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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh explores, "The Mark Inside."

Uri Avnery asks, "Who Is Annexing Whom?"

David Sirota reviews, "A New Red Dawn."

Robert Scheer reveals, "Obama's Fatal Corporate Addiction."

Jim Hightower explains, "Sacrificing Teachers And Firefighters To Wall Street Greed."

Helen Thomas reports, "Nuclear Near Miss Strikes Fear."

James Donahue wonders, "Is A Cashless Society Possible?"

Bob Herbert says we're, "Losing Our Way."

Chris Floyd celebrates, "A Hundred Years Of Rain."

Bill McKibben describes, "The Only Way To Have A Cow."

Paul Krugman observes, "American Thought Police."

Chris Hedges examines, "The Collapse Of Globalization."

David Michael Green concludes, "Get The Hell Out Of My Country."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols discovers, "In Lawless Fitzwalkerstan, A Constitution Officer Refuses To Bend To A Royal Governor’s Dictate."

Glenn Greenwald finds, "Top Bush-era GITMO And Abu Ghraib psychologist Is WH's Newest Appointment."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz returns with, "Gaddafi Bans Journalists, Arguing, ‘It’s Worked for Fox’" but first, Uncle Ernie considers, "Operation Enduring Instability."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jimmy Margulies, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Lee Horsey, Clay Bennett, B' Dog 23, Stuart Carlson, Reconstitution.US, The Prism, FOK News, The New Yorker, 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."

Operation Enduring Instability
By Ernest Stewart

""So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand."
~~~ The History of the Peloponnesian War: Thucydides ~~~

Q: "What is the difference between Fitzwalkerstan and other banana republics?"
A: "Palm trees!" ~~~ John Barth

“...along with uncontested facts in the record, demonstrate that Uthman more likely than not was part of al Qaeda.”
~~~ U.S. Judge Brett Kavanaugh ~~~

Don't stop believing
Hold on to the feelin'
Don't Stop Believing ~ Journey

There he was again, shucking and jivin' about another act of treason. Barry came before the cameras to explain his latest act of treason, i.e., going to war without a Congressional declaration of war, as the Constitution demands, This is only the latest example of Presidential treason. In fact, every President since FDR with the exceptions of Kennedy and Carter is guilty of this crime as the last time Congress declared war was on December 8, 1941!

That means Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush the elder, Bush the minor, Clinton and Barry have all disregarded the Constitution that they swore to uphold and protect, and put themselves up as Emperor and the lickspittle Congress has always gone along with these acts of treason and made them their own!

Yeah, Korea wasn't a war; it was a police action--bullshit; it was a war! Vietnam was all about The Domino Theory--or was it Chinese Checkers? I get those two confused! In every instance, there was no threat to the United Snakes, no real reason to go to war; so all those presidents couldn't go before Congress to ask for a declaration of war. I'm sure, at least since Reagan, they all could've gotten a declaration, if they'd been honest. Had they said we need to go to war to make all those people from whom we take bribes billions of dollars in profits, Congress, being the corpo-rat stooges they are, would've signed off on it!

I'm just surprised that none of these Presidents has appointed a horse as a Senator as Caligula did, "Senator Incitatus," "Senator Mr. Ed!" You know Dubya would've done so, if only he'd thought about it!

From Andrew Jackson on down, US Presidents have been a power unto themselves. You'll recall that Andy took it upon himself to disobey a Supreme Court ruling that said the Indians in Georgia own their land and had rights under a treaty that George Washington had signed. Andy couldn't stand that thought, so he took an Army into the South, and drove all the Indians they could find down that old "Trail of Tears" into Oklahoma. The tribes lived there until oil was discovered, just like when gold was discovered in Georgia, starting this act of crimes against humanity! It's an old American tradition--treason among Presidents. Most all are guilty of it, even Lincoln, whose first official act was suspending habeas corpus and who invented the modern day Concentration Camps, i.e., Happy Camps™, not for soldiers but for civilians! Those camps worked so well that the Nazis copied Lincoln's camps when they began to design their own!

No, America, there aren't two sets of laws; there's only one set of laws. However, they only apply to some of us, while some of us are above the law. How can this be? Simple, consider that most Presidents, Vice Presidents, Senators, Congressmen and all Supreme Court Justices are lawyers, say no more!

In Other News

Treason still reigns supreme in Wisconsin, Scott Walker, Scott Fitzgerald and anyone in the Wisconsin Senate and House who goes along with them need to be arrested by federal marshalls and placed on trial!

Since illegally ramming through the bill to destroy Wisconsin unions, they've started to implement it, even though a judge has ruled twice that they can't, as well as the Secretary of State who refuses to publish it and make it a law. For folks who have taken a solemn oath to uphold and protect the laws, this group of corpo-rat-controlled Rethuglican criminals apparently thinks they're above the law. I know, I know--politicians who think they're above the law, how very rare.... NOT!

Now they're illegally keeping the Demoncratic Senators from voting which again is against the law, and is certainly another act of treason. If it was you or I who was committing treason out in the open like they're doing, do you suppose we'd be around and free to commit it, again? Yeah, "Fat chance of Fong!" Their class gets away with murder, treason, sedition, war crimes, and crimes against humanity! In our class, if you steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family, you get life without parole!

Here's the latest from Fitzwalkerstan.

State Senator Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, sent a letter to Rethuglican Senators that read:

“Dear Members: With the return of the Senate Democrats this weekend, questions have arisen regarding Democrat members’ participation in Senate standing committee public hearings and executive sessions. Please note that all 14 Democrat senators are still in contempt of the Senate. Therefore, when taking roll call votes on amendments and bills during executive sessions, Senate Democrats’ votes will not be reflected in the Records of Committee Proceedings or the Senate Journal. They are free to attend hearings, listen to testimony, debate legislation, introduce amendments, and cast votes to signal their support/opposition, but those votes will not count, and will not be recorded.”

To which replied, State Senator Fred Risser, a Madison Democrat who is the senior member of the legislature:

“Who does Senator Fitzgerald think he is? Just because his brother is the speaker of the Assembly and his best friend is the Governor of Wisconsin does not give him the power to decide who can and cannot vote in the State Senate. His statement that Senate Democrats can no longer vote in committee is the height of arrogance. In my tenure in the legislature, I have never seen any attempt to deny duly elected legislators their right to vote.

Need I mention that Fred has been in the Senate longer than Fitzgerald has been alive, or that this is the same Wisconsin Rethuglican Party that twice endorsed Joe McCarthy for the U.S. Senate? Do you see any patterns forming?

Scott Ross, the executive director of One Wisconsin Now puts it this way:

“Senator Scott Fitzgerald isn’t content with illegally passing a bill which takes away the rights of 175,000 working Wisconsinites, and now has expanded his attacks to disenfranchise the voices of 2.2 million more Wisconsin residents and taxpayers.

Considering how the Republicans plan to slash $900 million from our public schools, cut healthcare for 1 million Wisconsinites, raise prescription drug costs for countless seniors, raise taxes on the working poor by $51 million while at the same time handing $200 million in tax breaks for the wealthy and corporate special interests.

Senator Fitzgerald might better spend his time convincing his fractured caucus that Governor Walker isn’t sacrificing their majority in pursuit of higher office.”

The good news is in many recent polls the popularity of the Rethuglicans in Wisconsin has plummeted to all-time lows, and many will follow Governor Walker to the unemployment line come November 2012, while Walker himself will be subject to a recall in January of 2012. A lesson that will be repeated in Ohio, New Jersey, Indiana and Michigan come election day!

And Finally

Well those crazy knuckleheads over on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled yet another doozy for the Obamahood junta.

In an opinion, written by Judge Brett Kavanaugh (a Dubya appointee like most of the members of this court), the court determined that "circumstantial evidence, such as a detainee being in the same location as other al-Qaeda members, is enough to meet the standard to hold a prisoner without charge." That's forever, folks, held forever without charge or trial on less than circumstantial evidence! I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs:

Innocent people held forever in a living hell without charge or trial and that's the law under Obama!

For example, there was a robbery in Detroit today and the robbers were all black; ergo, anyone that's black and lives in Detroit is suspicious and can be held forever without trial or any charges being filed. So much for habeas corpus, huh? How's that work for you, America? That's America in the 21st century! Obamahood's America! So how do you like that "change" thingie now?

Consider that over 95% of all prisoners held for years and faced with torture on a daily basis in Gitmo were let go because they were finally found to be innocent! Most of them sold to us by warlords for a profit! Even the fascists on the Extreme Court ruled that you must charge them or release them. Stalin, Hitler and Nero all would be proud of Barry as even they didn't dare to go this far.

Where are the liberals calling for Barry's head, like they did for Bush's? Especially since Barry is turning out to be worse than Bush and wrapping up what Ray Guns started, the Crime Family Bush and Clinton continued, i.e., the end of America as anything but a banana republic. We are so screwed, America!

Keepin' On

I like to thank Ernie from Ontario for sending in some much-needed cash! It seems, as usual, when I need it most, Ernie comes to my rescue! It means I get to eat next week, yippie ki-yay!

Meanwhile in Michigan, Governor Hitler wants to give several billion dollar tax breaks to the uber-wealthy. He plans on paying for this by taxing the working poor and the elderly. Like I could afford to pay taxes on my tiny SS check. Perhaps I could convince him I'm a poor millionaire trying to become another billionaire and perhaps he'd take pity on me and send a few million my way? I'm guessing that won't be happening!

Once again, if you like what we do and would like to see that we continue doing it, please go to the Donations Page and follow the instructions that you'll find there. Have no fear--we'll put it to good use, unlike the current robber baron that sits on Michigan throne in Lansing! Of course, we're planning to recall Herr Snyder come July on the first day that we can! Those poor folks in Wisconsin have to wait until next January before they can get rid of their devil!


10-26-1935 ~ 03-26-2011
Thanks for running!

08-06-1946 ~ 03-26-2011
Thanks for the insight!

07-01-1925 ~ 03-27-2011
Thanks for the films!


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


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

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

The Mark Inside
Joseph Beuys And Coyote meet "Humanitarian" Bombing Campaigns
By Phil Rockstroh

In Berlin, Germany, in early 1939, at Friedrichstrasse railway station, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, my grandmother placed my mother and her older sister, with a few family valuables sown into their clothing, on a Kindertransport bound for Great Britain. Soon thereafter, she went about the business of bribing my grandfather's way out of a concentration camp. And then, by means of more brides, charm, cunning, and sheer force of character, she and my grandfather secured exile from Hitler's Germany.

My grandmother, being a shrewd judge of character, was able to accomplish this because she knew Nazis were human beings, desirous of gold and social position; most did not swoon over Nazi ideology. The majority of Nazis were careerist, simply yuppies on the make ("just looking for a better life for their children") -- and Nazi officials were giving out the jobs, so they joined the party.

Even in the aftermath of the war, after much of their country had been reduced to ruins, the people of Germany refused to face their complicity in the crimes of The Third Reich.

In post-war Germany, memory itself seemed to have been firebombed to ash and rubble. For ordinary Germans, the extent of Nazi evil was too great and their own contribution too quotidian to accept personal responsibility for crimes committed by the state. How could the flickering of such tiny desires set the vast world aflame?

Yet over time, after much internal struggle and public confrontation by the nation's artists, writers, and political activists, later generations of Germans began to accept and take responsibility for the crimes of their collective past. They rolled back the cold slab and forced themselves to gaze within the unmarked tomb bearing the remains of the mortifying history they had buried.

This stands in stark contrast to the manner that the people of the US approach, if at all, the unsavory aspects of their nation's history. From the genocidal practices inflicted on Native Americans (my father's people) to the irradiated ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the killing fields of the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq, South and Central America and Central Asia, the people of the US have refused to acknowledge and take ownership of the collective sins they carry.

German soldiers were no more evil than their fellows in the US military, who, for example, man the operation systems of Cruise Missiles and navigate predator drones, and kill, detached from feeling, from thousands of miles away. After all, they are only following orders, just doing their jobs as loyal soldiers and good Americans...just like all those good Germans of my grandmother's day.

Although, on a personal level, I carry a pedigree of atavistic oppression in my bartered blood (my father, born on a so called Indian reservation; my mother rushing to these shores with the flames of the Holocaust at her back) I acknowledge my guilt in all crimes against humanity. For I am human; therefore, I cast a long shadow of instinctual, racial barbarity behind me.

Although I was nowhere in the vicinity, I am an accessory to the crime.

In the late 1940s, my grandmother ran guns to the Irgun. She embraced the desperate, nationalist delusion of Zionism. I understand why she did this. But, now, everyday, Palestinians are forced to their knees in order to make amends for the sins of Europe.

Although its origins and workings seem to us mysterious and evanescent, evil remains proliferate because our traumatized psyches see it as a force of good. Evil is a deranged angel of self-preservation, convinced his wicked machinations and destructive fury are bulwarks against outside forces aligned to bear his doom.

And that is why I don't support "our troops." They are the delivery system of US imperium (even when deployed for "humanitarian" bombing campaigns by audaciously hopeful, Democratic presidents) and should be regarded as such.

Yet, even as I make the pronouncement, I must maintain a stubborn skepticism regarding my own claims of innocence in the matter.

"A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbor." -- Carl Jung: “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335

The myth of Eden and the fall of mankind is a metaphor for leaving the innocence of childhood. In Eden, God, the Father, is above; the very ground is Mother…where the fruits of paradise flow like mother's milk. Like children, and domesticated animals, the psyche is held suspended there, in primal grace, in a state of unconditional trust to authority.

Accordingly, the much-maligned serpent brings freedom, including freedom's regrets and sorrows. Ambiguity comes into the world, as opposed to a father-mandated, mother-ensured totality. (In the socio-political realm, for example, if this psychic passage out of ossified Eden doesn't proceed, its mode of mind can rise as a totalitarian outlook on life. Apropos, the nostalgia of the right to return to an idealized, free market guided and family values beholden, paradisiacal past that never existed and can never be.)

With the loss of one's perceived innocence, the world's freedoms, with its multiplicity of things, arises…not only animal élan -- that being, the ability to be present in the breathing moment, aroused by the scent of blood and pheromone held on the wind -- but also foresight and logos i.e., adulthood with all its regrets, responsibilities, reflections, recriminations, and equivocations. The serpent is the hero/anti-hero of the tale. He is the co-creator of the human psyche. He should be given his due, in regard to providing us with the knowledge necessary to leave the pointless inertia of paradise and blunder into the possibility that we may know ourselves to a greater degree and thus be able to see the world before us with a bit more depth, nuance, and clarity.

"Purists are deadly, and so they know all about deadly sins." --James Hillman

I have rightwing friends who conflate freedom with predator drones; they rage against the government while swallowing the Pentagon's propaganda like mother's milk (a nourishing concoction…if your mother happens to be the Medusa).

In contrast, nice liberals, because they are cut off from their dark, angry side and their hidden, selfish motives, all too often, are boggled by, seemingly frozen in polite mortification, before rightist rage.

(When, for example, a Democratic president orders the launch of cruise missiles, they claim it is done more in sorrow than anger -- none of that crass, testosterone-redolent, smell of blood on the wind excitation evinced during military operations under Republican administrations is allowed on public display.)

Why is rage such anathema to liberal sensibilities?

Rage can be a catalyst for both sweeping social change but can provoke backlash. And both situations are unnerving to liberals of the professional classes, who are comfortable within the present system, hence, deep down, don't desire a shake up of the system that might threaten the privileged positions they hold within it.

As a consequence, liberals, oblivious of their own buried, selfish motivations, have difficulty understanding laboring class anger and resentment and how it is channeled and displaced by conservatives.

"Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside." --William S. Burroughs.

In the theatre of this faux republic, Republicans are effective at selling their imperialist wars of choice and their class-stratifying economic policies because they have become convinced the roles they are playing are real.

Regarding this situation, Konstantin Stanislavski, considered to be the father of modern theatrical conventions, is reported to have instructed, when an actor becomes so deeply merged with the role he is portraying that he begins to believe he is that character, it is time to escort him from the theatre.

In contrast, Democrats can't seem to find a way into their roles; therefore, they give less than convincing interpretations of the characters they are playing. As a result, their line readings are listless and lack conviction.

And what does this reveal about the rest of us, the supernumeraries in our national tragicomedy, who believe we are central to the plays outcome -- this amateur production of Marat Sade -- otherwise known as -- daily life in our corporate state/militarist imperium?

"Psychoanalysis has to get out of the consulting room and analyze all kinds of things. You have to see that the buildings are anorexic, you have to see that the language is schizogenic, that "normalcy" is manic, and medicine and business are paranoid."--James Hillmam

In May 1974, the German artist, Joseph Beuys (Born: May 12, 1921, Died: January 23, 1986) arrived in New York City to present a work he titled, "I Like America and America Likes Me."

Upon arrival at Kennedy Airport, although in good health, he disembarked the jet, secured upon a gurney, and then was transported by ambulance to a room in the René Block Gallery on East Broadway. Throughout the commute, Beuys, wrapped in a large swath of felt, remained on the gurney, keeping to his vow not to "set foot on US soil" until the US ceased its illegal, immoral war in Southeast Asia and withdrew its combatants from the region.

Once ensconced at his quarters at the gallery, for three days, Beuys shared the space with a wild coyote. At intervals, he would rise to his feet, covered in the swath of felt, and, as he steadied himself on a shepherd's staff, Beuys would induce the coyote to tear at his covering of felt, inciting the animal to rend the fabric to tatters.

Other times, he would simply lie upon a bed of straw, watching the coyote as the coyote watched him…man and beast appraising each other.

During the performance piece, Beuys would engage in ritual acts, such as playing percussion on a large triangle and playfully tossing a leather glove to the coyote.

After three days, alone in the room, with the animal, Beuys hugged his companion (who appeared to have accepted the artist's strange behavior) and bid him goodbye.

Project completed, Beuys returned to Kennedy Airport, transported, once again, by ambulance, making good on his promise of exiting the US without having set foot upon it.

As Beuys would later aver, "I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing of America other than the coyote." --Uwe M. Schneede, Joseph Beuys Die Aktionen. 1998, p. 330

Thus Beuys identified with and symbolically merged with the psyche of his coyote co-art conspirator and opened himself to the cunning, death-devouring spirit of the much-scorned animal (The coyote is an animal that lives on carrion) to gain the creative wherewithal to renounce the death-drunk spirit of US Empire.

This is art done not as portfolio building. Beuys did not shirk from his vision as an artist by avoiding what is painful (thus, the ambulance deployed as symbol) and ugly about the world and about himself; instead, he delivered himself directly to its carrion-reeking maw, but refused to have his soul devoured by it.

"A terrorist is the product of our education that says that fantasy is not real, that says aesthetics is just for artists, that says soul is only for priests, imagination is trivial or dangerous and for crazies, and that reality, what we must adapt to, is the external world, a world that is dead. A terrorist is a result of this whole long process of wiping out the psyche." --James Hillman

In the last few days, I've noticed a marked rise in the levels of anxiety and apprehension in the minds of many of the folks with whom I have contact. Images of irradiated rains and bombing campaigns have left many riddled with dread, haunted by the uncertainty of it all…gripped by the feeling that events are hurtling at an exponential rate of speed towards some ill-defined but tragic reckoning.

Once at an amusement park, when I was three years of age, I released a cherry flavored lollipop from the apex perch of the carriage of a Ferris Wheel. Entranced, I watched its speed accelerate, as it fell in a plummeting spiral, then shatter to crimson shards on the pavement below.

Enchantment broken, stricken with mortification, I recoiled into the coaster's car…aware, in a flash, of the fragile nature of life. How life and death are bonded together. An eggshell, in which, neither outer shell nor what is contain within can be revealed to each other without a violent intrusion into the other's sanctity. Even a singular conversation, like a popular uprising or an encounter with a work of art, can be similar to this. One cannot realize the presence of another nor open oneself to real change (in contrast to, hackneyed commercial come-ons and political campaign legerdemain versions of such) without giving oneself over to a small death.

As a rule, we remain un-shattered by the presence of others because we cleave to the quotidian shell of selfhood…the habit of remaining intact superseding the eros of the other's immediacy.

Yet there have been moments when I let myself fall…have been shattered to shards…a broken soul among vast constellations of broken souls…and have forgotten, momentarily, my own aloneness…wandering in a unifying wilderness of glinting shards.

"There is a secret love hiding in each problem." -- James Hillman

I find this heartening: With the uprisings across the Islamic world being partly a result of secrets brought to light by WikiLeaks, we have a good illustration of an "unknown variable factor" in play.

Such situations bring both opportunity and peril. Power becomes brutal and ruthless when presented with a credible challenge. This is why Bradley Manning is imprisoned and Julian Assange is under house arrest awaiting extradition, and both will be made to suffer greatly for their actions.

Regardless, I'm switching my party affiliation to the Unknown Variable Party.

As illustrated by Joseph Beuys, I advocate transforming PTSD into Post Traumatic Poetic Discontent. My platform: Don't miss an opportunity to turn suffering from private shame to public incitement.

My mother escaped Nazi Germany; my father was orphaned on an Indian res., left starving, on the doorstep of a church, during the Great Depression. My earliest memories involve the Civil Rights struggles roiling my native Birmingham, Alabama. Then came the Vietnam War, Nixon, and Watergate. Next, arrived the backlash, in the form of Reaganism that since has diminished and degraded the nation.

Accordingly, I've never held any illusion that this world was not seeded with the potential of man-made tumult, stupidity, and tragedy.

But, man, oh man, those shattering moments, delivered by art, music, beauty and love, this life reveals. It just might be worth the risk of sticking around for a while longer to see what shakes out.


"Dedicated to my brave friend and gifted colleague, Joe Bageant, 1946-2011"

(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Who Is Annexing Whom?
By Uri Avnery

IN A rare late-night session, the Knesset has finally adopted two obnoxious racist laws. Both are clearly directed against Israel’s Arab citizens, a fifth of the population.

The first makes it possible to annul the citizenship of persons found guilty of offences against the security of the state. Israel prides itself on having a great variety of such laws. Annulling citizenship on such grounds is contrary to international law and conventions.

The second is more sophisticated. It allows communities of less than 400 families to appoint “admission committees” which can prevent unsuitable persons from living there. Very shrewdly, it specifically forbids the rejection of candidates because of race, religion etc. – but that paragraph is tantamount to a wink. An Arab applicant will simply be rejected because of his many children or lack of military service.

A majority of members did not bother to show up for the vote. After all, it was late and they have families, too. Who knows, some may even have been ashamed to vote.

But far worse is a third law that is certain to pass its final stages within a few weeks: the law to outlaw the boycott of the settlements.

SINCE ITS early stages, the original crude text of this bill has been refined somewhat.

As it stands now, the law will punish any person or association publicly calling for a boycott of Israel – economic, academic or cultural. “Israel”, according to this law, means any Israeli enterprise or person, in Israel or in any territory controlled by Israel. Simply put: it is all about the settlements. And not only about the boycott of the products of the settlements, which was initiated by Gush Shalom some 13 years ago, but also about the recent refusal of actors to perform in the settlement of Ariel and the call by academics not to support the so-called University Center there. It also applies, of course, to any call for the boycott of an Israeli university or an Israeli commercial enterprise.

This is a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation: it is anti-democratic, discriminatory, annexationist, and altogether unconstitutional.

EVERYBODY HAS the right to buy or not to buy whatever he or she desires, from whomsoever he or she chooses. That is so obvious that it needs no confirmation. It is a part of the right to free expression guaranteed by any constitution worth its salt, and an essential element of a free market economy.

I may buy from the store on the corner, because I like the owner, and shun the supermarket opposite, which exploits its employees. Companies expend huge sums of money to convince me to buy their products rather than others.

What about ideologically motivated campaigns? Years ago, while on a visit to New York, I was persuaded not to buy grapes produced in California, because the owners oppressed the Mexican migrant workers. This boycott went on for a long time and was – if I remember right – successful. Nobody dared to suggest that such boycotts should be outlawed.

Here in Israel, rabbis of many communities regularly paste up posters calling upon their flock not to buy at certain shops, which they believe are not kosher, or not kosher enough. Such calls are commonplace.

Such publications are fully compatible with human rights. Citizens for whom pork is an abomination, have the right to be informed about which shops sell pork and which do not. As far as I know, no one in Israel has ever contested this right.

Sooner or later, some anti-religious groups will publish calls to boycott kosher shops, which pay the rabbis - some of them the most intolerant of their kind – heavy levies for their certificates. They support a vast religious establishment that openly advocates turning Israel into a “Halakha state” – the Jewish equivalent of a Muslim “Shari’a state”. Many thousands of Kashrut supervisors and myriads of other religious functionaries are paid for by the largely secular public.

So what about an anti-rabbinical boycott? It can hardly be forbidden, since religious and anti-religious are guaranteed equal rights.

SO IT appears that not all ideologically motivated boycotts are wrong. Nor do the initiators of this particular bill – racists of the Lieberman school, Likud rightists and Kadima “centrists” – claim this. For them, boycotts are only wrong if they are directed against the nationalist, annexationist policies of this government.

This is explicitly stated in the law itself. Boycotts are unlawful if they are directed against the State of Israel – not, for example, by the State of Israel against some other state. No Israeli in his right mind would retroactively condemn the boycott imposed by world Jewry on Germany immediately after the Nazis came to power – a boycott that served as a pretext for Josef Goebbels when he unleashed on April 1, 1933, the first Nazi anti-Semitic boycott (“Deutsche wehrt euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden!”)

Nor does any upright Zionist find fault with the boycott measures passed by Congress, under intense Jewish pressure, against the late Soviet Union, in order to break down the barriers to free Jewish emigration. These measures were hugely successful.

No less successful was the worldwide boycott against the Apartheid regime in South Africa – a boycott warmly welcomed by the South African liberation movement, though it also hurt the African workers employed by the boycotted white businesses (an argument now repeated by Israeli settlers, who exploit Palestinian laborers for starvation wages).

So political boycotts are not wrong, as long as they are directed against others. It’s the old “Hottentot morality“ of colonial lore – “if I steal your cow, that’s right. If you steal my cow, that’s wrong.”

Rightists can call for action against left-wing organizations. Leftists cannot call for action against right-wing organizations. It’s as simple as that.

BUT THE law is not only anti-democratic and discriminatory, it is also blatantly annexationist.

By a simple semantic trick, in less than a sentence, the lawmakers do what successive Israeli government did not dare to do: they annex the Palestinian occupied territories to Israel.

Or maybe it’s the other way round: are the settlers annexing Israel? The word “settlements” does not appear in the text. God forbid. Much as the word “Arabs” does not appear in any of the other laws.

Instead, the text simply states that calls for the boycott of Israel, which are forbidden by the law, include the boycott of Israeli institutions and enterprises in all territories controlled by Israel. This includes, of course, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

This is the core of the matter. Everything else is camouflage.

The initiators want to silence our call for boycotting the settlements, which is gathering momentum throughout the world.

THE IRONY of the matter is that they may achieve the exact opposite.

When we started the boycott, our stated objective was to draw a clear line between Israel in its recognized borders – the Green Line – and the settlements. We do not advocate a boycott of the State of Israel which, we believe, sends the wrong message and pushes the Israeli center into the waiting arms of the extreme right (“The whole world is against us!”) A boycott of the settlements, we think, helps to re-institute the Green Line and make a clear distinction.

This law does the exact opposite. By wiping out the line between the State of Israel and the settlements, it plays into the hands of those who call for a boycott of Israel in the belief (mistaken, I think) that a unified Apartheid state would pave the way for a democratic future.

Recently, the folly of the law was demonstrated by a French judge in Grenoble. This incident concerned the quasi-monopolistic Israeli export company for agricultural products, Agrexco. The judge suspected the company of fraud, because products of the settlements were falsely declared as coming from Israel. This could well be fraud, too, because Israeli exports to Europe are entitled to preferential treatment which the products of the settlements are not.

Such incidents are occurring more and more often in various European countries. This law will cause them to multiply.

IN THE original version, boycotters would have committed a criminal offence and been fined. That would have caused us great joy, because our refusal to pay the fines and and subsequent imprisonment would have dramatized the matter.

This clause has now been omitted. But every single company in the settlements and, indeed, every single settler who feels hurt by the boycott can sue - for unlimited damages - any group calling for the boycott and any individual connected with the call. Since the settlers are tightly organized and enjoy unlimited funds from all kinds of casino owners and sleazy sex merchants, they can file thousands of suits and practically paralyze the boycott movement. That, of course, is the aim.

The fight is far from over. Upon the enactment of the law, we shall call upon the Supreme Court to annul it, as contrary to Israel’s fundamental constitutional principles and basic human rights.

As Menachem Begin used to say: “There are still judges in Jerusalem!”

Or are there?
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

A New Red Dawn
By David Sirota

The 1984 film “Red Dawn” fantasized about a group of American teenagers called the Wolverines who valiantly repelled an invasion of foreign communists. For its mix of dystopia and hope, the movie became such an enduring cultural touchstone that U.S. military leaders honored it by naming their 2003 effort to apprehend Saddam Hussein “Operation Red Dawn.” Amid the triumphalism, however, we missed the fact that the invaders started winning—a fact that none other than “Red Dawn’s” 2011 remake underscores.

That’s the subtext of a Los Angeles Times report this week about MGM taking “the extraordinary step” of digitally removing fictional Chinese villains from the $60 million film “lest the leadership in Beijing be offended.” Why the fear of upsetting such an odiously anti-democratic government? Because movie executives worry that a film involving a negative message about China “would harm their ability to do business with the rising Asian superpower, one of the fastest-growing and potentially most lucrative markets for American movies.”

The studio suits are right to be concerned. China’s government allows only about 20 non-Chinese movies per year into its theaters, and in the late 1990s the regime halted Walt Disney, Sony and MGM business in the country after those companies produced films deemed critical of China. Seeking to avoid a similar fate, the film industry now regularly shapes its products to appease—rather than challenge—the political agenda of the Chinese despots. In that sense, the only thing newsworthy about this week’s “Red Dawn” tiff is the public nature of the content revision.

Whether you are a “Red Dawn” fan or not, the episode shows that for all the high-minded theories about American cultural exports aiding democratic ferment and challenging autocracy, the dynamic is starting to work the other way as autocracy gives orders to American culture. Indeed, wielding its increasing market leverage, China is now countering our First Amendment ethos with a push for what Times reporter Ben Fritz calls pervasive “self-censorship”—the kind in which America’s media industries preemptively shape content to keep China’s dictators happy.

The consequences are more profound and worrisome than just a change of bad guys in a campy ’80s retread. Just ask Rupert Murdoch. In 1993, the world’s leading media baron removed the BBC from his Star TV channel so as to satisfy Beijing and thus secure the station’s access to China’s audience. A few years later, Murdoch’s publishing firm nixed a book by British diplomat Christopher Patten after seeing that the manuscript was critical of the Chinese government, and then the same publishing company released a fawning biography of Premier Deng Xiaoping by the dictator’s daughter.

Then came Google’s move in 2006 to censor its search engine in exchange for a pass through China’s Great Firewall. And though Google recently said it was ending that censorship, Microsoft’s Bill Gates—another powerful content gatekeeper with business interests in China—publicly slammed companies for daring to thwart Beijing’s demands.

In a radio interview this week, Fritz explained the cumulative effect: “If you think the rules and restrictions of the authoritarian government in China are a bad thing and amount to censorship, then in a global economy where products made in America are seen and consumed in China, those rules and that censorship is affecting what we here in America see.”
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Obama's Fatal Corporate Addiction
by Robert Scheer

If it had been revealed that Jeffrey Immelt once hired an undocumented nanny, or defaulted on his mortgage, he would be forced to resign as head of President Barack Obama’s “Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.” But the fact that General Electric, where Immelt is CEO, didn’t pay taxes on its $14.5 billion profit last year—and indeed is asking for a $3.2 billion tax rebate—has not produced a word of criticism from the president, who in January praised Immelt as a business leader who “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.”

What it takes, evidently, is shifting profit and jobs abroad: Only one out of three GE workers is now based in the U.S., and almost two-thirds of the company’s profit is sheltered in its foreign operations. Thanks to changes in the tax law engineered when another avowedly pro-business Democrat, Bill Clinton, was president, U.S. multinational financial companies can avoid taxes on their international scams. And financial scams are what GE excelled in for decades, when GE Capital, its financial unit, which specialized in credit card, consumer loan and housing mortgage debt, accounted for most of GE’s profits.

That’s right, GE, along with General Motors with its toxic GMAC financial unit, came to look more like an investment bank than a traditional industrial manufacturing giant that once propelled this economy and ultimately it ran into the same sort of difficulties as the Wall Street hustlers. As The New York Times’ David Kocieniewski, who broke the GE profit story, put it: “Because its lending division, GE Capital, has provided more than half of the company’s profit in some recent years, many Wall Street analysts view G.E. not as a manufacturer but as an unregulated lender that also makes dishwashers and M.R.I. machines.”

Maximizing corporate profits at the taxpayer’s expense is what top CEOs are good at, and after all it was Immelt who presided over GE when it got so heavily into the subprime mortgage business that it needed a government bailout to avoid bankruptcy. This was before Obama made him a trusted adviser.

Back at the end of 2008, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. government had agreed to insure an additional $139 billion in GE Capital’s debt holdings, the second such intervention within a month, adding, “The company’s exposure to the deepest financial crisis since the 1930s has cut its market value by more than half this year.” A Washington Post exposé titled “How a Loophole Benefits GE in Bank Rescue” documented the power of Immelt’s lobbying operation in Washington. GE was not initially deemed eligible for the debt guarantee program offered to failing banks, “but regulators soon loosened the eligibility requirements, in part because of behind-the scenes appeals from GE.” And it worked; as the Post reported, “The government’s actions have been `powerful and helpful’ to the company, GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt acknowledged.” For the next two years, GE would still report enormous profits without paying taxes, adding insult to the injury that financial shenanigans had inflicted on ordinary taxpayers who bailed the company out.

On Feb. 6, 2009, Immelt sent a contrite annual letter to GE shareholders, admitting, “Our Company’s reputation was tarnished because we weren’t the ‘safe and reliable’ growth company that is our aspiration.” While conceding his own culpability in GE’s downturn, Immelt predicted a rosy future: “I accept responsibility for this. But, I think the environment presents an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Not, obviously, for the 50 million Americans who have either lost their homes or are deeply underwater in a housing market that is still in steep decline thanks to the lending practices of companies like GE Capital. Nope, the good times are in the offing only for corporations that know how to make the U.S. government a partner in their scams. As Immelt stated blatantly: “The global economy, and capitalism, will be `reset’ in several important ways. The interaction between government and business will change forever. In a reset economy, the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner.”

That’s the essential blueprint for Obama’s restructuring of the economy, as the president put it in selecting Immelt to replace Paul Volcker as head of his outside team of economic advisers. Volcker had become increasingly critical of the corporate high rollers. Obama, although noting the suffering of ordinary Americans, clearly believes that such populism is now beside the point. As the president put it in announcing Immelt’s appointment on Jan. 20, 2011: “The past two years was about moving our economy back from the brink. Our job now is putting our economy into overdrive.”

But overdrive, with CEOs like Immelt shifting the gears, is what brought us so close to the brink. Once again Obama seems fatally addicted to the notion that the heavy hitters who got us into this mess are the very folks to be trusted to get us out of it. What he seems incapable of grasping is that while they are personally very good at avoiding the precipice, the rest of us are hardly passengers in their limos.
(c) 2011 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Sacrificing Teachers And Firefighters To Wall Street Greed

America owes a debt of gratitude to such insightful Republican governors as Walker of Wisconsin, Kasich of Ohio, Snyder of Michigan, and Christie of New Jersey.

Were it not for them, many Americans – myself included – would still be thinking that today's state budget messes are mainly the product of a national economic crash caused by the reckless greed of Wall Street banksters and rich speculators, as well as the abject failure by political leaders to tax their super-wealthy campaign contributors in order to meet the growing needs in education and other essentials. Luckily, the GOP guvs have set the record straight by explaining that the budget woes are the fault of teachers who have health coverage and firefighters who get pensions.

You see, it's these greedy public employees, pulling down $30,000 to $50,000 a year, who're sapping the economy and draining government treasuries – NOT billionaire casino dealers in Wall Street hedge funds who pay far lower tax rates than a firefighter and contribute far less to our nation than a teacher. It has literally incredible been to hear these learned governors lecture us that fixing state budgets is simple: deregulate corporate power, cut taxes on the superrich (again), fire tens of thousands of middle-class public employees, eliminate state programs even as the need for them rises, and – just to boost the morale of teachers, firefighters, and others – take away their democratic right to bargain collectively for workplace fairness.

Unfortunately for the governors, the public still doesn't get it. By overwhelming margins, the people oppose these gubernatorial assaults on workers, worker rights, and America's middle-class dream. The governors can flim and flam, deceive and deflect, but they should remember that two and things not long for this world, are dogs that chase cars and politicians who lie to the people.
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Nuclear Near Miss Strikes Fear
By Helen Thomas

Japan's near nuclear meltdown has led all major nuclear countries to re-evaluate such power, considering its risks and dangers to humanity.

Some nuclear experts are saying it's not worth it, particularly in places like Japan, which is so vulnerable to earthquakes and natural catastrophes.

Japan recently suffered a triple whammy - perhaps its largest earthquake, which triggered a massive tsunami, taking thousands of lives, followed by leaks in an aging Japanese nuclear plant.

A month before the powerful quake shattered the Fukushima Daiichi plant, government regulators approved a 10-year extension for the oldest of the six reactors linked to a power station, despite safety warnings.

It was the perfect catastrophe with an 9.0 magnitude quake.

There are some reports that Japan is not quite divulging the extent of the damage. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes the Fukushima plant has been leaking extremely high amounts of radiation. Food and water have been contaminated near the emissions.

The White House warned Americans in Japan to stay outside a 50 mile radius of the reactors.

China demonstrated the growing skepticism about nuclear power when it recently suspended consideration of approval of new plants. Germany has shut down old reactors, and India is reviewing its nuclear systems. Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States are all reviewing their nuclear status.

Despite a reassessment, the U.S. is apparently going to stick with nuclear power. Two experts, who have long studied the question of nuclear power, believe other sources of energy are preferable and much safer. They are Dr. Janette Sherman, who edited the definitive book "Chernobyl" on Russia's 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant meltdown, and Dr. Alexey Yablokov, who advised Prime Ministers Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev on nuclear matters. Both of them are saying emphatically "no" to nuclear power - Yablokov said, "Absolutely not."

Dr. Sherman said solar power and conservation could meet the needs for energy and save money. Both agreed that wiping out nuclear energy becomes more difficult for the major powers because it is linked to nuclear weapons.

Japan suffered the first nuclear explosion during World War II. To end the war, President Harry Truman ordered the bombing of Hiroshima - and shortly afterwards, Nagasaki - in 1945. After Truman dropped the devastating nuclear bombs, U.S. scientists did a lot of soul searching on the validity of such warfare.

The military won out. As the world continues to accumulate nuclear weapons, the possibility of stopping the use of such weapons seems impossible. We are living in a very dangerous world where more and more nations are adding nuclear weapons to their stockpiles. The U.S. maintains leadership in the build up of the weapons once considered impossible for the world to even consider using.

Whether the U.S. should have launched the first atomic bomb is still open to debate, but it turned out to be a Pandora's box. It has opened the way for the U.S. to develop small nuclear weapons for the battlefield.

Several nations now have the doomsday weapons - U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and perhaps others. Iran hopes to create its own nuclear arsenal. The U.S., Israel and other nations are trying to block it.

In addition to the nuclear threats, there are psychological worries, depression and fear among the Japanese people.

The Japanese are brave people. But thousands are dead in putting their faith in new technology to stay on top economically and to be the most modern nation in Asia. Their economy depends on it.

But there are limits beyond their control. Two agencies have an important but conflicting role. The World Health Organization, to look after our health on this planet, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is designed to promote nuclear energy. Both are engaged in this latest crisis in Japan.

It's time to reassess the human and financial costs of nuclear energy. The price may be too high.
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Is A Cashless Society Possible?
By James Donahue

Throughout recorded history, money has been the root upon which every society has operated. Whether it was sea shells, minted gold coins or printed paper, humans have used systems of working for some token of value that can be exchanged for desired goods and services.

Using some form of currency to conduct the business of living has always worked just fine as long as all parties involved deal with one another with honesty and integrity. Unfortunately, there has always been the element of greed and corruption, in which the huckster uses trickery to acquire more than his honest share of the currency, thus accumulating advantage over those around him.

This, in simple terms, is what has been happening to the world financial markets and causing the growing financial crisis that is currently global in its reach. It is the root cause of the social unrest going on all over the globe as people demonstrate, riot, and revolt against their governments sometimes with violence. They know they have been cheated. They mostly want an equal distribution of the wealth so they can provide food and shelter for their families and perhaps live a more comfortable life style than that of an unemployed bagger in the street.

This growing unrest leads us to wonder if it might be possible for humans to live in a cashless society. Except for the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, and the time they lived in the Garden of Eden, where a benevolent creator provided for their every need, we know of no time in history that humans have not been forced to live by the “sweat of their brow.” But was this really a curse from an angry God, or was it something imposed upon humanity by an alien race of invaders who came to enslave the natural inhabitants of this planet?

We read with interest an article by Mark Boyle, founder of the worldwide “freeconomy” movement and author of the book The Moneyless Man, who described how he committed to a year of cashless living. Boyle had the advantage of planning ahead for his experiment, and acquired some basic items to take care of his needs. For example he acquired a caravan through contact with a website called Freecycle. He parked this on an organic farm where he volunteered to work for free rent. He heated the unit with a scavenged wood burner made from an old gas bottle. He also made a compost toilet. Boyle said he grew food and bartered and foraged for waste food in community dumpsters. He wrote, however, that “most of the year my food was mainly supplied by my own crops. I cooked outside on a rocket stove I made.”

He said he “bathed in a river and for toothpaste I used washed-up cuttlefish bone with wild fennel seeds. . . For toilet roll, I’d relieve the local newsstand of its papers. To get around I had a bike and trailer. . . For lighting I’d use beeswax candles.”

As many homeless and unemployed people of the world are learning, with some degree of creativity, it appears to be possible to survive without money. To do it, however, they, like Boyle, are utilizing the throw-away trash of a wasteful society, even dipping to the point of scavenging through restaurant dumpsters for their daily meals. They make their homes in abandoned buildings and underground subway tunnels. They rifle through other people’s trash to find items that they might sell at flea markets or on the street.

Some years back we encountered the Rainbow People, an underground society of people that has totally rebelled against the capitalistic system in America, and live free on the land. This is a loosely organized group of people who travel the land, moving with the seasons, often living in tents or make-shift housing in the national forests. They gather regularly at various places throughout the country. When they gather, they come by the thousands, which always creates concern among the people in the neighborhood. Ironically the people with “things” worry that the Rainbow children might steal what they have.

Boyle wrote that his experiment was extended for two years, and that they proved to be “the most fulfilling of my life. I found that friendship, not money, is real security. Most western poverty is psychological.

“Could we all live like this tomorrow? No. It would be a catastrophe. We are too addicted to money and cheap energy. We have built an entire global infrastructure around the abundance of both. However, if we devolved decision-making and focused on local communities, then why not? For over 90 percent of our time on this planet we have lived without money. We are the only species on Earth to use it,” Boyle concluded.
(c) 2011 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Losing Our Way
By Bob Herbert

So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.

The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.

This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.

A stark example of the fundamental unfairness that is now so widespread was in The New York Times on Friday under the headline: “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether.” Despite profits of $14.2 billion — $5.1 billion from its operations in the United States — General Electric did not have to pay any U.S. taxes last year.

As The Times’s David Kocieniewski reported, “Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.” G.E. is the nation’s largest corporation. Its chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is the leader of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You can understand how ordinary workers might look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.


This is my last column for The New York Times after an exhilarating, nearly 18-year run. I’m off to write a book and expand my efforts on behalf of working people, the poor and others who are struggling in our society. My thanks to all the readers who have been so kind to me over the years. I can be reached going forward at
(c) 2011 Bob Herbert ~~~ The New York Times

A Hundred Years Of Rain
Air War Comes Full Circle in Libya
By Chris Floyd

Ian Patterson notes that the air war unleashed on Libya by the Western powers last week coincides very neatly with the 100th anniversary of the first military air strike -- which was launched by a Western power against ... Libya. From The London Review of Books:

The world’s first aerial bombing mission took place 100 years ago, over Libya. It was an attack on Turkish positions in Tripoli. On 1 November 1911, Lieutenant Cavotti of the Italian Air Fleet dropped four two-kilogramme bombs, by hand, over the side of his aeroplane. In the days that followed, several more attacks took place on nearby Arab bases. Some of them, inaugurating a pattern all too familiar in the century since then, fell on a field hospital, at Ain Zara, provoking heated argument in the international press about the ethics of dropping bombs from the air, and what is now known as ‘collateral damage’. (In those days it was called ‘frightfulness’.) The Italians, however, were much cheered by the ‘wonderful moral effect’ of bombing, its capacity to demoralise and panic those on the receiving end.

A hundred years on, as missiles rain down on Gaddafi’s defences and sleeping Libyan soldiers are blasted and burned, we hear claims of a similar kind: the might of the western onslaught will dissipate all support for Gaddafi’s regime and usher in a new golden age for everyone. Just as Shock and Awe were meant to in Iraq. Or bombing and defoliation were meant to in in Vietnam. Or as the London Blitz was meant to break Britain’s spirit. Yet all the evidence suggests that dropping high explosive on places where people live increases their opposition, their solidarity and their resolve. Happy Anniversary.

Note: For more on how the little acorn of atrocity planted by Lt. Cavotti has grown into the monstrous forest that shadows the world today, see this informative piece by Tom Englehardt.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

The Only Way To Have A Cow
A call for America to divest its heart and stomach from feedlot beef
By Bill McKibben

MAY I SAY—somewhat defensively—that I haven’t cooked red meat in many years? That I haven’t visited a McDonald’s since college? That if you asked me how I like my steak, I’d say I don’t really remember? I’m not a moral abstainer—I’ll eat meat when poor people in distant places offer it to me, especially when they’re proud to do so and I’d be an ass to say no. But in everyday life, for a series of reasons that began with the dietary scruples of the woman I chose to marry, hamburgers just don’t come into play.

I begin this way because I plan to wade into one of the most impassioned fracases now underway on the planet—to meat or not to meat—and I want to establish that I Do Not Have A Cow In This Fight. In recent years vegetarians and vegans have upped their attack on the consumption of animal flesh, pointing out not only that it’s disgusting (read Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book) but also a major cause of climate change. The numbers range from 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions to—in one recent study that was quickly discredited—51 percent. Whatever the exact figure, suffice it to say it’s high: there’s the carbon that comes from cutting down the forest to start the farm, and from the fertilizer and diesel fuel it takes to grow the corn, there’s the truck exhaust from shipping cows hither and yon, and most of all the methane that emanates from the cows themselves (95 percent of it from the front end, not the hind, and these millions of feedlot cows would prefer if you used the word eructate in place of belch). This news has led to an almost endless series of statistical calculations: going vegan is 50 percent more effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions than switching to a hybrid car, according to a University of Chicago study; the UN Food and Agriculture Organization finds that a half pound of ground beef has the same effect on climate change as driving an SUV ten miles. It has led to a lot of political statements: the British health secretary last fall called on Englishmen to cut their beefeating by dropping at least a sausage a week from their diets, and Paul McCartney has declared that “the biggest change anyone could make in their own lifestyle to help the environment would be to become vegetarian.” It has even led to the marketing of a men’s flip-flop called the Stop Global Warming Toepeeka that’s made along entirely vegan lines.

Industrial livestock production is essentially indefensible—ethically, ecologically, and otherwise. We now use an enormous percentage of our arable land to grow corn that we feed to cows who stand in feedlots and eructate until they are slaughtered in a variety of gross ways and lodge in our ever-larger abdomens. And the fact that the product of this exercise “tastes good” sounds pretty lame as an excuse. There are technofixes—engineering the corn feed so it produces less methane, or giving the cows shots so they eructate less violently. But this type of tailpipe fix only works around the edges, and with the planet warming fast that’s not enough. We should simply stop eating factory-farmed meat, and the effects on climate change would be but one of the many benefits.

Still, even once you’ve made that commitment, there’s a nagging ecological question that’s just now being raised. It goes like this: long before humans had figured out the whole cow thing, nature had its own herds of hoofed ungulates. Big herds of big animals—perhaps 60 million bison ranging across North America, and maybe 100 million antelope. That’s considerably more than the number of cows now resident in these United States. These were noble creatures, but uncouth—eructate hadn’t been coined yet. They really did just belch. So why weren’t they filling the atmosphere with methane? Why wasn’t their manure giving off great quantities of atmosphere-altering gas?

The answer, so far as we can tell, is both interesting and potentially radical in its implications. These old-school ungulates weren’t all that different in their plumbing—they were methane factories with legs too. But they used those legs for something. They didn’t stand still in feedlots waiting for corn, and they didn’t stand still in big western federal allotments overgrazing the same tender grass. They didn’t stand still at all. Maybe they would have enjoyed stationary life, but like teenagers in a small town, they were continually moved along by their own version of the police: wolves. And big cats. And eventually Indians. By predators.

As they moved, they kept eating grass and dropping manure. Or, as soil scientists would put it, they grazed the same perennials once or twice a year to “convert aboveground biomass to dung and urine.” Then dung beetles buried the results in the soil, nurturing the grass to grow back. These grasslands covered places that don’t get much rain—the Southwest and the Plains, Australia, Africa, much of Asia. And all that grass-land sequestered stupendous amounts of carbon and methane from out of the atmosphere—recent preliminary research indicates that methane-loving bacteria in healthy soils will sequester more of the gas in a day than cows supported by the same area will emit in a year.

We’re flat out of predators in most parts of the world, and it’s hard to imagine, in the short time that we have to deal with climate change, ending the eating of meat and returning the herds of buffalo and packs of wolves to all the necessary spots. It’s marginally easier to imagine mimicking those systems with cows. The key technology here is the single-strand electric fence—you move your herd or your flock once or twice a day from one small pasture to the next, forcing them to eat everything that’s growing there but moving them along before they graze all the good stuff down to bare ground. Now their manure isn’t a problem that fills a cesspool, but a key part of making the system work. Done right, some studies suggest, this method of raising cattle could put much of the atmosphere’s oversupply of greenhouse gases back in the soil inside half a century. That means shifting from feedlot farming to rotational grazing is one of the few changes we could make that’s on the same scale as the problem of global warming. It won’t do away with the need for radically cutting emissions, but it could help get the car exhaust you emitted back in high school out of the atmosphere.

Oh, and grass-fed beef is apparently much better for you—full of Omega 3s, like sardines that moo. Better yet, it’s going to be more expensive, because you can’t automate the process the same way you can feedlot agriculture. You need the guy to move the fence every afternoon. (That’s why about a billion of our fellow humans currently make their livings as herders of one kind or another—some of them use slingshots, or dogs, or shepherd’s crooks, or horses instead of electric fence, but the principle is the same.) More expensive, in this case, as in many others, is good; we’d end up eating meat the way most of the world does— as a condiment, a flavor, an ingredient, not an entrée.

I doubt McDonald’s will be in favor. I doubt Paul McCartney will be in favor. It doesn’t get rid of the essential dilemma of killing something and then putting it in your mouth. But it’s possible that the atmosphere would be in favor, and that’s worth putting down your fork and thinking about.
© 2011 Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, co-founder of His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

American Thought Police
By Paul Krugman

Recently William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, decided to weigh in on his state’s political turmoil. He started a blog, “Scholar as Citizen,” devoting his first post to the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the state level. Then he published an opinion piece in The Times, suggesting that Wisconsin’s Republican governor has turned his back on the state’s long tradition of “neighborliness, decency and mutual respect.”

So what was the G.O.P.’s response? A demand for copies of all e-mails sent to or from Mr. Cronon’s university mail account containing any of a wide range of terms, including the word “Republican” and the names of a number of Republican politicians.

If this action strikes you as no big deal, you’re missing the point. The hard right — which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party — has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear. And that demand for copies of e-mails is obviously motivated by no more than a hope that it will provide something, anything, that can be used to subject Mr. Cronon to the usual treatment.

The Cronon affair, then, is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two great political parties has become.

The demand for Mr. Cronon’s correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records.

Back in 2009 climate skeptics got hold of more than a thousand e-mails between researchers at the Climate Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia. Nothing in the correspondence suggested any kind of scientific impropriety; at most, we learned — I know this will shock you — that scientists are human beings, who occasionally say snide things about people they dislike.

But that didn’t stop the usual suspects from proclaiming that they had uncovered “Climategate,” a scientific scandal that somehow invalidates the vast array of evidence for man-made climate change. And this fake scandal gives an indication of what the Wisconsin G.O.P. presumably hopes to do to Mr. Cronon.

After all, if you go through a large number of messages looking for lines that can be made to sound bad, you’re bound to find a few. In fact, it’s surprising how few such lines the critics managed to find in the “Climategate” trove: much of the smear has focused on just one e-mail, in which a researcher talks about using a “trick” to “hide the decline” in a particular series. In context, it’s clear that he’s talking about making an effective graphical presentation, not about suppressing evidence. But the right wants a scandal, and won’t take no for an answer.

Is there any doubt that Wisconsin Republicans are hoping for a similar “success” against Mr. Cronon?

Now, in this case they’ll probably come up dry. Mr. Cronon writes on his blog that he has been careful never to use his university e-mail for personal business, exhibiting a scrupulousness that’s neither common nor expected in the academic world. (Full disclosure: I have, at times, used my university e-mail to remind my wife to feed the cats, confirm dinner plans with friends, etc.)

Beyond that, Mr. Cronon — the president-elect of the American Historical Association — has a secure reputation as a towering figure in his field. His magnificent “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West” is the best work of economic and business history I’ve ever read — and I read a lot of that kind of thing.

So we don’t need to worry about Mr. Cronon — but we should worry a lot about the wider effect of attacks like the one he’s facing.

Legally, Republicans may be within their rights: Wisconsin’s open records law provides public access to e-mails of government employees, although the law was clearly intended to apply to state officials, not university professors. But there’s a clear chilling effect when scholars know that they may face witch hunts whenever they say things the G.O.P. doesn’t like.

Someone like Mr. Cronon can stand up to the pressure. But less eminent and established researchers won’t just become reluctant to act as concerned citizens, weighing in on current debates; they’ll be deterred from even doing research on topics that might get them in trouble.

What’s at stake here, in other words, is whether we’re going to have an open national discourse in which scholars feel free to go wherever the evidence takes them, and to contribute to public understanding. Republicans, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, are trying to shut that kind of discourse down. It’s up to the rest of us to see that they don’t succeed.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost!"
~~~ Ronald Reagan

The Collapse Of Globalization
By Chris Hedges

The uprisings in the Middle East, the unrest that is tearing apart nations such as the Ivory Coast, the bubbling discontent in Greece, Ireland and Britain and the labor disputes in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio presage the collapse of globalization. They presage a world where vital resources, including food and water, jobs and security, are becoming scarcer and harder to obtain. They presage growing misery for hundreds of millions of people who find themselves trapped in failed states, suffering escalating violence and crippling poverty. They presage increasingly draconian controls and force—take a look at what is being done to Pfc. Bradley Manning—used to protect the corporate elite who are orchestrating our demise.

We must embrace, and embrace rapidly, a radical new ethic of simplicity and rigorous protection of our ecosystem—especially the climate—or we will all be holding on to life by our fingertips. We must rebuild radical socialist movements that demand that the resources of the state and the nation provide for the welfare of all citizens and the heavy hand of state power be employed to prohibit the plunder by the corporate power elite. We must view the corporate capitalists who have seized control of our money, our food, our energy, our education, our press, our health care system and our governance as mortal enemies to be vanquished.

Adequate food, clean water and basic security are already beyond the reach of perhaps half the world’s population. Food prices have risen 61 percent globally since December 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund. The price of wheat has exploded, more than doubling in the last eight months to $8.56 a bushel. When half of your income is spent on food, as it is in countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia and the Ivory Coast, price increases of this magnitude bring with them malnutrition and starvation. Food prices in the United States have risen over the past three months at an annualized rate of 5 percent. There are some 40 million poor in the United States who devote 35 percent of their after-tax incomes to pay for food. As the cost of fossil fuel climbs, as climate change continues to disrupt agricultural production and as populations and unemployment swell, we will find ourselves convulsed in more global and domestic unrest. Food riots and political protests will be inevitable. But it will not necessarily mean more democracy.

The refusal by all of our liberal institutions, including the press, universities, labor and the Democratic Party, to challenge the utopian assumptions that the marketplace should determine human behavior permits corporations and investment firms to continue their assault, including speculating on commodities to drive up food prices. It permits coal, oil and natural gas corporations to stymie alternative energy and emit deadly levels of greenhouse gases. It permits agribusinesses to divert corn and soybeans to ethanol production and crush systems of local, sustainable agriculture. It permits the war industry to drain half of all state expenditures, generate trillions in deficits, and profit from conflicts in the Middle East we have no chance of winning. It permits corporations to evade the most basic controls and regulations to cement into place a global neo-feudalism. The last people who should be in charge of our food supply or our social and political life, not to mention the welfare of sick children, are corporate capitalists and Wall Street speculators. But none of this is going to change until we turn our backs on the Democratic Party, denounce the orthodoxies peddled in our universities and in the press by corporate apologists and construct our opposition to the corporate state from the ground up. It will not be easy. It will take time. And it will require us to accept the status of social and political pariahs, especially as the lunatic fringe of our political establishment steadily gains power. The corporate state has nothing to offer the left or the right but fear. It uses fear—fear of secular humanism or fear of Christian fascists—to turn the population into passive accomplices. As long as we remain afraid nothing will change.

Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman, two of the major architects for unregulated capitalism, should never have been taken seriously. But the wonders of corporate propaganda and corporate funding turned these fringe figures into revered prophets in our universities, think tanks, the press, legislative bodies, courts and corporate boardrooms. We still endure the cant of their discredited economic theories even as Wall Street sucks the U.S. Treasury dry and engages once again in the speculation that has to date evaporated some $40 trillion in global wealth. We are taught by all systems of information to chant the mantra that the market knows best.

It does not matter, as writers such as John Ralston Saul have pointed out, that every one of globalism’s promises has turned out to be a lie. It does not matter that economic inequality has gotten worse and that most of the world’s wealth has became concentrated in a few hands. It does not matter that the middle class—the beating heart of any democracy—is disappearing and that the rights and wages of the working class have fallen into precipitous decline as labor regulations, protection of our manufacturing base and labor unions have been demolished. It does not matter that corporations have used the destruction of trade barriers as a mechanism for massive tax evasion, a technique that allows conglomerates such as General Electric to avoid paying any taxes. It does not matter that corporations are exploiting and killing the ecosystem on which the human species depends for life. The steady barrage of illusions disseminated by corporate systems of propaganda, in which words are often replaced with music and images, are impervious to truth. Faith in the marketplace replaces for many faith in an omnipresent God. And those who dissent—from Ralph Nader to Noam Chomsky—are banished as heretics.

The aim of the corporate state is not to feed, clothe or house the masses, but to shift all economic, social and political power and wealth into the hands of the tiny corporate elite. It is to create a world where the heads of corporations make $900,000 an hour and four-job families struggle to survive. The corporate elite achieves its aims of greater and greater profit by weakening and dismantling government agencies and taking over or destroying public institutions. Charter schools, mercenary armies, a for-profit health insurance industry and outsourcing every facet of government work, from clerical tasks to intelligence, feed the corporate beast at our expense. The decimation of labor unions, the twisting of education into mindless vocational training and the slashing of social services leave us ever more enslaved to the whims of corporations. The intrusion of corporations into the public sphere destroys the concept of the common good. It erases the lines between public and private interests. It creates a world that is defined exclusively by naked self-interest.

The ideological proponents of globalism—Thomas Friedman, Daniel Yergin, Ben Bernanke and Anthony Giddens—are stunted products of the self-satisfied, materialistic power elite. They use the utopian ideology of globalism as a moral justification for their own comfort, self-absorption and privilege. They do not question the imperial projects of the nation, the widening disparities in wealth and security between themselves as members of the world’s industrialized elite and the rest of the planet. They embrace globalism because it, like most philosophical and theological ideologies, justifies their privilege and power. They believe that globalism is not an ideology but an expression of an incontrovertible truth. And because the truth has been uncovered, all competing economic and political visions are dismissed from public debate before they are even heard.

The defense of globalism marks a disturbing rupture in American intellectual life. The collapse of the global economy in 1929 discredited the proponents of deregulated markets. It permitted alternative visions, many of them products of the socialist, anarchist and communist movements that once existed in the United States, to be heard. We adjusted to economic and political reality. The capacity to be critical of political and economic assumptions resulted in the New Deal, the dismantling of corporate monopolies and heavy government regulation of banks and corporations. But this time around, because corporations control the organs of mass communication, and because thousands of economists, business school professors, financial analysts, journalists and corporate managers have staked their credibility on the utopianism of globalism, we speak to each other in gibberish. We continue to heed the advice of Alan Greenspan, who believed the third-rate novelist Ayn Rand was an economic prophet, or Larry Summers, whose deregulation of our banks as treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton helped snuff out some $17 trillion in wages, retirement benefits and personal savings. We are assured by presidential candidates like Mitt Romney that more tax breaks for corporations would entice them to move their overseas profits back to the United States to create new jobs. This idea comes from a former hedge fund manager whose personal fortune was amassed largely by firing workers, and only illustrates how rational political discourse has descended into mindless sound bites.

We are seduced by this childish happy talk. Who wants to hear that we are advancing not toward a paradise of happy consumption and personal prosperity but a disaster? Who wants to confront a future in which the rapacious and greedy appetites of our global elite, who have failed to protect the planet, threaten to produce widespread anarchy, famine, environmental catastrophe, nuclear terrorism and wars for diminishing resources? Who wants to shatter the myth that the human race is evolving morally, that it can continue its giddy plundering of non-renewable resources and its profligate levels of consumption, that capitalist expansion is eternal and will never cease?

Dying civilizations often prefer hope, even absurd hope, to truth. It makes life easier to bear. It lets them turn away from the hard choices ahead to bask in a comforting certitude that God or science or the market will be their salvation. This is why these apologists for globalism continue to find a following. And their systems of propaganda have built a vast, global Potemkin village to entertain us. The tens of millions of impoverished Americans, whose lives and struggles rarely make it onto television, are invisible. So are most of the world’s billions of poor, crowded into fetid slums. We do not see those who die from drinking contaminated water or being unable to afford medical care. We do not see those being foreclosed from their homes. We do not see the children who go to bed hungry. We busy ourselves with the absurd. We invest our emotional life in reality shows that celebrate excess, hedonism and wealth. We are tempted by the opulent life enjoyed by the American oligarchy, 1 percent of whom control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

The celebrities and reality television stars whose foibles we know intimately live indolent, self-centered lives in sprawling mansions or exclusive Manhattan apartments. They parade their sculpted and surgically enhanced bodies before us in designer clothes. They devote their lives to self-promotion and personal advancement, consumption, parties and the making of money. They celebrate the cult of the self. And when they have meltdowns we watch with gruesome fascination. This empty existence is the one we are taught to admire and emulate. This is the life, we are told, we can all have. The perversion of values has created a landscape where corporate management by sleazy figures like Donald Trump is confused with leadership and where the ability to accumulate vast sums of money is confused with intelligence. And when we do glimpse the poor or working class on our screens, they are ridiculed and taunted. They are objects of contempt, whether on “The Jerry Springer Show” or “Jersey Shore.”

The incessant chasing after status, personal advancement and wealth has plunged most of the country into unmanageable debt. Families, whose real wages have dropped over the past three decades, live in oversized houses financed by mortgages they often cannot repay. They seek identity through products. They occupy their leisure time in malls buying things they do not need. Those of working age spend their weekdays in little cubicles, if they still have steady jobs, under the heels of corporations that have disempowered American workers and taken control of the state and can lay them off on a whim. It is a desperate scramble. No one wants to be left behind.

The propagandists for globalism are the natural outgrowth of this image-based and culturally illiterate world. They speak about economic and political theory in empty clichés. They cater to our subliminal and irrational desires. They select a few facts and isolated data and use them to dismiss historical, economic, political and cultural realities. They tell us what we want to believe about ourselves. They assure us that we are exceptional as individuals and as a nation. They champion our ignorance as knowledge. They tell us that there is no reason to investigate other ways of organizing and governing our society. Our way of life is the best. Capitalism has made us great. They peddle the self-delusional dream of inevitable human progress. They assure us we will be saved by science, technology and rationality and that humanity is moving inexorably forward.

None of this is true. It is a message that defies human nature and human history. But it is what many desperately want to believe. And until we awake from our collective self-delusion, until we carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience against the corporate state and sever ourselves from the liberal institutions that serve the corporate juggernaut—especially the Democratic Party—we will continue to be rocketed toward a global catastrophe.
(c) 2011 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "“Death Of The Liberal Class.”

Get The Hell Out Of My Country
By David Michael Green

In my last piece, "Trading Places: A Tale of Two Countries," I used a plethora of statistics to make a comparison between the United States and Sweden. The point was to use those little evil pests called facts to point out to the fools on the right that while they are correct about American exceptionalism, it doesn’t play out quite the way they think.

America is, in fact, exceptionally bad when it comes to any of a whole host of measures, such as health, longevity, economic equality, crime, pollution, etc. Over there in Sweden, on the other hand, the application of socialist ideas has turned out slightly differently than what those nice conservatives in America would have you believe. The ‘disaster’ of European socialism has led Europeans, especially Swedes, to kick America’s ass on basically any measure of quality of life one can imagine.


That whole fact thing that we in “the reality-based community” rely upon for intelligent analysis and policy prescription is almost always a disaster for regressives. You know, sorta like, “Iraq has WMD, therefore we should invade, and it will be a great war, fast, easy, cheap, and it will bring democracy to the Middle East (even though all our other policies there are about preventing it at all costs, but pay no attention to that).” That kinda thing. When that little riff smacked up against the ugly reality-based community known as the real world, it, uh – how shall we say it? – didn’t fare so very well. Nor did the insistence that radical tax cuts for the rich would boom the economy and simultaneously actually increase revenues to the federal treasury. Oops. Now the very same people who made that promise are screaming about how we have to slash spending on health and education to make up for the massive debt that was produced when their fantasies met reality. Then there’s global warming...

I could go on and on here. There is a very real pattern, which twenty minutes of watching Glenn Beck would immediately reveal to anyone who didn’t already know better. Regressives hide from reality. It’s that simple. Nor is it a mystery why. Facts don’t support the policies they’ve already ferociously embraced before – not after – they’ve done their ‘analysis’, policies they cling to so strongly because they either benefit them personally or assuage their rampant fears. That’s how it works, and that’s why this country is in the disastrous state that it’s in. We’ve been following so-called conservative policies for thirty years now (yes, very much including those periods in which Democrats were in the White House and ruled Congress). These policies are astonishingly destructive, which is why regressives have to pretend when it comes to reality, and which is why they almost always do, more so in this current era of Bachmann-Palin overdrive than ever.

I mention all this because a couple of folks reacted to the blizzard of comparative facts in my last piece in the usual regressive way: through obfuscation, distortion and deceit. No surprise there. One particular response caught my eye, however, and nearly knocked me off my chair. A couple of folks noted that, yes, America does poorly on all these statistics compared to other countries, but only if you count minorities. If you compare American whites only, they argue, then the US does much better.

Excuse me?!?! What’s that?!?! Did you really just say that?!?!

It’s hard to imagine all the ways in which this is nonsensical. More to the point, it’s difficult to determine whether at the end of the day it is characterized more by its unmitigated stupidity or its sheer offensiveness.

Why? Let’s start with the most benign criticism we might imagine, which is that – Hello! – other countries have minorities too. There are lots of folks who could be dropped from Sweden’s or France’s or Germany’s population if we are in the business of cherry-picking statistics. Of course, if on the other hand you’re just desperately trying to win a debate that otherwise makes you look stupid, then you would only cherry-pick on one side of the comparison.

Second, where in the world do nice, shiny white folks get off making a point like this, anyhow? Have they forgotten that there’s the small matter of how American minorities wound up in the condition they’re in to consider? You don’t suppose that, say, four centuries of white-imposed slavery and Jim Crow might have had anything to do with that, do you? I mean, I’m just thinking out loud here, and I know it might just be a really big coincidence and all, but just the same...

Third, what does race have to do with statistics that compare the health care systems, or the degree of government corruption, or the percentage of women in parliament, or the propensity to go to war, or carbon emissions, or the number of hours worked per week, or worker safety, or any number of other measures? The answer, of course, is nothing. At all. None of those factors would be changed by omitting one portion of American society from the comparison, and all of them reveal how exceptional the US is – exceptionally backward, that is.

But, finally, and most egregiously, what the hell is up with this concept of comparing only part of a country, anyhow? Are blacks and Hispanics somehow less American in the eyes of regressives? Do they somehow not count for as much? I think we all pretty much know the real answers to those questions, right-wing protestations that conservatives aren’t racist notwithstanding.

But let’s just go with their concept, shall we? Just for fun. What if there was one part of America that was dragging down the rest of us? Shouldn’t we exclude them from the country, or at the very least treat them with the contempt they so fully deserve for polluting the otherwise unblemished exceptionalism of our nation? Aren’t regressives really right about this? Shouldn’t we ditch these losers, so the rest of us can shine like we deserve to?

For example, let’s talk about health. What if I told you that a 21-factor health index statistic revealed that the following states are the ten most healthy in America, in order: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maine, Iowa, Utah, Hawaii, Nebraska and Connecticut? Now what if I told you that the following states are the ten least healthy on that same ranked list: Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico, Mississippi, and worst of all, Louisiana?

Might you notice anything interesting in that pattern? For instance, that almost all of the most healthy states are blue states – including Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Connecticut, four of the bluest states in the union? Or that Vermont and Massachusetts, the healthiest and third healthiest states in America, respectively, have the most socialized health care systems in the country? Or perhaps you’d find it remarkable that among the ten least healthy states in the country there are no blue states and just two purple ones. Indeed, with the exception of Utah, that list includes all our most conservative states, places like Texas and Mississippi and South Carolina. They’re as red as they come.

So, how about it, my regressive friends? Are you still on board for the idea of dropping the national detritus off the list in order to boost America’s statistics and restore its rightful comparative place? Think how much better we’d look compared to the Europeans if we just ditched the Terrible Ten listed above! What do you say?

Sorry, could you speak a bit louder? I’m not quite hearing your response...

Oh well, no worries. You’ll have plenty of other opportunities. We’re just getting started.

Let’s look at some other measures of heath, for example. How about obesity? Here are the ten fattest states, in order: Mississippi, West Virginia, Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and Missouri. Not exactly paragons of liberalism, are they? No, for that you’d have to look to the list of the least obese states, which are: Hawaii, Utah, Florida, Montana, Arizona, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, and best of all, Colorado. Most of these are, of course, blue states.

Well, maybe we should look at infant mortality rates, that key indicator in measuring the quality of health in any given polity. Those American states with the worst scores are: Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, Delaware, Missouri and Arkansas. On the other hand, those states who do best on this measure are: Utah, Alaska, California, Minnesota, Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and New York. Louisiana’s infant mortality rate is 10.3 per 1000 live births. New York’s is less than half that, at 4.0.

Is anyone beginning to see a pattern here?

How about crime? These ten states had the highest per capita incidence of violent crime in 2006: South Carolina, Tennessee, Nevada, Florida, Louisiana, Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico and Michigan. On the other hand, the safest states were: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Rhode Island, Utah, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont, North Dakota, and best of all, Maine. These lists are a bit more mixed than others we’ve seen, but there is still a clear tendency for the red states to be more violent. Should we drop them from America?

But surely the conservative parts of America do better economically, right? No doubt fiscal conservatism has raised the standard of living in red states, while the blue states are dragging down the US average, eh? Here are the ten states in America with the highest median family income: New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Alaska, Hawaii, Minnesota, Virginia and Illinois. With the exception of purple Maryland and Virginia and red Alaska, they are all blue states. And, since Alaska gets such a huge chunk of its income from federal government and oil giveaways, it shouldn’t even be on the list. On the other hand, here are the ten poorest states in America: North Carolina, Idaho, Alabama, Montana, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, West Virginia, Arkansas and bottom-feeder Mississippi. See a pattern, anyone? There’s not a single liberal state on that list. Mississippi, with a median family income of $39,319, is only slightly better than half as rich as New Jersey, at $73,973.

Same is true of bankruptcies. Those states with the highest per capita number of filings include: Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio. Those with the lowest are: Wyoming, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota, California, Maine, Alaska and best of all Hawaii. Once again, it is mainly Regressiveland that is dragging down the United States.

These figures are even clearer if we look at poverty. If you want to go somewhere in America where the poverty rate is really high, here are your choices: Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina and Oklahoma. On the other hand, those states sporting the lowest poverty rates are: Delaware, Iowa, Virginia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, Minnesota, Alaska, Connecticut, and best of all, New Hampshire. It’s an extremely clear pattern. The conservative states are the poorest. In Mississippi, 21.6 percent of people are living below the poverty line (no wonder Governor Haley Barbour is running for president with that proud record), while in New Hampshire it’s about a third of that amount, at 7.6 percent.

Education is no different. Here are the ten states in America with lowest percentage of folks having a high school diploma or better: Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, California, Rhode Island, North Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, and least educated of all, Texas. On the other hand, these states do best on that same measure: Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, New Hampshire, Vermont, Alaska, Iowa and Washington.

How about per capita occupational fatalities? Wyoming has the worst record, followed by Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Dakota, Mississippi, New Mexico and Alabama. The safest ten states for workers are: Maryland, Arizona, New York, California, Michigan, Maine, Delaware, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and on top, Rhode Island.

Or divorce rates? They are highest in Nevada, Arkansas, Alabama, Wyoming, Idaho, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi. On the other hand, those states with the lowest rates are: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Illinois, Massachusetts and Georgia.

The pattern repeats itself over and over, with respect to almost any indicator of social welfare or standard of living one cares to examine. The upshot is simple: You do not want to live in red states. You will be poorer, fatter, less safe, less healthy, less married and less educated if you do.

In fact, about the only thing red states are better at is going to church. The ten states with the highest percentage of children attending religious services each week are: Mississippi, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Nebraska. On the other hand, these states have the lowest rates on that same measure: Connecticut, Montana, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, Washington, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and lowest of all, Vermont.

Hmmm. That’s interesting. It would almost appear that god doesn’t love conservatives very much. And imagine how badly she’d treat them if they weren’t so busy praying to her every week!

Oh well, that’s a subject for another essay.

But what we can say to our conservative friends right now is that, for once, they were correct (in addition to being right) about something. Well, sorta, anyhow. Yes, they were spot on in noting that there is a segment of America dragging the country down, and ruining its otherwise exemplary exceptionalism.

So, okay, fair enough. Credit where credit is due. Perhaps we can all agree with the folks on the right that America would be better off without these deadbeats diluting our national greatness, even though some of us used to think we’re all one country in it together and we should support each other.

Okay, okay, I concur. Let’s get rid of them. Let’s cut bait. Let’s restore America’s greatness by ditching the precise group of people dragging the rest of us down.

Regressives, get the hell out of my country!
(c) 2011 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Chris give the corpo-rat salute!

Heil Obama,

Dear Gouverneur Christie,

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, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, your bustling the unions and getting rid of the middle class in New Jersey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with diamond clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 04-01-2011. We salute you Herr Christie, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

In Lawless Fitzwalkerstan, A Constitution Officer Refuses To Bend To A Royal Governor’s Dictate
By John Nichols

The fear that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Republican allies such as state Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald are turning Wisconsin into the American equivalent of a lawless “rogue state”—dubbed “Fitzwalkerstan” by state Rep. Mark Pocan, the former co-chair of the powerful Legislative Joint Finance Committee—was being taken more seriously Sunday. Walker’s lieutenants have announced that they would begin implementing the governor’s draconian anti-union power grab, despite the fact that a judge has issued an order blocking the law from going into effect.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi had issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking publication of the anti-union law until the courts could weigh multiple questions about the legislature’s actions and the law itself. But Walker’s minions are now claiming that steps taken Friday by the state’s Legislative Reference Bureau to prepare for publication of the bill are an authorization to begin implementing it.

“Upon the advice of my legal counsel, the Department of Administration will begin the process of implementing [the law] as we are required to do the day after a bill is lawfully published,” claimed Walker’s Department of Administration secretary Mike Huebsch.

The problem is that bill has not been lawfully published.

“Official publication by the Secretary of State is required for this act to go into effect,” state Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca explained. “The Secretary of State, the only Constitutional officer with the power to publish law, is prohibited by court order from publishing this Act.”

Barca’s right.

State law in Wisconsin clearly says that the elected secretary of state has the authority to order the publication of laws on a timeline established by statutes. Secretary of State Doug La Follette, responding to concerns expressed by local governments with regard to the confusing and potentially illegal manner in which Walker’s law was forced through the legislature, delayed publication in keeping with the statutory timeline.

Then, in response to legal challenges to the new law, which have focused on violations of the state’s open-meetings rules and core constitutional questions, Judge Sumi issued the TRO. Sumi’s order prevented La Follette from ordering the law published. La Follette embraced the order.

Now, with the Walker administration is trying to go around the elected secretary of state and the courts, the talk of Wisconsin as a lawless “Fitzwalkerstan” has spread.

State Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, described the Walker administration’s announcement that it would “begin the process of implementing the law as just another example of how desperate the governor and the Republican leadership is to try to circumvent the law and circumvent having a court determine whether or not they acted appropriately with the law.”

While the governor and his aides have decided to go rogue, Secretary of State La Follette is refusing to let Wisconsin become Fitzwalkerstan.

The state’s senior statewide official, an elected officer with authority afforded him by the state Constitution, La Follette says of the anti-labor law: “It’s still an act of the Legislature that has not yet become law because I have not yet designated a publication date.”

In the midst of the chaos created by a governor and his legislative allies, a chaos that veteran state Representative Pocan, D-Madison, refers to as “authoritarian anarchy,” the secretary of state is holding out for the rule of law.

Noting upcoming trial dates, La Follette says, “At this point, we wait until Monday to see if the Supreme Court decides to do anything. We wait until Tuesday for the trial judge to hold a hearing, which is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Beyond that, I don’t know.”

But Americans should know that, in the wilds of Fitzwalkerstan, an honest man with the great name of La Follette is holding aloft a copies of the Constitution and the state statutes promising that he will abide by its dictates—not those of an outlaw governor.
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Top Bush-era GITMO And Abu Ghraib psychologist Is WH's Newest Appointment
By Glenn Greenwald

One of the most intense scandals the field of psychology has faced over the last decade is the involvement of several of its members in enabling Bush's worldwide torture regime. Numerous health professionals worked for the U.S. government to help understand how best to mentally degrade and break down detainees. At the center of that controversy was -- and is -- Dr. Larry James. James, a retired Army colonel, was the Chief Psychologist at Guantanamo in 2003, at the height of the abuses at that camp, and then served in the same position at Abu Ghraib during 2004.

Today, Dr. James circulated an excited email announcing, "with great pride," that he has now been selected to serve on the "White House Task Force entitled Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family." In his new position, he will be meeting at the White House with Michelle Obama and other White House officials on Tuesday.

For his work at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Dr. James was the subject of two formal ethics complaints in the two states where he is licensed to practice: Louisiana and Ohio. Those complaints -- 50 pages long and full of detailed and well-documented allegations -- were filed by the International Human Rights Clinic of Harvard Law School's Human Rights Program, on behalf of veterans, mental health professionals and others. The complaints detailed how James "was the senior psychologist of the Guantánamo BSCT, a small but influential group of mental health professionals whose job it was to advise on and participate in the interrogations, and to help create an environment designed to break down prisoners." Specifically:

During his tenure at the prison, boys and men were threatened with rape and death for themselves and their family members; sexually, culturally, and religiously humiliated; forced naked; deprived of sleep; subjected to sensory deprivation, over-stimulation, and extreme isolation; short-shackled into stress positions for hours; and physically assaulted. The evidence indicates that abuse of this kind was systemic, that BSCT health professionals played an integral role in its planning and practice. . . .

Writing in 2009, Law Professor Bill Quigley and Deborah Popowski, a Fellow at the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, described James' role in this particularly notorious incident:

In 2003, Louisiana psychologist and retired Col. Larry James watched behind a one-way mirror in a US prison camp while an interrogator and three prison guards wrestled a screaming, near-naked man on the floor.

The prisoner had been forced into pink women's panties, lipstick and a wig; the men then pinned the prisoner to the floor in an effort "to outfit him with the matching pink nightgown." As he recounts in his memoir, "Fixing Hell," Dr. James initially chose not to respond. He "opened [his] thermos, poured a cup of coffee, and watched the episode play out, hoping it would take a better turn and not wanting to interfere without good reason ..."

Although he claims to eventually find "good reason" to intervene, the Army colonel never reported the incident or even so much as reprimanded men who had engaged in activities that constituted war crimes.

James treated numerous detainees who were abused, degraded, and tortured, yet never took any steps to stop or even report these incidents. Last year, Steven Reisner -- senior faculty member and supervisor at the International Trauma Studies Program, who also teaches at New York University Medical School and Columbia University -- told Democracy Now: "there is a lot of evidence that has been made public showing that the torture programs in the CIA and at Guantánamo, the Department of Defense, were created and overseen by health professionals, particularly psychologists" and that psychologists were at these facilities "to use their professional expertise to break down the detainees." James, argued Dr. Reisner, was directly implicated because:

Larry James was the chief BSCT starting in January 2003. And when you read the standard operating procedures for mental health, for how to -- behavior protocols for detainees during the time that Larry James was the chief psychologist, you find institutionalized abuse and torture -- isolation for thirty days at a time with absolutely no contact, prohibition of the International Committee of the Red Cross to see these detainees, no access even to religious articles, to the Qur’an, unless they cooperate with interrogations, not to mention frequent interrogation.

For his part, Dr. James claims he attempted to protect the detainees under his care from abuse and psychological injury. Meanwhile, the Louisiana psychology board refused to review the merits of the complaint against James on the grounds that the alleged acts were too old (outside the statute of limitations), while the Ohio board issued a three-sentence, cursory letter which decreed, without any explanation whatsoever, that "it has been determined that we are unable to proceed to formal action in this matter." So while the charges against him have not been formally sustained by either board, neither have they been evaluated or rejected by any apparent consideration of the merits. Judicial review of the Ohio board's decision is still possible (a Louisiana federal court ruled it lacked jurisdiction to review the board's Statute of Limitations findings).

Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, James should not be deemed guilty in the absence of a formal adjudication. But the White House's conduct in selecting him is nonetheless baffling, at best. Of all the psychologists to choose from, why would they possibly choose to honor and elevate the former chief psychologist of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib at the height of the Bush abuses? More disturbing still, among those most damaged by detainee abuse are the service members forced to participate in it; why would the White House possibly want to put on a task force about the health of military families someone, such as Dr. James, who at the very least is directly associated with policies that so profoundly harmed numerous members of the military and their families?

This isn't exactly a powerful Task Force, but what this appointment does is have the White House -- yet again -- signal that it does not really take very seriously the Bush torture regime. On appearance grounds alone, the Obama administration should not be embracing and legitimizing the Bush-era Chief Psychologist of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Is there really nobody in the White House who was able to come to that realization on their own, or is this part of some twisted "reaching out" effort to show that they view bygones as bygones when it comes to the war crimes our leaders committed and whom the Obama administration continues to protect? Whatever the explanation, the symbolism here is as ugly as the mindset underlying it.
(c) 2011
Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jimmy Margulies ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...


I can't remember anything
Can't tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel the scream
This terrible silence stops it there

Now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up, I cannot see
That there's not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please god, wake me

Back in the womb it's much too real
In pumps life that I must feel
But can't look forward to reveal
Look to the time when I'll live

Fed through the tube that sticks in me
Just like a wartime novelty
Tied to machines that make me be
Cut this life off from me

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please god, wake me

Now the world is gone I'm just one
Oh god, help me

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please god, help me

Darkness imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell

Landmines has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell
© 1988/2011 Metallica

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Gaddafi Bans Journalists, Arguing, ‘It’s Worked for Fox’
Establishes ‘No Spin Zone’ Over Libya
By Andy Borowitz

TRIPOLI (The Borowitz Report) – Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi took the extraordinary step of banning all journalists from his country today, arguing, “It’s worked for Fox.”

According to advisors to the Libyan dictator, Mr. Gaddafi has been studying the Fox News Channel closely in recent weeks as an example of a large enterprise that has thrived in the absence of journalism.

“Colonel Gaddafi has made no secret of his admiration of Fox,” said one aide to the Libyan dictator. “He has even told his nurses to wear more makeup so they will look like the Fox anchorwomen.”

Speaking over Libyan state television this morning, Mr. Gaddafi said that by expelling all journalists from Libya, he was protecting the Libyan people from “the bias and distortions of the lamestream media.”

The Libyan dictator said he was establishing a >no spin zone” over the country, replacing all actual news with a series of television shows “allowing for a free exchange of opinions – all of them mine.”

Mr. Gaddafi’s actions drew immediate criticism from Fox owner Rupert Murdoch: “A brutal dictator who is hostile to journalism? It definitely sounds like he is ripping me off.”

At the State Department, an official spokesman offered this response to Mr. Gaddafi’s actions: “As is State Department policy, we will wait several weeks and then issue a confusing, noncommittal statement.”

Meanwhile, several prominent Republicans voiced criticism of President Obama’s Libya policy, including former President George W. Bush, who urged Mr. Obama to define the mission: “That way, you can hang up a really cool banner once it’s accomplished.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said that she also had serious questions for Mr. Obama about Libya: “For example, where is it?”
(c) 2011 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 13 (c) 04/01/2011

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