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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh reports, "The Police State Makes Its Move."

Uri Avnery asks, "You Are Fed Up?"

Matt Taibbi says, "Finally, A Judge Stands Up To Wall Street."

Randall Amster proposes a, "Pax Occupata."

Jim Hightower suggests we, "Don't Just Salute Veterans, Rally With Them."

Helen Thomas wonders, "Nukes & Iran -- Who Will Step In?"

James Donahue considers, "The Strange Evolution Of The Human Species."

David Sirota tells, "Why Income Inequality Suddenly Matters."

David Swanson finds the, "Occupy Movement Demands Home Mortgages Correction."

Robert Scheer calls, "Michael Bloomberg -- The Villain Occupy Wall Street Has Been Waiting For."

Paul Krugman foresees, "Vouchers For Veterans."

Greg Palast explains, "Fukushima -- They Knew."

Amy Goodman with, "An Interview With An Occupy Oakland Man Before Police Raid Peaceful Camp."

Justice Michael D. Stallman of the New York State Supreme Court wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols gives us, "The New GOP Front-Runner -- Dick Cheney."

Ted Rall reveals, "Our F*ck You System Of Government."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion finds, "Mitt Romney's Goal To Connect With One Voter By The Time This Is All Over" but first Uncle Ernie wants to know, "When Did The Republican Presidential Candidates Become The 'Insane Clown Posse?'"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bill Day, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Derf City, W M X Design, John Sherffius, Khalil Bendib, Mariopiperni.Com, Shirley Shepard, Green For Nature.Com, The Onion.Com, Democracy Now.Org, The New York Times, Getty Images, Paramount.Com, 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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When Did The Republican Presidential Candidates Become 'The Insane Clown Posse?'
By Ernest Stewart

"If magic is all we've ever known, then it's easy to miss what really goes on." ~~~ Insane Clown Posse

So join in the Folk Song Army,
Guitars are the weapons we bring
To the fight against poverty, war, and injustice.
Ready! Aim! Sing!
The Folk Song Army ~~~ Tom Lehrer

"...Now it's a rat writ, writ for a rat, and this is lawful service of the same."
True Grit ~~~ Rooster Cogburn

"The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee is unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy." ~~~ Final Report, House Select Committee of Assassinations (HSCA), 1979

After watching the Rethuglican debates, don't you yearn for the likes of William F. Buckley Jr.? Buckley was astute, clever, funny; but, of course, he was always full of sh*t, but you forgave him that, as he kept you entertained -- much like (for you oldies) Chatsworth Osborne Jr. did on "The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis!" No, today's crop of Rat-Wingers are no William F. Buckley Jrs., and that's for sure!

Which brings us to another crop of quotes from our would-be fearless leaders. For example, here's what Willard said to the troops on Armistice Day:

"If you're the government, they know there's nowhere else you guys can go; you're stuck. Sometimes you wonder if there would be some way to introduce private sector competition, somebody else who could come in and say each solder has 'X' thousand dollars attributed to them and then they can choose where they want to go in the government system or the private system with the money that follows them. Like what happens with schools in Florida where people have a voucher that goes with him."
Much like RomneyCare, most of the veterans according to various vet groups, including the VFW are all against it. After escaping from a war zone with your life, you really don't want to go in front of a corpo-rat insurance death panel to get help when you need it!

Then there came the wisdom of Michelle Bachmann, who said:

"President Harry Truman -- who had to make the horrific decision about dropping an atomic bomb on Japan to end World War II -- he said if he had to kill Japanese in order to save one American life, he would. And if, as President of the United States, I believed that we would be able to save 3,000 American lives, and stop aircraft from flying into the Twin Towers, I would utilize waterboarding, if it would save those American lives."
I know, that was tortuous to follow, but I'd ask her about the over 95% of all detainees that were brought to places like Gitmo, after being kidnapped and then tortured for years, but then were let go (without so much as an oops, we bad, much less any compensation) because it turned out they were innocent. Perhaps we could use waterboarding on US Sin-ators and Con-gressmen to find out who owns and operates them; but don't you worry because NONE of them are innocent!

Then you'll all recall the "Good-Hair" Perry blunder the other night. Perry must have been channeling Jerry Ford. Ford, you may recall, lost his second debate against Jimmy Carter by saying:

"There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration."
Jerry immediately realized his error and started backpedaling and explaining, but Perry hadn't a clue for daze after saying:

"I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the -- what's the third one there? Let's see... duh... ... (wait for it) ... er, ...EPA."
Back when I was going to school, that's what they called a pregnant pause! Let's hope for the governor's sake it was just the early onset of Alzheimer's, and not that he really is as dumb as he appears to be!

Then there was Ron Paul, who some pundits assure us is only insane part of the time, Ron says that he's all for Medicare except:

"The government should get out of health care. Probably the worst thing we ever did was make medical care the responsibility of the government. Other important resources, such as food, are successfully provided through the free market. The truth is that the market is the only compassionate system."
I see Dr. Mengele, I see, so what you're saying is we should turn the sick, elderly, poor and hungry over to the tender talons of free market Capitalism? Sorry but that makes Ron the craziest of them all, as Ron is a doctor and knows better! Still Ron goes on:

"I'd be willing to work toward sanity, even though I want to work our way out of this, we should not concede the moral and philosophical principle."
How about you get sane first Ron, and then we'll talk!

While as a comedian, the Republicans have me licking my chops, as an American, I'm scared to death! How about you, America?

In Other News

Ah, "The Empire Strikes Back!" I see where Mayor Hitler, er, Bloomberg; that billion dollar baby that Alice Cooper warned us about, unleashed the dogs of war against the Occupy camp -- even though it was in direct violation of a court order not to do so. So what, after being in direct violation of the 1st Amendment -- an act of treason, what's a little hanky-panky with some local judge's order when your gutting the Constitution?

Meanwhile, out in Oakland, Mayor Hitler, (have you noticed how many Hitlers are in the office of Mayor in this country?) sent her Jack-Booted thugs out to destroy the camp in Oscar Grant Plaza for a second time. The Plaza was named in honor of another victim of the Gestapo who was handcuffed, and sat on by a big pig while his partner stuck a gun to Oscar's chest and murdered him in cold blood. He got a slap on the wrist of 2 to 4 years for this murder in the first degree, and may never spend a day behind bars; he may be given probation. Did I mention that Oscar was black and the cops were white? I know, I really didn't need to, did I, which is why there was all the fuss about the Marine that got shot at point-blank range in the face with a tear gas canister because he was white. I guess it was hard to tell the difference in the dark?

Fortunately, for the rest of us, these patriots are being put off by the corpo-rat goons that are pulling the puppet strings, causing their political puppets to dance and pretend their violations of The Constitution are for our own good and we should all roll over and go back to sleep like the good old Sheeple that we are, and stop causing all this brouhaha, and just let the 1% get about their business of milking their slaves. The bible says that's righteous, doesn't it? It does! Of course, all these Mayor Hitler's aren't working on their own; they are being led by the federal government, i.e., the FBI and Fatherland Security to deprive us of our Constitutional rights; thanks, Obamahood!

You may recall what Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration Of Independence about this, and what we can all do about it, if we get up off our knees? It says:

"That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
Combined with the 1st Amendment which says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

So to all the fascist, traitorous mayors of America I say, "Camping permit, we don't need no stinking camping permit, we have the law of the land on our side!" Pity is the government is against us.

Of course, in the scheme of things, the Occupy Movements won't free us from the 1% tyranny, as my old mentor Tom Lehrer once sang in the "The Folk Song Army:"

Remember the war against Franco?
That's the kind where each of us belongs.
Though he may have won all the battles,
We had all the good songs.
But the Occupy movement, is, at least, and, at last, a good starting point for the Third American Revolution!

And Finally

I see that where our current revolution began, in Wisconsin, that the good folks there are beginning to gather signatures for the recall of Emperor, er, Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. At the same time, four members of the Wisconsin Senate, including Walker's right hand man Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald are facing recall, too. The other Senators are Pam Galloway of Wausau, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, and Van Wanggaard of Racine.

Walker's puppet masters the brothers Koch will no doubt pump tens of millions into Walker's coffers but like the bundle they just dropped in Indiana trying to keep the people from throwing out the anti-union law that their puppet Mitch ("The Bitch") Daniels rammed through the legislature, just like Walker did in Wisconsin, they'll be throwing good money after bad, and I have no problem with that, do you?

Even if Walker survives a recall, all of his Senators must do the same, because if the Democrats pick up one seat, they'll have the power to block Walker for the rest of his term. I say recall the bastards and put them on trial!

Speaking of which, I hear the rank and file fascists have a plan to go out and collect recall signatures, pretending to be real signature gatherers, and then burn them. I'm pretty sure to do so would be considered an act of sedition, which is a few light years beyond treason and is frowned upon by the federal judiciary. That's what they got Brave Heart on, and it isn't a pleasant way to die, I would imagine!

Keepin' On

It's that time of the year again when folks my age might stop and recall where they were when the Crime Family Bush murdered JFK in Dallas. I was in 9th grade and walking to the next class when our metal shop teacher, the very macho Mr. Marx came running down the hall crying like a baby shouting they killed the President! Two daze later, I was watching live TV of the transfer of Oswald with my grandmother when Ruby shot him. You just don't get live murder on TV anymore!

You may recall when Papa Smirk ran the two four man CIA hit teams that murdered Kennedy in Dealey Plaza back in 1963 and then set up CIA stooge Lee Harvey Oswald to take the fall, and then be murdered by Mafia hit man Jack Ruby. You recall just before the sanction went down, the Secret Service pulled all of their men from the Lincoln just before the hit and later planted the "magic bullet" on the stretcher in the hospital and then later stole the x-rays that showed Kennedy was killed by a shot from in front of the limo, proving conspiracy.

All this you'll remember was further covered up by the Warren Commission by the traitor, Gerald Ford, who was rewarded for his bit in the coverup by being made President, so he could pardon "The Trick," Allen Welsh Dulles former CIA head and good friend of the Crime Family Bush, and John J. McCloy, former President of the World Bank. These three kept the commission on track and any hint of a conspiracy off the table with Ford insisting again and again that it was a lone gunman.

You may also recall that the members of the conspiracy included Roger Blough of US Steel, Air Force General Curtis Lemay, and Lyndon Baines Johnson! Since then every President, including Obamahood, has gone along with whatever the ruling elite wants. Isn't it great to be an, American?


08-12-1936 ~ 11-12-2011
Thanks for the help!

02-17-1949 ~ 11-12-2011
Thanks for rockin' the blues!

09-21-1918 ~ 11-15-2011
Thanks for the laughs!

09-07-1950 ~ 11-15-2011
Thanks for jammin'!


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.

The Police State Makes Its Move
Retaining one's humanity in the face of tyranny
By Phil Rockstroh

For days now, we have endured demonstrably false propaganda that the fallen soldiers of U.S. wars sacrificed their lives for "our freedoms." Yet, as that noxious nonsense still lingers in the air, militarized police have invaded OWS sites in numerous cities, including Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, and, in the boilerplate description of the witless courtesans of the corporate media, with the mission to "evict the occupiers."

U.S soldiers died protecting what and who again? These actions should make this much clear: The U.S. military and the police exist to protect the 1%. At this point, the ideal of freedom will be carried by those willing to resist cops and soldiers. There have been many who have struggled and often died for freedom--but scant few were clad in uniforms issued by governments.

Freedom rises despite cops and soldiers not because of them. And that is exactly why those who despise freedom propagate military hagiography and fetishize those wearing uniforms--so they can give the idea of liberty lip service as all the while they order it crushed.

When anyone tells you that dead soldiers and veterans died for your freedom, it is your duty to occupy reality and inform them of just how mistaken they are. And if you truly cherish the concepts of freedom and liberty, you just might be called on to face mindless arrays of fascist cops and lose your freedom, for a time, going to jail, so others might, at some point, gain their freedom.

I was born in Birmingham Alabama, at slightly past the mid-point of the decade of the 1950s. Many of my earliest memories involve the struggle for civil rights that was transpiring on the streets of my hometown.

My father was employed at a scrap metal yard but also worked as a freelance photojournalist who hawked his work to media photo syndicates such as Black Star who then sold his wares to the major newsmagazines of the day. A number of the iconic photographs of the era were captured by his Nikon camera e.g., of vicious police dogs unleashed on peaceful demonstrators; of demonstrators cartwheeled down city streets by the force of fire hoses; of Dr. King and other civil rights marchers kneeled in prayer before arrays of Police Chief Bull Connor's thuggish ranks of racist cops.

In Birmingham, racist laws and racial and economic inequality were the progenitors of acts of official viciousness. The social structure in place was indefensible. Reason and common decency held no dominion in the justifications for the established order that was posited by the system's apologists and enforcers; therefore, brutality filled the void created by the absence of their humanity.

And the same situation is extant in the growing suppression of the OWS movement in various cities, nationwide, including Liberty Park in Lower Manhattan. The 1% and their paid operatives--local city officials--are striving to protect an unjust, inherently dishonest status quo. Lacking a moral mandate, they are prone to the use of police state forms of repression.

Dr. King et al faced their oppressors on the streets of my hometown. Civil Rights activists knew that they had to hold their ground to retain their dignity...that it was imperative to sit down in those Jim Crow-tyrannized streets when necessary in order to stand up against the forces of oppression.

At present, we have arrived at a similar moment. If justice is to prevail, it seems, the air of U.S. cities will hold the acrid sting of tear gas, the jails will again be filled, the brave will endure brutality--yet the corrupt system will crumble. Because the system's protectors themselves will bring it down by revealing its empty nature, and the corrupt structure will collapse from within.

Yet, when riot police attack unarmed, peacefully resisting protesters, the mainstream media often describes the events with standard boilerplate such as "police clash with demonstrators."

This is inaccurate (at best) reportage. It suggest that both parties are equal aggressors in the situation, and the motive of the police is to restore order and maintain the peace, as opposed to, inflicting pain and creating an aura of intimidation.

This is analogous to describing a mugging as simply: two parties engaging in a financial transaction.

Although mainstream media demurred from limning the upwelling of mob violence at Penn. State as involving any criteria deeper than the mindless rage of a few football-besotted students unloosed by the dismissal of beloved sport figure.

Yet there exists an element that the Penn. State belligerents and OWS activists have in common: a sense of alienation.

Penn. State students rioted because life in the corporate state is so devoid of meaning...that identification with a sports team gives an empty existence said meaning...These are young people, coming of age in a time of debt-slavery and diminished job prospects, who were born and raised in, and know of no existence other than, life as lived in U.S. nothingvilles i.e., a public realm devoid of just that--a public realm--an atomizing center-bereft culture of strip malls, office parks, fast food eateries and the electronic ghosts wafting the air of social media.

Contrived sport spectacles provisionally give an empty life meaning...Take that away, and a mindless rampage might ensue...Anything but face the emptiness and acknowledge one's complicity therein, and then direct one's fury at the creators of the stultified conditions of this culture.

It is a given, the cameras of corporate media swivel towards reckless actions not mindful commitment...are attuned to verbal contretemps not thoughtful conviction--and then move on. And we will click our TV remotes and scan the Internet...restless, hollowed out...eating empty memes...skimming the surface of the electronic sheen...

These are the areas we are induced to direct our attention--as the oceans of the earth are dying...these massive life-sustaining bodies of water have less then 50 years before they will be dead. This fact alone should knock us to our knees in lamentation...should sent us reeling into the streets in displays of public grief...

Accordingly, we should not only occupy--but inhabit our rage. No more tittering at celebrity/political class contretemps--it is time for focused fury. The machinery of the corporate/police state must be dismantled.

If the corporate boardrooms have to be emptied--for the oceans to be replenished with abundant life--then so be it. If one must go to jail for committing acts of civil disobedience to free one's heart--then it must be done.

Yet why does the act of challenging the degraded status quo provoke such a high decree of misapprehension, anxiety, and outright hostility from many, both in positions of authority and among so many of the exploited and dispossessed of the corporate/consumer state.

For example, why did the fatal shooting incident in Oakland, California, Nov. 1, that occurred near the Occupy Oakland Encampment--but, apparently, was wholly unrelated to OWS activity cause a firestorm of reckless speculation and false associations.

Because any exercise in freedom makes people in our habitually authoritarian nation damn uneasy...a sense of uncertainty brings on dread--the feeling that something terrible is to come from challenging a prevailing order, even as degraded as it is.

Tyrants always promise safety; their apologist warn of chaos if and when the soul-numbing order is challenged.

Granted, it is a given that there exists a sense of certainty in a prison routine: high walls and guards and gun mounts ensure continuity; an uncertainty-banishing schedule is enforced. Moreover, solitary confinement offers an even more orderly situation...uncertainty is circumscribed as freedom is banished.

The corporate/national security state, by its very nature is anti-liberty and anti-freedom. Of course, its defenders give lip service to the concept of freedom...much in the manner a pick-pocket working a subway train is very much in favor of the virtues of public transportation.

A heavy police presence has ringed Zuccotti Park from the get-go, and whose ranks have now staged a military style raid upon it, a defacto search and destroy mission--because the ruling elite want to suppress the very impulse of freedom. These authoritarian bullies don't want the concept to escape the collective prison of the mind erected and maintained by the corrupt jailers comprising the 1% who claim they offer us protection as, all the while, they hold our chains...all for our own good, they insist...for our safety and the safety of others.

Although, from studying on these prison walls, the thought occurs to me...that what we might need is protection from all this safety.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

"You Are Fed Up?"
By Uri Avnery

"YOU CAN lie to all of the people some of the time, and to some of the people all of the time, but you cannot lie to all of the people all of the time."

This slightly altered quotation from Abraham Lincoln has yet to be absorbed by Binyamin Netanyahu. He thinks it doesn't apply to him. Actually, that is the core of his entire political career.

This week, he was given a very instructive lesson. After being treated to dozens of cordial encounters between Netanyahu and Nicholas Sarkozy, Israeli TV viewers got a glimpse of reality. It came in the form of an exchange of views between the presidents of the US and of France.

Sarkozy: "I cannot stand him (Netanyahu). He is a liar!"

Obama: "YOU are fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day!"

That came after it was leaked that Angela Merkel, the German prime minister, told her cabinet that "every word that leaves Netanyahu's mouth is a lie."

Which makes it more or less unanimous.

BEFORE PROCEEDING, I must say something about the media angle of this affair.

The dialogue was broadcast live to a group of senior French media people, because somebody forgot to turn the microphone off. A piece of luck of the kind that journalists dream about.

Yet not one of the journalists in the hall published a word about it. They kept it to themselves and only told it to their colleagues, who told it to their friends, one of whom told it to a blogger, who published it.

Why? Because the senior journalists who were present are friends and confidants of the people in power. That's how they get their scoops. The price is suppressing any news that might hurt or embarrass their sponsors. This means in practice that they become lackeys of the people in power - betraying their elementary democratic duty as servants of the public.

I know this from experience. As an editor of a news magazine, I saw it as my duty (and pleasure) to break these conspiracies of silence. Actually, many of our best scoops were given to us by colleagues from other publications who could not use them themselves for the same reason.

Luckily, with the internet now everywhere, it has become almost impossible to suppress news. Blessed be the online Gods.

A FEW weeks after Yitzhak Rabin was elected Prime Minister (for the second time) in 1992, I met Yasser Arafat in Tunis.

He was, of course, curious about the personality of the newly elected Israeli leader. Knowing that I was meeting him from time to time, he asked what I thought of him.

"He is an honest man," I replied, and then added: "as much as a politician can be." Arafat burst out laughing, and so did everybody in the room, including Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Abed Rabbo.

Ever since Sir Henry Wotton said, some four centuries ago, that "an ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country," it is generally assumed that diplomats and politicians may be lying, and not only abroad. Some do so only when necessary, some do it often, some, like Netanyahu, do it as a rule.

In spite of the general assumption of mendacity, it is not good for a leader to be branded as a habitual liar. When leaders meet personally, in private and face to face, they are supposed to tell each other the truth, even if not necessarily the whole truth. Some personal trust is of great advantage. If a leader loses it, he loses a precious asset.

Winston Churchill said of one of his predecessors, Stanley Baldwin, that (quoting from memory) "the Right Honorable Gentleman sometimes stumbles upon the truth, but he always hurries on as if nothing has happened." One of our ministers said about Ariel Sharon that he sometimes tells the truth by mistake. People asked how you could tell when Richard Nixon was lying: "Easy: his lips are moving."

Rabin was basically an honest man. He hated lying and avoided it as much as he could. Basically he remained a military man and never became a real politician.

LAST WEDNESDAY was the 16th anniversary of his assassination, according to the Hebrew calendar.

The event was marked in Israeli schools by speeches and special lessons. What these citizens of tomorrow learned was that it is very bad to murder a prime minister. And that, more or less, was that.

Not a word about why he was killed. Certainly nothing about the community the assassin belonged to, or what campaign of hatred and incitement led to the murder.

The Ministry of Education is now firmly in the hands of a Likud minister, and one of the most extreme. But the trend is not confined to the education system.

In Israel it is practically impossible to obtain a picture of Rabin shaking the hand of Arafat. Rabin and King Hussein? As many post cards as you might wish. But Rabin's peace with Jordan was an unimportant matter, like the US peace with Canada. The Oslo agreement, however, was a historic watershed.

Only people branded as "extreme leftists" - one of the worst insults these days - dare to raise the obvious questions about the assassination: Who? Why?

There is tacit agreement that the only person responsible was the actual assassin: Yigal Amir, the son of Yemenite Jews, a former settler and a student of a religious university.

Would he have acted without the blessing of one or more rabbis? Most certainly not.

Amir was led to do what he did by months of intense incitement. An unprecedented campaign of hatred dominated the public sphere. Posters showed Rabin in the uniform of an SS officer. Religious groups publicly condemned him to death in medieval ceremonies. Demonstrators in front of his private home shouted: "With blood and fire / we shall remove Rabin!"

In the most (in)famous demonstration, in the center of Jerusalem, a coffin marked "Rabin" was paraded around, while Netanyahu looked on from a balcony, in the company of other rightist leaders.

And most tellingly: not a single important right-wing or religious voice was raised against this murderous campaign.

By general tacit agreement, nothing of all this was mentioned this week. Why? Because it would not be nice. It would "split the nation". Honorable citizens do not do this kind of thing.

Rabin himself cannot be acquitted of all blame. After the incredibly courageous act of recognizing the PLO (and thereby the Palestinian people) and shaking hands with Arafat, he did not rush forward to create an irreversible historic fact of peace, but hesitated, dithered, held back and allowed the forces of war and racism to regroup and counter-attack.

When the Kiryat Arba settler Baruch Goldstein carried out his massacre in the "Cave of Machpela", Rabin had a golden opportunity to clear out the nest of fascist settlers in Hebron. He shrank back from taking on the settlers. The settlers did not shrink back from killing him.

WHAT HAPPENED next? This week a very revealing document was leaked.

It appears that on the day of the assassination, Netanyahu spoke with the American ambassador (and Zionist Jew) Martin Indyk. Netanyahu, remembering his part in the incitement, was obviously in panic. He confided to the ambassador that if elections were to take place immediately, the entire Israeli right-wing would be wiped out.

But Shimon Peres, the new Prime Minister, did not call immediate elections, though several people (including myself) publicly urged him to do so. Netanyahu's assessment was quite correct - the country was outraged, the right-wing was generally blamed for the assassination, and if elections had taken place, the Right would have been marginalized for many many years. The entire history of Israel would have taken a different turn.

Why did Peres refuse to do so? Because he hated Rabin. He did not want to be elected as the "executor of Rabin's testament," but on his own merits. Unfortunately, the public did not have the same high opinion of these "merits."

During the next few months, Peres committed every conceivable (and inconceivable) mistake: he approved the killing of a major Hamas militant which led to a flood of deadly suicide bombings all over the country. He attacked Lebanon, which led to the Kafr Kana massacre, and had to withdraw ignominiously. And then he called premature elections after all. In his election campaign, Rabin was not even mentioned. Thus Peres managed to be (narrowly) defeated by Netanyahu.

I once wrote that Peres suffered his most grievous insult just a few minutes before the assassination. Amir was waiting at the foot of the stairs from the tribune, his pistol ready. Peres came down the steps, and the assassin let him pass, like a fisherman contemptuously throwing a small specimen back into the sea. He was waiting for Rabin.

The rest is history.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

A courtroom sketch of Judge Jed Rakoff.

Finally, A Judge Stands Up To Wall Street
By Matt Taibbi

Federal judge Jed Rakoff, a former prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's office here in New York, is fast becoming a sort of legal hero of our time. He showed that again yesterday when he shat all over the SEC's latest dirty settlement with serial fraud offender Citigroup, refusing to let the captured regulatory agency sweep yet another case of high-level criminal malfeasance under the rug.

The SEC had brought an action against Citigroup for misleading investors about the way a certain package of mortgage-backed assets had been chosen. The case is very similar to the notorious Abacus case involving Goldman Sachs, in which Goldman allowed short-selling billionaire John Paulson (who was betting against the package) to pick the assets, then told a pair of European banks that the "designed to fail" package they were buying had been put together independently.

This case was similar, but worse. Here, Citi similarly told investors a package of mortgages had been chosen independently, when in fact Citi itself had chosen the stuff and was betting against the whole pile.

This whole transaction actually combined a number of Goldman-style misdeeds, since the bank both lied to investors and also bet against its own product and its own customers. In the deal, Citi made a $160 million profit, while its customers lost $700 million.

Goldman, in the Abacus case, got fined $550 million. In this worse case, the SEC was trying to settle with Citi for just $285 million. Judge Rakoff balked at the settlement and particularly balked at the SEC's decision to allow Citi off without any admission of wrongdoing. He also mocked the SEC's decision to describe the crime as "negligence" instead of intentional fraud, taking the entirely rational position that there's no way a bank making $160 million ripping off its customers can conceivably be described as an accident.

"Why should the court impose a judgment in a case in which the SEC alleges a serious securities fraud but the defendant neither admits nor denies wrongdoing?" And this: "How can a securities fraud of this nature and magnitude be the result simply of negligence?"
Rakoff of course is right - the settlement is nuts. If you take Citi's $160 million profit on the deal into consideration, what we're talking about then is a $125 million fine for causing $700 million in damages. That, and no admission of wrongdoing.

Just imagine a mugger who steals $70 from some lady's wallet being sentenced to walk free after paying back twelve bucks. Magritte himself could not devise a more surreal take on criminal justice.

It gets worse. Over the last decade, Citi has repeatedly been caught committing a variety of offenses, and time after time the bank has been dragged into court and slapped with injunctions demanding that they refrain from ever engaging the same practices ever again. Over and over again, they've completely blown off the injunctions, with no consequences from the state - which does nothing except issue new (soon-to-be-ignored-again) injunctions.

In this current case, this particular unit at Citi had already been slapped with two different SEC cease-and-desist orders barring it from violating certain securities laws. Here's a summary from Bloomberg:

The commission already had two cease-and-desist orders in place against the same Citigroup unit, barring future violations of the same section of the securities laws that the company now stands accused of breaking again. One of those orders came in a 2005 settlement, the other in a 2006 case. The SEC's complaint last month didn't mention either order, as if the entire agency suffered from amnesia.

The SEC's latest allegations also could have triggered a violation of a court injunction that Citigroup agreed to in 2003, as part of a $400 million settlement over allegedly fraudulent analyst-research reports. Injunctions are more serious than SEC orders, because violations can lead to contempt-of-court charges.

But the SEC avoided the issue of the 2003 injunction by charging Citi with a different type of fraud. But, as Bloomberg points out, it probably wouldn't have mattered much if they had accused Citi of violating the 2003 injunction, since the bank had already done that once and not been punished for it:

In December 2008, the SEC for the second time accused Citigroup of breaking the same section of the law covered by the 2003 injunction, over its sales of so-called auction-rate securities. Instead of trying to enforce the existing court order, the SEC got yet another one barring the same kinds of fraud violations in the future.

So to recap: a unit of Citigroup, having repeatedly violated the same laws and having repeatedly violated the SEC's own cease-and-desist orders and injunctions, is dragged into court one more time for committing a massive fraud.

And what does the SEC do? It doesn't even bring up Citi's history of ignoring the SEC's own order, slaps the bank with a fractional fine, refuses to target any individuals, allows the bank to walk away without an admission of wrongdoing, and puts a cherry on the top by describing the $160 million heist not as a crime, but as unintentional negligence.

BRING OUT THE SOFT CUSHIONS! The SEC gets rough with Citigroup.

Imagine a car thief who, when caught driving a stolen Lexus, tells the police he simply stepped into the wrong car and drove off by mistake. Now imagine he tells the same story when, two years later, he's caught screaming over the GW bridge in a stolen Mercedes.

Then, two years after that, he's caught on the Cross-Bronx Expressway blasting the stereo in a boosted 7-series BMW. Cops ask him for an explanation. "I must have gotten in the wrong car by mistake," he says, shrugging. And the cops buy the story and send him home without a charge.

That's roughly what we're dealing with with this SEC action. To extend the metaphor just a little further - let's say that BMW wasn't even the only car he accidentally drove away that day, but the cops didn't bother with the others. In the latest Citi case, the $700 million fraud was just one of many dicey CDOs marketed by that unit of Citi. But the SEC chose to address just that one case in its settlement.

Rakoff quite correctly took issue with all of this. From Jonathan Weil's Bloomberg piece:

"What does the SEC do to maintain compliance?" Additionally, [Rakoff] asked: "How many contempt proceedings against large financial entities has the SEC brought in the past decade as a result of violations of prior consent judgments?" We'll see if the SEC finds any.
Rakoff gained some notoriety a few years ago when he rejected as inadequate an SEC settlement with Bank of America, which was accused of misleading shareholders about the size of the bonuses paid out by Merrill Lynch, the investment bank BofA was in the process of acquiring. Rakoff dismissed the original $33 million fine as "half-baked justice," although he eventually approved a $150 million fine.

The amazing thing about the wave of corruption that has overtaken the financial services industry is that most of it couldn't happen without virtually every player at every level signing off on these deals. From the ratings agencies to the law firms to the accounting firms to the regulators to the bank executives themselves, everybody had to be on board in order for a lot of these fraud schemes to work.

Judges are a part of that picture, and too often, members of the bench sign off on dirty deals made between banks and regulators when the law says that such settlements must be "fair, reasonable, adequate and in the public interest."

It's great that Rakoff is behaving as any decent human being would and rejecting these disgusting settlements. But equally disturbing is the fact that more judges haven't done the same thing. Are people with backbones really that rare?
(c) 2011 Matt Taibbi

Pax Occupata
By Randall Amster

Decades ago, on the eve of a period of widespread societal upheaval, Bob Dylan famously intoned that "the order is rapidly fading." For a time, this appeared to be so: around the world people were in the streets, revolution was in the air, and structures of oppression were being openly contested. The headiness of those days brought many advances and opened up significant space for later movements to operate, yet in the final analysis somehow it all delivered us into even higher degrees of wealth stratification and greater consolidation of power. The order had flickered, but not quite faded, and in the end reasserted itself stronger than before.

Today we stand poised at a not-dissimilar crossroads. While perhaps no one has yet penned a Dylan-esque anthem of the movement -- although stalwarts such as David Rovics and Emma's Revolution have dropped some poignant opening stanzas-- a mass chorus of voices is drawing lines in the sand literally everywhere: public spaces, workplaces, shipping ports, shopping malls, community centers, corporate banks, schoolrooms, boardrooms, and more. The Occupy Movement has transcended the narrow confines of Zuccotti Park, and in doing so has seemingly asserted itself wherever the forces of elitism and subjugation rear their heads. As Frederick Douglass said, "power concedes nothing without demand," and whatever else transpires in the days ahead it can at least be said that the movement has reminded us all of this basic tenet.

Still, critics continue to ask, "where is your list of demands?" as if such can be reduced to movement letterhead in bullet-point fashion. To be sure, some concrete demands have been advanced, largely in the economic and political spheres and triggered by the exigencies of the Great Recession. But on some level, most everyone understands that this bill of particulars is just the surface of the movement, and that its essence really draws down to the core workings of the system itself. Adjusting debit card rates or mollifying student loan debts may bring some minor relief, but it has the feel of rearranging a couple of deck chairs, whereas many Occupiers are more urgently clamoring en masse for the dismantling of the Titanic itself.

At root, multitudes are demanding no less than a re-visioning of our political and economic relationships, and likewise of our collective human relationship with the larger environment. The time for single-issue tinkering is winding down, as the ecological and social fabric of our lives similarly degrades. After generations of living mainly as cogs in a mechanistic Moloch -- at times being reasonably well-compensated for the sacrifice of our mere freedoms and human dignity -- many people are experiencing new bonds of exchange, camaraderie, and community. There is a growing sense of engaged optimism in this moment of healthy rebellion.

And it is healthy, in contrast with the dead-end dispiritedness of corporate capitalism, in which everything and everyone are little more than raw materials for the robber barons' assembly lines. This archaic and apocalyptic system of production and reproduction is sick at its very core, revealing a form of mass insanity masking as progress, and leaving illness and misery in its wake just beneath the shiny veneer of development. At the height of colonialism, blankets with smallpox were presented as "gifts" to unwitting natives, and in many ways this has become the central operating premise of the entire enterprise, a living metaphor for environmental despoliation and the ensuing political economy of toxification.

No more. The pox must be cast out, by necessity, if any part of the organism is to survive at this point. What began as a movement to occupy a symbolic place -- the plexus of financial machinations -- quickly became a call to occupy everything, and has further expanded to include the earth itself as a living participant in the calculus.

Now, as the teeth of abject repression are bared in Oakland and elsewhere, a critical juncture is being reached in which the politics of practicality are slowly being supplanted by the poetics of possibility. People who have tasted freedom can no longer be kept conveniently in prisons, even if their cages are designed to appear like comfortable condominiums.

The technicians of empire thus stand stripped of their authoritarian mystique, increasingly so as they resort to heavy-handed tactics against peaceful people, including even those who have served in their infantries. A crisis of legitimacy is in the offing, as counter-institutions steadily replace those that run counter to even the pretense of democracy and equity. Hegemony yields to autonomy, corporatism to communitarianism, and warfare to welfare. There will be no placating the people by piecemeal legislation or token redistribution at this juncture; it is the reins of power themselves that are being demanded, and not merely the spoils.

But are the power elite quaking in their jack-boots? Are the walls of Babylon actually crumbling? This time, is the order really fading? Others have tried mightily before and come up short of changing the underlying paradigm, but there is a qualitative difference in evidence today: horizontal integration. Vertical structures, such as capitalism's pervasive pyramid schemes, are inherently vulnerable to vicissitudes in the base -- whereas horizontal systems, such as those being forged in occupations everywhere, are inherently unbreakable since there is no a prior of power apart from every single piece of the whole. This is, in fact, how healthy organisms function, and further reflects how nature itself is organized at both the microscopic and macroscopic levels.

To a system of death and destruction, we interpose one of life and liberation. Consumption is remediated by creation; plutocracy by democracy; exploitation by participation. This is not merely a movement, but is in practice more akin to a global health care plan -- and this time, we will get universal (or at least earthly) coverage, with the only mandate being the basic imperative that is embedded in the undeniable interconnectedness of our existence. No legislation is needed, only the laws of nature; no medication, just dedication; no co-payments, merely co-creators. We are going to get well, all of us together and the habitat itself, and in the process we will work to wipe aside the sickly stain of the colonizer's history.

Power may not abdicate, but it does change its garb at times. The Empire's cloak of imperial majesty is threadbare, and a new wind is chilling its inner workings to the marrow. We neocolonial beneficiaries have infected others, and ourselves as well, with everything from acne and austerity to zoster and zero-sum thinking, and now it has come to pass that the global organism itself is essentially on life support. This is the reality that must eventually be confronted, both in terms of ecology and political economy: the externalities of disease and despair cannot be indefinitely outsourced. The only genuine form of wellbeing is one that injects itself everywhere, coursing through the veins of society at all levels and in every locale within the system.

Pax Romana, Pax Britannica, Pax Americana -- all made claims to establishing a "relative peace" within their ambit. But these forms of peace were imposed at the point of a bayonet or the nosecone of a warhead. They were all poisonous peaces, ultimately self-defeating enterprises of subjugation in which the masters could not escape their own systems of enslavement. Today, we are aiming for something more like Pax Populi, a form of peace made by and for people, not nations or corporations. In order to accomplish this, the ailing empire du jour must be supplanted by a constellation of healthy communities, interlinked by virtue of desire rather than dictate. This is the ambitious horizon of the burgeoning movement in all of its manifestations: Pax Occupata.

Instead of a singular Dylan for the movement, there are poets cropping up everywhere and providing the soundtrack of this era in real time. Indeed, this is as it should be: everyone's a bard, and all the world's a stage. The curtain is finally closing on the old order, and a new paradigm of peace is being hewn from the colossus.
(c) 2011 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Don't Just Salute Veterans, Rally With Them

Here's a surprise that the power elites really hate: many members of the one-percent are joining the "We are the 99%" protest movement.

I don't mean that hedge fund billionaires are suddenly in the streets to show solidarity with millions of Americans who're fed up with the systemic inequality and corruption infesting our economic and political systems. No, no – those swells aren't about to dirty their Guccis with any street action. Rather, I'm talking about another, extra-special one-percent of our society – the soldiers who've been the "boots on the ground" in Washington's misguided and bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rather than marching in Veterans Day parades this year, thousands of vets from America's abused "war class" have been rallying with the Occupy movement. They're expressing their anger at being used in two senseless wars that enriched corporate contractors while the troops who're lucky enough to make it home alive can't find decent jobs and are shorted on the health and education programs they desperately need.

In New York, more than 100 of our nation's soldiers proceeded in uniform from the Vietnam Vets Plaza to Wall Street, where they stood in formation in front of the Stock Exchange. "Corporate profits on the rise," they chanted, "soldiers have to bleed and die." The Powers That Be, far from offering the salutes that vets deserve (much less offering the help they've earned), deployed a line of New York police to block these peaceful protesters from the financial manipulators inside and another line of police on horseback wielding nightsticks to threaten them.

This was a disgraceful show of force against those who’ve fought our wars. The police should be looking inside the financial empires, not threatening protesters. But their action exposes just how perverted and corrupt the power elites have become – and why all of us should support this burgeoning democracy movement.
(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.

Nukes & Iran -- Who Will Step In?
By Helen Thomas

U.S. leaders haven't spoken of disarmament lately. Why not?

Iran is on the verge of creating a nuclear weapon. This is bad news for the U.S. and Israel, who have warned Tehran against holding nuclear power.

The U.S. needs to step in and mollify at the crucial moment. Israel has been able to sabotage any Iranian progress in developing nuclear prowess, but no one has produced a key to a more peaceful route to reconciliation.

So where are the peacemakers? Israel wants the U.S. to step in or even lead the way to block Iran's new nuclear ambitions. Iran, which has seen several of its nuclear scientists assassinated in the last year, is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power. However, Israel is determined to protect its nuclear dominance in the Middle East - it is the only country in the region that has a nuclear arsenal.

The current crisis is on a fast track because Iran is continuing to build a nuclear bomb, even though they say their intentions are peaceful. The crisis build up, the world waiting for the other shoe to fall, is the talk of the town.

In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear facility, sending several U.S.-made F-16 bombers to wipe it out. In later years, Israel blocked Syria's attempt to create a nuclear product.

There is little doubt the U.S. is totally complicit in the attempts to bolster Israel's nuclear monopoly in the Middle East.

After World War II, it seemed the world was ready for disarmament; there was much work done on plans to reduce nuclear stock piles. The former Soviet Union had developed its own nuclear arsenal. Many hopes were pinned on lessons learned after the U.S. had dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki, in Japan. Those historic horrors led the Western world to begin serious negotiations on disarmament.

Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union recognized the need for arms reduction, and at the same time many scientists debated the morality of using nuclear weapons in war. Some scientists who had worked on the bomb had urged the U.S., before the Hiroshima attack, to bomb a lonely atoll in the Pacific Ocean, so Japan and the rest of the world might observe the power of nuclear warfare.

At that time, the U.S. military was convinced that the U.S. would suffer tremendous human losses in the Pacific theater, and President Harry S. Truman agreed and went along. There is no question that the bombing, devastating as it was, brought World War II to an end in the Pacific.

Russia then became a super power rival, matching the U.S. nuclear capacity. Many rounds of disarmament talks began. Afterwards, several countries developed their own nuclear weapons, including India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Israel began stockpiling weapons at a desert complex in Dimona. It was the world's biggest non-secret. The U.S. had made a pact with the late Prime Minister Golda Meir, never to say that Israel had produced nuclear weapons. To this day, American officials have refused to acknowledge that Israel is the sole nuclear power in the Middle East.

I asked President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton if there were any nations in the Middle East that had nuclear weapons. Responding to a question at a White House news conference, Obama said, "I don't want to speculate." Clinton and others also dodged the question, and not too deftly, but they preserved the official lie.

Israel has become the self-appointed nuclear watchdog in the Middle East.

The world is watching to see if the U.S. or Israel decides to attack Iran. But there seems to be more caution that did not exist in previous critical times.

Obama is preoccupied in the time-consuming run for re-election. It seems it is time for him to step in and calm the waters. Surely no nation wants to see a global war. There may be a way to work out a peaceful resolution with Iran. It's worth a try.
(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.

The Strange Evolution Of The Human Species
By James Donahue

With all of the tinkering going on with the human DNA, the cloning of animals, manufacture of advanced robotic machines and experiments with mind transfer, we have to wonder what humans of the future may become. That is if we don't blow themselves to bits fighting over what remains of the planet's natural resources. The concept of creating duplicates of ourselves is not new. Powerful but controversial figures throughout history; men like Hitler, Saddam Hussein, various kings and possibly some American presidents, have been known to use doppelgangers, or especially prepared "stand-ins" to make public appearances on their behalf. This probably served to give them time to tend to more important business elsewhere, protect them in the event of an assassination threat, or possibly replace them and keep the power structure intact in the event of sickness or an unexpected and secret death.

Knowledge among a few that doppelgangers were being used . . . even by celebrities . . . may have help spark many of the strange myths that figures like Hitler and Elvis Presley were still seen among the living long after they were declared dead.

The remarkable development by the Japanese and Chinese of robots that look, feel and even react somewhat like humans appears to be leading to a whole new industry of future robotoids, or androids. These are manufactured humanoid machines that may someday look and act so much like humans they may blend in with society. Science fiction writers and Hollywood film producers have been dealing with the complexities of something like this happening for years.

Some believe that advanced robotoid technology has already been achieved. One writer who covered public appearances by President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s said the second time he got within a few feet of Carter he realized that this man was not the same Jimmy Carter he saw when Carter was running for office in 1979. He wrote that he believes the President Carter he saw may have been even been a robotoid model of the original.

Neuroscientists from around the world are involved in the Blue Brain Project at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), France. This is a collective effort among many world researchers to reverse engineer the mammalian brain within a computer. The ultimate goal is to develop a replica of the human brain in a machine.

Will it be possible that some day we will mingle with manufactured machines, or androids that not only look human but possess computerized brains that out-think and out-perform us?

Should we exist on this planet long enough to accomplish this remarkable feat . . . which is a direction in which we surely appear to be headed . . . we can perceive a scenario very much like the social problems presented in the science fiction television series Battlestar Galactica. In that story the androids became smarter than the humans, began self-replicating, and eventually went to war against the human race.

There was an interesting twist to the Galactica story. The androids became so much like the humans they began mingling, having love relationships with humans, and eventually discovered that one of the android women successfully gave birth to a child of a human father.

While the Galactica story is a bit far reaching in fictional technology, it is no secret that some humans are already thinking of ways in which to move the human spirit, or soul, with all of our personality and memories of who we are, from these disposable human bodies into superior, self-replicating machines of the future. The thought is that living in android bodies would give humans a chance to continue on and survive on what is obviously a dying planet.

While an android might need a little oil on occasion to keep the joints greased and operating smoothly, it can exist without food, water or oxygen. As to its energy source, that might not be a problem as long as the sun continues to shine.

Another significant development in recent years has been the successful mapping of the human genome and all of the genetic information stored within the bodies of not only humans, but all living creatures on the planet. Researchers have been quickly learning to manipulate "damaged" or missing DNA to find amazing cures for disease, design more healthy humans for the future, and even create specialized humans to perform unique tasks. For example some children might be designed to become fighting soldiers, while others can have the capability of becoming great musicians and engineers. It all lies in the genetic makeup.

The research also is aiming at the greatest and perhaps most sacred goal of them all . . . building the perfect human body that does not suffer from disease, can have damaged or worn parts medically replaced, and live for a very long time, if not forever.

Of course all of this new knowledge is very scary to a society still caught up in its archaic reality of the past, and bound by religious and social moralities carved into the laws of the land. Thus most of the research is obviously going on secretly behind closed doors, and when scientific papers are published, we can be sure that we are only getting a part of the real story.

If that reporter was correct in his observation that a robotoid was advanced enough in the 1980s to successfully pass for President Jimmy Carter in a crowd, and that it was not a doppelganger, imagine what is already existing among us today?

This begs the question . . . did they really kill Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and Muammar Gaddafi or has it all been a big show? It also has become obvious, as the wealth, power and control of the world has fallen into the hands of a special few that even if all of this wonderful technology already exists and is in use, only the very wealthy will ever get a chance to use it.
(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.

Why Income Inequality Suddenly Matters
A ballooning wealth gap coupled with decreased class mobility has brought America to its senses
By David Sirota

A few weeks ago, as the Occupy Wall Street protests were first spreading, something amazing happened: For 10 whole seconds, the local reporter on my TV screen actually talked about the realities of the recession. He even uttered the phrase "economic inequality."

My guess is that you've seen something similar on your local affiliate - and that's no minor event. When even the most local of television journalists are compelled to acknowledge this crushing emergency in a country whose media aggressively promotes American dream agitprop, it means the Occupy protesters have scored a monumental victory. You can almost imagine a Wall Street CEO turning to an aide and muttering a slightly altered riff off LBJ: "If we've lost Ron Burgundy, we've lost Middle America."

In response to this stunning turn of events, conservative politicians are retreating to non sequiturs. They seem to think that if they shout the phrase "class warfare" enough, the nation will go back to not caring about the divide between the rich and poor.

But something has changed.

For most of the post-World War II era, we tolerated relatively high inequality because we envisioned it as a necessary side effect of an exceptional economy that (supposedly) guaranteed opportunities for advancement. As the Wall Street Journal put it, we believed that "it is OK to have ever-greater differences between rich and poor … as long as (our) children have a good chance of grasping the brass ring."

However, the last three decades have invalidated our standing hypothesis. After the conservatives' successful assault on the New Deal, America has lived a different reality - one perfectly summarized by a new Federal Reserve study revealing that today's increasing inequality accompanies comparatively low social mobility.

"U.S. family income mobility has decreased over the 1969-2006 time span, and especially since the 1980s," notes the Fed paper, adding that "a family's position at (the) end of (the) 2000s was … more correlated with its start position than was the case 20 years earlier."

Of course, some class mobility still exists. The trouble is that it's primarily of the downward kind. As the Pew Charitable Trusts reports, roughly a third of those who grew up in the middle class have now fallen below that station in adulthood.

This is why, for all the right-wing mythology about "Eurosocialism" snuffing out upward mobility, data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that social mobility in uber-capitalist America is actually lower than in most industrialized countries.

This is why almost three-quarters of respondents just told the Hill newspaper's pollsters that income inequality is a problem.

This is why my local TV news is suddenly airing pieces on economic inequality between sports, weather and all the "you stay classy" small talk.

And this is why, among all the fights over economic policy, the debate about taxes is the most crucial of all.

As the Fed noted in a separate report, the federal tax code - which remains vaguely progressive - has been the one proven way to "mitigate income inequality." But with congressional Republicans gradually flattening federal income tax rates and with already-regressive state tax rates in GOP bastions like Texas, Wyoming, Tennessee, South Dakota and Mississippi, the tax system has lately been preserving or exacerbating existing inequality.

The good news is that if we return to the slightly higher tax rates of the Reagan or Clinton eras - i.e., the rates that existed when the economy was doing better - we can begin fixing things. If, though, we keep tax rates the same or make them even more regressive, we'll be seeing a whole lot more about economic inequality on our local news as the current crisis inevitably reaches an ugly boiling point.
(c) 2011 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Demonstrators from the Freedom Plaza Occupation & Backbone Campaign; Economic
Justice Allies, protest November 10, 2011 to Demand Mortgage Correction in
front of the Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA) in Washington, DC.

Occupy Movement Demands Home Mortgages Correction
By David Swanson

On Thursday, teamed up with the Backbone Campaign, National People's Action, and the New Economy Working Group in a march from Freedom Plaza to the Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA).

The demand they brought, along with giant props including a foreclosed house under water, was for a correction. The 1%, they said, inflated house values and made off with ill-gotten gains, but those left with underwater mortgages when the house values were brought back down have suffered. The demand is for mortgage values to be adjusted to match the current market values of houses.

"People in power know that the real solution to the continuing collapse of the housing market is universal principal reduction of American mortgages to real market value," said Bill Moyer of the Backbone Campaign. "It's time those with the power find the backbone to stand up to the banks and Institutions that hold these mortgages and insist they stop drowning America with false solutions, inaction and greed."

Some 25% of U.S. mortgages are now under water, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hold over 50% of U.S. mortgages. The FHFA has the power to force Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce principal to the actual value of houses. Underwater mortgage debt is one of the primary drags on economic recovery. It continues to devour tens of billions of dollars annually, money that would otherwise go into our economy in the form of consumer spending.

Noel Ortega with the Freedom Plaza Occupation, Backbone Campaign & Economic Justice Allies protests from a makeshift 'underwater home' November 10, 2011 to Demand Mortgage Correction in front of the Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA) in Washington, DC. Demonstrators are demanding that the FHFA force Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce principal to the actual value of houses. Underwater mortgage debt is one of the primary drags on economic recovery. It continues to devour tens of billions of dollars annually, money that would otherwise go into our economy in the form of consumer spending.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Michael Bloomberg -- The Villain Occupy Wall Street Has Been Waiting For
By Robert Scheer

In the pantheon of billionaires without shame, Michael Bloomberg, the Wall Street banker-turned-business-press-lord-turned-mayor, is now secure at the top. What is so offensive is that someone who abetted Wall Street greed, and benefited as much as anyone from it, has no compunction about ruthlessly repressing those who dare exercise their constitutional "right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" that he helped to create.

You would think that a former partner at the investment bank Solomon Brothers, which originated mortgage-backed securities, a man who then partnered with Merrill Lynch in the high-speed computerized trading that has led to so much financial manipulation, would have some sense of his own culpability. Or at least that someone whose Wall Street career left him with a net worth of $19.5 billion would grasp the deep irony of his being the instrument for smashing Occupy Wall Street, the internationally acknowledged symbol of opposition to corporate avarice.

But only in America is the arrogance of the superrich so perfectly concealed by the pretense of democracy that the 12th richest man in the nation can suppress dissent against corporate rapacity and expect his brutal actions to be viewed not as a means of preserving his own class privilege but as bureaucratically necessary to providing sanitary streets.

Even before he ordered the smashing of dissent by citizens peacefully assembled, Bloomberg denigrated their heartfelt message: "It's fun and it's cathartic," he said of those huddled against the cold in a makeshift encampment, "... it's entertaining to go and blame people. ... It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp."

It is mind-boggling that Bloomberg still hypes the canard that the banks were forced to reap enormous profits from toxic securities. It is an embarrassing, dishonest position when the record of banker fraud in creating the housing bubble is so well documented in Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuits. Is Bloomberg unaware that the major banks have agreed to pay hefty fines in a meager compensation for their schemes? That he blames the victims of the securitization swindles and then orders the arrest of those who dare speak the truth is a tribute to his belief in the enduring power of the big lie.

If the Bloomberg news service, the stock market idolizer owned by the mayor, had been anything more than an enabler this past decade of Wall Street excess, nay criminality, it's possible we would not be experiencing the current crisis. If this leading financial news outlet had performed the minimum of journalistic due diligence on unregulated credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations and the other swindles marketed with an abandon informed by deep deceit and the financial industry's pervasive corruption, the world economy may not now be in such terrible shape.

Yet the man whose personal wealth increased by $4.5 billion the first year of this meltdown when many Americans were losing their life savings now dares shift blame away from himself and others at the center of economic power to the most vulnerable among us. Instead of blaming the Wall Street lobbyists who got the laws changed so that they could securitize people's home mortgages, no matter how unsound those mortgages were by design, he blames the folks suckered into accepting the banks' phony offerings. "Blame the opium addict and not the pusher" is the excuse for the bankers who turned the lure of easy credit into a housing bubble that, when it inevitably exploded, impoverished the world but left the bailed-out Wall Street hustlers richer than ever.

"There's something wrong with a kid who steals a bike going to jail and someone who steals millions paying a fine," as former New York City Mayor Ed Koch put it in challenging Bloomberg's blame-the-victims copout. The fines to which Koch referred represent a small percentage of the bankers' ill-gotten gains, and, of course, as opposed to the kid who steals a bike, none of the bankers fined by the SEC has even been threatened with jail time. "What do you think they got fined for-schmutz on the sidewalk?" Koch asked. "They got fined because they abused their relationship with their clientele. And I want to see somebody-I want to see one of them, of a major corporation, punished criminally."

Instead, the people led away in handcuffs are not the bankers who perpetuated the fraud of turning homes into the junk of toxic mortgages, which should be judged as criminal, but decent people who have committed only the "crime" of speaking truth to power.
(c) 2011 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Vouchers For Veterans
By Paul Krugman

American health care is remarkably diverse. In terms of how care is paid for and delivered, many of us effectively live in Canada, some live in Switzerland, some live in Britain, and some live in the unregulated market of conservative dreams. One result of this diversity is that we have plenty of home-grown evidence about what works and what doesn't.

Naturally, then, politicians - Republicans in particular - are determined to scrap what works and promote what doesn't. And that brings me to Mitt Romney's latest really bad idea, unveiled on Veterans Day: to partially privatize the Veterans Health Administration (V.H.A.).

What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.

Many people still have an image of veterans' health care based on the terrible state of the system two decades ago. Under the Clinton administration, however, the V.H.A. was overhauled, and achieved a remarkable combination of rising quality and successful cost control. Multiple surveys have found the V.H.A. providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers. Furthermore, the V.H.A. has led the way in cost-saving innovation, especially the use of electronic medical records.

What's behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it's free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense. And because V.H.A. patients are in it for the long term, the agency has a stronger incentive to invest in prevention than private insurers, many of whose customers move on after a few years.

And yes, this is "socialized medicine" - although some private systems, like Kaiser Permanente, share many of the V.H.A.'s virtues. But it works - and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of U.S. health care more broadly.

Yet Mr. Romney believes that giving veterans vouchers to spend on private insurance would somehow yield better results. Why?

Well, Republicans have a thing about vouchers. Earlier this year Representative Paul Ryan famously introduced a plan to convert Medicare into a voucher system; Mr. Romney's Medicare proposal follows similar lines. The claim, always, is the one Mr. Romney made last week, that "private sector competition" would lower costs.

But we have a lot of evidence about how private-sector competition in health insurance works, and it's not favorable. The individual insurance market, which comes closest to the conservative ideal of free competition, has huge administrative costs and has no demonstrated ability to reduce other costs. Medicare Advantage, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to buy private insurance instead of having Medicare pay bills directly, has consistently had higher costs than the traditional program.

And the international evidence accords with U.S. experience. The most efficient health care systems are integrated systems like the V.H.A.; next best are single-payer systems like Medicare; the more privatized the system, the worse it performs.

To be fair to Mr. Romney, he takes a somewhat softer line than others in his party, suggesting that the existing V.H.A. system would remain available and that traditional Medicare would remain an option. In practice, however, partial privatization would almost surely undermine the public side of these programs. For example, one problem with the V.H.A. is that its hospitals are spread too thinly across the nation; this problem would become worse if a substantial number of veterans were encouraged to opt out of the system.

So what lies behind the Republican obsession with privatization and voucherization? Ideology, of course. It's literally a fundamental article of faith in the G.O.P. that the private sector is always better than the government, and no amount of evidence can shake that credo.

In fact, it's hard to avoid the sense that Republicans are especially eager to dismantle government programs that act as living demonstrations that their ideology is wrong. Bloated military budgets don't bother them much - Mr. Romney has pledged to reverse President Obama's defense cuts, despite the fact that no such cuts have actually taken place. But successful programs like veterans' health, Social Security and Medicare are in the crosshairs.

Which brings me to a final thought: maybe all this amounts to a case for Rick Perry. Any Republican would, if elected president, set out to undermine precisely those government programs that work best. But Mr. Perry might not remember which programs he was supposed to destroy.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Resistance is feasible even for those who are not heroes by nature, and it is an obligation, I believe, for those who fear the consequences and detest the reality of the attempt to impose American hegemony."
~~~ Noam Chomsky

Fukushima -- They Knew
"Completely and Utterly Fail in an Earthquake." The Fukushima story you didn't hear on CNN
By Greg Palast

I've seen a lot of sick stuff in my career, but this was sick on a new level.

Here was the handwritten log kept by a senior engineer at the nuclear power plant:

Wiesel was very upset. He seemed very nervous. Very agitated. . . . In fact, the plant was riddled with problems that, no way on earth, could stand an earth- quake. The team of engineers sent in to inspect found that most of these components could "completely and utterly fail" during an earthquake.
"Utterly fail during an earthquake." And here in Japan was the quake and here is the utter failure.

The warning was in what the investigations team called The Notebook, which I'm not supposed to have. Good thing I've kept a copy anyway, because the file cabinets went down with my office building ....


[This is an excerpt in from Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Fraudsters, to be released this Monday. Click here to get the videos and the book.]

Two senior nuclear plant engineers were spilling out their souls and files on our huge conference table, blowing away my government investigations team with the inside stuff about the construction of the Shoreham, New York, power station.

The meeting was secret. Very secret. Their courage could destroy their careers: No engineering firm wants to hire a snitch, even one who has saved thousands of lives. They could lose their jobs; they could lose everything. They did. That's what happens. Have a nice day.

On March 12 this year, as I watched Fukushima melt, I knew: the "SQ" had been faked. Anderson Cooper said it would all be OK. He'd flown to Japan, to suck up the radiation and official company bullshit. The horror show was not the fault of Tokyo Electric, he said, because the plant was built to withstand only an 8.0 earthquake on the Richter scale, and this was 9.0. Anderson must have been in the gym when they handed out the facts. The 9.0 shake was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 90 miles away. It was barely a tenth of that power at Fukushima.

I was ready to vomit. Because I knew who had designed the plant, who had built it and whom Tokyo Electric Power was having rebuild it: Shaw Construction. The latest alias of Stone & Webster, the designated builder for every one of the four new nuclear plants that the Obama Administration has approved for billions in federal studies.

But I had The Notebook, the diaries of the earthquake inspector for the company. I'd squirreled it out sometime before the Trade Center went down. I shouldn't have done that. Too bad.

All field engineers keep a diary. Gordon Dick, a supervisor, wasn't sup- posed to show his to us. I asked him to show it to us and, reluctantly, he directed me to these notes about the "SQ" tests.

SQ is nuclear-speak for "Seismic Qualification." A seismically qualified nuclear plant won't melt down if you shake it. A "seismic event" can be an earthquake or a Christmas present from Al Qaeda. You can't run a nuclear reactor in the USA or Europe or Japan without certified SQ.

This much is clear from his notebook: This nuclear plant will melt down in an earthquake. The plant dismally failed to meet the Seismic I (shaking) standards required by U.S. and international rules.

Here's what we learned: Dick's subordinate at the nuclear plant, Robert Wiesel, conducted the standard seismic review. Wiesel flunked his company. No good. Dick then ordered Wiesel to change his report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, change it from failed to passed. Dick didn't want to make Wiesel do it, but Dick was under the gun himself, acting on direct command from corporate chiefs. From The Notebook:

Wiesel was very upset. He seemed very nervous. Very agitated. [He said,] "I believe these are bad results and I believe it's reportable," and then he took the volume of federal regulations from the shelf and went to section 50.55(e), which describes reportable deficiencies at a nuclear plant and [they] read the section together, with Wiesel pointing to the appropriate paragraphs that federal law clearly required [them and the company] to report the Category II, Seismic I deficiencies.

Wiesel then expressed his concern that he was afraid that if he [Wiesel] reported the deficiencies, he would be fired, but that if he didn't report the deficiencies, he would be breaking a federal law. . . .

The law is clear. It is a crime not to report a safety failure. I could imagine Wiesel standing there with that big, thick rule book in his hands, The Law. It must have been heavy. So was his paycheck. He weighed the choices: Break the law, possibly a jail-time crime, or keep his job.

What did Wiesel do? What would you do?

Why the hell would his company make this man walk the line? Why did they put the gun to his head, to make him conceal mortal danger? It was the money. It's always the money. Fixing the seismic problem would have cost the plant's owner half a billion dollars easy. A guy from corporate told Dick, "Bob is a good man. He'll do what's right. Don't worry about Bob."

That is, they thought Bob would save his job and career rather than rat out the company to the feds.

But I think we should all worry about Bob. The company he worked for, Stone & Webster Engineering, built or designed about a third of the nuclear plants in the United States.

From the fifty-second floor we could look at the Statue of Liberty. She didn't look back.
(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.


An Interview With An Occupy Oakland Man Before Police Raid Peaceful Camp
'We are a Role Model'
By Amy Goodman

Before dawn on Monday morning, hundreds of police in riot gear raided the Occupy Oakland encampment in order to evict peaceful protesters. They arrested more than 30 people who chose to remain as an act of civil disobedience. Later in the day, Mayor Jean Quan's chief legal adviser resigned over what he called the "tragically unnecessary" police raid. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman visited the camp on Sunday, prior to the raid. One participant, Ali, told her he was there to protest the closure of libraries and schools, and the massive layoffs of teachers and other public workers.
ALI: My name is Ali. How are you all doing?

AMY GOODMAN: Hi. Have you been here from the beginning?

ALI: Pretty much. Pretty much, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you want to see happen here?

ALI: Well, there's a lot of things. You know, I'm from Oakland, you know what I'm saying? So that, for me, to see changes, it's not a Wall Street thing, it's not a bank thing, but it's a social thing. You know what I'm saying? Everything that's been going on in Oakland-the homicides, schools being closed down, libraries being shut down, teachers being cut off, public workers getting laid off, work furloughs-everything that the city is supposed to be taking care of its own is not being done. You know, that's what I'm here, is trying to get them to start taking care of us as a people in Oakland, California. I mean, this is minute. You know, this is a small thing right now, if you look at it from Oakland's perspective, OK? But this is not small: we are a role model for the whole world. And that's what's going on.

AMY GOODMAN: And how are the police dealing with this at this point?

ALI: Can I-can I be frank? I don't care. I want to say it in different words, you know, but I just-I don't care, you know, what the police think. I don't care what Mayor Quan think. I don't think what any politician think about what we're doing here, because what we're doing here is starting something new, you know what I'm saying? I don't deal with any type of politic situations or none of that. What I'm dealing with is this encampment of Oscar Grant Plaza, OK? That's the only thing. That's the only my concern.

AMY GOODMAN: And why is it called Oscar Grant Plaza?

ALI: I mean, you know, it's a representation of what's been going on in Oakland, California, for a long time, with the oppression of poverty here, of the people of the community of Oakland, OK? Oscar Grant was a young male who was pretty much handcuffed on a BART train with a 250-pound officer on his back, six-four, OK? While he had another officer on his neck. And the officer pretty much pulled a gun and shot him in the back, while he was still in handcuffs, laying down on the platform on his stomach. So how-I don't understand the threat in that, OK? And that's the threat of these corporations on our society and our community. It represents that. We are all in handcuffs. We are all on our back. We have no way of getting out of it. And they pretty much have got these guns on our back, and they're shooting us. It's a representation of a whole.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think this encampment has accomplished? How long has it been out here?

ALI: I mean, you know, this encampment has accomplished a lot, OK, for myself and-you know, we have discussions all the time, you know what I'm saying? And it comes to what society labels us as, you know? And this right here, this encampment, has given the people a chance to change what those labels are, you know what I'm saying? Whether you've been called a black man who's a criminal or a Hispanic who's a car thief or an individual who's a racist, this is a place where none of that exists, OK? Because if you come with those, you're going to have some type of change. OK?

And pretty much what I've seen happen here, because this is our own world, our own community, our own society, that's by the people, we feed people, OK? We house people, OK? Not just people, but families, as well, you know what I'm saying? These people, if you go around West Oakland, the homeless encampments all across West Oakland are pretty much here. They are a part of the society, and they have to be recognized that they are here. You know what I'm saying? But everybody here is not a homeless individual. Some of us are hard-working class. You got these homeless people, crack addicts, heroine addicts, disabled people, right along with the same people that are doctors, lawyers, practitioners, chiropractors, teachers. We're all here together, OK? We are parents. We are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. Everything here is together, no matter what label you put on us. You know?

I'm a criminal. I'm a thug. I'm a convict. I'm a gangster. I'm a womanizer. But you know what? That's what society labeled me as. This society-I'm not none of those. I just met these people right here, you know? I just met you guys. Do you guys consider me as a thug or a criminal or anything?


ALI: There we go. You know what I'm saying? And that's what's been going on in society is that we have these labels upon ourself, living in these low-income areas. And pretty much like I was saying is that we need to start showing the people.
(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...

Judge Stallman in happier days

Heil Obama,

Dear der Volksgerichtshof Richter Stallman,

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 ruling (in violation of the 1st amendment) that free speech can not be used against the 1%, 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 "corpo-rat Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 11-24-2011. We salute you Herr Stallman, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The New GOP Front-Runner -- Dick Cheney

John Nichols

There is not a lot of fresh polling data on Dick Cheney. While it is fair to say that the numbers are probably a bit better than they were when the CBS News/New York Times team found in the final poll of the Bush-Cheney era that the outgoing vice president had a 13 percent favorable rating, there's no evidence to suggest that Americans have warmed to the country's chief advocate for war, torture, surveillance and secrecy.

Except, this is, among the Americans who are considered front-runners in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

With the exception of Ron Paul (who is actually right about a lot of issues) and John Huntsman (who is actually rational), the crowd on stage at Saturday night's "Republican Commander-in-Chief Debate" in South Carolina oozed Cheneyism.

Mitt Romney, the frontrunner Republicans love to hate, and Newt Gingrich, the next alternative to Romneyevitability, sparred over who was more prepared to go nuclear with Iran. Gingrich advocated assassination ("taking out their scientists") and massive disruption ("breaking up their systems, all of it covertly, all of it deniable") as first steps. Then war. Romney went with rank partisanship: "If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon."

While Gingrich had the Cheney style down, Romney went full Cheney with the groundless suggestion that Obama would do nothing to prevent nuclear proliferation. Cheney points to Mitt. Gingrich upped the ante by fretting that the "Arab Spring is becoming an anti-Christian Spring."

Then Michele Bachmann-after comically debating with Rick Perry about whether to "start foreign aid at zero"-went full Cheney with her line: "President Obama stands with Occupy Wall Street, but he doesn't stand with Israel."

Bachmann got more Cheney points with her advocacy for waterboarding, as did Herman Cain-who was very glad to be discussing foreign affairs. Perry said he was against torture before he was for it, declaring that while he did not approve of certain forms of cruel and unusual punishment, "this is war. That's what happens in war."

That was actually a very good Cheney impression: an inaccurate statement delivered with a combination of seriousness and bombast designed to excuse any abuse of the truth or the law. And Perry got some applause for it.

Congressman Paul, in contrast, upset a portion of the partisan crowd by declaring that "water boarding is torture" and reminding the crowd that "torture is illegal" under both US and international laws. "Why would you accept the position of torturing a hundred people because you know one person might have information?" Paul asked, adding that: "It's really un-American to accept, on principle, that we will torture people that we capture."

Huntsman, the former US ambassador to China and arguably the ablest analyst of foreign affairs on the stage, agreed, saying, "We diminish our standing in the world and the values that we project, which include liberty, democracy, human rights and open markets, when we torture."

Huntsman did not sound like Cheney when he added. "We lose that ability to project values that a lot of people in corners of this world are still relying on the United States to stand up for."

But Bachmann dialed up the Cheney with her applause line of the night. While advocating for torture, she griped that Barack Obama "has allowed the ACLU to run the CIA."

For the record this is what the ACLU says: "Contrary to Congresswoman Bachmann's claims, only the Constitution guides our nation's fight against terrorism. While the ACLU does not run the CIA, General David Petraeus does run it, and he has made clear that waterboarding and other torture have no place at the CIA or in the military."

No word yet from Cheney regarding the debate. But, surely, he must be satisfied.

He may not be very popular with the American people. But he is winning the battle of ideas-such as it is-within his Republican Party.
(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.

Our F*ck You System Of Government
Anti-Occupy Crackdowns Highlight Lack of Services
By Ted Rall

Governments are supposed to fulfill the basic needs of their citizens. Ours doesn't pretend to try.

Sick? Too bad.

Can't find a job? Tough.

Broke? Can't afford rent? We don't give a crap.

Forget "e pluribus unum." We need a more accurate motto.

We live under a f*ck you system.

Got a problem? The U.S. government has an all-purpose response to whatever ails you: f*ck you.

During the '80s I drove a yellow taxi in New York. Then, as now, there were no public restrooms in the city. At 4 in the morning, with few restaurants or bars open, the coffee I drank to stay awake posed a significant challenge.

It was—it is—insane. People pee. People poop. As basic needs go, toilets are as basic as it gets. Yet the City of New York, with the biggest tax base of any municipality in the United States, didn't provide any.

So I did what all taxi drivers did. What they still do. I found a side street and a spot between two parked cars. It went OK until a cop caught me peeing under the old elevated West Side Highway, which later collapsed due to lack of maintenance. Perhaps decades of taxi driver urine corroded the support beams.

"You can't do that here," said the policeman.

"Where am I supposed to go?" I asked him. "There's aren't any restrooms anywhere in town."

"I know," he replied before going to get his summons book from his cruiser.

The old "f*ck you." We create the problem, then blame you for the results.

I ran away.

In recent days American mayors have been ordering heavily armed riot police to attack and rob peaceful members of encampments allied with Occupy Wall Street.

Like NYC, which won't provide public restrooms but arrests public urinators, government officials and their media allies use their own refusal to provide basic public services to justify raids against Occupations.

In the middle of the night on November 15th NYPD goons stormed into Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. They beat and pepper-sprayed members of Occupy Wall Street and destroyed the books in their library. Citing "unsanitary conditions," New York's billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, then told reporters:

"I have become increasingly concerned...that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protesters and to the surrounding community."

Four days before the police attack The New York Times had quoted a city health department statement worrying about the possible spread of norovirus, vomiting, diarrhea and tuberculosis: "It should go without saying that lots of people sleeping outside in a park as we head toward winter is not an ideal situation for anyone's health."

So why don't they give the homeless some of the thousands of abandoned apartment units in New York?

Anyway, according to the Times: "Damp laundry and cardboard signs, left in the rain, have provided fertile ground for mold. Some protesters urinate in bottles, or occasionally a water-cooler jug, to avoid the lines at [the few] public restrooms."

Of course, there's an obvious solution: provide adequate bathroom facilities—not just for Occupy but for all New Yorkers. But that's off the table under New York's f*ck you system of government.

Doctors noted a new phenomenon called "Zuccotti cough." Symptoms are similar to those of "Ground Zero cough" suffered by 9/11 first responders.

Zuccotti is 450 feet away from Ground Zero.

Which brings to mind the fact that the collapse of the World Trade Center towers released 400 tons of asbestos into the air. It was never cleaned up properly. Could Occupiers be suffering the results of sleeping in a should-have-been-Superfund site for two months?

We'll never know. As under Bush, Obama's EPA still won't conduct a 9/11 environmental impact study.

Sick? Wanna know why? f*ck you.

One of the authorities' most ironic complaints about the Occupations is that they attract the mentally ill, drug users and habitually homeless.

To listen to the mayors of Portland, Denver and New York, you'd think the Occupiers beamed in bums and nutcases from outer space.

When mentally disabled people seek help from their government, they get the usual answer: f*ck you.

When people addicted to drugs—drugs imported into the U.S. under the watchful eyes of corrupt border enforcement officers—ask their government for help, they are turned away. f*ck you again.

When people who lost their homes because their government said "f*ck you" to them rather than help turn to the same government to look for safe shelter, again they are told: "f*ck you."

And then, after days and years and decades of shirking their responsibility to provide us with such staples of human survival as places to urinate and defecate and sleep, and food, and medical care, our "f*ck you" government has the amazing audacity to blame us, victims of their negligence and corruption and violence, for messing things up.

Which is why we are finally, at long last, starting to say "f*ck you" to them.
(c) 2011 Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" and "The Anti-American Manifesto."

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bill Day ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Romney says he wants just one person out there to appear the slightest bit excited about him.

Mitt Romney's Goal To Connect With One Voter By The Time This Is All Over

BELMONT, MA-While he is widely favored to win the Republican nomination for president next year, Mitt Romney told reporters Monday that deep down, what he truly wants is to actually establish a real, authentic connection with at least one voter before his campaign ends.

The anguished former Massachusetts governor, who conceded many in his party will recognize him as their most electable candidate and vote for him only by default, said victory in the primaries will mean nothing to him if he remains incapable of energizing a single member of the American electorate.

"I'm getting a lot of support just by virtue of being the Republican in the race most likely to beat Obama, and that's good, I guess," Romney said. "But I suppose I was hoping for a stronger, more emotional reaction from people. When this whole thing is over, all I really want is for one person to truly, earnestly believe in me-to look me in the eye as if to say, 'I'm with you, Mitt. You are great, and I am excited about you as a person and as a leader.'"

"There's got to be at least one, single individual out there who really, really wants me to be president, right?" he added. "Right?"

Romney, an unsuccessful candidate for the 2008 Republican nomination, said that in recent months his town hall appearances and campaign rallies have served as constant distressing reminders of his inability to spark genuine enthusiasm among voters or form any kind of meaningful bond whatsoever.

"Sure, some people cheer and wave signs, but it all seems so mechanical, like they're just going through the motions," Romney said. "Have you ever seen anyone at a Mitt Romney rally with tears streaming down their face? No, of course not. Has anyone ever spontaneously started a spirited 'Mitt, Mitt, Mitt' chant that I could spend a solid minute basking in before finally beginning my speech? No way. In fact, it's hard to even imagine it. Why is that? What am I doing wrong? I mean, I say inspirational stuff, don't I?"

"I'm not asking for people to faint or go into hysterics or anything, but would it be too much for just one person to respond intensely and personally to who I am and what I stand for?" continued Romney, adding that he would even be thrilled to have a voter shout at him in anger, because then he would at least be able to say he had actually moved someone. "Frankly, I don't even care who it is-an elderly woman, a child, a mentally-ill person who just happens to be wandering through the rally. I am wide-open here."

Sources confirmed Romney has directed his staff to conduct a nationwide door-to-door search to find at least one individual excited by his bid for the presidency, a massive undertaking he initiated upon realizing his own aides and volunteer workers had only joined his campaign after failing to find a more inspiring candidate to rally around.

For his part, the presidential hopeful said he was making a concerted effort to maximize the potential for a meaningful moment in all public appearances.

"Now, when I give a speech, I make eye- contact with just one person the whole time, trying to convince them I understand and share their hopes and their fears," said Romney, who has reportedly asked that his speechwriters redouble their efforts to craft soaring turns of phrase and convincing words of empathy. "I hold all my handshakes a little longer, squeeze them a little tighter. I'm even saluting little kids. If one of them ever salutes me back, I'm counting it as a deep, heartfelt connection."

"Still, I can't say I blame anyone," Romney added with a sigh. "I look in the mirror every day, and I don't feel all that inspired, either."
(c) 2011 The Onion

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