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In This Edition

Ted Rall with hope for the Obamabots, "The 12 Step Program For Recovery From Stupid Capitalism."

Uri Avnery introduces, "A Person Called Nobody."

Amy Goodman provides, "Obama's New Year's Resolution: Protect The Status Quo."

Robert Reich covers, "The Ongoing War."

Jim Hightower says, "Warning: A new intrusive swarm coming our way!"

Naomi Wolf has, "Revealed: How The FBI Coordinated The Crackdown On Occupy."

James Donahue explores, "Modern Psychology; The Attack On Our Brains."

John Nichols explains, "Why A Handful Of Progressive Lawmakers Opposed The Deal."

Glenn Greenwald points out some American traitors in, "GOP And Feinstein Join To Fulfill Obama's Demand For Renewed Warrantless Eavesdropping."

Robert Kutner studies, "The Endless Cliff."

Paul Krugman is, "Brewing Up Confusion."

David Swanson examines, "Resisting Racism And Militarism In 2013."

Ray McGovern tells, "What Hagel Could Give Obama."

California Senator Dianne Feinstein wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Matthew Rothschild explains, "Why The "Fiscal Cliff" Bores The Snot Out Of Me."

Matt Stoller reports, "Eight Corporate Subsidies In The Fiscal Cliff Bill, From Goldman Sachs To Disney To NASCAR."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst returns with, "Guns, Guns and Guns" but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Oh Those Drama Queens!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Tim Eagan, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, John Sherffius, Noah Berger, Scott Applewhite, Pete Souza, Talk Radio News Service, Luke Sharrett, The New York Times, The Simpsons, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

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Oh, Those Drama Queens!
By Ernest Stewart

"Let's go flying over the 'fiscal cliff'"! ~~~ Robert Reich

"If you opened up every single potential drilling opportunity in the United States, it would have the effect of lowering gas prices three cents, maybe. And that's because, of course, oil is traded on a global market." ~~~ Jennifer Granholm

Moving on, is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard. ~~~ Dave Mustaine

"Don't wait for other people to be loving, giving, compassionate, grateful, forgiving, generous, or friendly... lead the way!" ~~~ Steve Maraboli

Those "drama queens" in Con-gress played it to the hilt, but finally fell in line and avoided the so-called "fiscal cliff," well, at least for the time being. Then, in about two months from now, this "traveling clown circus" happens all over again -- ad infinitum -- as the money voted in this bill runs out then. Oh, and let's not forget about that old "debt ceiling." Remember? The Treasury Department said it will exhaust its borrowing capacity in mid-to-late February; so you ain't seen nothing yet, folks! Here's some of the particulars in this current bill:

Current tax rates will be extended for all wage earners making below $400,000 and couples making below $450,000.

The estate tax was set increased from 35% to 40% with the first $5 million worth of property exempt from taxes.

Capital gains and dividend tax rates increased from 15% to 20%.

A permanent fix to the alternative minimum tax.

Doctors will no longer get ripped off by the feds for treating Medicare patients.

The tax credit for renewable energy companies will be extended for another year.

The Dairy farmers got their cut and price supports.

The raise in salary for those "Congressional Critters" is halted!

Oh, and there is no raise in income taxes for most, and it saves unemployment insurance. However, the so-called "payroll tax holiday" scheme was allowed to expire, meaning that payroll taxes go back up 6.2 percent from the current 4.2 percent, which is a good thing, as it was a blatant attempt by Barry and the Con-gress to defund Medicare and Social Security; returning to the former rate is a good thing for both programs and gives the politicians less ammunition to steal from us.

So hang in there, folks; this traveling clown circus will reconvene in about 6 weeks -- "same bat time, same bat channel!"

In Other News

Can someone explain again why we're drilling for oil in the up-until-now, pristine Arctic? In the last two years, there've been three oil spills already and another one is on the way. Shell Oil has decided to drill a half dozen test wells in spite of the many warnings it has received from ecological and wildlife advocates!

As the New York Times reported the drilling effort has turned life-threatening:

An enormous Shell Oil offshore drilling rig ran aground on an island in the Gulf of Alaska on Monday night after it broke free from tow ships in rough seas, officials said.

The rig, the Kulluk, which was used for test drilling in the Arctic last summer, is carrying about 139,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of lubricating oil and hydraulic fluid, the officials said.

The U.S. Coast Guard, rescued all 17 crew members on board the Kulluk rig. Trouble is, the fate of the area's wildlife isn't so clear as the Washington Post reports:

The Kodiak archipelago, where the rig ran aground, is home to nearly 250 bird species, including horned puffins, red-faced cormorants and Harlequin ducks. It boasts among the highest winter bird counts in Alaska. It is also home to Kodiak brown bears, who feed on local salmon streams.

Last summer, the Kulluk drilled a shallow test well in the Beaufort Sea while another rig drilled a similar hole in the Chukchi Sea to the west.

But Shell announced in September that it would be forced to delay further drilling until this year after a specialized piece of equipment designed to contain oil from a spill was damaged in a testing accident.

The episode was one of a number of setbacks for the Arctic drilling program last year. Shell now says it hopes to drill five exploratory wells in the region during the 2013 drilling season, which begins in mid-July.

You may recall last August, and those prophetic words of National Wildlife Federation's Jeremy Symons:

This week a Shell Oil Co. drilling rig, the Kulluk, headed towards the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's northern coast to begin drilling operations. This flagship effort to open up Arctic waters to drilling has already received the thumbs up from the Obama Administration. I can't help but recall all those "what if" moments following the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. What if we hadn't turned a blind eye to insufficient spill planning? What if we had proper oversight of oil companies and held them accountable for lying about the risks before approving their permits? What if we truly weighed the risks and the rewards of moving into new drilling frontiers before disaster strikes?

Shell's rig is not simply another rig. It is the pioneer -- intended to open a new frontier and convert an unspoiled, aquatic wilderness into the next big oil rush. These waters are vital habitat for an abundance of wildlife such as ringed seals, as well as whales that travel the world's oceans and birds that migrate across North America every year.

Of course, there is no reason to be doing this in the first place; if the same time, money and effort were placed in renewable energy options, there'd soon be no need for the vast amounts of petroleum we consume daily. The choice is for a clean, renewable life style or the continued destruction of our planet; which do you choose? How do you like global warming so far?

And Finally

As you you may know by now, we've moved the magazines "Forum" section out of Yahoo Groups and over to Facebook at:

Our forum section has been at Yahoo since 2004, when we moved from a similar site and we will no doubt move out of Facebook someday; but in the mean time that's the Forum's new address.

We have looked into getting our own private Forum; but the cost proved prohibitive; so we've been forced to use public spots like Yahoo Groups or Facebook to keep the costs down. Trouble is, when you do, you run into never-ending site changes that end up making working with them impossible! I have no doubt that Facebook, too, will cross that threshold!

Unfortunately, we will lose a few members who wouldn't join Facebook to save their lives, and we will certainly miss their wit and insight; but moving there should double or triple our membership to begin with and turn on more new people to the magazine and what our mission is and what reality is. All you need to do to join is go to that Facebook page and "like" us and you're in! Simple, huh? You'll note, however, that we have no patience with trolls who will be removed and blocked immediately!

Also on Facebook I have my personal site which has been changed to nothing but Arts. Music, Film, Painting, Literature and the like. Please post everything else, i.e., poli-sci to the new Forum. Join in at the Art site by asking to be my friend; I've never refused a friendship request yet; however, I have no problem defriending trolls in a heartbeat. The site is located at:

Please help us spread the word. Thank you!

Keepin' On

I still don't know whether or not the magazine broke even for last year, and it won't be until the end of next week until I know. I went and paid the final bill off which left me $21 to live on until my next check, c'est la guerre! I don't know if Issues & Alibis is important to you; but it is to me.

Call me crazy, but I do feel like it's my job, self imposed, to hip as many people to the truth before it all comes crashing down and we all end up sleeping in tents under freeway overpasses, if we're lucky, that is! If not, we could be in a Happy Camp or turned into fertilizer on some Monsanto farm, producing Frankenfoods to kill off the rest. Of course, I could be wrong, and Barry and his Obamabots could soon change everything, and bring on that Star Trek world where no one is hungry, or lacks for any basic wants, needs, or desires; but 50 years of studying the situation tells me otherwise!

Just in case Barry fails, and it starts to hit the fan, it might be helpful to you and your family to know what's going down and what you can do about it. If that's the case, won't you send us what you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep you up to the minute on what's going down and what it might mean to you and yours!


08-22-1934 ~ 12-27-2012
Thanks for the mass murder!

05-16-1921 ~ 12-28-2012
Thanks for the film!

11-08-1927 ~ 01-01-2013
Thanks for the songs!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2013 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 12 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

The 12 Step Program For Recovery From Stupid Capitalism
By Ted Rall

When I talk to other Americans about what is going on, I see that they are puzzled, angry and addicted. They are confused that, even when they vote for liberal politicians, they get right-wing policies. They are angry because the alternative-voting for a conservative-would be even worse. But there they remain, stuck in a two-party trap to which they have become addicted. They know the Democrat-Republican duopoly isn't good for them or the planet, but they can't imagine anything different.

Please, people ask me, stop bashing Obama and the system and tell me what I should do. Me personally.

Fine. You are an addict. You are addicted to stupid capitalism and the political system that reinforces it. You need a 12-step program to recover.

1. Admit that under the Democrats and Republicans you are powerless, that things will never get better under them, that their system of capitalism is out-of-control, immoral and unsustainable.

2. Understand that a different way of organizing society, economics and politics could restore us to sanity.

3. Stop believing in the power or desire of the two parties to make things better.

4. Stop participating in or thinking about electoral politics, which are a waste of time and energy, a needless distraction.

5. Understand that we face radical problems, such as climate change and income disparity, that radical problems require radical change, and that radical change originates in the streets, never at the ballot box.

6. Understand that radical change is usually impossible without revolutionary overthrow of the state and the destruction of the ruling class and the stupid capitalist system that sustains it.

7. Accept that revolutionary movements require a combination of nonviolent and violent tactics in order to have a chance of succeeding.

8. Make common cause with anyone and everyone opposed to the existing order, no matter how repugnant, because nothing else matters until we have emancipated ourselves.

9. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, admit to the world our complicity in allowing the existing system to exploit, rob and murder their people and things.

10. Make amends to people of other countries wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

11. After the Revolution: Continue to self-assess, and when we are wrong, promptly admit it and make amends.

12. Try to spread the message of revolution, freedom and emancipation to other oppressed peoples, and to practice these principles in all matters.

Happy New Year!
(c) 2013 Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" and "The Anti-American Manifesto." His newest book is, "The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt."

A Person Called Nobody
By Uri Avnery

SUDDENLY, I realized that a new star had appeared on the political firmament of Israel. Until yesterday I did not even know of its existence.

A respected public opinion poll posed a Nixonesque question: From which politician would you buy a used car? The answer was stunning: not a single politician reached the mark of even 10%. Except one who would be trusted by a massive 34% of potential voters: a certain Nobody.

This was not the only question to which the voters showed a marked preference for this mysterious candidate. When asked with which candidate they would like to spend an evening, only 5% preferred Shelly Yachimovitch, and even the smooth Binyamin Netanyahu attracted only 20%, while Nobody easily headed the list with 27%.

Whom do you trust most? Again Nobody won with 22%, followed by Netanyahu with 18%. Who cares most for you and your problems? 33% voted for Nobody, followed far behind by Shelly with 17% and Netanyahu with only 9%.

I have never met this Nobody. I don't even know whether he/she is young or old. Why did he/she not set up a new party, seeing that it would be a shoo-in?

Since it is too late to enter the fray, it is absolutely certain that Netanyahu will be the great victor. He will be the next Prime Minister. He simply has no competitor.

IN MANY languages, including Hebrew, one speaks of the "political game." But, as far as I know, nobody has yet devised a real game, even for children.

I have taken the trouble to do this now. I hope that it will help some of my readers to wile away the time on a dull evening when there is no "reality" show on the screen.

The game is on the lines of Lego. Each block represents one of the parties. The aim is to set up a government coalition.

Since the Knesset has 120 members, you need 61 to set up a government. You might feel safer with 65, at least, since a number of members are always carousing around abroad and have to be frantically called home for critical votes. Israelis like to travel around the world, especially if somebody else (like the Knesset) pays for it.

For creating a coalition, you should observe the following principles:

First, your own party must be strong enough to overcome any possible opposition within the government itself.

Second, the coalition must be balanced, so that you will always be exactly in the middle on any issue.

Third, it must include enough members so that no single party is big enough to blackmail you by threatening to leave the government on the eve of a crucial vote.

Some unfortunate candidates for the prime ministership in the past have found this job so hard that they had to ask the President of the State for an extension of the time allotted to them by the law.

Actually, this is the most important of all decisions you will have to make until the next elections, including decisions about wars and such. If you get it wrong at this juncture, your government is sure to meet disaster somewhere along the road.

THE POLLS show that this time you will have a comparatively easy job. It will depend on your abilities how successful the outcome will be.

First of all, the building blocks you have to choose from.

Your own list, Likud Beitenu, the one you set up together with Avigdor Lieberman, is expected to gain between 35 and 40 seats. All other parties will be markedly smaller. There is no party in the 20-35 seats range.

Shelly's Labor Party is hovering between 15 and 20, competing with four parties between 9 and 15. These are Tzipi Livni's Movement (that's actually its name, The Movement); Ya'ir Lapid's There is a Future (contrary to those who believed that the world would end last week); the oriental-orthodox Shas and Naftali Bennett's The Jewish Home.

Naftali Who? Bennett is the great surprise of these elections. He appeared from nowhere, a successful high-tech entrepreneur with a tiny kippa, who has managed a hostile takeover of the moribund National-Religious party. He has succeeded in throwing out all its venerable leaders and become the sole boss. Within a few weeks he has doubled the party's share of the polls by outflanking Netanyahu on the right and voicing opinions which some consider outright fascist.

Where does Bennett get his supporters from? From the Likud, of course. Bennett was once Netanyahu's office chief of staff, but made the fatal mistake of running afoul of Sarah'le, the Boss's wife (or, some say: the real boss.) Now a furious battle is raging. Bennett accuses Netanyahu of supporting the Two-State Solution (which nobody in Israel and the world believes) and Netanyahu attacks Bennett for announcing that he, as a soldier - a major in the reserves - would disobey an order to "remove a Jew from his home" The "home" in question being, of course, a settlement on Palestinian land.

Since the Likud itself has become far more extreme since the recent primary elections, and since the addition of Lieberman's cohorts makes it even righter, the looming confrontation with Bennett will be a riveting fight between the Extreme Right and the More Extreme Right. There is also a Most Extreme Right: the disciples of the late unlamented Rabbi Meir Kahane, who, however, will probably not pass the two-percent minimum hurdle.

Coming back to the party lists: apart from the Likud and the five "medium-sized" parties, there are six small parties. The most important of these by far is the Ashkenazi Orthodox bloc, Torah Jewry. Then there is Meretz, the only Jewish party that admits to being left-wing. Of equal size are the three Arab parties (including the Communists, who are mainly Arab but who also have a Jewish candidate). And then there is poor Kadima, the largest party in the outgoing Knesset which is now struggling to overcome the two-percent curse. Sic transit gloria mundi.

SO NOW you can set to work. Remember: the aim is 61 members at least.

The most natural coalition would be an alliance of the Right. Likud-Beitenu, the Jewish Home, Shas and the Orthodox will probably add up to around 67 seats. They could implement the policy of rapidly expanding the settlements and preventing the creation of a Palestinian state, keeping up the eternal occupation and not giving a damn for world opinion.

The drawback: this composition would put an end to any pretense about your adherence to the Two-State Solution and your desire for peace. You would stand naked before the world. Israel's international status would plummet, with possible dire consequences.

Also: you would be open to permanent blackmail from the combined Shas-Orthodox block, which might demand huge additional sums for its ghettos, such as higher subsidies for their children (8-10 per family), exemption from work and military service and much more. Also, you would not be located in the middle of your government, but to the left.

To prevent this, you might want to add some centrist spice to the brew. At least three party leaders will line up before your door the day after the election: Shelly, Tzipi and Ya'ir.

Formulating the next government's program should pose no problem. None of the three have said anything that could disturb you. Actually, they have not said much about anything. So take your pick.

WHY NOT take all of them? That would make a National Union (always popular), with only "the Arabs" and Meretz left outside. A coalition of 100 members.

Ah, but there's the rub. Two rubs, actually.

First, in such a coalition, you will be in a minority. You might not be able to turn your every whim into law and zigzag happily along.

Second, how do you distribute the ministries? That, after all, will be the main - if not the only - demand of all these leaders, as well as your own party functionaries.

There will be at least three candidates for Defense, four for the Treasury, two for the Foreign Office (unless the courts send Lieberman to prison.)

So here the real game starts. Which party to include, which to exclude? Do you take Shelly and leave Bennett outside? Or perhaps include Ya'ir and exclude Shas (teach them a lesson, alright!) Or let Tzipi in, as an alibi for those troublesome Americans and Europeans and prevent the " de-legitimization" of Israel, and forget about Shelly, who says she loves the settlers?

As you see, the possibilities are almost infinite. You have 25 days to go.

Enjoy the game - and the best of luck!
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Recent renditions indicate that Obama will continual to wield
the "most extreme and tyrannical power a government can claim."

Obama's New Year's Resolution: Protect The Status Quo
By Amy Goodman

Amidst the White House and congressional theatrics surrounding the so-called fiscal-cliff negotiations, a number of bills were signed into law by President Barack Obama that renew some of the worst excesses of the Bush years. Largely ignored by the media, these laws further entrench odious policies like indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping and the continued operation of the U.S. gulag in Guantanamo. The deal to avert the fiscal cliff itself increases the likelihood that President Obama may yet scuttle an unprecedented cut in the Pentagon's bloated budget. It's not such a happy new year, after all.

On Sunday, Dec. 30, the White House press secretary's office issued a terse release stating "The President signed into law H.R. 5949, the 'FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012,' which provides a five-year extension of Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act." With that, the government's controversial surveillance powers were renewed until the end of 2017. The American Civil Liberties Union called it the "heartbreak of another Senate vote in favor of dragnet collection of Americans' communications."

A champion of progressive causes in the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, is leaving Congress after 16 years, after his Cleveland district was eliminated due to Republican-controlled redistricting following the 2010 census. Days before his departure from Congress, I asked him about the FISA reauthorization.

"The FISA bill is just one example," Kucinich replied, "We're entering into a brave new world, which involves not only the government apparatus being able to look in massive databases and extract information to try to profile people who might be considered threats to the prevailing status quo. But we also are looking at drones, which are increasingly miniaturized, that will give the governments, at every level, more of an ability to look into people's private conduct. This is a nightmare."

Add to that, the nightmare of indefinite detention without charge or trial. Just over a year ago, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, also known as the annual NDAA. That 2012 version of the sprawling NDAA contained a controversial new provision granting the U.S. military far-reaching powers to indefinitely detain people - not only those identified as enemies on a battlefield, but others perceived by the military as having "supported" the enemy. Chris Hedges, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times who was part of a team of reporters awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper's coverage of global terrorism, sued the Obama administration because, in his reporting, he regularly encounters those the U.S. government defines as terrorists: "I, as a foreign correspondent, had had direct contact with 17 organizations that are on that list, from al-Qaida to Hamas to Hezbollah to the PKK, and there's no provision within that particular section [of the NDAA] to exempt journalists."

A federal judge agreed and ordered a stay, preventing that section of the NDAA from being enforced. The Obama administration appealed, and the case is still before the U.S. Court of Appeals. In the meantime, the court-imposed stay was overturned. With the renewal of the NDAA for 2013, with the indefinite detention provisions intact, Hedges told me, "The appellate court is all that separates us and a state that is no different than any other military dictatorship."

Couched in the same 2013 NDAA is a section prohibiting the Obama administration from spending any of the bill's $633 billion in construction or alteration of any facility for the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. This effectively ties President Obama's hands, despite his 2009 executive order to close the prison complex, and his more recent reiteration of the goal. Of 166 prisoners still held there, 86 have been cleared for release, but remain imprisoned nevertheless. The legal group Human Rights First has just issued a blueprint, detailing how President Obama could close Guantanamo, despite congressional roadblocks.

The president's second term will publicly begin on Jan. 21, the hard-fought-for holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," King said. If President Obama aspires to do more than perpetuate an unjust status quo, he must start now.
(c) 2013 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

The Ongoing War
After the Battle Over the Cliff, the Battle Over the Debt Ceiling
By Robert Reich

"It's not all I would have liked," says Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, speaking of the deal on the fiscal cliff, "so on to the debt ceiling."

The battle over the fiscal cliff was only a prelude to the coming battle over raising the debt ceiling - a battle that will likely continue through early March, when the Treasury runs out of tricks to avoid a default on the nation's debt.

The White House's and Democrats' single biggest failure in the cliff negotiations was not getting Republicans' agreement to raise the debt ceiling.

The last time the debt ceiling had to be raised, in 2011, Republicans demanded major cuts in programs for the poor as well as Medicare and Social Security.

They got some concessions from the White House but didn't get what they wanted - which led us to the fiscal cliff.

So we've come full circle.

On it goes, battle after battle in what seems an unending war that began with the election of Tea-Party Republicans in November, 2010.

Don't be fooled. This war was never over the federal budget deficit.

In fact, federal deficits are dropping as a percent of the total economy.

For the fiscal year ending in September 2009, the deficit was 10.1 percent of the gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in America. In 2010, it was 9 percent. In 2011, 8.7 percent. In the 2012 fiscal year, it was down to 7 percent.

The deficit ballooned in 2009 because of the Great Recession. It knocked so many people out of work that tax revenues dropped to the lowest share of the economy in over sixty years. (The Bush tax cuts on the rich also reduced revenues.) The recession also boosted government spending on a stimulus program and on safety nets like unemployment insurance and food stamps.

But as the nation slowly emerges from recession, more people are employed - generating more tax revenues, and requiring less spending on safety nets and stimulus. That's why the deficit is shrinking.

Yes, deficits are projected to rise again in coming years as a percent of GDP. But that's mainly due to the rising costs of health care, along with aging baby boomers who are expected to need more medical treatment.

Health care already consumes 18 percent of the total economy and almost a quarter of the federal budget (mostly in Medicare and Medicaid).

So if the ongoing war between Republicans and Democrats was really over those future budget deficits, you might expect Republicans and Democrats to be focusing on ways to hold down future healthcare costs.

They might be debating how to make the cost controls in the Affordable Care Act more effective, for example, or the merits of moving to a more efficient single-payer system, as every other advanced country has done.

But they're not debating this, because the federal deficit is not what this war is about.

It's about the size of government. Tea-Party Republicans (and other congressional Republicans worried about a Tea-Party challenge in their next primary) want the government to be much smaller.

"My goal," says conservative guru Grover Norquist, "is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." What's behind this zeal to shrink government? It's not that the U.S. government has suddenly become larger. In fact, non-military government spending relative to the size of the U.S. economy remains the smallest of any other rich nation.

Apart from the military, Medicare and Social Security account for almost everything else the federal government does - and these programs continue to be hugely popular, as Republicans learn every time they threaten them.

The animus toward government has more to do with the growing frustrations of many Americans that they're not getting ahead no matter how hard they work.

Government is an easy scapegoat, utilized by much of corporate America to convince average Americans to cut taxes, spending, and regulations - and divert attention from record-high corporate profits and concentration of income and wealth at the top.

The median wage continues to drop, adjusted for inflation, even though the economy is growing. And the share of the economy going to wages rather than to profits is the smallest on record.

Increasingly it's looked like the game is rigged, especially when people see government bailing out Wall Street (the Tea Party movement grew out of the bailout, as did the Occupiers), and handing out corporate welfare to big agriculture, big pharma, oil companies, and the insurance industry, to name but a few of the recipients.

The outrage grows when average working people are told - falsely - that a growing portion of Americans don't pay taxes and live off government handouts.

The battle over the fiscal cliff is over, but the trench warfare will continue.
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

An attacking drone coming soon to your neighborhood

Warning: A new intrusive swarm coming our way!

Get ready, America, for here comes "the next latest and greatest thing in aviation." Wow, what could it be? Maybe the airlines are going to drop all of their ridiculous ripoff fees. That'd be great!

No, no, not that kind of aviation. Also, you probably won't find this breakthrough so great. It's the arrival and proliferation of "unmanned vehicle systems," soon to be buzzing around in the airspace of your own town.

Yes, drones, right here at home. Those very same, tiny, pilotless, remote-controlled, undetectable planes that the CIA has been secretly using to spy on and bomb people in Pakistan and elsewhere are headed to your and my local police departments, FBI offices, and... well, who knows who else will have these "latest and greatest" toys? All we know is that Congress - under pressure from Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and other big drone peddlers - directed the Federal Aviation Agency earlier this year to open up civilian air space to thousands of them by 2015. And, in their wisdom, our loosy-goosy lawmakers provided no regulation of who can have drones, how many, or for what purposes.

So, prepare to be pestered and monitored, for police agencies and corporate interests are said to be abuzz about getting their own. The first ones are expected to be used for high-altitude surveillance, which is worrisome enough, but a Texas sheriff's office that already has bought a "ShadowHawk" drone says it might outfit the little buzzer to fire tear gas and rubber bullets.

No worries, though, for the drone industry's lobbying group has drafted a two-page code of conduct urging purchasers to "respect the privacy of individuals."

How nice. Only, it's a voluntary code... and totally unenforceable. For more information about this invasive swarm, contact the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Police used teargas to drive back protesters following an attempt by the Occupy supporters to shut down the city of Oakland.

Revealed: How The FBI Coordinated The Crackdown On Occupy
New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent
By Naomi Wolf

It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall - so mystifying at the time - was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves -was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document - reproduced here in an easily searchable format - shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations' knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI - and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire - by whom? Where? - now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI - though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization - nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a "terrorist threat":

"FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) ... reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat ... The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country."

Verheyden-Hilliard points out the close partnering of banks, the New York Stock Exchange and at least one local Federal Reserve with the FBI and DHS, and calls it "police-statism":

"This production [of documents], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI's surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement ... These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America."

The documents show stunning range: in Denver, Colorado, that branch of the FBI and a "Bank Fraud Working Group" met in November 2011 - during the Occupy protests - to surveil the group. The Federal Reserve of Richmond, Virginia had its own private security surveilling Occupy Tampa and Tampa Veterans for Peace and passing privately-collected information on activists back to the Richmond FBI, which, in turn, categorized OWS activities under its "domestic terrorism" unit. The Anchorage, Alaska "terrorism task force" was watching Occupy Anchorage. The Jackson, Michigan "joint terrorism task force" was issuing a "counterterrorism preparedness alert" about the ill-organized grandmas and college sophomores in Occupy there. Also in Jackson, Michigan, the FBI and the "Bank Security Group" - multiple private banks - met to discuss the reaction to "National Bad Bank Sit-in Day" (the response was violent, as you may recall). The Virginia FBI sent that state's Occupy members' details to the Virginia terrorism fusion center. The Memphis FBI tracked OWS under its "joint terrorism task force" aegis, too. And so on, for over 100 pages.

Jason Leopold, at, who has sought similar documents for more than a year, reported that the FBI falsely asserted in response to his own FOIA requests that no documents related to its infiltration of Occupy Wall Street existed at all. But the release may be strategic: if you are an Occupy activist and see how your information is being sent to terrorism task forces and fusion centers, not to mention the "longterm plans" of some redacted group to shoot you, this document is quite the deterrent.

There is a new twist: the merger of the private sector, DHS and the FBI means that any of us can become WikiLeaks, a point that Julian Assange was trying to make in explaining the argument behind his recent book. The fusion of the tracking of money and the suppression of dissent means that a huge area of vulnerability in civil society - people's income streams and financial records - is now firmly in the hands of the banks, which are, in turn, now in the business of tracking your dissent.

Remember that only 10% of the money donated to WikiLeaks can be processed - because of financial sector and DHS-sponsored targeting of PayPal data. With this merger, that crushing of one's personal or business financial freedom can happen to any of us. How messy, criminalizing and prosecuting dissent. How simple, by contrast, just to label an entity a "terrorist organization" and choke off, disrupt or indict its sources of financing.

Why the huge push for counterterrorism "fusion centers", the DHS militarizing of police departments, and so on? It was never really about "the terrorists". It was not even about civil unrest. It was always about this moment, when vast crimes might be uncovered by citizens - it was always, that is to say, meant to be about you.
(c) 2013 Naomi Wolf author, social critic, and political activist is the author of The New York Times bestseller "The End of America" (Chelsea Green) and, more recently, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. Wolf's landmark international bestseller, The Beauty Myth, challenged the cosmetics industry and the marketing of unrealistic standards of beauty, launching a new wave of feminism in the early 1990s.

Modern Psychology; The Attack On Our Brains
By James Donahue

"Me thinks the whole world is crazy except me and thee; and sometimes I wonder about thee." - Old Quaker saying.

All of the talk about getting improved psychiatric help for "disturbed" people like Adam Lanzer, the man who caused the latest massacre of a school near Sandy Hook, is pushing the American mindset into dangerous territory. If the field of psychology ever had any merit, it has been buried under contemporary drives by big business and certain branches of our government to control the minds of the masses and make a lot of money doing it.

The recent disclosure that a new DSM-5 "psychiatry bible" that is expected to be released soon, lists normal human emotions like sadness, grief, anxiety, frustration, impatience and excitement as forms of mental disorder suggests that the industry is using every extreme trick in the book to force chemical "treatments" in as many people as possible. The latest thought . . . not yet included in the "bible," is that consentual sexual activity may also be considered a mental disorder. People who think too much about sex, and are inclined to have consentual sex with various partners, or want "too much" sex, also may be insane. Oh really?

A report by writer Gary Null notes that as many as 3.8 million school children, mostly boys, are currently diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and at least a million children are taking Ritalin, an amphetamine-type brain-altering pharmaceutical. Null wrote that even preschoolers, aged 2 to 4, are being dosed with psychotropics.

Null warned that both, the medical and educational establishments are conducting a skyrocketing campaign to get kids, and their parents, to 'just say yes' to these brain-altering pharmaceuticals, with the drug of choice being Ritalin."

New York Magazine reports that Lanza, who was diagnosed as suffering from Asperger's syndrome, was prescribed the controversial anti-psychotic medicine Fanapt, known to cause aggressive behavior in patients who took it.

Thus we are faced with the sickening thought that it was the psychological and drug industry, working in concert that triggered Lanza to do the unthinkable things he did that fateful day in Newtown.

A recent commentary by writer Jon Rappoport for World Press attacks the entire field of psychiatry as a faked science and claims that there is no such thing as true mental illness.

"It's fiction," Rappoport writes. "It's a billion-dollar fiction. It's a gigantic steaming pile of bullshit. Always has been. There is not a single diagnostic test for any so-called mental disorder. Never has been. No blood test, no urine test, no saliva test, no brain scan, no genetic test. No science."

Rappoport goes on: "The government gives psychiatry its fake legitimacy. That's how the game works. The government blesses the medical licensing boards that award psychiatrists permission to drug your children, alter their brains, poison them, and of course make all the fake diagnoses in the first place. Media, naturally, go along with the psychiatric hoax. Thousands of articles keep coming out of the hopper to support the authoritative pronouncements of these deranged monsters with medical degrees and 'training' in diagnosing mental illnesses."

So we all know individuals that appear disturbed, unable to cope with their surroundings, suffer from severe depression and do such insane things as shoot people around them or commit suicide. Are they not suffering from some kind of mental disorder? Would a well-trained psychiatrist not be able to help them? And what about the known psychotics that make life miserable for everyone around them?

Rappoport seems to cover all of the bases in his article. He wrote: "There are people with problems, there are people who suffer, there are people who are in desperate circumstances, there are people who have severe nutritional deficiencies, there are people who have been poisoned by various chemicals, there are people who have been abused and ignored, there are people who have been told there is something wrong with them, there are people who are different and can't deal with the conforming androids in their midst, but there are no mental disorders."

When I was in college I studied sociology. The sociologists believe the society, our surroundings, and the events that occur especially during the early years of our lives, shape our personalities. They label it learned behavior. That may be mostly true, but I also believe the genetic makeup we inherit from our ancestors also plays a role in who we become in life.

I had a roommate in college named Bill who had an extremely high IQ, and consequently had difficulty "conforming" with the "androids" in his midst. He studied both sociology and psychology. I always thought Bill's interest in psychology was an attempt to understand himself and discover why he was different. I personally liked Bill because he was so different from the norm. His genius made it possible for him to make all of the strange things he said and did both funny and entertaining. I never perceived him as crazy. Apparently my opinion was not shared by others. After college Bill was committed to a state facility for the treatment of the insane, and a year or two after he was released, I was a pall-bearer at his funeral. He drove his car into a utility pole. I always thought it was a suicide. So was Bill insane, or was he a victim of a fake industry that convinced him that he was crazy?

I distinctly remember that during our evening chats, usually over a cold beer at the local tavern, Bill would make comparisons between the fields of sociology and psychology and tell me how he believed psychologists were on the wrong track. He saw no value in what we were being told was a science.

Over the years during my work as a newspaper reporter, I have covered strange stories surrounding county Community Mental Health clinics in Michigan. There were stories about psychologists who were fired after being caught parading in public places in the nude, pilfering money from the patients they treated, or working under false credentials. I came to the conclusion that if there were crazy people in that agency, they were probably the people working there. All of the "patients" I saw at that facility were the mentally impaired. But they were not insane.
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Why A Handful Of Progressive Lawmakers Opposed The Deal
By John Nichols

Most progressives in the U.S. Senate and House voted in favor of the "Fiscal Cliff" deal worked out between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. They did this despite the fact that the agreement compromised on what was supposed to be a hard-and-fast principle: that tax rates on Americans making $250,000 or more must go up to at least the rates that were in place when Bill Clinton was president. Instead, the deal only ends Bush-era tax cuts on those with incomes above $400,000. That rate, thoughtful progressives argue, "does not generate the revenue necessary for the country to meet its needs for everything from education for our children, to job training, to other critical supports for the middle class."

True, there will be some restoration of tax fairness -- not to mention an extension of unemployment benefits and a delay in across-the-board cuts proposed as part of the so-called "sequester" scheme. That was enough for most congressional progressives, from Senators Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, and Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, in the House. They voiced their concerns but ultimately voted "yes." Many, like Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, did so with considearble concern. "Although it does not do as much as I want, this bill does ensure that the wealthy will be contributing more as we work to bring our deficits under control. I far prefer that choice to further cuts to education, law enforcement, and investments in the infrastructure our economy depends on," Merkley said of the measure. "But let's be clear: this deal carries great risks as well. This deal sets up more cliffs in the near future, including the expiring debt ceiling and the sequestration, pre-planned cuts to programs essential to working families. And as before, there will be some who use these cliffs to launch renewed attacks on Medicare and Social Security. We cannot let those attacks succeed."

For a handful of progressives, however, the risks were too great to secure their support.

A few House stalwarts refused to go along with the 257-167 vote on New Year's Day. Among the objectors were Congressman Jim McDermott, D-Washington, and Congressman Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat who has a history of breaking with his party's leadership when he deels it has compromised on tax fairness, economic justice and infrastructure investment. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who chaired the party's platform drafting committee in 2004, said she voted "no" because the bill did not do enough to benefit working families. "I was hopeful that we would be voting on legislation that prioritized working families and the middle class over the wealthiest Americans in taking a balanced approach to the challenges we face as a nation," she explained. "However, the bill before the House of Representatives tonight is not that."

In the Senate, where the vote for the measure was a lopsided 89-8, the one progressive "no" vote was that of Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who echoed the view of grassroots groups such as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which argued that: "The president ran on and won on $250,000 twice. Voters across the country overwhelmingly agree with the $250,000 threshold (see here). And in real human costs, the billions lost by raising the threshold to $400,000 will come out of the pockets of grandparents and working families across the nation."

Harkin, an old-school populist who worked closely with former Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, outlined his opposition in a statement of principle. Issued at the time of the Senate vote, it read:

Tonight, at the 11th hour, we find ourselves considering legislation to address a manufactured 'fiscal cliff.' Much of this could have been avoided had the U.S. House taken up the Senate-passed legislation to avert tax hikes on 98 percent of Americans.

Instead, we find ourselves voting on an agreement that fails to address our number one priority - creating good, middle class jobs in Iowa and throughout the country. Further, it does not generate the revenue necessary for the country to meet its needs for everything from education for our children, to job training, to other critical supports for the middle class.

The deal also makes tax benefits for high income earners permanent, while tax benefits designed to help those of modest means and the middle class are only extended for five years. In essence, this agreement locks in a tax structure that is grossly unfair to middle class Americans, one which provides permanent tax assistance to wealthy Americans, and only temporary relief to everyone else.

Every dollar that wealthy taxpayers do not pay under this deal, we will eventually ask Americans of modest means to forgo in Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits. It is shortsighted to look at these issues in isolation from one another, especially when Congressional Republicans have been crystal clear that they intend to seek spending cuts to programs like Social Security just two months from now, using the debt limit as leverage.

I am all for compromise, but a compromise that sets a new tax threshold for the wealthiest Americans while neglecting the very backbone of our country - the middle class - is a compromise I simply cannot support. This is the wrong direction for Iowa and our country, and at a time when our fragile economy cannot sustain further damage.

(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein joined with GOP
Senator Saxby Chambliss (right) to extend Obama's warrantless eavesdropping powers.

GOP And Feinstein Join To Fulfill Obama's Demand For Renewed Warrantless Eavesdropping
The California Democrat's disgusting rhetoric recalls the worst of Dick Cheney while advancing Obama's agenda
By Glenn Greenwald

To this day, many people identify mid-2008 as the time they realized what type of politician Barack Obama actually is. Six months before, when seeking the Democratic nomination, then-Sen. Obama unambiguously vowed that he would filibuster "any bill" that retroactively immunized the telecom industry for having participated in the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program.

But in July 2008, once he had secured the nomination, a bill came before the Senate that did exactly that - the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 - and Obama not only failed to filibuster as promised, but far worse, he voted against the filibuster brought by other Senators, and then voted in favor of enacting the bill itself. That blatant, unblinking violation of his own clear promise - actively supporting a bill he had sworn months earlier he would block from a vote - caused a serious rift even in the middle of an election year between Obama and his own supporters.

Critically, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 did much more than shield lawbreaking telecoms from all forms of legal accountability. Jointly written by Dick Cheney and then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller, it also legalized vast new, sweeping and almost certainly unconstitutional forms of warrantless government eavesdropping.

In doing so, the new 2008 law gutted the 30-year-old FISA statute that had been enacted to prevent the decades of severe spying abuses discovered by the mid-1970s Church Committee: by simply barring the government from eavesdropping on the communications of Americans without first obtaining a warrant from a court. Worst of all, the 2008 law legalized most of what Democrats had spent years pretending was such a scandal: the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program secretly implemented by George Bush after the 9/11 attack. In other words, the warrantless eavesdropping "scandal" that led to a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times reporters who revealed it ended not with investigations or prosecutions for those who illegally spied on Americans, but with the Congressional GOP joining with key Democrats (including Obama) to legalize most of what Bush and Cheney had done. Ever since, the Obama DOJ has invoked secrecy and standing doctrines to prevent any courts from ruling on whether the warrantless eavesdropping powers granted by the 2008 law violate the Constitution.

The 2008 FISA law provided that it would expire in four years unless renewed. Yesterday, the Senate debated its renewal. Several Senators - Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon along with Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul - each attempted to attach amendments to the law simply to provide some modest amounts of transparency and oversight to ensure that the government's warrantless eavesdropping powers were constrained and checked from abuse.

Just consider how modest these amendments were. Along with Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, Sen. Wyden has spent two years warning Americans that the government's eavesdropping powers are being interpreted (by secret court decisions and the Executive Branch) far more broadly than they would ever suspect, and that, as a result, these eavesdropping powers are being applied far more invasively and extensively than is commonly understood.

As a result, Wyden yesterday had two amendments: one that would simply require the NSA to give a general estimate of how many Americans are having their communications intercepted under this law (information the NSA has steadfastly refused to provide), and another which would state that the NSA is barred from eavesdropping on Americans on US soil without a warrant. Merkley's amendment would compel the public release of secret judicial rulings from the FISA court which purport to interpret the scope of the eavesdropping law on the ground that "secret law is inconsistent with democratic governance"; the Obama administration has refused to release a single such opinion even though the court, "on at least one occasion", found that the government was violating the Fourth Amendment in how it was using the law to eavesdrop on Americans.

But the Obama White House opposed all amendments, demanding a "clean" renewal of the law without any oversight or transparency reforms. Earlier this month, the GOP-led House complied by passing a reform-free version of the law's renewal, and sent the bill Obama wanted to the Senate, where it was debated yesterday afternoon.

The Democratic Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, took the lead in attacking Wyden, Merkley, Udall and Paul with the most foul Cheneyite accusations, and demanded renewal of the FISA law without any reforms. And then predictably, in virtually identical 37-54 votes, Feinstein and her conservative-Democratic comrades joined with virtually the entire GOP caucus (except for three Senators: Paul, Mike Lee and Dean Heller) to reject each one of the proposed amendments and thus give Obama exactly what he demanded: reform-free renewal of the law (while a few Democratic Senators have displayed genuine, sustained commitment to these issues, most Democrats who voted against FISA renewal yesterday did so symbolically and half-heartedly, knowing and not caring that they would lose as evidenced by the lack of an attempted filibuster).

In other words, Obama successfully relied on Senate Republicans (the ones his supporters depict as the Root of All Evil) along with a dozen of the most militaristic Democrats to ensure that he can continue to eavesdrop on Americans without any warrants, transparency or real oversight. That's the standard coalition that has spent the last four years extending Bush/Cheney theories, eroding core liberties and entrenching endless militarism: Obama + the GOP caucus + Feinstein-type Democrats. As Michelle Richardson, the ACLU's legislative counsel, put it to the Huffington Post: "I bet [Bush] is laughing his ass off."

But what's most remarkable here is not so much what happened but how it happened. When Obama voted in 2008 to massively increase the government's warrantless eavesdropping powers, I so vividly recall his supporters insisting that he was only doing this because he wanted to win the election, and then would get into power and fix these abuses by reversing them. Yes, there were actually large numbers of people who believed this. And they were encouraged to believe this by Obama himself, who, in explaining his 2008 vote, said things like this:

"I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power. . . .

I do so [vote for the FISA bill] with the firm intention - once I'm sworn in as president - to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future."

Needless to say, none of that ever happened. Now, the warrantless eavesdropping bill that Obama insisted was plagued by numerous imperfections is one that he is demanding be renewed without a single change. Last week, Marcy Wheeler documented the huge gap between (a) what Obama vowed he would do when he voted for this law in 2008 versus (b) what he has actually done in power (they're opposites).

Indeed, when it came time last year to vote on renewal of the Patriot Act - remember how Democrats used to pretend during the Bush years to find the Patriot Act so alarming? - the Obama administration also demanded its renewal without a single reform. When a handful of Senators led by Rand Paul nonetheless proposed modest amendments to eliminate some of the documented abuses of the Patriot Act, Democratic majority leader Harry Reid did his best Dick Cheney impression by accusing these disobedient lawmakers of risking a Terrorist attack by delaying renewal:

"When the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we will be giving terrorists the opportunity to plot against our country undetected. The senator from Kentucky is threatening to take away the best tools we have for stopping them.

"We all remember the tragic Fort Hood shootings less than two years ago. Radicalized American terrorists bought guns and used them to kill 13 civilians [by "civilians", Reid means: members of the US military]. It is hard to imagine why the senator would want to hold up the Patriot Act for a misguided amendment that would make American less safe."

In other words: if you even try to debate the Patriot Act or add any amendments to it, then you are helping the Terrorists: classic Dick Cheney. (Democratic Sen. Udall defended Paul from Reid's disgusting attack: "This is not a Patriot Act. Patriots stand up for the Constitution. Patriots stand up for freedom and liberty that's embodied in the Constitution. And I think true patriots, when they're public servants, public servants stand up and do what's right, even if it's unpopular").

Yesterday, I watched as Dianne Feinstein went well beyond Harry Reid's disgusting Cheneyite display. Feinstein is one of the Senate's richest plutocrats, whose husband, Richard Blum, has coincidentally been quite enriched by military and other government contracts during her Senate career. During this time, Feinstein has acted as the most faithful servant in the Senate of the National Security State's unchecked, authoritarian power.

Yesterday, Feinstein stood up on the Senate floor and began by heaping praise on her GOP comrade, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, for leading his caucus to join her in renewing the FISA act without any reforms. She then unleashed a vile attack on her Democratic colleagues - Wyden, Merkley, and Udall, along with Paul - in which she repeatedly accused them of trying to make the nation vulnerable to a Terrorist attack.

Feinstein insisted that one could support their amendments only if "you believe that no one is going to attack us". She warned that their amendments would cause "another 9/11". She rambled about Najibullah Zazi and his attempt to detonate a bomb on the New York City subway: as though a warrant requirement, let alone disclosure requirements for the eavesdropping program, would have prevented his detection. Having learned so well from Rudy Giuliani (and Harry Reid), she basically just screamed "Terrorist!" and "9/11" over and over until her time ran out, and then proudly sat down as though she had mounted rational arguments against the transparency and oversight amendments advocated by Wyden, Merkley, Udall and Paul.

Even more notably, Feinstein repeatedly argued that requiring even basic disclosure about the eavesdropping program - such as telling Americans how many of them are targeted by it - would, as she put it, "destroy the program". But if "the program" is being conducted properly and lawfully, why would that kind of transparency kill the program? As the ACLU's Richardson noted: "That Sen. Feinstein says public oversight will lead to the end of the program says a lot about the info that's being hidden." In response to her warnings that basic oversight and transparency would destroy the program, Mother Jones' Adam Serwer similarly asked: "Why, if it's all on the up and up?"

All of this was accomplished with the core Bush/Cheney tactic used over and over: they purposely waited until days before the law is set to expire to vote on its renewal, then told anyone who wants reforms that there is no time to consider them, and that anyone who attempted debate would cause the law to expire and risk a Terrorist attack. Over and over yesterday, Feinstein stressed that only "four days remained" before the law expires and that any attempts even to debate the law, let alone amend it, would leave the nation vulnerable.

It's hard to put into words just how extreme was Feinstein's day-long fear-mongering tirade. "I've never seen a Congressional member argue so strongly against Executive Branch oversight as Sen. Feinstein did today re the FISA law," said Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. Referring to Feinstein's alternating denials and justifications for warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer observed: "This FISA debate reminds of the torture debate circa 2004: We don't torture! And anyway, we have to torture, we don't have any choice."

Jaffer added that Feinstein's strident denials that secret warrantless eavesdropping poses any dangers "almost makes you nostalgic for Ashcroft's 'phantoms of lost liberty' speech" - referring to the infamous 2001 decree from Bush's Attorney General:

"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends."

That is exactly the foul message which Dianne Feinstein, doing the bidding of the Obama White House, spewed at her liberal Senate colleagues (and a tiny handful of Republicans) for the crime of wanting to bring some marginal transparency and oversight to the warrantless eavesdropping powers with which Obama vested himself when voting in 2008 for that FISA law. As it turns out, Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin had it exactly right in mid-2008 when explaining - in the face of lots of progressive confusion and even anger - why Obama decided to support a FISA bill that vested the executive with massive unchecked eavesdroppoing power: namely, Obama "plans to be the executive," so "from Obama's perspective, what's not to like?"

Just four or five years ago, objections to warrantless eavesdropping were a prime grievance of Democrats against Bush. The controversies that arose from it were protracted, intense, and often ugly. Progressives loved to depict themselves as stalwartly opposing right-wing radicalism in defense of Our Values and the Constitution.

Fast forward to 2012 and all of that, literally, has changed. Now it's a Democratic President demanding reform-free renewal of his warrantless eavesdropping powers. He joins with the Republican Party to codify them. A beloved Democratic Senator from a solidly blue state leads the fear-mongering campaign and Terrorist-enabling slurs against anyone who opposes it. And it now all happens with virtually no media attention or controversy because the two parties collaborate so harmoniously to make it happen. And thus does a core guarantee of the founding - the search warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment - blissfully disappear into nothingness.

Here we find yet again a defining attribute of the Obama legacy: the transformation of what was until recently a symbol of right-wing radicalism - warrantless eavesdropping - into meekly accepted bipartisan consensus. But it's not just the policies that are so transformed but the mentality and rhetoric that accompanies them: anyone who stands in the way of the US Government's demands for unaccountable, secret power is helping the Terrorists. "The administration has decided the program should be classified," decreed Feinstein, and that is that.

In 2005, the Bush White House invoked the "very bad guy" defense to assure us that we need not worry about the administration's secret warrantless eavesdropping program; as a Bush White House spokesman put it:

"This is a limited program. This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner. These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings and churches."

In 1968, Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell similarly told the public in the face of rising concerns over government eavesdropping powers that "any citizen of this United States who is not involved in some illegal activity has nothing to fear whatsoever." That is the noble tradition which the Obama White House, Dianne Feinstein and their GOP partners are continuing now.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

The Endless Cliff
By Robert Kuttner

January 2, 2013 Going forward, Obama will have to stand his ground on spending cuts and the debt ceiling.

Beyond yesterday's narrow escape from the dreaded fiscal cliff are ... more cliffs. President Obama and Congress averted one fiscal calamity of tax-hikes-for-all only to face even steeper cliffs-the sequester, the debt ceiling, the Social Security shortfall, ad infinitum. It is a fiscal Wizard of Oz, an extended odyssey with perils on every side.

The question progressives are asking themselves this morning is whether President Obama settled for too little in the fiscal mini-deal, having traded away his best single piece of leverage-the automatic tax increase on all Americans scheduled to hit today unless Congress acted.

Some, like our colleague Robert Reich, have argued that it would have been better to "go over the cliff"-let tax hikes briefly take effect on everyone, thus increasing pressure on Republicans-rather than to make this agreement. Mercifully, Obama backed off any "grand bargain." The deal was a defeat not only for the Republicans but for the Fix the Debt corporate gang. It spared the economy cuts in Social Security or Medicare (for now).

But on the other side of the ledger, it included no agreement to raise the debt ceiling. The impact of the automatic "sequester" of $120 billion in other spending cuts was postponed only 60 days. These issues will now have to be negotiated separately.

Republicans convinced themselves that they will get to press for deep budget cuts all over again by holding the debt ceiling hostage; the need to extend the debt ceiling is their equivalent of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts-leverage on President Obama. It was that rationale, plus the need to prevent a tax increase on the bottom 99 percent, that allowed most Senate Republicans and enough House Republicans to tear up the Grover Norquist no-tax-hikes-ever pledge and vote for this deal.

Could Obama have gotten more? Quite possibly, though it was an accomplishment to keep all spending cuts out of the deal, at least for now.

Progressive groups, led by the AFL-CIO and Democratic leaders in Congress, deserve a lot of the credit for holding Obama's feet to the fire on two core principles on which the president delivered-no to cuts in Social Security and yes to tax increases on the richest. Obama did cave, perhaps needlessly, on only one key element: restoring the pre-Bush tax rates just for households with over $450,000 income for couples and $400,000 for singles rather than the $250,000 in the president's original offer.

But the deal could have been a lot worse. And as recently as a week ago, when the White House was offering backdoor cuts in Social Security via changing the cost-of-living adjustment formula, it looked as if it would be.

What can we expect going forward?

President Obama, having discovered that toughness works better than premature conciliation, took a very hard line last night on the issue of the debt ceiling. Coming into the White House briefing room shortly after the House vote, he declared, "While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with Congress over whether they should pay the bills they've already racked up ... ."

This, presumably, means that Obama, if necessary, will invoke his authority under the Fourteenth Amendment, which declares that debts of the United States shall not be questioned. It was not until the World War I era that the ritual of approving a debt ceiling was even asserted by Congress. This is a position long urged on Obama by Bill Clinton.

Yet unless Obama continues to play hardball on all fronts, the risk is that he will consent to budget cuts as the price of the next deal, at a time when the economy needs more public spending, not less. He needs not only more spine; he needs to alter the terms of debate, rejecting not only the ideology of Republican right but the economic idiocy of the corporate center, which has persuaded elite opinion (including at the White House) that recovery requires debt reduction.

When I was a student, one movie that totally grabbed me was a classic by the absurdist director Luis Buñuel called The Exterminating Angel. In the film, people at a dinner party find, incomprehensibly, that they are unable to leave the room. They end up staying for days, gripped by some kind of mysterious social paralysis. The movie ends with several sheep invading the room, which I took to be Buñuel's surreal comment on herd behavior.

The behavior of political elites on the subject of deficits, debts, and the economic recovery requires some combination of Buñuel and his contemporary John Maynard Keynes to do it justice. With the economy stuck at about $1.5 trillion below its potential and at least 15 million people unable to find full-time jobs, the debate is fixated on the question of how to cut the deficit instead of how to restore jobs, wages, and output. Until President Obama changes the subject to the real issue of economic recovery, he will be mired in an enervating form of retrench warfare where budget cuts are inevitable.

He needs to isolate Republicans on the issue of how to produce a recovery, just as he did on taxes. Here again, public opinion is on his side if he will lead. Cutting Social Security and Medicare are no more popular than raising taxes on the middle class.
(c) 2013 Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine, as well as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe and Huffington Post. He is the author of A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama's Promise, Wall Street's Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future, Obama's Challenge, and other books.

Brewing Up Confusion
By Paul Krugman

Howard Schultz, the C.E.O. of Starbucks, has a reputation as a good guy, a man who supports worthy causes. And he presumably thought he would add to that reputation when he posted an open letter urging his employees to promote fiscal bipartisanship by writing "Come together" on coffee cups.

In reality, however, all he did was make himself part of the problem. And his letter was actually a very good illustration of the forces that created the current mess.

In the letter, Mr. Schultz warned that elected officials "have been unable to come together and compromise to solve the tremendously important, time-sensitive issue to fix the national debt," and suggested that readers further inform themselves at the Web site of the organization Fix the Debt. Let's parse that, shall we?

First of all, it's true that we face a time-sensitive issue in the form of the fiscal cliff: unless a deal is reached, we will soon experience a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that might push the nation back into recession. But that prospect doesn't reflect a failure to "fix the debt" by reducing the budget deficit - on the contrary, the danger is that we'll cut the deficit too fast.

How could someone as well connected as Mr. Schultz get such a basic point wrong? By talking to the wrong people - in particular, the people at Fix the Debt, who've been doing their best to muddle the issue. For example, in a new fund-raising letter Maya MacGuineas, the organization's public face, writes of the need to "make hard decisions when it comes to averting the 'fiscal cliff' and stabilizing our national debt" - even though the problem with the fiscal cliff is precisely that it stabilizes the debt too soon. Clearly, Ms. MacGuineas was trying to confuse readers on that point, and she apparently confused Mr. Schultz too.

More about Fix the Debt in a moment. Before I get there, however, let's move on to Mr. Schultz's misdiagnosis of the political problem we face.

Look, it's true that elected politicians have been unable to "come together and compromise." But saying that in generic form, and implying a symmetry between Republicans and Democrats, isn't just misleading, it's actively harmful.

The reality is that President Obama has made huge concessions. He has already cut spending sharply, and has now offered additional big spending cuts, including a cut in Social Security benefits, while signaling his willingness to retain many of the Bush tax cuts, even for people with very high incomes. Taken as a whole, the president's proposals are arguably to the right of those made by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairmen of his deficit commission, in 2010.

In return, the Republicans have offered essentially nothing. Oh, they say they're willing to increase revenue by closing loopholes - but they've refused to specify a single loophole they're willing to close. So if there's a breakdown in negotiations, the blame rests entirely with one side of the political divide.

Given that reality, think about the effect when people like Mr. Schultz respond by blaming both sides equally. They may sound virtuously nonpartisan, but what they're actually doing is rewarding intransigence and extremism - which, in the current context, means siding with the G.O.P.

I'm willing to believe that Mr. Schultz doesn't know what he's doing. The same can't be said, however, about Fix the Debt.

You might not know it reading some credulous reporting, but Fix the Debt isn't some kind of new gathering of concerned citizens. On the contrary, it's just the latest addition to a group of deficit-scold shops supported by billionaire Peter Peterson, a group ranging from think tanks like the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to the newspaper The Fiscal Times. The main difference seems to be that this gathering of the usual suspects is backed by an impressive amount of corporate cash.

Like all the Peterson-funded groups, Fix the Debt seems much more concerned with cutting Social Security and Medicare than with fighting deficits in general - and also not nearly as nonpartisan as it pretends to be. In its list of "core principles," it actually calls for lower tax rates - a very peculiar position for people supposedly horrified by the budget deficit. True, the group calls for revenue increases via unspecified base broadening, that is, closing loopholes. But that's unrealistic. And it's also, as you may have noticed, the Republican position.

What's happening now is that all the Peterson-funded groups are trying to exploit the fiscal cliff to push a benefit-cutting agenda that has nothing to do with the current crisis, using artfully deceptive language - as in that MacGuineas letter - to hide the bait and switch.

Mr. Schultz apparently fell for the con. But the rest of us shouldn't.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget."
~~~ Arundhati Roy

Resisting Racism And Militarism In 2013
By David Swanson

January 21st will be an odd day in the United States. We'll honor Martin Luther King Jr. and bestow another 4-year regime on the man who, in his Nobel peace prize acceptance speech said that Martin Luther King Jr. had been wrong -- that those who follow his example "stand idle in the face of threats."

I plan to begin the day by refusing to stand idle in the face of the threat that is President Barack Obama's military. An event honoring Dr. King and protesting drone wars will include a rally at Malcolm X Park and a parade named for a bit of Kingian rhetoric.

That evening I plan to attend the launch of a new book called We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America. The Martin King I choose to celebrate is not the mythical man, beloved and accepted by all during his life, interested exclusively in ending racial segregation, and not attracted to activism -- since only through electoral work, as we've all been told, can one be a serious activist.

The Martin King I choose to celebrate is the man who resorted to the most powerful activist tools available, the tools of creative nonviolent resistance and noncooperation, in order to resist what he called the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.

Taking that seriously means ending right now the past five-year-long ban on protesting the president. At Obama's first inauguration we held Good Riddance to Bush rallies because pressuring Obama to mend his militaristic ways was not deemed "strategic."

It turns out that refusing to push people toward peace does something worse than offending them. It ignores them and abandons them to their fate.

But pushing is not exactly the verb we should be looking for as we strive to build an inclusive peace movement. Nor is peace exactly the adjective. What we need is a movement against racism, materialism, and militarism.

To build that, those working to reduce spending on the Pentagon's pet corporations need to also work against the prison industrial complex. And those working against police violence need to work for higher taxes on billionaires. And those working to protect Social Security and Medicare need to oppose the murdering of human beings with missiles and drones.

We need to do these things not just because they will unite a larger number of people. We would need to do them all even if nobody were already working in any of these areas. We need to do them because we are taking on a culture, not just a policy. We are taking on the mental habits that allow racism, materialism, and militarism. We cannot do so with a movement that is segregated by policy area any more than we can with a movement that is segregated by race.

The torture techniques are shared between our foreign and domestic prisons. Local police are being militarized. The latest insanity would have us arm our teachers so that when our children are shot up by failed applicants to the U.S. Marine Corps there will be, as at Fort Hood, more guns nearby. Violence at home and abroad exists through our acceptance of violence. Plutocratic greed drives both war and racism. Racism facilitates and is facilitated by war.

We Have Not Been Moved is a book with many lessons to teach. King spoke against the war on Vietnam despite being strongly advised to stick to the area of civil rights. Julian Bond did the same, losing his seat in the Georgia state legislature. African Americans marched against that war by the thousands in Harlem and elsewhere, including with posters carrying the words attributed to Mohammad Ali: "No Vietcong ever called me nigger!" So did Asian Americans and Chicanos. SNCC risked considerable support and funding by supporting the rights of Palestinians as well as Vietnamese, urging draft resistance, and stating its disbelief that the U.S. government's goals included free elections either at home or abroad.

Immigrants rights groups (to a great extent more accurately: refugee rights groups) are sometimes reluctant to challenge the war machine, despite deeper understanding than the rest of us of how U.S. war making creates the need for immigration in the first place. But, then, how many peace activists are working for immigrants' rights? Civil rights groups strive to resist rendition and torture and indefinite detention, warrentless spying and murder by drone. Unless they are brought more fully into a larger coalition that challenges military spending (at well over $1 trillion per year both before and after the "fiscal cliff") the struggle against the symptoms will continue indefinitely. Environmental groups are often reluctant to oppose the military industrial complex, its wars for oil, or its oil for wars. But this past year the threat that South Korean base construction and the U.S. Navy pose to Jeju Island brought these movements together -- a process our survival depends on our continuing.

Our movement must be inclusive and international. The movement to close the School of the Americas has not closed it, but has persuaded several nations to stop sending any would-be torturers or assassins to train there. The movement to shut down U.S. military bases abroad has not shut them down en masse through Congress, but has shut them down in particular places through the work of the people protesting in their countries. Where do we find media coverage that sympathizes with domestic struggles for justice within the United States? In foreign media, of course, in the media of Iran and Russia and Qatar. Those governments have their own motives, but support for justice corresponds with the sentiments of their people and all people.

Our movement should not oppose attacking Iran purely as outsiders, but working with Iranians. We should not oppose attacking Iran because all of our own problems have been solved, or because the dollars that will be spent attacking Iran could fund U.S. schools and green energy, or because attacking Iran could lead to attacks on the United States. We should oppose attacking Iran because we oppose militarism and materialism and racism everywhere.

We sometimes worry about having too many issues on our plate. How, we wonder, can new people be attracted to our rally against another war if we unreasonably also oppose murderous sanctions? How can we welcome new activists who doubt the wisdom of the next war if we unrealistically oppose all militarism? How can we not turn people off if our speeches demand rights for women and immigrants and workers? Do people who've never heard of Mumia need to hear about his imprisonment? Don't we want homophobes to feel they can join our campaign without loving those people?

I think this is the wrong worry. I think we need more issues, not fewer. I think that's the genius of Occupy. The issues are all connected. They are issues of greed, racism, and war. We can work with Libertarians on things we agree on. We need be hostile to no one. But we need to prioritize building a holistic movement for fundamental change. Taxing the rich to pay for more wars is not the answer. Opposing all cuts to public spending, even though more than half of it goes to the war machine is not the answer. Insisting that banks stop discriminating, while drone pilots do is not the answer.

This is going to take work, huge amounts of work, great reservoirs of patience and humility, tremendous efforts at inclusion, understanding, and willingness to see changed what it is people become included in. But we can afford to turn off racists. We can afford to not appear welcoming to bigots. We are many. They are few.

The war machine has set its sights on Africa. Its new name is AFRICOM, and it means business, the business of exploitation and cruelty. We can better understand 9-11 and everything that has followed from it if we understand the long history of terrorism on U.S. soil. We need the wisdom of Native Americans, Japanese Americans, Muslim Americans, and everybody else here and abroad who has been paying attention. We need to move from making war to making reparations, at home and abroad. We will have less reparations to make the sooner we stop making war.

We Have Not Been Moved includes a never before published speech by Bayard Rustin in which Rustin quotes Ossie Davis saying to the President: "If you want us to be nonviolent in Selma, why can't you be nonviolent in Saigon?"

"All the weapons of military power," says Rustin, "chemical and biological warfare, cannot prevail against the desire of the people. We know the Wagner Act, which gave labor the right to organize and bargain collectively was empty until workers went into the streets. The unions got off the ground because of sit-down strikes and social dislocation. When women wanted to vote, Congress ignored them until they went into the streets and into the White House, and created disorder of a nonviolent nature. I assure you that those women did things that, if the Negro movement had done them, they would have been sent back to Africa! The civil rights movement begged and begged for change, but finally learned this lesson -- going into the streets. The time is so late, the danger so great, that I call upon all the forces which believe in peace to take a lesson from the labor movement, the women's movement, and the civil rights movement and stop staying indoors. Go into these streets until we get peace!"
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk in a West Wing hallway of the White House.

What Hagel Could Give Obama
By Ray McGovern

Absent from the discussion about whether former Sen. Chuck Hagel would make a good Secretary of Defense is any focus on lessons learned from personal factors like combat in war, as well as loyalty to the President.

As I was grousing about this, my eye caught a name on a rubbing I made from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall: "Edward S. Krukowski." Many years ago, Ed and I studied Russian and were in the ROTC together.

Capt. Edward Krukowski, USAF, was flying a C-123 on a resupply mission in Vietnam when shot down on Oct. 24, 1964, six days short of his 26th birthday, leaving a wife and three small children. Ed had planned for the worst, leaving a request to be buried at Arlington Cemetery within view of the grave of President John Kennedy.

What Ed probably did not know is that Kennedy had ordered a phased withdrawal of virtually all U.S. troops from Vietnam a year before Ed and his entire crew went down.

Six weeks before Kennedy himself was killed, he defied his chief military and civilian advisers and issued National Security Action Memorandum Number 263 (Oct. 11, 1963), ordering the Pentagon to prepare to withdraw 1,000 troops by the end of 1963, and the bulk of the rest by the end of 1965. It was a dicey thing for a president to defy his top military advisers on war. Yet he got away with it - for six weeks, anyway.

Kennedy had the strong personal loyalty of his Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, who had learned not to be intimidated by the hawkish generals Kennedy inherited. These generals had already discredited themselves by their blase attitude toward nuclear war during the missile crisis in Cuba in October 1962. They were the same Joint Chiefs whom then-Under Secretary of State George Ball called "a sewer of deceit."

Their hyperbolic warnings that the fall of Vietnam would mean Communist control of Southeast Asia fell on appropriately skeptical ears. In May 1962, Kennedy ordered them to develop a contingency troop-withdrawal plan; they "slow-rolled" the project for more than a year.

During his first year in office, President Barack Obama encountered similar insubordination when the Pentagon pigeonholed his order to serve up options (plural) on Afghanistan. In the end, they came up with one singularly ineffective and costly option, namely, the "surge" of 40,000 (or "only" 30,000, if that's all they could get) additional troops - that was the brainchild of Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal.

Mr. Obama had tasked then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to give him options (plural). But Gates's assessment of the relative power of the generals vis-a-vis the President persuaded him that Mr. Obama didn't even have to be "slow rolled." He could be simply ignored.

The contrast between Robert McNamara and Robert Gates raises a key question with respect to what role Mr. Hagel would play, if our trial-balloon-fan President were to summon the courage to actually nominate him to head the Pentagon.

Chuck Hagel is his own man. There is even some chance his example might prompt Mr. Obama to be more his own man. Clearly, the President needs all the backbone strengthening he can get, if he is to stick to his plan to exit Afghanistan and face down supporters of hard-right Israelis itching for war on Iran.

Mr. Obama's better-late-than-never, Kennedy-like decision to pull almost all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2014 has already drawn fire from neocon pundits like Max Boot, who argue for keeping major U.S. bases near key cities like Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and the most populous Afghan city after Kabul.

Who remembers Gen. McChrystal's cringe-worthy promise to pacify Marja, some 100 miles from Kandahar, as a dress rehearsal for taking Kandahar itself? In early February 2010, he proudly told The New York Times, "We've got a government in a box, ready to roll in." Right. Mr. Obama will be offered more hare-brained schemes like that. Mr. Hagel would likely recognize them for what they are. He has "been there, done that," having volunteered for Vietnam, with two Purple Hearts to prove it.

Mr. Hagel has explained his overall attitude in these words: "Committing a nation to war, asking our men and women to make sacrifices that no other Americans will ever be asked to make, is a deadly serious decision. War is not an abstraction."

Mr. Hagel would be the first Secretary of Defense in 30 years with lessons learned from direct combat experience. About time, I would say. No more Ed Krukowskis sacrificed in fool's errands, please.
(c) 2013 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years --from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Feinstein,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your giving the fuhrer the right to listen in on everyone with a warrant, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-15-2013. We salute you Frau Feinstein, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Why The "Fiscal Cliff" Bores The Snot Out Of Me
By Matthew Rothschild

Enough already!

I can't take it anymore.

I can barely write the words "fiscal cliff" without dosing off. And I'm not alone here. Utter the term to insomniacs and out they'll go.

The hackneyed metaphor, the breathless reporting on cable TV, the jockeying for position-it all bores the snot out of me. This story is not of the same magnitude as the November elections or the Sandy Hook massacre, yet the cable talk shows play it at the same high-pitched volume.

And after this weekend or by the end of January at the latest, Congress will have passed a budget bill that maintains middle class tax cuts and averts the alleged calamities that, in all probability, were never going to come to pass anyway.

After all, which elected official is really going to want to be held responsible for raising taxes across the board and sending the stock market into a swoon?

So the endless hours, days, and weeks of overheated commentary will have been for naught.

Plus, the outlines of the eventual deal are already in sight. Obama has-surprise, surprise--given ground on his position that there should be no extension of tax breaks for those making more than $250,000. (Watch for an additional concession on the estate tax, too. That's what the rich really want.)

Obama has already agreed, foolishly, to cut domestic programs, which will risk a double-dip recession.

Obama has already, agreed, shamefully, to "the chained Consumer Price Index," which will diminish the amount seniors get for Social Security. (Note: The average senior gets less than $15,000 a year on Social Security. Most seniors depend on their Social Security for more than half their income. Two out of five seniors rely on it for 90 percent of their income, and a quarter of them rely entirely on it. These seniors are barely getting by, as it is.)

What's been lost in almost all the coverage is the fact that Obama set in motion the train of events that is leading to this regressive outcome.

He willingly invoked Republican rhetoric in exaggerating the problems of budget deficits and the national debt. For instance, he erroneously compared the nation's budget to family budgets. He also talked about not saddling our grandchildren with debt and not putting our nation's spending on the credit card. These are all rightwing tropes.

He appointed Peter Orszag to be his first director of the Office of Management and Budget. Orszag was on record favoring the "chained CPI." (Orszag is now at Citigroup.)

He empaneled the Bowles-Simpson commission, which he didn't need to do. And he packed it with people who saw dragons in every deficit.

He failed to call the Republicans' bluff on previous occasions when they played chicken with the debt limit.

And he offered a "grand bargain" with John Boehner last year that has many of the same awful concessions he's proposing now.

The "fiscal cliff" has been a tiresome charade, and it disguises the fact that both parties are taking us down the path of austerity.
(c) 2013 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

President Barack Obama is flanked by Vice President Joe Biden as he speaks at a news
conference following the House vote, at the White House, in Washington, January 1, 2013.

Eight Corporate Subsidies In The Fiscal Cliff Bill, From Goldman Sachs To Disney To NASCAR
By Matt Stoller

Throughout the months of November and December, a steady stream of corporate CEOs flowed in and out of the White House to discuss the impending fiscal cliff. Many of them, such as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, would then publicly come out and talk about how modest increases of tax rates on the wealthy were reasonable in order to deal with the deficit problem. What wasn't mentioned is what these leaders wanted, which is what's known as "tax extenders," or roughly $205B of tax breaks for corporations. With such a banal name, and boring and difficult to read line items in the bill, few political operatives have bothered to pay attention to this part of the bill. But it is critical to understanding what is going on.

The negotiations over the fiscal cliff involve more than the Democrats, Republicans, the middle class and the wealthy. The corporate sector is here in force as well. One of the core shifts in the Reagan era was the convergence of wealthy individuals who wanted to pay less in taxes - many from the growing South - with corporations that wanted tax breaks. Previously, these groups fought over the pie, because the idea of endless deficits did not make sense. Once Reagan figured out how to finance yawning deficits, the GOP was able to wield the corporate sector and the new sun state wealthy into one force, epitomized today by Grover Norquist. What Obama is (sort of) trying to do is split this coalition, and the extenders are the carrot he's dangling in front of the corporate sector to do it.

Most tax credits drop straight to the bottom line - it's why companies like Enron considered its tax compliance section a "profit center.. A few hundred billion dollars of tax expenditures is a major carrot to offer. Surely, a modest hike in income taxes for people who make more than $400k in income and stupid enough not to take that money in capital gain would be worth trading off for the few hundred billion dollars in corporate pork. This is what the fiscal cliff is about - who gets the money. And by leaving out the corporate sector, nearly anyone who talks about this debate is leaving out a key negotiating partner.

So without further ado, here are eight corporate subsidies in the fiscal cliff bill that you haven't heard of.

1) Help out NASCAR - Sec 312 extends the "seven year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complex property", which is to say it allows anyone who builds a racetrack and associated facilities to get tax breaks on it. This one was projected to cost $43 million over two years.

2) A hundred million or so for Railroads - Sec. 306 provides tax credits to certain railroads for maintaining their tracks. It's unclear why private businesses should be compensated for their costs of doing business. This is worth roughly $165 million a year.

3) Disney's Gotta Eat - Sec. 317 is "Extension of special expensing rules for certain film and television productions". It's a relatively straightforward subsidy to Hollywood studios, and according to the Joint Tax Committee, was projected to cost $150m for 2010 and 2011.

4) Help a brother mining company out - Sec. 307 and Sec. 316 offer tax incentives for miners to buy safety equipment and train their employees on mine safety. Taxpayers shouldn't have to bribe mining companies to not kill their workers.

5) Subsidies for Goldman Sachs Headquarters - Sec. 328 extends "tax exempt financing for York Liberty Zone," which was a program to provide post-9/11 recovery funds. Rather than going to small businesses affected, however, this was, according to Bloomberg, "little more than a subsidy for fancy Manhattan apartments and office towers for Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Corp." Michael Bloomberg himself actually thought the program was excessive, so that's saying something. According to David Cay Johnston's The Fine Print, Goldman got $1.6 billion in tax free financing for its new massive headquarters through Liberty Bonds.

6) $9B Off-shore financing loophole for banks - Sec. 322 is an "Extension of the Active Financing Exception to Subpart F." Very few tax loopholes have a trade association, but this one does. This strangely worded provision basically allows American corporations such as banks and manufactures to engage in certain lending practices and not pay taxes on income earned from it. According to this Washington Post piece, supporters of the bill include GE, Caterpillar, and JP Morgan. Steve Elmendorf, super-lobbyist, has been paid $80,000 in 2012 alone to lobby on the "Active Financing Working Group."

7) Tax credits for foreign subsidiaries - Sec. 323 is an extension of the "Look-through treatment of payments between related CFCs under foreign personal holding company income rules." This gibberish sounding provision cost $1.5 billion from 2010 and 2011, and the US Chamber loves it. It's a provision that allows US multinationals to not pay taxes on income earned by companies they own abroad.

8) Bonus Depreciation, R&D Tax Credit - These are well-known corporate boondoggles. The tax credit was projected to cost $8B for 2010 and 2011, and the depreciation provisions were projected to cost about $110B for those two years, with some of that made up in later years.

Conveniently, the Joint Committee on Taxation in 2010 did an analysis of what many of these extenders cost. You can find that report here. Enjoy!
(c) 2013 Matt Stoller writes at the progressive strategy site and is the President of the political action committee BlogPAC.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Tim Eagan ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...


Guns, Guns and Guns
By Will Durst

It's only human nature to want to take action after such a harrowing traumatic event. To do something. Anything, to protect our kids. And make sure that Newtown never ever happens again. Here. There. Anywhere.

But while the rest of the nation grieves, familiar opponents on The Gun Issue are focused more on making sure their groups' message doesn't get trampled in the anticipated tsunami of sorrow. So they preemptively are trying to drown out each other with battalions of bellicose bullhorns and it doesn't matter they can't hear each other because neither side is listening anyway.

That's the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Again. The intersection of Guns, Guns and Guns. Too many. Too few. Too big. Too small. Too scary looking. Waiting periods. Background checks. Magazine sizes. Access. Transportation. Construction. Registration. Who decides and who abides.

All the old buzz phrases are dusted off. "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." "Increased gun control means aiming better." "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Actually, it's those darn bullets that puncture the skin and bones creating holes for the blood to leak out of way too fast.

The NRA is busy pumping out press releases arguing that if the teachers had been armed, this tragedy could have been averted. Yeah, there you go. That's what we need. More guns in schools. The major problem with school shootings are schools. There's your answer, boys. Want to cut down on school shootings, get rid of the schools. A solution many states are busy implementing as we speak.

Besides, why just arm the teachers? Aren't we forgetting about our kids? Surely they have the right to defend themselves. The only question is where do you draw the line? Middle school? Fourth grade? Does the Second Amendment guarantee the rights of Toting Toddlers? Should kid - proof trigger guards be illegal? Maybe get Fisher Price to equip classrooms with plastic day-glo under-desk holsters.

The left is also once again questioning whether military-type assault weapons have a place in today's society. To which the right vehemently argues semantics. "Semi-automatic rifles aren't assault weapons and the left obviously has no experience with guns or they wouldn't mislabel them and their ignorance on the subject disqualifies them to comment or have any opinion whatsoever." Known in gun control circles as the "neener-neener" argument.

An argument that totally misses the point. Doesn't matter what you call them. Semi-automatic rifles. Military-type horizontal hand held ordnance. Futuristic flintlocks. Agitation resolvers. Magic wands. Disputatious caramelized pump-action fruit rolls. Stick a feather in their muzzle and call them macaroni if you want.

The basic problem is, the only reason to own a macaroni that can fire hundreds of pieces of lead faster than the speed of sound in mere seconds is to kill people. Yes, of course they can be used as legitimate hunting rifles. You can also use a flame thrower to light a cigarette. If you think about it, a hand grenade will signal the end of recess. Need to cut some butter, just pull out the trusty old chainsaw. Of course, be prepared for it to get a little messy around Muffin Time. And right now, we're smack in the middle of an especially messy Muffin Time.
(c) 2013 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, "Will Durst's Totally Indispensable Guide to the 2012 Election."

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 01 (c) 01/04/2013

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