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In This Edition

Tom Engelhardt says to, "Forget Mit Romney."

Uri Avnery gets, "A Message From Romnyahu."

Glen Ford is, "Talking Peace And Justice With Ahmadinejad."

Chris Floyd finds, "No Choice Proffered In Election's Poisoned Chalice."

Jim Hightower studies, "Millionaire Tax Dodgers."

Phil Rockstroh examines, "A Crucible Of Political Disenchantment."

James Donahue asks, "What Has Happened To American Liberty?"

David Swanson orates, "Lies, Damn Lies, And Nuclear Lies."

Ted Rall explores, "Prequel To A Beginning."

Sam Harris lectures, "On The Freedom To Offend An Imaginary God."

Paul Krugman finds, "The Optimism Cure."

Joel S. Hirschhorn warns, "Wake Up: Reject The Two-Party Plutocracy."

Robert Reich explains, "What Mitt Romney Really Represents."

Tommy Thompson wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols reports, "Top GOP Senate Candidate Just Says It, 'Do Away With Medicare, Medicaid.'"

Adam Keller observes, "King Bibi In The Political Casino."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reads, "A Letter From Ann Romney" but first Uncle Ernie hears, "Obama's U.N. Speech."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Randy Bish, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Ruben Bolling, Reuters, WMX Design, Tauntr.Com, Lior Mizrahi, Black Agenda Report.Com, K.W., WI US Senate Footage, UC Santa Barbara, Columbia Pictures, 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."

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Obama's U.N. Speech
By Ernest Stewart

"In other words, true democracy - real freedom - is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform." ~~~ President Obama

"There is a fresh row over GM foods as a French study claims rats fed the controversial crops suffered tumors. The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumors, as well as severe liver and kidney damage. The researchers said 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group." ~~~ The Daily Mail

Those plexi-plastic 'copters, they're your special friends
they see you every night
Well, they call themselves protection
but you know it's no game
You're never out of their sight!
1984 ~~~ Spirit

"Interestingly enough, an edition of the Encyclopedia Galactica that fell through a time-warp from 200 years in the future defines the Marketing Division of the Cirius Cybernetics Corporation as: "A bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came.'" ~~~ The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy

My mind is still reeling from reading Barry's speech at the UN. The hypocrisy could knock your sox off. The lies are mind-boggling and constant. Say what you will about Barry, but the man has balls. To walk onto the world stage, with his record of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and deliver that song and dance without cracking up and totally losing it in a gale of laughter, is beyond belief. I'm guessing at the speech's end there was a vast silence -- except for the insane applause by Americans, the British, the Israelis, and a few of our NATO allies, viz., the criminal element. For once in my life, I am at a loss for words; I mean, where to begin? How am I not to take it to the nth degree? I mean, life is short, and there is so much BS. But don't take my word for it; here it is in its entirety. Read it and weep, America!

Obama's speech to the United Nations General Assembly

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman: I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.

Chris was born in a town called Grass Valley, California, the son of a lawyer and a musician. As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco. He came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East, and he would carry that commitment throughout his life. As a diplomat, he worked from Egypt to Syria; from Saudi Arabia to Libya. He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he worked - tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic and listening with a broad smile.

Chris went to Benghazi in the early days of the Libyan revolution, arriving on a cargo ship. As America's representative, he helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict, cared for the wounded, and crafted a vision for a future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected. After the revolution, he supported the birth of a new democracy, as Libyans held elections, built new institutions, and began to move forward after decades of dictatorship.

Chris Stevens loved his work. He took pride in the country he served, and saw dignity in the people he met. Two weeks ago, he traveled to Benghazi to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital. That's when America's compound came under attack. Along with three of his colleagues, Chris was killed in the city he helped to save. He was 52 years old.

I tell you this story because Chris Stevens embodied the best of America. Like his fellow Foreign Service officers, he built bridges across oceans and cultures, and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents. He acted with humility, but stood up for a set of principles - a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.

The attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Libyan government and the Libyan people. And there should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice. I also appreciate that in recent days, the leaders of other countries in the region - including Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen - have taken steps to secure our diplomatic facilities, and called for calm. So have religious authorities around the globe.

But the attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded - the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; and that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.

If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an Embassy; or to put out statements of regret, and wait for the outrage to pass. If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis. Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common.

Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.

It has been less than two years since a vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest the oppressive corruption in his country, and sparked what became known as the Arab Spring. Since then, the world has been captivated by the transformation that has taken place, and the United States has supported the forces of change.

We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.

We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.

We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.

We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values - they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges that come with a transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.

So let us remember that this is a season of progress. For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive, and fair. This democratic spirit has not been restricted to the Arab World. Over the past year, we have seen peaceful transitions of power in Malawi and Senegal, and a new President in Somalia. In Burma, a President has freed political prisoners and opened a closed society; a courageous dissident has been elected to Parliament; and people look forward to further reform. Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future.

And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: "to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.

In other words, true democracy - real freedom - is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.

Moreover, there will always be those that reject human progress - dictators who cling to power, corrupt interests that depend upon the status quo; and extremists who fan the flames of hate and division. From Northern Ireland to South Asia; from Africa to the Americas; from the Balkans to the Pacific Rim, we've witnessed convulsions that can accompany transitions to a new political order. At times, the conflicts arise along the fault lines of faith, race or tribe; and often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world. In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.

That is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well - for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion - we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.

I know there are some who ask why we don't just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. Moreover, as President of our country, and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views - even views that we disagree with.

We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech - the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

I know that not all countries in this body share this understanding of the protection of free speech. Yet in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.

There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.

More broadly, the events of the last two weeks speak to the need for all of us to address honestly the tensions between the West and an Arab World moving to democracy. Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue. Nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks, or the hateful speech by some individuals, represents the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims- any more than the views of the people who produced this video represent those of Americans.

However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders, in all countries, to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism. It is time to marginalize those who - even when not resorting to violence - use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel as a central principle of politics. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes excuses, for those who resort to violence.

That brand of politics - one that pits East against West; South against North; Muslim against Christian, Hindu, and Jew - cannot deliver the promise of freedom. To the youth, it offers only false hope. Burning an American flag will do nothing to educate a child. Smashing apart a restaurant will not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an Embassy won't create a single job. That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together: educating our children and creating the opportunities they deserve; protecting human rights, and extending democracy's promise.

Understand that America will never retreat from the world. We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends. We will stand with our allies and are willing to partner with countries to deepen ties of trade and investment; science and technology; energy and development - efforts that can spark economic growth for all of our people, and stabilize democratic change. But such efforts depend upon a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. No government or company; no school or NGO will be confident working in a country where its people are endangered. For partnership to be effective, our citizens must be secure and our efforts must be welcomed.

A politics based only on anger -one based on dividing the world between us and them - not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana'a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.

The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained. The same impulses toward extremism are used to justify war between Sunnis and Shia, between tribes and clans. It leads not to strength and prosperity but to chaos. In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. Extremists understand this. And because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant. They do not build, they only destroy.

It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind. On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future, or the prisons of the past. We cannot afford to get it wrong. We must seize this moment. And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt - it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted "Muslims, Christians, we are one." The future must not belong to those who bully women - it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country's resources - it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: "Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit." Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.

Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on the prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, and those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard but the destination is clear - a secure, Jewish state of Israel; and an independent, prosperous Palestine. Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.

In Syria, the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people. If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings. And we must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence.

Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision - a Syria that is united and inclusive; where children don't need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed - Sunnis and Alawites; Kurds and Christians. That is what America stands for; that is the outcome that we will work for - with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute; and assistance and support for those who work for this common good. Because we believe that the Syrians who embrace this vision will have the strength and legitimacy to lead.

In Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology leads. The Iranian people have a remarkable and ancient history, and many Iranians wish to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside their neighbors. But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government props up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad. Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations.

Let me be clear: America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights. That is why this institution was established from the rubble of conflict; that is why liberty triumphed over tyranny in the Cold War; and that is the lesson of the last two decades as well. History shows that peace and progress come to those who make the right choices.

Nations in every part of the world have traveled this hard path. Europe - the bloodiest battlefield of the 20th century - is united, free and at peace. From Brazil to South Africa; from Turkey to South Korea; from India to Indonesia; people of different races, religions, and traditions have lifted millions out of poverty, while respecting the rights of their citizens and meeting their responsibilities as nations.

And it is because of the progress I've witnessed that after nearly four years as President, I am hopeful about the world we live in. The war in Iraq is over, and our troops have come home. We have begun a transition in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule in 2014. Al Qaeda has been weakened and Osama bin Laden is no more. Nations have come together to lock down nuclear materials, and America and Russia are reducing our arsenals. I've seen hard choices made - from Naypyidaw to Cairo to Abidjan - to put more power in the hands of citizens.

At a time of economic challenge, the world has come together to broaden prosperity. Through the G-20, we have partnered with emerging countries to keep the world on the path of recovery. America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed their nations. New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption and promote government that is open and transparent. New commitments have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue opportunity. And later today, I will discuss our efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

But what gives me the most hope is not the actions of leaders - it is the people I've seen. The American troops who have risked their lives and sacrificed their limbs for strangers half a world away. The students in Jakarta and Seoul who are eager to use their knowledge to benefit humankind. The faces in a square in Prague or a parliament in Ghana who see democracy giving voice to their aspirations. The young people in the favelas of Rio and the schools of Mumbai whose eyes shine with promise. These men, women and children of every race and every faith remind me that for every angry mob that gets shown on television, there are billions around the globe who share similar hopes and dreams. They tell us that there is a common heartbeat to humanity.

So much attention in our world turns to what divides us. That's what we see on the news, and that consumes our political debates. But when you strip that all away, people everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes from faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people - and not the other way around.

The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people, and all across the world. That was our founding purpose. That is what our history shows. And that is what Chris Stevens worked for throughout his life.

And today I promise you this - long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens' legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, "Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans."

They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed. Thank you.

I know what you are feeling. If I said WTF once, I must have said it dozens of times while reading that tripe. Had I been in the audience, I would have laughed out loud, rolling on the floor laughter that would have rang to the ceiling and before they carried me out of there, insanely giggling, I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have been the only one laughing. You may recall that laughing at a politician is the worst thing you can do to him, short of putting him on trial for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. We are sooooooooo screwed, America!

In Other News

I see where French researchers for two years secretly studied 200 rats fed with Monsanto's transgenic corn. Rats in the study developed huge tumors and died at a rate of 600 times more than rats fed a GMO free diet.

Of course, this flies in the face of Monsanto's studies; but it turns out there is a reason for this. Monsanto's studies lasted 90 days, trouble is the troubles didn't begin to show up until the end of the fourth month, which of course Monsanto knew and thus limited their studies to 3 months.

This is bad enough with their Round Up poison in every kernel of corn or every potato or soya bean. However, when studied just for their gene splicing, it turns out that the new gene combination kills at a higher rate than the poison does! I'm going to repeat that again, for those of you on drugs.

Eating GMO Food Will Kill You!

If you eat food containing corn or high fructose corn syrup, you are probably eating GM corn, since around 85% of corn grown in the US is genetically-modified. While "the French government called for 'immediate action' against genetically-modified crops as finer details of the widely-reported Monsanto GM study are scrutinized among experts." "Health Canada is to review GM corn study, promising action if there's a demonstrated risk" This just in: the Russians have banned the import of all GMO products and seeds! The FDA and USDA aren't stopping anything, and plan no new studies and have no reason to stop the poisoning of our food, what with an Obama-appointed Monsanto stooge and lobbyist in charge of these things at the FDA!

When are you going to do something about this, America? You're feeding yourself and your children and grandchildren this poison; and it's only a matter of time until we all start developing giant tumors and cancers, just like the rats do. What will you tell your children when they ask why you've none nothing to stop this? Oh, and did I mention most all of the cattle in this country and all around the world, including all of Europe are being fed GMO soya beans? What's for dinner, America?

And Finally

On all US paper currency it clearly states. "This note is legal tender for all debts public and private." And yet in Florida and according to the FBI, using cash can make you a suspected terrorist and subject to treatment as such! Oh, and lets not forget, suspected terrorist can be disappeared and or killed, without charges, or evidence, or trial, with no appeal!

The Eleventh Circuit US Court of Appeals has ruled that private contractors operating toll roads on behalf of the state of Florida have the power to detain and store records on motorists who pay by cash at all toll booths! For no other reason than that they payed in cash!

Joel, Deborah and Robert Chandler were held hostage, a.k.a., kidnapped, by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the private contractor in charge of the state's toll road, Faneuil, Inc. at a toll booth last year for paying cash and refusing to have a report filled out on them and their vehicle, so they all filed suit against the above mentioned. The "NewsPaper" reported:

"Under FDOT policies in place at the time, motorists who paid with $50 bills, and occasionally even $5 bills, were not given permission to proceed until the toll collector filled out a 'Bill Detection Report' with data about the motorist's vehicle and details from his driver's license. Many of those who chose to pay cash did so to avoid the privacy implications of installing a SunPass transponder that recorded their driving habits.

They were likewise unwilling to provide personal information to the toll collector; but they had no alternative because the toll barrier would not be raised without compliance. FDOT policy does not allow passengers to exit their vehicle, and backing up is illegal and usually impossible while other cars wait behind."

The three-judge panel dismissed the suit, ruling that "detaining motorists in order to record details about people who paid by cash was not a constitutional violation and that the state and the contractor could subject motorists to such treatment because, in Florida, a person's right and liberty to use a highway is not absolute." If you don't let them track your every move, they have other ways of tracking your every move; and before you think, well, of course, you're talking about the Bush Brother's Banana Republic, ergo, I wouldn't go to Florida at gun point, let me add that, for example, the FBI put out fliers to watch people buying coffee or using computers if they pay for it in cash to all cybercafes and major coffee shop chains, because they're potential terrorists. Oh, and did I mention that Wally World is part of the FBI plan -- so watch out, Walmart shoppers, too! Makes you proud to be an, American, huh?

Keepin' On

Just had one of those bare cupboards moments at my PO Box, I'm having a deja vu all over again and it doesn't look good! We've managed to get this far and are in sight of our goal, but time marches on, and the powers that be here in "Internet World" want their "duckettes in the bucket," if you get my drift? The Internet is only free to the man who owns one, and that ain't me, Sunshine!

Ya'll hip to those "united we stand, divided we fall, one for all and all for one" analogies? Not only are they true, but perhaps have never been truer! As old Ben Jammin' Franklin once said, "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." Those are golden words to live by, as you only know too well, what we are up against, viz., some truly evil, powerful people! If we don't stop them, the next thing we'll be up against is "the wall!"

If you'd like to spare your family and friends from that, then keep us working to supply you the thoughts and facts that you'll need in the difficult times to come, think serious "Happy Camps". Please send us what you can, when you can, and united we'll stand together -- working for a better future for all!


12-03-1927 ~ 09-25-2012
Thanks for the music and film!

09-03-1917 ~ 09-27-2012
Thanks for the film!


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) 2012 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 11 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Barry give the corporate salute!

Forget Mitt Romney
The Real Show is Obama vs. the World
By Tom Engelhardt

Since this is my version of an election piece, I plan to get the usual stuff out of the way fast.

So yes, the smartest political odds-givers around believe President Obama has a distinct edge over Mitt Romney coming out of the conventions, the Senate is trending Democratic, and who knows about the House. In fact, it almost seems as if the Republicans put forward the only man in America incapable of defeating an economically wounded and deeply vulnerable president (other than, of course, the roster of candidates he ran against for the nomination).

In every way that they can control, the Obama people have simply been smarter. Take those conventions: in each of them, the presidential candidate was introduced by a well-known figure who went on stage and ad-libbed. One was an 82-year-old guy talking to an empty chair (and I still thought he was the best thing the Republicans had to offer, including his shout-out about withdrawing all our troops from Afghanistan) and the other was... well, Bill Clinton.

It wasn't even a contest. As for the upcoming debates, if you think Romney can outduel Obama without wandering in among the thorns, I have a Nigerian prince I'd like to introduce you to. In other words, it should really all be over except for the usual shouting and the gazillions of dollars of attack ads that will turn swing-state TV screens into a mind-numbing blur of lies. Even there, however, some Super PAC and dark-money types may evidently be starting to consider shifting funds from beating up on Obama to beating up on Democratic senatorial candidates. It's a sign that the moneybags of the Republican right fear the Romney campaign is a rerun of McCain World and the candidate is a Bain Capital version of John Kerry wind-surfing. After all, Romney seems almost incapable of opening his mouth without letting out a howler, his staff is in a state of civil war, and Republican candidates elsewhere are leaping from the ditched bandwagon, as are even conservative pundits.

By now, Obama and his savvy campaign staff should really be home free, having run political circles around their Republican opponent as he was running circles around himself. There's only one problem: the world. These days it's threatening to be a bizarrely uncooperative place for a president who wants to rest on his Osama-killing foreign-policy laurels.

An Administration of Managers Face the Tsunami

So send Mitt to the Cayman Islands, stick Paul Ryan in a Swiss bank account, and focus your attention instead on Obama versus the world. For the next 43 days, that's the real contest. It could prove to be the greatest show on Earth, filled as it is with a stellar cast of Islamist extremists, Taliban militants, Afghan allies intent on blowing away their mentors, endangered American diplomats, an Israeli prime minister on the red-line express, sober central European bankers, and a perturbed Chinese leadership, among so many others.

In such a potentially tumultuous situation, the president and his people are committed to a perilous high-wire act without a net. It involves bringing to bear all the power and savvy left to the last superpower on Earth to prevent some part of the world from spinning embarrassingly out of control, lest the president's opponent be handed a delectable "October surprise."

Keep in mind that, despite the president's reputation as a visionary speaker, in global terms his has distinctly been an administration of managers. The visionaries came earlier. They were the first-term Bushites, including George W., Dick, and Donald, each in his own way globally bonkers, and all of them and their associates almost blissfully wrong about the nature of power in our world. (They mistook the destructive power of the U.S. military for global power itself.) As a consequence, they blithely steered the ship of state directly into a field of giant icebergs.

Think of that wrecking crew, in retrospect, as the three stooges of geopolitical dreaming. The invasion and occupation of Iraq, in particular -- as well as the hubris that went with the very idea of a "global war on terror" -- were acts of take-your-breath-away folly that help explain why the Bush administration was MIA at the recent Republican convention (as was, of course, the Iraq War). In the process, they drove a stake directly through the energy heartlands of the planet, leaving autocratic allies there gasping for breath and wondering what was next. Since 2009, the managers of the Obama administration have been doing what managers do best: fiddling with the order of the deck chairs on our particular Titanic. This might be thought of as managing the Bush legacy.

The problem was that in much of the world an older order, linked to the Cold War scheme of things, was finally coming unglued. A combination of the Bush invasions of the Eurasian mainland and the way the U.S. financial sector stormed the planet with a vast ponzi scheme of bogus financial derivatives did much to promote the process, especially in what neoconservatives liked to call "the arc of instability" (before they offered a striking demonstration of just what instability was really all about). In a sense, what they dubbed their "democracy agenda" -- though it had little enough to do with democracy -- played a distinct role in unifying much of the Arab world in opposition to its Washington-backed one-percenters. In this way, the Arab Spring was launched against Ben Ali-ism, and Mubarak-ism, against, that is, an American system of well-armed regional autocrats. (The unraveling of Syria is just a reminder that what we are watching is the disintegration of the full Cold War set-up in the Middle East, including the less significant Soviet part of it.)

Back in 2004, Egyptian diplomat Amr Moussa warned the Bush administration that its invasion of Iraq had opened "the gates of hell." Of course, Washington paid him no heed. He was neither an autocrat nor a soldier, but the secretary-general of the meaningless Arab League, so what were his credentials to explain reality to them? As it happened, he couldn't have been more on the mark and they more in the dark. Unfortunately, it took some time, two minority insurgencies, much chaos, millions driven into exile, a bitter sectarian civil war (now being repeated in Syria), and morgues filled with dead bodies before the Arab Spring would be launched. Though that movement was named for a season of renewal, its name was apt in another sense entirely: a whole system that had long held in place a key region of the planet was being sprung loose.

From Tunisia and Egypt to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, vast hordes of people would take to the streets, nonviolently at first, to protest the corruption and depredations of the 1% in their countries and, often, the foreign powers behind them. As autocrats began to fall, a region-wide system in all its complexity, corruption, and brutality began to shudder and come apart at the seams.

Today, that system is, politely put, in transition, but possibly simply in a state of collapse. What will replace it remains unknown and probably unknowable. In the meantime, into the emptied space have flowed all sorts of raw emotions, bitterness, repressed memories, hopes, and despair, much of it stored up for years if not decades, including feelings that are extreme indeed, and some that are simply murderous or quite mad. A way of life, a system in the Greater Middle East, is clearly over. Surprise is the order of the day, including wild demonstrations and killings over a bizarre "trailer" for a non-existent film that barely made it out of Southern California.

The truth is, from Iran to Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Libya to Yemen, despite almost four years of Obama's ministrations and management, war and diplomacy, the Bush legacy is still threatening to blow the region sky-high. It could easily happen any time in the 43 days before November 6th. Which is why, from Sudan to Libya, the Obama administration is playing little Dutch boy, trying to plug every hole it can in the Middle Eastern dike and praying that any coming tsunami won't hit before the election.

A World at the Boiling Point

The question of the political season, then, has nothing to do with Mitt. It's this: Can the Greater Middle East be managed effectively enough for any potentially embarrassing thing to be swept under some rug until November 7th? And that's just one region on a planet aboil.

Similar questions could be asked of Israeli policy on Iran where Prime Minister Netanyahu has been, quite literally, on the warpath and in the Obama administration's face. He has been pushing for a green light for Israeli strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities or guaranteed red lines that would lead to such strikes. To an outside observer, it might almost seem that "Bibi" is on TV in the U.S. often enough these days to be running for office. From late night presidential phone calls to a stream of messages to Tel Aviv, some offering promises, others warnings, the Obama administration has been putting enormous energy into ensuring that no Israeli strike on Iran will take place before election day (and on this they are likely to succeed). But keep in mind that, to placate Israel, the U.S. has built up its forces in the Persian Gulf region to such an extent that any misstep anywhere could result in a blow-up that neither Washington nor Tehran wants.

When it comes to the disintegrating American position in Afghanistan, almost 11 years after victory was declared and the Bush administration decided to occupy the country rather than go home, the news is grim. The whole mission on which the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops is ostensibly based -- to train the Afghans to stand up and fight for their country -- has essentially been put on hold. That's hardly surprising, since Washington's Afghan allies are now regularly standing up and, with the weapons and training U.S. mentors have given them, blowing those mentors away.

Meanwhile, the actual enemy, the Taliban, supposedly surged into near nonexistence in its southern homeland, has just launched the most devastating attack on a military base of the war, resulting in at least $200 million in allied loses. (It's their first attack that might even faintly be compared to those the Vietnamese launched against American bases in the 1960s.) The question once again is: Can Washington hang on in Afghanistan until November 7th, even if it has to put every Afghan training mission and joint operation on hold and confine American troops to their bases? The great advantage the Obama administration holds in this regard is that the American public has generally been paying next to no attention to the Afghan War. This, nonetheless, is a situation in which an American mission has a possibility of imploding (and unexpected voices are finally being raised on the issue of early withdrawal). And we haven't even mentioned Afghanistan's unsettled and unsettling nuclear neighbor Pakistan.

Keep in mind that the increasingly disturbed regional system we're discussing just happens to be located in the energy heartlands of the planet and, in case you hadn't noticed, prices at the pump have been rising lately. The Saudis are, however, now promising to put extra oil into the global system, which just might providentially help the Obama administration by lowering gas prices before November.

Lest you think that Obama's October surprise fears lie mainly in the Middle East, however, remember that a world system is shuddering, too. There's the tottering Eurozone, in recession and threatening to shatter with unknown global financial consequences; and there's the Chinese economy, that motor for the planet this last decade, which seems to be slipping into recession (just as the powerhouse Indian and Brazilian economies do the same), amid growing signs of unrest and ugly nationalist upheavals. And don't even bother to bring up climate change, the state of the planet, or the fact that extreme droughts in the U.S. and elsewhere this year are driving food prices up worldwide in a way that guarantees future popular unrest on a large scale. Any of the above could burst into prominence in the next 43 days, surprising the world and putting President Obama on the hot seat. And keep in mind that we're only talking about -- to paraphrase former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- the known knowns, and known unknowns. No one is even thinking about the unknown unknowns.

The liberal hit on Obama has been that the man won't fight for what he believes in. The next 43 days will put the lie to that. He's ready to fight fiercely for his job by doing his damnedest to tamp down any possible embarrassments, any potential October surprises -- and he's enlisted the U.S. government lock, stock, and State Department in that campaign. So if you want a little horse-race entertainment for the next six weeks, skip the Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia polls, don't worry about the results of the coming debates, or the court tests on restrictive new voting laws. After all, there's going to be no better show in town than the acrobatic contortions of the Obama crew as they work to keep global disaster off the menu until November 7th.

It should be a lesson in what a declining superpower can (or can't) still do: a shining tale of great power management and luck or a sobering parable of what is no longer within the grasp of such a power on this planet of ours.

In the meantime, it's Obama against the world and the horse-race question is: Will he make it to November 7th and a second term? Think of that as Obama's problem.

But there's another far less entertaining problem few are thinking about right now. Consider it our problem. The Obama people are understandably focused on the election. Being of a managerial frame of mind, their thoughts don't tend to run to the long-term anyhow. I doubt they have, at this point, put a second's consideration into what's likely to happen, if they manage to keep everything under wraps, 44 days from now -- and beyond. It's not as if war with Iran, disaster in Afghanistan, chaos in the Middle East, a staggering Eurozone, a stumbling Chinese economy (in the midst of seaborne saber rattling), rising oil and food prices, climate change, and so much else won't be as threatening then. None of these are problems, however managed, that are going away anytime soon or are likely in the long run to prove particularly manageable from Washington.

The question for the rest of us is: What the hell happens next? It's one you better start thinking about because the Obama people, much as they want to rule the roost for four more years, don't have a clue.
(c) 2012 Tom Engelhardt is co-founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

A Message From Romnyahu
By Uri Avnery

ONCE UPON a time, President Richard Nixon wanted to appoint a certain lawyer to the US Supreme Court.

"But the man is a complete moron!" one senator exclaimed.

"So what," answered another, "There are a great many morons in the US, and they have a right to be represented in the court as much as any other sector of society."

Perhaps the United Morons of America have a right to elect Mitt Romney president. But for the sake of the US and Israel, I hope that this will not happen.

Some people say that Israel is the 51st state of the Union. Some say that it is the first among the 51. Whatever, our lives - and perhaps our deaths - depend to a great extent on the man in the White House.

So, with all my misgivings (and I have a lot) about Barack Obama, I very much hope that he will be reelected.

IN HIS latest seizure of wisdom, Romney did not only disclose that 47% of Americans are parasites, but also that "the Palestinians" want to destroy Israel. According to him, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has no solution, it will go on forever.

I wonder where he got this last piece from.

In Nazi Germany there was a certain Herr Doktor Otto Dietrich, a functionary of the Ministry for Propaganda. Every day, he would gather the editors of the important newspapers in Berlin and tell them what their headline and editorial were going to be the next day.

That was before the Internet and fax. Nowadays, the Prime Minister's office faxes a daily 'page of messages' to Netanyahu's ministers and other stooges, telling them what messages they are to spread.

I strongly suspect that Romney read this page of messages just before he met his audience, composed of billionaires (or mere millionaires). After all, he couldn't have invented these astounding pieces of insight all by himself, could he?

"THE PALESTINIANS" means "all Palestinians." All nine million of them in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Israel, not to forget the refugees around the world.

Well, I suppose that if by divine intervention Israel were to disappear from the globe, very few Palestinians would shed a tear. Neither would many Israelis shed a tear if, again by divine intervention, all the Palestinians disappeared. Quite a few Israelis would even volunteer to help God Almighty in this task. Who knows, if Romney's evangelical friends pray enough, their God may dematerialize all those Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Iranians and assorted other miscreants.

Alas, such fantasies belong to the realms of dreams and nightmares. In the real world, peoples do not disappear even after gruesome genocides, nor can states which possess nuclear bombs be eradicated by foreign enemies.

I know quite a number of Palestinians, and not one of them believes that Israel can be annihilated. Since Yasser Arafat decided in late 1973 that he must come to terms with Israel, the great majority of Palestinians want a deal that will enable them to set up a state of their own in a part of historical Palestine. This is called the "two-state solution."

The present government of Israel does not want this, because they are not ready to give up the 22% of historical Palestine which would become the State of Palestine. Since they have no viable alternative, the government's spokespeople assert that "this conflict has no solution."

One of the fathers of this slogan is Ehud Barak. After the failed 2000 Camp David meeting, Barak, then Prime Minister, famously declared that "we have no partner for peace". Since Barak was the main cause for the meeting's failure, I dubbed him "peace criminal."

Netanyahu gratefully picked up Barak's cry, and now the great majority in Israel believes this message implicitly. (Recently I was interviewed by a Danish journalist. I told her: When we finish, stop the first taxi. Ask the driver about peace. He will tell you "Peace would be wonderful. I am ready to give back all the territories for peace. But unfortunately the Arabs will never make peace with us," An hour later the journalist excitedly called me: "I did as you told me, and the driver repeated your words one by one.")

"No solution" gives an impression of "everything will remain as it is". That is a mistake. Nothing remains as it is. Things move all the time, settlements expand, Palestinians will rise up, the world is in flux, the Arab world changes, some day an American president will put the interests of the US ahead of those of Israel. Where will we be then?

THE GIST of Romney's message is that the two-state solution is dead. This reminds me of Mark Twain's famous: "The report of my death was an exaggeration."

It is now in fashion to say so. Quite a trend. However, different people have different reasons for believing that the two-state solution is dead.

Parents, teachers, pedophiles and cannibals all say they love children. But their motives are not the same. This is also true for the would-be undertakers of the two-state solution. They include:

One: Idealists, who wish for people of different nations to live together in harmony and equality in one state. (I would like them to study the history of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Sudan, and the present situation of the French in Canada, Scots in Britain, Flemish in Belgium and Basques and Catalans in Spain.)

Two: Arabs, who really believe that this is a peaceful way to get rid of Israel.

Three: Settlers, who want to turn the whole of historical Palestine into their dominion and, if possible, "cleanse" the country of non-Jews.

Four: Israelis, who believe that the settlements have created a situation that is "irreversible". (Meron Benvenisti, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, coined this phrase already in the early 1980s, when there were less than 100 thousand settlers. I told him then that nothing was irreversible except death. Situations created by human beings can be changed by human beings.)

Five: Anti-Zionists, including Jewish anti-Zionists, who hate Zionism indiscriminately, with all its good and bad aspects, and for whom the very existence of a "Jewish" state is an abomination.

Six: Muslim fanatics, who believe that Palestine is a Muslim waqf (religious grant), so that allowing any part of it to non-Muslims is a deadly sin.

Seven: Jewish fanatics, who believe that all of Eretz-Israel, from the Nile to the Euphrates, has been promised to the Jews by God, so that conceding any part of it to non-Jews is a deadly sin.

Eight: Christian fanatics, who believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ will be possible only after the ingathering of all the Jews in this country (with no place in it for anyone else.)

Sorry if I have forgotten someone.

SOME OF these people have invented something called the "one-state solution". That is an oxymoron. There is a one-state problem, there is no one-state solution.

From time to time it is worthwhile to come back to the basic facts of our life:

There are two peoples living in this country.

Neither of the two will go away. They are here to stay.

While the Arab Palestinians living in the country are still a minority, they will constitute the majority quite soon.

Both peoples are intensely nationalistic.

The two peoples have different cultures, languages, religions, historic narratives, social structures, standards of living. At present, after some 130 years of continuous conflict, there is intense hatred between them.

The possibility that these two peoples could live peacefully in one state, serving in the same army and police, paying the same taxes and abiding by the same laws enacted by the same common parliament, is nil.

The possibility that these two peoples could live peacefully side-by-side in two states, each with its own flag and its own elected government (and its own soccer team), does exist.

Such co-existence can take different forms: from a loose confederation with open borders and free movement to closer forms of evolving structures, like the European Union.

I hope that this is not too complicated for Mitt Romney to understand. But this may become irrelevant if - as I fervently hope - he is not elected.

I would hate for an ignoramus to be given the opportunity to learn world affairs on our backs.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Talking Peace And Justice With Ahmadinejad
By Glen Ford

"The doctrine of empires is being destroyed. It cannot be reconstructed," said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seated at the dais in a large meeting room of the Warwick Hotel, in Manhattan, Tuesday night. "Human relations and the international equation are moving in the direction where the power of weapons is not determinative. Did it save the Soviet Union from being dismantled?"

A couple of seats away, the Nation of Islam's Min. Louis Farrakhan beamed. He was among a hundred or so guests of the Iranian Embassy, gathered for the last of Ahmadinejad's yearly sessions with mainly American peace and justice proponents during the opening week of the United Nations General Assembly. "If there ever was a time for the family of Abraham to come together to speak with one voice, the time is now," said Farrakhan, many of whose ministers were seated among Mennonites, Iranian Muslim clerics, Jews, Catholics and a conservative evangelical Baptist mega-church pastor from Texas who intoned, "If we really believe in the God that we say we believe in, we must work for peace."

Consumers of U.S. corporate media have become acclimated to the inevitability of a military assault against Iran, by Israel alone or in league with the U.S., ostensibly to destroy an Iranian nuclear weapons program that all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies say was halted almost a decade ago. But Ahmadinejad and several Shiite religious leaders insisted that a nuclear-armed Iran is unthinkable; that Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons; and that, as religious scholar Muhammad Sawar informed the dinner guests, "the production of weapons of mass destruction is legalized murder...prohibited in Islam."

Phil Wilayto, of Richmond, Virginia's Defenders of Freedom, Justice & Equality, spoke of the need to "break through the barrage of demonic propaganda" against Iran. "Malcolm X said the Black community has the right to defend itself by any means necessary," said Wilayto. "But Iran does not claim that right, because it believes killing innocents is impermissible."

Ever since the August morning in 1945 when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the U.S. has refused to rule out an atomic first strike against a nuclear or non-nuclear power. For Washington, mass human annihilation is always on the table - as it is for nuclear-armed Israel, whose leaders howl that Iran represents a threat to its very existence.

Koranic prohibitions aside, why shouldn't Iran seek a deterrent against those that make no secret of their intentions to attack them? Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark seemed to pose that question. "A non-nuclear power, when threatened by a nuclear power, has no real means to protect their people,"said the 84-year-old anti-war activist. "Yet, all nations have the "right to protect develop the means to protect themselves."

For President Ahmadinejad, "talk of nuclear war has become tiresome, it has become repetitive." The United States is merely "seeking excuses in order to perpetuate animosity to Iran [which] started from the day the Iranian people completed the revolution" in 1979. "The American government," he said, "wants to expand its hegemony over the center of energy in the world, which is the Middle East." The Euro-American embargo on trade with Iran and U.S. threats of war are simply cloaks for imperial geopolitical ambitions.

President Obama, like George Bush, labels Iran a rogue nation that has become "isolated" in the world. If that's true, nobody told the 120 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement, which unanimously supported Iran's right to develop the full cycle of nuclear energy. The non-aligned countries comprise a majority of the Earth's population and two-thirds of the UN General Assembly. However, the permanent members of the UN Security Council run the show.

That must, and will, change, Ahmadinejad told his guests:

"Any time there is war or transgression, a member of the Security Council is present. So, who is there to complain to?

"The United Nations was created to manage world affairs...but management is under how many [countries]? One? Two? Three? If we want to establish justice, everyone must participate...equal participation in the management of the world."

It is a message with which the vast bulk of humanity agrees - which is why the Non-Aligned Nations took its stand, and why the United States and its imperial junior partners have few cards to play other than war and threats of war. Peace is the last thing on Washington's agenda, as the Euro-American crucifixion of Libya, and now Syria, attests. Stanley Klein, a "Jewish lawyer" who spoke at the Iranian dinner, had it right: "If the U.S. cannot convert a country into a client state, then it prefers a weak or failed state."

At this stage in history, the United States exerts all its energies to make the world fail. With each passing day, more and more people of the Earth come to the realization that, for humanity to succeed, the U.S. empire must be dismantled.
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

No Choice Proffered In Election's Poisoned Chalice
By Chris Floyd

Rob Urie looks behind the giddy "gotcha" reaction to Mitt Romney's comments on the "47 percent" of shiftless plebians he wants to abandon. Obama partisans have seized on the leaked remarks as glaring evidence of the "real choice" in this election: between a callous, clueless tool of the brutal financial elite and a genuine man of the people, fighting the good fight for all the people.

But as Urie points out, despite this exciting new narrative in the campaign, there is actually more than one tool in the elite's election toolbox:

It was Spring of 2010, less than a year after the official end of the last recession but still deep in the throes of the Great Recession, that Barack Obama's 'deficit commission' met for the first time. With close to twenty-five million people unemployed or underemployed and the number living in extreme poverty rising quickly, Mr. Obama's central economic concern was cutting government spending. 'Entitlements,' rather than bankers, militarists and tax cheats, were bankrupting the country. And the co-Chairs of the commission he appointed had the solution: cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and corporate taxes and reduce government regulation of business.

With the faux surprise and opportunistic rants that met Mitt Romney's 47% 'dependent / victims' comments, who noticed that none in his audience challenged them? And who among those who have read similar statements from Barack Obama's 'deficit' commission believes that Mr. Obama's big-money supporters are of different mindsets than Mr. Romney's?

...The self-satisfied declamations against Mr. Romney's comments by Democrats and their supporters depend on near complete ignorance of Mr. Obama's actual policies while in office. Who in Mr. Romney's audience, including Mr. Romney, benefited from the unconditional bank bailouts that Obama Generals Geithner, Summers and Bernanke orchestrated? Who among them stand to benefit from Mr. Obama's top-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement that seals the power of international capital over labor and environmental regulations? And who among them stand to benefit from Mr. Obama's build-out of the domestic infrastructure of surveillance, policing and the legal framework needed to crush rebellion? As Mitt Romney is in the process of demonstrating, it is clearly Barack Obama who is the more effective tool for promoting ruling class interests.

... Mitt Romney's public persona is exactly as he is-a deeply clueless aristocrat born to wealth and power whose political interests lie exclusively with those of his class (and race). And his views, as with those of his class, are based on his experience of the world. That many of the rest of us, including Barack Obama, have lived experience quite different from Mr. Romney's provides us with perspectives different from his. And therein lies the rub-who can better sell the agenda of the ruling class: a conspicuously clueless aristocrat who wears his self-interest on his sleeve or a skilled technocrat who can speak the language of 'the people' while serving these same interests?

...Democrats and their supporters seem to want to continue their role of recent decades as constructive functionaries in a system designed to facilitate and perpetuate the fortunes of an economic elite, a ruling class, which has found ever more effective ways of siphoning off the wealth created by working people and nature while increasing their domination and control over our lives. The results are the largest and most oppressive prison system in the world, the greatest concentration of wealth in the fewest hands in human history, the largest and most deadly military in human history, used to promote the fortunes of the ruling class, and environmental catastrophe.

...Mitt Romney's views, and those of his class, are emblematic of the extreme class division that comes with extreme income and wealth division. ... But his actual policies would look as much like Barack Obama's as Barack Obama's do like George W. Bush's. Defenders of Mr. Obama's signature achievement, his scheme to force people to buy health insurance from private insurers that have no intention of willfully paying claims, have Mitt Romney to thank for it-it was his plan. And how would Barack Obama's unconditional and ongoing bailouts of corrupt bankers have gone over if Wall Street McMoneybags Romney had engineered them? The real choice isn't what either party is claiming it is. The real choice is between the existing political economy and one that at least stands a chance of working. And neither party is offering that choice.

No: what they are offering is yet another draught from the poisoned chalice, filled with the rancid bipartisan brew of war, ruin, injustice and fear.
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd

Millionaire Tax Dodgers

It's always refreshing to hear a multimillionaire tax dodger smugly disparage poor people who "pay no income tax."

Mitt Romney is the multimillionaire's name -the man from Bain who says he should be our president. Well... not everyone's president. At a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in the tony town of Boca Raton, Florida, Romney heaped scorn on the "forty-seven percent of Americans [who] pay no income tax." These shirkers, Mitt declared, "believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it." This from a man with three houses, 12 tax shelters in the Cayman Islands, and at least one secret Swiss bank account. He then asserted contemptuously that "my job is not to worry about those people."

And who are "those" people (who were dubbed "lucky duckies" by the Wall Street Journal for avoiding income taxes)? The poor! Mostly, they're Social Security retirees whose benefits are too low to be taxed, poorly-paid soldiers in Afghanistan and single moms whose meager paychecks entitle them to a child tax credit, disabled veterans, and workers who've been maimed on the job. Luckie duckies, indeed.

Yet, despite their poverty and Romney's snarkiness, they do pay lots and lots of taxes - payroll taxes, federal fees, sales taxes, local and state assessments, etc. In fact, the poorest Americans pay a higher percentage of their income in state, local, and other federal levies than the richest pay. People making under $20,000 a year, for example, pay nearly a fourth of their income in such taxes - a far bigger percentage than Romney himself pays.

Meanwhile, Mitt didn't mention that there's one special group in the No Tax Club he mocks: millionaires! Last year, some 4,000 households with income above a million dollars paid zero federal income tax. Where's his scorn for these real tax dodgers?
(c) 2012 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.

A Crucible Of Political Disenchantment
"Dismiss Whatever Insults Your Own Soul"
By Phil Rockstroh

Weltschmerz (from German; from Welt (world) + Schmerz (pain) delineates the type of sadness experienced when the world revealed does not reflect the image of the world that one believes, or has been led to believe, should exist. The corporate/consumer state (as well as, its scion, the present day presidential election cycle) has brought us, as a people, into a wilderness of weltschmerz.

Confronting the stark contrast between life imagined and life revealed can prove to be a daunting task. It is an endeavor that has proven particularly difficult for political partisans, both professional and rank and file, who seem unwilling or unable to grasp the sense of futility experienced by significant numbers of their fellow citizens regarding political participation, on any level, including the act of voting under the corrupted to the core structure of the current system.

Such reactions are understandable. Exercises in futility prove enervating. Disenchanted, sizable and increasing numbers of voters have tuned out and walked away from the process, due to the abject refusal of the political class to be responsive to the needs of the populace beyond the elitist-ridden New York/DC nexus of privilege and power.

Yet, rank and file political partisans, all too often, resist gaining awareness of the extent of their powerlessness. This is understandable as well. Feelings of powerlessness can engender despair. To avoid despair, one feels as though one must remain active in order to avoid sinking into the muck and mire borne of chronic hopelessness. True enough. But activity towards what end? Does the activity, such as voting along partisan lines, reinforce states of powerlessness by serving the forces of one's oppression?

Despite all the cultural cues that we have internalized, one cannot consume, medicate, buy on credit, receive a promotion, vacation, vote, hope, affect a pose of hipster irony, tithe to the church of your choice, receive a hundred FaceBook friendship requests, hit the winning lottery number, support the troops, nor be the recipient of a VIP swag bag in order to stumble your way back to possessing a sense of control and power.

All too often, we incarcerate ourselves in a prison of expectation -- expectation forged and constructed by the material of past events, both traumatic and triumphant. We mistake this prison for the whole of ourselves and for the sweep and detail of the world. We go through life convinced our agendas are our own, rarely pondering what circumstances and experiences formed our perceptions. Are my goals and convictions my own, or have those notions been foisted on me by forces of dehumanizing power?

Daily, power kicks us in the gut, and demands our gratitude for having done so, even terms us deviant when we cry out in pain or we rage from within the confines of our powerlessness.

There exist billions of us who feel this way. Multitudes feeling alone among lonely multitudes.

What keeps us from grasping our common plight?

Often, the obsession for gaining and possessing happiness itself, as marketed to us by the propagandist of the consumer state, leads us away from the realm of common communion.

Paradoxically, most unhappy people are simply striving to be happy. Their days are comprised of wrongheaded, self-perpetuating actions in the desperate pursuit of chimerical goals towards that end. They lie, self-medicate, exploit, steamroll over others. They merely hold notions of what life should be -- as opposed to having a life.

Rarely, do our agendas reflect our true nature. Yet, such pursuits devour our days. The same phenomenon comes into play between the monstrous acts of an empire and its people in the homeland. After a time, tragically, the two forces merge. One cannot honestly claim one's life as being one's own. Where does my complicity with the actions of the state end and where do I begin? How do I sort things out? Making a start of it is imperative, for devoid of the inclination, I have lost my soul.

No one can maintain a lie over an extended length of time -- not even empires are that powerful. Empires are maintained by illusions; the noxious fiction that the greater good is served by codes of dominance and plunder. Towards empire's end the populace suffers escalating levels of unease, as the fabric of the collaboratively woven lie begins to unravel.

Embrace, hold close, and dance to the exquisite music of grief that arrives at the end of things. This is an honest, piercing sound. The pain that grief brings to the heart can serve as a compass, set to aid in navigating a wasteland of weltschmerz.

Because we mourn the loss of those things we love, we should never stop grieving over the follies of humankind and the sorrows of the earth. To cease grieving is too give up on love.

By a refusal to grieve, by lapsing into a host of manic evasions, one risks becoming a monster -- a being devoid of empathy that, in an attempt to avoid experiencing suffering, will wound, demean, and exploit the things of the world.

In collective terms, we know this state as the agendas of empire. Conversely, to embrace one's humanity, one must accept being shattered by grief, yet restored by love, simultaneously. Being in unashamed possession of a heart, both broken and whole, serves to mitigate the compulsion to act in the manner of a monster.

The price of self-deception (e.g., political partisanship, monomaniacal careerist striving, compulsive consumerist distractions) is not worth the palliative relief provided. To endure the undoing of illusion, one is tempted to retreat from life into a bubble of isolation or partisan group-think.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, one can become convinced the life that, as imagined in one's entitlement-addicted mind not the byproduct of an ongoing, humility-shepherding dialog with the world, must be made manifest by relentless deed and actions, no matter how dishonest and ruthless. In this way, an individual is prone to becoming an exploitation maintained empire of one, a walking analog of the state that sired, weaned, and socialized him. How could it not be so?

Of course, by his callous disregard of the humanity of others, he makes miserable all that he touches. By his hollow ambitions, he demeans himself, and the happiness that he seeks becomes ever more elusive, and, caught in a self-resonating circuitry of self-defeating actions, he will eventually bring to ruin all near him.

This is how empires fall, and this is the means, on an individual basis, how its citizens move it along towards the precipice.

Conversely, it proves propitious to face the twilight of treasured convictions, to survive the collapse of the empire within, a decision that can provide practice in surviving the collapse of its collectively constructed, outward analog.

Often, events in life can play out badly. Painful as it is, we must not flee from reality. When one becomes prone to acts of habitual evasion, there is little chance to exist with one's dignity intact; it becomes impossible to live with a sense of grace.

Rationalizations are by nature ugly: They are the disingenuous face of desperate souls who have come to fear others and hold a contemptuous dread of life itself. In this way, you can mistake your defense mechanisms deployed against grief and dread as comprising a large portion of your personality.

Take a moment to contemplate what an awful circumstance it is to incessantly pass by your true self, sans recognition, in a similar fashion to the manner one regards an anonymous stranger passed on a teeming boulevard.

The dilemma involves, to paraphrase Rilke, how will you spend the days of this finite life? Will you give into the compulsion to build a construction of ghostly artifice -- life lived as a self-perpetuating lie that you are in control, that the caprice you conjure to ward off feelings of despair, regarding your powerlessness over the coursing flow of events, is an accurate description of your true nature? Will you create a bristling fortification of convenient cynicism, allowing you to remain ensconced within a dead womb of bile and ashes?

Or will you risk being the midwife of your own tale, grasping that there exist forces within you, when in dialog with the soul of existence, that are greater than the sum of your assumptions, that exist deeper and beyond life-negating banalities, such as winner and loser, shame and pride, and grief and happiness?

"So don't be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don't know what work they are accomplishing within you?" ― Rainer Maria Rilke

Slightly more than eleven years ago, on September 11, 2001, my wife and I awoke to the blaring of sirens, one following the next. Our air conditioning unit was broken and our windows were open. The air carried an acrid odor.

I checked my email and stacked in my inbox was an avalanche of messages, all inquiries bearing a unifying theme..."Are you alright?"

I called out to my plug in an old black and white television set, because something terrible, it seems, was happening here in New York.

The television roused itself to life just at the moment of the collapse of the North Tower.

This was before the image was fetishized in the American imagination, was exploited by two U.S. presidential administrations to justify thousands of acts of military aggression on people of distant lands who only share one trait in common -- they were born of the Islamic faith.

This was before George W. Bush played dress-up in military costumes and pranced about at military bases and the decks of naval vessels. This was before President Obama's brandishing of kill lists, his normalization and codification into law of Bush era war crimes and constitutional and human rights violations.

This was when the archetypal image of a collapsing tower seized the mind, engendering an analogous collapse of one's mooring and verities. The quotidian touchstones of daily life had vanished, as did alienation.

We needed each other. Empathy and generosity replaced self-absorption and the illusionary urgency of urban life...vanished were, monomaniacal commercial agendas and compulsive distractions. The streets were gauzy with veils of smoke; the veils had been removed from our hearts.

A feeling akin to love allowed us to face horror, and take ambulatory refuge in compassion and beauty.

Cell phones and bottled water were proffered to strangers. As night fell, candles flickered in public squares; there was the sound of sobbing and impromptu singing. The scene seemed like a cross between the London Blitz and Woodstock. One was fully alive in the realm of death.

It would have been lovely if that had been the lesson we carried forth from that day, a decade and a year ago. Alas, the political agendas of militarist imperium carried the day. Tribalism trumped the universal exigencies of our common humanity.

Our leaders behaved despicably, and continue to, and we allow it to happen e.g., Democrats boast of Obama "getting Bin Laden" in a reprehensible attempt to gain political leverage from the tragedy...actions that Democratic partisans would have, rightly, shamed a Republican president for attempting to exploit.

Yet the sublime of that day is available to us still. Providentially, there is no need for actual towers to fall...only one forlorn, interior tower to which we have exiled our humanity. No one needs to die...other than the entity within who induces us into habitual denial and exclusively self-serving pursuit.

"[R]eexamine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency [...]" -- Walt Whitman, from the 1855 preface to Leaves of Grass
(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

What Has Happened To American Liberty?
By James Donahue

There was a time when growing up a small Michigan community of about 2,000 that our town police chief was a respected and admired part of the citizenry. I remember when he used to pick up drunks stumbling out of one of the downtown taverns and drive them home so they didn't try to drive their cars.

As teenagers growing up in that town, we didn't fear our "town cop." We were assured that as long as we behaved ourselves we had nothing to fear. Even when we were caught involved in mischief, the worse that happened was a severe scolding.

Boy has that scene ever changed. Instead of a single officer dressed in a blue or brown uniform, the police today are paired off two to a car. And the police cars seem to be everywhere. On a single call the police cars appear like a herd of cattle racing to the feed trough. The officers wear riot gear complete with black boots, full body armor, billy clubs and semi-automatic rifles in addition to those nine millimeter Glocks strapped to their belts.

If you we are pulled over on the road by a police car, we can expect to be detained for 30 minutes or longer, with bright flashing red, white and blue lights and a blinding police strobe spotlight trained on the rear window while the officer reads our papers, driver's license and checks his in-car computer for any past violations, court warrants and unpaid parking tickets. Woe onto us if he finds cause for an arrest. We rarely get out of these situations without some kind of ticket for a moving violation. The old days of police warnings seem to be long past.

There is a general feeling in America that when neighborhood troubles occur, the last thing to do is call the police. Rather than helping, the officers that arrive only appear to make things worse.

As more and more people buy those new cell phones with mini-video cameras and computers packaged inside, videos of police violence have become more and more frequent on the Internet. After the infamous Rodney King beating that sparked the Los Angeles riots in 1992, images like this have become so common that it is difficult to keep track of them all. Even the police are capturing images of themselves manhandling drivers via cameras mounted on the dashboards of their own cars.

How did we reach a point where we must fear the officers who were sworn to "protect and serve" the people? Was it the rush of fear that swept the nation after the staged 9-11 attacks? Remember how the incident prompted Congress to pass the terrible Patriot Act with no questions asked? It was then a 363-page document that flew through both the House and Senate at such speed President George W. Bush signed it into Law on October 26, 2001, just over a month after the attack. The act, which has since been modified and amended, gives police and government agencies the freedom to invade our private communications, telephone calls, e-mails and other records in the name of stopping terrorism. Who took the time to read such a document? How could it have been prepared in such a short time after the attack? Why didn't anybody question the events going on at that time?

Bush quickly took America into a state of war, sending troops to invade Afghanistan and declaring a War on Terrorism. Later he chose to invade Iraq. Since then, the barriers between the people and the police seem to be getting higher and higher. This has been especially evident during the Occupy Movements in cities across the nation, where armies of police in riot dress have confronted the hundreds and sometimes thousands of peaceful demonstrators, often turning the gatherings into unnecessary melees and leading to many arrests.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama, who promised change when elected to office in 2008, has done nothing to ease the War on Terror or the tensions between the police and civilians. If anything, the problem has grown worse. And the violence on the streets has been intensifying.

Here are some of the troublesome incidents that made the news in recent weeks: In Casselberry, Florida, police officers retained Zikomo Peurifoy on a charge of jaywalking. When Peurifoy refused to show his identification papers and resisted attempts to handcuff him, the officers used their tasers to electronically subdue him. He said he was hit by the tasers repeatedly.

There have been incidents in the United States where citizens have been arrested for filming activities by the police, including simple traffic stops. In 2011 a First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that filming police officers is perfectly legal.

Also, by law, police must have a reasonable suspicion that a person has been involved in criminal activity before detaining a person and demanding to see their ID. It appears that the police are acting on a belief that all citizens are legally required to follow their every order.

In July, 2012, Michael Salman was arrested and found guilty of 67 code violations in the City of Phoenix, Arizona, after police raided a Bible study gathering at his home. Salman and his wife were entertaining about 15 to 20 people at the time. Apparently this was in violation of a city ordinance. The court sentenced Salman to spend 60 days in jail and fined him $12,180.

The police were alerted after neighbors complained about noise and traffic congestion around the Salman home.

Would this have happened if Salman was hosting a group of men to drink beer and watch football? We can bet that kind of gathering has been occurring all over Phoenix, as it has all over the United States, for years.

The Constitution guarantees "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." What happened to the Salman family in Phoenix has serious implications for everybody in the country. If the police can raid that home because of a Bible study, what is coming down on us next?

The stories are getting worse. It seems that police, compliance officers and "nuisance abatement teams" are using brutal Gestapo tactics on homeowners, especially the elderly, all over the country.

In Martinez, Georgia, local code compliance officer Jimmy Vowell broke into the home of Erica Masters while she was asleep in her bed. He entered her bedroom, pulled her out of bed and yelled at her for not mowing her grass. The incident was captured on the house surveillance video.

In Rhode Island, an 81-year-old woman fell behind on a $474 sewer bill. A corporation bought the house on a tax sale for $836. The woman was evicted from the home she had occupied for more than 40 years. The house then went on the market and sold for $85,000.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma Denise Morrison was growing a variety of flowers, fruits and herbs in a "survival garden" that contained plants she was using to treat her arthritis. Her front and back yards were filled with her garden plants instead of grass. But Tulsa apparently had a law on the books against that. One day code enforcement officers arrived to cut down her garden. Morrison, who is out of work, said she relied on those plants and trees for food and medicine.

Sadly, it does not seem to matter who we elect for President, or which party controls our nation or state offices. Since the 9-11 attack America's constitutional freedoms have been steadily eroding.

Can it be stopped, or is it too late to save our nation? Perhaps the goons have already taken control and we are only now beginning to wake up and understand what has been done to us.
(c) 2012 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

Lies, Damn Lies, And Nuclear Lies
By David Swanson

Remarks at protest at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the International Day of Peace, 2012

Our government likes to lie to us about nuclear weapons. This poor impoverished nation halfway around the world is about to nuke us. No, that one is. The result, of course, is mass murder. But there's another result potentially even worse. We begin to think there's something wrong with being terrified of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. There isn't. This stuff should scare the hell out of us. And the arrogant lunacy of imagining that even an honest and accountable authority, much less our government, could set up a commission to regulate the winds of hell and deadly substances with a half-life as long as the age of the Earth must give us serious pause.

What are we thinking? How are we thinking? Are we thinking?

One Pentagon report documents 563 nuclear mistakes, malfunctions, and false alarms over the years so far -- near misses, near apocalypses.

Soldiers in war sometimes learn to accept the senseless risk to their lives. But need our whole species and all the other species that we write off as collateral damage accept catastrophic risks as part of a permanent state of war? Or has accepting that risk in fact facilitated our acceptance of this permanent state of war? If nuclear weapons and nuclear energy were done away with, imagine the space that would open up in our minds for the possibility of living in peace and looking back on war as we look back on more small-scale forms of human sacrifice, and on cannibalism, slavery, or duelling.

In 1961 a U.S. B-52 with two nukes on board blew up over Faro, North Carolina. One of the bombs, with a parachute to slow it down, was found. Five of the six fuses designed to prevent full nuclear detonation had failed. The other nuclear bomb buried itself 20 feet deep in the ground, lighting up the sky like daylight. The military deemed that one hard to dig out, and left it there. And there it sits. This little mishap involved bombs that were each 250 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. The commander of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, Lt. Jack B. ReVelle, remarked, "How close was it to exploding? My opinion is damn close. You might now have a very large Bay of North Carolina if that thing had gone off."

On January 17, 1966, a U.S. B-52 carrying four live hydrogen bombs smashed into a tanker during midair refueling over Spain. Two of the bombs were blown apart like dirty bombs scattering radioactive particles all over Palomares, Spain. The United States dug up 1,400 tons of radioactive Spanish dirt and took it to Aiken, South Carolina, where the Savannah River Site has been producing nuclear weapons material, trying to dispose of the waste, and radiating people for over half a century, and where radiation was even recently detected coming all the way from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

In 2007, a U.S. crew accidentally (or as part of a secret plan; and I'm not sure which is worse) flew six live nuclear bombs from North Dakota to Louisiana and left them sitting there unguarded until the ground crew noticed.

If you doubt that these people will arm unmanned drones with nukes just because the drones tend to crash and malfunction, you haven't yet begun to grasp the sort of madness we're dealing with.

Uranium mining of the sort the profiteers now want to reopen in Virginia has spread cancer through every community it's touched. And the use of depleted uranium weapons has likely contributed to thousands of deaths and birth-defects in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and among members of the U.S. military and their families, not to mention the weapons' producers in places like Jonesborough, Tennessee. The United States has also sold DU weapons to 29 other countries.

There are three barriers to ridding the world of nuclear weapons. First, our governments don't represent us and will have to be compelled to act when and if we get our act together. We're too inclined to believe promises or even to pretend that certain politicians are secretly planning to be better than their promises. Or we take the rhetoric of the promises as an act of greater value than real policy changes would be. We allow our government to develop and test new nuclear weapons in violation of a treaty that Israel ignores and Iran complies with. Yet the Democratic Party Platform coming out of Charlotte says that if Iran does not stop violating a law it is not violating, we will attack Iran. Or, perhaps Israel will attack Iran with U.S. weapons and U.S. funding and U.S.-backed immunity for its crimes, while Democrats claim they had nothing to do with it and Republicans insist the United States should have led the assault -- but within a day both will harmoniously back joining the escalating war. I'm glad Jill Stein is here and I'm glad she's running for president. I'm even gladder the rest of you are here at an event focused on policy change rather than personality change.

Second, people imagine we're safer spreading nukes around the globe by the thousands than we would be eliminating them while a few rogue non-state terrorists hang onto some. This is wrong. An arsenal of nukes doesn't discourage a terrorist. Nor can it discourage a state any more than can the non-nuclear weapons capable of complete devastation.

Third, people fantasize that there are advantages to nuclear energy that outweigh the problem of its technological vicinity to nuclear weaponry. There are not. Nuclear energy barely reproduces the amount of energy it takes to build and operate the plants; the waste materials cannot be put anywhere safe for 250,000 years; and the inevitable accidents pose such a risk that no private "free-market" insurance company will take it on. Nuclear energy is how India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea got nuclear weapons. It's also Israel's and the United States' excuse for threatening Iran.

When a country develops nuclear energy, as the United States encouraged Iran to do in my lifetime, it brings that country very close to developing nuclear weapons, which has become a leading excuse for launching and threatening wars. It doesn't help for the CIA to give Iran plans for building a bomb, but ridding the world of that sort of stupidity is just not within our reach. Ridding the world of nukes needs to take priority.

We often forget that a nation need not develop nuclear weapons if it wants to target an enemy that possesses nuclear power plants. The war planners are not afraid of a first strike from Iran but of an Iran that would be able to strike back. Sitting duck nuclear catastrophes waiting to happen -- by accident or malice -- exist in the form of nuclear power plants within 50 miles of 108 million people in the United States. Haruki Murakami, a Japanese novelist, commented on Fukushima: "This time no one dropped a bomb on us. . . . We set the stage, we committed the crime with our own hands, we are destroying our own lands, and we are destroying our own lives."

And no terrorist was needed. No enemy state was required. An earthquake or a flood could give cancer to millions of Americans too close to one of our aging nuclear plants. We've evolved as a species from the relative ease of gathering, hunting, and small-scale farming, to intense effort to create sources of energy that create little or no energy, and risk giving us all cancer, but prove our ability. Why did we climb that mountain? Because it was there. Why did we make nukes? To prove that we could. To make ourselves feel more competent. But true competence involves knowledge of limitations, restraint, and carefully measured action. I read a story yesterday about new potential in marijuana to cure cancer, rather than to give it to us. But we ban that substance in order to maintain our ability to think clearly. And yet our concept of what clear thinking involves needs an overhaul.

"Sweet is the lore which Nature brings," wrote William Wordsworth,

Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Prequel To A Beginning
By Ted Rall

Why Occupy Wall Street Still Matters

It was the middle of September. An ad hoc coalition of political groups, mostly left of center but not all, whose members mostly were young but not all, came together to express their opinions outside the officially approved two-party paradigm.

United by their anger and energy, these people held general assemblies (they called them "sit-ins.") They marched. Throughout that fall and into part of the following year, they caught the attention of the news media, inspiring activists around the country. In the end, the powers that be did what power powers that be usually do: they sent in the cops. Beaten and swept away in mass arrests, the young activists drifted away. Voters, convinced by the system's propaganda that the movement threatened law and order, turned to the right.

One year later, it was clear to most that the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley had failed.

Students had demanded that school administrators allow political organizations, including civil rights groups, to table and solicit contributions on campus. (In 1964 only the campus Democratic and Republican clubs were allowed to do so.) There was a concession: the acting chancellor grudgingly opened the steps of a single building for open discussion and tables, but only during certain hours. By the fall of 1966, however, UC had a new right-wing president and California was led by a new right-wing governor, Ronald Reagan, who had promised to "clean up the mess in Berkeley."

Now we understand that the FSM was a prequel to a beginning. The FSM morphed into a campus movement that inspired widespread social unrest of the 1960s that centered on opposition to the Vietnam War. Everything that followed-feminists burning bras, gays rioting after the bust at the Stonewall Inn, America's withdrawal from Vietnam-had its roots in that "failed" movement.

Keep the "failed" Free Speech Movement in mind as you read and watch this week's coverage of the anniversary of Occupy. One year after activists set up the first Occupy Wall Street encampments in New York and Washington, D.C., the Occupy movement is described as in "disarray." Indeed, it's hard to remember how big OWS was. Were there really more than a thousand Occupations? Did 59% of the American public support OWS when it was barely a month old? What happened?

"I think they're idiots. They have no agenda," Robert Nicholson, who works on Wall Street, tells The Los Angeles Times. "They have yet to come out with a policy statement."

"The movement [grew] too large too quickly. Without leaders or specific demands, what started as a protest against income inequality turned into an amorphous protest against everything wrong with the world," argues the AP.

I was at Freedom Plaza in D.C. and Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. I'm a member of my local Occupy chapter on Long Island, Occupy the East End. (Yes, we're still around.) I agree with Mikell Kober of Brooklyn, who was protesting in front of a Bank of America branch. She told a reporter that OWS is "about creating a public space where people could gather and have a conversation about the things that need to change."

Coming up with a list of demands isn't the point. Thinking outside the D vs. R box is. Now people know that electoral politics is theater. Real politics is in the streets. For the first time since the Sixties, we know that.

The flaw in Occupy, the seed of its future destruction, was its basic original premise: occupying public space nonviolently.

Occupying nonviolently is an oxymoron. If you decide to be nonviolent, you leave peacefully when the police show up to evict you. Which is what happened last winter to the OWS encampments. If you are determined to occupy-and remain in-public space, you must resort to violence in order to defend yourselves from police violence.

OWS ought to have decided whether it wanted to be nonviolent or whether it wanted to occupy public space. If it chose nonviolence, it could have engaged in acts of resistance-flash mobs, demonstrations, strikes-that did not require setting up and defending encampments.

Also, a political movement is defined more by what it is not than by what it is. OWS was a movement outside of the duopoly, yet many "Occupiers" worked with, and got co-opted by, Democratic Party front groups like who stole OWS' "We are the 99%" slogan.Though the physical presence of OWS is a mere shadow of its presence a year ago, the Occupy idea remains colossally important-largely because the two major parties still refuse to engage the biggest problem we face: America's growing poverty. "I don't think Occupy itself has an enormous future," Dr. Mark Naison, a professor at Fordham University, told the Associated Press. "I think that movements energized by Occupy have an enormous future."

Like the Free Speech movement nearly a half century ago, Occupy is the prequel to the beginning.

Of course, change doesn't always mean progress and inspiration isn't always positive. "Reagan's political career owed a lot to the [FSM] people who used the [UC] campus as a radical base for political activity. It is an irony that helped elect him," says Earl Cheit, executive vice chancellor at Berkeley from 1965 to 1969.
(c) 2012 Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" and "The Anti-American Manifesto." His newest book is, "The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt."

On The Freedom To Offend An Imaginary God
By Sam Harris

The latest wave of Muslim hysteria and violence has now spread to over twenty countries. The walls of our embassies and consulates have been breached, their precincts abandoned to triumphant mobs, and many people have been murdered-all in response to an unwatchable Internet video titled "Innocence of Muslims." Whether over a film, a cartoon, a novel, a beauty pageant, or an inauspiciously named teddy bear, the coming eruption of pious rage is now as predictable as the dawn. This is already an old and boring story about old, boring, and deadly ideas. And I fear it will be with us for the rest of our lives.

Our panic and moral confusion were at first sublimated in attacks upon the hapless Governor Romney. I am no fan of Romney's, and I would find the prospect of his presidency risible if it were not so depressing, but he did accurately detect the first bleats of fear in the Obama administration's reaction to this crisis. Romney got the timing of events wrong-confusing, as many did, a statement made by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo for an official government response to the murder of Americans in Libya. But the truth is that the White House struck the same note of apology, disavowing the offending speech while claiming to protect free speech in principle. It may seem a small detail, given the heat of the moment-but so is a quivering lip.

Our government followed the path of appeasement further by attempting to silence the irrepressible crackpot Pastor Terry Jones, who had left off burning copies of the Qur'an just long enough to promote the film. The administration also requested that Google remove "Innocence of Muslims" from its servers. These maneuvers attest to one of two psychological and diplomatic realities: Either our government is unwilling to address the problem at hand, or the problem is so vast and terrifying that we have decided to placate the barbarians at the gate.

The contagion of moral cowardice followed its usual course, wherein liberal journalists and pundits began to reconsider our most basic freedoms in light of the sadomasochistic fury known as "religious sensitivity" among Muslims. Contributors to The New York Times and NPR spoke of the need to find a balance between free speech and freedom of religion-as though the latter could possibly be infringed by a YouTube video. As predictable as Muslim bullying has become, the moral confusion of secular liberals appears to be part of the same clockwork.

Consider what is actually happening: Some percentage of the world's Muslims-Five percent? Fifteen? Fifty? It's not yet clear-is demanding that all non-Muslims conform to the strictures of Islamic law. And where they do not immediately resort to violence in their protests, they threaten it. Carrying a sign that reads "Behead Those Who Insult the Prophet" may still count as an example of peaceful protest, but it is also an assurance that infidel blood would be shed if the imbecile holding the placard only had more power. This grotesque promise is, of course, fulfilled in nearly every Muslim society. To make a film like "Innocence of Muslims" anywhere in the Middle East would be as sure a method of suicide as the laws of physics allow.

What exactly was in the film? Who made it? What were their motives? Was Muhammad really depicted? Was that a Qur'an burning, or some other book? Questions of this kind are obscene. Here is where the line must be drawn and defended without apology: We are free to burn the Qur'an or any other book, and to criticize Muhammad or any other human being. Let no one forget it.

At moments like this, we inevitably hear-from people who don't know what it's like to believe in paradise-that religion is just a way of channeling popular unrest. The true source of the problem can be found in the history of western aggression in the region. It is our policies, rather than our freedoms, that they hate. I believe that the future of liberalism-and much else-depends on our overcoming this ruinous self-deception. Religion only works as a pretext for political violence because many millions of people actually believe what they say they believe: that imaginary crimes like blasphemy and apostasy are killing offenses.

Most secular liberals think that all religions are the same, and they consider any suggestion to the contrary a sign of bigotry. Somehow, this article of faith survives daily disconfirmation. Our language is largely to blame for this. As I have pointed out on many occasions, "religion" is a term like "sports": Some sports are peaceful but spectacularly dangerous ("free solo" rock climbing, street luge); some are safer but synonymous with violence (boxing, mixed martial arts); and some entail no more risk of serious injury than standing in the shower (bowling, badminton). To speak of "sports" as a generic activity makes it impossible to discuss what athletes actually do, or the physical attributes required to do it. What do all sports have in common, apart from breathing? Not much. The term "religion" is scarcely more useful.

Consider Mormonism: Many of my fellow liberals would consider it morally indecent to count Romney's faith against him. In their view, Mormonism must be just like every other religion. The truth, however, is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than its fair share of quirks. For instance, its doctrine was explicitly racist until 1978, at which point God apparently changed his mind about black people (a few years after Archie Bunker did) and recommended that they be granted the full range of sacraments and religious responsibilities. By this time, Romney had been an adult and an exceptionally energetic member of his church for more than a decade.

Unlike the founders of most religions, about whom very little is known, Mormonism is the product of the plagiarisms and confabulations of an obvious con man, Joseph Smith, whose adventures among the credulous were consummated (in every sense) in the full, unsentimental glare of history. Given how much we know about Smith, it is harder to be a Mormon than it is to be a Christian. A firmer embrace of the preposterous is required-and the fact that Romney can manage it says something about him, just as it would if he were a Scientologist proposing to park his E-meter in the Oval Office. The spectrum between rational belief and self-serving delusion has some obvious increments: It is one thing to believe that Jesus existed and was probably a remarkable human being. It is another to accept, as most Christians do, that he was physically resurrected and will return to earth to judge the living and the dead. It is yet another leap of faith too far to imagine, as all good Mormons must, that he will work his cosmic magic from the hallowed ground of Jackson County, Missouri.

That final, provincial detail matters. It makes Mormonism objectively less plausible than run-of-the-mill Christianity-as does the related claim that Jesus visited the "Nephites" in America at some point after his resurrection. The moment one adds seer stones, sacred underpants, the planet Kolob, and a secret handshake required to win admittance into the highest heaven, Mormonism stands revealed for what it is: the religious equivalent of rhythmic gymnastics.

The point, however, is that I can say all these things about Mormonism, and disparage Joseph Smith to my heart's content, without fearing that I will be murdered for it. Secular liberals ignore this distinction at every opportunity and to everyone's peril. Take a moment to reflect upon the existence of the musical The Book of Mormon. Now imagine the security precautions that would be required to stage a similar production about Islam. The project is unimaginable-not only in Beirut, Baghdad, or Jerusalem, but in New York City.

The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn. No apologies necessary. Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will meet the limits of that tolerance. And Governor Romney, though he is wrong about almost everything under the sun (including, very likely, the sun), is surely right to believe that it is time our government delivered this message without blinking.
(c) 2012 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

Mitt the confidence fairy

The Optimism Cure
By Paul Krugman

Mitt Romney is optimistic about optimism. In fact, it's pretty much all he's got. And that fact should make you very pessimistic about his chances of leading an economic recovery.

As many people have noticed, Mr. Romney's five-point "economic plan" is very nearly substance-free. It vaguely suggests that he will pursue the same goals Republicans always pursue - weaker environmental protection, lower taxes on the wealthy. But it offers neither specifics nor any indication why returning to George W. Bush's policies would cure a slump that began on Mr. Bush's watch.

In his Boca Raton meeting with donors, however, Mr. Romney revealed his real plan, which is to rely on magic. "My own view is," he declared, "if we win on November 6, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We'll see capital come back, and we'll see - without actually doing anything - we'll actually get a boost in the economy."

Are you feeling reassured?

In fairness to Mr. Romney, his assertion that electing him would spontaneously spark an economic boom is consistent with his party's current economic dogma. Republican leaders have long insisted that the main thing holding the economy back is the "uncertainty" created by President Obama's statements - roughly speaking, that businesspeople aren't investing because Mr. Obama has hurt their feelings. If you believe that, it makes sense to argue that changing presidents would, all by itself, cause an economic revival.

There is, however, no evidence supporting this dogma. Our protracted economic weakness isn't a mystery; it's what normally happens after a major financial crisis. Furthermore, business investment has actually recovered fairly strongly since the official recession ended. What's holding us back is mainly the continued weakness of housing combined with a vast overhang of household debt, the legacy of the Bush-era housing bubble.

By the way, in saying that our prolonged slump was predictable, I'm not saying that it was necessary. We could and should have greatly reduced the pain by combining aggressive fiscal and monetary policies with effective relief for highly indebted homeowners; the fact that we didn't reflects a combination of timidity on the part of both the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve, and scorched-earth opposition on the part of the G.O.P.

But Mr. Romney, as I said, isn't offering anything substantive to fight the slump, just a reprise of the usual slogans. And he has denounced the Fed's belated effort to step up to the plate.

Back to the optimism thing: It's true that some studies suggest a secondary role for uncertainty in depressing the economy - and conservatives have seized on these studies, claiming vindication. But if you actually look at the measures of uncertainty involved, they've been driven not by fear of Mr. Obama but by events like the euro crisis and the standoff over the debt ceiling. (O.K., I guess you could argue that electing Mr. Romney might encourage businesses by promising an end to Republican economic sabotage.)

You should also know that efforts to base policy on speculations about business psychology have a track record - and it's not a good one.

Back in 2010, as European nations began implementing savage austerity programs to placate bond markets, it was common for policy makers to deny that these programs would have a depressing effect. "The idea that austerity measures could trigger stagnation is incorrect," insisted Jean-Claude Trichet, then the president of the European Central Bank. Why? Because these measures would "increase the confidence of households, firms and investors."

At the time I ridiculed such claims as belief in the "confidence fairy." And sure enough, austerity programs actually led to Depression-level economic downturns across much of Europe.

Yet here comes Mitt Romney, declaring, in effect, "I am the confidence fairy!" Is he? As it happens, Mr. Romney offered a testable proposition in his Boca remarks: "If it looks like I'm going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president's going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy." How's that going? Not very well. Over the past month conventional wisdom has shifted from the view that the election could easily go either way to the view that Mr. Romney is very likely to lose; yet markets are up, not down, with major stock indexes hitting their highest levels since the economic downturn began.

It's all kind of sad. Yet the truth is that it all fits together. Mr. Romney's whole campaign has been based on the premise that he can become president simply by not being Barack Obama. Why shouldn't he believe that he can fix the economy the same way?

But will he get a chance to put that theory to the test? At the moment, I'm not optimistic.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living."
~~~ Omar Bradley

Wake Up: Reject The Two-Party Plutocracy
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Here we go again. Millions of Americans will soon vote for either the Republican or Democratic presidential candidate not because they deeply believe that he is absolutely the best possible president the country needs and can have. No, they will know that they are compromising and choosing the lesser of two evils, mainly because most people know that both major parties and their candidates stink. The lesser evil is still a loser.

This is the only way to accurately understand the American electorate. Americans overwhelmingly are a combination of three awful characteristics. The vast majority are dumb, distracted and delusional, whether they see themselves on the left or right, or as independent.

I have always spent an enormous amount of time following politics and for about twenty years worked within the political system at the state and federal levels. I have a totally negative view of the US political system because American democracy has become something worse than a joke, it is mostly a massive, country-wide delusion based on a refusal to see the terribly painful and ugly truth that the nation like so many world powers before it has been in decline. The Democrats and Republicans share control of a two-party plutocracy and want Americans to adopt the delusional belief that the US is still a great democracy and nation, as if they can vote and elect their way out of the total mess the country is in.

All the evidence I see tells me that President Obama has been, at best, a mediocre president and that candidate Romney is even more unqualified to be president than I thought George W. Bush was. Both of them lie compulsively, endlessly and persuasively. Politics these days is all about money and lies because both work on a population that is dumb, distracted and delusional. As a nation we get the politics we deserve. Rich, white and older Americans are drawn to Romney. Poor, younger and minority people are drawn to Obama. True conservatives and liberals/progressives should vomit at the thought of voting for Romney or Obama, respectively, because neither candidate is truly committed at their core to either camp.

No intelligent, informed American should vote for either Obama or Romney. The two better, more moral and noble choices are either to not vote for president at all and help to delegitimize the busted, corrupt and dysfunctional political system, or to vote for the Libertarian Party president candidate that will be on nearly all state ballots. But Gary Johnson is nearly totally ignored by the media and most likely will not be included in the televised presidential debates because they are controlled by the two major parties. This, despite the fact that "The most recent CNN/ORC International poll shows that 3% of likely voters and 4% of registered voters say they'd vote for Johnson." He is not the lesser of three evils, but a terrific way to send a clear message to both major parties that most of us are fed up with both of them.

Third party presidential candidates are often described as "spoilers" because they are viewed as spoiling the election of one of the major party candidates. In truth, it is smart to see voting for the Libertarian Party candidate as spoiling the oppressive grip of the two major parties on our political system. When a candidate wins that you oppose the only people to blame are those who funded his campaign and voted for him. Democrats and Republicans have succeeded at spoiling our democracy. We have far too little genuine political competition.

This much is certain. Whether you vote for Romney or Obama, if your choice wins you will eventually be painfully disappointed. All our elections do now is sustain a corrupt, dysfunctional status quo. I keep waiting for a presidential candidate who tells the public that we need some reform constitutional amendments, like getting all private money out of politics, that Congress will never propose and that only an Article V convention will propose. Give me a presidential candidate that supports having the first Article V convention and I will see the possibility of fixing the US.

If you truly believe that electing Romney or Obama will put the nation on the right track and a path to renewed shared prosperity, fiscal sanity, greatly reduced unemployment and an end to too-big-to-fail crony capitalism, then you have been brainwashed by the right or left or are well into Alzheimer's disease.
(c) 2012 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

What Mitt Romney Really Represents
By Robert Reich

It's not just his giant income or the low tax rates he pays on it. And it's not just the videotape of him berating almost half of America, or his endless gaffes, or his regressive budget policies.

It's something that unites all of this, and connects it to the biggest underlying problem America faces - the unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the very top that's undermining our economy and destroying our democracy.

Romney just released his 2011 tax returns, showing he paid $1.9 million in taxes on more than $13 million of income last year - for an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent. (He released his 2010 return in January, showing he paid an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent.)

American has had hugely wealthy presidents before - think of Teddy Roosevelt and his distant cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt; or John F. Kennedy, beneficiary of father Joe's fortune.

But here's the difference. These men were champions of the working class and the poor, and were considered traitors to their own class. Teddy Roosevelt railed against the "malefactors of great wealth," and he busted up the oil and railroad trusts. FDR thundered against the "economic royalists," raised taxes on the wealthy, and gave average working people the right to form unions - along with Social Security, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and a 40-hour workweek.

But Mitt Romney is not a traitor to his class. He is a sponsor of his class. He wants to cut their taxes by $3.7 trillion over the next decade, and hasn't even specified what "loopholes" he'd close to make up for this gigantic giveaway.

And he wants to cut benefits that almost everyone else relies on - Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and housing assistance.

He's even a warrior for his class, telling his wealthy followers his job isn't to worry about the "47 percent" of Americans who won't vote for him, whom he calls "victims" and he berates for not paying federal incomes taxes and taking federal handouts.

(He mangles these facts, of course. Almost all working Americans pay federal taxes - and the federal taxes that have been rising fastest for most people are Social Security payroll taxes, which aren't collected on a penny of income over $110,100. Moreover, most of the "47 percent" whom he accuses of taking handouts are on Medicare or Social Security - the biggest "entitlement" programs - which, not incidentally, they paid into during their working lives.)

Money means power. Concentrated wealth at the top means extraordinary power at the top. The reason Romney pays a rate of only 14 percent on $13 million of income in 2011 - a lower rate than many in the middle class - is because he exploits a loophole that allows private equity managers to treat their income as capital gains, taxed at only 15 percent.

And that loophole exists solely because private equity and hedge fund managers have so much political clout - as a result of their huge fortunes and the money they've donated to political candidates - that neither party will remove it.

In other words, everything America is learning about Mitt Romney - his tax returns, his years at Bain Capital, the video of his speech to high-end donors in which he belittles half of America, his gaffes, the budget policies he promotes - repeat and reenforce the same underlying reality.

So much wealth and power have accumulated at the top of America that our economy and our democracy are seriously threatened. Romney not only represents this problem. He is the living embodiment of it.
(c) 2012 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Gouverneur Thompson,

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 Antonin (Tony light-fingers) Scalia.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your plans to get rid of all the entitlement programs, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria 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 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 10-30-2012. We salute you Herr Thompson, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Top GOP Senate Candidate Just Says It, 'Do Away With Medicare, Medicaid'
By John Nichols

Paul Ryan admits that he's an "end Medicare as we know it" candidate.

But, somehow, we are not supposed to think that he would actually end the popular and successful healthcare program for the elderly, as well as related Medicaid programs for the poor and people with disabilities.

The "as we know it" part provides a sort of cover, as least in the eyes of a media that is more inclined toward stenography than journalism.

Never mind that Ryan, a fanatical reader of government-can-do-no-good fanatic Ayn Rand, goes positively wide-eyed when he starts talking about how desperately he wants to downsize government-and shift control of healthcare and retirement programs to the insurance and Wall Street interests that so generously fund his campaigns. We're not supposed to talk about the long-term crony-capitalist scheme of certain Republicans to do away with government programs that work so that private-sector profiteers can come in and create programs that don't work-except for private-sector profiteers.

Never mind that the Republican nominee for vice president has a long history of decrying Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in Randian terms such as "collectivist" and "socialistic."

Never mind that Ryan has griped that "Social Security right now is a collectivist system. It's a welfare transfer system."

Never mind that, as recently as 2010, Ryan dismissed Medicare and Medicaid as part of a "socialist based system" that needs to be replaced.

The red flags are not supposed to go up until someone actually says they want to, you know, "do away with Medicaid and Medicare."

Never mind that, even now, Ryan complains about how America is being overwhelmed by "takers" (citizens who claim benefits to which they are entitled) and the "welfare state" (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid).

Only when a candidate starts talking about ending entitlement programs-as in "doing away" with them-can we be serious about the immediate threat those programs actually face.

Meet Tommy Thompson, former Republican governor of Wisconsin, former Bush-Cheney administration secretary of health and human services, former candidate for the Republican nomination for president and mentor to Paul Ryan.

Speaking to a Tea Party group while campaigning for Wisconsin's open US Senate seat, Thompson recounted how he "reformed" welfare in Wisconsin.

Back in the 1990s, Thompson said he wanted to "end welfare as we know it." In fact, he replaced the program with a classic combination of high-government spending, lots of patronage appointments and rising poverty.

Now, Thompson has dropped the "end welfare as we know it" pretense. He brags that he finished off "one of the entitlement program."

And he's gunning for a couple of other entitlement programs.

Which ones?

You guessed it: Medicaid and Medicare.

Declaring that he wants to "change Medicare and Medicaid like I did welfare," Thompson asked a May gathering of the Lake Country Area Defenders Of Liberty in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin: "Who better to and who better than me, who's already finished one of the entitlement programs, to come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare?"

The video has only now surfaced and its a blockbuster -- especially in the aftermath of the release last week of a similar video that saw Republican presiential nominee Mitt Romney dismissing 47 percent of Americans as a "dependent" class unworthy of Republican consideration.

Just to repeat: a top Republican Senate candidate has been caught on video talking about how he would "DO AWAY WITH MEDICAID, AND MEDICARE."


It should be understood that Thompson is no fringe-dwelling Todd Akin. As the longtime Republican governor of a swing state, he's worked with every GOP president since Ronald Reagan, and he oversaw social programs for the Bush-Cheney administration. This year, he's one of his party's premier recruits in the fight to retake the Senate. Indeed, the race between Thompson and Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin could decide which party controls the chamber.

Thompson is, as well, closely aligned with Paul Ryan. The Senate candidate's ties to Ryan's politically connected family go back to when the Republican vice-presidential nominee was a child. Thompson has been a Ryan booster from the very beginning of the younger Wisconsinite's career in electoral politics-when Thompson was the powerful governor of the state and Ryan was organizing his first Congressional bid.

When Thompson joined the Bush-Cheney Cabinet, he and Ryan kept regular company in Washington. They look forward to working together when Thompson becomes the point man on entitlement debates in a Republican-controlled Senate and Ryan is the Romney White House's chief liaison to Capitol Hill.

The voters will have something to say about that, however.

If they want to preserve Medicaid and Medicare, they will remember that, while Ryan may add the "as we know it" spin, Thompson gets to the heart of the matter when he says it is the intention of these "reformers" to "do away with Medicaid and Medicare."
(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.


King Bibi In The Political Casino
By Adam Keller

On the front page of Ma'ariv's weekend magazine appears the headline from a commentary by Ofer Shelah: "A dangerous gamble" - followed by a quote "Netanyahu features in the broadcasts of the Mitt Romney campaign, and the Republican candidate anti- Palestinian utterings seem to be direct quotations from Israel's PM. Netanyahu has put all his chips on Romney - but who will pay the bill if Obama is re-elected?"

The Ma'ariv newspaper, a pillar of the Israeli press throughout the county's entire history, is at this moment itself in grave danger. Its fate and that of its two thousand employees hangs in the balance. Ma'ariv - and other newspapers and media outlets in Israel -suffer from the unfair competition by "Israel Today". Copies of "Israel Today" are spread in huge quantities in the streets and at the entrances to public institutions. Unlike other papers, readers do not have to pay for it. And this newspaper also offers incredibly cheap advertisements, at prices with which no other paper could possibly compete.

So, how can "Israel Today" make a profit under such conditions? It does not. "Israel Today" suffers huge losses every month, but it has an owner with very wide pocket, ever ready and willing to cover the losses. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who gets very lucrative profits from running casinos in China and the United States, can afford this expenditure. Not by coincidence, "Israel Today" consistently and bluntly supports Binyamin Netanyahu and the policies of his government, while casualties of its wildcat competition are newspapers taking a more critical stance towards the Prime Minister. And also not by coincidence, Sheldon Adelson is also a major supporter and prime funder in the election campaign of Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate in the United States.

In yesterday's issue of Ma'ariv also appeared a commentary by Ben Kaspit, which might be one of his lasts: "This week Obama gained a decisive advantage in the polls, and in the Electoral College which actually elects the President his situation is even better. It seems that only a miracle can save Romney and the people who have staked the fortunes upon his. It is for such a miracle that Netanyahu and Adelson are now fervently praying. (...) Based on the assumption that the miracle does not happen and that Romney is sent despondently home on 7 November, the PM's men understand perfectly well what they can expect from the White House during Obama's second term: the immensity of the disgust which the President now feels for Prime Minister of Israel and all that the PM stands for; that the effort of rebuilding relations which awaits them is virtually hopeless. This is very bad news for the Right-wing, for the settlers, for everyone who tied their fate to the one who tied his own fate to Mitt Romney."

Caspit - not staunch leftist - speculates that Obama's second term would start with "another settlement freeze and a resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians (assuming that Abbas survives until then)."

So, perhaps something would happen, after all? Perhaps, it would still happen after all the disappointments and frustrations and bloodshed, despite the ever increasing desperation and cynicism? Maybe the phrase "Middle East Peace Process" would still cease to be a sad and pathetic joke. Maybe a president elected for the second time, having no longer electoral constraints in settling outstanding accounts with the Prime Minister of Israel, would at long last devote to this issue a significant part of the enormous power at the disposal of the President of the United States of America? Perhaps it would still happen that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories would not reach its fiftieth anniversary in 2017, but get its long overdue passing away during the second term of Barack Hussein Obama?

So, would we after all have reason to a sleepless night on November 6?
(c) 2012 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Randy Bish ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

A Letter From Ann Romney
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)-The Borowitz Report has obtained the following confidential letter from Ann Romney to members of the Republican Party:

Dear Fellow-Republican,

I'm not a happy camper.

Over the past few days, some so-called Republicans have taken it upon themselves to lob some pretty harsh words in the direction of my husband. Now, it's one thing when Mitt gets criticized by the forty-seven per cent of Americans who are parasites sucking at capitalism's teat. But when former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan calls his campaign "a rolling calamity," it's time for Ann Romney to kick some ass.

Which brings me to you. This is not a fundraising appeal. Lord knows this campaign has all the money it needs, especially since Mitt went to Vegas and promised Sheldon Adelson he'd bomb Tehran on Day One. As Mitt's wife, I'm asking you to pledge something far more valuable:

Your silence.

By signing the pledge form below, you become an official member of Ann Romney's Circle of Silence, an élite tier of the Romney for President Campaign. As a member of the C.O.S., you will receive priority ticketing to the Inauguration, as well as a collectible "Loose Lips Sink Mitt" ball gag. All you have to do is shut the freak up until Election Day.

That's right, for the next forty-six days, I'm asking you to bite your tongue every time Mitt says or does something idiotic. If you think that sounds difficult, welcome to my world.

And Peggy Noonan, if you're reading this: you want a piece of Ann Romney? Then get in the ring, girlfriend, and I'll mess you up good.

Vote for Mitt,


(c) 2012 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 39 (c) 09/28/2012

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