Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Robert Dreyfuss looks at, "War Crimes In Iraq And Afghanistan."

Uri Avnery studies, "The Big Gamble."

David Sirota with a must read, "The Pay-Any-Price Principle."

Richard Dawkins says, "Ratzinger Is The Perfect Pope."

Jim Hightower explains, "Advancing Our Right To Trial By Jury."

Randall Amster is, "Taking A Stand To Keep Sitting Legal."

Joel S. Hirschhorn finds it's, "Easy To Avoid Paying Income Tax."

Margaret Kimberley examines, "Slavery-Denial In Old Virginny."

Chris Floyd explains, "The Accomodationists."

Case Wagenvoord considers, "Making "All the News That's Fit To Print" Fit."

Mike Folkerth concludes, "Growth; The World's Greatest Misconception."

Alec Baldwin explores, "The Human Costs Of Nuclear Power."

David Michael Green compares, "Before And After."

Arizona Con-gressman Trent Franks wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Joe Conason wonders, "Is America Heading Toward A "Dirty War" At Home?"

Kay Ebeling continues the serial, "I Lived In A Car With My Teenage Daughter On The Streets Of L.A. And Survived To Write About It: Part 2."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Palin, Bachmann Seek Two Additional Horsemen" but first Uncle Ernie observes the new, "Murder Inc."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rob Rogers, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Married To The Sea, Gilbert Shelton, Dorothea Lange, Bill Day, Pundit Kitchen.Com, Cameron (Cam) Cardow, Mike Thompson, R.S. Janes L.T. Saloon.Org, Vimeo, About.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."

Murder Inc.
By Ernest Stewart

"Just think about this for a minute. Barack Obama, like George Bush before him, has claimed the authority to order American citizens murdered based solely on the unverified, uncharged, unchecked claim that they are associated with Terrorism and pose "a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests." They're entitled to no charges, no trial, no ability to contest the accusations. Amazingly, the Bush administration's policy of merely imprisoning foreign nationals (along with a couple of American citizens) without charges -- based solely on the President's claim that they were Terrorists -- produced intense controversy for years. That, one will recall, was a grave assault on the Constitution. Shouldn't Obama's policy of ordering American citizens assassinated without any due process or checks of any kind -- not imprisoned, but killed -- produce at least as much controversy?" ~~~ Glenn Greenwald

"Cheney "had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were innocent... If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it." ~~~ Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Ooh, I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends,
With a little help from my friends.
With A Little Help From My Friends ~~~ The Beatles

The original "Murder Incorporated" was a Jewish gang of assassins formed by Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Meyer Lansky. Albert "The Mad Hatter" Anastasia was the gang's operating head, or "Lord High Executioner," assisted by Jacob "Gurrah" Shapiro. They took over contracts from the local Mafia Dons to have their enemies hit for a "service fee" much like the earlier Jewish assassins, Detroit's "Purple Gang" had until they crossed Al Capone. They were the Jewish Blackwater of their day. Murder Incorporated never really died as when they were run out of America by the Dons they simply moved to occupied Palestine where they've been murdering innocent Palestinians ever since. They're now called The Israeli government as the Murder Inc. name was a bit of a giveaway!

So it's not surprising that Barry being Tel Aviv's stooge and upholding the "Crime Family Bush's various acts of treason is putting himself into Albert Anastasia's shoes by ordering his first hit on an American. Barry has been, since he was sworn in, calling for hits on folks all over the globe by after midnight attacks on sleeping school children or partying wedding guests and the like by gangs of jack booted thugs wearing US uniforms. Who, like their compadres sitting 11,000 miles away playing video games attached to Predator drones end up killing far more innocents than actual "terrorists!"

Not content with killing foreigners Barry has started down the road of Stalin, Hitler and the Caesars who murdered millions of their own countrymen without trial, evidence or appeal. Barry being Barry didn't tell Congress of his new found unconstitutional powers but sent a stooge Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair. Blair you may recall disobeyed direct orders from his Commander in Chief Bill Clinton during the slaughter of East Timor residents by the Junta controlling Indonesia.

Blair insisted that under no circumstances would Americans be assassinated overseas for criticizing the government, adding, "we don't target people for free speech." Rather they are subject to assassination when the government decides they are a threat and when they "get specific permission." Exactly who was giving that permission Blair failed to make clear. You may also recall there was no complaining or much mentioning from Congress or the media following Blair's trip to Foggy Bottom! But since then, Barry has come out and openly claimed that right unlike Bush who too claimed the right to murder US citizens but did it quietly. Of course, just like torture, we've been murdering American citizens from nuns to protesters to Indian Nations for centuries, but it was never official policy and was always by "accident."

That's certainly change alright, but I'm guessing it's not the change you wanted and voted for, is it, Mr. & Mrs. America?

In Other News

According to the Times, I see that England has finally admitted that most all those folks that they helped to kidnap and torture and send off to Gitmo were innocent of any crimes, well duh! I've been on about that going on eight years!

Most were sold by warlords to the Bush Junta and although Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice and Rumsfeld knew to begin with that almost all of them were totally innocent they kept them and tortured them to keep up public demand for the wars. Did I mention they did the same thing to children too?

Powell's right hand man finally came out of the closet the other day to say that George W. Bush "knew Guantanamo prisoners were innocent." The accusations were made by Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantanamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Junta.

Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell's chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Cheney and Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defense Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantanamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was "politically impossible to release them." So naturally they continued to torture and abuse them knowing full well that they were innocent. Somewhere between 90% and 95% of all prisoners at Gitmo and our other torture camps were innocent and were eventually let go after many years of torture. For the 5 to 10 percent that confessed, how many of them were innocent too but preferred to confess rather than to be tortured to death. Did I mention the several hundred that were tortured accidentally to death in our concentration camps around the world?

Of course our Nobel Peace Prize winner Barry refuses to look into these war crimes and crimes against humanity. Or the obvious false flag attacks of 911. Barry says it because we should forget about all that mass murder and look ahead. Since Barry has adopted most of the "Crime Family Bush's" acts of treason and war crimes as his own if they were to try the various members of the Junta, their corpo-rat sponsors, members of Con-gress and various generals and admirals, they'd have to try Barry and Biden too!

So let's all forget about it, roll over and go back to sleep and pretend that it never happened, huh America?

And Finally

We'd like to welcome columnist Margaret Kimberley to our little band of merry pranksters! Margaret is editor and senior columnist over at the Black Agenda Report. We welcome your wit and wisdom Margaret and the key to the honor bar is under the mat!

I'd also like to thank Farmer Pete and Barbara H for their kind donations to the cause. If I had about one thousand more like them not only could we pay our bills and keep publishing but I could buy a few groceries too! Any and all donations no matter how large or small are needed desperately! That's the trouble with getting out the truth to the people, the people are as broke as we are but c'est la guerre we'll fight the good fight for as long as we can! You know, one good old American Topless Car Wash and we could be in the black for a change! A little help ya'll!

Oh and before I forget, do check out Chris Floyd's song and video in the "To End On A Happy Note" department. Chris is not only a brilliant columnist but a wonderful song writer and singer as well!

Oh And One More Thing

It's that time of year once again when those income tax checks come a rollin' in. If you're getting one, please think of us because we always think of you! We desperately need your help to keep publishing. Please send us what you can and not only will we be extremely grateful but we'll see that it goes to good use in the struggle to reclaim our Republic! Please, do whatever you can. We need your help.


09-02-1915 ~ 04-09-2010
You're really, most sincerely dead!

05-25-1939 ~ 04-10-2010
Thanks for the designs!

01-29-1944 ~ 04-13-2010
Thanks for the jams!

01-31-1925 ~ 04-15-2010
Thanks for the good fight!


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) 2010 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 9 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine.

War Crimes In Iraq And Afghanistan
By Robert Dreyfuss

War crimes, massacres, and, as Al Jazeera properly calls it, "collateral murder," are all part of the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

The release last week of the Wikileaks video, thirty-eight grisly minutes long, of US airmen casually slaughtering a dozen Iraqis in 2007 -- including two Reuters newsmen -- puts it into focus not because it shows us something we didn't know, but because we can watch it unfold in real time. Real people, flesh and blood, gunned down from above in a hellish rain of fire.

The events in Iraq, nearly three years old, were repeated this week in Afghanistan, when trigger-happy US soldiers slaughtered five Afghans cruising along on a huge, comfortable civilian bus near Kandahar.

As the New York Times reports:

"American troops raked a large passenger bus with gunfire near Kandahar on Monday morning, killing and wounding civilians, and igniting angry anti-American demonstrations in a city where winning over Afghan support is pivotal to the war effort."

The Kandahar incident is only one of many, of course. Over the past year, dozens of Afghans have similarly died in checkpoint and roadside killings. Not one, not a single one, of these murders involved hostile forces. In other words, when the smoke and dust cleared, in all of the cases over the past year the bodies recovered were those of innocents.

As General McChrystal himself recently said:

"We really ask a lot of our young service people out on checkpoints because there's danger, they're asked to make very rapid decisions in often very unclear situations. However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it."

My question is: if so, then why aren't the rules of engagement altered? Why is it that US forces can fire wildly at an approaching vehicle, if in none of the cases that have happened thus far were there hostile forces involved?

In the Iraq case, as revealed in the stunning Wikileaks video, a group of eight men on a Baghdad street, in plain sunlight, is shot to pieces under withering fire from above. Then, when a van carrying four or five other men arrives to pick up a wounded man who is crawling painfully along the gutter, the van too is blasted to smithereens when the airmen request permission to "engage."

An analysis by Politifact takes apart Secretary of Defense Gates' callous assertion that the murders were "unfortunate" and "should not have any lasting consequences." We've already investigated this, he said, so what's the big deal?

The military's rationale for the slaughter is that US forces a few hundred yards away had taken small arms fire, and so the airmen in the copters circling above concluded that the men they'd seen carrying what they thought were weapons and RPGs -- although the "RPG" turned out to be a cameraman's telephoto lens -- were bad guys who could be shot to pieces at will. There was, of course, no evidence at all that the dozen or so Iraqis butchered were involved in what may or may not have been a shooting incident nearby. But, you know -- war is hell.

Politifact, to its discredit, defends Gates on these grounds, quoting David Finkel, a Washington Post reporter and author of The Good Soldiers, who writes in blase defense of the slaughter:

"What's helpful to understand is that, contrary to some interpretations that this was an attack on some people walking down the street on a nice day, the day was anything but that. It happened in the midst of a large operation to clear an area where U.S. soldiers had been getting shot at, injured, and killed with increasing frequency. What the Reuters guys walked into was the very worst part, where the morning had been a series of RPG attacks and running gun battles.

"More context. You're seeing an edited version of the video. The full video runs much longer. And it doesn't have the benefit of hindsight, in this case zooming in on the van and seeing those two children. The helicopters were perhaps a mile away. And as all of this unfolded, it was unclear to the soldiers involved whether the van was a van of good Samaritans or of insurgents showing up to rescue a wounded comrade. I bring these things up not to excuse the soldiers but to emphasize some of the real-time blurriness of those moments.

"If you were to see the full video, you would see a person carrying an RPG launcher as he walked down the street as part of the group. Another was armed as well, as I recall. Also, if you had the unfortunate luck to be on site afterwards, you would have seen that one of the dead in the group was lying on top of a launcher. Because of that and some other things, EOD -- the Hurt Locker guys, I guess -- had to come in and secure the site. And again, I'm not trying to excuse what happened. But there was more to it for you to consider than what was in the released video."

Finkel, who apparently is not going to write a sequel to his book called The Bad Soldiers, cavelierly dismisses the deaths of a dozen Iraqi"real-time blurriness of those moments."

In Afghanistan, the repeated killings of innocent civilians has angered an embittered President Karzai, who has strongly and repeatedly condemned the killings of Afghan citizens by American troops. In a Washington Post story today, "Shooting by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan fuels Karzai's anger," the paper reports:

"Twelve days before President Hamid Karzai denounced the behavior of Western countries in Afghanistan, he met a 4-year-old boy at the Tarin Kowt civilian hospital in the south.

"The boy had lost his legs in a February airstrike by U.S. Special Operations forces helicopters that killed more than 20 civilians. Karzai scooped him up from his mattress and walked out to the hospital courtyard, according to three witnesses. 'Who injured you?' the president asked as helicopters passed overhead. The boy, crying alongside his relatives, pointed at the sky.

"The tears and rage Karzai encountered in that hospital in Uruzgan province lingered with him, according to several aides. It was one provocation amid a string of recent political disappointments that they said has helped fuel the president's emotional outpouring against the West and prompted a brief crisis in his relations with the United States. It was also a reminder that civilian casualties in Afghanistan have political reverberations far beyond the sites of the killings."

But I suppose Finkel can justify that one, too.
(c) 2010 Robert Dreyfuss is an investigative journalist in Alexandria, Virginia, specializing in politics and national security. He is the author of "Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam" (Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books).

The Big Gamble
By Uri Avnery

I MET Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister, two weeks ago, and was again impressed by the calm and modesty he radiates.

Generally, I meet him at demonstrations, such as those at the Bil'in fence. This time, too, there was no opportunity for more than a perfunctory handshake and a few polite words.

We appeared together at the Land Day event in a small village near Qalqilyah, whose name is known only to a few: Izbat al-Tabib. The village was established in 1920, and the occupation authorities do not recognize its existence. They want to demolish it and transfer its extensive lands to the nearby Alfei Menashe settlement.

We were surrounded by a large group of respectable personalities - the heads of neighboring villages and officials of the parties that belong to the PLO - as well as the inhabitants of the village. I could speak to him only from the rostrum. I entreated him to strengthen the cooperation between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli peace camp, a cooperation that has weakened since the assassinations of Yasser Arafat and Faisal Husseini.

IT IS impossible not to like Fayyad. He radiates decency, seriousness and a sense of responsibility. He invites trust. None of the filth of corruption has stuck to him. He is no party functionary. Only after much hesitation did he join a small party ("the Third Way"). In the confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, he does not belong to either of the two rival blocs. He looks like a bank manager - and that is what he indeed was: a senior official of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The 58-year old Fayyad is the very opposite of Yasser Arafat, who first appointed him as Finance Minister. The Ra'is radiated authority, the Prime Minister radiates diffidence. Arafat was an extrovert, Fayyad is an introvert. Arafat was a man of dramatic gestures, Fayyad does not know what a gesture is.

But the biggest difference between the two lies in their methods. Arafat did not put all his eggs into one basket, he used many baskets. He was ready to use - simultaneously or alternatively - diplomacy and the armed struggle, popular action and secret channels, moderate and radical groups. He believed that the Palestinian people were much too weak to dispense with any instrument.

Fayyad, on the other hand, puts all his - and the Palestinians' - eggs in one basket. He chose a single strategy and sticks to it. That is a personal and national gamble - and bold and dangerous indeed.

FAYYAD BELIEVES, so it seems, that the Palestinians' only chance to achieve their national goals is by non-violent means, in close cooperation with the US.

His plan is to build the Palestinian national institutions and create a robust economic base, and, by the end of 2011, to declare the State of Palestine.

This is reminiscent of the classic Zionist strategy under David Ben-Gurion. In Zionist parlance, this was called "creating facts on the ground".

Fayyad's plan is based on the assumption that the US will recognize the Palestinian state and impose on Israel the well-known peace terms: two states, return to the 1967 borders with small and agreed-upon land swaps, East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, evacuation of all settlements which are not included in the land swap, the return of a symbolic number of refugees to Israeli territory and the settlement of the others in Palestine and elsewhere.

THAT LOOKS like a sensible strategy, but it raises many questions.

First question: Can the Palestinians really rely on the US to play their part?

In the last few weeks, the chances of this happening have improved. After his impressive victories in the domestic and foreign arenas, President Obama is demonstrating a new self-confidence in Israeli-Palestinian matters. He may now be ready to impose on both parties an American peace plan that includes those elements.

The US has made it clear that this is not a side-show, but a strategy based on a sober assessment of American national interests, supported by the military leadership.

But the decisive battle has not yet been joined. One can expect a Battle of Titans between the two most powerful lobbies in Washington: the military lobby and the pro-Israel lobby. The White House versus the Congress. Fayyad's gamble is based on the hope that Barack Obama, with the help of General David Petraeus, will win this struggle.

It's a reasonable gamble, but a risky one.

SECOND QUESTION: Is it possible to build a Palestinian "state-to-be" under Israeli occupation?

As of now, Fayyad is succeeding. There is indeed some prosperity in the West Bank, which, however, benefits mainly a certain class. The Netanyahu government supports this effort, under the illusion that "economic peace" can serve as a substitute for real peace.

But this entire effort stands on feet of clay. The occupation authorities can wipe everything out at one stroke. We have witnessed this already in the May 2002 "Defensive Wall" operation, when the Israeli army destroyed at one stroke everything the Palestinians had built following the Oslo agreement. I have seen with my own eyes the destroyed offices of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, the crushed computers, the heaps of ragged documents scattered over the floors of the Ministries of Education and Health, the broken walls of the Mukata'a.

If the Israeli government so decides, all the well-ordered government offices of Fayyad, all the new enterprises and economic initiatives, will go up in smoke.

Fayyad relies on the American security net. And indeed, it is questionable whether Netanyahu can do in 2010, in the Obama era, what Ariel Sharon did in 2002 under George W. Bush.

An important component of the new situation is "Dayton's army". The US general Keith Dayton is training the Palestinian security forces. Anyone who has seen them knows that this is for all practical purposes a regular army. (At the Land Day demonstration, the Palestinian soldiers, with their helmets and khaki uniforms, were deployed on the hill, while the Israeli soldiers, similarly attired, were deployed below. That was in Area C, which according to the Oslo agreements is under Israeli military control. Both armies used the same American jeeps, just differently colored.)

No doubt Fayyad is aware that there is only a narrow divide between his strategy and collaboration with the occupation.

THIRD QUESTION: What will happen if the Palestinians declare their state at the end of 2011?

Many Palestinians are sceptical. After all, the Palestinian National Council already declared an independent Palestinian state in 1988. On that festive occasion, the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, written by the poet Mahmoud Darwish, was read out. It had an uncanny resemblance to the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Dozens of countries recognized this state, and the PLO representatives there enjoy the official status of ambassadors. But did this improve the situation of the Palestinians?

The main question is whether the US will recognize the Palestinian state on the day of its foundation, and whether the UN Security Council will follow suit.

In May, 1948, the USA accorded to the new State of Israel de facto but not de jure recognition. Stalin forestalled them by recognizing Israel de jure right away.

If Fayyad's hope comes true and the US recognizes the State of Palestine, the Palestinians' situation will change dramatically. Almost certainly, the Israeli government will have no choice but to sign a peace agreement that will be practically dictated by the Americans. Israel will have to give up almost the entire West Bank.

FOURTH QUESTION: Will this apply to Gaza?

Probably yes. Contrary to the demonic image created by Israeli and American propaganda, Hamas wants a Palestinian state, not an Islamic emirate. Like our own Orthodox, who aim at a Jewish state ruled by religious law and the rabbis, they know how to compromise with reality. Hamas' aims are not restricted to the small enclave they now control. They want to play a major role in the future State of Palestine.

The official position of Hamas is that they will accept an agreement signed by the Palestinian authority if it is ratified by the Palestinian people in a referendum or by an act of parliament. It should be noted that even now, Hamas treats the Fayyad experiment with relative indulgence.

Fayyad is a man of compromise. He would have reached a modus vivendi with Hamas long ago, if the US had not imposed a total veto.

The Palestinian split is, to a large extent, made in the US and Israel. Israel has contributed to it by disrupting all physical contact between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip - in gross violation of the Oslo agreement, which defines the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one integral territory. Israel undertook to open four "safe passages" between the two territories. They were not opened for a single day.

The Americans have a primitive model of the world, inherited from the days of the Wild West: everywhere there are Good Guys and Bad Guys. In Palestine, the Good Guys are the Palestinian Authority people, the Bad Guys are Hamas. Fayyad will have to work hard to convince Washington to adopt a stance a little bit more nuanced.

WHAT WILL happen if Fayyad's gamble proves to be an historic mistake? If the pro-Israel lobby wins against the statesmen and the generals? Or if some world crisis diverts the attention of the White House into another direction?

If Fayyad fails, every Palestinian will draw the self-evident conclusion: there is no chance whatsoever for a peaceful solution. A bloody intifada will follow, Hamas will take control of the Palestinian people - until they, too, are be supplanted by far more radical forces.

Salam Fayyad can indeed say: After me, the deluge.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Pay-Any-Price Principle
By David Sirota

When choosing between frugality and security, history shows that America almost always selects the latter. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, we'll pay any price and bear any burden to protect ourselves.

No doubt this was why the economic case against the Iraq invasion failed. To many, the war debate seemed to pose a binary question: debt or mushroom clouds? And when its a scuffle between money arguments and security arguments (even dishonest security arguments), security wins every time.

Call this the Pay-Any-Price Principle - an axiom that has impacted all of America's wars, and now, most poignantly, its war on drugs. When faced with criticism of budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, law enforcement agencies and private prison interests have successfully depicted their cause as a willingness to pay any price to jail dealers of hard narcotics.

Of course, data undermine that story line. In 2008, the FBI reported that 82 percent of drug arrests were for possession - not sales or manufacturing - and almost half of those arrests were for marijuana, not hard drugs.

Fortunately, these numbers are seeping into the public consciousness. Gallup's latest survey shows record support for marijuana legalization, as more Americans see the drug war for what it really is: an ideological and profit-making crusade by the Arrest-and-Incarceration Complex against a substance that is, according to most physicians, less toxic than alcohol.

Considering both the public opinion shift and the facts about marijuana, this should be the moment that drug policy reformers drop their budget attacks and flip the security argument on their opponents - specifically, by pointing out how safety is actually compromised by the status quo.

The good news is that some activists are making this very case.

Last week, students at 80 colleges asked their schools to reduce penalties for marijuana possession so that they are no greater than penalties for alcohol possession. It's a request with safety in mind: According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use by college kids contributes to roughly 1,700 deaths, 600,000 injuries and 97,000 sexual assaults every year. By contrast, "The use of marijuana itself has not been found to contribute to any deaths, there has never been a single fatal marijuana overdose in history (and) all objective research on marijuana has also concluded that it does not contribute to injuries, assaults, sexual abuse, or violent or aggressive behavior," as the group Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation notes.

"It's time we stop driving students to drink and let them make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana," said one student.

Now the bad news: Not every reformer is on message.

In California, where polls show most citizens support cannabis legalization, The New York Times reports that backers of a legalization ballot measure "will not dwell on assertions of marijuana's harmlessness" but "rather on (the) cold cash" pot can generate for depleted state coffers.

The problem is not these advocates' facts - California officials confirm that legal marijuana could generate more than $1 billion in tax revenue. The problem goes back to the Pay-Any-Price Principle.

By downplaying the argument about giving society a safer alternative to alcohol, California's legalization advocates are letting drug warriors reclaim the language of security, to the point where even liberal Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer's campaign now trumpets her opposition to the initiative on the grounds that "she shares the (safety) concerns of police chiefs, sheriffs and other law enforcement officials."

A career politician, Boxer understands that if this battle reverts to the old tax-revenue-versus-safety fight, voters will choose safety. In other words, she gets the Pay-Any-Price Principle.

To maximize this opportune moment for drug policy changes, every reformer must appreciate that principle, too - and finally confront it head on.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at

Ratzinger Is The Perfect Pope
By Richard Dawkins

"Should Pope Benedict XVI be held responsible for the escalating scandals over clerical sexual abuse in Europe?"

Yes he should, and it's going to escalate a lot further, as more and more victims break through the guilt of their childhood indoctrination and come forward.

"Should he be investigated for how cases of abuse were handled under his watch as archbishop of Munich or as the Vatican's chief doctrinal enforcer?"

Yes, of course he should. This former head of the Inquisition should be arrested the moment he dares to set foot outside his tinpot fiefdom of the Vatican, and he should be tried in an appropriate civil - not ecclesiastical - court. That's what should happen. Sadly, we all know our faith-befuddled governments will be too craven to do it.

"Should the pope resign?"

No. As the College of Cardinals must have recognized when they elected him, he is perfectly - ideally - qualified to lead the Roman Catholic Church. A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence: in short, exactly the right man for the job. He should not resign, moreover, because he is perfectly positioned to accelerate the downfall of the evil, corrupt organization whose character he fits like a glove, and of which he is the absolute and historically appropriate monarch.

No, Pope Ratzinger should not resign. He should remain in charge of the whole rotten edifice - the whole profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution - while it tumbles, amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins, about his ears.
(c) 2010 Richard Dawkins is the former Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford; author of "The God Delusion" and "The Greatest Show on Earth."

Advancing Our Right To Trial By Jury

One thing that gives me good cheer is the periodic eruption of legal common sense that provides a little more justice in our society.

The latest advance comes from a state not known for progressive eruptions: Georgia. In 2005, the legislature joined in what was then a legal fad to restrict access to state courts by patients who're harmed by the medical negligence of hospitals, doctors, and others. Georgia legislators, responding to myths and outright lies pushed by insurance corporations, imposed an arbitrary cap of $350,000 on any damages for pain and suffering that juries could award to victims of malpractice - no matter how horrendous the suffering.

The myth spread by insurance lobbyists and corporate front groups was that there was a national epidemic of stupid, runaway juries awarding millions of dollars for nothing but a hangnail, thus causing health care costs to explode. In fact, though, even the wildest interpretation of rising health costs finds less than 1.5 percent attributable to lawsuits.

Meanwhile, in a case that recently came before Georgia's Supreme Court, a lady whose face was permanently disfigured by a surgeon had been awarded $900,000 by a jury for her pain and suffering. But the state's artificial cap on such awards negated the jury's finding, forcing her payment to be slashed by 60 percent.

Now, however, in a unanimous vote that includes Republican judges, the Georgia Supremes have overturned the 2005 law. "The very existence of caps, in any amount," ruled the chief justice, is an improper legislative interference with a jury's role and thus violates "the right to trial by jury."

Such caps have also been struck down by courts in five other states. For more information on the myths and realities of medical malpractice, contact Public Citizen:
(c) 2010 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.

Sidewalks Are For People from Caitlin Ryan on Vimeo.

Taking A Stand To Keep Sitting Legal
By Randall Amster

San Francisco is poised to become the latest in a string of cities to adopt a law making it a crime to sit on the sidewalk. While it is the case that some of these other cities are known as being among the more liberal in the nation (e.g., Portland, Seattle, Boulder, Austin), no city with such a deep progressive history has sought to impose anything like a citywide ban on sitting such as is being proposed for San Francisco. The fact that these draconian ordinances have generally withstood legal challenges due to the intricacies and inanities of the justice system is no small comfort to the homeless people who are the primary targets, nor to the activists and community members concerned about the social and ethical implications of such punitive laws. In San Francisco, many of these folks - activists and the homeless alike - are mobilizing against the proposed law in the name of justice and common decency.

First, a bit of disclosure and a statement of bias. I have spent over a decade investigating and analyzing anti-homeless legislation such as these "no sitting on the sidewalk" ordinances (also known as "sit-lie" laws because they prohibit sitting and lying down). In 1999, I led a challenge against the law in Tempe, Arizona, while I was a graduate student at Arizona State University. There, we went through all of the channels of dissent to take on a law that many in the community perceived as unnecessary, cruel and unusual, and really just plain asinine. Community activists and homeless street people packed city council chambers, launched media campaigns, and (once the law was passed) staged sit-ins in open defiance of and protest against the no-sitting law in particular and the criminalization of homelessness in general. Interestingly, the Tempe law actually took effect on Martin Luther King Day, a fact that we were able to use to highlight the argument that sitting is an important form of legitimate social protest.

While these laws are aimed at homeless people, they diminish everyone's rights in the process. The regulation of public spaces and the restriction of forms of communication are serious First Amendment matters that should not be lightly swept aside in the rush to "clean up" our cities. These points in particular framed a lawsuit that I filed in federal district court against Tempe's sit-lie law; although I was not homeless, I was an activist engaged in "expressive sitting" on the downtown sidewalks, and so was able to get legal "standing" to represent myself in challenging the law's application to protests. This was really just a principled way of getting into court to take on the entire law, which had previously been upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case arising out of Seattle. Still, I managed to convince a federal judge that my case raised novel issues, and indeed he wound up issuing an injunction against the Tempe law and thus wiping it off the books on First Amendment grounds.

This decision was later overturned on appeal by the Ninth Circuit, following a special hearing held at the ASU College of Law. The Court's decision wasn't unexpected, but neither was it determinative of the larger issue. In the process of litigating the case and organizing in the streets, many crucial facts that ultimately tipped the balance were brought to light, including: the removal of benches in the downtown area; the privatization of some of the sidewalks; the lack of adequate alternatives such as shelters in the city; the elimination of public restroom facilities; and the inordinate influence that the business community had on the city council. I wound up writing my doctoral dissertation on these and other related issues, resulting in two books on the subject, the most recent of which is Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness (LFB Scholarly, 2008). I mention all of this in no way to promote my own work, but merely to admit to a profound inclination against these laws derived from years of personal immersion and professional research alike.

Thus we arrive in San Francisco, circa 2010. As is often the case, the ordinance has been proposed by a political figure -- in this case Mayor Gavin Newsom -- citing tried, true, and trite "safety and civility" concerns. Supporting the Mayor are the local police interjecting typically hyperbolic rhetoric such as references in the media to "bands of thugs blocking sidewalks and bullying merchants, pedestrians and neighborhood residents." The Mayor himself claims to have decided to put forward the new law "after walking along Haight Street with his infant daughter and seeing someone smoking crack and blocking the entrance of a business." Not only are such allusions right out of the demonization playbook, but they are also completely disingenuous since the behaviors referenced -- blocking sidewalks, harassing people, smoking crack, and restricting access to businesses -- are already illegal under existing laws. Proponents almost always will claim that it is "conduct, not status" being punished with these sit-lie laws, but the conduct that is often cited is already prohibited, begging the question of why relatively innocuous acts like sitting are being placed into the criminalization loop. And please don't buy the arguments that the police need more tools and that existing laws are too cumbersome because they require complaining witnesses or the like -- our criminal justice system seems to easily procure more than enough convictions every day, even operating within the limits of such tedious constraints.

The main reason for the preference toward criminalization of low-level behaviors is fairly straightforward. Under our legal system, "status crimes" are generally taboo, so the easiest way to attack a particular group is to isolate a behavior common (or even exclusive, if possible) to it and criminalize that conduct. Think of other public-place laws regarding skateboarding (targeting youth), "cruising" (youth of color), and even congregating (youth "gangs"); these are often sold as neutral prohibitions on conduct that apply equally to everyone even though it is widely understood that only certain demographics regularly engage in the behavior -- recalling Anatole France's famous remark that "the law in its majesty draws no distinction, but forbids rich and poor alike from begging in the streets or sleeping in the public parks." By criminalizing sitting on the sidewalks, the law is singling out a group of people who generally lack better alternatives in terms of places to sit, such as sidewalk cafes or their own living room couches. Moreover, for many street people, sitting is understood as a passive posture that can convey need in a non-threatening manner while doing so visibly and without shame.

In this regard, sitting is an expressive behavior. It has been utilized for purposes of political transformation on innumerable occasions, in places ranging from buses and lunch counters to university offices and, yes, sidewalks. With available spaces for public demonstration rapidly shrinking in the era of privatization, regulation, and consumption, it is vitally important that we resist further colonization of the remaining public spaces of our cities. Sidewalks are part of that small class of "traditional public forums" where First Amendment rights of expression, assembly, and petitioning for redress apply, and thus sidewalks (like streets and parks, as the Supreme Court observed in the 1939 Hague case) "have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions." The fact that these precious and eroding public forums are being lost in the name of commercialism and sanitization is all the more troubling.

Indeed, cities sometimes have found that when they attempt to "clean up and clear out" their public spaces to create more business-friendly environments, things can go awry and the very qualities that make for an interesting "destination point" can be lost in the process. This is particularly true of an area such as Haight-Ashbury, one of the primary tourist locales in San Francisco and also ground zero for the proposed no-sitting law. People likely to be found sitting on sidewalks there include poets, musicians, and artists in addition to homeless people and youths. A recent USA Today article highlights many of these concerns, and further notes that the law "would also make lounging near the entrance of Golden Gate park" illegal as well. Yet while certain alleged behaviors and competing community values in the Haight are central to the public dialogue, the primary version of the ordinance being proposed (two versions were initially proffered) would enact the no-sitting ban on a citywide scale from 7am to 11pm, rendering it one of the nation's most restrictive sit-lie laws. Tellingly, the text of the proposed law notes that "the prohibition applies Citywide in order to prevent displacement of violators from one district or neighborhood to another," but it makes no mention of where people will in fact be displaced to if a citywide ban is imposed. Simply running them off to neighboring cities is shortsighted and counterproductive in the larger struggle to address the complex social issue of homelessness.

We are living in a time where drawn-out recession has caused a spike in homelessness, not just among the unemployable or substance-addled, but among working class people, families, veterans, and children. Many of the young people frequenting the public sidewalks are in fact refugees of a sort, oftentimes fleeing from abusive situations even as they express their defiance and autonomy in ways that can sometimes be seen as incompatible with social norms of civility. Rather than the punitive arm of the law being brought to bear -- with violators potentially receiving fines of up to $500 and terms of imprisonment of up to 30 days just for sitting down! -- we ought to be expending our collective energies and political capital on constructive and compassionate solutions that protect everyone's rights and interests rather than privileging those of one class against another. Time and again, cities opt for these patterns of criminalization and demonization, which do nothing whatsoever to address the underlying problem, and in fact make it worse by stigmatizing certain groups and undermining community cohesion.

Predictably, despite such concerns, the public seems to support the ordinance, at least based on the initial stories and quotes featured in the media, and likewise local news outlets have editorially endorsed the law as well. This is par for the course, especially in the early stages of the debate where primarily police and politicians have their views reflected in the popular consciousness. Yet critical voices have begun to emerge in the community, including one local columnist who described the law as "an overly broad, complicated and expensive option for fixing a very specific problem.... It's like killing a housefly with a flamethrower." Another local blogger has accused the Mayor of "political opportunism" and notes that the Board of Supervisors ironically met to discuss the sit-lie issue on the same day that the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness was meeting in the city to gather public input on a strategic plan to end homelessness, concluding with this cogent suggestion: "start with 'don't outlaw sitting.'" And a local television report included comments from a citizen member of the Police Commission board calling it "a draconian law," and an ACLU representative observing that the law would be "criminalizing innocent conduct" and is a "backward step" in addressing the root issues.

In fact, community voices are only just beginning to be heard. Local activists are holding an all-day "Sidewalks Are for People!" citywide event on March 27, with over 1200 people currently signed on to participate; a concomitant website and Facebook page have been established around the theme of "Stand Against Sit-Lie." Concerned residents like Andy Blue note that the proposed law "doesn't represent what this city is about.... We want to show that San Francisco is unified in its celebration of public space, civil liberties and a tradition of compassion." Many organizations that work with homeless populations are poised to offer their views about how to address the matter in non-punitive ways. One such group, the Coalition on Homelessness (COH), focuses in particular on empowerment-based strategies that strive to foster "the active participation of homeless and low-income San Francisco residents and front-line staff in the struggle for economic and social justice." In this manner, as Civil Rights Organizer Bob Offer-Westort of the COH recently told me, local organizations have been "turning homeless youth from the Haight-Ashbury out for hearings" and striving to ensure that "homeless people were able to be part of the hearing process." This is crucial to not merely opposing a bad law but to further articulating contrasting perspectives and inclusive alternatives in its stead.

This task has been undertaken from a number of fronts including, as Offer-Westort notes, "a group of students in a journalism program [who] interviewed merchants on Haight Street to get varying perspectives on the proposed law. Everyone they spoke to either opposed the law because it was mean-spirited and constitutionally [problematic], or because they thought that it was a dumb idea that wouldn't really make homeless kids go away. They were unable to locate a proponent." On the question of public polling showing support for the ordinance, he observes that the poll question was posed in a demonstrably loaded manner: "Would you support a law that prohibited people who were sitting or lying down from obstructing the sidewalk and harassing pedestrians?" (Note that the proposed law criminalizes any act of sitting, and thus targets neither obstruction nor harassment.) Based on his experiences as a homeless rights advocate, Offer-Westort concludes that "because the hatred of homeless people is still so socially acceptable, [big business interests] see sit-lie as a good wedge issue to turn the electorate conservative," and likewise that due to the ongoing recession, "poor people get scapegoated [and] it's way easier, psychologically, for some merchants to think that they can do something about the situation by attacking homeless youth" than to address the issues in more direct and comprehensive ways.

The presence of individuals and organizations with sophisticated critiques and longstanding connections to the issues bodes well for a positive outcome for all residents -- homeless and housed alike -- in this potentially divisive matter. As one of the true jewels of America, San Francisco occupies a unique place in the cultural and political workings of the past half century. The forward-thinking, transformative, and eclectic perspectives embodied by the people that call the city their home have served as something of a beacon of hope for those of us scattered among the more reactionary environs of the country. The fact that a city as creative and dynamic as San Francisco would even consider replicating the failed strategies of less innovative locales is troubling. Fortunately, the contest is only just beginning, and the tide is already starting to turn away from knee-jerk criminalization regimes and toward the longer-lasting promise of compassionate and constructive resolutions to pressing issues.
(c) 2010 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Easy To Avoid Paying Income Tax
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Would you choose being wealthy and paying income tax or making little enough to escape income tax? Americans have a far greater chance of being in the latter group.

Sometimes there are statistics that you really need to meditate on for awhile. They open the door to critical thinking about American society. They shed light on a host of hot political and public policy issues. This is especially true for rich versus poor issues, taxes, justice and equality. First, note the number of households in the United States: now at 115 million, which equates to an average of 2.6 people per household.

Now, think for a few moments and guess the answers to this question: What fraction of households have assets of $1 million or more and what fraction will pay no federal income tax for 2009?

Take a moment, think seriously about what these two fractions might be. To have net assets of $1 million or more certainly signifies people at the top of the economic ladder, but is a far greater number than the superrich, because a million bucks is not what it used to be. A lot of ordinary people seeing themselves as middle class, but making good incomes and probably older, even with lower house values, can have wealth at this level.

And to pay no federal income tax certainly covers people at the bottom of the economic spectrum, but not necessarily just the very poor. They too may see themselves as middle class or, for some, the working poor. For example, for 2009, a family of four with two children under 17 could have made $50,000 and escaped paying any federal income tax because of various tax credits and other benefits. Many two income households could avoid paying federal income tax, because of low but rather typical salaries.

Here are the answers to the above question. Households with $1 million or more in net assets number just 7.8 million or 6.8 percent of the national total. Households that will pay no federal income tax for 2009 number 54 million or 47 percent of the national total.

Thus, there are about seven times as many households paying no federal income tax, nearly half the nation's households, than having $1 million or more in assets.

If a high income rather than assets is considered, then note that about 16 percent of households have annual incomes of $100,000 or more. This means that a lot of households with pretty high incomes have not accumulated the wealth level of $1 million in assets. Households with incomes of $250,000 or more, however, number just under 2 percent of the nation's total. This is the group that will see higher taxes from the new health care reform legislation and now pays about half of all taxes. This group equates to about 2.3 million households and 6 million people that really are rich in terms of both wealth (assets) and income. These people can afford to pay more taxes because they have benefitted disproportionately from past tax cuts and probably are not hurting much in this recession.

All these numbers shed some light on the considerable economic inequality that has gotten steadily worse in recent years. Yes, the rich have become richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class devastated, probably worse than ever, because the current Great Recession for millions of people is really just as bad as the Great Depression - financially and psychologically. Over the past 30 years the lowest income people are actually making less now, after adjusting for inflation, and CEOs at the largest companies went from making 35 times to over 300 times more than their average workers.

Take away the no income tax and high asset households and you have about 46 percent left or 53 million households with about 138 million Americans. This is a better view of the shrinking, at-risk middle class, households trying to survive in a cruel society with high economic insecurity. These people should be more worried about sinking into the lower class, no income tax paying group, than dreaming about rising up into the wealthy high tax paying class. The bitter truth is that upward economic mobility has largely become a myth, like the American dream, more like winning the lottery than a reasonable expectation from working hard.

Maybe all this explains why there are so many angry, anti-government Americans attracted to the tea party movement, and firmly entrenched independents fed up with both major political parties because they more serve corporate rather than public interests. With an enormous national debt, high unemployment that will not go away, and increasing number of people losing homes and needing free food things are likely to stay bad or get worse for a lot of people.

Dwell on this: Do you really think that voting in different Democrats or Republicans will return the nation to a healthier condition? And this: Does having a positive attitude about the future require delusional thinking, or heavy drug use to avoid thinking about it?
(c) 2010 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author.

[The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a consultant for many corporations, such as IBM, Texas Instruments, Polaroid, and RayOVac, and has served as an expert witness in many legal proceedings and is the author of several nonfiction books and hundreds of articles.]

Slavery-Denial In Old Virginny
By Margaret Kimberley

"They are nostalgic for the days when they were able to own human beings as property."

April 2011 will mark the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. There will undoubtedly be new books published, speeches made and commentaries written to mark this watershed event. That is as it should be, but the governor of Virginia has given us a preview of the ugly sentiments that will be celebrated and lies that will become accepted as truth if they are not responded to swiftly.

Despite the fact that his last two predecessors had ignored the tradition, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell felt compelled to resurrect the celebration of Confederate History Month. His declaration of the commemoration began as follows:

"WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse;..."

McDonnell's original proclamation made no mention of slavery as being part of Virginia's history. The elephant in the living room of Virginia history was nowhere to be found. After criticism and bad press ensued, the governor added these words to his proclamation: "WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history." It was mighty white of McDonnell to make that point.

"The elephant in the living room of Virginia history was nowhere to be found."

Virginia brought chattel slavery to the land that became the United States. In 1619 a cargo of enslaved Africans arrived on Virginia's shores, the first such occurrence in an English colony. Virginia was known as the slave breeding state, and was the linchpin of the second middle passage, the sale of thousands of slaves within the United States which took place as Indian lands were stolen and white settlement spread. Given the crucial role that Virginia played in the history of slavery, it is curious yet not really shocking that the governor initially left out any mention of it in his proclamation.

White nationalism is this country's religion; the true source of American patriotism and it is never far from the surface of public discourse on any issue. Yet its followers now have a slightly more difficult path to tread. They cannot openly declare themselves to be worshippers of their bloody history of decimating native populations and enslaving Africans. Like McDonnell they will claim that the civil war was a war for independence and that their only goal is to remember their beloved ancestors and their heritage.

They do love their ancestors but not just because they were kin. They are also nostalgic for the days when they were able to own human beings as property. They are nostalgic for Jim Crow segregation, America's apartheid system, which made every white man, woman and child someone else's master.

It will be important in the next year not just to rebut their dangerous claims, but to claim history for ourselves. Yes Virginia, slavery was the cause of the civil war. Chattel slavery was wildly profitable, yet in a tenuous position if it was restricted to the South. It could not survive in the Confederacy alone, it would eventually be weakened if it was not allowed to spread across the continent.

"White nationalism is this country's religion."

Abraham Lincoln, the not so great emancipator, was originally willing to allow slavery to flourish where it already existed. Yet his hands off approach was not good enough for the McDonnell ancestors, who might have profited for decades to come had they not insisted on fighting a war to ensure the spread of their evil way of life.

That is what ought to be remembered in 2011. The southern slavery forces so beloved by Governor McDonnell had no intention of giving up their peculiar institution in 1861. They wanted to expand it, they wanted to bring back a legal slave trade in Africans. It was the pro-slavery forces in America who fired the first shots at Fort Sumter. They forced every white northerner to become a slave catcher with every Fugitive Slave Act or Dred Scott decision and turned formerly apathetic people against them. They would not have been stopped without warfare. Slavery could only be crushed by the military defeat of the slaveholders and the non-slaveholders who were so eager to support them. If there is to be a sesquicentennial celebration, let it be for the war itself. Let it be a declaration that the evils of slavery would have continued for many years to come if the confederacy had not been defeated militarily.

"Whereas: Virginia and rest of the south lost a war which they started in 1861. They were responsible for the deaths of millions of people in the slave trade and the degradation of their descendants for more than two hundred years. They were responsible for the deaths of more than 600,000 combatants in that conflict. Their defeat in war was right and just and meant the end of the evil system of chattel slavery in America."

Now that would be a declaration.
(c)2010 Margaret Kimberley's "Freedom Rider" column appears weekly in the Black Agenda Report. She is BAR's editor and senior columnist. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail.

The Accomodationists
Memo to Liberals on the White House Death Warrants
By Chris Floyd

Let us hear no more excuses for Barack Obama. Let us hear no more defenses, no more special pleading, no more extenuations. Let us have no more reciting of the "pressures" he is under, of the "many obstacles" that balk him in his quest to do us good, of the "bad advisors" who are swaying him to unworthy acts against his will. Let us be done at last with all these wretched lies, these complicitous self-deceptions that are facilitating atrocity and tyranny on a monstrous scale.

Barack Obama has ordered the murder of an American citizen, without trial, without due process, without the production of any evidence. All it takes to kill any American citizen in this way is Barack Obama's signature on a piece of paper, his arbitrary designation of the target as a "suspected terrorist." In precisely the same way -- precisely the same way -- Josef Stalin would place a mark by a name in a list of "suspected terrorists" or "counterrevolutionaries," and the bearer of that name would die. This is the system we have now, the same as the Soviets had then: a leader with the unchallengeable power to kill citizens without due process.

That this power has not been used on the same scale in the American system as in the Stalinist state -- yet -- does not alter the equivalence of this governing principle. In both cases, the leader signs arbitrary death warrants; the security services carry out the task; and the 'great and good' of society accept this draconian power as necessary and right.

This is what you support when you support Barack Obama. It does not matter if you think his opponents in the factional infighting to control a bloodsoaked empire and its war machine are "worse" than he is in some measure. When you support him, when you defend him, when you excuse him, it is arbitrary murder that you are supporting. It is the absolute negation of every single principle of enlightenment and human rights professed by liberals, progressives -- indeed, by honorable people of every political stripe -- for centuries.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about Obama's order to kill an American citizen without trial or evidence, of course. George W. Bush claimed the same powers. As I have noted here and elsewhere for many years, our American presidents now claim the right to kill any person on earth whom they arbitrarily designate as an enemy -- or even a suspected enemy -- of the United States. Barack Obama embraced this power as soon as he took office, ordering a "surge" in the "targeted killings" on "suspected terrorists" in Pakistan. Hundreds and hundreds of innocent human beings have been murdered in these drone attacks; many thousands more have been driven from their homes, and terrorized into lives of mental anguish, their psyches lamed by trauma, upheaval and the ever-present dread of death raining down on them from the skies.

And of course, thousands of innocent people continue to die in the wars of dominion and profiteering that Obama has so eagerly embraced. In Afghanistan, they die directly at the hands of American forces -- including secret assassins who raid villages by night, often slaughtering civilians, even those cooperating with the military occupation. As Obama's hand-picked commander in the region, Stanley McChrystal, has openly admitted: "We have shot an amazing number of people [at checkpoints and on the roads], but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." And in Iraq -- the scene of the abominable, Nazi-like war crime of military aggression whose continuation by Bush's "surge" was hailed by Obama as "an extraordinary achievement" -- innocent people continue to die in droves at the hands of the vicious and violent forces unleashed and empowered by the American invasion and occupation, while they wait to see which brutal "hard man" will seize power over their riven and ruined society.

No, the only remarkable thing about Obama's direct order to murder his fellow American citizen, Anwar al-Alwaki, is its openness. A few weeks ago, he sent his intelligence chieftain, Dennis Blair, to Congress to openly proclaim the president's "right" to kill American citizens arbitrarily. Bush had kept this claimed power obscured, letting it out in dribs and drabs of directed leaks, and hints and winks in public statements; but Obama has taken us beyond that, to the open declaration and institutional entrenchment of the principle of death without due process for citizens. This indeed is "change" -- with a vengeance.

(And to think that only a few years ago, capital punishment -- with its vast and cumbersome legal machinery -- was banished in America as too unjust and arbitrary in its application; now a president need not trouble himself with the slightest bit of legal process if he wants to have someone killed. I suppose this too is "progress": more streamlined, more efficient, quicker, more modern -- like wireless broadband. It's simply there all the time at the president's pleasure.)

Now, there can be no shuffling, no waffling on the matter. Obama has made it crystal clear for even the most avidly self-duping progressive: He will murder his fellow citizens without trial or evidence if he sees fit. The state can murder whom it pleases. This is the system we have. This is what you support when you support Barack Obama. You cannot escape this logic, this judgment. If you support Obama now, in this, then there is no crime he can commit that you will not support.

And thus you become one of those people that we all used to puzzle over, the accomodationists to brutal tyranny: "How did all those people go along with the Nazis? Why wasn't there more opposition to Stalin? How could they countenance all those obvious abominations? What kind of people were they?"

Now you know. They were you. You are them.

NOTE 1: I should make it clear that I do not think that it is somehow more heinous for the American government to target and kill its own citizens, as opposed to killing foreigners by the thousands, which it has done, on a bipartisan basis, for many a year. I am merely laying out the case in this way so that American "progressives" -- almost of all whom are deeply marinated in their own brand of American exceptionalism -- can see that even by the standards of this exceptionalism, which puts American lives and 'values' above all else, Barack Obama is acting -- undeniably -- in a criminal, tyrannical manner.

NOTE 2: While I was writing this piece, I got the welcome news that Arthur Silber was back, after a long hiatus due to his chronic ill health. And, as usual, his insights cut straight to the heart of the matter. As I noted here the other day, Silber was one of the very few writers who saw through the shining cloud that surrounded the Obama campaign to the corroded core within. He also noted the greatest danger of an Obama presidency: that it would confirm, entrench, expand -- and normalize -- the worst aspects of the American imperium, precisely because the system's crimes and atrocities would now be presented in a more pleasing package, with all "progressive" opposition to them completely disarmed by partisan adherence to their standard-bearer.

Ironically, one of Silber's most incisive pieces on this subject was provoked by what many people -- and almost all "progressives" -- still consider Obama's finest moment during the campaign: his speech calling for a "national dialogue on race" -- part of a particularly brutal effort to knife his long-time friend, mentor and pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, deeply and repeatedly in the back.

Go read the new piece now, and follow the links, which provide chilling chapter and verse to underscore the insights. But here is brief excerpt, one of the conclusions that Silber draws today from that early speech:

If one truly and comprehensively understood Obama's speech on race -- the unending, deadly lies on which it was based, and the terrible consequences to which those lies have led and the devastation they will continue to cause -- that speech told you everything you needed to know about Obama.

That is not hyperbole, not if you understood all of that: it told you everything. .. And what has already occurred during the Obama presidency is very far from all or the worst of the destruction that can reasonably be expected to transpire over the coming years.

UPDATE: David Swanson at Counterpunch nails the situation well: "Murder is the new torture," indeed. As Swanson notes, now that torture -- always with us, but previously shrouded -- has been mainstreamed, acceptance of outright murder is the logical next step. And as Swanson observes, it is actually a much more efficient tool of imperial policy:

President Obama has ordered the murder of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. Like the innocent but tortured Abu Zubayda (innocent at least of any of the crimes he was accused of), Awlaki is now the mastermind terrorist of the universe. And once he's dead, who's to say he wasn't? Who can demand a trail or access to documents? He'll be dead. See the beauty of it?

If the top mastermind is in Yemen, what the hell are we doing building a quagmire in Afghanistan? Don't ask. But notice this: we have dramatically increased the use of missile strikes to assassinate in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And we have increased the use of murderous night-time raids to such an extent that we now kill more civilians in that way than we do with drones. They're the "wrong people," or neighbors who came to help, or family members clinging to loved ones. Sometimes they're young students with their hands tied behind their backs. Accidents will happen. But no U.S. officials' future book tours are going to be interrupted by protesters, since there's no torture involved. Civilization is on the march!

(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Making "All the News That's Fit To Print" Fit
By Case Wagenvoord

When The New York Times says, "fit," it means all the news that's fit to print if its reporters want to continue to have "access," that door that opens and ushers a reporter into the multiple seats of power, both public and private, that control America. And the door stays open as long as the reporter behaves himself and doesn't embarrass his handlers with tough questions or voice opinions that do not have official approval.

So it was, in the wake of the video showing the gunning down of Iraqi citizens by U.S. Apache helicopters, that the Times ran a soothing "There, there" story in effect explaining that "boys will be boys."

"Experts Cite Conditioning and Heat of Combat to Explain Iraq Airstrike Video," read the headline. You see, the article explains, in order to kill somebody, you've got to make a game out of it, you have to dehumanize your victim because that makes it so much easier to kill him. As one officer explains, "Military training is fundamentally an exercise in overcoming a fear of killing another human being."

This is another way of saying that war is a perversion in that it forces people to perform acts that in any other context they would find morally repulsive, unless they were confirmed sociopaths. This is why a country shouldn't go to war unless it absolutely has to because in the process it emotionally cripples the young men and women who serve.

There may be times when a war is a necessary perversion, but neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is a necessity. Both are wars instituted by policy wonks who really think it's all a game and have no concept of the crippled mindset necessary to kill another human being. Both wars muddle along like slithering blobs driven by their own momentum and continued simply because they are already in motion and to withdraw might injure our credibility, which is being shredded anyway because of our inability to bring either war to a satisfactory conclusion.

However, the above is part of a larger debate that is studiously avoided by our mainstream media. Corporate media never questions policy because said policy is set into motion by the Beltway's corporate masters.

Getting back to the article in question, what is noticeable is the question the reporter failed to ask. Granted, in this day in age it is considered impolite for a reporter to ask tough questions and doing so might end up getting him stripped of his "access." This would mean he'd have to revert to the old-fashioned journalistic techniques of digging and wearing out shoe leather.

Let us allow that the pilots were on edge and easily spooked. This brings us to the single, most important question the Times reporter failed to ask the experts: Why was the Fire Discipline so lax? One of the components of Fire Discipline is that a soldier fires when commanded to and ceases when commanded to. The assumption is that the individual in command has enough presence of mind to cease firing when a threat no longer exists.

Now, bending over backwards until the back is ready to break, one might say the initial encounter with the group of civilians milling in the street was a tragic action brought on by confirmation bias, which security analyst Christopher Albon defines as "the tendency of the human mind to unconsciously prefer information reinforcing existing beliefs. In this case, the fact the pilots were looking for armed insurgents made them predisposed to believe that any item carried by the persons were weapons."

Firing on the van that came to assist the wounded was a gratuitous act of violence. If you listen to the dialog between pilots and the individual on the ground responsible for Fire Discipline, it is obvious that the pilots' blood is up. They've killed and they want to kill some more, an unfortunate side effect of combat. This is why Fire Discipline is so important. It is the responsibility of the commander to recognize this and to order his men to cease fire when a threat is no longer present.

When the van showed up, it is obvious it only wanted to collect the wounded. Yet, the pilots begged their controller for permission to fire. They begged and pressured and in the end they controlled their controller and he folded and gave permission to fire on a van that represented no threat whatsoever. Fire Discipline broke down completely. And, of course, the Times never questioned this because it would have been impolite to do so.

After all, boys will be boys, so why sweat it? Once again, the Times made the news fit to print.
(c) 2010 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Growth; The World's Greatest Misconception
By Mike Folkerth

My friend Frosty Wooldridge is a tireless writer and campaigner against population growth. Therefore, he cannot help but chastise our immigration policies which continue to balloon our population regardless of the desires of the American people.

Should you care to take your own poll on the current mindset of the American people toward immigration, ask the next few people that you come into contact with if they approve of allowing 15 Million illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S., while adding 1.2 Million legal immigrants annually. All of those job seekers added, when at the same time millions upon millions of American citizens are unemployed.

Even our not-so-truthful government warns that unemployment will remain unacceptably high for years to come. Then why add out of country job seekers?

Frosty's arguments against population growth are the same as those that I presented in my book, "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed," and are the same arguments as those that I continue to present on my blog. A finite world has physical limits. Other than the sixth grade science kids; who would have ever thought it?

When Frosty (who has national exposure with his writing, lectures, and radio program) speaks up against our nearly unchecked immigration, his opponents commonly combat his message by asking, "What do you have against these immigrants? They are only coming here to better themselves." This typical response is aimed at disarming the good Mr. Wooldridge with the oldest debate trick in the books; that of substituting logic and reality for unbounded human emotion.

Frosty replies that it is not what he has against the immigrants, but more correctly what he wishes for his fellow citizens. Frosty Wooldridge has witnessed the adverse conditions of overcapacity first hand. He is a world class bicyclist that has ridden across six continents, peddling 100,000 miles while visiting some of the most overpopulated and deprived cities and nations on earth. As the old saw goes, "Been there, done that."

When we note signs at movie theaters and other public gathering places that state, "Capacity 550," the meaning is clear, that's all the physical capacity that they have. Exceeding that capacity would require the late comers to stand in the aisles or sit on someone's lap. The restrooms would soon take on the appearance of disaster areas. The refreshment stand would run out of food and drink and the entire scene would quickly become untenable.

The difference is that you can leave a movie, but once America becomes hopelessly overpopulated, can you pick up your family and friends and relocate to a less populated foreign nation? Better questions and those that my friend Frosty Wooldridge determinedly asks, "Why would you want to? Why not deal with the problem now before it's too late?"

So how is it that the general population can't grasp the fact that America is just one big movie theater? Why is it so difficult to clearly see that we have a physical capacity that is limited? Surly the dimmest among us could quickly conceive of the fact that exceeding our physical capacity will certainly demand an offsetting occurrence of diminished lifestyles?

It is often said that America provides the guiding light for the world; let's hope not. At least, let's hope not in the instance of our misguided quest for endless population growth.

Frosty recently sent me an article centered around a current movement in Australia that is gaining significant traction; "Sustainable Population Australia."

The movement, as can be expected, is meeting some strong headwinds from those who support the status quo of growth. Of course, the growth model is failing, and the answer is always the same; more growth.

Let's hope that Australia becomes the first to establish a common sense platform that is based on math and physical capacity rather than unbounded human emotion. Perhaps we will see the wisdom in following their example.

I'll leave you with these words that best describe our belief that it is possible to grow exponentially in a finite world; "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it" Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.
(c) 2010 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems,
but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
~~~ Herm Albright ~~~

The Human Costs Of Nuclear Power
By Alec Baldwin

In two previous posts, I wrote about the path I had gotten on, back in 1995, to shut down a research reactor at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. The reactor, called a High Flux Beam Reactor, or HFBR, had its operations suspended and was eventually shut down, in 1999, after an investigation established that tritium had leaked from spent fuel pools and had contaminated ground water within and beyond the Brookhaven Lab site.

I met many people while working on the BNL issue, as well as other battles involving nuclear power. One of them was Randy Snell, a Long Island resident who raised his family near Brookhaven. Snell's daughter developed a rare form of cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, which was found in several other children living near BNL. The total number of cases was fifteen times the national average. Snell, and others who were struggling with "rhabdo" (and other soft tissue cancers) near reactors or enrichment facilities, told me that exposure to low-level radiation is a factor in the disease.

Many activists working on the issue at the time referred to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and its discussion of "bioaccumulation." Carson stated that chemical contamination, both alone and in conjunction with radiological contamination, would lead to extraordinary health hazards for human and animal populations. Long Island, particularly the Eastern region (Suffolk County) has been bombarded with applications of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides for many decades. Chemicals applied in farming (particularly potato farming), home lawn care, ball parks and golf courses have been driven down through a rather shallow "lense" of soil and have contaminated groundwater on Long Island with impunity. Breast cancer rates in Suffolk County are among the highest in the US.

After BNL was shut down, the group I was working with at the time, Standing for Truth About Radiation (STAR) Foundation folded. Contacts I had made while with STAR led me to the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP) and my association with Dr. Jay Gould, Dr. Ernest Sternglass and Joe Mangano, who is the current Executive Director of RPHP. While RPHP introduced me to debates regarding alternative energy and the dangers posed by utility reactors all over the US, RPHP's focus was on Millstone in Connecticut, on Indian Point in Buchanan, New York and, most intently, on the Oyster Creek Reactor in Tom's River, New Jersey.

RPHP's assertion is clear and is not new information. There are no safe levels of exposure to the byproducts created by the generation of reactors currently in use. RPHP has dedicated much of their work to promulgating the research of Dr. Ernest Sternglass, whose seemingly innocuously titled research into strontium 90 deposits in children's primary teeth actually helped influence John F. Kennedy's test ban decision in 1963. The "Tooth Fairy Project" supports a simple idea. Strontium 90, emitted by conventional utility reactors, mimics calcium in the body and is termed "bone-seeking." It deposits itself in the bones and marrow, after the larger amount of food-ingested strontium 90 is excreted by the body. In the developing fetuses of pregnant women, strontium 90 (again, mimicking calcium) is deposited in the teeth. Once in the teeth, it decays into a "daughter element", yttrium, the element that researchers like Stenglass look for as the marker for elevated exposure to radiation.

Sternglass came to this research after he familiarized himself with the work of Dr. Alice Stewart, a British epidemiologist who had studied the effects of radiation on children from X-rays. Later in her career, Stewart worked on a study of the Hanford plutonium production site in Washington state. Some of the original and most significant work in this field was done by Dr. Louise Z. Reiss, who oversaw the 1958 study, The St. Louis Baby Tooth Survey. The St. Louis survey found that traces of radioactive elements in new born children had risen 100 fold during the 1950's, which coincided with the most active period of above ground testing of atomic weapons. When the testing either ceased or was curtailed, levels of radioactive material in the primary teeth of children were found to have fallen.

Levels of radiation, as detected in children's teeth, fell after above ground testing ended. Then, according to Sternglass, they spiked again in direct relation to the growth of nuclear reactors as increased sources of power at public utilities.

In my next posts, I will address the work by Sternglass and others to apply strontium 90 research to the advent of utility reactors. Also, I will cover criticism of Sternglass' work, discussion on this site of "new generation" thorium reactors, the travails of workers at enrichment plants like Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Piketon, Ohio, the political legacy of certain New Jersey officials (Democrat and Republican) as pertains to the Oyster Creek reactor, and the great, looming issue of nuclear waste management as symbolized by the heartbreaking tragedy of Hanford.
(c) 2010 Alec Baldwin grew up in Massapequa, Long Island where his father was a high school teacher for twenty-eight years and his mother raised six children. He is an actor and an activist. His new book "A Promise To Ourselves" (St. Martin's Press) was published in paperback in the Fall of 2009.

Before And After
By David Michael Green

Pardon me for noticing, but...

...your country is going down the toilet.

Speaking of which, I just couldn't help but be struck by the two articles on either side of the same New York Times op-ed page this Thursday.

In one, Nicholas Kristof reports the incredibly dismal fact that the kleptocrats of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe have so thoroughly disemboweled the country they rule that people there actually pine for the "old, racist, white regime of what was then called Rhodesia". Oh boy. Said one farmer, "It would have been better if whites had continued to rule because the money would have continued to come. It was better under Rhodesia. Then we could get jobs. Things were cheaper in stores. Now we have no money, no food."

Meanwhile, over on the other side of the page, Gail Collins details the latest deployment of insane right-wing politics in America, as scary Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has been singing the virtues of the Confederacy (again), conveniently omitting that minor historical footnote of slavery so that yet another white, Southern politician can court the racist vote (again).

Do I really live in a country this stupid? Is it really possible that parasites like McDonnell and virtually every other Republican politician can continue the Zimbabwefication of America with the actual assistance of the very clowns who are the victims of this grand rip-off, simply by feeding them a little race-bait to make them feel better about themselves?

These two articles feel a lot like "Before" and "After" snapshots of America and its struggle with a fast-growing national cancer.

Except for one thing. We are no longer terribly "Before" anymore. Indeed, we have been siccing the Yankee Mugabes on America for just about exactly as long as the real deal has been similarly afflicting Zimbabwe. The same year that brought him to power there introduced the Reagan era in the US. (Worse, with our battered but still extant democracy, we have far less excuse than the poor Zimbabweans.) Presidents come and go in America, but - with the complete co-optation of the Democratic Party under Clinton and Obama - the predatory ideology of Reaganism remains.

Few have laid out the case in a more compelling fashion than Tony Judt, in the latest edition of the New York Review of Books. Noting the massive shifts of wealth in America these last decades, he writes:

Inequality, then, is not just unattractive in itself; it clearly corresponds to pathological social problems that we cannot hope to address unless we attend to their underlying cause. There is a reason why infant mortality, life expectancy, criminality, the prison population, mental illness, unemployment, obesity, malnutrition, teenage pregnancy, illegal drug use, economic insecurity, personal indebtedness, and anxiety are so much more marked in the US and the UK than they are in continental Europe.

The wider the spread between the wealthy few and the impoverished many, the worse the social problems: a statement that appears to be true for rich and poor countries alike. What matters is not how affluent a country is but how unequal it is. Thus Sweden and Finland, two of the world's wealthiest countries by per capita income or GDP, have a very narrow gap separating their richest from their poorest citizens - and they consistently lead the world in indices of measurable well-being. Conversely, the United States, despite its huge aggregate wealth, always comes low on such measures. We spend vast sums on health care, but life expectancy in the US remains below Bosnia and just above Albania.

Hey, at least no one can say the richest country in the world is worse off than Albania, eh?! The twin-axis graphs Judt presents illustrating his article make the same points visually. In every case, the US of A is sitting off by its lonesome in the unhappiest corner of the plot. Juxtapose income inequality with either social mobility, health or homicides, and there's the US over there by itself, in the stinker corner. Most inequality, least mobility. Most inequality, worst health. Most inequality, most murders. Woo-hoo!

Look, there will always be Mugabes out there. And there will always be the victims of such predators. And there will always be unimaginable horrors awaiting those with the political courage to call out such crimes for what they are. But what is most astonishing is when folks voluntarily contribute to their own demise, and when they do so in an environment relatively free from coercion and relatively open to change if only it were demanded.

Worse still, such change actually is being demanded right now. It's called the tea party movement, and what it demands is a full-on exacerbation of the crises its politics have already made so acute, under a different guise (then we just called it Republicanism). Somehow, this is the only political movement in America with any juice these days, despite the almost sheer inanity of its content.

This means that the choices du jour facing voters are: the Republican Party, the other Republican Party, and - should the tea-boneheads come to power - an Even More Republican Republican Party. Turns out that Ralph Nader was actually wrong. It's not just Tweedledee and Tweedledum that we get to choose from in American politics. It's Tweedledee, Tweedledum and Tweedledumber. Who says we have no real political choice here in the good ol' USA?

The real $64,000 question of American politics right now is what happened to the left? Or, where is the New New Left we might expect to see today? Could conditions be more ripe for a progressive flowering, short of a world war over nothing or a Great Depression caused by the right (as opposed to the mere Great Recession they've (so far) caused this time)? Isn't economic meltdown for 98 percent of the country while the other two percent grows rich of the rest of us sufficient? 'Cause, if not, I can throw in two really stupid and endless wars! No? Do Americans still need more? How about ongoing planetary destruction in the name of profits for the few? Not enough yet? How about strangling levels of national debt which will inevitably result in shredding further the already tattered social safety net? Do we need to drown an entire American city to get peoples' attention? Oops, never mind. Been there and done that.

I could go on and on here, but if that isn't enough to wake people out of their regressive slumbers, just what will? And how in the world would we ever survive it, whatever that might be? There are, to be sure, some signs of hope, rare and bare as they might be. Young people today are not quite as politically stupid (i.e., conservative) as their parents (you know, the folks who left them holding the bag in every way imaginable). But that's kinda like being the best pole vaulter in your sixth grade home room class. Sure, it's an achievement, but...

I don't really know how to explain our collective narcolepsy at a moment that fairly well screams out for a progressive r-thing (you know, what they used to call revolutions). Maybe its just that the right has been so brilliant at their task that they've not only ripped people off blind, but have left them without any consciousness of their own looting. Worse, now, they are unable to envision a way out that doesn't involve making matters even uglier.

Even worse yet, they seem to lack the very consciousness of their mental state. Isn't the greatest crime one in which the victim doesn't even know he's been victimized? Here's where articles like Judt's are so valuable for their comparative analysis, but so lonely out there in the media wilderness. How many Americans have the slightest clue that their country isn't the greatest in the world on all meaningful measures? I mean that question seriously. American nationalism makes it almost treason to wonder whether other folks - especially those effete French! - are living better, healthier, happier and longer lives than we are. Which, of course, also makes it not so much impossible as irrelevant to spend any time thinking about alternative policy solutions.

But it is precisely upon the question of such policy solutions where I depart from Tony Judt, who infers that progressives are today every bit as ideologically spent as are regressives. Not only is this not the case, but the greatest shame of our time (and that's saying a lot) is that these solutions are right there before us, in our own past and in Europe's (for instance) present. We don't need to reinvent these ideas. We just need to reimplement them.

Liberalism didn't fail (unless you like low wages, child labor, illiteracy, racism, sexism, homophobia and war), so much as it was abandoned by those who were entrusted with its care, those who decided that, at the end of the day, money and fame were much cooler things than taking responsible care of millions of lives. Not every particular program of the New Deal - Great Society era was wonderful in every particular respect. But the gist of the approach, and the vast bulk of the actual programs, were massively successful and massively beneficial. As they still are - along with ones we never got around to - for the people who are lucky enough to live under them in places like Europe or Canada.

We should be headed back in that direction.

Instead, we're trying to out-Zimbabwe Zimbabwe.

When we get there, no doubt we'll wonder why.

Assuming, that is, that by then we still have the capacity to wonder at all.
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Franks,

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, Ralph Nader, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Fredo Bush, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Sonia (get whitey) Sotomayor.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, your claiming that black women were better off under slavery than having reproductive rights, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross first class with diamond clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-30-2010. We salute you Herr Franks, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Is America Heading Toward A "Dirty War" At Home?
Media-inspired death threats against politicians, and real extremist violence, pose a bloody threat to democracy
By Joe Conason

Bart Stupak says he will retire from Congress after nine terms because he wants "to spend a little more time with my family" -- and who are we to question his reasoning? He says anyone who thinks he was intimidated by the death threats, harassing phone calls and assorted other abuse, or the vow by tea party activists and other Republicans to unseat him, simply doesn't know him very well. The Michigan Democrat is a former state trooper from the Upper Peninsula, so there is no reason to assume he's a wimp.

But Stupak wouldn't have to be wimpish to worry about the blasts of violent rhetoric (complete with little drawings of nooses and racial invective against President Obama) directed toward him since he voted for healthcare reform. As a target of verbal and potential physical assault, he is not alone, of course. Today's Washington Post reports that the number of threats against members of Congress has tripled since last year, with several cases deemed sufficiently serious for investigation by the Capitol Police or the FBI.

Many if not most of these threats come from obsessive losers like Gregory Giusti, the Fox News fan who made a series of disgusting threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (The pathetic Giusti, now under arrest, was just following the lead of wealthier and more celebrated but otherwise oddly similar figures in the media, such as Glenn Beck, who once "joked" about poisoning Pelosi.) But the growing extremism of the right is a combustible force that could easily combine with the personal pathology of an individual winger in a violent tragedy. As reactionary anger is amplified and encouraged by the Republican noise machine, in fact, the likelihood of political assassination is increasing.

Threats and violence culminating in murder has long been an accepted strategy among antiabortion extremists, and they have long allied themselves with the most extreme elements in the reviving militia movement. Both have significant followings in Stupak's home state, and as a former law enforcement officer, he must be well aware of the potential danger from those groups. When the antiabortion zealots threaten to kill you, they often mean it -- as they have proved over and over again during the past three decades.

The irony in Stupak's resignation under fire did not escape his critics in the reproductive rights movement. Some of them have long memories. Wendy Norris remembers one of the first votes cast by a certain freshman Democrat:

Death threats. Insults. Stalking. Harassment.

The same types of intimidation that are commonplace for many women's health care providers, clinic escorts and patients.

Which leads to some interesting contrasts with a long ago vote cast by Stupak, then a freshman lawmaker from tiny Menominee, Mich., and his more recent health care line-in-the-sand demands as an 8-term congressman.

In one of his earliest floor ballots as a new federal lawmaker, Stupak voted against the landmark 1994 Freedom to Access Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) that set federal criminal sanctions for violent acts, threats and commercial interference by protesters at abortion clinics and churches.

During the House FACE Act debate in 1993, Dr. David Gunn was murdered by anti-choice militants. Five months later, Mobile, Ala., physician George Patterson's death by shooting was widely suspected to be related to his work. Within months of the bill's May 1994 passage, Dr. John Britton and clinic escort James Barrett were gunned down and two Boston-area clinic receptionists, Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, were killed in a shooting rampage.

Soon after, the "Nuremberg Files" Web site, a thinly-veiled hit list that targeted physicians with wanted-style posters, personal dossiers and monetary rewards, was posted online to aid vigilantes in tracking potential victims.

The horrible echo of those dark years was recalled in the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller and months later through the angry bile vented at congressional town hall meetings and Tea Party protests - some of which was directed at Stupak himself.

The terrorism still comes in unrelenting waves. Since 1994, more than 4500 violence acts and 148,851 disruptive incidents have been reported by clinics, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Now, some 16 years after the law to protect clinics was signed by President Clinton, the Justice Dept. and FBI are currently involved in at least three FACE Act cases involving threats to abortion providers in Texas and Colorado and an on-going conspiracy probe of Tiller's murder.

The dirty war against reproductive choice continues to be fought by coercion and brutality rather than democratic debate. The question that those who call themselves conservatives must face is whether other elements within their movement -- and in the tea party groups they hope to recruit -- now tolerate and even blatantly encourage the use of violence to achieve their aims. It is a bloody, brutal, authoritarian style of politics that we were taught to believe this country had long ago left behind.
(c) 2010 Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer and Salon. You may reach Joe via email at: Joe Conason

I Lived In A Car With My Teenage Daughter On The Streets Of L.A. And Survived To Write About It: Part 2
By Kay Ebeling

"Lizzie, I don't like this spot anymore."

"I don't either," she shivered, "there's an old man who's been walking by and looking at us every hour on the hour."

I started the car and pulled out. Here, I'd thought the Hollywood Rec Center and park at Cahuenga and Santa Monica Boulevard would be a safe place for us to park, since we'd be sleeping in our car that night. I don't know, maybe some part of me was still stuck in the last century thinking public parks and rec centers are safe places.

We pull out and Lizzie cries out, "Go mom, there's two guys, go! They're just a few feet away from the car. Go!" My tires screech. A block away I realize a car is following us and I become Steve McQueen in Bullitt on the flat side streets of Hollywood. We go left on Lexington, right on Cole, then floor it up to Fountain, criss-cross a few blocks until we are at Selma near Highland. The car was still right behind us. So now I became Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element. Halfway into an intersection in front of First Baptist Church of Hollywood, I squealed into a U turn, the dudes in their car so close behind us there was no way that car could U-Turn too and follow us. We drove away, watching them sink into the dark going the other direction.


Hollywood Highland Mall Has Great Rest Rooms for Homeless Middle Class People, Clean, Open Until 3 AM

Now we were close to Hollywood Highland Mall which for homeless middle class moms like me, provided a last chance at a public restroom before everything else closed, a clean one. The Ladies Room at Hollywood Highland Mall is open until about three AM. My daughter and I became nightly regulars.

The trick was to park as close to Hollywood and Highland as possible, ride the mammoth escalator past the shop that sells hundred dollar jars of cold cream, then acting like I belong there, walk along the mall second floor to the hall that leads to the Kodak Theater where the late night ladies room is located.

It was the last grasp I had of any class.

Funny. I could not have gone there every night without that coat.

I had this black wool full length coat, and the winter months of 2004 it still got cold enough in L.A. to need a full length coat, especially in the wee hours of the morning sleeping outside, believe me. My daughter bought me this coat in better days when we lived in San Francisco. She had saved up from doing chores I paid her to do, and was able to go to the Macy's on Geary Street, and buy it for me Christmas 1995 or 96. It was an elegant cut coat of fine fabric.

So even though in that long black coat I'd been sleeping and walking and meeting and digging in the backseat and standing in line for food and sometimes practically bathing in that rest room outside the Kodak Theater, I could still feign a sense of entitlement as we walked through Hollywood Highland Mall, as the clock struck close to three AM before the rest rooms closed.

This homeless lady had style.

After freshening up in the ladies room, smiling through lipstick at the girls who dropped in from nearby night clubs almost naked, Lizzie and I walked back to the 1995 Ford we now called home and drove up the hill to the spot where I should have parked to begin with.

My parking space.

It was beginning to feel like home.

Across the street from a clean new house with a pickup truck in the driveway, I'd been parking almost every night. Somehow that particular spot a half block south of Franklin, less than a half mile from the apartment where we'd lived for five years until falling through the cracks and becoming homeless November 2003, that parking space on that side street had come to feel like home.

Police helicopters overhead droned us to sleep.

Delivery of Hollywood trade papers woke us in the AM.

On that particular street, a lot of working actors and writers and people moving up in show biz live, the street I'd begun to call home when we were homeless. So during the night and early in the morning as we were invisible sleeping with our eyes half open in the dark parked under a tree, I'd hear drivers pull up, pull on the brakes, and run up to front doors around us, delivering the rewrites, blue pages, yellow pages, dailies, revised contracts, at least that is what I surmised, having been living alongside show business since about 1966. They'd pull up right beside us all night long and double park, spitting distance of where we were sleeping, me behind the steering wheel, Lizzie shotgun. Our 10 year old Taurus had reclining seats, but by this time we'd accumulated such a mess of stuff in the back of the car that neither front seat would go back more than 45 degrees.

The sound of delivery drivers coming and going was soothing, began to have a homey feel to me, like wind in the trees, birds chirping in the early morning, police helicopters going overhead every night around 3 AM, these all became homey comfortable sounds for us as we lived in our car in winter 2004 on the streets of Los Angeles.

I had a portable radio, a cracked plastic thing from the 1980s, but it worked. Listening to AM radio all night the batteries lasted weeks. I became a fan of Coast To Coast, the overnight radio program with stories of the paranormal, obtuse religions, visitors from other planets.

As we'd doze and awake through the night there in the Hollywood hills, I'd know when it was getting close to sunrise. That's when the delivery guys brought the trade papers. I'd hear the familiar motor pull up close, the car door open and close, familiar footsteps. Several houses on this block got front door delivery of The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety every morning, in this block where I felt I was so at home.

Somehow hearing that daily delivery of the Show Biz Trade Papers reminded me that life can be rebuilt, sometimes even from the bottom up, even from below the bottom, which is where Lizzie and I were just then.

(c) 2010 Kay Ebeling is a wordsmith working in TV production in Los Angeles. Also as a free lance journalist with an active blog. Old enough to have demonstrated against the Vietnam War but still young enough to dance. For more information about Kay and her crusade against child molestation in the Catholic Church go to her blog site.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Rob Rogers ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Bitter Laugh
By Chris Floyd

Death the great deceiver
Whispers to the soldier
That the love he bears his comrade
Is the greatest he will know
It sets a mist around him
A force field of emotion
A cloud of blood and hormones
That makes monstrous the foe

And when his friend is wounded
When his life pours out in battle
And his spirit leaves his body
Like smoke rising from a flame
The soldier's gripped by madness
The berserker rage of Ares
And he swoops down like a fury
To savage all within his aim

Then falls the grieving mother
Then falls the aged father
Then fall the little children
Who cannot escape the blast
And when the fever's broken
And the soldier stares in horror
He can hear the ghostly echo
Of the Deceiver's bitter laugh

Now far-off stand the leaders
The commanders in their glory
With the profiteers who ply them
With the gold they wring from blood
But alone you'll find the soldier
In a labyrinth of sorrow
In a never-ending darkness
That has drowned him like a flood
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

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Palin, Bachmann Seek Two Additional Horsemen
Send Out Call at Tea Party Rally
By Andy Borowitz

MINNEAPOLIS: Making a joint appearance at a Tea Party rally in Minneapolis, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann put out a cryptic call for "two more horsemen" to join their movement.

"Michele and me, that's two horsemen right there," Gov. Palin told the exuberant crowd. "You add two more horsemen into the mix and we'll be good to go."

While the two politicians were cagey about what the duties of the aforementioned horsemen would be, Rep. Bachmann said, "You can bet it will be a mission to end all missions."

According to a source close to the two politicians, they have already drawn up a list of possible candidates for the additional two horsemen, a list which includes Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and the entire Cheney family.

"It's a long list," the source said. "If you add up everyone on the list the number you get is 666."

The Tea Party rally featuring Palin and Bachmann received wide coverage, including in the collected works of Nostradamus and in the prophecies of ancient Mayans.
(c) 2010 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 16 (c) 04/16/2010

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