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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky examines, "Anniversaries From 'Unhistory.'"

Uri Avnery recalls the, "Reluctant Prophet."

Matt Taibbi tells, "Why Wall Street Should Stop Whining."

Randall Amster hears, "A Bustle In Hedges' Row."

Jim Hightower spotlights, "Watchdogs With Cameras."

Helen Thomas explains why, "Low Capital Gains Tax Rate Leads To Loss."

James Donahue asks, "Are Republican Candidates Considering An Invasion Of Cuba?"

Amy Goodman reports, "America's Pro-Choice Majority Speaks Out."

David Swanson with an absolute must read, "27 Of 35 Bush Articles Of Impeachment Apply To Obama."

Ray McGovern explains, "Obama's Super-Bowl Fumble On Iran."

Paul Krugman says, "Things Are Not O.K.."

Chris Floyd with, "See No Evil."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship tells, "The Truth About Newt's Favorite Punching Bag."

Karen Handel wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Bill McKibben pops, "The Great Carbon Bubble."

Paul Craig Roberts returns with, "Will Iran Be Attacked?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Landover Baptist Church reports, "Baptist Congregation Stripped Naked In Mormon Underwear Bust!" but first Uncle Ernie considers, "The Fascist Bugaboo - Socialism."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Randy Jones, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Internet Weekly.Org, B Dog 99%, Motifake.Com, Photo Steve, Pete Souza, Lt. Col. Cecil J. Poss, USAF, Diehm, NASA, 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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The Fascist Bugaboo - Socialism
By Ernest Stewart

"Marriage is socialism among two people." ~~~ Barbara Ehrenreich

"One religion is as true as another." ~~~ Robert Burton

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. ... That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing." ~~~ Rick Santorum

"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana!" ~~~ Groucho Marx

To hear the Rethuglicans and even some Demoncrats put down socialism like it was something bad, instead of what makes America great, makes me wonder if we're both speaking the same language?

Socialism is what made America great and number one, something to rejoice over, not to put down. Without socialism, we'd be a third world country, which is, of course, what Newt, Willard, Rick, Ron, Karl and the rest of the goose steppers want us to become!

What is even worse is than these Bozo's is their brain dead followers, their brownshirts, who are blind to all the good socialism has done for this country. Although I can understand why they are this way and cannot think for themselves, but only parrot whatever bullshit flows from Fox Spews and the like! The American public has been brainwashed by its government for well over 200 years -- so they come by it naturally!

Of course, the uber-wealthy can do without socialism, but the average Joe or Jane cannot; and by the time they find out this simple truth, it will be too late for them!

What's so good about socialism? Well, without it you'll being doing without things like roads and bridges. Sure, the pioneers got by without roads and just a few bridges; sure it was hard, and many of them died, but what's a few broken eggs, eh? Unless, of course, you or your children are some of those broken eggs! Sure, it took them 5 or 6 months to get to California from St. Louis, but you wouldn't mind that, would you? Mitt don't need no stinking roads or bridges; he has a helicopter and airplanes. Although airports and train stations are socialist programs. Willard wants to get rid of Amtrak, and the rich have their own private airports, and without them and those pesky socialist roads and bridges, you are going nowhere!

Newt doesn't need public schools and universities. The rich go to private schools and private universities. You don't need no public education, either -- if you can afford to pay $50 or $60 thousand a year for education. Well, can you?

The wealthy don't need public libraries or public parks; they have their own! They don't need no socialist policemen or firemen; they have their own private security, and can afford to pay extra for the firemen to show up and do more than sit and watch the fire burn your house down like they do in Tennessee.

The 1% are all multinational, so they have no need for an Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard -- all socialist programs -- but you do!

They don't need socialism to repair the crumbling infrastructure, their sewers, lights and such are all-new, and if the power grid goes down, they just switch over to their own generators and power systems. Can you? If a gas main explodes, it's not going to affect them out in the country, but it may take out your entire block!

While they don't need socialism as it just negatively effects their bottom line, you and I do, and probably couldn't live long without them -- which is the very point, viz., they only need a few hundred million of us for their slaves, and the rest is surplus population; and thanks to Jonathan Swift, we know what that means, do we not? I wouldn't be surprised if Willard and Newt come up with their own modest proposals!

In Other News

Yes, I know, I should give the mythologists a break as it's not good to point out the mentally deranged, or so I've been told by the same people who say one shouldn't argue politics or religion; but if so, this would be a rather short magazine, would it not? Still, perhaps they're right, as most Christians don't need me to point out the hatred and bigotry that go along with being a Christian -- as they do a much better job than I at proving my point!

A couple of weeks ago, a group of concerned citizens in New York filed a lawsuit to block a cross from being erected within the World Trade Center memorial without equal opportunity for other religions who wish to have memorials there, as well. They didn't ask that the cross which was cut out of two intersecting beams from the WTC be taken down, just that other symbols should be allowed as well. Simple, huh?

Now according to the lawsuit, "among the 2,792 people killed in the twin towers, 31 were Muslim Americans, approximately 400 to 500 were Jewish Americans, approximately 500 were non-religious Americans, and an unknown number were Americans of other faiths." Ergo, about half of the people who died were not Christian. Did I mention that no other religious or non-religious group have been permitted a memorial or even a symbol?

The plot thickens.

Fox Spews (see above video) did several pieces on this, and what follows below are some of the good Christians that replied to the Fox Spews stories on their Facebook site. This is just a random sampling and just the tip of the iceberg. I'm guessing they're all followers of Republican Jesus, as they all seem devoid of that compassion that the other Jesus was all about!

The prosecution rests!

And Finally

Well, the fascists who control the RNC must have been jumping for joy as Rick Santorum gave Willard a triple defeat in the Rethuglican caucuses in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri this week.

Rick is a little to the right of Darth Vader and Newt Gingrich and, hence, "their boy!" This darling of the far, far right with only half the baggage of the Newtster scores one for the gipper in this latest Willard backlash.

And speaking of the devil, Rick had this to say about Willard, in a Santorum Philadelphia Inquirer column back in ought seven...

"Would the potential attraction to Mormonism by simply having a Mormon in the White House threaten traditional Christianity by leading more Americans to a church that some Christians believe misleadingly calls itself Christian, is an active missionary church, and a dangerous cult?"

Frighteningly enough, I have to agree with Rick on this one, i.e., that Mormonism is a dangerous cult -- not as dangerous as the American Taliban, or Judaism, or Islam, or the cult that follows the Panzer Pope, Joey Ratz -- but a dangerous cult none-the-less! Don't think so? Ask the gay folks out in California how mixing politics with Mormonism worked out for them! Not to mention the thought that Willard actually believes that when he dies he'll become a god of an entire planet -- not this one, of course, as Adam is the god of Earth, Willard explains. Imagine that, and that's just the tip of the iceberg concerning Willards' kookie cult.

Therefore, I'm backing Rick Santorum for the Rethuglican nomination, not only for his stance against Mormonism, but mainly because he hasn't "a snowball's chance in Hell" of being elected President!

Keepin' On

How time flies when you're having fun, huh? As a couple of you pointed out we recently began our 12th year of publication back on February 1st. That's right; I haven't had a "normal" life since the 12-12-2000 coup d'etat went down. Ever since then, I've been living a nightmare 24/7/365 -- the very thing I've been trying to avoid since I dropped out of school -- having my nose buried in poli-sci on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis!

While most of you continued your "normal" lives, I haven't been able to afford that luxury; I've been working for you -- trying my damnedest to figure out what's going to happen next down in Foggy Bottom, and warning you about what was about to hit the fan, and what you can do about it.

I don't ask for much, like so many others do. I don't ask you to give me a big 6 or 7 figure salary; in fact, I've never asked for a penny for myself -- just for enough money to pay the magazine's bills, as I haven't been able to do so since my money ran out in 2004. Ever since, you've come through to keep us afloat and working around the clock for you, bringing you the absolute truth about what our corpo-rat masters and their political puppets have in store for you and your family and how to survive in spite of all that. All that info is in the archives for you to review at your leisure. If you think what we do is important, then help us out with as much and as often as you can! We're all in this together, and we'll either triumph together or all go down together, the choice is yours!


08-28-1930 ~ 02-03-2012
Thanks for the films!

05-23-1942 ~ 02-03-2012
Thanks for the films!

10-08-1956 ~ 02-06-2012
Thanks for the adventures!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2012 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 11 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Flying under radar control with a B-66 Destroyer, Air Force F-105
Thunderchief pilots bomb a military target through low clouds
over the southern panhandle of North Vietnam. June 14, 1966.

Anniversaries From "Unhistory"
By Noam Chomsky

George Orwell coined the useful term "unperson" for creatures denied personhood because they don't abide by state doctrine. We may add the term "unhistory" to refer to the fate of unpersons, expunged from history on similar grounds.

The unhistory of unpersons is illuminated by the fate of anniversaries. Important ones are usually commemorated, with due solemnity when appropriate: Pearl Harbor, for example. Some are not, and we can learn a lot about ourselves by extricating them from unhistory.

Right now we are failing to commemorate an event of great human significance: the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's decision to launch the direct invasion of South Vietnam, soon to become the most extreme crime of aggression since World War II.

Kennedy ordered the U.S. Air Force to bomb South Vietnam (by February 1962, hundreds of missions had flown); authorized chemical warfare to destroy food crops so as to starve the rebellious population into submission; and set in motion the programs that ultimately drove millions of villagers into urban slums and virtual concentration camps, or "Strategic Hamlets." There the villagers would be "protected" from the indigenous guerrillas whom, as the administration knew, they were willingly supporting.

Official efforts at justifying the attacks were slim, and mostly fantasy. Typical was the president's impassioned address to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961, where he warned that "we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence." At the United Nations on Sept. 25, 1961, Kennedy said that if this conspiracy achieved its ends in Laos and Vietnam, "the gates will be opened wide."

The short-term effects were reported by the highly respected Indochina specialist and military historian Bernard Fall - no dove, but one of those who cared about the people of the tormented countries.

In early 1965 he estimated that about 66,000 South Vietnamese had been killed between 1957 and 1961; and another 89,000 between 1961 and April 1965, mostly victims of the U.S. client regime or "the crushing weight of American armor, napalm, jet bombers and finally vomiting gases."

The decisions were kept in the shadows, as are the shocking consequences that persist. To mention just one illustration: "Scorched Earth," by Fred Wilcox, the first serious study of the horrifying and continuing impact of chemical warfare on the Vietnamese, appeared a few months ago - and is likely to join other works of unhistory. The core of history is what happened. The core of unhistory is to "disappear" what happened.

By 1967, opposition to the crimes in South Vietnam had reached a substantial scale. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops were rampaging through South Vietnam, and heavily populated areas were subjected to intense bombing. The invasion had spread to the rest of Indochina.

The consequences had become so horrendous that Bernard Fall forecast that "Vietnam as a cultural and historic entity ... is threatened with extinction ... (as) ... the countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this size."

When the war ended eight devastating years later, mainstream opinion was divided between those who called it a "noble cause" that could have been won with more dedication; and at the opposite extreme, the critics, to whom it was "a mistake" that proved too costly.

Still to come was the bombing of the remote peasant society of northern Laos, with such magnitude that victims lived in caves for years to try to survive; and shortly afterward the bombing of rural Cambodia, surpassing the level of all Allied bombing in the Pacific theater during World War II.

In 1970 U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had ordered "a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves" - a call for genocide of a kind rarely found in the archival record.

Laos and Cambodia were "secret wars," in that reporting was scanty and the facts are still little-known to the general public or even educated elites, who nonetheless can recite by heart every real or alleged crime of official enemies.

Another chapter in the overflowing annals of unhistory.

In three years we may - or may not - commemorate another event of great contemporary relevance: the 900th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

This document is the foundation for what historian Margaret E. McGuiness, referring to the Nuremberg Trials, hailed as a "particularly American brand of legalism: punishment only for those who could be proved to be guilty through a fair trial with a panoply of procedural protections."

The Great Charter declares that "no free man" shall be deprived of rights "except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land." The principles were later broadened to apply to men generally. They crossed the Atlantic and entered into the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, which declared that no "person" can be deprived of rights without due process and a speedy trial.

The founders of course did not intend the term "person" to apply to all persons. Native Americans were not persons. Neither were slaves. Women were scarcely persons. However, let us keep to the core notion of presumption of innocence, which has been cast into the oblivion of unhistory.

A further step in undermining the principles of the Magna Carta was taken when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which codifies Bush-Obama practice of indefinite detention without trial under military custody.

Such treatment is now mandatory in the case of those accused of aiding enemy forces during the "war on terror," or optional if those accused are American citizens.

The scope is illustrated by the first Guantanamo case to come to trial under President Obama: that of Omar Khadr, a former child soldier accused of the heinous crime of trying to defend his Afghan village when it was attacked by U.S. forces. Captured at age 15, Khadr was imprisoned for eight years in Bagram and Guantanamo, then brought to a military court in October 2010, where he was given the choice of pleading not guilty and staying in Guantanamo forever, or pleading guilty and serving only 8 more years. Khadr chose the latter.

Many other examples illuminate the concept of "terrorist." One is Nelson Mandela, only removed from the terrorist list in 2008. Another was Saddam Hussein. In 1982 Iraq was removed from the list of terrorist-supporting states so that the Reagan administration could provide Hussein with aid after he invaded Iran.

Accusation is capricious, without review or recourse, and commonly reflecting policy goals - in Mandela's case, to justify President Reagan's support for the apartheid state's crimes in defending itself against one of the world's "more notorious terrorist groups": Mandela's African National Congress.

All better consigned to unhistory.
(c) 2012 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Gaza In Crisis.

Reluctant Prophet
By Uri Avnery

On Monday, I was honored to receive the Leibowitz Prize for "life's work," the prize established by the Yesh Gvul soldiers' peace organization. I was unable to prepare a speech, so I spoke off the cuff and have to reconstruct my remarks from memory. (The laudation speech by the Nobel Prize laureate, Prof Ada Yonat, was far too laudatory for me to distribute.)

First, I wish to thank Yesh Gvul for establishing this prize. Then I would like to thank the distinguished jury, who were so gracious as to award the prize to me and to Hagit Ofran, the granddaughter of Prof. Leibowitz, whose work in monitoring the settlements I have admired for years. And then I want to thank all of you for coming to this ceremony.

Yet at this moment I think of the one who is not here, and whose absence is so unjust: my wife, Rachel. She was a full partner in all I did during the last 58 years, and should have been awarded half the prize - at the very least. She would have been delighted to be here.

When I entered this building, I was greeted by a stormy right-wing demonstration. I was grievously offended to be told that it was not directed against me, but against my friend Muhammad Bakri, the Arab actor who so angered the fascists with his film "Jenin, Jenin". At this moment he is playing in Frederico Garcia Lorca's "The House of Bernarda Alba" next door. Probably he deserves this demonstration, but nevertheless I still feel deeply insulted.

I ADMIRED and loved Yeshayahu Leibowitz.

I admired him for his penetrating logic. Whenever he applied it to any problem, it was a beauty to behold. Nothing could withstand it. Often, listening to his words, I asked myself enviously: "Now, why didn't I think of that?"

I loved him, because of his unshakably moral attitude. For him, the moral obligation of the individual human being was above everything else.

Immediately after the 1967 war and the beginning of the occupation, he prophesied that we would become a nation of work gang supervisors and secret service agents.

Indeed, I always thought of him as Yeshayahu II, the heir of the Biblical Yeshayahu. (Yeshayahu is the Hebrew form of Isaiah.) When I told him this, he got angry. "People don't understand the meaning of the word," he complained, "In European languages, a prophet is a person who can foretell the future. But the Hebrew prophets were people who transmitted the Word of God!" Leibowitz, though orthodox and a kippah wearer, did not think of himself in that way.

Like all great men and women, he was a person with deep contradictions. I struggled to understand how a thinker of total rationality could be religious. He explained to me that a person who strictly fulfils all the 613 commandments of the Jewish religion can be completely rational - because religion exists on an altogether different level. As a professor of several wildly divergent disciplines (philosophy, chemistry, biochemistry, medicine), he did not let science and religion encroach on one another.

Once, when somebody told him that the Holocaust had stopped him believing in God, he replied: "then you did not believe in God in the first place."

STANDING HERE in this hall, I feel some remorse for my part in the utterly absurd fact that he failed to receive the Israel Prize, the highest distinction the establishment can award. It happened in 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister. Fresh winds were blowing (or so it seemed) and the official Jury decided - at long last - to award Leibowitz the respected prize.

As it so happened, I was organizing at the time a public meeting of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. I called Leibowitz and asked him if he would come and speak.

I must add here that I was always keen to have him at our meetings, for two reasons. First, he was a captivating speaker. Second, when Leibowitz was due to appear, the hall - however big it might be - was always filled to the last seat, the stairs and the windowsills. (However, I always arranged things in such a way that I would speak after him. For good reason: when he rose, he would cut all the speeches of his predecessors to pieces. Using his formidable powers of analysis, he proved that everything they had said was absolute nonsense.)

When I asked him this time, he readily agreed to speak, under one condition: he would speak only about one subject, the duty of soldiers to refuse to serve in the occupied territories. <> "Please speak about anything you want," I replied, "After all, this is a free country - up to a point."

So he came and delivered a speech in which he compared our soldiers to Hamas, who were then (as today) considered the most atrocious terrorists. This led to a terrific public outcry, Rabin threatened to boycott the ceremony, the jury considered whether it was possible to revoke the award, and Leibowitz announced that he would not accept it. So he never was awarded the Israel Prize, in common with some other people I know.

I ALWAYS enjoyed talking with him. He lived in a modest apartment, crammed with books, entered from a courtyard behind a house in Jerusalem's Rehavia quarter. Greta, his wife and the mother of his six children, whom he had met at one of the German universities he had attended, kept order. Rachel and I liked her unassuming ways very much.

Whenever he talked, about any subjects, the little wheels in my brain sprang to life. He would drop little morsels of insight all along the way. (Just as an example: "The Germans and the Jews created all their cultural assets when they did not have a state.")

The relationship between us rested on the fact that we were opposites in many ways. I am as convinced an atheist as he was orthodox - a fact that never disturbed him in the least. I am an optimist by nature (as was my father and my grandfather), he was more of a pessimist. He was 20 years my elder and a multiple doctor and professor, while I never finished elementary school. He came to Germany from his native Riga in his teens, while I was born there.

When, on the morrow of the Six-day War, we both spoke in favor of giving up the occupied territories, we had different reasons. He predicted that the occupation would turn Israel into a fascist state, I was convince that turning the territories over to the Palestinian people and enabling them to set up their own state would put an end to the historic conflict.

COMING FROM opposite directions, we both shared the uncompromising demand for the separation between religion and state. This led me to a parliamentary prank. When the Ministry for Religious Affairs was on the agenda, I asked Leibowitz for some comments on the subject. He dictated a statement to my assistant, and when my turn came to speak, I announced that instead of voicing my own views, which were well known, I would read out the opinion of an orthodox thinker, Prof. Leibowitz.

I then read his words: "Under this clerical-atheist government, Israel is a secular state publicly known as religious (in Israel, "publicly known" is a term denoting living together without marriage.) ...The Chief Rabbinate is a secular institution appointed by the secular authorities according to secular laws. Therefore it has no religious legitimacy. ..The Ministry of Religious Affairs is an abomination...It turns religion into the kept concubine of the secular authority. It is the prostitution of religion..."

Here the Knesset exploded. The chairwoman of the session was so agitated that she announced that she was striking the words from the protocol. I later appealed, and the words were restored to the record - enabling me to read them just now from the official protocol.

As a speaker, Leibowitz was deliberately provocative. It was he who coined the term Judeonazi, at a time when comparing anything to the Nazis was strictly taboo. He likened certain units of the Israeli army to the Nazi SS, and youth in the settlements reminded him of the Hitler Youth. He called the holiest of holies, the Western Wall, "a religious discotheque," or, in short, "discotel" ("kotel" means wall in Hebrew.) He used such provocative language to help him break through the crust of established myths.

THE LAST years before his death in 1994 he devoted all his efforts to encouraging soldiers to refuse to serve. We had several debates about this, since I was not quite convinced.

During my army service, I was witness to situations where one upright soldier at the right moment and the right place could prevent atrocities. One shining example: when Nazareth was occupied in 1948, the commanding officer was a Canadian Jew named Ben Dunkelman. He received an oral order from David Ben-Gurion to drive out all the inhabitants. Dunkelman refused to do so without a written order. As an officer and a gentleman, he had promised the mayor at the capitulation meeting that no inhabitant would come to harm. He was immediately relieved of his command, but by the time his successor took over, it was too late to present things as occurring in the heat of battle. No written order was ever issued, of course.

Years later, I obtained a description of the episode from Dunkelman, who had returned to Canada, and Haolam Hazeh published it.

Against this argument, Leibowitz maintained that the most important thing was for individual soldiers to stand up and refuse to take any part in the occupation, whatever the consequences for them personally - imprisonment, ostracism, and worse. When enough soldiers did so, he believed, the occupation would collapse. (Yesh Gvul was founded with this aim.)

A FEW years before his death I had the honor of appearing side by side with him in a book of interviews by the German writer-photographer Herlinde Koelbl. There he defined his political outlook in the shortest and simplest way. I translate from German:

"There exist only two possibilities. The one is war for life and death, in the full sense of the term, in the course of which Israel will become a fascist state. The other possibility, the one that can help to prevent this war, is the partition of the country. Both peoples would have their independence and their states, but not in the entire country.

"I believe that partition will come, if not by an agreement between the state of Israel and the PLO, then through an imposed order. Imposed by the Americans and the Soviets.

"If neither of these happens, then we are heading toward a catastrophe.

"I repeat: there is no third possibility.

"Since the Six-day War, Israel has become a power apparatus, a Jewish power apparatus for ruling over another people.

"That's why I say in the clearest terms: this glorious victory was the historic misfortune of the State of Israel. In the year of the "Spring of the Peoples", 1848, [the Austrian dramatist] Franz Grillparzer warned of the path that leads from humanity, through nationality to bestiality. In the 20th century, the German people indeed followed this path to the end. We entered upon this path after the Six-day War. Our essential task is to put an end to this."

I AM happy to receive this prize together with his granddaughter. It reminds me of another passage in the same interview. "For the short time left to me, I shall stay here. Here in Jerusalem are my children and my grandchildren, and all of them will also remain here."

That is real patriotism. Dr. Johnson famously labeled patriotism the last refuge of the scoundrel. We see the patriotic scoundrels all around us. But we are the real patriots - patriots like Yeshayahu Leibowitz.

There will not be a second Yeshayahu Leibowitz. "He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again."
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Why Wall Street Should Stop Whining
By Matt Taibbi

Everybody on Wall Street is talking about the new piece by New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, entitled "The End of Wall Street as They Knew It."

The article argues that Barack Obama killed everything that was joyful about the banking industry through his suffocating Dodd-Frank reform bill, which forced banks to strip themselves of "the pistons that powered their profits: leverage and proprietary trading."

Having to say goodbye to excess borrowing and casino gambling, the argument goes, has cut into banking profits, leading to lower bonuses and more extreme decisions like Morgan Stanley's recent dictum capping cash bonuses at $125,000. In response to that, Sherman quotes an unnamed banker:

"After tax, that's like, what, $75,000?" an investment banker at a rival firm said as he contemplated Morgan Stanley's decision. He ran the numbers, modeling the implications. "I'm not married and I take the subway and I watch what I spend very carefully. But my girlfriend likes to eat good food. It all adds up really quick. A taxi here, another taxi there. I just bought an apartment, so now I have a big old mortgage bill."

Quelle horreur! And who's to blame? According to Sherman's interview subjects, it has nothing to do with the economy having been blown up several times over by these very bonus-deprived bankers, or with the fact that all conceivable public bailout money has essentially already been sucked up and converted into bonuses by that same crowd.

No, it instead apparently has everything to do with the Dodd-Frank bill, and specifically the Volcker rule banning proprietary trading, which incidentally hasn't gone into effect yet.

He quotes Dick Bove, the noted analyst who last year downgraded Goldman Sachs. Bove's quote on the bonus sadness:

"The government has strangled the financial system," banking analyst Dick Bove told me recently. "We've basically castrated these companies. They can't borrow as much as they used to borrow."

When I read things like this I'm simultaneously amazed by two things. The first is the unbelievable tone-deafness of people who would complain out loud, during a time when millions of people around the country are literally losing their homes, that their bonuses - not their total compensation, mind you, but just their cash bonuses, paid in addition to their salaries and their stock packages - are barely enough to cover the mortgage payments for their new condos, the taxis they take when walking is too burdensome, and their girlfriends with expensive tastes.

The second thing that amazes me is that Sherman is buying all this. I don't know this reporter at all, and I'm happy to concede that he probably hangs out with more Wall Street people than I do. But I'm still in touch with plenty of people in the business, and I have yet to have any investment bankers crying on my shoulder about how the Dodd-Frank bill is forcing them into generic breakfast cereals.

Now, I'm sure if you put it to them the right way - "Hey, Mr. Habitually Overpaid Banker, do you think Barack Obama and the Dodd-Frank bill are ruining your bonus season?" - you'll get a good percentage of people who'll take that cheese and cough out the desired quote.

But in reality? Please. Wall Street people complain a lot, but in the last six months, the grave impact of Dodd-Frank on bonuses hasn't even been within ten miles of the things these people are really panicked about. The comments I've heard have been more like, "My asshole has been puckered completely shut for four months in a row over this Europe business," or, "If the ECB doesn't come up with a Greek bailout package, I'm going to have to sell my children for dog food."

Bonuses are indeed down this year, especially when compared with the bonuses of recent years, but let's be clear about why. It has nothing to do with Dodd-Frank. We can posit three other factors:

1. Banks have unfortunately had to give up the practice of simply printing trillions of dollars out of thin air by selling off worthless mortgages for huge profits and/or making millions of synthetic copies of those same worthless mortgage assets;
2. After twice being saved from the execution chamber by Ben Bernanke's Quantitative Easing programs, which printed trillions of new dollars and injected them straight into Wall Street's arm, Wall Street was rocked this summer when Helicopter Ben decided to temporarily forestall QE3;
3. Europe, a slightly more than minor factor in the global financial picture, is imploding, causing mass hoarding of assets all over the world, severely impacting the business of investment banks everywhere.

Now, Gabe Sherman barely even mentions Europe in his article, which is interesting, because the banks on whose behalf he wails so loudly in this piece have mostly all pointed to Europe as more or less the sole reason for their reduced revenues of late.

Take for instance Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman, Sachs. Lloyd has the most famous reduced bonus on Wall Street - he's making $7 million this year (it was $12.6 million last year) as his bank, Goldman, had a disastrous fourth quarter. Goldman's $6.1 billion in revenues was down 30% off last year's fourth quarter. To what does the big Lloyd attribute this sad development?

"This past year was dominated by global macro-economic concerns which significantly affected our clients' risk tolerance and willingness to transact," Blankfein said, "While our results declined as a consequence, I am pleased that the firm retained its industry-leading positions across our global client franchise while prudently managing risk, capital and expenses. As economies and markets improve - and we see encouraging signs of this - Goldman Sachs is very well positioned to perform for our clients and our shareholders."

Translation: Europe is such a mess right now that all our biggest clients are sitting on their money instead of letting us steal it from them. However, once Europe rebounds, as we expect it to, we will be well positioned to start stealing from them again.

Goldman's numbers offer a hilarious counterpoint to Sherman's piece. The bank's earnings in total for last year were $4.4 billion, down some 65% off of last year's numbers. Its revenues for the year were down 26%. Despite these bummerific numbers, Goldman reduced bonuses and compensation by only 21%, down to (a mere) $12.2 billion. If the era of outsized bonuses is over, how come the biggest banks aren't even cutting them to match revenues, much less profits? One could even interpret Goldman's numbers as a major increase in the size of the bonus pool, relative to earnings.

But what about other banks? Well, Citigroup also saw a drop in revenues for the year (although its net income actually went up, from $10.6 billion to $11.3 billion). But what was most concerning was the bank's crappy fourth quarter, when it suffered an 11% drop in earnings. So where did CEO Vikram Pandit lay the blame for the lost revenue? Dodd-Frank? Reduced leverage? Uh, no. He blamed Europe, too:

"Clearly, the macro environment has impacted the capital markets and we will continue to right-size our businesses to match the environment," Pandit said.

How about JP Morgan Chase? The bank's CEO, Jamie Dimon, was breathlessly quoted in the Sherman piece, and in fact had this to say to Sherman about the culture change:

"Certain products are gone forever," Dimon tells Sherman. "Fancy derivatives are mostly gone. Prop trading is gone. There's less leverage everywhere."

So it's prop trading and derivatives that's the problem? That's not what Wall Street analysts said, when Chase posted a 23% drop in earnings in the fourth quarter. While Dimon in a Q&A last month did go off on the potential problems the Volcker rule might inspire in the future, he was careful to note that those problems are still very much future problems ("I'm going to put Volcker aside, okay, because that really hasn't been written yet").

But virtually every headline about Chase's fourth-quarter earnings drop pegged Euro troubles.

"JPMorgan Chase (JPM) ended a long run of profit gains when it logged a steep drop in fourth-quarter earnings Friday, as weakness in Europe contributed to a decline in investment banking revenue," wrote Investor's Business Daily.

The Telegraph commented thusly: "JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon struck a positive note on the outlook for the US economy even as Europe's debt crisis dragged down the bank's quarterly profits."

And Dimon himself seemed to go along with his counterparts at Goldman and Citi in blaming macro troubles for the recent drop, talking about issues with the "current environment":

The bank's third-quarter profit fell 4% as its businesses were hit hard by Europe's financial woes and the fragile recovery in the United States. JP Morgan's investment banking division would have reported a loss without a $1.9bn accounting adjustment ...

"All things considered, we believe the firm's returns were reasonable given the current environment," said Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan's chairman and chief executive.

When I look at the revenue and bonus numbers on Wall Street this year, I see a number of companies that, despite being functionally insolvent in reality and dependent upon a combination of corrupt accounting and cheap cash from the Fed to survive, are still paying out enormous amounts of money in compensation.

In fact, when one considers the lost billions and trillions from the end of the mortgage bubble scam and the expiration of the quantitative easing program, it's pretty incredible (one might even call it an inspirational testament to the industry's dedication to the cause of high compensation) that bonuses are even in the same ballpark as they used to be.


And all of this is just looking at things from a bottom-line, Wall-Street-centric point of view. Looking at the question from the point of view of an ordinary human being, however, Sherman's thesis is even more nuts. He's written a sort of investment-banking version of Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech, complaining about a lost era of easy money, when in fact there are two damning realities he's ignored:

1. He's wrong. See the above argument about Europe, QE, etc.
Even if he wasn't wrong, which he is, his reaction to the "news" that Wall Street's outsized bonuses are dropping is all wrong. If it were true, it would be good news, not bad news.

Since 2008, the rest of America has suffered a severe economic correction. Ordinary people everywhere long ago had to learn to cope with the equivalent of a lower bonus season. When the crash hit, regular people could not make up the difference through bailouts or zero-interest loans from the Fed or leveraged-up synthetic derivative schemes. They just had to deal with the fact that the economy sucked - and they adjusted.

This ought to have been true also on Wall Street, but in a curious development that is somehow not addressed in Sherman's piece, the denizens of the financial services industry managed to maintain their extravagant lifestyle standards in the middle of a historic global economic crash that, incidentally, they themselves caused.

After suffering one truly bad year - 2008, in which the securities industry collectively lost over $42 billion - Wall Street immediately rebounded to post record revenues in 2009, despite the fact that the economy at large did nothing of the sort. The numbers were so huge on Wall Street compared to the rest of the world that Goldman slashed its 4th-quarter bonuses, just so that the final bonus/comp number ($16.2 billion, down from what would have been $21 billion) didn't look so garish to the rest of broke America.

What Sherman now argues is that Dodd-Frank has so completely hindered Wall Street's ability to magically invent profits through borrowing and gambling that, unlike those wonderful days in 2009, its fortunes are now reduced to rising and falling - heaven forbid - along with the rest of the economy. Things are so bad, his interview subjects argue, that one is now more likely to make big money going into an actual business that makes an actual product:

"If you're a smart Ph.D. from MIT, you'd never go to Wall Street now," says a hedge-fund executive. "You'd go to Silicon Valley. There's at least a prospect for a huge gain. You'd have the potential to be the next Mark Zuckerberg."

Once upon a time, Sherman argues, banking was boring. "In the quaint old days, Wall Street tended to earn its profits rather boringly by loaning money, advising mergers, and supervising bond issues and IPOs," he writes. But then, in the eighties, the business became "turbocharged" when new ways to create leverage were introduced. A sudden surge in credit turned this staid business into the realm of super-compensated superheroes:

Credit was the engine that powered the explosion in bank profits. From junk bonds in the eighties to the emerging-markets crisis in the nineties to the subprime mania of the aughts, Wall Street developed new ways to produce, package, and sell debt to willing investors. The alphabet soup of complex vehicles that defined the 2008 crash - CLO, CDO, CDS - had all been developed to sell more credit.

But all of this leverage led to problems, Sherman grudgingly concedes, and those problems led to reforms, and now Wall Street is being threatened with a return to those "quaint" days of loaning money and supervising bond issues and such.

Such a return is being demanded by the 99-percenters, much-loathed by Sherman's interview subjects and portrayed as a bunch of ignoramuses who don't understand where their bread is buttered. In New York especially, it's the regular people, he argues, who benefitted from all that crazy leverage. Why, without ginormous leverage-generated bonuses, New York would be ... Philadelphia!

Consciously or not, as a city, New York made a bargain: It would tolerate the one percent's excessive pay as long as the rising tax base funded the schools, subways, and parks for the 99 percent. "Without Wall Street, New York becomes Philadelphia" is how a friend of mine in finance explains it.

Sherman then goes further:

In this view, deleveraging Wall Street means killing the goose.

Look, the financial services industry should be boring. It should be quaint. Let's take the municipal debt business. For ages, it was a simple, dull, low-margin sort of industry, in which banks arranged municipal bond issues and made small but dependable profits as cities and towns financed improvements and construction projects.

That system worked seamlessly for decades, until people like Sherman's interview subjects suddenly decided to make the business exciting. You know what happens when you make municipal debt exciting? Jefferson County, Alabama happens. Or, on a macro level, Greece happens.

When making a few points on mere bond issues stops being enough, and you have to cook up crazy swap schemes and indices to bet against those schemes, ingenious scams allowing politicians to borrow billions of dollars that they will never in a million years be able to pay back, you might end up getting a few parks, schools, and subways in New York.

But what you get everywhere else is a giant clusterfuck that costs the rest of us years and even more billions of tax dollars to remedy.

This is what the protests are all about - it's anger that Wall Street has been profiting from an imaginary economy that leaves bankers overpaid, but creates damage everywhere else. Sherman doesn't get this. He seems to subscribe to the well-worn straw-man position that protesters are simply upset that bankers and financiers make a lot of money. Take for example his view on John Paulson, the hedge fund titan who was involved in Goldman's infamous Abacus deal:

In October, a thousand protesters stood outside John Paulson's Upper East Side townhouse and offered the hedge-fund billionaire a mock $5 billion check, the amount he earned from his 2010 investments. Later that day, Paulson released a statement attacking the protesters and their movement .... The truth was, Paulson was furious that the protesters had singled him out. Last year, he lost billions of dollars on bad bets on gold and the banking sector. One of his funds posted a 52 percent loss. "The ironic thing is John lost a lot of money this year," a person close to Paulson told me. "The fact that John got roped into this debate highlights their misunderstanding."

Hey, asshole: nobody misunderstands anything about John Paulson. They're not mad that he made billions the year before, and they're not happy that he lost money this year. They're mad that the way he made his money in previous years - which involved putting together a born-to-lose portfolio of toxic mortgage bonds and then using Goldman Sachs to dump them on a pair of European banks, who in turn had no idea that Paulson was betting against them.

At least part of this transaction was illegal (so ruled the SEC, anyway), and all of it looks pretty damned underhanded. And if the benefit to society from this sort of work is the tax money New York City received from the proceeds of this fleecing, well, we're willing to go without those taxes, thank you very much.

Listening to Wall Street whine about how it is misunderstood is nothing new. It's been going on for years (often in that same mag). But if Sherman's piece heralds a new era of Wall Street complaining about how it is not only misunderstood but undercompensated, you'll have to excuse me while I spend the next month or so vomiting into my shoes.

The financial services industry went from having a 19 percent share of America's corporate profits decades ago to having a 41 percent share in recent years. That doesn't mean bankers ever represented anywhere near 41 percent of America's labor value. It just means they've managed to make themselves horrifically overpaid relative to their counterparts in the rest of the economy.

A banker's job is to be a prudent and dependable steward of other peoples' money - being worthy of our trust in that area is the entire justification for their traditionally high compensation.

Yet these people have failed so spectacularly at that job in the last fifteen years that they're lucky that God himself didn't come down to earth at bonus time this year, angrily boot their asses out of those new condos, and command those Zagat-reading girlfriends of theirs to start getting acquainted with the McDonalds value meal lineup. They should be glad they're still getting anything at all, not whining to New York magazine.
(c) 2012 Matt Taibbi

A Bustle In Hedges' Row
By Randall Amster

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone on the American Left who has not either benefited from or been influenced by the writings of Chris Hedges. His is a singular and potent voice of progressive journalism, combining the best virtues of diligent reporting and unabashed advocacy for a better world. Hedges has rightfully earned many accolades for his work, and he has been an effective chronicler of the rise of people-powered social movements in the U.S. and around the world. Undoubtedly like many others, I have personally been inspired by his writings, and have appreciated his willingness to dialogue with me on occasion. Hedges, in short, represents something of an ideal for those of us who deign to wax publicly on the issues of the day.

All of which makes his latest piece so disturbing in its full implications. Hedges calls out the anarchist-influenced Black Bloc as "the cancer of the Occupy movement," and in the process vilifies with a broad brush an entire class of activists and anarchists as "not only deeply intolerant but stupid," accusing them of "hijacking" and/or seeking to destroy Occupy and other progressive movements. The problems with his analysis are numerous, including that he points to a mere handful of sensationalized episodes of alleged "violence" without subjecting them to further scrutiny or engaging the voluminous literature in social movements discourse on what even constitutes violence, as well as the utility of potentially disruptive tactics in the annals of social change. Indeed, Hedges himself seems to comprehend this, and has written favorably about it in other contexts:

"Here's to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare -the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it."

So what gives? How is it that someone of his stature, influence, and insight has seemingly "drank the Kool-Aid" of divisiveness and internal finger-pointing that the power elite so obviously want to inculcate within our movements? Does Hedges really believe that a relatively small subset of the larger movement is somehow responsible for scuttling Occupy nationwide? Never mind the coordinated and militaristic assaults on the camps, media smear campaigns, unjustified mass arrests, or police-instigated violence in many locales -better to blame those black-clad anarchists in our otherwise-equanimous midst who broke a few windows and tried to actually occupy a couple of buildings for the use of the movement and houseless people alike. Seriously? It's Greek to me.

Now, don't get me wrong: the tactics and strategies deployed within a movement are fair game for critical intervention and even open contestation if we believe them to be dangerous or misguided. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the hard questions and calling people to account for the consequences of their actions. In fact, Occupy itself possesses mechanisms for precisely this sort of internal reflection, through the use of consensus-based processes and the workings of the participatory General Assembly model. Anyone is free to advance a vision, air grievances, urge a course of action, engage a debate, or offer alternatives for the group's consideration. The task is to reinvigorate our collective capacities to reach agreement, rather than excise those who disagree.

A few months ago, when similar arguments about the "destruction of Occupy" were being raised by others in the milieu, I wrote a piece urging inclusivity rather than cashiering out conflicting actors:

"To reject someone from the open spaces of a movement that is purporting to represent the 99 percent is to consign them to where, exactly? Since they are presumably not part of the 1 percent (hired provocateurs aside), if they are banished from the 99 percent what options does that leave them? When a movement decides to 'self-police,' that shouldn't be confused with adopting the same punitive and illogical methods of the state. We can forge agreements and work by consensus, but that cannot be used as a wedge to weed out and expunge those who contravene our best-laid plans. Rather, the aim should be to create processes based on the best practices of restorative justice, peacekeeping, and personal healing in order to promote points of contact and ongoing dialogue among all who find their way to the movement. We won't all agree on everything, but surely we can at least maintain a perspective in which our interests are seen as broadly aligned and our common humanity remains intact.... Rather than seeing the presence of divergent elements as a threat to movement cohesion or as an exploitable image that the media will seize upon to denigrate us further, Occupy encampments can become models of communities that don't simply warehouse unpopular or difficult elements, but instead work with them to promote the creation of a society based on mutual respect and the utilization of the productive capacities of all of its members."

The issue for Hedges, as far as I can tell, seems to be a genuine concern that dangerous factions are hijacking the movement -and thus, not to call for their excision is somehow cowardly. He cites the example of Martin Luther King remaining steadfastly nonviolent in the face of official repression as the key to delegitimizing official power, and potentially as creating a pathway to "win the hearts and minds of the wider public" and even perhaps "some within the structures of power." Yet King took great pains not to publicly oppose the more militant wings of the Civil Rights movement, focusing instead on developing an empathetic and healing posture toward those who would resort to tactics that he deemed unwise, immoral, or ineffective in the context of the larger movement, as reflected in this statement from Stanford University's King Papers Project:

"Although King was hesitant to criticize Black Power openly, he told his staff on 14 November 1966 that Black Power 'was born from the wombs of despair and disappointment. Black Power is a cry of pain. It is in fact a reaction to the failure of White Power to deliver the promises and to do it in a hurry.... The cry of Black Power is really a cry of hurt.'''

In many ways this is the essence of nonviolence, as longtime advocate and practitioner George Lakey observed in an email message discussing the implications of Hedges' recent piece:

"Let's decide now not to use Chris Hedges as a model for how to respond to the Black Bloc. Demonizing, calling them names, using the giveaway metaphor 'cancer' (I've had cancer) is about as far away from effectively opposing a tendency one disagrees with as it's possible to get. We have such good models in our tradition. Dr. King, James Lawson, John Lewis, and so many others in the civil rights movement who had to respond to pro-violence activists showed us how to do it. They were themselves mentored by people like A. J. Muste whose largeness of spirit in dealing with pro-violence forces went all the way back to the 1919 Lawrence, MA, textile strike.... Reducing a group of people who are not monolithic and are themselves frightened and trying to learn how to express their deep convictions in effective ways to a demonic force is beneath us. Hedges writes like someone badly frightened, and is way over the line.... We get enough of the 'Be very afraid' stuff from the Right Wing."

As one commenter ("swaneagle") on Truthout similarly observed in response to Hedges:

"The situation with the black bloc is indeed very serious. How we deal with it will decide the course of our current international struggle. We are all so deeply interconnected now. We cannot afford to throw all those involved with the misguided DOT [diversity of tactics] away as cancerous. Rather, we must proceed with deep love, care and intelligence in shaping something that more precisely represents the goals and dreams we all can share in. This is not just the vision of people engaging in more domineering bully behaviors, but the joint efforts of each one of us. Please reconsider what you deem cancerous Chris Hedges, for it may rise out of this current turmoil as key to [a] solution for us all. It is our challenge and our sacred duty to face this with all we know with all our hearts and all the voices still excluded."

Going forward, I believe we should heed these calls to embrace the actor while critically engaging the action. As difficult as this practice may be, we might consider applying its teachings not only to the challenging cadres within our movements, but even toward the 1 percent and their agents as well. Isn't it possible that their inner fears and human failings are driving them, too? Every great peacemaker throughout history has counseled us to strive to see the essential humanity of those appearing as adversaries or even antagonists. We don't have to accept their divisive and destructive actions, yet the task of refusing to replicate them is incumbent upon us as we forge a new society.

We can surmise that someone of Hedges' caliber is aware of this. Despite ruffling some feathers with his caustic words, he has provided us with an object lesson in the need for renewed empathy.
(c) 2012 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Watchdogs With Cameras

Anyone who has participated in a public demonstration is used to seeing police with video cameras recording us commoners as we dare to exercise our Constitutional right to protest. Authorities insist that being videoed should not worry demonstrators... as long as they're doing nothing wrong.

But what happens when the cameras point the other way? Cell phones and video cameras are now ubiquitous, so police agents frequently find themselves being recorded doing everything from traffic stops to arresting protesters. This has exposed police abuse and even led to some convictions of agents caught roughing up the citizenry, but it has also produced a police backlash against camera-wielding citizens. Across the country, irate cops have been arresting people for the "crime" of filming police actions. Such states as Illinois have outlawed the recording of police without their consent, while Maryland and Massachusetts have even tried to stretch their anti-wiretapping laws to prosecute citizen videographers.

Some judges are going along with this, saying that "meddling citizens" should not be bothering authorities. As one barked from the bench last October: "I'm always suspicious when the civil liberties people start telling the police how to do their business." Well, excuse me, Your Powder-headed Honor, but us meddling citizens fought a revolution 236 years ago against King George III's red-coated authoritarians so we could, indeed, tell the police "how to do their business." It's the American way.

The good news is that a federal court of appeals ruled last year that We The People have a Constitutional right to record police actions in a public place. After all, if they're doing nothing wrong, the authorities should not worry about anyone videoing them. The camera is simply a democratic tool- it empowers citizens to be their own watchdogs.
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Low Capital Gains Tax Rate Leads To Loss
By Helen Thomas

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finally released his tax returns last week, revealing that less than 14 percent in federal taxes was paid, of his more than $20 million income earned last year.

Once again, the question Warren Buffett first asked this past summer is being raised: Why do the super wealthy in this country pay less in taxes than the working class? How do people making millions of dollars a year pay roughly 15 percent in taxes, while someone with a salary of $100,000 per year will pay as much as 28 percent in taxes?

This is because of the currently low capital gains tax rate. Republicans first argued that the capital gains rate needed to be lowered to 20 percent in 1981, as part of what former President George H. W. Bush called "voodoo economics." Republicans assumed if the wealthy paid less money in capital gains taxes, they would take that extra money and create jobs by building factories and opening businesses, family farms would flourish, and the number of construction projects would grow - they used these wholesome images to justify bad policy.

In 2001, then President George W. Bush reduced the capital gains rate to an even lower 15 percent. Instead of creating more jobs and growing our economy, this tax policy created a bigger divide between the haves and the have-nots, leaving not much of a middle class in America.

Why do Republicans think it is fair for hard-working Americans to pay more of their income in taxes than the super rich who are living off of interest? The idea that capital is invested in things that grow the economy really needs to be examined again.

Once it was the family farm, a local business, your house or a company building a factory that could employ hundreds of Americans. Now Wall Street has figured out they can make money without having to go through the effort of building anything physical. They can build bundled assets, create hedge funds, and just move paper to generate billions of dollars for themselves, and the less than 1 percent who can afford to play.

In the meantime, federal, state and local governments are struggling to balance budgets, and they still have to provide critical services like police, fire and education. Corporations and their major investors are not paying their fair share.

The Republicans want to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, and cut any spending that helps the down and out. Why don't they start cutting from the rich? Giving up billions of dollars in tax revenue is the same as giving away money to the rich. How is this fair?

Some argue that if taxes are raised, the rich will stop making more money because it is not worth the effort. Who really believes that if someone who makes $20 million a year, goes from $17,000,000 take-home pay after a 15 percent tax rate, to $14,000,000 after a 30 percent tax rate, they will quit working?

Maybe Americans would be willing to let the rich pay less in taxes if they would build something, and actually create more jobs. Since the late 1980s, when Republicans first began reducing the capital gains tax rates, most of our manufacturing jobs have moved overseas and we have lived through major stock market and housing market bubbles and busts - only a few select are even richer, while the rest of America is worse off.

When I was younger, you could come to America with nothing and work hard. Your children would get a good education, which would lead to a steady job - most Americans could count on having a better life than their parents. This was the American dream: Work hard and you will do better.

With the currently low capital gains tax rate, we are investing in the super wealthy, and I don't think they need our help. I still believe in the idea of someone working hard and building a business, or keeping the family farm going - not in supporting the people who make millions off of moving paper.

Isn't it time to quit this failed experiment in trickle-down economics?
(c) 2012 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Are Republican Candidates Considering An Invasion Of Cuba?
By James Donahue

In their quest to win the Cuban-American vote in Florida both Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich promised that if elected, they will seek the overthrow of the Castro Government in that island nation and free its people from Communist rule.

During a speech before Latino voters in Miami, Gingrich said:

"The moral force of an American president who's seriously intending to free the people of Cuba and the willingness to intimidate those who would be oppressors by saying to them in advance: you will be held accountable.

"So one of my goals would be to flood the island with enough cell phones that are video cameras that any act of oppression is filmed by 30 people, and they start posting them. This person will be on the list after the revolution. You watch the moral of the police force drop dramatically as they are no longer all powerful."

While not as specific as Gingrich, Mr. Romney said:

"This is the time, in my opinion, in the next president's first or second term, it is time for us to strike for freedom in Cuba. And I will do so as president."

This kind of rhetoric might have sounded appealing to the Cuban Americans with relatives still living in Cuba. But it is suggesting that another Republican controlled White House might just be considering some kind of new military conflict.

While Gingrich was strongly suggesting action to encourage an "Arab Spring" type uprising among the Cuban people by dropping cell phones all over Cuba, what guarantee does he have that the people are unhappy enough with the Castro leadership to revolt?

The obvious way to assure either a revolution or bring about an overthrow of the Communist dictatorship in Cuba, would be for the United States military or CIA operatives to get involved. And this is the same as an invasion, something Republican leaders seem to like to do.

And why would the United States like to "free" Cuba? Perhaps no one has noticed, but in the last year or two, wildcat offshore drillers have tapped into a rich new oil field in Cuban coastal waters. This would be a very good reason for the United States to be interested in gaining control of Cuban affairs.

It was Republican President George W. Bush who launched the invasion of Iraq, another oil rich nation, to overthrow that nation's dictator Saddam Hussein. Mr. Bush apparently thought the Iraq war would be an easy thing to pull off. But he was wrong. It lead to nearly a decade-long military involvement, the loss of thousands of American lives, and the death toll among the Iraqi people may be counted in the millions. It was a war launched without provocation. It has left a shameful scar on American history and created severe hatred for the United States in that part of the world.

An attack on Cuba might not be as easy as one might think either. The Cuba regime has built a strong alliance with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. And the dynamic Chavez, during his time in office, has formed a solid socialist block of Latin American nations across South and Middle America that may come to Cuba's defense.

Democratic Party President Barack Obama has worked to shut down the Iraq conflict and is currently taking steps to bring an end to the other Bush debacle, the War in Afghanistan.

Our fear is that if we put another Republican in that office, the United States is destined to be involved in wars without end.

The easiest way to make peace with Cuba is to accept the government there for what it is, establish diplomatic relations, and open trade. It just might be possible that the Cubans in both Cuba and Florida would be very happy with the arrangement.

Opening similar relations with Hugo Chavez might also be in everybody's best interest. Those government's are not capitalistic, which in today's rapidly changing financial world, might not be such a bad thing. While they don't drive shiny new cars and don't share the life style of most middle-class Americans, the people there get free health care among other important benefits.
(c) 2012 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

America's Pro-Choice Majority Speaks Out
By Amy Goodman

The leadership of the Catholic Church has launched what amounts to a holy war against President Barack Obama. Archbishop Timothy Dolan appealed to church members, "Let your elected leaders know that you want religious liberty and rights of conscience restored and that you want the administration's contraceptive mandate rescinded," he said. Obama is now under pressure to reverse a health-care regulation that requires Catholic hospitals and universities, like all employers, to provide contraception to insured women covered by their health plans. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said, "This is going to be fought out with lawsuits, with court decisions, and, dare I say it, maybe even in the streets." In the wake of the successful pushback against the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure's decision to defund Planned Parenthood, the Obama administration should listen to the majority of Americans: The United States, including Catholics, is strongly pro-choice.

Rick Santorum most likely benefited from the 24-hour news cycle this week with his three-state win. Exactly one week before the caucus/primary voting, on Jan. 31, The Associated Press broke the story that Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a $2 billion-per-year breast-cancer fundraising and advocacy organization, had enacted policies that would effectively lead it to deny funding to Planned Parenthood clinics to conduct breast-cancer screenings and mammograms, especially for women with no health insurance. Linked to the decision was a recently hired Komen vice president, Karen Handel, who, as a candidate for governor of Georgia in 2010, ran on a platform to defund Planned Parenthood. The backlash was immediate, broad-based and unrelenting. By Feb. 3, Komen reversed its decision. On Feb. 7, Handel resigned from Komen.

Adding fuel to the ire was news that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had issued the regulation requiring employer insurance plans to provide contraception. The coup de grace, on primary/caucus day, was the decision handed down by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturning California's controversial Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages.

For Santorum, in a primary battle with Mitt Romney, it was "three strikes, you're in." As a conservative Catholic and father of seven, Santorum has long waged the culture war, with a focus on marriage, abortion and sex. He once likened homosexuality to bestiality.

According to the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health issues globally, in the United States, "among all women who have had sex, 99 percent have used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same among Catholic women (98 percent)." According to a Public Religion Research Institute poll, 58 percent of Catholics believe that employers should provide employees with health-care plans that include contraception.

Catholic activists who acknowledge the broad use of contraception among their church members, despite its official prohibition, suggest women can "go elsewhere" to get the preventive care. And if they can't afford to? Loretta Ross, national coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective in Atlanta, told me: "This rule really allows low-income women, women who are dependent on their health care, to access birth control-women of color, in particular ... if you don't want to use birth control, don't buy it, don't use it. But don't block others who do want to use it, who cannot afford it, from accessing it."

One possible solution to the debate came from a surprising quarter. Michael Brendan Dougherty, a Catholic commentator, was in church a couple of weeks ago when he heard the priest read out a letter from Archbishop Dolan encouraging Catholics to oppose the president. Dougherty, who supports the church's opposition to the regulation, suggested to me that a single-payer health-care option could solve the problem: "It would solve this particular problem of conscience, as it has in Europe. The bishops don't like that the government subsidizes abortion or contraception, but they are not in full mode of fury, because they are not being asked to formally cooperate with things they view as sinful."

Loretta Ross agrees with the single-payer solution, but says the current contraception controversy masks a "war on women with all this rhetoric about religious freedom and care for not only the pre-born, but now, with the attack on contraception, you're attacking the preconceived. ... We're not going to take it lying down. And as the fight with the Komen Foundation proved, we are a force to be reckoned with. And we're actually going to work to strengthen President Obama's stand in supporting contraceptive access."
(c) 2012 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

27 Of 35 Bush Articles Of Impeachment Apply To Obama
By David Swanson

When Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush on June 9, 2008, the 35 had been selected from drafts of nearly twice that many articles.

President Obama has accumulated his own massive list of high crimes and misdemeanors that were unavailable for Bush's list (thing's like openly murdering U.S. citizens, launching massive drone wars, selectively and abusively prosecuting numerous whistleblowers as spies, holding Bradley Manning naked in isolation, attacking Libya without so much as bothering to lie to Congress, etc.).

Nonetheless, it is instructive to review the 35 Bush articles in the Obama age. It quickly becomes apparent that Obama has either exactly duplicated or closely paralleled most of the 35. Here's what I mean:

Article XXVI
Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements.

Click the link to read the article introduced against Bush. Obama campaigned against this abuse and has routinely engaged in it as president. Worse, he has established the policy of silently relying on previous Bush or Obama signing statements rather than restating his intention to violate laws each time such intention is relevant to a bill he is signing.

Article XXII
Creating Secret Laws.

Obama similarly uses Department of Justice arguments to reverse the commonly understood meaning of laws (bombing Libya is neither war nor hostilities, for example). And he similarly uses arguments that are kept away from public sight. While the United Nations, foreign nations, and human rights groups have questioned the legality of drone strikes, Obama has not provided his legal defense or even felt obliged to make any assertion as to which victims were intended and which were "collateral damage." This week the ACLU sued for release of such information. In addition, Obama announced in 2009 that he would review all of Bush's signing statements and decide which ones to keep as law and which to discard, but the public has never been told the outcome of that review.

Article XVII
Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives.

Obama did this from day one, proclaimed it in front of the Constitution in the National Archives, formalized it in an executive order, signed it into law this past New Year's Eve, and expanded the practice at Bagram.

Article XXIII
Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

Obama has continued each abuse detailed here and added to them, including through his use of the military to keep journalists away from the BP oil disaster and in an effort to break a strike at the ports of the Pacific Northwest.

Article XIX Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to "Black Sites" Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture. Obama has publicly claimed the power to continue this practice, in fact continued this practice, maintained black sites despite announcing an end to them, and worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor.

Article XX
Imprisoning Children.

Obama has continued this practice and added to it the murdering of children, refusing to say that Abdel-Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki was not intentionally targeted or that he, Obama, does not have the legal power to murder U.S. children. Non-U.S. children continue to die in significant numbers from drone strikes and by other means (including intentional targeting from helicopter) as part of Obama's escalated war on Afghanistan.

Article XVIII
Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy.

Obama has claimed the power to torture, worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor, and continued to allow torture. He has also pressured other nations, including Spain, to drop prosecutorial investigations of U.S. crimes of torture.

Article XXIV
Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment.

Obama has continued these practices and worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor.

Article XXV
Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens.

Obama has continued these practices and worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor and guilty corporations.

Article XXI
Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government.

Obama has continued these practices. In his most recent State of the Union speech he said, "America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible . . . if Iran changes course." When Iran recently took down a U.S. drone, Obama simply asked that it be returned.

Article XVI
Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors.

Obama's Pentagon is no more audited or accountable, nor the routine scandals involving misplaced millions or billions of dollars less frequent. No-bid contracts have increased. Privatization has increased. Secrecy has increased. The use of Special Forces in secret non-war wars has spread to more nations. The permanent stationing of U.S. troops has spread to more nations. Secret agencies, including the CIA, have been given larger war-making roles. And Obama continued the war on Iraq long beyond the date by which he had promised to end it, and continues to maintain thousands of mercenaries in Iraq, and to use drones in the skies of Iraq. He has also worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor.

Article XV
Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq.

Obama's insistence on continuing this practice not just beyond 2008 but beyond 2011, combined with the Iraqi government's refusal to agree, resulted in Obama's decision to comply with the Bush-Maliki treaty to end the war on Iraq by this past New Year's Eve.

Article XXX
Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare.

The details have to be changed to apply this article to Obama. The changes are not in Obama's favor. Obama met in secret with the CEOs of health insurance corporations and pursued a vision of healthcare reform that they had secretly influenced. In so doing, he misled Congress and the American people. He is quite open, in contrast, about his willingness to slash Medicare, as well as Medicaid.

Article XXXI
Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency.

The victims of Katrina have still not been compensated, nor the environmental and urban damage undone. Instead the BP oil disaster has been added. Obama intentionally misled the Congress and the public, downplaying the quantity of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. He allowed a clean-up operation that was nothing of the sort. No real clean-up or recovery is planned. Nor have the corporations or their supposed regulators been held accountable.

Article XXXII
Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change.

Obama's approach to systematically undermining efforts to address global climate change has included blocking possible global agreements at meetings in Denmark and South Africa, while promoting "clean coal," "natural gas," and "safe fracking."

Article XIV
Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The exposing of a secret agent has not been repeated, but retribution against whistleblowers has been taken to new heights with more prosecutions under the Espionage Act than by all previous presidents combined.

Article XXXIV
Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001.

We're still waiting.

Now, we come to the launching of the war on Iraq:

Article I
Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq.

Article II
Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of Aggression.

Article III
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War.

Article IV
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States.

Article V
Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression.

Article VI
Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114.

Article VII
Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.

Article VIII
Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter.

Article XII
Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation's Natural Resources.

Article XIIII
Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries.

It was too late for Obama to exactly duplicate these offenses, as the war against Iraq was already underway. But President Obama has embraced the lies that launched that war. He claimed in 2010 that the war on Iraq had been launched in order to disarm that nation. In the news around the world on the day of Obama's most recent State of the Union speech was the anger among Iraqis at the failure of the United States to hold anyone seriously accountable for the 2005 massacre in Haditha. The story was a useful reminder of how the operations of the U.S. military over the past decade have fueled hostility toward our nation. President Obama began his speech by claiming the opposite, asserting that the war on Iraq has made us safer and "more respected around the world." Obama has repeatedly used such rhetoric to pivot to promotion of his escalated war in Afghanistan or other military operations. Similarly, President Obama misled the nation about the purpose and nature of a war on Libya that has left Libya, like Iraq, in worse shape, and which has left Constitutional war powers in tatters, as the Congress declared itself opposed to the war and the war continued. Meanwhile misleading propaganda about Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other nations continues to emerge from the Obama administration. The Director of National Intelligence has just claimed that Iran is a threat to the United States. While the Iraq War may have "ended," the Authorization for the Use of Military Force has been kept in place allowing Obama to use it as a legal argument for other military operations and abuses of civil rights. Also emerging with ever greater frankness from the Obama White House and Pentagon, including from the President, is the claim of presidential prerogative to launch military attacks on sovereign nations, involving deaths to both militants and civilians, without any consideration of Congress, the Constitution, the War Powers Resolution, the United Nations or its Charter, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or any other law.

There is no quantitative way to measure whether Obama's additions to the presidential powers accumulated by Bush and Bush's predecessors equals or exceeds those added by Bush. But measured against the pre-Bush baseline, or against the written rule of law, Obama's power abuses far outstrip Bush's, while in the category of immediate death count Bush retains a significant lead.

Would Romney or Gingrich be even worse? That's quite likely. If we continue to self-censor on these matters, Obama Part II will also be significantly worse. A popular movement against these abuses could make any White House occupant better than the current one, even if it's the same individual. Remember what Howard Zinn taught: It's not who is sitting in the White House; it's who is doing the sit-ins.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

President Obama with advisers in the Oval Office

Obama's Super-Bowl Fumble On Iran
By Ray McGovern

Before President Barack Obama's interview with NBC's Matt Lauer, aired before the Super Bowl on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu probably hoped that, if Obama discussed Iran, he would give him the strong backing that Israeli leaders crave, freeing them to lash out at Iran - militarily, if they so choose.

Few could have been more keenly interested than he in what the President would say in an interview beamed to a hundred million American TV viewers. The problem was that Netanyahu could not have been completely sure of what to expect, given the confusing mixed signals coming out of Washington in the past several weeks.

Some of those signals had been disquieting to Netanyahu and other Israeli hard-liners - for example, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta saying flat-out on Jan. 8 that Iran is NOT "trying to develop a nuclear weapon" - undercutting the key casus belli for war - and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey visiting Israel on Jan. 19, reportedly to repeat that in person and warn his hosts against provoking war with Iran.

In Netanyahu's world, though, functionaries like Panetta and Dempsey are to be listened to politely but not taken all that seriously. It is what the American President says, in public, that may require more attention - and that is enhanced when he has the eyes and ears of multiple millions of super-prime-time viewers.

For Obama's part, he was walking a political tightrope, having sent out two of his top national security aides to signal Israel that he doesn't want a new war in the Middle East, but not wanting to give his hawkish Republican rivals new reasons to question his support for Israel.

Obama is reportedly hopeful that a peaceful settlement can still be reached over Iran's nuclear program, but he understands that he has little margin for error in this high-wire act of political diplomacy - especially with so many crosswinds in an election year.

So, President Obama decided to forgo his best chance to inject a loud, unmistakable note of caution into recent warmongering over Iran, not only in Israel but also among influential neocons in the United States who have been jumping up and down, demanding another preemptive war over hypothetical WMDs, much as they did with Iraq.

When the interview was over, Netanyahu could breathe a sigh of relief. With Obama's words and body language, there was nothing that would constitute a red light and some things that Netanyahu might interpret hopefully as nearly a green light.

Heightened Danger

Bottom Line: The way the President chose to handle Lauer's leading questions on Israel-Iran tensions has brought the world closer to hostilities that would deeply destabilize not only that region but the world economy.

Lauer: [Regard] building tension between Israel and Iran: It seems now the Israelis are signaling they may act, and conduct a strike inside Iran at their nuclear sites sooner than later. Do they have your full support for that raid?

Obama: I don't think Israel has made a decision on what they need to do. I think they, like us, believe that Iran has to stand down on its nuclear weapons program, and we have mobilized the international community in a way that is unprecedented. And they [the Iranians] are feeling the pinch, they are feeling the pressure.

But they have not taken the steps they need to take diplomatically; which is [for the Iranians] to say, "We will pursue peaceful nuclear power; we will not pursue a nuclear weapon." Until they do so, I think Israel, rightly, is going to be very concerned, and we are as well.

Lauer: Has Israel promised you that they would give you advance warning to any such attack? Should they give you that warning?

Obama: I won't go into the details. I will say that we have closer military and intelligence consultation between our two countries than we've ever had. And we are going to make sure we work in lockstep, as we proceed to try to solve this - hopefully diplomatically. ...

Our preferred solution here is diplomatic; we're going to keep on pushing on that front. But we're not going to take any options off the table, and I've been very clear that we're going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating an arms race, a nuclear arms race in a volatile region."

Delicate Positioning

Though the various elements of Obama's delicate positioning are there - such as his desire for a diplomatic solution to the crisis and his hope to avoid another war - there were also problematic references that reinforced the case for a preemptive Israeli strike, such as the President's bizarre assertion that Iran must declare that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only - when that is exactly what Iran has been saying for years.

So, did Obama fumble or intentionally drop the ball? I think the latter, but it hardly matters. The consequences are pretty much the same either way.

The Israelis could not have been sure that Obama would decide to regurgitate their prevarication about Tehran's notional nukes and contradict what his own Defense Secretary had said just four weeks ago, but that is what the President did.

What probably exceeded the Israeli leadership's fondest expectations, though, was Obama's pledge that in addressing Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions, the U.S. will "work in lockstep" with Israel.

("Lockstep?" What does Webster's say of "lockstep?"


a mode of marching in step by a body of men going one after another as closely as possible;
a standard method or procedure that is mindlessly adhered to ...


- in perfect, rigid, often mindless conformity or unison.)

Obama poured icing on Israel's cake when he emphasized that Israeli-U.S. military and intelligence consultation has never been closer. The result? Up in smoke went any possibility of plausible denial of foreknowledge on Washington's part, if - despite Panetta's oft-repeated pleas that Israel and the U.S. must "work together" - Israel follows its customary practice of shunning any advance warning (much less requests for permission), in favor of seeking post-hoc forgiveness for launching armed attacks.

Carte Blanche for Israel?

For those of us who thought that the White House, recognizing the stakes involved and the benefit of keeping some space between Washington and Tel Aviv, had been trying to restrain the Israelis from attacking Iran, it is hard to fathom why Obama took the line he did.

His words were less surprising to those who have long since concluded that in the coming months he will choose to act out of a felt need to be at least in as much in "lockstep" with Israel as any Republican contender - never mind the risk of giving Netanyahu the impression that there are few if any restraints on what Israel might do to Iran.

It's also possible that Obama has concluded that there isn't much he can do to restrain Netanyahu who has strong reason to believe that whatever the President of the United States may want doesn't really matter when the Congress and much of the Fawning Corporate Media are already in lockstep behind whatever Israel does.

Think back on when Netanyahu gave Obama a public tongue-lashing in the Oval Office and then went to Capitol Hill to receive a hero's welcome from Republicans and Democrats who engaged in a bipartisan competition to see who could jump to their feet the fastest and applaud the loudest.

Whatever school of thought you may favor regarding Obama's Iran "strategy," let me suggest that you put yourself in Netanyahu's shoes as he watches the pre-game interview. Do you agree that he is likely to come away with the idea that Obama has just applied a fresh coat of high-gloss paint to the box into which the Israelis and their supporters believe they have painted him?

Four months ago, I wrote an article entitled "Israel's Window to Bomb Iran," as the war-drumming on Iran began its crescendo. What has happened since has reinforced my assessment that:

"The key factor in any Israeli decision to send its aircraft and missiles to Iran is the degree to which Netanyahu and other hard-line Likud leaders believe that President Obama is locked into giving blanket support to Israel - particularly as Election 2012 draws near.

"The Israelis might well conclude that the formidable effectiveness of the Likud Lobby and kneejerk support of the U.S. Congress as well as still powerful neoconservatives in the Executive Branch (and on the opinion pages of major American newspapers) amount to solid assurance of automatic support for pretty much anything Israel decides to do.

"If Israel translates this into a green light to attack Iran, the rest of the world - even Washington - may get little or no warning."

We need to add two important new factors since then:

Somehow the main focus has shifted from (a) how soon Iran could get a nuclear weapon to (b) how soon Israel is likely to attack Iran's nuclear facilities - whether they are shown to be related to nuclear weapons development, or not.

The evolving discourse in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) has accustomed many Americans to assume that the Israelis would be within their rights to start a war on a convenient "IF" - i.e., IF the Iranians are working on a nuclear weapon. Never mind that Defense Secretary Panetta stated publicly just four weeks ago that they are NOT.

Of course, Panetta was simply reiterating the consensus conclusion of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that declared in 2007 that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and that it did not appear that such work had resumed. And even if you don't want to believe the U.S. intelligence community and Panetta, there was the recent acknowledgement by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that the Mossad apparently has concluded the same thing.

Barak gave the interview on Jan. 18, the day before JCS Chairman Martin Dempsey arrived for talks in Israel:

Question: Is it Israel's judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?

Barak: ... confusion stems from the fact that people ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now ... in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible. Apparently that is not the case. ...

Question: How long will it take from the moment Iran decides to turn it into effective weapons until it has nuclear warheads?

Barak: I don't know; one has to estimate. ... Some say a year, others say 18 months. It doesn't really matter. To do that, Iran would have to announce it is leaving the [UN International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection regime and stop responding to IAEA's criticism, etc.

Why haven't they [the Iranians] done that? Because they realize that ... when it became clear to everyone that Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons, this would constitute definite proof that time is actually running out. This could generate either harsher sanctions or other action against them. They do not want that. Yet, in the United States, the FCM's constant repetition that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon - despite the intelligence consensus that Iran is NOT doing so - has created widespread acceptance for an Israeli preemptive war. In many circles, the idea is almost greeted with a yawn, with another yawn given to the notion that "of course" the U.S. would have to march "in lockstep" with Israel, if it got into a war.

A few days ago, I was given eight full TV minutes on RT to discuss whether it is a good idea to start wars in the subjunctive mood, and what I believe are Israel's true aims vis-a-vis Iran. In my view, the principal aim, pure and simple, is regime change in Tehran, not the destruction of Iran's notional nukes.

Remember, there have been U.N. inspectors crawling all over Iran, which has yet to be shown to be in violation of the basic Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed and Israel has not. (Another relevant fact that is typically left out of FCM articles about the theoretical possibility of Iran building one nuke is that Israel has a sophisticated - and undeclared - arsenal of some 300 nukes.)

Is it conceivable that this kind of information has been kept from President Obama?
(c) 2012 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years --from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Things Are Not O.K.
By Paul Krugman

In a better world -specifically, a world with a better policy elite -a good jobs report would be cause for unalloyed celebration. In the world we actually inhabit, however, every silver lining comes with a cloud. Friday's report was, in fact, much better than expected, and has made many people, myself included, more optimistic. But there's a real danger that this optimism will be self-defeating, because it will encourage and empower the purge-and-liquidate crowd.

So, about that jobs report: it was genuinely good, certainly compared with the dreariness that has become the norm. Notably, for once falling unemployment was the real thing, reflecting growing availability of jobs rather than workers dropping out of the labor force, and hence out of the unemployment measure.

Furthermore, it's not hard to see how this recovery could become self-sustaining. In particular, at this point America is seriously under-housed by historical standards, because we've built very few houses in the six years since the housing bubble popped. The main thing standing in the way of a housing bounce-back is a sharp fall in household formation -econospeak for lots of young adults living with their parents because they can't afford to move out. Let enough Americans find jobs and get homes of their own, and housing, which got us into this slump, could start to power us out.

That said, our economy remains deeply depressed. As the Economic Policy Institute points out, we started 2012 with fewer workers employed than in January 2001 -zero growth after 11 years, even as the population, and therefore the number of jobs we needed, grew steadily. The institute estimates that even at January's pace of job creation it would take us until 2019 to return to full employment.

And we should never forget that the persistence of high unemployment inflicts enormous, continuing damage on our economy and our society, even if the unemployment rate is gradually declining. Bear in mind, in particular, the fact that long-term unemployment -the percentage of workers who have been out of work for six months or more -remains at levels not seen since the Great Depression. And each month that this goes on means more Americans permanently alienated from the work force, more families exhausting their savings, and, not least, more of our fellow citizens losing hope.

So this encouraging employment report shouldn't lead to any slackening in efforts to promote recovery. Full employment is still a distant dream -and that's unacceptable. Policy makers should be doing everything they can to get us back to full employment as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, that's not the way many people with influence on policy see it.

Very early in this slump -basically, as soon as the threat of complete financial collapse began to recede -a significant number of people within the policy community began demanding an early end to efforts to support the economy. Some of their demands focused on the fiscal side, with calls for immediate austerity despite low borrowing costs and high unemployment. But there have also been repeated demands that the Fed and its counterparts abroad tighten money and raise interest rates.

> What's the reasoning behind those demands? Well, it keeps changing. Sometimes it's about the alleged risk of inflation: every uptick in consumer prices has been met with calls for tighter money now now now. And the inflation hawks at the Fed and elsewhere seem undeterred either by the way the predicted explosion of inflation keeps not happening, or by the disastrous results last April when the European Central Bank actually did raise rates, helping to set off the current European crisis.

But there's also a sort of freestanding opposition to low interest rates, a sense that there's something wrong with cheap money and easy credit even in a desperately weak economy. I think of this as the urge to purge, after Andrew Mellon, Herbert Hoover's Treasury secretary, who urged him to let liquidation run its course, to "purge the rottenness" that he believed afflicted America.

And every time we get a bit of good news, the purge-and-liquidate types pop up, saying that it's time to stop focusing on job creation.

Sure enough, no sooner were the new numbers out than James Bullard, the president of the St. Louis Fed, declared that the new numbers make further Fed action to promote growth unnecessary. And the sad truth is that the good jobs numbers have definitely made it less likely that the Fed will take the expansionary action it should.

So here's what needs to be said about the latest numbers: yes, we're doing a bit better, but no, things are not O.K. -not remotely O.K. This is still a terrible economy, and policy makers should be doing much more than they are to make it better.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft when we are hard, and cynical were we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”
~~~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

See No Evil
A Strange Absolution of Obama's Warmongering
By Chris Floyd

It's hard to say which is more disturbing in Patrick Cockburn's recent analysis of America's warmongering toward Iran: his portrait of wily Jews manipulating and "bamboozling" the American power elite into acting against their own interests and good intentions; or the 'Amos and Andy' echoes in the image of a Negro President too dumb to know he's being played by wicked Hebrews. In any case, it is an astounding -- and dismaying -- performance from a writer who has long been one of the very best in delineating the operations of empire in the Middle East.

As so often happens, Arthur Silber has already been on the case. In his latest post, Silber notes that most of Cockburn's analysis is right on target. Cockburn writes that the methods being used "by the US, Israel and West European leaders" to whip up war fever against Iran are "deeply dishonest," and "similar to the drumbeat of propaganda and disinformation about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction." Cockburn also says that sanctions, such as the ones recently imposed by the European Union on Iranian oil sales, "are likely to intensify the crisis, impoverish ordinary Iranians and psychologically prepare the ground for war because of the demonization of Iran." All of this is demonstrably and undeniably true. But then he goes on. Silber sets the scene (and adds the emphases):

But note what else Cockburn says, which is most definitely not similar to anything I've written. Writing about U.S. neoconservatives, the Likud Party and the Israel lobby in Washington, Cockburn states:

These are very much the same people who targeted Iraq in the 1990s. They have been able to force the White House to adopt their program and it is now, in turn, being implemented by a European Union that naively sees sanctions as an alternative to military conflict. ....

It is this latter policy [of toppling the Iranian government] that has triumphed. Israel, its congressional allies and the neoconservatives have successfully bamboozled the Obama administration into a set of policies that make sense only if the aim is overthrow of the regime in Tehran....

It is difficult not to admire the skill with which Netanyahu has maneuvered the White House and European leaders into the very confrontation with Iran they wanted to avoid.

Let me see if I understand this correctly. Obama was strapped down, blindfolded, deprived of all food and water for weeks on end, and tortured in numerous ways. Perhaps Netanyahu screamed at him nonstop for 10 or 12 days. (It would unquestionably work on me.) And then, on top of that, Obama was tricked. Tricked!!! How unbelievably dastardly.

Thus was Obama -- who happens to be the goddamned President of the United States, who happens to be the goddamned Commander-in-Chief of all the U.S. military forces -- "forced," "bamboozled" and "maneuvered" into taking actions he doesn't begin to understand and doesn't actually intend.

Silber goes on to lay out the overwhelming evidence, from Obama's own statements and actions, disproving Cockburn's ludicrous contention -- evidence which, as Silber says, "supports only one conclusion: what Obama is doing comports fully and precisely with what he himself believes."

Exactly. Unlike Cockburn -- and the innumerable progressive apologists for Obama -- I have the fullest respect for the president's intellect and his powers of perception. I think it is deeply insulting to him to say that he is not aware of the true impact of his policies, both in foreign and domestic affairs. As Cockburn himself states, Obama is pursuing "a set of policies that make sense only if the aim is overthrow of the regime in Tehran." Yes. That is indeed the case. The glaringly obvious aim of American policy toward Iran is regime change. But Cockburn is asserting that Barack Obama literally has no sense. He is too stupid to see what Cockburn plainly (and rightly) sees.

Again, what's being said here? That Jews have some kind of occult power to control the minds of America's power elite and force them to act against their will? One really can't credit a writer like Cockburn with such a crude conception -- but something very like it is implicit in his wording. And of course, this idea is prevalent in many circles, on both the right and the left, who continually posit "wag the dog" scenarios about decent Americans being led astray by mesmerizing Israeli leaders and Homeland neo-cons. As I wrote a few years ago, when the Iraq War was plunging deeper and deeper into horror:

To think that all of this has happened because a small band of extremist ideologues - the neocons - somehow "hijacked" U.S. foreign policy to push their radical dreams of "liberating" the Middle East by force and destroying Israel's enemies is absurd. The Bushist power factions were already determined on an aggressive foreign policy; they used the neocons and their bag of tricks - their inflated rhetoric, their conspiratorial zeal, their murky Middle East contacts, their ideology of brute force in the name of "higher" causes - as tools (and PR cover) to help bring about a long-planned war that had nothing to do with democracy or security or any coherent ideology whatsoever beyond the remorseless pursuit of wealth and power, the blind urge to be top dog.

The neocons were happy to be used, of course ... [but] Shakespeare anticipated this tawdry crew long ago, in Hamlet: "Such officers do the king best service in the end: he keeps them, like an ape, in the corner of his jaw, first mouthed, to be last swallowed. When he needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and sponge, you shall be dry again." Whatever their baleful influence, these servile ministers were not the drivers of Bush's war chariot to Babylon. The reins - and the whip - have always been in the hands of the blood-and-iron factions and their feckless front man, the Commander-in-Chief.

And again a bit later on the same theme:

For what's the underlying implication of the "neo-cons über alles" meme? ... It's that no U.S. administration would ever undertake the kind of rapacious policies we've seen in the last five years - unless they'd been tricked into it by wily Zionists and their ideological outriders. It is, in short, our old friend "American exceptionalism," decked out in dissident drag. ....

It is the American elite - pursuing, as always, the enhancement of its own power and privilege, heedless of the consent of the governed or the genuine interests of the American people (or the Palestinian people or the Israeli people or the Lebanese people or the Iraqi people) - that bedevils us. The emergence of the cretinous neo-conservative cult is just a symptom of a deeper moral corruption coursing through the dominant institutions and structures of American society. The body politic is rotting from the head.


But there's something else going on here, and Silber, as usual, goes deeper to get at it:

What interests me about this kind of mental contortion -- and where I think its significance lies -- is what it achieves, and what unspoken premises it reveals. Among other things, it accomplishes a distancing from evil. If we acknowledge that Obama knows exactly what he's doing and that he intends the likely outcome of the events he sets in motion, we are compelled to conclude that he is engaged in a plan which can only be described as deeply, unforgivably evil. The effects of regime change, most likely accompanied by air strikes or military action(s) of some other kind, will include the widespread deaths of innocent human beings and vast destruction."

Again, you cannot pretend that the American elite do not know this. They know it very well. They are discussing it openly every day. As Jim Lobe tells us, yet another bipartisan gaggle of the great and good has just released yet another report stoking war fever against Iran.

The "Bipartisan Policy Center" is chaired by former Democratic Senator Chuck Robb and ex-Air Force general Charles Wald and included "retired flag officers, several former congressmen from both parties" and other wise elders plugged into the power grid. Lobe also notes that group's "staff director was Michael Makovsky, who worked as a consultant to the controversial Pentagon office set up in 2002 to find evidence of operational ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein as a justification for the invasion the following year."

Lobe lays out what these heavyweights are calling for. In the inevitable event that sanctions fail to force Iran to give up its entirely legal nuclear energy program (which is policed by the most intensive international inspection regimen in history):

Washington should launch an "effective surgical strike against Iran's nuclear program" involving aerial attacks and the deployment of U.S. Special Forces units over a period of weeks, according to the task force. ...

In addition to hitting suspected nuclear sites, according to the report, an initial U.S. military attack should target Iranian communications systems and air-defense and missile sites, facilities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Iranian and IRGC navies, sites related to Iran's missile and biological or chemical weapons programs, munitions storage facilities, and airfields, aircraft, and helicopters on the ground or in the air.

If, as a result of retaliation by Tehran or its allies in the region, it was deemed necessary to escalate the conflict, Washington should expand its target list to include Iranian tanks and artillery units, power-generation plants and electrical grids, transportation infrastructure, and manufacturing plants and refineries.

While "U.S. plans would not include targeting of civilians," according to the task force, Washington should also prepare to provide humanitarian relief in Iran "to counter any crisis that could result from kinetic action."

No, they are not "targeting civilians" -- just power plant and electric company employees, bus drivers, train drivers, factory workers, highway crews, oil riggers, people who work for mobile phone companies, television and radio stations and all other media which might be used by the regime for "communications." And all the civilians working in government offices and military facilities, and all the civilians who might live near factories, train stations, power plants, oil fields, government offices, military facilities, and all the civilians who ride trains, buses, drive on the roads and highways and otherwise avail themselves of "transportation infrastructure."

Despite their tender forbearance in declining to target civilians (except for the millions of innocent civilians described above), even our bipartisan poobahs recognize that "kinetic action" will induce a need for "humanitarian relief." However, lest anyone think our poobahs are going soft, they make clear that this "relief" is intended solely for PR purposes:

"The United States would lose international support for military action against Iran - or for future action against other states - if it neglected to address the humanitarian consequences of a military strike," according to the report.

To repeat: this kind of talk is going on across the networks of power in Washington, on every level: formal, informal, official, semi-official, openly and secretly. Indeed, as Lobe notes, this week the Obama administration has been racketing up the warmongering to new heights:

On Sunday, for example, Pentagon chief Leon Panetta vowed to take "whatever steps are necessary" to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, while on Tuesday, the director of national intelligence, Gen. James Clapper, testified that Tehran may be preparing to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. in the event of a war.

The impetus behind these efforts is the same: to force regime change in Iran, either by collapsing the regime now in place or else breaking it into complete acquiescence with the armed domination of world affairs that is Washington's openly stated agenda. As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta put it, in introducing Obama's "Defense Strategic Review" last month: "We must maintain the world's finest military, one that supports and sustains the unique global leadership role of the United States in today's world."

This includes maintaining the American military's "ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged," the Obama review says. In other words, no one, anywhere, has any right to deny the American war machine from doing whatever it wants in their territory. Any "potential adversary," as the Review puts it, must be deterred by the "power projection" of America's overwhelming military might.

Obama himself presented this reaffirmation of the doctrine of armed domination in a special appearance at the Pentagon. And as Silber points out (and carefully documents), Obama's open and enthusiastic embrace of this doctrine goes back many years. It is myopic -- to a mind-boggling degree -- to assert that he is being "bamboozled" into carrying out his own clearly stated strategy: "projecting power" against a "potential adversary" in a region that is crucial for "sustaining America's unique global leadership role" in today's oil-driven world.

This is precisely what he came to power to do. It is precisely what he said he intended to do. It is precisely what he has been doing for years, all over the world. He is serving the interests, promoting the agenda and embodying the values of the American elite, whose lust for empire long pre-dates the founding of the state of Israel. He knows what he is doing; the militarist courtiers in Washington know it; the Israelis know it; and so do the Iranians.

The only people being "bamboozled" about the direction and intentions of American policy toward Iran are the "mental contortionists" who, for whatever reasons, are trying desperately not to see the stark reality in front of their eyes.
(c) 2012 Chris Floyd

The Truth About Newt's Favorite Punching Bag
Saul Alinsky wasn't a socialist and has no ties to Obama. He was a populist patriot who fought for workers' rights
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

And now, a word about a good American being demonized, despite being long dead. Saul Alinsky is not around to defend himself, but that hasn't kept Newt Gingrich from using his name to whip up the froth and frenzy of his followers, whose ignorance of the man is no deterrence to their eagerness, at Gingrich's behest, to tar and feather him posthumously.

In his speeches, Gingrich pounds away at variations on the theme like the piano player in a cheap Western saloon. He declares, "The centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky," or, "I believe in the Constitution, I believe in the Federalist Papers. Obama believes in Saul Alinsky and secular European socialist bureaucracy."

It's all quite clever and insidious, a classic lesson in how to slander someone who cannot answer from the grave, reminiscent of the tactics Gingrich used in those GOPAC memos back in 1996, when he suggested buzzwords and phrases to demonize opponents: corrupt, decay, pathetic, permissive attitude, self-serving and, of course, radical.

In the case of Saul Alinsky, most of the crowd knows nothing about the target except that they're supposed to hate him. And why not? There's the strange foreign name - obviously an alien. One of them. And a socialist at that. What's a socialist? Don't know - but Obama's one, isn't he? Barack Hussein Obama, Saul Alinsky - bingo! Two peas in a pod, and a sinister, subversive pod at that.

But just who was Alinsky, really? Born in 1909, in the ghetto of Chicago's South Side, he saw the worst of poverty and felt the ethnic prejudices that fester, then blast into violence when people are crowded into tenements and have too little to eat. He came to believe that working people, poor people, put down and stepped upon, had to organize if they were going to clean up the slums, fight the corruption that exploited them, and get a handhold on the first rung of the ladder up and out.

He became a protégé of labor leader John L. Lewis and took the principles of organizing into the streets, first in his hometown of Chicago, then across the country, showing citizens how to band together and non-violently fight for their rights, then training others to follow in his shoes. Along the way, Alinsky faced down the hatred of establishment politicians, attacks both verbal and physical, and jail time. He was a gutsy guy. Outspoken, confrontational, profane with a caustic wit, one journalist said he looked like an accountant and talked like a stevedore. He had a flair for the dramatic, once sending a neighborhood to dump its trash on the front step of an alderman who was allowing the garbage to pile up. Or immobilizing city hall, a department store or a stockholders meeting with a flood of demonstrators demanding justice.

One thing Newt has right - Saul Alinsky was a proud, self-professed radical. Just look at the titles of two of his books - "Reveille for Radicals" and "Rules for Radicals." But a communist or socialist he was not. He worked with them on behalf of social justice, just as he worked alongside the Catholic archdiocese in Chicago. When he went to Rochester, N.Y., to help organize the African-American community there after a fatal race riot, he was first invited by the local Council of Churches. It was conscience they all had in common, not ideology.

As far as his connection with Barack Obama, the president was just a kid in Hawaii when Alinsky died, something you would expect a good historian, as Gingrich claims to be, to know. The two men never met, although when Obama arrived on the South Side of Chicago as a community organizer, some of his grass-roots work with the poor was with an Alinsky-affiliated organization.

But that's how it goes in the fight for basic human rights. Alinsky's influence crops up all across the spectrum, even in the Tea Party. Get this: According to the Wall Street Journal, the conservative holy of holies, the one-time Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, Dick Armey, whose Freedomworks organization helps bankroll the Tea Party, gives copies of Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" to Tea Party leaders.

Watch out Dick - you could be next on Newt's list, although, curiously, in his fight against the wealthy Mitt Romney, Gingrich himself has stolen a page from Alinsky's populist playbook. After Romney beat him in the Florida primary, Newt insisted he would continue the fight for the nomination and shouted, "We're going to have people power defeat money power," a sentiment that was Saul Alinsky through and through. Alinsky died, suddenly, in 1972. At the time, he was planning to mount a campaign to organize white, middle-class Americans into a national movement for progressive change, a movement he vowed to take into the halls of Congress and - his words - "the boardrooms of the megacorporations." Maybe that's why Newt Gingrich has been slandering Alinsky's name. Maybe he's afraid, afraid that the very white folks he's been rousing to frenzy will discover who Saul Alinsky was - a patriot in a long line of patriots, who scorned the malignant narcissism of duplicitous politicians and taught everyday Americans to think for themselves and fight together for a better life. That's the American way, and any good historian would know it.
(c) 2012 Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America's strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal.
(c) 2012 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

The Dead Letter Office...

Karen gives the corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear Frau Handel,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your forcing right-wing politics into the fight against breast cancer, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 2nd class, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-19-2012. We salute you Frau Handel, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama


The Great Carbon Bubble
Why the Fossil Fuel Industry Fights So Hard
By Bill McKibben

If we could see the world with a particularly illuminating set of spectacles, one of its most prominent features at the moment would be a giant carbon bubble, whose bursting someday will make the housing bubble of 2007 look like a lark. As yet -- as we shall see -- it's unfortunately largely invisible to us.

In compensation, though, we have some truly beautiful images made possible by new technology. Last month, for instance, NASA updated the most iconic photograph in our civilization's gallery: "Blue Marble," originally taken from Apollo 17 in 1972. The spectacular new high-def image shows a picture of the Americas on January 4th, a good day for snapping photos because there weren't many clouds.

It was also a good day because of the striking way it could demonstrate to us just how much the planet has changed in 40 years. As Jeff Masters, the web's most widely read meteorologist, explains, "The U.S. and Canada are virtually snow-free and cloud-free, which is extremely rare for a January day. The lack of snow in the mountains of the Western U.S. is particularly unusual. I doubt one could find a January day this cloud-free with so little snow on the ground throughout the entire satellite record, going back to the early 1960s."

In fact, it's likely that the week that photo was taken will prove "the driest first week in recorded U.S. history." Indeed, it followed on 2011, which showed the greatest weather extremes in our history -- 56% of the country was either in drought or flood, which was no surprise since "climate change science predicts wet areas will tend to get wetter and dry areas will tend to get drier." Indeed, the nation suffered 14 weather disasters each causing $1 billion or more in damage last year. (The old record was nine.) Masters again: "Watching the weather over the past two years has been like watching a famous baseball hitter on steroids."

In the face of such data -- statistics that you can duplicate for almost every region of the planet -- you'd think we'd already be in an all-out effort to do something about climate change. Instead, we're witnessing an all-out effort to... deny there's a problem.

Our GOP presidential candidates are working hard to make sure no one thinks they'd appease chemistry and physics. At the last Republican debate in Florida, Rick Santorum insisted that he should be the nominee because he'd caught on earlier than Newt or Mitt to the global warming "hoax."

Most of the media pays remarkably little attention to what's happening. Coverage of global warming has dipped 40% over the last two years. When, say, there's a rare outbreak of January tornadoes, TV anchors politely discuss "extreme weather," but climate change is the disaster that dare not speak its name.

And when they do break their silence, some of our elite organs are happy to indulge in outright denial. Last month, for instance, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by "16 scientists and engineers" headlined "No Need to Panic About Global Warming." The article was easily debunked. It was nothing but a mash-up of long-since-disproved arguments by people who turned out mostly not to be climate scientists at all, quoting other scientists who immediately said their actual work showed just the opposite.

It's no secret where this denialism comes from: the fossil fuel industry pays for it. (Of the 16 authors of the Journal article, for instance, five had had ties to Exxon.) Writers from Ross Gelbspan to Naomi Oreskes have made this case with such overwhelming power that no one even really tries denying it any more. The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we've ever faced.

Why doesn't it fold the way the tobacco industry eventually did? Why doesn't it invest its riches in things like solar panels and so profit handsomely from the next generation of energy? As it happens, the answer is more interesting than you might think.

Part of it's simple enough: the giant energy companies are making so much money right now that they can't stop gorging themselves. ExxonMobil, year after year, pulls in more money than any company in history. Chevron's not far behind. Everyone in the business is swimming in money.

Still, they could theoretically invest all that cash in new clean technology or research and development for the same. As it happens, though, they've got a deeper problem, one that's become clear only in the last few years. Put briefly: their value is largely based on fossil-fuel reserves that won't be burned if we ever take global warming seriously.

When I talked about a carbon bubble at the beginning of this essay, this is what I meant. Here are some of the relevant numbers, courtesy of the Capital Institute: we're already seeing widespread climate disruption, but if we want to avoid utter, civilization-shaking disaster, many scientists have pointed to a two-degree rise in global temperatures as the most we could possibly deal with.

If we spew 565 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere, we'll quite possibly go right past that reddest of red lines. But the oil companies, private and state-owned, have current reserves on the books equivalent to 2,795 gigatons -- five times more than we can ever safely burn. It has to stay in the ground.

Put another way, in ecological terms it would be extremely prudent to write off $20 trillion worth of those reserves. In economic terms, of course, it would be a disaster, first and foremost for shareholders and executives of companies like ExxonMobil (and people in places like Venezuela).

If you run an oil company, this sort of write-off is the disastrous future staring you in the face as soon as climate change is taken as seriously as it should be, and that's far scarier than drought and flood. It's why you'll do anything -- including fund an endless campaigns of lies -- to avoid coming to terms with its reality. So instead, we simply charge ahead. To take just one example, last month the boss of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue, called for burning all the country's newly discovered coal, gas, and oil -- believed to be 1,800 gigatons worth of carbon from our nation alone.

What he and the rest of the energy-industrial elite are denying, in other words, is that the business models at the center of our economy are in the deepest possible conflict with physics and chemistry. The carbon bubble that looms over our world needs to be deflated soon. As with our fiscal crisis, failure to do so will cause enormous pain -- pain, in fact, almost beyond imagining. After all, if you think banks are too big to fail, consider the climate as a whole and imagine the nature of the bailout that would face us when that bubble finally bursts.

Unfortunately, it won't burst by itself -- not in time, anyway. The fossil-fuel companies, with their heavily funded denialism and their record campaign contributions, have been able to keep at bay even the tamest efforts at reining in carbon emissions. With each passing day, they're leveraging us deeper into an unpayable carbon debt -- and with each passing day, they're raking in unimaginable returns. ExxonMobil last week reported its 2011 profits at $41 billion, the second highest of all time. Do you wonder who owns the record? That would be ExxonMobil in 2008 at $45 billion.

Telling the truth about climate change would require pulling away the biggest punchbowl in history, right when the party is in full swing. That's why the fight is so pitched. That's why those of us battling for the future need to raise our game. And it's why that view from the satellites, however beautiful from a distance, is likely to become ever harder to recognize as our home planet.
(c) 2012 Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, co-founder of His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Will Iran Be Attacked?
By Paul Craig Roberts

Washington has made tremendous preparations for a military assault on Iran. There is speculation that Washington has called off its two longest running wars-Iraq and Afghanistan-in order to deploy forces against Iran. Two of Washington's fleets have been assigned to the Persian Gulf along with NATO warships. Missiles have been spread amongst Washington's Oil Emirate and Middle Eastern puppet states. US troops have been deployed in Israel and Kuwait.

Washington has presented Israel a gift from the hard-pressed american taxpayers of an expensive missile defense system, money spent for Israel when millions of unassisted americans have lost their homes. As no one expects Iran to attack Israel, except in retaliation for an Israeli attack on Iran, the purpose of the missile defense system is to protect Israel from an Iranian response to Israeli aggression against Iran.

Juan Cole has posted on his blog a map showing 44 US military bases surrounding Iran.

In addition to the massive military preparations, there is the propaganda war against Iran that has been ongoing since 1979 when Washington's puppet, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown by the Iranian revolution. Iran is surrounded, but Washington and Israeli propaganda portray Iran as a threatening aggressor nation. In fact, the aggressors are the Washington and Tel Aviv governments which constantly threaten Iran with military attack.

Neocon warmongers, such as David Goldman, compare the Iranian president to Hitler and declare that only war can stop him.

Washington's top military officials have created the impression that an act of Israeli aggression against Iran is a done deal. On February 2 the Washington Post reported that Pentagon chief Leon Panetta believes that Israel is likely to attack Iran in two to four months

. Also on February 2, Gareth Porter reported that General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed the Israeli government that the US would not join Israel's aggression against Iran unless Washington had given prior approval for the attack.

Porter interprets Dempsey's warning as a strong move by President Obama to deter an attack that would involve Washington in a regional conflagration with Iran. A different way to read Dempsey's warning is that Obama wants to hold off on attacking Iran until polls show him losing the presidential election. It has generally been the case that the patriotic electorate does not turn out a president who is at war.

On February 5, President Obama canceled Dempsey's warning to Israel when Obama declared that he was in "lockstep" with the Israeli government. Obama is in lockstep with Israel despite the fact that Obama told NBC that "we don't see any evidence that they [Iran] have those intentions [attacks on the US] or capabilities." By being in lockstep with Israel and simultaneously calling for a "diplomatic solution," Obama appeased both the Israel Lobby and Democratic peace groups, thus upping his vote.

As I wrote previously, this spring is a prime time for attacking Iran, because there is a good chance that Russia will be in turmoil because of its March election. The Russian opposition to Putin is financed by Washington and encouraged by Washington's statements, especially those of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Whether Putin wins or there is an indecisive result and a run-off election, Washington's money will put tens of thousands of Russians into the streets, just as Washington's money created the "Green Revolution" in Iran to protest the presidential elections there.

On February 4 the former left-wing British newspaper, The Guardian, reported a pre-election protest by 120,000 anti-Putin demonstrators marching in Moscow and demanding "fair elections." In other words, Washington already has its minions declaring that a win by Putin in March can only signify a stolen election. The problem for Obama is that this spring is too early to tell whether his re-election is threatened by a Republican candidate. Going to war prematurely, especially if the result is a stiff rise in oil prices, is not an aid to re-election.

The willingness of peoples around the world to be Washington's puppets instead of loyal citizens of their own countries is why the West has been able to dominate the world during the modern era. There seems to be an infinite supply of foreign leaders who prefer Washington's money and favor to loyalty to their own countries' interests.

As Karl Marx said, money turns everything into a commodity that can be bought and sold. All other values are defeated-honor, integrity, truth, justice, loyalty, even blood kin. Nothing remains but filthy lucre. Money certainly turned UK prime minister Tony Blair into a political commodity.

The power of money was brought home to me many years ago. My Ph.D. dissertation chairman found himself in the Nixon administration as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security affairs. He asked if I would go to Vietnam to administer the aid programs. I was flattered that he thought I had the strength of character to stand up to the corruption that usually defeats the purpose of aid programs, but I declined the assignment.

The conversation was one I will never forget. Warren Nutter was an intelligent person of integrity. He thought regardless of whether the war was necessary that we had been led into it by deception. He thought democracy could not live with deception, and he objected to government officials who were not honest with the American people. Nutter's position was that a democratic government had to rely on persuasion, not on trickery. Otherwise, the outcomes were not democratic.

As Nutter saw it, we were in a war, and we had involved the South Vietnamese. Therefore, we had obligations to them. If we proved to be feckless, the consequence would be to undermine commitments we had made to other countries in our effort to contain the Soviet Empire. The Soviet Union, unlike the "terrorist threat" had the potential of being a real threat. People who have come of age after the collapse of the Soviet Union don't understand the cold war era.

In the course of the conversation I asked how Washington got so many other governments to do its bidding. He answered, "Money."

I asked, "You mean foreign aid?"

He said, "No, bags of money. We buy the leaders."

He didn't approve of it, but there was nothing he could do about it.

Purchasing the leadership of their enemies or of potential threats was the Roman way. Timothy H. Parsons in his book, The Rule of Empires, describes the Romans as "deft practitioners of soft power." Rome preferred to rule the conquered and the potentially hostile through "semiautonomous client kings which the Senate euphemistically termed 'friends of the Roman people.' Romans helped cooperative monarchs remain in power with direct payments of coins and material goods. Acceptance of these subsidies signified that an ally deferred to imperial authority, and the Romans interpreted any defiance of their will as an overt revolt. They also intervened freely in local succession disputes to replace unsuitable clients."

This is the way Washington rules. Washington's way of ruling other countries is why there is no "Egyptian Spring," but a military dictatorship as a replacement for Washington's discarded puppet Hosni Mubarak, and why European puppet states are fighting Washington's wars of hegemony in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Washington's National Endowment for Democracy funds non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. It is through the operations of NGOs that Washington added the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to Washington's empire, along with the Baltic States, and Eastern European countries.

Because of the hostility of many Russians to their Soviet past, Russia is vulnerable to Washington's machinations.

As long as the dollar rules, Washington's power will rule.

As Rome debased its silver denarius into lead, Rome's power to purchase compliance faded away. If "Helicopter Ben" Bernanke inflates away the purchasing power of the dollar, Washington's power will melt away also.
(c) 2012 Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and professor of economics in six universities. He is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House. He can be reached at:

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Randy Jones ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Baptist Congregation Stripped Naked In Mormon Underwear Bust!

The following testimony from former Level 42 Mormon Cleric, Brother Zechariah Hosea compelled an entire Baptist church congregation to strip themselves naked!

"Greetings, and thank you all for having me here. As I am wont to do, I begin each of my testimonies with a brief public prayer. So I ask now for every head to be bowed, and every eye to be closed, thank you.

Heavenly Father, thank you for delivering me from the cult of Mormonism, America's favorite religious fantasy role-playing game that doesn't involve a genuine invisible god.

Thank you for the Holy Spirit, who came to strip me of my sinful undergarments, and expose me, thereby returning me to the Garden from which Adam was banished by a cranky Lord.

Speak through my anointed lips so those listening here today shall also be returned to a state of grace, unadorned by the apparel of the shamed.

Kindle within their hearts, through your humble servant, Zechariah Hosea, a call to harness the furious fires of your Holy wrath sevenfold! And set free my brothers and sisters still trapped within the secret world of Mormon fetishisms. Praise be, and A-men.

Friends, I took off my magic, low-rise Y-front occult Mormon underwear ten years ago, and haven't looked back since. I'm going to pass my old skivvies around the church now, (Zechariah steps down from the pulpit) here you go, ma'am, you inspect that carefully and pass it on to the lovely young lady on your right there, and so-on. I want everyone to take a long careful look at my old underwear. Don't be afraid little lady; it's not going to bite you in the nose! That's right, I want you to smell it, touch it, and rub it against your skin to show Satan that this little piece of 48-inch-waist poly-cotton fabric has no power over you! That's it... good.

Now, I know you've all heard about Mormon underwear before. Normally, you would have to be a Salt Lake City streetwalker to get as close to it as you are now. Well, after my testimony is over, each and every one of you are going to be able to run home and tell everyone that you've held the genuine article in your very hands. That pair of Mormon skivvies is going to sell for a boatload of cash on E-Bay, and you're going to find out why in just a few minutes, so let me continue. Ma'am, please take that out of your mouth. Thank you.

You folks might be shocked to hear me say this, but before this sermon is over, the Lord Jesus is going to call on me to move with utter chasteness and holiness in personally examining the undergarments of every single good Christian person seated here today. That's right! I'm going to take a peek at what each and every one of you has got going on under your skirts, dresses and trousers! I see some of you shifting in your seats there. Ease back now, folks... when you hear what I have to say, you'll happily oblige to my Christian demands, if only for your own personal safety. Praise be! And don't worry if the style you're wearing isn't the latest, or if you've had a little accident down there during the last hymn - or even if you slipped on a pair you found on the floor this morning because nothing was clean. My eyes and fingers will be the Lord's eyes and fingers, as our Savior said, "Nothing is unclean."

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what I am about to tell you, every Mormon - except for that Marie Osmond woman because she is a crazy blabbermouth -- will deny. And the reason for that is most Mormons don't have a clue as to what hocus pocus goes on behind the temple door. Marilyn Chambers may have gotten behind the Green Door, but those Mormons have never gotten behind the golden doors of their temple. Oh, they think they've been behind the door, but there are many doors in the temple, and many classes and levels in the Mormon world. Ninety-percent of Mormons are level 14 Alchemists, and most of them die before they get to level 21, so they never get any knowledge or power. I testify now, that standing before you today is a former level 64 Mage with over 150,000 skill points as a Prophet trained class 42 Cleric. And that's as high as I needed to go for enough magic points and Adena (a secret Mormon currency) to purchase what I thought were the final undergarments needed to get into the secret chamber and level up to 65. Friends, to get to an equivalent level of learning in Scientology would have cost me roughly $897,450.27

Once I got into the secret chamber, however, I learned that there were even more levels and classes that I didn't know about before. And, frankly, after some of the scary stuff I'd already seen, I wasn't sure my poor heart would take any more information. Something clicked when I found myself standing face to face with a level 79 Priest in silver t-back underwear and a snakehead. Do you folks realize how many skill points and rare items are needed to get to that level? Even rich Mormons, like the Smarts - you know, the ones who sold their little blond daughter as a sex slave to a local vagrant and then couldn't stop yapping about it on TV - even the Smarts couldn't afford the fees to get to a level 79. Even after their book deal.

It was years later, after I got saved, that the Holy Spirit called me to a True Christian ministry. And that ministry is to expose the Mormon church at the highest level and lay bare the sordid secrets of the Mormon world. I realized that in order to accomplish this holy quest, I needed to obtain the most powerful underwear available. In order to do that, I became what the Mormons call, a "Rogue Scout." A thief, if you will, who operates outside the bonded rules of the Mormon world, and obtains items through fleetness of fingers rather than skill points, in order to level up quickly and exploit the vulnerabilities of my opponents.

At this time, I would like to ask Landover Baptist security officers to bolt the doors to this sanctuary. Thank you.

Now, there is no cause for alarm. If we keep having all this screaming nobody will know why the Holy Spirit is pulling at your elastic waistband. I do this at the end of each session and there is no need for anyone to be embarrassed. I want all of you to form a single file line and approach the screened off areas on either side of the altar. Men to the right - that's MY right - and the gentler gender to the left. When you are there, I want you drop your pants, and skirts for you ladies. Carefully remove your underwear. When you exit the from behind the privacy panels, drop your undergarments into the large baskets next to the complimentary tithe buckets provided in fellowship hall for your convenience.

I understand that Landover Baptist is known the world over for its resourcefulness when it comes to security, and I mean no disrespect. High level Mormon Priests and Prophets are extremely cunning, and there is a bounty out on my head. Why, there could be one of these high-level Mormons sitting here in this congregation today. Yes, it could even be one of your neighbors! The only way for me to know for certain is to secure your undergarments. Understand, for reasons I cannot reveal, your panties and undies will not be returned to you. I will perform my Godly duty by carefully inspecting each pair in the comfort and privacy of my home at my own leisure. Thank you for being cooperative, and good day.

Oh, and books and tapes of the extended version of my testimony are available for sale in main lobby. God bless!

INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY: With the help of a True Christian friend in the Federal Government, a team of Landover Baptist Creation Scientists were able to procure two pick-up-truck loads full of Mormon undergarments seized by Godly US authorities during a recent raid on a Mormon polygamy ranch in the Western United States. In addition after a recent missions trip to Utah, The Landover Ladies Fellowship were able to escape Salt Lake City with an entire van full of authentic Magic Mormon thonglets and under-flaps. All of these rare garments are now for sale in our online Store. Some select garments include Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney's "Sacred Seal of Certification." Click Here to Browse and Purchase Our Official Mormon Undergarments!
(c) 2012 The Landover Baptist Church

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 06 (c) 02/10/2012

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