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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh is, "Grappling With Phantoms."

Uri Avnery caught between, "The Sea And The River."

Glen Ford studies, "The Ultimate Logic Of A Society Built On Mass Murder."

Robert Reich says to, "Remember The Children."

Jim Hightower reviews, "The Czardom Of Michiganistan."

Naomi Wolf explores, "NYPD For Hire: How Uniformed New York Cops Moonlight For Banks."

James Donahue fears, "The Dark Ugly Month Of Christmas."

John Nichols remembers, "Dan Inouye's Epic Civil Rights Championship."

Dave Johnson joins us with, "Social Security Is Still The Third Rail (You've Been Warned)."

Robert Kutner considers, "Social Security And The Obama Cave-In."

Paul Krugman examines, "That Terrible Trillion."

David Swanson explains, "How To Criticize The Israeli Government."

Chris Hedges introduces, "Morsi: Egypt's New Pharaoh."

Willard Romney wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Randall Amster pleads, "Save The Children."

William Rivers Pitt finds, "Shooting Is Business, And Business Is Good."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz announces, "Time Names Mitt Romney Man Of The Year 1912" but first Uncle Ernie sees, "Much Ado In Connecticut."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jim Day, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Monika Graff, Getty, M/MA, Ademmm, Bettmann/Corbis, ABC TV, United Artists, Walt Disney Studios, 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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Much Ado In Connecticut
By Ernest Stewart

"We can't tolerate this any more. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change." ~~~ President Barack Obama

"The last thing you want to do is cut Social Security benefits," ~~~ Senator Bernie Sanders

"Corporations are people, my friend ... of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People's pockets. Human beings, my friend." ~~~ Willard Romney

"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism." ~~~ Hunter S. Thompson

First, let me say the attack at Sandy Hook was an outrage. I can not imagine what those parents and friends of the children and the teachers are going through; my heart goes out to them in their time of sorrow. Children should bury their parents, not the other way around. I can think of no other crime that matches the killing of innocent children. Had his target been politicians I might have understood; but this is an outrage against humanity. How someone can do that to sweet, innocent, children is way beyond my scope of knowledge!

Having said, and meant that, I must also say, so what? Why all the fuss and ado, we do that to children on a daily basis -- to children and women all over the world. Why does it only seem to matter when it happens to little white children, and not to black or brown or yellow children? For example, while Barry was on TV crying those big crocodile tears, a strike ordered by him killed 55 people in Yemen, including 21 children and 14 women -- not to mention 20 men and boys who weren't counted as any male from 13 to 93 is considered fair game, because we call all of them terrorists, whether they are or not. Barry sent a US Tomahawk cruise missile full of cluster bombs after a supposed terrorist in a car, and all the others killed just happened to be in the right place, at the right time, to be blown to tiny bits by the missile. Barry shed not a single crocodile tear for them -- funny thing that, huh? Could Mr. Obama be what Tweety Bird called a hypo-twit? Indeed, he is!

If that attack had been a one-time thing, you might be able, with a straight face, to call all their deaths an accident; but it was just one of thousands of examples of how we treat children around the world. You may recall that we murdered around half a million kids in Iraq by starving them to death for 10 years under Slick Willie and the UN. No politicians were crying over their slow, agonizing, useless, deaths!

So why are people surprised when this happens here? It happens here all the time. Think of all the mass murders in schools in the last few years? Violence begets violence; and it's nothing new. Remember the slaughter in the wild, wild west? A direct cause-and-effect from the fallout over the Civil War, oops, my bad, as they say down south, "The War of Yankee Aggression." Currently, the leader in total deaths is the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead back in 2007. Lets not forget the Batman movie murders back in July. Or another Colorado murder spree by kids against kids in Columbine that killed 15 back in 1999. Do you remember the Washington DC snipers from a few years back.

Do recall the University of Texas/Austin massacre where a student shot 16 coeds from the bell tower in 1966? Another 11 killed in the Red Lake, Minnesota school murders in 2005 or the Amish School shooting in 2006 that took the lives of 6 little girls. Lets not forget that on May 18, 1927, a part-time caretaker at a school in Bath, Michigan, killed 45 people, including 38 children, when he blew up a school and then killed himself, along with two first responders at the scene. Another 58 people were wounded. There are plenty more examples of this. When a nation lives by the sword, it will die by the sword. In every instance, these atrocities were committed by young men, some with service backgrounds, some without, but all living in this nightmare world we've created where most mass murders are ignored as the government does them; but they still have a price to pay and the folks at Sandy Hook paid the price last Friday.

It's been my experience that what "goes around, comes around". Remember folks, that we're number one in the world and the only way one gets to be number one is by being, the meanest, nastiest, evilest sons-of-bitches that the world has ever seen; and that attitude, much more than the guns, causes things like Sandy Hook. Take away the guns, and the death toll will fall; but the attacks won't stop. Killing babies is easy, even with just a butcher knife! Perhaps closing the funny farms wasn't such a good, money saving, idea, after all? Sure, being incarcerated wasn't fair to the looney toons; but it was fair for the rest of us. At least they got treatment for their mental diseases, instead of getting their therapy by murdering innocents. The system is what got us where we are today; so don't you think it's time to change the system?

In Other News

Well, I see where Barry has decided that I'm living way too high on the hog, that $76 in Social Security I get each and every week is too much for the likes of me. Barry wants to take my pitiful check and squeeze some money out and trot it over to Boner and the Rethuglicans to give to the billionaires. Even though SS and medicare have absolutely nothing to do with the debt as we all pay taxes out of every check to prepay in advance. In my case, a man I worked for for 20 years took the money out, but never sent in a dime of it; so I'm out $1500 a month to begin with! I would've killed the son-of-a-bitch, but he's already dead!

Of course, I told you this would happen, didn't I? Didn't I tell you that he'd go after the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the elderly to pay for tax cuts for the uber-rich? And he has. His first concession is to Rethuglican demands in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations that the government use a lower inflation index for calculating federal benefits. Let's hear no talk of the Cave Man. Barry never caves; it was his intent from the beginning to do what he's doing now, just as it was in his sellout to the banksters, and the insurance goons; Medicare was never an option from the very beginning for Obamacare.

Known as the "chained consumer price index," or chained-CPI, the index would help the government tackle the budget deficit by changing inflation adjustments for Social Security and other government beneficiaries, reducing federal retirement benefits for tens of millions of Americans. When fully implemented, the average retiree will lose between one and two months' worth of Social Security checks every year.

As AARP said in a letter to Barry and the Con-gress:

"Adopting the chained consumer price index for Social Security benefits will take $112 billion out of the pockets of current Social Security beneficiaries in the next 10 years alone, and is neither fair nor warranted.

"Social Security is currently the principal source of income for nearly two-thirds of older American households, and roughly one third of those households depend on Social Security for nearly all of their income. Half of those 65 and older have annual incomes below $18,500. Every dollar of the average Social Security retirement benefit of about $14,800 is absolutely critical to the typical beneficiary.

"The Chained CPI is a stealth benefit reduction that will compound over time and cut thousands of dollars in retirement income for current beneficiaries. A typical 80-year-old woman will lose the equivalent of 3 months worth of food annually. The greatest impact of Chained CPI would fall on the oldest, eventually resulting in a cut of one full month's benefit annually. This dramatic benefit cut would push thousands more into poverty and result in increased economic hardship for those trying desperately to keep up with rising prices."

And this is just the first step in his war against the poor. Next up on the table, food stamps and Medicaid! Oh, and for those of you who ask what would have Willard done? He would have done the same thing, which is why I voted GREEN!

And Finally

Our runner-up for the worst American traitor of 2012 goes out to Willard Romney, the boy who would be god! Willard wins this weeks Vidkun Quisling Award! Willard, you may remember, used to be slightly right of center -- which means in any other political system that he was a few light years to the right of Darth Vader. When selected by our corpo-rat masters to be the Rethuglican nominee, he went rocketing off to the far, far, far right not so much to please the Tea Baggers, but because that's where he feels the most comfortable!

Romney, the well-known Moron, oops, my bad, Mormon, billionaire, who made most of his money from either dear old dad or by buying companies, stealing all the wealth, then closing them and sending all the jobs overseas for slave labor wages in third world countries, where he kept his money to avoid paying taxes. Willard did more than most to destroy the economy, with the intent of turning America into another third world country. He is the inventor of ObamaCare, which explains why we got sold down the road to the insurance goons.

Fortunately, enough folks saw through Willard to keep him from power; unfortunately, they voted into power someone far more dangerous than Willard; and the reason Willard placed second in the worst of the worst for 2012. Next week, we'll have the worst of the worst, our Vidkun Quisling award winner for 2012! Can you guess who it is, America?

Keepin' On

I'd like to say thanks to our newest contributor, long-time reader and first-time gifter: Helen from Helena. I know, what are the odds? Thanks to Helen, we need just $200 more to pay off our bills for the year. If I could convince just two more long-time readers like Helen to join in support of the magazine, we could move on to other important things. I don't suppose there is a Helen from Troy, Michigan, out there, is there?

My trouble is that I just moved into a temporary home, and it's a 160 mile round trip to the old post office from here, so I won't be able to get back to the box but once a month (instead of once a week), until I move again into a permanent house, where I will be getting a new post office box, hopefully, in six to eight weeks. It's always something, huh?

Now in our 12th year of fighting the good fight, we depend on our readership to pick up the slack above what our advertising brings in -- which allows us to keep this site open for everyone, instead of just the subscribers. We feel it's important for everyone to know the truth -- no matter what it is, we pull no punches! If honest journalism is important to you in this day and age, then please send us what you can, whenever you can; and we'll keep you informed and up-to-date about the latest unfolding disasters!


09-07-1924 ~ 12-17-2012
Thanks for trying!

03-01-1927 ~ 12-19-2012
Burn Baby Burn!!


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


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

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

Grappling With Phantoms
The Financial Cliff, The War On Christmas, And Other Dim Tidings Of Political Disconnect By Phil Rockstroh

"All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up." ~~~ James Baldwin

As we draw near to the Winter Solstice and the days shorten, one's thoughts are drawn inward.

Bright lights, fragrant spices and sprigs of evergreen are appropriated to induce one back into the eros of life. Otherwise, daylight-bereft, in the half-light between the land of the living and the domain of the shades of memory, one can become stranded in impersonal despair or toxic nostalgia.

> Cultures, throughout human history, have believed the realms of the living and the realms of spirits are drawn near to each other during Fall and Early Winter. Modern humankind dismisses the notion, yet, within, we feel unease. Enter: the manic compensations of the consumer state -- the compulsion to avoid reflection by constant motion and contrived bedazzlement -- the proffering of kitsch rather than the bestowing of meaning.

Personally, I would not be the least bit offended by manger scenes in public spaces, if equal space would be allotted to other religious sects. For example, let's say...naked, dancing, cavorting pagans enacting rituals involving the Winter Solstice.

I'm not troubled by the mythology of others. It would be propitious to our soul-starved, public space-bereft culture to possess vivid agoras offering eros and a glimpse of salvation. I would be inclined to engaged in more frequent shopping outings if such a social milieu was extant.

Somehow, shuffling around the mall, chewing on an over-sized Cinnabon, does not serve as a balm to my soul.

Enmeshed, as we are, in the meta-storyline of a nearly all-encompassing media hologram, whether spun by the mainstream media or when slogging through a psychologically miasmic swamp of FaceBook postings, tweets and text messages, it is become increasingly difficult to listen to allow one's innate nature to rise from one's vital center to the fore of one's being.

Therefore, the criteria of the imagination becomes concretized. For example, in the insular, cracked brain cosmology of febrile, media fantasies, there exists something called a War on Christmas, fought, with Weapons of Mass Destruction supplied by Syria on the chimerical landscape of a Financial Cliff -- a struggle being waged, exclusively, in the minds of those who believe in a phantasmal "Invisible Hand of the Free Market" -- but who deny the decades of scrupulously gathered data and rigorously proofed evidence of global Climate Change

To subject oneself to the dim, collective imaginings of the current day political and media culture is to navigate through realms of hackneyed fantasy -- to make one's way through storylines that are not only estranged from the daily exigencies of everyday life of the citizenry that they are tasked to serve, but are wholly removed from the rhythms and resonances of life on earth itself.

Throughout the ages, groups of elitists -- generally self-serving -- have dictated the criteria of the lives of the multitudes. One of the most potent means of maintaining power is to create the stories that dwell within the individual, as palpably present as any living thing, and often as deleterious as a parasite.

This is why it is imperative for an individual to create and tell his/her unique tale. History bears witness to the results of humankind's collective refusal: a howling hellscape of war and economic exploitation.

Any nitwit can seek happiness, and, generally, does. But it requires a cultivated courage of the heart to create comedy and beauty out of the material of constant sorrow.

Do not shrink from the task of dwelling in the truth of your unique being and living your way into the attendant tales spun by your awakened heart. There exist no neutral ground in the realm of soul-making. To demure from your calling -- to cede your own power to the forces of unreasonable power -- is the stuff of tragedy.

If the dead in their graves could speak as a chorus, they would admonish the living: Resist. Create. Let no other living thing define how you live out your days.

First start with an honest awareness of the world that exists around you, and the factors that create the criteria that you exist in, day by day. Then, in ways large and small, work to subvert the present order. Engage in an activism of your choice i.e., political, artistic, and social. That should keep you busy for a while.

In reality, the "Financial Cliff" is the abyss that yawns before the human soul regarding late capitalism in general. To proceed forward, speed unchecked and common sense unheeded, into the present paradigm, the human race careens, closer and closer, toward the abyss engendered by perpetual war, exploitation, and ecocide.

Withal, there are austerity cuts that would prove propitious. For example, to cut off the parasites of the One Percent from the means to continue the carnage resultant from the crime spree known as so-called free market capitalism.

If there was such a thing as a Google Map of the soul, and if you were to perform a search for the term "free market," its location would be revealed to be an array of shoddy structures, an architecture of nada e.g., payday loan outlets, jack shacks, Wall Street firms, meth labs and crack houses, K Street Lobby operations, pawn shops, Chick-Fil-A, Papa John's Pizza and Cracker Barrel establishments...tottering on the precipice of a howling chasm...with a Climate Change-strengthened hurricane approaching.

We can use drastic austerity measures in the area of Greenhouse gases, media consolidation, Pentagon budgets, CEO salaries and bonuses, deforestation, overfishing of the world's oceans, junk food production and the concomitant expansion of the hindquarters of American consumers.

Otherwise, nature introduces eon's old austerity measures. Recently, Sandy dropped by the U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions for a little meet-and-greet. The conversation, between humankind and catastrophic natural phenomenon, tends to be a bit one-sided. Accordingly, Sandy delivered a simple message: Continue on your present path and your trip's itinerary will involve a very short excursion in the present direction and then a long, uncomfortable journey downward.

A few years back, my wife and I were driving through south Texas, through a sprawling section of Big Agra cattle ranches, livestock holding pens and massive slaughter houses -- mechanized killing zones, that bore the quaint name, "cattle country." In reality, the area of was an archipelago of misery, cruelty and death.

The reek of curdled blood, dung, urine, and mortal terror was as thick as the seething clouds of proliferate black flies scudding the air of the area; their impact-exploded carcasses stippled our car windshield in a hideous, greasy smear of insectile exoskeletons and entrails.

Have you heard this old joke? What is the last thing an insect sees when it collides with a windshield?

Its asshole.

Regarding Climate Chaos, we, as a culture, have placed our own heads, collectively, in a rectal blindfold of self-deception.

The mass production and consumption of animal flesh is the largest single factor in the creation of the rise of atmospheric greenhouse gasses responsible for climate chaos such as super-storm Sandy.

As I listen to climate change deniers, I feel like my brain is passing through some sort of parallel dimension comprised of interlinking rectal cavities. In short, the destruction of the ecosystem, and the degraded and declining criteria of our lives is the fate we have sown for ourselves, because, as a people, we continue to allow our lives to be ruled by the caprice of an infestation of fly-brained, elitist, rectal sphincters on two legs.

The Soul of the World's tears are endless. And that is a fortunate thing. Because if the weeping ever ceased -- the rage of all things wounded would rise.

There are times, when I become one with my wounded heart, my soul snarls like an injured animal. The origin and key to the lexicon of my fury is as follows:

Though I live and breathe, I was beaten to death as a child...devoured in the all-encompassing flames of my father's napalm rage. At dinner, flickering on the screen of our portable, black and white television, I glimpsed the jungles of Southeast Asia being immolated by the U.S. military. My father would shout at the set, "People -- they are so fucking stupid! So fucking stupid! And, boy, if you don't shape up and get good grades, so you can hide out in college, they will send you to those jungles of death. Hear me, boy?

"You told me you signed up for the AirBorne when you were seventeen, Dad. Were your grades that bad?"

"I'll knock that smart mouth of yours into next week, boy."

"Be sure to get my ears too...So that, next week, they will be able to hear an answer to my question."

"I warned you, smart ass." And the blows rained down of me.

Periodically, I have had dreams wherein I came upon two blonde children, brother and sister, who I was informed by an unseen narrator, died in a fire in 1965. In the dreams, I seek to comfort bestow a healing balm on their pain and confusion. On our last encounter, my wife and I embraced them, and our beings melded together, as the four of us dissolved into the arms of eternity...seemingly, the devouring flames of personal happenstance had been transformed into a warming hearth of a universal and deathless love.

"So all things hobble together for the only possible." -Samuel Beckett, from his novel, Murphy

It is impossible to go it alone. Wounded, awkward, gripped by fears of our feebleness...all who live are all maimed and hobbled in some way.

Yet our incompleteness saves us from the fate of sterile perfection, from a heart-negating completeness.

Because of my incomplete nature, I need your collaboration. Because of my unsure gait, I need your assistance, so I do not fall.

Providence has made me ugly so that I can endure being constantly wounded by beauty.

I stumble over my thick tongue and you help me to the farther shore of my sentence.

More and more, I find that I need to rest and take refuge within your song of bitter grace.

If my heart had not been shattered into ten thousand shards, you would not have stopped to gather me, arranged me anew, and stood me, voiceless in awe, before a chorus whose song was so piercing I felt as though, for a fleeting moment, I might become privy to a furtive memory borne of ever-present eternity.

Fortunately, you sealed my ears in beeswax and spared me the terrible beauty of the perfect music of the grave.

You love me as I falter...plangent with banality, reeking of lost promise...yet daring enough to risk the enduring grace of ungainly devotion.

Do not ask why a person paints, writes poems, makes music, dances, or protests. You might as well make inquiries to the cells of your skin as to why they, every moment of every day, are engaged in the process of regeneration.

Apropos, there is no call to go out in search of oneself, because what we who we are.
(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

The Sea And The River
By Uri Avnery

"Palestine, from the Jordan to the Sea, belongs to us!" declared Khaled Meshal last week at the huge victory rally in Gaza.

"Eretz Israel, from the sea to the Jordan, belongs to us!" declare right-wing Israelis on every occasion.

The two statements seem to be the same, with only the name of the country changed.

But if you read them again carefully, there is a slight difference. The direction.

FROM THE sea to the river, from the river to the sea.

Therein lies much more significance than meets the eye. It shows how the speaker sees himself - coming from the East or from the West.

When one says "from the river to the sea", one sees oneself as belonging to the extensive region known to Westerners as the "Middle East", a vital part of the Asian continent. The term "Middle East" is, itself, a patronizing expression with colonial undertones - it suggests that the area has no independent standing. It exists only in relation to a far-away world center - Berlin? London? Washington?

When one says "from the sea to the river", one sees oneself as coming from the West and living as a bridgehead of the West, facing a foreign, and probably hostile, continent.

In its long recorded history, going back many thousands of years, this country - whether Canaan, Palestine or Eretz Israel - has seen many waves of invaders who came to settle here.

Most of these waves came from the hinterland. Canaanites, Hebrews, Arabs, and many others came from the East. They settled here, mingled with the existing population and were soon absorbed, creating new mixtures and establishing natural relations with the neighboring countries. They fought wars, made peace, prospered, suffered in times of drought.

The ancient Israelite kingdoms (not the mythical ones of Saul, David and Solomon but the real historical ones of Ahab and his successors) were a natural part of this environment, as witnessed by contemporary Assyrian and other documents.

So were the Arab invaders of the 7th century. They settled among the locals. These very slowly converted from Christianity and Judaism to Islam, adopted the Arabic language and became "Arabs", much as the Canaanites before them had become "Israelites".

QUITE DIFFERENT was the way of those invaders who came from the West.

There were three waves: the Philistines in antiquity, the Crusaders in the Middle Ages and the Zionists in modern times.

Coming from the West (even if, like the first Crusaders, overland)] the invader sees the vast enemy continent before him. He clings to the shore, establishes a bridgehead and advances to enlarge it. Significantly, no "western" invader ever established borders - they advanced or retreated as their forces and circumstances decreed.

This historical picture applies, of course, only to those invaders who came and settled in the country. It does not concern the invading empires which just wanted to control the area. They came from all directions and moved on - Hittites and Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians, Persians and Greeks, Romans and Byzantines, Arabs and Mongols, Turks and British. (The Mongols came here after destroying Iraq, and were beaten decisively by the Muslim general Baybars, heir of Saladin, in one of the most decisive battles in history.)

Eastern Empires usually continued through Egypt to the West, turning North Africa into a Semitic sphere. Western Empires continued to the East, towards India.

Tutmosis, Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon and many others came and passed on - but none of them left a lasting mark on the country.

LIKE THEIR predecessors coming from the West, the Zionists had a bridgehead mentality from the start, and have it to this day.

Indeed, they had it even before the Zionist movement was officially founded. In his canonical book, Der Judenstaat, Theodor Herzl, the visionary whose picture hangs in the Knesset plenum hall, wrote that the future Jewish State would form a part of the "wall against Asia". It would serve as a "forward position of the culture against the barbarism".

Not just culture, but The Culture. And not just barbarism, but The Barbarism. For a reader in the 1890s, these needed no explanation: Culture was white and European, Barbarism was everything else, whether brown, red, black or yellow.

In today's Israel, five generations later, this mentality has not changed. Ehud Barak coined the phrase which reflects this mentality more clearly than any other: "We are a Villa in the Jungle."

Villa: culture, civilization, order, the West, Europe. Jungle: barbarism, the Arab/Muslim world surrounding us, a place full of wild animals, where anything can happen at any moment.

This phrase is repeated endlessly and accepted by practically everyone. Politicians and army officers may replace it with "the neighborhood" ("Shekhuna"). Daily examples: "In the neighborhood in which we live, we cannot relax for a moment!" Or: "In a neighborhood like ours we need the atom bomb!"

Moshe Dayan, who had a poetic streak, said two generations ago in the most important speech of his life: "We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and the cannon we cannot plant a tree and build a house...This is the fate of our generation, the choice of our life - to be prepared and armed, strong and tough, or otherwise the sword will slip from our fist and our life will be snuffed out." In another speech, a few years later, Dayan clarified that he did not mean just one generation - but many to come, endlessly - the typical bridgehead mentality which knows no borders, neither in space nor in time.

(Just a personal remark: sixty-five years ago, a year before the foundation of Israel, I published a pamphlet which opened with the words: "When our Zionist fathers decided to set up a [national home in this country] they had the choice between two courses: They could appear [as] a bridgehead of the "white" race and the master of the "natives" [or] as the heirs of the Semitic political and cultural tradition [leading] the war of liberation of the Semitic peoples against European exploitation...")

The difference between sea-to-river and river-to-sea is not just political, and far from superficial. It goes right to the roots of the conflict.

BACK TO Meshal. His speech was a reiteration of the most extreme Palestinian line. The same words could have been delivered seventy years ago by the then leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. It is the line that has played into the hands of the Zionists and condemned the Palestinian people to disaster, to untold suffering and to its present situation.

Part of the blame must go to the Arabic language. It is a beautiful tongue, and can easily intoxicate its speaker. Modern Arab history is full of wonderful orators, who got so drunk on their own words that they lost contact with reality.

I remember an occasion when the Egyptian president, Gamal Abd al-Nasser, an outstanding rhetorician and the idol of the Arab masses, was making a sensible speech about Egyptian affairs, when somebody in the crowd shouted: "Palestine, oh Gamal!" Nasser forgot what he was talking about and launched into a passionate exposition of the Palestinian cause, heating himself up more and more, until he was obviously in a kind of trance. It was the state of mind which led him into the Israeli trap in 1967. (Israeli politicians since Menachem Begin are, fortunately, very poor speakers, speaking very inferior Hebrew.)

One could say, of course, that Meshal's speech before the masses was just a politician's bid for popularity and does not really count - what counts is the very different positions he adopted behind the scenes in Egypt and Gaza. That might sound reasonable - but is not.

First, because speeches influence the speaker. It would be very difficult for him to extract himself now from the verbal trap he set up for himself, even if Arab listeners have learned to take grandiose speeches with a grain of salt.

Second, because extreme Arab speeches immediately become ammunition in the hands of Israeli extremists. They reinforce the general contention, also from Ehud Barak, that "we have no partner for peace." Meshal's mirror image, Avigdor Lieberman, has already used this speech as his main weapon in repulsing the European condemnation of Netanyahu's new destructive settlement project.

IN REALITY, Meshal is now more than ever ready for compromise (as was Nasser at the time he made the speech I mentioned.) He has indicated that while not ready to make peace with Israel himself, he would accept a peace agreement signed by Mahmoud Abbas and ratified in a Palestinian referendum. He also indicated that such a peace should be based on the 1967 borders. He knows, of course, that Abbas is ready for an "agreed" solution of the refugee problem - agreed, that is, by Israel. This means that only a symbolic number will be allowed to return to Israeli territory.

Trouble is, in his exciting public speech he said the very opposite, and worse. So did Nasser, and it killed him. So, for some time, did Yasser Arafat, until he saw the folly of this method. As, I think, will Khaled Meshal, in due time.

There is no escape from the simple truth that there will be two states between the river and the sea - as well as between the sea and the river.

Unless we want the whole country - sea to river, river to sea - to become one vast graveyard.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Ultimate Logic Of A Society Built On Mass Murder
By Glen Ford

As a native-born American, I grew up watching cowboy and Indian shoot-em-ups in which the highlight of the movie was when the white guys in the circled wagon train shot the Indians off their horses until all the red men were dead, and very silent. Indians didn't do a lot of screaming in pain when they were shot; they just expired. Same thing with buck-toothed Japanese, line after line of them, charging into U.S. machine guns, falling instantly silent and dead. It was somehow quite clean, almost antiseptic, these cinematic rituals of death, all staged for the broadest popular consumption to demonstrate the inevitability - and cosmic justice - of ultimate white victory over the darker races.

This was mother's milk to the white American nation - which is why Richard Pryor and kids like me rooted for the Indians. Mass murder is at the core of the American national religion, which is a celebration of a genocidal march across a continent filled with other, doomed human beings. America's contribution to European culture was to invite "all the nations of Europe" to come to these shores and become fellow "white" citizens, whose status was defined by the enforced inferiority of Blacks and the remnants of the Indians. Ritual burnings of Blacks were organized as great public festivals, attended by thousands, staged in order to affirm whites' collective right to commit murder. This monopoly on violence was what made them white Americans.

U.S. foreign policy reflects the nation's origins and ghastly evolution into a globe-strutting mob, that empowers itself to kill at will. A million dead Filipinos at the turn of the 20th century; aerial bombing of Haitian villages less than a generation later; the totally unwarranted nuclear annihilation of two cities at the very end of World War Two; two million dead Koreans shortly thereafter; three million dead Vietnamese in the next decade,; and, since 1996, six million Congolese - all, and many, many more, slaughtered in the name of U.S. civilizational superiority - the ghastly opiate of the white American masses.

What kind of human beings does such a culture produce? To paraphrase the Bible, "By their massacres, ye shall know them." The modern mass American murder is overwhelmingly a white phenomenon. Yet few whites ask the question, "What's wrong with white America?" It is seems that white America lacks the capacity for self-examination. It cannot grasp the simple truth, that a culture that celebrates the annihilation of whole peoples, casually and without guilt or introspection, is devoid of human values at its very core. In the end, it turns against itself. That is the simple lesson of Newtown, and Columbine, and Aurora. The same cultural deformity creates a huge market for games like the very popular Assassin's Creed, whose latest version integrates individual and group murder with events of the American Revolutionary War. American kids can simulate mass murder all day long, and feel patriotic and smart while doing it. Assassin's Creed features an inter-racial cast of killers - possibly in deference to the brown guy in the White House who owns the ultimate Kill List. It's the modern equivalent of the cowboys and Indians movies of my youth. The same sickness.
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Remember The Children
By Robert Reich

America's children seem to be shortchanged on almost every issue we face as a society.

Not only are we failing to protect our children from deranged people wielding semi-automatic guns.

We're not protecting them from poverty. The rate of child poverty keeps rising - even faster than the rate of adult poverty. We now have the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world.

And we're not protecting their health. Rates of child diabetes and asthma continue to climb. America has the third-worst rate of infant mortality among 30 industrialized nations and the second-highest rate of teenage pregnancy, after Mexico.

If we go over the "fiscal cliff" without a budget deal, several programs focused on the well-being of children will be axed - education, child nutrition, school lunches, children's health, Head Start. Even if we avoid the cliff, any "grand bargain" to tame to deficit is likely to jeopardize them.

The Urban Institute projects the share of federal spending on children (outlays and tax expenditures) will drop from 15 percent last year to 12 percent in 2022.

At the same time, states and localities have been slashing preschool and after-school programs, child care, family services, recreation, and mental-health services.


Conservatives want to blame parents for not doing their job. But this ignores politics.

The NRA, for example, is one of the most powerful lobbies in America - so powerful, in fact, that our leaders rarely have the courage even to utter the words gun control.

A few come forth after a massacre such as occurred in Connecticut to suggest that maybe we could make it slightly more difficult for the mentally ill to obtain assault weapons. But the gun lobby and gun manufacturers routinely count on America's (and media's) short attention span to prevent even modest reform.

The AARP is also among the most powerful lobbies, especially when it comes to preserving programs that benefit seniors.

We shouldn't have to choose between our seniors and children - I'd rather focus on jobs and growth rather deficit reduction, and sooner cut corporate welfare and defense spending than anything else. But the brute fact is America's seniors have political clout that matters when spending is being cut, while children don't.

At the same time, big corporations and the wealthy know how to get and keep tax cuts that are starving federal and state budgets of revenues needed to finance what our children need. Corporations systematically play off one state or city against another for tax concessions and subsidies to stay or move elsewhere, further shrinking revenues available for education, recreation, mental health, and family services.

Meanwhile, advertisers and marketers of junk foods and violent video games have the political heft to ward off regulations designed to protect children from their depredations. The result is an epidemic of childhood diabetes, as well as video mayhem that may harm young minds.

Most parents can't protect their children from all this. They have all they can do to pay the bills. The median wage keeps falling (adjusted for inflation), benefits are evaporating, job security has disappeared, and even work hours are less predictable.

It seems as if every major interest has political clout - except children. They can't vote. They don't make major campaign donations. They can't hire fleets of lobbyists.

Yet they're America's future.

Their parents and grandparents care, of course, as do many other private citizens. But we're no match for the entrenched interests that dominate American politics.

Whether it's fighting for reasonable gun regulation, child health and safety overall, or good schools and family services - we can't have a fair fight as long as special-interest money continues to poison our politics.
(c) 2012 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Czardom Of Michiganistan

Michigan is no longer a state. It is now "Michiganistan," an autocratic czardom in the hands of Emperor Rick Snyder.

Formerly the Republican governor, he's now been enthroned by the GOP's lame-duck, legislative supermajority to rule with an iron fist - democracy, rule-of-law, fairness, and The People be damned. Ironically, voters had given Snyder and his cohort of right-wing corporate ideologues a spanking for this kind of nastiness in a November referendum. The GOP cabal in Lansing had conspired last year to usurp the local authority of city governments and allow Snyder to send in unelected, unaccountable autocrats to fire elected officials and seize control, but last month, Michigan voters overthrew this absurdity.

This month, however, Snyder and gang doubled down on their dumbfounding, anti-democratic zealotry. With no warning, no hearings, no public input, no floor debate, and no time for citizens even to know what was happening, the same legislative czarists rammed a union-busting bill into law. Even though he had publicly rejected such a proposal earlier this year as being "very divisive," Emperor Snyder gleefully signed this bill.

Who's behind this madness? Say hello to two infamous, anti-union, billionaire plutocrats: the Koch brothers. They had funneled as much as a million dollars into Snyder's 2010 gubernatorial election, and three Michigan front groups funded by the billionaire brothers have been aggressively pushing the exact same anti-worker proposal that the Republican thugs just bullied into law.

Two things not long for this world are dogs that chase cars and politicians who deceive and cheat the people. Already, Michiganders are organizing a petition drive for another referendum to overturn the law and return the Czardom of Michiganistan back to democratic rule. Stay tuned.
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Last year, NYPD officers earned more than $11m in wages working for private corporations.

NYPD For Hire: How Uniformed New York Cops Moonlight For Banks
No one begrudges an officer doing security work in his own time, but the Paid Detail Unit creates worrying conflicts of interest
By Naomi Wolf

I was surprised two weeks ago to walk into my local TD Bank, on Greenwich Avenue in the West Village, New York to find that the security officer who was usually standing by, on alert, had been replaced by a uniformed, armed, radio-carrying New York Police Department officer, Officer Battle. I confirmed from him that he was, in fact, an NYPD officer - and was working part-time for TD bank.

Of course, this raised red flags for me. After the violent crackdown on Occupy Wall Street in November of 2011, when that group was having some of its most significant successes in protests and actions that challenged private banks and Wall Street institutions, many wondered what had motivated the unexpected aggression against protesters by local police officers tasked, at least overtly by municipal law, with upholding their first amendment rights.

The NYPD became, at the time, coordinated in its crackdown once Occupy had started to target banks. Was there a relationship behind the scenes of which we were unaware?

Chase bank had made a gift of $4.6m to the Police Foundation - boasting on its website that this "was the largest" in that group's history, and hoping that the money would allow the NYPD to "strengthen security". This police fund, as well as some details of a Rudi Giuliani-initiated program by which police officers had been hired by corporations, created a brief stir online.

But were Chase, TD, Bank of America and others, which had been targeted by activists, actually now employing our police forces directly?

The answer is yes. A nontransparent program called "Paid Detail Unit" has been set up so that private corporations are actually employing NYPD officers, who are in uniform and armed. The difference is that when these "public servants" are on the payroll of the banks, they are no longer serving you and the impartial rule of law in your city - despite what their uniform and badge imply. Neither New York Councilwoman Christine Quinn's press office nor an NYPD's spokesman responded to my queries regarding this program.

I went to a second TD Bank, on Third Avenue in Manhattan. There was NYPD Officer Kearse, also armed and in uniform. I asked him who paid him to watch the bank: he confirmed that the Paid Detail Unit did so. The bank pays fees directly to the NYPD, and the NYPD then pays him, after taking a cut. Kearse works at the bank 6.5 hours per shift, twice a month. That's not much, he said, compared to many NYPD officers "who do lots more."

"What would you do if there were protesters in this bank branch?" I asked.

"I'd remove them," he said.

"What if there were a conflict of interest between what the bank wanted him to do and what the rule of law was for citizens?" I asked.

He did not reply.

I asked a manager at the branch what the role of the NYPD officer was in the bank. She said, "All I know is he is there to watch us." She called a more senior manager to answer the rest of my questions, Patrick O'Toole:

"They are New York City police officers off-duty, paid by the Paid Detail Unit," he said. This is a program "that various corporations are able to use to obtain off-duty police officers for whatever purpose they need them. The bank supplies every branch in New York City with an off-duty police officer."

In the event of a protest, I asked, whom would the officer be working for? The bank, or the city and the citizens of New York? "I wouldn't know," he said, and referred me to TD Bank corporate security. "He's working under us when he's here: we pay Paid Detail and the NYPD writes the checks." shone rare light on the size of this program. According to that report, the city gets a 10% administrative fee, which, in 2011, amounted to $1.18m - meaning that PDU wages netted NYPD officers a total of $11.8m, an amount which had doubled since 2002.

But who indemnifies these cops working for banks from lawsuits that might arise from possible illegal actions against citizens while working this kind of job? Not the banks, it turns out, but you the taxpayer. In other words, you pay the bill to protect that officer from lawsuits incurred if he breaks the law in protecting the bank.

This is a trend confirmed to be taking place in cities across the country. San Francisco has the San Francisco patrol special police, a private police unit that is indistinguishable from municipal units. Citizen reporters in my social media community confirmed that nonprofit organizations in Houston hire Houston police; a Portland citizen reporter confirmed that he saw Portland cops hired by local banks in that city, as well; and Autumn Smith, a Michigan citizen journalist, has written about seeing Michigan police in uniform to protect Best Buy and other corporations, so they can save on hiring private security with officers on the taxpayer's payroll.

At the same time, privatization is also moving apace, as Wall Street Journal reports that several municipalities, including Oakland, California and Chicago, have bypassed local police and are hiring private security forces to take over many of the police departments' traditional functions.

Of course, many would think that the chance to let hardworking, underpaid cops make more money by moonlighting for private business is no big deal - or, since the NYPD gets a cut of these officers' hours of serving private industry, a win-win for the municipal budget in Manhattan. Indeed, moonlighting, out of uniform as a private citizen, is fair enough. But in uniform, armed, with the backup of the whole NYPD? That is another story.

The conflicts of interest potential in this arrangement soon become clear. Whom is that cop serving if there is a dispute between a New York City (or Houston or Portland) citizen and the bank or corporation that hires cops, and on which those cops' own mortgages and kids' college fees are now dependent? I had the bizarre experience of witnessing an NYPD investigation at Chase stop cold, as an NYPD detective told me that "Chase's investigators said there was no problem."

What if is it is the bank that is committing a crime against the citizen: will NYPD investigate impartially? What if the bank instructs the NYPD officer to commit a crime - make a wrongful arrest, say - against a New York citizen during a lawful protest? Will the officer decline to do so, bucking his bosses? Indeed, does the off-duty cop in the bank have police powers or just private security powers? What powers of arrest does he or she have?

And if bankers or the senior heads of corporations that hire the cops themselves commit crimes in other areas, will those crimes be fully investigated. Or will those executives, now police employers as well, have what Russians call "protektsia"?

Those are all questions that NYPD spokespeople should be willing to answer, but won't.

And then, there are the fiduciary questions. Your tax dollars trained that officer; dressed him in uniform; equipped him with weapons and technology. Should all of that expensive public benefit be farmed out to private corporations, along with the intimidating prestige of the brand of a real NYPD or Houston or Portland police officer?

Finally, the wrench that this program throws into impartial adjudication of the rule of law is obvious. The NYPD won't answer questions about how much revenue it generates from PDU. But given that it is a significant portion of the paychecks of your local cops on the beat, then how can brave advocates for banks' paying the price for crime, such as New York Attorney General Eric Schneidermann, work effectively to hold banks accountable while the city law enforcement officers under the DA are employees of those same banks? The branches of municipal government are now at cross-purposes when it comes to who has access to law enforcement and who is indemnified from prosecution or investigation.
(c) 2012 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.

The Dark Ugly Month Of Christmas
By James Donahue

We don't celebrate Christmas at our house. We haven't done so since our children left the roost. Because of social influences, it is impossible for American families to avoid the frantic customs of the holiday when children are involved. They would not understand. Christmas is a very old holiday linked to the Winter Solstice, which occurs on or around December 21, and it has its roots in ancient Roman, German and Scandinavian celebrations.

The Christians tossed the celebration of the birth of Jesus into the mix and somehow Christmas trees, candles, gift exchanges, mistletoe, and festive eating worked their way into it.

New stuff keeps getting added as writers and singers create characters and stories that get adopted as part of the holiday. Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol," published in 1843, created the characters of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past. Clement Moore's poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" published in 1822 established the character of Santa Claus sliding down chimneys and riding around the world on a flying sleigh drawn by eight reindeer. >{? The ninth reindeer was added after Robert May's published children's story about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer got turned into a popular Christmas song by Gene Autry in 1949. The Grinch that stole Christmas became part of the lore after the character turned up in one of the Dr. Seuss children's books in 1957.

The stories and the songs have been building and building until the whole celebration has turned into a complex mesh of traditional music and glitter that slams our brains until it becomes almost impossible to bear. The latest fad has been the lighting of yards and houses, downtown business districts and giant public Christmas trees. People try to outdo each other in personal yard decorations. Some towns even offer awards for the best light display of the season. Think of the energy it is taking to keep all of those lights on every night for a month.

The commercialism of the holiday has gone to the extreme. The television ads begin slamming your senses from about Halloween on. Every store has extreme Christmas displays with Christmas music blaring. Many towns pipe Christmas music through public speaker systems throughout shopping districts so you hear it everywhere. By the time they turn it all off, the sounds of Jingle Bells and The Little Drummer Boy have driven us into the seclusion of our basements.

Of course the purpose of all of this is the commercialistic twist to the Christmas story. Somewhere in the old Celtic tradition, people exchanged gifts as part of the celebration of the Winter Solstice. Then there were the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus in the manger.

Instead of being satisfied with an exchange of a little perfume or food seasoning, however, Americans have been goaded by commercial advertising campaigns into buying high-cost toys for not only the children but for each other. Even the automobile industry is getting into the act. We see the ultimate gift on our television screens, the image of a shiny new car parked in the yard on Christmas day, wrapped in a bright red ribbon. The receivers of such an elaborate gift are shown to be overcome with joy. Indeed, we are enticed into believing that the more costly gifts we receive at Christmas, the happier it will make us feel.

Believe me, it doesn't work that way. When we overspent on the gift giving in our house, we were left with a sinking feeling because we knew the bills would be coming in the mail the following month. It took us most of the next year to pay down those credit cards. It was easy to come to a realization that I flat out hated Christmas. The more drawn to spending to make the holiday good for the children, the more I cringed when the holiday season came around again. We felt compelled to participate, but how could be escape the crunch without disappointing our children?

Sure, there was always the sensation of joy at seeing the smiles on the faces of our children, whom we deeply loved. And at the moment they saw the display under the tree on Christmas morning there was always the happiness we felt about having gone overboard in giving gifts to the people we loved. But that joy was always short lived. I sometimes wondered when I saw our children having more fun playing with the boxes the gifts came in, than the gift itself.

It was such a relief when the children grew up, declared themselves to hate the commercialization of Christmas as much as I did, and the exchange of gifts could be reduced to more modest items . . . a pair of gloves, a shirt, recording, or perhaps a computer game.

Now we don't bother even putting up a tree. We usually have a nice meal on Christmas day. But we try to stay out of the stores as much as possible all during the Month of December. We endure the dark energy around us by using various tricks to ward it away. When New Year's Day comes and goes, and the lights around us go off, I breathe a big sigh of relief.
(c) 2012 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Dan Inouye's Epic Civil Rights Championship
By John Nichols

Daniel Inouye, who as the son of Japanese immigrants petitioned his government for the right to serve in World War II and then earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for that service in the fight against fascism, became the highest-ranking Asian-American political figure in the United States.

Indeed, at the time of his death Monday at the age of 88, Inouye was third in line to the presidency.

But he never stopped confronting power on behalf of the rights of people of color, people with disabilities, women, lesbians and gays and political dissenters to equal justice and equal opportunity. A modest man who served in the Senate for more than fifty years, Inouye was not always accorded proper recognition of his historic advocacy on behalf of civil rights and civil liberties. But that is the error of those who underestimate Inouye, not of the senator. Indeed, as Vice President Joe Biden, who knew Inouye better than most in Washington, said after the senior senator's death: "To his dying day, he fought for a new era of politics where all men and women are treated with equality."

The American Civil Liberties Union got it right when the group hailed Inouye as "a champion of civil rights and civil liberties" who recognized that his own political successes required him to champion the rights of others. He did so when it mattered most. Inouye was the last sitting senator to have participated in the great debates over Southern segregation. And unlike other senior senators who have died in recent years after long tenures, he was on the right side of those debates.

The last sitting senator who joined the epic struggles to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, he led the fight for the Americans with Disabilities Act and was a key sponsor of the constitutional amendment to extend voting rights to 18-to-20-year-olds.

Inouye battled for reparations for Japanese-Americans who were interned in government compounds during World War II. And he was a passionate defender of the right to dissent. Indeed, the ACLU recalls, "Senator Inouye fought every iteration of proposed constitutional amendments to ban flag desecration-support that was particularly meaningful to the defense of free speech because of his military service."

Inouye was one of the handful of senators who rejected the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s and he emerged as one of the earliest and most determined backers of marriage equality in the Senate, asking: "How can we call ourselves the land of the free, if we do not permit people who love one another to get married?"

When the debate over whether gays and lesbians serving in the military arose, Inouye declared as a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient: "In every war we have had men and women of different sexual orientation who have stood in harm's way and given their lives for their country. I fought alongside gay men during World War II, many of them were killed in combat. Are we to suggest that because of their sexual orientation they are not heroes?"

That was classic Dan Inouye. He never hesitated to use his own experience, as a genuine "greatest generation" American hero, as tool for championing the rights of all Americans.

Inouye's advocacy across a career that brought him to Washington in 1959-as one of Hawaii's first congressional representatives-was perhaps best illustrated in a remarkable 1968 keynote address to the most tumultuous Democratic Nation Convention in the party's history.

Addressing a deeply divided convention just four years after he joined fellow senators in breaking the filibusters and advancing landmark civil rights legislation, Inouye stood before a convention where many delegates had been on the other side of the fight. He did so as a World War II hero, a Bronze Star and Purple Heart (and later Medal of Honor) winner whose arm was amputated in a field hospital on the edge of an Italian battleground. And he quietly demanded that the delegates recognize the sacrifices of all Americans.

"This is my country," the 43-year-old senator declared on that hot summer night. "Many of us have fought hard for the right to say that. Many are now struggling today from Harlem to Da Nang that they may say this with conviction. This is our country."

The Democratic convention of 1968 is usually remembered for the wrangling over the Vietnam War-which Inouye, who had been an ally of Lyndon Johnson's administration, decried as "immoral" in his remarks. But Inouye, the first person of color ever to deliver a keynote address, devoted his remarkable speech to a deep discussion of lingering racism in the land, and by extension in a party that would that fall see many "solid South" states back the renegade third-party presidential run of Alabama segregationist George Wallace.

Less than a quarter century after Japanese-Americans were confined to internment camps, the young senator spoke of his Japanese ancestry. But he pointed out that racism takes many forms, explaining to the convention and the nation that, though he was a person of color, his circumstance was different from that of African-Americans in Southern states and inner cities.

Recalling a businessman who challenged his advocacy for civil rights after the urban riots of the 1960s. "Tell me," the man asked, "why can't the Negro be like you?"

"First, although my skin is colored, it is not black," Inouye explained. "In this country, the color of my skin does not ignite prejudices which have smoldered for generations. Second, although my grandfather came to this country in poverty, he came without shackles. He came as a free man enjoying certain constitutional rights under the American flag."

For African-Americans, in particular, the barriers had been cruder and more violent.

Recalling his speech four decades after the fact, in an interview with the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper, Inouye expressed delight that a young man who had grown up in Hawaii would be nominated by his party as its presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention.

But Daniel Inouye was not satisfied.

"You know," he reflected, "after all these years-40 years later-racism is alive and doing well." That was Daniel Inouye in 2008, speaking as he had in 1969, bluntly, truthfully, about the racial divisions that still haunt America and the struggle to make the Democratic Party and the nation recognize and confront the causes of those divisions.

How can the Democratic Party carry on Daniel Inouye's legacy of progressive politics? Find out here.
(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Social Security Is Still The Third Rail (You've Been Warned)
By Dave Johnson

We JUST had an election where the public (not to mention Every. Single. Poll.) overwhelmingly said no cuts to Social Security or Medicare, and raise taxes on income over $250K. That ought to mean something. But the "word" out of DC is that a deal is underway that cuts the Social Security COLA and increases the income level subject to a higher tax from $250K to $400K.

Senators and Representatives who are thinking of touching the "third rail:" How many constituents are calling your office today to say, "Yes, I want you to cut the Social Security COLA"?

Political Suicide Cutting Social Security makes no sense, and is bad politics because it hurts people. Old people depend on this meager benefit and by law Social Security can not contribute to deficits. But never mind the numbers, look at the social and political effects of a deal that cuts the Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) immediately after the public voted not to do this.

The social effect: Does our society care about people, or just about money? Cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security hurt PEOPLE. Raising tax rates on the wealthy is just money. What does it tell the public about our society if their government cuts Social Security benefits immediately after we have an election in which the public overwhelmingly votes against cuts in Social Security or Medicare, and to increase taxes on $250K and up? This reported deal raises that $250K to $400K, reduces military cuts, and ignores that the same amount of money could be raised in ways that actually help the country and economy, like a Financial Transaction Tax.

Bankers got huge bonuses with government bailout money, and now you are cutting the meager benefits old people get? What does this tell the public, to cut this when one after another Democratic leader, including Vice President Biden, has stepped up to insist that Social Security is off the table? It tells the public not to trust their leaders, because the big money will win every time.

Talk about undermining "certainty" and "confidence." Wow.

The political effect: Suicide. Seniors pay attention to the yearly COLA increase. Every single year from now on when the COLA is announced it is more than likely that seniors will believe they are getting a lower increase because President Obama and the Democrats betrayed them. This is human nature, they will think they would have gotten more (and Republicans will tell them they would have gotten more).

It will become folklore - conventional wisdom - that they would have received a much higher increase, except Obama and the Dems betrayed seniors.


Need to raise some money? Here are a few things you can offer instead of cutting the Social Security COLA:

Financial Transaction Tax on speculative investments - a quarter of a penny per share.
A BIG surtax on incomes over $10 million until the debt is paid off.
Cut the military budget a lot more. Reagan doubled it and 'W' Bush doubled it again. The Soviet Union is gone.
Get rid of oil company subsidies.
Rebuild the nation's infrastructure (with American-made materials) thereby employing millions who will then be paying taxes and won't be getting assistance, and then our economy will be more efficient and competitive in the future.
Retrofit (with American-made materials) our buildings and homes to be energy efficient, thereby employing millions (etc) plus our economy will have to spend less on energy from now on.
Make companies bring home the money they are holding offshore, and pay the corporate tax on it.
A thousand other ways to cut the deficit without hitting old people with the bill.

Now Please Read Richard Eskow's Post. It seems like everything I try to say Richard Eskow succeeds in saying, and does so better than I ever could. (Seriously, read what he wrote about the CT shootings.) Richard explains why this COLA-cut offer is a bad idea, in This Is Not America's Deal:

This deal would make voters very unhappy. It reflects neither their wishes, their needs, or their values. They've already said so - to pollsters like ours and in the voting booth on Election Day. Instead of responding, this looks like another "insider deal" - another agreement that suggests the public's values and concerns vanish once you cross the Beltway.

... The Republicans lost the last election - by a landslide, in fact, in both the Presidential and Senate races. They even lost the House - by more than 1.6 million votes. Only their gerrymandering, vote suppression, and billionaire campaign cash allowed them to retain control of that body despite a popular-vote defeat.

And only their outrageous abuse of Senate rules like the filibuster has allowed them to tie up that body and prevent it from doing its work.

Republicans lost because their ideas are unpopular. But this deal would turn those ideas into policy. This undemocratic "Loser Take All" strategy will further alienate voters, while encouraging extremists in Congress to keep abusing the system.

... This deal would send the wrong message: that successful programs and policies - Social Security, Medicare, and progressive taxation - are problems to be fixed, not solutions to be implemented and strengthened. These programs reflect our finest values: fairness, self-sufficiency, and mutual support. And they work.

A deal like this would also distract the nation from the real sources of our economic difficulties - like wealth inequity, a shortage of good middle-class jobs, and the misdeeds of under-regulated banks and corporations.

No deal is acceptable that undermines our social contract - our common agreement to work together and help each other - as this one would. They've made us strong and prosperous and they must be protected.

PS If you really want to change the COLA formula, use a measurement that looks at the things old people actually spend their money on, like the cost of prescriptions or dental care. "Chained-CPI" doesn't look at these things, so it would lower the COLA. An honest look at how the cost of living changes for old people would mean a higher COLA than now, not a lower one.

(c) 2012 Dave Johnson is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, writing about American manufacturing, trade and economic/industrial policy. He is also a Senior Fellow with Renew California.

Social Security And The Obama Cave-In
The deal between the White House and congressional Republicans includes changes to the cost-of-living formula that amount to needless cuts for seniors.
By Robert Kuttner

Once again, President Obama seems to be on the verge of folding a winning hand.

Widely leaked reports indicate that the president and House Speaker John Boehner are making a fiscal deal that includes hiking tax rates back to the pre-Bush levels with a threshold of $400,000 rather than the original $250,000, and cutting present Social Security benefits.

Obama, the reports say, will now settle for as little as $1.2 trillion in tax increases on the rich rather than the $1.6 trillion that he had originally sought. The difference, in effect, will come out of the pockets of workers, retirees, the young, and the poor.

Especially foolish is the cut in Social Security benefits, disguised as a change in the cost-of-living adjustment formula. Before getting to the arcane details of the formula, here's the bottom line. The proposed change will save only $122 billion over ten years, but it will significantly cut benefits for the elderly.

Because the cut is in the form of a change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the longer you live, the more is the total cut. On average, the cut is about 3 percent a year, but if you live twenty years after you start drawing benefits (the average), that adds up to over ten thousand dollars.

Put this in the context of the reliance of the elderly on Social Security. More than 70 percent of all recipients depend on Social Security for more than half their income. The average Social Security benefit is less than $15,000 a year, and in recent years all of the cost-of-living adjustments and more have gone to defray the annual increases in Medicare premiums and other health costs.

One interesting detail in Obama's apparent cave-in on Social Security is the role played by some prominent liberals, notably Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

The proposed change involves a shift to something called the Chained CPI. Supposedly, when the price of something goes up, people substitute cheaper products. The application of the Chained CPI to the elderly (who are already scrimping) is problematic-more on that in a moment-but Greenstein has had kind words for disguised cuts in Social Security via the Chained CPI.

In a piece last February, Greenstein and colleagues wrote that a shift to the Chained CPI would be acceptable if it protected longtime Social Security recipients and those receiving disability benefits via Supplemental Security Assistance. The respected Greenstein's support provides crucially important political cover for Obama's cave-in.

Why does the CBPP, which exists to defend social programs, accept this disguised cut?

There seem to be four major reasons. First, Greenstein's operating principle is that programs for the poor, above all, need to be protected. Second, Greenstein has long been of the belief that making progress on deficit reduction helps safeguard programs for the poor. Third, Greenstein is always eager to remain a player-and providing this support to a beleaguered White House makes him a player par excellence. Finally, Greenstein also likes to stay on good terms with both the budget-balance crowd and the liberals.

But this is one of those times when you need to decide which side you are on.

I have a lot of admiration for the role Greenstein has played over the years. But on this crucial issue, I think his calculation is just plain wrong. Look at budget politics over the past decade. Joining the call for deficit reduction has hardly saved programs for the poor. Discretionary domestic spending, from which programs for the poor come, is at its lowest share of GDP since the Eisenhower years.

The siren call of the austerity lobby is that Social Security spending is "crowding out" other social spending. But that doesn't hold up either. Even in today's weak economy, Social Security is in surplus. If we got back to full employment with decent wage growth, increased payroll tax receipts would keep Social Security in surplus indefinitely.

The other tactical error here is to allow the White House and Speaker John Boehner to play off ordinary Social Security recipients, many millions of who are just above the poverty line, against the very poor. Greenstein's thinking seems to be that it's okay to sacrifice other near-poor elderly if that conserves money for the poorest.

But it's unconscionable to cut Social Security at all when then president is proposing to reduce the proposed taxes on the wealthiest by $400 billion-more than three times the savings of the planned cuts in Social Security.

Late yesterday, as the terms of the deal were leaked, Greenstein's name was widely dropped as a key supporter. I reached Greenstein by e-mail late last night to ask if he really supported the proposed deal, and this was his response:

"We don't have enough info yet. The White House tells me they will be seeking all of the protections we have said are essential, but the White House and Boehner have not gotten yet to this part of the negotiations, and the White House offer does not spell out specific details on the protections. We are withholding judgment until we see what the details of both the chained CPI proposal and the overall package look like."

In other words, if the deal protects the poorest, SSI recipients, and longtime Social Security beneficiaries, Greenstein is on board. Since the austerity lobby has always invoked the need to safeguard the very poorest, this looks like where the deal is heading.

This budget agreement is very dubious politics for Obama and the Democrats on several grounds. For starters, Social Security cuts, disguised or otherwise, should not be in this package at all. Politically, such a deal erases the bright line that is the Democrats' single strongest distinction from Republicans: We defend Social Security; they are willing to sacrifice it. Further, the politics of allowing the struggling, not-quite-poor elderly to be played off against the very poor are just appalling.

One other set of enablers are those liberals who say that at least a disguised cut in Social Security is not quite as bad as raising the Medicare eligibility age, a Republican demand that Obama has rejected. This chorus includes the sainted Paul Krugman, another resolute liberal who ordinarily earns nothing but our thanks and appreciation.

But saying that cutting Social Security is not quite as bad as cutting Medicare sets a pretty low bar. Neither should be cut.

What happens now? Progressives in and outside Congress need to shoot down this trial balloon. They need to keep the heat on Obama to consent to nothing of the sort.

About that "Chained CPI," (since you asked):

The premise of the "Chained CPI" is that the standard CPI overstates inflation because people regularly substitute products when they are more expensive. If beef is too pricey, people switch to chicken.

There are two fallacies in this premise as applied to seniors. Most seniors already live so close to the margin of poverty that they have already done all the easy substituting, unless we expect them to further downshift from chicken to cat food, or to choose between filling stomachs and filling prescriptions.

Moreover, the CPI as applied to seniors understates the true impact of inflation, not overstates it. As several studies have shown, the cost of health care has been increasing at more than twice the general rate of inflation, and seniors spend a far larger share of their incomes on medical care than younger Americans do.

To add insult to injury, the current very low-interest environment and the theft of corporate pensions leave the elderly with depleted incomes. If anything, rather than chaining the elderly to reduced annual CPI adjustments, their cost-of-living adjustment should be increased.

This promises to be an epic showdown. We will soon learn what Obama, the progressive community, and congressional Democrats are made of.
(c) 2012 Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine, as well as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe and Huffington Post. He is the author of A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama's Promise, Wall Street's Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future, Obama's Challenge, and other books.

That Terrible Trillion
By Paul Krugman

As you might imagine, I find myself in a lot of discussions about U.S. fiscal policy, and the budget deficit in particular. And there's one thing I can count on in these discussions: At some point someone will announce, in dire tones, that we have a ONE TRILLION DOLLAR deficit.

No, I don't think the people making this pronouncement realize that they sound just like Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies.

Anyway, we do indeed have a ONE TRILLION DOLLAR deficit, or at least we did; in fiscal 2012, which ended in September, the deficit was actually $1.089 trillion. (It will be lower this year.) The question is what lesson we should take from that figure.

What the Dr. Evil types think, and want you to think, is that the big current deficit is a sign that our fiscal position is completely unsustainable. Sometimes they argue that it means that a debt crisis is just around the corner, although they've been predicting that for years and it keeps not happening. (U.S. borrowing costs are near historic lows.) But more often they use the deficit to argue that we can't afford to maintain programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. So it's important to understand that this is completely wrong.

Now, America does have a long-run budget problem, thanks to our aging population and the rising cost of health care. However, the current deficit has nothing to do with that problem, and says nothing at all about the sustainability of our social insurance programs. Instead, it mainly reflects the depressed state of the economy - a depression that would be made even worse by attempts to shrink the deficit rapidly.

So, let's talk about the numbers.

The first thing we need to ask is what a sustainable budget would look like. The answer is that in a growing economy, budgets don't have to be balanced to be sustainable. Federal debt was higher at the end of the Clinton years than at the beginning - that is, the deficits of the Clinton administration's early years outweighed the surpluses at the end. Yet because gross domestic product rose over those eight years, the best measure of our debt position, the ratio of debt to G.D.P., fell dramatically, from 49 to 33 percent.

Right now, given reasonable estimates of likely future growth and inflation, we would have a stable or declining ratio of debt to G.D.P. even if we had a $400 billion deficit. You can argue that we should do better; but if the question is whether current deficits are sustainable, you should take $400 billion off the table right away.

That still leaves $600 billion or so. What's that about? It's the depressed economy - full stop.

First of all, the weakness of the economy has led directly to lower revenues; when G.D.P. falls, the federal tax take falls too, and in fact always falls substantially more in percentage terms. On top of that, revenue is temporarily depressed by tax breaks, notably the payroll tax cut, that have been put in place to support the economy but will be withdrawn as soon as the economy is stronger (or, unfortunately, even before then). If you do the math, it seems likely that full economic recovery would raise revenue by at least $450 billion.

Meanwhile, the depressed economy has also temporarily raised spending, because more people qualify for unemployment insurance and means-tested programs like food stamps and Medicaid. A reasonable estimate is that economic recovery would reduce federal spending on such programs by at least $150 billion.

Putting all this together, it turns out that the trillion-dollar deficit isn't a sign of unsustainable finances at all. Some of the deficit is in fact sustainable; just about all of the rest would go away if we had an economic recovery.

And the prospects for economic recovery are looking pretty good right now - or would be looking good if it weren't for the political risks posed by Republican hostage-taking. Housing is reviving, consumer debt is down, employment has improved steadily among prime-age workers. Unfortunately, this recovery may well be derailed by the fiscal cliff and/or a confrontation over the debt ceiling; but this has nothing to do with the alleged unsustainability of the deficit.

Which brings us back to ONE TRILLION DOLLARS.

We do indeed have a big budget deficit, and other things equal it would be better if the deficit were a lot smaller. But other things aren't equal; the deficit is a side-effect of an economic depression, and the first order of business should be to end that depression - which means, among other things, leaving the deficit alone for now.

And you should recognize all the hyped-up talk about the deficit for what it is: yet another disingenuous attempt to scare and bully the body politic into abandoning programs that shield both poor and middle-class Americans from harm.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"You give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."
~~~ Jesse Ventura

How To Criticize The Israeli Government
By David Swanson

The other day I tweeted an article that reported on a rather horrible story. It seems that the Israeli government gives African women drugs that keep them from reproducing.

I think if this story had been about Canada, Korea, France, or Brazil people would have read it. The conversation would not have immediately shifted to my alleged hatred of all Canadians.

Since it was about Israel, some people chose to announce that I hated Jews. Such a response is not only baseless and nonsensical, but it shifts attention to me and away from the story, which in the end isn't seen.

Now, I don't know any more about that story than what I've read at that website (the website of a Jewish organization, as it happens). The report may be accurate or not. Israeli newspapers seem to report it as fully established, neither doubted nor challenged. The story at least seems to merit investigation. The point is that nobody told me it was inaccurate (news that would have delighted me). Instead, they told me that I was anti-Semitic.

This happens with the United States too, of course. If I criticize the U.S. government a few thousand times, and if the president is a Republican, I'll hear from some disturbed individual who wants to recommend that I leave the country since I hate it so much. Why one would try so hard to reform the government of a country he hated is never really explained.

With Israel, such nonsense is triggered much more swiftly. I haven't made a career of trying to reform Israel's government. All I had to do was tweet a link to an article. Those who have gone to greater lengths to criticize the crimes of the government of Israel have, in some cases, seen themselves censored, vilified, and their careers derailed. Many persevere despite this climate.

There is, however, a way to speak openly and honestly about Israel. Not everyone can do it. The trick is to be a veteran of the Israeli military. This approach helps people whose "service" was years ago. And it helps those whose memories of what they did "for their country" are very fresh. Not only does such status shield one from a great deal of criticism, but it provides a substantive advantage in being able to report first-hand on what the Israeli military has been doing. Just as Veterans For Peace are able to speak with some legitimate authority in the United States against the use of war (see Winter Soldier now if you haven't), members of the Israeli military, and those who recently were Israeli soldiers, command attention.

A new book called "Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010," collects the accounts of numerous Israeli soldiers, although withholding their names. Videos of some of the soldiers telling their stories can be seen online. The online database sorts the stories into categories: Abuse> Assassinations> Bribery> Checkpoints> Confirmation of killing> Curfews/closures> Deaths> Destruction of property> Human shields> Humiliation> Looting> Loss of livelihood> Routine> Rules of engagement> Settlements> Settler violence.

"Supporting the troops" is usually understood to exclude listening to the troops. But these troops should be listened to. Their experiences are very similar to those of the U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq. But their war has lasted much, much longer, and with no end in sight. Their testimonies make clear that their tactics do not serve the supposed purpose of reducing violence, and are in fact not intended to do any such thing. The bizarre ordeals imposed on the soldiers outdo Kafka and pale in comparison to the nightmares imposed on Palestinians. The driving forces are quite clearly racism, sadism, imperialism, and excessive obedience.

A very few of the many samples I was tempted to provide:

"They called us to some location, they found [rockets] in the minaret of a mosque. What do you do? You look for someone to go up to the mosque and take down the [rockets] because it's dangerous for us. So they knocked on doors in the area. There's always someone with us who speaks Arabic. . . . So they knocked on the doors and found someone. He was retarded. They said, 'Go up to the mosque. There are pipes in the minaret. Bring them down.' They didn't even tell him it was explosives."

"There was an operation in the company next to mine where they told me that a woman was blown up by [an explosive used to break through doors], her limbs were smeared on the wall, but it wasn't on purpose. They knocked and knocked on the door and there was no answer, so they decided to open it [with live ammunition] . . . . and just at that moment the woman decided to open the door. And then her kids came over and saw her. . . . someone said it was funny, and everyone cracked up, that the kids saw their mother smeared on the wall."

"[T]he brigade commander . . . briefs us, 'Any kid you see with a stone, you can shoot at him.' Like, shoot to kill. A stone!"

"[I]t's unbelievable how in the end the report on the radio was, 'In an operation in Tul Karem the IDF captured,' like, you know, 'twenty suspects, ten weapons, and fertilizer suspected for use in manufacturing [explosives], a ton and a half of fertilizer.' So it's a success, because you hear it on the radio, and you say, 'Hey, look, like we went there, this is what we got, we did what we were supposed to do.' And what we did was just the opposite. Because what did we do? We committed crimes. We destroyed homes. No house that we went into was the same when we left."

"There was this house we captured in Hebron . . . we took this house. You know the procedure: the family moves down a floor. Now, what did we do? We were . . . on the third floor, the guys set up a pipe, a pipe to pee, so they could pee outside. They put the pipe, we put the pipe exactly so that all the piss would flow into the courtyard of the house below us. There were a few chicken coops just there, it all poured out there. That was the joke every day, waiting for the father or one of the kids to go to the coop, and then everyone stands and pisses." "Apparently, that captain had gone to Takua, which is a pretty hostile village -- they were throwing stones at the jeep. So, he just stopped a Palestinian guy who was passing, forty-something years old, and tied him to the hood of the jeep, a guy just lying on the hood, and they drove into the village."

"The Palestinians didn't know there were soldiers behind them, and the soldiers would just spray their legs. . . . His one goal was to lure Palestinian children, just to cut off their legs."

"We had a commander in the unit who would just say in these words, . . . 'I want bodies. That's what I want.'"

"You're not ranked by arrests -- you're ranked by the number of people you kill."

"[The company commander] taught us about rubber bullets, and they showed us how it comes in what's called a 'tampon,' which is a kind of plastic bag that contains the bullets. So they said, 'You need to separate them, meaning you tear open the package and put them in one by one so you cause damage.' And they actually explained it to us, in this really pornographic way, 'Aim for the eyes so you take out an eye, or at the stomach so it goes into the stomach.'"

"Try to imagine it: I see my officers with their backs to me, laughing, falling about, and below I see the Border Police beating people up, guys being choked, one guy bleeding. And I think, 'This is just like the books I read.' . . . Whenever people get shot, I have this image in my head, I must've seen it in a movie, of Nazis shooting Jews in pits, and officers standing at the side, laughing."

(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Morsi: Egypt's New Pharaoh
By Chris Hedges

When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran after 14 years in exile on Feb. 1, 1979, he set out to destroy the secular opposition forces, including the Communist Party of Iran, which had been instrumental in bringing down the shah. Khomeini's declaration of an Islamic government, supported by referendum, saw him rewrite the constitution, close opposition newspapers and ban opposition groups including the National Democratic Front and the Muslim People's Republican Party. Dissidents who had spent years inside Iran's notoriously brutal prison system under the shah were incarcerated once again by the new regime. Some returned to their cells to be greeted by their old jailers, who had offered their services to the new regime.

This is what is under way in Egypt. It is the story of most revolutions. The moderates, who are crucial to winning the support of the masses and many outside the country, become an impediment to the consolidation of autocratic power. Liberal democrats, intellectuals, the middle class, secularists and religious minorities including Coptic Christians were always seen by President Mohamed Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party-Egypt's de facto political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood-as "useful idiots." These forces were essential to building a broad movement to topple the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. They permitted Western journalists to paint the opposition in their own image. But now they are a hindrance to single-party rule and are being crushed.

The first of two days of voting on a new constitution was held Saturday. According to reports Sunday, the document is being approved. The second round of voting, next Saturday, includes rural districts that provide much of the Brotherhood's base of support, and it is expected to end in the constitution being ratified by the required 50 percent or more of Egypt's 51 million voters. Opposition forces charge that the first round was marred by polling irregularities including bribery, intimidation, erratic polling hours and polling officials who instructed voters how to cast ballots. A large number of the 13,000 polling stations will have had no independent monitors; many judges, in protest over the drafting process, have refused to oversee the voting.

The referendum masks the real center of power, which is in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. The party has no intention of diluting or giving up that power. For example, when it appeared that the Supreme Constitutional Court would dissolve the panel-stacked with party members-that was drafting the new constitution, the Brotherhood locked the judges out of the court building. Three dozen members of the panel, including secularists, Coptic Christians, liberals and journalists, quit in protest. The remaining Islamists, in defiance of the judges, held an all-night session Nov. 29 and officially approved the 63-page document.

The draft constitution is filled with disturbingly vague language about democratic rights, civil liberties, the duties of women and the role of the press. It gives Islamic religious authorities control over the legislative process and many aspects of daily and personal life. One reason the constitution is expected to pass, apart from voting fraud, is because many liberals, secularists and Copts have walked away in disgust from electoral participation.

The Brotherhood, ironically, was not part of the vanguard that led the 18 days of protests in February 2011 that brought down Mubarak. It was reluctant, after decades of being severely repressed, to throw its weight behind the protesters clogging Tahrir Square. It said at first that it would not compete in the presidential election or run a full slate of parliamentary candidates. But once it saw the chaos, squabbling and disarray among its secular opponents, who ran three competing presidential candidates, it seized the opportunity.

Passages in the proposed constitution such as "The state is keen to preserve the genuine character of the Egyptian family" and the state guarantees freedom of the press except "in times of war or public mobilization" are vague enough to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to severely curtail women's rights and ruthlessly silence press criticism. Morsi's imperial presidential declaration of Nov. 22, until he rescinded it last week after street protests, effectively placed him above the law. Rescission of the decree will not, however, prevent the party from attaining dictatorial power.

The Brotherhood does not shrink from the use of deadly force. The violent street clashes between thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators outside the presidential palace last week left 10 dead and about 700 wounded. Some anti-government protesters said they were beaten in a makeshift detention and torture center that the Brotherhood set up close to the palace. Morsi showed no remorse. He announced in a nationally televised broadcast that anti-government demonstrators had confessed to being "paid thugs." And the new government, to curb further street protests, including those that took place in Alexandria this weekend, has authorized the military to arrest civilians.

The Muslim Brotherhood, like all revolutionary parties that replace an ancien regime, has inhabited the traditional structures of power. Government ministers and cabinets have been appointed. Parliamentarians have been elected. Judges have been named. But actual power is held, as in most post-revolutionary societies, by parallel party organizations. There are two systems of authority. One is public and ceremonial. The other is secret and unassailable. It is this realization-that the formal positions of power no longer mean anything-that led to the withdrawal of 30 percent of the Constituent Assembly, including several presidential advisers. Public figures in official roles are window dressing.

Successful revolutionaries, as Crane Brinton wrote, "combine, in varying degrees, very high ideals and a complete contempt for the inhibitions and principles which serve other men as ideals. They present a strange variant of Plato's pleasant scheme: they are not philosopher-kings but philosopher-killers. They have the realistic, the practical touch very few of the moderate leaders had, and yet they have also enough of the prophet's fire to hold followers who expect the New Jerusalem around the corner. They are practical men unfettered by common sense, Machiavellians in the service of the Beautiful and the Good."

Leon Trotsky explained this mentality when he described the role of the Bolsheviks, who he admitted had been a distinct minority, in 1917.

"The Bolsheviks," he wrote, "took the people as preceding history had created them, and as they were called to achieve the Revolution. The Bolsheviks saw it as their mission to stand at the head of this people. Those against the insurrection were ‘everybody'-except the Bolsheviks. But the Bolsheviks were the people."

In short, the revolutionary elites give liberty only to those who they believe deserve it. And all revolutions, even purportedly secular ones such as the Bolshevik Revolution, are in essence religious experiences. They hold out glorious utopian visions and insist they have harnessed the forces of history, racial purity, destiny or God. They bifurcate the world into good and evil. They are exempt, as revolutionaries, from everyday morality. They embody an absolute truth. To tolerate differences is to abet evil. It is to permit those who are misguided to squander their lives. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine argued this point in 1600 when he ordered the Dominican friar and astronomer Giordano Bruno to be burned at the stake for blasphemy. The longer heretics live, he said, the more damnation they heap upon themselves.

Revolutionary governments invert morality and the rule of law. They believe, as Maximilien de Robespierre wrote, that they pit the despotism of liberty against tyranny. This is why Morsi increasingly mirrors the dictator he replaced.

"All revolutionaries, the moment they undertake the actual responsibilities, become in some sort conservatives," wrote G.M. Trevelyan. "Robespierre guillotined the Anarchists. The first administrative act of the [English] Regicides was to silence the Levelers."

Revolutionary governments are adept at playing on class hatreds and the self-righteousness of true believers. The middle class proved vitally important to the Egyptian revolution, as in all revolutions. But the largely secular middle class and especially the upper class are despised by the masses of poor that make up most of Egypt's population. The only effective form of resistance to the secular Mubarak regime was to retreat into the strict tenets of orthodox Islam. The embrace of orthodox Islam became for many of the poor an identity and the sole source of hope. There is no need to enforce dress codes or the mores of orthodox Islam in impoverished Cairo slums such as Imbaba. But in the upper-class neighborhoods of Cairo such as Zamalek, where the old regime was in economic terms more generous, orthodox Islam never had the same cachet, even as upper-class women donned the hijab and orthodox Islam made inroads into the economic elite.

This revolution, like all revolutions, has called poor believers into the streets to battle the party's opponents. The opposition is branded the enemy of the revolution and, more ominously, the enemy of Islam; the anti-government protesters, in the words of Morsi, are the stooges of foreign embassies and Israel. And the poor-the Lumpenproletariat-are only too happy to lend their services as shock troops in defense of sacred beliefs and the promised future of glory and bread. They already detested those they are now being rallied against. Once released by the state from traditional forms of restraint, the mob willingly becomes vicious.

The last three weeks of street violence presage a period of blood and repression. The opposition, which at first wanted to boycott the referendum, is mounting a beleaguered effort to defeat it. The lines are drawn. Morsi and the Brotherhood have been exposed as the heirs of the old dictatorship in new garb. The struggle for an open society is being waged by the betrayed on the streets of Egyptian cities. It will be a fight to the death. Brotherhood posters put up throughout Egypt in support of the pending constitution urge people to vote yes to "Supporting Legitimacy and Shariah [Islamic law]." Those who oppose legitimacy and Islamic law, it goes without saying, are heretics.
(c) 2012 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

The Dead Letter Office...

Willard gives the Corpo-rat salute!

Heil Obama,

Dear Gouverneur Romney,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your scary acting that made people who hated the president vote for the president, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 12-31-2012. We salute you Herr Romney, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Save The Children
Tears and Tragedy in Connecticut
By Randall Amster

My eyes fill with tears as I hear the news of the mass shooting in Connecticut, where most of those killed were elementary school children. As a parent with children of similar ages, I can only imagine the grief of those who lost the most precious thing in their lives today. And as a person concerned about the well-being of all peoples and the tenuous future of our species, I keep hearing myself think: What will it take to end the madness?

I am loath to use yet another tragedy to point out (again) the inherent violence and brutality of our society, from the exploitation of individuals to the decimation of nations. I am not eager to connect it back (again) to the human-initiated violence toward the balance of life on the planet, that vast interconnected web on which our very existence depends. I take no solace in preparing to rant (again) about the culpability of the media, the profligacy of corporate profiteers who put their wealth above everyone else's health, or about the profound alienation and emptiness of modern life.

No, this is beyond all of that. This is about our children. ALL of our children, everywhere. If we do not appreciate the basic fact that we are all responsible for all of the world's children, then there is precious little hope for any viable human future on this world. We simply cannot continue to steal the future from our children, to wantonly consume the habitat and undermine its inherent resiliency, to seed the world with weapons of mass insanity and the implements of violence that are all too readily available for acts of grave cowardice such as the one we are seeing today -- and everyday.

The "mass shooting" has become a dominant motif in the production of social relations, the last refuge of the disaffected and unloved, the final epitaph for a culture that has paid far too little attention to its children and the responsibility to ensure for them a positive future.

On a daily basis, the news queue is like a litany of horror stories, while those nominally charged with promoting our security do little more than posture before cameras and open new fronts in a war without end. The "mass shooting" has become a dominant motif in the production of social relations, the last refuge of the disaffected and unloved, the final epitaph for a culture that has paid far too little attention to its children and the responsibility to ensure for them a positive future.

As a parent, my heart breaks; as a human being, my soul aches. What will it take? In a just world, this episode alone would be enough to jolt us out of our torpor and get us to put down all of the weapons of war in our midst. We would reexamine the deep-seated societal roots of despair and violence, and take an honest accounting of the ways in which we are all culpable in its perpetuation. We would re-dedicate ourselves to establishing a societal foundation based on empathy and compassion, and build our economies and politics around these values. And above all, we would use every peaceful means at our disposal to ensure that our children can play and grow in this world.

My fervent hope is that out of tragedy comes revelation. What will it take? Nothing less than the unwavering commitment of all people of good conscience to step back from the abyss of hopelessness, and to reclaim the virtues of being caretakers rather than consumers of ourselves, one another, and the world around us. For the sake of all that makes life worth living, let us from today forward build a society whose highest ideal is to save our children and preserve our future.
(c) 2012 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. Amonsg his most recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Shooting Is Business, And Business Is Good
By William Rivers Pitt

Old man lying by the side of the road
with the lorries rolling by,
Blue moon sinking from the weight of the load
and the buildings shake the sky,
Cold wind ripping down the alley at dawn
and the morning paper flies,
Dead man lying by the side of the road
with the daylight in his eyes...

Don't let it bring you down
It's only castles burning
Find someone who's turning
And you will come around...
Don't Let It Bring You Down ~~~ Neil Young

An 11-year old boy in Utah brought a .22 pistol to school with him on Tuesday. His parents apparently gave it to him "for protection" in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre. His teacher found out he had it after he put the gun to the head of a classmate at recess and threatened to kill her.

Only two weeks ago, on December 4th, 11 people were shot in one night in Chicago, but that news barely jiggled the wires, because at the time everyone was encompassing the murder-suicide perpetrated by NFL player Jovan Belcher, who shot his girlfriend to death in front of her mother before killing himself in front of his coaches in a parking lot. At the time, everyone said it was terrible, something that really makes you think, and Bob Costas went so far as to lament the deadly nature of America's gun culture during the national broadcast of a football game. He was roundly attacked for speaking out of turn, for "not having all the facts," and for generally intruding upon everyone's enjoyment of the game.

Between 2003 and 2010, 247,131 Americans died of gunshot wounds. Since 1982, there have been more than 60 mass shootings in America. In almost every case, the weapons used were obtained legally. The number of households with guns has been declining, with a few upticks here and there, since 1990, and yet gun sales went through the roof in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, which means more people aren't buying guns, but the people who buy guns are buying more of them.

The gun business in America is booming, despite the decline in households that own guns. As the Washington Post glibly noted this week, "The U.S. gun industry has been one of the brightest spots in the U.S. economy in recent years, even through the recent downturn. This year, it racked up $11.7 billion in sales and $992 million in profits, according to the research firm IBISWorld." Almost 17 million people applied for a background check to purchase a gun in 2012. More than 156 million people have applied since 1998.

Facts: Colorado, Oregon and Wisconsin allow guns on college campuses. Mississippi likewise allows guns on college campuses, as well as in secondary schools, polling places, churches, passenger terminals at airports, and bars. Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia and Ohio also allow guns in bars. You can shoot a gun in Missouri when you're drunk, and as long as it's considered to be in "self-defense," you're within your rights. In Vermont, you can sell a pistol to a 16-year old kid. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona, Tennessee and Alaska have all passed laws saying that guns made in-state are not subject to federal regulations. The Florida "Stand Your Ground" law has gotten a lot of attention after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, but 24 other states besides Florida have enacted similar laws.

A violent felon in Minnesota can regain their gun ownership rights if they successfully petition the court about having "good cause." In Ohio, a violent felon can retain their gun rights if they prove to a court that they have led a "law-abiding life." You can get your guns back in Georgia and Nebraska even if you've committed manslaughter and armed robbery, and in Montana, your guns will be returned to you if you didn't use a gun when you committed your crime. That seems to fly in the face of the old saw that says, "If you make guns criminal, only criminals will have guns."

Then again, all the worst bloodbaths of the last several years - including this most recent massacre in Newtown - were perpetrated by people who were not outlaws...until they pulled the trigger and laid their victims low. That 11-year old boy in Utah was not an outlaw until his parents put that pistol in his hands and sent him to school. He didn't make it to the end of recess.

Thomas Lane. One L. Goh. Jake England. Alvin Watts. Ian Stawicki. James Holmes. Wade Michael Page. Andrew Engeldinger. Jacob Tyler Roberts. Adam Lanza. These are America's most well-known mass killers from the year 2012 alone. Seventy-two lives were snuffed out by their actions. Every single one of them used a gun. None of them were outlaws...until.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 180 more people have been killed by guns since the Newtown massacre.

Shooting is business, and business is good.

So, yeah...not to put too fine a point on it, but anyone who claims guns are not the problem needs a nap. Of course the insane prevalence of guns in America is a problem. Of course it is. Every from-my-cold-dead-hands gun-lover crowing about the man in China who slashed 22 shoolchildren on the same day as the Newtown massacred glossed over the fact that all those Chinese kids survived the experience...and that one incident of non-gun violence piled up against the five-dozen high-profile gun massacres endured by Americans since the Reagan administration means you're wrong, cope with it, and become part of the solution for a change.

You need an AK-47, you need an AR-15, to defend yourself against the government? Cool story, bro. The government has nuclear weapons, stealth bombers, Aegis warships, drones, SEALs and the United States fa-chrisakes Marines. Good luck with that; send me a note from the front. You don't need it. You want it, and therein lies the end of the argument.

There are plenty of solutions to this ravaging epidemic of bloodletting available, if you ask the right people. Several lawmakers across the country have advocated arming teachers with assault weapons. Judson Philips, leader of Tea Party Nation, believes crippling teachers' unions through right-to-work laws, the mainstreaming of right-wing homeschooling, and the denunciation of all things liberal will lead us out of this darkness. Sam Morris, pastor of the Old Paths Baptist Church in Tennessee, believes government schools that teach evolution and "how to be a homo" are to blame. Focus on the Family leader James Dobson will tell you that abortion and gay marriage have brought God's judgment down upon us. None of them mentioned guns as a problem in the culture.

You know what?

I'm not buying it.

These evangelical haters have had the run of the joint since 1981, and there are almost 300 million guns loose in the country today. As the years have passed, these two crews have become more and more joined at the hip. They have been riding in the same applecart for years now, careening headlong down a fantasy highway where Supply-Side Jesus packs a Bushmaster .223, and anyone who disagrees is some Sharia-loving homosexual abortionist gun-grabber. Look at how they sell these things, and tell me different.

"An armed society is a polite society," goes the slogan. I'm sure it has been very polite at the Newtown funerals, and at all the other funerals in all the other cities and towns where people have had their souls shredded by acts of madness and horror made infinitely easier by weapons the Founders never imagined when they allowed well-regulated militias to have muskets.


This Second Amendment fetish in America is utter hogwash, and will not survive a concerted effort by lawmakers to properly define it again.

It is enough. We have come to a place of definitions after this last, latest outrage. We are strong enough, and wise enough, and good enough to encompass this horror and bend it into something that serves us as a nation. No greater monument could stand over the graves of the lost than one that reads, "From This, No More."

"The so-called American Way begins to seem like a dike made of cheap cement," wrote Hunter S. Thompson almost 50 years ago. "America has been breeding mass anomie since the end of World War II. It is not a political thing, but the sense of new realities, of urgency, anger and sometimes desperation in a society where even the highest authorities seem to be grasping at straws."

It is the guns. And it is this nation's pathetic approach to mental health issues in an age where the basic facts of the times are enough alone to derange people. It is the way we medicate ourselves in an orbit of profit-motives that says more pills are better. It is the way we exist as a nation that has been at permanent war for more than 70 years, the way violence is our calling card, the way we spend trillions on killing while neglecting and ignoring our own. It is our myths, and it is our realities.

But it is the guns.

And we have to start somewhere.
(c) 2012 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.

The Cartoon Corner...

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

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Time Names Mitt Romney Man Of The Year 1912
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)-In an extraordinary gesture of recognition for a losing Presidential nominee, Time magazine today named former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney Man of the Year 1912.

In a press release explaining its decision, Time's editorial board wrote, "Even though his quest for the Presidency was unsuccessful, Mr. Romney's ideas about foreign policy, taxation, wealth inequality, and women's rights typified the year 1912 as no one else has."

In giving Mr. Romney the nod, Time said that he beat out such other candidates for Man of the Year 1912 as Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic.

"It was very close between Romney and the Titanic guy, but we gave it to Romney because it took him slightly longer to sink," Time wrote.

Mr. Romney could not be reached for comment, a spokesman said, because he was travelling around the world visiting his money.
(c) 2012 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 51 (c) 12/21/2012

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