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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh returns with an, "Occupying Libido."

Uri Avnery encourages, "The Blockbusters."

Matthew Rothschild concludes, "In Obama's State of the Union, Troublesome Passages For Progressives."

Ralph Nader warns of being, "In The Age Of Robotic Weapons."

Jim Hightower expounds on, "America's Class Divide."

Helen Thomas considers, "On Having Dreams."

James Donahue explores, "American Journalists Under The Watchful Eye Of Big Brother."

David Sirota explains, "Our Selective Stance On Bigotry."

David Swanson reports, "Killing Iraqis Makes Us Safer -- And Other SOTU Lies."

Glenn Greenwald examines, "Two lessons From The Megaupload Seizure."

Paul Krugman wonders, "Is Our Economy Healing?"

Chris Floyd sees the, "Pups On Parade."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship observes as, "The Washington-Wall Street Revolving Door Just Keeps Spinning Along."

Indiana State Sinator Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

John Nichols lists, "Six GOP Debate Questions Based On What We Know After South Carolina."

Joel S. Hirschhorn takes a vacation in, "Cruise Ship Vacation Wisdom."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reads "A Letter From Mitt Romney" but first Uncle Ernie sez, SOPA, We Don't Need No Stinking SOPA!

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Joe Heller, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Mike Luckovich, Lee Horsey, B Dog 99%, W. Mears, Abbie Rowe, Zina, Charles Dharapak, Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images, U.S. Government, The White House, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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SOPA, We Don't Need No Stinking SOPA!
By Ernest Stewart

"How good was the recently-passed PRO-IP Act -- the Bill that pumped up intellectual property enforcement and created an executive branch "copyright czar," even though the executive branch didn't want this, and thought it was a bad idea? So good that the Bill alone can shore up President Bush's legacy after years of war, Katrina, wiretapping, and economic collapse. In other words, lawmakers busted out a fresh jar of Awesome and slathered it all over the PRO-IP Act, which President Bush -- no doubt thinking of his legacy --signed into law yesterday." ~~ Nate Anderson

"As the tide of war recedes. . . . America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible . . . if Iran changes course." ~~~ President Barack Obama ...the sanctions are a severe mistake likely to worsen tensions. It's apparent that in this case there is open pressure and diktat, aimed at 'punishing' Iran for uncooperative behavior. This is a deeply mistaken policy, as we have told our European partners more than once. Under pressure of this sort, Iran will not make any concessions or any corrections to its policies." ~~~ Russian Foreign Ministry

"At times like these, survival is the most important thing. Europe is confronting a descent into chaos and conflict. In America, I predict riots in the streets that will lead to a brutal clampdown that will dramatically curtail civil liberties. The global economic system could even collapse altogether."

"I am not here to cheer you up. The situation is about as serious and difficult as I've experienced in my career. We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The best-case scenario is a deflationary environment. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system." ~~~ George Soros

With the withdrawal of the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, my email box was full of thank you notes from various groups -- most taking credit -- with my help, for stopping these two new vile acts from Con-gress from destroying the Internet. In both instances, your selected officials were just doing their masters bidding, i.e., the 1%'s need to destroy the Internet, lest it leads to their downfall! So, there was much ado about this defeat until reality set in!

The reality came as the U.S. Justice Department, under Barry's direction, indicted the owners of one of the world's largest websites, Megaupload, then seized and shut down the site, seizing millions of dollars of its assets, based on unproven accusations, saying Megaupload deliberately aided copyright infringement. So much for that 5th Amendment thingie!

Barry didn't need either PIPA or SOPA, because he had the 2008 PRO-IP Act, one of Smirky's parting gifts to us, brought, strangely enough, by the same traitors that were pushing PIPA and SOPA -- which are basically the same thing as PRO-IP is; they just codify PRO-IP a little deeper in the law!

Are you starting to have a deja vu all over again, America? No longer is the dictator bound by what Bush the dummer called "that god-damned piece of paper," i.e., the US Constitution. I wouldn't be waiting for Prometheus to come unbound and save us all, if I were you. Perhaps we should take Thomas Jefferson at his word?

"...God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

What do you think, America?

In Other News

As usual I didn't watch the SOTU speech last night as I have little tolerance for lies and bullshit! It tends to make me want to throw bricks at my TV, and that poor old thing wouldn't last long, especially with last night's speech! I always wait until the next day to read it at The White House website; and, as usual, I'm glad I didn't watch it, as it's easier to take reading it and not have to watch the song and dance that went along with it.

It certainly seems to have made the impression on the Sheeple that it was designed to. I saw Demoncrats giving each other high fives and basically making themselves look like total idiots all over the blogosphere and social networks. With those reactions, it makes me wonder two things.

First, why would politicians want to shut the Internet down when it does everything they could hope it could do, i.e., cause Americans to buy hook, line and sinker all the propaganda that they put out.

Second, it makes me wonder why I bother with the magazine if Americans are as dumb as they seem to be. One would have thought that with all the obvious lies, murder and mayhem that they have been confronted with since Ray Guns, they might've been able by now to see through the smoke and mirrors to the truth -- but after all that time, they don't even have a single clue. Ergo, what's the point of this?

I was going to make a list of every lie in the speech, starting at the beginning with since America murdered all those Iraqis and Afghans, we are "more respected around the world," when just the opposite is true! It was an impressive list -- as almost every paragraph has a obvious lie in it, and usually several more that aren't so obvious, but life is short and so I'll let David and Matthew list them. If you're curious, you can go to The White House site and read it for yourself! Nothing's changed, America; we are just as screwed today as we were yesterday, except of course, for all those doubters that are now on-board with all those lies!

And Finally

It's beginning to look like the summer of 1914 all over again in Europe. Those brilliant statesmen in the EU have signed on to Barry's suicide pact at a meeting in Brussels and will beginning to try and kill Iran off, starting in July.

Trouble is, this is going to cut their own throats even if the Straights of Hormuz remain open. Iran has been selling oil at discount, to some of Europe's incredibly depressed economy's, like Greece's, for example. The end result is that they're going to have to replace that discounted oil with oil that will no doubt be 2 or 3 times the cost, pushing Europe into a a deep recession/depression which will no doubt drag us down along with it. Meanwhile, Iran will just keep selling its oil to Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and others. That same discount will cause their economies to grow, while the bottom drops out of ours. All of this for the sake of Israel and our greedy oil companies.

It never was about nuclear bombs, or even nuclear power; but it is about getting our greedy hands on all that lovely oil; even Israel now admits there is no nuclear threat from Iran. The 1% are pulling their puppet strings and watching with amusement while Obama and the Congress dance, and now they'll be pulling the puppets strings from London to Berlin and watching them dance as well.

The coming depression won't stop the coming war (we always have more money for war, no matter what!) and now the EU is on-board, too. You'd think Iraq and Afghanistan would have taught them something, but obviously it didn't. And since Barry is up for re-selection, another hot war might be just the thing to rally the Sheeple behind him. He kept the bulk of the troops from Iraq in the general area, so we're ready to go at the first sign of a false flag attack! So, for all of you who think Europe is so much hipper than we are, I got news for you; they are even dumber than us, as they are being led by us! How hip is that?

Keepin' On

I've been accused from time to time of being a prophet of doom and gloom. Perhaps, but the whole point of the magazine was to give you the news -- the truth of what's really happening -- not that Walt Disney/1% bullshit that you are fed by the MSM. That bullshit is to keep the 1% in power -- with you as their happy slaves!

The reason I stopped living my "normal" life and have spent all my time since 12-12-2000 bringing you Issues & Alibis, was I could plainly see, what most others couldn't. Having been a student of poli-sci for the last 50 years, and therefore knowledgeable; and since it wasn't looking good, and I could clearly see that it wasn't going to get any better unless the people arose and took our country back, I volunteered myself to the cause. Issues & Alibis is not only important for Americans, but for all the peoples of Earth, as America's number one; we have over 10,000 atomic bombs; and, politically, we're quite insane!

If you think that being kept up to date in this madhouse might be a useful survival tool for you and your family and friends, you might help us keep bringing this important information to you! So you know what the truth is, and hence are able to deal with whatever rears its ugly head in the days, weeks and months to come. Please help us when you can as often as you can, and we'll keep up the good work for you and yours!


01-28-1938 ~ 01-20-2012
Thanks for the blues!

02-21-1926 ~ 01-22-2012
Burn Baby Burn!

12-24-1938 ~ 01-24-2012
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) 2012 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 11 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Occupying Libido
Negotiating a landscape of hypocrisy and hungry ghosts
By Phil Rockstroh

When Bill Clinton and his scary, scary libido stalked the public realm, Republicans warned his presence was so anathema to all things holy that his hot breath served to salt the wings of choirs of angels.

Yet Newt Gingrich's booty calls are forgivable. Stones shall not be cast. His transgressions humanize him and the balms of forgiveness of Christian believers rising from this sin-buffeted earth cause the Baby Jesus to coo into the dawn of a coming golden age.

When Bush/Cheney sat at the helm of empire and plundered foreign lands and breached the rule of law, Democratic partisans insisted that constitutional order be reestablished by having Bush et al marched in shackles from the halls of power. To do anything short of this was to risk the foundation of the republic being crushed to rubble and silt beneath the boot of tyranny.

Yet, we critics of duopoly are accused of being impractical sorts who don't dwell in this world, the world of the possible. Although, it seems that political partisans give themselves permission to dwell, simultaneously, in two worlds: This one, as well as a Bizarro World--the parallel universe limned in comic books--where all things are done in reverse, where true is false and false is true, as well as, apparently, a realm where Newt Gingrich is a shining standard bearer of moral rectitude and a defender of faith and family and President Obama is a protector of constitutional law and a friend of the downtrodden.

According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 77% of the citizens of the U.S. expressed the belief that the massive power imbalance in place in the nation is a direct result of the vast wealth inequity between the 1% and the 99%. In addition, according to a poll by Time Magazine, 86% of Americans held the conviction that Wall Street and its lobbyists exert undue influence over the U.S. political class.

Still, both major U.S. political parties remain unmoved by the opinions of their constituents and unresponsive to their needs. By having the right to vote under present day, political duopoly, one is granted the right to co-sign the ongoing fraud that the nation is a democratic republic. To vote for either a Democratic or Republican candidate (i.e., the well vetted stooges of the 1%) is to cast a vote in favor of the only political party allowed in the rigged process--The Big Money, Perpetual War Party.

Believing that replacing one of these candidates with the in any way propitious is analogous to believing that the hanging of new wallpaper within a house with a rotted-out foundation constitutes renovating the structure.

Memo to those who cling to the hope you can change the order of a calcified system from within e.g., the U.S. political, corporate and governmental order:

What has caused you to believe you can change the insatiable appetite of a mindless beast from within the belly of said leviathan? Seemingly, your predicament presents you with these alternatives: 1) paste up some soothing wallpaper. 2) Learn to play the xylophone on its ribcage (i.e., turn your powerlessness into the stuff of art). 3) Light a fire and have the creature vomit you to freedom. Otherwise, you're going to be digested; you will lose your mind and body to the dehumanizing system and become part of its monstrous form.

As they embody the Spiritus Mundi of empire's end, Obama builds towering monuments of verbiage into empty air while Mitt Romney bores the soul of liberty into a soporific state, causing her to sleepwalk into a bottomless abyss of bland.

Obama and Romney manage to hide the malevolent, hungry ghost of empire behind a veneer of soul-defying, daylight normalcy. But Newt Gingrich's bloated carcass displays imperium's murderous id. What has become of the diminishing resources of the world? Newt grows ever fatter and more grotesque as he greedily devours these things. What terrible fate befell the U.S. constitution? Newt dry humped it to dust.

Regarding the mindset, libido, and modus operandi of the 1%: We are confronted with types who would clearcut the last tree standing in the last forest on earth to render down to toothpicks used to pick scraps of flesh from the teeth of the members of their class who just dined on the last Bird of Paradise.

To resist, we, as individuals and en masse, are advised to mitigate our sense of powerlessness by occupying our own libido, thereby allowing oneself to be drawn into the elan vital of the ride the zeitgeist, embodying the eros of resistance and renewal, and, in so doing, refusing to defer to the corrupt-beyond-redemption machinations of the U.S. political and big media classes.

Ask yourself and those around you Rainer Maria Rilke's deceptively simple question: How shall I spend my days?

To appropriate Cornell West's phrase, launch yourself into the midst of "the funk of life" by means of the gritty sublime of cultural eros...This act is a marriage of earthly complaint and winged aspiration--both a lamentation and goof take--a conversation/a collaboration/a spirited debate between what has been lost to indifference, exploitation, and cupidity--and the insistent eros of the breathing moment--a commitment to occupy life's restive pantheon of purpose and decay.

Show your face to the world. Occupy libido by acts large and small, public and private.

Conversely, in what way is it attractive, healthy, or even interesting to willingly submit to the dictates of a culture that has conjured from the zeitgeist the likes of Gingrich--a high chair tyrant of the lowest order--a grotesque man-brat banging on the sides of his elevated seat, insisting that all the things of the world he sees are, "MINE!"

Why did the zeitgeist regurgitate Gingrich into our midst? Newt embodies the misappropriated libido and attendant, oceanic sense of entitlement of the corporate consumer state i.e., modes of being conjured by the dark magicians of advertising and finance to enslave the 99%, as, all the while, the system's rapacious verities and doomed vectors serve as the lodestar and raison d'etre of the 1%.

Eric Hoffer advised, "You can never get enough of what you don't really need."

William Butler Yeats, on the subject of being overwhelmed by abundance:<>

The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.--excerpt: Sailing to Byzantium

One's character is forged amid this agon of excess and restraint e.g., of discerning the difference between the habitual excesses of consumer addiction and the callings of one's character; life lessons that are arrested by the shallow compulsions and time-sucking demands of the current neoliberal order.

As things stand, there exists no panacea to prevent this dilemma. Yet the messy, learning process known as creative resistance will suffice i.e., a type of endeavor similar to an artist's approach to his craft, involving his working with the materials at hand...At present, those materials being: you--your longings, your inspiration, your aspirations, your defeats, your mindful refusal to accept the diminished and demeaning status quo, and, of course, the found material of: the status quo itself.

As revealed by the deeds of OWS, promoting a dialog between individual and cultural forces leaves one receptive to the transformation that unfolds when enjoined in the conversation of the times. Don't allow the soul of discourse to be dominated by the half-mad, hungry ghosts possessing empire's end.

"Awareness, no matter how confused it may be, develops from every act of rebellion: the sudden, dazzling perception that there is something in man with which he can identify himself, if only for a moment ... What was at first the man's obstinate resistance now becomes the whole man, who is identified with and summed up in this resistance. The part of himself that he wanted to be respected he proceeds to place above everything else and proclaims it preferable to everything, even to life itself ... [Resistance] lures the individual from his solitude. It founds its first value on the whole human race. I rebel-therefore we exist." ~~~ Albert Camus
(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

The Blockbusters
By Uri Avnery

"ISRAEL HAS no foreign policy, only a domestic policy," Henry Kissinger once remarked.

This has probably been more or less true of every country since the advent of democracy. Yet in Israel, this seems even truer. (Ironically, it could almost be said that the US has no foreign policy, only an Israeli domestic policy.)

In order to understand our foreign policy, we have to look in the mirror. Who are we? What is our society like?

IN A classical sketch, well known to every veteran Israeli, two Arabs stand on the sea shore, looking at a boat full of Russian Jewish pioneers rowing towards them. "May your house be destroyed!" they curse.

Next, the same two figures, this time Russian Jewish pioneers, stand on the same spot, launching Russian curses at a boat full of Yemenite immigrants.

Next, the two are Yemenites cursing German Jewish refugees fleeing from the Nazis. Then, two German Jews cursing Moroccan arrivals. When it first appeared, that was the last scene. But now, one can add two Moroccans cursing the immigrants from Soviet Russia, then two Russians cursing the latest arrivals: Ethiopian Jews.

That may also be true for every immigrant country, from the United States to Australia. Every new wave of immigrants is greeted by the scorn, contempt and even open hostility of those who came before them. When I was a child in the early 1930s, I frequently heard people shouting at my parents "Go back to Hitler!"

Still, the dominant myth was that of the "melting pot". All immigrants would be thrown into the same pot and cleansed of their "foreign" traits, emerging as a uniform new nation without any traces of their origin.

THIS MYTH died some decades ago. Israel is now a kind of federation of several major demographic-cultural blocs which dominate our social and political life.

Who are they? There are (1) the old Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin); (2) the Oriental (or "Sephardi") Jews; (3) the religious (partly Ashkenazi, partly Oriental); (4) the "Russians", immigrants from all the countries of the former Soviet union; and (5) the Palestinian-Arab citizens, who did not come from anywhere.

This is, of course, a schematic presentation. None of the blocs is completely homogeneous. Each bloc has several sub blocs, some blocs overlap, there is some intermarriage, but on the whole, the picture is accurate. Gender plays no role in this division.

The political scene almost exactly mirrors these divisions. The Labor party was, in its heyday, the main instrument of Ashkenazi power. Its remnants, together with Kadima and Meretz, are still Ashkenazi. Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beytenu consists mainly of Russians. There are three or four religious parties. Then there are two exclusively Arab parties, and the Communist party, which is mainly Arab, too. The Likud represents the bulk of the Orientals, though almost all its leaders are Ashkenazim.

The relationship between the blocs is often strained. Just now, the whole country is in an uproar because in Kiryat Malakhi, a southern town with mainly Oriental inhabitants, house owners have signed a commitment not to sell apartments to Ethiopians, while the Rabbi of Safed, a northern town of mainly Orthodox Jews, has forbidden his flock to rent apartments to Arabs.

But apart from the rift between the Jews and the Arabs, the main problem is the resentment of the Orientals, the Russians and the religious against what they call "the Ashkenazi elite."

SINCE THEY were the first to arrive, long before the establishment of the state, Ashkenazim control most of the centers of power -social, political, economic, cultural et al. Generally, they belong to the more affluent part of society, while the Orientals, the Orthodox, the Russians and the Arabs generally belong to the lower socio-economic strata.

The Orientals have deep grudges against the Ashkenazim. They believe -not without justification - that they have been humiliated and discriminated against from their first day in the country, and still are, though quite a number of them have reached high economic and political positions. The other day, a top director of one of the foremost financial institutions caused a scandal when he accused the "Whites" (i.e. Ashkenazim) of dominating all the banks, the courts and the media. He was promptly fired, which caused another scandal.

The Likud came to power in 1977, dethroning Labor. With short interruptions, It has been in power ever since. Yet most Likud members still feel that the Ashkenazim rule Israel, leaving them far behind. Now, 34 years later, the dark wave of anti-democratic legislation pushed by Likud deputies is being justified by the slogan "We must start to rule!"

The scene reminds me of a building site surrounded by a wooden fence. The canny contractor has left some holes in the fence, so that curious passers-by can look in. In our society, all the other blocs feel like outsiders looking through the holes, full of envy for the Ashkenazi "elite" inside, who have all the good things. They hate everything they connect with this "elite": the Supreme Court, the media, the human rights organizations, and especially the peace camp. All these are called "leftist", a word curiously enough identified with the "elite."

HOW HAS "peace" become associated with the dominant and domineering Ashkenazim?

That is one of the great tragedies of our country.

Jews have lived for many centuries in the Muslim world. There they never experienced the terrible things committed in Europe by Christian anti-Semitism. Muslim-Jewish animosity started only a century ago, with the advent of Zionism, and for obvious reasons.

When the Jews from Muslim countries started to arrive en masse in Israel, they were steeped in Arab culture. But here they were received by a society that held everything Arab in total contempt. Their Arab culture was "primitive", while real culture was European. Furthermore, they were identified with the murderous Muslims. So the immigrants were required to shed their own culture and traditions, their accent, their memories, their music. In order to show how thoroughly Israeli they had become, they also had to hate Arabs.

It is, of course, a world-wide phenomenon that in multi-national countries, the most downtrodden class of the dominant nation is also the most radical nationalist foe of the minority nations. Belonging to the superior nation is often the only source of pride left to them. The result is frequently virulent racism and xenophobia.

This is one of the reasons why the Orientals were attracted to the Likud, for whom the rejection of peace and the hatred of Arabs are supreme virtues. Also, having been in opposition for ages, the Likud was seen as representing those who were "outside", fighting those who were "inside". This is still the case.

The case of the "Russians" is different. They grew up in a society that despised democracy, admired strong leaders. The "whites", Russians and Ukrainians, despised and hated the "dark" peoples of the south -Armenians, Georgians, Tatars, Uzbeks and such. (I once invented a formula: "Bolshevism minus Marxism equals Fascism.")

When the Russian Jews came to join us, they brought with them a virulent nationalism, a complete disinterest in democracy and an automatic hatred of Arabs. They cannot understand why we allowed them to stay here at all. When, this week, a lady deputy (though "lady" may be euphemistic) from St. Petersburg poured a glass of water on the head of an Arab deputy from the Labor party, nobody was very surprised. (Somebody quipped: "a Good Arab is a wet Arab"). For Lieberman's followers, Peace is a dirty word, and so is Democracy.

For religious people of all shades -from the ultra-Orthodox to the National-Religious settlers, there is no problem at all. From the crib on, they learn that Jews are the Chosen People; that the Almighty personally promised us this country; that the Goyim -including the Arabs -are just inferior human beings.

It may be said, quite rightly, that I generalize. I do, just to simplify matters. There are indeed a lot of Orientals, especially of the younger generation, who are repelled by the ultra-nationalism of the Likud, the more so as the neo-liberalism of Binyamin Netanyahu (which Shimon Peres once called "swinish capitalism") is in direct contradiction to the basic interests of their community. There are also a lot of decent, liberal, peace-loving religious people. (Yeshayahu Leibovitz comes to mind.) Some Russians are gradually leaving their self-imposed ghetto. But these are small minorities in their communities. The bulk of the three blocs -Oriental, Russian and religious -are united in their opposition to peace, and at best indifferent to democracy.

All these together constitute the right-wing, anti-peace coalition that is governing Israel now. The problem is not just a question of politics. It is much more profound -and much more daunting.

SOME PEOPLE blame us, the democratic peace movement, for not recognizing the problem early enough, and not doing enough to attract the members of the various blocs to the ideals of peace and democracy. Also, it is said, we did not show that social justice is inseparably connected with democracy and peace.

I must accept my share of the blame for this failure, though I might point out that I tried to make the connection right from the beginning. I asked my friends to concentrate our efforts on the Oriental community, remind them of the glories of the Muslim-Jewish "golden Age" in Spain, of the huge mutual impact of Jewish and Muslim scientists, poets and religious thinkers throughout the ages.

A few days ago, I was invited to give a lecture to the faculty and students of Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva. I described the situation more or less along the same lines. The first question from the large audience, which consisted of Jews -both Orientals and Ashkenazim, and Arabs -especially Bedouins was: "So what hope is there? Faced with this reality, how can the peace forces win?"

I told them that I put my trust in the new generation. Last summer's huge social protest movement, which erupted quite suddenly and swept ["along"?] hundreds of thousands, showed that yes, it can happen here. The movement united Ashkenazim and Orientals. Tent cities sprang up in Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva, all over the place.

Our first job is to break the barriers between the blocs, change reality, create a new Israeli society. We need blockbusters.

Yes, it is a daunting job. But I believe it can be done.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

In Obama's State of the Union, Troublesome Passages For Progressives
By Matthew Rothschild

Excuse me for not yelling myself hoarse for Obama's warmed over State of the Union address.

While I agree with his call for economic fairness, there was not much in his speech that was new or all that promising. And there were several troublesome passages for progressives.

First, mentioning John Boehner, Obama said he was still open to a grand compromise on Social Security and Medicare, which would make Americans have to work longer and get less benefits from Medicare and Medicaid. We don't need a Democrat to hack away at these crucial social programs.

Second, he took a gratuitous swipe at universal single-payer health care. Sounding like Ronald Reagan, he said, "I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more." As an illustration, he said, "That's why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program." Huh? He used to say he was for single-payer universal health care. Then, when he was running for President the first time, he said, "If I were starting from scratch," I'd be for single-payer universal health care. Now he disparages it to score cheap political points.

Third, he was belligerent on Iran, saying (to raucous applause) that he would take "no options off the table," which is easily decipherable code for saying he'd threaten to blow Iran off the map if it got one nuclear weapon, even though the United States has thousands and Israel has hundreds.

Fourth, he said that America is a "Pacific power," reiterating the theme of his new strategic doctrine, which is aimed recklessly at China.

And finally, sounding like a mix of Madeleine Albright and George W. Bush, he boasted that the United States is the "one indispensable nation in world affairs-and as long as I'm President, I intend to keep it that way."

This was cheap jingoism that the American people, already suffering from a superiority complex, really could have lived without.
(c)2011 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine

In The Age Of Robotic Weapons
By Ralph Nader

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is testing so much futuristic detect and destroy weaponry that it can be called the most advanced all-seeing invasion in military history. From blanket satellite surveillance to soldiers' infra-red vision to the remotely guided photographing, killer drones to the latest fused ground-based imagery and electronic signal intercepts, the age of robotic land, sea, and air weaponry is at hand.

U.S. and NATO soldiers and contractors greatly outnumber the Taliban, whose sandals and weapons are from the past century. Still, with the most sophisticated arsenals ever deployed, why are U.S. generals saying that less than 30,000 Taliban fighters, for almost a decade, have fought the U.S. led forces to a draw?

Perhaps one answer can be drawn from a ceremony that could be happening in various places in that tormented country. That is, a Jirga of elders awarding a young fighter the Jirga medal of honor for courage on the battlefield, which often happens to be their village or valley.

The chief elder rose to address a wise circle of villagers. "Today we are presenting our beloved Mursi with the revered Jirga medal of honor for courage beyond the call of duty in rescuing seven of his brother defenders from almost certain destruction. The invaders had surrounded our young brothers at night in the great Helmand gully with their snipers, grenade-launchers and helicopter gunships.

It looked like the end. Until Mursi started a very smoky fire and diverted the enemy with a firebomb that startled several donkeys into braying loudly. In the few seconds absorbed by diverting the foreigners who directed their firepower in that direction, Mursi led his brothers, two of them wounded, through a large rock crevice and down an incline that was hidden from view and into a cave covered with bush. For some reason, the occupiers' night vision equipment was not working, thanks be to Allah.

The next morning, the enemy had gone away, provably to start another deadly attack elsewhere on our people. Before the Jirga awards you this ancient symbol of resistance, Mursi, in the form of a sculptured shield made of a rare wood, will you say a few words to your tribe?"

Mursi, a thin as a rail twenty year old youth, rose.

"I accept this great honor on behalf of my brothers who escaped with their lives that terrible night in Helmand. I was very scared. The enemy has everything and we have nothing. They have planes, helicopters, artillery, many soldiers with equipment that resists bullets, sees in the dark and provides them with food, water and medicine. We only have our old rifles, some grenades and explosives. They can see us all the way from America on screens sitting in cool rooms where they can press buttons and wipe us out without our seeing or hearing anything coming at us. We are all so terrified. Especially the children.

We wonder why they are doing this to us? We never threatened them. They threaten everyone with their bases, ships, planes and missiles. I hear that the foreign soldiers ask themselves why are they here, what are they doing here and for what? But they are paid well to be here, destroying our country year after year, though they boast about building some bridges and digging some water wells. No thank you."

"Go back to your families, you will never win because we are fighting to repel you invaders from our ancient tribal lands, our homes,. Fighting to expel the invaders is stronger and more righteous than your weapons and all your military wealth. Even if many of us lose our lives, we will prevail one day. For we will have heaven and they will have hell."

A long knowing silence followed. A rooster crowed in the distance. The chief elder then slowly handed the medal to their brave hero.

Can the most militarily powerful country in the world, many of whose people and soldiers are opposed or have serious doubts about why we are continuing to pursue these senseless undeclared wars of aggression that create more hatred and enemies, look with empathy at what those people, whom we are pummeling, are going through? Will the Pentagon, which doesn't estimate civilian casualties, let its officials speak publically about the millions of such casualties-deceased, injured and sick-that have afflicted innocent Iraqis, Afghanis and Pakistanis?

Will our current crop of political candidates for Congress and the Presidency ever reflect on the wise words of our past Generals-Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall and earlier Smedley Butler-about the folly and gore, not the glory of war?

The eighteenth century words of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, rings so true. He wrote:

"And would some Power the small gift give us.
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us..."

(c) 2012 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

America's Class Divide

What planet does presidential wannabe Rick Santorum live on? When it comes to grasping the situation of America's hard-hit workaday majority, this sweater-vested, ultra-right-winger is further out than Pluto.

In a recent debate, Santorum assailed a tax plan proposed by front-runner Mitt Romney. It wasn't the plan's details that caused Rick to stamp his tiny feet, but Romney's expressed intent to help the "middle class." Tut-tut, chided the ideologically-pure Santorum, Republicans mustn't use such language, for it creates an impression of class warfare. After all, he lectured, "There are no classes in America. We don't put people in classes."

Sure, Rick - forget today's jobless economy, a national epidemic of union busting and wage knockdowns, absurd tax giveaways to the superrich, the ongoing Wall Street bailout, inexcusable corporate subsides, rising poverty, the slashing of anti-poverty programs, and a decade of falling incomes for the vast majority, while the elite one-percent makes off with triple-digit increases in their wealth - there's no class war happening. Just close your eyes, hum a happy tune... and live on Pluto.

Meanwhile, in the same week that Santorum spoke, the Pew Research Center released a new survey showing how far removed he is from regular people's experiences and concerns. Two-thirds of Americans see "strong conflicts" between the rich and poor in our country, a stark division between those few who have wealth, power, and security and the vast majority who don't. The few do not have the same objectives as the many, and the survey found that this class separation - yes, class - is the number one source of social tension in America today.

Interestingly for the far-out Santorum, not only do 73% of Democrats and 68% of independents agree, but so do 55 percent of Republicans.
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

On Having Dreams
By Helen Thomas

The recent opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall brought back thoughts and memories of a special era.

After the March on Washington in 1963, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, King was invited to a White House reception that evening. President John F. Kennedy greeted him with the words King had used to stir crowds of many thousands of people at the Lincoln Memorial earlier in the day.

When King walked through the receiving line, Kennedy told him with a smile, "I have a dream." Both men had dreams worthy of America. King's dream was of a racially equal and just America. We have come a long way, but we still have a way to go.

Kennedy's dream was for mankind to know no limits in great achievements in science (we had at that point begun planning to land on the moon), and no limits to the search for world peace. Both men were beloved for their ideals and spirited approach in their beliefs, and inspired people to believe that all good things were possible.

What is lacking today in the vast number of Republican presidential candidates is a great moral drive for a better and more humane world. None of the candidates are reaching for the stars - inspiring the great ideals that are possible to fulfill. Have any of the Republican candidates taken note of the extreme poverty in this country and the high rate of joblessness, except to call President Barack Obama the "food stamp president"?

Obama has tried to spotlight those in need, but lacks the will to put up a fight. Both Kennedy and King were inspired by dreams of a better America and a better world. Where are such leaders now?

Where are the idealists who seek peace and justice? They are certainly not at the top of the current Supreme Court, nor visible in the current "do-nothing" Congress.

Kennedy uttered his famous words, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" at his inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961. He had known war and family tragedy. King had seen suffering and incomprehensible racial oppression. Both men were visionaries. They knew that mankind should no longer tolerate injustice and prejudice because of the color of one's skin.

Kennedy and King gave Americans hope. With their words, they gave us a different way of thinking about the world we live in, and inspired us to do our part.

As I read different famous quotations by Martin Luther King Jr., I think it is a shame we have forgotten many of his words. King once said that "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. ... The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation." He sure was right - first we invade Afghanistan, then Iraq - is Iran next?

Some of King's followers were unhappy when he became very vocal against the Vietnam War, fearing he was abandoning the civil rights movement. In his 1967 "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" speech, King said, "Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid to waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours." Another quotation that is very pertinent today - take out Vietnam and insert your pick of Middle Eastern countries.
(c) 2012 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

American Journalists Under The Watchful Eye Of Big Brother
By James Donahue

There is something eerie about working as a journalist in today's America and under the evil eye of the Department of Homeland Security.

We have been aware for some time that government agencies have been quietly monitoring social websites like Facebook and even scanning our e-mails and fax messages and listening in on our telephone calls as part of the Bush declaration of War On Terror. Legislation like the Patriot Act opened the door for government intrusion into our private lives without even the courtesy of a court order. It has been a declaration of Constitutional rights be damned, we must give up those rights to save us from ourselves.

In November, the National Operations Center's Media Monitoring Initiative, (a long name for one of the many obscure bureaus operating within the Department of Homeland Security) issued what appears to be its own "permission to collect and retain personal information from journalists, news anchors, reporters or anyone who uses traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed."

The phrase "personal identifiable information" is defined by Homeland Security as "any intellect that permits the identity of an individual to be directly or indirectly inferred, including any information which is linked or linkable to that individual."

Hidden within all that somewhat legal mumbo-jumbo is the rub. It seems that the initiative now gives the agency permission to reach beyond the social media and electronic messages with its spy network. Any website publishing news and information is now subject to government monitoring.

Of course, those of us involved in the writing and distribution of news and commentary, whether in printed form on newspapers or on various blogs or websites, want our material to be read. It is published as public information. We welcome readers, even if they are employees of government spy agencies.

When I monitor my readership I notice that many of the thousands of people visiting my own site each day originate in interesting places like Washington, D.C. and Rome, Italy. This suggests that I might be drawing the attention of a few people in high places. Is this because they are interested in what I have to say, or is it simply a hired stooge ordered to include my site in a daily spy ritual?

So why, you might ask, is our government so willing to spend time, money and resources on watching over those of us who collect and report the news to our readers? Is there about to be an organized vendetta to control all of the news flowing freely (as yet) on the Internet?

News reporters are naturally suspicious about such things. We regard ourselves as members of the Fourth Estate of government, in that by acting as independent and objective watchdogs over the actions of elected government officials we help keep some degree of balance and honesty. Obviously the Washington Press Corps has not been performing its duties in recent years as well as it used to. But that is the way it is supposed to work.

The media has been considered such an important part of the social and political strata that reporters have long been protected from government and judicial infringement. For example, reporters are allowed to protect their sources of information. Many journalists have chosen to endure jail time rather than submit to judicial orders to reveal their sources in sensational trials.

In my many years working as a reporter in the field, I was often subpoenaed to appear in court as a witness because I happened to be at the scene of events that led to litigation. In every case, my newspaper supplied legal counsel to guide me through the questioning. That was how carefully we protected our sources and our freedoms to cover and report news events.

But times are obviously changing. As newspapers and even television news reports decline in their ability to keep up with the almost instant news reports breaking daily on the World Wide Web, a new and dynamic form of journalism is emerging. And electronic publishers like Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks website are an obvious problem for people in power with something to hide.

Assange specializes in printing whistleblower supplied documents that expose wrongdoing in governments and corporations all over the world. They couldn't charge Assange with wrongdoing because of what he is publishing, so he being squeezed with Swedish rape charges. Accusations of sex crimes are a popular method of government to silence people that know and reveal secrets.

The United States military is involved in the WikiLeaks silencing because the website published "classified" information about the Iraq war. None of this information put any of our military personnel in harms way, nor did it do anything to compromise the war effort. But Private Bradley Manning was charged with treason because he is accused of leaking the documents to WikiLeaks.

There has been a recent fight in the U. S. federal courts over the government's right to access Twitter accounts, believed used by Manning and perhaps others to send information to WikiLeaks. The government also is attempting to subpoena information from Assange's personal computer accounts.

In the old days, reporters kept their notes on printed paper, usually in stenographer styled notebooks, tucked away in secret places for as long as we thought we needed them as reference, or to protect ourselves in the event of litigation. The notebooks disappeared if there was a threat by a judge that we may be forced to expose our sources.

With new electronic media, a lot of information can be kept on file in computers and on back-up electronic devices. We can erase this material at the punch of a button. The problem is, however, that once information is recorded on a computer database, it never really goes away. People who know how to do it can recover every word. And there lies the problem.

Is the Office of Homeland Security, a monster created by George Bush after the 9-11 attack, giving itself the power to control every word published by the media in the United States? If this is what is coming, the people should be very afraid. Once the press goes silent, tyranny is bound to be the result.

As one blogger wrote: "By allowing the government to do this, we're slowly ceding our civil liberties to a monster that only wants to take more."
(c) 2012 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.

Our Selective Stance On Bigotry
Some of Paul's stances are odious. But our racist drug war and Islamophobic invasions are equally offensive
By David Sirota

If they have any value at all anymore, presidential election campaigns at least remain larger-than-life mirrors reflecting back painful truths about our society. As evidence, ponder the two-sided debate over Republican candidate Ron Paul and bigotry.

One camp cites Paul's hate-filled newsletters and his libertarian opposition to civil rights regulations as evidence that he aligns with racists. As the esteemed scholar Tim Wise puts it: This part of Paul's record proves that he represents "the reactionary, white supremacist, Social Darwinists of this culture, who believe ... the police who dragged sit-in protesters off soda fountain stools for trespassing on a white man's property were justified in doing so, and that the freedom of department store owners to refuse to let black people try on clothes in their dressing rooms was more sacrosanct than the right of black people to be treated like human beings."

The other camp tends to acknowledge those ugly truths about Paul, but then points out that the Texas congressman has been one of the only politicians 1) fighting surveillance, indefinite detention and due-process-free assassination policies almost exclusively aimed at minorities; 2) opposing wars that often seem motivated by rank Islamophobia; and 3) railing against the bigotry of a drug war that disproportionately targets people of color. Summarizing this part of Paul's record, the Atlantic Monthly's Conor Friedersdorf has written: "When it comes to America's most racist or racially fraught policies" affecting the world today, "Paul is arguably on the right side of all of them (while) his opponents are often on the wrong side."

So which side is right? Both of them, and thanks to that powerful oxymoron, Paul has become a mirror reflecting back our own problematic biases. Specifically, his candidacy is showing that the conventional definition of intolerable bigotry is disturbingly narrow - and embarrassingly selective.

This reality is best demonstrated by those voters who say they detest Paul not because of his extreme economic ideas, but because they feel his record represents an unacceptable form of racism. These folks will likely tell you that their alleged commitment to policies promoting racial equality has moved them to support Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, politicians who, of course, support bigoted civil liberties atrocities, Islamophobic foreign invasions and a racist drug war.

In making such a choice, then, these voters are tacitly embracing the definition of unacceptable bigotry as only hate speech (Paul's newsletters) and opposition to civil rights laws (Paul's odious position), but not also various forms of institutional bigotry that their favored candidates support and that Paul has fought to end. Incredibly, this selective definition asks us to ignore many of the most destructive tenets of what legal scholar Michelle Alexander's celebrated book calls "The New Jim Crow." And yet, as the reaction to Paul proves, it is precisely this definition that pervades so much of American society.

To be clear: Noting this hypocrisy is not meant to urge a vote for Paul (I'm not a Paul supporter), nor does it absolve those Paul fans who wholly ignore the objectionable parts of their candidate's record on race. Instead, it is simply meant to argue that if we're going to have a long overdue discussion about bigotry, then let's have an honest conversation about all forms of bigotry - not our current talking-points-driven screamfest that rightly criticizes one kind of prejudice but wrongly tolerates other forms of prejudice that are often just as destructive.

Perpetuating that kind of naked bait-and-switchery may help one set of candidates and hurt another in a given presidential campaign, but it does nothing to advance the cause of equality in America.
(c) 2012 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Killing Iraqis Makes Us Safer -- And Other SOTU Lies
By David Swanson

In the news around the world and even in the United States on Tuesday was the anger among Iraqis at the failure of the United States to hold anyone seriously accountable for the 2005 massacre in Haditha. The story was a useful reminder of how the operations of the U.S. military over the past decade have fueled hostility toward our nation.

President Obama began his State of the Union speech Tuesday night by absurdly claiming the exact opposite, asserting that the war on Iraq has made us safer and -- I kid you not -- "more respected around the world." He later equated the war on Iraq to World War II, a surefire way to put anything beyond criticism in the United States, provided you can get people to fall for it.

Remember, this is the guy who won the Democratic Primary in 2008 by the simple fact of having not yet been in the Senate in 2003 and thus having avoided voting for the war that he funded to the hilt as a senator beginning in 2005. He had called it a dumb war. Now he says it made us safer. If it was dumb, was he dumber? What is he trying to say?

In the next breath, Obama says "some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home." Never mind that there are three times as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan now as when Obama moved into the White House. The myth is that he's ending wars. Never mind that he was compelled to end the Iraq War, in so far as it has ended, by the treaty that Bush and Maliki created, and which Obama sought every possible way to violate. Never mind that Iraqi hostility toward U.S. criminals being granted immunity from prosecution was the primary reason that the Iraqi government insisted on the Bush-Maliki withdrawal date. A myth is a myth, and who will question it and still keep their job on U.S. television?

Because the United States dumps record funding into its military -- over half of federal discretionary spending -- the United States is falling behind other nations in education, energy, infrastructure, health, life expectancy, infant mortality, poverty, retirement security, and happiness. Obama's next breath serves to simply assert the opposite. We're number one. Who will dare to question that? To fudge the claim, Obama actually says that being number one is right within our grasp if only we would all act more like the military. (Late in the speech he mentions cutting a half a trillion dollars from the military, without mentioning that he means "over 10 years" or $50 billion per year from a budget of over a trillion per year.)

And what a glowing future he describes! Gee, if only we'd had someone who thought that way serving as, say, president, the past few years. Now he wants to "fight obstruction with action." Just forget about that initial two-year-long pretense that the Senate couldn't get around any filibuster attempts. That would be looking backward.

Obama said Tuesday night that he wants an economy where "everyone plays by the same set of rules." Really? Where's my bailout? Where's my get-out-of-jail-free card? Will we now see prosecutions of financial fraud, busting of trusts, taxation of corporations and billionaires? What brought about this reversal? People are crediting the Occupy movement, of course, but the Occupy movement has demanded -- yes, demanded -- actions, not words.

Obama says the United States lost jobs because technology made them obsolete. That's his whole explanation of the decline of the past 40 years and of the financial collapse of 2008. Nothing about union busting. Not a word about military spending. No mention of regressive taxation. Barely a nod to the shredding of financial regulation. Not even room for a bit of blame directed toward a culture of greed. Nope. Technology. That's what it was. Nobody to blame. Just a bit of bad luck we've had, and if we all act more like the military we'll clear it right up.

Or not quite. There's also the problem of irresponsible home owners: "Mortgages had been sold to people who couldn't afford or understand them." Only after that slanderous dig (which he repeats later as well) did our President mention a deficiency in regulation.

Obama then claims employment is on the rise and, in the same breath, and exactly as if it mattered to us in the same way as employment: "Together, we've agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion." Of course, that's more than the entire discretionary budget and what Obama would have said, if he hadn't been so rushed in slapping together this speech without any help whatsoever, was that such cuts would be spread over many years, amounting to much less in each year, but still enough to do a great deal of damage.

Then Obama claimed to have put in place rules that will prevent any new crisis on Wall Street. I've never seen anyone take that claim seriously.

He says the auto bailout involved workers and bosses "settling their differences." Have any workers described it that way?

"Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it."

That has got to be the slimiest argument for yet more corporate tax cuts I've ever seen dressed up as patriotic common sense.

Next Obama bragged about corporate trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and Korea, just the kind of agreements he campaigned against last time.

Then Obama proposed that, instead of developing a great educational system, we just have corporations fund their training for specific jobs. The President then spoke of the importance of a real educational system and admitted that,

"At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced states to lay off thousands of teachers."

The solution to this is stunningly brilliant, or something. Wait for it:

"So tonight, I call on every state to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen."

That ought to do it.

Obama then proposed that Congress not double the interest rates on student loans, and extend the tuition tax credit. And he added this innovative strategy that, again, is simply brilliant, or something:

"So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down."

Ha! Affordable education, here we come!

Obama then asked for a bill that would allow immigrants "to earn their citizenship." A hint at how they might do that is found in his list of noble things such immigrants might want to participate in, one of which is "defend this country." I assume you don't need me to translate.

Moving on, Obama is proud to say, "Over the last three years, we've opened up millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I'm directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources." Drill, baby, drill! Obama also wants a major expansion in drilling for natural gas and promises to require that companies disclose the chemicals they use in doing so. Because chemicals can't kill you if you're told about them. Transparent fracking! It's the new Clean coal!

Wind energy is a little footnote, and solar and other clean energies don't get a mention in the State of the Union, except a request for "clean energy tax credits." Or so it seems, until the military comes to the rescue again:<>

"I'm directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I'm proud [watch where the pride comes in] to announce that the Department of [So-Called] Defense, the world's largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history -- with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year."

The United States military is not just the biggest consumer of energy. It is the biggest spreader of depleted uranium, white phosphorous, and cluster bombs. The United States military has rendered entire landscapes uninhabitable for our species, unless we last as long as the dinosaurs, and this kind of speech doesn't give me the impression we'll be around anything like that long.

The best bit of rhetoric comes deep in the speech: "Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home." That would be a terrific proposal if we had stopped spending money on wars or, even better, if we were to stop spending vastly greater amounts on the military's permanent existence apart from its wars. Obama doesn't mention any numbers or proposals, because he's talking utter nonsense.

Obama moves on to claiming he'll handle oil spills, this the same week that we received documentation of the pressure he exerted to deceive the public about the last big one. He announces a new "Financial Crimes Unit," not that he hasn't announced the same thing before, but this time it's while he works toward an immunity-granting "settlement" with the big banks guilty of mortgage fraud.

Obama wants the payroll tax cut, no matter what it does to Social Security. In fact, he's "prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors." Of course, "strengthen" here is code for "cut." Obama makes these "concessions" on condition that tax cuts for millionaires are allowed to expire. Of course, he put the same condition on earlier concessions and then abandoned it, but we really must stop looking backward. Obama proposes following the "Buffet rule" but does not specify how he would have that done.

"We don't begrudge financial success in this country," he lies. "We admire it." Increasingly, this is just not so. We admire truly worthy accomplishments, whether or not financially successful, and we condemn the stratification of our society into one in which few travel far up or down the income distribution. We resent the expenses imposed on the poor and the unfair advantages bestowed upon the already excessively wealthy. We condemn the hoarding of billions of dollars while others go hungry and homeless. The president is not unaware of this, but he is not speaking to us, is not one of us, and could not possibly care less.

The President acknowledges public disgust with elected officials who are bought and paid for. "Let's take some steps to fix that," he says. And then he gets cute. No end to corporate personhood, no end to money as speech, no ban or limitation on election spending, no public financing, no free air time for candidates, not even the usual call for "disclosure" of who is bribing whom. Nope. President Obama wants a bill to ban insider trading by congress members. That certainly couldn't hurt, if they would do it, but the idea that it centrally addresses the problem of money in politics is absurd.

Yet, in the context of this speech, to qualify as a truly absurd proposal takes more than most rhetorical nonsense can offer. Obama closes, in fact, with a real doozie. He claims that wars are ending and threatens war on Iran. You can't make this stuff up. The Project for the New American Century can. You can't:

"As the tide of war recedes. . . . America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible . . . if Iran changes course."

Got that? Unless Iran, which the Secretary of Defense says is not developing a nuclear weapon, ceases developing a nuclear weapon, we're going to war. But we regret it very much and it will hurt us more than it hurts you.

"America remains the one indispensible nation in world affairs." That makes the rest of the world -- you guessed it -- dispensable.

Killing Osama bin Laden is President Obama's proudest claim, and he uses it in the final words of the State of the Union to bash "politics." Some of the killers may have been Republicans and others Democrats, he tells us, but they were united in murder. Yet, if the money were cleaned out of politics, if we had a decent communications system, if good candidates could get on ballots and into debates, if votes were publicly counted on paper at each polling place, if -- in other words -- politics were what we imagine it aspiring to be, then why would we elect people who bash it? And if we wanted someone who intended to unite with Republicans, why wouldn't we elect a Republican? And if we weren't paralyzed by fear and lies, why wouldn't we want alleged criminals brought to our country and put on trial? After all, we've got a lot of courts and we aren't using them for our own leading criminals.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Two lessons From The Megaupload Seizure
By Glenn Greenwald

Two events this week produced some serious cognitive dissonance. First, Congressional leaders sheepishly announced that they were withdrawing (at least for the time being) two bills heavily backed by the entertainment industry - the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House - in the wake of vocal online citizen protests (and, more significantly, coordinated opposition from the powerful Silicon Valley industry). Critics insisted that these bills were dangerous because they empowered the U.S. Government, based on mere accusations of piracy and copyright infringement, to shut down websites without any real due process. But just as the celebrations began over the saving of Internet Freedom, something else happened: the U.S. Justice Department not only indicted the owners of one of the world's largest websites, the file-sharing site Megaupload, but also seized and shut down that site, and also seized or froze millions of dollars of its assets - all based on the unproved accusations, set forth in an indictment, that the site deliberately aided copyright infringement.

In other words, many SOPA opponents were confused and even shocked when they learned that the very power they feared the most in that bill - the power of the U.S. Government to seize and shut down websites based solely on accusations, with no trial - is a power the U.S. Government already possesses and, obviously, is willing and able to exercise even against the world's largest sites (they have this power thanks to the the 2008 PRO-IP Act pushed by the same industry servants in Congress behind SOPA as well as by forfeiture laws used to seize the property of accused-but-not-convicted drug dealers). This all reminded me quite a bit of the shock and outrage that arose last month over the fact that Barack Obama signed into law a bill (the NDAA) vesting him with the power to militarily detain people without charges, even though, as I pointed out the very first time I wrote about that bill, indefinite detention is already a power the U.S. Government under both Bush and Obama has seized and routinely and aggressively exercises.

I'm not minimizing the importance of either fight: it's true that SOPA (like the NDAA) would codify these radical powers further and even expand them beyond what the U.S. Government already wields (regarding SOPA's unique provisions, see Julian Sanchez's typically thorough analysis). But the defining power that had everyone so up in arms about SOPA - shutting down websites with no trial - is one that already exists in quite a robust form, as any thwarted visitors to Megaupload will discover. There are two points worth making about all of this:

(1) It's wildly under-appreciated how unrestrained is the Government's power to do what it wants, and how little effect these debates over various proposed laws have on that power. Contrary to how it was portrayed, the Obama administration's threatened veto of the NDAA rested largely on the assertion that they did not need a law vesting them with indefinite detention powers because they already have full power to detain people without a trial: not because any actual law expressly vested that power, but because the Bush and Obama DOJs both claimed the 2001 AUMF silently ("implicitly") authorized it and deferential courts have largely acquiesced to that claim. Thus, Obama argued about indefinite detention in his NDAA veto threat that "the authorities codified in this section already exist" and therefore "the Administration does not believe codification is necessary," and in his Signing Statement the President similarly asserted that "the executive branch already has the authority to detain in military custody" accused Terrorists "and as Commander in Chief I have directed the military to do so where appropriate."In other words: we don't need any law expressly stating that we can imprison people without charges: we do it when we want without that law.

That's more or less what happened with the SOPA fight. It's true that website-seizures-without-trials are not quite as lawless as indefinite detentions, since there are actual statutes conferring this power. But it nonetheless sends a very clear message when citizens celebrate a rare victory in denying the Government a power it seeks - the power to shut down websites without a trial - only for the Government to turn around the very next day and shut down one of the world's largest and best-known sites. Whether intended or not, the message is unmistakable: Congratulations, citizens, on your cute little "democracy" victory in denying us the power to shut down websites without a trial: we're now going to shut down one of your most popular websites without a trial.

(2) The U.S. really is a society that simply no longer believes in due process: once the defining feature of American freedom that is now scorned as some sort of fringe, radical, academic doctrine. That is not hyperbole. Supporters of both political parties endorse, or at least tolerate, all manner of government punishment without so much as the pretense of a trial, based solely on government accusation: imprisonment for life, renditions to other countries, even assassinations of their fellow citizens. Simply uttering the word Terrorist, without proving it, is sufficient. And now here is Megaupload being completely destroyed - its website shuttered, its assets seized, ongoing business rendered impossible - based solely on the unproven accusation of Piracy.

It's true, as Sanchez observes, that "the owners of Megaupload don't seem like particularly sympathetic characters," but he also details that there are difficult and weighty issues that would have to be resolved to prove they engaged in criminal conduct. Megaupload obviously contains numerous infringing videos, but so does YouTube, yet both sites also entail numerous legal activities as well. As Sanchez put it: "most people, presumably, recognize that shutting down YouTube in order to disable access to those videos would not be worth the enormous cost to protected speech." The Indictment is a classic one-side-of-the-story document; even the most mediocre lawyers can paint any picture they want when unchallenged. That's why the government is not supposed to dole out punishments based on accusatory instruments, but only after those accusations are proved in an adversarial proceeding.

Whatever else is true, those issues should be decided upon a full trial in a court of law, not by government decree. Especially when it comes to Draconian government punishments - destroying businesses, shutting down websites, imprisoning people for life, assassinating them - what distinguishes a tyrannical society from a free one is whether the government is first required to prove guilt in a fair, adversarial proceeding. This is a precept Americans were once taught about why their country was superior, was reflexively understood, and was enshrined as the core political principle: "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." It's simply not a principle that is believed in any longer, and therefore is not remotely observed.

* * * * * On a different note: both Jeffrey Goldberg and David Bernstein have posts about my arguments on the smearing of CAP that rest on the same premise: namely, that to point out that someone has "dual loyalties" is an accusation of disloyalty to their own country or even worse. As I explain here, that premise is false. There's nothing inherently wrong with dual loyalties: those are common among many groups, especially in a country of immigrants, and are typically benign. What's menacing is to smear those who discuss its existence and the way in which it influences our politics. For more on this, see The Atlantic's Robert Wright: "How to Smear a Washington Think Tank."
(c) 2012 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.

Is Our Economy Healing?
By Paul Krugman

How goes the state of the union? Well, the state of the economy remains terrible. Three years after President Obama's inauguration and two and a half years since the official end of the recession, unemployment remains painfully high.

But there are reasons to think that we're finally on the (slow) road to better times. And we wouldn't be on that road if Mr. Obama had given in to Republican demands that he slash spending, or the Federal Reserve had given in to Republican demands that it tighten money.

Why am I letting a bit of optimism break through the clouds? Recent economic data have been a bit better, but we've already had several false dawns on that front. More important, there's evidence that the two great problems at the root of our slump - the housing bust and excessive private debt - are finally easing.

On housing: as everyone now knows (but oh, the abuse heaped on anyone pointing it out while it was happening!), we had a monstrous housing bubble between 2000 and 2006. Home prices soared, and there was clearly a lot of overbuilding. When the bubble burst, construction - which had been the economy's main driver during the alleged "Bush boom" - plunged.

But the bubble began deflating almost six years ago; house prices are back to 2003 levels. And after a protracted slump in housing starts, America now looks seriously underprovided with houses, at least by historical standards.

So why aren't people going out and buying? Because the depressed state of the economy leaves many people who would normally be buying homes either unable to afford them or too worried about job prospects to take the risk.

But the economy is depressed, in large part, because of the housing bust, which immediately suggests the possibility of a virtuous circle: an improving economy leads to a surge in home purchases, which leads to more construction, which strengthens the economy further, and so on. And if you squint hard at recent data, it looks as if something like that may be starting: home sales are up, unemployment claims are down, and builders' confidence is rising.

Furthermore, the chances for a virtuous circle have been rising, because we've made significant progress on the debt front.

That's not what you hear in public debate, of course, where all the focus is on rising government debt. But anyone who has looked seriously at how we got into this slump knows that private debt, especially household debt, was the real culprit: it was the explosion of household debt during the Bush years that set the stage for the crisis. And the good news is that this private debt has declined in dollar terms, and declined substantially as a percentage of G.D.P., since the end of 2008.

There are, of course, still big risks - above all, the risk that trouble in Europe could derail our own incipient recovery. And thereby hangs a tale - a tale told by a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute.

The report tracks progress on "deleveraging," the process of bringing down excessive debt levels. It documents substantial progress in the United States, which it contrasts with failure to make progress in Europe. And while the report doesn't say this explicitly, it's pretty clear why Europe is doing worse than we are: it's because European policy makers have been afraid of the wrong things.

In particular, the European Central Bank has been worrying about inflation - even raising interest rates during 2011, only to reverse course later in the year - rather than worrying about how to sustain economic recovery. And fiscal austerity, which is supposed to limit the increase in government debt, has depressed the economy, making it impossible to achieve urgently needed reductions in private debt. The end result is that for all their moralizing about the evils of borrowing, the Europeans aren't making any progress against excessive debt - whereas we are.

Back to the U.S. situation: my guarded optimism should not be taken as a statement that all is well. We have already suffered enormous, unnecessary damage because of an inadequate response to the slump. We have failed to provide significant mortgage relief, which could have moved us much more quickly to lower debt. And even if my hoped-for virtuous circle is getting under way, it will be years before we get to anything resembling full employment.

But things could have been worse; they would have been worse if we had followed the policies demanded by Mr. Obama's opponents. For as I said at the beginning, Republicans have been demanding that the Fed stop trying to bring down interest rates and that federal spending be slashed immediately - which amounts to demanding that we emulate Europe's failure.

And if this year's election brings the wrong ideology to power, America's nascent recovery might well be snuffed out.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them."
~~~ J.R.R. Tolkien ~~~

Pups On Parade
EU Obediently Pushes Toward War with Iran

By Chris Floyd

This week, the lords of the West took yet another step toward their long-desired war againt Iran. (Open war, that is; their covert war has been going on for decades -- via subversion, terrorism, and proxies like Saddam Hussein.) On Monday, the European Union obediently followed the dictates of its Washington masters by agreeing to impose an embargo on Iranian oil.

The embargo bans all new oil contracts with Iran, and cuts off all existing deals after July. The embargo is accompanied by a freeze on all European assets of the Iranian central bank. In imposing these draconian measures on a country which is not at war with any nation, which has not invaded or attacked another nation in centuries, and which is developing a nuclear energy program that is not only entirely legal under international law but is also subject to the most stringent international inspection regime ever seen, the EU is "targeting the economic lifeline of the regime," as one of its diplomats put it, with admirable candor.

The embargo will have serious, perhaps disastrous effects on many of Europe's sinking economies, which are heavy users of Iranian oil. This is particularly true in Greece, the poster boy for our modern "Shock Doctrine uber alles" global economic system. For even as Greece writhes beneath the blows of European bankers determined to bleed the country dry to avoid the consequences of their own knowingly corrupt loan policies, the Iranians have been giving the Greeks substantial discounts on oil, which has helped ease -- at least in some measure -- the economic ruin being imposed on the "birthplace of democracy."

Now this slender lifeline is being cut, leaving Greece -- and other nations under assault by the plutocrats and their political lackeys -- to seek a replacement for discounted Iranian oil in what will be a seller's market, thanks to the shortages caused by the embargo. The result will be higher prices across the board, leading to more economic ruin for all those beyond the golden penumbra of the One Percent.

And of course, the effects will be even more catastrophic for millions of innocent people in Iran. Already the lives of these innocent people -- including all of the dissidents supposedly so cherished by the West -- are being diminished and degraded by the series of sanctions imposed by the United States and its pack of tail-wagging Europuppies. But who cares about that? After all, it is glaringly obvious that our Euro-American elites are more than happy to see their own rabble go down the shock-doctrine toilet; it is inconceivable that the ruin of a bunch of dirty Mooslim furriners would disturb them for even a nano-second.

The ostensible aim of all these sanctions, we are told, is to "force Iran back to the negotiating table" on its nuclear program. This is patent nonsense. Innumerable "negotiations" -- including major concessions by Iran -- have been rejected by Washington and the puppies. For example, who can forget Barack Obama's "major diplomatic initiative" in 2010, when he proposed a solution to the impasse: Iran should ship its nuclear fuel to Brazil and Turkey for processing. What happened? Well, as we noted here at the time:

Obama puts forth what is purported to be a major "diplomatic" solution to have Iran ship its nuclear fuel to Brazil and Turkey for processing. This was, of course, a hollow gesture, meant to show how intransigent and untrustworthy Iran really is; the nuke-hungry mullahs would naturally reject the deal. But when Iran made an agreement with Brazil to do exactly what Obama requested, this was immediately denounced -- by Obama -- as .... a demonstration of how intransigent and untrustworthy Iran really is. Meet a benchmark, and the masters simply change the rules. That's how it works until they get what they want: regime change in strategic lands laden with natural resources.

The latter statement is the key. The aim of this endless string of sanctions, this constant tightening of the noose, is not more "negotiations." It is regime change, by any means necessary. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, laid out one possible school of thought motivating the Western warmongers: "[The sanctions have] nothing to do with a desire to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation. It's aimed at stifling the Iranian economy and the population in an apparent hope to provoke discontent."

That is a scenario often touted by our high and mighty mongerers: squeeze an enemy regime until the people rise up and get rid of a ruler you don't like. Of course, as we saw in Iraq, a people driven to their knees by murderous sanctions rarely have the strength or capability to overturn a regime. In fact, the leaders of sanctioned regimes are almost always strengthened (and enriched) by sanctions.

But unlike some bitter cynics, I happen to have great faith in the abiding intelligence of our betters. I believe they know perfectly well that sanctions will not drive the Iranian regime from power. Instead, I think the current strategy here is two-fold.

First, while long-running sanctions do not in themselves overturn a regime, they do make the entire country much weaker. Infrastructure falls apart, society crumbles, communities wither, families fray, the people themselves become physically weaker -- indeed, they can die in droves, in multitudes, as in Iraq. All of this makes for a much softer target when you finally decide to pull the trigger on military action.

Second -- and I think much more relevant to this case -- there is the hope that ever-tightening sanctions will provoke a violent response from the victim, thereby "justifying" a war of "self-defense" against the "unprovoked" attack. The series of escalating provocations being carried out by Washington and its allies, chiefly Israel -- including an increasingly open program of assassinations -- is clearly designed to goad the Iranians into a casus belli retaliation.

So far, the Iranians have resisted -- a forbearance that has driven the Western warmongers into ludicrous attempts to manufacture casus belli incidents. such as the recent "Gleiwitz gambit": the story that the super-duper Iranian spymasters tried to hire a goofball car dealer to kill a Saudi diplomat on the streets of Washington. But the matches our masters keep throwing at this bone-dry pile of tinder are getting closer and closer to sparking the desired conflagration. The Iranians have already threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz if the EU goes through with its embargo. This, of course, would likely be the "Pearl Harbor" moment the war-whoopers are waiting for: an "unprovoked" attack aimed at -- what else? -- "targeting the economic lifeline" of the West. (Targeting economic lifelines is a tactic reserved solely for God's good eggs, you understand; it's an unmitigated evil when those heathen devils try it.)

The Iranians might back down on this threat, of course; the wily Persians tend to play the long game, and usually with more subtle calibration than the Western elites, who, like spoiled children, like to have their loot and power now now now! But if this latest provocation doesn't do the trick, rest assured there are more coming in the, er, pipeline. For the bipartisan goal, as noted above, remains the same: "regime change in strategic lands laden with natural resources." And our masters have already demonstrated that they do not care how many people are ruined -- or are killed -- in pursuit of this aim.
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd

President Barack Obama with new chief of staff Jack Lew, formerly of Citigroup

The Washington-Wall Street Revolving Door Just Keeps Spinning Along
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

We've already made our choice for the best headline of the year, so far:

"Citigroup Replaces JPMorgan as White House Chief of Staff."

When we saw it on the website we had to smile -- but the smile didn't last long. There's simply too much truth in that headline; it says a lot about how Wall Street and Washington have colluded to create the winner-take-all economy that rewards the very few at the expense of everyone else.

The story behind it is that Jack Lew is President Obama's new chief of staff -- arguably the most powerful office in the White House that isn't shaped like an oval. He used to work for the giant banking conglomerate Citigroup. His predecessor as chief of staff is Bill Daley, who used to work at the giant banking conglomerate JPMorgan Chase, where he was maestro of the bank's global lobbying and chief liaison to the White House.

Daley replaced Obama's first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who once worked as a rainmaker for the investment bank now known as Wasserstein & Company, where in less than three years he was paid a reported eighteen and a half million dollars.

The new guy, Jack Lew - said by those who know to be a skilled and principled public servant - ran hedge funds and private equity at Citigroup, which means he's a member of the Wall Street gang, too. His last job was as head of President Obama's Office of Management and Budget, where he replaced Peter Orzag, who now works as vice chairman for global banking at - hold onto your deposit slip -- Citigroup.

Still with us? It's startling the number of high-ranking Obama officials who have spun through the revolving door between the White House and the sacred halls of investment banking. Sure, you can argue that it makes sense that the chief executive of the nation would look to other executives for the expertise you need to build back from the disastrous collapse of the banks in the final year of the Bush Administration.

Remember -- it was Bush and Cheney with their cronies in big business who helped walk us right into the blast furnace of financial meltdown, then rushed to save the banks with taxpayer money. That little fact seems to have been overlooked in the current primaries.

All this brings back memories of Hank Paulson, doesn't it? Hank Paulson, the $700-million man who became secretary of the treasury for President Bush. Paulson had been head of Goldman Sachs, the rich investment bank. As his successor at Goldman Sachs, Paulson chose Lloyd Blankfein. Several times, according to Bloomberg News, Rolling Stone, and Paulson's own memoir, the treasury secretary made sure Blankfein and Goldman got privileged inside information.

But Bush and Cheney aren't the only ones to have a soft spot for financiers. President Obama may call bankers "fat cats" and stir the rabble against them with populist rhetoric when it serves his interest, but after the fiscal fiasco, he allowed the culprits to escape virtually scot-free. When he's in New York he dines with them frequently and eagerly accepts their big contributions. Like his predecessors, his administration also has provided them with billions of taxpayer dollars - low-cost money that they used for high-yielding investments to make big profits. The largest banks are bigger than they were when he took office and earned more in the first two-and-a-half years of his term than they did during the entire eight years of the Bush administration. That's confirmed by industry data.

And get this. It turns out, according to The New York Times, that as President Obama's inner circle has been shrinking, his "rare new best friend" is Robert Wolf. They play basketball, golf, and talk economics when Wolf is not raising money for the president's campaign.

Robert Wolf runs the US branch of the giant Swiss bank UBS, which participated in schemes to help rich Americans evade their taxes. During hearings in 2009, Michigan's Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the permanent subcommittee on investigations, described some of the tricks used by UBS: "Swiss bankers aided and abetted violations of U.S. tax law by traveling to this country with client code names, encrypted computers, counter- surveillance training, and all the rest of it, to enable U.S. residents to hide assets and money in Swiss accounts.

"The bankers then returned to Switzerland and treated their conduct as blameless since Swiss law says tax evasion is no crime. The Swiss bank before us deliberately entered United States, actively sought U.S. clients and secretly helped those U.S. clients defraud the United States of America."

And so it goes, the revolving door between government service and big money in the private sector spinning so fast it becomes an irresistible force hurling politics and high finance together so completely it's impossible to tell one from the other.
(c) 2012 Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America's strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal.
(c) 2012 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Kruse,

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

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

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama


Six GOP Debate Questions Based On What We Know After South Carolina
By John Nichols

The remains of a Republican presidential field that has lost three major contenders in as many weeks will gather Monday night in Florida for a presidential debate that could again reshape a rapidly evolving race. Just one week after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's charged performance in a South Carolina debate gave him the momentum he needed to secure a landslide win in Saturday's primary, the candidates will again form the circular firing squad, this time at an NBC News/St. Petersburg Times/National Journal debate that will provide the first measure of a suddenly redefined race.

The debate offers an opening for Gingrich to close some new deals, just as it offers former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (whom Newt now dismisses as a "very good salesman" hawking a "really weak product") an chance to prove he can take a hit and keep on fighting. It also provides Rick Santorum (who now denounces his former House leader as "a very high-risk candidate") and Ron Paul (who simply calls Gingrich a "liar") one more chance to avoid reseating at the kids table with Buddy Roemer.

This is a new campaign. This is a new debate. And the questions should reflect the changes that have taken place.

Instead of a rehash of old talking points or new gossip, the moderator and panelists for this debate should use the South Carolina results and the latest exit-poll data to pose fresh and meaningful questions.

Here are six approaches that suggest themselves-and that could force the candidates to say something that matters:

1. African-Americans make up a higher percentage of South Carolina's population than in all but four states. The latest Census data says that African-Americans represent 28 percent of South Carolina's population. Yet, according to exit polling, barely 1 percent of the participants in Saturday's South Carolina Republican primary were African-American. In general, what is the Republican Party doing wrong and, specifically, what are this year's Republican presidential candidates doing wrong, when it comes to attracting African-American voters? Are there candidates, in particularly Newt Gingrich, who have made matters worse?

2. According to an analysis of exit polling data by the New York Times, "nearly two-thirds of the voters were evangelical or born-again Christians-slightly more than in 2008. And these voters came to the polls looking for a candidate who shared their religious beliefs. Three-quarters of evangelicals said that it mattered to them that a candidate share their religious beliefs." Among the more than one-quarter of Republican primary voters who said that it "matters a great deal" that the candidate they vote for share their religious beliefs, 90 percent opposed the presumed front-runner in this race: Mitt Romney. Is that because Mr. Romney is a Mormon? If so, what can you say to the substantial portion of Republicans who seem to object to having a Mormon as their party's presidential nominee?

3. Only 3 percent of South Carolina Republican primary voters surveyed said that immigration was the issue that mattered most to them. Only 8 percent said that abortion mattered most. Only 22 percent said that the federal budget deficit mattered most. Similarly, only 14 percent of those surveyed said it mattered most that the candidate they support be a "true conservative". Only 18 percent said that "strong moral character" matters most. Only 21 percent said the "right experience" matters most. But fully 28 percent said they held "generally negative" views of "Romney's background of investing in and restructuring companies". How consequential for the party is it that more primary voters appear to concerned about Mitt Romney's "vulture capitalism" that about issues such as abortion and immigration or the ideology, character and experience of the contenders?

4. Among voters under the age of 30 in South Carolina, Mitt Romney finished fourth-behind Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Among voters under the age of 25, Romney got just 15 percent of the vote-less than half of that cast for Paul. What is is about Ron Paul that so appeals to the rising generation of Americans? And, do you worry that, if Romney is nominated, the party will have little or no appeal to young voters?

5. Eighty-eight percent of South Carolina Republican primary participants said debate performances were a factor in determining how they voted. It is generally agreed that Newt Gingrich benefited from strong debate performances. It is generally agreed that some candidates, particularly Rick Perry, were destroyed by weak debate performances. Gingrich now proposes to challenge President Obama to seven three-hour debates during the fall campaign. That would be an unprecedented level of debating in presidential politics. Is that the right approach for the party? Would the other candidates make the same debate commitment? Do the other candidates think they could do as well as Gingrich in those debates?

6. South Carolina held an open primary election, as compared with Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's relatively closed primary. While the first-caucus and first-primary states saw only marginal improvements in turnout, South Carolina's was way up. And, by all accounts, South Carolina counted the votes accurately and produced a clear result-as opposed to the Iowa mess that fostered the lie of Romnevitability. Isn't it time to create a uniform and functional system for nominating candidates? Shouldn't caucuses, which invariably draw narrower portions of the electorate, be eliminated? And shouldn't all states have open primaries where everyone who wants to vote Republican can do so? And shouldn't the rules be structured so that all serious contenders can have a place on the ballot-even in Virginia?

(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Cruise Ship Vacation Wisdom
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

I have taken a number of cruise ship vacations. The last one was about a year and half ago. I learned a lot about cruise ships and what factors should go into decisions about selecting a specific cruise ship that I want to share with you. By now, of course, you have heard and seen a lot about the disaster of the Carnival Line's Costa Concordia off the Italian shore where a number of people died and thousands went through an awful time trying to escape and survive the heavily tilted and partially submerged modern, huge cruise ship. What should never have happened, happened. That, sadly, is the way of the world. You can and must learn from this disaster. Size matters. Smaller is better.

The most important thing I learned over time was that I would never, ever want to go on one of the new monumentally huge "floating city" cruise ships that carry three thousand or more passengers. Frankly, I have been amazed that so many people have succumbed to the marketing and advertising for such ships, as if bigger is better. Of course, they all look incredibly top heavy, with a large number of decks stacked very high on the ship. As a former engineering professor, they have always looked to me as inherently unstable and prone to tilting over in various conditions, such as very rough seas, with the potential for capsizing and sinking. Indeed, such modern humongous ships have had more problems than generally recognized.

But more to the point, when it comes to comfort, enjoyment and time well spent on a cruise ship, everyone should understand that the bigger the ship and the greater the number of passengers, the more time you will inevitably waste trying to get around, access shipboard amenities and restaurants, and deal with leaving and returning to the ship when it comes to shore excursions. On such gigantic ships you cannot escape dealing with multitudes of people that are bound to raise your stress level at a time when you are supposed to be on a totally relaxing vacation.

Thus, let me crystal clear about my choice for my last cruise vacation which was absolutely wonderful and perhaps the most enjoyable vacation of any type I ever had. I chose a Regent Seven Seas Cruise. All their ships are top of the line luxury and, most important, carry only about 800 passengers. Some other genuine luxury cruise lines have even smaller ships. In other words, in the world of cruise ships the very best are relatively small. The result is terrific: You never waste any time dealing with crowds or waiting on long lines trying to enjoy various places and activities. It is akin to being on a billionaire's private yacht, while going on the new generation of huge cruise ships is like shopping at a Wal-Mart on one of the busiest Christmas-period shopping days or going to Disney World on a very busy day.

Now to my second big piece of advice. You want to choose a cruise ship that includes almost everything in the basic price of the vacation. If not, you will get sucked into a vacation where you find yourself shelling out more money all the time. On the Regent and similar luxury cruise lines they are all-inclusive, meaning that all the alcoholic drinks you want are part of the basic price. You can go to a multitude of bars and other venues and have all the high quality beers, wines of hard liquor drinks you want without paying anything or tipping. Ditto for room service. Oh yes, all the tips for all the service providers are also part of the basic cruise price. Similarly, there are a large number of shore excursions that you do not have to pay additional fees for. Same is true for all the high-end restaurants.

Trust me, if you choose the more prevalent cruise vacations you will end up paying money all the time that will jack up the cost of your vacation by a large amount. You may even have to pay for soft drinks! And every day you will lose many minutes and perhaps a few hours because of all the crowds you must cope with.

What all the advertising and sales pitches fail to really reveal are these ugly truths about ordinary cruise lines, even though they may use words like luxury. And now you have seen with the incredible Concordia disaster what a penalty you pay if something serious goes wrong on a cruise vacation when there are THOUSANDS of passengers all trying to save their lives under the most awful conditions. The analogy with some truth is thinking about the World Trade Center skyscrapers that collapsed on 9/11 2001. In terms of personal risk management you want to avoid putting yourself in any situation with an incredibly large number of floors and people when a low probability disaster actually happens. You can get trapped in a gigantic cruise ship just like you could in a skyscraper.

Sure, a cruise vacation can be wonderful. But do not get fooled by sophisticated and deceptive marketing, especially the use of the term luxury. You can only get luxury on a relatively small cruise ship. Learn how to make a good decision.
(c) 2011 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Joe Heller ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

A Letter From Mitt Romney
About My Finances
By Andy Borowitz

SOUTH CAROLINA (The Borowitz Report) - Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has released the following letter to the American people:

Dear American People:

Over the past several days, my personal finances have been distorted into a grotesque caricature by the mainstream media, pundits, and other people who can count. I am writing to you to set the record straight by explaining my finances in terms the American people can relate to.

Let's say you bought a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982 for $5,000. A couple of years later, what do you know, you sell that same bottle for $10,000. So you just made a profit of $5,000 through your own hard work. How much of that should you pay to the government? I'd say fifteen percent.

Now let's say you have a fellow mowing the lawn at your 7,000 square foot home in La Jolla, and he turns out to be an illegal. You say, "No way, Jose" (Jose is actually his real name) and send him packing. He doesn't deserve his full paycheck, since he lied to you in Spanish, but it wouldn't be fair to give him nothing, either. So you pay him fifteen percent.

Now let's pretend the United States of America is like one big restaurant. Not a fancy restaurant, mind you, but one that only gets two Michelin stars. And let's say that you order a meal of Beluga caviar, white truffles and gold shavings, washing it down with your favorite beverage, Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982. The bill arrives and it's quite a hefty one for a working stiff who only made $375,000 last year in speaking fees. (That's right: minimum wage.) So when it comes to toting up the bill, how much should I tip the waiter, who in case you're having trouble following this metaphor is the IRS? You got it: fifteen percent.

I think I've now shown, using these real-life examples that everyone can relate to, that no one should ever pay more than fifteen percent on their taxes. If you have been paying more than that, you should get rid of your loser accountant pronto. That's another thing I have in common with regular Americans: we like firing people.

So - now that I've laid it out in simple terms that even you can understand, do you agree that you and Mitt Romney have a whale of a lot more in common than you thought? I'll bet you ten grand you do.

Au revoir,


(c) 2012 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 04 (c) 01/27/2012

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