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In This Edition

Glen Ford with a must read, "Why Barack Obama Is The More Effective Evil."

Uri Avnery fears, "The Ghetto Within."

Matt Taibbi declares, "Bank of America Is a 'Raging Hurricane of Theft and Fraud.'"

Amy Goodman shares, "Forget Fear Of Flying, Fear Airport Screening."

Jim Hightower demands we, "Save America From Both The Kochs And Cato."

Phil Rockstroh returns with, "On The Nature Of Self-Defeating Convictions."

James Donahue discovers, "We Have Even Polluted Space."

Daniel Ellsberg and David Krieger say, "For Nuclear Security Beyond Seoul, Eradicate Land-Based 'Doomsday' Missiles."

David Swanson considers, "The Shifting Strategies Of Empire."

Paul Craig Roberts explains, "How The New American Empire Really Works."

Paul Krugman warns of, "Lobbyists, Guns And Money."

Robert Kuttner examines, "Single-Payer And The Supreme Court."

Robert Reich explores, "Healthcare Jujitsu."

Montana, Federal Judge Richard Cebull wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols concludes, "Supreme Court Wrangling Aside, We Still Need 'Medicare for All.'"

Anthony Gucciardi reports, "Judge To FDA: Remove Superbug-Breeding Antibiotics From Animal Feed."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz considers that the, "Potential Matchup Between Black Man And Mormon Poses Dilemma For Bigots" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "I See Said The Blind Man..."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mike Luckovich, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Micah Wright, R.J. Matson, Joe Heller, Stephen Pitt, Mark Hurwitt, Bud Korotzer, Black Agenda Report.Com, Motivated Photos.Com, Frank Cowan, Rainforest Action Network, NASA, 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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"I See," Said The Blind Man...
By Ernest Stewart

"I want to live perfectly above the law, and make it my servant, instead of my master." ~~~ Brigham Young

"Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."
The Boxer ~~~ Simon and Garfunkel

"The ethical issues are not that he had a transplant, but who didn't?"
~~~ Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist at Scripps Health in La Jolla, Calif ~~~

"I don't think you ever stop giving. I really don't. I think it's an on-going process. And it's not just about being able to write a check. It's being able to touch somebody's life." ~~~ Oprah Winfrey

"I see," said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw! Well, for those of you who wondered why George Zimmerman wasn't arrested immediately after he murdered Trayvon Martin, as the lead investigator from the Sandford Police department wanted, it seems there's an easy explanation. Even though George had three prior "closed arrests" (hint - hint) for violence, i.e., 7/18/05 for resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer div 10... 8/9/05 for domestic violence div 44... and again on 8/10/05, for domestic violence. Yes, Georgie is a violent person who battered a policeman; that, in itself, would've been enough to arrest you or me on the spot, regardless of the circumstances, but not Georgie.

Nor was the fact that as the 911 tape showed, Georgie doesn't like black people, "they always get away with it" and that "fucking coon!" Sounds like a hate crime to me, does it not to you too? Not to mention the fact he was told to quit following Trayvon and wait for the real police to arrive. You might think the fact he disobeyed the police, kept following, then got out of his car and confronted Trayvon, murdering him in cold blood, would've brought immediate 1st degree murder charges -- perhaps against anyone else. Even as more and more facts come out confirming this, Georgie remains free.

So let's see, who is it that is above American law? Who, like Bush did, can commit mass murder, destroy the constitution, commit treason, completely destroy the economy and instead of going to jail get trillions of dollars, in "well fare" payments? Now who does that sound like? If you guessed the 1%, you win a cookie and can stay after class and clean the erasures!

So how is Georgie a member of the 1%? Did I mention his mother is a court clerk? Or that his father is a retired Florida Supreme Court Justice? Any questions?

In Other News

I take a lot of flack from would-be liberals and such because I don't support Barry and never have. Sorry, guys; unlike you I'm an actual leftist (a radical), and proud of it! I pegged Barry for what he is (a corporate goon) long before he ran for President. Ergo, I must be at the very least a closet racist! Sorry, folks; I'm not. As you may recall, we supported my old friend Cynthia McKinney for President and Rosa Clemente for Vice President. Of course, I had been supporting Cynthia in her various Congressional races since 2002 when I first became aware of her, and wrote to her offering our support; and you'll also remember, when she was being blackballed by Israel, we were the only outlet for her thoughts for several years. I'm not a racist; but I am a hater. For example, I hate assholes no matter their color, their race, their religion or no religion, none of that matters; for example, I hate Barry for being Bush junior and a corpo-rat stooge extraordinaire! Nor do I believe Barry caves or it's his evil white side that causes all the mayhem. Barry does exactly what he wants to do in every instance!

I also attack people who attack Barry for being black. There are plenty of reasons to hate Barry, but his race isn't one of them. With the exception of the professional left, who hate Barry for the right reasons, most hate him for being black. A good example of this is a federal judge from Montana, Judge Richard Cebull! The Judge used his "official" email to send the following "joke" to some of his "good old boys" friends.

Judge Cebull said the joke, which plays on the fact that President Obama's mother was white and his father was African, was never meant to become public. Yeah, no sh*t! The email reads:


Normally I don't send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching.

I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this.

Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.

A little boy said to his mother; 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white?'

His mother replied, 'Don't even go there, Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don't bark!'

Yes my-o-my, isn't that funny? Racism and bestiality combined together. Trouble is, this joke is very mild compared to some that I've read; but they were never from a sitting Federal Judge! But that's the far right for you. When investigative reporters found out about the Judge's faux pas, Richard wrote an apology to Barry, saying:

"I sincerely and profusely apologize to you and your family for the email I forwarded. I accept full responsibility; I have no one to blame but myself."

Cebull said he requested that the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit review the situation, adding:

"Honestly, I don't know what else I can do."

Well, you could resign, which is the first thing that came to my mind! Had this been a liberal judge joking about Bush, can you imagine what the corpo-rat news would have said? It would have been their number one story with around-the-clock coverage until the judge resigned; so far there hasn't been a mention of this on Fox, CNN or any other MSM source! Funny thing that, eh? Oh, did I mention, he was placed on the bench by our beloved Smirky the Wonder Chimp? It figures, huh?

And Finally

You have, no doubt, heard by now that the Dark Lord Cheney was finally given a heart, something most people believe that he never had; but actually they only removed his heart a couple of years ago. Since then he's just been a zombie with no heartbeat, which used to make you dead, and, of course, still will, if you're not one of the 1%. It was bad enough that old "Deadeye" Dick at 71 shouldn't have been able to qualify with thousands of young, deserving people in line for one. Of course, those were just plain folks and not a member of the elite.

This was bad enough, in itself; but then the hospital that has been keeping "Old Deadeye" alive for years trotted out Dr. Allen Taylor, cardiology chief at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, who denied that Cheney was skipped to the front of the line over all others. Dr. Al said Sunday that the heart transplant wait list is "a very regimented and fair process, and heavily policed." To which I reply, "Bullshit!" Other MedStar doctors said, " is unlikely that former Vice President Dick Cheney got special treatment" when he was given a new heart that thousands of younger people also were in line to receive. Yes, of course I wrote the hospital a letter as Dr. Al's phone number and email addy were nowhere to be found, imagine that!

"I see where you skipped over thousands of young, deserving people to give a heart to the Dark Lord and then Dr. Taylor tries a little song and dance about how fair it was, BULLSHIT! There needs to be an investigation, followed by trials and imprisonments, not to mention Dr. Al losing his license. I wonder who will die in Cheney's place, don't you? Naw, you don't care, as you'd do anything for a buck, wouldn't ya?

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

If you have some questions about this outrage direct them to...

MedStar Health Research Institute
6525 Belcrest Road, Suite 700
Hyattsville, Maryland 20782
Phone: 301-560-7300
Fax: 301-560-7373

As always, I'll print any response that I get!

Keepin' On

There's really nothing new about what's going on all around us; it's all been done to mankind, many times before. Empires rise, empires fall as America is doing, as hundreds have done as well for the last eight thousand years of recorded history, and no doubt for many thousands of years before that. And when it hits the fan, many will have their lives destroyed, and as many will have their lives taken away for the benefit of some worthless one percenter. While you and I know this, billions don't, as they believe what the Matrix has told them to believe; these are the folks I'm after -- to wake them up before it's too late, and give them the same chance that you've been given!

In order to do that, we make bills that must be paid on time to continue. This week one of "the usual suspects" stepped up again and sent in a nice donation. Ernie from Ontario has been a lifesaver on several occasions in the last few years as he was again this week! Thank you, my brother!

For the rest of you, especially you newbies, how about helping Ernie from Ontario in helping us out, so we can help you out by keeping you up-to-date on the important things that you need to know. Not to mention the peripheries like The Archives where you can find hundreds of articles on how to do things, like cheaply making electricity, clean water, etc. in Post-Apocalyptic America. Are you ready for those Hunger Games for real? That's right; it never ends! The Happy Camp section is a must-read for you and your family. The Historical Document section has all the most important American documents to understand what your rights are. All of which will disappear, along with the magazine, if we can't pay our bills. Please help with what you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep this up for everybody's sake!


09-30-1927 ~ 03-21-2012
Thanks for the film!

11-02-1919 ~ 03-27-2012
Thanks for the film!

01-06-1924 ~ 03-28-2012
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.

Why Barack Obama Is The More Effective Evil
By Glen Ford

Glen Ford at the Left Forum

BAR executive editor Glen Ford made the following presentation at the Left Forum, Pace University, New York City, March 17. On the panel were Gloria Mattera, Margaret Kimberley (BAR), Suren Moodliar, John Nichols, and Victor Wallis. The discussion was titled, The 2012 Elections: Lesser Evil or Left Alternative?

"He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks - just as he hired himself out to do."

Power to the people!

Let me say from the very beginning that we at Black Agenda Report do not think that Barack Obama is the Lesser Evil. He is the more Effective Evil.

He has been more effective in Evil-Doing than Bush in terms of protecting the citadels of corporate power, and advancing the imperial agenda. He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks - just as he hired himself out to do.

That was always Wall Street's expectation of Obama, and his promise to them. That's why they gave him far more money in 2008 than they gave John McCain. They were buying Obama futures on the electoral political market - and they made out like bandits.

They invested in Obama to protect them from harm, as a hedge against the risk of systemic disaster caused by their own predations. And, it was a good bet, a good deal. It paid out in the tens of trillions of dollars.

If you believe that what Wall Street does is Evil, then Obama's service to Wall Street is Evil, and there is nothing lesser about it.

They had vetted Obama, thoroughly, before he even set foot in the U.S. Senate in 2004.

He protected their interests, there, helping shield corporations from class action suits, and voting against caps on credit card Interest. He was their guy back then - and some of us were saying so, back then.

He was the bankers' guy in the Democratic presidential primary race. Among the last three standing in 2008, it was Obama who opposed any moratorium on home foreclosures. John Edwards supported a mandatory moratorium and Hillary Clinton said she wanted a voluntary halt to foreclosures. But Barack Obama opposed any moratorium. Let it run its course, said candidate Obama. And, true to his word, he has let the foreclosures run their catastrophic course.

Only a few months later, when the crunch came and Finance Capital was in meltdown, who rescued Wall Street? Not George Bush. Bush tried, but he was spent, discredited, ineffective. Not John McCain. He was in a coma, coming unglued, totally ineffective.

Bush's bailout failed on a Monday. By Friday, Obama had convinced enough Democrats in opposition to roll over - and the bailout passed, setting the stage for a new dispensation between the American State and Wall Street, in which a permanent pipeline of tens of trillions of dollars would flow directly into Wall Street accounts, via the Federal Reserve.

And Obama had not even been elected yet.

"True to his word, he has let the foreclosures run their catastrophic course."

Obama put Social Security and Medicaid and all Entitlements on the table, in mid-January. The Republicans had suffered resounding defeat. Nobody was pressuring Obama from the Right.

When the Right was on its ass, Obama stood up and spoke in their stead. There was no Evil Devil forcing him to put Entitlements on the chopping block. It was HIM. He was the Evil One - and it was not a Lesser Evil. It was a very Effective Evil, because the current Age of Austerity began on that day, in January, 2009.

And Obama had not even been sworn in as president, yet.

Who is the Effective Evil? I haven't even gotten into his actual term as president, much less his expansion of the theaters of war, his unique assaults on International Law, and his massacre of Due Process of Law in the United States. But I want to pause right here, because piling up facts on Obama's Most Effective Evils doesn't seem to do any good if the prevailing conversation isn't really about facts - but about intentions.

The prevailing assumption on the Left is that Obama has good intentions. He intends to the Right Thing - or, at least, he intends to do better than the Republicans intend to do. It's all supposed to be about intentions. Let's be clear: There is absolutely no factual basis to believe he intends to do anything other than the same thing he has already done, whether Democrats control Congress or not, which is to serve Wall Street's most fundamental interests.

But, the whole idea of debating Obama's intentions is ridiculous. It's psycho-babble, not analysis. No real Left would engage in it.

I have no doubt that New Gingrich and Republicans in general have worse intentions for the future of my people - of Black people - than Michelle Obama's husband does. But, that doesn't matter. Black people are not going to roll over for whatever nightmarish Apocalypse the sick mind of Newt Gingrich would like to bring about. But, they have already rolled over for Obama's economic Apocalypse in Black America. There was been very little resistance. Which is just another way of saying that Obama has successfully blunted any retribution by organized African America against the corporate powers that have devastated and destabilized Black America in ways that have little precedence in modern times.

"When the Right was on its ass, Obama stood up and spoke in their stead."

Obama has protected these Wall Streeters from what should be the most righteous wrath of Black folks. To take a riff from Shakespeare's Othello, "Obama has done Wall Street a great service, and they know it." He has proven to be fantastically effective at serving the Supremely Evil. Don't you dare call him the Lesser.

He is the More Effective Evil because Black Folks - historically, the most progressive cohort in the United States - and Liberals, and even lots of folks that call themselves Marxists, let him get away murder! Yet, people still insist on calling him a Lesser Evil, while he drives a stake through Due Process of Law.

I have not spoken much about the second half of Obama's first term in office. That is the period when the Left generally becomes disgusted with what they call his excessive "compromises" and "cave-ins" to Republicans. But that is a profoundly wrong reading of reality. Obama was simply continuing down his own Road to Austerity - the one he, himself, had initiated before even taking office. The only person caving in and compromising to the Republicans, was the Obama that many of YOU made up in your heads.

The real Obama was the initiator of this Austerity nightmare - a nightmare scripted on Wall Street, which provided the core of Obama's policy team from the very beginning. That's why Obama's so-called Financial Reform was so diligent in making sure that Derivatives were virtually untouched.

The real Obama retained Bush's Secretary of War, because he was determined to re-package the imperial enterprise and expand the scope and theaters of war.

He would dress up the war machine head-to-foot in a Chador of Humanitarianism, and march deep and deeper into Africa.

He would make merciless and totally unprovoked war against Libya - and then tell Congress there had been no war at all, and it was none of their business, anyway.

And he got away with it.

Now, that is the Most Effective Evil war mongering imaginable. Don't you dare call him a Lesser Evil. Obama is Awesomely Evil.

"The real Obama was the initiator of this Austerity nightmare."

Obama has advanced the corporatization of the public schools beyond Bush's wildest dreams, methodically constructing a national, parallel system of charter schools that, in practice, undermine and subvert the traditional public schools. In some places, they have replaced, or soon will replace, the public schools. The hedge funds and billionaires are ecstatic! The teachers unions then endorse their undertaker, foolishly believing he is the Lesser Evil.

So, what does the Left do in this election? The Left should do what it is supposed to do here in the Belly of the Beast at all times: disarm the Beast. This is their singular duty - not to advise the Beast, but to disarm it. At this time on the world historical clock, that means ripping the farcical "humanitarian" veil from the face of U.S. wars - and that face is Obama's face.

No genuine anti-war activist can endorse the war-maker, Obama. If you want to resist actual imperial wars, you must fight Obama. Period. Anything else is to endorse or acquiesce in his wars.

You can attend the United National Anti-War Coalition conference in Stamford, Connecticut, next weekend, where you can meet with an array of organizations to begin a calendar of activities that will stretch past Election Day. You can join with UNAC in working to stop Obama from doing a repeat of Libya in Syria and Iran. If you can't bring yourself to do that, then I have no advice for you, because the alternative is acquiescence to Obama's cynical duplicities.

If the Green Party or any other party firmly opposes Obama's humanitarian, Orwellian farce, then support them. If they don't, then don't lift a finger for them.

If you are going to fight for anything, you've got to fight for the right to fight. That means fighting for the rule of law. So, if you don't plan to go underground or into exile anytime soon, you must fight the president who claims the right to imprison or kill any person, of any nationality, any place on Earth, for reasons known only to him. The man who excelled George Bush by shepherding preventive detention through Congress - Barack Obama, the More Effective Evil.

Fight him this election year. Fight him every year that he's here.

Power to the People!
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The Ghetto Within
By Uri Avnery

RACIST HATE crimes are particularly ugly.

If the victims are children, they are even more so.

If they are committed by an Arab against Jewish children, they are also incredibly stupid.

This was demonstrated this week again.

IF INDEED an Arab al-Qaeda sympathizer is guilty of shooting three Jewish children and an adult in Toulouse, after killing three non-white French soldiers nearby, he caused not only extreme grief to their families, but also extreme harm to the Palestinian people, whose cause he claims to support.

The world-wide shock found its expression in a demonstration of solidarity with the French Jewish community, and indirectly with the State of Israel.

The French foreign minister flew to Jerusalem, where the Jewish victims were buried. President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the middle of the fight for his political life, appeared everywhere where an ounce of political capital could be extracted from the tragedy. So, even more shamelessly, did Binyamin Netanyahu.

Just when calls for boycotting Israel were heard in many places, this act reminded the world of the ravages of anti-Semitism. One had to be very brave to demand the boycott of the "Jewish State" at such a time. It is easy for advocates of Israel to recall the Nazi battle-cry "Kauft nicht bei Juden!" ("Don't buy from Jews").

Lately, Netanyahu has been mentioning the Holocaust in every speech he makes in which he calls for an attack on Iran. He prophesies a Second Holocaust if Iran's nuclear installations are not bombed to smithereens. This has been criticized inside Israel as cynical exploitation of the Holocaust, but in the atmosphere created by the Toulouse outrage this criticism has been muted.

SOME MAY think that these responses are overreactions. After all, the outrage was committed by a single 24-year old deranged individual. The victims were not only Jews, but also Muslims. Has this act not been blown out of proportion?

Those who say so do not understand the background of the Jewish reaction.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an observant Jew, said years ago that the Jewish religion had practically died 200 years ago, and that the only thing that unites all Jews now is the Holocaust. There is much truth in this, but the Holocaust must be understood in this context as the culmination of centuries of persecution.

Almost every Jewish child around the world is brought up on the narrative of Jewish victimhood. "In every generation, they stand up to annihilate us," says the sacred text that will be read in every Jewish home around the world in two weeks on Passover eve, "They", as is well understood, are the "goyim", all goyim.

Jews, according to our generally accepted narrative, have been persecuted everywhere, all the time, with few exceptions. Jews had to be ready to be attacked in every place at any moment. It is a continuous story of massacres, mass expulsions, the butchery of the Crusaders, the Spanish inquisition, the Russian and Ukrainian pogroms. The Holocaust was only one link in that chain, and probably not the last one.

In Jewish historiography, the story of victimhood doesn't even start with European Christian Jew-hatred, but goes back to the (mythical) story of Israelite slavery in Egypt, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians and again by the Romans. A few weeks ago the jolly feast of Purim was celebrated, in memory of the Biblical (and mythical) story of the plan to annihilate all Jews in Persia, today's Iran, which was foiled by a pretty and unscrupulous young woman named Esther. (In the end, it was the Jews who killed all their enemies, women and children included.)

The narrative of unending victimhood is so deeply embedded in the conscious and unconscious mind of every Jew, that the smallest incident triggers an orgy of self-pity that may seem quite out of proportion. Every Jew knows that we have to stand together against an antagonistic world, that the attack on one Jew is an attack against all, that a pogrom in far-away Kishinev must arouse the Jews of England, that an attack on Jews in Toulouse must arouse the Jews in Israel.

What the assassin of Toulouse has succeeded in doing by his disgusting act is to bind French - and world - Jewry even tighter to the State of Israel. Already these ties have become very close in the last few years. A large proportion of French Jews are immigrants from North Africa who chose to go to France instead of Israel, and are therefore fiercer Israeli nationalists then most Israelis. They invest money and buy houses in Israel. In the month of August, one hears more French than Hebrew on Tel Aviv's sea shore. Now many of them may decide to come to Israel for good.

Like every anti-Semitic act, this one in Toulouse contributes to the strength of Israel, and especially to the strength of the Israeli anti-Arab right.

I BELIEVE that the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayad, was quite sincere when he condemned the outrage, and especially the declaration attributed to the assassin, that he wanted to avenge the death of children in Gaza. No one should utter the name of Palestine when carrying out such a dastardly act, he said.

I was reminded of my late friend, Issam Sartawi, the Palestinian "terrorist" who became an outstanding peace activist and was murdered for it. He once told me that a French anti-Semitic leader came to his office in Paris and offered an alliance. "I threw him out," he told me, "I know that the anti-Semites are the greatest enemies of the Palestinian people"

As has been pointed out many times, modern Zionism is the step-daughter of modern European anti-Semitism. Indeed, the name "Zionism" was invented only a few years after the term "anti-Semitism" was coined by a German ideologue.

Without anti-Semitism, which engulfed Europe from the "Black Hundreds" in Czarist Russia to the Dreyfus affair in republican France, Jews would have yearned for Zion comfortably for another 2000 years. It was anti-Semitism, with the threat of dreadful things to come, that drove them out and lent credibility to the idea that Jews must have a state of their own, where they would be masters of their own fate.

The original Zionists did not intend to build a state that would be a kind of General Staff for World Jewry. Indeed, they thought that there would be no World Jewry. In their vision, all the Jews would congregate in Palestine, and the Jewish Diaspora would disappear. That's what Theodor Herzl wrote, and that's what David Ben-Gurion and Vladimir Jabotinsky believed.

If they had had their way, there would have been no anti-Semitic murders in Toulouse, because there would have been no Jews in Toulouse.

Ben Gurion was narrowly restrained from telling American Jewish Zionists what he thought of them. He held them in utter contempt. A Zionist, he believed, had no business to be anywhere but in Zion. If he had listened to Binyamin Netanyahu sucking up to the thousands of Jewish "leaders" in the AIPAC conference, he would have thrown up. And understandably, because these Jews, who were clapping and jumping up and down like mad, egging Netanyahu on to start a disastrous war against Iran, then went back to their comfortable homes and lucrative occupations in America.

Their English-speaking children attend colleges and dream about future riches while their contemporaries in Israel go to the army and worry about what would happen to their defenseless families if the promised war with Iran really comes about. How not to vomit?

BY THE way, the symbiosis between American politicians and the Zionist lobby produced another weird curiosity this week. The US Congress unanimously adopted a law that makes it easy for Israelis to immigrate to the US for good. All we have to do now is to buy a small business in America - say a little delicatessen shop in a corner of Brooklyn, for half the price of an apartment in Jerusalem - to automatically become American residents, and eventually citizens.

Can one imagine a more anti-Zionist act than this plot to empty Israel? All out of love for Israel and Jewish votes?

The Israeli media applauded, of course, this astounding new evidence of American friendship for Israel.

So here we have a murderous anti-Semite in Toulouse driving the Jews towards Israel, and a cravenly Zionist US Congress enticing the Israelis back into "exile".

WHEN ISRAEL was founded, we thought that that was the end of Jewish victimhood, and especially of the mentality of Jewish victimhood.

Here we were, Hebrews of a new kind, able to defend ourselves, with all the strength of a sovereign state.

Cry-baby victimhood belonged to the despised and detested Diaspora, to the dispersed and defenseless Jewish communities.

But victimhood has come back with a vengeance, both as an all-purpose political ploy and as a mental attitude. The Iranian nukes, real or imagined, give it a big boost. As long as Israel is in a state of fear, the Second Holocaust mentality will not loosen its grip.

From day to day, Israel becomes more Jewish and less Israeli. As has been said, it is easier to get the Jews out of the ghetto than to get the ghetto out of the Jews. Especially in a permanent war.

So in the end we come to the same conclusion as in all other matters: Peace is the Answer.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Bank of America Is a 'Raging Hurricane of Theft and Fraud'
By Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi talks about Bank of America at an Occupy Wall Street day of action, February 29th, 2012. He wrote this article for OWS, and passed it out to the crowd.

There are two things every American needs to know about Bank of America.

The first is that it's corrupt. This bank has systematically defrauded almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, homeowners, shareholders, depositors, and the state. It is a giant, raging hurricane of theft and fraud, spinning its way through America and leaving a massive trail of wiped-out retirees and foreclosed-upon families in its wake.

The second is that all of us, as taxpayers, are keeping that hurricane raging. Bank of America is not just a private company that systematically steals from American citizens: it's a de facto ward of the state that depends heavily upon public support to stay in business. In fact, without the continued generosity of us taxpayers, and the extraordinary indulgence of our regulators and elected officials, this company long ago would have been swallowed up by scandal, mismanagement, prosecution and litigation, and gone out of business. It would have been liquidated and its component parts sold off, perhaps into a series of smaller regional businesses that would have more respect for the law, and be more responsive to their customers.

But Bank of America hasn't gone out of business, for the simple reason that our government has decided to make it the poster child for the "Too Big To Fail" concept. Because it is considered a "systemically important institution" whose collapse would have a major, Lehman-Brothers-style impact on the economy, two consecutive presidential administrations have taken extraordinary measures to keep Bank of America in business, despite a staggering recent legacy of corruption schemes, many of which were simply overlooked by regulators.

This is why the question of whether or not Bank of America should remain on public life support is so critical to all Americans, and not just those millions who have the misfortune to be customers of the bank, or own shares in the firm, or hold mortgages serviced by the company. This gigantic financial institution is the ultimate symbol of a new kind of corruption at the highest levels of American society: a tendency to marry the near-limitless power of the federal government with increasingly concentrated, increasingly unaccountable private financial interests.

The inevitable result of that new form of corruption is this bank, whose continued, state-supported existence should naturally outrage all Americans, be they conservative or progressive.

Conservatives should be outraged by Bank of America because it is perhaps the biggest welfare dependent in American history, with the $45 billion in bailout money and the $118 billion in state guarantees it's received since 2008 representing just the crest of a veritable mountain of federal bailout support, most of it doled out by the Obama administration.

For instance, with its own credit rating hovering just above junk status, Bank of America has been allowed to borrow tens of billions of dollars against the government's credit rating using little-known bailout programs with names like the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program. Since the crash of 2008, it's also borrowed billions if not trillions in emergency, near-zero interest rate loans from the Federal Reserve - it took out $91 million in rolling low-interest financing from the Fed on just one day in January, 2009.

Conservatives believe that a commitment to free market principles and limited government will lead us out of our economic troubles, but Bank of America represents the opposite dynamic: a company that is kept protected from the judgments of the free market, and forces the state to expand to take on its debts.

Last summer, for instance, the Bank - in order to satisfy creditors who were nervous about the enormous quantity of risky assets on its balance sheet - decided to move some $73 trillion (that's trillion, with a T) in exotic derivative bets from one end of the company into the federally-insured, depository side of the bank.

This move, encouraged by the Obama administration, put the American taxpayer on the hook for an entire generation of irresponsible gambles made by another failed investment firm that should have gone out of business, but was instead acquired by Bank of America with $25 billion in taxpayer help - Merrill Lynch.

When did we make it the job of the taxpayer to buy failed companies, and rescue companies from their own bad decisions? How is that conservative?

Meanwhile, if you're a progressive, Bank of America is the ultimate symbol of modern predatory capitalism. This company has knowingly sold hundreds of billions of worthless securities to unions and pension funds (New York state filed two different lawsuits against Bank of America and its subsidiaries on behalf of its pension fund, one of which was settled for $624 million) brazenly overcharged its depositors (it was forced to pay customers $410 million in restitution for bogus overdraft charges), and repeatedly lied to its shareholders (most notoriously, it lied about billions in losses on Merrill Lynch's books before asking shareholders to approve its merger with the firm).

Moreover, Bank of America has ruthlessly preyed upon millions of homeowners, throwing them out on the street on the strength of doctored, "robosigned" paperwork created through brazenly illegal practices they helped pioneer - the firm sped struggling families to foreclosure court using perjured affidavits produced in factory-like fashion by the hundreds or thousands every day, with full knowledge of management. Through the firm's improper use of an unaccountable private electronic mortgage registry system called MERS, it also systematically evaded millions of dollars in local fees, forcing some communities to cut services and raise property taxes.

Even when caught and punished for its crimes by the authorities, Bank of America has repeatedly ignored court orders. It was one of five companies identified in two separate investigations earlier this year that were caught continuing the practice of robosigning, even after promising to stop in a legally binding consent decree. Last summer, the state of Nevada sought to terminate a settlement over mortgage abuses it had entered into with Bank of America after it found the company was brazenly violating the agreement, among other things raising payments and interest rates on mortgage customers, despite the fact that the settlement only allowed them to modify loans downward.

Over and over again, we see that leveling fines and punishments at this bank is not enough: it simply ignores them. It is the very definition of an unaccountable corporate villain.

Companies like Bank of America are a direct threat to national security, for many reasons. For one thing, they drive smaller, more honest banks out of business: since the market knows the federal government will never let Bank of America fail, it charges less to lend the bank money. That gives Bank of America, despite its near-junk credit rating, a competitive advantage over a smaller, regional bank that might have a better credit rating, but doesn't have the implicit support of the federal government.

Worse still, stock market investor dollars that normally would go to more customer-friendly, more creative, and more commercially dependable firms will instead continue to flow to Too-Big-To-Fail behemoths like Bank of America, as buying stock in a company with implicit state support will be considered almost a safe-haven investment, like buying gold or Treasury bills.

This robs more deserving and ingenious entrepreneurs of scarce capital, and also encourages existing companies to pour resources not into better performance and increased productivity, but into lobbying and government influence. The result will be fewer Googles and Apples, more bad banks, and more campaign contributions for politicians.

Moreover, we've seen throughout our history that when criminal organizations are not punished, they tend to be encouraged to commit more crimes. Five years from now, our government's decision to avoid jailing Bank of America executives for their roles in the vast robosigning program may result in a situation where no court document of any kind can be trusted, as companies will realize that it is cheaper and easier to simply invent legal affidavits than to draw them up properly and accurately.

What will your defense be against a future lawsuit for a credit card debt or a foreclosure, when your bank walks into court with a pile of invented documents? Will you wish then that you'd fought harder for Bank of America to be punished now?

And the state's decision to allow Bank of America to pay a middling, $137 million fine for the rigging of bids for five years of municipal bond issues - a very serious crime that robbed taxpayers of millions in revenue, and incidentally is exactly the sort of thing we used to put mobsters in jail for, when the rigged contracts were for cement instead of bonds - may mean that down the road, all municipal bond issues will be rigged.

In recent years, Too-Big-To-Fail banks like Bank of America and Chase and Wells Fargo have been caught rigging the bids for financial services in dozens of municipalities nationwide. Worse, these same banks have repeatedly been let off the hook by regulators, who rarely seek jail sentences for the offenders, and more often simply apply fractional fines to the companies caught. This behavior, if left unchecked, will ultimately mean that we will all have to pay more for our roads, our traffic lights, our sewers, in fact all public services, as the banker's secret bonus will soon become an institutionalized part of the invoice. And it'll be our fault, because we didn't do anything about it now.

The only way to prevent this kind of slide to total lawlessness is to break this unhealthy relationship between bank and government. It would be a great sign of America's return to healthier capitalism if we could allow one of the worst of public-private monsters, Bank of America, to sink or swim on its own, in the free market.

We don't want Bank of America to fail. Our position is, it already is insolvent, and already has failed - and only our tax dollars, and our government's continued protection, is keeping that failure from becoming more common knowledge. There are many opinions about the nature of modern American capitalism. Some think the system is no longer able to meet the needs of ordinary people and needs to be radically overhauled, while others like it just the way it is.

But one thing that everyone on this spectrum of beliefs can agree upon is that our system doesn't work when corrupt companies, companies that should fail in the free market, are kept alive by the government. When we allow that, what we get is a system that is neither capitalism nor socialist, but somewhere more miserably in between - a bureaucratic state in which profit is not tied to performance, but political power.

We have to break that cycle, and we can. Even with the enormous levels of state support, Bank of America has been teetering on the edge of collapse for years now. In December of 2011, its share price briefly dipped below $5, a near-fatal event in the firm's history. The market has reacted violently to bad news about the bank on multiple occasions in the last year - after news of layoffs, after hints that the government might not bail the bank out completely in the event of a collapse, and after significant new lawsuits were filed. Each of these corrections nearly sent the company into a tailspin, but it was always rescued in the end by the widespread belief that Uncle Sam would bail it out in the event of a collapse.

We need to put a dent in that belief. We need to convince politicians and investors alike to allow failure to fail.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

Forget Fear Of Flying, Fear Airport Screening
By Amy Goodman

There was terror in the skies this week over Texas, caused not by a terrorist but by a pilot—a Flight Standards captain, no less. JetBlue Airways Capt. Clay Osbon, flying Flight 191 from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Las Vegas, began moving up and down the aisle after the jet was airborne, ranting, according to several passengers, about Iraq, Israel, al-Qaida and bombs, calling on passengers to recite the Lord's Prayer, saying that they were "all going down." An off-duty pilot in the cabin went to the cockpit to help the co-pilot with the emergency landing, while passengers and crew subdued Osbon. Osbon, who'd been with JetBlue almost since its founding, was taken to the hospital, suspended with pay, then criminally charged with interfering with a flight crew.

That's enough to inspire a fear of flying in anyone. But just getting to your airplane these days may present a greater risk to your health than the actual flight.

New airport security screening technology, primarily backscatter X-ray devices, have come under increased scrutiny, as their effectiveness is questioned amid concerns that the radiation exposure may cause cancer. Adding to health concerns are both the graphic nature of the images captured, essentially nude photos of every person passing through the machine, and the aggressive—and for some, humiliating—nature of the alternative to the scans, the "enhanced pat-down" by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins introduced a bill that would require independent laboratory testing of the X-ray backscatter machines, exactly what a group of University of California, San Francisco scientists called on the Obama administration to do in April 2010. Responding to the TSA claim (provided by the manufacturer, Rapiscan) that the radiation dose is less than "the dose one receives from eating one banana," professor John Sedat and others wrote: "While the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high. ... There is good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations [including pregnant women]." When this risk is multiplied over 700 million annual travelers, Michael Love, Ph.D., the manager of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine X-ray facility, told Discover magazine, "someone is going to get skin cancer." The European Union has banned the machines.

While flying the past few weekends, I refused to go through the scanners, which is every passenger's right, although the option is almost never indicated anywhere (the Collins bill also requires clear signage). I was made to wait while TSA employees were clearly available to conduct what is euphemistically called an "enhanced pat-down." The agent's aggressive questioning of my decision to "opt out" was matched only by her aggressive pat-down when I would not give in. Arriving back in New York, a friend who had just flown in from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport recounted how the TSA agent had her hands down the front of my friend's pants and said, "Feels like you've lost some weight"!

Who gains? The two manufacturers of the full-body scanners have powerful friends. As reported in The Hill and The Washington Post, L-3 Communications, maker of the millimeter wave scanner, hired lobbyist Linda Daschle, wife of former Sen. Tom Daschle. Rapiscan, the maker of the X-ray backscatter machine, reportedly paid $1 million to the Chertoff Group, run by former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff, while Chertoff appeared in the media touting the value of the machines. Each machine costs the taxpayer about $150,000, but that is only the purchase; installation, then staffing, costs much more.

TSA agents themselves may face the greatest risks. A recent TSA inspector general's report acknowledged that "wing shields be installed to further reduce radiation exposure levels for backscatter operators." It also noted that TSA employees reported insufficient time for training on the machines. Michael Grabell, a reporter with ProPublica who has written extensively on full-body scanners, told me: "Radiation technicians have told some of the TSA screeners that ‘If I were on these machines, I'd be wearing a radiation badge.' But the TSA has refused to let them."

All these concerns have led the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center to sue the TSA and DHS, seeking a halt to the use of the scanners, at least until independent testing of the risks is performed, and the results made public.

Until we know that these full-body scanners are safe, I'm opting out.
(c) 2012 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

Save America From Both The Kochs And Cato

It's always entertaining to see a couple of billionaire plutocrats like the Koch boys get an embarrassing case of political hiccups.

Such is their fate as a result of trying to grab total control of the Cato Institute, a right-wing think tank that brother Charles set up in 1974. Both Charles and David already sit on this outfit's five-member governing committee, but now they're suing it, demanding a third seat. Amazingly, this power grab has turned Cato into a subject of media sympathy - a little "David" think-tank whose political purity is endangered by the rapacious Koch-headed Goliath. There's even a "Save Cato" website.

Before shedding tears and sending donations, however, let's refresh our memory on what they want to save. As a recent piece in the "Counter Punch" newsletter succinctly pointed out, Cato is a corporate-funded front that fabricates faux intellectual rationales for turning America into a government-free, plutocratic utopia run by the corporate elite.

"In a free society," wrote one Catonian, "there should be no minimum wage law." Another opined that "Collective bargaining violates workers' civil liberties." Also, in the brave new world of Cato-Think there would be no national efforts to assure adequate nutrition for poverty-stricken children, because such problems "are properly local and private functions."

And let's not forget that Cato is the ideological home of the "Privatize Social Security" crusade. Thirty years ago, the Cato Journal called for a longterm PR campaign to discredit our successful public pension program and to "construct a coalition" againsts social security among

"the banks, insurance companies, and other institutions" that would profit from privatizing it.

Saving Cato from the Koch brothers is one thing, but it's more important to save America from Cato.
(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.

On The Nature Of Self-Defeating Convictions
A missive to an estranged southern friend
By Phil Rockstroh

Although I have resided in New York City for many years, I was born in the Deep South. On a daily basis, I negotiate Manhattan's gridded streets and avenues, yet, in many ways, the terrain of my heart still winds like an Indian trail through a pine forest. I visit the south on a regular basis; the stain of red clay will never be scoured from my soul.

To this day, I retain close ties to a number of southern friends and contacts who did not ventured far from home. As the years trundled on, I've witnessed the quality of life and emotional wellbeing of these friends, hailing from both laboring and middle class origins, experience a steep, accelerating decline.

I've gazed upon the tormented faces of men I know, now deep in middle age, who are facing the prospect of never again holding a steady job that affords them a sense of dignity. As a consequence, all too many of these men -- men who I thought I knew well -- have been rendered sullen, spiteful, and, much to my heart's duress, an unreachable shell of their former self.

As their economic prospects diminished, their denial and displaced rage grew malignant. In the case of a couple of my friends, their resistance to reality became so vast, toxic, and all-encompassing that any attempt at dialog proved prohibitive.

Emblematic of this situation is my strained to the limit friendship with Vince (not his real name) who, due to the carnage inflicted on the U.S. laboring class by so-called free market "values", has been chronically under or unemployed since the Wall Street bankster-perpetrated crash of late 2008. Yet Vince remains stubborn in his refusal to connect his dismal plight with the reality-resistant political notions he clutches. To this day, he describes himself as a "conservative libertarian -- a proud believer in the values of the free market"...This conviction, coming from a member of the laboring class, is analogous to a slave proclaiming he is a believer in the auction block and the verities of his master's whip.

Worse, as the day to day humiliations exacted by the corporate state continue to inflict deeper, more emotionally debilitating wounds, the more Vince reacts like a wounded animal...lashing out at all but those who bestow him with the palliative of rightwing demagogic lies that distort the source of his suffering by means of directing his rage at a host of scapegoats i.e., phantom socialists (and, of course, their OWS dirty hippie dupes) whose, schemes, he insists, have denied him his rightful place among the serried ranks of capitalism's legion of winners.

My apologies to Vince and all of his likeminded brethren of my native region: Although we rose from the same southern soil, I've never had a knack for telling reassuring lies...for conjuring the sort of displaced emotional resentments and engaging in the brand of bigot-whispering that is the stock and trade of contemporary red state conservatives. Conversely, I have shown some promise in encouraging people to embrace the reality of their circumstances, and passing on the hopeful news that they are stronger than they know...Withal, the act of carrying the burden of denial in a marathon flight from feelings of angst and despair is the force that exhausts one's energy and demoralizes one's spirit.

This is why such a large number of those whose lives have been degraded by the deprivations of the present economic order will not focus their anger at Wall Street grifters: If capitalism, by the very nature of the system, allows a swindlers' class to not only legally exist -- but to thrive -- then it follows that there must be something flawed about the nature of capitalism itself.

Accordingly, a depressing revelation waits at the margins of Vince's (and other downtrodden true believers in the existence of free market fairy dust) sense of awareness: that the energies of one's life have been devoted to the maintenance of an elaborate lie; not only have your labors been for naught -- but your sacrosanct convictions have laid the groundwork for the crime that was committed against you. You have spent your life as an accessory to your own robbery.

Your faith in capitalism has left you in a similar position to the followers of a fanatical cult who were instructed to stand upon an isolated hilltop, so that, at midnight, as prophesied by their charismatic leader, their ranks will be lifted to heaven upon chariots of glinting gold...but who now stand stoop-shouldered before the breaking dawn, shivering into the cold light of day.

Rather than admit error, one's pride can compel one to blame phantom enemies for humiliating circumstances. Thus, as Vince's prospects shrank, his gun collection grew to mini-armory proportions. Perhaps, he believes the weapon's heft in his hands will stem the inexorable drift of his life into purposelessness; perhaps, his firearms will bestow a sense of security, in a life buffeted by uncertainty; perhaps, if he squints down the site of his rifle long enough, he can target the phantoms that made off with his hopes.

Vince, old buddy, the solution is a great deal more accessible than that. To mitigate feelings of hopelessness attendant to isolation, the simple act of starting a conversation is helpful...The doable act of leaving the house and attending an OWS function can serve to transform gut-gnawing rumination into fruitful dialog...thus, Vince, you will become enjoined in an ongoing conversation -- a collaboration between your soul and the soul of life. In this way, we can become part and parcel of the story of our times, part of a living tale, unfolding in the eternal present that will affect the future in ways unseen.

Still, I've learned, on an individual basis, I remain powerless against red state belligerent ignorance of the collective variety. My experiences as a southerner inform me the process of change will be difficult, because only cultural earthquakes alter the course of streams of surging stupid.

Sure, start a dialog with even the most obtuse teabagger sort...attempt to convince him that the views he clutches are self-defeating...try to disabuse him of his calcified bigotry -- but don't be optimistic about the outcome of your efforts. Trouble is: Depressingly large numbers of people have invested a great amount of time, energy and identity in the maintenance of their reality-defiant attitudes...There is just too much fragile self-esteem, bulwarked by brittle pride, at stake.

While self-doubt is the worthy adversary of the wise, belligerent ignorance is the dubious ally of those who fear and resist self-awareness. Often, a journey towards self-knowledge and an attendant awakening to the nature of one's condition can be unnerving and painful. The process is fraught with free-floating anxiety and weighted with saturnine regret. If I've made numerous life-determining choices based on my acceptance of proffered falsehoods, then I have lost many years constructing my life accordingly. The grief can be overwhelming. What alms does one chant into the grieving dawn on the morning after one's illusions have died?

This is why so many choose to spend their hours commuting through life in the company of the corpse of capitalism. Accordingly, the nation resembles the Bates Motel...its spree-killer government reflected in the acts of its murder-prone citizenry e.g., Staff Sgt. Robert Bales and guarded gate, vigilante flake George Zimmerman.

When a system of governance loses its purpose for existence (when the system becomes a mindless self-perpetuating monster) its sustaining lies will be internalized and acted on by those governed. Militarized police units lower truncheons upon the heads of peaceful demonstrators, as individuals, unhinged by displaced grievances, mirror official policy in tragic acts of rage engendered by hopelessness.

We live in a culture that worships the god of violent death; of course, its sermons will be played out beyond the confines of its official temples, in the form of hideous bacchanals of spilled blood. The chickens come home to roost, and they are heavily armed and in the thrall of a violent psychotic episode.

Vince simply cannot wrap his corporate/police state colonized mind around the fact that, as is the case with any nation containing the vast amount of wealth inequity extant in the U.S., the elite will utilize the services of the police to achieve less than noble ends...that police repression and violence will be exercised at a level equal to the lack of legitimacy of the governing class.

As we have witnessed in the case of the OWS movement and its encounters with police authorities, when members of the citizenry challenge the corrupt arrangement, dissenters will be met by brutal methods intended to crush those perceived as a threat to the existing order.

To Vince and any others still holding the quaint notion that the governing class of the U.S. possesses legitimacy, the actions of the NYPD testify to the contrary; their ongoing, brutal suppression of those attempting to exercise their right to dissent should disabuse you of that noxiously innocent fantasy. When justice has been banished from the precincts of power, it must be reclaimed in the commons...Hence, occupy defiance...Make yourself at home on the premises, because, if you are outraged by oppression and you long for a more just world, you will be spending a good deal of your time in this location.

Vince, one day, upon your arrival, I hope to meet you there.
(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Orbiting space junk

We Have Even Polluted Space
By James Donahue

Future adventures in space will be hazardous thanks to human inability to keep even the outer edges of our atmosphere in order, a report by the National Research Council and published in the Internet journal Space has revealed.

The report, published in September, 2011, warned "there is so much junk in space that collisions could start to increase exponentially, leading to a continuously growing pile of rubble in orbit."

An earlier story by Leonard David explained that after more than 50 years of shooting rockets, space ships, monkeys and men off into orbit, the Moon exploration of the planets and then to build a couple of space stations, we've left so much junk out there that future missions are at great risk of collision.

"Earth orbit is muddled with human-made hazards from numerous nations in the form of on-duty satellites, deserted spacecraft, leftover fragments of exploded rocket upper stages, even chunks of solid rocket motor propellant down to tiny flecks of paint shedding from space hardware," David wrote.

"Toss in fast-moving separation bolts, lens caps, momentum flywheels, nuclear reactor cores, clamp bands, auxiliary motors, launch vehicle fairings and adapter shrouds. At one point, there was even a toothbrush reportedly zipping through the global space commons," the story said.

NASA reports that there are now more than 22,000 known objects larger than four inches in diameter that are tracked by U.S. ground surveillance equipment. An estimated 3000 of them are operating satellites. The rest is discarded flotsam.

"In addition to this there are millions of tiny bits of material, including droplets of radioactive coolant that eked out of poorly plumbed Soviet nuclear-powered spacecraft," David said.

All of this stuff is traveling at such high speed that a collision with a manned space flight could cause significant damage if not total destruction. The problem is so severe that the International Space Station carries special escape capsules for the live-in astronauts in the event of a strike by a roaming chunk of space debris. The five-man crew was directed to take refuge in the capsules on March 23 when a discarded piece of a Russian rocket came too close.

The Space Station also has firing rockets making it possible for the crew to move it out of harm's way if a possible collision is detected in time. In this case there wasn't enough time to move the station. The Space Station has moved six times to miss large tracked objects since it has been in orbit, the space shuttle changed course more than eight times to avoid collision and operators of a German satellite were forced to fire onboard thrusters to miss oncoming debris.

We have had close calls with shuttle missions, one of them returned with a cracked windshield from hitting something, and even the Hubble Space Telescope has been damaged.

Not only that, but some very large pieces of space debris are falling back to Earth, putting people and property at risk. A 550-pound main propellant tank of the second stage of a Delta 2 rocket fell near Georgetown, Texas in 1997. A 156-pound piece of space debris fell near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2001.

A Russian communication satellite that misfired earlier this year went into the wrong orbit and crashed back to earth, landing somewhere in the Northern Pacific.

Last fall a NASA Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite that operated from 1991 to 1995 crashed to Earth. Nobody knew just where it landed but some believe it also crashed in the Pacific Ocean somewhere off the Canadian coast.

Many remember when Russia's Mir space station was allowed to crash in a remote part of the ocean in 2001.

Some reports state that an estimated 6,000 objects have fallen out of the sky, sometimes landing close to buildings and human activity.

Most of this junk is found in a region of space below 1,240 miles from the surface of Earth that is called Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Every ship fired into space must pass through this debris field and risk a chance of collision. And the way things are being done, most ships fired through that debris field leave calling cards of their own to further contaminate the area.

The David story said NASA and space exploratory leaders from other nations are now talking about cooperating in a program of traffic control in an effort to avoid what many predict to be a major disaster looming in the future. To date, nobody is believed to have been killed or hurt from space collisions although one French communication satellite was damaged.

The situation is somewhat like the debris now polluting the world's oceans. We seem to lack the technology or the will to try to clean up the mess we have made in space.

And with America, Russia and China now engaged in a new space race for the Moon and beyond to Mars, the prospects for further contamination of the skies over our head are very high.

Lubos Perek, a noted space debris analyst at the Astronomical Institute at the Academy of Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic, estimates about 6,000 tons of debris out there now.

His ominous warning: "Large debris would break up into small pieces in course of time, thus increasing the population of dangerous fragments. It is a question if all that mass can be left in orbit without jeopardizing future space activities."
(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

Protester Daniel Ellsberg, above, is led away by Air Force security forces
early Saturday after being arrested inside the Vandenberg Air Force Base
main gate for protesting the launch of a Minuteman 3 missile at the base.

For Nuclear Security Beyond Seoul, Eradicate Land-Based 'Doomsday' Missiles
America's 450 launch-ready land-based nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are the opposite of a deterrent to attack. In fact, their very deployment has the potential to launch World War III and precipitate human extinction - as a result of a false alarm. We’re not exaggerating.
By Daniel Ellsberg and David Krieger

President Obama and other world leaders gathered at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, this week to address threats posed by unsecured nuclear material. If Mr. Obama is truly concerned about nuclear safety, he should seriously consider doing away with the 450 inter-continental ballistic missiles deployed and ready to fire at Russia on a moment's notice.

Last month we were among 15 protesters who were arrested in the middle of the night at Vandenberg Air Force Base, some 70 miles north of Santa Barbara, Calif. We were protesting the imminent test flight of a Minuteman III inter-continental ballistic missile.

The Air Force rationale for doing these tests is to ensure the reliability of the US nuclear deterrent force; but launch-ready land-based nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are the opposite of a deterrent to attack. In fact, their very deployment has the potential to launch World War III and precipitate human extinction - as a result of a false alarm.

We’re not exaggerating. Here’s why: These nuclear missiles are first-strike weapons - most of them would not survive a nuclear attack. In the event of a warning of a Russian nuclear attack, there would be an incentive to launch all 450 of these Minuteman missiles before the incoming enemy warheads could destroy them in their silos.

If the warning turned out to be false (there have been many false warnings), and the US missiles were launched before the error was detected, World War III would be underway. The Russians have the same incentive to launch their land-based missiles upon warning of a perceived attack.

Both US and Russian land-based missiles remain constantly on high-alert status, ready to be launched within minutes. Because of the 30-minute flight times of these missiles, the presidents of both the US and Russia would have only approximately 12 minutes to decide whether to launch their missiles when presented by their military leaders with information indicating an imminent attack (after lower-level threat assessment conferences).

That’s only 12 minutes or less for the president to decide whether to launch global nuclear war. While this scenario is unlikely, it is definitely possible: Presidents have repeatedly rehearsed it, and it cannot be ruled out due to the graveness of its potential consequences.

Russia came close to launching its missiles based on a warning that came Jan. 25, 1995. President Yeltsin was awakened in the middle of the night and told a US missile was headed toward Moscow. Fortunately, Yeltsin was sober and took longer than the time allocated for his decision on whether to launch Russian nuclear-armed missiles in response.

In the extended time, it became clear that the missile was a weather sounding rocket from Norway and not a US missile headed toward Moscow. Disaster was only narrowly averted.

Here is the really compelling part of the story: If all 450 US land-based Minuteman III missiles with thermonuclear warheads were ever launched at Russia - with many of the targets in or near cities, as now planned - most Americans would die as a result, along with most of humanity. Our own weapons would contribute as much or more to these deaths in America and the rest of the globe as any Russian warheads launched.

This is because smoke from the enormous nuclear firestorms created by even a "successful" US nuclear first-strike would cause catastrophic disruption of global climate and massive destruction of the Earth’s protective ozone layer, leading to global famine.

Recent peer-reviewed studies, done by atmospheric scientists Alan Robock (Rutgers), Brian Toon (University of Colorado-Boulder), Richard Turco (UCLA) and colleagues, predict that such an attack would create immense firestorms that would quickly surround the planet with a dense stratospheric smoke layer.

The black smoke would be heated by the sun, lofted like a hot air balloon, and would remain in the stratosphere for at least 10 years. There it would block and prevent a large fraction of sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface. The sharp reduction of warming sunlight would rapidly produce global Ice Age weather conditions. This would eliminate or dramatically reduce growing seasons for a decade and would likely cause the starvation of most or all humans.

Along with other effects - including prolonged destruction of the ozone layer - most complex life on Earth could be destroyed. Scientists say the process would be similar to when an asteroid hit the Earth some 65 million years ago, raising a global dust cloud that reduced sunlight, lowering temperatures and killing vegetation. That caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and 70 percent of the Earth’s species.

The cause of extinction in our case would not be an external, celestial event, but rather the launching of thermonuclear weapons we had created by our own cleverness, supposedly for our own security.

The Minuteman III missile tests from Vandenberg Air Force Base are thus really tests of an American Nuclear Doomsday Machine.

Nuclear weapons do not make the US or the world more secure. In particular, the Minuteman III missiles - land-based, vulnerable, on high alert, and susceptible to being triggered by a false alarm - make us less secure. Anyone who cares about humankind having a future should protest these tests and call for the elimination of all nuclear-armed inter-continental ballistic missiles as an initial step toward the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

If the US did away now with its nuclear-armed land-based missile force, it would still have 288 invulnerable submarine-launched ballistic missiles (armed with approximately 1,152 warheads) to act as a retaliatory threat to nuclear attack. But it would no longer have tempting targets for the Russians to strike preemptively in a time of tension or in the event of a false warning of attack.

It would still be imperative to reduce US (and Russian) total warheads to levels that do not threaten the possibility of causing human extinction.

And even the smaller existing nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan threaten global disaster. Professor Robock and his colleagues have estimated that in a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan in which each side used 50 Hiroshima-size bombs (each side now has more than that number), the smoke rising into the stratosphere could cause a global reduction of sunlight and destruction of ozone leading to crop failures and global famine.

By comparison, the launch-ready thermonuclear forces of the US and Russia contain roughly 500 times the explosive power of the 100 atomic bombs of India and Pakistan.

Now is the time for the people and nations of the world to stand up against the potential extinction of the human species and demand that political leaders pursue the path to zero nuclear weapons, a path mandated by the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Court of Justice. Until then, protest and civil resistance will be necessary.

We should seek two principal goals: first, a commitment by the existing nuclear weapon states to forego launch-on-warning and first use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances; and second, good faith negotiations for a new treaty for the phased, verifiable, irreversible, and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.

It is our hope that by committing nonviolent civil resistance, being arrested, going to federal court, and explaining our actions to the public, we will help to awaken and engage the American people on this issue of utmost importance to our common future.
(c) 2012 Daniel Ellsberg was put on trial in 1973 for leaking the Pentagon Papers, but the case was dismissed after four months because of government misconduct. He is the author of "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers."
(c) 2012 David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, an organization that has worked since 1982 to educate and advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The Shifting Strategies Of Empire
By David Swanson

Remarks at the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) Conference:

President Obama this week declared the war on Iraq to be an honorable success that has given us a brighter future. Are you fired up? Ready to go?

Eric Holder this month explained that it's legal for a president to kill anyone anywhere, or to imprison them, or to spy on them. I started to get upset about this, but then I remembered that Holder is a Democrat. That made me feel much better.

Leon Panetta told Congress this month that a president can launch a war without Congress and without the United Nations and without any legal restrictions, that a NATO decision to go to war makes a war legal, that a decision by an ad hoc coalition to go to war makes a war legal, and that in fact there's no way for a war launched by a U.S. president not to be legal. At first this sounded like a dangerous doctrine, until I remembered that the president is not a Republican, and no Republican is going to be president for at least several months. So, there's nothing to worry about.

Hillary Clinton this week said that we couldn't end the war on Afghanistan without first protecting women's rights. Already we've set up a government that endorses wife-beating. Perhaps when it mandates invasive ultrasounds we'll be able to leave with honor.

In the past three years, largely in the absence of a peace movement, we've seen military spending rise. We've seen drone wars burst onto the scene in a major way. We've seen murder become the new torture. We've seen wars launched without even bothering to lie to Congress, and in fact with the intentional avoidance of any Congressional authorization. We've seen Special Forces active in over 100 countries. We've seen a massive escalation of the war on Afghanistan. We've seen bases imposed on more countries. We've seen an intense effort to surround China, and the people of Okinawa be damned, the people of Jeju Island be damned. We're sending the Marines into Australia. We're ruining Vicenza, Italy. We're weaponizing space.

And we're being told that the wars must continue so that our troops, dying more from suicide than anything else, will not have been killing themselves in vain. We're told that more wars are needed as generous humanitarian philanthropy. We must bomb more nations because we care. We must have good wars instead of bad wars. We must send a brutal cop to lead the oppression of the nonviolent people of Bahrain, but send weapons to help the people of Syria because we love them -- or -- as John McCain recently put it, overthrowing the Syrian government would be a blow to Iran, which also needs to be overthrown.

I don't know about you, but I've had enough. I've had enough of calling the war department the defense department. I've had enough of war criminals going on book tour instead of trial. I've had enough of asking the wars to follow the rules of wars, like asking rapists to wear condoms. I've had enough of calling by the name "service" anything a member of the so-called service does other than resistance and conscientious objection. I've had enough of being told I should be outraged by urination on corpses. I'm outraged by the murder that produces the corpses. I've had enough of being told the environmental crisis is separate from the single biggest destroyer of our natural environment which must be patriotically supported. I've had enough of efforts to protect civil liberties, jobs, education, healthcare, retirement, the rule of law, and basic human decency without taking on the monstrosity that means death to all of the above, namely the military industrial complex. It's a trillion-dollar banker bailout every year that we never get back.

Belief in humanitarian war keeps the dollars flowing into the beast that produces all the actual wars, the non-humanitarian wars, the murderous wars. We don't distinguish between good and bad rape, just and unjust slavery. When our great-great grandparents outgrew dueling as a means of settling individual disputes, they didn't ban aggressive dueling and keep defensive dueling around. When a movement to abolish war grew up at the turn of the last century, and then World War I convinced virtually everybody that the time to abolish war had come, a lawyer in Chicago named Samuel Oliver Levinson (Yale class of 1888) got his friends together and created an international movement for Outlawry, a movement to outlaw war. By 1928, the wealthy armed nations of the world, and some of the poorer nations too, had signed a treaty banning all war. Recognition of gains made through war ceased. Some wars were prevented. World War II was followed by trials for the brand new crime of war. And the rich nations have not made war on each other since. They just make war on poor countries.

And they lose. And they destroy themselves in the process. And the nobility and courage and sacrifice and solidarity that used to be found, or at least sought, in war, is now found in nonviolent activism, in the Arab Spring, in Wisconsin, in Occupy. In Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., this past fall, the police gave us a deadline to leave. We threw a dance party instead. And the police came back with a new offer. We could stay and they'd give us a permit for the next four months. In those moments it is possible to see people come to believe they have the power to end war. We're back in DC starting March 30th. This May we need to be in Chicago when NATO is there. Our grandparents in the 1920s rejected the League of Nations and other alliances as the sort of entanglement that had led to World War I. NATO is just such an entanglement, a solution to war that facilitates war. We need to go to Chicago in the name of S.O. Levinson, the Chicago activist who decided that war could not be ended with the threat of war, that war could only be ended by ending war. In 1927 a Republican Secretary of State was cursing peace activists. In 1928 he was doing exactly what they told him to do, organizing the nations of the world, including Persia, to formally renounce war. That happened because a small group of people made a moral case against mass murder and persuaded the rest of the country that war was good for absolutely nothing.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

How The New American Empire Really Works
By Paul Craig Roberts

Great empires, such as the Roman and British, were extractive. The empires succeeded, because the value of the resources and wealth extracted from conquered lands exceeded the value of conquest and governance. The reason Rome did not extend its empire east into Germany was not the military prowess of Germanic tribes but Rome's calculation that the cost of conquest exceeded the value of extractable resources.

The Roman empire failed, because Romans exhausted manpower and resources in civil wars fighting amongst themselves for power. The British empire failed, because the British exhausted themselves fighting Germany in two world wars.

In his book, The Rule of Empires (2010), Timothy H. Parsons replaces the myth of the civilizing empire with the truth of the extractive empire. He describes the successes of the Romans, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Spanish in Peru, Napoleon in Italy, and the British in India and Kenya in extracting resources.

Parsons does not examine the American empire, but in his introduction to the book he wonders whether America's empire is really an empire as the Americans don't seem to get any extractive benefits from it. After eight years of war and attempted occupation of Iraq, all Washington has for its efforts is several trillion dollars of additional debt and no Iraqi oil. After ten years of trillion dollar struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Washington has nothing to show for it except possibly some part of the drug trade that can be used to fund covert CIA operations.

America's wars are very expensive. Bush and Obama have doubled the national debt, and the American people have no benefits from it. No riches, no bread and circuses flow to Americans from Washington's wars. So what is it all about?

The answer is that Washington's empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America. The military-security complex, Wall Street, agri-business and the Israel Lobby use the government to extract resources from Americans to serve their profits and power. The US Constitution has been extracted in the interests of the Security State, and Americans' incomes have been redirected to the pockets of the 1 percent. That is how the American Empire functions.

The New Empire is different. It happens without achieving conquest. The American military did not conquer Iraq and has been forced out politically by the government that Washington established. There is no victory in Afghanistan, and after a decade the American military does not control the country.

In the New Empire success at war no longer matters. The extraction takes place by being at war. Huge sums of American taxpayers' money have flowed into the American armaments industries and huge amounts of power into Homeland Security. The American empire works by stripping Americans of wealth and liberty.

This is why the wars cannot end, or if one does end another starts. Remember when Obama came into office and was asked what the US mission was in Afghanistan? He replied that he did not know what the mission was and that the mission needed to be defined.

Obama never defined the mission. He renewed the Afghan war without telling us its purpose. Obama cannot tell Americans that the purpose of the war is to build the power and profit of the military/security complex at the expense of American citizens.

This truth doesn't mean that the objects of American military aggression have escaped without cost. Large numbers of Muslims have been bombed and murdered and their economies and infrastructure ruined, but not in order to extract resources from them.

It is ironic that under the New Empire the citizens of the empire are extracted of their wealth and liberty in order to extract lives from the targeted foreign populations. Just like the bombed and murdered Muslims, the American people are victims of the American empire.
(c) 2012 Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and professor of economics in six universities. He is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House. He can be reached at:

Lobbyists, Guns And Money
By Paul Krugman

Florida's now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy - and it is. And it's tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.

Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida's law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC's activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin's killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society - and our democracy.

What is ALEC? Despite claims that it's nonpartisan, it's very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn't just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization - that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC's claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn't so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.

And in case you were wondering, no, the kind of privatization ALEC promotes isn't in the public interest; instead of success stories, what we're getting is a series of scandals. Private charter schools, for example, appear to deliver a lot of profits but little in the way of educational achievement.

But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in)justice fit into this picture? In part it's the same old story - the long-standing exploitation of public fears, especially those associated with racial tension, to promote a pro-corporate, pro-wealthy agenda. It's neither an accident nor a surprise that the National Rifle Association and ALEC have been close allies all along.

And ALEC, even more than other movement-conservative organizations, is clearly playing a long game. Its legislative templates aren't just about generating immediate benefits to the organization's corporate sponsors; they're about creating a political climate that will favor even more corporation-friendly legislation in the future.

Did I mention that ALEC has played a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote?

Yet that's not all; you have to think about the interests of the penal-industrial complex - prison operators, bail-bond companies and more. (The American Bail Coalition has publicly described ALEC as its "life preserver.") This complex has a financial stake in anything that sends more people into the courts and the prisons, whether it's exaggerated fear of racial minorities or Arizona's draconian immigration law, a law that followed an ALEC template almost verbatim.

Think about that: we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn't just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population.

Now, ALEC isn't single-handedly responsible for the corporatization of our political life; its influence is as much a symptom as a cause. But shining a light on ALEC and its supporters - a roster that includes many companies, from AT&T and Coca-Cola to UPS, that have so far managed to avoid being publicly associated with the hard-right agenda - is one good way to highlight what's going on. And that kind of knowledge is what we need to start taking our country back.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"In this war - as in others - I am less interested in honoring the dead than in preventing the dead."
~~~ Butler Shaffer ~~~

Single-Payer And The Supreme Court
By Robert Kuttner

Surprisingly, several groups seek to challenge the Affordable Care Act from the left.

When the Supreme Court begins its extraordinary three days of hearings on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, one of the oddities will be an amicus brief challenging the act's individual mandate from 50 doctors who support national health insurance. They point out the inconvenient truth that, contrary to the administration's representations, the government did not need to require citizens to purchase insurance from private companies in order to meet its goals of serving the health-care needs of the populace. Congress could have enacted a single-payer law.

Since the Constitution unambiguously gives Congress the power to tax, there has never been a serious constitutional challenge to our tax-supported systems of health insurance, Medicare, and the services of the Veterans Health Administration system. In the words of the brief:

Amici thus submit this brief for the purpose of disputing the primary tenet of the Government's position, that Congress cannot regulate the national healthcare market effectively unless it has power to require that citizens purchase insurance from private insurance companies. On the contrary, as set forth herein, Congress has already demonstrated that it can regulate healthcare markets effectively by implementing a single payer system such as Medicare or the VHA.

Much of the brief is devoted to demonstrating the superior efficiencies of single-payer systems, but it is also offers a formidable summary of the constitutional argument against the government's view of what the Commerce Clause permits.

Government contends that the provision is not only "reasonable" but also "necessary" to its broader regulation of the national healthcare market. Brief for Petitioners. In particular, the Government contends that the individual mandate is "key to the viability of the Act's guaranteed-issue and community-rating provisions." But while it might be true that these provisions will adversely impact private insurers' profits, and that the individual mandate offsets this adverse impact by guaranteeing the private insurers a large stream of new customers who are required by law to purchase insurance, that is not sufficient to render the individual mandate constitutional. If it were, Congress could "reform" any private industry - whether it be automobiles, coal, pharmaceuticals or any other - by enacting legislation requiring every that American purchase the industry's goods or services in exchange for some perceived public good the industry provides. Yet Congress has never before enacted such a mandate.


The brief further contends that none of the cases cited by the government "support the conclusion that the commerce power permits Congress to enact any regulation it finds necessary to the viability of a larger scheme regulating interstate commerce."

It would be more than a little ironic if a majority of the Court struck down the Affordable Care Act by relying on these arguments. These points have been made by others, of course. But what's nervy is that some single-payer advocates are tactically allying themselves with the political right in a momentous Supreme Court battle.

The brief is filed in the name of two groups, Single Payer Action and It's Our Economy, and was written by attorney Oliver Hall. It explicitly asks the Court to uphold the ruling of the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit finding the individual mandate unconstitutional.

This tactic must have given some single-payer advocates pause, since the most prominent single-payer group, Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP) and such noted proponents of national health insurance as Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler of Physicians for a National Health Program are not on the brief.

If the Affordable Care Act were to be struck down, it would be a political blow to the Obama administration, as well as another case of overreach by the Roberts Court.

But the Court could well uphold the act. Some observers have suggested that the conservatives on the Court are having second thoughts about the unintended consequences of the Citizens United decision on unlimited political giving. Justices Scalia and Kennedy, moreover, have gone both ways on prior cases involving the reach of the commerce clause and may decide that this is not the time to further risk the Court as an institution, which severely impaired its credibility in Bush v. Gore.

On the other hand, if the Court struck down only the individual mandate, the rest of the act would live on. And the administration and Congress would have to find other ways to prevent uninsured people from free-riding on the system. As my colleague Paul Starr has proposed, a Court finding that the mandate was illegal would not necessarily kill the whole law. Other incentives and disincentives could be created so that most people would find it attractive to purchase insurance.

The amici have a point. A single-payer program would be more efficient and unambiguously constitutional, and even the Affordable Care Act need not be such a gravy train for the insurance industry. This brief, though risky, could turn out to be constructive mischief.
(c) 2012 Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine, as well as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe and Huffington Post. He is the author of A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama's Promise, Wall Street's Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future, Obama's Challenge, and other books.

Healthcare Jujitsu
A Path to Medicare for All
By Robert Reich

Not surprisingly, today's debut Supreme Court argument over the so-called "individual mandate" requiring everyone to buy health insurance revolved around epistemological niceties such as the meaning of a "tax," and the question of whether the issue is ripe for review.

Behind this judicial foreplay is the brute political fact that if the Court decides the individual mandate is an unconstitutional extension of federal authority, the entire law starts unraveling.

But with a bit of political jujitsu, the President could turn any such defeat into a victory for a single-payer healthcare system - Medicare for all.

Here's how.

The dilemma at the heart of the new law is that it continues to depend on private health insurers, who have to make a profit or at least pay all their costs including marketing and advertising.

Yet the only way private insurers can afford to cover everyone with pre-existing health problems, as the new law requires, is to have every American buy health insurance - including young and healthier people who are unlikely to rack up large healthcare costs.

This dilemma is the product of political compromise. You'll remember the Administration couldn't get the votes for a single-payer system such as Medicare for all. It hardly tried. Not a single Republican would even agree to a bill giving Americans the option of buying into it.

But don't expect the Supreme Court to address this dilemma. It lies buried under an avalanche of constitutional argument.

Those who are defending the law in Court say the federal government has authority to compel Americans to buy health insurance under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives Washington the power to regulate interstate commerce. They argue our sprawling health insurance system surely extends beyond an individual state.

Those who are opposing the law say a requirement that individuals contract with private insurance companies isn't regulation of interstate commerce. It's coercion of individuals.

Unhappily for Obama and the Democrats, most Americans don't seem to like the individual mandate very much anyway. Many on the political right believe it a threat to individual liberty. Many on the left object to being required to buy something from a private company.

The President and the Democrats could have avoided this dilemma in the first place if they'd insisted on Medicare for all, or at least a public option.

After all, Social Security and Medicare require every working American to "buy" them. The purchase happens automatically in the form of a deduction from everyone's paychecks. But because Social Security and Medicare are government programs financed by payroll taxes they don't feel like mandatory purchases.

Americans don't mind mandates in the form of payroll taxes for Social Security or Medicare. In fact, both programs are so popular even conservative Republicans were heard to shout "don't take away my Medicare!" at rallies opposed to the new health care law.

There's no question payroll taxes are constitutional, because there's no doubt that the federal government can tax people in order to finance particular public benefits. But requiring citizens to buy something from a private company is different because private companies aren't directly accountable to the public. They're accountable to their owners and their purpose is to maximize profits. What if they monopolize the market and charge humongous premiums? (Some already seem to be doing this.)

Even if private health insurers are organized as not-for-profits, there's still a problem of public accountability. What's to prevent top executives from being paid small fortunes? (In more than a few cases this is already happening.)

Moreover, compared to private insurance, Medicare is a great deal. Its administrative costs are only around 3 percent, while the administrative costs of private insurers eat up 30 to 40 percent of premiums. Medicare's costs are even below the 5 percent to 10 percent administrative costs borne by large companies that self-insure, and under the 11 percent costs of private plans under Medicare Advantage, the current private-insurance option under Medicare.

So why not Medicare for all?

Because Republicans have mastered the art of political jujitsu. Their strategy has been to demonize government and seek to privatize everything that might otherwise be a public program financed by tax dollars (see Paul Ryan's plan for turning Medicare into vouchers). Then they go to court and argue that any mandatory purchase is unconstitutional because it exceeds the government's authority.

Obama and the Democrats should do the reverse. If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate in the new health law, private insurers will swarm Capitol Hill demanding that the law be amended to remove the requirement that they cover people with pre-existing conditions.

When this happens, Obama and the Democrats should say they're willing to remove that requirement - but only if Medicare is available to all, financed by payroll taxes.

If they did this the public will be behind them - as will the Supreme Court.
(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 Richter Cebull,

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 racist joke that will get us another million votes, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-28-2012. We salute you heir Cebull, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Supreme Court Wrangling Aside, We Still Need 'Medicare for All'
By John Nichols

It would seem that the majority on the US Supreme Court is conflicted about how to respond to the healthcare reform currently known as "Obamacare."

CNN's legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin listened to the high court's deliberations this week and concluded that "this was a train wreck for the Obama administration. This law looks like it's going to be struck down."

Not so fast, suggests the Wall Street Journal, which like most media pins the outcome on Justice Anthony "Swing" Kennedy. "Justice Kennedy's early comment that the government carried a 'heavy burden of justification' showed considerable sympathy for the challengers," observed the Journal Tuesday. "But toward the end, one of his questions suggested that people who don't carry health insurance are still engaged in the healthcare market-which is the central pillar of the government's case."

It's all so confusing. Or maybe not.

It is obvious enough that the barely cloaked political partisans who dominate the court would like very much to whack the Democratic president by declaring that critical components of his Patent Protection and Affordable Care Act-or, to borrow Vice President Biden's technical terminology: Barack Obama's "BFD" -- are unconstitutional.

By the same token, the justices know that their conservative movement's paymasters in the insurance and healthcare industries, and on Wall Street, are actually looking foward to the day when the government requires Americans to purchase insurance from for-profit insurance companies, and when Washington steps in as the guarantor of payments to those companies (and to for-profit healthcare concerns) on behalf of low-income Americans.

Tough call, indeed.

It is usually smart when such conflicts arise to bet on the corporate crowd, as they really do call most of the shots.

But on the outside chance that the court goes rogue-as some analysts are suggesting after two days of hearings on the plan that was approved by Congress and signed into law by the president-is that the end of healthcare reform?

Frankly, it could be the beginning.

It is not like a decision by the Supreme Court to scrap all or part of the current plan is going to make the crisis facing America's dysfunctional healthcare "system" go away. In all likelihood, it would cause the crisis to become even more of, well, a crisis.

By the same token, allowing the Obama plan to go forward in its current form-without the protection that would have been afforded by a public option-is not going to solve nearly as many of the plan's problems as its more starry-eyed proponents might imagine. Indeed, one of the selling points for the Obama plan when progressives were gritting their teeth and deciding to support what was clearly a compromise was the understanding that the Patiet Protection and Affordable Care Act was a beginning, not an end.

The end has always, and should always, be the single-payer "Medicare for All" plan that would provide quality care for all Americans-as a right-and cut costs by eliminating the profiteers.

So how, amid all the legal wrangling of the moment, should real reformers think about things?

"Whether the Court overturns part or all of the law, or the Affordable Care Act remains fully intact, we will not have universal coverage, medical bills will still push too many Americans into bankruptcy or prompt them to self-ration care, and insurance companies will continue to have a choke hold on our health," says Deborah Burger, RN, a co-president of the 170,000-member National Nurses United union.

NNU, a union that represents frontline healthcare providers-and that has taken then lead when it comes to real reform-offers a savvy respone to the hyperbole that's coming from in and around the Supreme Court chambers this week:

Despite its name the Affordable Care Act has done little to actually make healthcare affordable. Out of pocket health costs for families continue to soar. Nurses now routinely see patients who have postponed needed care, even when it might be life saving, because of the high co-pays and deductibles.

Delayed dental care illustrates the problem. A February Pew Center report noted a 16 percent jump in the number of Americans heading to emergency rooms for routine dental problems, at a cost of 10 times more than preventive care with fewer treatment options than a dentist's office.

Premiums have jumped 50 percent on average the past seven years, according to a Commonwealth Fund report last November, with more than six in 10 Americans now living in states where their premiums consume a fifth or more of median earnings.

Medical bills for years have been the leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Increasingly they ruin people's credit as well. Another Commonwealth Fund report earlier this month found that 30 million Americans were contacted by collection agencies in 2010 because of medical bills.

Fifty million still have no health coverage. Another 29 million are under insured with massive holes in their health plans, up 80 percent since 2003, according to the journal Health Affairs.

The percentage of adults with no health insurance at 17.3 percent in the third quarter of 2011 was the highest on record, up from 14.4 percent just three years earlier, Gallup reported.

On quality, the U.S. continues to lag far behind other nations. Two breathtaking examples:

More than 80 percent of U.S. counties trail life expectancy rates of nations with the best life expectancies, the University of Washington found last June. Some U.S. counties are more than 50 years behind their international counterparts.

The U.S. ranks just 41st in the world in death rates for child bearing women, and it has been getting worse, according to the World Health Organization. The average mortality rate within 42 days of childbirth has doubled in two decades, partly due cuts in federal spending for maternal and child health programs the past seven years.

Our economic meltdown has exacerbated the crisis. For the past year, nurses have seen a spike in health woes associated with job loss, high medical bills, poor nutrition and other economic factors. These include stress-induced heart ailments in younger patients, hypertension, anxiety and "gut" disorders.

"More handouts to the private insurers and other healthcare corporations will not improve these dreadful statistics," says Burger. "The choke hold on our health by the same Wall Street types who tanked our economy is exactly what has caused the falling health barometers on access, quality, and cost."

"The consequences of the denial of care en masse-now and in the future, with or without the ACA-could not be more ominous," explains NNU co-president Jean Ross. "Only more comprehensive reform, Medicare for Life, for all Americans, will finally produce real healthcare security for our country."
(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.

Judge To FDA: Remove Superbug-Breeding Antibiotics From Animal Feed
By Anthony Gucciardi

A federal judge has stepped up to the plate and is now ordering FDA regulators to start proceedings to revoke the approval for the use of common antibiotics in animal feed, stating that the excessive overuse of antibiotics is threatening public health through breeding drug-resistant superbugs. The news could not have come at a more appropriate time; after it was just recently revealed that antibiotic overuse has actually spawned a resistant 'white plague' that threatens the health of individuals worldwide. Thanks to the countless unnecessary prescriptions of antibiotics dished out in nations like India, a heavily drug-resistant form of tuberculosis has scientists concerned over a potential pandemic.

United States Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz ordered the FDA to begin with the initiative unless the drug manufacturers can prove that their usage in the food supply is safe. It would be highly unlikely that the drug makers could produce evidence showing that the antibiotic consumption is safe, considering that antibiotics have been linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and even skyrocketing mental illness rates. This is in addition to creating massively resistant superbugs that are considered to be impossible to treat by mainstream medicine.

The Independent reports:

Using standard antibiotic regimens, there is a one in 10 chance that treatment of an E.coli infection will fail because the bug is resistant. But, as numbers of resistant infections rise, there will be increasing pressure to use more powerful antibiotics, called carbapenems, which are the last line available. And resistance to those is already emerging…The warnings follow increasing reports from Europe of patients with infections that are almost impossible to treat.

It is for this reason that groups have sued the FDA over the use of antibiotics in animal feed, citing legitimate safety concerns. In a lawsuit led by both environmental and health-advocacy groups, the organizations allege that he FDA knew years ago that loading up livestock full of penicillin and tetracyclines (the 2 antibiotics in question) was causing bacteria to become resistant to drugs that humans rely upon to fight infections. The result? The development of such superbugs and mutated viruses. Shockingly, the group also reported on a particularly worrying statistic showing just how many antibiotics are given to livestock and subsequently consumed by the public. "Approximately 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States today are used in livestock," the group explained in the suit.

Drug-resistant infections not only wreak havoc on public health, but cost American taxpayers more than $20 billion each year, according to a 2009 study from the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and Cook County Hospital. There's simply no reason to continue the dangerous practice of dosing up livestock with antibiotics. Judge Katz explains:

"In the intervening years, the scientific evidence of the risks to human health from the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has grown, and there is no evidence that the FDA has changed its position that such uses are not shown to be safe," wrote the Magistrate Judge.
(c) 2012 Anthony Gucciardi is an accomplished investigative journalist whose articles have appeared on top news sites and have been read by millions worldwide. A health activist and researcher, Anthony's goal is centered around informing the public as to how they can use natural methods to revolutionize their health, as well as exploring the behind the scenes activity of the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA.

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Potential Matchup Between Black Man And Mormon Poses Dilemma For Bigots
Nowhere to Turn, Disgruntled Haters Say
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - With a fall presidential contest between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney seeming increasingly likely, America's bigots are finding themselves in a quandary over which candidate to support, prominent bigots confirmed today.

Across the U.S., voters who describe themselves as bigots are complaining that a first-ever matchup between a Black man and a Mormon, while historic, is forcing them to ask a difficult question: which group do they hate more?

"I've always seen myself as pretty versatile, bigotry-wise," said Herb Torlinson, a hardware salesman from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. "But I guess this is going to be an election that really puts my different hates to the test."

At the Clapboard Corner Cafe in Youngstown, Ohio, a group of bigots who gather for breakfast once a week to discuss their dislike of various racial and religious groups echoed Mr. Torlinson's sentiments.

"I actually cried when Rick Perry dropped out of the race," said David Colehurn, a disgruntled hater who works at a nearby Pep Boys. "He may be brain-damaged and all, but at least he's White and Christian."

Mr. Colehurn said that his bigotry towards both Black people and Mormons was making him entertain thoughts of voting for a third-party candidate, but that he was "turned off" by the possibility of a bid from Texas congressman Ron Paul: "I hate old people."

In other political news, former Sen. Rick Santorum revealed that he made his first sweater vest himself when he tore off the sleeves of his straitjacket.
(c) 2012 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 13 (c) 03/30/2012

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