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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh says, "'Rome Wasn't Burned In A Day' Replacing Liberal Timidity With Leftist Passion."

Uri Avnery finds himself both, "Sad And Happy."

Medea Benjamin looks, "Through AIPAC-Colored Glasses."

Alex Pareene discovers, "The "Bloomberg View" Is That Michael Bloomberg Shouldn't Pay More Taxes."

Jim Hightower explains, "Obama's "Bold" Jobs Plan."

Helen Thomas is, "Putting America Back To Work."

James Donahue warns, "Americans Should Be Very Afraid."

Maureen Dowd studies, "Egghead And Blockheads."

David Swanson sings, "There Must Be 50 Ways To Leave The Military Industrial Complex."

Peter Finn sees, "A Future For Drones."

Paul Krugman considers, "The Bleeding Cure."

Glenn Greenwald returns with, "The Mainstreaming Of Walt And Mearsheimer."

Robert Scheer concludes, "Murder Is Good Politics, Bad Justice."

California Con-gressman Darrell Issa wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!

John Nichols reports, "Thousands Cheer Bernie Sanders' Appeal To Obama, Super Committee."

Mary Pitt asks, "How Many Poor People Do You Know?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz annoucnces, "In Rare Public Statement, God Tells Pat Robertson To Shut The Fuck Up" but first Uncle Ernie sez he's, "Living In The Land Of Merchant Princes."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Pat Bagley, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea.Com, Dees Illustration.Com, L.T. Saloon.Org, Recube Jim, J. Lavery, McFachem & Dawneway, Armchair Patriots, Charles Dharapak, Columbia Pictures, M.G.M., 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."

Living In The Land Of Merchant Princes
By Ernest Stewart

"So then," said [Ankor] Jael, "You're establishing a plutocracy.
You're making us a land of traders and merchant princes.
Then what of the future?"
Foundation ~~~ Isaac Asimov

Well, well,
Hey lawdy mama,
Can't afford no shoes
Maybe there's a bundle of rags that I could use?
Hey anybody,
Can you spare a dime?
If you're really hurtin', a nickel would be fine
Hey everybody
Nothin' we can buy
Chump Hare Rama, ain't no good to try
Can't Afford No Shoes ~~~ Frank Zappa

"The Chinese are looking for a beachhead in the United States. Idaho is ready to give them one."
~~~ Don Dietrich ~ Idaho Commerce Secretary ~~~

I'm going down
Down, down, down, down, down!
Going Dowm ~~~ Jeff Beck

I just watched our national embarrassment addressing the U.N. with some song and dance that his Israeli puppet masters gave him to read before that august body, showing once again our genocidal maniacs' "tough tittie" speech to the slaves in the Gaza ghetto and ever-shrinking West Bank. Obamahood said:

"Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians - not us - who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security; on refugees and Jerusalem."

Oh, where, oh, where, to begin? (Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.) It would have come in 1948, if we hadn't vetoed every U.N. resolution that was against the Zionazis. It seem only the full weight of the law applies to Palestine, but never, ever, to Israel. I wonder who Obamahood thinks he's jiving with that "Cosmic Debris?" (Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians - not us - who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security; on refugees and Jerusalem.) Yeah, that will work out just as it has over the last 63 years. The Jews have nukes, the Arabs have slings and bottle rockets, so it's sure to be a fair and equal negotiations. Not!

Oh, and did I mention when Netanyahu heard Barry's speech, he had an orgasm and began dancing to Hava Nagila, and telling everyone who would listen that the 30 shekels they've paid Barry was the best bribe money they've ever spent? No, I didn't think that I mentioned that!

Once again, Barry has tried to make us look like an honest broker, when nothing could be further from the truth. We are the greatest terrorist nation that the world has ever seen, followed closely by our client states of England and Israel. Compared to us, Russia and China are relatively sane nations -- but only when compared to us!

Until someone nukes Israel back to the stone age, we'll continue to have a never-ending war, which is why Israel is so important to us. Our merchant princes are making too much money in Israel, England, and America to ever let peace come to that region. All Israel knows is war, and its been in a state of war with the world since 1948; if peace would come, their economy would crash,; and most of the Jews would leave; so we can't have that. And since, America is controlled by the same merchant princes, and the Pentagooners, we are in a permanent state of war, which will only end with our destruction -- whether external or internal. One more market crash should do the trick, and Barry and his Rethuglican allies are doing everything in their power to cause our end. For the rest of the world, that end can't come soon enough!

On Friday, the Palestinians will seek membership as a State; our Nobel Peace laureate will veto it; the rest of the world will override it; the Israelis will slaughter the Palestinians; the sh*t will hit the fan; and we'll lose what little respect we had in the rest of the world.

In Other News

Have you heard the news? Obama is starting a class war? I have to laugh out loud about that on several levels. Especially loud, as it comes from Mitch, Lyndsey, Paul, and their likes. Our corpo-rat masters have been in a class war with "we the people" since before they had their little war with the British Corpo-rats during what they call their Independence War. A war, which the sheeple fought for them, just like they've done in every war since, as most all of those wars were class wars. So when I hear Bullshit like this, I just have to laugh -- to keep from crying!

Trouble is, the same sheeple that fought and died and froze to death for our floundering fathers bottom line are still lining up to die for Wall Street, and will help the Kochs fight their war against the last elements of the Middle Class. I just hope I live long enough to see the looks on the Sheeple's faces when they find out, just like the German Brown Shirts did, that they were chumps, and will be the first up against the wall when it goes down. Surprise surprise, surprise, Sergeant!

Some of the comments made by the Rethuglicans who were having a hissy fit while twisting their panties into a bunch were old Mitch (the Bitch) McConnel who said of the Buffet rule:

"If he's feeling guilty about it, I think he should send in a check, but we don't want to stagnate this economy by raising taxes."

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Rethuglican from South Carolina, dismissed "the Buffet rule" as:

"Just a political move by the president. Increasing taxes on millionaires would add a de minimis amount of money to the Treasury to pay off the debt. Tax code should be reformed for one purpose -- generate jobs. When you say we'll tax one percent of the economy, that's class warfare."

Did you by-any-chance see Lindsey when he said that? Don't you wish he'd finally come out of the closet, for god's sake? I mean, DON'T YOU?

Echoing Graham, Con-gressman Paul Ryan, a Rethuglican from Wisconsin, said:

"The administration's proposal is going in the wrong direction.

Class warfare... may make for really good politics, but it makes rotten economics. We don't need a system that seeks to divide people. We don't need a system that seeks to prey on people's fear, envy and anxiety."

Yes, you read that last sentence right, Paul seems to be saying, do correct me if I'm wrong, not to do as he has always done, i.e., using fear, envy and anxiety. You may, like moi, hate Paul Ryans guts, but you have to admit he has balls! Your tax dollars at work, America! Yes, our fascist brothers want no new tax on millionaires, but have no problem with a tax on everybody else! And we're the ones fighting class warfare. N-----, Please!

And Finally

Have you ever wondered what China was going to do with all that worthless debt they've bought from us? They wouldn't dare call it in, for then it would be totally worthless and our crashed economy would crash theirs as well. Not to mention the trillions they've made selling us cheap stuff that used to be made in this country. How about they use all those trillions to buy up chunks of America and bring in a few million Chinese. Did you think of that? Probably not, huh?

Well, that's exactly what they're going to be doing, if they're not stopped. What they have decided to do is to buy up pieces of the United States and set up "special economic zones" inside our country from which they can continue to extend their world domination. "One of these "special economic zones" would be just south of Boise, Idaho and the Idaho government is eager to give it to them. China National Machinery Industry Corporation (Sinomach for short) plans to construct a "technology zone" south of Boise Airport which would ultimately be up to 50 square miles in size. The Chinese Communist Party is the majority owner of Sinomach, so the 10,000 to 30,000 acre "self-sustaining city" that is being planned would essentially belong to the Chinese government. The planned "self-sustaining city" in Idaho would include manufacturing facilities, warehouses, retail centers, and large numbers of homes for Chinese workers. Basically, it would be a slice of communist China dropped right into the middle of the United States." Of course, they won't be hiring many Americans but using 99% Chinese.

If you think what various embassies do, i.e., bring in a dozen or so diplomatic spies is bad, wait till they bring in hundreds of thousands of spies, soliders, weapons etc. with our blessings so that a mere handful of US citizens can get a job. mostly white collar, scientific-type jobs.

Not only Idaho is being targeted for these "special economic zones," but at this time Sinomach has recently dispatched delegations to Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well. No doubt, the fascist-controlled governments in these states will sign on as quickly as they can.

Can you imagine that during the cold war we would have done the same thing for the Soviet Union, i.e., given them their own little private zones in America to set up any kind of mischief they wanted? My guess is we would have said, "Hell, no!" But that is exactly what we are doing with our current number one enemy. Where are our pinko-hating fascists, now that we need them? No doubt, in line to collect some bribe money. If China can get her foot inside the door with this obvious ploy, we will wake up some morning to discover a large standing, fully-equipped army of occupation in our midst, doing to us what we've been currently doing to the Muslims, and so many others over the years. Actually, it only seems fair, does it not? Does not what goes around, come around?

Keepin' On

As it stands at this moment, next Friday's edition may be our last as we are still $650 short of paying our bills. If that is the case, I'll keep writing my weekly rants in a blog but the magazine as you know it will be gone, and you'll be on your own. When I was a DJ, $650 was chump change, a terrible night -- today we live or die by it. C'est la guerre!

If you want us to keep fighting the good fight for you, send us cash, check or postal money order made out to me asap to this address:

Ernest Stewart
Post Office Box 1096
Taylor, Michigan 48180-1096

If by October first the money is there, we'll go on, if not we won't!


01-23-1919 ~ 09-15-2011
Thanks for the films!


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.

"Rome Wasn't Burned In A Day" Replacing Liberal Timidity With Leftist Passion
By Phil Rockstroh

Why is it that self-termed progressives are in full retreat (and have been for decades) from the witless army of angry clowns and hack illusionists of the U.S. rightwing?

One contributing factor involves the sterile cultivation of the persona of the "reasonable liberal," a type favored and rewarded by the status quo-protective power brokers of the Democratic Party and by corporate media organizations that find useful his trait of rendering himself feckless (e.g., the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) by the passion-annihilating (but self-serving) device of his preening amiability?

But in so doing, the self-gelded liberal has sacrificed libido and discarded sacred vehemence for careerist privilege. Worse, the rest of us are advised to follow suit...that, in order to gain credibility, one must slouch towards center-hugging irrelevance.

We are counseled that in order to navigate this age of corporate dominance that one's irascible apprehensions and unruly aspirations must be suppressed, for such passions are deemed too radical for mainstream sensibilities, and are therefore regarded as impractical as they are untoward by the crackpot realists of the corporate bottom line whose dictates dominate the political discourse and economic arrangements of our time.

"Prune down [a human being's] extravagance, sober him, and you undo him." ~~~ William James

Yet these self-termed "realists," by means of their ad hoc machinations and hidden-in-plain-sight schemes, are responsible for the creation, promotion and maintenance of a financial system (and its attendant economic, political and ecological consequences) that is as sound as the flight plan of Icarus.

When a nation displays this degree of a noxious mixture of mass ignorance and official mendacity, an age of peace and plenty becomes as possible as holding a tea dance in a tsunami.

Yet facing folly is difficult. Stunned by the implications of one's mistakes and misapprehensions, initially, one will reel in the direction of a familiar road--or be seized by an impulse to retreat from the casuistry-sundering fury of the larger world. Yet, as Thomas Paine averred, "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right." And as Albert Camus counseled, "Freedom is the right not to lie."

With this in mind, shall we blunder off-road into the landscape of unquestioned narratives?

For example, the following is a topic, when broached, that rarely fails to incur the manipulative rage of the perpetually adrenaline intoxicated right and causes liberals to drop to their knees in penance for sins never committed: The questioning of this culture's reverential, unflagging "support of our troops" blunderbuss and attendant comic book hero-level palaver, such as, "all good Americans stand firm in our support of our troops and our war against the forces of international terrorism."

A bit of personal perspective as to why I demur: Forty-eight years ago, this month, four young girls were murdered in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Ala. At the time of the tragedy, I was a child living in Birmingham. I remember the event to this day. My father, freelancing as a photojournalist at the time, arrived on the scene not long after the blast. I remember him coming home shaken and pale. The event is seared into my the blind hatred of the vicious can erupt into daily life and inflict irreparable harm and abiding sorrow.

Accordingly, this is why I can not abide U.S. wars of imperium e.g., its Shock and Awe bombing campaigns...the same modus operandi of those despicable, redneck bombers.

The dead of Iraq, Central Asia and Libya were no more responsible for committing acts of terrorism against the people of the U.S. than those little girls, readying for a choir performance in the basement of that church in Alabama, were guilty of any crime perpetrated against the "white race."

Moreover, the attacks staged on 9/11/2001 did not "change everything." The event merely sped up the trajectory of the national security state/military industrial complex towards the landfill of history.

For more than a century, whether the propagandists of U.S. Empire promulgate the subterfuge...of fighting "to make the world safe for democracy" or defending against "the evil empire," or waging a "war on terror"--the objective remains, to secure resources for the U.S. homeland. And that is what we, the populace of empire, can "thank a veteran" for providing.

From the Blue Coats at Wounded Knee to the baby-faced tools of imperium at My Lai and Fallujah to the predator drones scouring Central Asia, the U.S. is the single largest perpetrator of terrorism worldwide. As all the while, guilty by their complicity citizens of the U.S. sit on their sofas, oblivious or unmoved by any event transpiring beyond their self-circumscribed field of reference. There should be a monument erected to the tragic legacy wrought by the acts of terrorism at "Ground Zero" -- and it should be a statue representing a willfully ignorant fat-ass sitting on his couch, TV remote in hand, Cheetos crumbs stippled in the folds of his mouth.

Granted, Lower Manhattan took a tragic hit, a decade ago, and many people suffered as a result (I know I live a couple of neighborhoods upwind) but none worse than the people of Iraq and Central Asia. Somehow, I suspected (and was proven sadly correct) that their experiences would not be evoked, as part of the 9/11 hagiography foisted and verbal monuments cast to sacred victimhood, as part of the official ceremony commemorating the event.

Moreover, not long after 9/11, an attack was launched from Lower Manhattan that collapsed the global economy. I, for one, would like to hear a bit more about that.

By parroting the self-serving hagiography of 9/11/01, as well as, "I support the warrior, but not the war" type fallacies, liberals continue to play right into the sustaining narratives of the national security state.

Case in point, the empty, oft-heard, liberal pundit assertion, "My idea for a 9/11 tribute would involve bringing our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan home, with proper benefits." Nonsense. Worse than nonsense: Precious, cloying, self-congratulatory piffle. The statement is axiomatic of the feckless calls and specious cries common to that species of walking cliche known as "troop-supporting" liberals.

As far as I'm concerned, "our troops" - human delivery systems of U.S. government sanctified terrorism--can walk home...that way, maybe, they might learn something about the larger world, other than their mission to kill the people they happen upon without question, and then share with their fellow belligerently ignorant countrymen what they learned about life (its sacred quality) on their long, Odysseusian journey home.

Apropos, reasonable liberals counsel such declarations serve as "bad public relation" tactics. "Don't you realize that you risk alienating Middle America? Remember, the reactionary fallout created by the radicalism of the 1960s?"

The fact is: The passionate questioning of the entire war effort in Southeast Asia, the role of soldiers included, helped to bring an end to the war and factored into the soldiers' rebellion at the later stages of the protracted conflict. In increasing numbers, the conscripts began to refuse to kill and die for a dubious cause...they went hippie on the ass of the military state.

The activist left ended the war; self-serving liberals blew the peace.

The "bad PR" involving "spitting on the troops" was after the fact, rightwing confabulation...promulgated to intimidate liberals into shamed silence, and, of course, liberals being liberals, it worked. True to form, they "distanced" themselves from the "troop-demoralizing radicals of the irrational left." In reality, they fled in fear from arrays of rightwing created strawmen.

PR itself is the dubious craft of professional lying--corporate era legerdemain. In fact, the craft is the opposite of the resonate truth carried by deepening poetry, poignant prose and challenging political speech--the near exclusive domain of the left in the 1960s.

You ask what makes me sigh, old friend
What makes me shudder so
I shudder and I sigh to think
That even Cicero
And many-minded Homer were
Mad as the mist and snow.
--William Bulter Yeats, except from Mad As The Mist And Snow

The inspired, enduring (very threatening to some) art, music and political action of the era were not the result of liberal accommodation and compromise. Antithetically, the cause of peace and justice (briefly) made some headway despite liberals not because of them.

As a famous literary drunk once quipped, "Rome wasn't burned in a day." Change will not come with a victim-centered view of the world...including viewing the nation's toxically innocent, economic conscripts as mere victims of circumstance. Yes, young people make stupid choices--but treating them as victims does not serve them or the nation well.

"Liberal compassion" should not be extended to countenancing acts of mass murderer. Time and time again, liberals play into rightist propaganda, by allowing the discussion of U.S. militarism to be framed as exclusively pertaining to the sacrifices of individual soldiers, whose fates, in the larger context of events, have been appropriated a device of imperial plunder. By truckling to this narrative, liberals play into the propaganda of those who prosper by the homicidal designs of the present day U.S. military state.

Instead, let us endeavor to disabuse the culture of the delusion that there exists noble sacrifice in the act of killing and dying for the agendas of empire. When an individual U.S. soldier begins to stagger in the direction of his own humanity (renouncing his complicity in the death-sustained system, as many did during the Vietnam era) then we should open our arms and embrace him with a fierce compassion.

On a personal basis, my family had little money. And I made many self-destructive choices, but I also had tenacious mentors who challenged me...called me on my destructive nonsense...pointing out the bulwark of denial and hubris that sustained its shabby, ad hoc structure. Making a home in being lost, I took up residence in the enduring structure of poetry, literature and music...Whitman, Kerouac, Rilke, Dylan, the Allman Brothers, Leonard Cohen, Iggy Pop, Joe Strummer, and others too numerous to name taught me to question, as the expression went, "everything."

This is not rocket science; this is far more important; this is the essential subject matter that informs the propulsion and guidance systems of the human heart. Withal, instruct the young how to build and inhabit the structure of a cogent argument and to navigate a soul-suffused landscape of poignant verse, lyric, and insight.

To do so, one must not shy away from confrontation. During the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War era, before the left was manipulated into fearing the libido borne of sacred vehemence, stupid opinions were not coddled; they were challenged.

Feelings were hurt. Egos were bruised. But an illegal war was shortened and a number of (long over due) rights were granted.

[...]Having come
the bitter way to better prayer, we have
the sweetness of ripening. How sweet
to know you by the signs of this world!
--Wendel Berry, excerpt from "Ripening"

At present, among the things we can ill afford are fantasy prone kids, duped into believing modern soldiering bestows nobility and involves heroic sacrifice. Instead, the times call for brave misfits, encouraged to embrace rejection by a dysfunctional society and primed to endure the inherent bumps and buffeting inflicted from a culture that has gathered into the formation of a flying wedge of self-destructive, crash-fated crazy.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Sad And Happy
By Uri Avnery

"WILL THIS be the happiest day of your life?" a local interviewer asked me, referring to the approaching recognition of the State of Palestine by the UN.

I was taken by surprise. "Why would that be?" I asked.

"Well, for 62 years you have advocated the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel, and here it comes!"

"If I were a Palestinian, I would probably be happy," I said, "But as an Israeli, I am rather sad."

LET ME explain.

I came out of the 1948 war with four solid convictions:

(1) There exists a Palestinian people, though the name Palestine had been wiped off the map.

(2) It is with this Palestinian people that we must make peace.

(3) Peace will be impossible unless the Palestinians are allowed to set up their state next to Israel.

(4) Without peace, Israel will not be the model state we had been dreaming about in the trenches, but something very different.

While recovering from my wounds and still in uniform, I met with several young people, Arabs and Jews, to plot our course. We were very optimistic. Now everything seemed possible.

What we were thinking about was a great act of fraternization. Jews and Arabs had fought each other valiantly, each fighting for what they considered their national rights. Now the time had come to reach out for peace.

The idea of peace between two gallant fighters after the battle is as old as Semitic culture. In the epic written more than 3000 years ago, Gilgamesh, king of Uruk (in today's Iraq) fights against the wild Enkidu, his equal in strength and courage, and after the epic fight they become blood brothers.

We had fought hard and had won. The Palestinians had lost everything. The part of Palestine that had been allotted by the UN to their state had been gobbled up by Israel, Jordan and Egypt, leaving nothing for them. Half the Palestinian people had been driven from their homes and become refugees.

That was the time, we thought, for the victor to stun the world with an act of magnanimity and wisdom, offering to help the Palestinians to set up their state in return for peace. Thus we could forge a friendship that would last for generations.

18 years later I brought this vision up again in similar circumstances. We had won a stunning victory against the Arab armies in the Six-Day war, the Middle East was in a state of shock. An Israeli offer to the Palestinians to establish their state would have electrified the region.

I AM telling this story (again) in order to make one point: when the "Two-State Solution" was conceived for the first time after 1948, it was as an idea of reconciliation, fraternization and mutual respect.

We envisaged two states living closely together, with borders open to the free movement of people and goods. Jerusalem, the joint capital, would symbolize the spirit of the historic change. Palestine would become the bridge between the new Israel and the Arab world, united for the common good. We spoke of a "Semitic Union" long before the European Union became a reality.

When the Two-State Solution made its extraordinary march from the vision of a handful of outsiders (or crazies) to a world-wide consensus, it was this context in which it was viewed. Not a plot against Israel, but the only viable basis for real peace.

This vision was firmly rejected by David Ben-Gurion, then the undisputed leader of Israel. He was busy distributing new Jewish immigrants across the vast areas expropriated from the Arabs, and he did not believe in peace with the Arabs anyhow. He set the course that successive Israeli governments, including the present one, have followed ever since.

On the Arab side, there was always support for this vision. Already at the Lausanne Conference in 1949, an unofficial Palestinian delegation appeared and secretly offered to start direct negotiations, but they were roughly rebuffed by the Israeli delegate, Eliyahu Sasson, on direct orders from Ben-Gurion (as I heard from him later).

Yasser Arafat told me several times - from 1982 to his death in 2004 - that he would support a "Benelux" solution (on the model of the union between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg), which would include Israel, Palestine and Jordan ("and perhaps Lebanon too, why not?")

PEOPLE SPEAK about all the opportunities for peace missed by Israel throughout the years. That is nonsense: you can miss opportunities on the way to a goal that you desire, but not on the way to something you abhor.

Ben-Gurion saw an independent Palestinian state as a mortal danger to Israel. So he made a secret deal with King Abdullah I, dividing between them the territory allocated by the UN partition plan to the Arab Palestinian state. All Ben-Gurion's successors inherited the same dogma: that a Palestinian state would be a terrible danger. Therefore they opted for the so-called "Jordanian option" - keeping what is left of Palestine under the heel of the Jordanian monarch, who is no Palestinian (nor even Jordanian - his family came from Mecca).

This week, the present Jordanian ruler, Abdullah II, flew into a rage when told that yet another Israeli former general, Uzi Dayan, had again proposed turning Jordan into Palestine, with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as "provinces" of the Hashemite kingdom. This Dayan is, unlike his late cousin, Moshe, a pompous fool, but even a speech by such a person infuriates the king, who is mortally afraid of an influx of Palestinians driven from the West Bank into Jordan.

Three days ago, Binyamin Netanyahu told Cathy Ashton, the pathetic "foreign secretary" of the European Union, that he would agree to anything short of Palestinian statehood. That may sound strange, in view of the "historic" speech he made less than two years ago, in which he expressed his support for the Two-State Solution. (Perhaps he was thinking of the State of Israel and the State of the Settlers.)

In the few remaining weeks before the UN vote, our government will fight tooth and nail against a Palestinian state, supported by the full might of the US. This week Hillary Clinton trumped even her own rhetorical record when she announced that the US supports the Two-State Solution and therefore opposes any UN vote recognizing a Palestinian state.

APART FROM the dire threats of what will happen after the UN vote for a Palestinian state, Israeli and American leaders assure us that such a vote will make no difference at all.

If so, why fight it?

Of course it will make a difference. The occupation will go on, but it will be the occupation of one state by another. In history, symbols count. The fact that the vast majority of the world's nations will have recognized the State of Palestine will be another step towards gaining freedom for Palestine.

What will happen the day after? Our army has already announced that it has finished preparations for huge Palestinian demonstrations that will attack the settlements. The settlers will be called upon to mobilize their "quick-reaction teams" to confront the demonstrators, thus fulfilling the prophecies of a "bloodbath". After that the army will move in, pulling many battalions of regular troops from other tasks and calling up reserve units.

A few weeks ago I pointed to ominous signs that sharpshooters would be employed to turn peaceful demonstrations into something very different, as happened during the second intifada. This week this was officially confirmed: sharpshooters will be employed to defend the settlements.

All this amounts to a war plan for the settlements. To put it simply: a war to decide whether the West Bank belongs to the Palestinians or the settlers.

In an almost comical turn of events, the army is also providing means of crowd dispersal to the Palestinian security forces trained by the Americans. The occupation authorities expect these Palestinian forces to protect the settlements against their compatriots. Since these are the armed forces of the future Palestinian state, which is opposed by Israel, it all sounds a bit bewildering.

According to the army, the Palestinians will get rubber-coated bullets and tear gas, but not the "Skunk".

The Skunk is a device that produces an unbearable stench which attaches itself to the peaceful demonstrators and will not leave them for a long time. I am afraid that when this chapter comes to an end, the stench will attach itself to our side, and that we shall not get rid of it for a long time indeed.

LET'S GIVE free rein to our imagination for just one minute.

Imagine that in the coming UN debate something incredible happens: the Israeli delegate declares that after due consideration Israel has decided to vote for recognition of the state of Palestine.

The assembly would gape in disbelief. After a moment of silence, wild applause would break out. The world would be electrified. For days, the world media would speak of nothing else.

The minute of imagination has passed. Back to reality. Back to the Skunk.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Through AIPAC-Colored Glasses
By Medea Benjamin

During August recess this year, 81 members of Congress went on a junket to Israel funded by the Israel lobby group AIPAC (well, funded by the American Israel Education Fund, but they are really one and the same) to "learn first-hand about one of our closest friends and allies." While the representatives insist they got a balanced view, their itinerary belies that claim: 95 per cent of their time was spent hearing the Israeli government point of view, with only one token meeting with Palestinian reps.

CODEPINK has filed a complaint with the Congressional Ethics Committee stating that these trips-and the upcoming ones scheduled for December–violate the Congressional prohibition on traveling with a lobby group. We feel these voyages are part of AIPAC's grand plan to control and monopolize Congress, which is not just unethical, but dangerous. Their bias reinforces a disastrous U.S. policy of unconditional support for Israel that obstructs peace and runs counter to our national interests.

At a recent Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, entitled "Promoting Peace? Reexamining US Aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA)", we got a glimpse of what happens when Congress views the Middle East through AIPAC-colored glasses. Here are a few of examples of their tunnel vision:

Asking the wrong questions: Congress is intent on looking into the $600 million a year U.S. taxpayers give to the Palestinian Authority, especially at a time, as a few members brought up, of economic hardship in the United States. But they would not dare hold a hearing about the more important issue: the $3 billion a year we are giving to the Israeli government–which is five times what we give the Palestinian Authority. The question they should be asking, but won't, is: How can American taxpayers afford to give "military aid" to the wealthy government of Israel, especially when that government uses our funds to drop white phosphorous on civilians in Gaza, kill international humanitarians on boats trying to break the Gaza siege, bulldoze Palestinian homes and orchards, and imprison peaceful protesters?" CODEPINK was in the hearing with signs saying "No More $$ to Israel," but we were not even allowed to quietly hold them.

Listening to the wrong people: While the hearing was about Palestine, not one of the four witnesses was Palestinian-American, Arab-American, or even sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view. Like the AIPAC-junkets to Israel, this Washington hearing was completely one-sided. Three of the four people testifying before the Committee were Jewish, and all four were white men from conservative think tanks that take the side of the Israeli government. One of the witnesses was none other than convicted criminal Elliott Abrams, who, after the Iran-Contra scandal, went on to covertly arm Fatah after Hamas won the 2006 elections in Gaza, leading to a bloody conflict and inadvertently, to a Hamas takeover of all of Gaza. What great credentials for giving Congress advice on the Middle East!

When we asked the committee staff why there was not one pro-Palestinian voice on the panel, we were told to be quiet or we'd be ejected from the hearing.

Polluting the atmosphere with racist comments: Not once was the plight of the Palestinians under occupation even mentioned. Instead, Democrats and Republicans across the board made sweeping statements that were embarrassingly racist. "Sending aid to the PA reinforces bad behavior," said Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lethinen. "The Palestinians refuse to negotiate and they glorify violence," she added. Cong. Carnahan wanted to know why there are no "honest actors" among the Palestinians. Elliot Abrams added, "The Palestinians have been cursed by a failure of leadership for 100 years." There was no mention, of course, that some of the best Palestinian leaders can be found in Israeli jails. 

At the end of the day, one message that could clearly be taken away from the hearing was that all Palestinians (except perhaps Salem Fayyad, who they didn't think was so bad) are ungrateful, Jew-hating, terror-worshipping freeloaders who are too lazy to work for peace and who glorify violence. It obviously didn't fit into the AIPAC junket agenda to introduce any of the committee members to peace activists in the West Bank who organize nonviolent protests against the occupation on a weekly basis.

Ignoring history/denying reality: It was painful to listen to the whole hearing, but one particular lament of Congress was arguably the most offensive. "Ah, Israel has given up so much land, and done so much for peace. When are the Palestinians going to make some concessions and do anything at all for peace,?" asked Cong. Rohrbacher, throwing up his hands in disgust. The Palestinians still want the right to return "so that they can destroy Israel," he added. Cong. Poe complained that Israel has given so much land for peace that "pretty soon they're gonna run outta land." Witness Schanzer denounced "100 years of Palestinian nationalism, which has been more concerned with destroying Israel than constructing a viable Palestinian state."

Putting aside the fact that the West Bank and Gaza territories represent a fraction of historical Palestine, Congress completely ignores the fact that thousands of acres of Palestinian land have been confiscated by the Israeli government to establish dozens of settlements and populate them with hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers. When the word settlement came up, it was not in the context of land theft but to chide the Obama administration for focusing too much on settlements in its first two years and creating a rift with the Israeli government.

Targeting the victims: As if pointing the finger at the Palestinians for all the Middle East's woes wasn't enough, to its delight the committee found a new target to defund and shut down: UNRWA, the United Nations Refugee Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. UNRWA assists about 5 million Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East, including those who were displaced during the creation of the state of Israel and their descendants. UNRWA provides these refugees with basic services such as education and healthcare. The surrounding Arab countries where millions of Palestinian refugees live refuse to grant many of them citizenship, thus denying them the ability to work and receive social services. Without UNRWA, these people would basically be left with nothing.

Instead of acknowledging this sad reality, members of Congress nodded their heads in eager agreement as witness Jonathan Schanzer, of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, insisted that UNRWA be shut down. "UNRWA treats the Palestinians more like clients than refugees," he claimed, thus perpetuating the refugee problem. The only dissenting voice around shutting down UNRWA was David Makovsky, who cautioned that the Israeli government might hate UNRWA, but it would not like to see it shut down because then Israel would have to pay for those services it provides, including schooling Palestinian refugee kids.

Shutting off the lights: One witness, Schanzer, had just returned from Ramallah with news about the "electricity scam." The PA, he said, was supplying power to Palestinians in Gaza, but Hamas–which controls Gaza–was charging people and pocketing the money. Since the US funds the PA, we were enabling this scam. Committee Chair Ros-Lethinen was horrified and indicated that cutting off funds for electricity (i.e. turning out the lights on 1.6 million people) might be in order. No one mentioned that Israel bombed Gaza's sole power plant during the 2008 invasion, and today it is still only partially functioning. No one mentioned that Israel continues to restrict the entry of spare parts to rebuild the plant and fuel to run it, leaving the people of Gaza with severe power shortages of up to 12 hours a day!

Tying aid with plenty of strings: While most representatives expressed a desire to cut all funds to the PA, the witnesses cautioned them–not for humanitarian reasons but for Israel's interests. The PA security forces have been cooperating with the Israelis on everything from stopping attacks on Israelis to repressing demonstrations. David Makovsky from the Washington Institute speculated that cutting off funds to the PA security forces would only hurt Israel. Schanzer said that cutting off the PA could lead to an "intrafada" in which Hamas could emerge even stronger. He stated that money is the U.S. leverage to control the PA. "If we cut the funds, we lose our leverage and open the door for Iran and other anti-Israel actors."

Eviscerating the UN: The United States claims that it will veto the Palestinian statehood bid because the peace talks should take place between the two parties directly and not through an outside entity-in this case, the UN. Many of the reps could not contain their distain for the UN. "The UN would vote for any resolution that is anti-Israel," said Cong. Poe in disgust, even if it said that the world is flat. They suggested defunding any UN organization that endorses Palestinian statehood. Some went even further, suggesting we cut off aid to any country that endorses statehood! Hungry Haitians or Ethiopians will simply have to pay the price. There is no such thing as "going too far" when it comes to standing up for Israel!

Sheer stupidity: One thing the representatives just couldn't understand is that if we are giving the Palestinians so much money, how come they don't like us? "Anti-Americanism among the Palestinians is only second to anti-Israel invective," said witness Schanzer, to the nods of the representatives. Rohrbacher seemed incredulous that we've given the Palestinians all this money, and it hasn't even bought us goodwill. Duh! Of course the Palestinians don't like us-we are supplying billions of dollars of weapons to their oppressors! 

The stranglehold AIPAC has over Congress is putting our nation on a collision course with history. The vast majority of the world's nations support the Palestinian bid for statehood (120 of them already recognize the state of Palestine). The democratic movements sweeping the Arab world are clamoring for Palestinian rights. Unconditional U.S. support for Israel keeps the region in turmoil, pits us against world opinion and jeopardizes our national security. It's time for Congress to take off the AIPAC blinders.
(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.

The "Bloomberg View" Is That Michael Bloomberg Shouldn't Pay More Taxes
By Alex Pareene

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also a billionaire media mogul. His financial information company recently unveiled an opinion section, promising only "ideology-free, empirically-based editorial positions." Bloomberg installed his ideology-free opinion-writers at the office of his foundation where the mayor can have direct, personal involvement in their work. All of this adds up to a mess of potential conflicts of interest. Today, the "Bloomberg View" is that very rich people -- like Michael Bloomberg, say -- should not pay more taxes.

Of course, the unsigned editorial is very reasonable. It's a Bloomberg View editorial, and the Bloomberg brand is all post-partisan reasonableness. But the bottom line is that billionaire mayor and hypothetical third-party presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg opposes the Democratic president's plan to raise taxes on billionaires. Why? Out of greed or self-interest? No, of course not! Because it's "silly."

However, we don't support a special tax on millionaires. Not because it's damaging to the economy in and of itself, but because it's silly. And silly can be dangerous if it stands in the way of sensible reform.

A debate over taxing millionaires (and Buffett urges yet another bracket for ten-millionaires) will eat up time and attention that needs to be hoarded for the important debate about quarter-millionaires (i.e., the $250,000 crowd), because that's where the real money starts.

Millionaires and ten-millionaires do not have "real money," apparently. And proposing to tax them is a waste of time, time that could be spent on "sensible reform." ("Sensible" seems like a pretty subjective term, but in this case "sensible" means "whatever Michael Bloomberg thinks.")

A special millionaires' tax would affect three taxpayers out of 1,000. Absurdly, it would let people making, say, $900,000 off the hook. We have no idea how much revenue it would bring in -- exact figures aren't available because Obama is going to leave the exact structure of the tax to the so-called supercommittee of senators and representatives that grew out of last month's debt-ceiling jamboree. It's largely symbolic. Worse, it's a distraction.

"Absurdly, it would let people making, say, $900,000 off the hook." Haha well, Mr. Mayor, that is how tax brackets work. Raising the top marginal tax rate on people making $250,000 lets people making $249,000 off the hook!

We mustn't raise taxes on anyone because we need to fundamentally rewrite the entire tax code is an argument for doing nothing at all. Fundamentally rewriting the tax code is a fantasy. Anyone who has paid any attention to the Republican party's oppositional tactics over the last two years should dismiss "rewriting the tax code" as a complete non-starter.

"There is nothing inherently evil or even objectionable about making $1 million a year," says the official political opinion factory of billionaire mogul Michael Bloomberg, whose townhouses are decorated with million dollar couches and $40,000 sconces. There's no point in raising taxes on a man who owns a $50,000 "antique snooker table," when we can instead rewrite the entire tax code, eventually, someday.
(c) 2011 Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene.

Obama's "Bold" Jobs Plan

President Obama has joined the perky posse of national leaders who're urging Americans to be more upbeat about the economic doldrums we're in. "Shake off all the naysaying and the anxiety and the hand-wringing," he recently told us, sounding a lot like a football coach telling a player to shake off a concussion and get back in the game.

The President's pep talk came the day after he made his "bold" jobs proposal to Congress. But Obama's plan is more Walter Mittyish than Rooseveltian. While it does have some useful provisions to keep from losing still more jobs, the core of his plan consists of two more corporate tax breaks – a form of bribery to induce enormously rich corporations to hire American workers. This is the same old same-old that Washington keeps throwing at the problem and – hello, Washington – it's not working. Sure enough, corporate chieftains say they'll gladly take the latest handout, but we should not expect them to go on a big hiring spree. Mostly, they'll use the money to cover the few people they were going to hire anyway – and pocket the rest.

Nontheless, Obama is now barnstorming the country, rallying crowds to demand that Congress "stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy" by passing his plan. Fine... but what about the corporate circus? And the Wall Street circus?

It's time to stop coddling these gluttonous narcissists. America is in crisis, sinking toward depression. The President should really get bold by calling out and shaming corporate executives who suck up America's wealth, then turn their backs on us, as though the only loyalty they owe is to their own avarice – none to their country. Likewise, he should kick the bailed-out bankers right in their ample butts and insist publicly that they start making loans to America's smaller businesses that do want to create good jobs in our country.

Let's stop begging and start demanding.
(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.

Putting America Back To Work
By Helen Thomas

Republican presidential candidates were supposed to debate their job creating plans last Monday evening. Instead, they took the time to attack one another.

President Barack Obama's $447 billion job plan touched all bases and left the GOP candidates relatively speechless. They were quiet until Obama unveiled the details, which included the horror of all horrors - tax increases. According to White House aides, the President's employment package would raise $467 billion while covering all the costs of the hiring legislation. But the "just say no" Republican leaders seem unaware that there is a near depression engulfing the country.

House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, said, "We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn't appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit." The GOP's anathema of taxes is well known, but unrealistic.

"This is the bill that Congress needs to pass," Obama said in a Rose Garden speech Monday. "No games, no politics, no delays," he added. But this is not the season for such starry eyed candidates who have only one goal - to win the White House trophy in November 2012.

It appears the Republican hopefuls only care about destroying Social Security as we know it. Millions of Americans - retired, elderly and disabled - depend on that monthly check for their survival. It's not a hand out. It is the product of the New Deal, which Franklin D. Roosevelt established in 1935, and the heart of the Great Depression recovery program.

Starting with George W. Bush's administration, Republicans have tried to move Social Security to the stock market. Thank heaven that failed.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry - the so-called front runner for the GOP Presidential nomination - called Social Security "a Ponzi scheme" and "monstrous" - words that he has already lived to regret.

In his recent debate with fellow candidates, Perry appeared to back off from such harsh words about a social program. Now he says, "Social Security is open for discussion." Someone obviously got to him. Is he really ready for prime time?

Obama has said his job recovery program would put teachers and veterans, as well as construction workers, back to work.

GOP leaders more than sensed the need to support some of Obama's job plans with the public now getting fed up over the continuing political divisions. They said they may go along with the President's proposal to slash payroll taxes. But they drew the line and rejected the most urgent parts of Obama's package, which would benefit teacher salaries, school construction and road projects.

None of the candidates, except for Rep. Ron Paul, have suggested pulling out of the wars which are so costly in service men and women, as well as national treasuries. Pulling out of Afghanistan alone would save $2.5 billion every two days.

Obama also called for new measures, including a tax cut to provide $1,500 in savings for the average family, and another tax slash for businesses that add new employees to their payrolls.

"The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: To put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working," Obama said. "It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services."

At several points in his speech, the President urged Congress to "pass this bill." Afterwards, Obama hit the road to exhort potential voters to support his anti-recession program.

There is some similarity to the Congressional and public reaction to the pain of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the present. In those days we saw compassion for our fellow man, including the long lines of the unemployed freezing workers in front of the Ford Motor Company seeking jobs. But the main difference then was that the American people seemed to care about the welfare of their fellow man. Everyone in the labor class was in the same boat.

Obama would do well if he can restore America's great spirit of compassion and fellowship.
(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.

Americans Should Be Very Afraid
By James Donahue

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Living under a cloud of fear has become a way of life for the people of the United States since the events of September 11, 2001. But the fear factor has been cleverly manufactured by political factors and the talking heads of a sold-out media.

We have been constantly bombarded by warnings of plots by secret Islamic cults to attack us again. Consequently we have been goaded into launching five wars against Moslem nations, accepting new laws severely restricting our freedoms and privacy, and submitting to increased suppression by police and other authority figures.

As all of this has happened, we have seen our economy tank, our factories and jobs move overseas and our "elected" national leadership go into a state of such incredible impotence it seems as if this nation is a rudderless ship adrift in a storm.

At least this is the way it appears. We suspect that in reality, there is a plan being hatched by a secret power structure designed to tear down this once great nation brick-by-brick. It is a plan that is already in its advanced state but most Americans are so unaware of what is happening they are still trusting Uncle Sam to keep them protected from the big bad wolf at the door. They do not realize that the wolf is already in the house and about to devour them alive.

The 9-11 attack itself was carried out with such amazing skill by a supposedly pack of young and unprofessional assailants using box cutters and home-schooled training to fly commercial airliners. The fact that three large aircraft successfully flew into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon was quite incredible. Home and surveillance video footage of these events have raised so many questions that professional analysts suspect that the attack originated from within our own military. That Osama Bin Laden, the so-called leader of the secret El-Qaeda network blamed for the attack, was a former CIA agent during Russia's war in Afghanistan seems to have been totally overlooked, as was the Bin Laden family ties to former presidents Bush.

With all of these questions falling out of the fog of the 9-11 attack, the corporate-owned national media went out of its way during the 10th Anniversary to help remind the public of the original story and laud the "heroes" of the day, the fire fighters and other first responders that died trying to save lives.

No one seems to want to question how three buildings in the heart of downtown Manhattan could implode so perfectly after two of them were hit, even though demolition experts say accomplishing such a feat would take specific skills in planting explosives throughout such massive buildings. Film maker Michael Moore and others have asked these questions in various documentaries but to date all we have heard are reports from hired engineers who have gone to great lengths to explain away the unexplainable.

No one appeared to question the fact that within less than two months Congress passed a comprehensive 342-page Patriot Act that dramatically reduced restrictions on government access to electronic and telephone communications, medical, financial and other personal records, and gave the Secretary of the Treasury authority to regulate financial transactions. The act passed both the House and Senate with an almost unanimous vote although most legislators later admitted they never read it.

While caught up in the constant fear of further attacks, most Americans seem to be ignoring the quick erosion of their freedoms to move about, provide for their families, choose valid candidates for public office and live without fear of suppression.

Airport security is so strict that people are X-rayed, excessively patted down and their luggage thoroughly searched before they can board an aircraft. Police dogs guided by ATF agents sniff people in public places for drugs or explosives. Our telephone conversations, computer activities, FAX messages and all other electronic communications are under constant surveillance. Police make random traffic stops, sometimes blockading highways, to test for alcohol consumption, drugs or other suspicious cargo in our vehicles.

Since the choosing of George W. Bush by the Supreme Court to be America's president after the controversial 2000 election, it has become obvious that both the high court and the majority of elected Republican (and some Democratic) legislators have sold out to the interests of big corporations, including the military industrial complex.

The Supremes stacked the deck for the 2012 presidential election when the judges voted 5-4 to give corporations the freedom to pour large amounts of money in support of the candidates of their choice. That means voters will be directed by a clever and well financed advertising campaign to select the candidate of corporate choice. Another troublesome development has been a so-called "taxpayer protection pledge," a vow reportedly taken by 41 senators and 236 Congressional representatives . . . nearly all Republicans . . . that they will stand against any increase in taxes. The pledge, promoted by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, appears to have prevented any chance for raising extra revenues to offset the nation's multi-trillion dollar deficit.

We are living in a nation with a crumbling infrastructure, with roads, bridges, dams, levees, sewer and water systems, electric power grids and gas lines falling into poor repair. Our railroad, bus and airplane services are failing to meet a growing need for public transportation at a time when rising fuel prices and the high cost of owning and operating a personal automobile are making it harder for people to get around.

States and local municipalities also are feeling the financial pinch. The problem has become so acute that local services, including education programs are being slashed.

In spite of all the rhetoric expressed on the anniversary of the 9-11 attack, or on holidays like the Fourth of July, this is no longer the America we once knew and enjoyed.

Terrorism like poverty and disease has always existed and it will always exist. The random acts of terrorism that have gained so much attention since 9-11 have been no more of a threat to us now than they ever were. If Americans have anything to fear it is their own failure to maintain good educational programs and remain keenly aware of what is going on among those who govern. And if they take a good look . . . they will have reason to be very afraid.
(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.

Egghead And Blockheads
By Maureen Dowd

THERE are two American archetypes that were sometimes played against each other in old Westerns.

The egghead Eastern lawyer who lacks the skills or stomach for a gunfight is contrasted with the tough Western rancher and ace shot who has no patience for book learnin'.

The duality of America's creation story was vividly illustrated in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," the 1962 John Ford Western.

Jimmy Stewart is the young attorney who comes West to Shinbone and ends up as a U.S. senator after gaining fame for killing the sadistic outlaw Liberty Valance, played by Lee Marvin. John Wayne is the rancher, a fast-draw Cyrano who hides behind a building and actually shoots Marvin because he knows Stewart is hopeless in a duel. He does it even though they're in love with the same waitress, who chooses the lawyer because he teaches her to read.

A lifetime later, on the verge of becoming a vice presidential candidate, Stewart confesses the truth to a Shinbone newspaperman, who refuses to print it. "When the legend becomes fact," the editor says, "print the legend."

At the cusp of the 2012 race, we have a classic cultural collision between a skinny Eastern egghead lawyer who's inept in Washington gunfights and a pistol-totin', lethal-injectin', square-shouldered cowboy who has no patience for book learnin'.

Rick Perry, from the West Texas town of Paint Creek, is no John Wayne, even though he has a ton of executions notched on his belt. But he wears a pair of cowboy boots with the legend "Liberty" stitched on one. (As in freedom, not Valance.) He plays up the effete-versus-mesquite stereotypes in his second-grade textbook of a manifesto, "Fed Up!"

Trashing Massachusetts, he writes: "They passed state-run health care, they have sanctioned gay marriage, and they elected Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Barney Frank repeatedly - even after actually knowing about them and what they believe! Texans, on the other hand, elect folks like me. You know the type, the kind of guy who goes jogging in the morning, packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights and loaded with hollow-point bullets, and shoots a coyote that is threatening his daughter's dog."

At a recent campaign event in South Carolina, Perry grinned, "I'm actually for gun control - use both hands."

Traveling to Lynchburg, Va., to speak to students at Liberty University (as in Falwell, not Valance), Perry made light of his bad grades at Texas A&M.

Studying to be a veterinarian, he stumbled on chemistry and made a D one semester and an F in another. "Four semesters of organic chemistry made a pilot out of me," said Perry, who went on to join the Air Force.

"His other D's," Richard Oppel wrote in The Times, "included courses in the principles of economics, Shakespeare,'Feeds & Feeding,' veterinary anatomy and what appears to be a course called'Meats.' "

He even got a C in gym.

Perry conceded that he "struggled" with college, and told the 13,000 young people in Lynchburg that in high school, he had graduated "in the top 10 of my graduating class - of 13."

It's enough to make you long for W.'s Gentleman's C's. At least he was a mediocre student at Yale. Even Newt Gingrich's pseudo-intellectualism is a relief at this point.

Our education system is going to hell. Average SAT scores are falling, and America is slipping down the list of nations for college completion. And Rick Perry stands up with a smirk to talk to students about how you can get C's, D's and F's and still run for president.

The Texas governor did help his former chief of staff who went to lobby for a pharmaceutical company that donated to Perry, so he at least knows the arithmetic of back scratching.

Perry told the students, "God uses broken people to reach a broken world." What does that even mean?

The Republicans are now the "How great is it to be stupid?" party. In perpetrating the idea that there's no intellectual requirement for the office of the presidency, the right wing of the party offers a Farrelly Brothers "Dumb and Dumber" primary in which evolution is avant-garde.

Having grown up with a crush on William F. Buckley Jr. for his sesquipedalian facility, it's hard for me to watch the right wing of the G.O.P. revel in anti-intellectualism and anti-science cant.

Sarah Palin, who got outraged at a "gotcha" question about what newspapers and magazines she read, is the mother of stupid conservatism. Another "Don't Know Much About History" Tea Party heroine, Michele Bachmann, seems rather proud of not knowing anything, simply repeating nutty, inflammatory medical claims that somebody in the crowd tells her.

So we're choosing between the overintellectualized professor and blockheads boasting about their vacuity?

The occupational hazard of democracy is know-nothing voters. It shouldn't be know-nothing candidates.
(c) 2011 Maureen Dowd is the winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary. Read her weekly column in the NY Times.

There Must Be 50 Ways To Leave The Military Industrial Complex
By David Swanson

And we heard all of them from two dozen brilliant speakers during a three-day conference this past weekend. If you missed it, the video is all online. So is the text of many of the papers presented. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite:

"Let's say we want to create 29 million jobs in 10 years. That's 2.9 million each year. Here's one way to do it. Take $100 billion from the Department of Defense and move it into education. That creates 1.75 million jobs per year. Take another $50 billion and move it into healthcare spending. There's an additional 400,000 jobs. Take another $100 billion and move it into clean energy. There's another 550,000 jobs. And take another $62 billion and turn it into tax cuts, generating an additional 200,000 jobs. Now the military spending in the Department of Energy, the State Department, Homeland Security, and so forth have not been touched. And the Department of Defense has been cut back to about $388 billion, which is to say: more than it was getting 10 years ago when our country went collectively insane." -- David Swanson

"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, and even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, and every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society." -- President Eisenhower in a play by Wally Myers

"In addition to the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on World Peace Day, in violation of its commitment to disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States will fire an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California over Hawaii and the Pacific Missile Range tracking facility (PMRF) to crash into the Pacific Ocean near Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands." -- Ann Wright

"And when I met with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, an ostensibly very progressive Democrat early in her freshman term of office, I told her that her constituents wanted her to cut military spending and bring the war dollars home. But she said it wasn't that easy. Once she got to Washington 'they' asked her, 'What do you want to do, put 3,000 people out of work your first term in office?' This made reference to the largest employer in the state, Bath Iron Works, which has contracts to build the Aegis destroyers that the Navy hopes will be docked on little Jeju Island off the coast of China that Ann Wright spoke of last night." -- Lisa Savage

"It occurred to me over the past couple of days that there is a common thread across these issues of drones, torture, and illegal wars. The unifying thought was that the use of drones, interrogation, and armed conflict each have various legal regimes that shape them and form the universe of what we see as what is legally permissible. The legality of the manner in which state actors operate in these areas are derived from both domestic and international law rules. The powers of any individual official to act are derived from the internal state structure such as the Constitution. Just like there is the known universe of these rules that apply for these areas, I started to wonder about what is not seen in the universe: when state actors act with malice aforethought or sufficient mens rea and actus reus to be a crime. It occurred to me that this part of the universe of law might also be viewed as the dark matter in a similar fashion to how the term is used in astrophysics. Dark matter has not been seen but is used as a way to explain certain phenomenon that are inexplicable by what is seen in the known universe." -- Ben Davis

"In 1942, the 3,000 residents of five rural Tennessee mountain communities were given just a few weeks' notice to vacate their homes and ancestral farms. Thus was the 'secret city' of Oak Ridge established, and the 60,000 acres of Tennessee valleys and ridges expropriated for the war effort. The Manhattan Project was developed to enrich the uranium used for the Hiroshima bomb. In subsequent decades, and in the name of national security, officials knowingly subjected atomic industry workers, soldiers and nearby residents to deadly doses of radiation at nuclear sites throughout the country. 'Some 300,000 people, or half of those who ever worked in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, are believed to have been affected by exposure to radiation,' asserts Michael Renner, of the World Watch Institute writing in the 1997 book War and Public Health. Every step of the nuclear bomb-making process involves severe environmental contamination that lingers for generations." -- Clare Hanrahan

"In 2004, a North Carolina child protection group analyzed sixteen years of records involving the murder of children by parents or step-parents. The rates of such homicides were steady across the state's one hundred counties, with two exceptions: in Onslow and Cumberland counties, the childhomicide rates were consistently twice as high. Onslow County is home to Camp Lejeune; Cumberland County hosts Fort Bragg." -- Mia Austin-Scoggins

"Put your ear to the railroad tracks and you can hear the train coming. Now that the new 12-member Congressional 'Super Committee' has essentially been given the power of God (and the Devil) the military industrial complex, and their appendage called the corporate media, are swinging into action. Their message? We can't cut Pentagon spending because it will hurt an already tight job market.....and we need these troops to keep knocking countries off the "Non-Integrating Gap" list (those countries that refuse to play ball with corporate globalization)." -- Bruce Gagnon

"The more famous stories we do know. Daniel Ellsberg was harassed and attacked, caricatured by the state as a criminal, not a hero. The many witnesses against the U.S. military regarding Agent Orange, and years later, the vaccinations and experimental drugs that are part and parcel of what would become known as Gulf War Syndrome, which today has killed more U.S. citizens than the Vietnam War, all of these men and women were treated as enemies of the state. Those who would tell the truth about the propaganda, and original intent, on the way to the wars in and continuing occupations of both Afghanistan and Iraq, are all made to be enemies of the state. Think about Bunny Greenhouse observing in pre-Iraq invasion contracting, and Sibel Edmonds in the months before 9-11. Fired, stifled, harassed, treated badly by our own government for simply telling the truth. And those who would bear witness to mistreatment and unlawful acts of war and interrogation by the United States here and around the world, are, you guessed it, enemies of the American state." -- Karen Kwiatkowski

"From a strategic, economic, and security perspective, our response to the attacks on September 11th has created many more problems than it has solved. For example, invading the Greater Middle East violated the most basic principles of military strategy. According to Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War, one of the worst things a leader can do in war is become angry. Sun Tzu knew that when people are enraged, they cannot think clearly and will make self-destructive decisions. This is why one of the best things a leader can do in war is make his opponent angry, because when leaders – whether military or civilian – become angry they lose concern for consequences, and they become reckless and careless. An angry and reckless opponent is much easier to lure into a trap than a calm and rational opponent." -- Paul Chappell

"I was there. All the stories that were in the Western media about Gaza are completely untrue. I’ve been to Gaza many times before. On this occasion we were told there’s no need for flotillas and such because the borders of Gaza are open. Not true. Absolutely not true. We’re told that the people who are ruling Gaza, who were they elected authorities (they were elected in 2005) are irrational, Islamist madmen who want to oppress women. Not true." -- Helena Cobban

"Many Americans have developed what Bob Marley -- the poet laureate of oppressed people around the world -- called 'mental slavery.' Social scientists have also recognized this phenomenon of subjugation resulting in demoralization and defeatism. Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Ignacio Martin-Baró, the El Salvadoran social psychologist and popularizer of 'liberation psychology,' understood this psychological phenomenon of fatalism, and they helped their people overcome it. We must first acknowledge the reality that for millions of Americans, subjugation has in fact resulted in demoralization and fatalism. Then, we can begin to heal from a “battered people’s syndrome” of sorts and together begin to fight for democracy." -- Bruce Levine

Click the authors' names above to read more, or for a better taste of the conference that brought these and many more opponents of militarism together, check out the videos and photos.

The conference closed with a song:

For Bradley Manning

When Bradley comes marching home again Hurroo, hurroo
When Bradley comes marching home again Hurroo, hurroo
We’ll charge the war makers with their crimes
Put ‘em in the dock, make them pay for those crimes
When the peace is won and Bradley comes marching home
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

A Future For Drones
Automated Killing
By Peter Finn

One afternoon last fall at Fort Benning, Ga., two model-size planes took off, climbed to 800 and 1,000 feet, and began criss-crossing the military base in search of an orange, green and blue tarp.

After 20 minutes, one of the aircraft, carrying a computer that processed images from an onboard camera, zeroed in on the tarp and contacted the second plane, which flew nearby and used its own sensors to examine the colorful object. Then one of the aircraft signaled to an unmanned car on the ground so it could take a final, close-up look.

Target confirmed.

This successful exercise in autonomous robotics could presage the future of the American way of war: a day when drones hunt, identify and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans. Imagine aerial "Terminators," minus beefcake and time travel.

The Fort Benning tarp "is a rather simple target, but think of it as a surrogate," said Charles E. Pippin, a scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, which developed the software to run the demonstration. "You can imagine real-time scenarios where you have 10 of these things up in the air and something is happening on the ground and you don't have time for a human to say, 'I need you to do these tasks.' It needs to happen faster than that."

The demonstration laid the groundwork for scientific advances that would allow drones to search for a human target and then make an identification based on facial-recognition or other software. Once a match was made, a drone could launch a missile to kill the target.

Military systems with some degree of autonomy -such as robotic, weaponized sentries -have been deployed in the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea and other potential battle areas. Researchers are uncertain how soon machines capable of collaborating and adapting intelligently in battlefield conditions will come online. It could take one or two decades, or longer. The U.S. military is funding numerous research projects on autonomy to develop machines that will perform some dull or dangerous tasks and to maintain its advantage over potential adversaries who are also working on such systems.

The killing of terrorism suspects and insurgents by armed drones, controlled by pilots sitting in bases thousands of miles away in the western United States, has prompted criticism that the technology makes war too antiseptic. Questions also have been raised about the legality of drone strikes when employed in places such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, which are not at war with the United States. This debate will only intensify as technological advances enable what experts call lethal autonomy.

The prospect of machines able to perceive, reason and act in unscripted environments presents a challenge to the current understanding of international humanitarian law. The Geneva Conventions require belligerents to use discrimination and proportionality, standards that would demand that machines distinguish among enemy combatants, surrendering troops and civilians.

"The deployment of such systems would reflect a paradigm shift and a major qualitative change in the conduct of hostilities," Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said at a conference in Italy this month. "It would also raise a range of fundamental legal, ethical and societal issues, which need to be considered before such systems are developed or deployed."

Drones flying over Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen can already move automatically from point to point, and it is unclear what surveillance or other tasks, if any, they perform while in autonomous mode. Even when directly linked to human operators, these machines are producing so much data that processors are sifting the material to suggest targets, or at least objects of interest. That trend toward greater autonomy will only increase as the U.S. military shifts from one pilot remotely flying a drone to one pilot remotely managing several drones at once.

But humans still make the decision to fire, and in the case of CIA strikes in Pakistan, that call rests with the director of the agency. In future operations, if drones are deployed against a sophisticated enemy, there may be much less time for deliberation and a greater need for machines that can function on their own.

The U.S. military has begun to grapple with the implications of emerging technologies.

"Authorizing a machine to make lethal combat decisions is contingent upon political and military leaders resolving legal and ethical questions," according to an Air Force treatise called Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047. "These include the appropriateness of machines having this ability, under what circumstances it should be employed, where responsibility for mistakes lies and what limitations should be placed upon the autonomy of such systems." In the future, micro-drones will reconnoiter tunnels and buildings, robotic mules will haul equipment and mobile systems will retrieve the wounded while under fire. Technology will save lives. But the trajectory of military research has led to calls for an arms-control regime to forestall any possibility that autonomous systems could target humans.

In Berlin last year, a group of robotic engineers, philosophers and human rights activists formed the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) and said such technologies might tempt policymakers to think war can be less bloody.

Some experts also worry that hostile states or terrorist organizations could hack robotic systems and redirect them. Malfunctions also are a problem: In South Africa in 2007, a semiautonomous cannon fatally shot nine friendly soldiers.

The ICRAC would like to see an international treaty, such as the one banning antipersonnel mines, that would outlaw some autonomous lethal machines. Such an agreement could still allow automated antimissile systems.

"The question is whether systems are capable of discrimination," said Peter Asaro, a founder of the ICRAC and a professor at the New School in New York who teaches a course on digital war. "The good technology is far off, but technology that doesn't work well is already out there. The worry is that these systems are going to be pushed out too soon, and they make a lot of mistakes, and those mistakes are going to be atrocities."

Research into autonomy, some of it classified, is racing ahead at universities and research centers in the United States, and that effort is beginning to be replicated in other countries, particularly China.

"Lethal autonomy is inevitable," said Ronald C. Arkin, the author of "Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots," a study that was funded by the Army Research Office.

Arkin believes it is possible to build ethical military drones and robots, capable of using deadly force while programmed to adhere to international humanitarian law and the rules of engagement. He said software can be created that would lead machines to return fire with proportionality, minimize collateral damage, recognize surrender, and, in the case of uncertainty, maneuver to reassess or wait for a human assessment.

In other words, rules as understood by humans can be converted into algorithms followed by machines for all kinds of actions on the battlefield.

"How a war-fighting unit may think - we are trying to make our systems behave like that," said Lora G. Weiss, chief scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

Others, however, remain skeptical that humans can be taken out of the loop.

"Autonomy is really the Achilles' heel of robotics," said Johann Borenstein, head of the Mobile Robotics Lab at the University of Michigan. "There is a lot of work being done, and still we haven't gotten to a point where the smallest amount of autonomy is being used in the military field. All robots in the military are remote-controlled. How does that sit with the fact that autonomy has been worked on at universities and companies for well over 20 years?"

Borenstein said human skills will remain critical in battle far into the future.

"The foremost of all skills is common sense," he said. "Robots don't have common sense and won't have common sense in the next 50 years, or however long one might want to guess."
(c) 2011 Peter Finn is a National Security correspondent for The Washington Post.

The Bleeding Cure
By Paul Krugman

Doctors used to believe that by draining a patient's blood they could purge the evil "humors" that were thought to cause disease. In reality, of course, all their bloodletting did was make the patient weaker, and more likely to succumb.

Fortunately, physicians no longer believe that bleeding the sick will make them healthy. Unfortunately, many of the makers of economic policy still do. And economic bloodletting isn't just inflicting vast pain; it's starting to undermine our long-run growth prospects.

Some background: For the past year and a half, policy discourse in both Europe and the United States has been dominated by calls for fiscal austerity. By slashing spending and reducing deficits, we were told, nations could restore confidence and drive economic revival.

And the austerity has been real. In Europe, troubled nations like Greece and Ireland have imposed savage cuts, even as stronger nations have imposed milder austerity programs of their own. In the United States, the modest federal stimulus of 2009 has faded out, while state and local governments have slashed their budgets, so that over all we've had a de facto move toward austerity not so different from Europe's.

Strange to say, however, confidence hasn't surged. Somehow, businesses and consumers seem much more concerned about the lack of customers and jobs, respectively, than they are reassured by the fiscal righteousness of their governments. And growth seems to be stalling, while unemployment remains disastrously high on both sides of the Atlantic.

But, say apologists for the bad results so far, shouldn't we be focused on the long run rather than short-run pain? Actually, no: the economy needs real help now, not hypothetical payoffs a decade from now. In any case, evidence is starting to emerge that the economy's "short run" troubles - now in their fourth year, and being made worse by the focus on austerity - are taking a toll on its long-run prospects as well.

Consider, in particular, what is happening to America's manufacturing base. In normal times manufacturing capacity rises 2 or 3 percent every year. But faced with a persistently weak economy, industry has been reducing, not increasing, its productive capacity. At this point, according to Federal Reserve estimates, manufacturing capacity is almost 5 percent lower than it was in December 2007.

What this means is that if and when a real recovery finally gets going, the economy will run into capacity constraints and production bottlenecks much sooner than it should. That is, the weak economy, which is partly the result of budget-cutting, is hurting the future as well as the present.

Furthermore, the decline in manufacturing capacity is probably only the beginning of the bad news. Similar cuts in capacity will probably take place in the service sector - indeed, they may already be taking place. And with long-term unemployment at its highest level since the Great Depression, there is a real risk that many of the unemployed will come to be seen as unemployable.

Oh, and the brunt of those cuts in public spending is falling on education. Somehow, laying off hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers doesn't seem like a good way to win the future.

In fact, when you combine the growing evidence that fiscal austerity is reducing our future prospects with the very low interest rates on U.S. government debt, it's hard to avoid a startling conclusion: budget austerity may well be counterproductive even from a purely fiscal point of view, because lower future growth means lower tax receipts.

What should be happening? The answer is that we need a major push to get the economy moving, not at some future date, but right now. For the time being we need more, not less, government spending, supported by aggressively expansionary policies from the Federal Reserve and its counterparts abroad. And it's not just pointy-headed economists saying this; business leaders like Google's Eric Schmidt are saying the same thing, and the bond market, by buying U.S. debt at such low interest rates, is in effect pleading for a more expansionary policy.

And to be fair, some policy players seem to get it. President Obama's new jobs plan is a step in the right direction, while some board members of the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England - though not, sad to say, the European Central Bank - have been calling for much more growth-oriented policies.

What we really need, however, is to convince a substantial number of people with political power or influence that they've spent the last year and a half going in exactly the wrong direction, and that they need to make a U-turn.

It's not going to be easy. But until that U-turn happens, the bleeding - which is making our economy weaker now, and undermining its future at the same time - will continue.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."
~~~ Harold Pinter, 2005 Nobel Lecture ~~~

The Mainstreaming Of Walt And Mearsheimer
By Glenn Greenwald

There were numerous reasons that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer were accused in prominent venues of all sorts of crimes -- including anti-Semitism -- when they published The Israel Lobby, but the most common cause was the book's central theme: that there is a very powerful lobby in the U.S. which is principally devoted to Israel and causes U.S. political leaders to act to advance the interests of this foreign nation over their own. In The New York Times today, Tom Friedman -- long one of Israel's most stalwart American supporters -- wrote the following as the second paragraph of his column, warning that the U.S. was about to incur massive damage in order to block Palestinian statehood:

This has also left the U.S. government fed up with Israel's leadership but a hostage to its ineptitude, because the powerful pro-Israel lobby in an election season can force the administration to defend Israel at the U.N., even when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or America's.

Isn't that exactly Walt and Mearseimer's main theme, what caused them to be tarred and feathered with the most noxious accusations possible? Indeed it is; here's how the academic duo, in The Israel Lobby, described the crux of their argument as first set forth in an article on which the book was based:

After describing the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel, we argued that his support could not be fully explained on either strategic or moral grounds Instead, it was due largely to the political power of the Israel lobby, a loose coalition of individuals and groups that seeks to influence American foreign policy in ways that will benefit Israel . . . We suggested that these policies were not in the U.S. national interest and were in fact harmful to Israel's long-term interests as well.

Is that not exactly the point which The New York Times' most "pro-Israel" columnist himself just voiced today? This thesis has long been self-evidently true. Indeed, many of the same Israel-loyal neoconservatives who accused Walt and Mearsheimer of promoting an anti-Semitic trope of "dual loyalty" -- by daring to suggest that some American Jews cast votes based on what's best for Israel rather than the U.S. -- themselves will explicitly urge American Jews to vote Republican instead of Democrat because of the former's supposedly greater support for Israel (you're allowed to argue that American Jews should make political choices based on Israel but you're not allowed to point out that some do so). Ed Koch just ran around the 9th Congressional District in New York successfully urging American Jews to vote for the GOP candidate based on exactly that appeal ("Koch, a Democrat, endorsed [the GOP candidate] in July as a way to 'send a message' to Obama on his policies toward Israel"). And in The Wall Street Journal this week, Rick Perry excoriated President Obama because of the small handful of instances where Obama deviated ever-so-slightly from the dictates and wishes of the Israeli government.

Walt and Mearshiemer merely voiced a truth which has long been known and obvious but was not allowed to be spoken. That's precisely why the demonization campaign against them was so vicious and concerted: those who voice prohibited truths are always more hated than those who spout obvious lies. That the foreign affairs columnist most admired in Washington circles just expressed the same point demonstrates that recognition of this previously prohibited fact has now become mainstream.

Unfortunately, though, it is still a fact. While there is little doubt that blocking Palestinian statehood will damage the U.S. in substantial ways, there is a reasonable debate to be had about whether Palestinian statehood is actually beneficial to the Palestinians. But American politicians won't be entertaining that debate as they exercise their veto because, as The Israel Lobby documented and Tom Friedman today put it, "the powerful pro-Israel lobby . . . can force the administration to defend Israel at the U.N., even when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or America's." Obama officials recognize how vital it is to improve how the U.S. is perceived in the Muslim world and go to great lengths to achieve that goal -- including, supposedly, just fighting a war in Libya in part to accomplish that -- yet (predictably egged on by Democratic Congressional leaders) are prepared/required to throw all of that away because of the imperative of honoring the Netanyahu government's obsession with denying Palestinian statehood.

UPDATE: China yesterday "warned of a spike in tensions in the Middle East if the United States vetoed the Palestinian bid for membership," pointing out: "If the US chooses to fly in the face of world opinion and block the Palestine UN bid next week, not only will Israel become more isolated but tensions in the region will be heightened even more." The New York Times this morning ponders what will happen when the veto "fuels deeper resentment of the United States." A normal, healthy government would be eager to avoid those harms, but as Tom Friedman says, American leaders are "hostage" to "the powerful pro-Israel lobby" and will thus subject the country to that damage in order not to incur its wrath.
(c) 2011 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Murder Is Good Politics, Bad Justice
By Robert Scheer

I don't know if Troy Davis was innocent, but I do know that the evidence for demanding a re-examination of his conviction, including the recanted testimony of most of the witnesses against him, was overwhelming. But of course that is now beside the point, which is exactly what is so wrong about the use of the death penalty. No matter what evidence of innocence might be produced in the future, it is of consequence no longer.

That is a compelling argument against the death penalty-no room for correction-but there are others. The most egregious argument for capital punishment is the claim that the finality of officially condoned killing is a necessary guarantor of civilized order. Egregious because it is not possible to make that case without explaining why most of the democratic societies that we admire shun the death penalty as contrary to their most deeply held values.

Or is it China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen, which, along with the United States, led the world in government executions, that we most admire? There is something stunningly disgraceful about the company we keep on this issue.

As Amnesty International-the world's premier human rights organization, which deserves high marks for its anti-death penalty campaign-points out, more than two-thirds of the world's nations have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. I defy anyone to compare the list of countries that have retained the death penalty with those that have abolished it and then conclude that it serves a needed purpose.

It is obvious from the experience of those nations without the death penalty and our own 17 states that have banned capital punishment that this barbaric custom is not a necessary, let alone efficient, means for ensuring public safety. Due process in the United States, which claims to have an enlightened legal system, requires death penalty procedures that are costlier than appropriate incarceration.

Governments that cling to this primitive ritual of state-sanctioned murder do so not to induce respect for law but rather to indulge a lust for vengeance. Toward that end it would be far more honest to have the bound prisoner stoned to death by the governors, state legislators, prosecutors and judges who support the death penalty rather than employing lethal injections by disengaged technicians. Forcing them to be the executioners in actual practice rather than as a matter of legal theory would compel a far greater sense of personal responsibility than politicians and some others tend to exhibit on the matter.

From my own experience as a journalist covering this issue, the vast majority of politicians who defend capital punishment do so out of rank opportunism, which they demonstrate, particularly when the conversation is off the record, by citing polling numbers rather than evidence of the death penalty as a capital crime deterrent.

As I waited for the news of Troy Davis' fate, my thoughts kept returning to that day in 1960 when we Berkeley students picketed the California governor's office in pleading for a stay in the execution of convicted rapist Caryl Chessman, who was never accused of murder. It didn't come because Gov. Pat Brown, despite his deep reservations about the case, had succumbed to public opinion. I never imagined then that more than half a century later the death penalty would still be enforced. That it is mocks our claim to be a moral leader in this world.

It is appropriate that we grieve for the slain police officer, Mark MacPhail, but if Davis was not the one with the gun, as he claimed to the end, the true murderer will have gone unpunished, as suggested by Davis' haunting plea to the MacPhail family minutes before he died: "I did not personally kill your son, father, brother. All I can ask is that you look deeper into this case so you really can finally see the truth."

Execution is a means of summarily ending the pursuit of justice rather than advancing it.

This case was so freighted with contradictions that a stay of execution was clearly in order. As Amnesty International spokesperson Laura Moye stated: "Today Georgia didn't just kill Troy Davis, they killed the faith and confidence that many Georgians, Americans, and Troy Davis supporters worldwide used to have in our criminal justice system."
(c) 2011 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

The Dead Letter Office...

Darrel explains why he's so mean. It's only this big!

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Issa,

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 plans to roll back hundreds of existing or pending regulations, including on smog, a major contributor to several lung ailments, 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 Issa, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

"Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of working families,
the elderly, the children, the sick and the most vulnerable, it is
time to ask the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations
in this country to pay their fair share." ~~~ Bernie Sanders

Thousands Cheer Bernie Sanders' Appeal To Obama, Super Committee
Make the Rich Pay for Deficits
By John Nichols

Declaring that "Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation's history," and decrying threats to Medicare and Medicaid that would punish Americans who did not cause the current economic crisis, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders brought thousands of progressives from across the Midwest to the feet Saturday, as they cheered his message to President Obama and the congressional "Super Committee":"We can deal with deficit reduction in a way that is fair and responsible."

"Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the most vulnerable," Sanders said, "it is time to ask the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in this country to pay their fair share."

In several speeches to crowds numbers in the thousands who gathered for Fighting BobFest events in Madison, Wisconsin, Sanders continues to spell out the progressive economic agenda that argues against cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to balance budgets and address deficits and for tax policies that end special breaks for the wealthy and multinational corporations that offshore jobs from the United States.

President Obama is expected to deliver a major speech Monday on deficit reduction and the White House has indicated that the president's plan will not include "changes to Social Security." Sanders is glad of that: "I am delighted that the White House has decided not to cut benefits under the program that has kept millions of retirees out of poverty," the senators said in Madison. "Social Security has $2.5 trillion surplus, can pay out every benefit for the next 27 years and has not contributed one nickel to the deficit. Social Security should be strengthened, not cut."

That does not mean the House-Senate "Super Committee" on deficit reduction -- which is ramping up its work as members of Congress return to Washington -- will do so, however. Nor does it mean that related and equally vital programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, are off the chopping block.

"Rumors persist that President Obama may embrace the idea of raising the age of Medicare eligibility, an idea he put on the table in his negotiations with Republicans during the debt ceiling debacle." notes the Campaign for America's Future, which has been closely monitoring threats to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

"The report that Social Security is not going to be on the chopping block is welcome news – especially since Social Security contributes nothing to America's deficits," says CAF director Roger Hickey. "However, if the President again proposes raising the age of Medicare eligibility on Monday, he would be making a huge mistake, and such a policy would harm America's most vulnerable citizens. Medicare is a target for deficit cutters because many of them never liked the program; however they claim they want to change the eligibility age because health care costs are skyrocketing. The solution is instituting policies that control overall health costs: hit the pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies, not low income and sick Americans. We can't afford to let profiteers from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries make millions off of taxpayers any longer. The President should propose letting Medicare use its buying power to negotiate discount prices with the drug companies."

Sanders has taken the lead in the fight against balancing budgets on the backs of working Americans.

He's pushing a number of plans designed to strengthen the safety net, while demanding that the richest Americans -- who have enjoyed massive increases in their income and wealth in recent years -- begin to pay their fair share.

Some of the loudest applause for Sanders -- when he joined Dr. Cornel West, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, radio host Thom Hartmann and others in addressing an arena filled with labor, farm and community activists for Saturday's main BobFest gathering -- came when he spelled out a plan to assure the long-term stability of Social Security.

Arguing that the most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the next 75 years is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on income above $250,000, Sanders declared: "Lift the cap and cause the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."

Thousands of activists whose level of commitment will decide the fate of Democratic contenders in 2012 leapt to their feet and cheered.

If President Obama and other Democrats in Washington want to know how to leap the enthusiasm gap that will be needed to win battleground states such as Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania next year, Bernie Sanders has provided the answer.

Asked at a packed Friday night gathering in Madison to explain how Obama and the Democrats can win next year, the senator answered: "Clearly, you are not going to win over the American people unless you are prepared to stand and fight."

Again, the applause was thunderous.

Let's just hope it was loud enough to be heard in Washington by the president and by the Democrats who have been assigned to the "Super Committee."
(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.

Ron gives the Corpo-rat Salute

How Many Poor People Do You Know?
By Mary Pitt

This is a question that should be asked of any person who is running for a national office. We don't mean how many poor people one sees on the streets as one drives by in an automobile, not just those who show up at the soup kitchen with whom a photo opportunity is in progress. We mean the people who live constantly at or slightly above the poverty line, constantly worrying as they juggle their meager budget to try to prioritize and keep their heads above the fiscal disaster that lurks everywhere, who work even when they're ailing because they cannot feed the family without that paycheck and "doctors cost money."

Pediatricians are becoming alarmed because more women are foregoing prenatal medical care and even having their babies without medical assistance of any kind due to lack of money to pay. Without free breakfasts and lunches at school many children would be going all day with an empty stomach when Daddy's or Mommy's money runs out before the next payday.

Do you know any of these people? Have you visited them just because you value their company and are interested in their opinions? Have you asked them to your home for an evening? If you answer in the negative, something is lacking, not only in your knowledge base but in your religious education. If you did know them, you would know of how offended they would be if you offered to give them money, but how willing they would be to find the time to do a job for you if you were to need some temporary chores. However, they would happily do the same chore for you without pay should you ask them.

You see, these people are not the scum of society as so many politicians would term them. Your familial antecedents would have called them "the salt of the earth." They are the same kind of people who would sell themselves into bondage for the opportunity to take their families and their poor possessions aboard a frail ship to reach a far-off land where they could work hard to build a better life for their children and for generations to come. They would serve out their bondage, gather their belongings again, and set out, bag and baggage, for lands unknown in order to fell trees for a shelter so they could till the soil and create a home.

But now we live in a settled land where everything belongs to somebody else; there is no virgin land there for the taking, there are no more frontiers to settle and there is no choice but for mankind to learn to live with one another. We are all in the same boat. The problem is that too many want to stand in the bow and captain the journey while those who man the oars are taken for granted. As the boat starts to sink from having the weight unevenly distributed by too many captains, those captains think the answer is to scuttle the oarsmen! Thus, we are faced with silly ideas like "trickle down."

There was a time that candidates would campaign door-to-door, visiting with potential; voters in their homes and listening to their concerns. Now campaigns are limited to televised speeches and rallies among the faithful where the candidates never talk to anybody who is not already disposed to support them. The questions usually come from those who already know the canned answers which they will receive, and neither candidate nor voter actally learn anything.

It is easy for a candidate like Ron Paul to espouse leaving sick and uninsured to just die and to receive great applause from his supporters which leads him to believe that his answer was correct. Do you suppose Congressman Paul has any close friends or relatives who are truly poor? So why should he care should a constituent or a hired minion should die for lack of medical care?

To some of a gentler persuasion, it would seem necessary for a successful candidate to know those whom he is bound to represent in the government of the United States. Try asking the question at the next political rally you attend, "How many poor people do you really know?"
(c) 2011 Mary Pitt is an octagenarian who has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her "Sunset Years" in writing and struggling with The System. Huzzahs and whiney complaints may be sent to

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Pat Bagley ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

In Rare Public Statement, God Tells Pat Robertson To Shut The Fuck Up
'Enough Already With That Moron,' Says Almighty
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - Rev. Pat Robertson's controversial remarks in which he advised that it was acceptable to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer's drew a harsh rebuke from God Almighty, who held a press conference today to tell him to "shut the fuck up."

The bearded King of the Universe, dressed in His trademark flowing white robe and carrying a lightning bolt, spoke to reporters at New York's Hyatt Grand Central for forty-five minutes in a press conference specifically called to denounce the televangelist.

"I've held my tongue while he's jabbered on and on about me punishing this group and that group with floods and earthquakes and such, but this was the last straw," He said. "Enough already with that moron."

In addition to debunking Rev. Robertson's Alzheimer's statement, the Almighty categorically denied using natural disasters in the past to punish gays, Haitians, and other targets of Rev. Robertson's scorn.

"Oh, please," He said. "That's just weather."

On another topic, God attempted to put distance between Himself and the presidential candidacy of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas: "Rick Perry is qualified to be President in the same way that Olive Garden is qualified to be Italy."
(c) 2011 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 37 (c) 09/23/2011

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