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In This Edition

Martin Luther King, Jr. sends a, "Letter From A Birmingham Jail."

Uri Avnery waves, "Hi, Joe!"

Ralph Nader sends a, "Open Letter To President Obama."

Randall Amster finds, "An Old Commons-Based Solution To A 21st Century Crisis."

Jim Hightower exposes, "Boehner's People."

Helen Thomas returns with, "Privatizing Social Security Again?"

Eugene Robinson goes, "Gun Crazy."

Bill Quigley examines, "Serious Guns And White Terrorism."

Chris Floyd considers the, "Silent Surge."

Matthew Rothschild explains, "Jared Lee Loughner And The Far Right."

Paul Krugman over looks, "Climate Of Hate."

Chris Hedges discovers that, "Even Lost Wars Make Corporations Rich."

David Michael Green considers, "All The News That Isn't."

Palin aide Rebecca Mansour wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald reports, "DOJ Subpoenas Twitter Records Of Several WikiLeaks Volunteers."

Robert Scheer uncovers, "Perps In The White House."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz says, "Fox News Warns That Without Angry Rhetoric It Will Have 24 Hours to Fill" but first Uncle Ernie recalls, "An Old American Tradition."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Cal Grondahl, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Paul Fell, Bill Day, Mike Lester, Jeff Parker, Jay Walljasper, Petros Giannakouris, Sarah Palin, Mike Glasgow, Francis Miller/Life Magazine, A.P. 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."

An Old American Tradition
By Ernest Stewart

"Don't retreat, reload!" ~~~ Sarah Palin's motto

Knockin' on your door!
Will you let it come?
Will you let it run your life?
1984 ~~~ Spirit

"Judge, I can't be remorseful for something I don't think I did." ~~~ Tom Delay

A penny for a spool of thread
A penny for a needle,
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

The political murders in Tuscon the other day are just the latest in an old American tradition, i.e., murdering those who are politically left of center. From "honest Abe" to Martin and the Kennedy brothers, American fascists, whether on their own or as members of CIA hit teams, have been killing Liberals for three centuries! One can clearly see what might soon turn into a trend, i.e., shooting Con-gressmen and Sinators, and while that might seem to be a good idea; after all, that they do to us; it's not only bad for your karma, but it's sinking down to their level, and that's a very deep level to sink to. Not to mention murdering innocent bystanders like that 9 year old girl Christina Green is an atrocity. While the anarchist in me might be tempted to look the other way for shooting a blue dog and a Bush-appointed federal judge, the rest of those folks that were murdered and wounded is a heinous crime, unforgivable by any political theory.

I'm also not surprised by this as Sarah, Beck and Tush have been calling for these acts of violence and treason for years, nonstop, without any consequences for their behavior. Imagine if a Muslim or a gay person would have made a map with rifle scope crosshairs on those members of Congress and then one of them got shot. What do you suppose would have happened to them? So why doesn't this call for violence by the three aforementioned traitors have the same endings? Why aren't Tush, Glenn, Sarah and that would be bozoette from Nevada, Sharon Angle, and her "second amendment remedies" locked up and awaiting trial? Now Sharon says it's the Demoncrats fault for even suggesting that her "Second Amendment Remedies" meant something else than what she now says she meant, and Sarah rants on about "Blood Libel" which gives you insight about how she feels about Jews! Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire Sarah! My oh my!

Palin has been rushing around removing all the evidence from her web sites and Twitter accounts. In other words, she's not reloading but "retweeting" like the coward that she is! The rat-wing blogosphere is in a tizzy denying they wanted anyone killed; well, most of them are--some are cheering. One of Sarah's personal goons, Rebecca Mansour, who's been tweeting in defense of her boss since the tragedy took place, is stating that the crosshairs were never intended to be gun sights. Oh really?

"We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights. It was simply crosshairs like you'd see on maps." Mansour then added that "it never occurred to us that anybody would consider it violent" and called any attempts to politicize the Arizona tragedy "repulsive." Oh, please! You want me to believe that Palin the hunter, who has shot everything from field mice to moose through her rifle scope didn't realize that the cross hairs she put on Demoncrats weren't rifle scope cross hairs? Again, oh, please!

Nor is this surprising that it happened in Arizona where the fascists have been beating the drums for war against anyone that isn't fascist, rich and white, for years. In-other-words:

"If your neck is red but the rest is white,
We don't want with you to fight,
But if you're different in any way,
We don't want with you to play!

We all where a sheet pulled over our heads,
When it gets too dirty to sleep on in bed.
And although it is a thing of beauty,
You must leave it at home, while on jury duty!

The tea baggers must sit in the front of the bus,
So when it comes to hate, leave the driving to us!

In Other News

Just when you thought Obamahood couldn't mess things up even more than he already has, our beloved Fuhrer has decided that what we need is a large dose of cyber security, much like the Fatherland Security that molests you and your children at airports. Barry has decided the Commerce Department should create Internet ID for all Americans. Oh yippie!

It's "the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government to centralize efforts toward creating an 'identity ecosystem' for the Internet," White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said. The announcement came recently at an event at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Howard Schmidt spoke.

The Obama administration is currently drafting what it's calling "the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace," which Locke said "will be released by the president in the next few months." You may recall that an early version came out last summer? Locke told the Stanford audience:

"We are not talking about a national ID card. We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy, and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities. The Commerce Department will be setting up a national program office to work on this project."

In-other-words, Big Brother will have all your passwords but not to worry, because Deputy Fuhrer Schmidt stressed that, "Anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. I don't have to get a credential, if I don't want to. There's no chance that a centralized database will emerge. We need the private sector to lead the implementation of this." Well, that makes me feel so much better! NOT!

Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology said, "Any Internet ID must be created by the private sector--and also be voluntary and competitive. The government cannot create that identity infrastructure. If it tried to, it wouldn't be trusted." The Hell, you say! I mean, what's not to trust about Big Brother? Like I said, when they swore Obamahood in, "We are so Fucked America!"

And Finally

I see where the "Hammer" got hammered; well, just a slap on the wrist, really. Tom could have gotten 20 years or more; what he got was three years! The Hammer was convicted of conspiring to funnel corporate campaign contributions to legislative races in Texas, in violation of state law. He was also convicted of money laundering and given five years, but was allowed to accept 10 years of probation in lieu of the added prison time by Texas Judge Pat Priest. I wonder what I would have got for similar crimes?

You may recall that David Cronenberg based his movie version of the William S. Burroughs book "The Naked Lunch" on the exploits and homosexual dreams of Delay when he was a bug exterminator and began eating his bug poison, which goes a long way in explaining Tom's problems.

Tom joins a very long line of disgraced Rethuglican Con-gressmen who got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and, as such is really nothing special. You'll may recall that Tom was one of the architects of the 1994 Rethuglican "Contract on America," which eventually led to the 2000 Rethuglican coup d'état and the final destruction of America under our beloved west Texas prairie monkey Dubya and the rise of Obamahood.

Tom is out on a mere $10,000 bond while appealing his convictions, and may end up spending just enough time in a country club prison to write his biography, which will no doubt be a best seller if Roger Ailes or Rupert Murdoch has anything to say about it; and they will!

On the bright side, Tom has his experiences on "Dancing With The Stars" which perhaps may help him with his new "roommate" Bubba, who may insist that Tom wear a dress and dance real purdy! We can but hope!

Keepin' On

Back in December 2000, when the coup d'état went down and I decided that I must do something about that act of treason; I decided to start Issues & Alibis magazine. The name comes from the long running ABC TV show "Issues and Answers." I just changed the name to reflect reality as we never got a straight answer from that TV program!

Although most of the money that I had made from my radio and nightclub daze had been squandered on a couple of ex-wives, I still had a nice chunk in the bank, so I never considered charging any fee for my services and I could afford to pick up the cost for publishing. The point was to get the truth out to anyone, especially the poor folks, at least those who could get on line to find it! So for the first 5 years of the magazine I never ask the readership for a dime, nor did I consider running any advertisements.

When my funds started to run out and I lost my space because of my daring to challenge the "Crime Family Bush"™ I somehow managed to pick up a sponsor who I've had ever since, that picks up half of the tab. However, that left the other half to pay for, and it soon came down to either eating or publishing so I've had to come to you, hat-in-hand ever since to keep publishing. I've never made a penny for my own work which in the beginning was some 80 hours a week and now is about 45 or 50 depending on the individual week.

Trouble is, I've never been very good at begging; and, of course, the economy has gone to Hell, which makes it even tougher! Ergo, here I am again begging for alms, which to me is incredibly embarrassing, not to mention not very effective! Still, since I believe that what I am doing is very important work I will continue as long as I can, bringing you the news and the truth, and hoping that those of you who agree with what I'm doing and still have a job will help us out with whatever you can. Please click on the donation links above or below and follow the instructions, if you would be so kind! Your children and your grandchildren will thank you for joining me in the fight to get our republic back!


09-11-2001 ~ 01-08-2011
R.I.P. sweetie!

02-08-1947 ~ 01-08-2011
Judge not, lest ye be judged!

10-24-1936 ~ 01-11-2011
Thanks for the film!


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) 2010 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 9 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Letter From A Birmingham Jail
16 April 1963
By Martin Luther King Jr.

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants--for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle--have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.
© 1963/2011 Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hi, Joe!
By Uri Avneery

GOOD MORNING, Joe. At home In the US, your name is mud. But here you can really feel at home.

In your time, you succeeded in infecting all of the US with hysteria. You detected a Soviet agent under every bed. You waved a list of Soviet spies in the State Department (a list which nobody was ever shown). In a hundred languages around the world – including Hebrew – the name McCarthy, McCarthyism, has become a household word. Yes, you made your mark alright.

But you were, after all, only a plagiarist. Before you, the House Anti-American Activities Committee terrorized the country, destroyed careers, hounded people into suicide and tarnished the reputation of the US throughout the democratic world. It “investigated” intellectuals and artists and branded many of them as “anti-American”.

I DOUBT that Faina Kirschenbaum ever heard about this committee. She was not born in the United States but in the Stalinist Soviet Union, and that’s her spiritual homeland. Her attitude towards democracy reflects this background.

The meaning of her Germanic name is “cherry tree”. But the fruits of this tree are poisonous.

This week, the Knesset adopted a bill tabled by Kirschenbaum, a settler who is also the Director General of Avigdor Lieberman’s party. The bill calls for the appointment of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry to investigate whether international funds or foreign countries are financing organizations that “take part in the campaign to de-legitimize IDF soldiers.” A parallel bill tabled by Likud member Danny Danon demands that the Inquiry Commission investigate whether foreign governments finance Israeli “activities against the State of Israel.”

It is easy to guess what such an investigation by a committee composed of politicians, appointed by the rightist-racist majority of the Knesset, will look like. The infamous Anti-American Activities Committee will look distinctly liberal in comparison.

It is very interesting to see who voted for and who against. Among the 41 who voted for, there were not only the usual fascists of the extreme right, headed by the declared Kahanist Michael Ben-Ari, but also the chief Orthodox representative, Jacob Litzman, the former army spokeswoman, Miri Regev, and the former army Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya’alon. Special mention must go to Matan Vilnai, who once almost became Chief of Staff, a leading member of the Labor Party, at present the Deputy Minister of Defense in charge of settlements.

Among the 17 who voted against were, of course, the Arab MKs who were present and all the Meretz members. A pleasant surprise was provided by Yitzhak Herzog, a candidate for the Labor Party chairmanship; the former Likud and present Kadima member Meir Sheetrit; and the Likud member Michael Eitan. Eitan is the last remnant of the Revisionist movement of Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, which combined an extreme nationalist agenda in foreign affairs with a very liberal attitude in local matters.

All in all, 58 of the 120 members of the Knesset took part in the vote. Where were the other 62? They were in hiding. Binyamin Netanyahu disappeared. Ehud Barak disappeared. Tzipi Livni disappeared. Even Eli Yishai disappeared. Presumably they all have a doctor’s certificate to cover their absence.

There are votes whose significance is greater even than the matter itself – votes that characterize an era and are looked upon, in retrospect, as decisive. This may well have been such a vote.

THE FIRST thing about this law that stands out is that it does not apply to all political associations in Israel.

If such an even-handed law had been enacted, I would have welcomed it. I am very curious about the origin of the money that supports the settlers and the other extreme-rightist organizations.

Huge sums, tens and hundreds of millions, are flowing to these bodies – many times more than the comparatively pitiful amounts received by the human rights and peace associations. Some of the recipients are devoted to the expulsion of Arabs from East Jerusalem. They offer Palestinian home-owners astronomical prices for their property and promise them new identities in the US so they can live there happily ever after. They use hired straw men, mostly Arab. The weak succumb to the temptation. That costs a lot of money, and one of the well-known donors is a famous billionaire who made his money as an owner of casinos. In Israel, incidentally, owning a casino is a felony.

It is known that the financiers of the extreme right include some of the heads of evangelical sects, born anti-Semites, who believe that Jesus will return to Earth when all the Jews are concentrated in this country. Then – either the Jews get baptized or they will be annihilated to the last man and woman. These adherents of the really-final solution are the main source of the money that finances many rightist associations.

This money nurtures openly fascist associations as well as more discreet ones, who advocate the dismissal of “leftist” professors from the universities, organize networks of student-spies who inform on their lecturers (another way of earning money for their studies). Some organizations monitor the media in order to cleanse them of people suspected of such misdemeanors as striving for peace. There is also a huge apparatus that combs all TV, radio and print media throughout the Arab world and provides our “correspondents for Arab affairs” (almost all of them army intelligence and Shin-Bet alumni) choice pieces, like something about a crazy Muslim preacher in Yemen or a particularly nasty statement in a Cairo salon. They are very successful in poisoning the wells of peace.

If a serious inquiry committee investigates the financing of the extreme right, it will discover that much of it comes straight from the pocket of the American taxpayer. That is one of the great scandals: the US government is financing many of the settlements. For dozens of years, it has turned a blind eye to the American organizations that are providing funds to the settlements – settlements that are illegal even in the official policy view of the US government. In the US, one can donate tax-free money for humanitarian purposes – but not for political purposes. Almost all the money flowing to the extreme right in Israel is officially marked as devoted to humanitarian purposes.

And what about the Russian mafiosi, who are intimately connected with the Israeli right? What about the various dictators in fragments of the former Soviet Union? Where does Lieberman, whose connections with these countries are well-known, get his money from? Police investigators have been trying for years to unravel this mystery, with no concrete results so far.

All this could keep several inquiry committees busy for years to come – and the initiators of the bills know this perfectly well. They are adamant: inquiry into leftist associations only, most definitely not rightist ones. (Rather like the lady who cried out in the darkness of a cinema: “Take your hands of me! Not you, YOU!”

THE INITIATORS of the bills did not hide the identity of the associations they want to “investigate”. The list includes B’Tselem (“In the Image”), a veteran outfit that monitors events in the occupied territories and is treated with respect even by the army; Shovrim Shtika (“Breaking the Silence”), a group of former soldiers that collects testimonies from soldiers; Yesh Din (“There is a Law”), which is active in matters of land ownership in the occupied territories as well as overseeing the military courts; Yesh Gvul (“There is a Limit”), which defends soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories; Machsom Watch (“Checkpoint Watch”), an organization of female volunteers who oversee what’s happening at the roadblocks; “Physicians for Human Rights”, who have just been awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize in Stockholm for activities in service of the sick in the occupied territories; the Association for Human Rights, the New Fund, IR Arim (“City of Peoples”), which conducts legal fights against the penetration of settlers into East Jerusalem; and Shalom Achschav (“Peace Now”) for its important activities monitoring the building in the settlements.

(As far as I am concerned, this is a deeply insulting list because it omits Gush Shalom. Maybe the bodies hiding behind the initiators of the bill know that the Gush does not receive a penny from any foreign governmental source.)

There is nothing wrong with receiving funding from international governmental sources that are active in the field of human rights around the world. The Breaking the Silence group did not hide the fact that its recent book, a collection of the testimonies of 183 soldiers, was financed by the European Union. They boasted about it on the cover of the book.

ESPECIALLY REPREHENSIBLE is the pretense of the racists to be acting on behalf of the soldiers. They do not speak about the de-legitimization of the settlers, or of the fascist right, or of the racist policies of our government – only about the “de-legitimization of the IDF soldiers”.

That is a classic tactic of all fascist movements in the world. They wrap themselves in the flag of patriotism (“patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”) and claim to defend “our troops.”

Our troops come from all segments of society. They include rightists and leftists, the religious and the secular, settlers and the informants of Breaking the Silence. Who appointed this peddler of poisoned cherries to speak for “our troops”? Woe to the army that needs defenders like these!

THE CAREER of Joe McCarthy was suddenly cut short. It was buried under one sentence that made history.

Joseph Nye Welch, a respected lawyer representing the US army, who appeared before the McCarthy committee, was shocked by his tactics and cried out: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

The audience in the hall burst out in spontaneous applause. These few words electrified the American public. Suddenly the wheel turned. The McCarthy era ended, the public regained its sanity and since then, McCarthyism is remembered only as something to be ashamed of.

I am waiting now for a decent Israeli citizen to seal the open sewer in the Knesset that is threatening to submerge the entire country.

Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu, sir, have you no sense of decency left?
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Open Letter To President Obama
Meet with Civil Society Leaders
By Ralph Nader

Dear President Obama:

The sentiments expressed in this letter may have more meaning more for you now that the results of the mid-term elections are clear. You have seen what can happen when a number of your supporters lose their enthusiasm and stay home or do not actively participate as volunteers.

In your first two years, you have developed a wide asymmetry between your association with Big Business executives and the leaders of national civic and labor groups whose members are in the tens of millions. You have met repeatedly at the White House and other locales with corporate officials, spoken to their gatherings and even traveled abroad with them to promote their exports.

Recently on your trip to India with a covey of business leaders, you vigorously touted their products, some by brand name (Boeing and Harley-Davidson’s expensive motorcycles). Your traveling companions could not have been more gratified as you legitimized their view that WTO trade rules were a net plus for employment in the United States as well as India. Imagine—the President as business agent.

Contrast this close relationship with profit-making firms, many subsidized by the taxpayers in various ways, and probed for health, safety or economic violations by regulatory agencies, with your refusal to openly and regularly address the large non-profit civic groups. Before your inauguration, I wrote requesting that you do what Jimmy Carter did just after his election when he addressed and interacted with nearly one thousand civic leaders at a Washington hotel. They addressed a broad array of issues: environment, food, labor, energy, consumer, equality for women, civil rights-civil liberties and other endeavors for a better society. It was a grand and productive occasion.

You know that the civic groups—often called the Independent Sector—employ many thousands of people around the country often on shoestring budgets with no profits in mind. They work for health, safety, economic and environmental well being, for living wages and access to justice, for peace and the rule of law in domestic and foreign policy. Yet you as President do not adequately attach your cachet in their favor and give them the visibility that you give commercial businesses. Strange! For profits and jobs, yes I’m coming says the President. For justice and jobs, no I’m not coming says the President.

It is time to associate yourself with civil society, name some with approbation as you have done with companies, express your support for the expansion of their budgets and activities, in short, identify with them.

Please note that when you invite the CEOs of Aetna and Pfizer numerous times to the White House and cut deals not exactly in the patients’ best interest, while you decline to invite old friends and mentors on these health insurance and health care subjects like Dr. Quentin Young in Chicago, people are perplexed and communicate their displeasure via their networks.

Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that on February 7, you “will cross Lafayette Park from the White House to the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, his longtime political nemesis…” What about walking next door and visiting your political friends at the headquarters of the AFL-CIO whose member unions represent millions of working Americans?

You can discuss with Richard Trumka, a former coal miner and the new president of the AFL-CIO, your campaign promises in 2008. Repeatedly you said to the American people that you supported the “card check” and a “federal minimum wage of $9.50 in 2011.” The 1968 minimum wage, adjusted for inflation would be about $10 today. (The federal minimum wage is now $7.25)

Moving up the minimum wage to nearly what it was back in 1968, in purchasing power, would increase consumer demand by over $200 billion a year. Isn’t that what this economy needs right now, not to mention the boon it would be to long deprived, underpaid workers and their families? After all, businesses of all sizes have received a variety of substantial tax breaks during this windfall period of a stagnant federal minimum wage. Isn’t it time for some equity for the people?

On a related note, over a year ago, Mr. Mike Kelleher, the man in charge of letters written to you, said he would get back to me about your policy on replying to letters that deal with substantive matters, whether under your signature or the signature of your assistants and department heads. I have not heard from Mr. Kelleher.

Let me give you an example. Months ago I wrote to inform you that several prominent environmental and energy groups, such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, were at their wit’s end trying to arrange a joint meeting with Secretary Steven Chu. He repeatedly declined to meet, though he has often met with nuclear energy business executives and has gone so far as to tout nuclear energy’s desirability in an op-ed. The environmental groups wanted a serious exchange with him on your Administration’s energy policies, including your request to Congress for very large loan guarantees by taxpayers for utilities that want to build more nuclear plants.

My letter asked you to intercede and urge Secretary Chu that it is only fair and constructive to hear what these groups have to say. There never was an answer from the White House or the Department of Energy. You know that for years many citizen advocates have worked hard to improve the federal government and they have rarely experienced such discourtesies of no replies.

Perhaps you do not care. But you should know that there are people who do. What is your response?

Ralph Nader
(c) 2011 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

An acequia irrigation ditch just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.

An Old Commons-Based Solution To A 21st Century Crisis
To protect our water, we should look to real life examples of communities who still manage resources collectively
By Randall Amster

Life here in the desert southwest is richly complex and oftentimes a great challenge. A hint of frontier culture remains even as rampant growth and homogenization take hold at breakneck speed. People love the landscapes and the history, but can still sit and watch both disappear in the name of “progress.” At times it seems as if a strange double consciousness exists here, nowhere more prominently than in our relationship to water.

It’s interesting to live in a place where you regularly see coyotes, roadrunners, hawks, antelopes, and javelina (just to name a few local species) with packs of the latter still roaming through our downtowns. People have horses in their front yards, gunracks on their cars, and cacti in their burritos. In a few hours time you can go from a densely-packed urban center to the Grand Canyon, watching the landscape change from desert hills to mountain forests and back again. Despite ubiquitous strip malls, golf courses, and backyard swimming pools, the southwest is still magical in many ways.

The trouble is, as many already well know, there’s not much water left here. California is dry too, and Florida will be soon. Australia is basically permanently drought-stricken.

Whereas the wars of the recent past were fought over oil, the ones of the near future almost certainly will devolve upon water. Like they say in these parts, “Whiskey’s for drinkin’, but water’s for fightin’.” If contemporary wars are any gauge, it isn’t going to be pretty when the pump don’t work — regardless of who took the handles.

Consider that the earth’s surface is about two-thirds water, and we humans are made up of roughly the same percentage. Water is the lifeblood of the planet, and of ourselves as well. While abundant in a general sense, much of the planet’s water is in the oceans, and desalination takes large energy inputs (often reliant upon oil, no less) in order to yield any net benefit. Global climate change is melting arctic ice and playing havoc with the water cycle, creating rising tides and disastrous floods, which presents us with the irony of having too much water of the wrong kind.

As this essential resource dwindles, two related phenomena take hold. First, military strategists overtly cite “resource control” as a principle aim of national security, blithely observing that conflicts to attain it will dominate the coming decades. Secondly, at the same time, multinational corporations are pumping water as fast as possible, turning a previously common resource into one that is privatized and engendering a global commodity trade that gives new meaning to “liquidity.” In both cases, the aim is to wrest water supplies away from localities and set up a distribution system that simultaneously turns a profit and forces people to become dependent on others for a basic need.

It’s bad enough to watch public goods such as energy, education, health care, and the airwaves become privatized. But when it reaches the level of water, we’re talking about something that no one can do without under any circumstance. This raises the stakes considerably and threatens to tighten the sense of blackmail that often pervades the machinations of the military-industrial complex., President Eisenhower warned us about this as he prepared to leave office, but it doesn’t seem as if we’ve done a whole lot to prevent his prophecy from materializing.

In fact, we’ve gone in the opposite direction, letting our sense of self-reliance atrophy as powerful forces take what once belonged to all of us and sell a watered-down version (pun intended) back to us. This holds true for people living in shantytowns in places like Mumbai and Capetown as much as it does for the American middle class. Companies marketing bottled water brands capture the diminishing resource at the expense of communities around the globe and here at home, often without paying for it, and we wind up purchasing from them that which ought to be free and which no one should ever own.

Our common law legal system actually once knew this, going back to Blackstone’s 1766 treatise on the laws of England that later helped form the basis of our legal system:

“There are some few things which, notwithstanding the general introduction and continuance of property, must still unavoidably remain in common, being such wherein nothing but an usufructuary property is capable of being had… . Water is a moveable, wandering thing, and must of necessity continue common by the law of nature; so that I can only have a temporary, transient, usufructuary property therein.”

In plain English, Blackstone observed that water could only be used but never owned as property. American frontier law turned this on its head through the doctrine of “prior appropriation” (sometimes colloquially understood as “first in time, first in right”) but conveniently ignored the rights of native peoples who were unquestionably here first. In the end, like the frontier itself, water was given property status of a sort, and we’re still living with the disastrous implications today.

In the face of these concerns, there’s a great need for the articulation of alternative models of resource allocation that don’t necessitate militarism and subjugation. With scarce supplies of essentials running down, and with the global economy plainly unable to deliver on its false promise of universal prosperity, we come to realize that the bedrock Western belief in the “tragedy of the commons” has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that it is precisely the privatization of the shared wealth of humanity that has led to degradation and inequality. Education and conservation are crucial in turning this downward spiral around, and yet at times the tendency to focus on much-needed macroscopic solutions often misses important lessons from local initiatives.

In this regard stand numerous examples around the world of people and communities who still manage scarce resources collectively and sustainably. Right here in the desert southwest, in fact, one of the last great “common pool resource” systems in North America provides irrigation water and open grazing land to farmers and pastoralists. Derived from the imported culture of Spanish settlers (via the Arabic Moors who brought the concept to Iberia previously) and combined with the best practices of the native peoples of the region, the acequia system is a powerful example of how we might envision people working together not only with each other but with the land itself. In this model, water is viewed as sacred and not subject to private ownership. Instead, local communities manage the resource together through a collective self-governance system whereby everyone using the water gets what they need and also contributes their labor to maintain the entire operation. A non-authoritarian “mayordomo” administers the resource equitably, resolves conflicts, and guards the overall integrity of the structure before passing the baton to someone else and rotating the role of facilitator.

This is a low-tech solution to a complex modern problem. Water is moved through ditches and channels, and everyone takes only as much as they need. It works because, over time, people engaged in such an enterprise come to see themselves as interconnected with their neighbors in a meaningful way, so that their own prosperity is bound up with that of their fellow community members. Mutual interdependence replaces corporate dependence, and in a feat of old-school sustainability, people in the southwest have been cultivating this way of life for a few hundred years.

If relatively poor people confronted with extreme scarcity in arid regions can create a stable, collective, and nonhierarchical common pool system, then certainly we can find ways to do so as well with all of the tools at our disposal. It’s more than just a matter of wishful thinking or utopian longing; our very survival may well be at stake. Progress might have its virtues, but sometimes the solutions we seek are already at hand and in fact have been in practice for a long time. Indeed, the answers aren’t just blowin’ in the wind — they might be flowin’ in the water as well.

For more information see The New Mexico Acequia Association.
(c) 2011 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Boehner's People

Right after Republicans swept last November's Congressional elections, Rep. John Boehner – the new GOP Speaker of the House – drew himself up in a statesmanlike pose, faced the TV cameras, and dramatically declared, "We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people." Having spoken, Statesman Boehner and other Republican leaders promptly proceeded to stomp on the will of the people throughout the busy December session of Congress.

A big majority of folks, for example, favored extending jobless benefits to the millions of Americans who're out of work, some 4.5 million of whom have been unemployed for more than a year. Meanwhile, the public also was overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of giving billions of dollars in special tax breaks to corporate millionaires and Wall Street billionaires. Boehner & Company, however, thumbed their noses at these clear expressions of the people's will. They tried mightily to kill the unemployment bill, even as they went to the wall to provide more tax giveaways to America's richest, most-privileged people.

On another front, three-fourths of the public favored the repeal of the infamous don't-ask-don't-tell policy that flagrantly discriminates against gays serving in the military. Where was Mr. Respect-the-will-of-the-people? Standing defiantly against us. He took the same intractable stance on the Dream Act, which was backed by 54 percent of the people, and on the new nuclear treaty with Russia, which two-thirds of the people supported.

Speaker Boehner, you see, only respects voter sentiments when they agree with him. Moreover, now that he controls the House, he will determinedly push the special-interest agendas of corporate lobbyists and Wall Street banksters – agendas that most Americans oppose. But these moneyed elites have financed his entire congressional career, so when John Boehner tears up over respecting the will of "the people," it's the special interest people he means – not you.
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Privatizing Social Security Again?
By Helen Thomas

This year, 2011, marks the beginning of baby boomers receiving Social Security checks and they should be alerted of past perennial Republican attempts to partially privatize the program.

Heaven forbid that plans prevail to invest a certain amount of those checks in the stock market, as many pension plans have taken a bath in the current meltdown. While there have been past GOP plans to partially privatize the program, fortunately they have all failed. So far the Social Security trust fund remains tempting for the gamblers and other risk takers on the market.

As a Detroiter, I remember the Great Depression and the stock market crash of 1929 when some of the plutocrats on Wall Street jumped out of windows as a result of their great losses. Those were bleak days when some of the jobless workers also lost hope in the bitterly cold winter as they stood in long lines at the Ford Motor Company, many without overcoats, hoping for a job on the auto assembly lines.

The movements for socialism and communism were given some credence as a way out of their misery.

The difference between the Great Depression and the current Great Recession is "spirit" - during the 1930s Americans cared about each other. They flocked to Washington - teachers, social workers, doctors and nurses - selflessly offering their services.

Next door to us, a family with six children lived on a $13 (equivalent to $163 today) per week welfare check. Somehow they survived and kept their faith. Along came FDR who told the stricken people, "You have nothing to fear but fear itself." The power of hope restored confidence in the country and in its leadership.

We were happy to emerge from the depression, but many Americans at the time believed we rebounded economically because of the looming clouds of World War II. The world by this time was swept up by the "isms." The U.S. was divided between the interventionists in World War II (on the side of the allies) and the non-interventionists - they were the isolationists - who disappeared at the start of the war on Dec. 7, 1941.

President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law in 1935 to cover the elderly, and eventually through amendments, widows, orphans and the disabled. Payments are split 50-50 by the employer and the worker. What has been missing in our current society is compassion and creativeness. Think of the bargains the President had to strike to renew the biggest (Bush) tax cut to the richest Americans, this in exchange for an extension of unemployment compensation for the millions who lost their jobs - some deal! That's the compassion part.

As for creativeness, where are the ideas to put people back to work? For Roosevelt, the caring advisors produced a bundle of alphabet agencies. Not the least was the Works Progress Administration which put people to work on rebuilding the broken infrastructure. The program put men on the streets - and even artists painting the walls of great buildings in the Nation's Capital. Ideas and ideals along with great imagination brought our country back. Where are the caring creators now?

Many believe it was World War II and the military needs that brought us back - but recovery was well underway by 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

According to the 2010 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds presented to Congress, 53 million Americans received benefits during 2009, including 36 million retired workers and dependents of retired workers, 6 million survivors of deceased workers, and 10 million disabled workers. During that same year, an estimated 156 million people paid social security taxes through payroll. Total expenditures in 2009 were $686 billion, while revenue totaled $807 billion - including $689 in tax revenue and $118 billion in interest earnings.

Many Republicans believe the Social Security Trust should be at least partly privatized - Bush failed to achieve this in 2005. There is fear as President Obama has claimed that the new Republican leadership will push again to partially privatize social security funds. With the ups and downs of the stock market - and considering the pension plans that were privatized went down the drain - who would lead us down that path again?

Let's not give the newly empowered Republicans - and their blindsided tea party allies - the ability to wipe out or even mitigate the only economic security deprived Americans can count on. Where is their heart?
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row at The White House: My Life and Times.

Gun Crazy
By Eugene Robinson

We may not be sure that the bloodbath in Tucson had anything to do with politics, but we know it had everything to do with our nation’s insane refusal to impose reasonable controls on guns.

Specifically, the rampage had everything to do with a 9mm semiautomatic Glock pistol—a sleek, efficient killing machine that our lax gun laws allowed an unstable young man to purchase, carry anywhere he wanted and ultimately use to shoot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head. The weapon also was used to shoot 19 bystanders, killing six of them, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

The accused gunman, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, appears to be deranged. But this fact does not automatically absolve the politicians, partisan activists and professional loudmouths who spew apocalyptic anti-government rhetoric full of violent imagery. Certainly only someone “unbalanced” would spray a crowd with deadly gunfire. Only someone on the fringe—of society, of sanity—might conceivably hear a slogan such as “Don’t retreat, instead—reload!” and think it not a stirring political metaphor but a direct order.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, in whose jurisdiction the massacre took place, said that “the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates” has an “impact on people ... who are unbalanced personalities to begin with.”

But Loughner has so far declined to talk to authorities. At this point, it is impossible to know whether he was thinking about white-hot political discourse or listening to imaginary transmissions from outer space.

We do know, however, that Loughner reportedly had a history of drug use and bizarre behavior. Students and a teacher at a community college that Loughner briefly attended found him so erratic, confused, menacing and potentially violent that they convinced college authorities to bar him from campus pending a psychiatric exam.

Yet on Nov. 30 he was able to walk into Sportsman’s Warehouse in Tucson and purchase the weapon that authorities allege was used in Saturday’s rampage. He apparently also bought extra magazines loaded with ammunition.

To buy the gun, Loughner was required to pass a federal background check—and he did, a store manager told reporters. It is against federal law to sell a gun to someone who is mentally ill, but there is no indication that Loughner was ever officially deemed to suffer from mental illness. Even if he had been, there is a good chance that his name would not have been properly entered in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “about 80 percent to 90 percent of disqualifying mental health records” are not in the background-check database. Some states simply don’t bother to submit the information; others do so haphazardly. Arizona is neither the best nor the worst on this score.

In other respects, however, Arizona is one of the most lenient states in the country when it comes to gun ownership. It is one of only three states—along with Alaska and Vermont—that allow individuals to carry concealed handguns without a permit. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano vetoed “concealed carry” legislation when she was Arizona’s governor. Her successor, Gov. Jan Brewer, signed the measure into law last year.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign, said in a statement that “if Congress had not allowed the ‘Assault Weapons Ban’ to expire in 2004, the shooter [Loughner] would only have been able to get off 10 rounds without reloading. Instead, he was able to fire at least 20 rounds from his 30-round clip.”

The specifics of state and federal gun laws matter greatly—lives are at stake—but we really need to look at the bigger picture. The Second Amendment is a fact of life. But even recent Supreme Court rulings have left the door open to effective gun control measures.

We must recognize the obvious distinction between rifles, shotguns and target pistols used for sport, on the one hand, and semiautomatic handguns designed for killing people on the other. We must decide that allowing anyone to carry a concealed weapon, no questions asked, is just crazy. And for heaven’s sake, we must demand that laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of lunatics be enforced.

Giffords is a supporter of responsible gun ownership. If we force our elected officials to act responsibly, the next senseless massacre just might be prevented.
© 2011 Eugene Robinson

Serious Guns And White Terrorism
Two Unasked Question in Tucson Mass Murder
By Bill Quigley

Question: How does a mentally unstable man who was kicked out of school and had run-ins with the law buy such a serious weapon?

The weapon reportedly used in the mass murders in Tucson was a serious weapon - a Glock 19, semi-automatic pistol, with an extended magazine. Some weapons like that were illegal to sell in the US from 1994 to 2004 under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. It is now legal to sell and own them. The National Rifle Association reports there are tens of millions of assault weapons in private hands in the US.

The federal background check for people purchasing such weapons only prohibits selling such weapons to people who have been legally determined to be mentally defective or found insane or convicted of crimes. This man had not been found legally mentally defective or convicted so he was legally entitled to purchase an assault weapon. In Arizona he was legally entitled to carry the weapon in a concealed manner.

The US has well over 250 million guns in private hands according to the National Rifle Association. That is more, according to the BBC, than any country in the world. In one year, guns murdered 17 people in Finland, 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales, 60 in Spain, 194 in Germany, 200 in Canada, and 9,484 in the United States according to the Brady Campaign.

Does the US really need tens of millions of assault weapons and hundreds of millions of other guns? We already put more of our people in prison than any country in the world and we spend more on our military than all the rest of the world together. How fearful must we be?

Question: Why is there so little talk of terrorism?

Apparently when a mentally unstable white male is accused, terrorism is not the first thing that comes to mind. White terrorism is not a concept the US takes seriously.

When Clay Duke, a white male, threatened Florida school board members with a gun and shot at them before shooting himself, in December 2010, he was mentally imbalanced.

When Michael Enright, a white male, was arrested for slashing the throat of a Muslim NYC cab driver in August of 2010, his friends said he had a drinking problem.

When Byron Williams, a white male, was arrested after opening fire on police officers and admitted he was on his way to kill people at offices of a liberal foundation and a civil liberties organization, in July 2010, he was an unemployed right wing felon with a drinking problem.

When Joe Stack, a white male, flew his private plane into a federal building in Austin, Texas, in February 2010, he was angry with the IRS.

When a white male is accused of mass murder, white terrorism is not much talked of. Rather the mass murder becomes a terrible tragedy but not one where race or ethnicity or religion need be examined.

Now, if the accused had been Muslim, does anyone doubt whether this mass murder would have been considered an act of terrorism? US Muslims could have expected increased surveillance and harassment at home and the places where they work and worship. They could have expected a Congressional inquiry into the radicalization of their people. Oh, Representative Peter King (R-NY) has already started that one!
(c) 2011 Bill Quigley is a Katrina survivor and is legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be contacted at

Silent Surge
A Shocking Act of Political Violence
By Chris Floyd

Americans showed their remarkable collective wisdom once again last week, when a shocking act of violence was met with a steady calm across the political spectrum. Indeed, it seemed the entire country was united in a steadfast effort to downplay any disturbing implications of the despicable act and to keep doggedly to business as usual.

We speak of course of Barack Obama's latest "surge" in Afghanistan: his third such escalation of the murderous militarist misadventure in that ravaged land, now heading toward its 10th year of American occupation. Yes, while everyone -- including our leading progressives -- were occupied first with the sight of the orange vulgarian John Boehner waggling the sacred Speaker's gavel then with the latest mass shooting by an American following what George Bush called "the path of action" (i.e., the pursuit of politics by deadly violence) -- the Nobel Peace Laureate was sending 1,400 more troops into the killing fields of Afghanistan.

This move guarantees that there will be an "uptick" in civilians deaths, to borrow the hideous argot of Vice President Joe Biden during the very first Obama "surge" -- which took place less than a month after Obama's inauguration. More killing, more resistance, more extremism, more grief and hatred, more corruption and war-profiteering -- but what of that? These have been the results of every "surge" in the Terror War, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Somalia to Yemen to Pakistan -- and to the many other fronts in the "secret war" of death squads, bombings, kidnappings, gun-running and other terrorist acts that Obama has escalated to mind-boggling heights, and which he is now further entrenching and consolidating with a brand-new HQ for "Special Ops." ("Wetwork Central," perhaps?)

But let us not, in this moment of national grief -- when the Laureate is linking hands across the aisle with the orange vulgarian, putting aside political vitriol in a new spirit of comity (which will doubtless culminate in the bipartisan gutting of Social Security and other such acts of "serious," savvy governance)-- be too critical of our leaders. For surely the main intent of this latest "surge" is not the increase in killing, corruption, chaos and sorrow in Afghanistan (although that will be the inevitable result). No, the primary goal of this act of violence by the Peace Laureate is to provide cover for his political posterior later this year, when he announces the beginning of the long-promised, much-vaunted "drawdown" of troops in the Bactrian satapry.

Can't you see it now? The deadline for the July 2011 "drawdown" approaches. There are earnest articles in the New York Times and Washington Post and other establishment redoubts examining the "internal battles" within the administration on whether Obama will keep his promise to begin winding down the war or else acquiesce to the desire of the "hawks" to maintain troop levels. The agonizing moral debates in the inner circle will be judiciously leaked to favored reporters. Progressive bloggers will enter the fray, calling on the president to be true to his word -- or else this time they really, really, really will be .... really sort of upset with him. The deadline arrives, Obama steps into the pressroom, or into the Rose Garden, or onto the stage at a military base, and he announces .... "The drawdown has begun. Our promise to the American people has been kept."

Then there is rejoicing throughout the progressivosphere ("I've criticized Obama a lot and I'm sure I will again, but you have to give the man credit on this one!") and raging throughout the rightosphere ("Another act of treason by the surrender monkey -- and no, that phrase is not racist!"), and judicious nodding of centrist heads ("We'll just have to wait and see how this plays in Peoria, Jim."). Then you will read down to the fifth or sixth or seventh paragraph in the Times story on the drawdown, and you'll see something like this:

"The first drawdown might be small in overall numbers -- Pentagon officials say that approximately 1,400 troops will be withdrawn over the next two months -- but it is a highly significant milestone. Administration officials are already calling it a political 'home run' for the president ..." And so on and so forth in the usual manner.

In other words, this latest "surge" is a way to increase troop numbers now so that a few troops can be withdrawn later in a symbolic act that will still leave the pointless war-profiteering boondoggle operating in high gear until the cows come home.

It is the kind of bloodsoaked cynicism that only a Nobel Peace Laureate could pull off. And it will doubtless be greeted with hosannas from our progressives ... who in any case will still be ranting about crosshairs on a website -- while ignoring the innocent people being blown and shot to bits by their champion in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere in his relentless surging of the Terror War.

Note: To understand the deeper implications of this latest escalation, see this remarkably powerful article by Arthur Silber on Obama's last surge. It is a deeply informed and moving essay. And while you are there, please consider contributing to Silber's website. He is in very poor health, and the website is his only means of support. His voice is vital; help him if you can.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

Jared Lee Loughner And The Far Right
By Matthew Rothschild

His web postings reflect “a jumble” of far right views. And some anti-Semitic white nationalists shed no tears over Gabrielle Giffords.

The alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, has links to the far right.

On My Space, he acknowledged he had political motives. “I define terrorist,” he said, adding he was using violence “as a political weapon.” In his rambling messages on the web, he railed about the U.S. currency and the need to return to the gold standard, which are views that often circulate among the tea party crowd and other on the far right. He also, according to the Guardian, was anti-abortion.

And Greta van Susteren of Fox reports that “strong suspicion is being directed at AmRen / American Renaissance. Suspect is possibly linked to this group. (through videos posted on his myspace and YouTube account.). The group’s ideology is anti government, anti immigration, anti ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti Semitic.”

As Chip Berlet, for decades one of the most perceptive analysts of the far right in America, notes:

“The writings of Jared Lee Loughner are an odd jumble of right-wing Patriot and anti-Federal Reserve themes mixed with rhetoric similar to that from people who are mentally unbalanced. Aggressive right-wing rhetoric targeting Democrats as treasonous encourages some unstable people to act out in aggression or violence.”

Rep. Giffords’s father, Spencer Giffords, was asked if his daughter had any enemies. “Yeah,” he told The New York Post. “The whole Tea Party.”

In “Taking Tea Parties Seriously,” Chip Berlet in the February 2010 issue of The Progressive warned of the risk of violence associated with the tea party contingent. “A few in their midst project their frustration, anger, and rage into acts of violence,” he said.

And in my article, “Is Fascism Coming to America?” (The Progressive, June 2010), Berlet said that “the mentally unstable people act first,” and then some militia or white supremacist group might do a ‘propaganda of the deed’ [a dramatic violent act] to move the tea party into armed revolt.” In spelling out “some things to watch out for” on the road to fascism, I mentioned: “More armed rallies, mob violence, the assassination of a liberal elected official or media star, the celebration of that violence by members of the rightwing mass movement….”

And so I click on the virulently racist website Storefront, which has the slogan “White Pride, World Wide.” And while some on the blog thread express sorrow and sympathy, I also find the following:

“I quickly found out that she is jewish” “Never in history of mankind a revolution unfolded without bloodshed.”

“I'd say the Turner Diaries describes it best for us.”

“She was just another Israel-first khazaress working to disarm the White Man, but she did it with a smile on her face. Don't be a sucker.”

“No one is shedding over a dead joo politician, but this kind of behavior is barbaric. She fell victim to her own tribes propaganda.”

“All wars are "barbaric" the zionist war on us whitey globally is gonna be much more "barbaric" when it is finally unleashed on us than anything in history. The opening shots have already been fired in our collective white heads.”

Berlet warned, in the fascism article, that no matter how much revulsion there might be in the society at large to an act of violence, it won’t necessarily dampen the appeal of the far right.

“After Timothy McVeigh,” Berlet said, “the militia movement continued to grow for two years.”
(c)2011 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Climate Of Hate
By Paul Krugman

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

Last spring reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

And there’s not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn’t excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

If Arizona promotes some real soul-searching, it could prove a turning point. If it doesn’t, Saturday’s atrocity will be just the beginning.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance."
~~~ Ruben Blades ~~~

Even Lost Wars Make Corporations Rich
By Chris Hedges

Power does not rest with the electorate. It does not reside with either of the two major political parties. It is not represented by the press. It is not arbitrated by a judiciary that protects us from predators. Power rests with corporations. And corporations gain very lucrative profits from war, even wars we have no chance of winning. All polite appeals to the formal systems of power will not end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must physically obstruct the war machine or accept a role as its accomplice.

The moratorium on anti-war protests in 2004 was designed to help elect the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry. It was a foolish and humiliating concession. Kerry snapped to salute like a windup doll when he was nominated. He talked endlessly about victory in Iraq. He assured the country that he would not have withdrawn from Fallujah. And by the time George W. Bush was elected for another term the anti-war movement had lost its momentum. The effort to return Congress to Democratic control in 2006 and end the war in Iraq became another sad lesson in incredulity. The Democratic Party, once in the majority, funded and expanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Barack Obama in 2008 proved to be yet another advertising gimmick for the corporate and military elite. All our efforts to work within the political process to stop these wars have been abject and miserable failures. And while we wasted our time, tens of thousands of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani civilians, as well as U.S. soldiers and Marines, were traumatized, maimed and killed.

Either you are against war or you are not. Either you use your bodies to defy the war makers and weapons manufacturers until the wars end or you do not. Either you have the dignity and strength of character to denounce those who ridicule or ignore your core moral beliefs—including Obama—or you do not. Either you stand for something or you do not. And because so many in the anti-war movement proved to be weak and naive in 2004, 2006 and 2008 we will have to start over. This time we must build an anti-war movement that will hold fast. We must defy the entire system. We must acknowledge that it is not our job to help Democrats win elections. The Democratic Party has amply proved, by its failure to stand up for working men and women, its slavishness to Wall Street and its refusal to end these wars, that it cannot be trusted. We must trust only ourselves. And we must disrupt the system. The next chance, in case you missed the last one, to protest these wars will come Saturday, March 19, the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Street demonstrations are scheduled in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. You can find details on

We are spending, much of it through the accumulation of debt, nearly a trillion dollars a year to pay for these wars. We drive up the deficits to wage war while we have more than 30 million people unemployed, some 40 million people living in poverty and tens of millions more in a category euphemistically called “near poverty.” The profits of weapons manufacturers and private contractors have quadrupled since the invasion of Afghanistan. But the cost for corporate greed has been chronic and long-term unemployment and underemployment and the slashing of federal and state services. The corporations, no matter how badly the wars are going, make huge profits from the conflicts. They have no interest in turning off their money-making machine. Let Iraqis die. Let Afghans die. Let Pakistanis die. Let our own die. And the mandarins in Congress and the White House, along with their court jesters on the television news shows, cynically “feel our pain” and sell us out for bundles of corporate cash.

Michael Prysner, a veteran of the Iraq War and one of the co-founders of March Forward!, gets it. His group is one of those organizing the March 19 protests. Prysner joined the Army out of high school in June 2001. He was part of the Iraq invasion force. He worked during the war in Iraq tracking targets and calling in airstrikes and artillery barrages. He took part in nighttime raids on Iraqi homes. He worked as an interrogator. He did ground surveillance missions and protected convoys. He left the Army in 2005, disgusted by the war and the lies told to sustain it. He has been involved since leaving the military in anti-recruiting drives at high schools and street protests. He was arrested with 130 others in front of the White House during the Dec. 16 anti-war protest organized by Veterans for Peace.

“I believed going into the war that we were there to help the Iraqi people and find weapons of mass destruction,” he said when we spoke a few days ago. “But it quickly became clear that these two reasons for the war were absolutely false. If you mentioned weapons of mass destruction to intelligence officers they would laugh at you. It was not even part of the mission to look for these things. If it was part of the mission I would have known because I was part of the only intelligence company in the north of the country. I thought that maybe we were there to help the Iraqi people, but all I saw when I was there was Iraqis brutalized and their living conditions deteriorate drastically. Iraqis would tell me we were worse than Saddam. I soon realized there was a different purpose for the war, that we were putting in place a permanent military occupation. It was my firsthand experience during my deployment that showed me the reality of the Iraq War and led me to begin to question U.S. foreign policy. I began to wonder what U.S. foreign policy as a whole was about. I saw that Iraq was a microcosm. The U.S. military is used to conquer countries for the rich, to seize markets, land, resources and labor for Wall Street. This is what drives U.S. foreign policy.”

“When Obama was elected in 2008 the majority of the country had turned against the Iraq War,” he said. “You could not be a Democrat running for office without giving lip service to being against the Iraq War. The reason people were against the war is because there was a constant, senseless death of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. It was a squandering of our resources. This has not changed, despite the rebranding of the occupation. U.S. soldiers are still being killed, wounded and psychologically traumatized, especially those on their third, fourth and fifth deployment who were traumatized in previous deployments and are being re-traumatized. There were two U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq a few days ago. The reasons that led people to oppose the war in 2003 are still in effect. All that has changed is that the U.S. has been able to recruit enough Iraqis to put in the forefront and take the brunt of the combat operations with U.S. soldiers a few steps behind. U.S. soldiers are still involved in combat. One of our members [of March Forward!], who joined our group about a month ago, is in Iraq now. He told me yesterday that he was hit harder than he has ever been hit on his nine months of deployment. Combat is still a reality. People are still being killed and maimed.”

“The war is still going on,” he lamented. “It is still bad for U.S. soldiers, and Iraq is completely destroyed. It is a catastrophe for the Iraqi people. To call this current operation ‘New Dawn,’ like this is a new day for the Iraqi people, ignores the fact that Iraqis have no electricity, live with constant violence, have no functioning government, have occupying forces still in their country and suffer rampant birth defects from the depleted uranium and other things. Iraq’s ‘New Dawn’ is a horror. It will remain that way until Iraq is given justice, which is a complete and immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces and heavy reparations paid to that country.”

Iraq, despite the brutality of Saddam Hussein, was a prosperous country with a highly educated middle class before the war. Its infrastructure was modern and efficient. Iraqis enjoyed a high standard of living. The country did not lack modern conveniences. Things worked. And being in Iraq, as I often was when I covered the Middle East for The New York Times, while unnerving because of state repression, was never a hardship. Since our occupation the country has tumbled into dysfunction. Factories, hospitals, power plants, phone service, sewage systems and electrical grids do not work. Iraqis, if they are lucky, get three hours of electricity a day. Try this in 110-degree heat. Poverty is endemic. More than a million Iraqi civilians have been killed. Nearly 5 million have been displaced from their homes or are refugees. The Mercer Quality of Living survey last year ranked Baghdad last among cities—the least livable on the planet. Iraq, which once controlled its own oil, has been forced to turn its oil concessions over to foreign corporations. That is what we have bequeathed to Iraq—violence, misery and theft.

It is not as if the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have popular support. The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll shows that 63 percent of the American public opposes U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. And the level of discontent over the war in Iraq is even higher. Yet we continue to accept the duplicity of bankrupt liberal institutions and a corrupt political process that year after year betrays us. Public opinion is on our side. We should mobilize it to fight back. When I and the other protesters were arrested outside the White House on Dec. 16, several of the police officers who had been deployed as military members to Afghanistan or Iraq muttered to veterans as they handcuffed them that they were right about the wars. The anti-war sentiment is widespread, and we must find the courage to make it heard.

“All these people join the military because there is an abysmal job market and tuition rates are skyrocketing,” Prysner said. “Many young people are cut off from a college education. People are funneled into the military so they can make a living, have a home, health care, take care of their children and have an education. If a fraction of the money spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was used to meet human needs, kids would be able to go to college at affordable rates. We would be able to create jobs for young people when they get out of high school. Vast amounts of wealth, which we create, are poured into these wars and the military while people here are facing increasing hardship. We have to demand and fight for change, not ask for it.”

“We supposedly elected the most progressive president we have seen in a long time and the Democrats took control of the House and the Senate, but the wars have only expanded and intensified. The wars are now going into other countries, especially Pakistan and Yemen. The Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in Congress. We had a seemingly progressive president. But all we got was more war, more military spending, more bombing of innocent people abroad and more U.S. troops coming home in coffins. This should eradicate and shatter the idea that convincing the Democrats to be on our side will accomplish anything. Left to its own devices Washington will continue its war drive. It will continue to dominate these countries and use them for staging grounds to invade other countries. There has been no real change in our foreign policy. If we are hurting the Democrats at this point, then fine. We need to build an independent political movement that is outside of the Establishment. This is the only way we have ever won real victories in our history.”
(c) 2011 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

All The News That Isn't
By David Michael Green

Did you hear that Dick Cheney has no pulse?

I’m not kidding about that, actually. That’s not some sort of clever metaphor, or a literary device for making a political point by using a pithy (or so the writer might wish) little turn of phrase.

It’s actually the spot-on truth. The guy’s heart is so deteriorated that doctors have installed a mechanical pumping device in his chest to keep his blood circulating. The flow is now constant, rather than pumped the old-fashioned way, and so ol’ Dick literally no longer has a pulse.

Ready now for the clever literary device? How ‘bout this: “Well, duh!” Heartless Dick Cheney. The guy with no pulse. The Snarler-In-Chief with the mechanical heart. Talk about your proverbial shooting of fish in a barrel. These are swimming in a baggie. For any pundit this side of comatose it’s like wielding a Sherman Tank to hit that target.

The truth is that it’s quite the commentary about our time that a heartless Dick Cheney is no news at all. If you’ve missed that one somewhere along the way, you’ve probably more or less missed all of the last decade. Which may of course be a good thing, but that’s another a subject for another essay.

More to the point, it’s been a week or two like that. Lots of big news stories. Na lot of actual newness in them.

For instance, John Boehner cried. Again. This time when he got installed as Speaker of the House.

So, hey, there’s a genuine news flash, no? Unlike Heartless Dick, here’s a powerful Republican who is a true emotional fellow. Filled with compassion. A real feel-your-pain guy. An actual non-sociopathic politician. Right?

Well, hang on a sec. Have you noticed that he always seems to be crying about, well, himself. It’s always all about John Boehner and his personal life saga. That’s just a bit creepy, isn’t it? I mean, he’s not out there crying about the million or so (we don’t know, ‘cause we can’t be bothered counting) Iraqis he helped to murder, is he? He’s not breaking up thinking about the 15 million American children – one out of every five in the country – now living in poverty, in no small part due to his politics and his policies, is he? I haven’t once seen him reduced to tears at the prospect of the environmental wreckage he and his party are creating for generations to come, have you?

No. Instead, he seems to choke up about how he’s overcome enormous adversity in his life. Oh, okay, well that makes more sense then. ‘Cause you know he had polio when he was a child. And he was kicked around from foster home to foster home. And he was so emaciated from lack of food when he came out of the poorhouse that he weighed under 100 pounds and would have been hospitalized but he was too poor to receive medical treatment. Then he got cancer of the whole body. Oh, and, try as he might – over and over again – he could never get the kids in his junior high to pronounce his name “Bayner”. They always called him “Boner” instead.

As it turns out, only one of those things is likely to have been true, which makes Speaker John’s self-referential weepy act the scary height of narcissism. But at least now we’re getting somewhere. So he worked as a busboy or a deliveryman and put himself through school. So what? Lots of us did, and we don’t walk around publically crying about it. Most of us don’t even cry about it at home. One senses that there’s a lot going on there bubbling inside Mr. Boehner from Ohio, and not very far below the surface either.

Boehner’s cryfest was in the news, but is it news? Let’s see here. A narcissistic, insecure, right-wing politician so self-absorbed that all his attention is focused on what his political victory means for himself, not for the country? Gee, go figure. That hardly sounds familiar...

There’s more big news from the Republicans as well, besides just personalities. Both on the procedural front and the substantive, they’re really creating some news. You see, back in the bad old days, they were just outrageous hypocrites. But now, they’ve changed entirely. Now they’re obscenely outrageous hypocrites. Back before they election, they promised to slash $100 billion from spending next year, but for some odd reason they would never say how. Now it’s $30 billion and falling fast. Just a matter of weeks ago, they were promising that they were going to run the House of Representatives in an entirely new fashion, all full of openness and debate, and access for minority party legislators. As soon as they got their hands on the gavel, however, they somehow decided that stuff like committee hearings, debate time or amendment opportunities were not so important after all, especially on such small-ticket items like rescinding the president’s health care bill. You can understand that. You can also understand why pulling a stunt like reading the Constitution on the floor of the House and leaving out certain parts also might not exactly qualify as new behavior if you’ve been following Republicans for, oh, about forty or fifty years now.

Another big news item was the Speaker’s complete dismissal of the Congressional Budget Office’s cost estimation for rescinding the health care bill. The CBO, which is (or, at least, always was) widely regarded as a neutral, fair and nonpartisan research and analysis shop that serves Congress by generating cost estimates of legislative proposals, has stated that if the Republicans get their way, killing the bill will add $230 billion to federal debt over the next ten years. Boehner simultaneously destroyed another American institution of governance, plus even the slightest commitment to truth in American political discourse, and any seriousness with regard to Republican aspirations to cut deficits, all in one fell swoop, saying that “CBO is entitled to their opinion” – as if his and theirs were equally analytically sound, equally politically dispassionate, and equally valid.

Big news, eh?! Yeah. But only if you’ve been in a deep-sea submersible craft underneath Antarctica for decades, and as recently as the last couple of weeks. For that’s when the fiscally responsible and very grown-up Republicans last added hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt by demanding and obtaining massive tax giveaways for the wealthiest Americans. If hypocrisy among Republicans was really new, there sure would have been lots of news lately. As is the case for flying pigs, however, that ‘if’ turns out to be a rather large qualifier indeed.

Over on the other side of the fence (which is not really the other side of anything at all) there’s been lots of news without news as well. Big Bad Barack is kicking some butt and cleaning house inside his administration. No more will he be advised and served by the likes of Chicago-Wall-Street-Clinton-administration-hack Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual. No sirree. Now it will be somebody completely different. Now he’s got Chicago-Wall-Street-Clinton-administration-hack William Daley in there instead. Big change, man! I mean, one guy’s named Rahm and the other’s called Bill, for chrissakes! These guys aren’t fooling around when it comes to redirecting the course of the administration. This is change you can believe in!

Same deal on the economic front. Turns out that having a guy in the White House as chief economic advisor who was part of the Clinton Era team whose policies helped wreck the current economy, who was deeply connected to Goldman Sachs, and who has essentially the same approach to economic policy as, say, oh, the Chamber of Commerce, was a really bad idea for the Obama White House. That’s why Larry Summers is now gone, baby. They’re turning over a new leaf. So the new guy was also part of the Clinton Era team whose policies helped wreck the current economy, was deeply connected to Goldman Sachs, and has essentially the same approach to economic policy as, say, oh, the Chamber of Commerce. So what? His name’s Gene Sperling! Completely different animal!

And speaking of something really new and different, it appears that Democrats are now fighting mad about Republican transgressions, and ready to dig in and battle against them down to the last barricade. Now, that is, um, er, that the election is over. You know, the one where they forgot to fight against the Republicans and therefore got their clocks cleaned. That one. But that was a whole month or two ago. They’re serious now. So much so that I’m getting email from one Jen O’Malley Dillon (easy on the Irish thing there, girl!), complete with the fancy new Democratic Party logo (which looks suspiciously like a target), saying, “David, This is a critical moment for Democrats – and we need your support. In the wake of the fall elections, all the progress we've made with President Obama over the course of the past two years is hanging in the balance. The Republicans are working to repeal everything we've done – starting with health reform. We're ready to fight back and defend our accomplishments, but we can't do it without your commitment.” (I’m not positive, but I think she wants my money.)

Oh! Be still my heart! Fighting Democrats! Obama’s “progress”! An appeal for me to give them cash! How exhilarating! How novel! Odd, though, isn’t it, how much what President Obama has ‘accomplished’ over the last two years is reminiscent of the very same kind of policies his predecessor stood for? And especially odd, is it not, that the Democrats almost seemed like they wanted to lose the last election, back when they actually had the power to govern, but now they’re all full of piss and vinegar when they don’t? If I were a very cynical Martian, come here to observe the nature of American politics, I might have to conclude that it’s actually all just another Smigerga Bagba! (That’s Martian for a political system in which a single corporately-owned party is divided into a red team and a blue team purely for public relations purposes, each pretending to fight against the evil bad guys on the other side of the aisle as a distraction to keep the voters from seeing the true nature of their joint predatory politics.) Fortunately, however, I am not a cynical Martian. Well, at least, I’m not Martian.

Here’s some more news that isn’t. This week a presidential commission investigating last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil blowout determined that the corporations running the well – jes’ friendly folks in the neighborhood like BP and Halliburton – cheaped out everywhere imaginable, in the blind pursuit of profit, when it came to equipment and testing – and this led to catastrophe. The report concluded that many of these behaviors are industry-wide in scope, not just the aberrations of a few rogue pirates. Talk about news that isn’t new. Corporate recklessness in the pursuit of a fast buck – wow, whodathunkit??

Amazingly, in a ‘culture’ which seems altogether, and even resolutely, impervious to learning, we actually had figured this stuff out once before in our history. That’s where the concept of government regulatory agencies came from. And what a concept it is. Or was. Before we dismantled them in the name of private sector profiteering. And thus, just like clockwork, comes the news that isn’t, also contained in the report, that the Minerals Management Service and other regulatory bodies were not quite doing their job. Of course, given that they thought that their job was to serve the corporados, rather than policing them, maybe they did think they were doing their job after all. In any case, you could spend the better part of a lifetime trying to find some new news in that particular revelation, pal.

Maybe my favorite non-news item of late, however, was the breaking story that revealed once again the sheer cynicism and deceit in how American foreign policy is practiced. As the New York Times reported, “Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government has allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism... At the behest of a host of companies – from Kraft Food and Pepsi to some of the nation’s largest banks – a little-known office of the Treasury Department has granted nearly 10,000 licenses for deals involving countries that have been cast into economic purgatory... Most of the licenses were approved under a decade-old law mandating that agricultural and medical humanitarian aid be exempted from sanctions. But the law, pushed by the farm lobby and other industry groups, was written so broadly that allowable humanitarian aid has included cigarettes, Wrigley’s gum, Louisiana hot sauce, weight-loss remedies, body-building supplements and sports rehabilitation equipment sold to the institute that trains Iran’s Olympic athletes.”

How about being some 17 year-old kid sent off to Iran in America’s next Middle Eastern war based on lies, there to get ground up into hamburger meat by the machine of lies that publicly rants about “Axis of Evil” this, or ”nuclear threat” that, while privately facilitating chewing gum and hot sauce profits for the connected set? Big news, eh? Well, yeah. If you don’t know about how this happens all the time. How Reagan sold missiles to the evil Iranians, and how Republicans covered for Mean Mr. Saddam back when he was one of our local puppet tyrants. Then it’s news.

As we go to press, yet another sad story is emerging. Looks like an assassination attempt on Arizona Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Federal Justice John Roll, who had been involved in immigration cases. They and a dozen others were apparently shot up by a punk named Jared Lee Loughner. Big surprise in a country that insists on arming itself to the teeth. And, ever notice how many folks who commit heinous crimes and/or are executed in state penitentiaries have Lee for a middle name? Gee, what does that tell you?

Sarah Palin immediately scrambled to undo her website, which had not long ago listed Giffords as one of the top “targets” in the midterm elections. Back then, Giffords had complained on MSNBC that, “we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. And when people do that, they've got to realize there are consequences to that action.”

Once again, it’s big news when this sort of thing happens. But only if you happened to have missed what Palin and others of her ilk told their followers just a few months ago. You know, stuff like, “Don’t retreat, reload.” Or, time for “Second Amendment Solutions.” Etc.

What a shock it is, then, when that’s just what those followers do.
(c) 2011 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Adjutantin Mansour,

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, Ralph Nader, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and your spining ability keeping Sarah Palin as the top Rethuglican candidate thus assuring our victory in 2012, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan 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 with diamonds clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 01-15-2011. We salute you Frau Mansour, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder studies the blood on his hands

DOJ Subpoenas Twitter Records Of Several WikiLeaks Volunteers
By Glenn Greenwald

Last night, Birgitta Jónsdóttir -- a former WikiLeaks volunteer and current member of the Icelandic Parliament -- announced (on Twitter) that she had been notified by Twitter that the DOJ had served a Subpoena demanding information "about all my tweets and more since November 1st 2009." Several news outlets, including The Guardian, wrote about Jónsdóttir's announcement.

What hasn't been reported is that the Subpoena served on Twitter -- which is actually an Order from a federal court that the DOJ requested -- seeks the same information for numerous other individuals currently or formerly associated with WikiLeaks, including Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and Julian Assange. It also seeks the same information for Bradley Manning and for WikiLeaks' Twitter account.

The information demanded by the DOJ is sweeping in scope. It includes all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the "means and source of payment," including banking records and credit cards. It seeks all of that information for the period beginning November 1, 2009, through the present. A copy of the Order served on Twitter, obtained exclusively by Salon, is here.

The Order was signed by a federal Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, Theresa Buchanan, and served on Twitter by the DOJ division for that district. It states that there is "reasonable ground to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation," the language required by the relevant statute. It was issued on December 14 and ordered sealed -- i.e., kept secret from the targets of the Order. It gave Twitter three days to respond and barred the company from notifying anyone, including the users, of the existence of the Order. On January 5, the same judge directed that the Order be unsealed at Twitter's request in order to inform the users and give them 10 days to object; had Twitter not so requested, it would have been compelled to turn over this information without the knowledge of its users. A copy of the unsealing order is here.

Jónsdóttir told me that as "a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee [of Iceland's Parliament] and the NATO parliamentary assembly," she intends to "call for a meeting at the Committee early next week and ask for the ambassador to meet" her to protest the DOJ's subpoena for her records. The other individuals named in the subpoena were unwilling to publicly comment until speaking with their lawyer.

I'll have much more on the implications of this tomorrow. Suffice to say, this is a serious escalation of the DOJ's efforts to probe, harass and intimidate anyone having to do with WikiLeaks. Previously, Appelbaum as well as Bradley Manning supporter David House -- both American citizens -- had their laptops and other electronic equipment seized at the border by Homeland Security agents when attempting to re-enter the U.S.

UPDATE: Three other points: first, the three named producers of the "Collateral Murder" video -- depicting and commenting on the U.S. Apache helicopter attack on journalists and civilians in Baghdad -- were Assange, Jónsdóttir, and Gonggrijp (whose name is misspelled in the DOJ's documents). Since Gonggrijp has had no connection to WikiLeaks for several months and Jónsdóttir's association has diminished substantially over time, it seems clear that they were selected due to their involvement in the release of that film. Second, the unsealing order does not name either Assange or Manning, which means either that Twitter did not request permission to notify them of the Subpoena or that they did request it but the court denied it (then again, neither "Julian Assange" nor "Bradley Manning" are names of Twitter accounts, and the company has no way of knowing with certainty which accounts are theirs, so perhaps Twitter only sought an unsealing order for actual Twitter accounts named in the Order). Finally, WikiLeaks and Assange intend to contest this Order.

UPDATE II:It's worth recalling -- and I hope journalists writing about this story remind themselves -- that all of this extraordinary probing and "criminal" investigating is stemming from WikiLeaks' doing nothing more than publishing classified information showing what the U.S. Government is doing: something investigative journalists, by definition, do all the time.

And the key question now is this: did other Internet and social network companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) receive similar Orders and then quietly comply? It's difficult to imagine why the DOJ would want information only from Twitter; if anything, given the limited information it has about users, Twitter would seem one of the least fruitful avenues to pursue. But if other companies did receive and quietly comply with these orders, it will be a long time before we know, if we ever do, given the prohibition in these orders on disclosing even its existence to anyone.

UPDATE III: Iceland's Interior Minister, Ögmundur Jónasson, described the DOJ's efforts to obtain the Twitter information of a member of that country's Parliament as "grave and odd." While suggesting some criticisms of WikiLeaks, he added: "if we manage to make government transparent and give all of us some insight into what is happening in countries involved in warfare it can only be for the good." The DOJ's investigation of a member of Iceland's Parliament -- as part of an effort to intimidate anyone supporting WikiLeaks and to criminalize journalism that exposes what the U.S. Government does -- is one of the most extreme acts yet in the Obama administration's always-escalating war on whistleblowers, and shows how just excessive and paranoid the administration is when it comes to transparency: all this from a President who ran on a vow to have the "most transparent administration in history" and to "Protect Whistleblowers."
(c) 2011 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Shake on it: President Barack Obama welcomes his new White House chief
of staff, William Daley, in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 6.

Perps In The White House
By Robert Scheer

While it is widely recognized that the banking meltdown has left enormous economic pain and political upheaval in its wake, it is amazing that the folks who created this mess are rewarded with ever more important positions in our government. Yet the recent appointments of Gene Sperling and William Daley, key Wall Street-connected perps of this crisis, to the most critical positions in the Obama White House have not generated much controversy.

The justification for the media’s indifference appears to be that the new appointees can hardly be worse than the hustlers they replaced. From its beginning, the Obama administration has been flooded with veterans of the Clinton White House who pushed through the radical deregulation that Wall Street had long sought and were rewarded with fat fees from the big banks when they left government.

Sperling was a key proponent, back in the Clinton Treasury Department, of the deregulation of the financial industry that precipitated this crisis, but his then-boss, Lawrence Summers, the man he will now replace as Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, was certainly even more culpable. Both were well rewarded for their efforts. Summers received $8 million in Wall Street compensation back in 2008 while he was an adviser to candidate Obama, and during that same year Sperling got $2.2 million from his various consulting activities, mostly for banks that ran into trouble. His main employer was Goldman Sachs—which paid him $887,727 for advice on, of all things, charitable giving while Goldman’s dubious business practices were leaving many around the world more desperately in need of charity.

So, too, the case of Daley filling the shoes of Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff. Both are Democratic Party operatives with long histories of parlaying political influence into private wealth. But Daley, a scion of the Chicago machine that was so instrumental in the rise of Obama, is an even more persistent combatant on the side of Wall Street against the pubic interest. After serving as commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, where he developed a particularly strong connection with Enron before that company’s implosion, Daley went into the private sector, where he played a major role in making the large corporation’s case against the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 1982, designed to prevent another Enron debacle.

Later in the decade, as most Americans were reeling from the dire consequences of the unfettering of Wall Street greed that Daley had supported in the Clinton administration, he himself was profiting mightily, earning $5 million a year from JPMorgan Chase and half a million more as a director of defense contractor Boeing and health industry giant Abbott Laboratories. Back in the 1990s, Daley was a director of Fannie Mae as the housing agency began its steep slide into massive mortgage debt, but he showed no caution at JPMorgan when he was a top executive and the bank took on so much of that toxic debt.

Despite the banking meltdown, Daley has remained a fierce believer in keeping unregulated the financial markets that have caused so much turmoil. He was JPMorgan’s point man in Washington in blunting the already limited financial regulation proposals of the Obama administration. As The New York Times reported: “Mr. Daley, or the corporations he has served in recent years, have worked aggressively behind the scenes to water down or defeat central elements of Mr. Obama’s agenda, opposing the creation of the Consumer Protection Bureau and elements of the health care bill.”

Clearly Obama has responded to the electoral reversal he suffered after his first two years in office just as President Bill Clinton did, by shunning the more populist wing of his party and embracing financial and corporate titans in an effort to prove he is pro-business. The tactic will not work nearly as well for him because, thanks to the financial mess that Clinton enabled and Obama inherited, it will be difficult to paper over the deep problems in this country with easy credit and centrist-sounding policy nostrums.

With 50 million Americans holding “underwater” mortgages, there can be no solution to the housing crisis unless the banks that got us into this wreck are forced to accept cramp-downs and other painful adjustments to help folks stay in their homes. If the economy remains in the sorry state that the Fed predicts for the next two years, Obama will not be re-elected, no matter how much money he is able to raise from his newest best friends on Wall Street.
(c) 2010 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Cal Grondahl ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

By Steppenwolf

Once the religious, the hunted and weary
Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
Came to this country to build a new vision
Far from the reaches of kingdom and pope
Like good Christians, some would burn the witches
Later some got slaves to gather riches

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

And once the ties with the crown had been broken
Westward in saddle and wagon it went
And 'til the railroad linked ocean to ocean
Many the lives which had come to an end
While we bullied, stole and bought our a homeland
We began the slaughter of the red man

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

The blue and grey they stomped it
They kicked it just like a dog
And when the war over
They stuffed it just like a hog

And though the past has it's share of injustice
Kind was the spirit in many a way
But it's protectors and friends have been sleeping
Now it's a monster and will not obey

The spirit was freedom and justice
And it's keepers seem generous and kind
It's leaders were supposed to serve the country
But now they won't pay it no mind
'Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
And now their vote is a meaningless joke
They babble about law and order
But it's all just an echo of what they've been told
Yeah, there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watchin'

Our cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin' the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can't understand
We don't know how to mind our own business
'Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who's the winner
We can't pay the cost
'Cause there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watching

America where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster
© 1969/2010 Steppenwolf

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Fox News Warns That Without Angry Rhetoric It Will Have 24 Hours to Fill
Would Create ‘Giant Hole’ in Program Schedule
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – Calls for a reduction in violent political rhetoric have plunged the Fox News Channel into chaos, with a Fox spokesperson warning today that such a move “would leave us with 24 hours to fill.”

“Let’s not underestimate the giant hole this would create,” said spokesperson Carol Foyler. “Fox without violent rhetoric would be like The Weather Channel without maps.”

Ms. Foyler said Fox was preparing for a “worst-case scenario” in which it was pressured to air responsible statements in place of its current programming: “If it comes to that, God forbid, we’ll just air 24 hours of ‘24’.”

In contrast with Ms. Foyler’s alarmed comments, Fox host Glenn Beck took the news of a possible programming change in stride: “If I’m kicked off the air, I’ll return to my first love: standing in the back of crowded theaters and yelling, ‘Fire.’”

But Fox commentator Sarah Palin was less enthusiastic about the new call for tempered rhetoric: “For the first time in my life I don’t have anything to write on my hand.”

In other cable news developments, CNN confirmed that it was considering dropping Kathleen Parker from its “Parker Spitzer” program, but said it had balked at Elliot Spitzer’s suggestion of “a different woman every night.”
(c) 2011 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 02 (c) 01/14/2011

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