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In This Edition

Cynthia McKinney reports, "NATO War Crimes In Libya Exposed."

Uri Avnery remembers, "Rachel."

David Sirota finds that, "Cutting Kids' Healthcare Will Grow The Deficit."

Randall Amster hears, "I Want To Be A Farmer."

Jim Hightower examines, "GOP Shucking And Jiving On Medicare."

Helen Thomas inspects, "Our Safety Net."

James Donahue discusses, "Why The American Media Is Failing."

Sam Harris investigates, "Free Will (And Why You Still Don’t Have It)."

Chris Floyd considers, "The Impossible Distance."

Robert Scheer investigates, "The Bernanke Scandal."

Paul Krugman reminds us that, "Vouchercare Is Not Medicare."

Ralph Nader confesses, "They're Calling Me A Biological Terrorist."

David Schwartz explores, "The Rise Of The Second-String Psychopaths."

Tim Pawlenty wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols says of Sarah, "One If By Misstatement, Two If By Ignorant."

Joel S. Hirschhorn demands you, "Pick Your Poison."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst welcomes, "Summer: Day One" but first, Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Pass The Frankenfoods, Please!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bill Schorr, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Lee Horsey, H.Koppdelaney, Jeff Danziger, Lalo Alcaraz, B Dog 23, Internet Weekly.Org, Cornell University, Associated Press, Getty Images, B.B.C., 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."

Pass The Frankenfoods, Please!
By Ernest Stewart

"What I saw generically on the pro-biotech side was the attitude that the technology was good and that it was almost immoral to say that it wasn't good because it was going to solve the problems of the human race and feed the hungry and clothe the naked. And there was a lot of money that had been invested in this, and if you're against it, you're Luddites, you're stupid. There was rhetoric like that even here in this department. You felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to present an open-minded view on some of the issues being raised. So I pretty much spouted the rhetoric that everybody else around here spouted; it was written into my speeches." ~~~ U.S. Secretary of Agriculture ~ Dan Glickman

"He who warned the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms by ringing those bells, and makin' sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free."
~~~ Sarah Palin ~~~

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.
National Brotherhood Week ~~~ Tom Lehrer

I CAN'T pay the rent!
You MUST pay the rent!
But I CAN'T pay the rent!
But you MUST pay the rent!
But I CAN'T pay the rent!
But you MUST pay the rent!
I'll pay the rent!
My Hero!
Curses! Foiled again!

I hope you've planted your Monsanto-free garden because you may not be able, otherwise, to eat healthy organic food after July 3, 2011. You'll recall that Obamahood signed the "Monsanto Frankenfood Foods Act of 2010" into law last January and now the FDA announces it will begin to implement it next month. They call it the, "FDA Food Safety Modernization Act" which sure sounds reassuring, but it's been my experience that anything put out by the government that sounds reassuring, isn't. For an example, see the "Patriot Act." Yes, the one thing politicians love to hide behind is a good euphemism! What this law does, besides obviously being in violation of the 4th Amendment, (which is all the rage now-a-daze) is to allow FDA without a shred of evidence to legally grab and hold any organic food they please without any evidence that it is contaminated until it's too old to sell -- not to mention seizing all the farmers records, computers, etc. and putting all the organic farmers out of business so that you'll be forced to eat Frankenfoods that won't be subject to the law. Funny thing that, eh? And you probably thought you wouldn't have to eat Frankenfoods? Here's what the FDA, in their double speak, announced last month:

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced two new regulations that will help ensure the safety and security of foods in the United States. The rules are the first to be issued by the FDA under the new authorities granted the agency by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Obama in January. Both rules will take effect July 3, 2011.

The first rule strengthens FDA’s ability to prevent potentially unsafe food from entering commerce. It allows the FDA to administratively detain food the agency believes has been produced under insanitary or unsafe conditions. Previously, the FDA’s ability to detain food products applied only when the agency had credible evidence that a food product presented was contaminated or mislabeled in a way that presented a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.

Beginning July, the FDA will be able to detain food products that it has reason to believe are adulterated or misbranded for up to 30 days, if needed, to ensure they are kept out of the marketplace. The products will be kept out of the marketplace while the agency determines whether an enforcement action such as seizure or federal injunction against distribution of the product in commerce, is necessary.

Before this new rule, the FDA would often work with state agencies to embargo a food product under the state’s legal authority until federal enforcement action could be initiated in federal court. In keeping with other provisions in the FSMA, FDA will continue to work with state agencies on food safety and build stronger ties with those agencies."

Ergo, not only do you have to worry about an economy that went down the toilet years ago, global weather changes brought about by corpo-rat global warming, e. g., hotter summers, snowier winters, massive flooding, arable land turning into desserts, endless wars, Big Brother watching your every move, etc., but now you'll be forced to eat Frankenfoods, i.e., flora and fauna created in laboratories by mad scientists to slowly poison you and your family to death. Dig in, America, you deserve it!

In Other News

Then this week there was the strange cases of dumb and dumber, i.e., Anthony Weiner and Sarah Palin. Two typical American politicians -- hardly America's best and brightest, but probably only typical of what lurks down in "Foggy Bottom!"

So Tony got his kicks showing off his penis bulge in his tighty whities to women from his Twitter account. Hmmmm, why didn't I think of that? Oh, yeah, I still have a few morals left, not many mind you, but a few. As perverted as Tony is, at least he didn't go any further like many members of House, Senate and White House have. None of the women are claiming any kind of harassment. Tony didn't pay for anything; there wasn't any illegal sex nor did he lie about it under oath or do it in cloak rooms of Capital Hill or inside the White House, or in airport rest rooms, nor did he preach family values or go on a moral crusade. So when his little faux pas is compared to Slick Willie, Dubya, JFK, (At least John nailed Marilyn and not an ugly staff member like Bill or a male prostitute like Bush) David Vitter's, Larry Craig's, Mark Foley's, Eliot Spitzer's, John Ensign's or John Edwards', it's really not that big of a deal. Of course, it's big news on Fox Spews but here's some happy news, Fox Spews is all but over with as their new ratings are hovering in the teens!

Then there was Sarah, who may have just set a record for dumbness in politicians and believe me, that's really something! Sarah who is currently touring the US on her "Give me all of your money" tour was explaining to her daughter and the gathering talking heads about the midnight ride of Paul Revere, but as always, Sarah got this second grade knowledge wrong. Why am I not surprised? According to Ms. Palin, Paul made the ride to warn the British that they were coming; and if they were coming, they'd better watch out as we were going to kick ass and take names. Apparently, they don't know about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or his 1861 poem "The Midnight Ride Of Paul Revere" in Alaska, (Or much of anything else if they voted for her) you know the one that every American child was taught -- except, of course, for Sarah:

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Yadda, yadda, yadda. It just boggles the mind, does it not, to think that brain-dead was almost a heart beat away from being our fearless leader! And the scary part is, she still might get that chance! Doesn't that send a chill down your spine, America?

And Finally

Well the Zionazis in occupied Palestine made it clear that there'll be no "Arab Spring" in Palestine when their army units machine gunned an unarmed group of demonstrators in Syria. The group never did enter the Golan Heights as they were mowed down by the highly-armed Israelis, who only began murdering the unarmed demonstrators because they were in mortal fear of their lives and no one has the right to get near their borders, or if inside them, to leave.

They murdered at least a score and sent another five score to the hospitals. After they had sated their blood lust, they then fired tear gas at the crowd to disperse them. It seems to me that they should have shot the tear gas first if they didn't want to murder unarmed protestors; but of course, they did want to murder them.

Yes, I can hear you say that for every murdered man, woman and child a hundred new people will rise up to take their place and Israel certainly doesn't want an eternal war; but of course, that is exactly what Israel wants -- just like we want eternal wars. Consider that Israel has been at war constantly since before its inception, and wouldn't have a clue on how to act and behave without a war -- their economy like ours is built around never-ending wars.

As soon as it became apparent that the world was watching them murder people, they trotted out some bimbo to explain that murdering the people was something that they really didn't want to do, but were forced to by the protestors; ergo, it wasn't Israel's fault, but those protestors in Syria that brought all that on themselves. Oh, and don't you dare call the Israelis the mass murdering thieves that they are or Fatherland Security will start a file on you! They'll put you on the "no-fly" list and send the FBI out to talk to your employers, neighbors and friends and you'll be labeled a terrorist to all of them!

Imagine, if you will, that we had done that to a group of Mexicans in Mexico. Can you see the outrage from the rest of the world on us for this dastardly deed! Sure, there'll be a few column inches on the Syrian massacre in the European press and a few ambassadors and such will wring their hands. The United Nations will pass a few sanctions that we will veto as being to harsh and Obamahood will shake his finger at Netanyahu and the blood of the protestors will be on your hands as will the bill to replace the ammo that was used to murder these folks in a higher tax.

Isn't it about time for an "American Spring," America?

Keepin' On

As the great American prophet Yogi Berra once said, "This is like deja vu all over again." Yes, I know that feeling well, Yogi, because it always seems whenever a bill is due, it comes down to the wire before we get enough money to pay it. It's that time of year again when our three main bills come due with the June bill just a couple of weeks away and we're still $500 short. The July bill is also $500 as we raised about $900 for it in March and paid it, so it's not as tight as it usually is.

Our good friend Frank from New Jersey has sent us a money order, but I won't know how much it is for until I get to the Post Office on Saturday. As I can only get a car on most weekends, I don't know until then what might have been sent so I don't know now what the actual balance of the pending bill is. If more comes in than what is needed for this bill, it will be put toward July's bill.

I see that Common Dreams is in another fund raiser; they've already raised over $100,000 this year of their budget of $200.000. I could publish for 20 years with that budget and their costs are tiny compared to some Ezines where the publisher gets more than that in salary. We have no salaried people here; we're all volunteers and our total bills are slightly above $5,000, and yet with all of our readership we have to struggle each year to make those payments. We have but one sponsor and he cuts our bills in half to arrive at that $5,000 black hole and thank Zeus for him and his help! If you'd like to help us keep sending you the truth every week please send in whatever you can. No donation is too big or too small. Rest assured that it will be put to good use and we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest nightmares heading your way! To help us out, just click on the Donation button on the top of the page and follow the directions!

Also you might want to join our Forum where perhaps ten times the articles are published that we publish in the magazine. It, too, is free; just click on the Forum button on the top of the page to join!


05-26-1923 - 06-03-2011
Thanks for the film!

05-26-1928 - 06-03-2011
Thanks for helping!

08-01-1930 - 06-04-2011
Burn Baby Burn!


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.

NATO War Crimes In Libya Exposed
By Cynthia McKinney

In the current NATO war on Libya, the citizens of European and North American NATO countries are being treated to the largest propaganda blitz by their governments in cahoots with corporate media outlets since the U.S.-led invasions and occupation of Iraq. The situation on the ground in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, could not more different from what is being portrayed by Western news networks and newspapers.

The NATO missile attack that killed Muammar Qaddafi's son, Seif al Arab Qaddafi, on April 30, was an attempt to kill Muammar Qaddafi himself. This editor visited the devastated home where Seif was killed, along with his friend and three of Muammar Qaddafi's grandchildren. The only reason why Muammar Qaddafi survived the blast was that he was away from the main residence tending to some animals, including two gazelles, kept in a small petting zoo maintained for his grandchildren. Muammar Qaddafi escaped the fate of his son and grandchildren by only about 500 feet. The residence was hit by bunker buster bombs fired from a U.S. warplane. One of the warheads did not detonate and was later removed from what remained of a bedroom in the home. Libyan authorities do not have the technical capabilities to determine if the warhead contained depleted uranium.

NATO and the Pentagon claimed the residence was a military compound, yet there is no evidence that any military assets were located in the residence that was flanked by the homes of a Libyan doctor and businessmen. The Qaddafi residence actually is owned by Qaddafi's wife. The neighbors' homes were also badly damaged in the U.S. air attack and are uninhabitable. Only a few hundred yards away from the Qaddafi compound sits the embassy of Cote d'Ivoire.

The presence of a foosball table and swing set in the yard of the Qaddafi compound belies the charge by the Pentagon that the home was a military target. However, considering that Qaddafi was present in the compound during the attack, it is clear that President Obama violated international law and three Executive Orders signed by three past presidents -- Ford, Carter, and Reagan -- in trying to assassinate the Libyan head of state. In fact, while Obama's order to kill Qaddafi was being carried out, the President of the United States was preparing to yuck it up with Washington's illuminati and Hollywood's glitterati at the White House Correspndents' Dinner in Washington.

Obama's order to kill Qaddafi is reminiscent of George W. Bush's order to kill Sadaam Hussein at the outset of the U.S. war against Iraq, an assassination order that was also a violation of international and U.S. law.

Putting into context what occurred at Mrs. Qaddafi's home and the aftermath, let one say that there is an unprovoked and surprise enemy missile attack on a secondary U.S. presidential residence, say Camp David. The world's major media then claims that the attack was justified because the U.S. president was committing unsubstantiated war crimes, all reported from sketchy sources. A group of independent journalists and human rights activists drive to Camp David and are welcomed by a plainclothes member of the Secret Service's Presidential Protective Division.

The Secret Service official then proceeds to show the delegation one of the bombed out bedrooms of the main residence and points out that one of the pulverized bedrooms is where the president's daughter was killed in the attack. The delegation is then shown the First Lady's singed handbag thrown several hundred feet away in the explosion. Although the President was taking a walk away from the main residence, the delegation is shown a windbreaker bearing the presidential seal lying on the couch of the destroyed living room. A room said contain military command and control systems is then found by the delegation to have a destroyed pool table and a shattered pinball machine. The attacking nation claims that the Camp David compound was a security threat. But the American people rally to support their president and his family after the attack. Now, you can begin to understand how the people of Libya feel after the U.S. attack on Mrs. Qaddafi's house that killed her and her husband's son and three grand children, along with a family friend.


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.

By Uri Avnery

I HAD the unqualified blessing of living with Rachel Avnery for 58 years. Last Saturday I took leave of her body. She was as beautiful in death as she was in life. I could not take my eyes off her face.

I am writing this to help myself accept the unacceptable. I beg your indulgence.

IF A HUMAN BEING can be summed up in one word, hers was: empathy.

She had an uncanny ability to sense the emotions of others. A blessing and a curse. If someone was unhappy, so was she. No one could hide their innermost feelings from her.

Her empathy touched everyone she met. Even in her last months, her nurses were soon telling her their life stories.

Once we went to see a film set in a small Slovak town during the Holocaust. A solitary old woman did not understand what was happening when the Jews were summoned for deportation to the death camps; neighbors had to help her to the assembly point.

We arrived late and found seats in the dark. When the lights came on at the end, Menachem Begin got up in front of us. His eyes, red from weeping, locked with Rachel's. Oblivious to everybody around, Begin walked straight up to her, took her head in his hands and kissed her on the brow.

IN MANY respects we complemented each other. I tend to abstract thought, she to emotional intelligence. Her wisdom came from life. I am withdrawn, she reached out to people, though she valued her privacy. I am an optimist, she was a pessimist. In every situation, I sense the opportunities, she saw the dangers. I rise in the morning happy, ready for another day’s adventures, she got up late, knowing the day would be bad.

Our backgrounds were very similar - born in Germany to Jewish bourgeois intellectual families, who believed in justice, freedom and equality, coupled with a profound sense of duty. Rachel had all these in abundance, and more. She had an almost fanatical sense of justice.

The first words Rachel ever spoke, when her family had fled the Gestapo to Capri, were “mare schön”, Italian for sea, German for beautiful.

She never read nor wrote German, but learned the language perfectly from speaking with her parents - she even corrected my German grammar.

Rachel, alas, lacked Prussian punctuality. It was a constant source of friction between us. I feel physically ill if I am not on time, Rachel was always, but always, late.

THREE TIMES I met her for the first time.

In 1945, I founded a group to propagate the idea of a new Hebrew nation, integral to the Semitic region like the Arabs. Too poor to rent an office, we met at members' homes.

At one such meeting, a 14-year-old girl, the daughter of the landlord, came in to listen. I noticed fleetingly that she was beautiful.

Five years later I met her again when I was running a popular magazine aimed at revolutionizing everything, including advertising: girls instead of the usual dull text.

We needed a pretty girl for an ad, but there were no professional models in the new state. One of our editors ran a theater group. He introduced me to a member called Rachel.

We took some pictures by the sea, and I took her home on my motorcycle. We fell off in the sand and just laughed.

The third time was at the same experimental theater. There she appeared again, and at some point she tried to guess my age, pledging a kiss for every year she was wrong. She guessed I was five years younger than I was, and we made a date for settling the account.

We continued to date on and off. Once I was to meet her at midnight in a cafe. When I did not arrive, she went to look for me. She found a crowd outside my office, and was told I was in hospital. Some soldiers had attacked me and broken all my fingers.

I was helpless. Rachel offered to help me out for a few days. They lasted 58 years.

We found that living together suited us. Since we despised religious weddings (there being no civil marriage), we lived happily in sin for five years. Then her father fell seriously ill. To set his mind at rest, we married in a hurry, in the private apartment of a rabbi. We borrowed the witnesses and the congregation from another wedding, and the ring from the rabbi’s wife.

That was the last time either of us wore a ring.

FOR 58 YEARS, she inspected every word I published. That was not easy. Rachel had strict principles, and stuck to them. She covered some of my pages in red ink. Sometimes we had bitter arguments, but in the end, one of us usually conceded – generally me. On the rare occasions we could not agree, I wrote what I felt like (and more than once regretted it).

She struck out all personal attacks she considered unjust. Exaggerations. Every weakness of logic - she would spot contradictions that had escaped me. She improved my Hebrew. But mostly she added the magic word “almost”.

I tend to generalize. “All Israelis know…”, “Politicians are cynical…” – she would change that to “Almost all Israelis …”, “Most politicians…” We joked that she was sprinkling “almost”s on my articles as a cook sprinkles salt on food.

She never wrote an article herself. Nor gave interviews. To such requests she would respond: “What did I marry a spokesman for?”

BUT HER real talents lay elsewhere. She was the ultimate teacher, a calling she pursued for 28 long years.

This happened quite unplanned, after she was sent on an army course for teachers.

Before the course finished, she was practically kidnapped by an elementary school principal. Long before she received her teacher’s certificate, she was a legend. Parents with connections pulled strings to get their children into her class. There was a joke that mothers planned their pregnancies so that the child would be 6 years old when Rachel taught the first grade. (She agreed to teach only the first and second grade, as the last chance of shaping a child’s character.)

Her pupils included the children of illustrious artists and men of letters. Recently, a middle aged man called to us in the street “Teacher Rachel, I was your pupil in first grade! I owe you everything!”

How did she do it? By treating children as human beings and nurturing their self-respect. If a boy couldn’t read, she put him in charge of tidiness in the classroom. If a girl was rejected by prettier classmates, she would be the good fairy in a play. She drew satisfaction from seeing them open up like flowers in the sun. She spent hours explaining to backward parents their children's needs.

During the school holidays, her children were raring to get back to class.

SHE HAD a purpose: to instill human values.

There was the story about Abraham and the burial site for Sarah. Ephron the Hittite refuses money. Abraham insists on paying. After a long and beautiful exchange, Ephron winds it up: “The land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that betwixt me and thee?” (Genesis 23). Rachel told the children that this is still the Bedouin way of doing business, leading up to the deal in a civilized manner.

After the lesson, Rachel asked the teacher of the parallel class how she explained this episode to her pupils. “I told them that this is typical Arab hypocrisy! They are all born liars! If he wanted money, why didn’t he say so directly?”

I like to think that all of Rachel’s children – or almost all of them – have turned out as better human beings.

I followed her experiments in education closely, and she my journalistic and political exploits. Basically we were attempting the same: she to educate individuals, I the public at large.

AFTER 28 YEARS, Rachel felt that she had lost her edge. She did not believe a teacher should continue after their eagerness has been blunted.

The final push came when I crossed the lines in Beirut in 1982 and met Yasser Arafat. It was a world sensation. With me were two young women on my editorial staff: a correspondent and a photographer. Rachel felt left out of one of the most exciting events in my life, and decided to change direction.

Without telling me, she took a course in photography. Weeks later, pictures of an event were laid before me. I chose the best – which just happened to be hers. The secret was out. She became an enthusiastic photographer, with a remarkable creative talent – always focused on people.

IN EARLY 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin deported 215 Islamic activists across the Lebanese border, protest tents were erected opposite his office. We camped out for 45 wintry days and nights. Rachel, the only woman who was there the whole time, struck up a beautiful friendship with the most extreme Islamic sheikh, Ra’ed Salah. He really respected her. They joked together.

In these tents, we founded Gush Shalom. For her, the injustice done to the Palestinians was intolerable.

She was the photographer at all our events. She took pictures of hundreds of demonstrations, rushing around, taking shots in front and behind, sometimes in clouds of tear gas – despite her doctor's warnings. Twice she collapsed in the burning sun, crossing harsh terrain to protest against the Wall.

When the Gush needed a financial manager, she volunteered. Although it was completely against her nature, she became a meticulous administrator, with a Prussian sense of duty, working on the kitchen table late into the night. She much preferred her unofficial function – maintaining human contact with activists, listening to their problems. She was the soul of the movement.

SHE COULD be very abrasive, too. Far from being a starry-eyed do-gooder, she detested liars, hypocrites and people who did wrong.

She never liked Ariel Sharon, even during the years when we visited each other's homes to talk about the 1973 War.

Lili Sharon loved her, Arik liked her too. There is a photo of him spoon-feeding her with his favorite dish (food was unimportant for her). Rachel did not let me show anyone the picture. After the 1982 Lebanon invasion, we broke contact.

Once, Sharon’s confidant, Dov Weisglas, whom she could not forgive his nasty remarks about the Palestinians, spotted me in a restaurant, came over and shook my hand. But Rachel left his hand dangling in the air. Embarrassing.

When she liked people, she showed it. She liked Yasser Arafat, and he liked her. We went to see him many times in Tunis and later in Palestine, and he treated her with utmost courtesy, allowing her to take pictures of him at any time, showering her with presents. Once he gave her a necklace and insisted on putting it on her himself. With his poor eyesight, he fumbled for a long time. It was a wonderful sight, but his official photographer did not react. Rachel was furious.

When we served as a human shield for the besieged Palestinian President, Arafat kissed her on the brow and led her by the hand to the entrance.

FEW PEOPLE knew that she carried an incurable disease – Hepatitis C. It lay like a sleeping leopard at her doorstep. She knew that it could wake up any minute and devour her.

The unexplained infection was discovered more than 20 years ago. Every doctor's appointment could have meant a death sentence. She collapsed five months ago. There were many signs of this approaching, which I ignored but she clearly saw.

During these five months, I spent every minute with her. Every new day was like a precious gift for me, though she was inexorably sinking. We both knew, but pretended that everything was going to be alright.

She had no pains, but increasing difficulty eating, remembering, and, towards the end, speaking. It was heart-rending to see her struggling for words. For two days she was in a coma, and then she slipped away unconsciously and painlessly.

She had insisted that nothing be done to prolong her life artificially. It was a terrible moment when I asked the doctors to stop their efforts and let her die.

In accordance with her wishes, her body was cremated, against Jewish tradition. Her ashes were scattered on the Tel Aviv seashore, opposite the window where she had spent so much time gazing out. So the words of William Wordsworth, which she loved and often repeated, do not strictly apply:

“But she is in her grave, and oh,
The difference to me.”

ONCE, in a moment of weakness exploited by a film-maker, she complained that I had never said “I love you”. True enough: I find these three words incurably banal, devalued by Hollywood kitsch. They certainly are not adequate for my feelings towards her – she had become a part of me.

When she was fading, I whispered “I love you”. I don’t know if she heard.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Cutting Kids' Healthcare Will Grow The Deficit
Republicans say slashing these programs is fiscally responsible but a new study highlights just how wrong they are
By David Sirota

In the name of curtailing deficits, politicians across the country are hacking away at programs that aim to make children healthier. In Congress, for example, House Republicans are spearheading a budget that eviscerates funding for food assistance and effectively defunds the wildly successful Children's Health Insurance Program.

Similarly, from Texas to California, state lawmakers are chopping children's health programs in the face of budget shortfalls. In all these initiatives, the rhetorical leitmotif is "fiscal responsibility."

Like clockwork, this has set off the now-standard ideological debate over values, with liberals arguing that it's immoral to deny healthcare to today's kids and conservatives countering that it's even more immoral to saddle the next generation with debt. But as highlighted by a new National Bureau of Economic Research report, both sides are ignoring the most important non-ideological fact: Any so-called deficit reduction plan that cuts child health programs is almost certain to increase deficits.

The NBER study compared British and American illness rates, controlling for both demographic differences and risk factors like smoking and drinking. It found that"

> a) EW have "much higher" childhood illness rates than our English counterparts, b) "the transmission rates of higher rates of childhood illnesses into poor health in [adults is] higher in America compared to England" and therefore, c) "the origins of poorer adult health among older Americans compared to the English traces back right into the childhood years."

In other words, America's broken private healthcare system allows kids' medical afflictions to become far worse in adulthood than they become in England -- a nation with a government-sponsored universal healthcare system.

Remembering that experts say diabetes alone could be a $3 trillion health-cost time bomb in the United States, the NBER study's underlying message should be clear: If we reduce our country's minimal efforts to make kids healthier, we will be all but guaranteeing even more deficit-exploding medical problems down the line.

Those problems, of course, are often more expensive to therapeutically treat in adults than to preemptively address in kids. That means any short-term savings achieved by cuts to children's healthcare will likely be wiped out by much bigger costs as those less-healthy kids enter adulthood. And don't forget -- those additional marginal costs are everyone's concern because they often end up being paid by Medicare (aka taxpayers).

The NBER study is quick to point out that access to children's health insurance -- universal in England, but not in America -- may not be the "primary" factor in the discrepancy between our two nations' health stats. However, it's possible that health services for pregnant women are acutely involved.

It's also possible the results reflect not just differences in health services, but also larger incongruities in everything from food safety regulation to consumer products safety laws to environmental protection. This would suggest that it's not only ignorant for self-described deficit hawks to cut children's health programs, but also absurd for them to cite deficits as reason to cut enforcement of public-interest laws.

As obvious as these lessons may seem, appreciating their significance requires a serious attitudinal shift in America. It requires us to take the longer view of our deficit challenges, to see certain expenditures as investments in future savings and to remember that adage about "cutting off your nose to spite your face." Because while we certainly can get the deficit under control, we cannot achieve such a goal by denying kids healthcare.

Doing that will spite the whole country -- and make the budget picture far worse.
(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.

I Want To Be A Farmer
Food Justice, Out of the Mouths of Babes
By Randall Amster

“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” — Psalm 8:2

My oldest son recently “graduated” from preschool. In the endearing ceremony, each of the children was asked what they want to be when they grow up. His precocious, divergent, and unanticipated response was, “I want to be a farmer like my dad.” And I couldn’t have been more proud.

To be sure, I’m hardly a “farmer” in any real sense of the word. Yes, I do work hard to scratch out a good-sized family garden each year in this high-desert habitat, and in our five years here we’ve planted an orchard and built a large chicken coop, among other interventions. So while I definitely get my hands dirty and spend a fair bit of time building soil and coaxing vegetables from the granite and clay, my skills are much closer to the hobby side of the coin than anything that can rightly be termed “farming.”

All of which makes my son’s statement even more powerful to me. He knows that I’m a teacher and that I write a lot, and surely I spend much more of my working time at home on these pursuits than I do on farming. But such cerebral matters are largely invisible to a small child, taking place silently within the confines of a personal computer. Our garden, orchard, and farm animals, by contrast, exist in a tangible and collective manner that registers on a deeper level in the eyes of a child.

In many ways, this is exactly why I do it. Sure, the notions of finding food in the desert, relearning essential skills, becoming more self-sufficient, and staying close to nature are all important drivers as well. Yet the essence of these pursuits really does devolve upon the lessons being taught to the kids. In a society that tries to breed out any connection to the natural world and mostly teaches children that food comes from the supermarket, my son’s impromptu career aspirations are nothing short of miraculous — all the more so, considering that my partner and I were both raised as urban people with little connection to the land.

In addition to our family farming adventures, we’ve also tried to cultivate an appreciation of how nature works and why it’s important. The children have learned to identify wild edible and medicinal plants in our bioregion, helping to harvest prickly pear and banana yucca fruit each season, as well as to appreciate the healing benefits of juniper berries, snakeweed, mallow, horehound, and more. When we go hiking, we like to follow the path of the arroyos and learn where the water flows — leading to a working appreciation of the fact that similar networks exist underground in order to supply most of our water.

The farm animals that we share the space with hold a special place in the children’s minds, constituting an endless source of fascination and yielding regular insights into the origins of our own behaviors. Myriad stories are told (and sometimes embellished) about Daisy the Pig, Samson the Goat, Fred the Rooster, or Rebel the Horse, and it’s vitally important to run through all of the animals’ names from time to time as an exercise in both memory and establishing the full family circle. Likewise, the wild animal visitors we regularly see here occupy an almost folkloric stature in our lives, with tales of hawks and mountain lions and coyotes being central to the experience of being on the land in this time and place.

At the end of the day, much of this family practice comes back to the simple question of where our food comes from. If we had to be fully self-sufficient due to a precipitous collapse of modern conveniences, it would be enormously challenging to say the least. But if we’re able to steadily expand our capacities and knowledge base, we might begin to approach a point of subsistence in time. That may not sound all that romantic of an aspiration, to merely be subsistent, yet on some level it’s among life’s most elusive and worthy aims. Connecting our children to this realization is, in my view, part of our duty as parents, community members, and citizens of the world.

Stepping back one more level, it’s further apparent just how high the collective stakes really are by now. As Evaggelos Vallianatos recently wrote in Truthout, “the EPA has been licensing toxic and cancer-causing farm chemicals that, essentially, poison our food and drinking water while causing harm and death to wildlife…. And many of these pesticides injure or kill wildlife at extremely low amounts, contributing to a massive extinction of species, which is unprecedented in history.” In addition to the wanton use of pesticides and biocides in food production, we have to grapple with the potentially-disastrous effects of untested genetic modification, unregulated additives, and unchecked centralization of our essential food supplies. As Vallianatos concludes, the food that most Americans eat is “unhealthy and hazardous” because it is widely “contaminated by legal and illegal poison residues” throughout the chain.

Some years ago, I gave a joint presentation called “What’s on Your Plate?” at an activist conference. It was intended to point out how deeply dissociative we tend to be about our food, to such an extent that even committed social and environmental advocates oftentimes don’t connect the dots of their activism back to the meals that sustain them. This is understandable on some levels, akin to telling coal miners to “breathe carefully” in its long-term futility and thus, in its potential for rationalization. It’s also the case that we’re not presented with many other viable options beyond “willful ignorance” and “hope for the best” when it comes to our general food choices in this culture. Still, in the ensuing years since giving the ill-received presentation, a wider consciousness about food issues has indeed slowly begun to take hold.

And naturally, some circles have come to define this emerging sensibility as a pathology. There’s even a term being bandied about to encapsulate it: “orthorexia,” which is defined as an obsession with “healthy or righteous eating.” According to the website Eating Disorders, the phrase was first coined in 1997 by Steven Bratman, MD, and refers to “people who create severely limited diets in the name of healthy eating…. One of the main challenges with treating orthorexia is that many orthorexics don’t think they need any help. They’re very proud of their dietary choices, and don’t think it’s necessary for them to learn how to eat ‘normally’ since they consider ‘normal’ food to be harmful.”

Another site, this one a Yahoo! Health column that’s received over forty thousand recommendations on Facebook, further notes that orthorexia sufferers “increasingly restrict their diets to foods they consider pure, natural and healthful…. Those affected may start by eliminating processed foods, anything with artificial colorings or flavorings as well as foods that have come into contact with pesticides. Beyond that, orthorexics may also shun caffeine, alcohol, sugar, salt, wheat and dairy foods.” In addition to such mainstream sources, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) ran a review of Bratman’s book Health Food Junkies, in which he emphasized the typical orthorexic’s “self righteousness” in denigrating fashion: “As orthorexia progresses, a day filled with wheatgrass juice, tofu, and quinoa biscuits may come to feel as holy as one spent serving the destitute and homeless.”

Further, a 2004 article in Psychology Today observed that “sufferers devote excessive attention to their own strict rules and often spend hours each day worrying about tomorrow’s meals. Such a person may find himself socially isolated because he doesn’t indulge in everyday dishes.” As the Yahoo! “expert” confirms, “going to extremes in an effort to eat only healthy foods can also be socially isolating and can undermine personal relationships.” If we juxtapose this perspective — namely that one can be too strongly dedicated to healthy foods, resulting in obsession and ostracism — with the “pervasive poison” litany delivered by Vallianatos and others, it highlights the double-whammy of food toxicity and pathologized awareness, paving a sure-fire path to continued complacency when it comes to the food in our midst.

So when my son publicly proclaims that he wants to be a farmer, the subversive nature of the remark isn’t lost on me. He may well turn out to be something entirely different in his life, but the fact that he’s even thinking about where his food comes from at all is a good sign — and orthorexia be damned. Ultimately, if we’re going to turn that long-overdue corner toward a sustainable and just society, there will need to be a lot of young people with the awareness and skills to manifest life’s essentials of food, water, and energy in a healthy way. The pathology isn’t in knowing too much and trying to take action; it’s in consciously avoiding the knowledge and lapsing into socially-affirmed complicity. There’s no future in that. But for a brief moment last week, I could discern one in my son’s telling words.
(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).

GOP Shucking And Jiving On Medicare

In an astonishing observation, Rep. Paul Ryan recently declared: "Washington has not been honest with you."

Gosh, Paul, that possibility never occurred to us! What makes Ryan's observation astonishing is the fact that he is Washington – a seven-term Republican insider, House budget chairman, and author of the GOP's ideologically-contrived, budget-whacking plan that kills America's enormously popular Medicare program.

But Ryan didn't mean to point his finger at himself. No, no – he meant those dastardly Democrats who've dared to tell the public about his proposal to replace Medicare with a privatized voucher scheme. Understandably, the public is now angry at Ryan and his Republican cohorts. Hence, he is scurrying around in a shamefully-dishonest PR campaign to accuse the Democrats of – what else? – dishonesty. The Ryan Plan, he asserts, would give seniors "the same kind of [health insurance] system members of Congress enjoy today."

Oh, Paul, pants on fire! We taxpayers cover 75 percent of the payments for the plan that you enjoy, but you would saddle older folks with vouchers that'd cover only a third of their insurance costs, and that share would shrink with each passing year.

Apparently, feeling that telling the truth is unfair in today's politics, Republicans are angry at Democrats for talking about Ryan's Medicare gut job. Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican whose sweeping white pompadour covers a totally empty head, recently ranted in feigned outrage that Democrats are trying to "scare the daylights" out of seniors. "I think that's irresponsible," he bellowed, oblivious to his own absurd scare tactics of only two years ago, when he assailed "Obamacare," direly warning that Obama was turning Medicare into "a health care gulag." They can run all they want, but on this one, they can't hide.
(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.

Our Safety Net
By Helen Thomas

Why do the Republican lawmakers want to gut the government social programs that help the elderly, the poor, the sick and the disabled? It will be at their own political peril, I hope.

If the Republicans want to solve the $14 trillion deficit problem, they might start by reducing Congressional salaries, perks and pensions. It's the tax payers who bailed out the banks who were too big to fail - without a quid pro quo of bank loans to small businesses and needy individuals. Since then, the banks have paid big bonuses to their top executives. Why?

The new GOP freshmen who swept the last election, thanks to the support of the Tea Party, seem to think they have a mandate to kill the New Deal programs, which were designed to help the helpless. Remember the Tea Partier's caveat in warning that they do not want the federal government to mess with their Medicare. Understand?

The GOP got its comeuppance. In a recent election, Kathy Hochul, the Democratic clerk of Erie County, N.Y., defeated Jane Corwin in a district that had been solidly Republican for over 40 years. Hochul hammered on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's proposal to privatize the Medicare program by using vouchers as subsidies. Lawmakers running in the 2012 national elections should take heed against tampering with the Great Society programs to solve the nation's debt problems.

The Ryan proposal will not affect seniors until 2022, but has instilled fear in those who count on the future safety net programs during their old age. The Ryan plan passed the House, but has been blocked in the Senate. It seems the Republican freshmen in the House have a lot to learn about this country. They assumed their election victory was a mandate to kill the safety net programs.

The GOP failed to destroy Social Security during the last Bush administration, which proposed to privatize the program, enacted during the Great Depression, a time of much suffering in the nation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt became aware of the plight of the elderly during those depression years and was moved to do something to assist older Americans.

There are now 47 million Americans most of whom depend on that monthly check to pay for their food and shelter. Since it was enacted in 1935, Social Security has been expanded to include orphans and the disabled.

Medicare was signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, in Independence, Missouri, at the desk of President Harry S. Truman. Truman was the first to propose national medical coverage for all Americans. He stood by smiling when Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law, a dream come true.

The Republican leaders in Congress have vowed to vote against any increase in taxes to solve the nation's fiscal dilemma. Without any new revenue, they are also standing firm against wiping out the generous tax breaks. In other words, the burden of the nation's debt has to be carried on those who can least afford it.

Suddenly, the lawmakers are coming to the conclusion that our wars - unwinnable - in Iraq and Afghanistan, cost money. For the first time lawmakers are starting to question the cost expenditures for the 10 year Afghanistan war and the eight years in Iraq. Especially in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, how can we justify spending $113 billion when we are literally going bankrupt? President Barack Obama has promised to begin some pull out of the troops. The human cost has already been too much for both wars. But at last we are publicly addressing the financial cost.

Ironically, most of the nations of the world, including the western industrialized countries and the underdeveloped, have humanitarian systems for their needy people. Why not America, now in the throws of a very slow recovery from the recession, with millions still jobless and no breakthrough in sight?

President Obama must start creating programs to put millions of people back to work. The economy is expected to be the primary issue in the 2012 election. Are we our brother's keeper? Or are we the providers for the welfare of the nation's bankers and insurance companies? That's the question voters will have to decide.
(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.

Why The American Media Is Failing
By James Donahue

Journalism students usually hear about Thomas Jefferson’s quote about the importance of newspapers in relation to government. He said: “Were it left to me whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.”

Indeed, those words have inspired many a journalist to assume his or her role as a member of the “Fourth Estate” and to work diligently as a watchdog over the actions of elected government representatives, whether in local city or township boards or in the highest levels of office.

What many people don’t know is that Jefferson, like all politicians, was not really that enamored by the press. He also said: “Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.” And he said: “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”

It is clear that Jefferson possessed an understanding, even in his day, of just how complex the field of newspaper publishing can be and how pressures experienced by people in elected office can influence printed words in published newspapers.

Indeed, Jefferson recognized the importance of equitable and open-minded journalism and its role in keeping people in elected government jobs working in the best interests of their constituents. But he also knew that newspapers were businesses that were dependent upon advertising revenues for their existence. And this lead to conflicts between what reporters wrote and what the advertisers wanted to see in print.

Even in Jefferson’s day, the big money interests in every community possessed the political power because they maintained control over what appeared in published newspaper print. Because they did this, they controlled what the reading public was allowed to know.

Every journalist that has ever worked a political beat understands clearly how the “system” works and has struggled with the problem of political corruption that often reaches the publisher’s office. No matter how honest and dedicated the reporter may try to be, stories that should be told frequently get altered or they never appear in print at all. Consequently the media plays what can be a somewhat convoluted role in delivering stories of concern to public interest.

There have been many books and reports written by contemporary historians concerning the results of a failure by the media to correctly dig for facts and do the job it was designed to do. A recent book by Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher magazine, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits – and the President – Failed on Iraq, slams the media’s failures in exposing the misinformation that led America to an unnecessary and unprecedented assault on another country.

Several newspapers were working together in 2001 to reveal just what went wrong in the 2000 presidential elections that led to a Supreme Court decision to give the high office to George W. Bush. They were financing a recount of that controversial Florida election and were possibly on the brink of exposing mass election fraud when the nation was slammed with news of the 9-11 attack. Suddenly the attention of the world was shifted and the corruption that put Mr. Bush in office was conveniently buried.

Strangely, the unanswered questions about the 9-11 attacks also have remained topics where contemporary journalists fear to tread. The questions remain, but they are all delegated to the ranks of the “crazy conspiracy theorists” and receive little, if any, established media attention.

The few top journalists that have dared to ask hard and controversial questions have been quickly quashed and driven from their posts by unseen forces. They have been made examples for the other members of the media. Former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather was driven from his job after becoming embroiled in a disputed news report involving the Bush 2004 presidential re-election. And outspoken reporter Helen Thomas lost her position with the Hearst Newspapers in 2010 after she made a controversial comment about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands in the Middle East. These were both “untouchable” issues.

The American media has not always been as tethered as it appears to be today. There were great moments, like the memorable work of Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward that uncovered the Watergate scandal and toppled the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Then there was the work of radio and television reporter Edward R. Murrow whose daring reporting helped topple the dynasty of Communist conspiracy hunter Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

Those were good days for the American media. Unfortunately the industry has fallen unto hard times and is more dependent than ever on the advertising dollar for its survival. The media is no longer limited to the printed word in magazines and newspapers, but has expanded to radio, television and most recently, the Internet.

The news reporting sweeping the Internet first began on a limited basis, but has since become a major competitor to printed news publications and even television news. The Internet news can be found from all around the world. Photos and individually shot video footage of major news events are flashed around the world even as things are happening. Even the most sophisticated television news teams can no longer compete against this kind of live stream reporting.

The infamous Wikileaks web site, created by Australian Julian Assange, has opened an interesting new insight as to just how important the Internet can be in providing real journalistic freedoms not only in the United States, but for the entire world. The web site and a number of its mirror sites, publish daily bundles of once “secret” government documents that expose misbehavior by world power brokers. It is not surprising that Assange is now locked up in a Swedish jail on sexual abuse charges. He is under fierce assault by power figures that are willing to do anything to stop this new form of journalism from succeeding.

The Wikileaks case is somewhat akin to the old Bible story of David vs. Goliath. If Assange wins, the world may begin to enjoy the fruits of the very journalistic power that Jefferson once envisioned. It has the potential of operating as a truly “free” press without the shackles its need for financial support created.

Right on cue, legislators in the U.S. are pressing to put a law on the books that would censor any Internet website that dares to publish information that might embarrass or expose misdeeds by people in high government office. The bill, the Protect IP Act sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch, would allow “any copyright holder” or the Department of Justice the power to force search engines, browsers and service providers to block user’s access to targeted websites and scrub the American Internet clean of any trace of their existence.

The Protect IP Act is presented as a protection against copyright infringement of recorded and filmed material by foreign interests, but the wording includes censorship of Internet sites that dare to blow the whistle on government activities under the guise of protecting national security.

It all boils down to a plan to place government and corporate controls on Internet journalists like Julian Assange who not only dare to throw sunshine into the dark shadows of government, but threaten the future of the old and perhaps outdated television and newspaper communications industries.
(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.

Free Will (And Why You Still Don’t Have It)
By Sam Harris

My last post on free will elicited a very heated response. Many readers sent emails questioning my sanity, and several asked to be permanently removed from my mailing list. Many others wrote to share the Good News that quantum mechanics has liberated the human mind from the prison of determinism. It seems I touched a nerve.

In the hopes of clearing up some confusion, I’ve culled another post from my discussion of free will in The Moral Landscape.


The human brain must respond to information coming from several domains: from the external world, from internal states of the body, and, increasingly, from a sphere of meaning—which includes spoken and written language, social cues, cultural norms, rituals of interaction, assumptions about the rationality of others, judgments of taste and style, etc. Generally, these streams of information seem unified in our experience: You spot your best friend standing on the street corner looking strangely disheveled. You recognize that she is crying and frantically dialing her cell phone. Was she involved in a car accident? Did someone assault her? You rush to her side, feeling an acute desire to help. Your “self” seems to stand at the intersection of these lines of input and output. From this point of view, you tend to feel that you are the source of your own thoughts and actions. You decide what to do and not to do. You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. The problem, however, is that this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain. All of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion.

The physiologist Benjamin Libet famously demonstrated that activity in the brain’s motor regions can be detected some 300 milliseconds before a person feels that he has decided to move. Another lab recently used fMRI data to show that some “conscious” decisions can be predicted up to 10 seconds before they enter awareness (long before the preparatory motor activity detected by Libet). Clearly, findings of this kind are difficult to reconcile with the sense that one is the conscious source of one’s actions.

And the distinction between “higher” and “lower” systems in the brain offers no relief: for I no more initiate events in executive regions of my prefrontal cortex than I cause the creaturely outbursts of my limbic system. The truth seems inescapable: I, as the subject of my experience, cannot know what I will next think or do until a thought or intention arises; and thoughts and intentions are caused by physical events and mental stirrings of which I am not aware.

Of course, many scientists and philosophers realized long before the advent of experimental neuroscience that free will could not be squared with an understanding of the physical world. Nevertheless, many still deny this fact. For instance, the biologist Martin Heisenberg has observed that some fundamental processes in the brain, like the opening and closing of ion channels and the release of synaptic vesicles, occur at random, and cannot, therefore, be determined by environmental stimuli. Thus, much of our behavior can be considered “self-generated,” and therein, he imagines, lies a basis for free will. But “self-generated” in this sense means only that these events originate in the brain. The same can be said for the brain states of a chicken.

If I were to learn that my decision to have a third cup of coffee this morning was due to a random release of neurotransmitters, how could the indeterminacy of the initiating event count as the free exercise of my will? Such indeterminacy, if it were generally effective throughout the brain, would obliterate any semblance of human agency. Imagine what your life would be like if all your actions, intentions, beliefs, and desires were “self-generated” in this way: you would scarcely seem to have a mind at all. You would live as one blown about by an internal wind. Actions, intentions, beliefs, and desires can only exist in a system that is significantly constrained by patterns of behavior and the laws of stimulus-response. In fact, the possibility of reasoning with other human beings—or, indeed, of finding their behaviors and utterances comprehensible at all—depends on the assumption that their thoughts and actions will obediently ride the rails of a shared reality. In the limit, Heisenberg’s “self-generated” mental events would amount to utter madness.

And the indeterminacy specific to quantum mechanics offers no foothold. Even if our brains were quantum computers, the brains of chimps, dogs, and mice would be quantum computers as well. (I don’t know of anyone who believes that these animals have free will.) And quantum effects are unlikely to be biologically salient in any case. They do drive evolution, as high-energy particles like cosmic rays cause point mutations in DNA, and the behavior of such particles passing through the nucleus of a cell is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. (Evolution, therefore, seems unpredictable in principle.) But most neuroscientists do not view the brain as a quantum computer. Again, even if we knew that human consciousness depended upon quantum processes, it is pure hand-waving to suggest that quantum indeterminacy renders the concept of free will scientifically intelligible.

If the laws of nature do not strike most of us as incompatible with free will, it is because we have not imagined how human action would appear if all cause-and-effect relationships were understood. Consider the following thought experiment:

Imagine that a mad scientist has developed a means of controlling the human brain at a distance. What would it be like to watch him send a person to and fro on the wings of her “will”? Would there be even the slightest temptation to impute freedom to her? No. But this mad scientist is nothing more than causal determinism personified. What makes his existence so inimical to our notion of free will is that when we imagine him lurking behind a person’s thoughts and actions—tweaking electrical potentials, manufacturing neurotransmitters, regulating genes, etc.—we cannot help but let our notions of freedom and responsibility travel up the puppet’s strings to the hand that controls them.

To see that the addition of randomness—quantum mechanical or otherwise—does nothing to change this situation, we need only imagine the scientist basing the inputs to his machine on a shrewd arrangement of roulette wheels, or on the decay of some radioactive isotope. How would such unpredictable changes in the states of a person’s brain constitute freedom?

All the relevant features of a person’s inner life could be conserved—thoughts, moods, and intentions would still arise and beget actions—and yet, once we imagine a hypothetical mad scientist dispensing the appropriate cocktail of randomness and natural law, we are left with the undeniable fact that the conscious mind is not the source of its own thoughts and intentions. This discloses the real mystery of free will: if our moment to moment experience is compatible with its utter absence, how can we say that we see any evidence for it in the first place?

None of this, however, renders the choices we make in life any less important. As my friend Dan Dennett has pointed out, many people confuse determinism with fatalism. This gives rise to questions like, “If everything is determined, why should I do anything? Why not just sit back and see what happens?” But the fact that our choices depend on prior causes does not mean that they do not matter. If I had not decided to write my last book, it wouldn’t have written itself. My choice to write it was unquestionably the primary cause of its coming into being. Decisions, intentions, efforts, goals, willpower, etc., are causal states of the brain, leading to specific behaviors, and behaviors lead to outcomes in the world. Human choice, therefore, is as important as fanciers of free will believe. And to “just sit back and see what happens” is itself a choice that will produce its own consequences. It is also extremely difficult to do: just try staying in bed all day waiting for something to happen; you will find yourself assailed by the impulse to get up and do something, which will require increasingly heroic efforts to resist.

Therefore, while it is true to say that a person would have done otherwise if he had chosen to do otherwise, this does not deliver the kind of free will that most people seem to cherish—because a person’s “choices” merely appear in his mental stream as though sprung from the void. From the perspective of your conscious mind, you are no more responsible for the next thing you think (and therefore do) than you are for the fact that you were born into this world.

Our belief in free will seems to arise from our moment-to-moment ignorance of the specific prior causes of our thoughts and actions. The phrase “free will” describes what it feels like to be identified with the content of each mental state as it arises in consciousness. Trains of thought like, “What should I get my daughter for her birthday? I know, I’ll take her to a pet store and have her pick out some tropical fish,” convey the apparent reality of choices, freely made. But from a deeper perspective (speaking both subjectively and objectively), thoughts simply arise (what else could they do?) unauthored, and yet author to our actions.

In the philosophical literature, one finds three approaches to the problem of free will: determinism, libertarianism, and compatibilism. Both determinism and libertarianism are often referred to as “incompatibilist” views, in that both maintain that if our behavior is fully determined by background causes, free will is an illusion. Determinists believe that we live in precisely such a world; libertarians (no relation to the political view that goes by this name) believe that our agency rises above the field of prior causes—and they inevitably invoke some metaphysical entity, like a soul, as the vehicle for our freely acting wills. Compatibilists, like Dan Dennett, maintain that free will is compatible with causal determinism (see his fine books, Freedom Evolves<>/A> and Elbow Room; for other compatibilist arguments see Ayer, Chisholm, Strawson, Frankfurt, Dennett, and Watson here).

The problem with compatibilism, as I see it, is that it tends to ignore that people’s moral intuitions are driven by a deeper, metaphysical notion of free will. That is, the free will that people presume for themselves and readily attribute to others (whether or not this freedom is, in Dennett’s sense, “worth wanting”) is a freedom that slips the influence of impersonal, background causes. The moment you show that such causes are effective—as any detailed account of the neurophysiology of human thought and behavior would— proponents of free will can no longer locate a plausible hook upon which to hang their notions of moral responsibility. The neuroscientists Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen make this same point:

Most people’s view of the mind is implicitly dualist and libertarian and not materialist and compatibilist . . . [I]ntuitive free will is libertarian, not compatibilist. That is, it requires the rejection of determinism and an implicit commitment to some kind of magical mental causation . . . contrary to legal and philosophical orthodoxy, determinism really does threaten free will and responsibility as we intuitively understand them (Greene J & J. Cohen. 2004).

It is generally argued that our sense of free will presents a compelling mystery: on the one hand, it is impossible to make sense of in causal terms; on the other, we feel that we are the authors of our own actions. However, I think that this mystery is itself a symptom of our confusion. It is not that free will is simply an illusion: our experience is not merely delivering a distorted view of reality; rather, we are mistaken about the character of our experience. We do not feel as free as we think we do. Our sense of our own freedom results from our not paying close attention to what it is like to be ourselves in the world. The moment we do pay attention, we begin to see that free will is nowhere to be found, and our subjectivity is perfectly compatible with this truth. Thoughts and intentions simply arise in the mind. What else could they do? The truth about us is stranger than many suppose: the illusion of free will is itself an illusion. (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.

The Impossible Distance
A Choice to Kill
By Chris Floyd

I watched them marching toward the border. Row upon row of them in the hot, bright sun. They marched without guns, without tanks and missiles -- although some, like the shepherd boy David, did pick up a few rocks to hurl into the impossible distance.

I watched them stream down the green hill toward the heaps of dirt and wire. I saw them, old and young, walk toward the occupied land. I saw them come closer -- close enough for the heavily-armed occupying force to have them in range.

From a distance -- behind the barbed wire, with the occupiers, where the cameras that showed the scene were set -- I heard the dull pops and parps of the guns as they fired. I saw the marchers kept streaming down the hill, although the first wave was now breaking in disarray. I heard the guns again. I saw some marchers fall, others scramble back, and still more coming down.

Pop. Pop. Parp. The dull sounds, intermittent, careful. The bullets whizzed across the distance -- the impossible distance, which no stone could traverse. The bullets threw up clouds of dirt, they struck flesh. I saw bodies twisting and going down. The march became a rescue party. The dead and wounded were lifted onto sheets and stretchers as the bullets kept coming: dull, intermittent, careful. Pop. Pop. Parp.

Finally, as many lay dead, many lay bleeding in bright, hot sun, finally, across the distance, from behind the barbed wire and hot-barrelled weapons, I watched the canisters of tear gas sailing through the air, trailing streams of smoke. They landed on the dirt and the green grass, and spewed their painful, irresistible fog.

Now, at last, the marchers -- who had kept coming in the face of the bullets -- turned and fled. Carrying the dead, the dying and bleeding, they ran back up the green hill.

Then suddenly the scene shifted to an anonymous government office, where a comely young spokeswoman, speaking crisp, American-accented English, explained that these unweaponed marchers walking in the hot, bright sun posed such an overwhelming threat to the heavily-armed occupying forces behind the walls of barbed wire that there was no alternative, no other choice, but to open fire across the impossible distance that no stone could traverse, to fire into the unarmed crowd, to fire again and again, to watch them twist and fall into the mounds of dirt. No choice. No alternative.

Her appearance on the screen lasted almost as long as the time given to the marchers and their dead. The reporter, who was standing near the border, behind the barbed wire, who had seen it all with his own eyes, dutifully concluded his piece with geopolitical context -- one side says this, the other says that, plots and machinations lie behind every public outpouring. But even given all that, even he -- speaking as the marchers were fleeing from the noxious clouds behind him -- even he could not avoid the obvious question: Why use the tear gas last? Why shoot first? Why fire into the bodies, into the unarmed marchers, and kill them, when all along you were equipped with the proven means to disperse them without death and blood?

It seems, then, there was a choice for the occupying force. And they made the that choice. The choice to kill, to speak with death and blood across the impossible distance.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

Ben gives the Corpo-rat Salute.

The Bernanke Scandal
Full-Frontal Cluelessness
By Robert Scheer

How I wish that Ben Bernanke would get caught emailing photos of his underwear-clad groin. Otherwise we don’t stand a chance of reversing this administration’s economic policy, which is shaping up to be every bit as disastrous as that of its predecessor.

Indeed, the Fed chairman’s much anticipated remarks on Tuesday take one back to the contemptuous indifference of a Herbert Hoover to the public’s suffering: Bernanke dismissed the wobbly economy with its anemic 1.8 percent first-quarter growth as merely “somewhat slower than expected.” The rise in unemployment to 9.1 percent was “some loss of momentum.”

The problem with Bernanke is that he is utterly clueless as to the stark pain and fear endured by the 50 million Americans who have experienced, or face the prospect of, losing their homes. His remarks reflected the insularity of a ruling-power elite that is magnificently impervious to the damage that Bernanke’s policies in the current and past administration helped inflict on what used to be called the American way of life. This is a man who assured us there was no housing crisis, while his policies at the Fed encouraged the mortgage securitization swindles that caused the meltdown of the economy.

His full statement stands as a classic example of the limits of economic language as morally descriptive: “Overall, the economic recovery appears to be continuing at a moderate pace, albeit at a rate that is both uneven across sectors and frustratingly slow from the perspective of millions of unemployed and underemployed workers.” Frustratingly slow—how about going bat nuts with fear over not being able to make your mortgage payment and losing your home? Tell it to workers who must contend with stagnant wage rates and sharply rising gas and food costs as better jobs and therefore consumer demand move offshore. Bernanke takes low wages to be reassuring news on what he sees as the all-important inflation front: “subdued unit labor costs should remain a restraining influence on inflation.”

At home we are experiencing a social tsunami with the disappearance of a middle-class workforce of stakeholders who were assumed by observers as varied as Thomas Jefferson and Alexis de Tocqueville to be the very bedrock of America’s experiment in freedom. Many with jobs are struggling desperately to get by as the average workweek and pay scales fall, and countless workers find themselves settling for rewards well below their skill sets. Even those slim pickings are denied to the unemployed. Bernanke concedes: “Particularly concerning is the very high level of long-term unemployment—nearly half of the unemployed have been jobless for more than six months.”

The jobs that have been created by our large multinational corporations, like the bailed-out GE, are primarily outside of the country, as Bernanke admitted: “Many U.S. firms, notably in manufacturing but also in services, have benefited from the strong growth of demand in foreign markets.” Those foreign gains, fueled by far more successful anti-recession policies in China, Brazil and Germany, have driven up demand and prices abroad in the areas of petroleum, food and key construction commodities.

Bernanke, speaking at a monetary conference in Atlanta, conceded that “the depressed state of housing in the United States is a big reason that the current recovery is less vigorous than we would like,” and that the “U.S. economy is recovering from both the worst financial crisis and the most severe housing bust since the Great Depression.”

But he offered not a word as to how the severe effects of that housing bust might be mitigated. Not a word about assisting people to stay in their homes. Yet he claimed that the relief that the Fed provided to the bankers by buying up more than $1.2 trillion of the toxic mortgages those bankers had created “has been accomplished, I should note, at no net cost to the federal budget or to the U.S. taxpayer.”

This is the Big Lie technique at work, employed by a huge banking lobby that stresses the direct cost of the TARP program while ignoring other programs that will not be paid back, as well as the additional cost of $5 trillion to the national debt that a proper Fed policy could have avoided.

The record is by now indelibly clear that the economic approaches pursued by George W. Bush and Barack Obama, with Bernanke playing a key role in both administrations, can be most accurately summarized as a policy of government of the bankers, by the bankers, and for the bankers.

Assurances of stability to the financial markets, meaning the ability for companies to borrow government funds at a near-zero interest rate without giving anything back to the public in the form of mortgage relief or job creation, have been the overwhelming goal. But even by that standard, as the latest statistics on job creation and construction starts attest, the government’s effort is not working. Putting the bankers first has represented pushing on a string, what Paul Volcker condemns as a “liquidity trap,” a situation in which taxpayer money has been made available to major corporations that invest in job creation that benefits foreigners instead of U.S. workers. Now that’s an obscenity we should be concerned about.
(c) 2011 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Vouchercare Is Not Medicare
By Paul Krugman

What’s in a name? A lot, the National Republican Congressional Committee obviously believes. Last week, the committee sent a letter demanding that a TV station stop running an ad declaring that the House Republican budget plan would “end Medicare.” This, the letter insisted, was a false claim: the plan would simply install a “new, sustainable version of Medicare.”

But Comcast, the station’s owner, rejected the demand — and rightly so. For Republicans are indeed seeking to dismantle Medicare as we know it, replacing it with a much worse program.

I’m seeing many attempts to shout down anyone making this obvious point, and not just from Republican politicians. For some reason, many commentators seem to believe that accurately describing what the G.O.P. is actually proposing amounts to demagoguery. But there’s nothing demagogic about telling the truth.

Start with the claim that the G.O.P. plan simply reforms Medicare rather than ending it. I’ll just quote the blogger Duncan Black, who summarizes this as saying that “when we replace the Marines with a pizza, we’ll call the pizza the Marines.” The point is that you can name the new program Medicare, but it’s an entirely different program — call it Vouchercare — that would offer nothing like the coverage that the elderly now receive. (Republicans get huffy when you call their plan a voucher scheme, but that’s exactly what it is.)

Medicare is a government-run insurance system that directly pays health-care providers. Vouchercare would cut checks to insurance companies instead. Specifically, the program would pay a fixed amount toward private health insurance — higher for the poor, lower for the rich, but not varying at all with the actual level of premiums. If you couldn’t afford a policy adequate for your needs, even with the voucher, that would be your problem.

And most seniors wouldn’t be able to afford adequate coverage. A Congressional Budget Office analysis found that to get coverage equivalent to what they have now, older Americans would have to pay vastly more out of pocket under the Paul Ryan plan than they would if Medicare as we know it was preserved. Based on the budget office estimates, the typical senior would end up paying around $6,000 more out of pocket in the plan’s first year of operation.

By the way, defenders of the G.O.P. plan often assert that it resembles other, less unpopular programs. For a while they claimed, falsely, that Vouchercare would be just like the coverage federal employees get. More recently, I’ve been seeing claims that Vouchercare would be just like the system created for Americans under 65 by last year’s health care reform — a fairly remarkable defense from a party that has denounced that reform as evil incarnate.

So let me make two points. First, Obamacare was very much a second-best plan, conditioned by perceived political realities. Most of the health reformers I know would have greatly preferred simply expanding Medicare to cover all Americans. Second, the Affordable Care Act is all about making health care, well, affordable, offering subsidies whose size is determined by the need to limit the share of their income that families spend on medical costs. Vouchercare, by contrast, would simply hand out vouchers of a fixed size, regardless of the actual cost of insurance. And these vouchers would be grossly inadequate.

But what about the claim that none of this matters, because Medicare as we know it is unsustainable? Nonsense.

Yes, Medicare has to get serious about cost control; it has to start saying no to expensive procedures with little or no medical benefits, it has to change the way it pays doctors and hospitals, and so on. And a number of reforms of that kind are, in fact, included in the Affordable Care Act. But with these changes it should be entirely possible to maintain a system that provides all older Americans with guaranteed essential health care.

Consider Canada, which has a national health insurance program, actually called Medicare, that is similar to the program we have for the elderly, but less open-ended and more cost-conscious. In 1970, Canada and the United States both spent about 7 percent of their G.D.P. on health care. Since then, as United States health spending has soared to 16 percent of G.D.P., Canadian spending has risen much more modestly, to only 10.5 percent of G.D.P. And while Canadian health care isn’t perfect, it’s not bad.

Canadian Medicare, then, looks sustainable; why can’t we do the same thing here? Well, you know the answer in the case of the Republicans: They don’t want to make Medicare sustainable, they want to destroy it under the guise of saving it.

So in voting for the House budget plan, Republicans voted to end Medicare. Saying that isn’t demagoguery, it’s just pointing out the truth.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"A people without reliable news is, sooner or later, a people without the basis of freedom."
~~~ Harold J. Laski

They're Calling Me A Biological Terrorist
By Ralph Nader

Dear President Obama:

My name is E.coli 0104:H4. I am being detained in a German Laboratory in Baveria, charged with being "a highly virulent strain of bacteria." Together with many others like me, the police have accused us of causing about 20 deaths and nearly five hundred cases of kidney failure--so far. Massive publicity and panic all around.

You can't see me, but your scientists can. They are examining me and I know my days are numbered. I hear them calling me a "biological terrorist," an unusual combination of two different E.coli bacteria cells. One even referred to me as a "conspiracy of mutants."

It is not my fault, I want you to know. I cannot help but harm innocent humans, and I am very sad about this. I want to redeem myself, so I am sending this life-saving message straight from my Petri dish to you.

This outbreak in Germany has been traced to food--location unknown. What is known to you is that invisible terrorism from bacterium and viruses take massively greater lives than the terrorism you are spending billions of dollars and armaments to stop in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Malaria, caused by infection with one of four species of Plasmodium, a parasite transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes destroys a million lives a year. Many of the victims are children and pregnant women. Mycobacterium tuberculosis takes nearly three million lives. The human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) causes over a million deaths. Many other microorganisms in the water, soil, air, and food are daily weapons of mass destruction. Very little in your defense budget goes for operational armed forces against this kind of violence. Your agencies, such as the Center for Disease Control, conduct some research but again nothing compared to the research for your missiles, drones, aircraft and satellites.

Your associates are obsessed with possible bacteriological warfare by your human enemies. Yet you are hardly doing anything on the ongoing silent violence of my indiscriminate brethren.

You and your predecessor George W. Bush made many speeches about fighting terrorism by humans. Have you made a major speech about us?

You speak regularly about crushing the resistance of your enemies. But you splash around so many antibiotics (obviously I don't like this word and consider it genocidal) in cows, bulls, chickens, pigs and fish that your species is creating massive antibiotic resistance, provoking our mutations, so that we can breed even stronger progeny. You are regarded as the smartest beings on Earth, yet you seem to have too many neurons backfiring.

In the past two days of detention, scientists have subjected me to "enhanced interrogation," as if I have any will to give up my secrets. It doesn't work. What they will find out will be from their insights about me under their microscopes. I am lethal, I guess, but I'm not very complicated.

The United States, together with other countries, needs more laboratories where scientists can detain samples of us and subject us to extraordinary rendition to infectious disease research centers. Many infectious disease scientists need to be trained, especially in the southern hemispheres to staff these labs.

You are hung up on certain kinds of preventable violence without any risk/benefit analysis. This, you should agree, is utterly irrational. You should not care where the preventable violence comes from except to focus on its range of devastation and its susceptibility to prevention or cure!

Well, here they come to my Petri dish for some more waterboarding. One last item: You may wonder how tiny bacterial me, probably not even harboring a virus, can send you such a letter. My oozing sense is that I'm just a carrier, being used by oodles of scientists taking advantage of a high profile infectious outbreak in Europe to catch your attention.

Whatever the how does it really matter to the need to act Now?

E-cologically yours,

E.coli 0104:H4 (for the time being)
(c) 2011 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

The Rise Of The Second-String Psychopaths
By David Schwartz

The great writer Kurt Vonnegut titled his final book A Man without a Country. He was the man; the country was the United States of America. Vonnegut felt that his country had disappeared right under his – and the Constitution’s – feet, through what he called “the sleaziest, low-comedy Keystone Cops-style coup d’état imaginable.” He was talking about the Bush administration. Were Vonnegut still alive in the post-Bush era, he would not have felt that his country had returned.

How had our country disappeared? Vonnegut proposed that among the contributing factors was that it had been invaded – as if by the Martians – by people with a particularly frightening mental illness. People with this illness were termed psychopaths. (The term nowadays is anti-social personality disorder.) These are terms for people who are smart, personable, and engaging, but who have no consciences. They are not guided by a sense of right or wrong. They seem to be unaffected by the feelings of others, including feelings of distress caused by their actions. Straying from a decent way of treating people, or violating ethical codes causes no anxiety, the anxiety which is what causes the rest of us to moderate our more greedy impulses. If most children feel anxiety when they are pilfering the forbidden cookie jar, psychopaths feel just fine. They can devour the cookies, shatter the jar as evidence and stuff it in the trash can. When accused, they can argue with apparent sincerity that the cookie jar has been missing for at least a week. There suffer no remorse, no guilt, no shame. They are free to do anything, no matter how harmful.

Psychopaths can be very tricky to recognize. As psychiatrist Dr. Hervey Cleckly wrote in his classic The Mask of Sanity in 1941, psychopaths are not technically insane. They don’t have a psychosis, like schizophrenia. They are experts in appearing normal. They can act the role of a caring, concerned executive, even though they actually do not seem to experience such feelings. If they hurt somebody, they don’t modify their behavior.

The United States corporate and government spheres have become, Vonnegut suggested, a perfect habitat for psychopaths. What has allowed so many psychopaths to rise so high in corporations, and then government, he wrote,

“is that they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin’ day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they don’t give a fuck what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich!"

In a country in which much of human culture has been rendered into machines for the manufacture of money, psychopaths are the ideal leaders. They are very focused. They are outcome oriented. They are frequently charming, and usually very bright and able. They can lay off thousands of people, or deny people health care, or have them waterboarded, and it does not disturb their sleep. They can be impressively confident. Psychopaths can be dynamic leaders of enterprises, but are handicapped by their lack of feelings for relationships. They may be accomplished captains of industry, or senators, or surgeons, but their families are frequently abused and miserable. Most psychotherapists have seen the wives or husband or children of such accomplished people.

Since psychopaths are usually very smart, they can be quite competent at impersonating regular human beings in positions of power. Since they don’t care how their actions affect people, they can rise to great height in enterprises dealing with power and money. They can manufacture bombs or run hospitals. Whatever the undertaking, it is all the same to them. It’s just business.

The economic system that remains after the destruction of American local cultures has created an excellent employment picture for psychopaths. But the opportunities open to them are now so vast that there is apparently now an actual labor shortage. At least that is the only explanation I can find for the rise of a cadre of psychopathic leaders who resemble the usual type in all ways but one: they’re simply not that smart. One has only to look at right-wing not-so-Christian fundamentalists to see the peculiar emergence of a second-string of psychopaths.

The US has been endowed with abundant resources, and there have always been a more than sufficient supply of psychopaths of the first intellectual grade to supply corporate suites and their subsidiary, the Congress. Why is there now a downgrade to the dumb ones, like the lowering of standards for military recruits to deal with a shortage of cannon fodder?

It is no secret that the Koch brothers and others of the super-rich seem to have undertaken a final push to consolidate control through the conversion of a marginally democratic to an essentially fascist state; extreme right-wing, authoritarian, and demagogic. This kind of government is ideal for control of a populace by the moneyed elite. To carry this out requires the employment of many ‘kept’ politicians to excite and misdirect scared and angry – and ignorant – voters. Lest the citizenry realize who stole their money and storm their castles with torches, the rapacious elite need politicians who will carry out the work of re-directing anger at teachers, or labor unions, or the poor. I can only conclude that the people who now own the country couldn’t find any first-rate psychopaths to carry out their work. Or maybe the smart ones were all occupied. So they had to go to second-stringers, people who could actually believe what they were told to say.

We are a country who has become second-best, even in the quality of our psychopaths.
© 2011 David B. Schwartz, Ph.D practices psychotherapy in Ithaca, NY. His books include Who Cares? Rediscovering Community and the forthcoming The Sidewalk Psychotherapist.

The Dead Letter Office...

Tim gives the corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear früher Gouverneur Pawlenty,

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 vow to cut the taxes on the rich and businesses while raising them on the poor and middle classes, thus guaranteeing our re-elections, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 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 Herr Pawlenty, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

One If By Misstatement, Two If By Ignorant
Palin Gets an "F" in American History
BY John Nichols

Why is Sarah Palin touring American historical sites?

Apparently to because she has decided to try and learn some basic details of the country’s founding story.

Unfortunately, the endeavor is not going well.

Even with conservatives cutting education budgets, every schoolchild who has paid even scant attention in history class knows that “the midnight message of Paul Revere” was a warning to the rebels of what would become the United States that the British redcoats were on the march to disarm the dissenters.

But that was news to Palin.

When she got to Boston, with the apparent purpose of recalling Revere’s ride at the Old North Church, the former governor of Alaska started talking about: "He who warned, uh, the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms uh by ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed."


It is tiresome to pick on Palin. She has taken more than her share of hits on matters of geography, newspaper reading, American allies and favorite founders. Even conservatives ridicule her -- it was Glenn Beck who pressed her on the favorite founder issue.

Truthfully, there is no point to piling on.

Palin is not going to run for president because (as the polling makes abundantly clear) Republicans do not want her to be their candidate, because (as the polling makes even more abundantly clear) Americans would never elect her and because she is not about to give up her lucrative book, broadcasting and speaking fees to go back into public service.

It has ever been the case that Palin’s patriotism extends only so far as it benefits her own self-interest.

What is now equally evident, however, is that her historical bumbling is not a misstep her, a misstatement there. It is a pattern, a pattern of disconnection with and disinterest in the American story. Like so many politicians, she uses American history as a prop, not as inspiration, and certainly not as instruction.
(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.

Pick Your Poison
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

One of the hardest truths to accept is that for most sources of pain hitting humans there seems to be nothing effective for government to do. Nowadays, those of us who do not gobble various distractions but work to stay connected to reality see two dreadful conditions. Nature seems mad as hell. People are dying or suffering from earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, extreme heat, huge snow storms and more. While some idiots keep trying to deny the reality of global climate change, those of us who have lived a long time see firsthand that killer weather events are more prevalent than ever.

While you may be fighting your paranoia about being victimized by foul weather the other ugly reality already devastating the lives of so many people is a dismal set of economic conditions. Contrary to all the usual lies by politicians about the economic recovery, a mountain of data shows non-delusional people that only the wealthy have escaped economic pain.

According to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts poll, 55 percent of Americans still rate the national economy as poor, and just 47 percent believe their kids will have a higher standard of living than they enjoy. If more people paid closer attention to the facts, those percentages should be more like 80 or 90 percent.

The US has recovered just 1.8 million of the nearly 9 million jobs lost in the downturn versus an average 5.3 million job gains in the same period of the 1970s and 1980s recoveries. The number of people with jobs has barely changed since June 2009 — up just 0.4 percent. Many economists say the turnaround shows no signs of generating the 300,000 to 400,000 monthly payroll additions needed to rapidly lower the unemployment rate. There are probably about 50 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or no longer trying to get decent jobs, or who are close relatives of them. The rise of the official unemployment rate in May, 2011 (the real level is twice as high) and a paltry new number of jobs just rubbed salt in the wound. There simply is no basis for believing that many millions of new, good jobs will be created for many years.

Add the latest news that the housing market has turned even worse again, leading to the distressful conclusion that a double-dip recession has hit housing, which portends even wider economic pain. Single family home prices dropped in March, 2011 to their lowest level since April 2009. Millions of home foreclosures will be followed by even more. Of all homes with mortgages 23 percent are worth less than what is owed.

And don’t forget that there are enormous numbers of Americans fighting hunger even though 68 percent of Americans are obese or overweight. Forty four million Americans are getting food stamps.

Meanwhile higher prices for key necessities show that inflation is eating away at quality of life and living standards. Gas prices climbed 52 percent over the past two years, according to the Department of Energy, and are only now decreasing a little as many Americans have cut back on their driving. Food costs are also rising just like health care.

Nothing the government has done worked for ordinary Americans. Many billions of dollars spent on reviving the economy have mainly helped the business sector and the rich. Congress and President Obama have shown themselves to be utterly useless. They mostly serve corporate interests.

Both the economic and climate futures look bleak, because they are bleak.

Pick your poison. We are living in a time when natural and economic conditions are out of control and frightening. But wait, there is some good news!

According to a new report by Boston Consulting Group, the number of millionaire households in the world grew by 12.2 percent in 2010, to 12.5 million. Here is how millionaires are defined: Those with $1 million or more in investible assets, excluding homes, luxury goods and ownership in one’s own company. Can you relate? Even better news: The US still leads the world in millionaires, with 5.2 million millionaire households.

An even bigger truth is this: The world’s millionaires represent just 0.9 percent of the global population but control 39 percent of the world’s wealth, up from 37 percent in 2009. Even more truth about economic inequality: Those with $5 million or more, who represent only 0.1 percent of the population, control 22 percent of the world’s wealth, up from 20 percent in 2009. The rich are really getting richer.

If you face reality, remember that Obama promised back in February 2009 that his $830 billion stimulus plan would unleash "a new wave of innovation, activity and construction" and "ignite spending by businesses and consumers." Did not happen.

And in June 2010, Obama announced that the recovery was "well under way" and that it "is getting stronger by the day." More poisonous propaganda.

A couple months later, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote a New York Times op-ed headlined "Welcome to the Recovery." More self-serving garbage.

In reality, two years after the recession officially ended there are few places beyond the stock market and corporate profits that have shown improvement, but even now the stock market is hurting. The rich and powerful have not suffered. But over the past decade, real private-sector wage growth has been a terrible 4 percent, just below the 5 percent increase from 1929 to 1939 during the Great Depression.

The Republicans who grabbed so much power in the last midterm elections show no capacity whatsoever to fix anything. That Sarah Palin just as Donald Trump can grab so much media attention demonstrates how decrepit our nation is.

What is to be learned? No member of Congress or the President deserves to be reelected. Neither does any other Republican or Democrat. Like extreme weather calamities, economic evils will continue to poison our lives. Those who deny climate change and economic injustice are either stupid or delusional. Waiting for divine intervention makes as much sense as anything, except that all the awful stuff happening, if God’s will, suggests such hope is folly. Pass the poison. Or wait for a tornado, home loss, or financial ruin to hit. More bad news is coming. But have you ever seen pictures of tornadoes destroying McMansions?
(c) 2011 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bill Schorr ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Summer: Day One
By Will Durst

Forget the almanac. And the calendar. Forget whatever the weatherman or the newspaper or the next-door neighbor with the hair growing out of a mole shaped like the state of Delaware on his nose told you. The true worm-hole opening to summer is not the upcoming solstice on June 21st; it’s the last Monday of May, Memorial Day.

Memorial Day: when the world alters unalterably for every kid and teacher across the land. By now, the cages have either sprung open or the locks are being picked and the imprinted DNA of every true blooded American tingles in anticipation of the ten to twelve weeks of school-free adventures looming ahead like a sun kissed valley below a fog enshrouded summit. Even if we don’t get to stop in the valley, we can recall when we did and grin wistfully.

Officially, the last Monday of May was carved out as a peaceful moment to lay a wreath at the tomb of all the young men and women who sacrificed their lives for the security of this nation not to mention the multitude of valiant drivers tragically lost in midwestern automobile races.

Unofficially, it’s a time for the whole of America to stop in the headlong momentum of the year to lean on a freshly painted picnic table and catch our breath. Summer? Already? How the heck did that happen? Wasn’t it just the other day we were taking down our Xmas cards? Of course some of us still have our Xmas cards up. And just exactly what is wrong with that?

Most importantly, Memorial Day marks the beginning of the flesh-charring season. Our own at the beach eating al fresco for the first time all year and those many brave slow mammals on a freshly scrubbed Weber who gave their lives in order for us to raise our cholesterol levels to heights where sherpas fear to tread.

This is a time for fireworks and pie and tires swinging on ropes over rivers and roasted marshmallows and ice cream on sticks that melt down your hand all the way to the elbow. And golf and corn and hiking and lemonade and thunderstorms and baseball broadcasts on am radio and spending a week in the middle of August jammed in the back of a station wagon with no air conditioning, an incontinent 18 year old basset hound and a leaking Coleman cooler.

Some people even find camping relaxing. Good for them. For me, the outdoors is where the car is. Roughing it means cable TV without Turner Classic Movies. You say Wilderness: I think spotty cell phone reception.

My vacation plans comprise of room service, Perry Mason marathons on and the crazed midnight looting of many hotel mini bars. Forgive me folks, but my idea of a good time does not involve sleeping on rocks, going potty behind trees and dodging mosquitoes the size of Lazy Boy recliners. Think more along the lines of waitresses shepherding sweaty bottles of cold beer poolside.

Our season of frenzied leisure will too shortly end on Labor Day, so hurry out there and have one terrific summer full of languid days and untroubled nights. May you frolic and cavort and gambol and caper in a madcap series of wacky zany antics that are fondly remembered always. All while keeping the sand off of your hot dog
(c) 2011 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst “is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today.” Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, “The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing.”

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 23 (c) 06/10/2011

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