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In This Edition

Naomi Wolf tells, "The Shocking Truth About The Crackdown On Occupy."

Uri Avnery takes us back to, "A Day In November."

Matt Taibbi finds, "Federal Judge Pimp-Slaps The SEC Over Citigroup Settlement ."

Ralph Nader looks into "free trade" in, "Not Made In America."

Jim Hightower hears, "Paulson's Plaintive Plea."

Helen Thomas sees, "'Spring' Reawakening."

James Donahue reports, "Telling The Truth Can Now Be Treason."

Robert Scheer reminds us that, "You Can Arrest On Idea."

David Swanson says, "Occupation Evicted? Occupy The Place Responsible: DC."

Ray McGovern demands we, "Ask the Candidates Real Questions - Like These."

Paul Krugman discovers, "Things To Tax."

Phil Rockstroh quotes, "The Degree To Which You Resist Is The Degree To Which You Are Free."

Joel S. Hirschhorn examines the, "Occupy Movement: Next Step Convergence."

Michigan Sin-ator Carl Levin wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols announces, "Wisconsin Recall Drive Surpasses 300,000 Signatures."

Eric Alterman calls out, "Next Stop On The GOP Crazy Train: 'Newtsville.'"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz finds the, "FDA Declares Rick Perry A Vegetable" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Welcome To America: The Battlefield."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Tim Eagan, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Jamie Wiseman, Micah Wright, W. Mears, We Are The 99%, ACLU, L.A. Times, Scott Galindez, Countdown With Keith Olbermann, LL Bean, 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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Welcome To America: The Battlefield
By Ernest Stewart

"Sens. McCain and Levin have teamed up to promote one of the most anti-liberty pieces of legislation of our lifetime, S 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act. This bill would permit the federal government to indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil, without charge or trial, at the discretion of the President. It is destructive of our Constitution." ~~~ U.S. Congressman Ron Paul

"We're fighting a war, not a crime." Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

I'm so hungry I could eat a horse! ~ Regular
Good -- good ~ Ethyl
Well, what's for breakfast? ~ Regular
Horse pie and a short stack or would you rather have horse and eggs? It's up to you, it's always been... ~ Ethyl
The Regular and Ethyl Show ~~~ The Firesign Theatre

"Oops, my bad, that's my scenario." ~~~ UGK

I'm so old that I remember when Carl Levin was considered to be a liberal; yes, that was a long, long, long time ago. Today, he proudly wears Jack Boots and a corpo-rat armband -- when he isn't acting as a Israeli fifth columnist.

Carl, it seems, isn't satisfied by kidnapping and murdering tens of thousand of innocent foreigners from around the world and torturing them for years in an endless war against reality. He and the great traitor John McCain have come up with a couple of acts of treason slipped into the National Defense Authorization Act. These were created in secret and passed in a closed-door committee meeting -- without even a single hearing -- and by the time this is published, will have been voted on. You might think why would they do this in secret; what do they have to hide? I'll tell you what and why!

A couple sections of this turkey S. 1867 declare that the whole world is a battlefield -- these United Snakes included -- and it gives the military authority to arrest anyone -- American citizens included -- and hold them without trial or even charges, indefinitely, in any black-ops prison, incommunicado, without any chance to prove yourself innocent. So much for the Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment. As Sin-ator Lindsey Graham said about this: "In 1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland."

There is, however, a way to stop this madness! Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is offering the Udall Amendment that will delete the harmful provisions and replace them with a requirement for an orderly Congressional review of detention power. The Udall Amendment will make sure that the bill matches up with American values. It doesn't take a genius to see how this will be used; in fact, the half-crazy Ron Paul spoke out against the bill and in favor of the Udall amendment. (It failed by 60-38-2)

However, the creatures of the night, have come out in favor of it; creatures like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explained that the bill will "basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield" and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial "American citizen or not." Another supporter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also declared that the bill is needed because "America is part of the battlefield."

For those of you who were wondering how we were going to fill up all the new "Happy Camps" look no further for the trigger than S. 1867. Even if doesn't pass or Barry vetos it, have no doubt it will be back in another form, in another bill. Vigilance, America, is our only defense!

In Other News

Well, I see that the Senate passed S. 1867 with 61 votes and officially, with Obamahood's signature the 5th Amendment is no more! Both of my Sin-ators voted to make America a battlefield and demand that the military be put in charge of rounding us all up and sending us off to a Happy Camp!

I wrote my Sin-ators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow similar letters:

Dear Sin-ator Hitler er Levin, sorry, but I get you two confused.

So much for the 5th amendment, huh? We don't need no stinkin' Bill of Rights. Now America is a battlefield and we're all potential terrorists, who can at any fascist government toady's whim disappear into a death camp to never be heard of again, without trial or even charges. Yep, that's the American way!

While I totally disagree with your act of treason, I must admit, I do admire your shiny-new Jack Boots and that Corpo-rat armband is to die for, quite literally, Carl. We won't forget your betrayal of America, Carl! I see that old dead eye Cheney was in favor of the bill -- interesting company that you keep!

Oh, and thanks for writing part of this week's editorial for me, Carl; and congratulations, you've just won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award for your act of treason! I bet your mama would be proud, huh?

Can I get a "Heil, Hitler," Carl?

As always, if I get a reply, I'll share it with you!

Here is a list of the traitors who voted for S. 1867. If your Sin-ator is on the list, you might want to send him or her your note of displeasure? Also, if your Sin-ators voted against this outrage, you should also let them know of your appreciation!

Alexander (R-TN), Ayotte (R-NH), Barrasso (R-WY), Blunt (R-MO), Boozman (R-AR), Brown (R-MA), Burr (R-NC), Casey (D-PA), Chambliss (R-GA), Coats (R-IN), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Collins (R-ME), Conrad (D-ND), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Hagan (D-NC), Hatch (R-UT), Heller (R-NV), Hoeven (R-ND), Hutchison (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Inouye (D-HI), Isakson (R-GA), Johanns (R-NE), Johnson (R-WI), Kohl (D-WI), Kyl (R-AZ), Landrieu (D-LA), Lee (R-UT), Levin (D-MI), Lieberman (ID-CT), Lugar (R-IN), Manchin (D-WV), McCain (R-AZ), McCaskill (D-MO), McConnell (R-KY), Moran (R-KS), Nelson (D-NE), Portman (R-OH), Pryor (D-AR), Reed (D-RI), Risch (R-ID), Roberts (R-KS), Rubio (R-FL), Sessions (R-AL), Shaheen (D-NH), Shelby (R-AL), Snowe (R-ME), Stabenow (D-MI), Thune (R-SD), Toomey (R-PA), Vitter (R-LA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wicker (R-MS).

You may have noticed that in this Democratically-controlled Senate, most of those that voted for this act of treason were Rethuglicans; funny thing that, huh? As you can see, both parties can come together and vote as one, if their actions will screw the American people royally! Hopefully, a lesson for those who think more cooperation between the Rethuglicans and Demoncrats would be a good thing!

And Finally

Well, there's good news, America; good news if you're into this sort of thing; if not, well, it's too bad -- because Obamahood signed it into law! For those of you who like horse and eggs with your short stack, happy daze are here again! No more having to import that Canadian Horse back-bacon; you'll soon be able to buy it from the Kroger or Piggly Wiggly!

That's right, the US Congress has lifted the five-year old ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption in these here United Snakes, and we could have have a plant up and running in as little as 30 days! No more shipping Trigger or Silver off to Canada or Mexico. The 1% is lining up to finance a new horse slaughterhouse -- so dust off your horse-bibs and stand by!

"The USDA issued a statement Tuesday saying there are no slaughterhouses in the U.S. that butcher horses for human consumption now; but if one were to open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed. USDA spokesman Neil Gaffney declined to answer questions beyond what was in the statement." So, for all of you illegal aliens out there who have been thrown out of various meat packing plants, here's another opportunity for you!

So please pass me a slice of Mr. Ed and some horseradish, yummy! NOT!

Keepin' On

Oops, we bad. Last week, we misidentified Federal District Judge Henry T. Wingate in our Dead Letter Office department; as Henry was our Vidkun Quisling Award winner. Instead of Henry's photo we apparently ran a photo of Hitler's favorite Nazi judge Roland (Raging Roland) Freisler!

While it was, one has to admit, an easy enough mistake to make; still, it is not one -- as a trusted news source -- that we can tolerate, even from my favorite intern; so, Gladys, report to associate editor Wrathell's office after work for a trip across his lap! I promise you that he'll soon get to the bottom of the problem!

Ergo, we would therefore like to make a deep, sincere, heartfelt apology, to the friends and family of Roland Freisler for our mistake. Sorry Ya'll!


12-07-1919 ~ 11-25-2011
Thanks for the gardens and the horse!

07-03-1927 ~ 11-27-2011
Thanks for the films!

12-07-1969 ~ 11-28-2011
Thanks for the laughs!


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


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

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

The Shocking Truth About The Crackdown On Occupy
The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class's venality
By Naomi Wolf

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women - targeted seemingly for their gender - screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture - was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? - the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. he New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being - falsely - informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk."

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalized police force, and forbids federal or militarized involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that right-wing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors', city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilization against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks - under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop - awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually "OWS has no message". Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online "What is it you want?" answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act - the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list - and especially the last agenda item - the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, "we are going after these scruffy hippies." Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorize mayors to order their police forces - pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS - to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarized reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) - but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the "scandal" of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' "consulting" to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known - and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating - a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists' privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can't suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally - and immensely - from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organized Occupy movement ... well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organized suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.
(c) 2011 Naomi Wolf author, social critic, and political activist is the author of The New York Times bestseller "The End of America" (Chelsea Green) and, more recently, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. Wolf's landmark international bestseller, The Beauty Myth, challenged the cosmetics industry and the marketing of unrealistic standards of beauty, launching a new wave of feminism in the early 1990s.

A Day In November
By Uri Avnery

THIS TUESDAY will be the 64th anniversary of a fateful day for our lives.

A day in November. A day to remember.

On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted, by 33 votes against 13 (with 10 abstentions), the Palestine Partition Plan.

This event has become a subject of endless debates, misinterpretations and outright falsifications. It may be worthwhile to peel away the myths and see it as it was.

BY THE end of 1947, there were in the country - then officially named Palestine - about 1.2 million Arabs and 635 thousand Jews. The gap between the two population groups had turned into an abyss. Though geographically intertwined, they lived on two different planets. With very few exceptions, they considered each other as mortal enemies.

This was the reality that the UN commission, charged with proposing a solution, found on the ground when it visited the country.

One of the great moments of my life is connected with this UNSCOP ("United Nations Special Committee on Palestine"). On the Carmel mountain chain, near kibbutz Daliah, I was attending the annual folk dance festival. Folk dances played a major role in the new Hebrew culture we were consciously striving to create. Most of these dances were somewhat contrived, even artificial, like many of our efforts, but they reflected the will to create something new, fresh, rooted in the country, entirely different from the Jewish culture of our parents. Some of us spoke about a new "Hebrew nation".

In a huge natural amphitheater, under a canopy of twinkling summer stars, tens of thousands of young people, boys and girls, had gathered to cheer on the many amateur groups performing on the stage. It was a joyous affair, imbued with camaraderie, radiating feelings of strength and self-confidence.

No one of us could have guessed that within a few months we would meet again in the fields of a deadly war.

In the middle of the performance, an excited voice announced on the loudspeaker that several members of UNSCOP had come to visit. As one, the huge crowd stood up and started to sing the national anthem, Hatikvah ("the Hope"). I never liked this song very much, but at that moment it sounded like a fervent prayer, filling the space, rebounding from the hills of the Carmel. I suppose that almost all of the 6000 Jewish youngsters who gave their lives in the war were assembled for the last time on that evening, singing with profound emotion.

IT WAS in this atmosphere that the members of UNSCOP, representing many different nations, had to find a solution.

As everybody knows, the commission adopted a plan to partition Palestine between an independent "Arab" and an independent "Jewish" state. But that is not the whole story.

Looking at the map of the 1947 partition resolution, one must wonder at the borders. They resemble a puzzle, with Arab pieces and Jewish pieces put together in an impossible patchwork, with Jerusalem and Bethlehem as a separate unit. The borders look crazy. Both states would have been totally indefensible.

The explanation is that the committee did not really envision two totally independent and separate states. The plan explicitly included an economic union. That would have necessitated a very close relationship between the two political entities, something akin to a federation, with open borders and free movement of people and goods. Without it, the borders would have been impossible.

That was a very optimistic scenario. Immediately after the committee's plan was adopted by the General Assembly, after much cajoling by the Zionist leadership, war broke out with sporadic Arab attacks on Jewish traffic on the vital roads.

When the first shot was fired, the partition plan was dead. The foundation, on which the whole edifice rested, broke apart. No open borders, no economic union, no chance for a union of any kind. Only abyssal, deadly, enmity.

THE PARTITION plan would never have been adopted in the first place if it had not been preceded by a historical event that seemed at the time beyond belief.

The Soviet delegate to the UN, Andrei Gromyko, suddenly made what can only be described as a fiery Zionist speech. He contended that after the terrible suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust, they deserved a state of their own.

To appreciate the utter amazement with which this speech was received, one must remember that until that very moment, Communists and Zionists had been irreconcilable foes. It was not only a clash of ideologies, but also a family affair. In Tzarist Russia, Jews were persecuted by an anti-Semitic government, and young Jews, both male and female, were in the vanguard of all the revolutionary movements.

An idealistic young Jew had the choice between joining the Bolsheviks, the social-democratic Jewish Bund or the Zionists. The competition was fierce and engendered intense mutual hatred. Later, in the Soviet Union, Zionists were mercilessly persecuted. In Palestine, local Communists, Jewish and Arab, were accused of collaborating with the Arab militants who attacked Jewish neighborhoods.

What had brought about this sudden change in Soviet policy? Stalin did not turn from an anti-Semite into a philo-Semite. Far from it. But he was a pragmatist. It was the era of medium-range missiles, which threatened Soviet territory from all sides. Palestine was in practice a British colony and could easily have become a Western missile base, threatening Odessa and beyond. Better a Jewish and an Arab state, than that.

In the following war, almost all my weapons came from the Soviet bloc, mainly from Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union recognized Israel de jure long before the United States.

The end of this unnatural honeymoon came in the early fifties, when David Ben-Gurion decided to turn Israel into an inseparable part of the Western bloc. At the same time, Stalin recognized the importance of the new pan-Arab nationalism of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser and decided to ride on that wave. His paranoid anti-Semitism came again to the fore. All over Eastern Europe Communist veterans were executed as Zionist-imperialist-Trotskyite spies, and his Jewish doctors were accused of attempting to poison him. (Luckily for them, Stalin died just in time and they were saved.)

TODAY, THE partition resolution is remembered in Israel mainly because of two words: "Jewish state".

No one in Israel wants to be reminded of the borders of 1947, which gave the Jewish minority in Palestine "only" 55% of the country. (Though half of this consisted of the Negev desert, most of which is almost empty even now.) Nor do Jewish Israelis like to be reminded that almost half the population of the territory allotted to them was Arab.

At the time, the UN resolution was accepted by the Jewish population with overflowing enthusiasm. The photos of the people dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv belong to this day, and not - as is often falsely claimed, to the day the State of Israel was officially founded. (At that time we were in middle of a bloody war and nobody was in the mood for dancing.)

We know now that Ben-Gurion did not dream of accepting the partition plan borders, and even less the Arab population within them. The famous army "Plan Dalet" early in the war was a strategic necessity, but it was also a solution to the two problems: it added to Israel another 22% of the country and it drove the Arab population out. Only a small remnant of the Arab population remained - and by now it has grown to 1.5 million.

But all that is history. What concerned the future are the words "Jewish state". Israeli rightists, who abhor the partition resolution in any other context, insist that it provides the legal basis to Israel's right to be recognized as a "Jewish state" - meaning in practice, that the state belongs to all the Jews around the world, but not to its Arab citizens, whose families have been living here for at least 13 centuries, if not far longer (depends who does the counting).

But the UN used the word "Jewish" only for lack of any other definition. During the British Mandate, the two peoples in the country were called in English "Jews" and "Arabs". But we ourselves spoke about a "Hebrew" State (medina Ivrit). In newspaper clippings of the time, only this term can be seen. People of my age-group remember dozens of demonstrations in which we invariably chanted "Free Immigration - Hebrew State". The sound of it still rings in our ears.

The UN did not deal with the ideological makeup of the future states. It certainly assumed that they would be democratic, belonging to all their inhabitants. Otherwise they would hardly have drawn borders that left a substantial Arab population in the "Jewish" state.


The ultra-rightists who now dominate the Knesset want to use these words as a pretext for replacing democracy with a doctrine of Jewish nationalist-religious supremacy. A former Shin-Bet chief and present Kadima party MK has submitted a bill that would abolish the equality of the two terms "Jewish" and "democratic" in the official legal doctrine, and state clearly that the "Jewishness" of the state has precedence over its "democratic" character. This would deprive the Arab citizens of any remnant of equality. (At the last moment, in face of the public reaction, the Kadima party compelled him to withdraw the bill.)

THE 1947 partition plan was an exceptionally intelligent document. Its details are obsolete now, but its basic idea is as relevant today as it was 64 years ago: two nations are living in this country, they cannot live together in one state without a continuous civil war, they can live together in two states, the two states must establish close ties between each other.

Ben-Gurion was determined to prevent the founding of the Arab Palestinian state, and with the help of King Abdallah of Transjordan he succeeded in this. All his successors, with the possible exception of Yitzhak Rabin, have followed this line, now more than ever. We have paid - and are still paying - a heavy price for this folly.

On the 64th anniversary of this historic event, we must go back to its basic principle: Israel and Palestine, Two States for Two Peoples.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Here's a clip of me talking about the ruling last night on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Federal Judge Pimp-Slaps The SEC Over Citigroup Settlement
By Matt Taibbi

Greetings, folks. Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving...

Just a quick update on a big piece of news that came through yesterday. In one of the more severe judicial ass-whippings you'll ever see, federal Judge Jed Rakoff rejected a slap-on-the-wrist fraud settlement the SEC had cooked up for Citigroup.

I wrote about this story a few weeks back when Rakoff sent signals that he was unhappy with the SEC's dirty deal with Citi, but yesterday he took this story several steps further.

Rakoff's 15-page final ruling read like a political document, serving not just as a rejection of this one deal but as a broad and unequivocal indictment of the regulatory system as a whole. He particularly targeted the SEC's longstanding practice of greenlighting relatively minor fines and financial settlements alongside de facto waivers of civil liability for the guilty - banks commit fraud and pay small fines, but in the end the SEC allows them to walk away without admitting to criminal wrongdoing.

This practice is a legal absurdity for several reasons. By accepting hundred-million-dollar fines without a full public venting of the facts, the SEC is leveling seemingly significant punishments without telling the public what the defendant is being punished for. This has essentially created a parallel or secret criminal justice system, in which both crime and punishment are adjudicated behind closed doors.

This system allows for ugly consequences in both directions. Imagine if normal criminal defendants were treated this way. Say a prosecutor and street criminal comb into a judge's chamber and explain they've cooked up a deal, that the criminal doesn't have to admit to anything or plead to any crime, but has to spend 18 months in house arrest nonetheless.

What sane judge would sign off on a deal like that without knowing exactly what the facts are? Did the criminal shoot up a nightclub and paralyze someone, or did he just sell a dimebag on the street? Is 18 months a tough sentence or a slap on the wrist? And how is it legally possible for someone to deserve an 18-month sentence without being guilty of anything?

Such deals are logical and legal absurdities, but judges have been signing off on settlements like this with Wall Street defendants for years.

Judge Rakoff blew a big hole in that practice yesterday. His ruling says secret justice is not justice, and that the government cannot hand out punishments without telling the public what the punishments are for. He wrote:

Finally, in any case like this that touches on the transparency of financial markets whose gyrations have so depressed our economy and debilitated our lives, there is an overriding public interest in knowing the truth. In much of the world, propaganda reigns, and truth is confined to secretive, fearful whispers. Even in our nation, apologists for suppressing or obscuring the truth may always be found. But the S.E.C., of all agencies, has a duty, inherent in its statutory mission, to see that the truth emerges; and if it fails to do so, this Court must not, in the name of deference or convenience, grant judicial enforcement to the agency's contrivances.
Notice the reference to how things are "in much of the world," a subtle hint that the idea behind this ruling is to prevent a slide into third-world-style justice. There are many such loaded passages in Rakoff's ruling. Another one comes up around the issue of the "public interest."

This issue of whether or not the SEC must consider the public interest in granting these cozy settlements gets to the heart of the Occupy Movement's central complaint, that there are two different sets of rules for two different Americas. The SEC in this case incredibly argued - out loud, on paper - that it could make regulatory decisions without considering the public interest. In particular, it argued that it didn't need to consider the public interest when granting "injunctive relief," i.e. an injunction barring future behaviors, as opposed to the stiffer and more immediate punishment of fines or criminal charges.

The SEC argued to Judge Rakoff that "the public interest ... is not part of [the] applicable standard of judicial review."

Translating: "When we decide to let thieving megabank off with just a promise to never do it again, we don't have to consider whether or not this is in the public interest."

If you stand back and really think about what this argument means, it'll make your head spin. What the SEC is saying here is that according to the incestuous values of the small community of high-priced revolving-door lawyers who both head the SEC enforcement office and run the defense teams of banks like Citi, a $95 million fine with no admission of wrongdoing for a $700 million fraud is, in fact, "fair" and "reasonable."

The settlement only becomes problematic, the SEC implies, if you ask them to square their judgment with "the public interest."

The SEC, in other words, is admitting that they have a standard for "reasonableness" and "fairness" that somehow does not coincide with the public interest. This surreal formulation translates as, "We're doing the right thing - we're just not doing it for the public."

Rakoff's response to this lunacy:

A large part of what the S.E.C. requests, in this and most other such consent judgments, is injunctive relief... The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear, however, that a court cannot grant the extraordinary remedy of injunctive relief without considering the public interest.
The Rakoff ruling shines a light on the way these crappy settlements have evolved into a kind of cheap payoff system, in which crimes may be committed over and over again, and the SEC's only role is to take a bribe each time the offenders slip up and get caught.

If you never have to worry about serious punishments, or court findings of criminal guilt (which would leave you exposed to crippling lawsuits), then there's simply no incentive to stop committing fraud. These SEC settlements simply become part of the cost of doing business, as Rakoff notes:

As for common experience, a consent judgment that does not involve any admissions and that results in only very modest penalties is just as frequently viewed, particularly in the business community, as a cost of doing business imposed by having to maintain a working relationship with a regulatory agency, rather than as any indication of where the real truth lies. This, indeed, is Citigroup's position in this very case.
That line, "a cost of doing business imposed by having to maintain a working relationship with a regulatory agency," is one of the more brutally damning things you'll ever see a judge write. Rakoff is saying that these fines are payoffs to keep the SEC off the banks' backs. They're like the pad that numbers-runners or drug dealers pay to urban precinct-houses every month to keep cops from making real arrests. That's what he means when he refers to "maintaning a working relationship." It's heavy stuff.

On the other hand, both the SEC and Citigroup insist that this secretive payoff system is defensible and must continue. They clearly believe, sincerely, that none of this stuff is really the public's business.

This is an extraordinarily condescending attitude and shows exactly how little they think of the public at large. One wonders if decisions like Rakoff's will at least help to wake the government up.
(c) 2011 Matt Taibbi

Not Made In America
By Ralph Nader

"Here, look at this handsome L.L. Bean catalog and tell me what you want for Christmas," said a relative over Thanksgiving weekend. I started leafing through the 88 page cornucopia with hundreds of clothing and household products, garnished by free gift cards and guaranteed free shipping. I wasn't perusing it for any suggested gifts; instead, I was going through every offering to see whether they were made in the U.S.A. or in other countries.

This is what I found: over 97 percent of all the items pictured and priced were noted "imported" by L.L. Bean. The only ones manufactured in the U.S. were fireplace gloves, an L.L. Bean jean belt, a dress chino belt, quilted faux-shearling-lined L.L. Bean boots (made in Maine), a personalized web collar and leash (for your pet), and symbolically enough, the "made in Maine using American-made cotton canvas are the Original Boat and Tote Bags" to carry all those goodies coming in from China and elsewhere.

That was it for the products that were "Made in America." The former fountainhead of global manufacturing has been largely deflated by the flight of U.S. companies to fascist or communist regimes noted for holding down their repressed workers.

But there is much more to this story and the plight of millions of American workers and hundreds of their hollowed out communities that are the visible results of corporate free trade propaganda.

How many times have the politicians and their corporate paymasters told us that "free trade" with other nations is a "win-win" proposition? They win and we win. After all, isn't that what happened two hundred years ago when Portugal sold its wine to England in return for British textiles? Economists have won many prizes elaborating this theory of comparative advantage.

That is what Nobel laureate super-economist Paul Samuelson believed in the many years he wrote and updated his standard "Economics 101" textbook studied by millions of college students for nearly 50 years. For many of his colleagues, the theory of "free trade" had become an ideology bordering on a secular religion. Don't bother them with the facts.

Some of their students became reporters, such as Thomas Friedman of "The New York Times," taking this prejudgment of reality into their uncritical coverage of the very flawed NAFTA and World Trade Organization agreements under President Clinton in the 1990s.

But Samuelson increasingly became an empiricist, along with his academic contributions in mathematical economics. Before one of his book revisions in the '70s, he wrote me asking for whatever materials I thought would be useful regarding consumer protection and consumer fraud. He presaged the relatively new field of behavioral economics and their obvious findings that consumers do not always maximize their best interests, and can act "irrationally" in a fast-paced marketplace of clever or unscrupulous sellers.

Gradually, Professor Sameulson saw trade between nations move from "comparative advantage" to more and more "absolute advantage." That is, companies were using the swift mobility of capital, modern factory machinery and transport to locate all elements of production - labor, capital, raw materials, and advanced know-how in one place - now most notably in China.

Absolute advantages have been aided by the corporate-managed trade agreements of WTO and NAFTA. These treaties are also conveniently violated to facilitate large subsidies that are not supposed to be used to lure companies to move. This trade in giveaways has China winning over the U.S., most recently in pulling American solar factories to China.

If corporate "free trade" is a win-win proposition, adhered to by one president after another, including Barack Obama, how come our country has piled up bigger trade deficits every year since 1976? Big is really big. Over the past decade our country has bought from abroad more than it has sold an average of well over half a trillion dollars each year.

In 1980 the U.S. was the world leading creditor - they owed us - while now, the U.S. is by far the world's leading debtor - we owe them!

At what point do the "free traders" cry "uncle" and rethink their commercial catechism? So long as multinational corporations control our politicians, it will not happen. For these companies are looking for the most worker-controlled, environmentally-pollutable and bribable countries to locate their manufacturing bases. Global companies are just that, bereft of any allegiance or grateful patriotism to their country of birth, profit and bailout salvation.

Here are three questions you may wish to ask any self-styled "free traders":

What amount of evidence do you require to get rid of your dogma and, as a minimum, start thinking like Paul Samuelson?

How much of the savings from lower costs abroad are going for large profits and not being passed on to the consumer who also has to endure the reported hazards of unregulated imports?

And, at what point do you look at L.L. Bean-type catalogs and ask whether you are getting a price break that is worth the debilitating dependency on other nations that use exploitation, repression, violations and outright counterfeiting as unfair methods of competition against our stateside companies and workers?

(c) 2011 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.

Paulson's Plaintive Plea

Who's the most befuddled Wall Streeter of all? The richest guy on the Street.

In assessing the spreading public protest against the rampaging greed of today's financial elite, John Paulson turns out to be as confused as a goat on Astroturf. Oh, he gets it that the people's anger is directed at hedge fund profiteers like him, but he claims they are simply confused on the virtue of accumulated wealth. While he raked in nearly $5 billion in personal pay last year (the largest single haul in Wall Street history), gaining his bonanza from rigged Wall Street casino games - he asserts that the amassing of wealth itself serves the public good.

It's unfair, Paulson scolds, that protesters demonstrated in front of his 28,000-square-foot, $15 million mansion on New York's Upper East Side, targeting him as an exemplar of plutocratic excess. Taxes from Billionaires like him, he says, are "providing huge benefits to everyone in our city." Besides, he points out that he's not merely a billionaire "job creator," as Republican leaders prefer to call corporate chieftains these days. Paulson brags that his hedge fund "has created over 100 high-paying jobs in New York City since its formation." Wow - 100 jobs in a city of over 8 million people. Thanks, John, our economy wouldn't be the same without you!

When it comes down to it, all that Paulson clique really wants is a little love, a small show of gratitude for all that the richest 1-percent is doing for us 99-percent of Americans by making themselves ever-richer. In a plaintive press release, he recently wrote that, "Instead of vilifying our most successful businesses, we should be supporting them and encouraging them."

Isn't it sad to hear John cry? But, then, he does have $15 billion in net worth to dry those tears.
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

'Spring' Reawakening
By Helen Thomas

The world is witnessing a revival of the Egyptian revolution and listening to the demands of a disappointed people. The protesters who are part of this Arab Spring have told the world they have power. The Occupy Wall Street protesters heard the message, too: People have power.

They declare on their website, "We are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants. ... The only solution is World Revolution."

The world is not only watching the fight for democracy in the Middle East and Africa, but this spirit of people power is contagious.

The Syrian people are seeking democracy, revolting against the government of Bashar al-Assad after some 30 years of one-man rule by al-Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, who killed some 10,000 people in Hama alone, and put his son on the throne.

For the brutal Syrian leader to try to hold back the dawn is incredible. He was another anointed by his father alone. He has seen the fate of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but he is still using the fire power of his military regime to kill and destroy.

He is truly a disgrace to Syria, which had great and early roots in fighting against French occupation in the 1920s, and an outstanding legacy in fighting for freedom and independence.

Now Egypt, whose Tahrir Square was the site of a once peaceful revolution that began nine months ago, is again in upheaval.

The revolt in Egypt has turned bloody - more so than the first revolution which ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak - because the interim government has tear gassed the protesters and killed many, although in many attacks rubber bullets were used.

Egyptians who threw out the Mubarak regime are up in arms over the new military rulers. The complaints in Egypt have been that there have been no changes and no reforms. The rebels are saying "nothing has changed."

The struggle spans Egypt, not just in Tahrir Square's home city of Cairo, but in Alexandria as well.

As one Egyptian put it, the revolt leaders are against the interim ruling government, which has disappointed them. As a result of the second revolt, the Egyptian cabinet has resigned.

The biggest problem is that the Egyptian military have tried to hijack the revolution and sieze power. The wary people are not about to be subjected by Mubarak holdovers again.

In the Egyptian street, protestors are demanding "freedom, justice and human dignity." They are seeking the principles of democracy.

As usual, the White House is urging "restraint" on both sides. Otherwise, the U.S. is not helpful.

The protesters are manifested by anger and frustration. They now realize their power to challenge the powers that be - whoever they are. The people are no longer afraid.

The Egyptians have learned the lessons of the past. History shows that revolutions are often lost to one-man dictators who grab power. Fortunately, America has remained true to its constitutional concepts of the rule of law and the rights of man, dating back to the Magna Carta.

Egyptians are expected to elect a parliament next week and a president in August 2012, if the army doesn't intervene - the military has ruled Egypt for the last 60 years.

Hopefully, the Arab world will fulfill its dreams of freedom - a dream that has taken too many sacrifices. The world should be rejoicing that people who have known oppression for so long are throwing off their chains.
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Telling The Truth Can Now Be Treason
By James Donahue

It seems that the bill that President Barack Obama just signed, extending the Patriot Act for another four years, contained a few pages designed to block whistleblowers and journalists from spilling the beans about the misdeeds of high government and military officials.

This is being revealed on the Internet in a well circulated report by Susan Lindaner, a former news reporter, researcher for U. S. News and World Report, and press secretary and speech writer for Senator Carol Braun of Illinois.

Lindaner also is the author of "Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover-Ups of 9-11 and Iraq." In the book tells how she was personally jailed on charges of acting as an agent for the Iraqi Intelligence Service after she attempted to warn President George W. Bush and his staff that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

Lindaner also claims to have had foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks but was unable to get officials in high government office to act on it. In her Internet article, Lindaner says the Patriot Act is "a law that equates free speech with sedition. It's got a big agenda with 7,000 pages of Machiavellian code designed to interrupt individual questioning of government policy.

"In this brave new world, free speech under the Bill of Rights, effectively has been declared a threat to government controls for maintaining stability." She charges that the act "has become the premiere weapon to attack whistle blowers and dissidents who challenge the comfort of political leaders hiding inconvenient truths from the public. It's all a rage on Capitol Hill, as leaders strive to score TV ratings, while demagogging their 'outstanding leadership performance' on everything from national security to environmental policy." In a nutshell, Lindaner warns that because of the Patriot Act, the act of telling the truth may now be declared treason. The artificial War on Terror, a declaration of war against a vague enemy lacking both nationality and face, now has produced a government policy that allows presidents, cabinet members, elected legislators, military generals and all other high ranking officials to hide whatever they choose behind the cloak of national security.

This may explain why investigative journalism has all but disappeared in the United States. Our nightly televised news broadcasts are limited to disasters, spectacular events, feature fluff and political handouts received by the Washington Press Corps. Even the once strong-hitting television news magazines like CBS's 60-Minutes and ABC's 20-20 have lost the punch they once had.

In the place of truth has risen the new phenomenon of conspiracy theories. A suspicious band of Internet writers, collectively piecing together tid-bits of information that doesn't fit the "official" story handed out by our government, has been generating theories as to what may have really happened.

We fear the Internet theorists may be getting closer to the truth than historians will ever tell. As long as it stands, the Patriot Act will see to that.
(c) 2011 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, right, and Police Chief
Charlie Beck survey the park after members of Occupy Lose Angeles
were successfully cleared out their camp by more than 1,400 police
officers in riot gear at City Hall early Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.

You Can Arrest On Idea
By Robert Scheer

The bankers slept well. Their homes in Beverly Hills were not spotlighted by a noisy swarm of police helicopters, searchlights burning through the sanctity of the night, harassing the forlorn City Hall encampment of those who dared protest the banks' seizure of our government. I live within sight of the iconic Los Angeles City Hall, and at first I thought it was being used once again as a movie location, given the massive police presence, as if an alien invasion was being thwarted.

Not eager to test the resilience of my new heart valve, I hesitated until the first crack of dawn to visit the place where former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and I had spoken weeks before at a teach-in on the origins of the economic crisis. I described the scene back then as a Jeffersonian moment, exactly the kind of peaceful assembly to redress grievances that the Founders of our nation enshrined in the Bill of Rights. But at 5 a.m. Wednesday there was only a graveyard of democratic hope. The protesters were gone, 200 arrested for exercising their constitutional rights, and only the television crews stayed to pick over the carcass of tents, books and posters, including one I pulled from the debris that read "99% you can't arrest an idea." Actually, you can, and the bankers have, as a result, been able to reoccupy Los Angeles' City Hall and every other contested outpost of power throughout the nation.

The liberal Democratic mayor, a past president of the Southern California ACLU, was pleased with the efficiency of the "community policing" approach of his police department. "I said that here in L.A. we'd chart a different path, and we did," Antonio Villaraigosa boasted. However, the result was the same as elsewhere; the bankers were protected from the scorn they so richly deserve and there will no longer be a visible monument to the pain that they have caused. To ensure a pristine, amoral town square, huge concrete-anchored fences were quickly installed to prevent further access to the public space surrounding City Hall.

Of course the traditional cardboard encampments of the homeless three blocks away, a sprawling and constant feature of life in downtown Los Angeles, remained undisturbed. Sanitation and safety issues are of no concern as long as such manifestations of deep societal inequality are so far from the corridors of power as to be, in effect, invisible.

Such profound contradictions in the application of state power seemed not at all to bother the first wave of government workers arriving at the various local, state and federal office buildings. I lined up with some of the early birds at the employee entrance to City Hall-the closed public entrance had a forbidding police presence-and told the guard that I was there with a literary offering for the mayor, whom I have long known.

My gesture was quite pathetic. I brought him a copy of my book "The Great American Stickup," which he had once claimed to have read and admired, to remind him that he should be arresting the real criminals rather than the victims of their financial swindles. For a confirmation of that point, I also intended to present the mayor with the transcript of U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff's ruling this week rejecting the sweetheart deal between the SEC and Citigroup. The settlement, one of dozens like it offered to the banks, would have let Citigroup off the hook for a pittance in fines in return for closing cases involving immense corruption on the part of the bankers, who would not have to admit guilt for their crimes.

And crimes they clearly are, far beyond the scope of pitching a tent in a public park. As Judge Rakoff stated, the Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Citigroup with "a substantial securities fraud" in the sale of a billion dollars' worth of toxic securities that were designed to fail and which the bank had bet against. Rakoff, who has handled a number of these cases, complained that Citigroup, like the other major banks, is a recidivist. Citigroup had already paid fines for four similar scams. The judge observed that "although this would appear tantamount to an allegation of knowing and fraudulent intent, the SEC, for reasons of its own, chose to charge Citigroup only with negligence" despite the far more serious charges called for in securities law.

The failure of the SEC or any other government agency to hold the banks accountable provides the essential justification for citizen action of the sort the Occupy movement has offered. In his concluding summary, Rakoff stated: "Finally, in any case like this that touches on the transparency of financial markets whose gyrations have so depressed our economy and debilitated our lives, there is an overriding public interest in knowing the truth. In much of the world, propaganda reigns, and truth is confined to secretive, fearful whispers. Even in our nation, apologists for suppressing or obscuring the truth may always be found."

Count the liberal mayor of Los Angeles, a man I have respected and voted for, as one of those apologists for suppressing truth in the name of civic order. As I meekly allowed myself to be ordered about by the police clearing the area so that the concrete barriers could be installed, I wondered whether I had not been reduced to the status of a fearful whisperer.
(c) 2011 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Occupation Evicted? Occupy The Place Responsible: DC
By David Swanson

Has the First Amendment expired in your public square? Has your local park prioritized empty vistas over the right to petition your government for a redress of grievances, thereby adding one more grievance to the list?

Here's a proposal. Pack up all of your grievances in a bag and bring them to where the government responsible is located. Move your protest and yourself and as much of your Occupy community as you can bring with you to Freedom Plaza - - or McPherson Square - - in Washington, D.C. You need not bring anything else. Together we can keep the DC occupations sheltered and fed and supplied with resources.

A national movement with local encampments has begun to change the culture. That should not end. Local encampments have begun to build community, to model democratic decision making, to aid the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless, and to develop a culture of resistance in quiescent corners of the land. All of that should continue.

But while we're helping a handful of homeless people, while we're offering assistance to a dozen veterans, while we're antagonizing city councils that didn't create this mess, our senators and misrepresentatives in Washington, D.C., are dumping another $682.5 billion into wars and weapons, with presidential power to imprison anyone without charge or trial forever and ever thrown on top of the Defense Authorization Act like a cherry on a sunday.

While we're educating our neighbors on the need for affordable housing, the Federal Reserve is pulling seven trillion - with a t - dollars out of its posterior and giving it to the banks responsible for the housing crisis. While we're making sacrifices to advance a national movement to place people ahead of profits, the United States Congress is preparing massive cuts to Medicare, children's nutrition, crumbling bridges, and national parks, plus "security" cuts that will largely avoid even scratching a military budget five times larger than that of the next most militarized nation on earth, even as the U.S. military works overtime to antagonize Pakistan, China, Iran, and much of the world.

I know Washington, D.C., is far away. But I saw New Yorkers arrive there last week by foot. And there are trains, planes, and automobiles available for the less ambitious. And I guarantee you that your local activists will raise a fund to send you to the heart of our darkness. Here's why.

Violating our First Amendment rights, beating us with sticks, pepper spraying us, tear-gassing us, and arresting us, and thereby intimidating many more of us in other cities that have only had to resort to mild suggestions and threats: these are criminal acts. These would be the outrage constantly on the lips of every president, senator, and cabinet secretary if they were taking place in Iran. These crimes are taking place in our own country, and this trend will increase if it is not effectively resisted and challenged. The place to bring that challenge - or one key place, anyway - is the U.S. Justice Department and the government it serves in Washington.

Don't talk to me about the "question" of whether there has "really" been federal coordination of these assaults. There has been federal U.S. provision of the weaponry to our cities as to the enemies of our brothers and sisters in Egypt. There has been federal training in the militarization of the police in our towns and on our university campuses. There has been federal toleration of outrages that shame our nation in the eyes of the world.

There is another threat to the Occupy movement, however. Beyond the cold weather, beyond the police assaults, beyond the challenges of caring for people in need who are attracted to encampments of those who care, there is the threat of co-option, of normalization, of de-radicalizing something radical. The power of the Occupy movement lies in the fact that it is not speaking for half of a corrupt plutocracy against the other half. Bringing people's demands to the government must continue to be just that, an effort of independent people to challenge the government as a whole, along with the society as a whole, to change. The two political parties move together, and far more important than squinting hard enough to detect differences between them is the fundamental work of pushing both of them in a better direction. You can still cherish your hopes that one of them will move a bit more in the direction of decency than the other, but none of us can sit out this drive to put basic fairness and equality on the agenda in a way that has already been shown to be more effective than partisanship.

By taking our demands to Washington, we must not neglect our local work, much less the efforts targeted at Wall Street in New York. But when you protest the empowerment of corporations, the concentration of wealth, and the advancement of the war economy at the expense of our environment and security, it is important to ask whether the chief levers for changing our public policy are in your town or on the shores of the Potomac in the Pentagon, in the K Street lobby firms, in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in the White House, and on Capitol Hill. Every type of work in this movement is appreciated, from your local street corner, from your house, or from wherever you can contribute it. But you should know that there is an open invitation and a camp site awaiting you in the imperial capital.

I leave you with a parable:

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they appeared on every network lamenting his lack of clear demands or legislation and his failure to join forces with the Democratic Party.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Ask the Candidates Real Questions - Like These
By Ray McGovern

Pity the pundits. It must be hard to pretend to be a journalist and live in constant fear of being one question or comment away from joining the jobless.

This Thanksgiving holiday weekend we can be thankful for the obscene transparency of the "mainstream" pundits' efforts to avoid at all cost offending the corporations that own and use them.

Rather, media personalities who wish to be around for a while must do what they can to promote the notion of American exceptionalism and the need to sacrifice at home in order to defend and expand the Empire - "so that we don't have to fight them here."

From a global perspective looking back a few decades, it is hard to believe that major powers like China and Russia were fiercely competing with each other for improved relations with the U.S., and that we were able to play one off against the other to advance America's interests.

They are now laughing at us - smiling at how far we have outreached ourselves in our attempts to project power and corner the world market.

It is, actually, hard to believe: Marines now stationed in Australia, which our national security experts apparently believe is near China (well, kind of near); U.S. troops now in Africa where there's still a lot of untapped oil; U.S threats to use a "military option" against Iran.

And the coup de grace: the feckless effort to build anti-ballistic missile defense systems that can defeat all countermeasures - the U.S. defense-industrial project that has long been one of the most expensive and lucrative corporate welfare programs.

Check out the breaking story, which brings still more good news for the military-industrial complex: Russia is threatening to defeat American missile defense systems in Europe, absent a bilateral agreement regulating them. And so, it's back to the drawing board and then the production line in the quixotic search for technical systems that cannot be countered. Is this a great country for weapons researchers and manufacturers, or what?

The pundits will explain, and our diplomats will try to convince others, particularly incredulous Europeans, that such defense systems are needed to defend against an eventual missile threat from Iran, which our national security gurus believe to be near Europe (well, kind of near).

All this at a time when one out of three children in America live in poverty. Our Fawning Corporate Media (FCM), substantially owned and operated by the arms makers, war profiteers and their friends, does what it can to disguise this, as well as other grim statistics.

Be thankful, say the One Percent. Relax already. After all, even poor children - or most of them, anyhow - can watch football on TV and be enticed by heroic advertisements to join the military or some other part of the national security apparatus. Thus, maybe they can qualify for a credit card that enables them to shop like crazy on Black Friday and on future Black Fridays.

To further buck up national morale, our TV networks can be counted on to carry the usual orgy of flag-waving "God-bless-America" renditions - accompanied by those explicit and implicit tutorials on American exceptionalism, expressed with jet-fighter flyovers and cutaways to U.S. troops "defending our freedoms" in Afghanistan and other faraway places.

The message from the One Percent - the ultra-wealthy whom Republican lawmakers are fond of lauding as the "job creators" - was that ALL of you must be grateful this Thanksgiving holiday, including the ungrateful Ninety-Nine Percent, some of whom are grumbling about inequities at "Occupy" protests around the country.

Ask Real Questions

Is there a medicine for this infection of militarism, consumerism and mindless politics? I think there is, but only if we all do our part. We need to find ways to raise the kinds of questions that FCM pundits and journalists avoid like the plague. Go to the rallies, the press conferences, the campaign speeches; press for cogent answers to the real questions.

That's what I'm going to try to do in the coming weeks and months. Here are three lines of questioning I think we might try to pursue with the candidates themselves. You may wish to try them out yourselves and/or devise your own. I include below the three questions, supplemented by background and potential lead-ins:


Question 1

Background: The aims of U.S. foreign policy in the post-World War II period were essentially to enforce a global system in which the Western powers under American leadership would maintain global dominance. This essentially meant being in control of the world's resources at the expense of non-Western nations.

This fundamental objective of U.S. foreign policy in the post-war period shines through with bare-knuckled candor in a TOP SECRET policy document written by George Kennan in February 1948. He was head of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, and this was its first memorandum. Here is an excerpt:

"We have about 50 per cent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 per cent of its population. ... Our real task in the coming period is to maintain this position of disparity. ... To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming. ... We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford the luxury of altruism. ... We should cease to talk about vague, unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we will have to deal in straight power concepts."
Lead-in: Five years after approval of the basic policy aim of controlling more than our share of "the world's wealth," the policy was implemented by throwing millions of dollars at the CIA to overthrow the democratically elected leader of Iran. You see, Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh had the revolutionary, unacceptable notion that more of the profits from Iranian oil should stay in Iran for the Iranian people and not simply go to oil giants like the predecessor of British Petroleum (BP).

The Question: Do you think we had a right to overthrow the leader of Iran in 1953? And would you again give millions of dollars to the CIA to overthrow the Iranian government under your presidency?


Question 2

Background: Further on Iran: During the Dec. 5, 2006, Senate hearing on the nomination of Robert Gates to be Secretary of Defense, he was questioned by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., about the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and the threat to Israel if it did. Gates said that he believed Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons and was lying when it said it wasn't.

However, amazingly, Gates added that Iran's motivation was largely self-defense. Sen. Graham asked:

"Do you believe the Iranians would consider using that nuclear weapons capability against the nation of Israel?"

Gates replied:

"I don't know that they would do that, Senator. ... And I think that, while they are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for nuclear capability, I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf."

This remarkably candid reply explains Iran's possible motive in seeking nuclear weapons as deterrence against aggression by nuclear powers in the region, including Israel and the United States. In other words, according to Gates, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons in the first instance" to prevent others from attacking it, rather than to attack other states - like Israel.

This comes close to saying that the U.S. should be able to live with a nuclear-armed Iran (and Israel should be able to as well). And, remember, all this talk is properly put in the subjunctive mood. It remains a very big IF; namely, on whether or not the Iranian leaders opt to go for a nuclear weapon.

We were formally reminded last March that the jury is still out on this key question. James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, testified to Congress that the intelligence community judges that Iran has not yet made that decision. So, despite all the current media hype regarding Iran's nuclear program, there remains some reason to hope against hype, so to speak.

In the above reply, Gates also acknowledged what U.S. officials officially seek to obfuscate: that Israel has nuclear weapons. Remember, at the time of his confirmation hearing, Gates had already served as CIA director and held other senior national security position in several administrations.

He had been around long enough both to know the details of Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal and the longstanding U.S. policy NOT to acknowledge that Israel has nukes. That policy was designed to have the double benefit of not undermining Israel's policy of studied ambiguity on the issue and of not requiring the U.S. to take a position for or against Israel's possession of nuclear weapons and its refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed.

America's supposedly "objective" FCM also readily puts on the blinders when focusing on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program and simultaneously ignoring Israel's real one. The truth is that there are no U.N. weapons inspectors crawling into crevices in Israel, as they regularly do in Iran.

Lead-in to question: A portion of intelligence funding goes to support intelligence analysis. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates worked in the analysis part of the CIA. [Actually, as an apprentice analyst 40 years ago, he worked in the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch that I led. His portfolio was Soviet policy toward the Middle East.]

Fast-forward 35 years to Dec. 5, 2006, when the Senate held a one-day hearing on Gates's nomination to become Secretary of Defense. When Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Gates whether he thought the Iranians would consider a nuclear attack on Israel, Gates answered [as already mentioned above]:

"I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf."

This is tell-it-like-it-is intelligence analysis [which exceeded my hopes as his erstwhile mentor]. It even included matter-of-fact mention of Israel's nuclear capability, which President Barack Obama himself has refused to acknowledge. When Helen Thomas pressed the issue at Obama's inaugural press conference (Feb. 9, 2009), the President awkwardly ducked the question, explaining he did not want to "speculate."

The Question: Do you agree with Mr. Gates that Iran would see a nuclear capability "in the first instance as a deterrent?" And how many nuclear weapons do Western experts believe Israel has? President Carter has said 150, but that was some time ago.

A Follow-up: Let's assume Iran does get a nuclear weapon: Do you think it would commit suicide by firing it off in the direction of Israel?


Question 3

Background and Lead-In: This question deals with torture, an issue that has been given new life recently, with more and more Republican presidential candidates speaking in favor of it. We have surely come a long way since Virginia patriot Patrick Henry insisted passionately that "the rack and the screw," as he put it, were barbaric practices that had to be left behind in the Old World, or we are "lost and undone."

The Question: On Sept. 6, 2006, Gen. John Kimmons, then head of Army intelligence told reporters at the Pentagon, in unmistakable language: "No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that." Gen. Kimmons knew that President George W. Bush had decided to claim publicly, just two hours later on the same day, that the "alternative set of procedures" for interrogation - methods that Bush had approved, like water-boarding - were effective. Whom do you think we should believe: President Bush? Or Gen. Kimmons?
(c) 2011 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Things To Tax
By Paul Krugman

The supercommittee was a superdud - and we should be glad. Nonetheless, at some point we'll have to rein in budget deficits. And when we do, here's a thought: How about making increased revenue an important part of the deal?

And I don't just mean a return to Clinton-era tax rates. Why should 1990s taxes be considered the outer limit of revenue collection? Think about it: The long-run budget outlook has darkened, which means that some hard choices must be made. Why should those choices only involve spending cuts? Why not also push some taxes above their levels in the 1990s?

Let me suggest two areas in which it would make a lot of sense to raise taxes in earnest, not just return them to pre-Bush levels: taxes on very high incomes and taxes on financial transactions.

About those high incomes: In my last column I suggested that the very rich, who have had huge income gains over the last 30 years, should pay more in taxes. I got many responses from readers, with a common theme being that this was silly, that even confiscatory taxes on the wealthy couldn't possibly raise enough money to matter.

Folks, you're living in the past. Once upon a time America was a middle-class nation, in which the super-elite's income was no big deal. But that was another country.

The I.R.S. reports that in 2007, that is, before the economic crisis, the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers - roughly speaking, people with annual incomes over $2 million - had a combined income of more than a trillion dollars. That's a lot of money, and it wouldn't be hard to devise taxes that would raise a significant amount of revenue from those super-high-income individuals.

For example, a recent report by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center points out that before 1980 very-high-income individuals fell into tax brackets well above the 35 percent top rate that applies today. According to the center's analysis, restoring those high-income brackets would have raised $78 billion in 2007, or more than half a percent of G.D.P. I've extrapolated that number using Congressional Budget Office projections, and what I get for the next decade is that high-income taxation could shave more than $1 trillion off the deficit.

It's instructive to compare that estimate with the savings from the kinds of proposals that are actually circulating in Washington these days. Consider, for example, proposals to raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67, dealing a major blow to millions of Americans. How much money would that save?

Well, none from the point of view of the nation as a whole, since we would be pushing seniors out of Medicare and into private insurance, which has substantially higher costs. True, it would reduce federal spending - but not by much. The budget office estimates that outlays would fall by only $125 billion over the next decade, as the age increase phased in. And even when fully phased in, this partial dismantling of Medicare would reduce the deficit only about a third as much as could be achieved with higher taxes on the very rich.

So raising taxes on the very rich could make a serious contribution to deficit reduction. Don't believe anyone who claims otherwise.

And then there's the idea of taxing financial transactions, which have exploded in recent decades. The economic value of all this trading is dubious at best. In fact, there's considerable evidence suggesting that too much trading is going on. Still, nobody is proposing a punitive tax. On the table, instead, are proposals like the one recently made by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Peter DeFazio for a tiny fee on financial transactions.

And here's the thing: Because there are so many transactions, such a fee could yield several hundred billion dollars in revenue over the next decade. Again, this compares favorably with the savings from many of the harsh spending cuts being proposed in the name of fiscal responsibility.

But wouldn't such a tax hurt economic growth? As I said, the evidence suggests not - if anything, it suggests that to the extent that taxing financial transactions reduces the volume of wheeling and dealing, that would be a good thing.

And it's instructive, too, to note that some countries already have financial transactions taxes - and that among those who do are Hong Kong and Singapore. If some conservative starts claiming that such taxes are an unwarranted government intrusion, you might want to ask him why such taxes are imposed by the two countries that score highest on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom.

Now, the tax ideas I've just mentioned wouldn't be enough, by themselves, to fix our deficit. But the same is true of proposals for spending cuts. The point I'm making here isn't that taxes are all we need; it is that they could and should be a significant part of the solution.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
~~~ Mark Twain

"The Degree To Which You Resist Is The Degree To Which You Are Free."
By Phil Rockstroh

I've noticed a meme beginning to fester among liberal insiders who are positing that the Occupy Wall Street movement is starting to "distract" the citizenry from the wicked machinations of Republicans of the legislative class.


The OWS movement is not a distraction from—but serves as an alternative to—the disingenuous theatrics staged by the political hacks of this faux republic. Conversely, movement members have grasped that it is the hollow grandstanding--the modus operandi of the present U.S. political system itself--that serves as distraction from the realities of the day.

Those drawn to the OWS movement realize this: Vast sums of money are required to get the attention of and gain influence over the entrenched class of self-serving political insiders who hustle their wares in Washington, D.C.

Year after year, election cycle after election cycle, Washington's political class has revealed whose interests it serves. Accordingly, let the 1% and their political operatives continue on their present myopic, self-serving, society-decimating course: By doing so, they will just bring more outraged people into the streets and hasten their own undoing. <> Yet, because arrogant power, girded by duplicity and ruthlessly maintained, does not yield without a fight, we should expect more of the following:

Stories are circulating that Clark, Lytle, Geduldig & Cranford, a well-connected Washington lobbying firm, with ties to the financial industry, have floated a $850,000 plan to pillory Occupy Wall Street. This should not come as a surprise. Living in a society dominated by the power of massive corporations, and the inequitable wealth these self-perpetuating organizations have at their disposal, we will be relentlessly subjected to the narratives they generate.

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." ~~~ Steve Biko

Since birth, most of us have been enveloped by the consumer state's commercial hologram. Almost every daily act we perform and attitude we evince is in some measure determined by the dictates, demands and the incessant, commercial come-ons (the defacto propaganda) of the corporate state e.g. from what time you rise in the morning, to the food you eat, to what you clothe yourself in, to how you spend your days, to what time you go to sleep at night, to what stories you are audience to--the cultural myths you have internalized--by means of mass media saturation, to the manner you celebrate festivals and holidays, to how your illnesses and of those around you will play-out, even the circumstances of how you will approach and succumb to your death.

Because these are the waters in which we swim, most will accept societal and cultural circumstances as a given...believing, for example, that when they posit a political utterance that the opinion expressed has been formed exclusively of their own mind, by the exercise of free will.

Accordingly, a large percent of the populace of the U.S. believes consumerism is a form of freedom...that the exercise thereof mainly involves being at liberty to trundle to a mall and be in possession of the right to choose between a big-ass cookie or a giant Cinnabon...that freedom of choice is expressed by over-priced running shoes--or security can be found in a massive SUV.

In this manner, the propaganda campaigns of the corporate/national security state have proven effective at promoting and perpetuating the inequitable status quo in place at the present time. Do not underestimate the well-rewarded, professional con men employed in the criminal enterprise known as "public relations." Remember, these masters of deceit sell wars, fought by the poor, in which, the underclass kill and die for the profits of a ruthless few. War is a money train for the rich and connected but a death wagon for the rest of humankind.

Ready yourself to be buffeted by a barrage of virtual reality blunderbuss--volley after volley of mainstream media launched Big Lies--and the ground fire of social media small distortions. Don't walk unarmed into the line of fire.

Remember this: Most likely, the corporate state has, to some degree, colonized your mind, as it is well on its way to destroying the ecosystem of the entire planet.

Conversely, let your soul occupy you. While there might be an ongoing effort to scour Liberty Park of liberty, they cannot do likewise to your heart without your consent. Turn the tables on them: Evict the corporate occupiers from the public realm within--as all the while, you challenge propaganda whenever it crosses your path...on the streets, at your workplace, at family gatherings, and on social media-- because a lie left unchallenged begins to be accepted as truth. And worse, invades, colonizes and exploits (and often kills) a portion of the soul of the world.

Importantly, do not underestimate the ruthless nature of calcified power.

Regarding the subject: On Thursday, Nov. 17, near Foley Square, there was blood on Broadway. At the scene, I witnessed thuggish, NYPD motorcycle cops driving directly into groups of peaceful demonstrators, with the intent of antagonizing those gathered, and when people stood their ground and refused to be bullied--then phalanxes of blue shirt bastards, swinging nightsticks, waded into the crowd.

Even with my wife, tugging at the back of my jacket, attempting to tow, as we say down south, my narrow ass away from the direction of injury or jail, I could not contain my outrage; I growled at a smirking cop, gloating over the carnage, "just keep it up, you mindless thug, when you get folks angry enough, the boot just might be on the other neck...namely yours."

In hindsight, in my own defense: Being on scene and witnessing peaceful people attacked and brutalized, one is apt to become seized by rage.

But what is the mayor of New York City and his Police Commissioner's excuse?

Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelley and the ranks of NYPD have proven themselves willing to barricade and checkpoint the city into opposed to enduring ongoing moments of freedom of assembly and free expression.

And this is why we must not retreat. Their tactics of repression are very expensive to the city budget, and money is the only thing they love.

Hence, they have, in turn, provided us with a tactic we can use; we can hit them where they feel it. (Conversely, they can take blow after blow to their dignity--because they are devoid of that character trait.)

The ground is shifting below our feet and this phenomenon involves more than the echoing footfalls of marchers and the trudging of militarized formations of riot cops on city streets worldwide.

The first vibrations, closer to tremors, transpired because the ground below us has been fracked of dreams...the void engendered seismological activity. Now, from Cairo, Egypt's Tahrir Square to Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece to Liberty Park, in New York, New York to Oscar Grant Park, in Oakland, California, we have become like tuning forks, in sympatico with the resonances of the tormented earth.

Subsequently, the walls of the neoliberal prison are cracking...We are no longer isolated, enclosed in our alienation, imprisoned by a concretized sense of powerlessness; daylight is beginning to pierce the darkness of our desolate cells.

"The state can't give you freedom, and the state can't take it away. You're born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free." ~~~ Utah Phillips
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.


Occupy Movement: Next Step Convergence
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

There is a growing convergence of thinking about where the US Occupy movement should go as a next step to turning its values, concerns and commitments into changing what most Americans see as broken government under control of corporate interests. When it comes to political and social movements, history shows us that they usually fail not because they disappear, but rather because they become marginalized, unimportant despite a core group of committed people and groups.

They lose popular appeal and support or never expand beyond a small early group of supporters. The nation and many supporters move on. Other movements grab the interest of the most informed, dissident-type people seeking truth, justice or change. A good example of such a failed contemporary movement is the 911 truth effort. The groups, websites and true believers keep on pushing their objectives a decade after the historic event. But the goal of revealing what really happened that the official government story does not divulge is like a moldy piece of forgotten food in the refrigerator.

Movement death by inattention happens despite good resources, charismatic leaders and even great organization and communication skills. Critical mass of public support simply never materializes, in large measure because diverse segments of the population never buy into the central arguments of the movement. The Internet is littered with websites of activist groups that persist despite clear evidence of decay and wide disinterest. True believers have a mission in life tied to their egos that prevent them from admitting defeat. They do not move on.

The biggest mistake that passionate advocates for a cause make is overestimating their ability to reach critical mass and underestimating the competition of other movements with greater appeal which rob them of both attention and supporters.

Make no mistake; I totally and enthusiastically support the Occupy movement because it offers the prospect of producing reforms to fix our broken government and attracting very wide public support for a nonviolent Second American Revolution. What worries me, however, is that many of its participants seem over confident, as if they cannot fail. On the other hand, I have become impressed by a convergence of thinking about what the next big step for the Occupy movement can and should be. I will briefly identify examples of this convergent thinking.

Canadian author Erich Koch has written a compelling article: An Objective for the U.S. Occupy Movement: A Constitutional Convention. He buys into the view that the Occupy movement could embrace the thinking of Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig who has presented the case for amendments to fix Congress. Like others Koch is correct in saying that "No one in the movement would disagree with its main point: the fundamental problem is the corruption of Congress." Unlike others, Koch recognizes the path for obtaining reform constitutional amendments is using the provision in Article V for a convention of state delegates, having the same power as Congress in proposing amendments that still must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. It has never been used despite many hundreds of state requests for a convention because, clearly, Congress and most status quo forces fear such a convention.

Koch cited a great article by Alesh Houdek: Has a Harvard Professor Mapped Out the Next Step for Occupy Wall Street? Most is a review of Lessig's book. Correctly noted about using the convention option is "it bypasses the usual means of reform (Congress, presidential elections, etc.) which the lobbyists and other interested parties have learned so well to manipulate. And lastly, such a convention would be free to propose solutions that would otherwise be subject to be stricken as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court." This is critical to understand. Houdek concludes: "Properly presented, the strategies and aims of Lessig's book could make it the handbook the protesters have been looking for -- and provide a pathway for them to ride out the winter ahead."

Dan Froomkin also has presented the same case in: Lawrence Lessig's New Book On Political Corruption Offers Protesters A Possible Manifesto. He quoted what Lessig himself had said in an article about the Occupy movement and the concern that I share, namely that the Occupy movement "will become too diffuse and not focused" on the root issue of corruption of government. And that the movement will only grow "if a wide range of people can be part of it." This requires coalescing around an issue "as fundamental as the corruption of the system." Only a constitutional amendment can fix the corrupting impact of money in politics. This is also the focus of Dylan Ratigan's fine effort, except that the use of the convention path has not been emphasized.

A specific call for an Article V convention was made by the pro-Occupy US Day of Rage group: "We are organizing a coordinated national campaign at local and state levels, including where necessary the occupation of state capitols, in order to demand an article V constitutional convention be called to restore representative democracy to our nation." A set of specific reforms to be fix the corruption-money problem are presented.

The 99 Percent Declaration group has also presented an important statement centered on the call for a National General Assembly, where delegates would formulate a petition of a list of grievances that would be delivered to the main parts of the federal government on behalf of 99 percent of Americans. A suggested list of grievances includes the need for constitutional amendments to achieve solutions, but only for a few of the issues. Not explicitly acknowledged, however, is that constitutional amendments, not ordinary laws, would be necessary for other solutions, such as term limits for Congress and abandoning the Electoral College. Moreover, there is no specific recognition that serious amendment reforms will not be proposed by Congress, and that an Article V convention is needed. Inattention to method was also the shortcoming of a similar list of solutions by Ralph Lopez.

Author Scott Turow has presented: How Occupy Wall Street Can Restore Clout of the 99%. His recommendation to the Occupy movement is "work across the nation for a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to regulate the expenditure of private money on elections. ... The best antidote to this imbalance of income and influence would be to greatly reduce the role of private funding in our elections. ...As for the Occupy Wall Street movement, it has been criticized by some for not having a realistic agenda, even though polling shows that millions of Americans, including me, are sympathetic to the basic message of the protests." His prescription: "rally around a single goal and reinvigorate their movement." Fine, but missing from his analysis is the recognition that Congress will never propose reform amendments, only an Article V convention will do the job.

This sampling of recent writings clearly shows convergent thinking that the Occupy movement can and should focus on key reform constitutional amendments and, second, that some better informed critical thinkers recognize, this requires advocacy for using the Article V convention option that Congress has refused to honor.

As to Occupy movement success, I want again to emphasize that there is always competition for the attention and support of concerned Americans who recognize how broken our system is. In particular, the well financed Americans Elect effort is impressive. Because it is offering an alternative path to nominating a presidential candidate in 2012, over 2 million Americans have already signed up to be delegates for a web convention, with millions more very likely as the mainstream media keeps giving this effort attention. The Get Money Out campaign has over 250,000 signatories.

Disgust with the two-party plutocracy is surely shared by Occupy participants and supporters. But for movement success based on enticing many millions of Americans, the Occupy movement cannot ignore competition such as Americans Elect. This means that the Occupy movement must explicitly start making the case to the broad public why their effort can achieve more of what is needed. This is easily done.

Here are some key concepts that the Occupy movement could use. No matter who is nominated by Americans Elect, the odds are that either the better financed Democrat or Republican candidate will win the presidency. This may just require spending even more millions of dollars on campaigns. And whoever is nominated by the group will likely be strongly linked to one of the two major parties, rather than some courageous reformer and enemy of the status quo. Moreover, this group does not offer a realistic path to getting the key reforms of the system that most of us see critically needed, such as constitutional amendments, already recognized by many Occupy supporters.

A sign of trouble for the Occupy movement is a recent national poll that found: "In the latest survey, 33 percent voiced support for Occupy Wall Street, down from 35 percent in a previous poll, while opposition to the movement climbed from 36 percent to 45 percent. Twenty-two percent were unsure." These results are worse than earlier polls. From the left, Chris Bowers commented: "the decline in Occupy Wall Street's image is probably more connected to the increasingly negative coverage of the clashes between protesters and police than it is to declining support for movement's message." Now is the time to move the message from what is wrong to solutions, using an Occupy Congress approach. Otherwise, this view from the conservative right might prevail: "OWS will linger ... but I'd argue we've seen the movement's high tide. It will now recede into a mere annoying shadow of itself as support is withdrawn by political figures and organizations."

True, Occupy movement success is not inevitable. The movement must better define what success means and how it can be achieved if it is to attract and keep the support of many millions of Americans. It needs specificity for its solutions that ordinary Americans can relate to. Never underestimate the power and commitment of status quo forces to maintain control over the political, government and economic system that has so harmed most Americans. The fight against the Occupy movement mostly seen as local police violence against peaceful demonstrators and protesters as well disinformation from some news outlets and pundits are nothing compared to what could be mounted if the movement is viewed as more threatening to the status quo delusional democracy with its delusional prosperity.
(c) 2011 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Dead Letter Office...

Carl gives the Corpo-rat salute.

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Levin,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your new law destroying the 5th amendment to the US Constitution, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 12-31-2011. We salute you Herr Levin, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Wisconsin Recall Drive Surpasses 300,000 Signatures
By John Nichols

The petition drive to recall and remove Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has surpassed all expectations in its first two weeks, collecting more than 300,000 signatures.

The truly remarkably thing about the total so far is not, however, that it is so large.

What is truly remarkable is where the signatures are coming from: rural and small-town Wisconsin communities are contributing disproportionally high numbers of signatures to the total.

No one, not even the most concerned critic of Governor Walker's assault on collective bargaining rights, expected the recall campaign would move as quickly as it has.

No one expected United Wisconsin's recall drive to gather more than half the required signatures in less than two weeks of petitioning. No one expected whole counties to reach their signature goals in the first week. No one expected conservative communities in Republican regions of the state to take the lead in collecting recall signatures against a Republican governor.

But it is happening.

Wisconsin has one of the highest thresholds in the nation for recalling statewide officials. Citizens must gather signatures equaling 25 percent of the turnout in the previous gubernatorial election. That's a baseline requirement of 540,000 signatures. And they must be collected in just 60 days. (Of course, to avoid challenges, a "cushion" of additional signatures is needed.)

In California -- the last state where a governor was successfully recalled -- citizens only had to gather signatures equaling 12 percent of the turnout in the last election, and they had 160 days to do it.

How could Wisconsin reach a threshold that was twice as high in less than half the time? Not by building a movement rooted only in liberal precincts of the state capitol city of Madison, as the governor and his amen corner keep claiming. And not by relying merely on Democrats.

To be successful, the recall drive against Governor Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch had to attract support from independents and Republicans. And that is precisely what is happening.

As Steve Smith, a boiler operator at Wisconsin's Southern Center for the Developmentally Disabled, explained while he gathered petition signatures on Thanksgiving morning in Burlington, "A lot of the people who are working the hardest on this recall aren't big Democrats. I voted Democrat and Republican. And a lot of the people who are signing the petitions say they voted for Walker. So this goes way beyond Democrats."

Smith's point is a critical one.

Burlington, a Racine County city that voted for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and John McCain, Barack Obama, has a booming recall movement. Indeed, while Barack Obama received 2,424 votes in Burlington in 2008 (compared with McCain's 2,567), local recall activists had already collected 2,500 signatures from the Burlington area in the first two weeks of the eight-week drive.

Thus, even in Republican-leaning areas, the recall is exceeding goals -- and exceeding the 2008 performance of the most popular Democratic presidential nominee in decades. That earned a front-page headline last week in the Burlington Standard-Press newspaper: "Recall Effort Has a Visible Presence in Conservative Burlington."

In fact, the recall effort has a visible presence in conservative and Republican-leaning areas across Wisconsin.

The first counties to approach their goals for the entire recall drive have been rural ones -- all of which send at least some Republicans to the legislature.

Indeed, a number of counties that backed Walker in 2010 are leading the pack when it comes to producing recall signatures.

In Columbia County, where Walker won 52 percent of the vote last year, more than 10,033 voters have signed recall petitions -- well over 45 percent of the total gubernatorial turnout of 2010.

In Pierce County, where Walker got 53 percent of the vote last year, more than 4,700 voters have signed recall petitions -- well over 25 percent of the total gubernatorial turnout of 2010.

In Oneida County, where Walker took 55 percent of the vote last year, almost 3,700 voters have signed recall petitions -- well over 20 percent of the total gubernatorial turnout of 2010.

Governor Walker has done great harm to Milwaukee, to Madison, to Racine, Kenosha, Janesville, Beloit and other urban communities. But his combination of job-killing economic schemes and cuts to basic services and public education are doing the most damage far beyond Wisconsin's big cities.

Walker missteps and misdeeds are pushing small cities, villages and rural communities to the brink.

Under his "leadership," Wisconsin now leads the nation in job losses. And some of the hardest hit counties are far from Wisconsin's big cities.

The battering the state's rural and small-town economy has taken under Walker is coupled with divisive policies and extreme cuts.

The governor's assault on collective-bargaining rights has strained relations at the county, city, village, township and school district levels.

And his determination to cut state funding for public services and public education in order to fund tax cuts for out-of-state corporations has been especially devastating for rural communities, small towns and small cities.

Surveys of school administrators across the state show that the vast majority of the state's school districts have had to make cuts, and are anticipating even deeper cuts, as a result of the governor's policies. Communities in every corner of Wisconsin have been forced to open discussions about closing schools. Just last week, an advisory committee that has been meeting regularly since the summer to identify potential budgets cuts for the Sauk Prairie School District (north of Madison) voted to recommend that the school board close an elementary school.

Walker has not just cut aid to schools and communities. He has promoted policies that, while popular with his out-of-state donors, threaten to make it dramatically harder for local officials to do their jobs.

Walker's seeks to undermine the ability of school boards and town boards to address budget challenges in smart and creative ways. By taking away the flexibility that has been essential to budgeting in Wisconsin's smaller cities, villages and towns, Walker proposes to make hard times worse in communities where there is little margin for error.

Wisconsinites recognize this. So it should come as no surprise that rural regions and small cities and towns, including traditionally Republican communities, are leading the charge to remove the governor and his rubber-stamp lieutenant governor from office
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Next Stop On The GOP Crazy Train: 'Newtsville'
By Eric Alterman

It is a symbol of our current political predicament that anytime anyone tells the truth about anything in the contest for the Republican nomination, a new scandal erupts. Newt Gingrich was briefly drummed out of the Republican Party for accurately terming Paul Ryan's destructive Medicare plan a "radical" step toward "right-wing social engineering." Jon Huntsman caused virtually the only stir of his all-but-invisible campaign when he admitted to what the Salt Lake Tribune straight-facedly called the "politically dicey belief that climate change is human-caused and needs to be addressed." And most recently, CBS's John Dickerson caused a contretemps when a stray e-mail revealed that Michele Bachmann was "not going to get many questions" in the debate the network was sponsoring because "she's nearly off the charts." Being a member of the MSM in good standing, Dickerson was in all likelihood referring to Bachmann's poll position rather than her approach to reality, and uncharacteristically for this race, they happen to be pretty much perfectly proportional. Bachmann has long been loony, but it has been her poll standing that has determined the treatment she has received from the press.

The respectful response of the media to the batshit-crazy statements one hears from the second-tier Republican candidates-candidates who occasionally rise to the first tier and then just as quickly sink down again, having never been serious contenders in the first place-is doing definite damage to this country. How many credulous Americans may have decided to shun the HPV vaccine for their daughters after hearing Bachmann's nutty suggestion that it causes mental retardation? What of the insistence of that ignorant idiot Herman Cain that the "objective" purpose of Planned Parenthood's founding was to "kill black babies before they came into the world. It's planned genocide." Now we've got a new front-runner, Gingrich, who holds, among other crazy notions, that the Obama administration's "secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did," when his diseased brain is not focusing on his moronic (and racist) contention that "only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together" the inspiration for Obama's foreign policies.

Gingrich is the man of the hour, as amazing and ridiculous as that may be. Like Cain and Bachmann, he is a better bet for a rubber room somewhere than the Oval Office. But this fact-obvious to anyone who's paying attention-does not stop various media machers from pretending long enough to fly his ideological freak flag for him for millions of Americans. When, writing in the Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize-winning pundit Kathleen Parker describes "the sudden surge of Gingrich, who, whatever his flaws and despite the weight of his considerable baggage, is no intellectual slouch," and says he "may be just the ticket"-well, one is left speechless. Pretending that these people might be president, and hence deserve to be treated as if what they say is true, is not merely unjustified-given that the nominee is almost certain to be Romney-but akin to playing accessory to a kind of ongoing intellectually criminal activity.

In their new book, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson explain the nature of intellectual insularity of so many in this world, in which "the teachings of dubiously credentialed leaders are favored over the word of secular experts in the arts and sciences." Considering the example of evolution, they write, "Anointed leaders convince their followers to reject evolution by undermining the credibility of the scientific community. The resulting widespread distrust of the scientific community-often portrayed as atheistic, anti-religious, ideological-undermines the credibility of everything the scientific community says, including its conclusions about climate change, the dangers of fracking, the importance of ecosystems, the need for vaccinating children, and so on."

The authors describe "what amounts to a 'parallel culture,'" where people like alleged "historian" David Barton (whose formal education consists of a degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University) and psychologist James Dobson (tennis team captain at what is now Point Loma Nazarene University) proffer phony-baloney history lessons that distort almost everything professional historians know to be true about America's founders.

Reporters representing reliable media outlets are supposed to defend the discourse from the virus of this ignorance. But for a variety of reasons they no longer do so. Part of the explanation can be found in the foolish willingness of so many reporters to treat Fox News, Drudge and various talk-radio hosts as respectable voices in the debate without regard to their motives or qualifications. A second, no less significant problem is the tendency of even the most sophisticated political reporters to treat the entire process as a contest between rival teams and ignore the substance of their arguments and policies, as if politics were simply a spectator sport with fewer (and perhaps crazier) fans than the Mets or the Red Sox.

Speaking of these Tea Party-inspired "candidates," reformed right-winger David Frum writes that a "political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing-but all too interested in merchandising. Much as viewers tune in to American Idol to laugh at the inept, borderline dysfunctional early auditions, these tea-party champions provide a ghoulish type of news entertainment each time they reveal that they know nothing about public affairs and have never attempted to learn." Somebody better tell the MSM...
(c) 2011 Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Professor of Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He is also "The Liberal Media" columnist for The Nation and a fellow of The Nation Institute, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, where he writes and edits the "Think Again" column, a senior fellow (since 1985) at the World Policy Institute. Alterman is also a regular columnist for Moment magazine and a regular contributor to The Daily Beast. He is the author of seven books.

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FDA Declares Rick Perry A Vegetable
Texas Governor Approved for School Lunches
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - In a decision that raised some eyebrows in the nutrition community, the Food and Drug Administration announced today that it had declared Texas Governor Rick Perry a vegetable.

The decision, effective immediately, means that a serving of Mr. Perry would be approved for school lunches across the nation.

In an official statement, Mr. Perry said he was "surprised and honored" by the FDA's decision.

"As a vegetable, I am honored to join the other three food groups," said Gov. Perry. "Meat, dairy, and... nope, can't do it. Oops."
(c) 2011 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 47 (c) 12/02/2011

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