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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky asks, "What Are Iran's Intentions?"

Uri Avnery considers, "The Laughing Beast."

Matt Taibbi wonders is, "Bank Of America In Trouble?"

David Sirota uncovers, "Santorum's "Snobbery" Red Herring."

Jim Hightower exposes, "The Sanctimonious Santorum."

Ralph Nader asserts, "Obama Can Do More On Oil Prices."

James Donahue is, "Marching To World War."

Joel S. Hirschhorn examines, "Losing Constitutional Competition."

David Swanson with an absolute must read, "Murder Is Legal, Says Eric Holder."

Peter Van Buren joins us with, "The Day 'Due Process' Died."

Paul Krugman warns of, "States Of Depression."

Gwynne Dyer discovers the real, "Reasons To Attack Iran."

Robert Reich sings, "Bye Bye American Pie."

Minnesota, District 11A Rep. Mary Franson wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols observes, "Mitt Romney's 'Cut-And-Paste' Fantasy Candidacy."

Vincent Guarisco returns with, "Poverty In America -- From Riches To Rags."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Landover Baptist Church exposes, "Ladies Of Landover Discover Depraved Cult In Utah!" but first Uncle Ernie has, "Got Dem Ole AIPAC Blues Again."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jeff Koterba , with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Kevin Dietsch, Chris Keane, Reuters, U.P.I., Universal Pictures, N.Y. Times, A.P., 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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Got Dem Ole AIPAC Blues, Again!
By Ernest Stewart

"As Rosy noted, last year, I stood before you and pledged that, "the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations." As you know, that pledge has been kept. Last September, I stood before the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed that any lasting peace must acknowledge the fundamental legitimacy of Israel and its security concerns. I said that America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable, our friendship with Israel is enduring and that Israel must be recognized. No American president has made such a clear statement about our support for Israel at the United Nations at such a difficult time. People usually give those speeches before audiences like this one - not before the General Assembly. And I must say, there was not a lot of applause." ~~~ Barack Obama

"Just as the one-eyed man is king in the land of the blind, so Mr. Romney is the best of a bad Republican lot." ~~~ Jeff Simpson

"With the possible exception of Tiger Woods, nothing has had a worse year than global warming. We have discovered that a good portion of the science used to justify "climate change" was a hoax perpetrated by leftist ideologues with an agenda."
~~~ Todd Young ~ R/Indiana ~~~

"Round up the usual suspects!"
Casablanca ~~~ Captain Renault

First, I was going to point out the various, lies, bullshit and acts of treason committed by Barry in this homage to his masters and your masters, too, America. The 1% that pulls all the puppet strings attached to Barry and 95% of our elected traitors in the House and Sin-ate. However, my poor prose couldn't do justice to the outrage I felt at this massive betrayal from Washington. Ergo, instead, I'll just print Obamahood's speech at the gathering of Traitors. Barry's was just the first; now, one by one, day after day, most all the members of Con-gress will give a short speech of their adoration of their puppet masters, and will swear their Oath of Fealty to a foreign power's desires instead of our own. Meanwhile, a group of American Jews, viz., Young Jewish and Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace, protested the treason and hypocrisy at the AIPAC meetings! Point being: AIPAC doesn't speak for American Jews -- or even Israeli Jews! AIPAC, like Obamahood, is all about the 1% and against the 99%! Here's what Barry had to say:

"Rosy, thank you for your kind words. I have never seen Rosy on the basketball court. I'll bet it would be a treat. Rosy, you've been a dear friend of mine for a long time and a tireless advocate for the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States. And as you complete your term as president, I salute your leadership and your commitment.

I want to thank the board of directors. As always, I'm glad to see my longtime friends in the Chicago delegation. I also want to thank the members of Congress who are with us here today, and who will be speaking to you over the next few days. You've worked hard to maintain the partnership between the United States and Israel. And I especially want to thank my close friend and leader of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

I'm glad that my outstanding young ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, is in the house. I understand that Dan is perfecting his Hebrew on his new assignment, and I appreciate his constant outreach to the Israeli people. And I'm also pleased that we're joined by so many Israeli officials, including Ambassador Michael Oren. And tomorrow, I'm very much looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation back to the White House.

Every time I come to AIPAC, I'm especially impressed to see so many young people here. You don't yet get the front seats - I understand. You have to earn that. But students from all over the country who are making their voices heard and engaging deeply in our democratic debate. You carry with you an extraordinary legacy of more than six decades of friendship between the United States and Israel. And you have the opportunity - and the responsibility - to make your own mark on the world. And for inspiration, you can look to the man who preceded me on this stage, who's being honored at this conference - my friend, President Shimon Peres.

Shimon was born a world away from here, in a shtetl in what was then Poland, a few years after the end of the first world war. But his heart was always in Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish people. And when he was just a boy, he made his journey across land and sea - toward home.

In his life, he has fought for Israel's independence, and he has fought for peace and security. As a member of the Haganah and a member of the Knesset, as a minister of defense and foreign affairs, as a prime minister and as president - Shimon helped build the nation that thrives today: the Jewish state of Israel. But beyond these extraordinary achievements, he has also been a powerful moral voice that reminds us that right makes might - not the other way around.

Shimon once described the story of the Jewish people by saying it proved that, "slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity, and freedom." And he has lived those values. He has taught us to ask more of ourselves and to empathize more with our fellow human beings. I am grateful for his life's work and his moral example. And I'm proud to announce that later this spring, I will invite Shimon Peres to the White House to present him with America's highest civilian honor - the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In many ways, this award is a symbol of the broader ties that bind our nations. The United States and Israel share interests, but we also share those human values that Shimon spoke about: a commitment to human dignity. A belief that freedom is a right that is given to all of God's children. An experience that shows us that democracy is the one and only form of government that can truly respond to the aspirations of citizens.

America's Founding Fathers understood this truth, just as Israel's founding generation did. President Truman put it well, describing his decision to formally recognize Israel only minutes after it declared independence. He said, "I had faith in Israel before it was established. I believe it has a glorious future before it - as not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization."

For over six decades, the American people have kept that faith. Yes, we are bound to Israel because of the interests that we share - in security for our communities, prosperity for our people, the new frontiers of science that can light the world. But ultimately, it is our common ideals that provide the true foundation for our relationship. That is why America's commitment to Israel has endured under Democratic and Republican presidents, and congressional leaders of both parties. In the United States, our support for Israel is bipartisan, and that is how it should stay.

AIPAC's work continually nurtures this bond. And because of AIPAC's effectiveness in carrying out its mission, you can expect that over the next several days, you will hear many fine words from elected officials describing their commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship. But as you examine my commitment, you don't just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds. Because over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture - at every fork in the road - we have been there for Israel. Every single time.

Four years ago, I stood before you and said that, "Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable." That belief has guided my actions as President. The fact is my Administration's commitment to Israel's security has been unprecedented. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust. Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every single year. We are investing in new capabilities. We're providing Israel with more advanced technology - the types of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies. And make no mistake: We will do what it takes to preserve Israel's qualitative military edge - because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

This isn't just about numbers on a balance sheet. As a Senator, I spoke to Israeli troops on the Lebanese border. I visited with families who've known the terror of rocket fire in Sderot. And that's why, as President, I have provided critical funding to deploy the Iron Dome system that has intercepted rockets that might have hit homes and hospitals and schools in that town and in others. Now our assistance is expanding Israel's defensive capabilities, so that more Israelis can live free from the fear of rockets and ballistic missiles. Because no family, no citizen, should live in fear.

And just as we've been there with our security assistance, we've been there through our diplomacy. When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it. When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them. When the Durban Conference was commemorated, we boycotted it; and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism.

When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them. When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to save them. When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them. And whenever an effort is made to delegitimize the State of Israel, my administration has opposed them. So, there should not be a shred of doubt by now - when the chips are down, I have Israel's back.

Which is why, if during this political season you hear some questions regarding my administration's support for Israel, remember that it's not backed up by the facts. And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics. America's national security is too important. Israel's security is too important.

Of course, there are those who question not my security and diplomatic commitments, but rather my Administration's ongoing pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. So let me say this: I make no apologies for pursuing peace. Israel's own leaders understand the necessity of peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres - each of them have called for two states, a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state. I believe that peace is profoundly in Israel's security interest.

The reality that Israel faces - from shifting demographics, to emerging technologies, to an extremely difficult international environment - demands a resolution of this issue. And I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel's founding values - because of our shared belief in self-determination, and because Israel's place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected.

Of course, peace is hard to achieve. There's a reason why it's remained elusive for six decades. The upheaval and uncertainty in Israel's neighborhood makes it that much harder - from the horrific violence raging in Syria, to the transition in Egypt. And the division within the Palestinian leadership makes it harder still - most notably, with Hamas's continued rejection of Israel's very right to exist.

But, as hard as it may be, we should not and cannot give in to cynicism or despair. The changes taking place in the region make peace more important, not less. And I've made it clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel's security concerns are met. That's why we continue to press Arab leaders to reach out to Israel, and will continue to support the peace treaty with Egypt. That's why - just as we encourage Israel to be resolute in the pursuit of peace - we have continued to insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel's right to exist and reject violence and adhere to existing agreements. And that is why my Administration has consistently rejected any efforts to short-cut negotiations or impose an agreement on the parties.

As Rosy noted, last year, I stood before you and pledged that, "the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations." As you know, that pledge has been kept. Last September, I stood before the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed that any lasting peace must acknowledge the fundamental legitimacy of Israel and its security concerns. I said that America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable, our friendship with Israel is enduring and that Israel must be recognized. No American President has made such a clear statement about our support for Israel at the United Nations at such a difficult time. People usually give those speeches before audiences like this one - not before the General Assembly.

And I must say, there was not a lot of applause. But it was the right thing to do. And as a result, today there is no doubt - anywhere in the world - that the United States will insist upon Israel's security and legitimacy. That will be true as we continue our efforts to pursue - in the pursuit of peace. And that will be true when it comes to the issue that is such a focus for all of us today: Iran's nuclear program - a threat that has the potential to bring together the worst rhetoric about Israel's destruction with the world's most dangerous weapons.

Let's begin with a basic truth that you all understand: No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel's destruction. And so I understand the profound historical obligation that weighs on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak and all of Israel's leaders.

A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel's security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States.

Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the nonproliferation regime that we've done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world's most volatile regions. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran's proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.

And that is why, four years ago, I made a commitment to the American people and said that we would use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that is what we have done.

When I took office, the efforts to apply pressure on Iran were in tatters. Iran had gone from zero centrifuges spinning to thousands, without facing broad pushback from the world. In the region, Iran was ascendant - increasingly popular and extending its reach. In other words, the Iranian leadership was united and on the move, and the international community was divided about how to go forward.

And so from my very first months in office, we put forward a very clear choice to the Iranian regime: a path that would allow them to rejoin the community of nations if they meet their international obligations, or a path that leads to an escalating series of consequences if they don't. In fact, our policy of engagement - quickly rebuffed by the Iranian regime - allowed us to rally the international community as never before, to expose Iran's intransigence and to apply pressure that goes far beyond anything that the United States could do on our own.

Because of our efforts, Iran is under greater pressure than ever before. Some of you will recall, people predicted that Russia and China wouldn't join us to move toward pressure. They did. And in 2010 the U.N. Security Council overwhelmingly supported a comprehensive sanctions effort. Few thought that sanctions could have an immediate bite on the Iranian regime. They have, slowing the Iranian nuclear program and virtually grinding the Iranian economy to a halt in 2011. Many questioned whether we could hold our coalition together as we moved against Iran's Central Bank and oil exports. But our friends in Europe and Asia and elsewhere are joining us. And in 2012, the Iranian government faces the prospect of even more crippling sanctions.

That is where we are today, because of our work. Iran is isolated, its leadership divided and under pressure. And by the way, the Arab Spring has only increased these trends, as the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime is exposed, and its ally, the Assad regime, is crumbling.

Of course, so long as Iran fails to meet its obligations, this problem remains unresolved. The effective implementation of our policy is not enough - we must accomplish our objective. And in that effort, I firmly believe that an opportunity still remains for diplomacy - backed by pressure - to succeed.

The United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, and we are exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program. Now, the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists. Sanctions are continuing to increase, and this July - thanks to our diplomatic coordination - a European ban on Iranian oil imports will take hold. Faced with these increasingly dire consequences, Iran's leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision. They can choose a path that brings them back into the community of nations, or they can continue down a dead end.

And given their history, there are, of course, no guarantees that the Iranian regime will make the right choice. But both Israel and the United States have an interest in seeing this challenge resolved diplomatically. After all, the only way to truly solve this problem is for the Iranian government to make a decision to forsake nuclear weapons. That's what history tells us.

Moreover, as President and Commander-in-Chief, I have a deeply-held preference for peace over war. I have sent men and women into harm's way. I've seen the consequences of those decisions in the eyes of those I meet who've come back gravely wounded, and the absence of those who don't make it home. Long after I leave this office, I will remember those moments as the most searing of my presidency. And for this reason, as part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I will only use force when the time and circumstances demand it. And I know that Israeli leaders also know all too well the costs and consequences of war, even as they recognize their obligation to defend their country.

We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically. Having said that, Iran's leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States - just as they should not doubt Israel's sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.

I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: a political effort aimed at isolating Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored, an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.

Iran's leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.

Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues, the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel's security, America's security and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster. Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built. Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly; carry a big stick. And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve and that our coordination with Israel will continue.

These are challenging times. But we've been through challenging times before, and the United States and Israel have come through them together. Because of our cooperation, citizens in both our countries have benefited from the bonds that bring us together. I'm proud to be one of those people. In the past, I've shared in this forum just why those bonds are so personal for me: the stories of a great uncle who helped liberate Buchenwald, to my memories of returning there with Elie Wiesel; from sharing books with President Peres to sharing seders with my young staff in a tradition that started on the campaign trail and continues in the White House; from the countless friends I know in this room to the concept of tikkun olam that has enriched and guided my life.

As Harry Truman understood, Israel's story is one of hope. We may not agree on every single issue - no two nations do, and our democracies contain a vibrant diversity of views. But we agree on the big things - the things that matter. And together, we are working to build a better world - one where our people can live free from fear; one where peace is founded upon justice; one where our children can know a future that is more hopeful than the present.

There is no shortage of speeches on the friendship between the United States and Israel. But I'm also mindful of the proverb, "A man is judged by his deeds, not his words." So if you want to know where my heart lies, look no further than what I have done - to stand up for Israel; to secure both of our countries and to see that the rough waters of our time lead to a peaceful and prosperous shore.

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the people of Israel. God bless the United States of America."

In Other News

Votes have been tallied and our beloved celestial overlord Willard, the boy who would be a god, took 6 of the 10 states (Ohio, Virginia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Alaska and Idaho. Pope Santorum won 3 states (Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota), while the Newtster won his home state of Georgia. Ron Paul won squat, but he did finish second in 4 states: Vermont, Idaho, North Dakota and Virginia.

Currently, the delegate breakdown looks like this. With 1541 delegates remaining and 1144 delegates needed for the nomination Willard leads with 415, Rick has 176, Newt has 105 and Ron has 47. Jon Huntsman, who is no longer in the race still has 2 delegates. There are also 86 delegates that are unallocated.

Willard is the 1%'s boy as they have voted exclusively for one of their own in every state -- pity for Willard they're the only ones who like him. He gets many votes as the lesser of the evils -- which means that on election day, Republican folks won't vote for Barry -- like most leftists -- they just won't vote. Which is, after all, what both parties, well, both branches of the same party want!

Next up on deck are elections on March 10 in the "Big Four," Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Kansas. Next Tuesday (March 13) is the other "Big Four" day with elections in Alabama, American Samoa, Hawaii and Mississippi as this traveling clown circus rolls ever onward!

In other election news, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur defeated Rep. Dennis Kucinich in a closely-watched Democratic battle in the newly-drawn 9th congressional district, linking Toledo and Cleveland along the Lake Erie shoreline. Kucinich conceded defeat shortly after midnight, accusing Kaptur of running "a campaign lacking integrity, filled with false truths." Dennis knows of what he speaks as his political life was filled with false truths, lacking integrity. So, how'd voting for Obamacare work out for you, Dennis? Those damned voters remembered, huh?

And Finally

Being a global warming denier must be a little like being a Christian Scientist with appendicitis! Last year was the worst year on record for tornadoes in the US. Even Europe, that seldom ever has tornadoes, got a bunch last year! This year tornadoes are already forming two to three times more than they did last year in the U.S..

At least thirty nine people died last week from tornadoes, with some of those tornadoes taking the exact same path that they took last year through Alabama. Destroying newly-built homes, replacing homes that were destroyed last year. One Kansas town has been hit by seven tornadoes in the last nine years! Folks that was just in February which isn't known for having tornadoes. The tornado season hasn't even started yet. I've never understood what's so special about living in "tornado alley" that it's worth risking life and limb for?

Now from my stand point, I could get used to global warming as Detroit's weather has been both warm and dry as compared to the days of my youth, when it was cold and snowed constantly from October to April. We have gotten about the same amount of water that we usually get, but 90% of it has been in the form of rain!

The longer the fascist, climate-deniers stay in control of the House, the worse things are going to get; and we are fast approaching the tipping point where it hits the fan. When the Arctic and Antarctic ice packs melt, you can kiss 95% of the US coastal cities and towns good bye; and states like Florida will all but disappear. That should boost the economy, huh? How long can you tread water, America?

Keepin' On

I guess if Issues & Alibis is to succeed for another year I'm going to have to take Captain Renault's (Claude Rains) advice from "Casablanca" and "Round Up The Usual Suspects!

Thank mighty Zeus for those "usual suspects" as they've been keeping us afloat for the last five years; without them, we'd be just like the wind, quite "GONE!"

This week, we got nice donations from Bill from Alabama and Doctor Phil from Virginia. Thanks, gentlemen; don't know what we'd do without you and the rest of our little band of "Merry Pranksters!" Trouble is, they're the only ones we've heard from in the last two months, those usual suspects! In that time good old Ernie from Ontario became our third best financial helper of all time! Did I mention that Ernie is living on Social Security?

We need to hear from the rest of the usual suspects, and we need to hear from a whole new group of newbies, too, if we're going to continue bringing you the truth -- week after week, month after month, year after year, and decade after decade; we need your help; and we need it now. If you're a long time member of our readership and still gainfully employed, shouldn't you be paying your fair share and perhaps the share of another reader, who is out of work, out of their house, out of luck and out of time, too? You know you should -- time is running out for all of us -- don't be a day late and a dollar shy! As old Ben Jammin' Franklin said, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." You might want to give that some serious thought, America!


11-29-1947 ~ 03-03-2012
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.

What Are Iran's Intentions?
By Noam Chomsky

The January/February issue of Foreign Affairs featured the article "Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option," by Matthew Kroenig, along with commentary about other ways to contain the Iranian threat.

The media resound with warnings about a likely Israeli attack on Iran while the U.S. hesitates, keeping open the option of aggression -thus again routinely violating the U.N. Charter, the foundation of international law.

As tensions escalate, eerie echoes of the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are in the air. Feverish U.S. primary campaign rhetoric adds to the drumbeat.

Concerns about "the imminent threat" of Iran are often attributed to the "international community" - code language for U.S. allies. The people of the world, however, tend to see matters rather differently.

The nonaligned countries, a movement with 120 member nations, has vigorously supported Iran's right to enrich uranium -an opinion shared by the majority of Americans (as surveyed by before the massive propaganda onslaught of the past two years.

China and Russia oppose U.S. policy on Iran, as does India, which announced that it would disregard U.S. sanctions and increase trade with Iran. Turkey has followed a similar course.

Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. In the Arab world, Iran is disliked but seen as a threat only by a very small minority. Rather, Israel and the U.S. are regarded as the pre-eminent threat. A majority think that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons: In Egypt on the eve of the Arab Spring, 90 percent held this opinion, according to Brookings Institution/Zogby International polls.

Western commentary has made much of how the Arab dictators allegedly support the U.S. position on Iran, while ignoring the fact that the vast majority of the population opposes it -a stance too revealing to require comment.

Concerns about Israel's nuclear arsenal have long been expressed by some observers in the United States as well. Gen. Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, described Israel's nuclear weapons as "dangerous in the extreme." In a U.S. Army journal, Lt. Col. Warner Farr wrote that one "purpose of Israeli nuclear weapons, not often stated, but obvious, is their ‘use' on the United States" -presumably to ensure consistent U.S. support for Israeli policies.

A prime concern right now is that Israel will seek to provoke some Iranian action that will incite a U.S. attack.

One of Israel's leading strategic analysts, Zeev Maoz, in "Defending the Holy Land," his comprehensive analysis of Israeli security and foreign policy, concludes that "the balance sheet of Israel's nuclear policy is decidedly negative" -harmful to the state's security. He urges instead that Israel should seek a regional agreement to ban weapons of mass destruction: a WMD-free zone, called for by a 1974 U.N. General Assembly resolution.

Meanwhile, the West's sanctions on Iran are having their usual effect, causing shortages of basic food supplies -not for the ruling clerics but for the population. Small wonder that the sanctions are condemned by Iran's courageous opposition.

The sanctions against Iran may have the same effect as their predecessors against Iraq, which were condemned as "genocidal" by the respected U.N. diplomats who administered them before finally resigning in protest.

The Iraq sanctions devastated the population and strengthened Saddam Hussein, probably saving him from the fate of a rogues' gallery of other tyrants supported by the U.S.-U.K. -tyrants who prospered virtually to the day when various internal revolts overthrew them.

There is little credible discussion of just what constitutes the Iranian threat, though we do have an authoritative answer, provided by U.S. military and intelligence. Their presentations to Congress make it clear that Iran doesn't pose a military threat.

Iran has very limited capacity to deploy force, and its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to take effect. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons (which is still undetermined), that would be part of its deterrent strategy.

The understanding of serious Israeli and U.S. analysts is expressed clearly by 30-year CIA veteran Bruce Riedel, who said in January, "If I was an Iranian national security planner, I would want nuclear weapons" as a deterrent.

An additional charge the West levels against Iran is that it is seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries attacked and occupied by the U.S. and Britain, and is supporting resistance to the U.S.-backed Israeli aggression in Lebanon and illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Like its deterrence of possible violence by Western countries, Iran's actions are said to be intolerable threats to "global order."

Global opinion agrees with Maoz. Support is overwhelming for a WMDFZ in the Middle East; this zone would include Iran, Israel and preferably the other two nuclear powers that have refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: India and Pakistan, who, along with Israel, developed their programs with U.S. aid.

Support for this policy at the NPT Review Conference in May 2010 was so strong that Washington was forced to agree formally, but with conditions: The zone could not take effect until a comprehensive peace settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors was in place; Israel's nuclear weapons programs must be exempted from international inspection; and no country (meaning the U.S.) must be obliged to provide information about "Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel."

The 2010 conference called for a session in May 2012 to move toward establishing a WMDFZ in the Middle East.

With all the furor about Iran, however, there is scant attention to that option, which would be the most constructive way of dealing with the nuclear threats in the region: for the "international community," the threat that Iran might gain nuclear capability; for most of the world, the threat posed by the only state in the region with nuclear weapons and a long record of aggression, and its superpower patron.

One can find no mention at all of the fact that the U.S. and Britain have a unique responsibility to dedicate their efforts to this goal. In seeking to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq, they invoked U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), which they claimed Iraq was violating by developing WMD.

We may ignore the claim, but not the fact that the resolution explicitly commits signers to establishing a WMDFZ in the Middle East.
(c) 2012 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Gaza In Crisis.

The Laughing Beast
By Uri Avnery

IF I were to follow the call of my heart, I would appeal to our government to send the Israeli army into Syria, drive the Assad gang from Damascus, turn the country over to the Syrian opposition or the UN, and go home.

That wouldn't even be very difficult.

Damascus is just a few dozen kilometers from the positions of the Israeli army on the Golan Heights.

The Syrian army is busy fighting against their own people. If they turn around to fight against us, the insurgents would sweep into Damascus and finish the job themselves.

Either way, the monster would be gone.

Wouldn't that be wonderful?

YES IT would, but, alas, it is an altogether crazy idea.

First of all, because the Syrian people, including the insurgents, probably hate us even more than they hate Bashar.

If Israeli soldiers crossed the border, the Syrians would unite behind their army and end the insurrection.

For the entire Arab world, Israel is the devil's disciple. Even the Arab countries which, like Saudi Arabia, assist the Free Syrian Army would have to think twice. Israel's support for any Arab group, progressive and patriotic as it may be, is the kiss of death.

For that reason, even verbal support would be fatal. Some people would like the Israeli government to call upon President Barack Obama and/or the UN to intervene. That would be misguided. It would help Bashar and his cronies to stigmatize the rebels as American agents and Zionist stooges.

So what can Israel do to help the suffering people next door?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Neither military intervention, nor diplomatic efforts, nor even a gesture of solidarity.

INSTEAD, WE should meditate on the reasons for our being in this deplorable situation.

There was a time when people in the Arab world did not like Israel, but believed what Israel said. Even when announcements of the Israeli army were disliked, they were believed. Those days are long gone.

If the Israeli army were to announce that it was entering Syria to rid it of its dictator, and would withdraw immediately after, people would laugh. Israel? Withdraw? Israel entered Lebanon in 1982 to "free an area up to 40 kilometers from the border of Palestinian terrorists," and it took it 18 years to leave - and that only after losing an intensive guerilla war. Israel occupied the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967 and has shown no intention of ever leaving.

If Israel did anything about the Syrian situation - did anything at all - the whole world would ask itself: What are those Israelis up to now? What are their devious designs?

Who could be so naive as to expect a country that has an Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister and an Ehud Barak at Defense, not to mention a Binyamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister, to do anything altruistic?

So let's forget about the whole idea.

YET HOW can I sit idly by while less than 300 kilometers from my home - closer than Eilat - awful things are happening?

This is not a question for an Israeli only. It is a question for every human being around the world.

Whether Israeli or Norwegian, Brazilian or Pakistani, we - citizens of this world - are sitting before our TV screens and looking with horror at the pictures coming out of Homs and asking ourselves with growing despair: Are we totally impotent? Is the world totally impotent?

70 years ago we accused the world of not lifting a finger when millions of Jews, Roma and others were killed by Einsatzgruppen and in the gas chambers. But that was in the middle of a terrible Word War, when the West and the Soviet Union were facing the ruthlessly efficient Nazi military machine, headed by one of history's great tyrants.

Yet here we are today, facing a tin-pot dictator in a little country, who is slaughtering his own people, and still unable to stop it.

THIS GOES far beyond the terrible events in Syria.

The helplessness of the world community, euphemistically called "the family of nations", to do anything in such a situation cries out to high heaven.

The simple truth is that at the beginning of the third millennium, in the age of economic globalization and the world-wide net of instant communication, the international political system is still lagging centuries behind.

After the terrible First World War, the League of Nations was created. But the hubris of the victors and their vengefulness against the vanquished caused them to set up a faulty structure that broke down at the first real test.

After the even more terrible Second World War, the victors tried to be much more realistic. But the structure they created - the United Nations Organization - has other faults. The Syrian crisis shows them up in the most glaring light.

The worst feature of the UN is the veto. It regularly condemns the organization to utter impotence.

It is vain to accuse Russia and China of unabashed cynicism. They are no different from other great powers. The US has used the veto far more times, especially to protect Israel. Russia and China serve their perceived short-term interests, and to hell with the victims. Ugly, disgusting, but commonplace. History is full of examples. The Munich agreement and the Hitler-Stalin pact spring readily to mind.

But does the ugly Russian veto against a toothless resolution in the Security Council really serve any real Russian interest? I think that Moscow should know better. Their arms sales to Syria are a minor consideration. So is the Russian naval base in Tarsis. It looks to me more like a conditioned reflex: If something is supported by the USA, it must be bad. After all, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a Russian.

Perhaps more important is the Russian and Chinese fear of setting yet another precedent for foreign intervention in internal affairs, such as mass slaughter, tyranny and mini-genocide.

But in the long run, it cannot be in the interest of Russia to barricade itself behind a wall of cynicism. A "decent respect for mankind", as formulated by Thomas Jefferson seems much more modern than Stalin's "How many divisions has the Pope?"

By the way, it would be good for Israel to abide by Jefferson's rule, too.

BASHAR AL-ASSAD is teaching us that what is needed is a total overhaul of the UN charter. It must start with the veto.

The division of power it represents is ridiculously outdated. Why China and not India? Why France and not Germany?

But that is a minor point. The major point is that it is intolerable for one power, or even several, to block the will of mankind. Today, the UN is a veritable Vetostan.

If the veto cannot be done away altogether, as it should, a mechanism must be found to limit it in a sensible way. For example: a 75% majority in the General Assembly, or a unanimous vote of all the non-veto-wielding Security Council members, should be able to override a veto.

In such a case, the UN, under a new type of Secretary General, should be able to call upon the militaries of member states to put an end to crimes against humanity anywhere, making the intervention of organizations like NATO redundant.

No major forces are needed in Syria. Egyptian and Turkish troops, in combination with the Free Syrian Army, should be sufficient.

HAFEZ AL-ASSAD, the long-time Syrian dictator, anointed his son Bashar as his heir, after his elder son died in a crash.

The mild-looking eye-doctor was received with relief. He seemed the ideal modernizer, with progressive, perhaps even democratic ideas. Now he is proving that in all dictators there lurks a hidden monster.

"Assad" means "lion". But Bashar is no lion. He is more like a hyena - an animal called in Yiddish "the laughing beast". There is nothing here to laugh about.

His time is up.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Bank of America In Trouble?
By Matt Taibbi

It looks like Bank of America might have started circling the drain before the Occupy movement even had a chance to launch its campaign against the company. For weeks now there have been ominous signs of trouble at the bank, and yesterday we heard yet another dark piece of news.

Last year, there was an uproar when Bank of America announced a plan to slap customers with a monthly $5 fee for debit card usage. The bank eventually backed off that plan when the public and some politicians cried foul.

Now it seems the company is going to try to put a new package on the same crappy idea and sell it again. This time, the plan is to add charges that range from $6 to $25 a month. From an MSNBC report:

Pilot programs in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts are experimenting with charging $6 to $9 a month for what's called an "Essentials" account. Other account options being tested in those states carry monthly charges of $9, $12, $15 and $25, but give customers opportunities to avoid the payments by maintaining minimum balances, using a credit card or taking a mortgage with Bank of America, according to an internal memo cited by the [Wall Street] Journal.
It's a very bad sign that a bank is in a desperate cash crunch when it tries repeatedly to gouge its customers. David Trainer, an analyst for Market Watch, a WSJ publication, wrote that the new fees are a sign of series trouble at BAC. He writes:

In my opinion, there are four actions taken by financial services that signal the company is headed to serious trouble.

1. Management shake-up and major layoffs - lots of layoffs over the past year

2. Exploiting accounting rules to boost earnings - SFAS 159

3. Drawing down reserves to boost earnings: to the tune of $13.3 billion in 2011 and 2012

4. Bilking customers with new fees: tried it before and trying it again

Bank of America has taken all four steps. Bilking customers with new fees is a desperate measure of last resort because it requires exploiting the one asset the bank has left, namely its customers.

Trainer in an earlier column urged investors to dump Bank of America for a number of reasons, but mostly because he had reservations about some of the numbers in the bank's most recent SEC filing.

According to him, the bank aggressively exploited a new accounting rule called SFAS no. 159, which enables banks to "artificially boost earnings when the value of their own debt declines." In other words, BAC was able to artificially re-state earnings when its own credit quality went into the tank.

Trainer also believes that Bank of America's recent rise in share price is based on a series of impossible, pie-in-the-sky expectations, including "20% annual revenue growth for 18 years."

All of this comes on the heels of an announcement that Fannie Mae was cutting off Bank of America, news that itself came after Bank of America, in its annual report, had earlier announced that it would no longer sell loans to Fannie Mae. Basically, Bank of America tried to quit Fannie Mae before it got fired. It seems Bank of America in the last quarter of 2011 was slower even than usual in honoring repurchase requests, yet another sign of a cash crunch.

Why does all of this matter to the rest of America? Because what happens with Bank of America will be an important litmus test going forward for how we deal with any Too-Big-To-Fail behemoth that gets itself into trouble. We've already seen that the recent foreclosure deal was a huge boon to Bank of America - it spared it from the uncertainty of a generation of robosigning suits.

But what happens if Bank of America is still headed for bankruptcy? Helping the bank avoid a few lawsuits is one thing, and allowing it to move its dangerously toxic derivatives portfolio onto the federally-insured side of the company is another. But a full-blown crash of this firm would require a massive bailout. What will the Obama administration do if faced with that dilemma? One way or another, it will be a momentous decision.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

Santorum's "Snobbery" Red Herring
Increasing university funding isn't elitist. Backing a system where college has become a huge class barrier is
By David Sirota

Say what you will about this era's Republican presidential candidates, they at least have chutzpah.

Millionaire blue-blood George W. Bush pretended to be a down-home cowboy. Two-time divorcee and longtime Washington influence peddler Newt Gingrich struts around preaching about traditional family values and insisting he's a D.C. outsider. Now, topping them all is Rick Santorum, who last week declared that only "snobs" support efforts to make a college education more accessible to all Americans.

Santorum, of course, has not one, not two, but a whopping three separate degrees, two of which come from public universities - that is, two that were taxpayer-subsidized, courtesy of the "Big Government" Santorum now claims to loathe.

Hypocritical - and dare I say, snobbish - as it is for someone with such a pedigree to attack President Obama's college affordability initiatives, Santorum did inadvertently stumble into a significant question: Is higher education for everyone? The answer today is not necessarily, but that's precisely because of the affordability problem Obama aims to solve.

N+1 magazine notes that since the late 1970s, when Santorum was enjoying his taxpayer-subsidized higher education, "the price of tuition at U.S. colleges has increased over 900 percent." In 2011, that meant the average total cost of a year at a public university was $21,477, up 5.4 percent in just 12 months. Thanks to cuts to programs that make college and vocational education more affordable - cuts Santorum supported in Congress - those tuition increases promise to get even steeper in the coming years, all but ensuring that a future college student will have even more than the $25,250 in education debt that today's average student carries.

With higher education this unaffordable but with most decent-paying jobs in our economy still requiring a degree, the trends have created another bubble scenario. Those lucky enough to get a job out of school can barely pay back their now-massive loans, and those left jobless in the recession can't pay back their loans at all, leaving us facing the potential of mass defaults and yet another financial meltdown.

Not surprisingly, this frightening situation has initiated a debate over whether college remains a good investment. Most of the data say that on average it still is - that the money typically spent on higher education is made back in comparatively higher wages during a career. However, that data is less clear than it once was, and that typical experience is no longer such a guarantee. Indeed, there are more and more situations where college might not be such a solid financial investment, not because it's wrong for a particular student's interests, but because the economics of tuition prices and the anemic job market make it too risky a gamble.

Those economics are an obvious symptom of a larger crisis involving all sorts of cuts - revenue-draining tax cuts, cuts to education budgets and cuts to public programs that sustain decent jobs. But because any critical discussion of those policies offends the GOP's corporate financiers, Santorum is trying to define the crisis on unrelated, culture-war terms. He would have us believe the emergency is about "snobbery" from Democrats arrogantly pressuring Americans to get degrees. In this, he gets a two-fer: he can both avoid tough issues and pander to the anti-intellectual, anti-elitist sensibilities of Republican primary voters.

As the facts prove, though, the real crisis is about a conservative economic agenda whose anti-government extremism is making the path to a degree and a decent job even tougher than it naturally is during tough times.

Trying to make that path just a tad easier - like it was when Santorum got his three degrees - isn't snobbery. It's the opposite.
(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.

The Sanctimonious Santorum

Let's go spelunking in Rick Santorum's head. There, we can probe the inner sanctums of his brain and discover his deepest thoughts.

But once inside the Santorum skull we find that there are no deep thoughts at all in here - only acrid shallows of intolerant fundamentalist theology and the slippery moss of right-wing ideology. This explains why Santorum - whose name, after all, does derive from the same Latin root as sanctimonious - has now come out as the full-throated standard-bearer of the GOP's Christian extremist constituency.

Like an angry street preacher of pietistic correctness, he literally sees the devil at work in government policies, liberals generally, and Obama specifically. Obama's environmentalism, he cries out, is "phony theology," an attack on God's will that man has total dominion over Earth and all things within it. He rejects birth control as the devil's tool for promoting mass promiscuity, and he wails that government must stop funding prenatal checkups, for they're the invention of liberals who are trolling for babies to abort.

Indeed, the mere suggestion that an abortion might be legitimate for any reason whatsoever causes an eruption of fetid swamp gas from the narrow creases of Santorum's mind. Even a victim of vicious rape, he preaches, must view her pregnancy as "the gift of human life" and accept "what God has given to you." He devoutly intones that, although this is a fetus forced on her by the horror of rape, "It is her child."

Not only does such dogmatic fanaticism shape Santorum's world view, but it would also define his presidency. Forget Separation of Church and State - he says his own religious doctrine must be enthroned to help shape proper public policy. All hail Santorum: Theocrat-in-chief!
(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 Can Do More On Oil Prices
By Ralph Nader

Gasoline and heating oil prices are ratcheting up. In California, some motorists are paying over $5 per gallon. President Obama declared that "there is no quick fix" for this problem. Meanwhile, the hapless but howling Republicans are blaming him for the fuel surge as if he is a price control czar.

Indeed, President Obama has some proper power to cool off retail petroleum prices. David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan's Budget Director, said it plainly on CNN last week, "Stop beating the war drums right now [against Iran], and Obama could do that, and he could say the neocons are history." Having done his stint on Wall Street, Stockman knows that war talk by the war hawks inside and outside of our government is just what the speculators on the New York Mercantile Exchange want to hear as they bid up the price. Your gasoline prices are not charging up due to strains between supply and demand. Speculation, with those notorious derivatives and swaps, is what is poking larger holes in your fuel budget, according to Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement lawyers. The too-big-to-fail Wall Street gamblers - Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley - are at it again.

Dr. Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America documented that speculation added $600 to the average family's gasoline expenditures in 2011. Earlier, the head of Exxon/Mobil estimated that speculation was responsible for over $40 per barrel in price increase at a time when oil was more than $100 per barrel.

Last June, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman, Gary Gensler, declared in New York City that "huge inflows of speculative money create a self-fulfilling prophecy that drives up commodity prices."

Mr. Gensler and the CFTC received more legislated authority to police these Wall Street gamblers, but key members of Congress refused to give him a budget to, in his words, "be a more effective cop on the beat," at a time of sharply-increasing trading volume. Congressional campaign budgets are being swelled by campaign contributions from those very Wall Street gamblers. This is called "cash-register politics." Meanwhile, you the people pay and pay at the pump and wonder why no one is doing anything about it.

But an inadequate budget only explains part of Mr. Gensler's problems. He is continually undermined by other CFTC Commissioners who do not want real enforcement action. He also seems to be wearing down under the pressure.

Back in the 1970s, a sudden increase in gasoline prices - even a few cents - led to an uproar among consumers and demands for regulation, price controls and other government action. Now that the New York Mercantile Exchange, with its big banking and hedge fund speculators loading up on fat profits and bonuses is right here in the U.S., officials are throwing up their hands saying "there are no quick fixes."

Yet by the constant Israeli-Obama-Hillary Clinton-Congressional-AIPAC belligerent talk about Iran developing a capability to produce nuclear weapons is provoking Tehran's warnings about the Straits of Hormuz, and the oil price speculators are having a field day with your gas dollars.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) regularly demands that that Obama's regulators impose limits on oil speculations. He asserts that the "skyrocketing price of gas and oil has nothing to do with the fundamentals of supply and demand." Even Goldman Sachs analyst, David Greely, claimed Wall Street speculation in the futures market is driving up oil prices.

In response to such clamorings, President Obama announced in April 2011 a new inter-agency working group to combat fraud. Don't hold your breath waiting for any action here.

So why doesn't President Obama invite the various industries such as the trucking and airline companies that are hurt by spiraling oil prices, together with consumer groups, motorist organizations, such as AAA and Better World Society, and the relevant government agencies to generate the pressure on Congress and the recalcitrant members of the CFTC to stop fronting for the Wall Street casino giants?

Mr. Obama and Energy Secretary Chu keep saying that there is enough oil in world markets and that speculatively-driven higher oil prices are undermining the U.S. economic recovery. Yet Mr. Obama seems unwilling to fully use his administration's existing authority to crack down on the surging speculation.

There is much more action possible under current statutory authority for the regulators to use and earn their salaries. They need to hear louder rumblings from the people. While the people need, whenever possible and safe, to walk short distances instead of drive there, if only to stiffen their determination to fight back in more than one way.
(c) 2012 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Marching To World War
By James Donahue

The constant rhetoric concerning the evil deeds occurring in secret underground nuclear research facilities in Iran, and the belief that Iran is secretly involved in terrorist aggression against the United States and our troops stationed in the Middle East, is heating up.

Israel now threatens to bomb key Iranian nuclear and military facilities, thus setting the stage for a possible world war that could quickly draw in Russia and China facing off against the United States.

The United Nations, the United States, Russia and other world nations have been appealing to Iranian leadership to ease the tension. But at the same time, our military force surrounding Iran is building.

In Syria, the dictatorial government of Bashar al-Assad has been reportedly turning its military force on the citizens who have risen in revolt. The world is watching in horror as the blood literally runs in the streets of Syrian cities. Efforts by the United Nations to call for a halt to the killing have met resistance from both Russia and China.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned against a military intervention in either Syria or Iran.

While this goes on, Republican political candidates, busily stumping the United States for a party nomination to run this fall against incumbent President Barack Obama, are rattling swords of war.

Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are advocating going to war with Iran. Rick Santorium has boasted about his experience on the Armed Services Committee and his efforts aimed at Iran. He has called for covert attacks on Iran and even the murder of Iranian scientists.

The only Republican candidate not calling for war against Iran has been Ron Paul, a Libertarian who remains a voice of reason within a crowd of clowns. "I'm afraid what's going on right now is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq," he was quoted as saying.

It appears that President Obama also is thinking in the same lines of Ron Paul. But Obama is walking a tight rope, attempting to ease this growing international crisis while doing the "popular" thing in the eyes of American voters in the months before the election. Notice that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other Washington diplomats have been making numerous trips to Israel, Saudi Arabia and other points in the Middle East, in an effort to avoid what appears to be a march toward war.

At least we hope this is what they are talking about. The discussions are occurring behind closed doors, and without getting much attention by the American media.

There is another, unspoken and powerful factor in this potential march toward war. It lies in the military war machine buried within the halls of the Pentagon. War is big business. A lot of American industry builds the aircraft, ships, tanks, transport vehicles, guns and bullets used in warfare. There is great wealth to be had from all of this. Thus it seems inevitable that America must always be at war if only to continue generating additional wealth for a powerful few.

With the failed war in Iraq now allegedly concluded (we still have a contingent of at least 18,000 troops remaining there, with some dying in conflict even today) and the Moslem people rioting across Afghanistan after troops mistakenly destroyed some torn pages from the holy Islamic book, the Quran, there is a call for Americans to "go home." Indeed, Afghanistan has also been a failed war that had no objective and has reached no conclusive end. President Obama recently announced plans to bring troops home from Afghanistan within about another year. It may happen sooner.

All of this must have the generals in the Pentagon scratching their heads, trying to think up a new enemy to engage. And what better target could there be than Iran? Indeed, the actions of the Iranian leadership appear to be inviting an attack. The media has been busy depicting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as evil tyrants busy building nuclear bombs and supporting terrorist attacks. The propaganda machine has been running but without justification.

As it was in Iraq prior to the U.S. and British invasion, there has been no proof shown that Iran is really building nuclear weapons. A recent story in the New York Times noted that "American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb."

Going to war with Iran might be a suicide mission for everyone. Iran is a large country. It has a strong military that is growing because Iranian leadership knows there is a target on Tehran. Also Iran has a large supply of untapped oil under its soil. Both Russia and China, which rest on Iranian borders, are not only friendly with Iran, but they have an interest in that oil. Thus a war against Iran will almost assuredly mean a war against China and Russia.

Could we really be that stupid? Whether Iran has a nuclear bomb won't matter. Russia, China, Israel and the United States are all nuclear powers. If we war over Iran, the world conflict that results will surely evolve into nuclear conflict.

We are living in a very dangerous time.
(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

Losing Constitutional Competition
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Among Americans there remains strong pride about the US Constitution, even though there is widespread support for creating reform amendments to it. Globally, however, what should surprise Americans is a significant loss of respect for it. Other nations, especially those creating new democracies, see better constitutions elsewhere. This is not opinion. It is fact. And it is important to understand this historic shift.

A new university study sends a disturbing message to all Americans that want to hang on to the fiction that the US constitution is not only the world's best one, but does not need to be improved. Do not mentally block this finding: "The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere," according to the study by David S. Law of Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia.

What exists today is far different than what was proudly proclaimed in 1987, on the Constitution's bicentennial, by Time magazine which calculated that "of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version."

Why has the US Constitution lost standing abroad even though Americans cling to their belief that it is sacred and the world's best constitution?

The new study examined the provisions of 729 constitutions adopted by 188 countries from 1946 to 2006, and they considered 237 variables regarding various rights and ways to enforce them. This is what they found: "Among the world's democracies constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall. Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s. ...the constitutions of the world's democracies are, on average, less similar to the U.S. Constitution now than they were at the end of World War II."

Professor Law identified a central reason for the trend: the availability of newer, sexier and more powerful operating systems in the constitutional marketplace. "Nobody wants to copy Windows 3.1," he said. In other words, the US Constitution is old and out of date.

A Supreme Court Justice has also weighed in. In a television interview during a recent visit to Egypt, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. "I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012." She recommended, instead, the South African Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the European Convention on Human Rights. Such a view should be respected.

Should Americans disregard these findings and perspectives? Absolutely not. Only if more people pay attention to this global trend will they better see the need to seriously consider constitutional amendments to improve American democracy. The core problem, however, is one shortcoming of the US Constitution: the great difficulty in amending it. In this regard, noted legal authority Sanford Levinson wrote in 2006 in his book "Our Undemocratic Constitution" that "the U.S. Constitution is the most difficult to amend of any constitution currently existing in the world today."

All over the country diverse people and groups on the right and left are advocating for reform amendments, such as getting all private money out of politics, creating term limits for Congress, removing personhood for corporations, and imposing a balanced budget requirement on Congress.

The problem is that Congress is quite unlikely to propose serious reform amendments, which means that the option in the Constitution for an Article V convention of state delegates must be used. But Congress refuses to obey the Constitution by ignoring the hundreds of state applications for a convention from 49 states, more than the single requirement of two-thirds of states in Article V. Learn more at the website of Friends of the Article V Convention, the nonpartisan national group advocating for the first convention.

Consider this: Other nations routinely trade in their constitutions wholesale, replacing them on average every 19 years. But it would be silly to propose a totally new US Constitution; that is too radical an idea. However, it is amazing that Thomas Jefferson, in a 1789 letter to James Madison, noted that every constitution "naturally expires at the end of 19 years" because "the earth belongs always to the living generation." Too bad the Constitution gives Congress the power to convene an Article V convention.

Americans should wake up, stop their delusional thinking and recognize that the US Constitution needs to be updated through reform amendments. We the people must pressure Congress to convene the first Article V convention. Otherwise the Supreme Court will continue to make interpretations that are more political than legal in nature and the federal government will continue to erode personal freedoms and liberties. And more and more other democracies will operate under better constitutions.
(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.

Murder Is Legal, Says Eric Holder
By David Swanson

Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday explained why it's legal to murder people -- not to execute prisoners convicted of capital crimes, not to shoot someone in self-defense, not to fight on a battlefield in a war that is somehow legalized, but to target and kill an individual sitting on his sofa, with no charges, no arrest, no trial, no approval from a court, no approval from a legislature, no approval from we the people, and in fact no sharing of information with any institutions that are not the president. Holder's speech approached his topic in a round about manner:

"Since this country's earliest days, the American people have risen to this challenge - and all that it demands. But, as we have seen - and as President John F. Kennedy may have described best - 'In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.'"

Holder quotes that and then immediately rejects it, claiming that our generation too should act as if it is in such a moment, even if it isn't, a moment that Holder's position suggests may last forever:

"Half a century has passed since those words were spoken, but our nation today confronts grave national security threats that demand our constant attention and steadfast commitment. It is clear that, once again, we have reached an 'hour of danger.'

"We are a nation at war. And, in this war, we face a nimble and determined enemy that cannot be underestimated."

So, if I were to estimate that Al Qaeda barely exists and is no serious threat to the Homeland formerly known as the United States, I would not be underestimating it? If I were to point out that no member of that horrifying outfit has been killed in Afghanistan this year, that fact would not contribute to an unacceptable underestimation? What fun it is to fight the most glorious of wars in the hour of maximum danger against an enemy so pitiful that it literally cannot be underestimated.

If the people of Iraq and Afghanistan hadn't risen up and defeated the trillion-dollar U.S. military with some homemade bombs and cell phones, and were Iran not threatening to fight back if attacked, this might be all fun and games. Except that Holder isn't talking about those wars that still sort of look like wars. He's talking about a war paralleling the Soviet Threat, a war that is everywhere all the time, a war that encompasses the murder of anybody anywhere as an "act of war," even if there's nothing warlike about the victim or the situation other than the fact that we are mudering him or her.

"I know that - more than a decade after the September 11th attacks; and despite our recent national security successes, including the operation that brought to justice Osama bin Laden last year - there are people currently plotting to murder Americans, who reside in distant countries as well as within our own borders. Disrupting and preventing these plots - and using every available and appropriate tool to keep the American people safe - has been, and will remain, this Administration's top priority."

Osama bin Laden was murdered. No attempt was made to capture him. You can defend that murder, but to call it "bringing to justice" and to get away with that characterization is to win the argument before you've begun it. This speech was advertised as a legal defense of such murders, and such a defense can hardly begin and end with equating murder with justice.

Nor can promising not to spy on U.S. citizens without proper procedures satisfy concerns with the claiming of power to kill people, including U.S. citizens. Here's Holder:

"Let me give you an example. Under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may authorize annually, with the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, collection directed at identified categories of foreign intelligence targets, without the need for a court order for each individual subject. This ensures that the government has the flexibility and agility it needs to identify and to respond to terrorist and other foreign threats to our security. But the government may not use this authority intentionally to target a U.S. person, here or abroad, or anyone known to be in the United States."

Nor can promising to imprison people without a fair trial justify murdering people. But Holder does not do that. He promises kangaroo courts:

"Much has been made of the distinction between our federal civilian courts and revised military commissions. The reality is that both incorporate fundamental due process and other protections that are essential to the effective administration of justice - and we should not deprive ourselves of any tool in our fight against al Qaeda."

Even though al Qaeda cannot be underestimated! Most legal obeservers do not take this seriously for a minute. Here's 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama: "As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists ... Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary." Go Team!

Holder then explains, sensibly enough, why non-military courts work just fine (unless an extreme record of nearly 100% convictions worries you):

"Simply put, since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in Article III courts and are now serving long sentences in federal prison. Not one has ever escaped custody. No judicial district has suffered any kind of retaliatory attack."

But he returns immediately to defending courts that lack basic protections, claims those protections have now been put in place, and asserts that military commissions have been successfully reformed. Among those who have not been convinced is the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantanamo, Col. Morris Davis who said in November: "a decision to use both legal settings is a mistake. It will establish a dangerous legal double standard that gives some detainees superior rights and protections, and relegates others to the inferior rights and protections of military commissions. This will only perpetuate the perception that Guantanamo and justice are mutually exclusive." Of course the question of how bad military commissions are also does nothing to advance a case for legal murder.

Holder turns next to the presidential power to imprison people that was signed into law on New Year's Eve as part of the National "Defense" Authorization Act:

"This Administration has worked in other areas as well to ensure that counterterrorism professionals have the flexibility that they need to fulfill their critical responsibilities without diverging from our laws and our values. Last week brought the most recent step, when the President issued procedures under the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation, which Congress passed in December, mandated that a narrow category of al Qaeda terrorist suspects be placed in temporary military custody."

This legislation did nothing of the sort. For one thing, Obama unconstitutionally altered it in a signing statement as it applied to a huge prison full of largely non-al Qaeda prisoners in Afghanistan. In addition, there has been quite a bit of discussion of the power this bill creates to imprison U.S. citizens. The State of Virginia has forbidden state employees from assisting with that. Senator Diane Feinstein has introduced a bill to undo it. And, despite tremendous, often willful, confusion, the history is clear that Obama insisted on the power to imprison U.S. citizens and to do so outside of the military.

Three quarters of the way through a speech on the legality of murdering people, Holder begins to approach that touchy topic. Here is what he says:

"Now, I realize I have gone into considerable detail about tools we use to identify suspected terrorists and to bring captured terrorists to justice. It is preferable to capture suspected terrorists where feasible - among other reasons, so that we can gather valuable intelligence from them - but we must also recognize that there are instances where our government has the clear authority - and, I would argue, the responsibility - to defend the United States through the appropriate and lawful use of lethal force."

By "government" Holder means the president, whether President Obama or President Romney or President Santorum or any man or woman who later becomes president, and nobody else. That one person alone is to decide what is appropriate and lawful and feasible. If the Vice President thinks it is feasible to capture somene, too bad for him. He should have gotten a better job if he wanted to be a decider. If the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court thinks preaching against the United States is not a capital offense, tough tamales. He shouldn't dress in his bathrobe if he wants to be taken seriously. If the United States Congress objects that the president's "surgical strikes" tend to kill too many random men, women, and children, well they know what they can do: Run for president! If the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings has objections, well -- Isn't that SPECIAL? And the American people? They can shut up or vote for a racist buffoon from the bad party. Holder continues:

"This principle has long been established under both U.S. and international law. In response to the attacks perpetrated - and the continuing threat posed - by al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces, Congress has authorized the President to use all necessary and appropriate force against those groups. Because the United States is in an armed conflict, we are authorized to take action against enemy belligerents under international law. The Constitution empowers the President to protect the nation from any imminent threat of violent attack. And international law recognizes the inherent right of national self-defense. None of this is changed by the fact that we are not in a conventional war."

In reality, the 2001 authorization to use military force violates the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the UN Charter, and the U.S. Constitution. It dates to only 10 years ago. And it is already getting old, as it is becoming harder and harder to accuse people of involvement in the attacks of September 11, 2001. No international law recognizes secret global war without limitation in time or space. There is no long established tradition of this madness. There has never been any type of violence that somebody wouldn't call "defensive," but the traditional right to national military defense applies only to nations being attacked by other nations, and not in a mystical or ideological sense, but actually attacked in the geographic area formerly known as the nation. Holder says that's old hat:

"Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan. Indeed, neither Congress nor our federal courts has limited the geographic scope of our ability to use force to the current conflict in Afghanistan. We are at war with a stateless enemy, prone to shifting operations from country to country. Over the last three years alone, al Qaeda and its associates have directed several attacks - fortunately, unsuccessful - against us from countries other than Afghanistan. Our government has both a responsibility and a right to protect this nation and its people from such threats."

Several attacks? Against the United States? In the last three years? By al Qaeda and its associates? If Holder had been willing to take any questions after tossing out so many topics, someone might have asked for documentation of this. And if people, as opposed to media employees, had been allowed to ask questions, someone might have inquired how whatever actions Holder described were war rather than crime. If war, then they ought to be legal. Holder just said that attacks are legal if you're at war. But he also said he only wanted to kill people if they couldn't be captured, and he prefaced this with claims that everybody captured gets a fair trial. That would seem to suggest a crime for which they might be tried. But then why not try them for the crime in absentia and build pressure for their capture and extradition? Why not at least state what the crime is, even after murdering them? Why not at least state which murdered people were criminals and which just happened to be in the wrong place, unaware that they happened to be walking through a war? Holder goes on to explain that the president will only murder someone in a foreign country if he's decided that that country won't do it for him. This, Holder says, constitutes "respect for another nation's sovereignty."

Moreover, says Holder, we murdered important Japanese officers during World War II. Of course, the United States was at war with Japan at the time, and Congress had declared that war. The United States also committed numerous hideous crimes during that war, including the lawless imprisonment of Japanese-Americans that created the laws Holder tossed out during the first part of his speech. Holder explains that murder is not assassination when the president does it, because he only murders people he declares to constitute an imminent threat:

"Some have called such operations 'assassinations.' They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced. Assassinations are unlawful killings. Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government's use of lethal force in self defense against a leader of al Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the Executive Order banning assassination or criminal statutes."

But Obama has not so much as claimed that each person he killed constituted an imminent threat, much less convinced any independent body (sorry, Eric, you don't count) of this.

I think the speech could have ended there. But many in the United States believe such flimsy justifications for presidential killings only fall apart when U.S. citizens are the victims. So, Holder goes on to argue that U.S. citizens are fair game. The protest of this outrage, were Obama a Republican, is one for the record books in some alternative universe!

"Now, it is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that some of the threats we face come from a small number of United States citizens who have decided to commit violent attacks against their own country from abroad. Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during this current conflict, it's clear that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted. But it does mean that the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations with respect to United States citizens - even those who are leading efforts to kill innocent Americans. Of these, the most relevant is the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause, which says that the government may not deprive a citizen of his or her life without due process of law.

"The Supreme Court has made clear that the Due Process Clause does not impose one-size-fits-all requirements, but instead mandates procedural safeguards that depend on specific circumstances. In cases arising under the Due Process Clause - including in a case involving a U.S. citizen captured in the conflict against al Qaeda - the Court has applied a balancing approach, weighing the private interest that will be affected against the interest the government is trying to protect, and the burdens the government would face in providing additional process. Where national security operations are at stake, due process takes into account the realities of combat. . . .

"Let me be clear: an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances: First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles."

How are we supposed to know that Awlaki was a senior opeational leader of al Qaeda? And his teenage son? Was he that too? By "government" Holder means Obama. Obama determined these things.

"The evaluation of whether an individual presents an 'imminent threat' incorporates considerations of the relevant window of opportunity to act, the possible harm that missing the window would cause to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks against the United States. As we learned on 9/11, al Qaeda has demonstrated the ability to strike with little or no notice - and to cause devastating casualties. Its leaders are continually planning attacks against the United States, and they do not behave like a traditional military - wearing uniforms, carrying arms openly, or massing forces in preparation for an attack. Given these facts, the Constitution does not require the President to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning - when the precise time, place, and manner of an attack become clear. Such a requirement would create an unacceptably high risk that our efforts would fail, and that Americans would be killed."

The Constitution doesn't describe this sort of madness at all, so how could it possibly include such a requirement? The appeal to "defensive war" cited by Holder above itself requires more than awaiting the moment an attack becomes clear. It requires awaiting an actual attack. Law enforcement does not require that. Diplomacy does not require that. Ceasing to occupy, bomb, and pillage people's countries, motivating hostile terrorism, doesn't require that. But defensive war does.

"Some have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces. This is simply not accurate. 'Due process' and 'judicial process' are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."

The president alone can give you due process without ever explaining it to anybody else. Who knew?

"That is not to say that the Executive Branch has - or should ever have - the ability to target any such individuals without robust oversight. Which is why, in keeping with the law and our constitutional system of checks and balances, the Executive Branch regularly informs the appropriate members of Congress about our counterterrorism activities, including the legal framework, and would of course follow the same practice where lethal force is used against United States citizens."

Why "would"? This is not theoretical. Informing a handful of Congress members, and no doubt forbidding them to repeat what they are told, does not create Congressional oversight. It just creates a Bush-era excuse for lawlessness.

Holder planned to take no questions following his remarks. I wonder why.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Day 'Due Process' Died
Obama, Holder and the End of Rights
By Peter Van Buren

Historians of the future, if they are not imprisoned for saying so, will trace the end of America's democratic experiment to the fearful days immediately after 9/11, what Bruce Springsteen called the days of the empty sky, when frightened, small men named Bush and Cheney made the first decisions to abandon the Constitution in the name of freedom and created a new version of the security state with the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, secret prisons and sanctioned torture by the U.S. government. They proceeded carefully, making sure that lawyers in their employ sanctioned each dark act, much as kings in old Europe used the church to justify their own actions.

Those same historians will remark from exile on the irony that such horrendous policies were not only upheld by Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and professor of Constitutional law, but added to until we came to the place we sadly occupy today: the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, publicly stating that the American Government may murder one of its own citizens when it wishes to do so, and that the requirements of due process enshrined in the Constitution's Fifth Amendment, itself drawn from the Magna Carta that was the first reflowering of basic human rights since the Greeks, can be satisfied simply by a decision by that same president.

Yesterday will thus be remembered as the day we gave up. No more clever wordplay (enhanced interrogations, "patriot" act, targeted killing, kinetic operations) but a simple declaration that the U.S. government will kill its own citizens when it wishes to, via a secret process we, and our victims, are not allowed to know or contest.

Brevity in Our Freedom

Like most of the Bill of Rights, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution is beautiful in its brevity and clarity. When you are saying something true, pure, clean and right, you often do not need many words: "... nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." There are no footnotes in the Fifth Amendment, no caveats, no secret memos, no exceptions for war, terrorism, mass rape, creation of concentration camps, acts of genocide, child torture or any evil. Those things are unnecessary, because in the beauty of what Lincoln offered to his audience as "a government of the people, by the people, for the people," the government would be made up of us, the purpose of government was to serve us, and the government would be beholden to us. Such a government would be incapable of killing its own citizens without care and debate and open trial.

With the excuse all tyrants proclaim, protecting the nation, on or about September 30, 2011 a U.S. drone fired a missile in Yemen and killed American Citizen Anwar al Awlaki, born in the United States and tragically devoted to al Qaeda. About a week later, the U.S. murdered al Awaki's 16 year old son. The U.S. had shot at the elder al Awlaki before, on May 7, 2011 under Obama's orders, and under the Bush administration. Before the U.S. government killed his son, attorneys for al Awlaki's father tried to persuade a U.S. District Court to issue an injunction preventing the government killing of al Awlaki. A judge dismissed the case, ruling the father did not have standing to sue. This was the first time in our nation's history that a father sought to sue to prevent the government from extra-legally killing his son. The judge in the case surrendered to his post-9/11 fear and wrote that it was up to the elected branches of government, not the courts, to determine whether the United States has the authority to murder its own citizens by decree.

Fear Shaped by Lies to Compel Compliance

In his speech, Attorney General Holder said things no honest man would ever believe would be said by the highest law officer in the United States.

Holder said "that a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to 'due process' and that the Constitution's Fifth Amendment protection against depriving a citizen of his or her life without due process of law does not mandate a 'judicial process.'"

Holder thus also declaimed that the victim also has no right to a defense, no right to speak on his behalf, no right to examine and refute the evidence against him and no right even to know his life will be taken under the decision of a few men in Washington. Indeed, Holder made clear that the government's decision to kill overshadowed the right to self-defense in saying "An individual's interest in making sure that the government does not target him erroneously could not be more significant. Yet it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks."

Holder said he rejected any attempt to label such operations assassinations, invoking the same airbrush of lawfulness that fueled the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials and the Holocaust. "Assassinations are unlawful killings. The U.S. government's use of lethal force in self-defense against a leader of al Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful."

Sluts All

So while the popular media remembers yesterday as the day Rush apologized for calling someone a slut and Republican candidates ignored the wave of history to carp about birth control, historians will look back on March 5, 2012 as the day America gave up on its experiment with unalienable rights, rights that are natural, not given, rights independent of governments, what our Declaration explained to an unsure forming nation as "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

And that is the saddest part of a very sad day: the majority of Americans -- the consent of the governed -- seemingly do not care what Holder said, and are even now bleating on internet forums and likely in comments below to this article about the need to kill more terrorists, adding terrified, empty justifications to Holder's clever Newspeak. We did not have our freedom taken from us, we gave it away.
© 2012 Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, We Meant Well. His new book is We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).

States Of Depression
By Paul Krugman

The economic news is looking better lately. But after previous false starts - remember "green shoots?" - it would be foolish to assume that all is well. And in any case, it's still a very slow economic recovery by historical standards.

There are several reasons for this slowness, with the most important being the overhang of household debt that is a legacy of the housing bubble. But one significant factor in our continuing economic weakness is the fact that government in America is doing exactly what both theory and history say it shouldn't: slashing spending in the face of a depressed economy.

In fact, if it weren't for this destructive fiscal austerity, our unemployment rate would almost certainly be lower now than it was at a comparable stage of the "Morning in America" recovery during the Reagan era.

Notice that I said "government in America," not "the federal government." The federal government has been pursuing what amount to contractionary policies as the last vestiges of the Obama stimulus fade out, but the big cuts have come at the state and local level. These state and local cuts have led to a sharp fall in both government employment and government spending on goods and services, exerting a powerful drag on the economy as a whole.

One way to dramatize just how severe our de facto austerity has been is to compare government employment and spending during the Obama-era economic expansion, which began in June 2009, with their tracks during the Reagan-era expansion, which began in November 1982.

Start with government employment (which is mainly at the state and local level, with about half the jobs in education). By this stage in the Reagan recovery, government employment had risen by 3.1 percent; this time around, it's down by 2.7 percent.

Next, look at government purchases of goods and services (as distinct from transfers to individuals, like unemployment benefits). Adjusted for inflation, by this stage of the Reagan recovery, such purchases had risen by 11.6 percent; this time, they're down by 2.6 percent.

And the gap persists even when you do include transfers, some of which have stayed high precisely because unemployment is still so high. Adjusted for inflation, Reagan-era spending rose 10.2 percent in the first 10 quarters of recovery, Obama-era spending only 2.6 percent.

Why did government spending rise so much under Reagan, with his small-government rhetoric, while shrinking under the president so many Republicans insist is a secret socialist? In Reagan's case, it's partly about the arms race, but mainly about state and local governments doing what they are supposed to do: educate a growing population of children, invest in infrastructure for a growing economy.

Under President Obama, however, the dire fiscal condition of state and local governments - the result of a sustained slump, which in turn was caused largely by that private debt explosion before 2008 - has led to forced spending cuts. The fiscal straits of lower-level governments could and should have been alleviated by aid from Washington, which remains able to borrow at incredibly low interest rates. But this aid was never provided on a remotely adequate scale.

This policy malpractice is doing double damage to America. On one side, it's helping lose the future - because that's what happens when you neglect education and public investment. At the same time, it's hurting us right now, by helping keep growth low and unemployment high.

We're talking big numbers here. If government employment under Mr. Obama had grown at Reagan-era rates, 1.3 million more Americans would be working as schoolteachers, firefighters, police officers, etc., than are currently employed in such jobs.

And once you take the effects of public spending on private employment into account, a rough estimate is that the unemployment rate would be 1.5 percentage points lower than it is, or below 7 percent - significantly better than the Reagan economy at this stage.

One implication of this comparison is that conservatives who love to compare Reagan's record with Mr. Obama's should think twice. Aside from the fact that recoveries from financial crises are almost always slower than ordinary recoveries, in reality Reagan was much more Keynesian than Mr. Obama, faced with an obstructionist G.O.P., has ever managed to be.

More important, however, there is now an easy answer to anyone asking how we can accelerate our economic recovery. By all means, let's talk about visionary ideas; but we can take a big step toward full employment just by using the federal government's low borrowing costs to help state and local governments rehire the schoolteachers and police officers they laid off, while restarting the road repair and improvement projects they canceled or put on hold.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The major western democracies are moving towards corporatism. Democracy has become a business plan, with a bottom line for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope. The main parliamentary parties are now devoted to the same economic policies - socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor - and the same foreign policy of servility to endless war. This is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food."
~~~ John Pilger

Reasons To Attack Iran
By Gwynne Dyer

The last time US President Barack Obama met Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, it was obvious that the two men distrusted and despised each other. This time (5 March), their mutual dislike was better hidden, but the gulf between them was still as big, especially on the issue of Iran's alleged desire for nuclear weapons.

There is something comic about two nuclear-armed countries (5,000-plus nuclear weapons for the US, around 200 for Israel) declaring that it is vital to prevent a third country from getting a few of the things too. Particularly when that third country, Iran, has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and still abides by it, while Israel has always refused to sign it. But never mind that.

What divides Obama and Netanyahu is a question of timing. Obama's "red line" is the point at which Iran "possesses" a nuclear weapon, which would not arrive for a couple of years even if Iran actually intends to make one. (American and Israeli intelligence services concur that it is not working on one now.)

Netanyahu's "red line" comes much sooner: whenever Iran has enough enriched uranium to build a bomb, whether it does so or not. It is, of course, quite legal for Iran to enrich uranium (which it says is solely for use in civilian nuclear reactors), while an unprovoked attack on Iran would be a criminal act under international law. But that didn't stop former president George W Bush from invading Iraq, and it wouldn't stop Obama now.

What worries Obama are three other things. First, the American public simply isn't up for a third "war of choice" in ten years in the Middle East. As retired general Anthony Zinni, former commander of US military forces in the Middle East, warned three years ago: "If you liked Iraq and Afghanistan, you'll love Iran."

Secondly, this is presidential election year in the United States. If Israel attacks Iran, the oil price will soar and kill the economic recovery Obama is depending on for re-election. However, if the US fails to back Israel, American Jews will turn against him and kill his re-election chances anyway.

Thirdly, the attack would not destroy Iran's uranium enrichment plants. Israel has been threatening to attack them for years, so the Iranians have buried them deep underground. Israeli and American hawks claim that an attack could delay Iran's capability to enrich large quantities of uranium for three years, but Meir Dagan, former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, thinks three months is optimistic.

Even if it were three years, Iran would be back to where it is now by 2015 - and an Iran that had been attacked by Israel and the United States would be determined to get nuclear weapons as fast as possible. As Gen Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently, Israeli attacks on Iran "would be destabilising and would not achieve their long-term objectives."

If Prime Minister Netanyahu and his fellow hawks truly believed that Iranian nuclear weapons would mean the extinction of the Jewish state, then their wish to attack Iran would be defensible, but they don't. That's just for public consumption. What's actually at stake here is not the survival of Israel, just the preservation of the huge strategic advantage Israel enjoys as the sole nuclear weapons state in the Middle East.

Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, let the cat out of the bag in a recent interview with Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman for the New York Times Magazine. "From our point of view, a nuclear state offers an entirely different kind of protection to its proxies. Imagine if we enter another military confrontation with Hezbollah, (and a) nuclear Iran announces that an attack on Hezbollah is tantamount to an attack on Iran. We would not necessarily give up on it, but it would definitely restrict our range of operations."

Big deal. Israel lost its last military confrontation with Hezbollah in 2006 even WITH a monopoly of nuclear weapons, but it suffered no lasting harm as a result. If Israel is not facing an existential threat, but just the potential loss of some strategic leverage, then launching an illegal war of aggression against Iran makes no sense at all.

But there is also a deeper motive. Netanyahu and his allies really think that an attack on Iran would bring the Islamic regime down. As Barak told Bergman: "An Iranian bomb would ensure the survival of the current regime, which otherwise would not make it to its 40th anniversary in light of the admiration that the young generation in Iran has displayed for the West. With a bomb, it would be very hard to budge the administration."

So what Barak and his fellow hawk Netanyahu are actually demanding is American support for an attack whose real aim is to bring down the Iranian regime. The thinking is delusional: the notion that the Iranian regime will collapse unless it gets the bomb is held by both Israeli and American hawks, but there is no concrete reason to believe it.

As Meir Dagan said in a lecture at Tel Aviv University recently, "The fact that someone has been elected doesn't mean that he is smart."
(c) 2012 Gwynne Dyer has worked as a freelance journalist, columnist, broadcaster and lecturer on international affairs for more than 20 years, but he was originally trained as an historian. Born in Newfoundland, he received degrees from Canadian, American and British universities. His latest book, "Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats," was published in the United States by Oneworld.

Bye Bye American Pie
The Challenge of the Productivity Revolution
By Robert Reich

Here's the good news. The economic pie is growing again. Growth in the 4th quarter last year hit 3 percent on an annualized rate. That's respectable - although still way too slow to get us back on track given how far we plunged.

Here's the bad news. The share of that growth going to American workers is at a record low.

That's largely because far fewer Americans are working. Although the nation is now producing more goods and services than it did before the slump began in 2007, we're doing it with six million fewer people.

Why? Credit technology. Computers, software applications, and the Internet are letting us produce more with fewer people.

In theory, this is a huge plus. We can live better and have more time off.

But as Tonto asked the Lone Ranger, "who's 'we,' kemosabe?"

The challenge at the heart of the productivity revolution - and it is a revolution - is how to distribute the gains. So far, we've been failing miserably to meet that challenge.

True, some of the gains are widely spread in the form of lower prices and higher value. My 3-year-old granddaughter gets more out of an i-Phone in five minutes than my 98-year-old father ever got out of reading the daily paper (putting to one side their relative capacities to process the information).

But many of the gains are distributed narrowly in the form of profits to owners, and fat compensation packages to the "talent."

The share of the gains going to everyone else in the form of wages and salaries has been shrinking. It's now the smallest since the government began keeping track in 1947.

If the trend continues, inequality will become ever more extreme.

We'll also face chronically insufficient demand for all the goods and services the productivity revolution can generate. That's because the rich save more of their earnings than everyone else, while middle and lower-income families - with fewer jobs or lower wages - no longer have the purchasing power to keep the economy going at full tilt. (Before 2008 they kept up their buying by sinking deep into debt. This proved to be an unsustainable strategy.)

Insufficient demand - as everyone but regressive supply-siders now recognize - is a big reason why the current recovery has been so anemic and the pie isn't growing faster.

So while the productivity revolution is indubitably good, the task ahead is to figure out how to distribute more of its gains to more of our people.

One possibility: higher taxes on the rich that go into wage subsidies for lower-income workers, combined with job sharing.

We also need better schools (from early-childhood through young adulthood, followed by systems of lifelong learning) so everyone has a fair shot at a larger share of the gains.

Finally, the benefits of the productivity revolution should be turned into more abundant public goods - cleaner air and water, better parks and recreation, improved public health, and better public transit.

Regressive right wingers want Americans to believe we've been living beyond our means, and can no longer afford it.

The truth is just the reverse. Most Americans' means haven't kept up with what the economy could provide - if the fruits of the productivity revolution were more widely shared.

Regressives growl about America's borrowing and tut-tut about future federal budget deficits. The reality is the world is willing to lend us vast amounts of money because we're so productive. And the productivity revolution is making us ever more so.

Get it? The pie is growing again but most people aren't getting much of a slice. That's bad even for those getting the biggest pieces. They'd do better with smaller slices of a pie that grew much faster.
(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 Minnesota Unterfuhrer Mary Franson,

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 comparing folks on food stamps to wild animals, 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 posthumous 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 Frau Franson, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Mitt Romney's 'Cut-And-Paste' Fantasy Candidacy
By John Nichols

Since Jon Huntsman exited the Republican presidential race, Mitt Romney has been collecting the lion's share of newspaper endorsements as the never-ending Republican presidential race has skipped from state to state. Though there are certainly exceptions, newspaper editorial boards generally maintain a refined taste for free-trade fantasies, privatization, running government "like a business" and the myth of "executive experience."

So Romney pretty much fits the bill.

But it is not a perfect fit, as major papers across the country have made clear. The endorsements of Romney invariably come with a caveat indicating that, like Republicans in general, the newspaper editorial boards are not really that into Mitt.

What's a candidate to do when all his endorsement recite his many failings?

For Mitt, that's no problem.

Romney's campaign just cuts out the bad parts.

As the critical Michigan primary approached, one of the state's largest newspapers, the conservative Detroit News endorsed Romney. But the paper noted: "We disagree with Romney on a point vital to Michigan - his opposition to the bailout of the domestic automobile industry. Romney advocated for a more traditional bankruptcy process, while we believe the bridge loans provided by the federal government in the fall of 2008 were absolutely essential to the survival of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. The issue isn't a differentiator in the GOP primary, since the entire field opposed the rescue effort." When the Romney campaign sent out an an email blast and related communications about the endorsement, they dropped that section.

They did the same thing with a Grand Rapids Press endorsement, editing out the section that began: "Romney's record does have flaws, however. His stance against government interaction to revive the domestic automobile industry is disappointing. Also disappointing are inconsistencies in his message..." Editors in Michigan complained -- with Detroit News editorial page editor Nolan Finley pointedly saying its "inappropriate to edit out the mild criticism."

"This was such a long cut and paste that I think it did create some confusion as to whether this was the whole editorial or not," Finley told CNN. The Romney campaign came back with all sorts of excuses: concerns about copyright laws, claims of "fair use," space concerns, you name it.

But they did not say they would stop peddling false impressions of their candidate.

And they have not.

When the Cleveland Plain Dealer endorsed Romney in Super Tuesday's critical Ohio primary, the Romney camp made a big deal about the backing it had received from the largest newspaper in a battleground state about which the Plain Dealer notes: "Beginning with Abraham Lincoln, no GOP candidate has ever been elected president without Ohio's electoral votes. In any Republican strategy to unseat President Barack Obama this November, Ohio is a must-win state."

The Romney camp rushed to circulate the endorsement. But in their email blasts to media in Ohio and nationally, Mitt's aides edited out the part that read: "Consistency is certainly a problem for Romney. The one-time moderate has adjusted his positions on so many issues - including abortion and gay rights -- that his core beliefs are a mystery."

That's one mystery created by the Romney and his campaign.

Here's another: Can a candidate whose engenders so many doubts cut-and-paste himself to credibility -- and the Republican presidential nomination?
(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been publshed by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Poverty In America -- From Riches To Rags
By Vincent Guarisco

Like a pebble dropped in a pond, everything we do affects the people in our lives, and their reactions in turn affect others. The choices we make will have far-reaching consequences. Each of us carries within us the capacity to change the world in small ways for better or worse.


I once read that, "short of genius, a rich man cannot imagine poverty." Perhaps. But these days, wealthy imaginations are not as narrow as they used to be as all walks of life (the rich included) witness the massive poverty increase in the land of plenty. Could it be that, for most Americans (the 99%), the blessed era of fruitful sustainability is coming to a close?

Numbers don't lie. The economic injustice that fuels poverty is very real. And with unemployment soaring, even those lucky enough to have jobs are either working part-time or lumbering through long hard hours for a paltry check that is rarely enough to pay the bills. This is not quality of life. This is not the way it's supposed to be in a civilized society. Along with the physical aspects, chronic depression and loneliness is an ever-present life-degrading condition during hard times, and the numbers are staggering. In fact, with economic absurdities piled upon stress, it makes a strong emotional case that fragile minds now feel like worn-out slaves profoundly living on a huge modern-day plantation. This is especially true with crushing debt burdens, high inflation, job lay-offs and ongoing austerity measures in this full-blown era of psycho-economic "globalization." It doesn't take a mental giant to figure out how the system works and for whom. For details on what to expect here in the U.S., see the tragic mess in Greece. It's not pretty.

The reality on the ground is grave. People are homeless and way too many bread baskets are empty. All walks of life are affected, including children, the elderly and the disabled. Inequities continue to widen and people are without crucial medicine, dental, vision or other basic healthcare needs. For the penniless, the sick and the disfranchised -- government policymakers are definitely not up to snuff when it comes to serving our best interest.

However, poverty has awakened the national psyche. All doubt has melted away and we now know for sure that most politicians are blowhards without virtue, offering little more than "fascism" for a corporate empire filled with swelled egos who woefully believe the rest of us are small inferior bottom-feeders ... and that big ol' them deserve more, more and more. Although our representatives try to convey the foolish idea that they are our champions, we know who is bearing the blunt of policies that slash at already threadbare safety nets.

Numbers don't lie. According to census data, 47 million Americans now live below the poverty line -- the most in half a century (since the last great depression) -- fueled by years of high unemployment, home foreclosures, the stock market crash and a diminishing manufacturing base that has jettisoned American livelihoods in every direction outside our border. There's no pretending anymore, this is the economic agenda favored by transnational corporations and the folks on Wall Street -- as businesses, services and other commerce drift away from our shores. And with no good jobs to be had, opportunity will continue be out of reach until we reverse course. Therefore, a great American triumph must be realized. We must rise above the destructive ideology of "outsourcing" ... and rebuild America's manufacturing base and put Americans back to work. And it must be done now!

And so the story goes -- the "news media" has little concern for publicizing the struggles of the little guy, regardless of the consequences that those cited above have engineered. Because, when it comes to playing us like like a fiddle under the big tent, media clowns perform on cue. Indeed, they have taken their "corporatutional" oath to do us harm in all sectors of newsworthy information, but it really hits home -- economically -- when it comes to their silence on America's manufacturing base "fire-sale" to foreign nations.

In terms of their commitment to such kindred spirits such as Mr. Rupert (wiretap) Murdock, the media's endless spy/spin cycle will not be receding anytime soon. However, once in a while a few discordant images gets through the laughable theme of a robust economic "recovery." It's usually not music to corporate ears, but nonetheless ... it does capture the effect of today's widespread social sickness that surrounds us like a thick fog. Here's a few blunt snapshots rarely caught in that disappearing lens called "mainstream" media.

Tent City ~ California

Tent City Las Vegas

For the Children:

The ongoing economic crisis has negatively affected the livelihoods of millions of Americans, but the effect it has on children and youth is especially tough to bear. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), the unemployment rate is 8.3 percent as of January 2012. Of course, we already know this number is low-balled at best. For example...

U.S. Census data reveals that from 2009 to 2010, the total number of children under age 18 living in poverty increased to 16.4 million from 15.5 million. Child poverty rose from 20.7 percent in 2009, to 22 percent in 2010, and this is the highest it has ever been since 1993. Racial and ethnic disparities in poverty rates persist among children. The poverty rate for Black children was 38.2 percent; 32.3 percent for Hispanic children; 17 percent for non-Hispanic White children; and 13 percent for Asian children. The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that 17.2 million children living in the U.S. have a foreign-born parent, and 4.2 million children of immigrant parents are poor. It is reported that child poverty in immigrant families is more closely related to low-wage work and barriers to valuable work supports. The Population Reference Bureau (2010) reports that 24 percent of the 75 million children under age 18 in the U.S. live in a single-mother family. The poverty rate for children living in female-householder families (no spouse present) was 42.2 percent in 2010; 7 in 10 children living with a single mother are poor or low-income, compared to less than a third (32 percent) of children living in other types of families. A staggering 50.9 percent of female-headed Hispanic households with children below 18 years of age live in poverty (48.8 percent for Blacks; 31.6 percent Asian, and 32.1 percent non-Hispanic White). Single-mother headed households are more prevalent among African American and Hispanic families contributing to ethnic disparities in poverty.

The number of those affected speaks for itself. Poverty is color-blind.

I have no catchy euphemisms or metaphors to describe the horrific hardship that has shattered the bond-of-trust between our nations' people and those who govern in public office. Shame on them! And although some of them do have their priorities in the right place, sadly, there is not enough of them to create the change we so desperately need. Overwhelmingly, most representatives have sold us out and we are nearly destroyed because of it. The poor souls pictured here will always be in my prayers. To some degree, I have exploited them, but for a worthy purpose in order to draw attention to their plight. Their struggle is our struggle, it's a full-blown human-rights disaster that must be addressed by all of us.

Our Forgotten Solders:

And so it would seem, nothing is sacrosanct in this degenerating environment. Even our brave soldiers returning home from battle are mystified at what has happened to their country while they were gone. Most are completely blown away to say the least! Images such as this, the military routinely sweeps under the rug, because It's not exactly a moral booster for "enlistment" purposes.

The rate of homeless veterans is a manifestation on the rise. Only eight percent of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans. Based on statistics gathered by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, there are currently over 67,000 homeless veterans in this country and this number rises higher each day. Roughly 56 percent of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the U.S. population respectively. About 1.5 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness -- extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care -- a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Although this obligation is not being met, A top priority for homeless veterans should be secure, safe and clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol. Having a father who still suffers the lasting affects of PTSD (a most honorable combat veteran who served during WWII and Korea), I can relate to the importance of providing a safe, supportive environment.

Also, In a 2009 article published in USA Today, it was reported that veterans stayed in shelters longer, on average, than non-veterans. The median length of stay for single veterans was 21 days, while non-veterans stayed for 17 days. Most homeless veterans -- 96% -- are alone rather than part of a family. Among all homeless people, 66% are without families. The 136,334 veterans who spent at least one night in a shelter during the year studied amount to one of every 168 veterans in the USA and one of every 10 veterans living in poverty.

I would add, many veterans became financially devastated while serving our country in foreign combat zones. To me, this is especially unacceptable when we consider the sacrifices they made.

There is a better way for us to move forward. Issues such as poverty, corruption, collapse, homelessness, war, starvation and the like appear to be "symptoms" born out of an outdated social structure. Our principal focus should include recognizing that the majority of social problems which plague our nation at this time are the result of institutional corruption, corporate monopolies, austerity political policy and a flaw of irresponsible management from the top down.

We need to find optimized solutions, and we must to do it now! And if that means marching in the street to get it, so be it. Our allegiance should be to each other in the grand scheme of things and we should not rely on traditional political platforms or parties to do it for us. No one should be left behind. The path forward is self-evident, we must tackle the challenges ahead and make sure all basic resources are affordable and available to everyone, not just a select few at the top of the food chain.

We Are One Humanity.

We are all connected in this tapestry called "life." Like a pebble dropped in a pond, everything we do affects the people in our lives, and their reactions in turn affect others. The choices we make will have far-reaching consequences. Each of us carries within us the capacity to change the world in small ways for better or worse. I say let us be the heroes we always hoped we could be. Let's heal humanity!
(c) 2012 Vincent L. Guarisco is a freelance writer from Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and a lifetime founding member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans. The 21st century, once so full of shining promise, now threatens to force countless millions of us at home and abroad into a dark abyss of languishing poverty and silent servitude; a lowly prodigy of painful struggle and suffering that could stream for generations to come. I'm wishing for a miracle, before it is too late, the masses will figure it out and will stand as one and roar. So, pass the word - its past time to take back what is ours -- the American Dream where the pursuit of happiness, the ability to live in a free and peaceful nation is a reality. We bought it, and we paid for it. It's time to take it back. For replies, contact:

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jeff Koterba ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Ladies Of Landover Discover Depraved Cult In Utah!

Sister Taffy Crockett and Mrs. Judy O'Christian, co-presidents of the Ladies of Landover, were finally able to speak to reporters last Tuesday afternoon after spending a devastating weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah, a town in one of those states far west of the Mississippi River and very near Satanic California. "I spent the entire day Monday alternately praying and bathing," noted Sister Taffy. "I had Laquitia, my maid, scrub my entire body until I knew there wasn't a speck of dust from the mountains of that God-forsaken land anywhere on my person." Mrs. O'Christian was equally distraught after her harrowing experience. "I had to triple my heart medication and crank up the oxygen machine," she recanted. "It was utterly terrifying."

The ladies were referring to their attendance at the wedding of several friends of Sister Taffy. "When I attended college at Oral Roberts, I spent the days studying and praying with three lovely devout Christian girls who I haven't seen since," she observed. "You can imagine my surprise when I received a wedding invitation - for all three. It appeared they were planning a triple wedding. Remembering how close we all were, I thought that was incredibly romantic. Then I remembered that none of them had any assets and were probably holding the joint affair just to save money. Being the charitable Christian that I am, I couldn't say 'no,' even though this would undoubtedly not be a high class affair. With Daniel out of town on business, and in desperate need of a companion (since a true lady never travels alone), I pleaded with dear Judy to join me. Now, I feel so guilty for asking her."

A charter jet whisked the ladies from Freehold to the Salt Lake City airport where a limousine transported them to a giant courtyard nestled between the towers of a collection of buildings called: "Temple of the Chosen Few." "Even though the architecture was unusual, with a name like that, I assumed this was a Baptist church," noted Mrs. O'Christian. "Little did I know." Bride-to-be, Ezra Cook, Taffy's best friend in college, greeted the ladies at the entrance and introduced them to a gentleman named Malachi Shemidiah. Ms. Cook indicated this would not be your run-of-the-mill affair, and she wanted Mr. Shemidiah to serve as an escort and explain the ceremony to the ladies so they would not be concerned.

Within a few minutes, Sister Taffy became suspicious. The entire congregation seemed to be pressed from the same cookie cutter. All the men wore seersucker black suits with black bow ties and iron-pressed poly-blend shirts. Each man had tag on thier lapel with his favorite bible prophet's name, and the word "Elder" underneath. "It was at that point," Sister Taffy recalls, "I began to think we had stepped into a Presbyterian Church." The ladies were all clad in hideously plain white dresses that covered their ankles. And everyone had a glazed look in his eyes and goofy smile on his face. This prompted Sister Taffy to ask: "What kind of church is this, anyway?" "We're Morons," replied Shemidiah.

Needless to say, the ladies were floored. "Morons?" asked Mrs. O'Christian. "Is this a mental institution?" "No! you misunderstood me" Shemidiah snapped, "I said we are Mormons." Sister Taffy caught her breath. "Mormons!" she exclaimed. "I thought all of you were killed in Waco. This is outrageous! I came here under the assumption that this was going to be a Christian wedding." Mr. Shemidiah assured the ladies the Mormons were a Christian people. "Just watch and listen. I think you'll find we're no different than you."

Now on the edge of her seat, Sister Taffy carefully scanned the entire congregation for several minutes. Over 200 people were gathered for the ceremony. Yet even though all of their clothes were clearly straight off the rack, Sister Taffy soon felt strangely safe, secure and at ease with this group. Then it dawned on her. "Why, there's not a colored person in the bunch!" she exclaimed. "Of course not," replied Shemidiah. "We would never allow a Negro to defile such a special occasion. Those kind are not welcome at special events. Haven't you ever seen the crowd at a Utah Jazz basketball game?" Intrigued, Sister Taffy continued, "You mean, you exclude them from your church? How can you do that? We don't want them around, either, but we have been hard-pressed to find any Bible verse that actually puts them in their place. How does your church manage to convince its members that Negroes don't belong around normal people?" Seeing the ladies more at ease, Shemidiah relaxed. "Actually, while coloreds have historically been excluded from the Mormon church, the 'political correctness' movement got the better of us in 1978 and the church unfortunately voted to allow them to desecrate our faith. But our greatest leaders have emphasized time and again that they are inferior beings who really shouldn't stand alongside civilized men."

At the ladies' request, Mr. Shemidiah quoted from church doctrine in a notepad he carried for occasions such as this. "John Smith is the founder of our church and a holy prophet. And he wrote: 'Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species.' Our second prophet and former president, Brigham Young, whom the famed university is named after, stated: 'You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable, sad, low in their habits, wild, and seemingly without the blessings of intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.' Despite these pronouncements, though, official church policy eventually caved in to the demonic liberals. Joseph Fielding Smith, our 10th prophet and former president, was forced to say: 'I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Negro. 'Darkies' are wonderful people, and they have their place in our church.'"

The ladies began to feel more comfortable. Then came the bombshell. Once the music began, and the three brides-to-be began their march up the aisle, Sister Taffy noted that only one man was waiting to meet them. "What's going on?" she asked. Shemidiah answered with a grin: "He's about to become their husband -- husband to all three." This was too much for the ladies to bear. "I simply cannot believe your church allows such depravity!" exclaimed Mrs. O'Christian. Shemidiah replied, "Actually, official church policy no longer does. We had to change our official policy because America would not allow Utah to become a state unless we allowed only one wife per man. But most of us find this ungodly, and believe a man can marry several women. After all, women's role is to serve men. While this particular marriage may not be officially sanctioned by the church, it is holy in the eyes of God."

Even though the ladies had heard quite enough, Sister Taffy decided to engage Shemidiah in religious debate. "Polygamy is clearly wrong. Any Christian knows that," she remarked. Shemidiah responded: "How do you know Christ's wives didn't number more than one." Sister Taffy was now incensed: "That's blasphemy! The Son of God was a virgin. Just like His mother. He was conceived by the divine intervention of God in Heaven." "We don't believe any of that," remarked Shemidiah. "First of all, which "son" are you talking about? God had two sons: Jesus and Satan. Mary was not a virgin. She and God had sexual intercourse and produced Jesus. Jesus was then the bridegroom at the marriage of Galilee. He had several children. And God, the Father, has several goddess wives, as do the other gods who form the counsel over which the Father presides. You really shouldn't frown on marriage, even if it involves a second wife. After all, only through marriage do we, mortals, become gods ourselves."

The ladies were now in a state of shock. Mrs. O'Christian had collapsed into a puddle of sweat on the ground, fanning herself with a replica of golden plates, made out of paper mache, that she had found on a neighboring table. Sister Taffy helped her up, and the ladies marched straight up the aisle toward the altar, with Sister Taffy pulling her bullhorn from her purse as she went. When she reached the front, Sister Taffy slapped her friend Jane across the face and announced to the congregation through her bullhorn: "This so-called church is nothing more than a cult. You might as well all drink a glass of 'special' kool-aid and let the rest of us be done with you. You people are depraved and disgusting! Why, every time that man and one of his wives engages in acts of procreation, they will be committing adultery against the other wives. This is the most immoral event I have ever attended. And I'll bet every one of you women wears tampons, some probably as we speak!"

Then came the chaos. The Mormons, still with plastic smiles on their faces, got up from their chairs and began approaching the ladies. "They were coming at us like zombies in a Halloween movie," noted Mrs. O'Christian. "I could feel Lucifer all around us. Those demons' outstretched hands were clasped around little Mormon pamphlets which they seemed to be offering to us. Needless to say, we didn't touch that devilish book." With rows of people blocking the space leading out of the courtyard, the ladies sought to exit the wedding through the temple. They were shocked to find men guarding each entrance to the buildings. Shemidiah explained: "No one is allowed in a Mormon temple except a Mormon in good standing with the church." One of the guards then asked the ladies, "Do you know the secret sign? The secret handshake? The secret password?" Sister Taffy responded in the negative. "Then you may not enter," he concluded. "Each of these signs is critical to enter the kingdom of Heaven and is therefore required to enter our temple. Heathens like yourselves are not allowed in here or there."

Sister Taffy feared she had suddenly been transported to the Twilight Zone. But she was not about to wait any longer to find out. Remembering something she'd read about the Mormon cult, she pulled a barely touched 20 ounce bottle of soda from her purse and approached the boys at one entrance to the temple. "Open that door at once, or I'll shake this bottle of Mountain Dew and spray it all over your bodies. And bear in mind that Mountain Dew has more caffeine in it than any other cola." The terrified young men immediately opened the door and the ladies ran through the temple, barely escaping with their souls in tact.

"This truly must have been a horrifying experience for these lovely ladies of Christ," noted Pastor Deacon Fred. "But I've warned all of you what awaits if you travel that far west. You might as well just ask for a pass to Hell. Henceforth, as a result of this incident, any Landover member found to be purchasing a plane ticket for any location west of Wyoming will be suspended from church with all privileges revoked."
(c) 2012 The Landover Baptist Church

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