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In This Edition

David Michael Green examines, "A Very Sick Country."

Uri Avnery introduces, "The New Mandela."

Matt Taibbi explores, "Mike Bloomberg's New York."

William Rivers Pitt with a must read, "The Savage Arithmetic Of The Pre-Existing Condition."

Jim Hightower considers, "The 'ROBS Act.'"

Amy Goodman says it means death to be, "Black In White Plains."

James Donahue is, "Celebrating The Resurrection Of Mithra."

Glen Ford with a real anti-war movement the, "UNAC."

Ralph Nader explains, "Obama's Weak-Kneed Regulatory Regime."

Randal Amster takes us on a, "Course Correction."

Paul Krugman studies, "Pink Slime Economics."

Ted Rall finds, "Every Policeman Is A Licensed Rapist."

Robert Reich asks, "Whose Recovery?"

Missouri House Majority Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka) wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols asks then answers, "Who Got the Most Votes In Tuesday's Primaries? Not Mitt Romney!"

Chris Floyd returns with, "Fools Rush In."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Landover Baptist Church reports, "Unsaved Children Nearly Egged To Death In Annual Easter Bunny Slaughter!" but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "God Wins In Wisconsin!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rex Babin, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Jeff Danziger, John Darkow, DIY.Despair.Com, Todd Heisler, Black Agenda Report.Com, Occupy The Nehterlands, The New York Times, Democracy Now, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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God Wins In Wisconsin!
By Ernest Stewart

"I'm not concerned about the very poor." ~~~ Willard Romney

"Well, actually, the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that "as long as the Earth remains there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night."

"My point is, God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous." ~~~ US Senator James Inhofe

"He was not comparing women to a veterinarian operation. He has been in hospitals around Missouri watching operations. To say he was comparing women to a veterinarian operation is disingenuine." ~~~ Rep. Jeanie Riddle (R-Mokane)

Nothing is easy, nothing good is free
But I can tell you where to start
Take a look inside your heart
There's an answer in your heart

Fight the good fight every moment
Every minute every day
Fight the good fight every moment
Make it worth the price we pay
Fight The Good Fight ~ Triumph

After Tuesday's primary victories in Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, Willard has just passed the halfway mark by picking up 83 delegates moving his totals to 652 delegates to Santorum's 269 delegates in the race to obtain 1144 delegates. In order to get the nomination, Rick would have to win at least 80% of all the delegates in the remaining primaries. Not something that is very likely to happen, so it looks likes Willard -- the boy who would be god -- gets the Rethuglican nomination, whether they like it or not!

The 1% have spoken; so why have the remaining primaries? Well, it's all about the show must go on; whether anyone is watching or not, as it's important to make the mob feel they have a voice in American politics -- when they don't. This is mostly because of the electronic, i.e., easily rigged, voting that most people are forced to do. You may remember this quote from Uncle Joe on the subject:

"It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." ~~~ Joseph Stalin

But that couldn't happen here, could it? Except, of course, that it has happened time and time again, long before stealing an election got so much easier with electronic voting. There would have been a stolen election just the other day in Florida, but that district also has a paper trail which was used to replace most of the people that the machines said had won, with those who it turned out actually won the election after they hand-counted the ballots. Not surprising, I'll grant you, with Florida's past record of treason and sedition. But Florida is not the only state where the vote is stolen this way -- it's just the tip of the iceberg. Since most candidates have long since been chosen to run by the party to ignore what the people want and serve only the desires of the 1%, it really doesn't matter who you vote for, or if you even bother to vote. The fix is in long before the polls open.

This time we get to choose between a right-of-center conservative candidate and Willard Romney for President. Yippie! Not!

In Other News

The figures are out for March, and they're record breaking! Consider that in 2010 we had the hottest year on record, i.e., in about 150 years. Last year, we had an even hotter year. This year, we're ahead of last year. In the month of March, in this country, there were 7691 record temperatures broken! On one day last month, the warmest place in the country wasn't in Florida, or even Hawaii, it was 90 degrees that day in Chicago. Here in Detroit, we broke records for a couple of weeks in the mid-to-upper 80's. Winter pretty much had ended here by the first week of February when Spring began, and by March it was that good old summertime! If it's 90 degrees in March, what will July and August be like?

However, I'm told by many gifted talking heads that there is no climate change; it's all a big liberal conspiracy. Then a chorus of politicians chime in singing the praises of "clean coal" (something that doesn't exist) while they blow the top off one of our purple mountain majesties, poisoning everything down stream and down wind, wiping out the fruited plain. Followed by a chorus of super-duper pacs spending billions to tell us not to believe our lying eyes, but only believe their lies, and please just roll back over and go back to sleep; everything is fine... have no fears... lull-la-bye and goodnight... the end is coming soon!

Don't believe me? Asks those folks down in and around Dallas and Ft. Worth, Texas if they believe in global warming. Through the first 3 months of 2012, we've had 460 tornadoes -- ahead of last year where we had 1897 tornadoes in total. Over in Europe where they have a half a dozen tornadoes on an annual average, they had 91 in 2011! Can you see a trend here, Sparky?

We had just a handful of tornadoes last year until April came around, and then all hell broke loose! I wonder if it will do the same thing this year? Looks like it's getting its start in Texas? Remind me again, please, why people want to live in Tornado Alley. I guess we'll miss the floods this year (as there wasn't much of a snow pack) until the rainy season, if there is a rainy season, and all the Midwestern topsoil isn't suddenly gone with the wind? It's not only global warming, but it's climate change too. As this progresses, a lot of people will either have to move away or die! How long can you tread water?

And Finally

The Republican war against women continues throughout the land. It's almost like the Republicans have a subconscious death wish and are determined to become a failed branch of American politics like the Whigs and Federalists have become? Those fascists down in Missouri came up with a bill that allows any religious lunatic, i.e., medical professional (whatever that means) whether member of a surgery team or a receptionist or a billing clerk's objections (for that matter) to have an impact on women's health.

House Majority Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka), the bill's sponsor, claims to know all about women's health, because his daddy was a vet, and he's seen first-hand dad operating on cows and sheep and such and is therefore an expert on the subject? Yes, I know! What he is saying is that women are farm animals and as such should have moral christians, or muslims or jews or, well you-name-it, have a say in your wife's, daughters', nieces' or mother's health care. Of course, Tim explains he's only doing this to help women out!

"My father's a veterinarian. I grew up in operating rooms," Jones said, referring to how crowded operating rooms can be. Jones, a corporate and tax appeals attorney, also said "I have spent time watching operations on humans as part of being a legislator." WTF? There is a requirement to watch operations as a member of the Missouri house? Really?

Rep. Susan Carlson (D-St. Louis) objected to Jones' analogy, suggesting that he was comparing women to farm animals. Carlson, who has become a leading opponent of the bill and characterized it as an "assault on women."

Jones and Republicans stressed several times that the bill is a "pro-worker" bill that provides hospital workers the right to not participate in certain procedures. The bill was amended in committee to specify which procedures could be objected to. The original version allowed objections to any medical procedure. (So, I could no longer have protection under the bill for refusing to operate on Republicans as they are all traitors and operating on traitors is against my religion. Bummer!) The public health committee chairman, Rep. David Sater (R-Cassville), called the bill "a delight." I call it treason, what do you call it, America?

Oh, and did I mention, that Missouri House Majority Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka) has won the Vidkun Quisling Award for this week, Congratulations Timmy!

Keepin' On

We'd like to thank Suz from Chicago for sending in a nice donation to the cause. Your money, Suz, will go into our June bill fund, we have to raise $1600 by the last week of June to keep up and running. We did manage to pay April's bill, not only on time but a few weeks in advance -- damn, imagine that! So thank you so much, Suz, for standing up and giving us a hand! It costs us around $11,000 a year to publish; fortunately, almost half of that is paid for in advertising. The rest either has to come from you or fall from the sky. So far it hasn't rained any "Franklins," damn global warming!

I know times are tough! They're tough at my house, too. In fact, I'm so broke, I can't pay attention, which is exactly what I'm required to do. Can you see the irony and pathos of my situtation, ya'll?

Ergo, a little help please. Visit our donations page and follow the instructions, and thank you for allowing us to continue to "fight, the good fight!"

P.S. We lost our good friend Rex Babin the other day. Rex was the award-winning political cartoonist of The Sacramento Bee. Rex was the first professional cartoonist to allow us to use his material without a fee, and was our featured cartoonist in our second edition back in February of 2001. Since then Rex was been a featured cartoonist at least a dozen times! We'll miss your wit, wisdom and art my friend. Rex died March 30th of cancer at age 49. See a selection of Rex's artwork in this week's Cartoon Corner.


09-30-1962 ~ 03-30-2012
Thanks for the art and insight!

07-29-1923 ~ 04-05-2012
Thanks for the sound!


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


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

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

A Very Sick Country
By David Michael Green


It looks now like the regressive majority on the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement, his health care bill.

That is so fitting.

More than that, it is also a reminder of just how sick this country truly is. Imagine that the lab returned the results from your battery of blood work tests, and all the indicators were screaming out "Danger!" and "Broken!" That's us, baby. Get this patient to the ER!

What a total disaster.

The first indicator of how unhealthy we are as a country - literally and figuratively - is the fact that we still don't have universal health care here in the wealthiest place on Earth. It's been more than century since the welfare state - a system in which the national government assumes responsibility, as an agent of the national will, for guaranteeing certain benefits and protections to its citizenry - was invented, and, unlike every other developed country in the world, the richest one still doesn't come close to having universal care for our public, including millions of children. It's a crime - there's no other word for it - of astonishing proportions . But it gets worse. We pay more than half-again per capita above the cost of the next most expensive system in the world, and still one-sixth of our population remains completely uninsured, with many more poorly insured. Nice.

By the way, it's worth noting that the guy who originally launched the welfare state was none other than the regressive and aggressive old Prussian chancellor himself, Otto von Bismarck. Golly, I don't mean to be critical or anything, but you know you're hurting when your country's politics are to the right of the "blood and iron" father of the German Empire. Just saying...

I'll hold my gauze-packed nose in a vise-grip and give Obama a little bit of credit for addressing the issue. But the way he went about it constitutes the original sin that will have brought us to the place of almost complete disaster after the rump Court finishes its ideological hijack. To begin with, Obama looked at the existing disaster of regressive health care policy - the joys of commercializing and profitizing the public's need for medicine - and then decided to promulgate the next most conservative option he could come up with, one which commercializes and profitizes medicine even more. He could have gone for single payer - that is, Medicare for all - which is only the system employed by just about every other developed country in the world, all of whom, naturally, are more highly ranked by the World Health Organization on delivery of health care. Yes, yes, I know. All the Obama apologists out there say this was politically impossible. Maybe that's true. But maybe it's not. The presidency is all about persuasion. If the punk Bush could sell the insane Iraq war, which in fact he did to an originally skeptical public, perhaps Obama could have talked sense to America about health care, and moved people enough to force action out of Congress. Or, short of that, he might at least have demanded that the public option be part of the legislation, the next best choice.

What he did instead was to pretend to care about a public option, in order to keep stupid liberals on board, while he cut a secret deal with the parasitic insurance industry guaranteeing their profits and promising there would be no public option in the bill. That isn't reckless surmise. Tom Daschle, Obama's political mentor and health care point man, wrote that the president did just that. Then he adopted a model for his plan that was so conservative it had originally been put forth by the Heritage Foundation, was a plank in Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign, and had already been implemented by Mitt Romney (who, in case you hadn't heard, is a Republican - though he can be whatever you need him to be, as long as you make him president) in Massachusetts, in addition to being blessed by that bastion of progressivism, the insurance industry. Hey, what's that old line about reposing with canines...?

Obama compounded his sell-out to the one percent by not selling his legislation to the ninety-nine percent. Polls show that most Americans don't understand the legislation - today, three years after the extended sausage-making process that produced it - and most favor repeal. What's astonishing about that latter fact is that, even though the bill is deeply flawed, it provides pretty much nothing but good news for American citizens. Opposing it - unless you're opposed to the 99 percent getting a fair shake (hmmm?, who could those opponents be?) or you're just dead-set on seeing this president fail (hmmm? again) - is like opposing free chocolate sundaes or bonus checks from your employer. When you can't sell Christmas to a six year-old, maybe you should get out of the Santa business, eh?

Obama appears to have also been the last person in America to understand the vicious nature of today's so-called conservatives. Generally, I think his incompetence as president is overstated. Too often, it's the excuse suckered liberals give themselves for the cognitive dissonance they experience when they look at how corporate and conservative and militant and statist their hero's actual policies are. But health care may be a case where this is an accurate portrait. I suspect he was actually dumb enough - as if he, like Sarah Palin, had simply not been paying the remotest attention to the government shutdowns, the impeachment of Clinton, the 2000 election, the Swiftboating of John Kerry and Max Cleland, and the rest of American history these last thirty years - to believe that he could find some moderate Republicans, compromise with them and get their vote. And I also think he is the most inept owner of the bully pulpit since George III. All during the year (year!) of legislating health care, this administration completely ceded the high ground, low ground, and everything in-between ground to the bellowing, foaming-at-the-mouth, blatantly lying (remember death panels?), corporate-sponsored, Koch Brothers-funded, Tea Party idiot right. And all during this last year they've done exactly the same thing while the four or six or ten Republican presidential candidates running at any given time have trashed the bill relentlessly, with nary a counter peep from Barack and his communications wizards. Gee, is it shocking under those conditions that the American public doesn't understand the bill, or that they oppose it? Is it such a leap to imagine that such public sentiments have given license (as if they needed it) to the same five hacks-in-black-robes who gave us Bush v. Gore and Citizens United to legislate from the bench as the most activist court in perhaps all of American history and strike down the legislation wholesale?

Which brings us to even deeper maladies being suffered by the body politic. This debacle demonstrates in full the degree to which the American political system is completely broken. But, alas, not in the way people think, which leads to the possibility (and, given the events of the last thirty years, the likelihood) that in the coming years we will simply compound our problems in response to these indicators, by simply going further in the direction of our systemic carnage, rather than running as fast as we can the other way. There are four main issues here, and none of them are peripheral or symptomatic - each of these go to the core dysfunctionality of the American political system. They are: the American presidential system, its electoral system, the extensive use of judicial review, and the kleptocratic ownership of the state.

Americans revere their Constitution, but they mostly don't know why. Just like we grow up Catholics or Mets fans or anti-communists, we just by-and-large think what we're told to think and do what we're told to do, never stopping to ask the big Why? questions. As a political scientist, I do admire certain feats of engineering embodied in the Constitution, and the clever solutions these provided to otherwise intractable problems at the time of the Founders. And as a citizen, I admire parts of the document - such as the Bill of Rights - very much, especially given the era from which they emerged.

However, one of the handful of most salient ideas of the Constitution is a bad one, as has becomes increasingly evident in our time for anyone who cares to look. This is the notion of separation of powers, along with the twin concept of checks and balances. I suspect most Americans don't even realize that you don't have to structure your political regime this way in order to have a democracy, and in fact, most democracies don't. They use a parliamentary system instead, rather than our model, which is referred to as a presidential system. What's the difference? Well, in a parliamentary system, you have one singular government responsible for governing. The executive function (prime minister and cabinet) emerges directly out of the legislative function (parliament) to which it is permanently fused, and, meanwhile, there typically is no judiciary with the power to speak to legislative matters. That means, quite simply, that the undivided government governs, unimpeded by anything other than the criticisms of the media and the opposition, and how its work plays with public opinion. It gets things done - none of the divided government plaguing the American system so badly today - and if the public approves, it gets another term. If not, it doesn't.

It's a simple straightforward concept that fully embodies the notion of responsible government, thus permitting accountability and, ultimately, real functioning democracy. Contrast that with the American system. Is there anybody in the US who isn't unhappy with the current government? Maybe that one guy in Nebraska, but he's been off his meds for years now. Or the woman in Florida with the sixty-seven cats. Otherwise, though, the remaining three hundred million of us are pretty much sickened by Washington. So what do we do? Well, throw the bums out, of course, and replace them with some new bums. But think about what that would mean today. We would be replacing a Republican House with a Democratic one, a Democratic Senate (with an insufficiently large enough majority to do anything) with a Republican Senate of the same gridlocked structure, and a right-wing Democratic president with a Republican president. Wow! That'd be a relief, eh?! What a difference that would make! What a prescription for boldly launching the future!

We are, of course, a million miles away from shredding the worshiped Constitution (and a change of this magnitude to such a core item would indeed represent something of a shred, starting with Articles One, Two and Three), and even further from possibly imagining that foreign people - let alone those squishy European bastards who inconveniently live healthier, happier and longer lives - could teach us anything about anything. But, that said - since we're just talking among friends here - one of the greatest gifts we could give ourselves at this point would be a parliamentary system and the gift of responsible government. Then, when we're not happy with any particular government we've got, we can make a change at the ballot box which might actually result in a genuine change of direction.

Assuming, that is, that there is an alternative to be chosen. If, on the other hand, you have an electoral system like ours, you can have parliamentary government and yet may still be left with only two parties to pick from. Worse still, on fundamental issues like foreign policy and the distribution of wealth in the society, the parties may be identical enough (or just owned enough) so as to offer no real choice at all. Hello! Can you say "America 2012"? There are a lot of systemic reasons for this duopoly we've produced in American politics, but the chief one is our use of the winner-take-all district model electoral system - which will tend to produce two dominant parties over the long-haul wherever it is employed - instead of a proportional representation system, which does not. Again, god forbid Americans should learn anything from anyone else, but if we did stoop that low, we might want to think about revising our electoral system (which would not require Constitutional amendment). It would do us a world of good, not only by giving us multiple and genuine choices at the ballot box, but also by injecting alternative ideas into our poverty-stricken political discourse.

Meanwhile, if we return to the separation of powers problem again for a moment, we encounter another severe problem which is a natural artifact of that system. If you're going to have separate branches of government, each with the capacity to check and balance against each other, that means your judiciary pretty much needs to have the power known as judicial review in order to be a meaningful player in that contest. This term refers to the capacity to strike down legislation produced by the other two branches. Again, this is - especially to the degree with which it is practiced here - a fairly peculiarly American idea. In most other democracies, parliament rules. Period, full stop. Not here.

Does judicial review makes sense? I can see two domains where it does, though often (like now) only in a theoretical sense: civil rights and civil liberties. Stupid and angry politicians, often reacting to the stupid and angry sentiments of the public, almost never fail to relieve minorities of their rights and deny individuals the human rights (little things like due process, and so on) they are otherwise entitled to possess. All too often, in short, it's just plain politically popular to be mean and bigoted and 'legally' violent, and democratically elected governments will readily oblige a lathered up public (when politicians aren't in fact whipping up voters themselves - remember McCarthyism? the war on drugs? gay marriage?). Who will stop them from doing this? Theoretically (meaning, only if they happen to be so disposed - just the opposite of our condition today with the regressive majority on the Supreme Court), courts populated by justice-seeking and principle-protecting judges will do so, judges who also happen to be insulated from the public wrath by lifetime terms. They can afford to stand on lofty principles when the political branches are assembled into a lynch party. There is definite wisdom to this concept, though no guarantees. Do you see Justice Scalia, for example, slapping down Congress for depriving African Americans or women of their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights? I rest my case.

Apart from those two areas, however, I would argue that the very notion of judicial review is a disaster, because it is profoundly undemocratic. That was perhaps never more evident than it is now, as the rump majority of this extremely activist Court is preparing to fully legislate from the bench - in full contradiction of their own fervently argued 'principles' of federalism and judicial restraint from previous cases no less - by overturning not just the individual mandate part of Obama's bill, but all of it. And apparently - judging from Scalia's comments - they'll be doing so without even reading the legislation, and certainly without understanding it. I see little difference between such a governing structure and the essence of monarchy. In both cases you have political decision-makers who have not been chosen by the public, serving life terms, making legislative decisions in secret, unaccountable and nonreplacable, making policy on high and dictating it to the masses without fear of consequence. What possible relationship does that bear to anything one could plausibly label as democracy? The question answers itself. It also therefore reminds us that the third major political malady infecting our system is the expanded and profoundly undemocratic notion of judicial review.

Notwithstanding these structural handicaps, the American political system has nevertheless been moderately successful at negotiating the rocky shoals of policy-making over the last two-plus centuries. There have been, to be sure, some glaring inadequacies and the occasional near-fatal meltdown. But people ultimately vote with their feet, and something chronically broken would ultimately be unlikely to have seen that many candles on its birthday cake. In that same two hundred year-plus time period, for example, the French have had five republics (along with several iterations of empires and monarchies). But after one false start (the Articles of Confederation), the American regime has remained more or less intact for more than twenty decades, though it is manifestly broken today. Calling the federal government dysfunctional would be an act of charity.

But there is one last peril that threatens American democracy today, to a degree not seen for at least a century, and to the extent that the term democracy itself becomes a rather dubious appellation for the system we live under. Let's just be honest, shall we? - if for no other reason than the refreshing novelty of doing so: Fundamentally, the representatives in our 'representative government' don't represent you and me. They represent the one percent. You can play all the games you want about how campaigns are funded, and spin all the tall tales you need to about how money 'only' buys access, not Congressional votes, but the real system of pay-to-play is transparently obvious to anyone willing to risk even a sidelong glance at the emperor's new clothes. It's just that simple and just that broken. The only place American representative democracy exists anymore today is in eighth-grade civics textbooks.

General governance mechanics are important, as I've noted at some length above, and there are campaign finance systems that are way better than others at promoting true democratic representation, to be sure. But at the bottom of the pile of political engineering problems lies human nature. If we allow greed to control our public sphere, we will wind up with a government representing the one percent and not the ninety-nine percent. Indeed, it will be a government very much intentionally governing at the expense of the ninety-nine percent. We will wind up with a political system that is completely dysfunctional, except for purposes of the wholesale transfer of wealth upwards. We will wind up with policies in every domain - from national security to tobacco policy to guns, prisons and taxes and far beyond - that reflects the needs of the special monied interests over the public interest. And we will end up with a health care system whose purpose is not to provide health, but rather to enrich insurance and pharmaceutical corporations.

Hey, what the hell am I doing, saying "We will..."? Strike that.

We have.

Welcome to America, 2012.

Here's to your good health.
(c) 2012 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 New Mandela
By Uri Avnery

MARWAN BARGHOUTI has spoken up. After a long silence, he has sent a message from prison.

In Israeli ears, this message does not sound pleasant. But for Palestinians, and for Arabs in general, it makes sense.

His message may well become the new program of the Palestinian liberation movement.

I FIRST met Marwan in the heyday of post-Oslo optimism. He was emerging as a leader of the new Palestinian generation, the home-grown young activists, men and women, who had matured in the first Intifada.

He is a man of small physical stature and large personality. When I met him, he was already the leader of Tanzim ("organization"), the youth group of the Fatah movement.

The topic of our conversations then was the organization of demonstrations and other non-violent actions, based on close cooperation between the Palestinians and Israeli peace groups. The aim was peace between Israel and a new State of Palestine.

When the Oslo process died with the assassinations of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Marwan and his organization became targets. Successive Israeli leaders - Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon - decided to put an end to the two-state agenda. In the brutal "Defensive Shield operation (launched by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of the Kadima Party) the Palestinian Authority was attacked, its services destroyed and many of its activists arrested.

Marwan Barghouti was put on trial. It was alleged that, as the leader of Tanzim, he was responsible for several "terrorist" attacks in Israel. His trial was a mockery, resembling a Roman gladiatorial arena more than a judicial process. The hall was packed with howling rightists, presenting themselves as "victims of terrorism". Members of Gush Shalom protested against the trial inside the court building but we were not allowed anywhere near the accused.

Marwan was sentenced to five life sentences. The picture of him raising his shackled hands above his head has become a Palestinian national icon. When I visited his family in Ramallah, it was hanging in the living room.

IN PRISON, Marwan Barghouti was immediately recognized as the leader of all Fatah prisoners. He is respected by Hamas activists as well. Together, the imprisoned leaders of Fatah and Hamas published several statements calling for Palestinian unity and reconciliation. These were widely distributed outside and received with admiration and respect.

(Members of the extended Barghouti family, by the way, play a major role in Palestinian affairs across the entire spectrum from moderate to extremist. One of them is Mustapha Barghouti, a doctor who heads a moderate Palestinian party with many connections abroad, whom I regularly meet at demonstrations in Bilin and elsewhere. I once joked that we always cry when we see each other - from tear gas. The family has its roots in a group of villages north of Jerusalem.) NOWADAYS, MARWAN Barghouti is considered the outstanding candidate for leader of Fatah and president of the Palestinian Authority after Mahmoud Abbas. He is one of the very few personalities around whom all Palestinians, Fatah as well as Hamas, can unite.

After the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, when the prisoner exchange was discussed, Hamas put Marwan Barghouti on top of the list of Palestinian prisoners whose release it demanded. This was a very unusual gesture, since Marwan belonged to the rival - and reviled - faction.

The Israeli government struck Marwan from the list right away, and remained adamant. When Shalit was finally released, Marwan stayed in prison. Obviously he was considered more dangerous than hundreds of Hamas "terrorists" with "blood on their hands".


Cynics would say: because he wants peace. Because he sticks to the two-state solution. Because he can unify the Palestinian people for that purpose. All good reasons for a Netanyahu to keep him behind bars.

SO WHAT did Marwan tell his people this week?

Clearly, his attitude has hardened. So, one must assume, has the attitude of the Palestinian people at large.

He calls for a Third Intifada, a non-violent mass uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring.

His manifesto is a clear rejection of the policy of Mahmoud Abbas, who maintains limited but all-important cooperation with the Israeli occupation authorities. Marwan calls for a total rupture of all forms of cooperation, whether economic, military or other.

A focal point of this cooperation is the day-to-day collaboration of the American-trained Palestinian security services with the Israeli occupation forces. This arrangement has effectively stopped violent Palestinian attacks in the occupied territories and in Israel proper. It guarantees, In practice, the security of the growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Marwan also calls for a total boycott of Israel, Israeli institutions and products in the Palestinian territories and throughout the world. Israeli products should disappear from West Bank shops, Palestinian products should be promoted.

At the same time, Marwan advocates an official end to the charade called "peace negotiations". This term, by the way, is never heard anymore in Israel. First it was replaced with "peace process", then "political process", and lately "the political matter". The simple word "peace" has become taboo among rightists and most "leftists" alike. It's political poison.

Marwan proposes to make the absence of peace negotiations official. No more international talk about "reviving the peace process", no more rushing around of ridiculous people like Tony Blair, no more hollow announcements by Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton, no more empty declarations of the "Quartet". Since the Israeli government clearly has abandoned the two-state solution - which it never really accepted in the first place - keeping up the pretense just harms the Palestinian struggle.

Instead of this hypocrisy, Marwan proposes to renew the battle in the UN. First, apply again to the Security Council for the acceptance of Palestine as a member state, challenging the US to use its solitary veto openly against practically the whole world. After the expected rejection of the Palestinian request by the Council as a result of the veto, request a decision by the General Assembly, where the vast majority would vote in favor. Though this would not be binding, it would demonstrate that the freedom of Palestine enjoys the overwhelming support of the family of nations, and isolate Israel (and the US) even more.

Parallel to this course of action, Marwan insists on Palestinian unity, using his considerable moral force to put pressure on both Fatah and Hamas.

TO SUMMARIZE, Marwan Barghouti has given up all hope of achieving Palestinian freedom through cooperation with Israel, or even Israeli opposition forces. The Israeli peace movement is not mentioned anymore. "Normalization" has become a dirty word.

These ideas are not new, but coming from the No. 1 Palestinian prisoner, the foremost candidate for the succession of Mahmoud Abbas, the hero of the Palestinian masses, it means a turn to a more militant course, both in substance and in tone.

Marwan remains peace oriented - as he made clear when, in a rare recent appearance in court, he called out to the Israeli journalists that he continues to support the two-state solution. He also remains committed to non-violent action, having come to the conclusion that the violent attacks of yesteryear harmed the Palestinian cause instead of furthering it.

He wants to call a halt to the gradual and unwilling slide of the Palestinian Authority into a Vichy-like collaboration, while the expansion of the Israeli "settlement enterprise" goes on undisturbed.

NOT BY accident did Marwan publish his manifesto on the eve of "Land Day", the world-wide day of protest against the occupation.

"Land Day" is the anniversary of an event that took place in 1976 to protest against the decision of the Israeli government to expropriate huge tracts of Arab-owned land in Galilee and other parts of Israel. The Israeli army and police fired on the protesters, killing six of them. (The day after, two of my friends and I laid wreaths on the graves of the victims, an act that earned me an outbreak of hatred and vilification I have seldom experienced.)

Land day was a turning point for Israel's Arab citizens, and later became a symbol for Arabs everywhere. This year, the Netanyahu government threatened to shoot anybody who even approaches our borders. It may well be a harbinger for the Third Intifada heralded by Marwan.

For some time now, the world has lost much of its interest in Palestine. Everything looks quiet. Netanyahu has succeeded in deflecting world attention from Palestine to Iran. But in this country, nothing is ever static. While it seems that nothing is happening, settlements are growing incessantly, and so is the deep resentment of the Palestinians who see this happening before their eyes.

Marwan Barghouti's manifesto expresses the near-unanimous feelings of the Palestinians in the West Bank and elsewhere. Like Nelson Mandela in apartheid South Africa, the man in prison may well be more important than the leaders outside.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Mike Bloomberg's New York
Cops in Your Hallways
By Matt Taibbi

An amazing lawsuit was filed in New York last week. It seems Mike Bloomberg's notorious "stop-and-frisk" policy - known colloquially in these parts by silently-cheering white voters as the "Let's have cops feel up any nonwhite person caught walking in the wrong neighborhood" policy - isn't even the most repressive search policy in the NYPD arsenal.

Bloomberg, that great crossover Republican, has long been celebrated by the Upper West Side bourgeoisie for his enlightened views on gay rights and the environment, but also targeted for criticism by civil rights activists because of stop-and-frisk, a program that led to a record 684,330 street searches just last year.

Now he's under fire for a program he inherited, which goes by the darkly Bushian name of the "Clean Halls program." In effect since 1991, it allows police to execute so-called "vertical patrols" by going up into private buildings and conducting stop-and-frisk searches in hallways - with the landlord's permission.

According to the NYCLU, which filed the suit, "virtually every private apartment building [in the Bronx] is enrolled in the program," and "in Manhattan alone, there are at least 3,895 Clean Halls Buildings." Referring to the NYPD's own data, the complaint says police conducted 240,000 "vertical patrols" in the year 2003 alone.

If you live in a Clean Halls building, you can't even go out to take out the trash without carrying an ID - and even that might not be enough. If you go out for any reason, there may be police in the hallways, demanding that you explain yourself, and insisting, in brazenly illegal and unconstitutional fashion, on searches of your person.

The easiest way to convey the full insanity of this program is to simply read stories from the complaint. The first account comes from Janean Ligon, a 40 year-old black woman from East 163 St. in the Bronx. She lives with her three sons, J.G., J.A.G., and Jerome, all of whom have been repeatedly stopped and harassed.

According to the suit, Mrs. Ligon in August of last year sent her son J.G. to go to the store to get ketchup. He went to the store, got the ketchup, and started home. Just outside the door to his apartment, he was stopped by four policemen, two in uniform and two in plain clothes. They ask him why he's going into the building. He explains, produces identification, and even shows the police the ketchup in his bag. But that's not enough. After that:

... One officer asked J.G. to identify the apartment in which he lived. J.G. responded, telling the officer his family's apartment number. The officers then rang the bell to Ms. Ligon's apartment. Over the intercom, Ms. Ligon heard a man say that he was a police officer, and he needed her to come down to identify her son.

Terrified that J.G. was injured or dead, Ms. Ligon ran out of the apartment to find out what had happened to J.G. As she approached the lobby she saw J.G. standing just outside the vestibule near the mailboxes, surrounded by four officers. She collapsed and began weeping. One officer began laughing, asked Ms. Ligon if J.G. was her son, and handed her the ketchup.

In another incident, police stopped three friends of a Bronx resident named Alex Lebron as they were leaving his apartment. Lebron's mother saw the teenagers being interviewed in the stairwell, approached the police and told them she knew them and everything was okay. She then went to her apartment and told her son that the cops were talking to his friends. Lebron, according to the suit, then races downstairs "to prevent their arrest." Here's the rest of the story, according to the complaint:

Mr. Lebron encountered his handcuffed friends and the two police officers in the lobby of his building. He told the officers that he lived in the building and that the teens had been visiting him. The officers responded that it was "too late" and placed the three young men in a police van.... The arresting officers took W.B., J.G., and their friend to the 44th Precinct, where they were locked in a cell. After approximately two hours, they were given summonses for trespassing and released. The trespassing charges against W.B., J.G., and their friend were later dismissed.

This is Michael Bloomberg's New York - where, in a stirring homage to the underappreciated Wayans Brothers classic Don't Be a Menace to South Central (While Driving Your Juice in the Hood), you really can be arrested for "being black on a Friday night." (Okay, the Lebron incident was actually a Wednesday night - June 15 of last year). Stories like this "Clean Halls" program are beginning to make me see that journalists like myself have undersold the white-collar corruption story in recent years by ignoring its flip side. We have two definitely connected phenomena, often treated as separate and unconnected: a growing lawlessness in the financial sector, and an expanding, repressive, increasingly lunatic police apparatus trained at the poor, and especially the nonwhite poor.

In recent years, as Wall Street firms turned into veritable felony factories, we had pundits and politicians who cranked out reams of excuses for one white-collar criminal after another and argued, in complete seriousness, that sending a rich banker to jail "wouldn't solve anything" and in fact we should "tolerate the excesses" of the productive rich, who "channel opportunity" to the rest of us.

On the other hand, we've had politicians and pundits in budget fights and other controversies railing against the parasitic poor, who are not only not "productive" enough to warrant a break, but assumed to be actively unproductive (they consume our tax money and public services) and therefore sort of guilty in advance.

When I read this "Clean Halls" story I immediately thought of the various robosigning scandals. If even one law enforcement official had been able to take just one stroll through, say, the credit card collections office of a Chase or a Bank of America at any time in the last decade, he would have seen rows of cubicles full of entry-level employees whose entire job was to sit around all day long, right out in the open, forging court documents. Whole departments attended to this job for years and years and somehow nobody with a badge ever got a whiff of it.

But in New York, we have cops cruising through private buildings, checking bags full of ketchup 200,000 times a year. Makes sense, doesn't it?
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

Pancreas CancerWhen doctors found precancerous cysts, Nancy Platt chose to have her pancreas removed.
Her daughter, Laura Train, and husband, Sam, were by her side at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore,

The Savage Arithmetic Of The Pre-Existing Condition
By William Rivers Pitt

I went to the doctor
Guess what he told me
Guess what he told me...
~ Sinead O'Connor ~

Five years ago, my wife and I took what turned out to be the longest walk in the world to Brigham & Women's hospital in Boston to get a diagnosis for her that had been six months in the making. She was 25 years old, and her right arm had gone sideways on her over the last nine months with a collection of symptoms - numbness, tingling, and tremors of such severity that her good hand was all but useless for anything besides waving at friends - that we had run out of explanations for. Nerve damage? Carpal tunnel? We didn't know. She had gotten an MRI two days earlier, and the doctor had called that day asking us to come down and talk about it. The conversation began with, "You have multiple sclerosis," and that has been our undeniable reality ever since.

Multiple sclerosis, for those not in the know, is a disease in which the body's own immune system goes to war against its own brain. My wife suffered her symptoms because the disease gnawed through the myelin sheaths of her own higher nervous system and annihilated the nerves that control her right arm. Over the intervening years, her brain has taken it upon itself to figure out some good work-arounds - to wit, when the road collapses, you build an overpass - but her hand will never again have the same functionality (until stem cell research bears fruit, fingers crossed).

I give her an injection every day to control the disease, and she takes a variety of other drugs to manage the symptoms. All told, multiple sclerosis - between the doctor visits, the MRIs, and the drugs required to keep a lid on things - costs upwards of $50,000 a year. Thankfully, she is gainfully employed with a major retail company with a stellar insurance program, so a large portion of that cost is defrayed by the insurance she pays for with every paycheck.

Without that insurance, she would be at the mercy of those who think pre-existing conditions are basically God's funny joke on people, i.e., ha ha ha, you're screwed.

She is not alone. I went to the doctor last month, and found out that I have pretty damned high blood pressure. The doctor had me come back four weeks later to do another check, and, yup, really really high blood pressure. I am now on two different drugs to bring it down to a manageable level, drugs that I am going to be on until they wind me in my shroud. I am on my wife's insurance, so again, the cost of those drugs is manageable, but mine is now a house filled with pre-existing conditions.

What if she gets fired, or the company goes belly-up? She is incredibly good at what she does, which means some other company may try someday to tempt her away...until they hear about her pre-existing condition, and mine, and how much insurance coverage for those conditions will cost thanks to our truly insane for-profit health industry. If my wife leaves her company for any reason - especially if/when Scalia and his merry band of ridiculous fascists decide to curb-stomp Obama's health care law - we are both well and truly screwed. It's like Ayn Rand herself was allowed to draft the rules for getting sick in America.

But that's me and my wife.

Here's you.

According to the American Heart Association, more than 81,000,000 people in America suffer from one or more forms of cardiovascular disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 11,000,000 people in America currently suffer from some form of cancer.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 23.6 million people in America currently suffer from diabetes, and the Center for Disease Control has estimated as many as half of all Americans will suffer from the disease by the year 2050, thanks to our deplorable dietary habits.

According to the National Parkinson's Foundation, between 50,000 and 60,000 new cases of Parkinson's are diagnosed in America each year.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, some 400,000 Americans currently suffer from MS.

That's a pretty substantial portion of the population, with more being diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's and MS every day.

Do the math.

It's you, too.

Hundreds of millions of people in this country are sick at this moment, or will be sick tomorrow, the next day, or somewhere down the line. The numbers are spinning like the fare meter on a New York City taxi cab, ever higher every day. If you're not sick, you will be one of these days: bank on it...and in the meantime, at least one person you know is in that tribe.

That's fact.

We're enveloped in a national debate about insurance mandates and the political leanings of nine Supreme Court Justices. That's all well and good, but entirely beside the point.

A nation that does not care for its sick and infirm is a nation that does not deserve to exist. A nation that actively profits from the pain and suffering of those sick and infirm deserves to burn in Hell. A nation that throws those sick and infirm to the wolves is so far beneath contempt as to beggar description.

Two years ago, Republican Mike Huckabee compared people with pre-existing conditions to houses that have already burned down. Just the other day on the Leno show, likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney voiced a very similar opinion.

They both have awesome health insurance.

Do you? Forever?

One of these days, you are going to have a pre-existing condition.

Hope for the best, but expect the worst. "The worst" is exactly where we are headed, if matters continue as they have.

Straightforward stuff, folks.

Think it over, while you can.

We're on borrowed time, after all.

How are you feeling today?
(c) 2012 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.

The 'ROBS Act'

Hallelujah, Washington has finally heard the people's cries for jobs! In an urgent bipartisan push, Democrats and Republicans have passed the J.O.B.S. Act. At last, jobs for all, right?

We... not right away. Certainly not for all. Maybe none.

You see, the new law itself doesn't create a single job for the tens-of-millions of unemployed and underemployed workers in our land of the rich. In fact, the accent on the J.O.B.S. acronym should be on "B.S." Will it surprise you to learn that the word "jobs" isn't even included in the title? Instead, J.O.B.S. stands for "Jump-start Our Business Start-ups."

Yes, while it was rushed to passage without any public hearings in the name of hard-hit American workers, all of the benefits go to corporate and financial hucksters who begged Congress to roll back financial disclosure and anti-fraud rules that were designed to protect investors, consumers, and taxpayers. It's just another "tinkle-down" economic scam written by and for Wall Street fraudsters. The law makes it easier for them to raise cash for their new business schemes by deceiving investors about the risk of loses, the true financial condition of the enterprise, and the amount of capital being raked off by executives.

"Free us from those pesky old regulations," say the hucksters, "and we'll attract speculators for corporate start-ups that (if they succeed and don't set-up operations offshore) could possibly, someday, create a few low-wage American jobs. But don't hold us to that job thing."

Sure enough, Washington's Wall Street-hugging politicos did not. Instead, they merrily passed a bill upping the likelihood of more financial swindles without even getting a promise from the swindlers that America will get some good jobs in return. The JOBS act should be called the ROBS Act!
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.

Black In White Plains
The Police Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain
By Amy Goodman

"My name is Kenneth Chamberlain. This is my sworn testimony. White Plains police are going to come in here and kill me."

And that's just what they did.

In the early hours of Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, U.S. Marine veteran Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. accidentally hit his LifeAid medical-alert pendant, presumably while sleeping. The 68-year-old retired corrections officer had a heart condition, but wasn't in need of help that dawn. Within two hours, the White Plains, N.Y., police department broke down his apartment door and shot him dead. Chamberlain was African-American. As with Trayvon Martin, the black teen recently killed in Florida, there are recordings of the events, recordings that include a racial slur directed at the victim.

The opening quote, above, was related to us by Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., when he appeared on the "Democracy Now!" news hour talking about the police killing of his father. Ken Jr. was holding on to the LifeAid pendant that his father wore around his neck in case of a medical emergency. Perhaps unbeknownst to the White Plains police who arrived at Ken Sr.'s door that morning, the LifeAid system includes a box in the home that, when activated, transmits audio to the LifeAid company, where it is recorded. Ken Jr. and his lawyers heard the recording in a meeting at the office of the Westchester County district attorney, Janet DiFiore.

Ken Jr. repeated what he heard his father say on the tape: "He says, 'I'm a 68-year-old man with a heart condition. Why are you doing this to me?' ... You also hear him pleading with the officers again, over and over. And at one point, that's when the expletive is used by one of the police officers."

One of Chamberlain's attorneys, Mayo Bartlett, told me about the racial slur. Bartlett is a former Westchester County prosecutor, so he knows the ropes. He was very explicit in recounting what he heard on the recording.

"Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. said to the police, 'I'm a sick old man.' One of the police officers replied, 'We don't give a f-k, n---!'" (that last word rhymes with 'trigger,' which they would soon pull). The recording also includes a taunt from the police, as related by Bartlett, "Open the door, Kenny, you're a grown-ass man!" It was when Ken Jr. related how the police mocked his father's military service that he broke down. "He said, 'Semper fi." So they said, "Oh, you're a Marine. Hoo-rah. Hoo-rah." And this is somebody that served this country. Why would you even say that to him? Ken Jr. wept as he held his father's Marine ring and Veterans Administration card.

The LifeAid operator that November morning, hearing the exchange live, called the White Plains police in a desperate attempt to cancel the call for emergency medical aid. Chamberlain's niece, who lives in the building, ran down, trying to intervene. Chamberlain's sister was on her cellphone, offering to talk to her brother. The police denied any attempt at help. One was heard on the recording saying, "We don't need any mediator."

The heavily armed police used a special device to take Chamberlain's door completely off the hinges and, as chillingly captured in the Taser-mounted camera, burst into the apartment. Mayo Bartlett recounted seeing Chamberlain shirtless in the video, hands at his side, without the knife or hatchet that police claim he wielded, standing in his boxer shorts. "The minute they got into the house, they didn't even give him one command. They never mentioned, 'Put your hands up.' They never told him to lay down on the bed. They never did any of that. The first thing they did, as soon as that door was finally broken off the hinges, you could see the Taser light up, and it was charged, and you could see it going directly toward him."

The last thing Bartlett hears on the Taser tape is "shut it off," meaning, turn off the video recording, which the police did. Within minutes, they would shoot Chamberlain twice. Four months later, no one has been charged with the killing. The police officer or officers who killed him have not been named.

Trayvon Martin was killed Feb. 26. A Florida grand jury is expected to begin the investigation into his killing on April 10. The next day, April 11, a New York grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing evidence in the case of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. He was killed last November. In both cases, an African-American male was gunned down. In both cases, the shooter is known to the police. In Chamberlain's case, it is the police.
(c) 2012 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

Celebrating The Resurrection Of Mithra
By James Donahue

Christians around the world are this week celebrating the resurrection of a a god-figure they call Jesus, whose story was copied from the story of the Persian sun-god Mithra dating back to about 1400 BC. Theologians and historians who have studied the lives of both Jesus and Mithra have been so alarmed by the similarities of their stories that at one time, early in the history of the Christian Church, there was concern that the Mithraic religion, which already dominated the known world of the old Roman Empire, could not be overturned.

Thanks to Constantine, the Roman emperor who converted from Mithraism to Christianity during his reign between 306 and 337, the Christian myth won out. Constantine ordered everybody in the empire, which spanned most of the Middle East, Europe and North Africa, to worship Jesus.

To the die-hard Christians, the similarities of the stories of both Jesus and Mithra are alarming. Both experienced virgin births in that they were conceived without a sexual union between man and woman. Christ was allegedly born to a virgin, thus suggesting that his father had to have been God. Mithras emerged as an adult from a boulder.

Both births are marked on the winter solstice, or December 25 according to the old Julian calendar. The celebration of both religious events featured the sharing of gifts, the decoration of evergreen trees with candles and nativity scenes that included shepherds attracted by a sacred light.

Both Mithras and Christ walked the earth as shepherds, both saving mankind by performing sacrificial deeds.

Mathras and Christ performed acts of redemption followed by ascension into heaven. Jesus sacrificed himself and Mithra killed a sacred bull prior to his magical ascension.

Both myths feature resurrection following sacrifice. Mithraism drew upon the spring equinox fertility stories. The myth depicted the tail of the sacrificial bull turning into sheaves of wheat that were scattered all over the world. The blood of the animal formed the Milky Way, thus allowing human souls to be born and then to return to the heavens after death.

The Christian story involved the resurrection of Jesus, his hanging around for a few days so that enough people saw and recognized him to secure the story that he indeed rose from the dead, and then his ascension as the disciples looked on.

Both the Christian and Mithraic stories tell of a last supper linked with the blood sacrifice. Both meals included the eating of bread and drinking of wine as a symbolic recreation of the event. Mithra killed the bull in preparation for the meal and the disciples feasted upon it before Mithra ascended to the heavens in a chariot. The Last Supper of Christ preceded his death and resurrection from the dead. Then he too, ascended into the heavens.

Both Mithra and Jesus were followed throughout their ministry by a band of 12 disciples. Both performed miracles that included healing of the sick. Both taught purification through baptism. Both taught charity and love for our fellow humans.

The followers of both Jesus and Mithra believed their savior-god would return at the end of time to raise the dead in a physical resurrection for a final judgment. And yes, followers of Mithra were granted immortal life following baptism.

Happy Easter all you Mithra followers!
(c) 2012 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

A Real Anti-War Movement in the Belly of the Beast
By Glen Ford

The United States finally has an anti-war movement that can't be bamboozled by President Obama's "humanitarian" mass murder. The United National Anti-War Coalition has broken decisively with those who would give a pass to Washington to wage illegal wars against Syria and Iran - as Obama did in Libya. "Our task as Americans is to dismantle from within the monstrous apparatus of imperial aggression. Period." No exceptions.

"There is now a place for genuine anti-imperialists to gather and plot for peace."

With passage of a short and elegant plank in its Action Plan for 2012, the United National Anti-War Coalition is building a peace movement that is finally prepared to confront President Obama's global military offensive, cloaked in "humanitarian" interventionist rhetoric. The language states: "End all threats of war and intervention against Iran and Syria! No to sanctions, blockades and embargoes!"

It is a simple expression of the singular mission of anti-warriors in the belly of the beast. That mission is to disarm the beast - not to quibble with the war machine about where best to deploy its overwhelming firepower, or to advise corporate warmongers on the most efficient killing-mix of live troops and automated drones, or to pick and choose from a Democratic administration's menu of regimes that might be changed to make the world more amenable to Wall Street. Our task as Americans - our overarching responsibility, for which we are uniquely positioned and, therefore, solemnly obligated - is to dismantle from within the monstrous apparatus of imperial aggression. Period.

"Our mission is to disarm the beast, not to pick and choose from a Democratic administration's menu of regimes that might be changed to make the world more amenable to Wall Street."

I was privileged to present the coordinating committee's draft of the Action Plan to UNAC's United National Anti-War Coalitionnational conference in Stamford, Connecticut, this past weekend. "This action plan does not just target some U.S. wars," said the committee's statement. "It does not target the currently unpopular wars. It does not shy away from condemning wars that remain acceptable to half the population because the real reasons for them are obscured in the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention. It does not advocate that we avoid putting U.S. boots on the ground by mounting embargoes that bring economic devastation on the peoples of Iran. It does not condone war by other, more sanitized, means. It does not cheer on wars that minimize U.S. combat deaths by the use of robotic unmanned planes or the highly trained murder squads of the Joint Special Operations Command. It does not see war by mercenary as somehow less threatening to the peoples of the world and the U.S. than war by economic draft. It does not give credit to Washington for removing brigades from one country in order to deploy them in the next."

The document demands an end to "all wars, interventions, targeted assassinations and occupations" and U.S. withdrawal from "NATO and all other interventionist military alliances."

UNAC's reasoning is rooted in the principle that all the world's peoples have the inherent right to self-determination, to pursue their own destinies - the foundation of relations among peoples, enshrined in international law but daily violated by the United States.

"UNAC's reasoning is rooted in the principle that all the world's peoples have the inherent right to self-determination."

American exceptionalism - the belief that rules of international conduct, or even the rules of history and human development, do not apply to the United States - is deeply entrenched in the popular American psyche and has long been the bane of the U.S. anti-war movement. It encourages Americans to think they have a privileged perspective on the world and a consequent right to preach, lecture and ultimately intervene in other people's affairs - just as their government does. In anti-war movements, this national arrogance (deeply entwined with racism) allows self-styled peaceniks to behave like little imperialists, imposing conditions and caveats on their willingness to confront their own government's aggressions. They reserve the right to pick and choose which U.S. violations of international law to oppose. Unmoored by principle and crippled by national chauvinism, such "peace" movements inevitably disband at the earliest opportunistic juncture.

UNAC emerged with the disintegration of United for Peace and Justice, which showed itself to be more of an anti-Republican formation than an anti-war movement. UFPJ disintegrated at the first whiff of the new Democratic administration, clearing the way domestically for a new imperial strategy: "humanitarian" intervention. At its founding conference, in July of 2010, UNAC tackled the first taboo of American foreign policy with a plank to "End all U.S. aid to Israel, military, economic and diplomatic!" - a direct confrontation with Israeli "exceptionalism." Last week, UNAC broke decisively with Obama's humanitarian "exception" to the rules of international behavior. There now exists a place for genuine anti-imperialists to gather and plot for peace - and that is a beginning. No repeats of Libya, no more equivocations in the face of U.S. carnage.

A luta continua - the struggle continues, in the belly of the beast.
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Obama's Weak-Kneed Regulatory Regime
By Ralph Nader

The Republican Party has a sense of humor, however inadvertently. It's ardent advocates regularly accuse the Obama Administration of heavy handed regulation of business.

Tell that to the hundred federal poultry inspectors who just picketed the Department of Agriculture in opposition to a proposal that would allow those crammed, bacterial poultry slaughterhouses to do their own inspections. The picketers fear that with this license, the poultry bosses will speed up the slaughter rate to 175 birds per minute from the present 70.

Tell that to the Securities Exchange Commission that will have to allow the return of the notorious boiler room practices where "start-ups" with up to $1 billion in annual revenues can sell stock to investors like the old Wild West days with little discourse or regulation. After the recent devastating Wall Street crash and bailout, here they go again-just throw the federal cop off the corporate crime beat.

Tell that to Donald Michaels, the superbly qualified head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration who can't get the White House to approve issuance of long-overdue life-saving safeguards for worker health and safety. Fear of Republicans by the Obamaites in an election year super-cedes their oath to enforce laws that save lives in hazardous workplaces. Nearly 60,000 workers lose their lives to workplace-related diseases and trauma every year. That is equivalent to nineteen 9/11 casualty tolls every year.

Tell that to a strapped Environmental Protection Agency that at long last was trying to reduce the toxic materials in your air and water. President Obama personally intervened on two of their forthcoming regulations to stop them.

Tell that to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that was the subject of a front page New York Times article on April 3, 2012 titled "White House and the F.D.A. Often at Odds." It seems that President Obama's deputy chief of staff, Nancy-Ann DeParle, has been leaning on FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg to drop proposed rules requiring labeling of calories for foods served on airplanes and movie theaters, as well as regulation of sunscreen and asthma inhalers.

The Obamabush White House objected to what the Times said was "the enforcement of an agency decision on a drug to prevent premature births." The FDA believed that the Obama "hope and change" campaign in 2008 would start a new day from the years of George W. Bush who believed, for example, that the agency should not issue rules preventing contamination of eggs and other produce. Alas, said a top FDA official to the Times: "Employees here waited eight long years for deliverance that didn't come."

Mr. Obama, as with his other choices of White House staff, set himself up by choosing the "regulation czar," Cass R. Sunstein who can give thumbs down on agency safety proposals. Professor Sunstein, who thinks harder than he feels the pain of victims of non-regulation (or law and order) has a philosophy known as "libertarian paternalism". (Google it if you wish to discover its meaning.)

FDA scientists sadly recall Mr. Obama's White House ceremony to sign a memorandum in 2009 to replace Mr. Bush's politicization of science in government with scientific integrity and to listen to scientists "even when it's inconvenient-especially when it is inconvenient." Once again, words, words, words, succumb to the power of corporatism.

Obama's regulatory agency officials receive constant pressure from Congressional corporatists on their meager enforcement budgets. They are made to behave as if they should fear the criminals and defrauders they are supposed to be catching to protect the American people.

All of them are envious of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) created by Congress to shield consumers of credit, mortgages, payday loans and other financial transactions from the Wall Street-driven crime wave. You see, the CFPB resides inside the Federal Reserve and receives its $500 billion budget from the Fed, which gets its budget from bank frees and is free of the Congressional hammers.

Still, the CFPB and its sterling staff (with few exceptions) is an agency waiting to start producing long-needed rules of decent business behavior. It is not clear what is causing the delay, but it couldn't be Congress now. It may be the high hurdles that the Bureau has to overcome vertically with its supervisory council-real or fancied.

Occupy Washington needs to mass in front of these agency buildings soon to highlight the truth about Obama's weak-kneed regulatory agencies. In a perverse way, the Obamaites would probably welcome such protests as enhancing their corporate fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile the people pay!
(c) 2012 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Course Correction
Averting the 'Total Ruin' of Institutionalized Injustice
By Randall Amster

As a parent, I tend to keep one eye on the present and another on the future. I also keep one (the third eye, perhaps?) on the past, since we need to know where we've been to know where we're going. Or so they say -- I'm actually not convinced that history is an accurate predictor any longer in this brave new world we've created in relatively short order. Then again, we in the Western world have always perceived the inevitability of an apocalypse of our own creation, from the very moment we decided to flout natural laws in favor of our manmade shackles. So maybe the past does matter.

But it's the present and immediate future that most concern me these days. Or, more precisely, the ways in which the present is foreclosing, narrowing, and perhaps even mooting the future. My children are growing up in a world of apparent plenty and wondrous stimulations, but it all comes at the cost of rendering the continued existence of the species -- even possibly within the scale of their lifetimes -- seemingly speculative at best. Their bubble of ostensible freedom and perceived luxury also comes at the expense of the wellbeing of most of the planet's inhabitants, including the children of other parents whose capacity to mask the mounting horror is likely far less than mine.

This isn't some alarmist, Chicken Little rant; it's the basic narrative we've been enacting for centuries now, if not longer. Modern society is built upon the tenuous foundations of a creation mythology that is also a prediction of ultimate demise, that the very things that make us special will also lead to our undoing if not kept in check; the line between inquisitiveness and hubris, between industry and irresponsibility, is incredibly thin. Drawing upon these civilizational planks, later treatments constructed an elaborate intellectual justification for seeing the project through to its inevitable end, all in the name of protecting us from the "law of the jungle" and promoting our rightful dominance.

For Thomas Hobbes, life before civilization was a state of perpetual struggle, conflict, and war, in which human existence was "nasty, poor, brutish, and short." John Locke offered the flipside, that humankind could only find its true purpose and highest expression through private ownership of that which sustains us, rather than being subject to the irrational whims and wasteful habits of nature. Charles Darwin observed a tendency toward relentless competition in which only the fittest would survive, perversely turning human attributes into the "natural order" of things. None of these men, nor those that followed, were sinister figures; they were describing the emerging world around them in terms that had been given from yore and that fit the tenor of the times in which they lived.

Today's logical inheritors, born of gatherings such as Bretton Woods in 1944 and solidified with the rise of corporate globalization, are of a similar ilk. Perhaps the clearest statement of elite ideology on these core matters of how we are to live in the world was delivered by Garrett Hardin in his famous 1968 essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons," in which he plaintively writes:

"An alternative to the commons need not be perfectly just to be preferable. With real estate and other material goods, the alternative we have chosen is the institution of private property coupled with legal inheritance. Is this system perfectly just? As a genetically trained biologist I deny that it is.... We must admit that our legal system of private property plus inheritance is unjust -- but we put up with it because we are not convinced, at the moment, that anyone has invented a better system. The alternative of the commons is too horrifying to contemplate. Injustice is preferable to total ruin."

Injustice is preferable to total ruin.This is the false choice we've been presented with for centuries now, and the one that is holding the future hostage to the ravages of the present. The story essentially says that since we cannot have perfect justice in this world, better to create a system of controlled injustice rather than risk the potential ruination that would come with unbridled competition and the lack of coercive authority. Simply put, we humans can't be trusted to self-manage or to work well with others, unless we're made to do so. This coercion is unfortunate, yet necessary in order to keep us from destroying ourselves and everything around us, as was prophesied from time immemorial.

It's a seductive story, one that gets great buy-in -- at least from those who are predestined to be on the winning side of the ledger, i.e., the side that gets to aspire to "justice" vis-a-vis the unfortunate multitudes who bear the disparate burdens of violence, inequality, and injustice. After all, if everyone was afforded true equality in terms of access to life's essentials and a share in the collective wealth of humankind, it would only lead to "total ruin" since there would be no limit to our unbridled, ruthless competition with one another over resources and power alike. The antidote, consciously chosen, is to adopt an inherently unjust system that skews its benefits in one direction and its burdens in another, in order to keep the entire operation afloat at all.

This is, of course, all demonstrably false. It isn't sharing the commons and existing within the delicate balance of natural systems that bring ruination: privatization and inequality do. It is precisely the prescribed antidote to "total ruin" that brings it about -- indeed, that which we have been told will forestall our demise actually hastens it. Civilization didn't save us from the scourge of violence and the impetus toward self-destruction, it merely institutionalized these qualities and rendered them so pervasive as to be nearly imperceptible. It's a rigged game, a blind alley, a fool's errand, a course to oblivion. Always has been and always will be -- and no degree of intellectual sophistry will save us.

But there is one thing that might: reclaiming, reinvigorating, and restoring the commons -- the very alternative that Hardin says is "too horrifying to contemplate." I'll trade the hypothetical horror of equality and the uncertainty of negotiation among peers for the near-certitude of a managed apocalypse any day. The dominant solution of destroying the world in order to save it is nonsensical, no matter how much it is wrapped in the cloak of rationality. Rational beings do not practice self-interest to the exclusion of their communities and at the expense of the habitat that sustains them. The self-anointed "realists" are in fact the most quixotic ones of all, insisting despite all evidence to the contrary that more of what has pushed us to the brink will somehow guide us away from it. It's like offering water to someone who's drowning -- and petroleum-packaged, bottled water at that.

Despite all of this, I believe there's still time to change course -- but the window of time in which to do so is rapidly closing. It won't be easy, obviously, and hard choices will have to be made. On the other hand, great joys may be found as well, as humankind rediscovers its "unselfish gene." We can start by restoring collective interests in the essentials of life and those aspects of our shared existence that must be owned by none and enjoyed by all -- namely water, food, air, energy, climate, home, health. If we still want to argue about who gets more gizmos and gadgets, then so be it. But the basics need to be taken off the table as bargaining chips, never to be used again as blackmail in nefarious structural adjustment schemes, nor withheld from some in the misguided view that injustice anywhere is tolerable if it serves the interests of another's self-fulfilling eschatology.

The vehicle we've been riding in for the past few centuries is going nowhere fast; it's horribly misaligned and continually pulling to the right. So let's grab the wheel, firmly and collectively, and chart a new course forward to the place from whence we came -- or at least away from the precipice of institutionalized injustice masking as progress. No GPS is needed; we can just follow the signs and the natural contours of the open road before us...
(c) 2012 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. Amonsg his most recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Pink Slime Economics
By Paul Krugman

The big bad event of last week was, of course, the Supreme Court hearing on health reform. In the course of that hearing it became clear that several of the justices, and possibly a majority, are political creatures pure and simple, willing to embrace any argument, no matter how absurd, that serves the interests of Team Republican.

But we should not allow events in the court to completely overshadow another, almost equally disturbing spectacle. For on Thursday Republicans in the House of Representatives passed what was surely the most fraudulent budget in American history.

And when I say fraudulent, I mean just that. The trouble with the budget devised by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, isn't just its almost inconceivably cruel priorities, the way it slashes taxes for corporations and the rich while drastically cutting food and medical aid to the needy. Even aside from all that, the Ryan budget purports to reduce the deficit - but the alleged deficit reduction depends on the completely unsupported assertion that trillions of dollars in revenue can be found by closing tax loopholes.

And we're talking about a lot of loophole-closing. As Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center points out, to make his numbers work Mr. Ryan would, by 2022, have to close enough loopholes to yield an extra $700 billion in revenue every year. That's a lot of money, even in an economy as big as ours. So which specific loopholes has Mr. Ryan, who issued a 98-page manifesto on behalf of his budget, said he would close?

None. Not one. He has, however, categorically ruled out any move to close the major loophole that benefits the rich, namely the ultra-low tax rates on income from capital. (That's the loophole that lets Mitt Romney pay only 14 percent of his income in taxes, a lower tax rate than that faced by many middle-class families.)

So what are we to make of this proposal? Mr. Gleckman calls it a "mystery meat budget," but he's being unfair to mystery meat. The truth is that the filler modern food manufacturers add to their products may be disgusting - think pink slime - but it nonetheless has nutritional value. Mr. Ryan's empty promises don't. You should think of those promises, instead, as a kind of throwback to the 19th century, when unregulated corporations bulked out their bread with plaster of paris and flavored their beer with sulfuric acid.

Come to think of it, that's precisely the policy era Mr. Ryan and his colleagues are trying to bring back.

So the Ryan budget is a fraud; Mr. Ryan talks loudly about the evils of debt and deficits, but his plan would actually make the deficit bigger even as it inflicted huge pain in the name of deficit reduction. But is his budget really the most fraudulent in American history? Yes, it is.

To be sure, we've had irresponsible and/or deceptive budgets in the past. Ronald Reagan's budgets relied on voodoo, on the claim that cutting taxes on the rich would somehow lead to an explosion of economic growth. George W. Bush's budget officials liked to play bait and switch, low-balling the cost of tax cuts by pretending that they were only temporary, then demanding that they be made permanent. But has any major political figure ever premised his entire fiscal platform not just on totally implausible spending projections but on claims that he has a secret plan to raise trillions of dollars in revenue, a plan that he refuses to share with the public?

What's going on here? The answer, presumably, is that this is what happens when extremists gain complete control of a party's discourse: all the rules get thrown out the window. Indeed, the hard right's grip on the G.O.P. is now so strong that the party is sticking with Mr. Ryan even though it's paying a significant political price for his assault on Medicare.

Now, the House Republican budget isn't about to become law as long as President Obama is sitting in the White House. But it has been endorsed by Mr. Romney. And even if Mr. Obama is reelected, the fraudulence of this budget has important implications for future political negotiations.

Bear in mind that the Obama administration spent much of 2011 trying to negotiate a so-called Grand Bargain with Republicans, a bipartisan plan for deficit reduction over the long term. Those negotiations ended up breaking down, and a minor journalistic industry has emerged as reporters try to figure out how the breakdown occurred and who was responsible.

But what we learn from the latest Republican budget is that the whole pursuit of a Grand Bargain was a waste of time and political capital. For a lasting budget deal can only work if both parties can be counted on to be both responsible and honest - and House Republicans have just demonstrated, as clearly as anyone could wish, that they are neither.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Those who don't read the news are uninformed, those who do are misinformed."
~~~ Mark Twain ~~~

Every Policeman Is A Licensed Rapist
By Ted Rall

Strip-Searching is Legal and Democracy is Dead

The text of Justice Kennedy's majority is cold and bureaucratic. "Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed," he writes for the five right-wingers in the majority of the Supreme Court.

There's no looking back now. The United States is officially a police state.

Here are the basics, as reported by The New York Times: "The case decided Monday, Florence v. County of Burlington, No. 10-945, arose from the arrest of Albert W. Florence in New Jersey in 2005. Mr. Florence was in the passenger seat of his BMW when a state trooper pulled his wife, April, over for speeding. A records search revealed an outstanding warrant for Mr. Florence's arrest based on an unpaid fine. (The information was wrong; the fine had been paid.) Mr. Florence was held for a week in jails in Burlington and Essex Counties, and he was strip-searched in each. There is some dispute about the details, but general agreement that he was made to stand naked in front of a guard who required him to move intimate parts of his body. The guards did not touch him."

"Turn around," Florence later recalled his jailers ordering him. "Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks."

A court motivated by fairness would have declared this conduct unconstitutional. Fair-minded people would have ordered the New Jersey municipality to empty its bank accounts and turn them over to the man it humiliated. Everyone involved—the police, county officials—ought to have been fired and charged with torture.

Not this court, the U.S. Supreme Court led by John Roberts. Besotted by the sick logic of paranoia and preemption that has poisoned us since 9/11, it ruled that what happened to Albert Florence was perfectly OK. The cops' conduct was legal.

Now "officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor."

If you get arrested at an antiwar protest, the police can strip-search you. If you're pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, as was the plaintiff in this case. For setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Humiliation is the law of the land.

The Court heard examples of people who were strip-searched "after being arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell." They considered amicus briefs by nuns and other "women who were strip-searched during periods of lactation or menstruation."

Body-cavity searches are now legal for anyone arrested for any crime, no matter how minor. As of April 2, 2012, finger-rape is the law of the land.

Think it won't happen to you? 14 million Americans are arrested annually. One in three Americans under age 23 has been arrested. It happened to me a couple of years ago, for a suspended drivers license. Except that it wasn't really suspended. I was lucky. My cops weren't perverts. They didn't want a lookie-loo at my private parts.

How did we get here? Preemptive logic.

Saddam Hussein is a bad man. He hates the United States. What if he has weapons of mass destruction? What if he used them against us, or gave them to terrorists who would? Can't take that chance.

We don't need evidence in order to justify bombing and invading Iraq. We have fear and the logic of preemption.

The logic of preemption flails, targeting anyone and everyone. A single plane passenger sets his shoes on fire. He never came close to causing real damage, but now everyone has to take off their shoes before boarding a plane. Infants. Old people. Veterans whose limbs got blown off in Iraq. Everyone.

Can't take chances. What if your toddler is a member of Al Kidda?

The logic of preemption is indiscriminate. What if terrorists are stupid enough to use phones and emails to plot their dastardly schemes? We'd want to know, right? In the old days before 9/11, officials who suspected a person of criminal conduct went to a judge to obtain a wiretapping warrant.

Now we're paranoid. And the government is power-hungry. So government officials and their media lapdogs are exploiting our fear and paranoia, openly admitting that they listen to everyone's phone calls and read everyone's emails. Can't take chances. Gotta cover all the bases.

What about the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures? Quaint relics of a time before the police state. Like the Geneva Conventions.

Here comes Justice Kennedy, amping up the perverse logic of preemption. Responding to the nasty cases of the finger-raped nun and the humiliated women on their period, Kennedy pointed out that "people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals." Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, was pulled over for driving without a license plate. "One of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before hijacking Flight 93," he wrote, continuing with the observation that San Francisco cops "have discovered contraband hidden in body cavities of people arrested for trespassing, public nuisance and shoplifting."

No doubt about it: If you search every car and frisk every pedestrian and break down the door of every house and apartment in America, you will find lots of people up to no good. You will discover meth labs and bombs and maybe even terrorists plotting to blow up things. But who is the bigger danger: a drug dealer, a terrorist, or a terrorist government?

This summer will be ugly. Cops will arrest thousands of protesters who belong to the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is fighting corruption and greed and trying to improve our lives. Now that police have the right to strip and molest demonstrators, you can count on horrible abuses. Cops always go too far.

Note to people about to be arrested: pop a laxative before they slip on the flexicuffs.

I don't know about you, but I would rather live in a country that respects rights and freedoms more than the paranoid madness of preemption. In the old America where I grew up, we lived with the possibility that some individuals were evil. Now we face the absolute certainty that every policeman is a fully licensed finger-rapist.
(c) 2012 Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" and "The Anti-American Manifesto."

Whose Recovery?
Many Americans Remain in Critical Condition
By Robert Reich

Luxury retailers are smiling. So are the owners of high-end restaurants, sellers of upscale cars, vacation planners, financial advisors, and personal coaches. For them and their customers and clients the recession is over. The recovery is now full speed. But the rest of America isn't enjoying an economic recovery. It's still sick. Many Americans remain in critical condition.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the economy grew at a 3 percent annual rate last quarter (far better than the measly 1.8 percent third quarter growth). Personal income also jumped. Americans raked in over $13 trillion, $3.3 billion more than previously thought.

Yet it's almost a certainly that all the gains went to the top 10 percent, and the lion's share to the top 1 percent. Over a third of the gains went to 15,600 super-rich households in the top one-tenth of one percent.

We don't know this for sure because all the data aren't in for 2011. But this is what happened in 2010, the most recent year for which we have reliable data, and there's no reason to believe the trajectory changed in 2011 or that it will change this year.

In fact, recoveries are becoming more and more lopsided.

The top 1 percent got 45 percent of Clinton-era economic growth, and 65 percent of the economic growth during the Bush era.

According to an analysis of tax returns by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Pikkety, the top 1 percent pocketed 93 percent of the gains in 2010. 37 percent of the gains went to the top one-tenth of one percent. No one below the richest 10 percent saw any gain at all.

In fact, most of the bottom 90 percent have lost ground. Their average adjusted gross income was $29,840 in 2010. That's down $127 from 2009, and down $4,843 from 2000 (all adjusted for inflation).

Meanwhile, employer-provided benefits continue to decline among the bottom 90 percent, according to the Commerce Department. The share of people with health insurance from their employers dropped from 59.8 percent in 2007 to 55.3 percent in 2010. And the share of private-sector workers with retirement plans dropped from 42 percent in 2007 to 39.5 percent in 2010.

If you're among the richest 10 percent, a big chunk of your savings are in the stock market where you've had nice gains over the last two years. The value of financial assets held by Americans surged by $1.46 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2011.

But if you're in the bottom 90 percent, you own few if any shares of stock. Your biggest asset is your home. Home prices are down over a third from their 2006 peak, and they're still dropping. The median house price in February was 6.2 percent lower than a year ago.

Official Washington doesn't want to talk about this lopsided recovery. The Obama administration is touting the recovery, period, without mentioning how narrow it is.

Republicans would rather not talk about widening inequality to begin with. The reverse-Robin Hood budget plan just announced by Paul Ryan and House Republicans (and endorsed by Mitt Romney) would make the lopsidedness far worse - dramatically cutting taxes on the rich and slashing public services everyone else depends on.

Fed Chief Ben Bernanke - who doesn't have to face voters on Election Day - says the U.S. economy needs to grow faster if it's to produce enough jobs to bring down unemployment. But he leaves out the critical point. We can't possibly grow faster if the vast majority of Americans, who are still losing ground, don't have the money to buy more of the things American workers produce. There's no way spending by the richest 10 percent - the only ones gaining ground - will be enough to get the economy out of first gear.
(c) 2012 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Dead Letter Office...

Tim gives the Corpo-rat salute!

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Jones,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your war against women's health, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Who Got the Most Votes In Tuesday's Primaries? Not Mitt Romney!
By John Nichols

Who won the most votes in Tuesday night's primary elections?

Mitt Romney, right?


When it comes to the sheer mass of votes cast, Barack Obama-the man Romney desperately wants to start campaigning against after being so distracted for so long by Santorum-actually had the best night of any presidential contender.

Indeed, it was a dramatically better night for Obama than for Romney-even if all the attention, and the headlines, went to the Republican. The president, running unopposed in Democratic primaries so low-profile that many voters did not know they were occurring, was far and away Tuesday's top vote-getter.

The point here is not to diminish Romney's win, nor the significant boost Tuesday's results give him in his pursuit of the Republican nod.

But it is important to note that, as Romney was celebrating his "victory," Obama-running uncontested in primaries so low-profile that their results were not even reported in much of the coverage of Tuesday's voting-was quietly collecting more votes.

To be sure, Romney won the primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. And, by besting Rick Santorum and the remainder of the Republican field, Romney earned his share of "hat trick" and "trifecta" headlines.

"Romney Sweeps..." declared the the New York Times.

But Romney barely beat Santorum in Wisconsin, running ahead of his underfunded challenger by a roughly 42-38 margin. In Maryland, Romney did better, but he still fell well short of the 50 percent mark-maintaining a pattern that has held across the vast majority of GOP primary and caucus states.

Only in the District of Columbia did Romney secure what could reasonably be described as a sweeping victory. The percentages there looked great: Romney 70 percent, Ron Paul 12 percent, Newt Gingrich 11 percent, Jon Huntsman (in one of the better finishes of the season for a non-candidate) 7 percent.

But Romney's actual vote in the super-low turnout District of Columbia GOP primary was just 3,122.

It wasn't all that much better in Maryland, where, with all the votes counted, Romney was well below the 120,000 vote mark.

And in Wisconsin, with 97 percent counted, Romney was only at 305,000.

Romney's three-state total was better than Santorum, Gingrich or Paul.

But it wasn't anywhere near as good as that of another candidate, Barack Obama.

In the District of Columbia, the president's Democratic primary total was at 51,289-more than fifteen times Romney's Republican primary total.

In Maryland, where Romney was struggling to get to the 117,000 mark in the GOP primary, Obama was surpassing 275,000 in the Democratic primary. That way better than a 2-1 margin for the president.

And in Wisconsin, which got the lion's share of attention on this primary day, Romney's 305,000 GOP total (with 97 percent of precincts reporting) was barely better than Obama's 285,000 total on the Democratic side.

Add Obama's votes up across the three jurisdictions that voted Tuesday and he's almost 200,000 votes ahead of Romney.

Obama has done better in individual states than Romney before. In Ohio, for instance, the president's Democratic primary vote was dramatically higher than Romney's Republican primary vote. But that was just one state on one night.

Tuesday night provided a broader measure from three very different voting jurisdictions. And that measure was strikingly positive for the president.

In fact, the president won more than ten times as many District of Columbia votes as all the Republican contenders combined. That's not exactly shocking, as the district is a Democratic stronghold.

But in Maryland, a state that sends Republicans to Congress and that has elected a Republican governor in recent years, Obama won substantially more votes than all the Republican presidential contenders combined.

In Wisconsin, Obama was running just short of even with Romney, and he was proving to be a dramatically more successful popular-vote getter than Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul.

The numbers provide a sobering reminder for the Republicans. Turnout, even for their intensely fought contests, remains low. And in most cases, Romney still does not win a majority of the votes. The GOP's "enthusiasm gap" has been much discussed during the course of the 2012 competition.

But the extent of the gap was writ large across Tuesday night's results in three very different jurisdictions.

There is no question that Obama has also wrestled with enthusiasm-gap issues. That was especially true in some early primary states, such as New Hampshire.

But as the Republican race has dragged on, Obama's numbers on the Democratic side have improved.

So it was that, on what was hailed as a big night for Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner still did not get a majority of Republican votes cast. He he got far fewer votes than Barack Obama.
(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been publshed by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Fools Rush In
April Prank Launches Next American War
By Chris Floyd

Not that anyone cares, but the United States committed itself to yet another war on Sunday -- yes, April Fool's Day -- as the ever-bellicose Hillary Clinton teamed up with the extremist tyrants in Saudi Arabia and other international humanitarians to supply moolah and military materiel to the rebels in Syria.

The self-proclaimed "Friends of Syria" group has now undertaken to pay the salaries of the "Free Syrian Army" and supply the rebel forces, led largely by Islamist factions -- although Western leaders and their parrot-like media still pretend (at least in public) that the armed uprising is aimed at establishing a groovy secular showcase of pluralistic democracy. The fact that sectarian Sunni factions have seized control of the initially unarmed (and largely secular) protests and are now set on a course of "ethnic cleansing" of the Alawite minority, from which much of the regime's ruling class is drawn is, of course, ignored or downplayed by the ubiquitous cheerleaders for Permanent War in our militarist media-political class. To be sure, Alawites are not the only targets; all other "minorities" -- i.e., anyone, including fellow Sunnis, who do not agree with the sectarians' narrow notions -- are also in the cross-hairs of the sectarians as well.

Just before Hillary and the other April Fools played their deadly prank -- a move absolutely guaranteed to lead to more violence and bloodshed -- one of the leading lights of the initial peaceful protests spoke out against the militarization of the resistance to the odious state regime. As AFP reports:

Fadwa Suleiman, an actress who became an icon of Syria's revolution, is furious that her country's peaceful protest movement has been drawn into armed conflict with the regime.She said she is saddened to see that "the revolution is not going in the right direction, that it is becoming armed, that the opposition which wanted to resist peacefully is playing the game of the regime and that the country is heading for sectarian war".

...Suleiman became a high-profile member of the opposition movement last November when she appeared in footage from the rebel city of Homs that was broadcast on the Al-Jazeera television news network.

The 39-year-old actress, well known in her homeland for her work in theatre, films and television, belongs to the same Alawite religious minority as President Bashar al-Assad. She says that a major reason for her participation in the protests was to do her bit to stop any slide into a sectarian war between factions of the Sunni Muslim majority, Alawites or Christians.

...And that is why she is furious that those "who are arming the Syrian street are willing to do anything to take power in the same way that Bashar Al-Aaasad is ready to do anything to stay in power."

But Ms Suleiman will mourn in vain for the peaceful revolution that was lost. The rampant militarization of the conflict suits our imperial managers (and their various satraps, clients and dependents around the world) very well. Secretary Clinton and her boss, the war-waging Peace Laureate -- along with the crocodile tear-shedders in Congress, aching to "liberate" the Syrian people by inflicting mass death upon them -- are not very interested in the relative merits or demerits of the forces involved in the Syrian conflict. They don't care if the rebels are "playing the game of the regime" by helping foment sectarian war. They don't care if more and more innocent people, on both sides, are being killed and dispossessed and tormented by the war. They don't care if the repressive Asad family regime is replaced by a repressive sectarian regime or, as in Libya, by a gaggle of warring factions, as a result of the war.

All they care about, in the end, is the war itself -- or rather, war itself. Wherever they find incipient conflict, they are eager to exacerbate it, sustain it -- and feed upon it. We have seen this over and over in the past decades, from the Iran-Iraq War, to Guatemala, to El Salvador, to Nicaragua, to Kosovo, to Somalia, to Yemen, to the Philippines, to Afghanistan (in 1980 and 2001, both cases being an intervention on one side of an ongoing civil war), to Pakistan, to Libya and now to Syria. Almost invariably, the policies adopted by the imperial managers (of both parties) make the conflicts worse, fomenting extremist resistance and ever-more violent repression: a deadly cycle that benefits no one -- except the "masters of war."

For as Paul Craig Roberts notes, our Potomac Poobahs now preside over a new kind of empire. It doesn't conquer and settle territories, doesn't seek fame and glory -- hell, it doesn't even win most of the wars it fights. But it gets the job done: and the job is "extracting resources" from its own subjects to fill the coffers and expand the perks of the rulers. As Roberts writes:

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

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

The answer is that Washington's empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America ... The US Constitution has been extracted in the interests of the Security State, and Americans' incomes have been redirected to the pockets of the 1 percent. ...

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

This is why the wars cannot end, or if one does end another starts ... This truth doesn't mean that the objects of American military aggression have escaped without cost. Large numbers of Muslims have been bombed and murdered and their economies and infrastructure ruined, but not in order to extract resources from them.

It is ironic that under the New Empire the citizens of the empire are extracted of their wealth and liberty in order to extract lives from the targeted foreign populations.

And yet another iteration of this sinister process is gearing up in Syria. It has nothing to do with the murderously repressive nature of the Syrian regime. America's chief ally in the Syrian intervention is Saudi Arabia -- a theocratic-autocratic regime that is, by every measure, far, far more repressive than Syria. The Saudi royals ruthlessly -- and violently -- suppress any peaceful protest against their stifling, draconian rule. They have sent troops and weapons and money to murderously repress peaceful protests in neighbouring Bahrain. Yet Secretary Clinton stood proudly with these murderous repressive tyrants this weekend as she outlined their joint plan to ensure the death and suffering of more people in Syria.

Supplying -- much less paying the salaries! -- of an army on one side in a conflict is generally regarded as an act of war. At least, this was the line taken by the United States government when it was dealing with its own armed uprising awhile back and continually threatened massive retaliation against any nation intervening on the side of the rebels. (A story well told in Amanda Foreman's A World on Fire.

So mark April Fool's Day 2012 in your calendar as the day the United States officially and openly initiated its latest war. Will it succeed in driving the Assad family from its authoritarian perch in Damascus? Will it liberate the Syrian people into a new life of liberty and prosperity? Will it enthrone radical extremists "willing to do anything to take power" and open the door to sectarian slaughter (as in Iraq)? Who cares? The intervention will set cash registers ringing, and that, my fellow subjects, is, as always, the bottom line.
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Rex Babin ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Unsaved Children Nearly Egged To Death In Annual Easter Bunny Slaughter!

Freehold, Iowa - Landover Baptist's annual Easter Bunny Slaughter For Stew turned deadly earlier this week when two unsaved children were nearly egged to death. "It was their own fault. They had no business on visiting a park near our church, especially dressed like that. The Bible says you reap what you sew!" Those were the comments to reporters from a noticeably shaken Mrs. Ina Mae Pilate, third grade teacher at Landover Elementary School, after Freehold police had completed their interrogation. Mrs. Pilate was referring to an incident earlier in the day in which six children were injured and two remain in critical condition after suffering severe blows to the head.

The incident occurred during the annual field trip the third grade takes the day before the Easter holiday. As always, the field trip ended at Freehold Central Park near the west side of the church perimeter. Once at the park, the children participated in the annual Easter bunny egging. "All True Christians know the Easter Bunny is no different than Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, witches and the like," noted Pastor Deacon Fred at a hastily convened news conference. "It is a symbol of pagan worship. The rabbit represents extreme fertility which we all know is just a cover for rampant sexual depravity. Pagans and other Satanists have corrupted Christianity for too long by encouraging families to substitute the worship of Christ with the worship of gift-giving Santas or candy-giving rabbits. Sadly, all Christians who give up their faith for pleasures as trivial as egg hunts or baskets filled with candy will descend to Hell for eternity. We vowed 20 years ago to save as many families as we possibly can from this disastrous fate by stamping out such idolatry!" The annual Easter bunny egging was established in 1991 to discourage families from succumbing to Satan's secular bunny temptations and to teach children at a very early age of the evils of pagan traditions. "It was Christians' turn to mock devil-lovers for a change," noted Pastor. Students spend the Wednesday before Easter in school hard-boiling dozens of eggs. "The longer the egg boils and the harder it gets, the better," observed Mrs. Pilate. Once the eggs have cooled, the children dye them with food coloring, the most popular color being blood red. The following day, each student carries an oversized basket of eggs to the park.

Shortly before the students arrive, 50 young bunny rabbits grown at Old Man Tucker's ranch are released into the park. After the children are lined up, the teacher blows the whistle, and each student chases down bunnies, hurling eggs directly at the heads. The goal is to execute as many symbols of the devil as possible. "This obviously isn't a full-blown Old Testament-style stoning," noted Mrs. Pilate. "We use eggs instead of rocks and bunnies instead of people. These are children, after all. The eggs are malleable enough that the rabbits survive quite a few hits, thereby giving all the children, including the smaller ones, a shot at an animal." When all the rabbits are finally killed, the carcasses are gathered and boiled, and the meat is used to make a large stew. The students who killed the first and second most rabbits then present the stew to the group at the local synagogue for their Passover feast as part of Landover's outreach to the unsaved. "For years, we've had the kids tell those Hebrews that it's beef stew," noted Pastor. "And they've responded that it's the most flavorful beef stew they've ever eaten. This makes the whole event fun for our adults as well as the children!"

About halfway into this year's egging, Mrs. Pilate became concerned when she heard soft groans coming from one area of bushes where a large congregation of egg-throwing third graders had congregated. There, she found several toddlers in bunny costumes writhing on the grass. Apparently, the preschool center at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow had brought a dozen of its youngsters, dressed as Easter Bunnies, to the park to hide eggs for the remaining children to find later in the afternoon. The third graders had mistaken the three- and four-year olds for actual rabbits. "I screamed at the students to stop the egging, but they were oblivious," noted Mrs. Pilate. "They had this glazed look in their eyes and kept throwing. We had been reading the Book of Leviticus earlier that week and I suppose they were just in a frenzy of righteousness. Fortunately, this happened late in the day, so they soon ran out of eggs."

The identities of the wounded Catholic youngsters have been withheld because of their ages. However, police report that three suffered only mild concussions and herniated discs and should be released from the hospital in just a few weeks. Two, however, remain in critical condition due to multiple closed head injuries. One student is in fair condition after being treated for fractures of the hip and pelvis. He was apparently the victim of throws by young Bob Nosam, the class dyslexic. The Catholic group's teacher, Mrs. Edna St. James (divorced), is in fair condition but still unconscious as she was struck repeatedly while attempting to rescue her students. Hospital officials earlier stated Mrs. St. James was pregnant, immediately causing great concern among all -- primarily regarding the identity of the father. However, officials have retracted the earlier claim, saying the blood samples they tested from Mrs. St. James' skin and clothes turned out to belong to a cottontail.

Brother Harry Hardwick of the Landover board of deacons was quick to defend the children when flagged down by reporters as he left the news conference. "I know there are some in the liberal media who will actually blame our children for this incident. But the injured juveniles were the spawn of unsaved idol worshipers who should have known our children use that park every Easter week. Our students had just been lectured about God's commands that homosexuals, witches, adulterers and idolaters be stoned until they are dead. Nevertheless, our children managed to stop before anyone was killed, thereby showing even more restraint than God commands, even at their tender ages. I also think it is beyond coincidence and beyond irony that the kids they encountered just happen to be among those people God says must die. The Lord does work in mysterious ways."
(c) 2012 The Landover Baptist Church

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 14 (c) 04/06/2012

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