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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky watches, "America In Decline."

Uri Avnery considers, "Dichter's Law."

David Sirota warns of, "What We Lose When We Lose Anonymity."

David Swanson examines, "The Military."

Jim Hightower wonders, "'Gov. Supercuts' For President?"

Helen Thomas studies, "Murdoch's Undoing."

James Donahue asks, "Are You Ready For Soul Catcher 2025?"

Joel S. Hirschhorn over sees, "Brain Dead Obama"

Patricia Cunliffe exposes corpo-rat death panels in, "Beware Of CUNA Mutual Insurance Group."

Naomi Klein does the introductions, "Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery."

Paul Krugman covers, "The Texas Unmiracle."

Chris Floyd visits, "Ishaqi Again."

David Michael Green returns with yet another absolute must read, "The Grubby Species."

Michigan Senator Carl Levin wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols reports, "Bernie Sanders Talks Up Primary Challenge To Obama As 'A Good Idea for Our Democracy And For The Democratic Party.'"

Phil Rockstroh explores, "Life In An Age Of Looting."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion announces, "New GOP Strategy Involves Reelecting Obama, Making His Life Even More Miserable" but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "Where Is V Now That We Need Him?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Monte Wolverton, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Dees Illustration.Com, Mike Keefe, Kirk Anderson, Nick Anderson, Asa Mathat, The Onion, Rita Pereira, Social Times.Com, Warner Brothers, The BBC, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

Where Is V Now That We Need Him?
By Ernest Stewart

"People should not fear their government. Government should fear their people!"
V For Vendetta ~~~ V

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." ~~~ Donald Rumsfeld

"The American people now, by a large majority, are saying we have been overseas too long. We don't need an American empire. We need to protect our borders and forget about the borders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's time to bring the troops home."
~~~ Second place Iowa "straw poll" finisher ~ Ron Paul

Keep up your spirit,
keep up your faith, baby
I am counting on you
You know what you've got to do

Fight the good fight every moment
Every minute, every day
Fight the good fight every moment
It's your only way
Fight The Good Fight ~~~ Triumph

So exactly when was it that David Cameron became a clone of John Hurt's character Adam Sutler in "V for Vendetta;" when did that happen? Was he always that noticeable and I not see it, or what?

Wasn't it David who said, as brave Egyptians were overthrowing the fascist Mubarak regime, of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, "...freedom of expression should be respected "in Tahrir Square as much as Trafalgar Square...." just last February?

When a similar revolt took place all over England against David and his fascist regime, David's demeanor seemed to rapidly change into High Chancellor Sutler -- crazy eyes and all! David screamed:

"And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So, we are working with the police, the intelligence services, and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality!"

Maybe the people are revolting because their government and their corpo-rat masters have been robbing them blind with David's help! Wouldn't what's good for the goose also be good for the gander? Nor, apparently, is David hip to "what goes around comes around" and sometimes, David, it comes around with a vengeance, or perhaps as a vendetta!

But relax, England, American help is on the way! Former Boston -- New York -- L.A. -- "Police Commissioner Gordon," oops, Police Commissioner William J, Bratton, will soon have your bobbies shooting unarmed citizens 30 or 40 times, just like he did in New York, Boston and L.A., yippie! Something to look forward to, SoHo! Where is "V" now that we need him?

Not to pick on Britain, our own BART, a.k.a. Bay Area Rapid Transit, cops are blocking out all media sources onboard their trains, lest a flash mob be called together to protest their latest murder of an unarmed civilian. BART, of course, was doing it for safety, not our safety, but theirs; and when the knowledge of this hit the fan they already had a propaganda film all set to go! However, their film triggered other films, especially in the Indie Media. Free Speech is not allowed in BART-controlled America or phone service for that matter! BART's action of blocking cell phone use at San Francisco's Civic Center BART Station was illegal. It's a direct violation of Federal law, specifically Section 333 of The Communications Act of 1934. While I doubt that the law will hold them accountable, at least those Merry Pranksters Anonymous defaced the BART site, leaked user data, and left this calling card!

Thank Zeus for small victories!

In Other News

As the prophet Richard Pryor once said "I went to court looking for justice and that's just what I found, 'Just Us.'" And for the most part that's what you'll find in America's courts: minorities and poor whites. Normally, there are two forms of justice -- two sets of laws -- one for the elites, and the other for everybody else.

So, it was a bit of shock to hear that former Deputy Fuhrer Donald Von Rumsfeld was to be tried for the torture of at least three American citizens!

The court ruled last Tuesday that two U.S. citizens who worked for a private security firm in Iraq can proceed to take Donald Rumsfeld to trial for the torture they assert they endured during months of imprisonment in 2006 in a prison set up by the Pentagon at Camp Cropper.

The two men say they were arrested and then brutally tortured after they tried to expose bribery and corruption in the private security firm (Blackwater) that was, and still is, on the Pentagoons' payroll.

After months of imprisonment and torture, they were taken from Camp Cropper without even an "oops, we bad" and dropped at the airport without ever having been charged with a crime.

The court ruled, "We agree with the district court that the plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to show that Secretary Rumsfeld personally established the relevant policies that caused the alleged violations of their constitutional rights during detention."

In another lawsuit filed by another American who was taken to Camp Cropper and tortured, U.S. District Judge James Gwin said U.S. citizens are protected by the Constitution at home and abroad during wartime.

"The court finds no convincing reason that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously-declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad," Judge Gwin wrote in a ruling issued Tuesday.

Gwin cited District Judge Wayne R. Andersen in Illinois who last year ruled that two other Americans who worked in Iraq as contractors and were held at Camp Cropper, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, can pursue claims they were tortured using Rumsfeld-approved methods after alleging illegal activities by their company. Rumsfeld is appealing that ruling.

Even if Rumsfeld is convicted, his case will no doubt go before the Extreme Court, whose majority was appointed by the "Crime Family Bush," and hence, I'd be willing to bet Donald will never see the inside of a jail cell! Not for these crimes or any of the many acts of treason, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for which he is no doubt guilty!

And Finally

The tin-foil-hat crowd came out in full force in Iowa the other day and had their "straw poll," which was won by America's favorite Con-gress person: old "Crazy Train" Bachmann. Bachmann won it hands down, and now leaps forward towards her next challenge, i.e., Governor Rick "Good Hair" Perry! Rick just threw his hat into the ring and joined this traveling lunatic circus by following in Mitt Romney's footprints. Mitt, you may recall, got into a little faux pas with a crowd in Iowa by insisting that corporations were people, too! Rick had no sooner tossed in said hat when he felt it necessary to lose the votes of about one third of the voters. Here in an interview with the Daily Beast's Andrew Romano, Perry cuts his own throat by saying that the way he reads the Constitution, Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional! Here's a bit of the interview:

Andrew: The Constitution says that "the Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes... to provide for the... general Welfare of the United States." But I noticed that when you quoted this section on page 116, you left "general welfare" out and put an ellipsis in its place. Progressives would say that "general welfare" includes things like Social Security or Medicare-that it gives the government the flexibility to tackle more than just the basic responsibilities laid out explicitly in our founding document. What does "general welfare" mean to you?

Perry: I don't think our founding fathers when they were putting the term "general welfare" in there were thinking about a federally-operated program of pensions, nor a federally-operated program of health care. What they clearly said was that those were issues that the states need to address. Not the federal government. I stand very clear on that. From my perspective, the states could substantially-better operate those programs, if that's what those states decided to do.

Andrew: So, in your view, those things fall outside of general welfare. But what falls inside of it? What did the Founders mean by "general welfare"?

Perry: I don't know if I'm going to sit here and parse down to what the Founding Fathers thought "general welfare" meant.

Andrew: But you just said what you thought they didn't mean by "general welfare." So, isn't it fair to ask what they did mean? It's in the Constitution.

Perry: Silence.

Shades of 2008! The Rethuglicans, so far, haven't a single candidate that can beat Obama in 2012, seems a pity, huh?

Keepin' On

If you're middle age or older, you'll no doubt remember a famous cat poster from the past. It was a picture of an orange kitten hanging on to a black bar with a concerned look on his face with a caption saying, "Hang In There, Baby!" I know exactly how that cat felt!

Since the bottom starting falling out of the economy back in 2007, we've gone from a small ad and a link at the top of the page to raise the money we needed to keep publishing, A couple dozen of you would send in $25 or $50 and sometimes $100 and about half a dozen of you were sending in $500 to $2500. With those righteous donations, we soon had all the money we needed and we quit bugging you about it almost as soon as we had begun! Any money beyond what we needed bought extras for the magazine. Since 2007, we've had to keep up begging 24/7, running various and sundry ads every week, and I dedicated part of my column to keep beating a dead horse week after week, month after month, just to raise the monies needed to keep on keeping on.

Sure, the problem isn't that people have stopped being generous, but the folks in our readership are, for the most part, the first to take those financial hits -- losing their jobs, losing their houses, their online capabilities, their cars, and family -- and have to scramble just to stay alive. Ergo, the longer this depression lasts, the less active members of the middle class have the extra money to support our fight to restore the Republic, and our lives. You may recall that Ronald Ray Guns, and every president since, did whatever they could to destroy the middle class. A class without which all that is left is the rich and the poor -- exactly how it's been from the beginning of recorded history, until FDR made the scene and developed a thriving middle class! The terrorists who control the government are working around the clock to destroy our way of life; shouldn't there be someone fighting to preserve it? Please help us fight the good fight!

This week we'd like to thank Ernie from Ontario for another nice donation for the cause, thanks, brother! We couldn't do it without you!


02-01-1964 ~ 08-11-2011
Thanks for the jams bro!


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.

America In Decline
By Noam Chomsky

"It is a common theme" that the United States, which "only a few years ago was hailed to stride the world as a colossus with unparalleled power and unmatched appeal is in decline, ominously facing the prospect of its final decay," Giacomo Chiozza writes in the current Political Science Quarterly.

The theme is indeed widely believed. And with some reason, though a number of qualifications are in order. To start with, the decline has proceeded since the high point of U.S. power after World War II, and the remarkable triumphalism of the post-Gulf War '90s was mostly self-delusion.

Another common theme, at least among those who are not willfully blind, is that American decline is in no small measure self-inflicted. The comic opera in Washington this summer, which disgusts the country and bewilders the world, may have no analogue in the annals of parliamentary democracy.

The spectacle is even coming to frighten the sponsors of the charade. Corporate power is now concerned that the extremists they helped put in office may in fact bring down the edifice on which their own wealth and privilege relies, the powerful nanny state that caters to their interests.

Corporate power's ascendancy over politics and society -- by now mostly financial -- has reached the point that both political organizations, which at this stage barely resemble traditional parties, are far to the right of the population on the major issues under debate.

For the public, the primary domestic concern is unemployment. Under current circumstances, that crisis can be overcome only by a significant government stimulus, well beyond the recent one, which barely matched decline in state and local spending -- though even that limited initiative probably saved millions of jobs.

For financial institutions the primary concern is the deficit. Therefore, only the deficit is under discussion. A large majority of the population favor addressing the deficit by taxing the very rich (72 percent, 27 percent opposed), reports a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Cutting health programs is opposed by overwhelming majorities (69 percent Medicaid, 78 percent Medicare). The likely outcome is therefore the opposite.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes surveyed how the public would eliminate the deficit. PIPA director Steven Kull writes, "Clearly both the administration and the Republican-led House (of Representatives) are out of step with the public's values and priorities in regard to the budget."

The survey illustrates the deep divide: "The biggest difference in spending is that the public favored deep cuts in defense spending, while the administration and the House propose modest increases. The public also favored more spending on job training, education and pollution control than did either the administration or the House."

The final "compromise" -- more accurately, capitulation to the far right -- is the opposite throughout, and is almost certain to lead to slower growth and long-term harm to all but the rich and the corporations, which are enjoying record profits.

Not even discussed is that the deficit would be eliminated if, as economist Dean Baker has shown, the dysfunctional privatized health care system in the U.S. were replaced by one similar to other industrial societies', which have half the per capita costs and health outcomes that are comparable or better.

The financial institutions and Big Pharma are far too powerful for such options even to be considered, though the thought seems hardly Utopian. Off the agenda for similar reasons are other economically sensible options, such as a small financial transactions tax.

Meanwhile new gifts are regularly lavished on Wall Street. The House Appropriations Committee cut the budget request for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the prime barrier against financial fraud. The Consumer Protection Agency is unlikely to survive intact.

Congress wields other weapons in its battle against future generations. Faced with Republican opposition to environmental protection, American Electric Power, a major utility, shelved "the nation's most prominent effort to capture carbon dioxide from an existing coal-burning power plant, dealing a severe blow to efforts to rein in emissions responsible for global warming," The New York Times reported.

The self-inflicted blows, while increasingly powerful, are not a recent innovation. They trace back to the 1970s, when the national political economy underwent major transformations, ending what is commonly called "the Golden Age" of (state) capitalism.

Two major elements were financialization (the shift of investor preference from industrial production to so-called FIRE: finance, insurance, real estate) and the offshoring of production. The ideological triumph of "free market doctrines," highly selective as always, administered further blows, as they were translated into deregulation, rules of corporate governance linking huge CEO rewards to short-term profit, and other such policy decisions.

The resulting concentration of wealth yielded greater political power, accelerating a vicious cycle that has led to extraordinary wealth for a fraction of 1 percent of the population, mainly CEOs of major corporations, hedge fund managers and the like, while for the large majority real incomes have virtually stagnated.

In parallel, the cost of elections skyrocketed, driving both parties even deeper into corporate pockets. What remains of political democracy has been undermined further as both parties have turned to auctioning congressional leadership positions, as political economist Thomas Ferguson outlines in the Financial Times.

"The major political parties borrowed a practice from big box retailers like Walmart, Best Buy or Target," Ferguson writes. "Uniquely among legislatures in the developed world, U.S. congressional parties now post prices for key slots in the lawmaking process." The legislators who contribute the most funds to the party get the posts.

The result, according to Ferguson, is that debates "rely heavily on the endless repetition of a handful of slogans that have been battle-tested for their appeal to national investor blocs and interest groups that the leadership relies on for resources." The country be damned.

Before the 2007 crash for which they were largely responsible, the new post-Golden Age financial institutions had gained startling economic power, more than tripling their share of corporate profits. After the crash, a number of economists began to inquire into their function in purely economic terms. Nobel laureate Robert Solow concludes that their general impact may be negative: "The successes probably add little or nothing to the efficiency of the real economy, while the disasters transfer wealth from taxpayers to financiers."

By shredding the remnants of political democracy, the financial institutions lay the basis for carrying the lethal process forward -- as long as their victims are willing to suffer in silence.
(c) 2011 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Gaza In Crisis.

Dichter's Law
By Uri Avnery "THE PEOPLE Demand Social Justice!" 250 thousand protesters chanted in unison in Tel Aviv last Saturday. But what they need - to quote an American artist - is "more unemployed politicians."

Fortunately, the Knesset has gone on a prolonged vacation, three months. For as Mark Twain quipped: "No man's life or property is safe while the legislature is in session."

As if to prove this point, MK Avi Dichter submitted, on the very last day of the outgoing session, a bill so outrageous that it easily trumps all the many other racist laws lately adopted by this Knesset.

"DICHTER" IS A German name and means "poet". But no poet he. He is the former chief of the secret police, the "General Security Service" (Shin-Bet or Shabak).

("Dichter also means "more dense", but let's not dwell on that.)

He proudly announced that he had spent a year and a half smoothening and sharpening this particular project, turning it into a legislative masterpiece.

And a masterpiece it is. No colleague in yesterday's Germany or present-day Iran could have produced a more illustrious piece. The other members of the Knesset seem to feel so, too - no less than 20 of the 28 members of the Kadima faction, as well as all the other dyed-in-the-wool racist members of this august body, have proudly put their name to this bill as co-authors.

The very name - "Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People" - shows that this Dichter is neither a poet nor much of an intellectual. Secret police chiefs seldom are.

"Nation" and "People" are two different concepts. It is generally accepted that a people is an ethnic entity, and a nation is a political community. They exist on two different levels. But never mind.

It is the content of the bill that counts.

WHAT DICHTER proposes is to put an end to the official definition of Israel as a "Jewish and Democratic State."

He proposes instead to set clear priorities: Israel is first and foremost the nation-state of the Jewish people, and only as a far second a democratic state. Wherever democracy clashes with the Jewishness of the state, Jewishness wins, democracy loses.

This makes him, by the way, the first right-wing Zionist (apart from Meir Kahane) who openly admits that there is a basic contradiction between a "Jewish" state and a "democratic" state. Since 1948, this has been strenuously denied by all Zionist factions, their phalanx of intellectuals and the Supreme Court.

What the new definition means is that the State of Israel belongs to all the Jews in the world - including Senators in Washington, drug-dealers in Mexico, oligarchs in Moscow and casino-owners in Macao, but not to the Arab citizens of Israel, who have been here for at least 1300 years since the Muslims entered Jerusalem. Christian Arabs trace their ancestry back to the crucifixion 1980 years ago, Samaritans were here 2500 years ago and many villagers are probably the descendents of the Canaanites, who were already here some 5000 years ago.

All these will become, once this bill is law, second-class citizens, not only in practice, as now, but also in official doctrine. Whenever their rights clash with what the majority of the Jews considers necessary for the preservation of the interests of the "nation-state of the Jewish people" - which may include everything from land ownership to criminal legislation -their rights will be ignored.

THE BILL itself does not leave much room for speculation. It spells things out.

The Arabic language will lose its status as an "official language" - a status it enjoyed in the Ottoman Empire, under the British Mandate and in Israel until now. The only official language in the Nation-State etc will be Hebrew.

No less typical is the paragraph that says that whenever there is a hole in Israeli law (called "lacuna"' or lagoon), Jewish law will apply.

"Jewish law" is the Talmud and the Halakha, the Jewish equivalent of the Muslim Sharia. It means in practice that legal norms adopted 1500 years ago and more will trump the legal norms evolved over recent centuries in Britain and other European countries. Similar clauses exist in the laws of countries like Pakistan and Egypt. The similarity between Jewish and Islamic law is not accidental - Arabic-speaking Jewish sages, like Moses Maimonides ("the Rambam") and their contemporary Muslim legal experts influenced each other.

The Halakha and the Sharia have much in common. They ban pork, practice circumcision, keep women in servitude, condemn homosexuals and fornicators to death and deny equality for infidels. (In practice, both religions have modified many of the harsher penalties. In the Jewish religion, for example, "an eye for an eye" now means compensation. Otherwise, as Gandhi so aptly said, we would all be blind by now.)

After enacting this law, Israel will be much nearer to Iran than to the USA. The "Only Democracy in the Middle East" will cease to be a democracy, but be very close in its character to some of the worst regimes in this region. "At long last, Israel is integrating itself in the region," as an Arab writer mocked - alluding to a slogan I coined 65 years ago: "Integration in the Semitic Region."

MOST OF the Knesset members who signed this bill fervently believe in "the Whole of Eretz-Israel" - meaning the official annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

They don't mean the "One-State solution" that so many well-intentioned idealists dream about. In practice, the only One State that is feasible is one governed by Dichter's law - the "Nation-State of the Jewish People" - with the Arabs relegated to the status of the Biblical "hewers of wood and drawers of water."

Sure, the Arabs will be a majority in this state - but who cares? Since the Jewishness of the state will override democracy, their numbers will be irrelevant. Much as the number of blacks was in Apartheid South Africa.

LET'S HAVE a look at the party to which this poet of racism belongs: Kadima.

When I was in the army, I was always amused by the order: "the squad will retreat to the rear - forward march!"

This may sound absurd, but is really quite logical. The first part of the order relates to its direction, the second to its execution.

"Kadima" means "forward," but Its direction is backward.

Dichter is a prominent leader of Kadima. Since his only claim to distinction is his former role as chief of the secret police, this must be why he was elected. But he has been joined in this racist project by more than 80% of the Kadima Knesset faction - the largest in the present parliament.

What does this say about Kadima?

Kadima has been a dismal failure in practically every respect. As an opposition faction in parliament it is a sad joke - indeed, I dare say that when I was a one-man faction in the Knesset, I generated more opposition activity than this 28-headed colossus. It has not formulated any meaningful stand on peace and the occupation, not to mention social justice.

Its leader, Tzipi Livni, has proved herself a total failure. Her only achievement has been her ability to keep her party together - no mean feat, though, considering that it consists of refugees (some would say traitors) from other parties, who hitched their cart to Ariel Sharon's surging horses when he left the Likud. Most Kadima leaders left the Likud with him, and - like Livni herself - are deeply steeped in Likud ideology. Some others came from the Labor Party, arm in arm with that unsavory political prostitute, Shimon Peres.

This haphazard collection of frustrated politicians has tried several times to outflank Binyamin Netanyahu on the right. Its members have co-signed almost all the racist bills introduced in recent months, including the infamous "Boycott Law" (though when public opinion rebelled, they withdrew their signature, and some of them even voted against.)

How did this party get to be the largest in the Knesset, with one more seat than Likud? For left-wing voters, who were disgusted by Ehud Barak's Labor Party and who dismissed the tiny Meretz, it seemed the only chance to stop Netanyahu and Lieberman. But that may change very soon.

LAST SATURDAY's huge protest demonstration was the largest in Israel's history (including the legendary "400,000 demo" after the Sabra-Shatilah massacre, whose real numbers were slightly lower). It may be the beginning of a new era.

It is impossible to describe the sheer energy emanating from this crowd, consisting mostly of 20-30-year-olds. History, like a gigantic eagle, could be felt beating its wings above. It was a jubilant mass, conscious of its immense power.

The protesters were eager to shun "politics" - reminding me of the words of Pericles, some 2500 years ago, that "just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean that politics won't take an interest in you!"

The demonstration was, of course, highly political - directed against Netanyahu, the government and the entire social order. Marching in the dense crowd, I looked around for kippa-wearing protesters and could not spot a single one. The whole religious sector, the right-wing support group of the settlers and Dichter's Law, was conspicuously absent, while the Oriental Jewish sector, the traditional base of Likud, was amply represented.

This mass protest is changing the agenda of Israel. I hope that it will result in due course in the emergence of a new party, which will change the face of the Knesset beyond recognition. Even a new war or another "security emergency" may not avert this.

That will surely be the end of Kadima, and few will mourn it. It would also mean bye-bye to Dichter, the Secret Police poet.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

What We Lose When We Lose Anonymity
Ridding the Web of incognito users may increase civility, but it destroys an essential tool for whistle-blowers
By David Sirota

From warrantless wiretapping to ever-present surveillance cameras, our world is right now in the midst of a long war on anonymity.

In the media and political arenas, we've seen paparazzi culture famously fetishize the outing of anonymous iconoclasts, from Watergate's Deep Throat (Mark Felt) to a top CIA agent working on weapons of mass destruction (Valerie Plame). Likewise, in our communities, we now know that we are almost always being monitored in highly trafficked parks, malls, airports and stadiums -- and as Slate recently reported, we may soon have apps on all of our smartphones that let us identify random faces in a crowd.

Teeming with incognito bloggers and commenters, the Internet seemed to be the last bulwark against this trend -- a rare public space that let us broadcast opinions from the shadows. But even cyberspace will likely be exposed to the white-hot spotlight of identity, as a new campaign for disclosure now starts in earnest.

Launched in response to cyber-bullying, this campaign made headlines last month when Facebook executive Randi Zuckerberg declared that "anonymity on the Internet has to go away." Her statement echoed that of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who previously called for "true transparency and no anonymity" on the Web.

As advertising corporations always seeking new information about their users, Facebook and Google have an obvious financial stake in these positions. Regardless of these firms' particular motives, though, they set standards for the entire Internet. So when their luminaries declare war on anonymity, it's presumably a fait accompli.

Thus, the key question: Will the end of Internet anonymity be good or bad for society? Probably both.

The big potential benefit of users having to attach real identities to their Internet personas is more constructive dialogue.

As Zuckerberg and Schmidt correctly suggest, online anonymity is primarily used by hate-mongers to turn constructive public discourse into epithet-filled diatribes. Knowing they are shielded from consequences, trolls feel empowered to spew racist, sexist and other socially unacceptable rhetoric that they'd never use offline. Compare a typically friendly discussion on the non-anonymous Facebook with the usual flame wars that dominate anonymous comment threads, and you'll understand why a new Zogby poll shows that most Americans believe anonymity makes cyberspace less civil. Ending that anonymity, then, probably guarantees an online world that is a bit more cordial.

The downside, though, is that true whistle-blowers will lose one of their most essential tools.

Though today's journalists often grant establishment sources anonymity to attack weaker critics, anonymity's real social value is rooted in helping the powerless challenge the powerful. Think WikiLeaks, which exemplifies how online anonymity provides insiders the cover they need to publish critical information without fear of retribution. Eliminating such cover will almost certainly reduce the kind of leaks that let the public occasionally see inconvenient truths.

Encouraging civility while preserving avenues of dissent is a tough balancing act, and the core debate over whether one should have a right to anonymity in public spaces is long overdue. However, it comes with a danger -- namely, that legitimate arguments for disclosure will be expanded to justify illegitimate spying on private interactions.

If you think that's far-fetched, recall that this is precisely what happened in Congress last month, when a House committee moved forward a proposal forcing Internet service providers to keep logs of all online activity by their users.

Clearly, if it ultimately becomes law, this legislation would undermine not just anonymity in public spaces, but privacy in general. Should it succeed, we may achieve transparency, but at far too high a cost.
(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.

The Military
Closer to You Than Your Family
By David Swanson

Two blocks from my house in a nondescript little building on the edge of our residential neighborhood is an office with a small sign reading "DVBIC of Charlottesville" which turns out to mean "Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center."

Now, I'm in favor of caring for people with brain injuries. Heck, I wish we had universal comprehensive health coverage like other countries do. But it disturbs me how difficult it is in this country to get any distance away from the military. It's almost certainly closer to you than your relatives' homes.

What author Nick Turse calls the military industrial technological entertainment academic media corporate matrix is even closer than that. I am typing this on an Apple computer, and Apple is a major Pentagon contractor. But then, so is IBM. And so are most of the parent companies of most of the retail chains around the country. Starbucks is a major military supplier, with a store even in Guantanamo. Not only are traditional weapons manufacturers' offices now found alongside car dealers and burger joints in suburban strip malls, but the car dealers and burger joints are owned by companies taking in huge amounts of Pentagon spending. A $4,311 contract back in 2006 went straight to Charlottesville's Pig Daddy's BBQ.

Almost no neighborhoods lack members of the military and military supporters, Marine Corps flags and Army bumper stickers. If you wanted to get away from it, where would you go? (Please don't shout "Leave the country!" The U.S. military has troops in the majority of the nations on earth.) When one family tried to get away from jet noise in Virginia Beach by moving to a rural farm, the military quickly opened a new base right next to them. There is no escape.

Charlottesville is not "a military town" except in the sense that every town in the United States is now. Other towns in Virginia have big bases; men and women in uniforms are a common sight. But look more closely, and Charlottesville is the home, as almost everywhere is, to some obscure branch of the military -- in this case the "National Ground Intelligence Center." We're also home to a university. Most universities these days are huge recipients of military contracts, and UVA is no exception. In fact, the University of Virginia has built a research "park" adjacent to the aforementioned "intelligence" center. There's a Judge Advocate General's Legal Center attached to UVA Law School as well.

Back in March, the New Yorker magazine noted that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) "invited interested literary theorists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, political scientists, and related 'ists' to the Boar's Head Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month to answer a question frequently posed to junior-high-school students: 'What is a story?'" DARPA is the same agency that has moved on from mechanical killer elephants and telepathic warfare to exploding frisbees, cyborg wasps, and Captain America no-meals and no-sleep soldiers.

Many people in Charlottesville, as elsewhere, aren't asking "What is a story?" so much as "Where do I get a job?" But most of the jobs paying anything above poverty wages that can be found at local job fairs are military industry jobs. This includes both jobs supporting the U.S. military and jobs providing weapons to dictatorships and democracies alike all over the world. The United States is far and away the leading seller of weapons to others. The two sides in the Libyan War can exchange parts in their weapons, because both have weapons made by us.

I've seen local job ads for the National Guard, and for work "researching biological and chemical weapons" at Battelle Memorial Institute, and for work producing all kinds of weaponry at Northrop Grumman. Then there's Teksystems, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and Pragmatics, and Wiser, and many others with fat Pentagon contracts. Employers also recruit here for jobs in Northern Virginia with Concurrent Technologies Corporation, Ogsystems, the Defense Logistics Agency, BAE Systems, and many more. BAE, by the way, paid a $400 million fine last year to the U.S. government to settle charges of having bribed Saudi Arabia to buy its weapons -- just the cost of doing business.

From 2000 to 2010, 161 military contractors in Charlottesville pulled in $919,914,918 through 2,737 contracts from the federal government. Over $8 million of that went to Mr. Jefferson's university, and three-quarters of that to the Darden Business School. And the trend is ever upward. The 161 contractors are found in various industries other than higher education, including: Nautical System and Instrument Manufacturing; Blind and Shade Manufacturing; Printed Circuit Assembly; Computer Systems Design; Real Estate Appraisers; Engineering Services; Recreational Sports Centers; Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences; Commercial and Institutional Building Construction; Analytical Laboratory Instrument Manufacturing; Sporting Goods Stores; Professional and Management Development Training; Research and Development in Biotechnology; New Car Dealers; Internet Publishing; Petroleum Merchant Wholesalers; and on and on and on. I think I mentioned Pig Daddy's BBQ.

What could be wrong with so much socialistic job creation? Well, just this: investing money through the military actually produces fewer and lower paying jobs than investing the same amount of money in most other industries, or even in tax cuts for working people. It's worse economically than nothing, and yet it's all Washington wants to do. We are putting over half of every dollar of federal income tax and borrowing into the military. We could cut this by 85% and still be the top-spending nation in the world militarily. Meanwhile we are failing to invest in infrastructure, green energy, education, housing, jobs, and care for our young, old, and ill. The current trend will ruin us economically, as well as in terms of civil liberties, representative government, environmental destruction, social cohesion, hostile blowback, and weapons proliferation. Reining in the military industrial complex has become a matter of survival.

Our current unpopular but unending wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Somalia, and our smaller military operations in over 100 other countries are part of what President Eisenhower warned of 50 years ago in speaking of the military industrial complex. No nation has tried anything like this before, and it's not clear we can survive it. We're shortchanging everything else to fund wars and overseas bases that make us less safe. There's a crisis in our towns, but in the midst of a phony budget crisis in Washington, the House this summer passed the largest military budget ever seen on the planet.

On September 16-18, 2011, in Charlottesville, a conference called "The Military Industrial Complex at 50" will welcome over 20 prominent speakers, strategists, and organizers. Plans will be developed to move money from the military to human needs.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

"Gov. Supercuts" For President?

GOP-Land is all a twitter, now that Texas Governor Rick Perry has announced that he's ready to ascend to the White House.

His candidacy was actually launched the week before at a Prayer-A-Palooza he held in Houston, where he consecrated himself as the Christian candidate. Only about 30,000 evangelicals attended Perry's public prayer spectacle in a cavernous football stadium, but the presidential wannabe got saturation coverage by the media, which has gone ga-ga over yet another small-minded, right-wing, Texas governor.

If the media had any real journalistic curiosity about what kind or national "leader" this guy would be, they could have slipped away on that same day to the city's convention center. There, a much larger crowd of 100,000 Houstonians had gathered in bleak testimony to Perry's gubernatorial "leadership." They were some of Houston's many low-income children and parents, struggling to make ends meet in Perry's hard-scrabble Texas economy.

These needy families had come to a citywide back-to-school event where backpacks, school supplies, uniforms, haircut vouchers, immunizations, and bags of food were being provided by the school district. Officials had expected 25,000 to show up, but four times that number came – some families had camped out for hours before the doors opened, and many were turned away as supplies were exhausted by 10 a.m. "It shows the need," said a solemn school spokesman.

Perry is known in Texas as "Governor Supercuts," not only for his spiffy hairdo, but also for cutting the budgets of schools and poverty programs and holding down wages. In his 10-year tenure, Perry has created more minimum wage jobs than all other states combined, and his superrich state now has more families in poverty than any other. Can you say "President Supercuts?"
(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.

Rupert gives the corpo-rat salute!

Murdoch's Undoing
By Helen Thomas

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch suffered what he called the most humble day of his life when he appeared before a British Parliamentary Committee and the world, when the unethical invasions of privacy of public officials by his staff were made public.

The staff had been hacking into the private telephones of well-known politicians of Great Britain. Murdoch's vast media holdings of newspapers and broadcast outlets in Great Britain, Australian and the United States, have known no bounds in wire tapping and allegedly bribing government officials.

The head of Scotland Yard resigned in disgrace. Additionally, 10 former staffers and executives are under arrest in Britain, accused of hacking the phones of citizens. It appeared that no public officials were immune from the scandalous intrusions of Murdoch's reporters.

To Murdoch, the end justified the means. He denied personal involvement amongst all of the revelations of unethical activity by his organizations. The blame fell on his staff, even though Murdoch was well known to be a controlling owner of his media operations. One of the leading members of his staff, Rebecca Brooks, became the fall guy, although Murdoch publicly displayed his admiration for her.

Nearly everyone associated with Murdoch, as high as British Prime Minister David Cameron, seems to be affected by the scandal.

Several of those who took the fall, especially Murdoch's journalists, have lost their jobs. It's been open season on Murdoch staffers who have been accused of plagiarism and slandering their targets.

Murdoch apparently has tried to forestall the spread of his tarnished name and the scandal to his U.S. media holdings. He also has shut down his popular weekly newspaper, News of the World, and given up on his bid for British Sky Broadcasting, a satellite broadcasting company. Of course, it is impossible for Murdoch to protect his properties in America, like Fox Broadcasting Company, from being tainted somewhat by this scandal.

The name Murdoch is indelible in its connection to the radical right in the United States.

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Israeli leaders and American supporters of Israel are worried that a diminished Murdoch presence "may mute the strongly pro-Israel voice of many of the publications he owns." Murdoch's publications and media "have proven to be fairer on the issue of Israel than the rest of the media," said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "I hope that won't be impacted," he added. Jewish leaders said Murdoch's view of Israel's dealings with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors "seem both knowledgeable, and sensitive to the Jewish state's self-perception as beleaguered and isolated."

Murdoch's media stable includes the Wall Street Journal, The Times of London, and The Australian, as well as tabloids including The Sun in Britain, and the New York Post.

There is no question Murdoch's powerful intrusion in American journalism has been popular and profitable. American journalists have been taught that truth is the holy grail of their profession, but phone tapping some of the world's highest dignitaries is not the way the game is played. Such unethical methods lead to a question of creditability of Murdoch's publications and broadcast holdings.

Murdoch's media empire had been freely expanding in the U.S., but it is now doubtful that he will be able to maintain the reputation he has created in the profession.

Murdoch's rivals broke the scandal in London. Something happened to Murdoch in the late years of his life. His freewheeling tactics and approach to journalism caught up with him. He is paying a price at the expense of his international reputation. Even worse, he has hurt the profession of journalism and its credibility in the public eye.

It is doubtful Murdoch will ever be the same, and his reporters will have to scramble to reassert the high standards of their profession. It is a sorry fate for a media mogul who thought anything goes, but he is paying the price to recoup his once ever-growing audience.
(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.

Are You Ready For Soul Catcher 2025?
By James Donahue

A company called British Telecom in England is working on a tiny microchip that can be placed in people's bodies that will put them on permanent record in a master computer. The plan is to implant this chip in the skull just behind the eye, where it can record a person's every thought, experience and sensation.

The name of this chip will be Soul Catcher 2025. That is because the company once believed it would be ready for use in the year 2025. Some people believe versions of this chip may already be in use, and is being implanted in unwilling subjects.

Once ready, the chip will be designed to attach directly to the optical nerve. There it would store incoming sensory impulses. Company spokesman Peter Cochrane said the chip would be tiny but have storage capacity of 10 terabytes, enough for an entire lifetime's experience.

"This is the end of death," said Dr. Chris Winters, another member of the research team. Winters said the chip could be removed from the body and everything played back through a computer. "By combining this information with a record of a person's genes, we could recreate a person physically, emotionally and spiritually."

Authorities perceive the chip as something similar to the "black box" installed in aircraft and automobiles. In the event of a criminal charge, the chip could be used to prove or disprove a person's innocence or guilt.

Prison authorities in the UK already are considering a chip like it to replace the ankle bracelet worn by prisoners released on restricted probation.

The Christians will obviously see the chip as the dreaded "mark of the beast" as warned in the strange prophetic Biblical Book of the Revelation.

The warning in Rev. 14:9-10 is severe: "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God . . ."

Millions of people, especially the Bible believers, have been programmed by these verses to be on the lookout for something like this in the so-called "end times," and to reject the mark for fear of facing eternal judgment by a vengeful God.

Indeed, there is something even more problematic about the potential use of the Soul Catcher chip once it comes into existence. Writers for both the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail have suggested that once the memory, sights, sounds and personal emotions of a person's lifetime experience goes into this chip, what would stop science from taking the next step? That would be transplanting the information into a new-born baby, thus transferring the "spirit" of an elderly and dying person into another new body.

Imagine the moral and religious implications of doing something like that. How do we go about protecting the "soul" or "spirit" of the newborn if the body is invaded by the memories of another person. The scientific thought is that the baby would start life where the dead person left off.

While this may sound a lot like reincarnation, we perceive extreme danger in such an experiment. If we accept the belief that every person possesses an individual spirit and is linked to the light or "soul" of the creator, downloading the memory of another person into the DNA of a newborn baby might create a state of insanity. The baby could develop into a person with his own spirit, but the peculiar memories, habits and personality of a second person. It would be similar to having a split personality. And who knows where that might lead?

Carrying such a chip around in our heads would certainly change the way we live, especially if we know that somebody can someday look back at all of our thoughts, experiences and emotions. That could be an uncomfortable concept for anybody with secret perversions and hidden agendas, which most of us have at one time or another. What reader of this story can honestly say that they do not have at least a few skeletons in their personal closet?

On the other hand, because of the population growth, the speed of communications and the fast paced way the world is changing, the microchip may soon be an inevitable part of our lives. Some see it as an important tool for eliminating the volumes of paperwork connected with establishing identities, handling finance, medical records, and a variety of other things involved in daily living.

Another dark side of the chip may lie in the more distant future. Once the planet gets too polluted to support life, consider this scenario. Suppose that people develop complex computerized robotic machines that can survive without air and food. They could then transfer their memory chips and consciousness into these computer matrix systems.

The question, however, becomes a spiritual one. Just by collecting the memories of all of the experiences and sensations a person has during a lifetime, is it the same as catching the spirit or soul of that person? Is it technically possible to capture a person's soul and move it from one body to another?

If this kind of foolishness occurs, we perceive a future planet of robotic and computerized zombies, going through the motions of being living humans, but lacking the soul of the god that exists in each of us.
(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.

Brain Dead Obama
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Everyone who voted for Obama should feel betrayed, ashamed and disgusted. Anyone who still trusts, admires and respects Obama is a fool. Here is my political fantasy: I wake up one day soon and hear the news that President Obama has a fatal brain tumor and will soon resign. Praise the Lord!

If you have any doubt whatsoever about how bad a president Obama is, then take the time to read this incredibly fine essay by Drew Westen "What Happened to Obama?"

Obama has no real, meaningful principles, nor passion and courage to say and do what the US desperately needs. He repeatedly fails to publicly identify the enemies of the state and rally public support for fighting evil and corruption in the political system. For a supposedly smart guy he appears to ordinary people as brain dead. His presidency makes a compelling case why we need a constitutional amendment creating the option for American voters to recall a president.

Far too many people will wrongly believe that voting to reelect Obama is better than voting for any Republican. They are dead wrong. Better to not vote at all for any presidential candidate or vote for a third party candidate. Lesser evil voting has been one of the primary causes of the decline of American democracy, allowing the total corruption of the political system by money representing the interests of the rich and powerful.

Sticking with Obama or giving him another term is idiocy on steroids, like remaining on the sinking Titanic rather than escaping in a lifeboat.

There is only one thing that everyone can see Obama stands for and is totally committed to: staying in office.

Even more depressing than having a failed president is that Americans are not doing what citizens in Greece, England and Israel have been doing in response to their economic suffering: rioting in the streets. Our brain dead president seems matched by a brain dead public, victimized by evil forces controlling the economy. The wealth of the nation has been extracted by greedy elite and corporate interests. Even in this awful economy that rivals the Great Depression in the pain inflicted on a large fraction of the public consider these remarkable facts revealed in a recent article.

Tiffany's first-quarter sales were up 20 percent to $761 million. LVMH, which owns expensive brands like Louis Vuitton and Givenchy, reported sales growth in the first half of 2011 of 13 percent. PPR, home to Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands, said its luxury segment's sales gained 23 percent in the first half. Profits are also up by double digits for many of these companies.

BMW more than doubled its quarterly profit from a year ago as sales rose 16.5 percent; Porsche first-half profit rose 59 percent; and Mercedes-Benz said July sales of its high-end S-Class sedans - some of which cost more than $200,000 - jumped nearly 14 percent and sold more cars in the United States than it had in any July in five years.

Nordstrom has a waiting list for a Chanel sequined tweed coat with a $9,010 price. Neiman Marcus has sold out in almost every size of Christian Louboutin "Bianca" platform pumps, at $775 a pair.

Get the point? The cancerous political and economic corruption in the US is in a terminal stage. The core reason why we have a dysfunctional government is that we have a two-party plutocracy owned by rich and powerful interests. Obama has shown that he too is a puppet of moneyed interests; he does not fight for the poor or the middle class.

Americans seem paralyzed by distraction, delusion and outright stupidity. If not we would be witnessing the beginnings of sorely needed Second American Revolution. With two corrupt political parties controlling the political system the only solution is using what the Founders had the wisdom to give us in the Constitution: an Article V convention of state delegates that could propose constitutional amendments, which are the only route for obtaining genuine reforms of our political system, such as getting all private money out of politics.

Harvard Law School is hosting a Conference on the Constitutional Convention this September. The justification for it includes this correct view: Reform of any kind is stalled by a status quo that profits from blocking change.

In other words, things have gotten so awful that we cannot vote our way out of our national mess. We must work through out states to reform government.

Pay attention to this: A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 17 percent of likely US voters think the federal government today has the consent of the governed, the lowest level ever measured. Sixty-nine percent believe the government does not have that consent. Fourteen percent are undecided. Time for the revolution.

Consistent with this finding was a new Washington Post survey that found 78 percent dissatisfied with the way this country's political system is working. But proof of how brainwashed or stupid Americans are is that 77 percent believe: "Whatever its faults, the United States still has the best system of government in the world." This means that they still do not understand the urgent need for restructuring and reforming the political system. Mass riots in the streets may be needed to fix the system. As more and more Americans suffer in a terrible economy that may be coming.
(c) 2011 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Beware Of CUNA Mutual Insurance Group
By Patricia Cunliffe

My parents had been firm believers in life insurance policies for as long as I can remember. I recall, even in my teens, calculating premium payment amounts over a number of years, looking at the face value and wondering why anyone would bother buying insurance policies. So, you see, life insurance had been an ongoing topic in my family for many years, but even with that in mind, we were totally unprepared for what actually did happen:

In December 2008, my mother, Mary Sina, who was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, called to say that she would not be joining us for the holidays, because she was having trouble shaking a head cold. Four months later, she was still claiming to have the same cold so in April 2009, my husband and I went to Santa Fe to celebrate her 84th birthday with her.

What we found upon our arrival amid piles of newspapers, unopened mail and Christmas gifts in an uncharacteristically filthy apartment, was a woman who had seemed to have lost interest in most everything, which included such basic necessities as grocery shopping and paying bills. Long story short, she was diagnosed with Dementia.

We arranged meal delivery, automatic prescriptions, cleaning lady and online bill pay so that she could continue to live on her own without liability. Then began the task of taking care of other matters that had come unraveled during that period of neglect. She had managed to keep up with household expenses with the help of friends or by making payments if a service was interrupted; occurrences that were completely out of character for my mother.

Among the unopened mail, we discovered that she had several life insurance policies purchased from various companies, all of which had lapsed. I can equivocally say that, although time consuming, across the board, reinstating the policies was a simple enough matter of providing the proper paperwork and a check for the outstanding balance and her polices were reinstated as before.

All except for one company, CUNA Mutual Insurance Group, from whom she had purchased policies in 1992 and in 2000 which would automatically convert from whole life insurance coverage to term life coverage, in the event of a default on her premium payments. Despite the extenuating medical circumstances and the longevity of the account, CUNA refused to revert the policies back to their original state. It was also the amount that CUNA claimed that she owed them, to bring what were now term life polices up to date, in relation to what I had paid to reinstate the other policies, that called my attention to some serious discrepancies between what was printed on the policy and what was owed on the billing statement.

CUNA Mutual Insurance Group is the insurance arm of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), who according to their website, is the premier national trade association serving 90% of America's credit unions. In a written testimony before The Senate Banking Committee dated March 24, 2009, Dan Mica, President and CEO of the Credit Union National Association counted "92 million members."The actual purpose of the document was to "express the need for maintaining an independent federal regulatory agency for federally-insured credit unions" separate from those that regulate other US financial institutions. In it Mica claimed that "Credit Unions did not in any way contribute to the current financial debacle... Therefore it is imperative that credit unions not be swept up in the tide of regulatory reform that is so essential for some other parts of the financial system." The Credit Union National Association was also lobbying strongly, in 2009, for a raise in member business cap lending.

CUNA Mutual Insurance Group sends out insurance materials to credit union members immediately upon their joining, announcing $1,000.00 of accidental death & dismemberment coverage, provided free of charge, and the opportunity to purchase other plans. In my parent's case, their introduction to CUNA Insurance came through the Land of Enchantment Federal Credit Union.

I spent several months communicating with various departments at CUNA Mutual, trying unsuccessfully to get a copy of her file so I sought out the help of the NM State Superintendent of Insurance and eventually did receive it. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed what fragmented paperwork exists in the inner files of such a lucrative company. The CUNA files contained a handwritten application for a policy conversion that was conducted over the telephone, which apparently required no signature verification from my mother. I couldn't help but wonder how any prudent person would elect to change an $81.00 yearly premium to a $138.79 quarterly premium for the exact same amount of coverage. Prior to the onset of Mary's illness, she had been a very practical individual, but by this time was not able to shed any light on how this actually took place.

So I wrote another letter directly to Jeff Post, CEO of CUNA Mutual Insurance Group; Dan Mica, then President of the Credit Union National Association; Mo Chavez, the NM State Superintendent of Insurance; and Joe Maldonado, President of Land of Enchantment Federal Credit Union.

I heard back from Gregg Gonzales, from the NM Superintendent of Insurance Office, who basically told me that it was common knowledge that insurance companies were in the business to make a lot of money off of their customers and there was nothing to be done about it. Joe Maldonado, President of Land of Enchantment Credit Union, dismissed me with a shrug and said, "We don't really have anything to do with the insurance that gets offered to our members."

I received a letter from CUNA President, Dan Mica's office telling me that they had forwarded my letter to Jeff Post, who was the CEO of CUNA Mutual Insurance. By then Jeff Post's office would have been in receipt of my letter twice, first from me and then from Dan Mica's office, so Jeff Post arrogantly ignored both letters. Incidentally, former CEO of CUNA Mutual Insurance Group, Michael Kitchen, resigned in 2004 after it was disclosed his offering money to employees to go against their union, resulting in a lawsuit against CUNA Mutual by the National Labor Relations Board.

In July of 2010 Mary Sina moved to Southern California to be with her family and her health has improved considerably. While packing up her apartment of 27 years, we discovered that the one questionable policy in our possession was, in actuality, yet a different policy purchased from CUNA Mutual Insurance Group for a ridiculously low "burial"amount, of which there was never any mention from CUNA. We realized that even if we had continued to pay premiums; had my mother died, we would have had no policy with which to collect.

CUNA Mutual Insurance Group thrives on an automatic customer base in the consumer who has chosen to invest their money in a credit union, and trusts that credit union's choices regarding benefits provided to their members. Because of that automatic customer base, CUNA Mutual Insurance Group appears to be operating with little, if any, restriction or accountability. It would be interesting to see what percentage of their revenue has accrued through people who have just gotten tired of fighting. Although in June, 2009, a South Dakota jury awarded Teri Powell's estate $6.2 million for a disability claim that she filed when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and CUNA continually denied until her death in 2006. The article also stated that CUNA was appealing that decision on technicalities.

Most lawsuits appear to be over disability insurance, while others include a 2008 filing by Veronica Keith of Washington over the Accidental Death & Dismemberment policy, which apparently excludes "accidental death caused by, or resulting from, committing or attempting to commit a felony" plus the argument that the 3-year period to file suit had expired. In 2009 Southeast Financial Credit Union filed suit against CUNA Mutual Insurance Society and CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. for misrepresentations regarding deferred compensation plans and variable annuities.

A quick visit to the employee review of employer website gives the overall impression that CUNA Mutual Insurance's management team is unqualified, unapproachable, and complacent with very little respect given to their staff in general, resulting in a high turn over rate. That might explain why everyone was so hateful to me on the telephone.

Recently, CUNA Mutual Insurance Group advertising mediums have increased exponentially. Not only do I strongly discourage anyone from doing business with them, but please take the time to make sure that your parent's insurance policies are updated and intact before it is too late. We need to protect our parents from the nice, smiling salesperson who assures them that checking the little provision box is really in their best interest.
(c) 2011 Patricia Cunliffe is a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker & Santa Fe native living in Southern California


Michael Kitchen/NLRB story:

Teri Powell story:

Veronica Keith story:

Southeast Financial story:

CUNA Mutual CEO chronological history 2004-2007:

Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery
By Naomi Klein

I keep hearing comparisons between the London riots and riots in other European cities-window smashing in Athens, or car bonfires in Paris. And there are parallels, to be sure: a spark set by police violence, a generation that feels forgotten.

But those events were marked by mass destruction; the looting was minor. There have, however, been other mass lootings in recent years, and perhaps we should talk about them too. There was Baghdad in the aftermath of the US invasion-a frenzy of arson and looting that emptied libraries and museums. The factories got hit too. In 2004 I visited one that used to make refrigerators. Its workers had stripped it of everything valuable, then torched it so thoroughly that the warehouse was a sculpture of buckled sheet metal.

Back then the people on cable news thought looting was highly political. They said this is what happens when a regime has no legitimacy in the eyes of the people. After watching for so long as Saddam and his sons helped themselves to whatever and whomever they wanted, many regular Iraqis felt they had earned the right to take a few things for themselves. But London isn't Baghdad, and British Prime Minister David Cameron is hardly Saddam, so surely there is nothing to learn there.

How about a democratic example then? Argentina, circa 2001. The economy was in freefall and thousands of people living in rough neighborhoods (which had been thriving manufacturing zones before the neoliberal era) stormed foreign-owned superstores. They came out pushing shopping carts overflowing with the goods they could no longer afford-clothes, electronics, meat. The government called a "state of siege"to restore order; the people didn't like that and overthrew the government.

Argentina's mass looting was called El Saqueo-the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country's elites had done by selling off the country's national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatization deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centers would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge.

But England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage of a situation to take what isn't theirs. And British society, Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behavior.

This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by the emergency G-8 and G-20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing libraries, upping tuitions, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatizations of public assets and decreasing pensions – mix the cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about the need to give up these "entitlements?" The bankers and hedge-fund managers, of course.

This is the global Saqueo, a time of great taking. Fueled by a pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done with the lights left on, as if there was nothing at all to hide. There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94 percent of millionaires were afraid of "violence in the streets." This, it turns out, was a reasonable fear.

Of course London's riots weren't a political protest. But the people committing nighttime robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious.

The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered-a union job, a good affordable education-being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.

David Cameron's response to the riots is to make this locking-out literal: evictions from public housing, threats to cut off communication tools and outrageous jail terms (five months to a woman for receiving a stolen pair of shorts). The message is once again being sent: disappear, and do it quietly.

At last year's G-20 "austerity summit" in Toronto, the protests turned into riots and multiple cop cars burned. It was nothing by London 2011 standards, but it was still shocking to us Canadians. The big controversy then was that the government had spent $675 million on summit "security" (yet they still couldn't seem to put out those fires). At the time, many of us pointed out that the pricey new arsenal that the police had acquired-water cannons, sound cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets-wasn't just meant for the protesters in the streets. Its long-term use would be to discipline the poor, who in the new era of austerity would have dangerously little to lose.

This is what David Cameron got wrong: you can't cut police budgets at the same time as you cut everything else. Because when you rob people of what little they have, in order to protect the interests of those who have more than anyone deserves, you should expect resistance-whether organized protests or spontaneous looting.

And that's not politics. It's physics.
(c) 2011 Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism."

The Texas Unmiracle
By Paul Krugman

As expected, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, has announced that he is running for president. And we already know what his campaign will be about: faith in miracles.

Some of these miracles will involve things that you're liable to read in the Bible. But if he wins the Republican nomination, his campaign will probably center on a more secular theme: the alleged economic miracle in Texas, which, it's often asserted, sailed through the Great Recession almost unscathed thanks to conservative economic policies. And Mr. Perry will claim that he can restore prosperity to America by applying the same policies at a national level.

So what you need to know is that the Texas miracle is a myth, and more broadly that Texan experience offers no useful lessons on how to restore national full employment.

It's true that Texas entered recession a bit later than the rest of America, mainly because the state's still energy-heavy economy was buoyed by high oil prices through the first half of 2008. Also, Texas was spared the worst of the housing crisis, partly because it turns out to have surprisingly strict regulation of mortgage lending.

Despite all that, however, from mid-2008 onward unemployment soared in Texas, just as it did almost everywhere else.

In June 2011, the Texas unemployment rate was 8.2 percent. That was less than unemployment in collapsed-bubble states like California and Florida, but it was slightly higher than the unemployment rate in New York, and significantly higher than the rate in Massachusetts. By the way, one in four Texans lacks health insurance, the highest proportion in the nation, thanks largely to the state's small-government approach. Meanwhile, Massachusetts has near-universal coverage thanks to health reform very similar to the "job-killing" Affordable Care Act.

So where does the notion of a Texas miracle come from? Mainly from widespread misunderstanding of the economic effects of population growth.

For this much is true about Texas: It has, for many decades, had much faster population growth than the rest of America - about twice as fast since 1990. Several factors underlie this rapid population growth: a high birth rate, immigration from Mexico, and inward migration of Americans from other states, who are attracted to Texas by its warm weather and low cost of living, low housing costs in particular.

And just to be clear, there's nothing wrong with a low cost of living. In particular, there's a good case to be made that zoning policies in many states unnecessarily restrict the supply of housing, and that this is one area where Texas does in fact do something right.

But what does population growth have to do with job growth? Well, the high rate of population growth translates into above-average job growth through a couple of channels. Many of the people moving to Texas - retirees in search of warm winters, middle-class Mexicans in search of a safer life - bring purchasing power that leads to greater local employment. At the same time, the rapid growth in the Texas work force keeps wages low - almost 10 percent of Texan workers earn the minimum wage or less, well above the national average - and these low wages give corporations an incentive to move production to the Lone Star State.

So Texas tends, in good years and bad, to have higher job growth than the rest of America. But it needs lots of new jobs just to keep up with its rising population - and as those unemployment comparisons show, recent employment growth has fallen well short of what's needed.

If this picture doesn't look very much like the glowing portrait Texas boosters like to paint, there's a reason: the glowing portrait is false.

Still, does Texas job growth point the way to faster job growth in the nation as a whole? No.

What Texas shows is that a state offering cheap labor and, less important, weak regulation can attract jobs from other states. I believe that the appropriate response to this insight is "Well, duh." The point is that arguing from this experience that depressing wages and dismantling regulation in America as a whole would create more jobs - which is, whatever Mr. Perry may say, what Perrynomics amounts to in practice - involves a fallacy of composition: every state can't lure jobs away from every other state.

In fact, at a national level lower wages would almost certainly lead to fewer jobs - because they would leave working Americans even less able to cope with the overhang of debt left behind by the housing bubble, an overhang that is at the heart of our economic problem.

So when Mr. Perry presents himself as the candidate who knows how to create jobs, don't believe him. His prescriptions for job creation would work about as well in practice as his prayer-based attempt to end Texas's crippling drought.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin' that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here and the desert far away
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A..
Democracy Is Coming To The U.S.A.
~~~ Leonard Cohen

Ishaqi Again
Another Day, Another Atrocity in the Endless Iraq War
By Chris Floyd

There was a raid in Ishaqi last week. Armed men crept upon the sleeping houses in the dead of night. Armed men stirring in the darkness, in a land still open, like a flayed wound, to violent death and chaos from every direction, many years after the savage act of aggression that first tore the country to pieces.

They crept toward the houses. They said nothing, gave no warning, could not be clearly seen, did not identify themselves. "Thieves!" someone shouted. Someone grabbed a rifle - one kept ready at hand to guard the sleeping family - and fired a shot to scare away the raiders.

But men creeping in the darkness were not local thieves. They were soldiers of the foreign army that still occupied the land. Foreign invaders, accompanied by forces from the local army they had raised for the government they had built on the mound of a million rotting corpses.

Armed to the teeth with expensive gear bought with public money from bloated war profiteers in the invaders' home country, the creeping men were not to be frightened off by a rifle shot fired blindly in the darkness. They saw the flash - and lit up the village with heavy gunfire and grenades. They called in a helicopter gunship hovering nearby to support them against the rifle of a villager awakened by the sound of unknown, unidentified, armed men creeping near his house and family.

In the tumult, a 13-year-old boy began running through the garden, frightened, confused, trying to escape the hellish metal flying all around him. But the metal found him; it tore into his fleeing body - the body of this scared, unarmed boy running away from the well-armed soldiers - the bullets tore into his body and killed him in the garden where he used to play.

The armed men then stalked through the village. Kicking down doors, dragging people out, hogtied, and throwing them into the dirt. They ransacked, they smashed, they ripped, they broke - and, like thieves, they stole.

"We heard gunfire near our house, and my son woke up and went to the garden because he was afraid," said the boy's mother, Nagia Gamas, 51. "They shot him and my husband."

... Muhammad Farhan, a 62-year-old farmer in Ishaqi ... said Iraqi and American forces knocked down his door around 2 a.m. Friday, tied him and three of his relatives up and took them outside.

He said that the Iraqi and American forces searched his house, stole a check from him and took his brother's passport. "The Americans were telling us we are liars and terrorists," Mr. Farhan said. "Why do you attack us? We are just innocent people."

It was just another night in the unending American war against Iraq. It was just another non-combatant death added to the million or more such deaths caused, by direct or collateral hand, by the illegal American invasion, now in its eighth year.

And it was just another atrocity in Ishaqi, where the American invaders and their colonial helpers had already inflicted horror and death on the area's children in years past. The 13-year-old boy - who had been only five when the invasion began, so many years and so many deaths ago, probably knew the little children, some just a few months old, killed in the earlier attacks. As I noted here in March 2006:

We know that U.S. forces conducted a raid on a house in the village on March 15. ... We know that two Iraqi police officials, Major Ali Ahmed and Colonel Farouq Hussein - both employed by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government - told Reuters that the 11 occupants of the house, including the five children, had been bound and shot in the head before the house was blown up. We know that the U.S.-backed Iraqi police told Reuters that an American helicopter landed on the roof in the early hours of the morning, then the house was blown up, and then the victims were discovered. We know that the U.S.-backed Iraqi police said that an autopsy performed on the bodies found that "all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head."

We know that Ahmed Khalaf, brother of house's owner, told AP that nine of the [11] victims were family members and two were visitors, adding, "the killed family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children. The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death."

We know from the photographs that one child, the youngest, the baby, has a gaping wound in his forehead. We can see that one other child, a girl with a pink ribbon in her hair, is lying on her side and has blood oozing from the back of her head. ... We know from the photographs that two of the children - two girls, still in their pajamas - are lying with their dead eyes open. We can see that the light and tenderness that animate the eyes of every young child have vanished; nothing remains but the brute stare of nothingness into nothingness. We can see that the other three children have their eyes closed; two are limp, but the baby has one stiffened arm raised to his cheek, as if trying to ward off the blow that gashed and pulped his face so terribly.

Later, the Pentagon changed its original story about the raid, in which it claimed that "only" one man, two women and a single child had been killed. Following an "investigation," the Pentagon said that one terrorist had been killed, along with "three noncombatant" deaths and an estimated nine "collateral deaths." (As I noted at the time: The difference between these two categories is not explained. And of course it doesn't matter to the innocent people killed; whether they are "non-combatants" or "collaterals," they're still just as dead.) The invaders categorically denied that any children had been shot in the head. But the evidence indicated differently:

First is the photographic evidence: pictures taken of the aftermath by Agence France Presse, and a video that emerged this week on BBC. These clearly dispute the Pentagon's account, which holds that the house was first raked with gunfire, then attack by helicopter gunships, then finally bombed by American jets: a massive barrage of firepower that left the house in ruins. But the video shows that part of the house was left standing. The photographs, which have been widely available for months, show five dead children, one of them only a few months old. They have been laid out by grieving relatives. Their bodies show no signs of having been ripped up or damaged in the course of an all-out air and ground assault; as the BBC's John Simpson points out, they had not been crushed by the collapse of the house, as the Pentagon claimed. Instead, they are unmarked, their clothes dusty but in most cases untorn. In the photographs I saw, one child clearly has blood oozing from the back of her head, while the baby has a hole in his forehead, and other damage to his face. The other children are laid on their back, with their wounds invisible, their bodies remarkably whole. Simpson, shown viewing the film, said it was clear that the children had been shot.

Second is the testimony of the villagers, and of two officials of the U.S.-backed Iraqi police, Major Ali Ahmed and Colonel Farouq Hussein. These are men who risk their lives by their cooperation with the Coalition. The villagers say soldiers entered the house and killed the occupants; the house was later hit by the helicopter then bombed, apparently to cover up the killings, some of the villagers surmised. The Iraqi police said "all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head." Later, a Knight-Ridder reporter saw a preliminary report indicating that the 11 victims had multiple wounds. This tallies with Simpson's viewing, which showed that one of the dead children had been shot in the side. Everyone who saw or examined the bodies agreed that the victims had been shot, most likely by bullets from the large pile of American-issue cartridges found inside the house, which can also be seen on the video.

This was in March. Just a few months later, there was an even greater massacre:

So what happened on December 9 in the village of Taima in the Ishaqi district, on the shores of Lake Tharthar? The official U.S. military version states that unidentified "Coalition Forces" entered the village shortly after midnight and targeted a location "based on intelligence reports that indicated associates with links to multiple al-Qaeda in Iraq networks were operating in the area." During a search, they took heavy fire from a nearby building. Returning fire, they killed "two armed terrorists" but couldn't quell the attack, so they called in an airstrike that killed "18 more armed terrorists." ...

The identification of the victims as terrorists was made through a "battle damage assessment," said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver. "If there is a weapon with or next to the person or they are holding it, they are a terrorist," he said.

Garver firmly refused to identify the troops involved in the raid; he wouldn't even say if they were American, Iraqi, or from some other Coalition ally, the Daily Telegraph reports. "There are some units we don't talk about," he said. But the conclusions of the official report were unequivocal: 20 terrorists killed, no collateral damage. ...

But local officials from the U.S.-backed Iraqi government had a different view: they said the raid was a bloodbath of innocent civilians. Ishaqi Mayor Amir Fayadh said that 19 civilians were killed by the airstrikes that destroyed two private homes. Fayadh said that the victims included seven women and eight children. An official in the regional government of Salahuddin said six children had been killed. All Iraqi officials agreed that the victims were mostly members of the extended families of two brothers in the town, Muhammad Hussein al-Jalmood and Mahmood Hussein al-Jalmood, the NYT reports.

... Soon after the attack, reporters and photographers from Associated Press and Agence France Presse arrived on the scene. They took pictures, shot video and talked to grieving members of the al-Jalmood family. Local police gave them the names of at least 17 of the victims, which indicated they were from the same family. The names of at least four women were among them. Many of the bodies had been charred and twisted beyond recognition; some were "almost mummified," AP reports. However, AFP videotaped at least two children among the dead.

When shown the pictures later, Garver said: "I see nothing in the photos that indicates those children were in the houses that our forces received fire from and subsequently destroyed with the airstrike." He did not speculate on where the dead children being mourned by family members after being pulled from the rubble of the bombed-out houses might have come from otherwise. Perhaps the al-Jalmoods kept them in cold storage for just such a propaganda opportunity.

All of this was back in the bad old days of George W. Bush. But it is still going on, and has been going on, throughout the tenure of the Great Continuer. And if the Nobel Peace Laureate has his way, it will keep going on. Read carefully the statement on the most recent raid by a PR mouthpiece for the invaders, where he bravely and boldly heaps all blame for any "collateral damage" on the colonial troops:

"This was an Iraqi-planned and -led counterterrorism operation," Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, an American military spokesman, said in a statement. "The operation was enabled by U.S. support that included helicopters. Also, there was a small number of U.S. advisers taking part in the operation, although it was predominantly Iraqi forces, and they were in charge of all activities on the ground."

"Advisers." This is the new term-of-art for invasion forces. This is the word now being used by the Obama Administration and the Iraqi government in their relentless efforts to weasel out of the agreement to withdraw all American "military forces" from Iraq by the end of the year. This follows the line of the Peace Laureate's earlier scam, when he claimed to have kept his promise to withdraw "all combat troops" from Iraq by simply renaming the tens of thousands of occupying soldiers left behind as "non-combat troops" - although they continued, and continue, to carry out combat missions. (And of course, the "withdrawal" agreement doesn't include the thousands upon thousands of "security personnel" and mercenaries who will guard the vast embassy-fortress the invaders have built in the center of Baghdad.)

So we will no doubt see more of Ishaqi's children shot and killed by occupiers and their colonial proxies in the months and years to come. We will no doubt see more villages and neighborhoods invaded in the dead of night by armed men creeping up on their houses, kicking down their doors, shooting, looting, breaking and beating, in this now-hidden, now-forgotten but still-ongoing act of mass murder.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

The Grubby Species
By David Michael Green

Nobility is a bitch, and a real seductive one at that.

I'm capable of some serious cynicism, but these days I kinda wish I had a lot more of it. I kinda wish I had born and raised in a more cynical time. Then maybe I wouldn't get my heart broken so often.

That's a funny thing to say about the time I grew up in, in a way. It was the era of Vietnam and Watergate, the era of police attack dogs and burning cities. My Lai, Kent State, Nixon, Watts. What's uglier than that? And can't one make a very compelling case that these are significantly better times today? I mean, after all, the government isn't beating and murdering our kids on America's streets. And while we're still fighting wars (of course), there are a lot less casualties on either side these days. Aren't things better?

No. They're worse. What's absent today from the America of my younger days is hope and understanding. Back then, everyone understood there was a struggle going on, and lots of people did just that. And they generated enormous successes, ranging from changing both racial civil rights laws and norms, to doing the same for gender equality, to demanding cleaner government, to improving the New Deal social safety net, to ending the Vietnam war, to distributing the national wealth more fairly, to changing environmental consciousness and law, and more.

It was a painful process, but one that came with an outstanding record of achievement, a record which therefore justified the sense of hope. There was solid and robust empirical evidence to prove that having high expectations for the country was not some pollyannaish exercise in naivete.

That's all gone. It's been replaced by something far worse than a tired stasis. And, really, when you consider the present picture in its full glory, you're left with something beyond despair. For this is not only a story of deceit and hypocrisy, of rampant greed, of sociopathic disdain for the lives of others, but, finally, also a story of complete betrayal and the predatory exploitation of innocent people.

As in any crime story, it's crucial to understand the who, what, when, why and how in order to unravel the true tale, and to have any hope for crime prevention and remediation in the future.

The 'what' of this crime scene is crucial, and so many people still don't understand it (despite the rampant prevalence of CSI dramas all across the television dial - or perhaps because of it). It's been said that the perfect crime is one of which the victim isn't even cognizant. That's all too true here. This lack of comprehension of what has been done, who did it, and why is the single most depressing feature of American politics today. How can 300 million people hallucinate so deeply all at once? Is there really that much LSD to go around? Or do we just get our drugs from the end of a cable nowadays?

There's really only one main theme to the story of American politics in the last century (if not more), and that is the question of the distribution of wealth. This is particularly true of the last three decades, a period during which other important things - not least including wars and civil rights struggles - transpired, but were ultimately peripheral to the real story. And yet people still don't understand this central concept and the crime committed around it.

A hundred years ago the distribution of wealth in this country looked like that of any standard issue banana republic. The rich had almost everything, and all of the rest of us barely got by, working (alongside our children) long hours in horrid conditions, for low pay, no benefits and zero respect for us as humans deserving of an equal regard for our welfare, happiness, opportunities, fortunes and basic dignity. We were 'human resources' (though the term was not in use until the ethos was revived in the present era), who were to be used and abused in the processing of natural resources, and discarded when our usefulness ceased. This approach to class relations within the society produced the expected result: wealthy Americans lived long and highly comfortable lives, while the rest of us resembled something nearer to characters out of Hobbes.

But then Franklin Roosevelt, easily the most transformative figure in American history, gave us a New Deal, which was quite literally that. Roosevelt and his fellow travelers in and out of government changed the essential terms of political economy in America, such that it was no longer a game entirely for the benefit of the wealthy. Mind you, those rich folks still did real well, thank you very much, and it is correctly argued that Roosevelt actually saved capitalism from capitalists - so, when it comes to FDR, we're not talking about Leon Trotsky here. But Roosevelt's program changed the rules of labor relations, taxation, government spending, regulation and so on, a reform that had the ultimate effect of redistributing wealth in America, so that the richest among us no longer had it all. And, in the process, this massive sea change in public policy also created a giant middle class that had not existed before, and launched an era of prosperity in this country that may have no equal across all of human history.

Which brings us to the 'who' of this murder mystery. They are the predatory plutocrats who hated FDR and the New Deal then, and have not stopped doing so down to this day. They despised Roosevelt so much for being "a traitor to his class" that many of them had to refer to him as "that man", because they couldn't bear to actually spit out his name. These people, with their infantile obsession for acquisition coming right out of some Freud 101 textbook, have never gone away. But they were marginalized during the half-century of the New Deal era. In fact, they were marginalized by the core mainstream of even the Republican Party. Dwight Eisenhower referred to them - in particular, to those who wanted to abolish Social Security twenty years after its launch - as "stupid."

Eisenhower's comment points to another answer to the 'who' question here. Plutocrats need agents to commit their crimes for them. That includes cadres of cops and soldiers who are either clueless as to their place in the scheme of things, or satisfied to be bought off for a few shekels and/or a pittance of prestige in the social hierarchy. In the contemporary context, however, it mostly means politicians. In our time these (alleged) people are little more than kabuki dancers, who job is to maintain a layered set of illusions. On top is the idea of political debate, as if there was fundamentally any difference between the two parties in America. As if Harry Reid and Barack Obama get up every day wondering how they can spend their waking hours fighting off Republican intransigencies to make life better for you and me. At the next level down is the idea of patriotism and the national interest. This facade brainwashes us to believe that while we may disagree with leaders of the other party, at least they are well meaning patriots who just happen to be wrong-headed - but right-hearted! - in their prescription for what ails the country. Finally, we have the last veil, the democracy ruse, where we are told that our government is responsive to the public will. Never mind all that corporate money washing around in the system - it doesn't actually effect anything. It's one person, one vote. Where your representatives are concerned, you count every bit as much as the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Almost without exception, our contemporary political class serves the function of acting out this tawdry little soap opera, this elaborate diversionary scheme. That's why there's so much overlap between Madison Avenue and Hollywood and Washington, America's politicians are B-rate actors (sometimes literally), playing a role in a lame white-hat-versus-black-hat pseudo-drama filmed on a soundstage called Washington, and doing the commercials in-between as well. But it wasn't always thus. We used to have (at least some) limits, and we used to have (at least some) politicians genuinely committed to the public interest.

That crucial difference gives us the 'when' to this tale. For fifty years there was a broad consensus in America around the values of the New Deal and the lessons learned from the period preceding it. That consensus began unraveling in the 1980s, and has continued to do so ever since. The essential narrative of the last thirty years is the story of the dismantling of the New Deal, and with it the broad and shared prosperity that Americans once enjoyed. This process has occurred piecemeal, because it had to, because in fact both the deal of the New Deal era and the values it personifies are highly popular with the American public.

So the 'how' was to lie, cheat and steal in order for the rich to redress the 'crime' of the New Deal and get 'their' money back. Trade deals that seemed on their surface plainly to be disastrous for American workers - perhaps because that is exactly what they were - were sold to us as beneficial. Union busting, a la Reagan and PATCO, was made to seem an act of necessary national toughness. And who needed unions, anyhow? Didn't we already have good wages? Deregulation - hey, what a great idea! Let Wall Street banks do whatever they want - you know, like in the 1920s! They didn't call 'em "roaring" for nuthin', pal! Tax slashing for millionaires and billionaires was another big winner. It'll trickle-down to the rest of us when these job-creators create jobs, it won't cost the government any revenues, and it will jump-start the economy. So what if regressives went zero for three on those claims? We have to cut taxes even more! And then there are the diversions to keep you voting for the kleptocrats at every turn, such as foreign evil-doers (Ooooohhh, Saddam! Very scary! Noriega! Plenty bad man! Castro! An athiest, for Christ's sake!), job-stealing Mexicans (you would have wound up being a rich attorney - even though you didn't go to law school, or even college - but some sneaky wetback crossed the border and took your job), and predatory gays who want to deflower your innocent daughter - er, well, something like that.

Really, you have to give this country credit where credit is due. No contemporary developed nation in the world can touch us where political stupidity is concerned. We're the best at that! American exceptionalism, man! Take that, you cheese-eating European socialists! Having repudiated the rampant regressivism of the last president - a shit-kicker Texas Republican governor who made his bones frying people on death row - and having spent four years with more of precisely the same politics (except with much more niceness) from our present Social Worker-in-Chief, we are now very likely to turn again next to an even more radical version of the Bush debacle, that being the current shit-kicker Texas Republican governor, Rick Perry. I mean, it all might even have a certain entertainment value to it if Americans had any sense of irony whatsoever. Alas, that is far from the case, and this will all somehow make perfect sense to voters in 2012. The Democrat who governs like a Republican couldn't do squat to fix the crises created by the Republicans, so we'll need to get an even more Republican Republican in there to do it right! Far, far right.

I have to confess that I am deeply despondent about politics today, in a way I don't remember feeling, even during the ugliest days of George W. Caligula. It was awful then, but those actions and ethics were only a natural extension of what had already been going on within the GOP for twenty years. Each successive wave of thuggish animals was uglier than the last (as continues to be the case today), from Reagan to Gingrich to Bush. The Obama presidency, on the other hand, has been crushing to the spirit, and more so because even disappointed liberals still don't get it, thinking he's a wimp or a lousy poker player, when in fact he is - like Clinton before him - just another kleptocrat, come to sell out not just the country, but also the ideology of liberalism and the political party which once embodied those principles. That's quite a trifecta, really. Most horror story politicians would be satisfied just to wreck their country in the name of personal narcissism. Obama is additionally destroying a set of crucial and hard-won ideas along with a political party in the bargain.

He is the anti-FDR in every meaning of that term. FDR saved the country. Obama is burying it. FDR created the Democratic Party as we (used to) know it, once probably the most formidable political machine in American history. Obama is dragging it curbside. FDR gave America its social contract. Obama is dismantling it. FDR reveled in the hatred of the greedy thuggish scum who despised him. Obama keeps hoping they'll like him and invite him over for a beer if only he lets them pass his limp body around the jail cell one more time. FDR was America's greatest president. Obama is undoubtedly one of its worst.

This cuts deep, man. Perhaps I should have been used to it after eight years of Clinton (whose adoration to this day by Democrats is a thing of sad wonder and another unrelenting source of despondency) and the absolute nothingburgerness of Nancy Pelosi and crew following the 2006 election. Just the same, I'm having an "Et tu, Brute?" moment as I watch the complete sell-out of 300 million people by a handful of traitors. I'll give Obama credit for achieving one goal, though. This is a truly bipartisan act of treason. Good for him. Working together with Republicans seems very important to this president.

Meanwhile, though, what is there to do, say and think when the avenues for seeking solutions - hell, even for just ending our suicidal tendencies - all seem to be closing up at once, and every iteration of American politics is about losing more of what matters? Like I said, it's getting harder and harder to have hope, and even to care. I guess at some point if stupid people want to do stupid things to themselves, you gotta let them. I kinda wish the rest of us weren't dragged down the toilet with them, though. That's just rude.

It's even tempting to think that a Republican sweep in 2012 would be good for the country. Since conservative prescriptions can only continue the destruction they've begun, perhaps this disaster could mark the repudiation of the ideology forever. 'Course, that's what some of us thought in 2008, and now it is only worse. Far worse. Who could have imagined that, after a decade of Bush, regressivism and disaster that two years later the right would be back with the tea party and stronger than ever? Kafka? Dali? Timothy Leary?

The most disheartening thing about the American political condition is the degree to which people don't get what has happened to them, and still continues to happen, destroying the body politic. It's as if you were staring at an x-ray of a giant tumor in your belly, and nevertheless still sat there in befuddled consternation, wondering what the hell was making you feel so ill. It's as if you then thought to yourself, "Oh, what the hell, I guess I'll just drink a keg or two of this here Tumor Growth Potion. Maybe that will cure me." In the latest sign of this diagnostic idiocy, voters in Wisconsin this week had the opportunity to respond to the tumor that is their Republican governor, through the mechanism of recall elections. The results were hardly a ringing endorsement for sanity, or even self-protection from the predators for whom Scott Walker and his party (as well as most of the other party) shills. That's really depressing.

What is most disheartening is that Americans don't even understand the experiment they've been subjected to these last thirty years. They seem to get the fact that it has failed, but they don't know what "it" is. How many people know that regressives have won more or less every single economic policy battle of the last three decades, from taxes to trade to labor relations to deregulation to privatization to subsidies and beyond? How many Americans know this? How many know, to simply choose the most obvious example (but the same logic applies across the board), that taxes are far lower in America today than they have been for almost a century? And how can they possibly reject this regressive experiment in political economy if they don't even know that it has been conducted?

One reason they don't know, of course, is that nobody is telling them this. Sure, there are a couple of real liberals in Congress and even a socialist senator. But the real truth is that there is absolutely no left in America today, as a serious political movement. None. Liberalism hasn't had a real voice in America for thirty years, perhaps forty. What we have today, instead, is an insane tea party right, whom people like Eisenhower would have utterly abhorred. Then we have the 'mainstream' GOP, like John Boehner, who are simply yesterday's regressive tea party revolutionaries, and who therefore look moderate only through (faux) comparison to the Michele Bachmanns and Allen Wests of this world. Then you have the so-called 'centrist' or moderate Democrats in Congress, who can always be relied upon to provide any non-GOP votes necessary to stuff the plutocratic stocking with Xmas gifts, not to mention the one in the White House who signs the bill a day or two later. Finally, there are the Nancy Pelosis and Chuck Schumers of our political firmament, whose job it is to provide the image of an opposition to oligarchy and the military-industrial complex. "We'll shut down the war as soon as we get control of Congress," they say. Until they actually do win majorities, that is, when it becomes, "Oh, did we say that?"

And so on. Like I said, there is no one out there - and hasn't been for over a generation - who is leading the progressive charge, or even trumpeting the liberal narrative, to counter the absurdly manifest lies of the right. Fox News only makes sense if you're stupid. Similarly, more tax cuts for billionaires as a solution to an economy and a federal budget wrecked by tax cuts for billionaires only makes sense if no one else is out there pointing out that this particular imperial monarch is standing before us buck naked (if you catch my drift). I wouldn't mind quite as much that my country was committing national suicide if I thought that was the intention. In fact, it's more like murder by giving poisoned lollipops to middle-aged babies who gleefully grab for them. Hence my despondency.

If there is a small ray of hope out there, it is that more people are beginning to catch on. There has been a large spate of articles in the media lately with the theme of Obama's complete ineptitude and insignificance as a serious political force. Liberals are by and large finally, amazingly, beginning to understand that he is not a liberal champion by any stretch of the imagination. That's progress, at least, over reading for the last two years that Obama is a liberal or socialist or has a far-left agenda. What sickening, Orwellian, bullshit that is. Sadly, however, while commentators and the voting public are starting to recognize that Obama is not one of us, they have not yet realized the full truth, which is that he is one of them. As if somebody else picked Larry Summers and Tim Geithner and Bob Gates to serve in his cabinet. As if someone else decided to bail-out Wall Street while doing nothing about jobs or mortgages. As if there was another guy in the White House who tripled American forces in Afghanistan, or maintained Guantánamo in its fully operational state. This is what is, ultimately, so sickening about our current political condition. As a country, we don't even know what it is.

If there is another slightly larger a ray of hope on the horizon, it is the premise that there is a breaking point out there somewhere. We're seeing it in Israel (though, of course, the US media declines to cover the story), where huge swaths of the population have been on the streets protesting against - not Palestinians - but rather plutocratic plundering and the diminished lives it has left them with. We've seen that right across the Arab Spring countries, and in Greece and Britain.

Just the other day someone correctly noted that, "There is no excuse for violence, no excuse for looting, no excuse for thuggery, and those who are responsible must know that they will be brought to justice. I think this is about sheer criminality." I couldn't agree more, except that I was thinking it applies to the greedy bastard thugs whose sheer criminality, looting and - yes - violence has brought the world's economy to its knees, rather than to the response to that on the streets of London, which was what Tory Home Secretary Theresa May meant when she made that comment. In any case, maybe we're seeing the beginnings of the breaking point. Perhaps people are at last starting to say Basta! to impoverishment of the many in order to serve the greed of the few.

Maybe such restored political nobility will even come to America.

Maybe it isn't the entire human species that tramples on nobility in its grubby pursuit of greed, but just Homo Sapien Americanus.

And maybe even we children of the Neanderthal can do better, if pushed hard enough.
(c) 2011 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Carl gives the Corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear Uber Fuhrer Levin,

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 Herr Levin, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Bernie Sanders Talks Up Primary Challenge To Obama As 'A Good Idea for Our Democracy And For The Democratic Party'
By John Nichols

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continues to argue that a Democratic primary challenge to President Obama would be "good for democracy and for the Democratic Party."

Another court has ruled against the individual mandate on which Obama's healthcare reform scheme is built-that will make the insurance companies mad. What happens if the Supreme Court kills the individual mandate? Robert Reich says "I'd recommend President Obama immediately propose what he should have proposed in the beginning-universal health care based on Medicare for all, financed by payroll taxes."

Sanders will not be a candidate. The Vermont independent, who caucuses with Senate Democrats, is running for re-election in 2012.

But Sanders, who has been sharply critical of Obama's compromises with the Republican right on economic and fiscal policy, continues to talk up the idea of a primary challenge as a vehicle to pressure the president from the left. He is not alone. Ralph Nader is actively encouraging a primary race. And one-third of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents tell pollsters that they favor a primary challenge to the president, while just 59 percent oppose such a run.

Referencing his regular appearances on Thom Hartmann's nationally syndicated radio show, Sanders said: "I do a radio show every week. Over a million people hear it in almost every state in the country. Those are working-class people, progressive people. There is a lot of disillusionment. They want the president to stand up for the middle class, for the working class of this country, and they want him to take on big money interests in a way that he has not done up to this point."

Who might challenge Obama? Sanders isn't naming names. But in an appearance on C-SPAN's Newsmakers program that was taped Friday, Sanders said, "I am sure there are serious and smart people out there who can do it,"

That's an optimistic take. In fact, potential challengers have been reluctant to step up.

Critics of a primary challenge fear that it would not snatch the nomination from Obama but would weaken him in fall competition with a Republican such as Texas Governor Rick Perry or former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

But Sanders says: "Here's the point: If you're asking me, do I think, at the end of the day, that Barack Obama is going to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2012? I do. But do I believe that it is a good idea for our democracy and for the Democratic Party-I speak, by the way, as an independent-that people start asking the president some hard questions about why he said one thing during his previous campaign, and is doing another thing today on Social Security, on Medicare. I think it is important that that discussion take place."
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Life In An Age Of Looting
"Some will rob you with a sixgun and some with a fountain pen"
By Phil Rockstroh

As the poor of Britain rise in a fury of inchoate rage and stock exchanges worldwide experience manic upswings and panicked swoons, the financial elite (and their political operatives) are arrayed in a defensive posture, even as they continue their global-wide, full-spectrum offensive vis-à-vie The Shock Doctrine. Concurrently, corporate mass media types fret over the reversal of fortune and trumpet the triumphs of the self-serving agendas of Wall Street and corporate swindlers…even as they term a feller, in ill-gotten possession of a flat screen television, fleeing through the streets of North London, a mindless thug.

According to the through-the-looking-glass cosmology of mass media elitists, when a poor person commits a crime of opportunity, his actions are a threat to all we hold dear and sacred, but, when the hyper-wealthy of the entrenched looter class abscond with billions, those criminals are referred to as our financial leaders.

Regardless of the propaganda of "free market" fantasists, the great unspeakable in regard to capitalism is its wealth, by and large, is generated for a ruthless, privileged few by the creation of bubbles, and, when those bubbles burst, the resultant economic catastrophe inflicts a vastly disproportionate amount of harm upon those -- the laboring and middle classes -- who generate grossly inequitable amounts of capital for the elitist of the fraudster having the life force drained from them by the vampiric set-up of the gamed system.

Woody Guthrie summed up the situation in these two (unfortunately) ageless stanzas:

"Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a sixgun,
And some with a fountain pen.

"And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home."
--excerpt from Pretty Boy Floyd.

Although, at present, U.S. bank vaults contain little tangible loot for a Pretty Boy Floyd-type outlaw to boost. How would it be possible for an old school bank robber such as Floyd to make-off with a haul of funneling electrons?

Here's the lowdown: The Wall Street fraudsters of the swindler class want to refill their coffers and line their pockets (that is, offshore accounts) with Social Security and Medicare funds. That's the nature of the unfolding scam, folks. Oligarchic rule has always been a system defined by legalized looting that leaves a wasteland of want, deprivation, and unfocused rage in its wake.

Consequently, in the U.K. (and beyond): When poor people's hopes dry up, cities become a tinderbox of dead dreams, and we should not be stricken with shock and consternation when these degraded places are set aflame, nor should we be surprised when the bribed, debt-beholden and commercial media propaganda-bamboozled middle class (who helped create the wasteland with their arid complicity) cry out (predictably) for police state tactics to quell the fiery insurrection.

There have been incidents in which a fire has smoldered for years in an abandoned, sealed-off mineshaft, and then the fire, traveling through the tunnels of the mine, and up the roots of dead, dried trees have caused a dying forest to bloom into flames. The rage that sparks a riot can proceed in a similar manner -- and the insular, sealed-off nature of a nation's elite and the willful ignorance of its middle class will only make the explosion of pent-up rage more powerful when it reaches the surface.

We exist in a culture that, day after day, inundates its have-nots with consumerist propaganda, and then, when the social order breaks down, its wealthy and bourgeoisie alike express outrage when the poor steal consumer goods -- as opposed to going out and looting an education and a good job.

Under Disaster Capitalism, the underclass have had economic violence inflicted upon them since birth, yet the corporate state mass media doesn't seem to notice the situation, until young men burn down the night. Then media elitists wax indignant, carrying on as if these desperate acts are devoid of cultural context.

A mindset has been instilled in these young men and boys that they are nothing sans the accoutrements of consumerism. Yet when they loot an i-Phone, as opposed to creating economy-shredding derivative scams, we're prompted by the corporate media to become indignant.

When the slow motion, elitist-manipulated mob action known as our faux democratic/consumerist culture deprives people of their basic human rights and personal dignity -- then, in turn, we should not be shocked when a mob of the underclass fails to bestow those virtues upon others.

The commercial mass media's narrative of narrowed context (emotional, anecdotal and unreflective in nature) serves as a form of corporate state propaganda, promulgated to ensure the general population continues to rage against the symptoms rather than the disease of neoliberalism. The false framing of opposing opinions -- of those who state the deprivations of neoliberalism factor into the causes of uprisings, insurrections and riots as being apologists for violence and destruction is as preposterous as claiming one is an apologist for dry rot when he points out structural damage to a house due to a leaking roof.

Because of the elements of inverted totalitarianism, inherent within the structure of corporate state capitalism, and internalized within the general population by constant, commercial media re-enforcement, one should not be surprised when a sizable portion of the general populace is inclined to support police state tactics to quell social unrest among the disadvantaged of the population.

Keep in mind: When watching the BBC or the corporate media, one is receiving a limited narrative (tacitly) approved by the global power elite, created by informal arrangements among a careerist cartel comprised of business, governmental and media personality types who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, even if, in doing so, they serve as operatives of a burgeoning police state.

Accordingly, you can't debate fascist thinking with reason nor empathetic imagination e.g., the self-righteous (and self-serving) pronouncements of mass media representatives nor the attendant outrage of the denizens of the corporate state in their audience -- their umbrage engineered by the emotionally laden images with which they have been relentlessly pummeled and plied -- because their responses will be borne of (conveniently) lazy generalizations, given impetus by fear-based animus.

Through it all, veiled by disorienting media distractions and political legerdemain, we find ourselves buffeted and bound by the predicament of paradigm lost…that constitutes the onset of the unraveling of the present order.

"The kings of the world are growing old,
and they shall have no inheritors.
Their sons died while they were boys,
and their neurasthenic daughters abandoned
the sick crown to the mob."
--Rainer Maria Rilke, excerpt from "The Kings of the World"

Yet, while there is proliferate evidence that, even as people worldwide are rising up against inequity and exploitation, the economic elite have little inclination to do so much as glimpse the plight of those from whose life blood their immense riches have been wrung, nor hear the admonition of the downtrodden…that they are weary of life on their knees and are awakening to the reality that the con of freedom of choice under corporate state oligarchy is, in fact, a life shackled to the consumerism-addicted/debt-indenturement that comprises the structure of the neoliberal, global company store.

"The rotten masks that divide one man
From another, one man from himself
They crumble
For one enormous moment and we glimpse
The unity that we lost, the desolation
...Of being man, and all its glories
Sharing bread and sun and death
The forgotten astonishment of being alive"
--Octavio Paz, excerpt from "Sunstone"

Accordingly, the most profound act of selfless devotion (commonly called love) in relationship to a society gripped by a sociopathic mode of being is creative resistance. Submission is madness. Sanity entails subversion. The heart insists on it; otherwise, life is only a slog to the graveyard; mouth, full of ashes; heart, a receptacle for dust. (c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Monte Wolverton ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

GOP leaders say "messing with the president's head"
must be their one and only priority in 2012 and beyond.

New GOP Strategy Involves Reelecting Obama, Making His Life Even More Miserable

WASHINGTON -- Calling a GOP victory in the 2012 presidential election antithetical to the party platform, top Republicans revealed a new long-term political strategy Tuesday: reelecting Barack Obama and making his life even more of a living hell than it already is.

"For three years, the Republican Party has coalesced around the single goal of making President Obama's every waking moment sheer and utter torture," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters. "But we can't continue to do that if he's not in office."

"If we are going to make the president a haggard shell of a human being by the time he leaves the White House, we need four more years of never compromising, four more years of miring every piece of legislation in unnecessary procedural muck, four more years of pretending we want to work with the president and then walking away from the table at the last second," McConnell added. "Four more years! Four more years! Obama 2012!"

According to GOP sources, the decision to cede the 2012 election to Obama came after rank-and-file Republicans agreed that grinding the president down to nothing and pushing him to the brink of insanity was far more in line with the Republican Party's core principles than actually controlling the White House, making laws, or governing the country.

Republican officials said that because they won't be burdened with a time consuming presidential campaign, they can start looking beyond the 2012 general election and begin developing a four-pronged attack designed to ruin the president emotionally, physically, personally, and professionally.

Moreover, giving the president a second term in office would reportedly allow GOP lawmakers to build on the mental distress they've already caused him.

"If you look at what we've accomplished as a party in the last four years-making President Obama lose his temper on multiple occasions and even causing him to storm out of a meeting in frustration-it doesn't make sense for us to throw all that away, not when we could do so much more," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said. "If by being impossible to work with we are able to make the president physically shake with frustration during every single meeting, give him the nervous tick of mumbling angrily under his breath, tarnish his entire legacy, and in the process completely destroy his faith in humanity, then we've succeeded as lawmakers."

"If you thought this debt ceiling thing was bad, wait till you see how unbearable we are when it comes time for the Bush tax cuts to expire," Cantor added. "We are going to pummel this man over and over and over until he regrets ever getting into politics."

In order to make the president's next four years the worst of his life, GOP legislators are reportedly working on a new "Destroy Every Fiber of Barack Obama's Being" initiative, a plan that includes benchmarks such as making Obama look 10 years older than he is just six months into his second term; ruining his marriage before the 2014 midterm elections; and, by the time he leaves office, making him break down in front of the entire nation and say the words "I give up. Just please stop."

"If Barack Obama doesn't go to bed fuming with deep primal rage every single night, then we haven't done our job," said House Speaker John Boehner, who later called the residual effect of getting to watch Obama's supporters become more and more disillusioned with their country as their president's posture deteriorates, his face becomes exceedingly gaunt, and his once booming voice turn shaky and unconfident "definitely a plus." "Mark my words: The Republican Party is committed to giving the American people a president who has a chronically bleeding gastric ulcer that makes it almost impossible for him to stand up."

"To be honest, I'm glad we're pulling out of this election, because I really don't know what we would focus on if we won," Boehner added. "Health care?"

While a major party forgoing a presidential campaign is considered unorthodox, Beltway insiders were not surprised by the Republican announcement, saying the GOP was simply playing to its strength.

"Making Barack Obama's life a waking nightmare is what we do best," Republican strategist Todd Harris said. "It's also just smart politics. After all, getting the man reelected and watching him whither away to nothing before our very eyes will fire up the base more than any of the current Republican presidential candidates will."
(c) 2011The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 32 (c) 08/19/2011

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