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In This Edition

Naomi Klein goes on, "The Search For BP's Oil."

Uri Avnery considers, "The Crown And The Coals."

Ralph Nader is, "Recharging The UAW."

Randall Amster says, "Arizona's Long Dark Night Continues."

Jim Hightower finds, "Cocky Tom Delay Gets Three Years."

Helen Thomas is, "Defending ‘Obamacare.’"

James Donahue discovers, "Voter Redistricting Wars About To Begin."

Robert Scheer observes as, "Obama Pulls A Clinton."

Chris Floyd lectures on, "Speech Pathology."

Matthew Rothschild reports, "CBS Shamelessly Stands By Wife-Beater Charlie Sheen."

Paul Krugman explains the GOP thought process, "The War On Logic."

Mark Rudd goes from, "From Terrorism To Nonviolence."

David Michael Green reviews, "Christina Green's Civics Lesson."

New RNC head Reince Priebus wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald uncovers more acts of treason by Obamahood in, "The U.S. Role In Gulet Mohamed's Detention."

Mike Wrathell returns after a trip to the auto show with, "China’s Road To Electrification Unveiled At The 2011 NAIAS."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Landover Baptist Church announces, "Church Struggles With Tithing Categories in Light of American Express "Black Card"" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Start Questioning Authority."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Vic Harville, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Mo Paul, Ted Rall, Tony Auth, Clay Bennett, The Landover Baptist Church, Jeff Danziger, Bus World.Org, A.P., The Bettmann Archive, The United Auto Workers 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."

Start Questioning Authority
Before the authorities start questioning you
By Ernest Stewart

"Respect My Authoritah!" ~~~ Eric Cartman

"I strongly favor diversity of ownership of outlets and protection against the excessive concentration of power in the hands of any one corporation, interest or small group. I strongly believe that all citizens should be able to receive information from the broadest range of sources." ~~~ President Barack Obama

"Feingold said that it would be good if we captured Obama in the battlefield setting and that he suffered the 'ultimate punishment' there. I find this point to be completely disgusting. I hope he has an explanation as to why he thinks Obama ought not to be executed..." ~~~ Reince Priebus

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

Obamahood welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington by lecturing Hu on human rights in China. Our Nobel Peace Prize-winning war criminal told the Chinese leader:

"History shows that societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful and the world is more just when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being."

Considering those words flowed from Barry's cake hole I find it astounding as he, even more than Hu, is guilty of violating universal rights in our various Imperial wars all around the planet. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, Mr. President. Sure, secret Republican "No Work" lists have been a tradition in this country for over 60 years, transformed today into secret "No Fly" lists, both of which have been used against anyone that disagrees or challenges our corpo-rat power structure!

The various and sundry acts of treason that were committed under both Bushes, Clinton and Ray Guns have been adopted and made his own under Obamahood and yet, no one has dared to question any of the above for these acts. Had you or I committed any of these acts, we would have been made an example of. I started to say tried by a jury of our peers, in a court of law, but those are no longer options under the new unwritten Constitution. Just the President's signature on a death warrant is enough now-a-daze to seal your fate!

Why hasn't there been a huge protest of Obama's self-given ability to murder US citizens without charge, trial by a jury of his peers before a US court of law? What gives you the right? You have a JD from Harvard, Mr. President; so there can be no doubt that you know and understand the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And since you know, you are in direct violation of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, a constitution that you swore to uphold and protect; where do you get off?

What gives gives you the right to start or continue illegal wars of aggression without the "will" of Congress? You may recall that every war since WW II has been, according by our old Constitution, illegal. Before Korea, the President had to go before Congress and ask for war to be declared by them and only with an act of war could we go to war. Of course, not only the US laws are in play here, but also countless treaties that we are signatories to are being violated. Again, Mr. President, you swore an oath before your god to uphold the Constitution, a part of which clearly states:

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution, (sometimes referred to as the War Powers Clause,) vests in the Congress the exclusive power to declare war, i.e.,:
Congress shall have Power... "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water."

Ergo, your current illegal, immoral, traitorous wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and only Zeus knows where else are in direct violation, once again, of the US Constitution, so what gives you the right, Mr. President?

Also, when it comes to spying on its citizens, China try as she might, isn't worthy to carry our luggage, so why is the pot calling the kettle black? The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits your reading our every email, snail mail and text message. It also is illegal to listen in to our every phone call without a court order, and yet you record every word, every keystroke to the tune of one and three quarter billion communications of US citizen communicating within the United States every day! What gives you the right to do that, Mr. President?

That's just a drop in the bucket, America, of what Barry and his pals are doing to us every day in direct violation of US laws! If this isn't the time to question our fearless leaders, then when is the time? The lap dog press won't do it, so it's up to you and me to do their jobs and question authority!

In Other News

Well those rascally rascals over at the Federal Communications Commission have been at it again. This time they okayed the merger of Comcast, the largest Cable provider in the country, and one of the biggest networks, i.e., NBC. This little act of treason by the Commission and the Just-us Department (who had the final say on it) will result in fewer jobs, higher cable bills, less points of view and a virtual entertainment monopoly. You may recall that the FCC is supposed to be protecting us from this type of disaster and not helping it along! Here's the FCC announcement and here's what Bernie Sanders said about it.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement today after the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice approved Comcast's bid to take control of NBC Universal from General Electric:

“The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice okayed the merger of Comcast, the nation’s largest distributor of video services, and NBC Universal, Inc., one of the nation’s largest producers of video content. In approving this merger, these agencies ignored their mandates to protect the public interest and preserve competition, and, instead, caved to an all-out lobbying campaign by Comcast and its political allies. Commissioner Michael Copps, who has long warned against the dangers of media consolidation, was the lone dissenting voice at the FCC.

“Needless to say, I am deeply disappointed in this decision. At a time when a small number of giant media corporations already control what the American people see, hear, and read, we do not need another conglomerate with more control over the production and distribution of news and other programming. The mega-merger of Comcast and NBC Universal will lead to less local news coverage, fewer points of view, and reduced competition for viewers and advertising, not just in Comcast’s network but throughout the country.

“The merger will also make it harder for consumers to afford cable programming. According to the FCC’s former chief economist, consumers will pay $2.4 billion more in cable bills as a result of the merger. As the country struggles to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I find it unconscionable that millions of consumers will spend more for less, paying higher rates while receiving virtually no tangible benefits.”

Now isn't that the American way? Isn't that exactly how it works? You get less but have the honor of paying more for it and the Washington shysters both in and out of government destroy a bit more of our country while enriching themselves and the ruling 1%. Are you experiencing a deja vu all over again America? Well, I am!

And Finally

Just when you thought those lovable knuckle heads over at the RNC couldn't possibly get any sillier, they come along and prove you wrong. They've decided to replace their fearless leader who just gave them the House back, Michael Steele, with the Wisconsin RNC head Reince (Rebus) Priebus as it's just come to their attention that Michael Steele is black! Imagine that!

Reince, who can't seem to tell the difference between Obama and Osama, and keeps calling for the execution of Barry--a slip of the tongue mistake? I think not! More like a Freudian slip! So just in case Reince still doesn't get it, Osama is the one that has been working with the "Crime Family Bush"™ for years and is therefore a friend. Obama is the one that has also been working with the "Crime Family Bush"™ for years too, but alas, is black and hence, the enemy! I hope that clears things up, Reince!

Reince hails from the state of Wisconsin, home of so many other deep political thinkers! Brain trusts like Paul Ryan and Joseph McCarthy! One good thing we can look forward to is the many gaffes and errors from a speaker who makes Dubya sound like a Oxford English professor by comparison and should keep us laughing through the tears of the future Rethuglican programs and pogroms! No matter what his critics say about Reince, I think he epitomizes the typical Rethuglican, don't you?

Keepin' On

Back in December 2000, when the coup d'état went down and I decided that I must do something about that act of treason; I decided to start Issues & Alibis magazine. The name comes from the long running ABC TV show "Issues and Answers." I just changed the name to reflect reality, as we never got a straight answer from that TV program!

Although most of the money that I had made from my radio and nightclub daze had been squandered on a couple of ex-wives, I still had a nice chunk in the bank, so I never considered charging any fee for my services and I could afford to pick up the cost for publishing. The point was to get the truth out to anyone, especially the poor folks, at least those who could get on-line to find it! So for the first 5 years of the magazine, I never asked the readership for a dime, nor did I consider running any advertisements.

When my funds started to run out, and I lost my space because of my daring to challenge the "Crime Family Bush"™ I somehow managed to pick up a sponsor, who I've had ever since, that picks up half of the tab. However, that left the other half to pay for, and it soon came down to either eating or publishing; so I've had to come to you, hat-in-hand ever since to keep publishing. I've never made a penny for my own work which in the beginning was some 80 hours a week and now is about 45 or 50 depending on the individual week.

Trouble is, I've never been very good at begging; and, of course, the economy has gone to Hell, which makes it even tougher! Ergo, here I am again begging for alms, which to me is incredibly embarrassing, not to mention not very effective! Still, since I believe that what I am doing is very important work, I will continue as long as I can, bringing you the news and the truth, and hoping that those of you who agree with what I'm doing and still have a job will help us out with whatever you can. Please click on the donation links above or below and follow the instructions, if you would be so kind! Your children and your grandchildren will thank you for joining me in the fight to get our republic back!


01-09-1939 ~ 01-15-2011
Thanks for the films!

04-17-1934 ~ 01-17-2011
Thanks for the music!

11-09-1915 ~ 01-18-2011
Thanks for the corp!


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) 2011 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 10 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

The Search For BP's Oil
By Naomi Klein

"Dolphins off the bow!"

I race to the front of the WeatherBird II, a research vessel owned by the University of South Florida. There they are, doing their sleek silvery thing, weaving between translucent waves, disappearing under the boat, reappearing in perfect formation on the other side.

After taking my fill of phone video (and very pleased not to have dropped the device into the Gulf of Mexico), I bump into Gregory Ellis, one of the junior scientists aboard.

"Did you see them?" I ask excitedly.

"You mean the charismatic megafauna?" he sneers. "I'll pass."

Ouch. Here I was thinking everyone loves dolphins, especially oceanographers. But it turns out that these particular marine scientists have issues with dolphins. And sea turtles. And pelicans. It's not that they don't like them (a few of the grad students took Flipper pictures of their own). It's just that the charismatic megafauna tend to upstage the decidedly less charismatic creatures under their microscopes. Like the bacteria and phytoplankton that live in the water column, for instance, or 500-year-old coral and the tube worms that burrow next to them, or impossibly small squid the size of a child's fingernail.

Normally these academics would be fine without our fascination. They weren't looking for glory when they decided to study organisms most people either can't see or wish they hadn't. But when the Deepwater Horizon exploded in April 2010, our collective bias toward cute big creatures started to matter a great deal. That's because the instant the spill-cam was switched off and it became clear that there would be no immediate mass die-offs among dolphins and pelicans, at least not on the scale of the Exxon Valdez spill deaths, most of us were pretty much on to the next telegenic disaster. (Chilean miners down a hole-and they've got video diaries? Tell us more!)

It didn't help that the government seemed determined to help move us along. Just three weeks after the wellhead was capped, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) came out with its notorious "oil budget," which prompted White House energy czar Carol Browner to erroneously claim that "the vast majority of the oil is gone." The White House corrected the error (the fate of much of that oil is simply unknown), but the budget nonetheless inspired a flood of stories about how "doom-mongers" had exaggerated the spill's danger and, as the British Daily Mail tabloid indignantly put it, unfairly wronged "one of Britain's greatest companies."

More recently, in mid-December, Unified Area Command, the joint government-BP body formed to oversee the spill response, came out with a fat report that seemed expressly designed to close the book on the disaster. Mike , BP's Unified Area Commander, summed up its findings like this: "The beaches are safe, the water is safe, and the seafood is safe." Never mind that just four days earlier, more than 8,000 pounds of tar balls were collected on Florida's beaches-and that was an average day. Or that gulf residents and cleanup workers continue to report serious health problems that many scientists believe are linked to dispersant and crude oil exposure.

By the end of the year, investors were celebrating BP's stock rebound, and the company was feeling so emboldened that it revealed plans to challenge the official estimates of how much oil gushed out of its broken wellhead, claiming that the figures are as much as 50 percent too high. If BP succeeds, it could save the company as much as $10.5 billion in damages. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has just given the go-ahead for sixteen deepwater projects to resume in the gulf, well before the Oil Spill Commission's safety recommendations have a hope of being implemented.

For the scientists aboard the WeatherBird II, the recasting of the Deepwater Horizon spill as a good-news story about a disaster averted has not been easy to watch. Over the past seven months, they, along with a small group of similarly focused oceanographers from other universities, have logged dozens of weeks at sea in cramped research vessels, carefully measuring and monitoring the spill's impact on the delicate and little-understood ecology of the deep ocean. And these veteran scientists have seen things that they describe as unprecedented. Among their most striking findings are graveyards of recently deceased coral, oiled crab larvae, evidence of bizarre sickness in the phytoplankton and bacterial communities, and a mysterious brown liquid coating large swaths of the ocean floor, snuffing out life underneath. All are worrying signs that the toxins that invaded these waters are not finished wreaking havoc and could, in the months and years to come, lead to consequences as severe as commercial fishery collapses and even species extinction.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the most outspoken scientists doing this research come from Florida and Georgia, coastal states that have so far managed to avoid offshore drilling. Their universities are far less beholden to Big Oil than, say, Louisiana State University, which has received tens of millions from the oil giants. Again and again these scientists have used their independence to correct the official record about how much oil is actually out there, and what it is doing under the waves.

One of the most prominent scientists on the BP beat is David Hollander, a marine geochemist at the University of South Florida. Hollander's team was among the first to discover the underwater plumes in May and the first to trace the oil definitively to BP's well. In August, amid the claims that the oil had magically disappeared, Hollander and his colleagues came back from a cruise with samples proving that oil was still out there and still toxic to many marine organisms, just invisible to the human eye. This research, combined with his willingness to bluntly contradict federal agencies, has made Hollander something of a media darling. When he is not at sea, there is a good chance he is in front of a TV camera. In early December, he agreed to combine the two, allowing me and filmmaker Jacqueline Soohen to tag along on a research expedition in the northern Gulf of Mexico, east of the wellhead.


"Let's go fishing for oil," Hollander says with a broad smile as we get on the boat. A surfer and competitive bike racer in his youth, he is still something of a scrappy daredevil at 52. On the last cruise Hollander slipped and seriously injured his shoulder, and he has been ordered to take it easy this time. But within seconds of being on deck he is hauling equipment and lashing down gear. This is a particularly important task today because a distinctly un-Floridian cold front has descended and winds are whipping up ten-foot swells in the gulf. Getting to our first research station is supposed to take twenty-four hours, but it takes thirty instead. The entire time, the 115-foot WeatherBird II dips and heaves, and so do a few members of the eleven-person scientific team (and yeah, OK, me too).

Luckily, just as we arrive at our destination, about ninety nautical miles from the wellhead, the clouds part and the sea calms. A frenzy of floating science instantly erupts. First to be lowered overboard is the rosette, a cluster of four-foot-high metal canisters that collect water samples from different depths. When the rosette clangs back on deck, the crew swarms around its nozzles, filling up dozens of sample bottles. It looks like they are milking a metal cow. Carefully labeled bottles in tow, they are off to the makeshift laboratory to run the water through an assembly line of tests. Is it showing signs of hydrocarbons? Does it fluoresce under UV light? Does it carry the chemical signature of petroleum? Is it toxic to bacteria and phytoplankton?

A few hours later it's time for the multi-corer. When the instrument, twelve feet high and hoisted by a powerful winch, hits the ocean floor, eight clear cylinders shoot down into the sediment, filling up with sand and mud. The samples are examined under microscopes and UV lights, or spun with centrifugal force, then tested for signs of oil and dispersant. This routine will be repeated at nine more locations before the cruise is done. Each stop takes an average of ten hours, and the scientists are able to sneak in only a couple of hours of sleep between stations.

The WeatherBird II is returning to the precise coordinates where University of South Florida researchers found toxic water and sediment in May and August. At the second stop, Mary Abercrombie, who is testing the water under UV light in a device called a spectrofluorometer, sees something that looks like hydrocarbons from a sample collected seventy meters down-shallow enough to be worrying. But the other tests don't find much of anything. Hollander speculates that this may be because we are still in relatively shallow water and the recent storms have mixed everything up. MU<"We'll probably see more when we go deeper."

Being out in the open gulf today, I find it is impossible not to be awed by nature's capacity to cleanse and renew itself. At the height of the disaster, I had looked down at these waters from a Coast Guard aircraft. What I saw changed me. I realized that I had always counted on the ocean to be a kind of outer space on earth, too mysterious and vast to be fundamentally altered by human activity, no matter how reckless. Now it was covered to the horizon in gassy puddles like the floor of an auto repair shop. Shouting over the roaring engines, a fresh-faced Coast Guard spokesman assured the journalists on board that within months, all the oil would be gone, broken down by dispersants into bite-size morsels for oil-eating microbes, which would, after their petroleum feast, promptly and efficiently disappear-no negative side effects foreseen.

At the time I couldn't believe he could feed us this line with a straight face. Yet here that body of water is, six months later: velvety smooth and, according to the tests conducted on the WeatherBird II, pretty clean, at least so far. Maybe the ocean really is the world's most powerful washing machine: throw in enough dispersant (the petrochemical industry's version of Tide), churn it around in the waves for long enough, and it can get even the toughest oil spills out.

"I despise that message-it's blindly simplified," says Ian MacDonald, a celebrated oceanographer at Florida State University. The gulf is not all better now. We don't know what we've done to it."

MacDonald is arguably the scientist most responsible for pressuring the government to dramatically increase its estimates of how much oil was coming out of BP's well. He points to the massive quantity of toxins that gushed into these waters in a span of three months (by current estimates, at least 4.1 million barrels of oil and 1.8 million gallons of dispersants). It takes time for the ocean to break down that amount of poison, and before that could happen, those toxins came into direct contact with all kinds of life-forms. Most of the larger animals-adult fish, dolphins, whales-appear to have survived the encounter relatively unharmed. But there is mounting evidence that many smaller creatures-bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, multiple species of larvae, as well as larger bottom dwellers-were not so lucky. These organisms form the base of the ocean's food chain, providing sustenance for the larger animals, and some grow up to be the commercial fishing stocks of tomorrow. One thing is certain: if there is trouble at the base, it won't stay there for long.

According to experiments performed by scientists at the University of South Florida, there is good reason for alarm. When it was out in the gulf in August, the WeatherBird II collected water samples from multiple locations. Back at the university lab, John Paul, a professor of biological oceanography, introduced healthy bacteria and phytoplankton to those water samples and watched what happened. What he found shocked him. In water from almost half of the locations, the responses of the organisms "were genotoxic or mutagenic"-which means the oil and dispersants were not only toxic to these organisms but caused changes to their genetic makeup. Changes like these could manifest in a number of ways: tumors and cancers, inability to reproduce, a general weakness that would make these organisms more susceptible to prey-or something way weirder.

Before we left on the cruise, I interviewed Paul in his lab; he explained that what was so "scary" about these results is that such genetic damage is "heritable," meaning the mutations can be passed on. "It's something that can stand around for a very long time in the Gulf of Mexico," Paul said. "You may be genetically altering populations of fish, or zooplankton, or shrimp, or commercially important organisms.... Is the turtle population going to have more tumors on them? We really don't know. And it'll take three to five years to actually get a handle on that."

The big fear is a recurrence of what happened in Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez spill. Some pink salmon, likely exposed to oil in their larval stage, started showing serious abnormalities, including "rare mutations that caused salmon to grow an extra fin or an enlarged heart sac," according to a report in Nature. And then there were the herring. For three years after the spill, herring stocks were robust. But in the fourth year, populations plummeted by almost two-thirds in Prince William Sound and many were "afflicted by a mysterious sickness, characterised by red lesions and superficial bleeding," as Reuters reported at the time. The next year, there were so few fish, and they were so sick, that the herring fishery in Prince William Sound was closed; stocks have yet to recover fully. Since Alaskan herring live for an average of eight years, many scientists were convinced that the crash of the herring stocks was the result of herring eggs and larvae being exposed to oil and toxins years earlier, with the full effects manifesting themselves only when those generations of herring matured (or failed to mature).

Could a similar time bomb be ticking in the gulf? Ian MacDonald at Florida State is convinced that the disturbances beginning to register at the bottom of the food chain are "almost certain to ripple up through other species."

Here is what we know so far. When researchers from Oregon State University tested the waters off Grand Isle, Louisiana, in June, they found that the presence of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) had increased fortyfold in just one month. Kim Anderson, the toxicologist leading the study, described the discovery as "the largest PAH change I've seen in over a decade of doing this." June is spawning season in the gulf-the period, beginning in April, when enormous quantities of eggs and larvae drift in nearly invisible clouds in the open waters: shrimp, crabs, grouper, bluefin tuna, snapper, mackerel, swordfish. For western Atlantic bluefin, which finish spawning in June and are fished as far away as Prince Edward Island, these are the primary spawning grounds.

John Lamkin, a fisheries biologist for NOAA, has admitted that "any larvae that came into contact with the oil doesn't have a chance." So, if a cloud of bluefin eggs passed through a cloud of contaminated water, that one silent encounter could well help snuff out a species already on the brink. And tuna is not the only species at risk. In July Harriet Perry, a biologist at the University of Southern Mississippi, found oil droplets in blue crab larvae, saying that "in my forty-two years of studying crabs I've never seen this." Tellingly, this vulnerability of egg and larvae to oil does not appear to have been considered when the Macondo well was approved for drilling. In the initial exploration plan that BP submitted to the government, the company goes on at length about how adult fish and shellfish will be able to survive a spill by swimming away or by "metaboliz[ing] hydrocarbons." The words "eggs" and "larvae" are never mentioned.


Already there is evidence of at least one significant underwater die-off. In November Penn State biologist Charles Fisher led a NOAA-sponsored expedition that found colonies of ancient sea fans and other coral coated in brown sludge, 1,400 meters down. Nearly all the coral in the area was "dead or in the process of dying," Fisher told me. And he echoed something I heard from many other scientists: in a career of studying these creatures, he has never seen anything like this. There were no underwater pools of oil nearby, but the working theory is that subsea oil and dispersants must have passed through the area like some kind of angel of death.

We may never know what other organisms were trapped in a similarly lethal cloud, and that points to a broader problem: now that we are beyond the oil-covered-birds phase, establishing definitive links between the spill and whatever biogenetic or ecological disturbances are in store is only going to get harder. For instance, we know the coral died because of all the bodies: ghostly coral corpses litter the ocean floor near the wellhead, and Fisher is running tests to see if he can find a definitive chemical link to BP's oil. But that sort of forensics simply won't be possible for the much smaller life forms that are even more vulnerable to BP's toxic cocktail. When larval tuna or squid die, even in huge numbers, they leave virtually no trace. Hollander uses the phrase "cryptic mortality" to describe these phantom die-offs.

All this uncertainty will work in BP's favor if the worst-case scenarios eventually do materialize. Indeed, concerns about a future collapse may go some way toward explaining why BP (with the help of Kenneth Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility) has been in a mad rush to settle out of court with fishermen, offering much-needed cash now in exchange for giving up the right to sue later. If a significant species of fish like bluefin does crash three or even ten years from now (bluefin live for fifteen to twenty years), the people who took these deals will have no legal recourse. Even if a case did end up in court, beating BP would be tricky. As part of the damage assessment efforts, NOAA scientists are conducting studies that monitor the development of eggs and larvae exposed to contaminated water. But as Exxon's lawyers argued in the Valdez case, wild fish stocks are under a lot of pressure these days-without a direct chemical link to BP's oil, who's to say what dealt the fatal blow?

In a way, the lawyers will have a point, if a disingenuous one. As Ian MacDonald explains, it is precisely the multiple stresses on marine life that continue to make the spill so dangerous. "We don't appreciate the extent to which most populations are right on the edge of survival. It's very easy for populations to go extinct." He points to the sperm whales-there are only about 1,600 of them in the northern Gulf of Mexico, a small enough population that the unnatural death of just a few whales (which breed infrequently and later in life) can endanger the community's survival. Acoustic research has found that some sperm whales responded to the spill by leaving the area, a development that oceanographers find extremely worrying.

One of the things I am learning aboard the WeatherBird II, watching these scientists test for the effects of invisible oil on invisible organisms, is not to trust my eyes. For a few months last year, when BP's oil formed patterns on the surface of these waters that looked eerily like blood, industrial society's impact on the ocean was easy for all to see. But when the oil sank, it didn't disappear; it just joined so much else that the waves are hiding, so many other secrets we count on the ocean to keep. Like the 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico, and the network of unmonitored underwater pipelines that routinely corrode and leak. Like the sewage that cruise ships are entirely free to dump, under federal law, so long as they are more than three miles from shore. Like a dead zone the size of New Jersey. Scientists at Dalhousie University in Halifax predict that if we continue our rates of overfishing, every commercial fish stock in the world could crash by midcentury. And a study published in Nature in July found that global populations of phytoplankton have declined about 40 percent since 1950, linked with "increasing sea surface temperatures;" coral is bleaching and dying for the same reason. And on and on. The ocean's capacity to heal itself from our injuries is not limitless. Yet the primary lesson being extracted from the BP disaster seems to be that "mother nature" can take just about anything we throw at her.

As the WeatherBird II speeds off to the third research station, I find myself thinking about something New Orleans civil rights attorney Tracie Washington told me the last time I was on the Gulf Coast. "Stop calling me resilient," she said. "I'm not resilient. Because every time you say, 'Oh, they're resilient,' you can do something else to me." Washington was talking about the serial disasters that have battered New Orleans. But if the poisoned and perforated gulf could talk, I think it might say the same thing.

On day three of the cruise, things start to get interesting. We are now in the DeSoto Canyon, about thirty nautical miles from the wellhead. The ocean floor is 1,000 meters down, our deepest station yet. Another storm is rolling in, and as the team pulls up the multi-corer, waves swamp the deck. It's clear as soon as we see the mud that something is wrong. Rather than the usual gray with subtle gradations, the cylinders are gray and then, just below the top layer, abruptly turn chocolaty brown. The consistency of the top brown layer is sort of fluffy, what the scientists refer to as "flocculent."

A grad student splits one of the cores lengthwise and lays it out on deck. That's when we see it clearly: separating the gray and brown layers-and looking remarkably like chocolate parfait-is a thick line of black gunk. "That's not normal," Hollander declares. He grabs the mud samples and flags Charles Kovach, a senior scientist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. They head to the darkest place on the boat-one of the tiny sleeping quarters crammed with bunk beds. In the pitch darkness they hold an ultraviolet light over the sample, and within seconds we are looking at silvery particles twinkling up from the mud. This is a good indication of oil traces. Hollander saw something similar on the August cruise and was able not only to identify hydrocarbons but to trace them to BP's Macondo well.

Sure enough, after the sediment is put through a battery of chemical tests, Hollander has his results. "Without question, it's petroleum hydrocarbons." The thick black layers are, he says, "rich in hydrocarbons," with the remains of plants and bacteria mixed in. The fluffy brown top layer has less oil and more plant particles, but the oil is definitely there. It will be weeks or even months before Hollander can trace the oil to BP's well, but since he has found BP's oil at this location in the DeSoto Canyon before, that confirmation is likely. If we are fishing for oil, as Hollander had joked, this is definitely a big one.

It strikes me that there is a satisfying irony in the fact that Hollander's cruise found oil that BP would have preferred to stay buried, given that the company indirectly financed the expedition. BP has pledged to spend $500 million on research as part of its spill response and made an early payout of $30 million. But in contrast to the company's much publicized attempts to buy off scientists with lucrative consulting contracts, BP agreed to hand this first tranche over to independent institutions in the gulf, like the Florida Institute of Oceanography, which could allocate it through a peer-review process-no strings attached. Hollander was one of the lucky recipients. This is a model for research in the gulf: paid for by the oil giants that profit so much from its oil and gas, but with no way for them to influence outcomes.

At several more research stations near the wellhead, the WeatherBird II finds the ocean floor coated in similar muck. The closer the boat gets to the wellhead, the more black matter there is in the sediment. And Hollander is disturbed. The abnormal layer of sediment is up to five times thicker than it was when he collected samples here in August. The oil's presence on the ocean floor didn't diminish with time; it grew. And, he points out, "the layer is distributed very widely," radiating far out from the wellhead.

But what concerns him even more are the thick black lines. "That black horizon doesn't happen," he says. "It's consistent with a snuff-out." Healthy sea-floor mud is porous and well oxygenated, with little critters constantly burrowing holes from the surface sand to the deeper mud, in the same way that worms are constantly turning over and oxygenating soil in our gardens. But the dark black lines in the sediment seemed to be acting as a sealant, preventing that flow of life. "Something caused an environmental and community change," Hollander explains. It could have been the sheer volume of matter falling to the bottom, triggering a suffocation effect, or perhaps it was "a toxic response" to oil and dispersants.

Whatever it was, Hollander isn't the only one observing the change. While we are at sea, Samantha Joye, an oceanographer at the University of Georgia, is leading a team of scientists on a monthlong cruise. When she gets back she reports seeing a remarkably similar puddinglike layer of sediment. And in trips to the ocean floor in a submersible, she saw dead crustaceans in the sediment and tube worms that had been "decimated." Ian MacDonald was one of the scientists on the trip. "There were miles of dead worms," he told me. "There was a zone of acute impact of at least eighty square miles. I saw dead sea fans, injured sea fans, brittle stars entangled in its branches. A very large area was severely impacted." More warning signs of a bottom-up disaster.


A week after Hollander returned from the cruise, Unified Area Command came out with its good news report on the state of the spill. Of thousands of water samples taken since August, the report stated, less than 1 percent met EPA definitions of toxicity. It also claimed that the deepwater sediment is largely free from BP's oil, except within about two miles of the wellhead. That certainly came as news to Hollander, who at that time was running tests of oiled sediment collected thirty nautical miles from the wellhead, in an area largely overlooked by the government scientists. Also, the government scientists measured only absolute concentrations of oil and dispersants in the water and sediment before declaring them healthy. The kinds of tests John Paul conducted on the toxicity of that water to microorganisms are simply absent.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, whose name is on the cover of the report, told me of the omission, "That really is a limitation under the Clean Water Act and my authorities as the federal on-scene coordinator." When it comes to oil, "it's my job to remove it"-not to assess its impact on the broader ecosystem. He pointed me to the NOAA-led National Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, which is gathering much more sensitive scientific data to help it put a dollar amount on the overall impact of the spill and seek damages from BP and other responsible parties.

Unlike the individual and class-action lawsuits BP is rushing to settle, it will be years before a settlement is reached. That means more time to wait and see how fish stocks are affected by egg and larvae exposure. And according to Robert Haddad, who heads the NRDA process for NOAA, any settlement will have "reopener clauses" that allow the government to reopen the case should new impacts manifest themselves.

Still, it's not at all clear that NRDA is capable of addressing the dangers being exposed by Hollander and the other independent scientists. The federal damage assessment process is built on the concept of "ecosystem services," which measures the value of nature according to how it serves us. How many fish were fishermen unable to catch because of the disaster? And how many tourism dollars were lost when the oil hit the beaches? Yet when it comes to the place where most of the spill damage was done-the deep ocean-we are in no position to answer such questions. The deep ocean is so understudied that we simply don't know what "service" those dead tube worms and corals would have provided to us. All we know, says MacDonald, is that "the ecosystem depends on these kinds of organisms, and if you start wiping them out, you don't know what happens." He also points out, as many ecologists do, that the entire service model is flawed. Even if it turns out that those tube worms and brittle stars do nothing for us, "they have their own intrinsic value-it matters that these organisms are healthy or not healthy." The spill "is an opportunity for us to find a new way to look at ecological health."

It is more likely, however, that we will continue to assign value only to those parts of nature from which we directly profit. Anything that slips beyond the reach of those crude calculations, either because it is too mysterious or seemingly too trivial, will be considered of no value, its existence left out of environmental risk assessment reports, its death left out of damage assessment lawsuits. And this is what is most disturbing about the latest rush to declare the gulf healthy: we seem to be once again taking refuge in our ignorance, the same kind of willful blindness that caused the disaster in the first place. First came the fateful decision to drill in parts of the earth we do not understand, taking on risks that are beyond our ability to comprehend. Next, when disaster struck, came the decision to use dispersants to sink the oil rather than let it rise to the surface, saving what we do know (the coasts) by potentially sacrificing what we don't know (the depths). And now here we are, squeezing our eyes shut before the results are in, hoping, once again, that what we don't know can't hurt us.

Only about 5 percent of the deep ocean has been explored. The existence of the deep scattering layer-the huge sector of marine life that dwells in the deep but migrates every night toward the surface-was only confirmed by marine biologists in the 1940s. And the revelations are ongoing. Mysterious and otherworldly new species are being discovered all the time.

On board the WeatherBird II, I was constantly struck by the strange simultaneity of discovery and destruction, watching young scientists experiment on fouled sediment drawn up from places science had barely mapped. It's always distressing to witness a beautiful place destroyed by pollution. But there is something particularly harrowing about the realization that we are contaminating places we have never even seen in their natural state. As drilling pushes farther and farther into deep water, risking more disasters in the name of jobs and growth, marine scientists trained to discover the thrillingly unknown will once again be reduced to coroners of the deep, boldly discovering that which we have just destroyed.
(c) 2011 Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism."

The Crown And The Coals
By Uri Avnery

LEBANON IS in crisis. And what is new?

Since the founding of the state, 90 years ago, the word "crisis" has been inseparably linked with its name.

From the Israeli perspective, this crisis has a double significance.

First, it endangers the quiet on the Northern border. Every internal crisis in Lebanon can easily lead to a conflagration. Somebody in Lebanon may trigger a confrontation in order to divert attention from internal matters. Somebody in Israel may decide that that this is a good opportunity for advancing some Israeli scheme.

Lebanon War III, if it breaks out - God forbid! - threatens untold destruction on both sides. Lebanon War II will look, in comparison, like a picnic. This time, all Israeli towns and villages will be within range of Hezbollahís rockets. During the big Carmel fire, a few weeks ago, it became clear that nothing has been prepared for the defense of the rear, besides an impressive arsenal of speeches and declarations.

But this Lebanese crisis is also significant on quite another level. It holds an important lesson concerning the existential question facing us now: Israel in its 1967 borders or a Greater Israel that will rule over all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan.

The Lebanese crisis calls out to us: Look, you have been warned!

THE LEBANESE malaise started with a crucial decision made on the very day the state was set up.

In Arab eyes, Lebanon is a part of Syria. Greater Syria - al-Sham in Arabic - includes the present state of Syria as well as Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Sinai. This is a basic tenet of modern Arab nationalism.

During the hundreds of years of Ottoman rule in the region, there were no real borders between these provinces. The administrative divisions changed from time to time, but were unimportant. One could travel from Haifa to Damascus or from Jerusalem to Beirut without encountering any problem.

Lebanon is a country of high mountain ranges, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. This topographical reality encouraged persecuted minorities from all over the region to look for refuge there. They established themselves between the mountains, organized for all-round defense, fiercely resolved to hold on to their special character. The very tolerant Ottoman rule gave each community far-reaching autonomy (the "millet" system).

Thus the Druze established themselves in the Chouf mountains, the Christian Maronite sect in the Central Mountains and the Shiites in the South. Next to them there were other Christian communities (mainly Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics) and the Sunni Muslims. These last were concentrated mainly in the coastal towns - Tripoli, Beirut and Sidon - and not by accident. The (Sunni) Ottomans put them there as guardians of their empire in face of all these diverse communities.

THE HISTORIC change in the annals of Lebanon occurred in 1860. Until then, the two main communities - the Maronites and the Druze - lived in strained co-existence. There were many clashes between them, and for some time, Druze princes established something resembling a mini-state in the region, but the relations between them were tolerable.

In 1860 the local conflicts escalated disastrously, and the Druze massacred the Christians. The Jews, too, were in danger, and the British Jew, Moses Montefiore, rushed to their aid in his coach. The world was shocked - that was a time when the world was still shocked by massacres - and the situation was exploited by the French, who had always cast covetous eyes on the "Levant." The Istanbul government was compelled to recognize them as protector of the Christians in Lebanon. In order to defend the Christians, the Lebanese mountains were given an autonomous status within the Ottoman Empire, under French protection.

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the region was divided between the two victorious powers - Great Britain and France. In a cynical betrayal of their declared aim ("national self-determination") the French took hold of Syria (including Lebanon), while the British took possession of Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq. The Arabs were not consulted. When Emir Faisal (the brother of Abdallah) set up a Syrian kingdom in Damascus, he was brutally thrown out by the French. A later national Arab revolt against the French, led curiously enough by the Druze, was put down with great cruelty.

The Muslims, who constituted the overwhelming majority in united Syria, hated the French conquerors and continued to hate them until the last day of their rule in Syria, when the British evicted them in the course of World War II (with the help of the "illegal" Jewish forces in Palestine. It was in this campaign that Moshe Dayan lost his eye and gained his trademark eye patch.) THE MAIN aim of French rule from its first day was to turn the Lebanon mountains into a solid French dominion, based on the Christian population. They decided to cut Lebanon off from Syria and turn it into a separate state. This separation aroused a huge storm among the Muslims, but without effect.

Then there arose the crucial question that casts its shadow over Lebanon to this very day: should the Christians be satisfied with a small state, in which they would constitute a decisive majority, or should they prefer a large state and annex extensive Muslim territories. This was called in French "le Grand Liban" - Greater Lebanon.

Every Israeli can easily recognize this dilemma.

There is a Jewish legend in which Pharaoh was told that a newborn baby called Moses was destined to become a king. In order to test him, Pharaoh offered the baby, side by side, a golden crown and a heap of burning coals. The baby extended its hand towards the crown, but God sent an angel who pushed the hand towards the coals. Pharaoh was satisfied and Moses was saved.

When the Christians in Lebanon were offered this choice, they chose the crown.

Acceding to their demands, the French included in Lebanon the Muslim towns of Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon and Tyre, the Bekaa valley and the entire Shiite South. All the inhabitants of these "disputed territories," as they were to be called, including the Shiites, opposed this violently, but to no avail. All opposition was brutally crushed by the French.

EVEN AT the founding of Greater Lebanon, the Maronites constituted a minority of the population. All the Christians together, including all the various communities, made up a bare majority. It was clear that the Muslims, with their higher birthrate, would become the majority in the Christian state before too long.

This, of course, happened soon enough. The Muslims did give up their dream of turning the wheel back and returning the "disputed territories" to their Syrian homeland, but they started to struggle against the total domination of Lebanon by the Christians. In the course of time, the Christians were forced to surrender some of their privileges to the other communities. An iron-clad communal division was put in place: the president (with extensive executive powers) was always a Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and so forth, down the line. But within a short time, this division ceased to reflect the demographic realities.

To use Israeli terms: Lebanon claimed to be a "Christian and democratic state." But as a matter of fact, it never was a democratic state, and gradually it ceased to be a Christian state as well.

The short history of Lebanon consists entirely of a struggle between the communities which were joined together against their will, like cats in a sack. One can learn a lot about this from the excellent book recently released by Patrick Seale, "The Struggle for Arab Independence."

The struggle reached one of its peaks in the great civil war that started in 1975. The Syrians invaded the country in order to defend (how ironic!) the Christians against the Muslims, who were reinforced by the PLO which had established a kind of mini-state in the south, after being expelled from Jordan.

Into this mess blundered the leaders of Israel, without having the slightest idea about the complexities of the situation. Sharon invaded Lebanon in 1982 in order to annihilate the PLO and drive the Syrians - their enemies - out. The IDF struck a deal with the Maronites without realizing that they were much better at committing indiscriminate massacres (Sabra and Shatila) than real fighting. 18 years and hundreds of dead soldiers were needed to extricate the Israeli army from this trap.

The Israeli intervention had only one lasting effect, and a totally unexpected one. The Shiites in the South of Lebanon, the most downtrodden community in the country, held in utter contempt by both the Christians and the Sunnis, suddenly woke up. In their prolonged guerrilla war against the Israeli army, they became an important political and military, and finally a decisive national force in Lebanon. If Hezbollah indeed takes over the whole country, it would owe Ariel Sharon a statue in the central square of Beirut.

THE PRESENT crisis is a continuation of all the former crises. But during the 90 years of Lebanonís existence as a state, profound changes have taken place. The Christians are now a secondary force, the Sunni Muslims have also seen their political importance diminished. Only the Shiites have gained ground.

The present crisis started with the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the Sunni Prime Minister, whose place was filled by his son, Saad al-Din Rafiq al-Hariri. (The word assassination, by the way, is derived from the medieval Shiite sect of Hashishiíin.) An international investigation was set in motion, mainly in order to damage Syria, the enemy of the US, but the traces led in the direction of Hezbollah. To forestall the report, Hezbollah and its allies (including an important Christian general) this week brought down the coalition government, of which they were a part. Saudi Arabia and Syria, recently mortal enemies, joined forces in an effort to avert a catastrophe that could easily spread throughout the region. They offered a compromise - but the US instructed its client, Hariri, to reject it.

The Americans resemble - and even upstage - the Israelis in their arrogance and ignorance, which border on fatal irresponsibility. Their intervention this week, emanating from a frivolous contempt for the incredible complexity that is called Lebanon, may bring about a civil war and/or a conflagration that may involve Israel.

All this would have been prevented, and 90 years of suffering might have been avoided, if the Christians had been satisfied with their part of the country. When they chose the option of "Greater Lebanon" - a clear parallel to "Greater Israel" - they condemned themselves and their country to 90 years of struggle and pain, without an end in sight.

At the decisive moment, no angel diverted their hand from the golden crown to the burning coals. Now we Israelis face a very similar choice.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Recharging The UAW
By Ralph Nader

Bob King, the new president of the United Auto Workers, whose membership is down under 400,000 from a peak of 1.5 million in 1979 is rolling out an initiative to organize foreign auto plants in the U.S., expand the union's reach overseas and forge alliances with social justice organizations.

Ordinarily, the response to these ambitions would be "With What?" Few unions have been beaten down as much as the UAW whose workers enduring the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 and a debt-burdened Ford Motor company. During this period the UAW gave up billions of dollars in wages and benefits. Thousands of workers were laid off to save these companies.

Well, for starters, Bob King starts with the union's strike fund. It contains over $800 million. "We have really unlimited resources to devote to this. It's unlike anything that's been seen in the UAW in many, many years," King told The Wall Street Journal.

King would agree with Labor Professor, Harley Shaiken of the University of California, Berkeley, that this "unprecedented pivotal to its survival." I interpret his remarks to mean that a long declining union has to push forward or its spirit and ranks will shrink further as automation and the taxpayer-rescued auto makers seize the initiative for more concessions.

The UAW's problems start with those earlier concessions that included the astounding two-tier wage system. New workers start at $14 an hour, less than half of what senior workers are paid. If Bob King cannot offer a better deal for non-unionized workers (108,000 of them) at U.S. factories run by Toyota, Honda, Nissan(where the union failed in an earlier organizing drive), and Volkswagen, Hyundai, BMW, Mercedes and Kia, what is going to be the appeal? To make matters more difficult, most of these plants are in so-called "right-to-work" southern states.

First, King is offering 11 principles of cooperation with the auto companies, eschewing confrontation or disruption on both sides, so long as the elections are free and fair. Second he is touting the relationships with domestic companies, saying "The winning team today is the UAW and American employers; with GM, Chrysler and Ford, we are building the best vehicles and have the most productive workplaces." Soon, however, the UAW begins contract renewal negotiations with these companies which are recovering both their sales, profits and stock values. No doubt, the members will expect their union to fight for a share of this rebound. It may become acrimonious.

Toyota is not worried at all about the UAW's organizing drive announcement. Company spokesman, Mike Goss said that of Toyota's 20,000 U.S. manufacturing plant workers, no hourly employees have ever been laid off despite the economic downturn. The Big Three U.S. manufacturers have laid off workers in droves, many permanently.

So again what is Bob King's appeal to an auto worker employed by a foreign manufacturer? It is nice that he wants to enlist support of various national citizen groups, including Jesse Jackson's PUSH and chapters of the NAACP. That may be good for publicizing equity, but the Toyota, et al. pay packages are fairly equivalent with those of the U.S. manufacturers.

Mr. King may see leverage in his global strategy to connect with overseas unions and agitate for independent unions in Mexico and Brazil to up auto worker wages there. King is no stranger to social justice movements and protests, having participated personally in marches here and with delegations to El Salvador, Mexico and other third world countries.

Still, it is difficult, to see what he expects to get out of what seems on the surface at least an enormous gamble. Of course, there may be much more between the lines here.

My suggestion is that Mr. King and his colleagues spend a weekend at their union retreat in northern Michigan with some other seasoned thinkers and organizers to ponder how most effectively to spend the union's allotted money.

One needed priority is to set up a small ten person advocacy group in Washington, D.C. to prod OSHA on worker health and safety. That would increase the AFL-CIO's personnel commitment by tenfold for advancing OSHA's responsibility to reduce the loss of nearly 60,000 Americans a year due to workplace trauma and disease, including autoworkers.
(c) 2011 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.

Arizona's Long Dark Night Continues
By Randall Amster

Perhaps not since the full-on throes of the Civil Rights era has a single state been so beset by crisis, conflict, and now catastrophe. Chronicling Arizona politics has been a trying and tiresome experience on many levels, with few points of optimism at hand to buffet the constant blows of injustice and brutality. The open persecution of people of color at the level of both bodies and minds; the outright hijacking of the state's politics by far-right figures with white supremacist ties; the bankrupting of the economy while private interests gain tax breaks and write favorable laws for themselves; the decimation of the public infrastructure including the education and health care systems -- all of this and more has been front and center for beleaguered Arizonans in recent years.

Today, with the tragic shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a Federal Judge who had previously been the target of anti-immigrant protesters, among perhaps a dozen other victims, we have before us a sobering reminder of the political "climate of fear" that has been fostered by certain demagogic elements here in Arizona. While I remain committed to the challenge of finding the positive news in the daily cycle, reality nonetheless intrudes and at times demands our attention. This is one of those instances, and if there is any justice to be found in this madness, perhaps it will finally provide the impetus for us all to move beyond the politics of fear and rage. As Matt Bai has opined in the New York Times, "the question is whether Saturday's shooting marks the logical end point of such a moment [of rhetorical recklessness] -- or rather the beginning of a terrifying new one."

Time will tell, but if recent events are any indication, it will be an uphill struggle that is not merely confined to Arizona. "Even before the shooting of a U.S. congresswoman on Saturday, the state of Arizona was in the throes of a convulsive political year that had come to symbolize a bitter partisan divide across much of America," writes David Schwartz for Reuters. "I feel huge sorrow, that's just been building in southern Arizona for some time, this hate, hate, fear, somewhat around SB 1070, somewhat around health care reform. It definitely heated up when President Obama was elected," said Molly McKasson Morgan, 63, who participated in Tucson politics and knew Giffords. "It's never been this angry, it's never been this divisive," said Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state lawmaker.

These trends of divisiveness and open hostility have been manifesting for some time here. Following the passage of SB 1070 and approaching its date of implementation last July, I observed the growing tendency toward violence and its unabashed cultivation:

"One of the unspoken tragedies and implicit intentions of Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, is the promotion of a climate of fear among certain segments of the population. This fear-mongering strategy has been cooked up by the bill's leading proponents and most likely beneficiaries: the governor, rightwing state legislators, and an unscrupulous sheriff who shall remain nameless.... Fostering an environment of racialized violence is the harsh reality of Arizona's drive toward legislated intolerance. For those who might feel saturated by the incessant news about immigration, or who wonder 'what's the big deal?' about SB 1070 and the like, this is a reminder of the stakes involved. Will there be a climate of escalating fear, hatred, and violence that takes over, or will this be a tipping point toward social justice and human dignity instead? Politics and legalities aside, this is the basic question that the Arizona dilemma is posing to the nation...."

Whether or not it turns out that the gunman in the Giffords shooting was politically motivated, the overall climate in which it occurred cannot be dismissed, and a recitation of some of the key background details is essential for a fuller understanding. For one, John M. Roll, the federal judge killed in the shooting, had been at the center of the state's complicated political battle over immigration. In February 2009, he received hundreds of threats after he allowed a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against a rancher to go forward. "They cursed him out, threatened to kill his family, said they'd come and take care of him. They really wanted him dead," a law enforcement official told The Washington Post in May 2009. While there is no indication at this point that Roll was the gunman's main target, it is telling that he was in proximity on the fateful day and that he himself had previously been harassed for a perceived pro-immigrant bent.

The suspect in the shootings has been identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner of Tucson. He had an apparent preoccupation with "literacy" rates (which could be a veiled reference to ethnicity), and in online profiles listed among his favorite books Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto. In a recent YouTube video, Loughner described himself as a U.S. military recruit who had recently filled out an application to join the Army. In a message posted on his MySpace account, titled "Goodbye friends," he said: "Dear friends ... please don't be mad at me. The literacy rate is below 5%. I haven't talked to one person who is literate." In a rambling YouTube message referring to a new currency, Loughner stated: "I know who's listening: Government Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen[ed]."

There are conflicting reports about whether Loughner acted alone, although Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has noted that investigators are "not convinced" that he did, according to a report by the New York Post. Dupnik says that Loughner may have come to the parking lot with another person who was "in some way involved," and poignantly lamented that Arizona has "become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

Giffords' Tucson office was vandalized last March after she voted in favor of President Obama's controversial healthcare bill. She had been named as a campaign target for conservatives in last November's elections by Sarah Palin for her strong support of Obama's initiatives. Palin infamously published a "target map" on her website using images of gun sights to identify 20 House Democrats, including Giffords, for backing the health care law. The map used actual target markers on locations where these Democrats lived, and listed their names. "We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC last March. "We've had hundreds and hundreds of protesters over the course of the last couple of months," she said. "Our office corner has really become an area where the Tea Party movement congregates and the rhetoric is really heated. Not just the calls but the e-mails, the slurs."

At an event in 2009, which was similar to the one Giffords was holding at the time of the shooting, a protester was removed by police when his pistol fell to the supermarket floor. Giffords' Republican opponent in the November 2010 congressional race, Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly, was criticized for a campaign event he held at a shooting range, advertised with the words "Get on Target for Victory in November," "Help remove Gabriel Giffords from office," and "Shoot a fully automatic M16." Giffords narrowly won reelection to her third term in the House of Representatives -- and during the course of the campaign it was revealed that she was one of three Democrats in the nation to receive contributions from MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, resulting in the newscaster's temporary suspension from the network.

After the shooting, Giffords' father told the New York Post, when asked if his daughter had enemies, "Yeah, the whole Tea Party." He added that politicians constantly face danger. "They always get threatened," he said, sobbing. According to a report by The Hill, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips condemned the attacks, but warned supporters that the Tea Party movement would be blamed by political opponents. "While we need to take a moment to extend our sympathies to the families of those who died, we cannot allow the hard left to do what it tried to do in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing," he said. The Tucson Citizen's "Three Sonorans" blog further reports that the building housing the Mexican-American Studies program at the University of Arizona was vandalized at almost the same time as the shootings occurred, and that Judge Roll had recently been assigned to hear the lawsuit challenging Arizona's new law (HB 2281) banning Ethnic Studies. Authorities were also called later that evening to Giffords' office as vigilers assembled there, when a suspicious package was removed and secured by the bomb squad, according to an Associated Press report.

For her part, Giffords has been a strong proponent of solar energy, and has generally been known as a moderate to conservative Democrat among Arizona's Republican-dominated congressional delegation. Giffords was first sworn in as a Representative on January 3, 2007, and is the first Jewish woman and third woman overall in Arizona's history to be elected to serve in Congress. In her first month in office, Giffords voted to support increased federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, raise the minimum wage, endorse the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and adopt new rules for the House of Representatives targeting ethical issues. She is a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus and has been noted as "a strong supporter of gay rights." She also advocated for the repeal of $14 billion in subsidies to oil companies in favor of renewable energy subsidies and the establishment of a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve to increase research in clean energy, develop greater efficiency, and improve conservation. Giffords has supported stronger border enforcement and comprehensive immigration reform as well. She is the only member of Congress whose spouse, astronaut Mark E. Kelly, is an active duty member of the military.

"I am a third generation southern Arizonan and I went off to school, was working for Price Waterhouse in New York City, and was asked to come home to run my family's tire and automotive business," said Giffords in a 2007 C-SPAN interview. "I first got involved with politics frankly because I was frustrated when I was opening up my newspaper every single morning and seeing my great state of Arizona continuing to be at the bottom, whether it be poor-people funding, or mental health funding, or making sure that we could preserve our beautiful open spaces -- and in life you can either complain about something or you can try to fix it so I decided to run for political office...."

Details about this situation continue to unfold, but some things are eminently clear. We can continue in this downward spiral of vitriol, fear, and hatred, or we can turn the corner and begin working toward values of community, inclusivity, and equality. On the one hand lies our imminent destruction; on the other our potential salvation. If this tragedy is to have meaning in this moment of utter senselessness, then we must opt for the latter -- not just in Arizona, or even merely America, but for all the peoples of the world. For today, though, I simply want to express my deepest condolences to all of the families affected by this heartbreaking episode, and likewise to all Arizonans struggling to find cause for hope in these times of ongoing despair.
(c) 2011 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Cocky Tom Delay Gets Three Years

You know you're in trouble when you're reduced to calling Dennis Hastert as a character witness.

After all, when he was Speaker of the U.S. House, Hastert ran the place as a pay-to-play whorehouse, openly trading legislative favors for the campaign cash waived around by frisky corporate lobbyists. Who in the world would want Hastert to vouch for their ethical virtue?

Tom DeLay, the former GOP majority leader and the one Congress critter who was even sleazier! Having been convicted last fall by a Texas jury for illegally laundering corporate money into some state legislative races, DeLay was back in the courthouse on January 10 for sentencing. Was Tom respectfully repentant? Come on – does a skunk smell its own stink?

No, no, nothing is ever his fault. Even though he'd also been reprimanded by his own colleagues for schmoozing with favor-seeking lobbyists and for commandeering a federal agency in one of his partisan actions against Democrats, he dismissed that comeuppance as nothing but "a warning ticket."

Bad metaphor, since he clearly sped right through the warning. Now a convicted felon, DeLay blames Democrats for his "persecution," even though the jury that found him guilty included Republicans and independents. At his sentencing, the closest he got to expressing contrition about his corruption was to admit that sometimes he comes off as arrogant. However, he even denied that his arrogance was bad, quickly explaining to the judge, "I like to think of it as 'Texas cocky.'" Hmmm... how about "Texas stupid?"

The judge was not amused by DeLay's insistence that he is the victim. "Before there were Republicans and Democrats," the judge said, "there was America, and what America is about is the rule of law." Pointedly noting that "I agree with the jury's verdict," the judge sentenced clueless Tom to three years in state prison and 10 years of probation.
(c) 2011 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.

Defending ‘Obamacare’
By Helen Thomas

The newly empowered Republican leadership is barking up the wrong tree in its drive to kill the health care law or, as they put it, "Obamacare." They are hoping to bulldoze the entire law, but failing that, they aim to destroy it by targeting one provision after another. A vote to repeal the law was temporarily postponed after the tragic shooting rampage in Tuscon, which left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., critically injured and six others dead.

Polls show the public is divided in its opinion on the law, which has been branded "job killing" by Republican Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., incoming chairman of the House Commerce and Education Committee.

President Obama is expected to veto any repeal of the law, but the opposition expects to muster enough votes to overcome a veto. Should they succeed, an estimated 45 million persons will be denied coverage. The law's most attractive provision is its prohibition of insurance companies turning down anyone with a preexisting illness. Sadly, an upset also would deny autistic children and those with Down syndrome the insurance they are eligible for now under the current law. Insurance for adults won't kick in until 2014.

On the other hand, the greatly privileged members of Congress enjoy practically free medicine and care in government-run hospitals at a pittance. To belabor the point, Vice President Dick Cheney, who suffered from chronic heart problems, had medics in attendance during his eight years in office.

The GOP leadership believes it is on a winning streak in branding the law as "job killing" in these hard times. "We're listening to the American people," House Speaker Boehner told reporters. "They want this bill repealed, and we're going to repeal it." With the outstanding political gains and the shellacking the GOP gave the Democrats in the last election, Obama is being urged to use his bully pulpit to save the program, which was long debated in Congress and signed into law in March 2010.

U.S. lawmakers often attack European and Canadian universal health plans as "socialized medicine," but in response, they have been told it is "civilized medicine." "Socialism" is the Bugaboo, but taxpayers would look ridiculous if they denied the public needs and the government role in supporting schools, libraries and highways, for starters.

I certainly don't think it is a perfect law that meets all the needs of the poor and the sick.

The administration was highly deceptive in first pretending it supported a public option and single-payer plan, when it didn't. For the liberal Democrats, it was a disappointment when the president did not push the public option, but he was convinced by the conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats that it didn't stand a chance of passage. Such an option was close to the heart of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who staged a good fight for health care for all. It was never on the table with this administration, which declined to even give it a hearing.

I used to bother former White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs for a definitive reply on whether Obama supported a government plan. He dodged the question by accusing me of badgering him.

It's true, I did. "Why do you keep asking me that question?" Gibbs queried. I told him I wanted a "yes" or "no" answer on the public option. As he continued to dodge the issue, I blurted out, "I just want your conscience to bother you."

Boehner told reporters "we're going to do everything we can over the course of however long it takes to stop this, because it will ruin the best health care system in the world, it will bankrupt the nation, and it will ruin the economy." The GOP is also trying to convince Americans that the law would raise insurance premiums, increase taxes, increase the deficit, and lower the quality of patient care.

Where are Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson when the nation needs them? They brought Social Security and Medicare, but not without a fight. They cared for and believed that we are our brother's keeper. Also, as Abraham Lincoln said, "Government should do for people what they cannot do for themselves."
(c) 2011 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.

Voter Redistricting Wars About To Begin
By James Donahue

The U.S. Supreme Court’s “One man, one vote” decision in 1964 launched a complex ritual of political gerrymandering that changes the boundaries of voting districts from local school board and city councils to all county, state and federal offices in every state in the union.

The fighting, arguing and political wheeling and dealing that goes on, usually in county courthouses and state capitals is not easily understood by the public even if news reporters are watching and trying to explain the significance of these events. This is because the process is done by committee and it usually takes days to accomplish.

The court rulings in the cases of Reynolds vs. Sims and Wesberry vs. Sanders held that political districts of unequal population resulted in under-representation of some people’s interests. To meet the standards set by the Constitution, the court ruled that voting districts had to be reapportioned so that each had approximately equal population.

Before the 1964 ruling, redistricting laws required a restructuring of U.S. Congressional and Senate districts, based upon population shifts every ten years. The one-man, one-vote decision, however, created a whole new way of doing business right down to the grass roots of governments across the land.

It took a couple of years for state and local governments to decide just how to accomplish such an order, and to do it fairly. Even at that, the practice of gerrymandering, or cleverly dividing districts to give one party a voting edge in some districts and weakening the voting strength of an opposing party, has crept into the process. That is because more populated industrial centers tend to vote Democratic while other more rural and agricultural areas and senior citizen centers have traditionally leaned to the Republican Party.

As a young reporter covering county government in those days, I watched the process and struggled trying to write news reports that readers could understand. It involved using the latest census statistics for the county, and then appointing a special Redistricting Committee comprised of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, and letting them go at it.

The process quickly turned into a numbers game. Members would show up at the meetings each day with various maps dividing the county and cities into precincts with a relatively equal number of people recorded as living in them. Of course the census count did not distinguish between party affiliations or between voters and non-voters. The local people with their heads deep in the political game, however, had a good idea on how to divide the county so it gave their party an advantage on Election Day.

I sat faithfully in on those meetings, sometimes for as long as a week and listening to committee members debate the pros and cons of dividing the districts in a variety of ways. When the final redistricting plan was approved, some of the boundaries were placed in strange places. Sometimes neighborhoods were split between which side of the road the homes were located. Some cities, villages and townships were split into various districts, which created a lot of additional work for the local clerks and election workers.

The school districts, which often overlap county lines, were also caught up in reapportionment. The redistricting plans approved by each county are sent to the state legislators, who incorporate them in their own planning. Eventually a master reapportioned plan is approved a final state-wide map of established voting districts. Some states had different methods and rules for going about redistricting but the process, beginning at a grass-roots level, was basically the same. When all of the district lines were finalized, voters were often left confused as to just who the candidates were for the district they lived in.

Once going through the initial struggle of drawing acceptable dividing lines separating all of the different voting districts within a state, all of the counties, school districts and the cities, the people assigned the responsibility realized in horror that this would not be the end of it. Because people moved around, there had to be reapportionment decisions made and the lines redrawn every ten years, immediately following the national census. This was going to be a regular event set to happen at the start of every new decade.

And this, dear readers, is what is about to happen once more because the 2010 census results are just now being published, and 2011 is the year of the next redistricting fight. Even though the process is complicated and difficult for folks to understand, it has become a vital part of the nation’s election process and needs to be watched closely.

We are going through the trouble of explaining all of this because most major newspapers tend to ignore the committee work, if not the in-depth operations of local and county governments. Consequently, we urge every citizen that really cares about the future of the nation to personally attend the redistricting meetings when they are held. If your local newspaper or television news station doesn’t tell you when they are going to be occurring, call the county clerk’s office.

All government meetings are required by law to be open to the public, although the public usually ignores them. If you choose to attend, do not be afraid to ask questions so you are as informed as possible about everything that is going on.

When the public gets involved, the problem of gerrymandering either is diminished or gets well hidden within the obscurity of the district splits.
(c) 2011 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.

Obama Pulls A Clinton
By Robert Scheer

Here we go again. When Bill Clinton suffered an electoral reversal after his first two years in office, he abruptly embraced the corporate money guys who had financed his congressional opposition in an effort to purchase a second term. On Tuesday in his Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece, Barack Obama veered sharply down that same course, trumpeting his executive order " ... to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. ..."

He employed the same "creating a 21st-century regulatory system" rationalization used by Clinton when he signed off on the sweeping deregulation legislation that unleashed the Wall Street greed that ended up being the biggest job-killer since the Great Depression. "Over the (past) seven years, we have tried to modernize the economy," Clinton enthused as he signed the Financial Services Modernization Act that repealed key New Deal legislation, adding, "And today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority." Modernizing was the propaganda constant, as in the Commodity Futures Modernization Act that Clinton signed, thus shielding financial derivatives from any government regulation.

That deregulation, as Obama concedes in his WSJ column, led to "a lack of proper oversight and transparency (that) nearly led to the collapse of the financial markets and a full-scale depression." But Obama now promises that his deregulation efforts will be more sensibly targeted and will "bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislatures of both parties and influence of special interests in Washington over decades."

When he wrote that he intends to accomplish this revamp "with more input from experts, businesses and ordinary citizens," did he have in mind his two new key White House advisers who were the most effective advocates for those special interests? Tom Donilon, Obama's national security adviser, was the Washington lobbyist for the housing behemoth Fannie Mae, which will cost taxpayers $700 billion because of its marketing of toxic derivatives. Obama's new Chief of Staff William Daley was the lead Washington representative for a similarly afflicted JPMorgan Chase. These are the folks, along with many other Wall Street alums in this administration, who will oversee the latest update of already weakened regulations.

The first target will be the administration's puny efforts to protect consumers: "The move is the latest effort by the White House to repair relations with corporate America," the Wall Street Journal's report on Obama's column stated, "Business leaders say an explosion in new regulations stemming from the president's health-care and financial regulatory overhauls has, along with the sluggish economy, made them reluctant to spend on expansion and hiring. Companies are sitting on nearly $2 trillion in cash and liquid assets, the most since World War II." This is a case of corporate blackmail pure and simple. The economy is sluggish because of a housing crisis that shows no sign of improvement. It stands history on its head to blame government financial regulations that had worked splendidly for six decades for the meltdown or the failure to fix a housing market that is the key to improved consumer spending.

Fixing housing would require efforts to keep the 50 million Americans whose mortgages are underwater in their homes. But the government bailouts under both George W. Bush and Obama have not required any significant cramp-down or reappraisal of mortgages by banks to enable people to stay in their homes. Instead the Fed and Treasury have flooded the banks and top corporations with cheap money and bailouts but, in the classic problem of pushing on a string, the corporate ingrates are hoarding that money.

Obama, and the party he heads, failed to provide a progressive narrative during November's election holding the financial elite that created this mess responsible. The key issue is not big government or onerous regulation but rather transparency and fraud prevention. When you are evicted, it is a government agent, a marshal or sheriff, who will force you out, so shouldn't the government also be involved in assuring that the consumer is protected by a properly vetted contract? Instead the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the marketing of an alternative narrative, as successful as it was devious, by Republican candidates that held regulation-rather than deregulation-responsible for the mess. Now Obama seems poised to join their ranks. As the WSJ reported:

"On Feb. 7, Mr. Obama will visit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-a chief opponent to his administration's regulatory approach-for a discussion on how the White House can work with the group to create jobs. The efforts are designed to give companies more confidence in the president's stewardship of the economy, and bolster his re-election prospects among a wealthy constituency not traditionally allied with Democrats."

A constituency that Daley, Obama's new chief of staff, can faithfully represent, having received $5 million a year from JPMorgan Chase. And so ends the season of hope for the less wealthy constituency traditionally allied with Democrats.
(c) 2011 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Speech Pathology
Rain Puddles in Heaven, Hellfire on Earth
By Chris Floyd

Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. ... And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for 'the universal brotherhood of man' -- with his mouth. ~~~ Mark Twain, The Damned Human Race

As President Barack Obama consoled the nation Wednesday with talk of "rain puddles in heaven," his agents were murdering four more people in his illegal war in Pakistan. The incongruity was excruciating; you could almost feel your neck snapping from the moral whiplash induced by the contrast between word and deed.

But of course this contrast remained totally obscured. Instead, the media was saturated with bipartisan praise for Obama's heavenly puddles and "transcendent" rhetoric about "aligning our actions with our values" and measuring our lives by "how well we have loved and what small part we have played in making the lives of others better." Naturally, in the midst of so much self-congratulatory afflatus, there was not much room for a short story from the Associated Press noting that Wednesday saw yet another attack by American drone missiles on a remote village in Pakistan.

Yet even this report was itself drenched in the mindset of righteous murder that lurked behind the treacly tropes that Obama was delivering to a rapturous crowd. You can see it in the language of the very first paragraph:

Suspected U.S. unmanned aircraft fired four missiles at a house in a militant-infested area of northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least four people, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

An "infested" area -- the language used for vermin, for insects, for filthy creatures fit only for extermination. These insects are what is being killed in the wilds of Pakistan: not human beings, not sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. Just strange, worthless little creepy-crawlies called "militants." And if you think this is too extreme an extrapolation, not truly representative of the imperial mindset, recall the words of Admiral William Fallon.

Surely you remember the good Admiral -- former head of U.S. Central Command, the military cockpit of the Terror War. For a brief moment back in 2008, this imperial proconsul was the darling of the progressosphere. Why? Because in a fawning article in Esquire, he made a few noises indicating his lack of enthusiasm for an immediate extension of the Terror War into Iran. Yet even this tepid demurral (which he quickly and cravenly denied making) was couched in the exterminationist language that now imbues both the civilian and military wings of the imperial establishment. As I noted at the time:

Fallon himself has long denied the hearsay evidence that he had declared, upon taking over Central Command, that a war on Iran "isn't going to happen on my watch." And in fact, the article itself depicts Fallon's true attitude toward the idea of an attack on Iran right up front, in his own words. After noting Fallon's concerns about focusing too much on Iran to the exclusion of the other "pots boiling over" in the region, [author Thomas Barnett] presses the point and asks: And if it comes to war? Fallon replies with stark, brutal clarity:

"'Get serious,' the admiral says. 'These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them.'"

The article makes clear that Fallon's main concerns about a war with Iran are, as noted, about tactics and timing: Sure, when the time comes – no shuffling on that point – we'll crush these subhumans like the insects they are; but we've already got a lot on our plate at the moment, so why not hold off as long as we can? After all, Fallon is conducting two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as overseeing an on-going "regime change" operation in Somalia, where the United States has been aiding Ethiopian invaders with bombing raids, death squads, renditions and missile strikes against Somali civilians – such as the one this week that killed three women and three children.

The AP reporter has duly absorbed the trickle-down depravity that seeps from the top of the American establishment. He has also absorbed the by-now reflexive -- and absolutely de rigueur -- genuflection to authority displayed by every "serious" journalist. The article is based entirely on quotes from anonymous "officials"; there is not a single voice to offer even the slightest deviation from the Terror War narrative.

So what are we told? That four "militants" were killed. Well, surely they had it coming, right, if they were militants? "Militant" means "insurgent" which means "terrorist" which means "big swarthy devil-worshipper coming to shtup your woman and eat your babies." We know what to do with these insects: you crush them.

But who said they were "militants"? Well, unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials, as indicated at the very beginning of the story. But just three paragraphs later, these same anonymous officials admit that "the identities and nationalities of those killed in Wednesday's strike were unknown."

In other words, the "officials" didn't know who was killed. They didn't know their names. They didn't know their affiliations, their activities, their beliefs, their intentions. They didn't know who they were. They didn't know where they were from. They didn't know anything about them. Yet we are told confidently, without contradiction or the slightest doubt, that they were "militants."

But the story is not finished with its imperial water-carrying yet; not by a long shot. We are then given this bit of savvy insiderdom:

The U.S. refuses to acknowledge the drone strikes publicly, but officials have said privately that they have killed several senior Taliban and al-Qaida leaders.

Yes, unnamed American officials have said "privately" -- to every dutiful, genuflecting media outlet in the Western world -- that the drone attacks have "killed several senior Taliban and al-Qaida leaders." That's what they say -- so that is all that the story says. There is not one word about the many studies and reports by international observers, top American officials and independent organizations in Pakistan about the vast number of civilians who have been killed in Obama's drone war. As Tariq Ali notes in his latest piece about Pakistan's current death spiral into extremism and chaos:

Can it get worse? Yes. And on every front. Take the Af-Pak war. Few now would dispute that its escalation has further destabilised Pakistan, increasing the flow of recruits to suicide bomber command. The CIA’s New Year message to Pakistan consisted of three drone attacks in North Waziristan, killing 19 people. There were 116 drone strikes in 2010, double the number ordered in the first year of the Obama presidency. Serious Pakistani newspapers, Dawn and the News, claim that 98 per cent of those killed in the strikes over the last five years – the number of deaths is estimated to be between two and three thousand – were civilians, a percentage endorsed by David Kilcullen, a former senior adviser to General Petraeus. The Brookings Institution gives a grim ratio of one militant killed for every ten civilians. The drones are operated by the CIA, which isn’t subject to military rules of engagement, with the result that drones are often used for revenge attacks, notably after the sensational Khost bombing of a CIA post in December 2009.

That's right: even a "senior adviser" to the sainted General David Petraeus admits that 98 percent of the people being killed by Obama's drones are civilians. Two to three thousand innocent people murdered -- in cold blood, in an instant, without warning, without any defense, not shriving time allowed, sent down into death and darkness at the order of the man evoking those "rain puddles in heaven" as he exhorts us to "be worthy" of those killed in wanton violence.

And still the story is not finished pushing the imperial line. It ends with yet more savvy analysis of the big picture, the grand strategic games that are so much more important than the stolen lives and mangled bodies of unidentified villagers:

Washington has pushed Pakistan to launch an operation in North Waziristan, but the government has so far refused. The Pakistani army says its soldiers are stretched too thin by military operations against Islamist militias in other tribal area.But many analysts believe the army is reluctant to cross militant groups with which it has historical ties, such as the Haqqani network, who could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign troops withdraw.

Terrible, isn't it? Those treacherous Pakistanis are truculently refusing to launch a massive war on their own people to ease the pressure on America's interminable war-profiteering operation in neighboring Afghanistan. And this ungrateful refusal of great Caesar's reasonable request stems not from any concern on the part of Pakistani officials that launching a vicious civil war would tear their fraying country -- still recovering from one of the greatest natural disasters in modern history -- to pieces, or even from a simple reluctance to slaughter tens of thousands of their fellow citizens. No; according to AP -- or rather, according to the anonymous "many analysts" who provide the sole, unsourced, unsupported viewpoint given voice on the matter -- the only reason that Pakistan is reluctant to destroy itself on Washington's orders is a desire to play games in a post-war Afghanistan.

In fact, even as Obama was making "one of the greatest speeches ever given by any sitting president" and "calling all of us to realize a larger purpose," his vice president, Joe Biden, was touring the imperial frontier, warning the Pakistanis that >America's patience is growing thin over their continuing failure to instigate a civil war, and hinting darkly the Empire "would not wait indefinitely" for this act of national suicide, but may be 'forced' to start carving up the country itself.

Biden then moved on Iraq, to discuss "the issue of whether to keep some U.S. forces in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline" for withdrawing all American forces from Iraq. (Except for the thousands and thousands of soldiers and mercenaries needed to guard the American fortress city in the midst of Baghdad, of course.) The Americans say they will stay only if the Iraqis need them; and Iraq's top military commander recently said that the American military guests should stay at least until 2020.

Four people murdered. A civil war -- with with the genuine potential for national dissolution and even nuclear war behind it -- fomented, encouraged, demanded. The extension of one of the greatest war crimes since WWII -- the senseless slaugher of a million innocent people and the destruction of an entire society -- "discussed" with toadies who owe their power to the aggressor. All this, while Obama asks us to "sharpen our instincts for empathy."

"Sharpen your instincts for empathy." That is what the words say. But the actions say something else altogether: "Close your hearts to pity." NOTE: While finishing this piece, I ran across Arthur Silber's latest essay, which deals more deeply, broadly and eloquently with this same theme. I urge you to read it in full right away.

UPDATE: The indefatigable Jason Ditz at brings word of yet another murder spree in the border areas of Pakistan. Even as the warm glow of Obama's Tucson speech spread over the political establishment (see Arthur Silber's scathing assessment of this development), mortar fire from American-occupied Afghanistan killed eight more human beings: five men and three women. As Ditz reports:

Pakistani officials report that a barrage of mortars was fired from across the Afghan border, likely from either NATO troops or Afghan military forces, and destroyed a home in the North Waziristan Agency, killing eight people.

The attack comes just a day after Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Pakistan, during which he warned that his patience was “wearing thin” with the government for not having invaded North Waziristan yet. NATO has yet to confirm that it was their attack, but promised an investigation.

As with the mystery of who launched the attack, the identities of the victims are unclear as well, with Pakistani officials describing them only as five men and three women and reporting no indications of any militant connections, beyond living in a tribal area that the US wants attacked for being a militant hotbed.

But you know what really matters? Not the shredded viscera of eight defenseless human beings, not the further destabilization and radicalization of a nuclear-armed nation suffering from vast natural disasters and mind-boggling levels of corruption in its American-sponsored elite; no, what really matters is that our bipartisan American elites are pledging to be more civil to each other as they rain death, murder and chaos all over the world.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

CBS Shamelessly Stands By Wife-Beater Charlie Sheen
By Matthew Rothschild

On Friday, CBS said it was standing by Charlie Sheen, convicted wife-beater. This decision, along with its ongoing heavy promotion of Sheen, sends a terrible message that men can still get away with it.

Sheen was convicted of assaulting his wife Brooke Mueller on Christmas Day, 2009. Mueller said he had pulled a knife on her and threatened to kill her. “I’m scared for my life,” she said in her 911 call.

But even after that incident, and even after former wife Denise Richards accused him of being abusive, CBS has kept pushing “Two and a Half Men,” its top comedy show.

Wife-beating is an epidemic in America. Husbands and boyfriends injure as many as two million women a year and kill 1,200 women a year, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

But for CBS, that’s immaterial.

In fact, the network seemed more concerned about his inebriated behavior and his own well-being than his wife-beating.

“We have a high level of concern,” said CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler. “How could we not? On a basic human level, this man is a father. He has children. He has family.”

Tassler confirmed that CBS was going to keep Sheen on, who gets paid more than $1 million an episode.

“The show’s a hit,” she said.

So he can beat and threaten to kill his wife, but if he’s making profits for a giant corporation, all is forgiven.

A disgusting message to boys and men everywhere, one that serves as a frightening reminder to women that Hollywood and corporate America don’t care about you.
(c)2011 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

The War On Logic
By Paul Krugman

My wife and I were thinking of going out for an inexpensive dinner tonight. But John Boehner, the speaker of the House, says that no matter how cheap the meal may seem, it will cost thousands of dollars once you take our monthly mortgage payments into account.

Wait a minute, you may say. How can our mortgage payments be a cost of going out to eat, when we’ll have to make the same payments even if we stay home? But Mr. Boehner is adamant: our mortgage is part of the cost of our meal, and to say otherwise is just a budget gimmick.

O.K., the speaker hasn’t actually weighed in on our plans for the evening. But he and his G.O.P. colleagues have lately been making exactly the nonsensical argument I’ve just described — not about tonight’s dinner, but about health care reform. And the nonsense wasn’t a slip of the tongue; it’s the official party position, laid out in charts and figures.

We are, I believe, witnessing something new in American politics. Last year, looking at claims that we can cut taxes, avoid cuts to any popular program and still balance the budget, I observed that Republicans seemed to have lost interest in the war on terror and shifted focus to the war on arithmetic. But now the G.O.P. has moved on to an even bigger project: the war on logic.

So, about that nonsense: this week the House is expected to pass H.R. 2, the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act — its actual name. But Republicans have a small problem: they claim to care about budget deficits, yet the Congressional Budget Office says that repealing last year’s health reform would increase the deficit. So what, other than dismissing the nonpartisan budget office’s verdict as “their opinion” — as Mr. Boehner has — can the G.O.P. do?

The answer is contained in an analysis — or maybe that should be “analysis” — released by the speaker’s office, which purports to show that health care reform actually increases the deficit. Why? That’s where the war on logic comes in.

First of all, says the analysis, the true cost of reform includes the cost of the “doc fix.” What’s that?

Well, in 1997 Congress enacted a formula to determine Medicare payments to physicians. The formula was, however, flawed; it would lead to payments so low that doctors would stop accepting Medicare patients. Instead of changing the formula, however, Congress has consistently enacted one-year fixes. And Republicans claim that the estimated cost of future fixes, $208 billion over the next 10 years, should be considered a cost of health care reform.

But the same spending would still be necessary if we were to undo reform. So the G.O.P. argument here is exactly like claiming that my mortgage payments, which I’ll have to make no matter what we do tonight, are a cost of going out for dinner.

There’s more like that: the G.O.P. also claims that $115 billion of other health care spending should be charged to health reform, even though the budget office has tried to explain that most of this spending would have taken place even without reform.

To be sure, the Republican analysis doesn’t rely entirely on spurious attributions of cost — it also relies on using three-card monte tricks to make money disappear. Health reform, says the budget office, will increase Social Security revenues and reduce Medicare costs. But the G.O.P. analysis says that these sums don’t count, because some people have said that these savings would also extend the life of these programs’ trust funds, so counting these savings as deficit reduction would be “double-counting,” because — well, actually it doesn’t make any sense, but it sounds impressive.

So, is the Republican leadership unable to see through childish logical fallacies? No.

The key to understanding the G.O.P. analysis of health reform is that the party’s leaders are not, in fact, opposed to reform because they believe it will increase the deficit. Nor are they opposed because they seriously believe that it will be “job-killing” (which it won’t be). They’re against reform because it would cover the uninsured — and that’s something they just don’t want to do.

And it’s not about the money. As I tried to explain in my last column, the modern G.O.P. has been taken over by an ideology in which the suffering of the unfortunate isn’t a proper concern of government, and alleviating that suffering at taxpayer expense is immoral, never mind how little it costs.

Given that their minds were made up from the beginning, top Republicans weren’t interested in and didn’t need any real policy analysis — in fact, they’re basically contemptuous of such analysis, something that shines through in their health care report. All they ever needed or wanted were some numbers and charts to wave at the press, fooling some people into believing that we’re having some kind of rational discussion. We aren’t.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Westboro Baptist makes me sick to my stomach. They’re a stench from a slaughterhouse. We’re just going to block the stench so the family can catch their breath. Nothing says stand back and be silent like a Hells Angels presence.”
~~~ Glenn Littell, who’s bringing bikers from Phoenix to prevent the Westboro Church bastards from disrupting Christina Green’s funeral.

From Terrorism To Nonviolence
An ex-Weather Underground Radical on the Tucson Shootings
By Mark Rudd

In 1970, when I was 22 years old — the same age as Tucson gunman Jared Loughner — I was a founder of the Weather Underground, an offshoot of the antiwar group Students for a Democratic Society. At that time, having fashioned myself “an agent of necessity,” I was willing to kill or be killed for some romantic notion of “the revolution.” So it’s not that difficult for me to imagine what might have been in the mind of someone like Loughner, who perhaps acted (as I did) in the misguided belief that it was up to him to do what needed to be done.

By the winter of 1970, the members of the Weather Underground had gone over the edge. A small group of us in New York City, charged with “taking the struggle to a higher level,” was planning a bombing at Fort Dix, New Jersey, which was then an army basic training center. Three pipe bombs filled with dynamite and larded with nails were to be left at a noncommissioned officers’ dance to remind our fellow Americans of the millions of tons of bombs our country had been dropping on the Vietnamese for five straight years.

I wasn’t in the group making the bombs, but I knew what was being planned and — to my eternal shame — didn’t try to stop it. For a nice Jewish boy from New Jersey, this was a very strange place to be. In retrospect, my friends and I had thought ourselves into a corner.

We were heartbroken and despairing over the fact that the war in Vietnam had dragged on despite massive public opposition and protest. Our country was murdering millions of people. As students, budding intellectuals even, we had studied the origins of the war and the nature of power in this country. We were keenly aware of the violent revolt of the Third World against U.S. control, in Cuba, China, Vietnam, and in the ghettos and barrios of this country, and were convinced that the American system of global domination — we still called it “imperialism” then — was coming to an end.

What to do? As white people, we could have just stood aside, but that would have been like the Germans acquiescing to the Nazi concentration camps. To not be willing to share the risks non-white people were taking, to stand safely on the sidelines applauding, would only be evidence of our unearned privilege. The time for action was here: indeed, hadn’t the Black Panthers taught us to chant at demonstrations, ‘The revolution has come/ Time to pick up the gun’?

So we were the self-appointed elect. It was up to us to act because no one else seemed to understand the depths of the atrocities being committed by our government or had the courage to act against them. All Americans were legitimate targets, too, we thought, because in their inaction or ignorance they were complicit with the war crimes.

Fatefully, the bombs that were being assembled in the basement of that townhouse on West Eleventh Street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, on the morning of March 6, 1970, went off prematurely. Ted Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins — brilliant young people filled with a passion for justice — inadvertently sacrificed themselves in order to avoid an even worse tragedy had the bombs made it to their intended target that night.

The remnants of the Weather Underground eventually regrouped and issued a statement that we would not ever target people, taking precaution to only bomb symbolic targets such as buildings. We had gone up to the edge of the precipice, looked over, and pulled back to an extent. Over the next years, as President Nixon escalated the war against Vietnam, the Weather Underground went on to place small bombs in the Pentagon, the Capitol building, and about two dozen such targets, always phoning in warnings. I still thank God that no one was ever killed.

Meanwhile, emotionally shattered, I dropped out of the organization by the end of that year but remained a fugitive until well after the war ended, when I turned myself in to the authorities. I spent the next quarter century trying to figure out why I had made so many disastrous decisions as a very young man.

I believe that it had something to do with an exaggerated sense of my own specialness and importance. It had something to do with wanting to prove myself as a man, a motive exploited by all armies and other terror groups in all eras. It had something to do with my yearning to be a true revolutionary, like my “guerillero heroico,” Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.

In the end, though, it all came around to my believing in the absolute necessity of violence based on terrible moral grievances. Over the years, I haven’t forgotten those grievances — my country continues to wage needless wars, and this society is no more structurally just — but I’ve completely rejected violence as a solution, for a myriad of reasons not the least being moral, but also including efficacy. Simply put, violence doesn’t work.

In theory, a small amount of violence might be moral to stop a larger violence. In practice in the U.S., violence only isolates the revolutionaries and gives a great big fat gift to the government: they can call us terrorists. I’ve become an advocate of nonviolent strategy because it’s been proven so effective in the 20th century — it is a truly ‘zen’ answer to the militarism of the U.S.

In addition to the pragmatic advantages of nonviolence, it also has certain moral and even spiritual advantages. I once heard the Dalai Lama answer the question of why he doesn’t hate the Chinese, despite what they’ve done to his country. He said, “They’re our neighbors, and when this is all over, we’ll have to live with them.”

Right now, the rightwing in America has a profound sense of moral grievance. The country has lost its way, but instead of looking deeply at the nature of power — at the banks and pharmaceutical corporations and military contractors and media conglomerates that have looted our economy through their control of the government the last thirty-plus years — they’ve created a simplistic culprit, encapsulated in the absurd notion that “government is bad, unless we’re running it.” For many in this camp, there seems to be no sense of a social contract.

To a not insignificant faction, Representative Gabrielle Giffords was a symbol of “the enemy” and previously had been “targeted” as such, so it’s not entirely surprising that an unhinged young man would arm himself with an easily-obtained automatic weapon and do what (he likely thought) needed to be done. Collateral damage, such as murdering six people and wounding a dozen more, has to be accepted in war — at least according to way it is still waged.

As the Weather Underground believed in the absolute necessity of bombs to address actual moral grievances such as the Vietnam War and racism, Loughner might have believed in the absolute necessity of a Glock to answer his imagined moral grievances. Violent actors in this country — whether James Earl Ray, Timothy McVeigh, or Scott Roeder, who in 2009 killed a Kansas abortion provider — are always armed not just with weapons, but with the conviction that their grievances demand satisfaction and their violence is righteous.

But the shooting of Giffords, Judge John Roll, Christina Taylor Green, and the other victims in that Tucson parking lot was not a means to anything. It was an end in itself. The gunman’s goal was quite likely existential — an individual committing a horrific act for its own sake.

I doubt that Loughner, sitting in a Tucson jail, gives these matters much thought. I doubt that he cares much about who won the 2010 midterms or who will win the presidency in 2012. I doubt that a man who seems so confused and desperate cares much about ideology. Sarah Palin and her cross-hairs map deserve nothing but ignominy, but Loughner probably didn’t worry that liberals would blame conservatives for the shooting or that conservatives would take umbrage at every media accusation. If he’s a political actor, he probably doesn’t know it.

After I turned myself in, in 1977, I spent the next 25 years trying to understand what had gone so horribly wrong. One of my most profound conclusions was to make a commitment to pursue only nonviolent action — righteous action still, but without anger or brutality.

Like me, Loughner — though he’s the product of a different era and may have been motivated only by his madness — could have a long time to consider the logic behind his alleged actions. I only hope that he and those families that were destroyed can find peace.
© 2011 Mark Rudd, one of the founders of the militant Weather Underground group, is a retired community college instructor and the author of the new book Underground: My Life With SDS and the Weathermen.

Christina Green's Civics Lesson
By David Michael Green

Last week, Christina Green got a lesson in American government and politics.

The rest of us, apparently, did not.

Christina was a nine year-old kid, just elected to student council. She decided to see what government was all about by attending a ‘Congress On Your Corner’ constituent event in Tucson, featuring Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Christina came home from the event dead, one of the greater tragedies imaginable in a national narrative that always has plenty of those on offer. We – American society – mourn for her. And we would genuinely like to make sure that something like this never happens again.

It’s just that we’d have to budge ever so slightly off our bloated, beached backsides, get up and reclaim our government for that to happen. So it won’t.

Right there you’ll find Civics Lessons Numbers One through Three that Christina Green got. First, that American government does not belong to the American people anymore. Second, that the public is too lazy to cease being ignorant in order to take it back. And third, that those societies which are fortunate enough to have been bequeathed the gift of liberty and democracy are not always mature enough to deserve keeping them. And therefore they might not.

Almost everything that is wrong with American politics and government and society can be traced back to these foundational axioms. We are a breathtakingly, astonishingly stupid society – if stupid is defined as bringing unnecessary grief upon oneself – and almost all of our shared tribulations derive from the simple fact that American government does not now exist to serve the public interest, and that we’ve let that happen.

Given that premise, government will do incredibly destructive things, including to you and me. Of course, the interests that own the government could not be less bothered by such externalities and collateral damage (that would be us) if we were instead all minnows, instantly pulverized by the churning propellers of their gasoline-inhaling, pollutant-belching, city-block-long yachts.

Serving the interests of the plutocracy is no longer merely American government’s bias or even its mission. That function has in our time now become its full-on raison d'être, and the government is therefore capable of anything in pursuit of that purpose.

It has created a gigantic military machine, completely out of proportion to any actual national security need.

It has launched an endless series of wars, based on lie after lie.

It has shifted ever greater tax burdens onto the middle, working and under classes, and onto future generations – without, of course, their acquiescence.

It has created and defends a health care system that condemns tens of millions of its citizens – including children – to a lack of health, and to shortened lives.

It built a massive for-profit prison industry, incarcerating more of its citizens than any other country in the world.

It allowed its financiers to deploy every manner of crooked scam imaginable, in a context of almost completely absent regulation, wrecking an entire global economy in the process as these bunkster banksters enriched themselves before, during and after the meltdown they created. Then it covered their losses one hundred cents on the dollar, using taxpayer funds, even as these private sector privateers continued to flog that very same government as public enemy number one.

It gave corporations tax credits for shipping American jobs overseas, decimating the middle class on the altar of free trade.

It stood by silently, permitting banks to throw people out of their homes en masse, based on foreclosure documents that are utter garbage.

It declared corporations the equivalent of human beings, and then used the doctrine of free speech protection to cover for the unlimited political purchasing power those predators employed to buy the government of their liking.

It allowed credit card companies to charge interest rates that would make loan sharks blush.

It made it nearly impossible for citizens crushed under these burdens, and those of lost jobs or medical crises, to seek the refuge of bankruptcy.

It allowed oil companies to run dangerous drilling projects in our commons without the slightest regulation or supervision by the government.

It permitted coal companies to level entire mountain ranges.

It allows factory farms to create massive oceans of animal waste, to inflict astonishingly cruel industrial-scale violence upon the creatures in their maws, and to produce toxic chemical-infused products for the public to consume, leading to epidemic-scale national health disasters.

It permits ongoing destruction of the very environment which makes life on Earth possible – the only such environment, on the only such planet, available to us.

And it regularly beats up on gays and immigrants and women and brown people and foreigners, in order to divert our attention from all of these crimes.

The government of this country has done all these things and much, much more for one simple reason: It serves the overclass, not the people.

And so, if it is capable of doing these things – wars and depressions and mass incarcerations and planetary destruction – and if it is so sociopathically amoral that it is willing to commit these crimes for the mere purpose of enriching the already fabulously wealthy, should it be any shock to us that it can also murder nine year-old little girls?

Or ninety year-old grandpas? Or even members of Congress? Is there really anything surprising about the fact that over 30,000 Americans die every year from gun violence? Do we really have the right to be startled about what happened in Tucson, when a million Americans have perished by the gun since Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were murdered in that same fashion?

And what could be shocking about the death of a nine year-old girl when we live in a society so far gone that it can’t even remove the trade in military-grade assault weapons from the practice of its legal commerce? A society that makes it easier to purchase such killing machines than it is to get a driver’s license? A polity that now has within its borders nearly one weapon for each of the 300 million of us living here? A country in which transparently deranged and dangerous individuals cannot be blocked from possessing weapons of mass destruction?

Jesus Christ, of course Christina Green is dead. What else could possibly be imagined? What else could possibly happen if one were to take – as a sociological experiment – any given society and infect it so thoroughly with the disease of such a vast and murderously destructive arsenal? What if, instead, we had nearly 300 million vials of smallpox distributed among the population? What else besides death on an epidemic scale could possibly happen?

And what else will continue to happen? And what else has already happened, by the hundreds, just in the mere week’s time since this little girl was murdered?

There will be no end to this, because we are too lazy to take ownership of our government, too lazy to cure our ignorance about who actually owns it and for what purpose, and too devoid of the character necessary even just to maintain the democracy that we’re always prattling on about abroad, as we boorishly extol the exceptional quality of our virtues to others forced to listen. Unfortunately, preserving the gifts of democracy and liberty requires a bit more effort than just showing up every four years (or not, for nearly half of us) and taking five minutes to cast a vote for this imbecilic clown as a replacement for that transparent thief. Hence the current sad state of the United States.

So forget it. Sure, it would be great if nine year-old girls didn’t have to die violently, but what about our football games? What about our sitcoms and our ritual self-affirming humiliation-fests otherwise known as ‘reality TV’?

We’re not going to do a damn thing about this child murdered for profit. And she was precisely that, just as sure as if it had been a contract killing. Let’s not mince words. There are people who get rich by injected the poison of weaponry into our society. Fundamentally, they know this, and they are therefore morally no different from any standard issue contract killer, except by the vastly greater scale of their crimes.

We’re not going to do a damn thing about this child murdered for profit, and in fact we’re so far down the road of our national pathology that none of our elected representatives will anymore even bother with the kabuki dance ritual of yore calling for a change in such transparently destructive gun laws. They are fully complicit in this murder. They, too, are contract killers, exchanging political office, or money, or the political office that money buys, for 30,000 Christina Greens per year. Every year. Year in and year out.

We are so far down the road of our pathology that we praise our president for giving a supposedly “healing” speech, though he did not ever once discuss the remedies that could actually heal the gaping societal wound of gun violence. Instead he merely talks about how we should talk about our policy issues, if we do. Which we won’t. All of which is code for people like him rolling over for the greedy predator class yet again. But we say, “Wonderful job, Barack! Such soothing bromides! Such warm and fuzzy platitudes! Such touching tropes! Thank you for making us feel better and less guilty. And thank you, especially, for not calling upon us to get up and actually do anything. Or even think about doing anything. Or even think.”

Let’s face it, we are so far down the road of our own pathology that we only even noticed Christina Green’s death because she happened to be alongside a member of Congress at the moment she had her fateful reckoning with the insatiable greed of the American plutocracy. Who would have known, otherwise? Even being a senselessly murdered little girl isn’t enough to make national headlines these days. And imagine if instead this had been the story of a forty year-old, a man – worse, a minority – murdered alone on a street corner somewhere, with no dignitary or celebrity anywhere nearby. Would Barack The Great National Healer have gone to his funeral? If so, he’d be a very busy president, since over 80 gun deaths occur per day in America, every single day.

For the money.

Which is the same reason nothing will be done, nor even seriously discussed. So successful have been the purveyors of the guns-for-profit trade that even suggesting a sensible gun control policy in this country – for example, one like that employed by most every other country in the world, the folks who have radically less gun violence than we do – has been delegitimized into some sort of nefarious communist plot to destroy the Constitution. Not to mention having become guaranteed career suicide for our political class. Members of Congress might as well come out for making Gay Jesus Day a national holiday for all the traction they’d get addressing this epidemic, even if they were only doing something as ridiculously sane as trying to ban assault weapons.

If planetary destruction is not sufficient to move the government to curb even slightly our aristocracy’s relentless imperative toward greed, what chance do murdered nine year-old girls have of doing so?

The answer to that question appeared this Friday on the front page of the New York Times. There was a photo of Christina Green’s parents at her funeral service, looking stone-faced and drained, their bodies present but their grievously wounded spirits somewhere else, perhaps hunkered down in a fetal position of self-preservation within some emotional bomb-shelter, somewhere far away.

Not so Christina’s brother, however, who sits next to his parents and openly weeps in grief.

And then, just under the photo, lurks the headline to a related story.

It says, “Sadness Aside, No Shift Seen On Gun Laws.”
(c) 2011 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 Dead Letter Office...

Reince responds to a question of
how many working brain cells does he possess.

Heil Obama,

Dear RNC Fuhrer Priebus,

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, Ralph Nader, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and your being even dummer and more tongue tied than Dubya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan 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 with diamonds clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 04-01-2011. We salute you Herr Priebus Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Gulet Mohamed

The U.S. Role In Gulet Mohamed's Detention
By Glenn Greenwald

I've written several times about the plight of Gulet Mohamed, the American teenager detained without charges more than three weeks ago in Kuwait by unknown captors, relentlessly interrogated about numerous matters of interest to the Obama administration, and, he claims, severely beaten and tortured. One of the central questions of this episode has been this: who is responsible for what has happened to him -- the Kuwaiti government or his own country's government? From the beginning, it seemed highly implausible that a country as subservient to the U.S. as Kuwait would detain and relentlessly interrogate an American citizen without the assent or at least the knowledge of the U.S. Those suspicions were heightened by (a) the strange refusal of the U.S. government to act to help their own citizen (instead repeatedly sending FBI agents to aggressively interrogate him), (b) the interrogation focus on Anwar Awlaki, an obsession of the Obama administration, and (c) the placement by the U.S. of Mohamed on the no-fly list, preventing his return.

Mohamed's family has been insisting that it is the Americans behind his detention, while State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denied this and insisted that they have provided Mohamed with consular assistance. But new facts have emerged strongly suggesting that Crowley's denials are false, and that it is indeed the Americans responsible for the 19-year-old's ongoing, due-process-free detention.

When Mohamed was detained, none of his family members knew where he was or what had happened, and learned of it only because -- once he was transferred to a deportation center -- he was able to use an illicitly smuggled cellphone to call family members and journalists (The New York Times' Mark Mazzetti wrote an article about his plight and I posted a recorded interview with him from detention). Once they learned of it, Gulet's older brother, Mohad, traveled from the U.S. to Kuwait to work on securing his release.

On Friday, Kuwaiti officials told Gulet's family that they had no cause or desire to detain Gulet. To the contrary, as Mother Jones' Nick Baumann reported, the Kuwaits told his family that they would release Mohamed and deport him as soon as his family presented a purchased air ticket back to the U.S. (under Kuwaiti immigration law, foreign nationals being deported must travel on a direct flight by plane back to their country of citizenship). Following the Kuwaitis' instructions, Gulet's family purchased and brought to the detention center a one-way ticket on United Airlines from Kuwait to Dulles International Airport in Washington, which was scheduled to depart last night.

Last night, the Kuwaiti deportation officers took Gulet, along with the ticket, to the airport and were prepared to send him back to the U.S. But when he attempted to board the plane, he was told that he was barred from doing so. According to Mohad, no reason was given, but it is presumably due to the U.S.'s placement of him on the no-fly list (which State Department officials, to The New York Times, previously confirmed they had done). As a result, Gulet -- thinking he was finally headed home -- instead was returned to his detention facility, where he remains, and his prospects for release are now very unclear.

What's going on here is a pure travesty. As an American citizen, Gulet has the absolute right to return to and re-enter his country. But by secretly placing him on the no-fly list while he was halfway around the world -- and providing no information about why he was so placed -- the U.S. Government is denying him his right to return. Worse, they know that this action is not only preventing him from returning, but is keeping the 19-year-old in a state of absolute legal limbo, where's he imprisoned by a country that admits it has no cause for holding him and does not want to hold him, yet which cannot release him. The U.S. government has the obligation to assist its citizens when they end up detained without cause; here, they are doing the opposite: they're deliberately ensuring it continues.

If there's any evidence that he has has done anything wrong, he should be charged, indicted, and brought back to the U.S. for trial. What the Obama administration is doing instead is accomplishing what they could not do if he were in the U.S.: holding him without a shred of due process, interrogating him without a lawyer present, and -- if his credible claims are to believed -- using beatings and torture to get the information it wants (or false information: Gulet told me he was very tempted to falsely confess to make the beatings stop). This abuse of the no-fly list is a common tactic used by the U.S. Government to circumvent all legal and constitutional constraints when it comes to its own citizens; this case just happens to be extra viscerally repellent.
(c) 2011 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

K9 electric bus

China’s Road To Electrification Unveiled At The 2011 NAIAS
By Mike Wrathell

In 15 years, China will run out of oil. Gasoline. Petroleum. Whatever you want to call it. Pick your poison. Unless they find a big oil reserve like we did in North Dakota (and haven’t “harvested” yet), or start offshore drilling in the international waters of the Gulf of Mexico or Tonkin or elsewhere, China will have to rely 100% on foreign oil. Right now they get a lot from Iran, which explains a lot of their conduct on the UN Security Council. We may be in the same slow boat as China someday. There are only so many dinosaur carcasses.

Showing the foresight of Confucius or Lao Tzu, China is aggressively encouraging domestic electric vehicle companies with subsidies and other incentives. Pilot cities like Hong Kong and Shenzhen have electric taxicabs and buses. 2011 is going to be an electric year!

I learned all this and more at the 4th Annual seminar on Chinese Automobiles at the 2011 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) at Cobo Center in my birth city of Detroit. This seminar was entitled “China’s Road to Electrification: Government and Industry Responses.” China Business Update and China Automotive Review, a magazine all about the Chinese auto industry once again presented an excellent seminar with four very knowledgeable speakers at a half-day seminar on Wednesday, January 12, 2011. Michael Hanley of Ernst & Young, Paul Lin of BYD Auto (10% of which is owned by Warren Buffett), Linda Luo of China Business Update, and Lei Xing of CBU/CAR all spoke wonderfully about issues surrounding electric cars, not only in China, but in North America and Europe.

I hope you will forgive me for this synthesis of their respective statements, filtered through and enhanced by my own understanding.

One of the best-known Chinese companies making electric vehicles (EVs) is said BYD Auto, short for “Build Your Dreams.” The e6 Premier is their purely electric car and is now at the NAIAS’s main showroom at the BYD exhibit. So is the F3DM, “the world’s first mass produced plug in dual-mode hybrid” according to China Automotive Review. It can go 38 miles on a full charge, and another 313 miles on a full tank of gas. The Chevrolet Volt and the F3DM both have internal combustion engines. BYD is also the world leader in rechargeable batteries, using nickel, lithium-ion, iron-phosphate and other materials. BYD claims the iron-phosphate (Fe) battery is biodegradable, with no toxic electrolytes, and no heavy metals. Their Fe battery comes with a ten-year warranty.

When the F3DM breaks into the North American auto market as early as 2012, it will probably cost around $28,000. That’s $5,000 cheaper than the Chevy Volt, after its rebate. And BYD’s pure electric car, the e6, is now being tested as an eTaxi in Shenzhen, a large city in southern China, where BYD is based.

BYD has an office in L. A. now, and is going to supply the City of L. A. with some K9s, an all-electric bus. There is a K9 on display at the BYD exhibit, too. The K9 can go 136-174 miles/day, enough juice to go from San Fernando to Westwood a few times a day. That was the old bus route I lived off when I lived in L. A. for a year the year after my freshman year at The University of Michigan. It was quite a long route. Westwood is where UCLA is. Of course, if a bus gets caught in traffic, it will be losing charge the whole time, but at least it won’t be adding to the horrible smog. There were days when I lived in the San Fernando Valley that you could not tell you were in a valley. None of the mountains were visible, so electric buses in L. A. are a terrific idea. Speaking of mountains. BYD is going to use a wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains northwest of L. A. to store energy for its batteries, AP reported in December. Wunderbar!

61% of all air pollution in Hong Kong can be eliminated once all taxicabs and buses are electric, which is BYD’s noble goal. It will not only cut down on CO2 emissions, but save a lot of yuanola.

China wants to be the world leader in electric cars, and 2011 is a pivotal year. Hopefully, China’s electrification efforts will make the next Olympics in China a less smoggy affair, and that goes for L. A., too!

By the way, I heard from one person at the seminar who has been all over the world that New Delhi has way more smog than any major city in China. So I sure hope India is monitoring China’s efforts at electrification, just like we need to be doing!

2011 is the moment of truth for electric vehicles. Even South Africa is getting in the picture with the Joule. There are now 120 million e-bike and e-trikes (3-wheeled bicycles) in China. There are two charging stations in Beijing, and those aren’t for electric Peking Duck!

Besides Antarctica, South America is the only continent that has yet to embrace electrification. Brazil has cars that run solely on ethanol, and also cars that run solely on natural gas, so they say phooey to electric cars. The Middle East still likes gasoline-powered vehicles, by the way, and doesn’t count as a continent--part of it being in Africa, but most of it being in Asia.

India has some electric cars, but if they can ever harvest the methane from all those cows and make a methane engine, watch out!

By the end of 2012, we should have a lot better picture of the state of electric cars worldwide, and also e-bikes, e-trikes, e-buses, and e-trains. An electric bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai is scheduled to start rolling this June. It will only take four hours with a top speed of 240 mph!

Hopefully, BYD, GM, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, and other leaders in electrification will tackle all the issues that come up. Let’s hope America’s aging Grid can handle the surge in use that is inevitable with the electrification of the transportation sector. I hope the Tea Party does not mind terribly if we spend some money upgrading the infrastructure of the Grid. The Grid warned us once already that it needs some attention back on August 14, 2003 when we had the now-infamous Northeast Blackout. Our natural gas lines in America have warned us even more recently, as have our bridges….

Some might wonder what is the source of power for the Grid. Well, there is coal, there is Niagara Falls, there is nuclear power, and there is always The Sun and wind, too, if we choose to harness their power. BYD uses solar and wind power in China to power up their EV charging stations. BYD also has an Energy Storage System that can be used to upgrade the Grid. BYD speaks of a “smart grid.” They are thinking ahead and America can learn a lot from BYD and China. A combination of silicon solar cells, wind, and water power is the way to go, I think; but we would really have to go hard and heavy to power the entire Grid that way. Yet, we need to act now, before another catastrophe. The technology is here, folks. Yes, it needs some tweaking, some evolution, some more innovations, but it is ripe for the plucking. Paul Lin, Global Marketing Manager of BYD Auto, said that nuclear power is not “sustainable,” by the way.

“Where there is a will there is a way,” someone said before everyone said it, and Plato first wrote in The Republic, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” We sure don’t want to rely solely on “dirty” energies, like nuclear and coal to produce the electricity to power EVs. There is already enough irony in the world.

All this begs the question, of course, of where we are going to dispose all the batteries powering all these EVs. Next to all the nuclear waste? Some of the chemicals used in EV batteries are rather toxic and we never want them to seep into the water table.

We could store them in thick metal containers and bury them, protecting them from terror attacks, human error, and acts of God. We could put them in rockets and fire them at The Moon or The Sun. But we might want to mine The Moon for water and/or precious metals, and what if those chemicals ended up changing the chemical composition of The Sun? No, we can’t have that.

We could fire them at Venus, named after the Goddess of Love, making her the Goddess of Love and Hazardous Waste, or we could just fire them into Deep Space, perhaps at Pluto, in an attempt to correct its highly elliptical orbit, or, better yet, at Eris, one of whose co-discoverers claims to have killed Pluto; so we could kill Eris instead to show him the infinite nature of Irony; we could even attach a camera, and beam back photos of the puny dwarf planet now thought to be smaller than Pluto, and, once Pluto’s diameter is re-measured by NASA’s New Horizons probe in July of 2015, we will probably know for sure.

However, launching rockets currently requires a lot of rocket fuel, leaving quite a carbon footprint. Congress wants NASA to develop a heavy-lift rocket by 2016 that can carry 70 tons of stuff, but NASA says their budget will not allow it. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, nor tea. So, disposing spent batteries on Earth, or recycling their materials once they can’t be recharged, is probably the best solution. We will just have to think of another way to kill Eris.

This article first appeared in America Jr..
(c) 2011 Mike Wrathell is an artist, attorney, actor and a reporter for Issues & Alibis Magazine. Contact Mike.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Vic Harville ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Damn Yankees
By Damn Yankees

Hey brother
Ready for Another
Dose of my Yankee Pride
In the jungle
Ya just might stumble
Onto something that you never tried

Got that right

There was trouble in the east
Worry in the west
Till the wall came tumblin' down
Shift in the sand
Rockets to the madman
Haven't heard a sound

You don't have to worry
Help is on the way
We don't need no "thank you, ma'am"
We know what they're gonna say

(They say) Hey, hey, Damn Yankees
Woh, Oh, Oh, Damn Yankees

(How we doin')

Now I say what I want
And I do what I want
And I go where I want to go
Ain't no strong man
Safe from the hang man
Baby, now, don't ya know

If you need assitance
I'll be on the way
Run into a little resistance
Ya know what they're gonna say

(They say) Hey, hey, Damn Yankees
Woh, oh, oh, Damn Yankees
Hey, hey, Damn Yankees

They landed at Plymouth Rock
The kids was ready to roll
Greasy dictator down south of us
Lost all control
He didn't have time to see me
He didn't have time to thank me
Suck on the barrel of my hot shotgun
Smile when you say "Damn Yankees!"

Hey, hey, Damn Yankees
Woh, oh, oh, Damn Yankees
Hey, hey, Damn Yankees
Woh, oh, oh, Damn Yankees

Damn Yankees
Damn Yankees
© 1989/2010 Tommy Shaw/Jack Blades/Ted Nugent

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Church Struggles With Tithing Categories in Light of American Express "Black Card"

Click Here to Learn More About Landover's Levels of Tithing!Freehold, Iowa - THE NEW YEAR started at Landover Baptist Church with yet another monthly meeting of the Board of Deacons dominated by the controversy that has plagued and deeply divided the church (or, at least, its most devout members) for nearly all of last year: whether to alter elite tithing levels in light of the introduction of a higher-than-platinum credit card.

Mrs. Helen Floribunda, the church’s oldest platinum level tither, explained the position of the church’s upper crust (after receiving written permission from her husband to address the board): “I don’t know why there is any controversy at all. Everyone says the dividing line between platinum and black tithers would be arbitrary. I say we should divide the categories by digits of income, as established by financial statements rather than tax returns, of course. My husband and I have earned eight digits for over 30 years. Yet, the current platinum tithing level, I have been told, includes not only seven-digit earners but even high six-digit earners. Why should we be lumped together with those of such modest means? Eight should be black, seven should be platinum, six (above $500,000) should be gold and the lower sixes should be silver (if those people must be allowed in the church at all). What is so complicated about that?”

Anthony Watkins, a gold level tither whose family lives in the modest Hosea Homes subdivision of Freehold, disagreed. “Our family pays more of our income to the church than these platinum folks. In fact, almost half our income goes to Landover Baptist Church, whereas I know platinum tithers who pay less than 10 percent of their earnings to the church. Why should we be deemed second class parishioners when our love of the church is obviously so much greater?"

Mrs. Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian and Landover’s most ingenious tither, quickly dismissed such sour grapes. “Mr. Watkins is comparing apples to forbidden fruit. We are all equal in the eyes of God, but not in the eyes of a CPA. Mr. Watkins is merely a person; I am a limited liability corporation. And just last week, the Board of Deacons agreed to extend the 2003 tithe-cuts granted to the richest 10% of the flock. It is a well-known fact that when the church takes in less money from rich Christians, it actually takes in more money! Don’t ask me to explain how this happens; it’s a miracle! When the losses of my offshore investments and end-of-year purchases of foreign real estate are netted out, I actually lost money in fiscal 2010. So the church technically owes me money this year. As such, if I give even a dollar, it is equivalent of penny-pinching Mr. Watkins forking over $100,000. And yet he whines about how rich I seem! That smacks of socialism. And socialism is just bad manners. I don’t think I should be penalized for having crafty Jewish accountants. And I’m certainly not going to support cheap, unimaginative tithers pushing for a ‘progressive tithing’ scheme. Last time I looked, we weren’t living in Sweden. Far too many Mexicans for that!”

Pastor Deacon Fred quickly took control of the meeting. “There isn't an issue on the table to change the tithing rate, folks. It's gonna remain 17.5 percent for everyone until it is inevitably increased by the board next year. The various deductions, exemptions and tithing loopholes are also gonna remain intact. The issue is simply whether we should change the status of tithers, in particular, whether we should create a black tithing class and, if so, what we should name the class to ensure it isn't mistaken for a dang welfare program for deadbeat fathers and baby-proliferating mothers.”

Board chair, Brother Harry Hardwick, urged his colleagues to adopt a change. “I realize there will be some logistical difficulties. I certainly don’t relish being classified the same as people who make as little as the Floribundas, but we must understand that tithing levels come with certain benefits, some of which are already spread thin. For instance, platinum tithers will receive advance warning of the apocalypse, so they can pack and occupy the choice seats of the observatory. Church seating, placement in church programs, priority on Pastor’s prayer list and advance theater and church ticket sales are all based on tithing class. With the surge in church applications following the terrifying election of the Obama boy, platinum status has frankly become too common. Our VICs [Very Important Christians] need to be distinguished with a new class. I am sick of having to arrive at the stadium an hour early to make sure I get seats on the 50-yard-line before Landover University football games so that I can beat Henry Block and his enormous clan to the punch. Since Henry is my accountant, I know what he makes and he has no business wrestling seats from me.”

Helen Floribunda summed up the feelings of Landover's richest tithers by emphatically declaring: "No one is going to call me a 'black' anything! Not unless they want meet the end of my Remington!"
© 2011 The Landover Baptist Church

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 03 (c) 01/21/2011

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