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In This Edition

Bernie Sanders asks, "Is Poverty A Death Sentence?"

Uri Avnery introduces, "Daphne And Itzik."

Medea Benjamin exposes, "The Congressional 'Supercommittee.'"

Amy Goodman considers, "Troy Davis And The Politics Of Death."

Jim Hightower shows us, "Perryism In Action."

Helen Thomas explains, "The Statehood Stakes."

James Donahue wonders, "Why Did We Ever Think We Needed More Police?"

Nancy Murray and Kade Crockford warns that, "Little Brothers Are Watching."

Robert Scheer studies, "Obama's Economic Policies."

Joel Hircshhorn sees, "Two Paths To Reform."

Paul Krugman foresees, "An Impeccable Disaster."

John R. MacArthur discovers, "Some Liberals On To Obama's Betrayal Of Liberalism."

William Rivers Pitt examines, "The Cult Of Death."

Kansas Con-gressman Mike Pompeo wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!

John Nichols finds, "Congress Should Mark Anniversary of the 'War On Terror' by Deauthorizing It."

Sam Harris looks into, "September 11, 2011."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst witnesses a, "Red Meat Slam Dance" but first Uncle Ernie explores, "The Theory And Practice Of Oligarchical Collectivism."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rex Babin, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Derf City, Destonio, Clay Bennett, Article V Convention.Com, Politifake.Org, Logan Williams, Collins, European Union, Amnesty International, 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."

The Theory And Practice Of Oligarchical Collectivism
By Ernest Stewart

The oligarchs are the lords of the earth. Everything exists for their benefit.
The ordinary people, the workers - are their slaves." ~~~ George Orwell

"American influence will decline further, Israeli security will be undermined and Iran will be empowered, increasing the chances of another war in the region." ~~~ Turki al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence

"What you have here is an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy and to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by the churchmen. When abusive priests are discovered, the response has been not to investigate and prosecute but to move them from one place to another. So there's total disregard for the victims and for the fact that you are going to have a whole new crop of victims in the next place. This is happening all over the world." ~~~ Father Tom Doyle, former Vatican lawyer

"All for one, one for all, that is our device." ~~~ Alexandre Dumas

I got to thinking the other day; yes, I know, a very dangerous thing for me to do, about what the kids who are too young to remember life before 9/11 must think of our brave new world -- a world brought to us by those wonderful folks down at PNAC and the RNC.

Those kids have known nothing of peace, known nothing but a continuous war for all of their lives, and while Orwell was actually describing what was going down in 1948 in his book "1984," many of his warnings have long ago come to pass here in Oceania.

For example, America has turned from a Republic of sorts into a government totally controlled by the oligarchs instead of the people, with our current Emmanuel Goldstein being Obamahood, who, like Goldstein, was part of the conspiracy and went along with it for personal gain. The 9/11 Conspiracy was how we got sucked up in a never-ending war that was in the planning for decades, until they could make it happen.

Today's children are taught to hate Muslims like the folks in the book were taught to hate folks from Eurasia and Eastasia, as were the folks in Eurasia and Eastasia taught to hate us in Oceania. Just like in the book, we are in state of constant war, a war that doesn't cost too much, i.e., a war without many of our troops being killed, but one that allows our Oligarchical Collective to keep control and keep us as good, little, brain-dead slaves to them. And, unlike their elders, our kids have nothing to compare our current mess to, so they think everything that goes down is normal -- the way things have always been, and with the military and the politicians doing whatever they're told by the oligarchs, that's all they're going to know. Oh, and how to "be a loyal, plastic robot for a world that doesn't care!"

However, I do see some change up ahead, but it's not necessarily a change for the better. The trouble with the 1984 scenario is that it's a bit too expensive to continue for much longer with all that money going to the Pentagoons for their games. I've always maintained that if the Civil War hadn't happened slavery would've died out by the turn of the century because of steam power and the fact that slaves are rather expensive to buy, keep, and maintain! It's much cheaper to keep us as vassals where our food, shelter and upkeep are ours to deal with -- not the princes!

It's far better to get rid of war and give the people bread and circuses as in the somewhat brilliant 1975 film Rollerball. (Not the new version garbage, but the film starring James Caan.) Set in the year 2018, it told a story of the world controlled by seven corporations: one controls food, one entertainment, one transportation, etc. Caan plays Rollerball for Huston, which is the home of the energy corporation. The game Rollerball is what has replaced war, yet it is a blood sport much like the gladiatorial games were to the Romans! Of course, we have Football, but compared to Rollerball, it's rather wimpy and boring, but the concept of this is all but here already! The Oligarchical Collective is in place and gaining power everyday with just a few differences to Americanize it and make it our own. While the Koch brothers, their Tea Bagger puppets like old ManBearPig, and others are leading the charge, they're not the puppet masters, but mere assistants -- much like Obamahood and Boner are!

In Other News

Sometime next week, Benjamin Netanyahu will pull Obamahood's puppet strings, and Barry will dance all the way to the U.N. to deny the Palestinians their right to have a state of their own. Trouble is for both Barry and Benny is that they're likely to get overridden by the General Assembly, and made to look like the terrorist SOB's they are before the entire planet.

Even worse, if we can twist enough arms to keep the override vote from going through, you can bet all hell is going to break loose in Palestine, and throughout all of the Muslim world. Israel is counting on this, because they know another Intifada is bound to be heading their way, so they can use it as an excuse to perhaps begin the "final solution" of the Palestinian question, and steal the rest of old Palestine for themselves, and then look beyond their borders for more "Lebensraum." Now, where have I heard that word before?

Barry will mumble something about how we've always stood for democracy and will continue to do so, but "unfortunately not in this case, because blah, blah, blah, and it will help me get reelected, and then I'll fix the problem and give them a state of their own, perhaps Texas?"

We will, of course, do nothing about it, and let Israel kill off the rest of their apartheid slaves, much like we did to the Indians, followed shortly thereafter with huge hydrogen mushrooms sprouting all over Israel.

In America, a few dirty bombs will be set off (either theirs or ours) at various sporting events and downtown areas, and we'll be surging up to attack some more countries with brown-skinned people who have oil and minerals; well, you know the drill, don't you! The U.N. will wring their hands, and send some troops into Africa to rape and pillage, i.e., same ole, same ole! And you, too, America, will do nothing about it, just like before; then the cattle cars will arrive to take you away -- just like they did before! So, tune in next week, America, for a ringside seat to the beginning of the end! Damn those pesky Mayans!

And Finally

I see where there just might be some justice for Catholic clergy sex abuse victims. They're righteously upset that no high-ranking Roman Catholic leaders have ever been prosecuted for sheltering guilty priests, so they went to the International Criminal Court in The Hague last Tuesday, demanding an investigation of the pope and top Vatican cardinals for possible crimes against humanity. Now you're talking! The Vatican called it a "ludicrous publicity stunt."

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based nonprofit legal group, requested the inquiry on behalf of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, arguing that the Catholic Church has maintained a "long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence" despite promises to swiftly oust pedophile priests.

The Vatican's U.S. lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, called the complaint a "ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes."

The complaint names Pope Benedict XVI, a.k.a. Joey Rats, former Youth for Hitler Werewolf, for his role as leader of the "Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," which has the responsibility for overseeing abuse cases; Cardinal William Levada, who now leads that office, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state under Pope John Paul II; and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who now holds that post.

Attorneys for the victims say "rape, sexual violence and torture are considered a crime against humanity as described in the international treaty that spells out the court's mandate." The complaint also accuses Vatican officials of "creating policies that perpetuated the damage," constituting an attack against a civilian population.

I guess it's just a case of "Holy See No Evil?" or "Monkey See, Monkey Do." I know it's one of those two, maybe both?! It's about time someone put an end to this, and made not only the offending priests pay, but the ones that helped them continue their crimes, and hid them from the people and from punishment. I put child abusers right up there with politicians as the scum of the Earth, don't you?

Keepin' On

Our good friend Rex Babin is back in the magazine for the twelfth time this week as our spotlighted cartoonist. Rex was the first professional cartoonist to join our little band of "merry pranksters" and allow us to use his art. Here's his bio:

Rex Babin has been the political cartoonist for The Sacramento Bee since 1999. A native of Walnut Creek, California, Babin previously worked at the Albany, NY Times Union for 10 years. He also worked at the Orange Coast Daily Pilot and the Denver Post. His cartoons are distributed nationally by King Features Syndicate. Rex was the winner of the National Press Foundation's 2001 Berryman Award and was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize.

Rex joined us for our second edition (way back in February 2001) and has been with us ever since! Welcome back, Rex!

While Rex allows us to use his copyrighted work for free, many don't, and it's because of folks like Richard from New York that we can afford to bring you the rest. Thanks, Richard! I took your advice, and changed that photo on the donations page; and, in fact, I'm using it for this week's column, too! Richard, like me, no longer supports the ACLU, and instead sends us the money that he used to give to them every year. Have no fear, Richard, we'll never betray you, brother, like they have us!

For those folks who read us for free, week after week, and year after year, who are working and can afford to help us out, what are you waiting for? Time to step up and take a stand; we're all for one and one for all! For those of you who are in as bad a shape financially as I am, don't worry about donating; however, if you appreciate what we do for you, please do spread the word about us; the more the merrier!


09-09-1923 ~ 09-10-2011
Thanks for the films!

07-17-1972 ~ 09-11-2011
Thanks for the films!

07-30-1935 ~ 09-13-2011
We'll always have Ann Arbor!

02-24-1922 ~ 09-13-2011
Thanks for the art!


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.

Is Poverty A Death Sentence?
By Bernie Sanders

The crisis of poverty in America is one of the great moral and economic issues facing our country. It is very rarely talked about in the mainstream media. It gets even less attention in Congress. Why should people care? Many poor people don't vote. They certainly don't make large campaign contributions, and they don't have powerful lobbyists representing their interests.

Here's why we all should care. There are 46 million Americans -- about one in six -- living below the poverty line. That's the largest number on record, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Census Bureau. About 49.9 million Americans lacked health insurance, the report also said. That number has soared by 13.3 million since 2000.

Moreover, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has both the highest overall poverty rate and the highest childhood poverty rate of any major industrialized country on earth. This comes at a time when the U.S. also has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth with the top 1 percent earning more than the bottom 50 percent.

According to the latest figures from the OECD, 21.6 percent of American children live in poverty. This compares to 3.7 percent in Denmark, 5 percent in Finland, 5.5 percent in Norway 6.9 percent in Slovenia, 7 percent in Sweden, 7.2 percent Hungary, 8.3 percent in Germany, 8.8 percent in the Czech Republic, 9.3 percent in France, 9.4 percent in Switzerland. I suppose we can take some comfort in that our numbers are not quite as bad as Turkey (23.5 percent), Chile (24 percent) and Mexico (25.8 percent).

When we talk about poverty in America, we think about people who may be living in substandard and overcrowded homes or may be homeless. We think about people who live with food insecurity, who may not know how they are going to feed themselves or their kids tomorrow. We think about people who, in cold states like Vermont, may not have enough money to purchase the fuel they need to keep warm in the winter. We think about people who cannot afford health insurance or access to medical care. We think about people who cannot afford an automobile or transportation, and can't get to their job or the grocery store. We think about senior citizens who may have to make a choice between buying the prescription drugs he or she needs, or purchasing an adequate supply of food.

I want to focus on an enormously important point. And that is that poverty in America today leads not only to anxiety, unhappiness, discomfort and a lack of material goods. It leads to death. Poverty in America today is a death sentence for tens and tens of thousands of our people which is why the high childhood poverty rate in our country is such an outrage.

Some facts:

* At a time when we are seeing major medical breakthroughs in cancer and other terrible diseases for the people who can afford those treatments, the reality is that life expectancy for low-income women has declined over the past 20 years in 313 counties in our country. In other words, in some areas of America, women are now dying at a younger age than they used to.

* In America today, people in the highest income group level, the top 20 percent, live, on average, at least 6.5 years longer than those in the lowest income group. Let me repeat that. If you are poor in America you will live 6.5 years less than if you are wealthy or upper-middle class.

* In America today, adult men and women who have graduated from college can expect to live at least 5 years longer than people who have not finished high school.

* In America today tens of thousands of our fellow citizens die unnecessarily because they cannot get the medical care they need. According to Reuters (September 17, 2009), "nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year -- one every 12 minutes -- in large part because they lack health insurance and cannot get good care. Harvard Medical School researchers found in an analysis released on Thursday."

* In 2009, the infant mortality rate for African American infants was twice that of white infants.

I recite these facts because I believe that as bad as the current situation is with regard to poverty, it will likely get worse in the immediate future. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street we are now in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Millions of workers have lost their jobs and have slipped out of the middle class and into poverty. Poverty is increasing.

Further, despite the reality that our deficit problem has been caused by the recession and declining revenue, two unpaid for wars and tax breaks for the wealthy, there are some in Congress who wish to decimate the existing safety net which provides a modicum of security for the elderly, the sick, the children and lower income people. Despite an increase in poverty, some of these people would like to cut or end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, home heating assistance, nutrition programs and help for the disabled and the homeless.

To the degree that they are successful, there is no question in my mind that many more thousands of men, women and children will die.

From a moral perspective, it is not acceptable that we allow so much unnecessary suffering and preventable death to continue. From an economic perspective and as we try to fight our way out of this terrible recession, it makes no sense that we push to the fringe so many people who could be of such great help to us.
(c) 2011 Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

Daphne And Itzik
By Uri Avnery

IT SOUNDS like the title of a romantic movie. "Daphne, Itzik and all the Others."

It starts off with a friendship between two youngsters, he in his early thirties, she in her mid twenties. Then they quarrel. He leaves. She remains.

The audience knows exactly what it wants: it wants the two to reunite, kiss, marry and walk arm-in-arm into the sunrise, to the accompaniment of a soft melody.

As for the actors, they are perfect. They both play themselves. Hollywood's Central Casting couldn't have done better.

She is an attractive young woman, wearing a man's hat for easy recognition. He is the Israeli young male, vaguely handsome, easily recognizable by his nose.

THE STORY starts with Daphne Leef, an editor of short films, daughter of a composer, unable to rent an apartment in Tel Aviv. She is fed up. She announces on Facebook that she is going to live in a tent on Rothschild Boulevard and asks if anyone will join her.

Some do. Then more. Then even more. In no time, there are more than a hundred tents on the avenue, one of the oldest in town, a quiet residential neighborhood. Other tent cities spring up all around the country. A mass movement has come into being. Last Saturday, 350 thousand people demonstrated in Tel Aviv, 450 thousand throughout the country. That would be something like 18 million in the US, or three million in Germany.

Some time after the whole thing started, the Israeli National Student Union, lead by its chairman, Itzik Shmuli, joined the protest. Daphne and Itzik were seen as the leaders, together with some others, notably Stav Shaffir, also easily recognizable with her flaming red hair. (Stav means autumn.)

The media loved them. They embraced them with a fervor never seen before. In a way that was quite remarkable, since all the media are owned by the very same "tycoons" against whom the protesters are railing. The explanation may be that the average working journalist belongs to the same social group as Daphne and the other protesters - young middle-class men and women who work hard and still do not make enough to "finish the month".

Also, the media need the "rating": the public wanted to see and hear the protests. No one could afford to ignore it, not even a tycoon eager for profit.

THREE WEEKS ago, the first signs of a split started to appear. After first treating the protest with disdain, Binyamin Netanyahu saw the danger and did what he (and politicians like him) always do: he appointed a commission to propose "reforms". He neither promised to implement its recommendations, nor did he allow the commission to break the bounds of the two-year state budget already enacted by the Knesset.

For some, this was just a maneuver to gain time and let the protest movement lose its momentum. Others pointed to the fact that the commission is headed by an independent, 61 year old professor in good standing, Manuel Trajtenberg (a German name written in the Spanish way) who could be expected to do his best within the limits dictated to him. Netanyahu himself, something between a pious Reaganite and a devout Thatcherite, promised to change his economic views altogether.

That's how the split started. Daphne, Stav and most of the others refused to cooperate with the commission. Itzik embraced it and met with its members. Daphne was not satisfied with the limited reform likely to emanate from the commission, Itzik was ready to accept what was achievable.

Actually, the controversy was not inevitable. Daphne and her colleagues could do what Zionists have always done with immense success: at every stage, take what you can get and move on to get more.

But the split is much more than a disagreement over tactics. It reflects a basic difference of world view, strategy and style.

DAPHNE IS anti-establishment. She is not doing this for slight changes within the existing system. Though she was born into the heart of the establishment, Jerusalem's sedate Rehavia neighborhood, she wants to overthrow it and to create something completely new.

Itzik wants to work within the establishment. He talks about the "New Israeli", but it is not at all clear what is new about him.

Just before the huge demonstration, a terrible fact was disclosed: Daphne had not served in the army. When it emerged that the reason was her suffering from epilepsy, something even more terrible was dug out: when she was 17 years old, she had signed a petition of high school pupils condemning the occupation and refusing to serve in the occupied territories, or even to serve altogether. (Obviously, these disclosures must have come from the files of the Shin Bet Security service, or from one of the neo-fascist "research" centers financed by far-right Jewish billionaires in the US.) Itzik, of course, had done his duty.

The fact that the masses joined the protest in spite of these disclosures shows that the old militaristic language has lost its luster. Daphne and her followers stand for a different discourse.

Some believe that it is basically a gender clash: male versus female. Daphne's style is soft, inclusive, affirmative, reaching out to all parts of society. Itzik's style is much more exclusive. Daphne and Stav never say "I", always preferring "we". Itzik uses "I" freely. He raised quite a few eyebrows when he said at the demonstration: "You are all partners in MY struggle..."

The protest movement is heavily influenced by women. Women founded it, women are its main spokespersons. Does this change its texture?

(I had an argument about this with a feminist friend. She insisted that there is no basic difference between the genders, that the existing difference is created by culture. Boys and girls are educated to follow different role models from age zero. I believe that there is a basic biological difference, going back to the primates and before. Nature intended the female to bear and rear children, while the male had to fight and hunt for food. But in the end it comes to the same: the modern human being has the ability to shape him/herself, so we can design our culture according to our will.)

DAPHNE SEEMS to have no ego, no political ambitions. Almost everybody believes that Itzik, on the other hand, has his eyes set on a seat in the Knesset - using his new-found public stature in order to join the Labor (or any other) Party, if he cannot win the leadership of the protest movement and turn it into a party in his image.

The latter seems unlikely. At the huge demonstration, his speech was well received. But it was undoubtedly Daphne who really touched the heart of the masses. Itzik spoke to the head, Daphne to the heart.

Something very strange - or perhaps not so strange - happened to the media on this occasion. All three major TV stations covered the event live and at length. Itzik's speech was carried in its entirety by all three. But in the middle of Daphne's speech, as if on orders from above, all three stations cut off her voice and started broadcasting "comments" by the same tired old gang of government spokesmen, "analysts" and "experts".

From then on, almost all the media overplayed Itzik and underplayed Daphne. The tycoons, it seems, have taken over again.

FROM THE start, the leaders of the protest insisted that the movement is not "political", neither "left" nor "right". It is solely concerned with social justice, solidarity and welfare, not with affairs of state like peace, occupation and such.

How long can this stance be maintained?

This week, General Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the home front (one of the four geographical commands of the army) made a speech in which he forecast a "general war, a total war" between Israel and an "Islamized" Arab world. In this war, weapons of mass destruction would be employed.

Military and political leaders immediately downplayed this speech, saying that no such danger existed for the near future. But the implications were clear: the need to expend huge sums to equip all of Israel with "Iron Dome" anti-missile defenses, expend huge sums to buy submarines for our nuclear arm (only partly paid for by the Germans), and expend even more huge sums for buying the latest American stealth fighters. Billions and billions of dollars on top of the existing huge military budget.

Israel is becoming more and more isolated. Just before stepping down, the US Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, warned that Netanyahu is "endangering Israel". The Palestinian application to the UN for recognition of the State of Palestine may lead to a severe crisis; the conflict with Turkey is becoming more dangerous by the day; in Egypt and other awakening Arab countries, anti-Israeli sentiments are reaching new heights.

Can one really pretend that all this does not affect the chances of creating a welfare state? That the momentum of the protest movement can be maintained and increased under these darkening clouds?

THE NEXT stage will arrive with the recommendations of the Trajtenberg commission in a few weeks.

Will they enable Itzik to celebrate and call the whole thing off? Will they confirm Daphne's prediction by offering only crumbs from the table around which the politicians and tycoons are feasting? Will they extinguish this historic movement or give it new life?

How will this movie go on? Ah, there we have to wait and see. We wouldn't disclose the end, would we? Assuming we knew it.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Congressional 'Supercommittee'
Debt Panel or Death Panel?
By Medea Benjamin

When it comes to government handouts, there's no bigger welfare queens than the Pentagon and the legions of mercenaries and weapons manufacturers profiting from America's half-dozen ongoing wars and its global empire of military bases. In fact, more than half of U.S. income taxes are funneled, not to welfare mothers and underprivileged youths, but to what President Eisenhower called the "military-industrial complex."

Endless war and a global empire are costly, as it turns out, with U.S. military spending roughly doubling since 2001 thanks largely to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that's not counting the moral costs associated with being a nation whose greatest export these days is violence, the perpetration of which Barack Obama notably defended even as he was accepting a Nobel Prize for Peace. Military aggression doesn't just take its toll on those of the receiving end of America's liberating Hellfire missiles and cluster bombs-our last domestically manufactured goods.

Yet despite the riches it receives courtesy of the American taxpayer, no group feels more entitled than military contractors and their intellectual mercenaries on Capitol Hill fighting for ever more handouts, fear-mongering talking points in hand. War profiteers have even banded together to safeguard the money they make from death and destruction, forming the group "Second to None" to counter the "threat" of military spending cuts.

Unfortunately for taxpayers and poor foreigners alike, no one in a position of real power, conservative Republican or liberal Democrat, is seriously entertaining the idea of dismantling the U.S. empire. And that's a shame, because U.S. spending on "national security"has become so divorced from the idea of defense and so bloated - coming in at more than $1 trillion a year, according to some estimates - that it now roughly equals what the rest of the world spends on bombs and tanks combined. But that trillion-dollar-a-year entitlement is not the one lawmakers are talking about cutting.

Take Washington Senator Patty Murray, co-chair of the recently created debt commission tasked with slashing federal spending. Murray is generally considered one of the more liberal members of the Senate and is the only woman on the panel, with that latter fact alone enough to win her praise from some progressive groups. One organization, MomsRising, is even urging the nation's mothers to sign a petition preemptively praising Murray's work on the panel, promising to "deliver a real superhero cape, tennis shoes with wings, and your signatures directly to Senator Murray."

We suggest that mothers who don't want their children sent off to kill and be killed in unjust wars hold off for a bit. After all, there's nothing heroic - or motherly - about sending other people's kids off to kill and be killed in a foreign land, something Murray has voted to do time and again.

Though she laudably opposed the invasion of Iraq, Murray has consistently voted to fund America's wars and has been silent in the wake of evidence her fellow Democrat, President Obama, has killed dozens if not hundreds of mothers and their children as part of his expansion of the war on terror. Indeed, according to Amnesty Internatinoal 14 women and 21 children in a single cluster bomb attack in Yemen. At least 140 civilians were killed in a single strike as part of Obama's escalated war in Afghanistan, including 93 children. Yet Murray has provided the administration a blank check, only meekly repeating boilerplate platitudes such as the need to "ask tough questions" and "insist on a clear plan," which we suspect doesn't mean a whole lot to any Afghan mothers.

Murray has been such a reliable friend of the military-industrial complex that she has taken in well over a quarter-million dollars from the war industry in the last four years alone, more than any other member of the debt panel she co-chairs. And Murray's worth every penny. In a recent ad, she celebrates the fact she "put Boeing back in the game" to win a lucrative Air Force contract it originally lost - you can't make this up - after it was caught committing bribery, which is illegal when it involves government procurement officials but not, so it seems, politicians. It's hard to find a better example of the endemic corruption in Washington than a corrupt lawmaker helping a corrupt company get a contract it gained - and at one point, lost - because of corruption.

"Senator Murray leveled the playing field," the senator's ad boasts. "Because we should build these planes. And that means jobs." Jobs for Americans, obviously: it would be macabre to brag about creating work for Pakistani funeral directors.

Don't expect much from Murray's colleagues on the debt committee, either. According to the Associated Press, the six Republicans and six Democrats on the debt panel "represent states where the biggest military contractors - Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics Corp., Raytheon Co. and Boeing Co. - build missiles, aircraft, jet fighters and tanks while employing tens of thousands of workers." That means they're even more anxious to please the military establishment and weapons manufacturers than your average politician. Collectively, members of the committee tasked with cutting $1.2 trillion in federal spending have, since 2007, taken in around $1 million in campaign contributions from military contractors.

And as Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe observe, "these companies plan to 'cash in' on these donations to stop real cuts to big war contracts." They have good reason to feel optimistic. Just look at who else is on the panel.

Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, has been an even more reliable supporter of the warfare state than Murray, having backed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and every subsequent escalation of the war on terror, a fact that's netted him more than $139,000 in campaign cash over the last four years, second only to his colleague from Washington. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, meanwhile, has been in favor of just about every U.S. military intervention in the last two decades, from Iraq to Libya. Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen's top campaign contributor is none other than Lockheed Martin.

And while some self-styled spokesmen for the Tea Party have said they are open to cutting military spending, the same can't be said for Republicans on the committee. Asked about the impact of reduced military spending on his state's war industry, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey responded that "we all have very good reasons to try to prevent" such cuts. So much for that.

The Obama administration has also been clear about its desire to safeguard spending for empire. Leon Panetta, the president's hand-picked choice to lead the Defense Department, even declared that cuts to the military "would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our military's ability to protect the nation." So much for subtlety. His suggestion? Raise taxes and cut Social Security and Medicare instead.

Like a James Bond villain, you have to hand military contractors this: they're diabolical, yes, but they're also pretty smart. Beyond just campaign donations, they have spent decades consciously spreading their operations across the country to the point that no congressional district lacks its own well-paying weapons factory. As a result, almost every lawmaker is in their pocket, with even the staunchest conservatives channeling their inner Keynesians to promote militarism as a jobs creator.

Fifty years ago President Eisenhower warned Americans that this would happen - that the rise of a massive arms industry, an industry that profits from war and loses money as a result of peace, threatened to "endanger our liberties [and] democratic processes," creating an institutional incentive for ever more spending on war and empire. That's no longer a threat, these days: it's the sad reality.

Doing something about it will require a lot more than politely asking our politicians to, pretty please, stop funneling our money to those who profit from war. Instead of sending superhero capes and tennis shoes to our lawmakers' offices, as the group MomsRising suggests, we ought to be occupying them; instead of just sending letters, we ought to be engaging in direct action and demanding that they end the wars that have wracked the U.S. economy. Politicians, being politicians, respond to pressure, not politeness.
(c) 2011 Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK, which has organized seven humanitarian delegations to Gaza. She is author of Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.

Troy Davis And The Politics Of Death
By Amy Goodman

Death brings cheers these days in America. In the most recent Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Fla., when CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked, hypothetically, if a man who chose to carry no medical insurance, then was stricken with a grave illness, should be left to die, cheers of "Yeah!" filled the hall. When, in the prior debate, Gov. Rick Perry was asked about his enthusiastic use of the death penalty in Texas, the crowd erupted into sustained applause and cheers. The reaction from the audience prompted debate moderator Brian Williams of NBC News to follow up with the question, "What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?"

That "dynamic" is why challenging the death sentence to be carried out against Troy Davis by the state of Georgia on Sept. 21 is so important. Davis has been on Georgia's death row for close to 20 years after being convicted of killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah. Since his conviction, seven of the nine nonpolice witnesses have recanted their testimony, alleging police coercion and intimidation in obtaining the testimony. There is no physical evidence linking Davis to the murder.

Last March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Davis should receive an evidentiary hearing, to make his case for innocence. Several witnesses have identified one of the remaining witnesses who has not recanted, Sylvester "Redd" Coles, as the shooter. U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. refused, on a technicality, to allow the testimony of witnesses who claimed that, after Davis had been convicted, Coles admitted to shooting MacPhail. In his August court order, Moore summarized, "Mr. Davis is not innocent."

One of the jurors, Brenda Forrest, disagrees. She told CNN in 2009, recalling the trial of Davis, "All of the witnesses-they were able to ID him as the person who actually did it." Since the seven witnesses recanted, she says: "If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row. The verdict would be not guilty."

Troy Davis has three major strikes against him. First, he is an African-American man. Second, he was charged with killing a white police officer. And third, he is in Georgia.

More than a century ago, the legendary muckraking journalist Ida B. Wells risked her life when she began reporting on the epidemic of lynchings in the Deep South. She published "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases" in 1892 and followed up with "The Red Record" in 1895, detailing hundreds of lynchings. She wrote: "In Brooks County, Ga., Dec. 23, while this Christian country was preparing for Christmas celebration, seven Negroes were lynched in twenty-four hours because they refused, or were unable to tell the whereabouts of a colored man named Pike, who killed a white man ... Georgia heads the list of lynching states."

The planned execution of Davis will not be at the hands of an unruly mob, but in the sterile, fluorescently lit confines of Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Butts County, near the town of Jackson.

The state doesn't intend to hang Troy Davis from a tree with a rope or a chain, to hang, as Billie Holiday sang, like a strange fruit:

"Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees."

The state of Georgia, unless its Board of Pardons and Paroles intervenes, will administer a lethal dose of pentobarbital. Georgia is using this new execution drug because the federal Drug Enforcement Administration seized its supply of sodium thiopental last March, accusing the state of illegally importing the poison.

"This is our justice system at its very worst," said Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Amnesty International has called on the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Davis' sentence. "The Board stayed Davis' execution in 2007, stating that capital punishment was not an option when doubts about guilt remained," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "Since then two more execution dates have come and gone, and there is still little clarity, much less proof, that Davis committed any crime. Amnesty International respectfully asks the Board to commute Davis' sentence to life and prevent Georgia from making a catastrophic mistake."

But it's not just the human rights groups the parole board should listen to. Pope Benedict XVI and Nobel Peace Prize laureates President Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others, also have called for clemency. Or the board can listen to mobs who cheer for death.
(c) 2011 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

Perryism In Action

As governor of Texas, Rick Perry has been a five-watt bulb sitting in a 100-watt socket.

When the hot and dry tinderbox of Central Texas recently exploded into dozens of raging wildfires that killed four people and burned over a thousand family homes down to their slabs, Perry wasn't even in his socket – he was in South Carolina campaigning for president. So he had to rush back, a day late, to pose as governor. He did a mess of photo ops – and even took a political potshot at Barack Obama, blaming him for shortchanging Texas on federal firefighting help.

But, wait – Perry wasn't just a day late, he's been months late in providing the most basic state leadership to deal with such disasters. Texas has been ablaze with hundreds of wildfires since late last year, torching millions of acres all across the state. Yet, scrambling recklessly this spring to fill a gaping deficit he had created in the state budget, guess whose funding Perry whacked by 75 percent. Volunteer fire fighters! Volunteer departments make up about 80 percent of the state's firefighting force, and they are the first responders to about nine out of 10 Texas wildfires. Even with Texas on fire, and as a withering drought was making more fires inevitable, the governor-who-wants-to-be-your-president slashed state funding for these volunteers from $30 million to an abjectly inadequate $7 million, leaving them having to spend their own money for supplies.

Ironically, Perry is campaigning as a states' rights, small government ideologue who wants to shrink the federal role and turn governing responsibility over to state officials like him. You might ask some Texas Volunteer firefighters how well such Perryism is working out in practice. This guy couldn't be trusted to run a small town, one-truck fire department, much less the United States of America.
(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 Statehood Stakes
By Helen Thomas

President Barack Obama is about to veto the Palestinians' well-supported bid in the United Nations for statehood. In doing so, he will betray the tide of the Arab spring, and the long standing commitment of the United States of promoting democracy in the Middle East and throughout the world.

How could he? Well, his reelection obviously means more to him than freedom for the brutally oppressed Palestinians who have been occupied for 63 years by the well-armed Israelis. Pro-Israeli voters might run away. Certainly the right wing, including the Tea Partiers, has already been co-opted by the pro-Israeli lobbyists.

The New York Times reported 20 Israeli left-wing intellectuals and artists had urged President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to go to the United Nations to pursue the resolution, despite their government's opposition. Abbas said he is willing to live in peace with Israel upon Palestine being declared a state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is staunchly opposed to Palestinian statehood, of course, and declared it would be a setback for peace.

What peace? Israel has illegally grabbed, with U.S. support, 76 percent of Palestinian land. Palestinians would be stupid to return to the lure of negotiations.

The U.S. has made it clear it is ready to block statehood for the Palestinians. A group of senior American officials are on their way to Jerusalem to urge the Palestinians to drop their hopes for statehood. The Palestinians would be fools to heed that advice. With statehood, they would be on an equal footing with Israel at the negotiating table.

Obama will prove his hypocrisy if he bows to the Israelis once again, par for the course. No doubt he faces a dilemma - to do the right thing or play ball for his own political gain. If his mother was alive, she would undoubtedly tell him to do the right thing and let his conscience be his guide.

I believe if a segment of Americans are so sympathetic to the needs of Israel for housing, they should give up their own land, homes and resources here. As an American I would say that is their individual right, but they have no right to give up what does not belong to them. Most Americans must know that.

Pro-Israeli lobbyists in the U.S. put the pressure on Americans to forget their ideals of freedom and self government. Recently Congressman have been wined and dined in Israel to persuade them against supporting statehood for the Palestinians.

It would be a great step for Obama to show his support by not vetoing Palestinian yearning for statehoood. Courage is not easy.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower had courage. In 1956, when he was running for reelection against Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson, an intellectual and idealist, Eisenhower ordered Britain, France and Israel to get out of the Suez Canal, which they were invading. With the clout of the U.S., and even though his reelection was at stake, Eisenhower took that heroic stance. It was a blow for ally Britain, especially considering that Prime Minister Anthony Eden's government fell as a result of Eisenhower's righteous stance, and Eden never recovered.

The American people understood, and Eisenhower was reelected to his second term. Generals do understand war sometimes. It was a proud moment for the U.S. in history.

Eisenhower showed the same courage in his first presidential campaign when he promised to get out of the no-win Korean War. He did what he promised, and wound up with a demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. The major fighting stopped and South Korea prospered in its U.S.-backed independence. So there are some good and worthy lessons in history.

President Obama should take the giant step and practice what he preaches about democracy. When it comes to his own personal political fate, though, perhaps the Arab longing for freedom from the brutal occupation of the Israelis may be too much to ask.

But Obama would make America look great in supporting those seeking freedom, rather than selling out on America's ideals. Millions around the world count on America and have been sold on our ideals of freedom and democracy. It behooves us to live up to those aspirations. In that way, we will exemplify true leadership in the world.
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Why Did We Ever Think We Needed More Police?
By James Donahue

If there is anything to be gained about the fact that governments are going broke it has to be the looming loss of all those police officers in our midst.

This is not to say that our police officers are not an important part of our society. Everybody probably agrees that the men and women trained to maintain law and order is a key ingredient to maintaining peace and security on the home front. Our concern is that we appear to have too many police officers. There seem to be so many that they are getting into mischief for the sheer lack of having anything important to be doing.

Consequently we read stories about officers turning tazers, their new electronic stinging toys, on citizens that refuse to jump as quickly as the police think they should. And we frequently hear of deaths by heart failure from the shock of being struck by these devices.

There has been video evidence of unwarranted police beatings, sometimes in public places.

Now that local and state governments are struggling to generate enough money to balance their budgets, the police appear to be busy doling out traffic tickets for every possible infraction. And court fines are steep. Thus leery drivers are forced to keep one eye on the road and the other on their rear view mirrors. A friend recently paid a fine of $400 after receiving a citation for driving ten miles per hour over the limit.

We appear to have more police and police cars around than we have streetlights. They are so plentiful that the general public no longer feels protected by them. Instead we are feeling threatened.

There is good reason for us to feel threatened. Many of us watched in horror while armed and armored police officers kick, club and gas their way through crowds of peaceful protesters demonstrating in various government protests occurring around the country.

We occasionally hear of police drug raids that go wrong. The officers use battering rams to smash their way into private homes then enter with guns drawn, only to find out that they bashed their way into the wrong house.

Emily Good, of Rochester, New York, was arrested and jailed because she stood in her yard and used a video camera to film a police traffic arrest occurring in the street. The officers said they felt “threatened” by her camera.

Our jails are so crowded we are constantly building more of them. A recent report said we have 5.9 million people under some form of incarceration, either in prison, in jail or on probation for various "criminal" offenses. That breaks down to one out of every 34 adults. The prison population alone is approaching 2 million people, and they are costing the American taxpayer nearly $40 billion a year to house. Yet annual FBI reports indicate that crime in this country is on the decline.

On any "average" evening, it is common to drive along one of the major US highways like the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I-40 or I-75 and see flashing red lights over every hill. There are so many police I suspect they are stopping drivers on whims, sometimes making up reasons, to make drug searches, check for alcoholism, and keep personal records to justify their jobs.

The situation is getting so bad that most drivers instantly expect to be stopped and issued a summons to appear in court for something, God only knows what, the moment a police car appears in their rear view mirror.

Because they are such a nuisance in our daily lives, we have created cultural myths about how to protect ourselves from police harassment while we are traveling. One of the reasons white cars got so popular is that the story was circulating that police don't stop them as often. Flashy red cars and bright yellow sports vehicles are among the most frequently stopped. Also older people driving stripped-down, tan, green or pale blue four-door sedans are less frequently stopped than younger drivers in vans, four-wheel-drive trucks and sporty vehicles covered with chrome.

The time of day that we travel also makes a difference.

About two years ago I was stopped by a city police officer while driving through a well-known speed trap in Payson, Arizona. I had my wife and son with me. We had been visiting our daughter, who was attending school in Phoenix, and we left quite late that night for a four-hour trip back to Show Low, where we lived. It was about 2 a.m. and there wasn't a car on the road. Nevertheless, because I knew the reputation of the police in Payson, I was checking my speed. I made sure I was driving within the limit. In spite of my precautions, a police car began following me. And sure enough, the officer turned on those flashing red, white and blue lights, flipped on those alternating flashing headlights that confuse the mind, turned on his intensive white spot lights that leave you totally blinded, and stopped me.

If you haven't been stopped by the police while driving at night, let me say that it is a frightening experience. The glaring lights that silhouette armed uniformed officers dressed in black and leather when they appear at your window, is carefully designed to make even the most daring soul turn into a submissive mouse.

The officer said he saw my car "weave a little" and suspected that I had been drinking. He found me quite sober. Yet he held me there for some time, obviously using his radio to check my driver's license number and auto registration plate number. I am sure he was hoping that I might be a fugitive who failed to pay a traffic ticket somewhere and that a judge had written a bench warrant for my arrest. Or, better yet, that the car might be stolen. Or that I was carrying improper plates. I live a relatively clean life and he could not find anything out of order. My only crime was that I dared to drive through Payson at two o'clock in the morning. He ended up writing me a speeding ticket. It said I was driving ten miles over the limit. What does one do about something like that? It was the middle of the night and the municipal judge wouldn't be in his office for hours. If I argued with the officer he probably would have arrested me for resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, or even assaulting a police officer. He had the badge. He had the gun. He owned that stretch of the road. We lived about two long hours of mountain driving away. If I chose to plead innocent and return for a trial, it would have cost me a day of work and lost pay, just to try to beat a $100 speeding ticket. Then it would have been my word against that of the police officer. I was sure the dice would have been loaded in that game. I paid the fine and wrote it off as a bad experience after having encountered a crooked cop.

There was a time, early in my career as a newspaper reporter, when I had nothing but respect for the police. I worked in Michigan, where the Michigan State Police were among the finest, best trained, and brightest officers in the nation. I had many friends not only in the State Police, but among the deputies for the many different Sheriff's Departments and City Police departments whom I worked with over the years.

The police didn't seem to start "going bad" until recently, after the federal government began pumping millions of dollars into local coffers to beef up the nation's police protection and wage the country's fake "war on drugs." Now the police departments all seem to be mixed with thugs and bullies who enjoy using the authority of their badges and guns to make life miserable for the common folk. I don't want to think that all police are bad. I think we just have a few rotten apples who are giving all police departments a black eye.

It does appear, however, that the old police motto: To serve and protect, has been forgotten. Police now exist as enforcers of law.

I think it may be a good thing that local governments are forced to start lying off excess police officers. The ones left on staff might just be busy enough and smart enough to remember why they chose their profession.
(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.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority subway platform, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Little Brothers Are Watching
The Example of Massachusetts
By Nancy Murray and Kade Crockford

Early in the morning on March 13, 2008, Australian-born Peter Watchorn, one of the world's foremost harpsichordists, was standing on a subway platform in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a professional cellist from Australia who had his instrument with him. They were on their way to Logan International Airport to catch a plane.

After going a few stops, all the trains in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway system were brought to a halt while theirs was searched with sniffer dogs. They thought they still could make their plane when their train started up again and they made it to the connecting bus. But before they reached their terminal, they were hauled off the bus and subjected to an abusive search - by no fewer than eight officers - during which the cello, valued at $250,000, was nearly tipped out of the case.

After they were interrogated for 30 more minutes, one state trooper told them they had been overheard at the Cambridge station, "having conversations we were not supposed to be having." They missed their plane and never got any kind of apology from the police. The incident left Watchorn wondering whether he had done the right thing becoming an American citizen.

On the basis of an anonymous tip - possibly a hoax, or maybe just an overreaction from a well-intentioned "if you see something, say something" citizen spy - the MBTA police decided that these travelers posed a "credible threat." The MBTA had been preparing for years to disrupt such threats by creating a robust intelligence unit that partners with the fusion center, the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), numerous other state and federal agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Metropolitical Transportation Authority (MTA) Interagency Counterterrorism Task Force in New York City. By 2005, the unit was maintaining 14 stand-alone databases to track all suspicious activity and crime, information which was forwarded directly to the JTTF. It had a weekly bulletin, "Reporting on Terrorism-Related Activity," that was disseminated across the nation, and it was working with Raytheon and Draper Labs to develop special software to track people, since the facial recognition software available at that time was not effective in the subways.

The MBTA had also introduced a "Security Inspection Program" to search passengers on a random basis at the time of the 2004 Democratic National Convention and made it permanent in October 2006. Even as the subway infrastructure deteriorated and the MBTA ran out of funds to pay injury and damage claims, groups of four or five transit officers were paid to "deter terrorists" by inspecting the bags of randomly selected passengers at various stations on a rotating basis - activity that security expert Bruce Schneier calls "security theater." The MBTA also announced the deployment of "behavior recognition teams" with the authority to stop anyone anywhere for unspecified reasons.

The airport to which the musicians were heading piloted such teams shortly after two of the planes involved in the 9/11 attacks took off from its runways. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged the precursor of the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques program (SPOT) when the head of its national Campaign against Racial Profiling – a tall African-American man with a beard - was spotted behaving "suspiciously" by talking on a pay phone after deboarding an airplane. A jury agreed that he had been wrongly detained.

Evidence that "behavioral profiling" is just another term for racial profiling did not prevent SPOT from being rolled out at other airports, at a cost of some $400 million. In a 2010 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) claimed the program had no scientific validity and caught no terrorists, despite the fact that some 16 individuals alleged to be involved in terrorist plots (including the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad) moved through airports deploying SPOT on at least 23 occasions.

Nevertheless, an additional $1 billion was designated for the next version of SPOT, which was unveiled at Logan beginning in August 2011. It involves the Israeli-style screening of passengers who are asked questions to see if they seem unduly nervous or display evidence of Orwell's "facecrime." The $14 billion spent by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on airport security has been handed over to dozens of contractors, with little attention paid to what actually works, and even less to notions of privacy and the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches - especially in the case of "backscatter" whole-body screening, which is bringing a hefty commission to the company headed by former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Michael Chertoff.

What are the chances that Watchorn and his fellow musician now have a permanent record of being regarded as "credible threats"? Given what the ACLU of Massachusetts has been able to discover through its multiple public records requests, it seems quite likely. For Massachusetts, which has received at least $170 million from the DHS for surveillance-related programs, has been at the forefront of efforts to build the new, data-hungry intelligence apparatus, thanks to the efforts of its governor from 2003 to 2007, Mitt Romney.

As lead governor on homeland security issues at the National Governors Association and a member of the DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council, Romney was ardent about enlisting the public "to be on the lookout for information which may be useful" and expanding government surveillance: "Are we wiretapping, are we following what's going on, are we seeing who's coming in, who's coming out, are we eavesdropping, carrying out surveillance on those individuals that are coming from places that have sponsored domestic terror?"

So, it is not surprising that Massachusetts had two of the earliest fusion centers in the country. The Commonwealth Fusion Center (CFC) was established under the supervision of the state police in 2004 without any public notice or legislative process. The Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) was set up the following year, also under cover of official silence.

The CFC, which soon moved from a terrorism focus to an "all hazards, all threats, all crimes" mission, is staffed by members of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Massachusetts National Guard, the US Army Civil Support Team, the DEA, the Department of Correction, the DHS Office of Intelligence Analysis, the Geographic Information Systems Department and at least one private corporation, CSX Railroad. In addition, local police officers with security clearance work at the CFC.

Under the CFC standard operating procedures, police officers attached to the CFC behave more like FBI agents than local cops. They are permitted to conduct "preliminary inquiries," during which "all lawful investigative techniques may be used" (including the use of undercover operatives or informants) without reasonable suspicion that a target is involved in criminal activity. If they go undercover "to attend meetings that are open to the public for purpose of observing and documenting events," they are not required to identify themselves or leave the gathering if it is requested that police officers make themselves known, and they don't have to leave the room if legal advice is being given.

The CFC shares data with local police departments, with state police in other states, with various state agencies and through the national Information Sharing Environment (ISE) with federal and state agencies around the country. Its personnel have been granted clearance by the DHS and the FBI to access classified information.

BRIC is under the supervision of the Boston police and staffed by the MBTA transit police, employees from various local police departments, the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office and various business interests. A pioneer of Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR), the Boston Police Department, through BRIC, shares information with the CFC and the FBI, and has entered into information-sharing agreements with agencies as far away as Orange County, California via COPLINK, police information-sharing software designed to "generate leads" and "perform crime analysis."

Massachusetts has developed other databases to aid information-sharing. Among them is "MassGangs," which collects a vast range of personal and associational information on anyone and everyone who could be a member of a "gang" - defined as an "association or group of two [emphasis added] or more persons, whether formal or informal, whose members or associates engage, either individually or collectively, in criminal activity." There is also SWISS (the Statewide Information Sharing System), which enables multiple agencies to contribute police reports in real time to a state repository and then access and search reports remotely through a computer. The database creates a permanent record not only of arrests, but of all incidents based on "calls to service" - from fighting neighbors to a barking dog - as well as information about each time a police officer stops someone on the street and makes a search.

As the CFC and BRIC steadily expand the number of public and private sources from which they collect information and the mountain of data grows ever larger, accessing agencies have less knowledge about the kind and quality of information that they retrieve. The CFC disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy of the data it collects and shares. Its privacy policy does more to shield its operations from public scrutiny than it does to protect individual privacy, and it creates no enforceable rights. Without any independent oversight mechanism or public reporting, Massachusetts' fusion centers have been left to police themselves, even though they have every incentive - as well as the stated intention - to sidestep laws they find inconvenient.

The public is not just being left in the dark about the operation of fusion centers. It has little solid information about the network of DHS-funded surveillance cameras that has been installed in cities and towns of the Greater Boston Urban Area Security Initiative. These powerful cameras have the capacity to pan, tilt, and zoom, rotate 360 degrees in a fraction of a second, and "see" for a mile. They could eventually be fitted with facial recognition software, eye scans, radio frequency identification tags, and other forms of software, and connected to large law enforcement databases - if they are not already.

Like other states and cities, Massachusetts and Boston law enforcement officials have received federal funding for a broad range of other surveillance-related technologies. Some, at first glance, may seem like sensible policing tools. For instance, automatic license plate readers - provided to state and local police through a federal Department of Transportation grant - can help police spot stolen cars and parking violators.

But they also capture digital images of thousands of license plates per minute and store this information in databases, along with travel information indicating the time and place a particular vehicle was "pinged." In Massachusetts, this information is required to be submitted to the state's criminal justice information services database, which can be freely accessed by other states' and federal law enforcement. Absent a formal policy on data retention and sharing - which the state does not have - the personal travel information of millions of Massachusetts residents can be shared with agencies throughout the nation.

Massachusetts police may soon have an even more powerful tool at their disposal - if they do not already. Imagine a database containing billions of data entries on millions of people, including (but not limited to) their bank and telephone records, email correspondence, biometric data like face and iris scans, web habits and travel patterns. Imagine this information being packaged "to produce meaningful intelligence reports" and made accessible via a web browser from a handheld mobile or police cruiser laptop.

In 2003, the Massachusetts State Police put out a request for proposals to create just such an "Information Management System" (IMS). In May 2005, they awarded a $2.2 million contract to Raytheon to build, install, troubleshoot and maintain the IMS. Welcome to policing in the age of total information awareness.
© 2011 Nancy Murray is director of education at ACLU Massachusetts. Kade Crockford is the ACLU Massachusetts privacy rights coordinator.

Obama's Economic Policies
One Betrayal Too Many
By Robert Scheer

It's getting too late to give President Barack Obama a pass on the economy. Sure, he inherited an enormous mess from George W., who whistled "Dixie" while the banking system imploded. But it's time for Democrats to admit that their guy bears considerable responsibility for not turning things around.

He blindly followed President Bush's would-be remedy of throwing money at the banks and getting nothing in return for beleaguered homeowners. Sadly, Obama has proved to be nothing more than a Bill Clinton clone triangulating with the Wall Street lobbyists at the expense of ordinary folks.

That fatal arc of betrayal was captured by a headline in Tuesday's New York Times: "Soaring Poverty Casts Spotlight on 'Lost Decade.'" The Census Bureau reported that there are now 46.2 million Americans living below the official poverty line-the highest number in the 52 years since that statistic was first measured-and median household income has fallen back to the 1996 level. As Harvard economist Lawrence Katz summarized this dreary news: "This is truly a lost decade. We think of America as a place where every generation is doing better, but we're looking at a period when the median family is in worse shape than it was in the late 1990s." The late 1990s, it should be noted, is when President Clinton, working with Phil Gramm, the Republican head of the Senate Banking Committee, pushed through two critical pieces of legislation ending effective regulation of the banks. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act smashed the wall between high-flying Wall Street investment firms and the once staid commercial banks entrusted with the deposits and mortgages of America's innocent souls. The next year Clinton signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, banning any effective regulation of the rapidly expanded trade in the collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps that have since haunted the world's economy.

The collapse of those toxic securities led to the housing crisis and resulted in 15.1 percent of Americans now living in poverty, the same level as when Bill Clinton took office. But thanks to another one of Clinton's grand triangulation strategies, the one he called "welfare reform," the impoverished are now denied the safety net that existed before the Clinton presidency. Although 22 percent of U.S. children are now below the poverty line, the Aid to Families With Dependent Children program no longer exists.

Some of us who voted for Obama thought he was no Clinton, but he was and is, as was demonstrated in his first days in office when he appointed two key veterans of the Clinton Treasury Department, Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, to head up the Obama economic team. Geithner, as treasury secretary, is the point man for the administration's push to pass the so-called American Jobs Act, which the president hyped in his Sept. 8 speech to Congress and the nation. It was pure Clinton bull: I feel your pain while I help the superrich pick your pocket.

Space permits only one example, that of General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, whom Obama selected to head his "Jobs Council of leaders from different industries who are developing a wide range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs." Was that some cruel joke? GE under Immelt has grown and created jobs, but they are abroad rather than in our own troubled country. As a result, by the end of last year, only 134,000 of GE's workforce of 304,000 were based in the United States; the remainder-and 82 percent of the company's profit-were sheltered abroad.

Ironically, GE's ability to avoid taxes was restricted by President Ronald Reagan, who had once been a spokesman for GE but was outraged by the company's use of tax loopholes. It remained for President Clinton to offer GE some new tax breaks. As a result of being able to shelter profit abroad last year, GE had profits of $14.2 billion but claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. Immelt was the elephant in the room when Obama said in his speech last week: "Our tax code should not give an advantage to companies that can afford the best-connected lobbyists. It should give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs right here in the United States of America."

It has been a long time since GE was creating jobs here during its "better light bulb" days, and the last spurt of GE participation in the U.S. economy came through its unit GE Capital, which specialized in toxic mortgage lending that once produced more than half of the company's profits but ultimately led to a taxpayer bailout.

Someone who knows a great deal about that sort of scam is Elizabeth Warren, the consumer advocate and Harvard law professor pushed out of Obama's inner circle. In launching her campaign for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts this week, Warren posted a video that clearly defined the enemy:

"Washington is rigged for big corporations. A big company, like GE, pays nothing in taxes, and we're asking college students to take on even more debt to get an education?"

Obama in appointing Immelt last January praised him as a business leader who "understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy." Apparently, what Immelt understands is that what it takes to satisfy corporate interests instead of national needs is conning a president into looking the other way while you send jobs abroad.
(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.

Two Paths To Reform
Violence or Convention
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

By every one of countless measures the US is in a death spiral. Its political system, government and economy are hopelessly broken. No wonder that the vast majority of Americans express severe dissatisfaction with Congress, both major parties, and increasingly with President Obama. And only the wealthy elites have any reason to be positive about corporate powers, Wall Street and the whole banking and finance sector. They not only own the nation, they run it.

Only the truly delusional still speak about the US being the leading and best nation. About a third of the population is suffering from one or more of these epidemics: unemployment, underemployment, hunger, homelessness, home foreclosure, no useful health insurance, income so stagnated that keeping up with rising living costs is next to impossible, and slippage from the middle class into the working poor class. What is to save the nation?

Once you acknowledge the profound and insidious corruption plaguing the political system which is nothing more than a dysfunctional two-party plutocracy or oligarchy serving the rich and corporate interests, then you must also see that elections will not deliver salvation. Nor can you depend on the media to rise above corporate ownership to help fix the nation.

It matters little whether you vote for and support Republicans or Democrats. All those politicians are corrupt and unable to exercise bold, creative solutions for the good of the nation, not those special interests that get them elected, on the left and right.

Once mighty nations and superpowers have fallen before. History speaks truth, unlike just about everything spoken by today’s politicians.

There are two paths that have the power to bring about the major, radical reforms needed. Everything else you hear is pure garbage designed to maintain the status quo.

First, there is what brought about the birth of the US and so many other democracies: violent revolution. Not rebellion against some foreign power, but rather against domestic tyrannical forces. There is a limit to what many millions of Americans will endure, especially as they see the rich Upper Class enjoy every conceivable type of luxury. True, it is hard to understand how even now we have not seen millions of angry, suffering Americans protesting violently in the streets of all major cities, as we see happen in so many European countries. Americans seem to have been drugged into a distracted, delusional state of mind, still buying the scam that they can depend on elections. Eventually, however, as government is financially unable to provide various kinds of assistance because of the broken economy, those most struggling to survive will inevitably resort to violence. History speaks truth.

Second, is the peaceful route to dramatic, necessary reforms that the Founders had the wisdom to put into the US Constitution: an Article V convention of state delegates with the constitutional power to propose constitutional amendments. At this time there are more diverse groups seriously examining and, increasingly, demanding the first Article V convention. Why? Because it has become crystal clear to more and more people that only through constitutional amendments that Congress will never propose is it possible to rid the political system of the corruption and dysfunction permeating it. Get private money out of politics. Remove the fiction of corporate personhood. Compel Congress to balance the budget. Worthy ideas are everywhere.

At other times attempts to get the first Article V convention met stiff opposition from the right and left. But times have changed. It is clearer than ever that the political and government system is so broken and corrupt that the basic rules must be amended, just as the Founders believed would become necessary.

A major upcoming conference at Harvard, using the tag line "Democracy in America is Stalled," will surely help focus both support and opposition to using the convention route.

There are now many websites providing solid information and analysis about the convention option, particularly one by the national, nonpartisan Friends of the Article V convention that does not advocate for specific amendments.

Every time you hear some argument against using the convention option ask yourself whether the risk of sticking with the current system outweighs any conceivable risk of a convention that can only propose amendments, which still must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. If you are not in the top levels of the economy, but rather are in the majority suffering and losing ground, then the answer rings as clear as the liberty bell.
(c) 2011 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

An Impeccable Disaster
By Paul Krugman

On Thursday Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank or E.C.B. - Europe's equivalent to Ben Bernanke - lost his sang-froid. In response to a question about whether the E.C.B. is becoming a "bad bank" thanks to its purchases of troubled nations' debt, Mr. Trichet, his voice rising, insisted that his institution has performed "impeccably, impeccably!" as a guardian of price stability.

Indeed it has. And that's why the euro is now at risk of collapse.

Financial turmoil in Europe is no longer a problem of small, peripheral economies like Greece. What's under way right now is a full-scale market run on the much larger economies of Spain and Italy. At this point countries in crisis account for about a third of the euro area's G.D.P., so the common European currency itself is under existential threat.

And all indications are that European leaders are unwilling even to acknowledge the nature of that threat, let alone deal with it effectively.

I've complained a lot about the "fiscalization" of economic discourse here in America, the way in which a premature focus on budget deficits turned Washington's attention away from the ongoing jobs disaster. But we're not unique in that respect, and in fact the Europeans have been much, much worse.

Listen to many European leaders - especially, but by no means only, the Germans - and you'd think that their continent's troubles are a simple morality tale of debt and punishment: Governments borrowed too much, now they're paying the price, and fiscal austerity is the only answer.

Yet this story applies, if at all, to Greece and nobody else. Spain in particular had a budget surplus and low debt before the 2008 financial crisis; its fiscal record, one might say, was impeccable. And while it was hit hard by the collapse of its housing boom, it's still a relatively low-debt country, and it's hard to make the case that the underlying fiscal condition of Spain's government is worse than that of, say, Britain's government.

So why is Spain - along with Italy, which has higher debt but smaller deficits - in so much trouble? The answer is that these countries are facing something very much like a bank run, except that the run is on their governments rather than, or more accurately as well as, their financial institutions.

Here's how such a run works: Investors, for whatever reason, fear that a country will default on its debt. This makes them unwilling to buy the country's bonds, or at least not unless offered a very high interest rate. And the fact that the country must roll its debt over at high interest rates worsens its fiscal prospects, making default more likely, so that the crisis of confidence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And as it does, it becomes a banking crisis as well, since a country's banks are normally heavily invested in government debt.

Now, a country with its own currency, like Britain, can short-circuit this process: if necessary, the Bank of England can step in to buy government debt with newly created money. This might lead to inflation (although even that is doubtful when the economy is depressed), but inflation poses a much smaller threat to investors than outright default. Spain and Italy, however, have adopted the euro and no longer have their own currencies. As a result, the threat of a self-fulfilling crisis is very real - and interest rates on Spanish and Italian debt are more than twice the rate on British debt.

Which brings us back to the impeccable E.C.B.

What Mr. Trichet and his colleagues should be doing right now is buying up Spanish and Italian debt - that is, doing what these countries would be doing for themselves if they still had their own currencies. In fact, the E.C.B. started doing just that a few weeks ago, and produced a temporary respite for those nations. But the E.C.B. immediately found itself under severe pressure from the moralizers, who hate the idea of letting countries off the hook for their alleged fiscal sins. And the perception that the moralizers will block any further rescue actions has set off a renewed market panic.

Adding to the problem is the E.C.B.'s obsession with maintaining its "impeccable" record on price stability: at a time when Europe desperately needs a strong recovery, and modest inflation would actually be helpful, the bank has instead been tightening money, trying to head off inflation risks that exist only in its imagination.

And now it's all coming to a head. We're not talking about a crisis that will unfold over a year or two; this thing could come apart in a matter of days. And if it does, the whole world will suffer.

So will the E.C.B. do what needs to be done - lend freely and cut rates? Or will European leaders remain too focused on punishing debtors to save themselves? The whole world is watching.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"A great many people think they are thinking
when they are just rearranging their prejudices."
~~~ William James ~~~

Some Liberals On To Obama's Betrayal Of Liberalism
By John R. MacArthur

As a self-proclaimed independent journalist normally content to attack politicians from outside the establishment, I've found it very lonely criticizing Barack Obama these past three years. Before then it was easy to be at odds with power, since the Bush nightmare rallied all sorts of disparate foes of the administration.

But with Obama's arrival in the White House, ordinarily skeptical liberals thought they had found their redeemer, a genuine reformer with leftist instincts who, even better, was the son of a black African father and a liberal white mother. It didn't matter what Obama's actual record was - how (or if) he voted in the Illinois Senate and U.S. Senate, who his political sponsors or donors were, or what sort of people he expressed admiration for in "The Audacity of Hope." Because he said he opposed the invasion of Iraq, wanted to reduce corruption in Washington, would close Guantanamo, would rein in Wall Street's recklessness and would "renegotiate" the North American Free Trade Agreement, Obama was a dream come true.

So when I began challenging the assumptions about Obama's progressive potential, months before the 2008 election, people who had once joined me in raucous denunciations of Bush started looking at me funny, their voices turning testy, their faces tense. I recall a prominent academic I know recoiling from me and placing a protective hand on his wife when I contradicted his excited chatter about an Obama presidency. Another time a prominent left-wing editor went so far as to defend Obama's sponsor, the thuggish and reactionary former mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, by lamely insisting, "He's better than his father."

Now, as the "first black president" almost daily moves further to the right, I'm still usually alone, but I am beginning to feel a tiny pulse on the liberal end of the spectrum. It began in June with Obama's fake withdrawal from Afghanistan and from an unlikely source. If Obama worship was once epidemic in the U.S., it was virulent in Britain and France. But here was an Englishwoman, Jemima Khan, better known for her glamorous looks and ex-husband than her political writing, finally calling out Obama on his outrageous doubletalk.

"Alhamdullilah!" (Arabic for "Praise to God"), she wrote in Britain's Independent newspaper. "President Obama is finally withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Except he's not - only those he deployed in the 'surge' of 2009; 68,000 will remain, double the number sent by his predecessor, George Bush." Khan knows something about Middle Eastern and Islamic politics, having lived for years in Pakistan with Imran Kahn, an opposition politician and former cricket star. And she got to the heart of matter about America's mad, counterproductive occupation of Afghanistan. Noting that U.S. drone bombs had killed roughly one al-Qaida leader for every 10 Pakistani civilians, she wrote, "There comes a point when you have to ask: What is more dangerous, terrorism or counter-terrorism? The irony of the 'war on terror' is that the U.S. can win it only when it stops fighting it."

Now, she lamented, many Pakistanis hate America at the same time that the war's supposed objective - says Obama, "to defeat al-Qaida" - has been shredded. As the astute Khan pointed out, "more safe havens exist and terrorists operate now outside of Afghanistan, from Peshawar to Sanaa."

Granted this was only one column in one Western paper. But Obama soon angered a broader audience. His concessions to the Tea Party during the debt-ceiling fight at last roused economist and columnist Paul Krugman to near-fury in The New York Times. Calling the deal "a disaster" for the economy, he slammed Obama for "folding" in the face of "blackmail." Krugman said: "He surrendered last December, extending the Bush tax cuts; he surrendered in the spring when they threatened to shut down the government; and he has now surrendered on a grand scale to raw extortion over the debt ceiling. Maybe it's just me, but I see a pattern here."

Even the deeply conflicted Nation magazine began to remark on Obama's increasingly spurious liberal credentials, though not quite with its full-throated institutional voice. In a signed "comment," the estimable William Greider argued that "people who adhere to the core Democratic values Obama has abandoned need a strategy for stronger resistance," which "would not mean running away from Obama but running at him - challenging his leadership of the party, mobilizing dissident voices and voters, pushing congressional Democrats to embrace a progressive agenda in competition with Obama's."

Perhaps Greider had heard the apparently impromptu statement of Rep. John Conyers (D.-Mich.) at a press conference on July 27 during the debt-ceiling battle: "I say we have to educate the American people at the same time as we educate the president of the United States. Because the Republicans, Speaker [John] Boehner [and] Majority Leader [Eric] Cantor, did not call for Social Security cuts in the budget deal. The president of the United States called for that. And my response to him is to mass thousands of people in front of the White House to protest this." And Conyers hadn't yet heard the president's Sept. 8 "jobs" speech in which he called for "modest adjustments to health-care programs like Medicare and Medicaid." We can just imagine how modest.

Things died down a little in August after the "compromise" to lift the debt ceiling. But Obama just won't stop insulting liberals; indeed, there doesn't seem to be any concession to the right that his chief of staff, Chicago's first brother William Daley, can't persuade him to make. On Sept. 2, Obama stuck it to the liberals once again when he said he was backing off from a stricter air-pollution standard, supposedly to save jobs. Environmentalists were predictably upset and expressed their feelings of betrayal. The journalist and activist Bill McKibben called the decision "flabbergasting," adding, "somehow we need to get back the president we thought we elected in 2008."

Maybe it's just me, but I see a pattern here.
(c) 2011 John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine. Among other books, he is the author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War.

The Cult Of Death
By William Rivers Pitt

Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. ~~~ Matthew 25:40 (King James)

Trying to figure out what this whole "Tea Party" phenomenon is all about is a lot like trying to peer into the bottom of a muddy pool. The "mainstream" news media has accepted them as a legitimate, powerful force in American politics, as evidenced by CNN's so-called "Tea Party Debate" for the Republican presidential candidates on Monday night. A group that did not exist three years ago suddenly has enough clout to rate a television banner and a chunk of prime-time coverage.

But who are these people, really?

Clearly, they are made up of what used to be quaintly called the "GOP base." In large part, they are the people who voted for George W. Bush twice, and would have happily pulled the lever for him a third time had he been on the ballot in 2008. They struggled mightily with John McCain's nomination in 2008, thanks to McCain's occasional political heresies against Mr. Bush, and their reticence to get behind McCain is a sizeable part of the explanation for why his campaign chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. No matter how galactically absurd the decision to tap Palin turned out to be, it was a calculated gamble because GOP base voters - now reborn as "Tea Party" voters - absolutely adore her. McCain needed those votes, and chose to roll the dice.

Ergo, these people have real muscle, at least within the party. Few voting blocs are as reliable as the GOP base, and they always turn out en masse for presidential primaries and caucuses. Thus, they are coddled and catered to, even by candidates who don't necessarily share their orthodoxy on far-right conservative issues.

After the 2008 election, that GOP base was transmogrified into the "Tea Party," thanks in large part to massive financial assistance from people like the Koch brothers, who have been using their vast financial resources to undercut the Obama administration and congressional Democrats at every opportunity. Their money helped to organize "Tea Party" rallies, as well as the much-documented bedlam that broke loose at a variety of health care town halls around the country. The "mainstream" news media fell in love with the spectacle, and all of a sudden, this new thing became all the rage (pardon the pun) on the nightly broadcasts.

There's more than a bit of sad irony in this. "Tea Party" people like to think of themselves as a grassroots "movement" born of, so they believe, a national sense of horror at the fact that Barack Obama is president. They peddled the farcical idea that Mr. Obama's birth certificate didn't exist, that he is a secret socialist fascist communist Muslim Islamist terrorist mole...but in the main, they are nothing more than useful idiots following the beat of drummers who couldn't care less about them at the end of the day.

And yes, "idiots" is the proper word. We've seen it often enough by now: the astonishingly poor spelling on protest signs carried by pear-shaped blivets wearing ill-fitting camouflage gear while packing rifles and pistols to public rallies, best personified by the brain donor who proudly held up a placard reading, "Keep Your Damned Government Hands Off My Medicare." It's like a zen koan. The dizzying stupidity represented therein literally stops the mind.

Whatever else these "Tea Party" people are, they are most definitely White Christians, with a strong strain of the evangelical, due in large part to the GOP-base DNA most of them share.

And that's where things get really interesting.

During the GOP debate last week, Rick Perry burnished his law-and-order credentials by bragging about the 234 executions - at least one of which took the life of an innocent man - he has presided over while governor of Texas. The GOP crowd at the debate went absolutely wild, cheering and hooting their approval of the taking of so much life.

On Monday night, candidate Ron Paul was given a hypothetical about providing health care to a dying man who lacked health insurance. Wolf Blitzer, who moderated the debate, asked Paul, "Are you saying society should just let him die?" Before Paul could cobble together an answer, the "Tea Party" audience again erupted, this time yelling "Yes!" in answer to Blitzer's question.


These "Tea Party" people profess to be representatives of average Americans, despite being a complete creation of the 0.1% wealthy elite. They claim government is too big, even as many of them hail from states (think Texas) that would utterly collapse without federal funding. They bring guns to public rallies. They like Medicare, until they are reminded that Medicare is a government program.

And they are Christians, members of the faithful, who enjoy executions and who think uninsured people should be left to die.

Correction: they are "Christians," because it is impossible to build any kind of bridge between the teachings of Jesus and the beliefs these people espouse at the top of their lungs.

They are not Christians, but are in fact a death-worshipping cult. The best response to the vile display broadcast by CNN on Monday night was provided by former Florida Rep. Alan Grayson, who has had more than a few go-rounds with this particular breed of cat. "What you saw tonight," said Grayson, "is something much more sinister than not having a healthcare plan. It's sadism, pure and simple. It's the same impulse that led people in the Coliseum to cheer when the lions ate the Christians. And that seems to be where we are heading - bread and circuses, without the bread. The world that Hobbes wrote about - 'the war of all against all.'"

Thanks to the "mainstream" news media, to ardent yet covert supporters like the Koch brothers, and to the sweaty intensity of their own deranged ideals, these "Tea Party" people have emerged as a true force in American politics. What we saw last week, and on Monday night, is a glimpse of what the world would be like if these people achieve the supremacy they seek.

Jesus wept.
(c) 2011 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is available from PoliPointPress.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Pompeo,

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 many attempts to totally destroy the Environmental Protection Agency, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 10-31-2011. We salute you Herr Pompeo, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Congress Should Mark Anniversary of the 'War On Terror' by Deauthorizing It
By John Nichols

Brussels-Anniversaries offer an opportunity to assess, with the perspective afforded by the passage of time, who got things right and who did not.

Unfortunately, in an age when so much of our media bows more to power than accuracy, that does not mean that those who got things right will be turned to for advice and counsel.

In fact, quite the opposite.

So it is that, as the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon approached, the most prominently featured 9/11 figure was former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The term employed most frequently by commentators-aside from "Darth Vader"-to describe Cheney's recollections of 9/11 and its aftermath has been "no apologies." That is because Cheney has so very much to apologize for.

But not everyone got 9/11 wrong.

On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the attacks, I joined Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in keynoting the "Journalism in the Shadow of Terror Laws" conference at the Centre de Presse International in Brussels.

Robinson said many striking things in her remarks to the session we addressed, but what stuck with me was an off-hand reflection. "I remember," she said, "the loneliness of speaking out against the declaration of a 'war on terrorism.' "

The language we use to characterize events defines our response to them and when crimes against humanity were defined as acts of war, explained Robinson, then an appropriate demand that those responsible for horrific violence be brought to justice was replaced with the overwrought and overarching demands of "a perpetual war of terror."

This is a vital reference point for what is actually a week of anniversaries.

September 11 marks a vital anniversary, but so, too, does September 14, the day that the Congress of the United States authorized a "war on terror." The human toll of that war has been immense, as has the political toll for a United States that has lost both good will and authority over the past decade. And the financial cost, according to new accounting by the National Priorities Project, is staggering: more than $7.6 trillion in defense and homeland security spending.

It is not realistic to suggest that, had there been no attacks on September 11, 2001, all or even most of that $7.6 trillion would have been spent on more necessary and fruitful projects. America had a military-industrial complex before 9/11 and it would have one even if terrorists had not attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But the seemingly permanent "war on terror"-which has redefined America is precisely the way that James Madison worried it would when the father of the Constitution wrote in 1795:

Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes and the opportunities of fraud growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Just as the voice of Mary Robinson-then serving in her UN High Commissioner role-was a lonely one in opposition to declaring a "war on terror" that would define a decade for the world, so Congresswoman Barbara Lee was the lonely voice in the US Congress.

Lee cast the sole vote against Public Law 107-40, the Authorization of the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which effectively launched what is now know as the "war on terror."<> "September 11 changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us," Congresswoman Lee said on September 14. "Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States."

"[We] must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target," Lee concluded. "We cannot repeat past mistakes."

That wise counsel was not heeded. Cheney's "war on terror" language carried not just the day but the decade.

But, now that the decade is done, Lee is back with a proposal to draw down the "war on terror."

"In reflecting on the rush-to-war in Afghanistan and President Bush's misguided war-of-choice in Iraq, my worst fears have unfortunately been realized," Lee said when she introduced legislation to sunset and repeal over a six-month period the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists.

"Over the past [decade], this broad authorization of force has had far-reaching implications which shake the very foundations of our great nation and democracy. It has been used to justify warrantless surveillance and wiretapping activities, indefinite detention practices that fly in the face of our constitutional values, extrajudicial targeted-killing operations, and a policy of borderless and open-ended war that threatens to indefinitely extend U.S. military engagement around the world. It is time for Congress to reexamine, and ultimately repeal this flawed authorization. The alternative, to concede Congress's constitutional responsibilities and blindly accept the persistence of war without end, is unacceptable."

Lee is right.

Her proposal has for the most part been neglected by the same media that have celebrated Cheney in recent weeks.

But Lee has a few more allies as we approach September 14, 2011, than she did on September 11, 2001.

Her proposal has been cosponsored by Democratic Representatives John Conyers Jr. (Michigan), Donna Edwards (Maryland), Keith Ellison (Minnesota), Bob Filner (California), Raul Grijalva (Arizona), Mike Honda (California), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Jesse Jackson Jr. (Illinois), John Lewis (Georgia), Jim McDermott (Washington), Pete Stark (California), Maxine Waters (California) and Lynn Woolsey (California). One Republican, North Carolina's Walter Jones Jr., has joined them.

It is still lonely to speak out against the declaration of a "war on terrorism." But it is a little less lonely today than it was a decade ago. And our media could-and should-make it less lonely by highlighting the current legislative initiative of the woman who got it right on September 14, 2001.
(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.

September 11, 2011
By Sam Harris

Yesterday my daughter asked, "Where does gravity come from?" She is two and a half years old. I could say many things on this subject-most of which she could not possibly understand-but the deep and honest answer is "I don't know."

What if I had said, "Gravity comes from God"? That would be merely to stifle her intelligence-and to teach her to stifle it. What if I told her, "Gravity is God's way of dragging people to hell, where they burn in fire. And you will burn there forever if you doubt that God exists?" No Christian or Muslim can offer a compelling reason why I shouldn't say such a thing-or something morally equivalent-and yet this would be nothing less than the emotional and intellectual abuse of a child. In fact, I have heard from thousands of people who were oppressed this way, from the moment they could speak, by the terrifying ignorance and fanaticism of their parents.

Ten years have now passed since many of us first felt the jolt of history-when the second plane crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. We knew from that moment that things can go terribly wrong in our world-not because life is unfair, or moral progress impossible, but because we have failed, generation after generation, to abolish the delusions of our ignorant ancestors. The worst of these ideas continue to thrive-and are still imparted, in their purest form, to children.

What is the meaning of life? What is our purpose on earth? These are some of the great, false questions of religion. We need not answer them-for they are badly posed-but we can live our answers all the same. At a minimum, we must create the conditions for human flourishing in this life-the only life of which we can be certain. That means we should not terrify our children with thoughts of hell, or poison them with hatred for infidels. We should not teach our sons to consider women their future property, or convince our daughters that they are property even now. And we must decline to tell our children that human history began with magic and will end with bloody magic-perhaps soon, in a glorious war between the righteous and the rest. One must be religious to fail the young so abysmally-to derange them with fear, bigotry, and superstition even as their minds are forming-and one cannot be a serious Christian, Muslim, or Jew without doing so in some measure.

Such sins against reason and compassion do not represent the totality of religion, of course-but they lie at its core. As for the rest-charity, community, ritual, and the contemplative life-we need not take anything on faith to embrace these goods. And it is one of the most damaging canards of religion to insist that we must.

People of faith recoil from observations like these. They reflexively point to all the good that has been done in the name of God and to the millions of devout men and women, even within conservative Muslim societies, who do no harm to anyone. And they insist that people at every point on the spectrum of belief and unbelief commit atrocities from time to time. This is all true, of course, and truly irrelevant. The groves of faith are now ringed by a forest of non sequiturs.

Whatever else may be wrong with our world, it remains a fact that some of the most terrifying instances of human conflict and stupidity would be unthinkable without religion. And the other ideologies that inspire people to behave like monsters-Stalinism, fascism, etc.-are dangerous precisely because they so resemble religions. Sacrifice for the Dear Leader, however secular, is an act of cultic conformity and worship. Whenever human obsession is channeled in these ways, we can see the ancient framework upon which every religion was built. In our ignorance, fear, and craving for order, we created the gods. And ignorance, fear, and craving keep them with us.

What defenders of religion cannot say is that anyone has ever gone berserk, or that a society ever failed, because people became too reasonable, intellectually honest, or unwilling to be duped by the dogmatism of their neighbors. This skeptical attitude, born of equal parts care and curiosity, is all that "atheists" recommend-and it is typical of nearly every intellectual pursuit apart from theology. Only on the subject of God can smart people still imagine that they reap the fruits of human intelligence even as they plow them under.

Ten years have passed since a group of mostly educated and middle-class men decided to obliterate themselves, along with three thousand innocents, to gain entrance to an imaginary Paradise. This problem was always deeper than the threat of terrorism-and our waging an interminable "war on terror" is no answer to it. Yes, we must destroy al Qaeda. But humanity has a larger project-to become sane. If September 11, 2001, should have taught us anything, it is that we must find honest consolation in our capacity for love, creativity, and understanding. This remains possible. It is also necessary. And the alternatives are bleak.
(c) 2011 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Rex Babin ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Red Meat Slam Dance
By Will Durst

A full complement of Republican presidential candidates gathered for the battle royalle at the Ronald Reagan Library in Seamy (Simi) Valley, California. And though he was only there in spirit, the Great Communicator could easily have supplied the power for the entire proceedings had the networks harnessed him spinning in his grave like a rotisserie chicken in the middle of a power surge.

The 8 challengers for his mantle didn't just break the Gipper's 11th Commandment, "Thou shall not speak ill of other Republicans," they stomped on it with football cleats and shoved it down a sewer grate with a broken rake handle. It was a red meat, power-tie slam dance with operatic overtones.

Anticipation ran higher than Charlie Sheen on New Year's Eve that a hockey match would break out and the blood thirsty audience was not going to be satisfied until lecterns dripped with copious spillage. Before Rick Perry could answer Brian Williams' question about the execution of 234 inmates on his watch, they erupted into applause like an emeritus alumni crowd at Assassins State University during homecoming. Creeping the moderator out more than pinworms in the bottom of his footie pajamas.

Eyes on the prize, Newt Gingrich cautioned panel mates to keep the attacks focused on Obama, while castigating the media for trapping them in this internecine warfare. The rest of the contingent affectionately dismissed his admonition the way a group of Oakland Raider tailgaters would an elderly aunt wandering into a discussion on blitz protection. Newt Gingrich- the soul of reason. Something has gone horribly awry.

We did learn that Michele Bachmann believes in $2 a gallon gasoline and "a strong bold leader who will lead," and that she spent the last three weekends going to restaurants and thinks drilling for oil in the Everglades is a good idea. So, apparently she's planning an electoral strategy that disincludes Florida's mighty 27.

Rick Perry hates cancer and called Social Security "a Ponzi scheme," not once, but three times, so Florida is obviously not on his front burner either. Arch-enemy to all things science, Perry supported his "climate change, what climate change" philosophy by comparing himself to Galileo. You can't make stuff up like this.

Ron Paul has been mauled by the TSA and is not happy about it or much of anything else. Second time through, it is virtually impossible for Willard Mitt Romney to be out-smugged by anybody, even an unctuous Texan. Hermann Cain likes Chile. The country, not the food. And the major difference between Elvis Presley and Rick Santorum's candidacy is... there is none, they're both rock salt, shaved-dust, dead.

Jon Huntsman may be running for the wrong party's nomination. Trying to steer the group from the edge of various abysses, he and Newt shared the big boy babysitter role, while Bachmann lost more momentum than a dark matter anvil hitting a freeway sound wall. Big winner... Sarah Palin. For being prescient enough to not to have made up her mind yet.

But there's plenty of time. This was just the premier stop for the traveling abattoir. There are dozens of chances for continued bloodletting until either Perry or Romney drops from the death of 1000 cuts, or they take each other out in a murder-suicide pact. While Team Obama roots for Perry from the sidelines the same way Jimmy Carter cheered on Bonzo's sidekick back in 80. Be careful what you wish for.
(c) 2011 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, "The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing."

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 36 (c) 09/16/2011

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