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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh says, "We Would Rather Die In Our Dread."

Uri Avnery asks, "How Goodly Are Thy Tents?"

David Sirota reminds us that, "Obama Isn't Weak (he just isn't a liberal)."

David Swanson announces, "Uranium Safe to Eat With a Spoon!."

Jim Hightower reports, "Obama Says He'll Really Fight For The People ... Next Time."

Helen Thomas finds, "Debt Debate Eclipses Middle East Unrest."

James Donahue concludes, "Racism Is Destroying America."

Ray McGovern reminds us that, "They Died in Vain; Deal With It."

Robert Creamer explores, "Talk About Chutzpah - Wall Street Lecturing America on 'Fiscal Responsibility?'"

Mike Wrathell examines, "Macomb County-Style Injustice."

Paul Krugman considers, "Credibility, Chutzpah And Debt."

Sam Harris replies, "Dear Angry Lunatic."

Greg Palast has been, "Hacked And Attacked."

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Tom Englehardt wonders, "Could The Pentagon Be Responsible For Your Death?"

Mary Pitt explains, "The Great American Guilt Trip."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz discovers, "Moody's Downgrades US Credit Rating to 'It's Complicated'" but first, Uncle Ernie is, "Back From The Shadows Again!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Gary Varvel, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Internet Weekly.Org, Don Wright, Jeff Danziger, Jeff Darcy, Tony Auth, Steve Benson, P. Jamoil, Walt Disney Movies, Associated Press, The Mirror, 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."

Back From The Shadows Again!
By Ernest Stewart

You can be anything that you want in America
Any God Damned thing that you want in America
America ~~~ Rumor

"We Are Ohio takes our obligation to our more than 1.3 million supporters very seriously, and thus will not back down from this attack on teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses and other hardworking Ohioans." ~~~ Melissa Fazekas

The notion that our deficit problem can be solved solely by cutting spending flies in the face of our experience when, in fact, unwise tax cuts for the wealthy and egregious tax loopholes are significant culprits in our fiscal crisis. I believe too many Republicans are influenced by an ideology so extreme that it promised to wreak economic havoc if they did not get their way. No additional revenues became the battle cry, an approach that prevents the balanced deficit reduction that the American people rightly support. The result is that this legislation incorporates some policies that are profoundly unfair to middle-income Americans. ~~~ Carl Levin

Back from the shadows again
Out where an Injuns your friend
Where the vegetables are green
And you can pee right into the stream (And that's important)
Yes, we're back from the shadows again
Back From The Shadows ~~~ The Firesign Theatre

As I awaited the fate of the magazine, a friend who had been visiting took me on a wild 5 day vacation to that "Paris" of the mid-west, Chicago. Since I'm pretty much trapped by poverty and hence too poor to leave these four walls -- where I'm trapped inside a small room with artificial lights -- in a more or less 24/7/365 capacity, I naturally jumped at the prospect. We made our way west from Detroit, stopping only at Frederik Meijer Gardens to primp and pose for various Leonardo's Horse photo-ops before rounding Lake Michigan and with a drive down Lake Shore Drive from beginning to end, I was soon enjoying Illinois hospitality for which I am grateful. The highlight was a trip to the Field Museum for an up-close-and-personal encounter with Sue and some of her pals! Thanks ya'll, for everything!

While I was thus engaged, our country went from being number one to a third world country. Just as the Reagan attack on the unions with his busting the PATCO union signaled the beginning of the end of the American middle-class. Like that milestone, this one committed on August 2, 2011 by Obamahood and his gang of criminals, i.e., both Houses of Con-gress, will live forever in infamy!

Then, just as if on cue, Standard & Poor's -- that criminal ratings group who was partially responsible for 2008 crash -- stabbed us in the heart, and the market worldwide dropped a trillion dollars overnight with no real end in sight! Does the date of October 24, 1929 mean anything to you, America? And since the destructiveness of this act of treason doesn't kick-in until after the 2012 election, is the date of 12-21-2012 a whole lot less funny than it used to be?

In Other News

The Jews have a saying, "They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind," for them the pity is they don't realize that it applies to them as well as everybody else. Someday they may realize this, if only for a nano-second, while the H-Bombs begin to burst overhead.

Tuesday evening they cut all communications into the Gaza Ghetto. An Israeli army bulldozer cut a communications cable and cut all phone and Internet networks in Gaza. First Tel Aviv denied it had happened, then they said it wasn't done by the army, then they said it was done by the army -- but it was an accident, then they said... etc., etc., etc!

Over in Wisconsin, the recall of 6 of the farthest right-wing whackos in the Wisconsin Senate took place and even with a $40 million blitz by the Koch Brothers and the Amway corpo-rats, ten of thousands of mailers going out telling the people to send in their ballots to non-existent mailing addresses -- an outright act of sedition -- they were only able to save 4 of the 6 Senators being recalled, just one shy of taking control from the fascists. These six were all in staunchly Rethuglican districts, so Governor Hitler, er, Walker will be able to do his worst, (provided he isn't recalled in an action that begins in November) for another year as Wisconsin will remain the Koch Brothers oligarchy until at least the 2012 election.

The pro-labor coalition "We Are Ohio" delivered nearly 1.3 million signatures to repeal SB 5, a new Tea Bagger law restricting the collective-bargaining rights of public employees, placing it on the November 8 ballot.

If America had brain one, the Tea Baggers would be "gone with the whirlwind" come November 2012; but even if that happens, which I doubt very much, we'll still have Obamahood or someone just like him, i.e., the Bachmann/Romney Overdrive and the total destruction of America will continue because Americans can't be bothered to pay attention to what's happening -- even if it's right before their bloodshot eyes.

And Finally

I get mailers from both of my Sinators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow and my Congressman John Dingell and all three Demoncrats, pledging to protect Medicare, Food Stamps and Social Security in their latest mailers before the vote to pay for the phony Debt Crisis. While John voted against it, Debbie and Carl voted to balance the budget on the backs of the sick, hungry, and elderly, and no, I wasn't surprised by their treason as they both voted for the trillion dollar giveaways to the banksters and other Wall Street demons!

So you know what I did, don't you? Here's the letter I wrote Debbie, I wrote a very similar one to Carl...

Debbie, I see you voted for another tax break for the uber-wealthy, paid for by the final destruction of the middle class, not to mention the coming money grab from Medicare, Medicaid, Food stamps and Social Security. Funny how the corpo-rats and uber-wealthy that pay no taxes and are the reason for this phony crisis weren't gone after, just the weak, the sick, the hungry and elderly When you come for those programs, we're coming for you, all 50 million seniors who are now mad as hell and quite aware of who fucked us! You've grabbed a hold of the third rail Deb; now it's time to ride the lightning!

I don't think your corpo-rat masters will save you as you can and will be easily replaced by them with another traitor. But cheer up, Deb, you've just won the Vidkun Quisling Award for next week! That's our weekly award for the biggest traitor in America. Just one question, Deb, did John Bonner buy your new set of Jack Boots, they're stunning and that corpo-rat armband is to die for, literally! Can I get an Heil Obamahood? I look forward to seeing you in the unemployment line!

Your liberal pal,
Ernest Stewart


Thanks for selling us out so can give another tax cut to your corpo-rat puppet masters. Now it's time for you to grab that third rail and feel the power of 50 million, mad-as-hell American seniors, and pay for your treason. But do cheer up, you've just won the Vidkun Quisling Award for you act of treason. You'll have to wait a week as your partner in crime Debbie is the winner this week as bitches go first! Now that your political days are numbered, what's next, Carl, stealing candy from babies?

A former supporter and managing editor of Issues & Alibis Magazine,
Ernest Stewart

Perhaps if you haven't already sent your political terrorist a similar letter, you might want to consider doing so. They can be found towards the bottom on our "Friends of the Revolution" page!

Keepin' On

Well, we dodged another bullet but I'm beginning to get a little tired of doing so. We've raised and paid a little over $3700 of our yearly bills of $5200 and that last bit of $1480 is due on or before October 1st. Thanks for the righteous donations Marcy and Paul, without your kind help we wouldn't be holding this conversation!

Needless to say, we need your help to make this final push to keep the magazine going through the end of June 2012. All of our major donors, those who could pay the total bill out their chump change supply are gone, they all left when we continued the fight to restore our Republic when Obamahood came upon the scene and some of them are still waiting for the Barry that they "know and love" to stop being another Crime Family Bush clone and be the person he seemed to be in 2008. Sorry, but as I've said all along, he never was and will never be that person, NEVER! EVER!

If you want to keep the truth and facts flowing into your computer, please consider making a donation or buying some ad space in the magazine. It's all in your hands whether we keep working for you, or whether I go back to writing books and restoring my empty bank account. While my friends and family would like me to do the latter, I still prefer to do the former but I can no longer afford do it alone, so a little help Ya'll!


02-12-1935 ~ 07-29-2011
Thanks for the songs!

02-28-1945 ~ 08-03-2011
Thanks for the laughs!

09-02-1946 ~ 08-07-2011
Thanks for the guitar, neighbor!

04-11-1919 ~ 08-07-2011
Burn Baby Burn!

07-12-1922 ~ 08-07-2011
Burn Baby Burn!


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.

"We Would Rather Die In Our Dread"
Moving beyond the debt ceiling canard; much more is at stake
By Phil Rockstroh

At present, most of us negotiate our days so distracted, disillusioned, dazed, buffeted, bought or marginalized by the corporate state/ mass media hologram -- the multi-headed, awareness-addling Hydra that guards contemporary precincts of perception (apropos, the "debate" involving the so-called debt ceiling "crisis") -- it is difficult to apprehend what we are up against i.e., the forces of consolidated and calcified power that degrade almost every aspect of life in the nation.

In contrast, throughout this past year, popular uprisings of varying scope and degree of success have been unfolding worldwide. And the genie is not going back in the neoliberal bottle. The global power elite might not like it, but (unlike the general population of the U.S., whose view of life has been conditioned by the inundating, thus internalized, narcissism proffered by media age hyper-commercialism, and who have come to exist as self-involved consumer state dystopias of one) -- large numbers of the people of the world are declaring to their overlords: We've had enough of the world you've created...time to make it our own.

With this in mind, let us take a moment to pity our own poor, little, economic despots...from the start, so misunderstood...they only built the U.S. on the bones of African slaves and watered the soil with the blood of murdered Indians, and, from that time on, proceeded to pile corpses to the sky, only so they could climb atop and look out for us lesser folks.

And from the soil rose a culture of kitsch, unhealthy food, and creepy, over-priced banal distractions. Consequently, the U.S. seems an over-priced, downscale theme Park -- Six Flags over Denial and Decay -- a grotesque, kitsch-bewitched land of negative enchantment...unprepared for the gathering, denial-sundering storm that, from all indications, will leave the nation devastated.

What are the forces and factors that have wrought this circumstance?

One progenitor of the defiant idiocy of the general population of the U.S. can be traced to the tendency of the consumer state to induce impulsivity rather than reflection i.e., rendering individuals self-involved, infantilized monsters of the id...dazzled by and perpetually reaching for the next bright and shiny.

Antithetically, if a critical mass of the populace of the nation ever gained a semblance of self-awareness that included traits of foresight, critical thinking, empathy, self-restraint and a sense of conviction regarding, for example, the dire state of the planet on an ecological basis, as well as an apprehension as to their position as wage slaves/debt serfs to their corporate overlords -- the corporate/consumer paradigm would be in danger of collapse. While it is true, government is often behind assaults on common sense and common decency, the slickest, most self-serving ploy monopolistic capitalist pulled off against the tenets and foundation of a just, equitable society has been in their cunning framing of the situation e.g., the sales pitch of one of their most effective salesman, that "government is the problem, not the solution."

Ronald Reagan was half right; only, he, conveniently, left out the following: In particular, when the politicians who operate the system are beholden, as he was (and, at present, Barack Obama is) by game-rigging operatives of the moneyed elite.

Ergo, the so-called "debt crisis" involved a similar dance of deceit and distraction. As was the case, early into the Obama presidency, with the healthcare "debate," the deal was struck before the faux rancorous music began. The fix was in. The moneyed class works the system and those without power and influence get worked over.

Regarding the persistent, liberal fallacy: Obama needs to stand up for his convictions. Correction: Throughout his presidency, he has been standing upon his convictions i.e. standing on the throats of the powerless as we're being mugged by his elitist benefactors.

Moreover, how does he or anyone "change the tone" of political polarization so evident in the nation, when the right is a walking landfill of noxious arrogance and inexplicable self-regard? If contemporary conservatives showed any indication of harboring even a molecule of humanity or self-awareness then a dialog might be possible.

But we're dealing with grownups who believe God is some kind of cosmic CEO -- folks who are certain...if one listens closely, one can hear him counting his money.

Therefore, we're warned: not voting for Democratic Party (lesser-of-two-evils) candidates is a treacherous decision, and we're advised we must goad President Obama to govern as the man he sold himself as during the 2008 presidential election campaign. Given the realities of political life within the age of corporate dominance, in which reality is defined and distorted by the media hologram, hasn't the thought occurred to progressive types that the sales pitch is, in fact, inseparable from the product, and, consequently, to the most media-savvy mountebank will go the spoils?

O.K. then, you've been betrayed. Good. Such a turn of affairs serves as a good vehicle for clearing away toxic innocence.

"We would rather be ruined than changed;
We would rather die in our dread

Than climb across the moment
And let our illusions die."~~~ W.H. Auden
(Excerpt from: The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue)

Next step: Let the Democratic Party die and allow a true progressive party to rise from the ashes.

Although, first, the hidden in plain sight, inverted totalitarian powers at large need to be drawn into the open e.g., as Dr. King did in regard to Jim Crowe in the U.S. Deep South in the 1950s and 60s.

There is so much more at stake than simply a "debate" regarding the alleged debt ceiling.

To cite one collective peril: The oceans of the earth are the matrix of life on our planet. As did all life on land, we human beings emerged from ancient seas. And we will not survive for long by dramatically altering its nature by the short sighted greed and hubris of the present time. We will be pulled to our death by its destruction, like Ahab lashed to Moby Dick.

Given the degraded quality of life in the nation, why do the people of the U.S. stand for this culture of exploitation and diminished prospects?

We resist the dread incurred by an attempt to climb our way past the proliferate distractions of the moment thus avoiding this extant state of affairs: Beneath the shimmering sea of the media hologram, a monstrous virulence glides. Belying our consumerist habit of mind (evinced in traits of feigned insouciance and blithe disregard) yawns a system sustained by the blood and treasure-depleting apparatus of militarism and economic exploitation -- a system that is reaping vast destruction upon the ecological balance of the earth, the foundation of community, and upon individual psychological wellbeing.

Accordingly, a gnawing emptiness is the constant companion of the denizens of the corporate/militarist/consumer state. This emptiness is the progenitor of its destructive nature. In a vain attempt to sate the hollow ache and banish the gathering dread, the rapacious appetite of empire rises and is perpetually reinforced.

There is the banality of evil and then there is the evil of banality. Witness: The present banality of our ecocide-inflicting mode of being -- one that reduces the world to only those things that can be commodified and thus reduces earth, sky and psyche to controllable (dreamless and dead) bits. We stare at our appliances as exquisite things are extinguished, forever...mistaking configurations of pixels for the breath and brilliance of the world.

On a personal basis, the present system levels this dismal legacy upon the nation: Minds made of internalized shopping malls; bodies built by junk food; libidos informed by celebrity porn; agendas driven by a crass, good versus evil, winners and losers, cartoon cosmology. Congratulations, America, we've done the architects of the republic proud.

Some people are fragile, and the system breaks them for life. In contrast, others are resilient, but will grow callous and conformist. Yes, life is a fistfight and a marriage and a dull evening of laundry and a trundle through trivia and a flight of the sublime. The point: Be alive within life...don't submit to any ass-backwards, assembly line-modeled mode of being, gridded by comforting casuistry, maintained by hierarchies of bullies, and settled for due to fear or convenience.

"When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie." ~~~ Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Insulated in our landscape of silence, we demand the ground beneath us be salted with deceit, begetting the bone-dry wilderness of ignorance and duplicity we know as late, neoliberal empire. Otherwise, fiery incantations of outrage would bloom from within us -- a combustive wildfire immolating to ash our tinderbox rationalizations...perhaps, leaving an ash-fall to nourish sleeping seeds of renewal.

"What is to endure light must endure burning." ~~~ Victor Frankl

Yet, this writer is bereft of a plan to redeem humankind. Who can afford such hubris? In contrast, I negotiate the world with my heart and head, and I sing of its joys and sorrows. Apropos, within the kingdom of this breathing moment, I hear arias rising...auguring the decay of this nation. In short, I am a poet and an essayist not a civic planner.

Accordingly, here are a few heart-wrought observations from the personal ash heap of my poetically archaic sensibility and sent out to the fear-bandying cynics of the elitist political and economic classes -- to those who reduce all of life to the economic sophistry of Disaster Capitalism (who have been disingenuously warning, "run for your lives; the debt-ceiling is falling") -- who just can't envisage a world that is not as degraded as their own mindset -- to those in positions of insular, arrogant power who inflict great harm upon those bereft of privilege and then proclaim, "this is just the way things have to be."

False, that is merely the way things exist in the confines of your miserable cosmology. To the contrary, the world is a vast, ever-changing tapestry...that you merely perceive as a dung rag for your exclusive use.

"The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results." ~~~ Carl Jung

We have a daunting struggle ahead of us. Therefore, I proffer the following short message to those purer-than-thou souls who counsel that art (including the arts of political resistance) should only be uplifting, moderate, and beautiful:

Art (reflecting our world) is often sublimely ugly, monstrously so. The image of a monster opens the soul to awe. Note: The word "awe" is the prefix for both awesome and awful). Often, creating ugliness carries as much purpose as creating beauty.

"Everything has been figured out, except how to live." ~~~ Jean-Paul Sartre

/blockquote> Sartre's words notwithstanding, I am often asked by readers "practical" questions such as: "You view the empire to be in a state of profound decay, beyond repair and reclamation -- then how should we proceed from here?"

I answer, appropriating a phrase from James Hillman: simply proceed into "the thought of the heart and the soul of the world." The problem contains the solution. The poison serves as its anecdote. The vastness and complexity of life that (seemingly) endeavors to destroy me (in contrast) renders me more like myself, and therefore I become more fit for the struggle ahead. Accordingly, Rainer Maria Rilke, from the opening stanza of the Duino Elegies:

"Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic 
Orders? And even if one were to suddenly 
take me to its heart, I would vanish into its
 greater existence. For beauty is nothing but 
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
 and we revere it so, because it serenely disdains 
to destroy us."
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

"How Goodly Are Thy Tents"
By Uri Avnery

FIRST OF all, a warning.

Tent cities are springing up all over Israel. A social protest movement is gathering momentum. At some point in the near future, it may endanger the right-wing government.

At that point, there will be a temptation - perhaps an irresistible temptation - to "warm up the borders." To start a nice little war. Call on the youth of Israel, the same young people now manning (and womanning) the tents, to go and defend the fatherland.

Nothing easier than that. A small provocation, a platoon crossing the border "to prevent the launching of a rocket", a fire fight, a salvo of rockets - and lo and behold, a war. End of protest.

In September, just a few weeks from now, the Palestinians intend to apply to the UN for the recognition of the State of Palestine. Our politicians and generals are chanting in unison that this will cause a crisis - Palestinians in the occupied territories may rise in protest against the occupation, violent demonstrations may ensue, the army will be compelled to shoot - and lo and behold, a war. End of protest.

THREE WEEKS ago I was interviewed one morning by a Dutch journalist. At the end, she asked: "You are describing an awful situation. The extreme right-wing controls the Knesset and is enacting abominable anti-democratic laws. The people are indifferent and apathetic. There is no opposition to speak of. And yet you exude a spirit of optimism. How come?"

I answered that I have faith in the people of Israel. Contrary to appearances, we are a sane people. Some time, somewhere, a new movement will arise and change the situation. It may happen in a week, in a month, in a year. But it will come.

On that very same day, just a few hours later, a young woman called Daphne Liff, with an improbable man's hat perched on her flowing hair, said to herself: "Enough!"

She had been evicted by her landlady because she couldn't afford the rent. She set up a tent in Rothschild Boulevard, a long, tree-lined thoroughfare in the center of Tel Aviv. The news spread through facebook, and within an hour, dozens of tents had sprung up. Within a week, there were some 400 tents, spread out in a double line more than a mile long.

Similar tent-cities sprang up in Jerusalem, Haifa and a dozen smaller towns. The next Saturday, tens of thousands joined protest marches in Tel Aviv and elsewhere. Last Saturday, they numbered more than 150,000.

This"] has now become the center of Israeli life. The Rothschild tent city has assumed a life of its own -a cross between Tahrir Square and Woodstock, with a touch of Hyde Park corner thrown in for good measure. The mood is indescribably upbeat, masses of people come to visit and return home full of enthusiasm and hope. Everybody can feel that something momentous is happening.

Seeing the tents, I was reminded of the words of Balaam, who was sent by the king of Moab to curse the children of Israel in the desert (Numbers 24) and instead exclaimed: "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, Oh Israel!"

IT ALL started in a remote little town in Tunisia, when an unlicensed market vendor was arrested by a policewoman. It seems that in the ensuing altercation, the woman struck the man in the face, a terrible humiliation for a Tunisian man. He set himself on fire. What followed is history: the revolution in Tunisia, regime change in Egypt, uprisings all over the Middle East.

The Israeli government saw all this with growing concern - but they didn't imagine that there might be an effect in Israel itself. Israeli society, with its ingrained contempt for Arabs, could hardly be expected to follow suit.

But follow suit it did. People in the street spoke with growing admiration of the Arab revolt. It showed that people acting together could dare to confront leaders far more fearsome than our bumbling Binyamin Netanyahu.

Some of the most popular posters on the tents were "Rothschild corner Tahrir" and, in a Hebrew rhyme, "Tahrir - Not only in Cahir" - Cahir being the Hebrew version of al-Cahira, the Arabic name for Cairo. And also: "Mubarak, Assad, Netanyahu".

In Tahrir Square, the central slogan was "The People Want to Overthrow the Regime." In conscious emulation, the central slogan of the tent cities is "The People Want Social Justice."

WHO ARE these people? What exactly do they want?

It started with a demand for "Affordable Housing". Rents in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere are extremely high, after years of Government neglect. But the protest soon engulfed other subjects: the high price of foodstuffs and gasoline, the low wages . The ridiculously low salaries of physicians and teachers, the deterioration of the education and health services. There is a general feeling that 18 tycoons control everything, including the politicians. (Politicians who dared to show up in the tent cities were chased away.) They could have quoted an American saying: "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."

A selection of the slogans gives an impression:

We want a welfare state!

Fighting for the home!

Justice, not charity!

If the government is against the people, the people are against the government!

Bibi, this is not the US Congress, you will not buy us with empty words!

If you don't join our war, we shall not fight your wars!

Give us our state back!

Three partners with three salaries cannot pay for three rooms!

The answer to privatization: revolution!

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, we are slaves to Bibi in Israel!

I have no other homeland!

Bibi, go home, we'll pay for the gas!

Overthrow swinish capitalism!

Be practical, demand the impossible!

WHAT IS missing in this array of slogans? Of course: the occupation, the settlements, the huge expenditure on the military.

This is by design. The organizers, anonymous young men and women - mainly women - are very determined not to be branded as "leftists". They know that bringing up the occupation would provide Netanyahu with an easy weapon, split the tent-dwellers and derail the protests.

We in the peace movement know and respect this. All of us are exercising strenuous self-restraint, so that Netanyahu will not succeed in marginalizing the movement and depicting it as a plot to overthrow the right-wing government.

As I wrote in an article in Haaretz: No need to push the protesters. In due course, they will reach the conclusion that the money for the major reforms they demand can only come from stopping the settlements and cutting the huge military budget by hundreds of billions - and that is possible only in peace. (To help them along, we published a large ad, saying: "It's quite simple - money for the settlements OR money for housing, health services and education").

Voltaire said that "the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give it to the other." This government takes the money of decent citizens to give it to the settlers.

WHO ARE they, these enthusiastic demonstrators, who seemingly have come from nowhere?

They are the young generation of the middle class, who go out to work, take home average salaries and "cannot finish the month", as the Israeli expression goes. Mothers who cannot go to work because they have nowhere to leave their babies. University students who cannot get a room in the dormitories or afford accomodation in the city. And especially young people who want to marry but cannot afford to buy an apartment, even with the help of their parents. (One tent bore the sign: "Even this tent was bought by our parents").

All this in a flourishing economy, which has been spared the pains of the world-wide economic crisis and boasts an enviable unemployment rate of just 5%.

If pressed, most of the protesters would declare themselves to be "social-democrats". They are the very opposite of the Tea Party in the US: they want a welfare state, they blame privatization for many of their ills, they want the government to interfere and to act. Whether they want to admit it or not, the very essence of their demands and attitudes is classically leftist (the term created in the French Revolution because the adherents of these ideals sat on the left side of the speaker in the National Assembly). They are the essence of what Left means - (though in Israel, the terms "Left" and "Right" have until now been largely identified with questions of war and peace).

WHERE WILL it go from here?

No one can say. When asked about the impact of the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai famously said: "It's too early to say." Here we are witnessing an event still in progress, perhaps even still beginning.

It has already produced a huge change. For weeks now, the public and the media have stopped talking about the borders, the Iranian bomb and the security situation. Instead, the talk is now almost completely about the social situation, the minimum wage, the injustice of indirect taxes, the housing construction crisis.

Under pressure, the amorphous leadership of the protest has drawn up a list of concrete demands. Among others: government building of houses for rent, raising taxes on the rich and the corporations, free education from the age of three months [sic], a raise in the salary of physicians, police and fire-fighters, school classes of no more than 21 pupils, breaking the monopolies controlled by a few tycoons, and so on.

So where from here? There are many possibilities, both good and bad.

Netanyahu can try to buy off the protest with some minor concessions - some billions here, some billions there. This will confront the protesters with the choice of the Indian boy in the movie about becoming a millionaire: take the money and quit, or risk all on answering yet another question.

Or: the movement may continue to gather momentum and force major changes, such as shifting the burden from indirect to direct taxation.

Some rabid optimists (like myself) may even dream of the emergence of a new authentic political party to fill the gaping void on the left side of the political spectrum.

I STARTED with a warning, and I must end with another one: this movement has raised immense hopes. If it fails, it may leave behind an atmosphere of despondency and despair - a mood that will drive those who can to seek a better life somewhere else.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Obama Isn't Weak (he just isn't a liberal)
The president has the political muscle to enact a progressive agenda, but he doesn't want to
By David Sirota

Barack Obama is a lot of things -- eloquent, dissembling, conniving, intelligent and, above all, calm. But one thing he is not is weak.

This basic truth is belied by the meager Obama criticism you occasionally hear from liberal pundits and activists. They usually stipulate that the president genuinely wants to enact the progressive agenda he campaigned on, but they gently reprimand him for failing to muster the necessary personal mettle to achieve that goal. In this mythology, he is "President Pushover," as the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently labeled him.

This story line is a logical fallacy. Most agree that today's imperial presidency almost singularly determines the course of national politics. Additionally, most agree that Obama is a brilliant, Harvard-trained lawyer who understands how to wield political power.

Considering this, and further considering Obama's early congressional majorities, it is silly to insist that the national political events during Obama's term represent a lack of presidential strength or will. And it's more than just silly -- it's a narcissistic form of wishful thinking coming primarily from liberals who desperately want to believe "their" president is with them.

Such apologism, of course, allows liberals to avoid the more painful truth that Obama is one of America's strongest presidents ever and is achieving exactly what he wants.

Obama is not a flaccid Jimmy Carter, as some of his critics insist. He is instead a Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- but a bizarro FDR. He has mustered the legislative strength of his New Deal predecessor -- but he has channeled that strength into propping up the very forces of "organized money" that FDR once challenged.

On healthcare, for instance, Obama passed a Heritage Foundation-inspired bailout of the private health insurance industry, all while undermining other more-progressive proposals. On foreign policy, he escalated old wars and initiated new ones. On civil liberties, he not only continued the Patriot Act and indefinite detention of terrorism suspects but also claimed the right to assassinate American citizens without charge.

On financial issues, he fought off every serious proposal to reregulate banks following the economic meltdown; he preserved ongoing bank bailouts; and he resisted pressure to prosecute Wall Street thieves. On fiscal matters, after extending the Bush tax cuts at a time of massive deficits, he has used the debt ceiling negotiations to set the stage for potentially massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare -- cuts that would be far bigger than any of his proposed revenue increases.

As hideous and destructive as it is, this record is anything but weak. It is, on the contrary, demonstrable proof of Obama's impressive political muscle, especially because polls show he has achieved these goals despite the large majority of Americans who oppose them.

Importantly, though, Obama himself has not suffered from equally negative polling numbers. While his approval rating is not terrific, he is in decent shape for reelection -- and, more significantly, he has suffered only a minimal erosion of Democratic support. He is relatively popular, in other words, despite advocating wildly unpopular policies. Thanks to that reality, every one of his stunning legislative triumphs now has the previously unprecedented imprimatur of rank-and-file Democratic support.

In forging such bipartisan complicity with what were once exclusively right-wing Republican objectives, Obama has achieved even more than what he fantasized about when he famously celebrated a previous bizarro FDR. In an illustrative 2008 interview with a Nevada newspaper, Obama lauded Ronald Reagan for "chang[ing] the trajectory of America" and "put[ting] us on a fundamentally different path."

Reagan was a truly strong executive -- but the Gipper was nothing compared to our current president.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Uranium Safe to Eat With a Spoon!
By David Swanson

Carefully ignoring Fukushima, Los Alamos, Vermont, and Nebraska, a comforting new announcement informs us that "nuclear energy is safe."

A series of soothing television ads and videos tells us that mining uranium in Virginia would produce jobs and protect us from scary foreigners.

Virginia newspapers carried an article from the Associated Press this week that did not pretend to be anything but one-sided, reporting on the agenda of corporations that would profit from mining uranium while including no other views or any verified facts. The Washington Post did the very same thing. These articles are essentially press releases that have been tweaked. The online versions even include the videos.

We can expect even less actual news reporting than that (yes, less than nothing) to come through our televisions. But these ads hyping uranium mining as a job solution will be aired. And the television networks will consequently view the mining corporations as customers not to be needlessly offended or inconvenienced.

Meanwhile, local Congressman Robert Hurt pays for his own campaigns with money "contributed" by uranium miners; and the Congressman's father stands to make a bundle if uranium is mined.

Uranium, by the way, is used for four things: producing dangerous nuclear energy, producing dangerous nuclear weapons, producing deadly depleted-uranium weapons, and generating tons of dangerous radioactive waste.

While wrecking the Grand Canyon to get at some more uranium will make more news, poisoning the water of Southern Virginia may kill more people. The town of Halifax, Va., has banned it.

Uranium Free Virginia suggests why:

"Uranium is highly toxic heavy metal that emits alpha radiation and is soluble in water. When consumed, it may cause kidney failure and birth defects. Mining of only 4 lb of high quality uranium ore produces at least one ton (more than 2200 lb) of radioactive waste, known as uranium mining tailings, which contain polonium, radium, radon, thorium, lead and many other toxic elements that are responsible for causing cancer and birth defects. Uranium mining tailings remain highly toxic and radioactive for thousands of years and must be contained to prevent seepage into groundwater, overspills into surface water, and dispersion by air. The task of containing radioactive uranium mining tailings becomes nearly impossible in Virginia's climate with its high precipitation levels, strong winds, frequent floods and major storm events that hit this coastal state. All other mines in the United States are located in dryer climates with sparse population."

Thousands of years of danger, to provide what the uranium mining companies claim might be 65 years of uranium use. That seems like the kind of deal only a U.S. president could consider a bargain. Let's hope Virginia still has more life left in it than Washington.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Obama Says He'll Really Fight For The People ... Next Time

Sheesh. In his big battle over the debt ceiling, Barack Obama waved his white hankie of surrender, allowing the loopiest of the tea party extremists in the Republican House to slash some $1 trillion from national programs that ordinary Americans count on. Obama's bad deal also puts Social Security and Medicare at risk, while promising to make our depressed economy (and even the deficit) worse. And he cravenly conceded to the demand by GOP/tea party extremists that tax-dodging corporations, hedge-fund profiteers and the richest 1 percent of our nation's plutocratic elite keep every dime of their subsidies, tax breaks and other federal giveaways.

Not to worry, though, for Obama now says that stage two of the deficit reduction process will be better. The pampered and privileged few, he insists, will also have to "chip in," and that he'll be "fighting for" fundamental principles of fairness.

But we've all seen again and again that this guy "fights" by backing up and begging for compromise. He talks tough about fighting for fairness "next time." When will next time be now?

I know a bit about fighting, having been a small guy growing up in a small Texas town where confrontations often popped up. I learned early on that you should never hit a man with glasses; you should hit him with something much heavier. The heavy "something" that Obama has at his disposal is the fact that the American people are overwhelmingly on his side in this fight.

Rather than playing budgetary patty-cake with Republicans in the backrooms of Washington, negotiating over how much of FDR's New Deal to throw out the window, Obama needs to FDR-up, get out of Washington, and rally the majority to go after the greedheads and screwballs with a bold program to get America moving again - moving upward and moving together.
(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.

Debt Debate Eclipses Middle East Unrest
By Helen Thomas

This week, Congress voted to raise the United States debt ceiling. The Republicans managed to overcome the deficit problem without any tax increases. As usual, the GOP laid the issue on the backs of the American people with forthcoming huge cuts in social programs, including adjustments to current Social Security benefits. Congress put off major decisions until after the 2012 elections. While Congress debated and dithered for months on the question of raising the debt ceiling so it could pay the bills, there were several headline-grabbing stories that were passed over.

One of the big stories that has been generally ignored is the brutality of Syrian Arab Republic President Bashar al-Assad, who has initiated a slaughter campaign against his people. Bashar is following in the footsteps of his father, Hafez al-Assad, who launched a massacre and killed some 10,000 Syrians at Homs several years ago. In the latest Syrian crackdown, at least 70 people have been killed in Hama and other cities near Damascus.

President Barack Obama has called the younger al-Assad's ruthless drive against his own people "horrifying." Al-Assad knows the writing is on the wall. The Syrian people are hostile to his regime and have suffered too much under his dictatorship. Unfortunately, Assad has the arms and enough military support to temporarily hold off the opposition, but probably not for long.

Another recent story overlooked, again in the Middle East, was the Israeli blockade of the second U.S. flotilla headed for Gaza. The humanitarian flotilla was stopped in Greek seaports and prevented from sailing on to Gaza after the Israelis apparently sabotaged propellers on the ship. Nine Turkish citizens were murdered by the Israelis when they tried to launch its first flotilla headed for Gaza. But Turkey - apparently willing to let bygones be bygones - accepted the humiliation of the Israeli intervention of its national sovereignty, which tarnished Turkey's dignity.

The U.S. and Cyprus joined Turkey and Greece to assist the Israeli blockade. Bankrupt Greece accepted billions in bank loans from the International Monetary Fund, and played ball with Israel in important ways against the second flotilla from the U.S.

The U.S. had warned against the launching of the flotilla, which was aimed at helping 1.6 million Gazans to break out of the so-called "open prison."

Shame on the U.S.-educated Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, who collaborated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in support of the illegal blockade of Gaza.

Shame on hawkish Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well, who as usual supported Israel's aggression against the beleaguered Palestinians. Ironically, the ships of the sabotaged flotilla were called Audacity of Hope - the title of a memoir by President Obama.

Another ship was named after an American heroine Rachel Corrie, who used her body to block an Israeli bulldozer from destroying a Palestinian home. The Israeli commander asked his Israeli authorities for orders in advance of the calamity, and he was told to go ahead. Corrie was killed as she continued to stand in front of the bulldozer.

Medea Benjamin, a founder of the freedom fighting Code Pink group, said the Greek government had been working, "hand in glove with the Israelis to set up obstacles to the flotilla." Those aboard the ships that had expected to go to Gaza included citizens from many countries, such as Americans and Israelis who believe they cannot continue the oppression of the Palestinians in good conscience.

The first vessel to penetrate Israel's naval blockade of Gaza waters was in 1948. The Israelis have acted in direct violation of international law by barring any ships access to Gaza ports.

Any supplies meant for the Palestinians are detoured to Israeli ports and the cargo is checked out by the Israelis before delivery to the Palestinians. Israel has been able to exert power by stretching the 12-mile international limit in the sea, reaching to the Greek Aegean, according to an observer.

When is America going to wake up and do the humane thing? How long can the U.S. continue to sully its reputation for human decency? U.S. strategies seem to follow the diplomatic motto, "We have no permanent friends - only permanent interests."
(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.

Racism Is Destroying America
By James Donahue

Public statements by top Republicans referring to President Barack Obama as "tar baby" and "boy" are beginning to bring to the surface the reason GOP and Tea Bagger-backed legislators are unable to come to terms with the Obama Administration on just about any issue.

They won't follow because they object to the fact that our president is black. And this is driving the nation and the word economy into disaster.

Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn isn't the only one who has used the term "tar baby" in recent weeks, although he made headlines when he did it. Appearing on a Denver talk radio show Lamborn said he didn't want to have to be associated with Mr. Obama because "it's like touching a tar baby and you get it, you're stuck, and you're a part of the problem now and you can't get away." Lamborn has since apologized for his remarks.

Other Republicans, including Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney have also apologized for using the phrase "tar baby" in reference to government policies. Their comments went almost unnoticed.

The term tar baby comes from the old Uncle Remus stories, and the Disney children's film Song of the South, were B'rer Fox uses a doll made of a lump of tar shaped like a baby to trap B'rer Rabbit. The phrase has become a racial slur.

Another former Republican presidential candidate and MSNBC personality Pat Buchanan, in a television appearance with the Rev. Al Sharpton, referred to Mr. Obama as "your boy." Sharpton took issue with the comment and Buchanan has since apologized.

And, of course, the GOP pig radio bad-mouth Rush Limbaugh has had no problem attacking Mr. Obama with phrases like "the magic negro" and even "tar baby." Limbaugh went so far as to tell his listeners to watch out for Obama to seize the nation's farms which happened in Zimbabwe, a black nation of Africa.

That comments like these are slipping from the mouths of major political leaders in television and radio appearances is a disturbing indication that the unspoken problem in Washington has been racism ever since the day Mr. Obama took office. And this is a great tragedy. If true, it means that the man elected by a majority of Americans . . . this bright, charismatic and energetic president . . . is being rejected by his colleagues because of the color of his skin and possibly for no other reason.

Racism has been a millstone on this nation since its origins, when black Africans were imported as slaves for the farms along the south and eastern seaboard. The founding fathers, many of the slave owners, knew it was wrong but could not deal with the issue when drafting the Constitution. It took a Civil War that left an estimated 620,000 Americans dead, including President Abraham Lincoln, and nearly another century of conflict before black Americans gained their right to equality when the Civil Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

But tragically, we have all discovered that merely passing a law does not make Americans truly equal. No one can generate love from the heart by merely passing a law that orders us to love one another. While bigotry and racism has been slowly slipping away from the American society on the surface, it still hangs around in the shadows. And this ugly rot is now threatening to destroy us like a cancer, from the inside out.

The latest effect is being seen on world stock markets, which appear to be in free-fall after the Republican controlled House of Representatives and U. S. Senate failed to reach a solid plan for dealing with the national financial crisis and nearly thrust the nation in default on its debts to foreign nations. The compromise reached at the last moment is being viewed by many as a way of extending the fight for yet another year.

MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan was spot on last week when he told his television viewers that the big August 4 drop in world markets was a reaction by investors to Washington's inability to come to terms with this issue.

"We are witnessing well-informed investors conclude future employment and production in the West is in jeopardy as a result of the government's apparent inability to solve problems," Ratigan said. "They are seeking to reduce their exposure to the future production of Western countries because it does not appear that these governments can deal with expectations of sustained unemployment and diminished prosperity in a way that is constructive."

It is due time for Americans to trash their religious, social and political implants and start learning how to love one another, unconditionally. If we cannot do this, the United States is in great danger of collapsing in upon itself from racial rot of our own creation.
(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.

They Died in Vain; Deal With It
By Ray McGovern

Many of those preaching at American church services Sunday extolled as "heroes" the 30 American and 8 Afghan troops killed Saturday west of Kabul, when a helicopter on a night mission crashed, apparently after taking fire from Taliban forces. This week, the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) can be expected to beat a steady drumbeat of "they shall not have died in vain."

But they did. I know it is a hard truth, but they did die in vain.

As in the past, churches across the country will keep praising the fallen troops for protecting "our way of life," and few can demur, given the tragic circumstances.


But, sadly, such accolades are, at best, misguided - at worst, dishonest. Most preachers do not have a clue as to what U.S. forces are doing in Afghanistan and why. Many prefer not to think about it. There are some who do know better, but virtually all in that category eventually opt to punt.

Should we fault the preachers as they reach for words designed to give comfort to those in their congregations mourning the deaths of so many young troops? As hard as it might seem, I believe we can do no other than fault - and confront - them. However well meaning their intentions, their negligence and timidity in confronting basic war issues merely help to perpetuate unnecessary killing. It is high time to hold preachers accountable.

Many preachers are alert and open enough to see through the propaganda for perpetual war. But most will not take the risk of offending their flock with unpalatable truth. Better not to risk protests from the super-patriots - many of them with deep pockets - in the pews. And better to avoid, at all costs, offending the loved ones of those who have been killed - loved ones who can hardly be faulted for trying desperately to find some meaning in the snuffing out of young lives.

Best to Just Praise and Pray

Far better to pray for those already killed and those who in the future will "give the last full measure of devotion to our country." In sum, by and large, American preachers are afraid to tell the truth. They lack the virtue that Thomas Aquinas taught is the foundation of all virtue - courage. Aquinas wrote (to translate into the vernacular) that all other virtue is specious if you have no guts.

Writer James Hollingsworth hit the nail on the head: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." Like the truth.

Those who often seem to ache the most in the face of unnecessary death are mothers. Many mothers do summon the courage to say - and say loudly - ENOUGH. Yes, my son (or daughter) died for no good purpose, they are strong enough to acknowledge, painfully but honestly. He (she) did die in vain. Now we must all deal with it. Stop the false patriotism. And, most important, stop the killing.

Cindy Sheehan, whose 25 year-old son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004, is one such mother. She and others have tried to put a dent into the strange logic that attempts to translate unnecessary death into justification for still more unnecessary death. But they get little air or ink in the Fawning Corporate Media. Rather, what you will hear in the days ahead from the FCM is well honed rhetoric not only about how our troops "cannot have died in vain," but also that Americans must now redouble our resolve to "honor their sacrifice."

President Barack Obama set the tone on Saturday:

"We will draw inspiration from their lives, and continue the work of securing our country and standing up for the values they embodied."

Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, also primed the pump for the FCM, saying Saturday, "All of those killed in this operation were true heroes who had already given so much in the defense of freedom."

And Joint Chiefs Chairman went even further in professing to know "what our fallen would have wanted" us to do - namely, "keep fighting." Mullen added that, "it is certainly what we are going to do." All this was duly reported in Sunday's Washington Post and other leading U.S. newspapers -without much comment.

Over the next several days, TV viewers will get a steady diet of this kind of disingenuous logic from talk show hosts feeding on the grist from Obama, Mullen, Allen, and others. After all, many pundits work for news organizations owned or allied with some of the same corporations profiteering from war.

Too bad CBS's legendary Edward R. Murrow is long since dead; and the widely respected Walter Cronkite, as well. Taking the CBS baton from Murrow, who had challenged the "red scare" witch hunt of Sen. Joe McCarthy, Cronkite gradually saw through the dishonesty responsible for the killing of so many in Vietnam. He finally spoke up, and said, in effect, any more who die will have died in vain.

(The very long hiatus between Cronkite and Scott Pelley, newly appointed "CBS Evening News" anchor, has been particularly painful. The jury is still out, but I harbor some hope that Pelley may try to follow CBS's earlier, prouder tradition, if by some miracle his corporate bosses allow him to. Given today's prevailing atmosphere of obeisance to Establishment Washington, Pelley certainly has his work cut out for him. We shall have to wait and see if he has it in him to take the risk of rising to the occasion.)

Corporal Shank & Specialist Kirkland

Five years ago I was giving talks in Missouri, when the body of 18 year-old Cpl. Jeremy Shank of Jackson, Missouri (population 12,000) came home for burial. He was killed in Hawijah, Iraq on September 6, 2006 while on a "dismounted security patrol when he encountered enemy forces using small arms," according to the Pentagon.

Which enemy forces? Two weeks before Shank was killed, Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush's national security adviser, acknowledged that the challenge in Iraq "isn't about insurgency, isn't about terror; it's about sectarian violence." Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Makiki added, "The most important element in the security plan is to curb the religious violence."

So was Shank's mission to prevent Iraqi religious fanatics from blowing up one another? What do you think; was that worth his life?

On September 7, 2006, the day after Shank was killed, President Bush, in effect, mocked his unnecessary death by drawing the familiar but bogus connection between 9/11 and the "war on terror," of which he claimed Iraq was a part. Bush said, "Five years after September 11, 2001, America is safer - and America is winning the war on terror."

Flowery Funeral Words

Back at the First Baptist Church in Jackson, Missouri, Rev. Carter Frey eulogized Shank as one of those who "put themselves in harm's way and paid the ultimate sacrifice so you and I can have freedom to live in this country."

Correction: It was not Cpl. Shank who put himself in harm's way; it was those who used a peck of lies to launch a bloody, unnecessary war - first and foremost, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, not to mention the craven Congress that authorized it and most of the FCM that led the cheerleading for it.

Was separating Shia from Sunni a mission worth what is so facilely called the "ultimate sacrifice," or - for other troops - the penultimate one paid by tens of thousands of veterans trying to adjust to life with brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and/or missing limbs?

Despite the self-serving rhetoric about "heroes," the young, small-town Shanks of America stand low in the priorities of Establishment Washington. They are pawns in the war games played by generals and politicians far, far from the battlefield.

Even in the Army in which I served, troops were often referred to simply as "warm bodies;" that is, at least before they became cold and stiff. But that term was normally not accompanied by the mechanistic disdain reflected in the memo by a Fort Lewis-McCord Army major that came to light last year.

On March 20, 2010, Specialist Derrick Kirkland, back from his second tour in Iraq, hanged himself in the barracks at Fort Lewis-McCord, leaving behind a wife and young daughter. Kirkland had been suffering from severe depression and anxiety attacks, for which he had to bear severe ridicule by his comrades.


As for his superiors, it was Army policy to do everything possible to avoid diagnosing PTSD. And so, Kirkland ended up becoming a new entry on a little-known statistical table; namely, the one that shows that more active-duty soldiers are currently committing suicide than are being killed in combat.

Not a problem for Maj. Keith Markham, Executive Officer of Kirkland's unit, who put the prevailing attitude all too clearly in a private memo sent to his platoon leaders. "We have an unlimited supply of expendable labor," wrote Markham.

And, sadly, he is right. Because of the poverty draft (aka the "professional Army"), more than half of U.S. troops come from small towns like Jackson, Missouri and the inner cities of our country. In both these places, good jobs and educational opportunity are rare to nonexistent.

I suspect that one factor behind the very high suicide rate is a belated realization among the troops that they have been conned, lied to - that they have been used as pawns in an unconscionably cynical game. I would imagine that corporals and specialists, as well as high brass like the legendary two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Marine Gen. Smedley Butler, often come to this realization belatedly, and that this probably exacerbates the pain.

Butler wrote "War is a Racket" in 1935, describing the workings of the military-industrial complex well before President Eisenhower gave it a name. It is not difficult for troops to learn that the phenomenon about which Eisenhower warned has now broadened into an even more pervasive and powerful military-industrial-corporate-congressional-media-institutional-church complex. Small wonder the suicide rate is so high.

And for what? Please raise your hand if you now believe, or have ever believed, that the White House and Pentagon have sent a hundred thousand troops to Afghanistan for the reason given by President Obama; namely, "to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat" the 50 to 100 al-Qaeda who U.S. intelligence agencies says are still in Afghanistan.

And keep your hands up, those of you who fear you might throw something at the TV screen the next time Gen. David Petraeus intones that wonderfully flexible phrase "fragile and reversible" to describe what he keeps calling "progress" in Afghanistan.

Troops returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan know better. It must be particularly hard for them to hear the lies about "progress," and then be ridiculed and marginalized for having PTSD. It seems a safe bet that some of those have read Kipling, and on occasion wish they had found release by following his morbid advice - awful as it is:

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains And go to your gawd like a soldier."

The Establishment Church

I added "institutional church" into the military-industrial-corporate-congressional-media-institutional-church complex coined above because, with very few exceptions, the institutional church is still riding shotgun for the system - and the wars.

I find that most men and women of the cloth avoid indicting "wars of choice," even though such wars were quite precisely defined at the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal as "wars of aggression" and labeled the "supreme" international war crime). They know that in such wars thousands upon thousands die - civilians as well as military.

But then fear seems to walk in, for preachers all too often fall back on platitudinous, fulsome praise for those who "have given their lives so that we can live in freedom." And, as the familiar phrase goes, they say/think, "I guess we'll have to leave it there."

And there continue to be relatively few outspoken folk like Cindy Sheehan, painfully aware that courage and truth are far more important than fear, even when that fear includes the painful recognition that the life of a beloved young son was ended unnecessarily. There are some who dare to point out that the mission given our troops has made us less, not more, safe at home, and ask what is so hard to understand about Thou Shalt Not Kill? The FCM ignores these Justice folks, so all too few know of what they say and do.

It is a curiosity that the Bible and the teachings of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, seem to have become OBE (overtaken by events) and no longer inform the sermons of many American preachers. Odd that the relevant teachings from this treasure trove seem to have become passé or, as former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said of the Geneva Conventions, "quaint" and "obsolete."

I have this vision of Stephen Decatur smiling from the afterlife as he watches more and more acceptance being given in recent years to his famous dictum: "Our country, right or wrong."

Let me suggest that preachers consider drawing material from yet another source in thinking about the wars in which the U.S. is currently engaged. Instead of fulsome encomia for those who have made "the ultimate sacrifice," they might be directed to Rudyard Kipling for words more to the point, if politically and congregationally incorrect.

Two passages (the first a one-liner) shout out their applicability to U.S. misadventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and - God help us - where next?

"If they ask you why we died, tell them because our fathers lied."


"It is not wise for the Christian white
To hustle the Asian brown;
For the Christian riles,
And the Asian smiles
And weareth the Christian down.
At the end of the fight
Lies a tombstone white
With the name of the late deceased;
And the epitaph drear,
A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

(c) 2011 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Talk About Chutzpah - Wall Street Lecturing America on 'Fiscal Responsibility?'
By Robert Creamer

Standard and Poors' downgrading of the US treasury bills - and its sanctimonious lecture about its "concerns" that the U.S. won't get its fiscal house in order - are like a reckless, drag-racing teenager teaching a safe driving class.

Wall Street in general - and Standard and Poors in particular - have done more to contribute to America's budget deficit than anyone else in America.

This is the same firm that maintained their AAA rating of the mortgage-backed securities that were being used to gamble on Wall Street right up until the time that Lehman Brothers collapsed and set off the global market meltdown.

Their reckless disregard for any modicum of due diligence in determining the soundness of the financial instruments traded by Wall Street allowed the speculative bubble that caused the Great Recession to grow and ultimately explode. The US Gross Domestic Product has yet to recover to pre-meltdown levels. That is the single greatest contributor to the all of the increases in the budget deficit that have happened since.

And of course it is directly responsible for the jobs deficit that is the real underlying disease afflicting the American economy - directly costing eight million Americans their jobs.

But that's not all. The big Wall Street banks lobbied for years to deregulate their operations. That lack of oversight - including lax regulations of rating agencies like Standard and Poors -- led directly to the meltdown. And, of course, the big Wall Street banks did everything that they could to stop the Wall Street Reform bill that passed last year. They continue to work hard to undermine the regulations intended to implement it.

And when it comes time to pay their fair share to reduce the deficit, Wall Street has done everything it can to lower tax rates on the rich to the lowest levels since before the Great Depression. Let's remember that the people with the highest incomes in America - hedge fund managers - pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries do - just 15%.

All the while as they pontificate about the need to get America's fiscal house in order, they twist arms to make sure that people like hedge fund manager John Paulson - who made $5 billion in income last year (that's $2.4 million an hour) - don't have to pay higher taxes. Paulson had more income last year than the Gross Domestic Product of five nations.

Just a little over ten years ago, America had budget surpluses into the foreseeable future. That was largely because President Clinton and the Democrats voted in 1993 to modestly increase taxes on wealthy Americans. Wall Street worked hard to roll back those modest tax increases on the rich by passing the Bush tax cuts ten years later. Those Bush tax cuts, together with two unpaid-for wars and an unpaid-for Republican Medicare pharmaceutical bill - tipped the Federal budget into huge deficits.

Of course their recklessness continues. The financial analysis that Standard and Poors used to argue for its downgrade of U.S. debt had a two trillion dollar mathematical error that was caught by the Treasury Department. That's the kind of error that would get an "F" in elementary school.

The very idea that Wall Street - and Standard and Poors - would have the chutzpa to lecture the rest of America about fiscal responsibility should infuriate each and every American.
(c) 2011 Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win. He is a partner in the firm Democracy Partners. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.

Macomb County-Style Injustice
The Story of A. J. Young
By Mike Wrathell

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
Henry VI, Part 2 ~~~ Shakespeare

When I ran for Macomb County Prosecutor in 2008, I ran mostly to defend the right to a robust election, a right guaranteed by the First and Ninth Amendments, and I got my point across, even though I lost. Every American has a constitutional right to run for office and support the candidates of their choice. Anyone who tries to restrict that right doesn't belong in public office and is absolutely abusing their power. (By the way, no local reporter bothered to interview a constitutional law professor to verify my legal opinion, even though Michigan has over five law schools; one local columnist, in fact, acted like Eric's lapdog and didn't mind that Eric used his taxpayer-funded office as his de facto campaign headquarters. His primary concern was that I am an artist, musician, and writer. Duh!) And, if you swear an oath to defend the U. S. Constitution (as all attorneys must), you're treating that oath (and the U. S. and Michigan Constitutions) like toilet paper. Period. Nothing personal, Eric; that's just the way it is, and you should know that, or do you just not care? The Massachusetts Democratically-led Senate knew such a restriction wouldn't pass constitutional muster when they changed the law regarding gubernatorial appointments of U. S. Senators after Ted Kennedy died, per The New York Times. Maybe you should try getting a clue, Eric - your own party in Massachusetts knows better - what's your major malfunction?

However, there is something else gravely wrong going on in Macomb County. Arthur Jason "A. J." Young, son of Art Young, an attorney and former Roseville City Councilman, got railroaded into prison back in the days when Carl Marlinga ran the Prosecutor's Office in Mt. Clemens.

Maybe, like Rupert Murdoch claims, he didn't know of the shady goings-on during A. J.'s murder trial, and I am not going to ask him to accept responsibility in this article, but if he or Eric Smith (the current prosecutor), or Steve Kaplan (the assistant prosecutor who conducted the trial for the People), or Judge Schwartz, or anyone else, player or non-player in this travesty of justice would like to write Governor Rick Snyder a letter asking for A. J. Young's immediate release from prison, that would be nice, not to mention honorable and just.

One day A. J. and Misty McGinnis, his girlfriend, went down to Detroit to get their money back from a purchase of some street drugs that wasn't to their satisfaction. Yes, they weren't saints, but they didn't deserve to be kidnapped, carjacked, robbed, and raped by a long-time felon. A. J. now regrets ever getting into drugs, by the way.

They were told that "Fila" Frank Tipton was the man who could rectify the situation and they followed him into a house. Mr. Tipton was an ex-con, a bad news guy from the get-go. But when you're Jonesing for a high, you aren't always looking for individuals of high character and breeding. Once inside the house, "Fila" Frank brandished a hidden weapon in his coat, telling A. J. to remove his leather jacket, and for Misty to give up her jewelry. Frank put the leather on over his own coat, and put Misty's jewelry on, too. He also put A. J.'s pager into his pants pocket.

"Fila" Frank had them all pile into A. J.'s van and the three of them hit the road. Misty was crying, terrified. A. J., perhaps fearing no good end to this kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, told Frank that he had money at his home in Roseville - in exchange for Misty's and his freedom.

There being no end to "Fila" Frank's greed and base desires, he readily accepted the proposition, too dim-witted to realize a ruse.

As the van pulled up to A. J.'s home, "Fila" Frank told A. J. he had three minutes to get the money before he killed Misty. He told Misty to get into the front seat as A. J. hurriedly exited the passenger seat and ran to the house.

A. J. knew he had no time to lose, so he didn't call 911. He knew that might take a lot of time. We've all heard horror stories of incompetent 911 dispatchers. A. J. did what a hero would do. What Clint Eastwood does in all his movies. He got a gun. A 9mm.

Meanwhile, the scumbag, "Fila" Frank Tipton, had already begun to sexually assault Misty. Incredibly, Assistant Prosecutor Steve Kaplan, who once ran for Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney, now works in Wayne County, and also has taught at my alma mater, Cooley Law School, characterized the sexual assault as an episode of consensual sex, defying common sense and a witness, Claire May, who Kaplan intimidated before trial such that she was afraid to testify truthfully. Ms. May had earlier told Roseville police, ".....this did not look like funsies, but a rape going on...." Mr. Kaplan was allowed, though, to have a former boyfriend of Misty's testify that she probably enjoyed having sex with "Fila" Frank, due to his race - something rape shield laws usually protect against. A nurse wasn't allowed to testify about physical evidence of rape trauma to Misty's body, either, even though a comprehensive report had been made, a report the jury was not allowed to hear about. Art Young, A. J.'s father, told me he's heard it said of Steve Kaplan, "He never lets the facts get in the way of a conviction." Sure sounds like it to me! There were some assistant prosecutors at the time (and I have names in case a local journalist feels like investigating this further) who felt A. J.'s actions were justified and he shouldn't have been charged at all, but they were afraid to speak up for fear of being fired. For America being "the home of the brave," we sure have our fair share of cowards, huh? Of course, they're lawyers - not regular Americans. There were many Roseville police officers, too, who felt A. J. got railroaded, but they weren't allowed to testify, either.

This win-at-all-costs mentality is rife in the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office. I can tell you this from personal experience. I have personal knowledge of a witness who told an assistant prosecutor that she didn't witness what was alleged in a petition to hospitalize someone - that it was another employee at the group home who did. She was told she should testify, anyway. "Don't worry; I won't ask you about that." In that case, the defendant won his trial, though. A. J. Young is doing 27 to 50 years.

When A. J. got back to the van, he saw "Fila" Frank raping Misty in the front seat. Misty's head was being forced into Frank's lap, and both their pants were down. A. J. repeatedly fired his 9mm into Frank and the van took off, crashing into a parked truck 200 feet in front of A. J.'s carjacked van. "Fila" Frank was dead. Unfortunately, a bullet passed through him and hit Misty, too. Maybe it ricocheted around in the van. A. J. was distraught. He called out loud for help, first yelling to Misty to jump out of the out-of-control van before the crash; when he reached the van, he saw Misty, gravely injured (and soon to die); he cursed "Fila" Frank, now dead, using some salty language that Mr. Kaplan later used against A. J. at trial to mischaracterize the incident.

A. J. told Mr. Bato Simich at the crash site that he and Misty were "being held hostage" by "Fila" Frank Tipton. Kaplan tried to, and succeeded, in making sure Judge Schwartz and the jury never heard that testimony, either—for it showed A. J. wasn't making up an elaborate yarn after the fact as he stewed in jail, awaiting trial. We can't let the truth come out in a Macomb County courtroom, can we? Kaplan intimidated that witness by saying, "You probably heard that somewhere else." Mr. Simich never relayed A. J.'s excited utterance to the jury, due to Kaplan's intimidation tactics. Mr. Simich signed an affidavit as to what he heard, too. In United States v. Koubriti, Judge Gerald Rosen ruled that the prosecution had "materially misled the court, the jury, and the defense" by withholding exculpatory evidence. The intentional suppression of exculpatory evidence, which includes the prosecutorial intimidation of witnesses, denies a defendant their constitutional right to a fair trial and is grounds for a mistrial. A. J. Young still awaits the justice has has been so egregiously denied.

In a Michigan Court of Appeals case called People v. Springs, 101 Mich App 118 (1980), the Springs court noted that, "Nothing can bring more contempt and suspicion on the administration of justice than the failure of its ministers to respect justice." You will forgive me if this article drips of contempt, I hope.

In case you aren't keeping count, we now have two witnesses that weren't allowed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth - thanks to the repulsive corruption of the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office under Carl Marlinga, the man who hired Eric Smith, the current county prosecutor, who has never gotten back to Attorney Art Young regarding the fish-smelling nature of A. J.'s conviction, even though he told Art he would.

"Fila" Frank was wearing A. J.'s leather jacket and Misty's jewelry at the time of his more-than-timely demise. He also had A. J.'s pager and a screwdriver, the hard weapon he used to simulate a gun during the horribly-ending (for Misty and A. J.) crime spree.

No evidence of Mr. Tipton's long criminal history, with similar offenses and modus operandi, was allowed to reach the jury's ears, incredibly. "Fila" Frank was cast as a perfect angel, a victim of racism and jealousy. Misty was portrayed as a worthless slut, inexplicably cheating on her boyfriend in front of his house with a man wearing her jewelry and her boyfriend's leather jacket and pager. A. J. was only wearing a tee shirt above-the-waist in ten degree weather.

All this defies common sense, I know. Yet, despite numerous state and federal appeals, and letters to the Governor, the conviction stands, and A. J. rots in prison. I've seen some of the letters he's written his father, and they are heart-rending. A. J. should be a free man. He had a legal right to defend Misty from being sexually assaulted and feared for her life, thinking "Fila" Frank had a gun - a "gun" he and Misty had been threatened with during the entire ordeal.

There's evidence A. J. was only in his Roseville home for a minute and a half, yet Kaplan tried to convince the jury that he was in there for 20 minutes, trying, perhaps, to imply A. J. had traded Misty's sexual services for the bag of pot found on "Fila" Frank's dead body. Go ahead and ask him if you see him. Maybe you're some hot shot reporter dreaming of a Pulitzer; maybe you're a plain, ole American who believes lawyers shouldn't be allowed to behave as though they're the scum of the Earth (even if they are) with absolute impunity. Maybe Shakespeare was right. Maybe I should strike the word "maybe."

In Berger vs. U. S., a 1935 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor who tries to "win at all costs" is costing the taxpayers a lot of money for incarcerating innocent people, and costing innocent people their freedom and their right to pursue happiness. The Supreme Court in Berger further elaborated, that a prosecutor ".....may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones." If Thomas Jefferson knew of the shady, foul blows going on in Macomb County courts by its prosecutors, he'd surely be rolling in his grave.

Looks like I'm going to have to run for Macomb County Prosecutor again and lead by example; I know I must write a letter to Governor Snyder, too. If you'd like to write him, as well, asking for a full pardon, or at least clemency, for A. J. Young, here is the address.

Attn.: The Honorable Governor Rick Snyder

Re: Mr. Arthur Jason Young, MDOC #321897

Office of Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909

The more letters Governor Snyder gets, the greater chance A. J. will be freed. His father is 62 now. A. J. is 31. A. J. has done 10 of his 50 years max. Art may be 102 before A. J. gets out of the slammer. How would you feel if it was your son wrongly imprisoned as a result of prosecutorial misconduct? Not too good, I bet. Thank you in advance to all who feel, like me, something must be done to help A. J. Young, and who take the time to write a letter and lick a stamp.


I don't want A. J.'s freedom to hinge on my beating Eric Smith in 2012, though; any prosecutorial candidate (and victor in the election) should want to reopen this case - why the smell of it must permeate the entire office!

There is a good chance the field will be quite crowded in 2012. Lawyers, like sharks, can smell a drop of blood a mile away. Eric Smith appears wounded by controversy; and, like vultures circling above a dying jackal, there may be quite a few brave barristers who, not caring that the Bill of Rights has been disrespected in Macomb County in the Smith Era (and the Marlinga Era before it, thanks to Mr. Kaplan), and, thus, not opposing him like I did in 2008, suddenly feel inspired by the tortured writhings of a bellowing beast, inches away from a watering hole, but, to their sharkish minds, unable, perhaps, to reach the refreshing fount.

To these noble champions of the rights of the citizenry, I ask not where were you in 2008 (I already know where you weren't, and that says it all....), but I do ask this: will you promise to end the Smith Era policy forbidding assistant prosecutors from running against Eric or supporting anyone who dares to run against him, even with the donation of a penny or putting a lawn sign on their own property?

If not, why? Why don't you think the entire U. S. Constitution is a sacred document? Did you forget you swore an Oath to defend it? Why are you acting like a clone of Eric Smith? Afraid to get your hands dirty? Why did you bother to run if your candidacy is tainted with corruption and cowardice from Day One?

And, will you, once confronted with the facts of the kangaroo courtroom antics (and behind-the-scenes intimidation of witnesses) of Steve Kaplan, openly and fervently try to see that A. J. Young finally gets the true justice he deserves and is freed from prison with a clean record? Will you do your best to see that such antics are never used again in Macomb County? If you answer, "No," please stay out of the race; you are a disgrace. Macomb County needs to turn over a new leaf. A leaf that is beautiful and not befouled by buffoonish, cowardly, lying and/or manipulative lawyers that make Shakespeare's words ring true.
(c) 2011 Mike Wrathell is an artist, attorney, actor and a reporter for Issues & Alibis Magazine and America Jr.. Contact Mike.

Credibility, Chutzpah And Debt
By Paul Krugman

To understand the furor over the decision by Standard & Poor's, the rating agency, to downgrade U.S. government debt, you have to hold in your mind two seemingly (but not actually) contradictory ideas. The first is that America is indeed no longer the stable, reliable country it once was. The second is that S.& P. itself has even lower credibility; it's the last place anyone should turn for judgments about our nation's prospects.

Let's start with S.& P.'s lack of credibility. If there's a single word that best describes the rating agency's decision to downgrade America, it's chutzpah - traditionally defined by the example of the young man who kills his parents, then pleads for mercy because he's an orphan.

America's large budget deficit is, after all, primarily the result of the economic slump that followed the 2008 financial crisis. And S.& P., along with its sister rating agencies, played a major role in causing that crisis, by giving AAA ratings to mortgage-backed assets that have since turned into toxic waste.

Nor did the bad judgment stop there. Notoriously, S.& P. gave Lehman Brothers, whose collapse triggered a global panic, an A rating right up to the month of its demise. And how did the rating agency react after this A-rated firm went bankrupt? By issuing a report denying that it had done anything wrong.

So these people are now pronouncing on the creditworthiness of the United States of America?

Wait, it gets better. Before downgrading U.S. debt, S.& P. sent a preliminary draft of its press release to the U.S. Treasury. Officials there quickly spotted a $2 trillion error in S.& P.'s calculations. And the error was the kind of thing any budget expert should have gotten right. After discussion, S.& P. conceded that it was wrong - and downgraded America anyway, after removing some of the economic analysis from its report.

As I'll explain in a minute, such budget estimates shouldn't be given much weight in any case. But the episode hardly inspires confidence in S.& P.'s judgment.

More broadly, the rating agencies have never given us any reason to take their judgments about national solvency seriously. It's true that defaulting nations were generally downgraded before the event. But in such cases the rating agencies were just following the markets, which had already turned on these problem debtors.

And in those rare cases where rating agencies have downgraded countries that, like America now, still had the confidence of investors, they have consistently been wrong. Consider, in particular, the case of Japan, which S.& P. downgraded back in 2002. Well, nine years later Japan is still able to borrow freely and cheaply. As of Friday, in fact, the interest rate on Japanese 10-year bonds was just 1 percent.

So there is no reason to take Friday's downgrade of America seriously. These are the last people whose judgment we should trust.

And yet America does have big problems.

These problems have very little to do with short-term or even medium-term budget arithmetic. The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its current deficit. It's true that we're building up debt, on which we'll eventually have to pay interest. But if you actually do the math, instead of intoning big numbers in your best Dr. Evil voice, you discover that even very large deficits over the next few years will have remarkably little impact on U.S. fiscal sustainability.

No, what makes America look unreliable isn't budget math, it's politics. And please, let's not have the usual declarations that both sides are at fault. Our problems are almost entirely one-sided - specifically, they're caused by the rise of an extremist right that is prepared to create repeated crises rather than give an inch on its demands.

The truth is that as far as the straight economics goes, America's long-run fiscal problems shouldn't be all that hard to fix. It's true that an aging population and rising health care costs will, under current policies, push spending up faster than tax receipts. But the United States has far higher health costs than any other advanced country, and very low taxes by international standards. If we could move even part way toward international norms on both these fronts, our budget problems would be solved.

So why can't we do that? Because we have a powerful political movement in this country that screamed "death panels" in the face of modest efforts to use Medicare funds more effectively, and preferred to risk financial catastrophe rather than agree to even a penny in additional revenues.

The real question facing America, even in purely fiscal terms, isn't whether we'll trim a trillion here or a trillion there from deficits. It is whether the extremists now blocking any kind of responsible policy can be defeated and marginalized.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"... the establishment can't admit [that] it is human rights violations that make ... countries attractive to business -- so history has to be fudged, including denial of our support of regimes of terror and the practices that provide favorable climates of investment, and our destabilization of democracies that [don't] meet [the] standard of service to the transnational corporation..."
~~~ Edward S. Herman

Dear Angry Lunatic
A Response to Chris Hedges
By Sam Harris

Over at Truthdig, the celebrated journalist Chris Hedges has discovered that Christopher Hitchens and I are actually racists with a fondness for genocide. He has broken this story before-many times, in fact-but in his most recent essay he blames "secular fundamentalists" like me and Hitch for the recent terrorist atrocities in Norway.

Very nice.

Hedges begins, measured as always:

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 editors at Truthdig have invited me to respond to this phantasmagoria. There is, however, almost no charge worth answering in Hedges' writing-there never is. Which is more absurd, the idea of "secular fundamentalism" or the notion that its edicts pose a greater threat of terrorism than the doctrine of Islam? Do such assertions even require sentences to refute?

However, Hedges' latest attack is so vicious and gratuitous that some reply seemed necessary. To minimize the amount of time I would need to spend today cleaning this man's vomit, I decided to adapt a few pieces I had already written. But then I just got angry...

I sent the following to Truthdig:


After my first book was published, the journalist Chris Hedges seemed to make a career out of misrepresenting its contents-asserting, among other calumnies, that somewhere in its pages I call for an immediate, nuclear first strike on the entire Muslim world. Hedges spread this lie so sedulously that I could have spent years writing letters to the editor. Even if I had been willing to squander my time in this way, such letters are generally pointless, as few people read them. In the end, I decided to create a page on my website addressing such controversies, so that I can then forget all about them. The result has been less than satisfying. Several years have passed, and I still meet people at public talks and in comment threads who believe that I support the outright murder of hundreds of millions of innocent people.

In an apparent attempt to become the most tedious person on Earth, Hedges has attacked me again on this point, and the editors at Truthdig have invited me to respond. I suppose it is worth a try. To begin, I'd like to simply cite the text that has been on my website for years, so that readers can appreciate just how unscrupulous and incorrigible Hedges is:

The journalist Chris Hedges has repeatedly claimed (in print, in public lectures, on the radio, and on television) that I advocate a nuclear first-strike on the Muslim world. His remarks, which have been recycled continuously in interviews and blog-posts, generally take the following form:

"I mean, Sam Harris, at the end of his first book, asks us to consider a nuclear first strike on the Arab world." (Q&A at Harvard Divinity School, March 20, 2008)

"Harris, echoing the blood lust of [Christopher] Hitchens, calls, in his book 'The End of Faith,' for a nuclear first strike against the Islamic world." ("The Dangerous Atheism of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris," AlterNet, March 22, 2008)

"And you have in Sam Harris' book, 'The End of Faith,' a call for us to consider a nuclear first strike against the Arab world. This isn't rational. This is insane." ("The Tavis Smiley Show," April 15, 2008)

"Sam Harris, in his book 'The End of Faith,' asks us to consider carrying out a nuclear first-strike on the Arab world. That's not a rational option-that's insanity." ("A Conversation with Chris Hedges," Free Inquiry, August/September 2008)

Wherever they appear, Hedges' comments seem calculated to leave the impression that I want the U.S. government to start killing Muslims by the millions. Below I present the only passage I have ever written on the subject of preventative nuclear war and the only passage that Hedges could be referring to in my work ("The End of Faith," pages 128-129). I have taken the liberty of emphasizing some of the words that Hedges chose to ignore:

It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence. There is little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed with long-range nuclear weapons. A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? 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. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world's population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher's stone, and unicorns. That it would be a horrible absurdity for so many of us to die for the sake of myth does not mean, however, that it could not happen. Indeed, given the immunity to all reasonable intrusions that faith enjoys in our discourse, a catastrophe of this sort seems increasingly likely. We must come to terms with the possibility that men who are every bit as zealous to die as the nineteen hijackers may one day get their hands on long-range nuclear weaponry. The Muslim world in particular must anticipate this possibility and find some way to prevent it. Given the steady proliferation of technology, it is safe to say that time is not on our side.

I will let the reader judge whether this award-winning journalist has represented my views fairly.

I hope Truthdig readers appreciate the irony here. In his latest fever dream of an essay, Hedges declares that Christopher Hitchens and I (along with our pals on the Christian right) are incapable of "nuance." Amazing. Nuance is really what one hopes Hedges would discover once in his life-if for no other reason than it would leave him with nothing left to say.

I don't think I have ever met anyone so determined to live as a Freudian case study: To read any page of Hedges' is to witness the full catastrophe of public self-deception. He rages (and rages) about the anger and intolerance of others; he accuses his opponents of being "immune to critiques based on reason, fact and logic" in prose so bloated with emotion and insult, and so barren of argument, that every essay reads like a hoax text meant to embarrass the humanities. A person with this little self-awareness should be given a mirror-or an intervention-never a blog.

An editorial (rather than psychoanalytic) note: Hedges claims that I "abrogate the right to exterminate all who do not conform" to my rigid view of the world. I'm afraid this is true. I do, as it turns out, abrogate that right. But Hedges surely means to say that I "arrogate" it. Advice for future skirmishes, Chris: When you are going to insult your opponents by calling them "ignoramuses" who "cannot afford complexity," or disparage them for being incapable of "intellectual and scientific rigor," it is best to know the meanings of the words you use. Not all the words, perhaps-just those you grope for when calling someone a genocidal maniac.

Leaving no canard unemployed, Hedges accuses me of being a racist-again. In truth, he has raised the ante somewhat: My criticism of Islam is now "racist filth." It is tempting to own up to this charge just to see the uncomprehending look on his face: "You know, after a lot of additional study and soul-searching, I realized that you are right: My contention that the doctrines of martyrdom and jihad are integral to Islam, and dangerous, is really nothing more than racist filth. Sorry about that."

However, the response I offered years ago still seems in order:

Some critics of my work have claimed that my critique of Islam is "racist." This charge is almost too silly to merit a response. But, as prominent writers can sometimes be this silly, here goes:

My analysis of religion in general, and of Islam in particular, focuses on what I consider to be bad ideas, held for bad reasons, leading to bad behavior. My antipathy toward Islam-which is, in truth, difficult to exaggerate-applies to ideas, not to people, and certainly not to the color of a person's skin. My criticism of the logical and behavioral consequences of certain ideas (e.g. martyrdom, jihad, honor, etc.) impugns white converts to Islam-like Adam Gadahn-every bit as much as Arabs like Ayman al-Zawahiri. I am also in the habit of making invidious comparisons between Islam and other religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Must I point out that most Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains are not white like me? One would hope there would be no such need-but the work of writers like Chris Hedges suggests that the need is pressing.

As I regularly emphasize when discussing Islam, no one is suffering under the doctrine of Islam more than Muslims are-particularly Muslim women. Those who object to any attack upon the religion of Islam as "racist" or as a symptom of "Islamophobia" display a nauseating insensitivity to the subjugation of women throughout the Muslim world. At this moment, millions of women and girls have been abandoned to illiteracy, forced marriage, and lives of slavery and abuse under the guise of "multiculturalism" and "religious sensitivity." This is a crime to which every apologist for Islam is now an accomplice.

I have participated in many debates over the years and engaged many of my critics. In fact, I once debated Hedges at a benefit for Truthdig. You can watch our exchange here. I am happy to say that these encounters are usually very pleasant-for even when they grow prickly on the stage, the exchange in the green room is generally quite warm. My meeting with Hedges was a notable exception. In fact, Hedges is the one person I have told event organizers that I will not appear with again for any reason-which is a pity, because his inability to present or follow an argument makes everything one says sound incisive. The man is not only wrong in his convictions, but dishonest-and determined to remain so. I trust this is a consequence of his most conspicuous quality as a person: sanctimony. There is a main vein of sanctimony in this universe, and it appears to run directly through the brain of Chris Hedges. He has staked his claim to it and will follow it wherever it leads. The results can be seen weekly on this page. And I'm sorry to say that this is why I stopped writing for Truthdig years ago.
(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.

The September 29, 1998 cover of Piers Morgan's newspaper,
the Mirror, targeted reporter Greg Palast.

Hacked And Attacked
How Piers Morgan's Fabricated Story Almost Ruined This Reporter
By Greg Palast

The September 29, 1998 cover of Piers Morgan's newspaper, the Mirror, targeted reporter Greg Palast.

I am not surprised that Piers Morgan has been outed for allegedly hacking phones (listening, in one case, to personal messages between Heather Mills and Paul McCartney.) I learned about the creepy antics of this one-man TV-host crime spree the hard way: as a victim of his crime-and-slime form of "journalism."

On September 29, 1998, Piers Morgan's Mirror ran a screaming full-page headline: SEX SCANDAL ROCKS LABOUR CONFERENCE. His paper had caught a rival paper's reporter who'd broken into the hotel room of a comely, young, rising star of the Labour Party. The reporter was caught there half undressed.

I was that reporter.

And the story was a complete load of crap. But Morgan, "editor" of the Mirror, ran the report on Page One, and pages 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 - even though he knew it was fabricated. He knew because he had fabricated it.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's press chief personally thanked Morgan for running the bogus story.

This was not the first time Pirate Morgan had worked me over. Months earlier, on Page One again, he ran a full-page photo of me (one that made me look bald!) under the words THE LIAR in letters bigger than the Mirror's headline, Hitler Defeated.

(Private Eye, the Onion of Britain, ran a response - a photo of me under the headline,

O.K., I'm bald. But I am not a liar. I was in that hotel room to get a story, not get the young lady's panties. But I did not break in. That's what Morgan would do. A sworn affidavit by the hotel clerk said the female in question had left me a key with instructions to meet her in her room.

In other words, I was set up like a bowling pin.

As an investigator, it is quite embarrassing to have fallen so easily into a honey trap, but the honey was quite something: I was lusting after information about her mentor, the man known in England as The Prince of Darkness, Peter Mandelson, or I should say, the Right Honorable Lord Mandelson.

I'd already busted open a story about how Mandelson, Blair's claw, Blair's Karl Rove, had aided a "cash-for-access" scheme by his lobbyist cronies. He helped fiddle a bid for a contract to run Britain's National Lottery to give the deal to the guys who ran the Texas Lottery. (If you smell George Bush's connection, you'd be right.)

The story I wrote for The Observer (The Guardian's Sunday paper), "Lobbygate: Cash For Access" won my co-writer Antony Barnett and I the British equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize - and nearly won me time in a lock-up: The Daily Mirror encouraged Mandelson's gal to file charges against me with the constabulary for breaking into her room - though they knew she left me the key.

This is not just fun and games. Piers' phony file on me was used by Reliant Corporation of Houston to attempt to discredit my investigative reports on their frighteningly dangerous operation of nuclear plants. (A judge in Holland threw the book at them.)

Maybe you don't care, but you should. Reliant is the company, under a new corporate alias, which has just been approved to receive the first multi-billion-dollar loan guarantee from the Obama administration to build a new nuclear plant. (Reliant's partner, by the way, is Tokyo Electric Power.)

Obviously, there's a hell of a lot more to this story. I could write a book - and I am. I've decided that, in the public interest, I will add a chapter to the book about Pus Moron, the nuclear hucksters of Houston and why it was that I was half undressed. (There really is an innocent, or nearly innocent, explanation, I promise you.)

Of course, by the time my book comes out in November, Piers may no longer be prancing about on CNN, but breaking rocks on a chain gang. However, CNN is reported as concluding that Morgan's fibs and fabrications - this is Morgan's third run-in with the law - would have "no effect" on his hosting on their network. This only confirms my experience with US television executives that when they need a new on-air journalist, they just wait for a toilet to overflow.
(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 Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Uber Fuhrer Stabenow,

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 helping us do away with Food Stamps, Medicare, Medicade and Social Security, 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 "Demoncratic 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 Stabenow, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Could The Pentagon Be Responsible For Your Death?
The Military's Marching Orders to the Jihadist World
By Tom Engelhardt

Put what follows in the category of paragraphs no one noticed that should have made the nation's hair stand on end. This particular paragraph should also have sent chills through the body politic, launched warning flares, and left the people's representatives in Congress shouting about something other than the debt crisis.

Last weekend, two reliable New York Times reporters, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, had a piece in that paper's Sunday Review entitled "After 9/11, an Era of Tinker, Tailor, Jihadist, Spy." Its focus was the latest counterterrorism thinking at the Pentagon: deterrence theory. (Evidently an amalgam of the old Cold War ideas of "containment" and nuclear deterrence wackily reimagined by the boys in the five-sided building for the age of the jihadi.) Schmitt and Shanker's article was, a note informed the reader, based on research for their forthcoming book, Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda.

And here's the paragraph, buried in the middle of their piece, that should have stopped readers in their tracks:

"Or consider what American computer specialists are doing on the Internet, perhaps terrorist leaders' greatest safe haven, where they recruit, raise money, and plot future attacks on a global scale. American specialists have become especially proficient at forging the onscreen cyber-trademarks used by Al Qaeda to certify its Web statements, and are posting confusing and contradictory orders, some so virulent that young Muslims dabbling in jihadist philosophy, but on the fence about it, might be driven away."

The italics are mine, and as the authors urge us to do, let's consider for a moment this tiny, remarkably bizarre window into military reality. As a start, just where those military "computer specialists" are remains unknown. Perhaps they are in the Pentagon, perhaps somewhere in the National Counterterrorism Center, but whoever and wherever they are, here's the question of the week, possibly of the month or the year: Just what kind of "orders" can they be posting "so virulent that young Muslims dabbling in jihadist philosophy, but on the fence about it, might be driven away"?

And even if our computer experts really were capable of turning wavering young Muslims back from the shores of jihadism -- and personally I wouldn't put my money on the Pentagon's skills in that realm -- what about young Muslims (or older ones for that matter) who weren't on that fence and took those "orders" seriously? What exactly are they being "ordered" to do?

Talk about a potential Frankenstein situation -- and all we can do is ask questions. Just what monsters, for example, might the military's computer specialists be helping to forge? And who exactly is supervising those "specialists" and their vituperative messages? (Especially since they are unlikely to be in English, and we already know that Arabic, Pashto, Dari, and Farsi speakers at the higher levels, or even lower levels, of the Pentagon are, at best, few and far between.)

Keep in mind that we already have an example of a similarly wacky program lacking meaningful oversight that went awry, hit the headlines, and resulted in the perfectly real deaths of at least one U.S. Border Patrol agent and undoubtedly many more Mexicans. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives launched its now infamous gun-tracking program in Arizona in late 2009, under the moniker "Operation Fast and Furious" (a reference to a series of movies about street car racers). It was meant to track cross-border gun sales to Mexico's drug cartels by actually letting perfectly real weapons cross the border -- more than 2,000 of them, as it turned out. ATF agents, according to a Washington Post report, would be "instructed not to move in and question the [gun runners] but to let the guns go and see where they eventually ended up." And so they did for more than a year and, not exactly surprisingly, those weapons ended up "on the street" and in the ugliest of hands.

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart asked an apt question about the program:

"The ATF plan to prevent American guns from being used in Mexican gun violence is to provide Mexican gangs with American guns. If this is the plan that they went with, what plan did we reject?"

Assumedly, the same question could be asked of the military's online anti-jihadist program, involving as it evidently does messages believed to be too extreme for wavering young Muslims with an interest in the jihadi "philosophy." Shouldn't someone start asking whether those Pentagon's "orders" to jihadis might not turn out to be the online equivalent of so many loose guns?

After all, what are those specialists ordering them to do? And if actual jihadis actually tried to follow those "confusing and contradictory orders," possibly being confused and contradictory kinds of guys, if they took them seriously and interpreted them in ways not predicted by their putative Pentagon handlers, is there a possibility that anyone could die as a result? And if such messages turn off some prospective jihadis, isn't it possible that they might turn on others? And could they, for instance, have been ordered to commit confused and contradictory acts that might end up involving Americans?

Really, someone should blow Schmitt and Shanker's paragraph up to giant size, tack it up somewhere in the Capitol, and call for a congressional investigation. If the ATF could do it, why not the Pentagon? And honestly, is this how Americans want to see their tax dollars spent?

Read the Schmitt and Shanker piece and you'll get a sense of what Shakespeare might have called the "oerweening pride" rife in the Pentagon when it comes to their skills and their ability to put one (or two, or three) over on the jihadist community. So pleased with themselves were they, that they evidently couldn't help bragging to the two reporters about their skills. The old phrase "too smart for your own good" comes to mind. It's enough to make you worry, even based on so little information (which the new book from the two reporters may significantly amplify).

And by the way, if you want another unsettling analogy, when it comes to off-the-wall ideas for "deterring" jihadist networks, check out the major record companies and their efforts to deter communities and individuals from illegally downloading music. The Recording Industry Association of America, representing the four major record labels, decided to make a cautionary example of Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a Minnesota mom, by suing her "for illegally downloading and sharing 24 songs on the peer-to-peer file-sharing network Kazaa in 2006." So far, the organization has dragged her through three trials, getting terrible publicity. Even if they win and leave her in hock for the rest of her life, do you think for one second that they will have made a dent in the world of illegal downloads or deterred anyone? Just ask your kid.

Don't think deterrence here, think blowback.

Honestly, if Schmitt and Shanker's claim is accurate, you should be shaking in your boots. And someone on Capitol Hill should be starting to ask some relevant questions, including this one: Could "computer specialists" in the employ of the Pentagon be responsible for your death in a future terrorist attack?
(c) 2011 Tom Engelhardt is co-founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

The Great American Guilt Trip
By Mary Pitt

We have all listened and laughed as comedians talk about the guilt that is trained into them by their Jewish or Catholic mothers, the Sisters who taught them in schools, or the preachers in their churches. It is very funny. But the latest guilt trip that is being inflicted is no joke. It is being done by the wealthy and the greedy of our nation and is being perpetrated on our senior citizens!

Having been reared with the idea of self-sufficiency that is prevalent in American society, the aging person is acutely aware of the biblical definition of life spanning "three score and ten years", we have become accustomed to the idea that that is the greatest age we can expect to be on this earth. In early times, this goal was rarely reached, especially by the female of the species. Death in childbirth was at one time the greatest threat to female existence in our rather primitive nation but, over time, the profession of medical care increased and this became less of a threat. We no longer must tramp through primeval forests in search of fierce wild animals for food, we no longer must expose our fragile bodies to the elements without warm clothing or sturdy footwear and most of us have medical care available in the event of illness or accident. Consequently, the average lifespan for Americans has soared.

Some eight decades ago, we had an agrarian society and the care of the elderly was rather simply managed. As in biblical times. by the time the family patriarch became so weakened by age that they could no longer work, adult sons were prepared to return to the family home with their own wives and children. They would, in their turn and without question, assume the burden of their parents in return for assuming their assets and position in the community.

Once the nation became industrialized, families began to scatter and to live great distances apart. As the distance increased, so did the connection to the family and increasing numbers of elderly found themselves alone with no means of support. President Roosevelt was sufficiently compassionate to notice this and he instituted the present system of Social Security. This, in effect, put the government in the position of becoming one giant insurance company to whom we each paid "premiums" to insure that we would not be subjected to penury when we were no longer able to work. It was a great comfort to us to know that hunger would be an unmet stranger. Some years later, based on the enormous success of Social Security, Congress saw fit to do the same with the health care for the elderly. The premiums were collected in the same way, based on the ability of the laborer to invest in his future.

Now we are told that the dwindling of the funds in the Social Security Trust are threatening to run out and it's all our fault! We have lived too long! We have had too many children!

This writer until recently was experiencing some twenty years of caring for a beloved man who had been diagnosed with a disabling and incurable disease which would surely take his life. This man had been a formidable character, large in size and gifted with "people sense" so that his every word bore import and whose physical strength had been seemingly super-human. As his health deteriorated and he was unable to do the tasks that he once accomplished with such ease his former life became impossible for him, and his greatest enemy became depression. Then, as he dwindled into a virtual "bag of bones", he would plead for relief. I will never forget the look in his rheumy eyes as he would ask, "Why can't I just be helped to die? We do it for old, sick dogs, why am I denied that relief?"

Now our government is in the grip of the Fundamental Religious Right. Not only do they want to deny people the right to determine the size and the spacing of their families, but they would be aghast if someone suggested the legitimizing of "assisted suicide". If they bothered to really read their Bible, they would see that the leaders of the early Israelites, as they grew old and lost their efficacy "went up to the mountaintop and gave up the ghost." No mention was ever made of the actual cause of death but their "right to die" was never questioned. Just so did the heroes of the American Indians quietly slip away from their tribal homes and "disappear" as the years sapped their strength and stamina. Now, with pace-makers and other artificial mechanisms, medical science has the capability to keep our bodies alive long after any philosophical "usefulness" has ended and, many times, long after our desire to continue living.

It is simply unconscionable to force us to continue to live in suffering and debilitation while refusing us the pittances that allow us to keep body and soul together so that the wealthy can "maintain their lifestyle." If all our many sacrifices and the triumphs of the durability and genius of mankind no longer have any meaning, the least we can ask of them is to bow to the dignity which we have so richly earned and allow us the privilege of deciding whether we would prefer to die in pain, whether from disease or hunger, or, with reason intact, to end our struggles with the compassionate medical assistance of a physician.

That is the least that should be provided to The Greatest Generation!
(c) 2011 Mary Pitt is an octagenarian who has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her "Sunset Years" in writing and struggling with The System. Huzzahs and whiney complaints may be sent to

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Gary Varvel ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Moody's Downgrades US Credit Rating to 'It's Complicated'
China Unresponsive to Treasury Dept.'s Friend Request
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - The US economy suffered another setback today as Moody's downgraded the US's credit rating to "It's Complicated."

At the Treasury Department, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner acknowledged that an "It's Complicated" rating was not ideal but added that he was hopeful it would not affect the Chinese government's level of interest in Treasury bonds.

"We have sent a friend request to China this morning," Sec. Geithner told reporters. "We are still waiting for them to friend us back."

But in an extraordinary step, the Chinese government announced today that it was "blocking" the United States, suggesting that its relationship with US Treasuries was at an end.

Perhaps attempting to soften the blow, the Chinese government later issued this official statement: "It's not you, it's us."

In other economic news, the US added jobs in the auto sector, which for many Americans is now the same thing as the housing sector.
(c) 2011 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 31 (c) 08/12/2011

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