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In This Edition

Naom Chomsky orates, "The Great Charter - It's Fate, Our Fate."

Uri Avnery compares, "Two Faces."

Bill McKibben foresees, "A Long Hot Summer."

Matt Taibbi finds, "Romney's 'Free Stuff' Speech Is A New Low."

Jim Hightower warns, "Beware Of The Tomato Tamperers."

Naomi Wolf examines, "This Global Financial Fraud And Its Gatekeepers."

James Donahue wonders, "Do We Really Know What Happened In The Past?"

David Swanson with an absolute must read, "Abolishing War - One Last Step."

David Sirota reminds us that, "Batman Hates The 99 Percent."

Michael Weinstein explores, "Homophobic Chaplain Alliance's Feeble, Failed Attempt to Rape Servicemembers' Civil Rights."

Paul Krugman explains, "Policy And The Personal."

Glen Ford studies, "The Concept Of 'Black' Elections."

Robert Reich observes, "The Selling Of American Democracy."

Arizona lunatic Mike Zullo wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols concludes, "Romney Still Reaps Huge Profits From Bain's Vulture Capitalism."

Adam Keller considers, "Non-occupation And Water Tanks."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst returns with, "The Care Less Party." but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Vote Green Or Vote Fascist!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mark Streeter, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Married To The Sea, R.J. Matson, Mike Luckovitch, Mario Piperni.Com, Old American Century.Org, Steve Greenberg, Gush Shalom, Jan Alff Wiegel, Sunset Parkerpix, PBS, The BBC, 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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Vote Green Or Vote Fascist!
The choice is yours, America
By Ernest Stewart

"It makes no difference who you vote for - the two parties are really one party representing four percent of the people." ~~~ Gore Vidal

"We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great. The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge." ~~~ John McCain ~ May 12, 2008

"The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men. Gang aft agley." ~~~ Robert Burns

Nothing is easy, nothing good is free
But I can tell you where to start
Take a look inside your heart
There's an answer in your heart
Fight The Good Fight ~~~ Triumph

In case you missed it, and I'm sure you did, while running round Facebook pledging your undying love for Obamahood, the Green Party had their National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland and nominated their candidates for President and Vice-President. For President, Dr. Jill Stein, and for Vice President, Cheri Honkala. Just like they did in 2008, they picked two women. As you long time readers know, we backed those Green candidates Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente -- two real black ladies who were 100% for us, and not the corpo-rat goon that Obama has always been. This year, the ladies are white and Native American; but like Cynthia and Rosa, they're 100% for the people! Stein is proposing a "Green New Deal for America - a four part policy strategy for moving America quickly out of crisis into a secure, sustainable future." Inspired by the New Deal programs that helped the U.S. out of the Great Depression of the 1930s, "the Green New Deal proposes to provide similar relief and create an economy that makes communities sustainable, healthy and just." Oh, and did I mention that Jill will legalize marijuana, and not arrest grandma and toss her in jail for having a medical marijuana card like Barry often does? Barry the pot smoker, Barry the hypocrite!

In part, the proposal outlines initiatives "that will create 25 million jobs, end unemployment, and transition the country to a green economy." The proposal also guarantees "a halt to foreclosures and evictions, tuition-free public education from pre-school through college, and Medicare for all, and an end to corporate domination of democracy." Has Barry or Willard promised to do any of that? Nor given control of the House and Senate, would they! Want a job; then vote Green!

Here's Jill's and Cheri's bios. Please compare and contrast their bios with Willard's and Barry's.

Dr. Jill Stein is a mother, housewife, physician, longtime teacher of internal medicine, and pioneering environmental-health advocate.

She is the co-author of two widely-praised reports, In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, published in 2000, and Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging, published in 2009. The first of these has been translated into four languages and is used worldwide. The reports promote green local economies, sustainable agriculture, clean power, and freedom from toxic threats.

Her "Healthy People, Healthy Planet" teaching program reveals the links between human health, climate security, and green economic revitalization. This body of work has been presented at government, public health and medical conferences, and has been used to improve public policy.

Jill began to advocate for the environment as a human health issue in 1998 when she realized that politicians were simply not acting to protect children from the toxic threats emerging from current science. She offered her services to parents, teachers, community groups and a native Americans group seeking to protect their communities from toxic exposure.

Jill has testified before numerous legislative panels as well as local and state governmental bodies. She played a key role in the effort to get the Massachusetts fish advisories updated to better protect women and children from mercury contamination, which can contribute to learning disabilities and attention deficits in children. She also helped lead the successful campaign to clean up the "Filthy Five" coal plants in Massachusetts, an effort that resulted in getting coal plant regulations signed into law that were the most protective around at that time. Her testimony on the effects of mercury and dioxin contamination from the burning of waste helped preserve the Massachusetts moratorium on new trash incinerator construction in the state.

Jill has appeared as an environmental health expert on the Today Show, 20/20, Fox News, and other programs. She was also a member of the national and Massachusetts boards of directors of the Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her efforts to protect public health has won her several awards including: Clean Water Action's "Not in Anyone's Backyard" Award, the Children's Health Hero" Award, and the Toxic Action Center's Citizen Award.

Having witnessed the ability of big money to stop health protective policies on Beacon Hill, Jill became an advocate for campaign finance reform, and worked to help pass the Clean Election Law. This law was approved by the voters by a 2-1 margin, but was later repealed by the Massachusetts Legislature on an unrecorded voice vote.

In 2002 ADD activists in the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party approached Dr. Stein and asked her to run for Governor of Massachusetts. Dr. Stein accepted, and began her first foray into electoral politics. She was widely credited with being the best informed and most credible candidate in the race.

She has twice been elected to town meeting in Lexington, Massachusetts. She is the founder and past co-chair of a local recycling committee appointed by the Lexington Board of Selectmen.

In 2003, Jill co-founded the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, a non-profit organization that addresses a variety of issues that are important to the health and well-being of Massachusetts communities, including health care, local green economies, and grassroots democracy.

Jill represented the Green-Rainbow Party in two additional races - one for State Representative in 2004 and one for Secretary of State in 2006. In 2006 she won the votes of over 350,000 Massachusetts citizens - which represented the greatest vote total ever for a Green-Rainbow candidate.

In 2008, Jill helped formulate a "Secure Green Future" ballot initiative that called upon legislators to accelerate efforts to move the Massachusetts economy to renewable energy and make development of green jobs a priority. The measure won over 81 per cent of the vote in the 11 districts in which it was on the ballot.

Jill was born in Chicago and raised in suburban Highland Park, Illinois. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1973, and from Harvard Medical School in 1979. Jill enjoys writing and performing music, and enjoys long walks with her Great Dane, Bandita. Dr. Stein lives in Lexington with her husband, Richard Rohrer, also a physician. She has two sons, Ben and Noah, who have graduated from college in the past few years.


Cheri Honkala (born 1963) is an American anti-poverty advocate, founder of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and founder and National Coordinator of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign. She has been a noted advocate for human rights in the United States and internationally.

Honkala is the vice-presidential nominee of the Green Party in the 2012 presidential election. She was the Green Party candidate for Sheriff of Philadelphia in 2011. She was featured prominently in the 1997 book Myth of the Welfare Queen by journalist David Zucchino. She is the mother of actor Mark Webber.

Honkala was born into poverty in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1963 and spent most of her youth battling homelessness and struggling to avoid youth detention facilities. She became a vocal activist at a young age, getting arrested at a homeless demonstration at the age of 13.

Honkala is known internationally for her work to advocate for the rights of poor people in the United States, having received recognition in various publications for her active role in bringing attention to issues such as homelessness and foreclosures. Currently based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she devotes most of her attention to the rise in home evictions among lower income families.

In early 2011, Honkala announced her run for Sheriff of Philadelphia on a "No Evictions" platform, with a campaign slogan of "Keeping families in their homes and protecting the 'hood."

Vote Green or vote fascist, that's your choice America! Which do you chose?

In Other News

Well, wasn't that fun? I just finished writing a nice piece that I only had to sweat a quart or so of blood to write only to have it disappeared by Text Wrangler for no apparent reason that I can see -- not only the essay, but it also took around 19,000 lines with it. Fortunately, I had it backed up, everything but what I had just written, and since this needs to be at my editor's in half an hour I'm not going to bother rewriting it! It was all about our national embarrassment, Joe Arpaio's attempt to take the spotlight off his upcoming state and federal criminal trials with some more birther bullshit, and how he likes his men and boys to wear pink underwear for him, and how he should come out of the closet; but fuck it, I haven't got the time! So here's someone else's report...
PHOENIX - Investigators for an Arizona sheriff's volunteer posse have declared that President Barack Obama's birth certificate is definitely fraudulent.

Members of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's posse said in March that there was probable cause that Obama's long-form birth certificate released by the White House in April 2011 was a computer-generated forgery.

Now, Arpaio says investigators are positive it's fraudulent.

Mike Zullo, the posse's chief investigator, said numeric codes on certain parts of the birth certificate indicate that those parts weren't filled out, yet those sections asking for the race of Obama's father and his field of work or study were completed.

Zullo said investigators previously didn't know the meaning of codes but they were explained by a 95-year-old former state worker who signed the president's birth certificate. Zullo said a writer who published a book about Obama's birth certificate and was aiding investigators let them listen in on an interview he conducted of the former state worker.

The Obama campaign declined to comment on Arpaio's allegations.

The Arizona Democratic Party said in a statement that Arpaio's investigation is intended to draw attention away from problems within his own agency, such as hundreds of sex-crime cases that the sheriff's office failed to adequately investigate over a three-year period.

So-called "birthers" maintain Obama is ineligible to be President because, they contend, he was born in Kenya.

Hawaii officials have repeatedly confirmed Obama's citizenship, and state officials did again Tuesday.

Cest la guerre, Ya'll!

And Finally

Just when you thought that things were bad enough with our current weather problems, along comes two Harvard scientists, David Keith and James Anderson, who have the answer to global warming -- even if it kill us; and; if implemented, kill us it certainly will!

Did warning sirens start blaring in your head when you read the words "Harvard scientists?" You'll recall that Harvard has produced such deep thinkers as George W. Bush; who won a MBA from Harvard and with this knowledge all but totally destroyed the economy with it. Not to mention our current "dear leader" and Constitutional scholar whose many acts of treason against the Constitution were so many that I've lost count!

So, when some know-it-alls from Harvard start postulating about climate control, "you'd better listen, and you'd better listen tight, pilgrim!" Their field experiment in solar geoengineering aims to "ultimately create a technology to replicate the observed effects of volcanoes that spew sulphates into the stratosphere, using sulphate aerosols to bounce sunlight back to space and decrease the temperature of the Earth." Even though every time this happens we end up with a summer without summer, like in the US in 1816, when thousands starved to death, but on the scale they're proposing hundreds of millions might die and that could be just the tip of the iceberg!

If that didn't scare you, well, maybe this will, evil, arch one percenter, Bill Gates is funding this potential nightmare, so what could go wrong?

"Impacts include the potential for further damage to the ozone layer, and disruption of rainfall, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions - potentially threatening the food supplies of billions of people," said Pat Mooney, executive director of the Canadian-based technology watchdog ETC Group. "It will do nothing to decrease levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or halt ocean acidification. And solar geoengineering is likely to increase the risk of climate-related international conflict - given that the modeling to date shows it poses greater risks to the global south." Thank Zeus that all the global powers are in the north, huh?

A scientific study published last month concluded that "solar radiation management could decrease rainfall by 15% in North America and northern Eurasia and by more than 20% in central South America." Just what we need in this country, less rain, eh? Tell that to the folks living in most of America, where a dust bowl size drought is currently taking place.

There are ways of reversing the climate disaster that won't make things worse, but the longer we wait to get started, the longer and more expensive it will be. As this is the most dangerous thing that has ever happened to Mankind, let's look before we leap, and let's get to looking real soon!

Keepin' On

As Canada's Triumph is often wont to sing: "Fight the good fight every moment. Every minute, every day." That's exactly what we try to do, folks, constantly stand up to our over lords for the rights of the people! Your rights, your children's rights, for all the peoples of planet Earth!

And as Ringo and George sang, "You know it don't come easy." What with spirally costs, fighting against the corpo-rat media, who have the total financial backing of the 1% it sure as hell don't come easy, and that's where you come in, helping us live to fight another day, against overwhelming odds. Nothing we can't do and have done for going on 12 years, but we need your help to do it.

Even though we are a non-profit, (boy are we ever a non-profit) we still have bills to pay for being on the Internet and bring you the best authors, cartoonists, videos and liberal thought around, it ain't cheap ya'll! We're still $400 short with time running out on our next payment, so please help us if you can with as much as you can as often as you can, and we'll keep kicking ass and taking names in your honor. To help us just go here and follow the instructions, you'll feel better when you do, and your karma will shine like a newborn babies!


12-13-1934 ~ 07-13-2012
Thanks for the film!

04-29-1917 ~ 07-15-2012
Thanks for the film!

08-30-1919 ~ 07-16-2012
Thanks for the music!

06-09-1941 ~ 07-16-2012
Thanks for the music!

12-15-1944 ~ 07-17-2012
Thanks for the films!


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.

The Great Charter - It's Fate, Our Fate
Revisiting the Magna Carta
By Noam Chomsky

Editor's note: This column is adapted from an address by Noam Chomsky on June 19 at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, as part of its 600th anniversary celebration.

Recent events trace a threatening trajectory, sufficiently so that it may be worthwhile to look ahead a few generations to the millennium anniversary of one of the great events in the establishment of civil and human rights: the issuance of Magna Carta, the charter of English liberties imposed on King John in 1215.

What we do right now, or fail to do, will determine what kind of world will greet that anniversary. It is not an attractive prospect - not least because the Great Charter is being shredded before our eyes.

The first scholarly edition of the Magna Carta was published in 1759 by the English jurist William Blackstone, whose work was a source for U.S. constitutional law. It was entitled "The Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest," following earlier practice. Both charters are highly significant today. The first, the Charter of Liberties, is widely recognized to be the cornerstone of the fundamental rights of the English-speaking peoples - or as Winston Churchill put it more expansively, "the charter of every self-respecting man at any time in any land."

In 1679 the Charter was enriched by the Habeas Corpus Act, formally titled "an Act for the better securing the liberty of the subject, and for prevention of imprisonment beyond the seas." The modern harsher version is called "rendition" - imprisonment for the purpose of torture.

Along with much of English law, the Act was incorporated into the U.S. Constitution, which affirms that "the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended" except in case of rebellion or invasion. In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the rights guaranteed by this Act were "(c)onsidered by the Founders as the highest safeguard of liberty."

More specifically, the Constitution provides that no "person (shall) be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law (and) a speedy and public trial" by peers.

The Department of Justice has recently explained that these guarantees are satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch, as Jo Becker and Scott Shane reported in The New York Times on May 29. Barack Obama, the constitutional lawyer in the White House, agreed. King John would have nodded with satisfaction.

The underlying principle of "presumption of innocence" has also been given an original interpretation. In the calculus of the president's "kill list" of terrorists, "all military-age males in a strike zone" are in effect counted as combatants "unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent," Becker and Shane summarized. Thus post-assassination determination of innocence now suffices to maintain the sacred principle.

This is the merest sample of the dismantling of "the charter of every self-respecting man."

The companion Charter of the Forest is perhaps even more pertinent today. It demanded protection of the commons from external power. The commons were the source of sustenance for the general population - their fuel, their food, their construction materials. The Forest was no wilderness. It was carefully nurtured, maintained in common, its riches available to all, and preserved for future generations.

By the 17th century, the Charter of the Forest had fallen victim to the commodity economy and capitalist practice and morality. No longer protected for cooperative care and use, the commons were restricted to what could not be privatized - a category that continues to shrink before our eyes.

Last month the World Bank ruled that the mining multinational Pacific Rim can proceed with its case against El Salvador for trying to preserve lands and communities from highly destructive gold mining. Environmental protection would deprive the company of future profits, a crime under the rules of the investor rights regime mislabeled as "free trade."

This is only one example of struggles under way over much of the world, some with extreme violence, as in resource-rich eastern Congo, where millions have been killed in recent years to ensure an ample supply of minerals for cellphones and other uses, and of course ample profits.

The dismantling of the Charter of the Forest brought with it a radical revision of how the commons are conceived, captured by Garrett Hardin's influential thesis in 1968 that "Freedom in a commons brings ruin to us all," the famous "tragedy of the commons": What is not privately owned will be destroyed by individual avarice.

The doctrine is not without challenge. Elinor Olstrom won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009 for her work showing the superiority of user-managed commons.

But the doctrine has force if we accept its unstated premise: that humans are blindly driven by what American workers, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, called "the New Spirit of the Age, Gain Wealth forgetting all but Self" - a doctrine they bitterly condemned as demeaning and destructive, an assault on the very nature of free people.

Huge efforts have been devoted since to inculcating the New Spirit of the Age. Major industries are dedicated to what political economist Thorstein Veblen called "fabricating wants" - directing people to "the superficial things" of life, like "fashionable consumption," in the words of Columbia University marketing professor Paul Nystrom.

That way people can be atomized, seeking personal gain alone and diverted from dangerous efforts to think for themselves, act in concert and challenge authority.

It's unnecessary to dwell on the extreme dangers posed by one central element of the destruction of the commons: the reliance on fossil fuels, which courts global disaster. Details may be debated, but there is little serious doubt that the problems are all too real and that the longer we delay in addressing them, the more awful will be the legacy left to generations to come. The recent Rio+20 Conference is the latest effort. Its aspirations were meager, its outcome derisory.

In the lead in confronting the crisis, throughout the world, are indigenous communities. The strongest stand has been taken by the one country they govern, Bolivia, the poorest country in South America and for centuries a victim of Western destruction of its rich resources.

After the ignominious collapse of the Copenhagen global climate change summit in 2009, Bolivia organized a People's Summit with 35,000 participants from 140 countries. The summit called for very sharp reduction in emissions, and a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth. That is a key demand of indigenous communities all over the world.

The demand is ridiculed by sophisticated Westerners, but unless we can acquire some of the sensibility of the indigenous communities, they are likely to have the last laugh - a laugh of grim despair.
(c) 2012 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Gaza In Crisis.

Two Faces
By Uri Avnery

TWO FORMER Prime Ministers of Israel are in the news these days. They represent two of the many faces of Israel.

They also raise a universal question: which is preferable - an honest fanatic or a corrupt pragmatist?

YITZHAK SHAMIR died two weeks ago and was buried in the cemetery of the "Great of the Nation" in Jerusalem. He was 97 years old and had been vegetating for years in a state of dementia. Most Israelis did not know that he was still alive.

When I described him on TV as "the most successful terrorist of the 20th century," the interviewer raised his eyebrows. But it was an accurate description.

Shamir was not a great thinker. In his teens he joined the right-wing Zionist youth organization of Vladimir Jabotinsky in Poland, and since then he did not change his world-view one iota. In this respect he was absolutely immovable. He wanted a Jewish state in all of the historical country. Period. No nonsense about Arabs and such.

We both joined the Irgun underground at the same time. I was too young to take part in actual terrorist actions, he, eight years my senior, carried them out. At the time, the Irgun killed scores of Arab men, women and children in attacks on Arab markets, in retaliation for Arab attacks on Jewish civilians. We defied the policy of "self-restraint" ordered by the Zionist leadership.

In the summer of 1940 the Irgun split. One of the commanders, Avraham Stern, founded the organization known to the British as the "Stern Gang." (Eventually it was called LEHI, acronym for Fighters for the Freedom of Israel.)

Stern was a logical person. The aim was to set up a Jewish state in all of Palestine. The enemy was the British Empire. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Therefore we must cooperate with the Nazis. He sent several emissaries to contact the Germans. Some were intercepted by the British, the others were ignored by the Nazis.

I could not accept this atrocious logic and did not join, though the temptation was there. Shamir did.

He was caught and imprisoned (unlike Stern himself, who was caught and shot on the spot). Within a short time, virtually all the members of the organization were killed or arrested. The group ceased to exist - until Shamir and a colleague, Eliahu Giladi, broke out. The two acted together and brought LEHI to life again. One day Shamir had Giladi tried and shot.

Giladi was not accused of treason, but, on the contrary - of excessive zeal. He made plans for revolutionary actions, such as killing David Ben-Gurion and the entire Zionist leadership. Shamir decided that his adventurous nature endangered the organization and that he must be removed. Afterwards Shamir named his daughter Gilada.

Many years later I asked him which historical personality he admired most. He answered without hesitation: Lenin. I understood that he admired him because Lenin ruthlessly followed the maxim "the end justifies the means."

Shamir was one of LEHI's three leaders. He was responsible for operations and organization, meticulously building a deliberately small group of selected individuals, executing incredibly daring actions. He himself planned every single operation in the greatest detail. The most famous was the assassination of Lord Moyne, the senior British functionary in the Middle East, in Cairo.)

He was arrested again when the British shut down Tel Aviv and conducted a house-to-house search. Shamir was well disguised but could not hide his most obvious characteristic: he was very small, almost a dwarf, with a big, strong head. The soldiers were instructed to arrest every man below a certain height.

This time he was sent to a detention camp in Africa, from which he duly escaped. He reached French Djibouti, was brought by a French warship to Paris where he stayed until Israel came into being.

LEHI never amounted to more than a few hundred members. But it played a major role in driving the British out of this country.

IN ISRAEL, Shamir disappeared from view. For years he worked for the Mossad. It was rumored that his speciality was sending letter bombs. When he resurfaced, he joined the party of his erstwhile competitor, Menachem Begin. He was appointed Knesset chairman. Once I decided to stage a small demonstration in the Knesset. I wore under my jacket a t-shirt saying "Peace is better than a Greater Israel". During the plenary session I took the jacket off. After some minutes of shock, an usher asked me politely to see the chairman in his office. Shamir received me with a big smile and said: "Uri, where would we be if every member did something like that? Now that you have made your point, would you please put your jacket on again?" Which I did, of course.

When Begin made peace with Egypt and even I voted for him, Shamir abstained. After Lebanon War I, when Begin resigned saying "I can't go on any more," Shamir took his place. As prime minister, his most outstanding achievement was to do nothing, except building settlements - quietly and unobtrusively. Under American pressure, he attended the Madrid peace conference, determined not to budge an inch. As he remarked later, he was quite ready to negotiate with the Arabs for any length of time.

He did not dream of making peace, which would have drawn frontiers and barred the way to Greater Israel. His ideology was summed up by his most famous dictum, alluding to the old adage that the Arabs want to throw the Jews into the sea: "The Arabs are the same Arabs and the sea is the same sea." Another famous statement: "It is permissible to lie for the fatherland."

Remarkably, this man, who joined the Irgun (like me) in protest against "self-restraint", exercised self-restraint par excellence when Saddam Hussein rained missiles on Israel during the Gulf War. Shamir was content to let the Americans do the job.

His other great achievement was preventing Jews from reaching the US. When the Soviet leadership allowed Jews to emigrate, almost all of them proceeded straight to the US. Shamir persuaded the White House to shut the gates, and thus compelled more than a million Russian Jews to come to Israel (where they now swell the ranks of the extreme right.) For a short time he was the mentor of the young Binyamin Netanyahu, but then he came to detest him. After Netanyahu made a small tactical concession to the Arabs, he called him "Angel of Destruction". One may assume that he was also disgusted by Netanyahu's penchant for luxury. When not lying for the fatherland, Shamir was straight as a ramrod, living in utmost modesty. There never was - or could be - even the slightest hint of corruption. Which leads us straight to Ehud Olmert.

ONCE upon a time there was a Minister of Education, Zalman Aran, who was known for his dry humor. A party functionary once came up to him and said: "Ziama, you can congratulate me. I have been acquitted!"

"Strange," Aran replied, "I have never been acquitted!"

Olmert has been acquitted many times. During his entire career, he has danced from one acquittal to the next.

This week it happened again. After a long trial, in which he was accused on five different counts of corruption, he was acquitted of four. One concerned his habit of letting himself be invited by several charity organizations to lecture in the US, and letting all of them pay separately for the same first class ticket (using the surplus for his family's private outings.) Another count: reporting to the State Comptroller that his collection of expensive pens was worth a tenth of its real value.

The district court decided to acquit him on all counts for lack of proof, except one: that as Minister of Industry he had favored the clients of his close friend, who obliged him by keeping a large amount of cash stashed away in his safe.

Olmert celebrated his partial acquittal as a great victory. The media - the same media which celebrated his indictment when it all started - are taking part in the celebration. He is still awaiting the outcome of an even bigger trial. The accusation, this time: taking bribes for the building of a huge multi-billion architectural monster in the center of Jerusalem when he was mayor of the city. Everybody expects that he will be acquitted, as usual.

Among the outcries against the Attorney General in the media was the accusation that he, a mere civil servant, had toppled an incumbent Prime Minister on trumped-up charges. Worse, that he had done so just when Olmert was about to make peace with the Palestinians. Nonsense. In his years in the Prime Minister's office, during which he initiated two dirty wars (Lebanon War II and Operation "Cast Lead"), he had plenty of time to make peace. He did Indeed produce a peace plan - but only on the eve of his expected political demise. With peacemakers like this, who needs warmongers?

However, Olmert is already hinting that after his next acquittal he will return to political life.

SHAMIR, THE dead honest fanatic, has many followers. Olmert, the living corrupt pragmatist, has very few.

Netanyahu, their current successor, has the vices of both and the virtues of neither.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

San Francisco, CA, USA

A Long Hot Summer
By Bill McKibben

It's turning into a hot climate summer in two ways, only one of which you can measure with a thermometer.

Amidst the deepening drought, the summer's fourth heat wave, and the continued western fires, there's something else breaking out: a siege of citizen uprisings at key points around the country all designed to keep coal in the hole, oil in the soil, gas... underground.

Ever since the mass arrests protesting the Keystone pipeline last summer (the largest civil disobedience action in the U.S. in 30 years) there's been renewed interest in confronting the fossil fuel industry and its political enablers. Some have been following this path for years, of course -- late next week, beginning July 25, opponents of mountain-top removal coal-mining will resume their long-standing (and increasingly successful fight), with a week-long Mountain Mobilization that will likely include civil disobedience.

A few days later, activists from around the country will descend on D.C. for a rally against fracking -- perhaps the fastest-growing wing of the environmental movement. That gathering won't lead to arrests -- but others will.

Earlier this week, for instance, Ohio protesters chained themselves to the gates outside a so-called injection well, not far from where earlier this year disposal of fracking water had helped trigger a swarm of earthquakes. And just yesterday Josh Fox and Mark Ruffalo announced plans for an August 25 gathering designed to keep fracking at bay in New York State.

From August 10-20, Montana protesters will hold a multi-day sit-in designed to stop opening up of massive new coal mines -- and across the Pacific Northwest others are joining in to fight the proposed ports that would send that coal to Asia for burning.

And just so oil doesn't feel left out of the party, Texans in August and September are planning civil disobedience to block the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, the part that's been given a green light by the Obama administration.

Taken one by one, these might seem like mosquito bites against the tough hide of the planet's richest and most politically connected industry. But taken together, they show an ever-savvier movement that's figuring out the choke points that make fossil fuel corporations vulnerable. If you can't pipe tar sands oil to the ocean, there's no reason to mine it in the first place; if you've got no port for your coal, you might as well leave it in the ground.

And here's the thing -- each of these actions is magnified by the temperature, multiplied by the humidity, underscored by the smoke in the sky. "Long hot summer" has two meanings now, and they amplify each other.
(c) 2012 Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, co-founder of His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Romney's 'Free Stuff' Speech Is A New Low
By Matt Taibbi

Wow. If you live long enough, you'll see some truly gross things in politics, but Mitt Romney's work this past week "courting black support" was enough to turn even the strongest stomach.

Romney really showed us something in his luridly self-congratulating N.A.A.C.P. gambit, followed by the awesomely disgusting "free stuff" post-mortem speech he delivered the next night in front of friendlier audiences. The twin appearances revealed the candidate to be not merely unlikable, and not merely a fatuous, unoriginal hack of politician, but also a genuinely repugnant human being, a grasping corporate hypocrite with so little feel for how to get along with people that he has to dream up elaborate schemes just to try to pander to the mob.

At first, it was hard to say what exactly Romney was thinking when he decided to address the N.A.A.C.P. He plunged into the speech with a creepy kamikaze smile and a rushed, weird (even for him) delivery, acting like someone proud of what a ballsily moronic dare he was attempting - like a high school kid mooning a squad car from the back of a school bus, or Peter McNeeley rushing face-first into the ring with Mike Tyson.

Now, it would have been one thing if Romney had put some real thought into this, if he had taken a day or two or three and really pondered the question of why 90% of black voters vote Democratic. That's a serious question, and it would have been something if Romney had really attempted to bridge what has turned into a disturbingly ugly gap between most nonwhite Americans and political conservatives.

Without accepting blame or admitting guilt, he could have talked about the increasingly strident tone of the national debate over racially charged issues, and wondered aloud if politicians on both sides perhaps needed to find a new way to talk about these things without fearmongering, stereotyping, or trading accusations. He could have met the racial-tension issue head on, in other words, and simply declared it to be something that both parties need to work on. This was an opportunity to make history as a peacemaker, just by saying out loud the simple truth that white and nonwhite Americans, and Democrats and Republicans both, need to find more civilized ways to talk about their political concerns. If he had owned the problem, that would have been a big step forward, for all of us.

Of course, that's expecting a lot. But even if he had just come up with a fresh, earnest new way to articulate the conservative argument, something beyond the usual sloganeering, that would have been really interesting.

But he didn't. He came out with the same half-assed, platitude-filled stump speech he usually doles out at campaign stops, literally the same exact speech, only he added quotes from Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Hooks, and Dr. King. As he told a mostly white audience in Montana the next night: "I gave them the same speech I am giving you." He seemed almost proud of the fact that he didn't put any extra thought into what he was going to say in his first big address to black America. If some speeches feel like a verbal embrace, Romney's felt like a stack of cardboard emptied from the bay of a dump truck.

So given that he didn't say anything new in the speech besides what he always says - government is the enemy of all life forms, we can't blame the rich, etc. - the true meaning of the speech had to be in the very fact that he gave it in the first place. So what was he trying to accomplish? Surely he didn't think he was going to be getting converts by promising to repeal "Obamacare," crush teachers' unions, and "help those who need help."

No, he delivered those lines like a man expecting, maybe even wanting to get booed. And sure enough, after the event, it was hard not to notice how gleefully Fox and Hannity and the like played and replayed the video of the Mittster gamely dying on the cross of racial outreach. The rhetorical theme on those outlets was something like, "This is what happens when you promote the cause of free enterprise and self-sufficiency in front of the N.A.A.C.P.!" As Charles Blow in the New York Times put it:

The speech sounded like it was designed not for the audience in the room, but for those in Republican living rooms.

It sounded as though he wanted to show force and fearlessness: "Look folks, I walked into hostile territory unafraid and unbowed." This was his version of a Daniel in the lions' den speech.

Talk tough. Get heckled and booed for telling the truth to those who don't want to hear it. Take the president down a couple of pegs in front of the most loyal segment of his supporters...

So Romney did that, and then the next night he went to Montana and he discussed the experience in front of a friendlier audience. And this is what he said:

When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren't happy, I didn't get the same response. That's O.K, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don't stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that's just fine...

But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy - more free stuff.

So now this is the message: I tried to reason with the blacks, I really did, but it turns out they just want a free lunch.

How's that for bridging the racial divide? Time to wake up the Nobel committee in Oslo!

As far as free lunches go, we of course just witnessed the biggest government handout in history, one that Romney himself endorsed. Four and a half trillion dollars in bailout money already disbursed, trillions more still at risk in guarantees and loans, sixteen trillion dollars in emergency lending from the Federal Reserve, two trillion in quantitative easing, etc. etc. All of this money went to Romney's pals in the Wall Street banks that for years helped Romney take over companies with mountains of borrowed cash. Now, after these banks crashed, executives at those same firms used those public funds to pay themselves massive salaries, which is exactly the opposite of "helping those who need help," if you're keeping score.

That set of facts alone made the "free stuff" speech shockingly offensive. But the problem isn't just that Romney's wrong, and a hypocrite, and cynically furthering dangerous and irresponsible stereotypes in order to advance some harebrained electoral ploy involving white conservative voters. What makes it gross is the way he did it.

Romney can't even be mean with any honesty. Even when he's pandering to viciousness, ignorance and racism, it comes across like a scaly calculation. A guy who feels like he has to take a dump on the N.A.A.C.P. in Houston in order to connect with frustrated white yahoos everywhere else is a guy who has absolutely no social instincts at all. Someone like Jesse Helms at least had a genuine emotional connection with his crazy-mean-stupid audiences. But Mitt Romney has to think his way to the lowest common denominator, which is somehow so much worse.

Most presidents have something under the hood - wit, warmth, approachability, something. Even the most liberal football fan could enjoy watching an NFL game with George Bush. And even a Klansman probably would have found some of LBJ's jokes funny. The biggest office in the world requires someone who buzzes with enough personality to fill the job, and most of them have it.

But Romney doesn't buzz with anything. His vision of humanity is just a million tons of meat floating around in a sea of base calculations. He's like a teenager who stays up all night thinking of a way to impress the prom queen, and what he comes up with is kicking a kid in a wheelchair. Instincts like those are probably what made him a great leveraged buyout specialist, but in a public figure? Man, is he a disaster. It's really incredible theater, watching the Republicans talk themselves into this guy.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

Beware Of The Tomato Tamperers

Some people are too smart for your own good.

Food geneticists, for example. These technicians have the smarts to tinker with the inner workings of Momma Nature's own good foods - but not the smarts to leave well enough alone. During the past half century, their productive tinkering devolved into outright tampering with our food, mostly to serve big agribusiness corporations that wanted nature's design altered in ways that would fatten their bottom lines. Never mind that the alterations created by these smart people were not good for you and me.

Take the tomato, truly a natural wonder. Agribusiness profiteers, however, wanted it to do unnatural things, so - voila! - the genetic tamperers dutifully produced the Amazing Industrial Tomato. It's a techno-marvel made to endure long-distance shipping, be artificially ripened to appear tomato-y red, and last an ungodly amount of time without rotting.

But taste? Forget it. There's more flavor in the carton. This led to a grassroots rebellion among consumers and small farmers, resulting in the phenomenal growth in farmers markets and stores that offer nature's own locally-produced and heirloom varieties untouched by the smart ones.

But, look out - the tomato tamperers are back in the lab! They've discovered that a mutated gene they had bred into the corporate tomato switches off other genes that would cause the fruit to develop flavor. The answer, they say, is not less technology, but more. By artificially re-engineering the DNA structure of the plant, they can bypass that naughty mutated gene and switch-on some of the flavor genes. But do we really want to eat genetically engineered tomatoes?

I can just see the agribusiness ad: "Buy our industrial tomatoes - Now genetically flavored!" Better yet, buy the local tomatoes, which don't need a smart geneticist or an ad to deliver real flavor.
(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.

Day of Action against Bank of America. New York City, May 8, 2012

This Global Financial Fraud And Its Gatekeepers
The media's 'bad apple' thesis no longer works. We're seeing systemic corruption in banking - and systemic collusion
By Naomi Wolf

Last fall, I argued that the violent reaction to Occupy and other protests around the world had to do with the 1%ers' fear of the rank and file exposing massive fraud if they ever managed get their hands on the books. At that time, I had no evidence of this motivation beyond the fact that financial system reform and increased transparency were at the top of many protesters' list of demands.

But this week presents a sick-making trove of new data that abundantly fills in this hypothesis and confirms this picture. The notion that the entire global financial system is riddled with systemic fraud - and that key players in the gatekeeper roles, both in finance and in government, including regulatory bodies, know it and choose to quietly sustain this reality - is one that would have only recently seemed like the frenzied hypothesis of tinhat-wearers, but this week's headlines make such a conclusion, sadly, inevitable.

The New York Times business section on 12 July shows multiple exposes of systemic fraud throughout banks: banks colluding with other banks in manipulation of interest rates, regulators aware of systemic fraud, and key government officials (at least one banker who became the most key government official) aware of it and colluding as well. Fraud in banks has been understood conventionally and, I would say, messaged as a glitch. As in London Mayor Boris Johnson's full-throated defense of Barclay's leadership last week, bank fraud is portrayed as a case, when it surfaces, of a few "bad apples" gone astray.

In the New York Times business section, we read that the HSBC banking group is being fined up to $1bn, for not preventing money-laundering (a highly profitable activity not to prevent) between 2004 and 2010 - a six years' long "oops". In another article that day, Republican Senator Charles Grassley says of the financial group Peregrine capital: "This is a company that is on top of things." The article goes onto explain that at Peregrine Financial, "regulators discovered about $215m in customer money was missing." Its founder now faces criminal charges. Later, the article mentions that this revelation comes a few months after MF Global "lost" more than $1bn in clients' money.

What is weird is how these reports so consistently describe the activity that led to all this vanishing cash as simple bumbling: "regulators missed the red flag for years." They note that a Peregrine client alerted the firm's primary regulator in 2004 and another raised issues with the regulator five years later - yet "signs of trouble seemingly missed for years," muses the Times headline.

A page later, "Wells Fargo will Settle Mortgage Bias Charges" as that bank agrees to pay $175m in fines resulting from its having - again, very lucratively - charged African-American and Hispanic mortgagees costlier rates on their subprime mortgages than their counterparts who were white and had the same credit scores. Remember, this was a time when "Wall Street firms developed a huge demand for subprime loans that they purchased and bundled into securities for investors, creating financial incentives for lenders to make such loans." So, Wells Fargo was profiting from overcharging minority clients and profiting from products based on the higher-than-average bad loan rate expected. The piece discreetly ends mentioning that a Bank of America lawsuit of $335m and a Sun Trust mortgage settlement of $21m for having engaged is similar kinds of discrimination.

Are all these examples of oversight failure and banking fraud just big ol' mistakes? Are the regulators simply distracted?

The top headline of the day's news sums up why it is not that simple: "Geithner Tried to Curb Bank's Rate Rigging in 2008." The story reports that when Timothy Geithner, at the time he ran the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, learned of "problems" with how interest rates were fixed in London, the financial center at the heart of the Libor Barclays scandal. He let "top British authorities" know of the issues and wrote an email to his counterparts suggesting reforms. Were his actions ethical, or prudent? A possible interpretation of Geithner's action is that he was "covering his ass." without serious expectation of effecting reform of what he knew to be systemic abuse.

And what, in fact, happened? Barclays kept reporting false rates, seeking to boost its profit. Last month, the bank agreed to pay $450m to US and UK authorities for manipulating the Libor and other key benchmarks, upon which great swaths of the economy depended. This manipulation is alleged in numerous lawsuits to have defrauded thousands of bank clients. So Geithner's "warnings came too late, and his efforts did not stop the illegal activity."

And then what happened? Did Geithner, presumably frustrated that his warnings had gone unheeded, call a press conference? No. He stayed silent, as a practice that now looks as if several major banks also perpetrated, continued.

And then what happened? Tim Geithner became Treasury Secretary. At which point, he still did nothing.

It is very hard, looking at the elaborate edifices of fraud that are emerging across the financial system, to ignore the possibility that this kind of silence - "the willingness to not rock the boat" - is simply rewarded by promotion to ever higher positions, ever greater authority. If you learn that rate-rigging and regulatory failures are systemic, but stay quiet, well, perhaps you have shown that you are genuinely reliable and deserve membership of the club.

Whatever motivated Geithner's silence, or that of the "government official" in the emails to Barclays, this much is obvious: the mainstream media need to drop their narratives of "Gosh, another oversight". The financial sector's corruption must be recognized as systemic.

Meanwhile, Britain is sleepwalking in a march toward total email surveillance, even as the US brings forward new proposals to punish whistleblowers by extending the Espionage Act. In an electronic world, evidence of these crimes lasts forever - if people get their hands on the books. In the Libor case, notably, a major crime has not been greeted by much demand at the top for criminal prosecutions. That asymmetry is one of the insurance policies of power. Another is to crack down on citizens' protest.
(c) 2012 Naomi Wolf author, social critic, and political activist is the author of The New York Times bestseller "The End of America" (Chelsea Green) and, more recently, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. Wolf's landmark international bestseller, The Beauty Myth, challenged the cosmetics industry and the marketing of unrealistic standards of beauty, launching a new wave of feminism in the early 1990s.

Do We Really Know What Happened In The Past?
By James Donahue

The controversy going on in Texas involving the twisted adulterating of school textbooks by extreme right-wing conservative and Christian thinking members of the State Board of Education is a shining example of the distortion of world history.

School and college textbooks, many of which are published in Texas, are laced with the political propaganda generated by the boards of directors that control the information that goes into the books used to instruct our children.

Among the best examples of misinformation pumped into the heads of our school children over the years has been the stories of Columbus and his discovery of America, the American-Indian wars, the first Thanksgiving feast at Plymouth Rock, the American Revolution, George Washington's cherry tree myth, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman involved in the Kennedy Assassination. Then we teach the false stories that the German sinking of the Lusitania, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9-11 attacks all took America by surprise and led us into wars, and Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power because he was harboring weapons of mass destruction.

As a writer with a keen interest in history I have found in my research that all of these stories have been fabricated and brush-stroked to glorify the United States as a nation as well as the elected leadership in power at the time these events occurred. As a student of world history in college, I have been aware that the same kind of distortions of recorded information has been occurring for centuries. It is thus logical to assume that the farther back into the past we look, the more distorted and incorrect the stories become.

For example, after great conflicts, the victorious kings and rulers usually always took it upon themselves to paint themselves as the "good guys" and the losers the evil villains. Often the records of the losing tribe or nationality were sponged as if they never existed. And we all know that tribes, nations and religious driven forces have been warring for as long as there has been documented historical record.

Powerful religious beliefs among the rulers at various moments in the past have played a major role in the distortion of facts. The Roman Catholic priests that accompanied Don Hernando Cortes and the Spanish conquistadors in the invasion of both the Aztec and Mayan nations of Central and South America succeeded in collecting and burning great libraries of written information that existed there. The priests considered these people evil spawns of Satan and had no interest in learning of their culture. Consequently all that we know of them has been learned from the few surviving manuscripts, the carved information on temple walls, and from archaeological research.

Some say the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar burned the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt in 48 BC. Others say the church was involved in that great misdeed. Whatever the truth, this library contained a collection of all of the known manuscripts, parchments and scrolls gathered by the best scholars from all over the known world. That library and the great university established there was considered a major center of scholarship for over 300 years. All of this wonderful information was lost to the world forever because of a strong religious doctrine that declared Christianity the only true religion. All writings by great men of other parts of the world were considered blasphemy against God.

There are many surviving documents by ancient historians depicting world history from the perspective of the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, Hebrews and even the Mesopotamians if we consider the clay tablets that contained The Epic of Gilgamesh an historical story. Were Homer's great songs, the Iliad and the Odyssey works of national pride or based on historical fact? The farther back we reach, the foggier the information becomes. Then there are the myths that reach back into ancient Greece that include the strange stories of the lost continents of Atlantis and Mu. Did they exist?

Archaeological discoveries have turned up evidence of great structures lying deep under the seas of the world. We have found other stone monuments, too massive for mere mortals to have constructed even with modern power tools. And then there have been the strange discoveries of things deep in the rock under our feet that should not be there . . . manufactured jewelry, iron nails, and a spark plug discovered in a California coal mine. Maintaining the true historical record of who we are, where we have been, and the motives for what we have done to one another in the past is probably one of the most important things we should have been doing. The old adage: those that forget the past are bound to repeat it, appears to ring true. Yet we have been careless about keeping these important records. It was more important for those in power to rewrite history for their own personal glory than it was to preserve the truth.

Because of current financial troubles, the money for running our schools has been reduced. And among the first classes to be cut from the high school curriculums has been history. What are they thinking?

Our failure to preserve and cherish the true historical record may be why humans have failed to evolve from the proud, plundering war-like animals we have always been. Until we learn better, we dare not consider ourselves truly civilized.
(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

Abolishing War - One Last Step
By David Swanson

Remarks delivered at Peacestock 2012

I want to thank Bill Habedank for inviting me here and everyone who's been involved in setting up this wonderful event, which ought to be replicated all over this country. Almost our entire population claims to favor peace. At least three quarters of us favor getting the U.S. military out of Afghanistan and ending that particular war, which by the way isn't ending. When carefully surveyed and shown what the federal budget is, a large majority of U.S. residents favors cutting huge amounts of money out of the military and putting it to better use.

But those doing anything about peace as part of a peace movement are a tiny fraction of a percent of the country. I have been lucky enough to see some of my cousins from this part of the country on this trip, and one of them referred to me as her famous cousin who speaks at events and writes books. There are others here much more famous than I within our little movement. But I'm willing to bet at least 99% of the country has never heard of any of us. Maybe the wonderful Coleen Rowley who made it onto the cover of Time Magazine. Maybe a few others.

Thank you also to Veterans For Peace for being the best peace organization I know of, and to its president Leah Bolger for being here. Leah and I and some others here were occupying Washington, D.C., last fall, and I've just now finally had criminal charges that were brought against me for speaking in a public hearing in the U.S. Senate dropped this week, just in time to hang out with the good people of Peacestock, which brings a certain risk of arrest in itself. Raise your hand if you're an undercover law enforcement officer.

That's all right. But please pay attention, because I'm going to be talking about some laws that are going unenforced. When I say our movement is small, I don't mean it's entirely without influence. And it was much bigger back in 2005 and 2006, when those who oppose wars had, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us, those who oppose Republican wars. There is a big gap, however, between those who oppose all wars, and those who oppose particular wars, be it for partisan or other reasons. President Obama used to oppose dumb wars. We came to find out he favors imbecilic wars, because there are more syllables involved. The thing is, people who oppose particular wars don't usually put as much energy into it as people who oppose all war. Perhaps they're hoping that a bad war will evolve into a good war, perhaps by escalating it, perhaps by electing a different president -- or maybe they just have other priorities.

The title for my remarks today is "Abolishing War: One Last Step." I'm willing to bet that even we in the peace movement are fairly unaware of some of the previous steps. In St. Paul, Minnesota, there's a house listed as a National Historic Landmark because Frank Kellogg lived there. There's also a Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul. But Kellogg's grave is in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Frank Kellogg had a long career, but there is one thing he did, and only one thing he did that made his house historic, named a boulevard for him, and put his ashes in the National Cathedral. I'm willing to bet most people living near St. Paul don't have the slightest idea what it was. Do you? Raise your hand if you know. And please don't say he invented corn flakes.

Well, this is not a typical crowd. All the children are above average here. And yet, some of us don't know.

Frank Kellogg was a pudgy, five-foot-six, Republican lawyer with a glass eye and hands that shook. He was not one to turn down a drink, prohibition or no prohibition, and he was best known for his fiery temper and the use of language that the FCC would not have tolerated. Kellogg was 70 years old in 1927. He'd been a trust buster. He'd been president of the American Bar Association. He'd been a U.S. senator from the great state of Minnesota. He'd voted in favor of entering World War I and against the League of Nations, but in support of pulling U.S. troops out of Russia.

Come 1927, when Kellogg was 70 years old, he was the U.S. Secretary of State. During his tenure, the U.S. Marines went into Panama, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and Kellogg threatened Mexico with war in the interest of U.S. corporations. Kellogg lacked any big following of supporters among the people or the elites. H.L. Mencken called him --quote -- a "doddering political hack from the cow country." I apologize to all the cows around here. Kellogg himself had unkind words for others. In 1927, he called the French a bunch of bleep bleep fools. But Kellogg added that those he hated most were the bleepity bleep bleep pacifists.

In 1928, Kellogg worked night and day to do exactly what the pacifists told him to do. He brought most of the powerful nations of the world together and created a treaty banning all use of war. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty, known as the Kellogg-Briand pact. (The vote was 85-1, with the 1 being a senator from Wisconsin who apparently wanted a stronger treaty, but who was censured by the Wisconsin legislature for his vote.) Briand was the French foreign minister, with whom Kellogg had worked on the treaty.

Frank Kellogg was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Briand already had one. This was in the pre-World War II days when the Nobel Committee still paid some attention to the requirements of Alfred Nobel's will, including that recipients of the prize have worked for the abolition or reduction of standing armies. Quick, can you name the last Nobel Peace Prize recipient who had worked to abolish standing armies? I think there have only been a handful in recent years who would have even stood for the idea, even in theory, much less have worked to advance it in reality.

Most groups, clubs, projects, etc., that promote peace today propose finding peace in our hearts. I'm reminded of Woody Allen's remark: I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. Well, I don't want to achieve peace through my heart. I want to achieve peace through ending war and abolishing armies.

Left to his own devices, Frank Kellogg would have had nothing to do with peace. But in 1927 there was a major peace movement in this country, united around an idea pushed by a Chicago lawyer named Salmon Oliver Levinson. The movement was called the Outlawry Movement, and the goal was to outlaw war. As slavery and blood feuds and dueling had been abolished, so would war be. And the first step would be stigmatizing war as no longer legal. Remember, war was not against the law. Nobody was prosecuted for World War I or any other war, because war making was not a crime. Particular atrocities could be crimes, but not war itself. Levinson opposed what we might call anachronistically the NATO model of banning war, in which the primary tool for preventing war is, of course, war. There were isolationist strains in the U.S. peace movement after the disaster of World War I that echo in some of today's libertarians. Agreeing with various allies to all go to war if one of them went to war was not a recipe for peace. The Outlawrists' plan was to make war illegal, to establish written international law and courts for settling international disputes, and to move world culture beyond acceptance of war.

Duelling had been done away with, said Levinson, and not just aggressive duelling. We didn't keep defensive duelling around. We set the whole barbaric procedure behind us. Thus must it be with war. The Outlawrists did not distinguish good or just wars from bad or unjust wars, any more than we distinguish just cases of rape, good uses of slavery, or humanitarian cases of genocide. War was the most evil thing created, and arranging to end war by means of war left everyone preparing for more war. So, the Kellogg-Briand Pact renounced all war.M

There's a song from 1950 -- maybe we can sing it later -- that begins "Last night I had the strangest dream I'd ever dreamed before. I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war. I dreamed I saw a mighty room, and the room was filled with men...." That scene had actually happened on August 27, 1928, with the signing of the Peace Pact. It was probably the biggest news story that year. This is not secret CIA history I'm describing. Raise your hand if you're with the CIA. Well, thank you for coming anyway. No, this is forgotten history, intentionally buried history. Frank Goetz, who may be here, and others are pushing to have August 27th made a holiday.

After the Pact was signed, nations stopped recognizing claims of war, gains of territory made through war. Wars were prevented and halted. The world turned against the horror of war, at least war among wealthy nations. Colonizing poor nations was still very much acceptable. And when World War II happened, Roosevelt directed that the Kellogg Briand Pact be used to prosecute the Germans and the Japanese for the brand new crime of making war. And they were thus prosecuted. And the rich nations never went to war with each other again, at least not yet. Europe, amazingly, finally stopped attacking itself. But the common interpretation became the bizarre notion that Kellogg-Briand had been erased by its failure to prevent World War II. Imagine setting up a legal ban on anything else, and then tossing it into the trash the first time it was violated, and while simultaneously enforcing it. I suppose the Ten Commandments, by that logic, must have been erased by being violated quite some time back now. After World War II the Peace Pact was twisted to prosecute aggressive war, rather than simply war, and it was imposed as victor's justice. But the Kellogg-Briand Pact, as written, remained on the books, as it remains on the U.S. State Department's website. Ssh. Don't tell Hillary.

This week Ralph Nader published a list of 11 books that he thinks everyone should read, and one of them was my book "When the World Outlawed War," which tells this story. It's probably the shortest on the list, too, so you can read it tonight and only have 10 books left to go.

World War II was the worst event that has occurred on planet earth, but trends away from war and violence observable in recent centuries continued. New institutions and cultural habits reinforced this. But legally, the U.N. Charter took a step back from Kellogg-Briand by sanctioning wars if they are defensive or U.N.-approved. An example of a defensive war would be the 2003 attack on the impoverished unarmed nation of Iraq thousands of miles from our shores. An example of a UN-approved war would be the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya and overthrow of its government. The UN had authorized a cease-fire, and NATO decided that was the same thing as authorizing bombing of the capital until the president was killed. In other words, the two loopholes opened up by the UN Charter have permitted unlimited warmaking and erased from our culture the idea that war is a crime.

The Geneva Conventions played their part as well, by establishing the idea that wars could be legal if conducted in a particular manner. The Conventions of 1949 look absurd today, as they distinguish participants in war from civilians. Wars today are not fought on distant battlefields, but in inhabited towns. Should those who fight back really lose legal protection? The Conventions do outline permissible conduct for occupying armies, but they require that the occupiers care for the occupied population much better than our governments care for their own populations back home. Of course, nobody takes seriously the idea of complying with this. Governments are permitted to kill huge numbers of civilians, but the killing has to be an accidental, even though foreseeable, byproduct of an effort to kill even bigger numbers of non-civilians or to accomplish some other military objective, such as gaining control over the civilians and non-civilians alike, should they manage to remain alive. Under this rigorous legal standard, José Luis Moreno Ocampo, prosecutor for the ICC -- or what I like to call the ICCA, the International Criminal Court for Africans -- found the U.S. slaughter of Iraqis to be legal, regardless of the fact that the United Nations had found the invasion of Iraq itself, the greater purpose at stake, to be illegal. The Catholic Church no longer sells indulgences, I suspect because it just can't compete with the United Nations.

And if the Geneva Conventions weren't bad enough, we created the CIA and NATO. While the world has turned against war, the United States has created a war-based economy with huge permanent standing armies standing in our own and most other countries around the globe. We've empowered a military industrial complex beyond Eisenhower's worst nightmares. In the 1920s war could be blamed on Europe. Now opposing war is almost treasonous. We've given presidents such powers that the Declaration of Independence would have to be three times as long if we were to attempt a new overthrow of tyranny. We've legalized election bribery, concentrated almost all our wealth in a very few hands, and in most cases swallowed whole the obvious lie that activism can have no impact. We face collapse of representative government, of civil liberties, of our natural environment, of our culture. We face nuclear apocalypse, weapons proliferation, and a vicious cycle of countering terrorism with precisely the policies that produce terrorism.

Last fall I helped organize a conference of experts on various areas of damage being done by the military industrial complex, resulting in the book, "The Military Industrial Complex at 50." We concluded that this monster, guarded by patriotism, McCarthyism, and financial corruption, is the number one opponent of most campaigns for things decent and good, certainly of campaigns against poverty, for education, against homelessness, for civil rights, against environmental destruction, for peace and prosperity. It's not a coincidence that the United States spends several times the next approaching country on the military while trailing a great many countries in measures of education, health, security, and happiness. If every movement that should rightfully be targeting the military industrial complex were to do so, it would fall. We would convert, retrain, retool, and prosper. But it's difficult for narrow interests to act on the big picture. Why should the ACLU oppose the military funding that produces the drone strikes and torture cells, when it can oppose the drone strikes and torture cells indefinitely? Why should the Sierra Club oppose the single largest consumer of oil when it can oppose institutions completely lacking flags and hero-worship?

When we tried to impeach or prosecute Bush or Cheney, well, two things. First, one of the best activists we had was Daniel Fearn who is now doing poorly in a hospital in Minneapolis. I bet a bunch of you know him. I hope you'll visit him. Can we all applaud the great work that Daniel Fearn did?

Second, when we tried to impeach Bush and Cheney, we were often told we hated those men or acted on partisan interests, and I always replied that if Bush was not punished for his crimes, the next president would do worse. It wouldn't matter whether the next president was black or white, male or female, Republican or Democratic. It would only matter whether power still corrupted and whether absolute power still corrupted absolutely. As it turns out, nothing has happened to change that rule. The illicit abuses of Bush are now open and official policy. We're spied on without warrants and can be locked up without charges, tortured without consequences, and sent to war without Congress. Our president keeps a list of nominees for being murdered. It includes Americans and non-Americans, children and adults. He works his way down the list. He says it costs him not a moment's worry. He jokes about it to the White House Press Corpse, and they laugh it up. And we run around like chickens with our heads cut off and our souls ripped out registering voters for him because we don't want to risk having a racist put in charge of our national program of murdering dark skinned Muslims. Even while peace activists have their homes raided by the FBI. Sometimes when we speak out we're told that we must be in the pay of the Mitt Romney campaign. The irony of the you're-trying-to-help-Romney-win response to criticism of our current government is that if Romney does win then the people using that line will themselves start objecting to presidential abuses, but it will be too late.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is bigger than ever, in more nations than ever, more privatized than ever, more profitable than ever, more secretive than ever, more at odds with more of the world than ever, and more recklessly than we've seen in decades antagonizing both Russia and China for no good reason whatsoever. I don't consider the fact that Russian fossil fuels with which to destroy our atmosphere will become more readily available as our destroyed atmosphere melts the ice a good reason. Nor do I consider the fact that China owns our grandchildren's unearned wages a good reason. We just discovered how large a part the U.S. is playing in destroying the nation of Mali when three U.S. Special Forces troops drove off a bridge, killing themselves and three prostitutes. Have you ever wondered what makes special forces special? The only thing I can see that makes them special is that someone whispers in their ears: "You don't have to obey any laws." But that's becoming less and less special in Washington these days.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was just over in Laos helping to expand the U.S. Asian presence, but -- as Fred Branfman pointed out -- not seriously attempting to pick up the 80 million cluster bombs the U.S. left in Laos where they continue to kill and maim. Clinton opposes signing the Cluster Bomb Treaty, even though 111 countries have signed it, and cluster bombs serve very little humanitarian purpose, unless you count blowing the legs off children as humanitarian.

Alliant Tech Systems, which has moved to Virginia but is also still here in Minnesota, makes money off cluster bombs. It could make that money off something decent if it chose.>{? Clinton met a young man in Laos whose hand she couldn't shake. Phongsavath Souliyalat lost both his hands and his eyesight when a friend handed him a cluster bomb on his 16th birthday while walking home from school. These bombs have killed 20,000 farmers and their children since the bombing ended in 1973. Clinton is lobbying other nations against the treaty banning cluster bombs. The United States has used cluster bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and as recently as June 7, 2010, when we used them to kill 35 women and children in Yemen. A journalist reported on that horror, and Obama ordered the president of Yemen to lock him up, calling into question why Obama doesn't order other people in Yemen locked up rather than killing them and whoever's too close to them with missiles.

In Laos this week Clinton said, "We have to do more. That's one of the reasons I wanted to come here today, so that we can tell more people about the work that we should be doing together." But she's not investing a fraction in bomb clean up of what she's putting into a new embassy in Laos. The lesson of 1927 is that what she does next was not determined by the genes she was born with. Clinton could be Kissinger or she could be Kellogg, depending on what we do. Kellogg, after all, would never have been Kellogg if peace activists hadn't forced him to.

We have a harder task today, I admit. We're up against the military industrial complex, and we're up against the idea of humanitarian war.

Humanitarian war makes as much sense as a benevolent hurricane or a charitable looting. Humanitarian war is based on the following premises:

1. There are evil things happening in the world.

2. We can do nothing or we can bomb people. There are no other options.

The conclusion, of course, is that we must bomb people. But the second premise is faulty. Nonviolent assaults on tyranny are far more successful and long-lasting than violent ones. Even more effective is refraining from funding and empowering the tyrants for decades prior to switching sides, or what is called "intervening." Turning to violence amounts to deciding that the times have gotten tough and we must therefore resort to a less effective tool much less likely to succeed. That many want to do so suggests other motivations, some of them not very flattering. The same is suggested by blatant inconsistency. In Bahrain we send over our top cops to lead the skull-cracking. In Syria we aid murderous terrorists and child soldiers in the name of human rights, working with such models of democracy as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. By "we" I mean, of course, the regime in Washington. Governments are beyond reproach, and regimes can be overthrown, so we should probably call them all regimes. Washington is quite open about wanting to overthrow the Syrian government or regime because of its ties to the Iranian government or regime. It is much less forthcoming, however, about how doing so would work out any better than Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Panama, Grenada, Cambodia, South Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the Philippines, and so on.

That wars must be marketed as humanitarian is a sign of progress. That we fall for it is a sign of embarrassing weakness. The war propagandist is the world's second oldest profession, and the humanitarian lie is not entirely new. But it works in concert with other common war lies, some of which used to be more dominant. I tried to collect them all in my book "War Is A Lie." A few major themes are:

First, that only war will address the incredible evil of the chosen enemy, almost always an enemy made more evil by racism and other forms or bigotry and distancing.

Second, that war is a form of defense, even if we provoked the enemy's attack, even if the enemy hasn't attacked, even if the enemy is incapable of attacking, even if the enemy hasn't yet thought to develop the capacity to attack. We're one step ahead, that's how smart we are.

Third, that war is a generous sacrifice, the noblest deed imaginable, something so beautiful it ought to be multiplied a thousand fold, and so we only go to war as an absolute last resort in order to benefit the evil dark people who need to be wiped off the face of the earth.

It doesn't matter if the reasons for war conflict. It doesn't matter if they change through the course of a war. If an individual believes that the war makers mean well -- these being the same politicians that nobody would trust as far as they could thrown them on any other topic, and if he believes that warriors are heroes who must be cheered for no matter what they do, and if he takes some vicarious pleasure in the primitive notion that lashing out makes him safe, then it doesn't much matter what the pretense is. Let some back war as philanthropy and others as enlightened genocide, as long as enough of them back it or tolerate it, it will get started. And once started, it must be continued for the sake of the soldiers doing most of the killing and a little bit of the dying.

In Afghanistan, the top killer of U.S. troops is suicide. Continuing a war so that our troops will not have been killing themselves in vain brings a new level of blindness to the question of what types of destructive madness are simply and unavoidably in vain. Of course, U.S. troops are in Afghanistan to spread democracy, while the vast majority of U.S. residents oppose keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and the casus belli has been assassinated and given a proper Muslim sea burial, according to our president, who occasionally brags about such killings while refusing to officially say whether they exist. He has said, however, that we're leaving Afghanistan, and the primary way in which we're leaving is, oddly enough, by staying, at least for the next two and a half years, after which we're staying in an unspecified smaller way for another 10 years. Then we'll see.

Will the third poorest nation in the world be able to keep fighting off our loving embrace, night raids, and drone strikes for 12.5 more years? It will if we keep paying for it. Imagine how many of that last 25 percent of Americans would turn against this war if they knew they were paying for both sides of it while their schools and fire stations and ecosystems collapse. A report by the congressional Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by Rep. John Tierney, found that $360 million per year was being handed over by the Pentagon to insurgent groups or their warlord front men for the safe passage of truck convoys carrying US military supplies, from one trucking contract alone. We're paying for permission to drive down roads without being shot at. What a war! Imagine if the British had thought of that in 1776. Maybe we could still be colonies.

We don't need to abandon Afghans, or Libyans, or Syrians, or for that matter Bahrainis or Saudis. But effective financial aid and reparations would support nonviolence and independence. As Ralph Lopez has been pointing out, there are good examples of humanitarian programs in Afghanistan that could be built on. Most foreign aid, however, is a scam, with 40 to 50 percent never reaching Afghanistan. Aid profiteers rival war profiteers in their greed, while 60 percent of Afghan children are in various stages of starvation and 23 froze to death last winter outside Kabul. And half the so-called aid money has gone to training soldiers and police. I remember the late Richard Holbrooke telling Congress that civilian operations in Afghanistan were subordinate to the military. That dooms them to failure, and Afghans to suffering.

I went to Afghanistan last year with Kathy Kelly and Voices for Creative Nonviolence. I met there a man named Hakim who has organized a group called Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. Last week I heard from Kathy that he wanted to visit the United States but had been denied a visa. So, Voices and Global Exchange and Fellowship of Reconciliation and the group I work for flooded the State Department with emails and calls. And they reversed their decision and gave Hakim a visa. He'll be here soon. Sometimes our voice is loud enough. Other times it's just one tiny little whisper short and we imagine it's nowhere close.

Our voice was loud in 2005 and 2006. It was loud enough to prevent an attack on Iran in 2007. We've been helping to hold off an attack on Iran for years, since our 1953 overthrow of its government and our aid to Iraq in killing Iranians in the 1980s. Now we hear that Iran may have nuclear weapons, or nuclear weapons facilities, or nuclear weapons program capabilities, and Iran was behind 9-11, and Iran is criminally threatening to put up a fight if attacked again, plus Iran hired a Mexican drug gang to assassinate a Saudi ambassador in D.C. and then called it off just to make us look bad for catching them. There's no limit to the Iranians' evil, which is why we should take an action that the war proponents themselves say would fail on its own terms. Bombing Iran would do no more than the murderous sanctions already in place or the assassinations of scientists already committed to overthrow the government. And for the U.S. to allow Israel to attack Iran would only fool people in a single nation: ours. Iran would strike back at U.S. troops, and it would be a U.S. war by day two.

War is not just reserved for poor nations now, but it has -- in other ways -- changed almost beyond recognition. Mostly the elderly and children die in wars now, mostly civilians. The wars happen where they live. Almost entirely non-Americans die in U.S. wars. Sometimes the U.S. warriors are seated in air-conditioned offices in the United States. Drones are better than armies, someone told me recently, because with drones nobody gets killed. Imagine the terror produced by the buzzing of a drone over your house night and day, able to take your life and the lives of your loved ones at any moment. But don't bother to protest. You're nobody. You're not listed in the war casualty reports in U.S. newspapers. When drones kill, nobody dies, and you -- you 95 percent of humanity -- you are nobody. Harold Koh says that bombing houses is neither a war nor hostilities, under the War Powers Act. Unless Americans are under the bombs, they are not hostile bombs. Perhaps they are friendly bombs, or bombs that are good for people whether they know it or not.

The military now wants to give medals to drone pilots. I picture them as bronzed joy sticks. I actually think there's something unfair about this idea. I think our brave drones themselves should be getting the medals. They show the absolute least hesitation to kill. Or what about the ants fighting in my back yard? They sacrifice their lives and abandon their comrades with complete efficiency. If we're handing out medals for desk jobs, what about the guys who pay the protection fees on Afghan roads? Or the guy who catches Petraeus when he faints in Congressional hearings? Why should some people get medals and others not? "War will exist," wrote John F. Kennedy, "until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today." Therefore, I say, scrap all the medals except for those who refuse to fight.

The key, I think, to getting to that distant day when resisters are honored and warriors are not, is that we stop justifying or ignoring mass-murder. The deaths of 95 percent of the victims of our wars are the most closely guarded secret. The deaths of so-called civilians, of those not understood to be fighting back in defense of their homes, of those not male or fighting age. (Fighting-age males are posthumously declared combatants whenever our government kills them). This is the most forbidden information, because it brings down the war machine. The war machine depends for its existence on being something other than murder on a larger scale, even as it strives to reduce itself to exactly murder on a recognizable scale. Our sacred troops are the war machine's best defense, since whatever they do must be brave and therefore good. And yet some of those troops are the gravest threat, not only because they can refuse to fight, or can speak out in opposition, but because some of them persist in producing videos and photos of themselves posing with, mutilating, and urinating on the bodies of people they kill.

And then we're told to be outraged by the urination. But when you get outraged that someone has peed on the body of a man they just murdered, what does that convey about your attitude toward the murder itself? Surely most of us would object more to being killed than to being peed on after we're dead.

The forbidden thought is that all killing is regrettable, immoral, and criminal. This is the thought of which Lockheed Martin, David Petraeus, General Electric, Buck McKeon, and your neighbors are frightened.

It's all right to call a war a failure and the failure a SNAFU and incompetence the order of the day. The military money machine can generate even more money out of that. It could have done better with another trillion or two to spend.

It's all right to point out the injustice, hypocrisy, and shame in our society's treatment of veterans after they've served their war-making purpose. People can devote their time and energy to bake sales for veterans' needs. That only furthers the acceptance of war in many minds, while a few are awakened. And the Pentagon can shift to fighting its wars with robots.

It's all right to point out the economic trade-offs at stake, the standard of living we could have if we gave up some bombers and some billionaires. I make this point all the time. A few will understand, but the military industrial complex will counter by calling itself a jobs program and threatening congress members with unemployment in their districts.

What is not all right is finding out that our wars are one-sided slaughters of helpless families, and that over a million Iraqis lie dead in a devastated society where the first question any mother asks in areas poisoned by our weapons is "Is it normal?"

Veterans For Peace put out a statement last week in response to a United Nations communication to the U.S. government expressing concerns about our country's treatment of children in war. Included were concerns about the recruitment of children into the U.S. military, the U.S. killing of children in Afghanistan, the U.S. detention and torture of children labeled "combatants," and the provision of weapons by the United States to other nations employing child soldiers. I suspect it is the senseless killing of children abroad that will ultimately sway the most minds, but recruitment -- or at least the cost of it -- if an issue that is gaining traction.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota has won bipartisan support and passed through the Armed Services Committee a measure blocking the military from spending $80 million on sponsoring NASCAR drivers. We have a campaign at to keep that measure in the bill. The U.S. Army says a third of its recruits come from motorsports sponsorships. Recruitment stations at racetracks help. But how does the Army measure the impact on our culture of sponsoring race cars? Dale Earnhardt, Jr., whom the National Guard has paid $136 million over the past five years to put a National Guard sticker on his race car and wear the logo on his uniform, predictably opposes cutting the funding, as do the biggest recipients of weapons money in Congress, none of whom have agreed to plaster their bodies with the logos of their sponsors. Military race cars have been featured in music videos, movies, and the shelves of toy stores. How can something so pervasive be measured? Well, we do know this: the total cost of advertising and recruitment per recruit is so much that we could have taken that money and simply given that young person and a bunch of his friends jobs doing something productive.

Those of us over on the left tend to think of cuts as bad and spending as good. For libertarians, cuts are good and spending is bad. This conveniently erases from the discussion the question of WHAT cuts and WHICH spending. We need to stop shouting "Jobs Not Cuts" and start shouting "Jobs Not Wars." The U.S. military is so well funded, that it could be cut by half, remain far and away the best funded military in the world, and fund with those cuts every program any progressive group has ever dared to dream of for clean energy, education, housing, etc., and quite a few programs nobody has yet dared to dream. Or we on the left could make a deal with libertarians: we work together. We cut a half trillion out of the Pentagon -- and I mean each year, not "over 10 years" as they like to say -- and we put a quarter trillion into tax cuts and a quarter trillion into useful spending.

A massive urgent program, or what people unthinkingly like to call "a war," is needed right now to prevent catastrophic climate change. Another is needed to rid the world of nuclear weapons and power. Another is needed to pull government out of the hands of plutocracy. And these aren't movements aimed at making life a little bit better. Jeremy Brecher wrote recently of the need for a human preservation movement. This is what we need, a survival movement, part of which will be the full abolition of war.

The Occupy movement is a good start at bringing important issues together. But of course we need to carry with us into the occupy movement the distinctly minority understanding that war can and must be completely eliminated. We can learn from the Outlawry movement. It was moral, educational, non-electoral, and long-term with no expectation of succeeding even in a generation, and no trigger to collapse into despair if it didn't.

We need to recognize that war is not in our genes. It's a relatively new creation, sporadically present and absent in various societies, avoided when we choose and not otherwise. It's not created by mystical forces of history or population or resource shortages or testosterone. It's created by a culture's tolerance for it, or tolerance for an unrepresentative government that engages in it. That's our situation. War is a creation of the 1 percent that recruits members of the 99 percent to support it, as well as to do the dirty parts. War and the weapons barons and the oil oligarchs and the Wall Street banksters and the corporate media and the big business lobbies and the crowd of court jesters and sycophants in Washington who claim to be our government: they look more powerful than they are. They're afraid of their own shadows. Six years ago they were secretly telling each other to end the wars before we gained more strength. Instead we switched parties and went home, while they breathed a sigh of relief. Yet, now, again they are scared of everything we do. They're spying on every word, comprehending little. What they understand is resistance. Frank Kellogg never understood the Outlawry of War, but he didn't have to. He just had to do what the people demanded. There are more of us in any small town than there are of them in the whole country. We need to realize our strength.

"And these words shall then become," wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley,
"Like Oppression's thundered doom
"Ringing through each heart and brain,
"Heard again - again - again -
"Rise like Lions after slumber
"In unvanquishable number -
"Shake your chains to earth like dew
"Which in sleep had fallen on you -
"Ye are many - they are few."
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Batman Hates The 99 Percent
"The Dark Knight Rises" and the new "Call of Duty" game both demonize Occupy. Has pop culture turned on populism?
By David Sirota

Much of my recent book "Back to Our Future" is focused on how 1980s popular culture created many of the perverse stories we still tell ourselves today. Through movies, video games, toys and television shows of that decade, children were specifically taught whom to love and whom to hate. We were inculcated to fear government scientists ("E.T."), EPA officials ("Ghostbusters") and municipal governments (the various police officials that cop heroes had to "go rogue" against). We were also taught to love the military ("Top Gun") and the super-rich ("Silver Spoons," "The Toy," "The Secret to My Success").

That decade, of course, initiated a modern era that now sees multimedia pop culture products serve as a full-on shadow education system - one that still aims to tell young adults how to divide the world between good and evil. That"s why two of this year's most anticipated pop culture products are so important - they may signal a larger effort to go beyond even the most audacious anti-populism of the 1980s and somehow turn the mass public itself into Public Enemy No. 1.

Reporting on the upcoming new edition of the game "Call of Duty" and the imminent release of the film "The Dark Knight Rises," reports:

The game's main villain is Raul Menendez, described as the "idolized Messiah of the 99%" - a Julian Assange-like character who's old, experienced, and hell bent on starting a global insurrection against the status quo....

The character, as with the rest of the story, is the creation of David S. Goyer. Goyer is the co-writer of "The Dark Knight Rises," which also shares a similar story featuring Bane as Batman's primary antagonist, who starts a class war aimed against the rich and privileged of Gotham City with the backing of the common man.

In 1988, a Konami executive said pop culture industries were looking to "take anything remotely in the news and make it a game." Obviously, this move to put the headline-grabbing "99 percent" concept into video games and movies shows what that enduring strategy looks like in practice - and it doesn't look very good. In fact, it looks like the 1980s on steroids. Whereas that decade saw an anti-populism telling kids that do-gooders like government scientists, EPA officials and police chiefs were society's enemies, we are now seeing an even more audacious anti-populism - one suggesting to kids that our heroic military and superheroes must defeat leaders of "the common man" in order to protect the common man.

There's a cyclical quality to this, of course. Just as so many 1980s pop culture products reflected the spirit of the Reagan Revolution's conservative backlash, we are now seeing two blockbuster, genre-shaping products not-so-subtly reflect the Tea Party's rhetorical backlash to the powerful Occupy Wall Street zeitgeist. In the same way Republican leaders have caricatured the "99 percent" idea as a menacing "attack upon freedom" or a "mob," "Call of Duty" is essentially equating the "99 percent" idea with terrorism, chaos and violence.

Likewise, in "Dark Knight Rises," though there has been some effort to use the villain's name to portray him as a stand-in for Mitt Romney, the Los Angeles Times is right to flag the true "Occupy Wall Street vibe" of the bad guys. And though it's possible that the film will ultimately provide a more nuanced portrayal of such populist outrage than "Call of Duty" seems intent on presenting, the problem remains the same: when villainous motives and psychopathy is televisually ascribed to mass popular outrage against the economic status quo, it suggests to the audience that only crazy people would sympathize with such outrage.

Knowing the teenage audience is right now forming the next generation's vision of good and bad, it's a message that the 1 percent must love.
(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.

Homophobic Chaplain Alliance's Feeble, Failed Attempt to Rape Servicemembers' Civil Rights
By Michael Weinstein

The Chaplain Corps of the respective branches of the United States Armed Forces have long played a crucial role in the U.S. military. From its inception, the chaplaincy largely served a nonsectarian "civil gospel" catering to the needs of America's war fighters to worship, attend holiday services, and otherwise receive the spiritual counsel and guidance needed to carry out their duty with optimal morale, good order and discipline. However, the Cold War sharply accelerated the politicization of the Chaplain Corps. Department of Defense (DoD) top brass found it expedient to ally themselves with militant Christian extremists such as the Church of the Christian Crusade and the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade. Under the approving gaze of successive generations of complicit military leaders, ever more powerful sections of the chaplaincy became strongholds for those who sought to turn the Armed Forces into a bitter battleground to win the hearts, minds, and souls of service members perceived to be religiously derelict and, accordingly, branded as "unchurched." Were blind eyes turned to the clear Constitutional provisions outlawing such DoD blasphemies? No. Not merely "blind eyes." Let's call a spade a spade here. Unconstitutional rape of armed forces member's civil rights is quite more to the point.

Throughout the course of the Cold War, an extremist alliance comprised of military personnel, private and public sector civilians, and clergy used the black brush of McCarthyism to relentlessly and unconstitutionally target anyone not already to the right of Attila the Hun. Indeed, this vicious tool of dehumanization proved to have a shelf life extending far beyond that of the "Red Menace" itself. Civil rights organizations representing ethnic, national, cultural, and religious minorities, organized labor, opponents of fundamentalist (also known as Dominionist) Christian supremacy, and advocates for the continued separation of church and state were each subject to vicious attacks by this modern day inquisition. The courageous advocates of equality who fought for the basic human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community were subject to some of the most egregious of these vituperative, unyielding attacks.

The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and the recent judicial challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) have provided additional impetus to these bigots' continued crusade against these most basic rubrics of human equality. Shamefully, the significant lesbian, gay, and bisexual demographic within the armed forces is once again being subjected to a withering torrent of cowardly assaults launched by the fundamentalist Christian gutter-press. The weapons? Wildly off-base predictions of mass defections within the chaplaincy, foretellings of a shattered esprit de corps across the whole of the U.S. Military, and the usual uber-fundamentalist gay-bashing tropes.

For example, last November the ultra-Evangelical fundamentalist Family Research Council issued the ominous warning that "[C]haplains who uphold the Bible's teaching on homosexuality will open themselves up to disciplinary action, bad fitness reports and the denial of promotions." The same letter demagogically goes on to ask, "how long will it be before your church can no longer preach the portions of God's word that are politically incorrect?" Meanwhile, the Huxleyesque-named Chaplain Alliance for "Religious Liberty" (CARL) endlessly fulminated about the fictitious damage to troop retention, morale, and discipline that was to be caused by the repeal of DADT. CARL is an activist organization of extremist former armed forces chaplains who claim to "speak on behalf [of] more than 2,000 chaplains." CARL tries mightily to pose as the polar opposite of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the constitutionalist civil rights organization of which I am founder and President.

Craven posers, indeed. According to CARL Executive Director Col. Ron Crews (USAR-Ret.) "DoD is bowing to a political agenda to turn our nation's military into a social experiment, [...] It is time for the American public to say, 'Enough!'"

Col. Crews' preference for fantastic melodrama over reality was starkly revealed in a recent press release from CARL. In Crews' imagination, "It just seems that every time Mikey Weinstein sends an e-mail over to the Pentagon that they just cater to his every whim." The rabid fundamentalist dogs at CARL have even called for an official Congressional investigation of what they perceive to be my supposedly "unfettered access" to senior Pentagon officials.

CARL will utter just about any falsehood in line with its prerogative, which is to maintain the fundamentalist Christian supremacist grip on our nation's armed forces. Thus, they can disingenuously twist, torture, and contort a phrase such as "religious liberty" into its total antithesis without batting an eyelash. Such is also the case with their horrendously alarmist forecasts of the "dire" repercussions of DADT's repeal.

Crews said in a recent statement that "Evangelical soldiers, airmen, marines, they're going to have to make some courageous stands right now to say to their commanders, 'Sir, I cannot participate in this type of ceremony because we believe this is a celebration of something that God's Word is clear about defining as wrong."

Fortunately for our national security and our armed forces, Crews and his spiteful "klan" of old school, putrid bigots appear to be isolated in their pursuit of a fearful and ignorant witch-hunt of those whose oppressive burdens have been lightened by DADT's repeal. According to a recent story from Associated Press, chaplains representing a broad range of Christian denominations have reported virtually no problems following the lifting of DADT:

Bishop James Magness, the coordinator for about 75 active-duty and reserve Episcopal chaplains, said he'd heard a common, positive verdict about repeal from his more conservative Catholic, Mormon and Southern Baptist colleagues.

"The whole argument about religious liberty is so incredibly uninformed, and inflamed by some of the very conservative legal groups," Magness said. "In reality, there's been very little if any of the services forcing any ministerial activity on a chaplain against his or her will.

There you have it. Once again, the specious claim of a toxic environment within the military that restricts the religious freedom of those "very conservative" (read: fundamentalist) practitioners of the Christian faith has been proven to be the stuff of desperate, outlandish lies and transparent mendacity. The Chaplain Corps deserves kudos for this rare display of professionalism, which constitutes a total refutation of CARL's fire and brimstone-tinged prognostications. However, the ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces are still inflicted by the unchecked dry rot of theocratic religious extremism and its directly consequential ingrained bigotry.

U.S. sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen are the true guardians of all of our Constitutional freedoms. Thus, quis custodiet ipsos custodes? "Who will guard the guards?" The answer is that this is our collective duty as a people, one that will require that we muster every fiber of our nation's being. We must forever remain on guard and vigilant to eliminate the continuation of this ongoing molestation and abuse of our servicemembers' civil rights, and the horrendous victimization and oppression of our LGBT friends, family, and neighbors. As the celebrated journalist Elmer Davis said so well; "This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."
(c) 2012 Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein is president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. He previously served as White House Counsel in the Reagan administration and general counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corp. He is the author of the recently released book, "No Snowflake in an Avalanche: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Its Battle to Defend the Constitution and One Family's Courageous War Against Religious Extremism in High Places" (2012, Vireo).

Policy And The Personal
By Paul Krugman

A lot of people inside the Beltway are tut-tutting about the recent campaign focus on Mitt Romney's personal history - his record of profiting even as workers suffered, his mysterious was-he-or-wasn't-he role at Bain Capital after 1999, his equally mysterious refusal to release any tax returns from before 2010. Some of the tut-tutters are upset at any suggestion that this election is about the rich versus the rest. Others decry the personalization: why can't we just discuss policy?

And neither group is living in the real world.

First of all, this election really is - in substantive, policy terms - about the rich versus the rest.

The story so far: Former President George W. Bush pushed through big tax cuts heavily tilted toward the highest incomes. As a result, taxes on the very rich are currently the lowest they've been in 80 years. President Obama proposes letting those high-end Bush tax cuts expire; Mr. Romney, on the other hand, proposes big further tax cuts for the wealthy.

The impact at the top would be large. According to estimates by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the Romney plan would reduce the annual taxes paid by the average member of the top 1 percent by $237,000 compared with the Obama plan; for the top 0.1 percent that number rises to $1.2 million. No wonder Mr. Romney's fund-raisers in the Hamptons attracted so many eager donors that there were luxury-car traffic jams.

What about everyone else? Again according to the policy center, Mr. Romney's tax cuts would increase the annual deficit by almost $500 billion. He claims that he would make this up by closing loopholes, in a way that wouldn't shift the tax burden toward the middle class - but he has refused to give any specifics, and there's no reason to believe him. Realistically, those big tax cuts for the rich would be offset, sooner or later, with higher taxes and/or lower benefits for the middle class and the poor.

So as I said, this election is, in substantive terms, about the rich versus the rest, and it would be doing voters a disservice to pretend otherwise.

In that case, however, why not run a campaign based on that substance, and leave Mr. Romney's personal history alone? The short answer is, get real.

Look, voters aren't policy wonks who pore over Tax Policy Center analyses. And when a politician - say, Mr. Obama - cites actual numbers in a speech, well, there's always a politician on the other side to contradict him. How are voters supposed to know who's telling the truth? In fact, earlier this year focus groups given an accurate description of Mr. Romney's policy proposals refused to believe that any politician would take such a position.

Perhaps in a better world we could count on the news media to sort through the conflicting claims. In this world, however, most voters get their news from short snippets on TV, which almost never contain substantive policy analysis. The print media do offer analysis pieces - but these pieces, out of a desire to seem "balanced," all too often simply repeat the he-said-she-said of political speeches. Trust me: you will see very few news analyses saying that Mr. Romney proposes huge tax cuts for the rich, with no plausible offset other than big benefit cuts for everyone else - even though this is the simple truth. Instead, you will see pieces reporting that "Democrats say" that this is what Mr. Romney proposes, matched with dueling quotes from Republican sources.

So how can the Obama campaign cut through this political and media fog? By talking about Mr. Romney's personal history, and the way that history resonates with the realities of his pro-rich, anti-middle-class policy proposals.

Thus the entirely true charge that Mr. Romney wants to slash historically low tax rates on the rich even further dovetails perfectly with his own record of extraordinary tax avoidance - so extraordinary that he's evidently afraid to let voters see his tax returns from before 2010. The equally true charge that he's pushing policies that would benefit the rich at the expense of ordinary working Americans meshes with Bain's record of earning big profits even when workers suffered - a record so stark that Mr. Romney is attempting to distance himself from part of it by insisting that he had nothing to do with Bain's operations after 1999, even though the company continued to list him as C.E.O. and sole owner until 2002. And so on.

The point is that talking about Mr. Romney's personal history isn't a diversion from substantive policy discussion. On the contrary, in a political and media environment strongly biased against substance, talking about Bain and offshore accounts is the only way to bring the real policy issues into focus. And we should applaud, not condemn, the Obama campaign for standing up to the tut-tutters.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"All that is left of America is banality and self-delusion."
~~~ Noam Chomsky

The Concept Of 'Black' Elections
By Glen Ford

A few months ago I gave a presentation at a conference on drone warfare, in a Brooklyn church. Afterwards, a Black woman in attendance engaged me in a spirited conversation. She agreed with me on all the essential points: that President Obama is savaging international law while simultaneously nullifying the U.S. Bill of Rights - and that he doesn't give a damn about Black folks. Then she asked who I was going to vote for at the presidential level, in November. Certainly not Obama or Romney, maybe nobody, I replied. "But, you've got to vote," she insisted - and not one of those wasted votes for an obscure party candidate who had no chance to win. It was a racial obligation. Too many "had died for our right to vote" - it was unthinkable not to.

It became instantly clear that, despite all his crimes, she'd be voting for Obama. The Black vote fetish gave her no alternative.

The fetishization of voting is part of the larger African American imperative to "get in the game" even when you know its rigged. It is as if history has bequeathed Blacks a racial and personal responsibility to redress centuries of social, political and economic exclusion. We must participate, because the ancestors could not. In some silly Black social circles, this means the obligation to ski.

On August 18, the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations holds a national conference in Newark, New Jersey, to explore the efficacy of engaging in electoral politics in the United States and throughout the global African Diaspora. The coalition's stance on Obama is well known. Black Is Back was formed, in large measure, as a public statement that not all African Americans were drunk on Obama aid. Its first act was to march on the White House, in November, 2009, denouncing the Black president and his service to Wall Street. The coalition marched on Obama's residence again, the next year.

The imperative to participate in the vote game, no matter how putrid the personalities listed on the electoral menu, will surely be part of the Black Is Back discussion, in Newark.

Although there will be no repeat of what I called the "Great Black Hajj of 2009," when a million African Americans went on pilgrimage to Washington to bear witness to the First Black President's inauguration, there is no doubt that the warmongering corporate Democratic will garner the vast bulk of the Black vote this November. An important segment of those voters will politically resemble the lady that engaged me outside the church: folks on the Left side of a Black spectrum which, as a polity, has always been significantly to the Left of the white American spectrum on issues of social and economic justice and U.S. military adventures abroad.

The imperative to participate in the vote game, no matter how putrid the personalities listed on the electoral menu, will surely be part of the Black Is Back discussion, in Newark. Possibly the greatest obstacle, however, to organizing African Americans for their own empowerment is the belief that electoral activity is the only kind of politics.

This notion of elections=politics is pervasive across the American racial landscape, and is one of the most frightening aspects of the hegemony of capitalist market ideology, whose message is: if you're not playing our (rigged) game, you don't exist. For African Americans, the marginalization of non-electoral political activity - the rejection of mass, grassroots action - is a negation of, literally, the vast bulk of the Black historical political experience.

The distortion of Black political memory is seen most ominously in the concerted effort to frame Obama's election as the ultimate expression of all the Black struggles that came before. The entirety of the Black self-determinationist and radical traditions is nullified under an all-things-led-to-Obama construct that is buttressed by every corporate media and educational/propaganda institution, with the indispensable assistance of Black intellectuals like the late Manning Marable and the upstart lightweight, Peniel Joseph. Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party and even Dr. Martin Luther King's definitive break with President Johnson's war policies - all are transformed into historical stair steps to Obama's inauguration, a stairway that can lead only to the death of Black politics, of Black history, and of Black self-determination.

In this context, the Black Is Back conference will examine those electoral races in which candidates championing Black self-determination on the local level and beyond should be supported - for example, Jackson, Mississippi, city councilman and human rights activist Chokwe Lumumba's campaign for mayor - and other such candidacies should be encouraged.

However, we must have an even more fundamental discussion about the way that elections should be approached. If the goal is Black self-determination, then elections should be viewed as potential opportunities to express Black people's political will - which leads to a very different conception of what constitutes victory or defeat.

It is no victory when Black people's votes are used against them to empower our enemies among the noxious choices on the take-it-or-leave-it menu served up by the corporate financiers of electoral politics. And it is an even more abject defeat when Black people's political leanings and aspirations are distorted and mischaracterized due to their participation in an ever more Rightward-trending electoral game. For example, does massive electoral Black support for Obama indicate that African Americans favor drone wars and preventive detention without trial? We know that's not true, and can prove it beyond doubt through opinion polls and other means. (Indeed, there is ample reason to believe that many, if not most, African Americans don't know or much care what Obama's actual policies are, or invent policies and intentions on his behalf, in order to make the Black President more palatable to the Black psyche.) Nevertheless, corporate and white political actors feel free to interpret Obama's "popularity" among Blacks - as measured by votes - as an indicator of a Rightward drift among African Americans.

The corporate media has been trying to confirm such a drift for a very long time, on the assumption that Blacks would become more conservative as they became more middle class. This, they predicted, would lead to the emergence of a "new" Black politician: more business-friendly, less race-conscious, who rejects the "Sixties-type" politics of "confrontation."

Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. were the archetypes of this New Black Politico, preceding Obama. Cynthia McKinney's losing battle to retain her congressional seat from a relatively upscale suburban Atlanta district, in 2002, became a national test of the theory of growing conservatism among Blacks. Her defeat by corporate-supported Denise Majette was heralded as proof that Black opinion had turned decisively to the Right.

But the actual election returns said different. Bruce Dixon and I concluded, during our tenure at, that McKinney had garnered more than 80 percent of the Black vote. Majette had won the "white election," with 90 percent of the white vote, while McKinney and her leftist and Black self-determinationist politics had handily won the "Black" election. A white political scientist at the University of Georgia found, in his own study of the election results, that McKinney had won a whopping 86 percent of her Black constituents: a landslide, from a Black perspective. Although defeated in a district that had only a slight Black majority, the election was actually an affirmation of the appeal of McKinney's brand of politics to Black voters in the second most affluent Black-majority county in the country. Majette was revealed as the representative of the district's whites and, therefore, not a legitimate Black spokesperson.

"Majette had won the 'white election,' with 90 percent of the white vote, while McKinney and her leftist and Black self-determinationist politics had handily won the 'Black' election."

With Black super-majority congressional districts going extinct (largely because the Democrats want to spread Black voters around) and African Americans rapidly losing their majorities in the nation's cities to gentrification, it becomes senseless to speak of the election of Black individuals as proof of Black political power. The Black face in the winner's seat may represent exactly the opposite: Black defeat.

Those of us who seek Black self-determination should think in terms of "Black" elections: who won the Black vote, regardless of the district-wide outcome? Who is the "legitimate" spokesperson for Blacks - the final tally winner, or the official loser?

On this basis, New York City Councilman Charles Barron's 28 percent share in the recent primary contest in Brooklyn's new 8th congressional district represents about half the Black vote. The district is 56 percent Black, and former Black Panther Barron, who was demonized by the totality of the corporate media (and even the Democrats-in-left-clothing of, could not have picked up more than a negligible number of white votes. Hakeem Jeffries, the charter school champion whom the corporate media praised as a "new" Black politician in the Booker, Ford, Obama mold, faced a serious challenge in the "Black" election, and may have lost it, despite an overwhelming advantage in money and media.

Barron's strong showing, and possible victory, in the "Black" congressional election means the race was worthwhile; that half the Black voters agree with Barron's militancy and radical politics, and it might well be in Black people's interests that Barron run, again, next time around.

The concept of "Black" elections becomes more critical as Black supermajorities disappear. Without such a self-determinationist view of electoral politics, even Black people will inevitably conclude that we have no politics of our own, that there is no broad African American worldview - that "there is no Black America," as Obama told us in 2004.
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The Selling Of American Democracy
The Perfect Storm
By Robert Reich

Who's buying our democracy? Wall Street financiers, the Koch brothers, and casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

And they're doing much of it in secret.

It's a perfect storm:

The greatest concentration of wealth in more than a century - courtesy "trickle-down" economics, Reagan and Bush tax cuts, and the demise of organized labor.

Combined with...

Unlimited political contributions - courtesy of Republican-appointed Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy, in one of the dumbest decisions in Supreme Court history, "Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission," along with lower-court rulings that have expanded it.

Combined with...

Complete secrecy about who's contributing how much to whom - courtesy of a loophole in the tax laws that allows so-called non-profit "social welfare" organizations to accept the unlimited contributions for hard-hitting political ads.

Put them all together and our democracy is being sold down the drain.

With a more equitable and traditional distribution of wealth, far more Americans would have a fair chance of influencing politics. As the great jurist Louis Brandeis once said, "we can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a comparative few, but we cannot have both."

Alternatively, inequality wouldn't be as much of a problem if we had strict laws limiting political spending or, at the very least, disclosing who was contributing what.

But we have an almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and unlimited political spending and secrecy.

I'm not letting Democrats off the hook. Democratic candidates are still too dependent on Wall Street casino moguls and real casino magnates (Steve Wynn has been a major contributor to Harry Reid, for example). George Soros and a few others have poured big bucks into Democratic coffers. So have a handful of trade unions.

But make no mistake. Compared to what the GOP is doing this year, Democrats are conducting a high-school bake sale. The mega-selling of American democracy is a Republican invention, and Romney and the GOP are its major beneficiaries.

And the losers aren't just Democrats. They're the American people.

You need to make a ruckus. Don't fall into the seductive trap of cynicism. That's what the sellers of American democracy are counting on. If you give up on our system of government, they win everything.

This coming Monday, for example, the Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on the DISCLOSE ACT, which would at least require that outfits like the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove's "Crossroads GPS" disclose who's contributing what. Contact your senators, and have your friends and relatives in other states - especially those with Republican senators (who have been united in their opposition to disclosure) - contact theirs. If the DISCLOSE ACT is voted down, hold accountable those senators (and, when and if it gets to the House, those House members) who are selling out our democracy for the sake of their own personal ambitions.
(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...

Heil Obama,

Dear Wahnsinnige Zullo,

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 birther lunacy is bringing millions more to the polls to vote for Obama, 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 Zullo, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Romney Still Reaps Huge Profits From Bain's Vulture Capitalism
By John Nichols

Poor Mitt Romney.

Well, not that poor.

The wealthiest man ever to secure a major party nomination for the presidency is crying foul because President Obama's campaign has dared to explain how Romney made his money.

Romney was a robber baron. And he continues to profit-to the tune of $230 million and counting-from the "vulture capitalism" his Republican primary opponents decried.

He helped to create Bain Capital, a private equity firm that makes its money by buying functional US manufacturing and service firms and rendering them dysfunctional. Bain guts American companies, ripping out whatever parts are profitable and then tossing the workers aside.

Bain forces cuts in wages, benefits and pensions. It outsources work. And it offshores production-harming American workers and communities and undermining American industries.

No amount of wordplay by Romney and his campaign team is going to charge those facts.

Yet, bizarrely, Romney and his media and political minions continue to claim that Obama is being unfair to the presumptive Republican nominee by noting that Romney continued to be intimately involved with Bain as the company began to focus more and more of its energies on the shuttering of US factories and the transfer of the work done in those factories to foreign countries.

Romney does not like that he is being portrayed as a vulture capitalist who cares more about his own bottom line than the economic viability of his own country.

This is understandable, as the image is not one that presidential contenders generally assume.

But, unfortunately for Romney, the bane of his existence is and will continue to be Bain.

The debate about when Romney relinquished day-to-day control of the firm-in 1999, as he likes to say, or considerably later, as the paper trail suggests-is irrelevant. Through arrangements that he made, Romney remains one of the prime beneficiaries of every move that Bain makes.

As an exhaustive New York Times report noted last fall, "Mr. Romney never really left Bain."

"In what would be the final deal of his private equity career, he negotiated a retirement agreement with his former partners that has paid him a share of Bain's profits ever since, bringing the Romney family millions of dollars in income each year and bolstering the fortune that has helped finance Mr. Romney's political aspirations," explained the Times analysis of Romney's personal finances. "The arrangement allowed Mr. Romney to pursue his career in public life while enjoying much of the financial upside of being a Bain partner as the company grew into a global investing behemoth."

Romney's continued involvement with Bain is not some distant financial arrangement, or some casual connection like Americans might have to corporations via stocks included in their 401K plans

Though Mr. Romney left Bain in early 1999, he remains a direct beneficiary of Bain's buccaneer pillaging of the US economy.

To wit:

* Romney continued to collect a share of the corporate buyout and investment profits enjoyed by partners from all Bain deals until 2009.

* Romney, because of his ongoing arrangement with Bain, Romney has collected profits from twenty-two Bain and Bain-related funds. That, as the Times notes, is "more than twice as many over all as Mr. Romney had a share of the year he left."

* Romney's arrangement with Bain allows him to invest his own money in projects pursued by his former partners. As such, Romney is involved in deals from which he continues to share in a portion of Bain's profits-just as he must share in a portion of responsibility for what the firm does to harm American workers.

Indeed, as the Times assessment noted late last year, well after he launched his current presidential campaign, Romney was still profiting from "Bain deals that resulted in upheaval for companies, workers and communities."
(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.

Non-occupation And Water Tanks
By Adam Keller

Greek Mythology recounts the story of Tantalos, who was cursed by the gods to stand forever in a pool of water but never slake his thirst, as the water would always recede before he could take a drink. In the territory under the rule of the state of Israel, myth has become reality, at the whim of military officers acting as vengeful demi-gods to the Palestinians placed under their charge.

When the people of Ein al-Hilweh, a small Palestinian community in the Jordan Valley, put their ears to the ground, they faintly hear the gurgling of water going through pipes underneath - pipes to which they have no access. The water comes from a spring nearby, a spring which had sustained the life of this community for generations and indeed gave it its name - "Ein al-Hilweh" means "The Sweet Spring" in Arabic.

The name still remains - but the spring itself, like almost all water sources in the Jordan Valley, has been taken over by "Mekorot", the Israeli governmental water company. The sweet spring has been enclosed and surrounded by fences, and industrious pumps installed to channel every single drop into the system of pipes.

Couldn't one of these pipes have been linked to the community of Ein al-Hilweh, so near? Not if the officials of the Civil Administration of the Military Government maintained by the armed forces of the State of Israel have anything to say about it. As far as these people are concerned, Ein al-Hilweh is one of several troublesome Arab villagers which exist where they should not have been - namely, in the Jordan Valley, which all Israeli governments since 1967 proclaimed to be a strategic area that must remain permanently under Israeli rule. No effort is spared in letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that they are an unwanted hindrance and that it would be very obliging of them to just go away.

Deprived of their spring, the people of Ein al-Hilweh had to resort to bringing water in tanks drawn by tractors from no less than twenty-five kilometers A cumbersome and expensive way of providing water to themselves and their livestock. A cubic meter of water obtained this way costs ten times more than what people pay who have the privilege of being connected to the flowing pipe.

Not for the people of Ein al-Hilweh, living in the hottest part of this country, the luxury of a shower to freshen a sweating body. Still, they persisted, tenaciously clinging to their small plot of land.

A week ago, the army came up with a new ploy. Soldiers descended on Ein al-Hilweh as on various other communities in the same situation, confiscating and taking away the water tanks and the precious water in them. The reason given? A material suspicion by the officers in charge that these tanks had been used in the commission of a felony. To wit - "the theft of water."

Most media channels neither knew nor cared about this particular news item, but the veteran Gideon Levy did expose it on the pages of Ha'aretz.

The former judge and the spirit of the king

As it happened, Gideon Levy's revelation of the water tanks confiscation coincided with the prominent publicity given to a quite different Levy - Justice Edmond Levy, late of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem and at earlier part of his career a Deputy Mayor of Ramla for the Likud Party. Edmond Levy had been commissioned by Prime Minister Netanyahu to look into ways and means of providing a less shaky legal foundation to the settlement enterprise.

Netanyahu had wanted to end, or at least minimize, the embarrassing phenomenon of the Supreme Court ruling that this or that settlement is illegal also under Israeli law, which is far more lenient in these matters than International law. The Prime Minister might not have counted upon the former judge also publishing a very resounding ideological document with which the government of Israel might find it a bit difficult to link itself.

Not only did the honorable judge state that there is simply no occupation and the West Bank (sorry, "Judea and Samaria") is not at all an Occupied Territory. Levy and his team went further, in a neat feat of legal sophistry and acrobatics, to assert that the Balfour Declaration of 1917 is still valid, ninety five years later. Therefore, the solemn pledge made by the government of His Majesty King George the Fifth - to "view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" - has survived intact the dissolution of the British Empire and the countless other changes through which the world in general and the region in particular have passed. King George's Promise seems to have effectively replaced the Divine Promise, which used to be frequently quoted on such occasions. Pure, pristine and unchangeable, it provides Israel with an unlimited, blanket authority to build settlements anywhere it chooses, so as to promote the area's incorporation in the Jewish National Home.

Judge Edmond Levy had most probably never heard of Ein al-Hilweh in the Jordan Valley or of the situation of its inhabitants. Like most inhabitants of this hot country do on a hot summer day, he had most likely taken a refreshing shower on the morning when he had affixed his signature to the report - without giving any special thought to this simple act. And like many others who cited the Balfour Declaration to bolster Zionist and Israeli Nationalist claims, he studiously ignored the rider which King George's Government carefully appended to the promise of the National Home: "(...) It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine"...

The last cows in the land of no-occupation

And so, there we were, - a group of activists gathered at the accustomed rendezvous point outside the Arlozorov Railway Station in Tel Aviv, and another group coming from Jerusalem and some others from different parts of the country. Two minibuses, some private cars, plus a symbolic solidarity donation of one full water tank and several dozen bottles of mineral water. All brought together by the strenuous efforts of Ya'akov Manor of Kfar Sava, the indefatigable catalyst of joint action by peace groups.

It is, in fact, not so difficult to get to the Jordan Valley, though it would only rarely occur to the average Tel Avivian to do it. In the 1990's Ariel Sharon had invested huge resources in creating a series of "lateral roads" cutting through the West Bank, with the express aim of making the Jordan Valley more accessible. For much of its length, use of this well made highway is reserved to Israelis only, and Palestinian villages on the sides are not linked to it. Our little convoy does not stand out among the settler traffic, and at checkpoints the soldiers wave us through with hardly a glance.

The driver puts on the radio, in the midst of yet another impassioned debate on whether the Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) could and should be taken into the army. One of the speakers on the air, a senior retired army officer, says: "Some Haredim have already been drafted, in special units of their own, and the results have been excellent. The Netzach Yehuda Battalion ("Eternal Judea") has been deployed to the Jordan Valley and did an excellent job...". "What is this? Cut off this shit!" exclaims the woman behind the driver. He turns to a station broadcasting classical music.

The Jordan Valley. 41 degrees Celsius, but less humid than in the costal plain. We make a short stop at a small shopping center. Neat buildings, a neat row of shops, a wire cage full of empty plastic bottles with the sign "It is crazy not to recycle." Several activists stand debating at the entrance of a shop selling soft drinks. "These shops are probably operated by settlers, if we buy here we help them steal the Palestinians' water" says one. The shop keeper intervenes angrily: "We steal water? If you talk like that, I don't want to sell to you!." "Who the hell wants to buy from you, anyway!" An exchange of mutual invective is cut off and we return to the cars.

A very short drive away, and we are in the Third World - to be precise, a particularly neglected and miserable part of it. A collection of hovels and rundown lean-tos, some animals, a clothes line bearing some shirts and trousers. This is Abu al Ajaj, one of six components of a Palestinian town known as the Jiftlik. The name is derived from the Turkish "Chiftlik" which means "estate." In Ottoman times, the people here were tenant farmers who had to pay much of their harvest to powerful land owners, but still did not have to face many of the privations of their present-day descendants. As we soon find out, the shopping center where we had just been is off-limits to the Palestinians living so near yet so far.

Fathi Hudirat of Jordan Valley Solidarity has arrived to act as our host and guide. "See the electricity wire going above the huts? It is just above their heads, but they are not allowed to connect to it" he says. "Even in Apartheid South Africa there was nothing like that. There was a very deep separation between Blacks and Whites, but even there everybody got water from the same pipe and electricity from the same wire."

The affable and neatly dressed Hudirat belongs to a bit more fortunate part of the Jordan Valley Palestinians; "The Jordan Valley is more than thirty percent of the West Bank, and only in a few small parts of it are Palestinians at all tolerated. There is the Jericho enclave, and a few other small enclaves - my hometown, Bardala, among them. We are squeezed and terribly hemmed in, but at least we can build solid houses. People here just can't do that. They are exposed to ceaseless harassment, their lives are hell." In fact, in the past there were far more Palestinians living in the Jiftlik. In 1967 thousands were expelled eastwards, across the Jordan River, and hundreds of houses were razed to the ground. "Only the mosque remained, inside a military camp. We call it 'The Captive Mosque', no Muslim has set foot in it since 1967."At present, the Jiftlik is a precarious home to about 4000 people.

The Jordan Valley Solidarity is a grassroots activist organization, dedicated to non-violent resistance to the occupation as manifested in their region. Its members tour the villages and encampments, support the villagers in better organizing, monitor human rights violations and strive to make them known to the outside world, and organize both legal help and activist rebuilding of destroyed structures. They work with the Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, and together with them renovated a derelict, century-old house and made of it an action center. Activists are always staying there, sometimes five, sometimes twenty - internationals. Palestinians from the Valley itself and elsewhere, sometimes an Israeli.

They would highly appreciate more intensive Israeli presence and involvement, such as Ta'ayush had been doing for years in the South Hebron Hills, where Palestinian communities face similar problems. "Donations of water or food are highly appreciated as an act of solidarity, but much more precious to us is anything you can do to let the world know of what is going on here. It is a shame, a terrible shame. I saw you brought a sign with the words 'A small drop against the shame.' That is very true. A shame, not only to those who are doing this. A shame to everybody. We are all human beings."

Hudirat recounts some of the cases which his group is dealing with. There is a rather prosperous farmer, one of the few lucky enough to have land and water enough for a palm tree grove. But now the army asserts that it is government land. If losing his case in the courts, he stands to lose everything. The farmer's house, "not pretentious, but neat and cosy" was already destroyed. And there is the case of the Korzoliya Spring. "It is a small spring, up there on the mountain side. Four brothers live there with their families. They got an eviction order from the Civil Administration. The lawyer Taufic Jabarin, an Arab Israeli from Umm el Fahm, went to court on their behalf - and won. The next day they got a new eviction order. This time it was from the Israeli Environment Ministry, in order to 'protect a natural resource.' The lawyer is now fighting this, too."

While we were listening, an army jeep stopped by and an officer stood unobtrusively to the side. He did not intervene, but our presence was duly noted. A few minutes later we set off northwards- and halfway to Ein al-Hilweh, where villagers were awaiting us, we were stopped at an army checkpoint.

Just us. All other vehicles were let through. "We have orders. These two minibuses are to be held pending further notice" said one of the young soldiers, pocketing the drivers' identity cards. A twenty minutes' impasse, under the blazing July noon sun. Activists considered taking out the protest signs and holding a demonstration then and there, though there would have been few to see it other than the uncaring soldiers. "Wait, I have the phone number of the Officer in Command of the whole Valley. There were some cases in the past when he was not too unreasonable." And so it indeed proves. Eventually, the soldiers get radioed orders to give back the I.D.s, and we can proceed.

Ein al-Hilweh. A cluster of villagers, led by the 91-year old patriarch Ealian Daragmeh. Young boys, some rather shy, others quite bold to the visitors. Tents and huts, which seem a bit better maintained than those at Abu al Ajaj. Chickens running around. A donkey. A covered cowshed, providing huddled cows some shadow. And - water tankers. It turns out that the army asked for a huge sum as "ransom" for the confiscated gear, but Palestinian Authority PM Salam Fayyad took care to provide new ones, here and in other locations.

Activists spread out among the tents, holding aloft the signs in Hebrew and English:

"Stop the induced thirst" / "Stop the denial of water" / "A drop against the shame" / "Every person has the right to water" / "Judge Levy, Occupation is here" / "Jews get water - from Arabs it is taken away. Apartheid is here!"

Near the cowshed, a reporter of the German ARD Radio interviews some of the participants. "People in Europe should know what is going on here. This is not some officer's caprice, this is policy" says an activist. "A few months Netanyahu visited and made a speech, not far from here. He said that the Jordan Valley must remain Israeli forever. I don't mean that Netanyahu personally ordered the confiscation of the water and the other harassments of the Palestinians. He did not need to. Officers on the ground feel they are translating broad policy guidelines into specific measures."

We go into a big tent to hear Fathi Daragmeh, who speaks Arabic and is translated into English by Hudirat. At first he is hesitant, clearly unused to public speaking, then gains confidence.

"All of you are most welcome here, most welcome. We, Palestinians and Israelis, are both born of this land. We must find the way to live together, to solve the problems. There is no other way! We have lived here for many generations. We have lived by the spring, our spring. We enjoyed the spring. Now, it was taken away from us. It was given to the settlers of Maskiot." (The Israeli settlement of Maskiot was originally established in 1982, but failed and was abandoned by its would-be settlers; it was re-established in 2006, to house settlers removed from the Gaza Strip).

"We do not hate the settlers of Maskiot. We tried to create good neighborly relations with them, but it was not very successful. Once, one of our horses escaped and got into the settlement. Their security officer put a rope around the horse's neck and dragged him behind a car until he died. Just cruelty without reason to an animal.

A few months later, one of their horses escaped and got to us. We gave the horse food and water and put him in our stable, then I called this security officer. I offered him coffee and told him: 'You killed our horse, we took care of your horse, you can now take him back.' He just said 'We are strong, you are weak', took the horse and did not drink the coffee.

We are nearly the only ones who still raise cows in the Jordan Valley. The Palestinian Cow, Bakar al Falstini. Once there were many who did it, all along the Valley. But it is very difficult. Cows need a lot of water, and that is very difficult to provide. They need pasture and most of the meadows are now either in the hands of the army or the settlers, we can't go there. Some weeks ago several of my brother's cows crossed the road. The army confiscated them and we had to pay a lot of money to get them back. Cows like to roll in the mud in the summer, to protect from flies, but there is no mud anymore. We are not allowed to come to the banks of the Jordan River; that is a military zone.

You can't imagine how much work it is to maintain cows under the conditions in which we live. We are five brothers with our old father and our families, we work very hard day after day so that we could keep our fifty cows. The cows are all we have."
(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
~~~ Mark Streeter ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The Care Less Party
By Will Durst

All of America should drop to its knees and thank the GOP for attempting to provide us with replacement fireworks. As you undoubtedly know, cities all over the country this year were forced to cancel Fourth of July festivities due to fear of fire, glitchy computers and twitchy bureaucrats. Like there's another kind.

The Republican House took great pains to salve our sensory deprived souls by trying to set off enough indoor fireworks to make the San Diego Big Bay Bust look like a fluttering votive candle. It was designed to be a spectacular explosion fueled by ego, obstinacy and behavior so self- absorbed, the casual bystander might assume we were in the middle of an election year.

For the 33rd time, all House business slammed to a grinding halt to accommodate another vote to repeal Obama Care. Again. 33 times. Let's look at that, shall we? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33.

You got to give the majority party credit for being able to flog this dead horse without getting any flying bits on them. 33 times is at least 32 times more than the administration ever tried to sell this bill to a public overwhelming in favor of its component parts.

They persevered even though everyone knows there's a better chance of flamingos flying out of monkey butts than the Senate ever signing on. And getting past a presidential veto, substitute polka dotted pterodactyls for the flamingos.

As political theater goes, this sad summer stock production fizzled with tired choreography and a script duller than Shakespeare in modern dress performed by 3rd graders in Mandarin. No wonder they keep trying to cut funding for the Arts; they're deathly afraid of the competition.

They rationalized this particular Theater of the Absurd production by claiming the necessity to make a statement. And indeed a statement has been made. That Congress is broken and impotent and hopelessly in need of adult supervision. Even as we speak, you can hear their eight person approval rating clanking down the basement steps to unimagined depths.

It has been estimated this extended season of Cirque de Folly has taken up two cumulative weeks of business at a cost of $24 million a week. That's what it takes to keep the congressional gears oiled and moving. Nearly $50 million to hammer home a point more tedious than slogging through the instruction booklet for an Egyptian made solar generator.

We're not even talking about more millions wasted to appease the base by blatantly restricting women's rights. This is all perfectly good money that could have been spent on further tax cuts for the rich. Even with inflation, 50 million dollars worth of oil subsidies could go a long way. Any idea how many car elevators you could buy with that kind of money?

The official Party Line on Obama Care is Repeal and Replace but there is absolutely nobody that has anything to replace it with. Ask for specifics and Republicans mumble and fidget and get as vague as Donald Trump talking about the importance of ethics while closing the deal.

First there was Romney Care, and now we got Obama Care, but if the hard line conservatives get their way, this country is going to end up with We Don't Care. Less Care For You. Couldn't Care Less. Just might have to rename these fiscally responsible charlatans as... The Care Less Party.
(c) 2012 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, "The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing."

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 29 (c) 07/20/2012

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