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In This Edition

Hrafnkell Haraldsson brings reality to the conversation in, "David Barton Says Science Can't Cure Divine Punishments Like AIDS."

Uri Avnery with, "Confessions Of An Optimist."

Stephen King exclaims, "Tax Me, For F@%&'s Sake!"

Ralph Nader is, "Recognizing Heroes."

Jim Hightower examines, "Down And Out On Wall Street."

David Sirota watches as, "Kenneth Cole Gets Schooled."

James Donahue concludes, "Japan Nuke Disaster Far Worse Than We Have Been Told."

Dave Swanson explores, "The Supposed Legality Of Murder."

Randall Amster wonders, "Occupy Asteroids? To Boldly Share What No One Has Shared Before."

Tom Hayden reviews, "Obama's Afghanistan Speech."

Paul Krugman warns of, "Wasting Our Minds."

Paul Craig Roberts sees Obama, "Brewing Up A Conflict With China."

Robert Reich explains, "The GOP's Death Wish."

David Barton wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols finds, "Scott Walker's Austerity Agenda Yields 'Worst Job Losses in US.'"

Medea Benjamin tells John Brennan, "Shame on You."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Obama Launches More Realistic 'I Have Big Ideas But We'll See How It Goes' Campaign Slogan" but first Uncle Ernie sings, "Ah, Newt, We Hardly Knew Ye!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rick McKee, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Clay Bennett, Pam Rutter, J.J. Abrams, W.M. Design, Planetary Resources, Inc., Kenneth Cole, C-Span, 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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Ah, Newt, We Hardly Knew Ye!
But what we did know, we didn't like
By Ernest Stewart

"All of us have an obligation I think to do whatever we can to defeat Barack Obama. I want you to know that we're going to continue out there on the road. Callista and I will be talking, campaigning, making speeches, doing everything we can to help defeat Barack Obama." ~~~ Newt Gingrich

"Our goal is to destroy al-Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that." ~~~ Barack Obama

"I think there is a legitimate question as to size." ~~~ Norm Shinkle

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Lord Of The Rings ~~~ Bilbo Baggins

By the time you read this, the Newtster will have crawled back under his rock to plot and plan some more carnage and figure out a way to have Willard pick up the tab for some four million dollars in his campaign debts. I'm sure that Willard will; because after all, that four million is just a day's pay for Willard!

I've often said that I would publish the devil himself if he had something truthful and important to say. Here's some examples of what I mean by that; here's some quotes from the Newtster:

"One of the real changes that comes when you start running for President -- as opposed to being an analyst on Fox -- is I have to actually know what I'm talking about." - "I would just say that if Gov. Romney would like to give back all the money he's earned on bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years of being, then I would be glad to then listen to him, and I'll bet you $10, not $10,000 that he won't take the offer." - "You'd certainly have to say that Bain at times engaged in behavior where they looted a company leaving behind 1,700 unemployed people." - "There was a pattern, in some companies, a handful of them, of leaving them with enormous debt, and then within a year or two or three, having them go broke. I think that is something he ought to answer."

And ain't that the truth as far as it goes; trouble is, for the most part, Newt wouldn't know the truth if it jumped up and bit him on the ass -- as dogs and penguins are wont to do!

Newt ended his campaign in Virginia, a no-doubt fitting place for the likes of him. I'm guessing that he wanted to get one of those vagina probes that are so popular in Virginia for a little exploration of Callista's good side!

Why Newt even bothered to run is beyond me; well, perhaps his giant ego had something to do with it? Still, with the Sheeple's short span of memory, it might have seemed like a good idea as the Rethuglicans really didn't have any good candidates; but as soon as he did, his past caught up with him as the past will often do. Folks started remembering that "Contract on America," and the disgrace of almost being impeached by his own party, along with all the acts of murder and mayhem in between.

So goodbye, Newt; don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out; we need that door; it's what keeps the riff-raff out of here! So "Goodnight, Moon Colony," I'll see ya in the funny papers!

In Other News

President Obama has signed an agreement with our puppet President Karzai to keep a major U.S. military presence in Afghanistan through the end of 2014, allowing a significant unspecified presence beyond that date -- with no end date stipulated. Are you surprised? I'm not!

This is very important; because after countless drone strikes, Barry found that there are still millions of innocent men, women and children still alive and Barry simply can't have that. Millions more must die to prove to the Rethuglican tea partiers that he really isn't a Muslim -- just your typical mass-murdering Christian, like they all are. Talk about reaching out to the dark side! Obama stresses that no permanent U.S. bases will be involved; but his agreement requires Afghanistan to let U.S. troops use "Afghan" bases.

This comes a year to the day after Barry put out a hit on CIA operative Osama bin Laden, instead of capturing him and his treasure trove of information; that is, if you believe that Osama isn't in one of our black sites being tortured for said information or more likely doing a 9 to 5 shift down in Langley!

Barry touched down at Bagram and then made a dash for the palace in Kabul to have his puppet sign off on an "agreement" that makes sure that we can continue killing innocents for decades to come, thus turning all of our corpo-rat goon billionaires in the "defense" industries into trillionaires with money that should've gone into Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security, infrastructure projects, schools, and such!

That insane laughter you may hear in the background comes from the Russians, who learned their lesson in Afghanistan back in the 80's, as they watch our empire fall apart in Afghanistan -- like so many other empires have. Ask our "allies" in Great Britain how Afghanistan worked out for them. The only one who ever got it in Afghanistan was Alexander who never took his army up into the mountains and after a little over a year got the hell out of Denver while he still had an army. Perhaps that's why they call him "Alexander the Great?"

And Finally

It's being called "Font Gate" after a decision by the two Rethuglican members of Board of Canvassers, Norm Shinkle and Jeffery Timmer. The two Republicans voted against a petition to restore democracy on the November ballot, and justified their actions on the basis that the font for one of the section headings on the petition was too small. It was a 14 point font.

Why all the brouhaha? Well, you may recall that Michigan elected another Koch brothers stooge Rick Snyder to the office of Governor; but Rick, being the Nazi pig that he is, wouldn't settle for that, having the Rethuglican-controlled legislature make him Emperor Snyder!

His first move was, of course, a round of tax giveaways for the uber-wealthy and cuts in most state programs for the poor, the elderly, the sick, and the hungry; yes, I know, only typical Rethuglican treason; but Rick's bloodlust still wasn't sated; so, he decided to take over black-controlled cities. Is he doing this because he is a racist? Yes, he is! The Rethuglican-controlled Michigan legislature passed a bill that gave Rick the right to seize control of a city and insert an emergency manager having the authority to fire all workers, abrogate all labor contracts, and privatize all public assets, all without the advice or consent of elected officials or of the people.

So far, four cities have been put under this kind of financial martial law, and they are Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse, and Flint -- all black-run cities. "Detroit is under a similar arrangement through a consent agreement, done in large part because Snyder wanted to ensure that Detroit would continue to be under state financial controls, even if the law is overturned in the November elections."

The good citizens of Michigan gathered 226,000 signatures on a petition to put the question on the ballot this November. They needed only 160,000. Which is where Norm Shinkle, a member of the Board of Canvassers, and I come in. I wrote Norm a note asking where does he get off with this treason and sedition...

Hey Norm,

How does it feel to be a traitor, Norm -- and a seditious traitor at that? How do you look yourself in the mirror, Norm, without wanting to cut your worthless throat. How does that happen, Norm? I bet your mom wished she would have had an abortion! I know I do! Do explain your treason to all of my Michigan readership! Go ahead and make their day! I dare ya, Norm!

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

Want to give Norm a piece of you mind, and are a Facebook member? Then go here... If Norm gets the cajones to write me back, I'll let you know!

Keepin' On

"The Road goes ever on and on. Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can," said Bilbo Baggins. I know how old Bilbo felt, as politics goes on and on, regardless of anything else; and I must follow, if I can! And I've been following for 50 years now! Why so long? Any doubts I had about giving up the fight against fascism vanished for me 43 years ago, in a hail of gunfire at Kent State University.

Long gone are the daze when all I needed was a pipe full of "Old Toby Red" and a suitcase to fight the fascists. Now there are bills to pay, and I need your help to pay them! My vast and weighty fortune is long since gone, fighting the good fight; and all I have left is just enough to get by on if I mind my Ps & Qs!

If you can help us to keep publishing, please do so, as we're fast approaching when those bills come due, and a long way to go in raising the money to pay for them! To send us a donation, just go to the donations page, and follow the directions there! You'll feel better when you do!


04-17-1931 ~ 05-01-2012
Thanks for the funk!


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.

David Barton Says Science Can't Cure Divine Punishments Like AIDS
By Hrafnkell Haraldsson

It had to happen: David Barton, pretend-historian, now pretend medical scientist, claims that science won't be able to cure AIDS because AIDS is a punishment for sin. David Barton didn't invent the idea that AIDS represents divine wrath but he is certainly willing to run with stupidity when he hears it.

Even ancient Pagans knew that there were things that could make people sick that weren't of divine origin, or to be explained by demonic possession. Superstition has not always held sway over every mind. How is it otherwise to be explained that Marcus Terentius Varro, writing in 36 BCE (On Agriculture) and without benefit of a microscope, could know that "there are bred certain minute creatures that cannot be seen by the eyes, which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and there cause serious diseases" but David Barton, with access to all the annals of modern medicine, cannot?

Another way to frame the question might be, why appeal to the complexities of medical science when you have an angry God on hand? After all, succumbing to mundane disease doesn't make for much of a morality lesson, does it?

This is the future of American theocracy: abandonment of science and embrace of superstition, of malign divine influences, demonic possession, and prayer. Millions will die because the Inquisition won't like it if you say "germ". Don't wash your hands for 20 seconds after going to the bathroom: it will only prevent the spread of infection; it won't keep God from hating you. Get on your knees and pray: beg for forgiveness.

Seriously, there is a reason the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) publishes a page on hand-washing but not on prayer. And I am certain David Barton would condemn them for that.

As Right Wing Watch reports,

We have also pointed out before that Barton believes that everything in our society ought to be governed by what is in the Bible, even our medical practices ... and today Barton returned to this topic, claiming that science cannot create a cure or vaccine for AIDS and that abortion causes breast cancer and mental health problems, proclaiming that to be "good news" because it proves that the Bible is correct.

So forget Marcus Terentius Varro, forget Madame Curie, forget Louis Pasteur, and forget the father of microbiology, Anton van Leeuwenhoek. Forget Philippe Gaucher, the first to identify the disease named after him in 1882. It is easy to see a Republican theocracy prescribing prayer for my son rather than enzyme replacement treatment.

But prayer won't break down the waste material in his blood or keep it from accumulating in his spleen and liver. Prayer won't keep him alive if the source of Cerezyme dries up. Prayer won't keep an AIDS patient alive and it doesn't promise a cure anymore than it will drive away a drought, return gasoline to a dollar a gallon or kill the women of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Prayer, as Karl Marx correctly identified religion, is the opium of the people ("Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes").

Yet that is what pseudo-historian/pseudo-scientist David Barton wants you to believe. Forget everything after the first century that isn't Christian:

There's a passage that I love in Romans 1 - I don't love what the topic is - but it talks about homosexuality and it says that they will receive in their bodies the penalties of their behavior. And the Bible again, it's right every time, and studies keep proving that and that's why AIDS has been something they haven't discovered a cure for or a vaccine for, because it's the fastest self-mutating virus known to mankind. Every time they just about get a vaccine discovered for it, it transmutes into something new and they have to start over again. And that goes to what God says, hey you're going to bear in your body the consequences of this homosexual behavior.

The same thing goes with abortion and now we're getting studies, and these are somewhat negative studies, but they're positive studies in that they prove that the Bible is right. So I want to read you the results of a couple of new studies that are out. Here's a new study that out, now this is the second study that shows that women who have abortions double the risk of mental health problems ... Now that's not good news; the good news in this is God says "don't kill unborn babies."

Now, along the same thing, here's another study, a new study now shows those who have abortions nearly triple the risk of breast cancer. It's bad news, but it's good news in the sense that it does show that the Bible is right. When God says don't kill those unborn babies, there's a reason. And He tells us in Deuteronomy 6:24 and Joshua 1:8, everything I tell you to do is for your good, for your benefit, so that you can prosper and you can have success. So when he tells us not to do this stuff, whether it's homosexual behavior or whether its abortion, hey it's for our benefit he tells us not to do it and now studies prove that to be true.

Actually, there are no studies that prove the Bible is right. With regards to a link between mental health problems and abortion, Barton is speaking of a single 2009 article in The Journal of Psychiatric Research "purporting to show a link between abortions and long-term mental health problems" but there are two critiques of that study which show that it is seriously flawed.

The first, by Julia Steinberg of the University of California at San Francisco and Lawrence Finer of the Guttmacher Institute and also published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, "found what they called, in a letter to the journal's editors, 'untrue statements about the nature of the dependent variables and associated false claims about the nature of the findings.'" Dr. Steinberg dismisses the first report's findings in no-nonsense terms:

"This is not a scholarly difference of opinion," Dr. Steinberg said. "Their facts were flatly wrong. This was an abuse of the scientific process to reach conclusions that are not supported by the data."

The second critique, an analysis of data in Denmark (reported last year in the British Journal of Medicine), also "found no support for the hypothesis that abortion increased the risk of mental disorders." The American Cancer Association says that abortion does not cause an increased risk of breast cancer: "After adjusting for known breast cancer risk factors, the researchers found that induced abortion(s) had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer. The size of this study and the manner in which it was done provide good evidence that induced abortion does not affect a woman's risk of developing breast cancer."

In 2003, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Gynecologic Practice concluded that "Early studies of the relationship between prior induced abortion and breast cancer risk were methodologically flawed. More rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk."

The American Cancer Society does not rest its anti-Barton case there:

In 2004, the Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer, based out of Oxford University in England, put together the results from 53 separate studies done in 16 different countries. These studies included about 83,000 women with breast cancer. After combining and reviewing the results from these studies, the researchers concluded that "the totality of worldwide epidemiological evidence indicates that pregnancies ending as either spontaneous or induced abortions do not have adverse effects on women's subsequent risk of developing breast cancer."

But David Barton does not care what scientists say; he doesn't even care what the Bible says, really, since the Bible doesn't talk about mental health problems or breast cancer resulting from abortion. And in fact, God does kill unborn babies, according to the Old Testament: God repeatedly commands that the Israelites kill men, women, and children, even pregnant women - hell, they even have to kill the livestock! That doesn't sound like a pro-life God to me.

But misinterpretations of Scripture and dishonesty aside, theology does not explain disease - wallowing in ancient superstition is not going to save lives. Scientists may not so far have a cure for AIDS but they don't have a cure for my son's Gaucher Disease, or a cure for cancer, either. They also once upon a time did not have cures for many diseases that are now curable. Now, in other words, is not forever. Scientists do know what causes AIDS. As the Mayo Clinic explains:

"AIDS is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body's ability to fight the organisms that cause disease."

AIDS, in other words, is not a theological problem. It is a medical problem, just as female contraception is a medical, not a religious issue.

David Barton claims to be a historian but a historian cannot indulge in fantasies of prayer and miracle. As Bart Ehrman explains, "the natural sciences use repeated experimentation to establish predictive probabilities based on past occurrences." A hundred times out of a hundred a bar of soap will float in water; a bar of iron will sink. This provides "an extremely high level of...presumptive probability" that all future bars of soap and iron will behave in this fashion, whereas a miracle involves "a violation of this known working of nature" - floating bar of iron, for example. A historian cannot disprove a miracle took place but a historian must establish "only what probably happened in the past" and miracles are "at odds with how the natural world typically works."[1]

The germ theory of disease freed humankind from dark superstition and science is indeed a candle in the dark, as Carl Sagan said, holding back the demon-haunted world.[2] Republicans hate science and conservative Christian Republicans most of all: science is inconvenient: it impedes the spread of ideology and it impedes the spread of religious doctrine. When Stephen Colbert said that reality has a liberal bias he was speaking truth, and the literature is abundant on this score.[3]

The sin of science is that it tries to explain the world as it is, now how it should be, not to buttress this or that ideology or this or that religion. Science is the facts on the ground, an object not of belief but of fact. Medical science is the same.

David Barton and pseudo-scholars like him (and dark disciples like Glenn Beck and Republican politicians who trumpet their claims) should be seen for what they are: agents of destruction. If you are a fan of Thomas Hobbes' "nasty, brutish and short"[4] then their gospel of destruction will no doubt find favor with you and in fact Christian Scientists are free to dismiss the germ theory of disease if they wish and if you want to think your cold is caused by demonic possession I suppose you are free to do so.

But this sort of Bronze Age thinking, promoted at the expense of centuries of scientific and medical advances, should not become public policy to inflict all humankind. Penicillin is a cure but prayer is a panacea, and disease as a divine punishment should hold no more allure in the 21st century than the philosopher's stone.

[1] Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Third Edition (Oxford University Press, 2004), 227-29.

[2] Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Ballantine Books, 1996).

[3] Just a few examples: Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science (Basic Books, 2005); Russell Shorto, Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason (Doubleday, 2008); James Hoggan, Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming (Greystone Books, 2009); Timothy Ferris, The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature (HarperCollins, 2010),

[4] Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan (1651).
(c) 2012 Hrafnkell Haraldsson, is a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen's Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.

Confessions Of An Optimist
By Uri Avnery

I AM an Optimist. Period.

No ifs. No buts. No perhapses.

Maybe it's genetic. My father was an optimist. Even when, at the age of 45, he had to flee his native Germany to a primitive little country in the Middle East, his spirits remained high. Though he had to adapt to a new country, a hot climate, hard physical labor and grinding poverty, he was happy. At least he had saved his wife and four children, the youngest of whom was I.

Today, on Israel's 64th birthday (according to the Hebrew calendar), I am still an optimist.

SOME TIME ago I bumped into the writer Amos Oz at a wedding and we talked about this curiosity, my optimism. He said that he was a pessimist. Being a pessimist, he said, was a win-win situation. If things turn to the better, you are happy. If things get worse, you are still happy, because you have been right all along.

The trouble with pessimism, I told him, was that it leads nowhere. Pessimism relieves you of any urge to do something. If things are going to get worse anyhow, why bother? Pessimism is a comfortable attitude. It even allows you to be contemptuous of the optimists, who still struggle for a better world. Optimism is for simpletons.

But this is exactly what it's all about. Only optimists can struggle. If you don't believe in a better world, a better country, a better society, you can't fight for them. You can only sit in your armchair in front of the TV, tut-tutting at the stupidity of the human race, and particularly your own people, and feel superior.

Whenever I confess to being an optimist, I am showered with disdain. Don't I see what's happening around me? Was this the state you imagined on May 14, 1948, when you listened to Ben-Gurion's speech on the radio and prepared yourself for the night's battle?

No, I did not imagine a state like this one. My comrades and I envisaged a very different state. And still I am an optimist.

WHEN TALKING about this, I am always reminded of a certain point in my life.

It was October 1942, and the world was shaking.

In Russia, the Nazi troops had reached Stalingrad and the titanic battle had been joined. There was no doubt that the Germans would take the city and move on.

Further south, the invincible Wehrmacht had broken into the Caucasus. From there, a straight line led through Turkey and Syria to Palestine.

Erwin Rommel's renowned Afrika Korps had broken the British line and reached the Egyptian village of el Alamein, just 106 km (66 miles) from Alexandria. From there to Palestine was a matter of days.

Already a year earlier, the Nazis had occupied Crete in the first airborne invasion in History.

For anyone looking at the map, the situation was clear. From North, West and South the Nazi military colossus was moving inexorably towards Palestine, with the aim of destroying the Jewish semi-state there. Adolf Hitler's mad anti-Semitism led to no other conclusion.

Our British masters obviously thought so, too. They had already sent their wives and children to Iraq. They themselves, it was rumored, were sitting on their suitcases, ready to escape at the first hint of a German breakthrough in Egypt.

The Hagana, our main secret military organization, was making frantic preparations. Like the heroes of Masada some 1900 years ago, who committed collective suicide rather than fall into Roman hands, our fighters would gather on the Carmel hills, there to fight and sell their lives dearly. I had just turned 19, and was living in Tel Aviv, a town nobody even considered defending. We knew it was the end.

After the war ended with the total collapse of Nazi Germany, many books about the course of the war appeared. It transpired that the desperate crisis of October 1942 existed only in our imaginations.

The Crete airborne invasion, far from being a brilliant victory, was in reality a disaster. German losses were so high that Hitler forbade any repetition. Not knowing this, the British launched their own airborne operation in Holland towards the end of the war, which was also an unmitigated disaster.

The German troops that had reached the Caucasus were totally exhausted and could march no further south. Of far-away Palestine they could not even dream.

And, most importantly for us, Rommel had reached el Alamein on his last drops of petrol. Hitler, who viewed the entire North African campaign as a wasteful diversion from the main effort - Russia - refused to squander his scarce petrol there. He did not give a damn about Palestine. (Even if he did, there was no way to get the petrol across the Mediterranean. The British had broken the Italian naval code and knew of every ship leaving an Italian port.)

The moral of the story: even in the middle of a completely desperate situation, one does not know enough of the facts to lose hope.

BUT THERE is no need to go back 70 years. Enough to look at recent events.

Did anyone of us in Israel believe a year ago that the apathetic, "don't give a damn" youth of our country would suddenly rise in an unprecedented social protest? If somebody had said this a week before it happened, he would have been laughed out of court.

The same would have happened to anyone at the beginning of last year who prophesied that the Egyptians (the Egyptians of all people!) would arise and throw their dictator out. An Arab Spring? Ha-ha-ha!

When I happen to give a talk in Germany, I always ask: "If any one of you believed the day before it happened that the Berlin Wall would fall during his lifetime - please raise your hand." I never saw a hand rising.

And the greatest event of all, the implosion of the Soviet Union - who saw it coming? Not the US, with its giant multi-billion intelligence apparatus. Nor our Mossad, with its many collaborators among Soviet Jews.

Neither did any of them foresee the Iranian revolution that drove out the Shah.

The same is true for the many human-made catastrophes during my lifetime, from the Holocaust to Hiroshima.

WHAT DOES that prove? Nothing, except that nothing can be foreseen with any certainty. Human events are shaped by human beings, human beings shape human events. That may be a good reason for pessimism, but also for optimism.

We can prevent disasters. We can bring about a better future. And for that we need optimists who believe that it can be done. Lots of them.

On Israel's 64th Independence Day, the situation looks grim. Peace is a dirty word. Most Israelis are saying: "Peace would be wonderful. I would pay any price for peace. But unfortunately, peace is impossible. The Arabs will never accept us. Therefore the war will go on forever."

That is a very convenient pessimism, absolving us from all guilt, allowing us not to do anything.

The "Two-State solution", the only real solution there is, is receding into the background. The apartheid regime which is already established in the occupied Palestinian territories is spreading into Israel proper. In a few years we shall have full-fledged apartheid in all the historical country, with a Jewish minority lording it over an Arab Palestinian majority.

In the unlikely event that Israel is compelled to grant the Palestinians civil rights, the Jewish State in all of the historical country would rapidly become an Arab State in all of the historical country.

The United States, Israel's only remaining ally, is declining slowly and surely. The emerging power, China, has no memories of the Holocaust.

Social inequality is rampant in Israel, more than in any developed country. That is as far as one can get from the ideals of early Israel.

The democratic foundations of the "Only Democracy in the Middle East" are shaking. The Supreme Court is under enduring siege by a gang of semi-fascists nestling in our government, the Knesset is becoming a sorry caricature of a parliament, the free TV and printed media are slowly but surely becoming undergoing Gleichschaltung (sorry, no Hebrew or English word available).

Can this situation become worse? In my long life I have learned that no situation is so bad that it cannot get worse. And no leader is so detestable that his successor cannot be even more so.

That said, there may be powerful forces at work, unseen and unheard, that will change things for the better. It's like a dam on a river. Behind it, the water rises, slowly, silently, unnoticed. One day the dam bursts, quite suddenly, and the water submerges the landscape.

This will not happen without us playing our part. What we do - or do not do - is a part of the changing pattern. Hoping and believing is not enough. Doing and acting is of the essence.

So here we are, the incorrigible optimists.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Tax Me, For F@%&'s Sake!
By Stephen King

Chris Christie may be fat, but he ain't Santa Claus. In fact, he seems unable to decide if he is New Jersey's governor or its caporegime, and it may be a comment on the coarsening of American discourse that his brash rudeness is often taken for charm. In February, while discussing New Jersey's newly amended income-tax law, which allows the rich to pay less (proportionally) than the middle class, Christie was asked about Warren Buffett's observation that he paid less federal income taxes than his personal secretary, and that wasn't fair. "He should just write a check and shut up," Christie responded, with his typical verve. "I'm tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, he's got the ability to write a check-go ahead and write it."

Heard it all before. At a rally in Florida (to support collective bargaining and to express the socialist view that firing teachers with experience was sort of a bad idea), I pointed out that I was paying taxes of roughly 28 percent on my income. My question was, "How come I'm not paying 50?" The governor of New Jersey did not respond to this radical idea, possibly being too busy at the all-you-can-eat cheese buffet at Applebee's in Jersey City, but plenty of other people of the Christie persuasion did.

Cut a check and shut up, they said.

If you want to pay more, pay more, they said.

Tired of hearing about it, they said.

Tough shit for you guys, because I'm not tired of talking about it. I've known rich people, and why not, since I'm one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing "Disco Inferno" than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. It's true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions. My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough.

What charitable 1 percenters can't do is assume responsibility-America's national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can't fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, "OK, I'll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS." That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.

And hey, why don't we get real about this? Most rich folks paying 28 percent taxes do not give out another 28 percent of their income to charity. Most rich folks like to keep their dough. They don't strip their bank accounts and investment portfolios. They keep them and then pass them on to their children, their children's children. And what they do give away is-like the monies my wife and I donate-totally at their own discretion. That's the rich-guy philosophy in a nutshell: don't tell us how to use our money; we'll tell you.

The Koch brothers are right-wing creepazoids, but they're giving right-wing creepazoids. Here's an example: 68 million fine American dollars to Deerfield Academy. Which is great for Deerfield Academy. But it won't do squat for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where food fish are now showing up with black lesions. It won't pay for stronger regulations to keep BP (or some other bunch of dipshit oil drillers) from doing it again. It won't repair the levees surrounding New Orleans. It won't improve education in Mississippi or Alabama. But what the hell-them li'l crackers ain't never going to go to Deerfield Academy anyway. Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

Here's another crock of fresh bullshit delivered by the right wing of the Republican Party (which has become, so far as I can see, the only wing of the Republican Party): the richer rich people get, the more jobs they create. Really? I have a total payroll of about 60 people, most of them working for the two radio stations I own in Bangor, Maine. If I hit the movie jackpot-as I have, from time to time-and own a piece of a film that grosses $200 million, what am I going to do with it? Buy another radio station? I don't think so, since I'm losing my shirt on the ones I own already. But suppose I did, and hired on an additional dozen folks. Good for them. Whoopee-ding for the rest of the economy.

Tired of hearing about it, they said. Tough shit for you guys, because I'm not tired of talking about it. I've known rich people, and why not, since I'm one of them?

At the risk of repeating myself, here's what rich folks do when they get richer: they invest. A lot of those investments are overseas, thanks to the anti-American business policies of the last four administrations. Don't think so? Check the tag on that T-shirt or gimme cap you're wearing. If it says MADE IN AMERICA, I'll ... well, I won't say I'll eat your shorts, because some of that stuff is made here, but not much of it. And what does get made here doesn't get made by America's small cadre of pluted bloatocrats; it's made, for the most part, in barely-gittin'-by factories in the Deep South, where the only unions people believe in are those solemnized at the altar of the local church (as long as they're from different sexes, that is).

The U.S. senators and representatives who refuse even to consider raising taxes on the rich-they squall like scalded babies (usually on Fox News) every time the subject comes up-are not, by and large, superrich themselves, although many are millionaires and all have had the equivalent of Obamacare for years. They simply idolize the rich. Don't ask me why; I don't get it either, since most rich people are as boring as old, dead dog shit. The Mitch McConnells and John Boehners and Eric Cantors just can't seem to help themselves. These guys and their right-wing supporters regard deep pockets like Christy Walton and Sheldon Adelson the way little girls regard Justin Bieber ... which is to say, with wide eyes, slack jaws, and the drool of adoration dripping from their chins. I've gotten the same reaction myself, even though I'm only "baby rich" compared with some of these guys, who float serenely over the lives of the struggling middle class like blimps made of thousand-dollar bills.

In America, the rich are hallowed. Even Warren Buffett, who has largely been drummed out of the club for his radical ideas about putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to patriotism, made the front pages when he announced that he had stage-1 prostate cancer. Stage 1, for God's sake! A hundred clinics can fix him up, and he can put the bill on his American Express black card! But the press made it sound like the pope's balls had just dropped off and shattered! Because it was cancer? No! Because it was Warren Buffett, he of Berkshire-Hathaway!

I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, "I'm rich and I don't apologize for it." Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want-those who aren't blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money-is for you to acknowledge that you couldn't have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it's not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It's un-fucking-American is what it is. I don't want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that-sorry, kiddies-you're on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay-not to give, not to "cut a check and shut up," in Governor Christie's words, but to pay-in the same proportion. That's called stepping up and not whining about it. That's called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn't cost their beloved rich folks any money.

This has to happen if America is to remain strong and true to its ideals. It's a practical necessity and a moral imperative. Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. Their response was either Marie Antoinette ("Let them eat cake") or Ebenezer Scrooge ("Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isn't fairly addressed, last year's protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head.

Think about it.
(c) 2012 Stephen King is a novelist. He lives in Maine.

Recognizing Heroes
By Ralph Nader

The media regularly cover awards for their reporters, editors and producers. They regularly cover award ceremonies for movie stars, athletes, and business leaders. But they regularly ignore the far more important awards for people who ethically blow the whistle on corruption and suppression in both business and government, risking their careers and more to tell the truth to the American people.

Sure, the Pulitzers, the Academy Awards, the Heisman Trophy and the many business awards may seem exciting. But protecting the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people is important and serious. It is hard to conclude that recalling millions of defective automobiles and dangerous pharmaceuticals, exposing serious contamination of drinking water, lies about the BushObama wars and the huge subprime mortgage crimes should be outside the realm of news coverage.

But this news or features blackout consistently prevails, at least in Washington, D.C., even when the annual Ridenhour prizes are given to heroic figures before packed audiences of notables at the National Press Club. Named after the late Ron Ridenhour, a Vietnam War veteran who wrote to Congress about the horrific massacre at the village of My Lai, this year's recognitions went to truth-tellers from Countrywide Financial, Bank of America, the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Marine Corps.

Each of them delivered concise, eloquent remarks that would qualify for any "Style Page" feature that requires drama, courage, human interest, resolve and proposed reforms. C-SPAN, replete with astonishingly repetitive right-wing events, was not there. Some members of the fourth estate - reporters, columnists, editorial writers or profilers - were in attendance, but no major news outlets covered this splendid event.

The Ridenhour awardees did not indulge in sentiment and self-pity. They spoke cogently about widespread dereliction or institutional crimes, and they spoke of specific ways a democratic society can foresee and forestall further recurrences. These people know what they are talking about. They are not like the glib pundits, politicians and commentators who get abundant airtime or print column inches for their insipid, ignorant, repetitive or self-serving pontifications.

When Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis spoke about his assignment for the Army's Rapid Equipping Force which resulted in a meticulous and well-documented report from the battlefields, contrary to the official "success" claims of the generals, he provided fresh material and a sensitive mind ready to elaborate on any questions by the press.

When Ali Soufan (former FBI interrogator) spoke about the uses of torture that backfire, fail to get useful information, risk the safety of soldiers, violate the laws and stain the reputation of the U.S., he can back it up with book-length details. Soufan's New York Times op-ed was an eye-opener but the present situation is still festering and exhibiting prevarication. Extensive reporting is still needed on this subject.

Eileen Foster, hired in 2005 by Countrywide to become the executive vice president in charge of their fraud risk management division, proved that there was a "cult" of commission-hungry loan officers who created fraudulent financial papers that expanded toxic mortgages, helping to lead to the great Wall Street-U.S. economy crash of 2008. She showed the various law enforcement paths the Justice Department failed to take against any Wall Street executive, despite ample grounds for prosecution.

And when career Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger suspected that his nine-year-old daughter's death might have an environmental cause at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he came upon a "cover-up by the Marine Corps of one of the largest drinking water contaminations in U.S. history." The Marine Corps learned of the carcinogenic chemicals in the groundwater at the base in 1980 and refused to officially notify the residents for another 28 years, an admission finally provoked by Sgt. Ensminger's indefatigable campaign that went national (see the documentary "Semper Fi: Always Faithful").

Now compare these heroic stands of the human spirit with the regular, rancid portrayals in the media of misbehaving actors, actresses, and professional athletes. There isn't even a semblance of balance between informing the moral and voyeuristic instincts of their readers and viewers.

Lt. Colonel Davis, still on active duty, urged the audience to go forth and expand the range of their common concerns represented by these awards to ever larger circles of Americans. He declared that "telling the truth and doing your duty are synonymous."

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

Down And Out On Wall Street

Maybe you thought the lowest possible point of Republican miserliness was reached when Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Agriculture proposed that ketchup be counted as a vegetable in the school lunch program. If so, you've not taken a peek at the GOP's astoundingly-penurious budget proposal recently pasted together in a fit of ideological extremism by their budget guru, Rep. Paul Ryan.

Of all things, The Repubs whacked $8 billion from next year's food stamp funds - a well-run, widely-popular, and effective program that helps millions of hard-hit American families stave off some of the pain of poverty. Maybe so, concede Ryan & Company, but the program is out of control, having added some 13 million people in the last three years. Well, gosh, Paul, welcome to the real America - where joblessness is rampant, wages are down, and the middle class is tumbling into poverty. Food stamp use is supposed to go up in such times! It means the program is working.

Still, retorts a Ryan henchman, everyone must sacrifice to lower the deficit, so these cuts are merely "reflecting the budgetary times we're in." Really? Then why does your budget give an average of $265,000 a year in more tax benefits to millionaires? And why, in your demand for severe austerity in government, do you not cut a dime from the Pentagon's bloated budget - even handing it an increase?

Finally, Ryan asserts that his food stamp cuts are for poor people's own good. Citing his Catholic religion's doctrine of "social magisterium," Paul the Pious says he's preventing poor families from the moral horror of being "dependent on government." Imagine their gratitude! And imagine Ryan's embarrassment that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops dared to contradict his divine rationalization, bluntly calling the cuts "unjustified and wrong."
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Kenneth Cole Gets Schooled
By David Sirota

It was always bound to go there, but few likely expected it would be so blatant. I'm talking about the ongoing campaign against organized labor; for decades deeply rooted in American political culture, the crusade has been periodically amplified in popular culture as well, from 1954′s "On the Waterfront" all the way to the Sopranos' depiction of mob-controlled unions (and sometimes pop culture and political culture have even fused). So it was only a matter of time before vilifying rank-and-file union members would be commodified into a consumer brand by a company looking for an edge in the high-end retail market.

That's where Kenneth Cole now comes in. The clothing designer has just launched a new crusade to tie his expensive clothing and shoes line to the elite's movement du jour: the fight to demonize public schoolteachers and their unions. In a billboard and Web-based campaign, Cole's foundation portrays the national debate over education as one that supposedly pits "Teachers' Rights vs. Students' Rights."

"Should underperforming teachers be protected?" asks the foundation's website.

When asked about the campaign, one of Cole's spokeswomen insisted the company isn't trying to insult teachers or unions, saying, "It's something in the news and being debated, and we wanted to provide a forum where people could discuss it as well." But with the company using the same loaded language as the conservative political activists trying to undermine public education and teachers' unions, the corporate P.R.-speak is, to say the least, unconvincing.

No, Cole's campaign is thinly veiled ideological propaganda, and it comes with myriad problems, not the least of which is the simple fact that almost nobody believes "underperforming teachers" should be protected. That includes the nation's biggest teachers' unions, which have been outspoken in backing "accountability" reforms for teacher tenure. So right off the bat, Cole is constructing a straw man, one that has served over the years to pretend that public employee unions in general and teachers' unions specifically are about nothing more than making sure bad employees get to keep their jobs.

Of course, there is a legitimate debate among state lawmakers and school boards about how to determine what an "underperforming teacher" is. Should a teacher be considered subpar if her students perform poorly on standardized tests? Should any teacher-to-teacher peer review be included in performance evaluations? And should any factors other than tests and grades - say, student poverty levels - be considered when using student achievement to judge a particular teacher?

As evidenced by the language of his new campaign, Cole, like the anti-union activists in the larger corporate-sponsored education "reform" movement, doesn't want those questions asked, much less answered, for pondering them raises the very queries about power and wealth that Cole's fellow 1 percenters don't want to discuss.

For instance, actually taking an honest look at America's education system brings up queries about why other less economically stratified nations have unionized teachers and far better academic results than here in America. It also forces us to ask why it just so happens that wealthy unionized districts in America do so well - but poorer districts have such problems. All of that consequently compels us to consider issues like poverty and funding disparities between rich and poor districts - issues that inherently threaten the status quo, and thus the interests of the super-wealthy. And so under the veneer of the term "reform" and with the backing of seemingly altruistic philanthropy via foundations like Cole's, the super-wealthy work to avoid substance and instead define the education policy discourse on reductionist slogans like "underperforming teachers."

Perhaps the biggest problem with Cole's campaign, though, is how it forwards the "us-versus-them" notion that teachers' rights to due process in the workplace are automatically at odds with their students' interests. This so fundamentally misunderstands how education works that it perfectly underscores why a clothing corporation doesn't have much credibility on education issues.

Think about it: We need our best teachers to work in the public schools that educate the most at-risk populations. Why? Because with decades of social science research proving that achievement is driven mostly by out-of-classroom factors (poverty, family dysfunction, etc.), those are the schools that need the most skilled pedagogues to overcome comparatively difficult odds for success. But why would a good teacher opt to work in such a school without basic protections - protections designed to make sure the at-risk population's achievement-suppressing disadvantages aren't used as a rationale to fire her? She probably wouldn't.

In this way, "Teachers' Rights vs. Students' Rights" is the mirror opposite of how things actually work. Without extending teachers' rights to, say, be evaluated fairly or to challenge a termination, it would be difficult - if not impossible - for public schools to recruit the best teachers to the specific at-risk schools that need them the most.

Most likely, these inconvenient truths are of little concern to someone like Kenneth Cole. According to Gotham Schools, he sends his kids to private school, making him part of the larger trend of elites who are trying to foist radical policies onto public schools, knowing their own kin won't be hurt by those policies.

But, you ask, wouldn't a clothing mogul with no kids in public school be averse to a divisive crusade against teachers, if only to circumvent a controversy? Even if he is a political activist, wouldn't he refrain from such a campaign for fear of losing customers?

These are fair questions, and they highlight how Cole's campaign may say something hugely important - and troubling - about the long-term future of education politics in America.

Recall that Cole is in a zeitgeist industry that is all about lashing branded chic to the popular fad of the moment. That means his move probably reflects what he believes to be an ascendant cause celebre - one that he thinks he isn't joining in spite of his company, but in support of its profit-making objectives. Put another way, he probably believes he will gain customers if he ties his company to anti-teacher, anti-union themes.

Sure, that gamble could be wrong - and I hope it is. I hope America sees just how wrongheaded and ideologically extreme the crusade against public schools, teachers and unions is.

But as a successful mogul, Cole's clearly got skill as a cultural seer; and if someone like him sees mass profit potential in not-so-subtly bashing teachers and unions, it's a scary sign that such unhinged anti-teacher sentiment could be going more mainstream than ever.

Update: After a mass outcry from teachers, Kenneth Cole announced on Twitter Monday that it is removing the billboard. In its statement, the company said "We misrepresented the issue - one too complex for a billboard - and are taking it down." It is unclear if it plans to take down the accompanying website.
(c) 2012 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Japan Nuke Disaster Far Worse Than We Have Been Told
By James Donahue

The extreme earthquake and tsunami that destroyed Japan's Fukushima nuclear power complex on March 11, 2011, is still having a disastrous impact on Japan and possibly much of the Northern Hemisphere, a series of recent reports now indicate.

An eerie story that recently appeared in The European Union Times tells of talks between Japanese and Russian representatives over the possible evacuation of people from Northern Japan to the disputed Kuril Islands because of the danger of radioactive exposure. Discussions also are going on between Japan and China over the possible relocation of Japanese citizens to the Inner Mongolian and Zhengzhou Districts where entire cities of newly constructed but unoccupied homes and shops are sitting empty because of the worldwide economic downturn.

The story said that the Japan Foreign Ministry has informed Russia that up to 40 million people are in "extreme danger" from radioactive poisoning and need to be evacuated from the "eastern most located cities . . . including the world's largest one, Tokyo."

The Kuril Islands, a 56-island chain located 810 miles northeast of Hokkaido, Japan, have been in dispute since the end of World War II, after Soviet forces seized possession during the closing days of the war. Both Japan and Russia claim sovereignty over the islands. The San Francisco Peace Treaty drawn in 1951 by Allied Powers states that Japan must give up all claims to the Kuril Islands, but it does not recognize Russia's sovereignty. Thus the dispute has continued to this day.

The Union Times story also quotes Japanese representatives as saying the government is seriously considering an offer by china to relocate tens of millions of Japanese people to inhabit China's mysterious "ghost cities."

The London Daily Mail published a series of satellite images of sprawling cities filled with newly constructed houses, shops and business structures sitting empty. All are located in remote areas of China. The Mail story did not disclose how many "ghost cities" exist in China, but said some have been standing ready for occupancy for years. The story suggested that a rising property value problem in China may have been the reason the cities remain empty.

Thus the Japanese appear to have some options for relocation. But just how serious is the disaster at the Fukushima site? A recent story in the Prison Planet Internet blog quoted a startling report by Mitsuhei Murata, Japan's former ambassador to Switzerland, during a March appearance at the Budgetary Committee of the House of Councilors. He warned that if the crippled building of reactor unit 4, with 1,535 fuel rods in the spent fuel pool 100 feet above the ground collapses, it would cause a shutdown of all six reactors and affect all of the 11,421 fuel rods at the site. These rods, Murata said, are not protected by a containment vessel and are dangerously open to the air. He warned that such a meltdown could cause "a global catastrophe like we have never before experienced. . . Such a catastrophe would affect us all for centuries."

Akio Matsumura, a diplomat to the United Nations, explained on his website just how severe the threat of a total meltdown at Fukushima is. He quoted a report by Murata that said the spent fuel rods contain roughly 336 million curies of long-lived radioactivity. "About 134 million curies is Cesium-137 - roughly 85 times the amount of Cs-137 released at the Chernobyl accident as estimated by the U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection.

"The total spent reactor fuel inventory at the Fukushima-Daichi site contains nearly half of the total amount of Cs-137 estimated by the NCRP to have been released by all atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, Chernobyl and world-wide reprocessing plants," the Murata report stated.

He said it was important for the public to understand that the reactors at Fukushima have been operating for decades and have generated "some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on this planet."

Matsumura wrote: "Many of our readers might find it difficult to appreciate the actual meaning of the figure, yet we can grasp what 85 times more Cesium-137 than the Chernobyl would mean. It would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is an issue of human survival."

The Union Times story added that Russian military observers participating in the Open Skies Treaty with the United States now report "unprecedented" amounts of radiation in the Western regions of the U.S. It said the finding has been confirmed by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

Researchers are detecting radioactive particles in California kelp and have confirmed that a large block of "highly radioactive waste" is drifting slowly eastward over the Pacific, and headed directly for the West Coast of the United States.

Another Union Times article noted that TEPCO released 3 million gallons of radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean from the disaster site. One report said the deadly drifting mass could be 70 miles in width.

"In the United States the Environmental Protection Agency and other corrupt federal agencies are literally ignoring the danger posed by the radioactive waste," the story said. It warned that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has "intentionally mislead the public by covering up the dangers posed by radiation released from Japan." Why would they do this? Think politics and the Obama Administration's push for alternative sources of energy as alternatives to the use of coal and oil to run our factories, automobiles, ships, trucks and aircraft and heat our homes.

"Sadly, corporate interests and nuclear apologists continue to push for more nuclear power plants while ignoring the dangers to the entire world," the Union Times editorial said.
(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

The Supposed Legality Of Murder
By David Swanson

War is legal, but pointing out its illegality is not mistaken; it's irrelevant and un-strategic. That's the argument I'm hearing from a number of quarters.

Chase Madar has a terrific new book on Bradley Manning in which he argues that many of the offenses Bradley Manning allegedly revealed through Wikileaks (the murder in the collateral murder video, the turning over of prisoners to be tortured by Iraq, etc.) are immoral but legal. When I pointed out to Madar that the Kellogg Briand Pact banned all war, that the U.N. Charter legalized only two narrow categories of war that our government does not meet (defensive wars and wars authorized by the U.N.), and that the Constitution of the United States bans wars not declared by Congress, Madar did not try to argue that I was mistaken. Instead he said it wasn't important to point out war's illegality, because Americans don't care; instead we have to point out its immorality. But if war's illegality is unimportant, why was its supposed legality important enough to develop as a significant part of a book? Why couldn't war's illegality be of help in the movement to oppose it on primarily moral grounds?

I attended a wonderful event on Saturday in Washington, D.C., a "Drone Summit" organized by Code Pink, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Reprieve -- terrific organizations all, some of the best. Included in the summit were speakers from organizations that have concerns about drones but do not oppose war. It's important to work with organizations and individuals who agree on the matter at hand, even if broad differences in world view divide you. I give great credit to every ban-the-drones or reform-the-drones organization that supports war or avoids the topic of war, yet works in coalition with antiwar groups. More credit and gratitude to them.

But many more people than attend one event in one city have these questions running through their minds, and the differences in viewpoint within the anti-drone movement may be helpful in forming one's own view.

One question plaguing me is how we will ever end the war crimes and the war atrocities and the war-driven abuses of civil liberties and human rights while continuing to dump $1 trillion into war and preparation for war every year. It's hard to put numbers to these things, but if you chart the rise in military spending in the United States in recent years, you can chart the decline in civil rights along with it. I asked Hina Shamsi of the ACLU, which is always doing some of the most valuable work in opposing the symptoms of military spending whether the ACLU would ever oppose military spending. She replied that it would not, because that is a "political question," ironically the same answer the courts give the ACLU when it tries to learn information about U.S. war programs. My point wasn't that military spending was the same type of question as baseless imprisonment or torture or murder, but that as long as massive military spending goes on we will have a very hard time getting rid of those other things.

David Glazier of Loyola Law School spoke brilliantly on the topic of how our nation or foreign nations might prosecute U.S. officials for war crimes. But he caught my attention by asserting that war itself is not a crime. Armed conflict is legal, he said. I asked how this squared with the Kellogg Briand Pact or the U.N. Charter, and he said that the "international legal community" had chosen to criminalize only "aggressive war," that 9-11 was an attack, and that the Authorization to Use Military Force is a legal response to that attack. Are drone killings legal? According to Glazier we must examine each one to see whether it is proportional, militarily advantageous, etc. (And then, what? Build a movement of lawyers to object to the particular strikes we oppose?) This was not exactly Madar's argument. Glazier was making a more-or-less legal case. But, of course, it is common practice to ignore the Kellogg Briand Pact -- which banned all war, not aggressive war -- and to pretend that U.S. wars comply with the U.N. Charter. But laws are written down so that they cannot be arbitrarily altered or erased by any "community," and the notion that U.S. drone strikes are in compliance with the U.N. Charter is patently absurd. Why is it permissible to laugh at John Yoo's legalization of torture but not at his legalization of wars, wars that are not defensive and not U.N. authorized?

And once you've legalized war in your mind, how do you stop yourself from approving of it?

This can be done, of course. There are many unjust laws that we oppose, work to change, yet admit the existence of. I'm on probation for having spoken in a Senate hearing. I consider that unjust but admit it exists.

Yet, all too often we see people focus so closely on the legality of particular war tactics that they approve of those tactics morally. Sarah Holewinski of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict said at the Drone Summit that U.S. drone strikes should be done "legally," "responsibly," and "appropriately." Drones are better than other weapons, she said, as if we have no choice but to use some weapon or other. I asked her to explain, and she said that she meant that we should operate within international law. She praised the drone program in Afghanistan, and condemned that in Pakistan. When someone objected to drone killings in Afghanistan, she said "I didn't create international law." But she and most other people accept a pro-war interpretation of what international law says. And then they accept that what it says is good and just.

Also at the Drone Summit we were shown (primarily from Pakistan, but similar accounts have come out of Afghanistan): reports, photos, stories and hundreds of names of innocent children targeted and killed by U.S. drones, innocent men, women, and children killed, rescuers and funeral goers targeted and killed, people targeted and killed without attempting to identify them first, and revelation of false claims made to have killed the same supposedly important militant in multiple strikes, plus evidence that many more civilians have been killed than supposed militants (that is people alleged to be fighting in defense of their country, exactly what the United States so absurdly pretends to be doing when it kills with drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia).

I don't think we can do without attempts to apply pressure within the system of misgovernment here in Washington, D.C. We must have the FOIA requests. We must have the demand that legal justifications be invented for each new offense. Compelling Harold Koh to pretend that bombing Libya did not constitute either a war or hostilities was not nothing. But it was not as valuable as would have been a massive, well-funded, organized movement against bombing Libya. Pressuring Obama to say whether Awlaki's 16-year-old son was a target or collateral damage is good. But it's not as good as impeaching and prosecuting Obama for having assassinated people. And it's not as good as an educational and organizational campaign that sees such action as morally just even if immediately unobtainable. We need the inside-game, just as we need whistleblowers if any such brave souls remain and can manage to make themselves heard.

But, our goal, our vision, our salvation cannot be and will not be transparent adherence to the "laws of war," any more than asking rapists to wear condoms will solve the problem of rape-crimes or rape-atrocities. The problems we are up against are these: military funding; military bureaucracy (Gareth Porter has reported on the CIA's purely bureaucratic motivation for expanded drone wars); love of technology for its own sake; racism; ignorance; secrecy; a democracy deficit; and acceptance of war as a legal, reasonable, and appropriate instrument of national policy.

Let's not regulate murderous flying robots. Let's create a world that gets along without them.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Occupy Asteroids? To Boldly Share What No One Has Shared Before
By Randall Amster

Sometimes the news reads like a cross between a corporate promotional campaign gone haywire and a rejected science fiction B-movie script. The announcement this week of an asteroid mining venture -- backed by Google executives, the Perot Group, and James Cameron, among others -- is precisely the sort of item that conjures both absurdity and horror in its full implications. Like rubberneckers passing a highway pileup, let's take a closer look because we just can't help doing so...

The company, called Planetary Resources, Inc., intends to mine 100 or more near-Earth asteroids for resources including water and various precious metals. Space resources are "just so valuable" and "really are the low-hanging fruit of the solar system," co-founder and co-chairman Eric Anderson told The idea is to generate resources in space sufficient to impel additional colonization efforts, creating a network of veritable "in-space gas stations" to fuel ongoing and expanding operations.

The initial impetus of the project will include a prospecting phase. "Before you decide where to put the gas stations," said Anderson, "you've got to understand where the trucks are going to be driving by." (Fans of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series can shed light on how the notion of an "interstellar superhighway" can go horribly awry.) Part of the initiative also includes potential plans to "snag and drag" a massive asteroid into the moon's orbit in order to facilitate lunar settlement.

In their ideal form, such activities are seen as ushering in an era focused on the increasing exploration of deep space. But in the shorter term, much more mundane concerns are evident. The language of "healthy profits," "resource extraction," and "swarms" of robotic spacecraft used to mine the asteroids peppers the materials released by the company and the ensuing news reports. By securing new sources of precious metals, according to a company statement, "the cost will reduce on everything including defibrillators, hand-held devices, TV and computer monitors, catalysts. And with the abundance of these metals, we'll be able to use them in mass production...."

There's more in this vein, but you get the idea. This all seems like something out of the first reel of a low-budget apocalyptic straight-to-video film. "Hey, let's drag and drop a bunch of massive asteroids close to the Earth in order to make a buck. What could possibly go wrong?" By the second act, tidal patterns have dramatically shifted, ocean waters are rapidly rising, and the moon hangs in the sky with a sickly pink glow. In the finale, the moon moves closer to Earth, and its altered gravitational pull yields rampant volcanoes and a thoroughgoing decimation of numerous major cities. As asteroids plummet to Earth, a scrappy band of survivors holds out hope in a deep cavern -- and two tattered souls fall in love in the face of, and as a rebuke to, their impending doom.

Okay, so, putting aside the worst-case scenario in which everything goes wrong, it needs to be noted that the whole concept of this project is simply wrong at the outset. Not so much the logic of near-Earth exploration as a precursor to human expansion into the heavens -- I'm as much into Star Trek as anyone -- but more so the entire premise of doing this primarily for purposes of profit-making and under the auspices of continued "resource extraction" that has already pushed this planet to the brink of its capacities to support human life. The basis of this operation seems to be the notion that if we simply had more resources to support our wasteful, consumptive ways, everything will be fine.

On the other hand, one could read between the lines and recognize an implicit recognition on the part of some wealthy and powerful forces that the Earth is getting close to being used up, and that a viable escape plan could be realized (by the uber-elite) in a few years' time if orbital resources were to be harnessed and utilized for sustaining small human settlements in space. We might get cheaper cell phones and computers in the process, but all the myriad problems of waste, war, toxicity, climate change, and more, will remain firmly in the face of those left to cope with an earthbound future.

Indeed, this gets precisely at the perversity of the asteroid-mining plan: it merely continues the same paradigm of extraction and profiteering that has led us to the precipice in the first place. By virtue of their preexisting wealth, certain actors will be able to parlay that into laying claim to space resources that should be the property of no one, or perhaps everyone. This is merely an updated version of the doctrine of "prior appropriation," which plies the misbegotten logic of "first in time, first in right" to privatize and control resources (like water and minerals) at the expense of common holdings, indigenous peoples, and environmental sustainability all at once.

With all due respect to the folks at Planetary Resources, Inc., they can kiss our asteroids! They don't own these rocks, or the moon, or any of the other heavenly bodies that occupy the skies above. It's bad enough that their modus operandi has essentially turned the Earth itself into a globally privatized system (at least as far as profits go; losses are still sought to be collectively placed on all the rest of us to bear). Now they want to file title deeds and mining claims to the heavens, and by promising us cheaper toys in the process we're not supposed to notice or care. Is that how it works?

These issues were recently discussed in one of my college courses. I asked the students what could be done differently to make this a sustainable and just project rather than the one that's on the drawing board right now. The responses were rational and visionary: the fruits of space exploration could be declared up front as the shared wealth of all peoples and nations; any profits or gains yielded could be directed toward the alleviation of poverty and inequality; any input of additional resources could include a moratorium on earth-based extractive industries and a prohibition on wars presently fought for such resources; an expansion of the "closed system" in which we live could also include an equivalent expansion of creatively reusing waste products as is done on space stations.

These were just some of the suggestions brought forth by these sharp young minds (including the apropos title to this piece, "Occupy Asteroids," as well). Questions of values and ethics were discussed, and whether humankind was morally ready to cast our net outward while we still have so much to do right here and now to set things right again. The proposed space mining plan is akin to buying a new house to avoid cleaning up the old one. If the monies readily exist to mine asteroids for platinum, etc., why can't we use them to stop genocide, cure diseases, and promote free education and healthcare instead? Why should the rich get richer while the poor get sicker? The very idea of "gas stations" in space seemed especially repugnant given the current geopolitical landscape.

I'll cast my lot with the vision of these nascent adults over the B-movie illogic of the corporatists any day. The question now is how much we'll tolerate in the name of so-called "progress" before we find ourselves awash in a toxic soup with no way out of the pot. As the students' insights suggest, we don't have to crawl back into caves in order to avert a looming cataclysm; rather, we simply need to reformulate our conceptions of who profits from (and how we utilize) the essential resources in our midst. If there was ever a moment to rejuvenate the notions of common holdings and collective wealth, this is it. As humankind prepares to launch its first major off-world resource operations, let's bring the discussion back down to Earth and boldly go forward into the heavens together.
(c) 2012 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. Amonsg his most recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Obama's Afghanistan Speech
A Guide for the Perplexed
By Tom Hayden

President Obama's dramatic speech from Afghanistan should be parsed as a careful election-year orchestration of his plan to "wind down" the war. It is no accident that the speech came during the first-year commemoration of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the event providing Obama the rationale for ending American combat while placing hawks and political rivals on the defensive.

For reasons historians will have to explore, George Bush dropped the pursuit of bin Laden, providing Obama with a chance that few top Democrats are given: to prove himself "tougher" on terrorism than his critics. Obama took the risk. The question now is whether the rewards he reaps will be for real peace or a disastrous quagmire.

Between now and November, the narrative of killing the Al Qaeda leader will be politicized and repeated in the mainstream media and Obama campaign films and speeches that many will find inappropriate. Obama himself may have kept his pride in check last year when he said "we don't need to spike the football" and "we don't trot out this stuff as trophies" (speaking of photos of bin Laden's body). Then Obama's top aide David Axelrod seemed to test the boastful political line, "Ask Osama bin Laden," when answering a question about Obama's toughness. Since then, the bin Laden assassination is increasingly about spiking the football, leading CNN's Jack Cafferty to accuse Obama of being "hypocrite-in-chief" and allowing the Republicans to grab the opportunity to change the subject.

Obama spoke to multiple and conflicting audiences from Afghanistan. Primarily, of course, his speech was to America's voters and families, especially those upset by the suffering of their loved ones or the dark suspicion that the war has been for naught. But Obama also intended to frame the Chicago summit for NATO members and the world media, and include a peace incentive for the Taliban and Pakistan, while still assuring the Afghan allies and the military that he's committed to the long run. These contradictions are impossible to smooth over. But there were signals worth heeding.

For the first time, Obama acknowledged and embraced the "direct discussions" going on with the Taliban towards a "negotiated peace." That statement may seem mild enough to peace activists who remember the long years of talks that dragged on during Vietnam. For a commander-in-chief, however, talking with the perpetrators (or avid abettors) of the 9/11 attacks is potentially volatile in the extreme. Obama needs to defuse any potential backlash from the talks going bad.

Obama's stated conditions for talking with the Taliban were (1) their breaking with Al Qaeda, which means a credible agreement to prevent safe havens in Afghanistan, a condition the Taliban can accept; (2) that they abide by Afghan "laws," as distinct from the more rigid Afghan constitution; and (3) a protection of Afghanistan's sovereignty, which is different from the country's present form of governance, is closed to the Taliban. None of these starting points are insuperable obstructions to progress, not even Obama's more general call for human rights for "men and women." Agreeing to repudiate "violence" is far easier than surrendering weapons, as the Northern Ireland experience proved.

On his side, Obama offered a "clear timeline to wind down the war," a nod towards the Taliban's longstanding demand for an explicit timetable for withdrawal. Obama's generals and all Republicans abhor "timelines," especially during political campaigns.

Obama spoke directly to public opinion when he refused to leave "immediately," on the grounds that Afghanistan will need an "opportunity to stabilize," an observation the vast majority of Americans will accept, at least for a time, if US troop withdrawals are proceeding on course and casualties are down. And if Afghanistan fails to take the "opportunity to stabilize," then it will have had its "decent interval."

Finally, Obama spoke of the need for "global consensus," including Pakistan as an "equal partner" with legitimate "interests" in Afghanistan. The euphemism "global" masks whatever agreements being sought with non-NATO powers like Russia, China, India and, directly or indirectly, Iran.

Obama significantly noted that there are no agreements yet concerning specific American troop levels to be left beyond 2014, or levels of Western funding for those troops. Afghanistan's president Karzai has been shopping for $2-4 billion in annual subsidies for at least a decade, figures that will test NATO's resolve during a deepening recession. These issues are left open to serious debate in Congress and Western governments, unless a surprise settlement is jammed through the NATO summit. The recently heralded US agreements to "share" control of night raids with the Afghan security forces and turn over imprisoned detainees to the Afghans involve so many unresolved ambiguities that Obama chose not to trumpet them as measures of progress. The ultra-sensitive matter of permanent US bases, opposed by a Congressional majority, was finessed by a White House spokesman as a matter of keeping "access to and use of Afghan facilities" down the road, but without permanent bases. Past 2014, Obama committed himself to two "narrow security missions," training and counterterrorism. With Iraq as a template, it remains to be seen how those play out. Drones were not mentioned, but Obama is feeling pressure to deflate a concern that will not go away. An agreement involving Pakistan as an equal partner suggests that drones, which are hated in Pakistan, could be shelved or suspended as part of a settlement process.

In summary, the final deal, if any, is still a work in progress, on the fast track to a fix in Chicago.

Public opinion, in the US, NATO, Afghanistan and Pakistan, is already a decisive factor in shaping the speed and character of this endgame. But public opinion is shaped not by television news so much as the processes of everyday life, where anti-war activism can sometimes channel massive impatience with war and recession into a popular tide towards peace. If peace activists simply keep mounting local support for Barbara Lee's legislation to cut funding and her Congressional letter to Obama, they are speeding the tide.
(c) 2012 Tom Hayden is a former state senator and leader of 1960's peace, justice and environmental movements. He currently teaches at PitzerCollege in Los Angeles. His books include The Port Huron Statement [new edition], Street Wars and The Zapatista Reader.

Wasting Our Minds
By Paul Krugman

In Spain, the unemployment rate among workers under 25 is more than 50 percent. In Ireland almost a third of the young are unemployed. Here in America, youth unemployment is "only" 16.5 percent, which is still terrible - but things could be worse.

And sure enough, many politicians are doing all they can to guarantee that things will, in fact, get worse. We've been hearing a lot about the war on women, which is real enough. But there's also a war on the young, which is just as real even if it's better disguised. And it's doing immense harm, not just to the young, but to the nation's future.

Let's start with some advice Mitt Romney gave to college students during an appearance last week. After denouncing President Obama's "divisiveness," the candidate told his audience, "Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business."

The first thing you notice here is, of course, the Romney touch - the distinctive lack of empathy for those who weren't born into affluent families, who can't rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad to finance their ambitions. But the rest of the remark is just as bad in its own way.

I mean, "get the education"? And pay for it how? Tuition at public colleges and universities has soared, in part thanks to sharp reductions in state aid. Mr. Romney isn't proposing anything that would fix that; he is, however, a strong supporter of the Ryan budget plan, which would drastically cut federal student aid, causing roughly a million students to lose their Pell grants.

So how, exactly, are young people from cash-strapped families supposed to "get the education"? Back in March Mr. Romney had the answer: Find the college "that has a little lower price where you can get a good education." Good luck with that. But I guess it's divisive to point out that Mr. Romney's prescriptions are useless for Americans who weren't born with his advantages.

There is, however, a larger issue: even if students do manage, somehow, to "get the education," which they do all too often by incurring a lot of debt, they'll be graduating into an economy that doesn't seem to want them.

You've probably heard lots about how workers with college degrees are faring better in this slump than those with only a high school education, which is true. But the story is far less encouraging if you focus not on middle-aged Americans with degrees but on recent graduates. Unemployment among recent graduates has soared; so has part-time work, presumably reflecting the inability of graduates to find full-time jobs. Perhaps most telling, earnings have plunged even among those graduates working full time - a sign that many have been forced to take jobs that make no use of their education.

College graduates, then, are taking it on the chin thanks to the weak economy. And research tells us that the price isn't temporary: students who graduate into a bad economy never recover the lost ground. Instead, their earnings are depressed for life.

What the young need most of all, then, is a better job market. People like Mr. Romney claim that they have the recipe for job creation: slash taxes on corporations and the rich, slash spending on public services and the poor. But we now have plenty of evidence on how these policies actually work in a depressed economy - and they clearly destroy jobs rather than create them.

For as you look at the economic devastation in Europe, you should bear in mind that some of the countries experiencing the worst devastation have been doing everything American conservatives say we should do here. Not long ago, conservatives gushed over Ireland's economic policies, especially its low corporate tax rate; the Heritage Foundation used to give it higher marks for "economic freedom" than any other Western nation. When things went bad, Ireland once again received lavish praise, this time for its harsh spending cuts, which were supposed to inspire confidence and lead to quick recovery.

And now, as I said, almost a third of Ireland's young can't find jobs.

What should we do to help America's young? Basically, the opposite of what Mr. Romney and his friends want. We should be expanding student aid, not slashing it. And we should reverse the de facto austerity policies that are holding back the U.S. economy - the unprecedented cutbacks at the state and local level, which have been hitting education especially hard.

Yes, such a policy reversal would cost money. But refusing to spend that money is foolish and shortsighted even in purely fiscal terms. Remember, the young aren't just America's future; they're the future of the tax base, too.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste; wasting the minds of a whole generation is even more terrible. Let's stop doing it.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it."
~~~ Edward Dowling

Brewing Up A Conflict With China
By Paul Craig Roberts

Washington has pressured the Philippines, whose government it owns, into conducting joint military exercises in the South China Sea. Washington's excuse is that China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries concerning island and sea rights in the South China Sea. Washington asserts that China's territorial disputes with the like of Indonesia and the Philippines are a matter of United States' national interests.

Washington has not made it clear what Washington's stake is in the disputes. The reason Washington cannot identify why China's disputes with the Philippines and Indonesia are threats to the United States is that there is no reason. Nevertheless, the undefined "threat" has become the reason Washington needs more naval bases in the Philippines and South Korea.

What this is all about is provoking a long-term cold war conflict with China that will keep profits and power flowing into Washington's military-security complex. Large profits flow to armaments companies. A portion of the profits reflow into campaign contributions to "the people's representatives" in DC and to presidential candidates who openly sell out their country to private interests.

Washington is going to construct new naval bases in the Philippines and on the environmentally protected Jeju Island belonging to South Korea. Washington will waste tax revenues, or print more money, in order to build the unnecessary fleets to occupy these bases. Washington is acquiring bases in Australia for US Marines to protect Australia from China, despite the lack of Chinese threats against Australia. Bush and Obama are the leading models of the "people's president" who sell out the people, at home and abroad, to private interests.

Why is Washington ramping up a new cold war?

The answer begins with President Eisenhower's warning to the American people in his last public address about the military/industrial complex in 1961. I won't quote the warning as it is available online. Eisenhower pointed out to Americans that unlike previous wars after which the US demilitarized, after World War II the cold war with the Soviet Union kept the power and profits flowing into the military/industrial complex, now known as the military/security complex. President Eisenhower said that the flow of power and profit into the military/industrial complex was a threat to the economic wellbeing and liberty of the American people.

No one paid any attention, and the military/security complex was glad to be rid of the five-star general war hero president when his second term expired. Thanks to the hype about the "Soviet threat," the military/security complex faced an unlimited horizon of mounting profits and power as Americans sacrificed their future to the interests of those who protected Americans from the Soviet threat.

The good times rolled for the armaments companies and security agencies for almost three decades until Reagan and Gorbachev reached agreement and ended the cold war. When the Soviet Union subsequently collapsed, the future outlook for the power and profit of the US military/security complex was bleak. The one percent was about to lose its fortunes and the secret government was about to lose its power.

The military/security complex went to work to revive the need for a massive "defense" and "security" budget. Among their willing tools were the neoconservatives, with their French Jacobin ideology and Israeli loyalties. The neocons defined America as the "indispensable people." Such extraordinary people as Americans must establish hegemony over the world as the sole remaining superpower. As most neoconservatives are allied with Israel, the Muslim Middle East became the target of opportunity.

Muslims are sufficiently different from Westerners that Muslims are easy to demonize.

The demonization began in the neoconservative publications. Once Dick Cheney had the George W. Bush regime staffed with neoconservatives, the next step was to create "threats" to Americans out of verbiage about the Taliban's responsibility for 9/11 and about "Iraqi weapons of mass destruction," including verbal images from Bush's National Security Advisor of "mushroom clouds" over US cities.

No one in the US government or the "free" US media or the media of the US puppet states in England, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Australia and South Korea was struck by Washington's proposition that "the world's sole superpower" was threatened by the likes of Iraq and Iran, neither of which had any offensive military capability or any modern weapons, according to the unequivocal reports of the weapons inspectors.

What kind of "superpower" is threatened by Iraq and Iran? Certainly, not a real one.

No one seemed to notice that the alleged 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabians, not Afghans or Iraqis, yet it was Afghanistan and Iraq that were labeled "terrorist threats."

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which do terrorize their subjects, are safe from having America bring them democracy, because they are Washington's puppets, not independent countries.

As fear of nonentities swept over the population of "the world's sole superpower," the demands for war against "America's enemies"-"you are with us or against us"-swept through the country. "Support the troops" plastic ribbons appeared on American cars. Americans went into a frenzy. The "towel heads" were after us, and we had to fight for our lives or be murdered in our beds, shopping centers, and airliner seats.

It was all a hoax to replace the Soviet threat with the Muslim threat.

The problem that developed with the "Muslim threat" is that in order to keep the profits and power flowing into the military/security complex, the promised six-week war in Iraq had to be extended into 8 years. The war in Afghanistan against a few thousand lightly armed Taliban has persisted for more than a decade, longer than the attempted Red Army occupation of Afghanistan.

In other words, the problem with hot wars is that the need not to win them in order to keep them going (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan are all long-term wars never won) in order that the profits and power continue to flow to the military/security complex demoralizes the US military and creates the world-wide impression that the "world's sole superpower" cannot even defeat a few thousand insurgents armed with AK-47s, much less a real army.

In Iraq and Afghanistan more US soldiers have died from demoralization and suicides than from combat. In Iraq, the US was humiliated by having to end the war by putting the Sunni insurgents on the US military payroll and paying them to stop killing US troops. In Korea the US was stopped by an army of a backward third world country that lived on rice. What would happen today if the US "superpower's" militarily confronted China, a country with an economy on which the US is dependent, about equal in size to the US economy, operating on its home territory? The only chance the evil in Washington would have would be nuclear war, which would mean the destruction of the entire world by Washington's hubris.

Fortunately, profits are more important to Washington than ending life on earth. Therefore, war with China will be avoided, just as it was avoided with the Soviet Union.

However, China will be presented by Washington and its prostitute media, especially the New York Times, Washington Post, and Murdoch's collection of whores, as the rising threat to America. The media story will shift the importance of America's allies from Europe to countries bordering the South China Sea. American taxpayers' money, or newly printed money, will flow into the "new alliance against China."

China's rise is a great boon to the US military/security complex, which governs america in which there is a pretense of "freedom and democracy." China is the profitable replacement for the "Soviet threat." As the days go by, the presstitute media will create in the feeble minds of Americans "The CHINA Threat."

Soon whatever little remains of the US living standard will be sacrificed to Washington's confrontation with China, along with the seizure of our pensions and personal savings in order to deter "the China threat."

If only Americans were an intelligent people. Then they might have some prospect of holding on to their incomes, remaining wealth, and liberty. Unfortunately, Americans are so thoroughly plugged into the Matrix that they present as a doomed people, incapable of thought, reason, or ability to comprehend the facts that the rest of the world sees clearly.

Can reality be brought to the American people? Perhaps a miracle will occur. Stay tuned.
(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:

The GOP's Death Wish
Why Republicans Can't Stop Pissing Off Hispanics, Women, And Young People
By Robert Reich

What are the three demographic groups whose electoral impact is growing fastest? Hispanics, women, and young people. Who are Republicans pissing off the most? Latinos, women, and young people.

It's almost as if the GOP can't help itself.

Start with Hispanic voters, whose electoral heft keeps growing as they comprise an ever-larger portion of the electorate. Hispanics now favor President Obama over Romney by more than two to one, according to a recent Pew poll.

The movement of Hispanics into the Democratic camp has been going on for decades. What are Republicans doing to woo them back? Replicating California Republican Governor Pete Wilson's disastrous support almost twenty years ago for Proposition 187 - which would have screened out undocumented immigrants from public schools, health care, and other social services, and required law-enforcement officials to report any "suspected" illegals. (Wilson, you may remember, lost that year's election, and California's Republican Party has never recovered.)

The Arizona law now before the Supreme Court - sponsored by Republicans in the state and copied by Republican legislators and governors in several others - would authorize police to stop anyone looking Hispanic and demand proof of citizenship. It's nativism disguised as law enforcement.

Romney is trying to distance himself from that law, but it's not working. That may be because he dubbed it a "model law" during February's Republican primary debate in Arizona, and because its author (former state senator Russell Pearce, who was ousted in a special election last November largely by angry Hispanic voters) says he's working closely with Romney advisers.

Hispanics are also reacting to Romney's attack just a few months ago on GOP rival Texas Governor Rick Perry for supporting in-state tuition at the University of Texas for children of undocumented immigrants. And to Romney's advocacy of what he calls "self-deportation" - making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants and their families that they choose to leave.

As if all this weren't enough, the GOP has been pushing voter ID laws all over America, whose obvious aim is to intimidate Hispanic voters so they won't come to the polls. But they may have the opposite effect - emboldening the vast majority of ethnic Hispanics, who are American citizens, to vote in even greater numbers and lend even more support to Obama and other Democrats.

Or consider women - whose political and economic impact in America continues to grow (women are fast becoming better educated than men and the major breadwinners in American homes). The political gender gap is huge. According to recent polls, women prefer Obama to Romney by over 20 percent.

So what is the GOP doing to woo women back? Attacking them. Last February, House Republicans voted to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. Last May, they unanimously passed the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," banning the District of Columbia from funding abortions for low-income women. (The original version removed all exceptions - rape, incest, and endangerment to a mother's life - except "forcible" rape.)

Earlier this year Republican legislators in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Alabama pushed bills requiring women seeking abortions to undergo invasive vaginal ultrasound tests (Pennsylvania Republicans even wanted proof such had viewed the images).

Republican legislators in Georgia and Arizona passed bills banning most abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy. The Georgia bill would also require that any abortion after 20 weeks be done in a way to bring the fetus out alive. Republican legislators in Texas have voted to eliminate funding for any women's healthcare clinic with an affiliation to an abortion provider - even if the affiliation is merely a shared name, employee, or board member.

All told, over 400 Republican bills are pending in state legislatures, attacking womens' reproductive rights.

But even this doesn't seem enough for the GOP. Republicans in Wisconsin just repealed a law designed to prevent employers from discriminating against women.

Or, finally, consider students - a significant and growing electoral force, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008. What are Republicans doing to woo them back? Attack them, of course.

Republican Budget Chair Paul Ryan's budget plan - approved by almost every House Republican and enthusiastically endorsed by Mitt Romney - allows rates on student loans to double on July 1 - from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. That will add an average of $1,000 a year to student debt loads, which already exceed credit-card debt.

House Republicans say America can't afford the $6 billion a year it would require to keep student loan rates down to where they are now. But that same Republican plan gives wealthy Americans trillions of dollars in tax cuts over the next decade. (Under mounting political pressure, House Republicans have come up with just enough money to keep the loan program going for another year - safely past Election Day - by raiding a fund established for preventive care in the new health-care act.)

Here again, Romney is trying to tiptoe away from the GOP position. He now says he supports keeping student loans where they were. Yet only a few months ago he argued that subsidized student loans were bad because they encouraged colleges to raise their tuition.

How can a political party be so dumb as to piss off Hispanics, women, and young people? Because the core of its base is middle-aged white men - and it doesn't seem to know how to satisfy its base without at the same time turning off everyone who's not white, male, and middle-aged.
(c) 2012 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Dead Letter Office...


Heil Obama,

Dear der Irrsinnig Barton,

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 attempts to destroy science and replace it with religion, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Scott Walker's Austerity Agenda Yields 'Worst Job Losses in US'
By John Nichols

We've heard about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's war on workers.

We've heard about Scott Walker's war on women.

But what about Scott Walker's war on Illinois.

The governor-who has made himself the face of an American austerity push that uses the fantasy of "shared sacrfice" to redistribute wealth upward-went to Springfield, Illinois, two weeks ago to tell the state's business leaders that their state should do it his way. Walker's argument was that Illinois was getting everything wrong and that Wisconsin was getting everything right when it came to encouraging job creation.

As he has for the past year in Florida, Arizona, Texas, California and other states, Walker was trying to export his approach to governing (and to pick up lots of campaign money): attacks on public employees, deep cuts in education and training, the undermining of public services and the rejection of federal support for transportation and broadband Internet development.

That, Walker said, is the way to create jobs.

Then reality set in.

The Bloomberg business new service, not exactly a liberal institution, ran a story headlined: "Republican Whipping-Boy Illinois Beats Wisconsin on Jobs." It reported: "Illinois ranked third while Wisconsin placed 42nd in the most recent Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States index, which includes personal income, tax revenue and employment. Illinois gained 32,000 jobs in the 12 months ending in February, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found. Wisconsin, where Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs with the help of business-tax breaks, lost 16,900."

Several days later, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, over the past year, Wisconsin had the worst job losses in the United States. Indeed, Wisconsin was the only state in the nation to experience "statistically significant" job losses over the period.

Wisconsin lost 23,900 jobs between March 2011 and March 2012, according to the BLS study. No other state lost more than 3,500 jobs. And, of course, Illinois was gaining.

As Illinois Governor Pat Quinn explained on MSNBC's Ed Show on the night the BLS report came out: "Wisconsin is dead last in job growth. Don't listen to Scott Walker if you want to get jobs in your state."

Instead of the Walker way, he said: "You have to honor the workers of our country, whether they work in the private sector or public sector. They're the heart and soul of America and 'made in America' are my favorite words."

Quinn's right. But with due respect to our friend from Illinois, those are also the favorite words of a lot of Wisconsinites. Our momentary challenge is that Wisconsin has a governor who is busy picking fights with workers, public education, public services and other states-fights that led to the devastating Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline of last week: "State Losses Worst in US."
(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.

'Shame on You'
Why I Interrupted Obama Counter-Terrorism Adviser John Brennan
By Medea Benjamin

Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan spoke at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC on April 30 to mark the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. It was the first time a high level member of the Obama Administration spoke at length about the U.S. drone strikes that the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command have been carrying out in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

"President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts," Brennan explained.

I had just co-organized a Drone Summit over the weekend, where Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar told us heart-wrenching stories about the hundreds of innocent victims of our drone attacks. We saw horrific photos of people whose bodies were blown apart by Hellfire missiles, with only a hand or a slab of flesh remaining. We saw poor children on the receiving end of our attacks-maimed for life, with no legs, no eyes, no future. And for all these innocents, there was no apology, no compensation, not even an acknowledgement of their losses. Nothing.

The U.S. government refuses to disclose who has been killed, for what reason, and with what collateral consequences. It deems the entire world a war zone, where it can operate at will, beyond the confines of international law.

So there I was at the Wilson Center, listening to Brennan describe our policies as ethical, "wise," and in compliance with international law. He spoke as if the only people we kill with our drone strikes are militants bent on killing Americans. "It is unfortunate that to save innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives - the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens." The only mention of taking innocent lives referred to Al Qaeda. "Al Qaeda's killing of innocent civilians, mostly Muslim men, women and children, has badly tarnished its image and appeal in the eyes of Muslims around the world." This is true, but the same must be said of U.S. policies that fuel anti-American sentiments in the eyes of Muslims around the world.

So I stood up and in a calm voice, spoke out.

"Excuse me, Mr. Brennan, will you speak out about the innocents killed by the United States in our drone strikes? What about the hundreds of innocent people we are killing with drone strikes in the Philippines, in Yemen, in Somalia? I speak out on behalf of those innocent victims. They deserve an apology from you, Mr. Brennan. How many people are you willing to sacrifice? Why are you lying to the American people and not saying how many innocents have been killed?"

My heart was racing as a female security guard and then a burly Federal Protection Service policeman started pulling me out, but I kept talking.

"I speak out on behalf of Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old in Pakistan who was killed simply because he wanted to document the drone strikes. I speak out on behalf of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old born in Denver, killed in Yemen just because his father was someone we don't like. I speak out on behalf of the Constitution and the rule of law." My parting words as they dragged me out the door were, "I love the rule of law and I love my country. You are making us less safe by killing so many innocent people. Shame on you, John Brennan."

I was handcuffed and taken to the basement of the building, where I was questioned about my background and motives. To their credit, it seems the Wilson Center thought it would not be good to have someone arrested for exercising their right to free speech, so I was released.

Brennan's speech came the day after another U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, one that killed three alleged militants. After the strike, the Pakistani government voiced its strongest and most public condemnation yet, accusing the United States of violating Pakistani sovereignty, calling the campaign "a total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations." Earlier in April the Pakistani Parliament unanimously condemned drone strikes and established a new set of guidelines for rebuilding the country's frayed relationship with the United States, which included the immediate cessation of all drone strikes in Pakistani territory.

The attacks in Pakistan, carried out by the CIA, started in 2004. Since then, there have been over 300 strikes. The areas where the strikes take place have been sealed off by the Pakistani security forces, so it has been difficult to get accurate reports about deaths and damages. John Brennan has denied that innocents have even been killed. Speaking in June 2011 about the preceding year, he said "there hasn't been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we've been able to develop." Mr. Brennan later adjusted his statement somewhat, saying, "Fortunately, for more than a year, due to our discretion and precision, the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths resulting from U.S. counterterrorism operations outside of Afghanistan or Iraq."

This is just not true. The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism is the group that keeps the best count of casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. According to its figures, since 2004, U.S. has killed between about 2,500-3,000 people in Pakistan. Of those, between 479 and 811 were civilians, 174 of them children.

Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who has been representing drone victims and who started the group Foundation for Fundamental Rights, disputes even these figures and claims that the vast majority of those killed are ordinary civilians. "I have a problem with this word 'militant.' Most of the victims who are labeled militants might be Taliban sympathizers but they are not involved in any criminal or terrorist acts, and certainly not against the United States," he claimed. He said the Americans often assumes that if someone wears a turban, has a beard and carries a weapon, he is a combatant. "That is a description of all the men in that region of Pakistan. It is part of their culture." Shahzad believes that only those people who the Americans label "high-value targets," which would be less than 200, should be considered militants; all others should be considered civilian victims.

While President Obama is gearing up for an election campaign and using his drone-strike killing spree to as a sign of his tough stance on national security, people from across the United States and around the world are organizing to rein in the drones.

Gathering in Washington DC on April 28-29, they came up with a new campaign to educate the American public about civilian deaths in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere as a result of the use of drones for illegal killing and to pressure members of Congress, President Obama, federal agencies, and state and local governments to restrict the use of drones for illegal killing and surveillance. The tactics include court challenges, delegations to the affected regions, direct action at U.S. bases from where the drones are operated, student campaigns to divest from companies involved in the production of killer drones and outreach to faith-based communities.

If you would like to get involved, make sure to sign up here.
(c) 2012 Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK, which has organized seven humanitarian delegations to Gaza. She is author of Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Rick McKee ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Obama lays out his bold immigration policy, and then lays out
the shell of a compromised immigration plan he'll get if he's lucky.

Obama Launches More Realistic 'I Have Big Ideas But We'll See How It Goes' Campaign Slogan

CHICAGO-After coming to terms with the limited scope of what he can realistically expect to accomplish as president, Barack Obama announced Wednesday a new, more practical campaign slogan that will serve as the cornerstone for his 2012 reelection bid:

"I Have Big Ideas But We'll See How It Goes."

"My fellow citizens, I stand here today to tell you that, if given a second term, I have very big plans for our nation's future," Obama said during a rally at Chicago's Navy Pier. "Ambitious, forward-thinking plans I will have to drastically scale down based on opinion polls, budget considerations, and political roadblocks, but, you know, I'll see what I can do. No promises, though."

"More than likely I'll have to placate political rivals until my bold agenda is a shell of what it once was." Obama added. "And that's what the 'We'll See' campaign is all about. Now let us go boldly forth and compromise our ideals."

Saying he intends to give certain initiatives a shot but that it's not looking very good, Obama cited lasting bipartisanship cooperation in Congress, birth-control coverage for all women, and an affordable college education for every citizen as concrete examples of ridiculous ideas that Americans need to put out of their minds, because, according to the president, "We're not living in a fantasyland here."

This year's campaign bus has been dubbed the
"I'll Try But It's Not Looking Very Good Express."

Instead, Obama said he hopes to rally voters behind causes like holding teachers accountable for student performances "while remembering tenure provisions that protect terrible educators from getting fired," imposing a surtax on millionaires "unless of course Republicans fight me really hard, which, in that case, what are you going to do," and an economic stimulus bill to fund new infrastructure that "doesn't have a chance in hell of passing but sure would be nice."

"Think of the America within our reach: a nation of entrepreneurs and innovators and dreamers capable of making big plans that will eventually be crushed by acrimonious gridlock," Obama said to smattering applause. "That's the future I see for America, because, let's be honest, that's just how it's always going to be."

"Then again, you never know," Obama continued, "If 50 or 60 key people die, there's a chance some of my policy ideas might at least make it past various Senate and House committees. Fingers crossed."

According to top campaign strategist David Axelrod, the new slogan's message may sideline older themes like hope and change, but it allows Obama to portray himself as the sensible candidate who can think big, back off that thought because it has no chance of actually happening, and then settle for something nowhere near as exciting.

Axelrod said the slogan was chosen after a brainstorming session that saw the coining of such phrases as "Change We Can Believe In If We Critically Redefine The Term," "Hope Within The Boundaries Of Common Sense And Lowered Expectations," and "Look, Any Guy You Vote Into Office Is Going To Face The Same Bullshit Problems Every President-Democrat Or Republican-Has Faced For Decades, So It Might As Well Be Me: Obama 2012."

"'Yes We Can' really resonated with citizens because they needed hope," said Axelrod, who was wearing a 'We'll See' button that depicts a subdued President Obama weighing two options, both of which, Axelrod confirmed, are less than ideal. "'I Have Big Ideas But We'll See How It Goes' resonates because people have been beaten down and know they shouldn't get their hopes up in terms of the country improving."

Many pundits have already condemned the new slogan, saying that while its language may capture the spirit of the political moment, its rhetoric is too optimistic.

"On the one hand, the slogan works because it avoids using overly presumptive words like 'win,' 'tomorrow,' 'future,' or 'better,'" Politico's chief White House correspondent Mike Allen said. "But using a phrase like 'We'll See' is also misleading, because it implies there is a slight possibility that something could happen. Unfortunately, voters need to realize that, at this point, nothing they could ever envision for the future-and I seriously mean nothing-has any chance of ever becoming a reality."
(c) 2012 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 18 (c) 05/04/2012

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