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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky returns with part 2 of, "The Imperial Way."

Uri Avnery reminds us that, "Thou Shalt Not Kill (Thyself)."

Matt Taibbi questions, "Another March To War?"

David Sirota wonders, "Is China Our Future?"

Jim Hightower sends a, "Memo To Supremes: Got Ethics?"

Tim Dickinson examines, "Obama's War On Pot."

James Donahue uncovers, "The Monsanto Aspartame Plot."

Joel S. Hirschhorn concludes, "Romney, Severely Awful."

David Swanson counts, "The 10 Most Excellent Reasons To Attack Iran."

Joanna L. Grossman exclaims, "A Federal Judge Thwarts Title VII And The Pregnancy Discrimination Act By Ruling Bizarrely That Lactation Is Not Related To Pregnancy!"

Paul Krugman explores, "Pain Without Gain."

Phil Rockstroh explains, "Cash Of The Titans."

Robert Reich asks, "Corporations Don't Need A Tax Cut, So Why Is Obama Proposing One?"

Indiana House member Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols heartedly approves of, "America's Youth Uprising."

Sam Harris considers, "Life Without God."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "CNN Says Nuclear Attack By North Korea Would Not Affect Whitney Houston Coverage" but first Uncle Ernie exposes, "Santorum's America."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Kelly, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, Derf City, Jimmy Margulies, H.Koppdelaney, Daryl Cagle, Carlos Barria/Reuters, CNN, AP, Andy Manis, 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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Santorum's America
By Ernest Stewart

"The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical. And that is what the perception is by the American Left who hates Christendom. ... What I'm talking about is onward American soldiers. What we're talking about are core American values." ~~~ Rick Santorum ~ Feb. 22, 2011

"The burning of the Quran and other religious books was unintentional. We are thoroughly investigating the incident and are taking steps to ensure this does not ever happen again, I assure you, I promise you, this was not intentional in any way." ~~~ U.S. Marine Corps General John Allen

"Many parents are abandoning the Girl Scouts because they promote homosexual lifestyles. In fact, the Girl Scouts education seminar girls are directed to study the example of role models. Of the fifty role models listed, only three have a briefly-mentioned religious background - all the rest are feminists, lesbians, or Communists. World Net Daily, in a May 2009 article, states that Girl Scout Troops are no longer allowed to pray or sing traditional Christmas Carols.

Boys who decide to claim a "transgender" or cross-dressing life-style are permitted to become a member of a Girl Scout troop, performing crafts with the girls and participate in overnight and camping activities - just like any real girl. The fact that the Honorary President of Girl Scouts of America is Michelle Obama, and the Obama's are radically pro-abortion and vigorously support the agenda of Planned Parenthood, should give each of us reason to pause before our individual or collective endorsement of the organization." ~~~ Indiana House member Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~~~ Mark Twain

You may recall, a couple of weeks ago, I came out in support of Rick Santorum for the Republican nomination for President. With a choice between Willard and Rick, Rick is the far superior candidate for the Simian Collective. In an election against a fence post, Rick would lose by a landslide. No one but the far, far right, would vote for Rick -- even against Obama, and, fortunately for Rick, the American Taliban hasn't been listening to Rick, or they wouldn't vote for Rick at gunpoint, either!

The reason he'd lose their votes is because of all the people Rick hates -- and Rick hates practically everybody -- it's the Talibaners, viz., the Protestants, that Rick hates most -- just like his hero Joey Ratz, der Panzer Pope does. Sorry, Protestants, like Hitler's Brown Shirts, you'll be the first to go, under Rick's god-based government. You'll recall Rick said about that:

"This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war at all. This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies, Satan, would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country - the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age?"

That's right, Rick is the "End of Daze" poster boy who would welcome and probably give it a helping hand if he could; but since the only ones going to heaven in Rick's mind are the Catholics, you Baptists might want to reconsider your support, even if it puts you between a rock and a hard place, i.e., Willard and his Moron faith. Of course, Willard, too, is looking forward to death as he'll become a god of his very own planet. Maybe Newt's better, as he only wants to live on the Moon!

On good old Mother Earth, Rick's against her saying:

"When you have a worldview that elevates the Earth above man and says that we can't take those resources because we're going to harm the Earth; by things that frankly are just not scientifically proven, for example, the politicization of the whole global warming debate - this is all an attempt to, you know, to centralize power and to give more power to the government."

Rick wants us to return to those thrilling daze of yesteryear; and I'm pleased to report it's not the Antebellum South, no; Rick wants us to return to those dark ages where there was the church, Kings that followed the Pope's orders and slaves; now here's a surprise, especially blacks and women as slaves! Imagine that! Oh, and he's none too fond of Mexicans, either!

Here's a few quotes from Rick on the subject:

On women's prenatal health, why are Rethuglicans so concerned with controlling women's vagina's? (My guess is that they can't control the vagina at home, which might explain why a lot of Republican men are either in the closet bi-sexuals or gay):

"One of the things I will talk about, that no President has talked about before, is, I think the dangers of contraception in this country.... Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

"One of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing in every insurance policy in America. Why? Because it saves money in health care. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and, therefore, less care that has to be done -- because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society. That, too, is part of ObamaCare - another hidden message as to what President Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country."

"In far too many families with young children, both parents are working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they might find they don't both need to. ... What happened in America so that mothers and fathers who leave their children in the care of someone else - or worse yet, home alone after school between three and six in the afternoon - find themselves more affirmed by society? Here, we can thank the influence of radical feminism."

"Working women, find it easier and more socially affirming to keep up their careers than to stay home and take care of their children."

That should garner the women's vote, huh?

On black folks, Rick says:

"I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."

Can't you just see all the "Black's for Santorum" coalitions forming?

Gay folks:

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. ... That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing."

While I could go on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, I won't, as life is short; but the only ones that should support Rick in an election are white, straight, male, Catholic crazies; but, I repeat myself. If you're not one of those, and you vote for Rick, you do so at your own peril; because as far as Rick's concerned, you are the enemy!

In Other News

How'd you like to be U.S. Marine Corps four-star General John Allen? John's been on bended knee of late begging for Afghani forgiveness for murdering their children, then pissing on their dead bodies, posing with Nazi SS flags, and now for burning a few dozen Korans in the trash pile of one of our bases just north of Kabul. I can tell you from experience, on bended knee is not something four-stars are wont to do of their own accord!

If you listen to American and British politicians, it's always us being there to help and protect the Afghanis. All we want to do is to help them -- whether they like it or not! We're not there to destroy what's left of their country, not to bomb the rubble to sand, not to murder innocent civilians daily by the score, not to steal their resources, not to kill them for being Muslims, not to destroy their holy of holies; but, of course, that is really why we're there -- to do all of the above, except to help them!

We first invaded the sovereign nation because they were hiding our CIA-sponsored terror group Al Qaeda and wouldn't turn Osama over -- which is, of course, an outright lie. You may recall they said fine, no problem, just assure us that he will receive a fair trial in open court. That was their only demand; and, of course, old Smirky had no intention of doing that. He couldn't have the truth come out in court! The real reason was we wanted to build a gas pipeline through their country and offered them a choice of a carpet of gold in return for said pipeline, or a carpet of bombs if they refused. They said no, the rest is history!

Obamahood's insistence that we remain there, forever, as we have in Iraq (consider that we're still in England, Germany and Japan since WWII and in places like Guam and Cuba since 1898!) is beginning to wear a bit thin, and our troops being the stone cold killers that they are, know little of politics, of pretending to be there to help, of symbolism in general; they know how to kill, and are very good at it, so Afghanistan is turning out to be harder and harder to spin when things like the Koran burnings keep popping up. Remember what happened when that Florida looney toon just threatened to burn a Koran? I wonder what the blowback will be when this hits the fan? Perhaps a few more chickens coming home to roost in New York, Washington, or a city near you? So far, it's eight dead and dozens wounded! Not to mention a whole new crop of fighters to fight and IEDs for the troops to stumble over! So, Obamahood gets the endless war he desires and that his 1% masters demand!

And Finally

It's that time of year once again! The time whenever and wherever you go to go shopping you'll run into them. Inside or outside the stores and malls. Whole herds of little Girl Scouts and their mothers, shoving boxes of cookies in your face.

I have to admit for decades I would automatically open my wallet and buy about half a dozen boxes before continuing on, but no more. Is it because like Indiana house member Rep. Bob Morris of Fort Wayne I am shocked by the fact that the Girl Scouts will allow transgender members and gay girls to join? Hardly, after the Boy Scouts who won't allow gay scouts or anyone that isn't a follower of Jesus in, (sorry Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists etc.) the Girl Scouts are a breath of fresh air!

Why I stopped buying Girl Scout cookies, and why you should, too, is because they are poisonous; the Girl Scout bosses know this -- and refuse to change it! I was told it's up to their bakers; and since they only do this once a year, they have to go along with their bakers' recipes -- which is, of course, total bullshit. Yes, they only sell them once a year; but they also buy cookies by the billions; and in this economy, any bakers that want that kind of business -- the equivalent of Christmas for retail stores -- would bend over backwards and do anything in their power to get those contracts, including leaving those poisonous chemicals out.

Not only won't they pull these poisons out of the cookies, but they no longer list them under their common names. For example, something you will find in most all of the cookies is high fructose corn syrup, but not under that name. Now it is listed as Invert Sugar. I guess after a few million complaints, they had to do something about the drop in sales and since this is, after all, America, why not cover their tracks with an euphemism -- like Citizen's United or the Patriot Act, or Invert Sugar? The real reason is, of course, money. To make a healthy cookie costs a little bit more which will cut into their profit margin, their bottom line, how American, indeed! They make a buck and you die a little bit!

If you'd like to read about what's in each variety go here and see for yourself. When you get to the page click on "listing of ingredients and nutrition facts." There is no direct link, otherwise and the locations real address is hidden, even when you're on the page, which I find very curious, don't you?

Keepin' On

Thank Zeus for good ole Ernie from Ontario, who sent in yet another nice donation. In the last 18 months or so Ernie has been our #1 helper, without whose help I would still be walking home from the Carolinas! In fact, Ernie is now our 3rd highest donor, behind a couple of very well-off ladies; did I mention that Ernie is retired, living off Canadian social security, and is nearly as broke as I am?

Without Ernie's help last year I wouldn't be writing this, this year! Hey, America, aren't you slightly embarrassed that a Canadian is running rings around you supporting the revolution? Have you no pride, America, or self esteem? Surely if Ernie can do it, so can you!

If everyone of you who have said that you'd soon make a donation, actually did make that donation, then I wouldn't have to be here, cap-in-hand begging for enough money to keep on keeping on, as our bank account would be flush, instead of empty. Talk is cheap, America!

Perhaps you've joined the dark side and now care little for the 99%; but if you haven't, and are working, what's the deal, America? When you and your family find yourself strapped into a box car on the way to a "Happy Camp," it will be too late to write us a nice check, a check that might have helped to put a stop to all this madness that we find ourselves currently trapped in. So before it's too late to help, help us with what you can, as often as you can, and we'll fight the good fight for you and yours!


08-13-1941 ~ 02-16-2012
Thanks for the management tips and the stage passes!

06-05-1943 ~ 02-17-2012
Thanks for the music!


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 Imperial Way
American Decline in Perspective, Part 2
By Noam Chomsky

In the years of conscious, self-inflicted decline at home, "losses" continued to mount elsewhere. In the past decade, for the first time in 500 years, South America has taken successful steps to free itself from western domination, another serious loss. The region has moved towards integration, and has begun to address some of the terrible internal problems of societies ruled by mostly Europeanized elites, tiny islands of extreme wealth in a sea of misery. They have also rid themselves of all U.S. military bases and of IMF controls. A newly formed organization, CELAC, includes all countries of the hemisphere apart from the U.S. and Canada. If it actually functions, that would be another step in American decline, in this case in what has always been regarded as "the backyard."

Even more serious would be the loss of the MENA countries -- Middle East/North Africa -- which have been regarded by planners since the 1940s as "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history." Control of MENA energy reserves would yield "substantial control of the world," in the words of the influential Roosevelt advisor A.A. Berle.

To be sure, if the projections of a century of U.S. energy independence based on North American energy resources turn out to be realistic, the significance of controlling MENA would decline somewhat, though probably not by much: the main concern has always been control more than access. However, the likely consequences to the planet's equilibrium are so ominous that discussion may be largely an academic exercise.

The Arab Spring, another development of historic importance, might portend at least a partial "loss" of MENA. The US and its allies have tried hard to prevent that outcome -- so far, with considerable success. Their policy towards the popular uprisings has kept closely to the standard guidelines: support the forces most amenable to U.S. influence and control.

Favored dictators are supported as long as they can maintain control (as in the major oil states). When that is no longer possible, then discard them and try to restore the old regime as fully as possible (as in Tunisia and Egypt). The general pattern is familiar: Somoza, Marcos, Duvalier, Mobutu, Suharto, and many others. In one case, Libya, the three traditional imperial powers intervened by force to participate in a rebellion to overthrow a mercurial and unreliable dictator, opening the way, it is expected, to more efficient control over Libya's rich resources (oil primarily, but also water, of particular interest to French corporations), to a possible base for the U.S. Africa Command (so far restricted to Germany), and to the reversal of growing Chinese penetration. As far as policy goes, there have been few surprises.

Crucially, it is important to reduce the threat of functioning democracy, in which popular opinion will significantly influence policy. That again is routine, and quite understandable. A look at the studies of public opinion undertaken by U.S. polling agencies in the MENA countries easily explains the western fear of authentic democracy, in which public opinion will significantly influence policy.

Israel and the Republican Party

Similar considerations carry over directly to the second major concern addressed in the issue of Foreign Affairs cited in part one of this piece: the Israel-Palestine conflict. Fear of democracy could hardly be more clearly exhibited than in this case. In January 2006, an election took place in Palestine, pronounced free and fair by international monitors. The instant reaction of the U.S. (and of course Israel), with Europe following along politely, was to impose harsh penalties on Palestinians for voting the wrong way.

That is no innovation. It is quite in accord with the general and unsurprising principle recognized by mainstream scholarship: the U.S. supports democracy if, and only if, the outcomes accord with its strategic and economic objectives, the rueful conclusion of neo-Reaganite Thomas Carothers, the most careful and respected scholarly analyst of "democracy promotion" initiatives.

More broadly, for 35 years the U.S. has led the rejectionist camp on Israel-Palestine, blocking an international consensus calling for a political settlement in terms too well known to require repetition. The western mantra is that Israel seeks negotiations without preconditions, while the Palestinians refuse. The opposite is more accurate. The U.S. and Israel demand strict preconditions, which are, furthermore, designed to ensure that negotiations will lead either to Palestinian capitulation on crucial issues, or nowhere.

The first precondition is that the negotiations must be supervised by Washington, which makes about as much sense as demanding that Iran supervise the negotiation of Sunni-Shia conflicts in Iraq. Serious negotiations would have to be under the auspices of some neutral party, preferably one that commands some international respect, perhaps Brazil. The negotiations would seek to resolve the conflicts between the two antagonists: the U.S.-Israel on one side, most of the world on the other.

The second precondition is that Israel must be free to expand its illegal settlements in the West Bank. Theoretically, the U.S. opposes these actions, but with a very light tap on the wrist, while continuing to provide economic, diplomatic, and military support. When the U.S. does have some limited objections, it very easily bars the actions, as in the case of the E-1 project linking Greater Jerusalem to the town of Ma'aleh Adumim, virtually bisecting the West Bank, a very high priority for Israeli planners (across the spectrum), but raising some objections in Washington, so that Israel has had to resort to devious measures to chip away at the project.

The pretense of opposition reached the level of farce last February when Obama vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for implementation of official U.S. policy (also adding the uncontroversial observation that the settlements themselves are illegal, quite apart from expansion). Since that time there has been little talk about ending settlement expansion, which continues, with studied provocation.

Thus, as Israeli and Palestinian representatives prepared to meet in Jordan in January 2011, Israel announced new construction in Pisgat Ze'ev and Har Homa, West Bank areas that it has declared to be within the greatly expanded area of Jerusalem, annexed, settled, and constructed as Israel's capital, all in violation of direct Security Council orders. Other moves carry forward the grander design of separating whatever West Bank enclaves will be left to Palestinian administration from the cultural, commercial, political center of Palestinian life in the former Jerusalem.

It is understandable that Palestinian rights should be marginalized in U.S. policy and discourse. Palestinians have no wealth or power. They offer virtually nothing to U.S. policy concerns; in fact, they have negative value, as a nuisance that stirs up "the Arab street."

Israel, in contrast, is a valuable ally. It is a rich society with a sophisticated, largely militarized high-tech industry. For decades, it has been a highly valued military and strategic ally, particularly since 1967, when it performed a great service to the U.S. and its Saudi ally by destroying the Nasserite "virus," establishing the "special relationship" with Washington in the form that has persisted since. It is also a growing center for U.S. high-tech investment. In fact, high tech and particularly military industries in the two countries are closely linked.

Apart from such elementary considerations of great power politics as these, there are cultural factors that should not be ignored. Christian Zionism in Britain and the U.S. long preceded Jewish Zionism, and has been a significant elite phenomenon with clear policy implications (including the Balfour Declaration, which drew from it). When General Allenby conquered Jerusalem during World War I, he was hailed in the American press as Richard the Lion-Hearted, who had at last won the Crusades and driven the pagans out of the Holy Land.

The next step was for the Chosen People to return to the land promised to them by the Lord. Articulating a common elite view, President Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes described Jewish colonization of Palestine as an achievement "without comparison in the history of the human race." Such attitudes find their place easily within the Providentialist doctrines that have been a strong element in popular and elite culture since the country's origins: the belief that God has a plan for the world and the U.S. is carrying it forward under divine guidance, as articulated by a long list of leading figures.

Moreover, evangelical Christianity is a major popular force in the U.S. Further toward the extremes, End Times evangelical Christianity also has enormous popular outreach, invigorated by the establishment of Israel in 1948, revitalized even more by the conquest of the rest of Palestine in 1967 -- all signs that End Times and the Second Coming are approaching.

These forces have become particularly significant since the Reagan years, as the Republicans have abandoned the pretense of being a political party in the traditional sense, while devoting themselves in virtual lockstep uniformity to servicing a tiny percentage of the super-rich and the corporate sector. However, the small constituency that is primarily served by the reconstructed party cannot provide votes, so they have to turn elsewhere.

The only choice is to mobilize tendencies that have always been present, though rarely as an organized political force: primarily nativists trembling in fear and hatred, and religious elements that are extremists by international standards but not in the U.S. One outcome is reverence for alleged Biblical prophecies, hence not only support for Israel and its conquests and expansion, but passionate love for Israel, another core part of the catechism that must be intoned by Republican candidates -- with Democrats, again, not too far behind.

These factors aside, it should not be forgotten that the "Anglosphere" -- Britain and its offshoots -- consists of settler-colonial societies, which rose on the ashes of indigenous populations, suppressed or virtually exterminated. Past practices must have been basically correct, in the U.S. case even ordained by Divine Providence. Accordingly there is often an intuitive sympathy for the children of Israel when they follow a similar course. But primarily, geostrategic and economic interests prevail, and policy is not graven in stone.

The Iranian "Threat" and the Nuclear Issue

Let us turn finally to the third of the leading issues addressed in the establishment journals cited earlier, the "threat of Iran." Among elites and the political class this is generally taken to be the primary threat to world order -- though not among populations. In Europe, polls show that Israel is regarded as the leading threat to peace. In the MENA countries, that status is shared with the U.S., to the extent that in Egypt, on the eve of the Tahrir Square uprising, 80% felt that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons. The same polls found that only 10% regard Iran as a threat -- unlike the ruling dictators, who have their own concerns.

In the United States, before the massive propaganda campaigns of the past few years, a majority of the population agreed with most of the world that, as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has a right to carry out uranium enrichment. And even today, a large majority favors peaceful means for dealing with Iran. There is even strong opposition to military engagement if Iran and Israel are at war. Only a quarter regard Iran as an important concern for the U.S. altogether. But it is not unusual for there to be a gap, often a chasm, dividing public opinion and policy.

Why exactly is Iran regarded as such a colossal threat? The question is rarely discussed, but it is not hard to find a serious answer -- though not, as usual, in the fevered pronouncements. The most authoritative answer is provided by the Pentagon and the intelligence services in their regular reports to Congress on global security. They report that Iran does not pose a military threat. Its military spending is very low even by the standards of the region, minuscule of course in comparison with the U.S.

Iran has little capacity to deploy force. Its strategic doctrines are defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to set it. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons capability, they report, that would be part of its deterrence strategy. No serious analyst believes that the ruling clerics are eager to see their country and possessions vaporized, the immediate consequence of their coming even close to initiating a nuclear war. And it is hardly necessary to spell out the reasons why any Iranian leadership would be concerned with deterrence, under existing circumstances.

The regime is doubtless a serious threat to much of its own population -- and regrettably, is hardly unique on that score. But the primary threat to the U.S. and Israel is that Iran might deter their free exercise of violence. A further threat is that the Iranians clearly seek to extend their influence to neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, and beyond as well. Those "illegitimate" acts are called "destabilizing" (or worse). In contrast, forceful imposition of U.S. influence halfway around the world contributes to "stability" and order, in accord with traditional doctrine about who owns the world.

It makes very good sense to try to prevent Iran from joining the nuclear weapons states, including the three that have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- Israel, India, and Pakistan, all of which have been assisted in developing nuclear weapons by the U.S., and are still being assisted by them. It is not impossible to approach that goal by peaceful diplomatic means. One approach, which enjoys overwhelming international support, is to undertake meaningful steps towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, including Iran and Israel (and applying as well to U.S. forces deployed there), better still extending to South Asia.

Support for such efforts is so strong that the Obama administration has been compelled to formally agree, but with reservations: crucially, that Israel's nuclear program must not be placed under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Association, and that no state (meaning the U.S.) should be required to release information about "Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel." Obama also accepts Israel's position that any such proposal must be conditional on a comprehensive peace settlement, which the U.S. and Israel can continue to delay indefinitely.

This survey comes nowhere near being exhaustive, needless to say. Among major topics not addressed is the shift of U.S. military policy towards the Asia-Pacific region, with new additions to the huge military base system underway right now, in Jeju Island off South Korea and Northwest Australia, all elements of the policy of "containment of China." Closely related is the issue of U.S. bases in Okinawa, bitterly opposed by the population for many years, and a continual crisis in U.S.-Tokyo-Okinawa relations.

Revealing how little fundamental assumptions have changed, U.S. strategic analysts describe the result of China's military programs as a "classic 'security dilemma,' whereby military programs and national strategies deemed defensive by their planners are viewed as threatening by the other side," writes Paul Godwin of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. The security dilemma arises over control of the seas off China's coasts. The U.S. regards its policies of controlling these waters as "defensive," while China regards them as threatening; correspondingly, China regards its actions in nearby areas as "defensive" while the U.S. regards them as threatening. No such debate is even imaginable concerning U.S. coastal waters. This "classic security dilemma" makes sense, again, on the assumption that the U.S. has a right to control most of the world, and that U.S. security requires something approaching absolute global control.

While the principles of imperial domination have undergone little change, the capacity to implement them has markedly declined as power has become more broadly distributed in a diversifying world. Consequences are many. It is, however, very important to bear in mind that -- unfortunately -- none lifts the two dark clouds that hover over all consideration of global order: nuclear war and environmental catastrophe, both literally threatening the decent survival of the species.

Quite the contrary. Both threats are ominous, and increasing.
(c) 2012 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Gaza In Crisis.

Thou Shalt Not Kill (Thyself)
By Uri Avnery

AFTER THE founding of Israel, God appeared to David Ben-Gurion and told him: "You have created a state for my chosen people in my holy land. This merits a great reward. Tell me what you wish, and I will grant it."

Ben-Gurion answered: "Almighty God, I wish that every person in Israel shall be wise, honest and a member of the Labor Party."

"Dear me," said God, "That is too much even for the Almighty. But I decree that every Israeli shall be two of the three."

Since then, if a wise Israeli is a member of the Labor party, he is not honest. If an honest Israeli is a member of the Labor party, he is not wise. If he is wise and honest, he is not a member of the Labor Party.

THIS JOKE was popular in the 1950s. After 1967, another much less funny formula took its place.

It goes like this: many Israelis ask God for their state to be Jewish and democratic, and that it will include the entire country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. That is too much even for the Almighty. So he asks them to choose between a state that is Jewish and democratic but only in part of the country, or a state in all the country that is Jewish but not democratic, or a state in the entire country that is democratic but not Jewish. To which I would add a fourth option: A Jewish and democratic state in the entire country, but only after driving out all the Arabs - some 5.5 million at this point, and growing quickly.

This is the choice facing us today as it did almost 45 years ago. It has only become more sharply defined.

For any foreseeable future, the fourth alternative can be excluded. The circumstances which led, in 1948, to the expulsion of more than half the Palestinian people from the territory that became Israel were unique, and not likely to return in the coming decades. So we must deal with the present demographic reality.

The current government is determined to prevent any peace that would compel it to give up any part of the occupied territories (22% of pre-1948 Palestine). There is no one around who would compel them to do so.

What remains?

A state that is either non-democratic or non-Jewish.

As things stand, the first possibility is certain to be realized, or, rather, to realize itself. This needs no conscious decision, since it is the default situation that already exists de facto.

This means, to use the popular catch phrase, an apartheid state: a state in which every instrument of power is in the hands of the Jewish-Israeli majority (some 6.5 million people), with limited rights for the 1.5 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. The Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, some four million, are granted no rights whatsoever - neither national, nor human nor civil.

The present state of "temporary" occupation can last forever, and is therefore ideal for this purpose. However, a future Israeli government, an even more nationalist one, could change the formal situation by annexing these territories to Israel. That would make, in practice, no difference.

As many Israelis see it, this situation could go on forever. The official slogan is: "We have no partner for peace."

But can it really last? The Palestinian population throughout the country is growing rapidly, soon enough it will constitute the majority. The idealists who embrace this as the "One-state Solution" believe that the Apartheid State will slowly turn into a "state of all its citizens."

If, after decades of oppression, civil war, atrocities and other plagues this really came into being, it would quickly turn into a Palestinian state, with a Jewish minority, like the Whites in present South Africa. It would be a negation of the whole Zionist enterprise, whose core purpose was to have one place in the world where Jews would be a majority. Most Jewish Israelis would probably emigrate.

For an Israeli, this would mean national suicide. Yet it is the inevitable outcome if the state continues on its present course.

IF A person wants to kill himself, as is his right, he has many ways to do so: poisoning, shooting, hanging, jumping from the roof etc. As a state, Israel also has several options.

Apart from the external ticking bomb (the "One-state Solution"), Israel also has an internal ticking bomb, which may be even more dangerous. Like the first option, the second one is already well on its way. If the first option depends at least partly on outside factors, the second is entirely self-made.

When Israel came into being, Orthodox Jews were a small minority. Since Ben-Gurion needed them for his coalition, he gave them some privileges which looked cheap to him. The Orthodox got their own education system, financed by the state, and were exempted from army service.

Some 60 years later, these privileges have grown to gigantic dimensions. To compensate for the lives lost in the Holocaust, and to increase the Jewish population, the Israeli government has encouraged natural increase by generous children's subsidies. Since the religious of all shades have reproduced much more than any other Israelis (except Muslim Arabs), their part in the population has grown by leaps and bounds.

Orthodox families generally have 8-10 children. All these go to religious schools, where they study exclusively religious texts and don't acquire any skills useful for working in a modern society. They don't need them, since they do not work at all, devoting their entire lives to the study of the Talmud. They don't need to interrupt their studying of the dead texts, because they don't serve in the army.

If these were marginal phenomena in the early days of the state, they are now rapidly leading to a national emergency. Right from the beginning, almost all government coalitions have relied on the religious parties, because no party has ever won an overall majority in the Knesset. Almost all governing parties had to bribe their religious partners with ever increasing subsidies for children and adults, thus encouraging the growth of a population which neither serves in the army nor does any work.

The absence of the Orthodox from the labor force has severe effects on the economy, attested to by world financial institutions. Their absence from the army - as well as the absence of the Arab citizens, who are not drafted for obvious reasons - means that soon almost half the male population will not serve. This compels all the others to serve three full years, and then to do reserve duty for many more years.

Also, very soon, half the first grade pupils in Israel will be religious children, destined for a life without work, without paying taxes or serving in the army - all this paid for by the taxes of the diminishing number of the non-Orthodox.

Recently, after deepening unrest between religious and non-religious in Bet Shemesh, 25 km west of Jerusalem, the secularists demanded that the town be divided into two, one half Orthodox and the other secular. The Interior Minister, himself a leader of an Orthodox party, rejected this outright. As he candidly explained. since the Orthodox do not work and cannot pay municipal taxes, they cannot sustain a town of their own. They need the secular to work and pay.

This grotesque situation exists throughout the state. One can calculate when the whole edifice will come crashing down. International financial institutions as well as Israeli experts foretell disaster. Yet our political system does not make any change possible. The hold of the religious parties is as strong as ever.

Another method of suicide.

A THIRD method is less dramatic. Israel is rapidly becoming a state in which normal people just may not want to live. In his monumental opus on the Crusades, the late British historian Steven Runciman maintained that the Crusader state did not collapse because of its military defeat, but because too many of its inhabitants just packed up and went back to Europe. Though many of them belonged to the 4th and even 8th generation of crusaders, the Crusader state had lost its attraction for them. The state of perpetual war and inner stagnation drove them out. The state collapsed when many more went away than came to join.

The Crusaders felt a stronger sense of belonging to Christendom than to the local Kingdom of Jerusalem. Today, many Israelis feel themselves first of all as Jews, belonging to a world-wide people, and only in second place Israelis.

That makes emigration easier.

A state without democracy, without equality, condemned by itself to an endless war, dominated by religious fanatics, with the gap between the abject poor and a handful of immensely rich growing from year to year - such a state will look less and less attractive to bright young people, who can easily find a better life elsewhere, while retaining their Jewish identity.

That, too, is a kind of national suicide.

I AM not, by nature, a prophet of doom. Quite the contrary.

We can easily avert all these dangers. But first of all we must recognize them and see where they are leading us.

I believe that the people of Israel - the Israeli nation - have the will to survive. But in order to survive, they must wake up from their apathetic stupor and change course - turning towards peace based on the two-state solution, separating the state from religion and building a new social order.

In the Jewish religion, suicide is a sin. It would be ironic if future historians were to conclude that the "Jewish State" committed suicide.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Another March To War?
By Matt Taibbi

As a journalist, there's a buzz you can detect once the normal restraints in your business have been loosened, a smell of fresh chum in the waters, urging us down the road to war. Many years removed from the Iraq disaster, that smell is back, this time with Iran.

You can just feel it: many of the same newspapers and TV stations we saw leading the charge in the Bush years have gone back to the attic and are dusting off their war pom-poms. CNN's house blockhead, the Goldman-trained ex-finance professional Erin Burnett, came out with a doozie of a broadcast yesterday, a Rumsfeldian jeremiad against the Iranian threat would have fit beautifully in the Saddam's-sending-drones-at-New-York halcyon days of late 2002. Here's how the excellent Glenn Greenwald described Burnett's rant:

It's the sort of thing you would produce if you set out to create a mean-spirited parody of mindless, war-hungry, fear-mongering media stars, but you wouldn't dare go this far because you'd want the parody to have a feel of realism to it, and this would be way too extreme to be believable. She really hauled it all out: WMDs! Terrorist sleeper cells in the U.S. controlled by Tehran! Iran's long-range nuclear missiles reaching our homeland!!!! She almost made the anti-Muslim war-mongering fanatic she brought on to interview, Rep. Peter King, appear sober and reasonable by comparison.

Like Greenwald, I was particularly struck by Burnett's freak-out about Iran's nuclear program, about which she said, "No one buys Iran's claim that [it is] for peaceful purposes." She then cited remarks by Director of Intelligence James Clapper, which, she said, "drove that message home." But then she ran a clip with Clapper's quote, which read as follows:

Iran's technical advances . . . strengthen our assessment that Iran is more than capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon if its political leaders, specifically the Supreme Leader himself, choose to do so.

In other words, "If Iran were to decide to be capable of making nuclear weapons, it would be capable of making nuclear weapons." Unless I'm missing something, that's a statement that would be true of almost any industrialized country, wouldn't it?

Virtually all of the Iran stories of late have contained some version of this sort of rhetorical sophistry. The news "hook" in most all of these stories is that intelligence reports reveal Iran is "willing" to attack us or go to war - but then there's usually an asterisk next to the headline, and when you follow the asterisk, it reads something like, "In the event that we attack Iran first."

An NBC report Greenwald also wrote about put it this way: "Within just the past few days, Iranian leaders have threatened that if attacked, they would launch those missiles at U.S. targets."

There's a weird set of internalized assumptions that media members bring to stories like this Iran business. In fact there's an elaborate belief system we press people adhere to, about how a foreign country may behave toward the U.S., and how it may not behave. It reminds me a little of a passage in Anna Karenina about the belief system of noblemen in Tolstoy's day:

Vronsky's life was particularly happy in that he had a code of principles, which defined with unfailing certitude what he ought and what he ought not to do... These principles laid down as invisible rules: that one must pay a cardsharper, but need not pay a tailor; that one must never lie to a man, but one may lie to a woman; that one must never cheat anyone, but one may a husband; that one must never pardon an insult, but one may give one, and so on.

We have a similar gentleman's code, a "Westernized industrial power" code if you will, that operates the same way. In other words, our newspapers and TV stations may blather on a thousand times a day about attacking Iran and bombing its people, but if even one Iranian talks about fighting back, he is being "aggressive" and "threatening"; we can impose sanctions on anyone, but if the sanctioned country embargoes oil shipments to Europe in response, it's being "belligerent," and so on.

I'm not defending Ahmadinejad, I think he's nuts and a monstrous dick and I definitely don't think he should be allowed to have nuclear weapons, but to me this issue has little to do with Iran at all. What's more troubling to me is that we've internalized this "gentleman's code" to the point where its basic premises are no longer even debated.

Once upon a time, way back in the stone ages, when Noam Chomsky was first writing about these propaganda techniques in Manufacturing Consent, our leaders felt the need to conceal - or at least sugar-coat - these Orwellian principles. It was assumed that the American people genuinely needed to feel like they were on the right side of things, and so the foreign powers we clashed with were always depicted as being the instigators and aggressors, while our role in provoking those responses was always disguised or at least played down.

But now the public openly embraces circular thinking like, "Any country that squawks when we threaten to bomb it is a threat that needs to be wiped out." Maybe I'm mistaken, but I have to believe that there was a time when ideas like that sounded weird to the American ear. Now they seem to make sense to almost everyone here at home, and that to me is just as a scary as Ahmadinejad.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

An employee works at the Yiwu Lianfa clothing factory in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, June 8, 2011

Is China Our Future?
If we don't want six-day workweeks at rock-bottom pay, we need to rethink how America's free market functions
By David Sirota

For the last two decades, we've heard many myths purporting to explain the loss of American manufacturing jobs. CEOs, for instance, typically say they have sent jobs overseas because they can't find skilled American workers. Conservative economists say the giant sucking sound is that of technology replacing obsolete workers. And conservative politicians say job loss is the result of high corporate tax rates, even though ours are among the lowest effective corporate tax rates in the industrialized world.

All of these explanations are fables with a purpose: They are designed to deny the obvious by pretending that exploitation and policies that encourage exploitation aren't the root cause of offshoring. More specifically, they ask us to ignore the fact that tariff-free trade agreements and tax loopholes incentivize companies to shift production to countries where slave wages, environmental degradation and human rights abuses are tolerated.

But now at least a few manufacturing jobs are suddenly coming back to America, and the same CEOs, economists and politicians who have tried to squelch any honest discussion of exploitation are inadvertently admitting that exploitation has always been the manufacturing economy's invisible hand. They are admitting it when they concede that jobs are returning primarily because American wages are precipitously dropping at the same time Chinese minimum wages have slightly risen - from awful (in some places, $100 month) to a mere terrible (still just a $240 a month).

This is not some fringe theory. It's a widely acknowledged fact.

President Barack Obama admitted it when in his State of the Union address he said jobs are returning because "it's getting more expensive to do business in places like China." Economists at the Boston Consulting Group underscored it when in August they said employment growth is happening because rising Chinese wages are "eroding China's cost advantages" while the United States "is becoming a lower-cost country" as American wages decline. And GE Consumer & Industrial CEO James Campbell reiterated it when he recently told the New York Times that "making things in America is as viable as making things any place" because domestic labor costs are now "significantly less with the competitive wages" - read: far lower wages - now accepted by American workers.

Now that this consensus is finally out in the open, the real question for America is simple: Do we accept an economic competition that asks us to emulate China?

If our answer is yes, then we should support current state legislative proposals to reduce child labor protections; back federal legislation to eliminate all environmental, wage and workplace safety laws; and applaud corporations that crush unions and further reduce wages in America. We should also probably encourage our fellow countrymen to follow Apple Inc.'s Chinese workforce by simply accepting $17-a-day paychecks, 12-hour workdays and six-day workweeks. Indeed, if we accept this race-to-the-bottom style of competition, then we're basically saying Chicago should look more like Chengdu; our heartland should look more like the poverty-stricken interior of China; and 21st century America should look more like late-19th century America.

If, alternately, we reject this dystopian future, then it requires us to more seriously consider things like tariffs, industrial policy, tax incentives for domestic investment and Buy America laws for government procurement. In other words, it requires us to declare that access to the American marketplace is no longer free - that corporations who want to sell things to Americans must play by our wage, environmental and human rights rules no matter where they make their products.

Between these two paths, there is no "third way"- - and doing nothing will likely mean that the uptick in American manufacturing jobs will prove fleeting. A choice, therefore, must be made, and it should be a no-brainer.
(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.

John give the corpo-rat salute

Memo To Supremes: Got Ethics?

Good grief - how can someone so smart be so stupid? So clueless? So wrong?

John Roberts is not just any someone. He's Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the judicial body of last resort with god-like power to impose "justice" and alter the rules that the rest of us are expected to obey. But what rules of ethical conduct must these nine justices obey?

The answer is: None. While there are written codes of conduct for every other judge in America, the Supremes have majestically exempted themselves from any such enforceable ethical burden. This is now causing a public stink for the Court, since three of the exalted jurists have recently been exposed for participation in nakedly political events to advance the fortunes of right-wing corporate interests for whom they've been ruling. This political partisanship is expressly prohibited by the code of conduct that governs other federal judges, so why should these nine public officials be exempt?

Because, explained Chief Justice Roberts, all nine of us are "jurists of exceptional integrity and experience." He added that they do "consult" the code, ducking the obvious difference that he and his eight privileged colleagues can ignore the code with impunity. "At the end of the day," sniffed the imperious Roberts, "no compilation of ethical rules can guarantee integrity." Wow, Chief, how sage is that? Since written rules can't "guarantee" your integrity, why have them for lower courts, for any public office holder, or even for common citizens?

Roberts proves that you can't cover stupidity with a law degree and a black robe. A coalition of citizen organizations is demanding that the Court stop toying with the integrity of the judicial system and at least follow the code of conduct for other judges. To join the push, contact
(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.

Obama's War On Pot
In a shocking about-face, the administration has launched a government-wide crackdown on medical marijuana.
By Tim Dickinson

Back when he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama insisted that medical marijuana was an issue best left to state and local governments. "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," he vowed, promising an end to the Bush administration's high-profile raids on providers of medical pot, which is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multiagency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush's record for medical-marijuana busts. "There's no question that Obama's the worst president on medical marijuana," says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "He's gone from first to worst."

The federal crackdown imperils the medical care of the estimated 730,000 patients nationwide - many of them seriously ill or dying - who rely on state-sanctioned marijuana recommended by their doctors. In addition, drug experts warn, the White House's war on law-abiding providers of medical marijuana will only drum up business for real criminals. "The administration is going after legal dispensaries and state and local authorities in ways that are going to push this stuff back underground again," says Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a former Republican senator who has urged the DEA to legalize medical marijuana, pulls no punches in describing the state of affairs produced by Obama's efforts to circumvent state law: "Utter chaos."

In its first two years, the Obama administration took a refreshingly sane approach to medical marijuana. Shortly after Obama took office, a senior drug-enforcement official pledged to Rolling Stone that the question of whether marijuana is medicine would now be determined by science, "not ideology." In March 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder emphasized that the Justice Department would only target medical-marijuana providers "who violate both federal and state law." The next morning, a headline in The New York Times read OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO STOP RAIDS ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSERS. While all forms of marijuana would remain strictly illegal under federal law - the DEA ranks cannabis as a Schedule I drug, on par with heroin - the feds would respect state protections for providers of medical pot. Framing the Obama administration's new approach, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske famously declared, "We're not at war with people in this country."

That original hands-off policy was codified in a Justice Department memo written in October 2009 by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden. The so-called "Ogden memo" advised federal law-enforcement officials that the "rational use of its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources" meant that medical-marijuana patients and their "caregivers" who operate in "clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law" could be left alone.

At the same time, Ogden was concerned that the feds not "be made a fool of" by illegal drug traffickers. In that vein, his memo advised U.S. attorneys to focus on going after pot dispensaries that posed as medicinal but were actively engaged in criminal acts, such as selling to minors, possession of illegal firearms or money-laundering. The idea, as Holder put it, was to raid only those hardcore traffickers who "use medical-marijuana laws as a shield."

The Ogden memo sent a clear message to the states: The feds will only intervene if you allow pot dispensaries to operate as a front for criminal activity. States from New Mexico to Maine moved quickly to license and regulate dispensaries through their state health departments - giving medical marijuana unprecedented legitimacy. In California, which had allowed "caregivers" to operate dispensaries, medical pot blossomed into a $1.3 billion enterprise - shielded from federal blowback by the Ogden memo.

The administration's recognition of medical cannabis reached its high-water mark in July 2010, when the Department of Veterans Affairs validated it as a legitimate course of treatment for soldiers returning from the front lines. But it didn't take long for the fragile federal detente to begin to collapse. The reversal began at the Drug Enforcement Agency with Michele Leonhart, a holdover from the Bush administration who was renominated by Obama to head the DEA. An anti-medical-marijuana hard-liner, Leonhart had been rebuked in 2008 by House Judiciary chairman John Conyers for targeting dispensaries with tactics "typically reserved for the worst drug traffickers and kingpins." Her views on the larger drug war are so perverse, in fact, that last year she cited the slaughter of nearly 1,000 Mexican children by the drug cartels as a counterintuitive "sign of success in the fight against drugs."

In January 2011, weeks after Leonhart was confirmed, her agency updated a paper called "The DEA Position on Marijuana." With subject headings like THE FALLACY OF MARIJUANA FOR MEDICINAL USE and SMOKED MARIJUANA IS NOT MEDICINE, the paper simply regurgitated the Bush administration's ideological stance, in an attempt to walk back the Ogden memo. Sounding like Glenn Beck, the DEA even blamed "George Soros" and "a few billionaires, not broad grassroots support" for sustaining the medical-marijuana movement - even though polls show that 70 percent of Americans approve of medical pot. Almost immediately, federal prosecutors went on the attack. Their first target: the city of Oakland, where local officials had moved to raise millions in taxes by licensing high-tech indoor facilities for growing medical marijuana. A month after the DEA issued its hard-line position, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag warned the city that the feds were weighing "criminal prosecution" against the proposed pot operations. Abandoning the Ogden memo's protections for state-sanctioned "caregivers," Haag effectively re-declared war on medical pot. "We will enforce the Controlled Substances Act vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana," she wrote, "even if such activities are permitted under state law." Haag's warning shot had the desired effect: Oakland quickly scuttled its plans, even though the taxes provided by the indoor grows could have single-handedly wiped out the city's $31 million deficit.

Two months later, federal prosecutors in Washington state went even further, threatening state employees responsible for implementing new regulations for pot dispensaries. U.S. attorneys sent a letter to Gov. Christine Gregoire, warning that state employees "would not be immune from liability under the Controlled Substances Act." Shocked by the threat - "It subjected Washington state employees to felony criminal prosecution!" - Gregoire vetoed the new rules. A similar federal threat in Rhode Island forced Chafee to follow suit, putting an indefinite hold on the planned opening of three state-licensed "compassion centers" to distribute marijuana to seriously ill patients.

In isolation, such moves might be seen as the work of overzealous U.S. attorneys, who operate with considerable autonomy. But last June, the Justice Department effectively declared that it was returning to the Bush administration's hard-line stance on medical marijuana. James Cole, who had replaced Ogden as deputy attorney general, wrote a memo revoking his predecessor's deference to states on the definition of "caregiver." The term, Cole insisted, applied only to "individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana." Pot dispensaries, in short, were once again prime federal targets, even if they were following state law to the letter. "The Cole memo basically adopted the Bush policy," says Kampia, "which was only that the Justice Department will not go after individual patients."

In reality, however, the Obama administration has also put patients in the cross hairs. Last September, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms moved to deprive Americans who use medical marijuana of their gun rights. In an open letter to gun sellers, the ATF warned that it is unlawful to sell "any firearm or ammunition" to "any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for me dicinal purposes." If your doctor advises you to use medicinal pot, in other words, you can no longer legally own a gun. Hunting advocates were outraged. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, wrote a furious letter calling on the Justice Department to reassess its "chilling" policy, declaring it "unacceptable that law-abiding citizens would be stripped of their Second Amendment rights."

Since the federal crackdown began last year, the DEA has raided dozens of medical-cannabis dispensaries from Michigan to Montana. Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California, claims the federal action is necessary because the state's legalized pot dispensaries have been "hijacked by profiteers" who are nothing more than criminals.

It's true that California has no shortage of illegal pot dealers. Nonmedical marijuana is the state's largest cash crop, raking in an estimated $14 billion a year. And demand is growing, in part because former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger thwarted a ballot measure aimed at full legalization in 2010 by removing criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of pot. But instead of focusing limited federal resources on off-the-grid growers in places like Humboldt County, who are often armed and violent, Haag targeted Matthew Cohen, a medical-marijuana farmer in Mendocino who was growing 99 plants under the direct supervision of the county sheriff. As part of a pioneering collaboration with local law enforcement, Cohen marked each of his plants with county-supplied tags, had his secured facility inspected and distributed the marijuana he grew directly to patients in his nonprofit collective.

Cohen appeared to be precisely the kind of caregiver that the Ogden memo advised should be given safe harbor for operating in "clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law." But last October, DEA agents stormed Cohen's farm in the middle of the night and cut down his crop. Sheriff Tom Allman, who learned of the raid on his turf only an hour before it was executed, was outraged. "Matt Cohen was not in violation of any state or local ordinances when federal agents arrived at his location," Allman says. In January, Haag took the fight to the next level, threatening county officials like Allman with federal sanctions. Three weeks later, county supervisors voted to abandon the program to license and monitor Mendocino's legal growers. "This is a huge step backward," says Allman.

Haag's treatment of urban dispensaries has been equally ham-handed. She recently shuttered one of the oldest dispensaries in the state, a nonprofit that serves a high percentage of female patients in Marin County, which has the nation's highest rate of breast cancer. She has threatened to seize the properties that landlords rent to legal pot dispensaries. And in San Francisco, she targeted Divinity Tree, a cooperative run by a quadriplegic who himself relies on prescribed cannabis for relief from near-constant muscle spasms. At a time of high unemployment and huge budget deficits, the move killed more than a dozen jobs and deprived the state of $180,000 in annual tax revenue. In San Diego alone, the feds have shut down nearly two-thirds of the county's dispensaries. Statewide, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union estimates, the federal crackdown has destroyed some 2,500 jobs in California. It also sent street prices soaring by at least 20 percent, putting more money in the hands of actual criminals.

In addition, the federal war on medical marijuana has locked pot dispensaries out of the banking system - especially in Colorado, home to the nation's second-largest market for medicinal cannabis. Top banks - including Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America - are refusing to do business with state-licensed dispensaries, for fear of federal prosecution for money-laundering and other federal drug crimes. In a House hearing in December, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado warned Attorney General Holder that strong-arming banks will actually raise the likelihood of crime. If pot dispensaries have to work outside the normal financial system, Polis told Holder, "it makes the industry harder for the state to track, to tax, to regulate them, and in fact makes it prone to robberies, because it becomes a cash business."

The IRS has also joined in the administration's assault on pot dispensaries, seeking to deny them standard tax deductions enjoyed by all other businesses. Invoking an obscure provision of the tax code meant to trip up drug kingpins, the IRS now maintains that pot dispensaries can deduct only one expense - ironically, the cost of the marijuana itself. All other normal costs of doing business - including employee salaries and benefits, rent, equipment, electricity and water - have been denied.

The agency has used the provision to go after Harborside Health Center, one of the largest and most respected providers of medical cannabis in California. Its Oakland branch, serving 83,000 patients in conforming with state law, paid more than $1 million in city taxes last year - placing it in the top 10 percent of local businesses. "It's incredibly tightly run and very, very professional," says Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance. "But it's also big - and it may be that big is bad as far as the feds are concerned." Slapped with an IRS bill for $2.5 million in back taxes, Harborside now faces bankruptcy. "It's profoundly inaccurate to characterize us as a 'drug-trafficking' organization," says Harborside president Steve DeAngelo. "We are a nonprofit community-service organization that helps sick and suffering people get the medicine they need to be well. This is not an attempt to tax us - it's an attempt to tax us out of existence."

Supporters of medical marijuana are baffled by Obama's abrupt about-face on the issue. Some blame the federal crackdown not on the president, but on career drug warriors determined to go after medical pot. "I don't think the federal onslaught is being driven by the highest levels of the White House," says Nadelmann. "What we need is a clear statement from the White House that federal authorities will defer to responsible local regulation."

The White House, for its part, insists that its position on medical pot has been "clear and consistent." Asked for comment, a senior administration official points out that the Ogden memo was never meant to protect "such things as large-scale, privately owned industrial marijuana cultivation centers" like the one in Oakland. But the official makes no attempt to explain why the administration has permitted a host of federal agencies to revive the Bush-era policy of targeting state-approved dispensaries. "Somewhere in the administration, a decision was made that it would be better to close down legal, regulated systems of access for patients and send them back to the street, back to criminals," says DeAngelo. "That's what's really at stake."

The administration's retreat on medical pot is certainly consistent with its broader election-year strategy of seeking to outflank Republicans on everything from free trade to offshore drilling. Obama's advisers may be betting that a tough-on-pot stance will shore up the president's support among seniors in November, as well as voters in Southern swing states like Virginia and North Carolina that are less favorable to drug reform. But the president could pay a steep price for his anti-pot crackdown this fall, particularly if it winds up alienating young voters in swing states like Colorado, where two-thirds of residents support medical marijuana. In November, Colorado voters will likely consider a referendum to legalize all pot use for adults - and undercutting enthusiasm for the issue will only dampen turnout that could benefit the president. "Medical marijuana is twice as popular as Obama," notes Kampia. "It doesn't make any political sense."

The sharpest and most surprising rebuke to the administration has come from centrist governors who are fed up with the war on medicinal pot. In November, Gregoire and Chafee issued a bipartisan petition to the DEA, asking the agency to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, the same as cocaine and meth - one with a recognized medicinal value, despite its high potential for abuse. "It's time to show compassion, and it's time to show common sense," says Gregoire. "We call on the federal government to end the confusion and the unsafe burden on patients."

A petition by two sitting governors is historic - but it's unlikely to shift federal policy. Last June, after a nine-year delay, the Obama administration denied a similar petition. An official at the Department of Health and Human Services left little hope for reclassification, reiterating the Bush-era position that there is "no accepted medical use for marijuana in the United States."

For law-enforcement officials who handle marijuana on the front lines, such attitudes highlight how out of touch the administration has become. "Whether you call it medical or recreational, the marijuana genie is out of the bottle, and there's no one who's going to put it back in," insists Sheriff Allman of Mendocino, whose department had been targeted by federal prosecutors for its attempts to regulate medical pot. "For federal officials who plug their ears and say, 'No, it's not true, it's not true,' I have some words for them: You need to get over it."
(c) 2012 Tim Dickinson

The Monsanto Aspartame Plot
By James Donahue

The toxic sweetener Aspartame has been found out and American shoppers are reading labels to avoid prepared foods and soft drinks lased with this substance. But beware, the Monsanto Corporation, which owns the Aspartame patent, has produced a newly patented variation of Aspartame called Neotame.

The worst news here is that the U. S. Food and Drug Administration has given Monsanto a green light to market Neotame and that food processors will not be required to list this produce on food labels.

Notice that at the same time this is going on, there is a movement in Washington to put controls on the amount of sugar being used in processed food, some calling it an addictive substance. This may lead to a special sugar tax and perhaps legislation limiting the amount of sugar food processors can add to those flavored soft drinks, sauces, milk products, prepared meals and canned fruits and vegetables.

Of course the plausable answer to this will be to add Monsanto's Neotame to our food.

Aspartame has been proven to be an addictive "excitotoxin" that gives consumers a temporary mental jolt by over-stimulating the production of dopamine in the brain. The rush is so extreme that the chemical has been shown to kill brain cells and increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.

This product has been shown to have up to 92 different side effects that mimic diseases. These range from eye and hearing disorders to joint pain, epileptic seizures, itching, anxiety, tremors, depression, asthma, depressed mental development in newborns, severe weight gain, and irreversible brain damage. The list goes on and on.

So why did the FDA roll over for Monsanto and approve the production and sale of a variation of the same chemical ingredients in U. S. food products? Would the fact that in 2009 President Obama appointed Michael Taylor, formerly a vice president for Monsanto, to the position of deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA, give us a clue?

How many other "sold out" FDA operatives do we have hidden within that agency?

Like so many other factions of our federal government, the Food and Drug Administration, an agency originally designed to be a watchdog over the safety of the products Americans consume, appears to be in the pockets of big corporate interests. How can we trust anything the FDA tells us? Most pressing of all, how do we escape the looming onslaught of Monsanto's deadly new sweetener in the food we buy at the grocery store?
(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.

Romney, Severely Awful
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

There are many, many reasons to have low regard for Mitt Romney. All but the totally delusional correctly see him as disingenuous, dishonest, devious and devoid of an authentic set of core beliefs. He is a shill for corporate and rich elites. He is the phony smiling, perfect hair poster jerk for the proverbial one percent. But I now clearly see that there is another, more important reason to feel like vomiting at the thought of President Romney.

As almost everyone knows by now, Romney has been a senior, influential member of the Mormon Church, which has been roundly criticized for being an inauthentic Christian religion and for various beliefs and practices made comical in the hugely successful Broadway show The Book of Mormon. But there is one particular Mormon practice that is so upsetting to most people who learn about it that deserves to become an issue in this presidential campaign.

I want Mitt Romney to stand up and have the courage and decency to proclaim to Americans exactly whether he personally supports the Mormon practice known as proxy baptism. If you are not a member of the Mormon faith, then you should take this very seriously. Proxy baptism is like email spam, junk mail and unwanted marketing phone calls that invade our lives, destroy our privacy, waste our time and make our blood boil. Actually, proxy baptism is a zillion times worse. It represents the invasion of one religion against all others and atheism also.

In a nutshell, proxy baptism refers to the Mormon practice of baptizing a living person on behalf of someone who is dead and was not a member of the Mormon Church. The goal is to get that non-Mormon person into Mormon-defined heaven, which is totally different than what all other religions think of as heaven. The dead person nor anyone related to the dead person does not necessarily give permission or express any desire to be so baptized.

Standing in for dead people are young Mormon men and women dressed in white robes in Mormon temple ceremonies worldwide, which is considered an honor for them.

Over time many people who are not Mormons have mounted attacks on this practice, viewing the Mormon practice as a serious invasion of their lives and beliefs. Someone who has received considerable attention as such a critic is Nobel-laureate Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and a top official from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has focused on posthumously baptizing Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Despite his attempts to stop Mormons doing this and despite promises they would, the practice has continued.

I think it totally reasonable for everyone to demand that Romney take a public position on this Mormon practice. Specifically, I want Romney to declare in clear, unambiguous language whether he has participated in such proxy baptisms, whether he believes that this practice is appropriate, and whether or not he understands why non-Mormons would object to this practice.

Should Americans resent a US President that supports Mormon proxy baptizing? Absolutely.

Officially, the Mormon Church has refused to abandon this practice. "With deepest respect to our Jewish friends, the church cannot abandon fundamental aspects of its religious doctrine and practice," the church says on its website, "and it should not be asked to do so." Many millions of non-Mormons have apparently been proxy baptized, including famous people: Adolph Hitler, Christopher Columbus, most signers of the US Declaration of Independence, Paul Revere, William Shakespeare, Golda Meir, Albert Einstein, President Obama's mother and Irving Berlin, for example. There is no attempt by the church to document that non-Mormons had expressed any desire to be baptized into the Mormon faith. And church attempts to limit proxy baptizing to a member's or family member's ancestors apparently have failed.

Interestingly, those in the Hindu faith have said that Hindu feelings would naturally be hurt if their ancestors were baptized without their will. Similarly, the Catholic Church has also publicly objected to the Mormon baptism of its members.

To be fair and non-partisan, I also believe that US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who also is a Mormon should similarly be pressured to state publicly his positions on proxy baptizing. After all, because this practice is imposed on non-Mormons, we have a right to know whether elected officials endorse it.

If there is any part of Mitt Romney's life that he should be able to speak honestly about it is his religious beliefs. So go ahead Mitt, tell Americans exactly what you believe about this Mormon proxy baptizing practice. Be severely honest just as you have been severely conservative.

In sum, the central issue is RESPECT. Mormons are not respecting the religious beliefs of people they are proxy baptizing. Similarly, all the evil people hitting me with spam emails, junk mail and unwanted phone calls show me no respect whatsoever. Do I believe that Mormons have the power to send non-Mormons into their heaven? Hell no. I do not believe that even Mormons will get into their conception of heaven. Of all religions that I have ever learned about I find Mormonism the most ridiculous and cult like. I just hope if any reporter has the courage to ask Romney about proxy baptizing that they also ask him if he is wearing his magic underwear that as a dedicated and very senior member of the Mormon Church he is supposed to be wearing all the time...
(c) 2012 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 10 Most Excellent Reasons To Attack Iran
By David Swanson

1. Iran has threatened to fight back if attacked, and that's a war crime. War crimes must be punished.

2. My television says Iran has nukes. I'm sure it's true this time. Just like with North Korea. I'm sure they're next. We only bomb places that really truly have nukes and are in the Axis of Evil. Except Iraq, which was different.

3. Iraq didn't go so badly. Considering how lousy its government is, the place is better off with so many people having left or died. Really, that one couldn't have worked out better if we'd planned it.

4. When we threaten to cut off Iran's oil, Iran threatens to cut off Iran's oil, which is absolutely intolerable. What would we do without that oil? And what good is buying it if they want to sell it?

5. Iran was secretly behind 9-11. I read it online. And if it wasn't, that's worse. Iran hasn't attacked another nation in centuries, which means its next attack is guaranteed to be coming very soon.

6. Iranians are religious nuts, unlike Israelis and Americans. Most Israelis don't want to attack Iran, but the Holy Israeli government does. To oppose that decision would be to sin against God.

7. Iranians are so stupid that when we murder their scientists they try to hire a car dealer in Texas to hire a drug gang in Mexico to murder a Saudi ambassador in Washington, and then they don't do it -- just to make us look bad for catching them.

7. b. Oh, and stupid people should be bombed. They're not civilized.

8. War is good for the U.S. economy, and the Iranian economy too. Troops stationed in Iran would buy stuff. And women who survived the war would have more rights. Like in Virginia. We owe Iranians this after that little mishap in 1953.

9. This is the only way to unite the region. Either we bomb Iran and it swears its eternal love to us. Or, if necessary, we occupy Iran to liberate it like its neighbors. Which shouldn't take long. Look how well Afghanistan is going already.

10. They won't give our drone back. Enough said.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

A Federal Judge Thwarts Title VII And The Pregnancy Discrimination Act By Ruling Bizarrely That Lactation Is Not Related To Pregnancy!
By Joanna L. Grosman

A prominent contributor to Rick Santorum's presidential campaign startled audiences last week by suggesting that Bayer aspirin could be used as a reliable method of contraception. The contributor, Foster Friess, in an interview with MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell, insisted that "back in [his] day," aspirin was a surefire way to prevent pregnancy.

How exactly would that work? Friess explained, "The gals put it between their knees." In other words, aspirin-clenching knees would prevent conception by preventing sex. An added bonus: this aspirin method of contraception, claimed Friess, "wasn't that costly."

Friess was, of course, joking, although I doubt that many women were laughing. But the recent fight over the scope of the religious exemption to the provision of the federal health care reform law-which requires comprehensive insurance plans to provide coverage for prescription contraceptives at no cost to the user-is no joke. It's a dead serious, highly contested issue.

The new federal law mandates that insurance plans must cover prescription contraceptives at no cost to the women who use them. The mandate resulted from a report by the Institute of Medicine finding that access to contraception is essential to women's health, and that contraception is insufficiently accessible to many women.

Beginning in August 2012, contraception will be one of several preventive health services that must be included in health insurance plans, at no cost to the user. The Catholic Church strenuously objects to the mandate, and has been locked in a bitter battle with the Obama Administration over the scope of the religious exemption. (The religious-exemption issues were recently explored in detail by my Verdict co-columnist, Vikram Amar, and by Verdict guest columnist Alan Brownstein, here.)

The exemption, as embodied in a final ruling of the Department of Health and Human Services in December 2011, was narrow-applying only to churches and other houses of worship. However, the Obama Administration backtracked a bit after a furious backlash ensued. The Administration has now agreed to a compromise that will guarantee employees of religiously-affiliated organizations (such as certain hospitals and universities) access to prescription contraceptives at no cost, but will also ensure that the insurance company, rather than the employer, foots the bill.

Putting the religious issues aside, though, this controversy about the federal mandate for contraceptive coverage is merely the latest battle in a long-running war-variously involving employers, employees, insurance companies, state governments, and the federal government-about whether women, alone, should bear all the consequences, costs and hardships of reproduction.

One focal point of this debate has been the courts, which have been asked repeatedly to decide whether employers' failure to provide insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives constitutes either sex discrimination or pregnancy discrimination.

Now, the very same legal issue is at the core of a recent ruling by a federal judge in EEOC v. Houston Funding, Inc. that lactation discrimination is not actionable under Title VII or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) because lactation is, the judge reasoned, not related to pregnancy. In this column, I'll consider this recent case, as well as earlier cases on contraceptive equity and infertility discrimination, which raise similar questions about how far the law goes-and should go-to protect women against reproduction discrimination.

Lactation Discrimination In Employment: A Federal Judge Holds That Such a Claim Is Not Actionable as Either Pregnancy or Sex Discrimination

The plaintiff in the lactation-discrimination case was Donnicia Venters. Venters was hired by Houston Funding in 2006. Two years later, on December 1, 2008, she took a leave of absence to give birth. The company had no maternity leave policy and was too small to be covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a variety of reasons, including childbirth and newborn parenting, for employees of companies with at least fifty employees.

Venters gave birth on December 11. A few days later, she spoke with the company's vice president, Henry Cagle, who asked her when she planned to return to work. She said that she did not know, and that she was waiting for her doctor to advise her on that subject. During January and early February 2009, Venters communicated regularly with people at her office, including team leaders, and continued to pay her insurance premium. She never provided an exact return date, but she repeatedly expressed her desire to return soon.

During a meeting held on February 10, a group of employees, including Cagle, met and together decided to fire Venters. A few days later, Venters's doctor advised her that she could return to work. On February 16, Venters left a message informing Cagle that she had been cleared to work. The next day, February 17, Venters called again; told Cagle that she was ready to return to work; and asked if she could use a back room to pump breast milk. Cagle informed her that they had replaced her because they had not heard from her about firm plans to return to work. Only then did the company send her a letter firing her-purportedly for job abandonment. Venters received that letter-which was dated February 16, the day before Venters had asked to be able to pump breast milk in a back room at work-on February 26.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Venters's employer on her behalf. It claimed that the company had fired Venters because she wanted to pump breast milk at work. However, the federal district judge who heard Venters's case ruled that even if Venters was right that the company had, indeed, fired her because of her request to pump breast milk, firing her for that reason was not a legally actionable form of discrimination.

"The law," the judge wrote, "does not punish lactation discrimination." Lactation discrimination is not pregnancy discrimination, according to the judge, because it is not "pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition" under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The EEOC also contended, on Venters's behalf, that to fire Venters had constituted sex discrimination. But the judge deemed that argument worthy of but a single, conclusory sentence: "Firing someone because of lactation or breast-pumping is not sex discrimination."

What Legal Protections Do Women Have When the Reproductive Process Conflicts With Work?

The reproductive process can have many consequences for women. But one type of consequence is the impact on their working lives. Women can suffer temporary disability, due to pregnancy and childbirth, which makes them unable to work. They can require time off work or other accommodations because of partial incapacity, or the need to tend to medical issues. And, they may need the benefit of insurance coverage to cover medical costs or disability payments to compensate for lost wages due to temporary incapacity that is due to pregnancy or childbirth.

These work-related conflicts can arise not only during the nine months of pregnancy, or during the period of childbirth and recovery from it, but also at the outer edges of the reproductive process. Conflicts may arise, for instance, when women are trying to access contraception in order to prevent pregnancy, or seeking infertility treatments to achieve it. And conflicts may arise when women are trying to juggle breastfeeding with the demands of work after a child is born, as Venters sought to do.

Importantly, each of these issues-access to prescription contraceptives, treatment for female infertility, pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation-is unique to women. Thus, the way an employer deals with any of these issues can raise the specter not only of pregnancy discrimination, but also of sex discrimination.

In an ideal world, the workplace would be structured to accommodate reproduction, as it is an essential aspect of human life. But historically, most workplaces were designed with male workers in mind, and the evolution of a more inclusive and accommodating structure has been slow. Law has played an integral-though, disappointingly, not yet sufficient-role in protecting women as they try to navigate the many potential conflicts between reproduction and work.

The centerpiece of protection for women in the reproductive phase of life is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 ("PDA"). The PDA amended Title VII, the central federal anti-discrimination statute.

Prior to the enactment of the PDA, the Supreme Court, in General Electric v. Gilbert, had interpreted Title VII to exclude pregnancy discrimination from its protection. The PDA specifically overruled the ruling in that case, and made clear that Title VII's ban on sex discrimination included discrimination on the basis of "pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." The PDA, in a second clause, also guarantees that employers must treat pregnant workers at least as well as they treat comparably-disabled workers, with respect to leave, insurance benefits, and so on.

The cases dealing with contraception, infertility treatment, and lactation all raise the same question: What is the intended scope of the phrase "related medical condition" in the first clause of the PDA? The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken to this question only once, in its 1987 decision in International Union, UAW v. Johnson Controls. There, the court considered the validity of a battery manufacturer's policy of prohibiting fertile women from working in jobs involving lead exposure. The Court struck down the policy as a violation of the PDA. To reach that conclusion, the Court reasoned that the PDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of potential, as well as actual, pregnancy. Thus, screening out applicants based on whether they could become pregnant while in a job with potentially dangerous lead exposure was unlawful under the PDA.

Contraceptive Coverage and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Based in large part on the precedent set by Johnson Controls, the EEOC issued a ruling that the PDA also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who try to control their own ability to get pregnant, through the use of contraception. The class of prescription drugs and devices that are currently available to prevent pregnancy– birth control pills, Depo Provera, and intrauterine devices (IUDs), to name the most common options-are exclusively used by women. Female employees are therefore the ones who are hurt by the lack of insurance coverage for contraception. And if the lack of access to contraception contributes to unwanted pregnancies, that situation, in turn, visits upon the pregnant employee a host of additional disproportionate and unique burdens of the type that only women face.

While the EEOC has been a strong supporter of contraceptive equity, court rulings on the topic have been mixed. In 2001, a federal district court in Washington State reached the same conclusion as the EEOC had in Erickson v. Bartell Drug Co. This was the first court ruling to hold that employer-based insurance plans must cover prescription contraceptives as a matter of federal anti-discrimination law. But other federal courts have reached the opposite conclusion, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in Standridge v. Union Pacific Railroad Company. The court in that case concluded that contraception is not a "related medical condition" under the terms of the PDA, even though the Supreme Court had held in Johnson Controls that the statutory text was broad enough to encompass "potential pregnancy."

Although litigation over contraceptive coverage was successful only sometimes, the number of insurance plans that cover prescription contraceptives has tripled in the last decade. As many as 9 in 10 plans today provide such coverage, due in large part to the adoption, in many states, of laws mandating this type of coverage. Efforts were also made at the federal level to pass a contraceptive equity law, but such a law never made it through Congress. As part of federal health care reform, however, coverage for prescription contraceptives will become, as discussed at the beginning of this column, nearly universal. The religious exemption and a temporary grandfather clause will allow some employers to continue excluding contraceptives from the coverage they provide, but now, most insurance plans will provide cost-free contraceptives to their customers.

Even With Greater Coverage for Contraception as the Result of Federal Health Care Reform, the Meaning of the PDA Still Matters

The importance of the PDA to contraceptive equity has diminished greatly, given the state and federal contraceptive benefit mandates. But the meaning of the PDA's phrase "pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions" is still highly relevant for women who are discriminated against at work because they seek treatment for infertility, or seek to breastfeed after returning to work.

Women suing under the PDA for discrimination based on the denial of insurance coverage (through an employer-provided plan) for infertility treatment have generally been unsuccessful. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rejected such a claim in the 1996 case of Krauel v. Iowa Methodist Medical Center, holding that infertility is not a "related medical condition" under the PDA because both men and women can suffer from it. Infertility is thus unlike the "potential pregnancy" recognized in Johnson Controls, which is unique to women. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reached a similar conclusion in Saks v. Franklin Covey Co., even though the procedures that were excluded by the insurance plan, such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF), were only performed on women. In that court's view, the PDA only covers conditions that are "unique to women." Infertility, it reasoned, could affect women, men, or couples in combination. A woman who was allegedly fired for requesting time to undergo IVF won her case, however. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held in 2008, in Hall v. Nalco, that if the plaintiff's allegations were true, she "was terminated not for the gender-neutral condition of infertility, but rather for the gender-specific quality of childbearing capacity." (I have written about this case in detail here.) Central to the court's reasoning was that those who take "time off to undergo IVF-just like those terminated for taking time off to give birth or receive other pregnancy-related care-will always be women."

Lactation Is, of Course, a Condition Related to Pregnancy and Childbirth-and Courts Should So Hold

The lactation case discussed above involving Venters, EEOC v. Houston Funding, raises the same question, in essence, as Hall: Can an employee be fired because of her childbearing capacity. Venters alleged not that she was refused time or space to pump breast milk, but that she was fired for even asking to pump breast milk at work. The judge in that case rejected her pregnancy discrimination claim, offering the following reasoning:

Discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition is illegal. Related conditions may include cramping, dizziness, and nausea while pregnant. Even if the company's claim that [Venters] was fired for abandonment is meant to hide the real reason-she wanted to pump breast milk-lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. She gave birth on December 11, 2009. After that day, she was no longer pregnant and her pregnancy-related conditions ended.

This reasoning is preposterous from virtually any perspective:

Scientifically, of course, it would be ridiculous to argue that lactation is not a "related medical condition" regarding pregnancy or childbirth, since the production of milk is an involuntary, physiological response to giving birth.

Logically, as well, the reasoning can't be followed, since it would mean that a woman who suffers any number of childbirth-related complications is not protected by the PDA if those complications happened to occur after, rather than before, the birth.

Legally, too, the judge's reasoning is absurd. It violates both the text and spirit of the PDA. The PDA was enacted to strike at the broad spectrum of employer policies and practices designed to keep women of reproductive age out of the workplace. It was enacted to stop employers from reacting on impulse and stereotype about the capabilities and talents of pregnant women and to force them to assess women as individuals. As written, the PDA prohibits employers from subjecting women to any employment decision because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Firing a new mother because she seeks to breastfeed is exactly the type of discrimination the PDA was intended to eradicate. If employers could legally fire employees for lactating, that would be an easy way to rid the workplace of many of its women. Moreover, singling out employees for adverse treatment, based on a characteristic that afflicts only one members of one sex, is sex discrimination, plain and simple. Only women give birth, and only women lactate.

Note, in this case, that the plaintiff, Venters, did not request any time off or change in her duties to accommodate her desire to pump milk. The PDA, particularly as interpreted by federal courts, is quite stingy regarding the right to insist on workplace accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. As I have written elsewhere, employers need only accommodate such needs if they offer accommodation for other temporarily disabled employees. Venters's employer may well, thus, have been able lawfully to refuse her request.

But Venters, the plaintiff in Houston Funding, was simply asking not to be fired after revealing that she planned to breastfeed (and pump milk) after returning to work. She deserved the chance to prove that her employer had fired her for just that reason-and thus to vindicate her right against this form of discrimination. Health care reform may resolve the important and longstanding problem with contraceptive access in this country, but even though this important battle has been mostly won, we must not forget about other aspects of the reproductive process that still leave women especially vulnerable in the workplace.
This article first appeared in Justia's Verdict
(c) 2012 Joanna L. Grossman, a Justia columnist, is a professor of law at Hofstra University. She is the coauthor of Inside the Castle: Law and the Family in 20th Century America (Princeton University Press 2011) and the coeditor of Gender Equality: Dimensions of Women's Equal Citizenship (Cambridge University Press 2009). Her columns focus on family law, trusts and estates, and sex discrimination.

Pain Without Gain
By Paul Krugman

Last week the European Commission confirmed what everyone suspected: the economies it surveys are shrinking, not growing. It's not an official recession yet, but the only real question is how deep the downturn will be.

And this downturn is hitting nations that have never recovered from the last recession. For all America's troubles, its gross domestic product has finally surpassed its pre-crisis peak; Europe's has not. And some nations are suffering Great Depression-level pain: Greece and Ireland have had double-digit declines in output, Spain has 23 percent unemployment, Britain's slump has now gone on longer than its slump in the 1930s.

Worse yet, European leaders - and quite a few influential players here - are still wedded to the economic doctrine responsible for this disaster.

For things didn't have to be this bad. Greece would have been in deep trouble no matter what policy decisions were taken, and the same is true, to a lesser extent, of other nations around Europe's periphery. But matters were made far worse than necessary by the way Europe's leaders, and more broadly its policy elite, substituted moralizing for analysis, fantasies for the lessons of history.

Specifically, in early 2010 austerity economics - the insistence that governments should slash spending even in the face of high unemployment - became all the rage in European capitals. The doctrine asserted that the direct negative effects of spending cuts on employment would be offset by changes in "confidence," that savage spending cuts would lead to a surge in consumer and business spending, while nations failing to make such cuts would see capital flight and soaring interest rates. If this sounds to you like something Herbert Hoover might have said, you're right: It does and he did.

Now the results are in - and they're exactly what three generations' worth of economic analysis and all the lessons of history should have told you would happen. The confidence fairy has failed to show up: none of the countries slashing spending have seen the predicted private-sector surge. Instead, the depressing effects of fiscal austerity have been reinforced by falling private spending.

Furthermore, bond markets keep refusing to cooperate. Even austerity's star pupils, countries that, like Portugal and Ireland, have done everything that was demanded of them, still face sky-high borrowing costs. Why? Because spending cuts have deeply depressed their economies, undermining their tax bases to such an extent that the ratio of debt to G.D.P., the standard indicator of fiscal progress, is getting worse rather than better.

Meanwhile, countries that didn't jump on the austerity train - most notably, Japan and the United States - continue to have very low borrowing costs, defying the dire predictions of fiscal hawks.

Now, not everything has gone wrong. Late last year Spanish and Italian borrowing costs shot up, threatening a general financial meltdown. Those costs have now subsided, amid general sighs of relief. But this good news was actually a triumph of anti-austerity: Mario Draghi, the new president of the European Central Bank, brushed aside the inflation-worriers and engineered a large expansion of credit, which was just what the doctor ordered.

So what will it take to convince the Pain Caucus, the people on both sides of the Atlantic who insist that we can cut our way to prosperity, that they are wrong?

After all, the usual suspects were quick to pronounce the idea of fiscal stimulus dead for all time after President Obama's efforts failed to produce a quick fall in unemployment - even though many economists warned in advance that the stimulus was too small. Yet as far as I can tell, austerity is still considered responsible and necessary despite its catastrophic failure in practice.

The point is that we could actually do a lot to help our economies simply by reversing the destructive austerity of the last two years. That's true even in America, which has avoided full-fledged austerity at the federal level but has seen big spending and employment cuts at the state and local level. Remember all the fuss about whether there were enough "shovel ready" projects to make large-scale stimulus feasible? Well, never mind: all the federal government needs to do to give the economy a big boost is provide aid to lower-level governments, allowing these governments to rehire the hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers they have laid off and restart the building and maintenance projects they have canceled.

Look, I understand why influential people are reluctant to admit that policy ideas they thought reflected deep wisdom actually amounted to utter, destructive folly. But it's time to put delusional beliefs about the virtues of austerity in a depressed economy behind us.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security." ~~~ Albert Einstein

Cash Of The Titans
Against the Noxious Fantasy of Limitless Growth
By Phil Rockstroh

The concept of endless economic growth, accepted as sacrosanct by both U.S. mainstream political parties, and internalized as the dominant mode of mind by the general population of the corporate/consumer state is mirrored in the exponential mathematics of a malignancy.

Cancer, if given voice, would proclaim itself to be a believer in "free market values"...devoted to the principle of endless growth...until, of course, it would silence its own voice by killing its host.

Likewise, all life seeks limits or prematurely dooms itself.

The same holds true with addiction to unlimited economic expansion...the craving for incessant ascension is, in fact, a doomed Icarusian flight.

In our time, politics as usual has failed to address the most pressing issues of the age: The manner by which neoliberal economic agendas exploit the masses in the service of a corrupt elite, and in so doing, decimating individual hopes and aspirations, as, all the while, the environmental dangers, endemic to the unchecked system, imperil the survival of humankind.

Although, alarmingly, both political parties continue to serve the status quo: Contemporary conservatives promote--in fact, seem to outright revel in--the litanies of a gospel of global-wide destruction (in the case of religious fundamentalists even going so far as to implore the forces of heaven, with fervid prayers, to expedite doomsday's date of arrival) by means of militarist aggression and environmental carnage--while squeamish liberals are devotees of the cliche-worshipping temple of incremental change.

From the right flank of this disastrous cosmology of convenience, Rick Santarium insists that a literal interpretation and societal application of "The Scriptures" i.e., an ad hoc collection of the laws, legends and beliefs of Middle Eastern, Bronze Age, hill country barbarians will remedy our national woes. Accordingly, what is one to make of this lovely bit of wisdom from Isaiah (13:9, 15-18)?

"Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger . . . Every one that is found shall be thrust through . . . Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes . . . and their wives ravished. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them. . . [T]hey shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children."

Lovely, huh? Surely, we've evolved past such barbaric sentiments. What kind of a blood-besotted people would accept such an abomination to the tenets of modern civilization and basic human decency?

Tragically, this is who: Both political parties of U.S. duopoly and their supporters, comprising a nation of people, who by large majorities support, for example, the Obama administration's policy of warfare waged by predator drone attack. Military actions that often result in an Old Testament-style "dashing to pieces" the bodies of children.

What does it matter now to the dead whether the reason given for perpetrating these monstrous acts are based on Santarium's psychotic concretization of religious lore or Obama's slick, national security state rationalizations?

As neocons press the petal to the metal of the war machine, mainstream liberal apologists for the status quo, luxuriating upon the hurtling juggernaut, counsel us that any change in direction and velocity must be incremental, as they proffer other brain-dead, political cliches about the need for "civility" and "political realism" involving the criteria of sausage making.

First, cliches are zombies; they are dead to the novelty of the living moment, and they eat the brains of inspiration. They are worse than lazy thinking--they are putrefied thought. Worse, cliches will not die, because they are already dead. Burn them with fire...reduce them to ashes...let the ash mulch the soil where future inspiration will grow.

Second, an incremental approach is an utterly useless, if not delusional, response to the situation. The U.S., through the decades of the post-war era, has been moving with increasing rapidity towards becoming an outright national security/corporate authoritarian state. At this point, this much is evident regarding mainstream liberals who tout the virtues of "incremental change": they, from their comfortable perch of privilege, do so, because they harbor scant desire to alter the present order.

Still, mainstream liberals are baffled as to why people find them so unbearable, when, in their swoons of self-regard, they believe themselves to be oh-so reasonable sorts who selflessly wish everyone the best.

If you are an advocate of incrementalism, then you co-sign the present order--and the present order consists of corporate/military/police state dominance over almost every aspect of life in the U.S. In short, "reasonable", "well-meaning" liberals--you are complicit in crimes against human dignity when you bandy your incremental change fantasies.

This is what your reasonable, well-meaning, piecemeal approach is worth...Not a drop of blood of the innocent slaughtered in your predator drone-besotted president's wars of imperium whose blood-drenched deeds you co-sign with your casuistry. Your faux civil pose is worth about a handful of dust. Obama apologists you can keep making excuses for dear leader--although, it strains credulity as to how anyone with a working moral compass can continue to defend him, or any leader, who has proven himself to be a stalwart defender of the dominant order.

Regarding which, the defining trait of the financial and corporate elite, who lord over the present system has proven to be an all-consuming lust for riches that an individual could not spend in a thousand lifetimes. Their concept of what constitutes acts of trade and commerce is analogous to what pornography is to erotica. Accordingly, one would regard the greedheads of the one percent with the same compassion that one grants to a porn addict, if not for the fact that acts of autoeroticism are not responsible for climate chaos nor did the activity bring down the global economy.

In contrast, this ongoing, noxious, degrading circle jerk of the elite did.

And this brings us to what is at the root of the current siege mentality of the architects and operatives of the corporate/militarist state: Below the armament-bristling surface, and at the dark heart of the subterfuge of one percenters' yawns this abysmal psychology: If an individual insists on existing in a fortified tower of the mind, the truths of his own heart, as well as those arriving from the soul of the world, will appear to him to be acts of sedition; the longings of his own heart for compassion will be misinterpreted as signs of weakness and emotionally displaced as a malignant, paranoid fantasy in which his own desire for resonate human contact will seem to be the attack of an invading army of rebels.

By reflex (mirrored outwardly in the modus operandi of the one percent against a rising, global chorus of political protest and social unrest) he will attempt to block out and silence the admonitions of his own besieged heart, doubling down on his paranoid actions, until the fortifications in and around himself (the mass psychology of a national security state) have grown to titanic proportions.

An inhuman system that has come to stand for little but the empty perpetuation of itself, according to the metaphoric lexicon of the ancient Greeks, is tantamount to approaching existence as a Titan--and they did not mean the metaphoric designation to be taken as laudatory: The Greek poets believed an evincing of titanic traits was an anathema to human life and an affront to the gods.

According to Homer, after returning from a long military campaign, the reluctant warrior, Hector, who upon seeing his young son, Astyanax, for the first time, in a misguided attempt to bestow a hug on his son, pressed the boy, with too much force, to his armored breastplate, causing the child to cry out in pain. Upon noticing his son's distress, Hector eased the pressure (an act of sensitivity; conversely, some father's never notice the agony they inflict on their sons in their wrong-headed attempts to show their love).

Then Hector held the boy skyward and offered him to Zeus. We should all be so lucky.

Zeus, after all, is the father of the gods; therefore, Hector granted his son the right to choose his own unique destiny; he was given free will.

In contrast, at present, the collective fathers of this culture have given us--and we now give our own children--to the Titans of the corporate/militarist state. Titans, who, as Titans are prone to do, eat their young.

According to Greek mythology, human beings could not exist on earth until Zeus banished and imprisoned his father, Cronus, a Titan, and the other Titans to the depths of Hades.

In human terms, we call this an uprising.

At present, daily life has become defined by the caprice of titanic forces (forces that devour our humanity). Fellow human beings, we are long overdue for this: The hour has arrived to demand an end to the destructive reign of these self-serving elites who have proven, time and time again, they care nothing about the suffering they bring to humanity nor the damage they inflict on this living planet.

In our time, when feedback loops of methane gas are melting arctic ice at an exponential rate, yet the powers that be continue their pursuit of ruthless agendas that perpetuate this death-worshiping trajectory, it is evident that politics as usual has failed.

Incremental change will not slow a runaway train. Awareness and action might. In our case, at this late date, if the corporate elite, who control the agendas of the state, are not challenged and brought to heel, and soon, then there is little else left for us to do, other than become hospice workers for our doomed species.

Even the notion of (much less the cultural imperative) of constant, endless growth causes one to feel diminished. Resultantly, the imagination seeks to fall in love with limits--a process we mislabel as depression, a form of repressed grieving that brings feelings of powerlessness, but when tweaked by an active participation in confronting malignant power can be transformed into a life-vivifying vehemence to bring meaning and structure to an overly complex system.

"All around us, the fundamentals of life are crying out to be shaped, or created." ~~~ Joseph Beuys

Conversely, personal devotion to a fear-bulwarked, habitually self-serving egoism, as opposed to embracing a soul-infused selfhood, creates a catastrophe of malignant greed--a disastrously narrow, resonance-bereft approach to consciousness that alone cannot carry the multiverse of the self into the world. Hence, a selfish man's relentless obsession to possess the bounty of our planet can never assuage his sense of insecurity and emptiness, not even if all the plundered riches of the ravaged earth were laid before him for his taking.
(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Corporations Don't Need A Tax Cut, So Why Is Obama Proposing One?
By Robert Reich

The Obama administration is proposing to lower corporate taxes from the current 35 percent to 28 percent for most companies and to 25 percent for manufacturers.

The move is supposed to be "revenue neutral" - meaning the Administration is also proposing to close assorted corporate tax loopholes to offset the lost revenues. One such loophole allows corporations to park their earnings overseas where taxes are lower.

Why isn't the White House just proposing to close the loopholes without reducing overall corporate tax rates? That would generate more tax revenue that could be used for, say, public schools.

It's not as if corporations are hurting. Quite the contrary. American companies are booking higher profits than ever. They're sitting on $2 trillion of cash they don't know what to do with.

And it's not as if corporate taxes are high. In fact, corporate tax receipts as a share of profits is now at its lowest level in at least 40 years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, corporate federal taxes paid last year dropped to 12.1 percent of profits earned from activities within the United States. That's a gigantic drop from the 25.6 percent, on average, that corporations paid from 1987 to 2008.

And it's not that corporations are paying an inordinate share of federal tax revenues. Here again, the reality is just the opposite. Corporate taxes have plummeted as a share of total federal revenues. In 1953, under President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, corporate taxes accounted for 32 percent of total federal tax revenues. Now they're only 10 percent.

But now the federal budget deficit is ballooning, and in less than a year major cuts are scheduled to slice everything from prenatal care to Medicare. So this would seem to be the ideal time to raise corporate taxes - or at the very least close corporate tax loopholes without lowering corporate rates.

The average American is not exactly enamored with American corporations. Polls show most of the public doesn't trust them. (A recent national poll by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell found 71 percent with an unfavorable impression of big business - about the same as those expressing an unfavorable view of Washington.)

The Administration's initiative doesn't even make sense as a bargaining maneuver.

Republicans will just accept the Administration's lower corporate tax rate without closing any tax loopholes. House Republicans have already made it clear that, to them, closing a tax loophole is tantamount to raising taxes. And corporate lobbyists in Washington know better than anyone how to hold tight to loopholes they've already got.

Big business will fight to keep their foreign tax shelters. After all, it's almost impossible to distinguish between their foreign and domestic earnings, which is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies have spent the past three years trying to make it even easier for companies to defer U.S. taxes on income they supposedly earn outside the country.

Representative David Camp, a Michigan Republican who heads the House Ways and Means Committee, has already proposed a 25 percent corporate top rate and changes that would let companies avoid paying U.S. taxes on even more of the income they say they earn outside America.

Nothing is going to be enacted this year, anyway, so it would have made more sense for the Administration to support a hike in corporate taxes - and use it to highlight the difference between the President and his likely Republican challenger.

Willard Romney wants to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent before eliminating any tax loopholes. Rick Santorum wants to cut the rate to 17.5 percent and eliminate corporate taxes for manufacturers. Newt Gingrich wants to cut the rate to 12.5 percent and let companies write off all capital investments immediately.

It's discouraging. The President gives a rousing speech, as he did on December 6 in Kansas. Then he misses an opportunity to put his campaign where his mouth is.
(c) 2012 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Indiana Unterfuhrer Morris,

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 screed denouncing the Girl Scouts for including all girls instead of just the ones that you like, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Protesters at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, during a demonstration to
oppose the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers.

America's Youth Uprising
By John Nichols

This essay is adapted from John Nichols's Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, From Madison to Wall Street, published in February by Nation Books.

The uprising of February 2011 made a single word, "Wisconsin," not just the name of a state but the reference point for a renewal of labor militancy, mass protest and radical politics. But it did something else. It signaled that a new generation of young Americans would not just reject the lie of austerity. They would lead a fight-back that has extended from the Capitol in Madison to Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan and across the United States.

A remarkable transition has happened since Wisconsinites occupied their streets and their Capitol. Progressives have moved from despair to hope. Not to victory, but to a sense of possibility. That is the radical progress that students, young workers, rockers and rappers demanded from a political process too prone to cynicism and surrender-and it is the radical change they have made. To understand how radical, consider where things began.

Governor Scott Walker, a Republican narrowly elected in the GOP sweep of 2010, proposed just weeks after taking office to strip teachers and other public sector workers of the collective bargaining rights and union representation that provide the last thin layers of protection in an era of globalization, privatization, downsizing and deep cuts. The governor and his party had the upper hand, with control of both houses of the state legislature, a dysfunctional Democratic opposition, weakened unions, a pliant press and a right-wing machine funded by billionaires like Charles and David Koch.

By the estimate of most pundits, even those who sympathized generally with labor and specifically with the Democratic Party, defeating the governor's project was a hopeless struggle. But someone forgot to tell the students. Days after Walker's announcement, 1,000 members and supporters of the Teaching Assistants' Association at the University of Wisconsin-the oldest graduate employee union in the world-gathered at the Capitol to raise handmade signs and teeth-chattering voices in protest.

They kept rallying, joined first by other embattled public sector unions and then by members of private sector unions who saw that their rights were threatened as well, then by retirees, farmers and small-business owners. The Capitol was surrounded and then peacefully occupied, with students leading their teachers through the doors. The numbers steadily grew, reaching close to 100,000 just one week after that first rally. Democratic state senators, after hearing the shouts of "Kill the bill!" from outside and inside the Capitol, bolted, fleeing across the state line to deny the GOP the quorum it needed to rubber-stamp Walker's agenda. Their exit created the opening for a mass movement, as the rallies and marches spread to communities across the state. Nothing was going as planned for the governor, his party or their paymasters in the executive suites. But nothing was going as planned for the unions or their allies either.

This was an uprising, uncharted and uncontrolled. Into the thick of it strode Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and a ragtag band of rockers who had come to sing labor songs for the tens of thousands rallying outside the Capitol. It was an electric moment that saw Wisconsinites from toddlers to septuagenarians jumping to the most rhythmic version anyone had ever heard of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." Morello then led the crew into the Capitol, where thousands of students, workers and their multigenerational supporters had packed the rotunda and every cranny of the sprawling century-old building. Leo Gerard, the burly Steelworkers union president, grabbed a bullhorn and told the crowd, "You have inspired this fat old white guy." Morello was equally inspired. He told participants in the most sustained mass protest in recent American history, "Governor Walker...didn't count on you. He didn't count on your resolve!... This is going to be the first domino to fall in a new resurgence of labor and student power around this country. You're setting an unprecedented example-in my lifetime, in this country, for people around the world. Believe it!"

They did believe, and thousands accepted his invitation to a free concert that night in the cavernous confines of the city's convention center. The key claim of those who would dismiss the Wisconsin uprising has always been that it was "just a bunch of union agitators bused in from around the country." But here, on a cold February night, were 3,500 high school and college students, most of whom had never been union members, many of whom came from families with no union ties. They were hanging on every word of songs about a labor struggle that did not involve them directly but would define their future. When Mike McColgan, the former firefighter turned lead singer of Street Dogs, urged the crowd to raise their fists and sing "Up the Union," they did just that, with that rare mixture of joy and resolve that is the essential match of movement making. Finishing a song about creating a new labor age, McColgan shouted, "Do it!" And the students and young workers responded, "Yes! Do it!"

Commentators on these times do not turn with comfort or frequency to discussions of real change, of fundamental shifts-let alone to serious consideration of new generations demanding new worlds. What passes for journalism these days respects cynicism rather than optimism; editors and reporters have for the most part become guardians against any leap of faith. The fear of hope is not just a bow to the status quo, not just deference to the powerful. Even among the most progressive observers, there is a disinclination to employ the language of possibility for fear of stirring false faith-and, just as important, for fear of being identified as one who dares to believe that what is to come might actually be better than what was. After all, these have not been progressive times; even when the people have chosen leaders who promise "Change we can believe in," they have been repaid with compromise we cannot understand or justify.

But on that winter night the only reasonable response was to believe that the next generation might not be so easily defeated. That it might actually renew and extend movements that seemed, just days before, to have been teetering on the brink of extinction. For as long as I can remember, labor activists and their lefty allies have wrestled with the question of how to reach out to youth. Many of the smartest and most committed radicals of the 1960s and '70s made lifetime commitments to organize, maintain and lead unions. Those who initiated movement-conscious projects like the farm labor organizing and Justice for Janitors campaigns of the '80s, the anti-sweatshop work of the '90s and the protests against corporate-friendly globalization that shook Seattle in 1999-all invited a next generation into the struggle. Sometimes they succeeded. But there remained a tentativeness, a sense that the one step forward would be followed by the inevitable two steps back.

But what I saw in Madison on that February night, and what I see even now, as the uprising continues in states across the country, and with the fresh variations of the Occupy movement, has been different. The connection was made-and not just at one show or for one night. The threat of a future without the right to organize, seemingly esoteric but in reality immediate and fully understandable, spurred high school and college students, young workers and the young unemployed to make a movement. They showed up, again and again and again in Madison, for rallies, marches and vigils, and they organized on their own terms: with Twitter and Facebook savvy, with energy, with a rock-and-rap passion that reminded older activists that idealism at its best comes with an edge.

I could not help recalling on that remarkable night the response of Claude Levi-Strauss to requests that he identify the "golden age" of human civilization. The father of modern anthropology rejected the question as absurd on its face, and absurdly disempowering in its implications. In Tristes Tropiques, Levi-Strauss explained that "if men have always been concerned with only one task-how to create a society fit to live in-the forces which inspired our distant ancestors are also present in us. Nothing is settled; everything can still be altered. What was done but turned out wrong, can be done again. 'The Golden Age,' which blind superstition had placed behind [or ahead of] us, is in us." Those are not blandly optimistic words. They are demanding. They suggest that we have fewer excuses than we thought, that this is the place, that now is the time and that there is truth in the maxim that we are the people we've been waiting for. In Wisconsin, as would soon be the case nationwide, a rising generation accepted that challenge and shouted that, yes, they were ready to "Do it!"
(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.

Life Without God
An Interview with Tim Prowse
By Sam Harris

Tim Prowse was a United Methodist pastor for almost 20 years, serving churches in Missouri and Indiana. Tim earned a B.A. from East Texas Baptist University, a Master of Divinity (M.Div) from Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri, and a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) from Chicago Theological Seminary. Acknowledging his unbelief, Tim left his faith and career in 2011. He currently lives in Indiana. He was kind enough to discuss his experience of leaving the ministry with me by email.


Can you describe the process by which you lost your belief in the teachings of your Church?

An interesting thing happened while I was studying at East Texas Baptist University: I was told not to read Rudolf Bultmann. I asked myself: Why? What were they protecting me from? I picked up Bultmann's work, and that decision is the catalyst that ultimately paved the road to today. Throughout my educational journey, which culminated in an Ordination from the United Methodist Church where I've served for seventeen years, I've continued to ask the question "Why?" Ironically, it was seminary that inaugurated my leap of unfaith. It was so much easier to believe when living in an uncritical, unquestioning, naïve state. Seminary training with its demands for rigorous and intentional study and reflection coupled with its values of reason and critical inquiry began to undermine my naïveté. I discovered theologians, philosophers and authors I never knew existed. I found their questions stimulating but their answers often unsatisfying. For example, the Bible is rife with vileness evidenced by stories of sexual exploitation, mass murder and arbitrary mayhem. How do we harmonize this fact with the conception of an all-loving, all-knowing God? While many have undertaken to answer this question even in erudite fashion, I found their answers lacking. Once I concluded that the Bible was a thoroughly human product and the God it purports does not exist, other church teachings, such as communion and baptism, unraveled rather quickly. To quote Nietzsche, I was seeing through a different "perspective" - a perspective based on critical thinking, reason and deduction. By honing these skills over time, reason and critical thinking became my primary tools and faith quickly diminished. Ultimately, these tools led to the undoing of my faith rather than the strengthening of it.

It sounds like you lost your faith in the process of becoming a minister—or did you go back and forth for some years? How long did you serve as a minister, and how much of this time was spent riven by doubt?

I didn't lose faith entirely during the ministerial process, although a simmering struggle between faith and doubt was clearly evident. This simmering would boil occasionally throughout my seventeen-year career, but any vacillations I experienced were easily suppressed, and faith would triumph, albeit, for non-religious reasons. Besides the money, time, and energy I had invested during the process, familial responsibilities deterred any decisions to alter course. These faithful triumphs were ephemeral and I found myself living in constant intellectual and emotional turmoil. By not repudiating my career, I could not escape the feeling I was living a lie. I continued to juggle this stressful dichotomy to the point of being totally miserable. Only recently have I succumbed to the doubt that has always undergirded my faith journey.

After I read your book, The End of Faith, I could no longer suppress my unbelief. Since I'd never felt comfortable in clergy garb and refused to accept a first-century worldview, your book helped me see that religion could no longer be an instrument of meaning in my life. I'm sad to say, Sam, this conclusion did not result in an immediate career change. I didn't break from the church immediately, but rather feigned belief for two more years.

If you could go back in time and reason with your former self, what could you say that might have broken the spell sooner?

I would tell myself to ask questions, to read the text, to wonder, to explore the nuances, to take seriously my intuition and abilities to debate. I'd tell myself to listen to what is actually being said with critical and reasoning ears. I'd tell myself to substitute "Invisible Friend" for "God" every time I encountered the word and notice how ridiculous the rhetoric sounds from grown-ups. I would challenge myself to be more skeptical, to study science. I'd tell myself to find joy in life - it's the only one you are going to get - don't waste a second.

Believers often allege that there is a deep connection between faith and morality. For instance, when I debated Rick Warren, he said that if he did not believe in God, he wouldn't have any reason to behave ethically. You've lived on both sides of the faith continuum. I'm wondering if you felt any associated change in your morality, for better or worse.

I'd be interested to know what behaviors or impulses God is deterring Rick Warren from acting upon. I doubt very seriously if "God's goodness" evaporated tomorrow, Warren would begin robbing banks, raping children, or murdering his neighbors! These types of statements, while common, are fallacious in my opinion. When Rick Warren uses God as his reason for being good, he is not using God in a general sense. He isn't referring to Thor, Neptune, or Isis, either.

One can find a few biblical passages that do promote "goodness" to use Rick Warren's term, but only by cherry picking them and avoiding the numerous passages that are appalling, offensive and destructive.

Since God is nothing more than our creation and projection, any talk of God is our reflection looking back at us. Hence, our morality begins with us anyway. My morality hasn't changed for the worse since I left the faith. If anything, it is much more honest because I am forced to consider what is really going on in ethical decisions. Family, culture, beliefs and values, genetic tendencies, all play a role in shaping morality, but I'm not arguing an extreme relativism. While I do give credence to certain cultural influences on determining right and wrong, I believe that some issues are universal. Which is why, unless Rick Warren is truly demented, he wouldn't begin doing heinous acts if his faith evaporated tomorrow, and if he did, it would be more the result of mental illness than lack of faith.

Did you ever discuss your doubts with your fellow clergy or parishioners? Did you encounter other ministers who shared your predicament (some can be found at And what happened when you finally expressed your unbelief to others?

As an active minister, I did not discuss my atheism with colleagues or parishioners. Facing lost wages, housing and benefits, I chose to remain silent. However, I did confide in my wife who provided a level of trust, understanding, and support that proved invaluable. Unfortunately, some ministers do not enjoy mature confidants. Some have lost marriages and partners, friends and family, leaving them with feelings of isolation and abandonment. Hence, many continue living in estrangement, uncertain where to turn or who to trust, waiting for their lives to be completely upended when the truth finally is discovered.

This is why the Clergy Project is so important. It provides an invaluable resource of support for current and former clergy who are atheists. It is a safe and anonymous place to discuss the issues atheist clergy encounter while providing encouragement and support that is genuine and heartfelt. It greatly eases the desperation and uncertainty of where to turn or who to trust! I've been a member of the Clergy Project since July 2011, and it prepared me well for the responses to expect from friends and family during my post-clergy conversations. So far, I have not been surprised by the responses I've received nor have I lost any significant relationships due to my professed atheism, but time will tell.

It is nice to hear that your exit from the ministry has been comparatively smooth. What will you do next?

Repudiating my ordination and leaving faith behind was much smoother than I had anticipated. Ironically, something I had worked years to accomplish ended in a matter of minutes. When I slid my ordination certificates across a Bob Evan's tabletop to my District Superintendent, I was greatly relieved. The lie was over. I was free. This freedom does not come without consternation, however.

Fortunately, a dear friend helped my family by offering their second home to rent at a very reasonable price. Another dear friend has procured a sales job for me in her company. While housing and employment have been provided in the short term, long term my future is much more uncertain. Ideally, I'd love to write and lecture on my experiences; especially concerning the negative impacts faith and church have on individuals and societies. I'd love to write a novel.

I do not have visions of grandeur, however. If the rest of my life is spent just being a regular "Joe" that will be fine by me. I have a wonderful family and a few good friends. My heart and mind are at ease. I'm healthier now than I've been in years and tomorrow looks bright. For the first time in my life, I'm living. Truly living, Sam. (c) 2012 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

The Cartoon Corner...

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

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

CNN Says Nuclear Attack By North Korea Would Not Affect Whitney Houston Coverage
Wolf Blitzer Promises No Interruption
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - As North Korea ramped up its threats to attack South Korea, CNN reassured its viewers that a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula would have "no effect whatsoever" on its Whitney Houston coverage.

"As viewers, you have come to trust us to deliver the news whenever it happens, wherever it happens, as long as that news is about Whitney Houston," said Wolf Blitzer, host of the network's "Situation Room" program. "We will never do anything to break that trust."

As Mr. Blitzer spoke, 23 of the Situation Room's 24 video monitors featured images of Ms. Houston, with the 24th featuring an image of her ex, Bobby Brown.

The news from CNN sent a chill through the senior leadership of North Korea, who announced later today that it might postpone a nuclear war until later in the week when the Whitney Houston coverage calms down.

"Good luck with that," Mr. Blitzer said. "The Oscars are this Sunday."

Meanwhile, in what some political insiders are calling a sign of desperation, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney today had his first name legally changed to "Not."

And a new study showed that the election of former Sen. Rick Santorum would solve the U.S.'s immigration problems but create enormous ones for Canada. (c) 2012 Andy Borowitz

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