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In This Edition

Bill McKibben with an absolute must read, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math."

Uri Avnery says, "Divide et Impera."

Randall Amster explores, "How Fragile We Are...."

Phil Rocstroh takes us for a visit, "In The Land Of Never Was."

Jim Hightower is, "Cleaning Up The Stench Of Washington Lobbyists."

Michael Moore finds, "It's The Guns - But We All Know, It's Not Really The Guns."

James Donahue considers, "The Brainwashing Of The Masses."

David Swanson discovers, "Minnesota Town Bans Signs In Yards Unless They're Pro-War."

David Sirota sees through, "Obscuring A Debate Over Butlers."

William Pfaff reveals, "The Danger Of Meddling In Syria's Turmoil."

Paul Krugman explains, "Loading The Climate Dice."

Glen Ford examines, "Obama And The Bank Protection Racket."

Robert Reich concludes, "The Problem Isn't Outsourcing."

US Con-gressman Louie Gohmert F/Texas wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols reports, "Broke? Not If Governments Tax The $21 TRILLION Rich Have Offshored."

Adam Keller sees, "Tragedy And Farce, And Tragedy Again."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz hears, "Kim Jong-un's Wedding Vows" but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Same Old, Same Old!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Gary Varvel, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Bruce Plante, TWD, Memegenerator.Net, Black Agenda Report.Com, Parker Brothers, AP, Little Falls, Minnesota, 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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Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Same Old, Same Old!
By Ernest Stewart

"The president's views on this are, as he has stated and as he spelled out in the op-ed that was published in an Arizona newspaper, which is that he believes we need to take steps that protect Second Amendment rights of the American people, but that ensure that we are not allowing weapons into the hands of individuals who should not, by existing law, obtain those weapons." ~~~ White House spokes-weasel Jay Carney

"This is like deja vu all over again." ~~~ Yogi Berra

"I talked to a retired FBI agent who said that one of the things they were looking at were terrorist cells overseas who had figured out how to game our system. And it appeared they would have young women, who became pregnant, would get them into the United States to have a baby. They wouldn't even have to pay anything for the baby. And then they would turn back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then, one day, twen...thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life. 'Cause they figured out how stupid we are being in this country to allow our enemies to game our system, hurt our economy, get setup in a position to destroy our way of life.'" ~~~ US Congressman Louie Gohmert

"There is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving!" ~~~ Henry Drummond

Aurora, Colorado didn't surprise my one little bit, nor will the next one, or the next one, or the one after that. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson.... are just a few that spring to mind of late, and none of those were psychotic war vets, who, so far, are killing innocent Americans one or two at a time, even though they're serial killers, they not making the MSM news, as the MSM are being paid, or threatened, to keep it quiet. And while these student murderers are making headlines, just wait for our professional killers to make the scene with grenade launches, claymore mines, C-4 and such!

In the old days, the psychos were put in the front lines as a war ran down to be killed, so they wouldn't bring their special terrorist tactics back to the hood. Today, our troops are pill poppers. Pills to make it easy with being a murderer, and pills to make them forget what they did when they get back home. It's when they put those pills down, as most do, that all hell can break loose!

Remember what followed the "Civil War?" For twenty years afterward, we had the wild, wild, west -- where former soldiers became guns-for-hire, sheriffs, bounty hunters and gang members, like the James Gang and the Youngers, or just bandits. Have no doubt, that can happen again today, as it has after every major war that this country has been in. Ex-troopers go on shooting sprees after every war; for example, WWI begat all those military-trained gunmen that made the Roaring Twenties roar right on through to the mid 30's. All the gang killers and most all of the leaders were vets. WWII brought us another round of violent ex-soldiers with the birth of gangs like the Hell's Angels. After Vietnam, they shot up McDonalds and Day Care Centers, and it's just a matter of time before the sh*t hits the fan from our current crop of professional killers. After all, not everyone can get a job with Blackwater or the Mafia, or as Highway Patrolmen!

Of course, there in no hope of getting rid of the machine guns and pistols, as old Chuck Heston and the NRA will see to that, along with their paid-off stooges in the Con-gress, no matter the slaughter. Remember ya'll that, "Guns don't kill people! People with guns kill people!" And for those NRA types that are hoarding their guns to stop the government, must I remind you bozos that the government has tanks, helicopter gunships, missile-firing drones, not to mention atomic weapons -- all of which your AK-47 won't have the slightest effect upon. Not the slightest!

In Other News

I'm having a deja vu all over again. The good news is we're starting to lose some of our climate deniers, the ones that aren't being paid by the coal conspiracy and other climate destroyers. The ones remaining who aren't taking bribes, fall into a single category, i.e., fascists.

You know the type, the NRA guns nuts, the birther loonies, the gay bashers and climate deniers seem to go hand-in-hand both figuratively and literally! Ask the Log Cabin Rethuglicans how that works!

Now the drought is so bad the Mississippi River is so low that barge traffic is coming to a stand still! America's biggest highway, carrying most of our fruits and vegetables, is all but shut down. The drought has also all but destroyed most corn production; and America's bread-basket to the world may not produce enough to feed us; and if you can find adequate food supplies, be prepared to pay a whole lot more for it. Folks on food stamps will be hungrier than they normally are, and with millions of kids being kicked off food subsidies to pay for tax cuts for our 1% masters, there will be a lot of hungry, desperate, people running around. Just like the corpo-rat plan calls for.

No, the uber-wealthy didn't cause the bad weather to starve folks -- they caused it to make more billions for their off-shore bank accounts; but have no doubt, they will, and are, taking advantage of global warming to steal even more from the under-classes.

As we've been preaching for years, you need to grow your own if you want to survive. If those trucks that bring your food to the grocery stores stopped running for a single month 10s of millions of people would die in this country alone; for two months, that would be billions worldwide. When all that has been going on behind most folks backs hits the fan, we're going to be living like they did 200 years ago, and America is by no means prepared for this eventuality. The Amish will have the last laugh!

What's it going to take, America? The drought continues, that water level keeps dropping, and Con-gress keeps taking its bribes and looking the other way. Sometimes I think that America is too stupid to live! Come on, ya'll, and prove me wrong; I hope you can!

And Finally

The next time that Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels want to do another Dumb & Dumber movie, I'd suggest they invite Texas Con-gressman Louie Gohmert to join them, so they can title the movie, Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest! Con-gressman Gohmert was been going out of his way to prove he is the dumbest moron of the Tea Bagger group; and folks that's really saying something -- considering the morons that the Tea Baggers sent to Con-gress! Louie, by-the-way, wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Louie's been going non-stop as of late to prove just how stupid, racist, and bigoted he truly is, to the point of Sin-ator Johnny (the Traitor) McCain has to call him out on his stupidity, for which Louie called Johnny "dumb nuts!" Is this the US Congress or an elementary school? I wonder if since Dubya took over Texas and proceeded to make it the worst place in the country for clean water and air that it's starting to totally destroy the tiny little brains of the average Texan? Wouldn't that explain a lot of things? I mean, wouldn't it?

Gohmert is part of a group of Republican, led by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) (another whiz-kid herself), who is demanding an investigation into whether Clinton deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. Gohmert sees Muslims everywhere in Con-gress -- the same way that Joseph McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy saw communists everywhere during the witch hunts of the 1950's.

You'll recall that the day after the shooting at a Colorado movie theater, Louie claimed it was linked to "ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs." That's quite a stretch of the imagination, but Louie doesn't realize that fairy tales and mythology is beginning to lose its grip on the Sheeple; and 60 million American Atheists are beginning to speak up and out about the fascists.

"Rep. Louis Gohmert truly tortures logic when he concludes that this violence had something to do with perceived attacks on majority faith in America," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "At a time when families are mourning in the wake of this tragedy, Gohmert used it as an opportunity to push a religious agenda."

Gohmert suggested the shootings could have been avoided if the country placed a higher value on God when he stated, "We've threatened high school graduation participations; if they use God's name, they're going to be jailed ... I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don't want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present."

Ya'll go ahead and elect some more Tea Baggers to the House and Senate, and Willard, who is just a few years away from being a god himself; but then don't act surprised if the Mayans got it right! That will be without a doubt the end of the world as we know it, which is just what the Mayans said.

Keepin' On

We're getting ever-so-close to this month's goal of paying off those bills; but time is running out. Thanks to Bill & Barb from Asheville, and good ole Ernie from Ontario (my hero), we're within $100 of paying off those bills for the year -- which will put us 2/3rds of the way there for the year, with the rest due in October. We're not out of the woods yet; but I think I can see the light of day just over the next hill!

Some say that the world as we know it will end on December 21st. Other say it may end on November 6th with the election of either Barry or Willard! I'm pretty sure it will continue, having lived through at least a dozen end-of-the-world scenarios in my lifetime. I'm pretty sure we're not that lucky to not have to keep up the struggle -- so knowing what's happening and will happen, during this time of crisis might be a handy thing to know, might it not?

If you think knowing the truth is a good thing, even if you have trouble dealing with it, then please give us a hand. Please send us as much as you can, as often as you can, and we'll keep fighting the good fight against the political/corpo-rat evil that infects this country and the world! Think of us as your newspaper boy, except we'll tell you the truth, and won't sugar coat it; and we'll report the important stuff -- the need to know stuff. For your family's sake, please help us out if you can. Just go here and follow the instructions. Thanks, and Peace, Ya'll!


08-13-1952 ~ 07-19-2012
Thanks for the laughs!

06-06-1941 ~ 07-21-2012
Thanks for the thoughts!

05-26-1951 ~ 07-23-2012
Ride, Sally Ride, upon your mystery ship!

02-01-1938 ~ 07-24-2012
Thanks for the laughs!

03-22-1950 ~ 07-26-2012
Thanks for the film!


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


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

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

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math
Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe - and that make clear who the real enemy is
By Bill McKibben

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere - the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation - in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn't even attend. It was "a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago," the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls "once thronged by multitudes." Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I've spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly - losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn't yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious - our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless - position with three simple numbers.

The First Number: 2 Degrees Celsius

If the movie had ended in Hollywood fashion, the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 would have marked the culmination of the global fight to slow a changing climate. The world's nations had gathered in the December gloom of the Danish capital for what a leading climate economist, Sir Nicholas Stern of Britain, called the "most important gathering since the Second World War, given what is at stake." As Danish energy minister Connie Hedegaard, who presided over the conference, declared at the time: "This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we get a new and better one. If ever."

In the event, of course, we missed it. Copenhagen failed spectacularly. Neither China nor the United States, which between them are responsible for 40 percent of global carbon emissions, was prepared to offer dramatic concessions, and so the conference drifted aimlessly for two weeks until world leaders jetted in for the final day. Amid considerable chaos, President Obama took the lead in drafting a face-saving "Copenhagen Accord" that fooled very few. Its purely voluntary agreements committed no one to anything, and even if countries signaled their intentions to cut carbon emissions, there was no enforcement mechanism. "Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight," an angry Greenpeace official declared, "with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport." Headline writers were equally brutal: COPENHAGEN: THE MUNICH OF OUR TIMES? asked one.

The accord did contain one important number, however. In Paragraph 1, it formally recognized "the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius." And in the very next paragraph, it declared that "we agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required... so as to hold the increase in global temperature below two degrees Celsius." By insisting on two degrees - about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit - the accord ratified positions taken earlier in 2009 by the G8, and the so-called Major Economies Forum. It was as conventional as conventional wisdom gets. The number first gained prominence, in fact, at a 1995 climate conference chaired by Angela Merkel, then the German minister of the environment and now the center-right chancellor of the nation.

Some context: So far, we've raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.) Given those impacts, in fact, many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target. "Any number much above one degree involves a gamble," writes Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes, "and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up." Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank's chief biodiversity adviser, puts it like this: "If we're seeing what we're seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much." NASA scientist James Hansen, the planet's most prominent climatologist, is even blunter: "The target that has been talked about in international negotiations for two degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster." At the Copenhagen summit, a spokesman for small island nations warned that many would not survive a two-degree rise: "Some countries will flat-out disappear." When delegates from developing nations were warned that two degrees would represent a "suicide pact" for drought-stricken Africa, many of them started chanting, "One degree, one Africa."

Despite such well-founded misgivings, political realism bested scientific data, and the world settled on the two-degree target - indeed, it's fair to say that it's the only thing about climate change the world has settled on. All told, 167 countries responsible for more than 87 percent of the world's carbon emissions have signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, endorsing the two-degree target. Only a few dozen countries have rejected it, including Kuwait, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Even the United Arab Emirates, which makes most of its money exporting oil and gas, signed on. The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can't raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius - it's become the bottomest of bottom lines. Two degrees.

The Second Number: 565 Gigatons

Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. ("Reasonable," in this case, means four chances in five, or somewhat worse odds than playing Russian roulette with a six-shooter.)

This idea of a global "carbon budget" emerged about a decade ago, as scientists began to calculate how much oil, coal and gas could still safely be burned. Since we've increased the Earth's temperature by 0.8 degrees so far, we're currently less than halfway to the target. But, in fact, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere. That means we're already three-quarters of the way to the two-degree target.

How good are these numbers? No one is insisting that they're exact, but few dispute that they're generally right. The 565-gigaton figure was derived from one of the most sophisticated computer-simulation models that have been built by climate scientists around the world over the past few decades. And the number is being further confirmed by the latest climate-simulation models currently being finalized in advance of the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Looking at them as they come in, they hardly differ at all," says Tom Wigley, an Australian climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "There's maybe 40 models in the data set now, compared with 20 before. But so far the numbers are pretty much the same. We're just fine-tuning things. I don't think much has changed over the last decade." William Collins, a senior climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, agrees. "I think the results of this round of simulations will be quite similar," he says. "We're not getting any free lunch from additional understanding of the climate system."

We're not getting any free lunch from the world's economies, either. With only a single year's lull in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, we've continued to pour record amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, year after year. In late May, the International Energy Agency published its latest figures - CO2 emissions last year rose to 31.6 gigatons, up 3.2 percent from the year before. America had a warm winter and converted more coal-fired power plants to natural gas, so its emissions fell slightly; China kept booming, so its carbon output (which recently surpassed the U.S.) rose 9.3 percent; the Japanese shut down their fleet of nukes post-Fukushima, so their emissions edged up 2.4 percent. "There have been efforts to use more renewable energy and improve energy efficiency," said Corinne Le Quere, who runs England's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. "But what this shows is that so far the effects have been marginal." In fact, study after study predicts that carbon emissions will keep growing by roughly three percent a year - and at that rate, we'll blow through our 565-gigaton allowance in 16 years, around the time today's preschoolers will be graduating from high school. "The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two-degree trajectory is about to close," said Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist. In fact, he continued, "When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees." That's almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which would create a planet straight out of science fiction.

So, new data in hand, everyone at the Rio conference renewed their ritual calls for serious international action to move us back to a two-degree trajectory. The charade will continue in November, when the next Conference of the Parties (COP) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change convenes in Qatar. This will be COP 18 - COP 1 was held in Berlin in 1995, and since then the process has accomplished essentially nothing. Even scientists, who are notoriously reluctant to speak out, are slowly overcoming their natural preference to simply provide data. "The message has been consistent for close to 30 years now," Collins says with a wry laugh, "and we have the instrumentation and the computer power required to present the evidence in detail. If we choose to continue on our present course of action, it should be done with a full evaluation of the evidence the scientific community has presented." He pauses, suddenly conscious of being on the record. "I should say, a fuller evaluation of the evidence."

So far, though, such calls have had little effect. We're in the same position we've been in for a quarter-century: scientific warning followed by political inaction. Among scientists speaking off the record, disgusted candor is the rule. One senior scientist told me, "You know those new cigarette packs, where governments make them put a picture of someone with a hole in their throats? Gas pumps should have something like that."

The Third Number: 2,795 Gigatons

This number is the scariest of all - one that, for the first time, meshes the political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma. It was highlighted last summer by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalists who published a report in an effort to educate investors about the possible risks that climate change poses to their stock portfolios. The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it's the fossil fuel we're currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number - 2,795 - is higher than 565. Five times higher.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative - led by James Leaton, an environmentalist who served as an adviser at the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers - combed through proprietary databases to figure out how much oil, gas and coal the world's major energy companies hold in reserve. The numbers aren't perfect - they don't fully reflect the recent surge in unconventional energy sources like shale gas, and they don't accurately reflect coal reserves, which are subject to less stringent reporting requirements than oil and gas. But for the biggest companies, the figures are quite exact: If you burned everything in the inventories of Russia's Lukoil and America's ExxonMobil, for instance, which lead the list of oil and gas companies, each would release more than 40 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Which is exactly why this new number, 2,795 gigatons, is such a big deal. Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit - equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit - the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That's the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour.

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We'd have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

Yes, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it's already economically aboveground - it's figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide - those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. It's why they've worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada's tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.

If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn't pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today's market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you'd be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren't exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won't necessarily burst - we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet - but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can't have both. Do the math: 2,795 is five times 565. That's how the story ends.

So far, as I said at the start, environmental efforts to tackle global warming have failed. The planet's emissions of carbon dioxide continue to soar, especially as developing countries emulate (and supplant) the industries of the West. Even in rich countries, small reductions in emissions offer no sign of the real break with the status quo we'd need to upend the iron logic of these three numbers. Germany is one of the only big countries that has actually tried hard to change its energy mix; on one sunny Saturday in late May, that northern-latitude nation generated nearly half its power from solar panels within its borders. That's a small miracle - and it demonstrates that we have the technology to solve our problems. But we lack the will. So far, Germany's the exception; the rule is ever more carbon.

This record of failure means we know a lot about what strategies don't work. Green groups, for instance, have spent a lot of time trying to change individual lifestyles: the iconic twisty light bulb has been installed by the millions, but so have a new generation of energy-sucking flatscreen TVs. Most of us are fundamentally ambivalent about going green: We like cheap flights to warm places, and we're certainly not going to give them up if everyone else is still taking them. Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself - it's as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.

People perceive - correctly - that their individual actions will not make a decisive difference in the atmospheric concentration of CO2; by 2010, a poll found that "while recycling is widespread in America and 73 percent of those polled are paying bills online in order to save paper," only four percent had reduced their utility use and only three percent had purchased hybrid cars. Given a hundred years, you could conceivably change lifestyles enough to matter - but time is precisely what we lack.

A more efficient method, of course, would be to work through the political system, and environmentalists have tried that, too, with the same limited success. They've patiently lobbied leaders, trying to convince them of our peril and assuming that politicians would heed the warnings. Sometimes it has seemed to work. Barack Obama, for instance, campaigned more aggressively about climate change than any president before him - the night he won the nomination, he told supporters that his election would mark the moment "the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal." And he has achieved one significant change: a steady increase in the fuel efficiency mandated for automobiles. It's the kind of measure, adopted a quarter-century ago, that would have helped enormously. But in light of the numbers I've just described, it's obviously a very small start indeed.

At this point, effective action would require actually keeping most of the carbon the fossil-fuel industry wants to burn safely in the soil, not just changing slightly the speed at which it's burned. And there the president, apparently haunted by the still-echoing cry of "Drill, baby, drill," has gone out of his way to frack and mine. His secretary of interior, for instance, opened up a huge swath of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming for coal extraction: The total basin contains some 67.5 gigatons worth of carbon (or more than 10 percent of the available atmospheric space). He's doing the same thing with Arctic and offshore drilling; in fact, as he explained on the stump in March, "You have my word that we will keep drilling everywhere we can... That's a commitment that I make." The next day, in a yard full of oil pipe in Cushing, Oklahoma, the president promised to work on wind and solar energy but, at the same time, to speed up fossil-fuel development: "Producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy." That is, he's committed to finding even more stock to add to the 2,795-gigaton inventory of unburned carbon.

Sometimes the irony is almost Borat-scale obvious: In early June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled on a Norwegian research trawler to see firsthand the growing damage from climate change. "Many of the predictions about warming in the Arctic are being surpassed by the actual data," she said, describing the sight as "sobering." But the discussions she traveled to Scandinavia to have with other foreign ministers were mostly about how to make sure Western nations get their share of the estimated $9 trillion in oil (that's more than 90 billion barrels, or 37 gigatons of carbon) that will become accessible as the Arctic ice melts. Last month, the Obama administration indicated that it would give Shell permission to start drilling in sections of the Arctic.

Almost every government with deposits of hydrocarbons straddles the same divide. Canada, for instance, is a liberal democracy renowned for its internationalism - no wonder, then, that it signed on to the Kyoto treaty, promising to cut its carbon emissions substantially by 2012. But the rising price of oil suddenly made the tar sands of Alberta economically attractive - and since, as NASA climatologist James Hansen pointed out in May, they contain as much as 240 gigatons of carbon (or almost half of the available space if we take the 565 limit seriously), that meant Canada's commitment to Kyoto was nonsense. In December, the Canadian government withdrew from the treaty before it faced fines for failing to meet its commitments.

The same kind of hypocrisy applies across the ideological board: In his speech to the Copenhagen conference, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez quoted Rosa Luxemburg, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and "Christ the Redeemer," insisting that "climate change is undoubtedly the most devastating environmental problem of this century." But the next spring, in the Simon Bolivar Hall of the state-run oil company, he signed an agreement with a consortium of international players to develop the vast Orinoco tar sands as "the most significant engine for a comprehensive development of the entire territory and Venezuelan population." The Orinoco deposits are larger than Alberta's - taken together, they'd fill up the whole available atmospheric space.

So: the paths we have tried to tackle global warming have so far produced only gradual, halting shifts. A rapid, transformative change would require building a movement, and movements require enemies. As John F. Kennedy put it, "The civil rights movement should thank God for Bull Connor. He's helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln." And enemies are what climate change has lacked.

But what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy - one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. "Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business - pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops - and we pressure them to change those practices," says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. "But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It's what they do."

According to the Carbon Tracker report, if Exxon burns its current reserves, it would use up more than seven percent of the available atmospheric space between us and the risk of two degrees. BP is just behind, followed by the Russian firm Gazprom, then Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell, each of which would fill between three and four percent. Taken together, just these six firms, of the 200 listed in the Carbon Tracker report, would use up more than a quarter of the remaining two-degree budget. Severstal, the Russian mining giant, leads the list of coal companies, followed by firms like BHP Billiton and Peabody. The numbers are simply staggering - this industry, and this industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet, and they're planning to use it.

They're clearly cognizant of global warming - they employ some of the world's best scientists, after all, and they're bidding on all those oil leases made possible by the staggering melt of Arctic ice. And yet they relentlessly search for more hydrocarbons - in early March, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson told Wall Street analysts that the company plans to spend $37 billion a year through 2016 (about $100 million a day) searching for yet more oil and gas.

There's not a more reckless man on the planet than Tillerson. Late last month, on the same day the Colorado fires reached their height, he told a New York audience that global warming is real, but dismissed it as an "engineering problem" that has "engineering solutions." Such as? "Changes to weather patterns that move crop-production areas around - we'll adapt to that." This in a week when Kentucky farmers were reporting that corn kernels were "aborting" in record heat, threatening a spike in global food prices. "The fear factor that people want to throw out there to say, 'We just have to stop this,' I do not accept," Tillerson said. Of course not - if he did accept it, he'd have to keep his reserves in the ground. Which would cost him money. It's not an engineering problem, in other words - it's a greed problem.

You could argue that this is simply in the nature of these companies - that having found a profitable vein, they're compelled to keep mining it, more like efficient automatons than people with free will. But as the Supreme Court has made clear, they are people of a sort. In fact, thanks to the size of its bankroll, the fossil-fuel industry has far more free will than the rest of us. These companies don't simply exist in a world whose hungers they fulfill - they help create the boundaries of that world.

Left to our own devices, citizens might decide to regulate carbon and stop short of the brink; according to a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans would back an international agreement that cut carbon emissions 90 percent by 2050. But we aren't left to our own devices. The Koch brothers, for instance, have a combined wealth of $50 billion, meaning they trail only Bill Gates on the list of richest Americans. They've made most of their money in hydrocarbons, they know any system to regulate carbon would cut those profits, and they reportedly plan to lavish as much as $200 million on this year's elections. In 2009, for the first time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce surpassed both the Republican and Democratic National Committees on political spending; the following year, more than 90 percent of the Chamber's cash went to GOP candidates, many of whom deny the existence of global warming. Not long ago, the Chamber even filed a brief with the EPA urging the agency not to regulate carbon - should the world's scientists turn out to be right and the planet heats up, the Chamber advised, "populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological and technological adaptations." As radical goes, demanding that we change our physiology seems right up there.

Environmentalists, understandably, have been loath to make the fossil-fuel industry their enemy, respecting its political power and hoping instead to convince these giants that they should turn away from coal, oil and gas and transform themselves more broadly into "energy companies." Sometimes that strategy appeared to be working - emphasis on appeared. Around the turn of the century, for instance, BP made a brief attempt to restyle itself as "Beyond Petroleum," adapting a logo that looked like the sun and sticking solar panels on some of its gas stations. But its investments in alternative energy were never more than a tiny fraction of its budget for hydrocarbon exploration, and after a few years, many of those were wound down as new CEOs insisted on returning to the company's "core business." In December, BP finally closed its solar division. Shell shut down its solar and wind efforts in 2009. The five biggest oil companies have made more than $1 trillion in profits since the millennium - there's simply too much money to be made on oil and gas and coal to go chasing after zephyrs and sunbeams.

Much of that profit stems from a single historical accident: Alone among businesses, the fossil-fuel industry is allowed to dump its main waste, carbon dioxide, for free. Nobody else gets that break - if you own a restaurant, you have to pay someone to cart away your trash, since piling it in the street would breed rats. But the fossil-fuel industry is different, and for sound historical reasons: Until a quarter-century ago, almost no one knew that CO2 was dangerous. But now that we understand that carbon is heating the planet and acidifying the oceans, its price becomes the central issue.

If you put a price on carbon, through a direct tax or other methods, it would enlist markets in the fight against global warming. Once Exxon has to pay for the damage its carbon is doing to the atmosphere, the price of its products would rise. Consumers would get a strong signal to use less fossil fuel - every time they stopped at the pump, they'd be reminded that you don't need a semimilitary vehicle to go to the grocery store. The economic playing field would now be a level one for nonpolluting energy sources. And you could do it all without bankrupting citizens - a so-called "fee-and-dividend" scheme would put a hefty tax on coal and gas and oil, then simply divide up the proceeds, sending everyone in the country a check each month for their share of the added costs of carbon. By switching to cleaner energy sources, most people would actually come out ahead.

There's only one problem: Putting a price on carbon would reduce the profitability of the fossil-fuel industry. After all, the answer to the question "How high should the price of carbon be?" is "High enough to keep those carbon reserves that would take us past two degrees safely in the ground." The higher the price on carbon, the more of those reserves would be worthless. The fight, in the end, is about whether the industry will succeed in its fight to keep its special pollution break alive past the point of climate catastrophe, or whether, in the economists' parlance, we'll make them internalize those externalities.

It's not clear, of course, that the power of the fossil-fuel industry can be broken. The U.K. analysts who wrote the Carbon Tracker report and drew attention to these numbers had a relatively modest goal - they simply wanted to remind investors that climate change poses a very real risk to the stock prices of energy companies. Say something so big finally happens (a giant hurricane swamps Manhattan, a megadrought wipes out Midwest agriculture) that even the political power of the industry is inadequate to restrain legislators, who manage to regulate carbon. Suddenly those Chevron reserves would be a lot less valuable, and the stock would tank. Given that risk, the Carbon Tracker report warned investors to lessen their exposure, hedge it with some big plays in alternative energy.

"The regular process of economic evolution is that businesses are left with stranded assets all the time," says Nick Robins, who runs HSBC's Climate Change Centre. "Think of film cameras, or typewriters. The question is not whether this will happen. It will. Pension systems have been hit by the dot-com and credit crunch. They'll be hit by this." Still, it hasn't been easy to convince investors, who have shared in the oil industry's record profits. "The reason you get bubbles," sighs Leaton, "is that everyone thinks they're the best analyst - that they'll go to the edge of the cliff and then jump back when everyone else goes over."

So pure self-interest probably won't spark a transformative challenge to fossil fuel. But moral outrage just might - and that's the real meaning of this new math. It could, plausibly, give rise to a real movement.

Once, in recent corporate history, anger forced an industry to make basic changes. That was the campaign in the 1980s demanding divestment from companies doing business in South Africa. It rose first on college campuses and then spread to municipal and state governments; 155 campuses eventually divested, and by the end of the decade, more than 80 cities, 25 states and 19 counties had taken some form of binding economic action against companies connected to the apartheid regime. "The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century," as Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it, "but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure, especially from the divestment movement of the 1980s."

The fossil-fuel industry is obviously a tougher opponent, and even if you could force the hand of particular companies, you'd still have to figure out a strategy for dealing with all the sovereign nations that, in effect, act as fossil-fuel companies. But the link for college students is even more obvious in this case. If their college's endowment portfolio has fossil-fuel stock, then their educations are being subsidized by investments that guarantee they won't have much of a planet on which to make use of their degree. (The same logic applies to the world's largest investors, pension funds, which are also theoretically interested in the future - that's when their members will "enjoy their retirement.") "Given the severity of the climate crisis, a comparable demand that our institutions dump stock from companies that are destroying the planet would not only be appropriate but effective," says Bob Massie, a former anti-apartheid activist who helped found the Investor Network on Climate Risk. "The message is simple: We have had enough. We must sever the ties with those who profit from climate change - now."

Movements rarely have predictable outcomes. But any campaign that weakens the fossil-fuel industry's political standing clearly increases the chances of retiring its special breaks. Consider President Obama's signal achievement in the climate fight, the large increase he won in mileage requirements for cars. Scientists, environmentalists and engineers had advocated such policies for decades, but until Detroit came under severe financial pressure, it was politically powerful enough to fend them off. If people come to understand the cold, mathematical truth - that the fossil-fuel industry is systematically undermining the planet's physical systems - it might weaken it enough to matter politically. Exxon and their ilk might drop their opposition to a fee-and-dividend solution; they might even decide to become true energy companies, this time for real.

Even if such a campaign is possible, however, we may have waited too long to start it. To make a real difference - to keep us under a temperature increase of two degrees - you'd need to change carbon pricing in Washington, and then use that victory to leverage similar shifts around the world. At this point, what happens in the U.S. is most important for how it will influence China and India, where emissions are growing fastest. (In early June, researchers concluded that China has probably under-reported its emissions by up to 20 percent.) The three numbers I've described are daunting - they may define an essentially impossible future. But at least they provide intellectual clarity about the greatest challenge humans have ever faced. We know how much we can burn, and we know who's planning to burn more. Climate change operates on a geological scale and time frame, but it's not an impersonal force of nature; the more carefully you do the math, the more thoroughly you realize that this is, at bottom, a moral issue; we have met the enemy and they is Shell.

Meanwhile the tide of numbers continues. The week after the Rio conference limped to its conclusion, Arctic sea ice hit the lowest level ever recorded for that date. Last month, on a single weekend, Tropical Storm Debby dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Florida - the earliest the season's fourth-named cyclone has ever arrived. At the same time, the largest fire in New Mexico history burned on, and the most destructive fire in Colorado's annals claimed 346 homes in Colorado Springs - breaking a record set the week before in Fort Collins. This month, scientists issued a new study concluding that global warming has dramatically increased the likelihood of severe heat and drought - days after a heat wave across the Plains and Midwest broke records that had stood since the Dust Bowl, threatening this year's harvest. You want a big number? In the course of this month, a quadrillion kernels of corn need to pollinate across the grain belt, something they can't do if temperatures remain off the charts. Just like us, our crops are adapted to the Holocene, the 11,000-year period of climatic stability we're now leaving... in the dust.
(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.

Divide et Impera
By Uri Avnery

WHATEVER IS happening to the Israeli social protest movement?

Good question. It is not only being asked abroad, but in Israel, too.

Last year the movement reached its peak in a giant demonstration. Hundreds of thousands marched in Tel Aviv.

The government did what governments do in such situations: it appointed a commission, headed by a respected professor named Manuel Trajtenberg. The commission made some good but limited recommendations, a tiny fraction of which were actually implemented.

In the meantime, the protest movement hibernated. For no good reason, it was somehow accepted that a protest movement should act only in summertime. (Personally, I much prefer winter demonstrations. Summers are really too damn hot.)

WHEN SUMMER 2012 came around - and a specially hot summer it is - the protest movement moved again.

Daphni Leef, who had started it all, called for a demonstration. She gathered around her some 10,000 people, a respectable number but far less than last year's multitudes. And for a good (or bad) reason: on the very same day and at the very same hour, less than a kilometer away, another demonstration was taking place. It was about army service (more about that later).

Last Saturday night, Daphni called for another protest, and again some 10,000 gathered. Why not more? Because on the very same day and at the very same hour another demonstration took place on Tel Aviv's seashore.

What was the difference between the two? None whatsoever. Both claimed to be the legitimate successor of last year's protest. They used the same slogans.

I don't generally subscribe to conspiracy theories. But this time it was hard not to suspect that some hidden hand was applying the old Roman maxim "divide et impera," divide and rule. (Seems that it was not really coined by the Romans, but by the French king Louis XIV , who said "diviser pour regner".)

THE SUCCESS of Daphni's demonstration last Saturday was assured by an event nobody could have foreseen.

When the march reached the government quarter of Tel Aviv (the former village of Sarona, founded by German religious settlers in the mid 19th century) something shocking happened. One of the protesters, a middle-aged man from Haifa, set himself on fire and suffered terrible burns.

Jews are not Buddhist monks and nothing like this has ever happened here before. Desperate people commit suicide, but not publicly and not by fire. I think that since the days when converted Jews were burned by the Spanish inquisition, Jews have abhorred this kind of death.

The man, Moshe Silman, was a hard-luck story. Last year he was active in the protest movement. He was a small entrepreneur who twice failed in business, suffered a series of strokes and was left with nothing but large debts. He was about to be evicted from his small apartment. Rather than become homeless, he decided to take his life, after distributing a suicide note to people around him.

Most believers in the American way would probably say that his failure was his own fault, and that nobody had to help him. Jewish ethics are different and demand that a person in desperation, even if caused by his own failures, should be assured of a minimum existence compatible with human dignity.

Binyamin Netanyahu, an ardent admirer of the free market, published a statement dismissing the event as a "personal tragedy". The demonstrators answered with posters: "Bibi, you are our personal tragedy!"

Silman has become a national symbol. He has given a huge push to the protest movement, which has now resumed its place in public consciousness.

HOWEVER, THE news at the moment is dominated by the competing protest - the one concerning military service.

It is not about refusing service in the army because of the occupation. Such refusers are few, and their courageous acts find, alas, no echo.

No, it is about an entirely different subject: the fact that 6000 able-bodied orthodox youngsters are excused every year from military service, as well as from the alternative civilian service. Those youngsters who serve three full years in the army and then almost a month every year in the reserves are fed up. They demand "equal division of duty." Among the secular majority, and even among the Zionist religious youth, this is a hugely popular slogan.

Its popularity can be measured by the fact that Itzik Shmuli is there. Shmuli, it will be remembered, is the ambitious student leader who joined Daphni last year and then left her in the lurch. Recently it was disclosed that one of Israel's foremost tycoons has given him 200,000 dollars for a project.

The orthodox don't dream of serving. They have very good reasons. For example: the study of the Torah is obviously more important for the security of the state than military service, since, as everybody knows, God protects us only as long as this study goes on. (I once talked about this with Ariel Sharon, and to my surprise and consternation he agreed with this theory.)

The real reason for the orthodox is, of course, their determination to avoid at all costs any contact between their boys and girls and ordinary Israelis, who are steeped in alcohol, crime, sex and drugs.

Netanyahu could easily rule without the orthodox by relying on his secular partners. But he knows that in times of trouble, the orthodox will stick with him, while the others may well melt away.

This week. his fertile mind was feverishly dreaming up compromise solutions that would change everything, while leaving the status quo completely unchanged. For example, it was proposed to draft all religious males, but not at the age of 18, like everybody else, but at the age of 26, when virtually all orthodox men are already married with four children, making their conscription impossible or vastly expensive.

ONLY 70 days ago, the Kadima party hurriedly joined the government. Its justification was that a coalition comprising 80% of the Knesset would provide Netanyahu with the necessary safety net for a total overhaul of the military draft exemption system.

The real reason was that Kadima had been left without any issue it could call its own. Still the largest faction in the Knesset, with one seat more than the Likud, it was threatened with total annihilation in the next election. A squabble with the hated orthodox could change all that.

So this week, on the 70th day of its membership in the glorious coalition, Kadima left again. It can now march towards the coming elections under the proud banner of Equal Service For All.

THERE IS another angle to this story.

The orthodox are not the only ones exempted from military (and civilian) service. So are the Arab citizens, though for quite different reasons.

The Israeli army never wanted to draft the Arabs and give them - God forbid! - military training and arms. Only the Druze, an old religious-ethnic community with a vague connection to Shiite Islam, do serve, as do a few Bedouin.

Now, with Equal Service slogans rampant, this exemption is coming up, too. Why don't the Arabs serve? Why are they not called up, at least, for civilian service?

The Arab citizens refuse, of course. Military service against their own people - fellow Palestinians and fellow Arabs - is out of the question. They refuse civilian service, too, claiming that the state that discriminates against them in so many ways has no right to call them up at all. Even when offered social service within their own community they refuse, causing much resentment among Jewish youths who have to go to the army while Arabs of the same age can go to university or earn good money working.

Thus the movement for Equal Service is in the happy position of attacking the two communities most hated by the majority: the orthodox and the Arabs. Bigotry, racism and secularism, all in the name of equality. Who could wish for more?

NETANYAHU IS now left with his former small majority. He has to find a quick solution to the service of the orthodox, since the Supreme Court is breathing down his neck. The present draft law, which was rejected by the court, expires at the end of this month. By then, a new law must be in place.

For Netanyahu, the preferred solution is calling early elections, perhaps next February. He would like that, since currently there is no one around who could compete with his popularity. New parties would have no time to establish themselves.

But Netanyahu is no gambler. He has no appetite for risk-taking. With elections, like wars, one can never be quite sure of the outcome. Stuff happens.

An excellent alternative would be to split Kadima. Having just started to enjoy the sweet taste of government, some of its members may feel disinclined to let go. The Likud would be only too happy to receive them into its ranks.

Divide et impera may have life in it yet.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

How Fragile We Are...
By Randall Amster

Once again, events conspire to remind us how fragile is our existence and how vulnerable we really are. A young man whose goal in life might have been "helping others" winds up hunting them instead, ruthlessly mowing them down in a bizarre public spectacle in which it is not life but rather death that mirrors art. Chillingly, a neighbor describes the gunman as a "typical American kid" who "kept to himself [and] didn't seem to have many friends." In the postmortem analysis, fingers will be pointed and political positions staked, but the essential issues will again likely go unaddressed as we forge ahead to the next reel in the film, without noticing that the entire narrative itself is deadening by its very nature.

There are no "good guys" or "bad guys" in this veritable societal shooting gallery that places all of us in the crosshairs. Some people simply break, while some seek to break others, but both are responses to a society that places alienation, dependency, and casual brutality at its cultural core. We might blame a specific organ when it contracts cancer or treat the disease like an individual pathology, all the while neglecting to address the obvious socio-environmental roots of the condition. To do the latter would require us to ask hard questions about the society we have created, the one we participate in and benefit from -- yet if we do not, the issue will likely soon become moot as the patient expires.

We simply cannot continue to sow the seeds of a "culture of violence" any longer. The almost daily explosion of some disaffected soul, leading to the decimation of others in public and private spaces alike, is too demonstrable to be dismissed as the result of a few "bad apples" or faulty parts somehow working in isolation from the whole. The mass-shooting phenomenon that happens routinely in the United States is part and parcel of a society that legitimizes force, individualizes burdens, medicalizes despondency, and demonizes dissent. In such a system, many feel utterly trapped in their isolation and powerless to change it -- and some will accordingly act out their desperation in horrifying ways.

To how many violent images is a typical American child exposed? How many marketing campaigns exploit feelings of diminished self-worth and alienation? How many valorizations of the heroic use of force are put before our eyes on a daily basis? How many trespasses and forms of disempowerment do we suffer in our lives, from the exploitation of our labor to the mind-numbing attributes of mass media? How many toxins and other alterants infuse our food supply and infest the larger environment? In how many ways are we made to accept dehumanization in our economic arrangements, as we inhabit a world in which everything is for sale and anything (including absolution) can be bought for a price?

The connections are obvious, so much so that we oftentimes cannot see them. This is an anti-life society at nearly every turn, and any rhetorical claims to being politically "pro-life" are utterly nonsensical. What is worse is that the U.S. is rapidly exporting this macabre model (by finance, fiat, or force), creating a globalized monoculture where commodities supplant communities and people are relegated behind profits. Meanwhile, a relatively small cadre of global elites greedily sucks out the life of this world, co-opting its powers for themselves while giving the rest of us either abject poverty or an illusion of prosperity that masks the reality of its inherent cruelty.

Still, despite the proliferation of corporate fortresses and military bases, the edifice of skewed power and privilege is as fragile as we all are, perhaps even more so in some ways. To wit, if it was not fragile it wouldn't require so much brute force to sustain it; indeed, the weaker something is, the more force it necessitates. Counter to the dominant security narrative, a more apt solution would be to embrace our innate fragility, to recognize and validate our vulnerability, and to stop collaborating with the pretense that we modern humans are some immutable force of nature whose cleverness will ultimately ensure our survival and sustainability.

Nothing is guaranteed -- not military might, not reified power, not homeland security. Not even a midnight movie in the suburbs. And perhaps in this realization we can begin a new era of authentic engagement that takes nothing and no one for granted, one that prioritizes systemic health and individual potential equally, and that moves us from the lethal rigidity of a society built for the powerful toward one designed for the abundant fragility of actual human beings.
(c) 2012 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. Amonsg his most recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

In The Land Of Never Was
The last, desperate hours of Climate Chaos deniers and capitalist rah-rahs
By Phil Rockstroh

Often, the world... forever unfolding, recombining, morphing, dying and transforming... changes before the mind can grasp the implications of the ongoing alterations. This is the basis of nostalgia, for memory freezes the world like an insect encased in amber.

Maturity dawns when you begin to look back at your life and long to be able to make amends for your blindness. Because changing the past is impossible, it follows to strive to possess a greater degree of self-awareness in the present. By this measure, we, the people of the U.S., insulated in the eternal present of our media hologramatic bubble and in the thrall of perpetual post-adolescent-level self-involvement, have some growing up to do.

Circumstances change, people change, yet the people of the U.S. cling to an outmoded and ossified view of themselves, their nation, and the world at large... but events keep moving right along. For example, given the degree of danger, and by danger, I mean, global wide, species (including our own) devastation, begot by Industrial Age-engendered Climate Chaos -- we cannot afford to go about business as usual.

On consideration of the path we are heading down, at exponentially increasing speed, uprising (engendered by mortification and propelled by outrage) would appear to be an appropriate course of action. If you were embarked on a journey across the high seas and discovered the captain and his officers were all suicidal madmen -- then mutiny would be a viable option.

The data is in: The oceans of the earth are dying; the very air is bedizened with seeds of fire.

This is not gray beard, flapping in the meaningless breeze, prophecy; this is verifiable, peer-reviewed science. The time for discussion and debate has passed. Only fools, cranks, and greed-besotted psychotics doubt the effect that trapped greenhouse gasses are reaping across the planet. We no longer have the luxury of indulging their corporate age form of blindness and insanity.

America, take a look out the window... risk taking in the passing scene.

However, rather than doing so, we draw the curtains tight and reach for the TV remote or a host of other insulating electronic devices that serve to circumvent self-examination. We turn away in denial or rage in belligerent ignorance, because we see the world moving on, and we cannot control the situation... no matter how many predator drones we have scouring the globe. Increasingly, we feel uneasy, for we see events are changing fast -- and, as the momentum of events propel us through time, we are not yet ready to accept the fact, but know deep within us, that we cannot remain the people that we are.

Grasping the reality of one's situation can be painful. Those in the U.S. still clinging to the tattered myths of late stage capitalism would be hurt and angry, if they came to realize the amount of corporate state propaganda that they have internalized... that has allowed for their exploitation by a ruthless, unaccountable few e.g., the fairy tale of upward class migration. Ergo, the relentless, all-pervasive manner in which well-funded operatives of the rightwing wage class warfare. For example, the noxious canard asserting welfare layabouts have sponged up your fair share of hard wrought earnings. In this way, the bigot whispers of the capitalist state have created a mean-spirited, punitive cosmology that serves to emotionally displace anger. And these tropes of demagogic displacement are quite lucrative to its accomplished practitioners e.g., Rush Limbaugh.

The winners/losers mythos of capitalism renders people sick with shame while its tendency towards class stratification promotes feelings of powerlessness and unfocussed rage; hence, many develop a compulsion to displace their frustrations. Withal, they evince the mindset of embittered slaves who have been told, and worse insist, that the corporatist/militarist boot on their necks is better termed a Liberty Massage; they seethe with displaced projections on people that they perceive to be layabouts, when, in fact, by these projections, they are displaying a type of envy. These perceived loafers (i.e., imaginary beings, who are, seemingly, as troublesome, yet as hard to locate as fairy folk) are getting away with something -- while you have to slave away, toiling for the obscene profits of a privileged elite who think those below them are fools for swallowing whole the propaganda they promulgate about this imaginary, miracle system known as free market capitalism, which never has worked (and never will work) as advertised, because it never has and never will exist. Moreover, given the reality of Democratic/Republican duopoly in place to protect the interest of the moneyed classes, we will not be able to vote our way out of this situation.

I know my assertion that one's vote is worse than meaningless (Caveat: It is flat-out meaningful to those who rigged the game by providing the system with the illusion of being legit.) is bound to evoke, in some, feelings of angst, because the assertion points out the hopelessness of the situation. Good. Hope is the snake oil sold to suckers at the traveling medicine show/cheap carnival of this faux democratic republic. What the ruling elite fear is the audacity of hopelessness -- because that is when citizens see through the illusions created by their exploiters and rise up and destroy the house of mirrors of the status quo.

Believing you're contributing to the greater good by the act of voting in this big money-controlled, sham republic... is like donating your blood to a blood bank owned by vampires.

The last, best way that we, as a nation, can endure... is to challenge social convention and political boilerplate (each and every calcified cliché and soul-defying platitude) at all levels. Change arrives when heart and mind open to new understandings. There is a time-proven approach to this: Begin to admit the fact that our understandings involving ourselves and our place in the world have come to the end of the line... only an abyss yawns before us; that our actions are no longer viable, thus we must risk exposure to novelty. Naturally, grief will come with the letting go of shopworn habits and the death of cherished illusions; although, a rebirth of wonder and a renewal of vision will arrive as well.

"Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most." ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky, from Crime and Punishment

On an historical basis, those who cling to the exhausted verities of this fading epoch will be viewed in a comparable light to those obtuse denizens of the 16th Century who refused to let go (and ruthlessly strove to make miserable -- or worse -- those who challenged prevailing cultural illusions) of the fallacy of the ‪Geocentric model of the universe. Like their Flat-Earther forbearers, our present day virtuosos of denial (e.g., climate change skeptics and capitalist rah-rahs) their names and their demented dogmas will, in years to come, become axiomatic of hubris, denial, and catastrophic conceit.

‬ When an individual clings to pride-petrified notions about himself, he is being held in the thrall of the viewpoint of a person who no longer exists; in the same way, when one parrots nationalistic platitudes, one dwells on a mental basis in a country that does not exists, and, in fact, never did.

The nations of the earth are teeming with people who dwell in The Land Of Never Was. (Shortly, these traits will be on grotesque, flag-waving, spandex-clad display during the coming Olympic games.)

The world is in constant flux and our understanding of it can never be wholly accurate. However, this does not mean we're absolved from making the attempt, and we should not allow a convenient cynicism to hold us in its dismal thrall. By doing so, we diminish our lives and by extension the world.

To know the world, first, we must resolve to undertake a scrupulous inventory of our own beliefs and intentions, both on display and veiled deep within. Transformation begins to unfold as the result of an honest apprehension of one's situation; tragedy descends from the habitual avoidance of doing so.

Still, as waning moments flow into the waxing present, change comes to pass, by means of a single new apprehension by a single individual.

A number of years ago, a man, a recovering drunk, told me what circumstances led him to cast aside the bottle. Most mornings, he said, in the grip of a hangover, to prevent his wife and young children from hearing his sounds of retching, he would slip from the house in order to vomit. It was his habit to shuffle to the backyard, drop to his knees, and, obscured by a row of scrub brush, he would do the deed.

One morning, while in the midst of his grim routine, he heard a rustling to his right. There, on his knees beside him, knelt his three year old son...imitating his father's actions. Stricken with shock and anguish, the man vowed that he would not bequeath this legacy to his son.

Often, the knowledge that our selfish actions are placing those we love at risk can jolt us into awareness... can serve as a catalyst for change. In a universal sense, at this perilous juncture for humankind, it is imperative that we begin to love the world with the ardor, compassion, and sense of responsibility that rises within when looking upon the face of things beloved. We must embrace this task, because our planet, due to the blindness and selfishness inherent to late capitalism, is in deep trouble.

"Love is stronger than death and harder than hell" ~ Meister Eckhart

Large numbers, perhaps even the majority of people of the nation, have applied their energies and talents to avoiding change; they labor, moment by moment, day by day, to construct and dwell within a mundane, confining architecture that passes for normalcy. These types see change as a home invasion. They stand dour and vigilant, armed to their clinched teeth, guarding over their accouterments of mammon. Winged Liberty herself is seen as a demon, borne from Hell on leathery wings.

Pay little mind to their little minds. Write your story across eternal skies, as you put one foot in front of the next, sojourning in the direction of meaning. Yes, you'll pass many of these poor souls as you proceed along, and they will detest you. Your mere presence threatens to reveal to them what they have forsaken in the name of safety... that their conception of what is normal, sane, decent, and patriotic has deadened their spirit. By merely passing by, you threaten to stir up the dust of their desiccated hearts.

To emerge from the imprisonment of habitual to set forth into an uncertain world, to allow your heart to be pierced by time's arrow.

It is through this wound -- that is the womb bearing your rebirth -- you will reemerge into life. You will navigate this novel landscape... learning its roads, paths and landmarks, and, as time passes, you will not only accept the reality that you cannot return to the irretrievable past, but you will be mortified at the very thought of being re-entombed in it.
(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Cleaning Up The Stench Of Washington Lobbyists

Even a hog must sometimes gag at the stench of its own sty. Maybe that's why some corporate lobbyists have launched a campaign to spiff-up K-Street, Washington's corridor of shameless high-dollar influence peddlers.

The pay-to-play profession is so soiled and stinky that even the odious Newt Gingrich couldn't stand it, claiming in his hapless presidential run this year that he's a corporate "consultant" - NOT a lobbyist. Adding to the industry's reputation for ick is the sight of Jack Abramoff, the convicted sleazeball lobbying hustler who's now on a "Remorse Tour," charging groups across the country $10,000 a pop to hear him talk about - get this - ethics reform!

Sad to say, but lobbying is a huge, and hugely profitable industry. There are 535 members of Congress, one president, and 23 cabinet officers in charge of our national government, but they are constantly swarmed by 12,000 registered Washington lobbyists! These hired guns hauled in $3.3 billion last year for helping Big Oil, Big Banks, and other Biggies gouge us.

Unsurprisingly, the American people are disgusted by them. So, the head of the American League of Lobbyists (yes, lobbyists have their own lobbying group) now says that a spritz of magnolia-scented Glade or maybe one of those pine-tree-shaped air fresheners is needed to improve K-Street's smell. Would he include actually staunching the stench by banning lobbyists from doling out campaign cash to lawmakers they're hustling? Oh, gosh no - that might actually work! Instead, the lobbyists' lobbyists is proposing less pungent reforms like giving "ethics training" to those in the trade. Wow - imagine how that would've changed Jack Abramoff!

To make real change in this corrupt system, check with the people's watchdog group, Public Citizen.
(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.

It's The Guns - But We All Know, It's Not Really The Guns
By Michael Moore

Since Cain went nuts and whacked Abel, there have always been those humans who, for one reason or another, go temporarily or permanently insane and commit unspeakable acts of violence. There was the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who during the first century A.D. enjoyed throwing victims off a cliff on the Mediterranean island of Capri. Gilles de Rais, a French knight and ally of Joan of Arc during the middle ages, went cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs one day and ended up murdering hundreds of children. Just a few decades later Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula, was killing people in Transylvania in numberless horrifying ways.

In modern times, nearly every nation has had a psychopath or two commit a mass murder, regardless of how strict their gun laws are - the crazed white supremacist in Norway one year ago Sunday, the schoolyard butcher in Dunblane, Scotland, the École Polytechnique killer in Montreal, the mass murderer in Erfurt, Germany ... the list seems endless.

And now the Aurora shooter last Friday. There have always been insane people, and there always will be.

But here's the difference between the rest of the world and us: We have TWO Auroras that take place every single day of every single year! At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns - and that doesn't count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000.

That means the United States is responsible for over 80% of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. Considering that the people of those countries, as human beings, are no better or worse than any of us, well, then, why us?

Both conservatives and liberals in America operate with firmly held beliefs as to "the why" of this problem. And the reason neither can find their way out of the box toward a real solution is because, in fact, they're both half right.

The right believes that the Founding Fathers, through some sort of divine decree, have guaranteed them the absolute right to own as many guns as they desire. And they will ceaselessly remind you that a gun cannot fire itself - that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Of course, they know they're being intellectually dishonest (if I can use that word) when they say that about the Second Amendment because they know the men who wrote the constitution just wanted to make sure a militia could be quickly called up from amongst the farmers and merchants should the Brits decide to return and wreak some havoc.

But they are half right when they say "Guns don't kill people." I would just alter that slogan slightly to speak the real truth: "Guns don't kill people, Americans kill people."

Because we're the only ones in the first world who do this en masse. And you'll hear all stripes of Americans come up with a host of reasons so that they don't have to deal with what's really behind all this murder and mayhem.

They'll say it's the violent movies and video games that are responsible. Last time I checked, the movies and video games in Japan are more violent than ours - and yet usually fewer than 20 people a year are killed there with guns - and in 2006 the number was two!

Others will say it's the number of broken homes that lead to all this killing. I hate to break this to you, but there are almost as many single-parent homes in the U.K. as there are here - and yet, in Great Britain, there are usually fewer than 40 gun murders a year.

People like me will say this is all the result of the U.S. having a history and a culture of men with guns, "cowboys and Indians," "shoot first and ask questions later." And while it is true that the mass genocide of the Native Americans set a pretty ugly model to found a country on, I think it's safe to say we're not the only ones with a violent past or a penchant for genocide. Hello, Germany! That's right I'm talking about you and your history, from the Huns to the Nazis, just loving a good slaughter (as did the Japanese, and the British who ruled the world for hundreds of years - and they didn't achieve that through planting daisies). And yet in Germany, a nation of 80 million people, there are only around 200 gun murders a year.

So those countries (and many others) are just like us - except for the fact that more people here believe in God and go to church than any other Western nation.

My liberal compatriots will tell you if we just had less guns, there would be less gun deaths. And, mathematically, that would be true. If you have less arsenic in the water supply, it will kill less people. Less of anything bad - calories, smoking, reality TV - will kill far fewer people. And if we had strong gun laws that prohibited automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banned the sale of large magazines that can hold a gazillion bullets, well, then shooters like the man in Aurora would not be able to shoot so many people in just a few minutes.

But this, too, has a problem. There are plenty of guns in Canada (mostly hunting rifles) - and yet the annual gun murder count in Canada is around 200 deaths. In fact, because of its proximity, Canada's culture is very similar to ours - the kids play the same violent video games, watch the same movies and TV shows, and yet they don't grow up wanting to kill each other. Switzerland has the third-highest number of guns per capita on earth, but still a low murder rate.

So - why us?

I posed this question a decade ago in my film 'Bowling for Columbine,' and this week, I have had little to say because I feel I said what I had to say ten years ago - and it doesn't seem to have done a whole lot of good other than to now look like it was actually a crystal ball posing as a movie.

This is what I said then, and it is what I will say again today:

1. We Americans are incredibly good killers. We believe in killing as a way of accomplishing our goals. Three-quarters of our states execute criminals, even though the states with the lower murder rates are generally the states with no death penalty.

Our killing is not just historical (the slaughter of Indians and slaves and each other in a "civil" war). It is our current way of resolving whatever it is we're afraid of. It's invasion as foreign policy. Sure there's Iraq and Afghanistan - but we've been invaders since we "conquered the wild west" and now we're hooked so bad we don't even know where to invade (bin Laden wasn't hiding in Afghanistan, he was in Pakistan) or what to invade for (Saddam had zero weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with 9/11). We send our lower classes off to do the killing, and the rest of us who don't have a loved one over there don't spend a single minute of any given day thinking about the carnage. And now we send in remote pilotless planes to kill, planes that are being controlled by faceless men in a lush, air conditioned studio in suburban Las Vegas. It is madness.

2. We are an easily frightened people and it is easy to manipulate us with fear. What are we so afraid of that we need to have 300 million guns in our homes? Who do we think is going to hurt us? Why are most of these guns in white suburban and rural homes? Maybe we should fix our race problem and our poverty problem (again, #1 in the industrialized world) and then maybe there would be fewer frustrated, frightened, angry people reaching for the gun in the drawer. Maybe we would take better care of each other (here's a good example of what I mean).

Those are my thoughts about Aurora and the violent country I am a citizen of. Like I said, I spelled it all out here if you'd like to watch it or share it for free with others. All we're lacking here, my friends, is the courage and the resolve. I'm in if you are.
(c) 2012 Michael Moore is an activist, author, and filmmaker. See more of his work at his website

The Brainwashing Of The Masses
By James Donahue

Author and video producer Steven Jacobson said: "Television is the most powerful weapon of psychological warfare in history. The programming that we are constantly assaulted by throughout our lives conditions us. It programs us to a particular worldview. Now, we may consider it normal because we were born into this system of lies and deception. And because we were born into this situation and are parents were born into it and have suffered from it, we don't know any better."

Jacobson maintains a website called Mind Control In America. On its opening page he declares: "All the problems in America are the result of people being led to believe things that are not true."

Unfortunately, Jacobson appears to be correct in his claims. While not all television programming is found to be filled with malicious misinformation, most of the news content is either slanted in favor of an ideology, or certain important information is conveniently omitted. Certain high profile stories may dominate the news while crucial information we should be told about is either avoided or given casual attention.

During my college years I took a journalism class that addressed the problem of biased reporting, how to recognize it, and how to write balanced news stories that allowed the reader to decide what to believe. Every controversial issue has two sides. A man accused of wrongdoing may be either guilty or innocent. The politician seeking public office may have ideas that a majority of voters like or dislike. A nation's decision to go to war may be justified, or not. It is the job of the media to carefully present all of the available information but to remain on neutral ground while doing so.

That class, and the excellent number of great newspaper editors I worked under during my younger years, helped cement an understanding of fair and balanced reporting. That phrase, "fair and balanced" has been misused by Fox News, perhaps the most slanted of the so-called television information outlets to win the trust of the brainwashed masses. Nothing about the information and opinions flowing from the lips of the talking heads on that network is either fair or balanced.

As part of our studies for that journalism class, we were required to read a book by Vance Packard titled "The Hidden Persuaders." Even then, when this book was published in 1957, there were subtle forms of propaganda being used to trick us into buying certain products or believing certain political ideals. While television was still in its infancy at that time, the trickery was everywhere. They even went so far as to weave sensual images in what appeared to be wholesome promotional pictures and drawings. Remember the Camel cigarette's mascot Joe Camel? He was a cartoon image of the male genitals with a face.

Walter Glenn Moore, in a commentary The Battle For Your Mind, wrote: The most dangerous form of mind control is subtle and it is coming from the technology which has been freely given to us on a silver platter - television, movies, internet and music. Drugs, sports, amusement parks and entertainment could also be viewed as subtle mind altering experiments which tend to change our mental focus from reality to fantasy, producing a trance-like state of life which is similar to that of one who has been hypnotized." Moore wonders why they call television entertainment "programming." He believes it is designed to do exactly that . . . program our society to behave, dress, and respond in the way certain power figures wish.

The current political battle between incumbent Democrat Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney for the next four-year term as president of the nation has exposed the very worst in twisted thinking that has found its way into a highly financed propaganda machine. Because of the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision declaring corporations qualified to finance campaigns, Romney has found himself flooded with billions of dollars for an advertising blitz unlike anything the nation has ever experienced. Big money also is flowing into the Obama campaign as well. The lies, half-truths and hate messages now dominate our television screens, our radio programs and printed publications. It floods our computer screens. Small wonder that the public is confused, angry and ready to strike when they get an opportunity to go to the polls. But how can a vote cast in either direction repair the situation they are in?

Writer David Icke declared: "Most of humanity is in an absolute hypnotic trance that they're put in from cradle to grave by constant repetition of a fake reality." Then Icke adds a strange line: "And when we wake up from this we will not be subservient."

When he wrote those words Icke was obviously referring to the promise of a global awakening that appears to already be happening. There is a clear sign, especially among the youth, that the massive propaganda machine is no longer keeping all of the slaves in check.

CNN's Jack Cafferty puts out a question for television watchers every weekday afternoon that portrays an interesting cross-section of the way Americans are thinking this year. Viewers have nearly an hour to e-mail or twitter answers to a political question then Cafferty reads four or five of them at the end of the hour. While the host attempts to present balanced commentary from both sides of the issue, a visit to Cafferty's website allows us to read all of the answers. It is promising to note that a majority of responders clearly appear to be awake and fully aware of the twisted rhetoric being pumped into their heads.

That people have begun taking to the streets in protest to the oppressive governments they have been forced to live under is another important sign that change is in the air. The Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, the Libyan and Cyrian revolutions are the ones that have made the news. But there are others occurring, many in unreported and unseen corners of the world.

It has been said that the best way to tear ourselves away from the brainwashing effects of the mass propaganda machine is to first be aware of it, and then be selective in the television, film, radio and music programming we choose for personal entertainment. There are some excellent programs, documentaries and videos that can be streamed into home television sets via the Internet that allow us to skip all of the political junk that now floods the airways. Select with care and keep an open mind.
(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

Minnesota Town Bans Signs In Yards Unless They're Pro-War
By David Swanson

At a festival called Peacestock in Wisconsin last weekend, I met a woman who lives in Little Falls, Minnesota. That city had forced her to take down signs in her own yard, signs that said "Occupy Wall Street," "Back the 99 Percent" and "Boycott Monsanto."

But Robin Hensel noticed that the city itself was displaying, in violation of the same ordinance, a banner reading "We Support Our Troops."

For anyone who's been visiting outerspace for the past half-century, "support our troops" is, of course, a phrase meaning "support whatever wars our government engages in." Thus, we ocassionally see signs reading "Support our troops: Bring them home," a message that is understood to reverse the common meaning of "support our troops" by giving it a literal interpretation.

Well, Hensel proposed that the banner come down, in compliance with the law -- acting on the idea that even bad laws should be enforced fairly.

And then came the death threats.

These kinds of incidents -- and I've been through them too, and can testify to the viciousness the threats can take on -- expose the darker meaning behind "support our troops." That meaning is "death to the other side." Needless to say, the work of troops is killing. Those on the other side in a war are supposed to die. The official bragging about how many have died, so common during the Vietnam War, has not been entirely absent from the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. Hensel placed herself in the enemy camp, in the minds of some war proponents. And therefore she needed to die. The threats flooded in.

Hensel was also turned down by the city in a request for permission to set up an Occupy encampment, but corporate groups were permitted to do everything she'd requested and more.

Hensel is now suing Little Falls in district court, with help from a local attorney and from former associate deputy attorney general of the United States Bruce Fein, who can be expected to denounce the city's assault on the First Amendment in the most powerful and eloquent manner. The complaint filed states:

"The city of Little Falls has no excuse in law for wrongfully harassing a 58-year-old grandmother because she colorfully expressed an unpopular viewpoint on her own property. And that is exactly what the Defendant City did. Indeed, at every turn the Defendants brandished their government authority to suppress or burden Plaintiff's viewpoints because of hostility to their ideas and to facilitate and promote viewpoints they found agreeable."

A columnist at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jon Tevlin, has reported on this story three times, here, here, and here. How many other stories like this go unreported?

Little Falls' city government needs an overhaul, and Robin Hensel is going to run for office.

Our mental slavery needs an overhaul as well. The idea that by murdering large numbers of foreign Muslims we expand our "freedoms" coexists with radical curtailment of our rights. Our rights shrink in direct proportion to military spending. We can be spied on without warrant, locked up without charge, or murdered -- all as a result of the latest war for "freedom." We can also be locked in free-speech cages for protests and see our freedom to speak, assemble, or petition our government shut down -- all in the name of the war that is supposed to make us free by killing people.

The only bit of truth to echo through the Orwellian hum of our militarism is that "freedom isn't free." That's right. It takes struggle. It takes exactly the kind of risk that Robin Hensel is engaged in. (c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Obscuring A Debate Over Butlers
By David Sirota

For all the superheated rhetoric of yet another election cycle, it's as clear as ever that the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington pretty much support the same economic policies. Indeed, any honest perusal of congressional votes proves that the party establishments are roughly the same when it comes to financial deregulation (less of it), job-killing free trade (more of it), bailouts (more of them) and corporate taxes (less of them).

Politicians and partisan media outlets deny this obvious reality, of course. But they do so because they have a vested interest in the red-versus-blue "polarization" narrative from which they generate campaign contributions and ratings, respectively. This is why their hysterical attacks on their foes - and their refusal to acknowledge the political duopoly - has such a grating "doth protest too much" quality. It's also why more Americans are wholly tuning out of politics - we're less and less interested in gazing at two heads of the same economic monster.

That said, if you are still gullible enough to believe the illusion of huge differences on economics, behold the "debate" over taxes that is now roiling the presidential race.

President Obama kicked it off with his claim last week that he wants to stop "another tax cut for the wealthy." As supposed proof, he asserts that by proposing to extend all of the Bush tax cuts except those applying to top marginal tax rates, he will make sure everyone "making over $250,000 a year (will) go back to the income tax rates (they) were paying under Bill Clinton." In response, Mitt Romney, who wants every Bush tax cut extended, played his role in the kabuki theater, claiming Obama "plans on extending (the tax cuts), just for certain classes of Americans" - an idea that the Republican presidential nominee says "will kill jobs." Not surprisingly, almost every news outlet echoed it all, insisting that this is an epic dispute over whether to only extend "the Bush-era tax cuts for people earning less than $250,000 a year," as The New York Times put it.

There's just one problem: Obama, Romney and the media are all lying.

Because of America's progressive tax system, all taxpayers under Obama's plan - including those making more than $250,000 a year - will get a tax cut on their first $250,000 of income. According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, this means that Obama's initiative, which would cost $150 billion, will give a one-year $20,130 tax cut to the top 1 percent of income earners. Meanwhile, the $210 billion Republican plan would give that income group a $70,790 tax cut.

In other words, this supposedly monumental debate isn't over whether to punish or further enrich households in the top 1 percent - both proposals do the latter. Instead, this is a minute dispute over whether the tax code should give each of those households the equivalent salary of one butler (Obama's plan) or three butlers (Romney's plan). For every other income group, the two proposals are identical.

Now sure, at a time of deficits, Obama is right to oppose devoting an additional $60 billion to giving the wealthy two more butler salaries on top of the one they will already get under his plan. And he's especially right when we know that, despite Romney's hysterical job-loss claims, the economy did far better when the rich were paying Clinton tax rates on their top income.

However, pretending this is some big divide is yet another farce. Both parties are proposing to enrich the already rich, meaning the whole conflagration is yet another attempt to hide the two-headed monster behind a mask of conflict.

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

The Danger Of Meddling In Syria's Turmoil
By William Pfaff

The unclarified mystery about the struggle in Syria is what it is all about. Did it begin in repercussion to the Arab uprisings elsewhere? Or is there a sinister external explanation?

Who began it? The story commonly offered is that children scribbled some grafitti against President Bashar al-Assad on a wall in the provinces, and the police brutally beat or tortured or killed them in reprisal, provoking not the expected fearful silence but a spontaneous popular demonstration against authority, police and regime, producing in return an even more severely brutal response from the regime.

Syria has been one of the stable states in the Arab Middle East despite its internal tensions, and despite having America's enemy Iran as its neighbor on one side and on the other unstable Lebanon and dangerous Israel. Yet its fundamental problems are not international in origin. As the British Middle East expert Patrick Seale has recently written, the real problems are drought and demography. The drought-from 2006 to 2010-was the worst in a century. Soaring population has produced huge youth unemployment.

But who reinforced and spread the initial popular uprising, and where did the arms and subsequent organization and promotion of protest come from? What prompted the sentiment that quickly began to be whispered from one person to another, and one town to the next, "Bashar-he's finished!" Why, and what did anyone actually know? Bashar al-Assad actually was alive, solidly installed in Damascus, commanding-or at least his closest entourage was commanding-a serious modern army and solid security apparatus drawn from his family and clan, and other close relatives and associates, made up mainly from the Shi'ite Alawi sect which has held the government since his father, Hafez al-Assad, staged a successful coup d'etat in 1970. Why should he worry?

Well, he should have worried, since a dissident committee-or committees-suddenly were active abroad. The revolt was getting arms and ammunition. Turkey and then Sunni Qatar and Saudi Arabia were reliably reported to be active.

Assad and his government first claimed that Syria was being invaded by foreign mercenaries, "gangs," al-Qaida and Arab enemies. Or that it was being invaded by Syrian Muslim Brothers, who fought Bashar's father.

Then the story being spread outside Syria by Assad's supporters and enemies of the United States became that NATO and Israel were behind it all, and the plan was to clear an anti-Western Syria out of the way as preliminary to attack Iran and its nuclear facilities, with permanent occupation of Syria and Iran and seizure of its oil-just as in Iraq (where, actually, that supposed NATO plan has not worked so well, handing Iraq over to implicit Iranian domination, and in recent weeks inspiring an insurrection of mounting scale by Sunnis, who once ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein).

This is also unconvincing since the attack on Iran will be from the air, and a land attack by Western armies to finish off an independent Syria is unnecessary, and scarcely what Barack Obama or even Benjamin Netanyahu and their electorates want to see. Another Western war against Arabs? What about those chemical weapons supposedly reserved for foreigners? And if the attack in not Western in origin, who else? Who in the Arab world wants to be America's and Israel's proxy in a war against Syria, where a Western-inspired attack would certainly set alight the torches of nationalism, patriotism and religious passion. It would also supply recruits for al-Qaida's franchises elsewhere and for Hizballah.

What then? Syria's may be an ethnically and religiously divided population, but the idea that it could successfully be parceled out into separate states or provinces, governed in a post-Assad condition by anything other than a foreign army of occupation recalls those neo-conservative assurances before the American invasion of Iraq that U.S. troops would be greeted like the Allies liberating France in 1944. It is inane and gravely irresponsible. In any case, the American public does not want still another war. Surely, that is clear even to the post-neoconservatives raising their heads again in Washington. (Robert Kagan comes to mind.)

The only peaceful end to the Syrian crisis is continued international intervention, mediation and negotiation. The Russians have indicated that they will cooperate if their economic and long-standing political interests in Syria are accommodated. Alas, Washington seems to see in this tragic situation an opportunity to force Russia out or the Middle East. That policy will fail-and eventually Barack Obama (or Mitt Romney) will be sorry.
(c) 2012 Visit William Pfaff's website for more on his latest book, "The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy."

Loading The Climate Dice
By Paul Krugman

A couple of weeks ago the Northeast was in the grip of a severe heat wave. As I write this, however, it's a fairly cool day in New Jersey, considering that it's late July. Weather is like that; it fluctuates.

And this banal observation may be what dooms us to climate catastrophe, in two ways. On one side, the variability of temperatures from day to day and year to year makes it easy to miss, ignore or obscure the longer-term upward trend. On the other, even a fairly modest rise in average temperatures translates into a much higher frequency of extreme events - like the devastating drought now gripping America's heartland - that do vast damage.

On the first point: Even with the best will in the world, it would be hard for most people to stay focused on the big picture in the face of short-run fluctuations. When the mercury is high and the crops are withering, everyone talks about it, and some make the connection to global warming. But let the days grow a bit cooler and the rains fall, and inevitably people's attention turns to other matters.

Making things much worse, of course, is the role of players who don't have the best will in the world. Climate change denial is a major industry, lavishly financed by Exxon, the Koch brothers and others with a financial stake in the continued burning of fossil fuels. And exploiting variability is one of the key tricks of that industry's trade. Applications range from the Fox News perennial - "It's cold outside! Al Gore was wrong!" - to the constant claims that we're experiencing global cooling, not warming, because it's not as hot right now as it was a few years back.

How should we think about the relationship between climate change and day-to-day experience? Almost a quarter of a century ago James Hansen, the NASA scientist who did more than anyone to put climate change on the agenda, suggested the analogy of loaded dice. Imagine, he and his associates suggested, representing the probabilities of a hot, average or cold summer by historical standards as a die with two faces painted red, two white and two blue. By the early 21st century, they predicted, it would be as if four of the faces were red, one white and one blue. Hot summers would become much more frequent, but there would still be cold summers now and then.

And so it has proved. As documented in a new paper by Dr. Hansen and others, cold summers by historical standards still happen, but rarely, while hot summers have in fact become roughly twice as prevalent. And 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.

But that's not all: really extreme high temperatures, the kind of thing that used to happen very rarely in the past, have now become fairly common. Think of it as rolling two sixes, which happens less than 3 percent of the time with fair dice, but more often when the dice are loaded. And this rising incidence of extreme events, reflecting the same variability of weather that can obscure the reality of climate change, means that the costs of climate change aren't a distant prospect, decades in the future. On the contrary, they're already here, even though so far global temperatures are only about 1 degree Fahrenheit above their historical norms, a small fraction of their eventual rise if we don't act.

The great Midwestern drought is a case in point. This drought has already sent corn prices to their highest level ever. If it continues, it could cause a global food crisis, because the U.S. heartland is still the world's breadbasket. And yes, the drought is linked to climate change: such events have happened before, but they're much more likely now than they used to be.

Now, maybe this drought will break in time to avoid the worst. But there will be more events like this. Joseph Romm, the influential climate blogger, has coined the term "Dust-Bowlification" for the prospect of extended periods of extreme drought in formerly productive agricultural areas. He has been arguing for some time that this phenomenon, with its disastrous effects on food security, is likely to be the leading edge of damage from climate change, taking place over the next few decades; the drowning of Florida by rising sea levels and all that will come later.

And here it comes.

Will the current drought finally lead to serious climate action? History isn't encouraging. The deniers will surely keep on denying, especially because conceding at this point that the science they've trashed was right all along would be to admit their own culpability for the looming disaster. And the public is all too likely to lose interest again the next time the die comes up white or blue.

But let's hope that this time is different. For large-scale damage from climate change is no longer a disaster waiting to happen. It's happening now.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?"
~~~ Howard Zinn

Obama And The Bank Protection Racket
By Glen Ford

Many of the people that read this magazine and other Left publications believe that President Obama's preventive detention legislation, his recent executive order authorizing the federal takeover of all U.S. communications media in an "emergency," and the rest of the ever-growing police state infrastructure are primarily designed to silence domestic opposition to U.S. war policies, or to facilitate the suppression of urban (i.e., Black and brown) rebellions. From an historical perspective, our readers are certainly correct: Black people and anti-war folk have been viewed as the top domestic national security threats for the past 60 years. However, times change, and the powers-that-be are motivated by their own hierarchy of fears. The nightmare that most terrifies the finance capitalists who rule this country is not populated by aging Black revolutionaries and peaceniks, but by masses of "ordinary" (meaning, mostly white) Americans in open revolt against the banks.

Wall Street knows, with great intimacy, that it is perched on the lip of the abyss, that the next crash can come from any number of directions, that all its faults are active and all its contradictions, acute. Global capital and its servants in government are haunted by the memory of their own near-death experience: the meltdown four years ago, when they were compelled by cascading events to share with the public the specter of financial Armageddon. The fascist cat has been out of the bag from the moment in September, 2008, when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson issued not-so-veiled threats of martial law, should the Congress not accede to the bankers' demands for a blank check.

Once revealed, the repulsive corpus of depraved capital is seared into the public brain, indelibly. Three Septembers after the meltdown, it took only a few amateurish but determined white kids (and some cooperative New York City cops with mace) to refocus revulsion against Wall Street, even as both corporate parties roared "Austerity!" in unison. How easy it was to return the conversation to the central contradiction: that the system is decayed, infinitely corrupt, a cancer on the society, run for the benefit of a tiny minority. Even overt white racists get it - although their Black-hate, as always, prevents them from properly acting upon that knowledge.

Capitalism's irreversible nakedness means permanent crisis for those whose job it is to protect Wall Street. The beast survives only by ever more blatant theft and manipulation. Whatever corporate political party is in charge must, somehow, assure the public that the rule of law still exists, while protecting their Wall Street masters. Ultimately, this becomes impossible, since the task requires more than mere impunity for the criminals. The banksters must also be allowed to continue looting and rigging the system, since they cannot survive, otherwise.

It's a helluva job, but somebody - like Attorney General Eric Holder and his Justice Department - has to do it.

Only in this context do Holder's grants of immunity to Barclay's Bank (British) and UBS (Swiss) in the LIBOR scandal make sense. Immunities are traditionally granted to smaller fry in order to indict bigger fish, but all sixteen of the banks potentially involved are huge (too-big-to-fail), and Barclay's beat UBS to the punch in admitting wrongdoing and consenting to be fined $450 million. UBS, as New York Times financial columnist James B. Stewart reports, "is in a league of its own given its track record for scandals," having been fined over a billion dollars by the feds in recent years. The bank was also forced to reimburse $22.7 billion defrauded from customers in a toxic securities scheme. If UBS gets immunity, then so will U.S. megabanks JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup. (One cannot imagine a prosecution of President Obama's friend Robert Wolf, the outgoing chairman of UBS's American operations, who vacations, golfs and plays basketball with the president, and has bundled $500,000 towards his re-election campaign.)

The U.S. Justice Department's job, as Eric Holder sees it, is to immunize the criminals from prison time, and then fine their companies to preserve the illusion of justice. As we discussed in these pages two weeks ago, Holder successfully contained the national bankster robo-signing scandal, earlier this year, by brow-beating state attorneys general into dropping their suits and investigations, and forcing an affordable monetary settlement - most of which will never reach actual homeowners.

Holder cannot pursue the normal prosecutorial strategy, immunizing low-level LIBOR fixers and collaborators in order to get indictments of the higher-ups, because his real mission is to hide the facts of the scheme: its long duration and centrality to global capital's criminal enterprise. A successful immunity strategy requires scaring the small fry to death with threats of imprisonment, so that they will rat out their superiors and divulge detailed information on possible additional criminality. Years of Barclay's Bank emails show how casually the LIBOR rate was manipulated by guys way below the top offices. But it is precisely that level of bankster that Wall Street's protectors in government don't want to spook: there are too many of them, and they are apt to tell too much. Instead, Holder and his British counterparts give blanket, institutional immunities, and extract a fine. The crimes, in all their variations, continue - as they must.

Although the LIBOR rate has some impact on every conceivable financial transaction, it is clear that derivatives lie at the heart of the crime. With $600 to $1,000 trillion in derivatives floating around, most of them held by too-big-to-fail banks, the movement up or down of a basis-point (100th of a percent) puts billions in motion. Global banking invented derivatives to create their own speculators' economy, much larger than - but acting as a great weight upon, and holding as hostage - the mere $75 trillion real world economy.

It is far too late to "unwind" the derivatives monster, to disassemble it, like a bankrupt bank. No one would know where to start in shrinking hundreds of trillions in derivatives down to a size that was no longer a lethal threat to the real economy - and no Wall Street institution would survive the transition. Thus, finance capital lives daily with existential threats: first, from its own inventions and contradictions; and second, from a public that would tear them limb from limb if the people understood the true depth of Wall Street's crimes and how much danger the rich pigs have put the rest of us in.

Wall Street's protectors must prepare for a State of Emergency, a great imposition of silence, and the possibility of a great lockup - because the crash is coming, and they know it!
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The Problem Isn't Outsourcing
It's that the Prosperity of Big Business Has Become Disconnected from the Well-Being of Most Americans
By Robert Reich

President Obama is slamming Mitt Romney for heading companies that were "pioneers in outsourcing U.S. jobs," while Romney is accusing Obama of being "the real outsourcer-in-chief."

These are the dog days of summer and the silly season of presidential campaigns. But can we get real, please?

The American economy has moved way beyond outsourcing abroad or even "in-sourcing." Most big companies headquartered in America don't send jobs overseas and don't bring jobs here from abroad.

That's because most are no longer really "American" companies. They've become global networks that design, make, buy, and sell things wherever around the world it's most profitable for them to do so.

As an Apple executive told the New York Times, "we don't have an obligation to solve America's problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible." He might have added "and showing profits big enough to continually increase our share price."

Forget the debate over outsourcing. The real question is how to make Americans so competitive that all global companies - whether or not headquartered in the United States - will create good jobs in America.

Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States but contracts with over 700,000 workers overseas. It assembles iPhones in China both because wages are low there and because Apple's Chinese contractors can quickly mobilize workers from company dorms at almost any hour of the day or night.

But low wages aren't the major force driving Apple or any other American-based corporate network abroad. The components Apple's Chinese contractors assemble come from many places around the world with wages as high if not higher than in the United States.

More than a third of what you pay for an iPhone ends up in Japan, because that's where some of its most advanced components are made. Seventeen percent goes to Germany, whose precision manufacturers pay wages higher than those paid to American manufacturing workers, on average, because German workers are more highly skilled. Thirteen percent comes from South Korea, whose median wage isn't far from our own.

Workers in the United States get only about 6 percent of what you pay for an iPhone. It goes to American designers, lawyers, and financiers, as well as Apple's top executives.

American-based companies are also doing more of their research and development abroad. The share of R&D spending going to the foreign subsidiaries of American-based companies rose from 9 percent in 1989 to almost 16 percent in 2009, according to the National Science Foundation.

What's going on? Put simply, America isn't educating enough of our people well enough to get American-based companies to do more of their high-value added work here.

Our K-12 school system isn't nearly up to what it should be. American students continue to do poorly in math and science relative to students in other advanced countries. Japan, Germany, South Korea, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Sweden, and France all top us.

American universities continue to rank high but many are being starved of government funds and are having trouble keeping up. More and more young Americans and their families can't afford a college education. China, by contrast, is investing like mad in world-class universities and research centers.

Transportation and communication systems abroad are also becoming better and more reliable. In case you hadn't noticed, American roads are congested, our bridges are in disrepair, and our ports are becoming outmoded.

So forget the debate over outsourcing. The way we get good jobs back is with a national strategy to make Americans more competitive - retooling our schools, getting more of our young people through college or giving them a first-class technical education, remaking our infrastructure, and thereby guaranteeing a large share of Americans add significant value to the global economy.

But big American-based companies aren't pushing this agenda, despite their huge clout in Washington. They don't care about making Americans more competitive. They say they have no obligation to solve America's problems.

They want lower corporate taxes, lower taxes for their executives, fewer regulations, and less public spending. And to achieve these goals they maintain legions of lobbyists and are pouring boatloads of money into political campaigns. The Supreme Court even says they're "people" under the First Amendment, and can contribute as much as they want to political campaigns - even in secret.

The core problem isn't outsourcing. It's that the prosperity of America's big businesses - which are really global networks that happen to be headquartered here - has become disconnected from the well-being of most Americans.

Mitt Romney's Bain Capital is no different from any other global corporation - which is exactly why Romney's so-called "business experience" is irrelevant to the real problems facing most Americans.

Without a government that's focused on more and better jobs, we're left with global corporations that don't give a damn.
(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 Unterfuhrer Gohmert,

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 comparing the Colorado massacre to "ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, 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 Gohmert, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Broke? Not If Governments Tax The $21 TRILLION Rich Have Offshored
By John Nichols

Does it matter that Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for president of the United States, is a huge fan of offshore tax havens?

It should to Americans who take seriously the question of whether this country has the resources to pay for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, implementation of the Affordable Care Act and all the other programs and initiatives that Romney and House Budget Committee Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, say we can no longer afford.

The truth, of course, is that the United States produces more than enough taxable wealth to pay for every program that Romney and Ryan propose to "reform," mangle, dismantle or eliminate.

Indeed, a remarkable new study produced for the global Tax Justice Network reveals that at least $21 trillion-yes, that's "trillion" with a "t"-has been shielded from appropriate taxation in the secret tax havens favored by the super-rich of the United States and other countries around the world.

To put that figure in perspective, $21 trillion is the equivalent of the combined GDPs the United States and Japan.

James Henry, the former chief economist for McKinsey & Company (a top international business consulting firm), produced the report for the Tax Justice Network. Employing data from the Bank of International Settlements, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and governments around the world, Henry came up with what he describes as the "conservative" figure of $21 trillion as a baseline measure of the financial wealth deposited in offshore bank and investment accounts.

Henry says that private wealth socked away in offshore tax havens by billionaires and millionaires who want to avoid paying their fair share at home represents "a huge black hole in the world economy."

It also represents an opening, should world leaders choose to address the issue, for governments to claw back tax revenues in a time of global economic distress.

"The lost tax revenues implied by our estimates is huge. It is large enough to make a significant difference to the finances of many countries," explains Henry. "From another angle, this study is really good news. The world has just located a huge pile of financial wealth that might be called upon to contribute to the solution of our most pressing global problems."

While reasonable people might debate the precise amount of sheltered cash, there is no question that Henry is right. The United States and other countries could go a long way toward balancing their books if they clawed back a fair share of the sheltered largesse.

Unfortunately, as he notes, it is not easy to claw money back from the offshore accounts of the tax-avoiding Mitt Romneys of the world. (Romney keeps millions, perhaps tens of millions, in secretive Swiss banks accounts and the shadowy tax havens of the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands.) As Henry notes, an "industrious bevy of professional enablers in private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries" makes it possible for millionaires and billionaires to move their money offshore.

In addition to the "professional enablers," however, there are also "political enablers."

Republicans and Democrats in Washinbgton have been slow to move beyond narrow debates about tax "reform" and toward serious discussions of tax "enforcement."

But Romney takes a problem and turns it into a pathology. The Bain Capitalist does not just sock money away in foreign tax havens. He favors tax policies that would make it dramatically easier for multinational corporations-and, presumably, their wealthy CEOs-to avoid paying taxes.

The United States needs leaders who will work with leaders of other countries, especially Germany, that are looking for ways to crack down on abusive practices that shelter wealth from legitimate taxation. Barack Obama has not begun to go far enough in this regard, but his criticisms of Romney on tax issues represent a step in the right direction.

If Romney wins, does anyone think the country's most prominent investor in tax havens would lead the charge to constrain the very tax-sheltering schemes in which he has engaged? Of course not.

This is a serious matter, not just for progressives and Democrats but for conservatives and Republicans who care about the economic stability of the United States.
(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.

Tragedy And Farce, And Tragedy Again
By Adam Keller

One evening last year, at the homeless tent encampment on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. At that time the encampment was already in its waning stages, many had already left it and there stayed mostly those who really had nowhere else to go. We met a not so young man who walked slowly through the boulevard, pulling a bicycle. My wife remembered him from previous demonstrations. For half an hour he told us about the troubled and harsh life which had led him to live in a tent on the boulevard, a fragile and temporary shelter under the hanging threat of the municipal inspectors. He was determined to continue the struggle, as part of the social protest movement, whose appearance was for him a virtual gift from Heaven. I well remember his determination.

In the past week we try again and again to dredge up every detail which we can recall. Was the man we met Moshe Silman, then unknown, who under appalling circumstances had by now become known to everybody in Israel as well as to quite a few people abroad? I guess it was indeed Silman, who then still did not wear a beard. But in fact it does not really matter. It might have been him, or it might have been someone else entirely, someone of a similar age and with similar life circumstances and a similar determination to fight - only that it did not quite get to the point of pouring a flammable liquid on himself and dying a horrible death in a desperate effort to arouse the conscience of the Israeli society.

The activists of the "Haifa Front", who knew Moshe Silman well, wrote of him: "We mourn the premature passing of Moshe Silman - an activist of the front and a dear friend. We had come to know Moshe during the past year. During this period, Moshe made countless appeals, turned to anyone which he could think of, ceaselessly attempted to get assistance with housing, assistance to function again as an ordinary citizen in society. To no avail.

Moshe was active in the social struggle in Haifa, struggled militantly for an entire year in the call for social justice, for a state which is responsible to its citizens - both for himself and for many others. Moshe was a proud have-not. He refused to accept the common equation of 'poverty = degradation'. Moshe set himself on fire last Saturday night, in front of thousands of protesters during a demonstration in Tel - Aviv. Blessed be his memory."

Professor Amir Hetsroni had a rather different take on Moshe Silman (whom he of course never met): "People like him add very little to the Israeli economy. For me, the self-immolation does not make much of an impression. It may even be that we got rid of a parasite, cheaply."

Professor Amir Hetsroni is working in an academic institution located in the settlement of Ariel at the northern West Bank. Of course, immediately after the publication of his words and the ensuing public uproar, the management was quick to distance itself and emphasize that it was no more than the personal opinion of a single professor. And apparently, such indeed is the case. The fact is that Professor Hetsroni is personally known as a staunch - one might even say, fanatic - upholder of the most strict free market economics. He is an avowed opponent of providing government funds to any and all parasites. On the other hand, the institute where he works and gets a good salary is not averse at all to getting some additional tens of millions more from the state treasury. In order to get this money. It was very very important for them to receive official recognition as a full-fledged university, not just a mere college.

And that is how this week went through the abrupt transition from tragedy to farce. To wit, the farce known as "The Judea and Samaria Higher Education Council". The point is that a Council of Higher Education already exists in Israel, which was established by law. This council debated the issue at length and concluded that there was no need to establish a university in Ariel, out of purely academic considerations (and quite a few respected academics opposed it also and especially because Ariel is a settlement built illegally in Occupied Territory which is not part of Israel) . But, a solution was found, namely to establish a parallel Council of Higher Education under the military governor's warrant.

The one and only role of the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, for which it was established and its members appointed, was to give a university status to the college in Ariel. And lo and behold, this Council convened this week and, yes, reached the decision to grant university status, precisely as requested. And Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, the renowned philosopher, immediately opened his usually tightly clenched fist, and fifty millions were duly transferred to the new university.

Meanwhile, we moved to yet another farce - the dismantling of the big government coalition formed by Binyamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz with a majority of 94 Knesset members holding out seventy days exactly. And the government broke up over the firm demand of recruiting the ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students who absolutely do not want to be soldiers and the army does not need them and Netanyahu never seriously intended to recruit them. And there was left to Shaul Mofaz nothing but to vacate the Deputy Premier chair which had been empty of real content and authority and move to the chair of head of the opposition to which he won't be able to give real meaning, either.

There were columnists who mourned the loss of what they call "the historic opportunity to create in Israel a government of the sane center." I myself am rather encouraged by what I read on the pages of "Makor Rishon" written by Amnon Lord, an associate protege of Benjamin Netanyahu: "The purpose of government opponents is to create ceaseless turmoil, and in this they mark a success. The king-size government coalition disintegrated surprisingly quickly. The impression is that everything is very vulnerable, everything is shaky, and despite his three and a half years in power, Netanyahu has not managed so far to sit firmly in the saddle."

In the meantime, an event which did not get any report in the Israeli media took place in the "non-occupied" dark backyard of the democratic State of Israel. The military authorities decided to release Palestinian Parliament Speaker Aziz Dweik, held in administrative detention for six months - without trial. Why was he arrested six months ago? The reasons are secret and well-kept by the security services of the State of Israel. And why was he released now? Ditto.

But exactly at the same day troops came to the house of another Palestinian MP, Ahmed Abdel Aziz Mubarak, resident of Al Bireh, and they took him off to begin a six-month detention - without trial. Why was he arrested? The security services know, and only they. And how long will he be held? Ditto. It seems that somebody thinks that at least a quarter of the members of the Palestinian parliament must be held in the prisons of the State of Israel, a quota to be filled.

And still, in every debate you hear the Israeli rightists bring up the clinching argument : "There is no occupation. After all, we don't rule the Palestinians, they run their own lives in the areas which were given to their control and elect their own parliament." True, Israel Defense Forces can go anywhere in these areas and arrest each of these members of parliament (currently, more than twenty of them are detained). But this is not occupation, God forbid. What is it? Even Justice Edmond Levy himself could not say what it is. Maybe it's a potato?

And suddenly, without warning, after the farcical days, tragedy hits again in our lives, and five Israelis who went on a dream vacation to the Black Sea shore in Bulgaria came home in coffins. And we have all gotten the reminder that Israel is in conflict and war, and it could be any of us, at any moment. And about those who were spared tells the Yediot Aharonot correspondent who went there: "Dozens of Israelis who had thought that here they could escape from the stress and problems of Israel went on the bus back to the airport with a mixture of fear and relief: 'We will never come back here again.'"

On TV our Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated that "we live in a tough neighborhood" (this time he did not compare the State of Israel to a villa in the jungle). The army tends to blame especially Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Prime Minister again found good reason to point a finger at Iran. But it seems that conditions did not yet ripen to send the Air Force planes to bomb Tehran, nor even Beirut. The big war will have to wait a bit.

And is it an option to try to make peace in order to safeguard Israeli citizens for the long term? True, the late coalition agreement between Netanyahu and Mofaz noted down the "re-starting of the diplomatic process" as one of the main aims of the government which they created. But did anyone there took it seriously, even for one moment?

Then, at the last day of the week Moshe Silman died after six days in the hospital, losing the last struggle in a life full of struggle. And so, immediately after the writing of this article is completed we will go to Tel Aviv, to take part in the commemoration march. "We will march in memory of Moshe Silman and for a life of dignity," said the message on social networks in Israel. "We will march to 5, Kaplan Street where Moshe Silman finally lost hope and was overcome by his predicament and cried out on behalf of all of us - for social justice! Then we will march to the National Insurance plaza and we will light candles in memory of Moshe and of other victims who remain unknown."

Perhaps when the day comes to write the chronicles and annals of this crazy and miserable country, historians will say that Moshe Silman's sacrifice was not in vain. A media report of the commemoration events.
(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
~~~ Gary Varvel ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Kim Jong-un's Wedding Vows
By Andy Borowitz

PYONGYANG (The Borowitz Report)-The press department of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has released the official transcript of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un's wedding vows to his new bride, Comrade Ri Sol-ju:

My Bride, on this our Wedding Day, I wrote this poem for you:

With arms wide open
Under the sunlight
Welcome to this place
I'll show you everything
With arms wide open
I'll show you love and laughter and Disney characters
Snow White, Cinderella, Buzz Lightyear, and Nemo the fish
From every Disney movie ever made except "Mars Needs Moms"
Which really blew
And if Disney claims "intellectual property"
I will destroy Disney Studios in a merciless fireball
They stole all their characters from North Korea anyway
Grumpy the Dwarf was totally based on Dad
I wish Dad was here
He loved looking at things
He'd look at us right now and say,
"Those are two things right there"
And then go look at something else
I'll never forget the day I proposed to you
And you told me, "You had me at ‘food.'"
And so, my bride, I promise:
My love will last longer and go farther
Than North Korea's mightiest missile
Way longer and way farther
And I will make you grateful every day
That unlike Katie Holmes, you married someone normal
And everywhere in North Korea, people will celebrate our nuptials:
After the rice is thrown, they will fall to their hands and knees to scoop it up
And the two of us will sing
Hi ho hi ho
As off to work we go
With arms wide open.

(c) 2012 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 30 (c) 07/27/2012

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