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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh takes us, "After The Flood."

Uri Avnery explains, "Another Superfluous War."

Glen Ford watches as, "Obama's Mideast Policy Burns."

Robert Reich explores, "Why You Shouldn't Shop At Walmart On Friday (and Why the Strike is Good for the Economy)."

Jim Hightower gives, "A Telling Insight Into Mitt's Soul."

Robert Kuttner gives, "The Twinkie Defense."

James Donahue is, "Setting Straight The Great Lincoln Myth."

John Nichols reports the, "Home-State Scandal Interrupts Scott Walker's Presidential Positioning."

Chris Floyd examines, "Blogging And Nothingness."

Glenn Greenwald concludes, "The 'Both-Sides-Are-Awful' Dismissal Of Gaza Ignores The Key Role Of The US Government."

Paul Krugman considers, "The Twinkie Manifesto."

David Swanson details, "How To Not Fix The Filibuster."

Chris Hedges with an absolute must read, "Elites Will Make Gazans Of Us All."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Ralph Nader wonders, "Israel-Palestine - What Is The US National Interest?"

Adam Keller hears, "Sirens And Protests."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Mrs. Betty Bowers introduces, "Heaven's Realtor, Mrs. Betty Bowers" but first Uncle Ernie asks, "Does, 'I am Spartacus,' Ring Any Bells?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of J.D. Crowe, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Khalil Bendib, Mario Piperni.Com, Bigshot Toyworks, WMX Design, Johnson 2016, Mrs. Betty Bowers, Associated Press, 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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Does, "I am Spartacus," Ring Any Bells?
By Ernest Stewart

"I heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first." ~~~ Nat Turner

Climate change is expected to hit developing countries the hardest. Its effects-higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and more frequent weather-related disasters-pose risks for agriculture, food, and water supplies. At stake are recent gains in the fight against poverty, hunger and disease, and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people in developing countries. ~~~ Jim Yong Kim ~ World Bank Group President

"International regulations are simply too broad, too inflexible, and too slow to change to effectively address cybersecurity issues." ~~~ FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski

"Give yourself entirely to those around you. Be generous with your blessings. A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal." ~~~ Steve Maraboli

I wonder if Barry remembers old Nat Turner? Ya'll remember Nat -- born into slavery, Nat learned to read at an early age, and by age 22 he had acquired a bachelor's level of education, and came to the conclusion that being a slave was a drag, and promptly ran away.

Like the black revolutionary says in that Harlem bar that Fritz the Cat stumbles into, "Whitey blind us with religion!" ; and I thought to myself, brother Bakshi, how profound; trouble is, old Nat never saw Fritz the Cat, and got blinded by religion, and promptly returned to master Turner's, (a Turner slave driver then, just like today) and turned himself in, as I guess, that's the thing the bible teaches slaves to do -- especially in the antebellum South. Still, hell hath no fury like an educated man, feeling the power of the lord in him to end his slavery -- because, like he said, slavery is a drag! Question is, to our fearless leader, would he, had he been there in the day, say that Nat was at fault for rebelling against his slavery? Wasn't old Nat very righteous in his wrath? I know I'd be pissed off after 31 years of slavery, wouldn't you? Or would you come down on the side of the slave masters as did the newspapers at the time, giving the masters' view of it...

What strikes us as the most remarkable thing in this matter is the horrible ferocity of these monsters! ~~~ The Richmond Enquirer (30 August 1831)

A fanatic preacher by the name of Nat Turner (Gen. Nat Turner) who had been taught to read and write, and permitted to go about preaching in the country, was at the bottom of this infernal brigandage. He was artful, impudent and vindictive, without any cause or provocation, that could be assigned. ~~~ The Richmond Enquirer (30 August 1831)

Ergo, when Barry said in Burma that...

"There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself." ~~~ Barack Obama (18 November 2012

...I believe he would back the slave masters in antebellum America, just as he backs the slave masters in occupied Palestine. Meanwhile, I'm sure that Nat could commiserate with the Palestinians, who are coming to the same conclusion that Nat came to -- after being slaves for the 64 years, placed into ghettos, and murdered -- being a slave is a drag!

Barry has no problem overlooking inconvenient facts that the few sporadic and ineffective missiles from Gaza "raining down" on Israel before the attack were, in fact, "retaliation for repeated missile strikes, mortar fire, assassinations and civilian deaths caused by Israeli military incursions into Gaza." While Barry says it's ok for Israel to defend itself, it isn't alright for the Palestinians to break their chains of slavery, which is what Tweety Bird calls being a hypo-twit!

Yo, Barry; does, "I am Spartacus," ring any bells?

In Other News

You know it's getting bad when the World Bank issues a dire warning for planet Earth because of global warming. You'll recall the World Bank's been ignoring global warming since 2001, when it quit warning about the financial disasters to come if things continued on pace. Trouble is, it didn't continue on pace, but got much worse -- in fact, twice as bad as what was predicted. As World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said:

"A 4 degree warmer world can, and must be, avoided - we need to hold warming below 2 degrees. Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest." Again, the trouble is, temperature is estimated to rise not by 4 degrees, but by 6 degrees and by the end of the century!

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere set a record in 2011, the United Nations' "World Meteorological Organization" reported Tuesday.

"Chief among these heat-trapping gases is carbon dioxide (CO2), the biggest culprit behind global warming. Carbon dioxide levels reached about 390.9 parts per million last year, which is 140 percent of the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million and nearly 2 parts per million higher than the 2010 carbon dioxide level," according to the WMO report. WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud warned:

"We estimate that about 413 billion tons of carbon have been released into the atmosphere since 1750, primarily from fossil fuel combustion. About half of this atmospheric carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, and much of it will linger for centuries, causing the planet to warm further.

"Historically, the Earth's oceans and forests have helped balance the atmosphere's carbon equation by sucking up large amounts of the greenhouse gas. Natural carbon sinks might not be able to mitigate the problem as effectively in the future.

"Until now, carbon sinks have absorbed nearly half of the carbon dioxide humans emitted in the atmosphere, but this will not necessarily continue in the future. We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs. There are many additional interactions between greenhouse gases, Earth's biosphere and oceans, and we need to boost our monitoring capability and scientific knowledge in order to better understand these."

Greenhouse gases trap heat within the Earth's atmosphere and create a warming effect on the climate known as "radiative forcing." According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "From 1990 to 2011, radiative forcing by greenhouse gases shot up 30 percent, with carbon dioxide blamed for about 80 percent of this increase."

Besides carbon dioxide, NOAA warns that, "...methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are also implicated in the greenhouse effect. In 2011, the level of methane in the atmosphere reached a new high of about 1,813 parts per billion, or 259 percent of the pre-industrial level, due to increased emissions from human activities, such as cattle breeding, rice farming and fossil fuel use. The atmospheric concentration of nitrous oxide, meanwhile, hit about 324.2 parts per billion last year, or 120 percent of the pre-industrial level and 1 part per billion above the 2010 level."

Long story short, global warming is the biggest challenge ever faced by mankind, a challenge which may wipe humans off the face of the Earth -- which will come as a great relief for all the other creatures on old Terra -- but will no doubt come as a big shock to the Sheeple!

And Finally

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is this week's winner of the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Genachowski was Barry's candidate to destroy the FCC and Julie has gone out of his way to do just that; and Barry couldn't be happier!

Since being sworn in 2009, Julie has made several attempts to sell off rights to the Internet to the highest bidder, but has been frustrated in his attempts by the current status quo and the Internet community -- much to Barry's dismay! However, if Julie is anything, he is tenacious, figuring sooner or later we'll let our guard down, and he'll be able to make some mischief and collect some big bribes along the way!

Now Julie wants to turn over most of American media to Australia's plague on the world: Rupert Murdoch! Murdoch, you'll recall, already owns the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Fox News, Fox movie studios, 27 local TV stations, and a whole lot more.

Word is, Murdoch now wants to buy the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune - the bankrupt-but-still-dominant newspapers (and websites) in the second and third-largest media markets -- markets where Murdoch already owns TV stations. Ooops!

You'll remember, that under current media ownership limits, Rupert can't buy them as it's illegal. It's illegal, unless, of course, the Federal Communications Commission changes the rules.

Rumor has it, that's exactly what Julie plans to do. He's circulating an order at the FCC to lift the longstanding ban on one company owning both daily newspapers and TV stations in any of the 20 largest media markets. The trouble for Julie is, the words gotten out, and Julie will hopefully be foiled again! Curses, huh, Julie?

Keepin' On

Egads, another week and no support from ya'll, what up, America? Sometimes I can't help but think that 60 + hours I spend on this every week, not to mention all the times others work in support of the magazine 24/7/52 isn't appreciated by the readership. Sure, I expect it from the kids, who grew up thinking everything on the web is free; it isn't free at all as I'm sure their elders know!

It's not like we're buying condos in Maui with your donations; every dime is going for bills and improvement to the magazine. Nor are we asking for hundreds of thousands every year to keep publishing. Our total bill for the year is just under $12,000, with half of that being picked up by our sponsors; so it comes down to about $120 a week we need to raise to keep our heads above water; and that's all we ask for. No one gets a salary, including yours truly, who after 12 years of doing this is still in the hole for the money I've spent, bringing you the truth that you can find hardly anywhere else! Did I mention that we're within $400 of our goal?

If all of our blood, sweat and tears means anything, and the finished product is important to you, then please, send in as much as you can as often as you can, and we'll keep, keeping on, for you and yours.


07-18-1944 ~ 11-17-2012
Thanks for the laughs!

03-13-1953 ~ 11-21-2012
Thanks for the film!


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


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

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

After The Flood
Requiem for a friend, death knell for a dying paradigm
By Phil Rockstroh

So much has been lost to the hubris and cupidity inherent to the hyper-industrialization and commercial hustler that defines the Anthropocene Epoch. To take it all in, to allow oneself to feel the full implications of the dire situation, of the ecocide and humanity lost to endless war and economic exploitation, one would be knocked to one's knees with sorrow or compelled to give voice to bursts of full-throated rage.

Therefore, as the grid-decimating tide of Sandy recedes and the power and lights have been restored to our East Village, fifth floor walk-up flat, I sit at my writing desk, and I am staring down the scope of my cerebral cortex, desiring to unload both barrels into the delusional asses of climate change deniers.

This mutant strain of hurricane (that has inflicted much disruption in our lives and a great amount of stress on my six month, pregnant wife, Angela) was caused by changes in the Gulf Stream, wrought by manmade greenhouse gasses.

Personally, I'm done with attempting to persuade idiots by intelligent discourse and fools by plying them with common sense...finished with issuing reasoned warnings to dissemblers and dimwits who claim the iceberg directly in the path of our ocean liner is simply an ice dispenser, conveniently located to refresh our beverages.

Sandy (as did Katrina) reveals, how tenuous the grid work of final stage capitalism rapidly it comes unraveled by nature's impersonal fury.

While composing the first draft of this essay (pre-Sandy) -- as I was writing the following lines, "Often, the soul is forced to get your attention by guiding you into situations that serve to open your heart by means of breaking it. Closed off from the temptation and tumult ..." -- I received a phone call bearing the message that my best friend in this breathing world was dead.

The next lines I wrote were: Alright then, soul, you have my full attention, although my eyes are blurred and scalded by tears.

After inexplicable and heart shattering events, one's mind searches for deeper meaning...even when there can be none gleaned from quotidian tragedy. In this case...a fall involving a bicycle, and a friend, a brilliant artist, a vivid soul, a warm, passionate human being, a generous, compassionate companion has been forever lost.

Meaning is an ad hoc, flimsy structure...erected of metaphysical eggshells...convictions garnered from happenstance, the traumas of early life, books happened upon, chance meetings, misheard advice, friendships lost and cultivated.

In the presence of death and in the aftermath of great storms, we apprehend how vainly we cling to the illusion of certainty and permanence. Yet, deep down, we know how insubstantial our constructs are...How fate and circumstance can intervene, and can leave us staring into the indifferent maw of eternity.

"For in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow" ~~~ Ecclesiastes 1:18

To John, my departed friend: I'm not going to allow you to travel too far away from the realm of the living without your soul glistening with my abundant tears.

As Sandy raged around our home and then departed, I stood in grief's dominion. There are empty spaces here -- graceless voids -- torn into the hours of the day after a person close to you has been, suddenly and without warning, taken by death.

John, you and I spoke often and for long durations about the necessity of artists and writers allowing themselves to be undone by life and remade by creative choices. For me, your sudden death has accomplished the primary. Through, our perpetual dialog, we explored the interplay of polis and ecosystem, and how this essential criteria was absent from so much current day art and curation e.g., how in art one might limn New Orleans' ragged (yet vividly alive) grandeur -- the city's alluring, dangerous, vitally alive character -- its crumbling agora -- and the forever living, always dying nature of the bayous and wetlands that surround the city. And the manner one might merge and express those elements in one's aesthetic. (Apropos: Much of the city of New Orleans itself was comprised of swamp land that was drained, thus creating the city's familiar crescent shape and susceptibility to deadly flooding.)

In John's art work and curation, he desired to evoke a dialog between the ghosts of the past and the living present, human beings and nature, cityscape to backwater, brain to gut, beating heart to eternal moment, phantom to flesh, memory to heavenly fire, compost to possibility, possibility to fruition.

John was driven to entice the individual artists out of his/her prison of enshrinement/exile of hyper-individualist alienation bring the work of an individual artist into a broadening dialog with the work of other create the affect of a vital agora. He grasped that art does not exist alone; it is not an embalmed corpse, but a living (and dying) thing; hence, it must share common space and communion to be fully alive as well as decay to compost (and therefore be granted renewal) when it dies.

John desired a dialog between passion and putrefaction. He grasped the nearer an artist drew to expressing the impossible was made possible by exploring the realm of the possible. But, in addition: messing with things quotidian, breaking them apart, caressing, tormenting, tweaking ...reconfiguring all available material into new forms...Like lover's, battling and entwined, whose love fuses the familiar and the alien, thus broadening the lives of both parties, by allowing them to become greater than the sum of their parts, art must challenge our verities; it must induce one to become more like one's essential self by the dissolution of safe, but soul-defying, habitual thinking.

An awareness of the ongoing (and exponentially increasing) catastrophic changes to the ecological balance of our besieged planet can serve the same end. Otherwise, one would risks being as devoid of character as those reality-adverse creatures -- monsters really -- possessed of inexplicable self-regard, who wield power in this age of hype and hubris. Conversely, one's suffering unites the psyche with the sorrows of the earth; teaches us that we are bound by its limits and laws. The knowledge grounds us in humility, by revealing that eternity is boundless, but we are not. Because eternity treats us with such callous disregard, we feel an affinity with other vulnerable things. One recognizes the commonality of suffering, thus one gains empathy.

Yes, death is implacable; the only thing close to matching death's tenacity is: The persistence of memory and the urgency of the soul to make every moment holy.

Often, in the locations where one's heart has been wounded by circumstance, thus seized by novel (even agonizing) apprehensions, as is the case in the sections of a forest that have been scoured by fire -- new life, nourished by ash, will grow. Have you ever walked through a field of bright wild flowers, risen from the charred ground, where a wild fire has blazed?

Over the last few years, many people close to me have died. A firestorm has run riot through my heart. In its wake, regions of my soul are vivid with eternity's wild flowers.

The view is breathtaking.

History is a story of bitter grace and pain-wrought wisdom: In this tale, we learn: Collective trust is a catastrophic misjudgment, made possible by its partner in crime, an artist of legerdemain, who goes by the moniker, Hope.

Once you have had your heart shattered into pieces, and even though time has mended it back together, because all of the shattered pieces and scattered shards can never be retrieved, you, as a result, will never be the same.

And that is a propitious development, because room has been made within you for novelty and wisdom. The process allows for transformation, for one remains oneself, as, all the while, alien elements are merged with one's own uniqueness.

Accordingly, providence favors those whose faith has been shattered.

"A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything." ~~~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Life begins in mystery, what lies after life ends is unknowable -- and, in between, we experience constant bafflement. Yet, how exquisite the landscape is as it rolls by; what exquisite sorrow we yield by being part of it all.

My best friend was plucked from this tormented world. My father died last May...I'm buffeted, shattered by circumstance, but Angela, my dear wife, is more than half way through the second trimester of pregnancy. The event has engendered much soul-searching for a certain father-to-be i.e., wandering in awe and bewilderment through the landscape of his psyche, and forays, in his better moments, into the image-rich landscape of Animus Mundi.

Art is merely artifice, if it is not sown from the soul's veritable soil. What is the song of the night bird sans the night? A thousand gradations of green comprise a swamp's canopy. The heart is just a pump, sans a loving/embattled (both are borne of libido) connection to the soul of the world.

My recent proximity to the realities of birth and death has forced me close to the living heart/inhuman abyss of the soul of the world. Yet amid this startling landscape the mind abides greater, even agonizing truths.

Climate chaos. Dying oceans. The degradation of U.S. corporate/militarist empire and the concomitant collapse of the global, neoliberal order. Our child will be born into a world where there will be a paradigm shift -- or there will come mass tragedy.

My father was born on an Indian reservation. My mother escaped Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport, shortly after her father was taken to a concentration camp for anti-Nazi activity.

Angela, was born in a small, rural home, a sharecroppers shack, in the South Carolina Low Country that housed generations of cotton-harvesters and tobacco-croppers.

Our people, sharing the fate of multitudes born into this world, have endured and even flourished under terrible conditions. The Tyler/Rockstroh whelp will be afforded the same opportunity. Who is his grim augury-prone old man to deny him the chance? That would be the very emblem of hubris, because, among the living, there exists no bottom line -- only how you choose to write the book of your life.

"Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such." ~~~ Henry Miller
(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Another Superfluous War
By Uri Avnery

HOW DID it start? Stupid question.

Conflagrations along the Gaza Strip don't start. They are just a continuous chain of events, each claimed to be a [or "in"] "retaliation" for the previous one. Action is followed by reaction, which is followed by retaliation, which is followed by ...

This particular event "started" with the firing from Gaza of an anti-tank weapon at a partially armored jeep on the Israeli side of the border fence. It was described as retaliation for the killing of a boy in an air attack some days earlier. But probably the timing of the action was accidental -the opportunity just presented itself.

The success gave rise to demonstrations of joy and pride in Gaza. Again Palestinians had shown their ability to strike at the hated enemy.

HOWEVER, THE Palestinians had in fact walked into a trap prepared with great care. Whether the order was given by Hamas or one of the smaller more extreme organizations - it was not a clever thing to do.

Shooting across the fence at an army vehicle was crossing a red line. (The Middle East is full of red lines.) A major Israeli reaction was sure to ensue.

It was rather routine. Israeli tanks fired cannon shells into the Gaza Strip. Hamas launched rockets at Israeli towns and villages. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis rushed to their shelters. Schools closed.

As usual, Egyptian and other mediators went into action. Behind the scenes, a new truce was arranged. It seemed to be over. Just another round.

The Israeli side did everything to get back to normal. Or so it seemed. The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister went out of their way (to the Syrian border) to show that Gaza was off their minds.

In Gaza, everybody relaxed. They left their shelters. Their supreme military commander, Ahmad Ja'abari, climbed into his car and drove along the main street.

And then the trap closed. The car bearing the commander was blown up by a missile from the air.

SUCH AN assassination is not carried out on the spur of the moment. It is the culmination of many months of preparation, gathering of information, waiting for the right moment, when it could be executed without killing many bystanders and causing an international scandal.

Actually, it was due to take place a day earlier, but postponed because of the bad weather.

Ja'abari was the man behind all the military activities of the Hamas government in Gaza, including the capture of Gilad Shalit and the successful five-year long hiding of his whereabouts. He was photographed at the release of Shalit to the Egyptians.

So this time it was the Israelis who were jubilant. Much like the Americans after the Osama bin-Laden assassination.

THE KILLING of Ja'abari was the sign for starting the planned operation.

The Gaza Strip is full of missiles. Some of them are able to reach Tel Aviv, some 40 km away. The Israeli military has long planned a major operation to destroy as many of them as possible from the air. Intelligence has patiently gathered information about their location. This is the purpose of the "Pillar of Cloud" operation. (And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way -Exodus 13:21).

While I am writing this, I don't know yet how the whole thing will end. But some conclusions can already be drawn.

FIRST OF All, this is not Cast Lead II. Far from it.

The Israeli army is rather good at discreetly drawing lessons from its failures. Cast Lead was celebrated as a great success, but in reality it was a disaster.

Sending troops into a densely populated area is bound to cause heavy civilian casualties. War crimes are almost inevitable. World reaction was catastrophic. The political damage immense. The Chief of Staff at the time, Gabi Ashkenazi, was widely acclaimed, but in reality he was a rather primitive military type. His present successor is of a different caliber.

Also, grandiose statements about destroying Hamas and turning the Strip over to the Ramallah leadership have been avoided this time.

The Israeli aim, it was stated, is to cause maximum damage to Hamas with minimum civilian victims. It was hoped that this could be achieved almost entirely by the use of air power. In the first phase of the operation, this seems to have succeeded. The question is whether this can be kept up as the war goes on.

HOW WILL it end? It would be foolhardy to guess. Wars have their own logic. Stuff happens, as the man said.

Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, the two men in overall command, hope the war will wind down once the main aims are achieved. So there will be no reason to employ the army on the ground, enter the Gaza Strip, kill people, lose soldiers.

Deterrence will be restored. Another truce will come into force. The Israeli population surrounding the Strip will be able to sleep soundly at night for several months. Hamas will be cut down to size.

But will this whole exercise change the basic situation? Not likely.

Ja'abari will be replaced. Israel has assassinated dozens of Arab political and military leaders. Indeed, it is the world champion of such assassinations, politely referred to as "targeted preventions" or "eliminations". If this were an Olympic sport, the Ministry of Defense, the Mossad and the Shin Bet would be festooned with gold medals.

Sometimes one gets the impression that the assassinations are an aim by [in] themselves, and the other operations just incidental. An artist is proud of his art.

What have the results been? Overall - nothing positive. Israel killed Hizbollah leader Abbas al-Moussawi, and got the vastly more intelligent Hassan Nasrallah instead. They killed Hamas founder Sheik Ahmad Yassin, and he was replaced by abler men. Ja'abari's successor may be less or more able. It will make no great difference.

Will it stop the steady advance of Hamas? I doubt it. Perhaps the opposite will happen. Hamas has already achieved a significant breakthrough, when the Emir of Qatar (owner of Aljazeera) paid Gaza a state visit. He was the first head of state to do so. Others are bound to follow. Just now, in the middle of the operation, the Egyptian prime minister arrived in Gaza.

Operation "Pillar of Cloud" compels all Arab countries to rally around Hamas, or at least pretend to. It discredits the claim of the more extreme organizations in Gaza that Hamas has gone soft and lazy, enjoying the fruits of government. In the battle for Palestinian opinion, Hamas has gained another victory over Mahmoud Abbas, whose security cooperation with Israel will look even more despicable.

All in all, nothing basic will change. Just another superfluous war.

IT IS, of course, a highly political event.

Like Cast Lead, it takes place on the eve of Israeli elections. (So, by the way, did the Yom Kippur war, but that was decided by the other side.)

One of the more miserable sights of the last few days has been the TV appearances of Shelly Yachimovich and Ya'ir Lapid. The two shining new stars in Israel's political firmament looked like petty politicians, parroting Netanyahu's propaganda, approving everything done.

Both had hitched their wagons to the social protest, expecting that social issues would displace subjects like war, occupation and settlements from the agenda. When the public is occupied with the price of cottage cheese, who cares about national policy?

I said at the time that one whiff of military action would blow away all economic and social issues as frivolous and irrelevant. This has happened now.

Netanyahu and Barak appear many times a day on the screen. They look responsible, sober, determined, experienced. Real he-men, commanding troops, shaping events, saving the nation, routing the enemies of Israel and the entire Jewish people. As Lapid volunteered on live television: "Hamas is an anti-Semitic terrorist organization and must be crushed."

Netanyahu is doing it. Adieu, Lapid. Adieu Shelly. Adieu Olmert. Adieu Tzipi. Was nice seeing you.

WAS THERE an alternative? Obviously, the situation along the Gaza Strip had become intolerable. One cannot send an entire population to the shelters every two or three weeks. Except hitting Hamas on the head, what can you do?

A lot.

First of all, you can abstain from "reacting". Just cut the chain.

Then, you can talk with Hamas as the de facto government of Gaza. You did, actually, when negotiating the release of Shalit. So why not look for a permanent modus vivendi, with the involvement of Egypt?

A hudna can be achieved. In Arab culture, a hudna is a binding truce, sanctified by Allah, which can go on for many years. A hudna cannot be violated. Even the Crusaders concluded hudnas with their Muslim enemies.

The day after the assassination, Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in mediating Shalit's release, disclosed that he had been in contact with Ja'abari up to the last moment. Ja'abari had been interested in a long-term cease-fire. The Israeli authorities had been informed.

But the real remedy is peace. Peace with the Palestinian people. Hamas has already solemnly declared that it would respect a peace agreement concluded by the PLO -i.e. Mahmoud Abbas -that would establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, provided this agreement were confirmed in a Palestinian referendum.

Without it, the bloodletting will just go on, round after round. Forever.

Peace is the answer. But when visibility is obscured by pillars of cloud, who can see that?
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Obama's Mideast Policy Burns
By Glen Ford

As African Americans circle the wagons around Susan Rice, one of the most bellicose, bomb-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, Africa-bashing professional servants of power in Washington, America's carefully crafted house of cards in the Middle East faces collapse.

The Euro-American strategy to divert and control the Arab Spring through an armed alliance with Muslim fundamentalist fighters and their royal Arab financiers, has always contained a fatal flaw: Israel. The Jewish State's reflexive savagery towards Palestinians threatens to disrupt, if not destroy, the inherently unstable pact between the Great Satans of Washington, London and Paris, the Great Kleptocrats of Riyahd and Doha, and the martyrdom-seeking armies of Salafist Islam.

The unholy alliance is a retooling of the U.S.-Saudi Arabia-Pakistan axis that created the global jihadi network - including Al Qaida - at a cost of billions, in the 1980s. The immediate purpose was to humiliate the Soviets in Afghanistan. Inevitably, a "blowback" followed. Washington emerged with a new rational for the old business of imperialism: the war on terror.

To further circumvent international law and other hindrances to imperial reach, Washington devised the doctrine of "humanitarian" military intervention - where Susan Rice makes her mark as madwoman, demanding blockades and air strikes against Sudan, invasion of Somalia, embargoes on little Eritrea, and regime change in Libya.

The convulsions of the Arab Spring, leading to regime change of the most unwelcome kind for the West in Tunisia and Egypt at the beginning of 2011, set the stage for an even closer collaboration between NATO and the monarchies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar - and for a new and potentially cataclysmic blowback. The Euro-Americans, confronting the prospect of sudden eviction from an Arab world in flux, quickly regrouped to "get out in front" of the Arab Spring through a massive show of "humanitarian" force in Libya. However, NATO's air armada needed foot soldiers to seize the ground in Libya, and to physically shove the knife into Muammar Gaddafi's backside. Just as in Afghanistan three decades earlier, the Americans turned to the Salafists for fighters and to the thieving Arab royals of Saudi Arabia and Qatar for financing and political cover. Susan Rice, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was credited with convincing President Obama to join the French-initiated war to topple Gaddafi.

It is silly to believe that Rice, or anyone other than Obama, was the pivotal person in this grand imperial maneuver. Rather, the sudden and savage assault on Libya was a collective imperial response to Europe and America's greatest nightmare: mass revolutions in the Arab world, which would mean eviction of the West. However, Rice's bellicosity and ambition, having thrust her into a key player position, conspired also to place her at the center of the blowback.

It was only a matter of time before significant elements of the U.S.-empowered jihadis in Libya turned against their masters. And there is no doubt that U.S. political and intelligence leaders saw it coming. When the U.S. ambassador and his entourage were under attack in Benghazi, two unarmed drones were diverted from surveillance duties over Derna, about 100 miles to the east. Derna is a center of jihadi activism, the town that accounted for the highest concentrations of Al Qaida fighters in the Iraq war. Apparently, the U.S. maintained constant surveillance of the city and its environs - and, presumably, other jihadi strongholds - all the while projecting the fiction that the U.S. had empowered the "good" (meaning, pro-American) Islamists in Libya.

Susan Rice was carrying out her official duty - to lie - when she read purported intelligence reports on CBS Face the Nation, September 16, suggesting the September 11 attacks "began spontaneously" as a protest against an anti-Muslim video produced in the U.S. The explanation was consistent with the official U.S. "line" covering the entirety of the West's post-Arab Spring offensive in the Middle East, which has since engulfed Syria. Libya's "good" jihadis have joined Salafists from throughout the Sunni Arab world, largely bankrolled by the terrified feudal regimes in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in a holy war that Washington has no choice but to pretend it can, somehow, control to its geopolitical advantage.

The Republicans, who have no problem with Obama's adventures in Libya and Syria - as Mitt Romney repeatedly affirmed in the third presidential debate - attempt to make partisan points from the obvious falsity of Rice's remarks. Like Romney, Senator John McCain and other GOP warmongers are saying they could do a better job of projecting U.S. power in the region, through the application of more direct U.S. military force - an approach that would even more quickly unravel the unsustainable alliances in which the Obama administration is so deeply invested.

As if the contradictions of U.S. Middle East policy were not already acute enough, the Israelis now force their putrid selves into the maelstrom. Israel's murderous assault on Gaza threatens to unravel the Salafist-Qatari-Saudi-NATO axis, for one simple and irreducible reason: there is no place for the racist settler state in this post-Arab Spring equation. Which explains why Israel has chosen to make its presence so dramatically felt at this time - why it initiated the current crisis with its assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari, last week, setting off the Palestinian rocket barrage.

The Israelis do not see themselves at the center of Washington's evolving strategy for continued western hegemony in the Middle East, and are forcing the issue in the usual manner: by killing Palestinians. The Americans and Europeans now scramble to constrain Israel, lest it enflame Arab nationalism and Islamist sensibilities beyond all manageability, wrecking the fragile political configurations the West has constructed since the fall of Egypt's Mubarak, the war on Libya and the torture of Syria.

Washington understands that it cannot successfully channel a holy war against Syria's Alawite President Assad and Shiite Iran while its "unshakeable ally," the Jewish State, wages war on Palestinian Sunnis. It is a fatal contradiction in a region that, only two years ago, seemed to be slipping from the West's grasp. U.S. imperialism finds itself in deep crisis in the world's most volatile, and energy-rich, region.

Meanwhile, South Carolina Black congressman James Clyburn is deeply worried about the racial implications of Republican claims that Susan Rice is not "competent" or "qualified" to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. For Clyburn, this represents a grave problem for Black America. It is actually a perfect measure of how irrelevant the Black Misleadership Class has become to the burning issues facing mankind.
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Why You Shouldn't Shop At Walmart On Friday (and Why the Strike is Good for the Economy)
By Robert Reich

A half century ago America's largest private-sector employer was General Motors, whose full-time workers earned an average hourly wage of around $50, in today's dollars, including health and pension benefits.

Today, America's largest employer is Walmart, whose average employee earns $8.81 an hour. A third of Walmart's employees work less than 28 hours per week and don't qualify for benefits.

There are many reasons for the difference - including globalization and technological changes that have shrunk employment in American manufacturing while enlarging it in sectors involving personal services, such as retail.

But one reason, closely related to this seismic shift, is the decline of labor unions in the United States. In the 1950s, over a third of private-sector workers belonged to a union. Today fewer than 7 percent do. As a result, the typical American worker no longer has the bargaining clout to get a sizeable share of corporate profits.

At the peak of its power and influence in the 1950s, the United Auto Workers could claim a significant portion of GM's earnings for its members.

Walmart's employees, by contrast, have no union to represent them. So they've had no means of getting much of the corporation's earnings.

Walmart earned $16 billion last year (it just reported a 9 percent increase in earnings in the third quarter of 2012, to $3.6 billion), the lion's share of which went instead to Walmart's shareholders - including the family of its founder, Sam Walton, who earned on their Walmart stock more than the combined earnings of the bottom 40 percent of American workers.

Is this about to change? Despite decades of failed unionization attempts, Walmart workers are planning to strike or conduct some other form of protest outside at least 1,000 locations across the United States this Friday - so-called "Black Friday," the biggest shopping day in America when the Christmas holiday buying season begins.

At the very least, the action gives Walmart employees a chance to air their grievances in public - not only lousy wages (as low at $8 an hour) but also unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, excessive hours, and sexual harassment. The result is bad publicity for the company exactly when it wants the public to think of it as Santa Claus. And the threatened strike, the first in 50 years, is gaining steam.

The company is fighting back. It has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to preemptively ban the Black Friday strikes. The complaint alleges that the pickets are illegal "representational" picketing designed to win recognition for the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. Walmart's workers say they're protesting unfair labor practices rather than acting on behalf of the UFCW. If a court sides with Walmart, it could possibly issue an injunction blocking Black Friday's pickets.

What happens at Walmart will have consequences extending far beyond the company. Other big box retailers are watching carefully. Walmart is their major competitor. Its pay scale and working conditions set the standard.

More broadly, the widening inequality reflected in the gap between the pay of Walmart workers and the returns to Walmart investors, including the Walton fammily, haunts the American economy.

Consumer spending is 70 percent of economic activity, but consumers are also workers. And as income and wealth continue to concentrate at the top, and the median wage continues to drop - it's now 8 percent lower than it was in 2000 - a growing portion of the American workforce lacks the purchasing power to get the economy back to speed. Without a vibrant and growing middle class, Walmart itself won't have the customers it needs.

Most new jobs in America are in personal services like retail, with low pay and bad hours. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average full-time retail worker earns between $18,000 and $21,000 per year.

But if retail workers got a raise, would consumers have to pay higher prices to make up for it? A new study by the think tank Demos reports that raising the salary of all full-time workers at large retailers to $25,000 per year would lift more than 700,000 people out of poverty, at a cost of only a 1 percent price increase for customers.

And, in the end, retailers would benefit. According to the study, the cost of the wage increases to major retailers would be $20.8 billion - about one percent of the sector's $2.17 trillion in total annual sales. But the study also estimates the increased purchasing power of lower-wage workers as a result of the pay raises would generate $4 billion to $5 billion in additional retail sales.

This seems like a good deal all around.
(c) 2012 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

A Telling Insight Into Mitt's Soul

If for no other reason, President Obama's re-election was a victory in the sense that America averted a hard Romney-Ryan lurch rightward, downward, and backward - all at once. Ouch! That would've hurt.

By campaign's end, it was painfully clear that Romney, a lifelong son of privilege, had no understanding of, empathy with, or appreciation for ordinary workaday Americans. He really is a born CEO who accepts in his heart, mind, and soul the Ayn-Randian fiction that America really is made up of a small class of noble producers... and a mass of moochers.

The man from Bain Capital, who'd made a fortune by taking over corporations and coldly axing longtime loyal employees, quietly brought that corporate side of his character back into play on election night. Even as he was on national television delivering his brief concession speech, his campaign apparatus was being swiftly dismantled. Left in the lurch were Romney's many staffers who'd toiled so faithfully for so long. Late that night, many of these disappointed and weary ones grabbed cabs home from the campaign's headquarters - only to find upon arrival that the Romney-for-President credit cards they'd been using were suddenly no good.

Without even telling these aides, the boss who wanted to be our nation's leader had abruptly yanked this modest benefit from the people who'd tried to help him get there. They'd just lost their jobs, but multimillionaire Mitt stuck them with paying out-of-pocket for cab fare.

Come on, with untold millions stashed in offshore bank accounts, couldn't Romney have ponied up a few small bills to cover this last ride home? Of course he could - but he wouldn't. Of all things to think of doing on election night, cutting off his employees' credit cards was a priority. We're lucky this sorry character lost.
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The Twinkie Defense
By Robert Kuttner

Don't blame the unions for Hostess's downfall.

You remember the Twinkie Defense? It was a term of ridicule coined by reporters covering the 1979 San Francisco murder trial of county supervisor Dan White. The right-wing White had assassinated both fellow supervisor Harvey Milk, a heroic figure in San Francisco's gay community, and Mayor George Moscone. Lawyers for White claimed that he overdosed on Twinkies, and was acting under the delusional influence of a sugar high.

Now, there is a new Twinkie Defense, and it is equally shameless and delusional. The Twinkie Defense is: the unions made us do it.

For those who missed it, having perhaps spent the weekend on Jupiter, the iconic Twinkie brand is on the verge of extinction. The parent company of America's beloved junk food, Hostess Brands, has been in bankruptcy since January 2012.

In the bankruptcy proceeding, management has been leaning on the unions to go along with massive pay and benefit cuts to "save the company." The bakers' union, the largest at Hostess, voted by a 92-percent margin to reject the company's demand for an immediate 8 percent pay cut. This came on top of $110 million in pay concessions given by the unions the last time Hostess was in bankruptcy.

The company and the financial press have spun this story as the makers of Twinkies going out of business because of excessive labor costs. But here's the real story.

Hostess Brands is classic case of private equity engineers and executives looting a viable company, loading it up with debt, and then asking the employees to make up the difference.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the pre-existing company went on a buying spree, picking up some of America' s most famous brands. It paid $330 million for Hostess. The company, then known as Interstate Bakery Holdings, was taken private in 1987, then went public again in 1991. At each step of the way, middlemen and insiders captured windfalls.

In 1995, Interstate bought Continental from Ralston Purina, giving it ownership of the precious Twinkie, as well as Ding Dong, Ho Hos, and Wonder Bread. Yet another acquisition brought Drakes Cakes into the family.

Having taken on massive debt, the company, now called Hostess Brands, declared bankruptcy in 2004. When it emerged from bankruptcy, having laid off some 17,000 workers, its private equity owners loaded it up with debt again. By early 2012, Hostess was in debt to the tune of $860 million. Despite its distress, its last chief executive was paid over $2.5 million a year.

So when further worker pay cuts of 27 to 32 percent were demanded to make up for all these corporate misdeeds, the union said, No way. The company then asked permission of the bankruptcy judge to liquidate-sell off its assets.

So the real story is not one of recalcitrant unions, but of private equity abuses. If this story faintly reminds you of something, it's Bain Capital, the private equity firm that made Mitt Romney so rich.

Had Romney succeeded in his takeover bid for the White House, he would have been the perfect symbol of this debased era of American capitalism.

And if the man who beat Romney-President Barack Obama-wants to do something for America's hard pressed workers, he could add to the list of tax reforms in the budget deal a reform of the loopholes that allow the private equity gang to take huge tax deductions for loading up a company with debt in order to take it over and then pay themselves exorbitant dividends that further strip the operating company of resources.

There is still a possibility that the judge in the case will not allow Hostess to be broken up. However, if the liquidation does go forward, fear not for the Twinkie. The gooey food has value as a brand and some company or other will surely buy it.

But fear for America's workers. The way the private equity game is played, the financial engineers who keep creating these serial crises for their own enrichment will not be satisfied until the employees agree to work for nothing at all.
(c) 2012 Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine, as well as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe and Huffington Post. He is the author of A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama's Promise, Wall Street's Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future, Obama's Challenge, and other books.

Setting Straight The Great Lincoln Myth
By James Donahue

When I was attending the public school, there was a lot of talk about Communist propaganda and how the people living in places like Russia and China were brainwashed by false historical records.

I never dreamed that it also was happening in my own country and my own classroom.

Our school textbooks were (and probably still are) laced with American mythology. I remember seeing a picture of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree when I was in about the first grade. In the second grade we put on a classroom play depicting the early colonists enjoying a turkey dinner with Indians at Thanksgiving. And we believed Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.

It was all part of the brainwashing of American children. The stories were taught to us as if they were real history. Nothing about the stories is true, except that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, declaring war on the Southern States over the issue of slavery, indirectly brought about the 13th Constitutional Amendment prohibiting slavery.

That was never Lincoln's intention.

From public records and copies of Lincoln's speeches, it is clear that he was a believer in white supremacy and that he never intended to prohibit slavery. But the issue of state's rights to allow or prohibit slavery became such a heated issue, Lincoln was forced to use it as a reason to go to war against the rebel states that were attempting to succeed from the Union.

Lincoln, who supported the concept of a one-world government, wanted to preserve the Union. Thus the United States was thrust into a civil war.

The proclamation, issued on Jan. 1, 1863, was misleading. It declared freedom for all slaves in the rebel states that had already separated from the Union. It did not apply to slaves in the states fighting on the Union side. Thus the document was drafted for political reasons . . . to make Americans and people around the world think that the war was being fought to end slavery.

In reality, the president's declaration didn't free a single slave. Nor did Lincoln wish to free a slave.

The proof of Lincoln's feelings about this matter are revealed in a letter he wrote to Horace Greeley on Aug. 22, 1862. He said: "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destro

y slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it."

In his famous 1868 debate with Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln said: "I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position." He also said: "Free them (the blacks) and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this. We cannot, then, make them equals."

Also that same year, in a speech in Springfield, Ill., Lincoln said: "What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races."

Lincoln once told Congress that he strongly favored colonization. This meant that he wanted to ship all black people to Africa, Central America and other parts of the world that did not include the United States.

In spite of Lincoln's personal feelings about slavery, the wheels of what was to become the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery had been spinning since 1864 when proposals by Senators John B. Henderson of Missouri and Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, and Congressman James Wilson of Iowa were combined in a draft prepared by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The proposed amendment was passed by the Senate in April, 1864 but it died in the House.

To his credit, President Lincoln added the amendment to the Republican Party platform for the pending Presidential election. The House eventually passed the bill on January 31, 1865 and it was sent to the 36 existing state legislatures for ratification. By the end of that year it was declared ratified.

There were other actions by Lincoln that should have had constitutionalists of his day alarmed. Instead of honoring the Constitution, he tended to violate its doctrine. In fact, historians who have studied the man tend to brand Lincoln as a dictator.

That America was at war with itself may have helped him get away with breaking the rules and use force of arms to maintain the Union. There are a lot of similarities between Lincoln's actions during the Civil War years, and President's George W. Bush and Barack Obama's actions in their own declared war against terror.

Historian James G. Randall, in his book Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln, notes that Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus when he had the military arrest thousands of Northern political opponents, including dozens of newspaper editors. He closed down about 300 newspapers and censored all telegraph communication.

In addition to that, there is evidence that elections in the northern states were rigged. Anti-Lincoln voters were intimidated by federal soldiers. West Virginia was unconstitutionally divided from Virginia.

In other ugly events of the day draft protestors were literally gunned down in the street by federal troops. Citizens were ordered to surrender their guns. Private property was seized, all in violation of the Constitution.

All of this happened during his years in office, yet Lincoln, who became a martyred president, has gone down in history as one of our greatest American leaders. How could this have happened?

We suspect it was because Lincoln was not afraid to do what was necessary to reunite a divided nation, even if it meant breaking the rules and using military force. That he was assassinated at the conclusion of the war helped cement his name as part of the American myth.

The Civil War forced the end of state sovereignty and established the concept of a strong central government thus changing the framework of the United States forever. The victory by the Northern States literally took away a state's right to separate itself from the Union at will.

Not everybody sees this as a bad thing. Had I been in Lincoln's shoes at that time, I might have chosen to follow a very similar path. He didn't have many options.

If the Confederate Army had won that war, some historians believe the American image of Lincoln would be much different today. He and many of his top military generals might have been tried and hung in the town square as war criminals.
(c) 2012 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Home-State Scandal Interrupts Scott Walker's Presidential Positioning
By John Nichols

It is no secret that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker would like very much to have his name added to the long shortlist of 2016 Republican presidential contenders. But the nation's most militant anti-labor politician has suddenly been thrust into the center of a scandal that is likely to dim his national prospects, and that could yet cost him his state post.

Even after major setbacks for Walker's Republicans in Wisconsin-where Barack Obama easily beat Mitt Romney and progressive Democrat secured the state's open US Senate seat-the governor was jetting off to California last week to make high-profile appearances at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. And Walker-who came to national prominence in Febreuary 2011 after turning conservative talking pointers into an anti-labor agenda so militant that it sparked mass protests and a recall campaign-was again performing conservative due diligence last week: refusing to develop a state-run health insurance exchange as part of an ongoing protest against the Affordable Care Act.

But while Walker was piling up presidential points for 2016, a scandal that has plagued him since his election to the governorship in 2010 was taking a dramatic and destructive turn.

At the sentencing hearing for a top Walker aide convicted of felony misconduct in office, the chief prosecutor revealed that when Walker was seeking the governorship in 2010 he was part of an ongoing scheme to use county employees and resources to aid his campaign.

Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf used the sentencing hearing to detail how Walker and his county and campaign aides "routinely commingled political and official county business"-as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described the way in which "campaign, county work intertwined under Walker."

Wisconsin media exploded late Monday with reports from inside the courtroom, where Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation. The sentence did not come as a surprise after a long John Doe inquiry that has seen numerous Walker aides and associates charged with felonies and misdemeanors. But the direct linking of Walker to potentially illegal activities in the county executive office was news.

According to one report:

Prosecutors today said Scott Walker had regular meetings with his Milwaukee County staffers and his 2010 guv campaign to ensure there was "good coordination" between the two.

Milwaukee County prosecutors made the disclosure during the sentencing of Kelly Rindfleisch, a former Walker county aide who reached a plea deal to settle charges against her stemming from the long-running John Doe probe.

Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf said the group that met regularly included people from Walker's campaign such as campaign manager Keith Gilkes and spokeswoman Jill Bader along with county employees such as chief of staff Tom Nardelli, spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin, administration director Cindy Archer and Rindfleisch, according to email correspondence obtained by investigators.

The revelations caused consternation in the courtroom, Rindfleisch's lawyer, Frank Gimbel, was nonplussed. After Landgraf's sixty-five-minute detailing of wrongdoing by Walker and his aides, Gimbel objected that his client was "the only one of those mentioned in the power point who's facing jail time."

Described as "raising both hands in exasperation," Gimbel reportedly grumbled about the irony that "Scott Walker has not been accused of any wrongdoing."

Landgraf did not say during his powerpoint presentation in the courtroom whether Walker or others would be charged as part of the exteneded John Doe inquiry into official and political corruption. After the sentencing, he refused to answer questions-maintaining the rigid professionalism of that has characterized the John Doe inquiry over the past two years.

But Monday's presentation, the first to explicitly link Walker to courthouse wrongdoing, shook the state, where Walker survived a recall election only after repeatedly declaring that he was not a target of the John Doe investigation.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesman Graeme Zielinski says: "It's clear now that he presided over a criminal culture where county government in Milwaukee became an adjunct of his campaign. The citizens of Wisconsin should be afraid that this criminal culture has been imported to Madison."

As Walker tries to gin up a presidential campaign, those questions will extend beyond Wisconsin.

That's not good news for Scott Walker. But it should put a spring in the step of every other Republican who is thinking of running for president.

If Walker's out of the picture, is it time for Palin 2016? Check out Ben Adler on the conservative pundits pushing for Mama Grizzly's presidential bid.
(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Blogging And Nothingness
Progressives Turn Their Gaze from Gaza
By Chris Floyd

"Too much of nothing Can make a man a liar." -- Bob Dylan

"Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again." -- Shakespeare, King Lear

It sure was a quiet weekend in the progressive blogosphere, where peace, justice and the alleviation of human suffering is an earnest, burning concern. At Eschaton, Atrios gave an amiable shrug and declared, "I got nothing to say." Digby and her co-pilot, David Atkins, did have a few things to say -- about Sarah Palin, General Pants-Down Petraeus, the grubby "Grand Bargaining" in the Beltway, and several examples of the stupidity and perfidy of right-wing Republicans. The posters at Daily Kos plied the same themes.

But even for those who didn't got nothing to say, it was all very much in a low-key, mopping-up, post-election mode. It seemed as if there were no major news events going on anywhere in the world that involved the violent, unjust infliction of human suffering, with the direct monetary, military and political support of United States government and its entire bipartisan political and media establishments. Nothing that might grab the attention -- even in passing -- of writers publicly and professionally dedicated to discussing and analyzing major news events involving American policy, politics and the media.

Anything like that going on this weekend? Anyone? Digby, Dave? No? Kos and the gang? Anything? Atrios?

Nope. They got nothing.

Not on Friday. Not on Saturday. Not by Sunday evening (as I write this).

If you were a follower of many of the major "progressive" bloggers, you could have passed the weekend blissfully unaware that the American-armed, American-backed Israeli military was busily raining death into the cramped and crowded concentration camp of Gaza. Children dying, old people being blown to bits in their houses, the Israeli government ordering a massive call-up of troops and reserves for a possible invasion; top officials from Egypt and Tunisia flying into the besieged camp to show solidarity, mass demonstrations across the Middle East, some meeting with violent repression, others threatening to escalate into revolutionary outpourings. On every side: death, turmoil, suffering, chaos, whole nations in ferment -- and Barack Obama standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Benjamin Netanyahu in defending assassination, aggression and the bombardment of defenseless civilians with massive military force.

For many of our leading progressives, none of this was of the slightest interest. Even as the stage is clearly being set for a rerun of the "Cast Lead" operation in 2008-2009 -- a bloodbath that killed hundreds of innocent people and was followed by a strangulating blockade -- our earnest concerners could not be stirred to even a passing comment on the developments. The idea that someone somewhere was touting Sarah Palin for 2016 was obviously far more interesting -- far more concerning -- than the American-backed bloodshed in Gaza. After all, what if Sarah Palin did become president, huh? (Get your 2016 lesser evilism going now! Start early, avoid the rush!) Why, she might declare her full support for military assaults on civilian areas in Gaza, just like that evil George Bush did in 2008. And you know you don't want anyone like that to be president, do you?

But beyond the Palin-haunted, poll-poring, got-nothing confines of the progressosphere, here's what been going on just today, as reported in the New York Times (which most top progressives at least take a glance at occasionally, I believe):

Israeli forces killed at least 11 people, including several children, in a single airstrike that destroyed a home here on Sunday ... Among the dead were five women and four small children, The Associated Press reported, citing a Palestinian health official. ... Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel warned of a "significant" expansion in the onslaught, which has already killed over 50 people, many of them civilians.

... Speaking on Sunday from Bangkok, President Obama condemned missile attacks by Palestinian fighters in Gaza and defended Israel's right to protect itself. "There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders," Mr. Obama said in his first public comments since the violence broke out. "We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself."

Here the president ignores the fact, also reported -- albeit obscurely -- by the NYT, that the few sporadic and ineffective missiles from Gaza "raining down" on Israel before the attack were in fact retaliation for repeated missile strikes, mortar fire, assassinations and civilian deaths caused by Israeli military incursions into Gaza. But, as we noted here the other day, Gaza has no "right to defend itself;" indeed, it very clearly must "tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders." Thus saith the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

But that was not all he saith. As the NYT reports:

Mr. Obama said Sunday that he had spoken several times with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Morsi and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in hopes of finding a way to address Israel's security concerns without further ramping up military operations. "We are actively working with all the parties in the region to see if we can end those missiles being fired without further escalation of violence in the region," he said.

This is strange; for before the attack began, there was already an "actively working" deal to "end the missiles being fired without further violence in the region" -- as the New York Times itself reported on Friday. But as Israeli negotiator Gershon Baskin wrote in the Times, this agreement was aborted when the Israelis assassinated the very Hamas minister who was negotiating the deal. This "extrajudicial killing" -- part of an attack that, of course, killed several civilians as well, including the 11-month-old son of a BBC cameraman -- was the start of the current operation. And it led, as the Israelis knew -- and hoped -- it would, to retaliatory strikes by Hamas. Baskin writes:

I was able to learn firsthand that Mr. Jabari wasn't just interested in a long-term cease-fire; he was also the person responsible for enforcing previous cease-fire understandings brokered by the Egyptian intelligence agency. Mr. Jabari enforced those cease-fires only after confirming that Israel was prepared to stop its attacks on Gaza. On the morning that he was killed, Mr. Jabari received a draft proposal for an extended cease-fire with Israel, including mechanisms that would verify intentions and ensure compliance. This draft was agreed upon by me and Hamas's deputy foreign minister, Mr. Hamad, when we met last week in Egypt. ...

Israel has used targeted killings, ground invasions, drones, F-16s, economic siege and political boycott. The only thing it has not tried and tested is reaching an agreement (through third parties) for a long-term mutual cease-fire. ... The difference between the proposal I drafted in cooperation with my Hamas counterpart and past proposals was that it included both a mechanism for dealing with impending terror threats and a clear definition of breaches. This draft was to be translated and shared with both Mr. Jabari and Israeli security officials, who were aware of our mediation efforts.

The proposal was at least worth testing. Moreover, it included the understanding that if Israel were to take out a real ticking bomb - people imminently preparing to launch a rocket - such a strike would not be considered a breach of the cease-fire and would not lead to escalation.

Instead, Mr. Jabari is dead - and with him died the possibility of a long-term cease-fire.

In other words, the Netanyahu government deliberately scuttled a deal which would have provided exactly what it says it is seeking. They knew the assassination would kill the deal; they knew it would provoke violent relatiation. That is precisely what they wanted.

What's more, it is absolutely impossible that Barack Obama did not know this as well. The US government had to know these negotiations were going on. And even if one takes the position of the extreme Obamalators and believes that the innocent president was kept uninformed of these developments before the attack -- just as he was protected from all knowledge that his FBI was investigating his CIA director for months on end -- he certainly knew of the plan after it was published in the New York Times on November 16 -- two days before he made his statement on November 18.

In other words -- and brace yourself for this shocking revelation -- Barack Obama was lying through his teeth when he regurgitated his empty pieties on Sunday.

Imagine the kind of play Kos would have given to such sinister mendacity had it issued from the gorge of evil George. Imagine what razor-sharp slashings of moral outrage we would have seen from Digby n' Dave had Dick Cheney trotted out such threadbare lies to support the murder of a key official in the midst of peace negotiations. And is it conceivable that Atrios would have "got nothing" if Condi Rice had been issuing "full-throttle support" for an operation that has set the most volatile region in the world ablaze with death and turmoil? No; yet if a Democrat arms, pays for and supports such things, there is no outrage, there is no criticism, there is no analysis. There is only ... nothing.

But Shakespeare knew the self-deluded Lear was wrong: something can indeed come from nothing. In fact, the whole murderous course of the tragedy issues from Cordelia's "nothing." And although the assault on Gaza is as nothing to the progressives, something is happening there. Even as I've been writing this, more details have come in about the attack mentioned in the NYT story above. From the Guardian:

At least 11 members of one family, including five women and four children, were killed when Israel bombed a house in Gaza City on Sunday as the five-day-old war claimed more civilian lives with no sign of a letup in the intense bombardment.

The air strike flattened the home of the Dalou family in the Sheikh Radwan district of Gaza City, causing the biggest death toll in a single incident since the offensive began last Wednesday.

The bodies of the children were pulled from the rubble and taken to the morgue at the Shifa hospital. The dead also included an 80-year-old woman. ... Witnesses said there were chaotic scenes as the dead and injured were brought to the Shifa hospital, which has been on emergency footing since the start of Operation Pillar of Defence. The bodies of four young children lay on two metal trays in the morgue, covered in dust and blood. A crowd of onlookers outside became increasingly distressed as the body of the children's mother was wheeled in, covered in blankets.

But this is of no apparent concern to those so earnestly concerned with peace, justice and the alleviation of human suffering. Those children, that old woman, the grieving survivors -- they must be the wrong people suffering. Or perhaps it's just that the right person is aiding, abetting and supporting their suffering. No need for comment. No need to notice. Nothing to see here.

And thus political tribalism curdles into moral cretinism.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, back in the real world, the London Review of Books has more on the process of deliberate provocation -- and the deliberate scuttling of peace deals -- that lay behind the current round of slaughter in Gaza.

... This time round, on 8 November, a week before Ahmad Jabari was assassinated, Israeli soldiers shot dead 13-year-old Ahmad Abu Daqqa while he was playing football outside his house in Gaza. Palestinian militants retaliated with a bomb and then a missile fired at an armoured personnel carrier, wounding several Israeli soldiers. Israel responded by shelling first another football field and then a mourning tent, killing four civilian non-combatants and wounding dozens. Four Israelis were wounded by the inevitable Palestinian missile volleys that followed. Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate, which typically brokers security agreements relating to the Gaza Strip, stepped up its efforts.

By 12 November, amid demands from Israel's Home Front Defence minister, Avi Dichter, to 'reformat' the Gaza Strip and calls from the transport minister, Yisrael Katz, to cut off the supply of all goods and services to Gaza's population of 1.5 million until they begged for air, the Egyptians had crafted a ceasefire proposal that was accepted by the Palestinians and - according to the Egyptians - Israel too. With responsibility not only for fighting Israel but also enforcing agreements with it, Jabari began implementing the ceasefire. Two days later he was blown up. ...

Pummelling Gaza yet again was intended to remind all concerned - not least the new Egypt - who makes the rules, though it would also reassure the Israeli electorate they need not fear the prospect of Obama punishing Israel for Netanyahu's embrace of the Romney/Adelson ticket. As expected, the Obama White House has reiterated its commitment to Israel, and Congress has been busy passing unanimous resolutions supporting Israel's right to self-defence in its colonial possessions. The positions of most European states have been only marginally less obscene. ... Israeli hesitation about what may lie ahead, in combination with furious diplomacy directed at Washington by Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and others, may lead to a new ceasefire agreement in the coming days. If not, the primary issue for those committed to peace in the Middle East will be to ensure Israel is deprived of the impunity it enjoyed during and after Operation Cast Lead.

(c) 2012 Chris Floyd

The 'Both-Sides-Are-Awful' Dismissal Of Gaza Ignores The Key Role Of The US Government
The temptation to wash one's hands of the whole conflict is understandable, but US support of Israel is a central force driving it all
By Glenn Greenwald

Everything about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict follows the same pattern over and over, including the reaction of Americans. In the first couple of days after a new round of violence breaks out, there is intense interest and passion, which is quickly replaced by weariness, irritation, and even anger that one has to be bothered by this never-ending, always-ugly and seemingly irresolvable conflict. These sentiments then morph into an attempt to separate oneself from the entire matter by declaring both sides to be equally horrendous and thus washing one's hands from any responsibility for thinking further about it ("I'm sick of both sides"), followed by recriminations against anyone who actually has an opinion that is more supportive of one side than the other.

Esquire's Charles Pierce, one of the nation's best political writers, provided a classic case of this mindset yesterday in his post entitled <>I>"There Is No Side Worth Taking In Gaza." The crux: "I would like to have an opinion on this continual bloodletting that didn't sound banal but, goddammit, I'm out of them. I am thoroughly sick of both sides here." One encounters a version of this mentality with increasing frequency each day that the violence escalates.

This temptation is genuinely understandable. Few things are more depressing than paying attention to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The carnage and mutual hatred seem infinite. The arguments are so repetitive and fruitless. As is true in all wars, including those depicted in pleasing good-vs-evil terms, atrocities end up being committed by all sides, leading one to want to disassociate oneself from all parties involved. It is just as untenable to defend the indiscriminate launching by Hamas of projectiles into Israeli neighborhoods as it is to defend the massive air bombing by Israel of what they have turned into an open-air prison that is designed to collectively punish hundreds of thousands of human beings.

Virtually everyone wishes the entire conflict would just go away. With the exception of extremists on both sides who benefit in various ways, nobody relishes having to become involved in any of this. It is exhausting, draining, soul-crushing, and miserable. Embracing "screw-both-sides" nihilism and doing nothing else is so tempting because it appears to provide relief from the burden of paying any further attention to the horrific violence or bearing responsibility for any of it.

But for two independent reasons, this reasoning, understandable though it may be, depends upon patent fictions, and is thus invalid. The first reason, which I will mention only briefly, is that there is not equality between the two sides.

As my Guardian colleague Seumas Milne superbly detailed in his column Tuesday night, the overarching fact of this conflict is that the Palestinians, for decades now, have been brutally occupied, blockaded, humiliated, deprived of the most basic human rights of statehood and autonomy though the continuous application of brute, lawless force (for that reason, those who like to righteously condemn Hamas' rockets (Pierce, defending Obama; "he happened to be correct the other day. No country can tolerate the bombing of its citizens") have the obligation to state what form of legitimate resistance Palestinians have to all of this). Moreover, as these clear numbers from the Economist demonstrate, the violence and carnage so disproportionately harm the Palestinians that to suggest some form of equivalence between the two sides borders on the obscene.

But the second reason, to me, is even clearer. The government which Americans fund and elect, and for which they thus bear at least some responsibility, is anything but neutral in this conflict. That government - certainly including the Democratic Party - is categorically, uncritically, and unfailingly on the side of Israel in every respect when it comes to violence and oppression against the Palestinians.

For years now, US financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel has been the central enabling force driving this endless conflict. The bombs Israel drops on Gazans, and the planes they use to drop them, and the weapons they use to occupy the West Bank and protect settlements are paid for, in substantial part, by the US taxpayer, and those actions are shielded from recrimination by the UN veto power aggressively wielded in Israel's favor by the US government. As the excellent Israeli writer Noam Sheizaf put it on Chris Hayes' MSNBC program this weekend:

"Ultimately, the status quo is the solution from the perspective of [the Netanyahu] government. . . . . There's no incentive for the current [Israeli] political leadership to move from it, especially with the free hand it gets from the world and from the United States."

Just consider the actions of the US over the last week as violence in Gaza escalated. On Tuesday, the US vetoed a UN Security Council cease-fire resolution on the ground, in essence, that it was too balanced. The US State Department publicly attacked its Nato ally, Turkey, for condemning Israeli aggression. As always, the US Congress and the US Executive Branch are virtually unanimous in their full-throated, completely one-sided support for Israeli actions.

Last night, a producer for Rachel Maddow's MSNBC program, the long-time liberal blogger Steve Benen, gloated that the GOP's election-year attacks on Obama over Israel have been proven false because, as Benen noted [emphasis added]: "An Israeli official close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Obama administration's response to the conflict 'has been everything we could ever hope for.'" Though it should produce serious dismay rather than gloating, Benen is absolutely right in his factual claim: Obama specifically and Democrats generally have long been, and still are, every bit as loyal to and supportive of all Israeli actions as the American Right believes the US should be.

So this "both-sides-are-hideous" mentality is not what drives the actions of the US government. Quite the contrary: the US government is as partisan and loyal a supporter of one side of this conflict as one can possibly be. So if people want to rail against anyone who has convictions about one side or the other - Pierce: "The only people who make me more ill than the two active sides in this endless slaughter are the people far from the killing grounds who are so very goddamn sure they know what to do . . . I hate the cheering squads over here today" - then the place to begin is with the US government, the Obama administration, whose unstinting, multi-faceted support for and enabling of Israel is central to all of this.

Pierce does say that "I wish American arms and American dollars weren't being used to demolish entire impoverished neighborhoods," but in the next breath asks: "People are waiting for the president to do something, but what is to be done?" But he answered his own question: the US need not be, and should not be, such an active, one-sided participant in this aggression. That one should vehemently condemn rocket attacks on civilians and bombs on Tel Aviv buses outside of an Israeli military facility does not mean sanctioning the years-long fueling of the Israeli side of this conflict by the US government.

If one wants to try to wash one's hands of this entire matter by declaring both sides equally culpable, that's fine. But doing so requires an acknowledgment that the US government is doing nothing of the sort. It is fueling, funding and feeding the Israeli war machine, and, with its own militaristic conduct, is legitimizing the premises of Israeli aggression.

This is exactly what I was referencing when I wrote on Saturday that one must stop pretending that the US is some sort of helpless, uninvolved party in this war between two distant, foreign entities. That is complete fiction. If an American citizen really wants to advocate for neutrality on the ground that both sides are equally horrible and they're sick of the whole conflict and wish it would all just go away, then the place to begin with that advocacy is US government policy which, as unpleasant as it might be to face, has long been, and remains more than ever, a key force that drives the bloodshed.
(c) 2012 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

The Twinkie Manifesto
By Paul Krugman

The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring "The Howdy Doody Show." And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.

Needless to say, it wasn't really innocent. But the '50s - the Twinkie Era - do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today's conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich. Consider the question of tax rates on the wealthy. The modern American right, and much of the alleged center, is obsessed with the notion that low tax rates at the top are essential to growth. Remember that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, charged with producing a plan to curb deficits, nonetheless somehow ended up listing "lower tax rates" as a "guiding principle."

Yet in the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax rate of 91, that's right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years. The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today.

Nor were high taxes the only burden wealthy businessmen had to bear. They also faced a labor force with a degree of bargaining power hard to imagine today. In 1955 roughly a third of American workers were union members. In the biggest companies, management and labor bargained as equals, so much so that it was common to talk about corporations serving an array of "stakeholders" as opposed to merely serving stockholders.

Squeezed between high taxes and empowered workers, executives were relatively impoverished by the standards of either earlier or later generations. In 1955 Fortune magazine published an essay, "How top executives live," which emphasized how modest their lifestyles had become compared with days of yore. The vast mansions, armies of servants, and huge yachts of the 1920s were no more; by 1955 the typical executive, Fortune claimed, lived in a smallish suburban house, relied on part-time help and skippered his own relatively small boat.

The data confirm Fortune's impressions. Between the 1920s and the 1950s real incomes for the richest Americans fell sharply, not just compared with the middle class but in absolute terms. According to estimates by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, in 1955 the real incomes of the top 0.01 percent of Americans were less than half what they had been in the late 1920s, and their share of total income was down by three-quarters.

Today, of course, the mansions, armies of servants and yachts are back, bigger than ever - and any hint of policies that might crimp plutocrats' style is met with cries of "socialism." Indeed, the whole Romney campaign was based on the premise that President Obama's threat to modestly raise taxes on top incomes, plus his temerity in suggesting that some bankers had behaved badly, were crippling the economy. Surely, then, the far less plutocrat-friendly environment of the 1950s must have been an economic disaster, right?

Actually, some people thought so at the time. Paul Ryan and many other modern conservatives are devotees of Ayn Rand. Well, the collapsing, moocher-infested nation she portrayed in "Atlas Shrugged," published in 1957, was basically Dwight Eisenhower's America.

Strange to say, however, the oppressed executives Fortune portrayed in 1955 didn't go Galt and deprive the nation of their talents. On the contrary, if Fortune is to be believed, they were working harder than ever. And the high-tax, strong-union decades after World War II were in fact marked by spectacular, widely shared economic growth: nothing before or since has matched the doubling of median family income between 1947 and 1973.

Which brings us back to the nostalgia thing.

There are, let's face it, some people in our political life who pine for the days when minorities and women knew their place, gays stayed firmly in the closet and congressmen asked, "Are you now or have you ever been?" The rest of us, however, are very glad those days are gone. We are, morally, a much better nation than we were. Oh, and the food has improved a lot, too.

Along the way, however, we've forgotten something important - namely, that economic justice and economic growth aren't incompatible. America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"It would be my greatest sadness to see Zionists do to Palestinian Arabs much of what Nazis did to Jews."
~~~ Albert Einstein

How To Not Fix The Filibuster
By David Swanson

Leaving the 41-senator filibuster in place but requiring that they run their mouths (and some of us have to listen) is not exactly the kind of Change most of us Hope for. Nor is it supported by the Constitution, any other law, any treaty, any rule necessary to the functioning of our government, anything or anyone we just voted for, or any public opinion poll. The proper thing to do with the filibuster is to eliminate it, which 51 senators can do at the start of the session if they see fit. I know you've been told they can't, but keep reading.

Trying to squeeze any sort of peace on earth out of our government in Washington has been a steep uphill climb for years. For the most part we no longer have representatives in Congress, because of the corruption of money, the weakness of the media, and the strength of parties. There are not 535 opinions on Capitol Hill on truly important matters, but 2. Our supposed representatives work for their party leaders, not for us. One of the two parties sometimes claims to want to work for us.

When the Democrats were in the minority and out of the White House, they told us they wanted to work for us but needed to be in the majority. So, in 2006, we put them there. Then they told us that they really wished they could work for us but they needed bigger majorities and the White House. So, in 2008, we gave them those things, and largely deprived them of two key excuses for inaction. We took away the veto excuse and came very close to taking away the filibuster excuse, and -- in fact -- the filibuster excuse could be taken away completely if the Democrats didn't want to keep it around. In 2009 they chose to keep it, and again in 2011.

This is not to say that either excuse was ever sensible. The two most important things the 110th Congress refused to do (ceasing to fund illegal wars, and impeaching war criminals) did not require passing legislation, so filibusters and vetoes were not relevant. But the Democrats in Congress, and the Republicans, and the media, and the White House all pretended that wars could only be ended by legislation, so the excuses for not passing legislation loomed large. The veto excuse vanished on January 20, 2009. The filibuster excuse could have been gone by January 6, 2009, if Senator Harry Reid had wanted it gone, or again in January 2011. It could also be gone by January 2013 if the Democrats actually want to not have the Republicans to blame for their failures.

The filibuster excuse works like this. Any 41 senators can vote No on "cloture", that is on bringing a bill to a vote, and that bill will never come to a vote, and anything the House of Representatives has done won't matter. Any of the other 59 senators, the 435 House members, the president, the vice president, television pundits, and newspaper reporters can blame the threat of filibuster for anything they fail to do.

Now, the Senate itself is and always has been and was intended to be an anti-democratic institution. It serves no purpose that is not or could not be more democratically accomplished by the House alone (were the House not gerrymandered and bought and paid for). The Senate should simply be eliminated by Constitutional Amendment. But the filibuster is the most anti-democratic tool of the Senate, and can be eliminated without touching the Constitution, which does not mention it. If you take 41 senators from the 21 smallest states, you can block any legislation with a group of multi-millionaires elected by 11.2 percent of the American public. That fact is a national disgrace that should be remedied as quickly as possible. And not by making the culprits run their mouths on television.

"Nooooo! Don't throw us in that briar patch!"

The filibuster was created by accident when the Senate eliminated a seemingly redundant practice of voting on whether to vote. Senators then discovered, after a half-century of surviving just fine without the filibuster, that they could block votes by talking forever. In 1917 the Senate created a rule allowing a vote by two-thirds of those voting, to end a filibuster. In 1949 they changed the rule to require two-thirds of the entire Senate membership. In 1959 they changed it back. And in 1975 they changed the rule to allow three-fifths of the Senators sworn into office to end a filibuster and force a vote. Filibustering no longer requires giving long speeches. It only requires threatening to do so. The use of such threats has exploded over the past 14 years, dominating the decision-making process of our government and effectively eliminating the possibility of truly populist or progressive legislation emerging from Congress. This has happened at the same time that the forces of money, media, and party have led the Democrats in both houses to view the filibuster excuse as highly desirable, rather than as an impediment.

Were the Democrats serious about eliminating the filibuster excuse, they would simply change the rule requiring 60 senators for cloture, specifically Senate Rule 22, which reads in part:

"'Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?' And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn -- except on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules, in which case the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the Senators present and voting -- then said measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of."

This would seem to suggest that it takes 60 senators to block a filibuster and 66 senators (if 100 are present, otherwise fewer) to end the power of 60 senators to block filibusters. But that's not the whole story. William Greider four years ago explained:

"In 1975 the filibuster issue was revived by post-Watergate Democrats frustrated in their efforts to enact popular reform legislation like campaign finance laws. Senator James Allen of Alabama, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate and a skillful parliamentary player, blocked them with a series of filibusters. Liberals were fed up with his delaying tactics. Senator Walter Mondale pushed a campaign to reduce the threshold from sixty-seven votes to a simple majority of fifty-one. In a parliamentary sleight of hand, the liberals broke Allen's filibuster by a majority vote, thus evading the sixty-seven-vote rule. (Senate rules say you can't change the rules without a cloture vote, but the Constitution says the Senate sets its own rules. As a practical matter, that means the majority can prevail whenever it decides to force the issue.) In 1975 the presiding officer during the debate, Vice President Rockefeller, first ruled with the liberals on a motion to declare Senator Allen out of order. When Allen appealed the "ruling of the chair" to the full Senate, the majority voted him down. Nervous Senate leaders, aware they were losing the precedent, offered a compromise. Henceforth, the cloture rule would require only sixty votes to stop a filibuster."

If the Democrats eliminate the filibuster excuse, our job will be to organize and agitate immediately to take full advantage of this rare opportunity for actual representative government in the Senate before they think up new excuses. (The House being in Republican hands is the most obvious excuse for Democrats right now and really ought to be sufficient for them.)

Greider proposes reducing to 55 percent of the Senate the number of senators needed for cloture. I propose reducing it to 50 percent plus one. Either way, nobody is proposing that a minority be empowered to decide anything, only that a majority finally be permitted to (even to the extent allowed by an anti-democratic body like the U.S. Senate in which both Wyoming and California have the same number of senators).

Let's not glorify antidemocratic processes by turning them into marathon speeches by gangs of 41 who will not be at all toubled to take their turns at the microphone. I'm told that current proposals would require some portion of the 41 offenders to stay on the Senate floor, thus impeding somewhat the wining and dining with lobbyists and biographers. But the trade-off of the national microphone might be worth it to them, especially as they would be seen as willing to actually take a stand, unlike the spineless-looking schmucks who won't eliminate the filibuster.

The proposals currently being considered by Senate Democrats could be a dream come true for both parties: free advertising of their cause for Republicans and free advertising of their excuse for Democrats. It's win win. But you know who loses.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Elites Will Make Gazans Of Us All
By Chris Hedges

Gaza is a window on our coming dystopia. The growing divide between the world's elite and its miserable masses of humanity is maintained through spiraling violence. Many impoverished regions of the world, which have fallen off the economic cliff, are beginning to resemble Gaza, where 1.6 million Palestinians live in the planet's largest internment camp. These sacrifice zones, filled with seas of pitifully poor people trapped in squalid slums or mud-walled villages, are increasingly hemmed in by electronic fences, monitored by surveillance cameras and drones and surrounded by border guards or military units that shoot to kill. These nightmarish dystopias extend from sub-Saharan Africa to Pakistan to China. They are places where targeted assassinations are carried out, where brutal military assaults are pressed against peoples left defenseless, without an army, navy or air force. All attempts at resistance, however ineffective, are met with the indiscriminate slaughter that characterizes modern industrial warfare.

In the new global landscape, as in Israel's occupied territories and the United States' own imperial projects in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, massacres of thousands of defenseless innocents are labeled wars. Resistance is called a provocation, terrorism or a crime against humanity. The rule of law, as well as respect for the most basic civil liberties and the right of self-determination, is a public relations fiction used to placate the consciences of those who live in the zones of privilege. Prisoners are routinely tortured and "disappeared." The severance of food and medical supplies is an accepted tactic of control. Lies permeate the airwaves. Religious, racial and ethnic groups are demonized. Missiles rain down on concrete hovels, mechanized units fire on unarmed villagers, gunboats pound refugee camps with heavy shells, and the dead, including children, line the corridors of hospitals that lack electricity and medicine.

The impending collapse of the international economy, the assaults on the climate, the resulting droughts, flooding, precipitous decline in crop yields and rising food prices are creating a universe where power is divided between the narrow elites, who hold in their hands sophisticated instruments of death, and the enraged masses. The crises are fostering a class war that will dwarf anything imagined by Karl Marx. They are establishing a world where most will be hungry and live in fear, while a few will gorge themselves on delicacies in protected compounds. And more and more people will have to be sacrificed to keep this imbalance in place.

Because it has the power to do so, Israel-as does the United States-flouts international law to keep a subject population in misery. The continued presence of Israeli occupation forces defies nearly a hundred U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for them to withdraw. The Israeli blockade of Gaza, established in June 2007, is a brutal form of collective punishment that violates Article 33 of the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention, which set up rules for the "Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War." The blockade has turned Gaza into a sliver of hell, an Israeli-administered ghetto where thousands have died, including the 1,400 civilians killed in the Israeli incursion of 2008. With 95 percent of factories shut down, Palestinian industry has virtually ceased functioning. The remaining 5 percent operate at 25 to 50 percent capacity. Even the fishing industry is moribund. Israel refuses to let fishermen travel more than three miles from the coastline, and within the fishing zone boats frequently come under Israeli fire. The Israeli border patrols have seized 35 percent of the agricultural land in Gaza for a buffer zone. The collapsing infrastructure and Israeli seizure of aquifers mean that in many refugee camps, such as Khan Yunis, there is no running water. UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) estimates that 80 percent of all Gazans now rely on food aid. And the claim of Israeli self-defense belies the fact that it is Israel that maintains an illegal occupation and violates international law by carrying out collective punishment of Palestinians. It is Israel that chose to escalate the violence when during an incursion into Gaza earlier this month its forces fatally shot a 13-year-old boy. As the world breaks down, this becomes the new paradigm-modern warlords awash in terrifying technologies and weapons murdering whole peoples. We do the same in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Market forces and the military mechanisms that protect these forces are the sole ideology that governs industrial states and humans' relationship to the natural world. It is an ideology that results in millions of dead and millions more displaced from their homes in the developing world. And the awful algebra of this ideology means that these forces will eventually be unleashed on us, too. Those who cannot be of use to market forces are considered expendable. They have no rights and legitimacy. Their existence, whether in Gaza or blighted postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., is considered a drain on efficiency and progress. They are viewed as refuse. And as refuse they not only have no voice and no freedom; they can be and are extinguished or imprisoned at will. This is a world where only corporate power and profit are sacred. It is a world of barbarism.

"In disposing of man's labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity 'man' attached to that tag," Karl Polanyi wrote in "The Great Transformation." "Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed. Finally, the market administration of purchasing power would periodically liquidate business enterprise, for shortages and surfeits of money would prove as disastrous to business as floods and droughts in primitive society. Undoubtedly, labor, land, and money markets are essential to a market economy. But no society could stand the effects of such a system of crude fictions even for the shortest stretch of time unless its human and natural substance as well as its business organization was protected against the ravages of this satanic mill."

There are 47.1 million Americans who depend on food stamps to eat. The elites are plotting to take these food stamps away, along with other "entitlement" programs that keep the poor from destitution. The slashing of trillions of dollars from Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs, given the political impasse in Washington and the looming "fiscal cliff," now seems certain. There are 50 million people considered to be living below the poverty line, but because the poverty line is so low-$22,350 for a family of four-this figure means nothing. Add the tens of millions of Americans who live in a category called "near poverty," including all those families attempting to live on less than $45,000 a year, and you have at least 30 percent of the country living in poverty. Once these people figure out that there is no economic recovery, that their standard of living is going to continue to drop, that they are trapped, that hope in the future is an illusion, they will become as angry as protesters in Greece and Spain or the militants in Gaza or Afghanistan. Banks and other financial corporations, handed trillions in interest-free money from the Federal Reserve, meanwhile hoard $5 trillion, much of it looted from the U.S. Treasury. The longer this worldwide disparity and inequality is perpetuated, the more the masses will revolt and the faster we will internally replicate the Israeli model of domestic control-drones overhead, all dissent criminalized, SWAT teams busting through doors, deadly force as an acceptable form of subjugation, food used as a weapon, and constant surveillance.

In Gaza and other blighted parts of the globe we see this new configuration of power. What is happening in Gaza, like what is happening to people of color in marginal communities in the United States, is the model. The techniques of control, whether carried out by the Israelis or militarized police units in our inner-city drug wars, whether employed by military special forces or mercenaries in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq, are tested first and perfected on the weak and the powerless. Our callous indifference to the plight of the Palestinians, and the hundreds of millions of poor packed into urban slums in Asia or Africa, as well as our own underclass, means that the injustices visited on them will be visited on us. In failing them we fail ourselves.

As the U.S. empire implodes, the harsher forms of violence employed on the outer reaches of empire are steadily migrating back to the homeland. At the same time, the internal systems of democratic governance have calcified. Centralized authority has devolved into the hands of an executive branch that slavishly serves global corporate interests. The press and the government's judiciary and legislative branches have become toothless and decorative. The specter of terrorism, as in Israel, is used by the state to divert gargantuan expenditures to homeland security, the military and internal surveillance. Privacy is abolished. Dissent is treason. The military with its mantra of blind obedience and force characterizes the dark ethic of the wider culture. Beauty and truth are abolished. Culture is degraded into kitsch. The emotional and intellectual life of the citizenry is ravaged by spectacle, the tawdry and salacious, as well as by handfuls of painkillers and narcotics. Blind ambition, a lust for power and a grotesque personal vanity-exemplified by David Petraeus and his former mistress-are the engines of advancement. The concept of the common good is no longer part of the lexicon of power. This, as the novelist J.M. Coetzee writes, is "the black flower of civilization." It is Rome under Diocletian. It is us. Empires, in the end, decay into despotic, murderous and corrupt regimes that finally consume themselves. And we, like Israel, are now coughing up blood.
(c) 2011 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Vorsitzender Genachowski,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your constant attempt to sell the internet to the corpo-rats and to sell American media to Rupert Murdoch, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 11-24-2012. We salute you Herr Genachowski, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Israel-Palestine - What Is The US National Interest?
By Ralph Nader

Israeli elections are coming up in January so it is Palestinian hunting season again. Israeli cynics call it a time "for mowing the grass."

Out comes the well-worn playbook by Israel's militaristic government that has worked to silence Israeli politicians and citizens who want a two-state solution. This is an opportunity to use and test advanced weaponry from the U.S., compliments of U.S. taxpayers, and squelch ongoing peace efforts, small and large, by Palestinians, Israelis and international peace advocates.

The playbook's first chapter is provocation to upset a tense but workable truce with Hamas, the elected government of Gaza. Hamas was encouraged at its creation years ago by both Israeli and U.S. backers to counter the secular Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Bit of a blowback there.

Israeli government leaders are expert provocateurs when they wish to seize land, water or prisoners and upset any movement toward a peace that would create a viable Palestinian state back to the 1967 borders, which includes East Jerusalem. When Israel came into being in 1948, it soon broke a UN truce and doubled its territory by taking the large area known as the Negev desert, whose refugees ended up in the Gaza Strip. Now 1.6 million encircled and impoverished humans, blockaded and under siege by Israel, try to survive in an open-air prison little more than twice the size of the District of Columbia.

Israel's strategy of breaking cease-fires and truces over the years has been documented by Princeton University history professor emeritus, Arno J. Mayer, in his scholarly book Plowshares into Swords: From Zionism to Israel (Verso, 2008).

In late 2008, Israel broke a months-long truce with Hamas with an attack that took half a dozen lives. Modern Israeli missiles and crude Hamas rockets started flying to and fro. Then Israel invaded the Gaza strip with soldiers to add to its previous incursions - 24/7 electronic and satellite surveillance, omnipresent spies, flyovers, and data mining (down to specific details on each extended family and neighborhood). With their avowed pinpoint bombing, the Israelis destroyed homes, schools, clinics, police stations, clusters of people at bus stops, farms, UN facilities and even hit the American International School - all with the blessing of President-elect Barack Obama.

Observers marvel at the precise knowledge by Israel of who was in what car traveling where in Gaza, before being vaporized. Yet somehow, the second-most modern military in the world could not detect and stop those garages assembling the rockets or the sites firing the crude missiles, which were the rationale for the Israeli invasion.

When the Gaza invasion-massacre ended, there were more than 1400 Palestinian fatalities, including around 300 children, and many thousands of injuries, a population surrounded by destruction and deprived by this illegal blockade-siege of medicines, food, water, electricity and the other necessities of life.

One large extended family in several adjoining homes was ordered by Israeli soldiers to congregate in the largest of the homes. Then the Israelis blew it up. This Samouni family lost about 30 of its members, or more than double the entire fatality toll in Israel, including those soldiers lost from friendly fire.

The current hostilities started in two stages. The first was a back-and-forth that saw an emerging truce broken decisively on November 14 when Israel pridefully blew up a car containing Hamas military chief, Ahmad al-Jabari who actually was leading the negotiations via Egypt with Israel for a longer-range truce.

Back to Israel's playbook, chapter two can be called the instant, mandatory resolutions by the puppet show in Congress and the automatic one-sided mantra by the White House. "Israel has a right to defend itself," said President Obama, from the occupied, besieged, defenseless Palestinians, whose lands, water, homes, businesses and freedom of movement are being taken relentlessly by the raiding Israeli government that is not content with possessing 78 percent of traditional Palestine.

More than 1500 Israeli reserve combat officers and soldiers signed a declaration refusing, in their words, "to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people." The founder of Israel, David ben Gurion, candidly declared it "their (Palestine's) land and we took it."

So Palestinians do not have a right to try to defend themselves against their cruel, powerful occupiers. Israel is violating several UN resolutions along with international law, according to many experts including Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories. But the U.S. gives Israel its unwavering UN veto cover.

Finally, chapter three of the playbook is to make sure that the Israeli government advocates dominate the U.S. media - the talk shows, the news slants, and the opinion columnists. This is becoming less easy in an internet age. Which might explain that, along with homes, water wells, rescue teams, an ambulance, and other civilian installations, the Israeli air force already has bombed the office building housing Palestinian television studios and hosting media from the western world, including Fox TV. That is one indelicate way to tell these western journalists to get out of Gaza so that the truth about the immense civilian suffering and war crimes can no longer be told by them.

Still, the heroic Israeli progressives and peace advocates would not be silenced, in spite of some Hamas rockets nearing Tel Aviv. A few hundred of them demonstrated in this city, charging the Netanyahu government with provoking the fighting in Gaza to divert attention from conditions of social and economic injustices and civil liberty suppression in their country.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved peacefully, without violence. During quieter times, more than half the Israelis supported a two-state solution. A few years ago, 61 percent of Israelis, polled by a prominent university there, favored negotiations with Hamas. A majority of Jewish-Americans, though unorganized, favor a two-state solution.

In 2002, the Arab League unanimously (22 countries) presented with great fanfare an across-the-board peace treaty with the stipulation that Israel would adhere to UN Resolutions and allow a viable Palestinian state. Again and again, sometimes in full-page ads in U.S. newspapers, this offer was repeated only to receive scoffing and abrupt dismissal by the Israeli government. So, predictably, Washington did nothing.

So what is the alternative? A one-state solution with both Palestinians and Israelis having equal rights? Noura Erakat, who teaches at Georgetown University, framed the dilemma back in August whenshe quoted former prime minister and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, saying, after leaving his former post,

"If, and as long as between the Jordan (River) and the (Mediterranean) Sea there is only one political entity, named Israel, it will end up being either non-Jewish or nondemocratic.... If the Palestinians vote in elections it is a binational state, and if they don't vote it is an apartheid state." His rival, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the same thing.

Awareness of this pathway is leading some extremist Israeli politicians who call Palestinians "vermin" and "rats" to think about the day when they can, with suitable provocations, drive the Palestinians into the desert.
(c) 2012 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Egyptian students shout slogans during a protest against Israel's ongoing
military operation in the Gaza Strip at Cairo University, November 17, 2012.

Sirens And Protests
By Adam Keller

The alarm sounded when we were at the corner of Frishman Street, twenty minutes before the demonstration against the war. The first alarm in central Tel Aviv. I was among those who ran to the nearest stairwell. There is only a small statistical chance the missile will fall exactly where you are. This morning two men and a woman in Kiryat Malachi sitting on their balcony thought they could ignore the sirens. They are dead.

But then, the civilians killed in Gaza: the three children under the age of four whose photographs were spread widely on Facebook (but not in the Israeli media). Did they even get any warning? Had they any safe place to run to?

In the stairwell we heard a dull explosion, and the radio said it fell in an open area in the Bat Yam suburb. "Is there at all any open space among the crowded buildings of Bat Yam? Maybe it fell in the cemetery," someone thought.

"Will the demonstration be held at all, in such a situation?" "Come on! One missile is not going to deter us who have decided to go against the current and demonstrate against the war. At worst, if there is another alarm, we will run with the signs to a safe place and return after five minutes." However, the new situation did affect my mother, who is 83 and needs a walker but with indefatigable fighting spirit. She had to give up her intention of coming to the demonstration, which considerably frustrated her.

At Dizengoff Square a group of young people were sitting on the benches and debated loudly. "No, I tell you again, you cannot eliminate them. We need another solution" we heard one persistent voice. It would have been interesting to continue listening but we were already late.

Already from a considerable distance it was possible to hear the voices, resounding through the King George Street: "Jews and Arabs / refuse to be enemies!" and "The people demand / stop shooting!" at the cadence of the Social Justice protests of last summer. Like a breath of fresh air after the ongoing undiluted war propaganda which fills the airwaves. Hundreds of demonstrators on the sidewalk opposite the Likud Party, incessantly chanting: "In Gaza and Sderot / children want to live," "Bibi Netanyahu resign / For the sake of the South," "War is the right-wing government's electoral spin," "Jews and Arabs / refuse to be enemies," "No no to war / Yes yes to peace," "Arabs and Jews / Together against the war," "Give the funds/To slums and welfare/ Not to new wars," "No to the war of the tycoons," "The people demand / not to be occupiers," "Sderot and Gaza do not despair / we will end the occupation."

On the other side of the street, at the foot of the Likud building, stand the right-wing counter-demonstrators. It is very hard to hear them. For a moment it was possible to make out that they were singing the National Anthem Hatikva and waving Israeli national flags. There are also some such flags on our side. A young man in a green shirt waves a big Blue and White flag while chanting "Stop shooting!" On the old tree in the middle of the road, which was here long before it was Tel Aviv, press photographers are hanging with cameras aimed both ways.

The Hadash Communist Knesset Members take the megaphone. "We are here, Jews and Arabs, to cry out: Stop the killing, stop the bloodshed! Netanyahu tries to stabilize his rule through war, Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis in Kiryat Malachi pay the price" said Mohammed Barake. Dov Hanin calls out: "War and a cycle of violence are not the solution, they are the problem. This war will not bring peace and quiet to residents of the South nor to the people of Gaza. The only way to break the vicious cycle is through dialogue." Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz was seen in the crowd, but did not speak. "It's better than last time, in 2009 it took Meretz more than a week to come out against the war" said one activist.

People from the south take the megaphone to the sound of prolonged applause. "We are sitting closed at home, hearing the launches and explosions from both sides passing over the roof. Those are our neighbors, five kilometers away. Who decided that they must be our enemies?" Says Ya'ala Ra'anan from Moshav Ein HaBsor, followed by Nir Hefetz of Kibbutz Nirim: "I heard the alarm here in Tel Aviv and before that at my home. My children went to their grandparents to get some rest. I want to say to the Netanyahu Government - stop playing with us, stop playing with our fate, stop conducting power games with us as playing chips!" And Emanuel Yariv of Beersheba: "We in the south are paying the price. It is time to stop this madness. The army has no solution, the only solution is negotiation and a political settlement." After each speaker the chanting arises again, "Jews and Arabs / refuse to be enemies / refuse to be enemies / refuse to be enemies!"

All that was last night. And since then there had been a tense and quiet night (should we return to the routine of the 1991 Gulf War and sleep with clothes on, ready to jump and run to the stairwell?). And again a missile was fired at Tel Aviv, and today also at Jerusalem, to the chagrin of Jerusalemites who thought that Palestinian East Jerusalem and the Muslim holy places gave them immunity.

The Israeli media reported at very great length the many missiles fired at the south which fortunately did not cause any more Israeli casualties today. Very little report of the Palestinians killed in Gaza (29 deaths so far). The injured Palestinians that fill the Shifa Hospital got no mention at all (about two hundred and fifty wounded). Tahrir Suleiman, aged 22, was this morning at her home in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. An Israeli aircraft dropped a bomb and the house was destroyed. Palestinian rescue teams extracted five members of the family from the wreckage. Tahrir Suleiman died in hospital a few hours later, doctors continue treating the other four family members. If it were an Israeli family, all this would have gotten banner headlines in every newspaper in Israel with huge news stories full of pathos about the tragedy of this family. But she was a Palestinian, so those who get their information from the Israeli media will never hear of her. And if by chance they do hear of it, the government has already explained that Hamas uses the civilian population as human shields, so of course they are to blame.

Meanwhile, the cabinet approves calling up 75,000 reservists. and soldiers interviewed on TV all sound very gung-ho and belligerent, waiting impatiently for the moment they would plunge into street fighting in the alleys of Gaza. A representative sample? British Foreign Secretary warns that a Gaza ground invasion could bring an end to the European backing which Netanyahu so far enjoys. And what would Egyptian President Morsi do, who sent his Prime Minister to Gaza and made angry irritated statements but so far avoided irreversible damage to the peace agreement with Israel?

Meanwhile, on TV tonight former Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz spoke in a moderate and restrained tone, strongly urging caution in Gaza - very different indeed from the cocksure and arrogant presentation at the time he conducted the 2006 war in Lebanon.

The Combatants for Peace group is holding tomorrow afternoon a joint march and rally of Israelis and Palestinians, calling together for an end to this murderous madness. The struggle continues.
(c) 2012 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ J.D. Crowe ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 47 (c) 11/23/2012

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