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In This Edition

Ray McGovern concludes, Plus ca change: Iraq Done; On to Iran!

Uri Avnery follows, "Everybody's Son."

Phil Rockstroh chants, "We Shall Not Be Moved."

Randall Amster takes a, "Mic Check."

Jim Hightower with, "'We The People,' Not We The Corporations."

Helen Thomas explains, "King's Lesson For Obama."

James Donahue exclaims, "Halloween Horror - Seventh Billionth Human Arriving!"

Tom Engelhardt asks, "Who Is Demonizing The Rich?"

David Swanson from the trenches, "U.S. Army Assaults Its Biggest Fan."

Joel S. Hirschhorn examines why, "Numbers Justify Occupy Movement."

Paul Krugman sings, "The Hole In Europe's Bucket."

Chris Floyd says Obama is having, "Withdrawal Symptoms."

William Rivers Pitt has, "A Moment Of Pure Astonishment, Again."

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols wonders, "Why is George Bush Wading Into Denver's Education Debate On The Eve Of Critical School Board Elections?"

Sam Harris considers, "The Mystery Of Consciousness II."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Congress Takes Group Of Schoolchildren Hostage" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Phase One Begins."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Ken Catalino, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea.Com, Ted Rall, R.S. Janes, I Can Has Cheeze Burger.Com, H.Koppdelaney, Occupy Amsterdam, The Onion, The San Francisco Gate.Com, The Washington Post, 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."

Phase One Begins
By Ernest Stewart

"We have ways of making you cooperate!"
Hogan's Heroes ~~~ Major Wolfgang Hochstetter

"We recently learned of World of Opera host Lisa Simeone's participation in an Occupy DC group. World of Opera is produced by WDAV, a music and arts station based in Davidson, North Carolina. The program is distributed by NPR. Lisa is not an employee of NPR or of WDAV; she is a freelancer with the station. We're in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously." ~~~ Anna Christopher ~ NPR spokes-weasel

"I commend Chief Jordan for a generally peaceful resolution to a situation that deteriorated and concerned our community. His leadership was critical in the successful execution of this operation. City Administrator Deanna Santana developed the plan and secured mutual aid from other departments and the State of California. She will direct departmental teams, including safety, public works, communications, to restore conditions at the Plaza so that it is available for public use." ~~~ Oakland Mayor Jean Quan

"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live." ~~~ George Bernard Shaw

I see that their puppet masters have pulled their puppet strings and Mayors from coast to coast are now doing their little puppet dance. From Boston to New York to Chicago to Atlanta to Oakland, they are all beginning to commit treason by arresting protestors who are legally, peacefully protesting, as is their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to do so. Funny how they all happen to be Demoncrats, you know the peoples' party? Peoples' party my ass! From Thomas Menino to Jean Quan, you'll hear speeches how they all adore the Constitution and free speech and would never do anything against it, but it is for the protestors own good that we'll send out our Jack Booted Thugs to gas you, club you, and beat some sense into you. Believe us; it's for your own good and the public's safety, after all.

I'm guessing that they're really doing all this for their 30 pieces of silver and to keep America under their thumb now that it's becoming obvious to even the dumbest sheeple that something is very wrong and it keeps on getting worse, no matter which party is in charge. As Janis sang, "When you got nothin', you got nothin' to lose!" And that's what it's coming down to. Ask the kids in the park how the American Dream is working out for them!

This is just "Phase One" of their plans. (To see what's in store under Phase Two, please visit the magazine's "Happy Camps" section for an in-depth explanation.) They have a lot of systems to test before they go any further in suppressing us. Sound and heat weapons that have only been used overseas on brown-skinned people will be turned on frantic, jobless college graduates and white trailer trash alike. What's going on under Chicago's mayor and Israeli 5th columnist Rahm Emanuel against the Occupy Chicago movement will soon be backed up with some tried-and-true techniques from Gaza and the West Bank! In NYC, J.P. Morgan gave the boys in blue a $4.6 million dollar bribe, er, gift, for the pad, oops, no, it was for the pad, and nothing was done or even said about this in-your-face bribe. Oh, that's right, corporations are people, too, and I'd be free to give a similar bribe to the NYCPD -- except I don't exactly have $4.6 million dollars in my bank account; hell, I don't even have a bank account anymore!

Of course, as a vet during the Vietnam War and an SDS member who took on Chicago's finest at the 1968 Democratic Convention, I have some experience with Mayor Daley's Wehrmacht, so I know of what I speak. But, hey, keeping the people from their rights on the end of a bayonet and sometimes with the bayonet thrust deep inside their bodies is a centuries-old tradition in this country. On many occasions has some great captain of industry used his private army, and as likely as not the US Army, to shoot and stab the legal peaceful protesters until they saw the light, often at the end of a very long, dark tunnel!

So, as in my youth, the America of this age hasn't changed that much; we use our military to keep the people in line, while we rob them whether here at home or overseas. With all those NG troops heading back home, not to mention the regular army, they're sure to swell the ranks of the Northern Command when it's time to go to Phase Two. My guess would be right after the election in 2012, perhaps, late December?

In Other News

You have by now no doubt heard of Lisa Simeone and NPR's fascist maneuverings once they found out that Lisa had dared to use her 1st amendment rights to protest the 1% domination. Although Lisa didn't work for NPR, nor was she in any way connected to the news; NPR went way out of their way to get her fired from her job hosting Operas. Lisa had the gall to serve eggs to Occupy Washington protesters and make a few comments about the movement. Indeed, how dare she! Soundprint after being put in its place by NPR fired her from the show, but not really, as the show was owned by TV station WDAV that wouldn't fire Lisa. When questioned about this, Soundprint said:

"Soundprint and Lisa Simeone have ended their work together after fifteen years. Soundprint is a journalistic program and Lisa's leadership role as a member of the steering committee and a spokesperson for the October 2011 protest activities, associated with the Occupy DC movement, conflicts with her role as the host of a documentary series. Soundprint adheres to the highest standards of journalism, which include maintaining appropriate distance from marches, demonstrations and other political activity. These are standards held by many other journalism organizations, including National Public Radio.

Lisa has been a dynamic and engaging host for Soundprint, and we wish her well for the future."

I, of course, replied:

So using one's constitution rights is against your ethic rules, huh? What kind of Neo-Nazi group of fascist traitors is soundprint? I bet if we scratch the surface, we find a Koch brother pulling puppet strings!

Here's a NPR private memo:

From:NPR Communications
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 6:12 PM
Subject: From Dana Rehm: Communications Alert

To: All Staff
Fr: Dana Davis Rehm
Re: Communications Alert

We recently learned of World of Opera host Lisa Simeone's participation in an Occupy DC group. World of Opera is produced by WDAV, a music and arts station based in Davidson, North Carolina. The program is distributed by NPR. Lisa is not an employee of WDAV or NPR; she is a freelancer with the station.

We're in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We, of course, take this issue very seriously.

As a reminder, all public comment (including social media) on this matter is being managed by NPR Communications.

All media requests should be routed through NPR Communications at 202.513.2300 or We will keep you updated as needed. Thanks.

Well, of course, I did!

I see one can get fired for daring to use one's basic constitution rights; for example, the first amendment by NPR. The once-great NPR, who years ago turn its back on the people for corpo-rat bribe money, put on the Jack Boots and armband and goose-stepped along to become a dancing puppet for the Wall Street Banksters; so I'm not really surprised that you came down on the side of the elite traitors, not surprised at all! Funny how Lisa has no rights, but NPR reporters like Mara Liaason who reports for you, but also reports for Fox spews, or Scott Simon or Cokie Roberts. Is it because they're corpo-rat goons but Lisa isn't?

However, I did particularly like Anna Christopher Bross's little song and dance; in fact, I'm still laughing over her pathetic spin job. You really need to hire a better spinner than Anna! I see your Rethuglican pals are trying to defund you, good for them! We need a new public radio that is for the Constitution and the people, and not just a corpo-rat mouth piece like you've become! All things considered, NPR Sucks! I'd join the new viral boycott NPR movement, but I quit listening when you turned the logo around and started facing your masters on the far right! By a strange coincidence, that was when I stopped sending those $500 checks to All Things Considered; funny thing that, huh? LONG LIVE THE OCCUPY PROTESTS! And hooray for Lisa Simeone, a great patriot and our hero! And Boo to the dastardly villain NPR! Oh, and thanks for giving me something to write about in next week's editorial!

Issues & Alibis friend and author David Swanson said this:

Clearly, Soundprint deserves its full share of condemnation in all of this, and WDAV merits strong support. WDAV will be distributing "World of Opera" on its own and should have our backing. But NPR has lowered itself to the bottom rung of our communications system. Mara Liaason can opinionate on Fox News, while providing an objective god's-eye view on NPR. Scott Simon can publish opinion columns in corporate newspapers while reporting the facts. Cokie Roberts can take corporate speaking fees that could cover most people's mortgages without being perceived as in any way tarnished. But Lisa Simeone cannot introduce operas while having taken the unforgivable step of supporting a nonviolent movement on behalf of the lower 99% of us. Despicable.

Now, unable to get Simeone fired, a decision which NPR would have carefully blamed entirely on WDAV, our public radio thugs have taken the only approach left to them if people who condescend to supporting the political efforts of the poor are to be kept out of public sight: NPR has dropped the program.

Here's what Lisa wrote wrote to the Baltimore Sun, saying that she didn't understand what the fuss was all about:

I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen -- the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly -- on my own time in my own life.

I'm not an NPR employee. I'm a freelancer. NPR doesn't pay me. I'm also not a news reporter. I don't cover politics. I've never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I've done for NPR World of Opera. What is NPR afraid I'll do -- insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?

This sudden concern with my political activities is also surprising in light of the fact that Mara Liaason reports on politics for NPR, yet appears as a commentator on Fox TV; Scott Simon hosts an NPR news show, yet writes political op-eds for national newspapers; Cokie Roberts reports on politics for NPR, yet accepts large speaking fees from businesses. Does NPR also send out "Communications Alerts" about their activities?

So defunding NPR with taxpayer dollars would be a bad thing because?

And Finally

I see where the elite have shut down, at least temporarily, the Occupy Oakland protest. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan unleashed the Oakland Gestapo in the dead of night with shotguns at the ready to rid the peoples' square of the people at the bequest of her corpo-rat handlers, and the camp at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza was attacked, secured, and trashed by a large formation of Jack Booted thugs.

I don't know why I bother to mention that I sent Jean a letter; but I did! You knew that, didn't you?:

"..."the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Does that ring any bells, Jean? I guess not, or you wouldn't have released the Oakland Gestapo on the US citizens doing their patriotic civic duty. Yes, I know you were only following ze orders Jean! Your corpo-rat puppet master pulled your strings, and so you violated human rights. I wonder how that will work out come election day? I'm guessing that the fix is already in, eh, Jean? Just a couple questions for my readers, Jean: why haven't you fallen on your sword yet as an honorable person would have done by now? And how do you look yourself in the mirror in the morning without cutting your throat?

While I think your politics are a crime, I must admit those shiny new Jack Boots and that armband you're wearing are something to behold! Can I get an Victory Hail, Jean? Oh, and thanks for helping to write this week's editorial!

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

In the unlikelihood that I get a reply from Jean or one of her spokes-weasels, I'll print it right here!

Keepin' On

We'd like to thank Mr. Mike from Detroit, (No, not that Mr. Mike, he's dead!) for sending in a "nice check." Thanks Mike, we'll put it to good use! Unfortunately, it still leaves us short of paying off this year's bills, so I'm bound to go on pleading for alms, instead of giving Ya'll a break until the first of the year; C'est la guerre! I warned ya, didn't I?

We're at the 98% level of breaking even, and with your help, we might end the year with a slight surplus to pay for those unknown factors to come. There is never a charge for what we do; our readership and three sponsors pay all our bills which, thankfully, are pitifully small!

So, to see me talk about something interesting for the months of November and December, step on up and put some ducats in the bucket, and together we'll rock on through the nightmare that has become America.


08-07-1929 ~ 10-20-2011
Thanks for the film.

05-16-1925 ~ 10-22-2011
Thanks for the news.

11-03-1939 ~ 10-25-2011
Thanks for trying!


We get by with a little help from our friends!
So please help us if you can...?


So how do you like Bush Lite so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2011 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 10 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Plus ca change: Iraq Done; On To Iran!
By Ray McGovern

One not-so-funny fact about Washington is that nearly all the news media stars who fell for neoconservative falsehoods about Iraq are still around to fall for new ones on Iran, even some like Richard Cohen who briefly regretted his earlier gullibility.

Paul R. Pillar, my former colleague in the CIA's analytical division, has raised a warning flag, cautioning that the same imaginative neocon composers who came up with the various refrains on why we needed to attack Iraq are now providing similar background music for a strike on Iran.

He is right. And as one of my Russian professors used to say, "This is nothing to laugh!"

Pillar's piece - dissecting an op-ed by the Washington Post's Richard Cohen about the alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington - first appeared on The National Interest Web site. On Oct. 21, it was posted at under the title "Sloppy Iran Think by WPost's Cohen."

The Cohen column that Pillar critiques is entitled "The alarm bells behind Iran's alleged assassination plot." Yet Cohen's "alarm bells" ringing now about Iran brought a painful reminder of all the alarms he and his colleagues sounded in cheerleading for the attack on Iraq in 2002 and 2003.

[NEO-CONNED -- Richard Cohen of the Washington Post] NEO-CONNED -- Richard Cohen of the Washington PostCohen was one of the many big-name opinion leaders to put on the pompoms after Secretary of State Colin Powell gave his deceptive Iraq War speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003. Joining a cheerleading pyramid of pro-war consensus, Cohen mocked anyone who still doubted that Saddam Hussein possessed hidden WMD stockpiles.

"The evidence he [Powell] presented to the United Nations - some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail - had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them," Cohen wrote. "Only a fool - or possibly a Frenchman - could conclude otherwise."

However, six weeks after the Iraq invasion, with not one WMD stockpile discovered, Cohen's conscience may have begun to trouble him a bit. To his credit, I suppose, Cohen seems to have been embarrassed enough to fess up, sort of, using the device of an apocryphal conversation with his long-dead grandfather.

In an April 29, 2003, column entitled "Baghdad Bait and Switch," Cohen recounted a middle-of-the-night visit by Grandpa, who is not at all pleased with his grandson's credulity about President George W. Bush's case for war.

"You think maybe you got snookered?" Grandpa asks. "For this your mother sent you to college? ... For this you fight a war?

"I read the column where you said that ['Saddam Hussein was like another Hitler']. All my friends said, 'This is your grandson, the hotshot columnist? This is the guy people read so they should know what to think?'

"Hitler? Hitler was a threat to the world. Saddam threatened only his own people. He fought for only 26 days. I had longer fights with your grandmother. ...

"First you wanted a war because of terrorism, then because Iraq had a nuclear program. Then you wanted a war because he has poison gas and little crawling things you can't see. Now you want to bring democracy to the Middle East.

"You know what we used to call this when I was in retail? Bait and switch. ... I hope everything turns out hunky-dory, like you've been writing. ... Otherwise, you should have been an accountant."

Cohen's column about the imaginary upbraiding he got from his grandfather ran two days before President Bush jetted onto a U.S. aircraft carrier off the coast of California and gave his memorable "Mission Accomplished" address.

Accountability, Anyone?

One might think that a columnist who got something as wrong as Cohen did would have the decency to admit that Grandpa was right and switch professions.

After all, endorsing the falsehoods that led to an aggressive war in violation of international law - an invasion that led to hundreds of thousands of dead and the squandering of $1 trillion or so - isn't exactly a minor mistake.

But Cohen apparently found safety in numbers. The fact that he was surrounded by scores of other big-name media stars who had fallen for the same "bait-and-switch" scam meant that he kept his place as a major national columnist - and soon returned to his comfortable role defending the war policies of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

For instance, in a June 19, 2007, op-ed, Cohen rallied to the defense of Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis Libby who had been sentenced to 30 months in jail for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about his role in unmasking covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

The destruction of Plame's career was collateral damage resulting from the Bush administration trying to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for criticizing Bush's use of a misleading claim about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa.

But Cohen showed no sympathy for Wilson or Plame, two patriotic citizens who had been personally targeted by Cheney and the White House. Cohen worried only about Libby.

In the column, Cohen denounced the trial as "a mountain out of a molehill." Following the neocon propaganda themes on the Plame case, Cohen concluded there was no "underlying crime" and poked fun at Americans who thought the invasion of Iraq might have been a bad idea.

"They thought - if 'thought' can be used in this context - that if the thread was pulled on who had leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to Robert D. Novak, the effort to snooker an entire nation into war would unravel and this would show . . . who knows? Something," Cohen wrote.

Smirking at Torture

Cohen also sympathized with Cheney over his enthusiasm for torturing Muslim detainees. In a May 11, 2009, column - entitled "What If Cheney's Right?" - Cohen justified "enhanced interrogation techniques," including the near-drowning tactic of waterboarding, as worthwhile in eliciting important intelligence information and thus saving American lives.

Starting the column, Cohen made light of the whole issue of torture with the quip, "Blogger Alert: I have written a column in defense of Dick Cheney."

While conceding that torture is morally wrong, Cohen wrote, "where I reserve a soupçon of doubt is over the question of whether 'enhanced interrogation techniques' actually work. That they do not is a matter of absolute conviction among those on the political left, who seem to think that the CIA tortured suspected terrorists just for the hell of it."

Cohen noted that Cheney - through his declaration that critical intelligence was extracted by these means - "poses a hard, hard question: Is it more immoral to torture than it is to fail to prevent the deaths of thousands?"

With unintended irony, the columnist regretted that Cheney's credibility on torture had been dinged by the fact that his pre-Iraq War claims had proved false, like his insisting "that 'the evidence is overwhelming' that al-Qaeda had been in high-level contact with Saddam Hussein's regime when the 'evidence' was virtually non-existent."

What Cohen left out was the very relevant point that precisely those claims of a Saddam-al-Qaeda connection resulted from a coerced confession from one of the CIA's "high-value detainees," Ibu al-Sheikh al-Libi.

A June 2002 CIA report cited claims by al-Libi that Iraq had "provided" unspecified chemical and biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Libi's information was then inserted into a November 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.

Al-Libi's false claim - which he later said he offered to escape torture - also found its way into Cheney's public presentations and into Powell's UN speech. But Cohen did not deign to mention this inconvenient fact in his column defending these harsh tactics.

On Oct. 6, 2009, Cohen was back serving the neocon cause, baiting President Barack Obama into a major military escalation in Afghanistan, through an opinion piece entitled "Does Obama Have the Backbone?" - questioning Obama's mettle as a war president.

"The war in Afghanistan is eminently more winnable than was Vietnam," Cohen wrote. "Still, the war will require more than a significant commitment of troops and, of course, money. It will take presidential leadership, a consistent staying of the course - an implacable confidence that the right choice has been made despite what can be steep costs."

So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Richard Cohen is now helping to set the stage for another war - with Iran.

Quick! Someone conjure up Cohen's grandfather again. We need him to pin back Richard's ears once more before the gullible grandson falls for a new round of neocon propaganda and enables another catastrophic war.
(c) 2011 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Everybody's Son
By Uri Avnery

THE MOST sensible - I almost wrote "the only sensible"- sentence uttered this week sprang from the lips of a 5-year old boy. After the prisoner swap, one of those smart-aleck TV reporters asked him: "Why did we release 1027 Arabs for one Israeli soldier?" He expected, of course, the usual answer: because one Israeli is worth a thousand Arabs.

The little boy replied: "Because we caught many of them and they caught only one."

FOR MORE than a week, the whole of Israel was in a state of intoxication. Gilad Shalit indeed ruled the country (Shalit means "ruler"). His pictures were plastered all over the place like those of Comrade Kim in North Korea.

It was one of those rare moments, when Israelis could be proud of themselves. Few countries, if any, would have been prepared to exchange 1027 prisoners for one. In most places, including the USA, it would have been politically impossible for a leader to make such a decision.

In a way it is a continuation of the Jewish ghetto tradition. The "Redemption of Prisoners" is a sacred religious duty, born of the circumstances of a persecuted and scattered community. If a Jew from Marseilles was captured by Muslim corsairs to be sold on the market of Alexandria, it was the duty of Jews in Cairo to pay the ransom and "redeem" him.

As the ancient saying goes: "All Israel are guarantors for each other."

Israelis could (and did) look in the mirror and say "aren't we wonderful?"

IMMEDIATELY AFTER the Oslo agreement, Gush Shalom, the peace movement to which I belong, proposed releasing all Palestinian prisoners at once. They are prisoners-of-war, we said, and when the fighting ends, PoWs are sent home. This would transmit a powerful human message of peace to every Palestinian town and village. We organized a joint demonstration with the late Jerusalemite Arab leader, Feisal Husseini, in front of Jeneid prison near Nablus. More than ten thousand Palestinians and Israelis took part.

But Israel has never recognized these Palestinians as prisoners-of-war. They are considered common criminals, only worse.

This week, the released prisoners were never referred to as "Palestinian fighters", or "militants"' or just "Palestinians". Every single newspaper and TV program, from the elitist Haaretz to the most primitive tabloid, referred to them exclusively as "murderers", or, for good measure, "vile murderers".

One of the worst tyrannies on earth is the tyranny of words. Once a word becomes entrenched, it directs thought and action. As the Bible has it: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). Releasing a thousand enemy fighters is one thing, releasing a thousand vile murderers is something else.

Some of these prisoners have assisted suicide bombers in killing a lot of people. Some have committed really atrocious acts - like the pretty young Palestinian woman who used the internet to lure a love-sick Israeli boy of 15 into a trap, where he was riddled with bullets. But others were sentenced to life for belonging to an "illegal organization"and possessing arms, or for throwing an ineffectual home made bomb at a bus hurting nobody.

Almost all of them were convicted by military courts. As has been said, military courts have the same relation to real courts as military music does to real music.

All of these prisoners, in Israeli parlance, have "blood on their hands." But which of us Israelis has no blood on his hands? Sure, a young woman soldier remotely controlling a drone that kills a Palestinian suspect and his entire family has no sticky blood on her hands. Neither has a pilot who drops a bomb on a residential neighborhood and feels only "a slight bump on the wing", as a former Chief of Staff put it. (A Palestinian once told me: "Give me a tank or a fighter plane, and I shall give up terrorism immediately.")

The main argument against the swap was that, according to Security Service statistics, 15% of prisoners thus released become active "terrorists"again. Perhaps. But the majority of them become active supporters of peace. Practically all of my Palestinian friends are former prisoners, some of whom were behind bars for 12 years and more. They learned Hebrew in prison, became acquainted with Israeli life by watching television and even began to admire some aspects of Israel, such as our parliamentary democracy. Most prisoners just want to go home, settle down and found a family.

But during the endless hours of waiting for Gilad's return, all our TV stations showed scenes of the killings in which the prisoners-to-be-released had been involved, such as the young woman who drove a bomber to his destination. It was a continuous tirade of hatred. Our warm admiration for our own virtue was mingled with the chilling feeling that we are again the victims, compelled to release vile murderers who are going to try and kill us again.

Yet all these prisoners fervently believed that they had served their people in its struggle for liberation. Like the famous song: "Shoot me as an Irish soldier / Do not hang me like a dog / For I fought for Ireland's freedom...." Nelson Mandela, it should be remembered, was an active terrorist who languished in prison for 28 years because he refused to sign a statement condemning terrorism.

Israelis (probably like most peoples) are quite unable to put themselves into the shoes of their adversaries. This makes it practically impossible to pursue an intelligent policy, particularly on this issue.

HOW WAS Binyamin Netanyahu brought to bend?

The hero of the campaign is Noam Shalit, the father. An introverted person, withdrawn and shy of publicity, he came out and fought for his son every single day during these five years and four months. So did the mother. They literally saved his life. They succeeded in raising a mass movement without precedent in the annals of the state.

It helped that Gilad looks like everybody's son. He is a shy young man with an engaging smile that could be seen on each of the stills and videos from before the capture. He was youngish looking, thin and unassuming. Five years later, this week, he still looked the same, only very pale.

If our intelligence services had been able to locate him, they would have undoubtedly tried to liberate him by force. This could well have been his death sentence, as happened so often in the past. The fact that they could not find him, despite their hundreds of agents in the Gaza Strip, is a remarkable achievement for Hamas. It explains why he was kept in strict isolation and was not allowed to meet anyone.

Israelis were relieved to discover, on his release, that he seemed to be in good condition, healthy and alert. From the few sentences he voiced on his way in Egypt, he had been provided with radio and TV and knew about his parents' efforts.

From the moment he set foot on Israeli soil, almost nothing about the way he was treated was allowed to come out. Where was he kept? How was the food? Did his captors talk with him? What did he think about them? Did he learn Arabic? Up to now, not a word about that, probably because it might throw some positive light on Hamas. He will certainly be thoroughly briefed before being allowed to speak.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS repeatedly asked me this week whether the deal had opened the way to a new peace process. As far as the public mood is concerned, the very opposite is true. The same journalists asked me if Binyamin Netanyahu had not been disturbed by the fact that the swap was bound to strengthen Hamas and deal a grievous blow to Mahmoud Abbas. They were flabbergasted by my answer: that this was one of its main purposes, if not the main one.

The master stroke was a stroke against Abbas.

Abbas' moves in the UN have profoundly disturbed our right-wing government. Even if the only practical outcome is a resolution of the General Assembly to recognize the State of Palestine as an observer state, it will be a major step towards a real Palestinian state.

This government, like all our governments since the foundation of Israel - only more so - is dead set against Palestinian statehood. It would put an end to the dream of a Greater Israel up to the Jordan River, compel us to give back a great chunk of the Land-God-Promised-Us and evacuate scores of settlements.

For Netanyahu and Co. this is the real danger. Hamas poses no danger at all. What can they do? Launch a few rockets, kill a few people - so what? In no year has "terrorism" killed as many as half the people dying on our roads. Israel can deal with that. The Hamas regime would probably not be running the Gaza Strip in the first place if Israel had not cut the Strip off from the West Bank, contrary to its solemn undertaking in Oslo to create four safe passages. None was ever opened.

That, by the way, also explains the timing. Why did Netanyahu agree now to something he has violently opposed all his life? Because Abbas, the featherless chicken, has suddenly turned into an eagle.

On the day of the swap, Abbas made a speech. It sounded rather flat. For the average Palestinian, the case was quite simple: Abbas, with all his Israeli and American friends, has got no one released for years. Hamas, using force, has released more than a thousand, including Fatah members. Ergo: "Israel understands only the language of force."

THE VAST majority of Israelis supported the deal, though convinced that the vile murderers will try again to kill us.

Never were the lines of division as clear as this time: some 25% opposed it. These included all the extreme right-wing, all the settlers and almost all the national-religious. All the others - the huge camp of the center and left, the secular, liberal and moderate religious - supported it.

This is the Israeli mainstream on which the hopes for the future are resting. If Netanyahu had proposed a peace agreement with the Palestinians this week, and if he had been supported by the chiefs of the army, the Mossad and the Security Service (as he was this week), the same majority would have supported him.

As for the prisoners - another 4000 are still held in Israeli prisons, and this number is liable to grow again. The opponents of the deal are quite right in saying that it will provide Palestinian organizations with a strong incentive to renew their efforts to capture Israeli soldiers in order to get more prisoners released.

If all of Israel is drunk with emotion because one boy has been returned to his family - what about 4000 families on the other side? Unfortunately, ordinary Israelis don't put the question this way. They have got used to seeing the Palestinian prisoners only as bargaining chips.

How to thwart the efforts to capture more soldiers? There is only one alternative: to open a credible way to have them released by agreement.

Such as by peace, if you can excuse the expression.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

We Shall Not Be Moved
Police repression, official mendacity and why OWS has already overcome
By Phil Rockstroh

Until recent events proved otherwise, the hyper-commercialized surface of the corporate state gave the appearance of being too diffuse--too devoid of a center to pose a threat of totalitarian excess. Accordingly, as of late, due to the violent response to OWS protesters by local police departments in Oakland, Atlanta, Chicago, and in other U.S. cities, the repressive nature of the faux republic is beginning to be revealed.

Behind the bland face of the political establishment (purchased by the bloated profits of the plundering class) are riot cops, outfitted and armed with the accoutrements of oppression, who are ready and willing to enforce the dictates of the elitist beneficiaries of the degraded status quo. In deed and action, as of late, the police state embedded within neo-liberal economic oligarchy is showing its hyper-authoritarian proclivities to the world.

In general, existence within the present societal structure inflicts on the individual a sense of atomization and its concomitant feelings of alienation, vague unease, free floating anxiety and anomie. The coercion is implicit and internalized.

Because of its mundane, ubiquitous nature, the system is reliant on an individual's sense of isolation (even ignorance of the existence of the structure itself) to remain in place. In short, the exploitive system continues to exist because its denizens are bereft of other models of comparison.

The public commons inherent in the OWS movement provides a model of comparison. Apropos, that is why we are beginning to receive reports such as the following:

On Tuesday Oct. 25, 2011, the Oakland Tribune reported that police raided and demolished the local OWS encampment after declaring the area a “crime scene”. This is revelatory regarding the character of the enforcers of the present order: Those in positions of power within a police state view freedom of assembly and freedom of expression as a punishable offense.

It is a given that: Authoritarian personality types take particular umbrage when citizens are expressing their displeasure with official abuses of power and begin to do so in an effective manner.

Too many in the U.S. have bought the fiction that the nation was, is and will remain a democratic republic. Therefore, by drawing its brutal operatives and mendacious apologist into the open, the state will reveal itself in all its ugliness. As a result, all concerned will be able to observe the true nature of the police/national security/oligarchic state in place in the U.S.

Ideally, few illusions will remain intact regarding the ruthless, brutal forces against which we struggle.

Moreover, the actions of the police in regard to public protest are premeditated tactics aimed at the suppression of the right to public assembly. The goal of the power brokers, their political operatives and police enforcers is to render one's (allegedly) constitutionally guaranteed right to dissent too prohibitive to be practiced. 

The economically dispossessed and members of minority communities have known for many years what OWSers are suffering, presently, at the hands of official power and its enforcers. 

In turn, individual police officers are well aware of whom they are sworn to protect (and it isn't those who desire to exercise their rights to free assembly and free speech). In most cases, if an individual police officer ever refused an order to make an unconstitutional arrest, he/she would be committing an act of careercide; their chance of advancement within the department would have to be scraped off the sidewalk on the spot and transported to the city morgue.

Are you willing to leave the confines of your comfort zone and go to jail for justice?

Rarely, does reform arrive without the arrest of frontline agitators. Power does not yield without a fight, without attempting to silence dissent by brutality and forced detention. The powerful demand that those of us who notice their excesses and crimes be placed out of sight and out of mind.

Hence, in Oakland, the local corporate news affiliates, to their shame, turned off their cameras when the violent attacks and mass arrest of protesters began.

Are you willing to risk injury to body and reputation to bear witness? The survival of the OWS movement depends on having bodies on the ground and eyes (as well as cameras) on the thugs in uniform.

True to form, a servile corporate media will proclaim how unsightly dissenters are, inferring that sensible folk, simply as a matter of good taste and public propriety should disregard the protesters’ entreaties and that these malcontents and cranks should be denied entrance into the realm of legitimate discourse, that these disheveled interlopers be barred by walls of silence.

To be in the world is to be confronted with walls. How we respond to these barriers is called character and art.

Many brave souls have confronted walls such as these.

Often, as I gaze upon the blue wall of mindless repression surrounding Zuccotti Park and reflect on other OWS sites nationwide, I am induced to feel the sadness and longing of the repressed souls of the earth, of those throughout time who have met walls of blind hatred, of economic exploitation, of institutional repression....

I empathize with all of those who faced walls of smug indifference, walls of internalized shame and walls of official lies--those who stood powerless before the stark reality of seemingly implacable circumstances. I reflect upon the lives and work of itinerate blues musicians of the U.S. Deep South and the manner they met walls of both official repression and collective blind, ignorant fear and hatred, and how they transformed those prison walls into the numinous architecture of The Blues...How they alchemicalized the barriers into guitar technique.

Musical instruments, like word meeting meter to a poet, serve as both barrier and salvation; the limits of the self are tested, explored, and by effort, failure and moments of elation are transformed by confrontation and union with the instrument, personal circumstance and audience.

As is the case with those on the front lines of OWS encampments, millions of people throughout history have met seemingly implacable barriers in the form of walls of human brutality e.g., Jim Crow laws, union busting management goon squads, the Zionist apartheid wall, various secret police and public bullies--but they weren't going to let the bastards "turn them 'round..."

If you choose to resist entrenched power, when confronted by mindless authority, your heart will know the drill; it will guide you--its natural trajectory is towards freedom. Hence, you will know what to do when the moment arrives--and will gain the knowledge that your predecessors discovered in their struggle for justice...that the cry arose forth from deep in their souls, "We shall not be moved."

The practitioners of the Delta Blues came upon walls of oppression...walls of raging hatred, and responded by passing through those inhabit a landscape more alive, more resonant, more ensouled than their oppressors will ever know possible. They occupied their own hearts and draw us still into the immediacy of the world by their victory over their degraded circumstances by their appropriating the very barriers that were placed in their path by their oppressors and transforming the criteria of their oppression into the living architecture of the soul.

Those who know this--have already won...have already overcome.

Lorca limned the situation (one extant as well in the enfolding OWS movement) in his theory of "the duende". His concept of the duende reveals why people, when faced by the ossified order of an inhuman system, either become caught up--even compelled--by the challenge to begin to make the world anew--while others are seized with mortification, indifference, resignation and hostility.

In which direction does your soul wend?

"The arrival of the duende always presupposes a transformation on every plane. It produces a feeling of totally unedited freshness. It bears the quality of a newly created rose, of a miracle that produces an almost religious enthusiasm." -- from The Havana Lectures, Federico Garcia Lorca.

When I witness police harassing, arresting and brutalizing those exercising their rights to free assembly, I find myself gripped by a surge of rage...The rage rises in me in an animalistic fury--an urge to fight tooth and nail, to tear at the throats of these vicious intruders into the territory of authentic social discourse. 

As of late, instead of pushing down the fury rising from within me or acting upon it, I let it inundate my being. As a result, the coursing rage transforms into a penetrating, powerful force--enveloping and demarcating the geography of my convictions...arriving to bring acceptance and to define and defend the contours of my true self.

Rage can appear as an angel of self-definition, the protector of one's authentic nature and a source of personal power..."ain't gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me 'round ..."

One's anger is vital to one's existence; it is a valuable gift; therefore, it should not be need to waste it on fools and idiots.

When rage arrives, invite him in; his presence will fill the room with alacrity, and his surging vitality will allow you to push farther and deeper into the unexplored regions of your soul.

In contrast, the world of the neoliberal oligarchs, the duopolistic political class and of the cops has been called into question. They have grown accustomed to having their way, of having a compliant and complicit peasantry. In this they are not unique; what they are experiencing is universal: The world we know (or at least believe we do) and struggle to maintain, from time to time, is apt to reveal an aspect of itself that seems alien and unmanageable e.g., the growing dissent across the nation, perhaps too vast and potent to be kettled, penned, tear gassed, cuffed and detained. The otherness of the world seems too large...has become an army of aggrieved angels.

I once saw a Great Dane on Second Avenue attempt to engage in canine communion with his fellows. In order to display his intentions were benign, friendly, he crouched down on the sidewalk, making his massive frame as small as possible, even placing his large head on the concrete...doing all he could to produce the artifice of submission, to even the smallest dog that approached him. 

In other words, to enlarge his world he created the illusion of smallness. He did not reduce his essence; he created the artifice of smallness so he could grow larger than himself by his union with the otherness of the world.

We are not requesting that cops crouch before us. They just need not bristle so. 

To grow in each other's presence, we are required to meet the other at eye level, even if one has to descend a bit from a habitual position of power and authority.

Officers, your guns, rubber bullets, nightsticks, pepper spray--the looming wall of blue intimidation that you brandish merely creates the illusion of strength. If you truly want to grow strong, meet us on these sidewalks, sans the display of empty power.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Mic Check
Can You Hear Us, America?
By Randall Amster

We find these views to be mutually relevant...

That all people, by virtue of their basic humanity, deserve the opportunity to live, work, and associate according to the dictates of their own consciences and capacities;

that the exercise of such freedoms is only tenable in conjunction with the ability of all people to do so, in the recognition that no one is free unless everyone is free;

that people situated in place know best how to manage the conditions of their lives, and that the political autonomy and economic self-sufficiency of local communities are the primary means of ensuring the freedom of the individuals in their midst;

that individuals and communities do not exist in isolation, but are interlinked through a global network of communications and cultural exchange that enables the realization of a shared future and a common interest in effectively preserving the continued existence of humankind;

that the integrity of the whole is based on the vitality of its parts, and that the stability and productivity of social relationships is contingent upon and reflective of our collective human interactions with the balance of life around us, upon which we depend for survival;

that the fruits of the earth belong to humankind collectively, and especially to the future generations from whom we merely borrow their blessings;

that no one ought to be bound into the indentured servitude of indebtedness, which coerces people to become complicit with an alienating economy and structures of their own oppression;

that education must be free, open to all, and not merely confined to classrooms and institutions;

that intergenerational justice works in both directions, with young and old alike being equivalent teachers and learners, bringing together the lessons of the past, the challenges of the present, and opportunities for the future into an evolving tapestry of mutual engagement;

that none should be compelled to labor for another except by the inherent desires of conscience and the reciprocal benefits of being served by others through the experience of community;

that collective decisions shall only be taken with the direct participation and informed consent of all those potentially affected by them;

that people, left to their own devices, are capable of self-organizing, self-regulating, and developing mutually beneficial structures of governance and the distribution of resources;

that we live in a world of abundance rather than scarcity, with the problems of inequality being ones of maldistribution and disenfranchisement rather than of quantitative lack;

that the shared spaces of society, including the material bases of existence, cannot be owned or controlled by private interests but must remain the collective responsibility of humankind entire;

that we already possess all of the tools and technologies necessary to create a just world, and that we require only the will to reorient the purposes to which we deploy them in order to realize it;

that what we do matters, that there is meaning to our existence, that we honor ourselves and each other through service and compassion, and that our lives are bound together in a seamless web of destiny;

that our rights and freedoms are equally balanced by our responsibilities and mutual obligations;

that we seek both independence and interdependence as the necessary conditions of social existence;

that there can be no peace without justice, no future without the past, no individuality without community, no opportunity without education, no liberty without equality, and no politics without participation;

that we strive to always create more than we destroy, to produce more than we consume, to give more than we take, to laugh more than we cry, to uplift more than we denigrate, to construct more than we critique, to share more than we acquire, and to love more than we hate;

that we seek a better world not merely for ourselves, our communities, and our allies, but for all of humankind, including those who have exercised their power unjustly and unwisely;

that we acknowledge the urgency of the moment while affirming our willingness and desire to remain engaged in long-term, perhaps even unending, struggles for human dignity and environmental sustainability;

that this task cannot be passed on to others, that we are the ones it has fallen upon, that it is our generational calling, that we have the power to alter the arc of society, and that we are the ones we have been waiting for to bring peace and prosperity to the world;

that the pursuit of material wealth represents a moral and spiritual void, and that the use of manipulation and force to maintain wealth disparity is a self-defeating enterprise based on the failure to recognize the binding principle of interconnectedness in every aspect of existence;

that we can, must, and will succeed in working collaboratively to turn crises into opportunities and to move from the brink of annihilation toward a world of appreciation;

that life is meant to be lived, that we are the creators of culture and not merely its consumers, that our actions and processes are ends in themselves, and that what we do at every moment is the revolution;

that the future depends upon us to occupy place and liberate space on its behalf, and our own;

that we have nothing to lose but our chains, and literally everything to gain;

that the person standing next to you is part of you, an extension of you, a reflection of you, an ally, a colleague, a relative, and a friend;

that the earth beneath our feet creates and sustains us, and that we must do the same for it in return;

that there is one unified race, the human race, and that our inherent diversity provides the strength that will see us through the changes and challenges at hand;

that there are no nations or borders, only peoples and places;

that we need everyone's open hearts, willing hands, strong backs, and keen minds to avert calamity and ensure posterity;

that the sound of a child's laugh casts out the monotonous drone of commercialism, that the wonder in a child's eyes invokes beauty against blight, and that the hope in a child's heart is more powerful than the downward spiral of despair;

that you are important, that your dreams are real, that your needs will be met, that your burdens are shared, that your wellbeing is paramount, and that you are loved.

Affirmed by deeds, to be enacted voluntarily by the people individually and in concert as a living declaration.
(c) 2011 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

'We The People,' Not We The Corporations

In response to the Supreme Court's freakish decision in 2010 to bestow political "personhood" on corporations, I got an email from a guy named Larry, screaming that "Big money has plucked our eagle."

Yes it has – and the Powers that Be tell us that we shouldn't even try to undo this theft of our people's democratic authority, but should just try regulating corporate money, like maybe requiring then to disclose how much they're spending on campaigns. Now there's a bold stand for democracy: "Give us campaign finance reporting regulations or give us death!"

Come on, we're bigger than that. Here are just a few actions for real change that you can take, teaming up with others right where you live:

AMEND. Two major coalitions are organizing to overturn the court's corporate money edict by amending the Constitutioin. One is and the other is – and both have action kits for raising the issue locally, petitions to be circulated, video and other good graphics to educate people in your community, and a wealth of other organizing ideas.


Pass your own local and state laws to stop the wholesale corporate purchase of our government. These include outlawing any corporate claim of personhood in your area, providing the alternative of public financing for your local and state elections, and banning campaign donations by corporations that try to get government contracts and subsidies. For information and help, check our and

CONFRONT. Yes, get in the face of power. Ask all candidates where they stand on corporate personhood and demand that top executives of big corporations located in your area publicly agree not to spend corporate cash on your elections.

Remember, the Constitution plainly says "We the People," not We the Corporations.
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

King's Lesson For Obama
By Helen Thomas

The dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall was uplifting and inspiring. It wasn't because he was black, but because of what he did for all of mankind. He was a leader for justice in all things - not just for civil rights.

I watched the loving tribute and heard the call for a better society, pointing to the current problems that are being ignored by both political parties, but especially by the Republican contenders for the presidency.

President Barack Obama has compromised and caved too much, which has clouded his integrity. He is a good man who bows when he should stand firm for what is right.

Even after King won the Nobel Peace Prize, he did not rest on his laurels. King knew there was so much more to be done for the cause of justice. As much as his associates felt they had one cause, King looked at U.S. foreign policy and joined the multitudes, especially those struggling against the Vietnam War, a struggle initiated by young men and women who took up the violent struggle against the "no-win" war.

The war led to the electrifying announcement by President Lyndon B. Johnson, at the end of a speech about the Vietnam War, that he would not seek reelection. Johnson was followed by President Richard Nixon, who during his 1968 political campaign, promised to end the War. By the end of Nixon's presidency, we were still bombing the hell out of Hanoi. In the end we left Vietnam, clinging to helicopters from rooftops, fleeing the inevitable victory of the Hanoi forces. Now we are friends. This is something to contemplate, considering the great financial and human cost of war.

Many of King's followers were true believers in the civil rights movement's nonviolent wars, but felt he should have stuck to his one direct impeccable cause. King felt he lead a bigger cause.

I remember the day of the Martin Luther King march on Washington. President John F. Kennedy invited King to the White House for a reception, and Kennedy greeted him with the now-famous line, "I have a dream." King never sought, nor was elected to, high office. But his greatness is now an ideal for eternal vigilance to the ills of today.

We need a widespread revolt against the lack of jobs, the foreclosure of homes, and the prominence of greed. The Wall Street Occupiers have already started a good fight.

Obama is in a fix. He has not used his well-known oratorical skills - skills that his big moment called for - to inspire, nor has he been much of a man of action. He has disappointed many in the vast amount of his previous fans.

The Washington Post quoted Pat Harris, who danced on the grass at the Mall in a purple sweat suit to Stevie Wonder music, during the festivities for the monument. She grew up in a small town, among poverty and segregation. Speaking of Obama, Harris said, "We like him, we just wish he would fight harder."

I recall when Johnson signed the Medicare Bill in 1965, in Independence, Missouri, at former President Harry S. Truman's desk, with a smiling Truman standing by. Truman had first proposed universal health care for all. Max Frankel, the New York Times correspondent, told Johnson, "My mother thanks you."

Johnson turned to Frankel and said, "You should thank me. Many of the burdens of the elderly ill would fall on the next generation."

Andrew Young, a big contributor to the civil rights movement and former Mayor of Atlanta noted, "They changed the game on us ... we won the battle of the civil rights ... now it's economics that control the politics."

People power cannot be denied. Obama has much to live up to, especially the great expectations of a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize prematurely, and has not lived up to the hopes of the world for peace and democracy.

Time is running out, Obama, for your promise of true peace that should end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Try to show you are worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, as was King and so many before you.
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Halloween Horror - Seventh Billionth Human Arriving!
By James Donahue

It was just eleven years ago that the world marked a somewhat jaded celebration of the calculated birth of the six billionth person. That occasion, according to world census counters, occurred at two minutes past midnight on October 12, 2000.

Some newspapers published cute stories proclaiming the event a "happy" accomplishment. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave a speech at Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, to mark the occasion. What were they thinking?

Now, according to the United Nations Population Fund, the world population is expected to hit the Seven Billion mark on October 31, 2011, which ironically is the very day we celebrate the ancient Celtic holiday once known as All Hallows Eve. It is a day when pagans honored the dead.

The arrival of the seventh billion person at a time when the world is in the throes of chaos caused by overpopulation, the deletion of natural resources, lack of adequate food, water and shelter, economic collapse, mass pollution of air, land and water, and the mass extinctions of more and more species of plants and wildlife, is not good news.

Our world is already so overpopulated that we are plunging headlong into mass extinction. Yet few people seem to notice or even care. When we hit the six billion mark, Timothy Weiskel, director of Harvard University's Environmental Values and Public Policy Program, warned that the human race is rushing toward extinction at a rate faster than happened to the dinosaurs. Those creatures were around for about 150 million years.

In a story that appeared in Environmental News, Weiskel warned that the world's dwindling resources can no longer support the people who live on it. "It is the height of arrogance for humans to put themselves at the center of all creation. In the past, we've been able to move on to new land and untapped resources. But now we have run out of time and places to go."

In nature, when a species of animal overpopulates, there is always a mass die-off that keeps everything in balance. But humans, who have experienced plagues and mass deaths at certain dark moments in the past, have used science and medicine to beat the odds. Not only have we succeeded in diverting potential pandemics, but we have learned to extend our lives so that people now live longer than ever before. Consequently, our numbers continue to grow.

Statistics show that the third world poverty-stricken countries are breeding like flies. Ironically, one of the few countries in the world showing a decline in population is Italy, the heart of Catholicism, where people are ignoring the demands of the church and practicing birth control.

More and more people, especially in the developed nations, understand that having children is a costly thing to do. Large families reduce the quality of life for everyone in the circle.

The communist government of China understood the dangers of overpopulation early. In an effort to get it under control the Chinese government, where the Catholic Church has little or no influence, ruled in 1970 that families were limited to only one child. If a second child was born the family was fined and the child was prohibited from attending the better schools.

Here are the awful statistics: It took most of human history, until 1804, for the population to reach a billion. By 1960 the population hit three billion. In the last 40 years the population doubled. We produced the last billion people in just 11 years.

The world is now poised for a fierce battle over claims for those last resources. We are running out of lumber, oil, food, and room for everyone to live. The seas are so polluted that life even there is going extinct. The air, land and water is so polluted the planet no longer can support all that live on it.

The myth of the end of the world, the Christian belief in a final world war and the Mayan Calendar that comes to an abrupt end in 2012 are all causing people to believe that something terrible is about to occur.

Indeed, world leaders appear to be acting irrationally as thousands of people riot in the streets all around the world. We appear to be on the brink of committing mass suicide.

Thinks to think about when the ghosts and goblins call at your door this Halloween.
(c) 2011 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Who Is Demonizing The Rich?
Obama and Occupy Wall Street
By Tom Engelhardt

Last weekend, at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on the Washington Mall, two of King's children gave shout-outs to Occupy Wall Street, now spreading around the country and the world. His daughter Bernice spoke of it as "a freedom explosion" and his son Martin eloquently hailed "the young people of the Occupy movement all over this country and throughout the world [who] are seeking justice... for working class people barely making it, justice for middle class folk unable to pay their mortgages... justice for the young people who graduate from college and are unemployed and burdened by student loans they cannot repay, justice for everyone who is simply asking the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share."

[ OccupyAmsterdam] photo: OccupyAmsterdam When President Obama gave his speech on King, he referred to the Occupy movement only once and obliquely. "If [King] were alive today," he said, "I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there..." Amid the list of King's accomplishments, he conspicuously did not mention that his last act before being assassinated was to organize the Poor People's Campaign, including "Resurrection City," a shantytown of "plywood, teepee-looking A-frames, houses," all built on that same Mall to reveal the look, and so the existence, of the poor to the eyes of the rich -- and to the nation.

Daniel Levine, a 20-year-old college student manning the Occupy Wall Street information table at Zuccotti Park, responded to President Obama's "demonizing" remark this way: "He's trying to make excuses for the rich people who donate to his campaign. The rich demonized themselves the second they decided they were going to make fraudulent derivative swaps, the minute they decided to evict people from homes they didn't even own." It was a sentiment that might be widely seconded throughout the Occupy movement (from which, in word or image, the president remains missing in action).

Give Obama credit, though. He practices what he preaches. While he did once refer to the denizens of Wall Street as "fat cats," the Washington Post recently reported that his 2012 election campaign has done anything but demonize them. In fact, so far early in this election season, according to new fundraising data, the campaign has "managed to raise far more money... from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate." (Not that Romney has been suffering when it comes to Wall Street, where he's raising money hand over fist from all the firms you love to hate.)

Meanwhile, in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg is making no less subtle distinctions than the president. Having tried and failed to demonize and evict the occupiers of Zuccotti Park on the grounds of uncleanliness, he is now coming out in favor of the rights of human beings -- but not of tents. At a recent news conference, he announced that "the Constitution doesn't protect tents, it protects speech and assembly." Except for medical tents, few Zuccotti Park occupiers have them, but in his urge to oust the protesters the mayor is obviously confusing the tent cities of the homeless with the encampment in his jurisdiction. As Barbara Ehrenreich, author of "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," makes clear in a new piece, "Throw Them Out With the Trash, Why Homelessness Is Becoming an Occupy Wall Street Issue," for the 1%, the fate of the homeless and of the demonstrators in lower Manhattan is merging.
(c) 2011 Tom Engelhardt is co-founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

U.S. Army Assaults Its Biggest Fan
By David Swanson

One of the most valuable benefits of putting political action into the form of nonviolent encampments is that we learn each other's stories as we occupy our public parks and squares. Here's a story from the October2011 occupation in Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C. There are many more, and we'd like to hear yours when you join us.

Aristine Maharry is 29 years old and now lives in Freedom Plaza. She grew up in a very military family, with members of her family having participated in every major U.S. war going back to the war for independence, and with members of every generation having joined the military.

Maharry's family did not encourage her to aspire to a military career, but -- as in many such stories I've heard -- actions spoke more loudly than words. Maharry was proud of her father's military experience. She hoped from a very young age to join the U.S. Army. She grew up playing at army with her half-brothers. They would flip the couch on its side and toss pretend grenades. She loved the board game Risk. The biggest holiday in Aristine's family was the Fourth of July. She doesn't say she bled red white and blue. She says she bled green, Army green. She wanted to serve her country and other people. She was willing to die for her country. She was proud of her country.

Aristine was a good student and a good athlete. At age 7 she tested with an IQ of 185. She was placed in gifted and talented classes in all of the many public schools she attended. She got good grades, ran track, and was president of the Future Business Leaders of America at West Potomac High School in Northern Virginia, where at 16 she dual enrolled at George Mason University. She graduated from high school at 18 in the year 2000, was married the next January and pregnant in February.

Aristine knew that the military would be reluctant to enlist a mother of a child under 1 year of age. She hoped to take part in the Green to Gold program, enlisting and eventually becoming an officer. Her own father had dropped out of college to enlist and fight in Vietnam. She admired that history. However, when her first son was nine months old, Aristine became pregnant again. She headed to the recruiter's office when her second son turned one in May 2004. She had a family and a good job in management training new personnel in the pharmacy department of Liberty Medical Supply in Florida. But recruiters' job is to recruit, and Maharry didn't require any persuading.

She arranged to train at the same camp her father had trained at, Fort Leonardwood in Missouri. She headed there in December 2004, leaving behind a husband and two little boys for the holidays. Aristine says it was a very sad time for her, very difficult, and also very cold in Missouri. But, she thought to herself: "All the other soldiers have families too. They do it. I'm not different. I can serve too. I want to do my part as an American." She signed up to become a combat medic, hoping to care for injured soldiers.

The first few weeks of training in January were extremely hard, she says: lots of pushups, not a lot of sleep, but a great deal of hostility from drill sergeants conditioning recruits to face hostility in battle, struggling with their own post-traumatic stress, or simply acting out their sadism. Aristine characterized it as "ten times worse than in the movies." She was in Charlie Company, Third Battalion, 10th Unit, 4th Platoon. Her platoon had four drill sergeants, three of them male named Davis, Harris, and something like Fontana (she doesn't remember this name clearly), and one female drill sergeant named Gilliard.

The woman sergeant was not what you would call gentle and loving. Aristine witnessed Gilliard yank a male soldier across a desk and injure him. His offense had been to request a pen. Fontana (or whatever his exact name was) made Gilliard look sweet and delicate by comparison. He was shorter and meaner than the others, according to Maharry. She saw him slam a female private named Barr up against a wall.

Aristine is amazingly understanding of this abuse. The sergeants, she says, had just done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The training was their rest period between tours of combat. They were all, she believes, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Aristine's understanding this is even more amazing considering what happened next.

Aristine was doing pushups along with the other privates. It was dark. Fontana came up behind her and kicked her hard repeatedly in the pelvis. The next morning, with her 50-pound rucksack, Aristine was not able to keep up on the run in her usual way. One of the drill sergeants, Harris, told her she would have to report to "sick call."

That night, Private Barr came and got Maharry. The two of them went to the military police (MP) and told their stories of abuse. The MPs sent them right back without indicating that they would do anything at all. The reports that the MPs took down may or may not still exist among their records.

The next morning Aristine reported to sick call. Before she did, Gilliard whispered in her ear that she needed to say she had slipped on ice, which was a complete fabrication. An X-ray showed a fractured pelvis. Aristine was put in the Army hospital on the base from January 8, 2005 to February 1st or 2nd, immobilized in bed with a morphine drug for pain. She was then sent on 30-day convalescent leave with heavy pain killers. If she did not return after the 30 days, she was told, the Army would come and find her. Through the course of her initial processing and training, she had already been advised repeatedly that going AWOL (absent without official leave) was punishable by anything up to death.

Aristine says she was "terrified" and "scared to death."

She didn't tell her husband what had happened, as she was afraid that if he raised the issue she would be punished when she returned to the Army. When she did return, she pleaded with a physical therapist not to send her back to the same unit. It turned out that it was standard practice not to do that. Aristine worked hard, she says, to recover fast in the Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Program (PTRP) because those who did not, the "hold-overs," would be kept in separate rooms in barracks with their units' drill sergeants and would often be raped. Aristine did not use the word "rape" but indicated sex that was unwanted. "Rape" or "command rape" is an accurate term.

Unfortunately, the First Sergeant for the same Company she had been in before came and requested that Aristine return to the same unit. She passed a test and was returned. Once back, she was kept in a separate room, but resisted the drill sergeants' attempts at sex, she says. A couple of female holdovers, she says, were also kept in private rooms. They would be taken out at night, and would cry endlessly when they were returned.

Aristine was now in the fourth week of training, with the same company, platoon, and drill sergeants (except for Fontana who was no longer there), but all new privates, her original group having long since graduated. Aristine was miserable, terrified, and "crying, crying, crying." "How," she asked herself, "could they send me back here?" The First Sergeant told her: "You'd better not open your mouth about what happened last time." Maharry was still on lots of pain medicine and suffering mental pain as well.

Privates are all assigned "battle buddies," and Aristine's was a man named Principe. Privates objected that she couldn't have a male battle buddy. The sergeants said that she could and that it happens in war. Luckily, Principe was a decent person, or -- perhaps more to the point -- a person who had not been in combat and was not placed in a command position. But Principe left early, during the eighth week. There was one more week to go.

During these later weeks of training, the drill sergeants were not as hard on the privates, and focused more on building camaraderie within the unit. They also brought the privates into the way the Army thinks. Drill Sergeant Davis said to whole platoon, as Aristine recalls: "It does not matter what happens in a room as long as two or more of you have the same story. That's the party line."

Aristine, like every private, slept with her weapon, knew its parts and how to assemble it, and gave it a name. Her gun was called "Blue." Among the chants used in training were "We are Charlie Company and we like to party: drink blood drink blood all night long," and another that began "Sharpen our machetes!"

Aristine was treated to particular abuse through these weeks. She was frequently awakened during the night and deprived of sleep. For weeks, she resisted the advances of the First Sergeant, Drill Sergeant Davis, and Drill Sergeant Kitchen. Aristine learned to sleep sitting straight up in the daytime.

During the final week, the First Sergeant called for her at night and said "We know what you did with your battle buddy" and "We know you're selling pain killers." He claimed that Principe had accused her of selling her pain killers. She knew that Principe would not have said that. She had no use for money in basic training, she desperately needed the pain killers, and the accusation named no party she'd sold to or any other details. There were no witnesses, and the accusation was false. There was never any trial or finding, just an accusation. The Army threatened to bring Aristine up on charges under Article 15 of the Universal Code of Military Justice. She refused to sign their forms, and they dropped the matter.

Aristine says that frequently she would cry as her Army superiors threatened her, repeatedly, for weeks. They would point out that she never received any letters in the mail. They claimed that nobody would know if they "took care of her." Remarks included "We know how to make people shut up" and "We can make you be quiet forever." Aristine says she took these as clear threats to kill her or imprison her, and that these threats were offered on multiple occasions.

Aristine injured her arm, and a doctor agreed not to treat her so that she could ship out, which was what she wanted: to escape Missouri.

Aristine's birth mother showed up out of the blue. She had been an Army Captain. She had also been a model for ROTC posters and "Babes of the Military" calendars. Aristine was reluctant to tell her mother the true story, terrified that the Army would find out she'd talked and kill her or lock her away in prison. So Aristine told her mother the things she'd seen done to other female privates. She told her mother the Army was trumping up charges to keep her quiet. Aristine's mother said she knew how it worked, and she kept quiet.

When I spoke with Aristine this week she said that she was still scared to be speaking about it. This is even more understandable considering the rest of the story.

After graduating, and being denied permission to walk in the graduation ceremony as punishment for the baseless accusation of selling drugs, Aristine shipped out to Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas. She was treated for her arm injury. She could not be sent on convalescent leave again so soon. Instead, she was sent to wait for a review by a medical board. Many she spoke with had been waiting two or more years for the medical board to review them. They could not leave for holidays or visit families. Aristine sank into depression. She felt unable to sit and do nothing, not to mention being constantly made fun of for not going to war.

She tried to switch from combat medic to a paperwork job that she could handle. She was told she was not fit for any duty until the medical board reviewed her case.

She tried to quit the Army with no benefits. They told her, she recounts: "Because we broke you, we have to fix you."

I asked "Like Iraq?"

Aristine: "Yeah, like Iraq."

A chaplain declined to help.

A physical therapist declined to help.

A woman, possibly named Rodriguez, told Aristine that if she "pulled the same s--- here as in basic" she would "personally hunt you down and take care of you."

Aristine went to a psychiatric clinic and said she was considering suicide. She really was. The clinic made her sign a statement that she would not kill herself. Then they sent her right back to hurry up and wait for the medical board.

Aristine left most of her possessions behind and went AWOL.

She was afraid to return to her family. She still does not want to face her father. She is deeply ashamed of having failed to succeed in the military. People had warned her she would fail. And she failed, or at least viewed it that way, even knowing that what was done to her was not her fault. She wished she'd listened to her colleagues at work who had told her "You're too pretty," and "Girls like you shouldn't join the military." She had taken those comments as insults to her pride. She now says they were right but didn't go far enough. "It's no place for anybody," she now concludes.

Before joining up, Aristine had contacted both of her parents. Her father had never spoken about Vietnam. He now said "I saw things in the Army that no one should ever be exposed to." He told her not to do it. She took that as fatherly protection and thought to herself "I'm stronger than he thinks." He had received medals in Vietnam, she points out, but he'd also returned with "shell shock" or PTSD. Loud sounds would cause him to throw something or hit someone. He suffered tunnel vision in crowded places, and Aristine says she had the same symptom for a while.

Aristine went AWOL on July 5th ("my independence day"). She went to Florida and picked up three jobs, and then a job in New York. But in New York in November 2006, she had a checkbook stolen and reported it to the police. She did not face prosecution for going AWOL. But she was required to report to Fort Knox in Kentucky and sign out, along with many others in her same position -- many women and men too, all suffering injuries, many from training and some from combat. They were made to put on Army uniforms and ordered about. She had to write out her story for a judge. She was told she could not speak with a judge. She was not told she could hire a lawyer. The Army may still have the report she wrote out. She was given a less than honorable discharge.

Aristine tried to reconcile with her husband. They tried counseling. She did not believe she could become pregnant anymore. But she did, and the pregnancy was very hard on her, her third son being born a month early. Doctors told her insurance would not cover problems related to military injuries. So Aristine went to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) and asked to change her discharge to honorable and to obtain health coverage. She again had to write down her whole story, and this time she left a copy with her birth mother. She was now advised that she could have had a lawyer at Fort Knox.

Aristine is now on her own, but has joined together with a growing crowd of activists opposing the entire direction in which our war economy is dragging our nation and the world. Many people are finding the strength to tell their stories, and finding power in joining them together with others'.

Aristine Maharry thinks the military should release injured people to their families and treat them through the VA. She's seen a woman forced to stay in a hotel, forbidden to see her family, while her family lived an hour and a half away. For what purpose?

Aristine thinks the Army should allow stretching during training to avoid countless shin injuries in women and men.

She thinks her story is similar to a great many others. She's found the strength to talk after six years and in the midst of a nonviolent occupation. "The Army is keeping people quiet," she says, "many, many people. Victims are sent to their attackers to ask for help."

In school, Aristine says, she learned that America is always the hero, there to fix things and to help the rest of the world. "If it weren't for us, the world would be lost!" But, she adds, you don't learn the effects that wars have on people.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Numbers Justify Occupy Movement
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Feeling angry about being betrayed by a corrupt government owned by rich and corporate elites has driven the Occupy Wall Street movement. Emphasizing how the top one percent has prospered incredibly while the bottom 99 percent have been screwed royally is supported by countless data. New data show this is a global phenomenon and that even in the worst of economic times the wealthiest make out like the bandits they are, and there are a lot more of them than one percent.

Globally, millionaires and billionaires now control 38.5 percent of the world’s wealth, according to the latest Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse. Never have so few owned so much. There are 29.7 million people in the world with household net worth of $1 million or more; they represent less than 1 percent of the world’s population, actually just .4 percent of 7 billion people.

Their wealth share rose from 35.6 percent in 2010, because even during the global economic recession their wealth increased by about $20 trillion. In fact, their wealth grew 29 percent — about twice as fast as the wealth in the world as a whole. How many ordinary people saw their wealth increase from 2010 to 2011 by anything close to 29 percent?

For the Occupy Wall Street movement it is even more significant that the US has been the largest wealth generator over the past 18 months, a time when about 100 million Americans have suffered with unemployment, underemployment, home foreclosures, hunger, high living costs, no health insurance, loss of savings, and historic financial insecurity.

According to the new report, the US added $4.6 trillion to global wealth, with China ranked second with $4 trillion, followed by Japan ($3.8 trillion), Brazil ($1.87 trillion) and Australia ($1.85 trillion). Which Americans shared in that $4.6 trillion increase in wealth? Only those at the very top.

There are now 84,700 people in the world worth $50 million or more. And 42 percent of them, 35,400, live in the US. At the top of that global group are 29,000 people world-wide worth $100 million or more, and just 2,700 worth $500 million or more.

According to the latest Forbes list there are 1,210 billionaires in the world. And the total net worth of America's wealthiest people was up $1.37 trillion in 2010, according to the latest Forbes 400 list, where it took a net worth of $1.05 billion to make the list of the richest Americans.

Here are some more data on current high net worth Americans: those with more than $100 million, 29,000 (about .1 percent of US population); $10 to $100 million, 987,300; $5 to $10 million, 1.96 million; $1 to $5 million, 26.7 million. You can see that the top one percent of Americans (about 3 million) have net worth above about $5 million and they get about 20 percent of annual national income and have about one third of national wealth.

The top 10 percent (about 30 million) have net worth above about $1 million and account for about 50 percent of all national consumer spending (which is amazing, think about it). They have enormous consumer power, adding to their political power. Those 30 million are a big chunk of the 99 percent, so don’t expect them to be thrilled with the Occupy movement. Rhetorically, pitting 99 against 1 percent works, but understanding that the blood suckers are really 10 percent is important but still not the whole story.

There are still more economic winners than either the top one or ten percent. When you take into account households with net worth of several hundred thousands of dollars, there are at least 60 million Americans or about 20 percent that should be considered wealthy (probably including most Tea Party activists and the Republican base) and unlikely to see the legitimacy of the Occupy movement. Those people account for an amazing $9 trillion sitting in cash in the nation’s banks. Message: The political battle is much harder than it first appears.

But, of course, there are some rich Americans that strongly support the Occupy movement, including a number from the entertainment world who clearly are part of the wealthy upper class. Like others, they understand that opposition to a grossly unfair capitalistic system designed primarily to benefit a few is not the same as rejection of capitalism that serves the interests of the many and the nation, allowing wealth to be shared (like it was from 1950 to 1980). Note that corporate profit as a share of the economy is at a 50-year high.

Also note that often people with moderate incomes, and not just retirees, still are very high net worth individuals, with most of their income being passive such as interest and dividends, rather than wages of any kind. Being wealthy, in other words, is best seen in terms of net worth rather than income data.

Last point, 50 percent of Americans make less than $26,000 a year. We have become a two-class society with very little upward mobility, especially when even those with a college education or decades of work experience cannot find a job. Rebellion is needed. Fighting economic injustice and greed is long overdue. Now you know: Delusional democracy breeds delusional prosperity. This is what the Occupy movement is all about. Help make it a success by supporting the petition at
(c) 2011 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Hole In Europe's Bucket
By Paul Krugman

If it weren't so tragic, the current European crisis would be funny, in a gallows-humor sort of way. For as one rescue plan after another falls flat, Europe's Very Serious People - who are, if such a thing is possible, even more pompous and self-regarding than their American counterparts - just keep looking more and more ridiculous.

I'll get to the tragedy in a minute. First, let's talk about the pratfalls, which have lately had me humming the old children's song "There's a Hole in My Bucket."

For those not familiar with the song, it concerns a lazy farmer who complains about said hole and is told by his wife to fix it. Each action she suggests, however, turns out to require a prior action, and, eventually, she tells him to draw some water from the well. "But there's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza."

What does this have to do with Europe? Well, at this point, Greece, where the crisis began, is no more than a grim sideshow. The clear and present danger comes instead from a sort of bank run on Italy, the euro area's third-largest economy. Investors, fearing a possible default, are demanding high interest rates on Italian debt. And these high interest rates, by raising the burden of debt service, make default more likely.

It's a vicious circle, with fears of default threatening to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. To save the euro, this threat must be contained. But how? The answer has to involve creating a fund that can, if necessary, lend Italy (and Spain, which is also under threat) enough money that it doesn't need to borrow at those high rates. Such a fund probably wouldn't have to be used, since its mere existence should put an end to the cycle of fear. But the potential for really large-scale lending, certainly more than a trillion euros' worth, has to be there.

And here's the problem: All the various proposals for creating such a fund ultimately require backing from major European governments, whose promises to investors must be credible for the plan to work. Yet Italy is one of those major governments; it can't achieve a rescue by lending money to itself. And France, the euro area's second-biggest economy, has been looking shaky lately, raising fears that creation of a large rescue fund, by in effect adding to French debt, could simply have the effect of adding France to the list of crisis countries. There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza.

You see what I mean about the situation being funny in a gallows-humor fashion? What makes the story really painful is the fact that none of this had to happen.

Think about countries like Britain, Japan and the United States, which have large debts and deficits yet remain able to borrow at low interest rates. What's their secret? The answer, in large part, is that they retain their own currencies, and investors know that in a pinch they could finance their deficits by printing more of those currencies. If the European Central Bank were to similarly stand behind European debts, the crisis would ease dramatically.

Wouldn't that cause inflation? Probably not: whatever the likes of Ron Paul may believe, money creation isn't inflationary in a depressed economy. Furthermore, Europe actually needs modestly higher overall inflation: too low an overall inflation rate would condemn southern Europe to years of grinding deflation, virtually guaranteeing both continued high unemployment and a string of defaults.

But such action, we keep being told, is off the table. The statutes under which the central bank was established supposedly prohibit this kind of thing, although one suspects that clever lawyers could find a way to make it happen. The broader problem, however, is that the whole euro system was designed to fight the last economic war. It's a Maginot Line built to prevent a replay of the 1970s, which is worse than useless when the real danger is a replay of the 1930s.

And this turn of events is, as I said, tragic.

The story of postwar Europe is deeply inspiring. Out of the ruins of war, Europeans built a system of peace and democracy, constructing along the way societies that, while imperfect - what society isn't? - are arguably the most decent in human history.

Yet that achievement is under threat because the European elite, in its arrogance, locked the Continent into a monetary system that recreated the rigidities of the gold standard, and - like the gold standard in the 1930s - has turned into a deadly trap.

Now maybe European leaders will come up with a truly credible rescue plan. I hope so, but I don't expect it.

The bitter truth is that it's looking more and more as if the euro system is doomed. And the even more bitter truth is that given the way that system has been performing, Europe might be better off if it collapses sooner rather than later.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side."
~~~ James Russell Lowell

Withdrawal Symptoms
Curtain Rises on Second Act of an Endless War Crime
By Chris Floyd

Barack Obama has announced that all American troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year. This was presented as America honorably adhering to the agreement signed years ago by the Bush Administration. At the same time, White House and Pentagon spinners were planting stories to make clear that the United States had fully intended to continue its military presence in Iraq past the deadline, but was thwarted by the Iraqis' unconscionable refusal to allow American forces to commit crimes with impunity -- and immunity -- on Iraqi soil.

These backroom "process" stories -- filled, as always, with unnamed insiders providing savvy "nuance" -- were detailed, laying out a long series of negotiations, ending in what was clearly the Americans' chief goal: a military presence of 3,000-5,000 troops, placed strategically around the country, with a main focus in Baghdad. These negotiations failed; hence Obama's announcement that he was being forced to honor the existing agreement on withdrawal.

At the same time, however, we are also told that the State Department will maintain "at least" 5,000 armed "security personnel" -- mercenaries of various stripes. These 5,000 militarized (if not officially military) troops will be stationed in strategic locations around the country, where the United States will establish mini-fortress "consulates" in Iraqi cities, with a main focus in Baghdad.

So the Americans had a baseline goal of 3,000 armed personnel remaining in Iraq; they will now have a minimum of 5,000 armed personnel remaining in Iraq.

It could be argued that the original intent was to have the 3,000-5,000 uniformed troops in addition to the 5,000 mercenaries, and thus the Americans have taken a bit of a haircut in the occupation department: 5,000 instead of combined total of 8,000 (or a top end of 10,000.) Maybe so. But the fact remains that whatever else happens, the American government will have a minimum of 5,000 men under arms, stationed all across the conquered land. What's more, there is apparently no limit on the number of such mercenaries the Americans can employ to provide "security" for the thousands of other American government operatives who will remain. Any number of pretexts could provide excuses for a "surge" in "security contractors": 8,000, 10,000, 20,000 -- who's to say how many will ultimately be "needed" to combat "terrorists"?

So we have a baseline of 5,000 militarized forces remaining indefinitely in Iraq, with no immediate limit on an expansion in their numbers. And of course, all the stories make it abundantly clear that the Americans will quickly negotiate a new "security agreement" with Iraq, which will include -- or even be in addition to -- thousands of military "advisers" to help "train" the Iraqi forces, especially with the multitude of new weapons that Washington's war profiteers are lining up to sell to the "sovereign" government in Baghdad. How many troops will be involved in these "agreements"? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Again, we don't know.

And as Glenn Greenwald and others have pointed out, none of these numbers include the "Special Forces" and CIA paramilitaries that will inevitably be ranging across Iraq, no doubt in large numbers. Iraq is hardly going to receive less attention from the American black ops and death squads than Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and the dozens of other countries where Washington is waging secret war.

Thus it is almost a certainty that by the end of 2012, there will be, at the barest minimum, at least 8,000 to 10,000 heavily armed personnel under the direct control of the United States government stationed at strategic points throughout Iraq; the actual figure will doubtless be higher, perhaps much higher. But this is a bare minimum -- numbers which tally almost exactly with the final goals of the American war machine in the "failed" negotiations on extending the present form of the occupation.

Obama's announcement was yet another bitter sham. We are not ringing down the curtain on the Iraq War; we are simply beginning the second act, with new scenery in the backdrop, some new plotlines and characters -- but the same old dirty, bloody business of aggression.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd


A Moment Of Pure Astonishment, Again
By William Rivers Pitt

Tea Party Nation activists calls for small business to "stop hiring," to protest Obama, Democrats.

It is no easy thing to astonish me. The deep, dark mineshaft of the 21st century has produced some of the most gruesome, appalling, horrifying acts and behaviors ever seen on the skin of the Earth, and it has been my job to report on them, to chronicle them, and to try and make sense of them. The dangerous thing about this job, if you do it long enough, is the callus that builds up over your heart and head. It's a necessary thing; you can endure only so much for so long before the urge to run screaming through the streets tries to take hold, and if that happens, you're no good to anyone except your bail bondsman.

I reported on October 4, 2001 about George W. Bush looking into a brace of news cameras to shill for tax cuts - he smiled as he did it - not even a month after the Towers collapsed, even as we were shaking the ashes of friends and co-workers out of our hair. I reported on Karl Rove telling GOP congressional hopefuls to "run on the war," meaning Iraq, months before the war had actually been unleashed.

Later, after the war was unmistakably underway, I filed dozens of reports, taking special notice of the names of the dead. As time and battle drew out, certain truths came to plague the living: try as they might to stand by the justifications for the war, there were no weapons of mass destruction for Bush administration officials to point to...a fact that did not stop press secretary Ari Fleischer from saying, "I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."

I reported on George W. Bush strutting across the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln beneath a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished," seven full years and tens of thousands of casualties before his splendid little war actually came to an end. I reported on the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, a crime committed by the Bush administration to punish her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for speaking against the war in the public prints. I reported on Dick Cheney's claim that the Vice President's office is not part of the Executive Branch, because he did not want to turn his official papers over to the National Archives.

I reported on John McCain suspending his presidential campaign because, somehow, he thought that would save the crumbling economy. I reported on Barack Obama's crabwise approach to health care reform, on his failure to close the prison at Guantanamo, and on the deranged three-ring circus of the debt limit crisis, when the president was backed into a corner by congressional Republicans, who threatened to crash the economy because they wanted to rip the guts out of the social safety net.

After all that and so much more besides, my capacity for shock has been severely diminished...or so I thought.

Because there is this, written by Tea Party activist Melissa Brookstone and published last week on the Tea Party Nation website:<>

Call For A Strike of American Small Businesses Against The Movement for Global Socialism

"I'm on strike!" - Ellis Wyatt, from the end of the movie "Atlas Shrugged, Part 1", based on the novel by Ayn Rand

Resolved that: The Obama administration and the Democrat-controlled Senate, in alliance with a global Progressive socialist movement, have participated in what appears to be a globalist socialist agenda of redistribution of wealth, and the waging of class warfare against our constitutional republic's heritage of individual rights, free market capitalism, and indeed our Constitution itself, with the ultimate goal of collapsing the U.S. economy and globalizing us into socialism.

Resolved that: President Obama has seized what amount to dictatorial powers to bypass our Congress, and that because the Congress is controlled by a Progressive socialist Senate that will not impeach one of their kind, they have allowed this and yielded what are rightfully congressional powers to this new dictator.

Resolved that: By their agenda and actions, those in our government who swore oaths to protect and defend our Constitution have committed treason against the United States.

Resolved that: The current administration and Democrat majority in the Senate, in conjunction with Progressive socialists from all around the country, especially those from Hollywood and the left leaning news media (Indeed, most of the news media.) have worked in unison to advance an anti-business, an anti-free market, and an anti-capitalist (anti-individual rights and property ownership) agenda.

Resolved that: These same factions expect that, by carrying out a radical anti-business agenda, which includes the passage and inflicting of Obama"Care" on our nation, class warfare and redistribution of wealth, and expanding the government, while killing businesses in this country with an environment hostile to business, including excessive regulations (the average business must now spend about $11,700 per year per employee to comply with government regulations!), and by borrowing and wasting more money than has been spent in the entire previous existence of our republic, that they will "create jobs", when in fact all they have "created" have been government jobs that consume wealth, and don't "create" it.

Resolved that: Our President, the Democrats-Socialists, most of the media, and most of those from Hollywood, have now encouraged and supported "Occupy" demonstrations in our streets, which are now being perpetrated across the globe, and which are being populated by various marxists, socialists and even communists, and are protesting against business, private property ownership and capitalism, something I thought I'd never see in my country, in my lifetime.

I, an American small business owner, part of the class that produces the vast majority of real, wealth producing jobs in this country, hereby resolve that I will not hire a single person until this war against business and my country is stopped.

I hereby declare that my job creation potential is now ceased.

"I'm on strike!"

"Despicable" is not a muscular enough word to describe this sad catastrophe of a document. Leaving aside all the gibberish about global socialist conspiracies and Obama's dictatorial tyranny - truly, all that is simply too stupid to reckon with - what we have here is a far-right activist group demanding that millions of unemployed people be denied gainful employment for no other reason than the Tea Party does not like the president.

No jobs for anyone until Obama is gone. Got it? The suffering being endured by so many Americans in the aftermath of the very economic policies championed in this declaration have no bearing on the present. Screw you, screw me, screw everyone, until these people have their way. If even one person in America heeds this call and refuses to hire anyone in need of a job, that will be a disaster of enormous proportions, for it will stand as the clearest indication yet that we are not our brother's keeper, that we are a cruel and selfish people, that we are hopeless possibly beyond all redemption.

This declaration is fishwrap, and I devoutly hope it is treated as such by anyone unfortunate enough to be confronted with it. It is the strongest signal yet that people like this Melissa Brookstone and her Tea Party friends - indeed, anyone who thinks the above declaration is a good idea - must be kept as far out of political power as can be managed within the boundaries of the law.

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

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Burgermeister Quan,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your having your PD attack legal protesters and over ruling the Bill of Rights in the City of Oakland, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic 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 10-31-2011. We salute you frau Quan, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Why is George Bush Wading Into Denver's Education Debate On The Eve Of Critical School Board Elections?
By John Nichols

Former President George W. Bush, whose administration once made a big deal about its diplomatic engagement with Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, won't talk about the recent unfortunate turn of events for the strongman. And don't try to get Bush started on any of those pesky questions about jobs and the economy that his administration ran into the ground. He's not talking.

But if you want to talk about how the schools in Denver, Colorado, should be run, Bush's has got plenty to say.

"I'm out of politics...but I still have a great passion about educational excellence," Bush announced when he showed up in Denver last Thursday.

But the scheduling of Bush's visit to the city's "Get Smart Schools" program couldn't have been more political. Indeed, advocates for public education in what has become the most intense school board election in the country are bluntly suggesting that Bush's visit was "politically timed."

Appearing in Colorado's largest city barely ten days before the most hotly contested school board elections in the the community's history, Bush talked up an education agenda being advanced by so-called school "reformers," who have been backed by wealthy oil barons and national conservative groups that want to see Denver experiment with school charter, school choice and privatization schemes. And he did so with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock at his side.

Hancock, a Democrat, has waded into the Denver School Board competition, endorsing candidates favored by the out-of-town special interests and suggesting that if things didn't go they way he may reverse his previous position and press for mayoral control of Denver schools.

Emily Sirota, a Denver school board candidate who has campaigned on behalf of maintaining strong public schools—and assuring that those schools are run by elected representatives of the people, rather than outside interests or powerful politicians—has been countering Hancock. "I agree with Mayor Hancock that the current school board is overly divisive and dysfunctional. In fact, that's exactly why I'm running for school board—to finally put an end to the bickering and refocus our schools on the needs of our kids," says Sirota. "However, the mayor only added to the current divisiveness and dysfunction when he needlessly inserted himself into the school board election. Additionally, he's now making matters even worse with his suggestion that he may be open to trying to disband the elected school board unless his handpicked slate of candidates is successful in buying the upcoming election. Voters aren't interested in that kind of extortion. That's not a way to forge consensus and refocus DPS on the needs of our kids, which should be our top priority."

When Bush showed up and appeared with the mayor, Sirota pushed back even harder, suggesting that the mayor was wrong for "praising the No Child Left Behind Act during President George W. Bush's politically timed visit to Denver today."

"Mayor Hancock has rightly decried divisiveness and dysfunction in our education system—but standing with George W. Bush during an election-timed visit is not the way to start fixing that problem, nor are his comments today promoting the failed No Child Left Behind policy that has so harmed our schools," said Sirota. "No Child Left Behind is one of the most destructive education policies enacted in the last 10 years. Our mayor's behavior today only draws unnecessary lines in the sand, while needlessly undermining the important work of Senator Bennet, who is working to finally reform No Child Left Behind. If there's any good news out of President Bush's visit to Denver, it is that Superintendent [Tom] Boasberg, unlike our Mayor, had the guts to speak out against No Child Left Behind. His statements suggest that he recognizes that we need to couple accountability with a reinvestment in our schools."

The November 1 Denver School Board election has already attracted more than $600,000 in campaign donations, with much of the money coming in the form of $10,000 and $25,000 checks to candidates backed by groups that favor the school choice, charter school and privatization schemes. Sirota is running one of three races in the city. She's being massively outspent, yet is generally seen as running a competitive race.

If Sirota wins, the likelihood is that control of the School Board will flip from the so-called "reformers" to a pro–public education majority.

Why all the attention to the Denver race? In fact, special-interest groups are pouring money into school board an state board of education races across the country this year. But the Denver race is critical, as it could shift the direction of one of the nation's largest urban school districts and send powerful signals regarding the direction of public education nationally.
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

The Mystery of Consciousness II
By Sam Harris

The universe is filled with physical phenomena that appear devoid of consciousness. From the birth of stars and planets, to the early stages of cell division in a human embryo, the structures and processes we find in Nature seem to lack an inner life. At some point in the development of certain complex organisms, however, consciousness emerges. This miracle does not depend on a change of materials—for you and I are built of the same atoms as a fern or a ham sandwich. Rather, it must be a matter of organization. Arranging atoms in a certain way appears to bring consciousness into being. And this fact is among the deepest mysteries given to us to contemplate.

Many readers of my previous essay did not understand why the emergence of consciousness should pose a special problem to science. Every feature of the human mind and body emerges over the course development: Why is consciousness more perplexing than language or digestion? The problem, however, is that the distance between unconsciousness and consciousness must be traversed in a single stride, if traversed at all. Just as the appearance of something out of nothing cannot be explained by our saying that the first something was "very small," the birth of consciousness is rendered no less mysterious by saying that the simplest minds have only a glimmer of it.

This situation has been characterized as an "explanatory gap"⁠ and the "hard problem of consciousness,"⁠ and it is surely both. I am sympathetic with those who, like the philosopher Colin McGinn and the psychologist Steven Pinker, have judged the impasse to be total: Perhaps the emergence of consciousness is simply incomprehensible in human terms.⁠ Every chain of explanation must end somewhere—generally with a brute fact that neglects to explain itself. Consciousness might represent a terminus of this sort. Defying analysis, the mystery of inner life may one day cease to trouble us.

However, many people imagine that consciousness will yield to scientific inquiry in precisely the way that other difficult problems have in the past. What, for instance, is the difference between a living system and a dead one? Insofar as the question of consciousness itself can be kept off the table, it seems that the difference is now reasonably clear to us. And yet, as late as 1932, the Scottish physiologist J.S. Haldane (father of J.B.S. Haldane) wrote:

What intelligible account can the mechanistic theory of life give of the....recovery from disease and injuries? Simply none at all, except that these phenomena are so complex and strange that as yet we cannot understand them. It is exactly the same with the closely related phenomena of reproduction. We cannot by any stretch of the imagination conceive a delicate and complex mechanism which is capable, like a living organism, of reproducing itself indefinitely often.⁠

Scarcely twenty years passed before our imaginations were duly stretched. Much work in biology remains to be done, of course, but anyone who entertains vitalism at this point stands convicted of basic ignorance about the nature of living systems. The jury is no longer out on questions of this sort, and more than half a century has passed since the earth's creatures required an élan vital to propagate themselves or to recover from injury. Are doubts that we will arrive at a physical explanation of consciousness analogous to doubts about the feasibility of explaining life in terms of processes that are not alive?

The analogy is a bad one: Life is defined according to external criteria; Consciousness is not (and, I think, cannot be). We would never have occasion to say of something that does not eat, excrete, grow, or reproduce that it might nevertheless be "alive." It might, however, be conscious⁠.

But other analogies seem to offer hope. Consider our sense of sight: Doesn't vision emerge from processes that are themselves blind? And doesn't such a miracle of emergence make consciousness seem less mysterious?

Unfortunately, no. In the case of vision, we are speaking merely about the transduction of one form of energy into another (electromagnetic into electrochemical). Photons cause light-sensitive proteins to alter the spontaneous firing rates of our rods and cones, beginning an electrochemical cascade that affects neurons in many areas of the brain—achieving, among other things, a topographical mapping of the visual scene onto the visual cortex. While this chain of events is complicated, the fact of its occurrence is not in principle mysterious. The emergence of vision from a blind apparatus strikes us as a difficult problem simply because when we think of vision, we think of the conscious experience of seeing. That eyes and visual cortices emerged over the course of evolution presents no special obstacles to us; that there should be "something that it is like" to be the union of an eye and a visual cortex is itself the problem of consciousness—and it is as intractable in this form as in any other.

But couldn't a mature neuroscience nevertheless offer a proper explanation of human consciousness in terms of its underlying brain processes? We have reasons to believe that reductions of this sort are neither possible nor conceptually coherent. Nothing about a brain, studied at any scale (spatial or temporal), even suggests that it might harbor consciousness. Nothing about human behavior, or language, or culture, demonstrates that these products are mediated by subjectivity. We simply know that they are—a fact that we appreciate in ourselves directly and in others by analogy⁠.

Here is where the distinction between studying consciousness and studying its contents becomes paramount. It is easy to see how the contents of consciousness might be understood at the level of the brain. Consider, for instance, our experience of seeing an object—its color, contours, apparent motion, location in space, etc. arise in consciousness as a seamless unity, even though this information is processed by many separate systems in the brain. Thus when a golfer prepares to hit a shot, he does not first see the ball's roundness, then its whiteness, and only then its position on the tee. Rather, he enjoys a unified perception of a ball. Many neuroscientists believe that this phenomenon of "binding" can be explained by disparate groups of neurons firing in synchrony. Whether or not this theory is true, it is perfectly intelligible—and it suggests, as many other findings in neuroscience do, that the character of our experience can often be explained in terms of its underlying neurophysiology. However, when we ask why it should be "like something" to see in the first place, we are returned to the mystery of consciousness in full.

For these reasons, it is difficult to imagine what experimental findings could render the emergence of consciousness comprehensible. This is not to say, however, that our understanding of ourselves won't change in surprising ways through our study of the brain. There seems to be no limit to how a maturing neuroscience might reshape our beliefs about the nature of conscious experience. Are we fully conscious during sleep and merely failing to form memories? Can human minds be duplicated or merged? Is it possible to love your neighbor as yourself? A precise, functional neuroanatomy of our mental states would help to answer such questions—and the answers might well surprise us. And yet, whatever insights arise from correlating mental and physical events, it seems unlikely that one side of the world will be fully reduced to the other.

While we know many things about ourselves in anatomical, physiological, and evolutionary terms, we do not know why it is "like something" to be what we are. The fact that the universe is illuminated where you stand—that your thoughts and moods and sensations have a qualitative character—is a mystery, exceeded only by the mystery that there should be something rather than nothing in this universe. How is it that unconscious events can give rise to consciousness? Not only do we have no idea, but it seems impossible to imagine what sort of idea could fit in the space provided. Therefore, although science may ultimately show us how to truly maximize human well-being, it may still fail to dispel the fundamental mystery of our mental life. That doesn't leave much scope for conventional religious doctrines, but it does offer a deep foundation (and motivation) for introspection. Many truths about ourselves will be discovered in consciousness directly, or not discovered at all.
(c) 2011 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Ken Catalino ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Congress Takes Group Of Schoolchildren Hostage
'We Need $12 Trillion Or All These Kids Die'

WASHINGTON: Brandishing shotguns and semiautomatic pistols, members of the 112th U.S. Congress took a class of visiting schoolchildren hostage today, barricading themselves inside the Capitol rotunda and demanding $12 trillion dollars in cash.

If the money is not delivered by this evening, members of Congress say they will shoot a new child every hour on the hour.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who has emerged as spokesman for the bipartisan group, informed FBI negotiators this morning that the ransom was to be placed in stainless-steel suitcases and left on the Capitol steps by 4 p.m. sharp. If their demands are not met in full, the 11-term representative announced, "all the kids will die."

"Bring us the money and we let the children go, simple as that," said Boehner, appearing in the East Portico with a serrated switchblade held to one of the fourth-grader's throats. "If you want to play games and stall for extra time, we're going to shoot one kid an hour, starting with little Dillon here."

"Tick tock," he added, vanishing back into the building with the terrified child in tow.

Shaken witnesses reported that the ordeal broke out around 10 a.m. this morning, when in the midst of a Capitol building tour, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) suddenly burst into the National Statuary Hall with a pair of black panty hose over his head and began firing a Beretta 9 mm handgun into the air, shouting, "Everybody down! Everybody get the fuck down!"

The schoolchildren were then led at gunpoint into the nearby Great Rotunda, where an agitated, profusely sweating Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) bound their hands and feet and duct-taped them to various sculptures, including a monument to women's suffrage and a marble figure of former president James Garfield. Although cell phones were confiscated immediately, one student managed to tweet a short video showing what appeared to be Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pistol-whipping a chaperone who attempted to yell for help.

"It's a very tense situation at the moment, and these things take time—more time than we've got," Special Agent Douglas Burkett of the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit said. "We have snipers on the Supreme Court building, the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, and the National Museum of the American Indian, but so far none of them has been able to get a clear shot at any senators or representatives."

"While there's an assault team on the way, they won't be able to breach the door if members of Congress have rigged the place with explosives," Burkett added. "And that's quite possible. From the looks of things, I'd say they've been planning this for a while."

As the dramatic standoff continues to unfold, the bipartisan gang of lawmakers has laid out additional terms for releasing the children. Among the demands are guaranteed re-election in 2012, reduction of the veto-override threshold from two-thirds to one half of the Senate, new desks, and safe transport to Reagan National Airport with a fueled-up private jet waiting on the runway.

According to sources close to the 535-member legislative branch, Congress has recently fallen on hard times. Neighbors reported overhearing heated arguments going on late into the night about dangerously stretched budgets, a failing health care system, and the potential for an all-out government shutdown.

With the ransom deadline nearing and no apparent resolution in sight, President Barack Obama was summoned in a last-ditch effort to diffuse the situation. Despite an emotional bullhorn appeal to return to "honest talks aimed at reducing the national debt and getting millions of unemployed Americans back to work," the chief executive was met with silence.

"There's just no way of getting through to these people," said Obama, holding his head in his hands. "I know Speaker Boehner personally, and I know that he and his colleagues will not hesitate for a second to kill these poor children if they don't get their way."

"Trust me, this Congress will do it," the president added.
(c) 2011 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 42 (c) 10/28/2011

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