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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh is, "Transforming Easy Cynicism (And Other Forms Of Conformity) Into Deep Resistance."

Uri Avnery exclaims, "Hold Me Back!"

Matt Taibbi shows, "Why Mitt Romney's Entitlement-Privatization Plan Is Crazy."

Sam Harris tells, "The Truth About Violence."

Jim Hightower shines a light on, "Another Bailout Scam From Bank Of America."

Helen Thomas reminds Barry that, "Leaving Iraq Is Not Enough."

James Donahue says, "Shame On US."

Glenn Greenwald sees, "The Drone Mentality."

David Swanson finds, "Public Pressure Is Slowly Ending Afghanistan War."

Joel S. Hirschhorn explains the, "Jobless And Clueless."

Paul Krugman sings, "Here Comes The Sun."

Greg Palast reviews, "Lazy Ouzo-Swilling, Olive-Pit Spitting Greeks Or, How Goldman Sacked Greece."

Amy Goodman returns with the, "Keystone XL."

Illinois Con-gressman Joe Walsh wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols sees Republicans trying to, "Block The Vote."

Tom Engelhardt takes us on, "A Patrol In Enemy Territory - Wall Street."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz is, "Poll: Majority of Likely Voters Say They Were Sexually Harassed by Cain" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Happy Armistice Day, Ya'll!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Darkow, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea.Com, Clay Bennett, Bill Day, R.S. Janes, We Are The 99, Julie Mcinnes, 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."

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Happy Armistice Day, Ya'll!
By Ernest Stewart

"On November 11, 1918, there ended the most unnecessary, the most financially exhausting, and the most terribly fatal of all the wars that the world has ever known. Twenty millions of men and women, in that war, were killed outright, or died later from wounds. The Spanish influenza, admittedly caused by the War and nothing else, killed, in various lands, one hundred million persons more." ~~~ Thomas Hall Shastid, 1927.

"Mississippi voters rejected the so-called 'personhood' amendment because they understood it is government gone too far, and would have allowed government to have control over personal decisions that should be left up to a woman, her family, her doctor and her faith, including keeping a woman with a life-threatening pregnancy from getting the care she needs, and criminalizing everything from abortion to common forms of birth control such as the pill and the IUD." ~~~ Planned Parenthood

"It was a mistake by the organization for the G-20 summit. Journalists agreed among themselves to consider the remarks off the record because they didn't want to get a summit staffer into a "rough patch" after he disclosed that the audio could be heard. Some of them did give me the quotes, and others just confirmed the quotes." ~~~ Dan Israel, an Arret Sur Images reporter

"I never make stupid mistakes. Only very, very clever ones." ~~~ John Peel

Happy Armistice Day! Yes, I know the politicians call it Veterans Day, but I don't! I, instead, celebrate the day of peace that it was meant to be, as did the entire world until we changed it in 1954 to cover our asses for the various war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by our children for the benefit of the 1%!

November 11th was made a holiday in order to celebrate an armistice that ended WWI, or, as it was known "the War To End All Wars," but thanks to England, France, and old Woody Wilson, it became just a brief period of peace, while everyone rearmed for WWII, as it screwed the Germans royally and directly paved the way for the worst war yet.

Now, some say all we got out of WWI was the flu and Prohibition, and we all know how well that worked out; but few folks know that we also got a law against making further war -- a law that is still on the books, and a law that could be used against our current Junta -- the Crime Family Bush -- not to mention most every politician and President since the end of WWII, although the same charges we filed under it against the Japanese and Germans could have been filed against Churchill, Lebrun, Roosevelt, and Truman, too!

In 1928, we signed onto the Kellogg-Briand Pact, legally banning all wars. It was signed by almost all Republicans and Democrats in this country and by all the other countries that were involved in the "Great War!" That treaty is still on the books, which is why our war making of the last 60 years or so is a criminal act and what we used to charge the Germans, Italians and Japanese. Armistice Day was highjacked by Congress to get rid of an official day of peace and made into a day to celebrate wars because we like wars as George Carlin said "we are a war-like people." So, even though I'm a vet, I don't celebrate Veterans Day; I don't celebrate the men and women who murder men, women and children by the millions. I celebrate peace; how about you?

In Other News

Well, my, my, my, do I hear the end of the tea-bagger revolution? Could be, could be, if Tuesday's election results are any indication....

Down in Ohio, voters rejected the Rethuglican's attempt to destroy the unions. Voters delivered a blow to Governor John R. Kasich, and his Rethuglican-controlled legislature, and rejected his attempt to weaken collective bargaining for public employees -- on the road to getting rid of all unions. No unions, no middle class, no middle class, just the Kings and the serfs are left! Which one do you think you'd be?

Up in Maine, voters had more bad news for Rethuglicans, as they overwhelmingly rejected a crackdown on voting rights! Maine Rethuglicans had recently ended same-day registration at polling places, voters decided to restore the practice, which the Demoncrats supported.

Those two were pretty much expected but there were quite a few that were major surprises!

In Mississippi, one of our states that is still living in the Middle Ages, came a surprise as voters rejected the Rethuglican-controlled legislature measure that would have outlawed all abortions and many forms of contraception, as well. Mississippians rejection of a far-reaching and stringent anti-abortion initiative known as the "personhood" amendment. Initiative 26 would have amended the State Constitution to define life "to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." I wasn't aware that you could legally clone in Mississippi, but it does explain where all those rednecks come from! Still, they did make it harder for black folks to vote: so don't get too excited by the rejection of Initiative 26!

More good news, from of all places Arizona! Arizona voters have turned out of office the chief architect of that state's controversial anti-immigration laws. State Senator Russell Pearce, a Rethuglican power broker and a former sheriff's deputy known for his "My way or the Highway" style, has all but conceded the race Tuesday. With the look of a deer caught in your headlights on his face, Pearce said...

"If being recalled is the price for keeping one's promises, then so be it." His opponent has already declared victory. Pearce, the president of the Arizona Senate, was a hero to the Tea Party movement, and apart from his anti-Mexican efforts, he had introduced numerous bills to overrule federal laws.

There were a lot of Demoncrats that were supposed to lose their jobs, but kept them. Like the Governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, and in Virginia and Iowa, Rethuglicans lost a chance to control their Senates, which would have given them carte blanche to rule like they're doing in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana.

All this gives a boost to the chances of Obamahood for another four years. So yippie, I guess?

And Finally

To be perfectly honest, I've never cared much for French President Nicolas Sarkozy. While I'll admit that I admired his taste in Bimbos, he left a lot to be desired as a leader and as a human being. His fascist, corporate, (but I repeat myself) anti-union leanings have caused more trouble for the French than what he is worth.

However, after last week's failed G-20 summit came a message of hope from Cannes, a private conversation was "inadvertently" overheard by open microphones before an Obama-Sarkozy news conference. I put quotation marks around "inadvertently" because who knows whether Nic and Barry knew the mikes were on or not. Either way, it's about time someone had the guts to say it! While everyone heard it, most "journalists" kept it quiet, but the French website Arret Sur Images, blew the whistle and reported that many reporters heard Sarkozy's comments in French and Obama's reply through a translator: Nic said to Barry: "I can't stand him. He's a liar!" According to the website Nic was speaking of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Barry replied, "You're tired of him; what about me? I have to deal with him every day!" Seems to me that Messers Sarozy and Obama have had about enough of their Zionazi puppet master, especially, like I said before, if they knew the mikes were turned on and wanted to send Netanyahu a message. Perhaps a message about attacking Iran. Something, that would no doubt, send the world economy into a tail-spin as the world is cut off from Gulf oil. Time will tell, America; so stay tuned! Same Bat time, same Bat channel!

Keepin' On

Ooops, we bad, well, at least a certain young intern/cub-reporter who will remain nameless is! Not once, but twice, did she put up the wrong photos for our Vidkun Quisling Award winner, Oakland's Interim Police Chief Howard A. Jordan, as well as Howard Cain's right-hand-man Mark Block.

She misidentified Chief Jordan with a photo of Heinrich Himmler, yes, an easy enough mistake to make, no doubt, but still... And then she identified Mark Block with a picture of the cigarette smoking man from the X-Files! Again, an easy mistake to make!

Therefore, we would like to make a most sincere, and heartfelt apology, to the friends and families of Heinrich Himmler and C.G.B. Spender! We feel your pain!

I decided to take my $30 profit bounty for the year and spend it on a box of Edward Gorey Christmas Cards and stamps and send them out to our top twenty contributors as is often our wont. One year, we sent everybody in the top 20 a copy of my film, "W The Movie" a couple of months before it came out on DVD just after its theatrical run. It is currently available from Amazon as a rental download, a purchase download and as a DVD for those of you who would like a copy -- makes the perfect gift, and if you do, please access it through the magazine. The link is at the bottom of this page and Amazon will throw a couple of pennies my way if you do!


01-14-1919 ~ 11-04-2011
Thanks for the thoughts.

03-24-1967 ~ 11-08-2011
Thanks for the film and music!

10-05-1922 ~ 11-08-2011
Thanks for the laughs!


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.

Transforming Easy Cynicism (And Other Forms Of Conformity) Into Deep Resistance
By Phil Rockstroh

In my opinion, when people opine that the OWS movement is about--or should be about--the airing of this particular grievance or that it must bandy this or that particular demand--they have missed the point. Of course, collectively, OWS evinces a force of resistance against corporate greed and a critique of the failings of the present political system...Yet, as is the case with any living thing, to reduce its essential nature to facile descriptions diminishes it.

As with human perception of life itself, experiencing freedom carries an ineffable quality, a wordless grandeur.

"Human language is like a cracked kettle drum on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when what we long to do is make music that will move the stars to pity." ~~~ Gustave Flaubert
Through it all, the immanent quality of and inchoate longing for freedom remains within us: Although present, it is not always in plain view. Its presence in our lives is, perhaps, best summed up by this Irish aphorism:

"Mrs. O'Kelly, do you believe in fairies?" "No, I don't -- but they're there."
Over and over again, too many well-intentioned sorts continue to insist that it is imperative that we inform the nice people of the middle class (nice people who, given the nature of imperium, willingly feed off the blood of empire like the charges of a vampire) that there are well mannered working people on site at OWS encampments -- not only spittle-launching, leftist radicals.

Excuse me, but, for many years now, so-called "crazy" leftist radicals have been damn near the only ones who have had the clarity of mind to give a cogent critique of empire...have been willing to point out the exploitive, soul-demeaning mode of existence inherent to the militarist/national security/corporate/consumer/ duopolistic state--and, as a result, we have been marginalized, entirely excluded from mainstream debate and discussion.

Let us have a little rendezvous with reality; otherwise, the operatives of the status quo will frame the narrative, once again, and will claim victory by co-option. This is the method by which the capitalist status quo has maintained its inverted totalitarian set-up since the popular uprisings of the 1960's, by means of generous economic rewards (the perks and privileges of the corporate state) for its defacto propagandists and exclusion from the official narrative for dissenters. Don't buy into the false narrative.

Personally, I refuse to eschew the designation of anti-capitalist radical. You cannot shame me for knowing where the bodies of empire are buried and who laid them in their graves. To the landfill of history with capitalism--the wasteful, cracked-brained economic system that created said landfill.

The preening liars at Fox News and other well-rewarded propagandists of state capitalism will disseminate lies, big and small, regardless of our actions...that is what they do. Be cautioned: Never tap dance for the approval of a lying, manipulative, power mad fascist. Once, you begin to do so you co-sign his narrative--thus he owns your hapless ass.

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - 
and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do." ~~~ Georgia O'Keefe
Accordingly, the lessons of the 1960s e.g., COINTELPRO operations...reveal that when street and riot police are ordered to pull back, as in Oakland, agent provocateurs will infiltrate mass political gatherings. Withal: You can bet those masked bastards shouting hate-speak and breaking windows are cops...He is there to draw the cameras of the corporate media towards the scenes of chaos and strife that he seeds in order to turn bourgeois sentiment against reform movements that might change their lives for the create the false narrative that the police are the only bulwark the middle class has against destruction-sowing crazies, who, if given free reign, will leave in rubble and ashes everything they hold dear.

To avoid being falsely labeled: First, endeavor, by inward searching and outward (even failed) endeavor, to know who you are. Then lay claim to your own identity. Otherwise, garnering the clarity required to apprehend what you're up against becomes difficult.

The Greek word for one of the three figures representing The Fates is Moira--which translates into portion. And that is key to grasping what is happening from Cairo to Athens to New York City to Oakland. Ergo, people are rising up and fighting for the rightful and just portion of their lives and fates that have been increasingly commandeered and controlled by a corrupt elite whose rule has, heretofore, been sustained by a disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and power.

Across Greece, people have awaken to the knowledge that passivity is slavery--that capitalism is economic cannibalism...State capitalism, also, devours the dignity of its victims. Yet, after a time, a number of people will rise up against exploitation and will demand their portion of fate.

At this point in time, the term "general strike" holds a deep and resonate appeal. The word "general" suggests that the isolation of daily life experienced under the atomizing circumstances of globalized corporate capitalism can be upended--that there can be a sense of unity--that a movement en mass is possible (yet not a mass movement to war, but a movement en mass towards equity and fairness) by beginning, at long last, to "strike" back--to counterpunch with focused blows those who have kept the harsh, inequitable order of the present era in place by means of intimidation and bribery.

Capitalism--you are a rotting, flesh-eating zombie--there are sacred spark stippling the air around you; these sparks are borne of flames of sacred vehemence. For too long, people have been bled dry by the heart-desiccating aspirations and dehumanizing modes of economic coercion that maintain the neoliberal paradigm. Moreover, the flames of resistance are only fanned when your apologists claim that the system in place provides the best, in fact, the only way to exist in the world and attempt to smother its growing fury with police state tactics.

The stakes are great. Much has been stolen from us: essential qualities, more valuable than money. As the populace of the corporate/consumer state, we have been induced, by means of small bribes and hyper-authoritarian coercion, to sign a social contract that sells our essential nature on the cheap i.e., to be defined (hence diminished) as a consumer, a commuter, an employee, a Republican, a Democrat, a member of a demographic group, a cipher, a sucker, a bystander in one's own fate.

Don't let any system define you, narrow, then appropriate, your innate and essential self towards exploitive agendas, as does the present societal set-up, for the incommensurate profits of a self-serving few--who, in turn, insist that your objections to the situation are unreasonable, outrageous, untoward--too crazy to be uttered in decent company. In short, a system in which its operatives demand that you stay in your place and not question the motives and actions of your betters.

In contrast, a radical sensibility insists you must inhabit an inner landscape wherein no state, corporation--nor any type of extant system holds dominion over your essential self--that you inhabit a landscape that is best navigated by your own interior lode star. Therefore, you have no obligation to justify your existence to any man or system. To even attempt to do so would deliver an injustice to your heart, for this is a state of being as impossible to quantify as a flight of imagination--yet it exist within as immanent as the architecture of desire.

"The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. If you knew when you began a book what would you say at the end, do you think that you would have the courage to write it?" ~~~ Foucault
Who will you meet, where will you travel, what battles will be enjoined and what loves surrendered to as you write the Book of Your Being? What thoughts and feelings will be discovered therein?

Will the words you etch upon the finite moments of your time on this earth evoke deep yearning, like Wordsworth's limning of his longing to see beyond the prison walls of quotidian experience?

[...]I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
excerpt, The World Is Too Much with Us ~~~ William Wordsworth
Or will you refuse to rise, when commanded to do so, as did Rosa Parks on her fateful bus commute through the Jim Crow-demeaned streets of 1950s Montgomery, Alabama; or will you be seized by holy lamentation, like Allen Ginsberg, as he howled anguished prosody into the pity-devoid face of the devouring Moloch of the commodified empire; or will your genius be revealed like the impertinent flutter of Groucho Marx's eyebrows on the screen of Depression era movie houses; or will you reclaim your own heart by the act of telling off some son-of-a-bitch of a boss, as you quit a dead end, heart-deadening job and then resolve to join the defiant multitudes at an OWS encampment?

Mainly, are you prepared to surrender to the everyday miracle that transpires when one, fleetingly, finds the resolve to open one's being to the uncertainties of freedom--when one chooses to break the hold of those fear-bestowing, resentment-besotted demons of banality known as Easy Cynicism, Displaced Resentment, and Habitual Passivity--those disingenuous, corporate/consumer state bards of the Bardo--whose (extant and internalized) narratives have sustained late capitalism.

"Cynicism is just another mode of conformity". ~~~ Theodor W. Adorno
Don't delay: Act as if your life--if not the survival of the planet--depends on it, because, at this point, it does.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

"Hold Me Back!"
By Uri Avnery

EVERYBODY KNOWS the scene from school: a small boy quarrels with a bigger boy. "Hold me back!" he shouts to his comrades, "Before I break his bones!"

Our government seems to be behaving in this way. Every day, via all channels, it shouts that it is going, any minute now, to break the bones of Iran.

Iran is about to produce a nuclear bomb. We cannot allow this. So we shall bomb them to smithereens.

Binyamin Netanyahu says so in every one of his countless speeches, including his opening speech at the winter session of the Knesset. Ditto Ehud Barak. Every self-respecting commentator (has anyone ever seen a non-self-respecting one?) writes about it. The media amplify the sound and the fury.

"Haaretz" splashed its front page with pictures of the seven most important ministers (the "security septet") showing three in favor of the attack, four against.

A GERMAN proverb says: "Revolutions that are announced in advance do not take place." Same goes for wars.

Nuclear affairs are subject to very strict military censorship. Very very strict indeed.

Yet the censor seems to be smiling benignly. Let the boys, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense (the censor's ultimate boss) play their games.

The respected former long-serving chief of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, has publicly warned against the attack, describing it as "the most stupid idea" he has ever heard. He explained that he considers it his duty to warn against it, in view of the plans of Netanyahu and Barak.

On Wednesday, there was a veritable deluge of leaks. Israel tested a missile that can deliver a nuclear bomb more then 5000 km away, beyond you-know-where. And our Air Force has just completed exercises in Sardinia, at a distance larger than you-know-where. And on Thursday, the Home Front Command held training exercises all over Greater Tel Aviv, with sirens screaming away.

All this seems to indicate that the whole hullabaloo is a ploy. Perhaps to frighten and deter the Iranians. Perhaps to push the Americans into more extreme actions. Perhaps coordinated with the Americans in advance. (British sources, too, leaked that the Royal Navy is training to support an American attack on Iran.)

It is an old Israeli tactic to act as if we are going crazy ("The boss has gone mad" is a routine cry in our markets, to suggest that the fruit vendor is selling at a loss.) We shall not listen to the US any more. We shall just bomb and bomb and bomb.

Well, let's be serious for a moment.

ISRAEL WILL not attack Iran. Period.

Some may think that I am going out on a limb. Shouldn't I add at least "probably" or "almost certainly"?

No, I won't. I shall repeat categorically: Israel Will NOT Attack Iran.

Since the 1956 Suez adventure, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered an ultimatum that stopped the action, Israel has never undertaken any significant military operation without obtaining American consent in advance.

The US is Israel's only dependable supporter in the world (besides, perhaps, Fiji, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau.) To destroy this relationship means cutting our lifeline. To do that, you have to be more than just a little crazy. You have to be raving mad.

Furthermore, Israel cannot fight a war without unlimited American support, because our planes and our bombs come from the US. During a war, we need supplies, spare parts, many sorts of equipment. During the Yom Kippur war, Henry Kissinger had an "air train" supplying us around the clock. And that war would probably look like a picnic compared to a war with Iran.

LET'S LOOK at the map. That, by the way, is always recommended before starting any war.

The first feature that strikes the eye is the narrow Strait of Hormuz, through which every third barrel of the worlds seaborne oil supplies flow. Almost the entire output of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iraq and Iran has to run the gauntlet through this narrow sea lane.

"Narrow" is an understatement. The entire width of this waterway is some 35 km (or 20 miles). That's about the distance from Gaza to Beer Sheva, which was crossed last week by the primitive rockets of the Islamic Jihad.

When the first Israeli plane enters Iranian airspace, the strait will be closed. The Iranian navy has plenty of missile boats, but they will not be needed. Land-based missiles are enough. The world is already teetering on the verge of an abyss. Little Greece is threatening to fall and take major chunks of the world economy with her. The elimination of almost a fifth of the industrial nations' supply of oil would lead to a catastrophe hard even to imagine.

To open the strait by force would require a major military operation (including "putting boots on the ground") that would overshadow all the US misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Can the US afford that? Can NATO? Israel itself is not in the same league.

BUT ISRAEL would be very much involved in the action, if only on the receiving end.

In a rare show of unity, all of Israel's service chiefs, including the heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet, are publicly opposing the whole idea. We can only guess why.

I don't know whether the operation is possible at all. Iran is a very large country, about the size of Alaska, the nuclear installations are widely dispersed and largely underground. Even with the special deep penetration bombs provided by the US, the operation may stall the Iranian efforts - such as they are - only for a few months. The price may be too high for such meager results.

Moreover, it is quite certain that with the beginning of a war, missiles will rain down on Israel - not only from Iran, but also from Hizbollah, and perhaps also from Hamas. We have no adequate defense for our towns. The amount of death and destruction would be prohibitive.

Suddenly, the media are full of stories about our three submarines, soon to grow to five, or even six, if the Germans are understanding and generous. It is openly said that these give us the capabilities of a nuclear "second strike", if Iran uses its (still non-existent) nuclear warheads against us. But the Iranians may also use chemical and other weapons of mass destruction.

Then there is the political price. There are a lot of tensions in the Islamic world. Iran is far from popular in many parts of it. But an Israeli assault on a major Muslim country would instantly unite Sunnis and Shiites, from Egypt and Turkey to Pakistan and beyond. Israel could become a villa in a burning jungle.

BUT THE talk about the war serves many purposes, including domestic, political ones.

Last Saturday, the social protest movement sprang to life again. After a pause of two months, a mass of people assembled in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square. This was quite remarkable, because on that very day rockets were falling on the towns near the Gaza Strip. Until now, in such a situation demonstrations have always been canceled. Security problems trump everything else. Not this time.

Also, many people believed that the euphoria of the Gilad Shalit festival had wiped the protest from the public mind. It didn't.

By the way, something remarkable has happened: the media, after siding with the protest movement for months, have had a change of heart. Suddenly all of them, including Haaretz, are sticking knives in its back. As if by order, all newspapers wrote the next day that "more than 20,000" took part. Well I was there, and I do have some idea of these things. There were at least 100,000 people there, most of them young. I could hardly move.

The protest has not spent itself, as the media assert. Far from it. But what better means for taking people's minds off social justice than talk of the "existential danger"?

Moreover, the reforms demanded by the protesters would need money. In view of the worldwide financial crisis, the government strenuously objects to increasing the state budget, for fear of damaging our credit rating.

So where could the money come from? There are only three plausible sources: the settlements (who would dare?), the Orthodox (ditto!) and the huge military budget.

But on the eve of the most crucial war in our history, who would touch the armed forces? We need every shekel to buy more planes, more bombs, more submarines. Schools and hospitals must, alas, wait.

So God bless Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Where would we be without him?
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Why Mitt Romney's Entitlement-Privatization Plan Is Crazy
By Matt Taibbi

David Brooks, the [gratuitous insult deleted], wrote this this morning entitled "Mitt Romney, the Serious One." In it, he explained how Romney's recent decision to unveil a plan for reforming the entitlement system "demonstrates his awareness of the issues that need to define the 2012 presidential election."

Romney grasped the toughest issue - how to reform entitlements to avoid a fiscal catastrophe - and he sketched out a sophisticated way to address it.
So we had a giant financial crash in 2008 that necessitated a bailout costing a minimum of nearly $5 trillion and perhaps ultimately costing $10 trillion more, we have foreclosure crisis with more than million people a year losing their homes, and we have a burgeoning European debt disaster that threatens to devastate the global financial system - and the chief issue facing the country, according to Brooks and the Times, is reforming the entitlement system?

The column goes on to throw bouquets on Romney's plan to semi-privatize Medicare and Social Security. Romney's ideas are not as draconian as Paul Ryan's, but they do pave the way for Wall Street's ultimate goal - full privatization of Social Security and Medicare.

Think about what such reforms might mean. Your typical Medicare/Social Security recipient might already have been ripped off three different ways in this era.

He might have been sold a crappy mortgage or a refi by a Countrywide-type firm (which often targeted the elderly). He might then also have unwittingly become an investor in such mortgages and seen the value of his retirement holdings devastated (many of the banks sold their crappy mortgage-backed securities to state pension funds).

Lastly, if he paid taxes, he saw part of his tax money go to pay off the bets the banks made against these same mortgages.

So now that Wall Street has ripped off this segment of society three times, it makes all the sense in the world that Mitt Romney - a former Wall Street superstar who was a chief architect of the modern executive-compensation-driven corporation - is coming back and telling us that we need to cut their Medicare and Social Security benefits in order to defray the cost of the previous three scams.

(Actually, it makes sense. If we don't cut health care and retirement benefits for old people, how can we pay for the carried-interest tax break that allows private equity guys like, well, Mitt Romney to keep paying 15 percent tax rates?).

There's another aspect to all of this that boggles the mind.

We've just witnessed an episode of industry-wide financial mismanagement that surely has no parallel in history. From Lehman Brothers to AIG to Goldman and Morgan Stanley (which in 2008 needed the unprecedented emergency granting of a commercial bank charter to avoid bankruptcy) to Citigroup (which needed a $25 billion bailout and $300 billion in federal guarantees to survive) to Bear Stearns (dead) and Merrill Lynch (dead) and so on, virtually every single one of America's leading financial institutions from the last decade is either already out of business or functionally insolvent and living off government life support and cheap cash from the Fed.

Even leaving aside the fact that most of them are facing mass litigation for fraud, dishonest accounting, and/or systematic perjury (for robosigning financial documentation), they've all proven their complete and utter incompetence to do their ostensible jobs, i.e. the care and stewardship of money.

For instance, the top five investment banks in the country sought to remove capital requirements in the middle of the last decade, and all of them instantly jacked their debt-to-equity ratios above 20-1, some of them going as high as 33-1 or 35-1. Of those five investment banks, three (Bear, Lehman, and Merrill) went out of business during the crash, and the other two (Goldman and Morgan Stanley) required massive government aid to survive.

The commercial banks have not been much better, with two of the biggest (Wachovia and Washington Mutual) imploding thanks to bad investment decisions and three of the biggest survivors (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup) recently facing downgrades.

The recent downgrades, incidentally, were widely seen as Wall Street's way of making two interlocking judgments about these big banks. One is that their accounting is so fucked up and dishonest that it simply cannot be believed, leading to widespread expectation that one or more of them will ultimately collapse. The other is that when they collapse, the government may no longer be able or willing to completely bail these companies out. The downgrades were spurred by vague fears that implementation of new reforms via Dodd-Frank will make it harder to get bailouts.

So the mere hint that these banks might be denied future bailouts caused a company as massive as Bank of America to be downgraded to just above junk status. That means, in other words, that without the implicit promise of government aid, Wall Street considers these banks to be junk or below-junk businesses. Evaluated purely on their own merits, without the implicit attachment to the taxpayer, these companies actually have negative trustworthiness.

And these are the people we want managing the nation's Social Security accounts?

If there wasn't such a very real chance that this could happen, it would be worth laughing about, but unfortunately it's no joke. It's a testament to the tenacious idiocy of our national media that an idea like Social Security privatization could continue to be publicly contemplated, in the wake of a disaster on the scale we've just gone through.

Advocating the turning over of Social Security management to Wall Street after the 2008 crash is a little like asking Paris Hilton to pilot Air Force One, or tabbing Charlie Sheen to manage the inventory of a hospital pharmacy - completely nuts, but to David Brooks, that makes Mitt Romney the "serious" candidate.
(c) 2011 Matt Taibbi

The Truth About Violence
3 Principles of Self-Defense
By Sam Harris

As a teenager, I once had an opportunity to fly in a police helicopter over a major American city. Naively, I thought the experience might be uneventful. Perhaps there would be no crime between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday night. However, from the moment we were airborne, there was a fresh emergency every fifteen seconds: Shots fired... rape in progress... victim stabbed...It was a deluge. Of course, the impression this left on me was, in part, the result of a sampling bias: I was hearing nothing but incident reports from a city of 4 million people, most of whom would never encounter violence directly. (No one calls the police to say "Everything is still okay!") Yet it was uncanny to discover the chaos that lurked at the margins of my daily routine. A few minutes from where I might otherwise have been eating dinner, rapes, robberies, and murders were in progress.

Just as it is prudent to wear your seat belt while driving, it makes sense to know how best to respond to violence. In fact, it is overwhelmingly likely that some of you will become the targets of violence in the future. The purpose of this essay is to help you prepare for it. While I do not consider myself an expert on personal security, I know enough to have strong opinions. In my youth, I practiced martial arts for many years and eventually taught self-defense classes in college. My education included work with firearms and a variety of other weapons.⁠ I eventually stopped training and moved on to other things, but my interest in self-defense has resurfaced. It's hard to say why. No doubt receiving occasional death threats and other strange communications has been a factor. But I think that having a family has played a much larger role. I now feel acutely responsible for the safety of those closest to me.

In my experience, most people do not want to think about the reality of human violence. I have friends who sleep with their front doors unlocked and who would never consider receiving instruction in self-defense. For them, gun ownership seems like an ugly and uncivilized flirtation with paranoia. Happily, most of these people will never encounter violence in any form. And good luck will make their unconcern seem perfectly justified.

But here are the numbers: In 2010, there were 403.6 violent crimes per 100,000 persons in the United States. (The good news: This is an overall decrease of 13.4 percent from the level in 2001.) Thus, the average American has a 1 in 250 chance of being robbed, assaulted, raped, or murdered each year. Actually, the chance is probably greater than this, because we know that certain crimes, such as assault and rape, are underreported.

Of course, your risks vary depending on who you are and where you live. In Compton, one of the more dangerous parts of Los Angeles, your chances of experiencing violent crime in 2010 were 1 in 71; if you lived in Beverly Hills they were 1 in 458. Still, even in good neighborhoods, the likelihood of being attacked is hardly remote. In the comparative safety of Beverly Hills, assuming the crime rate stays constant, the probability that you will be robbed, assaulted, raped or murdered at some point over the next 30 years is 1 in 16. (The average risk in the U.S. is 1 in 9; in Compton it's better than 1 in 3.) Again, these statistics surely paint too rosy a picture, because many crimes go unreported.

It may seem onerous to prepare yourself and your family to respond to violence, but not doing so is also a form of preparation. Failing to prepare is, generally speaking, preparing very well to do the wrong thing. Although most of us are good at recognizing danger, our instincts often lead us to behave in ways that increase our chances of being injured or killed once a threat emerges.

Why can't civilized people like ourselves simply rely on the police? Well, look around you: Do you see a cop? Unless you happen to be a police officer yourself, or are married to one, you are very unlikely to be attacked in the presence of law enforcement. The role of the police is to respond in the aftermath of a crime and, with a little luck, to catch the person who committed it. If you are ever targeted by a violent predator, whether you and your family are injured or killed will depend on what you do in the first moments of the encounter.⁠ When it comes to survival, therefore, you are entirely on your own. Once you escape and are in a safe place, by all means call the police. But dialing 911 when an intruder has broken into your home is not a strategy for self-defense.

However, instruction in self-defense need not consume your life. The most important preparations are mental. While I certainly recommend that you receive some physical training, merely understanding the dynamics of violence can make you much safer than you might otherwise be.

Principle #1: Avoid dangerous people and dangerous places.

The primary goal of self-defense is to avoid becoming the victim of violence. The best way to do this is to not be where violence is likely to occur. Of course, that's not always possible-but without question, it is your first and best line of defense. If you visit dangerous neighborhoods at night, or hike alone and unarmed on trails near a big city, or frequent places where drunken young men gather, you are running some obvious risks.

I once knew an experienced martial artist who decided to walk across Central Park late at night. He was aware of the danger, but he thought "I have a black belt in karate. Why shouldn't I be able to walk wherever I want?" As it happened, this rhetorical question was answered almost immediately: My friend hadn't ventured more than a hundred yards into the darkness of the park before he was confronted by three men, one of whom plunged a hypodermic needle into his thigh without a word. Our hero bolted and escaped, otherwise unharmed, but he spent the next three months wondering whether he had been infected with HIV, hepatitis, or some other blood-borne disease. (He was fine.) The lesson: Whatever your training, you needn't be foolish.

Similarly, all men should learn to recognize and shun status-seeking displays of aggression. This is one problem that women generally don't have to worry about. It is, for instance, very rare for a woman to find herself party to an exchange like this:

"What are you looking at, asshole?"

"Who are you calling an asshole?"

"You, bitch. What are you going to do about it?"

Nevertheless, young men are easily lured into social dominance games from which neither party can find a face-saving exit. The violence that erupts at such moments is as unnecessary as it is predictable. If you want to preserve your health and stay out of prison, you must learn to avoid or defuse conflict of this kind.

When a conflict turns physical, there is always a risk that someone will be severely injured or killed. Imagine spending a year or more in prison because you couldn't resist punching some bully who dearly deserved it, but who then hit his head on a fire hydrant and died from a brain injury. As a matter of law, the moment you engage in avoidable violence of this kind-rising to a challenge and escalating the conflict-you lose any legal claim to self-defense. Rather, you were fighting-which is illegal-and in this case you accidentally killed your opponent. You are now likely to get more practice fighting in prison. (Meanwhile, the costs of your criminal defense, and perhaps a subsequent civil lawsuit, could easily bankrupt you.) Take this maxim to heart: Self-defense is not about winning fights with aggressive men who probably have less to lose than you do.⁠

Another principle is lurking here that should be made explicit: Never threaten your opponent. The purpose of his verbal challenge was to get you to respond in such a way as to make him feel justified in attacking you. You shouldn't collaborate in this process or advertise your readiness to defend yourself. Even if violence seems unavoidable, and you decide to strike preemptively, you should do so from a seemingly unaggressive posture, retaining the element of surprise. (This requires training.) Putting up your dukes and agreeing to fight has no place in a self-defense repertoire.⁠

Thus, whatever ego problems or impulse-control issues you have should be worked out ahead of time. You should forget about saving face while recognizing that if you ever find yourself in a social-dominance contest you will probably feel a deep urge to say or do the wrong thing.⁠ Deciding on an appropriate course of action in advance is your best protection against being dangerously stupid in the heat of the moment. The challenge for every man is to decline to play an ancient game whose rules and imperatives have been inscribed in his very cells. If you want to avoid unnecessary violence, you must keep your inner ape on a very short leash. "What are you looking at, asshole?"

"Sorry, man. I was just spacing out. It's been a long day."

De-escalate and move on.

You should also learn to trust your feelings of apprehension about other people-revising them only slowly and with good reason. This may seem like a very depressing piece of advice. It is. Most of us don't want to see the world this way, and we take great pains to avoid being rude or appearing racist, suspicious, etc. But violent predators invariably play upon this commitment to civility. The truth is that most of us are very good at detecting ulterior motives and malevolence in others. We must learn to trust these intuitions. To read the reports of rapes, murders, kidnappings and other violent crimes is to continually discover how easily good people can be manipulated by bad ones. You are under no obligation, for instance, to give a stranger who has rung your doorbell, or decided to stand unusually close to you on the street, the benefit of the doubt. If a man who makes you uncomfortable steps onto an elevator with you, step off. If a man approaches you while you are sitting in your car and something about him doesn't seem right, you don't need to roll down your window and have a conversation. Victims of crime often sense that something is wrong in the first moments of encountering their attackers but feel too socially inhibited to create the necessary distance and escape.

Principle #2: Do not defend your property.

Whatever your training, you should view any invitation to violence as an opportunity to die-or to be sent to prison for killing another human being. Violence must truly be the last resort. Thus, if someone sticks a gun in your face and demands your wallet, you should hand it over without hesitation-and run.

If you look out your kitchen window and see a group of youths destroying your car, you should remain inside and call the police. It doesn't matter if you happen to be a Navy Seal who keeps a loaded shotgun by the front door. You don't want to kill a teenager for vandalism, and you don't want to get shot by one for hesitating to pull the trigger. Unless you or another person is being physically harmed, or an attack seems imminent, avoiding violence should be your only concern.

Principle #3: Respond immediately and escape.

If you have principles 1 and 2 firmly installed in your brain, any violence that finds you is, by definition, unavoidable. There is a tremendous power in knowing this: When you find yourself without other options, you are free to respond with full commitment.

This is the core principle of self-defense: Do whatever you can to avoid a physical confrontation, but the moment avoidance fails, attack explosively for the purposes of escape-not to mete out justice, or to teach a bully a lesson, or to apprehend a criminal. Your goal is to get away with minimum trauma (to you), while harming your attacker in any way that seems necessary to ensure your escape.⁠

If you find yourself in such a situation, you should assume that your opponent is a career criminal who has victimized many others before you.⁠ Do not waste an instant imagining that you can reason with him. Most victims of violence are so terrified of being injured or killed that they will believe any promise a predator makes. It is not difficult to see why.

Imagine: You are loading groceries into your car and man appears at your side with a gun.

"Get in the car, and you won't get hurt."

Your instincts are probably bad here: Getting in the car is the last thing you should do.

"Get in the car, or I'll blow your head off."

However bad your options may appear in the moment, complying with the demands of a person who is seeking to control your movements is a terrible idea. Yes, there are criminals whose only goal is to steal your property. But anyone who attempts to control you-by moving you to another room, putting you in a car, tying you up-probably intends to kill you (or worse). And you must understand in advance that your natural reaction to this situation-to freeze, to comply with instructions-will be the wrong one.

If someone puts a gun to your head and demands your purse or wallet, hand it over immediately and run. Don't worry about being shot in the back: If your attacker is going to shoot you for running, he was going to shoot you if you stayed in place, and at point-blank range. By running, you make yourself harder to kill. Any attempt to move you, even by a few feet-backing you off a sidewalk and into an alley, forcing you behind a row of bushes-is unacceptable and should mobilize all your physical and emotional resources.⁠

If you find yourself in a situation where a predator is trying to control you, the time for listening to instructions and attempting to remain calm has passed. It will get no easier to resist and escape after these first moments. The presence of weapons, the size or number of your attackers-these details are irrelevant. However bad the situation looks, it will only get worse. To hesitate is to put yourself at the mercy of a sociopath. You have no alternative but to explode into action, whatever the risk. Recognizing when this line has been crossed, and committing to escape at any cost, is more important than mastering physical techniques.

Herein lies a crucial distinction between traditional martial arts and realistic self-defense: Most martial artists train for a "fight." Opponents assume ready stances, just out of each other's range, and then practice various techniques or spar (engage in controlled fighting). This does not simulate real violence. It doesn't prepare you to respond effectively to a sudden attack, in which you have been hit before you even knew you were threatened, and it doesn't teach you to strike preemptively, without telegraphing your moves, once you have determined that an attack is imminent.

Whatever your physical skills, when you commit to using force against another person, your overriding goal is still to escape. Even if you are at home, in possession of a firearm, and well trained to use it, when confronted by an intruder your best defense is to get out of the house as quickly as possible. In such a circumstance, a gun is a means of ensuring that no one can block your exit.

Nothing good ever comes to people who allow themselves to be moved to a remote location at the mercy of a violent predator. The police call such places "secondary crime scenes." They are always better for the attacker and worse for his victim because they are more isolated than the first point of contact. And although your home may be the most familiar place on earth to you, the moment an intruder enters, it becomes the equivalent of a secondary crime scene. You should also expect that any criminal who breaks into your home when you're inside it has come prepared to murder you and your family. To naive readers, this may sound like an extraordinarily paranoid assumption. It isn't. Mere burglars generally make sure a house is empty before breaking in.⁠

If a window shatters in the middle of the night and someone comes through it, your life is on the line. There is nothing to talk about, no offer of cash or jewelry to muster, no demands worth listening to. You must do whatever it takes to escape.

One of the most common and disturbing features of home invasions is how the victims' concern for one another and desire to stay together is inevitably used against them. By exploiting these bonds, even a single attacker can immobilize an entire family. By merely holding a knife to the wife's throat, he can get the husband to submit to being tied up. Again, it is perfectly natural for victims in these circumstances to hope that if they just cooperate, their attacker will show them mercy. If you get nothing else from this article, engrave this iron law on your mind: The moment it is clear that an assailant wants more than your property (which must be assumed in any home invasion), you must escape.

What if your attacker has a knife to your child's throat and tells you that everything is going to be okay as long as you cooperate by lying face down on the floor? Don't do it. It would be better to flee the house-because as soon as you leave, he will know that the clock is ticking: Within moments, you will be at a neighbor's home summoning help. If this intruder is going to murder your child before fleeing himself, he was going to murder your child anyway-either before or after he killed you. And he was going to take his time doing it. Granted, it is almost impossible to imagine leaving one's child in such a circumstance-but if you can't leave, you must grab a weapon and press your own attack. Complying in the hope that a sociopath will keep his promise to you is always the wrong move.

Here is how the police look at it:

From a cop's point of view, citizens seem to keep making the same mistakes over and over, until all cases begin to sound alike.... The objective of a violent criminal is to control you, emotionally and physically. Everything he does-his threats and promises-is intended to terrify and control you. The more control you give to the violent criminal, even if you see it as temporary, the less likely you are to escape. For most crime victims, their temporary cooperation backfired into full control over them. Time works against the victim and for the criminal. The longer you stall, the more you talk, the deeper you sink.

(S. Strong. Strong on Defense. pp. 49-50).

True self-defense is based not on techniques but on principles. Yes, it is good to know how to deliver a palm strike or elbow to a person's head with real power (technique), but it is far more important to know when to unleash with whatever tools you have for the purpose of immediate escape (principle). You must install a trigger in your mind-to act explosively once a certain line has been crossed-and you must understand that your inclination will most likely be to freeze and acquiesce, in the hope of avoiding injury or death. Mental preparation is a matter of resolving, in advance, to burst past these inhibitions and escape immediately, or fight with everything you've got until escape is possible.

Certain scenarios are intrinsically confusing and should be discussed with your family in advance: What if a person dressed as a police officer comes to your door and asks to be let in? Unless you are absolutely certain that he is a cop-e.g. you can see that he arrived in a marked police car-you should explain that you have no way of knowing who he is and then call the police yourself. Thousands of crimes are committed each year by people impersonating cops. (Anyone can buy a uniform and a badge over the Internet.) Similarly, many home invasions begin with a criminal's acting like a person in distress: A woman or a teenager might come to your door reporting an accident or some other emergency. Again, the safe move is to keep your door locked and call the police.

Finally, you do not need to learn hundreds of techniques to become proficient in the physical aspects of self-defense. Rather, you should train a small number of skills nearly to the point of reflex. Although you cannot do this by simply reading books or watching videos. It is unpleasant to study the details of crime and violence-and for this reason many of us never do. I am convinced, however, that some planning and preparation can greatly reduce a person's risk. And though there are exceptions to every rule, I don't believe that there are important exceptions to the advice I have given here. May you never have occasion to find it useful.
(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.

Another Bailout Scam From Bank Of America

One way you can tell that a bank is in trouble is that it suddenly starts buying full-page ads in newspapers across the country to tell us what great shape its in and what a fine job it's doing for our communities.

Such a PR push is now being made by Bank of America, which - despite its happy-face ads - is in a heap of hurt. How big of a heap? So big that it's trying to share the hurt with you and me.

In the recent Wall Street collapse, B of A took advantage of the crisis to bulk up its empire. Using $45 billion in bailout money from us taxpayers, the giant gobbled up two troubled financial powers, investment house Merrill Lynch and mortgage hustler Countrywide Financial. It is now choking on these mergers, as well as its own executive incompetence. Its credit rating has been downgraded, its stock price has plummeted, its CEO is desperately trying to raise cash (and save his job) by firing 36,000 employees, and it has infuriated its own customers by trying to impose a $5 monthly fee on debit card users.

Now, though, CEO Brian Moynihan has a dandy plan to lighten his load by dumping a big chunk of it on us taxpayers. He's trying to transfer a mess of bad investments now held by the Merrill Lynch subsidiary into B of A's consumer banking unit. Why? Because that unit has about a trillion dollars in customer deposits that are insured by Uncle Sam. So, if Merrill's sorry investments cause the banking unit to fail, the feds would be there to rescue it.

A banking expert has commented that, "There is always an enormous temptation to dump the losers on the insured institution. We should have fairly tight restrictions on that."

"Fairly tight?" Uh-uh! We should have totally tight restrictions - as in, "No, you can't do that." Why should we let these failed capitalists turn into corporate socialists every time they get in trouble?
(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.

Leaving Iraq Is Not Enough
By Helen Thomas

The good news is President Barack Obama promised to bring the American troops home from Iraq by the end of the year. But he does not go far enough. What about Afghanistan? Thousands of American troops are serving in that primitive territory, where they are constantly targeted in that mountainous, impossible land.

Let's get out of both countries.

It is a most serious, unacceptable tragedy, the U.S. involvement in Iraq since 2003 and Afghanistan since 2001 - years of senseless killing and dying.

As Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote in his famous poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade," "Their's not to make reply/Their's not to reason why/Their's but to do and die."

Obama followed former President George W. Bush's "stay the course" approach after Bush initiated an invasion into Iraq, with no honest explanation of the reason for storming Baghdad. Why should Americans have to continue to die for lies?

Where are the American protesters against "no-win" wars? The death of one soldier in these forsaken wars is a deep tragedy. Obama had a chance to get out of both conflicts when he first took the presidential oath of office. Granted, it would have taken courage, but it also would have given the country a great sense of relief to move on. Instead, Obama failed to act at the moment.

No one rejected President Dwight D. Eisenhower's determination to pull out of Korea as soon as he took over the Oval Office. No one called President Ronald Reagan a coward when he pulled fleets out of Lebanon after the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. It was the better part of valor.

The lives lost are everything. But the wars have also caused a daily drain of billions from the U.S. Treasury. Can we really afford to continue spending millions of dollars per day on wars when so many Americans are losing their homes and struggling to put food on the table and pay medical bills?

In another development, the U.S. has acted shamefully again against the Palestinians.

Obama opposed granting full membership of Palestine into UNESCO. Palestine won full membership in the organization, and Obama plans to call off all funding to the global educational, social and cultural agency.

How long does the President of the United States plan to march to the Tel Aviv drummer? Does the U.S. always have to take Israel's orders, especially during an election year? Does pro-Israeli money and political support trump the American sense of humanity and values? How can America be against freedom for the Palestinians, and turn a blind eye as Israel continues to blatantly build illegal settlements?

The U.S. representative in Paris, at the time of the UNESCO vote to allow Palestine full membership, told the gathering the move was "not helpful." For whom? Has the U.S. lost its goal to help countries join the community of nations?

Now The Washington Post reports that in Kabul there is a detention facility to hold terrorist suspects, called Department 124, which is known for torturing prisoners. According to the Post, one of the detainees called the notorious prison "hell." The United Nations has disclosed what it calls systematic torture at the prison.

Other countries have halted the policy of handing over the terrorist suspects to Afghan custody because of the practice of torture on prisoners, but not the U.S.

Haven't we learned anything from the revelations of water boarding and other horrors at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the infamous prison near Baghdad - the place where torture of so called terrorists was routine practice, with the approval of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and former Vice President Dick Cheney?

Is it possible for us to get out of these wars with our honor intact?

How long can we continue this "man's inhumanity to man" without adhering to our dedication to the judicial process? How long is Obama going to shame us with his self-serving political moves?

Gaza is an open prison. The U.S. has threatened to block every step for the liberation of the Palestinian people. And now, it appears we are standing by as prisoners are being tortured in Kabul. What has the U.S. become?
(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.

Shame On US
Over 140,500 In Prison For Life
By James Donahue

Those ugly "made-up" wars on drugs and against terror and the mandatory minimum sentencing laws are taking an appalling toll on American citizens. The most recent count in 2009 shows 140,610 people were sentenced to live the rest of their natural lives behind bars.

This means that more prisoners are serving life terms in the United States than ever before in the nation’s history. This is according to a report by the Sentencing Project, a group calling for the elimination of life sentences without parole.

This group has tracked an increase in life sentences since 1984, when the number of inmates serving life terms was just 34,000.

Americans like to say they live in the "land of the free," but in reality, the United States now has the highest incarceration record, per capita, in the world. By the end of 2009 there were 743 adults under some form of imprisonment or parole per 100,000 people.

According to the U. S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 2,292,133 adults being incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons and county jails as of the end of 2009. The statistics for 2010 are not yet made available.

Another 4,933,667 adults were on probation or parole. This added up to 7,225,800 adults that were under some form of correctional supervision. In addition another 86,927 juveniles were under detention.

The horrible statistics show that the United States now houses a quarter of all prisoners in the world, and more inmates than the top 35 European countries combined.

Of course, the minorities are among those most frequently sentenced to time behind bars. The statistics show one of every three black men under some form of incarceration during their lives.

The execution of prisoners for so-called capitol offenses also falls among the highest number in the world. Since 1978 there have been 1,273 executions, with another 3,251 prisoners still waiting for execution. Texas has led the nation in executions, with 476 prisoners having been put to death in that state alone during that period, statistics show.

These statistics do not include the multitudes of traffic offenses, shop lifting cases and other misdemeanor charges brought against citizens. We suspect that if we throw these numbers into the mill, most people in the country are touched in some way by police, the courts and the law sometime during their lifetime.

Anyone who has ever gone through the agony of standing before a judge on even a speeding ticket or misdemeanor charge has a keen understanding of the severity of the American court system. Since 911 and the introduction of the Patriot Acts I and II, the old concepts of innocence until proven guilty and due process have been all but lost in our court systems.

It has been my observation as a working court reporter that those with the means of hiring high-priced, smooth-talking, theatrical performers for lawyers have the best chance of convincing a jury of their innocence. The poor must ride the system which usually means accepting a plea bargain between court-appointed lawyers and prosecutors, and then bearing the wrath of a corrupt court.

The courts, the lawyers and the police have all been corrupted by greed. They are a collective system of capture, hold and punish in a way that pays handsomely for their existence. Thus small-town judges that are drawing salaries of $100,000 to $200,000 a year, work with prosecutors receiving up to $80,000 to $100,000, and police officers receiving from $30,000 to $40,000 a year to feather their own nests.

There is an attitude among members of the law enforcement community that the arrested person is guilty until proven innocent. They are treated like criminals, manacled at the time of the arrest, confined to crude jail cells, and paraded before judges, lawyers and onlookers during court appearances wearing gaudy orange colored prison garb. It is all designed to humiliate and embarrass the accused to a point where he/she will do anything to escape torment; even going to the point of accepting a plea agreement. It does not matter if they may be innocent of any wrongdoing. Everybody gets treated the same; like dogs.

Knowing how the system works, I believe many innocent people are locked behind bars, many of them facing a lifetime of confinement and some looking at capital punishment for crimes not committed. I recently watched a judge sentence a man with a good job, a wife and children to prison because he went hunting with friends. It seems that ten years earlier this man was convicted on a plea agreement on a felony charge and his sentence included a lifetime without owning and/or using firearms. He was caught when the car he was riding in had a flat tire and a police officer stopped to run a check on the vehicle's occupants. A shotgun he owned was in the car.

The harsh new laws, many of them stemming from "get tough on crime" campaigns, have had their effect on the prison system. The number of prisoners facing life sentences has doubled since 1992, and reached four times the level a decade prior to that, statistics show.

Ironically, the statistics also show that levels of violent crimes have dropped by a third in the last decade. But supporters of tough sentencing laws claim this is proof that prison works.

Sentencing Project notes that the politicians are ignoring real crime trends and have stripped important discretionary powers from the judges. The report notes California’s "three strikes and you're out" law is among the reasons for the jump in life sentences. Other states also have adopted similar sentencing guidelines.

Under the three-strikes law, a third felony conviction, no matter how minor, can mean a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

In six states, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania and South Dakota, a life sentence means just what it says. Felons go to prison and stay there until they die. There is no hope of parole.
(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.

The Drone Mentality
By Glenn Greenwald

In a New York Times Op-Ed yesterday, international human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith describes a meeting he had in Pakistan with residents from the Afghan-Pakistani border region that has been relentlessly bombed by American drones; if I had one political wish this week, it would be that everyone who supports (or acquiesces to) President Obama's wildly accelerated drone attacks would read this:

The meeting had been organized so that Pashtun tribal elders who lived along the Pakistani-Afghan frontier could meet with Westerners for the first time to offer their perspectives on the shadowy drone war being waged by the Central Intelligence Agency in their region. Twenty men came to air their views; some brought their young sons along to experience this rare interaction with Americans. In all, 60 villagers made the journey. . . .

On the night before the meeting, we had a dinner, to break the ice. During the meal, I met a boy named Tariq Aziz. He was 16. As we ate, the stern, bearded faces all around me slowly melted into smiles. Tariq smiled much sooner; he was too young to boast much facial hair, and too young to have learned to hate.

The next day, the jirga lasted several hours. I had a translator, but the gist of each man's speech was clear. American drones would circle their homes all day before unleashing Hellfire missiles, often in the dark hours between midnight and dawn. Death lurked everywhere around them. . . .

On Monday, [Tariq] was killed by a C.I.A. drone strike, along with his 12-year-old cousin, Waheed Khan. The two of them had been dispatched, with Tariq driving, to pick up their aunt and bring her home to the village of Norak, when their short lives were ended by a Hellfire missile.

My mistake had been to see the drone war in Waziristan in terms of abstract legal theory - as a blatantly illegal invasion of Pakistan's sovereignty, akin to President Richard M. Nixon's bombing of Cambodia in 1970.

But now, the issue has suddenly become very real and personal. Tariq was a good kid, and courageous. My warm hand recently touched his in friendship; yet, within three days, his would be cold in death, the rigor mortis inflicted by my government.

And Tariq's extended family, so recently hoping to be our allies for peace, has now been ripped apart by an American missile - most likely making any effort we make at reconciliation futile.

This tragedy repeats itself over and over. After I linked to this Op-Ed yesterday on Twitter - by writing that "every American who cheers for drone strikes should confront the victims of their aggression" - I was predictably deluged with responses justifying Obama's drone attacks on the ground that they are necessary to kill The Terrorists. Reading the responses, I could clearly discern the mentality driving them: I have never heard of 99% of the people my government kills with drones, nor have I ever seen any evidence about them, but I am sure they are Terrorists. That is the drone mentality in both senses of the word; it's that combination of pure ignorance and blind faith in government authorities that you will inevitably hear from anyone defending President Obama's militarism. As Jonathan Schwarz observed after the U.S. unveiled the dastardly Iranian plot to hire a failed used car salesman to kill America's close friend, the Saudi Ambassador: "I'd bet the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. has closer 'ties' to Al Qaeda than 90% of the people we've killed with drones."

As it turns out, it isn't only the President's drone-cheering supporters who have no idea who is being killed by the program they support; neither does the CIA itself. A Wall Street Journal article yesterday described internal dissension in the administration to Obama's broad standards for when drone strikes are permitted, and noted that the "bulk" of the drone attacks - the bulk of them - "target groups of men believed to be militants associated with terrorist groups, but whose identities aren't always known." As Spencer Ackerman put it: "The CIA is now killing people without knowing who they are, on suspicion of association with terrorist groups"; moreover, the administration refuses to describe what it even means by being "associated" with a Terrorist group (indeed, it steadfastly refuses to tell citizens anything about the legal principles governing its covert drone wars).

Of course, nobody inside the U.S. Government is objecting on the ground that it is wrong to blow people up without having any knowledge of who they are and without any evidence they have done anything wrong. Rather, the internal dissent is grounded in the concern that these drone attacks undermine U.S. objectives by increasing anti-American sentiment in the region (there's that primitive, inscrutable Muslim culture rearing its head again: they strangely seem to get very angry when foreign governments send sky robots over their countries and blow up their neighbors, teenagers and children). But whatever else is true, huge numbers of Americans - Democrats and Republicans alike - defend Obama's massive escalation of drone attacks on the ground that he's killing Terrorists even though they - and, according to the Wall Street Journal, Obama himself - usually don't even know whose lives they're snuffing out. Remember, though: we have to kill The Muslim Terrorists because they have no regard for human life.

This is why it's so imperative to do everything possible to shine a light on the victims of President Obama's aggression in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere: ignoring the victims, rendering them invisible, is a crucial prerequisite to sustaining propaganda and maintaining support for this militarism (that's the same reason John Brennan lied - yet again - by assuring Americans that there are no innocent victims of drone attacks). Many people want to hear nothing about these victims - like Tariq - because they don't want to accept that the leader for whom they cheer and the drone attacks they support are regularly ending the lives of large numbers of innocent people, including children. They believe the fairy tale that the U.S. is only killing Terrorists and "militants" because they want to believe it (at this point, the word "militant" has no real definition other than: he or she who dies when a missile shot by a U.S. drone detonates). It's a self-serving, self-protective form of self-delusion, and the more we hear about the dead teeangers left in the wake of this violence, the more difficult it is to maintain that delusion. That's precisely why we hear so little about it.

Over the last week, I had the genuine privilege of spending substantial amounts of time with participants in the truly inspiring Occupy movement around the country, including visiting Occupy Oakland on Thursday. This same dynamic is at play there. Many sneer at the protest encampments because they include the homeless, the unstable, the "dirty," the jobless, and those who are otherwise downtrodden, dispossessed and unable to live decent lives. Much of that sneering is due to the desire that these people remain hidden from sight, invisible, so that we can avoid facing the reality of what our society has produced on a large scale (having Dirty, Disobedient People be part of a movement vaguely associated with liberalism also harms the ability of progressive media stars to maintain their access to the Halls of Seriousness). But they are and should be part of that movement precisely because the disappearance of the middle class and booming wealth and income inequality produces exactly this type of human suffering. There are those who love to parade around as supporters of the marginalized and poor who prefer that they remain silent and invisible - distant abstractions - because being viscerally confronted with their human realness is unpleasant and uncomfortable. That's exactly why victims of President Obama's relentless drone attacks remain invisible and many prefer to keep it that way - it's best not to confront the reality of the misery that one's policies wreak - and it's exactly why everything should be done to prevent that disappearing from happening.


Pratap Chatterjee of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism attended the meeting in Islamabad which Smith describes in that Op-Ed and wrote in detail about it. Chatterjee posted video of Tariq at that meeting - who is seen on the video, posted below, in the dark shirt and yellow hat just days before his death-by-American-drone - and wrote the following:

Among the group was Tariq Aziz, a quiet 16-year-old, who had come after he received a phone call from a lawyer in Islamabad offering him an opportunity to learn basic photography to help document these strikes. . . .

Tariq was proud to be part of this meeting. About 18 months earlier, in April 2010, his cousin Aswar Ullah was killed by a missile fired from a drone as he rode a motorcycle near Norak. . . .

What none of us could have imagined was that 72 hours later, this football-loving teenager would himself be killed by a CIA drone, along with his 12-year-old cousin Waheed Khan. . . .

Tariq and Waheed's death brought the total number of children killed in drone strikes to 175, according to the Bureau's own findings. As part of an ongoing investigation, the Bureau has documented 306 strikes from remotely piloted drones that have killed between 2,359 and 2,959 people. Over 85% of them have been launched by the administration of President Barack Obama. Tariq came from a poor community on the border with Afghanistan. He was the youngest of seven children. His father, Mumtaz Khan, was away working in the United Arab Emirates as a driver to support his family. Waheed's family was equally poor - the 12-year-old worked in a local shop for a salary of just Rs 2000 a month (roughly £15 or $23)

As I've noted before, the statistical methodology used by the Bureau to count innocent victims is the most conservative possible, meaning the numbers are almost certainly much higher. The only thing unusual about Tariq is that his death is receiving substantial attention because of the coincidence that he met with Westerners 72 hours before his life was ended. Most Tariqs simply die without anyone in the country responsible being bothered with hearing about it.
(c) 2011 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Public Pressure Is Slowly Ending Afghanistan War
By David Swanson

Feints and baby steps in the direction of eventually ending a massive crime are not enough. Hoping to meet a distant deadline for ending a war that cannot be justified for a single day is not enough. A new misunderstanding should not be piled on top of other fictional accomplishments (the closing of Guantanamo, the complete withdrawal from Iraq, universal health coverage, etc.). But if we don't understand that we are beginning to move things in the right direction many among us will lose heart and others will miscalculate.

This is what the Associated Press had to say on Thursday morning as we prepared to march on the White House and the Treasury to demand a serious effort from Obama in France to bring the G20 (and the Congress) to back a financial transaction tax, and as planning continued to protest the ever-less-popular Obama's expected authorization of a disastrous tar sands pipeline:

"A senior U.S. official says the Obama administration is considering shifting the U.S. military role in Afghanistan from primarily combat to mainly advisory and training duties as early as next year. If this approach is adopted it would mean a reduction in American combat duties in Afghanistan sooner than the administration had planned. But it would not mean an early end to the war. The U.S. and its NATO partners agreed a year ago that coalition forces would complete their combat mission by the end of 2014. Advising and training Afghan forces would gradually become a more dominant part of the mission, particularly after the U.S. completes the withdrawal of 33,000 'surge' troops by September 2012. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made."
The Wall Street Journal ran into some similar criminal but respectable leakers of "national security" information, who will no doubt be joining Bradley Manning this afternoon:

"The Obama administration is exploring a shift in the military's mission in Afghanistan to an advisory role as soon as next year, senior officials told The Wall Street Journal, a move that would scale back U.S. combat duties well ahead of their scheduled conclusion at the end of 2014. Such a move would have broad implications for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. It could begin a phase-out of the current troop-intensive approach, which focuses on protecting the Afghan population, in favor of a greater focus on targeted counterterrorism operations, as well as training the Afghan military. A transition to a training mission could also allow for a faster drawdown of U.S. forces in the country, though officials said discussions about troop levels have yet to move forward. The revised approach has been discussed in recent high-level meetings involving top defense and administration officials, according to people involved in the deliberations. No decisions have been made, officials said, and policy makers could consider other options that would adjust the mission in other ways, officials said. Officials said agreement on a formal shift to an advisory role could come as early as a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in May-in the heat of the U.S. presidential election campaign. Some officials have drawn comparisons to President Barack Obama's 2009 decision to switch to an 'advise and assist' role in Iraq and to declare a formal end to U.S. combat operations there. In Iraq, after mid-2009, troops were largely confined to their bases. Security conditions in Afghanistan are different, however, and will likely require U.S. troops, particularly Special Operations forces, to continue to accompany their Afghan counterparts into battle after the U.S. takes an advisory role. Defense officials said the U.S. still would be directly involved in many combat operations, though increasingly with Afghan forces in the lead."
On the radio Thursday morning I heard another (or one of the same) "officials" explain that in "places like Kabul and Helmand Province" the U.S. military had been unable to identify anyone who should be a "target."

That's never stopped them from kicking in doors before.

The first point to understand here is that, however real this change turns out to be, the explanations for it are sheer hogwash. This war has been a disaster on its own terms for over a decade now. There's been talk of shifting to a "training" role for most of the past decade. It was possible to discover last month or last year or several years ago that some provinces were more violent than others, that the occupation was fueling the violence and proving counter-productive, and that pay-offs to the Taliban meant U.S. dollars were funding both sides of a continuing catastrophe. U.S. troops could have all been locked up in their bases until flown home at any point in the past decade. Why leak this proposal now?

It's not because Afghans are fighting back. That's not new. It's not because the financial cost is stratospheric. That's not new, and it funds important presidential campaign "contributors." It's not because the Pentagon and NATO no longer want a permanent presence and weapons bases in Afghanistan, not to mention a pipeline. All of that, as far as we know, hasn't changed or been abandoned. What has changed is that people in the United States, and in Europe as well, are in the streets, the squares, and the parks. On a daily basis marches through DC streets are shouting "How do you fix the deficit? End the wars, tax the rich!" The media coverage has changed. If the polling on support for the Afghanistan war continues its current downward trend, before long this war will be as unpopular as Congress. But it is the passion and the action that has changed in this moment, not the polling.

Congress is also coming face-to-face with the possibility of being forced into some minor cuts to the world's largest military budget. Weapons makers are extremely serious about imposing any such cuts on troops rather than on our brave weapons. This brings us to the danger of de-escalations. If large U.S. troop deployments to hot occupations are scaled back, but U.S. bases continue to be built around the world, mercenaries continue to be hired, missile "defense" stations continue to be deployed, drones continue to slaughter without "risk to [U.S.] human life," our success will be far from complete. Transforming war is not the same as ending it. Robotic warfare will not reduce the risk of long-term blowback, will not eliminate punishing economic costs and environmental damage, will not lessen the pressure on our civil liberties at home, and will not mean an end to the direct immoral and illegal killing of members of the non-U.S. 95% of humanity.

The proper course at this moment is not to declare an end to our activism, and certainly not to utterly destroy our activism by pledging our allegiance to a politician or a political party. What we must do now is renew our public pressure, organizing, educating, and occupying, invigorated by the fact that the White House itself is unable to hide the fact that we are becoming a force able to push back against the war machine. This is a time, just as November 2008 should have been, to redouble our investment in mobilizing nonviolent pressure for peace and justice.

The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City has just been amended to include a powerful denunciation of wars and military spending. We must continue to connect foreign and domestic issues, continue to build awareness that there is only one pot of money being misspent on militarism instead of on human needs, and continue to put our bodies in the way.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Jobless And Clueless
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

When Americans who are the most victimized by our cruel economy still believe in something that is demonstrably no longer true, they are deeply delusional. They desperately want to believe in something once great about American society. The reality is that upward economic mobility has been destroyed, replaced by widely observable downward mobility. Some of the mostly younger jobless that have embraced the Occupy Wall Street and related Occupy efforts know the truth.

Consider the results of a new survey of unemployed adults this month:

"More than half of those polled said that they had experienced emotional or mental health problems like anxiety or depression because of their lack of work, and nearly half said that they had felt embarrassed or ashamed not to have jobs."

"More than a third said that they had had more conflicts or arguments with family and friends because of being jobless."

"Threats of foreclosure or eviction were reported by a fifth of the unemployed, and one in eight said that they had moved in with relatives or friends."

"More than half said that they lacked health insurance."

"A fifth said that they had received food from a nonprofit organization."

"Nearly two-thirds said they would probably not have enough money to live comfortably during retirement. More than half said that they had taken money out of savings or retirement accounts."

"7 in 10 of those receiving unemployment benefits said that they feared their benefits would run out before they could find new jobs."

So far, all those results paint an unsurprising profile of unemployed, suffering Americans.

Now, consider the result that blew my mind, the reason I am writing this, because more people need to understand something critical about delusional thinking that ultimately makes getting deep, sorely needed reforms of our government and political system extremely difficult. Without that our economy will stay awful, unfair, promoting even more economic inequality.

"Two-thirds of those surveyed said that they still believed it was possible to start out poor in this country, work hard and become rich - only a little lower than the three-quarters of all Americans" not in the unemployed category who held the same view and were surveyed at the same time. In fact, considerable research in recent years has consistently found that upward mobility in the US is no longer a hallmark of the society. Indeed, there is more upward mobility in Canada and a number of European countries than in the US. Moreover, the jobless more than most should be able to comprehend the ugly reality that downward economic mobility is now a large part of American society.

No surprise that the cover story on the new Time magazine is What Ever Happened To Upward Mobility? The basic theme of the article is that the US is no longer an "opportunity society." In other words, our country is no longer a place where everyone, if he or she works hard enough, can get ahead. But despite this reality, conservatives and Republicans love to publicly proclaim that the US still offers everyone upward economic mobility.

Those two-thirds of the unemployed will probably pay a steep price for their false optimism about their country. They are likely to fall prey to the political propaganda of either Democrats or Republicans. If they are delusional about the American Dream, are they also delusional about other things that may stand in the way of them getting a job? Rather than feel ashamed or embarrassed about being jobless they should get some feedback from others so they can fix their thinking.

As Ezra Klein noted: "Americans are in the odd position of fervently believing in upward mobility while not actually having very much of it. Europeans, conversely, don't really believe in economic mobility but have plenty of it."

Those jobless with this delusional thinking, refusing to think critically, judge the facts and come to a hurtful conclusion, are not the ones I expect to be participating in or supporting the Occupy Wall Street protesters, about three-quarters of whom now disapprove of Mr. Obama's performance as president. Though the Occupy protesters speak of the rich 1 percent, that is a big underestimate. As Anne Applebaum correctly noted "Despite all the loud talk of the '1 per cent' of Americans who, according to a recent study, receive about 17 per cent of the income, a percentage which has more than doubled since 1979, the existence of a very small group of very rich people has never bothered Americans. But the fact that some 20 per cent of Americans now receive some 53 per cent of the income is devastating." Becoming part of even that larger group of rich Americans is now more difficult than ever.

Do unemployed have the right kind of jobs to aspire to the top one percent of income earners? Consider the jobs that account for the top one percent; the top four categories account for nearly 70 percent: corporate and business management not in the financial sector, medical, financial industry executives, and lawyers. This also shows how difficult it is to somehow negatively impact the one percent by protests by the Occupy movement.

In our delusional democracy with its delusional prosperity thinking that hard work, great ideas and superior performance will get you into the top one percent is self-delusion, even getting into the top 20 percent is a long shot. The economic system is too rigged against economic justice. Sure, every once in awhile someone starting out poor or average becomes superrich, but that is like winning a super lottery. Best to stop believing in the rags-to-riches myth, unless the system is reformed.

A new report by a German foundation examined the nation members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, essentially the world's democracies. The US ranked terribly low for poverty and poverty prevention as well as income inequality. Only Chile, Mexico and Turkey were ranked lower than the US. What a story.

The US two-party plutocracy has allowed the rich and powerful to buy the political system. Except for the rich, the results are dreadful. This is why 89 percent do not trust that government will do the right thing. The best solution is what you find at the website, a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics.
(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.

Here Comes The Sun
By Paul Krugman

For decades the story of technology has been dominated, in the popular mind and to a large extent in reality, by computing and the things you can do with it. Moore's Law - in which the price of computing power falls roughly 50 percent every 18 months - has powered an ever-expanding range of applications, from faxes to Facebook.

Our mastery of the material world, on the other hand, has advanced much more slowly. The sources of energy, the way we move stuff around, are much the same as they were a generation ago.

But that may be about to change. We are, or at least we should be, on the cusp of an energy transformation, driven by the rapidly falling cost of solar power. That's right, solar power.

If that surprises you, if you still think of solar power as some kind of hippie fantasy, blame our fossilized political system, in which fossil fuel producers have both powerful political allies and a powerful propaganda machine that denigrates alternatives.

Speaking of propaganda: Before I get to solar, let's talk briefly about hydraulic fracturing, a k a fracking.

Fracking - injecting high-pressure fluid into rocks deep underground, inducing the release of fossil fuels - is an impressive technology. But it's also a technology that imposes large costs on the public. We know that it produces toxic (and radioactive) wastewater that contaminates drinking water; there is reason to suspect, despite industry denials, that it also contaminates groundwater; and the heavy trucking required for fracking inflicts major damage on roads.

Economics 101 tells us that an industry imposing large costs on third parties should be required to "internalize" those costs - that is, to pay for the damage it inflicts, treating that damage as a cost of production. Fracking might still be worth doing given those costs. But no industry should be held harmless from its impacts on the environment and the nation's infrastructure.

Yet what the industry and its defenders demand is, of course, precisely that it be let off the hook for the damage it causes. Why? Because we need that energy! For example, the industry-backed organization declares that "there are only two sides in the debate: those who want our oil and natural resources developed in a safe and responsible way; and those who don't want our oil and natural gas resources developed at all."

So it's worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government "pick winners," yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.

And now for something completely different: the success story you haven't heard about.

These days, mention solar power and you'll probably hear cries of "Solyndra!" Republicans have tried to make the failed solar panel company both a symbol of government waste - although claims of a major scandal are nonsense - and a stick with which to beat renewable energy.

But Solyndra's failure was actually caused by technological success: the price of solar panels is dropping fast, and Solyndra couldn't keep up with the competition. In fact, progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, "there's now frequent talk of a ‘Moore's law' in solar energy," with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.

This has already led to rapid growth in solar installations, but even more change may be just around the corner. If the downward trend continues - and if anything it seems to be accelerating - we're just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal.

And if we priced coal-fired power right, taking into account the huge health and other costs it imposes, it's likely that we would already have passed that tipping point.

But will our political system delay the energy transformation now within reach?

Let's face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers' money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.

So what you need to know is that nothing you hear from these people is true. Fracking is not a dream come true; solar is now cost-effective. Here comes the sun, if we're willing to let it in.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country . . . we're dominated by the relatively small number of persons . . . it is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world."
~~~ Edward Bernays

Lazy Ouzo-Swilling, Olive-Pit Spitting Greeks Or, How Goldman Sacked Greece
By Greg Palast

Here's what we're told: Greece

Greece's economy blew apart because a bunch of olive-spitting, ouzo-guzzling, lazy-ass Greeks refuse to put in a full day's work, retire while they're still teenagers, pocket pensions fit for a pasha; and they've gone on a social-services spending spree using borrowed money. Now that the bill has come due and the Greeks have to pay with higher taxes and cuts in their big fat welfare state, they run riot, screaming in the streets, busting windows and burning banks.

I don't buy it. I don't buy it because of the document in my hand marked, "RESTRICTED DISTRIBUTION."

I'll cut to the indictment: Greece is a crime scene. The people are victims of a fraud, a scam, a hustle and a flim-flam. And--cover the children's ears when I say this--a bank named Goldman Sachs is holding the smoking gun.

In 2002, Goldman Sachs secretly bought up 2.3 billion in Greek government debt, converted it all into yen and dollars, then immediately sold it back to Greece.

Goldman took a huge loss on the trade.

Is Goldman that stupid?

Goldman is stupid-like a fox. The deal was a con, with Goldman making up a phony-baloney exchange rate for the transaction. Why?

Goldman had cut a secret deal with the Greek government in power then. Their game: to conceal a massive budget deficit. Goldman's fake loss was the Greek government's fake gain.

Goldman would get repayment of its "loss" from the government at loan-shark rates.

The point is, through this crazy and costly legerdemain, Greece's right-wing free-market government was able to pretend its deficits never exceeded 3 percent of GDP.

Cool. Fraudulent but cool.

But flim-flam isn't cheap these days: On top of murderous interest payments, Goldman charged the Greeks over a quarter billion dollars in fees.

When the new Socialist government of George Papandreou came into office, they opened up the books and Goldman's bats flew out. Investors' went berserk, demanding monster interest rates to lend more money to roll over this debt.

Greece's panicked bondholders rushed to buy insurance against the nation going bankrupt. The price of the bond-bust insurance, called a credit default swap (or CDS), also shot through the roof. Who made a big pile selling the CDS insurance? Goldman.

And those rotting bags of CDS's sold by Goldman and others? Didn't they know they were handing their customers gold-painted turds?

That's Goldman's specialty. In 2007, at the same time banks were selling suspect CDS's and CDOs (packaged sub-prime mortgage securities), Goldman held a "net short" position against these securities. That is, Goldman was betting their financial "products" would end up in the toilet. Goldman picked up another half a billion dollars on their "net short" scam.

But, instead of cuffing Goldman's CEO Lloyd Blankfein and parading him in a cage through the streets of Athens, we have the victims of the frauds, the Greek people, blamed. Blamed and soaked for the cost of it. The "spread" on Greek bonds (the term used for the risk premium paid on Greece's corrupted debt) has now risen to - get ready for this--$14,000 per family per year.

Euro-nation, the secret Geithner memo, and the Ecuador connection

Why did the Greek government throw its nation's fate into Goldman's greasy hands? What the heck was in the "RESTRICTED" document? And why did I have to take it to Geneva, to throw it down in front of the Director-General of the WTO for authentication, a creepy French banker I otherwise wouldn't bother to spit on, and then tear off to Quito to share it with the grateful President of Ecuador?

To give you all the answers would require me to write a book. I have: Vultures' Picnic--in Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Fraudsters. It's really quite important to me that you read it, that you get it now. That's a funny statement, I suppose, from an author. But if you've been reading my stories in The Guardian or watching my reports on BBC Newsnight, you've gotten the facts; but I really want to let you inside the investigations, to cross the continents with me and follow down the leads so that you can get a full picture of The Beasts. The Beasts and their trophy wives, intelligence agency go-fers, political concubines and bone-breakers. And besides, it's enormous fun when it's not scary as sh*t.
(c) 2011 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at.


Keystone XL
Ring Around the Rose Garden
By Amy Goodman

More than 10,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., last Sunday with a simple goal: Encircle the White House. They succeeded, just weeks after 1,253 people were arrested in a series of protests at the same spot. These thousands, as well as those arrested, were unified in their opposition to the planned Keystone XL pipeline, intended to run from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas. A broad, international coalition against the pipeline has formed since President Barack Obama took office, and now the deadline for its approval or rejection is at hand.

Bill McKibben, founder of the global movement against climate change, told me: "This has become not only the biggest environmental flash point in many, many years, but maybe the issue in recent times in the Obama administration when he's been most directly confronted by people in the street. In this case, people willing, hopeful, almost dying for him to be the Barack Obama of 2008."

The president, until recently, simply hid behind the legal argument that, as the pipeline was coming from Canada, the proper forum for the decision fell with the U.S. Department of State and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That was until a key Clinton insider was exposed as a lobbyist for the company trying to build Keystone XL, TransCanada. The environmental group Friends of the Earth has exposed a series of connections between the Clinton political machine and Keystone XL. Paul Elliott is TransCanada's top lobbyist in Washington on the pipeline. He was a high-level campaign staffer on Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House in 2008, and worked as well on Bill Clinton's campaign in 1996 and Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign in 2000.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) received emails following a Freedom of Information Act request, documenting exchanges in 2010 between Elliott and Marja Verloop, whom FOE describes as a "member of the senior diplomatic staff at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa." Verloop in one email cheers Elliott for obtaining the buy-in on Keystone XL from conservative Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, writing: "Go Paul! Baucus support holds clout."

Another person arrested at the White House during the August-September protests was Canadian author Naomi Klein. Of the cozy email exchange, she said, "The response of the State Department was, 'Well, we meet with environmentalists, too.' But just imagine them writing an email to Bill McKibben: when he says, 'We got more than 1,200 people arrested,' and they would write back, 'Go Bill!'? The day that happens, I'll stop worrying." Klein went on to explain the environmental impact of the project: "Tar sands oil emits three times as much greenhouse gases as a regular barrel of Canadian crude, because, of course, it is in solid form. So, you have to use all of this energy to get it out and to liquefy it."

Adding to the controversy, The New York Times revealed that the State Department chose as an outside group to run the environmental impact study of Keystone XL, a company called Cardno Entrix. It turns out Cardno Entrix listed as one of its major clients none other than TransCanada. The environmental impacts are potentially extreme, with, first, the potential for a catastrophic leak of the toxic tar sands extract, and, secondly but no less significant, the potential long-term impacts on the global climate. The Obama campaign also drew fire for hiring Broderick Johnson, a lobbyist who formerly represented TransCanada.

Nebraska's Republican governor, Dave Heineman, called a special session of the state legislature, beginning Nov. 1, to discuss the pipeline. After a week of deliberation, several bills are being reviewed, including LB1, the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act, which would require stringent review of any pipeline passing through Nebraska, seriously slowing the Keystone XL approval process. The movement in Nebraska is broad-based, from environmentalists to ranchers to Native Americans.

The State Department inspector general is investigating whether all federal laws and regulations were followed in the permitting process, and President Obama now says he will make the final decision. He has powerful corporations pushing for the pipeline, but a ring of people he needs for re-election outside his window. As Bill McKibben said of the human chain at the White House: "Every banner that people carried yesterday had quotes from that wonderful rhetoric of that election: 'Time to end the tyranny of oil,' 'In my administration, the rise of the oceans will begin to slow.' We're looking for some kind of glimmer, some kind of echo, of that Barack Obama to re-emerge."
(c) 2011 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

The Dead Letter Office...

Joe gives the corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Walsh,

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 total defense of our banking pals against the people, 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 "Police 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 11-24-2011. We salute you Herr Walsh, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Block The Vote
Ohio GOP Bars Early Voting to Suppress Pro-Labor Turnout
By John Nichols

TOLEDO - When Mitt Romney's dad was a candidate for president back in the 1960s, Republicans competed on the strength of their personalities and ideas.

It was the same when Newt Gingrich was an up-and-coming Republican leader in the 1980s and the early 1990s.

But no more?

Republicans have a new strategy for competing in tight elections.

They cheat.

In Ohio this fall, the party faces a serious challenge. Republican Governor John Kasich, a GOP "star" for the better part of three decades, has staked his political fortunes on an attempt to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees while undermining the ability of their unions to function.

The move has proven to be massively unpopular. More than 1.3 million Ohioans signed petitions that forced a referendum on whether to implement the anti-labor law. Polls show that Ohioans are ready to do just that when they weigh in on referendum Issue 2.

But Ohio's Republican secretary of state is trying to make it a whole lot harder for Ohioans to cast those votes.

On Friday, across Ohio, county boards of elections shut down early voting for next Tuesday's election. They did so on orders from Secretary of State Jon Husted. A Republican stalwart.

Husted served as the party's legislative point man (rising to the rank of Ohio House Speaker), co-chaired GOP campaigns (including that of 2008 presidential candidate John McCain) and has been closely tied to national conservative groups working on issues such as school choice and privatization. While serving in the legislature, Husted was allied with the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, which has been promoting Voter ID laws and other rule changes designed to suppress turnout.

Husted claimed a hastily passed and deliberately vague new state law, which took effect just last week, prohibits early voting in the three days before the election. That's a dramatic change from traditional practice in Ohio, where early voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before high-profile elections has been allowed for years-and has permitted tens of thousands of citizens to participate in the process.

The law in question, Ohio House Bill 224, was written primarily to deal with military ballots. Yet, Husted is interpreting it as a bar on early voting. State Representative Kathleen Clyde, a Democrat who represents Kent, says Hustad is essentially creating his own rules.

"When you take out major chunks" of the legislation, as Husted has, explains Clyde, "the bill is now unreadable and incomprehensible."

But the confusion has worked for Husted and the GOP. County election officials have, at his behest, shut down early voting across Ohio.

That's caused protests across Ohio. In Toledo, crowds showed up outside the offices of the Lucas County Board of Elections, which had scheduled business hours for Saturday and Sunday but canceled them to comply with Husted's order.

"It's un-American and undemocratic to close the polls the weekend before the vote," said the Rev. Willie Perryman, pastor of Toledo's Jerusalem Baptist Church. "The real reason is they want to suppress the vote."

"For me, the voting booth is the one place where the rich man and the poor man stand as equals," Larry Friedman, the president of a Toledo cleaning firm who showed up to protest the closing down of early, explained to reporters.

There was no question that qualified voters wanted to cast their ballots early-either because they would be away on election day or because they wanted to avoid lines. Newspapers, radio and television stations across the state reported on voters who came to local elections offices Saturday and Sunday, only to find doors that have historically been open on the eve of a major election to be locked.

In the last off-year election, 2009, the Toledo area saw 1,814 early votes, Lucas County Elections Board executive director Ben Roberts told the Toledo Blade.

In 2010, the number rose to 5,551.

This year, before Husted shut down the early voting, 5,602 ballots had been cast. Perryman and others who were protesting believe that thousands more would have been cast Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

So why erect a barrier to thousands of voters in one county, and to tens of thousands or more statewide?

As with moves made by Republican governors and legislators not just in Ohio but across the country to develop overly strict Voter ID laws, to limit same-day registration and to cut back on early voting, the point is to depress turnout, especially in working-class communities such as Toledo.

The barriers don't just make it harder to vote; they reduce enthusiasm in communities that are trying to increase turnout.

"As you get closer to [election day] the excitement grows and therefore we're going to miss the moment with the early vote," explained the Rev. Cedric Brock of the Mount Nebo Church in Toledo, who told local reporters that the shuttering of the polls over the weekend was "un-American" and "un-democratic." "Ohio being the battleground state for the country for the 2012 Presidential race, we feel this is a tag to slow that momentum down," said Rev. Block.

The pastor's point is well taken.

Opposition to Governor Kasich's anti-labor law appears to be so intense that turnout will be strong Tuesday-and if polls are correct, the governor will be dealt a setback by the people.

But allowing assaults on democracy in an off-year election is a dangerous game. It sets a precedent for the presidential election year, when the gaming of the system could well tip the balance in battleground states.
(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.

A Patrol In Enemy Territory - Wall Street
By Tom Engelhardt

It was a beautiful, sunlit fall morning when the patrol, many in camouflage jackets, no more than 40 of them in all, headed directly into enemy territory. Their ranks included one sailor in uniform, three women, and a small child named Viva in a stroller. Except for Viva, all of them were vets, a few from the Vietnam era but most from our more recent wars.

As they headed for Wall Street, several carried signs that said, "I am still serving my country," and one read, "How is the war economy working for you?" Many wore Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirts under their camo jackets, and there was one other thing that made this demonstration unlike any seen in these last Occupy Wall Street weeks: there wasn't a police officer, police car, or barricade in sight. As they headed out across a well-trafficked street, not a cop was there to yell at them to get back on the curb.

In the wake of the wounding of Scott Olsen in the police assault on Occupy Oakland last week, that's what it means to be a veteran marching on Zuccotti Park. Scott Kimbell (Iraq, 2005-2006), who led the patrol, later told me: "Cops are in a difficult position with vets. Some of them were in the military and are sympathetic and they know that the community will not support what happened to Scott Olsen." Just before Broad Street, a line of waiting police on scooters picked up the marchers, for once feeling more like an escort than a gang of armed avengers, while media types and photographers swarmed in the street without police reprimand.

Suddenly, the patrol swiveled right and marched directly into the financial heart of the planet through a set of barricades. ("Who opened up the barrier there?" shouted a policeman.) It was aiming directly at a line of mounted police blocking the way. In front of them, the march halted. With a smart "Left face!" the platoon turned to the Stock Exchange and began to call out in unison, "We are veterans! We are the 99%! We swore to protect the Constitution of the United States of America! We are here to support the Occupy Movement!"

Then, the horses parted like the Red Sea, like a wave of emotion sweeping ahead of us, and the vets marched on triumphantly toward Zuccotti Park as a military cadence rang out ("...corporate profits on the rise, but soldiers have to bleed and die! Sound off, one, two...")

The platoon came to attention in front of Trinity Church for a moment of silence for "our friend Scott Olsen," after which it circled the encampment at Zuccotti Park to cheers and cries of "Welcome Home!" from the protesters there. (One of the occupiers shouted to the skies: "Hey, police, the military's here and they're on our side!") And if you don't think all of it was stirring, then you have the heart of a banker.

Soon after, veterans began offering testimony, people's mic-style, at the top of the park. Eli Wright, 30, a former Army medic in Ramadi, Iraq (2003-2004), now on military disability and Viva's dad, parked her stroller when I asked him why he was here. "I came out today to march for economic justice," he responded. "I want a future for my daughter. I want her to have an education and a job. I served seven years for our country to defend our constitution only to see it being dismantled before my eyes. I think it's time for vets and others to stand up and fight back." As for two-year-old Viva, "This," he said, "is the introduction to democracy that she needs to see." As a matter of fact, amid the tumult, Viva was soundly and peaceably asleep.

Joshua Shepherd, in the Navy from 2002 to 2008, told me that, during those years, he came to realize "it wasn't about protecting anyone, it was about making money." Now a student, he was holding up a large poster of his friend Scott Olsen. He had been with Olsen when he was hit, possibly by a beanbag round fired by the police, and had flown in from San Francisco for this march. "It's important that the people at Wall Street know that we support them. For the life of me I'm not sure why the police escalated the way they did [in Oakland], but the powers that be are threatened. Income disparities have never been higher and they want to keep it that way. It's my intention to raise my voice and say that's not right."

T.J. Buonomo, 27 and unemployed, a personable former Army military intelligence officer, told me that he had come up from Washington specifically for the march. "Seeing what happened to Scott Olsen made me feel like we had to stand up for Americans getting their democracy back. If this country keeps going like this, we're going to look like Latin America in the 1970s."

Of course, as with so much else about Zuccotti Park, there's no way of knowing whether these vets were a recon outfit preparing the way for a far larger "army," possibly (as in the Vietnam era) including active-duty service people, or whether they were just a lost American patrol. Still, if you were there, you, too, might have felt that something was changing in this country, that a larger movement of some kind was beginning to form.

And speaking of such movements, if you've read the final essays in the remarkable new book Who's Afraid of Frances Fox Piven?, an essential guide to the writings of the activist and professor "Glenn Beck loves to hate," then you know that no one came closer than her to predicting the rise of OWS. Having covered the fate of the poor memorably for almost half a century, Piven in her latest piece, "The War Against the Poor," has a bead on just what kind of a "war" these vets are now facing on the American home front.
(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).

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ John Darkow ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Poll: Majority of Likely Voters Say They Were Sexually Harassed by Cain
Accusers March on Washington
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - There was a new complication in the race for the White House today as a just-released poll revealed that a majority of likely voters say they were sexually harassed by candidate Herman Cain.

According to the poll conducted by the University of Minnesota's Opinion Research Institute, 51% of voters "strongly agreed" with the statement "I have been sexually harassed by Herman Cain" while an additional 24% agreed that "Herman Cain is sexually harassing me right now."

News of the poll hit just as Herman Cain accusers gathered for a march on Washington in numbers estimated at 999,999.

Asked about the size of the Washington gathering, Mr. Cain said he did not remember harassing so many women, but added, "I've never been very good with numbers."

Even as the controversy swirled about Mr. Cain, he received a stirring vote of confidence from a prominent world leader.

"A man's sex life should not affect his right to hold power," said Italy's Silvio Berlusconi
(c) 2011 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 44 (c) 11/11/2011

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