Wednesday, November 14, 2012

11-14-12 Activist Calendar

November 15, 2012, Issue #663
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Thursday, Nov. 15, NEW YORK STATE: Today is the “Call-In Day to Ban Fracking” by sending a message to Gov. Cuomo in Albany — (866) 584-6799. The sponsor is New Yorkers Against Fracking, a leading anti-fracking group. The group says: “Fracking is inherently dangerous and threatens our water, health, communities, and environment. The evidence is in, and the scientists and experts have spoken. Instead of whitewashing fracking with a sham health study, Cuomo should ban it.” The group says: Fracking is inherently dangerous and threatens water, health, communities, and environment. Information,, (917) 514-0700,

Thursday, Nov. 15 , POUGHKEEPSIE: Hip Hop is Bigger Than the (Palestine) Occupation”— free film showing — starts at 7 p.m. in  Spitzer Auditorium, Sanders Hall, at Vassar College, 124 Raymond Ave. We’re told this “documentary is about a 10-day journey of artists traveling through the West Bank, teaching and performing nonviolent resistance. The tour included M1 of Dead Prez, Shadia Mansour, Lowkey, Marcel Cartier, Mazzi of Soul Purpose, DJ Vega Benetton, as well as many others. The group stayed at Bulata Refugee Camp in Nablus and experienced first hand what it felt like living under occupation. Both films will include some live performances. Organized by The New Jim Crow Action Committee. Endorsed by Middle East Crisis Response, Dutchess Peace, Peace Action NY, Vassar Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics, the Vassar Prison Initiative, Hip Hop 101, and the Young Democratic Socialists. Information,

Friday, Nov. 16, POUGHKEEPSIE: A program similar  to the above — “Hip Hop is Bigger Than the Occupation (Palestine)” — will be repeated tonight at 6 p.m. in Lateef Islam Auditorium, Family Partnership Center, 29 N Hamilton St.

Friday, Nov. 16, ALBANY: The Catholic Worker Community is organizing a 12:30-1:30 p.m. vigil in front of the Armory (at 195 Washington Ave.) demanding the closure of the Pentagon's "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation," formerly known as the "School of the Americas." The Fort Benning, GA, school is a training base for political-military personnel of other countries, and has been implicated as the catalyst for many assassinations and human rights violations in these countries The vigil is in solidarity with thousands risking arrest in the Nov. 16-18 national protest in Fort Benning. Information, (518) 482-4966,,

Friday, Nov. 16, MILLBROOK: “The Seed Underground; A Growing Revolution to Save Food” is the topic of a 7 p.m. lecture by Janisse Ray, environmental activist, naturalist, and award-winning author. The venue is the Cary Institute auditorium, 2801 Sharon Turnpike (Rte. 44). Known for her books “The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood,” and “Wild Card Quilt,” Ray will discuss her newest publication, “The Seed Underground.” We’re told, “In the age of genetically-modified seeds, Ray takes us on a journey across the country to farms and neighborhoods to witness a growing revolution. People saving seeds, sharing them, and preserving the rich diversity of our food heritage—one seed at a time.” The event is public and free but seating is limited, so take heed that doors open at 6:30 p.m. Information,

Saturday, Nov. 17, ALBANY: "One Bright Shining Moment" — the very worthwhile 2005 documentary on the life of Sen. George McGovern — will be screened at 7:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany (FUUSA), 405 Washington Ave. McGovern was the Democratic Party’s final center left presidential candidate. His defeat by Richard Nixon in the 1972 contest was among the factors that gradually propelled the party over the decades to its contemporary resting place on the center right of the political spectrum. We’re told: “The 123-minute film is narrated by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, along with a wealth of archival materials, and interviews with prominent progressives like McGovern himself, Gore Vidal, Gloria Steinem, Warren Beatty, Howard Zinn, Dick Gregory, Gary Hart, Frank Mankiewicz, Jim Bouton, Sen. Jim Abourezk, Rev. Malcolm Boyd, Ron Kovic, Thomas Knock, Harvey Kornberg, Chip Berlet, Rick Stearns, and JC Svec; and features music from Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Donovan, Leon Russell, and Elvis Costello.” This free, public event is sponsored by the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District, Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, and Upper Hudson Peace Action.. Information,, (518) 426-0883.

Saturday, Nov. 17, POUGHKEEPSIE:  "Mass Incarceration, Shame of the Nation” — panel discussions on racism and the criminal justice system — will take place 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Family Partnership Center, 29 N. Hamilton St. A complimentary lunch will be served. Topics include the contemporary U.S. prison system and the gross disproportion of black and poor people who are locked up, with reference to Michelle Alexander's 2010 book "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." The panel, featuring Dr. Alice Greene, Theo Harris, and Ernest Henry, lasts 10-11:30 a.m. Lunch is 12-1 p.m. including a workshop by the National Lawyers Guild. The Juvenile Justice System is  from 1-2 p.m. The event is public and free but reservations are advised to guarantee a seat. The event is sponsored by End The New Jim Crow Action Network and endorsed by Middle East Crisis Response, Dutchess Peace, Peace Action NY, Vassar Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics, the Vassar Prison Initiative, Hip Hop 101, and the Young Democratic Socialists (YDS). Information, Reservations and info, (845) 475-8781,

Reminding: Sunday, Nov. 18, DELMAR: The superb 2011 documentary "5 Broken Cameras," concerning nonviolent resistance in West Bank, will be screened free at 4 p.m. at Bethlehem Town Hall, 445 Delaware Ave. A discussion will follow. We’re informed this film is “a Palestinian farmer's chronicle of his nonviolent resistance to the actions of the Israeli army. The film was shot almost entirely by Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son. Over the years the Israeli authorities broke five of his cameras as he sought to film their oppressive activities. The footage was given to Israeli co-director Guy Davidi, who edited it to be structured around the violent destruction of the cameras. The filmmakers' collaboration follows one family's evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost.” The event is sponsored Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace. Information,, (518) 466-1192

Reminding: Monday, Nov. 19, ALBANY: Iranian American  author Trita Parsi speaks on "U.S. and Iran — Between War and Diplomacy" at 8 p.m. in the SUNY Uptown campus center, Room 375, 1400 Washington Ave. Parsi, who is President of the National Iranian-American Council, is an advocate of diplomatic approaches to conflicts in the Middle East, and will be speaking on using diplomacy in the growing crisis between the U.S.-Iran. The free meeting is sponsored are New York State Writer's Institute, Women Against War and Fellowship of Reconciliation. Information,,

Thursday, Nov. 22, AMERICA:  “The symbolism surrounding the Thanksgiving turkey, much like the modern domestic turkey itself, has been largely manufactured by cynical commercial interests. There is neither compelling historical precedent nor meaningful rationale for associating the butchered carcass of a turkey with our national day of thanksgiving.” This information comes from a brief article titled “The History of Thanksgiving” on the Farm Sanctuary website, Google “Vegetarian or vegan recipes for Thanksgiving” and you will find some very delicious recipes. [All told throughout the year, about 300 million turkeys are raised for slaughter, nearly 47 million for this single day of gluttony.]

Reminding: Sunday, Nov. 25, STONE RIDGE: A Community Forum Against Fracking will take place at Marbletown Community Center, 3564 Main St. This free public event will focus on using Community Bill of Rights Ordinances (CBROs) as well as land-use municipal ordinances to ensure against local fracking. We’re told, “speakers will explain why a CBRO is effective as well as representatives from towns that  have passed ordinances. The free public event begins with a showing of the new documentary by Josh Fox “The Sky is Pink” (“his first film was Gasland”). The film starts at 1 p.m. The forum follows at 2 p.m. The sponsor is the town of Rochester Defense Against Fracking (Ulster County). Information, (845) 626-7355 or (845) 687-0692.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

11-06-12 Activist Calendar

November 6, 2012, Issue #662
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Wednesday, Nov. 7, ALBANY: The 90-minute documentary "Rachel: An American Conscience," will be screened at 6:30 p.m. at the Albany Public Library, Delaware branch, 331 Delaware Ave. This film is about Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American peace activist and International Solidarity Movement volunteer who was slain in Israel in 2003. She died when an Israeli Defense Force armored bulldozer crushed her to death as she attempted to block the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip. Those with her in the demonstration said Rachel, a native of Olympia, WA, was in effect murdered. Her story was in the news this summer, when Israeli courts rejected an unlawful death suit filed by her parents. The film was produced 2005, directed by Yahya Barakat. This free public event is sponsored by the Palestinian Rights Committee of Upper Hudson Peace Action, and we certainly recommend it. Information, (518) 928-7822.

Thursday, Nov. 8, NEW PALTZ (SUNY campus): The recent strike  by public school teachers in Chicago is the topic of a free public meeting at today at 4:30 p.m. in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium on campus. The speaker is University of Illinois Professor Pauline Lipman. Her talk, titled “The Chicago Teachers Strike: Reframing Education Reform and Teacher Unions” will focus on the national significance of the recent strike and its potential for the future of education reform and teacher unions in the U.S. The event is co-sponsored by the Progressive Academic Network (PAN) and by the Labor Education Committee, which has just been formed by the New Paltz chapter of United University Professions (UUP), along with the Upper Hudson Central Labor Council and New Paltz United Teachers. The committee’s purpose is to educate public school and college students, as well as their own members, about the long labor history dating back to the nineteenth century; about the value of collective bargaining in improving the terms and conditions of employment; and about the contributions of unions to our general quality of life. Campus map: Information about the meeting, Nancy Schniedewind, (845) 257-2827.

Thursday, Nov. 8, HUDSON: A panel discussion on “The Impact of the War on Drugs on our Community and Across the USA” begins at 6:30 p.m. at Time & Space Limited, 434 Columbia St. The panel includes Alice Green, Executive Director of Albany's Center for Law and Justice. Additional panelists include Derek Anderson and Cedrick Fulton, who spent 30 years and 17 years, respectively, in prison for drug related crimes. Both have recently been released and are eager to talk about their experiences before, during, and after incarceration. The moderator is Linda Mussmann. The discussion will be followed by a screening of "The House I Live In," a documentary analyzing the War on Drugs from the perspective of several different states. This public event is free though donations are appreciated. Information, (518) 822-8100.

Thursday, Nov. 8, WOODSTOCK: The Middle East Crisis Response is a group of Hudson Valley residents who united to promote peace and human rights in Palestine and the Middle East. It meets tonight 7-8:30  p.m. and welcomes new members. The next meeting is Thursday, Nov. 22, same time and place. Information, (845) 876-7906  or

Friday, Nov. 9, DELMAR: Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace is sponsoring a pot luck dinner (bring a dish), an auction and the play "Voices of a People's History of the United States" beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Delmar Reformed Church, 386 Delaware Ave. We’re told: “Anthony Arnove's book of the same name examines America's struggles with war, class, race and women's rights. It is a companion volume to Howard Zinn’s ‘A People's History of the United States.’ The production will be directed by Dan Kelly, and include both actors and activists. There will be dramatizations from such historic figures as Frederick Douglass, Tecumseh, Cindy Sheehan and other rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from our past and present.” The play begins at 7:30 p.m. Cost, a $10 donation is requested, $2 for students. Information,, (518) 466-1192.

Friday, Nov. 9, POUGHKEEPSIE: The First Human Services Resource Fair for Latinos will take place 3-7 p.m. at Family Partnership Center at 29 North Hamilton St. Information, Mariel Fiori, (845) 594-8598,

Saturday, Nov. 10, RHINEBECK: Live Latino Dance Music provided by "Cuboricua," live dance demonstrations, door prizes, and light refreshments will be provided at the Mid-Hudson Larreynaga Sister City Benefit Dance. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. at Church of the Messiah Parish Hall, 6436 Montgomery St. The cost is $20 per person. Proceeds are dedicated to the needy children of our sister city, Larreynaga, Nicaragua. Anyone who brings a nonperishable food item to donate to the church food pantry will get a free door prize ticket. Reservations are suggested. Sponsors include Mid-Hudson Larreynaga Sister City; Dutchess Peace; The Church of the Messiah. Information, (845) 876-3779.

Thursday, Nov. 15, NEW YORK STATE: Today is the “Call-In Day to Ban Fracking” by sending a message to Gov. Cuomo in Albany — (866) 584-6799. The sponsor is New Yorkers Against Fracking, a leading anti-fracking group. The group says: “Fracking is inherently dangerous and threatens our water, health, communities, and environment. The evidence is in, and the scientists and experts have spoken. Instead of whitewashing fracking with a sham health study, Cuomo should ban it.” The group says: Fracking is inherently dangerous and threatens water, health, communities, and environment. Information,, (917) 514-0700,

Sunday, Nov. 18, DELMAR: The superb 2011 documentary "5 Broken Cameras," concerning nonviolent resistance in West Bank, will be screened free at 4 p.m. at Bethlehem Town Hall, 445 Delaware Ave. A discussion will follow. We’re informed this film is “a Palestinian farmer's chronicle of his nonviolent resistance to the actions of the Israeli army. The film was shot almost entirely by Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son. Over the years the Israeli authorities broke five of his cameras as he sought to film their oppressive activities. The footage was given to Israeli co-director Guy Davidi, who edited it to be structured around the violent destruction of the cameras. The filmmakers' collaboration follows one family's evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost.” The event is sponsored Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace. Information,, (518) 466-1192

Monday, Nov. 19, ALBANY: Iranian American  author Trita Parsi speaks on "U.S. and Iran — Between War and Diplomacy" at 8 p.m. in the SUNY Uptown campus center, Room 375, 1400 Washington Ave. Parsi, who is President of the National Iranian-American Council, is an advocate of diplomatic approaches to conflicts in the Middle East, and will be speaking on using diplomacy in the growing crisis between the U.S.-Iran. The free meeting is sponsored are New York State Writer's Institute, Women Against War and Fellowship of Reconciliation. Information,,

Thursday, Nov. 22, AMERICA: Today is Thanksgiving, a traditional day for family and friends to get together and consume a turkey. It is our tradition to suggest an untraditional Thanksgiving instead: how about a vegetarian or vegan meal for the holidays? There are endless entries under "vegetarian thanksgiving dinner" on Google with thousands of recipes. Why a meatless Thanksgiving? Aside from health and environmental reasons, we'll quote Farm Sanctuary, an organization for the protection of farmed animals: "Dark, dirty warehouses. Crowds of animals in distress. Mutilated beaks and toes. Sick, injured birds left to suffer and die without anyone to help them. These are not the kinds of images we tend to conjure when we think about Thanksgiving, yet they are indicative of the reality faced by more than 46 million turkeys slaughtered every year in the U.S. for this holiday alone [all told throughout the year, about 300 million turkeys are raised for slaughter annually in our country].... The more our fellow citizens learn about the cruelty that goes on behind the closed doors of factory farms, the less sense it makes that we feast on these maligned birds as symbols of gratitude, and the more natural it becomes to spare a life in the spirit of thankfulness that shines this time of year."

Sunday, Nov. 25, STONE RIDGE: A Community Forum Against Fracking will take place at Marbletown Community Center, 3564 Main St. This free public event will focus on using Community Bill of Rights Ordinances (CBROs) as well as land-use municipal ordinances to ensure against local fracking. We’re told, “speakers will explain why a CBRO is effective as well as representatives from towns that  have passed ordinances. The free public event begins with a showing of the new documentary by Josh Fox “The Sky is Pink” (“his first film was Gasland”). The film starts at 1 p.m. The forum follows at 2 p.m. The sponsor is the town of Rochester Defense Against Fracking (Ulster County). Information, (845) 626-7355 or (845) 687-0692.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

11-3-12 Activist Newsletter

November 3, 2012, Issue #186

Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, P.O. Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561
11. Mom Guilty for Refusing TSA Pat Down On Daughter
12. Will the Apocalypse Arrive Online
15. China Bashing: A U.S. Political Tradition


With the election just moments away it seems appropriate to contemplate some sage quotations about the political system, and its politicians.

Gore Vidal, writer and social critic, 1925-2012: "It makes no difference who you vote for — the two parties are really one party representing four percent of the people."

Otto Von Bismarck, German Chancellor, diplomat and politician, 1814-1898: "Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied."

H.L. Mencken, social critic and author, 1880-1956: "A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.... Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods."

Oscar Levant, pianist, composer, comedian, 1906-1972: "A politician is a man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it."

John Kenneth Galbraith, a leading liberal economist and prolific author, 1908-2006: "Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable."

George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans),  the English novelist, 1819-1880: "An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry."

W.S. Gilbert, the great dramatist and librettist 1836-1911:"I always voted at my party's call, and I never thought of thinking for myself at all." (From HMS Pinafore.)

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP VP candidate: "People know something has gone terribly wrong with our government and it has gotten so far off track. But people also know that there is nothing wrong in America that a good old-fashioned election can't fix.”

By Jack A. Smith, editor, Activist Newsletter

There are important differences, of course, between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney, but the long conservative trend in American politics will continue regardless of who wins the presidential election Nov. 6. Either candidate will move it right along.

From a left point of view, Obama is superior to Romney in the sense that the Democratic center right is politically preferable to the Republican right/far right. The Democrats will cause less social damage — though not less war damage or the pain of gross inequality or the harm done civil liberties — than their conservative cousins.

Indeed, both candidates are conservative. Obama is moderately so, judging by his first term in the White House, though liberal in his current campaign rhetoric and on two social issues — abortion and gay marriage. Romney is definitely so, though he shifts opportunistically from the extreme right to the right and back again. In the last weeks of the campaign, sensing his impending defeat, the former Massachusetts governor momentarily leaned to the center right.

The Republican Party has gravitated ever further to the right during the last few decades and is now securely in the hands of extremist politicians, symbolized by the ascendancy of the Tea Party and the many House and Senate members who follow its far right agenda. Jim Hightower, the well known liberal Texas columnist, wrote an article in AlterNet Oct. 8 that briefly described key programs in the GOP platform:

* Medicare must be replaced with a privatized "VoucherCare" (or, more accurately, "WeDon'tCare") medical system;
• All poverty programs must be slashed or eliminated to "free" poor people from a crippling and shameful dependency on public aid;
• The government framework that sustains a middle class (from student loans to Social Security) must be turned over to Wall Street so individuals are free to "manage" their own fates through marketplace choice;
• Such worker protections as collective bargaining, minimum wage, and unemployment payments must be stripped away to remove artificial impediments to the "natural rationality" of free market forces;
• The corporate and moneyed elites (forgive a bit of redundancy there) must be freed from tax and regulatory burdens that impede their entrepreneurial creativity;
• The First Amendment must be interpreted to mean that unlimited political spending of corporate cash equals free speech; and
• Etcetera, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

The one thing Hightower left out is that if the Republicans insist on identifying corporate bosses as “Job Creators,” why then aren’t they creating jobs? Romney blames China, as do the Democrats, but that’s election politics.

China is a rising capitalist economy that only started to really take off about 15 years ago, and it is doing what all such rising economies do — adopting some measures to grow and protect their developing industries and trade. The U.S. did it too as a growing economy for many decades. That’s capitalism. It goes where it can make the most profit with little concern for the workers it leaves behind. Washington supports this concept but not when it might be disadvantageous to itself. Nothing prevents the U.S. government from investing in the creation of millions of American jobs except the prevailing conservative ideology.

Despite the seeming distance between the two parties on economic issues — emphasized by Republican proposals cribbed from the pages of “Atlas Shrugged”— economist Jared Bernstein, a Democrat, wrote on his blog Sept. 6 that he was going beyond “good Democrats and bad Republicans” to perceive “the ascendancy of a largely bipartisan vision that promotes individualist market-based solutions over solutions that recognize there are big problems that markets cannot effectively solve.” He’s on to something.

Bernstein, until this year Vice President Joe Biden’s chief economic adviser, then wrote: “We cannot, for example, constantly cut the federal government’s revenue stream without undermining its ability to meet pressing social needs. We know that more resources will be needed to meet the challenges of prospering in a global economy, keeping up with technological changes, funding health care and pension systems, helping individuals balance work and family life, improving the skills of our workforce, and reducing social and economic inequality. Yet discussion of this reality is off the table.”

There are a number of major policy areas of virtual agreement between the parties. Their most flagrant coupling is in the key area of foreign/military policy.

The Democrats — humiliated for years by right wing charges of being “soft on defense” — have become the war party led by a Commander-in-Chief who relishes his job to the extent of keeping his own individual kill list. What neoconservative would dare fault him for this? Imagine the liberal outcry had Bush been discovered with a kill list! This time the liberals didn’t kick up much fuss.

During the third presidential debate Romney had little choice but to align himself with Obama’s war policies in Afghanistan, the attacks on western Pakistan, the regime change undeclared war against Libya, the regime change war in Syria, the aggressive anti-China “pivot” to Asia and drone assaults against Yemen and Somalia with many more to come.

Virtually all liberals, progressives, some leftists and organized labor will vote for Obama. Many will do so with trepidation, given their disappointment about his performance in office, particularly his tilt toward the right, willingness to compromise more than half way with the Republicans, and his reluctance to wage a sharp struggle on behalf of supposed Democratic Party goals.

Many of these forces now view Obama as the “lesser evil,” but worry he will sell them out once again. According to the Washington publication The Hill on Oct. 24:

“Major labor unions and dozens of liberal groups working to elect President Obama are worried he could ‘betray’ them in the lame-duck session by agreeing to a deal to cut safety-net programs. While Obama is relying on labor unions and other organizations on the left to turn out Democratic voters in battleground states, some of his allies have lingering concerns about whether he will stand by them if elected….

“The AFL-CIO has planned a series of coordinated events around the country on Nov. 8, two days after Election Day, to pressure lawmakers not to sign onto any deficit-reduction deal that cuts Medicare and Social Security benefits by raising the Medicare eligibility age or changing the formula used for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments. ‘There’s going to be a major effort by lots of groups to make sure the people we vote for don’t sell us down the river,’ said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. “People, groups, organizations and networks are working very hard to get Obama and the Democrats elected, and yet we are worried that it is possible that we could be betrayed almost immediately,’ he said.”

One specific issue behind this distrust is the awareness that, if reelected, Obama has said he will seek a “grand bargain” with the Republicans intended to slash the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade. During deficit talks with House leader John Boehner over a year ago Obama voluntarily declared that cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security were “on the table” for negotiation— the first time any any Democratic President ever offered to compromise on what amounts to the crowning legislative achievements of the New Deal and Great Society administrations.

At the time Obama envisioned reducing Medicare by $1 trillion and Medicaid by $360 billion over two decades. The exact amount from Social Security was not disclosed. During the campaign Obama promised to “protect” these three “entitlements.”

While denouncing Romney’s “plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program and increase health care costs for seniors,” AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka disclosed Oct. 23 that “a bipartisan group of senators who are not up for reelection is working behind closed doors in Washington to reach a so-called grand bargain that completely bypasses this debate and ignores the views of voters. What is the grand bargain? It boils down to lower tax rates for rich people — paid for by benefit cuts for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Another reason for a certain suspicion about what Obama will achieve in a second term is based on his unfulfilled promises from the 2008 election. Here are some of them from an Oct. 27 article titled “The Progressive Case Against Obama” by Matt Stoller:

“ A higher minimum wage, a ban on the replacement of striking workers, seven days of paid sick leave, a more diverse media ownership structure, renegotiation of NAFTA, letting bankruptcy judges write down mortgage debt, a ban on illegal wiretaps, an end to national security letters, stopping the war on whistle-blowers, passing the Employee Free Choice Act, restoring habeas corpus, and labor protections in the FAA bill.

“Each of these pledges would have tilted bargaining leverage to debtors, to labor, or to political dissidents. So Obama promised them to distinguish himself from Bush, and then went back on his word because these promises didn’t fit with the larger policy arc of shifting American society toward his vision.”

Many liberals and progressives seem convinced that the two-party system is the only viable battleground within which to contest for peace and social progress, even if the two ruling parties are right of center. This is one reason they shun progressive or left third parties.

This national electoral battleground, however, as has become evident to many Americans in recent years, is owned and operated by the wealthy ruling elite which has, through its control of the two-party system, stifled any social progress in the United States for 40 years.

Throughout these same four decades the Democrats have shifted from the center left to center right. The last center left Democratic presidential candidate was the recently departed former Sen. George McGovern, who was whipped by the Republicans in 1972. In tribute to this last antiwar and progressive presidential candidate, and as a contrast to the present center right standard bearer, we recall McGovern’s comment from the 1972 Democratic convention:

“As one whose heart has ached for the past 10 years over the agony of Vietnam, I will halt a senseless bombing of Indochina on Inaugural Day. There will be no more Asian children running ablaze from bombed-out schools. There will be no more talk of bombing the dikes or the cities of the North [Vietnam]. And within 90 days of my inauguration, every American soldier and every American prisoner will be out of the jungle and out of their cells and then home in America where they belong.”

There is more to America’s presidential and congressional elections than meets the eye of the average voter. The impending election, for instance, has two aspects. One has been in-your-face visible for over a year before Election Day. The other is usually concealed because, while critically important, it’s not a matter that entertains public debate or intervention.

The visible aspect — the campaign, slogans and speeches, the debates, arguments and rallies —is contained within the parameters of the political system which Obama and Romney meticulously observe. Those parameters, or limitations, are mainly established by that privileged elite sector of the citizenry lately identified as the 1% and its minions.

The concealed aspect of elections in the U.S. is that they are usually undemocratic in essence; and that the fundamental underlying issues of the day are rarely mentioned, much less contested.

Many of the major candidates are selected, groomed and financed by the elite, who then invest fortunes in the election campaigns for president, Congress and state legislatures (over $6 billion in this election). And after their representatives to all these offices are elected, they spend billions more on the federal and state level lobbying for influence, transferring cash for or against legislation affecting their financial and big business interests.

American electoral democracy is based on one person, one vote — and it’s true that the wealthy contributor of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to favored candidates is similarly restricted to a single ballot. But the big spenders influence multitudes of voters through financing mass advertising, which in effect multiplies the donor’s political clout by a huge factor.

Democracy is grossly undermined by the funding from rich individuals and corporations that determine the outcome of many, probably most, elections.  These are the wealthy with whom  a Romney can easily describe 47% of the  American people as scroungers dependant on government handouts, and they will chuckle and applaud. They are the same breed with whom an Obama can comfortably mock the “professional left” within his party and get knowing nods and smiles.

The most important of the major issues completely omitted from the elections and the national narrative is the obvious fact that the United States is an imperialist state and a militarist society. It rules the world, not just the seas as did Britannia, and the sun never sets on America’s worldwide military bases, an “empire of bases” as Chalmers Johnson insisted.

Most Americans, including the liberals, become discomforted or angered when their country is described as imperialist and militarist. But what else is a society that in effect controls the world through military power; that has been at war or planning for the next war for over 70 years without letup; that spends nearly $700 billion a year on its armed forces and an equal amount on various national security entities?

The American people never voted on whether to become or continue as an imperialist or militarist society any more than they voted to invade Iraq, or to deregulate the banks, or to vaporize the civilian city of Hiroshima.

In the main a big majority believe Washington’s foreign/military policies are defensive and humanitarian because that’s what the government, the schools, churches and commercial mass media drum into their heads throughout their lives. They have been misinformed and manipulated to accept the status quo on the basis of Washington’s fear-mongering, exaggerated national security needs, mythologies about American history, and a two-party political system primarily devoted to furthering the interests of big business, multinational corporations, too-big-to-fail banks and Wall Street.

Needless to say, both ruling parties have participated in all this and it is simply taken for granted they will continue to cultivate militarism and practice imperialism in order to remain the world’s dominant hegemon.

There are many ways to keep the voting population in line. The great majority of Americans are religious people, including many fundamentalists. Both candidates of the political duopoly have exploited religious beliefs by telling the people that God is on America’s side and that the deity supports America’s dominant role in the world, and its wars, too.

At the Democratic convention in September, Obama concluded his speech with these inspiring words: “Providence is with us, and we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.” The term Providence, in the sense intended, suggests that God “is with us,” guides America’s destiny and approves of the activities we have defined as imperialist and militarist.

Romney declared last month that “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. America must lead the world.”

Further along these lines, Obama said in the third debate that “America remains the one indispensable nation, and the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office.” Having God’s backing and being the only one of some 200 nation states in the world that cannot be dispensed with is what is meant by the expression “American Exceptionalism” — a designation that gives Washington a free pass to do anything it wants.

American “leadership” (i.e., global hegemony) has been a policy of the Democratic and Republican parties for several decades. A main reason the American foreign policy elite gathered behind Obama in 2007 was his continual emphasis upon maintaining Washington’s world leadership.

Many other key policies will not change whether Obama or Romney occupy the Oval Office.

• For instance, the U.S. is the most unequal society among the leading capitalist nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). About half its people are either low income or poor, and they receive lower benefits than families resident in other OECD countries. What will Obama and Romney do about this if elected to the White House? Nothing. Burgeoning inequality wasn’t even a topic during the three debates. And in Obama’s nearly four years in office he completely ignored this most important social problem plaguing America.

According to the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz: “Economic inequality begets political inequality and vice versa. Then the very vision that makes America special — upward mobility and opportunity for all — is undermined. One person, one vote becomes one dollar, one vote. That is not democracy.”

• Climate change caused by global warming is here. America has been wracked in recent years with devastating storms, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, as have other parts of the world. One of the worst of all storms decimated large parts of the eastern United States a few days ago. And what will Obama and Romney do about it? Nothing. This most important of international questions was not thought worthy of mention in all three debates. Bill McKibben got it right the other day when he said: “Corporate polluters have bought the silence of our elected leaders.”

Obama’s environmental comprehension and occasional rhetoric are an improvement over Romney’s current climate denial  (one more cynical reversal of his earlier views). But the president has done virtually nothing to fight climate change during his first term — and he simply can’t blame it all on the Republicans. He has a bully pulpit with which to galvanize public consciousness but doesn’t use it. Actually the Obama government has played a backward role in the annual UN climate talks — delaying everything, even though the U.S. is history’s most notorious emitter of the greenhouse gases that have brought the world to this sorry pass.

• The shameful erosion of civil liberties that swiftly increased during the Bush Administration has been continued and expanded during the Obama Administration. One cannot help but question the teacher training that goes into producing a Harvard Professor of Constitutional Law who blithely approves legislation containing a provision for indefinite detention that in effect suspends habeas corpus for some, a heretofore sacrosanct aspect of American democracy.

• The economic suffering of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans in the years since 2008, when the Great Recession began, is far worse than that of whites. Black family income and wealth is incomparably lower. Black unemployment is twice that of whites. The Obama White House has not brought forth one program to alleviate the conditions afflicting these three communities, and it’s hardly likely a Romney government would do any better.

On other visible election issues, such as the rights of labor unions, the Democrats are much  better than the Republicans, who despise the unions, but Obama has certainly been asleep at the switch, or maybe he just knows labor will support him come what may. Portraying himself as a friend of labor, Obama refused to fight hard enough — even when the Democrats controlled the House and Senate — to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, the one bill labor truly wanted from the White House in return for years of service. During his first term Obama presided over anti-union legislation and stood mute as the labor movement was pummeled mercilessly in several state legislatures, even losing collective bargaining rights in some states. With friends like this…

In rhetoric, Obama is far superior to the Republicans on such issues as social programs, the deficit, unemployment, foreclosures, tax policy, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. But in actual practice he has either done virtually nothing or has already made compromises. When he thinks he may lose he backs away instead of fighting on and at least educating people in the process. Look at it this way:

• The only social program to emerge from the Obama Administration is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a near duplicate of Romney’s Republican plan in Massachusetts. Obama wouldn’t even consider the long overdue and far better single payer/Medicare-for-all plan. Obamacare is an improvement over the present system, though it still leaves millions without healthcare. But it only came about after convincing Big Insurance and Big Pharma that it would greatly increase their profits. The big insurance and drug companies accumulate overhead costs of 30%. Government-provided Universal Medicare, based on today’s overhead, would only be about 3% because profit and excessive executive pay would be excluded.

• In his willingness to compromise, Obama largely accepted the Tea Party right wing emphasis on deficit reduction instead of investing in the economy and social programs, especially to recover from the Great Recession, continuing stagnation and high unemployment. This will mainly entail budget reductions and targeted tax increases focusing on finally ending the Bush tax cuts for people earning $250,000 or more a year.  These cuts were supposed to expire two years ago but were extended by Obama in a compromise tax deal with obstructionist Republicans Congress.

It’s an old Republican trick when in office to greatly increase the  deficit through tax breaks and war costs, then demand that the succeeding Democratic Administration focus on reducing the deficit by virtually eliminating social programs for the people. Reagan and Bush #1 did it successfully to President Bill Clinton (who spent eight years eliminating the deficit without sponsoring one significant social program), and Bush #2 has done it to Obama.

Almost as informative as what separates the two parties is what they agree upon. Bill Quigley, legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, compiled the following list, which was published on AlterNet Oct. 27:

1. Neither candidate is interested in stopping the use of the death penalty for federal or state crimes.

2. Neither candidate is interested in eliminating or reducing the 5,113 U.S. nuclear warheads.

3. Neither candidate is campaigning to close Guantanamo prison.

4. Neither candidate has called for arresting and prosecuting high ranking people on Wall Street for the subprime mortgage catastrophe.

5. Neither candidate is interested in holding anyone in the Bush administration accountable for the torture committed by U.S. personnel against prisoners in Guantanamo or in Iraq or Afghanistan.

6. Neither candidate is interested in stopping the use of drones to assassinate people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia.

7. Neither candidate is against warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention, or racial profiling in fighting “terrorism.'

8. Neither candidate is interested in fighting for a living wage.  In fact neither are really committed beyond lip service to raising the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour  — which, if it kept pace with inflation since the 1960s should be about $10 an hour.

9. Neither candidate was interested in arresting Osama bin Laden and having him tried in court.

10. Neither candidate will declare they refuse to bomb Iran.

11. Neither candidate is refusing to take huge campaign contributions from people and organizations.

12. Neither candidate proposes any significant specific steps to reverse global warming.

13. Neither candidate is talking about the over 2 million people in jails and prisons in the U.S..

14. Neither candidate proposes to create public jobs so everyone who wants to work can.

15. Neither candidate opposes the nuclear power industry.  In fact both support expansion.

Over the past several weeks, liberal and progressive groups have been seeking to convince disenchanted voters who share their politics to once again get behind Obama with renewed enthusiasm and hope for progress. These organizations fear such voters will not turn out on election day or instead vote for a progressive third party candidate such as the Green Party’s Jill Stein, or a socialist candidate, such as the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s Peta Lindsay, both of whom are on the New York State ballot.

It would be better for American working families if the Republicans were defeated, and Obama is preferable to right wing Romney. I will not vote for Obama because he is a war president comfortably leading an imperialist and militarist system — a man who ignores poor and low income families, who eviscerates our civil liberties and who knows the truth about global warming but does pathetically little about it.

I’ll vote for Peta Lindsay, a young African American women socialist. I totally agree with her 10-point election platform, the last point of which insists “Seize the banks, jail Wall Street criminals.” In this small way I’ll help to build socialism, the only real answer to the problems afflicting America and the world.

From the Editors of the Activist Newsletter

The large majority of our over 3,300 readers  are liberals, progressives and leftists. We estimate 90% of them will vote for President Barack Obama on Nov. 6. We agree with them that Obama is a “lesser evil” than Mitt Romney, his Republican rival, and would prefer to see him win.

About 10% of our readers, the great majority of whom reside in New York’s Hudson Valley, will vote for a third party candidate of the left — either socialist Peta Lindsay of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) or progressive Jill Stein, the candidate of the Green Party.

Both these dedicated, articulate women are fine candidates. Neither will win, of course. But each in her way upholds the promise of building a better society for the working people of our nation and the world.

The candidates of the two ruling parties do not uphold such a promise. They uphold the unacceptable status quo. Both are to the right of the political center. Obama represents the center right, Romney the right/far right. Despite some sharp differences on tactical matters, they are united in support of war, imperialism and militarism, among many other shared shortcomings. (For a full analysis see article above, For Whom Should We Vote?)

Both editors of the Activist Newsletter will vote for socialist Peta Lindsay. We agree with her 10-point program, support the socialist PSL, and above all want to build a better America for all its people (or at least for 99% of them). It will be an extremely hard struggle but consider the alternative:

We are hurtling  toward severe economic inequality and poverty in America. The living standards of the great majority of our people are declining while a small minority are living in a new Golden Age. The so-called American Dream is gone. The capitalist economy is imprisoned in long-term stagnation. Climate change and environmental degradation are altering our landscape and our lives. Our schools are hurting. Our infrastructure is crumbling. There is a great danger of World War III in coming decades.

Capitalism is not going to solve these and many other of the problems and disasters facing the American people.

So we will cast socialist votes against war, climate change, erosions of our civil liberties, and so on. For more information about Peta Lindsay’s candidacy — she’s running in New York State and 12 other states —there is much more information at the website,

Here is her 10-point program.

1. Make a job a Constitutional right:
Tens of millions are jobless and underemployed because the capitalists control employment. A decent paying job must be a legal, guaranteed right. The minimum wage should be raised to $20 per hour and a living income must be guaranteed for those who cannot work.

2. Make free health care, free education and affordable housing Constitutional rights:
These are essentials of life and should not be run for profit. Create a completely free and public health care system. Make education free — cancel all student debt. Stop all foreclosures and evictions — end all mortgage interest payments to the banks.

3. Shut down all U.S. military bases around the world— bring all the troops, planes & ships home:
U.S. foreign policy uses the pretext of national security to enforce the imperialist interests of the biggest banks and corporations. That’s what is behind the endless wars and occupations. Use the annual $1.4 trillion military and national security budgets for peaceful purposes. Provide for people’s needs here and around the world. Stop U.S. aid to Israel. End the blockade of Cuba.

4. Stop racist police brutality and mass incarceration:
More than two million people at one time are behind bars in the largest prison complex in the world. Mass incarceration of our youth is the real crime. End the mass incarceration of oppressed communities. Fully prosecute all acts of police brutality and violence.

5. Defend our unions:
Support the right of all workers to have a union. Fight back against the attacks on collective bargaining. Pass the Employee Free Choice Act and repeal the Taft-Hartley Act. In the spirit of Wisconsin, rebuild a fighting—and striking—labor movement.

6. Equality for women and free, safe, legal abortion on demand:
Stop the attack on women’s reproductive rights and defend Roe v. Wade. Women must have the fundamental right to choose and control their own bodies. Women still earn 22% less than men, and the gap is even more severe for Black and Latina women. Close the wage gap and end the gender division of labor.

7. Full rights for all immigrants:
Abolish all anti-immigrant laws. Stop the raids and deportations. The government’s war on immigrants must end. The border wall must be dismantled.

8. Full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people:
Make same-sex marriage a federal right—keep the movement in the streets. Fight anti-LGBT discrimination and violence.

9. Save the planet—End capitalism:
We need a central economic plan to significantly cut greenhouse gases, clean up the environment and build a massive renewable energy network. The for-profit economic system creates incentives to pollute. No fracking, no Keystone pipeline!

10. Seize the banks—Jail Wall Street criminals:
The banks’ vast wealth came from the people’s labor and tax-dollar bailout. Capitalist banking is a form of organized crime, rewarding greed and fraud with obscene bonuses. These billionaires looted and destroyed the economy. It is time to seize their assets and use those resources in the interests of the vast majority. Power must be taken out of the hands of the super-rich, and the Wall Street criminals must be held accountable.

[Uri Avnery, the grand old man of the Israeli peace and justice movement, wrote an analysis of the Obama-Romney debate on foreign affairs with his usual sagacity and wit. It appeared on the Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) website Oct. 27 and was titled Drought in Texas. Following is the second half of the article.]

By Uri Avnery

….For Romney, obviously, all Muslims are the same. Islamophobia is the order of the day, and Romney openly pandered to it. As I have pointed out before, Islamophobia is nothing but the fashionable modern cousin of good old anti-Semitism, seeping from the same sewers of the collective unconscious, exploiting the same old prejudices, transferring to the Muslims all the hatred once directed towards the Jews.

Many Jews, of course, especially the elderly in the nursing homes in warm Florida, are relieved to see the Goyim turn on other victims. And since the new victims happen also to be the foes of beloved Israel, all the better. Romney clearly believed that pouring his bile on “Islamists” was the easiest way to garner Jewish votes….

All this made any serious discussion about the Middle East, now a region of infinite variations and nuances, quite impossible. Obama, who knows a lot more about our problems than his adversary, found it wise to play the simpleton and utter nothing but the most fatuous platitudes. Anything else — for example a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, God forbid, could have offended the dear inhabitants of the one old people’s home which may change the outcome in Florida.

Any serious Arab or Israeli should have been insulted by the way our region was treated in this debate by the two men, one of whom will soon be our lord and master. Israel was mentioned in the debate 34 times — 33 times more than Europe, 30 times more than Latin America, five times more than Afghanistan, four times more than China. Only Iran was mentioned more often — 45 times — but in the context of the danger it poses to Israel.

Israel is our most important ally in the region (or in the world?) We shall defend it to the hilt. We shall provide it with all the arms it needs (plus those it doesn’t need). Wonderful. Just wonderful. But which Israel, exactly? The Israel of the endless occupation? Of the unlimited expansion of settlements? Of the total denial of Palestinian rights? Of the new anti-democratic laws?

Or a different, liberal and democratic Israel, an Israel of equality for all its citizens, an Israel that pursues peace and recognizes Palestinian statehood?

But not only what was parroted was interesting, but also what was left unsaid. No automatic backing of an Israeli attack on Iran. No war on Iran at all, until hell freezes over. No repetition of Romney’s earlier declaration that he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. No pardon for the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

And, most importantly: no effort at all to use the immense potential power of the U.S. and its European allies to bring about Israel-Palestine peace, by imposing the Two-State solution that everybody agrees is the only viable settlement. No mention of the Arab peace initiative still offered by 23 Arab countries, Islamists and all.

China, the new emerging world power, was treated with something close to disdain. They must be told how to behave. They must do this or that, stop manipulating their currency, send the jobs back to America.

But why should the Chinese take any notice when China controls the U.S. national debt? No matter, they'll have to do what America wants. Washington locuta, causa finita. (“Rome has spoken, the case is closed,” as Catholics used to say, way back before the sex scandals.)

Unserious as the debate was, it showed up a very serious problem. The French used to say that war is too serious to leave to the generals. World politics are certainly too serious to leave to the politicians. Politicians are elected by the people — and the people have no idea.

It was obvious that both contenders avoided any specifics that would have demanded even the slightest knowledge from the listeners. Some 1.5 billion plus Muslims were considered to fall into just two categories — “moderates” and “Islamists.” Israel is one bloc, no differentiation. What do viewers know about 3,000 years of Persian civilization? True, Romney knew — rather surprisingly —what or where Mali is. Most viewers surely didn’t.

Yet these very same viewers must now finally decide who will be the leader of the world's greatest military power, with a huge impact on everyone else.

Winston Churchill memorably described democracy as “the worst form of government, except for all the other forms that have been tried from time to time.” This debate could serve as evidence.


By Wayne White

Amidst reports that Great Britain has denied the U.S. military use of important British bases for an assault against Iran, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters Oct. 26 that whenever the Pentagon considers military action “we do it within the legal confines…of this country.” The U.S. has been contemplating military action against Iran’s nuclear program since at least 2006, but the legality of a unilateral attack has evidently not been a major consideration in Washington. It should be, as should the likely tactical complications of British (and potentially broader) non-cooperation.

In dramatic contrast to apparent U.S. assumptions of legality concerning preventative military action against Iran is the statement the Guardian obtained from a UK government source that “The UK would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a pre-emptive strike on Iran.” In fact, reportedly based on legal advice from the UK’s attorney general, the UK has denied the U.S. use of important British bases on Ascension Island, Cyprus, and Diego Garcia. The UK position should be of legal interest in Washington because Great Britain would not be the attacking nation, merely a government assisting the attacker. If UK legal instincts are so extraordinarily cautious about even passively aiding an attacker, one wonders how the U.S., in the role of the attacker, could muster such confidence about being on legal solid ground….

The reported UK refusal of basing cooperation could be quite significant with respect to any U.S. attack against Iran (even more so if other key U.S. NATO allies were to follow suit). The potential loss of transit, staging, refueling and basing rights through the UK, Cyprus and particularly the basing of U.S. heavy bombers at Diego Garcia, could complicate considerably the U.S. ability to amass desired support for an attack on Iran (or sustain the preferred pace of military operations) in the robust manner outlined in the leaked 2006 U.S. military operations plan reportedly briefed to President Bush.

Thus, the tactical problems associated with this apparent UK decision might give pause to U.S. policymakers mulling over any massive knockout blow against Iran’s greatly dispersed nuclear infrastructure, as well as the many and varied Iranian military assets available to defend it.

[From the Activist Newsletter: The UK government has backed every American illegal or “secret” war since the end of World War II, such as  U.S.-UK collaboration to crush Iranian democracy in the 1950s, or supporting the Bush Administration’s unlawful, unjust preemptive war against Iraq. London may eventually be coerced into backing a preemptive U.S. strike to bring about regime change in Tehran (the real objective behind  a nuclear smokescreen), but for now it stands in public opposition — a significant political event hinting at a further erosion of Washington’s dominant world influence.]

— Excerpted from Lobelog, Oct. 30, 2012. Wayne White is a scholar with Washington’s Middle East Institute. He was formerly the Deputy Director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia (INR/NESA) and senior regional analyst.


….The most striking aspect of this election is its gigantism.  American politics is being supersized. Everything is bigger. There are now scores of super PACs and “social welfare” organizations, hundreds of focus groups, thousands upon thousands of polls, hundreds of thousands of TV ads, copious multi-million dollar contributions to the dark side by the .001%, billions of ad dollars flooding the media, up to $3 billion pouring into the coffers of political consultants, and oh yes, though it’s seldom mentioned, trillions of words.

It’s as if no one can stop talking about what might otherwise be one of the least energizing elections in recent history: the most vulnerable president in memory versus a candidate who somehow threatens not to beat him, two men about as inspired as a couple of old beanbag chairs.  And yet the words about the thrill of it all just keep on pouring out. They stagger (or perhaps stun) the imagination.  They are almost all horse race and performance-oriented. Who is ahead and why? Who is preparing for what and how? Who has the most momentary of advantages and why? Who looked better, talked tougher, or out-maneuvered whom?

It never seems to end, and why should it? After all, it’s the profit-center of the ages, pure money on a stick. And there’s just so much to say about what is surely an event for the record books.  The only question (and it’s not one to be taken lightly) is: What is it?

It started earlier and lasted longer than any election in our history, and every number associated with it is bigger and better and more striking than the last.  If you happen to have the TV on, every one of its moments is The Moment.  I even heard one prime-time news anchor call the vice-presidential head-to-head “an epic generational debate.” Such hyperbole is the daily norm….

Everything about this year was, in fact, crucial and record-making, including the 73,000 (mainly attack) ads that saturated Las Vegas by October 12th, making it “the place with the most televised campaign advertisements in a single year.” (Cleveland came in second and Denver third.) The sky’s now the limit on contributions and there’s no place in the country, however faintly competitive, at which dollars can’t be thrown.

That blitz of money — more than $3 billion for TV ads alone — should stagger the imagination, as should the nearly billion dollars each that the Obama and Romney crews have already raised.  Then there are the multimillions pouring into mainly Republican Super PACs; the $10 million that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam gave in June to the Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future, and the $24.2 million that has followed — with Adelson reportedly pledging another $65 million, if necessary, to get Obama out of the White House; and the multi-millions the billionaire Koch brothers have poured into Americans for Prosperity.  That organization, in turn, is funneling $6 million into anti-Obama attack ads every two weeks and has even set up its own “ground game” — 200 permanent staff members in 32 states, and thousands of volunteers armed with “sophisticated online micro-targeting tools.”

All of this gives the phrase “money politics” new meaning. And then there’s TV. Keep in mind that prime-time audiences were radically down this spring: CBS lost 8% of its audience, Fox 20%, and ABC 21%. What luck, then, that billions of ad dollars and eyeball-gluing programming have been flowing into the same medium as part of that heavily over-promoted reality show "Mitt v. Barack" (only one will remain standing!).  It's been an ongoing vote-'em-outta-there show that, as in the second presidential debate, has proven capable of capturing an audience of 65.6 million across the channels, the sort of numbers that stomp the Oscars and are beaten only by a few previous presidential debates and Super Bowls….

So forget the profits involved.  Just sit back and enjoy an election for the ages.  Only one thing could possibly be bigger: election 2016 — and the media isn’t even waiting for November 7th to begin handicapping that race.  Articles about whether or not Billary is running are already commonplace.  (Hillary’s denied it.  Bill’s left the door ajar.  Just about everybody suspects that, in the end, the answer could be yes.)….

As Big Election becomes a way of life, democracy increasingly seems like a term from a lost time.  If this is democracy, it’s on steroids and on the Comedy Channel.  It’s our own Democratic Mockpocalypse….

— The complete article is at Engelhardt, author and co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's

By Simon Butler

The United Nations has warned that world grain reserves have fallen to critically low levels as world food prices have risen to levels close to that of 2008 — a year in which food riots took place in more than 30 countries. UN Food and Agriculture Organisation economist Abdolreza Abbassian told the Oct: 13 Observer (UK):

“We’ve not been producing as much as we are consuming. That is why stocks are being run down. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events next year.”

Today, about one in eight people around the world do not have enough to eat and 2.5 million children die of hunger every year. The UN released its report State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 on October 9. The report said 15% of those in poor countries — about 850 million people — are hungry. A further 15 million people in developed countries are also undernourished. The report said some gains were made in reducing hunger since the early 1990s, but admitted:

“Most of the progress, however, was achieved before 2007–08. Since then, global progress in reducing hunger has slowed and leveled off.”

The latest food price hikes threaten to drive more people back into hunger. The small group of food multinationals that monopolize the world food market are positioning themselves to take full advantage of the crisis. Hunger and food insecurity is great for big business. During the “Great Hunger of 2008,” big food corporations such as Monsanto, ADM, Bunge and Cargill posted huge profits.

In August, the director of agriculture trading at giant commodities trading firm Glencore Chris Mahoney said: “The environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities.”

Oxfam UK’s Jodie Thorpe told the Independent Glencore was: “Profiting from the misery and suffering of poor people who are worst hit by high and volatile food prices … Glencore’s comment that ‘high prices and lots of volatility and dislocation’ was ‘good’ gives us a rare glimpse into the little-known world of companies that dominate the global food system.”

The UN said world food prices leapt 6% in July and rose a further 1.4% in September. Food giant Cargill announced on Oct. 11 that it had quadrupled its July-August quarter result compared with last year, posting earnings of $975 million.

Consulting firm Maplecroft released its Food Security Risk Index on Oct. 10, saying three quarters of African countries faced a high or extreme risk of widespread hunger next year. Somalia, Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia and South Sudan were among the African nations in the extreme risk category. The report said Haiti and Afghanistan were also at extreme risk of “famine and societal unrest stemming from food shortages and price fluctuations.” Maplecroft’s Helen Hodge told Al Jazeera: “Food price forecasts for 2013 provide a worrying picture.”

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released its Global Hunger Index Oct. 11. It said 20 countries had “extremely alarming” levels of hunger. Top of the list were Burundi, Eritrea and Haiti.

This year’s record-breaking heatwave in the U.S. — the world’s biggest corn producer — together with low grain harvests in western Europe (due to heavy rains), and Russia and the Ukraine (due to drought), partly explain the recent food price hikes. Extreme weather events, such as this year’s U.S. drought will become increasingly common in a warmer world. The spread of industrial agriculture, which consumes huge amounts of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas-producing fertilizers, is itself a big driver of climate change.

In this way, the modern food system is helping to undermine the world’s future food security.

Another big factor explaining high food prices is the ongoing use of food to feed cars instead of people. Despite the heatwave wiping out so much of this year’s corn crop, the US government has made no move to reduce the amount of corn — about 40% of the yield — that will be used to produce biofuel. In July 2008, The Guardian (UK) published a leaked internal World Bank document that said biofuel production had led to a 70% rise in food prices.

Financial speculation on global food markets also helps keep food out of reach of the poor. After the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage bubble in 2008, panicked dealers shifted trillions out of real estate and into the food commodity market, which pushed prices up. Friends of the Earth Europe said in a report released in January that “The huge growth in financial speculation has led to prices no longer being solely driven by supply and demand, but also increasingly by the actions of financial speculators and the performance of their investments. Excessive speculation has forced food prices to rise in recent years and has increased the frequency and scale of price volatility.”

Food loss and wastage is another big issue. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says about 45% of all fruit, vegetables, roots and tubers are wasted each year. Losses run to about 30% for cereals and seafood, 20% for meat products and about 15% for dairy foods.

Food First executive director Eric Holt Gimenez wrote in The Huffington Post in May that the world’s food crisis is not due to there being not enough food to go around. In fact, food production has outstripped global population growth for the past 20 years.

 “The world already produces more than 1.5 times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. That’s enough to feed 10 billion people, the population peak we expect by 2050, Gimenez said. “But the people making less than $2 a day — most of whom are resource-poor farmers cultivating unviable small plots of land — can’t afford to buy this food.”

Put these factors together and the picture is clear. Modern hunger is not a consequence of food scarcity, but of poverty, inequality and corporate control of the food system.

 —This article is from  Green Left Weekly, Oct. 21, 2012. Butler regularly reports on climate for this Australian publication.

By Robert Bowen, AP

A new poll conducted by Associated Press (AP) released Oct. 27 finds that 51% of Americans harbor prejudice against blacks, and many have the same feelings about Hispanics. The pollsters also believe that prejudice is costing President Obama at least 5% of the vote.

The poll showed that 51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48% in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56%, up from 49% during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

"As much as we'd hope the impact of race would decline over time ... it appears the impact of anti-black sentiment on voting is about the same as it was four years ago," said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who worked with AP to develop the survey.

Most Americans expressed anti-Hispanic sentiments, too. In an earlier AP survey in 2011, 52% of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57% in the implicit test. The survey on Hispanics had no past data for comparison.

The AP surveys were conducted with researchers from Stanford University, the University of Michigan and NORC at the University of Chicago.

Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism. In the poll 79% of Republicans compared with 32% of Democrats expressed racism in explicit questions. The implicit test found less difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55% of Democrats, 64% of Republicans, and 49% of independents.

In 2008 when the nation elected its first African-American president, many thought that the days of racism were behind us. They thought the country turned away from its racially charged past of slavery and Jim Crow. This was short lived because there was a backlash as many whites resented seeing a black man occupying the White House. The AP poll just puts a number on it.

Experts on race said they were not surprised by the findings. Jelani Cobb, professor of history and director of the Institute for African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut told AP "We have this false idea that there is uniformity in progress and that things change in one big step. That is not the way history has worked. When we've seen progress, we've also seen backlash."

In major cities when an African-American was elected mayor, he or she usually received 20% of the white vote in their first election, but the percent of whites (who did not flee the city) that voted for that mayor went up the second time. That has not happened with President Obama. There are reasons why.

First of all, just as Nixon exploited white backlash over the civil rights movement with his “Southern strategy,” Republicans are exploiting existing racism and backlash to gin up opposition to President Obama. They began with challenging his right to even be president by accusing him of being born in Kenya. To this day despite the release of his birth certificate, Republicans including a “joking” Mitt Romney continue to make veiled references to his citizenship. Nearly 40% of Republicans believe Obama was born in Kenya.

Secondly, they have reinforced the false notion that because his middle name is Hussein, he is a Muslim. Nearly half of Republicans still believe the president is a Muslim, not a Christian.

Tea Party activists, financed by lobbyists and special interests and encouraged by the Republican Party, use posters depicting President Obama as Hitler, as an ape, and worse. These circulate through e-mail, social media, and on Fox News. These explicitly racist symbols reinforce the race hatred that existed in 2008, and make it worse. They inflame backlash against Obama who they defined as—a foreign-born Muslim who has no legal right to be president, and who taking the job away from a legitimate Christian (and white) American.

The presidential race is a virtual tie. It may come down to recounts and contested ballots in just a few counties, and may ultimately be decided, not by voters, but by Congress or the Supreme Court. It is tragic that in 2012 we are even talking about race, or needing to poll on it. The poll confirms what we all know—we are still a racially divided country.

By Frederick C. Harris

WHEN African-Americans go to the polls next week, they are likely to support Barack Obama at a level approaching the 95 percent share of the black vote he received in 2008. As well they should, given the symbolic exceptionalism of his presidency and the modern Republican Party’s utter disregard for economic justice, civil rights and the social safety net.

But for those who had seen in President Obama’s election the culmination of four centuries of black hopes and aspirations and the realization of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a “beloved community,” the last four years must be reckoned a disappointment. Whether it ends in 2013 or 2017, the Obama presidency has already marked the decline, rather than the pinnacle, of a political vision centered on challenging racial inequality. The tragedy is that black elites — from intellectuals and civil rights leaders to politicians and clergy members — have acquiesced to this decline, seeing it as the necessary price for the pride and satisfaction of having a black family in the White House.

These are not easy words to write. Mr. Obama’s expansion of health insurance coverage was the most significant social legislation since the Great Society, his stimulus package blunted much of the devastation of the Great Recession, and the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul added major new protections for consumers. His politics would seem to vindicate the position of civil rights-era leaders like Bayard Rustin, who argued that blacks should form coalitions with other Democratic constituencies in support of universal, race-neutral policies — in opposition to activists like Malcolm X, who distrusted party politics and believed that blacks would be better positioned to advance their interests as an independent voting bloc, beholden to neither party.

But the triumph of “post-racial” Democratic politics has not been a triumph for African-Americans in the aggregate. It has failed to arrest the growing chasm of income and wealth inequality; to improve prospects for social and economic mobility; to halt the re-segregation of public schools and narrow the black-white achievement gap; and to prevent the Supreme Court from eroding the last vestiges of affirmative action. The once unimaginable successes of black diplomats like Colin L. Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Susan E. Rice and of black chief executives like Ursula M. Burns, Kenneth I. Chenault and Roger W. Ferguson Jr. cannot distract us from facts like these: 28 percent of African-Americans, and 37 percent of black children, are poor (compared with 10 percent of whites and 13 percent of white children); 13 percent of blacks are unemployed (compared with 7 percent of whites); more than 900,000 black men are in prison; blacks experienced a sharper drop in income since 2007 than any other racial group; black household wealth, which had been disproportionately concentrated in housing, has hit its lowest level in decades; blacks accounted, in 2009, for 44 percent of new H.I.V. infections.

Mr. Obama cannot, of course, be blamed for any of these facts. It’s no secret that Republican obstruction has limited his options at every turn. But it’s disturbing that so few black elites have aggressively advocated for those whom the legal scholar Derrick A. Bell called the “faces at the bottom of the well.”

The prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power, regardless of political winds or social pressures, has a long history. Ida B. Wells risked her life to publicize the atrocity of lynching; W. E. B. Du Bois linked the struggle against racial injustice to anticolonial movements around the world; Cornel West continues to warn of the “giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism” that King identified a year before his death.

But that prophetic tradition is on the wane. Changes in black religious practice have played a role. Great preachers of social justice and liberation theology, like Gardner C. Taylor, Samuel DeWitt Proctor, John Hurst Adams, Wyatt Tee Walker and Joseph E. Lowery, have retired or passed away. Taking their place are megachurch preachers of a “gospel of prosperity” — like Creflo A. Dollar Jr., T. D. Jakes, Eddie L. Long and Frederick K. C. Price — who emphasize individual enrichment rather than collective uplift. “There’s more facing us than social justice,” Bishop Jakes has said. “There’s personal responsibility.”

Mr. Obama hasn’t embraced this new gospel, but as a candidate he did invoke the politics of respectability once associated with Booker T. Washington. He urged blacks to exhibit the “discipline and fortitude” of their forebears. He lamented that “too many fathers are M.I.A.” He chided some parents for “feeding our children junk all day long, giving them no exercise.” He distanced himself from his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose incendiary remarks about racism’s legacy caused a maelstrom.

But as president, Mr. Obama has had little to say on concerns specific to blacks. His State of the Union address in 2011 was the first by any president since 1948 to not mention poverty or the poor. The political scientist Daniel Q. Gillion found that Mr. Obama, in his first two years in office, talked about race less than any Democratic president had since 1961. From racial profiling to mass incarceration to affirmative action, his comments have been sparse and halting.

Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama weighed in after the prominent black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge, Mass. The president said the police had “acted stupidly,” was criticized for rushing to judgment, and was mocked when he invited Dr. Gates and the arresting officer to chat over beers at the White House. It wasn’t until earlier this year that Mr. Obama spoke as forcefully on a civil rights matter — the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Florida — saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

INSTEAD of urging Mr. Obama to be more outspoken on black issues, black elites parrot campaign talking points. They dutifully praise important but minor accomplishments — the settlement of a longstanding class-action lawsuit by black farmers; increased funds for black colleges; the reduction (but not elimination) of the disparities in sentences for possession of crack and powder cocaine — while setting aside their critical acumen.

For some, criticism of Mr. Obama is disloyal. “Stick together, black people,” the radio host Tom Joyner has warned. (Another talk show host, Tavis Smiley, joined Dr. West on a “poverty tour” last year, but has been less critical of the president than Dr. West has.)

It wasn’t always so. Though Bill Clinton was wildly popular among blacks, black intellectuals fiercely debated affirmative action, mass incarceration, welfare reform and racial reconciliation during his presidency. In 2001, the Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree called the surge in the inmate population “shocking and regrettable” and found it “shameful” that Mr. Clinton “didn’t come out and take a more positive and symbolic approach to the issue of reparations for slavery.” But Mr. Ogletree, a mentor of Mr. Obama’s, now finds “puzzling the idea that a president who happens to be black has to focus on black issues.”

Melissa V. Harris-Perry, a political scientist at Tulane who hosts a talk show for MSNBC, warned in 2005 that African-Americans “who felt most warmly toward Clinton and most trusting of his party’s commitment to African-Americans” were in danger of underestimating “the continued economic inequality of African-Americans relative to whites.” But she has become all but an apologist for Mr. Obama. “No matter what policies he pursues, the president’s racialized embodiment stands as a symbol of triumphant black achievement,” she wrote in The Nation this month.

Black politicians, too, have held their fire. “With 14 percent unemployment if we had a white president we’d be marching around the White House,” Representative Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Root last month. “The president knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn’t to someone white.”

Some of the reticence stems from fear. “If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us,” Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, told a largely black audience in Detroit last year.

But caution explains only so much. Representative John Lewis of Georgia, one of King’s last living disciples, has not used his moral stature to criticize the president’s silence about the poor. Neither have leaders of the biggest civil rights organizations, like Benjamin Todd Jealous of the N.A.A.C.P., Marc H. Morial of the National Urban League or Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, whether because of emotional allegiance or pragmatic accommodation.

The two black governors elected since Reconstruction — L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia and Deval L. Patrick of Massachusetts — have also de-emphasized race. So, too, have the new cadre of black politicians who serve largely black constituencies, like Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark, Mayor Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia and Representative Terri Sewell of Alabama — all of whom, like Mr. Obama, have Ivy League degrees and rarely discuss the impact of racism on contemporary black life.

Some argue that de-emphasizing race — and moving to a “colorblind” politics — is an inevitable and beneficial byproduct of societal change. But this ideal is a myth, even if it’s nice to hear. As Frederick Douglass observed, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” The political scientist E. E. Schattschneider noted that conflict was essential to agenda-setting. Other interest groups — Tea Party activists, environmentalists, advocates for gay and lesbian rights, supporters of Israel and, most of all, rich and large corporations — grasp this insight. Have African-Americans forgotten it?

IN making this case, I have avoided speculation about Mr. Obama’s psychology and background — his biracial heritage, his transnational childhood, his community organizing, his aversion to being seen as “angry,” his canny ability to navigate multiple worlds, his talent at engaging with politics while appearing detached from it. As a social scientist I keep returning to the question: What is the best strategy for black communities to pursue their political interests as a whole?

Were Harold Cruse, the author of the unsparing 1967 book “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual,” still alive, he would despair at the state of black intellectual life. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton, told me: “Too many black intellectuals have given up the hard work of thinking carefully in public about the crisis facing black America. We have either become cheerleaders for President Obama or self-serving pundits.”

There are exceptions. Writing in the journal Daedalus last year, the Harvard philosopher Tommie Shelby called Mr. Obama’s approach “a pragmatic strategy for navigating hazardous racial waters” that might improve lives for poor minorities. But he added: “Judged alongside King’s transformative vision of racial equality and integration, Obama’s philosophy is morally deficient and uninspiring.”

Mr. Obama deserves the electoral support — but not the uncritical adulation — of African-Americans. If re-elected he might surprise us by explicitly emphasizing economic and racial justice and advocating “targeted universalism” — job-training and housing programs that are open to all, but are concentrated in low-income, minority communities. He would have to do this in the face of fiscal crisis and poisonous partisanship.

Amid such rancor, African-Americans might come to realize that the idea of having any politician as a role model is incompatible with accountability, the central tenet of representative democracy. By definition, role models are placed on pedestals and emulated, not criticized or held accountable.

To place policy above rhetoric is not to ask what the first black president is doing for blacks; rather, it is to ask what a Democratic president is doing for the most loyal Democratic constituency — who happen to be African-Americans, and who happen to be in dire need of help. Sadly, when it comes to the Obama presidency and black America, symbols and substance have too often been assumed to be one and the same.

— This article was published as an Op-Ed column in the New York Times Oct. 28. Frederick C. Harris is a professor of political science and the director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, and the author of “The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and the Rise and Decline of Black Politics.”

By Too Much online (as edited)

America’s incredibly top-heavy distribution of income and wealth to a small minority has hardly been a topic in the three presidential debates. .

President Obama, to be sure, did talk about hiking taxes on the rich back to Clinton-era levels. But those Clinton rates didn’t do much at all to stop the concentrating of America’s wealth. Our super rich saw their fortunes continue to soar during the 1990s, just as they had soared during the 1980s, before Clinton’s presidency, and just as they’ve soared since Clinton left office.

Where do we stand right now with this concentration of income and wealth at America’s economic summit? An up-to-date answer came last week from the global research arm of Credit Suisse, the Swiss banking giant.

America’s rich aren’t just pulling away from the rest of America, the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s just-released third annual Global Wealth Report details. They’re pulling away from the rest of the world’s rich.

Between the middle of 2011 and the middle of 2012, Credit Suisse calculates, overall global wealth dropped 5.2%, the first annual decline since the global financial meltdown in 2008. Over most of the globe, this dip even included million-dollar fortunes. In Europe, nearly 1.8 million affluents lost their millionaire status.

But American millionaires have actually expanded their ranks over the last 12 months, by 962,000. Americans now make up a stunning 39% of all the global households worth at least $1 million.

If you jump up a few wealth notches, to the level of “ultra high net worth individuals” worth at least $50 million, the U.S. global wealth dominance becomes even more pronounced. Of the 84,500 global super rich with over $50 million in net assets, 45% hail from the United States….

Three of today’s most important developed nations, the new data show, turn out to have almost identical quantities of wealth per adult. If you add up the total household wealth in each of these three countries — the United States, France, and Japan — and then divide that overall wealth by the adult populations, you get virtually the same average wealth: $262,351 per adult in the United States, $265,463 in France, and $269,708 in Japan.

In real life, of course, we don’t divide wealth equally by population. Some have much more wealth than others. But the degree of inequality varies enormously by nation. In the United States, the bulk of our wealth rests near the top. In France and particularly Japan, much more of the wealth rests around the middle….

In the grossly unequal United States, our most typical — or median — adult now holds just $38,786 worth of wealth. Half of American adults have more than this $38,786, half have less. Japan’s most typical adults have a net worth of $141,410. In France, a nation with wealth much more equally distributed than in the United States but not as equally distributed as Japan, that typical adult holds $81,274 in wealth….

All three countries have capitalist economies, but the American version is by far the most unequal. This subject is simply not considered important enough to become a campaign issue.

11. Mom Guilty for Refusing TSA Pat Down On Daughter
By Steve Watson

A woman who stood up to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners and refused to allow them to grope her or her 14-year-old daughter was found guilty in late October of “disorderly conduct” and sentenced to one year of probation by a court in Tennessee.

Back in July 2011, Andrea Fornella Abbott of Clarksville, was arrested by Nashville airport authorities for expressing outrage at the TSA procedures. A police report stated that Abbott would not allow her daughter to be “touched inappropriately” or have her “crotch grabbed” by a TSA employee; Abbott also refused to submit to a full body scan, saying that she did not want her or her child’s naked bodies revealed by the scanner. She attempted to take cell phone video of the incident but was prevented from doing so by the TSA screeners.

When police were called to the scene, Abbott reportedly cursed at them and referred to the TSA screeners as pedophiles, leading to her arrest. The Associated Press reports that the prosecution argued that Abbott’s behavior “prevented others from carrying out their lawful activities,” and held up two security lines for thirty minutes. “You can speak your mind, but you can’t do it in an illegal manner,’ said Assistant District Attorney Megan King, adding “What the defendant did was a crime.”

The defense argued that Abbot was exercising her right to free speech. “Telling a police officer your opinion, even in strong language, to me that’s a First Amendment right,” Abbot’s attorney Brent Horst told reporters. Abbott admitted that she may have cursed at police officers, but considered the exchange to be a “normal conversation” regarding the inappropriate nature of pat-downs on children.

Horst presented surveillance video of the incident, and claimed that Abbot was the one being yelled at by police. Although the video had no audio, it showed that other passengers were walking around Abbot and the police officers, and that security lines were still moving.

“It’s clear from the video … she wasn’t preventing anything,” Horst said. In closing arguments the attorney stated “Since 9/11, we’re losing a lot of freedom, and we have to draw the line somewhere,” before praising Abbot for standing on principle.

As has been documented, people who opt out of airport body scanners or those who simply fail to display the proper level of obedience to TSA screeners are routinely subjected to punishment by means of invasive grope downs or other forms of retaliation. The TSA has characterized people who do not fully comply with airport screening procedures as “domestic extremists.”

— This article was posted 10-25-12 at InfoWars "

12. Will the Apocalypse Arrive Online?
By Karen J. Greenberg

First the financial system collapses and it's impossible to access one’s money. Then the power and water systems stop functioning.  Within days, society has begun to break down.  In the cities, mothers and fathers roam the streets, foraging for food. The country finds itself fractured and fragmented — hardly recognizable.

It may sound like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie or the first episode of NBC’s popular new show “Revolution,” but it could be your life — a nationwide cyber-version of Ground Zero.

Think of it as 9/11/2015.  It’s Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's vision of the future — and if he’s right (or maybe even if he isn’t), you better wonder what the future holds for erstwhile American civil liberties, privacy, and constitutional protections.

In October, Panetta addressed the Business Executives for National Security, an organization devoted to creating a robust public-private partnership in matters of national security. Standing inside the Intrepid, New York’s retired aircraft-carrier-cum-military-museum, he offered a hair-raising warning about an imminent and devastating cyber strike at the sinews of American life and wellbeing.

Yes, he did use that old alarm bell of a “cyber Pearl Harbor,” but for anyone interested in American civil liberties and rights, his truly chilling image was far more immediate.  “A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups,” he predicted, “could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11.”

Panetta is not the first Obama official to warn that the nation could be facing a cyber catastrophe, but he is the highest-ranking to resort to 9/11 imagery in doing so. Going out on a limb that previous cyber doomsayers had avoided, he mentioned September 11th four times in his speech, referring to our current vulnerabilities in cyber space as “a pre-9/11 moment.”

Since the beginning of the Obama presidency, warnings of cyber menaces from foreign enemies and others have flooded the news. Politicians have chimed in, as have the experts — from respected security professionals like President George Bush’s chief counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke to security policymakers on the Hill like Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins. Even our no-drama president has weighed in remarkably dramatically on the severity of the threat. “Taking down vital banking systems could trigger a financial crisis,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “The lack of clean water or functioning hospitals could spark a public health emergency. And as we've seen in past blackouts, the loss of electricity can bring businesses, cities, and entire regions to a standstill.”

Panetta’s invocation of 9/11 was, however, clearly meant to raise the stakes, to sound a wake up call to the business community, Congress, and the nation’s citizens.  The predictions are indeed frightening. According to the best experts, the consequences of a massive, successful cyber attack on crucial U.S. systems could be devastating to life as we know it.

It’s no longer just a matter of intellectual property theft, but of upending the life we lead. Imagine this: instead of terrorists launching planes at two symbolic buildings in the world’s financial center, cyber criminals, terrorists, or foreign states could launch viruses into major financial networks via the Internet, or target the nation’s power grids, robbing citizens of electricity (and thus heat in the middle of winter), or disrupt the systems that run public transportation, or contaminate our water supply.

Any or all of these potential attacks, according to leading cyber experts, are possible. Though they would be complex and difficult operations, demanding technical savvy, they are nonetheless within the realm of present possibility.  Without protections, American citizens could be killed outright (say on a plane or a train) or left, as the president warned, without food, fuel, water and the mechanisms for transacting daily business.

For those of us who have lived inside the national security conversation for more than a decade now, such early warnings of dire consequences might sound tediously familiar, just another example of the (George W.) Bush who cried wolf. After all, in the wake of the actual 9/11 attacks, governmental overreach became commonplace, based on fear-filled scenarios of future doom.  Continual hysteria over a domestic terror threat and (largely nonexistent) al-Qaeda “sleeper cells” bent on chaos led to the curtailing of the civil liberties of large segments of the American Muslim population and, more generally, far greater surveillance of Americans.  That experience should indeed make us suspicious of doomsday predictions and distrustful of claims that extraordinary measures are necessary to protect “national security.”

For the moment, though, let’s pretend that we haven’t been through a decade in which national security needs were used and sometimes overblown to trump constitutional protections. Instead, let’s take the recent cyber claims at face value and assume that Richard Clarke, who prior to 9/11 warned continuously of an impending attack by al-Qaeda, is correct again.

And while we’re not dismissing these apocalyptic warnings, let’s give a little before-the-fact thought not just to the protection of the nation’s resources, information systems, and infrastructure, but to what’s likely to happen to rights, liberties, and the rule of law once we’re swept away by cyber fears. If you imagined that good old fashioned rights and liberties were made obsolete by the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, any thought experiment you perform on what a response to cyber war might entail is far worse.

Remember former White House Council Alberto Gonzales telling us that, when it came to the interrogation of suspected terrorists, the protections of the U.S. Constitution were “quaint and obsolete”? Remember the argument, articulated by many, that torture, Guantanamo, and warrantless wiretapping were all necessary to prevent another 9/11, whatever they did to our liberties and laws?

Now, fast forward to the new cyber era, which, we are already being told, is at least akin to the threat of 9/11 (and possibly far worse).  And keep in mind that, if the fears rise high enough, many of the sorts of moves against rights and constitutional restraints that came into play only after 9/11 might not need an actual cyber disaster.  Just the fear of one might do the trick.

Not surprisingly, the language of cyber defense, as articulated by Panetta and others, borrows from the recent lexicon of counterterrorism. In Panetta’s words, “Just as [the Pentagon] developed the world’s finest counterterrorism force over the past decade, we need to build and maintain the finest cyber operators.”

Cyber is “a new terrain for warfare,” Panetta tells us, a “battlefield of the future.” So perhaps it’s time to ask two questions: In a world of cyber fear, what has the war on terror taught us about protecting ourselves from the excesses of government? What do policymakers, citizens, and civil libertarians need to think about when it comes to rights that would potentially be threatened in the wake of, or even in anticipation of, a cyber attack?

Here, then, are several potential threats to constitutional liberties, democratic decision-making processes, and the rule of law to watch out for in this new cyber war era: 

• The Threat to Privacy: In the war on terror, the government — thanks to the Patriot Act and the warrantless surveillance program, among other efforts — expanded its ability to collect information on individuals suspected of terrorism. It became a net that could snag all sorts of Americans in all sorts of ways. In cyber space, of course, the potential for collecting, sharing, and archiving data on individuals, often without a warrant, increases exponentially, especially when potential attacks may target information itself….

• Enemy Creep: If you think it’s been difficult to reliably distinguish enemies from the rest of us in the war on terror (as in the 600 Guantanamo detainees that the Bush administration finally declared “no longer enemy combatants” and sent home), try figuring it out in cyber space. Sorting out just who launched an attack and in whose name can be excruciatingly difficult. Even if, for example, you locate the server that introduced the virus, how do you determine on whose behalf such an attack was launched? Was it a state or non-state actor? Was it a proxy or an original attack? 

The crisis of how to determine the enemy in virtual space opens up a host of disturbing possibilities, not just for mistakes, but for convenient blaming. After all, George W. Bush’s top officials went to war in Iraq labeling Saddam Hussein an ally of al-Qaeda, even when they knew it wasn’t true. Who is to say that a president won’t use the very difficulty of naming an online enemy as an excuse to blame a more convenient target?

• War or Crime?: And what if that enemy is domestic rather than international? Will its followers be deemed “enemy combatants” or “lawbreakers”?  If this doesn’t already sound chillingly familiar to you, it should.  It was an early theme of the war on terror where, beginning with its very name, “war” won out over crime. 

Cyber attacks will raise similar questions, but the stakes will be even higher. Is a hacker attempting to steal money working on his own or for a terrorist group, or is he essentially a front for an enemy state eager to take down the U.S.? As Kelly Jackson Higgins, senior editor at the information security blog Dark Reading, reminds us, “Hackers posing as other hackers can basically encourage conflict among other nations or organizations, experts say, and sit back and watch.”

• Expanding Presidential Fiat: National security professionals like Defense Secretary Panetta are already encouraging another cyber development that will mimic the war on terror.  Crucial decisions, they argue, should be the president’s alone, leaving Congress and the American people out in the cold. President Bush, of course, reserved the right to determine who was an enemy combatant.  President Obama has reserved the right to choose individuals for drone assassination on his own.

Now, an ever less checked-and-balanced executive is going to be given war powers in cyber space.  In fact, we know that this is already the case, that the last two administrations have launched the first state cyber war in history — against Iran and its nuclear program.  Going forward, the White House is likely to be left with the power of deciding who is a cyber attacker, and when and how such enemies should be attacked.  In Panetta’s words, “If we detect an imminent threat of attack that will cause significant, physical destruction in the United States or kill American citizens, we need to have the option to take action against those who would attack us to defend this nation when directed by the president.”

Given the complex and secretive world of cyber attacks and cyber war, who is going to cry foul when the president alone makes such a decision? Who will even know?

• Secrecy Creep: While government officials are out in full force warning of the incipient cyber threat to our way of life, it’s becoming ever clearer that the relationship between classified information, covert activities, and what the public can know is being further challenged by the new cyber world. In the war on terror years, a cult of government secrecy has spread, while Obama administration attacks on government leakers have reached new heights.  On the other hand, Julian Assange and Wikileaks made the ability to access previously classified information a household premise.

So the attempt to create an aura of secrecy around governmental acts is on the rise and yet government secrets seem ever more at risk. For example, the U.S. intended to keep the Stuxnet virus, launched anonymously against Iranian nuclear facilities, a secret. Not only did the attacks themselves become public knowledge, but eventually the American-Israeli ownership of the attack leaked out as well. The old adage “the truth will out” certainly seems alive today and yet the governmental urge for secrecy still remains ascendant.

The question is: Will there be a heightened call — however futile — for increased secrecy and the ever more draconian punishment of leakers, as has been the case in the war on terror?  Will the strong arm of government threaten, in an ever more draconian manner, the media, leakers, and those demanding transparency in the name of exposing lawless policies — as has happened with CIA leaker John Kiriakou, New York Times reporter James Risen, and others?

When it comes to issues like access to information and civil liberties protections, it could very well be that the era of Big Brother is almost upon us, whether we like it or not, and that fighting against it is obsolete behavior. On the other hand, perhaps we’re heading into a future in which the government will have to accept that it cannot keep secrets as it once did. Whatever the case, most of us face enormous unknowns when it comes to how the cyber world, cyber dangers, and also heightened cyber fears will affect both the nation’s security and our liberties.

On the eve of the presidential election, it is noteworthy that neither presidential candidate has had the urge to discuss cyber security lately.  And yet the U.S. has launched a cyber war and has seemingly recently experienced the first case of cyber blowback.  The websites of several of the major banks were attacked in September, presumably by Iran, interrupting online access to accounts.

With so little reliable information in the public sphere and so many potential pitfalls, both Obama and Romney seem to have decided that it’s just not worth their while to raise the issue. In this, they have followed Congress’s example. The failure to pass regulatory legislation this year on the subject revealed a bipartisan unwillingness of our representatives to expose themselves to political risk when it comes to cyber legislation.

Whether officials and policymakers are willing to make the tough decisions or not, cyber vulnerabilities are more of a reality than was the threat of sleeper cells after 9/11. It may be a stretch to go from cynicism and distrust in the face of color-coded threat levels to the prospect of cyber war, but it’s one that needs to be taken.

Given what we know about fear and the destructive reactions it can produce, it would be wise to jumpstart the protections of law, personal liberties, and governmental accountability. Whoever our next president may be, the cyber age is upon us, carrying with it a new threat to liberty in the name of security. It’s time now — before either an actual attack or a legitimate fear of such an attack — to protect what’s so precious in American life, our liberties.

—From, Oct. 21, 2012. Karen Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, a TomDispatch regular, and the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First One Hundred Days, as well as the editor of The Torture Debate in America. Research assistance for this article was provided by Jason Burke and Martin West

By The Economist

Voters in Massachusetts will decide Nov. 6 whether a terminally ill patient with less than six months to live should be able to use a doctor’s help in committing suicide. If they assent, as the polls suggest, the state will be the third, after Oregon and Washington, to legalize assisted suicide. New Jersey introduced a bill last month to decriminalize it. The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that doctors cannot be prosecuted for prescribing lethal drugs for terminally ill patients.

When Jack Kevorkian, an American doctor jailed after admitting helping 130 patients to die, first went on trial in 1994, assisting suicide was a crime everywhere save Switzerland. Now the trend is spreading far and wide (though not in Asia or in Muslim countries where it is still taboo).

In Europe the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg all allow assisted suicide. Private members’ bills to legalize it are due in both the Scottish and London Parliaments early next year. In New Zealand a private member’s bill to allow the practice awaits its first reading. In Canada Quebec’s newly elected ruling party plans to bring in similar legislation. In Australia New South Wales’s Parliament is also debating the issue. Even in Catholic Ireland a High Court decision is expected imminently on whether the partner of a multiple sclerosis sufferer can help her die without himself being prosecuted.

All this reflects a big shift towards secular thinking and individual autonomy as well as growing worries about the medicalized, miserable and costly way of death that awaits many people in rich countries. Assisted suicide typically gains overwhelming public support; legislators, pro-family lobbies, churches and doctors’ groups tend to be more squeamish. They fear that legal, easy-to-get assisted suicide will have dire social and moral effects.

Yet for the limited measures introduced so far, safeguards abound and evidence of abuse is scant. Oregon’s legislation, introduced in 1998, is widely admired. Under it, an eligible applicant must be a mentally competent adult, suffering from a terminal illness and with less than six months left to live. His decision must be “informed”, meaning he must have been told about alternatives such as hospice care and pain control, and he must have asked his doctor at least three times to be allowed to die. A second doctor must review the case both for the accuracy of the prognosis and to certify that no pressure (from inheritance-hungry relatives, say) has been exerted.

Almost all existing or proposed assisted-suicide laws contain similar safeguards. Some also require the applicant to be suffering “unbearable” physical or mental pain. Only in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland, where assisted suicide has been permitted since 1942, are the non-terminally ill eligible. Yet even that liberality has not stoked the numbers. The annual total of assisted deaths among Swiss residents is still around 300, or 0.5% of all deaths. Dignitas, the only organisation in the world willing to help foreigners die, had 160 clients in 2011. In Oregon assisted suicides represent 0.2% of all deaths. In Belgium, where voluntary euthanasia is also legal, assisted dying accounts for less than 1% of the total. Even in the Netherlands, which takes a notably relaxed approach to both forms, it represents less than 3%….

—Excerpted from the international edition of The Economist, Oct. 20, 2012

By Seumas Milne

Following is an edited extract from Seumas Milne's new book, "The Revenge of History: the Battle for the 21st Century," published by Verso. A fuller version was published in the Guardian (UK) Oct. 17, 2012.

In the late summer of 2008, two events in quick succession signaled the end of the New World Order. In August, the U.S. client state of Georgia was crushed in a brief but bloody war after it attacked Russian troops in the contested territory of South Ossetia. [Then] the collapse of Lehman Brothers ushered in the deepest economic crisis since the 1930s.

The former Soviet republic [of Georgia] was a favorite of Washington's neoconservatives. Its authoritarian president had been lobbying hard for Georgia to join NATO's eastward expansion. In an unblinking inversion of reality, Vice President Dick Cheney denounced Russia's response as an act of "aggression" that "must not go unanswered." Fresh from unleashing a catastrophic war on Iraq, George W. Bush declared Russia's "invasion of a sovereign state" to be "unacceptable in the 21st century."

As the fighting ended, Bush warned Russia not to recognize South Ossetia's independence. Russia did exactly that, while U.S. warships were reduced to sailing around the Black Sea. The conflict marked an international turning point. The U.S.'s bluff had been called, its military sway undermined by the "war on terror" in Iraq and Afghanistan. After two decades during which it bestrode the world like a colossus, the years of uncontested U.S. power were over.

Three weeks later, a second, still more far-reaching event threatened the heart of the U.S.-dominated global financial system. On Sept. 15, the credit crisis finally erupted in the collapse of America's fourth-largest investment bank. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers engulfed the Western world in its deepest economic crisis since the 1930s.

The Bush administration's wildly miscalculated response turned the Sept. 11, 2001, atrocities in New York and Washington into the most successful terror attack in history.

The first decade of the 21st century shook the international order, turning the received wisdom of the global elites on its head – and 2008 was its watershed. With the end of the Cold War, the great political and economic questions had all been settled, we were told. Liberal democracy and free-market capitalism had triumphed. Socialism had been consigned to history. Political controversy would now be confined to culture wars and tax-and-spend trade-offs.

In 1990, George Bush Sr. had inaugurated a New World Order, based on uncontested U.S. military supremacy and Western economic dominance. This was to be a unipolar world without rivals. Regional powers would bend the knee to the new worldwide imperium. History itself, it was said, had come to an end.

But between the attack on the Twin Towers and the fall of Lehman Brothers, that global order had crumbled. Two factors were crucial. By the end of a decade of continuous warfare, the U.S. had succeeded in exposing the limits, rather than the extent, of its military power. And the neoliberal capitalist model that had reigned supreme for a generation had crashed.

It was the reaction of the U.S. to 9/11 that broke the sense of invincibility of the world's first truly global empire. The Bush administration's wildly miscalculated response turned the atrocities in New York and Washington into the most successful terror attack in history.

Not only did Bush's war fail on its own terms, spawning terrorists across the world, while its campaign of killings, torture and kidnapping discredited Western claims to be guardians of human rights. But the U.S.-British invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq revealed the inability of the global behemoth to impose its will on subject peoples prepared to fight back. That became a strategic defeat for the U.S. and its closest allies.

This passing of the unipolar moment was the first of four decisive changes that transformed the world – in some crucial ways for the better. The second was the fallout from the crash of 2008 and the crisis of the western-dominated capitalist order it unleashed, speeding up relative U.S. decline.

This was a crisis made in America and deepened by the vast cost of its multiple wars. And its most devastating impact was on those economies whose elites had bought most enthusiastically into the neoliberal orthodoxy of deregulated financial markets and unfettered corporate power.

A voracious model of capitalism forced down the throats of the world as the only way to run a modern economy, at a cost of ballooning inequality and environmental degradation, had been discredited — and only rescued from collapse by the greatest state intervention in history. The baleful twins of neoconservatism and neoliberalism had been tried and tested to destruction.

The failure of both accelerated the rise of China, the third epoch-making change of the early 21st century. Not only did the country's dramatic growth take hundreds of millions out of poverty, but its state-driven investment model rode out the west's slump, making a mockery of market orthodoxy and creating a new centre of global power. That increased the freedom of maneuver for smaller states.

China's rise widened the space for the tide of progressive change that swept Latin America – the fourth global advance. Across the continent, socialist and social-democratic governments were propelled to power, attacking economic and racial injustice, building regional independence and taking back resources from corporate control. Two decades after we had been assured there could be no alternatives to neoliberal capitalism, Latin Americans were creating them.

These momentous changes came, of course, with huge costs and qualifications. The U.S. will remain the overwhelmingly dominant military power for the foreseeable future; its partial defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan were paid for in death and destruction on a colossal scale; and multipolarity brings its own risks of conflict. The neoliberal model was discredited, but governments tried to refloat it through savage austerity programs. China's success was bought at a high price in inequality, civil rights and environmental destruction. And Latin America's U.S.-backed elites remained determined to reverse the social gains, as they succeeded in doing by violent coup in Honduras in 2009. Such contradictions also beset the revolutionary upheaval that engulfed the Arab world in 2010-11, sparking another shift of global proportions.

By then, Bush's war on terror had become such an embarrassment that the U.S. government had to change its name to "overseas contingency operations." Iraq was almost universally acknowledged to have been a disaster, Afghanistan a doomed undertaking. But such chastened realism couldn't be further from how these campaigns were regarded in the Western mainstream when they were first unleashed....

— Seumas Milne is a Guardian columnist and associate editor. The full article is at

15. China Bashing: A U.S. Political Tradition
By Ted Galen Carpenter

In every U.S. presidential election, the major party candidates vie to see who can appear tougher on China. Once the election is over, however, the substance of U.S. policy toward China usually changes little and is far more pragmatic than the campaign rhetoric. There are ominous signs, though, that things could be different this time.

The accusations have been among the most caustic ever. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has denounced the Obama administration for being "a near-supplicant to Beijing" on trade matters, human rights and security issues. An Obama ad accuses Romney of shipping U.S. jobs to China through his activities at the Bain Capital financier group, and Democrats charge that Romney as president would not protect U.S. firms from China's depredations.

In large measure these jabs resemble a quadrennial political ritual. Ronald Reagan repeatedly criticized President Jimmy Carter for establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing. Bill Clinton excoriated the "butchers of Beijing" in the 1992 campaign and promised to stand up to the Chinese government on both trade and human rights issues. Candidate Barack Obama labeled President George W. Bush "a patsy" in dealing with China and promised to go "to the mat" over Beijing's "unfair" trade practices.

Obama highlighted his decision to impose tariffs on Chinese tires in a recent campaign speech. The administration, he said, had decided to file two complaints with the World Trade Organization over Beijing's allegedly illegal subsidies to China's automobile industries. It was no coincidence that Obama announced this in Ohio, a battleground state where the auto parts industry is a major component of the economy.

Chinese leaders have learned to regard this quadrennial anti-China rhetoric with a mixture of patience and bemusement. They note that despite Clinton's fiery comments, U.S.-China trade soared during his administration, and after the first year or so, criticism about Beijing's human rights policies virtually disappeared. Bilateral relations during the Reagan administration were exceptionally good, as the two governments cooperated to contain the Soviet Union's power.

There are indications, though, that the current campaign hostility toward China may be more than the usual political posturing. Romney's advisers include several prominent anti-China hawks – including former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and Princeton professor Aaron Friedberg. And the Obama administration has already taken a number of actions that suggest a change in the substance as well as the tone of U.S. policy. The imposition of tariffs and the WTO suits are examples in the economic realm, but shifts in Washington's security policies are even more evident.

The much-cited U.S. "strategic pivot" to East Asia is clearly motivated by worries about China's growing power. Washington has also become far more involved in the territorial disputes between China and several Southeast Asian nations over the South China Sea, and between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea. In both cases, the Obama administration has taken positions hostile to Beijing's interests. This appears to be a bipartisan development: The GOP platform includes a provision explicitly condemning Beijing's "destabilizing claims in the South China Sea."

Bipartisan hostility toward China is also evident in the new report from the House intelligence committee that accuses China's giant global telecommunications company, Huawei, of cyber-espionage and generally posing a threat to U.S. security. That report is likely to lead to significant restrictions on Huawei's business in the U.S.

Such attitudes provoke China's leaders and public. Washington's implicit tilt toward Japan in the East China Sea controversy led to anti-U.S. demonstrations in several Chinese cities last month — including an attack on the U.S. ambassador's car as it sought to re-enter the embassy compound in Beijing.

China bashing may have become something other than a periodic political sport. Persistent U.S. economic woes, combined with China's breathtaking economic achievements, have made China a convenient scapegoat for numerous American political constituencies.

The need to borrow vast sums of money from China to fund the U.S. budget deficit adds to the sense of vulnerability and resentment. Beijing's growing regional and global clout strengthens U.S. worries about China displacing the U.S. as the world's leading power.

Those factors are very real, and are far stronger than in previous decades. They're also unlikely to fade once the election is over. So bilateral relations may be in for a very rough period — no matter who is president come January.
This article was circulated by Reuters news agency Oct. 11. The author is a senior fellow at the conservative Cato Institute and is the author of nine books on international issues.

By Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

Molly J said of her time in solitary confinement: "[I felt] doomed, like I was being banished… like you have the plague or that you are the worst thing on earth. Like you are set apart [from] everything else. I guess [I wanted to] feel like I was part of the human race – not like some animal."

Molly was just 16 years old when she was placed in isolation in an adult jail in Michigan. She described her cell as being "a box": "There was a bed – the slab. It was concrete.… There was a stainless steel toilet/sink combo … The door was solid, without a food slot or window.… There was no window at all."

Molly remained in solitary for several months, locked down alone in her cell for at least 22 hours a day.

No other nation in the developed world routinely tortures its children in this manner. And torture is indeed the word brought to mind by a shocking report released Oct. 13 by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. "Growing Up Locked Down" documents, for the first time, the widespread use of solitary confinement on youth under the age of 18 in prisons and jails across the U.S., and the deep and permanent harm it causes to kids caught up in the adult criminal justice system.

Ian Kysel, author of the 141-page report, interviewed or corresponded with more than 125 young people who had spent time in solitary as children in 19 states. To cope with endless hours of extreme isolation, sensory deprivation and crippling loneliness, Kysel learned that some children made up imaginary friends or played games in their heads. Some hid under the covers and tried to sleep as much as possible, while others found they could not sleep at all.

"Being in isolation to me felt like I was on an island all alone dying a slow death from the inside out," a California teen wrote in a letter to Human Rights Watch.

One young woman, who spent three months in solitary in Florida when she was 15, described becoming a "cutter" while in isolation: "I like to take staples and carve letters and stuff in my arm … Each letter means something to me. It is something I had lost."

She started by carving into her arm the first letter of her mother's name. Another girl who cut herself in solitary said, "because it was the only release of my pain."

In fact, solitary confinement has been shown to cause severe pain and psychological damage to the tens of thousands of adults who endure it every day in American prisons. On children, the report states, the practice has a "distinct and particularly profound impact." Because of "the special vulnerability and needs of adolescents, solitary confinement can be a particularly cruel and harmful practice when applied to them." This is all the more true because for many of these kids, "developmental immaturity is compounded by mental disabilities and histories of trauma, abuse, and neglect."

Yet, prisons and jails commonly use isolation as punishment for violating prison rules, including both violent and nonviolent infractions. One boy who entered a Colorado jail at age 15 said the guards doled out stints in solitary for crimes that would, in any other setting, be deemed normal adolescent behavior: "15 days for not making the bed; 15 days for not keeping the cell door open; 20 or 25 days for being in someone else's cell."

On Rikers Island in New York City, more than 14% of adolescents between 16 and 18 spent some period in "disciplinary segregation." This despite the fact that nearly half of all adolescents on Rikers have been found to have a "diagnosed mental disorder".

Other kids are isolated as a form of "protective custody", because they are vulnerable to physical or sexual abuse. Even though they are being locked down "for their own good," many receive no educational or rehabilitative programming while in solitary, and some are barred from seeing their families.

Still, other children are placed in solitary confinement for "treatment" purposes, especially after threatening or attempting suicide — even though isolation has been shown to sharply increase the risk that prisoners will take their own lives.

"There is nothing to do so you start talking to yourself and getting lost in your own little world. It is crushing," said Paul K, who spent 60 days in solitary when he was 14. "You get depressed and wonder if it is even worth living. Your thoughts turn over to the more death-oriented side of life."

No one knows precisely how many children live in these conditions, since many state and local correctional systems do not keep such data. But the overall rate of solitary confinement in American prisons is thought to be between 3% and 5%, and anecdotal evidence suggests that, in some systems, children may be isolated at even higher rates than adults. Given that nearly 100,000 youth under the age of 18 pass through adult prisons and jails annually, there exists the staggering possibility that thousands of children are spending time in solitary confinement each year.

Liz Ryan, who directs the Campaign for Youth Justice, points out that 20 states have laws requiring that juveniles be kept apart from adult prisoners. Yet most of the nation's 3,000 jails lack dedicated facilities for children — leaving them with no alternative but to place kids in solitary. A majority of people in jail are there awaiting trial, which means many children in solitary have not even been convicted of a crime.

In addition, Ryan said, "A kid could be held in jail not because there is a risk to public safety, but because they don't have the resources to make bail." So the racial and class disparities endemic to the criminal justice system are likely reflected in the population of children languishing in isolation.

Author Ian Kysel said in an interview: "I think one of the greatest impediments to change is trying to unravel the policy issue that is at the root of this problem: a criminal justice system that treats kids as if adults without providing resources or guidelines for their care.

For this reason, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union recommend that state and the federal governments "prohibit the housing of adolescents with adults, or in jails and prisons designed to house adults". However, "regardless of how they are charged and held," Kysel says unequivocally: "We need to ban the solitary confinement of young people across the board. There is simply no reason that a child or adolescent ever needs to be held in a cell, alone, for 22 let alone 24 hours at a stretch."

— From The Guardian/UK , 10-14-12. Jean Casella is a freelance writer, editor and co-editor of Solitary Watch. James Ridgeway is senior Washington correspondent for Mother Jones, and co-editor of Solitary Watch.