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In This Edition

David Michael Green examines, "Geriatric Obfuscating Pathology."

Uri Avnery sees, "The Shining Torch."

Matt Taibbi puts, "Everything You Need to Know About Wall Street, In One Brief Tale."

Ralph Nader with a message to the, "United States Congress."

Jim Hightower wants you to, "Join The Action Against Corporate Rule."

Helen Thomas warns, "Avoid Conflict With Iranian Juggernaut."

James Donahue explores, "The Destruction Of Our Fourth Amendment Rights."

David Sirota studies, "America's Dangerously Removed Elite."

David Swanson explains how, "Corporate Personhood Cannot Withstand Organized Persons."

William Rivers Pitt returns with, "Lynching The Dream."

Paul Krugman asks, "How Fares The Dream?"

Chris Floyd considers, "Acid Rain."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship reports, "America Wakes Up To The Reality That Inequality Matters."

Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

John Nichols finds, "Wisconsin Drive Far Exceeds Signature Requirement For Scott Walker's Recall."

Sam Harris returns with, "Your God Is My God."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst has a heaping helping of some, "Southern Fried Vultures" but first Uncle Ernie is, "Waiting For The Permanent Blackout."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Cal Grondahl, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Derf City, Internet Weekly.Org, Ed Stein, Bill Day, Walter Bibikow, Monica Almeida, ACLU.Org, Reuters, Face Book Third Railers, Fox Television, 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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Waiting For The Permanent Blackout
By Ernest Stewart

"Wikipedia is protesting against SOPA and PIPA by blacking out the English Wikipedia for 24 hours, beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time. Readers who come to English Wikipedia during the blackout will not be able to read the encyclopedia. Instead, you will see messages intended to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA, encouraging you to share your views with your representatives, and with each other on social media." ~~~ Wikipedia

...For if the bomb that drops on you
Gets your friends and neighbors too,
There'll be nobody left behind to grieve.

And we will all go together when we go.
What a comforting fact that is to know.
Universal bereavement,
An inspiring achievement,
Yes, we all will go together when we go!
We Will All Go Together When We Go ~~~ Tom Lehrer

"ObamaCare is trying to take your soul." ~~~ Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall

"If you haven't any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble." ~~~ Bob Hope

It's obvious as to what's going on in Con-gress. Your "selected" representatives, the finest Con-gress that money can buy, has been bought and sold to their corpo-rat masters -- and those masters want to control the Internet, and put all those protestors away behind electrified fences -- out of sight, out of mind -- and off the Internet, where they can't interfere with the 1%'s plans to rule the world. They'll soon put a stop to those god-damned Occupiers!

The scam that is being portrayed as a way to stop pirates stealing music and videos and being pushed for by record companies and movie studios, (which I might understand but good luck stopping China with it) goes light years beyond piracy. At the heart of SOPA and PIPA are things designed to destroy the freedom of the Internet and make you and I slaves to the ones that control the sites. "Law-abiding U.S. Internet companies would have to monitor everything users link to or upload or face the risk of being fined, imprisoned and shut down." That's why AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo and Zynga wrote a letter to Congress saying these bills "pose a serious risk to our industry's continued track record of innovation and job-creation."

So, to avoid any hint of anything real or imagined that would run a foul of these laws, those same companies will blackball sites and people at the slightest provocation, whether true or imagined to be on the safe side. Anyone who dares to use any material not produced by themselves, like reposting news articles, putting up videos on YouTube, etc., can find themselves at the tender mercies of corpo-rat lawyers and persecuted to the fullest extent of the law. A few hundred well-publicized "examples" and a chill and darkness will descend upon the Internet, and an iron curtain will fall across America, and the only news you'll get is from the corpo-rat controlled Fox Spews, Corpo-rat Network News and the like. Perhaps the final nail in America's coffin!

Last weekend, the White House succumbed to popular pressure and modified its position on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect-IP Act (PIPA), saying it would not support any legislation that "reduces freedom of expression" or "undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet." But we've seen and heard this from Barry so many times before. You know how he'll say the popular thing, then cave and do just the opposite, and will no doubt sell us down the river, just like he did to the telecoms, insurance goons, banksters, and the like! If he and Con-gress don't get this done in this election year, have no doubt it will rear its ugly head next year, and be passed with flying colors!

While certain Internet sites, like Wikipedia, went black for 24 hours on Wednesday in protest, soon most all of the Internet, except for certain big brother-approved sites will go black. I wonder if that will be enough to begin the revolution? I know once it goes black, questions like that last sentence will never be asked again! Since you will do nothing to stop this, America, it will certainly happen!

In Other News

I see where the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have moved the "Doomsday Clock" another minute forward and closer to Midnight. The symbolic gauge of nuclear danger, the Doomsday Clock was moved because of "inadequate progress" on nuclear and climate issues.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) announced the move -- to five minutes before midnight -- last Tuesday.

The clock last moved one minute backward in 2010.

BAS said the failure of multiple nations to control the spread of nuclear weapons was a cause for worry.

The group, which created the clock in 1947, said that two years ago it believed world leaders were trying to address global threat issues. Guess they were wrong, huh?

"In many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed," it said in a statement to explain the change.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a member of the BAS Board of Sponsors and a former UN undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs, said "that while Russia-US nuclear relations were improving, others left much to be desired."

The failure by the US, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Egypt and Israel to act on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and by North Korea on a treaty to cut off production of nuclear weapons material "continues to leave the world at risk from continued development of nuclear weapons. The potential for nuclear weapons use in regional conflicts in the Middle East, Northeast Asia and particularly in South Asia was also alarming," Dhanapala said.

"Global climate change was also an issue that needs to be addressed," according to Allison MacFarlane, a BAS Science and Security Board member. "The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth's atmosphere."

BAS called for the adoption of climate change agreements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and significantly greater investment in renewable energy sources.

The group also said that the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, caused by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, "raised significant questions about nuclear reactor design and oversight."

Got a good supply of Potassium Iodide pills, America? I got a feeling that you're going to need them!

And Finally

As many of you may know I'm a sci-fi, horror and fantasy writer in my spare time, but on my best day, I couldn't come up with a tale that is half as strange and scary as is this true life tale about Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall. (Yo, Dr. Phil, this guy represents you in Manassas, so what's the deal, brother?)

Bob, like most Rethuglicans doesn't like the ladies very much, but seems to be overly concerned with their vaginas, their reproductive organs, and their souls. Have you ever noticed that about Rethuglicans?

Bob spoke at a press conference against state funding for Planned Parenthood. He blasted the organization for supporting a women's right to choose, saying that, "God punishes women who have had abortions by giving them disabled children!"

Bob continued, "The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There's a special punishment Christians would suggest."

Oh, and speaking of special punishments, Bob won the "Vidkun Quisling Award" this week!

Not only does Bob have problems with the ladies, but Marshall says he's "planning to file legislation that would ban gays from serving openly in the Virginia National Guard."

I could go on, but you get the picture, so you know what I did, don't you? If you said I wrote Bob a letter, you may stay after class and clean the erasers!

Hey Bob,

Boy, did you f*ck up, huh? So women who are forced to have abortions and subsequently have babies with birth defects are being punished by some vengeful mythology? I find it interesting that your god likes to punish innocent children for their parents' mistakes! Are you sure your god isn't a devil? As bizarre as that sounds, perhaps you are right? I'm guessing your mom must have had dozens of abortions, which would explain your mental retardation? Wouldn't it, Bob? Now that your political career is over, Bob, what's next? Dog catcher, lobbyist, or will it be back to the funny farm from which you've obviously escaped? I'll just sit right here with you, and watch over you, until those nice young men in their clean white coats come along and collect you!

Your radical pal,

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

If you good people have any ideas or thoughts for Bob, you can give them to him at:

Keepin' On

The reason that I'm still able to do this since my bank account went south was that so far nothing has come up that couldn't be overcome by planning and luck! More often than not, it was the luck that saved the day.

After saving up my pennies and dimes after three months I was able to install the OS 10 Lion system on my Mac. Trouble is and was that there was no mention of the fact that this new system wouldn't run a lot of old software such as my old PhotoShop. To replace said device was around $450 with an education discount, there was no chance of me being able to afford to do so, so I was screwed, but I got the 30 day trial just to see how many cartoons, photos and videos that I could make before that ran out.

Then as luck would have it, I discovered that with my existing software programs (Preview, iPhoto and Comic Life) I could still do what the PhotoShop did -- not all the things, but about 90% of them -- which was just enough to squeak by with the bonus of gaining a few gigabytes of space -- a definite plus. As glad as I am about the final outcome, it also got me thinking that the next time something like this happens, I may be totally screwed, and hence I should put a little extra in the bank -- beyond our operating expenses. Ergo, I'm going to try to raise an extra $1,000 this year to get prepared for the next disaster. Life's a bitch trying to get by on a shoestring budget! So, a little help from Ya'll would definitely be a groove!


11-30-1937 ~ 01-13-2012
Thanks for the news!

09-03-1982 ~ 01-19-2012
Thanks for the Rush!

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.

Geriatric Obfuscating Pathology
Is the GOP self-destructing? Could we be so lucky?
By David Michael Green

I took a busload of students to New Hampshire last week to observe the Republican primary campaign process up close and personal.

Alright, alright, I know what you must be thinking: "Damn, Green, you sure must be a dedicated professor to do that!" As it happens, you'd be partly right and partly wrong. In fact, the students are great, the trip is fun and a little unpredictable in nice way, and there really still is a wee bit of genuine candidate accountability remaining in the New Hampshire retail politics process.

That said, however, it's absolutely true that the field of GOP candidates is stunning in its sheer capacity for selfishness, dishonesty, and plain old meanness, and that listening to them for too long without wearing noise-cancelling headphones could surely burn off both of your ears. It's the political equivalent of staring at the sun, and the cult-like gaga-bots one can observe among these audiences seem to have spent quite some time doing just that. If you know just a bit about history, just a bit about context, or just a bit about the dark arts of rhetorical legerdemain, listening to a speech by Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney will leave you wanting to pop up just about every half-sentence and loudly disclaim "That's a lie!", "That's wrong!", or "That's complete bullshit!" It's a truly painful experience in that regard.

Moreover, given that American politics has now been reduced to a 'choice' between two gangs of nearly identical corporate water-carriers, yet still masquerades as a genuine election in a democracy, I feel more than a little complicit in the fleecing of the country just by attending these events and thereby implicitly helping to legitimize this kabuki process. It's not like my individual presence matters a bit, of course. On the other hand, what if no one came, boycotting the entire process as an insult to our intelligence?

In any case, up we went, and we got ourselves an education. A good hot shower upon our return helped a lot at disinfecting the slime factor, as does a creeping sense of hope I've experienced over the last year or so, reinforced by New Hampshire. Indeed, reflecting upon the Republican presidential field does, oddly enough, provide one with reason to think things might actually be looking up a bit in America, notwithstanding the fact that one of the sick puppies we heard up there could actually be the next president of the United States. On reflection after returning from New Hampshire, I see multiple reasons to believe that the GOP - or, since parties can often be quite malleable, let us say the GOP as we know it today - might be headed toward implosion. What's more, only some of that opinion is based on wishful thinking...

The most obvious indicator of the current state of the party is given by a quick look at the presidential field. Even Republicans - even, I think, the vast majority of Republicans - are dismayed by the quality of candidates they have to choose from. You could get several careers worth of stand-up material from the likes of Trump, Bachmann, Palin, Cain, Perry and the rest, but last I checked your party's leading lights are meant for other purposes than cheap comic fodder. But - too bad for the GOP, and too good for the rest of the planet - they are what they are. And what they are is an endless procession of witless buffoons, shoddy charlatans and societal rejects. It goes without saying that you could do better in terms of intelligence and integrity just by randomly choosing ten individuals out of the phone book for any given American city. But I'll go further. I think you could do better by randomly choosing ten individuals from any given sixth grade civics class. Or perhaps even ten crooks from the mellower wings of any given medium security prison.

Nobody epitomizes the scraping of the bottom of the GOP barrel right down through the Earth's crust better than Newt the Gingrich, until just recently the candidate du jour among desperate Republican voters. He's a big beached whale of an alleged humanoid, but it's still almost unimaginable that anyone could've possibly stuffed so much hypocrisy within the confines of a single epidermal sack. One of my favorites concerns Gingrich's recent lament that he was roughed up unfairly by his competitors in Iowa. If one were to make a list of the most destructive politicians and political operatives of the post-war period, Gingrich would certainly be among the top five, along with Joe McCarthy, Dick Nixon, Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. (Note that for all its other pathetic qualities, the Democratic Party can at least rightly claim that it does not begin to compete in that particular ugly contest.) It has therefore been amusing in the extreme to see him turn into a whining crybaby as hardball politics, funded by unrestrained corporate money no less, was used to unravel his presidential aspirations once and for all. Golly, it almost seems like Newt has different ethical standards for the practice of politics, depending on whether he is giving or receiving. But that would be disingenuous.

Nevertheless, that story is actually small potatoes when it comes to the competition for first prize among the panoply of Gingrich's rampant hypocrisies. My favorite has to be the moral finger-wagging of the candidate directed at the rest of us, while he is on his third marriage (not to mention his third religion, about which we also have to be lectured by the candidate). His prior two marriages crashed over his infidelities. At the same time, of course, that he was impeaching a president of the United States and Leader of the Free World for the heinous crime of - wait for it now - infidelity. That's a good one alright, although taking almost two million bucks from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for his services as an "historian" (Hey, you guys, look over here! I'm a really great political scientist, and I'll provide my amazing academic wisdom to you for a mere one million!) while simultaneously lambasting these organizations for wrecking the economy surely rings in at a close second place on the Newtonian Hypocrimeter. And that's just for starters. The truth is that, when it comes to the Gingrich Follies, we could go on and on forever here. There are the bald-faced lies, the government shutdowns, the temper tantrums, the money scandals and more.

But enough said. You can get most of what you need to know about the current state of Republican Party politics just by stopping for a second to realize that a month ago this fool was the favored candidate among GOP voters to be the next president of the United States. Before Rick Santorum, that is, a guy who doesn't have a problem with the government outlawing birth control (no, as a matter of fact, I'm not joking), and who left Congress with no money but somehow miraculously became a millionaire with a couple of years. Now Gingrich came before Santorum, but after Herman Cain - stay with me here - who might have seemed to you a lot like a guy with a severe zipper problem, but of course that critique was just a 'high-tech lynching', don't you know. And Cain's 15 minutes of fame followed that of one Rick Perry, last seen skipping down the Yellow Brick Road whistling a certain tune about cognitive organs on holiday. And, of course, Perry came after Michelle Bachmann, who...

Well, you get the picture. But not quite. A little historical analysis suggests that the tawdry state of the Party's current leadership choices is less anomalous than Republicans might like to believe. Ronald Reagan (The Name Which Must Be Spoken Every Thirty Seconds By Republicans Everywhere), who, like John Kennedy, was a lot less a great president than a subsequent fabricated religious icon for the party faithful, was at least a strong presidential candidate (though not one who was at all above the use of ugly tactics). Look at what the party has thrown up since then: Bob Dole, John McCain, and two guys (Whose Name Must Never Be Spoken By Republicans Anytime Anywhere) who go by the oh-so-appropriate appellation of Bush. Even leaving aside the abhorrent politics, these candidates are to national politics what Reagan was to acting: strictly B-rate.

But let's be bold and actually talk about the Bushes, shall we? It's ever so instructive to do so. Bush the Elder was the first victim of the wholesale sanity purge that has infected the GOP in the Age of Reagan. He broke the cardinal rule - in truth, the very raison d'etre - of the party by raising taxes, and so they turned on him and both destroyed and embarrassed him by helping Democrats show him to the door after a single term. That was Poppy. On the other hand, his son, the Boy Wondering, is actually guilty of precisely the opposite sin. Republicans these days can never stop telling you how conservative they are and how much they revere Ronald Reagan. Conservative, conservative, conservative. Reagan, Reagan, Reagan. Which makes for a bit of a mystery (for six seconds at least): If that's true, how come they never, ever, mention the guy who was the most conservative president in American history, who was more Reagan than Reagan, and who happened to have been in office only just the other day? Hmmm. I wonder why that could be?

The answer, of course, is that Bush's rodeo clown presidency demonstrates precisely what are the fruits of pursuing conservative (actually, kleptocratic) policies. Those choices were disastrous, and we are only beginning now to even realize how much damage was caused. So today's Republican Party candidates have to pretend that Bush never happened, and that we've never had a very good and very recent empirical test of what would happen if we followed their identical policy prescriptions. Someday, of course - perhaps in a decade or two - they will try to give W the same makeover they've given to Reagan, but right now even the otherwise all too idiot-prone American public can't yet be fooled into remembering how much they liked 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina, No Child Left Behind, global warming, global hatred, torture, Constitution shredding, polarized politics, doubling the national debt, massive wealth concentration, global depression and TARP - all the gifts of a single president.

If I could put the current crop of Republican presidential candidates on the spot and ask them a single question, I would have them rate the Bush presidency and indicate how theirs would be different. They're all slick as an oil spill, of course, so they'd find a way to finesse the question. Surely they'd say that they'd balance the budget, but of course, so did Reagan and so did W. It turns out that trying to do so while cutting taxes, spending more on the military, and without borrowing is ... what did that one guy call it? ... voodoo economics. But here's the central point, even if it requires multiple iterations for Americans to learn it: The so-called conservative policies advocated by the Republican Party today are manifestly disastrous. They have been precisely so under every president - most definitely including Clinton and Obama - since Reagan, and they will continue to be so in the future. Even KenDoll Romeny knows that tax cuts for billionaires, war with Iran, environmental destruction and putting Christ back into Christmas won't revive the country. It's just that he doesn't give a shit. Getting to be president is all he cares about.

Beyond this nightmare of its pathetic leading figures, the GOP is also in trouble demographically. It has painted itself into a narrow corner such that its primary appeal is to pretend pious old white men who are fearful of everything (and thus constantly act as though they are fearless), but most especially afraid of independent women. It's funny to watch these guys rail against Muslim religious fanatics in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, without the slightest sense of irony or recognition of who they're looking at in the mirror each morning. No matter. They're finished. The young generation coming up in America today is far less sexist, far less homophobic, far less racist, far less xenophobic, far less religious, far less conservative and far less Republican than the ones headed for P.T. Barnum's "This way to the Egress" sign over the next couple of decades. The GOP will face some wrenching choices as it becomes increasingly unelectable with time. Likely there will be a civil war between those who demand ideological purity and those willing to compromise for electability. Quite probably the Romney-versus-the-rest motif we're witnessing in the current cycle is already the opening salvo in that war.

One could argue that Republican Party orthodoxy is already under assault from the Ron Paul campaign. It's truly amazing what Paul is saying on questions such as the astonishingly destructive war on drugs campaign, or American foreign and military policy, which he rightly describes as imperial in nature. He's far to the left of any namebrand Democrat, let alone compared to the chickenhawk cowardly hypocrites (as he himself accurately calls them) of the GOP, like Bush, Cheney, Gingrich, Romney and all the rest. More importantly, much of what he says on the campaign trail is jarringly truthful for any prominent American politician circa 2012. If only his economic prescriptions weren't so dishonest and just plain bizarro (and if only he didn't have that stinky racist, Bircher, background), I could honestly get excited about Paul, despite even his party affiliation. But Ron Paul is far more a strange mutant aberration in the Republican Party today than the leader of one of the warring camps likely to define the party in the coming decades. That battle will be between (alleged) moderates and hard-liners - between Bush 41 and Bush 43, if you will - and Paul is neither. He is far more a Libertarian than a Republican, but he's also strategically smart. Millions more people are being exposed to the Republican candidate's radically heterodox and absurdly truthful critiques of American government than would never hear them if he was running instead for the Libertarian Party's nomination. In any case, by telling such truths right in the belly of the beast, and by attracting so many votes, Paul makes life that much harder for an already besieged Republican Party.

In addition to its candidates and its demographics, the GOP has another problem, as well: Itself. I'm shocked that anyone else is shocked at what's going on within the party right now as the various candidates scramble for advantage. Of course Gingrich and Perry and the others are saying anything in order to take down the front-running Romney. What the hell else would you expect from an ideology which has been peddling extreme individualism, unfettered greed, filthy campaign practices, and endless deceit at least since the era of Joe McCarthy? Of course they are eating their young. Why wouldn't they? Because of moral qualms? Concerns about integrity? Putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the one? Very funny, people. Very funny.

The reaction to those Republican candidates criticizing Romney for his career as a vulture capitalist is extremely telling, of course, just as was the Catholic Church putting Galileo under house arrest. In neither case did the offended institution bother asking whether the ideas being floated had any merit to them. No, my friends, neither the Catholic Church nor the Republican Church have any interest in the dissemination of truth. Quite to the contrary, their interest is precisely the opposite. Hordes of Republican blowhards (pardon the redundancy there) have been savaging Gingrich and Perry for mounting 'Democratic-style class warfare' critiques of Romney, never stopping to actually inquire as to what Bain Capital actually did under his stewardship. Of course, they don't need to ask. They already know. What's critical is that you never do.

All in all, the GOP is in deep trouble, at least over the long haul. I think they know it, too. They're all standing around at this point waiting for a Reagan to come rescue them. That's not gonna happen, not least of which because even Reagan was never "REAGAN!". Like Bernie Madoff, the Party's lies and schemes are beginning to catch up with it. And as with Madoff, it is the rest of us who will principally pay the price. The real questions are why this hasn't happened sooner, why the party was able to resuscitate itself relatively unscathed from the disaster of actually governing under its avowed principles this last decade, and why it has a good shot at the White House this year?

Those are, of course, easy questions to answer. If the top ranks of the Republican Party are of a quality that would be considered pathetic anywhere outside of Zimbabwe, the leading lights of the Democrats are equally dismal. You have Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and then there's... Joe Biden? Harry Reid? Andrew Cuomo? It's quite amazing really. Add up all the prominent Democrats in Congress, in the cabinet and in statehouses, and there isn't a single one - regardless even of their politics - who remotely inspires. Moreover, if we're honest about Obama and Clinton, it's patently obvious that they are almost entirely notable for who they physically are, not what they've done or where they stand. Take away his skin tone and her genitalia, and you're left with a pair of two-dimensional cardboard B-rate political nothingburgers. History will record Obama's sole claim to fame as getting elected. No one will ever know what he really stands for, other than maintaining the status quo so that he can comfortably tuck the one percent into bed each night. Her only genuine political commitment in life (at least, that is, before she and her husband were completely coopted by the plutocracy), seems to have been a devotion to the controversial idea of taking good care of our children. Wow. Now that's bold.

Obama and his party are failures for the same reason the GOP has been failing for so long. They all serve the same master, and I got news for you, pal: It ain't you, me, or the 300 million people in America's 99 percent. This isn't complicated stuff. You can put away your slide rule. It's simple: If you are governing to advance the interest of predators, and doing so at the expense of the people, the predators will prosper and the people will suffer. By design. What, you don't like that? No problem, you can simply vote for the other party, the one that's not in office. Just one problem, though. They have exactly the same economic policies as the one that is.

We live in the strangest of times. Our politics have hardly ever been more strident, and yet we fight over almost nothing. We have enormous problems facing us, ranging from rampant and structural unemployment to broken empire to climate holocaust, and yet we're consumed with trivia. Our candidate running on the platform of hope and change could not possibly be more beholden to the special interests who have robbed an entire global economy of hope in order to prevent change and fatten their already bulging wallets. The political party that led the country and the world over the cliff for a decade came back to win a stunning victory just two years later, and is poised to possibly win another one again. The people who created a massive national debt can somehow plausibly score endless political points complaining about that same debt. One of the worst things you can be accused of is trying to turn America into a 'European socialist state' at exactly the moment when the true European socialist states are precisely the countries providing the best quality of life, most economic security, and the most stable economies for their citizens of any in the world. Here at home, we have very clear empirical evidence from two post-war periods - one each of liberal and conservative economic policy prescriptions - of what happens when you go either of those directions, and no one recognizes that the experiment was even conducted. The list goes on. Rod Serling, you're way overdue on the set, baby. Dee dee dee dee, dee dee dee dee...

Hunter Thompson was certainly right. When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional. But we're beyond all that now. America has fielded its All-Century Team when it comes to nutty politics. The good news, though, is that some people are finally starting to wake up to what we're facing, and just who is diddling whom.

That can't be good news for the Geriatric Obfuscating Pathology otherwise known as the Republican Party.
(c) 2012 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Shining Torch
By Uri Avnery

"SHINING TORCH" sounds like the name of a Red Indian (or should I say Native American?) chief. In Hebrew, it is the literal meaning of the name of our latest political sensation: Ya'ir Lapid.

This week, he announced his intention to enter politics and set up a new political party.

Hardly a surprise. For many months now, speculation has been rife. Lapid has hinted more than once about his intention, giving the impression that he would act on it only close to election time. That was clever, since he was the most popular news anchorman on the most popular TV channel. Why give up a post that gives you unique public exposure (and pays a handsome salary to boot)?

Now he has been told by his employers, probably under political pressure, to choose: either/or - TV or politics.

Some 2061 years ago, Julius Caesar crossed the little river Rubicon to march on Rome, exclaiming "iacta alea est" - the die has been cast. Lapid is no Caesar and does not speak Latin, but his feeling must have been much the same.

A day later, another well-known personality, Noam Shalit, threw a second die. The father of Gilad, the captured soldier who was exchanged for 1027 Palestinian prisoners, has announced that he will run for the Knesset on the Labor party list. After five years leading the immensely popular campaign for his son's release, he has decided to put to political use his rise from anonymity to celebrity status.

A whole series of exes - ex-generals, ex-Mossad chiefs, ex-CEOs - are waiting for their turn.

What does that mean? It means that the smell of elections is in the air, though elections are officially due only a year and a half from now, and there are no signs that Binyamin Netanyahu and his far-right partners intend to bring them forward.

THE ATTRACTION of a Knesset seat is hard to explain. Most Israelis despise the Knesset, but almost everyone would sell their grandmother to become a member.

(A Jewish joke tells about a stranger who comes to the shtetl and asks for directions to the home of the synagogue manager. "What, that scoundrel?" exclaims one of the passers-by. "That bastard". "that son of a bitch", "that miser," respond others. When he finally meets the man and asks why he clings to the office, he answers: "Because of the honor!")

But that's beside the point. The question is: why do so many people believe that a new party has a good chance to win seats? Why does Ya'ir Lapid believe that a new party, headed by him, will become a major faction in the Knesset and perhaps even propel him into the Prime Minister's office?

There now exists a gaping black hole in the Israeli political system, a hole so huge that nobody could fail to notice it.

On the right is the present government coalition, consisting of the Likud, the Lieberman party and various ultra-nationalist, pro-settlement and religious factions.

What is there on the Left and in the Center? Well, next to nothing.

The main opposition party, Kadima, is in a shambles. It has failed miserably to establish a role for itself. Tzipi Livni is incompetent, and it seems that the only merit of her party rival, a former army Chief of Staff, is his Oriental origin. (He was born in Iran.) The latest polls give Kadima half the number of seats it holds now.

Labor, which seemed to rise when Shelly Yachimovich was elected chairwoman, has slid back in the polls to where it was before. Nor has the stock of Meretz gone up. The same goes for the communist and the Arab factions who vegetate on the fringes of the system, if not outside. All of them together could not unseat the Right.

The gap is glaring. It cries out for a new force that can fill the void. No wonder that the various messiahs in waiting hear an inner voice telling them that their time has come.

The trouble is that none of these pretenders comes with a message. They appear on the scene with a cookbook mentality: Take a few popular phrases, add 3 celebrities, 2 generals, 4 women, 1 Russian, and with the help of a clever PR expert and two "strategic advisers" you are on your way.

For Lapid, the three popular phrases are now: take money from the irresponsible tycoons (Who are they? Are there also responsible tycoons?), take money from bloated government departments (which ones? Do they include the Ministry of Defense?), take money from distant settlements (How distant? What about all the other settlements?)

There seems to be no one around who comes with a deeply held conviction, a message that "burns in his bones," as you say in Hebrew. Shelly of Labor has a serious social message, but refuses adamantly to speak about anything else, especially about such unsavory subjects as peace and the occupation. Kadima is wish-washy about everything. And Lapid?

AH, WELL - that depends on the polls. Lapid is a prolific writer with many books to his credit and a weekly column in the mass circulation Yediot Aharonot. But even with a microscope one cannot detect the trace of a serious answer to any of the country's burning national or social questions.

That may be clever. If you say something that is outside the consensus, you create enemies. The less you say, the less trouble. That is a basic political truism. But not the stuff great leaders are made of.

It has often been said of Lapid that he is the man every Jewish mother dreams of as her son-in-law. He is tall, very handsome, looks much younger that his 49 years, and has a movie-star quality. He also had a famous father.

"Tommy" Lapid was a Holocaust survivor. He was born in the Hungarian-speaking enclave of the former Yugoslavia and spent World War II in Adolf Eichmann's Budapest. He became a feuilleton writer (though less successful than his fellow Hungarian, Ephraim Kishon), but made his name as a TV panelist who introduced a completely new style of aggressiveness, some said vulgarity. Example: when a poverty stricken woman complained about her abject condition, he shot back: "So how did you pay your hairdresser?"

Lapid Sr. had a split personality: in personal relations he was easy-going, even charming. His public persona was pugnacious and abrasive.

So was his political message. He was famous for the intensity of his hatred of the orthodox Jews. He was also a rabid ultra-nationalist, who even defended Slobodan Milosevic. But in domestic affairs he was a true liberal.

Almost by accident he became the leader of a moribund party and led it to an astounding election triumph, amassing 15 Knesset seats and becoming a good Justice Minister. The party then shrank again as rapidly as it had grown.

All this tells us little about Lapid Jr. What kind of political program will he represent, once he is compelled to provide answers? Contrary to his father's aggressiveness, he preaches conciliation, togetherness, moderation. He positions himself in the exact center and clings to the widest possible consensus. His chances seem to be excellent.

However, from now until the elections - whenever they are held - can be a very long time. Israel is a cruel country, popularity can fade quickly. The first political test of Lapid will be whether he can keep the public's interest for long without his TV pulpit. I believe that his entrance into the political scene is a good thing. Our political system is in dire need of new blood. And I can hardly line up with those who say that journalists should not enter politics.

WHAT ARE his chances? Impossible to foretell. It will depend on many factors: when will the elections be held, what happens before then, will there be a war? (Lapid was not a combat soldier, a serious flaw in the eyes of many Israelis.) And first of all: who else will join the fray in the meantime?

I fervently hope that a different kind of new political force will emerge - a center-left party with a clear and inclusive message: social reform, narrowing the gap between rich and poor, the two-state solution, peace with the Palestinians and the end of the occupation, equality between all citizens (irrespective of gender, race, ethnic origin and beliefs, total separation between state and religion, human rights safeguarded by strong and independent courts - all this enshrined in an iron-clad written constitution.

For this you need leaders with strong backbones, ready to fight for their convictions.

Perhaps Lapid will, in the end, fit this bill, at least partly. Perhaps he will also attract votes from Likud members who are disgusted by the neo-fascist turn some of the Likud leaders have taken - enough votes to upset the balance in the Knesset and put an end to the ultra-rightist frenzy.

The next few months will tell whether the Shining Torch will continue to shine - and on what exactly.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Hotel Jerome in Aspen.

Everything You Need to Know About Wall Street, In One Brief Tale
By Matt Taibbi

If there was ever a news story that crystallized the moral dementia of modern Wall Street in one little vignette, this is it.

Newspapers in Colorado today are reporting that the elegant Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colorado, will be closed to the public from today through Monday at noon.

Why? Because a local squire has apparently decided to rent out all 94 rooms of the hotel for three-plus days for his daughter's Bat Mitzvah.

The hotel's general manager, Tony DiLucia, would say only that the party was being thrown by a "nice family," but newspapers are now reporting that the Daddy of the lucky little gal is one Jeffrey Verschleiser, currently an executive with Goldman, Sachs.

At first, I couldn't remember how I knew that name. But then I looked it up and saw an explosive Atlantic magazine story, published last year, called, "E-mails Suggest Bear Stearns Cheated Clients Out Of Millions." And then I remembered that piece, and it hit me: Jeffrey Verschleiser is one of the biggest assholes in the entire world!

The story begins at Bear Stearns, where Verschleiser used to work, up until the company exploded, in large part because of him personally.

Back in the day, you see, Verschleiser headed Bear's mortgage-backed securities operations. Toward the end of his tenure, his particular specialty began with what at the time was the usual industry-wide practice, putting together gigantic packages of crappy subprime mortgages and dumping them on unsuspecting clients.

But Verschleiser reportedly went beyond that. According to a lawsuit later filed by a bond insurer called Ambac, Verschleiser also masterminded a kind of double-dipping scheme. What he would do is sell a bunch of toxic mortgages into a trust, which like all mortgage trusts had provisions written into their pooling and servicing agreements (PSAs) that required the original lenders to buy the loans back if they went into default.

So Verschleiser would sell bad mortgages back to the banks at a discount, but instead of passing the money back to the trust, he and other Bear execs allegedly pocketed the funds.

From the Atlantic story by reporter Teri Buhl:

The traders were essentially double-dipping -- getting paid twice on the deal. How was this possible? Once the security was sold, they didn't have a legal claim to get cash back from the bad loans -- that claim belonged to bond investors -- but they did so anyway and kept the money. Thus, Bear was cheating the investors they promised to have sold a safe product out of their cash. According to former Bear Stearns and EMC traders and analysts who spoke with The Atlantic, Nierenberg and Verschleiser were the decision-makers for the double dipping scheme.

Imagine giving someone a hundred bucks to buy a bushel of apples, but making a deal with him that he has to buy back any apples that turn out to have worms in them. That's what happened here: Bear sold the wormy apples back to the farmer, but instead of taking the money from those sales and passing it on to you, they simply kept the money, according to the suit.

How wormy were those apples? In one infamous email cited in the suit, a Bear exec colorfully described the content of the bonds they were selling:

Bear deal manager Nicolas Smith wrote an e-mail on August 11th, 2006 to Keith Lind, a Managing Director on the trading desk, referring to a particular bond, SACO 2006-8, as "SACK OF SHIT [2006-]8" and said, "I hope your [sic] making a lot of money off this trade."

So did Verschleiser himself know the mortgages were bad? Not only did he know it, he went so far as to tell his colleagues in writing that it was a waste of money to even bother performing due diligence on the bad bonds:

Jeffrey Verschleiser even said in an e-mail that he knew this was an issue. He wrote to his peer Mike Nierenberg in March 2006, "[we] are wasting way too much money on Bad Due Diligence." Yet a year later nothing had changed. In March 2007, Verschleiser wrote to Nierenberg again about the same due diligence firm, "[w]e are just burning money hiring them."

One of the ways that banks like Bear managed to convince investors to buy these bonds was by wrapping them in bond insurance through companies like Ambac, commonly known as "monoline" insurers. Investors who knew the bonds were insured were less worried about default.

Verschleiser, seeing that Bear had gotten firms like Ambac to insure its "sack of shit" bonds, saw here a new opportunity to make money. He first induced the monolines to insure the worthless bonds, then bet against the insurers! (Is it any wonder this guy ended up hired by Goldman, Sachs?) From the Atlantic story again:

Then in November 2007, Verschleiser wrote to his risk committee that he knew insurers for mortgage securities were going to have big financial problems. He suggested they multiply by ten times the short bet he'd just made against stocks like Ambac. These e-mails show Verschleiser's trading desk bragging to firm leadership that he made $55 million off shorting insurers' stock in just three weeks.

So in essence, Verschleiser was triple-dipping. First he was selling worthless "sacks of shit" to investors, representing them as good investments. Then, he kept the money from the return sales of the wormy apples. And then, on top of that, he made money by betting against the insurers he was sticking with these toxic assets.

We all know what happened from there. Bear, Stearns went under, thanks in large part to insane schemes like Verschleiser's, and all of us were forced to pick up at least part of the tab as the Fed spent billions subsidizing Bear's emergency takeover by JP Morgan Chase. In subsequent litigation, Chase has steadfastly refused to buy back the bad mortgages dumped on investors by the likes of Verschleiser, and has even fought tooth and nail to prevent the information in the Ambac suit from being made public.

Ambac went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 for a variety of reasons, some of which had nothing to do with its losses in deals like these. But certainly Ambac and other monoline insurers like MBIA suffered for having insured worthless mortgage bonds sold onto the market by the Verschleisers of the world. Ambac in its suit asserted that it paid out over $641 million in claims related to the bonds from the Bear deals. With all of this, though, Verschleiser landed happily on his feet. He reportedly heads Goldman's mortgage division now. And after cutting a mile-wide swath of losses through the American economy, helping destroy two venerable firms in Bear and Ambac, bilking the taxpayer for untold millions more (he is also named in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency for allegedly speeding bad loans onto securitization before they defaulted), Verschleiser is now living the contented life of a proud family man, renting out a 94-room hotel for three days for his daughter's Bat Mitzvah.

It's certainly heartening that Verschleiser is spending this money on his daughter instead of, say, hiring a busload of Jamaican hookers to spend the weekend lounging with him in a hot tub full of Beluga caviar. People ought to give their children the best, I guess. But there's this, too: at a time when one in four Americans has zero or negative net worth, renting a 94-room hotel for three days for a tweenager party might already be pushing the edge of the good taste/tact envelope. Even for the most honest millionaire in Aspen, it would seem a little gauche.

But for this burglarizing dickhead to do it? It's breathtaking. I hope he at least invited his bankrupted investors to the pool party.

p.s. Since this blog was posted, I've received a number of letters all asking the same question -- how could it be possible that what Verschleiser did is not illegal? How is he not in jail?

The answer is that if the allegations in the Ambac suit are true, it certainly would seem to be illegal. Most notably, the pocketing of putback money almost has to be a form of theft or embezzlement.

The rest of Bear/Verschleiser's scheme, however, is also illegal, but in a more complicated way. If you read the complaint in the Ambac suit, what you see is a sort of extreme blueprint for how mortgage securitization worked in general during that period.

There is a veritable sea of fraudulent and corrupt practices one may gaze upon here, if the SEC were looking for something to target -- everything from withholding material facts from customers and ratings agencies, to threatening ratings agencies with lost business if they didn't overrate bonds, to lying in offering documents, to the manipulation of accounting procedures (this went on after the loans had moved onto Chase's books), etc. -- but the most flagrant violation in the suit involves the issue of due diligence, and here we do know a lot about Verschleiser's role.

It seems that when Bear did do due diligence in these deals, it very frequently overrode the firms they'd hired to do that due diligence, and put the loans in the deals anyway. In the third quarter of 2006, Bear overrode its due diligence firm an incredible 65% of the time, putting loans into their securitizations despite an outside firm finding red flags in the notes.

Even worse, Bear went out of its way to hide the evidence that it was knowingly ignoring due diligence. This is from the complaint:

Bear Stearns ignored the proposals made by the heads of its due diligence department in May 2005 to track the override decisions, and instead took the opposite tack, adopting an internal policy that directed its due diligence managers to delete the communications with its due diligence firms leading to its final loan purchase decisions, thereby eliminating the audit trail.

This is fraud because in its agreements with investors, Bear promised to conduct "due diligence," it promised to conduct "quality control" testing of the loan pools, it promised to "repurchase" defective loans, and it also promised to implement "seller monitoring," i.e. to prevent the securitization of loans from bad suppliers.

But it not only didn't do these things, it engaged the opposite behavior and knowingly covered up its fraud by deleting its communications.

Verschleiser was personally named in the evidence offered in the Ambac suit. In a letter to Ambac, Bear's RMBS Investor Relations managing director Cheryl Glory wrote that "Jeff will... provide you with the due diligence results of all three deals once complete."

But this is the same Jeff who we now have in writing saying this about those promised due diligence results: "We are wasting way too much money on Bad Due Diligence," and "We're just burning money hiring them."

It doesn't take a genius to deduce that Bear was not upholding its contractual obligations by delivering what it itself considered "bad due diligence" to Ambac. At the very least, this is actionable.

Verschleiser undermined due diligence in other ways. One good one was to demand that his due diligence people operate at speeds that made genuine due diligence impossible.

At one point during these deals, Verschleiser reamed out his immediate subordinate, co-head of mortgage finance Baron Silverstein, over the "problem" of the due diligence department taking too much time to do its work. Silverstein responded by issuing the following tirade to John Mongelluzzo, Bear's VP for Due Diligence, demanding that he not get in the way of Bear's insane goal of funding 500 mortgages a day:

I refuse to receive more emails from [Verchleiser] (or anyone else) questioning why we're not funding loans every day. I'm holding each of you responsible for making sure we fund at least 500 each and every day... I was not happy when I saw the funding numbers and I knew NY would NOT BE HAPPY... I expect to see 500+ every day. I will do whatever is necessary to make sure you're successful in meeting this objective.

Whenever any right-wing loon, or Bloombergite, tries to tell you the mortgage crisis was caused by the government forcing the poor banks to lend to broke black people, please direct them to this passage. The banks not only wanted to give out these loans, they wanted to give them out at the speed of light. They wanted to crank them out so fast that their own auditors literally couldn't read the writing on the loan applications. This was greed, not policy. Anybody who says anything else is high on something.

Anyway, given that much of Verschleiser's questionable behavior is in writing, his case sure seems court-ready. But for whatever reason, he has not been indicted.

One can almost understand a regulator not wanting to take on the whole circular securitization scheme -- Bear lends money to corrupt mortgage firm, mortgage firm makes bad loans, Bear packages bad loans and sells to investors, then takes the proceeds and creates more bad loans -- because it is so complex and difficult to prove.

But in this case there are simple issues of fraud and theft that could be taken on without having to prosecute broader crimes related to securitization. But prosecutors, apparently, just blew those off. In the current environment, regulators even miss the layups.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

United States Congress
A Graveyard for Democracy and Justice
By Ralph Nader

The editor of The Hill, a newspaper exclusively covering Congress, said that Congress was not going to do very much in 2012, except for "the big bill" which is extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment compensation, which expire in late February. That two month extension will likely reignite the fight between Democrats and Republicans that flared last month.

In 2012, Congress, the editor implied, would be busy electioneering. That is, the Senators and Representatives will be busy raising money from commercial interests so they can keep their jobs. There won't be much time to change anything about misallocated public budgets, unfair tax rules, undeclared costly wars, and job-depleting trade policies that, if fixed, would increase employment and public investment.

So this year, Congress will spend well over $3 billion on its own expenses to do nothing of significance other than shift more debt to individual taxpayers by depleting the social security payroll tax by over $100 billion so both parties can say they enacted a tax cut! That is what the Democrats in Congress and the President call a significant accomplishment.

Will someone call a psychiatrist? This is a Congress that is beyond dysfunctional. It is an obstacle to progress in America, a graveyard for both democracy and justice. No wonder a new Washington Post-ABC news poll found an all time high of 84 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

Both Republicans and Democrats say they want to reduce the deficit. But they are avoiding, in varying degrees, doing this in any way that would discomfort the rich and powerful. One would think that, especially in an election year, the following legislative agenda would be very popular with the voters.

First, restore the taxes on the rich that George W. Bush cut ten years ago which expanded the deficit. So clueless are the Democrats that they have not learned to use the word "restore" instead of the Republican word "increase" when talking about taxes that were previously cut for the millionaires and billionaires.

Second, collect unpaid taxes. The IRS estimates that $385 billion of tax revenues are not collected yearly. If the IRS budget increased and more people were hired, every dollar it spent would return $200 from tax evaders, including corporations and the wealthy. When taxes are not collected, the large majority of honest taxpayers are left with the unfair consequences. Imagine that money being applied to jobs that repair our crumbling public works.

Third, end the outrageous corporate loopholes that allow profitable large corporations to pay just half of the statutory tax rate of thirty-five percent. More than a few pay less than five percent and many pay zero on major profits. During a recent three year period, according to the Citizens for Tax Justice, a dozen major corporations such as Verizon and Honeywell paid no taxes on many billions of profits, and the legendary tax escapee, General Electric, managed to pay zero and even receive billions in benefits from the U.S. Treasury.

Fourth, do what most U.S. soldiers in the field have believed should have been done years ago--get out of Afghanistan and Iraq and nearby countries like Kuwait where thousands of U.S. soldiers based in Iraq have moved.

Fifth, to increase consumer demand, which creates jobs, raise the federal minimum wage from the present level of $7.25--which is $2.75 less than it was way back in 1968, adjusted for inflation--to $10 per hour. Businesses who keep raising prices and executive salaries (eg. Walmart and McDonalds) since 1968 should be reminded of their windfall in that period.

In addition, President Obama can urge mutual and pension funds and individual shareholders to demand higher dividends from companies like EMC, Google, Apple, Cisco, Oracle and others firms hoarding two trillion dollars in cash as if this money was the corporate bosses', not the owner-shareholders. More dividends, more consumer demand, more jobs.

Want to know why Congress doesn't make such popular and prudent decisions for the American people? Because the people are not objecting to all the power that their Congressional representatives and their corporate allies have sucked away from them. Because the people are not putting teeth and time into the "sovereignty of the people" expressed in the preamble to our Constitution which begins with "We the people," not "We the corporation."

So citizens, it's your choice. If you don't demand a say day after day, you'll continue to pay day after day.

By the way, the Congressional switchboard number is 202-224-3121.
(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.

Join The Action Against Corporate Rule

What a great group of groups! They've got names like "Winning Our Future," "Make Us Great Again," and "Red, White and Blue."

What's not so great is that these are special-interest superPACs that are sacking up millions of dollars in a gross effort to buy the presidential election for their favored candidate. "Winning Our Future," for example is backing Newt Gingrich's run. It had a big winning hand recently when a billionaire casino baron put down a $5 million bet on Newt. Forget one-man, one vote – he's in with five million big ones!

Is there anything that We The People can do about this massive money corruption? Happily, yes! Step one is to repeal a perverse Supreme Court ruling that corporations are "persons" entitled to spend unlimited sums to purchase candidates who'll serve them.

The second anniversary of that ridiculous decree comes up this month, and several truly-great grassroots groups are holding two days of action on January 20 and 21 to assert people power over money power. Friday the 20th will be "Occupy the Courts" day, with festive and feisty mass protests at dozens of federal courthouses throughout the land. You can find information and a location of an event near you at

Then, on Saturday, the United For The People coalition is coordinating fun and effective actions in dozens of cities to confront various "corporate persons" and rally support for a people's veto of the Supreme Court's democracy-busting edict. There'll be citizens posses, corporate crime scenes, local exposes of corporations posing as "people," music, street theater, etc.

You can join the national action, locally. For ideas, tips, and action kits to help you "do democracy" in your community this coming Friday and Saturday, go to
(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.

Avoid Conflict With Iranian Juggernaut
By Helen Thomas

Iran is all over the news lately. Iranian officials announced this week that they will soon begin production at yet another uranium processing site, which undoubtedly will be used to make a nuclear weapon.In addition to worrying about Iran's advances in an arsenal of nuclear weapons, the United States is deeply concerned about an Iranian court imposing a death penalty on Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an American of Iranian descent accused by the Iranian government of spying for the CIA, a charge which U.S. officials deny.

Meanwhile, conflict between Washington and Tehran heightened when Iran threatened force on the U.S. if they entered the Strait of Hormuz, a channel which controls the oil supply lines to the rest of the world. In an unusual twist, the U.S. rescued Iranians in the strait from Somali pirates.

The U.S. has lined up many Western allies to support a move to impose economic sanctions on Iran.

Israel has been pushing the U.S. to join forces and attack Iran, especially if it is discovered that Iran has achieved a nuclear weapon. President Barack Obama has so far been able to fend off Israel's proposed aggression against Iran.

We have just pulled our troops out of Iraq. Are we preparing to attack Iran because of nuclear weapons? Nine countries currently have a nuclear arsenal.

Do we need another war that threatens to engage several nations? Or rather, does the world need another conflict? Aren't we tired of killing? Let's shut up about another war and give peace a chance.

Where are the peacemakers? How long are we going to live on the edge?

I am opposed to any possession of nuclear weapons which could wipe out mankind. Nuclear weapons also harm the possessor. Where are the calls we heard so loudly after World War II for world disarmament?

It's what Winston Churchill called "the sublime irony of mutual destruction" when the Soviets were trying to reach a par with the U.S. in nuclear arsenals. The U.S., lead by Obama, should be proposing disarmament across the board, to put the world back on its rightful path of peace.

How long will the West tolerate such brinkmanship involving nuclear weapons?

There is no question Iran is determined to become a nuclear power as much as they deny it. To say that both sides are playing with fire is an understatement.

Despite the pressure, Obama has used restraint and good sense; but the hawks are urging more aggressive action. That would be mayhem.

We are the only country that has used a nuclear weapon. Former President Harry S. Truman ordered the dropping of the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which showed American power in the Pacific and ultimately ended World War II with Japan.

Iran has a few friends who are nuclear powers - including China, which depends on oil shipments from the Persian Gulf. As the U.S. pulls its troops out of Iraq and prepares to leave Afghanistan, the country is in no position to start a new war. We have already spent trillions for the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have killed thousands and led to nowhere.

The Iraqi venture was based on falsehoods initiated by the last Bush administration. When are the American people going to wake up and question these costly adventures, which are pure tragedy?

Obama still has a chance to go down in history as a peacemaker. There is no reason he cannot reach out to the Mullahs in Iran to make peace instead of war. It will take a monumental gesture by Obama to make the 21st century a peaceful one, instead of a repetition of the last century of war.
(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.

The Destruction Of Our Fourth Amendment Rights
By James Donahue

We didn't like it when the Supreme Court ruled in 1991 to legalize random police roadside sobriety checkpoints as part of the effort by authorities to get drunk drivers off the road. Because the problem of drunken driving has been a national concern, most Americans tolerated the annoyance of driving into unexpected "checkpoints" and police inspections.

But that case, The Michigan State Police vs. Sitz, set a precedent that has led to random police searches of our cars without a warrant, the groping of our bodies and ravaging through our personal luggage at airports and the raiding of our homes by police it riot gear . . . all under the guise of protecting us from the off chance of a terrorist bomb, a narcotics operation or some other illicit action. In short, the court is saying it is ok for the police to act like thugs, break down our doors and arrest us without warrants because of a need to protect us from ourselves.

New rulings also have opened the door for police and other government agencies to conduct intrusive surveillance of our telephone calls, e-mails and all other electronic transmissions without a court order as part of the nation's so-called War On Terror.

In a span of less than 20 years the Supreme Court and our U. S. legislators have passed laws and issued rulings that have blacked out the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution. And that amendment was one of the things that made the United States unique in comparison to most other nations. We were once free to live our lives without the fear of government surveillance, police raids and getting stopped at road checkpoints and having some uniformed and armed officer demand to search our cars and see our papers.

In case you forgot, here is what our Fourth Amendment says:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be searched."

A report on this issue in the blog page New America Now complained that: the most depressing aspect of this is not the shitting all over the Constitution by the men charged to preserve and protect it. Rather, it is the slavish badge-licking endorsement of the same by "freedom-loving" Americans."

The anonymous writer strongly suggested that "there are large numbers of people out there who either don't understand the Constitution or (worse) just don't give a damn." That is because we all appeared to roll over and let each court infringement of the Fourth Amendment occur without marching on Washington with pitchforks in hand.

Well, young Americans are awake now. They are attempting peaceful protest in what has been termed the Occupy Movement. And they are meeting tough resistance by the police and even the media. There is a growing demand in this country for a return to normalcy. The people just want jobs, a chance to earn an honest wage, send their kids to college, and live freely in a civilized society without fear of the police.

They want the gangsters out of our government and out of the Supreme Court. And if at all possible . . . a little privacy please.
(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.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel

America's Dangerously Removed Elite
It's easy to cut public education funding when your kids go to private school. Just ask Christie and Emanuel
By David Sirota

Last week, my local Twittersphere momentarily erupted with allegations that Denver's public school superintendent, Tom Boasberg, is sending his kids to a private school that eschews high-stakes testing. Boasberg, an icon of the national movement pushing high-stakes testing and undermining traditional public education, eventually defended himself by insisting that his kids attended that special school only during preschool and that they now attend a public school. Yet his spokesman admitted that the school is not in Denver but in Boulder, Colo., one of America's wealthiest enclaves.

Boasberg, you see, refuses to live in the district that he governs. Though having no background in education administration, this longtime telecom executive used his connections to get appointed Denver superintendent, and he now acts like a king. From the confines of his distant castle in Boulder, he issues edicts to his low-income fiefdom - decrees demonizing teachers, shutting down neighborhood schools over community objections and promoting privately administered charter schools. Meanwhile, he makes sure his own royal family is insulated in a wealthy district that doesn't experience his destructive policies.

No doubt this is but a microcosmic story in a country whose patrician overlords are regularly conjuring the feudalism of Europe circa the Middle Ages. Today, our mayors deploy police against homeless people and protesters; our governors demand crushing budget cuts from the confines of their taxpayer-funded mansions; our Congress exempts itself from insider-trading laws and provides itself healthcare benefits denied to others; and our nation's capital has become one of the world's wealthiest cities, despite the recession.

Taken together, we see that there really are "Two Americas," as the saying goes - and that's no accident. It's the result of a permanent elite that is removing itself from the rest of the nation. Nowhere is this more obvious than in education - a realm in which this elite physically separates itself from us mere serfs. As the head of one of the country's largest urban school districts, Boasberg is a perfect example of this - but he is only one example.

The Washington Post, for instance, notes that it has become an unquestioned "tradition among Washington's power elite" - read: elected officials - to send their kids to the ultra-expensive private school Sidwell Friends. At the same time, many of these officials have backed budget policies that weaken public education.

Outside of Washington, it's often the same story; as just two recent examples, both Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have championed massive cuts to public education while sending their kids to private school.

In many cases, these aristocrats aren't even required to publicly explain themselves. (Boasberg, for example, is never hounded by local media about why he refuses to live in Denver.) Worse, on the rare occasions that questions are posed, privacy is the oft-used excuse to not answer, whether it's Obama defenders dismissing queries about their Sidwell decision, Christie telling a voter his school choices are "none of your business" or Emanuel storming out of a television interview and then citing his "private life" when asked about the issue.

This might be a convincing argument about ordinary citizens' personal education choices, but it's an insult coming from public officials. When they remove themselves and their families from a community - but still retain power over that community - they end up acting as foreign occupiers, subjecting us to policies they would never subject their own kin to.

Pretending this is acceptable or just a "private" decision, then, is to tolerate ancient, ruling-class notions that are no longer sustainable in the 21st century. Indeed, if this nation is going to remain a modern republic, it can't also be a Medieval oligarchy - no matter how much America's elite wants to keep governing from behind the palace walls.
(c) 2012 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Corporate Personhood Cannot Withstand Organized Persons
By David Swanson

There are many schemes now for undoing the doctrines under which corporations claim constitutional rights and bribery is deemed constitutionally protected "speech." Every single one of these schemes depends on a massive movement of public pressure all across the homeland formerly known as the United States of America. With such a movement, few of the schemes can fail. Without it, we're just building castles in the air. Nonetheless, the best scheme can best facilitate the organizing of the movement.

The U.S. Constitution never gave any rights or personhood to corporations or transformed money into speech. It ought not to be necessary to amend a document to, in effect, point out that the sky is blue and up is not down. If the Supreme Court rules that Goldman Sachs can send legislation directly to the White House and cut out the congressional middleman, will we have to amend the Constitution to remove the Goldman Sachs branch of government? Where will this end?

The Constitution also never gave the Supreme Court the power to overturn every law passed by Congress. In fact, the Constitution explicitly gives Congress the power to set exceptions and regulations on what types of cases the Supreme Court can take. So, Congress could take some types of cases away, although it might have to be a great many.

The Constitution also allows the Congress to impeach and remove Supreme Court justices. Congress could remove the most corrupt one or two or three or four or five and only consent to new justices opposed to corporate personhood.

Congress could also just ignore the Supreme Court on this matter and pass a flood of legislation regulating and stripping corporations of their outrageous claims to power, compelling the court to take up case after case.

The reason none of these things is happening is, of course, the weak link smack in the middle of them: Congress.

Lower courts and/or state legislatures could likewise place sanity and decency above the "Citizens United" Supreme Court - if judges or delegates had the nerve to become what the New York Times might mock as "justice vigilantes." The Montana Supreme Court has just done this, so it can't be simply dismissed.

Amending the Constitution seems harder and more extreme than most other schemes. But that fact is itself a reason to favor amending the Constitution. Doing so ought not to be viewed as extreme. It is a sign of disease in our political system that we view it that way. There is tremendous benefit in the act of amending the Constitution itself, and we should have amended it and completely reworked and rewritten it many times by now. Instead we've barely tweaked the thing, and with the exception of an amendment on Congressional salaries proposed in 1789 and finally ratified by Michigan in 1992, we haven't touched the Constitution at all in over 40 years. By amending it through a process with popular support, we can reassert the power of the people over the government and open up the possibility of amending the Constitution further.

We have a horribly outdated broken system of government that stifles democracy. The closest thing to democracy in it is the process by which it can theoretically be amended. I would strongly favor amending the Constitution even if it were only to cross a t or dot an i. Amending it to end corporate personhood and money-speech is, thus, an important goal for multiple reasons. And it opens up the possibility of creating other systemic reforms in the process if we convene a new Constitutional Convention.

Amending the Constitution can be begun by Congress and completed by three-quarters of the state legislatures. Or it can be begun by two-thirds of the state legislatures and completed by three-quarters of them. So, one weak link is the states. Another possible weak link is the Congress. The only way to strengthen either of them is with intense, deep, and wide-spread nonviolent people power. And that power can be energized by and organized around a desired amendment. This approach has the advantage of building power in the states, where state legislatures and courts can be urged to also attempt other approaches to the same problem. And it has the advantage of circumventing Congress if necessary. If you ask me, most people are underestimating the likelihood that such circumvention will be necessary.

A great boost to the effort is's development of what many now see as the ideal amendment:

Section 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only. Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

Section 2. Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure. Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed. The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

Section 3. Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

This is very similar to the amendment proposed by

Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

Section 2. People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.

The above has the advantage of having been introduced already in the U.S. House by Congressman Jim McGovern as HJRes88. Promoting that amendment can help build the movement, but the text of it leaves wealthy individuals who are not corporations but actual flesh-and-blood billionaires the power to consider the spending of money on elections as protected speech. The MoveToAmend version does not have this weakness.

Other amendments are also worth promoting despite various limitations. Congresswoman Donna Edwards' HJRes78 also does not address money as speech and does not address the overarching question of corporate rights (the problems with which are not limited to elections), but it does create the power for Congress and states to regulate and restrict (it does not say eliminate) corporate political spending. Similarly, so does Congressman Ted Deutch's HJRes82.

Of course everything need not be in one amendment if more than one can be passed. Senator Tom Udall's SJRes29, like Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur's HJRes8, Congresswoman Betty Sutton's HJRes86, and Congressman Kurt Schrader's HJRes72, goes after money as speech by giving Congress and states the power to limit election spending. But I want to eliminate, not limit, private election spending. Even MoveToAmend's amendment says that the government can "regulate, limit, or prohibit" such spending, and even the regulating or limiting won't simply happen automatically. First the Congress or the state legislature that benefits from not regulating or limiting will have to turn on itself.

Then there's Congressman Deutch's HJRes90, and Senator Bernie Sanders' SJRes33, which goes after corporate personhood, but only for for-profit corporations. This leaves a loophole for not-for-profit corporations and entities such as labor unions or PACs like Citizens United. Any such loophole not only makes this amendment hard to pass into law, but the loophole would very likely be exploited by the wealthiest elite to the great disadvantage of ordinary people and of labor unions. This amendment, in a later section, gives Congress and the states the power to limit (it does not say eliminate) election spending by any organization or individual, including candidates themselves. But how, if at all, would such power be used?

Public Citizen at proposes language that tries to block corporations from setting up front groups while at the same time permitting election spending by any corporation not "created for business purposes." But why create years of lawyering over what is and is not a business purpose? Why not just get the money out of the elections?

Russell Simmons has proposed an amendment that does that. It does not deal with corporate personhood in its many other areas, but it does address elections as directly as anything I've seen. It does not mention states, and I am convinced that including states' rights to outlaw bribery is essential to getting this approved by three-quarters of the states. This amendment does not bother to say that corporations are not people or that speech is not money, but simply proceeds as if that and the blueness of the sky were obvious. (Yet it may be absolutely necessary to state that corporations are not people and that money is not speech in order to build the public movement required for passage.) This amendment also requires criminal penalties for violation:

Section 1. All elections for President and members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate shall be publicly financed. No political contributions shall be permitted to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. No political expenditures shall be permitted in support of any federal candidate, or in opposition to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. Nothing in this Section shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

Section 2. The Congress shall, by statute, provide limitations on the amounts and timing of the expenditures of such public funds and provide criminal penalties for any violation of this section.

Section 3. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 4. This article shall be inoperative unless it is ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution.

Arguably more will be needed than even MoveToAmend's comprehensive amendment. If we block off corporate spending except through the media, guess what the media will become even more than it is now! Without public financing, free media for candidates, and disintegration of media monopolies, the reform effort breaks down. Without other electoral reforms, the choices of candidates could remain extremely limited. We should have automatic registration, reasonable ballot access, an election day holiday, publicly hand counted paper ballots, a limited election season, no more electoral college, a larger House, no more Senate, and the popular power to legislate by initiative, along with numerous other possible reforms that could be combined into a coherent package by a Constitutional Convention, and which could be underscored by the individual national right to vote that is scandalously absent from the Constitution now.

An amendment proposed by includes public financing:

"Corporations are not people. They have none of the Constitutional rights of human beings. Corporations are not allowed to give money to any politician, directly or indirectly. No politician can raise over $100 from any person or entity. All elections must be publicly financed."

It's not clear to me, however, that corporate lawyers and former corporate lawyers serving as judges could not construe a great deal of electoral spending as something other than indirect giving to a politician. It would also help if this amendment rejected the notion of spending money as speech. Lawrence Lessig has posted an amendment at that, like this one, creates public financing but limits rather than outlawing private financing.

An amendment proposed by includes a right to vote:

"The right of the individual qualified citizen voter to participate in and directly elect all candidates by popular vote in all pertinent local, state, and federal elections shall not be questioned and the right to vote is limited to individuals. The right to contribute to political campaigns and political parties is held solely by individual citizens. Political campaign and political party contributions shall not exceed an amount reasonably affordable by the average American. The rights of all groups, associations and organizations to other political speech may be regulated by Congress but only as to volume and not content and only to protect the right of the individual voter's voice to be heard."

The strength of this amendment in providing the right to vote and directly elect (thus eliminating the electoral college and allowing national vote counting standards, among other reforms) is, to my mind, weakened by the failure to simply get rid of the money and provide public financing. This is also, of course, not an amendment to remove corporate personhood across the board. Of course, if we had a Congress that would back this amendment, we might have a Congress that would effectively implement it. Lacking either at the moment, I'm more inclined to find a solution that does not rely on Congress to pass a bunch of wise and democratic laws. has posted an amendment that also does not take on corporate personhood but does address election spending quite well, including the money-is-speech nonsense, and rather randomly throws an election day holiday into the same amendment. It does not, however, explain who will pay for elections or mention public financing:

"No person, corporation or business entity of any type, domestic or foreign, shall be allowed to contribute money, directly or indirectly, to any candidate for Federal office or to contribute money on behalf of or opposed to any type of campaign for Federal office. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, campaign contributions to candidates for Federal office shall not constitute speech of any kind as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution or any amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Congress shall set forth a federal holiday for the purposes of voting for candidates for Federal office."

Drawing on the best of all of these drafts and proposals, let me dare to offer the following:


The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

All elections for President and members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate shall be entirely publicly financed. No political contributions shall be permitted to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. No political expenditures shall be permitted in support of any federal candidate, or in opposition to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. The Congress shall, by statute, provide limitations on the amounts and timing of the expenditures of such public funds and provide criminal penalties for any violation of this section.

State and local governments shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for state or local public office or any state or local ballot measure.

The right of the individual U.S. citizen to vote and to directly elect all candidates by popular vote in all pertinent local, state, and federal elections shall not be violated. Citizens will be automatically registered to vote upon reaching the age of 18 or upon becoming citizens at an age above 18, and the right to vote shall not be taken away from them. Votes shall be recorded on paper ballots, which shall be publicly counted at the polling place. Election day shall be a national holiday.

Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press. During a designated campaign period of no longer than six months, free air time shall be provided in equal measure to all candidates for federal office on national, state, or district television and radio stations, provided that each candidate has, during the previous year, received the supporting signatures of at least five percent of their potential voting-age constituents. The same supporting signatures shall also place the candidate's name on the ballot and require their invitation to participate in any public debate among the candidates for the same office.


No doubt, that can be improved upon. All will be possible if people get mobilized. Cities are passing initiatives and resolutions already demanding an end to corporate personhood. Localities are restricting corporate rights. State legislatures are considering throwing their support behind the movement. State courts are in some cases already there. Books are being published, forums held, and groups organized. An effort that must be largely educational is well underway. Events are planned in over 100 cities and towns on January 20th and 21st. Now is the time to join this movement.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

A protester at the Occupy LA camp in front of
City Hall in Los Angeles, on November 27, 2011.

Lynching The Dream
By William Rivers Pitt

This past Monday, this nation celebrated the memory of one of our greatest minds, one of our tallest souls, one of our lost children. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrates the memory of our American Gandhi, a man who dedicated his life - and, in Memphis, gave his life - to the idea that is America: all are created equal.

To be sure, the "Negro" was counted only as 3/5ths of a man in the document that first established the ridiculous experiment that became America, and women were counted not at all, but more than two hundred years have passed since that original ink was put to paper. Ours is a self-improving republic, thanks to the genius of those founding documents. A "Negro" now sits in the highest office of the land, and a woman (who lost the chance to sit in that exalted seat by only an eyelash or two) now commands the most important and influential position in the Federal government, save the one enjoyed by her immediate superior.

Ours is a nation of genius, and of assassins, in equal measure. We reached the moon, cracked the genome code, we feed millions, liberated Europe and Asia from horrific tyranny sixty years ago, and daily export the idea that one should be able to speak their mind without fear of the gulag or the work camp or the executioner's bullet...and yet we do this even as the souls of slaughtered Native Americans, enslaved Africans, and ten times ten thousand Iraqis shriek their condemnation from the blood this nation has spilled in its pursuit of "greatness."

I have been preaching this gospel, in word and deed, for almost twenty years: America is an idea. You can take our cities, our roads, whatever is left of our manufacturing base, our crops, our armies, our weapons, you can take the land itself from Portland, Maine, to Portland, can take it all, and the idea that is America will still remain, as robust and vital as the day it was first conceived. It is the idea that sustains me, the brilliant simplicity of actual equality, and it is the offenses to the idea that I have pledged my life against.

Some will argue that I and those who believe as I do are doomed to failure. Perhaps this is true; the forces arrayed against what I and others of like mind hold true and dear are stupendous, overwhelming, and well-placed in money and in media. Even the "Hope and Change" president of the present maintains and extends the elaborate shame of our past, apparently deaf to the howls of those of us who would have him, and us, do right at long last.

It is what it is, as someone once said. You look for a toehold, a place to grab on to, a front - no matter how meager - from which to wage your own siege, against all that has gone so catastrophically wrong with this old experiment, in trying to do right.

We define ourselves through comparison to that which we oppose. In this, we are seldom lacking in inspiration. Take, for example, this report about the newest way the Powers That Be have chosen to crush and prosecute the Occupy movement. It isn't enough for a prosecutor to charge a protester who has been beaten and Maced by police with assault. No, we're going here:

Sergio Ballesteros, 30, has been involved in Occupy LA since the movement had its California launch in October. But this week, his activism took an abrupt turn when he was arrested on a felony charge - lynching.

Whether the police allegation in this case will be pursued by by California's courts is uncertain. But the felony charge - which carries a potential four-year prison sentence - is the kind of accusation that can change the landscape for would-be demonstrators.

"Felonies really heighten the stakes for the protesters," said Baher Azmy, legal director at Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. "I think in situations where there are mass demonstrations and a confrontation between protesters and police, one always has to be on the lookout for exaggerated interpretations of legal rules that attempt to punish or squelch the protesters."

Lynching: "For many African Americans growing up in the South in the 19th and 20th centuries, the threat of lynching was commonplace. The popular image of an angry white mob stringing a black man up to a tree is only half the story. Lynching, an act of terror meant to spread fear among blacks, served the broad social purpose of maintaining white supremacy in the economic, social and political spheres."

Once upon a time, the (lily-white) power structure used lynching as a means of maintaining control. Now, in the shadow of the holiday celebrating Dr. King's life and work, they are deploying this accusation in order to punish and prosecute people who have exercised the right gifted by this idea, this country, this place of alleged freedom: the right to speak your piece,"to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The idea remains intact, even after so prolonged an assault from so determined a foe.

It is, as ever, worth fighting for. As Dr. King said, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

Dig in, people.

Dig in deep.

The Promised Land is far and wee, and all we have in the meantime is ourselves, our hopes, our dreams, each other, and the promise of an idea that - with our blood, sweat, and toil - may yet be fulfilled.
(c) 2012 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is available from PoliPointPress.

How Fares The Dream?
By Paul Krugman

"I have a dream," declared Martin Luther King, in a speech that has lost none of its power to inspire. And some of that dream has come true. When King spoke in the summer of 1963, America was a nation that denied basic rights to millions of its citizens, simply because their skin was the wrong color. Today racism is no longer embedded in law. And while it has by no means been banished from the hearts of men, its grip is far weaker than once it was. To say the obvious: to look at a photo of President Obama with his cabinet is to see a degree of racial openness - and openness to women, too - that would have seemed almost inconceivable in 1963. When we observe Martin Luther King's Birthday, we have something very real to celebrate: the civil rights movement was one of America's finest hours, and it made us a nation truer to its own ideals.

Yet if King could see America now, I believe that he would be disappointed, and feel that his work was nowhere near done. He dreamed of a nation in which his children "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." But what we actually became is a nation that judges people not by the color of their skin - or at least not as much as in the past - but by the size of their paychecks. And in America, more than in most other wealthy nations, the size of your paycheck is strongly correlated with the size of your father's paycheck.

Goodbye Jim Crow, hello class system.

Economic inequality isn't inherently a racial issue, and rising inequality would be disturbing even if there weren't a racial dimension. But American society being what it is, there are racial implications to the way our incomes have been pulling apart. And in any case, King - who was campaigning for higher wages when he was assassinated - would surely have considered soaring inequality an evil to be opposed.

So, about that racial dimension: In the 1960s it was widely assumed that ending overt discrimination would improve the economic as well as legal status of minority groups. And at first this seemed to be happening. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s substantial numbers of black families moved into the middle class, and even into the upper middle class; the percentage of black households in the top 20 percent of the income distribution nearly doubled.

But around 1980 the relative economic position of blacks in America stopped improving. Why? An important part of the answer, surely, is that circa 1980 income disparities in the United States began to widen dramatically, turning us into a society more unequal than at any time since the 1920s.

Think of the income distribution as a ladder, with different people on different rungs. Starting around 1980, the rungs began moving ever farther apart, adversely affecting black economic progress in two ways. First, because many blacks were still on the lower rungs, they were left behind as income at the top of the ladder soared while income near the bottom stagnated. Second, as the rungs moved farther apart, the ladder became harder to climb.

The Times recently reported on a well-established finding that still surprises many Americans when they hear about it: although we still see ourselves as the land of opportunity, we actually have less intergenerational economic mobility than other advanced nations. That is, the chances that someone born into a low-income family will end up with high income, or vice versa, are significantly lower here than in Canada or Europe.

And there's every reason to believe that our low economic mobility has a lot to do with our high level of income inequality.

Last week Alan Krueger, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, gave an important speech about income inequality, presenting a relationship he dubbed the "Great Gatsby Curve." Highly unequal countries, he showed, have low mobility: the more unequal a society is, the greater the extent to which an individual's economic status is determined by his or her parents' status. And as Mr. Krueger pointed out, this relationship suggests that America in the year 2035 will have even less mobility than it has now, that it will be a place in which the economic prospects of children largely reflect the class into which they were born.

That is not a development we should meekly accept.

Mitt Romney says that we should discuss income inequality, if at all, only in "quiet rooms." There was a time when people said the same thing about racial inequality. Luckily, however, there were people like Martin Luther King who refused to stay quiet. And we should follow their example today. For the fact is that rising inequality threatens to make America a different and worse place - and we need to reverse that trend to preserve both our values and our dreams.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Did you know that the worldwide food shortage that threatens up to five hundred million children could be alleviated at the cost of only one day, only one day, of modern warfare."
~~~ Peter Ustinov

Acid Rain
Outrage at Afghan "Golden Shower" Hides Far Greater Atrocity
By Chris Floyd

As you might expect, Arthur Silber cuts straight to the core -- and also lays out the much broader, much darker, more evil context -- of the latest obscenity in the ongoing atrocity of America's occupation of Afghanistan: the desecration of dead bodies by American soldiers. Below is just an excerpt -- but do read it in full. (And while you're there, give any support you can. Silber's health situation continues to be catastrophic, and he is solely dependent on his website for survival.)

Silber first lays out very carefully the horrific -- and indisputable -- facts of America's many "interventions," stretching back to the 19th century. (Follow his links for a thorough education.) He then goes on:

As the condensed factual recitation above demonstrates, the United States Government recognizes no difference between the lives of Americans and the lives of anyone else anywhere on Earth: all human beings anywhere are to be brutalized, terrorized and murdered as the United States Government chooses.

The repeated actions of the U.S. Government over more than a hundred years -- and its actions today -- place this fact beyond all question. This is the horror that greets you upon waking in the morning; the screams of the victims are the lullaby to which you fall asleep. The horror is the air you breathe. It is the cultural atmosphere that surrounds you. It is the knock on the door.

In the parlance of the day, or what would be that parlance if we spoke more plainly, we can say with accuracy and precision:

The ruling class of the United States pisses on the entire world, just as it pisses on every human being who is not favored by privilege and power.

This is the ultimate foundation of our lives today. This is the truth that will almost never be spoken.

Since we resolutely refuse to acknowledge the actual horror, we neurotically displace our outrage onto matters of comparative triviality. It is certainly disgusting that U.S. Marines pissed on the bodies of several dead Taliban -- but isn't it more disgusting that the Taliban are dead in a criminal war of aggression waged to advance American global hegemony? Rank these items in terms of the disgust you think they merit:

* The systematic destruction of a series of nations and their peoples over a period of many decades.

* The murder of more than a million innocent people in a criminal war.

* The ongoing murders of people who do not (and most commonly could not) threaten the U.S., in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and on and on and on -- in 120 countries around the globe.

* The claim that the U.S. Government has the "right" to murder anyone in the world for whatever reason it chooses -- a "right," I remind you, which the U.S. Government has actualized.

* Pissing on three dead bodies.

We refuse to speak about the first four items, but the guardians of our culture insist that they are sickened and outraged by the last one. Displacement of this kind is never innocent. The purpose is to help those who claim to be disgusted and outraged convince themselves (and us) that they (and thus "we") are "moral," "good" and "decent." They are not. If they were, they would speak about the other items -- and they would speak about them all the time. But they almost never mention them, except to justify them.

The statement from a "Media Officer" for the Marine Corps is a genuine obscenity: "the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps." Under the pressure of the interminable lies of American exceptionalism, joy becomes suffering and life is turned into death, and it is demanded that these perversions be regarded as good. The "Media Officer" engages in another variant of these sickening inversions: "the actions portrayed" are the perfect embodiment of their "core values." The Marine Corps is a key instrumentality used by the United States Government in its wars of criminal aggression against innocent human beings. Nothing they do can be anything other than an obscenity. The fact that they are in Afghanistan at all is an obscenity. The fact that they murder human beings there is an obscenity. That they pissed on the dead bodies is a detail in the context of the policies and actions which give rise to the American presence in that country in the first place.

There is much, much more to this important piece, but I wanted to spread the word about it as soon as possible. Go there, read -- and do not be lulled by the expressions of "moral outrage" by those who gleefully countenance -- and commit -- far greater outrages every single day.
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd


America Wakes Up To The Reality That Inequality Matters
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

If you're part of the one percent, even getting fired comes with a cushion made of eiderdown. GMI, a research company that gets paid to keep an eye on such things, just issued a study headlined, "Twenty-One U.S. CEOs with Golden Parachutes of More than $100 Million." That's each.

The report's authors, Paul Hodgson and Greg Ruel, write, "These 21 CEOs walked away with almost $4 billion in combined compensation. In total, $1.7 billion in equity profits was realized by these CEOs, primarily on the exercise of time-vesting stock options and restricted stock."

This news came the same day as another report, this one from Indiana University, titled, "At Risk: America's Poor during and after the Great Recession." Its researchers conclude, "The number of people living in poverty is increasing and is expected to increase further, despite the recovery. The proportion of people living in poverty has increased by 27% between the year before the onset of the Great Recession (2006) and 2010… Poverty is expected to increase again in 2011 due to the slow pace of the economic recovery, the persistently high rate of unemployment, and the long duration of spells of unemployment."

In fact, the white paper finds that we now have the largest number of long-term unemployed people in the United States since records were first kept in 1948 - four million report they've been unemployed for more than a year. Not necessarily counting the former CEO's gently floating to earth from those golden parachutes.

So no, Mitt Romney, when we say that Americans are waking up to the reality that inequality matters, we're not guilty of "envy" or "class warfare," as you claimed to Matt Lauer on NBC's Today. Nor are we talking about everybody earning the same amount of money - that's the straw man apologists for inequality raise whenever anyone tries to get serious.

We're talking what it takes to live a decent life. If you get sick without health coverage, inequality matters. If you're the only breadwinner and out of work, inequality matters. If your local public library closes down and you can't afford books on your own, inequality matters. If budget cuts mean your child has to pay to play on the school basketball team, sing in the chorus or march in the band, inequality matters. If you lose your job as you're about to retire, inequality matters. If the financial system collapses and knocks the props from beneath your pension, inequality matters.

Neither one of us grew up wealthy, but we went to good public schools, played sandlot ball at a good public park, lived near a good public library, and drove down good public highways - all made possible by people we never met and would never know. There was an unwritten bargain among generations: we didn't all get the same deal, but we did get civilization.

Now the bargain's being shredded. The people we met from Occupy Wall Street get it—you could tell from their slogans. One of the younger protesters wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the words: "The system's not broken. It's fixed." That's right - rigged. And that's why so many are so angry. Not at wealth itself. But at the powerful players who win by fixing the game instead of by honest competition; at the crony capitalists who resort to tricks, loopholes, and cold cash to make sure insiders prosper - and then pull up the ladder behind them.

Americans are waking up to how they're being made to pay with for Wall Street's malfeasance and Washington's complicity - paying with stagnant wages and lost jobs, with slashing cuts to their benefits and social services. To how our financial system profits by moving money around in exotic ways instead of supporting real economic growth. Waking up to the ludicrous Supreme Court decision defining corporation as a person, although it doesn't eat, breath, make love or sing - or take care of children and aging parents. Waking up to how unlimited and often anonymous campaign contributions corrupt our elections; to the fact that if money is speech, no money means no speech. As one demonstrator's sign read: "I couldn't afford a politician, so I bought this sign."

So while police have cleared many Occupy encampments, a collective cry, loud and clear, has gone up from countless voices across the country: Enough's enough.

We won't know for a while if what we're hearing is a momentary cry of pain, or whether it's a movement - like the abolitionists and suffragettes, the populists and workers of another era, or the civil rights movement - that gathers forces until the powers-that-be can no longer sustain the inequality, injustice, and yes, immorality of winner-take-all politics and a winner-take-all economy.
(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...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Marshall,

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 fight to take control of women's bodies, 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 Marshall, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama


Wisconsin Drive Far Exceeds Signature Requirement For Scott Walker's Recall
By John Nichols

Wisconsinites will today jump-start the process of removing the nation's most notorious anti-labor governor when they submit petitions signed by more than enough eligible voters to force Scott Walker to face a new election.

A total of 540,208 valid signatures are required to recall Scott Walker, the Republican governor, who was elected in 2010. The chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin said Monday night that the recall drive would "hit or exceed 720,000 signatures." And there were media reports that the total number of submitted signatures would exceed 1 million.

If that is the case, the movement to oust Walker will have secured the support of a higher percentage of eligible voters than has ever before sought to recall an American governor.

The precise number of signatures will not be known until Tuesday afternoon.

But the figures that are being discussed are ominous for Walker, whose poll numbers collapsed after he attacked the collective-bargaining rights of state, county and municipal workers and teachers in a move last winter that provoked mass demonstrations. Neither Walker nor his foes now express serious doubts about the prospect that Wisconsin's high standard for forcing a recall election will be met.

Petitioners were required to gather 25 percent of the total turnout in the most recent gubernatorial election -- 540,208 valid signatures -- to trigger a new election. That election could take place as early as this spring, although the precise date will not be determined until the petitions have been reviewed and certified by the state Government Accountability Board.

Because the petitions will have so many more signatures that the required number, the likelihood is that opponents of Walker's agenda -- which includes assaults on collective bargaining rights, voting rights and open government, as well as devastating cuts in funding for public education and local services -- will see off expected challenges by the Walker campaign and its team of election law specialists. The process will, of course, take time -- two months, at least, and perhaps longer than that. But most indications are that the challenges raised by Walker and his agents will by acts of political theater, rather a serious threat to the recall process.

That is because these petitions will not be casually submitted; they have been meticulously collected, reviewed and prepared for submission by 25,000 volunteers with the United Wisconsin movement. While some signatures will undoubtedly be disqualified in the review process, and by the Walker team's challenges, even Republican election observers quietly acknowledge that the petitions are likely to pass muster.

The fact that the recall drive will submit petitions with a far greater number of signatures than is required represents, in and of itself, a monumental message for the governor and his minions, as well as the pundit class that so doubted the depth and breadth of the Wisconsin democracy movement.

How monumental will the message be?

If the petitioners submit just 640,000 signatures, that will be more than the total number of Wisconsinites who participated in any gubernatorial election from the year when Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848 until women were allowed to vote in 1920.MO< If they submit just 740,000, that will be more than voted for the winning candidate in any election for governor of Wisconsin from 1848 until 1952.

If they submit just 840,000, that will be more than voted for Wisconsin's most revered and popular governors in the elections that elevated each of them to the state's top job: Robert M. La Follette (1900), Phil La Follette (1930), Gaylord Nelson (1958), Patrick Lucey (1970), Lee Sherman Dreyfus (1978), Tommy Thompson (1986) or Jim Doyle (2006).

If they submit just 940,000, that will be more than the combined number of voters who participated in the 2010 Republican and Democratic primaries for governor of Wisconsin.

If the total submitted Tuesday in Wisconsin is closer to 1,040,000, that would exceed the required number of signatures by 500,000. It would also exceed the number of votes cast for Walker's Democratic opponent(Tom Barrett) in the hotly-contested 2010 election. And it will put the movement in range of the total vote Walker secured in winning the 2010 race.

Best bet? The total number will be on the higher end of the scale.

Sure bet? The level of support for the Wisconsin recall will far exceed that seen in any previous effort to recall an American governor.

Wisconsin's Constitution and statutes establish one of the more demanding sets of requirements in the nation for forcing a recall election. And the number of signatures gathered will far exceed the central requirement.

If the Wisconsin movement does submit 1 million signatures (or any figure near that number), that will represent a significantly higher percentage of a state's eligible voters than has ever before petitioned for the recall of an American governor -- higher than North Dakota, which successfully recalled a governor in 1921; higher than Arizona, where activists gathered enough signatutes in 1987 to initiate a recall election, only to have the targeted governor impeached before the election; higher than in California, which successfully recalled Governor Gray Davis in 2003.

The comparison with the highly-publicized California recall is particularly stark. If the Wisconsin recall movement submits 1 million signatures, that will represent roughly 23 percent of eligible voters. By contrast, the California drive submitted petitions with the names of roughly 7.5 percent of eligible voters.

The greater the total number of signers on the petitions submitted Tuesday, the greater the challenge facing the governor.

There is still a race to be run. It will be long, nasty and expensive. The governor is already raising money from the same wealthy Texans who funded the "Swift Boat" ads that attacked Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004 and that funded Rick Perry's lavish -- if not particularly successful -- presidential campaign this year.

But this recall drive is already the greatest popular democracy movement in Wisconsin history, and one of the greatest challenges to political power in American history.

The signals could not be stronger.

The Wisconsin democracy movement is real.

And Scott Walker should be afraid, very afraid, of the opposition he has unleashed in a state where it is now clear that the people are prepared to defend their rights, and their future.
(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.

Your God Is My God
What Mitt Romney Could Say to Win the Republican Nomination
By Sam Harris

Governor Mitt Romney has yet to persuade the religious conservatives in his party that he is fit to be President of the United States. However, he could probably appease the Republican base and secure his party's nomination if he made the following remarks prior to the South Carolina Primary:

My fellow Republicans,

I would like to address your lingering concerns about my candidacy. Some of you have expressed doubts about my commitment to a variety of social causes-and some have even questioned my religious faith. Tonight, I will speak from the heart, about the values that unite us.

First, on the subject of gay rights, let me make my position perfectly clear: I am as sickened by homosexuality as any man or woman in this country. It is true that I wrote a letter in 1994 where I said that "we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern," and for this I have been mocked and pilloried, especially by Evangelicals. But ask yourselves, what did I mean by "equality"? I meant that all men and women must be given an equal chance to live a righteous life.

Yes, I once reached out to the Log Cabin Republicans-the gays in our party. Many people don't know that there are gay Republicans, but it is true. Anyway, in a letter to this strange group, I pledged to do more for gay rights than Senator Edward Kennedy ever would.

Well, Senator Kennedy is now deceased-so I don't have to do much to best him and keep my promise. But, more to the point, ask yourselves, what did I mean by "rights"? I meant that every man and woman has a right to discover the love of Jesus Christ and win life eternal. What else could I have meant? Seriously. What could be more important than eternal life? Jesus thought we all had a right to it. And I agree with him. And I think we should amend our Constitution to safeguard this right for everyone by protecting the sanctity of marriage.

I don't have to tell you what is at stake. If gays are allowed to marry, it will debase the institution for the rest of us and perhaps loosen its bonds. Liberals scoff at this. They wonder how my feelings for my wife Ann could be diminished by the knowledge that a gay couple somewhere just got married. What an odd question.

On abortion-some say I have changed my views. It is true that I once described myself as "pro-choice." But again, ask yourselves, what did I mean? I meant that every woman should be free to make the right choice. What is the right choice? To have as many children as God bestows. I once visited the great nation of Nigeria and a met woman who was blessed to have had 24 children-fully two-thirds of which survived beyond the age of five. The power of God is beyond our understanding. And this woman's faith was a sight to behold.

Finally, I would like to address the scandalous assertion, once leveled by the Texas Pastor, Robert Jeffress, that my church-the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-is "a cult." In fairness, he almost got that right-the LDS Church is a culture. A culture of faith and goodness and reverence for God Almighty. Scientology is a cult-this so-called religion was just made up out of whole cloth by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. But the teachings of my Church derive directly from the prophetic experience of its founder, Joseph Smith Jr., who by the aid of sacred seer stones, the Urim and Thummim, was able to decipher the final revelations of God which were written in reformed Egyptian upon a set golden plates revealed to him by the angel Moroni. Many of you are probably unfamiliar with this history-and some of you may even doubt its truth.

I am now speaking to the base of our party, to the 60 percent who believe that God created this fine universe, and humanity in its present form, at some point in the last 10,000 years. Let me make one thing absolutely clear to you: I believe what you believe. Your God is my God. I believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah and the Son of God, crucified for our sins, and resurrected for our salvation. And I believe that He will return to earth to judge the living and the dead.

But my Church offers a further revelation: We believe that when Jesus Christ returns to earth, He will return, not to Jerusalem, or to Baghdad, but to this great nation-and His first stop will be Jackson County, Missouri. The LDS Church teaches that the Garden of Eden itself was in Missouri! Friends, it is a marvelous vision. Some Christians profess not to like this teaching. But I ask you, where would you rather the Garden of Eden be, in the great state of Missouri or in some hellhole in the Middle East?

In conclusion, I want to assure you all, lest there be any doubt, that I share your vision for this country and for the future of our world. Some say that we should focus on things like energy security, wealth inequality, epidemic disease, global climate change, nuclear proliferation, genocide, and other complex problems for which scientific knowledge, rational discussion, and secular politics are the best remedy. But you and I know that the problem we face is deeper and simpler and far more challenging. Since time immemorial humanity has been misled by Satan, the Father of Lies.

I trust we understand one another better now. And I hope you know how honored I will be to represent our party in the coming Presidential election.

God bless this great land, the United States of America.

(c) 2012 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Cal Grondahl ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Southern Fried Vultures
By Will Durst

Surely you're longing to hear some scathingly humorous remarks concerning the New Hampshire Primary. And it would be our honor to relate a few pithily amusing jibes about 2012's primary Primary. Only, sorry. Not going to happen. Can't be done. NH is so… over and done with. Day before yesterday. Such archaic news, you probably read about it in some ancient medium like a broadsheet gazette with sepia toned daguerreotypes.

Oh sure, in the distant future, historians may well remark upon Willard Mitt Romney's romp. And what a righteous romp it was. With the grimacing refugee from Madame Tussaud's Wax Works avenging his 2008 defeat to John McCain by beating the rest of the field like a 4 year old with a dime store drum on Christmas morning to become the first Republican non- incumbent to sweep both the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. And that plus 2 and a half bucks gets you a cup of coffee.

Alas, the political circus has long since moved on. Some of the camps were gone pre- already. Didn't even bother to hang around Manchester for the actual count and amount, so intent were they to seek their second wind in the warmth of the southern embrace primary action in South Carolina on the 21st and Florida 10 days later.

Hustling down, over their shoulders, the back of the pack halfheartedly tried to dismiss the former Massachusetts Governor's triumph in the Granite State as a "Isn't it Nice to See the Boy Next Door Doing so Well" kind of neighborly thing. But that proved a minor distraction and everyone knows the stakes for the final Anybody But Mitt tent need to pitched now. Today. If not sooner. Deep into the fertile soil of the Palmetto State.

This Southern Fried Maginot Line is the last best chance to jump on the Mittmeister and the whole B- Team is lacing up their steel- toed boots and pounding nails into their soles as we speak. South Carolina is where Bush derailed McCain in 2000: and to say the above the belt tactics were outnumbered by those below the belt is both accurate and lame.

To buttress his own personal Alamo, Newt Gingrich picked up 5 million dollars from a single donor, to be funneled directly into ads to do to Romney what Romney did to him in Iowa. Cover your eyes kids: this won't be pretty. The guy who famously bragged, "I like to fire people," Mr. Bain Capital, is about to bump up against an entire slate of candidates not to mention a state, that feels the same way.

Not Newt himself, but Newt's Super PAC which has absolutely no connection to Newt. None. Whatsoever. At all. Totally separate entity. Super PAC. Such a guy thing. "My Super PAC is bigger than your Super PAC." Super PAC envy. And the candidate with the biggest Super PAC gets the girl.

Rick Perry has joined Gingrich in running a series of grisly ads assailing the front- runner as a vulture capitalist; guaranteed to rile Willard up so bad his talons will be itching for more carrion. And no, I'm not talking about Rick Santorum. The ads are so vicious that if the Barack Obama Re- election Campaign possessed an ounce of common human decency, they'd chip in a couple bucks. Then again, maybe they are.
(c) 2012 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, "The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing."

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