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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh wonders, "René, Can We Begin A Dream Collaboration Project?"

Uri Avnery returns with, "Bibi And The Yo-Yos."

David Sirota concludes it's, "Time To Crack Down On Child-Focused Ads."

Randall Amster asks, "Shall We Wall In The Entire Nation?"

Jim Hightower says, "Three Wrongs Don't Make Big Oil Right."

Helen Thomas considers, "The U.S.-Israeli Relationship."

James Donahue examines, "Food Shortages – The Next World Crisis?"

Sam Harris contemplates, "Morality Without 'Free Will.'"

Chris Floyd reviews a, "Borderline Case."

Cynthia McKinney reveals an, "Anatomy Of A Murder."

Paul Krugman is, "Against Learned Helplessness."

Chris Hedges with an absolute must read, "The Sky Really Is Falling."

David Michael Green receives, "Dispatches From The End Of Empire."

Politico stenographer Jennifer Epstein wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols studies, "Gil Scott-Heron's Revolution."

Glenn Greenwald explores, "Establishment Thought And The War On Terror."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Obama Makes It Through Another Day Of Resisting Urge To Launch All U.S. Nuclear Weapons At Once" but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "Fourth Amendment We Hardly Knew Ye!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Sack, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, Clay Bennett, Dees Illustration.Com, Danny Choo.Com, New York Times, H. Koppdelaney, Beyond Pollution, San Francisco Sentinel.Com, Associated Press, 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."

Fourth Amendment We Hardly Knew Ye!
By Ernest Stewart

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." ~~~ Amendment IV ~ U.S. Constitution

"MSP are claiming to only use the devices when a search warrant is issued or with the consent of the owner. That said, ACLU has requested reports and an explanation of how and when the devices are used. In short, Michigan State Police have hardly cooperated. According to a statement from ACLU, the cost of retrieving these documents would amount to $544,680. To retrieve a single document, ALCU states that Michigan State Police are asking for $272,340. That seems a bit high, no?" ~~~ Taylor Martin

“The people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now concerns itself no more, and longs eagerly for just two things - bread and circuses” ~~~ Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, a.k.a. Juvenal

It's good news week
Someone's dropped a bomb somewhere
Contaminating atmosphere
And blackening the sky
It's Good News Week ~~ Hedgehoppers Anonymous

Well, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution has been suspended for another four years, except this time the tables have been reversed. You'll recall the last time this happened, the Demoncrats were aghast at the very idea of renewing the Traitors Act, oops, the Patriot Act. This time, they were all for it, while of all people, Rand Paul was trying to limit its reach into your life. Imagine that: a Rethuglican fighting for the Bill of Rights! What's this world coming to?

You'll recall that Obamahood was out of the country as the clock clicked down -- Harry Reid stopped debate and rammed it through the Sinate. As the midnight hour approached, the parchment of treason was signed by proxy with an autopen. Whether or not this was legal really doesn't matter since the Con-gress hasn't been following the Constitution since WWII. But do be relieved that back in 2006 one of the "Crime Family Bush's"™ paid flunkeys said it was OK -- just like they said torture was OK, too. Besides, with Obamahood claiming the authority to murder American citizens without any oversight, signing a bill by autopen is the least of our worries -- even if it destroys the Bill of Rights for another four years.

Both of my Sinators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, voted to steal our rights, so you know what I did, don't you? That's right, I wrote them both a letter for whatever good that might do; and since I'm not a billion dollar contributor to their war chest, I'm sure it was immediately filed in the circular file upon receipt. Still, hear it is:

Hey Carl,

I see that you voted for the Traitors Act, why am I not surprised? Well, so much for the 4th Amendment that you took an oath to protect, huh? Better to keep us under Big Brother's watchful eye for our own protection, eh? Big Brother knows best, right, Carl?

Tell me, Carl, how do you look yourself in the mirror in the morning without taking your razor and cutting your throat? An honorable man would fall on his sword; but we both know you won't do that as you have no honor!

Needless to say this old liberal will be voting Green from now on.

Pity is, I don't have the money to move to another country -- so like the Jews in Nazi Germany or the Palestinians in Palestine, I must sit and wait for the SS to come and send me off to one of those new Happy Camps for the final solution to the liberal question. Heil Obama? NOT!

Thanks for betraying us, Carl; we won't forget! Still, I must admit I like your shiny new Jack Boots and that arm band is to die for, literally!

Your radical pal,
Ernest Stewart

As I told a girl on Facebook the other day, "After a while, you get used to those silent black helicopters following you around.

In Other News

You may recall that last November, Michigan went from blue to red and began goose-stepping -- destroying off what was good and needed in Michigan. Governor Rick Hitler, er, Adolph Snyder, oops, Rick Snyder started off by making himself more of an emperor than a governor, and had the Con-gressmen and Sinators vote him special dictatorial powers, then began at once to use them. He also gave a billion dollar tax break to the rich and placed a tax on retirees to pay for it! Yes, I know -- just another typical Rethuglican!

Rick then gave himself the power to take over any city, village, or county government, and appoint someone to run it with the ability to get rid of any elected officials that he choose to. Break any union contracts without anyone overseeing him, reporting only to der Fuhrer. If you don't like these actions, then you can leave. Either love this fascist takeover of the state or leave it! Where have we heard that before?

Not to be outdone, the Michigan State Police, who make the gestapo look like amateurs by comparison now have a little machine called a Cellebrite UFED. This device allows Big Brother to download everything that's on your Smart Phone, iPad, or laptop in about 90 seconds -- every number, every photo, everything -- even some things you've erased! Let me not forget that with a UFED, they can bypass all your passwords, too! Oh, and did I mention they can do this without a search warrant, as they can in California, Florida, and Georgia, to name a few states.

Of course, this is in direct violation of the 4th Amendment, which is what the Ohio Supreme Court said in a recent ruling. However, living here under ze "new order" there's no need for a 4th Amendment, as Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David said, "There is no modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence." So how do you like the tea bagger takeover of America, so far?

And Finally

I see we've been up to no good in Libya again. Apparently, the US Navy's been using cluster bombs and depleted uranium on civilian targets in at least the city of Misratah (and who knows where else?) since April. Of course, we were actually targeting military sites which happen to be in heavily-populated areas, which means with cluster bombs, many more civilians are killed than the military. So much for winning hearts and minds, huh?

Word is that Gaddafi is hiding out in hospitals, elementary schools and such. Whether this is true or not isn't the point. The point is that those buildings will no doubt soon become targets for collateral damage in future air strikes as they have in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Pakistan. We wiped out a dozen children and some women the other day in Afghanistan in a NATO airstrike which sent the Afghani president into a tither with talk of throwing NATO out of the country if it happens again. Of course, it will happen again and Hamid Karzai will no doubt give a stirring speech full of sound and fury and signifying nothing -- followed by doing nothing about it! Yes, I left out the bit about being, "A Tale Told By An Idiot" as I thought that was just a bit redundant!

Then there was the Al Jazeera video plainly showing western troops on the ground in Libya near Misratah on the front line with the rebels. These "special forces" were playing an active role in the battle, but somehow weren't spotted by American and British "journalists" who were apparently with them -- funny thing that, huh? I've come to rely on Al Jazeera for the news as all of our "journalists" have been "in bed" with the troops like they were in all of our wars since Vietnam -- which was the last one of our wars where there was real journalists that reported the truth, instead of our current crop that reports what der Fuhrer tells them to report, whether the Fuhrer was Ray-guns, King George I or II, Slick Willie or Obamahood. Which is by a strange coincidence why I felt the overwhelming need to get the truth out to as many folks as could stand to hear it!

The endless war continues, as it will forever and ever until the treasury is empty -- unless you get up off the couch and put an end to it. To paraphrase "Smoky the Bear," "Only you can prevent, needless, endless wars." I'm pretty sure that you can't be bothered to stop it as you might miss "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars" or "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle," at least until the "Bread and Circuses" run out!

Keepin' On

It's always something - isn't it? Every week some new unexpected nightmare brought to you by our power elite. It's next to imposible to keep up with it all. For example by December 2002 we had counted and document over two hundred separate acts of treason and sedition by the "Crime Family Bush"™ and their minions. We gave up counting at that point because what was the point to keep counting, when nothing was going to be done about it.

As Barry said as soon as he was sworn in that we should forget about the past acts of treason and sedition committed by Smirky, old dead eye Cheney and crew and look only forward, end of conversation, a conversation that got him in the White House. At which point many of the liberal sheeple rolled over and went back to sleep. The main stream media fell in line behind him as they did behind Bush just as soon as they realized that Barry was just more of the same and they started covering up this act of treason or that war crime or crime against humanity, i.e., it was business as usual!

It's never been business as usual at Issues & Alibis because as Bart Cop would say "I hate everybody" but isn't that what you want from a news service, someone that hasn't been bought out by either party or as in most cases of the MSM by both parties. Someone that wouldn't let his allegiance to the lesser of two evils blind his site and journalistic abilities. We just tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may.

If you appreciate that then help us out if you can. We're still about $500 short on June's bill, we have raised the other twelve hundred so one of our three yearly bills is coming due in about three weeks time and since my tiny SS check which is 1/3 of what it should be and hence I have no spare money for anything and won't be able to pay it or put it off, so a little help Ya'll, if you would be so kind. Just click on the donations button at the top of this page and follow the instructions and we'll keep on keepin' on, bringing you what you really need to know about America in the 21st century!


04-01-1949 - 05-27-2011
Rock on my brother!

10-05-1950 - 05-27-2011
Thanks for the film!

09-20-1917 - 05-30-2011
Thanks for the film!


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


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

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

René, Can We Begin A Dream Collaboration Project?
Descartes pilots a Predator Drone
By Phil Rockstroh

“Human language is like a cracked kettle drum on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when what we long to do is make music that will move the stars to pity.” ~~~ Gustave Flaubert

Descartes, I’ve heard tale: On the night before you published your treatise, Rules For The Direction Of The Mind, you dreamed: Walking a city street, you found yourself leaning so far to the right, that, as you proceeded along the sidewalk, your head and body were positioned almost parallel to the ground…er…excuse me, but can we talk about this, René?

Shortly thereafter, you insisted that: Dreams were as dead as dust — and proclaimed animals are machines, neither worthy of names nor worth consideration, other than for commodification.

Instead, can we collaborate on a dream in which we create a legacy in lasting air so that we might chronicle the world before us…its ceaseless proliferation and its ceaseless culling — its ever-present laugh of triumph and elegy without end?

Amid this: René, we are, like you, so baffled by who we are in relationship to the world, it is difficult to meet life head on…verities buffeted, we are blown, this way, then that…upended, directionless in a landscape of veritable regret and fleeting revelry…regardless, we trudge on.

Did wielding the cutlery of glinting certitude banish trepidation, as you cut down opaque existence and evanescent identity to manageable bits?

Yet ensnared in the algorithms of the machine mind, days are denuded…night is banished.

The bee-loud grasses have been rendered mute as the buzz of Predator Drones rises.

Dualist mind, enchanted by your mastery of things you deem dead, you have bred seething clouds of black flies infesting Cartesian slaughterhouse holding pens and bequeathed to us dying oceans and endless wars waged from vast distances by bloodless technocrats within cubicles.

Because you averred that the only way to know ourselves is to mince the living and the dead into tiny bits, I was trained to rip myself asunder and serve my lifeless heart to my betters.

You — frenzied maenads turned wine-to-blood, reductionist clinicians — that is my head in your hands — worse, that is the dream body of the world you have torn to tatters.

Yet the ashes of your charnel house aspirations hang in air like musical notes…and, like all night music, will dissolve into earth at dawn.

Thus you and I must keep reminding ourselves to weep for the things of this world that suffer; otherwise, we mistake the earth’s impersonal dreaming for our own.

Adjust your body back to the left, René, face forward, meet the world’s gaze at eye level, and more might be revealed.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Bibi And The Yo-Yos
By Uri Avnery

IT WAS all rather disgusting.

There they were, the members of the highest legislative bodies of the world’s only superpower, flying up and down like so many yo-yos, applauding wildly, every few minutes or seconds, the most outrageous lies and distortions of Binyamin Netanyahu.

It was worse than the Syrian parliament during a speech by Bashar Assad, where anyone not applauding could find himself in prison. Or Stalin’s Supreme Soviet, when showing less than sufficient respect could have meant death.

What the American Senators and Congressmen feared was a fate worse than death. Anyone remaining seated or not applauding wildly enough could have been caught on camera – and that amounts to political suicide. It was enough for one single congressman to rise and applaud, and all the others had to follow suit. Who would dare not to?

The sight of these hundreds of parliamentarians jumping up and clapping their hands, again and again and again and again, with the Leader graciously acknowledging with a movement of his hand, was reminiscent of other regimes. Only this time it was not the local dictator who compelled this adulation, but a foreign one.

The most depressing part of it was that there was not a single lawmaker – Republican or Democrat – who dared to resist. When I was a 9 year old boy in Germany, I dared to leave my right arm hanging by my side when all my schoolmates raised theirs in the Nazi salute and sang Hitler’s anthem. Is there no one in Washington DC who has that simple courage? Is it really Washington IOT – Israel Occupied Territory – as the anti-Semites assert?

Many years ago I visited the Senate hall and was introduced to the leading Senators of the time. I was profoundly shocked. After being brought up in deep respect for the Senate of the United States, the country of Jefferson and Lincoln, I was faced with a bunch of pompous asses, many of them nincompoops who had not the slightest idea what they were talking about. I was told that it was their assistants who really understood matters.

SO WHAT did the great man say to this august body?

It was a finely crafted speech, using all the standard tricks of the trade – the dramatic pause, the raised finger, the little witticisms, the sentences repeated for effect. Not a great orator, by any means, no Winston Churchill, but good enough for this audience and this occasion.

But the message could be summed up in one word: No.

After their disastrous debacle in 1967, the leaders of the Arab world met in Khartoum and adopted the famous Three No’s: NO recognition of Israel, No negotiation with Israel, NO peace with Israel. It was just what the Israeli leadership wanted. They could go happily about their business of entrenching the occupation and building settlements. Now Netanyahu is having his Khartoum. NO return to the 1967 borders. NO Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. NO to even a symbolic return of some refugees. NO military withdrawal from the Jordan River - meaning that the future Palestinian state would be completely surrounded by the Israeli armed forces. NO negotiation with a Palestinian government “supported” by Hamas, even if there are no Hamas members in the government itself. And so on – NO. NO. NO.

The aim is clearly to make sure that no Palestinian leader could even dream of entering negotiations, even in the unlikely event that he were ready to meet yet another condition: to recognize Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” – which includes the dozens of Jewish Senators and Congressmen who were the first to jump up and down, up and down, like so many marionettes.

Netanyahu, along with his associates and political bedfellows, is determined to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state by all and any means. That did not start with the present government – it is an aim deeply embedded in Zionist ideology and practice. The founders of the movement set the course, David Ben-Gurion acted to implement it in 1948, in collusion with King Abdallah of Jordan. Netanyahu is just adding his bit.

“No Palestinian state” means: no peace, not now, not ever. Everything else is, as the Americans say, baloney. All the pious phrases about happiness for our children, prosperity for the Palestinians, peace with the entire Arab world, a bright future for all, are just that – pure baloney. At least some in the audience must have noticed that, even with all that jumping.

NETANYAHU SPAT in Obama's eye. The Republicans in the audience must have enjoyed that. Perhaps some Democrats too.

It can be assumed that Obama did not. So what will he do now? There is a Jewish joke about a hungry pauper who entered an inn and demanded food. Otherwise, he threatened, he would do what his father did. The frightened innkeeper fed him, and in the end asked timidly: “But what did your father do?” Swallowing the last morsel, the man answered: “He went to sleep hungry.”

There is a good chance that Obama will do the same. He will pretend that the spittle on his cheek is rainwater. His promise to prevent a UN General Assembly recognition of the State of Palestine deprived him of his main leverage over Netanyahu.

Somebody in Washington seems to be floating the idea of Obama coming to Jerusalem and addressing the Knesset. It would be direct retaliation – Obama talking with the Israeli public over the head of the Prime Minister, as Netanyahu has just addressed the American public over the head of the President.

It would be an exciting event. As a former Member of the Knesset, I would be invited. But I would not advise it. I proposed it a year ago. Today I would not.

The obvious precedent is Anwar Sadat’s historic speech in the Knesset. But there is really no comparison. Egypt and Israel were still officially at war. Going to the capital of the enemy was without precedent, the more so only four years after a bloody battle. It was an act that shook Israel, eliminating in one stroke a whole set of mental patterns and opening the mind for new ones. Not one of us will ever forget the moment when the door of the airplane swung open and there he was, handsome and serene, the leader of the enemy.

Later, when I interviewed Sadat at his home, I told him: “I live on the main street of Tel Aviv. When you came out of that plane, I looked out of the window. Nothing moved in the street, except one cat – and it was probably looking for a television set.”

A visit by Obama will be quite different. He will, of course, be received politely – without the obsessive jumping and clapping – though probably heckled by Knesset Members of the extreme Right. But that will be all.

Sadat’s visit was a deed in itself. Not so a visit by Obama. He will not shake Israeli public opinion, unless he comes with a concrete plan of action – a detailed peace plan, with a detailed timetable, backed by a clear determination to see it through, whatever the political cost.

Another nice speech, however beautifully phrased, just will not do. After this week’s deluge of speeches, we have had enough. Speeches can be important if they accompany actions, but they are no substitute for action. Churchill’s speeches helped to shape history – but only because they reflected historic deeds. Without the Battle of Britain, without Normandy, without El Alamein, those speeches would have sounded ridiculous.

Now, with all the roads blocked, there remains only one path remains open: the recognition of the State of Palestine by the United Nations coupled with nonviolent mass action by the Palestinian people against the occupation. The Israeli peace forces will also play their part, because the fate of Israel depends on peace as much as the fate of Palestine.

Sure, the US will try to obstruct, and Congress will jump up and down, But the Israeli-Palestinian spring is on its way.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Time To Crack Down On Child-Focused Ads
By David Sirota

Is Snoop Dogg the new Joe Camel? Is Ronald McDonald? What about Facebook—has that website become synonymous with an infamous tobacco industry cartoon that preyed on unsuspecting kids?

During the last few weeks, these questions came to the forefront in a serendipitous series of jeremiads. First, critics accused Snoop of helping Colt 45 market a soda-esque alcohol drink to his underage fans. Then, Ronald was attacked in newspaper ads by health-care experts who demanded McDonald’s stop using the clown to push unhealthy foods on kids. And finally, AdAge reported on three lawsuits that say Facebook is unduly using pictures of children “for the commercial purpose of marketing, advertising, selling and soliciting.”

Whether or not this makes the rapper, the clown or the social network synonymous with Joe Camel, it’s good news that more Americans are again demanding scrutiny of advertisers that try to take advantage of children.

I say “again” because this issue has periodically popped up in our country since 1974. That year, citizens successfully pressured the Federal Communications Commission to regulate when advertisements could be aired and for how long, so as to prevent corporations from marketing directly to kids. Then, of course, came the conservative backlash in the 1980s whereby the FCC discarded its previous rules and President Reagan vetoed bipartisan legislation to preserve the most minimal limits on child-focused ads.

Thankfully, the momentum may now be shifting back—and not a moment too soon, considering just how much is being spent to influence children.

Since the beginning of deregulation in 1983, corporate expenditures on child-focused marketing have gone from $100 million per year to the current $17 billion per year. Because of this massive increase, the average American child today sees 20,000 television commercials annually, according to California State University. And it’s no surprise that such a barrage comes with significant downsides.

Take, as just one example, the consequences of food advertisements. A 2007 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that such spots, which comprise the largest overall share of child-focused marketing, “are for products that nutritionists would tell us (kids) need to be eating less of, not more of, if we’re going to get a handle on childhood obesity.”

From that cause comes the predictable effect, as documented by a 2010 UCLA study. Comparing kids who watched commercial-free television with those who watched the same number of hours of regular television, the researchers discovered that the more ads a child is exposed to, the more the child is at risk of being overweight.

Fortunately, as opposed to other vexing crises, this problem can be solved with some pretty simple steps.

We could, for example, just reinstate the FCC’s original regulations that limit the amount of advertising that can be aimed at kids. Alternately, we could go further by mimicking the Scandinavian countries that fully outlaw child-focused ads. Or, we could follow documentarian Morgan Spurlock, whose new film, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” encourages us to learn from Sao Paulo’s success in banning all outdoor visual advertising.

No matter what path we take, doing nothing should not be an option because advertisers are becoming more aggressive than ever. As The New York Times recently reported, companies are buying “the rights to place advertisements in public school cafeterias (and) on the sides of yellow school buses.”

It is yet another sign that the corporate campaign to manipulate our kids is only going to intensify—unless we put a stop to it.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Shall We Wall In The Entire Nation?
By Randall Amster

Once again, the politically-motivated notion of building a wall and building it high has reared its cynical head as the leading edge of Arizona's misguided border-control mania. To make matters worse, now we have a new law that allows the state to launch a website to solicit private donations to build more border fencing. Seriously?

Walls and fences are for apartheid regimes, not democratic nations. If we allow the flow of goods and services to move across borders more freely than people, then we've taken a dangerous step toward granting more rights to property than to human beings.

At the end of the day, the grim reality in this scenario is that desperate people will find ways under, around, over, or through walls if they have no better options for the future.

And therein lies the major fallacy of the border fence. It presupposes that we can simply wall off the problems to our south in some sort of "out of sight, out of mind" denial game. It literally cuts us off from dealing with our own contributions to those problems, largely through the disparate impacts of so-called "free trade" in which we externalize toxicity and deprivation while drawing in valuable resources and finished products.

Moreover, if we build a wall to keep "them" out, it begs the concomitant question of "us" being trapped inside that same wall.

Shall we wall in the entire nation, and thus self-incarcerate in the name of national purity or political expediency? The world is simply not wired anymore (if it ever was) for regressive protectionism; the realities of communications, economics, and the environment don't conform to the outmoded post-Westphalian order of nation-states like they did in the past.

Psychologically, walls not only cut us off from cultural exchange and new perspectives, but likewise cause us to fester within our own narrow parochialism. The sort of "us versus them" logic emblematized by a rigid wall is at the root of violence, warfare, and even genocidal impulses - as indicated by this recent online comment posted to The Daily Courier's editorial of May 11, 2011:

"Build the fence and then put a mine field with signs warning trespassers in both English and Spanish and any other languages you might prefer. Put up towers with armed guards authorized to shoot to kill. If they don't want to show us any respect for our borders, why should we show them any?"

Adding insult to injury, the state wants private donors to foot the bill for more border fencing, threatening to turn Arizona into the ultimate gated community where those with the means can deny others access in the name of preserving their own sterile safety. Setting up shop on a cul-de-sac is one thing, but taking the state itself down this self-defeating road is another thing altogether.

Perhaps in some dystopian world order, we can construct a wall draconian enough to keep "them" out. But there probably isn't one in the offing that can save us from ourselves.
(c) 2011 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Three Wrongs Don't Make Big Oil Right

Reaping extravagant profits from $4-a-gallon gasoline, Big Oil has been pumping out the company line in an effort to deflect public anger from itself: "We don't set prices at the pump," the executives lecture to us. "The price of gasoline is determined by the cost of crude oil, and that price is set by the free market."

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

First, the market for crude is hardly "free." Production of crude oil is controlled by an oligarchy, plus the price of crude is being manipulated by high-flying, unregulated speculators. Second, the price of gasoline is not only determined by the cost of the oil, but also by add-on costs attached by the handful of corporations that refine oil into gasoline. Third, these few refiners also constitute a price-setting oligarchy (otherwise know as Big Oil) that rips us off at the pump with $4-a-gallon gasoline.

Note that crude oil prices have fallen lately and consumer demand has also fallen, yet the price we consumers pay for gasoline has remained high. Curious, huh?

This perversion of the law of supply and demand comes courtesy of BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips – the chief oligarchs of Big Oil. To keep our prices high, they simply squeeze back the amount of gasoline produced in their refineries. They are now operating at only 82 percent of their processing capacity, an artificial manipulation that has cut the supply of gasoline by 900,000 barrels a day. By squeezing supply, they keep pump prices from falling, thus squeezing more money out of our wallets. With this squeeze play, refinery profits doubled in the last year.

Big Oil could easily process more gasoline, lower our prices at the pump, and still make a big profit. But that's not enough for these masters of greed – they're out to make a killing.
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The U.S.-Israeli Relationship
By Helen Thomas

President Barack Obama took a giant and courageous step when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to call. He literally told the Israeli leader where to jump.

Actually, he told Netanyahu that the 1967 borders should be the starting point for peace negotiations with Palestinian leaders.

As expected, the Israeli leader rejected the proposal outright. Why? Because of the "facts on the ground" - facts incidentally created by the Israelis, who have illegally usurped land and water from the Palestinians, by sheer military aggression.

Israel now has 78 percent of Palestinian land, taken in violation of the international law that occupied land cannot be annexed.

Obama also told Net that "hard choices" had to be made. The dialog went nowhere and the Israeli leader treated Obama like a messenger boy.

Before Obama took off to visit the Queen of England, he appeared before the annual gathering of the American Israeli Political Action Committee, a powerful Israeli lobby. At the AIPAC meeting, Net asserted that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state. Years ago, the United Nations asserted that Jerusalem was an international city, but the United States abstained from voting.

Netanyahu also said he could not negotiate with the Palestinian Fatah as long as it was united with the Hamas, the Palestinian party which was freely and democratically elected in Gaza under the monitoring of outside observers, including former President Jimmy Carter.

The Israelis claim that Hamas does not acknowledge their "right to exist." Sure, they do have a right to exist, but not in Palestinian homes.

After the election in occupied Gaza, Israel imprisoned the freely elected officials. The U.S. said nothing. Obama was rebuffed by the Israelis on all scores, and then left Washington to visit the Queen of England.

Netanyahu invited himself to speak before a joint session of a genuflecting Congress. During the session, members of the House and Senate kept jumping up and down from their seats to applaud the Israeli leader whose country holds hundreds of Palestinians as prisoner who have never been charged or convicted.

Netanyahu, in his remarks, warned against Iran achieving the nuclear know how, but the Israeli leader did not mention the fact that his country has a high end nuclear arsenal. Nor has any American official, by virtue of a promise to Israel, publicly disclosed that Israel has had a nuclear weapons stockpile for many years.

The Israeli leader could not have had a warmer, friendlier reception. Vice President Joe Biden was a jumping jack from his place next to John Boehner. Biden has never hidden his pro-Israeli views. He has said, "I am a Zionist." He also has said, "Throughout my career, Israel has not only remained close to my heart, but it also has been the center of my work as a U.S. Senator, and now as Vice President of the United States."

Also in the gathering was one of the most ardent Zionists, Eric Cantor, the Republican House whip from Virginia, who has said, "Israel is a pillar in our national security strategy and we ought to be emphasizing every bit of our commitment to Israel right now, as they face an existential threat."

For all that, time is not on Israel's side. The demographics tell us the opposite of total Israeli dominance in the Middle East will occur as time goes on.

Net indicates that he is willing to negotiate on the basis of a demilitarized Palestinian state. Nice work if he can get it.

Israel not only had a worshipful Congress to address, they also have had a fox in the chicken coop. He is Dennis Ross, a well known pro-Israeli American who has been Israel's watchdog in almost every Middle East peace negotiation over the past 25 years. He is detested by every Arab leader who has sat in with him on Middle East peace negotiations. Ross was also apparently able to out maneuver the President's special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, who struck out after 2 years of trying to achieve peace negotiations.

With a presidential election in view, and Republicans bereft of a front-running candidate, Obama is in the driver's seat. But he knows that he has to carefully cultivate the Israelis and he once again pledged during Netanyahu's visit that the U.S.-Israeli relationship is "unshakable, and unbreakable."
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Food Shortages – The Next World Crisis?
By James Donahue

It doesn’t take a genius to calculate that the turmoil in the Middle East and the growing world demand for energy is forcing the price of that dwindling resource, crude oil, through the roof. And as gasoline and diesel prices rise, it is having an impact on the world’s food supply.

We have already felt the hike in food prices at the grocery stores across North America. This has been caused by the extra cost of transporting food from the various places where fresh produce is grown and where processed food is packaged. Moving away from the family-owned and operated farms to industrial farming was a big mistake. We should have seen this coming.

But there is a bigger issue involving the world food bank that is staring us in the face. It is like the elephant in the room . . . so big and so obvious that most people have failed to notice it is happening right before their eyes. This is the violent and changing weather patterns.

The large flooded parts of the Midwest, draught and flash fires sweeping the Southwest and the extreme storms and heat waves hammering the south and Midwestern states is bound to have an effect on whatever crops the farmers are struggling to put in the ground this season. And they are doing this at high cost of production.

This is not a problem isolated to the United States or North America. The high cost of fuel and extreme weather changes are global in scope. If you have been watching the world news you know there has been record flooding in Australia and Brazil and extremely dry weather is affecting crops in other parts of the world.

The bad weather is fueling commodity speculation. A glance at Bloomberg or Forbes shows that speculators have been buying large quantities of grain and other food stuffs in anticipation of big price hikes and big profits. Hard hit has been the price of commodities like corn, soybeans, wheat, coco, coffee and sugar.

While the media has not been giving us specifics, the unrest, rioting and violence occurring in the Middle East and other places like Chile, Mozambique, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia is mostly over the high price of food and other commodities. There is no work and those who have jobs do not earn enough to feed their families.

North Korea reports extreme crop failure due to an extremely severe winter and is asking for world aid to prevent mass starvation. The situation is already so severe that North Koreans are reportedly foraging for wild grasses, herbs and even tree bark to stave off hunger.

The United Nations reports that 80 countries currently face food shortages this year, with at least 30 of them facing critical need and possible famine. The world supply of wheat is expected to drop by 5.1 percent to 647.7 million tons while the demand could hit 668 million tons.

So is the problem caused by changing weather patterns and global warming? That may be part of it. But another major factor has been an exploding world population. At the last census the world was packing over 6 billion people. This number is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2040. At the same time the soil has been over farmed, the seas have been over fished and there is a general degradation of the environment.
(c) 2011 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Morality Without 'Free Will'
By Sam Harris

Many people seem to believe that morality depends for its existence on a metaphysical quantity called “free will.” This conviction is occasionally expressed—often with great impatience, smugness, or piety—with the words, “ought implies can.” Like much else in philosophy that is too easily remembered (e.g. “you can’t get an ought from an is.”), this phrase has become an impediment to clear thinking.

In fact, the concept of free will is a non-starter, both philosophically and scientifically. There is simply no description of mental and physical causation that allows for this freedom that we habitually claim for ourselves and ascribe to others. Understanding this would alter our view of morality in some respects, but it wouldn’t destroy the distinction between right and wrong, or good and evil.

The following post has been adapted from my discussion of this topic in The Moral Landscape (pp. 102-110):

— We are conscious of only a tiny fraction of the information that our brains process in each moment. While we continually notice changes in our experience—in thought, mood, perception, behavior, etc.—we are utterly unaware of the neural events that produce these changes. In fact, by merely glancing at your face or listening to your tone of voice, others are often more aware of your internal states and motivations than you are. And yet most of us still feel that we are the authors of our own thoughts and actions.

The problem is that no account of causality leaves room for free will—thoughts, moods, and desires of every sort simply spring into view—and move us, or fail to move us, for reasons that are, from a subjective point of view, perfectly inscrutable. Why did I use the term “inscrutable” in the previous sentence? I must confess that I do not know. Was I free to do otherwise? What could such a claim possibly mean? Why, after all, didn’t the word “opaque” come to mind? Well, it just didn’t—and now that it vies for a place on the page, I find that I am still partial to my original choice. Am I free with respect to this preference? Am I free to feel that “opaque” is the better word, when I just do not feel that it is the better word? Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me.

There is a distinction between voluntary and involuntary actions, of course, but it does nothing to support the common idea of free will (nor does it depend upon it). The former are associated with felt intentions (desires, goals, expectations, etc.) while the latter are not. All of the conventional distinctions we like to make between degrees of intent—from the bizarre neurological complaint of alien hand syndrome to the premeditated actions of a sniper—can be maintained: for they simply describe what else was arising in the mind at the time an action occurred. A voluntary action is accompanied by the felt intention to carry it out, while an involuntary action isn’t. Where our intentions themselves come from, however, and what determines their character in every instant, remains perfectly mysterious in subjective terms. Our sense of free will arises from a failure to appreciate this fact: we do not know what we will intend to do until the intention itself arises. To see this is to realize that you are not the author of your thoughts and actions in the way that people generally suppose. This insight does not make social and political freedom any less important, however. The freedom to do what one intends, and not to do otherwise, is no less valuable than it ever was.

While all of this can sound very abstract, it is important to realize that the question of free will is no mere curio of philosophy seminars. A belief in free will underwrites both the religious notion of “sin” and our enduring commitment to retributive justice. The Supreme Court has called free will a “universal and persistent” foundation for our system of law, distinct from “a deterministic view of human conduct that is inconsistent with the underlying precepts of our criminal justice system” (United States v. Grayson, 1978). Any scientific developments that threatened our notion of free will would seem to put the ethics of punishing people for their bad behavior in question.

The great worry is that any honest discussion of the underlying causes of human behavior seems to erode the notion of moral responsibility. If we view people as neuronal weather patterns, how can we coherently speak about morality? And if we remain committed to seeing people as people, some who can be reasoned with and some who cannot, it seems that we must find some notion of personal responsibility that fits the facts.

Happily, we can. What does it really mean to take responsibility for an action? For instance, yesterday I went to the market; as it turns out, I was fully clothed, did not steal anything, and did not buy anchovies. To say that I was responsible for my behavior is simply to say that what I did was sufficiently in keeping with my thoughts, intentions, beliefs, and desires to be considered an extension of them. If, on the other hand, I had found myself standing in the market naked, intent upon stealing as many tins of anchovies as I could carry, this behavior would be totally out of character; I would feel that I was not in my right mind, or that I was otherwise not responsible for my actions. Judgments of responsibility, therefore, depend upon the overall complexion of one’s mind, not on the metaphysics of mental cause and effect.

Consider the following examples of human violence:

1. A four-year-old boy was playing with his father’s gun and killed a young woman. The gun had been kept loaded and unsecured in a dresser drawer.

2. A twelve-year-old boy, who had been the victim of continuous physical and emotional abuse, took his father’s gun and intentionally shot and killed a young woman because she was teasing him.

3. A twenty-five-year-old man, who had been the victim of continuous abuse as a child, intentionally shot and killed his girlfriend because she left him for another man.

4. A twenty-five-year-old man, who had been raised by wonderful parents and never abused, intentionally shot and killed a young woman he had never met “just for the fun of it.”

5. A twenty-five-year-old man, who had been raised by wonderful parents and never abused, intentionally shot and killed a young woman he had never met “just for the fun of it.” An MRI of the man’s brain revealed a tumor the size of a golf ball in his medial prefrontal cortex (a region responsible for the control of emotion and behavioral impulses).

In each case a young woman has died, and in each case her death was the result of events arising in the brain of another human being. The degree of moral outrage we feel clearly depends on the background conditions described in each case. We suspect that a four-year-old child cannot truly intend to kill someone and that the intentions of a twelve-year-old do not run as deep as those of an adult. In both cases 1 and 2, we know that the brain of the killer has not fully matured and that all the responsibilities of personhood have not yet been conferred. The history of abuse and precipitating cause in example 3 seem to mitigate the man’s guilt: this was a crime of passion committed by a person who had himself suffered at the hands of others. In 4, we have no abuse, and the motive brands the perpetrator a psychopath. In 5, we appear to have the same psychopathic behavior and motive, but a brain tumor somehow changes the moral calculus entirely: given its location, it seems to divest the killer of all responsibility. How can we make sense of these gradations of moral blame when brains and their background influences are, in every case, and to exactly the same degree, the real cause of a woman’s death?

It seems to me that we need not have any illusions about a casual agent living within the human mind to condemn such a mind as unethical, negligent, or even evil, and therefore liable to occasion further harm. What we condemn in another person is the intention to do harm—and thus any condition or circumstance (e.g., accident, mental illness, youth) that makes it unlikely that a person could harbor such an intention would mitigate guilt, without any recourse to notions of free will. Likewise, degrees of guilt could be judged, as they are now, by reference to the facts of the case: the personality of the accused, his prior offenses, his patterns of association with others, his use of intoxicants, his confessed intentions with regard to the victim, etc. If a person’s actions seem to have been entirely out of character, this will influence our sense of the risk he now poses to others. If the accused appears unrepentant and anxious to kill again, we need entertain no notions of free will to consider him a danger to society.

Why is the conscious decision to do another person harm particularly blameworthy? Because consciousness is, among other things, the context in which our intentions become available to us. What we do subsequent to conscious planning tends to most fully reflect the global properties of our minds—our beliefs, desires, goals, prejudices, etc. If, after weeks of deliberation, library research, and debate with your friends, you still decide to kill the king—well, then killing the king really reflects the sort of person you are.

While viewing human beings as forces of nature does not prevent us from thinking in terms of moral responsibility, it does call the logic of retribution into question. Clearly, we need to build prisons for people who are intent upon harming others. But if we could incarcerate earthquakes and hurricanes for their crimes, we would build prisons for them as well. The men and women on death row have some combination of bad genes, bad parents, bad ideas, and bad luck—which of these quantities, exactly, were they responsible for? No human being stands as author to his own genes or his upbringing, and yet we have every reason to believe that these factors determine his character throughout life. Our system of justice should reflect our understanding that each of us could have been dealt a very different hand in life. In fact, it seems immoral not to recognize just how much luck is involved in morality itself.

Consider what would happen if we discovered a cure for human evil. Imagine, for the sake of argument, that every relevant change in the human brain can be made cheaply, painlessly, and safely. The cure for psychopathy can be put directly into the food supply like vitamin D. Evil is now nothing more than a nutritional deficiency.

If we imagine that a cure for evil exists, we can see that our retributive impulse is ethically flawed. Consider, for instance, the prospect of withholding the cure for evil from a murderer as part of his punishment. Would this make any sense at all? What could it possibly mean to say that a person deserves to have this treatment withheld? What if the treatment had been available prior to his crime? Would he still be responsible for his actions? It seems far more likely that those who had been aware of his case would be indicted for negligence. Would it make any sense at all to deny surgery to the man in example 5 as a punishment if we knew the brain tumor was the proximate cause of his violence? Of course not. The urge for retribution, therefore, seems to depend upon our not seeing the underlying causes of human behavior.

Despite our attachment to notions of free will, most us know that disorders of the brain can trump the best intentions of the mind. This shift in understanding represents progress toward a deeper, more consistent, and more compassionate view of our common humanity—and we should note that this is progress away from religious metaphysics. Few concepts have offered greater scope for human cruelty than the idea of an immortal soul that stands independent of all material influences, ranging from genes to economic systems. And yet one of the fears surrounding our progress in neuroscience is that this knowledge will dehumanize us.

Could thinking about the mind as the product of the physical brain diminish our compassion for one another? While it is reasonable to ask this question, it seems to me that, on balance, soul/body dualism has been the enemy of compassion. The moral stigma that still surrounds disorders of mood and cognition seems largely the result of viewing the mind as distinct from the brain. When the pancreas fails to produce insulin, there is no shame in taking synthetic insulin to compensate for its lost function. Many people do not feel the same way about regulating mood with antidepressants (for reasons that appear quite distinct from any concern about potential side effects). If this bias has diminished in recent years, it has been because of an increased appreciation of the brain as a physical organ.

However, the issue of retribution is a genuinely tricky one. In a fascinating article in The New Yorker, Jared Diamond writes of the high price we often pay for leaving vengeance to the state. He compares the experience of his friend Daniel, a New Guinea highlander, who avenged the death of a paternal uncle and felt exquisite relief, to the tragic experience of his late father-in-law, who had the opportunity to kill the man who murdered his family during the Holocaust but opted instead to turn him over to the police. After spending only a year in jail, the killer was released, and Diamond’s father-in-law spent the last sixty years of his life “tormented by regret and guilt.” While there is much to be said against the vendetta culture of the New Guinea Highlands, it is clear that the practice of taking vengeance answers to a common psychological need.

We are deeply disposed to perceive people as the authors of their actions, to hold them responsible for the wrongs they do us, and to feel that these debts must be repaid. Often, the only compensation that seems appropriate requires that the perpetrator of a crime suffer or forfeit his life. It remains to be seen how the best system of justice would steward these impulses. Clearly, a full account of the causes of human behavior should undermine our natural response to injustice, at least to some degree. It seems doubtful, for instance, that Diamond’s father-in- law would have suffered the same pangs of unrequited vengeance if his family had been trampled by an elephant or laid low by cholera. Similarly, we can expect that his regret would have been significantly eased if he had learned that his family’s killer had lived a flawlessly moral life until a virus began ravaging his medial prefrontal cortex.

It may be that a sham form of retribution could still be moral, if it led people to behave far better than they otherwise would. Whether it is useful to emphasize the punishment of certain criminals—rather than their containment or rehabilitation—is a question for social and psychological science. But it seems clear that a desire for retribution, based upon the idea that each person is the free author of his thoughts and actions, rests on a cognitive and emotional illusion—and perpetuates a moral one.

(c) 2011 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

Borderline Case
Some Real News Beyond the "Reset" Rhetoric
By Chris Floyd

In the last few days, Barack Obama has delivered two “major,” “landmark,” even “historic” speeches, which apparently have “reset” American policy in the Middle East, reaffirmed the overwhelming importance of “the West” (i.e., Britain and America) to the proper functioning of the world, and, we are told, “squarely” put the United States on the side of the dissidents and rebels of the Arab Spring. All of these claims, put forth in reams of earnest analysis and paeans of praise, call to mind the immortal words of Brick Pollitt: “Wouldn’t that be funny if that was true?”

Of course, none of it is true. Obama’s soaring rhetoric about America changing its policy of supporting dictators in favour of boosting democracy in the Middle East could have been taken word for word from several major landmark historic speeches that George W. Bush made on the same subject. But these words – the ones Bush used to mouth and the one mouthed by Obama these days – are always belied by the facts on the ground.

For example, in his afflated rhetoric to the UK parliament, Obama piously declared that “democracies are our best allies.” But in fact, on the ground, America’s best ally in the Middle East, outside of Israel, is Saudi Arabia – the most repressive, extremist regime on the face of the earth, with the possible exceptions of North Korea and Burma. And while Obama waxed lyrical about “the West’s” great moral beaconry and devotion to peace, NATO forces were pounding Tripoli with Western bombs, and planning to send Apache attack helicopters (whose very name evokes stirring echoes of the West’s pious history and its attitude toward ‘recalcitrant’ native tribes like the heathen redskins out West and those worthless sandgrubbers in Libya) to take part in a civil war between two armed factions.

But really, it is pointless to parse these things, or expend any mental energy on them at all, beyond that needed to note the murderous mendacity of these grand occasions with their endlessly rehashed bromides. There is no “news” in Obama’s speeches, nothing that will materially affect any of the complex processes now playing out in the Arab world (aside, of course, from his earnest pledge to continue killing people in Libya in order to save people in Libya from, er, being killed). The phrase “hot air” falls cosmically short of capturing the vacuous insubstantiality of these weighty addresses.

However, there was some real news in the Middle East this week, a development that will actually have a far greater impact on the labyrinthine power plays in the Middle East than any rhetorical “reset” in Washington. The Egyptian government announced that it is lifting the hideous blockade of Gaza imposed by the Mubarak regime in collaboration with Israel – a move which turned Gaza into a Warsaw Ghetto writ large, the “world’s largest open-air prison,” and subjected multitudes of innocent people to horrible suffering, grinding poverty, declining health, hopelessness, despair and rage. All of this was imposed on the Palestinians in Gaza for their heinous crime of ... voting for the wrong party in a free, fair, open democratic election. So much for the great Western commitment to “democracy” limned so nimbly by Obama this week.

Of course, anyone with the slightest acquaintance of history (which, of course, leaves out 97 percent of the Anglo-American chattering classes) knows that the United States has always been firmly and forthrightly committed to democracy for all god’s chillums all over the world – as long as they vote for the leaders that Washington wants.

In any case, the move by Egypt to open its border should have a genuinely profound effect on the region, in all kinds of ways. Most importantly, of course, it means that the old, the sick, the vulnerable and the young in Gaza will have a chance to have a little more food, a little more health care, a little more hope that their life will not always be a grinding hell of deprivation and enclosure.

UPDATE: As this post was being written, the newswires began crackling with reports that a major war criminal – a psychopathic thug said to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing – had been apprehended. Naturally, I expected to see George Bush or David Petraeus or Stanley McChrystal or Don Rumsfeld or Nouri al-Maliki being perp-walked to a paddy wagon for their roles in the furious campaign of ethnic cleansing that characterized the murderous “surge” in Iraq. (Yes, the same campaign that Peace Laureate Barack Obama once called “an extraordinary achievement.”) But no, it was old Ratko Mladic, an egregious beserker from the Bosnian wars. Mladic was evidently given up by his long-time protectors in order to facilitate Serbia’s bid to join the European Union.

Commentators are already rushing to join the arrest with the killing of Osama bin Laden as proof that the psychopathic bad guys on the international scene always get caught in the end. And so they do – unless of course they have done their killing, their ethnic cleansing, their drone bombing, their night raiding, their kidnapping, their torturing, and their gulaging for the right side.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

Anatomy Of A Murder
By Cynthia McKinney


How many times must a parent bury a child?

In the case of Muammar Qaddafi it's not only twice: once for his daughter, murdered by the United States bombing on his home in 1986, and again on 30 April 2011 when his youngest son, Saif al Arab, but yet again for three young children, grandbabies of Muammar Qaddafi killed along with Saif at the family home. Now, I watched Cindy Sheehan as she bared her soul before us in her grief; I cried when Cindy cried. Now, how must Qaddafi and his wife feel? And the people of Libya, parents of all the nation's children gone too soon. I don't even want to imagine.

All my mother could say in astonishment was, "They killed the babies, they killed his grandbabies."

The news reports, however, didn't last more than one half of a news cycle because on 1 May, at a hastily assembled press conference, President Obama announced the murder of Osama bin Laden.

Well, I haven't forgotten my empathy for Cindy Sheehan; I haven't forgotten my concern for the children of Iraq that Madeleine Albright said were OK to kill by U.S. sanctions if U.S. geopolitical goals were achieved. I care about the children of Palestine who throw stones at Israeli soldiers and get laser-guided bullets to their brains in return. I care about the people of North Africa and West Asia who are ready to risk their lives for freedom. In fact, I care about all of the children--from Appalachia to the Cancer Alley, from New York City to San Diego, and everywhere in-between.

On 22 May 2011, I had the opportunity to visit the residence of the Qaddafi family, bombed to smithereens by NATO. For a leader, the house seemed small in comparison, say, to the former Clinton family home in Chappaqua or the Obama family home. It was a small whitewashed suburban type house in a typical residential area in metropolitan Tripoli. It was surrounded by dozens of other family homes.

I spoke with a neighbor who described how three separate smart bombs hit the home and exploded, another one not exploding. According to the BBC, the NATO military operations chief stated that a "command and control center" had been hit. That is a lie. As anyone who visits the home can see, this home had nothing to do with NATO's war. The strike against this home had everything to do with NATO adopting a policy of targeted assassination and extra-judicial killing--clearly illegal.

The neighbor said he found Saif Al-Arab in his bedroom underneath rubble; the three young grandchildren were in a different room and they were shredded to pieces. He told of how he picked up as many pieces as he possibly could. He told us that there are still pieces there that he could not get. He asked us to note the smell--not the putrid smell of rotting flesh, but a sweet smell. I did smell it and thought there was an air freshener nearby. It smelled to me of roses. He asked me why this was done and who was going to hold NATO accountable.

Muammar Qaddafi was at the house. But he was outside near where the animals are kept. It is a miracle that he survived. From the looks of that house and the small guest house beside it, the strike was a complete success if the goal was to totally and thoroughly demolish the structure and everything inside it.

NATO wants us to believe that toys, items and clothing, an opened Holy Koran, and a soccer board game are the appointments found in military command and control offices. I wonder if we could find such articles in NATO's office in Brussels.

The opened Holy Koran seemed to be frozen in time. In fact, there was a clock dangling from its cord--dangling in space. And indeed, for the four young people in that house at the time of NATO's attack, time had stopped.

The concussion fron the bombs were so great that eery tile on the walls and floors of the home had been knocked from the walls. Black burn marks scorched the walls. The force broke a marble or granite countertop. The bathtub was literally split into two parts. Shards of the bomb were everywhere. I wondered if the place was now contaminated with depleted uranium.

The Qaddafi home is a crime scene--a murder scene. The United States prisons are full of men and women who are innocent--even on death row. I wonder where the guilty who are never prosecuted go.

Now, if the International Court of Justice were really a repository of justice, it would be investigating this crime. Instead, it is looking for yet another African to prosecute. We in the United States are familiar with this: on our local news every night, we are saturated with photos of Black and Brown criminals with the implication being that White people don't commit crime. The moment the face of someone arrested is not shown, then we know that the culprit is White. It's the unwritten code that we people of color all live by wherever in the world we might happen to be. Global apartheid is alive and well and exists on many levels.

I left the house sick in my heart. As I was about to depart, the neighbor begged me, asked me over and over again, why had this happened? What had they done to deserve this? He seemed to not want me to leave. Honestly, I think I was his little piece of America, his little piece of President Obama and I could help him to understand why this course of action was necessary from my President's point of view. He said NATO should just leave them alone and let them sort out their problems on their own.

I did leave his presence, but that man's face will never leave me.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned, "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

In response to my previous article, "NATO: A Feast of Blood," I received the following quote about Buddha from Shiva Shankar who excerpted Walpola Rahula's "What the Buddha Taught:"

"... The Buddha not only taught non-violence and peace, but he even went to the field of battle itself and intervened personally, and prevented war, as in the case of the dispute between the Sakyas and the Koliyas, who were prepared to fight over the question of the waters of the Rohini. And his words once prevented King Ajatasattu from attacking the kingdom of the Vajjis. ...

... Here is a lesson for the world today. The ruler of an empire publicly turning his back on war and violence and embraced the message of peace and non-violence. There is no historical evidence to show that any neighbouring king took advantage of Asoka's piety to attack him militarily, or that there was any revolt or rebellion within his empire during his lifetime. On the contrary there was peace throughout the land, and even countries outside his empire seem to have accepted his benign leadership. ..."

Please don't allow special interest press and war mongering gatekeepers of the left to blot out the tragedy unfolding in Libya. Please don't allow them to take away our chance to live in peace throughout our land and with countries inside and outside our hemisphere. Congress should vote to end NATO's action in Libya and barring that should assert its Constitutional prerogatives and require the President to come to it for authorization of this war. And then, Congress should heed the wisdom of the people of our country who are against this war and vote for peace.


Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.
(c) 2011 Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007.

Against Learned Helplessness
By Paul Krugman

Unemployment is a terrible scourge across much of the Western world. Almost 14 million Americans are jobless, and millions more are stuck with part-time work or jobs that fail to use their skills. Some European countries have it even worse: 21 percent of Spanish workers are unemployed.

Nor is the situation showing rapid improvement. This is a continuing tragedy, and in a rational world bringing an end to this tragedy would be our top economic priority.

Yet a strange thing has happened to policy discussion: on both sides of the Atlantic, a consensus has emerged among movers and shakers that nothing can or should be done about jobs. Instead of a determination to do something about the ongoing suffering and economic waste, one sees a proliferation of excuses for inaction, garbed in the language of wisdom and responsibility.

So someone needs to say the obvious: inventing reasons not to put the unemployed back to work is neither wise nor responsible. It is, instead, a grotesque abdication of responsibility.

What kinds of excuses am I talking about? Well, consider last week’s release of the latest report on the economic outlook by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or O.E.C.D. The O.E.C.D. is basically an intergovernmental think tank; while it has no direct ability to set policy, what it says reflects the conventional wisdom of Europe’s policy elite.

So what did the O.E.C.D. have to say about high unemployment in its member countries? “The room for macroeconomic policies to address these complex challenges is largely exhausted,” declared the organization’s secretary general, who called on countries instead to “go structural” — that is, to focus on long-run reforms that would have little impact on the current employment situation.

And how do we know that there’s no room for policies to put the unemployed back to work? The secretary general didn’t say — and the report itself never even suggests possible solutions to the employment crisis. All it does is highlight the risks, as it sees them, of any departure from orthodox policy.

But then, who is talking seriously about job creation these days? Not the Republican Party, unless you count its ritual calls for tax cuts and deregulation. Not the Obama administration, which more or less dropped the subject a year and a half ago.

The fact that nobody in power is talking about jobs does not mean, however, that nothing could be done.

Bear in mind that the unemployed aren’t jobless because they don’t want to work, or because they lack the necessary skills. There’s nothing wrong with our workers — remember, just four years ago the unemployment rate was below 5 percent.

The core of our economic problem is, instead, the debt — mainly mortgage debt — that households ran up during the bubble years of the last decade. Now that the bubble has burst, that debt is acting as a persistent drag on the economy, preventing any real recovery in employment. And once you realize that the overhang of private debt is the problem, you realize that there are a number of things that could be done about it.

For example, we could have W.P.A.-type programs putting the unemployed to work doing useful things like repairing roads — which would also, by raising incomes, make it easier for households to pay down debt. We could have a serious program of mortgage modification, reducing the debts of troubled homeowners. We could try to get inflation back up to the 4 percent rate that prevailed during Ronald Reagan’s second term, which would help to reduce the real burden of debt.

So there are policies we could be pursuing to bring unemployment down. These policies would be unorthodox — but so are the economic problems we face. And those who warn about the risks of action must explain why these risks should worry us more than the certainty of continued mass suffering if we do nothing.

In pointing out that we could be doing much more about unemployment, I recognize, of course, the political obstacles to actually pursuing any of the policies that might work. In the United States, in particular, any effort to tackle unemployment will run into a stone wall of Republican opposition. Yet that’s not a reason to stop talking about the issue. In fact, looking back at my own writings over the past year or so, it’s clear that I too have sinned: political realism is all very well, but I have said far too little about what we really should be doing to deal with our most important problem.

As I see it, policy makers are sinking into a condition of learned helplessness on the jobs issue: the more they fail to do anything about the problem, the more they convince themselves that there’s nothing they could do. And those of us who know better should be doing all we can to break that vicious circle.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing."
~~~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Sky Really Is Falling
By Chris Hedges

The rapid and terrifying acceleration of global warming, which is disfiguring the ecosystem at a swifter pace than even the gloomiest scientific studies predicted a few years ago, has been confronted by the power elite with equal parts of self-delusion. There are those, many of whom hold elected office, who dismiss the science and empirical evidence as false. There are others who accept the science surrounding global warming but insist that the human species can adapt. Our only salvation—the rapid dismantling of the fossil fuel industry—is ignored by both groups. And we will be led, unless we build popular resistance movements and carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience, toward collective self-annihilation by dimwitted Pied Pipers and fools.

Those who concede that the planet is warming but insist we can learn to live with it are perhaps more dangerous than the buffoons who decide to shut their eyes. It is horrifying enough that the House of Representatives voted 240-184 this spring to defeat a resolution that said that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” But it is not much of an alternative to trust those who insist we can cope with the effects while continuing to burn fossil fuels.

Horticulturalists are busy planting swamp oaks and sweet gum trees all over Chicago to prepare for weather that will soon resemble that of Baton Rouge. That would be fine if there was a limit to global warming in sight. But without plans to rapidly dismantle the fossil fuel industry, something no one in our corporate state is contemplating, the heat waves of Baton Rouge will be a starting point for a descent that will ultimately make cities like Chicago unlivable. The false promise of human adaptability to global warming is peddled by the polluters’ major front group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which informed the Environmental Protection Agency that “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” This bizarre theory of adaptability has been embraced by the Obama administration as it prepares to exploit the natural resources in the Arctic. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced recently that melting of sea ice “will result in more shipping, fishing and tourism, and the possibility to develop newly accessible oil and gas reserves.” Now that’s something to look forward to.

“It is good that at least those guys are taking it seriously, far more seriously than the federal government is taking it,” said the author and environmental activist Bill McKibben of the efforts in cities such as Chicago to begin to adapt to warmer temperatures. “At least they understand that they have some kind of problem coming at them. But they are working off the science of five or six years ago, which is still kind of the official science that the International Climate Change negotiations are working off of. They haven’t begun to internalize the idea that the science has shifted sharply. We are no longer talking about a long, slow, gradual, linear warming, but something that is coming much more quickly and violently. Seven or eight years ago it made sense to talk about putting permeable concrete on the streets. Now what we are coming to realize is that the most important adaptation we can do is to stop putting carbon in the atmosphere. If we don’t, we are going to produce temperature rises so high that there is no adapting to them.”

The Earth has already begun to react to our hubris. Freak weather unleashed deadly tornados in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. It has triggered wildfires that have engulfed large tracts in California, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. It has brought severe droughts to the Southwest, parts of China and the Amazon. It has caused massive flooding along the Mississippi as well as in Australia, New Zealand, China and Pakistan. It is killing off the fish stocks in the oceans and obliterating the polar ice caps. Steadily rising sea levels will eventually submerge coastal cities, islands and some countries. These disturbing weather patterns presage a world where it will be harder and harder to sustain human life. Massive human migrations, which have already begun, will create chaos and violence. India is building a 4,000-kilometer fence along its border with Bangladesh to, in part, hold back the refugees who will flee if Bangladesh is submerged. There are mounting food shortages and sharp price increases in basic staples such as wheat as weather patterns disrupt crop production. The failed grain harvests in Russia, China and Australia, along with the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, have, as McKibben points out, been exacerbated by the inability of Midwestern farmers to plant corn in water-logged fields. These portents of an angry Gaia are nothing compared to what will follow if we do not swiftly act.

“We are going to have to adapt a good deal,” said McKibben, with whom I spoke by phone from his home in Vermont. “It is going to be a century that calls for being resilient and durable. Most of that adaptation is going to take the form of economies getting smaller and lower to the ground, local food, local energy, things like that. But that alone won’t do it, because the scale of change we are now talking about is so great that no one can adapt to it. Temperatures have gone up one degree so far and that has been enough to melt the Arctic. If we let it go up three or four degrees, the rule of thumb the agronomists go by is every degree Celsius of temperature rise represents about a 10 percent reduction in grain yields. If we let it go up three or four degrees we are really not talking about a planet that can support a civilization anything like the one we’ve got.”

“I have sympathy for those who are trying hard to figure out how to adapt, but they are behind the curve of the science by a good deal,” he said. “I have less sympathy for the companies that are brainwashing everyone along the line ‘We’re taking small steps here and there to improve.’ The problem, at this point, is not going to be dealt with by small steps. It is going to be dealt with by getting off fossil fuel in the next 10 or 20 years or not at all.”

“The most appropriate thing going on in Chicago right now is that Greenpeace occupied [on Thursday] the coal-fired power plant in Chicago,” he said. “That’s been helpful. It reminded people what the real answers are. We’re going to see more civil disobedience. I hope we are. I am planning hard for some stuff this summer.”

“The cast that we are about is essentially political and symbolic,” McKibben admitted. “There is no actual way to shut down the fossil fuel system with our bodies. It is simply too big. It’s far too integrated in everything we do. The actions have to be symbolic, and the most important part of that symbolism is to make it clear to the onlookers that those of us doing this kind of thing are not radical in any way. We are conservatives. The real radicals in this scenario are people who are willing to fundamentally alter the composition of the atmosphere. I can’t think of a more radical thing that any human has ever thought of doing. If it wasn’t happening it would be like the plot from a Bond movie."

“The only way around this is to defeat the system, and the name of that system is the fossil fuel industry, which is the most profitable industry in the world by a large margin,” McKibben said. “Fighting it is extraordinarily difficult. Maybe you can’t do it. The only way to do it is to build a movement big enough to make a difference. And that is what we are trying desperately to do with It is something we should have done 20 years ago, instead of figuring that we were going to fight climate change by convincing political elites that they should do something about this problem. It is a tactic that has not worked.”

“One of our big targets this year is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is the biggest front group for fossil fuel there is,” he said. “We are figuring out how to take them on. I don’t think they are worried about us yet. And maybe they are right not to be because they’ve got so much money they’re invulnerable.”

“There are huge decisive battles coming,” he said. “This year the Obama administration has to decide whether it will grant a permit or not for this giant pipeline to run from the tar sands of Alberta down to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. That is like a 1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet. We have to figure out how to keep that from happening. The Obama administration, very sadly, a couple of months ago opened 750 million tons of western coal under federal land for mining. That was a disgrace. But they still have to figure out how to get it to port so they can ship it to China, which is where the market for it is. We are trying hard to keep that from happening. I’m on my way to Bellingham, Wash., next week because there is a plan for a deep-water port in Bellingham that would allow these giant freighters to show up and collect that coal.”

“In moral terms it’s all our personal responsibility and we should be doing those things,” McKibben said when I asked him about changing our own lifestyles to conserve energy. “But don’t confuse that with having much of an impact on the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. You can’t make the math work one house or one campus at a time. We should do those things. I’ve got a little plaque for having built the most energy-efficient house in Vermont the year we built it. I’ve got solar panels everywhere. But I don’t confuse myself into thinking that that’s actually doing very much. This argument is a political argument. I spend much of my life on airplanes spewing carbon behind me as we try to build a global movement. Either we are going to break the power of the fossil fuel industry and put a price on carbon or the planet is going to heat past the point where we can deal with it.”

“It goes far beyond party affiliation or ideology,” he said. “Fossil fuel undergirds every ideology we have. Breaking with it is going to be a traumatic and difficult task. The natural world is going to continue to provide us, unfortunately, with many reminders about why we have to do that. Sooner or later we will wise up. The question is all about that sooner or later.”

“I’d like people to go to and sign up,” McKibben said. “We are going to be issuing calls for people to be involved in civil disobedience. I’d like people to join in this campaign against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s very easy to sign up. If you don’t own a little business yourself you probably shop at 10 or 20 of them a week. It’s very easy to sign those guys up to say the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me. We can’t take away their [the Chamber’s] money, but we can take away some of their respectability. I would like people to demonstrate their solidarity with people all around the world in this fight. The next big chance to do that will be Sept. 24, a huge global day of action that we’re calling ‘Moving Planet.’ It will be largely bicycle based, because the bicycle is one of the few tools that both rich and poor use and because it is part of the solution we need. On that day we will be delivering demands via bicycle to every capital and statehouse around the world.”

“I wish there was some easy ‘end around,’ some backdoor through which we could go to get done what needs to be done,” he said. “But that’s not going to happen. That became clear at Copenhagen and last summer when the U.S. Senate refused to take a vote on the most mild, tepid climate legislation there could have been. We are going to have to build a movement that pushes the fossil fuel industry aside. I don’t know whether that’s possible. If you were to bet you might well bet we will lose. We have been losing for two decades. But you are not allowed to make that bet. The only moral action, when the worst thing that ever happened in the world is happening, is to try and figure out how to change those odds.”

“At least they knew they were going to win,” he said of the civil rights movement. “They didn’t know when, but they knew they were going to win, that the tide of history was on their side. But the arch of the physical universe appears to be short and appears to bend towards heat. We’ve got to win quickly if we’re going to win. We’ve already passed the point where we’re going to stop global warming. It has already warmed a degree and there is another degree in the pipeline from carbon already emitted. The heat gets held in the ocean for a while, but it’s already there. We’ve already guaranteed ourselves a miserable century. The question is whether it’s going to be an impossible one.”
(c) 2011 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "“Death Of The Liberal Class.”

Dispatches From The End Of Empire

By David Michael Green

Well folks, there’s good news, and there’s bad news in America today.

The good news is that people seem to be waking up just a bit to what’s being done to them.

The bad news is that it really is just a bit that they’re waking up.

The good news is that the Republican Party is showing some serious signs of preparing for self-immolation.

The bad news is that that leaves us with Barack Obama and the other Republican Party as an ‘alternative’.

Such is the state of America at the end of empire.

This week, one of the reddest districts in the country voted to send a Democrat to Congress. There was a special election to fill the seat, after the highly moralistic married Republican who had been holding it previously got busted sending out hunky topless pictures of himself as he trolled for a little babe action on Craigslist. What a shock to find that those who lecture us incessantly about our sexual morality turn out to be, er, somewhat hypocritical about it all, eh? If you ask me, it’s one of the few iron laws of political science. You can bet the house that any politician who makes it his or her business to speak and legislate on your sexuality is, in fact, secretly one of the most twisted vines in the jungle. Count on it.

But back to our story. A Democrat won the special election in a hugely Republican-leaning district simply by pointing out that her opponent had said that she would have joined almost every other Republican in the House in voting for Paul Ryan’s Medicare Massacre. Interestingly, that alone was enough to destroy the GOP candidate in what was otherwise going to be a slam-dunk victory. Then, amazingly, Harry Reid actually stumbled accidentally into going on the offensive for the first time in his life, and forced a vote on the same legislation in the Senate, the very next day. Almost every Republican voted for it there as well.

But they sure didn’t want to. Talk about your proverbial rock and a hard place. Your Scylla and Charybdis. These guys are really in a bad way. And, remarkably, because of their own ideological inanity, they are poised to lose a presidential election in 2012 to a guy who by then will have presided over four years of vast unemployment, high gasoline prices, endless wars and unpopular legislation. I mean, think about it. Just how ugly do you have to be to pull off that feat? And all this after having won a crushing victory over Democrats just six months ago.

The problem for Republicans, of course, is Republicans. The problem is that they take their rhetoric and their ideology sorta seriously. Well, that’s fine, but sooner or later one would expect Americans to cease hoisting themselves up for their regular voluntary piñata beating. Yes, even in America, where there seems to be almost no imaginable limitation to the depths of political stupidity, you’d think the laws of political physics would ultimately kick in, and, if nothing else, naked self-interest would be enough to shut down the national rape factory that is today’s GOP.

For a while there, I was wondering if we hadn’t somehow shot through the wormhole into some alternative universe where gravity was inverted or something. As it turns out, what it was instead was that inane voters were more than happy to vote against “wasteful spending”, provided that term referred to welfare for negroes and foreign aid for, well, foreigners. Once you start talking about their own gubmint bennies, well then that’s a whole ‘nuther story, brother.

Which brings us from the laws of physics to the laws of mathematics. Even the magic of religion is not enough to turn lead into gold, try as one desperately might. If you insist on spending even more for ‘defense’ than we already do, and if you insist on cutting tax revenues even more than we already have, and if you agree that defaulting on the interest owed from previous borrowing would be a very bad idea, you then come up headlong against a very stiff and well constructed wall otherwise known as basic math. Even by slashing social spending mercilessly, you still cannot remotely balance the budget given the above sacred cow assumptions as your starting point. Indeed, since the Ryan plan calls for slashing taxes even more than they already have been these last thirty years, what Republicans never tell you is that – according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office analysis – it will actually produce the precise opposite effect to that which is being claimed in order to sell it. It will actually increase debt, not lower it. That’s right. When all is said and done, and the smoke clears, seniors will be far sicker and far deader, in exchange for which the national debt will have only grown fatter. Such a deal.

But the thing for the GOP today is that they have become so rabid that they cannot divorce themselves from their own litmus tests and fairytales, and they are now eating themselves up from within, like the rapacious cancer they in fact truly are. What can you possibly say, this side of Lewis Carroll or Salvador Dali, about a party in which the likes of Newt Gingrich is drummed out for being insufficiently regressive, and just plain lacking in an adequate degree of meanness?

Gingrich, a veritable cartoon of what it means to be a regressive today, pushed the self-destruct button on his own presidential election campaign when he called the Ryan plan “too radical”. It’s not like the guy all of a sudden found morality or something, notwithstanding (actually, despite) his newly-adopted Catholicism he is placing at the center of his campaign. Gingrich is absolutely capable of being, saying or doing anything in the endless quest to salve his boundless personal insecurities by grabbing the White House. So, rest assured that he didn’t make those remarks because he recently got clobbered by the honesty stick or anything like that. What he did was to make a political calculation that killing Medicare was an electoral loser, at least in a general election. He didn’t need New York’s 26th district to tell him that, though ironically he might not have gotten mugged so violently by his own school of pirana if he had waited to make the same remarks today, rather than a week ago.

Might. Quite likely, though, it still wouldn’t matter. There’s a certain powerful suicidal tendency to regressive politics today (which – by the way – suits me just fine). They are, of course, completely divorced from logic, empirical evidence, and, therefore, reality, and completely wedded to dogmatic faith in their magical incantations. That’s why you have to support the Ryan plan to have a prayer at the Republican nomination, even though it actually increases deficits, not lowers them. Math no longer matters. Objective analysis is for socialists. Truth is for pissing on when urinals are otherwise unavailable.

Which brings us to an interesting little field test of just how insane America truly is that is likely to play out over the next several years. The nature of this experiment can be boiled down to one more or less simple proposition and one more or less simple question. The former is that it is increasingly clear that no even remotely sane (or, more accurately, honest) person can hope to win the Republican nomination for president. Increasingly, this logic also applies to other races down the ticket, so that even a far-right senator like Bob Bennett can get primaried out of existence for lack of ideological purity. This is why we’re seeing the astonishingly hilarious sight of human prostitution machines like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty constantly trying on extremely ill-fitting gladiator costumes, and asking us to forget everything about their histories, in a truly pathetic effort to placate the tea party voters of the GOP, who (especially in early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina) will be picking the Republican nominee. Get used to it. This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. This is the sort of electorate for whom believing that Barack Obama was actually born in America makes you suspiciously Marxist.

So that’s the premise. No one who isn’t as regressive as The Inquisition and as caustic as sulphuric acid will emerge with the Republican presidential nomination. The much beloved (in hagiographic form, at least) Ronald Reagan could never satisfy these monsters, so tame was he in comparison. So the question then becomes, can such a person hope to win the presidency in the general election? And that is the aforementioned test of American sanity.

The last decade – and really, the last three – have not been so good in that respect. I confess that I have spent most of the last dozen years or so with my jaw firmly attached to the floor, incredulous at the idiocy of which Americans are capable. From impeachment, to Election 2000, to the tax cuts, to Iraq, torture and beyond, I have just been stunned at how unenlightened a people we are capable of being. And it’s not a simple matter of policy preference discrepancies, either. It isn’t just that I prefer Path A while others prefer the equally legitimate Path B. I’m sorry, but this is about national hallucination. And, worse, we have mostly been doing this tripping during times of relative prosperity, which raises the question of what the country is capable of when things get worse. Like now, for instance.

It’s hard to get a good reading on America these days. We are, more than anything, in an extended period of political oscillation which reflects, I think, a fairly profound fundamental dissatisfaction with the direction of the country. In 2002, the electorate went strongly for the Republicans and their fear-mongering campaign against the same foreign bogeymen GOP administrations had just gotten done ignoring or, earlier, even supporting. By 2004, this bit was already getting so tedious that a pair of turds like the Johns Kerry and Edwards could almost win the election (and actually may well have, but for the theft of Ohio) against an incumbent president fighting two wars, bathing in the ‘heroic’ glow of 9/11 and presiding over a decent economy. The floodgates then opened in 2006 and 2008, with crushing defeats of Bushism. But these were then quickly followed by the Democratic train wreck of 2010, which seemed a century removed from the election of just two years earlier.

What this represents, I think, is a sort of bratty toddler of an American body politic, badly in need of a diaper change. The little bastard knows that it is unhappy, though it can’t quite discern why. It is agitated and acting up in the name of change, but it wants somebody else to take care of the matter. This country is fighting three or four wars at the moment (or is it more? – I’m a professor of international relations, and I can’t even keep an accurate count), suffering through the worst and most prolonged economic crisis since the Great Depression, is plunged heavily into debt, and is (not) grappling with the über-crisis of global warming – and that’s all just for starters – and yet there were more votes cast recently for American Idol than there were in the 2008 presidential election. Need we say more?

Apparently people are angry, but not angry enough to roll their obese American physiques off the couch, turn off the TV’s latest episode of “This Or That Cloned Breathless Police Drama!,” and actually take ownership of their democracy to the extent necessary to learn about issues and demand credible solutions. Such a combination of angry petulance and a lazy desire to have someone else wave a magic wand and solve the problem is, history has made emphatically clear, quite a fine prescription for disaster. Can you say, “Man on horseback”?

This is the main reason – among very, very many – that the Democratic Party generally and Barack Obama particularly are so disastrous. If no one provides real, constructive solutions, the scary monsters of the right will gladly offer the fake, catastrophic ones. The most charitable reading of Obama is that he seems to believe that affability is what people want in their president. Maybe in the era when Leave It To Beaver was the top show on national television that was true, but certainly not today. People want solutions to personal and national problems, and they want security above all, which has been rapidly eroding under their feet. Hence the electoral oscillations of the last decade, and hence the danger of the present moment.

Very few people will be voting for Obama in 2012, even though he’ll get lots of votes. Many of those will be much more against his embarrassingly lame opponent than for his embarrassingly lame self. His two greatest assets in that election will be the Republicans of yesterday and the Republicans of today. Even in a society as politically immature as is America, there does still seem to be some residual memory of the former, in the form of the national horror show known as Bush/Cheney, though still not enough to prevent the remarkable amnesia/dementia of Election 2010.

As to the present, the only folks on the planet capable of making Obama look like a political giant just happen to be the same folks going for the Republican Party presidential nomination. Gingrich? Palin? Romney? These are like the rejected extras for the midget riot scene from “Banana Republic II: The Empire Strikes Out.” You know you’re talking about a real stinker of a party when everyone’s lamenting the fact that Mitch Daniels has decided not to run for president. Apart from the fact that he’s bald, has bad skin, is about five foot five, and his wife ditched him to run off with some other guy, who she then later dumped to return to Mitch, somebody was bound to mention during the campaign the slightly inconvenient fact that the guy who would have been leading ‘the party of fiscal responsibility’ happened to previously preside over a full doubling of the national debt as George W. Bush’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget. If a loser like this creates a massive vacuum at the top of the GOP by choosing not run, you know you’re looking at a sad sack of a party, indeed. And you are.

I don’t think Obama’s prospects are great for 2012, though they are probably good for precisely this reason of the nature of his opposition. But I’d say the thing to fear is not so much 2012 as what comes after. Obama is not about solutions, unless, of course, you happen to be a partner at Goldman Sachs. So the oscillations will continue. People will vote for the party not in power – even if they just were a mere two years ago, and even if their solutions are laughable – to try for yet another cheap fix. But it won’t work, of course, and each round will breed further desperation. Which will breed further willingness to accept radical and radically destructive ‘solutions’. If you think I’m exaggerating about this, just look at the progression within the Republican Party from Gerry Ford to Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to George W. Bush to Sarah Palin. Trust me, you don’t wanna know what comes after that.

But the choices are all merely relative when the empire’s in decline. An Obama victory over the forces of madness would represent a mere postponement of the reckoning definitively headed our way, and it’s a very angry fellow indeed. The bad news is that even if the GOP loses, it still wins. Only it’s called the Democratic Party instead.

It may be the Wisconsin and New York’s 26th represent a liberal spring in America, or a long-delayed realization that regressives are not the friends of the middle class. I doubt it. More likely, certain stupid and selfish voters simply revolted from the mantra of slashing government spending when it became their turn to face the meat axe themselves.

But at this point in the history of what has now become a rapidly sinking kleptocracy of a polity, I’d happily settle for even the pathetic politics of self-interest.

Anything that could slow the national pillaging by America’s oligarchs would represent a step in the right (that is to say, left) direction.
(c) 2011 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Propagana Ansager Epstein,

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 attacking Seymour Hersh for telling the truth and not the Junta's propaganda, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "journalistic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with diamond clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 07-04-2011. We salute you Frau Epstein, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Gil Scott-Heron's Revolution
By John Nichols

When the role of media as not just an observer but as shaper of our politics was barely discussed outside academic circles, Gil Scott-Heron gave us, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” still the savviest critique of the disengaged and disengaging character of broadcast news -- and the crisis of commercialism.

As it turned out, some revolutions would be televised. But the blow-dried reporters and the drive-by anchormen never quite got it right. And time confirmed that Scott-Heron was right about the radical politics he embraced, and communicated so brilliantly on a series of groundbreaking albums in the 1970s. It is still best communicated via the spoken word. When activists gather, they still note the failures of the media and utter the “revolution will not be televised” catchphrase that Gil Scott-Heron added to the contemporary discourse.

Heron,who has died at age 62 after a long battle with drugs and disease, is being hailed as the “godfather of rap.” And it is easy to make the case for his influence on Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy and dozens of other artists -- including Kanye West, whose latest album features a long except from Scott-Heron’s “Who Will Survive in America?”

But Scott-Heron, a student of the Harlem Renaissance who was steeped in the literature and the ideas of the liberation movements that preceded the 1960s, had an even broader influence on the culture and the next generations. Just as Billy Bragg’s Thatcher-era songs introduced young Brits and Americans to the language of solidarity and socialism, Scott-Heron taught us about apartheid ("Johannesburg"), environmental racism ("South Carolina") and the harshest realities of an America that never seemed to get its priorities right (“Whitey on the Moon”).

Scott-Heron’s lyrics demanded that serious young people start thinking, start studying, start creating – and he made no secret of his determination that all this activity needed to be fused with activism. He was always challenging, and exciting. Even at the darkest and most difficult stage of his four-decades long career, Scott-Heron could reach heights – intellectual and musical – that few artists have even imagined.

We traveled in some of the same circles years ago. I saw Scott-Heron a lot, in the good days and the bad. I remember, in particular, a show in Philadelphia a decade ago, where Scott-Heron and a reassembled Midnight Band (featuring his remarkable long-time collaborator, Brian Jackson) began on a harrowing note. The band was as tight as ever. But Scott-Heron, wrestling with his own demons and his frustration with a music business that was not then honoring its elders, seemed scattered and unfocused. As the night progressed, however, he honed in on a message about the failure of the government to provide even a measure of equal care, let alone opportunity, for young mothers and children. Drawing from songs from across his career, and steering toward a wrenching rendition of “Whitey on the Moon,” Scott-Heron reached a crescendo that was as powerful as anything he had produced in his cool, brilliant youth.

Scott-Heron and I had plenty of shared interests. But we always homed in on a shared fascination: the groundbreaking work played by a generation of older radicals, especially C.L.R. James, in shaping the ideology of the the historical anti-colonial movement and the importance of recognizing the need pull those ideas forward into a movement against the neo-colonialism of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the new class of economic viceroys.

But our shared touchstone was an understanding of media as not just a messenger, but an issue that needed to be addressed. I had always hoped to get Scott-Heron to one of a National Conference for Media Reform. It struck me that a whole conference could be built around the questions raised by remarkable man, a remarkable song, and the necessary observation that:

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
bbout a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Establishment Thought And The War On Terror
By Glenn Greenwald

PBS' News Hour conducted a discussion of the Obama-supported, reform-free Patriot Act extension with conservative David Brooks and "liberal" Mark Shields, and it magnificently highlights conventional establishment thought on such matters (h/t reader DM). First we have this from Brooks:

If you cover politics on the campaign trail, the Patriot Act is extremely unpopular, and can -- people running for office rail against it.

Once they get in office, especially those in charge of the national -- nation's security, they tend to support it. So, I assume, once they get in office and they understand what it's doing behind the scenes, they tend to think it's probably a good idea.

And this is what's happened to President Obama. It's what's happened to most people who are privy to how it actually works.

Our Leaders know secret things that we don't that make them know better, and justify their complete abandonment of what they promise when campaigning (and as I've said many times, if that's really what happened -- if Obama got into office and learned Secret Things that showed him that his criticisms of Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies were misguided -- then don't he and his defenders owe the GOP a serious apology for the inaccurate harsh criticisms they spewed all those years?). Then Shields offered this "counterpoint":

I think the indispensable part that intelligence played in the capture and [sic] -- of Osama bin Laden probably strengthened the case for the Patriot Act's -- Patriot Act's reinstatement. And I would say intelligence remains the cornerstone of the exit strategy from Afghanistan and to Iraq to a considerable degree. And I think that neutralized some of the opposition.

Now that we killed bin Laden, we need civil-liberties-eroding measures like the Patriot Act more than ever. The notion that the death of bin Laden would trigger a winding down in the War on Terror -- as though bin Laden was the cause of those policies rather than pretext for them -- will prove to be one of the more absurd notions advanced on such matters. Speaking of which:

At least 14 civilians, including women and children, have been killed in a NATO air raid in the Afghan southern province of Helmand, local authorities say. . . .

The statement said the dead included five girls, seven boys and two women. . . .

Afghan authorities said on Sunday NATO had killed 52 people, mostly civilians, in air strikes against fighters, as violence picked up in recent weeks with the start of the fighting season.

Separately, the governor of Nuristan on Sunday said that 18 civilians and 20 police were killed by "friendly fire" during recent US-led air strikes against al-Qaeda-linked fighters in his troubled northeastern province.

More Afghans liberated by the U.S. . . . from their lives: because, as we know, the killing of bin Laden changed everything. When it comes to the absurdity department, one of the few things that can compete with the claim that the bin Laden killing will restrain the War on Terror is this event.
(c) 2011 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Steve Sack ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The president says the button is "constantly" in the corner of his eye.

Obama Makes It Through Another Day Of Resisting Urge To Launch All U.S. Nuclear Weapons At Once

WASHINGTON—Despite being constantly tempted by the seductive power of having an apocalyptic arsenal at his fingertips, President Barack Obama somehow made it through another day Tuesday without unlocking the box on his desk that houses "the button" and launching all 5,113 U.S. nuclear warheads.

Though the president confirmed his schedule was packed with security briefings, public appearances, and cabinet meetings, he said he couldn't help but steal a few glances at the bright red button, which is "right there, staring at [him], all the time."

Tuesday marks the 841st-straight day Obama has withstood the button's powerful allure.

"I think I was closer to pressing the button today than I have ever been," Obama said during a press conference from the White House Rose Garden, adding that he would be lying if he said he wasn't thinking about the button right at that very moment. "Let me be clear: I do not want to start a thermonuclear war. But knowing that I could at any moment, and that it would be so easy, well, it almost feels like I'm being tested or something."

President Often Feels Button Put There 'Just To Taunt' Him

"Did you know that if you sort of put enough weight on the button with your fingertip, you can feel a little slack there before it actually clicks?" Obama added. "Thank you, and God bless America."

According to Beltway insiders, it has taken everything in Obama's power lately to distract himself from the button, which the president once told an aide is "sort of begging to be pressed, you know?" At one point Tuesday, Obama reportedly forced himself to stop glaring at the button by leaving his desk and staring silently across the White House lawn, only to return seconds later to gaze at it some more.

Obama has also been overheard asking White House staffers if they weren't just the least bit curious what would happen if he just waltzed in there right now and pushed it.

"I don't want to unleash Armageddon," said Obama, adding that there is a 50-50 chance he won't be able to get through his next day in office without pressing the button at least once. "But it's hard not to dare myself to do it. It's like I'm standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, taking it all in, and I'm one millisecond away from saying to myself, 'Fuck it, Barack. Just jump.'"

"Bravo-Delta-five-seven-three-Delta-Charlie-zero-two-Tango-Tango-eight-one-six-Echo-Foxtrot-zero-zero-nine-four-nine," Obama continued. "Those were the launch codes as of three minutes ago. They constantly change, but I memorize them."

Sources told reporters that when Obama first took office, the thought of pressing the button and launching thousands of ICBMs only crossed his mind two or three times a day. Two-and-a-half years into his term, however, the button consumes him at all times, whether he is watching basketball, playing with his children, or lying in his bed at night. During a deficit-reduction meeting last Monday with House Speaker John Boehner, the president's index finger was reportedly resting on the button the entire time without his even realizing it.

"Apropos of nothing, the president approached me one day and said, 'Think about it: There is a button 3 feet away from me, that I, a human being, could press and virtually end the human race. Tell me you wouldn't be slightly tempted to push it,'" Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said. "Then the president said he often wondered if the exploding bombs would look like a movie in which dozens and dozens of mushroom clouds rise from Earth and can be seen from outer space."

"The way he talked about it, I think I would have pressed it by now, honestly," Conrad added. "Jesus, I'm breathing faster just thinking about it."

Historians have noted that a strong desire to press the button is not uncommon among U.S. presidents. After just one year in office, Jimmy Carter wrote in his diary, "You don't leave a man alone in a room with a button like that," and two years later the pages were simply covered with the word "button" over and over again. In 1974, Richard Nixon rapidly pressed the button 12 times just prior to his resignation, but Pentagon officials had already disconnected its triggering mechanism.

At press time, large-scale nuclear explosions had been confirmed in Pyongyang, Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, and Washington, D.C.
© 2011 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 22 (c) 06/03/2011

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