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In This Edition

Ray McGovern sings, "Lemmingly, We Roll Along."

Uri Avnery sees, "The Return Of The Generals."

David Sirota weighs, "The Vegetarian's Dilemma."

David Swanson asks, "Will Obama Denounce MLK As Memorial Dedicated?"

Jim Hightower wants, "A Little Less Corporate Political Corruption."

Helen Thomas concludes, "Funds Don't Flow In Trickle-Down."

James Donahue reports on, "The Media Boycott Of Ron Paul."

Glenn Greenwald returns with tonge in cheek, "Obama Administration Takes Tough Stance On Banks."

Ralph Nader sees a, "Dark Horizon For Verizon."

Randall Amster considers, "A Mountain Of Greed Vs. Sacred Balance."

Paul Krugman says, "Fancy Theorists Of The World Unite."

Chris Floyd examines, "Process Of Elimination."

Robert Scheer finds, "Amnesty For The Indefensible."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wins the coveted Vidkun Quisiling Award!

John Nichols writes, "Mitt Romney, Dark Prince Of Oligarchy, Battles The Demons Of Democracy."

Sam Harris wonders, "How Rich Is Too Rich?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst follows, "The Great Concessionaire" but first, Uncle Ernie asks, "Whatever Happened To What's His Name?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Don Wright, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Brian McFadden, Ruben Bolling, Cam Cardow, Dees Illustration.Com, Matt Bors, Ashleigh Brilliant, Stuck In Customs, Tracy Krauss, David Shankbone, Real Truth For A Change.Com, CWA District 6, Comedy Central, 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."

Whatever Happened To What's His Name?
By Ernest Stewart

"Corporations are people, my friend. Of course they are." ~~~ Willard "Mitt" Romney

"The American people mistakenly empowered the federal government during a fit of populist rage in the early twentieth century by giving it an unlimited source of income (the Sixteenth Amendment) and by changing the way Senators are elected (the Seventeenth Amendment)." ~~~ Rick Perry

"And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place," ~~~ US Senator Dick Durbin

"We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery." ~~~ Charlie Chaplin

I see the Rethuglicans are going through candidates like "sh*t through a goose." Most of this batch no one has ever heard of before they tossed their hat in the ring, and no one will ever hear from again once they have. All of the current front-runners have absolutely no chance of beating Barry. Except for one, but even though he came within 200 votes of taking Iowa, he's missing from any notice from the talking heads on Fox Spews, viz., Ron Paul, who only appears to be half insane, which puts him light years ahead of all the rest! Still, with a total news boycott of Ron, there doesn't seem to be a Rethuglican who can beat Barry.

A close examination of Michelle, Willard, or Rick finds brain-dead traitors in Armani suits or a K-Mart dress!

Michelle has so many skeletons in her closet, there's no way she could win, nor is she even capable of doing the job; she's Sarah Palin's dumber sister! Wrap your mind around that if you can! If you talked with her, you'd soon realize you wouldn't trust her to babysit your kids, much less run the country!

Willard, well, whenever I hear his name I think of a giant rat -- which isn't a bad analogy of old Mitt. Start with his magic underwear, his plans of ruling a solar system someday, and his being the unashamed "Corpo-rats are people too" spokesman, and this front-runner hasn't a prayer!

Rick Perry? To know him is to hate him, and I do! When America gets to know him, too, he can kiss his candidacy goodbye! These three will soon join the other what's-his-names like Duncan Hunter, who? Or Tim Pawlenty -- again, who? Does the name Jon Huntsman ring any bells? I thought not! What about pizza godfather, Herman Cain? Perhaps a vote for Gary Johnson, uh huh?

A friend suggested that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie should run as he'll never be reelected in Jersey. Yes, what the Rethuglicans need to run is old Man-Bear-Pig, since he couldn't beat Barry, he could at least, sit on him!

That's not the only problems in store for the Grand Oil Party. Consider the reaction to the Tea Baggers and their bright ideas. They will certainly get no support from the fence sitters - i.e., middle-of-the-roaders - none from the left and they've even managed to piss off their hardcore supporters, so we may see a shift back in the control of the House to the Demoncrats. Not to mention the Rethuglicans losing a few seats in the Senate. I wonder who the new Tea Baggers will be come next August recess? I'm sure the Koch brothers and the rest are working on that, even as we speak!

In Other News

Old "good hair" as the late, great, Molly Ivins used to call Governor Perry was in the news again this week. You'll recall that Perry took the destruction of Texas under Dubya a few steps further, until today it's our national embarrassment nudging out the always popular Mississippi for that title.

If elected, Perry has plans to rewrite the Constitution and Bill of Rights -- to get rid of all those liberal thoughts and replace them with his idea of fascism, er, Americanism.

He'd get rid of Section I, Article III of the Constitution, limiting all federal judges to two year terms. He'd also overturn the Extreme Court by allowing Con-gress to overrule any decision with a 2/3 vote. While these two might sound good, have no doubt that the devil is in the details -- which Rick isn't too detailed and forthcoming about.

His third proposal would scrap the 16th amendment which gives Con-gress the power to level income taxes. Well, there goes the infrastructure; I wonder what he proposes to replace it with -- so far there's not a word from Perry about that!

While we're in the teens, Rick would scrap the 17th amendment, as well. You know, the one that allows for direct elections of US Sinators. I guess we're not smart enough to chose for ourselves; Perry wants the state legislatures to elect them as the Romans did, who needs a voice from the mob? Now the rich and powerful can speak for all!

He also has a couple of Amendments to the Constitution he'd like to add. First, a balanced budget amendment, sounds good again -- until you think about what programs will be cut to do so. Perhaps an end to our illegal wars and trillion dollar gifts to our ruling elite? Yes I know, "Fat Chance Of Fong!" More like getting rid of all the social programs. We'll set grandma out on an ice flow for the polar bears!

Secondly, he'll protect all the gays and lesbians from the horrors of marriage by making an Amendment to limit marriage to a man and a woman. So much for those states rights he normally loves, funny thing that, huh?

Finally, he would outlaw abortions for any reason, including to save the life of the mother -- by Amendment. He also supports women as second-class citizens and the reestablishment of slavery as he said in a Christian Broadcasting Network interview; he said that "I would support a federal amendment outlawing abortion because it is so the soul of this country and to the traditional values [of] our founding fathers." You'll recall some of those traditional values were slavery, women as sex toys and no votes for anyone who isn't a rich, white male property owner. And let's not forget those traditional genocidal pogroms against the natives and concentration camps for the survivors, et cetera!

Finally, Perry is often called by fellow Texicans George W. Bush without a brain. Perry, like Bush, gets a kick out of executing people, and pride in signing the death warrant for Cameron Todd Willingham, a man who was shown to be innocent of the crime, and then bragging about killing an innocent man, which in Texas gave him a 20% boost in the polls during the last election. Perry is George W. Bush (who set a record for assembly-line executions in Texas) without a heart. Some say Perry is Genghis Khan, without the compassion!

Rick Perry -- what's not to like, America?

And Finally

Americans are without a doubt the dumbest creatures on this planet, perhaps the dumbest creatures that ever existed. Sometimes I just want to grab them by their throat and slap the sh*t out of them. In fact, the next one that defends Obama after all the mayhem and destruction that he's caused and continues to cause, I may just, as Billy Jack once said, "Go Berserk!"

Let me explain why Obama is the monster that he is. No, it's not just his evil white side, his black side is equally evil, but he comes by it honestly, not to say that he's ever been honest with us. No, Mom and pretend-Dad and Grand Ma and Grand Pa were CIA agents, so what did you expect? Let's take it a step further, Grand Ma also ran the CIA's bank in Hawaii, ergo, he was raised by a fascist banker, so what did you expect?

Raised by spooks and the banksters is all that he knows, it's his reason for living. Are those trillion dollar bank giveaways starting to make sense, now? You know, the ones we'll soon be giving up our prepaid Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Food Stamps, etc. for? His current slap on the wrist to the banksters that he's peddling to us and fighting tooth-and-nail to keep the Attorney Generals in several states in line for the Banksters. It's to keep the AGs from locking up these banksters and throwing away the key. Even that is too light a punishment for the grief, deaths and destruction of millions of peoples lives and futures that they've caused.

Obama is pulling out all stops to keep these AGs, who have sworn an oath to protect us, from seeing that these monsters get what's coming to them, by any and all means necessary. From his favorite closed-door sessions, to outright open threats to everyone he's appointed, it's a never-ending, grind-them-down ploy, but so far it hasn't worked.

So don't come to me when 2012 rolls around and say we have to vote for him, the lesser of two evils, lest the Rethuglican candidate will win, because I'll be damned if I can see any difference, except maybe Bachmann, Perry or Romney just might be the lesser of two evils? Couldn't happen, huh? Then explain every time that Barry's "caved" he's always offered more than what the Rethuglicans demanded. You'll recall the last time, he offered up all of the social programs, even the ones that pay for themselves, to the Tea Baggers when they never asked or even dreamed to ask for them. And that's been Obamahood from Day One. I call him Obamahood because he steals from the poor and gives to the rich, and is doing everything in his power to destroy the middle class. To be fair, he's doing this just like Smirky, Slick Willie, Papa Smirk and Ray-guns did before him. He works for the very same people as they did, and it's not us that he's working for, but the banksters! As I said when he won the nomination, "We are so fucked, America!"

Keepin' On

On Monday, Obama's appointed, former corporate media executive and traitor, Julius Genachowski got rid of that pesky old rule about media fairness, i.e, the Fairness Doctrine amongst much joy and celebration. The Fairness Docrine, which dates back to 1949, hasn't been enforced since old Dementia Head Ray-Guns told the FCC not to enforce it; this is just the final nail in the coffin of American media.

Julius, with a stroke of his pen, destroyed the Fairness Doctrine and 82 other rules governing electronic media. They and the truth were deemed obsolete, and, therefore, abandoned by the FCC.

"FCC chairman Julius Genachowski called the rules "outdated" and said they were being removed to lessen the burdens of regulation on media companies. The decision also includes significant reductions in satellite and broadcasting license fees. The FCC said the moves are part of its focus on eliminating rules that are no longer needed and revising others to reflect changes in technology, "thereby clearing the path for greater competition, investment and job creation."

Now that the gloves are officially off, Issues & Alibis becomes just that more important, without us where will you be? Mark well what Julius said:

"The elimination of the obsolete Fairness Doctrine regulations will remove an unnecessary distraction. As I have said, striking this from our books ensures there can be no mistake that what has long been a dead letter remains dead. The Fairness Doctrine holds the potential to chill free speech and the free flow of ideas and was properly abandoned over two decades ago. I am pleased we are removing these and other obsolete rules from our books."

Please help us to continue fighting the good fight. We're still $1500 short with time running out. A little help, Ya'll!


12-31-1928 ~ 08-20-2011
We'll remember always, graduaction day!

04-25-1933 ~ 08-22-2011
Thanks for all the songs!

05-04-1942 ~ 08-22-2011
Thanks for all the songs!

03-09-1939 ~ 08-22-2011
Thanks for all the films!

04-25-1920 ~ 08-24-2011
Thanks for the R & B!


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.

Lemmingly, We Roll Along
By Ray McGovern

When soldiers die, the politicians who sent them to their deaths typically use euphemisms and circumlocutions -like "lost," "fallen," or "ultimate sacrifice." On one level, the avoidance of blunt language can be seen as a sign of respect, but on another, it is just one more evasion of responsibility for the snuffing out of young lives.

There has been unusually wide (and for the most part supportive) reaction to my article of August 8 (They Died in Vain: Deal With It) on the killing of 30 American troops when their helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan on the night of the 6th. One website posting the article clocked 181 comments; scanning through them, I found many substantive, helpful ones.

Let me share one telling comment, which seemed to me particularly -if sadly -apt:

"Two lemmings are chatting while standing in the line to the cliff. One says to the other, 'Of course we have to go over the edge. Anything else would dishonor all the lemmings that have gone before us.'"

And so it goes, thought I, with our Lemming-in-Chief (LIC) Barack Obama ... and those who lemmingly follow him.

The President's and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's words about the 30 dead soldiers, including members of the elite Seal Team 6, were very carefully chosen. But they bore the telltale earmarks of "the Lemming Syndrome."

"We will honor the fallen by showing our unyielding determination to press ahead ... to move forward with the hard work," said Panetta on Aug. 8.

That same day, President Obama also stressed how "our troops will continue the hard work. ... We will press on." There was also subdued talk from both leaders about how the troops were "lost."

Gosh, I thought, I did not know that the 30 U.S. troops were just "lost" or that they had simply "fallen." Sounds like maybe we can still find them and help them get up -when the hard truth is that they're dead.

Similarly, persistent use of "helicopter crash" seems to be a deliberate attempt to hide the hard reality that it was a rocket-propelled grenade that downed the helicopter and that this is why the troops ended up "fallen." The anodyne language helps soft-pedal the fact that Afghans who don't like American troops making middle-of-the-night raids all over their country have access to RPGs capable of downing aircraft.

These angry Afghans are usually described as "militants" or, in a sad reflection on the primitive level of the conversation on the war, simply as "the bad guys."

Perhaps others of my (Vietnam) generation are hearing what I am hearing as background music -the plaintive lyrics of the song, "When Will They Ever Learn?"

More evocative of such times -then and now -are the words Pete Seeger put to music during a large lemming infestation 44 years ago:

"We were neck-deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on." Pete Seeger, 1967 (c) 2011 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years --from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

The Return Of The Generals
By Uri Avnery

SINCE THE beginning of the conflict, the extremists of both sides have always played into each other's hands. The cooperation between them was always much more effective than the ties between the corresponding peace activists.

"Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" asked the prophet Amos (3:3). Well, seems they can.

This was proved again this week.

AT THE beginning of the week, Binyamin Netanyahu was desperately looking for a way out of an escalating internal crisis. The social protest movement was gathering momentum and posing a growing danger to his government.

The struggle was going on, but the protest had already made a huge difference. The whole content of the public discourse had changed beyond recognition.

Social ideas were taking over, pushing aside the hackneyed talk about "security". TV talk show panels, previously full of used generals, were now packed with social workers and professors of economics. One of the consequences was that women were also much more prominent.

And then it happened. A small extremist Islamist group in the Gaza Strip sent a detachment into the Egyptian Sinai desert, from where it easily crossed the undefended Israeli border and created havoc. Several fighters (or terrorists, depends who is talking) succeeded in killing eight Israeli soldiers and civilians, before some of them were killed. Another four of their comrades were killed on the Egyptian side of the border. The aim seems to have been to capture another Israeli soldier, to strengthen the case for a prisoner exchange on their terms.

In a jiffy, the economics professors vanished from the TV screens, and their place was taken by the old gang of exes -ex-generals, ex-secret-service chiefs, ex-policemen, all male, of course, accompanied by their entourage of obsequious military correspondents and far-right politicians.

With a sigh of relief, Netanyahu returned to his usual stance. Here he was, surrounded by generals, the he-man, the resolute fighter, the Defender of Israel.

IT WAS, for him and his government, an incredible stroke of luck.

It can be compared to what happened in 1982. Ariel Sharon, then Minister of Defense, had decided to attack the Palestinians and Syrians in Lebanon, He flew to Washington to obtain the necessary American agreement. Alexander Haig told him that the US could not agree, unless there was a "credible provocation."

A few days later, the most extreme Palestinian group, led by Abu Nidal, Yasser Arafat's mortal enemy, made an attempt on the life of the Israeli ambassador in London, paralyzing him irreversibly. That was certainly a "credible provocation". Lebanon War I was on its way.

This week's attack was also an answer to a prayer. Seems that God loves Netanyahu and the military establishment. The incident not only wiped the protest off the screen, it also put an end to any serious chance of taking billions off the huge military budget in order to strengthen the social services. On the contrary, the event proved that we need a sophisticated electronic fence along the 150 miles of our desert border with Sinai. More, not less, billions for the military.

BEFORE THIS miracle occurred, it looked as if the protest movement was unstoppable.

Whatever Netanyahu did was too little, too late, and just wrong.

In the first days, Netanyahu treated the whole thing as a childish prank, unworthy of the attention of responsible adults. When he realized that this movement was serious, he mumbled some vague proposals for lowering the price of apartments, but by then the protest had already moved far beyond the original demand for "affordable housing." The slogan was now "The People Want Social Justice."

After the huge 250,000-strong demonstration in Tel Aviv, the protest leaders were facing a dilemma: how to proceed? Yet another mass protest in Tel Aviv might mean falling attendance. The solution was sheer genius: not another big demonstration in Tel Aviv, but smaller demonstrations all over the country. This disarmed the reproach that the protesters are spoiled Tel Aviv brats, "sushi eaters and water-pipe smokers" as one minister put it. It also brought the protest to the masses of disadvantaged Oriental Jewish inhabitants of the "periphery", from Afula in the North to Beer Sheva in the South, most of them the traditional voters of Likud. It became a love-fest of fraternization.

So what does a run-of-the-mill politician do in such a situation? Well, of course, he appoints a committee. So Netanyahu told a respectable professor with a good reputation to set up a committee which would, in cooperation with nine ministers, no less, come up with a set of solutions. He even told him that he was ready to completely change his own convictions.

(He did already change one of his convictions when he announced in 2009 that he now advocates the Two-State Solution. But after that momentous about-face, absolutely nothing changed on the ground.)

The youngsters in the tents joked that "Bibi" could not change his opinions, because he has none. But that is a mistake -he does indeed have very definite opinions on both the national and the social levels: "the whole of Eretz Israel" on the one, and Reagan-Thatcher economic orthodoxy on the other.

The young tent leaders countered the appointment of the establishment committee with an unexpected move: they appointed a 60-strong advisory council of their own, composed of some of the most prominent university professors, including an Arab female professor and a moderate rabbi, and headed by a former deputy governor of the Bank of Israel.

The government committee has already made it clear that it will not deal with middle class problems but concentrate on those of the lowest socio-economic groups. Netanyahu has added that he will not automatically adopt their (future) recommendations, but weight them against the economic possibilities. In other words, he does not trust his own nominees to understand the economic facts of life.

AT THAT point, Netanyahu and his aides pinned their hopes on two dates: September and November 2011.

In November, the rainy season usually sets in. No drop of rain before that. But when it starts to rain cats and dogs, it was hoped in Netanyahu's office, the spoiled Tel Aviv kids will run for shelter. End of the Rothschild tent city.

Well, I remember spending some miserable weeks in the winter of the 1948 war in worse tents, in the midst of a sea of mud and water. I don't think that the rain will make the tent-dwellers give up their struggle, even if Netanyahu's religious partners send the most fervent Jewish prayers for rain to the high heavens.

But before that, in September, just a few weeks away, the Palestinians -it was hoped -would start a crisis that will divert attention. This week they already submitted to the UN General Assembly a request to recognize the State of Palestine. The Assembly will most probably accede. Avigdor Lieberman has already enthusiastically assured us that the Palestinians are planning a "bloodbath" at that time. Young Israelis will have to exchange their tents in Tel Aviv for the tents in the West Bank army camps.

It's a nice dream (for the Liebermans), but Palestinians had so far showed no inclination to violence.

All that changed this week.

FROM NOW on, Netanyahu and his colleagues can direct events as they wish.

They have already "liquidated" the chiefs of the group which carried out the attack, called "the Popular Resistance Committees". This happened while the fire-fight along the border was still going on. The army had been forewarned and was ready. The fact that the attackers succeeded nevertheless in crossing the border and shooting at vehicles was ascribed to an operational failure.

What now? The group in Gaza will fire rockets in retaliation. Netanyahu can -if he so wishes -kill more Palestinian leaders, military and civilian. This can easily set off a vicious circle of retaliation and counter-retaliation, leading to a full-scale Molten Lead-style war. Thousands of rockets on Israel, thousands of bombs on the Gaza Strip. One ex-military fool already argued that the entire Gaza Strip will have to be re-occupied.

In other words, Netanyahu has his hand on the tap of violence, and he can raise or lower the flames at will.

His desire to put an end to the social protest movement may well play a role in his decisions.

THIS BRINGS us back to the big question of the protest movement: can one bring about real change, as distinct from forcing some grudging concessions from the government, without becoming a political force?

Can this movement succeed as long as there is a government which has the power to start -or deepen -a "security crisis" at any time?

And the related question: can one talk about social justice without talking about peace?

A few days ago, while strolling among the tents on Rothschild Boulevard, I was asked by an internal radio station to give an interview and address the tent-dwellers. I said: "You don't want to talk about peace, because you want to avoid being branded as 'leftists". I respect that. But social justice and peace are two sides of the same coin, they cannot be separated. Not only because they are based on the same moral principles, but also because in practice they depend on each other."

When I said that, I could not have imagined how clearly this would be demonstrated only two days later.

REAL CHANGE means replacing this government with a new and very different political set up.

Here and there people in the tents are already talking about a new party. But elections are two years away, and for the time being there is no sign of a real crack in the right-wing coalition that might bring the elections closer. Will the protest be able to keep up its momentum for two whole years?

Israeli governments have yielded in the past to mass demonstrations and public uprisings. The formidable Golda Meir resigned in the face of mass demonstrations blaming her for the omissions that led to the fiasco at the start of the Yom Kippur War. The government coalitions of both Netanyahu and Ehud Barak in the 1990s broke under the pressure of an indignant public opinion.

Can this happen now? In view of the military flare-up this week, it does not look likely. But stranger things have happened between heaven and earth, especially in Israel, the land of limited impossibilities.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Vegetarian's Dilemma
By David Sirota

As a new father who (ages ago) did a short stint as a press secretary, I'm already thinking ahead to the questions my son will throw at me. Yes, I know 8-month-old Isaac can't even say "Dad" yet, but these questions are coming, and I'm sure they're going to be way tougher than the ones reporters usually lob at Washington politicians. (OK, in the current age of media obsequiousness, that's not saying much.)

So I'm planning for answers -and, as any press secretary knows, that requires thinking about what evokes the queries in the first place.

The toy pistol question, for instance -Isaac will see a friend with a cap gun and ask why he can't have one. (Answer: Devices that kill people shouldn't be the basis for playthings.) The tackle-football question -he'll ask me why I don't want him to play. (Answer: because football can cause long-term brain damage.) The existential questions about God and life and death -ugh, I don't want to even begin thinking about those.

But before any of these inquiries are but a twinkle in Isaac's eye, I know I'm going to face an interrogation about vegetarianism. At some point soon, he'll ask why our family doesn't eat this stuff called "meat" that's everywhere.

I have my substantive answers already lined up, so I'm not worried about what I'll tell him. (We don't eat meat because it's unhealthy, environmentally irresponsible, expensive and inhumane.) With this question, I'm more concerned about the prompting. Why is he almost certainly going to ask at such an early age?

I think I know the answer -and it's not the ad campaigns that make meat seem like a rational choice ("Beef: It's What's for Dinner"), a healthy alternative food ("Pork: The Other White Meat") or a compassionate cuisine decision (Chik-fil-A's billboards, which show a cow begging you to spare his life by choosing chicken). No, Isaac's going to have questions because of the grocery -more specifically, because of the vegetarian aisle that subliminally glorifies meat-eating.

I realize that sounds like an oxymoron, but the next time you go shopping, imagine what a kid gleans from veggie burgers, veggie bacon, veggie sausage patties, veggie hot dogs, Tofurky and all the other similar fare that defines a modern plant-based diet. While none of it contains meat, it's all marketed as emulating meat. In advertising terms, that's the "unique selling proposition" -to give you the epicurean benefits of meat without any of meat's downsides.

Obviously, this isn't some conspiracy whereby powerful meat companies are deliberately trying to bring vegetarians into the megachurch of flesh eaters. If anything, it's the opposite: It's the vegetarian industry selling itself to meat eaters by suggesting that its products aren't actually all that different from meat. The problem is how that message, like so many others in American culture, reinforces the wrongheaded notion that our diet should be fundamentally based on meat.

For those who have chosen to be vegetarians, this message is merely annoying. But for those like Isaac who are being raised as vegetarians, the message is downright subversive. It teaches them that as tasty as vegetarian food may be, it can never compete with the "real thing."

That message will undoubtedly inform Isaac's early curiosity -and maybe his questions won't be such a bad thing. Maybe they'll motivate me to spend more time in the supermarket's raw produce section, and maybe my ensuing discussion with Isaac will help him better understand why our family has made this culinary choice.

However, that doesn't mean the subtle propaganda won't ultimately win out, thus adding another carnivore to a destructively meat-centric society.
(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.

Will Obama Denounce MLK As Memorial Dedicated?
By David Swanson

That sounds like a crazy question, doesn't it? Why would President Obama denounce Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Well, the reason I ask is that he's done it before.

Really? But surely he wouldn't do it on such a solemn occasion?

Well, the time he did it before was in a Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech.

When President Barack Obama joined the ranks of Henry Kissinger and the other gentle souls who have received Nobel Peace Prizes, he did something that I don't think anyone else had previously done in a Peace Prize acceptance speech. He argued for war. And he opposed the position of a previous Peace Prize Laureate, namely Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified. I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: 'Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones' ...But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by [King's and Gandhi's] examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history.... So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace."

But, you know, I've never found any opponent of war who didn't believe there was evil in the world. After all, we oppose war because it is evil.

Did Martin Luther King, Jr., not face the world as it is? Was he delusional? Did he stand idle in the face of threats? This is President Obama's position.

Did King oppose protecting and defending people? Of course not. He worked for that very goal!

Obama claims that his only choices are war or nothing. But the reason people know the names Gandhi (who was never given a Nobel Peace Prize) and King is that they suggested other options and proved that those other approaches could work. This fundamental disagreement cannot be smoothed over. Either war is the only option or it is not -- in which case we must consider the alternatives.

Couldn't we have halted Hitler's armies without a world war? To claim otherwise is ridiculous. We could have halted Hitler's armies by not concluding World War I with an effort seemingly aimed at breeding as much resentment as possible in Germany (punishing a whole people rather than individuals, requiring that Germany admit sole responsibility, taking away its territory, and demanding enormous reparations payments that it would have taken [in fact did take] Germany several decades to pay), or by putting our energies seriously into a League of Nations and International Court as opposed to the victor-justice of dividing the spoils, or by building good relations with Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, or by funding peace studies in Germany rather than eugenics, or by fearing militaristic governments more than leftist ones, or by not funding Hitler and his armies, or by helping the Jews escape, or by maintaining a ban on bombing civilians, or indeed by massive nonviolent resistance which requires greater courage and valor than we've ever seen in war.

We have seen such courage in the largely nonviolent eviction of the British rulers from India, in the nonviolent overthrow of the ruler of El Salvador in 1944, in the campaigns that ended Jim Crow in the United States and apartheid in South Africa. We've seen it in the popular removal of the ruler of the Philippines in 1986, in the largely nonviolent Iranian Revolution of 1979, in the dismantling of the Soviet Union in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany, as well as in the Ukraine in 2004 and 2005, and in dozens of other examples from all over the world, including Tunisia and Egypt. Why should Germany be the one place where a force more powerful than violence could not possibly have prevailed?

If you can't accept that World War II could have been avoided, there is still this crucial point to consider: Hitler's armies have been gone for 65 years but are still being used to justify the scourge of humanity that we outlawed in 1928: war. Most nations do not behave as Nazi Germany did, and one reason is that a lot of them have come to value and understand peace. Those that do make war still appeal to a horrible episode in world history that ended 65 years ago to justify what they are doing -- exactly as if nothing has changed, exactly as if King and Gandhi and billions of other people have not come and gone and contributed their bit to our knowledge of what can and should be done.

Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda to lay down its arms? How would President Obama know that? The United States has never tried it. The solution cannot be to meet the demands of terrorists, thereby encouraging terrorism, but the grievances against the United States that attract people to anti-U.S. terrorism seem extremely reasonable:

Get out of our country. Stop bombing us. Stop threatening us. Stop blockading us. Stop raiding our homes. Stop funding the theft of our lands. Stop taking out natural resources. Such grievances are being aggravated rather than alleviated in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere.

We ought to satisfy those demands even in the absence of negotiations with anyone. We ought to stop producing and selling most of the weapons we want other people to "lay down." And if we did so, you would see about as much anti-U.S. terrorism as the Norwegians giving out the prizes see anti-Norwegian terrorism. Norway has neither negotiated with al Qaeda nor murdered all of its members. Norway has just refrained from doing what the United States military does, although sometimes participating.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama disagree, and only one of them can be right. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, King said:

"Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."

Love? I thought it was a big stick, a large Navy, a missile defense shield, and weapons in outerspace. King may in fact have been ahead of us. This portion of King's 1964 speech anticipated Obama's speech 45 years later:

"I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.…I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up."

Other-centered? How odd it sounds to imagine the United States and its people becoming other-centered. It sounds as outrageous as loving one's enemies. And yet there may just be something to it. King was a moral man who, if alive today, would be an environmentalist. He might very well be risking arrest at the White House right now to demand clean energy rather than the opening up of enough new dirty fuel use to finish off the planet. He would likely be committed to nonviolent actions of the aort planned for October 2011 at

A year ago, on October 2, 2010, a broad coalition held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The organizers sought to use the rally both to demand jobs, protect Social Security, and advance a hodgepodge of progressive ideas, and also to cheer for the Democratic Party, whose leadership was not on board with that program. An independent movement would back particular politicians, including Democrats, but they would have to earn it by supporting our positions.

The peace movement was included in the rally, if not given top billing, and many peace organizations took part. We found that, among all of those tens of thousands of union members and civil rights activists who showed up, virtually all of them were eager to carry anti-war posters and stickers. In fact the message "Money for Jobs, Not Wars," was immensely popular. If anyone at all disagreed, I haven't heard about it. The theme of the rally was "One Nation Working Together," a warm message but one so vague we didn't even offend anyone enough to produce a counter-rally. I suspect more people would have shown up and a stronger message would have been delivered had the headline been "Bring Our War Dollars Home!"

One speech outshone all others that day. The speaker was 83-year-old singer and activist Harry Belafonte, his voice strained, scratchy, and gripping. These were some of his words:

"Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 'I Have a Dream' speech 47 years ago, said that America would soon come to realize that the war that we were in at that time that this nation waged in Vietnam was not only unconscionable, but unwinnable. Fifty-eight thousand Americans died in that cruel adventure, and over two million Vietnamese and Cambodians perished. Now today, almost a half-a-century later, as we gather at this place where Dr. King prayed for the soul of this great nation, tens of thousands of citizens from all walks of life have come here today to rekindle his dream and once again hope that all America will soon come to the realization that the wars that we wage today in far away lands are immoral, unconscionable and unwinnable.

"The Central Intelligence Agency, in its official report, tells us that the enemy we pursue in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, the al- Qaeda, they number less than 50 -- I say 50 -- people. Do we really think that sending 100,000 young American men and women to kill innocent civilians, women, and children, and antagonizing the tens of millions of people in the whole region somehow makes us secure?

"Does this make any sense?

"The President's decision to escalate the war in that region alone costs the nation $33 billion. That sum of money could not only create 600,000 jobs here in America, but would even leave us a few billion to start rebuilding our schools, our roads, our hospitals and affordable housing. It could also help to rebuild the lives of the thousands of our returning wounded veterans."

In November 1943, six residents of Coventry, England, which had been bombed by Germany, wrote to the New Statesman to condemn the bombing of German cities, asserting that the "general feeling" in Coventry was the "desire that no other people shall suffer as they have done."

In 1997, on the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Guernica, the president of Germany wrote a letter to the Basque people apologizing for the Nazi-era bombing. The Mayor of Guernica wrote back and accepted the apology.

Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights is an international organization, based in the United States, of family members of victims of criminal murder, state execution, extra-judicial assassinations, and "disappearances" who oppose the death penalty in all cases.

Peaceful Tomorrows is an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11, 2001, who say they have, "united to turn our grief into action for peace. By developing and advocating nonviolent options and actions in the pursuit of justice, we hope to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism. Acknowledging our common experience with all people affected by violence throughout the world, we work to create a safer and more peaceful world for everyone."

So must we all.

A memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., should be a celebration of nonviolent resistance to habits of thought that allow and promote cruelty, inlcuding the worst cruelty of all: war. Candidate Obama said "I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place." One way to help end that mindset would be to cease defending it in the most inappropriate manner imaginable.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

A Little Less Corporate Political Corruption

Come on, Obama, do it! Stand up, stand tall, stand firm! Yes, you can!

The president is thinking about issuing an executive order that would mitigate some of the damage done to our democracy by the Supreme Court's dastardly Citizens United edict, which unleashes unlimited amounts of secret corporate cash to pervert America's elections. Obama's idea is simply to require that those corporations trying to get federal contracts disclose all of their campaign donations for the previous two years, including money they launder through such front groups as the national Chamber of Commerce.

This approach says to those giants sucking up billions of our tax dollars for endless war, privatization of public services, etcetera: You're still free to shove trainloads of your shareholders' money into congressional and presidential races, but -hey, just tell the public how much you're giving and to whom.

Neat. It would be a clean, direct, and effective reform -so, of course, the corporate powers and their apologists are squealing like stuck pigs. Steven Law, a Bush-Cheney operative who is now both a Wall Street Journal editorialist and the head of a secret corporate money fund, recently decried the very idea of public disclosure of contractor campaign contributions: "When I was in the executive branch," he sniffed, "mixing politics with procurement was called corruption."

Yes, Steve, and y'all were corruption experts! Perhaps you've forgotten that we remember Halliburton, the Cheney-run corporation that helped put Bush in office and then was handed tens of billions in contracts, becoming the poster child of corrupt, no-bid procurement.

Come on, Obama, you can do it, don't back down from these corporate sleazes -sign that disclosure order! If they're going to steal our elections, at least make them admit it.
(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.

Funds Don't Flow In Trickle-Down
By Helen Thomas

Will we ever recover from the mess the Republicans have gotten us into? Most of us may not understand all the complexities of our current economic debacle, but the bottom line is we have way more money being paid out by the federal government than revenue being collected.

We continue to fight in two of the longest-running wars in U.S. history. Obama has had many opportunities to pull out of the wars, and yet he hasn't.

Between retiring baby boomers and an unemployment rate over nine percent, entitlement payouts are at an all-time high. Now is hardly the time to cut Social Security, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid benefits with so many people in the country sick, hungry and living hand to mouth.

Compounding our problems is the fact that trickle-down economics did not work. Since the Bush tax cuts, the super rich have paid less than their share in taxes. What did they do with all of this extra money?

Unfortunately, the rich don't get rich by building things and creating more jobs, but by moving paper around on Wall Street. Today, Wall Street creates more money for people with money. They seem to no longer be in the business of raising capital to invest in factories and businesses, which in turn would create jobs and help all of us.

Since Reagan, Republicans have fought tooth and nail against any regulation by the federal government on Wall Street. Deregulation has allowed derivative and short-sale markets to flourish and grow -ultimately causing the 2008 meltdown.

As chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from Aug. 26, 1996, to June 1, 1999 Brooksley Born warned Congress of the fraud and potential damage which would occur if the derivative market continued unregulated. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers insisted regulation would stifle economic growth, and that ultimately free markets correct themselves. Both resigned, and unfortunately Born's predictions panned out in September 2008. Is it OK for Wall Street to sell products such as derivatives that are so complex the buyer doesn't even understand what he is buying?

Regarding the short sale market -isn't there a serious conflict of interest when people are allowed to bet against the success of a company? Why did the government allow a company like AIG to insure so many Wall Street bankers against all of the junk assets they were bundling with American retirement accounts?

We have to address what is going out, but now is not the time to focus on cutting entitlements. Social Security checks and food stamps are benefits that are spent immediately, providing cash infusions into our economy -unlike tax cuts for the rich, which are often added savings in their pockets.

Increasing the retirement age could be considered, but before we look at cutting anymore from entitlement programs, we need to raise taxes. Even American investor and billionaire Warren Buffet thinks the super rich are not paying their fair share.

What is wrong with the Republicans? Do they want the country to go bankrupt? Do they think it is OK for other people to die for their freedom and let fellow Americans go hungry?

Obama sold the country -and in particular the people who put him in office -out by allowing the same low tax rates for the top earners in this country. We need a President, and politicians in Washington, to lead with a heart and compassion for the people. Sometimes this means taking a stand for things that may jeopardize a re-election campaign.

The selfishness and greed is out of control in this country. As a young girl during the Great Depression, I have fond memories of our entire neighborhood pitching in to help families who were out of work. My father owned a grocery store and he never gave a second thought to feeding someone who didn't have money.

Now is not the time for the country to fight about who should get what, and who may be right or wrong. We need to pull together -as we have in the past -to work together, and through compromise, solve the issues we face today. We actually are our brother's keeper.
(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.

The Media Boycott Of Ron Paul
By James Donahue

If there is one Republican presidential candidate that is speaking with any degree of clarity this year it is Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Yet Paul, who is making his third run for the nation's top job and last week scored second in the Iowa Republican straw poll, is being literally ignored by the national media as a serious contender.

The strange news blackout was made public by comedian Jon Stewart who showed a variety of television news clips by commentators who listed poll frontrunner Michele Bachmann and lesser poll contenders like Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, but failed to mention Ron Paul's second place position.

Paul, who is an outspoken libertarian holding office under the G.O.P. banner, might just be the closest thing this nation can generate as a third party candidate in 2012. And many disillusioned voters, after over two years of watching a total debacle occurring in Washington, may be seriously searching for someone like Paul who offers a different approach to solving the nation's problems.

As Stewart quipped: "He's the one guy in the field, agree with him or don't agree with him, who doesn't just regurgitate talking points or change what he believes to fit the audience in front of him."

So why is the media pretending Paul isn't there when they report the Republican candidates? Some say they have concluded that Paul has virtually no chance to win the nomination and they are not taking him seriously. But if they were playing fair, and giving this man an equal place in daily media coverage, Paul's supporters believe he could be a viable candidate . . . one that might just give President Barack Obama a run for his money in 2012.

We suspect that Paul's Libertarian views may be challenging the massive industrial military complex now feeding at the taxpayer's trough, which has a lot to do with the unwillingness of the media to give him news space. Paul makes no bones about his belief that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been unwarranted and a total waste of lives and money. Neither war has had anything to do with national defense. Neither war has much to do with what happened on 9-11.

Paul's plan for repairing the nation's economic crisis is to demand a balanced federal budget, establish a permanent debt ceiling so politicians can no longer spend recklessly, call for a full audit and shut-down of the Federal Reserve, and end the corporate stranglehold on Washington.

His energy plan would call for removal of restrictions on off-shore and on-shore drilling to increase oil production at home, repeal the federal tax on gasoline, lift government roadblocks for the use of coal and nuclear power, offer tax credits for purchase and production of alternative fuel technologies, and eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, which Paul believes in ineffective.

A medical doctor by profession, Paul's health care plan would include a repeal of ObamaCare and its mandate that all Americans must buy government approved health insurance, allow competitive health insurance purchases across state lines, provide tax credits for all medical expenses, maintain Medicare and Medicaid and insure that the money taken from taxpayers for these services is not raided for other purposes, and stop the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission from blocking public knowledge of and access to dietary supplements and alternative treatments.

Paul also calls for what he calls a "Liberty Amendment to the Constitution" that would abolish the income tax and capital gains taxes. He says he would like to "turn off the lights at the IRS for good."

Some say Paul's views are wild and unworkable in today's government. While we don't agree with everything he advocates, and we understand that getting a reluctant Congress to go along with such a plan may be next to impossible, we believe that Paul has the right to have equal time in the national media spotlight. He offers what may be a viable plan which, in the long run, might just work for the benefit of most Americans.
(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.

Obama Administration Takes Tough Stance On Banks
By Glenn Greenwald

In mid-May, I wrote about the commendable -- one might say heroic -- efforts of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to single-handedly impose meaningful accountability on Wall Street banks for their role in the 2008 financial crisis and the mortgage fraud/foreclosure schemes. Not only was Schneiderman launching probing investigations at a time when the Obama DOJ was steadfastly failing to do so, but -- more importantly -- he was refusing to sign onto a global settlement agreement being pushed by the DOJ that would have insulated the mortgage banks (including Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo) from all criminal investigations in exchange for some relatively modest civil fines. In response, many commenters wondered whether Schneiderman, if he persisted, would be targeted by the banks with some type of campaign of destruction of the kind that brought down Eliot Spitzer, but fortunately for the banks, they can dispatch their owned servants in Washington to apply the pressure for them:

Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices, according to people briefed on discussions about the deal.

In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement, said the people briefed on the talks.

Mr. Schneiderman and top prosecutors in some other states have objected to the proposed settlement with major banks, saying it would restrict their ability to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing in a variety of areas, including the bundling of loans in mortgage securities.

But Mr. Donovan and others in the administration have been contacting not only Mr. Schneiderman but his allies, including consumer groups and advocates for borrowers, seeking help to secure the attorney general's participation in the deal, these people said. One recipient described the calls from Mr. Donovan, but asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

Not surprising, the large banks, which are eager to reach a settlement, have grown increasingly frustrated with Mr. Schneiderman. Bank officials recently discussed asking Mr. Donovan for help in changing the attorney general's mind, according to a person briefed on those talks.

In response to this story, the DOJ claims that the settlement is necessary to help people whose homes are in foreclosure, an absurd rationalization which Marcy Wheeler simply destroys. Meanwhile, Yves Smith, whose coverage of banking and mortgage fraud (and the administration's protection of it) has long been indispensable, writes today:

It is high time to describe the Obama Administration by its proper name: corrupt.

Admittedly, corruption among our elites generally and in Washington in particular has become so widespread and blatant as to fall into the "dog bites man" category. But the nauseating gap between the Administration's propaganda and the many and varied ways it sells out average Americans on behalf of its favored backers, in this case the too big to fail banks, has become so noisome that it has become impossible to ignore the fetid smell.

The Administration has now taken to pressuring parties that are not part of the machinery reporting to the President to fall in and do his bidding. We've gotten so used to the US attorney general being conveniently missing in action that we have forgotten that regulators and the AG are supposed to be independent.

Her entire analysis should be read. The President -- who kicked off his campaign vowing to put an end to "the era of Scooter Libby justice" -- will stand before the electorate in 2012 having done everything in his power to shield top Bush officials from all accountability for their crimes and will have done the same for Wall Street banks, all while continuing to preside over the planet's largest Prison State . . . for ordinary Americans convicted even of trivial offenses, particularly (though not only) from the War on Drugs he continues steadfastly to defend. And as Sam Seder noted this morning, none of this has anything to do with Congress and cannot be blamed on the Weak Presidency, the need to compromise, or the "crazy" GOP.

I particularly regret that my book to be released in October -- examining America's two-tiered justice system, whereby political and financial elites are immunized from accountability even for the most egregious crimes while ordinary Americans (particularly poor and minorities) suffer unfathomably harsh punishments for minor transgressions -- won't include this incident, as it so perfectly highlights the book's argument (though it's long been obvious that Wall Street criminals would be immunized from accountability and the book deals with that extensively). Also worth reading in that regard is this article from Joseph Stiglitz on how failure to criminally prosecute mortgage fraud would destroy the rule of law. As I wrote at the end of my May post on Schniederman:

It is worth keeping a watchful eye on Schneiderman's investigative efforts and doing everything possible to provide what will undoubtedly be much-needed support if, as appears to be the case, he is serious about taking on these pernicious factions and impeding the conspiring by the political class to protect their benefactors/owners.

When I wrote that, I assumed the pressure would come from the banks themselves, not from top Executive Branch officials. At this point, though, the mistake is to consider those entities as separate and distinct at all. As Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said of the branch of government in which he serves: banks "frankly own the place." Capitol Hill is obviously not the only property they own on Pennsylvania Avenue.
(c) 2011 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Verizon Picket Local 6016 Verizon keeps saying that what they're doing just "reflects the changing times."
The times are changing - skyrocketing executive pay packages and corporate profits - slashing benefits
for the workers and their families - shredding of all moral authority by example from the top.

Dark Horizon For Verizon
By Ralph Nader

It was only a matter of time before the "pull down" NAFTA and WTO trade agreements on U.S. wages and jobs would be followed by "pull down" contract demands by U.S. corporations on their unionized workers toward levels of non-unionized laborers.

The most recent illustration of this three-decade reversal of nearly a century of American economic advances for employees is the numerous demands by Verizon

Here are just a few of the concessions the new Verizon CEO, Lowell McAdam, is insisting upon:

--More power to contract out and offshore jobs to add to the 25,000 already in that category; thereby undermining job security.

--a freeze on pensions;

--elimination of the sickness and death benefit program;

--reduction in sick days; and

--a major increase in employee contributions to and deductibles under their health insurance coverage.

Mr. Lowell McAdam would surely have trouble feeling the pain of his workers who brave the elements storm or shine to afford him a salary of over 1.5 million dollars PER MONTH plus perks and benefits.

Watching Verizon profits soar year after year, noticing Verizon stock rise faster than its competitors, knowing that the company's top five executives took in over $250 million between them in the last four years, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) took their members on strike on August 7, 2011. "Unfair and unacceptable" was their cry on the picket lines up and down the east coast.

These workers pay their taxes. While the tax lawyers for their bosses have figured out how to turn Verizon into a vast tax escapee. According to the super-accurate Citizens for Tax Justice, Verizon Communications made a total of $32.5 billion dollars in pretax U.S. profits during 2008, 2009, 2010. Far from paying the maximum federal corporate income tax rate of 35 percent on these ample profits, Verizon's federal income tax was negative $951 million or negative 2.9 percent!

Some of these saved tax revenues have been getting into expensive daily full page advertisements (not deductible it is hoped) in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and other large newspapers. Verizon's brazen assertions reflect the limitless arrogance of a multinational behemoth.

Verizon's headlines its ad with these words: "They claim we're asking union-represented employees to contribute to their own health care premiums. THEY'RE RIGHT. Verizon is proposing that its union-represented employees contribute more toward the cost of rising health care. 135,000 non-union Verizon employees already pay a portion of the healthcare premium. We're just asking our union -represented employees to chip in like everybody else. We think that's fair."

There you have it - the "pull down" ultimatum to the level of the voiceless majority of Verizon workers. Of course Verizon bosses with their fat paychecks do not have to worry at all about co-payments and larger deductibles in their gold-plated health plan.

Another anti-union Verizon ad featured this assertion: "They claim we want to strip away 50 years of contract negotiations. THEY'RE RIGHT. The union contracts that have expired were drafted over 50 years ago, when people still used rotary phones. Verizon is proposing to update the contracts in a reasonable manner to reflect the changing times."

The CWA leaders recognize that some changes need to be made and have offered compromises. But fifty years ago, a telephone company CEO never dared pay himself anywhere near the multiple that today's Verizon executives get compared to the average workers. Maybe then the CEO would get 20 times the entry level wage. Now it is between two hundred to four hundred times.

Verizon does have one last argument. At the bottom of each full-page ad, it describes exacting concessions from its workers as "all in an effort to best position Verizon to serve our customers." Are those the same customers who are subject to all kinds of extremely one-sided fine print that spells suppression of rights, overcharges, termination fees, penalties and other straitjackets of contract serfdom? Are those the same customers who have to wait and wait to get their service and billing complaints addressed and questions answered? Are those the same customers who can never get Verizon to put what its spokespersons say on the phone in writing?

The CWA workers went back to their jobs on August 22, 2011. Verizon had threatened to cut off their medical, dental and optical benefits by August 31.Their 2008 contract continues until ongoing negotiations with the company are concluded for a new contract.

Verizon keeps saying that what they're doing just "reflects the changing times." The times are changing - skyrocketing executive pay packages and corporate profits - slashing benefits for the workers and their families - shredding of all moral authority by example from the top.

If negotiations break down in the coming weeks and the CWA goes out on strike again, consumer advocates and their organizations should make it explicitly clear that Verizon can't excuse what they're doing to workers in order to better "serve our customers."

Verizon is going increasingly wireless. They are also going increasingly shameless!
(c) 2011 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

A Mountain Of Greed Vs. Sacred Balance
By Randall Amster

You might not be aware of this news from our own backyard, since the reporting of it in the media has been less than robust, but in recent weeks, there have been dozens of arrests at the Snowbowl ski expansion site in the San Francisco Peaks. Following years of rancorous public debate and on the heels of circuitous court proceedings, the developers of the site have begun excavation in order to expand the slopes and lay a pipeline for the bringing of wastewater to make artificial snow on the mountain.

Can you say, "yuck" (expletive implied)? Shortsighted thinking combined with unaddressed health risks and insufficient environmental impact assessments, threatens to turn the sacred peaks into yet another sacrifice zone for the sake of a buck. This is "dirty money" in every sense of the phrase, from digging into the home of the kachinas to trampling on the integrity of the earth beneath our feet.

Is nothing sacred anymore? This is not a rhetorical question. The answer will decide whether our essential humanity has a future in a world increasingly dominated by technological abstractions and the relentless pursuit of profit over the interests of people and places.

Prioritizing the recreational desires of the leisure class over the spiritual needs of indigenous nations is a travesty of historical proportions. But it isn't just native consciousness that suffers in this process; the exploiters eventually render their own habitat unlivable and, in the process, sow the seeds of their own destruction as well.

Whatever your views on the environment, surely we can agree that some places simply ought to remain wild, if only as symbolic reminders of the natural wellspring from whence come the essentials of human existence. Symbols matter -just ask the advertising industry. Relegating the most iconic geographical feature in this region to the status of just another place for wanton development represents a narrow-minded and ultimately self-defeating enterprise.

If you've ever been up to the peaks, you can attest to its special qualities as a pristine landscape rife with biodiversity and life-giving properties. Visible from a hundred miles in any direction and adjacent to the Grand Canyon to the northeast, these mammoth desert mountains reflect the austere beauty of our region, asking us to recall a healthy humility to balance our heartless hubris.

The residents and activists protesting the further desecration of the peaks are keenly aware of the magnitude of the stakes involved. When explicitly sacred areas are subject to the developer's merciless blade, it renders everything disposable. The anachronism of skiing in the desert likewise connotes an attitude of human superiority that turns the world -including the people in it -into little more than a commodity to be bought and sold according to the whims of an unsustainable market ideology.

Among those arrested in defense of these sacred vestiges were Klee Benally, filmmaker, activist and lead singer of the internationally renowned native punk band Blackfire. As he was chained to an excavator, Benally -who has been deeply committed to the cause for years, including making the award-winning film "The Snowbowl Effect" -spoke about his motivations: "This is not a game. This is not for show. This is not for the media. This is to stop this desecration from happening."

Also arrested for attempting to halt the destruction was noted local author Mary Sojourner, who addressed the crowd that had gathered in support of the activists as she was being handcuffed and led away: "I took action not just for the mountain, but ... so that older women and men would see that one doesn't have to be young to stand up for a place and community that you love." Friends, foes and fellow community members -please heed these voices. The time to sit idly by and watch the remaining natural landmarks in our midst be sacrificed on the altar of greed has long since passed. Visit to find out how you can help, and make some noise to save sacred spaces and forestall the ongoing avalanche of avarice.
(c) 2011 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Stephen Moore with both his heads visible. The small female
head is called Lucrezia and whispers talking points in his ear!

Fancy Theorists Of The World Unite
By Paul Krugman

A number of people have pointed me to this remarkable editorial by Stephen Moore in the WSJ. What's remarkable isn't the views; it's the all-out embrace of anti-intellectualism. It actually denounces "fancy theories" and rejects them because they "defy common sense."

Gosh, if that's the way the right is going, the next thing you know they'll reject the theory of evolution. Oh, wait. There's a lot to critique here, if you have the stomach -among other things the question of what constitutes common sense. Some people find it commonsensical that if the government puts people to work, that adds to employment; it takes fancy arguments from the likes of the WSJ to convince them otherwise. But the main thing I'd like to point out is that the past three years have in fact been a stunning confirmation of one fancy theory -namely, the theory of the liquidity trap, which is part of the broader construct of Keynesian economics.

I mean, common sense -or at least common sense as the WSJ sees it -would tell you that massive government borrowing would send interest rates soaring. And that's certainly what the WSJ editorial page told its readers would happen. Only us fancy-schmancy Keynesians said otherwise; and here's what actually happened:

Similarly, common sense as defined by the WSJ said that a tripling of the monetary base would lead to a huge increase in prices; clearly, one should disregard those fancy-schmancy types who said that the money would basically just sit there. Hmmm:

OK, someone is going to point out that inflation has run somewhat higher than I predicted; yes, it has. But I think the figure above shows that the outcome has nonetheless been a lot closer to what people like me said would happen than to what you would have expected from reading the WSJ.

But the stimulus failed! Well, I told you in advance -based on the same model -that it was much too small. So that's not evidence against fancy theories.

The truth is that recent events have been a stunning confirmation of the usefulness of hard thinking in general, and the Keynes-Hicks model in particular. And the WSJ has been wrong every step of the way.

So now they're tuning to anti-intellectualism. Well, of course they are; it's all they have left.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers."
~~~ David Hume

Process Of Elimination
The West's Rapid Slide Into Slaughter
By Chris Floyd

As it is written: "Though we seemed dead, we did but sleep." We have finally returned from a series of grueling and at times bewildering traversals of the planet in several directions. Still a bit dazed, we will shortly be back in fighting trim.

In the meantime, I would by no means insult your intelligence by suggesting you go immediately to Arthur Silber's site to partake of the feast of biting, bitter yet buoyant wit and slashing insight that he has produced during our time away. Surely it would be superfluous in me to point the readers of this site to Silber's work; surely your own discernment and good sense have already led you there on a constant and continual basis. But on the off chance that some stray pair of eyes (among the ever-dwindling pack of peepers that wander by these precincts) have not yet hied to Silber --do so, now. For there are ugly things afoot --an acceleration of the already long-accelerating on-rush of the nations of the West into the hardest, most brutal kind of authoritarianism. It is happening on an array of fronts, aggressively, simultaneously, from every direction. As Silber notes in this landmark piece, "Caught Up in Nightmare: Killing Jack Rabbits":

The ruling class now visits on its domestic populations the same fate it has delivered for hundreds of years to those deeply unfortunate peoples who lived in targeted foreign countries. In their pursuit of power, wealth and dominion, the ruling class systematically brutalized, tortured, "relocated" and murdered those foreign peoples in vast numbers. (All this continues today, of course; see Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, et al.) ....

England and the United States are hollowed-out societies, with their former productive capacity vanishing at an ever-increasing rate. In close alliance with the State, the most powerful and wealthiest corporations continue to amass record profits, but only by siphoning up every last bit of wealth held by the numerically greatest, but otherwise weakest and most defenseless, part of the population. Every significant piece of legislation must be viewed in this context. This is true even of legislation which styles itself as concerning matters which would not appear to be directed to policing the "undesirable" elements of the population. Thus, Obama's heralded "health reform" bill, which I dubbed The Fuck You Act, has very little to do with providing health care, but everything to do with brutally controlling the weakest segments of society and extracting what little money they have left for the benefit of already vastly wealthy insurance companies and their constant partner, the State.

Although it is perilous to make such judgments as events continue to unfold, the evidence strongly compels the conclusion that we have entered the death spiral for the West's ruling class. The disfavored members of society have less and less economic resources of their own to be extracted, and fewer (and often non-existent) opportunities for improving them. Simultaneously (and inextricably connected to this point), the same disfavored members are increasingly unable to defend themselves in any area of their lives. The growing surveillance State watches over them day and night, privacy approaches the point of complete eradication, and the State continually adds to the weapons it uses to harass, intimidate, brutalize and imprison them. The State's methods of control are increasingly, brazenly explicit and crueler by the day. ...

If we broaden our perspective, and if we look beyond particular developments and attempt to grasp what is happening over a longer period of time, the nature of the horror that awaits us takes on a clearer shape: The West's ruling class is embarked on a program of killing and elimination. A general caution should be kept in mind. I'm not suggesting that this program is one that the ruling class has explicitly identified, even to itself, at least not necessarily. The ruling class is intent upon increasing its own power and wealth; in one sense, that is its only concern. I suppose, in some fantasy world, the ruling class would be content to enjoy its immense power and wealth while "ordinary" people pursue their own lives of contentment. This, of course, is the goal which the ruling class announces, and which it desperately tries to convince both itself and us is true.

But we don't live in that fantasy world. In this world --and, I would argue, in any world where brute power is the final means of settling every dispute, especially when that power is consolidated in the State --the ruling class seeks power and wealth by dominating and controlling the weaker segments of society. The ruling class may not set out to kill those people it finds unnecessary for its aims, but if the ruling class can maintain and increase its power and wealth only by eliminating them, it will eventually eliminate them. This is the logic of the ruling class's desires. It is certainly true that the ruling class could change much of this if it wished to: the productive capacity of both England and the United States could be reinvigorated, and much new wealth could be created and enjoyed by many more members of society. But the ruling class believes that would necessitate the diminishment of its power and wealth, so they will not consider the possibility seriously.

The ruling class dreamed a nightmare, and made it real. We are now caught up in it. For many of us --certainly for me, and very possibly for you --the end result is clear: the ruling class intends to kill us. Not today or tomorrow, the ruling class hasn't reached that point of desperation quite yet, but they'll kill us soon enough. We have no value to them; we're superfluous; we're not needed.

Here Silber is giving more eloquent and deeper voice to a theme I was trying to sketch out some years ago, in a piece called "Worm Turning." Written in 2004, it focused on the Bush family, then in power; but of course, the critique applied --and applies --far more generally to our thoroughly bipartisan elite. As I put it then (with slight editing here to broaden the point):

... Underneath all this bristling array there is nothing but a tiny white maggot of greed, wriggling and gorging on scraps of rotting meat. No deep beliefs or high ideals inform the [elitist] ethos, which can be boiled down to one sentence: Grab your pile and screw anybody who gets in the way. War, energy and corporate finance just happen to be where the money is at. And raw, secretive political power --unfettered by courts, laws, legislators or public scrutiny --is the most effective way to safeguard and augment these investments.

That is not to say that the [elitist] credo lacks all nuance. There is in fact a very important refinement to their wormy greed: Loot should always be obtained without the slightest risk to your own financial position. The "free market" must be shunned at all costs --and manipulated by string-pulling, deceit and intimidation when competition is unavoidable. Thus the [elite] model is to cozy up to governments --preferably strongman regimes free to ladle out public money to their favorites with no questions asked. ...

[Our elites] don't sit in dark corners and cackle over the idea of children being chewed to pieces by American bombs. Nor do their nostrils flare with righteous rage at the thought of homosexuality or abortion or nipples on national television. It's just that war profiteering, corporate rapine and cynical pandering to the public's worst instincts are the easiest way to get the unearned riches they crave ...

Perhaps if they could obtain these same privileges as easily by other, less horrific means, they would. As it is, they take the world as they find it, and go about their business without fretting over the consequences --the dead, the ruined, the spreading hate, the poisoned planet. Why should they care? As the maggot cannot see beyond the meat, so too these men of greed-stunted understanding can see nothing of worth outside their own bottomless appetites.

Back to Silber, and to our garishly nightmarish present-day:

Before the ruling class finally eliminates the "undesirables," there is a necessary preceding step: the most disfavored, weakest elements of society must be demonized. I heard the following article first mentioned by Rush Limbaugh; it was quickly picked up by many conservative commentators (including self-identified "libertarians"). Limbaugh praised the article in glowing terms; he thought it identified the crucial issue in especially eloquent terms. For Limbaugh, the crucial issue was one made familiar in connection with history's bloodiest and most horrifying episodes of mass murder, although Limbaugh himself failed to note that fact. I'm sure it was merely an oversight. The crucial issue is, obviously, that the rioters are, as Limbaugh summarized it, "human only by virtue of their DNA." The rioters are not actually human at all; they are sub-human, animals deserving only to be put down.

There is much, much more in this single post by Silber --including the deeper historic context of our landslide into eliminationism --not to mention the other recent offerings: here, here and here. Again, if you have not yet read them, I urge you most strongly to go there and read them now.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

Amnesty For The Indefensible
By Robert Scheer

They will get away with it, at least in this life. "They" are the Wall Street usurers, people of a sort condemned in Scripture, who have brought more misery to this nation than we have known since the Great Depression. "They" will not suffer for their crimes because they have a majority ownership position in our political system. That is the meaning of the banking plea bargain that the Obama administration is pressuring state attorneys general to negotiate with the titans of the financial world.

It is a sellout deal that, in return for a pittance of compensation by banks to ripped-off mortgage holders, would grant the banks blanket immunity from any prosecution. That is intended to short-circuit investigations by a score of aggressive state officials, inquiries that offer the public a last best hope to get to the bottom of the housing scandal that has cost U.S. homeowners $6.6 trillion in home equity in the past five years and left 14.6 million Americans owing more than their homes are worth.

The $20 billion or so that the banks would pony up is chump change to them compared with the trillions that the Fed and other public agencies spent to bail them out. The banks were given direct cash subsidies, virtually zero-interest loans, and the Fed took $2 trillion in bad paper off their hands while the banks exacerbated the banking crisis they had created through additional shady practices, including fraudulent mortgage foreclosures.

Yet the administration has rushed to the aid of the banks once again and is attempting to intimidate the few state attorneys general who have the gumption to protect the public interest they are sworn to serve. As Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times reported:

"Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices. ...

"In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement. ..."

Donovan has good reason not to want an exploration of the origins of the housing meltdown: He has been a big-time player in the housing racket for decades. Back in the Clinton administration, when government-supported housing became a fig leaf for bundling suspect mortgages into what turned out to be toxic securities, Donovan was a deputy assistant secretary at HUD and acting Federal Housing Administration commissioner. He was up to his eyeballs in this business when the Clinton administration pushed through legislation banning any regulation of the market in derivatives based on home mortgages.

Armed with his insider connections, Donovan then went to work for the Prudential conglomerate (no surprise there), working deals with the same government housing agencies that he had helped run. As The New York Times reported in 2008 after President Barack Obama picked him to be secretary of HUD, "Mr. Donovan was a managing director at Prudential Mortgage Capital Co., in charge of its portfolio of investments in affordable housing loans, including Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration debt."

The HUD website boasts in its bio of Donovan that "under Secretary Donovan's leadership, HUD has helped stabilize the housing market and worked to keep responsible families in their homes." If that is so, we have to assume that the tens of millions savaged by an out-of-control banking industry were not "responsible." And if the housing market has in any way been "stabilized," why did the Commerce Department report Tuesday that new home sales have dropped for the third month in a row?

Shifting the blame from the swindlers to the victims is the cynical rot at the core of the response of both the Bush and Obama administrations to the housing collapse. It is a response that aims to forgive and forget the crimes of Wall Street while allowing ordinary folks to sink deeper into the pit of debt and despair. It infects Donovan and many others who claim to be concerned for the very homeowners they are betraying by undermining the few officials such as Schneiderman who seek to hold the bankers accountable.

In her article about the pressure being brought to bear on Schneiderman to go along with the sellout, Morgenson reported that according to an attendee at a memorial service this month for former New York Gov. Hugh Carey, as Schneiderman was leaving he "became embroiled in a contentious conversation with Kathryn S. Wylde, a member of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who represents the public."

When interviewed by Morgenson, Wylde claimed that her conversation with Schneiderman was "not unpleasant" but that she told him "it is of concern to the industry that instead of trying to facilitate resolving these issues, you seem to be throwing a wrench into it. Wall Street is our Main Street—love 'em or hate 'em. They are important and we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to support them unless they are doing something indefensible."

When haven't they done that?
(c) 2011 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

The Dead Letter Office...

Julius explains how big "it" is and why he's so sexually frustrated!

Heil Obama,

Dear Deputy Fuhrer Genachowski,

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 whiping the Fairness Doctrine and 82 other laws off the books, 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 Genachowski, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Mitt Romney, Dark Prince Of Oligarchy, Battles The Demons Of Democracy
By John Nichols

The gaffe-prone candidacies of Michele "Elvis" Bachmann and Rick "C'mon, Men, Let's String Us Up Some Bernanke" Perry, and the slapstick non-candidacy of Sarah "Two If by Sea" Palin, are merely the cheap theater of an ill-defined Republican presidential race. The real drama of the 2012 race continues to come from the CEO party's CEO candidate: Willard Mitt Romney.

It is Romney, the buttoned-down professional who was born to the corporate class and remains its truest exemplar in the current contest, who framed the 2012 debate as starkly it ever will be with his sincere declaration that "corporations are people."

Romney gets it.

There's a class war going on in America.

And the dark prince of oligarchy has taken a stand.

Provoked by a grassroots activist who refused to take spin for an answer, the GOP's CEO candidate revealed why he is running.

Corporations need unapologetic and aggressive representation not just in the judicial branch but in the executive branch of our federal government.

After all, It's not just conservatives on the US Supreme Court who think that corporations should enjoy the same protections and privileges as human beings.

Romney is standing up for the principle that conservatives who would be president must be just as bold when it comes to bending the intent and language of a Constitution that opens with the words "We the People" in order to make it a corporate charter.

If we needed any more confirmation of the necessity for a movement to renew the democratic promise of the American experiment, it came when Romney was confronted by members of Iowa Citizens for Community Involvement. When Romney appeared at the Iowa State Fair to pitch his candidacy for the nomination, the Iowa CCI activists demanded to know whether he was going to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Romney tried at first to stick to the spin he was supposed to be peddling to fair-goers who needed some pablum to go with their corn dogs and cotton candy. But the grass-roots activists of Iowa CCI-a multiracial, urban-and-rural group aligned with the National People's Action movement-made a "where's-the-beef" demand. And Romney delivered.

The activists wanted to know why CEO candidate-like so many other politicians of both major parties-would even consider undermining needed programs that care for the elderly, the disabled and the disadvantaged when billionaire CEOs and corporations pay little or nothing into the federal treasury.

When Romney began to ruminate on how he would not "raise taxes on people," the Iowa activists shouted: "Corporations!"

As the crowd began to cheer on the idea of taxing corporations that enjoy the benefits of government bailouts and subsidies without-in all too many cases-giving anything back, Romney became incensed.

The former corporate CEO shouted: "Corporations are people, my friend."

The crowd shouted: "No, they're not!"

"Of course they are," replied Romney, with a "there, I said it..." statement that he and his staff would later confirm as his true faith.

The Republican presidential contender's bizarre certainty that faceless corporations, many of which enjoy the benefits and protections of the United States while shuttering factories and moving jobs overseas, are somehow human drew a stinging rebuke from National People's Action director George Goehl, who declared: "The corporations Mr. Romney believes are filling people's pockets are the ones who crashed our economy and hijacked our democracy." Of course, Romney won't change. He's a class warrior, and he knows which side he is on.

Nor, frankly, will any any change in position be forthcoming from a lot of the Democrats who have bought into the big-money politics that accepts the landscape outlined in the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision-which accords corporations the same political rights as citizens-as the new normal.

But there is nothing "normal" or "acceptable" about a circumstance-illustrated by the Wisconsin recent recall election fights, which saw an expected $40 million in campaign spending-that makes candidates and voters electoral bystanders in a process that is bought and paid for by corporations and unaccountable special-interest groups.

"The court's ruling in Citizens United demands that, once again, we the people use the constitutional amendment process to defend our democracy. We must press for a 28th Amendment-a People's Rights Amendment-to restore democracy to the people and to ensure that people, not corporations, govern in America," says John Bonifaz, director of the Free Speech for People project. "We call on all 2012 presidential candidates to make clear that corporations are not people with constitutional rights and to support the People's Rights Amendment."

Bonifaz is right. Romney has with his "corporations are people" comment disqualified himself from serious consideration as a contender for any position of public trust.

But Romney and his kind will remain a threat to American democratic life for as long as activist judges read the Constitution as an invitation to corporate dominance of our politics.

Romney's statement has clarified the urgent need for a constitutional amendment that renews the supremacy of "We the People."

That's going to be a central focus of the national Democracy Convention, which will be held August 24-28 in Madison, Wisconsin. A project of the Madison-based Liberty Tree Foundation (with which this writer has been associated over the years), the convention has drawn strong support from the Alliance for Democracy, the Move to Amend campaign, The Progressive magazine and labor, farm and community groups. As such, it will bring together activists from across the country who seek to "strengthen democracy where it matters most-in our communities, our schools, our workplaces and local economies, our military, our government, our media, our Constitution."

The focus on multiple issues and challenges will make the convention an exciting and necessary gathering at a point when America is suffering from so many democracy deficits. But central to the convention will be an understanding that the crisis created by the Citizens United ruling and the abuses of power inflicted upon the republic and its citizens by unrestrained corporations must be addressed.

"As far as we know, Mitt is not coming to the 2011 Democracy Convention," Democracy Convention Chair Ben Manski jokes. "But if he did, he'd learn a thing or two."

What the Americans who happen to stand on the other side of the class divide can learn at the Democracy Convention is how to prove Romney wrong by ensuring that the fantasy of corporate personhood is not used by corrupt politicians and activist judges to prevent "We the People" from realizing the full promise of the American experiment.
(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.

How Rich Is Too Rich?
By Sam Harris

I've written before about the crisis of inequality in the United States and about the quasi-religious abhorrence of "wealth redistribution" that causes many Americans to oppose tax increases, even on the ultra rich. The conviction that taxation is intrinsically evil has achieved a sadomasochistic fervor in conservative circles-producing the Tea Party, their Republican zombies, and increasingly terrifying failures of governance.

Happily, not all billionaires are content to hoard their money in silence. Earlier this week, Warren Buffett published an op-ed in the New York Times in which he criticized our current approach to raising revenue. As he has lamented many times before, he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary is. Many conservatives pretend not to find this embarrassing.

Conservatives view taxation as a species of theft-and to raise taxes, on anyone for any reason, is simply to steal more. Conservatives also believe that people become rich by creating value for others. Once rich, they cannot help but create more value by investing their wealth and spawning new jobs in the process. We should not punish our best and brightest for their success, and stealing their money is a form of punishment.

Of course, this is just an economic cartoon. We don't have perfectly efficient markets, and many wealthy people don't create much in the way of value for others. In fact, as our recent financial crisis has shown, it is possible for a few people to become extraordinarily rich by wrecking the global economy.

Nevertheless, the basic argument often holds: Many people have amassed fortunes because they (or their parent's, parent's, parents) created value. Steve Jobs resurrected Apple Computer and has since produced one gorgeous product after another. It isn't an accident that millions of us are happy to give him our money.

But even in the ideal case, where obvious value has been created, how much wealth can one person be allowed to keep? A trillion dollars? Ten trillion? (Fifty trillion is the current GDP of Earth.) Granted, there will be some limit to how fully wealth can concentrate in any society, for the richest possible person must still spend money on something, thereby spreading wealth to others. But there is nothing to prevent the ultra rich from cooking all their meals at home, using vegetables grown in their own gardens, and investing the majority of their assets in China.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the two richest men in the United States, each have around $50 billion. Let's put this number in perspective: They each have a thousand times the amount of money you would have if you were a movie star who had managed to save $50 million over the course of a very successful career. Think of every actor you can name or even dimly recognize, including the rare few who have banked hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, and run this highlight reel back half a century. Gates and Buffet each have more personal wealth than all of these glamorous men and women-from Bogart and Bacall to Pitt and Jolie-combined.

In fact, there are people who rank far below Gates and Buffet in net worth, who still make several million dollars a day, every day of the year, and have throughout the current recession.

And there is no reason to think that we have reached the upper bound of wealth inequality, as not every breakthrough in technology creates new jobs. The ultimate labor saving device might be just that-the ultimate labor saving device. Imagine the future Google of robotics or nanotechnology: Its CEO could make Steve Jobs look like a sharecropper, and its products could put tens of millions of people out of work. What would it mean for one person to hold the most valuable patents compatible with the laws of physics and to amass more wealth than everyone else on the Forbes 400 list combined?

How many Republicans who have vowed not to raise taxes on billionaires would want to live in a country with a trillionaire and 30 percent unemployment? If the answer is "none"-and it really must be-then everyone is in favor of "wealth redistribution." They just haven't been forced to admit it.

Yes, we must cut spending and reduce inefficiencies in government-and yes, many things are best accomplished in the private sector. But this does not mean that we can ignore the astonishing gaps in wealth that have opened between the poor and the rich, and between the rich and the ultra rich. Some of your neighbors have no more than $2,000 in total assets (in fact, 40 percent of Americans fall into this category); some have around $2 million; and some have $2 billion (and a few have much more). Each of these gaps represents a thousandfold increase in wealth.

Some Americans have amassed more wealth than they or their descendants can possibly spend. Who do conservatives think is in a better position to help pull this country back from the brink?


ADDENDUM (8/19/11)

I have received a fair amount of push back for this post-much of it, frankly, a little crazier than normal.

If you are an economist and believe that you have detected any erroneous assumptions above, please write to me here. If your comments are significant, I will be happy to publish our exchange on this website.

Specifically, I would be interested to know if any economist has an economic argument against the following ideas:

Future breakthroughs in technology (e.g. robotics, nanotech) could eliminate millions of jobs very quickly, creating a serious problem of unemployment.

I am not suggesting that this is likely in the near term. I am saying that it is possible. Many people believe that there is some fundamental principle of economics (even of physics) that rules this out. Drawing a lesson from the information revolution, many readers have written to inform me that the birth of the computer led to new industries and new jobs (thank you). Needless to say, I do not disagree. I am suggesting, however, that there is nothing that rules out the possibility of vastly more powerful technologies creating a net loss of available jobs and concentrating wealth to an unprecedented degree.

The federal government should levy a one-time wealth tax (perhaps 10 percent for estates above $10 million, rising to 50 percent for estates above $1 billion) and use these assets to fund an infrastructure bank.

Contrary to many readers' assumptions, I am not recommending that the federal government confiscate productive capital from the rich to subsidize the shiftlessness of people who do not want to work. Nor do I imagine that a mere increase in income tax can erase the national debt. However, to the eye of this non-economist, it seems obvious that spending a few trillion dollars wisely, on projects that will improve our infrastructure, create jobs, and hasten our progress toward energy independence, would be a good thing to do. Yes, I share everyone's fear that our government, riven by political partisanship and special interests, is often incapable of spending money wisely. But that doesn't mean a structure couldn't be put in place to prevent poor uses of these funds. Leaving aside fears of government ineptitude, please tell me why it would be a bad idea for the rich to decide to fund such a bank voluntarily.

Needless to say, if there are any economists who want to write in support of these ideas, I would be happy to hear from you.

In the hopes of receiving feedback that I can publish, I encourage you to keep your responses as concise as possible.

(c) 2011 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Don Wright ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The Great Concessionaire
By Will Durst

Sorry if you settled into your recliner ready to enjoy the blessed silence destined to descend on the political playing field in the aftermath of the Debt Ceiling Death Match. Lasted as long as the life cycle of an adult mayfly. That momentary blissful peace was rudely broken by a cacophony of squeaks and grunts and shouts as each camp tried to out blame the other for the thudding crash Wall Street made falling down a well. Quick, go find Lassie.

It appears the Market is not impressed with the two-step deal Congress agreed to kicking and screaming. Look close and you can see the bones of the middle class sticking out of the confetti left over from the banking and oil industry celebrations. Spending cuts during a recession. There you go. Starve a fever and feed a cold, or the other way around? What the hell, starve them both. We'll eat when we're dead.

Hard to understand why Progressives are so mad at Obama. After all, he didn't do anything. Besides cave faster than an overused supply tunnel in a Chilean coal mine. The difference is, nobody's rushing out to organize any rescue parties. Happy Birthday Mister President. Sorry we couldn't get Marilyn to sing. Doubt if Pelosi hummed it either.

The Tea Baggers won, confusing both Democrats and Republicans, by refusing to act like politicians eschewing all the usual motivations such as their own self-interest or party affinity or even the general welfare of the country. You can't negotiate with cement. Giving proof to the old adage: "never get in a fight with an ugly person, they got nothing to lose.

One fascinating thing to come out of the debt debacle was watching the only adult in the room turn from Great Facilitator into Great Enabler before our very eyes. Obama is so determined to govern from the middle, there should be a double yellow line down the center of his forehead. Democrats may desert him, but he remains king of the Road Kill Party. Would hate to get stuck behind Barack in a grocery line after he was asked "Paper or plastic?" Your ice cream would liquefy waiting for him to convince the clerk he wanted "plaper" or "pastic."

The Tea Party held the government hostage, and the President fell victim to a wicked case of Stockholm Syndrome, bonding with his captors, until at last, he was able to successfully convince the kidnappers to accept more than they originally asked for.

The administration called the deal a compromise. The same kind of compromise the Titanic arranged with that iceberg. Like how Nagasaki and Hiroshima compromised with Fat Man and Little Boy. Brokered as many concessions as New Orleans got from Katrina. The financial equivalent of handing over Czechoslovakia after extracting a vague promise to possibly leave Poland alone. Trust he got a rolled up umbrella for his birthday.

At this point, you can't even accuse the Democrats of being afraid of their own shadow because they don't cast one. Besides, it's hard to see your shadow when your head is so far up your butt you can tickle your spleen with your elbow. And if they expect any chance at all in 2012, they'd be wise to invest heavily in stem cell research in hopes of regenerating their spine.
(c) 2011 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, "The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing."

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 33 (c) 08/26/2011

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