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In This Edition

David Michael Green says, "It's Just Parchment, Get Over It."

Uri Avnery examines, "Poisoning Arafat."

Phil Rockstroh explores, "After The Fireworks Have Faded."

Matt Taibbi discovers, "New York Times, Gretchen Morgenson Applaud British, Issue Challenge To American Regulators Over LIBOR Scandal."

Jim Hightower finds, "Exxon's T-Rex Caught In A Wildfire."

Mike Elk wonders, "Is Union Busting To Blame For Power Outages In D.C.?."

James Donahue explains, "Why Finding The Higgs Boson Is Exciting Physicists."

Amy Goodman rhymes, "The Pain In Spain Falls Mainly On The Plain (Folk)."

David Sirota asks, "Are You Smart Enough To Be A Citizen?"

Mickey Z. reports, "The Corporate Media Occupies A News Blackout."

Paul Krugman considers, "Mitt's Gray Areas."

Glen Ford returns with, "Obama Bound For Mount Rushmore?"

Robert Reich reveals, "The Wall Street Scandal Of All Scandals."

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols concludes, "A House Vote Frames The Health-Care Debate For The Fall."

Adam Keller joins us with, "To Shirk Or Not To Shirk - Is That The Question?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Landover Baptist Church warns of, "Mitt Romney's Crazy Religious Beliefs!" but first Uncle Ernie wonders, "How Can Deniers Keep Denying Reality?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jen Sorensen, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Mickey Z, Ruben Bolling, Politifake.Org, Internet Weekly.Org, CERN, Albion Monitor Graphic, Chip Somodevilla, Alex Wong, Mark Lennihan, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report.Com, The Landover Baptist Church.Org, 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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How Can Deniers Keep Denying Reality?
By Ernest Stewart

" has been a nervous year and people have begun to feel like a Christian scientist with appendicitis." ~~~ Tom Lehrer

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

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

"Promise a lot and give even more." ~~~ Anthony J. D'Angelo

The American reality bubble is about to burst, and when it does it's really going to hit the fan. As we've discussed on many occasions, many Americans on both the right and the farther right have trouble seeing the truth -- even if you bust them upside the head with it. You see, the truth is very scary, and even harder to deal with when you have a certain mindset.

This mind set is drilled into them from the day they are born by their parents, their teachers, their clergy and their government so they get by, thinking they are free, when what they are is slaves to the 1%. Just as their parents were and their grandparents, etc. They don't mind being working class, because someday they'll be rich like Willard, or Tush, or any member of the Wall Street cabal; because American dreams do come true, except, of course, by design, they don't?

However, it's getting harder and harder to keep the Sheeple in their place with just "Who you gonna believe your 1% masters or your own lying eyes?" The great global warming deniers' schemes are beginning to unravel, even to the Matrix-enclosed Sheeple!

Consider that just last week alone, there were, in the US, over 3,000 heat records broken; we are again, for the third year in a row, the hottest year on record. For example, in Detroit we had a week of 100 degree-plus temps. In parts of Europe and Russia, they got 3 months of rain in 24 hours! There were 7 states on fire from California to Michigan, with the Colorado fires the worst in their history. Because of the heat and the drought in the Southwest, there are the beginnings of dust storms that are beginning to rival the storms of the 30s, except this time around it has nothing to do with the agriculture's methods, and everything to do with the excessive heat and drought! Consider the mini-Ice Age that engulfed most of Europe (and would no doubt still be happening today as it did for over 500 years) was stopped in its tracks and reversed with less than 100 years of heavy industry -- even with things like the year without a summer in 1816, caused by an exploding volcano. The ice packs are melting at an alarming rate, and parts of the world from the Pacific Ocean to the Eastern Seaboard are disappearing underwater. It's hit the fan, folks!

Even the Sheeple are beginning to have doubts about the bull sh*t flowing from the mouths of Billo, Tush and the rest. Even dyed-in-the-wool fascists are beginning to get it.

Hell, as dumb as these three are, even they get it; so, sooner or later the Sheeple will get it, too:

"I don't speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world's getting warmer. I can't prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that ... so I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you're seeing." ~~~ Willard Romney

"I recognize the surface of the earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem." ~~~ George W. Bush ~ July 7th, 2005

"I believe that man's activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming, climate change." ~~~ Sarah Palin ~ September 12 2008

When your child dies in a heat wave, because the power company got rid of the union and the amateurs that they hired can't restore the power when it's 106. When a firestorm burns your house and all your belongings to the ground. When tornadoes level your neighborhood. When a flood washes away all your property, you will come to the conclusion that the talking heads on Fox Spews or CNN or ABC or NBC or CBS have been lying their asses off to you for their corpo-rat masters, and now you have to pay for their lies. It may finally get through to you, or maybe not, as nothing else has ever punctured the dream, not war, not torture, not the destruction of the Bill of Rights, or economic collapse!

Wake up, America; this is only the tip of the iceberg!

In Other News

Those masters of evil over in the House Agricultural Committee are at it again. Are you hip to Section 733 of the House Agricultural Appropriations Bill? Or as some are calling it the "Monsanto Protection Act." I know, which Monsanto Protection Act? There have been so many Corpo-rat protection acts over the years that the mind boggles that any of us are still alive by the poisons that are allowed in American food.

I know what you're thinking, by what euphemism are they calling this act of treason? You know how politicians love their euphemism. For example, two of my favorites are, "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (Obamacare) and "The Patriot Act" (The Traitors Act), this ones called "Farmer Assurance Provision." Are alarm bells starting to ring in your mind? They should be!

What this particular act of treason does is to tie the hands of the judiciary by allowing Monsanto to put in production any new GMO horror they devise and damn the lawsuits that are filed against them. Monsanto will be able to introduce their latest new bio-horror to the environment until the court cases are settled, i.e., "(Section 733), the provision strips the rights of federal courts to halt the sale and planting of genetically engineered crops during the legal appeals process."

Up until now, environmental activists have successfully won in court the right to halt the sale and planting of unapproved GMO crops "while the approval of those crops is under review by a federal judge." Which you will agree is a good idea as none of these man made mistakes has ever been tested outside of a laboratory and then only for a very short time by an industry that couldn't care less about your families health or if this could turn into a new plague on the environment. It's all about making a buck and damn the customers or the planets health. Now couple this with an FDA and a USDA that's been bought and paid for over a century, and we have the disaster that is ready to explode all across America, and then the world. I'm sure they look upon this as just "culling the herd!" And make no mistake, they're not eating any of their Frankenfood, nary a drop!

You might want to look at those numbers on your fruits and vegetables? If it has four numbers it's done the "old" way, regular seed, regular farming techniques. If it has five numbers beginning with a nine that means it's been grown organic, with organic techniques. If it's five numbers beginning with an eight, beware, it's Frankenfood! Bon Appetit, America!

And Finally

There's more good news from those friendly folks over at the Fatherland, oops, my bad, Homeland Security Services, actually saying it either way means the same thing, Jawohl? Now ve really have vays to make you cooperate! Ve have your mater und pater in das camp 13!

Rumor has it in less than one year, the gestapo will have a mobile (suitcase-sized), long-range (around 100 yards), laser-based molecular scanner that can identify any chemical substance in or on your body, including various explosives, those marijuana brownies in your stomach -- in fact, anything and everything in you or on you. The scanner is called the "Picosecond Programmable Laser." The device works by blasting its target with lasers which vibrate molecules that are then read by the machine that determine what substances a person has been exposed to. So, next Fourth of July after you watch the fireworks then head over to the airport to fly back home, do expect a delay in your travel plans and a thorough body cavity search!

A security services spokes-weasel says, "...the technology will be used to identify explosives, dangerous chemicals or bio-weapons at airports, border crossings and other high traffic locations throughout the United States." In fact, since it is extremely portable it can be set up anywhere, by anyone for any reason!

The device is said to be, "one million times faster than its predecessor," which means authorities will be able to collect and store "molecular tags" on huge numbers of people at a time, not just the suspects or people who are randomly selected and without the knowledge of those who are targeted. Outside of a sporting event, at the mall, in the elementary schools, anywhere, against anyone, at any time, and you'll probably never know, nor will your permission ever be required. That's what you get for putting up with TSA and those scanners. Now, it won't just be a TSA picture of your genitals to be passed around, but your very molecular makeup! Are we having fun yet or what?

And like the pretend research on Frankenfoods there has so far been no discussion about the personal rights and privacy issues involved in this brave new world. Exactly which "molecular tags" will they be scanning for? Who determines them? What are the threshold levels of this scanning? Can they use those brownies in your belly to testify against yourself in some black ops kangaroo court? Will the money you got from the bank, which had a small but traceable amount of cocaine which rubbed off on Grannies fingers when she bought a tin of meat for the cat lead to her strip search and incarceration? Are you still wondering why we have all those empty "Happy Camps," America?

Keepin' On

We're still hanging in here thanks to a nice check from Barbara and Kathy from El Paso, thanks, ladies! However, we still have a long way to go to pay July's bill, not to mention the final bill due the first week in October. Unfortunately, our "regular suspects" haven't been so regular of late. So, we need to hear from you newbies, and all the folks who lurk in the shadows but don't help out as they should. For those of you who are as broke as we are, and have a hard time putting bread on the table, don't feel bad; if you want to help us tell your friends about us, send our address around Facebook or through your social network. For those of you who have a job and read us every week, send in your fair share, and perhaps a share for those who can't; it will do wonders for your Karma! Just visit our donations page and follow the instructions. You'll feel better when you do!

We have a couple of new authors joining our little band of "merry pranksters" this week. We like to welcome Gush Shalom's spokesman and one of its founding members Adam Keller, who fights the good fight along side Uri Avnery and folks any friend of Uri's is a friend of mine!

Also, we'd like to welcome author and radical occupier Mickey Z. to the magazine. Mickey's been raising hell and taking names for our rights, putting his life on the line to back up his rhetoric, which is exactly how it should be for everyone. So get up off the couch, and get into the streets and make yourself count!

Oh, and Mickey and Adam, the key to the honor bar is under the mat!


O1-24-1917 ~ 07-08-2012
Thanks for the film!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 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.

It's Just Parchment, Get Over It
By David Michael Green

Last week America engaged in one of its perennial paroxysms of constitutional cogitation - this time over the Obama health care bill - with (mostly) predictable results.

Four of the great legal priests on our High Temple's Council of Scriptural Interpretation said that, yes, the Affordable Care Act was within the boundaries of what a small collection of men riding horseback to a meeting in Philadelphia one summer two-and-a-quarter centuries ago allow us to do today as a continent-wide superpower society of 300 million people in the age of atom bombs, space travel, heart transplants and genetic engineering. George and John and Thomas say it's okay, we can have health care. Whew. That's a relief.

But then four other priests insisted, "Oh, no, this is fundamentally not allowed. Not at all."

And one apparently went both ways, voting against it before he was for it.

Such, in "the greatest country in the world" - as regressives, doing their national equivalent of Allahu Akbar, seek to assuage their insecurities and reassure themselves by constantly shouting at the rest of us - is the way we determine whether tens of millions of children will or will not receive pediatric care. This - by pondering what would John Hancock do? - is how we figure out whether one-sixth of our population deserves to have their lives lengthened by early cancer detection and intervention, or must instead resort to 'treatment' of their already metastasized masses in hospital emergency rooms.

The very fact of this debate and the questions on which it turns tells you far more than you'd care to know about just how great your greatest country is, the one which spends vastly more on health care than any other, but delivers the least to its citizens. But that is the subject of an essay (or six) for another day.

Today's rant is on the destructive dogmas and horrid habits of our national addiction to the practice of constitutionalism itself.

By that, I don't mean the fact that law in America is ultimately decided by five unelected, politically insulated and almost entirely unremovable individuals, meeting in secret and doing who knows what underneath their black robes. I have addressed the wisdom of that profoundly undemocratic process, known as judicial review, previously.

Though that's not our concern here, the absurdity of the process as demonstrated so emphatically once again last week nevertheless cannot go without being briefly noted. How anyone can argue with a straight face that judicial review of legislation in America - especially in our hyper-polarized era, where presidential elections are as much about loading up the courts as they are about executive branch policies - is not entirely political, but purely about 'finding' the constitutionality of issues, is quite beyond me. I guess it's just a massive coincidence that the votes of Supreme Court are almost always entirely predictable based on ideology, eh? I guess it's also just a quirk of legal quantum mechanics that conservative justices always find their way to the conservative ruling, no matter what principles they need to invoke to get there. If, for example, the question is whether the federal government has the power under the commerce clause to smash state law on medical marijuana, Scary Scalia explicitly says, "Hell, yes, the feds can do just about anything they want!" Anything except, as it turns out, providing people with health care. Then, it's abundantly clear to the very same good judge, that the national government has no such power according to the very same provision of the Constitution.

Anyone who would still today deny that the Supreme Court is little short of a profoundly non-democratic mini-legislature is simply lying to you, and probably lying to themselves as well. The very ideological predictability of the justices' votes, and the way they obliterate any principle in their way makes that emphatically clear, as does the swaggering aggressive activism of the regressive majority of the Court in cases like Bush v. Gore or Citizens United. As, for that matter, does the rage this week in the regressive community focused on John Roberts for his defection from Tory orthodoxy. Does anyone seriously think that these people have a problem with his 'legal reasoning', as opposed to his ultimate vote? Let's not be ridiculous. They're angry because a guy on the conservative team defected to the enemy, and legal principles have nothing whatsoever to do with it. It's like the friends and family of a Red Sox fan who suddenly starts rooting for the Yankees.

By the way, the vote itself also demonstrates the pure politicization of the judicial process. By the available evidence, the good tool Roberts appears to have been all set to have voted his ideology in this case, just as he has in the past, and just as we'd expect him to have done on this issue. But then something happened, and he switched votes. I can tell you what that something was, and why it effected John Roberts and not, say, Anthony Kennedy, who is normally considered the ideological swing vote (though never, it should be noted, when there is real money on the table). What happened was that the rising crescendo of criticism of the Court for its ideological bias, its massive overreach, and the horrific decisions it has been rendering, such as those creating the Bush presidency and the monstrosity of corporate-owned government, got to him. If there was a single development that switched Roberts' vote, it was the New York Times front page article published in recent weeks detailing poll data which demonstrate that America's admiration for the Court is way down, at historic lows. This is why it was Roberts who switched, and not one of the associate justices. His name will forever be attached to this court, and he didn't want history to record that it was the Roberts Court that ruined the historically well-regarded institution. He didn't want 'Roberts Court' to show up on the same list as Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson. By taking a hit on this big issue once, he can now go back to stuffing plutocracy down our throats, as he assuredly will, but henceforth with an historic alibi in his pocket. In other words for the next thirty years we'll be hearing: "Hey, you can't say my vote is always just a shill for the corporatist oligarchy - look how I voted on Obamacare!"

But I digress (and digress some more).

Our current system of jurisprudence - which is often really our current system of legislation - is wrong on all sorts of levels. It was, to begin with, a bad idea for these justices to be deciding health care policy in America. And it was an even worse idea for them to be doing so on the basis of attempting (or pretending to be attempting) to decipher the Founders' thoughts about the provision of health care to the public, more than a century before governments anywhere ever contemplated providing such services, and two centuries before it became the norm in developed countries.

But what's really wrong, at the foundation of this pyramid of bad practices, is the whole notion of constitutionalism itself. Somehow we've gotten it into our heads that we as a twenty-first century contemporary society are only permitted to do what the Constitution of the late eighteenth century permits us to do. I, for one, don't see the wisdom in that at all, and I say that for a number of good reasons.

To begin with, it is a fool's errand to believe that we can ascertain the intentions of the Founders on a huge raft of contemporary issues which - like radar itself, would have been completely off their screens in the pre-industrial, let alone pre-post-industrial, agrarian society in which they lived. Even the Founders themselves - the very people who wrote the document in question - began debating about what the Constitution permits immediately after ratification, notably the 1790 row between Hamilton and Madison over whether a federal bank was permitted.

That particular debate - between two key authors of the Constitution a mere one year after it was ratified - suggests a second problem with the notion of constitutionalism as the foundational mechanism for policy-making. Namely, that the document is written in vague enough language in many places so as to permit multiple interpretations on given questions, each sometimes equally valid. Not for nothing, for example, is one of the key provisions of the document referred to as the "elastic clause". So already, any rationale for making decisions on everything from health care to pornography to torture to racial equality in this fashion is on the shakiest of grounds on the basis of these two critiques alone. But there are other reasons for rejecting this approach as well. Americans love and revere their constitution, but my guess is very few of them could begin to tell you why, and among that handful, even fewer still could defend the laudable characteristics they might be able to identify in any sort of comparative contest against alternative possibilities. It's quite a lot like religion. If you feed a society "Allah, Allah, Allah" non-stop, 99 percent of its members are gonna turn out to be good Muslims (some of them quite fervent) without thinking about it one way or the other (and the other one percent will, I assure you, be very quiet about their doubts). You can even go "Jesus, Santa, Jesus, Santa" if you want, and then come along ten years later and say "Just kidding about the Santa part - but the Jesus thing is totally real!", and that's exactly the set of beliefs you'll get, almost no one ever looking askance.

And that's pretty much how we do our knee-jerk constitutional adoration in this country, as well.

But, truth be told, it's actually not such a very good document, if we're honest about it. I know you're not supposed to say that, but then again if we occasionally told the truth in America we wouldn't be in the mess we're in right now either. So I will.

The first thing to notice about the Constitution, looked at dispassionately, is what is not in it. It is, in terms of actual content, very little of a moral statement at all. It does include some guaranteed freedoms as something of an afterthought in the Bill of Rights, but it does not otherwise have any substantive content, especially on any serious ethical or philosophical issues. Moreover, on the great moral question of democratic inclusion, the prescriptions of the Constitution are highly wanting (though some - but not all - of this may be fairly excused by the ethos of the historical moment). There is no room for women here, nor for less-than-wealthy men, nor for non-whites. I don't know about you, but if you want me to be impressed with any given manifesto or political statement, it needs to stand for something at least a bit novel and profound.

So what is in the document, then, if not some secular equivalent of the Ten Commandments? It is essentially a blueprint for a governing structure, and little else of note. The Constitution says who decides in American society, how they come to occupy those positions, and how these positions relate to each other in terms of their powers. That's just about it, really.

Now, if that happened to represent some brilliant form of governing structure, far superior to all the others, then I might be persuaded that our national reverence for this centuries old document was well founded. In point of fact, however, I would argue rather the opposite is true here. Though I think the Constitution represents a fairly clever bit of engineering on the part of the Founders, given the goals and parameters of their moment, those aren't goals I particularly share, nor can they be fairly argued to be very much helpful to national governance in our time.

For the key thrust of the regime created by the Founders in the Constitution is the dilution of power. Their task was to come up with a government of stronger power than the failing Articles of Confederation, but they were adamant that it not be too strong, so they found three ways to spread power out. First, vertically, by sharing power between the states and the federal government. Second, horizontally, within the federal government, by means of separation of powers across independent branches of policy-making and implementing institutions, otherwise known as the idea of 'checks and balances'. And, third, by expressly limiting the powers that the federal government possessed over the public and over the states, as itemized in the Bill of Rights.

It was a fairly clever bit of engineering considering the needle the Founders had to thread between strength and weakness at their specific historical moment, but is it a particularly efficient or otherwise felicitous form of government for our purposes today? I dunno - can you say 'gridlock', dude? Do Americans seem remotely enamored with their government today?

This is a governing structure that is designed to mostly be incapable of doing anything, other than when very, very broad consensus exists across all the governing institutions. The diffusion of power also means that assigning responsibility is rather difficult as well. If you're unhappy with your government today, who do you blame? Democrats? Republicans? The President? Congress? The Courts? And if you have a hard time affixing blame, how can you choose a different alternative as a remedy?

I would argue that this is a form of government - one in which so many veto points guarantee relative inaction - only well suited to a people who are paranoid about the supposed perils of governmental powers. It's true that probably no other culture on the planet fits that description as well as American society, but that said, it seems to me that there comes a point at which the dysfunctionality of weak government outweighs any benefits. Besides which, the small government limitations in place today seem only to apply to making it difficult for our government to provide benefits for its citizens, like health care. When it comes to the really ugly stuff (and the stuff that the Founders were concerned about) - like unrestrained warfare, warrantless spying on citizens, endless incarceration without due process, and now even assassination of citizens on the president's unilateral whim - there's no small government to be found anywhere in sight, anyhow. And, by the way, do the other democracies of the world - those not possessing the power-diffusing principles of governance America has - suffer from totalitarian regimes controlling their subjects' lives in some sort of nightmare right out of Orwell? Is that what you see in Sweden? Canada? New Zealand?

Which reminds us that there is a better way, actually. In a parliamentary, unitary (non-federalist) democracy, power resides in parliament. Period. Which also means that responsibility resides there as well. There are no checks and balances, no competing institutions, no great secular scripture on high to consult, and no gridlock. If you don't like the way things are going in your country, you know who to blame, and what to do about it at the next election.

And this reminds us further, then, that American ultra-reverence for the US Constitution is even more misplaced. The main thing - indeed, just about the only thing - that the document does is to spell out the governing structure for the society. I'd say that's undeserving of reverence enough but if, in doing so, it prescribes a fairly dysfunctional one, why must we always genuflect in its direction every time we need to make a decision more than two centuries later? If it doesn't even do the one thing it was designed to do so very well, why in the world should it be controlling our lives?

There are two great ironies here. One is that I suspect that we take the Founders a whole helluva lot more seriously than they took themselves. They referred to their regime-creating enterprise as an "experiment", and they meant that rather literally. Not only did they not think their Constitution walked on water, they didn't really have much of a clue as to whether it could work. And there were good reasons to adopt such a healthy skepticism. First because they had gotten it wrong very recently, and not once, but twice. They had tried monarchy and abandoned it as a failure. They then substituted the Articles of Confederation, a governing design so flawed it barely lasted a decade. Moreover, if you look at what actually transpired at the constitutional convention, you see all sorts of ideas and debates and compromises flying around amongst the delegates. The point is, it's not like these people were hand-delivered an instruction manual for good governance by the Supreme Being. They knew that they weren't, so how come we don't?

The other great irony here is that our twenty-first century slavish reverence for the diktats of the Constitution (or what some of us claim to be able to decipher as its diktats) does a massive disservice to the one great thing that the Founders actually did contribute in penning the document.

In truth, it's not the contents of the Constitution that are to be greatly admired, for all the reasons noted above. This was a significantly flawed document in 1787, and is even more so today. What really matters is not what they did so much as that they did it. The really amazing thing about the Founders and the Enlightenment movement of which they were leading lights, was the transition they provided to the concept of self-rule, and to the notion of governance based on the principle of reason, or rational analysis based on empirical observation. This idea was almost wholly foreign to their time, and their broader ethos that humans could be trusted to think for themselves and govern themselves was truly a gigantic leap out of the dark ages and into modernity. Indeed, Enlightenment ideas arguably represent the most significant development in all of human history.

For this, I truly admire the confidence, courage and ingenuity of Founders' generation, and I'm truly grateful for their contribution.

In light of this, then, how much more absurd and sad is it that we - centuries further down the road - dishonor their contribution by continually trying to make policy on the basis of interpreting some über-text written by some quasi-deities from a wholly different culture and time, instead of following their prime directive and thinking for ourselves?

I'm pretty confident that the Founders would agree that in slavishly seeking to decipher their ancient words and letting those govern us today, we have in fact missed the very core essence of what they were trying to say.

Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most destructive forces in American history, not long ago had a message for liberals and other patriots still smarting from the judicial coup he engineered which put another of the most destructive forces in our history into the White House for eight years: "Get over it" said the nice judge.

I'd like to return the favor with respect to his brand of regressivism masked as constitutional originalism: It's just parchment, people. Get over it.
(c) 2012 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

Poisoning Arafat
By Uri Avnery

FOR ME, there was no surprise. From the very first day, I was convinced that Yasser Arafat had been poisoned by Ariel Sharon. I even wrote about it several times.

It was a simple logical conclusion.

First, a thorough medical examination in the French military hospital where he died did not find any cause for his sudden collapse and death. No traces of any life-threatening disease were found.

The rumors distributed by the Israeli propaganda machine that Arafat had AIDS were blatant lies. They were a continuation of the rumors spread by the same machine that he was gay - all part of the relentless demonization of the Palestinian leader, which went on daily for decades.

When there is no obvious cause of death, there must be a less obvious one.

Second, we know by now that several secret services possess poisons that leave no routinely detectable trace. These include the CIA, the Russian FSB (successor of the KGB), and the Mossad.

Third, opportunities were plentiful. Arafat's security arrangements were decidedly lax. He would embrace perfect strangers who presented themselves as sympathizers of the Palestinian cause and often seated them next to himself at meals.

Fourth, there were plenty of people who aimed at killing him and had the means to do so. The most obvious one was our prime minister, Ariel Sharon. He had even talked about Arafat having "no insurance policy" in 2004.

WHAT WAS previously a logical probability has now become a certainty.

An examination of his belongings commissioned by Aljazeera TV and conducted by a highly respected Swiss scientific institute has confirmed that Arafat was poisoned with Polonium, a deadly radioactive substance that avoids detection unless one specifically looks for it.

Two years after Arafat's death, the Russian dissident and former KGB/FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London by Russian agents using this poison. The cause was discovered by his doctors by accident. It took him three weeks to die.

Closer to home, in Amman, Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al was almost killed in 1997 by the Mossad, on orders of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The means was a poison that kills within days after coming into contact with the skin. The assassination was bungled and the victim's life was saved when the Mossad was compelled, after an ultimatum from King Hussein, to provide an antidote in time.

If Arafat's widow, Suha, succeeds in getting his body exhumed from the mausoleum in the Mukata'a in Ramallah, where it has become a national symbol, the poison will undoubtably be found in his body.

ARAFAT'S LACK of proper security arrangements always astonished me. Israeli Prime Ministers are tenfold better protected.

I remonstrated with him several times. He shrugged it off. In this respect, he was a fatalist. After his life was miraculously preserved when his airplane made a crash landing in the Libyan Desert and the people around him were killed, he was convinced that Allah was protecting him.

(Though the head of a secular movement with a clear secular program, he himself was an observant Sunni Muslim, praying at the proper times and abstaining from alcohol. He did not impose his piety on his assistants.)

Once he was interviewed in my presence in Ramallah. The journalists asked him if he expected to see the creation of the Palestinian state in his lifetime. His answer: "Both I and Uri Avnery will see it in our life." He was quite sure of this.

ARIEL SHARON'S determination to kill Arafat was well known. Already during the siege of Beirut in Lebanon War I, it was no secret that agents were combing West Beirut for his whereabouts. To Sharon's great frustration, they did not find him.

Even after Oslo, when Arafat came back to Palestine, Sharon did not let up. When he became Prime Minister, my fear for Arafat's life became acute. When our army attacked Ramallah during "Operation Defensive Shield" they broke into Arafat's compound (Mukata'a is Arabic for compound) and came within 10 meters of his rooms. I saw them with my own eyes.

Twice during the siege of many months my friends and I went to stay at the Mukata'a for several days to serve as a human shield. When Sharon was asked why he did not kill Arafat, he answered that the presence of Israelis there made it impossible.

However, I believe that this was only a pretext. It was the US that forbade it. The Americans feared, quite rightly, that an open assassination would cause the whole Arab and Muslim world to explode in anti-American fury. I cannot prove it, but I am sure that Sharon was told by Washington:

"On no condition are you allowed to kill him in a way that can be traced to you. If you can do it without leaving a trace, go ahead."

(Just as the US Secretary of State told Sharon in 1982 that on no condition was he allowed to attack Lebanon, unless there was a clear and internationally recognized provocation. Which was promptly provided.)

In an eerie coincidence, Sharon himself was felled by a stroke soon after Arafat's death, and has lived in a coma ever since.)

THE DAY Aljazeera's conclusions were published this week happened to be the 30th anniversary of my first meeting with Arafat, which for him was the first meeting with an Israeli.

It was at the height of the battle of Beirut. To get to him, I had to cross the lines of four belligerents - the Israeli army, the Christian Lebanese Phalange militia, the Lebanese army and the PLO forces.

I spoke with Arafat for two hours. There, in the middle of a war, when he could expect to find his death at any moment, we talked about Israeli-Palestinian peace, and even a federation of Israel and Palestine, perhaps to be joined by Jordan.

The meeting, which was announced by Arafat's office, caused a worldwide sensation. My account of the conversation was published in several leading newspapers.

On my way home, I heard on the radio that four cabinet ministers were demanding that I be put on trial for treason. The government of Menachem Begin instructed the Attorney General to open a criminal investigation. However, after several weeks, the AG determined that I had not broken any law. (The law was duly changed soon afterwards.)

IN THE many meetings I held with Arafat since then, I became totally convinced that he was an effective and trustworthy partner for peace.

I slowly began to understand how this father of the modern Palestinian liberation movement, considered an arch-terrorist by Israel and the US, became the leader of the Palestinian peace effort. Few people in history have been privileged to lead two successive revolutions in their lifetime.

When Arafat started his work, Palestine had disappeared from the map and from world consciousness. By using the "armed struggle" (alias "terrorism")' he succeeded in putting Palestine back on the world's agenda.

His change of orientation occurred right after the 1973 war. That war, it will be remembered, started with stunning Arab successes and ended with a rout of the Egyptian and Syrian armies. Arafat, an engineer by profession, drew the logical conclusion: if the Arabs could not win an armed confrontation even in such ideal circumstances, other means had to be found.

His decision to start peace negotiations with Israel went totally against the grain of the Palestinian National Movement, which considered Israel as a foreign invader. It took Arafat a full 15 years to convince his own people to accept his line, using all his wiles, tactical deftness and powers of persuasion. In the 1988 meeting of the Palestinian parliament-in-exile, the National Council, his concept was adopted: a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel in part of the country. This state, with its capital in East Jerusalem and its borders based on the Green Line has been, since then, the fixed and unchangeable goal; the legacy of Arafat to his successors.

Not by accident, my contacts with Arafat, first indirectly through his assistants and then directly, started at the same time: 1974. I helped him to establish contact with the Israeli leadership, and especially with Yitzhak Rabin. This led to the 1993 Oslo agreement - which was killed by the assassination of Rabin.

When asked if he had an Israeli friend, Arafat named me. This was based on his belief that I had risked my life when I went to see him in Beirut. On my part, I was grateful for his trust in me when he met me there, at a time when hundreds of Sharon's agents were looking for him.

But beyond personal considerations, Arafat was the man who was able to make peace with Israel, willing to do so, and - more important - to get his people, including the Islamists, to accept it. This would have put an end to the settlement enterprise.

That's why he was poisoned.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

After The Fireworks Have Faded
Intimations of bosons among a cacophony of bozos
By Phil Rockstroh

On July 4, the people of the U.S. marked the passing of another year's perfunctory, Independence Day festivities. The date, also, was occasioned by the formal announcement from physicists at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) that, according to the banner headline at CERN's official website, "Higgs within reach [...] Our understanding of the universe is about to change [...] [Our] experiments see strong indications for the presence of a new particle, which could be the Higgs boson."

Thus, augur the smart people at CERN, a change in our fundamental understanding of the universe, and our place as human beings in it, is at hand. From their lips to the mouth of the God Particle, this development, if true, would be cause for celebration -- that a display of fireworks should be in order -- because of an embrace of the philosophical and social implications of this discovery could be the starting point of a profound form of independence: the release from ossified systems of thought and being, such as those dominating the present era, including the hagiography of U.S. Independence Day.

The people of the U.S. need independence from the demonstrably false notion, held by so many that within their debt-enslaved, corporate interest-beholden lives, they possess any degree of meaningful independence. As U.S. citizens, we are free to, without question, proclaim to the now credulous world how free we are -- but when a citizen resists and takes action (e.g., Bradley Manning) he will, in rapid order, grasp the true nature of this sweet land of liberty. As OWS activists have recently apprehended, under the present order, an individual is at liberty to practice freedom of speech, as long as by doing so, one does not threaten the agendas of the privileged and powerful.

Any fireworks tracing the night sky should be viewed as a demand for the explosion of self-deception. Withal, the concept of independence, clutched by so many under late U.S. empire, is loud and showy, but ultimately evanescent and leaves one feeling empty at its conclusion... a hollowness that traditional Forth of July fare, in the form of obscene portions of hormone-injected, antibiotic-ridden, industrially slaughtered, barbecue-charred animal flesh and beer (the true opiate of the masses) can never sate.

The indicators strongly suggesting the existence of the Higgs Boson -- a particle that serves as a creator and connecting principle of (seemingly) disparate matter -- comes to us in an age, when the people of the U.S. seem unwilling or unable to connect the fact that greenhouse gases, emitted from the tailpipes of their automobiles idling at drive-thru windows of fast food outlets serving industrial bred, raised, hideously exploited, cruelly slaughtered, and carelessly processed animal flesh (an even larger contributor to Climate Chaos than the aforementioned automobiles' exhaust particles) are responsible for less than propitious changes to global climate patterns.

News of the Boson particle -- the so-called God Particle -- into public consciousness arrives, as well, at a time, when as Carl Jung aptly posited, "the gods have become diseases." In short, estranged gods (i.e., patterns of the human psyche that are analogs of terrestrial and cosmic patterns) invade the ego and reside therein as pathologies i.e., compulsions, depression, anxiety, addiction, because their purpose has been discarded and forgotten e.g., the recognition of the sacred quality of life and the evocation of the numinous through ritual. And mainly to bring to humankind the recognition that we, most definitely, are not gods the understanding that our mastery of fire and machine should not infect us with the hubris to believe we are the masters of the universe.

Moreover, we can start with a bit of humility regarding our relationship to the planet upon which we reside and depend on for our survival. The heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and super storms extant should serve as warning enough that there are forces larger than ourselves (that are beyond the control of our tiny, mad will) afoot in the world.

The existence of the Boson Particle would pose essential questions regarding the nature of interconnection and interdependence, cosmological and terrestrial, and our place, as a species, among the order of things. For example, through our hubris, we have conjured raging fires and rising sea levels. Ancient poets would have grasped and vehemently chanted tales of warning...that the gods of fire and the sea had taken offense at our arrogance.

We have reached an age when their metaphors are being made manifest.

Yet, give Americans the choice between freedom, art, and science or all-you-can-eat buffets and the viewing of Jersey Shore, and, well...they have already made their choice clear. Hence, we find ourselves, as a people, stranded in a howling wasteland of destiny deferred.

In a banana republic, there exists a vast stratification of wealth, wherein the middle and merchant classes have been conditioned to harbor little identification with the poor, but feel affinity, thus side with, an economic and military elite. In these societal structures, militarized police are used to quell dissent. The military is glorified and intellectuals are scorned. The function of the political class is to serve the status quo, and they are generally well rewarded for their efforts in behalf of their economic betters.

Any of this sound familiar?

Rather than bananas, we have fast food burgers (grass fed, free range variety, of course, for the minority endowed with economic privilege).

Would you like an order of fries (or, in the case of the latter class, an arugula salad) with your fascism?

Due to the consolidation of wealth and privilege into fewer and fewer hands, requiring escalating amounts of officially mandated surveillance and brutality to maintain social order, the natural trajectory of late stage capitalism tends towards hyper-authoritarian excess, even towards fascism.

Therein, liberals retreat to their comfort zones, while the forsaken laboring class constructs insulating walls of resentment. Dialog becomes prohibitive. "Reasonable" liberals gape with mortification at those to the political right and left of themselves, and attempt to cope by erecting buttresses of unassailable reason...that outsiders perceive as citadels of implacable snobbery.

As important as the function is, and how devoid the retrograde right seems in regard to it, in the struggle to re-imagine and remake the present order, intellectual prowess alone will not suffice, because the intellect, when it marries a like-minded soul, produces a progeny of idiots.

But when the intellect learns the painful dance of self-awareness i.e., develops an awareness of the living landscape of the heart, alive with breathing imagery, then it becomes possible to know the world, sans a fool's swoon of self-referential arrogance.

As is the case with any natural disaster, the seemingly boundless font of stupid extant in the current day U.S. is a sublime thing (as in the relationship between the words, awe and awful) to behold. The scene unfolding before us evokes the mortifying sense of awe experienced while watching a seething nimbus of locust descending on a region's harvest crop.

Images such as these can incur awful pain. There are so many walls of exponential inanity rising before us, in the present day U.S., that one can go mad with grief. We find ourselves within a labyrinth of idiocy; whatever direction we turn, we trudge headlong down yet another corridor of the dumb.

Yet, obstructions are not necessarily a bad thing...Barriers can stop one's drift and slow down manic evasions. There must be something providential glimpsed when gazing upon the blank visage of the hopelessly dim...something we can learn from those unwilling or incapable of learning. But what that is, I, myself, am apparently too dim to glean.

Then it follows: I am humbled. Humility is one key to learning. The loss of arrogant preconceptions opens one, heart and mind, to the an emergent font of new forms.

The unmovable wall of stupid becomes a holy obstruction...unfathomable as the face of divinity. I feel like an idiot when I contemplate the unfolding of eternity. How can one match the eloquence of the night sky, or the weave of a spider's web stippled with morning dew? <> Madame Spider and Mother Boson, I stand before your craft...a gibbering fool. But you have taught me this:

Continue with the work you were born to perform...Live in the demure, would entail falling into the ranks of an idiot's parade comprised of one.

There is much to learn from the stupid, unless the lesson is being presented, exclusively, in the form of first person singular.

No compulsion to gain permanent control can be successful. The field of battle, scattered with the slain corpses of our obsessive aspirations, stands as a testament to our desperate folly. Victory is a vain fantasy of the naive and the psychopathic.

Conversely, allow yourself to be touched by life...caressed and buffeted by beauty, necessity, even mortification and grief. Just continue unfolding into life...All things are transitory. No state of being is permanent. This is the reason attempts at tyranny are an exercise in futility from the get-go.

On the day that Independence Day is celebrated in the U.S. arrived confirming evidence of the existence of the Boson Particle, a possible connecting component of matter.

Accordingly, let's make a few connections: The present order has wrought economic tyrannies and inevitable environmental collapse, and is proliferate with the seeds of its own destruction. It should be evident to anyone with the cognitive capabilities of an over-ripe squash that global, neoliberal capitalism (and its game-rigging, political class-owning, mammon-worshipping cartel of privileged thieves) has entered into an exponentially increasing state of entropic breakdown.

Moreover, measures can be taken to give a push to its doomed trajectory. For example, deflating of the privilege-garnered, liberal comfort bubble, because mainstream liberalism is the buffer zone and graveyard for progressive change insofar as providing true aid for the laboring class and minority communities.

Let current day conservatives keep riding their train of crazy...Their vehicle is in runaway mode; therefore, the sane option is to get out of its hurtling way.

Our tactic: Act is if the doom system has already collapsed (becoming part of the system is like a chicken going to work for KFC to "change the system from within") and beginning to imagine and create the world anew.
(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

New York Times, Gretchen Morgenson Applaud British, Issue Challenge To American Regulators Over LIBOR Scandal
By Matt Taibbi

The New York Times and its outstanding financial reporter, Gretchen Morgenson, have published an important article about the LIBOR banking crisis, challenging American regulators to take this mess as seriously as the British appear to be.

We found out just over a week ago that Barclays CEO Bob Diamond, as well as several other senior Barclays officials, were pushed out of their jobs after Bank of England chief Mervyn King trained a mysterious Vaderesque power on them, impelling them to leave with an "inflection of the eyebrows." Morgenson's piece from Saturday, "The British, at Least, Are Getting Tough," wonders aloud why American regulators - Ben Bernanke, cough, cough - don't take a similarly stern approach with our own corrupt bank officials. First, she summarizes what seems to be the mindset of American officials:

"Dirty clean" versus "clean clean" pretty much sums up Wall Street's view of cheating. If everybody does it, nobody should be held accountable if caught. Alas, many United States regulators and prosecutors seem to have bought into this argument.

This viewpoint has been particularly in evidence since 2008. Time and again, American regulators have appeared to be paralyzed by corruption in cases when most or all of the banks have been caught raiding the same cookie jar. From fraudulent sales of mortgage-backed securities, to Enronesque accounting, to Jefferson-County-style predatory swap deals, to municipal bond bid-rigging, the strategy of American regulators has been to accept "Well, everybody was doing it" as a mitigating factor when negotiating settlements, where that should have made them want to crack the whip even harder.

Why? Because "everybody is doing it" corruption is way more dangerous than corruption involving one or two rogue firms going off-reservation. Regulators who spot that kind of industry-wide problem, to say nothing of cartel-style anticompetitive corruption, should be in a panic: They should always impose serious, across-the-board punishments, and it goes without saying that senior executives responsible have to be removed.

This is exactly what has begun to happen in England, now that the British have gotten wind of this LIBOR scandal, which involves the worst and most serious form of corruption - huge companies acting in concert to fix prices/rates. As the Times explains:

Last week's defenestrations of Marcus Agius, the Barclays chairman; Robert E. Diamond Jr., its hard-charging chief executive; and Jerry del Missier, its chief operating officer, apparently occurred at the behest of the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority, the nation's top securities regulator. (Mr. del Missier also seems to have lost his post as chairman of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the big Wall Street lobbying group. His name vanished last week from the list of board members on the group's Web site.)

Morgenson notes that the Barclays CEO, Diamond, seemed shocked that there were actual consequences for his misbehavior:

MR. DIAMOND seemed shocked to be pushed out. An American by birth, he probably thought he'd be subject to American rules of engagement when confronted with evidence of wrongdoing at his bank. You know how it works on this side of the Atlantic: faced with a scandal, most chief executives jettison low-level employees, maybe give up a bonus or two — and then ride out the storm. Regulators, if they act, just extract fines from the shareholders.

The article goes on to point out the frightening fact that del Missier, the outgoing Barclays COO, was at the time the scandal broke the sitting head of SIFMA, the trade group representing securities dealers. We know from the emails Barclays released last week that del Missier was privy to the discussions about rigging LIBOR rates; he was one of the people Diamond was writing to when he penned a memo claiming that Paul Tucker, the Bank of England deputy chief, had urged the bank to fake its LIBOR rates.

At the very least, del Missier should have said something, should have opposed the idea. Instead, he went right on being a front for Wall Street's largest professional association:

With each new financial imbroglio, the gulf widens between Main Street's opinion of Wall Street and the industry's view of itself. When Mr. del Missier, the former Barclays chief operating officer, took over as chairman of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association last November, he said: "We will continue to work on maintaining and burnishing the level of confidence investors have in our markets, in our own financial institutions, and in the general economic outlook for the future."

Given the Libor scandal, let's just say good luck with that.<>

Hear hear.

When the rest of this scandal comes out, and it turns out that up to 15 more of the world's biggest banks (including Chase, Bank of America, and Citi) were doing the same thing as Barclays, our regulators better start "inflecting their eyebrows" pretty damn vigorously. Because if it comes out that these other banks were all involved with this scandal (and it will come out that way, almost for sure), and their CEOs and COOs get to keep their jobs, that'll be a sure sign that the fix is in. Let's hope Ben Bernanke, Eric Holder, and Tim Geithner are listening.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

Rex gives the corpo-rat salute.

Exxon's T-Rex Caught In A Wildfire

Rex Tillerson is known by those who track Big Oil as "T-Rex." As CEO of global giant ExxonMobil, he's and dominant industry predator of scientists and policy makers who call for regulations to restrict fossil fuel emissions that are causing climate change.

While T-Rex is the first of the Exxon Horribillis species to admit that global warming is a scientific reality, he insists that it's not really a worry because humankind "will adapt to this."

Rapidly-melting polar ice, rising oceans, more ferocious storms, spreading drought, and other catastrophic consequences of climate change are just the price of economic progress, he says. So, government should stay out of Exxon's way and focus instead on making people adapt to the pesky changes wrought by the industry's emissions. "It's an engineering problem," he explained, "and it has engineering solutions."

Ironically, on the very day that Rex proclaimed the consequences of climate change to be "manageable," Colorado was burning down. Swept by climate-induced wildfires that are the worst in the state's recorded history, people died, families were devastated, and the economic and environmental losses are incalculable. It took nearly 1,300 wildfire fighters from all across America weeks to contain Colorado's blazes - and that was only one of a half-dozen states that were aflame at the same time. We can barely manage the fires we're now getting, much less the six-fold increase expected to come with more global warming.

But ExxonMobil lost nothing in the fire, so all is well. And T-Rex has also "managed" to be unscorched. His $35 million a year paycheck puts him far away from the consequences of Exxon's do-nothing approach to the causes of climate change.

Tillerson is getting so rich he could afford to air-condition hell - and I think he'd better start planning that project.
(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.

A hand-written sign about local power company Pepco hangs on a pole in
a residential neighborhood July 2, 2012 in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Is Union Busting To Blame For Power Outages In D.C.?
By Mike Elk

On Thursday, 15,091 Washington, D.C.-area residents were without power for the sixth day in a row, according to utility company Pepco spokesman Marcus Beal. As D.C. residents face record heat waves, many are upset and attribute the lack of power to incompetence on Pepco's end. However, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1900 members claim the failure to restore power outages is due to chronic understaffing and Pepco's shift from hiring union utility workers to non-union temporary contractors.

"We have half the linemen we had 15 years ago," says IBEW Local 1900 Business Agent Jim Griffin, whose union represents 1,150 Pepco workers. "We have been complaining for a very long time. They have relied for a long time on contractors. They are transients, they don't know our system, and we typically have to go behind them to fix their mistakes. It's very frustrating. We take ownership in our work, we make careers out of this."

Griffin says that starting 15 years ago, Pepco stopped hiring workers to replace retiring electrical workers and offered incentive-laden buyout deals to get electricians to retire. In order to address understaffing problems, Pepco has at times hired non-union temporary contractors, instead of hiring new workers. Griffin estimates that Pepco currently employs 1,150 union workers and approximately 400 non-union contractors. The understaffing has led to problems that the IBEW warned about years ago.

"Everything is keyed on dollars and cents profit," warned IBEW Utility Director Jim Hunter back in 2005. "Storm outages are longer, and utilities are asking for more and more help from other utilities. The problem is that other companies are in the same boat. And they are still not hiring."

Despite having a negative -57% tax rate from 2008 to 2010 and making nearly $822 million in profits during that period, Pepco has not hired a sufficient number of electricians to properly maintain the system. Griffin claims the insufficient number of linemen causes Pepco's system to go out more often not just during storms, but on hot summer days when electrical grids are maxed out from air conditioners and fans. When big storms do hit and knock down the system, PEPCO hires outside contractors from far-away states to help in repairs.

"When we have a major storm like this we rely heavily on assistance from other utilities. We have crews coming from Quebec and Oklahoma," says Griffin. "If we had more linemen we wouldn't have to wait three days for some of these crews to arrive. These extended power outages have to do with number of workers Pepco has on their payroll."

Griffin says the understaffing is a "philosophical move" by the company. "It was easier to deal with the contractors than the employees. They can fire them at a moment's notice. Contractors don't get paid very well and they come and they go," says Griffin. "The problem becomes the quality of work. We have story after story of us coming out after contractors and fixing their work."

Pepco's profit-maximizing behavior has led not only to diminishing quality of service for its customers, but also a diminishing quality of life for its employees. Unionized Pepco workers had their contract expire on May 31 and are currently working on their second contract extension as the union refuses to agree to concessions. In ongoing negotiations with the union, Pepco has demanded the unilateral power to make changes to the health and benefit packages of union workers mid-contract. (The union suspended its contract negotiations so that members of the bargaining committee could go into the field to help restore power to D.C. residents).

When asked if its labor relations contributed to the extended power outages, Pepco spokesman Beal said, "We are in negotiations for a new labor agreement with Local 1900 IBEW. We expect to ultimately reach an agreement with the union, but we won't negotiate this in public."

For his part, Griffin hopes the outages might help get the public on the union's side.

"This storm could change the whole dynamics of these negotiations and I think there is a potential to change staffing issues," says Griffin. "This has been such a major, major disaster for our electric system. It's been a traumatic week for our customers."
(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

Why Finding The Higgs Boson Is Exciting Physicists
By James Donahue

When scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, recently announced their discovery of a new subatomic particle that they believe is the long sought Higgs Boson, the news made headlines around the world. But most reporters admitted they don't quite understand why such a discovery is so important, or what it even means in the world of physics.

That's because the Higgs Boson has existed only in theory for the past 50 years. It was suggested by physicist Peter Higgs who believed such a particle had to exist to explain why matter can have mass. Higgs was among the many scientists delving into the world of subatomic particles who realized that everything there is active energy and fill of space, much like the universe we see around our planet. He believed that to turn all of that energy and space into the rocks, metals and living things that we see, feel and use, there had to be some kind of "glue" that holds matter together. Without it, we could not exist.

About a year or two ago, while the team was struggling to get the Hadron Collider operating correctly, we took the time to carefully study this strange new world of subatomic physics, learn why the collider was being constructed, and gain some kind of understanding of quantum physics. Indeed, it is a world that most folks have a lot of trouble grasping. They must be willing to consider cats that both exist and not exist within boxes, and think of parallel universes where things might be similar yet different than the one in which we think we exist.

Another way of looking at what is going on at Geneva is to examine "particle physics." Since the days when scientists learned how to smash atoms to make very deadly bombs, there has been a quest to explore the heart of matter which we understand is comprised of atoms. From basic high school physics we know that an atom is a very small unit of matter. It consists of a central nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. The whole configuration reminds us of planets circling a sun within a solar system. A group of atoms can bind themselves together forming a molecule. And molecules appear to be the building blocks of the objects that comprise our world, including ourselves. This is known as matter.

There is, however, a problem with this picture. When you examine things at the atomic level, there is a strange awareness that a lot of empty space exists not only within the atoms, but around them. Thus contemporary physicists have been scratching their heads over a question that has boggled their minds for a long time. While we understand matter, we do not know why matter has mass. In other words, why is it that we can sit comfortably in a chair without falling through it to a floor that should not support either us or the chair. This is because all matter contains more space than it does solid material.

Enter the new concept of particle physics. Here we dig deep within the atom to find that scientists have erected an entirely new concept of how things are put together at an extreme molecular level. They have identified something called the quark which is an elementary particle and thus a fundamental element in matter.

The quarks combine to form composite particles that are called hadrons. Protons and neutrons are classified as hadrons. But the physicists have found that other hadrons called mesons (one quark and one antiquark) and baryons (three quarks. Protons and neutrons are identified as baryons. The mesons include kaons and pions.

In quantum physics there is something called the Standard Model. Within this model there are six types of quarks, six types of things called leptons and four things called bosons. Bosons are described as composite particles within the Standard Model. For this article, attempting to describe them any farther, or explain what leptons are, would serve little purpose.

The people swimming around in the strange world of quantum physics dreamed up the concept of the Higgs Boson as a way to try to explain how matter has mass. Higgs and his fellow scientists reason that something yet unseen made up the glue that holds these particles together and turns matter into mass. And whatever that thing is, it exists throughout the Universe. Thus they reason there has to be a "god particle" or boson that carries some kind of magnetic field, known as the Higgs Field. As particles pass through the Higgs field, they are drawn together until the collection of particles gains mass.

By now you may have noticed a link between the composite of particles known as hadrons and the machine scientists were working so hard to get running near the Swiss/French border. They appropriately call it the Hadron Collider because they want to use it to smash these tiny particles together after sending them at nearly the speed of light in opposite directions through their elaborate race track.

Why do they want to do this? There is a very scary reason that had a number of world scientists worried that the physicists working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research project, also known as CERN, may have been about to unleash an energy capable of destroying the world.

For one thing, the team wanted to recreate the Big Bang and test this long debated theory of how the universe was formed.

According to this theory, before the Big Bank the universe was extremely small and matter existed only as free quarks. Once the explosion occurred, there was rapid inflation, quarks combined into hadrons, the forces separated, atoms formed as matter, and matter condensed into stars and galaxies were formed.

The CERN scientists wanted to simulate conditions that existed within a minute fraction of a second after the Big Bang. They planned to smash hadrons and then study what happens. The massive machine crashed the first time the team attempted to get it operating. It took another year to make repairs and add new safeguards to prevent the same problem from developing this time. CERN engineers say they hoped to crash protons at an injection energy of 450 billion electron volts and then ramp up the energy until the protons are driven by 3.5 trillion electron volts of energy apiece. After this all hell was going to be let loose . . . whatever that meant. Since they smashed particles hard enough to produce the illusive Higgs Bosom, they must finally have operated the machine at its full potential.

Some opponents of the CERN project warned of the frightening possibility that the collider might create tiny black holes that could eventually consume the Earth. The scientists said that while this was possible, they believe it is highly improbable. So they were willing to conduct the experiment anyway, taking even a tiny risk just to gain knowledge. We are still here, so if black holes were created we have yet to find out about it. Now that billions of dollars and more than a decade of work has been spent at Geneva building the Hadron Collider, and now that the Higgs Bosom has been determined to really exist, some writers are saying this discovery now opens the door to new and exciting research.

These people are delving into a micro-world so tiny that even the most powerful electronic microscopes have trouble seeing it. How much farther does that trip into the mini-realms of our universe can we go and what new secrets can we expect to find there? One thing may be true. The universe in either direction appears to be almost interminable.
(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

The Pain In Spain Falls Mainly On The Plain (Folk)
By Amy Goodman

As Spain's prime minister announced deep austerity cuts Wednesday in order to secure funds from the European Union to bail out Spain's failing banks, the people of Spain have taken to the streets once again for what they call "Real Democracy Now." This comes a week after the government announced it was launching a criminal investigation into the former CEO of Spain's fourth-largest bank, Bankia. Rodrigo Rato is no small fish: Before running Bankia he was head of the International Monetary Fund. What the U.S. media don't tell you is that this official government investigation was initiated by grass-roots action.

The Occupy movement in Spain is called M-15, for the day it began, May 15, 2011. I met with one of the key organizers in Madrid last week on the day the Rato investigation was announced. He smiled, and said, "Something is starting to happen." The organizer, Stephane Grueso, is an activist filmmaker who is making a documentary about the May 15 movement. He is a talented professional, but, like 25 percent of the Spanish population, he is unemployed: "We didn't like what we were seeing, where we were going. We felt we were losing our democracy, we were losing our country, we were losing our way of life. ... We had one slogan: 'Democracia real YA!'—we want a 'real democracy, now!' Fifty people stayed overnight in Puerta del Sol, this public square. And then the police tried to take us out, and so we came back. And then this thing began to multiply in other cities in Spain. In three, four days' time, we were like tens of thousands of people in dozens of cities in Spain, camped in the middle of the city—a little bit like we saw in Tahrir in Egypt."

The occupation of Puerta del Sol and other plazas around Spain continued, but, as with Occupy Wall Street encampments around the U.S., they were eventually broken up. The organizing continued, though, with issue-oriented working groups and neighborhood assemblies. One M-15 working group decided to sue Rodrigo Rato, and recruited pro bono lawyers and identified more than 50 plaintiffs, people who felt they'd been personally defrauded by Bankia. While the lawyers were volunteers, a massive lawsuit costs money, so this movement, driven by social media, turned to "crowd funding," to the masses of supporters in their movement for small donations. In less than a day, they raised more than $25,000. The lawsuit was filed in June of this year.

Olmo Galvez is another M-15 organizer I met with in Madrid. A young businessman with experience around the world, Galvez was profiled in Time magazine when they chose "The Protester" as the Person of the Year. Rato's alleged fraud at Bankia involved the sale of Bankia "preferred stock" to regular account holders, so-called retail investors, since sophisticated investors were not buying it. Galvez explained: "They were selling it to people—some of them couldn't read, many were elderly. That was a big scandal that wasn't in the media." Some who invested in Bankia's scheme had to sign the contract with a fingerprint because they couldn't write, nor could they read about, let alone understand, what they were sinking their savings into.

This week, thousands of coal miners marched to Madrid, some walking 240 miles from Asturias, on Spain's northern coast. When the miners arrived in Madrid Tuesday night, according to the online publication, they chanted "somos el 99 percent" ("we are the 99 percent") and were greeted like heroes. Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of the right-wing Partido Popular, made his latest pronouncement on austerity measures: an increase in the sales tax, cuts to the public-sector payroll, and shortening the period of unemployment support to six months.

As Rajoy was making his announcement in parliament, the miners were in the streets, joined by thousands of regular citizens, all demanding that government cuts be halted. The marchers were met by riot police, who fired rubber-coated steel balls and tear gas at them. Some protesters returned with volleys of firecrackers and other projectiles, and, in the ensuing melee, at least 76 were injured and eight arrested.

Stephane Grueso sums up the movement: "We are not a party. We are not a union. We are not an association. We are people. We want to expel corruption from public life ... now, today, maybe it is starting to happen."
(c) 2012 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

An unidentified woman uses an American flag to shield her eyes from the sun during a
naturalization ceremony at the Statue of Liberty, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011in New York. The
oath of citizenship was taken by 125 people, to mark the Statues's 125th anniversary.

Are You Smart Enough To Be A Citizen?
And does it matter? Why the U.S. citizenship test is painfully out of touch
By David Sirota

Are you smart enough to be a citizen?

A recent study from Xavier University tells us what many already know: that many Americans have wholly tuned out of politics to the point where they can't even correctly answer the most basic questions about our government. Indeed, as researchers discovered, one in three native-born citizens can't pass the civics portion of the naturalization test we force legal immigrants to pass when they want to become full citizens.

No doubt, it's tempting to look at the data and simply agree with retiring U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), who last month made headlines declaring that "people have gotten dumber." However, there's a flaw in such a conclusion - namely, it wrongly assumes that knowing the test's information is proof of brains or even good citizenship. Peruse the test-prep flashcards at the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service's website, and you'll see what I mean. After reading them, ask yourself whether you believe that, at the day-to-day level, someone really must know all the history referenced in order to be a smart person or functioning citizen.

Even as a history enthusiast, I don't buy it. Yes, it probably should be required that everyone know something about slavery and the Civil War so that we all understand the cultural topography of modern America. But should the prerequisite for the label of "good citizen" or "smart" be knowing who was president during World War I, what the original 13 colonies were or who wrote the federalist papers? Hardly. There are certainly plenty of good American citizens and geniuses who don't know those facts simply because they aren't relevant to daily life.

Of course, when it comes to the questions about how our constitution and government work, you could argue that it's a bit different. Theoretically, these are facts you need to know to be an informed participant in a democracy. As the logic goes, without knowing what the constitution (supposedly) does, it's hard to know your rights. Similarly, without being able to identify the politicians wielding power on your behalf, it's almost impossible to judge whether they are representing your interests. Thus, you might conclude that the Americans who don't know major amendments or can't name their senators are abhorrently stupid.

But again, that conclusion supposes that there's not a counter logic at work - when there almost certainly is. It's one in which many Americans have consciously decided that it's not worth knowing that information, because they've logically concluded that the information no longer matters in this country.

Remember - 21st century America is a place where elections are bought and paid for by huge money, where presidents of both parties ignore the basic tenets of the constitution, where the lifetime-appointed judiciary spends much of its time helping Big Business tilt the law against the population, and where the major parties resemble each other on most policies. Knowing that, why should we expect smart citizens to commit the naturalization test's facts to memory, when such facts are often irrelevant to day-to-day reality?

This isn't to defend stupidity. It is merely an explanation of the rise of an unfortunate-but-understandable form of willful ignorance - the kind whereby many Americans so accurately perceive the fraud being perpetrated on them that they have decided to simply tune out.

Sure, such a decision inevitably makes a person less informed about the political world's kabuki theater. But while you may disagree with that choice, it alone doesn't prove a person is a bad citizen or dumb. That latter label should be left to those political junkies, pundits and professional politicians who ignore inconvenient truths about our broken political system and doggedly pretend that America is still a functioning democracy.
(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.

The Corporate Media Occupies A News Blackout
By Mickey Z.
"The revolution will not be objectively reported." ~~~ Richie Alexandro ~ "Meet Me at Zuccotti"

During the July Fourth hoopla...

We learned Tom Cruise may be getting divorced.

They held another hot dog eating contest at Coney Island.

Hundreds of revolutionaries made the scene at the Occupy National Gathering from June 30 to July 4 in Philadelphia

Which of the above has garnered the least media coverage?

The American corporate media has utilized its entire arsenal in dealing with Occupy Wall Street (OWS). In roughly this order: It was ignored, treated as a curiosity, and then out came the big guns. Occupiers have been portrayed as slumming rich kids, drug addicts, rapists, selfish, lazy, unwashed, and inevitably: terrorists.

These days, the anti-OWS media tactic of choice is an implicit news blackout... with the occasional derisive obituary thrown in for good measure.

On the last day of the virtually ignored National Gathering, Julie Zauzmer wrote a brief, condescending piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Besides informing readers that Occupy was known for "its lack of a unifying demand or a recognized leader," Zauzmer focused on meetings that didn't start on time and on all the alleged dissent with the ranks of "roughly 200 protesters."

(Classic media ploy: underestimating crowd size. Those on the ground told me the Occupier count reached as high as 500-600.)

Mic Check: The pervasive and willful distribution of misinformation is typical of life within a society dominated by a corporate-run press.

"There is an odor to any Press Headquarters that is unmistakable: the unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a machine." ~~~ Norman Mailer

Whether you label them liberal or conservative, most major media outlets are large corporations owned by or aligned with even larger corporations, and they share a common strategy: selling a product (an affluent audience) to a given market (advertisers).

Therefore, we shouldn't find it too shocking that the image of the world being presented by a corporate-owned press very much reflects the biased interests of the elite players involved in this sordid little love triangle.

That's why every major daily newspaper has a business section, but not a labor section. Why at least once a week, those same newspapers run an automobile section, but no bicycle section.

This is why when the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops, it makes headlines. But if the global extinction rate rises, it's questionable if it'll even make the papers (and if it does, it'll be buried in a small item on page 23).

If you created a blueprint for an apparatus that utterly erased critical thought, you could make none more efficient than the American corporate media -- and please don't fall into the trap of only demonizing Fox News.

A major component of the free press illusion is the notion that some media outlets are more liberal while others are more right wing -- belief in this myth further limits the already limited parameters of accepted debate.

Mic Check: The media is as liberal or conservative as the corporations that own it.

"History is not happenstance; it is conspiratorial, carefully planned, and executed by people in power." ~~~ George Carlin

The article I cited at the top is merely the latest example from a long history of downplayed dissent. Coverage of protests and demonstrations is usually a tepid combination of low crowd estimates and footage of police arresting "violent" protestors. This combination -- corporate propaganda and State repression -- is a time worn tradition.

For instance, widespread protests in the 1960s led President Lyndon Johnson to conclude, "The weakest link in our armor is American public opinion. Our people won't stand firm in the face of heavy losses, and they can bring down the government."

Clearly, our perception of that era had to be purified.

"The antiwar movement has been so thoroughly discredited," says H. Bruce Franklin in Vietnam and Other American Fantasies. "One would never be able to guess from public discourse that for every American veteran of combat in Vietnam, there must be twenty veterans of the antiwar movement."

One reason for this is, again, media misrepresentation. Protest is often depicted as a hobby for affluent white college students -- a minor detour on their road to Yuppiedom.

Not true, says Franklin: "A Gallup poll in January 1971 showed that 60 percent of those with a college education favored withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, 75 percent of those with a high school education favored withdrawal, and 80 percent of those with only a grade school education favored withdrawal."

Sound familiar?

"Don't ya know, we're talkin' about a revolution. It sounds like a whisper." ~~~ Tracy Chapman

Of course the mainstream media distorts and/or ignores OWS. That's their job and it's a waste of time and energy for us to expect otherwise. They've been given the keys to the public (sic) airwaves and we don't yet have the means to change that. We do, however, have the means to circumvent this model.

Mic Check: We can't yell louder than the professional propagandists of the corporate media but we damn sure can whisper more effectively.

The media can't be "fixed" any more than all the other dying institutions (banking, health care, education, etc.) can be. So, I say: Let the corporate press rot while we utilize our resources to create an entirely new model.

To help make this happen, we need more of the 99% to join us and thus, must reach out far and wide, keep whispering the truth, and continue working to model new alternatives.

If we build it, they will Occupy...

It will require both outrage and outreach for us to outlive the corporate pirates (and the politicians they fund) who have hijacked our future. Keep yourself informed and inspired, but most importantly, to counter media misinformation: #OccupyOutreach24/7.
(c) 2012 Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

Mitt's Gray Areas
By Paul Krugman

Once upon a time a rich man named Romney ran for president. He could claim, with considerable justice, that his wealth was well-earned, that he had in fact done a lot to create good jobs for American workers. Nonetheless, the public understandably wanted to know both how he had grown so rich and what he had done with his wealth; he obliged by releasing extensive information about his financial history.

But that was 44 years ago. And the contrast between George Romney and his son Mitt - a contrast both in their business careers and in their willingness to come clean about their financial affairs - dramatically illustrates how America has changed.

Right now there's a lot of buzz about an investigative report in the magazine Vanity Fair highlighting the "gray areas" in the younger Romney's finances. More about that in a minute. First, however, let's talk about what it meant to get rich in George Romney's America, and how it compares with the situation today.

What did George Romney do for a living? The answer was straightforward: he ran an auto company, American Motors. And he ran it very well indeed: at a time when the Big Three were still fixated on big cars and ignoring the rising tide of imports, Romney shifted to a highly successful focus on compacts that restored the company's fortunes, not to mention that it saved the jobs of many American workers.

It also made him personally rich. We know this because during his run for president, he released not one, not two, but 12 years' worth of tax returns, explaining that any one year might just be a fluke. From those returns we learn that in his best year, 1960, he made more than $660,000 - the equivalent, adjusted for inflation, of around $5 million today.

Those returns also reveal that he paid a lot of taxes - 36 percent of his income in 1960, 37 percent over the whole period. This was in part because, as one report at the time put it, he "seldom took advantage of loopholes to escape his tax obligations." But it was also because taxes on the rich were much higher in the '50s and '60s than they are now. In fact, once you include the indirect effects of taxes on corporate profits, taxes on the very rich were about twice current levels.

Now fast-forward to Romney the Younger, who made even more money during his business career at Bain Capital. Unlike his father, however, Mr. Romney didn't get rich by producing things people wanted to buy; he made his fortune through financial engineering that seems in many cases to have left workers worse off, and in some cases driven companies into bankruptcy.

And there's another contrast: George Romney was open and forthcoming about what he did with his wealth, but Mitt Romney has largely kept his finances secret. He did, grudgingly, release one year's tax return plus an estimate for the next year, showing that he paid a startlingly low tax rate. But as the Vanity Fair report points out, we're still very much in the dark about his investments, some of which seem very mysterious.

Put it this way: Has there ever before been a major presidential candidate who had a multimillion-dollar Swiss bank account, plus tens of millions invested in the Cayman Islands, famed as a tax haven?

And then there's his Individual Retirement Account. I.R.A.'s are supposed to be a tax-advantaged vehicle for middle-class savers, with annual contributions limited to a few thousand dollars a year. Yet somehow Mr. Romney ended up with an account worth between $20 million and $101 million.

There are legitimate ways that could have happened, just as there are potentially legitimate reasons for parking large sums of money in overseas tax havens. But we don't know which if any of those legitimate reasons apply in Mr. Romney's case - because he has refused to release any details about his finances. This refusal to come clean suggests that he and his advisers believe that voters would be less likely to support him if they knew the truth about his investments.

And that is precisely why voters have a right to know that truth. Elections are, after all, in part about the perceived character of the candidates - and what a man does with his money is surely a major clue to his character.

One more thing: To the extent that Mr. Romney has a coherent policy agenda, it involves cutting tax rates on the very rich - which are already, as I said, down by about half since his father's time. Surely a man advocating such policies has a special obligation to level with voters about the extent to which he would personally benefit from the policies he advocates.

Yet obviously that's something Mr. Romney doesn't want to do. And unless he does reveal the truth about his investments, we can only assume that he's hiding something seriously damaging.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Whatever it is that the government does, sensible Americans would prefer that the government does it to somebody else. This is the idea behind foreign policy."
~~~ P. J. O'Rourke

Obama Bound For Mount Rushmore?
By Glen Ford

"Obama has succeeded in passing the Right's program, created to stop what looked like the inevitable triumph of a single-payer system."

President Obama, as his aides will tell anyone within hearing distance, wants to go down in history as one of the "greats." Most African Americans, purely for reasons of group affirmation, would also love to see the First Black President beaming from Mount Rushmore (in the Black Hills of South Dakota, no less!), alongside George and Thomas the Slave Masters, Teddy the Arch Imperialist, and Lincoln the Emancipator.

Most of the U.S. corporate media - those who make the first drafts of history acceptable to the ruling class - also want Obama to have a shot at a place in the pantheon, since he has done some service to the rulers. The U.S. Supreme Court's vetting of Obama's healthcare legislation, according to the New York Times, is a "personal reprieve...leaving intact his hopes of joining the ranks of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan as presidents who fundamentally altered the course of the country." Obama has often compared himself to all three, agreeing with Reagan that the Sixties was a decade plagued by "excesses" - which, to Reagan's mind, included Lyndon Johnson's expansive social legislation.

As the Times tells it, Obama has nearly completed the work of his predecessors. "Not just Roosevelt and Johnson, but Harry S. Truman, Nixon and Mr. Clinton all tried and failed to move the country toward universal health coverage." Obama's bill is historic because it "seeks to end the status of the United States as the world's only rich country with millions of involuntarily uninsured citizens."

"Obamacare is, at best, a detour, and more likely an historic setback to the movement for a truly national health care policy."

The Times resorts to crazily contorted wording to convince us the Affordable Care Act is the next logical step in the civilizing of the United States; that it bears some resemblance to universal health care as practiced in the rest of the developed world - an outrageous distortion of fact and history. Obamacare, like previous Republican healthcare schemes, is based on the principle that people should pay for their own bodily maintenance, and that "free riders" must be forced into the private pool. It expands the healthcare compact only for those who are destitute, while turning everyone else into profit-centers for corporations. That's not the direction universal healthcare advocates have been trying to go, all these years. It is, at best, a detour, and more likely an historic setback to the movement for a truly national health care policy.

The first U.S. entitlement programs evolved from pension plans for Civil War veterans and their families. "By 1910," according to the Social Welfare History Project, "Civil War veterans and their survivors enjoyed a program of disability, survivors and old-age benefits similar in some ways to the later Social Security programs." In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act, which also included provisions for unemployment insurance. Harry Truman unsuccessfully proposed National Health Insurance, starting in 1945. Lyndon Johnson introduced Medicare and Medicaid with his Social Security Act of 1965. Ever since, the struggle has been to expand these programs to the entire population, as a matter of right - as was occurring globally even in formerly "Third World" places like Taiwan.

"Even in the last days of President Reagan's reactionary rule, the trajectory of American healthcare sentiment was arching towards universal single-payer."

"Entitlements" have been the bugaboo of the Right since the New Deal. But even in the last days of President Reagan's reactionary rule, the trajectory of American healthcare sentiment was arching towards universal single-payer - the world-class solution. The Heritage Foundation, founded in the early Seventies by arch-reactionaries, saw the handwriting on the wall - and took preemptive action in 1989. As Chris Weigant wrote in the Huffington Post, Heritage commissioned its Director of Domestic Policy Strategies, Stuart Butler, to produce the Right's own "Framework for Reform" of healthcare - one that kept the profits locked in and diverted the public from single-payer healthcare as a universal entitlement. Everyone would be pushed into the "market-based" - for-profit - pool. Stuart wrote:

"This means that, while government would take on the obligation to find ways of guaranteeing care for those Americans unable to obtain protection in the market, perhaps because of chronic health problems or lack of income, Americans with sufficient means would no longer be able to be ‘free riders' on society by avoiding sensible health insurance expenditures and relying on others to pay for care in an emergency or in retirement."

Republican Bob Dole ran for president on an "individual mandate" health plan, the same concept Romney implemented in Massachusetts. It's also the Obama scheme, as Chris Weigant concluded in the Huffington Post: "The individual mandate which was included in Obamacare is so close to what Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation initially suggested that we can honestly say there is no appreciable difference between the two."

If Obama belongs in a pantheon, it's a Republican one. He is not completing the healthcare project begun by FDR in 1935. Obama has, instead, succeeded in passing the Right's program, created to stop what looked like the inevitable triumph of a single-payer system under which most insurance companies would go extinct. Just three years ago, it seemed that the day had finally come for some form of Medicare-for-all, which has long enjoyed the support of roughly two-thirds of the public. Obama pulled a switch. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, a stalwart of the Right who is young enough to keep his eye on the future, knew a good deal for his side when he saw one, and signed off on it. He's a lot smarter than those deluded Lefties who want to send Obama to Mount Rushmore.
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The Wall Street Scandal Of All Scandals
By Robert Reich

Just when you thought Wall Street couldn't sink any lower - when its myriad abuses of public trust have already spread a miasma of cynicism over the entire economic system, giving birth to Tea Partiers and Occupiers and all manner of conspiracy theories; when its excesses have already wrought havoc with the lives of millions of Americans, causing taxpayers to shell out billions (of which only a portion has been repaid) even as its top executives are back to making more money than ever; when its vast political power (via campaign contributions) has already eviscerated much of the Dodd-Frank law that was supposed to rein it in, including the so-called "Volker" Rule that was sold as a milder version of the old Glass-Steagall Act that used to separate investment from commercial banking - yes, just when you thought the Street had hit bottom, an even deeper level of public-be-damned greed and corruption is revealed.

Sit down and hold on to your chair.

What's the most basic service banks provide? Borrow money and lend it out. You put your savings in a bank to hold in trust, and the bank agrees to pay you interest on it. Or you borrow money from the bank and you agree to pay the bank interest.

How is this interest rate determined? We trust that the banking system is setting today's rate based on its best guess about the future worth of the money. And we assume that guess is based, in turn, on the cumulative market predictions of countless lenders and borrowers all over the world about the future supply and demand for the dough.

But suppose our assumption is wrong. Suppose the bankers are manipulating the interest rate so they can place bets with the money you lend or repay them - bets that will pay off big for them because they have inside information on what the market is really predicting, which they're not sharing with you.

That would be a mammoth violation of public trust. And it would amount to a rip-off of almost cosmic proportion - trillions of dollars that you and I and other average people would otherwise have received or saved on our lending and borrowing that have been going instead to the bankers. It would make the other abuses of trust we've witnessed look like child's play by comparison.

Sad to say, there's reason to believe this has been going on, or something very much like it. This is what the emerging scandal over "Libor" (short for "London interbank offered rate") is all about.

Libor is the benchmark for trillions of dollars of loans worldwide - mortgage loans, small-business loans, personal loans. It's compiled by averaging the rates at which the major banks say they borrow.

So far, the scandal has been limited to Barclay's, a big London-based bank that just paid $453 million to U.S. and British bank regulators, whose top executives have been forced to resign, and whose traders' emails give a chilling picture of how easily they got their colleagues to rig interest rates in order to make big bucks. (Robert Diamond, Jr., the former Barclay CEO who was forced to resign, said the emails made him "physically ill" - perhaps because they so patently reveal the corruption.)

But Wall Street has almost surely been involved in the same practice, including the usual suspects - JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America - because every major bank participates in setting the Libor rate, and Barclay's couldn't have rigged it without their willing involvement.

In fact, Barclay's defense has been that every major bank was fixing Libor in the same way, and for the same reason. And Barclays is "cooperating" (i.e., giving damning evidence about other big banks) with the Justice Department and other regulators in order to avoid steeper penalties or criminal prosecutions, so the fireworks have just begun.

There are really two different Libor scandals. One has to do with a period just before the financial crisis, around 2007, when Barclays and other banks submitted fake Libor rates lower than the banks' actual borrowing costs in order to disguise how much trouble they were in. This was bad enough. Had the world known then, action might have been taken earlier to diminish the impact of the near financial meltdown of 2008.

But the other scandal is even worse. It involves a more general practice, starting around 2005 and continuing until - who knows? it might still be going on - to rig the Libor in whatever way necessary to assure the banks' bets on derivatives would be profitable.

This is insider trading on a gigantic scale. It makes the bankers winners and the rest of us - whose money they've used for to make their bets - losers and chumps.

What to do about it, other than hope the Justice Department and other regulators impose stiff fines and even criminal penalties, and hold executives responsible?

When it comes to Wall Street and the financial sector in general, most of us suffer outrage fatigue combined with an overwhelming cynicism that nothing will ever be done to stop these abuses because the Street is too powerful. But that fatigue and cynicism are self-fulfilling; nothing will be done if we succumb to them.

The alternative is to be unflagging and unflinching in our demand that Glass-Steagall be reinstituted and the biggest banks be broken up. The question is whether the unfolding Libor scandal will provide enough ammunition and energy to finally get the job done.
(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...

Trey give the corpo-rat slaute

Heil Obama,

Dear unterfuhrer Gowdy,

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 demanding putting all reporters in jail for not revealing their cources, while you yourself take the 5th, 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 09-11-2012. We salute you Herr Gowdy, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

A House Vote Frames The Health-Care Debate For The Fall
By John Nichols

Nothing so accurately frames the 2012 race for control of Congress as the latest vote by the U.S. House to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The House voted to repeal the measure that dogmatic conservatives dismiss as "Obamacare" shortly after Republicans took control in January, 2011.

Since then, they have organized more than thirty separate House votes attacking aspects of the law.

But that was not good enough.

So Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the one-note ideologies who make up their House Republican Caucus went through the charade once more Wednesday, as the House voted 244-185 in favor of repeal.

"Thou dost protest too much," jokes Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-California, as her Republican colleagues organized Wednesday's vote to show that they are really, really, really opposed by health- care reform that might serve consumers rather than investors. "The chief justice and four other justices of the Supreme Court of our land have upheld the law for health care accessibility for every single American," continued Eshoo. "And what do the Republicans do, but come to repeal?"

Of the 244 pro-repeal votes, all but five came from Republicans. (The Democratic votes for repeal -- those of Reps. Mike Ross of Arkansas, Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell of North Carolina, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, and Jim Matheson of Utah -- came from relatively conservative members who represent Republican-leaning states or districts.) All 185 anti-repeal votes came from House Democrats.

What this all adds up to is one of the clearer contrasts in recent American politics.

Republicans are never going to be satisfied until the ACA is repealed -- not just by a GOP-controlled House but by a GOP-controlled Senate -- and signed out of law by a Republican president.

To make that happen, however, they will have to keep the House, gain control of the Senate and elect a new president.

And the health-care debate is likely to define whether they succeed.

The Republican fantasy that Americans want to scrap any regulation of health-insurance companies while undermining access to care by women, children and low-income Americans is just that... a fantasy.

Polling shows that Americans want the insurance companies regulated. They want women to have access to reproductive health benefits. They want all children to have quality care. And they want strong Medicare and Medicaid programs.

There is no question that, for a time, they were ill at ease with the new national program that GOP messaging mavens dauntingly dubbed "Obamacare." And Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney and Congressional Republicans are betting they can again gin up fears about "Obamacare" raising taxes, taking over the economy and steering the nation toward nothing less than socialism.

But the "Obamacare" card won't be as easy to play as in the past.

A statement issued Wednesday by Congressman George Miller, D-California, and other members of the minority caucus on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce notes that: "Since the Supreme Court ruled that the historic health reform law is constitutional earlier this month, the American people are saying that it is time to move on and get back to the other important issues of the day. According to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 56 percent of respondents said that it is time for Washington Republicans to 'stop their efforts to block the law and move on to other national problems.' And, today, the Washington Post reported that, according to their latest poll, only 20 percent of all registered voters want to take away new patient protections from the American people."

It is fair to say that everything -- for both parties -- comes down to framing the debate.

President Obama and his House and Senate allies can win this fight. But they need to do something that is uncommon for Democrats: share a coherent message.

What's the message? Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, sums it up well as she mounts one of the most important Democratic U.S. Senate campaigns of 2012. Baldwin, who came to Congress as a supporters of single-payer "Medicare for All" reform, has her objections to the ACA. But she says:

"I disagree with those who want to rip up the decision of an independent court and start over...

I believe middle class families should have the peace of mind knowing they will have access to quality, affordable health care, regardless of any pre-existing condition.

I believe Wisconsin small business owners should receive assistance to provide health coverage to their employees, allowing them to be more competitive in the global marketplace.

I believe seniors should continue to have access to free preventive care, as well as affordable access to prescription drugs under Medicare.

And I believe that it is the right thing to do to allow over 6 million young people who now have health care to stay on their parents’ health care coverage."

That's a simple message that goes to the heart of what's right about the ACA. Democrats do not have to love every aspect of the measure. In fact, they shouldn't; it's a compromise, after all. But they will have to defend what is defensible about the Affordable Care Act in a coherent, steady and unblinking manner.
(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.

To Shirk Or Not To Shirk - Is That The Question?
By Adam Keller

This week the Palestinian news agency Ma'an published a short news item. Settlers from the "Havat Gilead" outpost near Nablus came at night and destroyed 41 olive trees belonging to Nayif Raihan, inhabitant of the neighboring Palestinian village of Tel.M

The inhabitants of Havat Gilead ("Gilead's Farm") outpost where people have an extensive history of such acts. It is one of the settlement outposts which are considered illegal, also according to Israeli law, and whose dismantling Ariel Sharon promised to President George W. Bush back in 2003. In practice, early this year the Havat Gilead settlers reached a compromise agreement with the government of Israel, whereby they agreed to move their houses to a distance of one hundred and fifty (150) meters and in return the government provided them with a legal status under Israeli law; placed more land under their control; and - as it turns out - gave them a tacit permit to uproot olive trees.

Of none of this could even the smallest mention be found in the Israeli media. Settlers destroying Palestinian olive trees are pretty much of a routine, not really news. Under the well-known media principle, it is more "dog bites man" then "man bites dog." And virtually the same with regard to the military authorities' decision to completely destroy the village of Susya in the South Hebron Hills and raze all of its fifty-two houses. Very few Israeli media editors regarded this as news worthy of publication. Nor did the news pay much attention to villagers together with Israeli peace activists holding a protest, even though it greatly disturbed the Israeli Defense Forces who took care to deploy a considerable number of troops and prepare a particularly violent reception to the demonstrators. The demolition of Palestinians homes is an everyday occurrence, as is the dispersal of demonstrations by the military. All this, too, is "dog bites man."

When a Border Policeman kicked a nine year old Palestinian boy in Hebron, this did receive some media attention - at least for one day. Government speakers explained that this was a rare and unusual case. (Is what was rare and unusual, the kicking of a child, or the presence of a camera to capture the event and make it known?)

And just this week it occurred to someone in the military leadership to make very blunt threats against Lebanon. "The next time Israel's response will be more severe. [The events mentioned in] the Goldstone Report will pale compared to what is going to happen here. We'll have to make stronger and more violent attacks to prevent damage to our home front. (...) The IDF is preparing thoroughly for another war. Next time there will be an exchange of heavy fire on both sides. We'll have to go in very forcefully, including widespread destruction inside the Lebanese villages - not as a punishment but because that is where the enemy is. The State of Lebanon will sustain far greater damage than in the Second Lebanon War. We will give the Lebanese Army a chance to not to be our enemy, but if the other side opens fire we will respond sharply and painfully: Kill thirteen out of unit of fifteen soldiers so that the remaining two could tell their commanders what happened."

The words of Brigadier General Hertzi Halevy, Commander of the Galilee Division, did get published. They even got a rather prominent place in the middle of the news pages. But still they did not make much of a stir. Hardly any commentator bothered to get deeply into the matter or why are such threats being made exactly this week, for no obvious apparent reason, or whether a brigadier general would say such things to the media on his own authority or if he had been guided by higher echelons. And if the latter - who were these higher echelons and what are their intentions?

All of that was very marginal this week. There was only one hot topic to take up the headlines and rock the boat of the Netanyahu Government - should the Ultra-Orthodox be drafted to the army? This weekend, there are in the Israeli society and political system two opposing camps, bracing for a titanic clash.

On the one hand are those who stridently demand that the Yeshiva seminaries be penetrated, their students forcibly hauled away, directly to the IDF recruitment centers, and severe sanctions and penalties on any recalcitrants. And some also used the opportunity to come up with the idea of demanding of Israel's Arab citizens to perform "National Service" (in the service of which nation?) and of course impose heavy penalties on them, too, if they refuse. A fine of one hundred thousand shekels was what the renowned Plesner Parliamentary Commission proposed, to which the famed commentator Dan Margalit suggests adding the denial of access to a driver's license, to Social Security benefits and to academic studies. In the list of sponsors of the rally, to be held tonight in Tel Aviv with the demand for "Equality in the Burden", are organizations which define themselves as belonging to the left (or at least "left of center ") - alongside "Im Tirzu", a grouping which some consider as a full-fledged Fascist organization while others dismiss it as simply extreme right.

And why is all this fuss? Because all must bear their part in the burden of military service. Because service in the IDF is a sacred duty and a moral act, the most important one which an Israeli citizen can perform. Because by definition the one who serves in the Israeli Defense Forces stands on a moral level a hundred higher than the "shirker." But what is the moral significance of military service in a country which is maintaining a military occupation regime over millions of people for more than two-thirds of its history? How moral is service in the army whose main business in recent decades is to maintain this occupation? And what about the moral implications of what the Israel Defense Forces did in Lebanon in 1982 and 2006 and in Gaza in 2009 and may well do in 2013 in Lebanon again or in Gaza again or in Iran? And who truly stands on a higher moral level, the one who serves in the army and obeys any order given to him without ifs and buts, or the "shirker?"

Such is one side in the titanic struggle unfolding in front of us. And on the other side of the ring - the Haredim or Ultra-Orthodox. Those who regard the study of the Holy Torah as the essence of being, and would fight tooth and nail to keep their students inside the Yeshiva study rooms. The Haredim who build and maintain the largest settlements in the Occupied Territories, Modi'in Illit and Betar Illit, and who extend and increase them at the expense of the lands of Bil'in and Ni'lin and dozens of other Palestinian villages. But they strictly require secularist soldiers to perform for them the theft of Palestinian land and the guarding of the Haredi settlements built on them, leaving their own sons free for full-time holy studies at the seminaries built on the same land.

The Haredim call themselves "anti-Zionists" but consistently support every aggressive, warlike and adventurous step - as long as their own sons will not be required to pay the price. And the leader of one of the main Haredi parties has placed himself at the forefront of a campaign of incitement and hatred against African refugees migrant workers, and the manhunt conducted all over the country for citizens of South Sudan who are placed on airplanes for "voluntary deportation", and the detention and deportation of children who were born and grew up in Israel but whose parents were defined "illegal immigrants". And in all this Interior Minister Eli Yishai seems to enjoy the support and backing of his constituents and his party members and his spiritual leaders. Just as they strongly back his struggle to forefend any possibility of Yeshiva students being, God forbid, recruited into the army and forced to suspend their religious studies.

Whose side, then, can a decent person take in this titanic struggle? What result can one hope for? Maybe just that this free-for-all will weaken and undermine the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, a government which perpetuates and intensifies the occupation on the Palestinians and the enrichment of the rich and the impoverishment of everybody else. That Netanyahu's brilliant maneuver of two months ago, the adding of the Kadima Party to his government coalition to produce a huge Knesset majority, will turn out to an own goal for the Netahyahu team. That the crown would soon fall from the head of "King Bibi". May it be so.

Yesterday "Yediot Ahronot" published an interview with two reserve soldiers, Ethan Tiberger and Yuval Harari. Both of them are veteran reservists who over many years came anytime the army called them. In fact, they often volunteered for service above and beyond the time which was required of them by law. In 2002 they had gone without hesitation to fight in the alleys of the Jenin Refugee Camp - that event over which the debate is still raging, whether it was a massacre or just a brutal battle in which many civilians were killed because of regrettable mistakes and because of not having enough time to leave their homes when these were destroyed by the bulldozers of the Israeli Defense Forces . But now, both those reservists have decided that the continued non-recruitment of the Haredim is the last straw. Regretfully, they informed their commanding officer that they would no longer perform military reserve service.

"Now they have really done it. They pissed in our faces. They sold us out. Finally, we have had it. I have no motivation left to continue. It is no longer an issue of Left or Right, of the occupation or the Iranian issue. This is about our children's future" said Harari.

One should perhaps not complain too much that it was this straw which broke the camel's back, and no other.
(c) 2012 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jen Sorensen ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Mitt Romney's Crazy Religious Beliefs!


Freehold, Iowa - Friends, I never thought I'd live to see the day when a Mormon cult member would be running for President of this Christian country. Then again, I said the same thing about that Mary Worshipping jackass, John F. Kennedy, and by golly - every uneducated colored fellow and unchurched low class liberal who thought Catholics were Christians voted that hell bound nin-com-poop into office! Cleaning up that mess was a little more complicated than loading up a plane full of deacons to Florida to take out some trash! I believe we can avoid anything like the Kennedy fiasco this time around by making sure we put a stop to letting kooky religious nuts run for any public office!

Like everyone in the other 49 states we've had our share of busting a gut over how silly the Mormons are. We even take to calling them the "Morons," in our Religious Cult Studies courses at Landover Baptist University. My message about Mormons today is actually more for the folks out there using the internets. I want to assure this congregation that I am doing everything in my power to prevent even the stupidest Mexican who can vote from being fooled by this fruit-cake, Mitt Romney.

You see, the Mormon religion is absolutely, hands down, one of the most hilarious made-up religions Satan ever boiled up in the Lake of Fire! But all tomfoolery aside, Mormonism should always be reckoned with as a dangerous cult -- because whenever you design a cult to appeal to stupid people, you are going to wind up with a lot of members!

I want to start by stating the obvious. I will list it out here for you:

What Does Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney Really Believe?

He believes that Jesus Christ is Satan's brother.
He believes that God lives near a planet called "Kolob."
He believes in baptizing dead people.
He believes that Jesus is married to a goddess wife.
He believes that The Garden of Eden was in Missouri.
He believes that it was impossible for Negroes to go to Heaven before 1978.
He believes that Jesus has children from his wife or wives.
He believes that he is going to become a god.
He believes he will own his own personal planet after he dies.
He believes the real Christian God is not eternal but rather that He was once a man on some other planet besides Earth!
He believes he needs to wear magical underwear created by Mormons and he is never to take it off unless he is bathing.
He believes it is a sin to drink anything containing caffeine. And that even includes True American™ drinks like Coca-Cola!
He believes children between the ages of 18-21 should wear name badges, ride bicycles and always smile.

I'll let you take a breath for a minute, because I know you are laughing harder than the time I was up here trying to explain how the Scientologists arrived on Earth in a space ship piloted by talking, lava-dwelling sea clams.

Friends, Mitt Romney follows the Book of Mormon to the letter! He believes it has more authority than the Bible. If you don't know what's in the book of Mormon, we've included the Sunday School training video below:

Folks, I'll wait a minute for you to calm down. I know if Joseph Smith were alive today he wouldn't even be able to sell this story as a mini-series to the Sci-Fi Channel, and those folks buy anything! I know in my heart of hearts that I speak for all True Christians™ when I say that the idea of Mitt Romney sitting in the Oval Office sends a shiver down my spine, and a cold trickle of perspiration down the small of my back! Let's take a stand and send this lunatic and all his pairs of magic underwear back to Utah where they belong. We need to act now, lest the Republican party goes down in history as the party for stupid American idiots who elect crazy morons to the office of President!

Mitt Romney With Mormon Flag

For More Information About The Crazy Mormons:

(YouTube) -Watch a T-Bagger Go Nuts When She Finds Out Mitt is a Mormon!

(You Tube) Watch Pastor Deacon Fred's Video About the Mormon Cult
(c) 2012The Landover Baptist Church

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 28 (c) 07/13/2012

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