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In This Edition

Greg Palast examines, "The Pig In The XL Pipeline."

Uri Avnery exclaims, "Hurrah For Egypt!"

Matt Taibbi wonders, "A Victory For The Public On Foreclosures?"

Phil Rockstroh takes us on, "A Journey To The End Of Empire."

Jim Hightower follows, "The Adelson Campaign."

Helen Thomas is, "Changing The State Of Our Union."

James Donahue asks, "Would You Believe It? China Firm Dealing With Labor Issues."

David Sirota concludes, "Overconsumption Won't Save America."

David Swanson explores, "A Crazy Republican Attack That Obama Himself Agrees With."

Ted Rall concludes, "Taxing The Rich Won't Help The Poor."

Paul Krugman explains, "The Austerity Debacle."

Chris Floyd considers, "Air America."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship overlook, "The Party People Of Wall Street."

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

John Nichols finds, "Wisconsin Recall More Popular Than GOP Presidential Candidates-Combined."

Joel S. Hirschhorn says, "No Matter Who Wins, Americans Lose."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Romneymania Sweeps America" but first Uncle Ernie tallies up, "The 4% Pick."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Clay Jones, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Nate Beeler, David Fitzsimmons, Monkey Business Images, Alien Productions, John Marshall Mantel, Joel Pett, Sue Coe, Foxconn, Americans Elect, David Silverman/Getty Images, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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The 4% Pick
By Ernest Stewart

"Newt Gingrich had his chance, had his shot, had a big boost and win out in South Carolina and couldn't hold it. Voters are looking for a different conservative and alternative to Mitt Romney now." ~~~ Rick Santorum

"A direct assault on Internet users. ...a broad new Internet snooping bill." ~~~ The ACLU

"...biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States." ~~~ Rick Saccone

You know, the landlord rang my front door bell.
I let it ring for a long, long spell.
I went to the window,
I peeped through the blind,
And asked him to tell me what was on his mind.
He said,

Money, honey.
Money, honey.
Money, honey, if you want to get along with me.
Money Honey ~~~ Elvis Aaron Presley

Well, Florida has come and gone, and there really wasn't much of a surprise there -- except, of course, for the red-neck Riviera where Newt should have done better than he did.

The final tally at this time is Willard with 46% of the vote, Newt with 32%, Ricky with 13% and Ronnie with 7%. In their favor, Ricky and Ronnie didn't bother campaigning in the state, as they perceived Florida to be full of old folks, Cubans, and Jews -- hardly their people. Nor do they have Willard's big bank book to fall back on, as money talks -- as Newt found out.

The MSM made much ado and has given the nomination to Willard after only wining 4% of the states and losing in 4% of the states. That's right, America, you other 92% should just go along with their picks as the corpo-rat news networks have made their pick, no matter how distasteful Willard is; he's all yours -- whether you like it or not! The truth of the matter is Willard picked up 50 Republican National Convention delegates; this gave Willard a total of 87, to 26 for Gingrich, 14 for Santorum, and four for Paul. Did I mention it takes 1,144 delegates to clinch the nomination? So, by my way of thinking, it's hardly over yet!

One person who no doubt likes it is Barry, who not only has been preparing for Willard from Day One and has more money in his war chest than even the ultra-rich Romney. In fact, our would-be dictators will spend more money on this campaign than was spent in all elections for the Oval Office in the first 145 years of America combined! We have, of course, the "Gang of Five" of the Extreme Court to thank for this disaster, and the many more disasters to come in the future because of their ruling.

Even that could be overcome if the party, (you do know that there is only one party in this country, right?) nominated some candidates of the people, rather than our corpo-rat master's puppets. There'll be no more JFKs, Teddy Roosevelts, or Abraham Lincolns in our future -- just corpo-rat stooges like Willard and Barry; and some people wonder why most people don't even bother voting, viz., 54% stay home. When the choice is always between Himmler and Hitler, I wonder why anybody bothers voting at all; don't you, America?

In Other News

Those pesky Rethuglicans are at it again, wanting to follow your every move on the Internet just as they want to follow your every move in your bedroom -- talk about some sick voyeurs!

As usual, they've come up with another euphemism, like "The Patriot Act," calling this piece of garbage HR 1981 the "Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act." Sounds innocent enough, and something that you might be inclined to support; but it has little to do with protecting children and everything to do with watching your every move. I have nothing against them following pedophiles around and such; but this is against everybody with no warrants required. I wonder why the Rethuglicans hate the Bill of Rights, don't you?

Here's what I mean:

They want to force Internet service providers to keep track of and retain their customers' information -- including your name, address, phone number, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, temporarily-assigned IP addresses; and the address of every web site that you visit for at least a year. ISPs would be forced to collect and retain your data, whether or not you're accused of a crime. And forced to do so at great expense, which they will be forced to pass on to you as Con-gress has set no money aside to pay for this turkey!

So far, the ACLU, EFF, Demand Progress, and 25 other civil liberties and privacy groups have expressed their opposition to this legislation. Can you guess what Taxes Rethuglican came up with this bright idea? If you said Lamar Smith -- the very same weasel that came up with SOPA -- you may stay after class and clean the erasers!

As Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California (who led Democratic opposition to the bill) said, "It represents a data bank of every digital act by every American [that would] let us find out where every single American visited Web sites." Most in Congress call this, "an all-encompassing Internet snooping bill," which is exactly what it is. So, by all means, do threaten the Con-gress person of your choice with your righteous wrath if they support this act of treason!

And Finally

You may have heard by now that the entire Pennsylvania House has committed an act of treason and crime against the US Constitution? Thanks to the efforts of Con-gressman Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth Township), 2012 is now officially the "Year of the Bible!" Yeah, I know!

Last Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives adopted House Resolution 535 by a unanimous vote of 193-0. The Resolution provides in part:

That the House of Representatives declare 2012 as the "Year of the Bible" in Pennsylvania in recognition of both the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures.

The Resolution begins with a number of "Whereas" clauses, such as one declaring that "Whereas the Bible, the word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people." The resolution was introduced as "noncontroversial" under House Rule 35. This permitted the resolution to be voted on within 2 days of being introduced and without first going to committee. I would have put up the entire resolution except the State of Pennsylvania has taken it down as I'm guessing the sh*t hit the fan in the last week or so.

Rick continues by asserting "renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through holy scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people" and then declares "our national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures."

Apparently these Bozos don't need no stinking Bill of Rights! You may recall that the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights says in part:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Rick's bright idea is in violation of both parts of that part of the First Amendment.

Beyond that act of treason, it's also a slap in the face to the rest of America that doesn't share Rick's belief in this particular mythology. I had this silly notion that The Pennsylvanian House was to represent all of the people? Not just those that share that brand of madness!

Guess what? I didn't write Rick a letter because everyone in the legislature voted in favor of this bill, every Rethuglican and every Demoncrat and I haven't time to write them all a letter! Still they all should share in this crime against the US Constitution; ergo, The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is this week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner -- a first!

Keepin' On

People keep telling me that the economy is improving; but so far this year; I've haven't seen any evidence of that at all! In fact, just the opposite seems to be true, especially as it effects my bottom line!

So far this year, we've taken in zero as compared to about $500 last year. It takes approximately $500 a month just to pay our bills. Of course, the month after the holidaze is traditionally a bad time to raise money as all those Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid al-Adha, Kwanza, and Solstice bills come due. I myself, spent a small fortune on body oils for the Solstice Dance and mixer!

Like "the Kings" landlord in "Money Honey," my creditors couldn't give a rat's ass less about all that; they just want their money, and they want it now! No sense of humor in them at all! None! Ergo, if you could give us a hand getting over the "January Hump," it would be greatly appreciated by yours truly!


12-11-1926 ~ 01-22-2012
Thanks for the warnings!

05-07-1951 ~ 01-26-2012
Thanks for the laughs!

08-25-1910 ~ 01-31-2012
Thanks for the visions!

09-27-1936 ~ 02-01-2012
Thanks for the ride!


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


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

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

The Pig In The XL Pipeline
Insider reveals concealed "error" in pipeline safety equipment that could blow away the GOP's XL pipe dream
By Greg Palast

"They threatened me. Last night I got a call and they threatened me. If I talked."

"Pig Man #2," a pipeline industry insider, had a good reason to be afraid. He was about to blow the whistle on a fraud, information that could blow away the XL Keystone Pipeline project.

His information: The software for the crucial piece of pipeline safety equipment, the "Smart PIG," has a flaw known to the industry but concealed from regulators.

The flaw allows cracks, leaks and corrosion to go undetected - and that saves the industry billions of dollars in pipe replacements. But there's a catch. Pipes with cracks and leaks can explode - and kill.

Federal law requires the oil and gas industry to run a PIG, a Pipeline Inspection Gauge, through big oil and gas pipelines. The robot porker, tethered to a GPS, beeps and boops as it rolls through, electronically squealing when it finds dangers.

But whistleblowers told us at Channel 4 Dispatches (the "60 Minutes" of Britain) that the software is deliberately calibrated to ignore or minimize deadly problems. They know because they themselves worked on the software design team.

This week, President Obama refused to issue a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, but invited its owner, Trans-Canada, to re-apply. The GOP has gone wild over Obama's hesitation, screeching that slowing the Canada-to-Houston pipe for a full safety review is a jobs killer.

But it's the Pipeline that's the killer. Here's what Pig Man #2 told me, on camera, his face in shadow:

When his team found the life-threatening flaw in the program, they immediately created a software patch to fix it. But then their supervisor ordered them to bury the fix and conceal the problem.

With the PIG calibrated to the danger sensitivity required by law, oil and gas companies would have to dig up, inspect and replace pipe at a cost of millions per mile. That's not what the oil companies wanted from their contractor that designed the PIG program.

The programmers' bosses took no chances. "We had to sign nondisclosure agreements." They were required to conceal "any problems of this sort or the nature of the software we worked." It could not "be made public at all. Under threat of lawsuit." Nice.

With the error left in place, he said, "People die."

Pig Man #2 was shaking a bit when he said it. On September 9, 2010, a gas pipeline exploded, incinerating 13-year-old Janessa Greig, her mom and six others.

A PIG - an honest PIG - would have caught the bad welds in the old pipe.

Trans-Canada says that Keystone XL won't contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, the Plains states' crucial water source. Keystone's permit application boasts that we can rely on XL's "full pigging capability."

Sure. Last summer, an ExxonMobil pipeline burst and poisoned parts of the Yellowstone River - only months after it had been "pigged."

The danger of a muzzled PIG goes beyond Keystone XL. New gas fields opened by hydraulic fracking will require over 100,000 miles of new transmission pipe.

This week, Newt Gingrich called Obama's temporary block on the XL Pipeline, "stunningly stupid"; and Mitt Romney said Obama's decision threatened America's "energy independence." (Mitt, the oil is from, uh, Canada.)

But the real question is, can we trust these pigs? And not just the ones in the pipeline.

(c) 2012 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at.

Hurrah For Egypt!
By Uri Avnery

THE IMPOSSIBLE has happened. The Egyptian parliament, democratically elected by a free people, has convened for its first session.

For me this is a wonderful, a joyful occasion.

For many Israelis, this is a worrisome, a threatening sight.

I CANNOT but rejoice when a downtrodden people arises and wins its freedom and human dignity. And not by the intervention of outside forces, but by its own steadfastness and courage. And not by shooting and bloodshed, but by the sheer power of nonviolence.

Whenever and wherever it happens, it must gladden the heart of any decent person around the globe.

Compared to most other revolutions, this Egyptian uprising was bloodless. The number of victims ran in the dozens, not thousands. The current struggle in Syria claims that number of victims every day or two, and so did the successful uprising in neighboring Libya, which was greatly assisted by foreign military intervention.

A revolution reflects the character of its people. I always had a special liking for the Egyptian people, because they are - by and large - devoid of aggressiveness and violence. They are a singularly patient and humorous lot. You can see this in thousands of years of recorded history and you can see it in daily life in the street.

That is why this revolution was so surprising. Of all the peoples on this planet, the Egyptians are among the most unlikely to revolt. Yet revolt they did.

THE PARLIAMENT convened after 60 years of military rule, which also started with a bloodless revolution. Even the despised king, Farouk, who was overthrown on that day in July 1952, was not harmed. He was bundled into his luxurious yacht and sent off to Monte Carlo, there to spend the rest of his life gambling.

The real leader of the revolution was Gamal Abd-al-Nasser. I had met him several times during the 1948 war - though we were never properly introduced. These were all night battles, and only after the war could I reconstruct the events. He was wounded in a battle for which my company was awarded the honorary name "Samson's Foxes", while I was wounded five months later by soldiers under his command.

I never met him face to face, of course, but a good friend of mine did. During the battle of the "Faluja pocket", a cease-fire was agreed in order to bring out the dead and wounded lying between the lines. The Egyptians sent Major Abd-al-Nasser, our side sent a Yemen-born officer whom we called "Gingi" (Ginger), because he was almost totally black. The two enemy officers liked each other very much, and when the Egyptian revolution broke out, Gingi told me - long before anyone else - that Abd-al-Nasser was the man to watch.

(I cannot restrain myself from voicing a pet peeve here. In Western films and books, Arabs often bear the first name Abdul. Such a name just does not exist. "Abdul" is really Abd-al-, which means "servant of"' and is invariably followed by one of Allah's 99 attributes. Abd-al-Nasser, for example, means "Servant of (Allah) the Victorious". So please!)

"Nasser", as most people called him for short, was not a born dictator. He later recounted that after the victory of the revolution, he had no idea what to do next. He started by appointing a civilian government, but was appalled by the incompetence and corruption of the politicians. So the army took things into its own hands, and soon enough it became a military dictatorship, which lasted and steadily degenerated until last year.

One does not have to take Nasser's account literally, but the lesson is clear: now as then, "temporary" military rule tends to turn into a lasting dictatorship. Egyptians know this from bitter experience, and that's why they are becoming very very impatient now.

I remember an arresting conversation between two leading Arab intellectuals some 45 years ago. We were in a taxi in London, on our way to a conference. One was the admirable Mohammed Sid Ahmad, an aristocratic Egyptian Marxist, the other was Alawi, a courageous leftist Moroccan opposition leader. The Egyptian said that in the contemporary Arab world, no national goal can be achieved without a strong autocratic leadership. Alawi retorted that nothing worthwhile can be achieved before internal democracy is established. I think this case has now been settled.

AS WINSTON CHURCHILL famously said, "democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried." The bad thing about democracy is that free elections don't always turn out the way you want them to.

The recent Egyptian election was won by "Islamists". The tumultuous first session produced by this whiff of freedom was dominated by deputies with religious beards. Elected members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the more extreme Salafists (adherents of the Salafiyeh, a Sunni tendency which claims to follow the teaching of the first three Muslim generations) form the majority. The Israelis and the world's Islamophobes, for whom all Muslims are the same, are aghast.

Frankly, I don't like religious parties of any stripe - Jewish, Muslim, Christian or what have you. Full democracy demands full separation between State and religion, in practice as well as in theory.

I would not vote for politicians who use religious fundamentalism as a ladder for their careers - whether they are American presidential candidates, Israeli settlers or Arab demagogues. Even If they were sincere, I would still vote against them. But if such people are elected freely, I accept them. I certainly would not let the success of the Islamists spoil my joy at the historic victory of the Arab Spring.

The way it looks now, Islamists of various shades are going to be influential in all the new parliaments that will be the products of Arab democracy, from Morocco to Iraq, from Syria to Oman. Israel will not be a "villa in the jungle," but a Jewish island in a Muslim sea.

Island and sea are not natural enemies. On the contrary, they complement each other. The islanders catch fish in the sea, the island shelters the young fish.

THERE IS no reason for Jews and Muslims not to live peacefully together and cooperate. They have done so many times in history, and these were good times for both.

In any religion, there are many contradictions. In the Hebrew Bible there are the inspiring chapters of the prophets and the abominable calls for genocide in the Book of Joshua, for example. In the New Testament, there are the beautiful Sermon on the Mount and the disgusting (and obviously false and later inserted) description of the Jews calling for the crucifixion of Jesus, which has caused anti-Semitism and untold suffering. In the Koran are several objectionable passages about the Jews, but they are overshadowed by the admirable command to protect the "peoples of the book," Jews and Christians.

It is up to the believers of any religion to pick from their holy texts the passages they want to act upon. Once I saw a Nazi book composed entirely of quotations from the Talmud - hundreds of them. I was certain that they were all false and was shocked to the core when a friendly rabbi assured me that they were all authentic, only taken out of context.

JEWS AND Muslims can and did live peacefully together, and so did Israelis and Egyptians.

Just one chapter: in November, 1944, two members of the pre-state underground Lehi organization (aka Stern Gang) assassinated Lord Moyne, the British Minister of State for the Middle East, in Cairo. They were caught, and their trial in an Egyptian court turned into an anti-British demonstration. Young Egyptian patriots filled the chamber and made no effort to hide their admiration for the accused. One of the two (with whom I was acquainted) reciprocated with a rousing speech, in which he dismissed Zionism and defined himself as a freedom fighter out to liberate the entire region from British imperialism.

When Israel was founded soon after, some of us suggested that the new state use this and other acts in order to present ourselves as the first Semitic state that had liberated itself from foreign rule. In this spirit, we publicly welcomed Abd-al-Nasser's 1952 revolution. But in 1956, Israel attacked Egypt in collusion with France and Great Britain, and was branded as an outpost of Western colonialism.

AFTER ANWAR SADAT'S historic visit to Jerusalem, I was one of the first four Israelis to arrive in Cairo, For weeks we were the heroes of the city, lionized by one and all. Enthusiasm for peace with Israel gave rise to a carnival mood. Only later, when the Egyptians realized that Israel had no intention whatsoever of allowing the Palestinians to achieve their freedom, did this mood evaporate.

Now is the time to try to restore this mood. It can be done, if we resolutely turn our face toward the Arab Spring and its winter offshoots.

That raises again one of the most basic questions for Israel: Do we want to be a part of this region, or an outpost of the West? Are the Arabs our natural allies or our natural enemies? Does the new Arab democracy arouse our sympathy and admiration, or does it frighten us?

This leads to the most profound question of all: Is Israel just another branch of world Jewry, or is it a new nation born in this region and constituting an integral part of it?

For me, the answer is clear. And therefore I salute the Egyptian people and their new parliament: Congratulations!
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

A Victory For The Public On Foreclosures?
By Matt Taibbi

So there was big news yesterday on the foreclosure settlement front. We still have to wait and see what the final deal looks like, but there are reports out that the long-awaited settlement is a far, far better deal for the public than expected. If these reports are true, it looks like New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and California AG Kamala Harris have scored an enormous victory in narrowing the scope of the settlement to the point where it really only covers robosigning abuses.

According to reports (like this one in the Huffington Post), the deal will not include:<>

Criminal liability.
Tax liability.
Fair lending, fair housing, or any other civil rights claim.
Federal Housing Finance Agency or the GSEs [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac]
CFPB claims for the period after they came into existence in July 2011
SEC claims
National Credit Union Association Claims
FDIC claims
Federal Reserve Board claims
MERS claims

If that is true, and all of those things are out of the deal, and the banks are still exposed to liability not only for all of those things, but also for the broad range of offenses related to securitization, then $25 billion, dare I say it, might not even be a completely sucky number. It's far less than the real liability, but it's a much bigger sum than I ever thought would be negotiated just for robosigning.

I'm interested to see what the market reaction will be if this deal goes through. On the one hand the banks will all obtain some certaintly and relief from robosigning claims. But on the other hand, all the banks are still on the hook in other areas, nost notably putbacks of bad loans.

Score one for Schneiderman/Harris. Coupled with the news that the subpoenas have already started dropping on the securitization front, I'm almost optimistic.

p.s. let me clarify something, for readers who might mistake my meaning here. Robosigning is not a small offense. It's not a "clerical" issue. It's a mass-perjury issue, a tax evasion issue, a contractual fraud issue, and it's a criminal conspiracy issue (the banks' highest executives were engaged in planning it) and it resulted in millions of errors that resulted in untold numbers of premature foreclosures.

Robosigning had a profound and immediate impact on large numbers of actual human beings, and I don't want people to think I'm dismissing it as unimportant. I probably also shouldn't celebrate news like this until I see how the actual deal looks, what wording is used to narrow the deal's purview, how homeowners and other victims will be compensated, what will be done to prevent it in the future, and so on.

But my point was that, while a gross crime and one of the more obvious (and easily provable) parts of the criminal scheme common during the mortgage bubble years, robosigning is really an ancillary part of an even more enormous fraud that went on, and is still going on, in securitization/origination. Many homeowners were victimized by robosigning, but your more common victim of bank fraud during this time was an investor in MBS -- maybe even another WallStreet entity like a hedge fund or a bond insurer, maybe a foreign trade union, maybe a state worker whose pension fund lost 40% of its value because it was sold bad bonds by a too-big-to-fail bank. And the hook that snared those victims was securitization.

When I first heard about the foreclosure settlement, I thought it might contain a broad waiver for everything, including the tax evasion issues, the fair lending issues, securitization, and all the other things on that list above. If they did that, that would be TARPx10. My only point about this deal is that it appears to have been effectively negotiated down from a bloocurdling outrage to whatever it is now, which is probably something far less than that: it may still be a serious underpay, but it's not the unreal, criminal giveaway it was originally meant to be.

And it still leaves plenty of room for criminal investigation and reform. The people who organized and supervised the robosigning could and should still be targets of criminal prosecution, deal or no deal: this won't change that.

All I'm saying is, good for Schneiderman/Harris for holding out and preventing this settlement from being another AIG -- a secret backroom bailout in which everybody at the table got the government to solve their balance sheet problems in 24-48 hours of frenzied, disorganized discussion. This is still a bailout, but at the very least, someone represented the public this time around.

We still have to see what it looks like in the end, but I'm encouraged.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

A Journey To The End Of Empire
It is always darkest right before it goes completely black
By Phil Rockstroh

"When the poet stands at nadir the world must indeed be upside-down. If the poet can no longer speak for society, but only for himself, then we are at the last ditch." ~~~ Excerpt from, The Time of the Assassins, a study of Rimbaud, by Henry Miller

There is no reality-based argument denying this: The present system, as defined by the neoliberal economic order, is as destructive to the balance of nature as it is to the individual, both body and psyche. One's body grows obese while Arctic ice and wetlands shrink. Biodiversity decreases as psyches are commodified by ever-proliferating, corporatist/consumer state banality.

But the raging soul of the world will not be assaulted without consequence. Mind and body are intertwined and inseparable from nature, and, when nature responds to our assaults, her replies are known to humankind as the stuff of mythic tragedy and natural catastrophe.

"When the poet lives his hell, it is no longer possible for the common man to escape it." ~~~ Excerpt from, The Time of the Assassins, a study of Rimbaud, by Henry Miller

But take heart. As the saying goes, it is always darkest right before it goes completely black.

Rejoice in this: Seeds of futurity require the darkness within soil to dream.

"To go into the dark with a light is to know the light. /To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,/ and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings." ~~~ Wendell Berry, To Know The Dark

What "tangible" and "constructive" things can a poetic sensibility contribute to everyday existence? Here's one: The atomized denizens of neoliberal culture are in dire need of a novel yet durable sensibility, one bearing the creativity and stamina required, for example, to withstand the police state rebuffs inflicted by the ruthless authoritarian keepers of the present is the case, when OWS dissidents initiate attempts to retake, inhabit, and re-imagine public space.

Yet, while it is all well and good to be politically enlightened, approaching the tumult of human events guided by reason and restraint, if the self is not saturated in poetry, one will inhabit a dismal tower looking over a desiccated wasteland.

The crackpot realist's notion that poetry has no value other than what can be quantified in practical terms emerges from the same mindset that deems nature to be merely worth what it can be rendered down to as a commodity. The trees of a rain forest can be pulped to paper cups. A human being is only the content of his resume. The underlying meaning of this sentiment: The value of one's existence is derived by the act of being an asset of the 1%.

Resultantly, the tattered remnants of the neoliberal imagination (embodied in lofty but content-devoid Obama speechifying and the clown car demolition derby of Republican politics) spends its days in a broken tower of the mind, insulated from this reality: The exponentially increasing consequences (e.g., economic collapse, perpetual war, ecocide) created by the excesses of the present paradigm will shake those insular towers to theirs foundations, and, will inevitably caused the structures to totter and collapse.

The bells, I say, the bells break down their tower;
And swing I know not where. Their tongues engrave
Membrane through marrow, my long-scattered score
Of broken intervals...And I, their sexton slave! ~~~ Hart Crane, excerpt from The Broken Tower

We have been "sexton slave" to this destructive order long enough; its lodestar is a death star.

In polar opposition, a poetic view of existence insists that one embrace the sorrow that comes at the end of things. The times have bestowed on us a shuffle to the graveside of our culture, and, we, like members of a New Orleans-style, second line, funeral procession, must allow our hearts to be saturated by sorrowful songs. Yet when the service is complete, the march away from the boneyard should shake the air with the ebullient noise borne of insistent brass.

"Often we're not so much afraid of our own limitations, as we are of the infinite within us." ~~~ Nelson Mandela (from an interview from his prison cell, conducted by the late Irish poet and priest, John O'Donnahey)

In this way, we are nourished by the ineffable, whereby unseen components of consciousness provide us the strength to carry the weight of darkness. Therefore, to those who demand this of poets: that all ideas, notions, flights of imagination, revelries, swoons of intuition, Rabelaisian rancor, metaphysical overreach, unnerving apprehensions, and inspired misapprehensions be tamed, rendered practical, and only considered fit to be broached in reputable company when these things bring "concrete" answers to polite dialog--I ask you this, if the defining aspects of our existence were constructed of concrete, would not the world be made of the material of a prison?

Moreover, is this not the building material and psychic criteria comprising the neoliberal paradigm? Is it any wonder that the concept of freedom is under siege?

Carl Jung averred, when a disconnect occurs between the inner life of the individual and the outward exigencies of daily life that "the Gods [...] become diseases." One way, this assertion can be taken is: There are multiple forces, tangible and intangible, in play in our lives and the trajectory of events e.g., the personal, in the form of the ghosts of trauma that haunt individual memory, but there exist, as well, extant and within, the collective spirit of an age. Tragically, in our own time, within the precincts of power, our national house of spirits has become a madhouse.

Yet beneath the gibbering cacophony of the insane asylums of past eras, beneath the haze of pharmacologically induced stupors of the institutions of the present, there exists much pain. This is the toll taken by a manic flight from honest suffering. At present, this is what we're given in our age of cultural and political disconnect and its attendant sense of nebulous dread.

Paradoxically, while the forces of nature are impersonal, the dilemma feels very personal. Therefore, on this journey to the end of empire, when impersonal elements are in play, one can become alienated from the dehumanizing trajectory of the times. Likewise, as exemplified by the U.S. political system, what process is more impersonal than the process of decay? Apropos, the air is permeated with a reek of putrefaction.

Yet the earth is kind, for one can use putrescent material in the process of renewal. The loam of earth is enriched by the rancid... just don't swallow it down whole...doing so, will cause you to become ill.

Importantly, because a cultural breakdown is occurring, and culture carries the criteria of psyche, the acts of social engagement through dissent, cultural re-imagining and rebuilding can have a propitious effect upon individual consciousness, an endeavor James Hillman termed "soul-making." Remember to disguise yourself as yourself when approached by ghosts of calcified habit and gods of tumultuous change. This is essential: Because what takes hold and brings about the collapse of an a loss of collective soul e.g., the type of loss of meaning and purpose evinced when only a meaningless, zombie-like drive remains, because, even though, the culture is dead, it refuses to accept the shroud of the earth's enveloping have its decomposing remains broken down and returned to the cycle of all things.

As circumstances stand, at present, for the 1%, their refusal to accept the inevitable has yielded grave ramifications for the people, fauna, and flora of the planet. Although, due to their seemingly vacuum-sealed insularity, ensured by vast wealth, the economic and political elite have yet to be touched by the consequences of their actions, much less forced down to earth.

Of course, this behavior defies logic, is in breach of the law, and is an affront to any workable code of ethics--as well as, stands in defiance to the laws of nature, including the force of gravity. But you can count on this, "the unseen hand of the market" (actually the buckling backs of the (99%) can’t hold up the 1% swaying tower of hubris for much longer, and when it comes down, stand clear, for there are no bystanders when an empire crumbles.

"That's just the way it is."

As exhibited by the often bland, "normal" outward appearance of a serial killer, when the apologists and operatives of an exploitive, destructive system appear to be reasonable, they can go about their business without creating general alarm. By the same token, while many present day Republicans are zealots--barnburners raving into the flames of the conflagrations created by the militarist/national security/police/prison industrial state--Barack Obama and the Democratic Party serve as normalizers of the pathologies of late empire.

In this manner, atrocious acts can be committed by the state, with increasing frequency, because, over the passage of time, such outrages will have been allowed to pass into the realm of the mundane, and are thus bestowed with a patina of acceptability.

In nineteenth century Britain, the sugar that sweetened the tea of oh-so civilized, afternoon teatime was harvested by brutalized, Caribbean slaves, who rarely lived past the age of thirty, as, for example, in our time, in our blood-wrought moments of normalcy, we trudge about in sweatshop sewn clothing, brandishing i-Phones manufactured by factory enslaved teenage girls who are forced to work 14 hour plus shifts.

"That's just the way it is" might be one of the most soul-defying phrases in the human lexicon.

Contrast this with the OSW slogan, "The beginning is near." Hold both sentiments in your mind and discover which one allows your own heart to beat in sync with the heart of the world, and which will grant the imagination and stamina required to remake the world anew. (c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Israeli fifth columnists Sheldon and Miriam

The Adelson Campaign
Buying our future

Already, four of the GOP presidential contenders have had to drop out - Michele Bachmann because she was too wacky, Jon Huntsman because he was too sane, Herman Cain because he was too exposed, and Rick Perry because he was too dim-witted.

But the greatest surprise is the sudden surge of the Adelson campaign. Little-known until now, Adelson was the big winner in South Carolina, is way out front in Florida, and looks to have the political kick needed to go the distance.

Never heard of the Adelson campaign? It's the married duo of Sheldon and Miriam, neither of whom are actually on the ballot. Rather, they are running on the cash-ticket.

Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas-based, global casino baron, has long been a major funder of far-right-wing causes - and, he's Newt Gingrich's very special political pal. When Newt's presidential bid nearly flat-lined after his electoral collapses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sheldon rushed in with emergency CPR - Cash-Powered Resuscitation. This one rich guy wrote a $5 million check to Gingrich's SuperPAC, which is named "Winning Our Future." The PAC injected Sheldon's money directly into toxic attack ads against Mitt Romney in South Carolina's primary, jolting Newt's campaign back to life.

However, Gingrich still lacked the financial vitality to match Romney's media buy in Florida's pricy primary. No worries, though - Miriam Adelson stepped in to infuse Winning Our Future with another $5 million jolt of CPR. The Gingrich campaign, you see, is a vessel for the Adelman campaign, and word is that this one power couple is prepared to spend another $10 million to make their boy the GOP nominee, with more to come if he's the one to run against President Obama
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Changing The State Of Our Union
By Helen Thomas

President Barack Obama painted the state of the union as strong and safe in his third address to the nation, but glossed over solutions to some of the nation's biggest problems.

The President, running for reelection, touched base on all major issues including the economy, energy, regulation, immigration and education. He exuded confidence and laid out many points he is expected to hit on the campaign trail.

Although Obama has failed in the past at every attempt to work with the Republicans in the Congress, he still attempted to reach out to the opposition. Most Republicans and Democrats could agree with a good portion of what the President had to say Tuesday night.

Obama emphasized a return to "American values" as restoring the American dream. He gave an urgent message to Americans: We need to get back to basics, and fight side by side - despite our differences - to rebuild a better American.

Obama also stressed the hardship of the middle class and promised to restore its place in our society. The middle class has suffered the most with the recent financial collapse, causing much of our middle class to slide into poverty and thus increasing the great divide between the haves and the have-nots.

In the State of the Union address, Obama said, "Let's never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same. It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody." Obama encouraged equal responsibility for all Americans throughout his speech.

Obama went on to say we need smart regulations - not missing the opportunity to point out that during his term he had passed fewer regulations than Bush. He cracked a funny joke about regulation preventing "spilled milk," illustrating legislation intended to hold oil companies accountable, in turn punishing the dairy industry.

Obama encouraged politicians to put aside differences, acknowledging we all have different ideas regarding "taxes and debt; energy and healthcare," and stating that Americans - regardless of party affiliation - are cynical about corruption and politicking in Washington.

Obama promised to make sure there were no conflicts of interest with the way Congress does business, and said, "The executive branch also needs to change. Too often, it's inefficient, outdated, and remote. That's why I've asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy so that our government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people."

Obama quoted his favorite President, Republican Abe Lincoln, in saying "Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more."

Although the President talked mostly about domestic issues, he reassured Americans that we have made a difference in the world - particularly the Middle East - and that "the renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. ... America is back."

Obama has been promising change for over three years now. While he did finally start pulling the troops out of Afghanistan, and his State of the Union address was hopeful of more change to come, he will need to step up and play ball if he wants to serve a second term.

The President suggested taking half of the money previously used to fund the war, and splitting this evenly between paying down the debt, and creating building projects to put Americans back to work.

For Obama to win reelection, he will need to spend more time fleshing out how he will make these proposed changes a reality - despite a Republican majority in the House, and a split Senate.
(c) 2012 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Would You Believe It? China Firm Dealing With Labor Issues
By James Donahue

American industrial genius Henry Ford once put his philosophy for his success in the automobile industry into a single sentence: "There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible."

Ford, who invented the assembly line method of manufacturing and used it to revolutionize the automobile industry, believed the people he hired to build his cars should be paid a wage that made it possible for them to buy the product they were assembling. He balanced labor costs against the benefit of product sales and it paid off.

Unfortunately, Ford's ideas appear to be long forgotten among contemporary corporate boards and their stockholders. Today's produce makers appear to be willing to do anything possible to cut labor costs and the quality of the goods to produce higher and higher profits.

World trade agreements between the United States and other nations like Mexico, China, India and Indonesia have led many major American corporations to resort to "outsourcing." That means moving a portion, if not all of the company's labor-intense operations overseas in a quest to use low-cost and non-union workers.

It is now almost impossible to find a sewing machine, television set, computer, I-pad, coffee maker, air conditioner or other products, including automobiles that are true American-made products.

Now that the great world-wide shift in business and industry has a few decades under the belt something interesting is starting to happen. Workers that once were glad to stand on an assembly line doing monotonous tasks for a few dollars a day are starting to organize. They are collectively standing up to their employers and demanding better working conditions, higher wages and things like health benefits.

And one of the largest overseas corporations, Foxconn, is fighting back.

Since it began operations in Taiwan in 1973, Foxconn Technology Group has grown to be one of the largest manufacturer of electronics parts and devices in the world. It has plants in Taiwan and mainland China and employees about 1.2 million workers.

An estimated 150 workers at Foxconn's Wuhan plant recently made world news when they stood for two days on the roof of the three-story factory and threatened to jump to their deaths because of a labor dispute. They were reportedly talked out of suicide by the mayor of the town. We have since learned of suicide jumps by workers at other Foxconn plants, including a dozen workers who jumped in 2010.

Obviously the Chinese workers never heard of the successful sit-down strikes of the 1930s that forced General Motors Corporation in Flint, Michigan, to give in to worker demands for collective bargaining. That strike lead to improved working conditions, better wages and health and insurance benefits for not only the automobile workers, but most employees in the United States from the 1940s to the 1970s.

The suicides and threats of suicide by Chinese workers apparently proved to be a strong enough bargaining chip to gain improvements in working conditions.

The most common complaint among workers are that they are promised wages between $246 and $307 a month when they are hired, but they receive only about $146. They work long hours, are exposed to dust and harmful chemicals, and must endure "military style" training. Many workers are forced to move from home when they are moved between the corporation's 27 different operating factories in China.

Many Foxconn workers live with six other people in a company dormitory room. They spent most of their days commuting, working, eating and sleeping. When they are working, they must stand for hours at a time. There is consequently little, if any social life.

These are among the complaints workers at Foxconn are known to have. It has been reported that the problem of suicide has been severe enough that the company makes new hires sign a pledge that they will not attempt to commit suicide on the job.

The company's latest plan to deal with labor is perhaps the cruelest yet devised. Foxconn is already in the process of replacing workers with robots. It has about 10,000 machines already in place and plans to have a million more of them doing parts assembly within the next three years, according to company chairman Terry Gou.

Robots don't commit suicide. They don't demand wage increases, improved working conditions, and they can work around the clock as long as someone keeps their parts lubricated.

It sounds ingenious but there remains that old haunting question that Henry Ford dealt with so well a century ago. If nobody is working and earning wages, who will buy the television sets, computers and I-pads Foxconn is manufacturing?
(c) 2012 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Overconsumption Won't Save America
To avoid another crisis, we need an economy based on thrift and sustainability not loans and credit card debt
By David Sirota

In 1977, two Boeing 747s collided on an airstrip in the Canary Islands. According to accident investigators, those who survived the initial blast in one plane had time to escape before a fire consumed the wreckage. But eyewitnesses reported that many remained in their seat looking perfectly content - as if nothing was wrong.

Not surprisingly, dozens of these dazed victims were burned to death, and the episode became a reminder of the so-called normalcy bias - a cognitive phenomenon whereby many who are faced with imminent disaster instantly convince themselves that everything is normal and that they don't have to modify their behavior.

Unpleasant as this anecdote is to recount, it exemplifies the psychology at the root of one of America's most destructive traits: our obsession with materialism and consumerism. To extrapolate the metaphor, if our damaged economy, record-low savings rate and sky-high personal debt levels are that smoldering plane about to explode, then America's "shop till you drop" normalcy bias may be engineering yet another avoidable tragedy.

The most recent holiday binge exemplified the impending crisis. Despite persistent unemployment, flat wages and higher prices for necessities (food, healthcare, etc.), America nonetheless went on its usual post-Thanksgiving buying spree.

A glance at new data from the holiday season tells this story. After Black Friday's now-annual melee of hyper-aggressive shoppers, the Washington Post reported that Christmas saw credit card purchases jump 7 percent over last year. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve bank reported that consumer borrowing surged to pre-recession levels; Forbes reported that online holiday spending hit a record; and the Los Angeles Times reported that "consumer spending grew faster than people's take-home incomes" as households "cut their savings rate (to) support their purchases of cars and other goods and services."

In the face of such self-destructive behavior, it's worth asking: Why is overconsumption still the preferred "normal" in America? The flippant answer is that it's simply hard for shopaholics to break old habits. But while that's certainly true, it's not the whole story when enablers are everywhere.

Turn on the television, and you'll inevitably face a bevy of ads telling you to buy something - a cellphone, a television, a car, anything! - even if you don't actually need the product. Look around at the economy and you'll see growing industries that are based not on fulfilling customers' basic needs, but on satiating consumers' materialist impulses. Tune into politics and you'll hear policies touted for how they will prompt even more consumer spending.

Of course, that latter enabler - politics - is the most powerful of all, as our national leaders regularly tout consumption for its own sake.

Recall that in the face of the planet's climate change and resource crises, then-Vice President Dick Cheney denigrated the notion of frugality, saying, "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy." Likewise, Rudy "America's Mayor" Giuliani told everyone not to sacrifice after 9/11 but instead to "go shopping." And last month, Bloomberg News headlined a dispatch "Bernanke Prods Savers to Become Consumers," highlighting how the "easy money" lending policies of the nation's chief banker was reinvigorating the culture of gluttony.

Just five years ago, this same Fed chairman was rightly imploring Americans to "forgo consumption or leisure" in order to start reshaping our economy around sustainability and thrift. But after the financial crisis, he, like so many politicians, became just another passenger on that burning plane.

Paralyzed by the normalcy bias, Bernanke and other leaders keep calmly imploring us to go about our business ... move along ... and that's what we keep doing, even though the fuselage may soon go up in flames.
(c) 2012 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

A Crazy Republican Attack That Obama Himself Agrees With
By David Swanson

Imagine if a bunch of the craziest war-hungry Republicans in the House filmed themselves in a nutty bat-guano video packed with lies addressed to the President of the United States. And then imagine President Barack Obama almost immediately agreeing with them. I can think of two ways in which such a series of events could go unnoticed, as it just has.

First, it could be about something insignificant. But this was about undoing the automatic cuts to the military mandated by the failure of the Supercommittee (remember, the top news story of a few months back?). The military, across various departments, swallows over half of federal discretionary spending, and there's no greater obsession in the corporate media than the great Spending vs. Cuts issue. This is NOT insignificant.

Second, it could be about something that the elites of both major parties agree on, the media therefore ignores, most Republican voters love, and Democratic voters pretend not to notice because the President is a Democrat and an election is less than a year away.

If you're guessing the second option, you are right. (Tell them what they've won, Leon!) You are now the proud owners of the most expensive military ever seen, plus coming increases that will be presented as "cuts."

When the Supercommittee failed, automatic federal budget cuts were to kick in -- half to things we need and half to the bloated military. The military cuts would take us back to 2004 spending. We seem to have survived 2004 and the years preceding it OK.

The Pentagon claims to be making other cuts already, but they are "cuts" to dream budgets resulting in actual budget increases -- and that's not even counting increased war spending through other departments.

House Republicans have sent President Obama this crazy video opposing military cuts and introduced legislation to slash 10% of non-military government jobs instead. In the Senate, John McCain is said to be working on a similar bill.

Meanwhile "Defense" Secretary Leon Panetta has just announced the Obama Administration's position: They will oppose the automatic cuts, or any other actual cuts, to the military. This will mean severe cuts to education, transportation, and -- as President Obama indicated in his State of the Union speech -- to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

At last Thursday's press conference the first question following Panetta's remarks was:

"Mr. Secretary, you talked a little bit on this, but over the next 10 years, do you see any other year than this year where the actual spending will go down from year to year? And just to the American public more broadly, how do you sort of explain what appears to be contradictory, as you talk about, repeatedly, this $500 billion in cuts in a Defense Department budget that is actually going to be increasing over time?"

Panetta had no substantive answer. And he didn't need one. The media almost unanimously put out the false story that the military was undergoing serious cuts. That first year's cut, by the way, is 1%, to be followed by nine years of larger increases.

You might have forgotten that in 2008, three times in three presidential debates, Senator John McCain proposed cutting the military, while Senator Obama campaigned on increasing it -- one promise he has actually kept.

Lately supporters have been saying that the President will become the Obama of our Dreams once he's a lame duck. But the history and the logic of lame duck officials is that they become less, not more, representative of the public will. And the public will is strongly in favor of major cuts to the military.

Others may be inclined to suggest that while Obama and Panetta are increasing the military and calling it "cuts," they are actually cutting the budget for wars. Some may have been misled by this line in the State of the Union: "Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home."

But in reality, Obama and Panetta are proposing to cut the war budget by only $27 billion. Meanwhile, the $27 billion has already been spent elsewhere in the Pentagon budget. Plus military spending is on the rise in other departments. Plus any new wars and confrontations -- like in Iran or Syria -- will offer the opportunity for supplemental bills. And less expensive but more secretive and equally deadly wars are underway, investment will increase in drones and special forces, and I have doubts we could rebuild our nation here at home for $13.5 billion even if we had it, while continuing to dump over $1 trillion into preparations for the crime of war year after year.

We do have the option to resist.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Taxing The Rich Won't Help The Poor
By Ted Rall

Reacting to and attempting to co-opt the Occupy Wall Street movement, President Obama used his 2012 State of the Union address to discuss what he now calls "the defining issue of our time"--the growing gap between rich and poor.

"We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by," Obama said. "Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."

No doubt, the long-term trend toward income inequality is a major flaw of the capitalist system. From 1980 to 2005 more than 80 percent in the gain in Americans' incomes went to the top one percent. This staggering disparity between the haves and have-nots has created a permanent underclass of underemployed, undereducated and alienated people who often turn to crime for survival and social status. Aggregation of wealth into fewer hands has shrunk the size of the U.S. market for consumer goods, prolonging and deepening the depression.

How can we make the system fairer?

Liberals are calling for a more progressive income tax: i.e., raise taxes on the rich. Obama says he'd like to slap a minimum federal income tax of 30 percent on individuals earning more than $1 million a year.

Soaking the rich would obviously be fair. GOP frontrunner/corporate layoff sleazebag Mitt Romney earned $59,500 a day in 2010--and paid half the effective tax rate (13.9 percent) than of a family of four earning $59,500 a year.

Fair, sure. But would it work? Would increasing taxes on the wealthy do much to close the gap between rich and poor--to level the economic playing field?

Probably not.

From FDR through Jimmy Carter it was an article of faith among liberals that higher taxes on the rich would result in lower taxes on the poor and working class. This was because the Republican Party consistently pushed for a balanced budget. Tax income was tied to expenditures, which were more or less fixed--and thus a zero-sum game.

That period from 1933 to 1980 was also the era of the New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society social and anti-poverty programs, such as Social Security, the G.I. Bill, college grants and welfare. These government handouts helped mitigate hard times, gave life-changing educational opportunities that allowed class mobility, closing the gap between despair and hope for tens of millions of Americans. As the list of social programs grew, so did the tax rate--mostly on the rich. The practical effect was to redistribute income from top to bottom.

Democrats think it still works that way. It doesn't.

The political landscape has shifted dramatically under Reagan, Clinton and the two Bushes. Budget cuts slashed spending on student financial aid, food stamps, Medicaid, school lunch programs, veterans hospitals, and aid to single mothers. The social safety net is shredded. Most federal tax dollars flow directly into the Pentagon and defense contractors such as Halliburton.

As the economy continues to tank, there's only category to cut: social programs. "Eugene Steuerle worked on tax and budget issues in the Reagan Treasury Department and is now with the Urban Institute," NPR reported a year ago. "He says one reason no one talks about preserving the social safety net today is that lawmakers have given themselves little choice but to cut it. They've taken taxes and entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicare, off the budget-cutting table, so there's not much left."

Meanwhile, effective tax rates on the wealthy have been greatly reduced. Which isn't fair--but not in the way you might think.

Taxes on middle-class families are at their lowest level in 50 years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal thinktank.

What's going on?

On the revenue side of the budget equation, the poor and middle-class have received tiny tax cuts. The rich and super rich have gotten huge tax cuts. Everyone is paying less.

On the expense side, social programs have been pretty much destroyed. If you grow up poor there's no way to attend college without going into debt. If you lose your job you'll get 99 weeks of tiny, taxable (thanks to Reagan) unemployment checks before burning through your savings and winding up on the street.

Military spending, on the other hand, has soared, accounting for 54 percent of federal spending. You have to rebuild the safety net. Otherwise higher taxes will swirl down the Pentagon's $800 toilets!

In short, we're running up massive deficits in order to finance wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and so on, and so rich job-killers can pay the lowest tax rates in the developed world.

I'm all for higher taxes on the rich. I'm for abolishing the right to be wealthy. But liberals who think progressive taxation will mitigate or reverse income inequality are trapped in the 1960s, fighting the last (budget) war in a reality that no longer exists. The U.S. government's top priority is invading Muslim countries and bombing their citizens. Without big social programs, invading Muslim countries and bombing their citizens is exactly where every extra taxdollar collected from the likes of Mitt Romney would go.

The only way progressive taxation can address income inequality is if higher taxes on the rich are coupled with an array of new anti-poverty and other social programs designed to put money and new job skills directly into the pockets of the 99 percent of Americans who have seen no improvement in their lives since 1980.

You have to rebuild the safety net. Otherwise higher taxes will swirl down the Pentagon's $800 toilets.

If you're serious about inequality, income redistribution through the tax system is only a start. Whether through stronger unions or worker advocacy through federal agencies, government must require higher minimum wages. Maximum wages, too. A nation that allows its richest citizen to earn ten times more than its poorest would still be horribly unfair--yet it would be a big improvement over today. Shipping jobs overseas must be banned. Most free trade agreements should be torn up. Companies must no longer be allowed to layoff employees before eliminating salaries and benefits for their top-paid managers--CEOs, etc.

And a layoff should mean just that--a layoff. First fired should be first rehired--at equal or greater pay--if and when business improves.

Once a battery of spending programs targeted to the 99 percent is in place--permanent unemployment benefits, subsidized public housing, full college grants, etc.--the tax code ought to be radically revamped. For example, nothing gives the lie to the myth of America as a land of equal opportunity than inheritance. Aristocratic societies pass wealth and status from generation to generation. In a democracy, no one has the right to be born into wealth.

Because everyone deserves an equal chance, the national inheritance tax should be 100 percent. While we're at it, why should people who inherited wealth but have low incomes get off scot-free? Slap the bastards with a European-style tax on wealth as well as the appearance of wealth.

Now you're probably laughing. Even Obama's lame call for taxing the rich--so the U.S. can buy more drone planes--stands no chance of passing the Republican Congress. They're empty words meant for election-year consumption. Taking income inequality seriously? That's so off the table it isn't even funny.

Which is why we shouldn't be looking to corporate machine politicians like Obama for answers.
(c) 2012 Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" and "The Anti-American Manifesto."

The Austerity Debacle
By Pauk Krugman

Last week the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, a British think tank, released a startling chart comparing the current slump with past recessions and recoveries. It turns out that by one important measure - changes in real G.D.P. since the recession began - Britain is doing worse this time than it did during the Great Depression. Four years into the Depression, British G.D.P. had regained its previous peak; four years after the Great Recession began, Britain is nowhere close to regaining its lost ground.

Nor is Britain unique. Italy is also doing worse than it did in the 1930s - and with Spain clearly headed for a double-dip recession, that makes three of Europe's big five economies members of the worse-than club. Yes, there are some caveats and complications. But this nonetheless represents a stunning failure of policy.

And it's a failure, in particular, of the austerity doctrine that has dominated elite policy discussion both in Europe and, to a large extent, in the United States for the past two years.

O.K., about those caveats: On one side, British unemployment was much higher in the 1930s than it is now, because the British economy was depressed - mainly thanks to an ill-advised return to the gold standard - even before the Depression struck. On the other side, Britain had a notably mild Depression compared with the United States.

Even so, surpassing the track record of the 1930s shouldn't be a tough challenge. Haven't we learned a lot about economic management over the last 80 years? Yes, we have - but in Britain and elsewhere, the policy elite decided to throw that hard-won knowledge out the window, and rely on ideologically convenient wishful thinking instead.

Britain, in particular, was supposed to be a showcase for "expansionary austerity," the notion that instead of increasing government spending to fight recessions, you should slash spending instead - and that this would lead to faster economic growth. "Those who argue that dealing with our deficit and promoting growth are somehow alternatives are wrong," declared David Cameron, Britain's prime minister. "You cannot put off the first in order to promote the second."

How could the economy thrive when unemployment was already high, and government policies were directly reducing employment even further? Confidence! "I firmly believe," declared Jean-Claude Trichet - at the time the president of the European Central Bank, and a strong advocate of the doctrine of expansionary austerity - "that in the current circumstances confidence-inspiring policies will foster and not hamper economic recovery, because confidence is the key factor today." Such invocations of the confidence fairy were never plausible; researchers at the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere quickly debunked the supposed evidence that spending cuts create jobs. Yet influential people on both sides of the Atlantic heaped praise on the prophets of austerity, Mr. Cameron in particular, because the doctrine of expansionary austerity dovetailed with their ideological agendas.

Thus in October 2010 David Broder, who virtually embodied conventional wisdom, praised Mr. Cameron for his boldness, and in particular for "brushing aside the warnings of economists that the sudden, severe medicine could cut short Britain's economic recovery and throw the nation back into recession." He then called on President Obama to "do a Cameron" and pursue "a radical rollback of the welfare state now."

Strange to say, however, those warnings from economists proved all too accurate. And we're quite fortunate that Mr. Obama did not, in fact, do a Cameron.

Which is not to say that all is well with U.S. policy. True, the federal government has avoided all-out austerity. But state and local governments, which must run more or less balanced budgets, have slashed spending and employment as federal aid runs out - and this has been a major drag on the overall economy. Without those spending cuts, we might already have been on the road to self-sustaining growth; as it is, recovery still hangs in the balance.

And we may get tipped in the wrong direction by Continental Europe, where austerity policies are having the same effect as in Britain, with many signs pointing to recession this year.

The infuriating thing about this tragedy is that it was completely unnecessary. Half a century ago, any economist - or for that matter any undergraduate who had read Paul Samuelson's textbook "Economics" - could have told you that austerity in the face of depression was a very bad idea. But policy makers, pundits and, I'm sorry to say, many economists decided, largely for political reasons, to forget what they used to know. And millions of workers are paying the price for their willful amnesia.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Only a large-scale popular movement toward decentralization and self-help can arrest the present tendency toward statism... A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers."
~~~ Aldous Huxley

Air America
Under the Eye of the Imperial Panopticon
By Chris Floyd

One unanticipated benefit of the relentless drive to turn every nook and cranny of the American war machine into a cash cow for private profit is the fact that so much of the nitty-gritty operational work is now put out for bids. And this can give us an occasional glimpse -- through the weeds of contract arcana -- of what our poobahs and satraps are really up to on the far-flung fields of empire.

For example, in olden times -- when war pork was confined more to vittles and blankets and bullets and such -- we might never have known of the latest development in the not-at-all-ended American occupation of Iraq. As the New York Times reports, Iraqis were outraged this week to find they are being spied upon by a fleet of American drones hovering constantly in their supposedly sovereign skies, long after the supposed withdrawal of American forces. Once, such an operation might have flown below radar (so to speak), rigged up on a secret base somewhere and operated by actual soldiers or government agents: no public acknowledgement -- and certainly no advertising -- necessary. But in our era of the ever-accelerating revolving door -- where policymakers and profiteers blend into a single, dizzying, shit-brown blur of corruption -- the call to the trough often trumps other concerns.

And so the existence of the drone operation in Iraq was revealed in an obscure government report containing a "two-page online prospectus for companies that might bid on a contract to manage" the robotic voyeurism. (The supposedly sovereign Iraqis were not even told of program -- much less asked for their permission. What's it to them, anyway?)

Of course, the drone op is run by the State Department not the Pentagon -- but this is a distinction without a difference. Just as the military now carries out endless "nation-building" programs in the nations it destroys, the "diplomatic corps" has become a bristling militarized beast, commanding thousands of mercenaries and various covert operators -- such as Raymond Davis in Pakistan -- who use State's diplomatic cover to spy, subvert and kill the occasional local yokel in countries all over the world. Foggy Bottom and Hell's Bottom (the original name for the Virginia swampland where the Pentagon was built) are simply two heads of the same hydra, with the same mission: enforcing American domination of the world.

(To see this mission stripped down to its stark, hideous, undeniable essence, read the remarkable new post by Arthur Silber here.) In its usual demure fashion, the Times sketches the real nature of the State Department's operations in Iraq:

The drones are the latest example of the State Department's efforts to take over functions in Iraq that the military used to perform. Some 5,000 private security contractors now protect the embassy's 11,000-person staff, for example, and typically drive around in heavily armored military vehicles.

When embassy personnel move throughout the country, small helicopters buzz over the convoys to provide support in case of an attack. Often, two contractors armed with machine guns are tethered to the outside of the helicopters.

Let's see: if you had thousands of armed foreigners prowling your streets in heavily armoured -- and heavily armed -- military vehicles, and your skies were filled with foreign helicopters sporting machine-gunners and all-seeing foreign robot drones watching your every move, would you say you had a "sovereign" country? Would you say were no longer under the heel of an armed occupying power?

The ever-circumspect Times calls this heavy-handed aggression "yet another tricky issue for the two countries." It seems that "many Iraqis" remain "deeply skeptical of the United States" -- though Lord knows why. A million innocent dead, millions more displaced, millions more ruined, sectarian violence and government torture set loose on the land -- why would you be "skeptical" of the folks who brought you that?

But of course, those little brown silly-billies are worrying themselves over nothing. Why, these diplomatic drones aren't even armed! How do we know this? Because the State Department says so:

The State Department drones, by contrast, carry no weapons and are meant to provide data and images of possible hazards, like public protests or roadblocks, to security personnel on the ground, American officials said. They are much smaller than armed drones, with wingspans as short as 18 inches, compared with 55 feet for the Predators.

The State Department has about two dozen drones in Iraq, but many are used only for spare parts, the officials said.

All very comforting -- but try reading that passage using our patented Newspeak Detangler Technique; i.e., at the end of every quoted assertion by a government official, in any story, on any subject, always add this little phrase: "but they could be lying."
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd

The St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan was the site of a black-tie dinner for Kappa Beta Phi,
whose members were told "what happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis."

The Party People Of Wall Street
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

A week or so ago, we read in The New York Times about what in the Gilded Age of the Roman Empire was known as a bacchanal - a big blowout at which the imperial swells got together and whooped it up.

This one occurred here in Manhattan at the annual black-tie dinner and induction ceremony for Kappa Beta Phi. That's the very exclusive Wall Street fraternity of billionaire bankers, and private equity and hedge fund predators. People like Wilbur Ross, the vulture capitalist; Robert Benmosche, the CEO of AIG, the insurance giant that received tens of billions in bailout money; and Alan "Ace" Greenberg, former chairman of Bear Stearns, the failed investment bank bought by JPMorgan Chase.

They got together at the St. Regis Hotel off Fifth Avenue to eat rack of lamb, drink and haze their newest members, who are made to dress in drag, sing and perform skits while braving the insults, wine-soaked napkins and petit fours - those fancy little frosted cakes — hurled at them by the old guard. In other words, a gilt-edged Animal House, food fight and all.

This year, the butt of many a joke were the protesters of Occupy Wall Street. In one of the sketches, the bond specialist James Lebenthal scolded a demonstrator with a face tattoo, "Go home, wash that off your face and get back to work." And in another, a member — dressed like a protester - was told, "You're pathetic, you liberal. You need a bath!"

Pretty hilarious stuff. The whole affair's reminiscent of the wingdings the robber barons used to throw during America's own Gilded Age a century and a half ago, when great wealth amassed at the top, far from the squalor and misery of working stiffs. Guests would arrive in the glittering mansions for costume balls that rivaled Versailles, reinforcing the sense of superiority and the virtue of a ruling class that depended on the toil and sweat of working people.

That's consistent with the attitude expressed by several of these types after Occupy Wall Street sprung up; bankers told the Times on the record that they could understand the anger of the protesters camped on their doorstep; but privately, a hedge manager said, "Most… view [it] as ragtag group looking for sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll."

So sayeth the winners in our winner-take all economy. The very guys who were celebrating at the St. Regis because they were too big to fail. Even when they fell flat on their faces, the government was there to dust them off, bail them out and send them back to fight the class war with nary a harsh word or punishment. Talk about a nanny welfare state.

None of this was by accident. The last three decades have witnessed a carefully calculated heist worthy of Robert Redford and Paul Newman in "The Sting" - but on a massive scale. It was an inside job, politically engineered by Wall Street and Washington working hand-in-hand, sticky fingers with sticky fingers, to turn the legend of Robin Hood on its head - giving to the rich and taking from everybody else. Don't take our word for it - it's all on the record.

The biggest of the big boys was Citigroup, at one time the world's largest financial institution. When the meltdown hit in 2008, the bank cut more than 50,000 jobs and you and other taxpayers shelled out more than $45 billion to save it. And how are Citigroup executives doing? Nicely, thank you. Last year, its CEO, Vikram Pandit, took home $1.75 million in base salary, and was awarded $3.7 million in deferred stock.

According to the Times, "Citigroup is expected to disclose the rest of his pay, cash, be it upfront or deferred, in March. In addition, while not necessarily for work performed in 2011, Mr. Pandit last year was awarded a $16.7 million retention bonus, plus stock options that could add $6.5 million to the package's overall value." Makes you want to cry out, "Retain me! Retain me!"

To be fair, Vikram Pandit was at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland last week, where he told Bloomberg News, "It's important for the financial system to acknowledge that there's a great deal of anger directed at it... Trust has been broken. Banks have to serve clients, not serve themselves." What's more, he has said that the "sentiments" expressed by Occupy Wall Street demonstrators were "completely understandable."
(c) 2012 Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America's strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal.
(c) 2012 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Pennsylvania Haushalt von Reprasentativs,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your bill making christianity the official state religion with your "Year of the Bible," Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama


Wisconsin Recall More Popular Than GOP Presidential Candidates-Combined
By John Nichols

America is almost four weeks into the voting stage of the Republican presidential race. The candidates are debating. The media is covering the competition 24/7, and in such minute detail that Rick Perry's quitting of the contest was treated as news. And Republicans in three states have caucused and voted in numbers that party leaders, pundits and the talk-radio amen corner tell us are significant.

Yet at the same time, those same party leaders, pundits and radio talkers continue to dismiss the movement to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as a false construct with little real hope of prevailing.

Fair enough, let's compare.

Since January 3, Republican caucuses have been held in Iowa (with an electorate of 2,231,589), and Republican primaries have been held in New Hampshire (electorate of 998,799) and South Carolina (electorate of 3,385,224).

That adds up to a total electorate of 6,615,612 in the trio of first- (and second- and third-) in-the-nation states.

Turnout for the Iowa caucuses is now pegged at 121,479. Turnout in the New Hampshire primary was 248,448. Turnout in the South Carolina primary was 601,166.

That adds up to a total turnout of 971,093, or about 14.5 percent of the possible voters in the three states.

And what of Wisconsin?

The state has an electorate of 4,170,501.

The United Wisconsin petition drive to recall anti-labor Governor Scott Walker collected significantly more than 1 million signatures.

Rounding to a million, that's about 23.9 percent of the possible voters in the state.

So here's what we know:

1. If you add up all the caucus and primary votes that have been cast so far for Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, the former Rick Perry, the former Jon Huntsman, the former Michele Bachmann and the eternal Buddy Roemer, they still have not attracted as much support as has the drive to recall Scott Walker.

2. If you compare the percentage of the electorate in the three caucus and primary states that has expressed support for all the Republicans who would be president, it is dramatically lower than the percentage of the Wisconsin electorate that wants to recall Scott Walker.

3. If you add the total number of names on petitions filed January 17 to recall other Republicans in Wisconsin-Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald and three of Fitzgerald's colleagues-the total number of signatures filed in support of the recall of Walker and his cronies is close to 1,940,000. That figure is just about double the number of votes cast in all the Republican presidential contests for all the Republican presidential candidates so far this year.

Conclusion: if the Republican presidential race is a serious endeavor, the Wisconsin drive to recall Scott Walker, Rebecca Kleefisch, Scott Fitzgerald and their compatriots is doubly serious. And far, far more popular with the available electorate. (c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

No Matter Who Wins, Americans Lose
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Why am I so sick of all the media attention to the Republican presidential primaries and all the blabbering about President Obama's advantages and disadvantages for the coming election? I just cannot get excited. My answer may also be yours: No matter who wins, our nation loses.

Come election night I would be overjoyed to see Obama lose and equally overjoyed to see the Republican candidate, whoever it is, also lose. I cannot see how either Romney or Gingrich or even Ron Paul could possibly offer what is truly needed to fix the root causes of all the dysfunction, corruption and despair with the US political and government system. And Obama? Nothing but slickness instead of results.

Here is a central, common deficiency: No major presidential candidate has come out with strong support for any of the constitutional amendments critically needed to truly reform our system. More than ever, after so much failed government, a whole lot of Americans are ready to support amendments that would, for example, mandate term limits for members of Congress, remove all private money from federal elections, require a balanced federal budget, and revitalize the constitutional requirement for Congress explicitly declaring war.

With one or two billion dollars spent on campaigning for this presidential election cycle the real winners will be all the media companies and army of campaign advisors and consultants getting all that money. With the media and pundits focusing on the election the public has been robbed of real in depth news coverage of countless issues and situations worldwide that we should be far better informed about, especially to better understand exactly what public policies we should want from the president and Congress. The mainstream media that treats the presidential campaigns like sporting events has become as superficial as the presidential candidates.

There is only one scenario that could make me enormously interested in the presidential election outcome. With relatively little media attention to it, few Americans know about the Americans Elect national effort that will place a presidential candidate on every state ballot. The candidates for president and vice president will result from a lengthy process conducted on the Internet involving millions of Americans that have signed up to be part of that process. True, those two candidates that cannot have backgrounds from the same political party, but they may turn out to be somewhat familiar to us because of their past political efforts, though neither will be the same as those on the Democratic and Republican tickets. For a fair analysis of this innovative process read what John Heilemann has said in New York Magazine.

Considering the widespread and deserved disgust among Americans with both major parties, there is a decent chance that people like me will be strongly motivated to vote for the Americans Elect alternative ticket. It definitely will be a vote against both major parties. If millions of Americans make this choice, then I will be overjoyed and so should you. Why? Because it may be the most important historic event that could motivate actions to get us genuine reforms of our political and government system. The Americans Elect ticket does not have to win, just show the Democrats and Republicans how much they are both being rejected.

For this scenario to occur, however, people must stop thinking about the “spoiler" fear that both major parties promote. Democrats want people to fear that a vote for the Americans Elect ticket will cause the Republican ticket to win, and vice versa. In truth, by voting for the Americans Elect ticket we the people have the most important electoral choice to fix our broken system. Think of it as an electoral revolution. The imperative is to stick with your fundamental belief that in the end it really does not matter whether the Republican or Democratic presidential candidate wins, principally because elite rich and corporate interests will still prevail. This means that the vast majority of Americans will continue to get screwed: The top one percent will still own and control our nation under either a Republican or Democratic president. Keep remembering that both major party candidates have lied repeatedly, will keep lying, and will never implement whatever they have promised they will do to reform the system.

My best advice to you now: Stop wasting your time on following all the nonsense about the Republican primaries and later about the main campaign from both major party candidates. Don't let yourself be manipulated. Instead, sign up at Americans Elect and join the 2.4 million Americans who have already joined the process to give Americans a true alternative to both major parties. Note that 80 percent of people have said they are ready to support an alternative presidential ticket this year. Will they put their votes where their words are?

At some point it will become necessary to mount a national demand that the Americans Elect candidates be allowed to participate in the pre-election national televised debates and also to demand that the mainstream media give equal time and attention to them. If we are to convert our current delusional democracy into a genuine one, then the most patriotic and courageous thing to do is to support the Americans Elect effort.
(c) 2011 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Clay Jones ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Romneymania Sweeps America
The most electrifying candidate in the history of American politics.

TAMPA, FL-From coast to coast, town to town, and in nearly every public meeting place and private residence across America, millions have been captivated, inspired, and in some cases moved to tears by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who now finds himself campaigning before a nation in the throes of full-scale Romneymania.

"The raw energy and enthusiasm Mitt Romney stirs inside people is like nothing I've ever seen," Youngstown, OH auto mechanic Chris Ritenour said Wednesday. "Everything he says resonates with Americans. His moving story of growing up privileged, his inspiring rise from moderate wealth to overwhelming riches, his thrilling work in the highest echelons of corporate finance-he really speaks to the heart and mind of the common man."

"I don't think there's been a presidential candidate this exciting and magnetic in generations, if ever." Ritenour continued. "I am a Romneymaniac."

Young or old, rich or poor, Americans have been united by Romneymania.

As Romneymania has grown, the Republican candidate has crossed over from political figure to cultural phenomenon. Countless reverent portraits of Romney have appeared in storefront windows and on building facades throughout the country, often accompanied by one of the candidate's signature inspirational phrases, like "Let Detroit go bankrupt" or "Corporations are people, my friend."

Internet sources confirmed "Mitt" has become the top search term of 2012, while the blogosphere and social media sites have been dominated by discussions of the star candidate's endearing personality quirks, gossip about the relationship statuses of his five sons, and continual chatter over which designers his wife, Ann, wears.

In addition, commemorative plates and various other trinkets featuring Romney's likeness have reportedly been sold out for weeks.

"Mitt's firm belief in unlimited corporate campaign donations is what first got me really excited," said 48-year-old pipe fitter David Flores, adding that another reason he joined "Romney Nation" was because he found it "pretty cool" that Romney pays a lower income tax rate than he does. "Money is speech-that's what the First Amendment is all about. Finally, there's a candidate who speaks directly to me."

As primary season continues, Americans from all walks of life tune in loyally to Romney's stump speeches, with those in attendance so overwhelmed by the candidate's rousing oratory skills that many pass out from the excitement.

While surveys show Romneymania has swept across almost every demographic, Romney's appeal among the nation's youth, in particular, is nearly unanimous. Many young Americans acknowledged they had felt disillusioned by politics until hearing Romney's explanation of how his coordination of corporate funding for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics renders him uniquely qualified to be president, an assertion they said immediately revived their faith in American democracy.

"Simply put, when Mitt Romney speaks, he inspires people to be better," said political scientist Deborah Klein of Brown University, adding that given his effusive charisma, people are likely to follow the Republican candidate anywhere. "Anytime he meets factory workers on the campaign trail or stands at the podium in a debate, his reputation as a highly relatable man of the people is indisputable."

"It's easy to see why Americans can't get enough Mitt," Klein added.

During a stop in Tampa, FL earlier this week, Romney was seen whipping a crowd of thousands into a delirious frenzy with his beloved, decade-old talking points about how he is not a career politician. The candidate reportedly inspired optimism and confidence by explaining he "never actually supported an individual mandate for health insurance at the federal level," a battle cry that prompted the audience to chant his name for five straight minutes.

In a moment his supporters called "genuine" and "down-to-earth," Romney then told the crowd that he, too, is currently unemployed and truly understands the fear of being laid off.

"It's amazing to hear your deepest convictions articulated so poignantly by a politician," said out-of-work Denver resident Austin Matthews, 36, admitting he had never before encountered a candidate-or any human being, for that matter-who had connected with him on such a basic emotional level. "He comes right out and says that any acknowledgment of income inequality in the United States is driven solely by bitterness and envy from the lower classes and shouldn't even be discussed publicly. It's like he's tapped directly into the soul of everyday Americans."

"Mitt Romney is the voice of our generation," Matthews added.

At press time, Romney's latest Twitter post, reading, "Had a surprise guest at today's event-my grandson Miles," had been re-tweeted more than 150 million times.
(c) 2012 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 05 (c) 02/03/2012

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