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In This Edition

Jill Stein returns with a must read, "The Real Obama Emerges, Again."

Uri Avnery wonders, "Who To Vote For?"

Randall Amster sings, "All We Aren't Saying."

Amy Goodman explores, "Obama's Dirty Wars Exposed At Sundance."

Jim Hightower finds, "Jamie Gets Punished."

Naomi Wolf says, "Restore Freedom Locally Before Claiming To Extend It Globally."

James Donahue announces, "At Last - Real History Is Being Revealed."

John Nichols examines, "GOP Version 2013."

Chris Hedges sees, "A Time For 'Sublime Madness'."

Glen Ford watches, "The White House Un-Reality Show."

Paul Krugman writes Barry a love letter in, "The Big Deal."

Glenn Greenwald reports, "Brookings' Bruce Riedel Urges Intensified US Support For Saudi Despots."

David Swanson asks, "Nixon Went To China, Who Will Go To Iran?"

California assembly man Tim Donnelly wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Matthew Rothschild compares, "Obama In The Shadow Of Martin Luther King."

William Pfaff knows, "Obama's Place In History Already Assured."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst is, "Knee Deep In A Tattoo Boom" but first Uncle Ernie listens to Barry's speech, "Full Of Sound And Fury."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Fitzsimmons, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Ho, XRepublic.TV, Reuters,, Black Agenda Report, Humphrey King, Starcasm.Net, Gage Skidmore, The Media Consortium, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Barry gives the corpo-rat salute while swearing to uphold the Constitution with his hand on an old address book!

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Full Of Sound And Fury
By Ernest Stewart

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Act V Scene V ~~~ MacBeth

"It remains unclear what role the White House itself plays in selecting the names that wind up placed on the kill lists. Some U.S. officials have described a secret panel within the National Security Council that keeps a list of targets to kill or capture. The panel, which has no paperwork authorizing its existence, is said to involve top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, who was a staunch advocate of the Bush administration's decision to torture prisoners at Guantanamo. Other U.S. officials familiar with the targeting process say the idea of a secret panel overstates the case. The NSC, they insist, isn't involved in the vast majority of drone strikes on a daily basis - especially the majority of "signature strikes" launched by the CIA. That means the CIA still has broad authority to curate its own kill lists, with limited oversight from the White House. As one former CIA official put it: "The NSC decides when the president needs to be involved - and what fingerprints to leave, if any." ~~~ Michael Hastings

"Guns are used to defend our property and our families and our faith and our freedom, and they are absolutely essential to living the way God intended for us to live." ~~~ Tim Donnelly

"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." ~~~ Winston Churchill

The Obamabots were having a field day this week; and no amount of logic and truth can sway their brain lock what-so-ever -- though, as only mighty Zeus knows, I tried. They are every bit as locked into the Matrix as anyone on the farther-right is. In fact, I have managed over the years to pull a few members of the far right wing out of the Matrix and back to reality, not so much with the liberals. About the best I can manage is get them going on that their Barry is the lesser of two evils; and, you know, Willard would've made it worse.

Somehow, I doubt that for a lot of reasons. First, he wouldn't have been able to get away with anything as the liberals would have seen to that; and with the Sin-ate in control of the Demoncrats, not much chance of that. The worst thing that I can say about him as a politician is he came up with the original ObamaCare for the state of Massachusetts which Barry copied and by which we're about to get screwed. Willard turned out to be a lot further to the left when governor than he was on the campaign trail. Just as Barry appeared to be a lot further to the left than he is. And unlike Willard, who would have been put under a microscope, Barry has free reign to do whatever he wants, and not a peep out of his liberal base.

Yes, the Obamabots were dancing in the streets after his speech. He is, I must admit, a pretty good orator, but not so good when it comes to putting all his high rhetoric into practice -- something that somehow the Sheeple tend to overlook. But then, I go and disregard his speeches and pay attention to his actions -- something that others get mad at me for pointing out. There I go again pissing people off by telling them the truth -- which means at least I got their attention. I just lay the truth at their feet and let them decide what to do with it; mostly it's just ignored; sometimes I get a lecture, often given by someone who hasn't an actual clue about what's going down. What I do is like telling a child that there's no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny or god. At least a child can see the truth, and will eventually come around to reality -- not so with their adult parents. Are they incredibly stupid or just naive? Methinks a little of both. It's not like I'm surprised -- they've been brainwashed by the system, the schools, the churches, and by their parents!

I just took these three paragraphs at random from Barry's speech. I have to say that I agree with most every word spoken; wouldn't it be a much better place if Barry would actually do these things? Here's what he said:

"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries - we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure - our forests and waterways; our croplands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully - not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice - not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice."

Now match those statements with his actions during the last four years. Are they not 180 degrees from what he's done? Are they not polar opposites? Are they not pretty much the same as what he said in his last swearing in ceremony in 2009? They are; and that means we are screwed for the next four years! To wrap it up on Barry's speech, I will borrow from old William Shakespeare, who may have seen the future when he wrote in MacBeth, "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

On the bright side of the inauguration there was old Tony light-fingers wearing his Thomas More groupie hat. A true sight to behold! Where the hell is Henry the 8th, now that we need him?

In Other News

I see where some anonymous U.S. officials (are there any other kind?) said that "the Obama administration is nearing completion of a detailed counterterrorism manual that is designed to establish clear rules for targeted-killing operations, but leaves open a major exemption for the CIA's campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan."

Barry is expected to sign the document when it's in its final draft in a few weeks. This is nothing but a little smoke and mirrors to cover up Barry's murdering US citizens, given the whole Junta has something to hide behind if by some bizarre set of circumstances the MSM dare questions his authority to murder me or you!

Pity Willard didn't bring up the subject when he was debating Barry. Had he started off the second debate with that topic, he might've been sitting in the Oval Office today; but he couldn't for two reasons. One, his masters, the same masters that own Obama, wanted it; and two, Willard had high hopes of being able to use it himself against his detractors if elected. Nor was there a snowball's chance in hell of the talking heads running the debates of bringing it up, as they, too, have the same masters that must be obeyed!

This master work of bullshit and murder was written and overseen by Barry's choice to run the CIA, John O. Brennan, so you know the document comes with the CIA's approval as it allows them to keep murdering folks in Pakistan for the next couple of years while in the rest of the world drone attacks have to obey (until they don't when it becomes inconvenient) this new "play book" of mayhem and murder! Oh, and did I mention the so-called "signature strikes" are still allowed? You'll recall that the rules covering that say that if you're a male between the ages of 6 and 96, you are fair game -- because you might be a terrorist -- so we'll kill you, even though we don't even know who you are; and if we "accidentally" kill some little girls, don't worry, that's okay, because they were probably terrorists, too! After all, they were finger-painting signs that clearly said, "Give Peace A Chance!"

Critics see the manual as "a symbol of the extent to which the targeted killing program has become institutionalized, part of an apparatus being assembled by the Obama administration to sustain a seemingly permanent war."

The playbook is "a step in exactly the wrong direction, a further bureaucratization of the CIA's paramilitary killing program over the legal and moral objections of civil liberties groups," said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberty Union's National Security Project.

As we saw, with the destruction of the Occupy Movement, with those quickly-written local ordinances that, according to the gestapo, trumped our Constitutional rights -- just as this manual supposedly overrides the Constitution and Bill of Rights. I can hardly wait to hear how the Obamabots spin this into not being an act of treason -- which it most certainly is -- to Barry only signing it for our own protection and good. That's right, Mr. & Mrs. America, just roll back over and go back to sleep; Barry is on the job, protecting us from ourselves. And thanks to you, we are soooo screwed, America!

And Finally

While I'm not a Christian and therefore no expert, I have read the bible cover-to-cover on two occasions so I know more about it than 99% of the Christians do, hence my confusement with California assemblyman Tim Donnelly.

Tim, as you may have heard, has got his panties in a bunch about Barry's very modest gun control plans to the point of coming down on the President with all of god's righteous fury, with Tim assuring us, that AK-47's are part of god's plan for Mankind. Tim blasted Obama for:
"...politicizing this tragedy to impose an anti-Second Amendment agenda that would have done nothing to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

All his plan will do is make it more costly and more difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Constitutional right. We must hold criminals, not inanimate steel objects, accountable for their actions. And we must not criminalize responsible, freedom-loving citizens exercising their natural right as criminals... The purpose of the Second Amendment is to defend freedom against tyranny."
Sorry, Tim; but I don't recall god wanting us to be heavily-armed. Could you quote me chapter and verse, please? I do recall these verses from Uncle James' bible:

"Exodus 20:13 - Thou shalt not kill," "Matthew 5:39 - But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" and "Romans 12:19 - Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."
Tim hasn't a clue what his mythology says -- like all those no choice women-hating Rethuglicans (all good Christians, by the way) that want to make cells a person, counting from her last period forward, and enslave women to their will. Trouble is, it's not what their god says, time and time again, which they choose to overlook. God says it's not a person until it has the breath of life breathed into it by god; so until its taken its first breath, it's not a person. It goes even farther, saying that if I hit a pregnant women which causes an abortion, then I must pay a small fine; if, however, if I hurt or kill the mother, then that's a serious criminal offense, punishable up to and including, by death!

Ergo, Tim is this week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner!

Keepin' On

I'm beginning to believe that it's that special time again. A time of waiting, a time to let us all go back to sleep again, before they spring their latest nightmare. You can feel the electricity as the Rethuglican leaders suddenly seem almost tame and cooperative. Danger, danger, Will Robinson! That, in itself, should set off alarm bells and sirens in the back of your head!

Have no doubt they're up to something. I've seen their speeches on both sides of the aisle; and, I can tell you that both sides are lying their asses off. How can I tell? Their lips are moving! The Rethuglicans are smelling blood in the water for Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and Food Stamps and those are things that Barry always puts on the chopping block, oops, my bad, the table, first!

So if Foggy Bottom's constant shenanigans interest you in the least, you might find it helpful if we kept bringing you the truth week after week, month after month, year after year and decade after decade? If that's you, how about lending us a helping hand covering costs around here. Nobody working for or with us for the magazine's sake makes any money for himself or herself; we're all volunteers! If you can help us cover publishing costs, please go here and follow the simple instructions and thanks!


07-04-1918 ~ 01-16-2013
Thanks for the advice!

10-30-1935 ~ 01-21-2013
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) 2013 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 12 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

The Real Obama Emerges, Again
By Jill Stein

If you're having political deja vu as Obama's second term in the White House gets underway, you're not alone.

The supposedly populist candidate - who won re-election promising to tax the rich, protect Social Security, and make the economy fair - has morphed back into an invaluable ally of the economic elite. Yet again, he's willing to let you fall under the bus.

In carving out 2013's first round of self-inflicted budget pain, President Barack Obama has laid the groundwork for much worse to come. By making most Bush tax cuts permanent, he gave away the massive bargaining chip he could have used to protect safety net programs in the next negotiating round. Now, thanks to his pre-emptive capitulation, austerity advocates hold all the cards.

While the deal extends unemployment insurance, this temporary relief is overwhelmed by massive, permanent gifts to the super-rich. Estate taxes have been repealed for all but the wealthiest 0.1 percent with a whopping $10.5 million per couple exemption. The agreement also locks in low capital gains and dividends rates of 15-20 percent, ensuring that billionaire bosses everywhere will pay lower tax rates than their secretaries.

Among new corporate favors, the deal retained one of the loopholes that multinational firms are using to dodge taxes on their foreign subsidiaries - an incentive to export jobs that cost us $1.1 billion in 2012. Meanwhile, vulnerable workers are hit with a big increase in Social Security payroll taxes, as rates revert to 2010 levels.

The fig leaf Obama provided to cover this surrender is a token tax increase on wealthy households earning over $450,000 per year. This marks a brazen retreat from his promise to raise taxes on those earning over $250,000, a meager reform to begin with in a tax system already rife with favors for the rich.

In this past round of budget bargaining, Obama proposed alarming cuts to key safety net programs that will be considered in upcoming negotiations. This tossed aside another key promise: to protect Social Security. It comes as nearly half of Americans are either low-income or living in poverty, and one in three seniors relies on Social Security to stay out of poverty.

Obama also offered to slash needed reductions in bloated military spending from $500 billion over 10 years, the amount included in the 2011 budget deal, to a mere $100 billion.

Obama's abandonment of his progressive base repeats 2008 post-election history, when the hope-and-change candidate suddenly devolved into a fearless defender of economic privilege. His early White House appointments of Wall Street darlings Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner were followed, with breath-taking irony, by the naming of General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, America's leader in layoffs, to head the jobs council.

Team Obama then led the charge for trillions in Wall Street bailouts, corporate-driven trade agreements that send jobs overseas and depress U.S. wages, health care reform that locked public options out of the debate, drill-baby-drill energy policies, the sabotage of international climate accords, foreclosure neglect, surging immigrant deportations, drone attacks, assaults on civil liberties, and more.

As Obama's second term begins, he's again undermining the progressive base, paving the way for more austerity, disparities, war and corporate power.

Washington's failure to deal justly and effectively with the fake fiscal cliff calamity leaves little hope it will resolve the real looming crises - the unraveling economy and accelerating climate catastrophe. The enormity of these threats compel solutions of equal magnitude - like the Green New Deal I promoted as the Green Party's presidential candidate in 2012. It would obliterate the fiscal cliff while putting America back to work, greening the economy, cutting the oversized military, saving trillions through Medicare for All, and taxing the wealthy.

Fortunately, grassroots movements and non-corporate political parties have begun to lead the way. It's time to join them while we still can, putting our voices, bodies, and votes behind real solutions that can truly deliver a peaceful, just, green future for us all.
(c) 2013 Jill Stein was the Green Party's presidential candidate in 2012.

Who To Vote For?
By Uri Avnery

THE ELECTIONS will take place in three days, and they are boring, boring, boring.

So boring, indeed, that even to think about their boringness (if there is such a word) is boring.

For lack of any debate about the issues, media pundits are reduced to discussing the election broadcasts. Some are good, some indifferent, some atrocious. As if this were a contest between spin doctors, copywriters, "strategists" and such, with the public just a bystander.

WHEREVER I meet people, I am told with real worry: "I don't know whom to vote for! There is no party I really like!" and then the question I dread: "Whom do you advise me to vote for?"

I have closely followed all the past 18 Knesset elections, except the first, when I was still a soldier. In several of them I was a candidate myself. I have always written about my preferences, but I have never told my readers how to vote.

I shall follow the same rule now.

FIRST OF ALL, there is an absolute imperative to vote, more than ever.

It is not about the "feast of democracy", "civic duty" and bla-bla-bla. This time it is a vital necessity.

A non-vote is a vote for Binyamin Netanyahu and his allies, pure and simple. As it looks now, more than half the members of the 19th Knesset will belong to the extreme right and beyond, at least a dozen of them honest to goodness fascists.

Not to vote means to strengthen them even more.

This is especially true for Arab citizens. The polls predict that almost half of them will not vote at all. The reasons are many: a general protest against the "Jewish" state, protest against discrimination, despair of any change, disapproval of the "Arab" parties and more. All good reasons.

But abstention means that the Arab citizens are shooting themselves in the foot. If their situation is bad now, it can still become much, much worse: The Supreme court, which generally protects them, cowed into impotence. Discriminatory laws proliferating.

Some on the far right want to deprive them of the right to vote altogether. Why grant them their wish voluntarily?

LET'S PROCEED to the actual choice.

My method is to write down all the competing election lists in a random order.

Then I strike out all those I would not vote for if my life depended on it. That's the easy part.

First of all, there is Likud-Beitenu. Likud alone was bad enough. The addition of Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beitenu makes it even more destructive.

I agree with President Barack Obama that Netanyahu is leading us to certain disaster. His total rejection of peace, the obsession with the settlements, the deepening of the occupation - all these are turning Israel (Israel proper, not just the occupied territories) inexorably into an apartheid state. Already in the outgoing Knesset, abominable anti-democratic laws have been passed. Now that all the moderate Likud members have been purged, this process will be accelerated.

With Lieberman and his acolytes joining the Likud, things look even more dangerous. Netanyahu will have to posture and act even more extremely, for fear of losing the leadership to Lieberman, who is now No. 2. It is quite probable that Lieberman will still succeed in replacing him somewhere along the road.

The emergence of Naftali Bennett as the star of the elections makes matters even more desperate. It seems to be a rule on the Israeli right that nobody is so extreme that another cannot be found who is even extremer.

THE NEXT group to be struck off the list is the religious one. It consists mainly of two parties: the Ashkenazi "Torah Jewry" and the Sephardi Shas.

Both used to be quite moderate in matters of peace and war. But those days are long gone. Generations of a narrowly ethnocentric, xenophobic education have spawned a leadership of rabid nationalist rightists. Bennett, too, was brought up in this camp.

As if this was not enough, these parties want to impose on us the Jewish Halacha, much as their Muslim counterparts want to impose the Sharia. They oppose almost automatically all progressive ideas, such as a written constitution, separation between synagogue and state, civil marriage, same sex marriage, abortion and what not. Off the list.

OF A different caliber are the self-styled "Center" parties.

The largest is the Labor Party under Shelly Yachimovich, which now stands at about 15%.

I must confess that I have never liked Shelly very much, but that should not influence my vote. She can (and sure does) boast of several achievements. She has taken a moribund party and turned it into a live force again. She has found new and attractive candidates.

The trouble is that she has helped to eradicate peace from the national agenda. She has made overtures to the settlers and their allies. Although she has paid the obligatory lip service to the "two-state solution", she has done absolutely nothing to further it. Her sole concern is with what she calls "social justice".

She has promised not to join a Netanyahu-Lieberman government. Experience has taught us not to take such pre-election promises too seriously - there is always a "national emergency" lurking round the corner - but even as head of the opposition, a peace-denier can do a lot of damage. Sorry, not for me.

Shelly's main competitor is Tzipi. On the face of it, Livni is the exact opposite. Her main and almost sole election plank is the resumption of negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas.

Fine, but Tzipi and her former boss, Ehud Olmert, were in power for almost four years, during which they started two wars (Lebanon II and Cast Lead) and did not come even close to peace. Why believe her now?

I have never heard Tzipi utter a single word of sympathy or compassion for the Palestinian people. My suspicion is that she is really interested in a an endless Peace Process, not in peace itself.

AN INTERESTING character in these elections is Ya'ir Lapid.

What does he stand for? Well, he looks great . A former TV personality, he is good on TV, the only battleground in these elections. His program equates to the American "motherhood and apple pie".

He reminds me of Groucho Marx: "These are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others, too."

For me he is "Lapid Lite", compared to his late father, "Tommy" Lapid, who also moved from TV into politics. Father Lapid was a much more complicated character: very likeable in personal contact, very offensive on TV, an extreme rightist in national affairs and an extreme enemy of the religious camp. His son just pleads: Vote for me because I am a nice guy.

He makes no secret of his yearning to become a minister under Netanyahu. Sorry, not for me. IGNORING THE Arab national lists, which are not interested in Jewish votes, and those which cannot be expected to make the 2% hurdle, there remain only two candidates on the list: Hadash and Meretz.

Both are close to what I believe in: they are actively engaged in the struggle for peace with the Palestinian people and for social justice.

How to choose?

Hadash is basically the public face of the Communist party. Should that deter me?

I have never been a Communist, or even a Marxist. I would define myself as a social-democrat. I have many memories concerning the Communist party, some positive, many negative. It is not easy for me to forget their orthodox Stalinist past. But that is not the point. We are not voting for the past, but for the future.

Hadash, to its credit, defines itself as a joint Arab-Jewish party - the only one (since the party I helped to found in 1984 lost momentum after eight years and disappeared.) However, for the vast majority of Israelis it is an "Arab party", since more than 95% of its voters are Arabs. It does have a Jewish Knesset member, the very active and commendable Dov Hanin. If he had headed a list of his own, he could have attracted many young voters and conceivably changed the election landscape.

ON THE whole, I prefer Meretz, though without much enthusiasm.

There is something old and dreary about this party, which was founded in 1973. It says all the right things about peace and social justice, democracy and human rights. But it says them in a weary voice. There are no new faces, no new ideas, no new slogans.

A large number of leading intellectuals, writers and artists have come out for Meretz. (The party took great pains not to list leftists without clear "Zionist" credentials.) But, as a Labor minister said long ago about the intellectuals: "They don't fill half a refugee camp."

All in all, it is still the best choice in the circumstances. A significant increase of their presence in the Knesset would at least encourage hopes for the future.

AND IT is the future that counts. The day after these disastrous elections, the effort to create a different landscape must begin. Never again should we be faced with such a dilemma.

Let's hope that next time - which may be quite soon - we shall have the chance to vote with enthusiasm for a dynamic party that embodies our convictions and hopes.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

All We Aren't Saying
Can We Talk More About What Really Matters?
By Randall Amster

Sometimes it seems as if the dream of peace moves further into the distance with each passing day...

Outside the "radical fringes" of the political spectrum, the silence is almost deafening. This is despite the palpable and (by now) incontrovertible nature of the conjoined crises in our collective midst, as the nexus of economic, ecological, technological, and militaristic challenges before us deepens by the day. Drudgery, droughts, and drones, oh my! Reality possesses a "fantastic" quality that often makes it seem as if we're moving through a colorized version of an old-school horror flick - a notion reified in the cultural near-obsession with trite invocations of the much-anticipated "zombie apocalypse."

In the midst of communicative plenty, we tend to say very little. Left, right, and center, the songs remain the same. Brows furrow and fingers point, yet the machinery of destruction continues unabated. One calamitous event seamlessly bleeds into the next; one war front yields to another; each contrived political logjam sets the stage for the next round of verbiage sans verisimilitude. If your angst about any of this can't be expressed in 140 characters or less, please just keep it to yourself, thank you very much.

Well, I've already exceeded that limit (as well as the carefully cultivated parameters of the cultural attention span), so if you're still reading this - what the heck is wrong with you? I'm sure there's a status update to post, a barrage of tweets to scan, a bevy of emails (if you're still that retro) to delete, a series of voicemails to process, a queue of shows on the DVR beckoning. I used to think that we'd reached a saturation point of "functional distraction" in our workaday lives, but now it appears more dysfunctional in its pervasiveness. The Situationists once cleverly noted that "Big Brother is you, watching," but today we might add the dualistic idea that Big Brother is watching us as we watch.

Indeed, everything you watch watches you. We are both object and subject, voyeurs of our own reality shows, peeping Toms looking in our own windows. In short order, we've reached the totalization of social surveillance, except for the fact that deeper incursions yet remain right around the next corner. Privacy is passe, nearly denigrated as being "quaint and obsolete," and everyone is an amateur publicist. Again, in the fringes one can still find a few hand-wringing lamentations over this state of affairs, but in the vast morass of the majoritarian mass, there's little said about any of this beyond participating in it.

We don't talk enough about the impending death of privacy. We don't talk much about the double-edged nature of technology, about the ways in which the emerging global web both connects and ensnares, about how the Town Square has yielded to Foursquare. We don't say nearly enough about the psychological impacts of these rampant technological changes, particularly on young people. We don't spend enough time discussing the present we're being subjected to and the implications it has for the future we're leaving to our children. We don't address climate disruption in a manner nearly enough to mitigate it, despite a rapidly closing window of time in which to act. We expend our energies coping with and reacting to the world being put before us (one that is both imposed and chosen), but we aren't saying nearly enough about the world we would actually want to live if we could create it anew.

We've probably all heard John Lennon's musical plea to "give peace a chance." It's a powerful sentiment, perhaps a necessary one, but it's not sufficient. Making our voices heard above the din is critical, yet if we merely do this in service of a generic message for "peace" (or any other oft-repeated, decontextualized, and easily coopted moniker) we're not likely to alter the paradigm in any significant way. Yes, we need to say more about peace, but in a manner that highlights actual practices, local initiatives, global networks, human-environmental synergies, historical exemplars, and future prospects.

In the mid-1990s, Pink Floyd released a song called "Keep Talking" that sampled Stephen Hawking's electronic voice: "All we need to do is make sure we keep talking." In principle, this is crucial: as long as we continue to be in dialogue with ourselves, each other, and the world around us, we can continue the human experiment and strive to achieve elusive, asymptotic goals like peace. Yet just as many social movements have learned, merely providing people with information is insufficient in itself to change behavior. Talking is good in general, but it still matters what we're talking about. In other words, more speech is better if it corresponds with substance; there needs to be a fit between quantity and quality.

In today's sociopolitical climate, we seem to have allowed quantity (and its cousins, volume and growth) to trump quality (along with its corollaries, value and utility). Those with the loudest voices, the biggest budgets, and the largest stockpiles of armaments tend to set the agenda. The small-is-beautiful communards, the soft-spoken storytellers, and the free-economy practitioners are often relegated to either second-class status or outright persecution. The Lorax (re-released absent some of its most profound lessons) may have spoken for the trees, but today it may be more poignant to create moments in which humans fall silent long enough to hear what the trees are saying for themselves: breathe.

The quiet experiences, the spaces between our urge to speak - these may help us to find meaning in listening rather than talking. Or, perhaps more to the point, this may help us to talk about what's truly important rather than what's currently trending. Reality sometimes feels a bit like a perpetual RSS feed beamed wirelessly throughout the course of our day right into our cerebral cortexes. Indeed, the near future may literally hold such things in store for us - as children are implanted with RFID technology (in the name of security, of course), as our e-credentials (and thus our locations, histories, statuses, etc.) are always with us in a fully-wired world, and as mere thought becomes sufficient to navigate this web.

There's a constant din of incessant information swirling around us. Sometimes we're able to make something of this information and deploy it in the form of knowledge. Infrequently, we demonstrate the capacity to discern its efficacy and ethicality as a nascent expression of wisdom. Perhaps in the end, amidst all the chatter, it's what's not being said that broaches the latter. And so, on a day when we celebrate one of history's greatest orators for the cause of peace, here's a nod to all we aren't saying...
(c) 2013 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. Amonsg his most recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Obama's Dirty Wars Exposed At Sundance
By Amy Goodman

PARK CITY, Utah-As President Barack Obama prepared to be sworn in for his second term as the 44th president of the United States, two courageous journalists premiered a documentary at the annual Sundance Film Festival. "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield" reaffirms the critical role played by independent journalists like the film's director, Rick Rowley, and its narrator and central figure, Jeremy Scahill. The increasing pace of U.S. drone strikes, and the Obama administration's reliance on shadowy special forces to conduct military raids beyond the reach of oversight and accountability, were summarily missed over the inaugural weekend by a U.S. press corps obsessed with first lady Michelle Obama's new bangs. "Dirty Wars," along with Scahill's forthcoming book of the same title, is on target to break that silence ... with a bang that matters.

Scahill and Rowley, no strangers to war zones, ventured beyond Kabul, Afghanistan, south to Gardez, in Paktia province, a region dense with armed Taliban and their allies in the Haqqani network, to investigate one of the thousands of night raids that typically go unreported.

Scahill told me: "In Gardez, U.S. special operations forces had intelligence that a Taliban cell was having some sort of a meeting to prepare a suicide bomber. And they raid the house in the middle of the night, and they end up killing five people, including three women, two of whom were pregnant, and ... Mohammed Daoud, a senior Afghan police commander who had been trained by the U.S."

Scahill and Rowley went to the heart of the story, to hear from people who live at the target end of U.S. foreign policy. In Gardez, they interviewed survivors of that violent raid on the night of Feb. 12, 2010. After watching his brother and his wife, his sister and his niece killed by U.S. special forces, Mohammed Sabir was handcuffed on the ground. He watched, helpless, as the U.S. soldiers dug the bullets out of his wife's corpse with a knife. He and the other surviving men were then flown off by helicopter to another province.

Sabir recounted his ordeal for Rowley's camera: "My hands and clothes were caked with blood. They didn't give us water to wash the blood away. The American interrogators had beards and didn't wear uniforms. They had big muscles and would fly into sudden rages. By the time I got home, all our dead had already been buried. Only my father and my brother were left at home. I didn't want to live anymore. I wanted to wear a suicide jacket and blow myself up among the Americans. But my brother and my father wouldn't let me. I wanted a jihad against the Americans."

Before leaving, Scahill and Rowley made copies of videos from the cellphones of survivors. One demonstrated that it was not a Taliban meeting, but a lively celebration of the birth of a child that the raid interrupted. Rowley described another video: "You can hear voices come over it, and they're American-accented voices speaking about piecing together their version of the night's killings, getting their story straight. You hear them trying to concoct a story about how this was something other than a massacre."

The film shows an image captured in Gardez, by photographer Jeremy Kelly, sometime after the massacre. It showed a U.S. admiral named McRaven, surrounded by Afghan soldiers, offering a sheep as a traditional gesture seeking forgiveness for the massacre. The cover-up had failed.

William McRaven headed the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC. Following the thread of JSOC, painstakingly probing scarcely reported night raids, traveling from Afghanistan to Yemen to Somalia, Scahill's reporting, along with Rowley's incredible camerawork, constructs for the first time a true, comprehensive picture of JSOC and Commander in Chief Obama's not-so-brave new world.

The Inauguration Day drone strike in Yemen was the fourth in as many days, along with a similar increase in strikes in Pakistan. The Washington Post reported that Obama has a "playbook" that details when drone strikes are authorized, but it reportedly exempts those conducted by the CIA in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On Inauguration Day, Obama officially nominated John Brennan, a strong advocate for the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that many call torture, and architect of the drone program, to head the CIA.

With the film "Dirty Wars," co-written with David Riker and directed by Rowley, Jeremy Scahill is pulling back the curtain on JSOC, which has lately exploded into the public eye with the torture-endorsing movie "Zero Dark Thirty," about the killing of Osama bin Laden. When "Dirty Wars" comes to a theater near you, see it. Sadly, it proves the theater of war is everywhere, or, as its subtitle puts it: "The World Is a Battlefield." As Scahill told me, "You're going to see a very different reality, and you're going to see the hellscape that has been built by a decade of covert war."
(c) 2013 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

Jamie gives the corpo-rat slaute!

Jamie Gets Punished

If you are sensitive to stories of human suffering and economic hardship, let me warn you that the following report contains materials that could be upsetting, so discretion is advised.

It's about a fellow named Jamie. He lives in New York, and he had a very rough go in 2012 with a large financial institution - and, as you can imagine, such behemoths can he heartless, so it's tough to stand up to them. The giant in this case is JPMorgan Chase, Wall Street's biggest bank, and it went after poor Jamie Dimon hard. In the end, the bank took more than half of his income.

It was bitterly painful, but thanks to the human spirit, Jamie's story turned from sad to uplifting! He was down, but not out - because, luckily, JPMorgan is his bank. Yes, he's the CEO, and even having his previous year's income slashed by 53 percent, he will still take home $11.5 million in pay for his labors last year. Plus, he keeps his job.

It's a miraculous ending, considering that one of the bank's exotic trading divisions under Jamie's CEOship lost a whopping $6.2 billion last year, due to finagling, incompetence, or both - federal authorities are still investigating. Yet, the board of directors didn't can Dimon because, as it explained to regulators, he had "accepted responsibility" for the management failures that let to the stunning losses.

Wow! He cost investors six big ones, but because he said, in effect, "my bad" - his bungling gets an $11.5 million reward, which the board says is his punishment. And, get this, $10 million of that "punishment" was awarded to him as a bonus!

What a wonderful morality tale this is for America's children. If you make a mess of something, boys and girls, just tell your parents to give you the Jamie Dimon punishment.
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Restore Freedom Locally Before Claiming To Extend It Globally
By Naomi Wolf

The spectacle on the Mall during President Obama's inauguration was a scene of the great theatre of "democracy" - but masking what will likely go into the history books as the greatest loss of democracy in the United States in its history (short, perhaps, of President Lincoln suspending habeas corpus during the civil war). President Obama's first term consolidated more than George W Bush had managed to do: the loss of central freedoms guaranteed in the US constitution.

Freedom was invoked in President Obama's remarks, as in the others'. But what does "freedom" in these speeches really refer to now?

The tragedy of this moment is that since 2008, the balance of power has completely changed between those on the dais and those in the Mall. Those on the dais can ignore them; eavesdrop on them; and now, it seems, disarm them (though I hate guns, I recognize another constitutional right when it is under fire - this time with an unprecedented two-score executive orders).

Those on the dais can now imprison at will those in the Mall and keep them forever. The president can, if he puts their name on a list, kill them.

In his remarks, President Obama did not just declare that ten years of war are over - a tactic I now recognize (from Piers Brendon's excellent history, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire) as being the kind of thing that British imperialists declared to home audiences periodically, even as they ramped up wars of choice in region after region - but promised to "act on behalf of those who long for freedom globally."

Really? How about starting at home: how about restoring freedom locally before claiming to extend it globally?

And why not celebrate a new term by actually recognizing what an inauguration in America is - not an investment of power (a mistake the speakers kept making), but an assumption by the executive of a responsibility, an obligation, contracted in an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States".
(c) 2013 Naomi Wolf author, social critic, and political activist is the author of The New York Times bestseller "The End of America" (Chelsea Green) and, more recently, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. Wolf's landmark international bestseller, The Beauty Myth, challenged the cosmetics industry and the marketing of unrealistic standards of beauty, launching a new wave of feminism in the early 1990s.

At Last - Real History Is Being Revealed
By James Donahue

The advent of the Internet and the concept of video documentaries has opened the door for researchers and photo journalists to reveal information long held back by the corporate controlled media. The information that is now pouring out is radically changing the way America and the world is looking at the history of everything . . . from the wars right down to religious dogma.

A story by Valerie Tarico for Alternet strongly suggests that the Internet is playing a major role in causing a loss of religious followers. She notes that an October 2012 report by the Pew Research Center found that for the first time in history less than 50 percent of Americans identified themselves as Protestant Christians. The same kind of decline is occurring in Catholicism and other world religions.

"Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders," Tarico wrote. "The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity's infancy. But they weren't really designed for the current information age."

Even more compelling have been new and shocking revelations concerning the United States leadership contained in a book, America's Stolen Narrative by Robert Parry, offered through the Truthout website, and a ten-part video documentary prepared by Oliver Stone, based on the work of historian Howard Zinn: The Untold History of the United States. The Stone series can be found by cable television viewers on the Showtime movie channel. It also may be offered for sale soon in video packs.

The Stone documentary series starts with World War II and its aftermath, but examines the political trickery that occurred during the 1944 Democratic National Convention that removed President Roosevelt's Vice Presidential partner Henry A. Wallace and replace him with Harry Truman. That shift, the documentary suggests, may have changed the course of American history since Wallace was less likely to have made the decisions Truman did at the end of the war. It was no secret among those close to the president that Roosevelt was extremely ill and they correctly guessed that he would not live out his final term. Truman ordered the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan in August, 1945, even though he probably knew that Japan was attempting to surrender before the bombings. He also sent American forces into Korea for the "police action" that turned into the first conflict designed (we were told) to stop the spread of the world threat of Communism.

Stone then follows the nation's actions after Korea that brought us into Vietnam and constant warfare thereafter. The documentary offers a revealing look at the forces that brought about the Cold War, the nuclear arms race, the erection of the Berlin Wall and then the collapse of Soviet Socialist Republic. It notes that President Ronald Reagan rejected an offer by Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev to halt the arms race and dismantle all existing nuclear weapons.

The films examine the many complicated facits of American history right up through the Kennedy assassination, the Bush years in office and concludes with President Barack Obama, failing to cast a positive light on any of the elected presidents or their cabinets. Stone concludes that America has been constantly building the industrial military complex warned about by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and moving toward world dominance. Ironically it was Eisenhower who began the post-war military arms build-up under the belief that a powerful military would keep the nation safe.

Concerning Parry's book, reviewer Mark Karlin called it "a thoroughly researched account of how the Republican Party and neocons have conspired to create a false narrative about America's political and constitutional history."

The book documents how the Nixon campaign, to win the presidency, undermined peace talks that might have brought the Vietnam War to an earlier and better conclusion in 1968. The book also suggests that the Reagan campaign conspired with the revolutionary Iranian government to hold the US embassy hostages captive to help him defeat incumbent President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election.

Parry, much like the Stone documentary, ties together the many disasterous U.S. foreign policy decisions that helped the neocons and right wing Republicans rise to power. Karlin writes that "Parry connects the dots from the sabotaged Lyndon Johnson Vietnam peace talks to the deceptions that led to the Iraq War and beyond.

Parry writes in Chapter Eight: 'But the end result of the failed investigations into the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush meant something else for the American people. They were left wandering in a wilderness of false narratives, trying to chart their future on a map drawn by liars.'"
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

RNC chairman Reince Priebus speaking at the 2011 Western Republican Leadership Conference.

GOP Version 2013
Battling Not Just Democrats but Democracy
By John Nichols

On a day when most Americans were focused on the stirring second inaugural address of President Barack Obama-and on the broader majesty of the transference of an election result into a governing mandate-Republican state senators in Virginia hatched an elaborate scheme to rig the electoral system against democracy.

Prevented by an even 20-20 divide in the chamber from gerrymandering Senate districts to favor one party or the other, the Republicans knew that their only opening to draw lines that favored their candidates in this fall's off-year elections would be if at least one Democrat were missing. Inauguration Day gave them an opening, as an African-American senator, a veteran of the civil rights movement, was in Washington to recognize the beginning of the new term of the nation's first African-American president.

In a matter of minutes, the Republicans introduced and approved-on a 20-19 vote-a new map that is designed to concentrate African-American and liberal white votes in a handful of districts while virtually guaranteeing that Republicans will win a majority of the new districts and control of the legislature. And if a Republican wins the governorship this fall, the GOP will, thanks to a legislative coup and the electoral map it created, have complete control of a state that was easily won by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, that has two Democratic senators and that most observers believe is trending Democratic.

After doing the dirty deed, the Republican senators adjourned their Rev. Martin Luther King Day session not in honor of the civil rights icon but "in memory of General Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson."

Welcome to GOP Version 2013.

Shaken by the overwhelming defeats of 2012-a 5 million popular-vote defeat in the presidential race, an Electoral College wipeout, the loss of two US Senate seats in a year where they had been expected to gain, a 1.4 million popular vote deficit in US House races nationwide and the loss of seven of eleven gubernatorial races that were in play-Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has made it clear that he wants his partisan minions to use what power they retain to rig the electoral process.

The Virginia example is blatant.

But it is not isolated. It is part of a national strategy to allow Republicans to "win" even when they lose. And its primary focus will be on gerrymandering not just state legislatures and the US House but on rigging the Electoral College.

Last week, Priebus urged Republican governors and legislators to take up what was once a fringe scheme to change the rules for distribution of Electoral College votes.

Under the Priebus plan, electoral votes from "battleground" states that now regularly back Democrats for president would be allocated not to the statewide winner but to the winners of individual congressional districts.

"I think it's something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue [Democratic in presidential politics] that are fully controlled red [in the statehouse] ought to be considering," Priebus says with regard to the schemes for distributing electoral votes by district rather than the traditional awarding of the votes of each state (except those of Nebraska and Maine, which have historically used narrowly defined district plans) to the winner.

This is not just a theoretical discussion. Legislation to change how electoral votes are distributed is already being prepared in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And Republicans in three other states where their party controls the governorship and the legislature-Florida, Ohio and Virginia-are openly discussing the Priebus plan. Those six states voted for President Obama in 2012 by comfortable margins. Yet, had the Priebus plan been in place just in those six states before the 2012 election, the president's Electoral College margin would have collapsed from a 322-206 landslide to a 270-268 squeaker. A variation on the Priebus plan, which would give each state's two statewide electoral votes to whoever won the most congressional districts, would have elected Republican Mitt Romney.

So President Obama would have won by 5 million votes, carried the majority of states and swept the battlegrounds. But Romney would have been inaugurated as the nation's forty-fifth president.

That's not democracy. But that is the point of the Priebus plan.

Priebus and his team have seen the demographic data. They know that their party's crude appeals to the past-"in memory of General 'Stonewall' Jackson"-have less and less appeal to an American electorate that election results and polling data suggest has little taste for Tea Party fantasies schemes to redistribute wealth upward, American Legislative Exchange Council "Stand Your Ground" laws or attempts to divide the country along lines of race, gender or sexuality.

But Priebus and his allies-including key players such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who calls the scheme "an interesting concept...a plausible concept"-also know that a sly rewriting of the rules for the distribution of Electoral College votes could get them back in the presidential game for 2016.

Priebus has a long history of seeking to game the political system-supporting restrictive "voter ID" laws, seeking to end same-day voter registration and aligning Republicans with groups that make little secret of their determination to intimidate likely Democratic voters. He also has made the RNC an aggressive player in developing and supporting strategies to gerrymander congressional and state legislative district lines (while at the same time isolating minority voters) in order to guarantee elections "wins" even when Republicans lose popular support.

In 2012, when Republicans did in fact lose popular support, the strategy paid off handsomely. Democrats won the national popular vote for congressional seats by a striking 1.4 million votes. Yet, Republicans retained control of the House and, with it, an ability to block agendas favored by the American people.

The Electoral College gambit now being advanced by Priebus builds on gerrymandering strategy, with an ambitious goal. Under the current rules, Barack Obama has twice won the presidency with more than 51 percent of the vote-the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to do so-and secured sweeping Electoral College victories.

But Republican statehouse wins in 2010 gave the party the ability to game the electoral process, not just for elected members of the US House but for electing the president. Because of gerrymandering by Republican governors and legislators, and the concentration of Democratic votes in urban areas and college towns, divvying up Electoral College votes based on congressional district pluralities would in almost every battleground state yield significantly better results for the GOP. In Wisconsin, where Obama won in 2012 by a wider margin than he did nationally, the president would only have gotten half the electoral votes. In Pennsylvania, where Obama won easily, he would not have gotten the twenty electoral votes that he did; instead, under the Priebus plan, as many as thirteen votes would have gone to Republican Mitt Romney.

FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy has run the numbers. They say the results would have been dramatically closer and might even have yielded that Romney win. Under the most commonly proposed district plan (the statewide winner gets two votes with the rest divided by congressional district), Obama would have secured the narrowest possible victory: 270-268. Under more aggressive plans (including the one that awards electoral votes by district and then gives the two statewide votes to the candidate who won the most districts), Romney would have won 280-258.

"If Republicans in 2011 had abused their monopoly control of state government in several key swing states and passed new laws for allocating electoral votes, the exact same votes cast in the exact same way in the 2012 election would have converted Barack Obama's advantage of nearly five million popular votes and 126 electoral votes into a resounding Electoral College defeat," explains FairVote's Rob Richie.

This is something Priebus, a bare-knuckles pol who promoted a variety of voter-disenfranchisement schemes in 2012, well understands.

Americans who are more respectful of democracy should also understand the stakes.

There are many reforms that are needed to expand democracy in the United States. But gaming the Electoral College is not one of them.

Indeed, as Richie says, the very fact that it is possible to rewrite the rules and use gerrymandered congressional district lines to thwart the will of the people regarding the election of the president of the United States "should give us all pause."

"The election of the president should be a fair process where all American voters should have an equal ability to hold their president accountable," says Richie. "It's time for the nation to embrace one-person, one-vote elections and the 'fair fight' represented by a national popular vote. Let's forever dismiss the potential of such electoral hooliganism and finally do what the overwhelming majorities of Americans have consistently preferred: make every vote equal with a national popular vote for president."

That's the right standard for a modern nation that respects democracy, just the right standard for drawing district lines in the states would preclude a surprise gerrymandering session of the legislature on the day of President Obama's inauguration and celebrations of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, birth.

But just as Virginia Republicans were willing to abandon any pretense of fairness in order to game the system for statewide electoral advantage, there is every reason to believe that Republican legislators in states across the country will, with encouragement from the national chairman of their party, move to rig the Electoral College so that a losing Republican might again "win" the presidency-as popular-vote loser George W. Bush did in 2000, with an assist from a Republican-dominated US Supreme Court.

Americans who presume that there are limits to the willingness of Priebus and his Republican stalwarts to rig the rules in their favor have not been paying attention. The Virginia coup should serve as their wake-up call. Reince Priebus' GOP Version2013 threatens not just Democratic victories but democracy itself.

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

A Time For 'Sublime Madness'
By Chris Hedges

The planet we have assaulted will convulse with fury. The senseless greed of limitless capitalist expansion will implode the global economy. The decimation of civil liberties, carried out in the name of fighting terror, will shackle us to an interconnected security and surveillance state that stretches from Moscow to Istanbul to New York. To endure what lies ahead we will have to harness the human imagination. It was the human imagination that permitted African-Americans during slavery and the Jim Crow era to transcend their physical condition. It was the human imagination that sustained Sitting Bull and Black Elk as their land was seized and their cultures were broken. And it was the human imagination that allowed the survivors in the Nazi death camps to retain the power of the sacred.

It is the imagination that makes possible transcendence. Chants, work songs, spirituals, the blues, poetry, dance and art converged under slavery to nourish and sustain this imagination. These were the forces that, as Ralph Ellison wrote, "we had in place of freedom." The oppressed would be the first-for they know their fate-to admit that on a rational level such a notion is absurd, but they also know that it is only through the imagination that they survive. Jewish inmates in Auschwitz reportedly put God on trial for the Holocaust and then condemned God to death. A rabbi stood after the verdict to lead the evening prayers.

African-Americans and Native Americans, for centuries, had little control over their destinies. Forces of bigotry and violence kept them subjugated by whites. Suffering, for the oppressed, was tangible. Death was a constant companion. And it was only their imagination, as William Faulkner noted at the end of "The Sound and the Fury," that permitted them-unlike the novel's white Compson family-to "endure."

The theologian James H. Cone captures this in his masterpiece "The Cross and the Lynching Tree." Cone says that for oppressed blacks the cross was a "paradoxical religious symbol because it inverts the world's value system with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first last." Cone continues:

That God could "make a way out of no way" in Jesus' cross was truly absurd to the intellect, yet profoundly real in the souls of black folk. Enslaved blacks who first heard the gospel message seized on the power of the cross. Christ crucified manifested God's loving and liberating presence in the contradictions of black life-that transcendent presence in the lives of black Christians that empowered them to believe that ultimately, in God's eschatological future, they would not be defeated by the "troubles of this world," no matter how great and painful their suffering. Believing this paradox, this absurd claim of faith, was only possible in humility and repentance. There was no place for the proud and the mighty, for people who think that God called them to rule over others. The cross was God's critique of power-white power-with powerless love, snatching victory out of defeat.

Reinhold Niebuhr, as Cone points out in his book, labeled this capacity to defy the forces of repression "a sublime madness in the soul." Niebuhr wrote that "nothing but madness will do battle with malignant power and 'spiritual wickedness in high places.'" This sublime madness, as Niebuhr understood, is dangerous, but it is vital. Without it, "truth is obscured." And Niebuhr also knew that traditional liberalism was a useless force in moments of extremity. Liberalism, Niebuhr said, "lacks the spirit of enthusiasm, not to say fanaticism, which is so necessary to move the world out of its beaten tracks. It is too intellectual and too little emotional to be an efficient force in history."

Niebuhr's "sublime madness" permits the rest of us to view the possibilities of a world otherwise seen only by the visionary, the artist and the madman. And it permits us to fight for these possibilities. The prophets in the Hebrew Bible had this sublime madness. The words of the Hebrew prophets, as Abraham Heschel wrote, were "a scream in the night. While the world is at ease and asleep, the prophet feels the blast from heaven."

Primo Levi in his memoir "Survival in Auschwitz" tells of teaching Italian to another inmate, Jean Samuel, in exchange for lessons in French. Levi recites to Samuel from memory Canto XXVI of Dante's "The Inferno." It is the story of Ulysses' final voyage.

"He has received the message," Levi writes, "he has felt that it has to do with him, that it has to do with all men who toil, and with us in particular." Levi goes on. "It is vitally necessary and urgent that he listen, that he understand ... before it is too late; tomorrow he or I might be dead, or we might never see each other again."

The poet Leon Staff wrote from the Warsaw ghetto: "Even more than bread we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all."

It is only those who can retreat into the imagination, and through their imagination can minister to the suffering of those around them, who uncover the physical and psychological strength to resist.

" ... [T]he people noticed that Crazy Horse was queerer than ever," Black Elk said in remembering the final days of the wars against the Indians. He went on to say of the great Sioux warrior: "He hardly ever stayed in the camp. People would find him out alone in the cold, and they would ask him to come home with them. He would not come, but sometimes he would tell the people what to do. People wondered if he ate anything at all. Once my father found him out alone like that, and he said to my father: 'Uncle, you have noticed me the way I act. But do not worry; there are caves and holes for me to live in, and out here the spirits may help me. I am making plans for the good of my people.'"

Homer, Dante, Beethoven, Melville, Dostoevsky, Proust, Joyce, W.H. Auden, Emily Dickinson and James Baldwin, along with artists such as the sculptor David Smith, the photographer Diane Arbus and the blues musician Charley Patton, all had it. It is the sublime madness that lets one sing, as bluesman Ishman Bracey did in Hinds County, Miss., "I've been down so long, Lawd, down don't worry me." And yet in the mists of the imagination also lies the certainty of divine justice:

I feel my hell a-risin', a-risin' every day;
I feel my hell a-risin', a-risin' every day;
Someday it'll burst this levee and wash the whole wide world away.

Shakespeare's greatest heroes and heroines-Prospero, Anthony, Juliet, Viola, Rosalind, Hamlet, Cordelia and Lear-all have this sublime madness. As Theseus says in "A Midsummer Night's Dream":

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.

"Ultimately, the artist and the revolutionary function as they function, and pay whatever dues they must pay behind it because they are both possessed by a vision, and they do not so much follow this vision as find themselves driven by it," wrote James Baldwin. "Otherwise, they could never endure, much less embrace, the lives they are compelled to lead."
(c) 2013 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

The White House Un-Reality Show
By Glen Ford

Like an abusive spouse who preys on the emotional desperation and dependency of his domestic victim, Barack Obama knows that all he need do is offer some cheap street corner flowers and a few sweet words, and the previous nights and months and years of beatings will be forgiven. Just hum a bar or two of an old, shared song, and the battered partner will supply a full symphony of Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra - because she needs to hear it, if only inside her own head.

After four years of chasing Republican skirts in search of a grand austerity bargain; of debauching himself in marathon binges of global lawlessness and aggressive war; of defiling the Bill of Rights through preventive detention and massive domestic spying; of callous neglect of the jobs and lost wealth crisis afflicting the most loyal members of his political family; and of brazen cavorting with the vile and filthy rich, sheltering them from incarceration for crimes against the national and global economy, Barack Obama slunk home on the morning of January 21, to be smothered with kisses.

Much of what passes for the Left, and for traditional African American leadership, agreed with the New York Times' assessment that Barack Obama's second inaugural address represented a firm embrace of "a progressive agenda centered on equality and opportunity." Significantly, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell echoed the sentiment: "The era of liberalism is back...the speech certainly brings back memories of the Democratic Party in ages past."

It is in the mutual interest of corporate media and rightwing Republicans to move the bar of "progressive" politics ever rightward. However, for African Americans and white progressives, it amounts to erasing their own political legacies from history.

Actuality, Obama embraced nothing: he merely peppered the speech with progressive buzzwords and references - just enough notes to get the faithful to fill in the empty spaces with their own internal music. It was classic Obama.

"A decade of war is now ending," said the Second Incarnation of Obama, sounding a false "peace" note. If he was talking about Afghanistan, that's a damnable lie. There is no agreement to end U.S. combat involvement in Afghanistan, and no intention of achieving one - only the stated goal to lower troop levels. The Pentagon is fielding contingencies to reduce U.S. troop strength to between 6,000 and 20,000. (When Obama entered office there were 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which he raised to about 100,000 in the "surge" of 2011.) Although the administration line is that most of the remaining Americans will be "trainers," they will include thousands of Special Forces troops to continue "counterinsurgency" and "counterterrorism" operations. Special Forces are "trainers" and "force multipliers" by U.S. military definition, "training" native troops while engaged in combat missions. U.S. air forces, drone and manned, will continue to pound targets. Obama's nearly completed "codification" of U.S. drone policies exempts the CIA from any clear rules for "targeted-killing" drone operations in neighboring Pakistan for at least a year, to allow them to do as much damage as possible in the quest for Obama's version of peace.

But history may record Obama's greatest crime against peace as changing the definition of war. According to his unique doctrine, the U.S. cannot be in a state of war, or even "hostilities" with another people or country, unless Americans are killed in the process. Thus, Obama refused to report to the U.S. Congress under the War Powers Act following eight months of bombardment of Libya, claiming no state of war had existed since no Americans had died. By this logic, the U.S. is empowered to bomb anyone, anywhere on the planet at will, without the constraints of national or international law, as long as care is taken to protect the lives of U.S. personnel.

Obama rhetorically abolishes war while promulgating a doctrine of general immunity from the rules of war. Armed with such a concept and vocabulary, he can proceed with the militarization of Africa policy, his "pivot" to contain the Chinese in the Pacific, the terror campaign in Syria, the virtual state of war against Iran, and update of his Kill List in perpetuity. What, then, is the president's meaning when he tells hundreds of thousands on the National Mall that "enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war?" This, from a man who makes war on language, itself.

"An economic recovery has begun," said Obama. Not for Blacks, whose official 14 percent unemployment rate is more than twice that of whites (6.9 percent), and whose median household wealth has fallen to one-twentieth that of white families - a catastrophe of historical proportions. The "recovery" is mainly confined to Wall Street, which is awash in cash, thanks to more than four years of free money (for banks, only). This administration's jobs policy, like the Republicans', consists almost entirely of tax incentives to business: trickle down. The One Percent's "rising tide" has lifted only their yachts.

Obama admits that "a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it," but has done nothing to curtail the hegemony of Wall Street, the mighty engine of economic inequality. Quite the opposite. His Justice Department has granted blanket immunities from prosecution in both "Scandals of the Century" - the LIBOR interest rate rigging scheme and mortgage robo-signing - letting the mega-crooks off with fines. Nevertheless, liberals were heartened when Obama fixed his lips to say "the free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play" - as if there were even a hint of substance in the verbal exercise.

As much as 80 percent of the public supports Social Security and Medicare, including the entirety of the president's Democratic base. Yet, it was Barack Obama who began the current austerity offensive in the weeks before delivering his first inaugural address, informing the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards that all entitlements would be on the table for chopping during his administration. He followed through by appointing a Deficit Reduction Commission chaired by a far-right Republican and the farthest-right Democrat he could find (Simpson and Bowles), who crafted the blueprint for austerity that became Obama's model for a grand bargain with the GOP. The deal fell through in 2011 when Republicans balked at even "modest" tax increases on the rich, but there is not a scintilla of evidence that the president has abandoned his long, ideologically-based opposition to the safety net as presently constituted.

Only last month, he offered to alter the way Social Security benefits are calculated - as an opener to negotiations. Obama has shown, by word and deed, that he poses the greatest threat to Social Security in its history - far greater than George W. Bush, whose assault on the New Deal program met ferocious Democratic resistance. Obama will carry much of the Party with him - which is why we at Black Agenda Report call the First Black President "the more effective evil."

So, when Obama uses a ceremonial occasion to declare that: "The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us" and "...a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune," it is only cheap rhetoric, signifying nothing. Obama claims he wants to "reform" entitlements in order to "strengthen" them - which is precisely the Republican line. By cheering the inaugural speech, progressives are only encouraging Obama's gaming and mendacity.

And so it goes. The Great Deporter becomes the great protector of immigrant rights. The man who killed the Kyoto Agreement is heralded as a champion of the environment because he expresses respect for "science" and pledges to somehow "respond to the threat of climate change." The mention of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s name signifies...what? Nowadays, not a thing.

It is true: Obama is the most gay-friendly president to date. I don't think U.S. imperialism and Wall Street hegemons have a fundamental problem with that, either.

Apparently, being gay-friendly is all it takes to be considered a champion of a "progressive agenda" in 2013.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The Big Deal
By Paul Krugman

On the day President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, an exuberant Vice President Biden famously pronounced the reform a "big something deal" - except that he didn't use the word "something." And he was right.

In fact, I'd suggest using this phrase to describe the Obama administration as a whole. F.D.R. had his New Deal; well, Mr. Obama has his Big Deal. He hasn't delivered everything his supporters wanted, and at times the survival of his achievements seemed very much in doubt. But if progressives look at where we are as the second term begins, they'll find grounds for a lot of (qualified) satisfaction.

Consider, in particular, three areas: health care, inequality and financial reform.

Health reform is, as Mr. Biden suggested, the centerpiece of the Big Deal. Progressives have been trying to get some form of universal health insurance since the days of Harry Truman; they've finally succeeded.

True, this wasn't the health reform many were looking for. Rather than simply providing health insurance to everyone by extending Medicare to cover the whole population, we've constructed a Rube Goldberg device of regulations and subsidies that will cost more than single-payer and have many more cracks for people to fall through.

But this was what was possible given the political reality - the power of the insurance industry, the general reluctance of voters with good insurance to accept change. And experience with Romneycare in Massachusetts - hey, this is a great age for irony - shows that such a system is indeed workable, and it can provide Americans with a huge improvement in medical and financial security.

What about inequality? On that front, sad to say, the Big Deal falls very far short of the New Deal. Like F.D.R., Mr. Obama took office in a nation marked by huge disparities in income and wealth. But where the New Deal had a revolutionary impact, empowering workers and creating a middle-class society that lasted for 40 years, the Big Deal has been limited to equalizing policies at the margin.

That said, health reform will provide substantial aid to the bottom half of the income distribution, paid for largely through new taxes targeted on the top 1 percent, and the "fiscal cliff" deal further raises taxes on the affluent. Over all, 1-percenters will see their after-tax income fall around 6 percent; for the top tenth of a percent, the hit rises to around 9 percent. This will reverse only a fraction of the huge upward redistribution that has taken place since 1980, but it's not trivial.

Finally, there's financial reform. The Dodd-Frank reform bill is often disparaged as toothless, and it's certainly not the kind of dramatic regime change one might have hoped for after runaway bankers brought the world economy to its knees.

Still, if plutocratic rage is any indication, the reform isn't as toothless as all that. And Wall Street put its money where its mouth is. For example, hedge funds strongly favored Mr. Obama in 2008 - but in 2012 they gave three-quarters of their money to Republicans (and lost).

All in all, then, the Big Deal has been, well, a pretty big deal. But will its achievements last?

Mr. Obama overcame the biggest threat to his legacy simply by winning re-election. But George W. Bush also won re-election, a victory widely heralded as signaling the coming of a permanent conservative majority. So will Mr. Obama's moment of glory prove equally fleeting? I don't think so.

For one thing, the Big Deal's main policy initiatives are already law. This is a contrast with Mr. Bush, who didn't try to privatize Social Security until his second term - and it turned out that a "khaki" election won by posing as the nation's defender against terrorists didn't give him a mandate to dismantle a highly popular program.

And there's another contrast: the Big Deal agenda is, in fact, fairly popular - and will become more popular once Obamacare goes into effect and people see both its real benefits and the fact that it won't send Grandma to the death panels.

Finally, progressives have the demographic and cultural wind at their backs. Right-wingers flourished for decades by exploiting racial and social divisions - but that strategy has now turned against them as we become an increasingly diverse, socially liberal nation.

Now, none of what I've just said should be taken as grounds for progressive complacency. The plutocrats may have lost a round, but their wealth and the influence it gives them in a money-driven political system remain. Meanwhile, the deficit scolds (largely financed by those same plutocrats) are still trying to bully Mr. Obama into slashing social programs.

So the story is far from over. Still, maybe progressives - an ever-worried group - might want to take a brief break from anxiety and savor their real, if limited, victories.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Although most Americans may be largely ignorant of what was, and still is, being done in their names, all are likely to pay a steep price-individually and collectively-for their nation's continued efforts to dominate the global scene."
~~~ Chalmers Johnson

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah welcomes former British Prime Minister Blair in
Riyadh Tony Blair meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Brookings' Bruce Riedel Urges Intensified US Support For Saudi Despots
Every now and then, leading mavens of the Foreign Policy Community have an uncharacteristic outburst of candor
By Glenn Greenwald

When it comes to the US "foreign policy community", few if any people are more representative of it than Bruce Riedel. A 30-year CIA officer and adviser to the last four US presidents, he is now a senior fellow at the wing of the Brookings Institution funded by entertainment mogul Haim Saban (whom the New York Times described as "a tireless cheerleader for Israel" and who described himself this way: "I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel"). In 2012, Riedel contributed to a book on Iran by Brookings "scholars" which argued that the US could launch a war against Iran by covertly provoking its government into responses that could then falsely be depicted by the US to the world "as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression" - exactly what Brookings' Ken Pollack proposed be done in 2002 to deceitfully justify the attack on Iraq. According to Brookings, "in January 2009, President Barack Obama asked Riedel to chair a review of American policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, the results of which the president announced in a speech on March 27, 2009."

When they speak publicly, the mavens of the Foreign Policy Community - whose primary function is to justify US militarism and aggression - typically disguise their real beliefs and objectives with specialized obfuscating jargon. But every now and then, they have an outburst of uncharacteristic candor that clarifies their actual worldview. Such is the case with a remarkably clear memorandum to President Obama that Riedel just authored and Brooking published regarding the extremely close US alliance with the regime in Saudi Arabia.

Riedel begins by noting that "Saudi Arabia is the world's last absolute monarchy" and "like Louis XIV, King Abdallah has complete authority." Moreover, "the Saudi royal family has shown no interest in sharing power or in an elected legislature." The Saudi regime not only imposes total repression on its own people but is also vital, he argues, in maintaining tyranny in multiple neighboring states: "they have helped ensure that revolution has not unseated any Arab monarch" and "the other monarchs of Arabia would inevitably be in jeopardy if revolution comes to Saudi Arabia." Specifically:

"The Sunni minority in Bahrain could not last without Saudi money and tanks. Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are city-states that would be unable to defend themselves against a Saudi revolutionary regime, despite all their money."

So given this extreme human suffering and repression imposed by the Saudi monarchy in multiple countries, what should the US - the Leader of the Free World and the self-proclaimed Deliverer of Freedom and Democracy - do? To Riedel, the answer is obvious: work even harder, do even more, to strengthen the Saudi regime as well as the neighboring tyrannies in order to crush the "Arab Awakenings" and ensure that democratic revolution cannot succeed in those nations.

Riedel stridently argues that the US must remain steadfastly opposed to any democratic revolutions in the region. That's because Saudi Arabia is "America's oldest ally in the Middle East, a partnership that dates back to 1945." Thus, "since American interests are so intimately tied to the House of Saud, the US does not have the choice of distancing the United States from it in an effort to get on the right side of history."

Instead, he insists, while Obama should "encourage" the Saudi King to accelerate the modest reforms he has abstractly embraced, the overarching principle driving US actions should be that "the overthrow of the monarchy would represent a severe setback to America's position in the region and provide a dramatic strategic windfall for Iran." And the US should not only prop up the Saudi dictatorship, but also must "be ready to shore up the neighboring kingdoms and sheikhdoms." As a Bahraini correspondent wrote about this Riedel memo: "Brookings is basically telling Obama to make sure we remain ruled by dictatorial regimes." The only thing unclear about Riedel's memo is why he perceives any urgency to write it. As he notes, US policy long has been and still is exactly what he advocates: to ensure that the people of Saudi Arabia remain tyrannized by this monarchy:

"The critical defender of the regime would be the National Guard. King Abdallah has spent his life building this Praetorian elite force. The United States has trained and equipped it with tens of billions of dollars' worth of helicopters and armored vehicles."

Just last week, President Obama emphasized how critical his alliance with the House of Saud is by doing something a US president rarely does: hosting not a fellow head of state but a mere minister (Saudi Minister of Interior, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud) in the Oval Office. Afterward, the White House proclaimed that Obama and the Saudi Prince "affirmed the strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia."

Indeed, the Obama administration has continuously lavished the Saudi Kingdom with a record amount of arms and other weapons, and has done the same for the Bahraini tyranny. He has done all this while maintaining close-as-ever alliances with the Gulf State despots as they crush their own democratic movements.

As always, the rationale for this steadfast US support for Arab tyranny is dubious at best. Riedel notes that "while the United States can live without Saudi oil, China, India, Japan and Europe cannot" - but it's absurd to think that whoever rules Saudi Arabia would refuse to sell its oil on the world market. Riedel also argues that "the CIA war against al-Qaida is heavily dependent on the Kingdom" - that gets closer to the truth, but it just shows how this endless "war" is the author of most of America's bad acts in the region, and it's ironic indeed that the only government with valid links to the 9/11 perpetrators has become the closest US ally in the "war on terror", while governments with no such links - starting with Iran - have become perpetual US enemies.

Riedel also says that "the Saudis have also been a key player in containing Iran for decades." But when it comes to repression and tyranny, Iran - as atrocious as its regime is capable of being - is no match for the Saudis. There is zero reason to view Iran as an implacable enemy of the US, and it is certainly no justification for imposing absolute tyranny on millions of people in the Arab world merely because those regimes are similarly hostile to Iran.

But as I emphasized last week, the point here is not to object to US support for the world's worst dictators; it is, instead, to urge that this reality be acknowledged. Despite this obvious truth - that the US has no objection whatsoever to tyranny but rather loves and supports it when tyrants are faithful to its interests - hordes of foreign policy "experts" shamelessly pretend that the US and its Nato allies are committed to spreading freedom and democracy and fighting despotism in order to justify every new US and Nato intervention.

Just listen to the patently deceitful rhetoric that spews forth from US political leaders and their servants in the Foreign Policy Community when it comes time to rail against anti-US regimes in Libya, Syria and Iran. That the US and its Nato allies - eager benefactors of the world's worst tyrants - are opposed to those regimes out of concern for democracy and human rights is a pretense, a conceit, so glaring and obvious that it really defies belief that people are willing to advocate it in public with a straight face. Even Riedel notes the real reason for those interventions: the Saudis, he writes, are "pragmatists and have backed revolutions in Libya and Syria that undermine longstanding enemies of the Kingdom, especially Iran."

The same inane rhetoric is pouring forth in the debate over the Mali intervention. The same countries that are arming the worst human rights abusers on the African continent are simultaneously flattering themselves as crusaders for human rights by bombing Mali. Meanwhile, those who point out that bombing Muslims in yet another country will be used by al-Qaida to strengthen itself further - as the NYT put it: "the backlash might end up being worse than the original threat" - are predictably smeared as Terrorist sympathizers by the self-proclaimed experts of the Foreign Policy Community who exist to justify US and Nato militarism (see here and here as examples).

It's the same warped, flagrantly propagandistic debate that has been taking place over and over for decades. It's how the Saudi-loving George Bush and Tony Blair were able to tell their citizens that their former ally, Saddam Hussein, had to be attacked and removed from power in part because of how tyrannical he was (citing past human rights abuses that took place when he was supported by the US and Nato allies). And it's how those who pointed out all of the contradictions and hypocrisies in these pro-freedom claims were systematically smeared as being pro-Saddam.

Critically, this propaganda about the commitment to human rights and democracy of the US and its Nato allies is aimed at, and only works on, the domestic populations of those countries. People in the region where these pro-tyranny policies are imposed by Nato members are fully aware of this reality, as public opinion polls unambiguously prove. But when there exists a massive apparatus of self-proclaimed experts calling itself the Foreign Policy Community that exists to propagate these myths, and a US media that similarly views the world through the prism of the US government, it is easy to see why these myths, despite how patently absurd they are, work so effectively. The fact that one can have a memo like Riedel's so clearly explaining US policy to support the worst tyrannies that serve its interests, sitting right next to endless US pro-war rhetoric about the urgency of fighting for freedom and democracy, is an outstanding testament to that myth-making.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.


Nixon Went To China, Who Will Go To Iran?
By David Swanson

Iranians are now beginning to die for lack of medicines kept out by U.S.-imposed sanctions. I recently questioned (and videoed) former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about her notorious defense of sanctions that killed over a half million young Iraqi children. She said she'd been wrong to say what she'd said. She did not comment on the appropriateness of what she'd done. I asked her if what we were doing to Iran was also wrong, and she replied, "No, absolutely not."

So, somehow it is good and proper for us to be killing Iranian children -- although perhaps not to be talking about it.

I suspect that some of the reasons why we imagine there is a greater good being served by such actions are the same reasons no U.S. president will go to Iran in the manner in which Nixon went to China. Of course, the common political wisdom in the United States holds that the president who went to China had to be a Republican. By the same logic, the president who goes to Iran must be a militarist power-mad servant of the corporate oligarchy from the Republican party and not a militarist power-mad servant of the corporate oligarchy from the Democratic party. That wouldn't do at all. And yet, U.S. conduct toward Iran has varied little from Bush to Clinton to Bush Jr. to Obama/Clinton, H. A hopeless spiral of delusional counter-productive approaches toward the Islamic Republic of Iran needs to be broken by a 180 degree turn, and it won't make much substantive difference who does it, as long as it doesn't come too late. Whether the authors intended exactly that or not, the above is the lesson I take away from an excellent new book by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett called "Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran." It has been U.S. policy for decades not to engage with Iran, and -- misleading rhetoric notwithstanding -- it still is. "More than any of his predecessors, in fact, Obama has given engagement a bad name, by claiming to have reached out to Tehran and failed when the truth is he never really tried."

The Leveretts trace official U.S. policy on Iran to a trio of myths: the myths of irrationality, illegitimacy, and isolation.


The evidence of irrationality on the part of the Iranian people or the Iranian government is very slim. I can find much more irrationality in the U.S. public and government. Iranians, in fact, are better at distinguishing between our people and our government than we seem to be at making that distinction on their side. Iran has funded Hizballah and HAMAS, and we call those groups terrorists. But we call any militants opposing Pentagon interests terrorists. Iranian leaders have made comments verging on anti-Semitic (and routinely distorted into outrageous anti-Semitism), but nothing approaching the things Anwar Sadat or Mahmoud Abbas said or wrote before they were deemed rational actors with whom the U.S. and Israel could (and did) work.

Iran's policies have been defensive, not aggressive. Iran has not threatened to attack or attacked others. Iran has refused to retaliate against chemical weapons attacks or terrorism or our shooting down a commercial jet or our funding efforts within Iran to manipulate its elections or our training of militants seeking to overthrow Iran's government. Iran has refused to develop chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. Unlike Britain, Russia, or the United States, when provoked Iran has refused to invade Afghanistan, choosing wise reflection over hot-tempered anger. Look at the polling across the Middle East: people fear the United States and Israel, not Iran.

Iran's approach to the United States over the years has been rational and forbearant. In 1995 the Islamic Republic of Iran offered its first foreign oil development contract to the United States, which turned it down. Iran aided President Clinton by shipping arms to Bosnia, which Clinton turned around and condemned Iran for when the story became public. In 2001, the President of Iran requested permission to pray for 911 victims at the site of the World Trade Center and offered to assist in counterterrorism plans, but was turned down. Iran assisted the United States with its invasion of Afghanistan and was labeled "evil" in return. The current president of Iran wrote long friendly letters to President Bush and President Obama, both of whom ignored them except to allow their staffs to publicly mock them. The Iranian government repeatedly proposed substantive dialogue, offering to put everything on the table, including its nuclear energy program, and was turned down. The Obama administration gave Turkey and Brazil terms it was sure Iran wouldn't agree to; Iran agreed to them; and the White House rejected them, choosing instead to grow outraged at Brazil and Turkey.

Iran tried to believe in the change in Obama's (no doubt domestically intended) rhetoric, but never encountered any substance, only fraud and hostility. That Iran attempts civil relations with a nation surrounding and threatening it, imposing deadly sanctions on it, funding terrorism within its borders, and publicly mocking its sincere approaches is indication of either rationality or something almost Christ-like (I'm inclined to go with rationality).


War is immoral, illegal, and counter-productive. That doesn't change if the people bombed are living or suffering under an illegitimate government. Here in the United States an unaccountable Supreme Court rewrites our basic laws, unverifiable privately owned and operated machines count our votes, candidates are chosen by wealth, media coverage is dolled out by a corporate cartel, presidents disregard the legislature, and high crimes and misdemeanors are not prosecuted. And yet, nonetheless -- amazing to tell -- we'd rather not be bombed. I don't give a damn whether this scholar or that scholar believes the Iranian government is legitimate or not; I don't want any human beings killed in my name with my money.

That being said, common claims of illegitimacy for Iran's government are myths. Western experts have predicted its imminent collapse (as well as its imminent development of nukes) for decades. Iranian elections are far more credible than U.S. ones. A government need not be secular to be legitimate. I might favor secular governments, but I'm not an Iranian. I'm a citizen of a government that has been seeking to control Iran's government for over a half century since overthrowing it in 1953; I don't get to have a voice. Iranians are gaining in rights, in education, in health, in life expectancy (the opposite in many ways of the course we are on in the United States). Iranian women used to be permitted to dress as they liked but not to pursue the education and career they liked. Now that has largely been reversed. Iranian women are guaranteed paid maternity leave that outstrips our standards. Iran's approach to drugs is more rational than our own, its approach to homosexuality more mixed than we suspect, its investment in science cutting edge.

All of that being said, the Iranian government abuses its people in ways that need to be addressed by its people and should have been directly addressed by the Leveretts' book.

I also want to quibble with the Leveretts' account of the 1979 revolution in light of the views of some who were there at the time. I'm not convinced that Khomeini led and directed the revolution from the start. I'm willing to believe that secular pro-democracy activists did not represent the views of all Iranians. There's no question that significant support swung to Khomeini and the mullahs who claimed power. But Khomeini's supposed leadership was news in the West before it was ever heard of in Tehran. The Shah was not opposed for his secularism, but for his surveillance, imprisonment, torture, murder, greed, expropriation of wealth, and subservience to foreigners. The Leveretts admit that Khomeini originally proposed a government with less power for himself and then revised his plans, but they claim that he only did so in response to secularists' insistence that he hold no power at all. Not the strongest defense of tyranny I've ever encountered.

The authors then cite a public referendum of December 2-3, 1979, in which, they say, "the new constitution was approved by 98 percent of participating voters." Sounds impressive, right? Guess what choices the voters were offered: an Islamic republic or the Shah! Of course they chose the Islamic republic! But to turn around and claim that 98% voted against a secular republic is misleading. During the 2003-2013 U.S. war on Iraq, a U.S. Democratic-Party group called polled its membership. Did they support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan for more war or President George W. Bush's? Of course, they overwhelmingly chose Pelosi's. MoveOn then turned around and claimed that their people opposed Congresswoman Barbara Lee's proposal to end the war. Such votes should be given no more dignity than they deserve.

How the government of the 1980s came to be does not tell us everything we should know about today's government, but nothing you could tell me about today's government would have any relevance to the morality of bombing the people of Iran.


The United States has sought to isolate Iran and failed dramatically, with Iran now chairing the Nonaligned Movement. It has sought to use economic and other pressures to overthrow the government, and instead strengthened it. In 2011, Obama opened a "virtual embassy" to propagandize the Iranian people for "regime change." In 2012 it removed the terrorist designation for an opposition terrorist group called the MEK. Imagine if Iran did such things to us, rather than just being Muslim or whatever it is that it's actually done to us. The Leveretts present a long and unrelenting history of incompetence and irrationality . . . from the U.S. side. They have been reduced, reasonably enough, to something that sounds ridiculous: longing for Richard Nixon.

I don't expect you to understand
After you've caused so much pain
But then again, you're not to blame
You're just a human, a victim of the insane
We're afraid of everyone
Afraid of the sun
The sun will never disappear
But the world may not have many years
Isolation ~~~ John Lennon
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Donnelly,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your assurance that god wants us all to have and use guns, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican 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 first class, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-15-2013. We salute you Herr Donnelly, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Obama In The Shadow Of Martin Luther King
By Matthew Rothschild

The coincidence of Barack Obama's second inaugural coming, as it does, on Martin Luther King's birthday, invites reflection.

Yes, we've come a long way on race relations since 1968. I, like many people over 50, never thought I'd see the day that a black man would become President.

We have matured as a nation, at least on the surface, on the issue of race, though you don't have to dig deep to find it: in the Republican Party, in our resegregated schools, in our income and wealth disparities.

But Martin Luther King was concerned not only with fighting racial injustice. In the last five years of his life, he set out to attack poverty and to confront what he called the "giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism."

He understood the linkages among them. He grasped the injustice of capitalism. And he, deep in his bones, was committed to nonviolence.

Still today, capitalism and militarism reign.

And President Obama has not done much to curb the excesses of capitalism, and done nothing but expand the reach of militarism with drone warfare.

Of all the judgments that a Martin Luther King might make of our current President, that one, I'm afraid would be the most harsh.
(c) 2013 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Obama's Place In History Already Assured
By William Pfaff

The overall failure of American foreign policy during the first Obama presidency was foreseeable. Mr. Obama had been a law professor and an urban organizer. He took his foreign policy views from reading the newspapers, and he appointed as his advisers and officials figures from past administrations and the academy representing the conventional liberal views of the period. Original thinking was not evident. In military matters, he inevitably was the prisoner of the Pentagon.

He declared that he would win the "real" war among the two he inherited from the second Bush administration: the war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan's was an accidentally acquired American client government, unrepresentative of the ethnic plurality of its population. The Taliban insurgents wanted (and still want) to expel the foreign occupation (as the Afghan people have repeatedly succeeded in doing in the past) and impose an oppressive theocratic regime upon the country's people, which would be unfortunate for them, but to which the American people would quickly demonstrate their indifference - having their own domestic quarrels.

The second Obama presidency commences with the Afghanistan war scheduled to end by 2015, although the U.S. Command, and surviving Republican neo-conservative believers in the wars of civilizations, want to fight on, as does Afghan President Karzai, whose personal future will be compromised by American withdrawal. But the American caravan moves on, the American people restless with defeats.

President Obama has failed to find a grand strategy, the New York Times writes. Will he find such a strategy in his second term? Not, I should think, if his purpose (as the Times proposes) is to "restore America's influence and image" and "redirect world events," thereby becoming "a transformative president on a global stage." The latter interpretation of the presidential ambition is from Jeffrey A. Bader, a former diplomat who, according to the Times, "was one of the White House architects of the ‘rebalancing' toward Asia" announced by the first Obama administration.

John O. Brennan, the president's nomination for second-term CIA director, has been the sponsor of the drone killings that were the most important foreign policy innovation of the first Obama term. According to the British Middle Eastern specialist Patrick Seale, in 2012, drones killed 185 people in Yemen, and 470 in Pakistan which included (at least) 68 identified non-combatants (family, rescuers, bystanders). The victims in Afghanistan are unreported because of the effect of the attacks on political and public opinion concerning the Karzai presidency and the NATO forces deployed in the country. In Pakistan, 74 percent of those recently polled regard the United States as an enemy nation.

So far as the White House is concerned, the invisibility (to Americans) of the drone attacks are a great asset because few Americans now pay attention to what George W. Bush named "The Great War on Global Terror," and no Americans are coming home in boxes from the drone campaigns.

The U.S. Air Force's drone pilots are comfortably installed at seven U.S. airbases (the CIA's drones are mostly operated abroad), from which they go home to wife and kiddies when their duty is done. Their only danger is a drunk driver on the highway. If they are lucky on the duty roster, they'll be able to watch the Super Bowl.

It seems safe to say that Mr. Obama is not going to become a transformative president by killing a few hundred Islamist Arabs and Pakistanis a year-and now perhaps Africans, since France's President Francois Hollande has opened up the Sahara front. (America is supposed to be the "global security provider," but France owns Africa.)

Perhaps Asia is where Mr. Obama can earn a place in history as a "Great Decider" alongside George W. Bush. It's never been made clear what the "pivot" to Asia has been all about. It's surely not just to save Australians and New Zealanders from China (better to arm them against Great White sharks). One would assume that China is the cause of it, but why? The Chinese are making trouble about their territorial and maritime claims, but these are potentially resolvable by international negotiations or courts and not worth going to war with the United States about.

China already can claim the number one place as global possessor of fiscal reserves, importer of raw materials and European luxury goods, and exporter to the world of clothing and electronics, all of them titles the United States has no reason to wish to wrest from them. So why go to war? Though Americans and Chinese are both known for their sensitivity to gaining or losing "face," is that the reason?

What other great issues will confront a second Obama term? Israel and the newly U.N.-recognized Palestinian state, confined within Israel's systems of internal walls? President Obama has already indirectly informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if the Israelis really wish to forcibly impose apartheid upon the Palestinians under their military domination, they can go ahead and do so, earning world reprobation and isolation on their own responsibility. An attack on Iran would also seem to be something for which Israel would find no American support. An attack by Iran is inconceivable.

At this point, as the Obama inauguration festivities turn to memories, the gowns and dinner jackets (with their Obama-mode white ties) packed away, an apparently bored president may (and perhaps should) settle back into the Oval Office to watch the House Republicans savage one another. His place in American history is already assured.
(c) 2013 Visit William Pfaff's website for more on his latest book, "The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy."

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ David Fitzsimmons ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

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Parting Shots...


Knee Deep In A Tattoo Boom
By Will Durst

We may have witnessed a generational sea change the other night at the Golden Globe Awards. Talking about when creator, writer and breakthrough star of HBO's Girls, Lena Dunham, teetered up to the stage on what appeared to be hockey skates sporting a minor array of tattoos leaking out of her ball gown in front of a worldwide audience. Fortunately her dress had been color-designed to coordinate with copious amounts of blue ink.

And these weren't discreet little ankle hearts or some Chinese character supposedly representing "peace" but actually translating to "screw you round-eye" either. These were big bold tats. Peek-a-boo with the emphasis on the boo. One looked to be a two-house homage to the children's book heroine Eloise spanning the width of the actress' back. And on her upper right arm -- Ferdinand the Bull in his field of flowers. And those were just the visibles.

Now, my generation dabbled with tattoos but generally considered them the mark of sailors, rock stars, Maori Tribesmen and Dennis Rodman. Hell, most baby boomers are loathe to put stickers on their laptops. But every generation yearns to physically differentiate itself from their forebears and long hair and baggy pants and ironically retro t-shirts were already taken. Thus, the kids use piercings and tats as their ticket to Hipster City. Which remains to this day a gated community.

And also why we find ourselves knee deep in a tattoo boom. Tattoos in quantities and places previously unimagined. Wander into a club at night and you'll swear you're attending a carny convention. Complicated sleeves and full-body tats. Prodding carnies and cons to up the ante. Leading to a proliferation of neck and face tattoos. "Society is against me." Dude, you got 666 tattooed on your forehead. You might be leading the charge.

Neither can we be sure youth is prepared for possible complications. Whenever permanently displaying an impromptu decision made in a questionable state of sobriety at the age of 18, problems inevitably arise. For instance, is youth aware their extravagantly illustrated canvases have a tendency to deteriorate over time? Change shape? That cute little butterfly may someday grow up to be a pterodactyl. The unicorn prancing on a rainbow: a rhino entombed in a bog. And in 30 years, the houses on Lena's back could very well be hit by a Salvador Dali melting bomb.

Also, not everyone is going to spend the rest of their life in jeans and a hoodie. So we got that to look forward to. On formal occasions through eternity we'll be treated to three-color dragon heads rising out of the small of backs. Laughing skulls popping wheelies on motorcycles made out of marijuana smoke bisected by satin straps. Mushroom cloud cleavage. We're already seeing grandmas with Whitesnake tattoos. It's only going to get better.

And who can dismiss the eternal difficulty of memorializing a lover's name. Would need two arm sleeves to catalog half my former girlfriends. An entire forearm devoted to those with names starting with MAR... Marci, Mary & Marni. And that was all before college. Makes you wonder if Angelina Jolie's first husband, Billy Bob Thornton ever sees Brad Pitt and asks, "Hey buddy, how's my name holding up?" 5 time Emmy nominee Will Durst's e-book "Elect to Laugh!" published by Hyperink, is now available at, Amazon and many other fine virtual book retailers near you. Go to for more info.
(c) 2013 Will Durst's, e-book "Elect to Laugh!" published by Hyperink, is now available at, Amazon and many other fine virtual book retailers near you. Go to for more info.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 04 (c) 01/25/2013

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