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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh feels an, "Idiot Wind."

Uri Avnery goes, "To The Shores Of Tripoli."

David Sirota states the obvious, "Yes, Black People Still Face Discrimination."

David Swanson tries, "Drowning Government In A Hurricane (Why Wait for a Bathtub?)."

Jim Hightower finds, "Michigan Locals Fight For Democracy."

Helen Thomas examines, "The U.S. & The Two-State Solution."

James Donahue considers, "Cheaper Environmentally Friendly Body Disposal."

Ted Rall remembers, "911."

Ralph Nader weighs, "Sun And Sanity."

Randall Amster is, "Saving Sacred Spaces."

Paul Krugman warns of, "Republicans Against Science."

Chris Floyd explores, "Dead Sirte."

Robert Scheer presents a, "Deceit Of Shakespearean Proportions."

CIA Director David Petraeus wins the coveted Vidkun Quisiling Award!

John Nichols follows, "The Democrats' Rural Rebellions."

Sam Harris shows us, "How To Lose Readers (Without Even Trying)."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Internet Outages from Hurricane Could Force People to Interact with Other People, Officials Warn" but first, Uncle Ernie sings, "Good Night Irene."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Adam Zyglis, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, MoPaul, Dees Illustration.Com, Cameron Cardow, Mike Luckovich, B' Dog 23, Internet Weekly.Org, Jim Morin, Jay Ward, Jae Rhim Lee, Living Off Grid, Arizona Snowbowl, A.P., 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."

Good Night, Irene!
By Ernest Stewart

Irene good night Irene good night
Good night Irene Good night Irene
I'll see you in my dreams
Irene Good Night ~~~ Lead Belly

"NATO's top commanders may have acted under color of international law, but they are not exempt from international law. If members of the Gadhafi Regime are to be held accountable, NATO's top commanders must also be held accountable through the International Criminal Court for all civilian deaths resulting from bombing. Otherwise, we will have witnessed the triumph of a new international gangsterism." ~~~ Dennis Kucinich

Run to the hills
Run for your life
Run To The Hills ~~~ Iron Maiden

You got to pay your dues
If you want to sing the Blues
And you know it don't come easy!
It Don't Come Easy ~~~ Ringo Starr

It must be getting harder and harder to be a climate denier. Hurricane/tropical storm Irene sowed a path of destruction from the Bahamas to the Northeast, leaving behind in its wake, death and despair with the worst of it yet to come. Sure, 7 million people lost power -- some of whom will be waiting weeks to have it restored, and rivers throughout the East Coast are bringing even more destruction than the storm caused initially! To paraphrase the Firesign Theatre, "And there's Hurricane all over the highway in Mystic, Connecticut!"

The only good thing to come out of Irene is she was, for the most part, not much more than a tropical storm. What if a category 5 would've slammed into lower Manhattan? NYC would have been unlivable for months, if not years. With global warning, it's just a matter of time before that happens, but Rethuglican frontrunners Perry and Romney deny that man-made global warming is the culprit. They say it's just the Earth, and the Earth's climate varies. Yes, it does; but up until now, it took tens of thousands of years to go from one climate to another -- not the two hundred years that we've had in the machine age, where we went from a beginning ice age into the hottest years on record.

Perry thinks it's all god's doing, as the Rethuglican mantra says god's doing it to get even with all the faggots and liberals! Except Michele Bachmann, who says the earthquake and Irene were acts of God to get politicians' attention to the debt and deficit problem. Romney, who used to believe in global warming, now doesn't know, because the Rethuglicans have convinced their base that the people who are causing it, viz., big Coal, big Gas and the corpo-rats in general, aren't the ones causing it. It's either the great cosmic space muffin, or Mother Earth who are the culprits, if global warming even exists. Meanwhile, the corpo-rats are paying our politicians to be deniers, lest they lose a few trillion dollars extra and have to clean up their disasters! So, for the tradition 30 pieces of silver, Perry, Romney, and the rest are willing to sell out their souls and our environment and lie their asses off!

Take a look at this year's climate disasters -- just in the United States alone -- and see if you can recall any other year like this one? The massive flooding, now going on throughout New England, is just like the floods that wiped out the Midwest this spring. Not only wiping out towns, but vast areas of farm land, making for starvation situations throughout America come harvest time. You'll recall that a great chunk of the Southwest burned to the ground. Tornadoes that destroyed great swaths of the South. Droughts throughout the South and West that had Governor Perry holding an official state prayer meeting, asking his god to bring rain. I guess his god doesn't like Governor Perry very much, huh?

Yes, America, you can pin all this on Yahweh, the Bronze Age god of wandering, barbarian, syphilitic sheepherders. Or you can put the blame where it belongs -- on the Corpo-rats and us. With Yahweh, you can blame it all on god's will, or you can face reality and put the blame where it belongs, and then do something about it to keep it from getting worse. If we do nothing, then Mother Earth will soon rid herself of us; and it won't be very pretty -- and praying to ancient mythologies won't do any good! Last year was the hottest year on record, and this year is looking to be worse! What will next year be like? I'm guessing being a climate denier in this day and age must be a little like being a Christian Scientist with appendicitis?

Finally, for all of you waiting for the power to come back on, take a lesson from this towards a day when the grid goes down, and doesn't come back up! What will you do then? You better get prepared!

In Other News

Some call it "The Obama Doctrine" others call it what it is, "international gangsterism." Call it what you may, it all means the same thing -- an act or acts of treason according to the US Constitution, or as Dubya called it, "just a goddamned piece of paper!" Our six illegal, immoral wars of terrorism will continue, and no doubt grow to other countries because since old Dementia Head made the scene, the laws protecting us (and the rest of the world) from our government no longer apply! Obama knows he can commit any acts of murder and mayhem his heart desires; and as long as he doesn't get a blowjob from an intern, he's good to go!

Barry's gone out of his way to piss off the left -- not caring or considering the backlash he's created, thinking we must vote for him, because otherwise we'll get a Perry or Bachmann. I, of course, would ask Obamahood what exactly's the difference between the Rethuglicans and the Demoncrats? I can't see any real difference between them, can you? Instead of our savior, Barry, you've turned out to be worse than Dubya ever thought about being -- so if Willard is elected, perhaps things would be slightly better that they are now? Zeus only knows what Barry would do as a lame duck for four years with all the restraints off of him!

There are, of course, the Greens, and many other parties; but no matter who they pick, they'll never have a chance because of how the media is owned and operated for the elites' benefit, and not for our own! The other option is what most everybody does when they can no longer choose the lesser of two evils, they simply sit it out, which the majority of Americans do. That's right, more Americans choose not to vote than those who choose to vote. I can't say I blame them, either!

I have a simple solution for this, i.e., mandatory voting. Everyone over 18 would be required to vote under penalty of law -- and those who don't get 90 days at hard labor! Of course, this solution would also include the choice (like Australians have) of voting for "None Of The Above!" If a majority of the voters chose "None Of The Above," then all candidates for that office would have to be replaced with new ones until we finally got some ones we could vote for! Of course, like they do in Australia, they could keep running pre-approved candidates our corpo-rat masters decide for us, as they are people, too! NOT! This guarantees nothing, but at least we the people would regain our voices and get to at least embarrass some political wankers before we get screwed again by the people who are supposed to be working for us!

And Finally

I see where General Betray-us, oops, Petraeus, is no longer responsible for murdering men, women and children in Afghanistan! No, he'll soon take over the CIA, where he will be responsible for murdering men, women and children all over the world, not just in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq -- what an advancement!

Betray-us, who was so beloved by his own men that one of them shot him in the chest and another one didn't quite pack his parachute correctly -- no doubt, innocent mistakes -- will bring that leadership ability to Langley, Virginia. Yippee! He'll replace Deputy-Fuhrer Leon E. Panetta, who moves to take over the defense department as Secretary of Defense.

You may recall, Petraeus earned his sobriquet Betray-us by being Dubya's military stooge, and lying his ass off in favor of our war crimes and such before Congress, where he was charged by Move On.Org of "cooking the books" on said war crimes. He went on to surge American children in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Our kids quickly passed on the surge by murdering men, women and children all over the Middle East! A note to the world: if America ever shows up on your doorstep, wanting to bring democracy to your country, "run to the hills, run for your life!"

Obamahood is adopting Betray-us, like he's done with the many acts of treason, sedition and such from the Crime Family Bush's two terms in the White House (instead of prosecuting them for all their crimes and rounding up all their stooges), and has made Betray-us the head of the CIA. I'm guessing that Heinrich Himmler wasn't available, huh, Barry? David will now do to the world what he's already done to the Middle East. That should make America some new friends, eh? I rather think, NOT! How about you?

Keepin' On

As Ringo once sang, "You know it don't come easy." Few good things in life ever do come easy, like respect -- most of them have to be earned. Got them dues that got to be paid. So it is with this magazine.

As magazines go, Issues & Alibis' cost is pretty much "chump change." With most Internet magazines, the yearly cost is in the seven figures. A few get by on six figures. We get by with the help of sponsors -- from a six figure cost to just five figures. Our total cost is just above $11,000 -- after our sponsor picks up about half of that, leaving us to raise just $5400 a year to keep bringing you the important news you need to know, without ever having to charge anyone for the information.

That's a good thing, because the majority of our readership couldn't afford to subscribe and since these are the very people we're trying to reach that "chump change" can be hard to get! Thanks to Barbara from Boston, Gary from Indianapolis, and Ernie from Ontario's latest help, we are now lacking just $1400, down from last week's $1750. We need to raise that $1400 within the next month to continue the magazine for another year -- well, until the end of June 2012 to be accurate!

A little help, Ya'll!

Oh, and John, if you want to shut me up, begging for resources, why not send your dear old Uncle Ernie a nice check!??! As soon as this money is raised, I'll stop begging until next year! Perhaps by then we'll have some more sponsors, and I won't have to come before you cap-in-hand!


02-31-1969 ~ 08-28-2011
Thanks for your thoughts!

06-28-1915 ~ 08-29-2011
Thanks for dem blues!

08-14-1913 ~ 08-30-2011
Thanks for the entertainment!


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.

Idiot Wind
The Eternal Return Of The Politics Of The 1970s
By Phil Rockstroh

Unpopular wars drag on, gas prices erratically rise and inexplicably fall, as clouds of cynicism, dark as Richard Nixon's perpetual five o'clock shadow, brood over the length of the U.S. At times, it seems as though Nixon's 1970s never ended: Only Ronald Reagan's/Bill Clinton's/Barack Obama's Quaalude-laced, faux populist snake oil caused the nation collectively to slip into a soporific sleep -- and now, with the effects of the drug wearing off, we begin to awaken...hung over, groggy, queasy... still in the midst of that ugly and odious era.

At least, that's the encrypted message I've deciphered using my Super-Secret, Zeitgeist Decoder Mood (disorder) Ring, special limited, Michele Bachman edition.

Thus far, in this dismal century of the nation's history, both men who have occupied the office of the U.S. presidency, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, are as much products of the 1970s as were Naugahyde pit group sofas and outbreaks of the Herpes Simplex Retrovirus at Plato's Retreat. From a historical perspective, future generations will regard the Bush Administration and its Democratic Party doppelganger as the Dacron Polyester of American presidencies: Bush's legacy will carry all the beauty, style, and enduring appeal of a powder blue Leisure Suit -- and Obama will be remembered as the Pet Rock of the U.S. oligarchic class.

Accordingly, if there is a presiding spirit possessing our age, it is the gray ghost of Richard Nixon who sat, stoop shouldered and scheming, in the Oval Office, in the early 1970s, as the U.S. began hitting the limits of its imperial might and economic power, and who set the tone of duplicity and denial that define daily life in the nation to this day.

During the Watergate Era, Karl Rove and other ruthless sleight-of-hand artists of the politics of demagogic distraction and displacement grasped this fact, so troubling in its implications that it was banished from the official narrative: Nixon was not driven in disgrace from office because the people of the U.S. were troubled by having a sick, corrupt bastard as their president; in truth, most simply found the situation have the curtains of the living quarters of the White House pulled open, thus allowing the world to witness the dismal spectacle of Nixon...pacing the floors, draped in a dingy bathrobe, muttering whisky-fueled expletives at the yellowing wallpaper.

"Now, Watergate does not bother me
 Does your conscience bother you? 
Tell the truth." -- excerpt, Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Moreover, Rove perceived that Nixon's paranoia, rage, envy, and resentment merely mirrored those of the white, U.S. middle and laboring classes. Nixon knew from the depths of his black spleen to the tips of his twitching nerve endings the hidden in plain sight, ugly side of the American character and how the pathologies therein could be exploited for political gain.

Nixon's legacy remains our lode star because most of the U.S. populace accepted the false narrative that Watergate and Vietnam were aberrations, and that, by Nixon's resignation from office in August of 1974, the country's psyche had been purged of the demons...conjured and given sustenance by U.S. global-wide imperium and that still abide within the collective psyche of the nation --- an unseen, insidious presence to this day.

Ergo, even after Nixon was exiled to San Clemente, and the nation's citizenry was induced to take up the mantra, "the system worked...time to move on...Our long national nightmare is over" -- Americans remained uneasy, clinging to the casuistry that we were mere bystanders when the crimes were committed -- and, as a consequence, we transformed ourselves into willfully ignorant marks for political flimflammers (embodied by the likes of Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama et al) whose comfortable lies exalt the inviolable grace of our collective cluelessness.

Otherwise, we would have been forced to face our individual complicity in Nixon's crimes; otherwise, a million Vietnamese corpses would have risen accusingly in our dreams -- as tens of thousands of Iraqi and Central Asian dead would haunt our sleep tonight.

At present, Democratic Party apologist for U.S. military imperium seem to have little inclination to lament the deaths of the children of Central Asia, whose bodies have been ripped asunder by attacks by U.S. predator drones, because (Could they possibly believe?) their lives were violently torn from this world by the policies of a Nobel Peace Prize winner -- not Bush nor Cheney nor any (admitted) neocon.

In the compartmentalized confines of their casuistry, how is it possible that Obama's liberal supporters actually believe that the souls of these children are now at peace only because they had not befallen the misfortune of having been slaughtered, by say, the caprice of a President Perry or Bachmann?

The demonstrable madness of the Republican party's presidential hopefuls serve as living emblems of the forces of negative entropy riddling the empire. Accordingly, Michele Bachmann embodies its urge towards outright self-destructive mania. In contrast, Barack Obama's style is axiomatic of the effects of its all-encompassing, reality-denying PR apparatus i.e., reality viewed as a mere marketing problem.

Moreover, as the tattered veracities of U.S. exceptionalism continue to be buffeted by the realities of the wider, indomitable world, political types, such as Obama and Bachmann, both scions of the nation's dismal and deranged political class -- risen from the political landscape since the 1970s -- will embody the cognitive dissidence inherent to declining empire.

The larger the specter of decline looms, the more desperate the political and economic elite have become...contriving to consolidate even more outrageous amounts of wealth and power, hence further circumscribing the already severely diminished societal milieu of the less privileged classes of the nation.

Such desperate circumstances can bring peril: The rights and liberties of a nation's people can be forsaken, like good music and a sense of fashion in a 70's era disco, when a group of fanatical outsiders (for example, rank and file teabagger types) forge ad hoc alliances, based on political and economic expediency, with a corrupt business and political, ruling elite.

"I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways had finally made you blind/ I can't remember your face anymore, your mouth has changed, your eyes/ don't look into mine." -- Bob Dylan, excerpt, Idiot Wind.

In my own experience, I first began to take note of the acceptance of authoritarian impulses in the cultural banalities evinced in the 1970s. I noticed my peers (teenagers born during the peak years of the Baby Boom) were not the progeny of The Woodstock Nation, as our beleaguered authoritarian elders had feared. Instead, we were the free floating spirit-incarnate of a pop culture Weimar Republic e.g., unlike our predecessors in the 1960s, we used drugs neither to expand our awareness nor as an act of social or political rebellion; rather, they were appropriated as apolitical agents of anesthetization.

Like the sound and fury of our pinball machine distractions, our Muscle Car imperialism, and the pseudo-edginess of the so-called FM radio revolution (that was, in reality, the advent of corporate rock) -- our surface-level rebelliousness was, below the lank-haired, faded denim-clad, reefer-reeking exterior, the metastasizing of an insidious indifference -- to a large measure a radical renunciation -- of anything more challenging than those things available within the immediate confines of our comfort zones.

Our mode of being, even then, revealed our obsession with comfort, the devices of escapism and an avidity for insularity -- our right to the pursuit of numbness. We were fledgling Weimar Republicans, clad in faded, frayed bell-bottom jeans...primed to surrender freedom to the corporate/national security state for the illusion of safety and control.

All along, beneath the pot reek, redolent on polyester fabric...the Muscle Car rumble...Quaalude spittle...the tribally-administered, prototypical serotonin/dopamine/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (perhaps precursors of the Huxleyesque pharmaceutical authoritarianism to come) we baby boomers were scions of the Cold War military/industrial/consumer empire's death-sustained dynamo.

The empire is as noisy, distracting and meaningless as a vintage, 1970s pinball machine -- as self-aware as a baby boomer, suburban pothead teenager who, as the years have passed, transformed into a self-absorbed, Starbuck's-slurping, SSRI-popping consumer zombie, possessed of mindless appetite, begot by deep, inner desolation who has spent his existence devouring the resources of the entire planet in the manner he devoured food from his mother's pantry while possessed of a bad case of reefer munchies in the 1970s.

As the decades have passed, an internalize mall and mcmansion -- an architecture of instant gratification and compulsive insularity -- has supplanted primordial forests of collective imagination; hence, our roots no longer reach deep into the dark, renewing loam of ancestral intelligence; our branches no longer lift towards the sky of possibility. We feel devoid of nourishment and hope, because the internalized empire has clear cut it all, reducing sequoia forests to toothpicks in order to pick the bits of charred flesh of those slaughtered in our wars of imperium from its rotting teeth.

Consequently, if our corrupt political parties did not exist, we would need to invent them, for they are emblems in the flesh of the true face of U.S. empire...What rises from the toxic soil of the inverted totalitarian powers of the corporate/military state.

Yet, more than likely, the readers of this essay are as mortified, heartsick, and enraged by the actions of the U.S. government and the corporate overlords who own and operate it, as is this writer. Nevertheless, we carry U.S. imperium within us as deeply as we hold the imprint of our parents' faces. The empire is too pervasive and invasive to avoid our being carriers of its proliferate pathologies; this system weaned us and socialized us, and, even when we rebel against it, our actions are generally restricted within limits set by it.

Otherwise, the consequences would be too crushing for most of us to endure: financial ruin, destitution, homelessness.

Accordingly, here's a plot spoiler regarding the stagecraft of the next presidential election cycle. Republicans -- Bachmann, Perry et al will play their roles as scary, scary psychos -- escapees from the Right Wing Christian Madhouse For Social Program Ax Murderers -- as Obama will play the calm, reasonable, deliberate authority figure who, after the crazies are dispatched, will calmly and deliberately slash to bits Social Security and Medicare -- and then feed the remains to the economy-devouring cannibals on Wall Street.

Mojo Nixon (no blood relation, I suspect) sang, "Everybody has a little Elvis in them." Nowadays, regrettably, we must sing: "Everybody has far too much Nixon in them." Internally (even those born long after the 1970's) in larger and smaller degrees, carry Nixon's dismal legacy.

Apropos, proceed to the closest mirror, look yourself in the eye, and repeat the risible (as well as demonstrably false) phrase, "I am not a crook"-- then, at long last, face the Richard Milhouse Nixon within, and thus come face to face with the cause of why, collectively, we in the U.S. seem perpetually in the thrall of the corrupt political forces and degraded social criteria that have gripped and grappled us since Nixon slunk from the scene in the summer of 1974.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

To The Shores Of Tripoli
By Uri Avnery

THOUGH THE Bible tells us "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth" (Proverbs 24:17), I could not help myself. I was happy.

Muammar al-Gaddafi was the enemy of every decent person in the world. He was one of the worst tyrants in recent memory.

This fact was hidden behind a facade of clownishness. He liked to present himself as a philosopher (the "Green Book"), a visionary statesman (Israelis and Palestinians must unite in the "State of Isratine"), even as an immature teenager (his innumerable uniforms and costumes). But basically he was a ruthless dictator, surrounded by corrupt relatives and cronies, squandering the great wealth of Libya.

This was obvious to anyone who wanted to see. Unfortunately, there were quite a few who chose to close their eyes.

WHEN I expressed my support for the international intervention, I was expecting to be attacked by some well-meaning people. I was not disappointed.

How could I? How could I support the American imperialists and the abominable NATO? Didn't I realize that it was all about the oil?

I was not surprised. I have been through this before. When NATO started to bomb Serbian territory in order to put an end to Slobodan Milosevic's crimes in Kosovo, many of my political friends turned against me.

Didn't I realize that it was all an imperialist plot? That the devious Americans wanted to tear Yugoslavia (or Serbia) apart? That NATO was an evil organization? That Milosevic, though he may have some faults, was representing progressive humanity?

This was said when the evidence of the gruesome mass-murder in Bosnia was there for everyone to see, when Milosevic was already exposed as the cold-blooded monster he was. Ariel Sharon admired him.

So how could decent, well-meaning leftists, people of an unblemished humanist record, embrace such a person? My only explanation was that their hatred of the USA and of NATO was so strong, so fervent, that anyone attacked by them must surely be a benefactor of humanity, and all accusations against them pure fabrications. The same happened with Pol Pot.

Now it has happened again. I was bombarded with messages from well-meaning people who lauded Gaddafi for all his good deeds. One might get the impression that he was a second Nelson Mandela, if not a second Mahatma Gandhi.

While the rebels were already fighting their way into his huge personal compound, the socialist leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, was praising him as a true model of upright humanity, a man who dared to stand up to the American aggressors.

Well, sorry, count me out. I have this irrational abhorrence of bloody dictators, of genocidal mass-murderers, of leaders who wage war on their own people. And at my advanced age, it is difficult for me to change. I am ready to support even the devil, if that is necessary to put an end to this kind of atrocities. I won't even ask about his precise motives. Whatever one may think about the USA and/or NATO - if they disarm a Milosevic or a Gaddafi, they have my blessing.

HOW LARGE a role did NATO play in the defeat of the Libyan dictator?

The rebels would not have reached Tripoli, and certainly not by now, if they had not enjoyed NATO's sustained air support. Libya is one big desert. The offensive had to rely on one long road. Without mastery of the skies, the rebels would have been massacred. Anyone who was alive during World War II and followed the campaigns of Rommel and Montgomery knows this.

I assume that the rebels also received arms and advice to facilitate their advance.

But I object to the patronizing assertion that it was all a NATO victory. It is the old colonialist attitude in a new guise. Of course, these poor, primitive Arabs could not do anything without the White Man shouldering his burden and rushing to the rescue.

But wars are not won by weapons, they are won by people. "Boots on the ground," as the Americans call it. Even with all the help they got, the Libyan rebels, disorganized and poorly armed as they were, have won a remarkable victory. This would not have happened without real revolutionary fervor, without bravery and determination. It is a Libyan victory, not a British or a French one.

This has been underplayed by the international media. I have not seen any genuine combat coverage (and I know what that looks like). Journalists did not acquit themselves with glory. They displayed exemplary cowardice, staying at a safe distance from the front, even during the fall of Tripoli. On TV they looked ridiculous with their conspicuous helmets when they were surrounded by bareheaded fighters.

What came over was endless jubilations over victories that had seemingly fallen from heaven. But these were feats achieved by people - yes, by Arab people.

This is especially galling to our Israeli "military correspondents" and "Arab affairs experts". Used to despising or hating "the Arabs", they are ascribing the victory to NATO. It seems that the people of Libya played a minor role, if any.

Now they blabber endlessly about the "tribes", which will make democracy and orderly governance in Libya impossible. Libya is not really a country, it was never a unified state before becoming an Italian colony, there is no such thing as a Libyan people. (Remember the French saying this about Algeria, and Golda Meir about Palestine?)

Well, for a people that does not exist, the Libyans fought very well. And as for the "tribes" - why do tribes exist only in Africa and Asia, never among Europeans? Why not a Welsh tribe or a Bavarian tribe?

(When I visited Jordan in 1986, well before the peace treaty, I was entertained by a very civilized, high-ranking Jordanian official. After an interesting conversation over dinner, he surprised me by mentioning that he belongs to a certain tribe. Next day, while I was riding on a horse to Petra, the rider next to me asked in a low voice whether I belonged "to the tribe". It took me some time to understand that he was asking me if I was a Jew. It seems that American Jews refer to themselves in this way.)

The "tribes" of Libya would be called in Europe "ethnic groups" and in Israel "communities". The term "tribe" has a patronizing connotation. Let's drop it.

ALL THOSE who decry NATO's intervention must answer a simple question: who else would have done the job?

21st century humanity cannot tolerate acts of genocide and mass-murder, wherever they occur. It cannot look on while dictators butcher their own peoples. The doctrine of "non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states" belongs to the past. We Jews, who have accused mankind of standing idly by while millions of Jews, including German citizens, were exterminated by the legitimate German government, certainly owe the world an answer.

I have mentioned in the past that I advocate some form of effective world governance and expect it to be in place by the end of this century. This would include a democratically elected world executive that would have military forces at its disposal and that could intervene, if a world parliament so decides. For this to happen, the United Nations must be revamped entirely. The veto power must be abolished. It is intolerable that the US can veto the acceptance of Palestine as a member state, or that Russia and China can veto intervention in Syria.

Certainly, great powers like the US and China should have a louder voice than, say, Luxemburg and the Fiji Islands, but a two thirds majority in the General Assembly should have the power to override Washington, Moscow or Beijing.

That may be the music of the future, or, some may say, a pipe dream. As for now, we live in a very imperfect world and must make do with the instruments we have. NATO, alas, is one of them. The European Union is another, though in this case poor, eternally conscience-stricken Germany, has paralyzed it. If Russia or China were to join, that would be fine.

This is not some remote problem. Gaddafi is finished, but Bashar al-Assad is not. He is butchering his people even while you read this, and the world is looking on helplessly.

Any volunteers for intervention?
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Orlando Payton looks for work at JobTrain employment office in Menlo Park, Calif.

Yes, Black People Still Face Discrimination
Despite widespread claims that racism is dead, new data shows that white privilege still dominates America
By David Sirota

Republican guru Karl Rove recently appeared on Fox News to dispute the idea that America is a "Christian nation." And he was right to do so, but not because our country lacks an overarching canon. We certainly do have a national religion -- it's just not Christianity. It's Denialism.

Some branches of this religion deny the science documenting humans' role in climate change. Others deny tax cuts' connection to deficits and deregulation's role in the recession. But regardless of the issue, Denialists all share a basic hostility to facts.

As this know-nothing theology expands, none of its denominations claims a bigger membership than the one obsessed with race. Today, many reject the fact that black people typically face bigger obstacles to economic and political success than whites. Instead, they insist that whites are oppressed.

If you've followed politics, you're familiar with this catechism. In the 1980s, lawmakers often implied that welfare programs persecuted whites. In the 1990s, the same lawmakers demonized affirmative-action initiatives that tried to counter college admission preferences for white "legacy" families. These days, demagogues cite Barack Obama's political ascendance as supposed proof that black people are unfairly privileged.

The late Democrat Geraldine Ferraro first floated this specific fable in 2008, when she said that Obama was "very lucky" to be black and that "if Obama was a white man, he would not be in [his] position." Obama rightly noted that "anybody who knows the history of this country ... would not take too seriously the notion that [being black] has been a huge advantage."

But the meme nonetheless persists. In May, Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., said Obama's election "comes back to who he was: he was black." Now, it's Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who last week declared that "as an African American male," Obama received a "tremendous advantage from a lot of [government] programs."

Though Coburn's dog-whistle racism is (sadly) mundane, his statement is news because of its timing.

In the same week the Oklahoman insinuated that government gives African-Americans a "tremendous advantage," the New York Times reported on data showing black scientists are "markedly less likely" to win government grants than white scientists. A few weeks earlier, the Pew Research Center had reported that "the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households." These representative snapshots remind us that despite Denialist rhetoric, institutional racism and white privilege dominate American society.

This truth is everywhere. You can see it in black unemployment rates, which are twice as high as white unemployment rates -- a disparity that persists even when controlling for education levels. You can see it in a 2004 MIT study showing that job-seekers with "white names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews" than job seekers with comparable résumés and "African American-sounding names." And you can see it in a news media that looks like an all-white country club and a U.S. Senate that includes no black legislators.

Denialists imply that this is all negated by Obama's success. But while his rise to the Oval Office certainly was an achievement, Obama was correct when, upon becoming Harvard Law Review's first black president in 1990, he said, "It's crucial that people don't see my election as somehow a symbol of progress in the broader sense, that we don't sort of point to a Barack Obama any more than you point to a Bill Cosby or a Michael Jordan and say 'Well, things are hunky dory.'"

Of course, things aren't "hunky dory" for most people in this recession -- but they are particularly awful for black Americans. Unfortunately, if you refuse to acknowledge that truth, there's a whole Church of Denialism ready to embrace you.
(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.

Drowning Government In A Hurricane (Why Wait for a Bathtub?)
By David Swanson

"Shrinking government" in American political discourse has, for decades now, meant the following. We enlarge the government's budget through taxation and penalties on working people and through borrowing and printing money. We not only tax the wealthy and corporations less, but we massively subsidize them with public funds. We move away from taxes and fees meant to limit the damage greed can do to the world, and we defund regulation of and law enforcement against the oligarchy. We transfer an ever greater share of the budget to the military. We expand the domestic and international surveillance-police states while merging the two. This, again, we call "shrinking government."

"Shrinking government" means a larger and more oppressive but less representative and less useful government. The military gets the money and gets privatized (employs non-competitive corporations working exclusively for the government). Education and public services get slashed and get privatized. Vote counting gets privatized. The privatized money gets to flow into election campaigns. The districts are re-gerrymandered with the latest modern technology. The media conglomerates get a monopoly and the monopoly limits electoral possibilities. "Shrinking government" means shrinking popular influence on government while government grows. But it grows in its ability to wage wars, occupy territories, and subsidize coal, oil, nuclear, and gas. It shrinks in its ability to give people anything in return for their taxes and fees. If this process continues it must result in ever greater repression or in revolt.

But why is THAT called "shrinking government"? It doesn't look like shrinking government.

It's called that in part because there is a movement from the right that talks about shrinking the government to a size that will permit drowning it in a bathtub. But a good portion of this movement wants to shrink everything except the military-police state, which is the most difficult thing to shrink. And the Republican politicians who co-opt this movement want to enlarge the military and police.

Perhaps more importantly, the Democrats and their loyal pseudo-activist groups want to protect or enlarge education and public services, but when it comes to the military they either want to enlarge it or are content to step aside and watch it grow. Advocates of tearing down everything useful in the government are winning, while advocates of making greater public use of government are losing, and so we talk about the "shrinking government" while the "security" budget balloons to $1.2 trillion per year.

I recently complained to the staffers of a large activist organization (which I'll be badgered for not naming, but which I am not naming because this exchange was on a confidential listserve) that they were producing television ads blaming "the Republicans" for everything. They replied that this was in fact a good way to alert the Democrats that if they became as bad as the Republicans they'd be criticized too.

How so, I asked. The Democrats split right down the middle on their votes for the Satan's Sandwich Super-Congress Budget-Destruction Deal. Half of them voted yes and half no. Didn't an ad blaming the Republicans signal to those Democrats who had voted Yes that they would have a free pass up until the moment they called themselves Republicans? Wouldn't it be better to address the government as the people, leave the parties out of it, praise those who did right, and pressure those who did wrong?

Oh no, I was told, nothing critical must be said of the government, because the right-wing position is that government is bad and must be "shrunk"; the good liberal position is that government is good.

But hold on a second, I replied, are you actually suggesting that the government isn't broken? We've got 85% of the country believing correctly that our government is broken, and you want to pretend it's working in order to avoid "shrinking" it?

The reply I received was that I was adopting a right-wing discourse by speaking of "government" in a manner that did not include firefighters and sanitation workers.


We can't notice that our government is destroying the planet as a habitable space, slaughtering people, and impoverishing us because there are still fire fighters who put out fires and sanitation workers who clean streets (even though they sometimes now stand and watch houses burn, and even though they are being defunded by the part of the government that funds and defunds things)? The fact is that the government is broken. Any reality-based politics has to start there. The majority of Americans understand the solution to that problem as creating better government. It's only an obnoxious and intimidating fringe group that believes "government is broken" leads inevitably to "shrink government."

And so, we talk about the "shrinking government" because nobody will talk about the breaking government from the left. Not just groups, but individuals as well, have embedded their souls in the Democratic Party. They can only bring themselves to criticize the Republican Party while maintaining that, after all, the government is doing a pretty good job, even when the government is dominated by Republicans and right-wing Democrats who are at least as far to the right as the Republicans. This incoherence is created by liberal civilians, not presidential broken promises or pre-compromises or lack of resolve.

This is where hurricanes and earthquakes come in. "Shrinking government" is never going to get the thing down to the size that can be drowned in a bathtub, because it keeps growing as it "shrinks." But oil wars, fracking, clean coal, safe nukes, global warming, and the weirding of the weather are going to reach our government where its most sensitive nerves are situated: in its ass. The Pentagon sits along the Potomac River, and that river can do more damage than an airplane. The slaves who built the U.S. Capitol, and White House did not employ the latest earthquake-resistant technology. No array of metal-detectors, cancer-radiators, groping guards, or concrete barriers can withstand the quaking of the earth.

When the plagues of locusts reach Washington, no transformation to democracy will immediately result. The billions of dollars lost won't be credited to the renewable-energy side of the public ledger. The coastal homes of the gazillionaires will be rebuilt at public expense. Eric Cantor's district will suck down plenty of socialistic disaster relief. The Pentagon will be protected in ways that New Orleans just doesn't deserve. The machine will be oiled and tuned up and keep on rolling along.

But the chance of the public actively and effectively resisting ( ) will increase, and the chance of certain Congress Members finding their consciences unprompted will increase as well.

I'm not hoping for natural disasters; and hoping for natural disasters doesn't actually cause them. I'm suggesting that as they come in greater strength and frequency, we be prepared to speak honestly about what is needed. It's not shrinking or growing the government. It's not rebuilding dreams or retaking parties or winning the future.

What's needed is independent resolve that government of, by, and for the people shall not perish from this earth.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Michigan's governor Rick Snyder

Michigan Locals Fight For Democracy

If Rick Snyder ever comes to help you, run away as fast and as far as you can.

Snyder is the right-wing, corporate-hugging governor of Michigan whose extremist anti-worker, anti-government agenda was handed to him by a Koch-funded front group named the Mackinac Center. Included in the package was a doozy of autocratic mischief-making called the Local Government Fiscal Accountability Act. The new law turns Synder into a perverse hybrid of a Soviet czar and a tinhorn banana republic potentate, and it has infuriated the public. Now trying to backpedal, the governor's new line is that, "It's about helping communities."

Helping? This law allows him to seize control of any city, county, school district, etc. that he decides is in fiscal trouble, authorizing him to appoint an "emergency manager," which may be a private corporation, to run the entity. This autocratic regent is empowered to cancel labor contracts, repeal the public budget, privatize government assets, dismiss elected officials, and even dissolve the local entity.

This is the kind of "help" that a fox brings to the hen house, so the governor is now being sued by his own astonished citizenry. Snyder's tyrannical law, they point out, violates the state's Constitution by usurping the right of local residents to elect their officials. As the director of a community legal group in Detroit puts it, the governor's designated emergency manager would control all, "including the right to enact or repeal local ordinances."

You might be thinking, "Thank goodness I don't live in Michigan." But if Snyder's anti-democratic coup succeeds there, you can bet that various Koch-backed right-wing front groups will bring the Michigan Model to your state. For information on the Michigan fight, contact Detroit's Sugar Law Center:
(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.

The U.S. & The Two-State Solution
By Helen Thomas

If the United States blocks the Palestinian petition for statehood in the United Nations in September, it will betray the great principles of our founding fathers.

Apparently that does not bother President Barack Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who seem to support Israel's occupation of Palestine.

How long will the U.S. support Israel's land grab? When will there be a courageous U.S. leadership to defy Israel's rule of the legitimate people of Palestine? Obama has indicated he plans to veto any move on behalf of the Palestinians.

Why does Israel have such a strong hold over Americans, especially Americans who are aware of the brutality of the Israel military against the Palestinians? The Israelis have literally stolen Palestinian farm land to build walls, and have cut off access to clean, fresh water. In many cases, Palestinians have to pay five times the price for fresh water as Israelis living in the same land.

How can the U.S. stand against a people who seek freedom from such brutal tyranny? The Palestinians have no other choice. They cannot continue to live barricaded behind walls, as Israel continues to take more and more of their land.

U.S. support for the Arab awakening may seem hypocritical if they vote against statehood for Palestinians. How can we support democracy in the Middle East - cheering Egyptians, Libyans and Tunisians who rebel from evil dictators - and not support the Palestinians' recognition as a state? Don't the Palestinians deserve to be free also?

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, has the support of all of the Arab countries and millions of Arab people who sympathize with the plight of their Palestinian brothers. The Arabs also support the goals of the Palestinians for self rule in land Israel annexed in defiance of international law.

The U.S. influence in the Arab and Islamic world is already on the decline. Between our unwavering, blind support of Israel and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we are arousing great hostility. Do we blame them?

The State of Israel was created almost immediately after British Colonial troops pulled out. The terrorist gangs Haganah, Irgun and Lehi formed the National Military Organization in Israel. They swept through, torturing and running helpless Palestinians out of their once peaceful villages.

President Harry S. Truman was awakened at 3 a.m. by pro-Israeli Americans to recognize the State of Israel - which he shamelessly did.

Jews were horrifically persecuted and gassed by the Nazis, but this does not give them the right to inflict their revenge on the Arab people who did nothing to them.

We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the freedom riders. I think back to the civil rights movement in our own country, and I am very proud of the many Jewish Americans who bravely risked their lives for the freedom of their American brothers. The Jews in this country led many of the peaceful protests, and persevered during impossible times. As a result, Civil Rights legislation was passed and history was literally changed.

Why have we given up on Israel? Many pro-Israeli Americans believe Israel has no choice but to use brutal force against the Palestinians. And yet, never in history has it ever worked to separate people we are fearful of, putting them behind walls. Why can't the Israelis take a lesson from their American brothers who used peaceful protests to evoke change? Walling people off and forcing them off of their land did not work for the South African government during the Apartheid era and it will not continue to be a sustainable path for Israel.

The only hope for peace in the Middle East is for both sides to replace fear with compassion. When we are driven by fear we will never truly achieve peace.

When I see how much power and influence the Pro-Israeli lobby has over our politicians, I wonder if they are fearful of not being reelected if they go against Israel.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee sponsored multiple junkets to Israel for both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress and the Senate. Many Americans are probably unaware that AIPAC pays our representatives to visit Israel. This is yet another example of undue influence AIPAC has over American politicians.

In order to live up to our ideals and not be hypocritical, as a nation we need to press for a two-state solution in Israel.
(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.

Cheaper Environmentally Friendly Body Disposal
By James Donahue

Most people in America buy life insurance, a title that is in a sense an oxymoron. That is because the insurance has nothing to do with life. Instead it provides survivors the financial means to deal with death. And like everything else, the cost of dying has become very expensive.

The traditional way of dealing with the disposal of the remains of friends and relatives has, for years, been to get the person declared dead by a physician or certified mortician then send it by hearse to a funeral home. There the blood is drained and replaced with embalming fluid, a toxic formaldehyde that preserves the remains long enough for the family to hold three days of mourning over an open casket.

The mortician literally paints the body to make it appear as if the body is merely asleep. It then lies in state as people come to pay their respects and fill the room with flowers. This period lasts about three days. Then there is a funeral service, usually conducted by a religious leader. Sometimes people are hired to sing. Family and friends eulogize. Then the body is moved to a cemetery where it is lowered into a concrete encasement in the ground and sealed there for all time. The sealing of the coffin is now required by law to prevent the toxins formaldehyde and other chemicals injected into the person prior to death from seeping into the surrounding earth and ground water.

All-in-all, the traditional American funeral is a costly affair, ranging from $6000 to over $10,000, depending on how extravagant the family chooses to have it.

Now that hard times are back, and with most people living from paycheck-to-paycheck, providing they still have jobs, the option of cremation has grown in popularity. If the family chooses the cheap route, the cost of embalming, three days of mourning, buying and burying a casket and all of the other unnecessary customs can be skipped. Even at that, disposing of the remains by fire and smoke can cost up to $1,000 and we do not escape polluting the atmosphere. Other than secretly burying the remains in the orchard or dumping the body in a landfill, is there an even better and less costly alternative?

Artist and inventor Jae Rhim Lee, a Research Fellow in the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology at Cambridge, MA, thinks she may have a better idea. She is working to train a toxin-cleaning mushroom that will feed on bodies. Her name for the concept is the Infinity Mushroom.

Lee, in a recent interview with New Scientist magazine, said she believes people need to develop a new way of thinking about death. The idea would be to simply place the deceased body inside a "mushroom death suit" where the mushrooms go to work, quickly consuming the remains.

Creating a workable death suit where mushrooms will do their work is not as easy as it sounds. Lee said mushrooms spores must have the right environment before they grow so the suit must be made of the right fabric and the body may even have to be covered with some kind of substance that will attract the mushrooms to it. But she thinks the idea is possible.

For the death suit to be accepted, however, people need to change their long-held traditional methods of disposing of the dead. That most people are too poor to pay the cost of a traditional funeral may be a big attraction.

"It's the idea that somehow death acceptance is needed for environmental stewardship," Lee told the magazine. "All the industrial toxins we emit into the atmosphere and the soil become part of our bodies. That is difficult to accept because it means we are also physical beings, animals, who will die and decay."
(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.

Ten Years Later, Americans Still Stupid And Vulnerable
By Ted Rall

They say everything changed on 9/11. No one can dispute that. But we didn't learn anything.

Like other events that forced Americans to reassess their national priorities (the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, Sputnik) the attacks on New York and Washington were a traumatic, teachable moment.

The collective attention of the nation was finally focused upon problems that had gone neglected for many years. 9/11 was a chance to get smart—but we blew it.

First and foremost the attacks gave the United States a rare opportunity to reset its international reputation. Even countries known for anti-Americanism offered their support. "We are all Americans," ran the headline of the French newspaper Le Monde.

The century of U.S. foreign policy that led to 9/11—supporting dictators, crushing democratic movements, spreading gangster capitalism at the point of a thousand nukes—should and could have been put on hold and reassessed in the wake of 9/11.

It wasn't time to act. It was time to think.

It was time to lick our wounds, pretend to act confused, and play the victim. It was time to hope the world forgot how we supplied lists of pro-democracy activists to a young Saddam Hussein so he could collect and kill them, and forget the "Made in USA" labels on missiles shot into the Gaza Strip from U.S.-made helicopter gunships sold to Israel.

It was time, for once, to take the high road. The Bush Administration ought to have treated 9/11 as a police investigation, demanding that Pakistan extradite Osama bin Laden and other individuals wanted in connection with the attacks for prosecution by an international court.

Instead of assuming a temperate, thoughtful posture, the Bush Administration exploited 9/11 as an excuse to start two wars, both against defenseless countries that had little or nothing to do with the attacks. Bush and company legalized torture and ramped up support for unpopular dictatorships in South and Central Asia and the Middle East, all announced with bombastic cowboy talk.

Smoke 'em out! Worst of the worst! Dead or alive!

By 2003 the world hated us more than ever. A BBC poll showed that people in Jordan and Indonesia—moderate Muslim countries where Al Qaeda had killed locals with bombs—considered the U.S. a bigger security threat than the terrorist group.

In fairness to Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld and Bush's other leading war criminals, everyone else went along with them. The media refused to question them. Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, cast votes in favor of Bush's wars. Democrats and leftist activists ought to have pushed for Bush's impeachment; they were silent or supportive.

9/11 was "blowback"—proof that the U.S. can't wage its wars overseas without suffering consequences at home. But we still haven't learned that lesson. Ten years later, a "Democratic" president is fighting Bush's wars as well as new ones against Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Now he's saber-rattling against Syria.

American officials correctly inferred from 9/11 that security, particularly at airports but also in ports where container ships arrive daily from around the world, had been lax. Rather than act proactively to close gaps in transportation security, however, bureaucrats for the new Department of Homeland Security created a gauntlet of police-state harassment so onerous that it has threatened the financial health of the aviation industry.

"Aviation security is a joke, and it's only a matter of time before terrorists destroy another airplane full of innocent passengers," wrote Barbara Hollingsworth of The Washington Examiner after the 2009 "underwear bomber" scare. As Hollingsworth pointed out, the much-vaunted federal air marshals have been removed from flights because the TSA is too cheap to pay their hotel bills. (This is illegal.) What's the point of taking off your shoes, she asked, when planes are still serviced overseas in unsecured facilities? No one has provided an answer.

Ten years after 9/11, there is still no real security check when you board a passenger train or bus. Perhaps the sheer quantity of goods arriving at American ports makes it impossible to screen them all, but we're not even talking about the fact that we've basically given up on port security. While we're on the subject of post-9/11 security, what about air defenses? On 9/11 the airspace over the Lower 48 states was assigned to a dozen "weekend warrior" air national guard jets. Every last one of them was on the ground when the attacks began, allowing hijacked planes to tool around the skies for hours after they had been identified as dangerous.

Which could easily happen again. According to a 2009 report by the federal General Accounting Office on U.S. air defenses:

"The Air Force has not implemented ASA [Air Sovereignty Alert] operations in accordance with DOD, NORAD, and Air Force directives and guidance, which instruct the Air Force to establish ASA as a steady-state (ongoing and indefinite) mission. The Air Force has not implemented the 140 actions it identified to establish ASA as a steady-state mission, which included integrating ASA operations into the Air Force's planning, programming, and funding cycle. The Air Force has instead been focused on other priorities, such as overseas military operations."

Maybe if it stopped spending so much time and money killing foreigners the American government could protect Americans.

On 9/11 hundreds of firefighters and policemen died because they couldn't communicate on antiquated, segregated bandwidth. "Only one month away from the 10th anniversary of 9/11," admits FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, "our first responders still don't have an interoperable mobile broadband network for public safety. Our 911 call centers still can't handle texts or pictures or video being sent by the phones that everyone has."

Because the corporate masters of the Democratic and Republican parties love the low wage/weak labor environment created by illegal immigration, American land borders are intentionally left unguarded.

A lot changed on 9/11, but not everything.

We're still governed by corrupt idiots. And we're still putting up with them.

What does that say about us?
(c) 2011 Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East,?" and "The Anti-American Manifesto."

You can see the corner Obama is in because he
didn't come out strongly for major solar, wind power, energy
conservation and immediate retrofit programs in 2009. (photo: Living Off Grid)

Sun And Sanity
By Ralph Nader

This is the second week of protests, led by Bill McKibben, in front of the White House demanding that President Barack Obama reject a proposed 1700 mile pipeline transporting the dirtiest oil from Alberta, Canada through fragile ecologies down to the Gulf Coast refineries. One thousand people will be arrested there from all fifty states before their demonstration is over. The vast majority voted for Obama and they are plenty angry with his brittleness on environmental issues in general.

Following the large BP discharge in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama gave the OK to expand drilling over 20 million acres in the Gulf and soon probably in the Arctic Ocean. He delayed clean air rules over at EPA. Following the worsening Fukishima nuclear disaster last March in Japan, he reaffirmed his support for more taxpayer guaranteed nuclear plants in the U.S. adding his Administration's hopes to learn from the mistakes there.

He proposed an average fuel efficiency standard for 2025 at 62 miles per gallon, quickly conceded to industry's objection and brought it down to 54 mpg. The industry's trade journal Automotive News calculated the loopholes and brought it down to "real-world industry wide fleet average in the 2025 model year" of about 40 mpg. No wonder the auto companies effusively praised Obama's give-it-up negotiator, Ron Bloom at the Treasury Department of all places.

Were Obama to look out his White House window and see the arrested and handcuffed demonstrators against this $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline, he might think: "This will upset my environmental supporters, but heck, where can they go in November 2012?"

He is right. No matter what Mr. Obama does to surrender environmental health and safety to corporatist demands, they will vote for him. They certainly won't vote for the Republican corporate mascots. They wouldn't vote for a Green Party candidate either. This is not only the environmentalists' dilemma, it is the liberal/progressive/labor union dilemma as well. They have no bargaining power with Obama.

He did not propose a carbon tax when the Democrats controlled Congress in 2009-2010. Even Exxon prefers a carbon tax to the corruption-inducing complex cap and trade bill the House passed only to have the Senate sit on it. So doing nothing on climate change is soon to be followed by approval of the destructive tar sands pipeline which will add significantly to greenhouse gases.

Pipelines have been busting out recently in California, near Yellowstone and in Pennsylvania. People died and water was polluted. Pipeland standards are old, weak and hardly enforced by the tiny pipeline safety office at the Department of Transportation. Obama hasn't been pushing for needed money and stronger standards with tougher enforcement.

Over-riding, in Obama's mind, is being accused of blocking job formation. But had he pushed for a major public-works program in 2009, as many economists still beg him to do, he wouldn't be in the position of being called a job-destroyer. He also is sensitive to rebuttable charges that he would be preferring future oil from unfriendly countries abroad to Canadian oil.

You can see the corner he is in because he didn't come out strongly for major solar, wind power, energy conservation and immediate retrofit programs in 2009. Instead he swallowed the oil industry line that his proposed energy policy should be a mix of fossil fuels, nuclear power, solar and conservation in that order. No, Mr. Obama, some energy sources are too superior in too many ways to be a part of this manipulative greenwashing propaganda displayed in oil company newspaper ads.

Even nature contradicts Mr. Obama. Obama's Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently gave a pass to the Indian Point Unit 2 Reactor, a menacingly-troubled reactor 30 miles north of Manhattan, after its inspectors discovered a refueling-cavity liner had been leaking for years at rates up to 10 gallons per minute. Just last week the strongest earthquake in 140 years struck the east coast. Even though the liner's "sole safety function is the prevention of leakage after a seismic event," according to David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the NRC did not require the plant's owner to repair the design defect.

This is only one of many defects, inspection lapses, close calls, corrosions, and ageing problems with many U.S. nuclear plants that Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu and President Obama have not seriously addressed. This is the case even though the news from Fukishima becomes worse every week. More food is found contaminated. Radiation readings at the site reached their highest level in August. Now the Japanese government is about to declare a wide area around the nine destroyed or disabled nuclear plants uninhabitable for decades to come due to radiation.

Nearly fifty years ago, the industry regulator and vigorous promoter, the Atomic Energy Commissions estimated that a class nine nuclear meltdown in the U.S. would contaminate "an area the size of Pennsylvania." That was before we had dozens of even larger ageing nuclear plants whose owners are brazenly pressing for license extensions beyond the normal life expectancy of many over-the-hill nuke plants. Please face up to it Mr. President.

At moments of reflection, those 1000 citizens standing tall before the White House must look up at the sun and all the forms of available renewable energy it gave this planet zillions of years ago and wonder how nuts our life-sustaining star must think Earthlings have been all these years.
(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.

Saving Sacred Spaces
Make Some Noise to Ward Off an Avalanche of Avarice
By Randall Amster

You might not be aware of this news from northern Arizona, 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, just outside of Flagstaff. Following years of rancorous public debate and coming 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 these 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 native kachinas to trampling on the integrity of the earth beneath our feet.

For the Hopi in particular, the kachinas (spirit beings that represent manifestations of nature) -including the well-known fertility deity, Kokopelli -are said to live on the Peaks. Thirteen local tribes accord religious significance to the Peaks, including the Havasupai, Zuni, and Navajo, for whom the Peaks represent the sacred mountain of the west, called the Dook'o'oostiid.

The development of the Peaks has been a longstanding point of contention, dating to the earliest days of Forest Service-sanctioned recreational development in the 1930s. In the early 1980s, when outside investors sought to greatly expand the ski area on the Peaks, the tribes unsuccessfully sued to block the expansion as a violation of their religious freedom. In 2008, additional major expansions were announced by developers, including the use of reclaimed sewage effluent to make artificial snow. Another suit followed, in which native elders testified in federal court as to the Peaks' essential spiritual significance. The tribes initially won this lawsuit, but it was reversed on appeal, and the development is now proceeding despite numerous concerns about both the cultural issues as well as the health effects of wastewater, including the presence of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other potential endocrine disruptors.

The net effect has been to squarely raise the pointed query: 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.

I know that some may be uncomfortable with invocations of the sacred, preferring that arguments remain grounded in rational "facts." In the case of Snowbowl, however, the facts have been argued for years in city council proceedings, legal briefs, Forest Service public comment processes, and more. Still, the powerful interests aren't listening, and the excavators are now rolling, making it necessary to dig a bit deeper into ourselves (and our comfort zones) in order to keep these special mountains from being dug into any further.

Would it help if nature had "In God We Trust" stamped on it, or if you had to raise your right hand and swear an oath before entering it? Perhaps then people would be okay with icons like the Peaks being called "sacred" -a word which, by the way, derives in part from the idea of being "set apart" or remaining "whole." Can't we have even a few places in our midst set apart from human conquest?

Prioritizing the recreational desires of the leisure class over the spiritual and cultural 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, or similarly intact habitats in your bioregion, you can attest to their 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 northwest, these mammoth desert mountains reflect the austere beauty of the region, asking us to recall a healthy humility to balance our heartless hubris. Indeed, ecologists have found the Peaks to contain six distinct "life zones" (Sonoran desert, Pinyon-juniper woodlands, Ponderosa pine forest, mixed conifer forest, spruce-fir forest, and alpine tundra) in an arid region where life in general is arduous and oftentimes a struggle to sustain.

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.

Against this narrative of relentless commodification, activists have been working to tell another story. Among those recently 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, fellow community members, and far-away readers -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 wherever you are.
(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).

Republicans Against Science
By Paul Krugman

P Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn't a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that's too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. -namely, that it is becoming the "anti-science party." This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.

To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as "just a theory," one that has "got some gaps in it" -an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples' attention was what he said about climate change: "I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change."

That's a remarkable statement -or maybe the right adjective is "vile."

The second part of Mr. Perry's statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming -which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences -is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.

In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilization-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.

But never mind that, Mr. Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, "manipulating data" to create a fake threat. In his book "Fed Up," he dismissed climate science as a "contrived phony mess that is falling apart."

I could point out that Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.

So how has Mr. Romney, the other leading contender for the G.O.P. nomination, responded to Mr. Perry's challenge? In trademark fashion: By running away. In the past, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but "I don't know that" and "I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans." Moral courage!

Of course, we know what's motivating Mr. Romney's sudden lack of conviction. According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr. Romney is determined to pass at all costs.

So it's now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party's base wants him to believe.

And the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right, both within and beyond the G.O.P., extends far beyond the issue of climate change.

Lately, for example, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page has gone beyond its long-term preference for the economic ideas of "charlatans and cranks" -as one of former President George W. Bush's chief economic advisers famously put it -to a general denigration of hard thinking about matters economic. Pay no attention to "fancy theories" that conflict with "common sense," the Journal tells us. Because why should anyone imagine that you need more than gut feelings to analyze things like financial crises and recessions?

Now, we don't know who will win next year's presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world's greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges -environmental, economic, and more -that's a terrifying prospect.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"It is the function of the CIA to keep the world unstable, and to propagandize and teach the American people to hate, so we will let the Establishment spend any amount of money on arms."
~~~ John Stockwell, former CIA official

Dead Sirte
Another Murderous Twist in NATO's Coil of Lies
By Chris Floyd

I was going to write about the NATO bombing of Sirte, where in order "protect civilians" from the now non-existent regime of Moamar Gadafy, the humanitarian lords of the West are now killing civilians at the behest of the new, non-elected regime of the murky and murderous "Transitional National Council."

But as I sat down to the keyboard, I saw that Craig Murray was already on the case. Murray, you'll recall, was the courageous UK ambassador to Uzbekistan who dared expose the horrific tortures being practiced by the "friendly" regime there, which was acting as one of the many foreign proxies for the Anglo-American "war on terror." For his pains, he was dismissed, demonized, marginalized. (And accused at one point of being "psychologically disturbed;" why else would anyone oppose the benevolent policies of our humanitarian honchos?)

Here is his quick take on the attack on Sirte:

The disconnect between the UN mandate to protect civilians while facilitating negotiation, and NATO's actual actions as the anti-Gadaffi forces' air force and special forces, is startling.

There is something so shocking in the Orwellian doublespeak of NATO on this point that I am severely dismayed. ... I had hoped that the general population in Europe is so educated now that obvious outright lies would be rejected. I even hoped some journalists would seek to expose lies. I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

The "rebels" are actively hitting Sirte with heavy artillery ... they are transporting tanks openly to attack Sirte. Yet any movement of tanks or artillery by the population of Sirte brings immediate death from NATO air strike.

What exactly is the reason that Sirte's defenders are threatening civilians, but the artillery of their attackers - and the bombings themselves - are not? Plainly this is a nonsense. People in foreign ministries, NATO, the BBC and other media are well aware that it is the starkest lie and propaganda, to say the assault on Sirte is protecting civilians. But does knowledge of the truth prevent them from peddling a lie? No.

It is worth reminding everyone something never mentioned, that UNSCR 1973 which established the no fly zone and mandate to protect civilians had

"the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution;"

... Plainly the people of Sirte hold a different view to the "rebels" as to who should run the country. NATO have in effect declared being in Gadaffi's political camp a capital offence. There is no way the massive assault on Sirte is "facilitating dialogue". it is rather killing those who do not hold the NATO-approved opinion. That is the actual truth. It is extremely plain.

I have no time for Gadaffi. I have actually met him, and he really is nuts, and dangerous. There were aspects of his rule in terms of social development which were good, but much more that was bad and tyrannical. But if NATO is attacking him because he is a dictator, why is it not attacking Dubai, Bahrain, Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, or Uzbekistan, to name a random selection of badly governed countries?

"Liberal intervention" does not exist. What we have is the opposite; highly selective neo-imperial wars aimed at ensuring politically client control of key physical resources.

Wars kill people. Women and children are dying now in Libya, whatever the sanitised media tells you. The BBC have reported it will take a decade to repair Libya's infrastructure from the damage of war. That in an underestimate. Iraq is still decades away from returning its utilities to their condition in 2000.

I strongly support the revolutions of the Arab Spring. But NATO intervention does not bring freedom, it brings destruction, degradation and permanent enslavement to the neo-colonial yoke. From now on, Libyans -- like us -- will be toiling to enrich western bankers. That, apparently, is worth to NATO the reduction of Sirte to rubble.

All too true. The only slight demurral I might make is with this is Murray's surprise at the disconnect between the noble-sounding natterings of NATO's nabobs and the murderous reality of their actions. (Of course, Murray himself notes that "I suffer from that old springing eternal of hope, and am therefore always in a state of disappointment..") There isn't anything startling about the way the Libyan adventurism has played out. It has followed the old Kosovo template nearly to the letter, with most of the same outright lies by the leaders and self-blinding justifications by the "serious" commentariat.

Murray is quite right to point to the "sanitized" version of the war that we have gotten. No doubt in the months and years to come, the true death toll notched up by the humanitarians will come out ... in dribs and drabs, in obscure corners, or even -- why not? -- in a "major" feature in a respectable publication, whose years-late revelations will be swiftly brushed aside and forgotten. (Like the LA Times' award-winning, multi-part expose in the 1990s of the corrupt and criminal machinations that led up to the first Gulf War.) After all, we live in a militarist-corporatist-police state, but not a totalitarian one; information is out there, facts can be obtained, trenchant criticism can be found -- you can go and see Noam Chomsky speaking in public any time you like. Our masters learned long ago that manipulating and massaging information (and misinformation) is much more effective, and longer-lasting, than attempts at total suppression and control.

Thus Craig Murray was not jumped in an alleyway, or killed in an obscure and ambiguous "accident" of some sort, as might have happened in imperiums of old. He was simply shunted to the sidelines and rendered "unserious" by official disapproval.

But however they twist and torment the facts, the truth remains what it is. And the truth is that we are seeing, yet again, in Libya is the murder, in our name, of innocent people by the preening, lying, self-righteous, silk-suited thugs of NATO.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

Deceit Of Shakespearean Proportions
by Robert Scheer

Behold this unctuous knave, a disgrace to his nation as few before him, yet boasting unvarnished virtue. The deceit of Dick Cheney is indeed of Shakespearean proportions, as evidenced in his new memoir. For the former vice president, lying comes so easily that one must assume he takes the pursuit of truth to be nothing more than a reckless indulgence.

Here is a man who, more than anyone else in the Bush administration, trafficked in the campaign of deceit that caused tens of thousands to die, wasted trillions of dollars in resources and indelibly sullied the legacy of this nation through the practice of torture, which Cheney defends to this day. Still this villain claims that, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the horrid methods he endorsed were a necessary response to the threat of Osama bin Laden. How convenient to ignore that it was Barack Obama, a resolutely anti-torture president, who made good on the promise of Cheney and the previous administration to take down the al-Qaida leader.

Not to mention that bin Laden was killed in his hiding place in Pakistan, a nation that the Bush administration had befriended after 9/11 by lifting the sanctions previously imposed in retaliation for Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, a program connected with the proliferation of nuclear weapons know-how and the sale of nuclear material to North Korea, Libya and Iran.

Pakistan joined with only two other nations, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in granting diplomatic recognition to the Taliban government that provided a safe haven for al-Qaida as bin Laden orchestrated the 9/11 attack. But instead of focusing on the source of the problem, Cheney led the effort to overthrow Saddam Hussein, who had ruthlessly hounded any al-Qaida operatives who dared function in Iraq.

You don't have to slog too deeply through Dick Cheney's advertisement for himself to grasp not only the wicked cynicism of the man but also how shallow are his perceptions. He recalls his college years in the 1960s, when he was a draft-deferred young Republican during America's murderous adventure in Vietnam-in which more than 3 million Indochinese and 59,000 Americans were killed-as a time of career advancement through strategic Washington appointments.

The war that left Martin Luther King Jr. condemning his own government as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" is condemned in Cheney's memoir only for the reactive violence that he attributes to anti-war student protesters. We are told, in a reminiscence of his days as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, that "in May 1969, students threw rocks and bottles at police trying to shut down a party on Mifflin Street," but there is nothing of napalmed Vietnamese or U.S. troops in body bags.

That same May, young Cheney's Republican contacts in Washington would pay off when he secured an appointment in the Nixon administration working for none other than Donald Rumsfeld. Cheney recalls that he didn't know he was "signing up for a forty-year career in politics and government-but that was exactly the right call."

Those 40 years, interrupted by a lucrative stint at defense contractor Halliburton, saw Cheney rise to become secretary of defense and later vice president, presiding over wars that put him in considerable conflict with Colin Powell. It is Powell-who was experiencing the reality of war in Vietnam at the time Cheney was winning bureaucratic battles in Washington-who is scorned in Cheney's memoir as the hopeless dove.

It was the more cautious war veteran Powell who, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Iraq war, proved to be far more effective as a leader than Cheney, who was then secretary of defense. What is confirmed by Cheney's memoir is that he seized upon the second Iraq invasion as a way of settling scores with his adversary by assuming the role of an ultra-militarist.

Powell, who, inside the administration, clearly opposed the invasion of Iraq-"If you break it, you own it"-was cast as a puppet who in a dramatic appearance before the United Nations lied to the world when he said Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. But despite Powell's woefully misplaced sense of loyalty to President George W. Bush, Cheney is merciless in condemning the general for allegedly undermining the administration. Powell has fired back at what he termed Cheney's "cheap shots" and reminds us that "Mr. Cheney and many of his colleagues did not prepare for what happened after the fall of Baghdad."

It is not clear that Cheney is a true believer in military mayhem as much as he is an uncontrollable careerist who finds war talk a convenient tool for advancement. He seems to have no real sense of the cost of the Iraq War beyond what it might have done to hurt his own legacy. If his memoir has any enduring value, it is not as another offering of hollow excuses for an unjustifiable war but rather as a study in what the famed historian of European fascism, Hannah Arendt, termed the "banality of evil."
(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...

David gives the Corpo-rat salute.

Heil Obama,

Dear Deputy Fuhrer Petraeus,

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 support of the Crime Family Bush's and Obamahoods many illegal wars, 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 "Military 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 Petraeus, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Democrats' Rural Rebellions
By John Nichols

Democrats looking to Washington during the long, hot summer for signs of their party's renewal got little in the way of relief. President Obama's approval ratings tanked after he compromised away historic Democratic positions in the debt-ceiling fight. The party's Congressional leaders, who in the spring had seemed prepared to fight off Republican attempts to erode Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, sent so many mixed signals that it was difficult to tell whether the party wanted to fight austerity or embrace it.

Yet beyond the Beltway, a different story has been unfolding. And it holds out promise for a party that needs not just hope but a coherent strategy for the 2012 election season. Dramatic overreach by newly elected Republican governors, who sought to curtail labor rights, undermine local democracy and slash spending for education and local services, has provoked a backlash that draws stark ideological and political lines on fundamental economic questions. And that is winning substantial Democratic victories in unexpected territory, including rural areas where the party suffered its greatest setbacks in 2010.

In Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker and his allies stripped most collective bargaining rights from public employees and teachers in an attempt to render public unions toothless, unions and their allies bit back. The same Wisconsinites who protested in the streets in February and March forged a grassroots recall campaign against the politicians who had denied the will of the people. The initiative so rattled Walker's Republicans that they spent millions organizing recall campaigns against three Democratic senators from Republican-trending districts. That set up a summer of nine recall elections-all of them in districts that had voted for Walker in 2010.

Against an onslaught of outside spending by billionaire conservative donors and their front groups, Democrats defeated two Republican senators and retained all three of their incumbents. This gave the Democrats a 5-4 winning record and a majority of the votes cast in districts that had favored Walker by higher margins than the rest of the state had just nine months earlier. The results collapsed the GOP advantage from 19-14 in the Senate to 17-16, meaning that Democrats and a moderate Republican who broke with Walker on the collective bargaining issue can form a majority to block the governor's most extreme initiatives. That's not the clear control Democrats had wanted, of course, but even the Senate's Republican leader says the emphasis now will have to be on cooperation. And Walker-whose approval ratings are lower than Obama's-is talking up bipartisanship as he scrambles to avert a recall threat to his tumultuous tenure.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, an ideological soulmate of Walker's, got the message. After the Wisconsin results were announced, Kasich began pleading with opponents to help him rework legislation he had signed to undermine collective bargaining rights in Ohio. His hope was to thwart a November referendum that seeks to overturn the law using an old reform tool that allows voters to veto offensive legislation. Taking a signal from Wisconsin, and from Ohio's own remarkable effort to collect 1.3 million signatures (four times the necessary total) to qualify the statewide vote, the We Are Ohio coalition's Melissa Fazekas declared, "We're glad that Governor Kasich and the other politicians who passed SB 5 are finally admitting this is a flawed bill. Just like the bill was flawed, this approach to a compromise is flawed as well. Our message is clear. These same politicians who passed this law could repeal it and not thwart the will of the people."

There's a confidence level on display in the states that goes far beyond what is being heard in Washington these days. It is rooted in the fact that state-based Democrats have found winning issues in their fights to defend labor rights, public services and public education against a GOP austerity agenda that cuts taxes for billionaires and corporations while placing greater burdens on working families in a period of high unemployment and economic uncertainty. In New Hampshire, where Republicans scored unprecedented victories in 2010, the GOP is losing House seats in special elections that have turned on the question of whether legislators will override Democratic Governor John Lynch's veto of an antilabor "right to work" law.

In Maine, where Governor Paul LePage may well be the most extreme of the new Republican leaders, Democrats are not just winning special elections. They are seeing spikes of nearly 20 percent over the party's 2010 vote totals for candidates who bluntly declare that they are determined to fight the LePage agenda, which has extended so far as to attack child-labor protections. The national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee notes that Democrats are running on average nine points better than they did in the same districts in 2010. And the DLCC says they are "performing as well now as they were in [the 2008] election-and in fact winning additional seats lost in that election," as was the case with the defeat of the two Wisconsin Republican senators who survived the Obama landslide.

Perhaps most remarkable is where the Democrats are winning. Most of the recall elections in Wisconsin, as well as many of the special elections in other states, have taken place not in cities but in rural areas. Of the forty Wisconsin counties that were entirely or partially in Senate districts that saw recall races, twenty-three voted Democratic, and four more gave the Democrats 49 percent or more of the vote. Democrats were not just winning counties that voted for Walker in 2010; they even won several counties that voted for John McCain in 2008. That's a big, big deal, because the national Democratic setbacks in 2010 came overwhelmingly in rural areas, with thirty-nine US House seats in the most rural Congressional districts flipping from the Democrats to the Republicans. That represents two-thirds of GOP Congressional gains, and it parallels patterns that tipped gubernatorial elections and control of legislative chambers.

President Obama and the DC Democrats know they must do better in rural areas; that was the whole point of the president's mid-August bus tour of small-town Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. But the president and his aides still don't quite get what's working at the grassroots. It's not soft messaging about rural development, and it's certainly not comments like the one Obama made in Iowa about the need for "shared sacrifice" from teachers and public employees, who long ago began taking cuts to help balance local and state budgets. What's working is a clear "Which side are you on?" message when it comes to defending rural schools and services, and the teachers and public employees who provide them, against a Republican austerity message that shifts even more of the burden from the wealthy to working families.

"Schools and services are what keep small towns strong," says Wisconsin Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller, who represents a number of rural communities. "If the fight is between Democrats who want to defend pubic schools, public services, and Republicans who want to sacrifice them in order to give tax breaks to the rich, that's when you'll see rural voters shifting back to the Democrats. It's started working in Wisconsin, it will work in Ohio and, if they get the message in Washington, it will work nationally in 2012."
(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 To Lose Readers (Without Even Trying)
By Sam Harris

Do you have too many readers of your books and articles? Want to reduce traffic on your blog? It turns out, there is a foolproof way to alienate many of your fans, quickly and at almost no cost.

It took me years to discover this publishing secret, but I'll pass it along to you for free:

Simply write an article suggesting that taxes should be raised on billionaires.

Really, it's that simple!

You can declare the world's religions to be cesspools of confusion and bigotry, you can argue that all drugs should be made legal and that free will is an illusion. You can even write in defense of torture. But I assure you that nothing will rile and winnow your audience like the suggestion that billionaires should contribute more of their wealth to the good of society.

This is not to say that everyone hated my last article ("How Rich is Too Rich?"), but the backlash has been ferocious. For candor and concision this was hard to beat:

You are scum sam. unsubscribed.

Unlike many of the emails I received, this one made me laugh out loud-for rarely does one see the pendulum of human affection swing so freely. Note that this response came, not from a mere visitor to my blog, but from someone who had once admired me enough to subscribe to my email newsletter. All it took was a single article about the problem of wealth inequality to provoke, not just criticism, but loathing.

The following should indicate the general gloom that has crept over my inbox:

I will not waste my time addressing your nonsense point-by-point, but I certainly could and I think in a more informed way than many economists-whose credentials you seem to think are necessary for your consideration of a response. Do you see what an elitist ass that makes you seem? I think you should stick to themes you know something about such as how unreasonable religion is. I am sure I am not the only one whose respect you lose with your economic ideology.

Nothing illustrates why people should not leave their comfort zones than this egregiously silly piece….You make such good points about the importance of skeptical inquiry and about how difficult it is to truly know something that your soak the rich comments are, as a good man once said, not even wrong. Take care.

Sorry Sam. I used to praise and promote your works. You've lost me. Your promotion of theft by initiating force on others is unforgivable. You're just a thug now, attempting cheap personal gratification by broadcasting signals which cost you nothing, just like Warren Buffett.

Many readers were enraged that I could support taxation in any form. It was as if I had proposed this mad scheme of confiscation for the first time in history. Several cited my framing of the question-"how much wealth can one person be allowed to keep?"-as especially sinister, as though I had asked, "how many of his internal organs can one person be allowed to keep?"

For what it's worth-and it won't be worth much to many of you-I understand the ethical and economic concerns about taxation. I agree that everyone should be entitled to the fruits of his or her labors and that taxation, in the State of Nature, is a form of theft. But it appears to be a form of theft that we require, given how selfish and shortsighted most of us are.

Many of my critics imagine that they have no stake in the well-being of others. How could they possibly benefit from other people getting first-rate educations? How could they be harmed if the next generation is hurled into poverty and despair? Why should anyone care about other people's children? It amazes me that such questions require answers.

Would Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, rather have $10 billion in a country where the maximum number of people are prepared to do creative work? Or would he rather have $20 billion in a country with the wealth inequality of an African dictatorship and commensurate levels of crime?[1] I'd wager he would pick door number #1. But if he wouldn't, I maintain that it is only rational and decent for Uncle Sam to pick it for him.

However, many readers view this appeal to State power as a sacrilege. It is difficult to know what to make of this. Either they yearn for reasons to retreat within walled compounds wreathed in razor wire, or they have no awareness of the societal conditions that could warrant such fear and isolation. And they consider any effort the State could take to prevent the most extreme juxtaposition of wealth and poverty to be indistinguishable from Socialism.

It is difficult to ignore the responsibility that Ayn Rand bears for all of this. I often get emails from people who insist that Rand was a genius-and one who has been unfairly neglected by writers like myself. I also get emails from people who have been "washed in the blood of the Lamb," or otherwise saved by the "living Christ," and who insist that they are now praying for my soul. It is hard for me to say which of these sentiments I find less compelling.

As someone who has written and spoken at length about how we might develop a truly "objective" morality, I am often told by followers of Rand that their beloved guru accomplished this task long ago. The result was Objectivism-a view that makes a religious fetish of selfishness and disposes of altruism and compassion as character flaws. If nothing else, this approach to ethics was a triumph of marketing, as Objectivism is basically autism rebranded. And Rand's attempt to make literature out of this awful philosophy produced some commensurately terrible writing. Even in high school, I found that my copies of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged simply would not open.

And I say this as someone who considers himself, in large part, a "libertarian"-and who has, therefore, embraced more or less everything that was serviceable in Rand's politics. The problem with pure libertarianism, however, has long been obvious: We are not ready for it. Judging from my recent correspondence, I feel this more strongly than ever. There is simply no question that an obsession with limited government produces impressive failures of wisdom and compassion in otherwise intelligent people.

Why do we have laws in the first place? To prevent adults from behaving like dangerous children. All laws are coercive and take the following form: do this, and don't do that, or else. Or else what? Or else men with guns will arrive at your door and take you away to prison. Yes, it would be wonderful if we did not need to be corralled and threatened in this way. And many uses of State power are both silly and harmful (the "war on drugs" being, perhaps, the ultimate instance). But the moment certain strictures are relaxed, people reliably go berserk. And we seem unable to motivate ourselves to make the kinds of investments we should make to create a future worth living in. Even the best of us tend to ignore some of the more obvious threats to our long term security.

For instance, Graham Alison, author of Nuclear Terrorism, thinks there is a greater than 50 percent chance that a nuclear bomb will go off in an American city sometime in the next ten years. (A poll of national security experts commissioned by Senator Richard Lugar in 2005 put the risk at 29 percent.) The amount of money required to secure the stockpiles of weapons and nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union is a pittance compared to the private holdings of the richest Americans. And should even a single incident of nuclear terrorism occur, the rich would likely lose more money in the resulting economic collapse than would have been required to secure the offending materials in the first place.

If private citizens cannot be motivated to allocate the necessary funds to mitigate such problems-as it seems we cannot-the State must do it. The State, however, is broke.

And lurking at the bottom of this morass one finds flagrantly irrational ideas about the human condition. Many of my critics pretend that they have been entirely self-made. They seem to feel responsible for their intellectual gifts, for their freedom from injury and disease, and for the fact that they were born at a specific moment in history. Many appear to have absolutely no awareness of how lucky one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, to not have cerebral palsy, or to not have been bankrupted in middle age by the mortal illness of a spouse.

Many of us have been extraordinarily lucky-and we did not earn it. Many good people have been extraordinarily unlucky-and they did not deserve it. And yet I get the distinct sense that if I asked some of my readers why they weren't born with club feet, or orphaned before the age of five, they would not hesitate to take credit for these accomplishments. There is a stunning lack of insight into the unfolding of human events that passes for moral and economic wisdom in some circles. And it is pernicious. Followers of Rand, in particular, believe that only a blind reliance on market forces and the narrowest conception of self interest can steer us collectively toward the best civilization possible and that any attempt to impose wisdom or compassion from the top-no matter who is at the top and no matter what the need-is necessarily corrupting of the whole enterprise. This conviction is, at the very least, unproven. And there are many reasons to believe that it is dangerously wrong.

Given the current condition of the human mind, we seem to need a State to set and enforce certain priorities. I share everyone's concern that our political process is broken, that it can select for precisely the sorts of people one wouldn't want in charge, and that fantastic sums of money get squandered. But no one has profited more from our current system, with all its flaws, than the ultra rich. They should be the last to take their money off the table. And they should be the first to realize when more resources are necessary to secure the common good.

In reply to my question about future breakthroughs in technology (e.g. robotics, nanotech) eliminating millions of jobs very quickly, and creating a serious problem of unemployment, the most common response I got from economists was some version of the following:

1. There ***IS*** a fundamental principle of economics that rules out a serious long-term problem of unemployment:
The first principle of economics is that we live in a world of scarcity, and the second principle of economics is that we have unlimited wants and desires.

Therefore, the second principle of economics: unlimited wants and desires, rules out long-term problem of unemployment.

2. What if we were having this discussion in the 1800s, when it was largely an agricultural-based economy, and you were suggesting that "future breakthroughs in farm technology (e.g. tractors, electricity, combines, cotton gin, automatic milking machinery, computers, GPS, hybrid seeds, irrigation systems, herbicides, pesticides, etc.) could eliminate millions of jobs, creating a serious problem of unemployment."

With hindsight, we know that didn't happen, and all of the American workers who would have been working on farms without those technological, labor-saving inventions found employment in different or new sectors of the economy like manufacturing, health care, education, business, retail, transportation, etc.

For example, 90% of Americans in 1790 were working in agriculture, and now that percentage is down to about 2%, even though we have greater employment overall now than in 1790. The technological breakthroughs reduced the share of workers in farming, but certainly didn't create long-term problems of unemployment. Thanks to "unlimited wants and desires," Americans found gainful employment in industries besides farming.

Mark J. Perry
Professor of Economics, University of Michigan, Flint campus and Visiting Scholar at The American Enterprise Institute and Carpe Diem Blog

As I wrote to several of these correspondents, I worry that the adjective "long-term" waves the magician's scarf a bit, concealing some very unpleasant possibilities. Are they so unpleasant that any rational billionaire who loves this country (and his grandchildren) would want to avoid them at significant cost in the near term? I suspect the answer could be "yes."

Also, it seemed to me that many readers aren't envisioning just how novel future technological developments might be. The analogy to agriculture doesn't strike me as very helpful. The moment we have truly intelligent machines, the pace of innovation could be extraordinarily steep, and the end of drudgery could come quickly. In a world without work everyone would be free-but, in our current system, some would be free to starve.

However, at least one reader suggested that the effect of truly game-changing nanotechnology or AI could not concentrate wealth, because its spread would be uncontainable, making it impossible to enforce intellectual property laws. The resultant increases in wealth would be free for the taking. This is an interesting point. I'm not sure it blocks every pathway to pathological concentrations of wealth-but it offers a ray of hope I hadn't seen before. It is interesting to note, however, what a strange hope it is: The technological singularity that will redeem human history is, essentially, Napster.

Fewer people wanted to tackle the issue of an infrastructure bank. Almost everyone who commented on this idea supported it, but many thought either (1) that it need not be funded now (i.e. We should take on more debt to pay for it) or (2) that if funded, it must be done voluntarily.

It was disconcerting how many people felt the need to lecture me about the failure of Socialism. To worry about the current level of wealth inequality is not to endorse Socialism, or to claim that the equal distribution of goods should be an economic goal. I think a certain level of wealth inequality is probably a very good thing-being both reflective and encouraging of differences between people that should be recognized and rewarded. There are people who can be motivated to work 100 hours a week by the prospect of getting rich, and they often accomplish goals that are very beneficial. And there are people who are simply incapable of making similar contributions to society. But do you really think that Steve Jobs would have retired earlier if he knew that all the wealth he acquired beyond $5 billion would be taxed at 90 percent? Many of people apparently do. However, I think they are being far too cynical about the motivations of smart, creative people.

Finally, many readers said something like the following:

If you or Warren Buffett want to pay more in taxes, go ahead. You are perfectly free to write the Treasury a check. And if you haven't done this, you're just a hypocrite.

Few people are eager to make large, solitary, and ineffectual sacrifices. And I was not arguing that the best use of Buffett's wealth would be for him to simply send it to the Treasury so that the government could use it however it wanted. I believe the important question is, how can we get everyone with significant resources to put their shoulders to the wheel at the same moment so that large goals get accomplished?

Imagine opening the newspaper tomorrow and discovering that Buffett had convened a meeting of the entire Forbes 400 list, and everyone had agreed to put 50 percent of his or her wealth toward crucial infrastructure improvements and the development of renewable energy technologies. I would like to believe that we live in a world where such things could happen-because, increasingly, it seems that we live in a world where such things must happen.

What can be done to bridge this gap?
(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.

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To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Internet Outages from Hurricane Could Force People to Interact with Other People, Officials Warn
FEMA: Prepare for Unwanted Eye Contact, Awkward Silences
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - As Hurricane Irene prepared to batter the East Coast of the United States, federal disaster officials warned that Internet outages caused by the storm could force people to interact with other people for the first time in years. News of the possible interpersonal interactions created panic up and down the coast as residents braced themselves for the horror of awkward silences and unwanted eye contact.

And as officials warned people in the hurricane zone to stay indoors, residents feared the worst: conversations with members of their immediate family.

At the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA chief Craig Fugate offered these words of advice for those who may be forced into direct contact with other human beings: "Be prepared. Write down possible topics to talk about in advance. Sports is a good one, and of course the weather. Remember, a conversation is basically a series of Facebook updates strung together."

He also offered these words of hope for those trapped interacting with other people due to an Internet outage: "At some point, the wifi will go back on, and hopefully you won't have to go through anything like this again for a long, long time."

In a related story, the Rev. Pat Robertson said the best way to prepare for Hurricane Irene is not being gay.
(c) 2011 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 34 (c) 09/02/2011

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