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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh considers, "The Great Dismal."

Uri Avnery announces, "A Move To The Center."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship sees a, "Foul Play In The Senate."

Tom Engelhardt watches, "The Setting Sun And The American Empire."

Jim Hightower presents, "Bonuses For Banksters."

Naomi Wolf reviews, "Lovelace: A Feminism-Free 'Feminist' Critique Of The Pornography Industry."

James Donahue explains why, "Why A Socialistic System May Be Our Best Course."

John Nichols says, "Priebus Is What Happens When A Party Loses Its Self-Respect."

David Sirota introduces, "The President Of Perpetual War."

Robert Reich reveals, "The Myth Of Living Beyond Our Means."

Paul Krugman exposes, "Makers, Takers, Fakers."

Glenn Greenwald studies, "Kiriakou And Stuxnet."

David Swanson explores, "A Blowback Hurricane."

Reince Priebus wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Matthew Rothschild examines, "The 'Final Offensive' Against Organized Labor."

Chris Hedges sings, "White Power To The Rescue."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz finds, "Obama Urged To Resign Over Beyonce Scandal" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "It's Like Deja Vu."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bob Gorrell, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Married To The Sea, Matt Wuerker, Mr. Fish, Jim West, Mike Peters, Jacquelyn Martin, Gage Skidmore, NBC News, 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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It's Like Deja Vu
By Ernest Stewart

"Right now I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time." ~~~ Steven Wright

"You go to L. A., or you go to New York, and it's really fun to go there. But they're not grounded. Everybody is just competing all the time for the limelight. It's too much entertainment industry. There are too many choices. And it's distracting to me." ~~~ Bob Seger

"At the end of the day, the only things that are shovel-ready around here are the words coming out of Barack Obama and Joe Biden's mouth." ~~~ Reince Priebus

"You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving." ~~~ Amy Wilson-Carmichael

As the ever-wise prophet Yogi Berra once said, "It's like deja-vu, all over again," and I know exactly what Yogi meant. Our beloved fearless leader made a speech Tuesday about our immigration problem. I'm wondering if you know who he wants to reward for breaking the law? Like the Banksters who destroyed millions of lives by stealing us blind and who righteously deserve to spend the rest of their miserable lives in the deepest, darkest, dankest, hell hole we could find -- instead of getting a multi-trillion dollar payout for their various acts of mayhem and treason, and immediately giving themselves billion dollar raises with the dough.

Just like the various and sundry CIA and US Army spooks who tortured thousands of mostly innocent folks, and in many cases tortured them to death, and instead of being made to pay for their crimes against humanity, they were pardoned and promoted by Barry.

Remember the telecoms who illegally spied upon American citizens for first Dubya and now Barry? Instead of being charged with crimes against the US Constitution, they were pardoned by Congress, who wrote some "laws" that said even though they're guilty as sin, we're going to let them off the hook because we found them helpful in our drive to turn America into Nazi Germany. Barry, who you will recall voted for it after saying for quite sometime that we wouldn't vote for it, then turned around and voted for it saying he voted for it as it was the best deal he could get! What he left out was that it was the best deal he could get for his telecom puppet masters!

Oh, and let's not forget the total ignoring by Mr. Obama of the "Crime Family Bush's" many acts of treason, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and sedition. Nope, Barry wasn't out to bring any criminals to justice, but suggested we look forward, unless you were a grandmother smoking pot under a license -- then all bets were off and the entire force of the US government is being brought to bear on the sick and elderly. You'll recall that the first thing Barry always puts on the table is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Food Stamps. All those folks like grannie smoking pot have no power; ergo, they maybe used and abused as far as Barry is concerned.

So, I wasn't surprised when Barry spoke about letting some 11 million criminals off the hook for their crimes, as well. Do you too see a pattern here? I do. While Juan and Maria maybe good, hard-working folks who would normally never get a break from Barry, they have many rich and powerful friends who have been exploiting them for profit; therefore, something must be done. Another major problem is that not all the folks are just good old boys and girls; many are gang members who only bring death and destruction wherever they go. Many haven't a clue about how to drive a car; but that never stopped them from killing innocent folks out on the roads. Isn't it funny how Barry, who showed little concern about creating jobs in his first four years, now has no problem with allowing these outlaws to continue to take US citizens jobs when there are 60 million citizens out of work or underemployed. Funny how that wasn't even mentioned in his speech before a large group of "wet backs," er, "uninvited guests" out in Nevada who cheered his every word. Funny thing that, huh?

Barry spent a lot of time telling us about all the immigrants who have come to this country and done wondrous things like Einstein and the like; but didn't mention that all of his examples were legal immigrants. Oh, did I mention that I have nothing against legal immigrants; I welcome them with open arms, and hope they love this land like I do! Welcome, brothers and sisters; and remember the language here is English!

Oh, and one more thing, Mr. President; the Indians aren't natives, either; they all came from Japan and China; there are no Native Americans! In fact, there are no natives anywhere, except for the area around Nairobi, where we all came from about 450,000 years ago. So, for all you birthers out there, you were right; Barry's family did come from Africa -- along with yours and mine, too!

In Other News

I always leave a slot in my column open for any need to know last minute news in order to keep it up to date. I do the same for the magazine; also, some folks send their columns to me on Wednesdays. The trouble with both is there may not be anything important to talk about. While most folks don't read my column or the magazine for breaking news, they're pretty much already hip to it, but tune in to get my take on it, or the other authors' takes. When forming their opinions, they like the input of others who are knowledgeable on the subject. I do the same thing; what does so-and-so think; let's get their perspective! We're a weekly Ezine and not a daily Epaper; so, we seldom have breaking news. However, if there is some really important breaking news, we'll all stop what we're doing and put out an extra edition -- within an hour or so, focusing solely on what's "too close to be news!"

Today was one of those newsless days; so, I had a merry chase looking for anything worth commenting on before realizing I had already a dozen stories cooking in the back of my head that didn't make the cut to begin with, but which might make an excellent rant never-the-less. Then I realized the reason why they were all rejected in the first place; they were all just par for the course -- all just typical. Stuff like expanding the wars in Africa, more plans for more drones above us, new drone bases in Africa. New ways Republicans are continuing their wars against women, our right to vote, unions, text books, schools with ongoing terror drills to keep the kids (like their parents) scared to death, etc., etc., etc! It never ends!

Then those thoughts triggered dozens of other thoughts, mostly having to do with how quickly we've fallen, and how much faster and faster this fascist roller coaster is going. Of course, this process has been going on since FDR, when he righted some serious wrongs. Which gave the 1% some problems which they tried solving by trying to stage an outright coup d'etat against FDR, until Marine Corp. Lt. General Smedley Butler called them out for it; and they've had their panties in a bunch ever since. And have been trying to take back their slaves and destroy the middle class that FDR's programs spawned! So, it's a long road to get here; but once here, it's a short, fast drive to over the edge and the end to just this country -- if we're lucky, and the rest of the world, too, if we're not!

I've been down this road before, and the next thing that pops into my brain is, then what's the point? Why try and get to the truth and then broadcast it to a world, that, for the most part, doesn't care? Wouldn't the Sheeple be better off not knowing what's going on, and just happily get into showers at the Happy Camp thinking they're going for just a shower? Perhaps, but a man's got to do what a mans got to do; hence, here I sit wrestling with a brand new crop of atrocities, trying to pick out the pick of the litter -- while my editor waits impatiently for this column and the clock just keeps on a'ticking. Oh, well, I guess this will have to do, huh?

And Finally

Well, there was some good news this week! The Rethuglicans stuck with their old leader Reince Priebus; and if 2012 is any guide, then after another two years of Reince, the end of the GOP will finally be in sight! You'll recall that Reince replaced Michael Steele as the RNC head. You may also recall that Michael had overseen the Rethuglicans biggest gains ever, and their biggest turnaround. Going from a defeated party in 2008, to taking control of house in 2010. So what does Reince have that Michael doesn't? For everyone who said, "Michael doesn't have Reince's lily-white skin and is even far darker than the much-hated Obama," can stay after class and clean the erasers!

Reince also has in his favor coming from Wisconsin, which has supplied us with a steady stream of rat-wing fascist traitors from Sin-ator "Tail-gunner" Joe McCarthy to Con-gressman Paul Ryan to Emperor Scott Walker! There's no way Steele can match that!

Trouble for the Rethuglicans is, Reince has never won anything; he has never run for office, and obviously seeing the results of the November elections, he hasn't a clue on how to win it. Thanks to him, the Rethuglicans lost two seats in the Senate, seven out of eleven governorships, and a goodly number of seats in the House, as well -- not to mention a lot of state and local elections. Oh yeah, and he lost the Presidency too!

Recently, Reince has seen the light on how to win the next presidential election, and the rank-and-file liked his plan -- so much so that in spite of his disastrous leadership, they're along for the ride. What is Reince's bright idea? Why gerrymandering the electoral college -- under his leadership they steal their way into the White House! As Dean Martin said to Frank Sinatra in "Robin And The Seven Hoods," "When your opponent is holding all the aces, there's only one thing to do. Kick over the table!" Since the Rethuglicans can't win the election honestly, then cheat; and it's this bright idea that makes Reince Priebus, the man with the funny name, and even funnier ideas, this weeks Vidkun Quisling Award winner!

Keepin' On

The fight, like the road, goes ever on and on! Thanks to Ernie from Ontario, we have money in the bank, well, money in the credit union, to apply to this year's bills. Ernie is, of course, a member of our "usual suspects" group who does way more than their fair share to keep us going -- fighting for your rights and warning you of upcoming madness from way down yonder in "foggy bottom."

Thanks again to Ernie from Ontario, we only lack about $5700 of paying off our costs for the year. Last year it took us to the last week in December to break even on our bills -- which is all we ever try and do. When we do manage to raise our "rent money" early, I cut off begging for alms until the beginning of next year -- what a happy thought!

So, if you'd like to get me to shut up about our bills, then send in what-ever you can, when-ever you can, and as soon as they're paid off, zip goes the lips! Also, if you hold the purse strings to advertising dollars, why not send a little business our way. If I could get three more like the three we already have, I wouldn't be bending your ear to our plight now, or, ever again! We have unbeatable rates and a targeted readership. Our three main advertisers have been advertising with us since March of 2004; so, we must be doing something right that they like, i.e., make them some money; and I'm sure we can do the same for your group -- unless you're from the RNC or the DNC, in which case, you might want to look further! We accept no political or corpo-rat moneys; so please help us if you can!


02-16-1918 ~ 01-30-2013
Thanks for the music!


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


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

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

The Great Dismal
"What we speak becomes the house we live in."
By Phil Rockstroh

"Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present." -- Albert Camus

The repercussions of our acts -- the constructs we create -- endure well past the dissolution of our convictions and desires. Our actions exist as living architecture that surrounds the breathing moment. Future generations will dwell in the world we erect, thought by thought, deed by deed.

And what if we construct an architecture of evasion and deception?

What does such a place look like? If you live in the current day U.S., take a perusal around you.

Take in our culture's shoddily constructed, ugly, prefab, commercial structures -- its archipelago of strip malls, fast food outlets, suburban, shitbox housing developments --gaudy mcmansion to cookie cutter trackhouse. Glance at its corporate state media, a self-perpetuating, self-referential dominion devoted to hype and hustle -- a 24-7, enveloping sales pitch contrived to evoke the misplaced fear and manic compulsion required to create an unquestioning desire to consume ever proliferating arrays of unneeded, commercial products, as, all the while, its soul-defying criteria is internalized and the system's byproduct -- climate chaos - roils land, sea and sky of our besieged planet.

This is the world we have made. We tend to believe that our present day actions will pass into the shadow of memory, but they will remain in the world as ghostly architects of the future.

And this is where we stand, at present: We are transmigrating through a cultural landscape showing significant evidence of decline -- a collective, psychical wasteland, defined by media mirages, political legerdemain, and ecological devastation. We find ourselves in an era in which arrogance and cupidity are enthroned while the veracities of the heart wander in the wilderness.

Presently, cunning is lauded as a virtue, yet steadfast compassion is viewed as weakness. Our ancestors would have regarded our predicament as catastrophic -- a loss of soul...thus making it imperative that the gods be appeased -- or else travail will follow travail.

We know these spurned and vengeful gods as alienation, as displaced rage, desperate anomie, as cultural atomization, inertia and decay.

The latest electronic gadget will not bring you balm; your guns will not preserve you; and it is evident the nation's political class will not assist us.

How does one avoid being drowned in dumbness?

An inner conviction -- a deep-dwelling knowledge akin to grace exists within -- when your opinion on a matter aligns with the realities at hand. Often, one must stand against rising currents of worldly, wrongheaded opinion -- a cacophonous flood of stupid; a raging torrent of collective pathology.

This is when your own inner idiot and delusion-prone maniac can be of service to you. Ergo, you can think like your adversaries e.g., Smart can envisage Stupid and Crazy, but Stupid and Crazy cannot comprehend what is intelligent and sane.

Thus, as surging tides of stupid crash upon you, you can breathe, with amphibian-like mutability, in the rarefied air of wit and knowledge, and you can breathe, as well, when immersed beneath the floodwaters of surging stupid and inundating insanity.

There are times when a bauble-bedazzled idiot can serve as a role model, because he knows how to surrender to the joys of his heart. But, because you are not an idiot, there is no need to surrender to idiocy.

This evokes the question: What is it that I should give myself over to with idiotic abandon?

There is a vast difference between going supine before one's oppressors and surrendering to the vast, ineffable order of the heart of creation. The task is ongoing -- and arduous, even, at times, terrifying.

It involves a drowning -- a baptism of sorts, but of the poetic (not fundamentalist) variety -- a washing away of calcified habit and a rebirth by an immersion in the embracing waters of a larger order -- one that is not defined by a compulsion for domination of the things of the world one cannot control.

"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." - Aristotle

Subject to the status quo politics of late stage capitalism, we find ourselves stranded in the era of The Great Dismal.

Because a small cadre of elitist elements own the means of manufacturing and control of imagery and storyline, it is difficult to envisage the epic drama inherent to our circumstance.

As an example, the fate of the earth's biosphere and its capacity to sustain human life is being subjected to an unfolding, desperate campaign -- craven as it is noxious -- in its intentions, scope, and side affects, by the elite of an arrogant order to maintain their grip on privilege and power. By propaganda and coercion, they proceed, with cult-like conviction, on a course of catastrophic folly involving a race to secure and exploit the remaining resources of our ecologically taxed planet (the only planet available to us). If their agendas remain unchecked, the biosphere will be rendered unviable to our species.

In an era of urban alienation, suburban atomization, corporate state domination of the public realm, and electronic media saturation of the human psyche, in an era when desire is defined by consumer impulsiveness, individual liberty is circumscribed by debt, and freedom monitored by the dehumanizing apparatus of the national security state panopticon, one hears the lament -- I don't even know how to go about embodying the truths of my heart...How do I even begin to glide along the pollen path of my soul? First ask yourself, how powerfully does the longing live with in you? Does it blaze through your blood? Does it bestow a love of life itself? Does it provide you with a love so potent that it allows you to even love the obstacles in your path? Do you love your adversaries like a Delta bluesman who wails in lamentation about the treachery of a dirty, lowdown betrayer? Notice this: It is the obstacles along your way that have given impetus to inspiration. The antidote is contained in the dragon's venomous bite. Passion's path winds through the monster of the world.

"I feel the beautiful, beating heart of God in the monster of the world." -- Federico García Lorca

What did you expect -- a perpetual glide across eternal pools of bliss while lounging upon some kind of cosmic pool toy? There would only be a tinkling top to such music; it would be devoid of the heartbeat of an earthbound bottom -- the vital rhythm section of the monster's heart.

Here at the crossroads of Eternity and the Living Moment, and near the last exit ramp of Empire's End, the roadside attractions have become more than a bit empty and garish i.e., a Cracker Barrel of the bottomless cravings attendant to the marketing of counterfeit desires.

"What we speak becomes the house we live in." -- Hafiz

Is it any wonder then, in the U.S., enmeshed as we are in the consumer paradigm of late capitalism, that we exist within a Landscape of Nada that is reflective of an inner Architecture of Nowhere?

Sterile malls and ugly strip malls, big box stores, fast food outlets, convenience stores and agora-devoid subdivisions -- these flimsy, banal structures, we have conjured into existence by our hollow, poetry-devoid incantations.

Wasteland within. Wasteland extant. The word and the landscape are one.

So what is the Grail that will restore the dry, sterile landscape to fecundity? And whom does the Grail serve? And where can it be located?

The question pertains both to where and to whom. The who in question is you. And the where is: the living landscape of your stalwart heart. The first step in allowing the wasteland to bloom is a reclamation of empathy and the embrace of imagination.

Or else, all you hold dear will be rendered dust and ash -- and find dismal dominion in the indifferent winds of fate.

"Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist."-- Rene Magritte

We must sing the world back into vital and vivid being. The heart will awaken once the task has begun. Art bestows flesh on phantoms; music spins garments for reborn flesh.

"Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything." -- Plato

The Imagination is a charming seductress, an enchanter of harsh Verities. Baudelaire averred that when we love we have found a means of subsisting on the essence of invisible flowers. A sublime forgetting and relearning takes hold, as lovers take up residence in redolent air.

The act of looking upon the world as if it is the face of your beloved can serve to lift life's burdens over grim landscapes, like Chagall's lovers wafting over dour, quotidian rooftops, beneath which squat the compulsive folly of foolishly earnest men.

Bring an end to the Empire of Endless Burgers by giving voice to inspiration. Bring down the walls of airless, gated subdivisions of the mind with the heart's reverberant soundscape.

Without your voice, nothing is possible, and nowhere is where you are bound.

Therefore, the only sound choice arrive singing.

Words, Phrases, Sentences -- they are more than simply verbal constructs. They are living things -- the progeny of the union of the image-plangent soul of earth and sea -- and the holy spirit's lambent, inhuman illuminations. We know them as the dance of affinities attendant to the mating rituals of eros and logos -- the Word and Flesh made one.

At paradigm's end, buffeted and shaken -- yet held enthralled within the maelstrom -- by the vast and sweeping scope of unsolvable governmental/cultural forces -- we feel the pull of a gravity that feels akin to love. We yearn for some remedy, like lovers whose blazing love threatens to burn away all their moorings and upend all they know.

Thus, rejoice in this: There is rebirth, dwelling deep, in the irreparable problem we know as the world.

Find solace in the knowledge that poets (who should not be imagined as an elitist covenant of the elect -- but those who have chosen to avail their hearts to the art of living in a poetic manner) are out there now: wounded by beauty; indentured to logos.

And even when exploring our current day wilderness of alienation, poets are laboring to limn a psychical map of its terrain of terror and beauty. All who live pass through this soul-plangent landscape. Know this: It is an illusion that you have ever been alone, even within the nadascape comprising The Great Dismal of the current era.
(c) 2013 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

A Move To The Center
By Uri Avnery

IT WAS the night of the optimists.

Tuesday at 10:01 pm, a minute after the ballot boxes were sealed, the three TV news programs announced the results of their exit polls.

The dire predictions of the pessimists were scattered to the winds. Israel has not gone crazy.

It has not moved to the right. The fascists have not taken over the Knesset. Binyamin Netanyahu has not been strengthened. Far from it.

Israel has moved to the center.

It was not a historic turning moment, like the takeover of Menachem Begin in 1977, after two generations of Labor Party rule. But it was a significant change.

All this after an election campaign without content, without excitement, without any discernible emotion.

On election day, which is an official holiday, I repeatedly looked out of my window, above one of Tel Aviv's main streets. There was not the slightest indication that anything special was going on. In previous elections, the street was crowded with taxis and private cars covered with party posters, carrying voters to the polling stations. This time I did not see a single one.

In the polling station, I was alone. But the beach was crowded. People had taken their dogs and children to play in the sand under the brilliant winter sun, sailing boats dotted the blue sea. Hundreds of thousands drove to the Galilee or the Negev. Many had hired a Zimmer (curiously we use the German word for a bed-and-breakfast room).

But by the end of the day, almost 67% of Israelis had voted - more than last time. Even the Arab citizens, most of whom did not vote during the day, suddenly awoke and thronged the ballot stations during the last two hours - after the Arab parties cooperated in a massive action to get the voters out.

WHEN THE exit polls were published, the leaders of half a dozen parties, including Netanyahu, hastened to make victory speeches. A few hours later, most of them, Netanyahu included, looked silly. The real results changed the picture only slightly, but enough for some to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The great loser of the election is Binyamin Netanyahu. At the last moment before the start of the campaign he united his list with that of Avigdor Lieberman. That made him seemingly invincible. No one doubted that he would win, and win big. Experts gave him 45 seats, up from the 42 the two lists had in the outgoing Knesset.

That would have put him in a position where he could pick coalition partners (or, rather, coalition servants) at will.

He ended up with a mere 31 seats - losing a quarter of his strength. It was a slap in the face. His main election slogan was "A strong leader, A strong Israel." Strong no more. He will still become Prime Minister again, but as a shadow of his former self. Politically he is near his end.

What remains of his faction makes up a quarter of the next Knesset. That means that he will be a minority in any coalition he may be able to put together (which needs 61 members at least). If Lieberman's people are deducted from the number, Likud proper has just 20 seats, only one more than the real victor of this election.

THE REAL VICTOR is Ya'ir Lapid, who amazed everyone, especially himself (and me), with an astounding 19 seats. That makes his the second largest faction in the Knesset, after Likud-Beitenu.

How did he do it? Well, he has the handsome, youthful look and body language of a TV anchorman, which indeed he was for many years. Everyone knows his face. His message consisted of platitudes, which upset no one. Though now almost 50 years old, he was the candidate of the young.

His victory is part of a generational change. Like Naftali Bennett on the right, he attracted young people who are fed up with the old system, the old parties, the old, hackneyed slogans. They were not looking for a new ideology, but for a new face. Lapid's was the most handsome face around.

But it cannot be overlooked that Lapid in the center beat his nearest competitor for young votes - Bennett on the right. While Lapid did not propagate any ideology, Bennett did everything possible to disguise his. He went to Tel Aviv's pubs, presented himself as everyman's (and everywoman's) good guy, wooed secular, liberal youngsters.

Throughout the campaign, Bennett appeared to be the rising star on the political firmament, the great surprise of this election, the symbol of Israel's fatal move to the right.

There was another similarity between the two: both worked hard. While the other parties relied mostly on TV to carry their message, Lapid "plowed" the country all through last year, building an organization, talking to people, attracting groups of faithful followers. So did Bennett.

But in the end, when a young person had to choose between the two, he or she could not overlook the fact that Lapid belonged to a democratic, liberal Israel and was committed to the two-state peace solution, while Bennett was an extreme advocate of the settlers and of Greater Israel, an enemy of the Arabs and of the Supreme Court.

The verdict of the young was unequivocal: 19 for Lapid, only 12 for Bennett.

THE GREATEST disappointment was in store for Shelly Yachimovich. She was absolutely certain that her rejuvenated Labor Party would become the second largest faction in the Knesset. She even presented herself as a possible replacement for Netanyahu.

Both she and Lapid profited from the huge social protest of the summer of 2011, which pushed war and the occupation off the agenda. Even Netanyahu did not dare to bring up the attack on Iran and the extension of the settlements. But in the end, Lapid profited more than Shelly.

It appears that Shelly's single-minded concentration on social justice was a mistake. If she had combined her social platform with Tzipi Livni's peace negotiation agenda, she might well have fulfilled her ambition and formed the second-largest faction.

Tzipi's defeat - just 6 seats - was pitiable. She joined the fray only two months ago, after a lot of hesitation, which seems to be her trademark. Her single-minded concentration on the "political arrangement" with the Palestinians - not "peace", God forbid - ran against the trend.

People who really want peace voted (like me) for Meretz, who can boast a resounding achievement, doubling their strength from 3 to 6. That is also a striking feature of this election.

It appears also that quite a number of Jews gave their vote to the mainly-Arab communist Hadash party, which was also strengthened.

THE WHOLE thing boils down to two numbers: 61 for the Right-Religious bloc, 59 for the Center-Left-Arab bloc. One single member could have made all the difference. The Arab citizens could have easily provided that member.

I noticed that all three TV stations sent their teams to the headquarters of every single Jewish party, including those who did not surmount the 2% hurdle (like, thank God, the religious-fascist Kahanist list) but not to any of the three Arab parties.

By tacit agreement, the Arabs were treated as not really belonging. The Left (or "Center-Left, as they preferred to be called) relegated them to membership in the "Blocking-Bloc", those who could block Netanyahu's ability to form a coalition. The Arabs themselves were not consulted.

Lapid disposed of the "blocking bloc" rapidly. He made short shrift of the idea that he could be in the same bloc with Hanin Zuabi (or with any Arab party, for that matter.) He also squashed the idea that he had ambitions to be Prime Minister. He was not prepared for such an advance, having no political experience at all.

EVEN THOUGH the "blocking bloc" will not materialize, it will be very difficult for Netanyahu to form a coalition.

The prospect of a purely right-wing coalition has disappeared. It is impossible to govern with just 61 seats", (Though Netanyahu could initially try to form such a small coalition, hoping to add more factions later.) He will need Lapid, who would become a central figure in the government. Indeed, Netanyahu called him an hour after the ballots closed.

In any case, Netanyahu will need one or more of the center parties, making the next government much less dangerous.

WHAT IS the lesson of this election?

The right-religious bloc lost the election, but the "center-left" did not win it, because they could not put forward a credible candidate for prime minister, nor a credible alternative governing party with a solid, comprehensive blueprint for the solution of Israel's basic problems.

To create such a new force, it is absolutely vital to integrate the Arab citizens in the political process as full-fledged partners. By keeping the Arabs out, the Left is castrating itself. A new Jewish-Arab left, a community of outlook, political language and interests, must be created - and this act of creation must start right now.

The battle for Israel is not lost. Israel's "move to the right" has been blocked and is far from inevitable. We Israelis are not as crazy as we look.

This battle has ended in a draw. The next round can be won. It depends on us.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Foul Play In The Senate
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

The inauguration of a president is one of those spectacles of democracy that can make us remember we're part of something big and enduring. So for a few hours this past Monday the pomp and circumstance inspired us to think that government of, by, and for the people really is just that, despite the predatory threats that stalk it.

But the mood didn't last. Every now and then, as the cameras panned upward, the Capitol dome towering over the ceremony was a reminder of something the good feeling of the moment couldn't erase. It's the journalist's curse to have a good time spoiled by the reality beyond the pageantry. Just a couple of days before the inaugural festivities, The New York Times published some superb investigative reporting by the team of Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack, and their revelations were hard to forget, even at a time of celebration.

The story told us of a pharmaceutical giant called Amgen and three senators so close to it they might be entries on its balance sheet: Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and that powerful committee's ranking Republican, Orrin Hatch. A trio of perpetrators who treat the United States Treasury as if it were a cash-and-carry annex of corporate America.

The Times story described how Amgen got a huge hidden gift from unnamed members of Congress and their staffers. They slipped an eleventh hour loophole into the New Year's Eve deal that kept the government from going over the fiscal cliff. When the sun rose in the morning, there it was, a richly embroidered loophole for Amgen that will cost taxpayers a cool half a billion dollars.

"Two guys nurtured at public expense, paid as public servants, disappear through the gold-plated revolving door of Congress and presto, return as money changers in the temple of crony capitalism."

Amgen is the world's largest biotechnology firm, a drug maker that sells a variety of medications. The little clause secretly sneaked into the fiscal cliff bill gives the company two more years of relief from Medicare cost controls for certain drugs used by patients who are on kidney dialysis, including a pill called Sensipar, manufactured by Amgen.

The provision didn't mention Amgen by name, but according to reporters Lipton and Sack, the news that it had been tucked into the fiscal cliff deal "was so welcome, that the company's chief executive quickly relayed it to investment analysts."

Tipping them off, it would seem, to a jackpot in the making.

Amgen has 74 lobbyists on its team in Washington and lobbied hard for that loophole, currying favor with friends at the White House and on Capitol Hill. The Times reporters traced its "deep financial and political ties" to Baucus, McConnell and Hatch, "who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy."

All three have received hefty campaign donations from the company whose bottom line mysteriously just got padded at taxpayer expense. Since 2007, Amgen employees and its political action committee have contributed nearly $68,000 to Senator Baucus, $73,000 to Senator McConnell's campaigns, and $59,000 to Senator Hatch.

And lo and behold, among those 74 Amgen lobbyists are the former chief of staff to Senator Baucus and the former chief of staff to Senator McConnell. You get the picture: Two guys nurtured at public expense, paid as public servants, disappear through the gold-plated revolving door of Congress and presto, return as money changers in the temple of crony capitalism.

Inside to welcome them is a current top aide to Senator Hatch, one who helped weave this lucrative loophole. He used to work as a health policy analyst for - you guessed it - Amgen.

So the trail winds deeper into the sordid swamp beneath that great Capitol dome, a sinkhole where shame has all but disappeared. As reporters Lipton and Sack remind us, just weeks before this backroom betrayal of the public interest by elected officials and the mercenaries they have mentored, Amgen pleaded guilty to fraud. Look it up: fraud means trickery, cheating and duplicity. Amgen agreed to pay $762 million in criminal and civil penalties; the company had been caught illegally marketing another one of its drugs.

The fact that their puppet master had been the subject of fines and a massive federal investigation mattered not to its servile pawns in the Senate, where pomp and circumstance are but masks for the brute power of money.

Peter Welch, Vermont's Democratic congressman, has just introduced bipartisan legislation to repeal the half billion-dollar giveaway to Amgen [see the video clip below]. Its co-sponsors include Republican Richard Hanna of New York and Democrats Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Bruce Braley of Iowa.

The Amgen deal "confirms the American public's worst suspicions of how Congress operates," Representative Welch told us this week. "As the nation's economy teetered on the edge of a Congressional-created fiscal cliff, lobbyists for a private, for-profit company seized an opportunity to feed at the public trough. It's no wonder cockroaches and root canals are more popular than Congress."

In his inaugural address, Barack Obama said the commitments we make to each other through Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security don't make us a nation of takers. But the actions of Amgen and its cronies under the dome on Capitol Hill show who the real takers are - not those who look to government for support in old age and hard times but the ones at the top whose avarice and lust for profit compel them to take as much as they can from that government at the expense of everyone else.
(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.

Sunset in Afghanistan.

The Setting Sun And The American Empire
By Tom Engelhardt

The euphemisms will come fast and furious. Our soldiers will be greeted as "heroes" who, as in Iraq, left with their "heads held high," and if in 2014 or 2015 or even 2019, the last of them, as also in Iraq, slip away in the dark of night after lying to their Afghan "allies" about their plans, few here will notice.

This will be the nature of the great Afghan drawdown. The words "retreat," "loss," "defeat," "disaster," and their siblings and cousins won't be allowed on the premises. But make no mistake, the country that, only years ago, liked to call itself the globe's "sole superpower" or even "hyperpower," whose leaders dreamed of a Pax Americana across the Greater Middle East, if not the rest of the globe is...not to put too fine a point on it, packing its bags, throwing in the towel, quietly admitting-in actions, if not in words -to mission unaccomplished, and heading if not exactly home, at least boot by boot off the Eurasian landmass. Washington has, in a word, had enough. Too much, in fact. It's lost its appetite for invasions and occupations of Eurasia, though special operations raids, drone wars, and cyberwars still look deceptively cheap and easy as a means to control... well, whatever. As a result, the Afghan drawdown of 2013-2014, that implicit acknowledgement of yet another lost war, should set the curtain falling on the American Century as we've known it. It should be recognized as a landmark, the moment in history when the sun truly began to set on a great empire. Here in the United States, though, one thing is just about guaranteed: not many are going to be paying the slightest attention.

No one even thinks to ask the question: In the mighty battle lost, who exactly beat us? Where exactly is the triumphant enemy? Perhaps we should be relieved that the question is not being raised, because it's a hard one to answer. Could it really have been the scattered jihadis of al-Qaeda and its wannabes? Or the various modestly armed Sunni and Shiite minority insurgencies in Iraq, or their Pashtun equivalents in Afghanistan with their suicide bombers and low-tech roadside bombs? Or was it something more basic, something having to do with a planet no longer amenable to imperial expeditions? Did the local and global body politic simply and mysteriously spit us out as the distasteful thing we had become? Or is it even possible, as Pogo once suggested, that in those distant, unwelcoming lands, we met the enemy and he was us? Did we in some bizarre fashion fight ourselves and lose? After all, last year, more American servicemen died from suicide than on the battlefield in Afghanistan; and a startling number of Americans were killed in "green on blue" or "insider" attacks by Afghan "allies" rather than by that fragmented movement we still call the Taliban.

Whoever or whatever was responsible, our Afghan disaster was remarkably foreseeable. In fact, anyone who, from 2006 on, read Ann Jones's Afghan reports at TomDispatch wouldn't have had a doubt about the outcome of the war. Her first piece, after all, was prophetically entitled "Why It's Not Working in Afghanistan." ("The answer is a threefold failure: no peace, no democracy, and no reconstruction.") From Western private-contractors-cum-looters making a figurative killing off the "reconstruction" of the country to an Afghan army that was largely a figment of the American imagination to up-armored U.S. soldiers on well-guarded bases whose high-tech equipment and comforts of home blinded them to the nature of the enemy, hers has long been a tale of impending failure. Now, that war seems headed for its predictable end, not for the Afghans who, as Jones indicates in her latest sweeping report from Kabul, may face terrible years ahead, but for the U.S. After more than 11 years, the war that is often labeled the longest in American history is slowly winding down and that's no small thing.

So leave the mystery of who beat us to the historians, but mark the moment. It's historic.
(c) 2013 Tom Engelhardt is co-founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

Bonuses For Banksters

What a satisfying sight it would've been for the public to see Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and other high-rolling Wall Street banksters in handcuffs for having illegally foreclosed on the homes of hundreds of thousands of American families.

But, no. Instead of the kingpins of finance finally having to take responsibility for evicting so many people and wrecking the nation's housing market, not a single one has even been pursued by the law. Rather, federal regulators have negotiated a secret deal with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and nine other mortgage lending giants, letting banks pay $10 billion in penalties to end the case against them.

The lesson here is clear: If your crime is vast enough, forget doing time, you don't even personally pay the fine - you just unleash your mad dog lawyers to cut a deal, shifting the cost of your felonious profiteering scheme onto your bank's shareholders. Letting the chief schemers deflect responsibility also has zero deterrent effect on their future scheming, and it destroys public trust in the notion of equal justice for all. "It's not fair," we shout in exasperation.

But the big shots shout back: "Fair? That's where you take your pig to win a blue ribbon. This is Wall Street, baby - grab all you can!"

So they're still there, still scheming, profiting, and grinning. In the same week that Goldman Sachs agreed to pay a fine for its illicit treatment of homeowners, it announced that CEO Lloyd Blankfein was awarded some $19 million in pay (including a $6 million bonus) Likewise, JPMorgan agreed to a sweetheart settlement for its mortgage malfeasance, then - a week later - it delivered an $11.5 million paycheck to its chief, Jamie Dimon.

Anyone who says "crime doesn't pay" simply isn't paying attention to Wall Street.
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Actor Linda Boreman is the subject of the biopic Lovelace, which showed this week at the Sundance festival.

Lovelace: A Feminism-Free 'Feminist' Critique Of The Pornography Industry
The biopic of 70s porn star Linda Boreman edits out a crucial aspect of her life: her empowering role in the women's movement
By Naomi Wolf

This week, at the Sundance film festival in Park City, Utah, excited crowds filed into a theater for Lovelace, a new film about 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (both of The Times of Harvey Milk). A group of mostly Mormon protesters stood dourly outside the packed house. They objected to the film's sexual content.

In a Q&A session, a producer rather autocratically dismissed the protesters. She would have done better to have had a screening for them; they would have found much to like.

The movie details the rise, fall, and rebirth of a young woman, Linda Boreman, who leaves her repressive family for the manipulative Chuck Traynor. His violent control transforms her into a "spokesmodel" for fellatio in the first porn film to be mass-marketed, Deep Throat. Finally, she begins a new life with a new family. It is a highly conventional narrative about women and sexuality, and it will hit the sweet spot for a wide audience.

Though they cast Boreman sympathetically - Seyfried plays her as a passive, pliable victim - the filmmakers let the camera linger on titillating shots of her naked nubility, and showed graphic scenes of oral sex. Then, they try to undercut the audiences' arousal by splicing in horrifying images of Linda's abuse and degradation at the hands of her brutal manager-husband.

The real Linda managed to escape, and eventually co-wrote a memoir about the cruelty she suffered, even while she was feted by society (her husband actually had her gang-raped for money at one point, and held her at gunpoint during sex scenes). This screenplay, though, attributes her redemption solely to her second husband and child.

This movie is important, all the same: it shines a light on that critical turning-point in the 1970s when a sexual revolution, which could have created a positive and powerful frame around female sexuality, became instead dark and commodified by a violent, often mafia-run porn industry. This corrupted revolution created the sexual norms we now inherit.

A positive feminist frame would not have been a dramatic departure: William Leach's True Love and Perfect Union: The Feminist Reform of Sex and Society has reclaimed the lost history of the late 19th century, when the main discourse in American feminism was not about the vote or equal pay, surprisingly, but about an embrace and scientific understanding of female sexuality.

At the same time, Lovelace (predictably) plays into the expectations of the industry it critiques, setting a new precedent for the most x-rated material in a mainstream movie. This should worry parents: it continues the normalization of pornography that Deep Throat pioneered.

The film is sure to cause fights among some heterosexual couples. How many young men who will (jokingly?) say "Breathe" to their girlfriends during oral sex, after they hear Traynor give this advice to his wife so that she might "deep-throat" him? How many young women will feel either intimidated by an impossible new standard of sexual performance, or angry at being treated like a porn performer? (Traynor's advice also won't do anything useful about the human gag reflex, as Boreman herself warned.)

The script cuts out a key moment in Boreman's life: before her second husband "saved" her, feminism actually saved her with its analysis of marital rape, pornography, and sexual degradation. As her obituary notes, feminists embraced Boreman, and she used their ideas to make sense of what had happened to her. She spent years touring to talk about abuses in the porn industry from a feminist perspective.

This omission may have made sense in terms of box office appeal, but it is a huge departure from the historical record, and the truth of Boreman's life.

Nonetheless, to the film's credit, Lovelace is the first mass-market depiction of the violence against women that is endemic in the sex industry. The film brought in law professor Catharine MacKinnon as a consultant; it was she who, with radical feminist writer Andrea Dworkin, wrote the Minneapolis Ordinances - proposed legislation that would have limited pornography as a violation of women's civil rights. MacKinnon also wrote the influential Feminism Unmodified, which further spelled out the harm she saw in pornography. (The authors called the ACLU, which defends pornography as free speech, "the pro-pimp lobby.")

I interviewed Antonia Crane, who has been a sex worker and written a memoir, and has also worked as a film consultant (though not on Lovelace). When I asked her what she wanted to see change in the sex industry as a result of the film, she replied:

"I enjoyed Lovelace, but it was a very sad portrayal ... Not only was it about sexual assault and domestic violence, it was also about a young girl with limited options, who was basically kidnapped and sold into porn.

"I've met legions of such doe-eyed beauties. I've lapdanced next to them for years, with their pimps lurking. I never had a pimp or thought to get one. But then, I had marched into the San Francisco stripclubs with my women's studies education, ready to hate men and to steal their money."

Crane mentioned a Rebecca Solnit essay on sexual violence and went on:

"I'd like to see prostitution legalized and regulated in order for women to be protected ... I'd like women in the sex industry to have access to programs designed to help them transition into the mainstream workforce after they exit the industry - when and if they choose to.

"I'd like sex workers to be seen in three beautiful dimensions, not as damaged victims, begging to be rescued. Enough!"

Millions will see this movie. Whether one agrees with every aspect of Crane's vision, it's safe to say the film would have been stronger if audiences could take some of her words with them.
(c) 2013 Naomi Wolf author, social critic, and political activist is the author of The New York Times bestseller "The End of America" (Chelsea Green) and, more recently, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. Wolf's landmark international bestseller, The Beauty Myth, challenged the cosmetics industry and the marketing of unrealistic standards of beauty, launching a new wave of feminism in the early 1990s.

Why A Socialistic System May Be Our Best Course
By James Donahue

During my college days and the early years of my career in journalism I was fascinated by the ideas perpetuated by novelist Ayn Rand. Her corporate heroes with their steel grey eyes and their willingness to take chances to keep their enterprises running painted a positive picture of the way a capitalistic system could and should run.

I could understand the influence Rand had on ultra conservative political figures like Paul Ryan because I was once caught up in that same mind-set. It was a comfortable place to be for me. My father was a staunch Republican. I lived and worked in a rural Michigan district where the Republican party literally ran the city, county and regional governments. I obediently voted for the Republican candidates.

Then John F. Kennedy came along and I started looking at the Democratic Party in a different light. His assassination and the following presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson nearly squelched that interest. His guns and butter policy, escalating the war in Vietnam and dumping tons of unneeded federal money into state and local coffers through his revenue sharing programs looked like a misuse of taxpayer dollars. But in spite of LBJ, I found my political views broadening. I was declaring myself an independent voter in those days, refusing to take sides.

I read Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy In America and was interested in the way he looked at our political system from a European perspective. One warning in that book hung with me like a fog. He wrote: "The America Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."

One of my former editors, during a luncheon gathering when reporters and editors were talking about the politics of the day, said something else that stuck with me. He said he believed that people on welfare, or receiving government assistance of any kind, should give up their right to vote. It was his belief that people would support politicians that continued to pour federal and state dollars into the pockets of the poor.

And in those two statements we can find the very root of the conflict now going on in political circles all across America. We have those steel-grey-eyed corporate CEO's over-extending the powers ever envisioned by Ayn Rand and using their great wealth to stuff the pockets of the politicians. The politicians, in turn, are using the money stuffed in their pockets to bribe the public with slick television advertising campaigns. And we have a growing number of poverty-stricken Americans desperately seeking the federal and state assistance they need just to stay alive.

The capitalistic system worked well when the element of corporate greed was not present. Henry Ford, while known as a skinflint in his personal life, wisely chose to pay the workers on his automobile assembly line a decent wage because he wanted them to be able to buy the cars they were building. That was the way capitalism was always supposed to work. Socialism, however, entered the picture during the Great Depression. Democratic Party President Franklin D. Roosevelt used federal dollars to launch public works projects. He put millions of people to work building bridges, roads, dams and government buildings. From this sprang unemployment insurance, state welfare programs, the Social Security retirement program and eventually Medicare and Medicaid for the poor and elderly. These and other socialistic programs have worked well over the years.

But now, as the steel-grey-eyed industrialists and corporate CEO's gain even more money and power, and gain more and more influence over the operations of our government, the very concept of socialism is under attack. The very word "socialism" is constantly associated with communism, which was a failed form of socialism carried to the extreme. Under Communism the state owns everything and it provides for the needs of the masses. Under socialism you still can have privately owned businesses but overall there is a sharing of the wealth so that nobody goes hungry and everybody has a roof over their head. America is now drifting away from those socialist roots and is moving toward an extreme form of capitalism that resembles the old system of kingdoms and surfs.

A recent commentary by Mike Adams, editor of Natural News, suggests that Collectivism is giving way to Conservatism because the cities, where the more liberal voters live, are turning into "death traps" and more and more Americans are moving into rural areas. Adams argues that "people who live in cities tend to be liberal" because people crammed in close proximity to one another share a "dependence on infrastructure and the close proximity of police stations." This existence "lends itself to a socialist mindset." People living in rural areas, Adams writes, "have every reason to be more conservative and independent. Self-reliance means survival."

We do not agree with Adams' views. It appears that he has not flown over the country and looked down on the urban sprawl that now seems to cover the landscape. Everywhere you look you find highways and mini-malls filled with fast-food restaurants, motels and shopping centers. The only places left barren are the open farmlands, deserts and rocky mountainous terrains. And America is not as harshly populated as the other nations of the world. People everywhere are forced, not by choice, to pack into small quarters and share what little space they have with their neighbors. This is because we have been busy overpopulating our world. Our numbers are approaching 7 billion people and growing fast. This is happening as our world is running out of natural resources, clean drinking water, and air. We have stripped the forests, the oil and gas reserves, mined all of the resources under the surface, and polluted everything. We have fished our polluted seas so many species of sea life have gone extinct.

Supporting more big corporate enterprise, which is busy making wealth at the expense of our Mother Earth, is the wrong choice. The world desperately needs to move into a balanced socialistic system of controlled sharing of resources and wealth. There still is enough for everybody and we can survive together for a few more years if we all pull together. To do anything less is to race toward extinction.
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Priebus Is What Happens When A Party Loses Its Self-Respect
By John Nichols

The Republican National Committee has retained Reince Priebus as party chairman, keeping the failed leader in a position previously occupied by Mark Hanna, Lee Atwater and Haley Barbour.

Even as he accepted his new term, Priebus acknowledged that he and his minions have led their party far from the American mainstream. "We have to build better relationships in minority communities, urban centers and college towns," he admitted in his acceptence speech.

Addressing the tens of millions of Americans-women, African-Americans, Hispanics, gays and lesbians, young people, union members-who by wide margins reject the Republican "brand," Priebus said, "We want to earn your trust again."

But those are just carefully-chosen words for public consumption.

Priebus was not reelected to build a multiracial, multiethnic party that embraces diversity and seeks to deliver a message of opportunity for all. The whole point of his chairmanship has been to combat the politics of inclusion that Republicans decry Barack Obama for practicing.

That has placed the once honorable Republican Party on the wrong side of history, and of American progress.

Priebus has seen the numbers. He understands the demographics. He knows the GOP, as it is currently organized and focused, is unlikely to win the "trust" he spoke of. Indeed, he is so sure that the party will fail to do so that he has devoted himself and his party to advancing restrictive "Voter ID" laws, placing limits on early voting and Election Day registration and, most recently, restructuring the Electoral College so that the party can remain competitive even if it lacks popular appeal.

It is that scheming-not a promise of Republican renewal-that explains why Priebus retained the chairmanship in spite of the electoral failures that occurred on his watch.

RNC members certainly did not retain Priebus because of his track record.

The RNC's top priority in 2012 was beating Barack Obama. Yet, they lost the popular vote by 5 million ballots, lost the Electoral College 332 to 206, lost two seats in the US Senate and fell 1.4 behind in the nationwide vote for the US House. They also lost 7 of 11 gubernatorial races.

Only gerrymandering of congressional and legislative district lines prevented a complete wipeout for the Grand Old Party.

So why keep Priebus?

Because the former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and veteran party fixer, has a plan for a party on a losing streak.

Priebus wants to make it possible for losers to "win." To that end, he's urging Republican governors and legislators to change the rules for distribution of Electoral College votes so that a Republican presidential candidate might lose a state and still gain most of its electoral votes. Responsible Republicans in key states have objected to the chairman's scheming to have those states end the practice of awarding electoral votes to the winner and instead allot them based on the results from gerrymandered congressional districts.

Unfortunately for the Republicans who would like their party to stand for something more noble than gaming the system, Priebus is what happens when the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower loses its way-and its self respect.

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

The President Of Perpetual War
By David Sirota

Four years into his presidency, Barack Obama's political formula should be obvious. He gives fabulous speeches teeming with popular liberal ideas, often refuses to take the actions necessary to realize those ideas and then banks on most voters, activists, reporters and pundits never bothering to notice - or care about - his sleight of hand.

Whether railing on financial crime and then refusing to prosecute Wall Street executives or berating health insurance companies and then passing a health care bill bailing out those same companies, Obama embodies a cynical ploy - one that relies on a celebrity-entranced electorate focusing more on TV-packaged rhetoric than on legislative reality.

Never was this formula more apparent than when the president discussed military conflicts during his second inaugural address. Declaring that "a decade of war is now ending," he insisted that he "still believe(s) that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war."

The lines generated uncritical applause, much of it from anti-war liberals who protested against the Bush administration. Living up to Obama's calculation, few seemed to notice that the words came from the same president who is manufacturing a state of "perpetual war."

Obama, let's remember, is the president who escalated the Afghanistan War and whose spokesman recently reiterated that U.S. troops are not necessarily leaving that country anytime soon. He is the president who has initiated undeclared wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. He is also the president who, according to data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has launched more than 20,000 air strikes-and those assaults show no sign of stopping.

We know that latter point to be the true because just days before Obama's inaugural address declaring an end to war, the Washington Post reported that the administration's new manual establishing "clear rules" for counterterrorism operations specifically creates a "carve-out (that) would allow the CIA to continue" the president's intensifying drone war.

That's the "perpetual war," you'll recall, in which Obama asserts the extra-constitutional right to compile a "kill list" and then order bombing raids of civilian areas in hopes of killing alleged militants - including U.S. citizens.

According to a study by the New America Foundation, roughly one in five of those killed by such strikes are civilians. However, even that troubling number may understate the situation. That's because, as the New York Times previously reported, the Obama administration "counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants" even though, according to a CIA official, Obama aides "are not really sure who they are."

Obama partisans' typical riposte to these horrifying truths is to first and foremost attack the messenger. As just one example, a confidante of Obama's national security director recently berated war critics as "Cheeto-eating people in the basement working in their underwear."

These same partisans then typically blurt out two words: national security. But the argument that the president's drone war is protecting America is as flip as it is inaccurate.

That's the conclusion of a new analysis by the Council on Foreign Relations - an establishmentarian group that cannot be dismissed with insults about snack food, subterranean dwelling and tighty-whities. Citing a concurrent increase in drone strikes and terrorists in Yemen, CFR says there is a predictable "blowback" effect whereby bombings result in "heightened anger toward the United States and sympathy with or allegiance to al-Qaida" among local populations.

These facts, of course, are a downer for those mesmerized by the president's soothing inauguration rhetoric. No doubt, he is hoping we simply ignore reality because we so want to believe the anti-war oratory. If we do that, though, we will be aiding and abetting the very state of "perpetual war" that the president has created.
(c) 2013 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. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota .

The Myth Of Living Beyond Our Means
By Robert Reich

Brace yourself. In coming weeks you'll hear there's no serious alternative to cutting Social Security and Medicare, raising taxes on middle class, and decimating what's left of the federal government's discretionary spending on everything from education and job training to highways and basic research.

"We" must make these sacrifices, it will be said, in order to deal with our mushrooming budget deficit and cumulative debt.

But most of the people who are making this argument are very wealthy or are sponsored by the very wealthy: Wall Street moguls like Pete Peterson and his "Fix the Debt" brigade, the Business Roundtable, well-appointed think tanks and policy centers along the Potomac, members of the Simpson-Bowles commission.

These regressive sentiments are packaged in a mythology that Americans have been living beyond our means: We've been unwilling to pay for what we want government to do for us, and we are now reaching the day of reckoning.

The truth is most Americans have not been living beyond their means. The problem is their means haven't been keeping up with the growth of the economy - which is why most of us need better education, infrastructure, and healthcare, and stronger safety nets.

The real median wage is only slightly higher now than it was 30 years ago, even though the economy is twice as large.

The only people whose means have soared are at the very top, because they've received almost all the gains from growth. Over the last three decades, the top 1 percent's share of the nation's income has doubled; the top one-tenth of 1 percent's share, tripled. The richest one-tenth of 1 percent is now earning as much as the bottom 120 million Americans put together.

Wealth has become even more concentrated than income (income is a stream of money, wealth is the pool into which it flows).

The richest 1 percent now own more than 35 percent of all of the nation's household wealth, and 38 percent of the nation's financial assets - including stocks and pension funds.

Think about this: The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together. The 6 Walmart heirs have more wealth than bottom 33 million American families combined.

So why are we even contemplating cutting programs the middle class and poor depend on, and raising their taxes?

We should tax the vast accumulations of wealth now in the hands of a relative few.

To the extent they have any wealth at all, most Americans have it in their homes - whose prices have stopped falling in most of the country but are still down almost 30 percent from their 2006 peak.

Yet homes are subject to the only major tax on wealth - property taxes.

Yale Professor Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott have proposed a 2 percent surtax on the wealth of the richest one-half of 1 percent of Americans owning more than $7.2 million of assets.

They figure it would generate $70 billion a year, or $750 billion over the decade. That's more than the fiscal cliff deal raises from high-income Americans.

Together, the two sets of taxes on the wealthy - tax increases contained in the fiscal cliff agreement, and a wealth tax such as Ackerman and Alstott have proposed - would just about equal the spending cuts the White House has already agreed to, totaling $1.5 trillion (or $1.7 trillion including interest savings).

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

Makers, Takers, Fakers
By Paul Krugman

Republicans have a problem. For years they could shout down any attempt to point out the extent to which their policies favored the elite over the poor and the middle class; all they had to do was yell "Class warfare!" and Democrats scurried away. In the 2012 election, however, that didn't work: the picture of the G.O.P. as the party of sneering plutocrats stuck, even as Democrats became more openly populist than they have been in decades.

As a result, prominent Republicans have begun acknowledging that their party needs to improve its image. But here's the thing: Their proposals for a makeover all involve changing the sales pitch rather than the product. When it comes to substance, the G.O.P. is more committed than ever to policies that take from most Americans and give to a wealthy handful.

Consider, as a case in point, how a widely reported recent speech by Bobby Jindal the governor of Louisiana, compares with his actual policies.

Mr. Jindal posed the problem in a way that would, I believe, have been unthinkable for a leading Republican even a year ago. "We must not," he declared, "be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive." After a campaign in which Mitt Romney denounced any attempt to talk about class divisions as an "attack on success," this represents a major rhetorical shift.

But Mr. Jindal didn't offer any suggestions about how Republicans might demonstrate that they aren't just about letting the rich keep their toys, other than claiming even more loudly that their policies are good for everyone.

Meanwhile, back in Louisiana Mr. Jindal is pushing a plan to eliminate the state's income tax, which falls most heavily on the affluent, and make up for the lost revenue by raising sales taxes, which fall much more heavily on the poor and the middle class. The result would be big gains for the top 1 percent, substantial losses for the bottom 60 percent. Similar plans are being pushed by a number of other Republican governors as well.

Like the new acknowledgment that the perception of being the party of the rich is a problem, this represents a departure for the G.O.P. - but in the opposite direction. In the past, Republicans would justify tax cuts for the rich either by claiming that they would pay for themselves or by claiming that they could make up for lost revenue by cutting wasteful spending. But what we're seeing now is open, explicit reverse Robin Hoodism: taking from ordinary families and giving to the rich. That is, even as Republicans look for a way to sound more sympathetic and less extreme, their actual policies are taking another sharp right turn.

Why is this happening? In particular, why is it happening now, just after an election in which the G.O.P. paid a price for its anti-populist stand?

Well, I don't have a full answer, but I think it's important to understand the extent to which leading Republicans live in an intellectual bubble. They get their news from Fox and other captive media, they get their policy analysis from billionaire-financed right-wing think tanks, and they're often blissfully unaware both of contrary evidence and of how their positions sound to outsiders.

So when Mr. Romney made his infamous "47 percent" remarks, he wasn't, in his own mind, saying anything outrageous or even controversial. He was just repeating a view that has become increasingly dominant inside the right-wing bubble, namely that a large and ever-growing proportion of Americans won't take responsibility for their own lives and are mooching off the hard-working wealthy. Rising unemployment claims demonstrate laziness, not lack of jobs; rising disability claims represent malingering, not the real health problems of an aging work force.

And given that worldview, Republicans see it as entirely appropriate to cut taxes on the rich while making everyone else pay more.

Now, national politicians learned last year that this kind of talk plays badly with the public, so they're trying to obscure their positions. Paul Ryan, for example, has lately made a transparently dishonest attempt to claim that when he spoke about "takers" living off the efforts of the "makers" - at one point he assigned 60 percent of Americans to the taker category - he wasn't talking about people receiving Social Security and Medicare. (He was.)

But in deep red states like Louisiana or Kansas, Republicans are much freer to act on their beliefs - which means moving strongly to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted.

Which brings me back to Mr. Jindal, who declared in his speech that "we are a populist party." No, you aren't. You're a party that holds a large proportion of Americans in contempt. And the public may have figured that out.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world - bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are whores for power and oil with hate and fear in our hearts."
~~~ Hunter S. Thompson

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou becomes the only government official convicted in connection
with the US torture program: not for having done it, but for having talked about it.

Kiriakou And Stuxnet
The Danger of the Still-Escalating Obama Whistleblower War The only official punished for the illegal NSA program was the one who discussed it. The same is now true of torture
By Glenn Greenwald

The permanent US national security state has used extreme secrecy to shield its actions from democratic accountability ever since its creation after World War II. But those secrecy powers were dramatically escalated in the name of 9/11 and the War on Terror, such that most of what the US government now does of any significance is completely hidden from public knowledge. Two recent events - the sentencing last week of CIA torture whistleblower John Kirikaou to 30 months in prison and the invasive investigation to find the New York Times' source for its reporting on the US role in launching cyberwarfare at Iran - demonstrate how devoted the Obama administration is not only to maintaining, but increasing, these secrecy powers.

When WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables in 2010, government defenders were quick to insist that most of those documents were banal and uninteresting. And that's true: most (though by no means all) of those cables contained nothing of significance. That, by itself, should have been a scandal. All of those documents were designated as "secret", making it a crime for government officials to reveal their contents - despite how insignificant most of it was. That revealed how the US government reflexively - really automatically - hides anything and everything it does behind this wall of secrecy: they have made it a felony to reveal even the most inconsequential and pedestrian information about its actions.

This is why whistleblowing - or, if you prefer, unauthorized leaks of classified information - has become so vital to preserving any residual amounts of transparency. Given how subservient the federal judiciary is to government secrecy claims, it is not hyperbole to describe unauthorized leaks as the only real avenue remaining for learning about what the US government does - particularly for discovering the bad acts it commits. That is why the Obama administration is waging an unprecedented war against it - a war that continually escalates - and it is why it is so threatening.

To understand the Obama White House's obsession with punishing leaks - as evidenced by its historically unprecedented war on whistleblowers - just consider how virtually every significant revelation of the bad acts of the US government over the last decade came from this process. Unauthorized leaks are how we learned about the Bush administration's use of torture, the NSA's illegal eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the secret network of CIA "black sites" beyond the reach of law or human rights monitoring, the targeting by Obama of a US citizen for assassination without due process, the re-definition of "militant" to mean "any military age male in a strike zone", the video of a US Apache helicopter gunning down journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, the vastly under-counted civilians deaths caused by the war in Iraq, and the Obama administration's campaign to pressure Germany and Spain to cease criminal investigations of the US torture regime.

In light of this, it should not be difficult to understand why the Obama administration is so fixated on intimidating whistleblowers and going far beyond any prior administration - including those of the secrecy-obsessed Richard Nixon and George W Bush - to plug all leaks. It's because those methods are the only ones preventing the US government from doing whatever it wants in complete secrecy and without any accountability of any kind.

Silencing government sources is the key to disabling investigative journalism and a free press. That is why the New Yorker's Jane Mayer told whistleblowing advocate Jesselyn Radack last April: "when our sources are prosecuted, the news-gathering process is criminalized, so it's incumbent upon all journalists to speak up."

Indeed, if you talk to leading investigative journalists they will tell you that the Obama war on whistleblowers has succeeded in intimidating not only journalists' sources but also investigative journalists themselves. Just look at the way the DOJ has pursued and threatened with prison one of the most accomplished and institutionally protected investigative journalists in the country - James Risen - and it's easy to see why the small amount of real journalism done in the US, most driven by unauthorized leaks, is being severely impeded. This morning's Washington Post article on the DOJ's email snooping to find the NYT's Stuxnet source included this anonymous quote: "People are feeling less open to talking to reporters given this uptick. There is a definite chilling effect in government due to these investigations."

For authoritarians who view assertions of government power as inherently valid and government claims as inherently true, none of this will be bothersome. Under that mentality, if the government decrees that something shall be secret, then it should be secret, and anyone who defies that dictate should be punished as a felon - or even a traitor. That view is typically accompanied by the belief that we can and should trust our leaders to be good and do good even if they exercise power in the dark, so that transparency is not only unnecessary but undesirable.

But the most basic precepts of human nature, political science, and the American founding teach that power exercised in the dark will be inevitably abused. Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power. That's why those who wield political power are always driven to destroy methods of transparency. About this fact, Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1804 letter to John Tyler [emphasis added]:

"Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions."

About all that, Yale law professor David A Schultz observed: "For Jefferson, a free press was the tool of public criticism. It held public officials accountable, opening them up to the judgment of people who could decide whether the government was doing good or whether it had anything to hide. . . . A democratic and free society is dependent upon the media to inform."

There should be no doubt that destroying this method of transparency - not protection of legitimate national security secrets- is the primary effect, and almost certainly the intent, of this unprecedented war on whistleblowers. Just consider the revelations that have prompted the Obama DOJ's war on whistleblowers, whereby those who leak are not merely being prosecuted, but threatened with decades or even life in prison for "espionage" or "aiding the enemy".

Does anyone believe it would be better if we remained ignorant about the massive waste, corruption and illegality plaguing the NSA's secret domestic eavesdropping program (Thomas Drake); or the dangerously inept CIA effort to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program but which ended up assisting that program (Jeffrey Sterling); or the overlooking of torture squads in Iraq, the gunning down of journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, or the pressure campaign to stop torture investigations in Spain and Germany (Bradley Manning); or the decision by Obama to wage cyberwar on Iran, which the Pentagon itself considers an act of war (current DOJ investigation)?

Like all of the Obama leak prosecutions - see here - none of those revelations resulted in any tangible harm, yet all revealed vital information about what our government was doing in secret. As long-time DC lawyer Abbe Lowell, who represents indicted whistleblower Stephen Kim, put it: what makes the Obama DOJ's prosecutions historically unique is that they "don't distinguish between bad people - people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money - and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions." Not only doesn't it draw this distinction, but it is focused almost entirely on those who leak in order to expose wrongdoing and bring about transparency and accountability.

That is the primary impact of all of this. A Bloomberg report last October on this intimidation campaign summarized the objections this way: "the president's crackdown chills dissent, curtails a free press and betrays Obama's initial promise to 'usher in a new era of open government.'"

The Obama administration does not dislike leaks of classified information. To the contrary, it is a prolific exploiter of exactly those types of leaks - when they can be used to propagandize the citizenry to glorify the president's image as a tough guy, advance his political goals or produce a multi-million-dollar Hollywood film about his greatest conquest. Leaks are only objectionable when they undercut that propaganda by exposing government deceit, corruption and illegality.

Few events have vividly illustrated this actual goal as much as the lengthy prison sentence this week meted out to former CIA officer John Kiriakou. It's true that Kiriakou is not a pure anti-torture hero given that, in his first public disclosures, he made inaccurate claims about the efficacy of waterboarding. But he did also unequivocally condemn waterboarding and other methods as torture. And, as FAIR put it this week, whatever else is true: "The only person to do time for the CIA's torture policies appears to be a guy who spoke publicly about them, not any of the people who did the actual torturing." Despite zero evidence of any harm from his disclosures, the federal judge presiding over his case - the reliably government-subservient US District Judge Leonie Brinkema - said she "would have given Kiriakou much more time if she could." As usual, the only real criminals in the government are those who expose or condemn its wrongdoing.

Exactly the same happened with revelations by the New York Times of the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. None of the officials who eavesdropped on Americans without the warrants required by law were prosecuted. The telecoms that illegally cooperated were retroactively immunized from all legal accountability by the US Congress. The only person to suffer recriminations from that scandal was Thomas Tamm, the mid-level DOJ official who discovered the program and told the New York Times about it, and then had his life ruined with vindictive investigations.

This Obama whistleblower war has nothing to do with national security. It has nothing to do with punishing those who harm the country with espionage or treason.

It has everything to do with destroying those who expose high-level government wrongdoing. It is particularly devoted to preserving the government's ability to abuse its power in secret by intimidating and deterring future acts of whistleblowing and impeding investigative journalism. This Obama whistleblower war continues to escalate because it triggers no objections from Republicans (who always adore government secrecy) or Democrats (who always adore what Obama does), but most of all because it triggers so few objections from media outlets, which - at least in theory - suffer the most from what is being done.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. 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. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

A little Blowback .

A Blowback Hurricane
By David Swanson

Most violence we face we've provoked. Those confronting us with violence are exactly as wrong as if we hadn't provoked them. But we are not as innocent as we like to imagine.

This seems like a simple concept awaiting only factual substantiation, but in fact it is dramatically at odds with most people's ridiculously ill-conceived notion of how blame works. According to this common notion, blame is like a lump of clay. Whoever holds it is to blame. If they hand it to someone else, then that person is exclusively to blame. If they break it in half, then two people can each be half to blame. But blame is a finite quantity and the clay is very difficult to break. So once the clay is attached to one person, everybody else is pretty well blameless.

I faulted President Obama for instructing the Justice Department not to prosecute anyone in the CIA for torture, and someone told me that Attorney General Holder was in fact to blame, and therefore Obama was not. I faulted easy access to guns for mass shootings, and someone told me that antidepressant medications were to blame, and therefore gun laws were not. If you're like me, these sorts of calculations will strike you as bizarrely stupid. The question of whether Obama is to blame is a question of what he has done or not done; Holder doesn't enter into it at all. The question of whether Holder is to blame comes down to whether Holder acted against the interest of the greater good; it has nothing to do with Obama. One or both or neither of them could be to blame. Or they could both be to blame and 18 other people be to blame as well. We have problems with gun laws, psychiatric drugs, films, tv shows, video games, examples set by our government's own violence, and many other elements of our culture; none of them erase any of the others.

Blame is unlimited. Rather than a finite lump of clay, blame should be pictured as water droplets condensing out of the air on a cold glass. There is no limit to them. They appear wherever another glass is cold. Their quantity bears no relation to the quantity of the harm done. A million people can carry the blame for a trivial harm, or one person can be alone to blame and to blame only slightly for a most horrible tragedy.

Another type of example may help explain where the common conception of blame comes from. A man convicted of murder is proven innocent, but loved ones of the victim want him punished anyway (and in proportion to the harm done). Another is proven insane or incompetent or underage, but he is punished just the same. Blame is perceived as a burning hot ball of clay that must be tossed from person to person desperately until it can be attached to someone deserving of it. Once that is done, there is no rush to find anyone (or anything) else who might also be to blame. Blame is a concept that is tied up in people's muddled minds with the concept of revenge. It's hard to seek revenge against numerous people or institutions all bearing different types and degrees of blame. It's much easier to simplify. And once the demand for revenge is satisfied in the aggrieved, it ceases to search for new outlets.

When hijackers flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, they were given blame. Anyone who helped them was given blame (after all, it's hard to seek revenge against the dead). But anyone who provoked or accidentally permitted those crimes was deemed absolutely blameless. There wasn't any more clay to go around. To blame the U.S. government for having spent years arming and training religious fanatics in Afghanistan and provoking them in Palestine and Saudi Arabia would mean unblaming the hijackers. To blame the U.S. government for not preventing the hijackings would mean unblaming the hijackers.

This kind of infantile thinking has prevented us from grasping anything like the true extent of blowback our nation has encountered.

There are individual encounters in which zero-sum blame thinking appears to work. Someone who kills in self-defense is given less blame than someone who kills an innocent victim. But translating this to the public or even international arena seems to me to fail. Violent social movements are wrong and to blame even when they are resisting injustice. Crimes of resistance by Native Americans and slaves can be seen as crimes even as we understand them as blowback. The World War II era crimes of Japan create a great deal of blame for Japan, and that is unchanged by understanding the historyof how the United States brought war making and imperialism to the Japanese. Often in U.S. history we have been confronted by a Frankenstein monster of our own creation, and one intentionally provoked at that. This is different from the myth of our innocence and of the other's irrational random aggression. A more informed understanding doesn't excuse the aggression. It erases our (the U.S. government's) innocence.

Saddam Hussein was our creature. So was Gadaffi. And Assad. "Intervene" is Pentagon-speak for "switch sides." Our dictators remain guilty of their crimes when we learn that we funded them. Every graduate of the School of the Americas who heads off into the world to murder and torture is to blame for doing so, and so is the School of the Americas, and so are the taxpayers who fund it and the governments that send students to attend it.

We imagine that crazy irrational Iranians attacked us out of the blue in 1979, whereas the CIA's coup of 1953 made the embassy takeover predictable -- a completely different thing from justifiable.

Britain and its apprentice / master-to-be the United States long feared an alliance between Germany and Russia. This led to facilitation of the creation of the Soviet Union. And it led to support for the development of Nazism in Germany. The goal was Russian-German conflict, not peace. When war is imagined to be inevitable, the great question is where to create it, not whether. The post-World War I talks at Versailles laid the groundwork for World War II, helped along by the West's financial and trade policies for decades to come.

Also at Versailles, President Wilson refused to meet with a young man named Ho Chi Minh -- an initial bit contribution perhaps to a great deal of future blowback. The Cold War was of course provoked by lies, threats, and weapons development.

Even if you assume that the United States should dominate the globe militarily, some of the military bases being built right now are very hard to explain, except as thoughtless overreach or intentional provocation of China. One can guess how China is perceiving this. And yet, while the U.S. military spends many times the amount of money spent by China's each year, Chinese increases provoked by U.S. troop deployments, are being used in the U.S. media to justify U.S. military spending. Most Americans have no more idea that their own government is provoking China than most Israelis have a remotely accurate conception of what their government does to Palestinians. Watch these young Israelis exposed for the first time to their nation's occupation of Palestine. Their world is altered.

Imagine if people in the United States were to learn what their funding and weaponry are used for. U.S. weapons account for 85% of international weapons sales. While the NRA bought a political party, Lockheed Martin bought two. We don't talk about it, but many U.S. wars have been fought against U.S. weapons. U.S. wars like the recent one in Libya result in more violence in places like Mali. U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and Afghanistan are generating intense anger, and blowback that has already included the targeting and killing of drone pilots, as well as attempted acts of terrorism in the United States.

When will we ever learn? The hacker group Anonymous replaces government websites with video games to "avenge" Aaron Swartz, and we laugh. But vengeance is at the root of our inability to think sensibly about blame, which is in turn at the root of our inability to process what is being done to the people of the world in our name with our funding. Because war is not inevitable, everywhere we stir it up is somewhere that might have lived without it. We spend $170 billion per year on keeping U.S. troops in other people's countries. Most people living near U.S. military bases do not want them there. Many are outraged by their presence. The blowback will keep coming. We should begin to understand that it is normal, that it is the theme of our entire history, that its predictability does not of course justify it, that we are to blame, and that there's plenty of blame for anyone else who's earned it.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Reince Priebus, your travelin' Republican Clown

Heil Obama,

Dear Fuhrer Preibus,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your bright idea about gerrymandering the electoral college, making this useless college even more so, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The 'Final Offensive' Against Organized Labor
By Matthew Rothschild

The latest numbers are out on the unionization rate in America, and for anyone who believes in workers' rights, these numbers are horrifying.

The percentage of workers in unions last year dropped to 11.3 percent, down 43 percent in 20 years to the lowest level in almost a century.

In the private sector, the rate fell to 6.6 percent, and in the public sector it dropped to 35.9 percent.

When you look at that last number, it's obvious why Republicans have been going after public sector unions. That's labor's last stronghold.

But it's under siege.

Scott Walker shoved it to public sector workers in 2011, which resulted in a 25% drop in unionized public employees in Wisconsin last year.

In Indiana, where a so-called right to work law took effect last year, overall unionization fell 18 percent.

And since Michigan just passed a similar law, you can expect the rate to fall off the table there, too.

As the labor activist and writer Bill Fletcher has observed in his excellent new book, "'They're Bankrupting Us!' And 20 Other Myths about Unions," what we're seeing now is "the final offensive" against organized labor in America.

Corporations have always hated unions. That's why they bumped off labor organizers a century ago, and why they illegally fire them to this day.

But they've found an easier method now: Purchase state legislators, who then obligingly pass laws making union organizing all but impossible.

To respond to this final offensive, Fletcher says, in an article in the upcoming March issue of The Progressive, organized labor must broaden its focus and act not merely as an agent for its own members but as the leader of a broad-based social movement that is intent on helping working people everywhere.

As Fletcher says, "Time is of the essence."
(c) 2013 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

White Power To The Rescue
By Chris Hedges

On a windy afternoon a few days ago I went to a depressed section of North Memphis to visit an old clapboard house that was once owned by a German immigrant named Jacob Burkle. Oral history-and oral history is all anyone has in this case since no written documents survive-holds that Burkle used his house as a stop on the underground railroad for escaped slaves in the decade before the Civil War. The house is now a small museum called Slave Haven. It has artifacts such as leg irons, iron collars and broadsheets advertising the sale of men, women and children. In the gray floor of the porch there is a trapdoor that leads to a long crawl space and a jagged hole in a brick cellar wall where fugitives could have pushed themselves down into the basement. Escaped slaves were purportedly guided by Burkle at night down a tunnel or trench toward the nearby Mississippi River and turned over to sympathetic river traders who took them north to Cairo, Ill., and on to freedom in Canada.

Burkle and his descendants had good reason to avoid written records and to keep their activities secret. Memphis, on the eve of the Civil War, was one of the biggest slave markets in the South. After the war the city was an epicenter for Ku Klux Klan terror that included lynching, the nighttime burning of black churches and schools and the killing of black leaders and their white supporters, atrocities that continued into the 20th century. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in 1968. If word had gotten out that Burkle used his home to help slaves escape, the structure would almost certainly have been burned and Burkle or his descendants, at the very least, driven out of the city. The story of Burkle's aid to slaves fleeing bondage became public knowledge only a couple of decades ago.

The modest public profile of the Burkle house stands in stunning contrast with the monument in the center of Memphis to native son Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest, who is buried in Forrest Park under a statue of himself in his Confederate general's uniform and mounted on a horse, is one of the most odious figures in American history. A moody, barely literate, violent man-he was not averse to shooting his own troops if he deemed them to be cowards-he became a millionaire before the war as a slave trader. As a Confederate general he was noted for moronic aphorisms such as "War means fighting and fighting means killing." He was, even by the accounts of those who served under him, a butcher. He led a massacre at Fort Pillow in Henning, Tenn., of some 300 black Union troops-who had surrendered and put down their weapons-as well as women and children who had sheltered in the fort. Forrest was, after the war, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He used his skills as a former cavalry commander to lead armed night raids to terrorize blacks.

Forrest, like many other white racists of the antebellum South, is enjoying a disquieting renaissance. The Sons of Confederate Veterans and the West Tennessee Historical Commission last summer put up a 1,000-pound granite marker at the entrance to the park that read "Forrest Park." The city, saying the groups had not obtained a permit, removed it with a crane. A dispute over the park name, now raging in the Memphis City Council, exposes the deep divide in Memphis and throughout much of the South between those who laud the Confederacy and those who detest it, a split that runs like a wide fault down racial lines.

A call last week by Memphis City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove, who is African-American, to strip Forrest's name from the park and rename it after the crusading black journalist Ida B. Wells set off such an acrimonious debate between her and some white council members that Fullilove left a meeting in tears.

Wells was one of the nation's most courageous and important journalists. She moved to Memphis as a young woman to live with her aunt. Her investigations revealed that lynching was fundamentally a mechanism to rid white businessmen of black competitors. When Thomas Moss of Memphis, a black man who ran the People's Grocery Co., was murdered with his partners by a mob of whites and his store was looted and destroyed, Wells was incensed. "This is what opened my eyes to what lynching really was," she wrote. She noted "that the Southerner had never gotten over this resentment that the Negro was no longer his plaything, his servant, and his source of income" and was using charges of rape against black business owners to mask this resentment. The lynching of Moss, she wrote, was "[a]n excuse to get rid of Negroes who were acquiring wealth and property and thus keep the race terrorized and 'keep the nigger down.'"

Her newspaper, Free Speech, which railed against white mob violence, the inadequate black schools, segregation, discrimination and a corrupt legal system that denied justice to blacks, was destroyed by whites. Wells was forced to flee the city, becoming, as she wrote, "an exile from home for hinting at the truth."

The split between those in Memphis who hold up authentic heroes-those who fought to protect, defend and preserve life, such as Wells and Burkle-and those who memorialize slave traders and bigots such as Forrest points up a disturbing rise of a neo-Confederate ideology in the South. Honoring figures like Forrest in Memphis while ignoring Wells would be like erecting a statue to the Nazi death camp commander Amon Goeth in the Czech Republic town of Svitavy, the birthplace of Oskar Schindler, who rescued 1,200 Jews.

The rewriting of history in the South is a retreat by beleaguered whites into a mythical self-glorification. I witnessed a similar retreat during the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As Yugoslavia's economy deteriorated, ethnic groups built fantasies of a glorious past that became a substitute for history. They sought to remove, through exclusion and finally violence, competing ethnicities to restore this mythological past. The embrace by nationalist groups of a nonreality-based belief system made communication with other ethnic groups impossible. They no longer spoke the same cultural language. There was no common historical narrative built around verifiable truth. A similar disconnect was illustrated last week in Memphis when the chairman of the city's parks committee, William Boyd, informed the council that Forrest "promoted progress for black people in this country after the war." Boyd argued that the KKK was "more of a social club" at its inception and didn't begin carrying out "bad and horrific things" until it reconstituted itself with the rise of the modern civil rights movement.

"Lord, have mercy," Fullilove muttered as she listened.

But Forrest is only one of numerous flashpoints. Fliers reading "Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Wants You to Join" appeared in the mailboxes of white families in Memphis in early January. The Ku Klux Klan also distributed pamphlets a few days ago in an Atlanta suburb. The Tennessee Legislature last year officially declared July 13 as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day to honor his birthday. There are 32 historical markers honoring Forrest in Tennessee alone and several in other Southern states. Montgomery, Ala., which I visited last fall, has a gigantic Confederate flag on the outskirts of the city, planted there by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Confederate monuments dot Montgomery's city center. There are three Confederate state holidays in Alabama, including Martin Luther King/Robert E. Lee Day. Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi also honor Lee's birthday. Jefferson Davis' birthday is a state holiday in Alabama and Florida. And re-enactments of Confederate victories in the Civil War crowd Southern calendars.

The steady rise of ethnic nationalism over the past decade, the replacing of history with mendacious and sanitized versions of lost glory, is part of the moral decay that infects a dying culture. It is a frightening attempt, by those who are desperate and trapped, to escape through invented history their despair, impoverishment and hopelessness. It breeds intolerance and eventually violence. Violence becomes in this perverted belief system a cleansing agent, a way to restore a lost world. There are ample historical records that disprove the myths espoused by the neo-Confederates, who insist the Civil War was not about slavery but states' rights and the protection of traditional Christianity. But these records are useless in puncturing their self-delusion, just as documentary evidence does nothing to blunt the self-delusion of Holocaust deniers. Those who retreat into fantasy cannot be engaged in rational discussion, for fantasy is all that is left of their tattered self-esteem. When their myths are attacked as untrue it triggers not a discussion of facts and evidence but a ferocious emotional backlash. The challenge of the myth threatens what is left of hope. And as the economy unravels, as the future looks bleaker and bleaker, this terrifying myth gains potency.

Achilles V. Clark, a soldier with the 20th Tennessee Cavalry under Forrest during the 1864 massacre at Fort Pillow, wrote to his sister after the attack: "The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor deluded negroes would run up to our men, fall upon their knees, and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. … I, with several others, tried to stop the butchery, and at one time had partially succeeded, but General Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased."
(c) 2013 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

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Obama Urged To Resign Over Beyonce Scandal
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - A rising chorus of congressional Republicans are calling on President Obama to acknowledge that the pop singer Beyonce lip-synched during his inaugural festivities on Monday and resign from office, effective immediately.

"By lip-synching the national anthem, Beyonce has cast a dark cloud over the President's second term," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). "The only way President Obama can remove that cloud is by resigning from office at once."

While many in the media have blamed Beyonce for the lip-synching controversy, Mr. Paul said, "We must remember that this happened on President Obama's watch."

Mr. Paul said that the White House's refusal to comment on the Beyonce crisis "only serves the argument that this President has something to hide."

"If Beyonce lip-synched the national anthem, how do we know President Obama didn't lip-sync his oath of office?" he said. "If that's the case, he's not legally President. But just to be on the safe side, he should resign anyway."

Mr. Paul also blasted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her testimony on Benghazi before the Senate today: "Her tactic of answering each and every question we asked her didn't fool anyone."
(c) 2013 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 05 (c) 02/01/2013

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