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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh says it's, "Not Dark Yet."

Uri Avnery announces, "Daphni Rides Again."

Mike Adams concludes, "Supreme Court's Obamacare Decision Hands Federal Government Unlimited Power To Force You To Spend 100% Of Your Paycheck On Things You Don't Even Want."

Chris Floyd yearns for those, "Idle Pleasures."

Jim Hightower declares, "Plutocratic Political Hacks Now Rule The Supreme Court."

Mike Elk reflects, "On 'Left Anti-Unionism' And The Reason We Lost Wisconsin."

James Donahue considers, "That Non-Ending Search For The Elixir Of Life."

Dave Swanson discovers, "Veterans For Peace Members Arrested Protesting Drones."

David Sirota sees, "A New Standard For Oxymoronic Newspeak."

Frank Scott equates, "Minority Profit = Majority Loss."

Paul Krugman examines, "Europe's Great Illusion."

Paul Craig Roberts explains, "Trans Pacific Partnership."

Robert Reich explores, "Mitt Romney And The New Gilded Age."

US Con-gressman Joe Walsh Coward/Illinois wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols with, "Obama Enjoys The 'John Roberts Bump.'"

Sam Harris goes, "In Defense Of 'Spiritual.'"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Romney Spends Most Of Factory Visit Yelling At Employees To Work Harder" but first Uncle Ernie finds, "Even More Sedition and Treason From The Supreme Court - Part Two."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Andy Singer, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Lee Horsey, Stuck in Customs, The Onion, Daryl Cagle, Charles Dharapak, Occupy Wall St.Org, David Fitzsimmons, Johnson & Johnson, Disney, A.P., You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

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Even More Sedition and Treason From The Supreme Court - Part Two
By Ernest Stewart

"Few actions jeopardize public trust in the judicial process more than a judge's failure to recuse in a case brought by or against a substantial contributor." ~~~ The American Bar Association

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State." ~~~ Joseph Goebbels

"In politics, stupidity is not a handicap." ~~~ Napoleon Bonaparte

"You get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself." ~~~ Harvey S. Firestone

I'm willing to bet that Clarence Thomas, doesn't know the meaning of the word recuse. Either that, or he's a criminal that doesn't give a rat's ass about how it looks? I'm betting on the second thesis!

Merriam-Webster defines recuse as "a transitive verb: to disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case; broadly: to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest."

What's Clarence's conflict of interest? Simple, his wife Virginia as Liberty Central's president and CEO took in $1.5 million dollars from a firm that she started as an anti-health care lobbying firm. Do you see any problem with this? Apparently, Clarence didn't as he refused to recuse himself. Am I the only one who sees this as an act of treason? (Anita Hill should have been a warning to us all!) Of course, given "Slappy's" (as Bartcop calls him) record, I'm really not surprised. As far as I can remember, I've never seen another justice refuse to recuse themselves when such a connection was pointed out -- no matter how far to the right they were -- when even a hint of conflict of interest came to light, the justice in question has always stepped down, always, until now!

Is this just a sign of the times? Why, yes it is! As I've said many times before, what scares me about our last five Presidents and the Con-gress was not that they were committing crimes, treason, and sedition so much as they were doing it in the open instead of behind closed doors -- where they always did it before. Now they do it openly, and not only dare you to do something about it, but laugh in your face, Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah! They know that the fix is in and Sheeple won't do a thing about it.

Of course, compared to some of the things that Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama have pulled off right before our eyes, what Clarence did wasn't so bad. Sure, it was treason; but when compared to the many and various war crimes, crimes against humanity, the Supremes' own act of sedition and treason in Bush v Gore, the many crimes against the Constitution and Bill of Rights, mass murder etc., etc., etc. it wasn't so bad. However, rest assured, if you or I would have done it, whether behind closed doors or out in the open, we would have been whisked away to some black ops Happy Camp -- never to be seen or heard from again. The law doesn't apply to them, and their 1% puppet masters -- just to us. Happy Fourth of July, America!

In Other News

I dumped a load of my "friends" on Facebook the other day, both on the left and right! Why? Because they were both basically the same. They both were intransigent in their beliefs that their side was right, when both sides were totally wrong, and no amount of the truth, reason, or logic could sway their core beliefs one iota.

I find myself, in my "old age," less likely to suffer a fool, than in days before. As I've said on many, many occasions, it's next to impossible to unattach someone from the Matrix. Some folks have wrapped their arms and legs around a falsehood and won't let go if it means having to face the truth about said falsehood, and the truth is far too scary for most of them to comprehend, if it means ditching the comfortable lie. Better the devil that we know! Trouble is, one MUST be able to adapt to an ever-changing circumstance, lest you end up like most of the dinosaurs, who couldn't adapt, and, like the "Old South," are now, "gone with the wind."

Sure, you soon get used to the fact that the right hasn't a clue and can be manipulated by the big lie without a second's thought. I grew up thinking, like the old Firesign Theatre joke:

Why did the Bozo cross the road?
Because there was a Bozo on the other side.
Why did the short hair (Republican) cross the road?
Because someone told him to.
Now why did the long hair (democrat) cross the road?
Because some one told him not too!
Now-a-daze, both cross the road, because someone told them to!

For anyone who's studied history, this is the basic history of the masses for the last 8,000 years. One might think that we'd have learned something by now; but the naked ape who was a product of the weapon doesn't seem to be able to learn new tricks -- except new ways to murder his brothers and sisters. Just a one trick pony until the day they die, just as clueless as they were the day they were born. This is a secret to only them, as every politician, holy man and con artist; but I repeat myself; knows this by heart -- the result of which: is our current predicament. Hence, getting rid of some brain dead baggage, as things are really bad enough, without their little song and dance, seemed to be the thing to do. All this, must give old Joseph Goebbels a chuckle!

And Finally

As I have often said, while Americans are brainwashed, they do come by it honestly. The basic education system is fixed on dates and places versus how to think. This works out well for the 1% and their political puppets. How else to explain the Rethuglicans and why otherwise sane people are backing Obamahood instead of the Greens?

You may recall the minor brouhaha a few years ago about certain New England police departments whose department policies wouldn't allow them to hire anyone with an IQ above one hundred -- which explains, does it not, the actions of New York City's finest!

Not to be outdone by those damn Yankees, those brain dead in the Texas Rethuglican party have made it part of their 2012 platform, not to mention their school systems, to ban critical thinking in their school systems.

The Republican Party of Texas's 2012 platform has a plank on "Knowledge-Based Education" that reads:

"We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills, and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."
In other words, our kids are dumb as a post; and we mean to keep it that way! Have no doubt they will be reelected in a landslide come November. Of course, this isn't just a Texas phenomena, and certainly explains, Boehner, Ryan, Paul, Bachmann, Cain, Santorum, Gingrich, Palin and the RNC! Trouble is, I could say the same thing about the Demoncrats, too!

Keepin' On

We'd like to thank Paul and Mary from Santa Fe for sending in a nice check that paid June's bill and brought the balance down on July's bills to $600. Of the $11,000 in our yearly bills, we've raised all but $2100. Thanks to Paul and Mary this isn't the penultimate issue! We'll solider on for a while more yet and hope to raise the rest somehow.

As is we'll have to cease publication as a magazine in another five editions; if we somehow manage to dodge that bullet, we'll have until the first week in October to raise the rest, just in time for the election and all the fall out -- one way or the other that will accompany it.

So, if you, too, see some need to keep us afloat, now's the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of your honest news source. Don't be shy, step right up, no amount is too small or too large; rest assured, we'll put it to good use! Cash, checks or postal money orders, will do quite nicely. Just go to the donations page, follow the directions, and thanks!


O6-01-1926 ~ 07-03-2012
Thanks for the laughs!

O6-14-1940 ~ 07-03-2012
Thanks for the movies!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2012 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 11 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Not Dark Yet
But I have seen the Footlong Hot Dog of the Apocalypse
By Phil Rockstroh

Almost exactly ten years ago, in June of 2002, my wife and I were driving through Colorado, on our way from Los Angeles to New York City. In the early afternoon, while paused to tank-up our Toyota Corolla, at a massive convenience store/self-service gas island that boasted of "two-for-the-price-of-one, One and One Half Footlong Hot Dogs." we watched a family of six emerge from a late model, oversized pickup truck, proceed into the store, and return with a bounty of hot dogs and super-gulp soft drinks.

A few minutes later, we passed their vehicle on Interstate 70, and I remarked to my wife on the connection between oversized consumer goods, oversized people, and the oversized amount of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere. I queried, "Do you think they would even look up from their titanic hot dogs, if the world before them ignited into flames?"

A few minutes later, my question was answered when a series of wildfires (very much like the ones that are scorching Colorado to ash and cinder, as I write these words) began to close in on our periphery.

Stunningly, mortifyingly, the answer to my question was, no. The occupants of the pickup proceeded straight through the screen of wafting smoke without averting their gaze from their gigantic snack food.

When the world is on fire and a people refuse to take note...we're apt to find ourselves in a bit of a fix.

People, I have seen the Footlong Hot Dog of the Apocalypse. Apparently, the end of the world, as we know it, comes with your choice of condiments.

Often, when walking the streets and avenues of New York, one is forced to dodge a fellow pedestrian who walks directly into one's path as he/she stares distracted into the screen of some electronic appliance. There have been times when I have stopped in my tracks at the approach of one of these mindless denizens of the Cult of Endless Distraction as he/she has walked head-on into me.

At times, they evince an aura of victimhood...feeling an injustice has transpired, because I fail to clear a path for them.

Their trope of entitlement is delivered thus, "Why didn't you get out of my way...You saw me coming."

"Yes, but didn't you notice yourself proceeding," I reply.

At this... a blank stare if I had just posited some fragment of arcane law, adhered to by some alien race lost to time.

Indulge me in the following digression: In the (failed) attempt to create a republic, the early U.S. aristocracy deemed and codified into law that property rights were paramount to human rights...that self-interest would, as a rule, proceed before public good. Later, the age of advertising introduced the notion that instant gratification trumps self-awareness.

The combination of these two principles have engendered a series of generations of consumers (the practice of citizenship barely exists, at present) for whom the concept of civil engagement is so obscure that, for these sorts, sharing a city sidewalk seems a task too complicated to envisage.

"I was born here and I'll die here against my will/ I know it looks like I'm moving, but I'm standing still/ | Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb/ I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from/ Don't even hear a murmur of a prayer/ It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." ~~~ Not Dark Yet - Bob Dylan

Individually and en masse, U.S. citizens are checked-out, lost, possessed by inertia or manic jags of distraction, feelings of hopelessness and powerless rage, and are desperate for some kind of quick if that were even possible. For example, why else would so many be addicted to unhealthy corporate food, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications? Why are so many so desperate for relief from reality itself?

One reason: There exists a void of purpose, both communal and personal; a keening hollowness that becomes present when a person has been rendered by circumstance bereft of the belief that life can be resonant with meaning...that he is in possession of a unique destiny. The concept has been lost that one's life is a fascinating question that is addressed to the world -- and it is imperative that one quests for answers.

The tragedy is that too many look to their exploiters for answers. Those who insist on dwelling in an ad hoc architecture of denial -- as flimsy as the prefab edifices of this Strip Mall Nation, as empty as the soul-devoid rooms of a McMansion -- conjure disaster, and those who evince a noxious innocence (when no adult is innocent in a blood-sustain empire) become monsters.

It is one's societal (perhaps, even sacred) duty to strive for awareness. Those who demur will become slaves, and, in ways overt and tacit, argue for the exploitative and cruel caprice of their masters.

Too often people practice freedom of speech, rather than committing to the more difficult task of pursuing freedom of being...thus, all to often, mistaking the din of a prison for freedom of expression.

To dwell in the domain of the to choose to live in a dangerous terrain, for the choice will forever alter the world you (believed) you knew. The thoughts of the heart are dangerous items to carry in this age of the facile and fascist; it is the dangerous cargo that the national security state is searching for when applying body scans and pat down searches. The thoughts of the heart are at the top of the state's "no fly list."

Why does one choose to call the stultifying enclosure of a self-constructed prison of the mind...freedom...come to regard his jailers as his benefactors, and hate those who point out his predicament...insisting the clanging of his chains is music to his ears -- the stirring melody of a patriotic hymn?

I am amazed at the talent on display by the oppressed of the corporate/military state: In particular, their impressive skills as contortion artists -- who are able to lower a boot on their own necks, as, all the while, they march in lockstep to the dictates of their economic overlords -- a damn impressive talent, and more than a little unnerving to witness.

Thus, the fallback taunt of the witless to those who question (or cannot adapt to) the current order, "get a job."

The global economy does not have an underemployment problem; we suffer an over-employment tragedy i.e. the precious moments of this finite life that are squandered laboring for a corrupt elite of pathological greedheads.

In fact, those active in the Occupy Wall Street Movement do have jobs: Our job is to transform the present order -- to put out of work the capitalist criminals who have enslaved too many, body and soul, for far too long. Our job is to eliminate their jobs.

Moreover, do not believe for a moment the corporate media/police state dismissal that Occupy Wall Street is so "last year." When, in fact, trusting in neoliberal propaganda is, oh so, last millennium. The resonance and reverberations of the global-wide uprising against neoliberal exploitation and injustice --which is woven into the molecular structure of the OWS movement -- is far from done, because the global bankster/corporate plundering class are not done yet. By the very nature of building a prison or sweatshop, you have introduced the dream of freedom into the hearts of the enslaved.

As many readers are aware, visa vie my recent essays, last month, I returned to the region of my birth to bear witness and bid farewell to my father as he departed this life for cosmic points unknown.

An experience whereby one is confronted by the demarcation point dividing life and death, or the transitory nature of time, brings what is essential into stark relief. Visits home, to the precincts of one's youth...exited, long ago...can buffet one with enveloping sorrow. When catching up with old friends, who never left the area, one becomes subject to the Mortality and Contretemps Report...a gawky girl you exchanged French kisses with, when you were thirteen, has succumbed to brain cancer...a seemingly level-headed, steady friend that you (thought) you knew...a scientist, a father, a man of humor and forbearance...committed suicide.

Fortuna's Wheel, it seems, is a chaos-proliferate fractal of perpetual hurt. The fate of others (and ourselves) is providentially unknowable. The present moment opens before astounding to behold that we feel we can go on forever, held in beauty...emboldened by evanescent grace.

There is birdsong that enswathes the air of the graveyard...Joined with the chorus of the dead, it pierces the heart with more precision than prophesy. This song...of the living's eloquence and the deads' abandon...carries us towards evening.

Its melody wends through Time, through Fate's indifferent landscape. No mathematician can map its course nor calculate by statistical prediction its destination.

What we know is this: We are riding this song together, and have done so through eternity...Marrow-fruited bone, drifting dust, and omnipresent birdsong -- all of our forms and guises -- propel us through the impossible...the Unfolding Fate of All Things.

Self-knowledge begins when one is open to an acceptance of life's dark verities, as well as, to an awareness of one's deepest and darkest drives and desires, even awful, hateful thoughts and impulses. Otherwise, denial of these aspects of one's nature creates what James Hillman termed -- toxic innocence, whereby one's psyche is so driven to protect one's perceived innocence that it becomes overwhelmed by its hidden drives.

In short, an underpinning reason how distressingly large segments of the U.S. populace began to evince the mode of mind on display under fascist rule.

Conversely, to the mode of mind of a tyrant -- one possessed of a compulsion for control of others, mind and body -- one should become fond of exploring psychic landscapes, even those of hostile, fact-resistant, capitalist true believers, fundamentalist religious types, crackpot pragmatists, puritanical ninnies, insular liberals, Obama cultists, and self-referential tyrants and dogmatist tight-asses. There is a great deal one can learn about oneself when confronting strange, even hostile landscapes of the human soul; in particular...the assertions and actions of others that induce despair and reflexive rage within you.

Human engagement, like art, involves more process than principle. One must engage the process, evoke the ritual, show up at the ceremony, join the see what spirits have been summoned e.g., the unsettled ghosts of memory, the strutting spirits of the age, the admonishing/beckoning spirits of the deep.

It is not enough to deliver light; one, also, must listen to the soliloquies of restless shadows...just don't take them at their word. Moreover, light is a deft liar as well. Yet, when tales of light and shadow are entwined, we start to move in the direction of a compelling tale.

Do not demur from dialog with difficult feelings, and those seemingly irredeemable aspects of your hidden nature...even if doing so engenders inner conflict and involves trespassing into your comfort zone. Violate the fascist catchphrase: "Don't go there."

By all means, go there.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." -- T.S. Eliot

(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Daphni Rides Again
By Uri Avnery

DON'T TELL anyone, but in many a demonstration, when we were standing and proclaiming our message of peace and justice, knowing that not a word about it would appear in the media, I secretly wished for the police to come and beat us up.

That would attract the media, who would convey our message to the general public - which was, after all, the whole purpose of the exercise.

This happened last week.

REMEMBER DAPHNI LEEF? She was the young woman who could not pay her rent and put up a tent in Tel Aviv's central Rothschild Boulevard, starting a protest movement that in the end brought almost half a million people to a mass social protest.

Imitating Tahrir Square, their slogan was: "The people demand social justice!"

Like all of us, the powers that be were totally unprepared. Faced with this new and threatening phenomenon, they did what politicians always do in such a situation: the government beat a sham retreat, appointed a committee, ceremoniously adopted its findings and then sat on its hands.

Since the end of last year's "Social Summer," next to nothing has changed. If there was any movement at all, it was for the worse. CEOs doubled their salaries, and the poorer became even less able to pay their rent.

At the end of the summer, the mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, nominally a member of the Labor Party, sent his "inspectors" to demolish the hundred tents in the Boulevard. The protest went into prolonged hibernation over the winter and good old "security" pushed "social justice" off the agenda.

Everyone expected the protest, like the sleeping beauty, to come to life again this summer. The question was: how?

NOW IT is happening. With the official beginning of summer, June 21, the protest started again.

There were no new ideas. Daphni and her friends obviously believed that the best way was to repeat last year's success in every detail.

They went back to Rothschild Boulevard, tried to put up their little tents and called upon the masses to join them.

But there was a huge difference between this year and the last: the element of surprise.

Every strategist knows that in war, surprise is half of victory. The same is true in political action.

Last year, the surprise was complete. Like the Egyptians crossing the Suez Canal on Yom Kippur 1973, Daphni and her friends surprised everyone, including themselves.

But surprise cannot be warmed up again like coffee.

This time, the authorities were prepared. Lengthy - if secret - consultations have obviously taken place. The Prime Minister was determined not to be humiliated again - not after TIME magazine crowned him "King Bibi" and the German vulgar mass-circulation paper, BILD, followed suit, enthroning his wife, Sara, too. (Sara'le, as she is generally called, is as popular as Marie Antoinette in her time.)

The orders of Netanyahu and his minions for the police were evidently to put down any protest forcefully and right from the beginning. The mayor decided to turn the boulevard into a fortress against the tent-dwellers. (The French word "boulevard" is derived from the German "Bollwerk" which means fortification, because citizens loved to stroll atop the city walls. They still do in the beautiful Tuscan town of Lucca.)

It seemed that Netanyahu learned a lot from Vladimir Putin, who paid him a courtesy visit this week. Weeks ago, last year's protest leaders were summoned to the police and interrogated about their plans - something unheard of in Israel (for Jews within the Green Line). The legality of this procedure is doubtful, to say the least.

SO WHEN Daphni appeared on the scene, everything was ready.

Mayor Huldai's "inspectors", who have never before been seen in a violent role, attacked the few dozen protesters, shoved them roughly around and trampled on their tents.

When the protesters did not cede their ground, the police were deployed. Not just ordinary police officers, but also the specially trained riot police and police commandos. The photos and videos show policemen attacking protesters, hitting and kicking them. One policeman was shown choking a young woman with both his hands. Daphni herself was thrown to the ground, kicked and beaten.

Next day, the pictures appeared in the papers and on television. The public was shocked.

When 12 protesters were brought to court, after spending the night under arrest, the judge sharply criticized the police and sent them home.

The next day, a second demonstration took place to protest against the treatment of Daphni. Again the police attacked the protesters, who reacted by blocking central thoroughfares and smashing the glass doors of two banks.

The government, the police chiefs and the mayor were horrified. "A well-prepared riot by violent thugs!" the commander of the country's police force called the event in a specially convened press conference. "Vandalism!" the mayor chimed in.

AT THE time these events occurred, a group of Palestinian, Israeli and international activists were holding a protest in Sussia, a small Arab village on the edge of the desert south of Hebron.

For a long time, the occupation authorities have been trying to drive the Palestinians from this area, in order to enlarge the neighboring settlement (which bears the same name) and in future annex the area. After the Arab houses were destroyed, the inhabitants found refuge in ancient caves. From time to time the army tries to drive them out, blocking the wells and arresting the people. All of us in the peace movement have taken part in protests there at one time or another.

Compared to what happened there, the Rothschild events were child's play. The police employed tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, water cannon and "skunk water" - a stinking substance that clings to the body for days and weeks.

There is a lesson there. Police officers who are routinely employed to put down the protests in Bil'in and other places in the West Bank and then are sent to Tel Aviv cannot be expected to become London policemen overnight. Brutality cannot be stopped forever on the Green Line. Sooner or later, Bil'in was bound to come to Tel Aviv.

Now it's here.

SO WHAT NOW? A public opinion poll taken this week shows that 69% of Jewish Israelis (Arabs were not asked) support the renewed protest, and 23% said that violent protests may become necessary.

Hours after publication, Binyamin Netanyahu announced that the planned tax raise for the poor and the middle class had been dropped. Instead, the budget deficit would be allowed to rise dramatically. This is blatantly against Netanyahu's basic convictions and shows how afraid of the protest he is.

But this, of course, will not effect any real change in the structure of our economy, which is being sucked dry by the huge military-industrial complex, as well as by the settlers and the orthodox. Daphni and her friends refuse to go into this. But that's where the money is, and without it the welfare state cannot be resurrected.

They also refuse to engage in politics, rightly fearing to lose a lot of support if they did. But, as has been said, if you run away from politics, politics will follow you.

There is no chance at all for any real gain for social justice without a major shift in the political setup of the country. As of now, King Bibi and his right-wing cohorts reign supreme. The right-wing bloc controls a huge majority of 80% in the Knesset, leaving the remnants of the left-wing bloc completely powerless. In such a situation, change is impossible.

Sooner or later, the social protest movement will have to decide to enter the political arena. The right thing to do is to turn it into a political party - something like "Movement for Social Justice" - and run for the Knesset.

The 69% of supporters will shrink, of course. But a sizable part will remain and create a new force in the Knesset.

People who have habitually voted for Likud or Shas would then be able, for the first time, to vote for a party that conforms to their vital economic interests, upsetting the obsolete Israeli division between Left and Right and creating a completely new division of power.

This may not bring about the decisive change on the first attempt, but the second effort may well succeed in doing so. Anyhow, from the first day on it would change the agenda of Israeli politics.

Such a party would be compelled, by its own momentum, to embrace a program of peace, based on the two-state solution and of a secular, liberal, social-democratic system.

This just might be the beginning of the Second Israeli Republic.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Supreme Court's Obamacare Decision Hands Federal Government Unlimited Power To Force You To Spend 100% Of Your Paycheck On Things You Don't Even Want
By Mike Adams

Regardless of whether you agree with the fundamentals of Obamacare, the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has now ruled the federal government has the power to tax Americans into mandatory purchases of private industry products means an end to economic freedom in America. Why? Because it hands the federal government the power to force the American people to buy anything the government wants or face tax penalties for refusing to do so. It is the equivalent of announcing a federal monopoly over all private purchasing decisions.

"The Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, in his majority opinion. "Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."

Thus, the government can force Americans to buy anything it wants by simply characterizing the forced payment as a "tax."

Economic freedom crushed by Supreme Court

This article is not an argument so much about Obamacare itself, by the way; it's a red alert about a fundamental loss of economic freedom -- a shifting of private purchasing decisions to Washington D.C. Now, buoyed by the passage of Obamacare, the U.S. government can (and will) create new mandates that, for example, would force Americans to buy all the following:

* A new car each year from Detroit, in order to "boost the U.S. auto industry."

* War bonds to "support the war effort."

* A year's supply of vaccines.

* Life insurance from the government's "approved" sources.

* Lawn fertilizer (the "lawn health care mandate").

* Intellectual property such as patented human genes already in your body.

There is no limit to the reach of the Supreme Court's wild misinterpretation of the Commerce Clause, it seems. So now, all Americans can expect to get ready for the federal government to start laying out a long list of products and services we will all be taxed into buying from the crony capitalist buddies of those in power.

Government hands economic monopoly to Big Pharma and the vaccine industry Perhaps the worst side effect is that Obamacare isn't really about health care at all. It's about protecting a Big Pharma monopoly over medicine; forcing consumers to buy into a system that offers zero coverage for alternative medicine, nutritional therapies, natural remedies or the healing arts.

If Obamacare actually offered consumers a free market choice of where to get services, it would be a lot more balanced and effective. Instead, it forces consumers to buy into a system of monopoly medicine of drugs and surgery that would flat-out collapse if not for the monopolistic protections granted to the industry by the government itself.

If given a free choice, most consumers prefer complementary medicine than straight-up "drugs and surgery" medicine, but complementary medicine isn't covered under Obamacare. The law is really just another corrupt, criminal-minded handout to the drug industry. And now, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, you can't even opt out!

Abuse of power by the federal government knows no bounds

That's the real kicker in all this: No more opting out of the private purchasing demands of the federal government! Americans are being pick-pocketed at an alarming rate, and it's only going to get worse now that this power has been unwisely handed to the federal government by a short-sighted Supreme Court.

Because long after Obama is gone, other Presidents -- from any political party -- will abuse this precedent to force Americans into buying any number of products, services, or even intellectual property that we don't want. There is now no limit to what the federal government can force you to buy by calling it a "tax."

Note, carefully, there is NO LIMIT to this "taxing" power. If you bring home a monthly paycheck of, for example, $3,000, the U.S. government can now mandate that you spend $2,999 of that on various products and services that it deems you must have "for your own protection." You no longer control your own take-home pay! The government can force you to spend it on things you don't want or even need!

America, it seems, is starting to sound a whole lot like England under King George. Soon, we'll be living under our own modern Stamp Act from 1765, which eventually led to the American Revolution. Learn your history! As Wikipedia explains.

The Stamp Act 1765 (short title Duties in American Colonies Act 1765; 5 George III, c. 12) was a direct tax imposed by the British Parliament specifically on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp. These printed materials were legal documents, magazines, newspapers and many other types of paper used throughout the colonies. Like previous taxes, the stamp tax had to be paid in valid British currency, not in colonial paper money. The purpose of the tax was to help pay for troops stationed in North America after the British victory in the Seven Years' War. The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and should pay at least a portion of the expense.

The Stamp Act met great resistance in the colonies. The colonies sent no representatives to Parliament, and therefore had no influence over what taxes were raised, how they were levied, or how they would be spent. Many colonists considered it a violation of their rights as Englishmen to be taxed without their consent -- consent that only the colonial legislatures could grant. Colonial assemblies sent petitions and protests. The Stamp Act Congress held in New York City, reflecting the first significant joint colonial response to any British measure, also petitioned Parliament and the King. Local protest groups, led by colonial merchants and landowners, established connections through correspondence that created a loose coalition that extended from New England to Georgia. Protests and demonstrations initiated by the Sons of Liberty often turned violent and destructive as the masses became involved. Very soon all stamp tax distributors were intimidated into resigning their commissions, and the tax was never effectively collected.

Opposition to the Stamp Act was not limited to the colonies. British merchants and manufacturers, whose exports to the colonies were threatened by colonial economic problems exacerbated by the tax, also pressured Parliament. The Act was repealed on March 18, 1766 as a matter of expedience, but Parliament affirmed its power to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever" by also passing the Declaratory Act. There followed a series of new taxes and regulations, likewise opposed by the colonists.

The episode played a major role in defining the grievances and enabling the organized colonial resistance that led to the American Revolution in 1775.
(c) 2012 Mike Adams, the Health Ranger is the editor of the Natural

Idle Pleasures
Rousing the Age-Old Dream of the Heavy-Laden
By Chris Floyd

When I was growing up, the "four-day work week" was considered a viable political and social goal: the next logical step after the long and often bloody struggle to win a five-day week for most working people. Like "full employment," this idea was sometimes actually built into the public platforms of serious, broad-based parties and political movements.

Yes, children, before "wealth creators" and other masters of the universe were held up as worthy models for their 80-hour weeks and unstinting dedication to squeezing every single minute ever more tightly for a few more bucks -- before those of us who serve the creators and masters were supposed to be supinely grateful for working ever harder and longer to swell the bosses' private coffers -- there once existed the notion that there might actually be more to human life than the treadmill and the ant hill. And that we might even use the amazing technological advances that our species has produced to make life easier, richer, deeper, more engaging and humane for all of us.

All of this is long gone now, of course. As Owen Hatherly notes in the Guardian, both Right and Left have combined, for many decades, to advance the idea that pointless labor is our lot, and that we should be happy with it:

... Conservatives have always loved to pontificate about the moral virtue of hard work and much of the left, focusing on the terrible effects of mass unemployment, understandably gives "more jobs" as its main solution to the crisis. Previous generations would have found this hopelessly disappointing.

In almost all cases, utopians, socialists and other futurologists believed that work would come near to being abolished for one reason above all -we could let the machines do it. The socialist thinker Paul Lafargue wrote in his pointedly titled tract The Right To Be Lazy (1883):

"Our machines, with breath of fire, with limbs of unwearying steel, with fruitfulness wonderful inexhaustible, accomplish by themselves with docility their sacred labour. And nevertheless the genius of the great philosophers of capitalism remains dominated by the prejudices of the wage system, worst of slaveries. They do not yet understand that the machine is the saviour of humanity, the god who shall redeem man from working for hire, the god who shall give him leisure and liberty."

Oscar Wilde evidently agreed -in his 1891 essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism, he scorns the "nonsense that is written and talked today about the dignity of manual labour", and insists that "man is made for something better than distributing dirt. All work of that kind should be done by a machine." He makes quite clear what he means:

"Machinery must work for us in coal mines, and do all sanitary services, and be the stoker of steamers, and clean the streets, and run messages on wet days, and do anything that is tedious or distressing."
Both Lafargue and Wilde would have been horrified if they'd realised that only 20 years later manual work itself would become an ideology in Labour and Communist parties, dedicating themselves to its glorification rather than abolition. ... American industrial theorists, strangely enough, seemed to share [these later] socialiists' views.

Of course, as Hatherly points out, in the hands of our wealth creators and universe masters, technology did eliminate a lot of work -- but not for those who labor and are heavy-laden. As with so much else in our system, the risks and downsides of technological development have been "socialized" -- borne solely by ordinary people -- while the profits and benefits are "privatized" into the coffers and control of the elite:

Yet the utopian vision of the elimination of industrial labour has in many ways come to pass. Over the past decade Sheffield steelworks produced more steel than ever before, with a tiny fraction of their former workforce; and the container ports of Avonmouth, Tilbury, Teesport and Southampton got rid of most of the dockers, but not the tonnage.

The result was not that dockers or steelworkers were free to, as Marx once put it, "hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon and criticise after dinner." Instead, they were subjected to shame, poverty, and the endless worry over finding another job, which, if it arrived, might be insecure, poorly paid, un-unionised work in the service industry. In the current era of casualisation, that's practically the norm, so the idea of skilled, secure labour and pride in work doesn't seem quite so awful. Nonetheless, the workers' movement was once dedicated to the eventual abolition of all menial, tedious, grinding work. We have the machines to make that a reality today - but none of the will.

Yes, in our ultramodern, technologically super-savvy 21st century, we all must be grateful -- yea, humble and worshipful -- if we are lucky enough to be vouchsafed the privilege of wage slavery by the masters and creators.

This is what is known as "progress."


Hatherly's piece put me in mind of some scraps on this theme which I set down some time ago. These lines were initially prompted by some readings in Babylonian history, especially a passage about their belief that the gods, tired of working so hard themselves, made humankind to labor on their behalf.

Babylonian Theology

If the gods themselves grew tired of ceaseless labor
and rebelled, making the clay things that we are,
endowing us with sufficient mind and spirit
not only to do their work but also look and yearn beyond,
why shouldn't we in our turn overthrow divine order
in search of ease, rich pleasures and idleness?

Death, you say, will follow; but death is here already,
it waits on the good servant and the bad,
swallows both, swallows all. Why then blister
your hand with the heft of an axe
when you might instead lay it gently on some soft flesh?

No: proclaim yourself an enemy of all industry;
he who works for another man's bread is a slave.
Declare your fast devotion to the goddess of Joy:
serve her with song, and wine, and every kind of dream.

Let no black hat or stiff collar come
to charge you with sin or sloth or crime:
if he'll crush no cup, then send him to the devil.
If he will not sing, then let him die
the blank white agonizing death in life
of a soul unrooted from the natural way.


A bit more on this theme here.
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd

Plutocratic Political Hacks Now Rule The Supreme Court

"Two wrongs don't make a right," as my old Texas momma used to say. But apparently, five of the justices on our Supreme Court didn't have mommas with such ethical sensibilities -or perhaps they're just ignoring their mommas' wisdom now in order to impose their extremist political agenda on you and me.

That agenda became astonishingly clear in 2010 when the black-robed cabal of Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas hung their infamous Citizens United edict around America's neck. It allowed unlimited sums of corporate cash to spew into our elections, effectively legalizing the wholesale purchase of America's elected officials. In his decision, Supreme joker Anthony Kennedy drew from his deep well of political ignorance and judicial arrogance to declare that these gushers of special interest money "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption."

Is he on the Court or in a comedy club? Not only were Kennedy and his fellow corporatists wrong on the substance of their decree, but also ridiculously wrong on the politics. You don't need a law degree to see that CEOs are presently flooding the presidential and congressional races with hundreds of millions of corporate campaign dollars, gleefully corrupting the political process to buy government policy for their own gain.

And now the same five judicial extremists have added a third egregious wrong to their agenda of turning The People's rights over to soulless corporations. On June 25, they struck down a century-old Montana law (enacted directly by the people through a 1912 initiative vote) that banned corporate money from corrupting that state's elections.

These five are not merely judicial activists -they're dangerous political hacks fronting for corporate power to pull off a plutocratic coup on America
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

On 'Left Anti-Unionism' And The Reason We Lost Wisconsin
By shrinking away from direct action and organizing, labor lost the ability to harness the people power that occupied the state capitol
By Mike Elk

As a labor reporter, I was dismayed to see Gordon Lafer's "Left Anti-Unionism?". In his first post, Lafer attacked pro-union writers for critiquing labor leaders in the wake of the Wisconsin recall election. He went on to write, "The only serious choices we have are to keep fighting even though times are hard, or to give up, or to enjoy the momentary rush of being on the same side as power and join in the anti-union attack."

While Lafer has apologized for the remarks and said he made them in a "moment of anger," variations of the term "left anti-union" are often thrown around to silence critics of union leaders. For example, a recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted how AFSCME's outgoing President Gerald McEntee spent $325,000 on charter jet flights since 2010, instead of flying coach the way most of the workers he represents do. AFSCME's response was to blast the report for being published by "the mouthpiece of right-wing, corporate America." Incoming AFSCME President Lee Saunders went on to say that those within the union who leaked the information "knowingly gave ammunition to the union's enemies at a time when the right-wing media want nothing more than to destroy the labor movement."

In the wake of the Wisconsin defeat, there has been far too little concrete criticism of why organized labor lost. The analysis pushed by unions has relied on claiming that Walker outspent his opponent by a margin of 8-to-1. However, the great champion of labor, Paul Wellstone, was outspent 7-to-1 in his first election for Senate right next door in Minnesota, and he still managed to beat an incumbent senator. Strong, organized labor candidates have always been outspent, but they are able to win by harnessing people power the way Wellstone did.

At the height of the occupation, when 100,000 protesters were occupying the capitol, polls showed Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett beating Governor Scott Walker 52-45. The key question is how did the movement in Wisconsin lose this people power?

Quite simply, union leaders have just not invested their members with that much people power-before or after the Wisconsin recall. In February 2011, two union leaders-Marty Beil, one of AFSCME Wisconsin's Executive Directors, and Mary Bell of the Wisconsin Education Association Council-agreed to across the board wage cuts averaging $4,400 a year for their members. They did so without even taking a vote from their members. You can argue that agreeing to the concessions was a smart strategic move to win public support for collective bargaining rights, but shouldn't unions let their own members make that decision? How do unions distinguish themselves from corporate America if they don't allow their own members to even vote on whether or not to accept a $4,400 wage cut?

Once Walker's bill passed and the drastic wage cuts went into effect, the avenues of protest for union supporters were limited. And by failing to show that they would fight for workers in their day-to-day struggles through direct action, unions lost not just public support, but support from their own membership. After Walker's anti-union bill went into effect outlawing automatic collection of dues, the majority of AFSCME's members in Wisconsin chose to leave their union. Membership in AFSCME declined from 62,818 in March 2011 to less than half of that -just 28,745 in February of 2012. A majority of AFSCME members decided not to renew their membership in AFSCME-not exactly a vote of confidence for the union.

In right-to-work states where members can opt out of unions anytime, like public employees can do now in Wisconsin, unions have to maintain their organizational and financial strength through strong, non-stop internal organizing drives, encouragement of collective action on the job and the development of rank-and-file leadership that's very sensitive to the concerns of members. Had AFSCME engaged in a strategy of direct action in the workplace, similar in spirit to the capitol occupation, things might have gone differently.

The momentum of such a movement could have forced candidates like Tom Barrett to be more adamantly pro-union, like the fourteen Democratic state Senators who fled the state and became much stauncher union supporters. That would most likely have attracted more Wisconsin voters. Instead of engaging in direct action in the workplace, revitalizing their unions and changing the political terrain in Wisconsin, the state's labor leadership backed two Democrats, one in the primary and another in the general election, both of whom bragged in their public appearances about forcing concessions from public workers in the past.

Lafer dismisses the possibility of a direct workplace action, arguing that it's too difficult for "normal, apolitical, nonconfrontational" people to engage in workplace actions against their employers. He ignores, however, the fact that in response to Walker's bill, thousands of "normal, apolitical, non-confrontational" people working in public-sector jobs did go out on mass strikes. Thousands of teachers in numerous school districts across Wisconsin, including in Milwaukee and Madison, went on illegal, three-day sick-out strikes to protest Walker's bill. The illegal sick-out strikes swelled the size of the crowd then occupying the capitol to nearly 100,000.

Anyone who has ever been around a strike or union organizing drive knows that often in the course of being engaged in a labor struggle, people get inspired out of a sense of solidarity to do things that they never would have thought possible. Sure, these kinds of actions are tough to initiate, but Wisconsin labor leaders could have at least tried to motivate workers in their workplace. Instead, Wisconsin Executive Council 48 Director Rich Abelson came out saying, "there has been no talk of a general strike, there has been no talk of targeted strikes, or job actions or anything else. Our dispute is not with our employers. Our dispute is with the Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate, the Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly and Governor Walker."

Lafer then dismisses claims that unions were unable to fight in Wisconsin because they were saddled with "overpaid union bureaucrats" and were unwilling to take on the Democrats. In a factually inaccurate statement, he claims that a union like "United Electrical workers-unburdened by highly paid staff or Democratic politics-should be meeting greater success in organizing. But, of course, they are not. The problem is not what unions are doing; it's the coercive power of employers."

But the United Electrical Workers (UE), which caps its leaders salaries at $56,000 and does not typically endorse Democrats, is indeed growing in states where collective bargaining for public employees is outlawed- states with Democratic governors like West Virginia and North Carolina. On the other hand, AFSCME, who reportedly pledged to spend $100 million to re-elect Obama and whose outgoing president Gerry McEntee made a salary of $387,000 (nearly seven times that of UE's president), has lost union members in those same states, according to UE Political Action Director Chris Townsend.

As AFSCME has seen its ranks dwindle in West Virginia, UE has become the biggest public-sector union in the state. Despite lacking collective bargaining rights in West Virginia, UE has been able to win small wage increases and grievances for its members by providing very intensive education to a network of shop stewards who then train their own union members in how to be militants.

Instead of building a rank-and-file system of strong shop stewards who could mobilize their members, AFSCME chose to continue giving money to the Democrats in West Virginia in the hope that these Democrats will come to their rescue. AFSCME continues to give to them despite the fact that the Democrats have controlled both the governor's house and the state legislature for the last twelve years, but refuse to grant collective bargaining rights to public employees in West Virginia. In the past, AFSCME has also given money to Democratic Governors in Virginia and North Carolina who also refused to grant collective bargaining rights. AFSCME saw their union ranks dwindle while the shop-floor-oriented UE surpassed AFSCME's membership in those states, according to Townsend.

Is UE successful because they cap their union organizers salaries at $56,000? I would say yes. People often ignore the importance of capping union leaders' salaries in their conversations about union reform. In the 1930s, UE Organizing Director James Matles said that maintaining salaries for union leaders similar to the workers they represent is important because "union leaders should feel like their members, not for their members." Union organizers feel like their members when they make comparable salaries and live in the same neighborhoods; they have a greater sense of urgency about fighting for their members as a result. (Full disclosure: my father has worked as a union organizer for UE for thirty-five years and makes $50,000 a year).

It also makes sense from a practical financial standpoint. Why pay one union leader a $387,000 salary when you can employ seven full-time union organizers for the same cost? A study of Department of Labor Records done by Labor Notes in 2010 showed that if you capped the salaries of nearly 10,000 union leaders or staffers making above $100,000 to that amount, you would save $294 million dollars a year that could be spent on organizing. Post-Citizens United, when corporations can spend all the money in the world to attack workers, the labor movement simply cannot afford to be paying union leaders more than $100,000 a year.

Instead of trimming executive salaries, perks and maybe scaling back on AFSCME's pledge to spend $100 million on the re-election of President Obama, AFSCME laid off half of its organizers in Wisconsin, according to AFSCME Wisconsin Council 40 organizer Edward A. Sadlowski, at a time when they should have been hiring more organizers in order to stop their membership losses and fight back against concessions.

Organized labor's current approach is not working, and we need all the critiques of labor leaders and organizing approaches in order to save the labor movement. As a labor movement, would we rather have a few union leaders embarrassed by how much they make, or do we want a serious discussions about how we revive the movement. Accusing pro-union people, who raise serious questions about the strategy, finances and political orientation of unions in effort to save unions of giving ammunition to union's enemies or being "left anti-union" is more than just absurd. It could kill the labor movement.
(c) 2012 Mike Elk is an In These Times Staff Writer and a regular contributor to the labor blog Working In These Times. He can be reached at

That Non-Ending Search For The Elixir Of Life
By James Donahue

Throughout human history, there has been a search for a magic elixir of life . . . an escape from the inevitable fate called death that awaits us all.

The story of Adam and Eve involves a banishment from the Garden of Eden, after they gave in to temptation and ate from the tree of knowledge. The story is that God placed cherubim and a fiery revolving sword at the gate "to guard the way to the tree of life" so humans would never find a way to live forever.

Even after this, if we are to believe the ages of the first humans recorded in the Book of Genesis, folks lived astoundingly long lives. The oldest record was that of Methuselah, who lived 969 years.

Those old stories have been the backbone of mythology that inspired many early explorers to search for that fabled "tree of life," and was said to have sent Juan Ponce de Leon hacking his way through the swampland of Southern Florida in 1513 in search of a "fountain of youth."

From the Middle East comes a legend of Alexander and his servant who cross the Land of Darkness in search of the Water of Life. From Europe and Asia we find the stories of the philosopher's stone, the universal panaceas and the elixir of life. Even the Gospel of John suggests that there is something wonderful at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem where Jesus healed a man.

There is extreme irony, we suppose, in the fact that now, even as we are discovering that we have carelessly overpopulated, polluted, stripped and killed the Mother Earth and are now heading on a fast track toward our own extinction, that we may also have discovered the real secret to a long and healthy life.

The Human Genome Project, a 13-year research that involved the mapping and identification of all of the estimated 25,000 genes in the human DNA coil, determine their role in birth, growth, our general health and our death, has unlocked the keys to not only producing genetically healthy children, but fixing a lot of things wrong with the bodies we have.

Medical teams already are finding ways to use this information to manufacture new body parts to replace diseased livers, hearts, kidneys, ears and just about everything else in the human body. Some researchers now believe that within the next few years it will be possible for people to have their bodies completely restored with a promise of living very long and healthy lives.

They say they even have discovered what scientists call the Methuselah gene, which may, in itself, be a secret to living a long and healthy life. The gene is present in certain cultures known for longevity of life, but is not found in other people.

Sadly, however, because of overpopulation and our mistreatment of the Mother Earth, where these bodies originated and from whom the food, water and material for shelter is provided, the task of staying alive on our dying planet will be such a difficult task there may be little point in wanting to hang around. If we continue operating the way we have, our climate will be out of control, there will be a shortage of food and potable drinking water, and the air will be so polluted that we will be breathing through recycled and filtered tanks.

The irony in our situation is incredible. How could we be so brilliant and yet so foolish at the same moment in time? (c) 2012 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Veterans For Peace Members Arrested Protesting Drones
By David Swanson

Elliott Adams and Nate Lewis, two members of Veterans For Peace, were part of a larger group of 15 activists arrested Thursday at the gate to Hancock Airbase in Syracuse, N.Y., where they held large banners and signs protesting drones for three hours before they were arrested.

One banner showed images of children killed by U.S. drones in Afghanistan. Another showed a reaper drone and the grim reaper. Another quoted Martin Luther King Jr. "I have a dream" and Barack Obama "I have a drone."

Photos and videos.

For some of the participants, this was not their first time protesting at Hancock. Adams was arrested last year as one of the "Hancock 38," and again this past April in a group of 33. Adams is Past President of Veterans for Peace and current Nonviolent Training Coordinator.

Adams told a judge in February: "I am proud to accept the consequences of my acts and any jail time. I do not want any suspended sentence. If you give me one, also please let me know how I can violate it before I leave the courtroom." The judge, however, gave Adams a suspended sentence and probation conditions.

Following the arrest of 33 in April, the prosecutor moved to dismiss all charges.

Adams says the latest action is aimed at upholding international law and getting the matter before a judge again. In the case of the Hancock 38, Adams says, "The judge had a hard time making a decision, and made the wrong one, and did not recognize international law. So, we're giving the court a chance to get it right."

In April activists held a publicly announced march and were preemptively arrested before reaching the base. This week's protest took the base completely by surprise, as participants jumped out of cars and began demonstrating, with no march and no public announcement. It took hours before various law-enforcement operations, including state troopers and city police, could agree to make arrests.

Adams said they'd previously been told that protesting at the base gate would be a federal offense. They were not charged with a federal crime. A surprising number of people driving past, Adams said, offered support and held up peace signs. Even the arresting officers were sympathetic, he reported.

Activists read aloud on Thursday the following War Crimes Indictment:<>

To President Obama, to Secretary of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, to the full Military Chain of the Command, including Commander Colonel Greg Semmel, to all Service Members and civilian staff of Hancock Air Base, and to the local police and Sheriffs Department of the Town of De Witt, NY:

Each one of you, when you became a public servant, serving in a government position or when you joined the United States Armed Forces or police, you publicly promised to uphold the United States Constitution. We take this opportunity to call your attention to Article VI of the US Constitution, which states:

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary not with standing.

This clause is known as the Supremacy Clause because it provides that the Constitution and laws of the U.S., including treaties made under authority of the U.S. shall be supreme law of the land.

The Supremacy Clause provides part of the Supreme Law of the Land.

One Treaty duly ratified by the U.S. is the United Nations Charter. It was ratified by a vote of 89 to 2 in the U.S. Senate, and signed by the President in 1945. It remains in effect today. As such, it is part of supreme law of the land.

The Preamble of the U.N. Charter states that its purpose is to "save future generation from the scourge of war" and it further states, "all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation."

This Treaty applies both collectively and individually to all three branches of government, on all levels, U.S. federal, state and local governments, starting with the executive branch: the U.S. President and the executive staff; the judicial branch: all judges and staff members of the judiciary; the legislative branch: all members of the U.S. Armed Forces and all departments of Law Enforcement and all civilian staff, who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, which includes Article VI.

Under the U.N. Charter and long established international laws, anyone--civilian, military, government officials, or judge- who knowingly participates in or supports illegal use of force against another nation or its people is committing a war crime.

Today you must recognize that when you promised to uphold the Constitution, you promised to obey Treaties and International Law -as part of the Supreme Law of the Land and furthermore, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice of the U.S., you are required to disobey any clearly unlawful order from a superior. Based on all the above,


We charge that the Air National Guard of the United States of America, headquartered at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, home of the 174th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, under the command of the 174th Fighter Wing Commander Colonel Greg Semmel, is maintaining and deploying the MQ-9 Reaper robotic aircraft, called drones.

These drones are being used not only in combat situations for the purpose of assassinations but also for killings far removed from combat zones without military defense, to assassinate individuals and groups far removed from military action.

Extra judicial killings, such as those the U.S. carries out by drones are intentional, premeditated, and deliberate use of lethal force to commit murder in violation of U.S. and International Law.

It is a matter of public record that the US has used drones in Afghanistan and in Iraq for targeted killings to target specific individuals which has nearly always resulted in the deaths of many others.

There is no legal basis for defining the scope of area where drones can or cannot be used, no legal criteria for deciding which people can be targeted for killing, no procedural safeguards to ensure the legality of the decision to kill and the accuracy of the assassinations.

In support of this indictment we cite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who has said that the use of drones creates "a highly problematic blurring and the law applicable to the use of inter-state force…. The result has been the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined license to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum…. In terms of the legal framework, many of these practices violate straightforward applicable legal rules." See United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council Study on Targeted Killings, 28, May 2010.

The drone attacks either originating at Hancock or supported here are a deliberate illegal use of force against another nation, and as such are a felonious violation of Article VI of the US Constitution.

By giving material support to the drone program, you as individuals are violating the Constitution, dishonoring your oath, and committing war crimes.

We demand that you stop participating in any part of the operations of MQ-9 drones immediately, being accountable to the people of United States and Afghanistan.

As citizens of this nation, which maintains over 700 military bases around the globe, and the largest, most deadly military arsenal in the world, we believe these words of Martin Luther King still hold true, "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government".

There is hope for a better world when WE, THE PEOPLE, hold our government accountable to the laws and treaties that govern the use of lethal force and war. To the extent that we ignore our laws and constitution and allow for the unchecked use of lethal force by our government, allowing the government to kill who ever it wants, where ever it wants, how ever it wants with no accountability, we make the world less safe for children everywhere.

We appeal to all United States citizens, military and civilian, and to all public officials, to do as required by the Nuremburg Principles I-VII, and by Conscience, to refuse to participate in these crimes, to denounce them, and to resist them nonviolently.

Signed by:

Adams' statement, made in court at the trial of the Hancock 38 last November is available online.

As is his statement at the sentencing hearing.

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

A New Standard For Oxymoronic Newspeak
By David Sirota

If there was an ongoing contest in the art of self-contradicting newspeak, a quote from a U.S. military official during the Vietnam War would be the reigning victor for most of the modern era. In describing the decision to ignore the prospect of civilian casualties and vaporize a Vietnamese village, that unnamed official famously told Peter Arnett of the Associated Press that "it became necessary to destroy the town to save it."

Epitomizing the futility, immorality and nihilism of that era-defining war, the line has achieved true aphorism status - employed to describe any political endeavor that is, well...futile, immoral and nihilistic.

But now, ever so suddenly, the Vietnam quote has been dethroned by an even more oxymoronic line - one that perfectly summarizes the zeitgeist of the post-9/11 era. As Wired's Spencer Ackerman reports, "Surveillance experts at the National Security Agency won't tell two powerful United States Senators how many Americans have had their communications picked up by the agency (because) it would violate your privacy to say so."

In a letter to senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall, the agency wrote: "(A) review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons."

While the line's bureaucratic lingo doesn't roll of the tongue like its Vietnam-era predecessor, it does equal it for sheer audacity. Yes, those actively violating Americans' privacy claim they can't tell Congress about their activities because doing so might violate Americans' privacy.

Of course, what sets this particular oxymoron apart from others - what makes it the new champion of oxymoronic newspeak - is its special mix of incoherence and non-sequitur. This isn't merely a self-contradictory statement - it's one that ignores the question at hand. As Wyden told Wired: "All that Senator Udall and I are asking for is a ballpark estimate of how many Americans have been monitored under this law" - not any specific names of those being spied on.

By definition, providing a "ballpark" figure can't violate any individuals' privacy.

So why would the NSA nonetheless refuse to provide one? Most likely because such an estimate would be a number so big as to become a political problem for the national security establishment.

According to the nonpartisan Electronic Frontier Foundation, "The U.S. government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in a massive program of illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications and communications records of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001." That's right, millions - and that's merely what happened with one of many programs over the last decade. Moving forward, Wired notes that the NSA is building the "Utah Data Center" - "a project of immense secrecy" designed "to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world's communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks."

In the last few years, polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans are uncomfortable with such pervasive snooping. Considering that, it's fair to assume that if the government officially acknowledged an even bigger domestic spying regime than we already know about, we might finally reach a tipping point - one in which public outrage forces a wholesale reevaluation of the NSA's entire mission.

Thus, in the name of self-preservation and self-interest, NSA officials shamelessly offer up the most epically inane oxymoron since Vietnam. They calculate that with a mindless left-versus-right political media more interested in meticulously analyzing the meaningless gaffes of presidential candidates, few news outlets are interested in letting America know about the most serious affronts to civil liberties.

Unfortunately, that calculation is probably accurate.
(c) 2012 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Minority Profit = Majority Loss
By Frank Scott

I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half. ~~~ Jay Gould

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
A working class hero is something to be...
A Working Class Hero ~~~ John Lennon

The robber baron and the rock and roll poet expressed sentiments about the same social reality from radically different perspectives. Profit and Loss capitalism has enabled many recipients of crumbs from the banquet tables of the rich to enjoy the applied label of middle class given them by consciousness controllers in politics and media. But present realities find the religion, sex, tv and other consumer products less available to cloud minds and fill bodies under the delusion of equality and the cruel reality spoken of by the robber baron. That reality needs to be confronted by a united class and no longer tolerated by a divided humanity, now more so than ever.

As the global crisis causes national book juggling on a daily basis to maintain order, and that of international banking on a near hourly schedule, it becomes more apparent that the algorithmic accountants for the rich are operating to the detriment of most members of the race. Problems supposedly at the root of a crumbling financial structure are seen by minority profiteers as government's profligate spending on people, terrifying foreign threats that call for expanded wars, and other lies perpetuated by mind managers to cover the gross injustice that is reducing more of humanity to debt servitude and abject poverty while the planet itself is threatened in all its life support systems. This happens as shrinking segments of the population increase their enormous wealth at phenomenal speed, destroying more of the social and natural environment as they do so and patting themselves on the back for being such masterful and benign dominators of life.

Creatures of no observable skills or special talents amass billions of dollars and perform no useful work at all but actually bring about cultural and ecological devastation for which they are rewarded with more tax payer dollars. Economists too dumb to see the crisis predicted by many critics still wisely advise with ancient notions of a free market religion, supply and demand curves, and the "creative destruction" which does away with what they find useless - jobs for working people - and produces more profits for what they find divine - capitalists. These servants of a religious philosophy masked as secular finance call for total assault on the public sector in a form of national masturbation; by focused obsession on the economy's private parts. The loss of jobs bring lower employment costs for the ruling minority and higher social costs to the working majority who still have some form of incomes and pay taxes to keep rulers rich and not allow poor people to drop dead in the streets. As they expend more for weapons, consumer goods and security products to protect themselves from the alienated who are alleged to threaten them from below, they are distracted from noticing the tiny group laughing at them from above while it dumps garbage on their heads.

This does not describe 19th century reality but the present condition of a 21st century rushing backward for most while the minority at the top lavishes wealth on itself by robbing humanity's future. A fast growing universal demand for democracy is slowly changing things despite interference and misguidance from rulers and their hired help, though it must speed up if we are to have a long range future. Some among the many reasons why:

The incredible arrogance of western powers, especially the U.S. and Israel, insisting that Iran suspend activities - none of which exist - to create nuclear weapons - none of which it has - while the USA, the only nation to slaughter thousands with nuclear weapons, and Israel, armed with hundreds of nukes which they demand remain unmentioned in a global holocaust of silence, and Iran, not Israel, calls for a nuclear free middle east. Whether dubbed colossal chutzpah, testiculo grandioso or massive balls, this combination of breathtaking gall with microscopic brains endangers most of the world, beginning with Iran and the middle east.

The same imperial master race/chosen people syndicate calls a conference on the future of Syria, but neither Syria nor neighbor Iran are allowed to participate in the discussion. Does that imply elephant testicles? Dinosaur balls? Gigantic gonads? Is there any fitting trash talk to cover this kind of pinhead, pea brained dementia?

Possibly so, but what can we call the urge for what is named austerity, meaning cuts in programs for the most helpless in society so that the most wealthy can make more money and possibly, hopefully, prayerfully, or when the drugs kick in, then invest in creating jobs for them? That's if the economic witch doctors, mullahs, priests and rabbis don't decide that creative destruction would be better, thank you. How do you make fun of this in a way that can drown out the cries of those who suffer while this madness continues? Whether they are in pain from hunger, loneliness, despair at the bombs falling on their heads, or the countless other horrors that billions suffer while millions are confused into incurring more debt and paying for war while thousands smile as their servants deposit more millions in the bank for them. And that's not all, for the moment.

Weather irregularities ranging from heat waves to cold snaps to drenching rains and foul air are written off as typical acts of nature having nothing to do with what most of science has called climate change. While this pop title may be a trivialization of the issue, most responsible investigators from what is called the scientific community - a branch of material religious faith generally more reliable than snake dancing and prayer - are treating this as a serious threat to the future of the human race, while profiteers seek ways to make money by transforming old garbage into new sewage and calling it a green revolution. Not to worry folks, private profits will take care of everything. They will entail, of course and as always, much greater losses in order to create those profits, but as long as our rulers can languish in luxury they may leisurely invest in something that will eventually bring us jobs. Like maybe another war.

Prevailing wisdom seems an oxymoron as it applies to ruling power, its politicians and its media. But expanding electronic methods of selling more consumer waste have also created a contradictory method of communication that the imperial regime is trying desperately to control, but at only limited success. Past populations could be kept murdering one another and drugged by religion, sex and tv when they weren't directly doing so, but present distractions are too numerous and fast to be totally controlled by any authority. It is trying, desperately and with bloody efficiency, as it murders with robots, entraps with technology and relies on its smaller but more faithful captive class of professional indentured servants. But the tendency of more humans to say "enough" seems apparent.

The escapist ploys still available by which to keep workers killing themselves when not being captivated by media or entrapped by newer versions of religion, sex and tv are more prevalent than ever. They can go anywhere and dull minds 24 hours a day, but they are not only suitable to listen to or watch; they can also enable people to broadcast their own messages, and while most of those can seem all too personal, the tribe of humanity is using them socially and coming closer together as the problems get worse. That growing togetherness offers hope for ultimate democratic action to take control of a social environment that demands real transformation of the race and its possibilities. Working class members of the human majority don't all need to be individual heroes but they could take social inspiration from these closing quotes. Stay tuned.

"The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another and all involved in one another." ~~~ Thomas Merton

"An individual has not started living until he or she can rise above the narrow confines of his or her individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." ~~~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

(c) 2012 Frank Scott writes political commentary and satire which appears in print in The Independent Monitor and online at the blog Legalienate

Europe's Great Illusion
By Paul Krugman

Over the past few months I've read a number of optimistic assessments of the prospects for Europe. Oddly, however, none of these assessments argue that Europe's German-dictated formula of redemption through suffering has any chance of working. Instead, the case for optimism is that failure - in particular, a breakup of the euro - would be a disaster for everyone, including the Germans, and that in the end this prospect will induce European leaders to do whatever it takes to save the situation.

I hope this argument is right. But every time I read an article along these lines, I find myself thinking about Norman Angell.

Who? Back in 1910 Angell published a famous book titled "The Great Illusion," arguing that war had become obsolete. Trade and industry, he pointed out, not the exploitation of subject peoples, were the keys to national wealth, so there was nothing to be gained from the vast costs of military conquest.

Moreover, he argued that mankind was beginning to appreciate this reality, that the "passions of patriotism" were rapidly declining. He didn't actually say that there would be no more major wars, but he did give that impression.

We all know what came next.

The point is that the prospect of disaster, no matter how obvious, is no guarantee that nations will do what it takes to avoid that disaster. And this is especially true when pride and prejudice make leaders unwilling to see what should be obvious.

Which brings me back to Europe's still extremely dire economic situation.

It comes as something of a shock, even for those of us who have been following the story all along, to realize that more than two years have passed since European leaders committed themselves to their current economic strategy - a strategy based on the notion that fiscal austerity and "internal devaluation" (basically, wage cuts) would solve the problems of debtor nations. In all that time the strategy has produced no success stories; the best the defenders of orthodoxy can do is point to a couple of small Baltic nations that have seen partial recoveries from Depression-level slumps, but are still far poorer than they were before the crisis.

Meanwhile the euro's crisis has metastasized, spreading from Greece to the far larger economies of Spain and Italy, and Europe as a whole is clearly sliding back into recession. Yet the policy prescriptions coming out of Berlin and Frankfurt have hardly changed at all.

But wait, you say - didn't last week's summit meeting produce some movement? Yes, it did. Germany gave a little ground, agreeing both to easier lending conditions for Italy and Spain (but not bond purchases by the European Central Bank) and to a rescue plan for private banks that might actually make some sense (although it's hard to tell given the lack of detail). But these concessions remain tiny compared with the scale of the problems.

What would it really take to save Europe's single currency? The answer, almost surely, would have to involve both large purchases of government bonds by the central bank, and a declared willingness by that central bank to accept a somewhat higher rate of inflation. Even with these policies, much of Europe would face the prospect of years of very high unemployment. But at least there would be a visible route to recovery.

Yet it's really, really hard to see how such a policy shift could come about.

Part of the problem is the fact that German politicians have spent the past two years telling voters something that isn't true - namely, that the crisis is all the fault of irresponsible governments in Southern Europe. Here in Spain - which is now the epicenter of the crisis - the government actually had low debt and budget surpluses on the eve of crisis; if the country is now in crisis, that's the result of a vast housing bubble that banks all across Europe, very much including the Germans, helped to inflate. But now the false narrative stands in the way of any workable solution.

Yet misinformed voters aren't the only problem; even elite European opinion has yet to face up to reality. To read the latest reports from European-based "expert" institutions, like the one released last week by the Bank for International Settlements, is to feel that you've entered an alternative universe, one in which neither the lessons of history nor the laws of arithmetic apply - a universe in which austerity would still work if only everyone had faith, and in which everyone can cut spending at the same time without producing a depression.

So will Europe save itself? The stakes are very high, and Europe's leaders are, by and large, neither evil nor stupid. But the same could be said, believe it or not, about Europe's leaders in 1914. We can only hope that this time is different.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The American people are free to do exactly what they are told."
~~~ Ward Churchill

Trans Pacific Partnership
Corporate Escape From Accountability
By Paul Craig Roberts

Information has been leaked about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is being negotiated in secret by US Trade Representative Ron Kirk. Six hundred corporate "advisors" are in on the know, but not Congress or the media. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate trade subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the TPP, has not been permitted to see the text or to know the content.

The TPP has been called a "one-percenter" power tool. The agreement essentially abolishes the accountability of foreign corporations to governments of countries with which they trade. Indeed, the agreement makes governments accountable to corporations for costs imposed by regulations, including health, safety and environmental regulations. The agreement gives corporations the right to make governments pay them for the cost of complying with the regulations of government. One wonders how long environmental, labor, and financial regulation can survive when the costs of compliance are imposed on the taxpayers of countries and not on the economic activity that results in spillover effects such as pollution.

Many will interpret the TPP as another big step toward the establishment of global government in the New World Order. However, what the TPP actually does is to remove corporations or the spillover effects of their activities from the reach of government. As the TPP does not transfer to corporations the power to govern countries, it is difficult to see how it leads to global government. The real result is global privilege of the corporate class as a class immune to government regulation.

One of the provisions allows corporations to avoid the courts and laws of countries by creating a private tribunal that corporations can use to sue governments for the costs of complying with regulation. Essentially, the laws of countries that apply to corporations are supplanted by decisions of a private tribunal of corporate lawyers.

The TPP is open to all countries. Currently, it is being negotiated between the US, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile, and Peru. Australia, according to reports, has refused to submit to the private tribunal system.

What are we to make of the TPP? It is perhaps too early to have all the answers. However, I can offer some ways of thinking about it.

I doubt that the TPP is a New World Order takeover. If anything, the TPP reduces the scope of global government by exempting corporations from government control. Also, global government, unless it is government by the American Empire, is inconsistent with the neoconservatives insistence on US hegemony over the world. Powerful US ideological, private, and government interest groups have no intention of losing the power that they have acquired by being rolled into some New World Order unless the New World Order is a euphemism for American Empire.

In the criticisms of the TPP, much emphasis is placed on the costs that corporations of foreign members of the agreement can impose on the US. However, US corporations gain the same privileges over those countries, as the agreement gives every country's corporations immunity to the other countries' laws.

It could be the case that US corporations believe that their penetration of the other countries will greatly exceed the activities in the US of Brunei, New Zealand, Peru, et al. However, once Japan, Canada, China and others join TPP, the prospect of American firms getting more out of the agreement than foreign firms disappears, unless from the US perspective the definition of foreign firm includes US corporations that offshore the production of the goods and services that they market in the US. If this is the case, then US offshoring firms would be exempt not only from the laws and courts of foreign countries, but also exempt from the laws and courts of the US.

This point is possibly moot as the agreement requires all governments that are parties to the TPP to harmonize their laws so that the new corporate privileges are equally reflected in every country. To avoid discriminatory law against a country's own corporations that do not engage in foreign trade, harmonization could mean that domestic corporations would be granted the same privileges as foreign investors. If not, domestic firms might acquire the privileges by setting up a foreign subsidiary consisting of an office.

As the TPP is clearly an agreement being pushed by US corporations, the implication is that US corporations see it as being to their relative advantage. However, it is unclear what this advantage is.

Alternatively, TPP is a strategy for securing exemption from regulation under the guise of being a trade agreement.

Another explanation, judging from the unusual collection of the initial parties to the agreement, is that the agreement is part of Washington's strategy of encircling China with military bases, as the US has done to Russia. One would have thought that an agreement of such path-breaking nature would have begun with Japan, S. Korea, and Philippines. However, these countries are already part of China's encirclement. Brunei, Singapore, New Zealand, and especially Vietnam would be valuable additions. Are the special privileges that Washington is offering these countries part of the bribe to become de facto outposts of American Empire?

Yet another explanation is that Ron Kirk is caught up in the deregulatory mindset that began with the repeal of Glass-Steagall and financial deregulation. If financial markets know best and are self-regulating, requiring no government interference, then so also are other markets and businesses.

Free market economists view regulations as "takings." The argument is that regulations take corporate property--profits, for example, by making corporations comply with health, safety, and environmental regulation--just as government takes private property when it builds or widens a road. Therefore, corporations should be compensated for takings that result from regulation. As the argument goes, if government wants corporations to protect the environment, the government should pay the corporations for the cost of doing so. This argument gets rid of "external costs" or "social costs"--costs that corporations impose on others and future generations by the pollution and exhaustion of natural resources, for example. The argument turns social costs into compensation for takings.

The TPP is likely serving many agendas. As we learn more, the motives behind the TPP will become clearer. From my perspective as an economist and former member of government, the problem with Ron Kirk's TPP is that the agreement is constructed to serve private, not public interests. Kirk is a public official charged with serving and protecting the public interest. Yet, he has conspired in secret with private interests to produce a document that exempts private corporations from public accountability.

There is a paradox here. While financial corporations and now all corporations are being made independent of government, US citizens have lost the protection of law and are now subject to being detained indefinitely or murdered without due process of law. Corporations gain an unimaginable freedom while citizens lose all freedom and the rights that define their freedom. Similarly, foreign countries, which as members of TPP can be exempt from US law, are subject to "pre-emptive" US violation of their air space and borders by drones and troops sent in to assassinate some suspected terrorist, but which also kill citizens of those countries who are merely going about their normal business.

Perhaps one way to understand TPP is that the US government is now extending its own right to be lawless to corporations. Just as the US government today is only answerable to itself, the TPP makes corporations answerable only to themselves.
(c) 2012 Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and professor of economics in six universities. He is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House. Dr. Roberts' latest book is "Economies in Collapse: The Failure of Globalism," published in Europe, June, 2012. Seller information will be made available as soon as possible. He can be reached at:

Mitt Romney And The New Gilded Age
By Robert Reich

I The election of 2012 raises two perplexing questions. The first is how the GOP could put up someone for president who so brazenly epitomizes the excesses of casino capitalism that have nearly destroyed the economy and overwhelmed our democracy. The second is why the Democrats have failed to point this out.

The White House has criticized Mitt Romney for his years at the helm of Bain Capital, pointing to a deal that led to the bankruptcy of GS Technologies, a Bain investment in Kansas City that went belly up in 2001 at the cost of 750 jobs. But the White House hasn't connected Romney's Bain to the larger scourge of casino capitalism. Not surprisingly, its criticism has quickly degenerated into a "he said, she said" feud over what proportion of the companies that Bain bought and loaded up with debt subsequently went broke (it's about 20 percent), and how many people lost their jobs relative to how many jobs were added because of Bain's financial maneuvers (that depends on when you start and stop the clock). And it has invited a Republican countercharge that the administration gambled away taxpayer money on its own bad bet, the Solyndra solar panel company.

But the real issue here isn't Bain's betting record. It's that Romney's Bain is part of the same system as Jamie Dimon's JPMorgan Chase, Jon Corzine's MF Global and Lloyd Blankfein's Goldman Sachs-a system that has turned much of the economy into a betting parlor that nearly imploded in 2008, destroying millions of jobs and devastating household incomes. The winners in this system are top Wall Street executives and traders, private-equity managers and hedge-fund moguls, 
and the losers are most of the rest of us. The system is largely responsible for the greatest concentration of the nation's income and wealth at the very top since the Gilded Age of the nineteenth century, with the richest 400 Americans owning as much as the bottom 150 million put together. And these multimillionaires and billionaires are now actively buying the 2012 election-and with it, American democracy.

The biggest players in this system have, like Romney, made their profits placing big bets with other people's money. If the bets go well, the players make out like bandits. If they go badly, the burden lands on average workers and taxpayers. The 750 peo-
ple at GS Technologies who lost their jobs thanks to a bad deal engineered by Romney's Bain were a small foreshadowing of the 15 million who lost jobs after the cumulative dealmaking 
of the entire financial sector pushed the whole economy off a cliff. And relative to the cost to taxpayers of bailing out Wall Street, Solyndra is a rounding error.

Connect the dots of casino capitalism, and you get Mitt Romney. The fortunes raked in by financial dealmakers depend on special goodies baked into the tax code such as "carried interest," which allows Romney and other partners in private-equity firms (as well as in many venture-capital and hedge funds) to treat their incomes as capital gains taxed at a maximum of
15 percent. This is how Romney managed to pay an average of 14 percent on more than $42 million of combined income in 2010 and 2011. But the carried-interest loophole makes no economic sense. Conservatives try to justify the tax code's generous preference for capital gains as a reward to risk-takers-but Romney and other private-equity partners risk little, if any, of their personal wealth. They mostly bet with other investors' money, including the pension savings of average working people.

Another goodie allows private-equity partners to sock away almost any amount of their earnings into a tax-deferred IRA, while the rest of us are limited to a few thousand dollars a year. The partners can merely low-ball the value of whatever portion of their investment partnership they put away-even valuing it at zero-because the tax code considers a partnership interest to have value only in the future. This explains how Romney's IRA is worth as much as $101 million. The tax code further subsidizes private equity and much of the rest of the financial sector by making interest on debt tax-deductible, while taxing profits and dividends. This creates huge incentives for financiers to find ways of substituting debt for equity and is a major reason America's biggest banks have leveraged America to the hilt. It's also why Romney's Bain and other private-equity partnerships have done the same to the companies they buy.

These maneuvers shift all the economic risk to debtors, who sometimes can't repay what they owe. That's rarely a problem for the financiers who engineer the deals; they're sufficiently diversified to withstand some losses, or they've already taken their profits and moved on. But piles of debt play havoc with the lives of real people in the real economy when the companies they work for can't meet their payments, or the banks they rely on stop lending money, or the contractors they depend on go broke-often with the result that they can't meet their own debt payments and lose their homes, cars and savings.

It took more than a decade for America to recover from the Great Crash of 1929 after the financial sector had gorged itself on debt, and it's taking years to recover from the more limited but still terrible crash of 2008. The same kinds of convulsions have occurred on a smaller scale at a host of companies since the go-go years of the 1980s, when private-equity firms like Bain began doing leveraged buyouts-taking over a target company, loading it up with debt, using the tax deduction that comes with the debt to boost the target company's profits, cutting payrolls and then reselling the company at a higher price.MO< Sometimes these maneuvers work, sometimes they end in disaster; but they always generate giant rewards for the dealmakers while shifting the risk to workers and taxpayers. In 1988 drugstore chain Revco went under when it couldn't meet its debt payments on a $1.6 billion leveraged buyout engineered by Salomon Brothers. In 1989 the private-equity firm of Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts completed the notorious and ultimately disastrous buyout of RJR Nabisco for $31 billion, much of it in high-yield ("junk") bonds. In 1993 Bain Capital became a majority shareholder in GS Technologies and loaded it with debt. In 2001 it went down when it couldn't meet payments on that debt load. But even as these firms sank, Bain and the other dealmakers continued to collect lucrative fees-transaction fees, advisory fees, management fees-sucking the companies dry until the bitter end. According to a review by the New York Times of firms that went bankrupt on Romney's watch, Bain structured the deals so that its executives would always win, even if employees, creditors and Bain's own investors lost out. That's been Big Finance's MO.

By the time Romney co-founded Bain Capital in 1984, financial wheeling and dealing was the most lucrative part of the economy, sucking into its Gordon Gekko-like maw the brightest and most ambitious MBAs, who wanted nothing more than to make huge amounts of money as quickly as possible. Between the mid-1980s and 2007, financial-sector earnings made up two-thirds of all the growth in incomes. At the same time, wages for most Americans stagnated as employers, under mounting pressure from Wall Street and private-equity firms like Bain, slashed payrolls and shipped jobs overseas.

The 2008 crash only briefly interrupted the bonanza. Last year, according to a recent Bloomberg Markets analysis, America's top fifty financial CEOs got a 20.4 percent pay hike, even as the wages of most Americans continued to drop. Topping the Bloomberg list were two of the same private-equity barons who did the RJR Nabisco deal a quarter-century ago-Henry Kravis and George Roberts, who took home $30 million each. According to the 2011 tax records he released, Romney was not far behind.


We've entered a new Gilded Age, of which Mitt Romney is the perfect reflection. The original Gilded Age was a time of buoyant rich men with flashy white teeth, raging wealth and a measured disdain for anyone lacking those attributes, which was just about everyone else. Romney looks and acts the part perfectly, offhandedly challenging a GOP primary opponent to a $10,000 bet and referring to his wife's several Cadillacs. Four years ago he paid $12 million for his fourth home, a 3,000-square-foot villa in La Jolla, California, with vaulted ceilings, five bathrooms, a pool, a Jacuzzi and unobstructed views of the Pacific. Romney has filed plans to tear it down and replace it with a home four times bigger.

We've had wealthy presidents before, but they have been traitors to their class-Teddy Roosevelt storming against the "malefactors of great wealth" and busting up the trusts, Franklin Roosevelt railing against the "economic royalists" and raising their taxes, John F. Kennedy appealing to the conscience of the nation to conquer poverty. Romney is the opposite: he wants to do everything he can to make the superwealthy even wealthier and the poor even poorer, and he justifies it all with a thinly veiled social Darwinism.

Not incidentally, social Darwinism was also the reigning philosophy of the original Gilded Age, propounded in America more than a century ago by William Graham Sumner, a professor of political and social science at Yale, who twisted Charles Darwin's insights into a theory to justify the brazen inequality of that era: survival of the fittest. Romney uses the same logic when he accuses President Obama of creating an "entitlement society" simply because millions of desperate Americans have been forced to accept food stamps and unemployment insurance, or when he opines that government should not help distressed homeowners but instead let the market "hit the bottom," or enthuses over a House Republican budget that would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over the next decade. It's survival of the fittest all over again. Sumner, too, warned against handouts to people he termed "negligent, shiftless, inefficient, silly, and imprudent."

When Romney simultaneously proposes to cut the taxes of households earning over $1 million by an average of $295,874 a year (according to an analysis of his proposals by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center) because the rich are, allegedly, "job creators," he mimics Sumner's view that "millionaires are a product of natural selection, acting on the whole body of men to pick out those who can meet the requirement of certain work to be done." In truth, the whole of Republican trickle-down economics is nothing but repotted social Darwinism.

The Gilded Age was also the last time America came close to becoming a plutocracy-a system of government of, by and for the wealthy. It was an era when the lackeys of the very rich literally put sacks of money on the desks of pliant legislators, senators bore the nicknames of the giant companies whose interests they served ("the senator from Standard Oil"), and the kings of finance decided how the American economy would function.

The potential of great wealth in the hands of a relative few to undermine democratic institutions was a continuing concern in the nineteenth century as railroad, oil and financial magnates accumulated power. "Wealth, like suffrage, must be considerably distributed, to support a democratick republic," wrote Virginia Congressman John Taylor as early as 1814, "and hence, whatever draws a considerable proportion of either into a few hands, will destroy it. As power follows wealth, the majority must have wealth or lose power." Decades later, progressives like Louis Brandeis saw the choice starkly: "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

The reforms of the Progressive Era at the turn of the twentieth century saved American democracy from the robber barons, but the political power of great wealth has now resurfaced with a vengeance. And here again, Romney is the poster boy. Congress has so far failed to close the absurd carried-interest tax loophole, for example, because of generous donations by Bain Capital and other private-equity partners to both parties.


In the 2012 election, Romney wants everything Wall Street has to offer, and Wall Street seems quite happy to give it to him. Not only is he promising lower taxes in return for its money; he also vows that, if elected, he'll repeal what's left of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, Washington's frail attempt to prevent the Street from repeating its 2008 pump-
and-dump. Unlike previous elections, in which the Street hedged its bets by donating to both parties, it's now putting most of its money behind Romney. And courtesy of a Supreme Court majority that seems intent on magnifying the political power of today's robber barons, that's a lot of dough. As of May, thirty-one billionaires had contributed between $50,000 and $2 million each to Romney's super-PAC, and in June another-appropriately enough, a casino magnate-gave $10 million, with a promise of $90 million more. Among those who have contributed at least $1 million are former associates from Romney's days at Bain Capital and prominent hedge-fund managers.

To be sure, Romney is no worse than any other casino capitalist of this new Gilded Age. All have been making big bets-collecting large sums when they pay off and imposing the risks and costs on the rest of us when they don't. Many have justified their growing wealth, along with the growing impoverishment of much of the rest of the nation, with beliefs strikingly similar to social Darwinism. And a significant number have transformed their winnings into the clout needed to protect the unrestrained betting and tax preferences that have fueled their fortunes, and to lower their tax rates even further. Wall Street has already all but eviscerated the Dodd-Frank Act, and it has even turned the so-called Volcker Rule-a watered-down version of the old Glass-Steagall Act, which established a firewall between commercial and investment banking-into a Swiss cheese of loopholes and exemptions.

But Romney is the only casino capitalist who is running for president, at the very time in our nation's history when these views and practices are a clear and present danger to the well-being of the rest of us-just as they were more than a century ago. Romney says he's a job-creating businessman, but in truth he's just another financial dealmaker in the age of the financial deal, a fat cat in an era of excessively corpulent felines, a plutocrat in this new epoch of plutocrats. That the GOP has made him its standard-bearer at this point in American history is astonishing.

So why don't Democrats connect these dots? It's not as if Americans harbor great admiration for financial dealmakers. According to the newly released twenty-fifth annual Pew Research Center poll on core values, nearly three-quarters of Americans believe "Wall Street only cares about making money for itself." That's not surprising, given that many are still bearing the scars of 2008. Nor are they pleased with the concentration of income and wealth at the top. Polls show a majority of Americans want taxes raised on the very rich, and a majority are opposed to the bailouts, subsidies and special tax breaks with which the wealthy have padded their nests.

Part of the answer, surely, is that elected Democrats are still almost as beholden to the wealthy for campaign funds as the Republicans, and don't want to bite the hand that feeds them. Wall Street can give most of its largesse to Romney this year and still have enough left over to tame many influential Democrats (look at the outcry from some of them when the White House took on Bain Capital).

But I suspect a deeper reason for their reticence is that if they connect the dots and reveal Romney for what he is-the epitome of what's fundamentally wrong with our economy-they'll be admitting how serious our economic problems really are. They would have to acknowledge that the economic catastrophe that continues to cause us so much suffering is, at its root, a product of the gross inequality of income, wealth and political power in America's new Gilded Age, as well as the perverse incentives of casino capitalism.

Yet this admission would require that they propose ways of reversing these trends-proposals large and bold enough to do the job. Time will tell whether today's Democratic Party and this White House have the courage and imagination to do it. If they do not, that in itself poses almost as great a challenge to the future of the nation as does Mitt Romney and all he represents.
(c) 2012 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Dead Letter Office...

Joe gives the corpo-rat salute.

Heil Obama,

Dear unterfuhrer Walsh,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Antonin (Tony light-fingers) Scalia.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your attacking an American double amputee war hero, while you yourself choose not to join up, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross first class, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 07-04-2012. We salute you Herr Walsh, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Obama Enjoys The 'John Roberts Bump'
By John Nichols

Presidential politics, like most other major endeavors, has its intangibles. There are some significant developments that cannot be explained simply by resort to the standard "explanations" of partisanship and ideology.

There are moments when voters make decisions based not on party labels or the dictates of talk-radio personalities but on a more complex and more personal measure of which candidate they think is better suited to the presidency.

In other words, a good many voters-more than most pols and pundits care to admit-can be influenced by an unexpected, often unintended, signal that a particular contender is on top of things.

This would appear to explain why President Obama's poll numbers have spiked since the US Supreme Court rejected the right-wing fantasy that the Affordable Care Act was "unconstitutional." The healthcare reform law was never at odds with the founding document or its amendments, so conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and the majority that concurred with him merely confirming what was already obvious to all but the most ardent of reactionaries.

Needless to say, that confirmation was insufficient or the dead-enders who will oppose anything that this president and the congressional Democrats who align with him choose to do.

But for a significant portion of the electorate, perhaps even a definitional portion, the high court's stamp of approval appears to have given Obama a significant boost.

One does not need to approve or disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, itself, nor to approve or disaprove of Obama, himself, to recognize that the president has had a very good few days since Roberts placed his stamp of approval on the president's signature legislation.

It has been a long time since this president has had this much good news-with headlines in publications such as the Capitol Hill-insider paper The Hill declaring "Obama Gets Polling Bump From High Court Ruling" and "Obama Holds Edge on Healthcare Policy After Court Ruling." Newsday noted "Supreme Court Ruling Ups Support for Obama," while a Yahoo! News survey of surveys declared: "Polls Show Obama Gets Boost from Supreme Court Ruling."

By the finish of the weekend following the court's decision, the Gallup Organization's daily tracking poll gave Obama a 5 point lead (48-43) over Romney-the widest advantage for the president since April. Fresh surveys by CNN, Newsweek and others polling organizations had Obama up by 3 to 5 points, Only the Republican-friendly Rasmussen group still had Romney in the lead; and even Rasmussen noted some good movement for the president in the immediate aftermath of the court's ruling.

Of course, those numbers aren't going to hold precisely for Obama. By Tuesday, the Gallip Poll already had his lead narrowing to 4 points.

But the polling pattern remained a good one for the president, especially when in a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that a majority of independent voters now believe that-in light of the court ruling-it is time for Republican opponents of the reform to "stop their efforts to block the law and move on to other national problems."

Those words are music to the ears of Obama strategists, and a frustration for the Romney camp-as the bumbling responses of the presumptive Republican nominee so amply illustrate, (Sample headlines Tuesday from The Hill: "Team Romney Muddling Republican Message After Healthcare Ruling"; The San Francisco Chronicle: "Team Romney Contradicts Other Republicans on Health Care Tax"; the Telegraph of London: "Mitt Romney is Struggling With Health Care 'Problem'.")

Obama has a long re-election race ahead of him, and the perceptions that have taken hold in recent days could shift. But it is increasingly evident that he has gained precisely the sort of boost that an incumbent seeking a second term would want in the midst of the campaign. The Court has verified his approach, and perhaps even his competence, for millions of voters.

To be sure, voters who have always loved Obama will still love him. And voters who have always hated Obama will still hate him. But those voters who weren't entirely sure about him now have a bit of Court-ordered encouragement to look anew at the president-and a sense that Obama might just know what he is doing.
(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been publshed by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

In Defense Of "Spiritual"
By Sam Harris

In writing my next book, I will have to confront the animosity that many people feel for the term "spiritual." Whenever I use the word - as in referring to meditation as a "spiritual practice" - I inevitably hear from fellow skeptics and atheists who think that I have committed a grievous error.

The word "spirit" comes from the Latin spiritus, which in turn descends from the Greek pneuma, meaning "breath." Around the 13th century, the term became bound up with notions of immaterial souls, supernatural beings, ghosts, etc. It acquired other connotations as well - we speak of the spirit of a thing as its most essential principle, or of certain volatile substances and liquors as spirits. Nevertheless, many atheists now consider "spiritual" thoroughly poisoned by its association with medieval superstition.

I strive for precision in my use of language, but I do not share these semantic concerns. And I would point out that my late friend Christopher Hitchens - no enemy of the lexicographer - didn't share them either. Hitch believed that "spiritual" was a term we could not do without, and he repeatedly plucked it from the mire of supernaturalism in which it has languished for nearly a thousand years.

It is true that Hitch didn't think about spirituality in precisely the way I do. He spoke instead of the spiritual pleasures afforded by certain works of poetry, music, and art. The symmetry and beauty of the Parthenon embodied this happy extreme for him - without any requirement that we admit the existence of the goddess Athena, much less devote ourselves to her worship. Hitch also used the terms "numinous" and "transcendent" to mark occasions of great beauty or significance - and for him the Hubble Deep Field was an example of both. I'm sure he was aware that pedantic excursions into the OED would produce etymological embarrassments regarding these words as well.

We must reclaim good words and put them to good use - and this is what I intend to do with "spiritual." I have no quarrel with Hitch's general use of it to mean something like "beauty or significance that provokes awe," but I believe that we can also use it in a narrower and, indeed, more transcendent sense.

Of course, "spiritual" and its cognates have some unfortunate associations unrelated to their etymology - and I will do my best to cut those ties as well. But there seems to be no other term (apart from the even more problematic "mystical" or the more restrictive "contemplative") with which to discuss the deliberate efforts some people make to overcome their feeling of separateness - through meditation, psychedelics, or other means of inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness. And I find neologisms pretentious and annoying. Hence, I appear to have no choice: "Spiritual" it is.
(c) 2012 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Andy Singer ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Romney Spends Most Of Factory Visit Yelling At Employees To Work Harder

NORTHFIELD, OH - Sources at the Gregson-Turner Paper Co. confirmed that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spent the vast majority of his visit to the company's Ohio-based factory Tuesday yelling at employees to work harder.

Romney, who said the stop was an essential part of his tour of America's manufacturing sector, arrived at the facility at approximately 10 a.m. and within minutes began mercilessly hounding workers throughout the plant to "get their acts together" and "start pounding out some paper, c'mon."

"You people have been at work for nearly four hours and this is all you have to show for it? With all of this equipment?" a frustrated Romney reportedly shouted from the center of the factory while standing near several dozens crates of the day's completed paper supply. "What a truly pathetic performance. You guys better think about tightening things up around here fast, because what I'm seeing right now is completely unacceptable."

"For God's sake, there should be 20 to 30 percent more paper out here!" Romney added.

According to sources, the GOP candidate continually screamed at workers throughout the expansive paper mill to "stop slacking off," and in some cases even stood behind individual employees for as long as 15 minutes, loudly critiquing what he called the "unbelievable sloppiness" on display during every step of the paper's production cycle.

"This is what they're paying you to do?" sources said Romney barked to a lone worker transferring large rags of cotton pulp into a metallic spinning cylinder. "You're just embarrassing yourself now, aren't you? For Christ's sake, put your back into it! God knows you'll be making this up in overtime."

"And what the hell do you all think you're doing?" Romney then said to the room of workers now standing and staring at the scene. "Get back to work!" Onlookers said the former Massachusetts governor later walked into the company's cafeteria and told workers on their lunch break that "10 minutes was more than enough time to eat a damned sandwich," coarsely reminding them that "the paper wasn't going to produce itself out there."

The few employees who attempted to shake Romney's hand were quickly reprimanded by the candidate, who curtly told them to return to their jobs, telling them his visit was not "some sort of excuse to have a social hour."

Sources said the former Massachusetts governor also provided several ideas for improving productivity at the facility, the majority of which, according to Romney, involved "trimming the fat" and "finally getting around to chucking out some of the dead weight around [the factory]."

"Now, someone like you we can easily fire," Romney was overheard telling an employee removing paper bales from the mill's loading space. "How exactly are you essential? No, honestly, give me one good reason-just one-why you should have a paying job here. Because I look at you and all I see is a pink slip and an extra 25 grand a year that could be funneled somewhere else."

"I'm telling you, I've seen machines do your job way, way faster and for free," added Romney, jutting a finger into the man's face. "Remember that. And wipe that stupid look off your face." According to company officials, Romney proceeded to outline how dozens of jobs across the paper mill were unnecessary, noting that terminations would be required because, while there were much-needed managerial roles to be filled, current employees "lacked even a basic education" and could not seriously be considered for them.

"See, if I were in charge, I'd probably just move the entire plant to Taiwan and save us all a big chunk of change," Romney said. "It's stupid to overpay a massive, bloated staff like this when someone faster and younger can do all this overseas for a fraction of the price. That's just common business sense. You'd seriously have to be an idiot not to see that, but hey, maybe that's exactly what I'm dealing with here: idiots."

"Thanks for all of your support again, guys," Romney added as he left the factory.
(c) 2012 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 27 (c) 07/06/2012

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