New Issues & Alibis 08-12-2011

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In This Edition

Greg Palast says, "It's Not Default Of Obama."

Uri Avnery recalls, "The Charge Of The New York Times."

Sam Harris compares, "Christian Terrorism And Islamophobia."

David Swanson reports, "Afghan Judges Accuse U.S. Of War Crimes."

Jim Hightower considers, "America's Shameful Leadership."

Helen Thomas examines, "Unfairness In The Debt Debacle."

James Donahue asks, "Why Hasn't Bush Been Charged As A War Criminal?"

Joel S. Hirschhorn explains how, "Semantic Propaganda Feeds Stupidity."

Ralph Nader watches, "Ideological Inebriation On Capitol Hill."

Jeff Cohen reminds us that, "Obama Is NOT "Caving" To Corporate Interests."

Paul Krugman sees Obama, "Messing With Medicare."

Chris Hedges comes out of the closet in, "Fundamentalism Kills."

Maragret Kimberley explores, "Prison Slave Labor."

Crawford County Circuit Court Judge Kimbara Harrell wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols finds, "Obama's Compromising Stirs Talk Of Dem Primary Challenge; Bernie Sanders Says It's A 'Good Idea'."

Vincent L. Guarisco goes, "There And Back Again."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst takes us, "Back In The Fold" but first, Uncle Ernie studies, "The Audacity Of Arrogance."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mark Streeter, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, B Dog 23, Clay Bennett, Tony Auth, Steve Artley, Hetalia Love, Old American Century.Org, Dark Black, Make The Walls Transparent.Com, Rate MY Motivational.Com, Associated Press, 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."

The Audacity Of Arrogance
By Ernest Stewart

"I think that's a much better path, although serious deficit reduction would still require us to tackle the tough challenges of entitlement and tax reform." ~~~ Barack Obama

"In any case; I would rather have preferred a Ruger Mini 30, but I already own a 7.62 bolt rifle and it is likely that the police wouldn't grant me a similar caliber. On the application form I stated: "hunting deer." It would have been tempting to just write the truth; "executing category A and B cultural Marxists/multiculturalist traitors" just to see their reaction!" ~~~ Anders Breivik

"The caricature and fear are spread as diligently by the Christian right as they are by atheists such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Our religious and secular fundamentalists all peddle the same racist filth and intolerance that infected Breivik." ~~~ Chris Hedges

"The desire for power in excess caused angels to fall; the desire for knowledge in excess caused man to fall; but in charity is no excess, neither can man or angels come into danger by it." ~~~ Francis Bacon

Yes, I knew before he was elected that Barry was a corpo-rat tool of the far right and tried to warn ya'll about that fact. Granted, it seemed that even if true, he'd just have to be a fresh breeze after the pollution of the "Crime Family Bush." No one, not even I, guessed he'd be far worse than Smirky, Slick Wille, Papa Smirk, or even his hero, Ray-Guns; but, we were all wrong. By the time he was sworn in, it was apparent to everyone that was paying attention that we were so screwed, and the last chance to restore normality was now beyond our reach! Last Monday's speech did nothing to change those thoughts one iota!

Most the Sheeple were full of "The Audacity of Hope" but got instead, "The Audacity of Arrogance!" I remember how are readership dropped when we continued our fight to restore the Republic, just as we had under Bush. The more we exposed, the more they fled! Sure, it's a hard thing to face-- that you got chumped again, but better to be embarrassed then to be "Hood-Winked," again! The old saying: "If you're not outraged, then you haven't been paying attention," is truer now than ever before!

Anyone who had great expectations for Barry and was paying attention soon came to the conclusion that this was just more of the same, when Barry refused to do the things we elected him to do. However, most thought that soon he'd become the person we thought he was, and made this excuse or that for his behavior. I know folks whose life depends on Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, and Food Stamps who refuse to believe that Barry is taking aim at destroying the above "Entitlements" going beyond anything that both Bush's, Slick Willie, or even Richard Milhous Nixon ever dreamt doing, i.e., killing off the non-productive, the sick, the poor, the hungry, and elderly! I mean, we have to pay for those trillion dollar give-a-ways to the ultra-rich, don't we? You historians may recall that Hitler did the very same thing before he got started with a world war. Don't let that "History-is-repeating-itself-again" thingie jump up and bite you on the ass, America!

Does anyone remember how we got this ever-bleeding, red-ink hole in the treasury? It's really simple: the rich and the corpo-rats stopped paying taxes and got trillion dollar welfare checks, instead. So, shouldn't they be paying for this mess, instead of the working class and the poor? Barry and Boner say, "No;" what do you say, America? Get ready to hear Obamahood say, "I didn't want to do this..." when he signs the bill destroying the saftey nets; but, of course, that was his purpose all along!

In Other News

Was anyone surprised by what Anders Breivik did? I wasn't -- not even when we learned that Breivik was aligned with the American Tea Baggers. It all made perfect sense to me. From the land of the midnight sun came a 21st century Vidkun Quisling, fortunately without Quisling's power!

Like our Tea Baggers, Anders is a young, white, fascist, middle class and stupid. He was filled with hate (I'm guessing at his own wasted life), and chose to blame the Muslims who he sees as overrunning Europe, and wants to start a worldwide war against Islam -- sorry, Anders, that's Americas' job! But Anders, like a typical Tea Bagger, choose to take his all-consuming hatred out against Christian children, not Muslim kids. Makes as much sense as the Tea Baggers do -- no doubt a fellow traveler! Anders had to blow them away because he couldn't starve them to death or take their health care away like the Tea Baggers do, and who'll no doubt make Anders look like a piker when their final body count is tallied.

Anders is a follower and a fan of American Tea Baggers, and is hot to trot with Koch Brothers employee and Tea Bagger co-founder Jenny Beth Martin. He also is a fan of Michele Bachmann, Ayn Rand and Peter King! That's some swell company, is it not? And like the Tea Baggers, Anders sees himself as a soldier and not the terrorist that he is, which is why he admits doing the dastardly deeds, but can't understand why they're charging him with 76 counts of murder and for wounding over 100. I'm sure when the Tea Baggers have destroyed healthcare, Food Stamps, and Social Security, and caused the deaths of countless Americans, they'll wonder why everyone is out to kill them. They may wonder why, but I won't!

And Finally

This is Chris Hedges last appearance in Issues & Alibis as a columnist. After reading this week's column and several others that stand out in my memory, I decided to drop his column. I've done this several times over the years to other authors when it becomes quite clear that we had another 5th columnist writing propaganda for the man. His many years working for the Old Grey Bitch should have been a tipoff to begin with!

I've always looked at people as individuals, trying not to group them and charge them with crimes committed by others in their group. I don't blame all Catholics for crimes committed by pedophile priests or the Panzer Pope. I don't blame black folks for the crimes committed by Obama or blame Jews for what the Zionazis do to the Palestinians, but Chris does! All these people with different viewpoints are all the same to him!

So, you know what I did, don't you? I wrote Robert Scheer a note...

Dear Robert,

I just wanted to thank Chris for finally coming out of the closet and announcing to the world that he is a fundamentalist, masochistic, bigoted, fascist, egotistical asshole; but, of course, I'm sure everybody at Truth Dig already knows that, huh? I'm really impressed, he had me fooled for all of these years. As a radical Atheist, I thought I was a man of peace who cared about all of mankind, even all the crazy mythologists. A man who has spent his entire fortune on a fight for the poor and abused. The only thing I've ever peddled was truth, peace and brotherhood; but thanks to Chris, I now know it was all an illusion.

The past 40 years I've spent trying to bring everyone to together was all a lie. Now I know that I'm really obsessed with dominating others and wanting to rule the world and destroy all my enemies -- thanks for clearing that up, Chris! We have a saying in my country that I think applies in this instance, i.e., "WHAT A CROCK OF SH*T!"

PS. I sent my good buddy, Sam Harris, a copy of this column. I just can't wait until it hits the fan!

As always, if Chris or Robert write back, I'll let ya'll know about it!

Keepin' On

Still short. Still worried. Still hopeful. This could be our last issue!


09-14-1983 ~ 07-23-2011
So how'd that heroin chic thing work out for you?

11-01-1950 ~ 07-24-2011
Thanks for the music!

08-21-1920 ~ 07-24-2011
Thanks for the films!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2011 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 10 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Bush reads from My Pet Budget

It's Not Default Of Obama
Jail GOP deadbeats for debt crisis
By Greg Palast

Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist gave debtors' prison a bad rap. Too bad. I'd say that locking away GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a penitentiary for deadbeats seems like a darn good idea.

Let's talk about how we ended up in this pickle, bucking up against the "debt ceiling." From 2001 to 2008, a Republican President took an annual surplus of $86 billion left for him by Bill Clinton and ran up the budget deficit to over half a trillion in a year ($642 billion in 2008). Altogether, George W. Bush blew up the national debt by over $3 TRILLION--then left the bills to Barack Obama.

For eight years, Bush spent like a drunk monkey. The world was the GOP's Bergdorf's and they had our credit card. If there was a shiny new war on the shelf, they just had to have it: Iraq, Afghanistan, and let's not forget the Fantasy Wars, the half a trillion dollars a year on fancy-ass weapons for a war that won't happen. (Example: the Virginia Class submarine. The V-class was designed to attack Soviet subs. There are no more Soviet subs, but Bush ordered three dozen anyway--at $1.8 billion each.)

And tax cuts? Don't get me started!

The Bush Administration acted just like Sarah Palin when she was set loose in that Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis--grabbing whatever she could carry because Sarah could put it on someone else's account.

The GOP's fattened frat boys feasted--but when the waiter arrived with the bill, the belching rich kids looked around, pointed at some poor schmuck sweeping the floor, Mr. John Q. Veteran, and said, "THAT GUY will pay."

By the way: Congressman Cantor, the guy leading the Republicans' refusal to lift the debt ceiling, voted for the V-class sub as well as Bush's bogus scavenger hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But now Cantor doesn't want to pay the bill.

Y'know, Congressman, maybe you think my parents were fools because they taught me: If you buy it, you pay for it.

Apparently, that's not the rule at Cantor's country club.

The sick assumption of this entire debt ceiling debate, as we hear from talking heads whether on Fox or PBS, is that this is our deficit; as if you and I got a tax break or Amazon delivered that submarine to our door.

And the flapping lips on TV also assume that there must be some kind of "compromise" in which the spending spree by the rich must be paid for by the working class. The Washington elite agree we must pay for tax holidays for hedge funds by closing health clinics.

Of course, the GOP is right abut one thing. President Tiger Wuss will do just that: make the poorest among us pay the debts of the richest. Here we have a bunch of economic terrorists--"Agree to all our demands or the economy gets it!"--and Obama's idea of leadership is to offer the berserkers three-quarters of what they demand.

Thank the Lord and Michele Bachmann that 75% isn't enough for these greedsters.

Solution: Don't pay the banksters

There's another wrong assumption controlling this debate over debt, that the banks, the debt holders, must be paid. When the bankers and the Chinese and the Saudis lent Bush three trillion dollars for his wild-ass buying party, they were betting, like any investor, on the good faith of the borrower to pay it back.

So, let Hu Jintao and King Abdullah stick a collection agency on Cantor and the other Republican shirkers. Repossess their limousines or send The Boys around to remind Cantor what happens when you don't pay what you owe.

The President should say to Hu, the Sheik and Goldman-Sachs:

"I have identified $3 trillion in Treasury notes issued between 2001 and 2008 which were lent to fund President Bush's expenditures. Unfortunately, those who borrowed your money don't want to pay it back. You made a bad investment -- but that's how the free market works. Therefore, I am suspending payments on these Treasury notes until we can round up the deadbeats and make them live up to their commitments.

As President, I have the Constitutional duty to pay the bills of the Veterans Administration, the Social Security fund and other vital services already voted and appropriated by Congress. Military pay before banker pay. Get used to it."

Will the bankers have heart attacks? I hope so. (Maybe if bankers are ill, the GOP will vote for universal health care.) Will China refuse to buy more US debt? Not a chance: The Chinese cannot afford a devaluation of the $2-3 trillion in US Treasury notes they have in their pokey, a devaluation which would surely follow their abandoning the US treasuries.

Note: Argentina defaulted and thrived. We can tango too. But that's all detail for me to argue out with other economists in some effete what-if seminar.

Ultimately, "default" is not the issue. "Default," dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in that age-old battle between Them and Us. They spent the money and now they want Us to pay.

Default lies with the Republican spendthrifts, Mr. President. So I suggest you issue an executive order creating a new wing at Guantanamo: a debtors' prison for trillion-dollar deadbeats.

(Don't you think Eric Cantor would look good in orange?)
(c) 2011 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at.

The Charge Of The New York Times
Or - Baksheesh for the Doorkeeper
By Uri Avnery

A Riddle: Which fleet did not reach its destination but fulfilled its mission?

Well, it's this year's Gaza solidarity flotilla. It could be said, of course, that last year's "little fleet" - that's what the word means in Spanish, much as "guerrilla" means "little war" - is also a reasonable candidate . It never reached Gaza, but the commander of the Israeli navy could well repeat the words of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, whose victory over the Romans was so costly that he is said to have exclaimed: "Another such victory, and I am lost!"

Flotilla 1 did not reach Gaza. But the naval commando attack on it, which cost the lives of nine Turkish activists, aroused such an outcry that our government saw itself compelled to loosen its land blockade of the Gaza Strip significantly.

The repercussions of this action have not yet died down. The very important relations between the Israeli and Turkish militaries are still ruptured, with Turkey demanding an apology and indemnities. The victims' families are pursuing criminal and civil proceedings in several countries. An ongoing headache.

Flotilla 2 reached its end this week, when a huge naval action led to the capture of 1 (one!) little French yacht and the detention of its sailors, journalists and activists -all 16 (sixteen) of them. Even our tame broadcasters could not help themselves from sneering: "Why didn't they send an aircraft carrier?"

The 14 boats that were prevented from sailing, and the one that did sail, not only kept our entire navy on alert for weeks, but also helped to keep the Gaza blockade in the news. And that, after all, was the whole point of the exercise.

WHAT HAPPENED to the 14 boats which did not sail?

Incredible as it sounds, the Greek navy and Coast Guard forcibly prevented them from leaving Greek ports. There existed no lawful grounds for this, nor was there any pretense of legality.

It would be no exaggeration to say that the Greek navy was acting under orders from the Israeli Chief of Staff. A proud sea-faring nation with a nautical history of thousands of years ("nautical" even happens to be a Greek word) degraded itself to perform illegal actions to please Israel.

It also ignored acts of sabotage carried out by naval commandos - guess whose - against the boats in Greek harbors.

At the same time, the Turkish government, the defiant sponsor of the Mavi Marmara, the ship on which the Turkish activists were killed last year, prevented the same ship from sailing this year.

Also at the same time, groups of pro-Palestinian activists who tried to reach the West Bank by air were stopped on their way. Since there is no direct access to the West Bank by land, sea or air except through Israeli territory or Israeli checkpoints, they had to travel via Ben-Gurion International Airport, Israel's gateway to the world. Most did not make it: under instructions from our government, all international airlines blocked these passengers at check-in, using "blacklists" provided by our government.

It seems that the long arm of our diligent security service reaches everywhere, and that its orders are obeyed by countries large and small.

A HUNDRED years ago, the secret police of the Russian Czar, the dreaded "Okhrana", forged a document called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

(In those times, the secret police everywhere was still called Secret Police, before being dignified as "Security Services".)

The document reported a secret meeting of rabbis in the old Jewish cemetery of Prague, to decide upon strategy to secure Jewish rule over the world. It was a crude falsification, which lifted entire passages verbatim from a novel written decades earlier.

In its pages, the real situation of the Jews was grotesquely distorted - they actually had no power at all. In fact, when Adolf Hitler - who used the Protocols for his propaganda - set in motion the Final Solution, almost nobody in the whole world lifted a finger to help the Jews. Even US Jews were afraid to raise their voices.

But if the authors of the falsification were to return to the scene of their crime today, they would rub their eyes in disbelief: this figment of their sick imagination looks like coming true. The Jewish State - as Zionists like to call us - can order around Greek naval authorities, get Turkey to climb down, instruct half a dozen European states to stop passengers at their airports.

How do we do it? There is a simple answer, consisting of three letters: USA.

ISRAEL HAS become a kind of Kafkaesque doorkeeper to the world's sole remaining superpower.

Through its immense influence on the American political system, and especially on the Congress, Israel can levy a political tax on anyone who needs something from the US. Greece is bankrupt and desperately needs American and European help. Turkey is a partner of the US in NATO. No European country wants to quarrel with the US. Ergo: they all need to give us a little political baksheesh.

To cement this relationship, Glenn Beck, the obnoxious protégé of Rupert Murdoch, visited us and was enthusiastically received in the Knesset, where he told us "not to be afraid", because he (and, by implication, Fox and all of America) was supporting us to the hilt.

IT IS because of this that a few lines, which appeared this week in the New York Times, caused near panic in Jerusalem.

The NYT is, perhaps, the most "pro-Israel" paper in the whole world, including Israel itself. Anti-Semites call it the Jew York Times. Many of its editorial writers are ardent Zionists. A news story critical of Israeli policies has almost no chance of appearing there. No mention of the Israeli peace movement. No mention of the dozens of demonstrations in Israel against Lebanon War II and the Cast Lead operation. Self-censorship is supreme.

But this week, the NYT published a blistering editorial criticizing Israel. The reason: the "Boycott Law", passed by the right-wing Knesset majority, which forbids Israelis to call for a boycott of the settlements. The editorial practically repeats what I said in last week's article: that the law is blatantly anti-democratic and violates basic human rights. The more so, since it comes on top of a whole series of anti-democratic laws that were enacted in the last few months. Israel is in danger of losing its title as the "Only Democracy in the Middle East."

Suddenly, all the red lights in Jerusalem started to blink furiously. Help! We are going to lose our only political asset in the world, the pillar of our strength, the basis of our national security, the rock of our existence.

THE RESULT was immediate. On Wednesday, the right-wing clique that now controls the Knesset, under the leadership of Avigdor Lieberman, brought to final vote a resolution that would appoint two Committees of Inquiry into the financial resources of human-rights NGOs. Not all NGOs, only "leftist" ones. This was another item on the long list of McCarthyist measures, many of which have already been adopted and many more of which are waiting for their turn.

The day before, Binyamin Netanyahu appeared specially in the Knesset to assure his followers that he fully approved, and indeed had sponsored, the Boycott Law. But after the NYT editorial, when the Commission of Inquiry resolution came up, Netanyahu and almost all his cabinet ministers voted against it. The religious factions disappeared from the Knesset. The resolution was voted down by a 2 to 1 majority.

But one ominous fact emerged: Apart from Netanyahu and his captive ministers, all the Likud members present voted for the resolution. This included all the young leaders of the party - the coming generation of Likud bosses.

If the Likud remains in power - this group of ultra-rightists, will be the government of Israel within ten years. And to hell with the New York Times.

FORTUNATELY, THERE are signs that a new phenomenon is in the making.

It started innocently with a successful consumer strike on cottage cheese, in order to compel a cartel of fat cats to reduce prices. This has been followed by a mass action by young couples, mostly university students, against the impossibly high prices of apartments.

A group of protesters put up tents in the center of Tel Aviv and have now been living there for over a week. Soon after, such encampments sprang up all over the country, from Kiryat Shmona on the Lebanese border to Beer Sheva in the Negev.

It is much too early to tell whether this is a short-term protest or the beginning of an Israeli Tahrir Square phenomenon. But it clearly shows that the takeover of Israel by a neo-fascist grouping is not a foregone conclusion. The fight is on.

Perhaps - just perhaps! - even the New York Times could be starting to report on the reality of our country.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Christian Terrorism And Islamophobia
By Sam Harris

At certain points near the extremity of human evil it becomes difficult, and perhaps pointless, to make ethical distinctions. However, I cannot shake the feeling that detonating a large bomb in the center of a peaceful city with the intent of killing vast numbers of innocent people was the lesser of Anders Behring Breivik's transgressions last week. It seems to me that it required greater malice, and even less humanity, to have intended this atrocity to be a mere diversion, so that he could then commit nearly one hundred separate murders on the tiny Island of Utoya later in the day.

And just when one thought the human mind could grow no more depraved, one learns details like the following:

After killing several people on one part of the island, he went to the other, and, dressed in his police uniform, calmly convinced the children huddled there that he meant to save them. When they emerged into the open, he fired again and again. ("For Young Campers, Island Turned Into Fatal Trap." The New York Times, July 23, 2011)

Other unsettling facts will surely surface in the coming weeks. Some might even be vaguely exculpatory. Is Breivik mentally ill? Judging from his behavior, it is difficult to imagine a definition of "sanity" that could contain him.

It has been widely reported that Breivik is a "Christian fundamentalist." Having read parts of his 1500-page manifesto (2083: A European Declaration of Independence), I must say that I have my doubts. These do not appear to be the ruminations of an especially committed Christian:

I'm not going to pretend I'm a very religious person as that would be a lie. I've always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment. In the past, I remember I used to think;

"Religion is a crutch for weak people. What is the point in believing in a higher power if you have confidence in yourself!? Pathetic."

Perhaps this is true for many cases. Religion is a crutch for many weak people and many embrace religion for self serving reasons as a source for drawing mental strength (to feed their weak emotional state f example during illness, death, poverty etc.). Since I am not a hypocrite, I'll say directly that this is my agenda as well. However, I have not yet felt the need to ask God for strength, yet… But I'm pretty sure I will pray to God as I'm rushing through my city, guns blazing, with 100 armed system protectors pursuing me with the intention to stop and/or kill. I know there is a 80%+ chance I am going to die during the operation as I have no intention to surrender to them until I have completed all three primary objectives AND the bonus mission. When I initiate (providing I haven't been apprehended before then), there is a 70% chance that I will complete the first objective, 40% for the second, 20% for the third and less than 5% chance that I will be able to complete the bonus mission. It is likely that I will pray to God for strength at one point during that operation, as I think most people in that situation would….If praying will act as an additional mental boost/soothing it is the pragmatical thing to do. I guess I will find out… If there is a God I will be allowed to enter heaven as all other martyrs for the Church in the past. (p. 1344)

As I have only read parts of this document, I cannot say whether signs of a deeper religious motive appear elsewhere in it. Nevertheless, the above passages would seem to undermine any claim that Breivik is a Christian fundamentalist in the usual sense. What cannot be doubted, however, is that Breivik's explicit goal was to punish European liberals for their timidity in the face of Islam.

I have written a fair amount about the threat that Islam poses to open societies, but I am happy to say that Breivik appears never to have heard of me. He has, however, digested the opinions of many writers who share my general concerns-Theodore Dalrymple, Robert D. Kaplan, Lee Harris, Ibn Warraq, Bernard Lewis, Andrew Bostom, Robert Spencer, Walid Shoebat, Daniel Pipes, Bat Ye'or, Mark Steyn, Samuel Huntington, et al. He even singles out my friend and colleague Ayaan Hirsi Ali for special praise, repeatedly quoting a blogger who thinks she deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. With a friend like Breivik, one will never want for enemies.

One can only hope that the horror and outrage provoked by Breivik's behavior will temper the growing enthusiasm for right-wing, racist nationalism in Europe. However, one now fears the swing of another pendulum: We are bound to hear a lot of deluded talk about the dangers of "Islamophobia" and about the need to address the threat of "terrorism" in purely generic terms.

The emergence of "Christian" terrorism in Europe does absolutely nothing to diminish or simplify the problem of Islam-its repression of women, its hostility toward free speech, and its all-too-facile and frequent resort to threats and violence. Islam remains the most retrograde and ill-behaved religion on earth. And the final irony of Breivik's despicable life is that he has made that truth even more difficult to speak about. (c) 2011 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

Afghan Judges Accuse U.S. Of War Crimes
By David Swanson

I recently sat down for 90 minutes to speak with six Afghan judges, all of them women, and an English-Dari interpreter, a man. They spoke to me as individuals. They aren't preparing any investigations or indictments. The relevance of their being judges is that they know the law. They've studied international law, and they were visiting the United States to learn about our legal and political systems. They believe the United States is guilty of war crimes.

I was the one who raised the subject. I pointed to Italian convictions of CIA agents for kidnapping, Spanish investigations of U.S. officials for torture, etc., and asked what these judges' views were on international law violations, universal jurisdiction, and what appear to be clear crimes committed by the United States in Afghanistan.

The first judge to reply spoke of the horrors of the Taliban, and of the initial gratitude for the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban 10 years ago. But, she said, the mission changed to one of fighting terrorism, and through that "we lost all of our civil rights." She described U.S. troops kicking in doors of houses at night with women and girls asleep in their beds. She described disappearances and accounts of torture. What the United States and NATO are doing, seizing people, locking them up, disappearing them, and torturing them is clearly illegal and against international law, she said. According to international treaties, she went on, when one country occupies another, the host country does not lose its sovereignty, and yet all decisions are now being made by the occupying country without any say by the Afghan government.

A second judge spoke up. "Your Constitution speaks of freedom and a people's government," she said, "but the United States is running secret prisons, torturing, disappearing people, and locking people up for years with no due process." The behavior of the United States, she said, violates everything that she and her colleagues were being taught the United States stands for. "It may seem trivial," she continued, "but it effects our daily lives." If a member of the international occupying forces gets into a hit and run with their car, and you go to the base to complain, you are threatened. They have total immunity from any rule of law, she explained.

She said that in a case involving an Australian, he was turned over to Afghan courts for a murder trial, because the military was not involved. But with U.S. forces, she said, we have to rely on the U.S. court system, and we often hear about these people being acquitted. The judge went on to make a broader point. With the great cost to the United States in blood and treasure, she said, we ought to be grateful. But the perception Afghans have of the U.S. forces, she explained, is of a group of arrogant occupiers who kick in doors.

The first judge to have spoken then joined back in, remarking that "the United States tells other countries how to be democratic and operate within a rule of law, but the United States as role model breaks every one of those things."

A third judge expressed her agreement. She said that she had witnessed helicopters coming and taking away all of the men in a compound, leaving the women and children screaming. This is not war, she said, but if it is a police action then who authorized it? There is no probable cause, she said. None! And the men are disappeared.

Judge number two broadened the discussion to the topic of the occupation itself, expressing her belief that the U.S. public was being kept in the dark about the real motivations behind the war. Al Qaeda isn't there and bin Laden is now dead, she pointed out. People should be given some reason for this going on, she said. I replied that actual motivations included the stationing of bases and weapons, a gas pipeline, profiteering, etc. At that, the women all began nodding and talking. A fourth judge to speak up interjected that even a child in rural Afghanistan knew the truth of what I had said, that the Taliban was simply an excuse.

Then it was my turn to answer questions. What does the average American think of war casualties? Why is there so much militarism and patriotism in the United States? Why is it that for centuries the United States has gone abroad to fight wars in other countries? Do Americans know how the rest of the world sees their country? Why do politicians choose policies that kill people? I answered to the best of my ability.

And then, surprisingly perhaps -- although this is quite common in speaking with Afghans, especially better-off urban Afghans -- the discussion swung around to the judges' concern that things might be dramatically worse if the United States were to leave before establishing stability. I asked them whether, after 10 years, stability was increasing or decreasing. They admitted that it was decreasing but proposed that a change in approach might reverse that. The change in approach that at least one of them recommended was for the United States to get tough with Pakistan, which was to blame for the worst forces within Afghanistan. The interpreter apologetically explained that Afghans blame Pakistan for everything just as every country, he said, blames some other country. Yet it is certainly true that Pakistan has done great damage to Afghanistan for decades, with great assistance from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, not to mention the damage done by the Soviet Union. This does not, of course, mean that a different U.S. approach to Pakistan would create a stable U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. The Soviet occupation was destabilizing for the same reason the U.S. occupation is destabilizing: people hate being occupied.

Well, what would I do? That's what they wanted to know: what would I advise Obama? I told them that I would announce that the military occupation was ending soon, that there would be no bases left behind and no weapons left behind, that I would immediately prosecute war crimes, that I would fund educational and civic and aid organizations run and controlled by Afghans, that I would facilitate open and honest elections, and that I would support any temporary international peace-keeping force favored by Afghans' elected representatives. As this was being translated, every one of the six judges began applauding and declaring things like "You speak from our hearts."
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

America's Shameful Leadership

As Bob Dylan famously wrote "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." Especially when the wind is right in your face, howling at gale force.

While Washington fiddles with the knobs and levers of budget reduction, America's great working class is being blown down by harsh economic winds. Yet, our country's political and financial elites, sitting in the comfort of their power centers, don't seem to see, hear, or care. If the elites just looked around, here's some of what they find:

* In Central Texas, a surge in poverty is now severely straining the area food bank, which is struggling with more than a 50 percent increase in demand in the past three years.

* Arizona, which has added only 4,000 jobs in the past year, has 10 unemployed job seekers for every opening – and 45,000 Arizonans are set to lose their jobless benefits in the next few months.

* By the end of the Great Recession in 2009, the median white household in America had lost $36,000 in net worth. Worse, the median African-American household had lost 83 percent of its net worth, which is now down to the financially perilous level of less than $2,200.

* While CEOS of major corporations have jacked up their pay by a fourth since the recession technically ended in 2009, average wages for workers have stagnated. Meanwhile, the price of such basics as food and gasoline have risen relentlessly. Real wages today are 1.6 percent lower than a year ago.

So, who is Washington working to help? Not the hard-hit workaday majority – but the $9 million-a-year CEOs and billionaire Wall Street barons who're demanding drastic budget cuts on programs that help working families, while also insisting that their own lavish fortunes be spared from even the slightest dings. What a shameful time in our history! Can't America do better than this?
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Unfairness In The Debt Debacle
By Helen Thomas

The Republicans have a plan to solve the nation's debt limit problem - take it out of the hides of the elderly, the poor and the disabled. The GOP leaders want to cut the social programs - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not to mention food stamps and other programs - that help the deprived and others suffering in our society.

Are all Republicans rich? Why do they want to protect the millionaires and billionaires (150 in the United States) from any tax increases? Why are they able to take advantage of loopholes that allow them to pay lower effective tax rates than the average middle class American?

Why does it not occur to the Republican leadership in Congress, bolstered by the ultra conservative Tea Party supporters, that it costs money to run this country and to uphold its values? Who are these people who are demanding a free lunch?

Raising the country's debt limit used to be an automatic reflex to allow the country to pay its debts. Now the GOP is saying that the debt payment should fall only on the persons who have paid into the entitlement programs all of their working lives.

The GOP proposals are to boost the $14.3 trillion debt limit, but without any tax increases. Is that fair or real? The deadline for the U.S. to be able to pay up is Aug. 2.

Speaker John Boehner continues to walk out of the fiscal talks like an operatic diva who is being upstaged. Boehner is being shot down by his own party, people who want no tax concessions. President Barack Obama has lost the liberals, who think he has sold out the safety net programs - and these programs are not a giveaway, but paid for by the workers of America.

Veteran lawmakers are appalled at the unrealistic view of the nation's ills and the failure to understand the problems and needs of a modern society.

A pending withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan should cut down the costs, but Republicans claim they have already considered that end.

Both Obama and Boehner have hit a brick wall, each with an eye on the 2012 presidential election and the quest for independent voters.

The GOP hates the idea of tax increases. Most of the proposals show the total spending slashes, exceed new revenue by more than 3 to 1. Is that fair?

What more do the Republicans want to hack out of the social program - and at a time when a new recession is impending and unemployment is as high as 9.2 percent?

Maybe Republicans should try looking for a job in this once-affluent country. The needy are helpless in this country, and will be as long as Republicans rule the House.

Are we in a war between the haves and the have nots? Why do the Republicans think we can solve deficit problems without new revenue? Higher taxes are their anathema. Tough. I hope they are enjoying their private jets.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA, is an inveterate enemy of investment taxes. He seems to be more sympathetic toward big corporations. His wife was a former Goldman Sachs vice president.

Where are these rich Republicans riding the gravy train, who are supposedly creating new jobs and helping the country get back on its feet?

Why would anyone in this country vote Republican this time around when they have the power to say no? This is a chance to tell the powers that be - specifically the ones who could care less if those below the poverty line have grown to big numbers - that we are fed up.

The Democrats hold the high ground in terms of protecting the American people. They have already given up too much.

Failure to raise the debt ceiling limit will not only affect America's economy, but it will negatively impact the global economy as well.

Does Congress realize the suffering it will cause if they fail to act? Where are the peoples' representatives? Do they care?
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Why Hasn't Bush Been Charged As A War Criminal?
By James Donahue

When President George W. Bush stepped down from office in January, 2009, we truly expected to read of warrants issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, charging Mr. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA director George Tenent, national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice and former attorney generals John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales with war crimes.

These people fabricated stories linking Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to the 911 attacks against the United States, having an association with the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda, and conspiring to build a nuclear arsenal. The stories were used to justify an invasion of Iraq that led to the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, the arrest and hanging of Hussein, and the open practice of torture of captured prisoners being held in secret detention camps, many without formal charges.

Another war launched against the nation of Afghanistan, because that country was harboring Al-Qaeda terrorists at the time of the 911 attacks, also was questionable. Afghanistan did not attack the United States. Yet the Afghanistan people have died by the thousands from American and allied bombing and ground assaults. Our invasion of Afghanistan has provoked a war against another Islamic group, the Taliban, which had nothing to do with 911. The Taliban only wants the United States to leave Afghanistan and go home.

To date over 6,100 American soldiers have died in these two invasions. Thousands more have returned home maimed and mentally impaired from war injuries. The cost of the wars to date has been over $1.2 trillion and the debt is still rising at an alarming rate.

So why hasn't Mr. Bush and the Washington gang that started this mess been held accountable? There are several reasons that we can see. The Obama Administration has chosen to ignore the criminal acts committed by the previous administration. Mr. Obama announced after taking office that he believed it was "time for reflection, not retribution." He said he would not seek to prosecute any Bush Administration officials for their actions.

Both Obama, who is a lawyer, and Attorney General Eric Holder, appear to be ignoring the War Crimes Act of 1996, which passed both houses by unanimous vote, that make it a federal crime to commit a "grave breach" of the Geneva Convention. This includes the deliberate killing, torture or inhuman treatment of detainees during a time of war. Is this because the acts of torture are still being committed? Several nations of the world, most recently Switzerland and Spain, have formally filed criminal charges against Bush, Cheney and members of the Bush staff for acts committed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The United Nations, however, has not picked up on the movement. Consequently the accusations by foreign nations carry no weight in national or American courts.

So why hasn't the International Criminal Court gotten involved? This court, established in July 1998 and opened July 1, 2002, has been ratified by 60 nations. A total of 120 states were involved in its creation. The Bush Administration chose not to participate so the United States is not among them. Consequently the court has no jurisdiction over United States leaders who commit international criminal acts.

The final reason Mr. Bush appears to be running free is that the United States seems to be playing the role of a world bully. Our leadership appears to have a double standard for morality. We demand that the leaders of the other nations of the world behave under standards established by international rules of conduct. But we act as if the rules, including those established by our own government, do not apply to ourselves.

Efforts to correct this injustice have been going on behind the scenes, however. Earlier in July, Human Rights Watch released a report calling for a criminal investigation into the actions of Mr. Bush and members of his staff. The report admonishes the Bush Administration for permitting the use of torture, sending suspects to secret CIA prisons, and transferring them to countries where they were tortured by foreign governments, beginning after 911.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of the group, noted that "the U. S. government's pattern of abuse across several countries . . . resulted from decisions made by senior U. S. officials to bend, ignore, or cast the rules aside."

Sadly, little appears to have changed since Mr. Obama moved into the White House. If Obama and Holder choose to ignore the Bush era crimes, it suggests that the door remains open for a continuation of even more criminal behavior under the current administration.

"President Obama has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime," said Roth. "His decision to end abusive interrogation practices will remain easily reversible unless the legal prohibition against torture is clearly reestablished." Kenneth Roth, is the executive director of Human Rights Watch.
(c) 2011 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Semantic Propaganda Feeds Stupidity
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

We would already have had a much needed American revolution in response to the tyranny of the money-fed two-party plutocracy that is destroying the middle class except for one big problem: so much of the American population is just plain stupid. Too stupid to behave like angry Greeks and rise up in the streets to rebel against the dysfunctional government.

In the never ending fight of Republicans and their cancerous (make that stupid) Tea Party members to gain even more control of the US political system, economy and culture they have fixed on another semantic weapon. The latest attack on intelligence is the constant use of the term job creators in place of words like the rich or wealthy. Not just plain Republicans in Congress are doing this, but especially the large crop of Republican presidential candidates.

This bit of cleverness surely was deemed necessary because much of the nation was beginning to appreciate the class warfare going on. Rising economic inequality, unemployment set in concrete, and merging of the middle class into the poverty stricken lower class were all becoming clearer.

Keep this in mind: As Zuckerman pointed out, the US "experienced the loss of over 7 million jobs, wiping out every job gained since the year 2000. From the moment the Obama administration came into office, there have been no net increases in full-time jobs, only in part-time jobs. This is contrary to all previous recessions. Employers are not recalling the workers they laid off from full-time employment." Business sectors have discovered that they can maximize profits with smaller US work forces; they export jobs and their capital investments. And they benefit from all kinds of tax loopholes protected by Republicans so that they pay very little if any US taxes.

A terrific new article by Jeff Reeves makes the case that unemployment will actually rise to over 10 percent, because of anticipated layoffs in the financial, technology, and aerospace and defense sectors. The data are compelling. All this despite high profits.

Apple is sitting on an amazing $76 BILLION in cash. Other than understanding that people are paying too much for their products, just imagine if they invested a big fraction of that on moving manufacturing of its products from foreign countries to the US. An enormous number of good jobs could be created here.

What were Republicans to do, especially as they used the current crisis surrounding the need to raise the national debt limit to seek huge cuts in federal spending affecting ordinary Americans and prevent higher taxes for the greedy rich and corporate forces?

What better way than to falsely claim and constantly presume that those that should be paying higher taxes are exactly the ones who create jobs and that they would not do so if hit by higher taxes. In truth, this is a bold lie. The richest Americans have been paying the lowest taxes in many decades and corporate profits have been enormous, and this reality has clearly had absolutely no positive impact on the unemployment and underemployment plaguing at least 30 million Americans and their family members.

Go back to the post-World War II era when the richest Americans paid very high taxes and you discover that jobs and fairly distributed wealth were created in abundance.

Neither wealth nor jobs trickle down from the Upper Class. Proper government policies are required to prevent criminally large fractions of the nation's wealth going to the most greedy and selfish elites. Those NOT rich that support Republicans are very stupid; they have been brainwashed by the steady stream of Republican lies and propaganda that are used to serve the rich and corporate interests sustaining Republicans with much money. The return on their investment has proven more than adequate to justify their endless input of money to Republicans.

We probably will soon see President Obama cave in and giver Republicans much of what they want. There will be major cuts in federal programs that will place millions of Americans in even more precarious economic uncertainty and pain. And there will probably be far too little increases in taxes on the rich and corporations. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security may all be cut in ways that harm many people.

Lies are constantly being fed to the public. Will you be smart enough to see them for what they are? The more you face this ugly, disturbing reality, the more embarrassed you will be about the US political system and, hopefully, the more inclined you will be to stop voting for any Republicans or Democrats and participating in our delusional democracy.
(c) 2011 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Ideological Inebriation On Capitol Hill
By Ralph Nader

Legislating while under the influence of ideological inebriation is not yet a statutory offense. It is only a multi-directional menace to much of what anxious Americans hold dear for themselves and their children.

The dominant Republicans in Congress - both the new and many of the longer-term incumbents - are in heat. It is as if a mob psychology has seized them, starved them of facts, and deprived them of reality. Their chief mad dog is Eric Cantor - he of the sneering soundbites so memorably described in a recent Washington Post column by Dana Milbank.

Cantor is the big burr under Speaker John Boehner's saddle; Boehner himself is terrified of the young fanatic from Virginia and the even younger fanatics elected in 2010 on the Tea Party wave. The Republicans have suckered President Obama into a game of chicken, but fanatic Republicans don't blink. Why not raise the nation's debt limit to pay for debts already incurred by Congressional appropriations, as has been routinely done nearly 60 times since the 1930s? "No way!" say the self-styled Tea Partiers.

Polls show that 70 percent of Republicans believe that, along with spending cuts, there need to be some tax increases for more revenue. Nearly half of people polled back home who called themselves Tea Party people even agree.

So what gives with these hard core Tea Partiers behind Cantor? First, it seems they're having fun just hypocritically shaking up Washington on spending while pushing for funding their own pet projects back home, like Republican Steve Fincher's (R-TN) Port of Cates Landing project. The Republicans are having fun with a spineless President Obama who already has given them 80 percent of what they want and seems ready to slip further into their budgetary abyss. Bill Curry, former special assistant to President Clinton, says it isn't that Obama is spineless; it is that he is closer to his opponents in his real beliefs than his liberal/progressive supporters like to think.

They're having fun because many of the House Republican freshmen class don't care about being re-elected if the price is to adopt the old ways of despised Washington. Yet, they are raising campaign money vigorously in the old Washington ways.

Still, most of the newly-elected Republicans are upper-middle-class, come from successful small businesses or professional firms and don't empathize with tens of millions of impoverished or heavily indebted Americans.

It's fun being the center of attention, holding hostage small health and safety budgets such as food safety, auto/truck safety, air and water safety, and needy children's programs, while giving a pass to massively bloated military spending and very profitable corporations like General Electric that pay no federal income taxes.

It's fun going back to the country clubs where the wealthy undertaxed slap them on the back and exclaim, "Way to go, Congressman." After all, the wealthy are paying the lowest rates of taxation, especially on their capital gains and dividends, in modern American history.

Conservative columnist, David Brooks, is not amused with them. He thinks the Republican Party has gotten far more than they envisioned at the beginning of the negotiations with Obama and should take this "mother of all no brainers." That they do not, says Brooks, is because the "Republican Party may no longer be a normal party," but is "infected by a faction that is more psychological protest than a practical governing alternative." He sees this dominant faction as having "no sense of moral decency," having "no economic theory worthy of the name."

The latter is certainly true. For if they are really against Big Government, why aren't they cutting hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate welfare, subsidies, handouts and giveaways or gigantic Pentagon over-spending and waste, or enabling federal law enforcement to crack down on corporate crime that is looting Medicare, Medicaid, royalty collections and violating pro-competition laws?

Arrogant fanatics tend to outsmart themselves. Already, 470 business leaders have written Congress urging it to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a financial crisis, along with spending restraints. More than a few of these leaders, Republicans or not, think the Tea Party faction on Capitol Hill is nuts and playing Russian roulette with the American economy. The Senate rules don't help, allowing a minority party to control the Senate.

These fanatical Republicans are playing another game of Russian roulette with their own Party's electoral future. The polls are starting to turn ominously against them. Wait until October when the cuts hit Main Street and Elm Street. Back home, most Republican voters want tax increases, probably on the wealthy and corporations, as part of negotiating a deal. The critical independent vote is starting to turn away from this extremism on Capitol Hill.

The Republican faction that David Brooks is so appalled by may well destroy the Republican Party's chances for electoral victory through and well beyond 2012.

Who said the Tea Party takeover has no redeeming value? (c) 2011 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Obama Is NOT "Caving" To Corporate Interests
By Jeff Cohen

In a campaign almost as frenzied as the effort to get Barack Obama into the White House, liberal groups are now mobilizing against the White House and reported deals that would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. They accuse President Obama of being weak and willing to "cave" to corporate and conservative forces bent on cutting the social safety net while protecting the wealthy.

Those accusations are wrong.

The accusations imply that Obama is on our side. Or was on our side. And that the right wing is pushing him around.

But the evidence is clear that Obama is an often-willing servant of corporate interests -- not someone reluctantly doing their bidding, or serving their interests only because Republicans forced him to.

Since coming to Washington, Obama has allied himself with Wall Street Democrats who put corporate deregulation and greed ahead of the needs of most Americans.

** In 2006, a relatively new Senator Obama was the only senator to speak at the inaugural gathering of the Alexander Hamilton Project launched by Wall Street Democrats like Robert Rubin and Roger Altman, Bill Clinton's treasury secretary and deputy secretary. Obama praised them as "innovative, thoughtful policymakers." (It was Rubin's crusade to deregulate Wall Street in the late '90s that led directly to the economic meltdown of 2008 and our current crisis.)

** In early 2007, way before he was a presidential frontrunner, candidate Obama was raising more money from Wall Street interests than all other candidates, including New York presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.

** In June 2008, as soon as Hillary ended her campaign, Obama went on CNBC, shunned the "populist" label and announced: "Look: I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market." He packed his economic team with Wall Street friends -- choosing one of Bill Clinton's Wall Street deregulators, Larry Summers, as his top economic advisor.

** A year into his presidency, in a bizarre but revealing interview with Business Week, Obama was asked about huge bonuses just received by two CEOs of Wall Street firms bailed out by taxpayers. He responded that he didn't "begrudge" the $17 million bonus to J.P. Mogan's CEO or the $9 million to Goldman Sachs' CEO: "I know both those guys, they are very savvy businessmen," said Obama. "I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system."

After any review of Obama's corporatist ties and positions, the kneejerk response is: "Yes, but Obama was a community organizer!"

He WAS a community organizer. . .decades before he became president. Back when Nelson Mandela was in prison and the U.S. government declared him the leader of a "terrorist organization" while our government funded and armed Bin Laden and his allies to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. That's a long time ago.

It's worth remembering that decades before Reagan became president, the great communicator was a leftwing Democrat and advocate for the working class and big federal social programs.

The sad truth, as shown by Glenn Greenwald, is that Obama had arrived at the White House looking to make cuts in benefits to the elderly. Two weeks before his inauguration, Obama echoed conservative scares about Social Security and Medicare by talking of "red ink as far as the eye can see." He opened his doors to Social Security/Medicare cutters -- first trying to get Republican Senator Judd Gregg ("a leading voice for reining in entitlement spending," wrote Politico) into his cabinet, and later appointing entitlement-foe Alan Simpson to co-chair his "Deficit Commission." Obama's top economic advisor, Larry Summers, came to the White House publicly telling Time magazine of needed Social Security cuts.

At this late date, informed activists and voters who care about economic justice realize that President Obama is NOT "on our side."

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- widely seen as "America's Senator" -- is so disgusted by recent White House actions that he called Friday for a challenge to Obama in Democratic primaries: "I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition."

Although Sanders has said clearly that he's running for reelection to the senate in 2012 – not for president -- his comment led instantly to a Draft Sanders for President website.

Imagine if a credible candidate immediately threatened a primary challenge unless Obama rejects any deal cutting the safety net while maintaining tax breaks for the rich. Team Obama knows that a serious primary challenger would cost the Obama campaign millions of dollars. And it may well be a powerful movement-building opportunity for activists tired of feeling hopeless with Obama.

It's time for progressives to talk seriously about a challenge to Obama's corporatism. Polls show most Americans support economic justice issues, and that goes double for Democratic primary voters.

If not Bernie, who? If not now, when?
© 2011 Jeff Cohen is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America. In 2002, he was a producer and pundit at MSNBC (overseen by NBC News). He is the author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media - and a cofounder of the online action group,

Messing With Medicare
By Paul Krugman

At the time of writing, President Obama's hoped-for "Grand Bargain" with Republicans is apparently dead. And I say good riddance. I'm no more eager than other rational people (a category that fails to include many Congressional Republicans) to see what happens if the debt limit isn't raised. But what the president was offering to the G.O.P., especially on Medicare, was a very bad deal for America.

Specifically, according to many reports, the president offered both means-testing of Medicare benefits and a rise in the age of Medicare eligibility. The first would be bad policy; the second would be terrible policy. And it would almost surely be terrible politics, too.

The crucial thing to remember, when we talk about Medicare, is that our goal isn't, or at least shouldn't be, defined in terms of some arbitrary number. Our goal should be, instead, to give Americans the health care they need at a price the country can afford. And throwing Americans in their mid-60s off Medicare moves us away from that goal, not toward it.

For Medicare, with all its flaws, works better than private insurance. It has less bureaucracy and, hence, lower administrative costs than private insurers. It has been more successful in controlling costs. While Medicare expenses per beneficiary have soared over the past 40 years, they've risen significantly less than private insurance premiums. And since Medicare-type systems in other advanced countries have much lower costs than the uniquely privatized U.S. system, there's good reason to believe that Medicare reform can do a lot to control costs in the future.

In that case, you may ask, why didn't the 2010 health care reform simply extend Medicare to cover everyone? The answer, of course, is political realism. Most health reformers I know would have supported Medicare for all if they had considered it politically feasible. But given the power of the insurance lobby and the knee-jerk opposition of many politicians to any expansion of government, they settled for what they thought they could actually get: near-universal coverage through a system of regulation and subsidies. It is, however, one thing to accept a second-best system insuring those who currently lack coverage. Throwing millions of Americans off Medicare and pushing them into the arms of private insurers is another story.

Also, did I mention that Republicans are doing all they can to undermine health care reform - they even tried to undermine it as part of the debt negotiations - and may eventually succeed? If they do, many of those losing Medicare coverage would find themselves unable to replace it.

So raising the Medicare age is a terrible idea. Means-testing - reducing benefits for wealthier Americans - isn't equally bad, but it's still poor policy.

It's true that Medicare expenses could be reduced by requiring high-income Americans to pay higher premiums, higher co-payments, etc. But why not simply raise taxes on high incomes instead? This would have the great virtue of not adding another layer of bureaucracy by requiring that Medicare establish financial status before paying medical bills.

But, you may say, raising taxes would reduce incentives to work and create wealth. Well, so would means-testing: As conservative economists love to point out in other contexts - for example, when criticizing programs like food stamps - benefits that fall as your income rises in effect raise your marginal tax rate. It doesn't matter whether the government raises your taxes by $1,000 when your income rises or cuts your benefits by the same amount; either way, it reduces the fraction of your additional earnings that you get to keep.

So what's the difference between means-testing Medicare and raising taxes? Well, the truly rich would prefer means-testing, since they would end up sacrificing no more than the merely well-off. But everyone else should prefer a tax-based solution.

So why is the president embracing these bad policy ideas? In a forthcoming article in The New York Review of Books, the veteran journalist Elizabeth Drew suggests that members of the White House political team saw the 2010 election as a referendum on government spending and that they believe that cutting spending is the way to win next year.

If so, I would respectfully suggest that they are out of their minds. Remember death panels? The G.O.P.'s most potent political weapon last year - the weapon that caused a large swing in the votes of older Americans - was the claim that Mr. Obama was cutting Medicare. Why give Republicans a chance to do it all over again?

Of course, it's possible that the reason the president is offering to undermine Medicare is that he genuinely believes that this would be a good idea. And that possibility, I have to say, is what really scares me.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged."
~~~ Noam Chomsky

Fundamentalism Kills
By Chris Hedges

The gravest threat we face from terrorism, as the killings in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik underscore, comes not from the Islamic world but the radical Christian right and the secular fundamentalists who propagate the bigoted, hateful caricatures of observant Muslims and those defined as our internal enemies. The caricature and fear are spread as diligently by the Christian right as they are by atheists such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Our religious and secular fundamentalists all peddle the same racist filth and intolerance that infected Breivik. This filth has poisoned and degraded our civil discourse. The looming economic and environmental collapse will provide sparks and tinder to transform this coarse language of fundamentalist hatred into, I fear, the murderous rampages experienced by Norway. I worry more about the Anders Breiviks than the Mohammed Attas.

The battle under way in America is not between religion and science. It is not between those who embrace the rational and those who believe in biblical myth. It is not between Western civilization and Islam. The blustering televangelists and the New Atheists, the television pundits and our vaunted Middle East specialists and experts, are all part of our vast, simplistic culture of mindless entertainment. They are in show business. They cannot afford complexity. Religion and science, facts and lies, truth and fiction, are the least of their concerns. They trade insults and clichés like cartoon characters. They don masks. One wears the mask of religion. One wears the mask of science. One wears the mask of journalism. One wears the mask of the terrorism expert. They jab back and forth in predictable sound bites. It is a sterile and useless debate between bizarre subsets of American culture. Some use the scientific theory of evolution to explain the behavior and rules for complex social and political systems, and others insist that the six-day creation story in Genesis is a factual account. The danger we face is not in the quarrel between religion advocates and evolution advocates, but in the widespread mental habit of fundamentalism itself.

We live in a fundamentalist culture. Our utopian visions of inevitable human progress, obsession with endless consumption, and fetish for power and unlimited growth are fed by illusions that are as dangerous as fantasies about the Second Coming. These beliefs are the newest expression of the infatuation with the apocalypse, one first articulated to Western culture by the early church. This apocalyptic vision was as central to the murderous beliefs of the French Jacobins, the Russian Bolsheviks and the German fascists as it was to the early Christians. The historian Arnold Toynbee argues that racism in Anglo-American culture was given a special virulence after the publication of the King James Bible. The concept of "the chosen people" was quickly adopted, he wrote, by British and American imperialists. It fed the disease of white supremacy. It gave them the moral sanction to dominate and destroy other races, from the Native Americans to those on the subcontinent.

Our secular and religious fundamentalists come out of this twisted yearning for the apocalypse and belief in the "chosen people." They advocate, in the language of religion and scientific rationalism, the divine right of our domination, the clash of civilizations. They assure us that we are headed into the broad, uplifting world of universal democracy and a global free market once we sign on for the subjugation and extermination of those who oppose us. They insist-as the fascists and the communists did-that this call for a new world is based on reason, factual evidence and science or divine will. But schemes for universal human advancement, no matter what language is used to justify them, are always mythic. They are designed to satisfy a yearning for meaning and purpose. They give the proponents of these myths the status of soothsayers and prophets. And, when acted upon, they fill the Earth with mass graves, bombed cities, widespread misery and penal colonies. The extent of this fundamentalism is evident in the strident utterances of the Christian right as well as those of the so-called New Atheists.

"What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry?" Sam Harris, in his book "The End of Faith," asks in a passage that I suspect Breivik would have enjoyed. "If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime-as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day-but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe."

"We are at war with Islam," Harris goes on. "It may not serve our immediate foreign policy objectives for our political leaders to openly acknowledge this fact, but it is unambiguously so. It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been ‘hijacked' by extremists. We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of the hadith, which recounts the sayings and teachings of the Prophet."

Harris assures us that "the Koran mandates such hatred," that "the problem is with Islam itself." He writes that "Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death."

A culture that exalts its own moral certitude and engages in uncritical self-worship at the expense of conscience commits moral and finally physical suicide. Our fundamentalists busy themselves with their pathetic little monuments to Jesus, to reason, to science, to Western civilization and to new imperial glory. They peddle a binary view of the world that divides reality between black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. We are taught in a fundamentalist culture to view other human beings, especially Muslims, not as ends but as means. We abrogate the right to exterminate all who do not conform.

Fundamentalists have no interest in history, culture or social or linguistic differences. They are a remarkably uncurious, self-satisfied group. Anything outside their own narrow bourgeois life, petty concerns and physical comforts bores them. They are provincials. They do not investigate or seek to understand the endemic flaws in human nature. The only thing that matters is the coming salvation of humanity, or at least that segment of humanity they deem worthy of salvation. They peddle a route to assured collective deliverance. And they sanction violence and the physical extermination of other human beings to get there.

All fundamentalists worship the same gods-themselves. They worship the future prospect of their own empowerment. They view this empowerment as a necessity for the advancement and protection of civilization or the Christian state. They sanctify the nation. They hold up the ability the industrial state has handed to them as a group and as individuals to shape the world according to their vision as evidence of their own superiority. Fundamentalists express the frustrations of a myopic and morally stunted middle class. They cling, under their religious or scientific veneer, to the worst values of the petite bourgeois. They are suburban mutations, products of an American landscape that has been perverted by a destruction of community and a long and successful war against complex thought. The self-absorbed worldview of these fundamentalists brings smiles of indulgence from the corporatists who profit, at our expense, from the obliteration of moral and intellectual inquiry.

Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce's "Ulysses" acidly condemned all schemes to purify the world and serve human progress through violence. He said that "history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." Dedalus in the same passage responded to the schoolmaster Deasy's claim that "the ways of the Creator are not our ways," and that "all history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God." A soccer goal is jubilantly scored by boys in the yard outside the school window as Deasy expounds on divine will. God, Dedalus tells Deasy as the players yell in glee over the goal, is no more than the screams from the schoolyard -"a shout in the street." Joyce, like Samuel Beckett, excoriated the Western belief in historical teleology-the notion that history has a purpose or is moving toward a goal. The absurdity of this belief, they wrote, always feeds fanatics and undermines the possibility of human community. These writers warned us about all those-religious and secular-who call for salvation through history.

There are tens of millions of Americans who in their desperation and insecurity yearn for the assurance and empowerment offered by a clearly defined war against an external evil. They are taught in our fundamentalist culture that this evil is the root of their misery. They embrace a war against this evil as a solution to the drift in their lives, their economic deprivation and the moral and economic morass of the nation. They see in this conflict with these dark forces a way to overcome their own alienation. They find in it certitude, meaning and structure. They believe that once this evil is vanquished, an evil that extends from Muslims to undocumented workers, liberals, intellectuals, homosexuals and feminists, they can transform America into a land of plenty and virtue. But this fundamentalism, which cloaks itself in the jargon of scientific rationality, Christian piety and nativism, is a recipe for fanaticism. All those who embrace other ways of being and believing are viewed, as Breivik apparently viewed his victims, as contaminates that must be eliminated.

This fundamentalist ideology, because it is contradictory and filled with myth, is immune to critiques based on reason, fact and logic. This is part of its appeal. It obliterates doubt, nuance, intellectual and scientific rigor and moral conscience. All has been predicted or decided. Life is reduced to following a simple black-and-white road map. The contradictions in these belief systems-for example the championing of the "rights of the unborn" while calling for wider use of the death penalty or the damning of Muslim terrorists while promoting pre-emptive war, which delivers more death and misery in the Middle East than any jihadist organization-inoculate followers from rational discourse. Life becomes a crusade.

All fundamentalists, religious and secular, are ignoramuses. They follow the lines of least resistance. They already know what is true and what is untrue. They do not need to challenge their own beliefs or investigate the beliefs of others. They do not need to bother with the hard and laborious work of religious, linguistic, historical and cultural understanding. They do not need to engage in self-criticism or self-reflection. It spoils the game. It ruins the entertainment. They see all people, and especially themselves, as clearly and starkly defined. The world is divided into those who embrace or reject their belief systems. Those who support these belief systems are good and forces for human progress. Those who oppose these belief systems are stupid, at best, and usually evil. Fundamentalists have no interest in real debate, real dialogue, real intellectual thought. Fundamentalism, at its core, is about self-worship. It is about feeling holier, smarter and more powerful than everyone else. And this comes directly out of the sickness of our advertising age and its exaltation of the cult of the self. It is a product of our deep and unreflective cultural narcissism.

Our faith in the inevitability of human progress constitutes an inability to grasp the tragic nature of history. Human history is one of constant conflict between the will to power and the will to nurture and protect life. Our greatest achievements are always intertwined with our greatest failures. Our most exalted accomplishments are always coupled with our most egregious barbarities. Science and industry serve as instruments of progress as well as instruments of destruction. The Industrial Age has provided feats of engineering and technology, yet it has also destroyed community, spread the plague of urbanization, uprooted us all, turned human beings into cogs and made possible the total war and wholesale industrial killing that has marked the last century. These technologies, even as we see them as our salvation, are rapidly destroying the ecosystem on which we depend for life.

There is no linear movement in history. Morality and ethics are static. Human nature does not change. Barbarism is part of the human condition and we can all succumb to its basest dimensions. This is the tragedy of history. Human will is morally ambiguous. The freedom to act as often results in the construction of new prisons and systems of repression as it does the safeguarding of universal human rights. The competing forces of love and of power define us, what Sigmund Freud termed Eros and Thanatos. Societies have, throughout history, ignored calls for altruism and mutuality in times of social upheaval and turmoil. They have wasted their freedom in the self-destructive urges that currently envelope us. These urges are very human and very dangerous. They are fired by utopian visions of inevitable human progress. When this progress stalls or is reversed, when the dreams of advancement and financial stability are thwarted, when a people confronts its own inevitable downward spiral, dark forces of vengeance and retribution are unleashed. Fundamentalists serve an evil that is unseen and unexamined. And the longer this evil is ignored the more dangerous and deadly it becomes. Those who seek through violence the Garden of Eden usher in the apocalypse.
(c) 2011 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

Prison Slave Labor
By Margaret Kimberley

Michelle Alexander's ground breaking book, The New Jim Crow, is an outstanding expose of the horrors of America's criminal justice system that are perpetrated against black people. It is well documented proof of what many have long observed, that get tough policies on drug enforcement and "three strikes" laws are targeted towards the masses of often non-violent black Americans and are used to make money for private entities and for all levels of government.

The penitentiary manufactured license plate was long ago joined by more sophisticated methods of exploitation. Prisoners not only work in a variety of jobs without compensation, but are often fined and forced to pay for their incarceration. Obviously they end their sentences owing money and are permanent debtors, susceptible to be consumed by the system again and again.

Recent events indicate a new level of horror in the planning stages. The prison and jail system is perfecting its methods of extracting free labor. Perhaps the system ought to be called the new slavery.

In the state of Georgia, a recently enacted law targeting undocumented workers was deemed insufficiently evil and needed the addition of greater exploitation of people of color. The new legislation allows police to profile brown skinned people and also makes it illegal for the undocumented to work, to be housed, or even to be transported. But as in the rest of the country, Georgia's agricultural work force is comprised almost completely of undocumented migrant workers. Having chased these people away, the state was at a loss as to how to keep its farms afloat after their labor force fled.

The solution to the conundrum was simple but leads to a slippery slope which invites further abuse in an already inherently abusive situation. The state offered to pay probationers to do the farm work instead. The experiment drew a few desperate people, who did not have the wherewithal, knowledge or training needed to harvest crops in the midst of a heat wave.

The plan may have initially failed, but the setback is surely only temporary and the trend towards normalizing labor exploitation is being perfected and honed to make it more successful in many parts of the country. In Racine county, Wisconsin, the evisceration of public employee union rights has spawned an effort to give jobs that were once reserved for union employees to prisoners instead. These prisoners would not be paid with money, they would only earn the right to reduce their sentences. The public union collective bargaining contracts that are now null and void had barred the state from this practice. The right wing have figured out how to kill two birds with one stone. In one fell swoop, public unions were decimated and prisoners will be subject to greater exploitation.

It is difficult to fight against the diminution of rights of persons who are incarcerated or otherwise under judicial supervision. The average American has been given a steady does of fear related to crime, even as crime rates have fallen. The racism which equates criminality with black people makes it all the more easy to continue the rates of incarceration which mark victims with lifetimes of unemployment, loss of voting rights, and even the loss of the right to live in certain places.

Black Americans can be just as susceptible to the appeals to fear and self-loathing. We are afraid too, and don't want to be associated with people who are labeled and stigmatized as deserving of endless punishment, including the punishment of working for nothing. The ability to advocate for the rights of prisoners is therefore a difficult one, with few natural allies other than the incarcerated themselves.

However, it is necessary to persevere before these new schemes gain a stronger foothold. The mania to save government dollars and the American propensity to punish and permanently criminalize vast numbers of black people will combine to make these new policies extremely popular. The prison system is already highly profitable, and any means of making more money will have a high level of appeal for politicians and for the public too.

The United States now has more individuals under the control of the criminal justice system than any other country on earth. Dictatorships universally condemned as "evil" don't put as many people behind bars as the United States does. It is but one sign of America's decline and inevitable demise as a democratic nation. The hunger to exploit and debase people of color is like other injustices. They will be resurrected and they will multiply unless there is a commitment to prevent that from happening.
© 2011 Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.Com.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Richter Harrell,

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 Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your threatening to send people to jail for 75 years for recording audio and video of police in the streets or a judge in a court room based on your warped interpretation of existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 09-05-2011. We salute you Frau Harrell, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Obama's Compromising Stirs Talk Of Dem Primary Challenge; Bernie Sanders Says It's A 'Good Idea'
By John Nichols

At a recent gathering with liberal Democrats and progressive independents in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Obama's home state of Illinois, I have been struck by the extent of the frustration with the president is growing. There has always been a good deal of griping about Obama's maintenance of the Bush administration's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-and his decision to launch a new fight with Libya-as well as compromises on issues ranging from health-care reform to regulation of Wall Street, but this is different. As Obama has seemed to abandon a commitment to preserve Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, anger with the president has become dramatically more widespread.

A new CNN/ORC International Poll confirms the phenomenon. The number of Americans who say they disapprove of the president's performance because he is not liberal enough has doubled since May. "Drill down into that number and you'll see signs of a stirring discontent on the left," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland, who explains that, "Obama's approval rating among liberals has dropped to the lowest point in his presidency, and roughly one in four Americans who disapprove of him say they feel that way because he has not been liberal enough, a new high for that measure."

The number of Democrats who say Obama should face a primary challenge in 2012 is growing, with almost a quarter of party backers urveyed by CNN refusing to say they thought the president should be renominated.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, gave voice to that sentiment Friday during a regular appearance on Thom Hartmann's popular national radio show. When a caller who expressed frustration with Obama's apparent willingness to accept cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Sanders said: "Discouragement is not an option. I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition."

Sanders explained: "Let me just suggest this: I think there are millions of Americans who are deeply disappointed in the president, who believe that with regard to Social Security and other things, he said one thing as a candidate and is doing something very much else as a president-who cannot believe how weak he has been for whatever reason in negotiating with Republicans, and there's deep disappointment. So my suggestion is: I think one of the reasons the president has made the move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him and I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama believes he's doing."

Sanders says Obama's weak approach to negotiations with Republicans with regard to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and tax cuts for the rich has caused him to "give thought" to encouraging a progressive Democrat to mount such a challenge.

That led to immediate talk about the prospect that Sanders might mount a primary challenge. That won't happen. Sanders is not a Democrat. Besides, he is busy running for reelection in Vermont in 2012.

When Sanders said in March that "if a progressive Democrat wants to run, I think it would enliven the debate, raise some issues," he explained that: "I've been asked whether I am going to do that. I'm not. I don't know who is, but in a democracy, it's not a bad idea to have different voices out there."

No other "name" Democrat has, so far, engaged in a public discussion about making a primary run against the president.

There is some organizing on the ground among Democrats who would, at the very least, like to use Democratic caucuses and primaries to send a message to Obama. Antiwar Democrats in Iowa have talked up the prospect of a challenge in the state where the Democratic nominating process begins with caucuses that attract the party's most activist base. There have also been stirrings in the District of Columbia, where resentment over Obama's failure to defend the interests of the nation's capitol is running high.

But those initiatives aim more toward getting the president's attention and shaking up a complacent national party, perhaps by asking caucus and primary voters to send uncommitted delegates-as opposed to committed Obama backers-to next year's Democratic National Convention. Uncommitted delegates, at the least, could generate platform fights and pressure the president's team on particular issues.

Even this project could be a tough one, however, as the nominating process is largely controlled by Obama operatives, who have already been working the schedule and putting in place structural supports for the president's reelection run. Obama's team is looking at the caucuses and primaries as tools to build enthusiasm for the president's fall reelection campaign against the Republican nominee.

But if they are serious about that fall campaign, they are going to need to recognize and respond to the disenchantment among Democratic activists whose enthusiasm level will decide the fate of Obama's 2012 campaign. Even if there is no primary challenge, Obama must reconnect with liberal Democrats and progressive independents if he hopes to be reelected. And he will not do so by cutting a deal with Republicans to cut Democratic "legacy programs" such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

There and Back Again
Sobering thoughts about the Nuclear Madness we all face
By Vincent L. Guarisco

"Things do not change; we change." ~~~ Henry David Thoreau

When I go down the beaten path of memory lane and revisit all the hurdles my family went through in our life-long participation with the anti-nuclear movement, my breath become fast and quick. But when I think about the future in terms of where we're headed today, I feel like I have no breath left in me. Big difference. The proliferation of today's wide-open nuclear nuthatch is a godforsaken sore that never really healed for many of us who have fought the good battle. I'm not going to candy coat this, so listen up -the multiple reactor meltdowns at Japan's Daiichi's Nuclear Power Plant are a global killer, but it may not be the worst disaster we have to face. I am the offspring of an Atomic Veteran who's been there and back again. I offer this essay as a sober testament of truth as an activist that will continue to fight the tyrannical nuclear industry tooth and nail, or until my last breath is drawn. But I might as well get the bad news out of the way first, I'm sorry to report that after all the hard effort; we may have only prolonged the inevitable...

In continuing, many years ago at the beginning of his journey, my father knew all too well how shrewd people can be. And rightfully so, he was used as a guinea pig in Uncle Sam's nuclear weapons testing program that for him, produced a lifetime of activism. For me, having an atomic veteran father has been a wellspring of lessons, because I too have born witness to the many ostensive lies told by those who do not give it a second thought to kill anybody with impunity -- to play God -- for the glory of power and profit.

Indeed, without the slightest care for the sanctity of human life, the uncaring nuclear industrial complex, along with their enablers disguised as our protectors -- the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA), The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), etc. has callously allowed millions of people to die with no remorse or guilt. Let's be clear -- It makes little or no difference if exposure comes from an "atomic warhead" or from a "nuclear reactor meltdown," the end result is the same -- people horribly suffer and die. And just like the world revolution that's currently being waged around the globe with hardly a whisper in mainstream media, it will not be televised or reported. In war, you must first recognize your enemy before you can fight. Well, we the people are on our own because the enemy is within, and powerful.

During the cold war era, people like my father thought the nuclear arms race and/or atomic bombs would be our ultimate demise. Remember the 2000 classic, "On The Beach." Check it out. I noticed the networks let that little jewel fall down the memory hole. And although that threat will always be a viable concern, it's woefully apparent that after we split of the atom; then insanely decided to build nuclear power plants on coastlines and fault lines, was after all . . . not such a good idea for mankind. In fact, I'm guessing that Einstein's "theory of relativity" can now be applied to man's nuclear karma? Yes, "what goes up must come down." Just as surely as "what goes into the atmosphere is later ingested." And although we may be treated like "cockroaches" by our government, sorry folks -- we're not "radiation resilient" like they are.

Thus, from the birth of the Manhattan Project, to Mother's Nature's ability to (((shake the planet))), we made some really poor choices in how we power-up our cities & towns. I ask you this; did we create the radioactive embryo of our ionizing end-game? Hmmm... .

I think we're all savvy enough to understand our planet is going through some major geological changes. And when we consider the many 2012 scenarios which include scientific proof of planetary alignments, a magnetic pole reversal, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, it's damn right scary what effect all this will have on our infrastructure and our well being! If a big major earthquake (like the 9.0 that hit Japan) hit us, we have at least two nuclear plants sitting on the Pacific "Ring of Fire." Thus, we could quickly find ourselves in a similar situation (here in the U.S.) if mass amounts of radiation is released into our local atmosphere. Like an evil invisible fairy-dust, it would quickly overwhelm us. Well, I can only add -- the effects would be truly "radiating" to say the least.

In keeping it real. Radiation and human health are not friendly co-companions. Exposure attacks the human body at its most basic level -cell structure. Cells carry out the vital functions necessary to sustain and develop all living creatures. Over ten trillion cells make up the human body. The cell takes in food, gets rid of waste, produces protein vital to life, and reproduces itself. Just as all living things are made up of cells, so every new cell is produced from another cell. Thus, the nature of the cell is determined by the genetic material in its nucleus. Genetic "coding" is extremely complex. In brief, our DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is tightly coiled in the forty-six chromosomes, which are stored in the cell nucleus. Surrounding the nucleus is the cytoplasm, the "factory" that carries out the directions of the DNA intelligence center. It is the whole of this cell mechanism -cell wall, cytoplasm, and nucleus -that forms the bases of human life.

When a radioactive particle or ray strikes a cell, a lot can happen. Worst of all: it can damage a cell in such a way that the damage is repeated when the cell divides. Think about that last paragraph for a minute....once DNA is damaged; distorted messages can be transmitted to the cell and passed on through reproduction. Thus thousands of mutated clone cells can reproduce themselves, forming the basis for tumors which in turn -devastates the body system multiplying millions of damaged cells that can later become cancerous. Radiation is also well known for destroying the body's immune system. In simple terms, we get screwed on two fronts: The body gets jacked and then disabled so it can't repair itself.

The most vulnerable is the human fetus, infants and young children -- whose cells are multiplying most frequently and most sensitive to radiation damage, especially the bone marrow. Perhaps that is why in a recent court statement released by independent scientist, Lauren Moret, gave expert testimony in a lawsuit brought against Japanese officials, to force them to do the right thing in evacuating more than 350,000 children from the Fukushima area, where they are forced to endure lethal doses of radiation.

Even though she got zero attention here in the U.S., Lauren Moret's important message was heard loud and clear around the world on the Internet:

"Fukushima's radiation affects thousands of miles across the ocean!"

In continuing, she said "The west coast of North America is thousands of miles across the vast Pacific Ocean, a long way from Fukushima Daiichi and the radioactive solids, liquids, and gases being released daily and recklessly to poison both near and far. Already we are seeing the effects in North America. Air filters from cars in Seattle have been analyzed for hot particles and indicate that Seattle residents are inhaling 5 hot particles a day, in Tokyo it is 10 hot particles a day, in Fukushima Prefecture it is 30-40 times higher - 300-400 hot particles a day. Hot particles and alpha emitters such as Uranium and Plutonium have not even been mentioned by the government or TEPCO, nor has their contribution to total radiation released been considered. Alpha particles are biologically 20 times more damaging than beta particles," she said.

"Iodine 131 in drinking water in San Francisco was reported by UC Berkeley to be 18,100% times higher than the EPA drinking water standard, yet the US government quit measuring it. Infant mortality in Berkeley, CA, and other west coast cities was reported by Dr. Janette Sherman to have increased 35% since March 11, after the Fukushima disaster. The babies are the first to die. Infant mortality in Philadelphia, PA. Where the highest Iodine 131 levels in drinking water measured in the US have been reported, has increased 45% since March 11. People on the west coast of the United States and even in Arizona are reporting a metallic taste in their mouths - an indication of radioactive particles in the air as in Japan."

She went on to say that "On the night of June 14, a nuclear incident occurred in the Reactor 3 building in the spent fuel pool when huge bursts of gamma ray fluorescence lit up the night sky and turned the reactor building as bright as the sun, indicating the spent fuel rods and melted uranium and plutonium were boiling off, vaporized along with the rest of the fission products."

"The radiation from this unreported but very dangerous event was released without protecting the residents of Fukushima Prefecture - especially the children. But the radiation was detected at elevated levels from 2:30 AM until 7:30 AM on a monitor in Ibaraki Prefecture. How many Curies were released? When will this nuclear war against the Japanese people and the Northern Hemisphere ever end? Instead of evacuation, the government gives the children (sick with radiation symptoms) film badges to measure the external exposure dose… another study group like US govt. studies on Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims (they are still being studied), Iraq victims, Gaza victims. And the US government did the same thing to Americans during 1300 nuclear bomb tests in the US."

The video of the interview with her can be seen here. And if that's not enough bad news, we have another big problem. Here at home we have two Nebraska nuclear power stations located near the Missouri River and one is already submerged in flood waters. A hole tore in a 2000-foot, inflatable barrier placed around the facility, allowing over several feet of water to pour into containment buildings and electrical transformers at the plant. This disaster was reported, and then quickly silenced by mainstream media. Cooper Nuclear Station, one of the nuclear power plants in the area, declared a "Notification of Unusual Event" after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released massive amount water from two dams. This event is ongoing…

I wish I knew how all this will play out. All I know is sometimes we all feel like we're just a puny little ants who can never change a thing, but don't despair, for we are many … and when we combine our numbers, we are a very powerful force! I truly believe that we are the ones we have always waited for.

As a lover of American Indian culture, an old Indian wise man once said, "Something lives only as long as the last person who remembers it. My people have come to trust memory over history. Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable, while history serves only those who seek to control it. Those who would douse the flame of memory, in order to put out the dangerous fire of truth, beware of these men...for they are dangerous themselves and unwise. Their false history is written in the blood of those who might remember...and of those who seek the truth."

No matter what happens, never forget these events. Pass them down to your children. Because history is being rewritten to protect foolish, dangerous men ... and we are now the elders of truth. God bless.
(c) 2011 Vincent L. Guarisco is a freelance writer from Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and a lifetime founding member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans. The 21st century, once so full of shining promise, now threatens to force countless millions of us at home and abroad into a dark abyss of languishing poverty and silent servitude; a lowly prodigy of painful struggle and suffering that could stream for generations to come. I'm wishing for a miracle, before it is too late, the masses will figure it out and will stand as one and roar. So, pass the word – its past time to take back what is ours -- the American Dream where the pursuit of happiness, the ability to live in a free and peaceful nation is a reality. We bought it, and we paid for it. It's time to take it back. For replies, contact:

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Mark Streeter ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Back In The Fold
By Will Durst

Give Congress the benefit of the doubt and say they do work out a compromise on the debt ceiling extension. This country could still slip into default, leading to the worst possible scenario imaginable - We have to move back in with England. Who's going to be happy then? Nobody. You think it's embarrassing slinking home after graduating college, try waiting 235 years.

Already dreading the dressing down we'll be forced to patiently endure should we make it through the front door. "Well, well, well, look who's back. Seems someone couldn't hack it out on our own, could they, Mister I'm Ready for Independence? How's it feel to be labeled a fading superpower? Not much bloody fun being mocked by the neighbors, is it boyo?

Notice you didn't rush right over to your good friend China's house. What's the matter, did you have a fight with your new BFF? Or are they wanting their loans back? What about Egypt? Don't they owe you a bit of something? Or did you squander it away like your post 911 goodwill? Typical.

So. Here you are. I suppose you'll be wanting your old room back. Well, you can forget it. Pakistan has been renting that room for almost three decades. Very tidy people. And quiet. Too quiet, if you ask me. But they cook. Nice break for your mother. Stinks up the kitchen a bit with all those spices, but quite tasty really.

What in Hades is wrong with you? Why couldn't you manage your money better like your younger brother Canada? Yes, they're a bit boring, but solid as Gibraltar. You never see Canada in the foyer with their bags around their feet like a homeless person. Nose to the grindstone, that's Canada in a nutshell. Still respect their Royals. Nothing like you or that drunken lout Australia, but don't get me started.

Okay. Now this is totally against my better judgment but your mother says you can crash on the basement couch. Just for a couple of weeks, mind you. But this isn't the Ritz. While you live in this house, you will live by our rules, mister. That means the TV shuts off at 10pm. Sharp. And yes, there's only 4 channels. Stop whineing.

No more making fun of the Queen. You hear me? And not a single smirking word about Rupert Murdoch. Can't say your hands are altogether clean on that one, now can we? Look at me when I'm talking to you. And get this through your thick skull, health care is free. For everybody. The stitches may be a mite larger than you're accustomed from your fancy Beverly Hills surgeons, but I dare say you'll get used to it.

One last thing, no more wars. If I hear of one more scrape you've gotten yourself into, you'll be back on the street so fast it'll make David Cameron's head spin. Faster. Nobody wants you mucking about with your sticky little fingers in their business anymore. Do we understand each other? Good. Now get yourself downstairs. Unpack and wash up. Put on a tie. Supper's at 5. By the looks of you, I'd wager you haven't missed many meals. And straighten up while you're down there. Make sure there's a clean spot under the stairwell; we're setting up a cot. Ireland just called. They're on their way over."
(c) 2011 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, "The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing."

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 30 (c) 07/29/2011

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