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In This Edition

Paul Craig Roberts finds, "World's Apex Bully Leads World Into Lawlessness."

Uri Avnery introduces, "Gunter The Terrible."

Joe Conason reports, "What Mitt Romney Seems to Believe (and Why He's so Disliked)."

Amy Goodman considers, "Obama's Policies."

Jim Hightower explores, "The Horror Of The Hoodie."

Ted Rall investigates, "A President Who Doesn't Even Try."

James Donahue warns, "California's Oil Soaked Birds An Ominous Flag."

Dave Swanson returns with, "Daddy, Where Do Taxes Come From?"

Tom Engelhardt is, "Sizing Up The Peace Prize War President."

Tim Karr reminds us that, "Big Brother Is Not Your 'Friend'."

Paul Krugman explains, "Europe's Economic Suicide."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship reminds us that, "The Rich Are Different From You And Me - They Pay Less Taxes."

Robert Reich reveals, "Why A Fair Economy Is Not Incompatible With Growth But Essential To It."

Navajo President Ben Shelly wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols says, "Scott Walker Goes All In For NRA/ALEC 'Shoot First' Agenda."

Chris Floyd examines, "Emperor Of The Air."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst discovers, "Angrier Birds" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "I Want To Hold Your Hand."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Gary Markstein, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, Joe Heller, Bob Englehart, R.S. Janes, Carolyn Kaster, Political Loudmouth.Com, Internet Weekly.Org, Save The Internet.Com, NRA, A.P., You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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I Want To Hold Your Hand
Just not in Tennessee
By Ernest Stewart

Yeah you, got that something
I think you'll understand
When I feel that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand.
I Want To Hold Yoour Hand ~~~ The Beatles

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." ~~~ Old Cherokee Proverb

"Water is precious and sacred. This settlement has been decades in the making. It creates opportunity for more of our Navajo people to gain access to safe and reliable water sources. Water rights are a sensitive topic to many and we, the Navajo Nation government, take into account all the views expressed. We applaud Senator Kyl and Senator McCain for introducing this important legislation and we look forward to working with them to ensure passage of S 2109."
~~~ Navajo President Ben (Benedict Arnold) Shelly ~~~

Got to pay your dues
if you want to sing the blues
And you know it don't come easy
It Don't Come Easy ~~~ George Harrison/Ringo Starr

The Rethuglican war against the fairer sex goes on and on with no end in sight. It also goes on against the poor, Blacks, Latinos, Indians, and the elderly. In fact, it's open season against anyone who isn't a one percenter!

You'd think that in an election year they'd slow it down a bit; but it's full speed ahead, instead! Not so much in Foggy Bottom, where there is that stuck-in-the-mud, Demoncratic-controlled Sin-ate; but that could soon be gone with the wind come next January!

The red states have no such problems as they control both houses and the governorship as well in many of those states. It used to be that this insanity was kept behind closed doors down below the Manson/Nixon line. However, in the northern states from Maine to Wisconsin and most everywhere in between, the Rethuglicans have joyfully put on the Jack Boots and the Armbands, and have decreed a blitzkrieg against a woman's private parts! The latest outrage (of which I'm aware) comes from those bible thumpers, a way down yonder in the Tennessee legislature, who have now equated holding hands with f*cking sheep. That's right; if you so much as hold another's hand, you've entered the gateway to unprotected sex -- staring in Hard Core Porn films leading inevitably to animal husbandry! One is not to show any affections towards anyone if you are underage in Tennessee, for holding hands is the gateway to dirty sex. Mighty Zeus preserve you if you kiss someone in public. I think you get the chair for French kissing in Memphis! I have no doubt that Rick Santorum would find himself right at home in Tennessee!

Just when you thought our Rethuglican brothers and sisters couldn't get any crazier, along comes our perennial-favorite Arizona with a brilliant piece of legislation.

According to their latest effort, just signed into law by Governor Lucrezia Borgia, oops, my bad, Jan Brewer (sorry I get those two confused, don't you?), a woman's pregnancy doesn't start at conception -- no no!-- it starts on the first day of her previous period! I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs!

In Arizona, a women is now considered pregnant two weeks before she's had sex.

I realize that these are the same folks that swear they believe in virgins births and all, but WTF? This is all about cutting two weeks off the time a women has to decide about getting an abortion and the many hoops she now has to jump through to get a safe abortion. I suppose next the geniuses in Phoenix will have to decide, like they did in South Dakota, where they tried to pass a bill allowing people to shoot, without penalty, abortion doctors, if upset about the doctor providing abortions. As you may recall, we hipped you to that, and when the word got out, they dropped that bit out of the law; but have no doubt, it's still in committee!

Over in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Rethuglicans shoved through a waiting period. Before a women can get an abortion -- even raped women and women who need it now to keep from dying -- they must consider the alternatives. Does anyone really think that the woman hasn't already carefully weighed all the options? Any one at all?

What it really is all about is what we'll put up with, and what they can get away with. Not only can you get either radiated or raped at the airport just to fly; but now any cop, anywhere, for any reason, ladies, can have you strip searched and finger-raped -- this also applies to men. Think of all the happy, gay men and women now working for the TSA, and your local cop shop -- cheap thrills to go along with a license to kill; can life get any better? And if you let it, America, life can get a whole lot worse!

In Other News

While Earth Day is a good idea, after 42 Earth Days, global warming is still going ahead at full speed; so it hasn't been all that effective!

The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that "...if I could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda." Senator Nelson announced the idea for a "national teach-in on the environment" to the national media, then persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair. In this day and age, that sounds impossible, i.e., a "Liberal Senator from Wisconsin" and a "Conservative Congressman" working together to save the Earth from polluting corporations and careless Americans. I know, as hard as that is to fathom now-a-days, it actually happened! I know, I was there on campus, and helped to make it happen!

As a result, on the 22nd of April 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Hundreds of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife came together as one to fight the overall pollution.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. "It was a gamble," Gaylord recalled, "but it worked."

Well, Gaylord, it didn't quite work out, did it? It mostly gave cover for some of our biggest polluters, who gave a token donation to the fund, backed a few crying Indian commercials and wrapped themselves in green wrappings and pretended to care for a day or two, then went right back to poisoning us all. The Sheeple thought they were really making a change; but they didn't, and the proof of the pudding was 120 tornadoes on one day this week. An arctic ice pack that is all but disappearing, and the world powers fighting over rights to the land and what lies beneath the Arctic Ocean. Regardless, the politicians know what's happening, and are going out of their way to keep the Sheeple at odds with reality. It's the same ole story. They keep us fighting amongst ourselves, while they keep going to the bank -- right up until the moment that it hits the fan! That moment isn't all that far off. Happy Earth Day, America! Enjoy it while you can!

And Finally

Just when you thought that the state of Arizona couldn't possibly get any worse, along comes the American traitor John McCain and his flunky Jon Kyl to prove you wrong!

Jon introduced a Senate Bill S.2109, i.e., "The Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012" and John signed on as the bill's only co-sponsor.

This bill was brought about by bribing the two Sin-ators by various corpo-rat interests to steal the water rights from the Navajo and Hopi tribes, and give them to said interests while screwing the tribes royally!

"This bill will force the Navajo and Hopi nations to give up all water rights to the Peabody Coal Mining Company and the Salt River Project and other owners of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in exchange for no compensation. It also will prevent any litigation by the Navajo and Hopi nations should they incur any future financial losses or physical harm as a result of water loss and/or water contamination."

As you may not know, life in the desert of New Mexico and Arizona depends on water for drinking and growing crops amongst other things, like staying alive. Oh, have no doubt that the white eyes have made various promises, in return for the tribes' water rights; but if passed, will no doubt break all those promises, like we have with every other treaty that we've ever signed -- not only to the tribes, but to everyone, everywhere around the planet!

That's right, I wrote Navajo President Ben Shelly a note. Ben replied, that he would soon reply, but so far, hasn't!

Hey Ben,

A couple of friends of mine who are Navajo are up in arms, calling for your head for selling out their water rights to mining interests who are standing by to pollute the area. What would possess you to sell out your people to those two criminal Sin-ators for some promises? Has a white man ever kept a promise to Indians? Ever? I'm guessing that there is more involved then 30 pieces of silver? Or is there? Do explain yourself please to our readership.

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

If you'd like to send your thoughts to Ben, write him here:

If Ben sends me back a reply I will certainly share it with you!

Keepin' On

As George and Ringo once sang, "It don't come easy;" and ain't it the truth, my brothers and sisters? It's not that I mind the long hours and impossible odds that we face, year after year after year, fighting the 1%. I'm used to it. I can do a 60 hour week standing on my head -- which might explain why there's no money in my pockets!

While I can barely scrape by for myself, I can no longer afford to pick up the tab for the magazine. Thankfully, I have sponsors that pick up about half of the cost; however, the folks I owe the money to for the magazine aren't satisfied with half of their money; they want it all -- every penny, every time it's due, no excuses what-so-ever!

Hence, here I stand again, cap in hand, hoping you will help us out with a donation to keep the magazine going -- digging into stories, listening at keyholes, fighting the good fight for all of you. I'm not a corpo-rat goon, so there is no corpo-rat welfare for me, just an ever-tightening noose on the throat of the American people, put there by our own government. If you'd like to be kept informed of their games, who ya gonna call? Who can you trust? Who has never lied to you, regardless of the cost? If you answer those questions with Issues & Alibis Magazine, then send what you can as often as you can, and we'll keep up the fight! Just visit the donations page and follow the instructions. You'll feel better when you do!


12-02-1924 ~ 04-13-2012
Thanks for the films!

09-20-1942 ~ 04-14-2012
Thanks for the films!

05-26-1940 ~ 04-18-2012
Thanks for the music!

11-30-1929 ~ 04-18-2012
My "Poor Butterfly!"

09-27-1953 ~ 04-19-2012
Thanks for the music!


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


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

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

World's Apex Bully Leads World Into Lawlessness
By Paul Craig Roberts

The US government pretends to live under the rule of law, to respect human rights, and to provide freedom and democracy to citizens. Washington's pretense and the stark reality are diametrically opposed.

US government officials routinely criticize other governments for being undemocratic and for violating human rights. Yet, no other country except Israel sends bombs, missiles, and drones into sovereign countries to murder civilian populations. The torture prisons of Abu Gahraib, Guantanamo, and CIA secret rendition sites are the contributions of the Bush/Obama regimes to human rights.

Washington violates the human rights of its own citizens. Washington has suspended the civil liberties guaranteed in the US Constitution and declared its intention to detain US citizens indefinitely without due process of law. President Obama has announced that he, at his discretion, can murder US citizens whom he regards as a threat to the US.

Congress did not respond to these extraordinary announcements with impeachment proceedings. There was no uproar from the federal courts, law schools, or bar associations. Glenn Greenwald reports that the Department of Homeland Security harasses journalists who refuse to be presstitutes, and we have seen videos of the brutal police oppression of peaceful OWS protestors. Chris Floyd has described on CounterPunch the torture-perverts who rule the US.

Now Washington is forcing as much of the world as it can to overthrow international treaties and international law. Washington has issued a ukase that its word alone is international law. Any country, except those who receive Washington's dispensation, that engages in trade with Iran or purchases Iran's oil will be sanctioned by the US. These countries will be cut off from US markets, and their banking systems will not be able to use banks that process international payments. In other words, Washington's "sanctions against Iran" apply not to Iran but to countries that defy Washington and meet their energy needs with Iranian oil.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, so far Washington has granted special privileges to Japan and 10 European Union countries to continue purchasing Iranian oil. Requiring countries to shut down their economies in order to comply with Washington's vendetta against Iran, a vendetta that has been ongoing ever since the Iranians overthrew the Washington-installed puppet, the Shah of Iran, more than three decades ago, was more than Washington could get away with. Washington has permitted Japan to keep importing between 78-85 per cent of its normal oil imports from Iran.

Washington's dispensations, however, are arbitrary. Dispensations have not been granted to China, India, Turkey, and South Korea. India and China are the largest importers of Iranian oil, and Turkey and South Korea are among the top ten importers. Before looking at possible unintended consequences of Washington's vendetta against Iran, what is Washington's case against Iran?

Frankly, Washington has no case. It is the hoax of "weapons of mass destruction" all over again. Iran, unlike Israel, signed the non-proliferation treaty. All countries that sign the treaty have the right to nuclear energy. Washington claims that Iran is violating the treaty by developing a nuclear weapon. There is no evidence whatsoever for Washington's assertion. Washington's own 16 intelligence agencies are unanimous that Iran has had no nuclear weapons program since 2003. Moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency's weapons inspectors are in Iran and have reported consistently that there is no diversion of nuclear material from the energy program to a weapons program.

On the rare occasion when Washington is reminded of the facts, Washington makes a different case. Washington asserts that Iran's rights under the non-proliferation treaty notwithstanding, Iran cannot have a nuclear energy program, because Iran would then have learned enough to be able at some future time to make a bomb. The world's apex bully has unilaterally decided that the possibility that Iran might one day decide to make a nuke is too great a risk to take. It is better, Washington says, to drive up the oil price, disrupt the world economy, violate international law, and risk a major war than to have to worry that a future Iranian government will make a nuclear weapon. This is the Jeremy Bentham tyrannical approach to law that was repudiated by the Anglo-American legal system.

It is difficult to characterize Washington's position as one of good judgment. Moreover, Washington has never explained the huge risk Washington sees in the possibility of an Iranian nuke. Why is this risk so much greater than the risk associated with Soviet nukes or with the nukes of the US, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea today? Iran is a relatively small country. It does not have Washington's world ambitions. Unlike Washington, Iran is not at war with a half dozen countries. Why is Washington destroying America's reputation as a country that respects law and risking a major war and economic dislocation over some possible future development, the probability of which is unknown?

There is no good answer to this question. Lacking evidence for a case against Iran, Washington and Israel have substituted demonization. The lie has been established as truth that the current president of Iran intends to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

This lie has succeeded as propaganda even though numerous language experts have proven that the intention attributed to the Iranian president by American-Israeli propaganda is a gross mistranslation of what the president of Iran said. Once again, for Washington and its presstitutes, facts do not count. The agenda is all that counts, and any lie will be used to advance the agenda.

Washington's sanctions could end up biting Washington harder than they bite Iran. What will Washington do if India, China, Turkey and South Korea do not succumb to Washington's threats?

According to recent news reports, India and China are not inclined to inconvenience themselves and to harm their economic development in order to support Washington's vendetta against Iran. Having watched China's rapid rise and having observed North Korea's immunity to American attack, South Korea might be wondering how much longer it intends to remain Washington's puppet state. Turkey, where the civilian and somewhat Islamist government has managed to become independent of the US- controlled Turkish military, appears to be slowly coming to the realization that Washington and NATO have Turkey in a "service role" in which Turkey is Washington's agent against its own kind.

The Turkish government appears to be reassessing the benefits of being Washington's pawn.

What Turkey and South Korea face is basically a decision whether they will be independent countries or be subsumed within Washington's empire. The success of the American-Israeli assault on Iran's independence depends on India and China.

If India and China give the bird to Washington, what can Washington do? Absolutely nothing. What if Washington, drowning in its gigantic hubris, announced sanctions against India and China?

Wal-Mart's shelves would be empty, and America's largest retailer would be hammering on the White House door. Apple Computer and innumerable powerful US corporations, which have offshored their production for the American market to China, would see their profits evaporate. Together with their Wall Street allies, these powerful corporations would assault America with more force than the Red Army. The Chinese trade surplus would cease to flow into US Treasury debt. The offshored-to-India back office operations of banks, credit card companies, and customer service departments of utilities throughout the US would cease to function.

In America, chaos would reign. Such are the rewards to the Empire of globalism.

Obama and the neoconservative and Israeli warmongers who urge him on to more wars do not understand that the US is no longer an independent country. America is owned by offshoring corporations and the foreign countries in which the corporations have located their production for US markets. Sanctions on China and India (and South Korea) mean sanctions on US corporations. Sanctions on Turkey mean sanctions on a NATO ally. Do China, India, South Korea and Turkey realize that they hold the winning cards? Do they understand that they can give the bird to the American Empire and bring it down in collapse, or are they brainwashed like Europe and the rest of the world that the powerful Americans cannot be resisted?

Will China and India exercise their power over the US, or will the two countries fudge the issue and adopt a pose that saves face for Washington while they continue to purchase Iranian oil?

The answer to this question is: how much will Washington pay China and India in secret concessions, such as eviction of the US from the South China Sea, for their pretense that China and India acknowledge Washington's dictatorial powers over the rest of the world?

Without concession to China and India, Washington is likely to be ignored while it watches its power evaporate. A country that cannot produce industrial and manufactured goods, but can only print debt instruments and money is not a powerful country. It is a washed-up two-bit punk that can continue to strut around until the proverbial boy says: "the Emperor has no clothes."
(c) 2012 Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and professor of economics in six universities. He is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House. He can be reached at:

Gunter The Terrible
By Uri Avnery

STOP ME if I have told you this joke before:

Somewhere in the US, a demonstration takes place. The police arrive and beat the protesters mercilessly.

"Don't hit me," someone shouts, "I am an anti-communist!"

"I couldn't give a damn what kind of a communist you are!" a policeman answers as he raises his baton.

THE FIRST time I told this joke was when a German group visited the Knesset and met with German-born members, including me.

They went out of their way to praise Israel, lauding everything we had been doing, condemning every bit of criticism, however harmless it might be. It became downright embarrassing, since some of us in the Knesset were very critical of our government's policy in the occupied territories.

For me, this extreme kind of pro-Semitism is just disguised anti-Semitism. Both have a basic belief in common: that Jews - and therefore Israel - are something apart, not to be measured by the standards applied to everybody else.

What is an anti-Semite? Somebody who hates a Jew because he is a Jew. He does not hate him for what he is as a human being, but for his origin. A Hebrew or a Shebrew (to quote a joke from Ambrose Bierce) may be good or bad, nice or nasty, rich or poor - for being Jewish, they must be hated.

This is of course true for any kind of prejudice, including sexism, Islamophobia, chauvinism and whatever.

Germans, as is their wont, are a bit more thorough here than others. The term "Antisemitismus" was invented by a German (a few years before the terms Zionism and Feminism), and anti-Semitism was the official ideology of Germany during the Nazi years. Now the official German ideology is pro-Semitism, again going to extremes.

Another Nazi word was "Sonderbehandlung," meaning '"special treatment." It was an euphemism for something abhorrent: the killing of prisoners. But special treatment can also mean the opposite: according people and countries especially nice treatment, not because of what they do, but because of what they are - Jewish, say.

Well, I don't like it, even when I am on the receiving end. I like to be praised when I have done something good, I am ready to be blamed when I have done something bad. I don't like to be praised (or blamed, for that matter) because I happen to have been born a Jew.

THIS BRINGS us, of course, to Gunter Grass.

Disclosure: I met him only once, when we were both invited to a conference of the German PEN Club in Berlin. During an interval I met him in a very good restaurant. I told him, quite truthfully, that I like his books very much, especial the anti-Nazi novel "The Tin Drum," and that I like his later political activity. That was all.

I did not meet him during his many visits to Israel. On at least one of them he acquired a girl-friend, a well-known writer.

Now Grass has done the unthinkable: he has openly criticized the State of Israel! And he a German!!!

The reaction was automatic. He was at once branded as an anti-Semite. Not just a run-of-the-mill anti-Semite, but as a crypto-Nazi, who could easily have served as a henchman of Adolf Eichmann! This was shown by the fact that at age 17, near the end of World War II, he was recruited to the Waffen-SS like tens of thousands of others and then - oddly enough - kept the fact hidden for many years. So there you are.

Israeli and German politicians and commentators vied with each other in cursing the writer, with the Germans easily trumping the Israelis. Though our Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, may have garnered the individual championship by declaring Grass persona non grata and banning him from entering Israel for all eternity (at least).

Yishai is a political hack, who has never written a line worth remembering. He is the leader of the Orthodox Shas party, not by virtue of being elected, but as a sidekick of the party's strongman, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The powerful State Comptroller is accusing him of gross incompetence in connection with a giant fire on Mount Carmel and so his career is in danger. Grass came just at the right time to save his skin.

SO WHAT did Grass actually say? In a poem of 69 lines - actually a polemic in the guise of a poem - under the headline "What Has To Be Said", Grass attacks Israeli policy concerning the atom bomb.

The ferocious counter-attack was focused almost completely on the axiom that a German has no right to criticize Israel, under any circumstances.

Let's ignore this "argument" and look at the poem itself, not necessarily as a literary masterpiece.

Grass' basic theme is that Israel already has a "nuclear potential", and that it is therefore hypocrisy to blame Iran for perhaps wanting to acquire one, too. In particular he denounced the German government for supplying another submarine to Israel.

Looked at rationally, do his arguments make sense?

Grass assumes that Israel is planning a "first strike" preventive war against Iran, in which the Iranian people could be "wiped out". This possibility only makes sense if Grass assumes that the Israeli "first strike" would be an attack with nuclear bombs. Indeed, the term "first strike" belongs solely to the lexicon of nuclear war.

It is in this context that he condemns the German government for giving Israel another (sixth) submarine with the capability of launching nuclear bombs. Such submarines are designed for delivering a "second strike" by a nation hit in the "first strike". It is basically a weapon of deterrence.

He deplores the fact that nobody in Germany (and in the Western world) dares even to mention Israel's possession of nuclear weapons, and that it is practically forbidden to "call that particular country by name" in this context.

He then asserts that "the Atomic Power Israel endangers the fragile peace of the world."

To avert this danger, he proposes that "Israel's atomic potential and Iran's atomic installations" be put under an unfettered and permanent international inspection regime with the agreement of both governments.

At the end, he also mentions the Palestinians. Only this way, he says, can the Israelis and the Palestinians, and all the other inhabitants of this "region occupied by madness," be helped.

WELL, I did not fall off my chair when I read this. The text can and must be criticized, but there is nothing there that demands stern condemnation.

As I said before, I see no reason for Germans to abstain from criticizing Israel. There is nothing in this text that de-legitimizes the State of Israel, On the contrary, he declares his solidarity with Israel. He explicitly mentions the Holocaust as an indelible crime. He also calls the Iranians "a people enslaved by a "bigmouth."

That said, Grass' idea that Israel might "wipe out" the Iranian people in a preventive "first strike" is wildly exaggerated.

I have already stated several times that all the Israeli and American blabbering about an Israeli attack on Iran is a part of the US-led psychological warfare to press the Iranian leaders to give up their (presumed) nuclear ambitions. It is totally impossible for Israel to attack Iran without express prior American agreement, and it is totally impossible for America to attack - or let Israel attack - because of the catastrophic consequences - a collapse of the world economy and a long and costly war.

Let's assume, for argument's sake, that the Israeli government indeed decides to attack Iran's nuclear installations. This would not "wipe out" the Iranian people, or even a part of it. Only madmen would use nuclear bombs for this purpose. Israeli leaders, whatever one may think of them, are not mad.

Even if Israel had (or obtained from the US) tactical nuclear bombs with limited power and radius, the world reaction to their use would be catastrophic.

By the way, it is not by their own choice that Israeli governments have a policy of nuclear non-transparency. If they could, our leaders would brag about our nuclear might from the rooftops. It's the US that insists on opaqueness, so as not to be obliged to do something about it.

Grass' contention that Israel endangers "world peace" is, therefore, a bit of an overstatement.

As for Glass' practical proposal to subject both Israeli and Iranian nuclear installations to international inspection - I think this merits serious consideration. If both our countries freeze the nuclear status quo, it may not be a bad idea at all.

In the end, though, we need a nuclear-free region as part of a general regional peace that will include Israel, Palestine, the Arab League, Turkey and Iran.

AS FOR Gunter Grass, I shall be happy to meet him again, this time for a good meal in Tel Aviv.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

What Mitt Romney Seems to Believe (and Why He's so Disliked)
By Joe Conason

With the Republican primary contest over and the general election underway, Mitt Romney faces a voting public whose disdain for him has reached levels that pollsters describe as "historic." From his embittered opponents as well as from Romney and his campaign, Americans have learned that the former Massachusetts governor simply won't uphold any political position, issue or achievement he thinks might cost him votes. He doesn't seem to understand that his inconstancy forfeits more respect than any disagreeable opinion would.

No matter how carefully the former Massachusetts governor parses and prevaricates, many voters, including more than a few conservatives, evidently feel they've detected the inner Mitt: a man with utmost regard for himself and people like him-and a profound disregard for people like most of them. They've observed him straining to express concern for the unemployed, the poor and the powerless, while sounding sincerely resentful whenever the privileged are held accountable. They've perceived an attitude of entitlement, whether he is withholding tax returns, defending tax breaks for billionaires or spending vast amounts to defame opponents. And they don't like it, no matter what they may feel about Barack Obama.

Although a new Gallup poll shows Romney with a small lead matched against Obama-indicating how close this election may ultimately become-voters consistently appear to disapprove of the presumptive Republican nominee. As they have learned more about him over the past several years, his negative ratings have soared. Over the past five years, since he began to run for president, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that negative views of Romney have roughly doubled, from about 24 percent to 47 percent, while his positive ratings have lagged (only 12 percent express "strongly" positive feelings about him).

More important, Romney polls 21 points behind President Obama in public approval-the worst rating for a likely presidential nominee in a Post/ABC poll since 1984. Indeed, he is the first to be "underwater," with higher negative than positive ratings, in the last eight presidential elections.

Vulnerable groups seem to find Romney particularly unappealing and unsympathetic, as the Post/ABC cross-tabulations suggest. Among voters with annual household incomes lower than $50,000, Obama leads by 29 points. Among the young, who now tend to be in debt, without jobs or both, Obama leads by 36 points. Among married women, Obama is ahead by 20 points. But among unmarried women, his lead grows to 45 points.

Obama's favorable score is 9 points higher than Romney's among married adults-but this swells to a 37-point advantage among those who are not married. Romney and Obama are seen favorably by about equal numbers of married men, and Obama's unfavorable score is higher in this group. But he jumps to a 20-point higher favorable rating than Romney among married women, 25 points among unmarried men, and 45 points among unmarried women. Overall, Obama is seen not only as more likeable and friendly but as more understanding of the economic conditions faced by most Americans.

The latest CNN poll gives the president a substantial lead over his likely challenger, reflecting the same advantage for Obama among low-income, female and young voters. But all those surveyed felt that Obama was far more likely to stand up for his beliefs than Romney and to sympathize with those less fortunate and less powerful.

Evidently, Romney hopes to bury Obama beneath a barrage of negative advertising, with at least $800 million that his party expects to raise from wealthy conservatives like him. But that won't erase the lasting impression created by a primary campaign that left Americans with a bad impression of the Republican Party and a worse impression of the nominee that process selected so grudgingly.
(c) 2012 Joe Conason is the editor in chief of

President Barack Obama is pictured on a large video screen during a three-way
conversation with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and Colombia's President
Juan Manuel Santos, not pictured, at the CEO Summit of the Americas in
Cartagena, Colombia, Saturday April 14, 2012.

Obama's Policies
The Real Scandal in Cartagena
By Amy Goodman

President Barack Obama's re-election campaign launched its first Spanish-language ads this week, just after returning from the Summit of the Americas. He spent three days in Colombia, longer than any president in U.S. history. The trip was marred, however, by a prostitution scandal involving the U.S. military and Secret Service. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "We let the boss down, because nobody's talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident." Dempsey is right. It also served as a metaphor for the U.S government's ongoing treatment of Latin America.

The scandal reportedly involves 11 members of the U.S. Secret Service and five members of the U.S. Army Special Forces, who allegedly met prostitutes at one or more bars in Cartagena and took up to 20 of the women back to their hotel, some of whom may have been minors. This all deserves thorough investigation, but so do the policy positions that Obama promoted while in Cartagena.

First, the war on drugs. Obama stated at the summit, "I, personally, and my administration's position is that legalization is not the answer." Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told me that, despite Obama's predictable line, this summit showed "the transformation of the regional and global dialogue around drug policy. ... This is the first you've had a president saying that we're willing to look at the possibility that U.S. drug policies are doing more harm than good in some parts of the world." He credits the growing consensus across the political spectrum in Latin America, from key former presidents like Vicente Fox of Mexico, who supports legalization of drugs, to current leaders like Mexico's Felipe Calderon, who cited the rapacious demand for drugs in the U.S. as the core of the problem.

Nadelmann went on: "You have the funny situation of Evo Morales, the leftist leader of Bolivia, former head of the coca growers' union, lecturing the United States about-essentially, sounding like Milton Friedman-that 'How can you expect us to reduce the supply when there is a demand?' So there's the beginning of a change here. I don't think it's going to be possible to put this genie back in the bottle."

"The two main pillars of U.S. foreign policy-increasing neoliberalism and increasing militarism around drugs-continue. They feed off of each other and have created a crisis in that corridor, running from Colombia through Central America to Mexico. That's been a complete disaster, and there's no change." - Greg Grandin

Then there is trade. Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos also announced that the U.S.-Colombian Free Trade Agreement would take full force May 15. Colombian and U.S. labor leaders decried the move, since Colombia is the worst country on Earth for trade unionists. Labor organizers are regularly murdered in Colombia, with at least 34 killed in the past year and a half. When Obama was first running for president, he promised to oppose the Colombia FTA, "because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements." That year, 54 Colombian trade unionists were killed. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the announcement "is deeply disappointing and troubling." Republicans, on the other hand, are offering grudging praise to Obama for pushing the FTA.

On Cuba, Obama took the globally unpopular position of defending the U.S. embargo. Even at home, polls show that a strong majority of the American people and businesses support an end to the embargo. The U.S. also succeeded, once again, in banning Cuba from the summit, prompting Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to boycott the meeting this year.

Responding to overall U.S. intransigence, other Western Hemisphere countries are organizing themselves. Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University, told me: "Latin Americans themselves are creating these bodies that are excluding the United States, that are deepening integration, political and economic integration. This seems to be a venue in which they come together in order to criticize Washington, quite effectively." Grandin compared Obama's Latin America policies to those of his predecessors: "The two main pillars of U.S. foreign policy-increasing neoliberalism and increasing militarism around drugs-continue. They feed off of each other and have created a crisis in that corridor, running from Colombia through Central America to Mexico. That's been a complete disaster, and there's no change."

It will take more than a prostitution scandal to cover that up.
(c) 2012 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

The Horror Of The Hoodie

I've not weighed in on the Trayvon Martin killing, because I really didn't have anything to add. Until now.

I have two people to thank for my breakthrough. First is Geraldo Rivera, Fox TV's babbling - and mustachioed ego whose odd journalistic instincts prompted him to say this: "I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was."

Say what? Yes, Geraldo blamed the victim's clothing - a hooded sweatshirt - for causing him to be gunned down at point blank range. "That hoodie," explained Geraldo (who apparently is also a psychiatrist and fashion expert), compelled the shooter to respond to Tyayvon in a "violent and aggressive way." The horror would never have happened, opined the Fox opinionator, if the unarmed teenager "had been dressed more appropriately."

Good grief - I've seen dirt clods more sentient than Geraldo.

Indeed, a lady friend of mine has now clarified how mindlessly-absurd he is by pointing out the wild popularity of hoodies among America's fashionable and affluent consumers. The Duluth Trading Co., for example, offers a kelly green gardening hoodie for $30, complete with "a hidden zip pocket" - how suspicious is that? J. Jill, the boutique clothier, sells a lovely tie-dyed hoodie for $79, and the merchandizer has a manly, $129 pullover hoodie with kangaroo pouch pocket and - get this - "a bucket hood with draw cord and lock," which is available in a threatening, blood-red hue called "flare." You wouldn't want to see that coming at you!

Hoodies are so dangerous that Neiman Marcus is peddling them to the one-percenter crowd for $150 each. And here's something for Geraldo and his credulous followers to ponder: you can even buy a Mitt Romney hoodie from his campaign website. Now that's truly scary.
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

A President Who Doesn't Even Try
Is Obama Kowtowing to the Right? Or Is He One of Them?
By Ted Rall

The President's progressive critics blame him for continuing and expanding upon his Republican predecessor's policies. His supporters point to the obstructionist, Republican-controlled Congress. What can Obama do? He's being stymied at every turn.

The first problem with the it's-the-GOP's-fault defense is that it asks voters to suffer short-term memory loss. In 2009, you probably recall, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. By a sizeable majority. They even had a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate. His approval ratings were through the roof; even many Republicans who had voted against him took a liking to him. The media, in his pocket, wondered aloud whether the Republican Party could ever recover. "Rarely, if ever, has a President entered office with so much political wind at his back," Tim Carney wrote for the Evans-Novak Political Report shortly after the inauguration.

If Obama had wanted to pursue a progressive agenda-banning foreclosures, jailing bankers, closing Guantanamo, stopping the wars, pushing for the public option he promised in his healthcare plan-he could have. He had ample political capital, yet chose not to spend it.

Now that Congress is controlled by a Republican Party in thrall to its radical-right Tea Party faction, it is indeed true that Obama can't get routine judicial appointments approved, much less navigate the passage of legislation. Oh-so-conveniently, Obama has turned into a liberal-come-lately. Where was his proposed Buffett Rule (which would require millionaires with huge investment income to pay the same percentage rate as middle-class families) in 2009, when it might have stood a chance of passage?

Team Obama's attempt to shore up his liberal base also falls short on the facts. Progressives were shocked by the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling, along party lines, that legalized strip-searches and body cavity rapes by police and private security firms who detain people suspected of any crime, even minor traffic infractions.

"What virtually none of this...commentary mentioned," reported Glenn Greenwald in Salon, "was that that the Obama DOJ [Department of Justice] formally urged Court to reach the conclusion it reached...this is yet another case, in a long line, where the Obama administration was able to have its preferred policies judicially endorsed by getting right-wing judges to embrace them."

No wonder Obama stayed mum.

Which brings us to the biggest, yet least discussed, flaw in the attempt to pin Obama's inaction on the heads of Congressional Republicans: the bully pulpit.

Whether Donald Trump likes it or not, Barack Obama is still president. If he calls a press conference to call attention to an issue, odds are that reporters will show up. But he's not walking tall or even talking big.

Responding to fall 2011 polls that indicated softening support among the younger and more liberal voters who form the Democratic base, Obama's reelection strategists began rolling out speeches inflected with Occupy-inspired rhetoric about class warfare and trying to make sure all Americans "get a fair shot." But that's all it is: talk. And small talk at that.

Instead of introducing major legislation, the White House plans to spend 2012 issuing presidential orders about symbolic, minor issues.

Repeating Clinton-era triangulation and micro-mini issues doesn't look like a smart reelection strategy. The Associated Press reported: "Obama's election year retreat from legislative fights means this term will end without significant progress on two of his 2008 campaign promises: comprehensive immigration reform and closing the military prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Piecemeal presidential directives are unlikely to make a sizeable dent in the nation's 8.6 percent unemployment rate or lead to significant improvements in the economy, the top concern for many voters and the issue on which Republican candidates are most likely to criticize Obama. In focusing on small-bore executive actions rather than ambitious legislation, the president risks appearing to be putting election-year strategy ahead of economic action at a time when millions of Americans are still out of work."

Of course, Obama may prevail. Romney is an extraordinarily weak opponent.

For progressives and leftists, however, the main point is that Obama never tries to move the mainstream of ideological discourse to the left.

Obama has been mostly silent on the biggest issue of our time, income inequality and the rapid growth of the American underclass. He hasn't said much about the environment or climate change, the most serious problem we face-and one for which the U.S. bears a disproportionate share of the blame. Even on issues where he was blocked by Congress, such as when Republicans prohibited the use of public funds to transport Gitmo detainees to the U.S. for trials, he zipped his lips.

It isn't hard to imagine a president launching media-friendly crusades against poverty or global warming. FDR and LBJ did it, touring the country, appointing high-profile commissions and inviting prominent guests to the White House to draw attention to issues they cared about.

In 2010, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez invited flood victims to move into his presidential palace. Seven years after Katrina, Gulf Coast residents are still waiting for help. What if Obama opened up the Lincoln Bedroom to a homeless family? The media couldn't ignore a PR stunt like that.

Obama has mostly shunned the time-honored strategy of trapping your opposition by forcing them vote against your popular ideas. In 2009, for example, it would have been smarter politics-and better governance-to push for real socialized medicine, or at least ObamaCare with the public option he promised. He would either have wound up with a dazzling triumph, or a glorious defeat.

Liberals don't blame Obama for not winning. They blame him for not trying. When he does crazy things like authorizing the assassinations of U.S. citizens without trial, progressives have to ask themselves: Is this guy kowtowing to the Right? Or is he one of them?
(c) 2012 Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" and "The Anti-American Manifesto."

California's Oil Soaked Birds An Ominous Flag
By James Donahue

A news story told of more than 140 birds covered in oil that had been recovered along the Santa Barbara coast in California during January and February, 2012. Jay Holcomb, director emeritus of the International Bird Rescue center in Los Angeles said he thought the oil was "seeping" from the ocean floor. While it has been happening regularly, Holcomb said the number of recovered birds by local citizens was alarmingly high this year. The so-called specialists are explaining that the offshore Santa Barbara area has "the second largest marine oil seeps in the world." They say an estimated 10,000 gallons of crude oil rise up from an estimated 1,200 fissures about every 24 hours.

(There is nothing to see here folks. Move along. There might be something more interesting going on at the local football stadium.) That so-called seepage may be something much more ominous than those marine specialists are revealing. It is well known in the oil industry that there are millions of acres of oil deposits along the southern California coast that were mapped in the 1980s when former Interior Secretary James Watt and Energy Secretary Donald Hodel pushed for exploration in the area.

Now with California struggling against deficit spending and severe cuts in education, social services and rising unemployment, the lure of potential new money from offshore oil wells is tempting politicians and investors alike. The Obama administration is bending to the pressure. The proposal is on the table to open vast areas of both the Atlantic and Pacific coastline, including the Gulf of Mexico, to oil and natural gas drilling. Under the plan, the Pacific coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border, may be fair game.

To California natives, the ugly sight of drilling platforms just off the scenic California coast from Santa Barbara south to Oceanside and on to Los Angeles, remains fixed in their memory from the late 1960s. Numerous exploratory wells were drilled, but then capped after the great Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969. That disaster, recorded as the worse oil well disaster in US history at the time, spewed an estimated 100,000 barrels of raw crude from a blown well. The oil came ashore from Pismo Beach south to the Mexican border, with the worst of it at Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara disaster was so alarming, it shut the door to further off-shore oil exploration for many years.

Slowly the guards were lowered. And then the demand for crude oil and natural gas increased, and the potential profits were so tempting, that well drilling was permitted in the Gulf of Mexico. So we suffered the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010. More recently a Total drilling platform in the North Sea was evacuated on March 25 because of a potentially explosive gas leak.

Have we learned anything about the ecological damage these deep-sea exploratory wells generate? Are we willing to sacrifice the scenic beauty of our ocean shorelines with rows of ugly drilling platforms in our quest for even more carbon fuels when we know these fuels are drastically changing our climate and polluting the very air we breathe?

Is the quest for wealth so important that we risk everything to get it?

Some say the Deepwater Horizon well head still is "seeping" a lot of crude in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil is leaking from several other well sites in the Gulf as well. Could we not assume that the so-called "capped" wells off Santa Barbara also are leaking crude? Perhaps it isn't natural seepage that is covering the water birds with oil after all.
(c) 2012 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Daddy, Where Do Taxes Come From?
By David Swanson

I'll tell you when you get a little older.

But I want to know.

Well, I'll tell you where taxes come from in other countries, OK? They come from the idea that if we all pool our resources we can better acquire things like schools, hospitals, parks, trains, you know, things that belong to everybody.

But what about our country?

Well, in our country we pay for private schools if we want good schools, and we all buy something called health insurance to take care of us if we get sick, and a teeny bit of our taxes goes to parks and trains, but we don't have very many of those, and we pay for some of them with local taxes. We pay local taxes, state taxes, and national taxes, and lots of other fees. We pay as much in taxes as people in those other countries, but our taxes are different. They come from a different place, and we'll talk about it when you're a little bit bigger.

Why? Why can't I know now?

Well, I can tell you a little part of the story. One reason we pay taxes is to create lots of billionaires. Those are super rich people. Other countries have schools and vacations and doctors, but we have billionaires.

What do we want them for?

Well, we don't really want them, but once we have them it's hard to get rid of them, since some of them decide who pays taxes and who doesn't.

So, taxes come from billionaires? Where did the first billionaire come from?

No, no. Taxes and billionaires both come from something else, and we'll talk about it a little later. Let's go outside and play right now.

But I want to know first.

It's not something that it's nice to talk about, not even in the bathroom. I know: let's go for a walk downtown and maybe we'll get an ICE CREAM CONE, huh?

After you tell me.

Oh boy. All right, taxes come from war. Now let's get out the soccer ball.

You mean killing people?

Yes, killing people.

How does killing people make taxes?

All right. You really want to know, huh? OK, well, when they first made this country, they decided that taxes might be needed in order to pay for guns, cannons, war ships, and soldiers. Alexander Hamilton -- you know about him, right? -- he didn't have very good luck with guns, but he argued for federal (that's national) taxes in case of wars. The government mostly paid for itself and the little that it did with tariffs. That means it got a little money from everyone who shipped things into the country. But it also taxed certain things, like whiskey -- you know that stuff that Uncle Jim was drinking so much of when -- yeah, well, the government charged money from people selling whiskey, and there was a rebellion. That means the farmers selling the whiskey refused to pay. So George Washington decided to go and kill some of those farmers -- or threaten to with lots of soldiers, and that cost money, so the government created taxes to pay for threatening to kill the people who protested paying taxes. Later it stopped taxing whiskey because people still wouldn't pay.

Then, in 1789, the government wanted to build lots of big ships in case it wanted to kill people in other countries, and so it began taxing property. So, if you owned something big, like a house, you could have to pay taxes for that. Now we could have lots of ships and sailors who could go kill people far away.

Why did we want to do that?

Well, you and I weren't alive back then, and probably most people didn't want it. But some rich people wanted to ship stuff all over the world, and sometimes people in other parts of the world caused problems. So, a bunch of sailors sailed their ship into a place called Tripoli and blew themselves up. Someone told them to do that and they did it, which is why we shouldn't always just do what someone tells us without thinking about it.

Like when you tell me not to eat mashed potatoes with my fingers?

Do you want me to tell you this or not? OK, then listen. Now, in 1798 the French caused trouble and we had to be taxed more. Then in 1812 the British and the Canadians and all kinds of people were out to get us just because we invaded their country, and so we had to have a lot more taxes. We had to pay taxes for owning land, for selling things in stores, for making alcohol, for holding auctions, for buying sugar or carriages, whatever they could think of. In 1815 they brought back the whiskey tax too, and all kinds of other taxes. They thought about creating an income tax -- that is a tax on the money you get paid for your job -- but they didn't do it.

Then came the Civil War, and BOOM we got the income tax. The North got it in 1862 and we backward Southerners didn't get it until 1863. Rich people didn't fight in the war, so they had to help pay for it, and for our first big government social program -- which was the taking care of the veterans after the war. The income taxes were progressive. That means rich people paid at a higher rate than other people. They also had to pay taxes on inheritance, on leaving money to their kids when they died. Nonetheless, the Civil War created super rich people who made money from the weapons.

After the Civil War, in 1872, the income tax and the inheritance tax ended. Taxes shrank and also went back to burdening ordinary people more than the rich people.

That is, until World War I came along, with a very big advertising campaign, restrictions on what you could do and say, and prison for anyone opposed to the war. Now we got an income tax, and estate tax, and more excise taxes -- that's taxes you pay for buying things -- and taxes on corporations and excess profits. Big new taxes were created in 1914, 1916, 1917, and 1918. And our government moved away from taxing foreign goods shipped into the country. I guess killing foreign people was considered bad enough. We wouldn't want to tax them on top of killing them. But weapons makers and the corporations and the wealthy got taxed. In 1917, the government got 74% of its money by taxing the wealthy and another 13% by taxing luxuries (that is, stuff that mostly the wealthy buy).

After World War I, the government got rid of the excess profits tax and lowered the top income tax rate from 77% to 25%. But then came World War II, which -- as far as war-taxes and the draft -- got going long before Pearl Harbor. The income tax, for the first time, was applied not only to the wealthy but to 90% of workers. The top rate went up to 94%, and by the end of the war the income tax was raising 40% of the government's money. The top corporate tax rate went up to 95% and raised almost a third of the government's money. A Disney cartoon said "It takes taxes to beat the Axis!" An Irving Berlin song said: "You see those bombers in the sky? Rockefeller helped to build them. So did I!"

By 1943, Congress began cutting taxes on corporations and shifting the burden to ordinary people. When the war ended, taxes were cut, but not back to where they had started. And they were cut by Congress overriding a presidential veto. However, the president started a new war in Korea, and Congress started raising taxes again. And they've never gone away. They've just shifted more and more from rich people to the rest of us.

We've built a permanent military, as if we're always at war. And we've managed to usually be at war in one little country or another. Now, 57% of government spending (in President Obama's proposal for 2013) goes to wars and preparations for wars -- that is, if we don't count special programs that pay for themselves with special taxes of their own, like Social Security. Our country has 5% of the people in the world and over 50% of the war spending.

And we hate taxes.

We hate taxes because they were created for war, all they buy us is wars and billionaires, and we don't get in return anything like what people get in other countries. We pay our taxes, and then we have to pay for everything we do, like visiting parks, going to school, seeing the doctor. Taxes came from wars in other countries too, but they changed that. In Costa Rica they have no military except in a museum, and their taxes pay for museums instead of wars. Maybe we should think about changing our taxes too. What do you think?

I'll work on that. After you get me the ice cream.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The war president gets his peace prize

Sizing Up The Peace Prize War President
By Tom Engelhardt

Of course, it wasn't Barack Obama's fault. He didn't nominate himself for the Nobel Peace Prize back in 2009 when he was already on a distinct war trajectory in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Nobel committee did it in what, even then, was visibly a vote for the idea that "peace" was anything but George W. Bush.

After all, the new president had run a campaign against a "stupid" war in Iraq, but for prosecuting "the right war," and by the time he was awarded the prize in October 2009, as an incipient peace president he had already escalated the war in Afghanistan and his administration was deep in a fierce debate over just how many more troops to send there in what would, by December of that year, become a "surge."

By the time the president accepted his award in March 2010 in a speech entitled "A Just and Lasting Peace" -- which might more accurately have been titled "On the Necessity of War" -- he had significantly increased troop levels in Afghanistan and similarly upped the levels of CIA personnel, private contractors, special operations forces, State Department personnel, and so on. In addition, he was already overseeing a spreading drone air campaign in the Pakistani borderlands.

Give him credit. He stood on the Nobel podium and gave a speech that, read today, looks remarkably like a rousing defense of American-style war and little short of an attack on the limited ability of nonviolence to make a real difference in a violent world. Among other things, he made clear that he wouldn't be bound in any way by the examples of Gandhi or King, trumpeted his willingness to act "unilaterally," and plunked for the necessity of war. ("I raise this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause. At times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower.")

Honest (and predictive) as it may have been, he did not have to go to Oslo at all. He had an honorable alternative, and there was even a precedent -- though one no American president would ever have cited -- for what he didn't do. In 1973, the Nobel Committee offered its peace prize to two men, American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho for negotiating the Paris Peace Accords. Kissinger accepted. Le Duc Tho refused, saying that "peace has not yet really been established... In these circumstances, it is impossible for me to accept the prize."

Obama did not take that path, of course, and now, his Nobel Prize largely forgotten, he will be campaigning for reelection as a successful war president, the man who launched the attack that killed Osama bin Laden, and whose administration has fed the U.S. military machine in a manner similar to that of his predecessor. At the same time, it has fiercely prosecuted and, in the case of Private First Class Bradley Manning among others, persecuted a range of American whistleblowers who have dared to reveal the real story of our eternal state of war and the war state that goes with it.

Manning, accused of passing secret U.S. military and State Department documents on to the website WikiLeaks, is now in military prison awaiting a trial whose verdict is essentially a foregone conclusion. Everyone knows that after military "justice" is done under pressure from an administration led by a president who has already publicly stated -- at a $5,000 a head fundraiser in San Francisco, no less -- that Manning "broke the law," they will throw away the keys and leave him to rot in prison till hell freezes over.

Manning is already in danger of being forgotten for an alleged act that was aimed at stopping war, an act that -- as a matter of amends -- should bring him a nomination for the Nobel Prize, if not the prize itself. Lawyer Chase Madar's latest piece, "What the Laws of War Allow," puts the wars this war president has prosecuted in perspective and he, at least, has done his best to make sure Manning will not be America's forgotten hero with his provocative, invaluable new book, The Passion of Bradley Manning (OR Books). In a half-reasonable world, it would keep a spotlight on him.
(c) 2012 Tom Engelhardt is co-founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

Big Brother Is Not Your 'Friend'
By Tim Karr

Increasingly, the U.S. government has shown an intense desire to "friend" you, to "follow" you, to get to know your every online move.

Now they're channeling that desire towards legislation that clears a path for authorities to work with companies like Facebook, Google and AT&T to snoop on Internet-using Americans.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act or CISPA, is wending its way through Congress where it could get a favorable vote unless elected representatives hear their constituents' concerns in time.

That's why a coalition of online rights advocates (including the Free Press Action Fund) have joined forces to kill CISPA before more of our online rights are lost to those seeking to turn the Internet into a massive surveillance complex.

Promoted to protect our national interests against a loosely defined horde of cyber-terrorists, CISPA goes far beyond its stated purposes, sacrificing almost all of our online privacy rights without any safeguards against abuse. It's the type of misguided Internet legislation that we have seen in the past, where government and corporations craft restrictive new laws without giving Internet users a seat at the table. Will they never learn?

Groups including EFF,, Free Press Action Fund, ACLU, Access, CDT and the American Library Association have just launched "Stop Cyber Spying Week" so that Washington understands that the online rights of millions of Americans are not negotiable. In addition to helping Americans contact Congress, these groups have unleashed the power of Twitter against any legislator weighing a vote for this bad bill.

The folks behind CISPA claim that national security interests make this surveillance necessary, but the bill's language is so vague and overreaching that it opens the door for rampant abuse. Here's what's wrong:

CISPA would allow companies and the government to bypass privacy protections and spy on your email traffic, comb through your text messages, filter your online content and even block access to popular websites.

CISPA would permit companies to give the government your Facebook data, Twitter history and cellphone contacts. It would also allow the government to search your email using the vaguest of justifications - and without any real legal oversight.

CISPA contains sweeping language that could be used as a blunt weapon to silence whistleblower websites like WikiLeaks and the news organizations that publish their revelations.

CISPA would have a chilling effect on our ability to speak freely online by stoking fears that the National Security Agency - the same agency that has conducted "warrantless wiretapping" online for years - could come knocking.

CISPA could lead all too easily to governmental and corporate attacks on our digital freedoms. And while there is a real need to protect vital national interests from cyber attacks, we can't do it at the expense of our rights. Facebook, which supports CISPA, now counts more than 800 million users worldwide. It's frightening to imagine a world where Mark Zuckerberg and his colleagues could act with impunity to help the U.S. government keep tabs on all of us. The goal of Stop Cyber Spying Week is simple: Get Congress to back away from this dangerous legislation. The only way to do that is by speaking out.
(c) 2012 Tim Karr is the Campaign Director for Free Press and

Europe's Economic Suicide
By Paul Krugman

On Saturday The Times reported on an apparently growing phenomenon in Europe: "suicide by economic crisis," people taking their own lives in despair over unemployment and business failure. It was a heartbreaking story. But I'm sure I wasn't the only reader, especially among economists, wondering if the larger story isn't so much about individuals as about the apparent determination of European leaders to commit economic suicide for the Continent as a whole.

Just a few months ago I was feeling some hope about Europe. You may recall that late last fall Europe appeared to be on the verge of financial meltdown; but the European Central Bank, Europe's counterpart to the Fed, came to the Continent's rescue. It offered Europe's banks open-ended credit lines as long as they put up the bonds of European governments as collateral; this directly supported the banks and indirectly supported the governments, and put an end to the panic.

The question then was whether this brave and effective action would be the start of a broader rethink, whether European leaders would use the breathing space the bank had created to reconsider the policies that brought matters to a head in the first place.

But they didn't. Instead, they doubled down on their failed policies and ideas. And it's getting harder and harder to believe that anything will get them to change course.

Consider the state of affairs in Spain, which is now the epicenter of the crisis. Never mind talk of recession; Spain is in full-on depression, with the overall unemployment rate at 23.6 percent, comparable to America at the depths of the Great Depression, and the youth unemployment rate over 50 percent. This can't go on - and the realization that it can't go on is what is sending Spanish borrowing costs ever higher.

In a way, it doesn't really matter how Spain got to this point - but for what it's worth, the Spanish story bears no resemblance to the morality tales so popular among European officials, especially in Germany. Spain wasn't fiscally profligate - on the eve of the crisis it had low debt and a budget surplus. Unfortunately, it also had an enormous housing bubble, a bubble made possible in large part by huge loans from German banks to their Spanish counterparts. When the bubble burst, the Spanish economy was left high and dry; Spain's fiscal problems are a consequence of its depression, not its cause.

Nonetheless, the prescription coming from Berlin and Frankfurt is, you guessed it, even more fiscal austerity.

This is, not to mince words, just insane. Europe has had several years of experience with harsh austerity programs, and the results are exactly what students of history told you would happen: such programs push depressed economies even deeper into depression. And because investors look at the state of a nation's economy when assessing its ability to repay debt, austerity programs haven't even worked as a way to reduce borrowing costs.

What is the alternative? Well, in the 1930s - an era that modern Europe is starting to replicate in ever more faithful detail - the essential condition for recovery was exit from the gold standard. The equivalent move now would be exit from the euro, and restoration of national currencies. You may say that this is inconceivable, and it would indeed be a hugely disruptive event both economically and politically. But continuing on the present course, imposing ever-harsher austerity on countries that are already suffering Depression-era unemployment, is what's truly inconceivable.

So if European leaders really wanted to save the euro they would be looking for an alternative course. And the shape of such an alternative is actually fairly clear. The Continent needs more expansionary monetary policies, in the form of a willingness - an announced willingness - on the part of the European Central Bank to accept somewhat higher inflation; it needs more expansionary fiscal policies, in the form of budgets in Germany that offset austerity in Spain and other troubled nations around the Continent's periphery, rather than reinforcing it. Even with such policies, the peripheral nations would face years of hard times. But at least there would be some hope of recovery.

What we're actually seeing, however, is complete inflexibility. In March, European leaders signed a fiscal pact that in effect locks in fiscal austerity as the response to any and all problems. Meanwhile, key officials at the central bank are making a point of emphasizing the bank's willingness to raise rates at the slightest hint of higher inflation.

So it's hard to avoid a sense of despair. Rather than admit that they've been wrong, European leaders seem determined to drive their economy - and their society - off a cliff. And the whole world will pay the price.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that she will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations. Such is the logic of patriotism."
~~~ Emma Goldman

The Rich Are Different From You And Me - They Pay Less Taxes
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Benjamin Franklin, who used his many talents to become a wealthy man, famously said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. But if you're a corporate CEO in America today, even they can be put on the back burner - death held at bay by the best medical care money can buy and the latest in surgical and life extension techniques, taxes conveniently shunted aside courtesy of loopholes, overseas investment and governments that conveniently look the other way.

In a story headlined, "For Big Companies, Life Is Good," The Wall Street Journal reports that big American companies have emerged from the deepest recession since World War II more profitable than ever: flush with cash, less burdened by debt, and with a greater share of the country's income. But, the paper notes, "Many of the 1.1 million jobs the big companies added since 2007 were outside the U.S. So, too, was much of the $1.2 trillion added to corporate treasuries."

To add to this embarrassment of riches, the consumer group Citizens for Tax Justice reports that more than two dozen major corporations - including GE, Boeing, Mattel and Verizon -- paid no federal taxes between 2008 and 2011. They got a corporate tax break that was broadly supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Corporate taxes today are at a 40-year-low -- even as the executive suites at big corporations have become throne rooms where the crown jewels wind up in the personal vault of the CEO.

Then look at this report in The New York Times: Last year, among the 100 best-paid CEOs, the median income was more than $14 million, compared with the average annual American salary of $45,230. Combined, this happy hundred executives pulled down more than two billion dollars.

What's more, according to the Times "... these CEO's might seem like pikers. Top hedge fund managers collectively earned $14.4 billion last year." No wonder some of them are fighting to kill a provision in the recent Dodd-Frank reform law that would require disclosing the ratio of CEO pay to the median pay of their employees. One never wishes to upset the help, you know. It can lead to unrest.

That's Wall Street -- the metaphorical bestiary of the financial universe. But there's nothing metaphorical about the earnings of hedge fund tigers, private equity lions, and the top dogs at those big banks that were bailed out by tax dollars after they helped chase our economy off a cliff.

So what do these big moneyed nabobs have to complain about? Why are they whining about reform? And why are they funneling cash to super PACs aimed at bringing down Barack Obama, who many of them supported four years ago?

Because, writes Alec MacGillis in The New Republic -- the President wants to raise their taxes. That's right -- while ordinary Americans are taxed at a top rate of 35% on their income, Congress allows hedge fund and private equity tycoons to pay only pay 15% of their compensation.

The President wants them to pay more; still at a rate below what you might pay, and for that he's being accused of - hold onto your combat helmets -- "class warfare." One Wall Street Midas, once an Obama fan, now his foe, told MacGillis that by making the rich a primary target, Obama is "[expletive deleted] on people who are successful."

And can you believe this? Two years ago, when President Obama first tried to close that gaping loophole in our tax code, Stephen Schwarzman, who runs the Blackstone Group, the world's largest private equity fund, compared the President's action to Hitler's invasion of Poland.

That's the same Stephen Schwarzman whose agents in 2006 launched a predatory raid on a travel company in Colorado. His fund bought it, laid off 841 employees, and recouped its entire investment in just seven months - one of the quickest returns on capital ever for such a deal.

"Two dozen major corporations - including GE, Boeing, Mattel and Verizon -- paid no federal taxes between 2008 and 2011. They got a corporate tax break that was broadly supported by Republicans and Democrats alike."

To celebrate his 60th birthday Mr. Schwarzman rented the Park Avenue Armory here in New York at a cost of $3 million, including a gospel choir led by Patti LaBelle that serenaded him with "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Does he ever -- his net worth is estimated at nearly $5 billion. Last year alone Schwarzman took home over $213 million in pay and dividends, a third more than 2010. Now he's fundraising for Mitt Romney, who, like him, made his bundle on leveraged buyouts that left many American workers up the creek.

To add insult to injury, average taxpayers even help subsidize the private jet travel of the rich. On the Times' DealBook blog, mergers and acquisitions expert Steven Davidoff writes, "If an outside security consultant determines that executives need a private jet and other services for their safety, the Internal Revenue Service cuts corporate chieftains a break. In such cases, the chief executive will pay a reduced tax bill or sometimes no tax at all."

Are the CEOs really in danger? No, says Davidoff, "It's a common corporate tax trick."

Talk about your friendly skies. No wonder the people with money and influence don't feel connected to the rest of the population. It's as if they live in a foreign country at the top of the world, like their own private Switzerland, at heights so rarified they can't imagine life down below.
(c) 2012 Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America's strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal.
(c) 2012 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

Why A Fair Economy Is Not Incompatible With Growth But Essential To It
By Robert Reich

One of the most pernicious falsehoods you'll hear during the next seven months of political campaigning is there's a necessary tradeoff between fairness and economic growth. By this view, if we raise taxes on the wealthy the economy can't grow as fast.

Wrong. Taxes were far higher on top incomes in the three decades after World War II than they've been since. And the distribution of income was far more equal. Yet the American economy grew faster in those years than it's grown since tax rates on the top were slashed in 1981.

This wasn't a post-war aberration. Bill Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy in the 1990s, and the economy produced faster job growth and higher wages than it did after George W. Bush slashed taxes on the rich in his first term.

If you need more evidence, consider modern Germany, where taxes on the wealthy are much higher than they are here and the distribution of income is far more equal. But Germany's average annual growth has been faster than that in the United States.

You see, higher taxes on the wealthy can finance more investments in infrastructure, education, and health care - which are vital to a productive workforce and to the economic prospects of the middle class.

Higher taxes on the wealthy also allow for lower taxes on the middle - potentially restoring enough middle-class purchasing power to keep the economy growing. As we've seen in recent years, when disposable income is concentrated at the top, the middle class doesn't have enough money to boost the economy.

Finally, concentrated wealth can lead to speculative bubbles as the rich in the same limited class of assets - whether gold, dotcoms, or real estate. And when these bubbles pop the entire economy suffers.

What we should have learned over the last half century is that growth doesn't trickle down from the top. It percolates upward from working people who are adequately educated, healthy, sufficiently rewarded, and who feel they have a fair chance to make it in America.

Fairness isn't incompatible with growth. It's necessary for it.
(c) 2012 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Dead Letter Office...

Ben gives the corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear Navajo Fuhrer Shelly,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your sell out of the tribes water rights, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Native American 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, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-28-2012. We salute you Herr Shelly, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Scott Walker Goes All In For NRA/ALEC 'Shoot First' Agenda
By John Nichols

Appearing before the National Rifle Association, Mitt Romney was accorded the reception that might be expected for a Republican candidate who used to brag about how his positions on gun issues "don't line up with the NRA" but who now says, "If we are going to safeguard our Second Amendment, it is time to elect a president who will defend the rights President Obama ignores or minimizes. I will."

The response was relatively warm but more than a little bit skeptical.

The Los Angeles Times was gentle in its description, suggesting that the now all-but-certain Republican nominee "may not have been the sentimental favorite among the speakers at the National Rifle Association's annual convention."

So who did they love?

Scott Walker.

The Republican governor of Wisconsin was accorded a hero's welcome when he appeared Friday before the NRA's "Celebration of American Values" forum to accept the group's "Defender of Freedom" award.

And he handed them raw meat. "I am proud to have a rifle, a shotgun and even a bow," Walker told the crowd of 5,500 people in St. Louis.

But the real winning line was Walker's absolute embrace of the state-based "Kill at Will" laws-such as the "Castle Doctine" measure he signed in Wisconsin-that have become so controversial since it was revealed that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law had so complicated the investigation and prosecution of the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. "Castle Doctrine" and "Stand Your Ground" create new levels of immunity for gunmen, complicating the work of police and prosecutors.

Walker, a long-time member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has worked with the NRA to promote "Castle Doctrine" and "Stand Your Ground" laws, was honored for signing concealed-carry and "Castle Doctrine" laws and then delivered a speech laced with gun-play rhetoric.

"I have become a target," declared Walker, who was forced to face a June 5 recall election, after close to 1 million Wisconsinites signed petitions demanding an accountability moment. "The advocates of big government view me as a threat. They want to take me out."

Walker told the NRA: "If I fail in June, it sets us back at least a decade, if not a generation."

The governor of Wisconsin is in political trouble largely because of his attacks on labor rights, which had its roots in "model legislation" written by ALEC. But he did not stop there. A member of ALEC during his decade as a Wisconsin state Assembly member, Walker worked closely with ALEC leaders in Washington, their corporate and special-interest sponsors and ALEC members in the legislature to advance many variations on ALEC's "model legislation"-from a restructive "Voter ID" law to corporate tax cuts and tort deforms and the "Castle Doctrine" legislation that was inspired by Florida's law.

The latter law was cited by a Wisconsin prosecutor when he declined to pursue charges against the killer of Bo Morrison, a 20-year-old African-American man who was shot while fleeing a party in Slinger, Wisconsin. The Morrison killing, which took place around the same time as the shooting of Trayvon Martin, was the subject of protests in West Bend, Madison, Milwaukee and other Wisconsin communities. State Representative Chris Taylor, a Madison Democrat and a lawyer who was outspoken in her opposition to the measure last year, now says: "It is heartbreaking that the legislature allowed this reckless law to go forward and now a young man is dead. This law encourages people to resort to vigilantism and use deadly force instead of calling the police."

A national protest campaign has focused on ALEC in the weeks following the outcry over the Trayon Marton killing and the broadening recognition that ALEC and the NRA have promoted the passage of similar laws in dozens of states across the country. Nine major corporations, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Kraft, have exited ALEC and some political leaders have begun to distance themselves from the group and its agenda.

But not Walker. He and his lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, who also faces a Wisconsin recall election, have dismissed criticisms of ALEC and allied interest groups, such as the NRA.

Indeed, Walker told the crowd at the NRA convention that he was making another out-of-state trip because: "I am asking for your help."
(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been publshed by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Emperor Of The Air
Potomac Poobahs Squeeze the Skies
By Chris Floyd

It's always amusing to hear people say that the United States is "not an empire." The substance of this "argument" (if we may so dignify such a completely unfounded assertion) seems to be that America can't be an empire because its agents don't swan around in white suits, pith helmets and jodhpurs while exercising direct and open colonial rule over its subjects. In other words, it doesn't look enough like vaguely remembered movie scenes about the British Raj in its heyday.

The fact that the British Raj was only one particular manifestation which imperial rule has taken down through the millennia cuts no ice in our Age of Amnesia, of course. "We seen that movie one time and we know dang well what empires look like, and what we got now don't look like that, so there." But even if one's idea of empire is limited in this fashion, there are still many points of similarity. For example, in the Raj, the British did not plant vast settler colonies and new cities filled with their own people (as, say, the Russian Empire was wont to do). Instead, a relative handful of British officials and soldiers controlled the lives of millions of people, who were exploited for the benefit of the imperial elite -- either directly, in the extraction of mineral resources and/or as sources of cheap labor, or indirectly, in situations where the domination of their lives and liberties and territory served some greater strategic aim of the imperial overlords. The parallels to the modern American way are too obvious, and too numerous, to detail here.

Then again, it's true that you don't see too many pith helmets amongst the soldiers, mercenaries, diplomats, bureacrats, contractors, spies, special oppers, death squadders and drone jockeys who now cover the earth on behalf of the never-ever-imperial American Empire. So maybe our amnesiacs are on to something. Maybe the Raj is not the most historically resonant model for our modern conglomeration of domination. Maybe we should look to that other empire that people have vaguely heard of, the one where they wore togas and stuff.

While there was certainly plenty of direct rule going on during the Roman Empire, there were also innumerable client kingdoms, nominally independent in their own affairs, although "allied" to Rome and forced to order their affairs in line with the imperial system. Naturally, there were many occasions when these "allies" got uppity and had to feel the iron hand of chastisement, or else had to have their recalcitrant rulers replaced with more amenable retainers.

But the main thing for those in the long shadow of Rome -- whether under direct rule or military occupation or in a condition of "independent" clientage -- was, as noted, that they adhere to the imperial system, the Roman ordering of the world, in ways both large and small. Whether this inconvenienced the locals was of no matter; Rome's word was law, and thus rulers and peoples thousands of miles away from the arrogant city on the Italian peninsula were forced to twist and distort their own lives.

It is this model that sprang to mind when reading a small story in the Independent a few weeks ago. Buried in the travel section, it gave British readers a warning about yet another inconvenience coming up for air travellers. In many situation, they are now being forced to submit (a most apt word) their "personal data" to the United States Department of Homeland Security -- even if they are not travelling to the United States, or even crossing U.S. airspace.

The U.S. government -- yes, yes, the liberal progressive administration of the progressive liberal peace laureate -- has arbitrarily chosen a number of foreign airports to which no one can fly without submitting their personal data to the imperial bureaucracy in Washington. This includes -- incredibly -- British citizens flying to ... Canada, which shares a head of state with Britain. Other airports under the imperial travel diktat are in Mexico and the Caribbean. As the Independent reports:

One million British travellers planning to fly to Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico this year face the risk of being turned away at the airport - at the insistence of the US Department of Homeland Security.

New rules require British Airways and other airlines flying to certain airports outside America to submit passengers' personal data to US authorities. The information is checked against a "No Fly" list containing tens of thousands of names. Even if the flight plan steers well clear of US territory, travellers whom the Americans regard as suspicious will be denied boarding....

For several years, every US-bound passenger has had to provide Advance Passenger Information (API) before departure. Washington has extended the obligation to air routes that over-fly US airspace, such as Heathrow to Mexico City or Gatwick to Havana.

Now the US is demanding passengers' full names, dates of birth and gender from airlines, at least 72 hour before departure from the UK to Canada. The initial requirement is for flights to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and the Nova Scotia capital, Halifax - 150 miles from the nearest US territory. A similar stipulation is expected soon for the main airports in western Canada, Vancouver and Calgary.

Any passenger who refuses to comply will be denied boarding. Those who do supply details may find their trip could be abruptly cancelled by the Department of Homeland Security, which says it will "ake boarding pass determinations up until the time a flight leaves the gate ... If a passenger successfully obtains a boarding pass, his/her name is not on the No Fly list." In other words, travellers cannot find out whether they will be accepted on board until they reach the airport.

Airlines are already scrambling to obey the edict, and the UK government has, naturally, remained mum on this restriction of its citizens' liberties. The new Obama security net will also tighten the screws a little tighter on that perennial stone in the imperial sandal, Cuba -- now in its sixth decade of sanctions for its non-adherence to the imperial system. (And please, no protests that Cuba is being punished because of its tyrannical regime; Washington makes hot, sweet love with tyrannical regimes every day of the year without so much as a quiver of moral concern over their repressed peoples. The Potomac poobahs judge a nation not by the content of its character but by its degree of acquiescence.

What is perhaps most surprising about the story is that the newspaper actually found some people who seemed surprised by the story:

The US will have full details of all British visitors to Cuba, including business travellers, which could potentially be used to identify people suspected of breaking America's draconian sanctions against the Castro regime.

Neil Taylor, a tour operator who pioneered tourism to Cuba, said: "Imagine if the Chinese were to ask for such data on all passengers to Taiwan, and similarly if the Saudis were to ask about flights to Israel - would the US government understand?

"One also has to wonder how an American traveller in Europe would react if he were denied boarding on a flight from London to Rome because the German government had not received sufficient data from him."

Tony Wheeler, founder of Lonely Planet travel guides, said "This extension of the rule to include flights that never enter US airspace is scarcely credible. What on earth right does the US have to ask for passenger information if you're flying London-Havana?"

What right indeed? What right does the United States have to punish businesses in foreign countries who do business with another foreign country, as in the case of the ever-spreading sanctions on yet another state outside the imperial system, Iran? (And again: the same caveat offered above on Cuba applies here as well.) What right does it have to fire drone missiles into sovereign nations and kill their citizens? What right does it have to assassinate its own citizens and imprison them indefinitely without charges, trial or due process? What right does it have to invade and destroy entire nations which have not attacked or threatened the United States?

Rights don't enter into it. Power doesn't need rights; it "creates its own reality," its own rights. The right of British citizens to fly unfettered to Canada and Cuba is in itself a minor matter (and rather darkly ironic, given Britain's own imperial history and its much-reduced but still persistent continuance); but it is a reflection of larger reality -- the power-created reality -- of the very real American Empire.
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Gary Markstein ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Angrier Birds
By Will Durst

Some small-minded pundits are guaranteed to grouchily opine this is neither the time nor the place to be re-circulating unfounded conspiracy theories. Then again, mightn't it be more imprudent to ignore the latest rumors and dark mutterings concerning something as important as the nomination of a presidential candidate? Of course we're talking about the uncanny similarities between the 2012 Republican primary race and a game of "Angry Birds."

The skeptical amongst you will be tempted to dismiss this subject as the lunatic ravings of a recently returned passenger from an extended trans-Canadian vacation on the bourbon train, but there is more here than meets the eye. First off: You'd have to be a hermit living in the darkest recesses of a Sonoran desert zinc mine not to be aware of the popular multi-platform phenomenon that is "Angry Birds." And how many are aware of the 2012 Republican primary race? Well, perhaps not as many, but still way up there.

The two activities share several basic characteristics: both are infuriatingly frustrating, defy physics and logic as we know them, and can instantly turn into terminally addictive pastimes that many experts consider a leading cause to loss of both sanity and productivity in America today.

The object of "Angry Birds" is to use a slingshot to fling various flightless birds at flimsy houses built by egg-thieving green pigs. The object of the 2012 Republican primary race is, well, pretty much the same thing: to toss accusations and blame at the White House in order to steal independents from the Democrats. All while emitting unintelligible screeches, squeals and shrieks.

Each angry bird possesses unique powers and skills. As do the Republican candidates. The weakest bird is a little red one that squawks a lot but doesn't affect much of anything. That, of course, would be Ron Paul. Another bird in your arsenal is the yellow one that can break through load-bearing walls. Obviously, Herman Cain. There's the weird green bird that has sort of a boomerang action, aping almost perfectly the parabolic arc that is Donald Trump's coif.

Can't forget the big, lumpy white bird that drops exploding eggs, which would be - who else - Michele Bachmann. And the little, blue bird that splits into three little, blue birds at the touch of the screen? Got to be the Texas king of multiple personalities known for disintegrating on television, Rick Perry.

There's a big, red bird with all the subtlety of a of a broken rock formation whose only ability is to knock down everything unlucky enough to be in its path. Newt Gingrich, right? Bet you had that one. And the bird that is not a bird at all, but more of a bomb with an extremely short fuse, which could not be confused with anybody other than Rick Santorum.

And finally, in both instances, when you can't win using strategy and skill, you're allowed to cheat, legally. In the game "Angry Birds," for the right price you can utilize a feature called "Mighty Eagle." This special-order bird pummels your intended target to bits, but you have to pay a little extra. Exactly like how Mitt Romney won Florida and Michigan and Wisconsin. Next week, we'll investigate the eerie resemblance between the Supreme Court and "Doodle Jump."
(c) 2012 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, "The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing."

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