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In This Edition

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. joins, "The March On Blair Mountain."

Uri Avnery finds a hero in, "A Brown-haired Young Man."

David Sirota watches, "America's Increasingly Oblivious Energy Policy."

Mike Fokerth warns of, "Economic Failure."

Jim Hightower finds there's, "Nothing Merry About Old King Coal."

Helen Thomas reports our, "Leadership Troubles Middle East."

James Donahue explains why, "Telling The Truth Can Now Be Treason."

Joel S. Hirschhorn says, "Lie To Me."

Chris Floyd explores, "Visible Means Of Support."

Phil Rockstroh returns with, "On 'The Issue Of Character' And Empire."

Paul Krugman reminds the tea baggers that, "Medicare Saves Money."

Chris Hedges discovers, "No Justice In Kafka's America."

David Michael Green with some real bad news, "I Regret To Inform You That Your Country Is Suffering From A Severe Case Of Palinosis."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols examines the, "GOP Debate: Michele Bachmann And Six Guys."

Robert Scheer observes, "Seven Republican Dwarfs."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz says, "Supercomputer Fails To Translate Palin Emails Into English" but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Corpo-rat Global Warming Is Here!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Sherffius, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Dorothea Lange, Mr. Fish, The Onion, Bill McKibben, Mike Luckovich, Marshall Ramsey, Jim Cole, West Virginia DOT, Atlantic Releasing Corporation, 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."

Corpo-Rat Global Warming Is Here!
By Ernest Stewart

"The warnings about global warming have been extremely clear for a long time. We are facing a global climate crisis. It is deepening. We are entering a period of consequences." ~~~ Al Gore

Plexi-plastic eyeball, he's your special friend
He sees you every night
Well, he calls himself Big Brother
But you know it's no game
You're never out of his sight!
1984 ~~~ Spirit

"The Supreme Court's ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again." ~~~ Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

You got to keep on keepin on
You got to keep your head up high
You gotta work with what you've got
And someday you will flyyyyy
Keep On Keepin' On ~~~ JoJo

So how do you like global warming so far, America? How do you like the flooding that's destroyed millions of acres of farmland? How do you like those fires that are burning parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas to the ground? How do you like the lack of rain that is turning parts of America and the world into deserts? Remember those record blizzards and the heat waves we've been under? Those tornadoes that leveled large parts of the South, making this April the stormiest April on record? Last year was the hottest year on record. Can you still deny that corpo-rat warming exists? It's going to be harder and harder to deny reality as the years go on with similar weather patterns!

Still, for all the property damage, billions in lost work, lost taxes and all those lost lives and destroyed families, all that's really just a drop in the bucket for what's already beginning to happen, not only in the US but all over the world. The rising oceans which threaten to put most of the worlds coastlines and islands under water is still not the worst thing from the ongoing climate change. What could be worse, I hear you ask? Along with all of Mother Nature's madness comes crop failures on a world-wide scale!

One of the things we've come to know is that for every 1 degree rise in temperature, 10% of arable lands are lost. For example, Russia's crop failures last year were because of the unending heat and lack of water. Just like Texas's winter wheat crop failure. Or the fact that all those millions of acres of farm land where the Army Corps of Engineers blew up levees that won't be dried out in time to plant a crop. Etc., etc., etc!

One of the reason for the Arab uprisings, as well as other uprising around the globe, is that there wasn't enough food to go around, and what was left had risen in price beyond the means of most peoples' purses. You may have already noticed the sharp spike in food costs at your local grocery store -- soon you'll be lucky to be able to afford to feed your family, then what?

Well, don't count on food stamps or any other programs that feed the hungry and help mothers give birth to healthy infants and keep them healthy. Forget those school lunch programs that guarantee a child at least one meal a day. Nope, those wonderful tea baggers you elected have set about destroying those government programs that are now needed more than ever so that they can give tax breaks to the insanely wealthy. For those of you who were wondering how our ruling elite was going to get rid of the excess population, look no further! No blood, no muss, no fuss, as starving people haven't the strength to do anything about their fate. You've watched them starve to death in Africa for decades, and all you ever did about it was change the channel. You won't have that option when starvation comes to your neighborhood -- that is, if you're still alive after the blizzards, heat-waves, flooding, twisters and hurricanes get through with you! Bon Appetit, America!

In Other News

I see where the Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving its agents broad new powers to investigate you and me. They can now start an investigation of anyone without legally starting an investigation, i.e., no paper trail. Ergo, they can go on fishing expeditions for embarrassing information -- not criminal, as they know you're not a criminal, but are opposed to whatever their masters say is right. You might have, with your girlfriends down in Mexico, given the cameras a peek for one of those college girls gone wild videos? Or maybe you were "smokin' with the boys upstairs, when you, heard about the whole affair" and someone got you tokin' down on their smart phone? Ve have vays of making you cooperate!

Sweet Yogi, forgive me but I'm having deja vu all over again! Anyone my age has also been there and done that in their youth. There was a name for these unConstitutional acts of treason against the people; they called it COINTELPRO or Counter Intelligence Program. They found someone they could turn by threatening them with blackmail of a personal, not criminal nature to infiltrate peace, civil rights and anti-war groups, or anyone that the old fat man (in the lovely sun-frock) so ordered. After these covert operations were exposed, the FBI found themselves under the scrutiny of Con-gress, who has over the years nibbled away their restraints back to where we were in the sixties!

I can personally testify to the antics of those "Fumbling, Bumbling Idiots" as my buddy's father the Detroit cop was wont to say of his federal colleagues. I was a vet against the war and a member of the SDS; ergo, I have some knowledge of them as I've seen them in action on campus, and then many years later playing for their Christmas offices parties as a DJ. Fortunately, for the most part, they couldn't catch a cold. It's good for us Peacers, but bad for the country. You may recall Ted Kaczynski aka "The Unabomber" who wrote a Manifesto, and went on bombing for over a decade until his brother turned him in; or let's not forget their brilliant deductions on 9/11 -- something that I figured out in July of 2001, and had all but one thing correct!

While this is no biggie when compared to the other nightmares that are just now coming online, it's still a look at the shape of things to come. Just another nail in the coffin of our freedoms, but like they say down in Foggy Bottom, "a trillion spent here, a trillion spent there, and pretty soon it starts to add up to another tax cut for the rich!"

And Finally

For those of you who wonder what would be the cost when that seditious power play of putting Justice David Prosser back on the Wisconsin Supreme Court bench despite him losing the election, and could only look at the US Supreme Court decision placing George the dumber in the White House after Al Gore won the election until now. Well, the cats out of the bag, the sh*t hit the fan, and David voted to overturn the ruling of Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi, who had overturned a polarizing union law that strips most public employees of their collective bargaining rights so that the law could take effect.

The court ruled in a 4-3 decision that Sumi had "overstepped her authority when she declared the law void." Sumi had ruled that Republican lawmakers violated the state's open meetings statutes in the run-up to passage of the union legislation.

You'll recall that this law sparked weeks of protests when Walker introduced it in February. Tens of thousands of demonstrators descended on the state Capitol for weeks, and Democratic senators fled the state preventing a vote -- thrusting Wisconsin to the forefront of a national debate over labor rights.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, both Republicans and brothers, said Tuesday that they "always believed the Bill was legally-approved."

"We followed the law when the Bill was passed, simple as that. We're finally headed in the right direction by balancing the budget and focusing on jobs, just like Republicans promised we would do."

A flurry of lawsuits is expected, since legal challenges couldn't be brought until the law took effect. The fat lady hasn't sung -- so it ain't over yet; stay tuned!

Keepin' On

We're almost there, thanks to Frank from New Jersey and Mary Lou from Denver, who sent in righteous donations to keep us on the air. We still lack $300 of paying this $1600 bill that's due on the 28th.

Needless to say, we need your help more than ever, as we can no longer afford to pay the bills without your help. It used to be a whole lot easier to do so before the economy went into the free fall, and millions lost their jobs, houses, and reasons to live.

With the way the world is today, Issues & Alibis is needed more than ever, and can only keep fighting for you if you want us to -- and to do so, we need your help. No donation is too big or too small. Please consider helping us if you can as time is running out on one of the last bastions for truth. We're that famed liberal media that the right talks so much about! If you believe in truth, freedom, justice, and brotherhood we could use a little help, Ya'll!


04-29-1928 ~ 06-12-2011
Thanks for the songs!


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.

The March On Blair Mountain
A Protest to Protect Our Jobs and Our Mountains
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

This week an important protest is taking place in the coalfields of West Virginia. The March on Blair Mountain began on Monday as several hundred people embarked on a five-day journey retracing the steps of over 10,000 miners who 90 years ago staged the largest armed insurrection after the American Civil War. Today's march is a protest against both the attack of the union movement in America and the demolition of the Appalachian mountains.

For over 50 years, American unions have served to counterbalance the ascendancy of unsheathed corporate power that threatens now to overwhelm American Democracy. In the past year, the union movement's final redoubt -- the public service unions -- have been vilified and emasculated in traditional union states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa.

Now one of the biggest union busters in American history, Massey Energy, is launching a final assault on the icon of America's union movement, Blair Mountain.

Blair Mountain's storied history dates back to West Virginia in the 1920s, when the entire state was a company town. Big Coal dominated every aspect of economic life. The industry owned the shops, the homes, of course the mines -- and made sure there was virtually no other source of employment in the state. Working conditions were horrendous: men and their sons worked 12 to 16 grueling hours in dark, dangerous mines dying from a notorious plague of subsurface explosions, cave-ins and black lung.

The companies used local sheriffs to enforce their system of feudal serfdom. When a miner was injured and his family needed to be evicted from their home, the sheriff did the dirty deed. When union organizers appeared, the sheriff arrested, jailed, and routinely beat them, before escorting them to the county line. One sheriff refused to tow the company line: Sid Hatfield, of Hatfield and McCoy lore.

Not only did Hatfield refuse to do the industry's bidding, but he jailed mine operators for mistreating their workers. In the infamous Matewan gun battle, Hatfield helped kill seven mine company private investigators who had evicted union families from their homes.

Hatfield was never convicted for the Matewan shootings, but the mine operators took their revenge and on August 1, 1921 when industry thugs executed Hatfield in broad daylight on the McDowell county court-house steps.

Hatfield's assassination triggered one of the biggest labor demonstrations in American history. Ten thousand miners from the coalfields of Kentucky and West Virginia marched for six days, converging on Blair Mountain to confront their industry bosses. They were met by King Coal's powerful army of thugs and mowed down by Gatling guns.

President Warren Harding, a so-called "friend of coal," like most of the leading politicians of the Gilded Age, authorized the U.S. army to drop bombs and poison gas on the marching miners -- the only time in American History when our military deliberately bombed U.S. citizens. These military measures broke the demonstration but outraged the public, and gave vital traction to the United Mine Workers and the American labor movement.

Over the next 60 years unions became the critical counterweight to corporate power and the principal platform for the growth of the American middle class, which gave our Democracy its wealth, prosperity, and sense of justice as a core value.

Now, as the union movement finds itself battered, beleaguered, and under assault by a legion of corporate toadies in state governor's office from every director to chamber of commerce. Tea Party, talk radio, Fox News and the tsunami of corporate money released by the Citizens United case, Massey Energy has recently announced that it intends to blow up Blair Mountain, the Gettysburg of America's union-based Democracy, to mine it for coal.

For the first time in decades, environmentalists including the NRDC, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance and local groups have declared common cause with unions in staging a six-day march to retrace the steps of the 1921 Blair Mountain miners. The march convenes Saturday morning June 11 with a final climb up Blair Mountain. Marchers hope to save this historic mountain from Massey by securing its status as a historic landmark.

West Virginia is today's epicenter of one of America's greatest civil disobedience movements. More than 200 people have been arrested protesting mountaintop removal coal mining in the past 18 months. The protesters include college students and local West Virginia marines, former miners, housewives, and an 82-year-old grandmother who was arrested in her wheelchair. They are all calling for an end to mountaintop removal, the extreme form of coal mining that has flattened 500 mountains in Appalachia, illegally buried 2,000 miles of streams, destroyed one million acres of forest, and devastated numerous communities, lives, and towns in the region.

Union busting corporations have commoditized not just the workforce, but the historic landscapes of West Virginia, using great machines and dynamite to eliminate mining jobs. While production has more than doubled in 10 years, industry employment is one-tenth of it what was when my father warned me about strip mining as a 14-year-old boy. It is time for Americans to march in the footsteps of our union ancestors of 90 years ago to protect our jobs, and save our national patriarchy, the purple mountains majesty, the individual rights and community based values that make our country of the envy of free people.
© 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is chairman of the Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He is the author of Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy.

A Brown-haired Young Man
By Uri Avnery

MY HERO of the year (for now) is a young brown-haired Palestinian refugee living in Syria called Hassan Hijazi.

He was one of hundreds of refugees who held the demonstration on the Syrian side of the Golan border fence, to commemorate the Naqba "Disaster" - the exodus of more than half the Palestinian people from the territory conquered by Israel in the war of 1948. Some of the protesters ran down to the fence, crossing a minefield. Luckily, none of the mines exploded - perhaps they were just too old.

They entered the Druze village of Majdal Shams, occupied by Israel since 1967, where they spread out. Israeli soldiers shot, killed and wounded several of them. The rest were caught and immediately deported back to Syria.

Except Hassan. He found a bus carrying Israeli and international peace activists who took him with them - perhaps they guessed where he came from, perhaps not. He does not look obviously Arab.

They dropped him near Tel Aviv. He continued his journey by hitchhiking and eventually reached Jaffa, the town where his grandparents had lived.

There, without money and without knowing anyone, he tried to locate the house of his family. He did not succeed - the place has changed much too much.

Eventually, he succeeded in contacting an Israeli TV correspondent, who helped him give himself up to the police. He was arrested and deported back to Syria.

Quite a remarkable exploit.

THE BORDER crossing of the refugees near Majdal Shams caused near panic in Israel.

First there were the usual recriminations. Why was the army not prepared for this event? Who was to blame - Northern Command or Army Intelligence?

Behind all the excitement was the nightmare that has haunted Israel since 1948: that the 750,000 refugees and their descendents, some five million by now, will one day get up and march to the borders of Israel from North, East and South, breach the fences and flood the country. This nightmare is the mirror-image of the refugees' dream.

During the first years of Israel, this was a waking nightmare. On the day Israel was founded, it had some 650,000 Jewish inhabitants. The return of the refugees would indeed have swamped the young Israeli state. Lately, with more than 6 million Jewish citizens, this fear has receded into the background - but it is always there. Psychologists might say that it represents repressed feelings of guilt in the national psyche.

THIS WEEK, there was a repeat performance. The Palestinians all around Israel have declared June 5 "Naksa" Day, to commemorate the "Setback" of 1967, when Israel spectacularly defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, reinforced by elements from the Iraqi and Saudi armies.

This time the Israeli army was prepared. The fence was reinforced and an anti-tank ditch dug in front of it. When the demonstrators tried to reach the fence - again near Majdal Shams - they were shot by sharpshooters. Some 22 were killed, many dozens were wounded. The Palestinians report that people trying to rescue the wounded and retrieve the dead were also shot and killed.

No doubt, this was a deliberate tactic decided upon in advance by the army command after the Naqba day fiasco, and approved by Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. As was said quite openly, the Palestinians had to be taught a lesson they would not forget, so as to drive any idea of an unarmed mass action out of their mind.

It is frighteningly reminiscent of events 10 years ago. After the first intifada, in which stone-throwing youngsters and children won a moral victory that led to the Oslo agreement, our army conducted exercises in anticipation of a second intifada. This broke out after the political disaster of Camp David, and the army was ready.

The new intifada started with mass demonstrations of unarmed Palestinians. They were met by specially trained sharpshooters. Next to each sharpshooter stood an officer who pointed out the individuals who were to be shot because they looked like ringleaders: "The guy in the red shirt…Now the boy with the blue trousers…"

The unarmed uprising broke down and was replaced by suicide bombers, roadside bombs and other "terrorist" acts. With those our army was on familiar ground.

I suspect very much that we are witnessing much the same thing once more. Again specially trained sharpshooters are at work, directed by officers.

There is a difference, though. In 2001 we were told that our soldiers were shooting into the air. Now we are told that they aim at the Arabs' legs. Then the Palestinians had to jump high into the air to get killed, now, it seems, they have to bend down.

THE WHOLE thing is not only murderous, but also incredibly dumb.

For decades now, practically all talk about peace has centered on the territories occupied in the 1967 war. President Mahmoud Abbas, President Barack Obama and the Israeli peace movement all talk about the "1967 borders". When my friends and I started (in 1949) to talk about the two-state solution, we, too, meant these borders. (The "1967 borders" are, in fact, simply the armistice lines agreed upon after the 1948 war.)

Most people, even in the Israeli peace movement, ignored the refugee problem altogether. They were laboring under the illusion that it had gone away, or would do so after peace had been achieved between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I always warned my friends that this would not happen - five million human beings cannot be simply shut out. It is no use to make peace with half the Palestinian people, and just ignore the other half. It will not mean "the end of the conflict," whatever might be stated in a peace agreement.

But through years of discussions, mostly behind closed doors, a consensus has been reached. Almost all Palestinian leaders have agreed, either explicitly or implicitly, to the formula of "a just and agreed upon solution of the refugee problem" - so that any solution is subject to Israeli approval. I have spoken about this many times with Yasser Arafat, Faisal al-Husseini and others.

In practice, this means that a symbolic number of refugees will be allowed back into Israel (the exact number to be fixed in negotiations), with the others to be resettled in the State of Palestine (which must be big and viable enough to make this possible) or receive generous compensation that will allow them to start a new life where they are or elsewhere.

TO MAKE this complicated and painful solution easier, everyone agreed that it would be best to deal with this matter near the end of the peace negotiations, after mutual trust and a more relaxed atmosphere had been established.

And here comes our government and tries to solve the problem with sharpshooters - not as the last resort, but as the first. Instead of countering the protesters with effective non-lethal means, they kill people. This will, of course, intensify the protests, mobilize masses of refugees and put the "refugee problem" squarely on the table, in the center of the table, before negotiations have even started.

In other words: the conflict moves back from 1967 to 1948. For Hassan Hijazi, the grandson of a refugee from Jaffa, this is huge achievement.

Nothing could be more stupid than this course of action by Netanyahu and Company.

Unless, of course, they are doing this consciously, in order to make any peace negotiations impossible.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

America's Increasingly Oblivious Energy Policy
Post-Fukushima, as other nations halt nuclear power and hydro-fracking projects, the U.S. powers ahead
By David Sirota

Laugh me off as the idealistic son of a physician (which I am), but I still thought the doctor's ethos of "first do no harm" was a notion we could all agree on. Even in this hyper-polarized Era of the Screaming Red-Faced Partisan, I thought we would witness the recent Fukushima reactor meltdown or footage of Americans setting their tap water on fire and at least agree to stop pursuing energy policies that we know endanger our health and safety -- if not out of altruism, then out of self-interest.

How embarrassingly naive I was. That, or I momentarily forgot that this isn't just any industrialized country -- this is America circa 2011, a haven of hubris that has become hostile to the "do no harm" principle.

This makes us different than, say, Japan and Germany when it comes to nuclear power. Scarred by fallout, the former has canceled plans to build 14 new nuclear plants and has radically altered its energy agenda, now moving to pursue solar rather than atomic energy. Likewise, according to the Associated Press, the latter reacted to Japan's plight by "vot[ing] in favor of a ban on nuclear power from 2022 onward."

By contrast, in the days after the Fukushima disaster, the Obama administration not only reaffirmed its commitment to expanding nuclear power, but, according to ProPublica, also continued the policy of "routinely waiving fire rule violations at nearly half the nation's 104 commercial reactors, even though fire presents one of the chief hazards at nuclear plants."

Additionally, the Associated Press reports that two congressional lawmakers are now pushing the government to "back a new generation of miniature nuclear reactors" that would be sited throughout the country.

Incredibly, these moves come even as a nuclear reactor in Washington state just experienced a fire scare and even as a new study of U.S. Geological Survey data shows many of the nation's reactors sit near active fault lines.

The same story is playing out in the quest to find natural gas. Over the last few years, more evidence has surfaced that suggests drinking water may be getting contaminated by fracking -- a drilling technique that involves injecting toxic chemicals into the earth. This evidence runs the gamut from a new Duke University study into methane, to a New York Times report on fracking wastewater being dumped into rivers, to Pennsylvania gas companies acknowledging that fracking is contaminating drinking water, to those now-famous YouTube videos of combustible tap water.

In response, South Africa last month halted a major natural gas project and France's National Assembly voted to ban fracking outright. Both countries' governments cited the "first do no harm" rationale, saying more scientific research needs to be done before fracking can go forward.

Again, though, our own government has been going in the opposite direction.

Succeeding a Bush administration that exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Obama administration has refused to forcefully back congressional legislation that would merely require gas companies to disclose their fracking chemicals. At the same time, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson is publicly insisting that she is "not aware" of any proof that fracking has harmed water supplies.

Meanwhile, the White House's one seeming tilt toward caution -- its panel to study fracking -- ended up being a sham, as six of the administration's seven appointments have direct ties to the energy industry.

It all adds up to a frightening divergence: As the world increasingly embraces "do no harm," we're doubling down on "do, regardless of harm" -- and as most physicians will tell you, that kind of attitude often ends in tragedy.

(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.

Economic Failure
By Mike Folkerth

I was recently asked by a friend why I have predicted the time frame of 18 to 22 months for a failure of America's current economic system. I will share my response. Those who disagree should respond accordingly with their reasoning and rebuttal. For those who do agree; today is a great day to begin adjusting.

Before I continue, I should interpret my meaning of failure. In this instance, failure should be considered as that point and time when the vast majority of Americans realize that our mathematically flawed underpinning of debt-based-growth-capitalism has failed. Such recognition of that failure will be ushered in by the unavoidable notice of radical measures being orchestrated by government and big business (one of the same) that are aimed at keeping the great consumption machine fed. Such measures will be met with dismal failure. It will suffice to say that the trip back down our mountain of debt won't be pretty.

So why pick the time frame of 18 to 22 months for a meltdown or our current economic structure? It's a complex multifaceted calculation, but in short, the exponential mathematical function will play out in several key areas simultaneously. Once the U.S. got behind the power curve in several critical areas that had formerly grown exponentially, the time before reaching mathematical impasse became not only short, but much easier to calculate.

The backside of any exponential curve that represents total consumption of any critical finite physical supply, or the exponential growth of interest bearing debt, plays out exactly like the front side of that growth curve, steep, but in reverse.

The trip up and down an exponential curve can be likened to a speeding car going uphill with no brakes and limited fuel. Everything goes just ducky so long as the engine is propelling us ever upward. Once the fuel runs out, the trip back down is similar to the trip up with the exciting addition of the ever increasing speed of decline.

That brings up oil consumption as a perfect real life example of our speedy decline. Over the period of a short 120 years, world oil consumption has gone from zip to 84 MBD (million barrels per day). Once the maximum rate of crude extraction falls below the mean level of consumption, the shortages and rising costs will become monumental within months, rather than years.

As an aside, those who continue to believe that we are awash in oil in the United States should seriously consider the hard cold facts that provide indisputable evidence to the contrary. Don't be fooled by those who quote fifty years of supply from one energy resource or another. That's fifty years at current rates of extraction. If that's all the better our economy can do, it will crash instead from the lack of growth. Dammed if you do and dammed if you don't.

One last word on energy, there are no substitutes for fossil fuels. Nothing remotely approaches fossil fuels in terms of energy density. Forget bio-fuels, solar, geothermal, wind, nothing comes close. For a more in-depth treatment of energy visit The Oil Drum.

The U.S. National Debt has reached the vertical stage of the exponential curve to the tune of currently growing at $2 TRILLION per annum. In 1980, after the first 204 years of our nations accumulated National Debt, the amount stood at $907.7 BILLION. The political fight occurring in this year of 2011 over raising the debt ceiling by another $2 Trillion, may well represent the last time that any compromise is possible, as this proposed one year deficit has now reached approximately 2000 times the total National Debt in 1980! There are limits.

The last remaining argument to justify raising the debt level is one in which the United States will increase GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to a plane where income and debt are once again in balance. The former supposition is both physically and mathematically impossible. The flawed assumption is two-fold; One, in supposing that GDP can forever be exponentially increased, and two, that such increases of GDP are unconstrained by physical inputs (hard limits).

Some two years past, I predicted that U.S. GDP had hit zenith if corrected for per capita share, inflation, and debt accumulation. In fact, GDP has steadily fallen when the proper accounting is applied. GDP is constrained by the available matter and energy, while debt is merely a paper agreement between delusional humans that has no constraints whatsoever with the possible exception of running out of trees and cotton from which to produce paper. Let there be no gray area; the United States is broke.

Real unemployment is not improving and won't improve, due to an imbalance of labor required, verses labor available. The U.S. now has an endless oversupply of labor that is growing by millions... yes, millions annually.

This very week in June, 2011, some 5.3 MILLION students will graduate or will have dropped out of high school and college. Over the course of the entire year, approximately 1 Million legal immigrants will join our ranks and there is currently a bill being discussed to allow some 12 Million illegal immigrants to receive amnesty and citizenship, all while ongoing illegal entry adds additional staggering numbers to our population. They all have one thing in common; they're looking for work.

When I state "labor," it should be considered to include brawn and brains. It should also be considered that real wages for the Middle Class have been stagnant for years and are now in steady decline.

Student debt has grown exponentially and has now eclipsed the total credit card debt in America. The only possible way out of this conundrum would be immediate, unrealistic rates of job growth along with unprecedented wage increases. Both of the former are physically impossible for the U.S. under a globalized economy. That is not to mention that it is now far, far too late to correct our past colossal errors even if our leadership were so inclined... which they aren't.

Education costs in general and the highly successful propaganda of "I need to pay for my kid's college regardless of cost," have transferred the last bastion of wealth from Middle America's families to the institutions of higher learning. The total breadth of this wealth transfer could easily represent the greatest Ponzi scheme of all time.

A recent report has concluded that 2011 will represent the fewest summer jobs for continuing students and the fewest permanent job prospects for graduates, in our recent history. All that, while at the same time setting a record level for graduating student debt in 2011 that averaged $22,900.

The false and fleeting wealth of personal housing equity has been lost. Housing will not recover in any meaningful way and foreclosures will remain quite high for the remaining period of time prior to the official failure of our debt culture.

The first class of baby boomers did in fact arrive as scheduled this past January 2011 and that first wave of 3.4 Million boomers, has 78 MILLION relentlessly marching reinforcements arriving behind them, with each class growing in number for 16 long years. Millions upon millions of Americans will now claim Medicare and Social Security while they simultaneously draw down their investments. Once again, this is a real life, real time example of exponential growth and exponential decline.

No fewer than 44 states are bleeding serious red ink, while unprecedented costs of social programs, unemployment claims, and natural disasters are draining their remaining coffers along with the reserves of the insurance companies. This is the same story; exponential growth and exponential decline.

The only possibility of these states pulling out of this protracted decline would be for tax revenues to surpass all time previous highs... by a bunch. The states will soon reach the point of having no further areas from which to cut. The maintenance of our massive aging infrastructure has become impossible to fund. Without the offsetting phenomena of exponential growth, the game ends quite suddenly.

The powerful positive feedback loop that is being created by the examples stated above and by a plethora of similar patterns that I won't take the time to delve into, will culminate in an event that will be similar to that of the Great Depression. I see little evidence that points to the possibility of putting off the beginning of that event beyond an 18 to 22 month time frame.

In the mean time, most Americans will busy themselves with accusing one political party or the other for the failures. Nothing could be further from the truth. The culprits are mathematics and natural physics; subjects that our elected officials on both sides of the aisle are totally ignorant of.

The fuel that fed our exponential rise was provided by two rarely reported, but critically essential elements; new frontiers to settle and vast undiscovered resources; the life blood of growth-based-debt-capitalism. Both of the former essentials are gone forever. The license plate motto of our 49th state of Alaska says it all; "The Last Frontier." And by the way, Captain Kirk was fiction; there is no final frontier that will save our collective bacon.

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." - Dr. Albert Bartlett, Professor of Physics, University of Colorado.
(c) 2011 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

Nothing Merry About Old King Coal

Even the Brothers Grimm could not have come up with a fairy tale as fanciful - or as grim - as the one concocted by top executives of Massey Energy.

Massey, a $3.4 billion coal corporation, is the most dominant in Appalachia and also the most reckless, earning hundreds of mine safety citations every year. In 2010, its notoriously unsafe Upper Big Branch Mine exploded, killing 29 miners. Couldn't have been predicted, much less prevented, declared Massey's careless honchos. According to them, it was caused by a giant ball of methane that mysteriously bubbled from the ground and blew up the men. Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! What a fantasy.

Now for the grim reality. In an unusually blunt state report, an independent team of mining experts puts the blame for the West Virginia disaster directly on Massey Energy's bosses and investors. "An accident waiting to happen," says the report, showing that the corporation "operated in a profoundly reckless manner." By disregarding safety in the pursuit of another almighty dollar, executives illegally allowed an intolerable level of explosive coal dust to accumulate, carrying the blast through the mine to kill men far from the first detonation.

Massey also built "a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable," say the investigators. Worker safety complaints were met with intimidation, safety inspectors were cast as "enemies," and Massey used campaign contributions to keep public officials from cracking down.

Meanwhile - a year after 29 men were killed - Congressional Republicans and a few coal-state Democrats are still blocking reforms to stop the murderous malfeasance of corporate powers like Massey. To help break their stranglehold, and to honor those men, contact the Council for Occupational Safety and Health:
(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.

Leadership Troubles Middle East
By Helen Thomas

The strongmen leaders in the Middle East and North Africa are finished - one way or another. Some of them fight on, while others have fallen by the wayside.

The wide-spread popular revolt against them is real and warrants the support of the democracies throughout the world - not necessarily military help, but all kinds of other support.

There is no doubt the dictators have heard their death knell. But some cling to power, despite the inevitable personal costs and the slaughter of hundreds of their countrymen.

The worst of the lot at the moment is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Like father, like son, Hafez al-Assad slaughtered 10,000 Syrians several years ago in the city of Homs. The 45-year-old Assad has killed hundreds of the opposition, apparently with little remorse. He now claims 120 of his defenders have been killed in the fighting. The rebels doubt this number.

Assad's offers of amnesty and reforms have not been taken up by the resistance, who are demanding that he step down.

The Middle East dictators, who are now targeted, have ruled as many as 40 years and dictated that they be succeeded by their eldest sons when they decided to cede power. But that is apparently not going to happen.

The dictators in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain have assumed long dictatorial power. How dated can they be? Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni leaders all abused their powers. Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded in an attack on his home, and exited for Saudi Arabia for medical care and exile. These departures, while heralded, have left vacuums of power, and worry the Western World as to who will replace them. Nevertheless, the people in these countries are celebrating.

On the other side of the coin, the protesters in the region who are shouting for democracy and freedom have the problem of no consolidated leadership or effective strategies for their future. Their grab of new power is spontaneous but chaotic, sometimes leaving the struggle to rival groups who retain primitive tribal views. They need great leaders with the same goals.

Still to be toppled is the well-armed Muammar Gaddafi, as well as Assad, and their henchmen. Gaddafi still controls Tripoli, but the resistance has set up a new government in Benghazi. Like a hunted man, Gaddafi is hanging on to power.

It's interesting enough that the internal revolutions have started with one human tragedy. There was the fruit and vegetable vendor in Tunisia, who was so proud of his wares, and was publicly slapped in the face by a woman officer who demanded to see his license to sell. He immolated himself after trying to report the incident to higher authorities. The Tunisians were outraged and exposed their long sufferings from authoritative rule. They had had it, and ousted their leader.

In the case of Syria, a 13-year-old boy who joined the rebels was tortured and murdered by the Syrian police. And so aroused the Syrians that the tragedy gave them a new impetus to seek to overthrow Assad's rule. They have not achieved their goal yet, but Assad is on borrowed time.

Syria's brutal reprisals against its own people are so shameful that it is clear Assad has to go. Although much was expected of him as a young successor of his brutal father, and the fact that he was Western-educated, has been a great disappointment.

There is no question that if the revolutionaries prevail throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it will be a much better and more peaceful world. So it behooves the current democracies to help the rebels to overthrow their tyrants, but not with more troops. We are thankfully gradually withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq. But the resistance in Syria and other places in the Middle East needs support in armaments and strategic planning. They also need to organize for their future governments to truly achieve freedom and democracy.

Too many uprisings in the Middle East have failed by being taken over by little colonels who use and abuse their military power. Such has been the case in the region after the creation of the State of Israel, putting fear in the populous and calling for the need of military security to block the continued expansion of the much stronger, and U.S. aided and abetted, Israel.

Let's hope real leadership is developed in the region to put them on the right track.
(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.

Telling The Truth Can Now Be Treason
By James Donahue

It seems that the bill that President Barack Obama just signed, extending the Patriot Act for another four years, contained a few pages designed to block whistleblowers and journalists from spilling the beans about the misdeeds of high government and military officials.

This is being revealed on the Internet in a well circulated report by Susan Lindaner, a former news reporter, researcher for U. S. News and World Report, and press secretary and speech writer for Senator Carol Braun of Illinois.

Lindaner also is the author of "Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover-Ups of 9-11 and Iraq." In the book tells how she was personally jailed on charges of acting as an agent for the Iraqi Intelligence Service after she attempted to warn President George W. Bush and his staff that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

Lindaner also claims to have had foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks but was unable to get officials in high government office to act on it. In her Internet article, Lindaner says the Patriot Act is "a law that equates free speech with sedition. It's got a big agenda with 7,000 pages of Machiavellian code designed to interrupt individual questioning of government policy.

"In this brave new world, free speech under the Bill of Rights, effectively has been declared a threat to government controls for maintaining stability."

She charges that the act "has become the premiere weapon to attack whistle blowers and dissidents who challenge the comfort of political leaders hiding inconvenient truths from the public. It's all a rage on Capitol Hill, as leaders strive to score TV ratings, while demagogging their 'outstanding leadership performance' on everything from national security to environmental policy."

In a nutshell, Lindaner warns that because of the Patriot Act, the act of telling the truth may now be declared treason. The artificial War on Terror, a declaration of war against a vague enemy lacking both nationality and face, now has produced a government policy that allows presidents, cabinet members, elected legislators, military generals and all other high ranking officials to hide whatever they choose behind the cloak of national security.

This may explain why investigative journalism has all but disappeared in the United States. Our nightly televised news broadcasts are limited to disasters, spectacular events, feature fluff and political handouts received by the Washington Press Corps. Even the once strong-hitting television news magazines like CBS's 60-Minutes and ABC's 20-20 have lost the punch they once had.

In the place of truth has risen the new phenomenon of conspiracy theories. A suspicious band of Internet writers, collectively piecing together tid-bits of information that doesn't fit the "official" story handed out by our government, has been generating theories as to what may have really happened.

We fear the Internet theorists may be getting closer to the truth than historians will ever tell. As long as it stands, the Patriot Act will see to that.
(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.

Lie To Me
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

What is the main lesson from the recent fiascos of former Senator John Edwards and Representative Anthony Weiner? If you follow the news shows you saw a number of video clips where each of them had lied many times about what eventually they confessed to, their stupid, sleazy sexual misconduct. As I watched the videos I was amazed how good their lying behavior was, without any hint of their blatant dishonesty in how they looked or sounded. Of course, I was also reminded how terrific a liar Bill Clinton was when he went on television to lie about his sexual misconduct.

As a fan of the TV show Lie To Me where the experts can detect minute physical signs of lying or micro-expressions, I felt that the politicians had developed the talent and skill to lie without giving any sign of it.

Here is what Americans should learn: All elected Democrats and Republicans have succeeded because they are excellent liars and, therefore, not one of them can ever be trusted to be telling the truth.

When you vote for any of these two-party politicians all you are saying is: LIE TO ME.

And when they get elected that is exactly what they will do, and not just about their personal behavior. The larger lesson is that American politicians will also lie effortlessly about public policy and just about everything they have anything to do with.

Make no mistake, President Obama has lied about many things just as presidents before him also have.

Can you have an effective representative democracy when elected officials can never be trusted to tell the truth to citizens? No.

Elected officials no long feel they have a profound responsibility to tell the truth. It appears to be behavior that has become automatic, not something they agonize over. Lying has become normal behavior whether it is done in Internet communications, on TV, in speeches or during campaigning for office. Lying may have become so commonplace that politicians no longer spend time justifying it to themselves or their closest staff or supporters. Sure, when they get caught, they easily apologize and accept responsibility in some glib and usually tearful way. But their moral decrepitude should not be forgiven. Dishonest politicians are chronically ill, selfish, egoistic betrayers of public trust. Severe punishment of them is necessary, starting with legally required removal from office and loss of all pension and health insurance benefits.

In the US political system public trust of elected officials is passe, or should be.

This is not a matter of cynicism; it is just prudent and logical to mistrust just about everything said by elected officials. Of course, if you think that a particular politician lies supports your views, then it may not bother you, but it should.

Forget about the rationalization that politicians merely misspeak or that they are just fallible human beings like the rest of us. My point is that an essential skill and regular behavior of politicians is lying without any hint of it. The only thing that politicians now fear is losing control and inadvertently telling the truth!

Has it always been this way? Have American politicians always been ubiquitous liars? I don't think so. What was once aberrant behavior has become normal behavior. It is yet another sign of just how much the US has sunk. It is not just that the country is on the wrong track; it is off the track, falling into an abyss.

When it is rational to always be suspicious of everything politicians say, then why keep listening? Why keep voting for them? Why keep believing that the US is still a functioning democracy? Why believe lies about reforming government? Why think that the overpowering corruption of government by corporate interests will change?

The biggest insanity of all is that when politicians get caught lying about sexual behavior they pay a high price, but not when they get caught lying about the economy, how they have voted on issues, how they have implemented their campaign promises, what they have taken from corporate supporters, and other substantive issues. They get away with it. In large measure because the media do not make a big deal of ordinary lying. Lying is the new normal. Expectations of honesty are gone.

The US political system is broken. That is the truth. You can trust me.

Take a little satisfaction knowing that the biggest lies politicians tell are probably to themselves.
(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.

Visible Means Of Support
Backing Brutality in Bahrain
By Chris Floyd

Last week, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate met with the crown prince of Bahrain and "reaffirmed" the United States' "strong commitment" to the regime of unelected autocrats. The Peace Laureate -- who in his acceptance of the Prize wrapped himself in the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi -- also "expressed strong support" for the regime's "ongoing efforts to initiate national dialogue ... [and] forge a just future for all Bahrainis."

President Obama had dropped in a meeting the prince was having with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who likewise extolled the autocrats for their "national dialogue" and "important work."

There is indeed "important work" going on in Bahrain these days, and the autocratic regime's "ongoing efforts to initiate dialogue" -- the campaign lauded by the Laureate -- are quite vigorous. Here, for example, The Independent details a case study of just how the crown prince and his family's regime is pursuing "national dialogue" in the manner so warmly approved by the presidential peacenik:

Bahraini security forces beat the detained poet Ayat al-Gormezi across the face with electric cable and forced her to clean with her bare hands lavatories just used by police, members of her family said yesterday in a graphic account of the torture and humiliation suffered by those rounded up in the Gulf nation's crackdown on dissent.

The 20-year-old trainee teacher, who spent nine days in a tiny cell with the air conditioning turned to freezing, is due back in court this weekend on charges of inciting hatred, insulting the king and illegal assembly, and her family fear she may suffer further mistreatment in custody amid threats of another round of interrogation.

Masked police arrested Ayat at her home on 30 March for reciting a poem criticising the monarchy during a pro-democracy rally in the capital Manama in February. ... The details of her interrogation and imprisonment are similar to the experiences of other women detained by Bahraini security forces since they launched a full scale repression on 15 March against all those demanding democratic reform in the island kingdom.

Ayat gave herself up to police after they threatened to kill her brothers. She was taken away in a car with two security officials - a man and a woman - both of whom were masked and dressed in civilian clothes. They immediately started to beat her and threaten her, saying she would be raped and sexually assaulted with degrading photographs of her put on the internet.

... While Ayat was meeting her family during the arraignment, a policeman overheard her giving details of her mistreatment. He said that if she continued to do so, she would be returned to the interrogation centre and tortured again.

This is what the regime of the honored and lauded crown prince is doing to those who dare to state publicly their desire to have a democratic government. This is the "national dialogue" which last week was given a highly public imprimatur of approval from the administration of the Nobel Peace Laureate.

One wonders sometimes how his head can bear up under those laurels, caked and heavy as they are with dried blood, clots of viscera and vast heavings of hypocrisy.


Of course, the treatment being meted out to 20-year-old unarmed poets by the Obama-lauded, Clinton-approved Bahraini regime is just the tip of the iceberg. The repression is deep, brutal, violent -- and backed up by military forces from that other highly approved autocracy in the region: Saudi Arabia. (Where Hillary Clinton would be put in jail if she dared to drive a car.) As usual, you can find more on Bahrain -- including direct reports from the ground and copious links to media sources (such as that radical journal, The Economist) -- at the site of As'ad AbuKhalil, the "Angry Arab." He keeps a sharp and scornful eye on the crimes and follies committed on all the sinister operators -- imperial meddlers, local thugs, unctuous collaborationists, repressive sectarians -- in the region. For example, here's a recent post:

Bahraini comrades sent me this: "As you may know the oppressors in Bahrain are targeting professional women arresting from their places of work or study. Many have disappeared into military style prisons and have not had access to lawyers or their families. The few who have been released report sexual attacks, verbal and physical insults and threats and other forms of torture. I attach for your attention a spreadsheet with the names of only 55 of these detainess. You will note that one of those arrested is a pregnant woman who happens to be the wife of an activist. Many others are young women in their early 20's. One of these young ladies is a poet and a student teacher who was arrested after 4 of her brothers were threatened at gunpoint to turn their sister in. No other Arabic regime has used torture and arrest against women to crush protests in this systematic and brutal manner. Yet media outlets in the west and Aljazeera Arabic are largely silent on these abuses in stark and shameful contrast to the coverage given to other protests."

And this:

Jane sent me this (I cite with her permission): "I guess you saw the news that four men have been sentenced to death today by a military court that convicted them of killing two policemen during the uprising. Today Bahrain TV aired a "documentary" that gives full details, including televised "confessions" from several of the men. ..."

As some people have asked, why would defendants who were pleading "not guilty" make confessions on camera? The names of those confessing aren't given, but Chanad, an eagle-eyed blogger/tweep, pointed out that the first man "confessing" (six minutes into the programme) appears to be Ali Isa Saqer. Mr Saqer was one of the people detained in connection with the killings, but he was not sentenced yesterday. That's because he already died in custody in early April. Human Rights Watch, which saw his body, said it bore signs of "horrific abuse". He was buried on April 10th.

Frank Gardner of the BBC wrote about him recently ....:

"Accused of trying to run over a policeman during a protest, Ali Isa al-Saqer had handed himself over to police after his family say they were threatened. Six days later he died in their custody, the authorities say he fought his jailers. His family, seeing his battered body for the first time since his arrest, collapsed in howls of grief; his wounds were quite simply horrific.

Beaten black and blue, his lacerated back resembled a bloody zebra; he appeared to have been whipped with heavy cables, his ankles and wrists manacled.

I brought up his case with the health minister, Dr Fatima al-Beloushi, who is also minister for human rights. At first she said that the opposition had altered the images to invent the lacerations. But when I replied that we had been to the funeral and seen them ourselves she immediately promised a full investigation."

Beaten black and blue. Whipped with heavy cables. Battered to death. By agents of powers approved and backed and armed and trained by Washington -- powers, which, like their Potomac mentors, simply lie about their crimes -- or blame the victims themselves.

Again, I say what I have said here over and over (and will keep on saying): This is what you are supporting, enabling and continuing when you support the Obama Administration. Whether that support is wholehearted -- if you, like Kevin Drum, proudly shut down you own brain and defer supinely to Obama's superior wisdom -- or whether it is reluctant, defensive, "to keep the other guys out" because you desperately hope the Democrats might possibly be marginally better, the results are still the same: murder, brutality, violence, corruption, chaos and suffering.

If that's what you want to support -- if you feel for whatever reason that this is the best, most honorable, moral, productive course to take -- then that's your right, of course. But be aware of what that choice really means -- in actual lives of real human beings, right now, at this minute, and far into the future. Don't pretend that you don't know; don't pretend that you aren't saying, "I will pull the trigger and kill this little child to make the world a better place."
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

On "The Issue Of Character" And Empire
By Phil Rockstroh

Late last month, poet, musician, and self-termed "bluesologist," Gil Scott-Heron exited the hologram and returned to the source…to begin chanting, eternity will not be televised.

In an earlier era, Stephen Spender feted the following tribute to those who fell resisting Francisco Franco's fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War. His lines of verse serve as an apt epitaph to all those souls who devoted their art and labor to the ceaseless struggle against the perennially risen, death-besotted forces of coercive power:

"The names of those who in their lives fought for life,/Who wore at their hearts the fire's center./Born of the sun, they traveled a short while towards the sun,/And left the vivid air signed with their honor."

At present, in contrast, the dismal air is signed with the scandalous tweets of a congressman's undergarments and the concomitant, predictable howling from the hectoring ghosts of U.S. Puritanism, conjured from their graves by the contrived spectacle and its promise of anonymous arousal intermingled with the blood sport of public shaming.

By finger wagging and sneering, carnal desires can be lived out vicariously in the Puritan/Calvinist imagination. In this way, petty moralists can ogle what they claim to condemn.

To Puritans, all the problems of life can be traced to the genitals...true, but only their own problems.

How many times do the prigs, ninnies, and scolds of the U.S. have to repeat this sort of inanity before they grow up and realize that human beings have strong libidos? Libido propels both creativity and contretemps, and it is wise to aver that "the issue of character" should best be evoked and debated, as a general rule, when the situation involves hypocrisy.

Moreover, those claiming that their own sexual desires have never rendered them vulnerable to silly misjudgments evince a more noxious form of hypocrisy. Yet, if, in fact, their lives have been absent such propitious misfortune, then one should withhold the scorn reserved for hypocrites, and, instead, grant these poor souls pity, for they have been afflicted with the awful circumstance of having passed through their lives without ever being seduced by life.

A more profound "character issue" here would seem to involve that of the representatives of mass media news gathering organizations, in particular -- their greed for ratings. And what is one to make of the character of the individuals who comprise the general public and their seemingly endless avidity for these stories -- their insatiable craving to revel in the tawdry -- but remain engaged in the delusional worship of their own toxic innocence?

Although, it is futile to struggle against the symptoms not the source. As banal as the dreams of witless bullies, the architecture and artifice of U.S. militarist/corporate imperium not only surrounds us but has colonized our thoughts and desires. Ergo, the elite of the corporate media and the U.S. public remain untroubled by Bradley Manning's forced nudity, yet a couple a snaps of a congressmen's crotch sends their imagination reeling.

Since U.S. Empire is maintained by militarism -- a de facto strong-arm racket shaking down the people of the world to sustain the endless cupidity of its elite and proffer just enough bribes to keep its populace overweight, arrogant, and oblivious -- what "character issues" come into play involving an individual's complicity in the maintenance of blood-fueled imperium? Perhaps as a reminder, fleets of U.S. aircraft carriers should be christened with names such as, the USS Entitlement, the USS Displaced Resentment and the USS Willful Ignorance -- all armed and ready to patrol the oceans of the world, poised to attack and subdue those who would deny us our birthright to consume the world like a bag of Cheetos.

Because facing folly is difficult, both powerful and pawn have embraced the most airless of aspirations…that greed run riot is a viable means to move in the world, even the sole means of establishing a social order.

As was the case with any imperium throughout history, the present order is maintained by state-sanctified homicide. To exist in empire, one is induced to deaden ones heart. The act of having internalized (albeit inadvertently) the propaganda of the militaristic/corporate state and thereby cling to its provisional comforts…is to clutch a handful of dust. And what is the mode of being to which so many cling:

Shuffling the floors of some suburban turdbox…within a gated "community" where one rarely sees, much less speaks to one's neighbors; spending hours at a time, anxious and irritated (if not outright enraged) in soul-grinding commuter traffic, listening to the observations and pronouncements of inspired souls such as Morning Zoo Crews and deep thinkers like Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing talk-radio, hate merchants; then languishing all day in a cubicle...just to turn around and do it all again.

Is it any wonder so many in the U.S. consider "our way of life" non-negotiable? What kind of a miserable, bitter malcontent would wish to challenge and change such a life-enhancing, soul-vivifying mode of being? There is just no pleasing some people.

A loss of empathetic imagination is endemic to the consumerist mindset of the mechanized era. This form of pathology began, years ago, when our ancestors offered up their life's blood to the early corporatists of the Industrial Age.

"I attack all those persons/ who know nothing of the other half,/ the half who cannot be saved,/ who raise their cement mountains/ in which the hearts of the small/ animals no ones thinks of are beating." -- Federico García Lorca, excerpt: New York (Office and Attack)

Henry Ford and the rest of the Industrial Age's klavern of gray ghouls measured our flesh, muscle and bone with a productivity-measuring stopwatch. Cunning practitioners of the dark art of convincing human beings they were mere cogs in a soulless machine, it was only a short trudge from that blood-bartering viewpoint of existence through history's slaughterhouse to Adolf Eichmann's cold, corpse-rendering, mathematical constructs.

Insulated, as he was, within his fortified tower of mortared casuistry, Eichmann proved adept at emotionally shielding himself from the horrific implications of the system of mechanized extermination he helped devised. From individual alienation to planet-wide ecocide, Hannah Arendt's insights, regarding Eichmann's psyche in her seminal work, Eichmann in Jerusalem, applies to our present condition: "The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else."

Accordingly, to lose the green fuse of transformation, implicit in interpersonal relationships, is to be driven by dehumanizing engines of annihilation.

In regard to the consumerist-colonized psyches of the populace of the U.S., an inner architecture is in place -- an internalized shopping mall (complete with sub-cretinous security crews trained to shut down political speechifying and pamphleteering -- but who seem unwilling or unable to subdue the impulse to buy, on credit, unnecessary items).

Conversely, for a culture to thrive, a vital agora and public square is required. Given the agora has been replaced by mall and social media's weightless pixels of narrowed apprehension (an almost all-encompassing, amateur improvisational theatre for those with short attentions spans) can there be any chance of an awaking, even an uprising, against such life-negating forces?

Using any metric, the present system, based upon a zombie-like proliferation of exponential growth is unsustainable. By the destruction leveled on nature and public space, in combination with, the usurpation of time and identity (individual and collective) -- the very structure of the present system creates alienation and anomie.

Moreover, the root of Puritan panic (including the constant upwelling of sexually related scandal) is caused by its compulsion to winnow down the human psyche and its attendant drives, actions, and enterprises to only what is deemed pure and practical; hence, panic ensues when the musk and fury of the larger world (even one's own thoughts and desires) rudely breaches the life-denuded contours of its cordon sanitaire.

The anecdote: Don't tiptoe through your life like a ninny nor become a finger-wagging scold, so mortified by your appetites and desires you would scour the messiness of the world into a sterile prison of self-deprivation. Like Emerson, we must insist: we have a life to live -- not a perpetual apology.

Poetry and music can awaken imagination and induce empathy, therefore are potent provisions that sustain one while carrying the darkness. However, first one must engage the struggle, to face the everyday monster whose name is, "That is just the way it is and must remain" -- even to risk having one's concept of self devoured by the task. To paraphrase Lorca: to know oneself by drawing near to the beating heart of the monster of the world.

"But the Duende--where is the Duende? Through the empty arch enters a mental air blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, seeking new landscapes and unfamiliar accents; an air bearing the odor of child's spittle, crushed grass, and the veil of Medusa announcing the unending baptism of all newly-created things." --Federico García Lorca, excerpt: The Duende: Theory and Divertissement (1930)

One cannot kill nor banish personal demons but one can give them supervised work to do (that way one can keep an eye on them).

(Knowing one's demons also provides insight when dealing with adversaries and can prevent one from being drawn into the self-serving ploys of mass media vampires of mind and spirit who retail sexually related scandals that bring glee to the bloodless.)

Personally, it could trouble me less if the sky shook, thick as seething locust, with a pixel-borne pestilence of suggestive photos of political sorts. Funny, the same crowd of fundamentalist, petty moralists who believe that global warming is the result of natural forces insist the heat of human libido is what will bring on man's doom i.e., greenhouse gasses aren't melting the polar regions; instead, Climate Change is caused by the hot breath of Satan himself tweeting pictures of his lust-scorched undergarments.

In times such as these, one is advised to embrace both mystery and logic -- both élan vital and logos. Be both apprehensive and comforted by the unknowable, ineffable quality of existence; thereby, one comes to be moved by a poetic approach to mystery, and the realization arrives…that one is vividly alive even amid dismal, alienating circumstance, and, as a result, that the ennui engendered by the illusion of atomization is, to a degree, mitigated.

Although one's suffering is uniquely one's own, one remains part and parcel of the implicate order of a living planet. This is how Wallace Stevens delivers, in verse, the case for acquiring and maintaining a view of the world by means of empathetic imagination (that can serve as a panacea to the preening narcissism inherit in toxic innocence). I'll give him the final word:

We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one ...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.
~~~ Excerpt: Final Soliloquy Of The Interior Paramour ~~~

(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Medicare Saves Money
By Paul Krugman

Every once in a while a politician comes up with an idea that's so bad, so wrongheaded, that you're almost grateful. For really bad ideas can help illustrate the extent to which policy discourse has gone off the rails.

And so it was with Senator Joseph Lieberman's proposal, released last week, to raise the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67.

Like Republicans who want to end Medicare as we know it and replace it with (grossly inadequate) insurance vouchers, Mr. Lieberman describes his proposal as a way to save Medicare. It wouldn't actually do that. But more to the point, our goal shouldn't be to "save Medicare," whatever that means. It should be to ensure that Americans get the health care they need, at a cost the nation can afford.

And here's what you need to know: Medicare actually saves money - a lot of money - compared with relying on private insurance companies. And this in turn means that pushing people out of Medicare, in addition to depriving many Americans of needed care, would almost surely end up increasing total health care costs.

The idea of Medicare as a money-saving program may seem hard to grasp. After all, hasn't Medicare spending risen dramatically over time? Yes, it has: adjusting for overall inflation, Medicare spending per beneficiary rose more than 400 percent from 1969 to 2009.

But inflation-adjusted premiums on private health insurance rose more than 700 percent over the same period. So while it's true that Medicare has done an inadequate job of controlling costs, the private sector has done much worse. And if we deny Medicare to 65- and 66-year-olds, we'll be forcing them to get private insurance - if they can - that will cost much more than it would have cost to provide the same coverage through Medicare.

By the way, we have direct evidence about the higher costs of private insurance via the Medicare Advantage program, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to get their coverage through the private sector. This was supposed to save money; in fact, the program costs taxpayers substantially more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

And then there's the international evidence. The United States has the most privatized health care system in the advanced world; it also has, by far, the most expensive care, without gaining any clear advantage in quality for all that spending. Health is one area in which the public sector consistently does a better job than the private sector at controlling costs.

Indeed, as the economist (and former Reagan adviser) Bruce Bartlett points out, high U.S. private spending on health care, compared with spending in other advanced countries, just about wipes out any benefit we might receive from our relatively low tax burden. So where's the gain from pushing seniors out of an admittedly expensive system, Medicare, into even more expensive private health insurance?

Wait, it gets worse. Not every 65- or 66-year-old denied Medicare would be able to get private coverage — in fact, many would find themselves uninsured. So what would these seniors do?

Well, as the health economists Austin Frakt and Aaron Carroll document, right now Americans in their early 60s without health insurance routinely delay needed care, only to become very expensive Medicare recipients once they reach 65. This pattern would be even stronger and more destructive if Medicare eligibility were delayed. As a result, Mr. Frakt and Mr. Carroll suggest, Medicare spending might actually go up, not down, under Mr. Lieberman's proposal.

O.K., the obvious question: If Medicare is so much better than private insurance, why didn't the Affordable Care Act simply extend Medicare to cover everyone? The answer, of course, was interest-group politics: realistically, given the insurance industry's power, Medicare for all wasn't going to pass, so advocates of universal coverage, myself included, were willing to settle for half a loaf. But the fact that it seemed politically necessary to accept a second-best solution for younger Americans is no reason to start dismantling the superior system we already have for those 65 and over.

Now, none of what I have said should be taken as a reason to be complacent about rising health care costs. Both Medicare and private insurance will be unsustainable unless there are major cost-control efforts - the kinds of efforts that are actually in the Affordable Care Act, and which Republicans demagogued with cries of "death panels."

The point, however, is that privatizing health insurance for seniors, which is what Mr. Lieberman is in effect proposing - and which is the essence of the G.O.P. plan - hurts rather than helps the cause of cost control. If we really want to hold down costs, we should be seeking to offer Medicare-type programs to as many Americans as possible.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Any excuse will serve a tyrant."
~~~ Aesop

No Justice In Kafka's America
By Chris Hedges

In Franz Kafka's short story "Before the Law" a tireless supplicant spends his life praying for admittance into the courts of justice. He sits outside the law court for days, months and years. He makes many attempts to be admitted. He sacrifices everything he owns to sway or bribe the stern doorkeeper. He ages, grows feeble and finally childish. He is told as he nears death that the entrance was constructed solely for him and it will now be closed.

Justice has become as unattainable for Muslim activists in the United States as it was for Kafka's frustrated petitioner. The draconian legal mechanisms that condemn Muslim Americans who speak out publicly about the outrages we commit in the Middle East have left many, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, wasting away in supermax prisons. These citizens posed no security threat. But they dared to speak a truth about the sordid conduct of our nation that the state found unpalatable. And in the bipartisan war on terror, waged by Republicans and Democrats, this ugly truth in America is branded seditious.

The best the U.S. government could offer as evidence of Fahad's crimes was that an acquaintance who stayed in his apartment with him while he was a graduate student in London had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks in luggage at the apartment and that the acquaintance eventually delivered these to al-Qaida. But I doubt the government is overly concerned with a suitcase full of waterproof socks taken to Pakistan. The reason Fahad Hasmi was targeted was because, like the Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian, he was fearless and zealous in his defense of those being bombed, shot, terrorized and killed throughout the Muslim world while he was a student at Brooklyn College. Fahad was deeply religious, and some of his views, including his praise of the Afghan resistance, were to me unpalatable, but he had a right to express these sentiments. More important, he had a right to expect freedom from persecution and imprisonment because of his opinions. Facing the possibility of a 70-year sentence in prison and having already spent four years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, he accepted a plea bargain on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism.

It has been a year since his 15-year sentence was pronounced in a New York courtroom. He is now held in Guantanamo-like conditions in the supermax ADX [Administrative Maximum] facility in Florence, Colo. He is isolated in a small cell for 22 to 23 hours a day. He has only extremely limited contact with his mother, father and brother, often going weeks without any communication. Between his transfer to Florence last August and this March he was permitted only one phone call. The rule of law in America, especially if you are Muslim, fits Kafka's grim parody. The tyranny we impose on those held in Guantanamo, Bagram and the secret CIA "black sites" we impose on ourselves. This is and always has been the disease of empire. Empire imports the crude and brutal tools of control and violence back to the homeland. It creates internal as well as external colonies.

We no longer have freedom; there is only the appearance of freedom. We are consumed by an endless and vague war on terror in which the perfidiousness of our enemy, whose number, location and nature are never clearly defined, justifies the shredding of constitutional rights, torture, kidnapping, detentions without charges or trials and an occult-like battle against an absolute evil. And if you think the state intends to limit itself to the persecution of Muslims, especially once there is an increase in domestic unrest and instability, you know little about human history.

I spoke Saturday night to Fahad Hashmi's father, Syed Anwar Hashmi. The elder Hashmi came to the United States from Pakistan when Fahad was 3 and his other son, Faisal, was 4. He worked for more than two decades as an accountant for the city of New York. He came, as most immigrants have, for his children. He believed in America, in its fairness, its chances for opportunity, its freedoms. And then it all crumbled when the state proved as capricious and cruel as the Pakistani dictatorship he had left behind. On the day of his son's arrest, he says, "my American dream became an American nightmare."

Three law enforcement officials appeared at his home in Flushing, Queens, on June 6, 2006, to inform him that Fahad, who had been in London completing a master's degree in international relations, had been arrested at Heathrow Airport on terrorism charges. Fahad, after fighting the order for 11 months, was the first American citizen extradited under the post-9/11 laws. He was taken in May 2007 to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan and placed in solitary confinement.

"I came to this country from Pakistan nearly 30 years ago, in 1982 with my wife and two young boys," Fahad's father said. "Coming from a Third World country, we were full of hope and looked towards America for liberty and opportunity. I had an American dream to work hard and give my sons good educations. I worked as an assistant accountant for the city of New York, six days a week, nine hours a day, including overtime, to support my family and to send both my kids through college. We all became U.S. citizens, and my sons fulfilled my dreams by completing their undergraduate and postgraduate education. I was very proud of them."

"In high school and then as a student at Brooklyn College, Fahad became a political activist, concerned about the plight of Muslims around the world and the civil liberties of Muslims in America," he went on. "Growing up here in America, Fahad did not fear expressing his views. But I was scared for him and urged him not to speak out. He would remind me that everything he did was under the law. But having grown up in a Third World country, I had seen that it did not always work this way, and so I worried. He was monitored by law enforcement and quoted in Time magazine. But he kept speaking out. And then, with his arrest, my fears came true."

Judge Loretta Preska denied Fahad bail partly on the grounds that he had no ties to family and community. His family and friends, who sat crowded together in the courtroom, listened in stunned silence. And then, after five months, Hashmi, already isolated in solitary confinement, was suddenly put under "special administrative measures," known as SAMs. SAMs are the legal weapon of choice used by the state when it seeks to isolate and break prisoners. They were bequeathed to us by the Clinton administration, which justified SAMs as a way to prevent Mafia or other gang leaders from ordering hits from inside prison. The use of SAMs expanded widely after the attacks of 2001. They are frequently used to isolate terrorism case detainees before trial. SAMs, which were renewed by Barack Obama in October, severely restrict a prisoner's communication with the outside world. They end calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. Fahad, once in this legal straitjacket, was not permitted to see much of the evidence against him under a legal provision called the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA. CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from those being prosecuted.

The weekly visits Hashmi's family made to the jail in Manhattan were canceled. A single family member was permitted to visit only once every two weeks, and on a number of occasions the family member was inexplicably denied admittance. During the last five months of the trial Hashmi's family was barred from visiting him. Anyone who has contact with a prisoner under SAMs is prohibited by law from disclosing any information learned from the detainee. This requirement, in a twist Kafka would have relished, makes it illegal for those who have contact with an inmate under SAMs—including attorneys—to speak about his or her physical and psychological condition.

Once the SAMs were imposed, "He wrote us occasionally—one letter on no more than three pages at a time—but he was allowed no correspondence or contact with anyone else," his father said of his son. "In addition, because of Fahad's SAMs, we were not allowed to discuss anything we heard from him, including his health or any details of his detention or what he was experiencing, with anyone else. It was like being suffocated."

In a pretrial motion, Hashmi's lawyer presented the extensive medical and scholarly research that demonstrates the severe impact solitary confinement has on human beings, often leaving them incapable of defending themselves during their trial. It did not sway the judge. Fahad lived in a universe, before ever being sentenced, where he had no fresh air and was subjected to 23-hour lockdown and constant electronic surveillance including when he showered or relieved himself. He was barred from group prayer. He exercised alone in a solitary cage. He was denied access to television or a radio. His newspapers were cut up by censors. And this was all before trial.>{?>I? "These years have brought deep disillusionment for my family in the American justice system," his father said. "Fahad was restricted in reviewing much of the evidence against him, and even his attorney could not discuss much of the evidence with him. Secret evidence is something we knew from back home. The judge accepted the prosecutor's motion to introduce Fahad's political activities and speeches into the trial to demonstrate his mind-set. Where was the First Amendment to protect Fahad's speech? Two days before the trial was set to begin, Judge Preska agreed to the prosecutor's motion to keep the jury anonymous and kept under extra security—even though this could have frightened the jury and affected how they viewed Fahad."

"On the day before trial, nearly four years since he had been arrested, I had just returned from dropping off clothes for Fahad to wear to court when I received a call from my attorney," Fahad's father said. "The government had offered a deal to drop three of the four charges against Fahad, if he accepted one charge which carried a 15-year sentence and Fahad had agreed to this plea bargain. I was shocked by my son's decision on the eve of his trial, but after I thought more, I wondered how anyone could have decided differently in his situation. Fahad had been in solitary confinement, under SAMs, for nearly three years. The judge had in every instance sided with the government in pretrial motions. If convicted, Fahad faced a possible 70-year sentence. Under those circumstances, Fahad's decision to accept one charge was no longer surprising. He has been in for five years this June."

"The U.S. government is concerned about human rights in China and Iran," he went on. "I wonder about Fahad's rights, and how they have been blatantly violated in this great land. It seems like ‘innocent until proven guilty' is only a saying. My son was treated as guilty until proven innocent."

"The Muslim community supported my son by offering prayers, particularly in the month of Ramadan," he said. "But they were initially afraid to raise their voices against injustice. This reminds me of the fear the Chinese have under Communist rule, or Iranians under Ahmadinejad. As a citizen, I now have developed fear of my own government."

"For one charge for luggage storing socks, ponchos and raincoats in his apartment, he is serving a 15-year sentence in the harshest federal prison in the country, still in solitary confinement, still under SAMs," his father said. "The cooperating witness in the case, the one who brought and delivered the luggage, is now free and able to enjoy his life and family."

The state, by making us afraid, is able to justify the disease of permanent war and the silencing of those who dare to dissent. The terrible suffering we have unleashed throughout the Middle East is rendered invisible if there is no one to decry it and document it. Communities and families, not only in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan but at home, have been plunged into needless grief and suffering because of the atrocities committed in our name. The despair and bewilderment of Fahad's father are a reflection of the wider despair and bewilderment that have gripped the lives of hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have been forced to confront the dark heart of empire. In their pain we stand condemned.

"There are many things I'd like to be able to say about the visit and my son's continuing detention, but because of Fahad's SAMs, I am forbidden," his father said. "Everything has changed for my family. Our first grandchild was born 19 days after Fahad's arrest, our second two years later. But now everything has a cloud over it—graduations, birthdays, holidays, going to the store or the park or visiting family or running errands, and particularly the Eid day. In other words, we have lost our happiness."
(c) 2011 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

I Regret To Inform You That Your Country Is Suffering From A Severe Case Of Palinosis
By David Michael Green

I hope I never write another piece on Sarah Palin again.

The woman is a disease, and I choose my words carefully there. She is everything that is wrong with America, and indeed, that is the only reason I'm writing this at all. This essay is altogether far more a commentary on Governor Quit's America than it is on the woman herself. Our national problem is Palinosis far more than it is Palin.

There have always been people like Sarah Palin, and presumably there always will be. The two real questions are why anyone cares about them and, most astonishingly, why anyone would seriously contemplate putting them in charge of a country of 300 million people.

Palin the person is back in the news again right now (and notice that she makes sure never to really be absent) for two reasons. First, because she's launched this wild bus tour which reminds one of those nested Russian dolls where you open each one up and there's another inside. This tour is a ‘family vacation', inside of which is Palin's public service mission of educating the rest of us about American history, inside of which is a faux flirtation with presidential politics, inside of which is a relentless, endless series of publicity stunts masquerading as a human being, inside of which is an utterly shameless money-grubbing cash cow, inside of which is a frightened little girl whose insecurities could make George W. Bush look like a paragon of self-confidence in comparison. At the end of the day, she has become essentially the Paris Hilton of politics. She is famous for being famous, and she's masterful at that one thing and that one thing only.

"I'm publicizing Americana and our foundation and how important it is that we learn about our past and our challenges and victories throughout American history, so that we can successfully proceed forward," Palin informed the ridiculously obsessed press following her everywhere on her national wild goose chase. "It's not a campaign tour." Right. That's why it's in a big, painted bus, and she has the media scurrying after her. Every family vacation's that way, isn't it? And, by the way, even if by some bizarre random quirk of stochastic physics she was actually being honest about her motivations, isn't more ill-informed self-reverential adoration of our national wonderfulness just what America needs right now, as the country is imploding in every way imaginable? And who is more perfectly poised to provide that lesson than the esteemed Professor Palin, so erudite and multifarious is her skills that she can simultaneously use mangled syntax, by which to display her emotional neediness, in the form of distorted history lessons? How many of us can claim such abilities?

The half-term governor knew that if she loaded up a busload of family members and painted the bus with patriotic pictures and slogans a few microns deep, and that if she ran around at the same time (and even the same place) that other Republicans were announcing their campaigns, she could generate a boatload of media attention to come in her direction. This is a good time for it, too. Since she will not actually be running for president herself (the money's no good, and it seems like an awful lot of work!), she no doubt realizes that her celebrity shelf-life is about to go south in a hurry. Once Republicans pick a nominee (likely Romney, and likely quickly), she will be of a lot less interest than she is now. Peripheral Palin's remaining cards to play at that moment will essentially include criticizing the GOP nominee and criticizing the Democratic nominee. The former will not be welcome by regressives during a presidential campaign for obvious reasons, and the latter will actually not either, because Palin only cheapens any Republican candidate's message to independents with her idiotic comments about Obama. She is the best thing that could happen to the president, even if she isn't on the ticket.

I think she well understands that her relevancy meter is fast running down, and she is about to become some tawdry, laughable Dan Quayle-type thing, a creature that even (or especially) regressives wish in retrospect they could forget about. Indeed, I think Palin is probably secretly still in drop-jaw astonishment herself that she ever got any of the attention she's managed to garner so far. So she is milking every remaining drop of it that she can grab before she's sent to the remainders bin. When asked if she was leaning toward or against running, she replied as only she can, "Still right there in the middle." Oh, god. I need to hurl. I don't know who is worse, Palin uttering such dribble or the media for sucking it up like it remotely matters. Nor could she help turning the knife she had miraculously been able to slip into Mitt Romney - despite there being nothing there of substance to stab - by stomping all over his presidential candidacy announcement extravaganza. She then added a bit of her own special brand of catty mockery to the mix: "I apologize if I stepped on any, any of that PR that Mitt Romney needed or wanted that day. I do sincerely apologize. I didn't mean to step on anybody's toes."

All of this would be truly ugly, except that it's both entertaining and cosmically righteous to see regressives clobbering each other. Couldn't happen to a nicer lot. And the other good news is that it seems many Americans have finally figured out most of what needs to be understood about this abomination in a skirt.

Which also explains another way in which Palin made the headlines last week, this time by making clear, yet again, how utterly and astonishingly vacuous she is. She proved it again by flunking American History 101, laughably flubbing a question most second-graders could readily handle. Knowing who Paul Revere was is like knowing who Santa is. Not for Savvy Sarah, though, who responded thusly: "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, and we were going to be armed."

Okay, leave aside the rambling incoherence of her remarks. Sometimes spontaneous, on-the-spot answers to press questions can legitimately have that quality (which - hello, regressives! - might explain why Barack Obama (and lots of other politicians) use a teleprompter when they speak. She obviously wasn't expecting the question, though she can just as obviously be seen in the above passage to be scrambling to think of an answer, and doing her ‘thinking' out loud. And leave aside, as well, the mysterious "He who..." construction I've heard her use before. There's definitely some twisted pathology loaded up in that phrasing, but I'm not psycho-linguistically astute enough to take it apart. All that aside, what remains is the breathtaking absence of basic historical knowledge on the part of this frequent public scold on matters of American patriotism (as she defines them).

So egregious was Palin's boner that even Pox Snooze, which happens to be a relentless promoter of bother Palin and Palinism, not to mention her employer, was forced to come to grips with it. "Anchor" Chris Wallace asked her, "You realize that you messed up about Paul Revere, don't you?" Well, no, actually, she doesn't: "I didn't mess up about Paul Revere. Part of his ride was to warn the British that were already there. That, hey, you're not going to succeed. You're not going to take American arms. You are not going to beat our own well-armed persons, individual, private militia that we have. He did warn the British. I know my American history."

Maybe she does, and maybe I'm the Queen of England. But it seems more likely that she doesn't (and I'm definitely not). In the same way she didn't quite seem to know what journals she reads, when the question was innocuously asked by Katie Couric. Or that she seemed to think that she was an experienced hand at foreign policy because the state she governed (until she quit, to accept the much better paying Paris Hilton gig) was sorta close to Vladimir Putin's Russia. And you know how threatening those Ruskies are, always rattling their sabers in our direction... Well, back in the Fifties, anyhow.... You know, when the Founders were fighting the Revolutionary War... Against the French... Hence, the need to warn the British... Er, sumptin' like that.

Like I said, there will always be Sarah Palins in this world. The real questions are why they gather the attention they do, and why we would ever dream of making them our national leaders. There is a related flip-side to that question, as well, which goes to why Barack Obama - who is the personal, but definitely not political, antithesis of a Sarah Palin - is so reviled in these same quarters, and why so much effort is made to diminish him, by questioning his citizenship authenticity, his college grades, his religion, his intelligence and his use of teleprompters in making speeches.

As it happens, I loathe Barack Obama as well. But differently, and definitely for different reasons. I despise him because he in fact actually has nearly the same politics of the folks on the right who hate him so viscerally. You could never possibly convince them of that, of course, but it is a simple fact. If you just look dispassionately at his policies - ranging from wars with Muslim countries, to global warming, to taxes, to civil liberties, and even to civil rights and health care - the real truth is that there's hardly any difference between Obama and, say, Bush/Cheney. Indeed, in many respects - Afghanistan, civil liberties, immigration roundups, Guantánamo - Obama is even worse than Bush/Cheney.

Which makes it so remarkable that folks on the right hate him so. They're far too scared-stupid to realize it, of course, but this guy is not even a liberal, let alone a socialist. His politics are largely their politics. So what gives? Why the hatred toward Obama by the same people who adore Palin?

Fundamentally, I suspect it has to do with the implicit condemnation his character puts on their recklessness and greed. When the Bush/Cheney Cowboy Show was in town, all your worst tendencies could be expressed and not only was it not frowned upon, hell, it was national policy. Gimme, gimme, gimme. Oil, money, food, money, war, money, booze, money, tax cuts, money, debt, money, environmental destruction, money, Humvees, money, bigotry, money, Wall Street, money, civil liberties slashing, money, Abu Ghraib, money, and so on. Did I mention money? The funny thing (hah-freakin'-hah) is that Obama's policies are nearly identical in all these respects, however, he doesn't say so (in order to keep his stupid base on his side), and he carries himself in a much more adult, rational, responsible and confident manner. And that really flames people who are none of those things.

I think they especially hate Obama not so much because he's black or he's a Northerner or a Democrat or young. It's all those things, to be sure. But I think what really drives the Palinista right crazy when it comes to Obama is ultimately the air of responsibility he projects. And unlike Bush or Palin, Obama is not afraid of getting caught being intelligent in public. I think that alone incenses people on the right, but mostly it's that they want to live recklessly and greedily, and therefore they despise anyone, or anything, or any action or words, that remotely remind them of their recklessness and greed. Say whatever you want about Obama - and I have, and will continue to - he is clearly very intelligent, very thoughtful, highly disciplined and ridiculously measured. I think that alone drives people on the lazy, greedy right absolutely ape-shit in response, because it sorta shoves in their faces their own gross irresponsibility, and nobody likes being reminded of the harm they've caused to others (not to mention that such avoidance is, itself, a powerful form of laziness and greed).

Put it all together and ours is the strangest political moment, perhaps in human history. I say that not only because the tropes in our public discourse are so bizarre, but because, above all, the stakes are now so high. We live at a time when those who are the most angry and agitated in their politics are the very ones who have driven the country (and, in many respects, the world) off the cliff. And yet they endlessly preach to us about responsibility and morality.

There are no depths to the levels of duplicity and hypocrisy plumbed here, and there is no limit to the destruction being contemplated. Think about the damage that already litters the landscape, and the lies necessary to wipe away the fingerprints upon it.

What's worse than dictating to everyone else what their sexual practices must be, while simultaneously engaging in every manner of debauchery themselves?

Perhaps it would be ranting endlessly about the virtues of the "free market" while constantly shilling for all forms of corporate welfare and bleeding the country dry.

Or perhaps it is selling massive tax cuts for the wealthy on the premise that such giveaways would provide us a great economy, and then delivering the Great Recession instead.

Or maybe it's exploding the national debt to pay for wars and tax cuts and corporate welfare and a giant ‘defense' establishment against no real enemy, and then demanding that seniors and the poor and the middle class be kicked to the gutter because there is no money left to pay for social programs.

Or perhaps instead it would be plunging the country into a war that claimed as many as a million lives, all on the basis of lies.

Or maybe lying about and ignoring global warming, the planet's greatest threat ever, in order to protect the short-term profits of a handful of oil and coal tycoons.

These are among the worst gifts of regressivism, whose greatest exemplar in our time is Sarah Palin. She is the ultimate nothingburger, herself. History will regard her as a cheap and rather harmless latter day Joe McCarthy.

But her politics are our national disease - Palinosis - and we have a lethal dose.

It is the politics of insecurity.

It's the politics of hate.

It's the politics of deceit.

It's the politics of hypocrisy.

It's the politics of laziness.

It's the politics of irresponsibility.

It's the politics of ignorance.

It's the politics of destruction.

But, most of all, it is the politics of greed.
(c) 2011 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,
(c) 2011 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Chris gives the corpo-rat salute!

Heil Obama,

Dear Gouverneur Christie,

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, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and cutting off 90,000 people from Medicare to pay for the tax cuts for the rich, Iraq, Afghanistan, 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 Christie, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

GOP Debate: Michele Bachmann And Six Guys
By John Nichols

Say what you will about Michele Bachmann, but don't deny that she is the most theatrically-skilled Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan.

During a debate that did nothing to discourage the prospective campaigns of Republicans who were not on the stage — former Utah Governor John Huntsman, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and, above all, Texas Governor Rick Perry - Bachmann was the one candidate who made news.

At the opening of the second Republican presidential debate Monday night, Bachmann took an unprecedented step: She announced that she had formally entered the race for the GOP nomination - a move that just a few months ago was unimaginable to almost anyone but the congresswoman from Minnesota.

Yes, it was a little bizarre. Most candidates get the family together, call in a crowd of supporters and deliver a rip-roaring address that scopes out a vision for the country. Bachmann says she's jump through those hoops "soon."

But rather than wait, Bachmann just told John King that she was ready to make the race.

It was a stunt.

But there's a reason why politicians - especially politicians mounting uphill runs — pull stunts.

They grab attention, make voters take a second look and jumpstart a campaign.

That's what Bachmann was doing, with her start-of-the-debate announcement and every answer she gave on a night that saw the men who would be president struggle to excite a friendly crowd.

"Michele Bachmann was introduced to the country for the first time and she did a very good job of it," said veteran Republican operative (and Bush family retainer) Andy Card, who described the Minnesota congresswoman's performance as polished, professional and powerful.

"It turns out Bachmann does a better job of being (Sarah) Palin than Palin does," said Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, referencing the former governor of Alaska who can still make headlines but whose place in the Republican race may yet be occupied by Bachmann.

The congresswoman has had her own stumbles over the years. But she wasn't stumbling Monday night.

More electric than the agonizingly drab also-rans (former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum), more on top of the issues than the other Tea-Party favorite (pizza CEO Herman Cain), punchier than the serious libertarian (Texas Congressman Ron "Reserve Currency" Paul) or the know-it-all professor (former House Speaker Newt Gingrich) it was Bachmann who most effectively held her own in competition with the smooth and relatively-presidential frontrunner (Mitt Romney).

Romney had a decent night. Despite prompting from moderator John King. Pawlenty skipped a chance to press his "Obamneycare" comparison of President Obama's health-care reform legislation and the reform plan Romney implemented as governor of Massachusetts. And Santorum, who has tried to make himself the race's social conservative purist, went easy on Romney's switch from a pro-choice to an anti-choice stance regarding abortion.

Romney even had some applause lines - especially his announcement that the Boston Bruins were "up 4-1."

But Bachmann had an applause line for every question. Bachmann hailed herself as a "principle ahead of party" conservative who fought "behind closed doors" to block bailouts of banks and corporations.

"The president deferred leadership in Libya to France," she announced. "That's all you need to know."

"I am 100 percent pro-life," she announced, before outlining her opposition to abortion even in instances of rape and where the life of a mother might be threatened. "I stand for life from conception to natural death."

She promised "the mother of all repeal bills," praising proposals to start shutting down federal agencies, including apparently the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Republicans have an awesome story to tell," she chirped early in the evening.

"We're going to win!" a beaming Bachmann declared. "I want to announce tonight: President Obama is a one-term president, We're going to win."

The crowd went wild.

So is Bachmann going to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012?

Not likely. She's got a record of unsettling votes and even more unsettling statements that will haunt her. She's the most inconsistent constitutionalist in Congress - hailing privacy rights while voting to extend the most abusive components of the Patriot Act. And she does not poll any better than does former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in one-on-one pairings with President Obama.

But it does mean that this newly-minted candidate is going to grab a lot of the limelght from the other candidates and generate more headlines than any contender save Romney - who maintained his frontrunner status Monday night at least in part because Bachmann left little room for Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Pawlenty or Santorum to get traction.

Nobody "won" Monday night's debate, which was good for Romney.

But Bachmann scored points. That's good for her. And maybe for the as-yet-unannounced Republican contender who could combine Romney's "stature" and political skills with the congresswoman's applause lines.

Indeed, if there is anyone who can remind Republicans that they have an enthusiasm gap to fill, it is Bachmann. Unfortunately for her - though fortunately for her party and the country - she is not going to be the candidate who fills it.
(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.

Seven Republican Dwarfs
By Robert Scheer

They assumed the stance of the Seven Dwarfs, not as a matter of physical but rather intellectual stature. Not one of the candidates for the GOP presidential nomination who debated Monday night rose to a point of seriousness in addressing the nation's grievous problems. Instead, they ever so playfully thumbed their collective noses at any possible meaningful government reaction to the mess that we are in. It was Herbert Hoover warmed over, leaving Barack Obama secure in the mantle of FDR whether he deserves that tribute or not.

Obama, who has been inconsistent and weak in reining in the Wall Street greed that got us into this deep economic morass, is now under no pressure from the opposition to improve his performance. The Republican knee-jerk reaction-government bad, big business great, and don't dare say that the Wall Street scoundrels who created this crisis need a timeout-gets Obama off the hook from legitimate criticism he needs to hear. As The Wall Street Journal headlined the non-debate: "Candidates Run Against Regulation."

It's as if the sound government regulation of the financial industry implemented in response to the Great Depression-not its polar opposite, the radical deregulation fueled by Republican free market zealots-was the source of our banking meltdown.

How dare these Republican candidates en masse ignore the truth that it was precisely the legislation that their party pushed through Congress, and that Democrat Bill Clinton shamefully endorsed, that launched the era of unregulated credit default swaps and mortgage-based securities that came close to destroying the entire economy. The failed policies involved are the cause of the 50 percent run-up of the national debt, 9.1 percent unemployment, an all-time high in poverty and the prospect of 50 million people being driven from their homes.

The Republican debate dashed any expectation that some populist candidate would rise from that side of the aisle, and in an honest way tap into voter resentment over the deep hurt that the Wall Street superrich have put on ordinary Americans. Instead, the candidates made regulation the enemy, rather than the misdeeds that responsible legislation is intended to curtail.

And their target was not just legislation to control the financial community. Indeed they offered, to a person, an across-the-board assault on the very idea of the power of the government being used in a forthright way to protect the rights of the individual citizen in any arena. As The Wall Street Journal summarized the New Hampshire debate:

"Republican presidential hopefuls on Monday pressed for the dismantling of government regulations drawn up over 40 years, using a candidates' debate here to call for the scaling back or elimination of environmental, labor, financial and health-care rules."

The stakes in the next election couldn't be more important, and the danger for Obama and the country is that he might continue his practice of compromising instead of courageously challenging entrenched corporate power. If the choice is between him and any one of the Seven Dwarfs, it will be no contest as to who is the lesser evil. If Mitt Romney, the current front-runner by a wide margin for the GOP nomination, represents the best chance the Republicans have of putting up a sensible leader, Obama will be under no stress to improve his performance. Romney won't even defend the very minor health care reforms that the Republicans deride as "Obamacare," even though those reforms are based on a state program Romney championed when he was governor of Massachusetts.

The only candidate who has had the temerity to concede that the Republican vision of health care is "right-wing social engineering" was Newt Gingrich, and he has been backing away from that assertion ever since he made it in May. At Monday's debate, Gingrich felt the need to balance that earlier bit of reason with an absurd call for abolishing the National Labor Relations Board, as if it is the unbridled power of trade unions rather the mammoth corporations that is responsible for the downsizing and outsourcing of once well-paid American jobs.

The smug arrogance of these Republican candidates, preening with their concern for the masses of Americans oppressed by the chains of Social Security, minimal rights to health care, and environmental protection, leaves Obama as the only serious adult in the room. These folks even want to reverse the Sarbanes-Oxley law, designed to prevent the accounting fraud associated with the collapses of Enron and WorldCom that cost so many their jobs and savings.

With the president facing opponents such as these, the danger is that our national politics will once again be traumatized by a lesser-evilism, in which Obama will be given a free ride relieved of the pressure to perform better in dealing with an economy that is in deep trouble. It would be all too easy for him to make the case that he inherited rather than created the economic debacle, and that his palliatives, including the stimulus and mild regulation, may have not solved the problem but it would be a lot worse if the do-nothingness-that traditional bane of the GOP-had been the order of the day.
(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.

The Cartoon Corner...

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To End On A Happy Note...

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Anti-Gay Senator's Horse Affair Caught On Tape

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Supercomputer Fails To Translate Palin Emails Into English
Not a Recognizable Language, Says IBM's Watson
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - Hours after the state of Alaska released 24,199 emails written by Sarah Palin during her tenure as Governor, a celebrated supercomputer created by IBM failed to translate the messages into English. IBM computer scientists who work in the company's language recognition lab were initially optimistic that Watson, the computer that rocketed to fame as a contestant on television's "Jeopardy" game show, would have no problem cracking the code of Gov. Palin's gubernatorial emails.

But the scientists grew concerned when Watson stalled after five hours of nonstop processing and billows of smoke began to emanate from the supercomputer's vents.

Finally, Watson issued a terse "ERROR" message, reading, "Not a recognizable language."

An IBM spokesman said that while Watson had failed in his mission, there was probably not a great wealth of information in the emails to begin with: "From a total of 24,199 emails, 24,195 of them were out-of-office autoreplies."

For her part, Gov. Palin seemed unfazed by the news, using a stop on her bus tour to blast Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY): "In Paul Revere's day, he had to ride from door to door to show people his penis."

In another setback for the GOP presidential field, one day after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's campaign staff quit en masse, they released a brief statement explaining their actions: I>"We all simultaneously realized he was a douche."

Mr. Gingrich's former staff would not divulge their precise location, but are rumored to be hiding somewhere in Pakistan.

Despite the mass defection, Mr. Gingrich remained upbeat today, announcing that he would replace his entire staff with imaginary friends.
© 2011 The Borowitz Report

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 23 (c) 06/17/2011

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