer of wealth to the already rich.

In an era of gross inequality there's both irony and relevance in Woody Guthrie's song. That "ribbon of highway" he made famous? It's faded and fraying in disrepair, the nation's infrastructure of roads and bridges, once one of our glories, now a shambles because fixing them would require spending money, raising taxes, and pulling together.

This land is mostly owned not by you and me but by the winner-take-all super rich who have bought up open spaces, built mega-mansions, turned vast acres into private vistas, and distanced themselves as far as they can from the common lot of working people - the people Woody wrote and sang about.

True, Barack Obama asked Bruce Springsteen and Woody Guthrie's longtime friend Pete Seeger to sing This Land is Your Land at that big, pre-inaugural concert the Sunday before he was sworn in. And sing they did, in the spirit of hope and change that President Obama had spun as the heart of his campaign rhetoric.

Today, whatever was real about that spirit has been bludgeoned by severe economic hardship for everyday Americans and by the cynical expedience of politicians who wear the red-white-and-blue in their lapels and sing "America the Beautiful" while serving the interests of crony capitalists stuffing SuperPACs with millions of dollars harvested from the gross inequality destroying us from within.

But maybe - just maybe - the news that Woody Guthrie, once a pariah in his home state, has become a local hero is the harbinger of things to come, and that all the people who still believe this land is our land will begin to take it back.
(c) 2012 Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America's strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal.
(c) 2012 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

The Dead Letter Office...

Charlie, far right takes the corpo-rat pledge

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Van Zant,

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 Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your new law that gives life in prison for any doctor that aids in an abortion, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-19-2012. We salute you Herr Van Zant, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama


It's Scott Walker's Party
How Anti-Union Zealotry Defines GOP Race
By John Nichols

Manchester, NH—When I asked Newt Gingrich if he planned to campaign for Scott Walker in the recall election the labor-bashing governor of Wisconsin will almost certainly face, Newt answered, "Sure!"

"Scott Walker's fight in Wisconsin has made him a national leader on issues [that are] important to Republicans," said the former Speaker of the House. "Of course I would campaign for him."

The Republicans who would be president disagree on some issues. But they are pretty much united in their affection for the nation's most embattled governor.

After Walker attacked public-employee unions last February, Mitt Romney announced that he was donating $5,000 to support the Wisconsinite. And Rick Santorum hails Walker's "tremendous courage."

What is it about Walker—who is so unpopular that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites are petitioning for his recall and removal—that makes him so appealing to the leading figures in the national Republican Party?

That's simple. Scott Walker is an anti-union zealot. And anti-union zealotry has become a core premise of the twenty-first-century Republican Party.

Attacks by Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich on public-employee unions may have gotten the most publicity. But other governors, most notably Indiana's Mitch Daniels, are striving to undermine the collective bargaining rights of private-sector workers.

But nowhere is the disdain for organized labor more evident than on the Republican presidential campaign trail. Never in the modern history of the Republican Party, which once made a serious effort to compete with Democrats for labor endorsements and the votes of union members, has a field of GOP presidential candidates been so united and so aggressive in opposing collective-bargaining rights for public-sector and private-sector workers. As recently as 2008, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee appeared at the annual convention of the International Association of Machinists and received the industrial union's endorsement in the Republican primaries. Today, just four years later, the Republican contenders are not just refusing union invitations. They are using every opportunity to explain their opposition to labor's agenda, along with their support for legislative initiatives that are designed to undermine collective-bargaining rights.

At Sunday's final debate before the New Hampshire primary, a question about efforts to enact antilabor laws unleashed a furious bout of union bashing. Passing laws that make it harder for unions to organize workers and bargain on their behalf "makes a lot of sense," chirped Romney, while Texas Governor Rick Perry argued that erecting structural barriers to union organizing can make a state a "powerful magnet" for job creation.

Here in New Hampshire, Romney has endorsed efforts to pass so-called "right-to-work" legislation, which would legally bar unions from collecting dues from all the workers they serve, and which would make collective-bargaining virtually impossible in many workplaces. Gingrich is an enthusiastic proponent of right-to-work laws. Even the supposed "moderate" among the GOP contenders, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, is urging New Hampshire legislators to gain a "competitive advantage over your neighbors" by passing anti-union legislation.

But the Republicans candidates don't stop there.

Gingrich says: "One of the things the Congress should do immediately is defund the National Labor Relations Board." Not to be outdone, Romney is airing a new ad in South Carolina that declares: "The National Labor Relations Board [is] now stacked with union stooges selected by the president."

Santorum, who has tried to present himself as an ally of working Americans with talk of renewing our manufacturing base, is as militant as Walker when it comes to attacking the collective bargaining rights of public employees. "I do not believe that state, federal or local workers...should be involved in unions," says Santorum. "I would actually support a bill that says that we should not have public-employee unions for the purposes of wages and benefits to be negotiated."

Aren't there any prominent Republicans who think unions make a positive contribution to society?

I found one. This guy says: "Collective bargaining...has played a major role in America's economic miracle. Unions represent some of the freest institutions in this land. There are few finer examples of participatory democracy to be found anywhere. Too often, discussion about the labor movement concentrates on disputes, corruption and strikes. But while these things are headlines, there are thousands of good agreements reached and put into practice every year without a hitch."

Who is this Republican outlier who spoke about "the sacred right of American workers to negotiate their wages"?

A fellow named Ronald Reagan. Some people used to think he was quite a Republican. But Reagan's no Scott Walker.
(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Grow Up, Ron Paul
By Carl Gibson

Like many other little American kids, all I wanted to do was eat junk food, play video games and goof around with my friends. I didn't like being made to go to school, going to bed at 9 PM, eating vegetables, doing homework after school, or taking out the garbage. And like most other little kids who don't like abiding by the rules of their parents, I sometimes fantasized about what it would be like to run away from home. But when I packed my backpack full of clothes and individually-wrapped packs of peanut butter crackers from the pantry, I could never go through with my plan. I knew if I ran away, I'd be hungry, cold, lost, and eventually found by the police and returned home.

Libertarian views of government regulation are very similar to how the 6 year-old views the authority exerted by their parents. Ron Paul's every-individual-for-themselves rhetoric appeals to young, radical libertarians with simplistic viewpoints of authority, and an ignorance of why government exists in the first place.

In Ron Paul's ideal America, safety regulations imposed on employers by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would be a thing of the past. Clean air and water regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would be no more. Taxpayers would save money since Ron Paul would abolish the Department of Education and cut the Food & Drug Administration budget by 40%. Employers would save money by paying workers as little as they wish, since Ron Paul would abolish the Davis-Bacon Act. Corporate giants would be free to monopolize markets, since Ron Paul opposes federal antitrust legislation. And employees would no longer be required to pay into Social Security.

So what would this libertarian utopia look like, if Ron Paul were elected and followed through on his campaign promises?

-Families grieving for loved ones lost due to Massey Energy's negligence in the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion would have to accept that their relatives were casualties of the invisible hand of the unfettered free market. And Massey would've gotten off scot-free for polluting Martin County, Kentucky's drinking water supply with 300 million gallons of coal slurry.

-Millions of college students dependent on Pell grants would be forced to move back home and work minimum-wage jobs, no longer financially able to further their education. Oh wait-- what minimum wage?

-Food recalls would be a regular occurrence when tainted meat and vegetables hit supermarket shelves and cause record outbreaks of e-coli. And risky new drugs will avoid FDA tests and hit the express lane to the pharmacy, endangering the health of millions.

-Too-big-to-fail banks like Wells Fargo, Citi, Chase and Bank of America would be allowed to merge and/or buy out their competitors, as would oil giants like ExxonMobil, and Chevron, as would cell service providers like AT&T and Verizon.

-The Social Security trust fund would become insolvent, making retirement that much harder for those who paid into it all their lives.

Ron Paul and his right-libertarian ideology does espouse a new kind of freedom, just as rebellious children who fantasize about running away from home dream of a new kind of freedom. But as much as we may have rebelled against our parents as little kids, we eventually matured and realized that the rules and regulations our parents imposed on us were meant so we'd grow up to be responsible, functioning adults in society.

An unregulated little kid free to eat junk food and play video games all day won't ever learn the responsibilities of adulthood. And an unregulated society where every individual is out for themselves will quickly collapse.
(c) 2012 Carl Gibson is a spokesman and organizer for US Uncut, a nonviolent, creative direct-action movement to stop budget cuts by getting corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. He graduated from Morehead State University in 2009 with a B.A. in Journalism before starting the first US Uncut group in Jackson, Mississippi, in February of 2011. Since then, over 20,000 US Uncut activists have carried out more than 300 actions in over 100 cities nationwide. You may contact Carl at

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Steve Greenberg ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

A United States of America is set to open in Bibala, Angola, this March.

Nation To Bring In Revenue By Offering Official United States Of America Franchise Opportunities

WASHINGTON-Amidst continued deadlock over how to rein in the federal deficit, government officials announced plans Tuesday to increase revenue by offering franchise opportunities to entrepreneurs who wish to start their own United States of America.

Banking on the popularity of its original location, the country hopes to make millions by partnering with franchisees around the world, to whom it would license the trademarked United States brand name as well as the nation's flag, motto, preserved landmarks, college sports programs, movie studios, and bicameral legislature.

"Now, anyone interested in starting a new nation can open an official United States," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. "America already has a brand everyone knows and responds to. Now the time has come for us to grow that asset and monetize it."

Six months after opening, franchisees will owe the U.S. government 20 percent of all apple pie sales.

"Meanwhile, it's a great deal for our franchise partners, who not only get to fly the red, white, and blue, but also have access to our unrivaled network of foreign oil suppliers." Murray continued. "With an initial capital investment of just $20,000, interested parties can begin building their own U.S.A. immediately."

According to sources, as soon as their check clears with the U.S. Treasury, new franchisees will receive an America Operations Manual and a welcome kit that includes a framed copy of the Constitution, a 1/16th-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty, two cases of Budweiser beer, one's choice of a dream catcher or Native American hand drum, and an instructional pamphlet on how to print the nation's popular currency.

U.S. headquarters in Washington will reportedly collect a standard franchise royalty of 4.5 percent on each new location's gross domestic product, as well as residual fees stemming from any performance of the national anthem, reproduction of the presidential seal, or usage of proprietary place names such as New York or Texas.

In response to claims the new program could dilute the value of the United States brand, officials have stated that strict quality-control standards will be maintained across each American franchise.

"People can expect the same quality of life at any U.S.A. location," House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters. "All will be provided with the First Amendment, free market economies, the Grand Canyon, trial by jury-everything you need to run your very own United States. We're even throwing in a few clear-eyed, apple-cheeked all-American youths to help them get started."

Proposed deals are already in motion for new United States of Americas to open in emerging markets such as China, India, and Brazil by January 2013, Boehner said, and discussions are ongoing regarding a possible high-end underwater resort location in the United Arab Emirates.

A deal to open a flagship franchise on the Champs-Elysees in Paris has reportedly been quashed by the French government.

"It's intimidating to start any new business from scratch, let alone a fully functioning nation, so the franchise model really appealed to me," said Swiss entrepreneur Adrian Holm, who hopes to open multiple European United States locations if his first venture succeeds. "It took us a while to find a big enough spot for one, but it's on a reasonably busy highway, and I feel a U.S.A. is the sort of place that people will stop and see if it's convenient enough."

Several business experts have said America's recent credit-rating downgrade, rising levels of customer dissatisfaction, and high incarceration costs might end up proving a liability for franchisees, and few investors have been bullish on the United States since its failed attempts to extend its brand by opening wholly owned outposts in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade.

"It's definitely a gamble," 28-year-old Ahmad Nimeiri of Sudan said. "But the prospect of heading up my own United States of America sure as hell beats herding goats for my uncle for the rest of my life."

Added Nimeiri: "Hopefully I won't wind up regretting my decision not to just open up a China like my brother Samir did. He's doing great."
(c) 2012 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 02 (c) 01/13/2012

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