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In This Edition

Amy Goodman concludes, "Japan's Meltdowns Demand New No-Nukes Thinking."

Uri Avnery exclaims, "Deny! Deny!"

David Sirota hips us to, "Promoting Militarism While Hiding Bloodshed."

Robert Scheer reviews, "Bill Clinton's Legacy of Denial."

Jim Hightower explores, "Koch Classiness."

Helen Thomas looks into, "Sex And Self Destruction."

James Donahue considers, "The Scary Federal Tax Cut Agenda."

Joel S. Hirschhorn investigates, "Two Capitalisms."

Chris Floyd takes us into the, "No-Life Zone."

Medea Benjamin is, "Setting Sail For Gaza, Armed With Love Letters And A Missive From Dr. King."

Dean Baker sees, "The Endgame On The Debt Ceiling."

Chris Hedges examines why, "This Hero Didn't Stand A Chance."

Bill Boyarsky has, "Bad News For A Country Tired Of War."

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols exclaims, "The Real Issue In Minneapolis (and America): Jobs!"

Sam Harris lectures, "On Spiritual Truths."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Tim Pawlenty Shaves Off Every Hair On His Body In Really Weird Campaign Gaffe" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "All War Is Deception."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Kevin Siers, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Jimmy Margulies, Tom Toles, Mr. Fish, Bob Englehart, Matthew C. Wright, A.C. Gilbert Science & Engineering Sets, 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."

All War Is Deception
By Ernest Stewart

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." ~~~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Our debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis. We cannot deny it; instead we must, as Americans, confront it responsibly. And that is exactly what Republicans pledge to do." ~~~ Paul Ryan

"The war on women that the Republicans have been waging since they took over the House, I think, is going to not only restore but possibly help us exceed the president's margin of victory in the next election." ~~~ Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

"We didn't lose the game; we just ran out of time" ~~~ Vince Lombardi

As I said to Obamahood about his speech on the Afghanistan "pull-out," "What a crock of shit!"

In fact, this is what I said:

Just listened to your speech, and all I can say is what a crock of shit! So, the war, the murders, the war crimes and crimes against humanity will go ever onward, and gosh, after another year or so, we'll still have twice the number of troops dying for Wall Street that we had before you got there, and since you won't be in office after January 2013, I'm sure President Palin or Romney will have a different idea on how to keep the blood money flowing for decades to come -- so much for 2014, huh? I'll be voting Green, like I did in 2008, as I can't see any difference between the Rethuglicans and you Demoncrats. You're both enemies of the people, and forget about balancing the budget as you hinted at on the backs of the poor, the elderly and the sick, or you'll find what happens when you step on that third rail! Ask your golfing buddy how that works!

So, if I suddenly disappear never to be heard from again, you'll know the reasons why!

I can't say that I was surprised at all by the speech. I could have guessed what he would say and he didn't disappoint in the slightest, i.e., that the longest war in American history will go on, and besides having the power to murder any American citizen he wants to without any oversight, he no longer needs the will of Congress to start new wars around the world by remote control and with the aid of our puppets in NATO doing the dirty work!

Yes, the empire will live on until the last dollar in the treasury is spent, after the last American -- poor, elderly, sick and hungry -- is dead, as we all need to sacrifice. We need to sacrifice Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Food Stamps, but not the funding of the wars, not a tax on the insanely rich, not a tax on the trillion dollar corporations that pay no taxes! Oh Yippee!

In Other News

The Rethuglicans in the House have one thing on their mind as far as debt reduction goes. That one thing is the mass, premeditated murder of millions of Americans, and if Obamahood goes along with them as he always does, they will certainly get their way! This war is against the newly-created poor, including millions of American children. The sick and the elderly will soon find themselves cut off and adrift from Social Security. Medicare, Medicaid and Food Stamps.

First, our politicians got rid of millions of middle class jobs by sending them overseas -- something they continue to do to this day. With the resulting tax losses and those former workers now finding themselves without a job and no chance of getting another one, losing their houses and cars, and nowhere else to turn for help except the federal government -- a government they've been supporting with their taxes all of their lives, and when they need that help, their representatives are preparing to deny them! Which, on a positive note, just might start the third American Revolution!

What exactly are the Rethuglicans proposing? Well, they want to balance the budget on the back of the welfare state, not the corpo-rat welfare state, mind you, nor stop the military industrial complex handouts. No, they want their trillion dollar giveaways to the insanely-wealthy -- paid for by the desperately poor, the sick, and the elderly -- and it looks like they'll get their way....

Ryan's plan would cut food stamps by 20%-- either by limiting who can get them or by reducing the benefits -- either way, that's a lot of hungry, angry people -- perhaps as many as ten million going without help; I wonder what they'll do to survive? If you think that's bad -- and it is -- the Rethuglican Study Committee's cuts are far deeper! They'd cut food stamps in half over 10 years, and that's just to start!

These proposals would have similarly-harsh impacts on medical care. The House budget cuts, if implemented solely by reducing eligibility, would deny Medicaid to nearly half the people who rely on it now, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. More likely, there'd be some combination of denying people altogether, and reducing the care, or increasing the costs for those who remain eligible. Either way, the impact would be severe. Again, the Republican Study Committee proposal would inflict even deeper cuts. That proposal calls for cutting Medicaid spending in half by 2021!

These plans would slash money for education beyond just the bare bones that we have today! We know that the House budget would cut education by nearly one-fifth next year and by a quarter by the end of the decade -- with 1.7 million fewer low-income college students qualifying for Pell Grant scholarships. U.S. military spending, which nearly totals the combined military expenditures of every other nation on earth, wouldn't be cut at all. Of course, the Republican Study Committee doesn't spell out most of its education cuts, but it'd cut all appropriations except for military spending by 70% by 2021. Education funding would be slashed from preschool through college. The GOP deficit reduction plans rely solely on massive domestic spending cuts that would heap more trouble on the "recession generation's" already grim prospects.

There is, of course, a better way. A simpler way, a fairer way, for all. Raise the tax rates on the insanely-wealthy to at least 50%. That, in of itself, would go a long way to balance the budget. Make all corpo-rats pay taxes on their profits -- no exceptions! No more tax gifts to the trillionaires in big oil, and start this country on the path to full green energy! Get rid of half of our military bases throughout the world and cut the military budget in half. Bring the troop home and cut back on the size of the Army, Navy and Air Force. We have tens of trillions of dollars in nuclear weapons, so no nation is ever going to attack us. Cut off most foreign aide, especially to Israel, and force them into the green line borders and create a Palestinian state. And bring an end to our six current above-the-board wars, and end our many black op wars around the world. Spend money on our crumbling infrastructure, and put millions of tax paying workers back to work -- which is the only way to keep from having more and greater debt in out future! And last but not least, put a 1000% import tax on all products that used to be made in this country, but are now made overseas. See if that doesn't start up the assembly lines from coast to coast!

We can do these simple steps, or become a third world country getting care packages from abroad to feed our starving masses! Oh, and make sure your Con-gress person, Sin-ator and Obamahood know your feelings on these issues -- in no uncertain terms!

And Finally

I've been kept amused lately by Rethuglican women in the Con-gress that've been saying the Rethuglicans aren't anti-women -- when it's so obvious they are! They want a return to those daze when a women had less rights than your horse or dog! It was against the law to harm the animals, but not to harm your wife or your slaves! Those were the daze, "whoppin' slaves and sellin' cotton," huh, Newt?

The latest atrocity concerns Mitch Daniels and the Republican-controlled Indiana legislature. These gentlemen showed how much they like women by de-funding the Medicaid payments to planned parenthood, leaving thousands of Indiana residents without medical care or any way to get their prescriptions. Did I mention that this affects mostly women and disabled people?!!?

Like so many punitive measures brought by the recent Tea Baggers' disaster, it'll end up costing the state a whole lot more money than if they hadn't decided to punish the poor for being poor -- even though they're the ones, for the most part, that made the poor, poor!

This left thousands of low-income patients to fend for themselves Tuesday to pay for birth control, breast exams, Pap tests and other medical services while a court battle continued over a new state law that eliminated the organization's Medicaid funding. A state law that is in direct violation of federal law and will no doubt be overturned when it comes to trial!

Planned Parenthood said, "A state law that took effect May 10 denied Planned Parenthood the Medicaid funds it uses to pay for general health services it provides to low-income women at its 28 Indiana clinics. We are seeking a preliminary injunction to block Indiana's law, and a ruling is expected by July 1."

Planned Parenthood began turning away Medicaid patients who couldn't pay for its medical services Tuesday, one day after private donations that had paid those patients' bills ran out.

Yeah, the Rethuglicans like the ladies, huh?

Keepin' On

It doesn't look good as it stands today that we'll be publishing in a couple of more weeks as I still don't have enough to pay the bills which will be due next week. We're still $300 short this month with another $500 due next month.

We've already raised $2400 on these two bills but are about $800 short. Our total bills are about $10,400 a year, which is chump change compared to most magazines and newspapers on the web -- most have a weekly-operating cost of more than our yearly cost -- so you get a much bigger bang for your bucks with Issues & Alibis. You also get authors, cartoons and such that you can find nowhere else. Thanks to our advertisers who pick up about half the cost, we need to raise on a yearly basis around $5,100, of which we've managed to raise and hang onto about half of that amount.

A little help if you can would be appreciated and will allow us to bring you the truth and keep fighting for you and yours for another year! Just click on the donation bar above and follow the instructions. Thanks, Ya'll!


11-06-1944 ~ 06-16-2011
Thanks for the laughs!

01-11-1942 ~ 06-18-2011
Thanks for the jams!

06-04-1921 ~ 06-19-2011
Thanks for the laughs!

06-11-1977 ~ 06-20-2011
Thanks for the laughs!


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.

Japan's Meltdowns Demand New No-Nukes Thinking
By Amy Goodman

New details are emerging that indicate the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is far worse than previously known, with three of the four affected reactors experiencing full meltdowns. Meanwhile, in the U.S., massive flooding along the Missouri River has put Nebraska's two nuclear plants, both near Omaha, on alert. The Cooper Nuclear Station declared a low-level emergency and will have to close down if the river rises another 3 inches. The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant has been shut down since April 9, in part due to flooding. At Prairie Island, Minn., extreme heat caused the nuclear plant's two emergency diesel generators to fail. Emergency-generator failure was one of the key problems that led to the meltdowns at Fukushima.

In May, in reaction to the Fukushima disaster, Nikolaus Berlakovich, Austria's federal minister of agriculture, forestry, environment and water management, convened a meeting of Europe's 11 nuclear-free countries. Those gathered resolved to push for a nuclear-free Europe, even as Germany announced it will phase out nuclear power in 10 years and push ahead on renewable-energy research. Then, in last week's national elections in Italy, more than 90 percent of voters resoundingly rejected Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's plans to restart the country's nuclear-power-generation plans.

Leaders of national nuclear-energy programs are gathering this week in Vienna for the International Atomic Energy Agency's Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety. The meeting was called in response to Fukushima. Ironically, the ministers, including U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko, held their meeting safely in a country with no nuclear power plants. Austria is at the forefront of Europe's new anti-nuclear alliance.

The IAEA meeting was preceded by the release of an Associated Press report stating that consistently, and for decades, U.S. nuclear regulators lowered the bar on safety regulations in order to allow operators to keep the nuclear plants running. Nuclear power plants were constructed in the U.S. in the decades leading up to the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979. These 104 plants are all getting on in years. The original licenses were granted for 40 years.

The AP's Jeff Donn wrote, "When the first ones were being built in the 1960s and 1970s, it was expected that they would be replaced with improved models long before those licenses expired." Enormous upfront construction costs, safety concerns and the problem of storing radioactive nuclear waste for thousands of years drove away private investors. Instead of developing and building new nuclear plants, the owners—typically for-profit companies like Exelon Corp., a major donor to the Obama campaigns through the years—simply try to run the old reactors longer, applying to the NRC for 20-year extensions.

Europe, already ahead of the U.S. in development and deployment of renewable-energy technology, is now poised to accelerate in the field. In the U.S., the NRC has provided preliminary approval of the Southern Company's planned expansion of the Vogtle power plant in Georgia, which would allow the first construction of new nuclear power plants in the U.S. since Three Mile Island. The project got a boost from President Barack Obama, who pledged an $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee. Southern plans on using Westinghouse's new AP1000 reactor. But a coalition of environmental groups has filed to block the permit, noting that the new reactor design is inherently unsafe.

Obama established what he called his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. One of its 15 members is John Rowe, the chairman and chief executive officer of Exelon Corp. (the same nuclear-energy company that has lavished campaign contributions on Obama). The commission made a fact-finding trip to Japan to see how that country was thriving with nuclear power—one month before the Fukushima disaster. In May, the commission reiterated its position, which is Obama's position, that nuclear ought to be part of the U.S. energy mix.

The U.S. energy mix, instead, should include a national jobs program to make existing buildings energy efficient, and to install solar and wind-power technology where appropriate. These jobs could not be outsourced and would immediately reduce our energy use and, thus, our reliance on foreign oil and domestic coal and nuclear. Such a program could favor U.S. manufacturers, to keep the money in the U.S. economy. That would be a simple, effective and sane reaction to Fukushima.
(c) 2011 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback

Deny! Deny!
By Uri Avnery

I AM fed up with all this nonsense about recognizing Israel as the "Jewish State."

It is based on a collection of hollow phrases and vague definitions, devoid of any real content. It serves many different purposes, almost all of them malign.

Binyamin Netanyahu uses it as a trick to obstruct the establishment of the Palestinian state. This week he declared that the conflict just has no solution. Why? Because the Palestinians do not agree to recognize etc. etc.

Four rightist Members of the Knesset have just submitted a bill empowering the government to refuse to register new NGOs and to dissolve existing ones if they "deny the Jewish character of the state."

This new bill is only one of a series designed to curtail the civil rights of Arab citizens, as well as those of leftists.

If the late Dr. Samuel Johnson were living in present-day Israel, he would phrase his famous dictum about patriotism differently: "Recognition of the Jewish Character of the state is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

IN ISRAELI parlance, denying the "Jewish Character" of the state is tantamount to the worst of all political felonies: to claim that Israel is a "State of all its Citizens."

To a foreigner, this may sound a bit weird. In a democracy, the state clearly belongs to all its citizens. Mention this in the United States, and you are stating the obvious. Mention this in Israel, and you are treading dangerously close to treason. (So much for our much-vaunted "common" values".)

As a matter of fact, Israel is indeed a state of all its citizens. All adult Israeli citizens - and only they - have the right to vote for the Knesset. The Knesset appoints the government and determines the laws. It has enacted many laws declaring that Israel is a "Jewish and democratic state". In ten or in a hundred years, the Knesset could hoist the flag of Catholicism, Buddhism or Islam. In a democracy, it is the citizens who are sovereign, not a verbal formula.

WHAT FORMULA? - one may well ask.

The courts favor the words "Jewish and democratic state". But that is far from being the only definition around.

The most widely used is just "Jewish State". But that is not enough for Netanyahu and Co., who speak about "the nation-state of the Jewish people", which has a nice 19th century ring. The "state of the Jewish people" is also quite popular.

The one thing that all these brand-names have in common is that they are perfectly imprecise. What does "Jewish" mean? A nationality, a religion, a tribe? Who are the "Jewish people"? Or, even more vague, the "Jewish nation"? Does this include the Congressmen who enact the laws of the United States? Or the cohorts of Jews who are in charge of US Middle East policy? Which country does the Jewish ambassador of the UK in Tel Aviv represent?

The courts have been wrestling with the question: where is the border between "Jewish" and "democratic"? What does "democratic" mean in this context? Can a "Jewish" state really be "democratic", or, for that matter, can a "democratic" state really be "Jewish"? All the answers given by learned judges and renowned professors are contrived, or, as we say in Hebrew, they "stand on chickens' legs."

LETS GO back to the beginning: the book written in German by Theodor Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, and published in 1896. He called it "Der Judenstaat."

Unfortunately, this is a typical German word that is untranslatable. It is generally rendered in English as "The Jewish State" or "The State of the Jews". Both are quite false. The nearest approximation would be "The Jewstate."

If this sounds slightly anti-Semitic, this is not by accident. It may come as a shock to many, but the word was not invented by Herzl. It was first used by a Prussian nobleman with an impressive name - Friedrich August Ludwig von der Marwitz, - who died 23 years before Herzl was even born. He was a dedicated anti-Semite long before another German invented the term "anti-Semitism" as an expression of the healthy German spirit.

Marwitz, an ultra-conservative general, objected to the liberal reforms proposed at the time. In 1811 he warned that these reforms would turn Prussia into a "Judenstaat", a Jewstate. He did not mean that Jews were about to become a majority in Prussia, God forbid, but that moneylenders and other shady Jewish dealers would corrupt the character of the country and wipe out the good old Prussian virtues.

Herzl himself did not dream of a state that belongs to all the Jews in the world. Quite the contrary - his vision was that all real Jews would go to the Judenstaat (whether in Argentina or Palestine, he had not yet decided). They - and only they - would thenceforth remain "Jews". All the others would become assimilated in their host nations and cease altogether to be Jews.

Far, far indeed from the notion of a "nation-state of the Jewish people" as envisioned by many of today's Zionists, including those millions who do not dream of immigrating to Israel.

WHEN I was a boy, I took part in dozens of demonstrations against the British government of Palestine. In all of them, we chanted in unison "Free immigration! Hebrew State!" I don't remember a single demonstration with the slogan "Jewish State".

That was quite natural. Without anyone decreeing it, we made a clear distinction between us Hebrew-speaking people in Palestine and the Jews in the Diaspora. Some of us turned this into an ideology, but for most people it was just a natural expression of reality: Hebrew agriculture and Jewish tradition, Hebrew underground and Jewish Religion, Hebrew kibbutz and Jewish Shtetl. Hebrew Yishuv (the new community in the country) and Jewish Diaspora. To be called a "Diaspora Jew" was the ultimate insult.

For us this was not anti-Zionist by any means. Quite the contrary: Zionism wanted to create an old-new nation in Eretz Israel (as Palestine is called in Hebrew), and this nation was of course quite distinct from the Jews elsewhere. It was only the Holocaust, with its huge emotional impact, which changed the verbal rules.

So how did the formula "Jewish State" creep in? In 1917, in the middle of World War I, the British government issued the so-called Balfour Declaration, which proclaimed that "His Majesty's Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Every word was carefully chosen, after months of negotiations with Zionist leaders. One of the main British objects was to win American and Russian Jews for the Allied cause. Revolutionary Russia was about to get out of the war, and the entry of isolationist America was essential.

(By the way, the British rejected the words "the turning of Palestine into a national home for the Jewish people", insisting on "in Palestine" - thus foreshadowing the partition of the country.)

IN 1947 the UN did decide to partition Palestine between its Arab and Jewish populations. This said nothing about the character of the two future states - it just used the current definitions of the two warring parties. About 40% of the population in the territory allocated to the "Jewish" state was Arab.

The advocates of the "Jewish state" make much of the sentence in the "Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel" (generally called the "Declaration of Independence") which indeed includes the words "Jewish State". After quoting the UN resolution which called for a Jewish and an Arab state, the declaration continues: "Accordingly we - on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel."

This sentence says nothing at all about the character of the new state, and the context is purely formal.

One of the paragraphs of the declaration (in its original Hebrew version) speaks about the "Hebrew people": "We extend our hands to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the independent Hebrew people in its land." This sentence is blatantly falsified in the official English translation, which changed the last words into "the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land."

As a matter of fact, it would have been quite impossible to reach agreement on any ideological formula, since the declaration was signed by the leaders of all factions, from the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox to the Moscow-oriented Communist Party.

ANY TALK about the Jewish State leads inevitably to the question: What are the Jews - a nation or a religion?

Official Israeli doctrine says that "Jewish" is both a national and a religious definition. The Jewish collective, unlike any other, is both national and religious. With us, nation and religion are one and the same.

The only door of entry to this collective is religious. There is no national door.

Hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Russian immigrants have come to Israel under the Law of Return with their Jewish relatives. This law is very broad. In order to attract the Jews, it allows even distant non-Jewish relatives to come with them, including the spouse of the grandchild of a Jew. Many of these non-Jews want to be Jews in order to be considered full Israelis, but have tried in vain to be accepted. Under Israeli law, a Jew is a person "born to a Jewish mother or converted, who has not adopted another religion." This is a purely religious definition. Jewish religious law says that for this purpose, only the mother, not the father, counts.

It is extremely difficult to be converted in Israel. The rabbis demand that the convert fulfill all 613 commandments of the Jewish religion - which only very few recognized Israelis do. But one cannot become an official member of the stipulated Jewish "nation" by any other door. One becomes a part of the American nation by accepting US citizenship. Nothing like that exists here.

We have an ongoing battle about this in Israel. Some of us want Israel to be an Israeli state, belonging to the Israeli people, indeed a "State of all its Citizens". Some want to impose on us the religious law supposedly fixed by God for all times on Mount Sinai some 3200 years ago, and abolish all contrary laws of the democratically elected Knesset. Many don't want any change at all.

But how, in God's name (sorry), does this concern the Palestinians? Or the Icelanders, for that matter?

THE DEMAND that the Palestinians recognize Israel as "the Jewish State" or as "the Nation-State of the Jewish people" is preposterous.

As the British would put it, it's none of their bloody business. It would be tantamount to an intervention in the internal affairs of another country.

But a friend of mine has suggested a simple way out: the Knesset can simply resolve to change the name of the state into something like "The Jewish Republic of Israel", so that any peace agreement between Israel and the Arab State of Palestine will automatically include the demanded recognition.

This would also bring Israel into line with the state it most resembles: "The Islamic Republic of Pakistan", which came into being almost at the same time, after the partition of India, after a gruesome mutual massacre, after the creation of a huge refugee problem and with a perpetual border war in Kashmir. And the nuclear bomb, of course.

Many Israelis would be shocked by the comparison. What, us? Similar to a theocratic state? Are we getting closer to the Pakistani model and further from the American one?

What the hell, let's simply deny it!

(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Promoting Militarism While Hiding Bloodshed
By David Sirota

In a breathless story somehow presented as a groundbreaking revelation, The New York Times recently reported that the Pentagon is - shocker! - using all sorts of media channels to market itself to the nation's children. Though the Times presents this as a brand-new development, it is nothing of the sort. The armed forces have spent the last three decades carefully constructing a child-focused Military-Entertainment Complex, which has long had the Pentagon subsidizing everything from video games to movies - most of which glorify militarism to kids.

That said, the Times piece did include one important (if buried) piece of genuine news. It concerns a subtle-yet-insidious shift in martial propaganda - one that opens the military up to charges of rank hypocrisy.

You may recall that in recent years, the Military-Entertainment Complex has been selling kids on the idea that military service is a gloriously fun adventure. In one famous ad, the Marines pretended that being a soldier is the equivalent of being a "Lord of the Rings" hero who slays fiery monsters. In another series of ads aired as previews in movie theaters, the Air Force portrayed dangerous front-line missions as exciting video games, telling kids: "It's not science fiction - it's what we do every day."

Deceptive as these spots were, they at least held out the (unstated) possibility that military service can be dangerous, and that joining the Army doesn't give an enlistee death-defying superpowers. The same, though, cannot be said for the new ad campaign covered by the Times - a campaign that both visually and literally suggests that joining the military gives one superpowers.

Yes, playing off the blockbuster new movie "X-Men: First Class," the Army's new ad juxtaposes images of the fictional mutant superheroes with images of real U.S. soldiers and then tells viewers to "try it on" - as if wearing the uniform will give "ordinary people" the ability to single-handedly fight off Magneto.

Obviously, the ads seek to conceal the simple truth that being a soldier is very dangerous - a truth underscored by the tens of thousands of American troops killed or wounded in our state of permanent war (or "persistent conflict," in the Pentagon's new parlance). And while the Pentagon cannot be expected to proactively advertise the hazards of military service, the new commercials are particularly deceptive coming from a military establishment that proactively hides those hazards from public view.

Remember, it was only two years ago that Defense Secretary Robert Gates took extraordinary measures to try to prevent news organizations from publishing a journalist's single photograph showing the battlefield death of an American soldier in Afghanistan. Likewise, the Bush administration banned journalists from photographing flag-draped coffins coming back from Iraq - even though the coffins were unmarked, thus protecting the identity of the dead soldiers.

And, as the British Broadcasting Corporation showed, the entire process of "embedded reporting" through which the Pentagon steers war journalism has resulted in overly sanitized coverage that obscures battlefield violence and bloodshed.

Taken together, we can see the obvious contradiction. One part of the Pentagon is employing every media instrument available - Twitter, Facebook, TV commercials, movies, etc. - to tell America that becoming a soldier gets enlistees immortal superpowers that will keep them safe in combat. Meanwhile, the same Pentagon is trying to prevent the media from documenting the blood-soaked realities of war.

That may help the Pentagon boost its short-term recruitment numbers, but it deceives enlistees who are promised one experience and given another.
(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.

Bill gives the corpo-rat salute

Bill Clinton's Legacy of Denial
By Robert Scheer

Does Bill Clinton still not grasp that the current economic crisis is in large measure his legacy? Obviously that's the case, or he wouldn't have had the temerity to write a 14-point memo for Newsweek on how to fix the economy that never once refers to the home mortgage collapse and other manifestations of Wall Street greed that he enabled as president.

Endorsing the Republican agenda of financial industry deregulation, reversing New Deal safeguards, President Clinton pursued policies that in the long run created more damage to the American economy than any other president since Herbert Hoover, whose tenure is linked to the Great Depression. Now, in his Newsweek piece, Clinton has the effrontery to once again revive his 1992 campaign mantra, "It's the economy, stupid," as the article's title without any sense of irony, let alone accountability. But that has always been the man's special gift—to rise above, and indeed benefit from, the messes he created.

His list of safe nostrums-painting tar-surface roofs white and seeking more efficient solar and battery production-to be featured at his lavishly funded Clinton Global Initiative conference in Chicago next week is vintage Clinton hype. All of those solutions are of the win/win sort that he loved to ballyhoo as president; who in his or her right mind would be against green job creation? But that hardly speaks to a crisis in which, as was reported Tuesday, the housing meltdown continues unabated as the toxic mortgages sold and packaged by the leading banks and investment houses clog the real estate market, destroying consumer confidence and hobbling job creation.

Conceding that the bailed-out banks are sitting on $2 trillion that they won't lend, Clinton offers not a word about mortgage relief for swindled homeowners. With an all-time high of 44 million Americans living below the poverty line, Clinton once again brags of his success in ending the federal welfare program.

There is only a one-sentence reference in the Clinton article to the era of financial greed: "The real thing that has killed us in the last 10 years is that too much of our dealmaking creativity has been devoted to expanding the financial sector in ways that don't create new businesses and more jobs and to persuading people to take on excessive debt loads to make up for the fact that their incomes are stagnant." Now that's a clear description of the consequence of President Clinton's policy of radical deregulation of the financial industry, but he writes as if that outcome has nothing to do with him.

Clinton signed off on the reversal of the Glass-Steagall Act, the legislative jewel of the Franklin Roosevelt administration designed to prevent financial institutions from getting too big to fail. In signing the Financial Services Modernization Act, which broke down the barrier between high-rolling Wall Street investment firms and consumer banks carrying the deposits of ordinary folk, Clinton gushed in 1999, "Over the [past] seven years we have tried to modernize the economy. And today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority."

The first beneficiary of that legislation was Citigroup, a corporation that resulted from a merger that would have been banned by Glass-Steagall. Upon signing the law, Clinton handed one of the pens he used to a beaming Sandy Weill, Citigroup CEO and a close friend and financial supporter of the president. Clinton's treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, then went off to be a $15-million-a-year exec at Citigroup and was in a key position there when the bank made those toxic derivative packages that would have forced it into bankruptcy had U.S. taxpayers not bailed the bank out.

So much for the "modernizing" that Clinton had bragged about.

A year later a variation of that same word appeared in the title of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which Clinton signed and which exempted from government regulation all of the collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps that would later prove so toxic. That legislation led to the explosion of the market in unregulated mortgage-based securities, the key source of the financial-sector "dealmaking" that Clinton now bemoans.

In his memoir Clinton pays tribute to Rubin as "the best and most important treasury secretary since Alexander Hamilton." He wrote that line in 2004, when Rubin, who had come to Clinton from a top job at Goldman Sachs and later left for Citigroup, was already clearly defined as someone who profited mightily from the very bills that he had pushed through while working for Clinton.

As with so much in the Clinton record, the former president remains in deep denial over having any culpability for his misdeeds. In his thousand-page memoir there is no reference to the above-mentioned radical deregulation of the economy that he presided over. As evidenced by his Newsweek article, the man has long been convinced that there is no problem or contradiction of his that cannot be simply plastered over with blather. Sadly, he may be right.
(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.

Koch Classiness

David Koch, the right-wing multibillionaire, likes to pose as a class act. He's thrown around several million bucks, for example, to get a wing of Manhattan's Lincoln Center named for him and to buy a seat on the board of WGBH, Boston's prestigious public television station.

These purchases make nice wallpaper for him, but they can't cover up the ugliness at the core of Koch's heart. He has poured a fortune (and his very soul) into the creation of dozens' of political attack groups and corporate fronts to advance his self-serving, plutocratic vision of America. Far from a class act, the Koch operation is as crass as they come.

One of the crudest arms of his vast and secretive political network is called Americans for Prosperity. It runs all sorts of astroturf campaigns to knock down the prosperity of working families and lift up the power and prosperity of corporate elites - like the Kochs.

AFP's Michigan branch recently showed what it's made of in a campaign to kill funding for a new international bridge between Detroit and Canada. Building this bridge would create jobs and ease traffic snarls, but it would compete with a corporate-owned toll bridge - and the Koch's virulently oppose all things public.

To stir-up public opposition, AFP went into a hard-hit Detroit neighborhood and plastered people's homes with official looking flyers that declared in bold type: "Eviction Notice." The bogus flyers told homeowners that the state transportation agency was prepared to seize their homes to make way for the new bridge. "It was meant to startle people," said AFP's clueless and classless state director, who was perversely proud of the panic his lie had caused in this distressed community.

Such sensitivity is what has made the Koch name a cussword all across America.
(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.

Sex And Self Destruction
By Helen Thomas

Oh how the mighty have fallen. It isn't that Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) did not have a road map to the demise of fellow lawmakers who foolishly cheated on their wives. Too many have taken chances before him and have paid the price.

It used to be corruption that took them out. Now it is sex that makes them forget the consequences.

Weiner used Twitter flagrantly to advertise his physique to women he did not personally know. He sent lewd photographs and personal messages of himself to women, sometimes very young. Didn't Weiner, a seven-term congressman, know that there is no privacy in Washington? Didn't he know that there is no secrecy when it comes to the social media? Didn't he know that Congress is publicly online and there is nowhere to hide?

Was it his well-known ego and arrogance which deceived him, or his narcissism, or his libido? Did he really think he could survive such personal indignity? Well yes, apparently.

A tearful Weiner has wallowed in apologies to his bride, Huma Abedin, who is expecting their first child. He also apologized to his constituents, and he has publicly proclaimed his love for his wife, who has been silent. Abedin took off on an official foreign trip with her employer, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who could tell her a thing or two about philanderers.

Can you imagine the conversation between these two ladies who have suffered the humiliation in their marriages.

Clinton weathered the storm and stood by her man. But she also plunged herself into the more interesting job of seeking world peace. Huma did not pose, pro forma, for pictures, standing by her husband's side in his moments of anguish and public apologies.

Weiner has found true the old Truman cliche - if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Most of his friends, including the top Democratic leaders, have called for his resignation. So far he has resisted. The leaders have disowned him, but their eyes are mostly on their re-election campaigns in 2012, as they believe the Republicans can make hay.

Weiner has a reputation of arrogance and a brash style which has left him with few defenders. GOP congressmen are enjoying his political demise, but they have little to brag about with their own personal scandals. Granted, fellow Democrats are running scared and showing no loyalty.

One GOP presidential candidacy contender, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, has also sullied his own reputation for rectitude. Gingrich dropped his first wife when she was recovering from cancer surgery. He informed his second wife he wanted a divorce after 12 years, telling her over the telephone while she was visiting her mother in Ohio. Gingrich is now married to his third wife, who was a secretary in his office and alleged girlfriend over several years.

It's sordid and scandalous, as the story goes of a lot of politicians who succumb to temptation. It's not new, but it is the way of all flesh.

Former President Bill Clinton, who survived an impeachment trial for lying under oath about his sexual encounters with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, ended up doing good work for humanity in the fight against AIDS and other global diseases. Others in the political world who tarnished their reputations include former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who fathered a boy with his live-in housekeeper.

There is no scarlet letter for men. Weiner has a long line before him of fallen public figures, from whom to learn and not emulate. Fellow New Yorker Eliot Spitzer is a prime example of having broken a code of honor in his official and marital life. He patronized a prostitution ring as governor of New York, though ironically he was a former prosecutor of corrupt people in his state. People who live in glass houses should know the pitfalls. Spitzer landed on his feet as a commentator on CNN, but who is listening to his wisdom?

Weiner has gone into treatment for his problems. For all that, I would give him a second chance. Nobody is perfect.
(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.

The Scary Federal Tax Cut Agenda
By James Donahue

I recently listened to Rush Limbaugh's radio pontifications. While I rarely agree with this man's twisted extreme right wing opinions, I am sometimes tempted to tune in just to hear the "great" Limbaugh's latest rants.

On this day I found Rush expounding on the current Republican campaign agenda that calls for more tax cuts to pull the American economy out of the deep recession/depression we now find ourselves wallowing in. The man was billowing at great length about how government redistribution of tax money in federal assistance and public works projects does not generate additional wealth. He said it is comparable to dipping water from the deep end of a swimming pool and pouring it into the shallow end, hoping to equalize the depth of the water at both ends.

Limbaugh argued that cutting taxes allows the working public to keep more of the money they earn and thus encourages spending, which stimulates business growth. As business grows more jobs are created.

On the surface the argument sounded good. In fact one woman caller almost swooned while talking to Limbaugh. She expressed concern that he might be giving the Democrats too many "ood ideas" that they might use to defeat the Republicans in 2012 elections.

While listening to the garbage flowing from the mouth of that man, it occurred to me that commentators like Limbaugh are dishing out so much misinformation about a relatively complicated financial problem, and getting listeners so confused, that they are becoming downright dangerous.

Of course Limbaugh blamed the Obama Administration for everything that has gone wrong with the American economy. He whitewashed the fact that Mr. Obama appointed many of the same financial advisors to his cabinet that led us into the economic slide during the George W. Bush years. In fact, we can trace the origins of this mess all the way back to the Ronald Reagan Administration. There is enough blame to be passed around.

What has been happening is that there has been a constant redistribution of wealth until it is now being held and controlled by a few very wealthy individuals. The plan has included a movement of American industry overseas in a quest to find cheap labor, a breaking of American labor unions, and the subsequent loss of millions of good paying jobs at home. The nation's remaining primary industries include the military industrial complex, a massive police-prison-legal system, and a broad range of malls filled with fast food restaurants and shops hawking junk made in China.

If you want to buy a new kitchen appliance, new television set, new computer, new coat, or a pair of new shoes, the chances are what you buy will have been made outside of the United States. Even much of the food, cosmetics and medicine we buy is imported from overseas.

The government's policies of constant warfare and the use of multi-billion dollar military hardware, the bail-out of "failed" banks and a refusal to demand that wealthy Americans pay their fair share of the financial burden through increased taxes has helped create a multi-trillion dollar deficit that gets steadily worse with each passing day. The Federal Reserve's insane policy of printing more money, without anything to support its worth, is eroding the value of the dollar on the world markets. And it is causing run-away inflation at home, especially now that primary world resources are running out. With less money in circulation the price of food, energy and health care is rising. Because more people are holding low paying public service jobs or getting no work whatsoever they are not buying things. Consequently business in America is in gridlock.

While the Republican call for additional tax cuts may sound good to a lot of the Americans that tune into Limbaugh's radio program, they don't understand that the tax cuts are not going to benefit low wage earners, the retired and unemployed. The tax cuts at issue are earmarked only to further benefit the rich. And without this badly needed source of revenue, America's economic system is going into freefall. Taxing the guys sitting on the vaults containing all of the money is going to be the only way for the United States . . . and all of the other nations of the world facing this same money crunch . . . to fix this mess.

There is only so much wealth that exists. If we cannot find a way to redistribute it so that everybody benefits, then we are heading for a repeat of the dark ages, with the people living in subservient poverty and slaving to the whims of the ruling class. It took years of bloody revolution to turn that imbalance around. Have we not learned from past mistakes? Must we repeat history again and again until we get it right?

This is the issue facing voters in the 2012 election. The problem is that it doesn't appear to matter which party gets in power. The Obama Administration appears to be following the same path established by George W. Bush and party leaders preceding him. And it appears to be a path leading us directly into self-destruction.
(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.

Two Capitalisms
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

With a kind of religious fervor, American conservatives love to talk about their love of capitalism, as if it has a singular definition and can always be counted on to serve public and national interests. The intelligent way to think about capitalism is that it can be of two kinds. The good kind is patriotic and stakeholder oriented, the bad kind is selfish and shareholder obsessed. The global economic downturn is strong evidence of the dominant second form of capitalism that has caused so much human suffering while it has served the rich and powerful.

When those with power take actions purely to serve corporate financial interests even though it greatly harms employees, the middle class and the national economy then the bad kind of capitalism is being pursued. Think of the mass export of good jobs, especially in manufacturing, the preference for imported goods, and the investment of capital to build new manufacturing and research facilities in other countries. Maximizing financial returns to reward corporate bigwigs and stockholders even though the actions greatly harm the US economy and society results from US companies practicing bad, immoral capitalism. Think of this development as the conquest of Wall Street over Main Street, of those who make money over those who create and make products, of those who promote economic inequality over those who value the middle class.

The power elites that have succeeded in perverting capitalism have also succeeded in making much of the American public so dumb and distracted that they no longer function as informed and effective citizens, which has allowed the government to be hijacked by the rich and powerful through a two-party plutocracy.

Selfish capitalism was exemplified by the role of Fannie Mae in creating the economic disaster by perverting the housing market, as conservative David Brooks correctly concluded; he noted the "leadership class is fundamentally self-dealing;" it practiced "shameless self-enrichment" which produced disastrous results.

To be clear, the conflict is not between capitalism and socialism, the way right wing ideologues talk, but between the good and bad kinds of capitalism, which those on the left need to learn how to talk about. Bad, greed-driven, too-big-to-fail capitalism has ruined the US for all but the rich which have sucked off much of the nation's wealth.

A fine analysis by Harold Meyerson on the difference between the highly successful German economy and the dismal US one drives home the crucial differences between the two forms of capitalism. The need is for the US to learn from the more successful German, good form of capitalism and develop policy reforms that could rejuvenate the US economy by curbing the bad form of capitalism. The ideas that Republicans keep advocating are all wrong because all they want to do is promote bad capitalism, which only serves the interests of the rich and powerful, not ordinary Americans, not the middle class, and not workers. Peter Coy has also assembled great information on what can be learned from other nations.

The German economy makes the US one look like it is on its deathbed. The German tripartite system has business, labor and government working together. Faced with the same competition from low wage developing countries and the entire globalization condition, Germany has a booming manufacturing sector that constitutes almost twice the share of the economy than that in the US. And even in the current global economic recession German unemployment is 7 percent. The tripartite system has kept German labor unions strong and, therefore, protects the middle class whose pay has risen at roughly the same rate as top incomes. This is in stark contrast to the rich-getting-richer and union-busting situation in the US. Indeed, the top 1 percent in the US are seeing their proportion of total income rise dramatically, even as their German counterparts are seeing their share of total income shrink. German corporate boards are required by law to have an equal number of management and employee representatives. By law!

Germany's stakeholder capitalism benefits the many unlike the US where selfish capitalism benefits the upper class and brutalizes everyone else. Corporate power has not captured the German government the way it has hijacked the US government.

One powerful and highly successful public policy used by several democracies with strong capitalistic systems in the current economic downturn is providing companies with funds to keep workers on the payroll until demand improves. This directly fights unemployment and puts government dollars directly in the pockets of workers, in stark contrast to the many billions of dollars the US has spent which have not helped fight unemployment nor helped ordinary Americans, because the billions have flowed to corporate and financial interests. This more sensible approach that boosts consumer demand and spending has been used by Singapore, Germany and Japan, for example.

Steven Pearlstein recently examined the history of IBM and noted its "outmoded ethos - namely that the company exists not simply to maximize profit for shareholders but to maximize the benefits it can offer to customers, employees and the society as a whole." Exactly right.

If President Obama was as smart as he and so many others think he is, and if he was a genuine leader and seeker of deep reforms, he would learn, respect and work like a dog to apply the best practices other nations are using to get better and fairer economic results. But as the Center for Public Integrity found, Obama has showered benefits on big time funders of his presidential campaign. Will he be a forceful advocate for capitalism with a human face?

Don't hold your breath.

If Republican presidential hopefuls and crony capitalists cared as much about serving the public interest as serving corporate desires, than they would stop their nonsensical free market claptrap embracing selfish capitalism and seek a more patriotic form that puts the nation first. Time to stop talking about cutting taxes. Pursue new and better ideas. Face reality, a free market that provides freedom for corporate and financial interests to victimize the public must be changed. Admit that!

Don't hold your breath.
(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.

No-Life Zone
Deeper and Deeper Into the Mire
By Chris Floyd

Obviously, there was a typo in the UN resolution approving NATO's operations in Libya. It was widely reported that the resolution authorized the establishment of a "no-fly" zone in Libya to protect civilians from being killed by military attack. However, it's clear now that what the international body really greenlighted was a "no-life" zone, designed to, er, kill people with, er, military attacks.

It's an easy mistake to make, really, transposing the "f" and "l" like that; a UN transcriptionist probably misheard the original intention, then mentally "corrected" it with the "y" to make it read in the more accustomed manner. Happens all the time.

In any case, a "no-life" zone is what we have in Libya, as the latest story of civilian casualties from NATO bombs makes clear. In this case, the slaughter was so open and egregious that NATO actually had to admit killing Libyan civilians for the first time; previously, we've been asked to believe that dumping tons of high explosives in the middle of a heavily populated city had not harmed the hair of a single innocent head.

(The three young grandchildren of Moamar Gadafy that were killed by NATO bombs last month obviously don't count - because, duh, they were kin to Gadafy! They bear the blood taint of evil. Stalin, who ruthlessly condemned family members of "enemies of the people," and Hitler, who killed anyone with the slightest tincture of Jewish blood in them, would no doubt be proud to see their rigorous standards of hygiene being adopted by the moral paragons of the "Western alliance.")

Yet even as the Nobel Peace Laureate and Constitutional law scholar continues a war in Libya that his own top legal advisers tell him is patently unlawful and unconstitutional, he is racheting up yet another illegal war that has already reaped a rich harvest of civilian deaths: in Yemen.

As Jason Ditz notes, the Peace Laureate is using the increasingly violent civil strife in Yemen as a cover for a vast expansion of his drone missile assassination program in that country. These attacks are ostensibly aimed at "eradicating" yet another handful of cranks calling themselves "al Qaeda;" the alleged involvement of this group in a couple of failed "terrorist actions" so ludicrous and inept (exploding underwear!) that a cynic might be tempted to say they were designed to fail is, evidently, a dire and imminent existential threat to the United States, requiring billions of dollars, thousands of missiles - and the lifeblood of hundreds of innocent people - to combat. So saith the Nobel Peace Prizewinner.

In the first half of June alone, the Peace Laureate killed at least 130 people in daily assaults with his big, bold, brave drone missiles, fired by big, bold, brave American operatives back in the States or at some other imperial installation hundreds or thousands of miles out of harm's way. Some of these attacks have been aimed at alleged members of the local AQ, including, of course, the American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been publicly condemned to death, without trial, for the crime of exercising his constitutional right to say stupid and hateful things. (Apply that stricture universally, and the entire American political class would be drone food.)

Other attacks have been aimed at - well, we don't know. We're not even sure if the CIA - the increasingly powerful and militarized Praetorian Guard in charge of this particular mass killing program - knows who most of the missiles are being aimed at. All we do know is that innocent people are being slaughtered in their dozens and hundreds by American missiles in Yemen.

Yet with that wise, far-seeing, 11th-dimensional chess brain that the Peace Laureate is famed for, he is already looking to the future. Now that the government upheaval in Yemen has deprived him of a reliable dictator to assist his illegal war of mass assassination, Obama has decided to build yet another secret base somewhere in the volatile region - at a cost of unknown secret billions - for the express purpose of escalating the Praetorian Guard's robotic killing spree.

There is no rhyme or reason to any of this. Regardless of the ever-shifting explanations our leaders offer - to the public, and, who knows, to themselves - the killing machine has long taken on a momentum of its own. They are now killing people - innocent people, around the world, every day - simply because they can do it. And because it's the only thing they know how to do, the only way they know how to maintain and extend the brutal domination of world affairs that the American ruling class believes is the sole purpose of our national existence. And because too many elites are making too much money from killing people. And because too many leaders are getting too much pleasure, and filling too many holes in their own crippled souls, from wielding an unaccountable power of life and death over the nations of the earth.

And no one will stop them because too many ordinary people, battered by too many years of the relentless class warfare that has hollowed out their lives and society, and by an endless tsunami of self-righteous, self-glorifying propaganda, have adopted the perverted values of the elite, and given up all notion of a common good or a common humanity, or else have been beaten and broken and driven into hopeless despair, as each turn of the political gyre makes things worse - more harsh, more brutal, more unfeeling, more insecure, more grating, more shallow, more hollow, more deadly, more corrupt.

Yet every day, at every turn, we are told by earnest progressives that we must support the leader of this system, a man who has entrenched and exacerbated its bloodiest and most brutal currents in almost every way. We must support, encourage, and enable assassination, slaughter, corruption and mass murder; we must, as I noted the other day, be prepared to tear small children into bloody pieces, day after day, for no other discernible reason than to preserve the unlawful, immoral domination of a bloodthirsty militarist elite. That's what it means to be a "progressive" today. (If you want to see this hideous argument demolished with remarkable power, eloquence and savage wit, read the latest posts from Arthur Silber here and here.) But there is nothing new in this. Even before the Peace Prizer was gifted with the laurel, his zeal, his love for the killing machine was evident. I'll close here with an excerpt from a piece written in September 2009 that describes where we were then - and, unfortunately, where we are now.

At some point earlier this month, Barack Obama took a moment out of his busy day to sign an "execute order." That is, he ordered American agents to kill a man without any legal procedure whatsoever: no arrest, no trial, no formal presentation - and disputation - of evidence, no defense and no warning. They killed him on the open road, in a sneak attack; he was not engaged in combat, he was not posing an imminent threat to anyone at the time, he had not been charged with any crime. This kind of thing is ordinarily regarded as murder. Certainly, if you or I killed someone in this way - or paid someone to do it - then we would find ourselves in the dock, facing life imprisonment or our own execution. But then, you and I are subject to the law; our leaders are not.

Let's say it again, just to let the reality of the situation sink in a bit further: at some point last week, Barack Obama ordered men in his employ to murder another human being. And not a single voice of protest was raised anywhere in the American political and media establishments. Churchmen did not thunder from the pulpits about this lawless action. The self-proclaimed patriots and liberty-lovers on the ever-more militant Right did not denounce this most extreme expression of state tyranny: the leader's arbitrary power to kill anyone he pleases. It is simply an accepted, undisputed fact of American life today that American leaders can and do - and should - murder people, anywhere in the world, if they see fit. When this supreme tyranny is noted at all, it is simply to celebrate the Leader for his toughness -- or perhaps chide him for not killing even more people in this fashion.

I wrote a great deal about this theme when George W. Bush was president. I began back in November 2001, after the Washington Post reported that Bush had signed an executive order giving himself the power to order the killing of anyone he arbitrarily designated a terrorist. Year after year, I wrote of how this murderous edict was put into practice around the world, and of its virulently corrosive effects on American society. Now Barack Obama is availing himself of these same powers. There is not one crumb, one atom, one photon of difference between Obama and Bush on this issue. They both believe that the president of the United States can have people killed outside of any semblance of a judicial process: murdered, in cold blood, in sneak attacks, with any "collateral damage" regarded as an acceptable by-product - just like the terrorists they claim to be fighting with these methods.

Nor does this doctrine of presidential murder make any distinction between American citizens and foreigner. Indeed, one of the first people known to have been killed in this way was an American citizen living in Yemen. So let us put the reality in its plainest terms: if the president of the United States decides to call you a terrorist and kill you, he can. He doesn't have to arrest you, he doesn't have to charge you, he doesn't have to put you on trial, he doesn't have to convict you, he doesn't have to sentence you, he doesn't have to allow you any appeals: he can just kill you. And no one in the American power structure will speak up for you or denounce your murder; they won't even see that it's wrong, they won't even consider it remarkable. It's just business as usual. It's just the way things are done. It's just the way we are now.

....The murder will also serve as lesson for would-be terrorists around the world - the same lesson that the War on Terror has been teaching day after day, year after year, from the day it was launched by George W. Bush to its continuance and expansion by Barack Obama today. That lesson is stark and simple: Murder works. Murder is the way to advance your agenda. Murder is what "serious" players on the world stage do. There is no law but the law of power; there is no way but the way of violence. There is no morality, there is no liberty, we share no common humanity.

This is the example that America now sets for the world. This is what we teach our children - and the children of our victims. This is what Barack Obama affirmed once again when he signed his "execute order."

(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

Setting Sail For Gaza, Armed With Love Letters And A Missive From Dr. King
By Medea Benjamin

"I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him," said Dr. Martin Luther King as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. These words will guide me and other passengers aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a fleet of nine boats scheduled to set sail for Gaza on June 25 from various Mediterranean ports. While the Israelis try to label us provocateurs, terrorists and Hamas supporters, we are simply nonviolent advocates following the teachings of Dr. King. We refuse to sit at the docks of history and watch the people of Gaza suffer.

The U.S. boat, which will carry 50 Americans, is called The Audacity of Hope. It is named after Obama's bestselling political autobiography in which he lauds our collective audacity of striving to become a better nation. But I prefer to think of our boat as part of Dr. King's legacy. He, too, talked about audacity, about his audacious faith in the future. "I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him," Dr. King said.

Our intrepid group has its moral compass aimed at the way things ought to be. Our cargo is not humanitarian aid, as some of the other ships are carrying, but thousands of letters from the U.S. people, letters of compassion, solidarity and hope written to people living in the Gaza Strip. We travel with what Dr. King called

"unarmed truth and unconditional love."

We focus on Gaza because since 2007 the Israeli government has enforced a crippling blockade on its 1.5 million residents. Inflicting collective punishment on civilians is morally wrong and is a gross violation of international humanitarian law under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Yet the world's democracies do nothing to stop Israel's extraordinarily cruel behavior, and in fact did nothing for 22 days in 2009 while the Israel military unleashed a tidal wave of carnage that left 1,400 Palestinians dead. They continue to sit by while the people of Gaza remain isolated and unable to secure access to building materials and basic living supplies, and while Israeli soldiers shoot at Gaza's farmers trying to till their land along the border and attack fisherman trying to make a living in waters off their shore. And in the case of the United States, our government is not simply sitting by, but supporting the Israeli military with $3 billion in military aid a year.

The Palestinians' plea for help has been ignored by world governments, but it has pricked the conscience of civil society. Caravans have crisscrossed Europe and Africa, carrying tons of aid. Boats have braved Israeli war ships and tried to dock in Gaza's ports. Over 1,000 people joined the Gaza Freedom March, an attempt to break the siege that was brutally stopped by Egyptian police during the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

In May, 2010, seven ships and nearly 700 passengers carrying humanitarian aid tried to breach Israel's naval blockade. The Israeli military violently intercepted the ships, killing nine passengers aboard the Turkish boat, including a 19-year-old American citizen. The rest of passengers were roughed up, arrested, thrown in Israeli prisons, and deported.

For a brief moment, this tragedy in international waters focused the world spotlight on Gaza. Israel said it would ease the draconian siege, allowing more goods to enter the beleaguered strip. But just this month, the health authorities in Gaza proclaimed a state of emergency due to an acute shortage of vital medicines and also this month, a report from the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, found unemployment in Gaza at a staggering 45.2 percent, among the highest in the world. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the number of abject poor living on just over one dollar a day has tripled to 300,000 since the blockade was imposed in 2007. "It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution," Gunness said.

Hopes inside Gaza were buoyed by the Egyptian revolution. A groundswell of grassroots solidarity by Egyptians pushed the new government to announce that it would open its border with Gaza. But that promise remains elusive, as thousands are still blocked from crossing, and all imports and exports must still pass through the Israeli side. Israel remains the warden for the world's largest open-air prison. It continues to decide what goods can enter, what exports can come out, and which people can get exit visas. It continues to control Gaza's electricity, water supply, airspace and access to the Mediterranean.

Although the Israelis know that our boats will not carry arms and we, the passengers, are committed to nonviolence, they have nonetheless vowed to stop us with a dizzying array of force-water cannons, commandos, border police, snipers, and attack dogs from the military's canine unit.

Equally astonishing is the U.S. government's reaction. Instead of demanding safe passage for unarmed U.S. citizens participating in what passenger and writer Alice Walker calls the Freedom Ride of our era," the State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner has labeled our actions "irresponsible and provocative" and the U.S. government has joined Israel in strong-arming countries in the Mediterranean to prevent us from sailing.

This pressure is having an impact. At the urging of the Turkish government, our flagship, the Mavi Marmara, the same ship that was so violently attacked last year, recently announced that it will not be joining the flotilla. The Mavi Marmara was going to carry 500 people; its absence cuts our numbers in half. And there may be more ships forced to drop out.

All this bullying, however, only strengthens our resolve. We may be fewer boats, we may have fewer passengers, we may be threatened with violence, but we will sail. And if the Israelis intercept our boats, we call on people around the world to gather at Israeli embassies and consulates to express their outrage.

Like the inexorable rhythm of the ocean, the Palestinians will continue to lap at the shores of injustice. They will keep coming back, wave after wave, demanding the right to rebuild their tattered communities, the right to live in dignity. Shoring them up will be the international community, including activists like us who join their nonviolent resistance. The real question is: How long will the Israelis, with U.S. backing, continue to swim against the tide?
(c) 2011 Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK, which has organized seven humanitarian delegations to Gaza.

The Endgame On The Debt Ceiling
By Dean Baker

As we know, President Obama and his team do not appear to be very effective negotiators when it comes to dealing with the Republicans in Congress. Last December, the Republicans forced the president to renew the Bush tax cuts for the rich. More recently, they got him to make $38 billion in cuts to the 2011 budget even though all his economists know that the economy actually needs more stimulus, which more means spending.

Since the president is having so much trouble dealing with the Republicans, the rest of us should lend him a hand. One way we can do this is by etching out what the end game looks like in the battle over raising the debt ceiling.

As it stands now, we are being told that the Republicans are insisting that there will be no increase in the debt ceiling without large cuts to the budget. Since the Republicans won't go along with any major cuts to the military budget, this means big cuts to the rest of the budget.

These cuts would have to include cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and possibly Social Security as well, since everything else in the non-military portion of the budget does not amount to much. According to this story, President Obama might be forced to make major cuts to the core social insurance programs in order to prevent the disaster of a debt default that would result from not raising the debt ceiling.

However the actual picture is a bit different. There is no doubt that the failure to raise the debt ceiling would be very bad news for the economy. If the government had to default on its debt, it would shake the financial markets even more than the collapse of Lehman in September of 2008. We would see a freeze-up of lending and companies would be forced to dump millions of workers, as they could no longer meet their payrolls.

But, even in this disaster scenario, there would still be a tomorrow. In other words, after the financial crisis, the economy would still be there. We would still have the same capital stock, infrastructure, skilled work force and state of technical knowledge as we did the day before the crisis. The government and the Federal Reserve Board would have the power to reflate the economy to get it back on its feet just as they did when they engaged in the massive spending needed to fight World War II.

While the country will still be left standing following a debt default, there is one important sector that will not be standing: Wall Street. A debt default would almost certainly make all the major banks insolvent as they would have to mark down the value of US government debt, which had been held as a completely safe asset. The loss of value would also apply to all the assets backed by the government, such as the mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Even when the economy revived, the US financial sector would never hold the same place in the world as it does today. Without the ironclad financial backing of the US government standing behind them, the Wall Street gang could never again be the dominant actor in international financial markets.

This fact is essential in understanding the endgame on the debt ceiling. Suppose that we get to the dates in August when the Treasury has reached the limit of its ability to shuffle accounts and literally can no longer pay its bills. Secretary Geithner will at that point make an announcement that in three days there is an X billion payment on Treasury bonds coming due. He will say that the government does not have the money in the bank and will, therefore, have to miss this payment.

The markets will then go into turmoil. We will see the same sort of plunge in the stock market that we saw when the House voted down the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) the first time back in September of 2008. At that point, the Wall Street boys will be screaming their heads off at Speaker Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership. The news media would all be running clips with depression footage, telling us that another Great Depression looms just around the horizon.

In this context, the Republicans will do exactly what they did with the TARP. They will cut deals, make the threats and do whatever else is necessary to round up the votes needed to raise the debt ceiling.

When everyone remembers that this is what the endgame looks like, they will realize that there is no need to put essential programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the chopping block to get Republican support for raising the debt ceiling. The gun is pointed most directly at Wall Street's head, and this incredibly powerful lobby is not going to let Congress pull the trigger.

This means that at the end of the day, President Obama holds the cards. He could say that he wants a clean debt ceiling bill and no deals on cutting back the country's key social insurance programs. Of course, that may not be President Obama's agenda.
(c) 2011 Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

The Quotable Quote...

"Can any reasonable man be well disposed toward a government which makes war and carnage the only means of supporting itself?"
~~~ Alexander Hamilton

This Hero Didn't Stand A Chance
By Chris Hedges

Tim DeChristopher is scheduled to be sentenced in a Salt Lake City courtroom by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson on July 26. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $750,000 fine for fraudulently bidding in December 2008 on parcels of land, including areas around eastern Utah's national parks, which were being sold off by the Bush administration to the oil and natural gas industry. As Bidder No. 70, he drove up the prices of some of the bids and won more than a dozen other parcels for $1.8 million. The government is asking Judge Benson to send DeChristopher to prison for four and a half years.

His prosecution is evidence that our moral order has been turned upside down. The bankers and swindlers who trashed the global economy and wiped out some $40 trillion in wealth amass obscene amounts of money, much of it provided by taxpayers. They do not go to jail. Regulatory agencies, compliant to the demands of corporations, refuse to impede the destruction unleashed by the coal, oil and natural gas companies as they turn the planet into a hothouse of pollutants, poisoned water, fouled air and contaminated soil in the frenzied quest for greater and greater profits. Those who manage and make fortunes from pre-emptive wars, embrace torture, carry out extrajudicial assassinations, deny habeas corpus and run up the largest deficits in human history are feted as patriots. But when a courageous citizen such as DeChristopher peacefully derails the corporate and governmental destruction of the ecosystem, he is sent to jail.

"The rules are written by those who profit from the status quo," DeChristopher said when I reached him by phone this weekend in Minneapolis. "If we want to change that status quo we have to step outside of those rules. We have to put pressure on those within the political system to choose one side or another."

DeChristopher, whose defense is being assisted by the website Peaceful Uprising, knew the government would be auctioning off public land in a sale in Salt Lake City, where he had gone to college. He knew it was wrong. He knew he had to do something. But he did not know what. So he did what all of us should begin to do. He showed up.

"I went there with the intention of standing in the way of the auction," he told me. "I had no idea what that would look like. I thought I might give a speech or yell something. It was right after the guy threw a shoe at Bush. That was on my mind. I went there and at the front desk they said, 'Would you like to be a bidder?' I said, 'Yes, I would.' I was still thinking when I signed up, 'OK, I'll sign up to be a bidder so I can get inside and make a speech.' It wasn't until I got inside the auction room that I saw I had a huge opportunity to stand in the way of the auction. I had been preparing myself over the course of 2008 in a general way to take that level of action. I had been building up that commitment. I was looking for the opportunity at that point. I was ready to capitalize on it. I had prepared myself for it."

But what he had not prepared himself for was the way the justice system would be stacked against him. It became clear during the selection of the jury that he did not stand a chance. As the prospective jurors entered the court, activists handed them a pamphlet printed by the Fully Informed Jury Association. It said that jurors had a right to come to any decision based on the evidence and their consciences.

"When the judge and the prosecutor found that out, the prosecutor, especially, flipped his shit," DeChristopher said. "He insisted that the judge tell the jurors that this information was not true. The judge pulled most of the jurors in[to] the chambers and questioned them one at a time. He talked about what was in the pamphlet. He said that regardless of what the pamphlet said it was not their job to decide if this is right or wrong, but to listen to what he said was the law and follow that even if they thought it was morally unjust. They were not allowed to use [their] conscience. They were told they would be violating their oath if they decided this on conscience rather than the evidence that he told them to listen to. I was sitting in that chamber and could see one person after another accept this notion. I could see it in their faces, that they had to do what they were told even if they thought it was morally unjust. That is a scary thing to witness in another human being. I saw it in one person after another brought in the courtroom, sitting at the end of a long table in front of the paternalistic figure of [the] judge with all the majesty around him. They accepted it. They did not question it. It gave me a really good understanding of how some of the great human atrocities happened with the consent of the population, that people can accept what is happening, that it is not their job to question whether any of this is right or wrong."

As the trial began, the judge refused to let DeChristopher's defense team inform the jury that the auction was later overturned and declared illegal. The judge also refused to let the defense team inform the jury that DeChristopher had raised the money for the initial payment and offered it to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which then refused to accept it.

"We weren't able to tell the jury either of those things,"he said. "They never knew that the auction was overturned. They never knew I offered the BLM the money. They were told over and over by the judge they were not allowed to use their conscience. When the verdict came it was not a surprise."

"When our Founding Fathers created the jury system they called it the best defense against legislative tyranny," he said. "They expected that if the government was passing laws that were out of line with the values of the community, then people would break those laws and take their case before a jury of their peers who would decide whether or not that person's actions were justified. That was the system our country was founded upon. That shifted radically as the role of the jury has been minimized in our criminal justice system. Juries are no longer given the opportunity to weigh all the factors of a case and are specifically told they are not allowed to use their conscience. It is not their job to decide if things are right or wrong. This is a drastic departure from the system that was originally created in this country."

When I asked DeChristopher why he did not work within the system, perhaps by backing a progressive Democrat, he answered that "if there was such a thing I might consider it."

"I don't see anyone in our political system advocating for significant change," he said. "I haven't ignored the political system. I paid attention when the Waxman-Markey [cap and trade] bill was being debated. I saw that there was a Republican amendment that if energy prices in any region of the country ever go up by more than 10 percent the whole bill is null and void. In other words, if the survival of our children ever costs more than about $300 a year per household, we are going to stop and give up. Both sides debated for over an hour whether it would or not ever cost $300. But there was no one who ever stood up and said maybe the cost was worth it, maybe that was too low a price to put on the heads of your children, maybe it was immoral to put any price on the heads of our children. There was no one standing up and addressing the severity of climate change."

DeChristopher helped organize a grass-roots campaign in an unsuccessful effort to unseat five-term U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah.

"I saw after the experience with the Waxman-Markey bill that our Blue Dog Democrats in Utah had to go," he said. He worked for candidate Claudia Wright in a campaign that split the delegate vote and forced a runoff primary.

"There is value in working within the democratic system, but first we need to create a democratic system," he said. "When we ran Claudia Wright it started with a Craig's List 'help wanted' ad for a 'Courageous Congressperson.' We pulled together a panel of longtime activists who were well respected in Utah representing various issues, from environmental issues to peace and justice to LGBT rights, labor, immigration rights and health care. That panel held public interviews at the Salt Lake City Library with all the people who had applied to the Craig's List ad. Everybody from the district was invited and got to vote in instant runoff voting. That is how we came up with that candidate. We started from scratch."

"If we were going to have a democracy, what would it look like? That was one experiment," he said. "Craig's List is probably not the ultimate answer. But we started from the acknowledgement that if we want to work within the democratic process we had to build it first."

DeChristopher, who is 29, admits he was "cautiously optimistic" during the 2008 presidential campaign.

"I saw that nothing Obama was saying was actually good enough in terms of the climate crisis," he said. "There was a faint hope in me that perhaps he was saying what he needed to say to get elected and then he would turn out to actually be a progressive."

He heard Naomi Klein give a talk shortly before the election. She told her listeners that if Barack Obama was a centrist and the center was not good enough to defend our survival then our job was to move the center.

"That resonated with me," DeChristopher said. "That was where my thinking at the time was. We as a movement had to move the center. That is another reason I turned to civil disobedience. I was looking to do something beyond what was considered acceptable to shift those boundaries, to create more space where people could be more aggressive without being on the radical edge."

"The chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said what we do in the next two or three years will determine our future, and he said that in 2007 and we didn't do anything," he said. "A lot of folks like Jim Hansen admit it off the record, but won't say it publicly, that it is actually too late for any amount of emission reductions to prevent some sort of collapse of our industrial civilization. That certainly doesn't mean all is lost. It means we are in a position where we are definitely going to be navigating the most intense period of change humanity has ever seen. What that means for us is that it really matters who is in charge during that intense period of change. It means that things are going to be desperate."

"Generally in desperate times those in power do desperate things to hold on to their power in the name of order and security," he went on. "That is when things have gotten really ugly in the localized examples of collapse that we have in history, whether they were economically induced as in Germany in the 1930s or environmentally induced as in Darfur. Rather than an opportunity for mass reflection, which it could be, where we could say we had this coming because of fundamental flaws in the way we structured our society, that maybe greed and competition were not the best values to base everything off of, rather than doing that, it is much more common in those historical examples to say, 'Oh, it was because of those people.' A class of people was scapegoated. The powerful said, 'Those are the people who are causing our problems and if we take it out on them we can maintain order and security for the rest of us.' That is when things get really ugly and dehumanizing."

"We are starting to see hints of that already with the rather minor ripples that we have been having in the past few years with the economic situation," he said. "Rather than admit the fundamental flaws, many of those in power have said, 'Oh, it is because of those immigrants that are taking people's jobs, or those Arabs, or those unions, whoever the scapegoat is, to try and vilify someone. What we are on track for are much larger ripples than we have had in the past couple years with the economic problems. If we go into that collapse with our current power structure and a world run by corporations, where we have ignorant and apathetic people who are afraid of their own government and think their job is to do what they are told, even if they think it is immoral, that is when things can get really ugly. If we go into that collapse with an awakened and educated population that views it as their role to create the society they want and hold their government accountable then we have the opportunity, whatever hardships we might face, to actually build a better world on the ashes of this one."

"Our strategies must be to not only change our energy system and food system, but to change our power structures," he said. "We shouldn't be looking for the big corporations running the show to become a little greener and cleaner. We should be overthrowing those corporations running our government. Our job as a movement is not just to reduce emissions; while we still need to do that, we also have this other challenge of maintaining our humanity through whatever challenges lie ahead. This is much more abstract and foreign to this movement."

"Civil disobedience puts us in a vulnerable position," DeChristopher said. "It puts us in a position where we are refusing to be obedient to injustice. Civil disobedience puts us in a position where we are making a risk and possibly making a sacrifice to stand up against that injustice. It also puts us in a position where with that vulnerability we see how much we need other people. This is something I have experienced over the past few years as people have come out of nowhere to support me, to make actions more powerful and to help me personally get through this experience and grow from it. Appreciating these connections is one of the most important parts of resiliency. A lot of the unwillingness to take bold action is coming from a disempowerment that comes from a lack of connection. When we view ourselves as isolated individuals it does not make sense to stand up to a big powerful institution like a big corporation or big government. It is not until we gain the understanding that we are part of something much bigger that we feel empowered to take those necessary actions. This is a self-reinforcing cycle. The more we stick our neck out the more connected we become and the more empowered we become to do it again."

DeChristopher, who attends a Unitarian church in Salt Lake City, comes out of the religious left. This left, defined by Christian anarchists such as Dorothy Day, Philip Berrigan and his brother Father Daniel Berrigan, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King, takes a moral stance not because it is always effective but because it is right, because to live the moral life means that there is no alternative. This life demands a commitment to justice no matter how bleak the future appears. And what sustains DeChristopher is what sustained the religious radicals who went before him-faith.

"The connection to a religious community for me is a big part of the empowerment," he said. "From talking with a lot of the old Freedom Riders and other folks in the civil rights movement, it was in the church community that people found the strength and the faith that, no matter what happened to them when they sat at that lunch counter or got on that bus, there would be another wave of people coming behind them to take their place and another wave behind that and behind that. And that is part of what is missing from the progressive community today. Part of my belief system is an appreciation of our connectedness to the natural world, the interconnected web of life of which I am a part. I am not an isolated individual, and this understanding is what empowers me, but also in a more direct way in that I am connected to the church community who I knew would support me. Sitting in that auction when I was deciding to do this I was thinking about whether anyone would support me. The people I knew would have my back were in the church. That helped drive me to action."

And because of that he understands that any resistance can never succumb to the temptation of violence.

"Violence is the realm our current power structure is really good at," he said. "They are eager to play that game. Any opportunity we give them [to use violence], they will win. That is the game they win at. The history of social movements in this country shows that we are far more powerful with nonviolent civil disobedience than we are with what our audience considers to be violence."

"Once our actions are deemed to be violent then that justifies repressive tactics on the part of the government," he said. "With a nonviolent movement we are still inviting a strong reaction from the government or ruling authorities. We are inviting a powerful reaction against ourselves. But it undermines the moral legitimacy of our current government. That is the path we need to pursue. Rather than reinforcing their legitimacy we need to undermine their legitimacy."
(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."

Bad News For A Country Tired Of War
By Bill Boyarsky

Barack Obama's plan for a limited withdrawal from Afghanistan means tens of thousands of American troops will remain there, many of them fighting, for several years to come.MO< In his speech Wednesday night, the president announced he will reduce the U.S. fighting force in Afghanistan by 10,000 by the end of this year and a total of 33,000 by September 2012. After that, he said, "our troops will be coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security Forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete."

Nowhere did he pledge that all the personnel would be brought home by that 2014 date.

Nor did he mention that 68,000 service personnel will remain in Afghanistan after September 2012. In addition, according to the Congressional Research Office, 18,919 "private security contractors" working for the Defense Department will also be serving in Afghanistan, performing duties seemingly indistinguishable from those done by servicemen and women.

That means that after the pullout more than 86,000 personnel will remain engaged in fighting or the vague "support" duties cited by the president. They will add to the human and economic toll of a war that has killed, according to the website iCasualties, 1,632 American troops and wounded 11,191. The financial cost is now more than $426 billion. With the Iraq War added in, the figure reaches $1.2 trillion.

Although Obama's speech was no cause for celebration, there were some pluses. The troop reduction was more substantial than the much smaller cuts advocated by outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the military command. Obama said the United States would negotiate with the Taliban if they "break from al-Qaida, abandon violence and abide by the Afghan constitution." It's doubtful that these conditions can be met, especially given the Taliban's opposition to equal rights for women, part of the Afghan constitution. But at least we may be at the table with them.

Obama had a positive but not triumphal tone, saying the United States "is starting this drawdown from a position of strength."

Actually, he is starting it from a position of weakness.

Although the war has been pretty much ignored by cable news and much of the rest of the mainstream media, apparently the American people have a different view. Around the country, local papers and television stations as well as NPR told the story of its human cost in interviews with survivors of dead servicemen and women and with stories about the wounded survivors.

Some media pundits say people don't care, that the fighting by U.S. volunteers is remote to them. But those volunteers have families. And many of them are in the National Guard, pulled from home and jobs by repeated deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. These National Guard women and men and their families, friends, neighbors and work colleagues make up a formidable network.

The latest poll by the Pew Research Center indicates how public opinion has changed. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed this month wanted us out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. That compares with 33 percent in a September 2008 Pew survey.

Then there's the high unemployment that Obama has not been able to end. As he spoke, the figure was 9.1 percent. Among those who make up that percentage are a substantial number of long-term unemployed. Their travail, and that of their families, has resonated through cities and towns. Why, they ask, is the nation sacrificing young people and wasting money in Afghanistan when our own economy is suffering and we can't find work?

These feelings have finally reached Washington and the political elite. Now Democrats and Republicans are drifting away from supporting the war or ignoring it.

That is why Obama adopted the rhetoric of war critics in his speech. "Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times," he said. "Now we must invest in America's greatest resource, our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home."

Rebuilding America means repairing freeways, constructing rail lines, restoring parks, adequately financing public schools, reducing home foreclosures, and assisting the cities and counties that have been forced to lay off workers ranging from police officers to trash collectors. And that's just a start.

Obama needs to go beyond rhetoric. Keeping so many troops and "contractors" in Afghanistan through 2014 and beyond will not leave enough money to do what's desperately needed at home. Bring them all back and put them and many others to work really rebuilding America.
(c) 2011 Bill Boyarsky is a lecturer in journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and is vice president of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

The Dead Letter Office...

Mitch gives the corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear Gouverneur Daniels,

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 Medicaid to thousands of poor people, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, 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 Daniels, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Real Issue In Minneapolis (and America): Jobs!
By John Nichols

Minnesota sends to Congress a remarkable member of Congress who has focused on defending the Constitution, speaking truth to power in both parties and practicing a politics of principle rather than petty partisanship. Now, that House member is launching a national campaign on behalf of a new common-sense economic agenda that gets America's priorities straight, tips the balance from Wall Street to Main Street and puts people back to work.

Needless to say, we are not talking about Michele Bachmann.

Congressman Keith Ellison, the Minneapolis Democrat who now co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus (with Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva) does not get the kind of attention that his fellow Minnesotan grabs. When both Bachmann and Ellison spoke in Minneapolis Saturday-to competing conventions of liberal and conservative online activists-Bachmann got the attention of a vapid national media that prefers her empty rhetoric and emptier promises to a politics of substance. She used her appearance at the annual RightOnline conference to highlight her vanity candidacy for the Republican nomination for president.

Just blocks away, however, Ellison was providing the substance. Speaking at the Netroots Nation gathering and a host of other events, he was not playing presidential politics. He was doing something far more meaningful. He was launching a movement to change the character-and the direction-of the national debate about the economy that both parties are getting wrong.

Ellison and Grijalva, as co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, will be traveling the country this summer, rallying Americans for a "Rebuild the American Dream" agenda that says the first priority of Congress and the White House must be "Good Jobs Now!"

That's a radical break with the Washington consensus, as represented by Bachmann, the other Republicans who are seeking the presidency, the other Republicans in Congress and too many Demorats who operate under the fantasy that the most pressing issue facing America is deficit reduction.

"At a time when we have 8, 9, 10 percent official unemployment in states across this country, and when the real unemployment rate is so much higher in our cities and rural areas, the economic issue that Americans are talking about is jobs," says Ellison. "We want to have that conversation in Minneapolis, in Detroit, in Milwaukee, in cities across this country, and we want to take it back to Washington."

In Congress, says Ellison, "We've been debating what less we're gong to for America. We have to start debating what more we're going to do for America."

Throughout the summer, Ellison and Grijalva will be hosting mass "Speak Out for Good Jobs Now" listening sessions-along with marches and rallies-in more than a dozen communities.

The speak out began in Minneapolis, the city Ellison has represented since 2007-and which he represented earlier as a state legislator.

Standing with Laborers International union leaders and allies on the Stone Arch Bridge that crosses the Mississippi River, Ellison recalled the rush-hour collapse of the nearby I-35 bridge that killed thirteen people, injured 145 others and highlighted that crisis of neglected infrastructure across America.

"We've got $3 billion in infrastructure that needs to be built up," he congressman declared. "So who's going to do it?"

"We are!" shouted a crowd that was packed with Laborers union members and their allies.

Arguing that the United States has not begun to invest sufficiently in job-creating infrastructure repair and renewal projects, Ellison says that a demand must go up from America for that investment.

"We've got to create a tidal wave, a tidal wave of energy and support for good jobs," Ellison told the cheering crowd Friday afternoon. "We've got to have a movement and it has to spread across this country. We're here on the Stone Arch Bridge today, but this has to be a national movement."

Michele Bachmann can have her presidential campaign.

Keith Ellison is interested in making something real.

"We've got to build a movement from the grassroots, from cities that need jobs, from people who know what we need to do to invest and create those jobs," says Ellison. "We've got to make the connection between what Washington works on and what America says must be done."
(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.

On Spiritual Truths
By Sam Harris

One day, you will find yourself outside this world which is like a mother's womb. You will leave this earth to enter, while you are yet in the body, a vast expanse, and know that the words, "God's earth is vast," name this region from which the saints have come. ~~~ Jalal-ud-Din Rumi

Many of my fellow atheists consider all talk of "spirituality" or "mysticism" to be synonymous with mental illness, conscious fraud, or self-deception. I have argued elsewhere that this is a problem-because millions of people have had experiences for which "spiritual" and "mystical" seem the only terms available.

Of course, many of the beliefs people form on the basis of these experiences are false. But the fact that most atheists will view a statement like Rumi's, above, as a sign of the man's gullibility or derangement, places a kernel of truth amid the rantings of even our most gullible and deranged opponents.

Consider Sayed Qutb, Osama bin Laden's favorite philosopher. Qutb spent most of 1949 in Greeley, Colorado, and found, to his horror and satisfaction, that his American hosts were squandering their lives on gossip, trivial entertainments, and lawn maintenance. From this Dark Night of Suburbia, he concluded that western civilization was so spiritually barren that it must be destroyed.

As is often the case with religious conservatives, whatever ignorance and "death denial" didn't explain about Qutb, sexual frustration did:

The American girl is well acquainted with her body's seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs-and she shows all this and does not hide it. (Sayyid Qutb, The America I Have Seen: In the Scale of Human Values, 1951)

These are not words of a man who has discerned the limits of romantic attachment. Being terrified of women, and yet as concupiscent as bonobo, Qutb is widely believed to have died a virgin. We can feel his pain. Needless to say, his puritanical attachment to Islam allowed him to make a virtue of necessity: What a relief it must have been to know that the Creator of the universe intended these terrifying creatures to live as slaves to men.

But Qutb was not wrong about everything. There is something degraded and degrading about many of our habits of attention. Perhaps I should just speak for myself on this point: It seems to me that I spend much of my waking life in a neurotic trance. My experiences in meditation suggest that there is an alternative to this, however. It is possible to stand free of the juggernaut of self, if only for a moment.

But the fact that human consciousness allows for remarkable experiences does not make the worldview of Sayed Qutb, or of Islam, or of revealed religion generally, any less divisive or ridiculous. The intellectual and moral stains of the world's religions-the misogyny, otherworldliness, narcissism, and illogic-are so ugly and indelible as to render all religious language suspect. And I share the concern, expressed by many atheists, that terms like "spiritual" and "mystical" are often used to make claims, not merely about the quality of certain experiences, but about the nature of the cosmos. The fact that one can lose one's sense of self in an ocean of tranquility does not mean that one's consciousness is immaterial or that it presided over the birth of the universe. This is the spurious linkage between contemplative experience and metaphysics that pseudo-scientists like Deepak Chopra find irresistible.

But, as I argue in The Moral Landscape, a maturing science of the mind should help us to understand and access the heights of human well-being. To do this, however, we must first acknowledge that these heights exist. (c) 2011 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

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Pawlenty, after what critics are calling a "bafflingly bad" choice.

Tim Pawlenty Shaves Off Every Hair On His Body In Really Weird Campaign Gaffe

DES MOINES, IA-In what political insiders are calling one of the weirdest campaign gaffes in history, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty shaved every single hair off his body this weekend while campaigning in Iowa.

Enlarge ImagePawlenty, after what critics are calling a "bafflingly bad" choice.

The bizarre misstep by the former Minnesota governor, who is currently in the midst of a nine-city speaking tour across the crucial early-primary state, has left media pundits and political strategists baffled, with all of them agreeing that shearing the hair from his head, face, arms, legs, and torso has jeopardized Pawlenty's bid for the presidency.

"This was a massive and, frankly, confusing miscalculation by Gov. Pawlenty," Republican campaign strategist Matthew Dowd said. "Every candidate attempts to distinguish himself from the field and gain an edge with voters, and unfortunately for the governor, he seems to have come to the conclusion that shaving every inch of himself clean and leaving his body bald and smooth all over would help him better connect with Americans. I just really don't think he thought this one through."

The former Minnesota governor, moments before driving away
on an antique three-wheeled motorcycle.

"To be honest, I'm sort of at a loss here," Dowd added. "But this will certainly cost him with undecided voters, that's for sure."

Public reaction to Pawlenty's slip-up has thus far been overwhelmingly negative. A Rasmussen poll conducted Sunday found that 89 percent of Americans wanted to know why Tim Pawlenty had shaved the hair off every part of his body, one-third of likely voters had no idea why a person would do that, and 9 in 10 citizens said they had absolutely no interest in seeing a man with no body hair in the White House.

In addition, countless citizens have argued that Pawlenty's shaved body has distracted the nation from discussing the real issues facing Americans.

"When I saw Mr. Pawlenty last week, I think he talked for a long time about family values and maybe balancing the budget, but all I could focus on was how freaky and kind of gross he looked," said 44-year-old Kevin Rios, who attended Friday's town-hall-style meeting with Pawlenty in Denison, IA. "Have you ever been stared at by a guy with no eyelashes? It's the creepiest thing."

While the exact rationale behind Pawlenty's full-body hair removal remains unknown, the two-term governor has made his newly shorn look a focal feature of his campaign, having appeared at a series of voter meet-and-greets over the weekend wearing short-sleeve shirts and shorts that prominently displayed his soft, fleshy, and completely hairless limbs.

"We believe he's trying to send some sort of message to the electorate, but honestly we have no idea what that message is," said veteran political analyst Kevin Phillips, who stated that it was "hard to imagine" how a candidate could make such a large and admittedly strange blunder in today's era of tightly run campaign machines and focus groups. "Maybe it's something about the importance of cleanliness or nutrition, or-I have no clue."

In the wake of widespread criticism and general puzzlement from voters, Pawlenty has seemingly attempted to compensate by making a number of other image shifts that have only served to make him appear odder, including wearing a full-length beaver pelt jacket to a rally in Cedar Rapids, and plugging his hollowed-out earlobes with four-inch stainless-steel ear gauges.

Sources have also confirmed that Pawlenty paused in the middle of several recent policy speeches to apply lotion liberally to his bald forearms, calves, and head.

When contacted for comment, Pawlenty staffers attempted to downplay critics' assertions that the governor had effectively torpedoed his campaign, arguing that he was still a viable candidate committed to serving the American people.

"This campaign is not about who has hair on their body and who hasn't-it's about real issues affecting the American people," campaign manager Nick Ayers said. "Gov. Pawlenty is a bold and decisive conservative leader, and we're confident voters will be able to look past any recent superficial changes in his appearance and recognize that."

Despite the largely negative reaction to his recent behavior, a completely hairless Pawlenty continued to outpoll fellow Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich by a four-to-one margin.
(c) 2011The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 24 (c) 06/24/2011

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