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In This Edition

Ray McGovern and Elizabeth Murray are, "Urging Obama To Stop Rush To Iran War."

Uri Avnery explains, "Shukran, Israel."

Matt Taibbi examines, "Iowa: The Meaningless Sideshow Begins."

Phil Rockstroh returns with thoughts of the, "Secrets Of Empire And Self-Deceptions Of Partisans."

Jim Hightower sees the 1%, "Shoveling America's Wealth To The Top."

Helen Thomas says, "Help Bring New Rule In New Year."

Robert Reich forecasts, "The GOP Ticket In 2012: Romney-Rubio."

David Sirota explores, "How Americans Really Feel About Drugs."

David Swanson reports, "Obama Crowned Himself On New Year's Eve."

Ralph Nader discusses, "The Politics Of Lowered Expectations."

Paul Krugman laments that, "Nobody Understands Debt."

Chris Floyd rides, "The Wormwood Express."

Sam Harris considers, "Everything And Nothing."

Howard County Indiana Sheriff, Steven R. Rogers wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

John Nichols explains the, "Six Ways Iowa Progressives Will Caucus."

Jonathan Turley weighs, "The NDAA's Historic Assault On American Liberty."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Bill Maher returns with, "New Rules For The New Year" but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "I'm Still Just Preaching To The Choir After All These Years!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Dave Granlund, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, Ruben Bolling, Micah Wright, Pavlovian Obeisance.Com, Gage Skidmore, Geoff Holtzman, Brian Snyder, Scott Olson, Getty Images, Marijuana Pictures.Com, Carlos Latuff, Free Press, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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I'm Still Just Preaching To The Choir After All These Years!
By Ernest Stewart

Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest
The Boxer ~~~ Simon And Garfunkel

"Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends!"
"Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression Part 2" ~~~ Emerson, Lake & Palmer

"Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof."
V for Vendetta ~~~ V

"Send lawyers, guns and money!" ~~~ Warren Zevon

After a conversation with a friend the other day, I had to stop and question why I'm still doing what I do, i.e., trying to wake up the Sheeple from their Matrix entrapment before it's too late to stop our masters from creating a new antebellum America.

Now, I wasn't trying to convince a Tush Limbaugh ditto head the facts of life concerning the US Congress and Obamahood's latest acts of treason against America and the Constitution of the United States, viz., the National Defense Authorization Act. No, this was an intelligent, college-educated, close friend who knows that I would never lie to them, and that I know what I'm talking about, and instructed them to look it up as it's there for all to read. Their conclusion was that it's ok for Barry to murder American citizens in a foreign land for using their free speech rights, because they're in a another country and that free speech only applies at home -- in total disregard for the latest outrage and act of treason of loosing the US Army on America, making all US citizens potential terrorists if Barry or any following President wants you to disappear on their personal whim. As my friend Phil Rockstroh puts it, "Those deafened-by-partisanship and blinded-by-puppy-love Obamabots remind me of Bush supporters." Yeah, no sh*t!

Ergo, if I can not explain to a friend what's going down, how can I expect to extract anyone from the Matrix and arm them with the truth? Any doubts about this syndrome was brought rather harshly to my attention when half the readership left after we went after Obamahood with the same relish that we went after Bush. I assumed that treason is treason, and everybody could see that -- needless to say my assumption was wrong!

Therefore, what's my purpose in this? To those that are hip, I'm just a honest news source; to the rest, I'm just this old, mad man who looks for the worst in politicians. If I cannot convince a friend who knows and loves me, what are my chances of convincing strangers to believe in what I say? My guess would be I have zero chances. I thought I was making intelligent arguments! I thought that if people can see the truth then they would certainly change their previous thoughts and look at things with a questioning eye! If I showed them that 2 + 2 = 4, they would see the light. Ooops, my bad, I was totally wrong; and as Paul and Art once sang in the Boxer, and as my friend pointed out, it's not a comfortable existence knowing the truth about things and thus having to react to it and do something about it, which is why we are all doomed and I'm wondering why I bother to even try? Whether Romneybot or Obamabot, the truth is the Matrix denizens don't want to be unplugged; they're perfectly happy to live the lie, and will remain so until they are chained and blindfolded inside a box car on the way to a Happy Camp; and some will still deny it, even inside the "shower room!" As Robert Plant once sang in "Stairway To Heaven," -- "And it makes me wonder!"

In Other News

Now that Iowa has come and gone what does one make out of that 3-ring circus of the damned? Well, for one thing, we won't have Michele Bachmann to kick around any more; that seems a pity, does it not? Think of all those Bachmann jokes that won't be told!

Willard snuck by in a squeaker over flavor of the week Rick (mad dog) Santorum by eight votes with our favorite crazy MD Ron Paul coming in third. This pretty much spells the end for Perry, Gingrich and Huntsman; but, of course they are going nowhere as their giant egos won't let them -- until they run out of cash, they'll be in the race.

Rumor has it Obamahood is going to dump Joe for Hilary with them both switching places with Joe taking over Defense and Hilary just a heartbeat away from the Presidency; look out, Barry! With Hillary in tow, he can pick up the ladies which should push him over the top?

Robert Reich thinks Florida Sin-ator Marco Rubio will be Willard's choice for VP after the smoke clears. He bases this on Marco is young, Hispanic, and could give Willard Florida; perhaps he's right, but Marco has been caught lying about his parents running away from Castro (which plays well with the Cuban Florida voters) except Ma & Pa Rubio left Cuba long before Fidel came to power.

I think there might be another possibility with Ron Paul being picked. This would do two things to the RNC's advantage. One, it would bring all of Ron's supporters including the Tea Baggers and all those "Youth for Paul" members and as a VP it would certainly shut him up about ending wars, the Fed, legalizing Pot -- all stuff the fascists that control the RNC are against. A win-win!

However, with all the crazy things that have happened since this circus left town, it might end up with a Sarah Palin/Scott Walker ticket! Far stranger things than that have happened in politics! Stay tuned, America, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!

And Finally

Perhaps you've heard about this one?

"A dollar bill taped over a mouth led to the arrest of two protesters Friday at the Howard County Courthouse."

Members of Occupy Kokomo and related Occupy movements from Indiana had been rallying outside the courthouse that morning with permission from the Howard County commissioners. Even though they really didn't need permission to protest on a public sidewalk in front of the courthouse!

Several of them walked into the building, to inform the Sheriff that they would be back on Monday as Sheriff Steve Rogers met them at the security point.

A moment later, the sheriff noticed Darren M. Burke, who had been using a computer tablet to film the entire rally that morning was wearing a dollar bill over his mouth and a small bio-hazard sticker on his cheek.

Rogers decided Burke was violating a court order that prohibited masks in the courthouse.

"Take your mask off," Rogers told Burke.

"I don't have a mask on," Burke responded.

"I don't care. Take your mask off," Rogers said.

The sheriff then grabbed at Burke's face as the protester turned around and shouted "Get off me. I'm going outside."

Rogers and several deputies slammed Burke into a wall, at which point Lambert became "involved in the fray!" Witnesses said Gregory Lambert was just trying to protect Burke's tablet.

After smashing Burke to the ground, Rogers kneed him several times in the groin while placing him in handcuffs and he and Lambert was taken to the Howard County jail. Lambert bailed himself out, but Burke was still in jail waiting until they could raise his bail.

That's right, I wrote the good Sheriff a brief note; but you knew that I would, didn't you?

Hey Steven,

Boy, did you f*ck up, huh? How does it feel to be a laughing stock? Are sunglasses considered a mask in Indiana, too? I know, you were only following ze orders, Ja? Now, where have I heard that before? You must be a real asshole come Halloween! Do you wrestle the children to the ground then make up charges against them, too?

However, I must admit, I do admire your Jack Boots and your Corpo-rat armband is to die for, quite literally! Oh, and thanks for helping me write next Friday's editorial and for bringing in another 10,000 to our side to fight your puppet masters and reclaim America for the people from your bankster pals! Next time, why not cave in some skulls and bring us a million more protestors, you know you want to, huh?!

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

If you'd like to express your opinion why not write Steven, too. Just tell' em Uncle Ernie sent ya!

Howard County Sheriff Steven R. Rogers

Keepin' On

Well, with the Fuhrer signing away some more of our rights and most "liberal" news sites going into spin overdrive to assure us that he'll never use those powers that he told Senator Hitler, er, Levin that he wanted, it could certainly go from bad to worse at the drop of a hat. Who you gonna call, America?

I've been by and on your side for 11 years now, bringing you the facts, "just the facts ma'am," so you can deal with them. We don't tell you what you should think, or who you should vote for; you already know that, and can deal with it if only you know the truth, what the facts are, and what they might mean for you and yours!

As we turn into what some say may be the year that ends the Republic and begins WWIII, it's incredibly important to know what's going down and how you might prevent the nightmares that may be just around the corner. I've spent the last eleven years working around the clock for you, and as a result, brought a financial disaster upon myself, so I can't keep doing this without your help. If you feel that a reliable, honest, news service is important in this day and age of corpo-rat news, then please send us what you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you and yours! We need to raise $5600 this year to keep publishing. That's not $56,000 for the quarter but $5600 for the entire year, what a bargain, what a deal! Please help us if you can!


07-07-1948 ~ 01-02-2012
Thanks for the jams bro!

04-21-1948 ~ 01-04-2012
Thanks for the visions!

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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2012 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 10 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Urging Obama To Stop Rush To Iran War
A torrent of war propaganda against Iran is flooding the American political scene as U.S. neocons and Israeli hardliners see an opening for another war in the Middle East
By Ray McGovern and Elizabeth Murray

President Obama needs to put an abrupt halt to the game of Persian Roulette about to spin out of control in the Persian Gulf. If we were still on active duty at the CIA, this is what we would tell him:

This informal memorandum addresses the escalating game of chicken playing out in the waters off Iran and the more general issue of what can be done to put the exaggerated threat from Iran in some kind of perspective.

In keeping with the informality of this memo and our ethos of speaking truth to power, we may at times be rather blunt. If we bring you up short, consider it a measure of the seriousness with which we view the unfolding of yet another tragic mistake.

The stakes are quite high, and as former intelligence analysts with no axes to grind, we want to make sure you understand how fragile and volatile the situation in the Gulf has become.

We know you are briefed regularly on the play by play, and we will not attempt to replicate that. Your repeated use of the bromide that "everything is on the table," however, gives us pause and makes us wonder whether you and your advisers fully recognize the implications, if hostilities with Iran spin out of control.

You have the power to stop the madness, and we give you some recommendations on how to lessen the likelihood of a war that would be to the advantage of no one but the arms merchants.

If your advisers have persuaded you that hostilities with Iran would bring benefit to Israel, they are badly mistaken. In our view, war with Iran is just as likely in the longer term to bring the destruction of Israel, as well as vast areas of Iran -not even to mention the disastrous consequences for the world economy, of which you must be aware.

Incendiary (but false) claims about how near Iran is to having a nuclear weapon are coming "fast and furious," (and are as irresponsible as that ill-fated project of giving weapons to Mexican drug dealers).

In our view, the endless string of such claims now threaten to migrate from rhetoric to armed clashes to attempted "regime change," as was the case nine years ago on Iraq. You know, we hope, that influential - but myopic - forces abound who are willing to take great risk because they believe such events would redound to the benefit of Israel. We make reference, of course, to the reckless Likud government in Israel and its equally reckless single-issue supporters here at home.

Inept Advisers

Judging by recent performance, your foreign policy and military advisers, including the top generals now in place, appear unable to act as sensible counterweights to those who think that, by beginning hostilities with Iran, they will help Israel do away with a key regional rival.

You are not stuck with such advisers. You're the President; you deserve better. You need some people close to you who know a lot more about the outside world.

You may wish to think also about how the recent remarks of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, during an interview with the Washington Post's Greg Jaffe, reflect on the chairman's acumen in the strategic matters in which he has been immersed for decades.

In the interview with Jaffe, Dempsey referred to his 20-year involvement with Iraq (where he made his mark) and, according to Jaffe, Dempsey acknowledged that "he and his Army did not fully understand the nature of the conflict they were fighting."

Jaffe quotes a particularly telling lament by Dempsey: "People say, 'For God's sakes, you were a two-star general. How could you say you didn't understand?' ... I don't know how I can say it, but I lived it. And I mean it."

Suffice it to say that there are serious questions as to how much Gen. Dempsey understands about Iran and whether his meteoric rise to Chairman of the JCS is due more to the crisp salute with which he greets any idea voiced by those above him.

Discussing last week the possibility of military action against Iran, Dempsey said, "The options we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable, if necessary." He added that his "biggest worry is that (Iranians) will miscalculate our resolve."

That's not our biggest worry. Rather it is that Dempsey and you will miscalculate Iran's resolve. We haven't a clue as to what, if anything, the Chairman is telling you on that key issue. Our distinct impression, however, is that you cannot look to him for the kind of stand-up advice you got from his predecessor, Adm. Mike Mullen.

The consummate military professional, Mullen pointed to the military and strategic realities - and the immense costs - associated with a war with Iran, which in turn buttressed those who successfully withstood pressure from President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for war with Iran.

Dempsey = No Mullen

During the Bush administration, Mullen argued strongly that there would be no way a "preventive war" against Iran would be worth the horrendous cost. He did all he could to scuttle the idea.

Mullen was among those senior officials who forced Bush and Cheney to publish the unclassified Key Judgments of the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program -the NIE that judged "with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

As Bush and Vice President Cheney have since acknowledged, that drove an iron rod through the wheels of the juggernaut then rolling off to war with Iran. And, as you know, that judgment still stands despite Herculean efforts to fudge it.

In his memoir, Decision Points, Bush, complains bitterly that, rather than being relieved by the surprising news that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in late 2003, he was angry that the news "tied my hands on the military side."

In January 2008, Bush flew to Israel to commiserate with senior Israeli officials who were similarly bitter at the abrupt removal of a casus belli. Tellingly, in his book Bush added this lament:

"But after the NIE, how could I possible explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?"

Israel's Last Chance, Until Now

The new estimate on Iran did not stop the Israelis from trying. And in mid-2008, they seemed to be contemplating one more try at provoking hostilities with Iran before Bush and Cheney left office.

This time, with Bush's (but not Cheney's) support, Mullen flew to Israel to tell Israeli leaders to disabuse themselves of the notion that U.S. military support would be knee-jerk automatic if they somehow provoked open hostilities with Iran.

According to the Israeli press, Mullen went so far as to warn the Israelis not to even think about another incident at sea like the deliberate Israeli attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, which left 34 American crew killed and more than 170 wounded.

Never before had a senior U.S. official braced Israel so blatantly about the Liberty incident, which was covered up by the Johnson administration, the Congress, and Mullen's Navy itself. The lesson the Israelis had taken away from the Liberty incident was that they could get away with murder, literally, and walk free because of political realities in the United States. Not this time, said Mullen. He could not have raised a more neuralgic issue.

Unintended Consequences

As long as he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mike Mullen kept worrying, often publicly, over what he termed "the unintended consequences of any sort of military action against Iran."

We assume that before he retired last fall he shared that concern with you, just as we tried to warn your predecessor of "the unintended consequences" that could flow from an attack on Iraq.

The Israelis, for their part, would not relent. In February of this year, Mullen returned with sweaty palms from a visit to Israel. On arrival there, he had warned publicly that an attack on Iran would be "a big, big, big problem for all of us."

When Mullen got back to Washington, he lacked the confident tone he had after reading the Israelis the riot act in mid-2008. It became quickly clear that Mullen feared that, this time, Israel's leaders did not seem to take his warnings seriously.

Lest he leave a trace of ambiguity regarding his professional view, upon his return Mullen drove it home at a Pentagon press conference on Feb. 22, 2011: "For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are and ought to be the levers first pulled. Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled. No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive."

In 2008, right after Mullen was able, in late June, to get the Israelis to put aside, for the nonce, their pre-emptive plans vis-a-vis Iran, he moved to put a structure in place that could short-circuit military escalation. Specifically, he thought through ways to prevent unintended (or, for that matter, deliberately provoked) incidents in the crowded Persian Gulf that could lead to wider hostilities.

In a widely unnoticed remark, Adm. Mullen conceded to the press that Iran could shut down the Strait of Hormuz, but quickly added de rigueur assurance that the U.S. could open it up again (whereas the Admiral knows better than virtually anyone that this would be no easy task).

Mullen sent up an interesting trial balloon at a July 2, 2008, press conference, when he suggested that military-to-military dialogue could "add to a better understanding" between the U.S. and Iran. But nothing more was heard of this overture, probably because Cheney ordered him to drop it. We think it is high time to give this excellent idea new life. (See below under Recommendations.)

The dangers in and around the Strait of Hormuz were still on Mullen's mind as he prepared to retire on Sept. 30, 2011. Ten days before, he told the Armed Force Press Service of his deep concern over the fact that the United States and Iran have had no formal communications since 1979:

"Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union. ... We are not talking to Iran. So we don't understand each other. If something happens, it's virtually assured that we won't get it right, that there will be miscalculations."

Playing with fire: With the macho game of chicken currently under way between Iranian and U.S. naval forces in the area of the Strait of Hormuz, the potential for an incident has increased markedly.

An accident, or provocation, could spiral out of control quickly, with all sides - Iran, the U.S. and Israel making hurried decisions with, you guessed it, "unintended consequences."

... or Intended Consequences?

With your campaign for the presidency in full swing during the summer of 2008, you may have missed a troubling disclosure in July by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

He reported that Bush administration officials had held a meeting in the Vice President's office in the wake of the January 2008 incident between Iranian patrol boats and U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz. The reported purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to provoke war with Iran.

HERSH: There were a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don't we build in our shipyard four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.

And it was rejected because you can't have Americans killing Americans. That's the kind of - that's the level of stuff we're talking about. Provocation.

Silly? Maybe. But potentially very lethal. Because one of the things they learned in the [January] incident was the American public, if you get the right incident, the American public will support bang-bang-kiss-kiss. You know, we're into it.

Look, is it high school? Yeah. Are we playing high school with you know 5,000 nuclear warheads in our arsenal? Yeah we are. We're playing, you know, who's the first guy to run off the highway with us and Iran.

... and Now Iran's Responsibility for 9/11!

On the chance you missed it, this time your government is getting "incriminating" information from Iranian, not Iraqi, "defectors." Iranian "defectors" have persuaded Manhattan Federal Judge George Daniels to sign an order accusing Iran and Hezbollah - along with al-Qaeda - of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

On Dec. 15, in response to a lawsuit brought by family members of 9/11 victims, Daniels claimed that Iran provided material support to al-Qaeda and has assessed Iran $100 billion in damages.

Watching the blackening of Iranians on virtually all parts of the U.S. body politic, it is no surprise that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes he holds the high cards, enjoying the strong support of our Congress, our largely pro-Israel media, and our courts as well. He sees himself in the catbird seat - particularly during the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election.

We know that you have said you have to deal with Netanyahu every day. But for those of us who have not had the pleasure, never did his attitude toward Washington come through so clearly as in a video taped nine years ago and shown on Israeli TV.

In it Netanyahu brags about how he deceived President Bill Clinton into believing he (Netanyahu) was helping implement the Oslo accords when he was actually destroying them. The tape displays a contemptuous attitude toward - and wonderment at - a malleable America so easily influenced by Israel.

Netanyahu says it right out: "America is something that can be easily moved. Moved in the right direction. ... They won't get in our way ... Eighty percent of the Americans support us. It's absurd."

Israeli columnist Gideon Levy has written that the video shows Netanyahu to be "a con artist ... who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes," adding that such behavior "does not change over the years."

On Dec. 29, the strongly pro-Israel Washington Times ran an unsigned editorial, "Tehran's moment of truth: The mullahs are playing with fire in Strait of Hormuz." After a fulsome paragraph of bragging about how the U.S. Navy capabilities dwarf those of Iran's, the Washington Times editors inadvertently give the game away:

"A theater-wide response to the strait closure would involve air strikes on military and leadership targets throughout the country, and the crisis could be a useful pretext for international action against Iran's nuclear program."

Hopefully, pointing out Israel's overarching objective will strike you as gratuitous. No doubt your advisers have told you that "regime change" (what we used to call overthrowing a government) is Israel's ultimate goal. Just so you know.


We hope that, when we assume you wish to thwart Israel and any other party who might want to get the U.S. involved in hostilities with Iran, we are not assuming too much. With that as our premise, we recommend that you:

1. Make public, as soon as possible, a declassified version of the key judgments of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear development program, with whatever updating is necessary. You know that the Herculean efforts of U.S. intelligence to find evidence of an active nuclear weapons program in Iran have found nothing.

Do not insult Americans with Rumsfeldian nostrums like: "The absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence." Rather, be up-front with the American people. Tell them the truth about the conclusions of our intelligence community.

Bush was helped to launch the aggressive war on Iraq by a deliberately dishonest National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction there. Let yourself be fortified by an honest NIE on Iran, and stand up to the inevitable criticism from Israelis and their influential surrogates.

2. Pick up on Adm. Mike Mullen's suggestion at his press conference on July 2, 2008, that military-to-military dialogue could "add to a better understanding" between the U.S. and Iran. If there were ever a time when our navies need to be able to communicate with each other, it is now.

It was a good idea in 2008; it is an even better idea now. Indeed, it seems likely that a kind of vestigial Cheneyism, as well as pressure from the Likud Lobby, account for the fact that the danger of a U.S.-Iranian confrontation in the crowded Persian Gulf has still not been addressed in direct talks.

Cheney and those of his mini-National Security Staff who actually looked forward to such confrontations are gone from the scene. If the ones who remain persist in thwarting time-tested structural ways of preventing accidents, miscalculation and covert false-flag attacks, please consider suggesting that they retire early.

Order the negotiation of the kind of bilateral "incidents-at-sea" agreement concluded with the Russians in May 1972, which, together with direct communications, played an essential role in heading off escalation neither side wanted, when surface or submarine ships go bump in the night.

3. Get yourself some advisers who know more about the real world than the ones you have now, and make sure they owe allegiance solely to the United States.

4. Issue a formal statement that your administration will not support an Israeli military attack on Iran. Make it clear that even though, after Dec. 31, the U.S. may not be technically responsible for defending Iraqi airspace, you have ordered U.S. Air Force units in the area to down any intruders.

5. Sit back and look toward a New Year with a reasonable prospect of less, not more, tension in the Persian Gulf.

Happy New Year
(c) 2012 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.
(c) 2012 Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Shukran, Israel
By Uri Avnery

IF ISLAMIST movements come to power all over the region, they should express their debt of gratitude to their bete noire, Israel.

Without the active or passive help of successive Israeli governments, they may not have been able to realize their dreams.

That is true in Gaza, in Beirut, in Cairo and even in Tehran.

LET'S TAKE the example of Hamas.

All over the Arab lands, dictators have been faced with a dilemma. They could easily close down all political and civic activities, but they could not close the mosques. In the mosques people could congregate in order to pray, organize charities and, secretly, set up political organizations. Before the days of Twitter and Facebook, that was the only way to reach masses of people.

One of the dictators faced with this dilemma was the Israel military governor in the occupied Palestinian territories. Right from the beginning, he forbade any political activity. Even peace activists went to prison. Advocates of non-violence were deported. Civic centers were closed down. Only the mosques remained open. There people could meet.

But this went beyond tolerance. The General Security Service (known as Shin Bet or Shabak) had an active interest in the flourishing of the mosques. People who pray five times a day, they thought, have no time to build bombs.

The main enemy, as laid down by Shabak, was the dreadful PLO, led by that monster, Yasser Arafat. The PLO was a secular organization, with many prominent Christian members, aiming at a "nonsectarian" Palestinian state. They were the enemies of the Islamists, who were talking about a pan-Islamic Caliphate.

Turning the Palestinians towards Islam, it was thought, would weaken the PLO and its main faction, Fatah. So everything was done to help the Islamic movement discreetly.

It was a very successful policy, and the Security people congratulated themselves on their cleverness, when something untoward happened. In December 1987, the first intifada broke out. The mainstream Islamists had to compete with more radical groupings. Within days, they transformed themselves into the Islamic Resistance Movement (acronym Hamas) and became the most dangerous foes of Israel. Yet it took Shabak more than a year before they arrested Sheik Ahmad Yassin, the Hamas leader. In order to fight this new menace, Israel came to an agreement with the PLO in Oslo.

And now, irony of ironies, Hamas is about to join the PLO and take part in a Palestinian National Unity government. They really should send us a message of Shukran ("thanks").

OUR PART in the rise of Hizbollah is less direct, but no less effective.

When Ariel Sharon rolled into Lebanon in 1982, his troops had to cross the mainly Shiite South. The Israeli soldiers were received as liberators. Liberators from the PLO, which had turned this area into a state within a state.

Following the troops in my private car, trying to reach the front, I had to traverse about a dozen Shiite villages. In each one I was detained by the villagers, who insisted that I have coffee in their homes.

Neither Sharon nor anyone else paid much attention to the Shiites. In the federation of autonomous ethnic-religious communities that is called Lebanon, the Shiites were the most downtrodden and powerless.

However, the Israelis outstayed their welcome. It took the Shiites just a few weeks to realize that they had no intention of leaving. So, for the first time in their history, they rebelled. The main political group, Amal ("hope"), started small armed actions. When the Israelis did not take the hint, operations multiplied and turned into a full-fledged guerrilla war.

To outflank Amal, Israel encouraged a small, more radical, rival: God's Party, Hizbollah.

If Israel had got out then (as Haolam Hazeh demanded), not much harm would have been done. But they remained for a full 18 years, ample time for Hizbollah to turn into an efficient fighting machine, earn the admiration of the Arab masses everywhere, take over the leadership of the Shiite community and become the most powerful force in Lebanese politics.

They, too, owe us a big Shukran.

THE CASE of the Muslim Brotherhood is even more complex.

The organization was founded in 1928, twenty years before the State of Israel. Its members volunteered to fight us in 1948. They are passionately pan-Islamic, and the Palestinian plight is close to their hearts.

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict worsened, the popularity of the Brothers grew. Since the 1967 war, in which Egypt lost Sinai, and even more after the separate peace agreement with Israel, they stoked the deep-seated resentment of the masses in Egypt and all over the Arab world. The assassination of Anwar al-Sadat was not of their doing, but they rejoiced.

Their opposition to the peace agreement with Israel was not only an Islamist, but also an authentic Egyptian reaction. Most Egyptians felt cheated and betrayed by Israel. The Camp David agreement had an important Palestinian component, without which the agreement would have been impossible for Egypt. Sadat, a visionary, looked at the big picture and believed that the agreement would quickly lead to a Palestinian state. Menachem Begin, a lawyer, saw to the fine print. Generations of Jews have been brought up on the Talmud, which is mainly a compilation of legal precedents, and their mind has been honed by legalistic arguments. Not for nothing are Jewish lawyers in demand the world over.

Actually, the agreement made no mention of a Palestinian state, only of autonomy, phrased in a way that allowed Israel to continue the occupation. That was not what the Egyptians had been led to believe, and their resentment was palpable. Egyptians are convinced that their country is the leader of the Arab world, and bears a special responsibility for every part of it. They cannot bear to be seen as the betrayers of their poor, helpless Palestinian cousins.

Long before he was overthrown, Hosni Mubarak was despised as an Israeli lackey, paid by the US. For Egyptians, his despicable role in the Israeli blockade of a million and a half Palestinians in the Gaza Strip was particularly shameful.

Since their beginnings in the 1920s, Brotherhood leaders and activists have been hanged, imprisoned, tortured and otherwise persecuted. Their anti-regime credentials are impeccable. Their stand for the Palestinians contributed a lot to this image.

Had Israel made peace with the Palestinian people somewhere along the line, the Brotherhood would have lost much of its luster. As it is, they are emerging from the present democratic elections as the central force in Egyptian politics.

Shukran, Israel.

LET'S NOT forget the Islamic Republic of Iran.

They owe us something, too. Quite a lot, actually.

In 1951, in the first democratic elections in an Islamic country in the region, Muhammad Mossadeq was elected Prime Minister. The Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had been installed by the British during World War II, was thrown out, and Mossadeq nationalized the country's vital oil industry. Until then, the British had robbed the Iranian people, paying a pittance for the Black Gold.

Two years later, in a coup organized by the British MI6 and the American CIA, the Shah was brought back and returned the oil to the hated British and their partners. Israel had probably no part in the coup, but under the restored regime of the Shah, Israel prospered. Israelis made fortunes selling weapons to the Iranian army. Israeli Shabak agents trained the Shah's dreaded secret police, Savak. It was widely believed that they also taught them torture techniques. The Shah helped to build and pay for a pipeline for Iranian oil from Eilat to Ashkelon. Israeli generals traveled through Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they helped the rebellion against Baghdad.

At the time, the Israeli leadership was cooperating with the South African apartheid regime in developing nuclear arms. The two offered the Shah partnership in the effort, so that Iran, too, would become a nuclear power.

Before that partnership became effective, the detested ruler was overthrown by the Islamic revolution of February 1979. Since then, the hatred of the Great Satan (the US) and the Little Satan (us) has played a major role in the propaganda of the Islamic regime. It has helped to keep the loyalty of the masses, and now Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using it to bolster his rule.

It seems that all Iranian factions - including the opposition - now support the Iranian effort to obtain a nuclear bomb of their own, ostensibly to deter an Israeli nuclear attack. (This week, the chief of the Mossad pronounced that an Iranian nuclear bomb would not constitute an "existential danger" to Israel.)

Where would the Islamic Republic be without Israel? So they owe us a big "Thank you", too.

HOWEVER, LET us not be too megalomaniac. Israel has contributed a lot to the Islamist awakening. But it is not the only - or even the main - contributor.

Strange as it may appear, obscurantist religious fundamentalism seems to express the Zeitgeist. An American nun-turned-historian, Karen Armstrong, has written an interesting book following the three fundamentalist movements in the Muslim world, in the US and in Israel. It shows a clear pattern: all these divergent movements - Muslim, Christian and Jewish - have passed through almost identical and simultaneous stages.

At present, all Israel is in turmoil because the powerful Orthodox community is compelling women in many parts of the country to sit separately in the back of buses, like blacks in the good old days in Alabama, and use separate sidewalks on one side of the streets. Male religious soldiers are forbidden by their rabbis to listen to women soldiers singing. In orthodox neighborhoods, women are compelled to swathe their bodies in garments that reveal nothing but their faces and hands, even in temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius and above. An 8-year old girl from a religious family was spat upon in the street because her clothes were not "modest" enough. In counter-demonstrations, secular women waved posters saying "Tehran is Here!"

Perhaps some day a fundamentalist Israel will make peace with a fundamentalist Muslim world, under the auspices of a fundamentalist American president.

Unless we do something to stop the process before it is too late.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum

Iowa: The Meaningless Sideshow Begins
By Matt Taibbi

The 2012 presidential race officially begins today with the caucuses in Iowa, and we all know what that means ...


The race for the White House is normally an event suffused with drama, sucking eyeballs to the page all over the globe. Just as even the non-British were at least temporarily engaged by last year's royal wedding, people all over the world are normally fascinated by the presidential race: both dramas arouse the popular imagination as real-life versions of universal children's fairy tales.

Instead of a tale about which maiden gets to marry the handsome prince, the campaign is an epic story, complete with a gleaming white castle at the end, about the battle to succeed to the king's throne. Since the presidency is the most powerful office in the world, the tale has appeal for people all over the planet, from jungles to Siberian villages.

It takes an awful lot to rob the presidential race of this elemental appeal. But this year's race has lost that buzz. In fact, this 2012 race may be the most meaningless national election campaign we've ever had. If the presidential race normally captivates the public as a dramatic and angry ideological battle pitting one impassioned half of society against the other, this year's race feels like something else entirely.

In the wake of the Tea Party, the Occupy movement, and a dozen or more episodes of real rebellion on the streets, in the legislatures of cities and towns, and in state and federal courthouses, this presidential race now feels like a banal bureaucratic sideshow to the real event - the real event being a looming confrontation between huge masses of disaffected citizens on both sides of the aisle, and a corrupt and increasingly ideologically bankrupt political establishment, represented in large part by the two parties dominating this race.

Let's put it this way. What feels more like a real news story - Newt Gingrich calling Mitt Romney a liar for the ten millionth time, or this sizzling item that just hit the wires by way of the Montana Supreme Court:

HELENA - The Montana Supreme Court restored the state's century-old ban on direct spending by corporations on political candidates or committees in a ruling Friday that interest groups say bucks a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court decision granting political speech rights to corporations...

A group seeking to undo the Citizens United decision lauded the Montana high court, with its co-founder saying it was a "huge victory for democracy."

"With this ruling, the Montana Supreme Court now sets up the first test case for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its Citizens United decision, a decision which poses a direct and serious threat to our democracy," John Bonifaz, of Free Speech For People, said in a statement.

Now that is real politics -- real protest, real change. Exactly the opposite of the limp and sterile charade in Iowa. This caucus, let's face it, marks the beginning of a long, rigidly-controlled, carefully choreographed process that is really designed to do two things: weed out dangerous minority opinions, and award power to the candidate who least offends the public while he goes about his primary job of energetically representing establishment interests.

If that sounds like a glib take on a free election system that allows the public to choose whichever candidate it likes best without any censorship or overt state interference, so be it. But the ugly reality, as Dylan Ratigan continually points out, is that the candidate who raises the most money wins an astonishing 94% of the time in America.

That damning statistic just confirms what everyone who spends any time on the campaign trail knows, which is that the presidential race is not at all about ideas, but entirely about raising money.

The auctioned election process is designed to reduce the field to two candidates who will each receive hundreds of millions of dollars apiece from the same pool of donors. Just take a look at the lists of top donors for Obama and McCain from the last election in 2008.

Obama's top 20 list included:

Goldman Sachs ($1,013,091)
JPMorgan Chase & Co ($808,799)
Citigroup Inc ($736,771)
WilmerHale LLP ($550,668)
Skadden, Arps et al ($543,539)
UBS AG ($532,674), and...
Morgan Stanley ($512,232).

McCain's list, meanwhile, included (drum roll please):

JPMorgan Chase & Co ($343,505)
Citigroup Inc ($338,202)
Morgan Stanley ($271,902)
Goldman Sachs ($240,295)
UBS AG ($187,493)
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher ($160,346)
Greenberg Traurig LLP ($147,437), and...
Lehman Brothers ($126,557).

Obama's list included all the major banks and bailout recipients, plus a smattering of high-dollar defense lawyers from firms like WilmerHale and Skadden Arps who make their money representing those same banks. McCain's list included exactly the same banks and a similar list of law firms, the minor difference being that it was Gibson Dunn instead of WilmerHale, etc.

The numbers show remarkable consistency, as Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup all gave roughly twice or just over twice as much to Obama as they did to McCain, almost perfectly matching the overall donations profile for both candidates: overall, Obama raised just over twice as much ($730 million) as McCain did ($333 million).

Those numbers tell us that both parties rely upon the same core of major donors among the top law firms, the Wall Street companies, and business leaders - basically, the 1%. Those one-percenters always give generously to both parties and both presidential candidates, although they sometimes will hedge their bets significantly when they think one side or the other has a lopsided chance at victory. That's clearly what happened in 2008, when Wall Street correctly called Obama as a 2-1 (or maybe a 7-3) favorite to beat McCain.

The 1% donors are remarkably tolerant. They'll give to just about anyone who polls well, provided they fall within certain parameters. What they won't do is give to anyone who is even a remote threat to make significant structural changes, i.e. a Dennis Kucinich, an Elizabeth Warren, or a Ron Paul (hell will freeze over before Wall Street gives heavily to a candidate in favor of abolishing their piggy bank, the Fed). So basically what that means is that voters are free to choose anyone they want, provided it isn't Dennis Kucinich, or Ron Paul, or some other such unacceptable personage.

If the voters insist on supporting such a person in defiance of these donors - this might even happen tonight, with a Paul win in Iowa - what you inevitably end up seeing is a monstrous amount of money quickly dumped into the cause of derailing that candidate. This takes overt forms, like giving heavily to his primary opponents, and more covert forms, like manufacturing opinions through donor-subsidized think tanks and the heavy use of lapdog media figures to push establishment complaints.

And what ends up happening there is that the candidate with the big stack of donor money always somehow manages to survive the inevitable scandals and tawdry revelations, while the one who's depending on checks from grandma and $25 internet donations from college students always winds up mysteriously wiped out.

Thus the guy like George W. Bush, who dodged the draft and lied about his National Guard Service, steams to re-election, while a guy like Howard Dean - really not any kind of real threat to the status quo, whose major crimes were being insufficiently pro-war and finding an alternative source of campaign funding on the net - magically falls off the map and is made a caricature after one loony scream before Iowa.

The reason 2012 feels so empty now is that voters on both sides of the aisle are not just tired of this state of affairs, they are disgusted by it. They want a chance to choose their own leaders and they want full control over policy, not just a partial say. There are a few challenges to this state of affairs within the electoral process - as much as I disagree with Paul about many things, I do think his campaign is a real outlet for these complaints - but everyone knows that in the end, once the primaries are finished, we're going to be left with one 1%-approved stooge taking on another.

Most likely, it'll be Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, meaning the voters' choices in the midst of a massive global economic crisis brought on in large part by corruption in the financial services industry will be a private equity parasite who has been a lifelong champion of the Gordon Gekko Greed-is-Good ethos (Romney), versus a paper progressive who in 2008 took, by himself, more money from Wall Street than any two previous presidential candidates, and in the four years since has showered Wall Street with bailouts while failing to push even one successful corruption prosecution (Obama).

There are obvious, even significant differences between Obama and someone like Mitt Romney, particularly on social issues, but no matter how Obama markets himself this time around, a choice between these two will not in any way represent a choice between "change" and the status quo. This is a choice between two different versions of the status quo, and everyone knows it.

The real fight against the status quo is coming in places like the Supreme Court of Montana, which with this recent ruling correctly identified the real battle lines in the upcoming political season by boldly rejecting the concept of unlimited corporate campaign spending.

It's coming in places like the courthouse of federal Judge Jed Rakoff, who recently rejected a dirty settlement deal between the SEC and Citigroup. It's on the streets in the OWS protests and even in the Tea Party, which in recent years unseated countless Republican party lifer-stooges over their support of the bailouts (like Utah Senator Robert Bennett, who was hounded at a party convention with chants of "TARP, TARP, TARP!").

This widespread and growing movement against the twin corrupting influences of money on our politics and state patronage on big business is going on everywhere - on the streets, in these courthouses, in the homes of people refusing to move after foreclosure, even in the antitax movements and the campaigns against state pensions.

The only place we can be absolutely sure this battle will not be found is in any national presidential race between Barack Obama and someone like Mitt Romney.

The campaign is still a gigantic ritual and it will still be attended by all the usual pomp and spectacle, but it's empty. In fact, because it's really a contest between 1%-approved candidates, it's worse than empty - it's obnoxious.

It was always annoying when these two parties and the slavish media that follows their champions around for 18 months pretended that this was a colossal clash of opposites. But now, with the economy in the shape that it's in thanks in large part to the people financing these elections, that pretense is more than annoying, it's offensive.

And I imagine that the more they try to play up the drama of these familiar-but-empty campaign rituals, the more irritating to the public it will all become. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if, before the season is out, the campaign itself will become a hated symbol of the 1% -- with the conventions and the networks' broadcast tents outside the inevitable "free speech zones" attracting protests the same way the offices of Chase and Bank of America did this fall.

Or maybe not, we'll see. In any case, the dreary campaign to choose the next imperial administrator -- the One Percent-Off, let's call it -- starts tonight. It's the same old ritual, but I just don't think it's going to fly the same way this time around.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

Secrets Of Empire And Self-Deceptions Of Partisans
Yet a howling defiance into the darkness of the corporate state night
By Phil Rockstroh

It is laughable (in a weeping outright sort of way) that Obama and his fellow Democratic Party supporters and apologists can't find a more resonant campaign theme than, "We carry out the agendas of the national security/bankster/militarist state (i.e., the one percent) while appearing to be less crazy than Republicans."

The notion of even possessing a preference as to whom should be president of this crumbling, faux a bit like asking what color uniform one would prefer that the crew tasked with rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic should don as they go about their duties.

In times such as these, when escaping into one's comfort zone is no longer a viable option, one is advised to evince the audacity of hopelessness, because the act leaves one desperate enough to embrace this daunting proposition:

"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." ~~~ John 8:32

Although, for the present and foreseeable future, the propitious aspects of the sentiment will not hold true for Bradley Manning...whose plight displays the punitive, hyper-authoritarian nature of late U.S. empire. As is the case with Manning, in a national security state, few acts will cause one to lose his freedom in a more rapid manner than to reveal the secrets of lawless, ruthless power.

Apparently, Bradley Manning guarded secrets of his own...not shameful ones--but traits that would cause him to become subject to derision if revealed.

Manning desired to practice transvestism. This U.S. Army private was privy to illusion. Innately, he grasped how being coerced into suppressing one's secrets damages one's soul. Manning merely harbored the desire to practice a bit of gender bending; in contrast, the operatives of empire demand that they be allowed to bend and twist the world itself towards their exploitative ends.

To live in empire--in the service of its imperial military or in the thrall of the pursuit of careerist vanity and consumerist compulsions--is to live a selfish lie, day in and day out.

Rupaul (Andre Charles) averred, "We all came into this world naked. The rest is all drag."

We all make choices as to what form of drag we practice. Does my lie promote the truth? Is my act educational, entertaining or edifying? Does it allow me to inhabit my true self yet transcend my narcissism? Does my act and attendant actions bring balm or does it deliver more suffering than necessary to a world where it is impossible to escape suffering?

Ask yourself and those around you these questions in regard to Private Manning and the operatives and denizens of U.S. Empire.

On the subject of identity, authentic or dubious: Even after being an almost constant public presence for more than half a decade, Barack Obama's true nature and authentic identity remains elusive. After all this time, he still seems less man than marketing rollout, less of a political leader than an object lesson in product placement. The situation is like having the role of chief executive of the nation filled with a disposable razor or a heavily hyped iPhone application.

The U.S. presidency, as is the case with almost all aspects of life in the corporate consumer state, has become increasingly dominated and defined by commercial/public relations-type legerdemain. The constant commercial come-ons of the media hologram mask its hollow core; the proliferation of weightless lies serves to overwhelm the gravity of perilous times.

Obama's nebulous nature works to ensure the continued irrational ardor of his supporters, who, against all evidence, insist on clinging to fantasy and projection regarding the president's much in evidence anti-democratic tendencies; hence, progressive types seem prone to project their own redeeming qualities on the blank slate that Obama creates and deploys as his public persona--a method similar to that used by con artists who exploit the decency of their marks to achieve their criminal ends.

Apropos, this indefensible, Bush-era type of deceit connecting 9/11 and the invasion and occupation of Iraq:

"The war in Iraq will soon belong to history. Your service belongs to the ages. Never forget that you are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries - from the colonists who overthrew an empire, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you - men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar, and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11."- President Obama speaking to troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., December 14, 2011

In this instance, the shape-shifter Obama morphs from hollow man to Death's slick, narrow-ass, public relations representative.

I've noticed that debates with Obama's apologists have a very similar trajectory as those with Republican partisans. Because partisans are hard pressed to explain away the affronts to truthful discourse and good governance displayed by the politicians they support, any attempt to engage them in debate involving the merits (or lack thereof) of the policies of said politicians (e.g., their unwavering support of the 1% and U.S. militarist imperium)--quickly devolves into volleys of ad hominem attacks launched from the ranks of their supporters.

For example, from the right, OWS activists are labeled dirty, America-hatin' hippies who supports swarthy terrorists, yet from the liberal camp, OWSers who refuse cooperation with the Democratic Party are cast as purer-than-thou types--too above it all to sully themselves by an acceptance of the pragmatic nature of political reality.

What is the reason for this irrational response from liberals--from folks who scoff at teabaggers and religious fundamentalists for their less than sane and sanguine approach to political discourse? There is simply no reasonable way to defend the acts of our blood-sustained empire abroad and the machinations of a predatory economic elite at home; hence, the testiness evinced by the enablers of the duopolistic state.

Withal, when I post an article or FaceBook status critical of President Obama--the tone and tenure of the ensuing debate with his defenders takes on a Bush era aura. As a general rule, when the rationalizations of both Bush and Obama supporters are countered with facts regarding their dismal governance, the invectives fly. Granted, the grammar and syntax of Obama apologists is superior to that of Republican loyalists--but their fallacy arguments are every bit as dodgy.

Consequently, the policies of both parties (bulwarked by the concretized support of partisans) translate into unnecessary suffering and death--the calling card and ground level criteria of the oligarchic/imperialist state. And sorry, Obama loyalists--your man is not the lesser-of-two evils candidate: He is among his peers. In many ways, he has proven himself a more deceitful, ruthless crime boss than his predatory, Republican predecessors, in other words, the chief executive of a militarist empire.

The 1% and their advocates and operatives in the U.S. political class have thrown us to the wolves. How does one make an ally of uncertainty and keep close the verities of the heart while negotiating this howling political wilderness?

Even in this era of oversized fear and diminished imagination, there are some among us--nonconformists, creative thinkers, artists and occupiers--who welcome (rather than cower before) the metaphorical image of wolves (that are recognize as fellow outcasts). Instead of being shamed by outsider status, they have been suckled and raised by wolves--i.e., by embracing their fate of having been cast-out into the wilderness.

Nourished by the spirit of defiance, some thrive when freed from the constraints of a habitual adherence to groupthink. The dark terrain of societal abandonment becomes their natural habitat: They howl at the moon; they reject the daylight world of bland consensus; they learn to see in the dark, apprehending their own interior darkness and, as a result, gaining understanding into the hearts of darkness beating within those in power.

The wilderness of political activism, of poetry, of art becomes their home: They don't clean-up nicely for the polite company demanded by political duopoly; they don't let themselves be bred down (as a few domesticated wolves did) to yapping Toy Poodles, in exchange for a few food scraps.

When you're looking at a Toy Poodle--you're looking at a former wolf, as, for example, when your looking at corporate press members, you're looking at folks whose ancestors long ago were journalists.

One moment, you're loping through the woods, snout held high, smelling the scent of fresh game on the wind, but the next thing you know--you're being led around on a leash and collar, encrusted with tacky rhinestones, and you're salivating at the sound of an electric can-opener. One moment, you're a child, entranced in play, hardwired to eternity--next moment, you're sitting at work and your passions, hopes and yearnings have been shrunk down to Toy Poodle-sized agendas . . . You're truckling for your boss's approval; you're counting the minutes until break time. Like domesticated livestock and unfortunate animals incarcerated in zoos, you are no longer a noble animal--you have become a Thing That Waits For Lunch.

To resist, we must cast off the fear of being an outcast. The signs bode well for us: Over the last few months, in the company of the OWS pack, I have witnessed the awakening of many...have been graced with the privilege of being in their lupine company as we howled defiant into the darkness of the corporate state night.

One must remember this: We human beings are of nature as well. Accordingly, within us lies an indomitable self, encoded with the grace and fury of the natural world, and, if acknowledged and respected, our authentic nature will awaken and arise. Then the real dogfight begins: The fur will fly, as we fight, fang and claw, to retake the lost landscape of our collective humanity, and, by extension, begin the struggle to restore health, imagination and empathy to a nation of cage-accepting, imperium-countenancing, sick puppies.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Shoveling America's Wealth To The Top

As an old country saying puts it, "Money is like manure - it does no good unless you spread it around."

Yet, America's corporate and political leaders have intentionally been shoveling wealth into an ever-bigger pile for those at the top. They've gotten away with this by lying to the great majority, which has seen its share of America's prosperity steadily disappear. Yes, they've told us, the rich are getting richer, but that's just the natural workings of the new global economy, in which financial elites are rewarded for their exceptional talents, innovation, and bold risk-taking.

Horse dooties. The massive redistribution of America's wealth from the many to the few is happening because the rich and their political puppets have rigged the system. Years of subsidized offshoring and downsizing, gutting labor rights, monkeywrenching the tax code, legalizing financial finagling, dismantling social programs, increasing the political dominance of corporate cash - these and other self-serving acts of the moneyed powers have created the conveyor belt that's moving our wealth from the grassroots to the penthouses.

Not since the Gilded Age, which preceded and precipitated the Great Depression, have so few amassed so much of our nation's riches. Having learned nothing from 1929's devastating crash, nor from their own bank failures in 2008 that crushed our economy, the wealthiest of the wealthy fully intend to keep taking more for themselves at our expense.

Now, however, the people are onto their lies. In an October poll, two-thirds of Americans support increased taxes on millionaires, an end to corporate tax subsidies, and policies to more evenly distribute the wealth we all help create. This is rising egalitarianism shows the true American character, and it's changing our politics - for the better.
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Help Bring New Rule In New Year
By Helen Thomas

A Syrian, fighting the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime, asks "where is the world?" That is the important question. Where is everyone when people - especially neighbors - are fighting to throw off the shackles of tyranny?

The Syrians need help to rid themselves of Assad's brutal rule. Assad had been able to muster support from the army, Syria's loyalists, and China and Russia before they began to waiver in their support of Assad.

Still, as 2011 is coming to a close, there are good signs that the people-power movement is not only still alive, but seems to be spreading to Russia.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he welcomes a "dialogue," but all that is within limits. Putin is not ready to give in to the opposition. Although he is still in the driver's seat, and he is still calling the shots, Putin knows he is on shaky ground.

No dictator in the Middle East is on solid ground, and it is doubtful Assad is sleeping very well at night. He may be well guarded, but Assad's ruthless rule has made him one of the most hated men in the Middle East.

He is western educated and much was expected of him. So much for that. We cannot forget that he has left a trail of blood to match his brutal father, who slaughtered his way to power and perpetrated a ruthless crackdown on an uprising in the Syrian city of Hama.

Assad has been barbaric in his drive to keep control when the future seems to bode an end for tyrant dictators in a region where they have prevailed much too long.

The revolutionary atmosphere has been dormant for years. It took the anger of a Tunisian produce vendor who was publicly slapped in the face - a slap heard around the world - by a female municipal inspector. Humiliated, he found no help from higher up officials and immolated himself. His story went viral and caught the sympathy of the Arab masses.

So far the dictators of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia have fallen. The United States dispensed of Iraq's Saddam Hussein in a now-ended eight-and-a-half-year war. By the end of the New Year, we can foresee several new rulers emerging from the revolutionary spirit in the Middle East.

It's not over yet. There is concern with the potential outcome of a forthcoming power play, especially in Egypt where the leadership could be up for grabs.

The Arab drive for freedom stems from years of police state rule and suffering. The Syrians have tolerated a century of French rule, followed by military dictators, one after another. The dictators were only eliminated by assassination.

There is no stopping the on-going revolts in the Middle East. The cry for freedom has been heard around the world once again.

The U.S. has a leadership role to play. We have been preaching freedom since the American Revolution, and the world has heard the rallying call.

We should be happy to see others practice what we preach.

The fate of these countries in turmoil depends on the people understanding their own power after disposing of one-man rule that had persisted for many, many years.

America can make a tremendous contribution to help lead these people out of their wilderness. We should seize the moment and play our traditional role of healing the wounds and leading these nations to a brighter day. It is an opportunity provided by oppressed people who have opened their doors and need our help. We did it after World War II, when we lent a helping hand to a defeated enemy. We should do it again.
(c) 2012 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Mitt Romney (left) and Marco Rubio.

The GOP Ticket In 2012: Romney-Rubio
By Robert Reich

Since my New Year's prediction that Obama would select Hillary Clinton for his running mate in 2012 (and Joe Biden would become Secretary of State), I've been swamped by requests for my GOP prediction. Here goes.

You can forget the caucuses and early primaries. Mitt Romney will be the nominee. Republicans may be stupid but the GOP isn't about to commit suicide.

The other candidates are all weighed down by enough baggage to keep a 747 on the tarmac indefinitely.

For his running mate, Romney will choose Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida. Why do I say this?

First, Romney will need a right-winger to calm and woo the Republican right. Tea Partiers are attracted to Rubio - an evangelical Christian committed to reducing taxes and shrinking government. Rubio's meteoric rise in the Florida House before coming to Congress was based on a string of conservative stances on state issues.

Rubio is also a proven campaigner, handily winning four Florida House elections starting in 2002, and then beating popular incumbent Republican governor Charlie Crist in 2010 - with the help of Tea Partiers.

Moreover, he's only 40, thereby giving the GOP ticket some youthful vigor.

And he's Hispanic - a Cuban-American - at a time when the GOP needs to court the Hispanic vote.

Rubio's only baggage is the "son of exiles" controversy - his suggestion that his parents were refugees forced out of Cuba by Castro when in fact they moved to the United States before the Cuban revolution.

But this isn't the sort of slip that would keep him off the ticket. In fact, Romney has defended Rubio, saying "I think the world of Marco Rubio, support him entirely and think that the effort to try to smear him was unfortunate and bogus."

Finally, and most critically, Florida is a crucial swing state. Rubio would help deliver it.

So it will be Obama-Clinton versus Romney-Rubio.

And what's my prediction for Election Day? Obama-Clinton hands down.

I warn you, though. Political predictions, economic forecasts, and astrology differ in only one respect. Astrology has a fairly good record of being correct.
© 2012 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

How Americans Really Feel About Drugs
A NYT op-ed uses "moderate" double-speak to deny the truth: Most people want marijuana legalized
By David Sirota

Almost exactly eight years ago, I wrote an essay for the Nation magazine looking at how terms such as "centrism" and "moderate" were beginning to be deftly manipulated to shape the parameters of America's political discourse. In almost every policy debate, these words were being used in with-us-or-against-us fashion to delineate what was - and what was not - acceptable. Through such linguistic propaganda over the last decade, America was gradually taught that anything called "centrist" or "moderate" was Good and Serious because it supposedly represented "mainstream" thinking in America - even as "centrism" was being used to describe policies and politicians that, based on empirical data, increasingly diverged from the actual center of our nation's public opinion. By contrast, anything positioned in opposition to that branding was wild-eyed "leftist," "extremist," "ideological," "fringe" - and most of all, Evil and Unserious.

As dishonest as this kind of agitprop is, it unfortunately - but predictably - continues unabated. This is, after all, the golden era of agitprop - a moment in which wars are no longer wars, corporations are people, and top New York Times scribes are given a national platform to declare that a key architect of the Republican Party's infamous K Street Project "is not a representative of the corporate or financial wing of the party." And so when it comes to who is a "centrist" or "moderate," the distortions persist without so much as a peep of editorial protest.

The latest example of this insidious framing comes in the form of a Monday New York Times Op-Ed. The piece is written by Kevin Sabet, formerly one of President Obama's top drug policy officials. Titled "Overdosing on Extremism," he employs the "centrist" and "moderate" code words to criticize those pressing for reforms that, for purposes of law enforcement, would treat currently outlawed drugs such as marijuana just like far more dangerous yet legal drugs such as alcohol. With the possibility of these reform proposals roiling the presidential race and appearing on statewide ballots in 2012, a breathless and hysterical Sabet sounds an old fear-mongering alarm, writing (emphasis added):

Unless we change the tone of the debate to give drug-policy centrists a voice, America's drug problem will only get worse.

Indeed, moderates have historically been key contributors to both the debate and the practice of effective drug policy. In 1914, Representative Francis B. Harrison, a New York Democrat, worked with Republicans and President Woodrow Wilson to pass the first major piece of federal anti-drug legislation, in response to a surge in heroin and cocaine use.

Other moderates, from Theodore Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy, made drug policy an important part of their domestic agendas. President Bill Clinton worked closely with Bob Dole, the Republican Senate majority leader, on sensible measures like drug courts and community policing ...

So where are the moderates now? ... A few tough-on-crime conservatives and die-hard libertarians dominate news coverage and make it appear as if legalizing drugs and "enforcement only" strategies were the only options, despite the fact that the public supports neither ...

There is no magic bullet for America's drug problem. The magnitude and complexity of our drug problem require us to constantly refine and improve our policies through thoughtful analysis, innovation and discussion.

Moderates should lead that conversation. To remain silent not only betrays widely shared values of compassion and justice for the most vulnerable. It also leaves policy in the hands of extremists who would relegate a very serious and consequential discussion to frivolous and dangerous quarters.

If ever a college taught a class in how modern political propaganda works - and how it proceeds without any connection to a shred of fact - this article should be required reading because it is such a pure example.

Mere weeks after Gallup's new poll showed a majority of Americans support full legalization of marijuana, Sabet insists that it's a "fact" that the public doesn't support legalization. And mind you, it's not just Gallup's surveys that show public support for legalization - in state-based polls in politically diverse states like Massachusetts and Colorado, it's essentially the same thing: widespread public support for pot legalization.

This, of course, says nothing of the fact that the very man Sabet earned his official government title from, Barack Obama, was elected to the Senate promoting marijuana decriminalization and then overwhelmingly elected to the White House after a campaign in which he pledged to respect states' decisions to reform their drug laws. It also says nothing of the rise of Ron Paul, an oft-ignored candidate who has been able to overcome media scorn to wage an unexpectedly spirited race for the Republican presidential nomination thanks, in part, to his push to end the Drug War.

None of these facts about public opinion and the drug war are all that surprising; after all, in a recent national television ad campaign, Sabet's own Office of National Drug Control Policy has deemed marijuana "the safest thing in the world." Yet, Sabet says it's a "fact" that the public doesn't support any form of legalization.

How, you ask, can he justify such an assertion? How can he defend his claims considering those poll numbers, the results of the 2008 presidential election, or the rise of anti-drug warrior Paul in the traditionally "just say no" party's presidential primary? He can't, but he doesn't need to in an era where facts no longer matter.

Instead, he (and the New York Times editors and headline writers who published his piece) wholly ignores the indisputable facts and simply deems the millions of Americans in this pro-legalization majority as "extremists" - that is, he pretends that the position in the actual center of public opinion is on the extreme edge of that public opinion. He then asserts that true "centrists" and "moderates" are those who do not support legalization - even though those voices are empirically the extremists whose positions put them far away from the mainstream center of public opinion. And, just for good measure, he employs a bit of ad hominem, suggesting it's just "a few ... die-hard libertarians" who support legalization - ignoring not only the American majority, but the scores of top law enforcement officials who are fighting to end the drug war.

Taken together, Sabet's goal in his Op-Ed is obvious: He's a committed drug warrior with a vested (and, based on his Times billing as a "drug policy consultant," possibly financial) interest in marginalizing those trying to end the drug war. To do that, he's employed the most tried and true instruments of marginalization - the newly redefined notions of "centrism" and "moderate" policymaking. And he's employed them even though the actual facts show that, in comparison to the mass public, he's the fringe extremist.

Now sure, it's certainly true that polls showing strong - and growing - support for legalizing marijuana cannot be fully equated to Americans' views of policies for all drugs. However, marijuana-themed polls and election results are also hardly wholly unrelated to that conversation - and at the very least, those polls and election results should mean that the burden of proof is on someone like Sabet when he declares that being for legalization is the definition of "extremism" and the opposite of "centrism."

But that burden of proof is nowhere to be found because in the 21st century, "centrism" and "moderate" still have nothing to do with the center of any political debate, or the moderate middle of any policy discussion. They remain political weapons deployed by attention-seeking fabulists against the real centrists and moderates in the American majority.
(c) 2012 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Obama Crowned Himself On New Year's Eve
By David Swanson

These were among the complaints registered the last time this nation had a king:

"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
"He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
"He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. "He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
"He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
"He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
"For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
"For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
"For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: "For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
"He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation."

To prevent the U.S. government from behaving like a king, the drafters of the U.S. Constitution empowered an elected legislature to write every law, to declare every war, and to remove its executive from office. To further prevent the abuse of individuals' rights, those authors wrote into the Constitution, even prior to the Bill of Rights, the right to habeas corpus and the right never to be punished for treason unless convicted in an open court on the testimony of at least two witnesses to an overt act of war or assistance of an enemy.

President Barack Obama waited until New Year's Eve to take an action that I suspect he wanted his willfully deluded followers to have a good excuse not to notice. On that day, Obama issued an unconstitutional signing statement rewriting a law as he signed it into law, a practice that candidate Obama had rightly condemned. The law that Obama was signing was the most direct assault yet seen on the basic structure of self-governance and human rights that once made all the endless U.S. shouting of "We're number one!" significantly less ludicrous. The National Defense Authorization Act is not a leap from democracy to tyranny, but it is another major step on a steady and accelerating decade-long march toward a police-and-war state.

President Obama has claimed the power to imprison people without a trial since his earliest months in office. He spoke in front of the Constitution in the National Archives while gutting our founding document in 2009. President Obama has claimed the power to torture "if needed," issued an executive order claiming the power of imprisonment without trial, exercised that power on a massive scale at Bagram, and claimed and exercised the power to assassinate U.S. citizens. Obama routinely kills people with unmanned drones.

The bill just signed into law, as sent to the President, said this:

"Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force."

In other words, Congress was giving its stamp of approval to the unconstitutional outrages already claimed by the President. But then, why create a new law at all? Well, because some outrages are more equal than others, and Congress had chosen to specify some of those and in fact to expand some of them. For example:

"Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war."

And this:

"The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following: (1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force."

Jon Stewart explained when those detained without trial under the law might be released: "So when the war on terror ends, and terror surrenders and is no longer available as a human emotion, you are free to go."

An exception for U.S. legal residents and citizens was kept out of the bill at President Obama's request.

So why did Obama threaten to veto the bill initially and again after it passed the Senate? Well, one change made by the conference committee was this (note the crossed-through text):

"The Secretary of Defense President may, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, waive the requirement of paragraph (1) if the Secretary President submits to Congress a certification in writing that such a waiver is in the national security interests of the United States."

The reference here is to military tribunals. The President - that is, the current one and future ones - need not hand someone over even to a military tribunal if . . . well, if he (or she) chooses not to.

That was the most power Obama could have transferred to the White House in this bill. But it was not absolute power, and was therefore not good enough. Hence the signing statement, the relevant portion of which begins:

"Moving forward, my Administration will interpret and implement the provisions described below in a manner that best preserves the flexibility on which our safety depends and upholds the values on which this country was founded."

This is Bush-Cheneyspeak for "I will not comply with the following sections of this law despite signing it into law."

After having persuaded the Congress to remove an exception for U.S. legal residents, Obama has the nerve in the signing statement to assert, not that the law makes any such exception, but that he personally will choose to do so, at least for U.S. citizens. Future presidents may lock U.S. citizens up without trials, but Obama won't do so. He promises:

"I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law."

The first two sentences above are highly unusual if not unprecedented. Most, if not all, of Bush and Obama's law-altering signing statements up to this point have not sought to clarify what a particular administration would choose to do. Rather, they have focused on declaring parts of the laws invalid. Usually this is done in a manner misleadingly similar to the third sentence above. By claiming the power to interpret a law in line with the Constitution, Bush and Obama have each on numerous occasions asserted the view that the Constitution grants presidents far-reaching powers that cannot be restricted by legislation. If Obama had wanted to deny that this law could be applied to U.S. citizens (or legal residents), the above paragraph would look very different, although equally unusual in that it would then be rejecting power rather than claiming it.

Also note, as Marcy Wheeler has already pointed out, Section 1021 applies to any detention, and Obama promises only not to subject U.S. citizens to indefinite military detention. While locked away forever without a trial you'll be able to take comfort that yours is a non-military imprisonment.

Also, remember that Obama claims and exercises the power to kill U.S. citizens or anyone else (arguably at least as serious a violation of rights as imprisonment!), and for that he will use the military if he sees fit, or even allow the military to operate freely.

Also notice that legal residents are not included in the category of citizens.

Next, Obama declares Section 1022 on military custody "ill-conceived." His personal right to a waiver, won through the conference committee, was not enough. Obama insists on also erasing this section of law: "I reject," he writes,

"any approach that would mandate military custody where law enforcement provides the best method of incapacitating a terrorist threat. While section 1022 is unnecessary and has the potential to create uncertainty, I have signed the bill because I believe that this section can be interpreted and applied in a manner that avoids undue harm to our current operations. I have concluded that section 1022 provides the minimally acceptable amount of flexibility to protect national security. Specifically, I have signed this bill on the understanding that section 1022 provides the executive branch with broad authority to determine how best to implement it, and with the full and unencumbered ability to waive any military custody requirement, including the option of waiving appropriate categories of cases when doing so is in the national security interests of the United States. … I will therefore interpret and implement section 1022 in the manner that best preserves the same flexible approach that has served us so well for the past 3 years and that protects the ability of law enforcement professionals to obtain the evidence and cooperation they need to protect the Nation."

Obama goes on to reject several other sections of the law, including restrictions on his unlimited power to rendition prisoners to other countries. Among the notable rejections is this:

"Sections 1023-1025 needlessly interfere with the executive branch's processes for reviewing the status of detainees. Going forward, consistent with congressional intent as detailed in the Conference Report, my Administration will interpret section 1024 as granting the Secretary of Defense broad discretion to determine what detainee status determinations in Afghanistan are subject to the requirements of this section."

In other words, U.S. prisoners held in Afghanistan will not be given even any formal pretense of a legalistic review of their status unless Obama and his Secretary of "Defense" see fit.

I've just been editing a forthcoming book in which one of the contributors writes:

"In 1971, Congress passed the Anti-Detention Act, 18 U.S.C. § 4001(a), which states that "no person shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress." Fred Koramatsu, who had brought the unsuccessful case before the Supreme Court, was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor. Congress apologized and provided for limited reparations for this heinous act."

The author is referring to the unconstitutional indefinite detention of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II. This type of criminal abuse for which Congress had to apologize and pay reparations, and for which there is a misleadingly pro-war-looking memorial hidden between the U.S. Capitol and Union Station, has now been effectively sanctioned by our Constitutional Scholar in Chief.

My chief regret is that we have not seen the major resistance we could have, and without any doubt would have, seen to this if only Obama were a Republican.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Politics Of Lowered Expectations
By Ralph Nader

Ezra Klein, the bright, young, economic policy columnist for the "Washington Post" believes that Obama came out ahead last year in the "administration's bitter, high-stakes negotiations with the Republicans in Congress."

He cites four major negotiations in 2011 with the Republicans that Obama won. Obama won the game of chicken played in February by the House Speaker John Boehner and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell to avoid a government shutdown. He won the battle to raise the customarily supported debt ceiling on government borrowing. He avoided an embarrassment after he had to concur in the formation of a "Supercommittee" on deficit reduction when Congress couldn't come to an agreement. And he won all of a two-month extension of the social security payroll tax cut and extension of unemployment compensation benefits.

If those were "high stakes," I wonder what microscopic instrument would detect any lower stakes. Obama keeps "winning battles" that he could have avoided. But what about taking the offensive on some really significant matters? For example, when he caved in December 2010 to the minority Republicans and agreed to extend the deficit-producing Bush tax cuts on the rich, he didn't demand in return a continuation of the regular bi-partisan approval of lifting the debt limit. So over weeks in 2011, he had to mud-wrestle the Republicans on the debt limit - to the dismay of finance ministers across the world - and won only after conceding the bizarre creation of a Supercommittee to order its own Congress to enact budget cuts. That Supercommittee gridlocked and closed down.

Finally, if he does nothing, the $4 trillion over 10 years that are the Bush tax cuts expire automatically on January 1, 2013 - after the election. On the same day, the spending trigger automatically kicks in which cuts over ten years $500 billion from the bloated Defense budget and another $500 billion from other departments, but not from social security and Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries.

This is an Obama victory? What makes Mr. Klein so sure Obama won't cave again? He has all this year to do so. His own Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has often said that there's no way he would go for any further defense cuts. Also, Obama was ready in 2011 to raise the Medicare eligibility age in return for the deal on debt ceiling. He was saved from this folly only by the stubbornness of Boehner and his clenched-teeth sidekick, Virginian Eric Cantor from the arguably most passive Congressional district in the U.S. Boehner and Cantor wanted more.

Here are some high stakes fights where the Republicans defeated the White House and blocked major substantive advances. They stopped the wide-ranging energy bill, and stifled Uncle Sam's authority to bargain for drug discounts that taxpayers are paying to the gouging drug companies for the drug benefit program for the elderly. They kept the coal industry King Coal on Capitol Hill, preserved crass corporate welfare and tax loophole programs, and blocked the able nominee to head the new agency to protect against consumer finance abuses. They also cut budgets for small but crucial safety programs in food, auto safety, and children's hunger.

Republicans preserved the notorious nuclear power loan guarantee boondoggles, a bevy of Soviet-era weapons systems nestled in the arms of the military-industrial complex and mercilessly beat up on the work and budget of the cancer-preventing, illness-reducing Environmental Protection Agency. That's just for starters.

Obama and the majority Democrats in the Senate dug this hole for themselves when they failed to curtail the filibuster in January 2009 and 2011 by majority vote. They doomed themselves to the numerically impossible hurdle of needing 60 votes to pass any measure and avoid filibusters.

Putting themselves on the defensive, while dialing business lobbyists for the same campaign dollars as the Republicans, the Obama crowd, of course, could not advance what they promised the American people. They went silent on raising the federal minimum wage to $9.50, promised by candidate Obama in 2008 for 2011. At $9.50, it would still have been less than the federal minimum wage in 1968, adjusted for inflation. Hardly a radical proposal.

Obama went silent on the card check, promised unorganized American workers in their losing struggle with multinational corporate employers. While bailing out the criminal gamblers on Wall Street, he could have pressed for a stock transaction sales tax that could have raised big revenue and helped dampen speculation with other peoples' money such as pension funds and mutual fund savings.

He could have pushed seriously for a visible public works program producing domestic jobs in thousands of communities for improved public services. He could have directly challenged the Tea Partiers with cuts in corporate welfare, but he did not, except for ending an ethanol subsidy. He could have made a big deal of cracking down on corporate fraud on Medicare and Medicaid that totals tens of billions of dollars a year. However, once on the defensive from his own self-inflicted weak hand, he was always on the defensive.

Obama may be in a superior tactical position vis-a-vis the Congressional Republicans, as Mr. Klein posits, but is this all there is left of the touted movement for hope and change in 2008?

President Obama is deemed by his fellow Democrats to have won the financial battles, but the Republicans won the rest. How can the expectation levels of this two party duopoly sink any lower?

Let's face it, if today's Republicans are the most craven, greedy, ignorant, anti-worker, anti-patient, anti-consumer, anti-environment and coddlers of corporate crime in the party's history, why aren't the Democrats landsliding them?

For two answers try reading John F. Kennedy's best-selling Profiles of Courage, 1955, or if you favor the ancients, Plutarch's Lives (circa 100 A.D.).
(c) 2012 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Nobody Understands Debt
By Paul Krugman

In 2011, as in 2010, America was in a technical recovery but continued to suffer from disastrously high unemployment. And through most of 2011, as in 2010, almost all the conversation in Washington was about something else: the allegedly urgent issue of reducing the budget deficit.

This misplaced focus said a lot about our political culture, in particular about how disconnected Congress is from the suffering of ordinary Americans. But it also revealed something else: when people in D.C. talk about deficits and debt, by and large they have no idea what they're talking about - and the people who talk the most understand the least.

Perhaps most obviously, the economic "experts" on whom much of Congress relies have been repeatedly, utterly wrong about the short-run effects of budget deficits. People who get their economic analysis from the likes of the Heritage Foundation have been waiting ever since President Obama took office for budget deficits to send interest rates soaring. Any day now!

And while they've been waiting, those rates have dropped to historical lows. You might think that this would make politicians question their choice of experts - that is, you might think that if you didn't know anything about our postmodern, fact-free politics.

But Washington isn't just confused about the short run; it's also confused about the long run. For while debt can be a problem, the way our politicians and pundits think about debt is all wrong, and exaggerates the problem's size.

Deficit-worriers portray a future in which we're impoverished by the need to pay back money we've been borrowing. They see America as being like a family that took out too large a mortgage, and will have a hard time making the monthly payments.

This is, however, a really bad analogy in at least two ways.

First, families have to pay back their debt. Governments don't - all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base. The debt from World War II was never repaid; it just became increasingly irrelevant as the U.S. economy grew, and with it the income subject to taxation.

Second - and this is the point almost nobody seems to get - an over-borrowed family owes money to someone else; U.S. debt is, to a large extent, money we owe to ourselves.

This was clearly true of the debt incurred to win World War II. Taxpayers were on the hook for a debt that was significantly bigger, as a percentage of G.D.P., than debt today; but that debt was also owned by taxpayers, such as all the people who bought savings bonds. So the debt didn't make postwar America poorer. In particular, the debt didn't prevent the postwar generation from experiencing the biggest rise in incomes and living standards in our nation's history.

But isn't this time different? Not as much as you think.

It's true that foreigners now hold large claims on the United States, including a fair amount of government debt. But every dollar's worth of foreign claims on America is matched by 89 cents' worth of U.S. claims on foreigners. And because foreigners tend to put their U.S. investments into safe, low-yield assets, America actually earns more from its assets abroad than it pays to foreign investors. If your image is of a nation that's already deep in hock to the Chinese, you've been misinformed. Nor are we heading rapidly in that direction.

Now, the fact that federal debt isn't at all like a mortgage on America's future doesn't mean that the debt is harmless. Taxes must be levied to pay the interest, and you don't have to be a right-wing ideologue to concede that taxes impose some cost on the economy, if nothing else by causing a diversion of resources away from productive activities into tax avoidance and evasion. But these costs are a lot less dramatic than the analogy with an overindebted family might suggest.

And that's why nations with stable, responsible governments - that is, governments that are willing to impose modestly higher taxes when the situation warrants it - have historically been able to live with much higher levels of debt than today's conventional wisdom would lead you to believe. Britain, in particular, has had debt exceeding 100 percent of G.D.P. for 81 of the last 170 years. When Keynes was writing about the need to spend your way out of a depression, Britain was deeper in debt than any advanced nation today, with the exception of Japan.

Of course, America, with its rabidly antitax conservative movement, may not have a government that is responsible in this sense. But in that case the fault lies not in our debt, but in ourselves.

So yes, debt matters. But right now, other things matter more. We need more, not less, government spending to get us out of our unemployment trap. And the wrongheaded, ill-informed obsession with debt is standing in the way.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume."
~~~ Noam Chomsky

The Wormwood Express
American War Crime Rolls On
By Chris Floyd

I had much to say about the recent terror bombings in Baghdad, which were framed almost universally in the American media as the result of the withdrawal of the steadying, beneficent hand of the U.S. military. For example, the New York Times spoke of "a country reeling from political and sectarian turmoil that erupted after the departure of the American military."

It is hard to fathom the level of moral blindness -- not to mention the wilful ignorance -- required to write such a statement. To pretend to oneself, much less the rest of the world, that political and sectarian strife has only now "erupted" in Iraq, out of the blue, or more likely, due to the inherent savagery of those poor primitives we liberated -- think what a pathetic, self-deluded wretch you would have to be to hold such an belief. Think what it must be like to lose so much of your humanity and to have your intellect so stunted and diminished. Yet this is the viewpoint of the overwhelming majority of the American political and media elite. No causal connection is made between the unprovoked invasion by U.S. forces and the "eruption" of violence and political chaos in the conquered, broken, blood-soaked land.

So yes, there is much to say about the continuing obscenity of the American war crime in Iraq, and its most recent manifestation in the eviscerated bodies on Baghdad's streets. But I think in this instance, I should put my voice aside and let an actual Iraqi speak of the situation and its implications and causes. Sami Ramadani writes powerfully of the hell that has been unleashed in his hometown. From the Guardian:

Baghdad, the city of my childhood, is again being terrorised by cowardly attacks aimed at spilling the blood of as many workers, students, shoppers and bystanders as possible. As I write, the facts are becoming clearer: the hundreds of murdered and injured men, women and children are Shia, Sunni, Christian, Arab, Kurd, Turkuman - a cross-section of the mosaic of peoples who have inhabited Mesopotamia for more than 1,000 years.

So, who is killing the innocent in Baghdad today, and why?

In the rush to provide an explanation for the nihilistic violence, the same old simplistic mantra is trotted out. Thursday's co-ordinated, simultaneous attacks are invariably described by the media as sectarian. Few pause to ask why a "sectarian" attack would be aimed at all sects and ethnicities equally. Only a handful raise the possibility that these attacks are not sectarian in motive, or a reflection of sectarian hatred on the streets, but are instead designed to create sectarian entrenchment and animosity, and ignite street conflict.

Similarly, analysts are quick to conclude that both the power struggle within the political elite, and the explosions are the result of the withdrawal of US troops. They portray the US forces as the good Samaritan who prematurely left the scene. Too few examine the legacy of the occupiers' poisonous presence at the heart of Iraqi society for nearly nine years, or ask why the US has built the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad, staffed by 15,000 personnel and spies.

Today's bitter power struggle can be traced back to the measured 2003 decisions made by Paul Bremer . Bremer, a Bush "civilian" appointed to rule Iraq, continued the military occupation under a different guise. Faced with massive popular opposition and armed resistance to the US-led invasion, the US recognised in 2003 that the occupation of Iraq could not continue without a prominent Iraqi component, so Bremer formed the Iraqi governing council while retaining control of all levers of power.

The mix of the 25-member council was carefully calibrated, with quotas to reflect Iraq's sectarian and ethnic makeup. That sectarian formula was to be mirrored in all Bremer's appointments. Far from preventing sectarianism, it introduced it to all the political and military institutions created by the occupation. .....

Such is the anger at the occupation that many Iraqis think the US was behind Thursday's attack. This belief is dismissed as conspiratorial, but it is widely held. There is a reason for this. Apart from the horrific violence committed directly by the occupation forces and Pentagon-contracted mercenaries, the US also created Iraqi secret militia, and smuggled tens of thousands of weapons and tons of explosives into Iraq through private firms in Bosnia .... Indiscriminate killings and terrorist attacks were a permanent feature of the US-led occupation, and to many ordinary Iraqis, Thursday's bloodshed is just more of the same.

Similarly, ordinary Iraqis see their current rulers, who arrived with the occupation, as self-seeking, corrupt politicians who use religious and ethnic differences to perpetuate sectarianism as a means of creating power bases ...

The truth of what happened and is happening in Iraq is well-documented. The illegal invasion based on knowing and deliberate lies; the active fomenting of sectarian militias by the occupation forces; the use of death squads by the occupiers and their local allies; the widespread indiscriminate killing of Iraqi civilians by the occupiers and the local security forces they armed, paid and trained; the world-historical levels of looting and corruption on the part of the occupiers' war profiteers and their local appointees -- all of this and much more of the story of the suffering, anguish and degradation inflicted on the Iraqis by the invaders has been plainly evident for years. I have written about it on this site and elsewhere since the beginning, drawing almost entirely on mainstream sources of information, easily accessible to any ordinary citizen.

It requires no specialist knowledge, no insider connections, no secret sources to know and see the horrendous reality that the Americans and their accomplices have created in Iraq. As we noted here the other day, all that it requires is a willful turning away from reality into the maniacal hallucination of fear-ridden righteousness that has swallowed the American mind: a hysterical dream-world where the giving-over to evil bears no fruit, has no consequences, can always be absolved, repaired, reversed. But time's arrow flies in only one direction: the past cannot be undone, and the poison we have served to others -- and poured into our own veins -- will eat through the walls of the hallucination and stain the future deep with horror.
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd


Everything And Nothing
An Interview with Lawrence M. Krauss
By Sam Harris

Lawrence M. Krauss is a renowned cosmologist, popularizer of science, and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is the author of more than 300 scientific publications and 8 books, including the bestselling The Physics of Star Trek. His interests include the early universe, the nature of dark matter, general relativity and neutrino astrophysics. He is also a friend and an advisor to my nonprofit foundation, Project Reason. Lawrence generously took time to answer a few questions about his new book, A Universe from Nothing.


One of the most common justifications for religious faith is the idea that the universe must have had a creator. You've just written a book alleging that a universe can arise from "nothing." What do you mean by "nothing" and how fully does your thesis contradict a belief in a Creator God?

Indeed, the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" which forms the subtitle of the book, is often used by the faithful as an unassailable argument that requires the existence of God, because of the famous claim, "out of nothing, nothing comes." While the chief point of my book is to describe for the interested layperson the remarkable revolutions that have taken place in our understanding of the universe over the past 50 years-revolutions that should be celebrated as pinnacles of our intellectual experience-the second goal is to point out that this long-held theological claim is spurious. Modern science has made the something-from-nothing debate irrelevant. It has changed completely our conception of the very words "something" and "nothing". Empirical discoveries continue to tell us that the Universe is the way it is, whether we like it or not, and 'something' and 'nothing' are physical concepts and therefore are properly the domain of science, not theology or philosophy. (Indeed, religion and philosophy have added nothing to our understanding of these ideas in millennia.) I spend a great deal of time in the book detailing precisely how physics has changed our notions of "nothing," for example. The old idea that nothing might involve empty space, devoid of mass or energy, or anything material, for example, has now been replaced by a boiling bubbling brew of virtual particles, popping in and out of existence in a time so short that we cannot detect them directly. I then go on to explain how other versions of "nothing"-beyond merely empty space-including the absence of space itself, and even the absence of physical laws, can morph into "something." Indeed, in modern parlance, "nothing" is most often unstable. Not only can something arise from nothing, but most often the laws of physics require that to occur.

Now, having said this, my point in the book is not to suggest that modern science is incompatible with at least the Deistic notion that perhaps there is some purpose to the Universe (even though no such purpose is manifest on the basis of any of our current knowledge, and moreover there is no logical connection between any possible "creator" and the personal God of the world's major religions, who cares about humanity's destiny). Rather, what I find remarkable is the fact that the discoveries of modern particle physics and cosmology over the past half century allow not only a possibility that the Universe arose from nothing, but in fact make this possibility increasingly plausible. Everything we have measured about the universe is not only consistent with a universe that came from nothing (and didn't have to turn out this way!), but in fact, all the new evidence makes this possibility ever more likely. Darwin demonstrated how the remarkable diversity of life on Earth, and the apparent design of life, which had been claimed as evidence for a caring God, could in fact instead be arrived at by natural causes involving purely physical processes of mutation and natural selection. I want to show something similar about the Universe. We may never prove by science that a Creator is impossible, but, as Steven Weinberg has emphasized, science admits (and for many of us, suggests) a universe in which one is not necessary.

I cannot hide my own intellectual bias here. As I state in the first sentence of the book, I have never been sympathetic to the notion that creation requires a creator. And like our late friend, Christopher Hitchens, I find the possibility of living in a universe that was not created for my existence, in which my actions and thoughts need not bend to the whims of a creator, far more enriching and meaningful than the other alternative. In that sense, I view myself as an anti-theist rather than an atheist.

I'd like to linger on the concept of "nothing" for a moment, because I find it interesting. You have described three gradations of nothing-empty space, the absence of space, and the absence of physical laws. It seems to me that this last condition-the absence of any laws that might have caused or constrained the emergence of matter and space-time-really is a case of "nothing" in the strictest sense. It strikes me as genuinely incomprehensible that anything-laws, energy, etc.-could spring out of it. I don't mean to suggest that conceivability is a guide to possibility-there may be many things that happen, or might happen, which we are not cognitively equipped to understand. But the emergence of something from nothing (in this final sense) does strike me as a frank violation of the categories of human thought (akin to asserting that the universe is a round square), or the mere declaration of a miracle. Is there any physical reason to believe that such nothing was ever the case? Might it not be easier to think about the laws of physics as having always existed?

That's a very good question, and it actually strikes to the heart of one of the things I wanted to stress most in the book. Because a frank violation of the categories of human thought is precisely what the Universe does all of the time. Quantum mechanics, which governs the behavior of our Universe on very small scales, is full of such craziness, which defies common sense in the traditional sense. So small squares are sometimes round... namely systems can be in many different states at the same time, including ones which are mutually exclusive! Crazy, I know, but true... That is the heart of why the quantum universe is so weird. So, yes, it would be easier to think about the laws of physics as always having existed, but "easy" does not always coincide with "true." Once again, my mantra: The Universe is the way it is, whether we like it or not.

Now to hit the second part of your question... do we have any reason to suppose the laws themselves came into existence along with our universe? Yes... current ideas coming from particle physics allow a number of possibilities for multiple universes, in each of which some of the laws of physics, at least, would be unique to that universe. Now, do we have any models where all the laws (including even, say, quantum mechanics?) came into being along with the universe? No. But we know so little about the possibilities that this certainly remains one of them.

But even more germane to your question perhaps... do we have any physical reason to believe that such nothing was ever the case? Absolutely, because we are talking about our universe, and that doesn't preclude our universe arising from precisely nothing, embedded in a perhaps infinite space, or infinite collection of spaces, or spaces-to-be, some of which existed before ours came into being, and some of which are only now coming into, or going out of existence. In this sense, the multiverse, as it has become known, could be eternal, which certainly addresses one nagging aspect of the issue of First Cause.

I want to keep following this line, because it seems to me that we rarely do it-and I think many people will be interested to learn how a physicist like yourself views the foundations of science. As you know, in every branch of science apart from physics we stand upon an inherited set of concepts and laws that explain the whole enterprise. In neuroscience, for instance, we inherit the principles of chemistry and physics, and these explain everything from the behavior of neurons to the operation of our imaging tools. As one moves "up" in science, the problems become more complex (and for this reason the science inevitably gets "softer"), and we find very little reason to contemplate the epistemological underpinnings of science itself. So I'd like you to briefly tell us how you and your colleagues view the fact that certain descriptions of reality might be true, and testable, but impossible to understand. I had thought, for instance, that most physicists were unsatisfied with the strangeness of QM and still held out hope that a more fundamental theory would put things right, yielding a picture of reality that we could truly grasp, rather than merely accede to. Is that not true?

Another deep and difficult question Sam! A full answer would probably take more room than we have here, and I have tried to address this issue to some extent both in A Universe from Nothing and my books Fear of Physics and Hiding in the Mirror. First of all, let me address the issue of "understanding." There are aspects of the universe, such as the fact that three-dimensional space can be curved, which cannot be "understood" in an intuitive sense because we are three-dimensional beings. Just like the two-dimensional beings in the famous book Flatland, who had no idea how to truly picture a sphere, we cannot visualize a three-dimensional closed universe, for example. This does not stop us, however, from developing mathematics that completely describes such a universe. So, our mathematics can model such a universe and allow us to make predictions we can test, and therefore provide an "explanation" of the universe that is comprehensible, even if not intuitively understandable.

But there is something even more profound about the nature of "scientific truth" that has arisen in physics, which I don't think is generally appreciated. It is the simple fact that we realize that none of our theories are "true" in the sense that they adequately describe nature on all scales. All of our physical theories, as we now understand them, have limited domains of validity, which we can actually quantify in an accurate way. Even Quantum Electrodynamics, which is the best tested theory in nature, allowing us to predict the energy levels of atoms to better than 1 part in a billion, gets subsumed in a more general theory, called the Electroweak theory, when it is applied to trying to understand the interactions of quarks and electrons on scales 100 times smaller than the size of protons. Now, as Richard Feynman emphasized, we have no idea if this process will continue, if we will peel back the layers of reality like an onion, whether the process will never end, or whether we will truly come up with a fundamental theory that allows us to extrapolate our understanding to all scales. As he pointed out, it doesn't really matter, because what we scientists want to do is learn about how the universe works, and at each stage we learn something new. We may hope the universe has some fundamental explanation, but as I keep emphasizing, the universe is the way it is, whether we like it or not, and our job is to be brave enough to keep trying to understand it better, and to accept the reality that nature imposes upon us.

It is true that some physicists find the strangeness of Quantum Mechanics unsatisfying and suspect that it might be embedded in a more fundamental theory that seems less crazy. But hope and reality are not the same thing. Similarly, it may be intellectually unsatisfying to imagine that time began with our universe, so asking what came before is not a sensible question, or to imagine an eternal multiverse which itself was never created, or to never be able to empirically address the question of whether the laws of nature arose spontaneously along with the universe, but we have to keep plugging away regardless, motivated by the remarkable fact that nature has surprises in store for us that we never would have imagined!

Finally, it is the "how" question that is really most important, as I emphasize in the new book. Whenever we ask "why?" we generally mean "How?", because why implies a sense of purpose that we have no reason to believe actually exists. When we ask "Why are there 8 planets orbiting the Sun?" we really mean "How are there 8 planets?"-namely how did the evolution of the solar system allow the formation and stable evolution of 8 large bodies orbiting the Sun. And thus, as I also emphasize, we may never be able to discern if there is actually some underlying universal purpose to the universe, although there is absolutely no scientific evidence of such purpose at this point, what is really important to understanding ourselves and our place in the universe is not trying to parse vague philosophical questions about something and nothing, but rather to try and operationally understand how our universe evolved, and what the future might bring. Progress in physics in the past century has taken us to the threshold of addressing questions we might never have thought were approachable within the domain of science. We may never fully resolve them, but the very fact that we can plausibly address them is worth celebrating. That is the purpose of my book. And it is this intellectual quest that I find so very exciting, and which I want to share more broadly, because it represents to me the very best about what it means to be human.

(c) 2012 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

The Dead Letter Office...

Steve assaults a peaceful protestor!

Heil Obama,

Dear Friedensrichter Rogers,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your ability to violate the Constitution in support of the 1%, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-19-2012. We salute you Herr Rogers, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Potential caucus voters cast shadows on an Iowa state flag in Clive, Iowa January 2, 2012.

Six Ways Iowa Progressives Will Caucus
By John Nichols

Mickey Davis is a smart, politically engaged progressive Iowan with lots of opinions about the presidential race.

And, like a lot of Iowa progressives, he will be caucusing on Tuesday night.

"Of course, I'll caucus," says Davis, as he pauses in a Des Moines coffee shop. Flashing his forearm tattoo of a map of the Hawkeye state, he explains, "We're Iowans. We caucus."

But what is the point of progressives caucusing on Tuesday?

Actually, there are a lot of points to be made, even if most of the media is missing them.The Republicans who are competing to be the candidate of the 1 Percent will get 99 Percent of the media attention that is devoted to the Iowa caucuses. But some of the most exciting activity with regard to the caucuses is not on the right, it's on the left.

Iowa progressives are organizing on a variety of fronts to raise issues, upset expectations and challenge the Republican and Democratic game plans for Tuesday night.

Both the Republican and the Democratic parties will begin their delegate selection processes in Iowa, although the two party caucuses do not operate according to the same rules. The Republicans hold a straw poll that will get most of the attention once the results are in Tuesday night, especially if a surging Rick Santorum elbows his way into a first- or second-place finish. The Democrats hold more traditional "town-meeting" style caucuses, and in many cases they may be little more than groundwork-laying events for President Obama's re-election campaigns. But that will not be the case at every Democratic caucus, just as there will be surprises at GOP gatherings.

The caucuses of the two parties will see interventions by progressives in the form of calls for the endorsement of anti-corporate initiatives, votes for uncommitted slates that have been organized to protest politics as usual, send-them-a-message votes for outlier contenders (particularly Ron Paul) or protests.

Here are six interventions that are worth watching:

1. Using Democratic and Republican Caucuses to Move to Amend

Iowa activists associated with the Move to Amend campaign and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom have been urging Democratic and Republican caucus goers to endorse resolutions calling for the amendment of the US Constitution to counter the US Supreme Court's decision, in the Citizen's United case, removing barriers to corporate spending on campaigns. Local governments across the country have been passing resolutions backing Move to Amend's campaign, as have voters in referendums in Boulder, Colorado, and Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin. The resolutions vary in language but essentially resolve to work to "to defend democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate power by amending the United States Constitution to establish that: 1. Only human beings, not corporations, are endowed with constitutional rights, and 2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech."

While there is some skepticism about whether many Republican caucuses will embrace the proposal, local activists hope to get Democratic caucuses to embrace the amendment campaign and to encourage the inclusion of support for an anti-corporate amendments and language in the Democratic platform.

2. Using Democratic and Republican Caucuses to Promote the 99 Percent's Agenda

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the group that challenged Mitt Romney's "corporations are people, too, my friend" line, has been organizing to make sure that issues are addressed at the caucuses of both parties.

The group, which has deep roots in communities across Iowa, says:

Everyday Iowans can-and should-fight for an economy that works for all of us. We are fed up with business as usual in Washington DC and on Wall Street. We want to let Republican presidential candidates and Barack Obama [know] that we're sick and tired of politicians who care more about corporations than everyday Americans. Therefore we offer these resolutions-and big ideas-at our precinct caucuses and call for their adoption:

Bust up the big banks and throw the crooks in jail. The global financial meltdown and economic collapse were caused by the big banks and corporate CEOs on Wall Street with no regard for the common good. So much wealth and power has been concentrated into the hands of the few that they have been able to break or rewrite the rules, gamble our lives away and get away with it. No more. "Too big to fail" financial institutions should be busted up and rebuilt to serve the needs of everyday people, not corporate greed, and the CEOs responsible must be brought to justice.

Make Wall Street and the 1 percent pay their fair share. After the economic collapse, corporate interests immediately blamed everyday people and hardworking families for a budget crisis we did not create. The money to rebuild this country is not in the back pockets of school-age children, family farmers, teachers, workers or senior citizens. The money is on Wall Street. We need to pass comprehensive tax reform that raises marginal rates on millionaires and billionaires, cracks down on financial speculation and high-frequency trading, and closes corporate tax loopholes.

Stabilize the housing market with across the board principal reductions. The big banks that inflated and then burst the housing bubble with predatory, subprime loans need to write down the debt that has forced 11 million mortgages underwater. Stabilizing underwater mortgages will help fix the housing crisis and stabilize our neighborhoods, pump money back into our economy, and create 1 million jobs annually.

Strengthen, not cut, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These vital public programs are a promise to the American people. Social Security keeps tens of millions of retirees out of poverty and Medicare and Medicaid provide access to affordable care to millions of Americans. We need Medicare for all and to scrap the cap on wages subject to the Social Security tax so everyone pays their fair share.

Break the chokehold that corporate power has over our democracy. Big money has corrupted our political system and allowed the corporate 1 percent to hijack the democratic process. We need voter-owned clean elections, public financing of campaigns, universal voter registration, and an end to corporate personhood.

3. Using the Caucuses to Deliver the "Occupy Wall Street" Message

"Uncommitted" slates have won Iowa caucuses before. In 1972 and 1976, more Democratic caucus votes were cast for the "uncommitted" option than for any of the announced candidates. As recently as 1992, "uncommitted" beat Bill Clinton. On the Republican side, "uncommitted" beat Dob Dole in the 1980 caucus race, and Alexander Haig in 1988.

This year, an "Occupy Iowa Caucus" initiative is urging voters to attend caucuses and back "uncommitted" slates. For Republicans, that would mean rejecting the current crowd of GOP contenders and beginning a process that could lead to sending unaffiliated delegates to the party convention next summer. For Democrats, that would mean rejecting a president who they see as too prone to compromise and backing a slate that is committed to pressing for more progressive policies than those adopted by Obama and his administration.

No matter which party the 99 Percenters caucus with, the message of the initiative is the same: "Every Iowan who identifies with the 99 percent should caucus on the evening of January 3rd. But after years of foreclosure, bailouts, corruption, warfare, corporate welfare and the erosion of our freedoms we cannot support any of the Presidential candidates. We cannot consent to this broken system any longer. We will join with our neighbors and caucus for ‘uncommitted.' Uncommitted means we support no candidates and sends a strong message to the leaders of both parties."

4. Using the Democratic Caucuses to Send a "Healthcare Not Warfare" Message

Several groups are encouraging Democrats to attend party caucuses and vote not for President Obama but for an "uncommitted" slate. Activists associated with the Iowa Health Care Not Warfare Caucus Campaign are "[encouraging] caucus attenders to support delegates at the Democratic caucus who are not yet committed to any presidential candidate, but who support (1) removing all troops from Afghanistan within President Obama's first year in office and (2) the enactment of national health insurance (Medicare for all) during President Obama's second term." The group recently sponsored a training for potential Democratic caucus goers in Iowa City. "I hope people see the point to go uncommitted," declared Jeff Cox, a University of Iowa history professor and former Johnson County Democrats head. "It allows people to go to caucuses and take a stand for peace and hope that Obama pays some attention to it."

Cox appeared at a December 30 Des Moines forum on how progressives should engage in the caucuses, which was organized by Progressive Democrats of America and drew activists from across Iowa.

Even Democrats who back Obama have recognized the significance of the uncommitted movement. John Deeth, a prominent blogger, attended the Iowa City training session to instruct Democrats on caucus procedures and practices. He says he is "for the president." But, Deeth explains, "I have some self interest. I want the Uncommitteds on board with Obama in November. But more than that, I want to be fair in January. These are the Democratic Party caucuses, not the Barack Obama caucuses."

5. Using the GOP Caucuses to Send an Anti-War, Pro-Civil Liberties Message

A number of Iowa Democrats and independents have announced plans to re-register and participate in the Republican caucuses. Some, such as former state Representative Ed Fallon, a veteran activist who mounted a serious campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2006, are urging Iowans to consider several dissident contenders on the GOP side. While Fallon urges those who would attend Democratic caucuses to "go uncommitted," he suggests that progressives attending GOP caucuses should: "Support one of the less extreme candidates: Ron Paul, John Huntsman, Buddy Roemer or Fred Karger. Any of them would provide a far healthier debate with President Obama on key issues. Of course, three of these candidates have long been dismissed by the corporate media and the Republican Party. That's wrong, it's unfair, and pre-picking an ‘acceptable' field of candidates must change.… but that's a battle for another day."

Other progressives are more specific, urging a Ron Paul vote. In an opinion piece that ran in the Des Moines Register, a pair of nationally prominent anti-war activists-Colleen Rowley, an Iowa native and former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and Democratic Congressional candidate, and Dr. John V. Walsh, a professor of microbiology and physiological systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who has been active with Physicians for a National Health Care Plan-wrote: "There is today only one anti-war, anti-corruption, pro-Constitution, pro-civil liberties candidate for president in either party who stands squarely against expanding military empire and for democracy. That candidate is Ron Paul. Like prairie anti-interventionists Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Harold Hughes in an earlier era, Paul is a maverick in his own party. He believes in an adequate force to defend America but not 1 cent for wars of aggression. Tactically it makes sense for anti-war activists to vote in the Republican caucuses/primaries for Paul. If he wins or does well in Iowa and New Hampshire, then the questions of war and peace will appear on the national scene. If Paul goes on to win his party's nomination, these questions will finally make their appearance in the general election."

Responding to legitimate concerns regarding Paul's stances on social and economic issues, Rowley and Walsh argue that "democratic checks and balances" would prevent a President Paul from doing the damage others fear. For instance, they argue: "So long as open debate is preserved, we are confident that programs like Medicare and Social Security will be preserved if Paul were elected. Such programs as Medicare may be more secure with a Republican president, as the Democrats might finally stand up and defend these programs if only to secure votes for their election." At the PDA forum in Des Moines, there were objections to this view, and there were also expressions of broader concerns regarding racially insensitive statements published in Paul's newsletters. Still, some in the crowd stood up and made passionate pleas for using Paul's candidacy to send a clear anti-war and anti-intervention message.

6. Occupying the Political Process

The very active Occupy Des Moines movement-and their friends with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement-has been present on the streets in from of Democratic and Republican campaign offices, and at forums where the candidates appear. They've been peaceful and respectful of the democratic process. But some have been arrested as they have participated in nonviolent civil disobedience. Occupy Des Moines activists were big backers of a "People's Caucus" held on December 27.

"People are tired of being ignored by the political establishment in both parties, tired of having the common good placed last when it comes to government's priorities," says Fallon, one of the organizers of the December 27 event. "Holding the Peoples Caucus before the January 3rd precinct caucuses [told] America's corporate and political elite that we demand that our voices be heard, that the public interest must come first."

The Occupy Des Moines movement, which has been such a presence during the caucus competition, isn't going anywhere.It will be highly present, and highly engaged even after the presidential contenders and most of the national media leaves.

Among the events on tap: Iowa CCI activists are promoting an "Occupy the State Capitol" protest on January 10.

And what will Mickey Davis do Tuesday night?

The college student, who attended his first caucus as an Obama backer in 2008, will attend his local Democratic caucus.

"I'm frustrated with Obama, especially on Guantanamo and civil liberties," he says, "So I'll caucus for uncommitted."

Ultimately, Davis may end up with Obama. But he will try first to use an Iowa Caucus vote to send a message to the president-and the nation.
(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

The NDAA's Historic Assault On American Liberty
By signing into law the NDAA, the president has awarded the military extraordinary powers to detain US citizens without trial
By Jonathan Turley

President Barack Obama rang in the New Year by signing the NDAA law with its provision allowing him to indefinitely detain citizens. It was a symbolic moment, to say the least. With Americans distracted with drinking and celebrating, Obama signed one of the greatest rollbacks of civil liberties in the history of our country ... and citizens partied in unwitting bliss into the New Year.

Ironically, in addition to breaking his promise not to sign the law, Obama broke his promise on signing statements and attached a statement that he really does not want to detain citizens indefinitely (see the text of the statement here). Obama insisted that he signed the bill simply to keep funding for the troops. It was a continuation of the dishonest treatment of the issue by the White House since the law first came to light. As discussed earlier, the White House told citizens that the president would not sign the NDAA because of the provision. That spin ended after sponsor Senator Carl Levin (Democrat, Michigan) went to the floor and disclosed that it was the White House and insisted that there be no exception for citizens in the indefinite detention provision.

The latest claim is even more insulting. You do not "support our troops" by denying the principles for which they are fighting. They are not fighting to consolidate authoritarian powers in the president. The "American way of life" is defined by our constitution and specifically the bill of rights. Moreover, the insistence that you do not intend to use authoritarian powers does not alter the fact that you just signed an authoritarian measure. It is not the use but the right to use such powers that defines authoritarian systems.

The almost complete failure of the mainstream media to cover this issue is shocking. Many reporters have bought into the spin of the Obama administration as they did the spin over torture by the Bush administration. Even today, reporters refuse to call waterboarding torture despite the long line of cases and experts defining waterboarding as torture for decades.

On the NDAA, reporters continue to mouth the claim that this law only codifies what is already the law. That is not true. The administration has fought any challenges to indefinite detention to prevent a true court review. Moreover, most experts agree that such indefinite detention of citizens violates the constitution.

There are also those who continue the longstanding effort to excuse Obama's horrific record on civil liberties by blaming either others or the times. One successful myth is that there is an exception for citizens. The White House is saying that changes to the law made it unnecessary to veto the legislation. That spin is ridiculous. The changes were the inclusion of some meaningless rhetoric after key amendments protecting citizens were defeated. The provision merely states that nothing in the provisions could be construed to alter Americans' legal rights. Since the Senate clearly views citizens as not just subject to indefinite detention but even to execution without a trial, the change offers nothing but rhetoric to hide the harsh reality.

The Obama administration and Democratic members are in full spin mode - using language designed to obscure the authority given to the military. The exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032) is the screening language for the next section, 1031, which offers no exemption for American citizens from the authorisation to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial.

Obama could have refused to sign the bill and the Congress would have rushed to fund the troops. Instead, as confirmed by Senator Levin, the White House conducted a misinformation campaign to secure this power while portraying the president as some type of reluctant absolute ruler, or, as Obama maintains, a reluctant president with dictatorial powers.

Most Democratic members joined their Republican colleagues in voting for this un-American measure. Some Montana citizens are moving to force the removal of these members who, they insist, betrayed their oaths of office and their constituents. Most citizens, however, are continuing to treat the matter as a distraction from the holiday cheer.

For civil libertarians, the NDAA is our Mayan moment: 2012 is when the nation embraced authoritarian powers with little more than a pause between rounds of drinks.
(c) 2012 Jonathan Turley

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Dave Granlund ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

New Rules For The New Year
By Bill Maher

NEW YEAR'S resolutions are the original New Rules. Except that resolutions are usually self-oriented: I am going to lose weight this year. My New Year's resolution, by the way, is to do the ones from '75; I made a lot of good ones that year. I was 19, and thought I could polish them off by age 20. Alas, I'm a little behind.

Also, New Rules are bigger, broader and grander. I don't tell you what I'm going to eat; I tell you how the world should work. Here's what 2011 prompts me to decree for 2012:

New Rule Now that we have no money, and all our soldiers have come home from Iraq and they've all got experience building infrastructure, and no jobs ... we must immediately solve all of our problems by declaring war on the United States.

New Rule If you were a Republican in 2011, and you liked Donald Trump, and then you liked Michele Bachmann, and then you liked Rick Perry, and then you liked Herman Cain, and then you liked Newt Gingrich ... you can still hate Mitt Romney, but you can't say it's because he's always changing his mind.

New Rule Starting next year, any politician caught in a scandal can't go before the press, offer a lame excuse and then say, "Period. End of Story." Here's how you indicate a "period" and the end of a story: shut up.

New Rule The press must stop saying that each debate is "make or break" for Rick Perry and call them what they really are: "break."

New Rule You can't be against same-sex marriage and for Newt Gingrich. No man has ever loved another man as much as Newt Gingrich loves Newt Gingrich.

New Rule Internet headlines have to be more like newspaper headlines. That means they have to tell me something instead of just tricking me into clicking on them. If you write the headline, "She Wore That?" you have to go to your journalism school and give your degree back.

New Rule Let's stop scheduling the presidential election in the same year as the Summer Olympics. I get so exhausted watching those robotic, emotionally stunted, artificial-looking creatures with no real lives striving to do the one thing they're trained to do that I barely have energy left to watch the Olympics.

New Rule No more holiday-themed movies with a cast of thousands unless at least half of them get killed by a natural disaster. Fair's fair - if I have to watch Katherine Heigl and Zac Efron as singles who can't find love, I also get to see them swallowed up by the earth.

New Rule Jon Huntsman must get a sex change. The only way he's going to get any press coverage is by turning into a white woman and disappearing.

New Rule Starting this year, every appliance doesn't need a clock on it. My stove, my dishwasher, my microwave, my VCR - all have clocks on them. If I really cared that much about what time it was (or what year it was), would I still have a VCR?

(c) 2012 Bill Maher is host of HBO's, "Real Time with Bill Maher"and is an author, most recently, of "The New New Rules."

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