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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky recalls, "The Week The World Stood Still."

Uri Avnery considers, "Filling The Black Hole."

Glen Ford watches as, "The Duopoly Debates Itself."

Greg Palast exclaims, "It's Magic!"

Jim Hightower examines, "Plutocrats On Welfare."

Bernie Sanders demands we, "End Polluter Welfare."

James Donahue warns of, "Ignoring The Impact Of Burning Carbon Fuels."

Daryl Hannah tells, "Why I'm Standing Up To TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline In East Texas."

Sam Harris says, "This Must Be Heaven."

Glenn Greenwald reports, "The Brookings Institution Demands Servile Journalism."

Paul Krugman studies, "Death By Ideology."

Randal Amster sees a, "Campaign Supernova."

Robert Reich sends a, "Memo to the President: Your Next Debate."

Central Mississippi Tea Party President Janis Lane wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols introduces, "Paul Ryan: Dick Cheney With A Smile."

Adam Keller asks, "So, What The Hell Are These Elections About?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz explores, "Obama's New Debate Strategy" but first Uncle Ernie wonders, "Can I Get A Heil Obama, Heil Romney?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Breen, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Ted Rall, Rick Schulta, AP, MVD, Jim Young, Reuters, Tar Sands Blockade, World Wildlife Fund, Newsweek, Mother Jones, SBC-Technolgies, United Press International, The New Yorker, 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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Can I Get A Heil, Obama; Heil, Romney?
By Ernest Stewart

"The American people deserve to hear choices which are not bought and paid for by multinational corporations and Wall Street. This is why we are not hearing the critical issues in this debate." ~~~ Jill Stein ~ Green Party presidential candidate

"I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize." ~~~ Steven Wright

"Suffrage is the pivotal right." ~~~ Susan B. Anthony

This coming and going
Is driving me nuts
This to-ing and fro-ing
Is hurting my guts
So get off the fence
Its creasing your butt
Life is a party
Lets get out and strut
Mixed Emotions ~~~ The Rolling Stones

As is par for the course, I didn't watch the big "de-bait" last night, besides outside of the college, a far more interesting, more important event was taking place!

Outside Green Party candidates Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala were arrested by the local gestapo for trying to get into the debate. Can't have the candidates going into the debate, can we?

"Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala will appear on 85% of ballots on Election Day, and recently polled 2-3% in four consecutive national polls. The Federal government recognizes Jill Stein as a qualified presidential candidate, having approved her campaign for federal matching funds. Yet, the two women were arrested by local police when they tried to enter the grounds of Hofstra University, in Hempstead, New York, where the debate is scheduled to take place. They are currently still in police custody.

Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala walked with supporters toward the Hofstra campus at 2:00pm EST today. There they were met by three ranks of police officers in uniform and plainclothes. At this point, the Green Party candidates held an impromptu press conference in which Dr. Stein called the CPD debate a "mockumentary," saying that, "We are here to bring the courage of those excluded from our politics to this mock debate, this mockery of democracy."

Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala then turned and began walking onto the debate grounds, at which point the rank of police officers physically stopped them and pushed them back. The two women sat down and the police arrested them, saying that Stein and Honkala would be charged with "obstructing traffic," a charge Jill Stein for President staffer and lawyer Alex Howard called "bogus" in that there was no through-traffic visible at any time during the incident."

No other voice except the vetted single party candidates can speak to America as they were chosen by our 1% masters to speak for them. There is no room for the voice of the people, not in this corpo-rat America. No, the Commission on Presidential Debates or CPD will see to that. The CPD is a fifth column front group assigned by the party to keep any real choices out! So, the choice is yours, America; you can vote Green or vote fascist, or not vote; those are your only choices. Which do you choose?

So, who won the debate, who cares? I can tell you who lost the debate; America did!

In Other News

You have no doubt heard about the Nobel's Peace Prize committee awarding the "Peace Prize" to the European Union. How the Nobel's Three Stooges came to this conclusion is way beyond my poor thought process. And it really isn't fair to use the Three Stooges as an analogy for the Nobel committee. Sure, like the committee, the stooges weren't all that bright; but unlike the committee, the stooges "had a heart as big as a whale!" The stooges, for the most part, had little or nothing; but they'd share all that they had with a child or a lady in distress or a stray dog. While the Stooges would often get a lot of things wrong, they were still good people. Pity is, I can't say the same thing for the Nobel committee!

You may recall that Alfred Nobel's will left funding for a Peace Prize to be awarded to: "The person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The EU is none of those things!

Like the US, who thinks that corpo-rats are people, the Committee apparently thinks that countries are persons, too?!!? Bad as that is, even worse is their reasoning for awarding Europe the prize, i.e., that they haven't been killing one another (an old European tradition), since WWII; that is, if you want to overlook Yugoslavia; I bet you almost forgot about that European war, huh?

It seems that the committee also overlooked the fact that all Europe did was stop killing white people, which the Norwegians get, so I guess that black, brown and yellow people don't count as people, because the Europeans have certainly butchered them by the millions. If you don't believe me, then ask the Iraqis, the Afghanis, the Pakistanis, the Libyans, the Yemenis, the Syrians; well, you get the picture....

I'm not surprised about this in the slightest; you'll recall they gave the Peace Prize back in 2009 to the currently-leading mass murderer and war criminal, Barack Obama. So, perhaps the Norwegians have a new definition of Peace? Mayhaps they think it means, "the peace that's left when you've killed every living thing within hearing distance?"

If anyone deserves the Peace Prize, it's Issues & Alibis author Uri Avnery who's championed the cause of peace between Palestine and Israel since 1953; but America and Israel will see to it that it never happens!

And Finally

Did you ever wonder what happened to the Stepford Wives? I think I've found one them; and I'm not talking about Ann Lois Romney! No, no, no; and besides, that's way too obvious!

I'm taking about Janis Lane, who is the president of the "Central Mississippi Tea Party." Janis wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award because she believes that women should not be allowed to vote -- because "they are diabolical and emotional."

Uh huh! While giving an interview with the Jackson Free Press, an interview that was comprised of three tea party members, i.e., Mark Mayfield, a real estate attorney, Kim Wade, a radio show host, and Janis.

It was during this interview, that a question about women's voting rights was raised and Janis said:

"Our country might have been better off if it was still just men voting. There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical in how than can skewer a person."
I agree with Janis; well, sort of; I believe that anyone, man or women, who is a member of any tea bagger group should lose the right to vote, because they're far to stupid to live, much less vote! Ergo, Janis wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award! I bet your mama would be so proud of you, Janis!

Keepin' On

Got those ole mixed emotions again. Time is all but up; but I've heard from a couple members of "The Usual Suspects" that help is on the way so I can only wait and anticipate. There was nothing but spam in the PO Box again last Saturday; but this Saturday looks to be promising. We'll have to wait and see.

All I can say is, thank Zeus for "The Usual Suspects;" these last few years would have been impossible without them -- not only for the magazine, but also in my personal life. Ya'll know who you are. Some are common names around here, but some give, wishing to remain anonymous, knowing that whether or not folks know who you are, and what you did, instant Karma is still going to find you, and give you its blessings. That's right folks, Karma is a two-way street; and it has been my observation that you reap what you sow! Either way, I'm going to be here if I have to sell my blood to keep going. Honest information is that important in this day and age.

If you think what we do is important, and would like to help us keep spreading the word, then please send us what you can, whenever you can; and we'll keep on keeping on for all of you. We've all got to fight the good fight, not just once in a while, but every minute of every day. This is not only important for your own self, but for your kids and grandkids too. It truly is about to hit the fan, if you don't! Hope to hear from more of you very soon!


02-12-1930 ~ 10-14-2012
Burn Baby Burn!

09-28-1952 ~ 10-17-2012
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.

The Week The World Stood Still
The Cuban Missile Crisis and Ownership of the World
By Noam Chomsky

The world stood still 50 years ago during the last week of October, from the moment when it learned that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba until the crisis was officially ended -- though unknown to the public, only officially.

The image of the world standing still is the turn of phrase of Sheldon Stern, former historian at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, who published the authoritative version of the tapes of the ExComm meetings where Kennedy and a close circle of advisers debated how to respond to the crisis. Those meetings were secretly recorded by the president, which might bear on the fact that his stand throughout the recorded sessions is relatively temperate compared to other participants, who were unaware that they were speaking to history.

Stern has just published an accessible and accurate review of this critically important documentary record, finally declassified in the late 1990s. I will keep to that here. "Never before or since," he concludes, "has the survival of human civilization been at stake in a few short weeks of dangerous deliberations," culminating in "the week the world stood still."

There was good reason for the global concern. A nuclear war was all too imminent, a war that might "destroy the Northern Hemisphere," President Dwight Eisenhower had warned. Kennedy's own judgment was that the probability of war might have been as high as 50%. Estimates became higher as the confrontation reached its peak and the "secret doomsday plan to ensure the survival of the government was put into effect" in Washington, as described by journalist Michael Dobbs in his well-researched bestseller on the crisis (though he doesn't explain why there would be much point in doing so, given the likely nature of nuclear war).

Dobbs quotes Dino Brugioni, "a key member of the CIA team monitoring the Soviet missile buildup," who saw no way out except "war and complete destruction"L as the clock moved to "one minute to midnight," the title of his book. Kennedy's close associate, historian Arthur Schlesinger, described the events as "the most dangerous moment in human history." Defense Secretary Robert McNamara wondered aloud whether he "would live to see another Saturday night," and later recognized that "we lucked out" -- barely.

"The Most Dangerous Moment"

A closer look at what took place adds grim overtones to these judgments, with reverberations to the present moment.

There are several candidates for "the most dangerous moment." One is October 27th, when U.S. destroyers enforcing a quarantine around Cuba were dropping depth charges on Soviet submarines. According to Soviet accounts, reported by the National Security Archive, submarine commanders were "rattled enough to talk about firing nuclear torpedoes, whose 15 kiloton explosive yields approximated the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in August 1945."

In one case, a reported decision to assemble a nuclear torpedo for battle readiness was aborted at the last minute by Second Captain Vasili Arkhipov, who may have saved the world from nuclear disaster. There is little doubt what the U.S. reaction would have been had the torpedo been fired, or how the Russians would have responded as their country was going up in smoke.

Kennedy had already declared the highest nuclear alert short of launch (DEFCON 2), which authorized "NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots ... [or others] ... to take off, fly to Moscow, and drop a bomb," according to the well-informed Harvard University strategic analyst Graham Allison, writing in the major establishment journal Foreign Affairs.

Another candidate is October 26th. That day has been selected as "the most dangerous moment" by B-52 pilot Major Don Clawson, who piloted one of those NATO aircraft and provides a hair-raising description of details of the Chrome Dome (CD) missions during the crisis -- "B-52s on airborne alert" with nuclear weapons "on board and ready to use."

October 26th was the day when "the nation was closest to nuclear war," he writes in his "irreverent anecdotes of an Air Force pilot." Is That Something the Crew Should Know? On that day, Clawson himself was in a good position to set off a likely terminal cataclysm. He concludes, "We were damned lucky we didn't blow up the world -- and no thanks to the political or military leadership of this country."

The errors, confusions, near-accidents, and miscomprehension of the leadership that Clawson reports are startling enough, but nothing like the operative command-and-control rules -- or lack of them. As Clawson recounts his experiences during the 15 24-hour CD missions he flew, the maximum possible, the official commanders "did not possess the capability to prevent a rogue-crew or crew-member from arming and releasing their thermonuclear weapons," or even from broadcasting a mission that would have sent off "the entire Airborne Alert force without possibility of recall." Once the crew was airborne carrying thermonuclear weapons, he writes, "it would have been possible to arm and drop them all with no further input from the ground. There was no inhibitor on any of the systems."

About one-third of the total force was in the air, according to General David Burchinal, director of plans on the Air Staff at Air Force Headquarters. The Strategic Air Command (SAC), technically in charge, appears to have had little control. And according to Clawson's account, the civilian National Command Authority was kept in the dark by SAC, which means that the ExComm "deciders" pondering the fate of the world knew even less. General Burchinal's oral history is no less hair-raising, and reveals even greater contempt for the civilian command. According to him, Russian capitulation was never in doubt. The CD operations were designed to make it crystal clear to the Russians that they were hardly even competing in the military confrontation, and could quickly have been destroyed.

From the ExComm records, Stern concludes that, on October 26th, President Kennedy was "leaning towards military action to eliminate the missiles" in Cuba, to be followed by invasion, according to Pentagon plans. It was evident then that the act might have led to terminal war, a conclusion fortified by much later revelations that tactical nuclear weapons had been deployed and that Russian forces were far greater than U.S. intelligence had reported.

As the ExComm meetings were drawing to a close at 6 p.m. on the 26th, a letter arrived from Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev, sent directly to President Kennedy. His "message seemed clear," Stern writes: "the missiles would be removed if the U.S. promised not to invade Cuba."

The next day, at 10 am, the president again turned on the secret tape. He read aloud a wire service report that had just been handed to him: "Premier Khrushchev told President Kennedy in a message today he would withdraw offensive weapons from Cuba if the United States withdrew its rockets from Turkey" -- Jupiter missiles with nuclear warheads. The report was soon authenticated.

Though received by the committee as an unexpected bolt from the blue, it had actually been anticipated: "we've known this might be coming for a week," Kennedy informed them. To refuse public acquiescence would be difficult, he realized. These were obsolete missiles, already slated for withdrawal, soon to be replaced by far more lethal and effectively invulnerable Polaris submarines. Kennedy recognized that he would be in an "insupportable position if this becomes [Khrushchev's] proposal," both because the Turkish missiles were useless and were being withdrawn anyway, and because "it's gonna -- to any man at the United Nations or any other rational man, it will look like a very fair trade."

Keeping U.S. Power Unrestrained

The planners therefore faced a serious dilemma. They had in hand two somewhat different proposals from Khrushchev to end the threat of catastrophic war, and each would seem to any "rational man" to be a fair trade. How then to react?

One possibility would have been to breathe a sigh of relief that civilization could survive and to eagerly accept both offers; to announce that the U.S. would adhere to international law and remove any threat to invade Cuba; and to carry forward the withdrawal of the obsolete missiles in Turkey, proceeding as planned to upgrade the nuclear threat against the Soviet Union to a far greater one -- only part, of course, of the global encirclement of Russia. But that was unthinkable.

The basic reason why no such thought could be contemplated was spelled out by National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, former Harvard dean and reputedly the brightest star in the Camelot firmament. The world, he insisted, must come to understand that "[t]he current threat to peace is not in Turkey, it is in Cuba," where missiles were directed against the U.S. A vastly more powerful U.S. missile force trained on the much weaker and more vulnerable Soviet enemy could not possibly be regarded as a threat to peace, because we are Good, as a great many people in the Western hemisphere and beyond could testify -- among numerous others, the victims of the ongoing terrorist war that the U.S. was then waging against Cuba, or those swept up in the "campaign of hatred" in the Arab world that so puzzled Eisenhower, though not the National Security Council, which explained it clearly.

Of course, the idea that the U.S. should be restrained by international law was too ridiculous to merit consideration. As explained recently by the respected left-liberal commentator Matthew Yglesias, "one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers" -- meaning the U.S. -- so that it is "amazingly naive," indeed quite "silly," to suggest that it should obey international law or other conditions that we impose on the powerless. This was a frank and welcome exposition of operative assumptions, reflexively taken for granted by the ExComm assemblage.

In subsequent colloquy, the president stressed that we would be "in a bad position" if we chose to set off an international conflagration by rejecting proposals that would seem quite reasonable to survivors (if any cared). This "pragmatic" stance was about as far as moral considerations could reach.

In a review of recently released documents on Kennedy-era terror, Harvard University Latin Americanist Jorge Domínguez observes, "Only once in these nearly thousand pages of documentation did a U.S. official raise something that resembled a faint moral objection to U.S.-government sponsored terrorism": a member of the National Security Council staff suggested that raids that are "haphazard and kill innocents... might mean a bad press in some friendly countries."

The same attitudes prevailed throughout the internal discussions during the missile crisis, as when Robert Kennedy warned that a full-scale invasion of Cuba would "kill an awful lot of people, and we're going to take an awful lot of heat on it." And they prevail to the present, with only the rarest of exceptions, as easily documented.

We might have been "in even a worse position" if the world had known more about what the U.S. was doing at the time. Only recently was it learned that, six months earlier, the U.S. had secretly deployed missiles in Okinawa virtually identical to those the Russians would send to Cuba. These were surely aimed at China at a moment of elevated regional tensions. To this day, Okinawa remains a major offensive U.S. military base over the bitter objections of its inhabitants who, right now, are less than enthusiastic about the dispatch of accident-prone V-22 Osprey helicopters to the Futenma military base, located at the heart of a heavily populated urban center.

An Indecent Disrespect for the Opinions of Humankind

The deliberations that followed are revealing, but I will put them aside here. They did reach a conclusion. The U.S. pledged to withdraw the obsolete missiles from Turkey, but would not do so publicly or put the offer in writing: it was important that Khrushchev be seen to capitulate. An interesting reason was offered, and is accepted as reasonable by scholarship and commentary. As Dobbs puts it, "If it appeared that the United States was dismantling the missile bases unilaterally, under pressure from the Soviet Union, the [NATO] alliance might crack" -- or to rephrase a little more accurately, if the U.S. replaced useless missiles with a far more lethal threat, as already planned, in a trade with Russia that any "rational man" would regard as very fair, then the NATO alliance might crack.

To be sure, when Russia withdrew Cuba's only deterrent against an ongoing U.S. attack -- with a severe threat to proceed to direct invasion still in the air -- and quietly departed from the scene, the Cubans would be infuriated (as, in fact, they understandably were). But that is an unfair comparison for the standard reasons: we are human beings who matter, while they are merely "unpeople," to adapt George Orwell's useful phrase.

Kennedy also made an informal pledge not to invade Cuba, but with conditions: not just the withdrawal of the missiles, but also termination, or at least "a great lessening," of any Russian military presence. (Unlike Turkey, on Russia's borders, where nothing of the kind could be contemplated.) When Cuba is no longer an "armed camp," then "we probably wouldn't invade," in the president's words. He added that, if it hoped to be free from the threat of U.S. invasion, Cuba must end its "political subversion" (Stern's phrase) in Latin America. "Political subversion" had been a constant theme for years, invoked for example when Eisenhower overthrew the parliamentary government of Guatemala and plunged that tortured country into an abyss from which it has yet to emerge. And these themes remained alive and well right through Ronald Reagan's vicious terror wars in Central America in the 1980s. Cuba's "political subversion" consisted of support for those resisting the murderous assaults of the U.S. and its client regimes, and sometimes even perhaps -- horror of horrors -- providing arms to the victims.

The usage is standard. Thus, in 1955, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had outlined "three basic forms of aggression." The first was armed attack across a border, that is, aggression as defined in international law. The second was "overt armed attack from within the area of each of the sovereign states," as when guerrilla forces undertake armed resistance against a regime backed or imposed by Washington, though not of course when "freedom fighters" resist an official enemy. The third: "Aggression other than armed, i.e., political warfare, or subversion." The primary example at the time was South Vietnam, where the United States was defending a free people from "internal aggression," as Kennedy's U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson explained -- from "an assault from within" in the president's words.

Though these assumptions are so deeply embedded in prevailing doctrine as to be virtually invisible, they are occasionally articulated in the internal record. In the case of Cuba, the State Department Policy Planning Council explained that "the primary danger we face in Castro is... in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries... The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the US, a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half," since the Monroe Doctrine announced Washington's intention, then unrealizable, to dominate the Western hemisphere.

Not the Russians of that moment then, but rather the right to dominate, a leading principle of foreign policy found almost everywhere, though typically concealed in defensive terms: during the Cold War years, routinely by invoking the "Russian threat," even when Russians were nowhere in sight. An example of great contemporary import is revealed in Iran scholar Ervand Abrahamian's important upcoming book of the U.S.-U.K. coup that overthrew the parliamentary regime of Iran in 1953. With scrupulous examination of internal records, he shows convincingly that standard accounts cannot be sustained. The primary causes were not Cold War concerns, nor Iranian irrationality that undermined Washington's "benign intentions," nor even access to oil or profits, but rather the way the U.S. demand for "overall controls" -- with its broader implications for global dominance -- was threatened by independent nationalism.

That is what we discover over and over by investigating particular cases, including Cuba (not surprisingly) though the fanaticism in that particular case might merit examination. U.S. policy towards Cuba is harshly condemned throughout Latin America and indeed most of the world, but "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind" is understood to be meaningless rhetoric intoned mindlessly on July 4th. Ever since polls have been taken on the matter, a considerable majority of the U.S. population has favored normalization of relations with Cuba, but that too is insignificant.

Dismissal of public opinion is of course quite normal. What is interesting in this case is dismissal of powerful sectors of U.S. economic power, which also favor normalization, and are usually highly influential in setting policy: energy, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, and others. That suggests that, in addition to the cultural factors revealed in the hysteria of the Camelot intellectuals, there is a powerful state interest involved in punishing Cubans.

Saving the World from the Threat of Nuclear Destruction

The missile crisis officially ended on October 28th. The outcome was not obscure. That evening, in a special CBS News broadcast, Charles Collingwood reported that the world had come out "from under the most terrible threat of nuclear holocaust since World War II" with a "humiliating defeat for Soviet policy." Dobbs comments that the Russians tried to pretend that the outcome was "yet another triumph for Moscow's peace-loving foreign policy over warmongering imperialists," and that "[t]he supremely wise, always reasonable Soviet leadership had saved the world from the threat of nuclear destruction."

Extricating the basic facts from the fashionable ridicule, Khrushchev's agreement to capitulate had indeed "saved the world from the threat of nuclear destruction."

The crisis, however, was not over. On November 8th, the Pentagon announced that all known Soviet missile bases had been dismantled. On the same day, Stern reports, "a sabotage team carried out an attack on a Cuban factory," though Kennedy's terror campaign, Operation Mongoose, had been formally curtailed at the peak of the crisis. The November 8th terror attack lends support to Bundy's observation that the threat to peace was Cuba, not Turkey, where the Russians were not continuing a lethal assault -- though that was certainly not what Bundy had in mind or could have understood.

More details are added by the highly respected scholar Raymond Garthoff, who also had rich experience within the government, in his careful 1987 account of the missile crisis. On November 8th, he writes, "a Cuban covert action sabotage team dispatched from the United States successfully blew up a Cuban industrial facility," killing 400 workers according to a Cuban government letter to the U.N. Secretary General.

Garthoff comments: "The Soviets could only see [the attack] as an effort to backpedal on what was, for them, the key question remaining: American assurances not to attack Cuba," particularly since the terrorist attack was launched from the U.S. These and other "third party actions" reveal again, he concludes, "that the risk and danger to both sides could have been extreme, and catastrophe not excluded." Garthoff also reviews the murderous and destructive operations of Kennedy's terrorist campaign, which we would certainly regard as more than ample justification for war, if the U.S. or its allies or clients were victims, not perpetrators.

From the same source we learn further that, on August 23, 1962, the president had issued National Security Memorandum No. 181, "a directive to engineer an internal revolt that would be followed by U.S. military intervention," involving "significant U.S. military plans, maneuvers, and movement of forces and equipment" that were surely known to Cuba and Russia. Also in August, terrorist attacks were intensified, including speedboat strafing attacks on a Cuban seaside hotel "where Soviet military technicians were known to congregate, killing a score of Russians and Cubans"; attacks on British and Cuban cargo ships; the contamination of sugar shipments; and other atrocities and sabotage, mostly carried out by Cuban exile organizations permitted to operate freely in Florida. Shortly after came "the most dangerous moment in human history," not exactly out of the blue.

Kennedy officially renewed the terrorist operations after the crisis ebbed. Ten days before his assassination he approved a CIA plan for "destruction operations" by U.S. proxy forces "against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships." A plot to assassinate Castro was apparently initiated on the day of the Kennedy assassination. The terrorist campaign was called off in 1965, but reports Garthoff, "one of Nixon's first acts in office in 1969 was to direct the CIA to intensify covert operations against Cuba."

We can, at last, hear the voices of the victims in Canadian historian Keith Bolender's Voices From the Other Side, the first oral history of the terror campaign -- one of many books unlikely to receive more than casual notice, if that, in the West because the contents are too revealing.

In the current issue of Political Science Quarterly, the professional journal of the association of American political scientists, Montague Kern observes that the Cuban missile crisis is one of those "full-bore crises... in which an ideological enemy (the Soviet Union) is universally perceived to have gone on the attack, leading to a rally-'round-the-flag effect that greatly expands support for a president, increasing his policy options."

Kern is right that it is "universally perceived" that way, apart from those who have escaped sufficiently from the ideological shackles to pay some attention to the facts. Kern is, in fact, one of them. Another is Sheldon Stern, who recognizes what has long been known to such deviants. As he writes, we now know that "Khrushchev's original explanation for shipping missiles to Cuba had been fundamentally true: the Soviet leader had never intended these weapons as a threat to the security of the United States, but rather considered their deployment a defensive move to protect his Cuban allies from American attacks and as a desperate effort to give the U.S.S.R. the appearance of equality in the nuclear balance of power." Dobbs, too, recognizes that "Castro and his Soviet patrons had real reasons to fear American attempts at regime change, including, as a last resort, a U.S. invasion of Cuba... [Khrushchev] was also sincere in his desire to defend the Cuban revolution from the mighty neighbor to the north."

"Terrors of the Earth"

The American attacks are often dismissed in U.S. commentary as silly pranks, CIA shenanigans that got out of hand. That is far from the truth. The best and the brightest had reacted to the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion with near hysteria, including the president, who solemnly informed the country: "The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong... can possibly survive." And they could only survive, he evidently believed, by massive terror -- though that addendum was kept secret, and is still not known to loyalists who perceive the ideological enemy as having "gone on the attack" (the near universal perception, as Kern observes). After the Bay of Pigs defeat, historian Piero Gleijeses writes, JFK launched a crushing embargo to punish the Cubans for defeating a U.S.-run invasion, and "asked his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to lead the top-level interagency group that oversaw Operation Mongoose, a program of paramilitary operations, economic warfare, and sabotage he launched in late 1961 to visit the 'terrors of the earth' on Fidel Castro and, more prosaically, to topple him."

The phrase "terrors of the earth" is Arthur Schlesinger's, in his quasi-official biography of Robert Kennedy, who was assigned responsibility for conducting the terrorist war, and informed the CIA that the Cuban problem carries "[t]he top priority in the United States Government -- all else is secondary -- no time, no effort, or manpower is to be spared" in the effort to overthrow the Castro regime. The Mongoose operations were run by Edward Lansdale, who had ample experience in "counterinsurgency" -- a standard term for terrorism that we direct. He provided a timetable leading to "open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime" in October 1962. The "final definition" of the program recognized that "final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention," after terrorism and subversion had laid the basis. The implication is that U.S. military intervention would take place in October 1962 -- when the missile crisis erupted. The events just reviewed help explain why Cuba and Russia had good reason to take such threats seriously.

Years later, Robert McNamara recognized that Cuba was justified in fearing an attack. "If I were in Cuban or Soviet shoes, I would have thought so, too," he observed at a major conference on the missile crisis on the 40th anniversary.

As for Russia's "desperate effort to give the U.S.S.R. the appearance of equality," to which Stern refers, recall that Kennedy's very narrow victory in the 1960 election relied heavily on a fabricated "missile gap" concocted to terrify the country and to condemn the Eisenhower administration as soft on national security. There was indeed a "missile gap," but strongly in favor of the U.S.

The first "public, unequivocal administration statement" on the true facts, according to strategic analyst Desmond Ball in his authoritative study of the Kennedy missile program, was in October 1961, when Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric informed the Business Council that "the U.S. would have a larger nuclear delivery system left after a surprise attack than the nuclear force which the Soviet Union could employ in its first strike." The Russians of course were well aware of their relative weakness and vulnerability. They were also aware of Kennedy's reaction when Khrushchev offered to sharply reduce offensive military capacity and proceeded to do so unilaterally. The president failed to respond, undertaking instead a huge armaments program.

Owning the World, Then and Now

The two most crucial questions about the missile crisis are: How did it begin, and how did it end? It began with Kennedy's terrorist attack against Cuba, with a threat of invasion in October 1962. It ended with the president's rejection of Russian offers that would seem fair to a rational person, but were unthinkable because they would have undermined the fundamental principle that the U.S. has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, aimed at China or Russia or anyone else, and right on their borders; and the accompanying principle that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent U.S. invasion. To establish these principles firmly it was entirely proper to face a high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, and to reject simple and admittedly fair ways to end the threat.

Garthoff observes that "in the United States, there was almost universal approbation for President Kennedy's handling of the crisis." Dobbs writes, "The relentlessly upbeat tone was established by the court historian, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who wrote that Kennedy had 'dazzled the world' through a 'combination of toughness and restraint, of will, nerve and wisdom, so brilliantly controlled, so matchlessly calibrated.'" Rather more soberly, Stern partially agrees, noting that Kennedy repeatedly rejected the militant advice of his advisers and associates who called for military force and the dismissal of peaceful options. The events of October 1962 are widely hailed as Kennedy's finest hour. Graham Allison joins many others in presenting them as "a guide for how to defuse conflicts, manage great-power relationships, and make sound decisions about foreign policy in general."

In a very narrow sense, that judgment seems reasonable. The ExComm tapes reveal that the president stood apart from others, sometimes almost all others, in rejecting premature violence. There is, however, a further question: How should JFK's relative moderation in the management of the crisis be evaluated against the background of the broader considerations just reviewed? But that question does not arise in a disciplined intellectual and moral culture, which accepts without question the basic principle that the U.S. effectively owns the world by right, and is by definition a force for good despite occasional errors and misunderstandings, one in which it is plainly entirely proper for the U.S. to deploy massive offensive force all over the world while it is an outrage for others (allies and clients apart) to make even the slightest gesture in that direction or even to think of deterring the threatened use of violence by the benign global hegemon.

That doctrine is the primary official charge against Iran today: it might pose a deterrent to U.S. and Israeli force. It was a consideration during the missile crisis as well. In internal discussion, the Kennedy brothers expressed their fears that Cuban missiles might deter a U.S. invasion of Venezuela, then under consideration. So "the Bay of Pigs was really right," JFK concluded.

These principles still contribute to the constant risk of nuclear war. There has been no shortage of severe dangers since the missile crisis. Ten years later, during the 1973 Israel-Arab war, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert (DEFCON 3) to warn the Russians to keep their hands off while he was secretly authorizing Israel to violate the cease-fire imposed by the U.S. and Russia. When Reagan came into office a few years later, the U.S. launched operations probing Russian defenses and simulating air and naval attacks, while placing Pershing missiles in Germany with a five-minute flight time to Russian targets, providing what the CIA called a "super-sudden first strike" capability. Naturally this caused great alarm in Russia, which unlike the U.S. has repeatedly been invaded and virtually destroyed. That led to a major war scare in 1983. There have been hundreds of cases when human intervention aborted a first strike minutes before launch, after automated systems gave false alarms.

We don't have Russian records, but there's no doubt that their systems are far more accident-prone.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the sources of the conflict remain. Both have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with Israel, and have received U.S. support for development of their nuclear weapons programs -- until today in the case of India, now a U.S. ally. War threats in the Middle East, which might become reality very soon, once again escalate the dangers.

In 1962, war was avoided by Khrushchev's willingness to accept Kennedy's hegemonic demands. But we can hardly count on such sanity forever. It's a near miracle that nuclear war has so far been avoided. There is more reason than ever to attend to the warning of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, almost 60 years ago, that we must face a choice that is "stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?"
(c) 2012 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Gaza In Crisis.

Filling The Black Hole
By Uri Avnery

SO WE have two election campaigns in the next three months - one in the USA and one in Israel. I don't know which of them is more important for our lives.

In many respects, the two elections are very different. But in some others, they are strikingly similar.

It may be interesting to make some comparisons.

THE US elections are far more corrupt than ours. Inevitably so.

Since the advent of TV, they have become hugely expensive. TV ads cost a lot of money. Enough money can come only from big corporations and billionaires. Both candidates are heavily mortgaged to pressure groups and commercial interests, which they will have to serve from Day One in office.

The immense power of the pro-Israel lobby in the US derives from this fact. It's not so much about Jewish votes. It's about Jewish money.

The only way to change this is to provide the two sides free TV time and limit political TV advertising. That is highly unlikely, because the billionaires of both sides will not give up their stranglehold on the system. Why would they?

In Israel, all parties get free TV and radio time, according to their size in the outgoing Knesset (with a guaranteed minimum for newcomers). Outlays are strictly controlled. That does not prevent the same type of corruption. The same Sheldon Adelson finances both Mitt Romney and Binyamin Netanyahu. But the amount of tainted money raised and expended in Israel is much smaller.

On the other hand, we have no presidential debates. No Israeli prime minister would be so foolish as to agree to them. In the US debates, when a challenger faces the incumbent, the challenger gets a big prize right at the beginning of the first debate. Until that moment, he is a mere politician, far away from the White House. Suddenly he is raised to the status of a potential president, who looks and sounds presidential. Netanyahu would never agree to that.

(By the way, Barack Obama's inept performance (the whole thing is a performance, after all) in the first debate was most glaring when Romney sneered at Obama's "green" donors. That should have been the cue for Obama to jump and attack Romney's donors. I suppose Obama was just not listening to his opponent, but thinking about his own next line - always a fatal error in a debate.)

THE MAIN difference between the two elections corresponds to the difference between the two political systems.

The US presidential elections are competitions between two persons, winner takes all. This means, in practice, that the entire battle is for the votes of a tiny minority of "independents" (or "swing voters") in a small number of states. All the others already have a fixed opinion before the first election dollar is spent.

Who are these swing voters? It would be nice to think that they are sovereign citizens, who weigh the arguments carefully and work towards a responsible decision. Nonsense. They are the people who do not read newspapers, who don't give a damn, who must be dragged to the ballot box. Judging from the ads directed at them, many of them must be morons.

Yet these people decide who will be the next President of the United States of America.

And that's not the end of it. It should not be forgotten that the election may decide the composition of the all-powerful Supreme Court and many other centers of power.

IN ISRAEL, elections are strictly proportional. In the last elections, 33 party lists took part, and 12 passed the 2% threshold.

The next prime minister will not necessarily be the leader of the party with the most votes, but the candidate who can put together a coalition of at least 61 (out of 120) Knesset members.

The real battle in Israel is not between parties but between blocs. Can the left (or "center-left", as they like to call themselves nowadays) reach the magic number of 61?

In practice, Netanyahu has no real competitor at this moment. Not only is there no other leader around who looks even remotely electable, but the present government coalition is composed of forces that will most likely continue to command a majority in the foreseeable future. They are the Likud, all the Orthodox and other religious parties, the settlers and various assorted fascists.

With the enormous birthrate of the Orthodox Jews, this majority will inevitably grow. True, the Muslim Arab birthrate could preserve the demographic balance, but the Arab voters don't count. They are hardly mentioned in the polls, and not at all in any speculation about future coalitions. Their chronic inability to unite and form a viable political force plays a part in this abject picture.

However, the Arab Members can play an important role in denying Netanyahu a majority, in the unlikely event of the forces being equal.

SO HOW about the leftist bloc?

At the moment, they present a sorry sight. Until now, they came together at least once a year, when the large memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin was held at the place where he was assassinated, now called Rabin Square.

This year, there are two separate memorial demonstrations at the same place, a week apart.

One of them is the traditional rally. Generally, a hundred thousand people come together to mourn for Rabin and peace. The meeting is strictly "non-political" and non-party, speeches are wishy-washy, "extremist" talk is frowned upon, the murderers and their supporters are mentioned with caution, there is a lot of talking (and singing) about Peace, without much substance. Social affairs are not mentioned at all.

The other planned rally is held by unofficial supporters of the Labor Party, now headed by Shelly Yachimovich. They will talk a lot about social injustice and "swinish capitalism", but talk about the occupation and the settlers is banned. Peace will be mentioned, if at all, as an empty slogan.

Yachimovich, a 52-year old former radio journalist, has seen her party grow under her stewardship, from a pitiful remnant to a respectable 20 seats according to the polls. She has achieved this by studiously avoiding any talk about peace, since peace has become a four-letter word (in Hebrew). She has expressed sympathy for the settlers and the Orthodox, accepting the occupation as a fact of life. Under pressure, she has paid lip-service to the Two-State Solution, making it clear that utopian things like that do not really interest her.

Her sole aim is to fight for social justice. Her enemies are the tycoons, her flag is social-democratic. She does not mention the fact that the immense sums needed for any meaningful social change are squandered on the huge military budget, the settlements and the Orthodox parasites who do not work.

In the past, the Israeli Left used to boast that they carried two flags: Peace and Social Justice. Now we are left with two Lefts: one which carries the flag of Peace without Social Justice, and one which carries the flag of Social Justice without Peace.

I don't like Yachimovich's strategy, but at least she has one. It can be defended on sheer pragmatic grounds. If, by concentrating solely on social affairs and ignoring the occupation, she could garner votes from the rightist bloc and enlarge the leftist one, it could be a justifiable ploy.

But is it a tactic? Or does it reflect her real convictions? There can be no doubt that she is sincere in her single-minded devotion to social justice, her activities in the Knesset vouch for that. Can the same be said about her devotion to peace, which she expresses only under pressure?

YACHIMOVICH IS hardly the only pretender to the leftist throne. Everybody can see that there is a huge black hole on the left side of the political map, and many are eager to fill it.

Ehud Olmert, just convicted on a minor charge and still under several indictments for corruption, hints that he is itching to come back. So does Aryeh Deri, who has already served his prison term for corruption and wants to supplant the racist Eli Yishai. Tzipi Livni, the inept former Kadima leader, also wants back. Ya-ir Lapid, the handsome TV star, who has the enviable knack of sounding convincing without saying anything, has founded a new party, called "There is a Future", and sees a rosy future - for himself. Daphni Leef, last year's hero of the social rebellion, speaks about a new extra-parliamentary uprising, but may perhaps be convinced to become parliamentary after all. And so forth.

A determined dreamer may hope for all these forces to unite and take power away from Netanyahu, in accordance with Helmut von Moltk's famous military maxim: "March separately, fight jointly." However, I would not bet on it. The chances in Sheldon Adelson's Macao casino look better.

SO WHAT will it be, come next spring? Obama with Netanyahu, Romney with Netanyahu, either of them with somebody else?

As the hackneyed phrase goes: "Time will tell."
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Duopoly Debates Itself
By Glen Ford

"There is consensus within the duopoly that austerity must be the watchword - despite the Occupy Movement." The two titans of America's finance capitalist duopoly clashed - leaving behind a dull fart. It was as if the town hall at Long Island's Hofstra University was hermetically sealed against the raging realities of a world and nation in systemic crisis. For 90 minutes, not one useful fact or thought was allowed to enter or escape.

This is what happens when the terminal decline of the old order is not met by effective resistance from those who suffer under its dead weight. What to do about a jobs crisis that has left millions permanently unemployed from effects of the last two recessions? Apply additional corporate "incentives" to boost investment (Obama) or a thicker layer of laissez fair (Romney). And, by all means, extract more energy (Obama and Romney) from the exhausted environment, as if lack of fuel is what has stalled the engines of late capitalism. But do not, under any circumstances, question the inherent right of bankers (a.k.a. "markets") to dominate every aspect of economic and political life.

Banks were mentioned only three times: once, by Romney, in connection with (of course) cutting taxes, and twice by Obama. The president is proud that his mother was the vice president of a small bank, and he took credit (deservedly) for denying banks their $60 billion cut of college student loans. But the funneling of $16 trillion in guarantees, grants and virtually "free" money to financial corporations over the last four years - a profound restructuring of the relationship between the State and Wall Street - has been unmentioned in all three debates to date, because it is a policy consensus within the duopoly.

"Do not, under any circumstances, question the inherent right of bankers (a.k.a. 'markets') to dominate every aspect of economic and political life."

Romney owned the word "poverty," just as did the Republican nominating convention in Tampa, while Obama uttered the term not once. Corporate media pundits and even many "progressives" accept the Democrat's avoidance of the subject as understandable, since he is an incumbent. Yet, the fight against poverty was Franklin Roosevelt's rallying cry during capitalism's previous great crisis, and Lyndon Johnson initiated a War on Poverty. Today's poverty rate hovers only a fraction of a percent below the level of 1965, but the standard-bearer of the party most identified with the poor has nothing to say on the matter. Instead, there is consensus within the duopoly that austerity must be the watchword - clear evidence that the Occupy Movement is no longer a felt threat.

Romney is more "liberal" in the use of the term "poverty" only because his vision of laissez fair trickle-down to the poor is more fantastical (12 million jobs, just you watch!). Just as in the summer of 2011, all that separates the Obama and Republican wings of the Wall Street duopoly is the question of "modest" tax increases for the very rich. But both factions are intent on cuts of around $4 trillion dollars, mainly on non-military programs. Why should Americans whose vital governmental support is targeted for chopping be concerned whether or not some millionaires are also discomforted in the process? Are the poor and struggling classes supposed to accept the loss of the necessities of a dignified life, on condition that some rich people pay a modest financial tariff?

"There is also no daylight between the contenders on drone warfare or the continued projection of U.S. power."

The consensus on imperial war is near absolute. What passes for argument is merely a matter of style and posture. Romney attacks Obama for failing to grasp or reveal the "terrorist" nature of the fatal attack on the U.S. ambassador in Libya. But both candidates are wedded to an alliance with Muslim fundamentalist jihadis against Middle East governments targeted for destabilization or regime change: Syria and Iran. Obama's obfuscations on Benghazi were an attempt to continue masking the nature of the Libyan legions armed by the U.S. as proxies against Gaddafi, many of whom are now deployed in Syria - a mission with which Romney is in full accord. There is also no daylight between the contenders on drone warfare or the continued projection of U.S. power in the "Af-Pak" theater of war, or in Somalia and Yemen. The War Party wins in November, regardless of the Electoral College outcome.

Despite the profound, systemic crisis of the global capitalist financial order and its U.S. imperial gendarme, there exists no political crisis for the rulers, because there is no serious internal resistance. These theatrical productions may pass for debates, but it's really just the passing of gas within a closed Wall Street consensus.
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

It's Magic!
By Greg Palast

Here's an easy way to spoil a vote: digitize it . . . then lose the digits.

Prestidigitation is the French-derived term for conjury, legerdemain, sleight-of-hand, presto-change-o hand-jive, disappearing trickery . . . or, in the language of Karl Rove, "Helping America Vote."

Following what the media called the "Florida debacle," the winners of the debacle agreed to "reform" the voting system. So the Bush administration proposed and Congress passed the Help America Vote Act.

The best way to prevent voting reform is to pass a voting reform bill-especially if it's written by the folks that helped themselves to your vote in the first place.

The Help America Vote Act is not the most Orwellian named, satanic law ever passed by Congress, but it tries. To avoid ballots with hanging chads, the law simply does away with ballots, providing about $4 billion in subsidies for Direct Recording Equipment (DREs), better known as "computer ballots" or "black box voting."

PRESTIDIGITIZING: The art of making votes vanish into the ether by employing paperless computer "DREs," direct recording devices, or "black boxes."

Not to be confused with votes changed via sophisticated software hacking, simple "glitches" that caused the computers to break down or simply fail to record the vote caused over half a million (546,000) votes to disappear in 2008. In 2012, expect even more to vanish.

This little-glitch-here, little- glitch-there pattern has the odd attribute that it occurs 491 percent more often in Hispanic precincts than white precincts, and in black precincts it's worse.

Presto! And it's gone!

Computer voting machines have a lot in common with slot machines in Vegas. You pull the lever and the result is, you hope, a happy one. Except that slot machines are scrupulously honest, well regulated, and operate properly and transparently.

Now, you're probably expecting me to tear off into a screed about how easy it is to fiddle with a computerized voting machine (it is), how there's rarely a "paper trail" to verify your vote (there isn't one), how the software can be hacked, cracked, hijacked, and name Donald Duck to Congress or Chuck Hagel to the US Senate. (Republican Senator Hagel, who founded the biggest voting machine company, ES&S, was elected with an astonishing number of African American votes, his skeptical Democratic opponent told me, right after his machines were installed. Obviously, a sore loser. Or sore winner. We'll never know which.)

I once suggested to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela that if he didn't like US foreign policy, he should buy into a voting machine company. So, his buddies did just that.

But I'm not going to talk about the vulnerability of these "black box" machines to hacking and unknown software manipulation.

First, because there are smarter experts than me who can do a better job of explaining it. (Please read the reports of Professor David Dill at Stanford University, Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, and the stellar reportage of Brad Friedman.)

I've picked up from them that the good news is you may not lose your vote in the 2012 election. In fact, you may have already voted-and in November they'll tell you whom you voted for.

And that's the problem: we don't know yet how to trace the problem.

So, instead, I'm going to tell you about the known ways black boxes have stolen elections. And it doesn't take a Stanford math professor to figure it out.

The number one way to steal computer votes in America is to unplug the computer.

And dumb-ass variants thereof. The problem with computers is that they don't work. At least not for voters.

Example: In Sarasota in 2006, Republicans held on to the congressional seat vacated by Katherine Harris by a mere 369 votes after new computerized voting machines simply failed to record a choice in the race on eighteen thousand ballots, mostly from Democratic precincts.

The Republican county elections supervisor claims that the eighteen thousand voters simply didn't want to make a choice. It was the top, hottest race on the ballot; eighteen thousand drove to the polls, went in, then walked out without making a choice. Oddly, this seemed to happen among voters marked BLA in the records, as opposed to the WHI voters.

There's always the innocent explanation, which is never, in fact, innocent. In some Florida precincts, the BLA precincts, poll workers were given the wrong passwords for the machines so no one could vote.

In a tight contest in Georgia, Diebold machines simply refused to operate and record votes in several black precincts. According to the company, the machines don't work well in very humid, hot conditions. "Well, what do you think we get in Georgia in July!" the losing candidate, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, told me. In the white precincts, voting was held in air-conditioned suburban school gyms.

While the software varies from maker to maker, all DRE computer voting machines have one thing in common: like the man who shot the youngster Trayvon Martin, voting machines are really afraid of black folk. And brown folk.

Theron Horton, a Taos-based data analyst who assists the Election Defense Alliance, has discovered that Hispanics who vote on electronic DREs are 491 percent more likely to have their vote disappear.

And Native Americans? Computers just hate them, just don't want them to vote. The nonvote rises by over 1,000 percent for Natives who vote on DREs versus votes spoiled on paper ballots.

How does this happen? Simple. Low-income towns get crappy schools, crappy hospitals, crappy police service, crappy everything. It would be absurd to think they'd get anything but the crappy voting machines.

When I went to the Taos Pueblo, they were voting on ancient Shouptronic machines that should have been in the Smithsonian. We don't give Natives used blankets with smallpox bugs anymore, just the used voting machines with mechanical bugs.

Even when the better machines are funded by the state, the training is lacking, the conditions of operation suck (see Georgia summer above), et cetera, et cetera.

It's that class war thing again. And in America, class is race.

Is it deliberate?

If you know it's going on and you don't change it, it's deliberate.

That's the word from the dean of county elections supervisors in Florida, Ion Sancho, the only nonpartisan election official in the state. He runs the elections in whiter-than-white Leon County, home of the state capital, Tallahassee.

He let me try out the machine he set up for Leon voters: a paper ballot that is electronically read. I voted for Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan for president. That is, I deliberately "overvoted" (voted for two candidates for one office), spoiling it. When I stuck my ballot in the reader, it spit it back at me and told me I voted for both a consumer advocate and a pinhead bigot and had to choose one. In other words, I couldn't spoil my ballot. I got another ballot and made the correction.

In Sancho's last presidential election, there was not one spoiled ballot in his entire huge county.

Hot damn! If Florida officials knew about these machines, there would not have been 179,855 hanging chads and overvotes in 2000.

But they did know. "I invited the secretary of state to look at these machines," he said, "before the election." Harris could see Sancho's office from her window in the State Capitol Building. She just had to take the elevator down, or jump.

She didn't jump, nor did she take the elevator, even after Sancho told her of a deadly urgent problem. The county next door, Gadsden, the poorest and blackest in Florida, had also installed these cool miracle ballot-readers but could only afford a couple of them, which were kept in a central office. The result: the machines would reject all "spoiled" ballots-but by then the voters were far away and long gone.

Sancho realized that this would disenfranchise a massive number of poor voters in that county. It did: the blackest county in Florida had the highest spoilage rate of all.

Harris refused to fix it beforehand and refused to correct it afterward. (For example, this is where I saw ballots rejected by the machine because many voters had written-in "Al Gore." The ballot required it, but the machine couldn't read it-and Harris wouldn't count it.)

Why the heck am I reaching back to another story about Katherine Harris? Because she was the test run, the model for the rollout of the program nationwide.

That case of the eighteen thousand votes the machines didn't record in Sarasota six years later? The voters of that county voted to ban paperless computer voting-but the GOP county supervisor deliberately ignored the voters' will. Then he bought the paperless machines that took away their will forever.

While Florida does not permit felons to vote, robot voting machines can, and as often as they like.

With all that money to Help America Vote, you'd think the USA would be holding elections using the in-precinct, no-spoilage-possible, paper-ballot optical reader. As Sancho points outs, the fancy-pants paperless computers cost five times as much as the optical reader and produce twenty times as many spoiled ballots as Sancho's lower- tech cheapie.

So why spend more money to get a machine that doesn't work? Colorado's state voting task force attorney Hultin suggested one answer to me. "It's very disturbing," he said. "This law was corruptly influenced. Jack Abramoff who was a lobbyist for Diebold, the largest manufacturer of electronic vote machines. He's in prison-and [Congressman] Bob Ney who was the Chairman of the Government Operations Committee, is in prison for selling favors to Jack Abramoff in connection with [the Help America Vote] Act. So a subsidy went out: $1.5 billion to subsidize purchases of Diebold machines."


"Their software loses votes." Hultin paused. "Systematically." So?

"So," said the conservative official, "connect the dots."

Oh. Hultin said they found, and Diebold admitted, that votes are lost when the memory cards are removed from machines to gather the tally. It simply looks like "undervote," or spoilage, to the counters. Again, this is not about switching votes from one candidate to another, but the subtle, nastier method, the untraceable "glitch." But glitches that seem to occur in Black, Brown, and Bluish precincts.

But the question remains: So why spend more money to get a machine that doesn't work? If you don't know the answer by now, you're not paying attention. Paperless DREs do work perfectly . . . for those who buy the machines.

Remember Paul Weyrich's command to the faithful: We don't want everyone to vote. Nor do we want to count their votes. And if you can get a Ku Klux robot to do the job, price is no object.
(c) 2012 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to 's reports at. Greg will be providing investigative reports for

Plutocrats On Welfare

In Mitt Romney's videoed "Boca Moment" in a Boca Raton mansion, he candidly revealed his nasty little inner-millionaire.

Glibly disparaging 47 percent of his fellow Americans "Who don't pay income taxes," Romney chided them as moochers who're living the Life of Riley on Social Security, Medicare, and other government benefits. "My job," Mitt assured his audience of fellow millionaires in the mansion, "is not to worry about those people." Indeed, "those" people are now deemed "The Takers" by the right-wing corporate class, while the Mitts among us naturally consider themselves "The Makers."

That's a convenient construct by the 1%, invented to rationalize their grabbing of 90 percent of the nation's income gains. But it's a plutocratic fantasy. The big takers, by far, are the Mittites - the corporate barons and private equity hucksters at the pinnacle of the income pyramid. They don't merely take a hundred bucks or so a month in food stamps to help make ends meet; each of them can milk the tax code and sup at the subsidy trough for millions of dollars in annual government largesse.

We saw this in action recently when Romney begrudgingly released a second year of his tax returns. Heavily obscured and manicured by his political henchmen, the amended filing shows that the privileged class is allowed to dodge its tax obligation to America by using loopholes and back-alley routes that subsidize their wealth. "Structured income," "trust shifting," "estate planning," "offshore havens," and other tricks are not even known about by regular citizens, much less available to them. This outlandish government largess is reserved exclusively for the very, very rich.

These plutocratic welfare takers, living in glass mansions, should not be throwing rocks at the rest of us.
(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.

End Polluter Welfare
By Bernie Sanders

The Big Energy industries (oil, coal and gas) along with their political allies like Mitt Romney are waging war against sustainable energy and the need to transform our energy system and reverse global warming. In many instances they are aided and abetted by the very powerful nuclear power industry.

One of their main lines of attack (used repeatedly by Romney in his first debate with President Obama) is that the federal government is picking energy "winners and losers." In fact, Romney has said he will not invest in "chasing fads and picking winners and losers" among energy technologies and he will allow the free market to determine energy development.

Romney is right about one thing. The government does pick winners and losers in the energy sector. What Romney has not told the American people, however, is that the big winners of federal support are the already immensely profitable fossil fuel and nuclear industries, not sustainable energy.

As a member of both the Senate Energy and Environment committees, I am working to stop the handouts to the fossil fuel industry. I have introduced legislation called the End Polluter Welfare Act. Rep. Keith Ellison filed the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Our measure calls for the elimination for all subsidies to the oil, gas and coal industries. Using the best available estimates from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation and other budget experts, we found more than $113 billion in federal subsidies will go to fossil fuel corporations over the next 10 years alone. These subsidies benefit some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, including the five largest oil corporations, which made a combined profit of $1 trillion over the last decade. Unlike sustainable energy incentives, many of these fossil fuel subsidies are written permanently into the tax code by industry lobbyists, which means they never expire.

Let me give you just a few examples of outrageously strong federal support for Big Energy companies:

BP, after committing one of the worst environmental disasters in the modern history of America, was able to take a large tax deduction on the money it spent cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Coal companies are able to sign single-bid sweetheart leases to mine on federal lands without paying fair value in royalties to the taxpayers of this country.

In 2009, Exxon-Mobil, one of the most profitable corporations in this country, paid no federal income taxes, and in fact received a rebate from the IRS. Many other large and very profitable oil companies also have managed to avoid paying federal income taxes in certain years.

But it is not just fossil fuel companies. The nuclear industry also benefits from massive corporate welfare. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service reports that the nuclear industry has received over $95 billion (in 2011 dollars) in federal research and development support in the last 65 years. Nuclear corporations currently have access to billions in federal loan guarantees to build new plants and enrich uranium. They also have federal tax incentives for mining uranium, producing nuclear electricity and even decommissioning a plant.

Perhaps most significantly, the nuclear industry would collapse tomorrow without a huge nuclear insurance program from the federal government. The Price-Anderson Act could, in the event of an American nuclear disaster, force taxpayers to pay out tens or even hundreds of billions in damage claims. Nuclear power is so risky that none of Mitt Romney's Wall Street or free market friends will provide that type of insurance.

Let's be clear. The war against sustainable energy by the Big Energy companies has been extremely successful. During the last year, with almost unanimous Republican opposition, Congress has not been able to extend a very successful program, the 1603 grant, which had supported over 20,000 sustainable energy projects and tens of thousands of jobs. Congress also has been unable to extend the Production Tax Credit which primarily supports wind energy. The result has been significant layoffs and cancelled projects in the wind industry.

What has not been often enough pointed out is that despite all the opposition, all of the lies coming from fossil fuel sponsored think tanks and the right-wing media, this country has made significant and important progress in moving toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

That progress is critical in the fight to reverse global warming, which the vast majority of scientists who study the issue consider to be one of the greatest threats to our planet. With strong federal intervention, we have made some good progress in recent years, but clearly much more needs to be done. Let me just mention a few energy success stories.

As a result of the stimulus package, and legislation that Senator Menendez and I introduced called the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, billions of dollars have gone to every state in the country for local projects. The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that over 70 percent of their member cities have installed new energy efficient LED lighting with block grant funds. Many cities have also invested in public building retrofits that save taxpayers money.

The stimulus also invested in weatherization, which we know is the low-hanging fruit in terms of saving energy. We know this from experience in Vermont where, on average, families whose homes are weatherized save $916 a year on their fuel bills, while cutting carbon emissions. We have now weatherized over 1 million homes nationwide thanks to the stimulus weatherization investment. Significantly, these projects are also creating many new jobs for construction workers installing insulation and manufacturing workers producing energy efficient products and materials.

But it is not just weatherization and energy efficiency technologies. We also have made great progress with solar. Prior to the stimulus, at the end of 2008, we had about 1,500 megawatts of solar and less than 50,000 solar jobs in America. The cost of solar was $7.50 per watt installed. Today, less than four years later, we have more than tripled solar energy to 5,700 megawatts installed. We have more than doubled jobs, with more than 100,000 solar energy jobs at 5,600 companies in the United States. And we have cut the cost of solar by more than half, down to $3.45 per watt installed.

Further, there are exciting new breakthroughs in solar technology. For example, a 30 megawatt solar project in Alamosa, Colo., developed by a company called Cogentrix, uses advanced concentrated solar panels that produce double the power of a conventional panel. The Alamosa solar project created jobs for dozens of construction workers and is providing power for 6,500 homes in Colorado.

In California, the Ivanpah concentrated solar thermal plant has created 2,100 construction jobs. Ivanpah is scheduled for completion in 2013. This huge 400 megawatt solar plant, a little less than half the size of an average nuclear plant, will provide power for 140,000 homes.

In Yuma County, Arizona, First Solar has installed a 250 megawatt solar project that is now the world's largest operating solar photovoltaic plant in the world. Using advanced thin-film panels, which can cut costs, the project created hundreds of construction jobs and will power about 100,000 homes.

Each of these projects in Colorado, California and Arizona received financing support from the stimulus. Other similar projects are under construction and in development. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has estimated that just with solar projects like these in the Southwest on federal public lands, we could generate enough electricity to meet 29 percent of the nation's residential electricity needs.

The story is much the same with wind energy. At the end of 2008 we had about 25,000 megawatts of wind energy, and now we have more than 50,000 megawatts, equivalent in capacity to roughly 50 nuclear plants. 75,000 Americans work in wind energy. We have over 470 wind manufacturing plants. And the cost of wind energy dropped from 8.4 cents per kilowatt hour in 2008 to about 5 to 7 cents per kilowatt hour today.

Far from being a "fad" as defined by Mr. Romney, wind has added more capacity in the last five years than nuclear and coal combined, and has provided 20 percent of the electricity in states like Iowa and South Dakota. The stimulus has supported one of the largest wind farms in the world, operating now in Oregon. The Shepherds Flat wind farm employed over 400 construction workers and has 845 megawatts of wind energy installed, enough to power 235,000 homes.

As a nation we must continue this progress. It is not about whether government is picking winners and losers, because clearly government has been doing just that for years, with the fossil fuel and nuclear industries being the big winners. What is necessary to reverse global warming and create jobs is that we pick the right winners-the technologies that will transform our energy system and protect the environment.
(c) 2012 Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

Ignoring The Impact Of Burning Carbon Fuels
By James Donahue

It seems that all of the political hype on our television and computer screens this year has been designed to keep the people in America from getting concerned about the real issue at hand . . . climate change.

As the presidential candidates and the media have been leap-frogging from place to place across the land, they seem to not have noticed the constant and extreme heat wave that set record temperatures nearly everywhere. They stopped in Witchita, Kansas to visit the disaster stricken city after at least five killer tornadoes marched across Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa during a single storm front that swept the Midwest in April. Emergency generators were kicked into service in federal government buildings after storms packing hurricane-force straight-line winds swept Washington and the East Coast, and there was that strange sweep of powerful thunderstorms in June that the weather people called a "derecho." It packed winds of nearly 100-miles-per-hour as it moved from Ohio to the East Coast, leaving a 700-mile trail of destruction. At least 13 people were killed and 2.5 million people lost power for days during the sweltering heat.

Then there was Hurricane Isaac that touched the southern tip of Florida and delayed the start of the Republican National Convention in Tampa before it entered the Gulf of Mexico and caused extensive flooding along the coast.

As they flew over and into drought-stricken farm areas in the midwest, and stood sweating in the intense heat, we wonder how President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney could have ignored the extreme weather surrounding them.

Now, as the presidential election date draws near, Americans are shocked to be facing rising food prices at the grocery stores and looming shortages of the foods they have long taken for granted. The drought, the flooding, and storms took their toll this year on the grains, the fruit and many of the vegetables American farmers have been faithfully producing.

At the same time this is happening, the scientific community was expressing grave concern at the speed by which the arctic ice cap was disappearing and there were warnings that the climate changes occurring not only in the U.S., but all over the world in 2012, were going to get much worse as the planet continued warming. Not only was carbon monoxide increasing in the atmosphere, but an even more potent greenhouse gas, methane, also has been on the rise. It seems that as the ice caps melt and the oceans warm, more and more trapped methane from the ocean floor is being released. And this is accelerating the warming.

Both Obama and Romney are campaigning on issues of taxation, unemployment, medicine, the war, Medicare, and Social Security. Why are they ignoring the elephant in the room?

Romney gave us the answer during the October 3 debate. He said that if elected he would support the oil and coal industries and give them priority over investments in green energy technology. It was that kind of thinking by the last Republican president, George W. Bush, that brought eight long years of stagnation in the desperately needed shift to cut carbon emissions and move ahead in alternative energy research.

We were happy when President Barack Obama pressed for more government investments in high speed rail, solar panel manufacturing and other green energy projects. But Mr. Obama has not had the cooperation of the House and Senate in getting his budget proposals approved. We suspect that if he has received big financial support from the oil and coal companies, Mr. Obama may not have the will to stand up and openly campaign for the kind of change that is so desperately needed in America and the world.

Because of the big money support the candidates desperately need to conduct the multi-billion dollar campaigns just to get elected, they all have to be sold out to big corporate interests that are financing the whole dog and pony show. We can be sure that big oil and big coal is right in the middle of it.

And this explains why the very subject of climate change and what the candidates want to do about it is literally "off the table" throughout this campaign season.

Some states are taking matters into their own hands. They have passed laws mandating wind and solar energy systems to be incorporated into the electric grid. We notice a similar proposition going before voters in Michigan in November is being heavily fought by cleaver television advertising which we are sure is financed by the oil and coal industries.

The debate over the dangers of the carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere has been raging for too long. Former Vice President Al Gore was blatantly scoffed by political and civic leaders when he produced his controversial documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006. Now it seems that more and more people are realizing that Mr. Gore was right and they should have been doing something about this serious problem. We still had time in 2006. Now it may be too late.
(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

Daryl Hannah, along with Texas landowner Eleanor Fairchild (not pictured) stood in
front of TransCanada machinery to stop clear-cutting for the pipeline.

Why I'm Standing Up To TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline In East Texas
By Daryl Hannah

On 4 October 2012, in rural east Texas, a 78-year-old great-grandmother, Eleanor Fairchild, was arrested for trespassing on her own property ... and I was arrested standing beside her, as we held our ground in the path of earth-moving excavators constructing TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.

Seems there's showdown in Texas - but, in fact, it's a battle being waged all over the United States. It's being fought by ordinary citizens of all colors, economic strata and political persuasions - against the world's wealthiest multinational corporations, misinformation and deeply embedded fears. While I'm not a fan of war terminology, in these struggles, war analogies seem to highlight both the crisis at hand and perhaps the solution we seek.

Let's face it, we are in times of great crisis: economic crisis, overpopulation crisis, climate crisis, extinction crisis, water crisis and a humanitarian crisis on so many levels. Energy, and how we create it, is a pivotal issue for many of these crises. It has become increasingly clear that we need to move in a different direction, yet as a species, we humans are uncomfortable with, and resist, change - though we know it is the very nature of life and not only essential, but inevitable.

Scientific findings warn us that a switch to renewable energy is essential if we are to avert disastrous climate change caused by carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. But since scientific findings and the climate crisis have been so successfully politicized - and I loathe politics - I'll leave the horrifying ramifications of the global climate crisis out of this.

No matter what political rhetoric you choose to follow, or what course we choose to take with our energy options, there are things we all can agree on. As the second World Water Forum wisely stated:

"Water is everybody's business."

Clean, regenerative energy could provide a way past peak oil and our detrimental fossil fuel addiction - if we collectively had the will to employ renewables, and addressed the change as urgently as the US did during the second world war when we unleashed our scientific creativity and industrial ingenuity to support the war effort. But there is no escape from peak water. We simply cannot live without uncontaminated water and food.

Since we can't make informed choices without being informed, here is an update on the global water crisis: the International Water Management Institute projects that by 2025, barely 12 years, two-thirds of the world will live under conditions of water scarcity. As Lester Brown from Earth Policy Institute says:

"Scores of countries are over-pumping aquifers as they struggle to satisfy their growing water needs ... the USDA reports that in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas - three leading grain-producing states, the underground water table has dropped by more than 30 meters. As a result, wells have gone dry on thousands of farms in the southern Great Plains ... for fossil aquifers, such as the vast Ogollala under the Great Plains, which do not replenish ... depletion would mean the end of agriculture."

Texas was ravaged by drought last year and the majority of the US suffered extreme drought conditions this year. Brown goes on to say:

"The over-pumping of aquifers is occurring in many countries more or less simultaneously. This means that the depletion of aquifers and the resulting harvest cutbacks will come in many countries at roughly the same time. And the accelerating depletion of aquifers means this day may come sooner than expected, creating a potentially unmanageable situation of food scarcity."

The complete Keystone XL pipeline project that is proposed would come down across the border from Alberta through six states - passing right through the Ogallala aquifer - the source of irrigation water for two-thirds of our nation's farms and ranches. The southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which was fast-tracked and is now under construction, would cross through the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer that supplies water for agriculture, industry and fresh drinking water to 10-12 million Texans.

Another thing we can all agree on - as even TransCanada admits, it's not a question of "if" there will be spills, but "when". We just can't afford it.

TransCanada represented its product as crude oil, while the House ways and means committee clearly states crude oil does not include shale, oil or tar sands oil. Keystone XL would carry tar sands oil - or bitumen - a highly toxic, corrosive substance filled with proprietary chemicals. Unlike crude oil, tar sands sludge has to be pumped at high pressures, and extremely high temperatures to move through pipe.

Even federal safety officials don't know precisely which chemicals are used to mix bitumen and create dilbit. There have been no independent scientific studies exploring the relationship between dilbit and pipeline corrosion.

In mid 2010, the Endbridge Energy pipeline leaked, dumping 843,000 gallons of dilbit into the Kalamazoo river. The cost to clean it up is expected to exceed $700m. The Keystone I, Keystone XL's predecessor, leaked 12 times in its first year of operation, as Chris Hedges reported.

Proponents of KXL have made efforts to sell itself to US citizens, greatly exaggerating job opportunities, quoting numbers upward of 50,000, while a Cornell University independent study said it would bring roughly 4,000 temporary jobs. TransCanada has also spent enormous amounts of PR money putting ads on Oprah's network and the like, in an attempt to rebrand itself as "ethical oil", insinuating that the Keystone XL pipeline would ensure America receives its oil from friendly Canada, instead of unstable regions elsewhere in the world.

But the Keystone XL pipeline has been mischaracterized, and the American people have been misled. Portraying the pipeline as a "public use" project carrying crude oil to the US, enables the foreign corporation to take US private property through "eminent domain" but for foreign private profit.

With no evidence to support those claims, politicians have jumped on this bandwagon to tout the KXL project as a means to enhance US energy security and energy independence. In fact, in a congressional energy and commerce subcommittee hearing, TransCanada refused to support a requirement that that KXL be sold in US markets. This oil will be sold, most likely for export, on the open market to the highest bidder, most likely India (which itself manufactured the pipeline) or China. What is evident is that the Keystone XL pipeline is a private profit venture, not a "public use" project that serves the US national interest.

I'll admit we have an uphill battle in fighting a corporation so deeply wedded to the White House (both the president and secretary of state have had TransCanada's chief lobbyists direct their campaign efforts). And many of the large NGOs have even put the KXL battle on the back burner until after the elections. But we, the people, fight on.

So, this is why I stood with Eleanor in front of heavy construction equipment.

Eleanor Fairchild is just one of the brave citizens fighting for our survival. And her story should be told. She made no agreement with TransCanada. They took and bisected her 300-acre farm through a classic example of using eminent domain for corporate, rather than public purposes. Fairchild says that they slashed and burned the old-growth forests on her land, reneging on their promise to set aside the trees for use; that they work all through the night, though they said they would work only until 4pm.

She says they intimidate her, telling her she's being watched. They have slapped her with a civil lawsuit and are attempting to brand this great-grandmother as an eco-terrorist. But Eleanor Fairchild is not against oil or pipelines; in fact, her late husband was in the oil business for 50 years. She's against tar sands oil. She is against the contamination of our rare and precious water resources, and our soil for growing food.

Make no mistake, we are going through fire. If we just stand there doing nothing, we are going to get burned. But if we accept our ethical responsibility to stand up for each other, and for our life support systems, and if we focus on and work tirelessly for a better future, then that just may be within our reach.
(c) 2012 Daryl Hannah is an actor and environmental activist. She is the founder of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance (SBA), and sits on several environmental advocacy boards such as the Environmental Media Association (EMA), Sylvia Earle Alliance, Mission Blue and the Action Sports Environmental Coalition. Her website provides solutions for living a green lifestyle

This Must Be Heaven
By Sam Harris

Once upon a time, a neurosurgeon named Eben Alexander contracted a bad case of bacterial meningitis and fell into a coma. While immobile in his hospital bed, he experienced visions of such intense beauty that they changed everything-not just for him, but for all of us, and for science as a whole. According to Newsweek, Alexander's experience proves that consciousness is independent of the brain, that death is an illusion, and that an eternity of perfect splendor awaits us beyond the grave-complete with the usual angels, clouds, and departed relatives, but also butterflies and beautiful girls in peasant dress. Our current understanding of the mind "now lies broken at our feet"-for, as the doctor writes, "What happened to me destroyed it, and I intend to spend the rest of my life investigating the true nature of consciousness and making the fact that we are more, much more, than our physical brains as clear as I can, both to my fellow scientists and to people at large."

Well, I intend to spend the rest of the morning sparing him the effort. Whether you read it online or hold the physical object in your hands, this issue of Newsweek is best viewed as an archaeological artifact that is certain to embarrass us in the eyes of future generations. Its existence surely says more about our time than the editors at the magazine meant to say-for the cover alone reveals the abasement and desperation of our journalism, the intellectual bankruptcy and resultant tenacity of faith-based religion, and our ubiquitous confusion about the nature of scientific authority. The article is the modern equivalent of a 14th-century woodcut depicting the work of alchemists, inquisitors, Crusaders, and fortune-tellers. I hope our descendants understand that at least some of us were blushing.

As many of you know, I am interested in "spiritual" experiences of the sort Alexander reports. Unlike many atheists, I don't doubt the subjective phenomena themselves-that is, I don't believe that everyone who claims to have seen an angel, or left his body in a trance, or become one with the universe, is lying or mentally ill. Indeed, I have had similar experiences myself in meditation, in lucid dreams (even while meditating in a lucid dream), and through the use of various psychedelics (in times gone by). I know that astonishing changes in the contents of consciousness are possible and can be psychologically transformative.

And, unlike many neuroscientists and philosophers, I remain agnostic on the question of how consciousness is related to the physical world. There are, of course, very good reasons to believe that it is an emergent property of brain activity, just as the rest of the human mind obviously is. But we know nothing about how such a miracle of emergence might occur. And if consciousness were, in fact, irreducible-or even separable from the brain in a way that would give comfort to Saint Augustine-my worldview would not be overturned. I know that we do not understand consciousness, and nothing that I think I know about the cosmos, or about the patent falsity of most religious beliefs, requires that I deny this. So, although I am an atheist who can be expected to be unforgiving of religious dogma, I am not reflexively hostile to claims of the sort Alexander has made. In principle, my mind is open. (It really is.)

But Alexander's account is so bad-his reasoning so lazy and tendentious-that it would be beneath notice if not for the fact that it currently disgraces the cover of a major newsmagazine. Alexander is also releasing a book at the end of the month, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, which seems destined to become an instant bestseller. As much as I would like to simply ignore the unfolding travesty, it would be derelict of me to do so.

But first things first: You really must read Alexander's article.

I trust that doing so has given you cause to worry that the good doctor is just another casualty of American-style Christianity-for though he claims to have been a nonbeliever before his adventures in coma, he presents the following self-portrait:

Although I considered myself a faithful Christian, I was so more in name than in actual belief. I didn't begrudge those who wanted to believe that Jesus was more than simply a good man who had suffered at the hands of the world. I sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally. In fact, I envied such people the security that those beliefs no doubt provided. But as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe them myself.

What it means to be a "faithful Christian" without "actual belief" is not spelled out, but few nonbelievers will be surprised when our hero's scientific skepticism proves no match for his religious conditioning. Most of us have been around this block often enough to know that many "former atheists"-like Francis Collins-spent so long on the brink of faith, and yearned for its emotional consolations with such vampiric intensity, that the slightest breeze would send them spinning into the abyss. For Collins, you may recall, all it took to establish the divinity of Jesus and the coming resurrection of the dead was the sight of a frozen waterfall. Alexander seems to have required a ride on a psychedelic butterfly. In either case, it's not the perception of beauty we should begrudge but the utter absence of intellectual seriousness with which the author interprets it.

Everything-absolutely everything-in Alexander's account rests on repeated assertions that his visions of heaven occurred while his cerebral cortex was "shut down," "inactivated," "completely shut down," "totally offline," and "stunned to complete inactivity." The evidence he provides for this claim is not only inadequate-it suggests that he doesn't know anything about the relevant brain science. Perhaps he has saved a more persuasive account for his book-though now that I've listened to an hour-long interview with him online, I very much doubt it. In his Newsweek article, Alexander asserts that the cessation of cortical activity was "clear from the severity and duration of my meningitis, and from the global cortical involvement documented by CT scans and neurological examinations." To his editors, this presumably sounded like neuroscience.

The problem, however, is that "CT scans and neurological examinations" can't determine neuronal inactivity-in the cortex or anywhere else. And Alexander makes no reference to functional data that might have been acquired by fMRI, PET, or EEG-nor does he seem to realize that only this sort of evidence could support his case. Obviously, the man's cortex is functioning now-he has, after all, written a book-so whatever structural damage appeared on CT could not have been "global." (Otherwise, he would be claiming that his entire cortex was destroyed and then grew back.) Coma is not associated with the complete cessation of cortical activity, in any case. And to my knowledge, almost no one thinks that consciousness is purely a matter of cortical activity. Alexander's unwarranted assumptions are proliferating rather quickly. Why doesn't he know these things? He is, after all, a neurosurgeon who survived a coma and now claims to be upending the scientific worldview on the basis of the fact that his cortex was totally quiescent at the precise moment he was enjoying the best day of his life in the company of angels. Even if his entire cortex had truly shut down (again, an incredible claim), how can he know that his visions didn't occur in the minutes and hours during which its functions returned?

I confess that I found Alexander's account so alarmingly unscientific that I began to worry that something had gone wrong with my own brain. So I sought the opinion of Mark Cohen, a pioneer in the field of neuroimaging who holds appointments in the Departments of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Science, Neurology, Psychology, Radiological Science, and Bioengineering at UCLA. (He was also my thesis advisor.) Here is part of what he had to say:

This poetic interpretation of his experience is not supported by evidence of any kind. As you correctly point out, coma does not equate to "inactivation of the cerebral cortex" or "higher-order brain functions totally offline" or "neurons of [my] cortex stunned into complete inactivity". These describe brain death, a one hundred percent lethal condition. There are many excellent scholarly articles that discuss the definitions of coma. (For example: 1 & 2)

We are not privy to his EEG records, but high alpha activity is common in coma. Also common is "flat" EEG. The EEG can appear flat even in the presence of high activity, when that activity is not synchronous. For example, the EEG flattens in regions involved in direct task processing. This phenomenon is known as event-related desynchronization (hundreds of references).

As is obvious to you, this is truth by authority. Neurosurgeons, however, are rarely well-trained in brain function. Dr. Alexander cuts brains; he does not appear to study them. "There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind-my conscious, inner self-was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness ..." True, science cannot explain brain-free consciousness. Of course, science cannot explain consciousness anyway. In this case, however, it would be parsimonious to reject the whole idea of consciousness in the absence of brain activity. Either his brain was active when he had these dreams, or they are a confabulation of whatever took place in his state of minimally conscious coma.

There are many reports of people remembering dream-like states while in medical coma. They lack consistency, of course, but there is nothing particularly unique in Dr. Alexander's unfortunate episode.

Okay, so it appears that my own cortex hasn't completely shut down. In fact, there are further problems with Alexander's account. Not only does he appear ignorant of the relevant science, but he doesn't realize how many people have experienced visions similar to his while their brains were operational. In his online interview we learn about the kinds of conversations he's now having with skeptics:

I guess one could always argue, "Well, your brain was probably just barely able to ignite real consciousness and then it would flip back into a very diseased state," which doesn't make any sense to me. Especially because that hyper-real state is so indescribable and so crisp. It's totally unlike any drug experience. A lot of people have come up to me and said, "Oh that sounds like a DMT experience," or "That sounds like ketamine." Not at all. That is not even in the right ballpark.

Those things do not explain the kind of clarity, the rich interactivity, the layer upon layer of understanding and of lessons taught by deceased loved ones and spiritual beings.

"Not in the right ballpark"?
His experience sounds so much like a DMT trip that we are not only in the right ballpark, we are talking about the stitching on the same ball. Here is Alexander's description of the afterlife:

I was a speck on a beautiful butterfly wing; millions of other butterflies around us. We were flying through blooming flowers, blossoms on trees, and they were all coming out as we flew through them... [there were] waterfalls, pools of water, indescribable colors, and above there were these arcs of silver and gold light and beautiful hymns coming down from them. Indescribably gorgeous hymns. I later came to call them "angels," those arcs of light in the sky. I think that word is probably fairly accurate....

Then we went out of this universe. I remember just seeing everything receding and initially I felt as if my awareness was in an infinite black void. It was very comforting but I could feel the extent of the infinity and that it was, as you would expect, impossible to put into words. I was there with that Divine presence that was not anything that I could visibly see and describe, and with a brilliant orb of light....

They said there were many things that they would show me, and they continued to do that. In fact, the whole higher-dimensional multiverse was this incredibly complex corrugated ball and all these lessons coming into me about it. Part of the lessons involved becoming all of what I was being shown. It was indescribable.

But then I would find myself-and time out there I can say is totally different from what we call time. There was access from out there to any part of our space/time and that made it difficult to understand a lot of these memories because we always try to sequence things and put them in linear form and description. That just really doesn't work.

Everything that Alexander describes here and in his Newsweek article, including the parts I have left out, has been reported by DMT users. The similarity is uncanny. Here is how the late Terence McKenna described the prototypical DMT trance:

Under the influence of DMT, the world becomes an Arabian labyrinth, a palace, a more than possible Martian jewel, vast with motifs that flood the gaping mind with complex and wordless awe. Color and the sense of a reality-unlocking secret nearby pervade the experience. There is a sense of other times, and of one's own infancy, and of wonder, wonder and more wonder. It is an audience with the alien nuncio. In the midst of this experience, apparently at the end of human history, guarding gates that seem surely to open on the howling maelstrom of the unspeakable emptiness between the stars, is the Aeon.

The Aeon, as Heraclitus presciently observed, is a child at play with colored balls. Many diminutive beings are present there-the tykes, the self-transforming machine elves of hyperspace. Are they the children destined to be father to the man? One has the impression of entering into an ecology of souls that lies beyond the portals of what we naively call death. I do not know. Are they the synesthetic embodiment of ourselves as the Other, or of the Other as ourselves? Are they the elves lost to us since the fading of the magic light of childhood? Here is a tremendum barely to be told, an epiphany beyond our wildest dreams. Here is the realm of that which is stranger than we can suppose. Here is the mystery, alive, unscathed, still as new for us as when our ancestors lived it fifteen thousand summers ago. The tryptamine entities offer the gift of new language, they sing in pearly voices that rain down as colored petals and flow through the air like hot metal to become toys and such gifts as gods would give their children. The sense of emotional connection is terrifying and intense. The Mysteries revealed are real and if ever fully told will leave no stone upon another in the small world we have gone so ill in.

This is not the mercurial world of the UFO, to be invoked from lonely hilltops; this is not the siren song of lost Atlantis wailing through the trailer courts of crack-crazed America. DMT is not one of our irrational illusions. I believe that what we experience in the presence of DMT is real news. It is a nearby dimension-frightening, transformative, and beyond our powers to imagine, and yet to be explored in the usual way. We must send fearless experts, whatever that may come to mean, to explore and to report on what they find. (Terence McKenna, Food of the Gods, pp. 258-259.)

Alexander believes that his E. coli-addled brain could not have produced his visions because they were too "intense," too "hyper-real," too "beautiful," too "interactive," and too drenched in significance for even a healthy brain to conjure. He also appears to think that despite their timeless quality, his visions could not have arisen in the minutes or hours during which his cortex (which surely never went off) switched back on. He clearly knows nothing about what people with working brains experience under the influence of psychedelics. Nor does he know that visions of the sort that McKenna describes, although they may seem to last for ages, require only a brief span of biological time. Unlike LSD and other long-acting psychedelics, DMT alters consciousness for merely a few minutes. Alexander would have had more than enough time to experience a visionary ecstasy as he was coming out of his coma (whether his cortex was rebooting or not).

Does Alexander know that DMT already exists in the brain as a neurotransmitter? Did his brain experience a surge of DMT release during his coma? This is pure speculation, of course, but it is a far more credible hypothesis than that his cortex "shut down," freeing his soul to travel to another dimension. As one of his correspondents has already informed him, similar experiences can be had with ketamine, which is a surgical anesthetic that is occasionally used to protect a traumatized brain. Did Alexander by any chance receive ketamine while in the hospital? Would he even think it relevant if he had? His assertion that psychedelic compounds like DMT and ketamine "do not explain the kind of clarity, the rich interactivity, the layer upon layer of understanding" he experienced is perhaps the most amazing thing he has said since he returned from heaven. Such compounds are universally understood to do the job. And most scientists believe that the reliable effects of psychedelics indicate that the brain is at the very least involved in the production of visionary states of the sort Alexander is talking about.

Again, there is nothing to be said against Alexander's experience. It sounds perfectly sublime. And such ecstasies do tell us something about how good a human mind can feel. The problem is that the conclusions Alexander has drawn from his experience-he continually reminds us, as a scientist-are based on some very obvious errors in reasoning and gaps in his understanding.

Let me suggest that, whether or not heaven exists, Alexander sounds precisely how a scientist should not sound when he doesn't know what he is talking about. And his article is not the sort of thing that the editors of a once-important magazine should publish if they hope to reclaim some measure of respect for their battered brand.
(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.

Hillary Clinton speaks at the Brookings Institution

The Brookings Institution Demands Servile Journalism
The New York Times public editor is attacked for suggesting the paper should "aggressively challenge" government claims on drones
By Glenn Greenwald

As I noted on Sunday, the New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan devoted her weekly Sunday column to an excellent critique of her paper's coverage of US drone attacks. While noting that the Times has done some good work in attempting to bring transparency to the Obama administration's secret killings - in particular its May "kill list" article revealing that Obama adopted a ludicrously broad definition of "militant" that skews the "data" on civilian deaths - she then wrote:

"Since the article in May, its reporting has not aggressively challenged the administration's description of those killed as 'militants' - itself an undefined term. And it has been criticized for giving administration officials the cover of anonymity when they suggest that critics of drones are terrorist sympathizers."

There are, to put it mildly, numerous reasons for serious skepticism when it comes to administration claims about its drone program and civilian deaths. For one, Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, was conclusively proven to be spouting outright lies about civilian deaths from US drones.

That the Obama administration re-defined "militant" to mean "all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants" by itself demands extreme skepticism of its claims; as the Times put it when revealing that fact: "this counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths." Independently, the fact that the administration has erected such extreme secrecy around the program - refusing to release even the most basic facts in court or elsewhere - further demands great skepticism of its assertions.

Beyond all that, a study jointly issued by NYU School of Law and Stanford Law School last month documented highly misleading public statements from administration officials about its drone attacks. And, as John Glaser reports, this morning, yet another new report has just been issued, this one from Columbia Law School, documenting that civilian deaths are "significantly and consistently underestimated" by pro-drone think thanks such as the New America Foundation (the NYU/Stanford study also harshly impugned the "data" of NAF and its chief administration spokesman, Peter Bergen).

All of this makes Sullivan's call for journalistic challenge to administration drone claims not just unremarkable but self-evident. But her desire for adversarial skepticism very much upset perpetual government defender Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution. At his aptly named blog "Lawfare" - the term of derision used by war cheerleaders to mock the notion that "law" has any role to play in restraining their endless wars and the leaders who fight them - Wittes, in his headline, proclaimed Sullivan's article to be "Very Strange". After quoting her criticism that the paper has insufficiently challenged administration claims on drone deaths, he wrote:

"I find this a bewildering argument. The Times is not an advocacy organization whose job it is to 'aggressively challenge' the government's claims of the rates of civilian casualties - except to the extent that those claims are untrue."

It's amazing that someone not only believes - but is willing to say publicly - that it is not the job of a newspaper to "aggressively challenge" government claims on a highly controversial assassination program that is shrouded in secrecy and uncertainty. That, more than anything else, is the core purpose of journalism (at least in theory): the reason "freedom of the press" is protected in the First Amendment. And it's precisely the media's systematic failure - more accurately: its unwillingness - to engage in this function that has produced the last decade's most destructive outcomes.

Wittes' caveat that newspapers should "aggressively challenge" government claims only when "those claims are untrue" is circular and nonsensical. The only way to find out whether government claims are untrue is by aggressively challenging them. A failure to do so ensures that even the most dubious and unproven of government assertions go unchecked. Indeed, Wittes himself has previously argued that secrecy surrounding the drone program is excessive.

More to the point, the presumption Wittes advocates is exactly backward: government claims are not entitled to a presumption of truth by media outlets unless and until they are proven false. The opposite is true: they ought to be treated with extreme skepticism by media outlets unless and until they are proven true. That is what "adversarial journalism" means.

The very idea that government assertions are entitled to a presumption of truth even when they are shrouded in secrecy, subject to no accountability, and unaccompanied by proof, is the mindset of a servile government propagandist. It's astonishing that, even after what happened in the run-up to the Iraq War - when media outlets placed themselves in the supine posture exemplified by Wittes - that anyone is willing to stand up in public and advocate this model of government-subservient "journalism."

Then again, there should be nothing surprising about any of this given that both Brookings and Wittes are classic examples of that sprawling strain of Washington think tank culture that exist for little reason other than to serve and justify government power. They are pure expressions of the courtier Beltway mentality that demands that everyone else be as reverent of royal court prerogatives as they are.

Brookings, of course, was one of the leaders in persuading Americans, especially many American liberals, to support the attack on and eight-year occupation of Iraq, and it remains vocally in the lead in the fear-mongering campaign against Iran. Its national security "experts" have been lavishly funded by billionaire mogul Haim Saban, who has described himself as a "total hawk" and said: "I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel."

Wittes is not only a reflexive defender of the use of US military force, including drones, but recently supplied one of the creeper and more revealing episodes when he gathered with a former Bush Homeland Security official and their children to simulate "drone warfare" for fun, all while NPR giggled, watched and reported:

"It started as trash talk between two contributors to a national security blog. They decided to host a drone smackdown to see if one guy's machine could take down another. . . .

"The first contestant was a drone with interlocking black loops to protect the rotors, shaped like the burners on your stove top. The machine, nicknamed Stux2bu, belonged to [Ben] Wittes, co-founder of Lawfare, the blog that sponsored the contest. . . . .

"They pointed out the name of their drone derived from the word Stuxnet, the infamous real-world computer virus discovered in June 2010 that targeted Iran's nuclear enrichment efforts."P<>

This is what people do who spend their lives cheering for American military force and violence and killing but refuse to get anywhere near the fighting they adore: they play-act as tough-guy warriors, having some nice Sunday fun playing with weapons that routinely kill innocent people, including children, as they provide the intellectual justification and apologia from a safe distance. (After describing all of the fun drone festivities, NPR justified itself by adding on as a cursory afterthought: "To a lot of people, drones are no laughing matter. U.S. machines equipped with deadly missiles have killed al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan and Yemen. They've also killed some innocent civilians").

Although it may seem repellent, the view that media outlets should dutifully amplify rather than "aggressively challenge" government claims is quite pervasive, especially among establishment journalists themselves. Indeed, that is more or less what it means to be an "establishment journalist", and it is this mindset, more than any other, that explains how the attack on Iraq was able to be launched based on a mountain of falsehoods.

In 2004, Guardian columnist George Monbiot wrote: "the falsehoods reproduced by the media before the invasion of Iraq were massive and consequential: it is hard to see how Britain could have gone to war if the press had done its job." In a 2004 Guardian Op-Ed on the role played by the western media in enabling that attack, David Edwards and David Cromwell traced the last century's structural history of journalism in order to argue that mindlessly conveying government claims is no longer an abandonment of the purpose of modern journalism but rather a core fulfillment of it.

Edwards and Cromwell quoted ITV News political editor, Nick Robinson - responding to criticisms of his pre-war reporting - this way: "It was my job to report what those in power were doing or thinking . . . That is all someone in my sort of job can do." Countless American journalists, including the most influential ones, have expressed similar sentiments.

Those who believe that media institutions should serve as an adversarial check on government power will find Sullivan's column utterly uncontroversial and obvious. About Wittes attack on Sullivan, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer said this morning to Lawfare: "Now you are parodying yourselves."

But for those who devote themselves to serving, venerating and justifying the acts of those in power - like the Brooking Institutions' Wittes - Sullivan's view is "very strange" indeed, even offensive. To them, the very idea that government claims should be "aggressively challenged" is virtually blasphemous, a total contradiction of the goals to which they are devoted. As Kade Crockford put it today: "'aggressively challenging' the government on its claims has a way of helping the facts come out." That's precisely why Wittes and friends find it so distasteful.

The drone program is popular in part because US media outlets parrot US governments assertions and thus reflexively claim that the victims are "militants" - even though they have no idea who was actually killed, even though the term itself is wildly propagandistic, even though the Obama administration refuses to disclose basic evidence, and even though there is ample evidence proving how unreliable those claims are. Only by having media outlets refrain from "aggressively challenging" government claims can those claims, and thus support for drone attacks, be sustained. That's why Sullivan's call - made in the pages of the New York Times itself - is so threatening to some.

There really is no point in having media outlets that do anything other than "aggressively challenge" the claims of those in power. Actually, there is a point in having that: it allows government assertions to be glorified as true even when there is no evidence that they are. That is why so many power-serving Washington mavens are so eager to defend that model and demand adherence to it. And their success in that mission is why so many destructive government falsehoods are able to flourish without real scrutiny.
(c) 2012 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Death By Ideology
Yes, Mitt, Lack of Insurance Does Kill People
By Paul Krugman

Mitt Romney doesn't see dead people. But that's only because he doesn't want to see them; if he did, he'd have to acknowledge the ugly reality of what will happen if he and Paul Ryan get their way on health care.

Last week, speaking to The Columbus Dispatch, Mr. Romney declared that nobody in America dies because he or she is uninsured: "We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don't have insurance." This followed on an earlier remark by Mr. Romney - echoing an infamous statement by none other than George W. Bush - in which he insisted that emergency rooms provide essential health care to the uninsured.

These are remarkable statements. They clearly demonstrate that Mr. Romney has no idea what life (and death) are like for those less fortunate than himself.

Even the idea that everyone gets urgent care when needed from emergency rooms is false. Yes, hospitals are required by law to treat people in dire need, whether or not they can pay. But that care isn't free - on the contrary, if you go to an emergency room you will be billed, and the size of that bill can be shockingly high. Some people can't or won't pay, but fear of huge bills can deter the uninsured from visiting the emergency room even when they should. And sometimes they die as a result.

More important, going to the emergency room when you're very sick is no substitute for regular care, especially if you have chronic health problems. When such problems are left untreated - as they often are among uninsured Americans - a trip to the emergency room can all too easily come too late to save a life.

So the reality, to which Mr. Romney is somehow blind, is that many people in America really do die every year because they don't have health insurance.

How many deaths are we talking about? That's not an easy question to answer, and conservatives love to cite the handful of studies that fail to find clear evidence that insurance saves lives. The overwhelming evidence, however, is that insurance is indeed a lifesaver, and lack of insurance a killer. For example, states that expand their Medicaid coverage, and hence provide health insurance to more people, consistently show a significant drop in mortality compared with neighboring states that don't expand coverage.

And surely the fact that the United States is the only major advanced nation without some form of universal health care is at least part of the reason life expectancy is much lower in America than in Canada or Western Europe.

So there's no real question that lack of insurance is responsible for thousands, and probably tens of thousands, of excess deaths of Americans each year. But that's not a fact Mr. Romney wants to admit, because he and his running mate want to repeal Obamacare and slash funding for Medicaid - actions that would take insurance away from some 45 million nonelderly Americans, causing thousands of people to suffer premature death. And their longer-term plans to convert Medicare into Vouchercare would deprive many seniors of adequate coverage, too, leading to still more unnecessary mortality.

Oh, about the voucher thing: In his debate with Vice President Biden, Mr. Ryan was actually the first one to mention vouchers, attempting to rule the term out of bounds. Indeed, it's apparently the party line on the right that anyone using the word "voucher" to describe a health policy in which you're given a fixed sum to apply to health insurance is a liar, not to mention a big meanie.

Among the lying liars, then, is the guy who, in 2009, described the Ryan plan as a matter of "converting Medicare into a defined contribution sort of voucher system." Oh, wait - that was Paul Ryan himself.

And what if the vouchers - for that's what they are - turned out not to be large enough to pay for adequate insurance? Then those who couldn't afford to top up the vouchers sufficiently - a group that would include many, and probably most, older Americans - would be left with inadequate insurance, insurance that exposed them to severe financial hardship if they got sick, sometimes left them unable to afford crucial care, and yes, sometimes led to their early death.

So let's be brutally honest here. The Romney-Ryan position on health care is that many millions of Americans must be denied health insurance, and millions more deprived of the security Medicare now provides, in order to save money. At the same time, of course, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are proposing trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy. So a literal description of their plan is that they want to expose many Americans to financial insecurity, and let some of them die, so that a handful of already wealthy people can have a higher after-tax income.

It's not a pretty picture - and you can see why Mr. Romney chooses not to see it.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine."
~~~ Che Guevara

Campaign Supernova
Blinded by the Light of an Electoral 'Reality Show'
By Randall Amster

Coming up next on 'The Oval Office': sparks fly as the final two contestants go head-to-head on live TV, while a dramatic surprise will soon be revealed that could change everything -- and YOU get to make the call on who wins the grand prize and who gets voted off the show. Stay tuned...

One can almost hear the narrator's voiceover as the news is reported and the debate is joined. Presidential politics, and media-age elections in general, more closely resemble an illusory 'reality show' than any substantive engagement with the critical issues of the day. If the Association of National Advertisers could select Barack Obama as 'Marketer of the Year' for 2008, then perhaps this year will bring another level of media acknowledgment. Joe Biden for an Emmy, anyone?

The question is less about why politics is increasingly staged and every soundbite test-marketed for mass appeal, but more about why we are even watching anymore. The ethos of the reality show (a perverse misnomer, to be sure) has come to dominate the airwaves, infesting not only entertainment but also the production of news itself, in the end blurring the line between them and ushering in an era in which 'infotainment' is not a denigration but a desirable position in the marketplace of ideas.

We can lay the blame at the feet of programmers who probably see reality shows as the 'low-hanging fruit' of television, costing less to produce than lavish star-driven fare and presenting 'ordinary people' characters ready-made for viewer identification. We can chastise advertisers for allowing the logic of product placement and the creation of faux controversies to push their wares. We can point the finger at corporate hegemons and moral entrepreneurs for the general dumbing-down of the culture, rendering us pliable subjects eager to embrace the latest style but distracted from substance. We can blame the news editors for prioritizing celebrity gossip over presenting authentic analysis.

But we rarely cast the critical gaze back at ourselves. Who watches this stuff, believes the inanity, buys the products, adopts the catchphrases, emulates the styles, and accepts the false reality? As I wroteback in 2009: "In this cult of personality masking as politics, we must acknowledge that the fault lies not in our superstars, but in ourselves." We can pass the buck (an apt phrase), but in the end it's still us who accept this worldview in which the tweet counts more than the treatise, the soundbite more than the sound argument, the wisecrack more than wisdom. We get what we accept.

So it's no wonder that politicians have likewise embraced the trend. 'Obama vs. Romney' plays more like a wrestling grudge match, complete with sensational graphics and confrontational cutaways. The whole experience is intended to be visceral rather than cerebral, all planned to obfuscate rather than educate. Shall the candidates honestly discuss the perpetual resource wars that will dominate the globe for generations to come? Should they openly engage the realities of climate change and the manner in which we need to immediately change our way of life in order for life to continue at all? Would it be expedient to point out that the economy is a sham and we are but fodder for the 1%?

Perhaps the greatest tragedy lies in the persistent belief that our plutocracy is actually a democracy, that political power resides with 'we the people', and that the right electoral decisions will result in a better world. The salient point isn't that the outcomes of elections don't matter at all, but more so that they don't matter enough. While the Obama presidency has lacked the full-on 'dark clouds' motif of the Bush years, and a smiling Biden might seem preferable to Darth Cheney, it remains the case that we continue our inexorable slide toward collective immolation regardless of who sits at the helm. Which presidential contestant will fix the economy? End war and halt ecological degradation? Side with workers vis-a-vis corporations, and distribute wealth downward rather than upward? (Maybe the Green Party candidate, but they aren't booked on the show.) Not President Obomney.

Absurdly, we continue to focus in earnest on which multimillionaire we want representing the middle-class multitude, which purveyor of injustice is better suited to exercise just authority over us, which corporatist is the right one to rein in corporate power, which warmonger will work to bring us peace. Elections matter, but not enough. Can we still imagine a world where we no longer need corruption-addled politics, where monied interests no longer can buy and sell power at their whim, where the voices of human beings matter more than those of corporations? We need a society where the distance between those making decisions and those directly impacted by them is shrinking rather than expanding, a system in which the conditions of our lives are determined by real people in actual communities instead of by the machinations of money and the ministrations of madness.

A colleague recently forwarded an articleto a listserv I'm on, along with a plaintive reminder that "the stakes are high" regarding the upcoming election. The forwarded link was to a New York magazine article validating the basic notion that "this election poses a fundamental choice to America." And yet the article ambivalently observes that "neither candidate has a plausible blueprint to avoid political gridlock, and that, whoever wins, the stalemate of the past two years will grind on into the next four." But still the article swings back the other way, affirming the "stakes are high" sentiment with the assertion that in the next presidential term, "the great stalemate between socialism and social Darwinism will break open and likely turn decisively in one direction or the other."

Seriously? Socialism? When was that even on the table as a counterpoint to social Darwinism in America? It appears more so that we have a system of lockstep military-industrial control, with the meager remainder of cultural space occupied by a social Darwinism that is either predominantly or completely merciless, depending upon one's major party affiliation. If "predominantly merciless" constitutes enough of a victory for you, or if "completely merciless" matches your perception of strength and justice, then pull that lever or text your selection or like that link for your preferred contestant. Even if you make the wrong choice, the show will be back on again next season, with new scandals and antipathies to keep you entertained. As long as you keep watching, all is well...
(c) 2012 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. Amonsg his most recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Memo to the President: Your Next Debate
By Robert Reich


From: Robert Reich

RE: Upcoming debate

Your passive performance in the last debate was damaging because it reenforced the Republican claim that you've been too passive in getting jobs back and in responding to terrorism abroad.

That doesn't mean you have to "come out swinging" this time. You need to be yourself, and one of your qualities that the public finds reassuring is your steadiness and authenticity, by contrast to Romney's unsteady flip-flopping and apparent willingness to say and be anything. But you will need to be more energetic and passionate.

And although the "town meeting" style debate in which you'll be answering audience questions isn't conducive to sharp give-and-take with Romney, look for every opportunity to nail him. Indignance doesn't come naturally to you, but you have every reason to be indignant on behalf of the American people.

Emphasize these five points:

1. Not only is the economy is improving, but there's no reason to trust Romney's claim he would improve it more quickly. He's given no specifics about how he'd pay for his massive tax cut for the wealthy, or what he'd replace ObamaCare with, or how he'd regulate Wall Street if he repeals Dodd-Frank. His record to date has flip-flopped on every major issue. Why should Americans trust his assertions?

2. Our problems require we pull together, but Romney and his party want to pull us apart. Romney has praised Arizona's draconian anti-immigration law profiling Hispanics, and has called for "voluntary deportation" by making life intolerable for undocumented workers. He is against equal marriage rights. He wants to ban abortions, and his party and running mate want to ban them even in the case of rape or incest. He's determined to make the rich richer and the rest of us poorer. Romney is beholden to a radical right-wing Republican party that is out of step with most of America.

3. Romney's "reverse Robin Hood" agenda is inappropriate at a time when the wealthy are taking home a larger share of total income and wealth than they have in a century, and when the middle class is still struggling. He wants to cut taxes on the rich by almost $5 trillion - which inevitably means higher taxes on the rest of us; and over 60 percent of its budget cuts come out of programs for the poor and working middle class. He's determined to turn Medicare into vouchers whose value won't keep up with rising healthcare costs, and turn Medicaid over to cash-starved states. His comment about "47 percent" of Americans not paying taxes and taking government handouts was not only wrong (every working person pays payroll taxes, and every consumer pays sales taxes; and the biggest so-called "entitlements" are Social Security and Medicare, which are insurance programs that Americans pay for during their working years). The comment also reveals a callousness and divisiveness that's the opposite of what we need now. Romney wants to set Wall Street loose again when the Street's greed got us into the mess we're still trying to get out of.

4. Romney views America as if it was one huge corporation, but we're not a corporation; we're a nation. He says corporations are people; touts his years at Bain as if making companies profitable qualifies him to be president; wants to deregulate corporations and Wall Street; and assumes CEOs and the wealthy are "job creators," and if we cut their taxes they'll have more incentive to create jobs. None of this is true. The nation exists to make lives better for all its people - making sure that corporations treat their workers as assets to be developed rather than as costs to be cut. Companies have been slow to create jobs not because of insufficient profits but because of inadequate customers. The vast American middle class are the real job creators, but they don't have enough money in their pockets because too many companies have broken the basic bargain linking wages to productivity.

5. On foreign policy, Romney wants to rush to judgment, blaming the administration for not acting quickly enough in Libya on scant information. But that rush-to-judgment mentality is exactly what got us into Iraq eight years ago on the pretext of "weapons of mass destruction." Two days ago we marked the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis. Had John F. Kennedy rushed to judgment as Romney wants to, humankind would have been obliterated in a nuclear holocaust.

Be indignant, but measured and steady - as you naturally are. Practice your closing (your last closing was listless) so the nation can see clearly the choice: We're all in it together, or we're on our own.
(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 Uberfuhrer Lane,

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 calling for the end of women's suffrage, 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 "Tea Bagger 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 Iron Cross first class 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 Frau Lane, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Paul Ryan: Dick Cheney With A Smile
By John Nichols

Never afraid to go against the crowd, or the facts, Dick Cheney found Paul Ryan's performance in Thursday night's vice presidential debate dazzling.

Following the debate, Cheney declared that "there is no question in my mind when I look at Joe Biden and Paul Ryan on the stage there last night, I think Paul Ryan's got what it takes to take over as president. I don't think Joe Biden does."

How did George W. Bush's number-two see what so many mere mortals missed?

Cheney pays serious attention to Ryan.

Indeed, he says: "I worship the ground that Paul Ryan walks on."

And no one should doubt Cheney's sincerity.

The former Republican vice president adores the Republican vice presidential candidate because Ryan is a fresh, young Cheney.

Cheney moved to Washington as soon as he could and became a political careerist, working as a Capitol Hill aide, a think-tank hanger on and then a member of Congress. Ryan followed the same insider trajectory.

Cheney's a hyper-partisan Republican with a history of putting party loyalty above everything else. Ryan's an equally loyal GOP mandarin.

Cheney's a rigid ideologue who has never let reality get in the way of cockamamie neocon theories about where to start the next war. And Ryan's every bit as much a neocon as Cheney.

Americans should reflect on Ryan's performance in Thursday's vice presidential debate with Cheney in mind. When they do, they will shudder.

In the 2000 vice presidential debate at Centre College in Kentucky, Cheney was asked if he favored using deadly force against Iraq. "We might have no other choice. We'll have to see if that happens," he replied. Why? He said he feared Saddam Hussein might have renewed his "capacity to build weapons of mass destruction." "I certainly hope he's not regenerating that kind of capability, but if he were, if in fact Saddam Hussein were taking steps to try to rebuild nuclear capability or weapons of mass destruction, you would have to give very serious consideration to military action to-to stop that activity."

Two years later, Cheney was leading the drive to send US troops to invade Iraq. Three years later, US troops were bogged down in an occupation that would cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. No weapons of mass destruction were found and America's international credibility took a hard hit.

Cheney didn't care. He never apologized for leading America astray. And he never offered any indication that he had learned from the experience.

Thursday, in the 2012 vice presidential debate at Centre College, Ryan put a smile on the Cheney doctrine. But there was not a sliver of difference between the politics of the former vice president and the pretender to the vice presidency on questions of how to deal with foreign policy challenges in Afghanistan, Syria and Iran.

At the close of an extended discussion of Afghanistan, in which he repeatedly suggested that the Obama administration was insufficiently committed to fighting America's longest war, Ryan actually suggested: "We are already sending Americans to do the job, but fewer of them. That's the whole problem."

On Iran, Ryan was so bombastic that an incredulous Biden finally asked: "What are you-you're going to go to war? Is that what you want to do?"

Ryan did not answer in the affirmative Thursday night in Danville.

Neither did Cheney twelve years ago in Danville.

But Cheney signaled his inclinations in the 2000 vice presidential debate. And Ryan has signaled his intentions this year-confirming that the neoconservative fantasy, despite having been discredited by experience, dies hard on the neocon fringe of the Grand Old Party.
(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.

So, What The Hell Are These Elections About?
By Adam Keller

Two weeks ago the "Makor Rishon" newspaper glorified the canine unit of the Israel Defense Forces and its tireless contribution to the campaign proclaimed by the government of Israel against the African refugees who threaten to seek asylum in our enlightened country. The paper's correspondent went to the southern border and heard about the spectacular antics of the two-legged soldiers and their four-legged best friends: "Dogs are incomparably capable when it comes to a chase. They locate undesirables in the border area, identify them as infiltrators and immediately start pursuit. A dog can just go on chasing and chasing, not letting go. At present, in the new reality on the borders of Israel, chase dogs assume greater significance ("Makor Rishon", Sept. 28, 2012).

Just as the journalist arrived on the spot, our fine boys of the canine unit were in mourning. "In the course of operations on the Israeli-Egyptian border, one of the dogs was sent to chase and trace an infiltrator who had penetrated into the country. After a long chase, along dozens of kilometers, the dog overheated and died." Of course, the soldiers conducted a proper military funeral at the special dog cemetery maintained by their unit.

But - no need to worry. Already in the near future the State of Israel might be in a position to spare her dedicated pursuit dogs such risks. The construction of the fence on the Egyptian border is drawing to a close. From now on, refugees fleeing genocide in Darfur or a terror regime in Eritrea would no longer be able to get out of their jungle and penetrate into our flourishing villa. The high border fence will block their way, and if they ask the soldiers on the border for a little water and food, the soldiers will be bound by explicit orders not to give them anything, so as not to encourage refugees to head our way. And if the refugees insist on sitting at the fence and begging and pleading, the soldiers will be authorized to use tear gas to make them understand the hint, go away from our borders and disappear into the depths of the desert. And if, as happened a few weeks ago, pertinent Human Rights activists from Tel Aviv would try to approach and bring food and water to refugees, the army would rush to declare the border area a Closed Military Zone. Not only in the Occupied Territories can this be done - also in the sovereign territory of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.

Two days after the dramatic announcement of early elections, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu chose to open his elections campaign at that very spot, on the Egyptian border. Not for him such outdated methods as facing the voters directly at a rally in the heart of a city. Our Prime Minister was photographed against the background of soldiers and senior officers and bulldozers busily at work completing the construction of the fence, and then he spoke out: "We are firm and determined to defend our borders at sea, on land and in the air. I think what is going on here is an exceptional project, a systematic security-engineering enterprise to which people from all over the world come to learn from. Remember the demonstrations against the infiltrators which took place in Tel Aviv, the feeling that we were losing our country, that there was the danger of a fatal blow to the national level of our Jewish-democratic state. So, we stopped it, we stopped the infiltration. Few of them manage to get in at all, and there will be less and less of these. And those who do get in no longer get to Tel Aviv, They are going straight to Saharonim Detention Center. This, too, was built by us."

Strangely enough, at the Hatikva slums in south Tel Aviv - right where a few months ago thugs were rioting and assaulting anyone whose skin was black - this piece of wonderful news sent by the PM from the southern border failed to get a really enthusiastic response. On precisely the evening of the same day, Hatikva was one of the focal points where the social protest movement - already several times declared dead - once again rose from the ashes. From the Hatikva Park at the neighborhood's center, residents embarked on the "Citizen Dignity March" through the city streets.

"This week we have been thrown into an elections campaign. These are the first elections since the Social Protest wave of the summer of 2011. What will it include? Promises, cliches, and a lot of illusions" stated the protesters' manifesto. "They will try to scare us about Iran, about a new Intifada, about the economic fate of Greece or Spain. But our situation is now worse than it was last year. The poverty index has gone up, the prices of fuel, vegetables, dairy products have gone up by dozens of percentage points, and so did the general cost of living.

Today our country is a place where a working person is held in deep contempt and is dismissed lightly. Today our country is a place where expensive gifts are given to the most rich, and to them only. We are citizens of the middle class, as well as of the class of citizens who were deliberately weakened and impoverished. We are those who set up protest tent camps and who were accused of 'not being nice'. We urge you to join us for a demonstration, which would start the citizens' public campaign in these elections.

We will examine what each party had promised and what it actually delivered since the last elections. We will examine how all Knesset Members voted on socio-economic issues, on housing, employment, minimum wages, and the like. We, all of us together, will remind the officials that elections day is the Voter's Day.

Some other things have also happened in our enlightened country, on the very same day that the Prime Minister delivered his speech at the border, and not even that far away from there. Very large police forces arrived at the Bedouin village of Bir Hadaj, including the Yasam Special Riot Police, and with helicopters escorting them in the sky. Their objective: to attach a demolition order on a building which was declared illegal, and make clear to the residents of Bir Hadaj that the government of Israel will not flinch from using all the means at its disposal to implement this demolition order. Indeed, the government made use of quite a few means: police hurled stun grenades and tear gas canisters and fired rubber bullets into the houses. Residents suffered from smoke inhalation and the effects of tear gas, including children whose school was also targeted. Many were taken into custody, many others hospitalized.

Bir Hadaj, unlike many other Bedouin villages, is a "recognized village" and the government does not dispute its very existence. But in practice the difference between it and the "unrecognized villages" is not all that great. Bir Hadaj has no approved zoning plan, and it is completely unknown if and when it would have one. Therefore, it is in practice impossible to build legally there. There is no authority to which one can apply to obtain a permit, all construction by the residents is illegal by definition. Many thousands of pending demolition orders are hanging over this and the other Bedouin villages, and in the past year over two hundred of them were implemented.

A notice on the website of the Israel Lands Administration talks about "Concentrated Enforcement Operations, in the course of which hundreds of police, inspectors and contractors converge on a single spot and give prominent visibility to the Rule of Law.” Such actions are said to "bring impressive results." Impressive indeed.

The residents of the Bedouin villages are Israeli citizens. They vote in elections, and some of them even serve voluntarily in the Israel Defense Forces, even though the draft does not apply to them. In a normal democratic country, a sector numbering a significant part of the citizen body would attract the attention of politicians who would try to address their problems in order to get their votes. But in the State of Israel, which builds high walls in order to preserve "The national level of the Jewish-democratic state," what happened in Bir Hadaj did not receive media attention and would not feature in the coming elections campaign. At most, it will get the attention what is defined as "The Arab Parties" which are anyway considered extremist and ineligible to take part in negotiations to form a new government coalition after the elections.

And if this is how people are treated who are citizens of Israel and vote in Israel's Knesset, what can expect those who are not Israeli citizens and who live during the past fourty-five years under the occupation rule of Israel's army? The same week on which the Prime Minister declared early elections in Israel marked also the start of the olive harvest season in the Occupied Palestinian Territories - a time of the year always prone to trouble, and especially so this year.

In less than a week, "B'Tselem" documented at least five cases of harassment of olive harvesters and/or destruction of olive groves, "arousing the suspicion that the security forces did not take proper care to protect Palestinians and their property from settler violence." Thus, villagers from Beitillu, coming to harvest their olive groves, were attacked by ten masked settlers who came from an outpost near the settlement of Nahliel. The settlers also set fire to the trees. When a violent clash erupted, soldiers arrived - and... expelled the Palestinian farmers from the area.

And in al-Janiya west of Ramallah, 25 olive trees were vandalized, belonging to the Abu Faha'ida Family. Ironically, the settler outpost established very near is called "Za'it Ra'anan" which means "Flourishing Olive Tree."

And when villagers from Fara'ata and Immatain came to harvest, they discovered that persons unknown had already harvested 220 trees and stolen the crops, in the process breaking branches and damaging trees. And who were these unkowns? The Gilad Farm outpost is located nearby, and its residents have a long proven record of acts of this kind.

And residents of Qaryut found that more than eighty trees, owned by ten different families, were destroyed in the previous night. The land is located south west of the village, about two kilometers from the settlement of Eli. (The truth is that almost every Palestinian village is close to one settlement or another...) And so on and so on, one more case and yet another one, all recorded and photographed and documented. And then what?

It is possible to record and publicize every case, and publicize the information in the country and worldwide. Israelis can accompany the Palestinians whose orchards were damaged to the police stations, which are the only place where a complaint can be lodged and to which Palestinians are denied entry for security reasons. Formal complaints can be submitted to the military authorities, emphasizing that under International Law they are obliged to protect the Palestinians living under occupation, make it possible for them to safely harvest their olives, the sole source of income for many, and prevent settlers from harming them. (Insisting upon filing a complaint after complaint, without hoping too much for results... ) In particular volunteers can and should be recruited, as many Israelis as possible to as many villages as possible, whose presence would make it difficult for settlers to attack and for soldiers to ignore these attacks.

But it would be very difficult to put this issue on the agenda of the elections campaign opening this week in Israel.

Already for some years most of the politicians in Israel - and with them, in fact, most of the people - decided to sweep the Palestinians under the carpet. Not to deal with them, not to talk seriously with them or about them. Not to talk about forty-five years of occupation over millions of people, nor on repression and violations of Human Rights, nor of settlements growing and expanding. It is generally agreed that we have no partner, and since there is no partner the Palestinians themselves are to blame for everything that happens to them. So, one can forget about the Palestinians until the partner arrives (or the Messiah - whichever comes first).

At a discussion on TV First Channel prime time, the well known commentator Ari Shavit astonished his colleagues, predicting that dramatic events in the coming months will force politicians from all parties to end their silence and prominently address the Palestinian issue, already in this elections.

(c) 2012 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

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Obama's New Debate Strategy
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON - With his polite and well-mannered performance widely panned in the first Presidential debate, President Barack Obama is under mounting pressure to prove that he can act like an asshole in the second debate tomorrow night, a campaign aide confirmed.

"In America, we demand that our President remain cool and calm in a crisis but go batshit in a debate," the aide said. "Tuesday night is all about that second piece."

Rather than unspooling a laundry list of facts and numbers as he did in the first debate, this time Mr. Obama will focus on tearing Mr. Romney a new one.

Unfortunately, the aide acknowledged, such classic dick moves as dismissively interrupting an opponent and laughing over his answers do not come naturally to Mr. Obama: "That's why we're having Joe Biden work with him."

But even as Mr. Obama worked around the clock to practice being a douche, Mitt Romney's campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, doubted his efforts would succeed.

"Being an asshole isn't a skill that you can just pick up overnight," Mr. Rhoades said. "Mitt Romney's been working on it all his life."
(c) 2012 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 42 (c) 10/19/2012

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