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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi answers the question of, "Why Isn't Wall Street In Jail?"

Uri Avnery discovers, "The Genie Is Out Of The Bottle."

David Sirota considers, "The Submerged State."

Michael Winship reports, "Across The US, GOP Lawmakers Build States Of Denial."

Jim Hightower explains, "The Koch Brothers: What A Sight."

Helen Thomas sees, "The New Arab Awakening."

James Donahue tells, "The Sad Truth Behind Ethnic Schism."

Joel S. Hirschhorn recommends a, "Revolution Handbook For Americans."

Chris Floyd finds, "Mideast Meets Midwest."

Matthew Rothschild declares, "The Madison Protests Are About Union Busting, Not Budget."

Paul Krugman examines the, "Wisconsin Power Play."

Chris Hedges explores, "Huffington’s Plunder."

David Michael Green is, "Waking Up In Wisconsin."

Hillary Clinton wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Amy Goodman has, "An Interview With Noam Chomsky."

Phillipa Kennedy says, "Cynthia McKinney Still On The Anti-Warpath."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion denotes, "Embarrassed Republicans Admit They've Been Thinking Of Eisenhower Whole Time They've Been Praising Reagan" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Hosni Walker Must Go!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Taylor Jones, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Mr. Fish, R.J. Matson, Brew City Brawler.Com, Keith Tucker, Jen Sorensen, Victor Juhasz, RT Janes. LT Saloon.Org, Jeffrey E Biteng/The National, Democracy Now.Org, The Onion, 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."

Hosni Walker Must Go!
Facism comes to Wisconsin
By Ernest Stewart

Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state becomes lawless or corrupt." ~~~ Mahatma Gandhi

"PBS: The Paranoid Broadcasting System." ~~~ Firesign Theatre

And each time I leave, Chicago is,
Tuggin' my sleeve, Chicago is,
The Wrigley Building,Chicago is,
The Union Stockyards, Chicago is,
One town that won't let you down;
It's my kind of town.
My Kind Of Town ~~~ Frank Sinatra

Que sera sera
Whatever will be, will be
The futures not ours to see
Que sera sera
What will be, will be
Que Sera Sera ~~~ Doris Day

Those billionaire knuckle-heads the Koch brothers (pronounced Coke) have been at it again trying to overthrow our democracy. While they own oil companies and pipelines, they're best known for their Georgia Pacific division--makers of Angel Soft toilet paper, Brawny paper towels, Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups. Mardi Gras napkins and towels, Quilted Northern toilet paper, Soft 'n Gentle toilet paper, Sparkle napkins, Vanity Fair napkins and Zee napkins. You might want to consider boycotting those products, if you haven't already. Not only do they own all that, but many of our tea party politicians are kept in their vest pockets. One of their puppets is making headline news all over the world. Not only do the Kock brothers own the The Georgia-Pacific, Broadway facility in Green Bay, WI, but also most of the politicians in Madison, Wisconsin.

Their point man there is none other than Scott "Hosni" Walker. The man who first created a deficit by giving hundreds of millions of dollars for a tax break for the... wait for it, the uber-wealthy and wants to balance it on the backs of the working men and women in Wisconsin by destroying their union. He thought he'd just ram it through and move on to screwing the "cheese heads" in many other ways, but suddenly things hit the fan. First the public openly rebelled and flooded Madison by the tens of thousands, then the Senate Democrats walked out in mass and left the state, leaving Hosni without enough pols to make a quorum. And every day more and more people have come to Madison's downtown and capitol building, just like the Egyptian people did.

Hosni thought the police would intervene as he hadn't demanded the end of their unions; well, at least not yet, but the cops joined in the protests. Next Hosni like his Egyptian counter part threatened to send in the tanks and the National Guard to break up this people rebellion against his authority. I wonder what the guard will do? Will they slaughter the men, women and children like they did at Kent State, or will their tanks be covered in flowers and the people like they were in Egypt?

Of course, this isn't just happening in Wisconsin under a tea party Rethuglican, it's also happening all over America. In Ohio, John Kasich, who is a regular old Rethuglican, is also trying to destroy the unions, Cuomo, a Demoncrat plans to do the same in New York, as does Governor Moon Beam in California, just as Obamahood has done to the federal unions. The state and federal unions are about all that is left of American unions, and when they're gone the middle class will soon go with them. Since the end of WWII the elite have been trying to wipe out unions, so they have total control of the workforce, and the fed and state unions are all that effectively stands between them and Antebellum America. There will be the wealthy elite and the rest of us, and since they don't need all of us, I'm sure they're working on a final solution to our overcrowding, the unemployed, the homeless, the elderly and all those Mexicans! "Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist." Does that ring any bells, America?

In Other News

NPR and PBS came out the other day demanding we cut social security benefits to pay for Obamahood's tax breaks for the uber-wealthy. Forget for the moment that those benefits are not paid for out of the general fund, but by a tax that solely supports the retirement fund. PBS and NPR, which used to be a good source for honest programming, news and entertainment, started a slide to the far right a couple of decades ago, so I turned them off as it was too sad to see great institutions self-destruct! They were supposed to be on our side, hence the "Public" in both names but have in reality become just another corpo-rat puppet!

Talking head Gwen Ifill on the PBS NewsHour and Steve Inskeep on NPR's Morning Edition both badgered their guest, Obama Budget Director Jack Lew, as to why there were no cuts listed for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Gwen jacked her jaws saying, "Elephant in the room, Mr. Lew, entitlements, Social Security spending, Medicare, Medicaid, not -- not -- nowhere in this budget!" Apparently Gwen's bloodlust was not satisfied with Obamahood's plans on freezing the poor next winter, she was after more blood. While Steve opened his cake hole to demand again and again that there be cuts made in the benefits for current Social Security beneficiaries, and cuts to future beneficiaries, adding, "what does that leave?" Well, Steve that leaves me never contributing to PBS and NPR again!

You know I wrote them letters, didn't you? I'll just show you one and the reply I got from them. I sent a similar one to Gwen and PBS.

Dear NPR,

I realize that NPR and PBS goose-stepped off from the people--the one's that they're suppose to serve--decades ago, and put on their corpo-rat logos. However, the attack on Social Security by Steve, who I guess really wants to balance those huge tax cuts for the uber-wealthy by stealing from the poorest of the poor is a better idea. Why not instead get rid of all tax support for NPR and PBS? That's what I'm going to be instructing my Con-gressman and Sinators to do. I'm sure that the corpo-rat goons that pull your puppet strings will make up the difference of what the government gave you in hand outs and what seniors will no longer be sending you after they find out about this! Oh, and thanks for writing part of next week's editorial; I'm sure my many readers will find this outrage interesting, too!

Ernest Stewart
Former NPR supporter

And their reply:

Dear Ernest,

Thank you for contacting NPR.

We appreciate you sharing your concerns with us. We strive to offer the highest quality of news and information available. Listener feedback helps us to accomplish this goal.

We welcome both criticism and praise, and your thoughts will be taken into consideration.

Thank you for listening, and for your continued support of public broadcasting. For the latest news and information, visit

NPR Services

Then Matt Lockshin of Credo Action sent me an email wanting me to oppose federal cuts to NPR and PBS. I sent Matt the following letter:

Hey Matt,

Interesting that you support the fascists at PBS and NPR in their corpo-rat attacks on Social Security. Let's cut their budgets instead; in fact, let's get rid of them entirely, since two decades ago they goose-stepped off to the far right, let their corpo-rat puppet masters keep them on the air. Since what I've said is something I'm sure you know, it brings the question of who's pulling your puppet strings? Glad you're finally coming out of the closet, Credo. You're just another 5th column, huh?

Sincerely yours,
Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis magazine

If you'd like to send Matt your opinion too:

And Finally

Those kookie folks in Chicago kept the tradition of filling the mayor's office with the bizarre and the evil Tuesday. From Richard J. and Richard M. Daley (evil) to Harold Washington, who like Rudy Giuliani liked to dress up as a pretty lady (bizarre), to Rahm Emanuel (evil).

I recall visiting Chicago under Richard J's rule during the 1968 Demoncratic convention with a few friends from the SDS and a whole lot of LSD! Somehow we managed to attend, and yet didn't get our skulls caved in by the mayor's gestapo, or even arrested. Thank Zeus we were fleet of foot back in those daze.

So my first "trip" to Chicago was a memorable one. I've been back many times since, but not to such an auspicious occasion as was 1968. Now that Richard M. has retired to become a simple puppet master, along comes everyone's favorite Israeli 5th columnist Rahm Emanuel. Forget that it wasn't exactly legal for him to run, as this is, after all, Chicago politics, where the law doesn't really ever enter into it. Ergo, I had no doubt that Rahm would win as the fix was obviously in long before he left the White House.

I'm not a fan of Rahm's, but even as crooked as he is, I doubt that he can hold a candle to Crime Family Daley? Still, Benjamin, Rahm's dad, was a leading member of the terrorist group Irgun and changed his last name to Emanuel when he fled justice from the British in Palestine, so with a pedigree like that Rahm is certainly qualified to be what many are calling Chicago's new "Mossad Mayor." Good luck, Chicago; somehow I think you're going to need it!

Keepin' On

With four issues to go before we run out of money and time, I'm beginning to wonder if this is the time that we end? We've come to this point many times before, but somehow managed to get through it! Still, we've had a great run as magazines go, ten years which is much better than most and perhaps it's time to move on?

Trouble is, this is the very time when it's about to hit the fan that we're needed most. We've done what we could to teach you how to sustain yourself after the coming collapse. How to live off the grid. How to provide yourself with food and clean water. How to live like most did 100 years ago and how to prosper doing it. All that info is in the archives, but I don't know how long that will be up if we have to quit producing the magazine?

For some of you, our cost of continuing publishing would be mere pocket change, but you're not the ones who are our donors. Most of the money that comes in comes in from the poor, not from the well-to-do. About 70% of our donations come from folks who have retired and are living on social security, not from the folks with good paying jobs who send in nothing. If not for Ernie from Ontario who lives on Social Security, by-the-way, we would have brought in zero money for February. Thanks, Ernie; you're a life saver! As old Tommy Paine once pointed out, "If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately."


07-17-1920 ~ 02-17-2011
Thanks for the news!

12-16-1929 ~ 02-22-2011
At ease Brigadier!


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) 2011 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 10 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Why Isn't Wall Street In Jail?
Financial crooks brought down the world's economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them
By Matt Taibbi

Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

"Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail," he said. "That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that."

I put down my notebook. "Just that?"

"That's right," he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there."

Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.

The rest of them, all of them, got off. Not a single executive who ran the companies that cooked up and cashed in on the phony financial boom — an industrywide scam that involved the mass sale of mismarked, fraudulent mortgage-backed securities — has ever been convicted. Their names by now are familiar to even the most casual Middle American news consumer: companies like AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. Most of these firms were directly involved in elaborate fraud and theft. Lehman Brothers hid billions in loans from its investors. Bank of America lied about billions in bonuses. Goldman Sachs failed to tell clients how it put together the born-to-lose toxic mortgage deals it was selling. What's more, many of these companies had corporate chieftains whose actions cost investors billions — from AIG derivatives chief Joe Cassano, who assured investors they would not lose even "one dollar" just months before his unit imploded, to the $263 million in compensation that former Lehman chief Dick "The Gorilla" Fuld conveniently failed to disclose. Yet not one of them has faced time behind bars.

Invasion of the Home Snatchers

Instead, federal regulators and prosecutors have let the banks and finance companies that tried to burn the world economy to the ground get off with carefully orchestrated settlements — whitewash jobs that involve the firms paying pathetically small fines without even being required to admit wrongdoing. To add insult to injury, the people who actually committed the crimes almost never pay the fines themselves; banks caught defrauding their shareholders often use shareholder money to foot the tab of justice. "If the allegations in these settlements are true," says Jed Rakoff, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, "it's management buying its way off cheap, from the pockets of their victims."

Taibblog: Commentary on politics and the economy by Matt Taibbi

To understand the significance of this, one has to think carefully about the efficacy of fines as a punishment for a defendant pool that includes the richest people on earth — people who simply get their companies to pay their fines for them. Conversely, one has to consider the powerful deterrent to further wrongdoing that the state is missing by not introducing this particular class of people to the experience of incarceration. "You put Lloyd Blankfein in pound-me-in-the-ass prison for one six-month term, and all this bullshit would stop, all over Wall Street," says a former congressional aide. "That's all it would take. Just once."

But that hasn't happened. Because the entire system set up to monitor and regulate Wall Street is fucked up.

Just ask the people who tried to do the right thing.

Wall Street's Naked Swindle

Here's how regulation of Wall Street is supposed to work. To begin with, there's a semigigantic list of public and quasi-public agencies ostensibly keeping their eyes on the economy, a dense alphabet soup of banking, insurance, S&L, securities and commodities regulators like the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), as well as supposedly "self-regulating organizations" like the New York Stock Exchange. All of these outfits, by law, can at least begin the process of catching and investigating financial criminals, though none of them has prosecutorial power.

The major federal agency on the Wall Street beat is the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC watches for violations like insider trading, and also deals with so-called "disclosure violations" — i.e., making sure that all the financial information that publicly traded companies are required to make public actually jibes with reality. But the SEC doesn't have prosecutorial power either, so in practice, when it looks like someone needs to go to jail, they refer the case to the Justice Department. And since the vast majority of crimes in the financial services industry take place in Lower Manhattan, cases referred by the SEC often end up in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Thus, the two top cops on Wall Street are generally considered to be that U.S. attorney — a job that has been held by thunderous prosecutorial personae like Robert Morgenthau and Rudy Giuliani — and the SEC's director of enforcement.

The relationship between the SEC and the DOJ is necessarily close, even symbiotic. Since financial crime-fighting requires a high degree of financial expertise — and since the typical drug-and-terrorism-obsessed FBI agent can't balance his own checkbook, let alone tell a synthetic CDO from a credit default swap — the Justice Department ends up leaning heavily on the SEC's army of 1,100 number-crunching investigators to make their cases. In theory, it's a well-oiled, tag-team affair: Billionaire Wall Street Asshole commits fraud, the NYSE catches on and tips off the SEC, the SEC works the case and delivers it to Justice, and Justice perp-walks the Asshole out of Nobu, into a Crown Victoria and off to 36 months of push-ups, license-plate making and Salisbury steak.

That's the way it's supposed to work. But a veritable mountain of evidence indicates that when it comes to Wall Street, the justice system not only sucks at punishing financial criminals, it has actually evolved into a highly effective mechanism for protecting financial criminals. This institutional reality has absolutely nothing to do with politics or ideology — it takes place no matter who's in office or which party's in power. To understand how the machinery functions, you have to start back at least a decade ago, as case after case of financial malfeasance was pursued too slowly or not at all, fumbled by a government bureaucracy that too often is on a first-name basis with its targets. Indeed, the shocking pattern of nonenforcement with regard to Wall Street is so deeply ingrained in Washington that it raises a profound and difficult question about the very nature of our society: whether we have created a class of people whose misdeeds are no longer perceived as crimes, almost no matter what those misdeeds are. The SEC and the Justice Department have evolved into a bizarre species of social surgeon serving this nonjailable class, expert not at administering punishment and justice, but at finding and removing criminal responsibility from the bodies of the accused.

The systematic lack of regulation has left even the country's top regulators frustrated. Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant for the SEC, laughs darkly at the idea that the criminal justice system is broken when it comes to Wall Street. "I think you've got a wrong assumption — that we even have a law-enforcement agency when it comes to Wall Street," he says.

In the hierarchy of the SEC, the chief accountant plays a major role in working to pursue misleading and phony financial disclosures. Turner held the post a decade ago, when one of the most significant cases was swallowed up by the SEC bureaucracy. In the late 1990s, the agency had an open-and-shut case against the Rite Aid drugstore chain, which was using diabolical accounting tricks to cook their books. But instead of moving swiftly to crack down on such scams, the SEC shoved the case into the "deal with it later" file. >The Philadelphia office literally did nothing with the case for a year," Turner recalls. "Very much like the New York office with Madoff." The Rite Aid case dragged on for years — and by the time it was finished, similar accounting fiascoes at Enron and WorldCom had exploded into a full-blown financial crisis. The same was true for another SEC case that presaged the Enron disaster. The agency knew that appliance-maker Sunbeam was using the same kind of accounting scams to systematically hide losses from its investors. But in the end, the SEC's punishment for Sunbeam's CEO, Al "Chainsaw" Dunlap — widely regarded as one of the biggest assholes in the history of American finance — was a fine of $500,000. Dunlap's net worth at the time was an estimated $100 million. The SEC also barred Dunlap from ever running a public company again — forcing him to retire with a mere $99.5 million. Dunlap passed the time collecting royalties from his self-congratulatory memoir. Its title: Mean Business.

The pattern of inaction toward shady deals on Wall Street grew worse and worse after Turner left, with one slam-dunk case after another either languishing for years or disappearing altogether. Perhaps the most notorious example involved Gary Aguirre, an SEC investigator who was literally fired after he questioned the agency's failure to pursue an insider-trading case against John Mack, now the chairman of Morgan Stanley and one of America's most powerful bankers.

Aguirre joined the SEC in September 2004. Two days into his career as a financial investigator, he was asked to look into an insider-trading complaint against a hedge-fund megastar named Art Samberg. One day, with no advance research or discussion, Samberg had suddenly started buying up huge quantities of shares in a firm called Heller Financial. "It was as if Art Samberg woke up one morning and a voice from the heavens told him to start buying Heller," Aguirre recalls. "And he wasn't just buying shares — there were some days when he was trying to buy three times as many shares as were being traded that day." A few weeks later, Heller was bought by General Electric — and Samberg pocketed $18 million.

After some digging, Aguirre found himself focusing on one suspect as the likely source who had tipped Samberg off: John Mack, a close friend of Samberg's who had just stepped down as president of Morgan Stanley. At the time, Mack had been on Samberg's case to cut him into a deal involving a spinoff of the tech company Lucent — an investment that stood to make Mack a lot of money. "Mack is busting my chops" to give him a piece of the action, Samberg told an employee in an e-mail.

A week later, Mack flew to Switzerland to interview for a top job at Credit Suisse First Boston. Among the investment bank's clients, as it happened, was a firm called Heller Financial. We don't know for sure what Mack learned on his Swiss trip; years later, Mack would claim that he had thrown away his notes about the meetings. But we do know that as soon as Mack returned from the trip, on a Friday, he called up his buddy Samberg. The very next morning, Mack was cut into the Lucent deal — a favor that netted him more than $10 million. And as soon as the market reopened after the weekend, Samberg started buying every Heller share in sight, right before it was snapped up by GE — a suspiciously timed move that earned him the equivalent of Derek Jeter's annual salary for just a few minutes of work.

The deal looked like a classic case of insider trading. But in the summer of 2005, when Aguirre told his boss he planned to interview Mack, things started getting weird. His boss told him the case wasn't likely to fly, explaining that Mack had "powerful political connections." (The investment banker had been a fundraising "Ranger" for George Bush in 2004, and would go on to be a key backer of Hillary Clinton in 2008.)

Aguirre also started to feel pressure from Morgan Stanley, which was in the process of trying to rehire Mack as CEO. At first, Aguirre was contacted by the bank's regulatory liaison, Eric Dinallo, a former top aide to Eliot Spitzer. But it didn't take long for Morgan Stanley to work its way up the SEC chain of command. Within three days, another of the firm's lawyers, Mary Jo White, was on the phone with the SEC's director of enforcement. In a shocking move that was later singled out by Senate investigators, the director actually appeared to reassure White, dismissing the case against Mack as "smoke" rather than "fire." White, incidentally, was herself the former U.S. attorney of the Southern District of New York — one of the top cops on Wall Street.

Pause for a minute to take this in. Aguirre, an SEC foot soldier, is trying to interview a major Wall Street executive — not handcuff the guy or impound his yacht, mind you, just talk to him. In the course of doing so, he finds out that his target's firm is being represented not only by Eliot Spitzer's former top aide, but by the former U.S. attorney overseeing Wall Street, who is going four levels over his head to speak directly to the chief of the SEC's enforcement division — not Aguirre's boss, but his boss's boss's boss's boss. Mack himself, meanwhile, was being represented by Gary Lynch, a former SEC director of enforcement.

Aguirre didn't stand a chance. A month after he complained to his supervisors that he was being blocked from interviewing Mack, he was summarily fired, without notice. The case against Mack was immediately dropped: all depositions canceled, no further subpoenas issued. it all happened so fast, I needed a seat belt," recalls Aguirre, who had just received a stellar performance review from his bosses. The SEC eventually paid Aguirre a settlement of $755,000 for wrongful dismissal.

Rather than going after Mack, the SEC started looking for someone else to blame for tipping off Samberg. (It was, Aguirre quips, "O.J.'s search for the real killers.") It wasn't until a year later that the agency finally got around to interviewing Mack, who denied any wrongdoing. The four-hour deposition took place on August 1st, 2006 — just days after the five-year statute of limitations on insider trading had expired in the case.

"At best, the picture shows extraordinarily lax enforcement by the SEC," Senate investigators would later conclude. "At worse, the picture is colored with overtones of a possible cover-up."

Episodes like this help explain why so many Wall Street executives felt emboldened to push the regulatory envelope during the mid-2000s. Over and over, even the most obvious cases of fraud and insider dealing got gummed up in the works, and high-ranking executives were almost never prosecuted for their crimes. In 2003, Freddie Mac coughed up $125 million after it was caught misreporting its earnings by $5 billion; nobody went to jail. In 2006, Fannie Mae was fined $400 million, but executives who had overseen phony accounting techniques to jack up their bonuses faced no criminal charges. That same year, AIG paid $1.6 billion after it was caught in a major accounting scandal that would indirectly lead to its collapse two years later, but no executives at the insurance giant were prosecuted.

All of this behavior set the stage for the crash of 2008, when Wall Street exploded in a raging Dresden of fraud and criminality. Yet the SEC and the Justice Department have shown almost no inclination to prosecute those most responsible for the catastrophe — even though they had insiders from the two firms whose implosions triggered the crisis, Lehman Brothers and AIG, who were more than willing to supply evidence against top executives.

In the case of Lehman Brothers, the SEC had a chance six months before the crash to move against Dick Fuld, a man recently named the worst CEO of all time by Portfolio magazine. A decade before the crash, a Lehman lawyer named Oliver Budde was going through the bank's proxy statements and noticed that it was using a loophole involving Restricted Stock Units to hide tens of millions of dollars of Fuld's compensation. Budde told his bosses that Lehman's use of RSUs was dicey at best, but they blew him off. "We're sorry about your concerns," they told him, "but we're doing it." Disturbed by such shady practices, the lawyer quit the firm in 2006.

Then, only a few months after Budde left Lehman, the SEC changed its rules to force companies to disclose exactly how much compensation in RSUs executives had coming to them. "The SEC was basically like, 'We're sick and tired of you people fucking around — we want a picture of what you're holding,'" Budde says. But instead of coming clean about eight separate RSUs that Fuld had hidden from investors, Lehman filed a proxy statement that was a masterpiece of cynical lawyering. On one page, a chart indicated that Fuld had been awarded $146 million in RSUs. But two pages later, a note in the fine print essentially stated that the chart did not contain the real number — which, it failed to mention, was actually $263 million more than the chart indicated. "They fucked around even more than they did before," Budde says. (The law firm that helped craft the fine print, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, would later receive a lucrative federal contract to serve as legal adviser to the TARP bailout.)

Budde decided to come forward. In April 2008, he wrote a detailed memo to the SEC about Lehman's history of hidden stocks. Shortly thereafter, he got a letter back that began, "Dear Sir or Madam." It was an automated e-response.

"They blew me off," Budde says.

Over the course of that summer, Budde tried to contact the SEC several more times, and was ignored each time. Finally, in the fateful week of September 15th, 2008, when Lehman Brothers cracked under the weight of its reckless bets on the subprime market and went into its final death spiral, Budde became seriously concerned. If the government tried to arrange for Lehman to be pawned off on another Wall Street firm, as it had done with Bear Stearns, the U.S. taxpayer might wind up footing the bill for a company with hundreds of millions of dollars in concealed compensation. So Budde again called the SEC, right in the middle of the crisis. "Look," he told regulators. "I gave you huge stuff. You really want to take a look at this."

But the feds once again blew him off. A young staff attorney contacted Budde, who once more provided the SEC with copies of all his memos. He never heard from the agency again.

"This was like a mini-Madoff," Budde says. "They had six solid months of warnings. They could have done something." Three weeks later, Budde was shocked to see Fuld testifying before the House Government Oversight Committee and whining about how poor he was. "I got no severance, no golden parachute," Fuld moaned. When Rep. Henry Waxman, the committee's chairman, mentioned that he thought Fuld had earned more than $480 million, Fuld corrected him and said he believed it was only $310 million.

The true number, Budde calculated, was $529 million. He contacted a Senate investigator to talk about how Fuld had misled Congress, but he never got any response. Meanwhile, in a demonstration of the government's priorities, the Justice Department is proceeding full force with a prosecution of retired baseball player Roger Clemens for lying to Congress about getting a shot of steroids in his ass. "At least Roger didn't screw over the world," Budde says, shaking his head. Fuld has denied any wrongdoing, but his hidden compensation was only a ripple in Lehman's raging tsunami of misdeeds. The investment bank used an absurd accounting trick called "Repo 105" transactions to conceal $50 billion in loans on the firm's balance sheet. (That's $50 billion, not million.) But more than a year after the use of the Repo 105s came to light, there have still been no indictments in the affair. While it's possible that charges may yet be filed, there are now rumors that the SEC and the Justice Department may take no action against Lehman. If that's true, and there's no prosecution in a case where there's such overwhelming evidence — and where the company is already dead, meaning it can't dump further losses on investors or taxpayers — then it might be time to assume the game is up. Failing to prosecute Fuld and Lehman would be tantamount to the state marching into Wall Street and waving the green flag on a new stealing season.

The most amazing noncase in the entire crash — the one that truly defies the most basic notion of justice when it comes to Wall Street supervillains — is the one involving AIG and Joe Cassano, the nebbishy Patient Zero of the financial crisis. As chief of AIGFP, the firm's financial products subsidiary, Cassano repeatedly made public statements in 2007 claiming that his portfolio of mortgage derivatives would suffer "no dollar of loss" — an almost comically obvious misrepresentation. "God couldn't manage a $60 billion real estate portfolio without a single dollar of loss," says Turner, the agency's former chief accountant. "If the SEC can't make a disclosure case against AIG, then they might as well close up shop."

As in the Lehman case, federal prosecutors not only had plenty of evidence against AIG — they also had an eyewitness to Cassano's actions who was prepared to tell all. As an accountant at AIGFP, Joseph St. Denis had a number of run-ins with Cassano during the summer of 2007. At the time, Cassano had already made nearly $500 billion worth of derivative bets that would ultimately blow up, destroy the world's largest insurance company, and trigger the largest government bailout of a single company in U.S. history. He made many fatal mistakes, but chief among them was engaging in contracts that required AIG to post billions of dollars in collateral if there was any downgrade to its credit rating.

St. Denis didn't know about those clauses in Cassano's contracts, since they had been written before he joined the firm. What he did know was that Cassano freaked out when St. Denis spoke with an accountant at the parent company, which was only just finding out about the time bomb Cassano had set. After St. Denis finished a conference call with the executive, Cassano suddenly burst into the room and began screaming at him for talking to the New York office. He then announced that St. Denis had been "deliberately excluded" from any valuations of the most toxic elements of the derivatives portfolio — thus preventing the accountant from doing his job. What St. Denis represented was transparency — and the last thing Cassano needed was transparency.

Another clue that something was amiss with AIGFP's portfolio came when Goldman Sachs demanded that the firm pay billions in collateral, per the terms of Cassano's deadly contracts. Such "collateral calls" happen all the time on Wall Street, but seldom against a seemingly solvent and friendly business partner like AIG. And when they do happen, they are rarely paid without a fight. So St. Denis was shocked when AIGFP agreed to fork over gobs of money to Goldman Sachs, even while it was still contesting the payments — an indication that something was seriously wrong at AIG. "When I found out about the collateral call, I literally had to sit down," St. Denis recalls. "I had to go home for the day."

After Cassano barred him from valuating the derivative deals, St. Denis had no choice but to resign. He got another job, and thought he was done with AIG. But a few months later, he learned that Cassano had held a conference call with investors in December 2007. During the call, AIGFP failed to disclose that it had posted $2 billion to Goldman Sachs following the collateral calls.

"Investors therefore did not know," the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission would later conclude, "that AIG's earnings were overstated by $3.6 billion."

"I remember thinking, 'Wow, they're just not telling people,'" St. Denis says. "I knew. I had been there. I knew they'd posted collateral." A year later, after the crash, St. Denis wrote a letter about his experiences to the House Government Oversight Committee, which was looking into the AIG collapse. He also met with investigators for the government, which was preparing a criminal case against Cassano. But the case never went to court. Last May, the Justice Department confirmed that it would not file charges against executives at AIGFP. Cassano, who has denied any wrongdoing, was reportedly told he was no longer a target.

Shortly after that, Cassano strolled into Washington to testify before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. It was his first public appearance since the crash. He has not had to pay back a single cent out of the hundreds of millions of dollars he earned selling his insane pseudo-insurance policies on subprime mortgage deals. Now, out from under prosecution, he appeared before the FCIC and had the enormous balls to compliment his own business acumen, saying his atom-bomb swaps portfolio was, in retrospect, not that badly constructed. "I think the portfolios are withstanding the test of time," he said.

"They offered him an excellent opportunity to redeem himself," St. Denis jokes.

In the end, of course, it wasn't just the executives of Lehman and AIGFP who got passes. Virtually every one of the major players on Wall Street was similarly embroiled in scandal, yet their executives skated off into the sunset, uncharged and unfined. Goldman Sachs paid $550 million last year when it was caught defrauding investors with crappy mortgages, but no executive has been fined or jailed — not even Fabrice "Fabulous Fab" Tourre, Goldman's outrageous Euro-douche who gleefully e-mailed a pal about the "surreal" transactions in the middle of a meeting with the firm's victims. In a similar case, a sales executive at the German powerhouse Deutsche Bank got off on charges of insider trading; its general counsel at the time of the questionable deals, Robert Khuzami, now serves as director of enforcement for the SEC.

Another major firm, Bank of America, was caught hiding $5.8 billion in bonuses from shareholders as part of its takeover of Merrill Lynch. The SEC tried to let the bank off with a settlement of only $33 million, but Judge Jed Rakoff rejected the action as a "facade of enforcement." So the SEC quintupled the settlement — but it didn't require either Merrill or Bank of America to admit to wrongdoing. Unlike criminal trials, in which the facts of the crime are put on record for all to see, these Wall Street settlements almost never require the banks to make any factual disclosures, effectively burying the stories forever. "All this is done at the expense not only of the shareholders, but also of the truth," says Rakoff. Goldman, Deutsche, Merrill, Lehman, Bank of America ... who did we leave out? Oh, there's Citigroup, nailed for hiding some $40 billion in liabilities from investors. Last July, the SEC settled with Citi for $75 million. In a rare move, it also fined two Citi executives, former CFO Gary Crittenden and investor-relations chief Arthur Tildesley Jr. Their penalties, combined, came to a whopping $180,000.

Throughout the entire crisis, in fact, the government has taken exactly one serious swing of the bat against executives from a major bank, charging two guys from Bear Stearns with criminal fraud over a pair of toxic subprime hedge funds that blew up in 2007, destroying the company and robbing investors of $1.6 billion. Jurors had an e-mail between the defendants admitting that "there is simply no way for us to make money — ever" just three days before assuring investors that "there's no basis for thinking this is one big disaster." Yet the case still somehow ended in acquittal — and the Justice Department hasn't taken any of the big banks to court since.

All of which raises an obvious question: Why the hell not?

Gary Aguirre, the SEC investigator who lost his job when he drew the ire of Morgan Stanley, thinks he knows the answer.

Last year, Aguirre noticed that a conference on financial law enforcement was scheduled to be held at the Hilton in New York on November 12th. The list of attendees included 1,500 or so of the country's leading lawyers who represent Wall Street, as well as some of the government's top cops from both the SEC and the Justice Department.

Criminal justice, as it pertains to the Goldmans and Morgan Stanleys of the world, is not adversarial combat, with cops and crooks duking it out in interrogation rooms and courthouses. Instead, it's a cocktail party between friends and colleagues who from month to month and year to year are constantly switching sides and trading hats. At the Hilton conference, regulators and banker-lawyers rubbed elbows during a series of speeches and panel discussions, away from the rabble. "They were chummier in that environment," says Aguirre, who plunked down $2,200 to attend the conference.

Aguirre saw a lot of familiar faces at the conference, for a simple reason: Many of the SEC regulators he had worked with during his failed attempt to investigate John Mack had made a million-dollar pass through the Revolving Door, going to work for the very same firms they used to police. Aguirre didn't see Paul Berger, an associate director of enforcement who had rebuffed his attempts to interview Mack — maybe because Berger was tied up at his lucrative new job at Debevoise & Plimpton, the same law firm that Morgan Stanley employed to intervene in the Mack case. But he did see Mary Jo White, the former U.S. attorney, who was still at Debevoise & Plimpton. He also saw Linda Thomsen, the former SEC director of enforcement who had been so helpful to White. Thomsen had gone on to represent Wall Street as a partner at the prestigious firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell.

Two of the government's top cops were there as well: Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Robert Khuzami, the SEC's current director of enforcement. Bharara had been recommended for his post by Chuck Schumer, Wall Street's favorite senator. And both he and Khuzami had served with Mary Jo White at the U.S. attorney's office, before Mary Jo went on to become a partner at Debevoise. What's more, when Khuzami had served as general counsel for Deutsche Bank, he had been hired by none other than Dick Walker, who had been enforcement director at the SEC when it slow-rolled the pivotal fraud case against Rite Aid.

"It wasn't just one rotation of the revolving door," says Aguirre. "It just kept spinning. Every single person had rotated in and out of government and private service."

The Revolving Door isn't just a footnote in financial law enforcement; over the past decade, more than a dozen high-ranking SEC officials have gone on to lucrative jobs at Wall Street banks or white-shoe law firms, where partnerships are worth millions. That makes SEC officials like Paul Berger and Linda Thomsen the equivalent of college basketball stars waiting for their first NBA contract. Are you really going to give up a shot at the Knicks or the Lakers just to find out whether a Wall Street big shot like John Mack was guilty of insider trading? "You take one of these jobs," says Turner, the former chief accountant for the SEC, "and you're fit for life."

Fit — and happy. The banter between the speakers at the New York conference says everything you need to know about the level of chumminess and mutual admiration that exists between these supposed adversaries of the justice system. At one point in the conference, Mary Jo White introduced Bharara, her old pal from the U.S. attorney's office.

"I want to first say how pleased I am to be here," Bharara responded. Then, addressing White, he added, "You've spawned all of us. It's almost 11 years ago to the day that Mary Jo White called me and asked me if I would become an assistant U.S. attorney. So thank you, Dr. Frankenstein."

Next, addressing the crowd of high-priced lawyers from Wall Street, Bharara made an interesting joke. "I also want to take a moment to applaud the entire staff of the SEC for the really amazing things they have done over the past year," he said. "They've done a real service to the country, to the financial community, and not to mention a lot of your law practices."

Haw! The line drew snickers from the conference of millionaire lawyers. But the real fireworks came when Khuzami, the SEC's director of enforcement, talked about a new "cooperation initiative" the agency had recently unveiled, in which executives are being offered incentives to report fraud they have witnessed or committed. From now on, Khuzami said, when corporate lawyers like the ones he was addressing want to know if their Wall Street clients are going to be charged by the Justice Department before deciding whether to come forward, all they have to do is ask the SEC.

"We are going to try to get those individuals answers," Khuzami announced, as to "whether or not there is criminal interest in the case — so that defense counsel can have as much information as possible in deciding whether or not to choose to sign up their client."

Aguirre, listening in the crowd, couldn't believe Khuzami's brazenness. The SEC's enforcement director was saying, in essence, that firms like Goldman Sachs and AIG and Lehman Brothers will henceforth be able to get the SEC to act as a middleman between them and the Justice Department, negotiating fines as a way out of jail time. Khuzami was basically outlining a four-step system for banks and their executives to buy their way out of prison. "First, the SEC and Wall Street player make an agreement on a fine that the player will pay to the SEC," Aguirre says. "Then the Justice Department commits itself to pass, so that the player knows he's 'safe.' Third, the player pays the SEC — and fourth, the player gets a pass from the Justice Department."

When I ask a former federal prosecutor about the propriety of a sitting SEC director of enforcement talking out loud about helping corporate defendants "get answers" regarding the status of their criminal cases, he initially doesn't believe it. Then I send him a transcript of the comment. "I am very, very surprised by Khuzami's statement, which does seem to me to be contrary to past practice — and not a good thing," the former prosecutor says.

Earlier this month, when Sen. Chuck Grassley found out about Khuzami's comments, he sent the SEC a letter noting that the agency's own enforcement manual not only prohibits such "answer getting," it even bars the SEC from giving defendants the Justice Department's phone number. "Should counsel or the individual ask which criminal authorities they should contact," the manual reads, "staff should decline to answer, unless authorized by the relevant criminal authorities." Both the SEC and the Justice Department deny there is anything improper in their new policy of cooperation. "We collaborate with the SEC, but they do not consult with us when they resolve their cases," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer assured Congress in January. "They do that independently."

Around the same time that Breuer was testifying, however, a story broke that prior to the pathetically small settlement of $75 million that the SEC had arranged with Citigroup, Khuzami had ordered his staff to pursue lighter charges against the megabank's executives. According to a letter that was sent to Sen. Grassley's office, Khuzami had a "secret conversation, without telling the staff, with a prominent defense lawyer who is a good friend" of his and "who was counsel for the company." The unsigned letter, which appears to have come from an SEC investigator on the case, prompted the inspector general to launch an investigation into the charge.

All of this paints a disturbing picture of a closed and corrupt system, a timeless circle of friends that virtually guarantees a collegial approach to the policing of high finance. Even before the corruption starts, the state is crippled by economic reality: Since law enforcement on Wall Street requires serious intellectual firepower, the banks seize a huge advantage from the start by hiring away the top talent. Budde, the former Lehman lawyer, says it's well known that all the best legal minds go to the big corporate law firms, while the "bottom 20 percent go to the SEC." Which makes it tough for the agency to track devious legal machinations, like the scheme to hide $263 million of Dick Fuld's compensation.

"It's such a mismatch, it's not even funny," Budde says.

But even beyond that, the system is skewed by the irrepressible pull of riches and power. If talent rises in the SEC or the Justice Department, it sooner or later jumps ship for those fat NBA contracts. Or, conversely, graduates of the big corporate firms take sabbaticals from their rich lifestyles to slum it in government service for a year or two. Many of those appointments are inevitably hand-picked by lifelong stooges for Wall Street like Chuck Schumer, who has accepted $14.6 million in campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other major players in the finance industry, along with their corporate lawyers.

As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, his new chief of staff. "The betrayal that this represents by Obama to everybody is just — we're not ready to believe it," says Budde, a classmate of the president from their Columbia days. "He's really fucking us over like that? Really? That's really a JP Morgan guy, really?"

Which is not to say that the Obama era has meant an end to law enforcement. On the contrary: In the past few years, the administration has allocated massive amounts of federal resources to catching wrongdoers — of a certain type. Last year, the government deported 393,000 people, at a cost of $5 billion. Since 2007, felony immigration prosecutions along the Mexican border have surged 77 percent; nonfelony prosecutions by 259 percent. In Ohio last month, a single mother was caught lying about where she lived to put her kids into a better school district; the judge in the case tried to sentence her to 10 days in jail for fraud, declaring that letting her go free would "demean the seriousness" of the offenses.

So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000. Lying moms: one. Bankers: zero. The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players. But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It's not a crime. Prison is too harsh. Get them to say they're sorry, and move on. Oh, wait — let's not even make them say they're sorry. That's too mean; let's just give them a piece of paper with a government stamp on it, officially clearing them of the need to apologize, and make them pay a fine instead. But don't make them pay it out of their own pockets, and don't ask them to give back the money they stole. In fact, let them profit from their collective crimes, to the tune of a record $135 billion in pay and benefits last year. What's next? Taxpayer-funded massages for every Wall Street executive guilty of fraud?

The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don't feel real; you don't see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They're crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let's steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy. They're attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone's claims of ownership equally. When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality.
© 2011 Matt Taibbi

The Genie Is Out Of The Bottle
By Uri Avnery

THIS IS a story right out of “1001 Nights”. The genie escaped from the bottle, and no power on earth can put it back.

When it happened in Tunisia, it could have been said: OK, an Arab country, but a minor one. It was always a bit more progressive than the others. Just an isolated incident.

And then it happened in Egypt. A pivotal country. The heart of the Arab world. The spiritual center of Sunni Islam. But it could have been said: Egypt is a special case. The land of the Pharaohs. Thousands of years of history before the Arabs even got there.

But now it has spread all over the Arab world. To Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen. Jordan, Libya, even Morocco. And to non-Arab, non-Sunni Iran, too.

The genie of revolution, of renewal, of rejuvenation, is now haunting all the regimes in the Region. The inhabitants of the “Villa in the Jungle” are liable to wake up one morning and discover that the jungle is gone, that we are surrounded by a new landscape.

WHEN OUR Zionist fathers decided to set up a safe haven in Palestine, they had the choice between two options:

They could appear in West Asia as European conquerors, who see themselves as a bridgehead of the “white” man and as masters of the “natives”, like the Spanish conquistadores and the Anglo-Saxon colonialists in America. That is what the crusaders did in their time.

The second way was to see themselves as an Asian people returning to their homeland, the heirs to the political and cultural traditions of the Semitic world, ready to take part, with the other peoples of the region, in the war of liberation from European exploitation.

I wrote these words 64 years ago, in a brochure that appeared just two months before the outbreak of the 1948 war.

I stand by these words today.

These days I have a growing feeling that we are once again standing at a historic crossroads. The direction we choose in the coming days will determine the destiny of the State of Israel for years to come, perhaps irreversibly. If we choose the wrong road, we will have “weeping for generations,” as the Hebrew saying goes.

And perhaps the greatest danger is that we make no choice at all, that we are not even aware of the need to make a decision, that we just continue on the road that has brought us to where we are today. That we are occupied with trivialities – the battle between the Minister of Defense and the departing Chief of Staff, the struggle between Netanyahu and Lieberman about the appointment of an ambassador, the non-events of “Big Brother” and similar TV inanities – that we do not even notice that history is passing us by, leaving us behind.

WHEN OUR politicians and pundits found enough time – amid all the daily distractions – to deal with the events around us, it was in the old and (sadly) familiar way.

Even in the few halfway intelligent talk shows, there was much hilarity about the idea that “Arabs” could establish democracies. Learned professors and media commentators “proved” that such a thing just could not happen – Islam was “by nature” anti-democratic and backward, Arab societies lacked the Protestant Christian ethic necessary for democracy, or the capitalist foundations for a sound middle class, etc. At best, one kind of despotism would be replaced by another.

The most common conclusion was that democratic elections would inevitably lead to the victory of “Islamist” fanatics, who would set up brutal Taliban-style theocracies, or worse.

Part of this, of course, is deliberate propaganda, designed to convince the naïve Americans and Europeans that they must shore up the Mubaraks of the region or alternative military strongmen. But most of it was quite sincere: most Israelis really believe that the Arabs, left to their own devices, will set up murderous “Islamist” regimes, whose main aim would be to wipe Israel off the map.

Ordinary Israelis know next to nothing about Islam and the Arab world. As a (left-wing) Israeli general answered 65 years ago, when asked how he viewed the Arab world: “though the sights of my rifle.” Everything is reduced to “security,” and insecurity prevents, of course, any serious reflection.

THIS ATTITUDE goes back to the beginnings of the Zionist movement.

Its founder – Theodor Herzl – famously wrote in his historic treatise that the future Jewish State would constitute “a part of the wall of civilization” against Asiatic (meaning Arab) barbarism. Herzl admired Cecil Rhodes, the standard-bearer of British imperialism, He and his followers shared the cultural attitude then common in Europe, which Eduard Said latter labeled “Orientalism.”

Viewed in retrospect, that was perhaps natural, considering that the Zionist movement was born in Europe towards the end of the imperialist era, and that it was planning to create a Jewish homeland in a country in which another people – an Arab people – was living.

The tragedy is that this attitude has not changed in 120 years, and that it is stronger today than ever. Those of us who propose a different course – and there have always been some – remain voices in the wilderness.

This is evident these days in the Israeli attitude to the events shaking the Arab world and beyond. Among ordinary Israelis, there was quite a lot of spontaneous sympathy for the Egyptians confronting their tormentors in Tahrir Square - but everything was viewed from the outside, from afar, as if it were happening on the moon.

The only practical question raised was: will the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty hold? Or do we need to raise new army divisions for a possible war with Egypt? When almost all “security experts” assured us that the treaty was safe, people lost interest in the whole matter.

BUT THE treaty – actually an armistice between regimes and armies – should only be of secondary concern for us. The most important question is: how will the new Arab world look? Will the transition to democracy be relatively smooth and peaceful, or not? Will it happen at all, and will it mean that a more radical Islamic region emerges - which is a distinct possibility? Can we have any influence on the course of events?

Of course, none of today’s Arab movements is eager for an Israeli embrace. It would be a bear hug. Israel is viewed today by practically all Arabs as a colonialist, anti-Arab state that oppresses the Palestinians and is out to dispossess as many Arabs as possible – though there is, I believe, also a lot of silent admiration for Israel’s technological and other achievements.

But when entire peoples rise up and revolution upsets all entrenched attitudes, there is the possibility of changing old ideas. If Israeli political and intellectual leaders were to stand up today and openly declare their solidarity with the Arab masses in their struggle for freedom, justice and dignity, they could plant a seed that would bear fruit in coming years.

Of course, such statements must really come from the heart. As a superficial political ploy, they would be rightly despised. They must be accompanied by a profound change in our attitude towards the Palestinian people. That’s why peace with the Palestinians now, at once, is a vital necessity for Israel.

Our future is not with Europe or America. Our future is in this region, to which our state belongs, for better or for worse. It’s not just our policies that must change, but our basic outlook, our geographical orientation. We must understand that we are not a bridgehead from somewhere distant, but a part of a region that is now – at long last – joining the human march towards freedom.

The Arab Awakening is not a matter of months or a few years. It may well be a prolonged struggle, with many failures and defeats, but the genie will not return to the bottle. The images of the 18 days in Tahrir Square will be kept alive in the hearts of an entire new generation from Marakksh to Mosul, and any new dictatorship that emerges here or there will not be able to erase them.

In my fondest dreams I could not imagine a wiser and more attractive course for us Israelis, than to join this march in body and spirit.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Submerged State
How to understand Barack Obama's decision to mimic Ronald Reagan's anti-government posture
By David Sirota

The Great Paradox -- that is what future generations will likely call this era, and rightly so. Our children’s children will look back and see that just a few years after the deregulatory agenda of anti-government ideologues resulted in a horrific recession, American politics somehow became even more dominated by anti-government zealotry than ever before.

Logic-wise, the situation seems to make about as much sense as the alcoholic drinking more to cure his addiction. Politics, though, is no longer even mildly related to logic. It’s all about perception. And with so many media outlets using scare and scandal to chase audience share, "government" is now presented in almost exclusively headline-grabbing -- and therefore negative -- terms. Think: wasteful bank bailouts, never-ending wars, outrageous sexual escapades and any other government-themed stories that entice you to read, listen, watch, click and loathe.

The dynamic, of course, has disconnected the "government" brand from what Cornell University professor Suzanne Mettler calls the "submerged state" -- i.e., the government services that we like but that we don't notice. We're talking about noncontroversial stuff like picking up trash, putting out fires, paving roads and paying out earned benefits. When those functions are performed properly, they rarely receive recognition as government successes because, by definition, performing them properly means being fast, efficient and thus almost invisible.

Mettler's upcoming book details exactly how the twin phenomena of sensationalism and submergence have conspired to sow mass cognitive dissonance. Citing findings from her nationwide survey, she shows that while most Americans conceptually support submerged-state pillars like federal education tax credits, student loans and mortgage interest subsidies, a majority of those benefits' recipients nonetheless tell pollsters they "have not used a government social program."

Certainly, some of that comes from the same ignoramuses who tell their congressional representatives to "keep your government hands off my Medicare." And some of it represents the willful dishonesty of self-professed conservatives who are too embarrassed to admit they utilize the government programs they purport to detest. However, the data also suggest that because so many submerged-state policies are successful and inconspicuous, we have come to reflexively define "government" as only those spectacular failures that fill the evening news.

This selective psychological framing goes a long way toward explaining the Great Paradox -- and Mettler’s study suggests that paradox will likely intensify in the age of Obama.

As her book shows, Americans become more supportive of government after using "visible social programs," but they do not become more supportive of government after using submerged-state programs. Again, that's because many don't recognize they are interfacing with government -- a problem exacerbated by a president who hasn't reminded America of government's worth.

Indeed, upon taking office, Barack Obama decided first to shun his explicitly pro-government campaign platform and then to mimic Ronald Reagan's anti-government posture. Rather than champion those "visible social programs" like a public healthcare option or a new Works Progress Administration that might broadcast government's intrinsic value, he merely pushed to expand the submerged state with initiatives like private health insurance subsidies and business tax cuts -- and that was before Republicans took control of the House.

Today, the president has abandoned even those weak early efforts. Promoted with the Orwellian oxymoron "cut and invest," his new austerity budget endorses a tax-slashing, government-demonizing competition between the White House and Congress. Instead of seizing a teachable moment and challenging the Great Paradox, he's placing a big bet on it -- a bet that shifts from meekly supporting the submerged state to submerging the state entirely.

Sure, his reelection campaign may benefit from that wager in 2012. But with our public sector so dangerously depleted, America will likely lose big for years to come.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Across The US, GOP Lawmakers Build States Of Denial
By Michael Winship

Forced at gunpoint this weekend to clean out a lot of old paper files in anticipation of some home improvements, I ran across some articles and obituaries I had saved following the death, a little more than five and a half years ago, of the late, great Ann Richards, former governor of Texas.

One of them related the story of how Governor Richards was approached by the ACLU, which was disturbed by the presence of a Christmas crèche on the grounds of the state capitol in Austin. "You know," she replied, "that's probably as close as three wise men will ever get to the Texas Legislature, so why don't we just let them be."

Yet another late, great woman of Texas, journalist Molly Ivins once said of that same august body, "All anyone needs to enjoy the state legislature is a strong stomach and a complete insensitivity to the needs of the people. As long as you don’t think about what that peculiar body should be doing and what it actually is doing to the quality of life in Texas, then it’s all marvelous fun."

This comes to mind in the wake of this week’s release of "Texas on the Brink," a pamphlet published annually by the Texas Legislative Study Group, a group of Democratic state lawmakers. According to their research, much of it corroborated by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Texas Legislative Budget Board, in 2011, "Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation. Texas is dead last in the percentage of residents with their high school diploma and near last in SAT scores. Texas has America’s dirtiest air... Those who value tax cuts over children and budget cuts over college have put Texas at risk in her ability to compete and succeed."

Over the years, such statistics and other damned shenanigans have led many to debate whether Texas is indeed the rightful landlord of the nation’s worst statehouse. As someone with a mother’s Lone Star blood flowing through his otherwise anemic northeastern veins, I write this with no small amount of perverse pride. But in the last couple of weeks a lot of other states have been giving Texans a run for their money.

Last week, the Utah Senate passed a bill that would make the Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol the state’s official firearm. Senate President Michael Waddoups read a letter from a seventh grader praising the bill because the M1911 is used to kill Nazi zombies in the videogame "Call of Duty: Black Ops." Waddoups said the kid is "doing some thinking." You betcha. The Associated Press reported, "The letter closes with the child acknowledging that guns can cause violence when used in a bad way, but guns also show other countries who is the boss." American exceptionalism at its finest.

In Missouri, State Senator Jane Cunningham has introduced a bill that would, in the words of progressive website ThinkProgress, "dramatically claw back" state child labor restrictions, including the prohibition on employment of children under the age of fourteen and regulations on the number of hours a child may work during the day. South Dakota was contemplating -- but just tabled, thank goodness -- a bill that critics feared would expand the definition of justifiable homicide to include the murder of doctors who provide abortions. Idaho’s debating a bill to nullify Obama’s health care reform and in Arizona legislators are sponsoring one that would allow the state to nullify any Federal law it doesn’t particularly care for.

I would ask what’s gotten into them but I think we all know. As noted by Tim Storey, senior fellow of the National Conference of State Legislatures, since the midterm elections, "There are now more Republican state legislators (3,941) than at any point since they held 4,001 seats after the 1928 election... Twenty-two state legislative chambers changed majority control in the 2010 election cycle -- all in the direction of the GOP." Many of the newly elected members were endorsed by Tea Party organizations or have rushed to embrace the Tea Party’s inchoate, right wing agenda as a means to safeguard reelection.

In so doing they have opened a Pandora’s box of legislative mayhem that not only plays to the social conservatism that would return us to the days of Cotton Mather and the ducking stool but which also uses the Tea Partiers’ lust to slash spending as a dodge -- not to balance budgets and eliminate deficits, as they claim, but to further stifle government and other institutions dedicated to the common good.

This is supremely manifest in renewed efforts by governors and statehouses across the country to enact right-to-work laws and restrict wages and benefits for members of public service employee unions.

According to the AFL-CIO, legislators in at least 11 states, including Minnesota, Ohio, New Hampshire and Missouri are proposing anti-union laws that would cut pay and lower standards of living for workers. The labor organization claims,"Instead of creating jobs and solving the problems of middle-class working families, some state politicians are... saying 'Thank you' to the corporate CEOs who financed their 2010 election victories by pushing legislation to cut good jobs, lower wages, threaten job safety and weaken unions." (Full disclosure: I am the president of a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO, albeit a small one that neither endorses candidates nor has a political action committee.)

This push most dramatically has come to a head in Wisconsin where, in the name of austerity, newly elected Republican Governor Scott Walker is attempting to stamp out public workers’ collective bargaining rights. His attack on the unions -- including a threat to call out the National Guard -- has been met by outrage and a mass exodus of Democratic legislators out of the state, thus denying Republicans a quorum at the Wisconsin Senate in Madison. (You may recall that Democrats in Texas pulled a similar ploy in 1979 and 2003 by hiding or going on the lam to nearby states, including Oklahoma and New Mexico. This prompted New Mexico’s then-Attorney General Patricia Madrid, a Democrat, to announce: "I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the lookout for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy.")

Although Governor Walker claims Wisconsin is in desperate financial straits, the state had been coping better than most and, according to Madison’s Capital Times newspaper "has managed so well, in fact, that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus."

The paper editorialized, "To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the 'crisis' would not exist... Unfortunately, Walker has a political agenda that relies on the fantasy that Wisconsin is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy."

It’s all part of that notorious separate reality in which Republicans and the right have taken up seemingly permanent residence. Democrats can hope the other side has overreached. The party will fight to win back the many seats they’ve lost in the states. But then again, as another wise elder of Texas politics once said, if you took all the fools out of the legislature, it would no longer be a representative body.
© 2011 Michael Winship is senior writer at Public Affairs Television in New York City.

The Koch Brothers: What A Sight

Until recently, Charles and David Koch were just a couple of anonymous billionaires. For years they've been financing a vast right-wing network dedicated to establishing a laissez-faire corporate utopia in America, operated in the shadows of politics, thus avoiding public scrutiny.

But – peekaboo, Kochs – we see you now!

Their fortune is derived from Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held corporation in our country and (not coincidentally) an infamous contaminator of our air, water, land and climate. The brothers tout themselves as champions of the "free market" – but by "free," they mean a corporation's freedom to pollute for profit.

It's dirty work they do, but the pay is great. Each of them has $21.5 billion in personal wealth – up $5 billion each in just the last two years. Both brothers are among the ten richest Americans.

Yet, the Kochs are also among the sourest of Americans. Despite taking more than their share of benefits from our great country, they constantly grump about public policies that, as Charles puts it, "threatens to erode our economic freedom." It's all about them, you see – they want to be free of anti-pollution regulations, labor laws, corporate taxes, and other policies that serve the common good. The public be damned.

So, for years, these grumpy billionaires have secretly been financing right-wing candidates and front groups (now including Tea Parties) in a personal crusade to crush government's ability to rein in corporate avarice and arrogance. But as their political network has risen in prominence, the superrich, self-serving brothers are now being exposed to public view – and they're not a pretty sight.

After all, the higher the monkey climbs, the more you see of its ugly side. Better keep your eyes on these two, for they're out to supplant our Democracy with their Plutocracy!
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The New Arab Awakening
By Helen Thomas

Egypt's televised revolt took only 18 days to shake the world, and depose a repressive dictatorship. The political epidemic is contagious and spreading to other parts of the Arab world and North Africa.

It all began in Tunisia and soon galvanized in Egypt where Hosni Mubarak tried to hang on to his 30-year rule.

The exhilaration and celebration of a new freedom in Egypt is shared by all. Well, almost.

Granted, the U.S. had mixed feelings about the liberation of the land of the pharaohs. Equally wary is Israel, even though the temporary Egyptian military rulers have reassured Tel Aviv that Egypt will honor the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

Those temporary military leaders in Cairo have also promised to hold free elections in September. It's a pledge they have to keep now that the people have become familiar with their great power - to hit the streets again.

The high profile of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings is due to the use of new Internet technologies by the youth in those countries. Twitter and Facebook are the 21st-century tools for world change. Despite attempts by President Mubarak to shut the Internet down in Egypt, the word still got around to the multitudes, who were not about to leave the square until Mubarak was brought down.

The Egyptian revolution also was essentially leaderless, and was inspiring for the world to see that tyrants could be overthrown in a non-violent eruption by the angry crowds who poured into Tahrir Square.

Imagine the bloodshed if every Egyptian had the right to carry a gun, as the Supreme Court has so generously allowed Americans. Americans can be armed, even at huge rallies.

Hats off to the Arabs who resisted with shouts, slogans and high fives - which are powerful weapons, it turns out, and that has awed the world.

The restraint of the Arab world's military has also been admirable. It should serve as a warning to would-be leaders among the powerful officer corps of the Middle East that peaceful protest is possible.

Ambitious colonels pulled one coup d'etat after another in the aftermath of World War II, and following the creation of the State of Israel.

They halted a genuine Arab democratic national awakening, making way for the military to take over in Syria, Iraq and other states. Speculation now falls on Algeria and Yemen as the next possible nations to succumb to the protesters on the streets and overthrow their ruthless leaders.

In 1920, much was written about the Arab awakening. The Turkish-ruled Ottoman Empire collapsed. The British and French divided the spoils - Lebanon and Syria came under French control at the behest of the League of Nations.

The world is witnessing a new Arab awakening. The last awakening was aborted by the West with their quest for oil and colonial ambitions. It won't be so easy again with newly empowered people on the ground.

Washington could not quite decide which way to turn. It has always prized stability in far-off lands, too often ignoring the suffering people. It's surprising that there was little anti-Americanism in the massive Egyptian rallies before the fall of President Mubarak.

And that's not all, or the end of the story. The fires of freedom are still raging in the Middle East. Protesters, mostly peaceful so far, are on the move from Yemen to Tehran - and surprisingly even Bahrain, one of the oil-rich Gulf States strongly influenced by the presence of the U.S. Navy.

The Financial Times indicated that the "wildfires" in the Middle East may even take hold in former Kremlin states.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate who formerly headed the U.N. atomic energy commission, observed that when he returned to Cairo last year, people were afraid at the time, and he recalled saying, "deliverance will have to come from the people ... when you have a quarter of a million people in the streets, I will be with you."

There is no question the cry for "freedom" cannot be silenced in the Middle East now. It might be a lesson to U.S. presidents and their representatives - to practice what they preach.

The Arab people now know there is nothing to fear but fear itself.
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

The Sad Truth Behind Ethnic Schism
By James Donahue

There is a mental illness that has been haunting the United States since our nation’s origins. It has been especially noticeable since an extreme Islamic terrorist group was blamed for the 9-11 attacks and voters selected the nation’s first black president. It goes by many names but is generally known as ethnic bigotry.

Currently it is socially unacceptable to be a declared Moslem and the white Republican segment of our elected representatives in Washington do not appear to think President Barack Obama has much to offer as a leader of our nation.

There is nothing wrong with the Moslem Americans. And the only thing wrong with President Obama’s ability to lead is that he and the members of his party appear to be as sold out to big corporate interests as the Republicans are. But the nation is now caught up in racial and ethnic profiling. Unfortunately it is a sickness that has always bubbled just under the surface of the political and social cross section of the nation. It threatens to destroy us all if we don’t collectively get a grip on it.

When I was a kid attending the public school, I remember a history teacher that proudly proclaimed the United States as “the melting pot of the world.” He meant that we were a diverse group of people that migrated from everywhere and that we represented all religious, ethnic and races of the world in a single culture. It was a grand idea, but it was never true.

While the nation was, indeed, a place where people from all over the world gathered to live, we never lived and worked without suffering the bigotry of ethnic schism. Our cities still remain divided between Chinatown, Greektown, the Mexican and Cuban Americans and other ethnic neighborhoods. The Irish were once considered less than equal to other so-called Americans when they first migrated here. The blacks arrived as slaves to the Europeans who came first. Women have had to fight for the right to vote and work with equality alongside the men.

Some of us are old enough to remember the days when Senator Joseph McCarthy led the ugly witch hunt against the Communists that destroyed reputations of honest and productive American citizens. We remember the controversy when President John F. Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic to be elected to that high office. And we lived through the horrors of the American Civil Rights movement, and saw the Ku Klux Klan conduct its own brand of terrorism in the South.

Today the people fear every declared Moslem as a potential terrorist. They are building barriers at the Mexican-U.S. border in a vain effort to keep Mexican migrant workers away from the farm and public service jobs they have filled for years. When we went to war in 1941 we singled Japanese and German immigrants and forced them to live in concentration camps for fear they were not really Americans at heart. And what have we ever gained from this kind of hatred for our fellow man?

Someone recently posted the following statement on an Internet social site. We thought it worth sharing:

“Your car is German. Your vodka is Russian. Your pizza is Italian. Your kebab is Turkish. Your democracy is Greek. Your coffee is Brazilian. Your movies are American. Your tea is Tamil. Your shirt is Indian. Your oil is Saudi Arabian. Your electronics are Chinese. Your numbers are Arabic, your letters Latin but you complain your neighbor is an immigrant?”

There is an old joke that has been well expressed by the political cartoonists. It shows the early Pilgrims arriving off the New England coast. A group of Indians watching from the shore are commenting: “Well, there goes the neighborhood.” While we might laugh at the cartoon, there is a sad understanding that it expresses a truth many Americans might not wish to admit.

We have forgotten that we are all the immigrants on American soil. The true natives are, indeed, the tribal peoples who lived here before the Europeans ever arrived. This may also include the Mexican people, many of whom may be direct descendants of the Aztec, Mayan, Inca and the other cultures that once existed in Southern and Central America. So what right does any American culture have to set itself above that of another? What right do Americans as a society have to declare ourselves superior to any other world culture? The sad fact is that none of us are unique. We are, in the words of the scientists that study genetics, more alike than we are different.

And we are, in the words of the spiritualists and occultists, all One. What they are saying is that we all share the gift of the one spirit that we perceive as the Creator of All. We carry the spark, the light that we identify as the very Soul of God.

For each of us, then, there should be no room for hate or separation. There is no excuse for anything but love and compassion for our fellow man. To shut out the needs of the minorities for the alleged “safety” of the rest is wrong. To deny food and shelter to the poor to feed the greed of the wealthy is evil in its purist form.
(c) 2011 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.

Revolution Handbook For Americans
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

As recently presented, there is global respect for and use of the classic and brilliant work by Gene Sharp “From Dictatorship to Democracy.” It is credited for empowering many actions around the world to overthrow dictatorships, including recent actions in the Mideast. My thesis is that his ideas, strategies and tactics, a handbook for revolution, can and should be applied to the US where there is a form of corporate dictatorship operating.

American dictatorship and tyranny is masked by an electoral system that no longer functions with integrity, fairness or efficiency and, therefore, acts to sustain the more hidden and ignored corporate dictatorship inflicting enormous harm on vast numbers of Americans. In many ways the uniquely American form of dictatorship is far more sinister, indiscernible and powerful than classic dictatorships where one recognized person, military junta or family rules ruthlessly.

The corporate ruling class has often been exposed but still maintains its power. The recent excellent article “Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?” presents yet another fine analysis, for example, of how corporate rulers have escaped prosecution and punishment. It showed that “a veritable mountain of evidence indicates that when it comes to Wall Street, the justice system not only sucks at punishing financial criminals, it has actually evolved into a highly effective mechanism for protecting financial criminals. This institutional reality has absolutely nothing to do with politics or ideology — it takes place no matter who's in office or which party's in power.”

Another article exposed the plutonomy and noted that the top 20 percent received nearly half of all income generated in the US -- 49.4 percent -- and the ratio of the income of the top 10 percent of Americans to the poor has risen from 7.69-to-1 in 1968 to 14.5-to-1 in 2010. Just as conventional dictators steal from their nations, America’s corporate rulers rob US wealth and get away with it because they have succeeded in controlling government and public policy. This explains why a noted New York Times columnist discussed the “corporate stranglehold on American democracy.” A dictatorship is all about control.

To say this differently, a sophisticated and powerful plutocracy has hijacked an electoral democracy and behaves just like a dictatorship in critical ways, despite a citizenry that believes it has freedom and liberty secured through the US Constitution. The middle class is being destroyed and the general population no longer has any realistic expectations of rising affluence. Economic oppression should be the chief driver of revolution.

In other words, just as in many dictatorships, like the Mubarak regime in Egypt, there can be elections, various freedoms, and many media enterprises. But the American plutocracy hides in plain sight a false or phantom democracy based on the widespread delusional belief that reforms of government and politics can still be achieved through elections and the equally delusional belief that there is legitimate representative democracy serving public interests. In sum, Americans have a delusional democracy. Various corporate interests, especially banks and other financial entities control and manipulate the American system, especially the economy, making its dictatorship far more difficult to discern, oppose and overturn. Most Americans seem to want to cling to the fiction that they still have a great democracy, which only reveals their stupidity and inability to think critically. Only continuing widespread economic hardship is likely to pierce the psychological defenses against seeing the ugly truth of American tyranny.

The path to achieving true and deep reforms of the US political and government system must be reframed in terms of Sharp’s methodology rather than through pursuing different candidates and platforms within the two-party plutocracy, where each major party is controlled by corporate and other special interests that make voting and elections the means by which the corporate dictatorship is sustained.

Presidents, administrations and Congresses change, but the mostly invisible elite, corporate powers through smart use of money maintain control to serve their own economic interests. Power stability is maintained even though there is the appearance of political change. Unlike places like Egypt and Libya where there are highly visible dictators, in the US there is no such glaringly visible target for revolutions to overthrow. This makes dissidents and dissatisfied citizens stuck victims that keep trying fruitlessly to get reforms through the dysfunctional political system even when they wage reform campaigns such as the Tea Party movement. The other tool of the dictatorship is massive distraction perpetrated through myriad entertainment, sports and gambling options, as well as political campaigns, for example.

All this means that nonviolent revolution in the US is probably even more difficult than in traditional dictatorships. But that does not mean impossible. It is instructive, however, to keep in mind that during the still painful Great Recession probably a third of the US population has suffered incredibly as indicated by huge numbers of unemployed, underemployed, hungry, foreclosed, homeless, working poor and people without decent health insurance. Meanwhile, as in countries with traditional dictatorships, in the US there is an upper class that does not suffer. Corporate elites, in fact, have continued their successful rape of the US economy. What is different is that even though most of this large wealthy upper class, probably 50 million or more Americans, does not directly participate in the corporate dictatorship, it benefits from it. Note that just 5 percent of earners account for 35 percent of all consumer spending. Another large fraction of the population works in all levels of government and also benefits from the corrupt status quo political system. Both groups stabilize the corporate dictatorship and the two-party plutocracy it uses to maintain the illusion of a functioning democracy.

What all this means is that Sharp’s tools for overthrowing a dictatorship has a small fraction of the population that might use them to achieve success through nonviolent revolution. But generally those active in overthrowing a dictatorship are a small fraction of the population. This means there are more than enough Americans to overturn the corpocracy.

In other words, what starkly differentiates the US from traditional dictatorships is that the fraction of the population most impacted by a corrupt system does not even think or dream in terms of revolution or rebellion. While suffering people in a number of Mideast countries clearly are ready for revolution, Americans have been unready for revolution despite being citizens of a country founded on revolution.

What is most ironic about this American shame is the incredibly high level of gun ownership among Americans, including those most victimized by the corrupt system. They seem to be mentally prepared for a more open form of tyranny against which they would use their guns, but are unready to mount a revolt without guns within the current system. Of course, as Sharp says: “If you fight with violence, you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero.” Gun ownership in a perverse way makes nonviolent revolution which Sharp correctly concludes is the best route to successful revolution even more difficult in the US. That is, widespread gun ownership is itself a form of distraction and delusion that perversely sustains the corporate dictatorship. Americans can keep their guns, while the rich elites keep most of the money and wealth of the nation. Greed outsmarts guns.

Those Americans who like me thirst for reforms that restore American democracy should download the free Sharp handbook and study its findings. Sharp has said “If people are not afraid of the dictatorship, that dictatorship is in big trouble.” Add this: If people are not aware of the dictatorship, that dictatorship is in great shape.
(c) 2011 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Mideast Meets Midwest
Joining the Surge Against Corrupt Elites
By Chris Floyd

Tens of thousands of ordinary people pour into the streets in a desperate bid to stop yet another vicious assault on their human rights -- and their human dignity -- by an utterly corrupt political system run by callous, greedy elites. The factotums of the system -- the same kind of third-rate lackeys and shriveled-up souls found in the goon squads of governments since time immemorial -- mewl and bawl at the rabble's effrontery: how dare they challenge their "legitimate" rulers!

The goons spew the usual lies about the regrettable necessity of their repressive measures: there is, as always, a great crisis at hand which requires draconian sacrifices -- of liberty, opportunity, living standards -- from the common people. The elite, of course, are immune from such calls -- which is only fitting, for in this case, as in so many others, they have deliberately manufactured the "crisis" in the first place, in order to extend their dominance over society even further. They are deadly serious in this ambition; and thus the goons, despite the tender, paternalistic tones of their pronouncements, make it clear that they will bring in the military if the rabble continues to defy their masters' wishes. In the meantime, they bus in a handful of "supporters" who, despite being vastly outnumbered by the ranks of the protestors, are featured prominently in the reports of the elite-dominated national media.

These stirring scenes of mass dissent are not set in Egypt, Libya or Bahrain, but deep in the heart of the Homeland itself: Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker, one of more indecorous bagmen of the corporate elite, is using a "budget crisis" that he himself created with tax favors for the wealthy in a bid to destroy the collective bargaining rights of working people. The immediate target is the public sector unions, but the ultimate goal is the destruction of the very principle of collective bargaining in every sector, as Craig Unger makes clear at

Walker's class war blitzkrieg is part of a long-running campaign by the gluttonous Koch Brothers and other bloated multi-billionaires to remove the last, fraying restraints on their total control of society. They disguise their apish lust for dominance in libertarian drag, claiming to stand up for the "individual" against the socialistic "collectivism" of union power. But what they want is a world where isolated, atomized, ordinary individuals can offer no resistance whatsoever to the impositions of the moneyed elite. What single employee could stand alone against the Koch Brothers' billions of dollars in any workplace conflict or salary negotiation? What our elites want -- and what they are increasingly getting -- is a people reduced to helotry, to wage slavery, to feudal dependence on unaccountable, uncontrollable overlords.

While it is indeed heartening to see, at last, even the slightest pushback against America's forced march into peonage, no one should be deceived about the thoroughly bipartisan nature of the feudalization process. Walker -- a third-rate, bought-off Republican hack for billionaire string-pullers -- makes an easy target, and has perhaps been too blatant in going about his sugar daddies' business. But his elite entanglements are dwarfed -- like a molehill to Everest -- by those of the progressive Democrat now in the White House. No president in history -- not George Bush II, not George Bush I, not Richard Nixon -- has been more servile to Big Money than Barack Obama. (Although Bill Clinton -- who greenlighted the regulatory gutting that led to the current economic meltdown -- might run him a close second.)

As Matt Taibbi details in yet another remarkable article on the monumental corruption of the American system, Obama has not only made extraordinary efforts to shield Wall Street's criminal class from the slightest accountability for their vastly destructive atrocities, he has put that same criminal class in charge of his economic policy -- and of his literally laughable regulatory "reforms" as well. As Taibbi notes:

Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail," he said. "That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that."

...Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people. The rest of them, all of them, got off.

...Instead, federal regulators and prosecutors have let the banks and finance companies that tried to burn the world economy to the ground get off with carefully orchestrated settlements — whitewash jobs that involve the firms paying pathetically small fines without even being required to admit wrongdoing. To add insult to injury, the people who actually committed the crimes almost never pay the fines themselves; banks caught defrauding their shareholders often use shareholder money to foot the tab of justice.

... As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, his new chief of staff. "The betrayal that this represents by Obama to everybody is just — we're not ready to believe it," says [Wall Street whistleblower Oliver] Budde, a classmate of the president from their Columbia days. "He's really fucking us over like that? Really? That's really a JP Morgan guy, really?"

Which is not to say that the Obama era has meant an end to law enforcement. On the contrary: In the past few years, the administration has allocated massive amounts of federal resources to catching wrongdoers — of a certain type. Last year, the government deported 393,000 people, at a cost of $5 billion. ... In Ohio last month, a single mother was caught lying about where she lived to put her kids into a better school district; the judge in the case tried to sentence her to 10 days in jail for fraud, declaring that letting her go free would "demean the seriousness" of the offenses.

So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000. Lying moms: one. Bankers: zero. The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players. But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It's not a crime. Prison is too harsh. Get them to say they're sorry, and move on. Oh, wait — let's not even make them say they're sorry. That's too mean; let's just give them a piece of paper with a government stamp on it, officially clearing them of the need to apologize, and make them pay a fine instead. But don't make them pay it out of their own pockets, and don't ask them to give back the money they stole. In fact, let them profit from their collective crimes, to the tune of a record $135 billion in pay and benefits last year. What's next? Taxpayer-funded massages for every Wall Street executive guilty of fraud?

This is the system -- the "utterly corrupt political system run by callous, greedy elites" -- that produced the egregious assault on our rights and liberties now roiling Wisconsin. And while you will always have factional infighting for the perks of power between various elite cliques, there is a seamless continuum running from the provincial twerp in Madison to the suave global statesman in Washington. They serve the same masters. They seek the same goals. May these first American ripples of the global surge of dissent against corrupt elites grow quickly into a flood.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

The Madison Protests Are About Union Busting, Not Budget Cuts
By Matthew Rothschild

I’m fed up with the corporate media’s coverage of the great fight-back in Wisconsin.

This is not about a budget crisis. Actually, the current budget is in surplus to the tune of $54 million, according to the Legislative Research Bureau.

And to the extent that the budget may get worse later, Gov. Walker has no one to blame but himself because he kissed goodbye $800 million in federal money for high speed rail, and he gave the rich tax breaks worth $117 million.

And this is not about whether public sector employees would be willing to pay more for health care or pensions. Their unions have said they’d be willing to negotiate on this.

But Walker doesn’t want to negotiate.

He wants to bust unions.

That’s why he is demanding the defunding of public sector unions by prohibiting employers from deducting union dues. This wouldn’t save the state a cent.

That’s why he is demanding annual recertifications for every public sector union.

That’s why he is trying to make it easier to fire union organizers.

That’s why he refused, on Thursday, to take off the table the anti-union parts of the bill and leave open the question of negotiating cuts in benefits and pensions.

I’m sick of seeing headlines about Wisconsin workers reacting to budget cuts.

They’re reacting instead to union busting.

Let’s hear the truth for a change.
(c)2011 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Wisconsin Power Play
By Paul Krugman

Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.”

It wasn’t the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn’t mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it.

In any case, however, Mr. Ryan was more right than he knew. For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.

Some background: Wisconsin is indeed facing a budget crunch, although its difficulties are less severe than those facing many other states. Revenue has fallen in the face of a weak economy, while stimulus funds, which helped close the gap in 2009 and 2010, have faded away.

In this situation, it makes sense to call for shared sacrifice, including monetary concessions from state workers. And union leaders have signaled that they are, in fact, willing to make such concessions.

But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain.

The bill that has inspired the demonstrations would strip away collective bargaining rights for many of the state’s workers, in effect busting public-employee unions. Tellingly, some workers — namely, those who tend to be Republican-leaning — are exempted from the ban; it’s as if Mr. Walker were flaunting the political nature of his actions.

Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.

So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power.

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.

There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

“And nobody yet has, nobody yet has explained to the American public what they know, and surely they know more than the rest of us know who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak and no, not, not real enthused about what it is that that’s being done on a national level and from DC in regards to understanding all the situation there in Egypt. And, in these areas that are so volatile right now, because obviously it’s not just Egypt but the other countries too where we are seeing uprisings, we know that now more than ever, we need strength and sound mind there in the White House. We need to know what it is that America stands for so we know who it is that America will stand with. And, we do not have all that information yet.”
~~~ Sarah Palin

Huffington’s Plunder
By Chris Hedges

I was in New York City on Thursday night at the Brecht Forum to discuss with the photographer Eugene Richards his powerful new book “War Is Personal” when I was approached for an interview by a blogger for The Huffington Post. I had just finished speaking with another blogger who had recently graduated from UC Berkeley.

These encounters, which are frequent at public events, break my heart. I see myself in the older bloggers, many of whom worked for newspapers until they took buyouts or were laid off, as well as in the aspiring reporters. These men and women love the trade. They want to make a difference. They have the integrity not to sell themselves to public relations firms or corporate-funded propaganda outlets. And they keep at it, the way true artists, musicians or actors do, although there are dimmer and dimmer hopes of compensation. They are victims of a dying culture, one that no longer values the talents that would keep it healthy and humane. The corporate state remunerates corporate management and public relations. It lavishes money on the celebrities who provide the fodder for our national mini-dramas. But those who deal with the bedrock virtues of truth, justice and beauty, who seek not to entertain but to transform, are discarded. They must struggle on their own.

The sale of The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million, and the tidy profit of reportedly at least several million dollars made by principal owner and founder Arianna Huffington, who was already rich, is emblematic of this new paradigm of American journalism. The Huffington Post, as Stephen Colbert pointed out when he stole the entire content of The Huffington Post and rechristened it The Colbuffington Re-post, produces little itself. The highly successful site, like most Internet sites, is largely pirated from other sources, especially traditional news organizations, or is the product of unpaid writers who are rechristened “citizen journalists.” It is driven by the celebrity gossip that dominates cheap tabloids, with one or two stories that come from The New York Times or one of the wire services to give it a veneer of journalistic integrity. Hollywood celebrities, or at least their publicists, write windy and vapid commentaries. And this, I fear, is what news is going to look like in the future. The daily reporting and monitoring of city halls, courts, neighborhoods and government, along with investigations into corporate fraud and abuse, will be replaced by sensational garbage and Web packages that are made to look like news but contain little real news.

The terminal decline of newspapers has destroyed thousands of jobs that once were dedicated to reporting, verifying fact and giving a voice to those who without these news organizations would not be heard. Newspapers, although they were too embedded among the power elite and blunted their effectiveness in the name of a faux objectivity, at least stopped things from getting worse. This last and imperfect bulwark has been removed. It has been replaced by Internet creations that mimic journalism. Good reporters, like good copy editors or good photographers, who must be paid and trained for years while they learn the trade, are becoming as rare as blacksmiths. Stories on popular sites are judged not by the traditional standards of journalism but by how many hits they receive, how much Internet traffic they generate, and how much advertising they can attract. News is irrelevant. Facts mean little. Reporting is largely nonexistent. No one seems to have heard of the common good. Our television screens are filled with these new chattering celebrity journalists. They pop up one day as government spokespeople and appear the next as hosts on morning news shows. They deal in the currency of emotion, not truth. They speak in empty clichés, not ideas. They hyperventilate, with a spin from the left or the right, over every bit of gossip. And their corporate sponsors make these court jesters millionaires. We are entertained by these clowns as corporate predators ruthlessly strip us of our capacity to sustain a living, kill our ecosystem because of greed, gut civil liberties and turn us into serfs.

Any business owner who uses largely unpaid labor, with a handful of underpaid, nonunion employees, to build a company that is sold for a few hundred million dollars, no matter how he or she is introduced to you on the television screen, is not a liberal or a progressive. Those who take advantage of workers, whatever their outward ideological veneer, to make profits of that magnitude are charter members of the exploitative class. Dust off your Karl Marx. They are the enemies of working men and women. And they are also, in this case, sucking the life blood out of a trade I care deeply about. It was bad enough that Huffington used her site for flagrant self-promotion, although the cult of the self has reached such dizzying proportions in American society that such behavior is almost expected. But there is an even sadder irony that this was carried out in the name of journalism.

“Something is happening here,” Bob Dylan sang in “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “but you don’t know what it is. Do you Mr. Jones?”

This latest form of “liberal” exploitation exposes yet again the liberal class for who they really are—opportunists whose operating methods are as callous as those employed in the textile mills in southern China. Is it any wonder that working men and women, who have been abandoned and betrayed by these self-identified liberals, hate the liberal class and its transparent hypocrisy? Is it any wonder that the some 40 million Americans who live in poverty are invisible to the wider culture? Is it any wonder that the tea party and all the lunatics on the fringe of our political spectrum put their cross hairs on the liberal class and its purported values? Let’s not forget the title of Huffington’s latest book: “Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream.”

Liberals like these deserve the rage they engender.

The argument made to defend this exploitation is that the writers had a choice. It is an argument I also heard made by the managers of sweatshops in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, the coal companies in West Virginia or Kentucky and huge poultry farms in Maine. It is the argument made by the comfortable, by those who do not know what it is to be hard up, desperate or driven by a passion to express one’s self and the world through journalism or art. It is the argument the wealthy elite, who have cemented in place an oligarchic system under which there are no real choices, use to justify their oppression.

Who would not want to be able to carry out his or her trade and make enough to pay the bills? What worker would decline the possibility of job protection, health care and a pension? Why do these people think tens of millions of Americans endure substandard employment?

If Huffington has a conscience she will sit down when the AOL check arrives and make sure every cent of it is paid out to those who worked free or at minimal wages for her over the last six years, starting with Mayhill Fowler, the blogger who broke the “clinging to guns and religion” story about Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign and spent two years writing and reporting without a salary. “She strung me along for two years while I repeatedly asked for funding for three projects, and then I quit,” Fowler told me from Oakland, Calif., as I spoke with her by phone. When Fowler, whom the site nominated twice for a Pulitzer, finally resigned last year in disgust, Mario Ruiz, the spokesperson for The Huffington Post, acidly told Yahoo News: “Mayhill Fowler says that she is ‘resigning’ from the Huffington Post. How do you resign from a job you never had?”

That comment says it all. It exposes the callousness of our oligarchic class and their belief that they have a right to use anyone who can contribute to the monuments they spend their lives erecting to themselves.
(c) 2011 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "“Death Of The Liberal Class.”

Waking Up In Wisconsin
By David Michael Green

Whodathunkit, eh?

Insignificant, backwater, third world banana republics like Tunisia and Egypt pioneering the way for the greatest superpower and richest country on the planet.

That’s not supposed to happen.

I mean, we pay for a military that costs as much as every other one in the world, combined, even though it can’t win endless wars against insignificant, backwater, third world banana republics. They can’t say that about their militaries! We’ve got annual deficits that are bigger than their entire economies. The size of our economy is half-again bigger than the number two in the world (with one-fourth the population), and we’ve managed to produce a health care system that ranks 39th globally. Who else can claim that badge of honor? No doubt that ranking partially explains why our life expectancy figures are lower than just about every country in the developed world. Our education system, once the envy of the world, is crumbling, along with the size of our college enrollments. Ditto our infrastructure, much of which hasn’t been maintained in decades. Who can touch that? We have the highest polarization of wealth in the entire developed world, and more than any country in the Arab world too. Sweet! Another cool thing is our incarceration rate. It’s 743 per hundred thousand people. The next highest country has less than half that figure. Our use of torture and rendition and the remote-controlled aerial bombings of civilians has earned us the scorn and hatred of the world, while our political leaders, unmatched in their capacity for hypocrisy and buffoonery, have made us a laughingstock that few puffy-chested, medal-covered third world dictators can match. You got Mugabe? We got Palin. You got Charles Taylor? We got George W. Bush, in a democracy no less.

So, with a record like that, who in the world are these punky backwater countries to teach high and mighty America anything about anything?!?!

Darned if it hasn’t happened, though. I mean, you can say it’s a coincidence if you want, and you may even be right. But I can’t help thinking that the people of Wisconsin have been inspired by the people of Egypt. Who were themselves inspired by the people of Tunisia. Both of whom have inspired the people of Bahrain, Jordan, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and beyond. Meanwhile, Wisconsin seems to be inspiring Americans in other states finally to fight back.

It would seem that people power is in the air in early 2011, and that it’s quite contagious.

Whatever is the explanation for the Cheesehead version of Tahrir Square, it is unbelievably welcome, and just barely in time.

It’s crucial to understand what the regressive initiative that our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin are right now fighting is really all about, and how that fits into the context of our era. This is just the latest, and nearly the last, in a succession of efforts in America over the last three decades to move money from the hands of non-elites to those of oligarchs. Make no mistake, that program constitutes essentially the sum total of American politics at its core over the last generation. All else is a sideshow or, more likely and more ominously, an intentional diversion, just as a skilled magician is careful to give your eye something else to focus on as he moves the ball from under the cup.

That money-shifting effort has been relentless, and it has been fantastically successful. We have witnessed the greatest transfer of wealth in human history over this period of time. More astonishing, here in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, is that it went the wrong way – from ordinary folk who need the money to wealthy elites, many of whom actually couldn’t even find ways to spend those enormous quantities flooding their accounts if they wanted to. Most astonishing of all is that this happened in a functioning democracy, where the votes of rip-offees vastly outnumber the votes of rip-offers. If anyone you meet ever doubts the capacity of human stupidity, tell them this tale. It’s an amazing story. It’s also the most significant single fact of American politics in our time. And we don’t even talk about it.

That’s because of the stunning success of the thieves in executing their heist. As oft-noted, the perfect crime is one that is not even detected. Welcome to America.

You gotta hand it to these guys. They have been smart, thorough, ruthless, tenacious, patient and ruthless. Did I mention ruthless? They have attacked New Deal America – the set of policies that created a vast middle class for the first time and dramatically improved people’s quality of life en masse – in every way possible, and have managed to beat it into near submission.

They’ve been very clever about it, too. They fabricated think tanks whose product at any other time would have seemed absurdly laughable. They created a whole new media for themselves, and intimidated the parts they didn’t outright own. They dumbed down education, making sure that any knowledge of history or civics or – god forbid – comparative politics was eliminated from the curriculum, thus producing nice, docile worker bees who know just enough to do their ill-paid jobs, but not enough to even know that they’re ill-paid. They allied with regressive forces like religious institutions, the military and the Republican Party. Then they bought the Democrats too, not least of which including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, whose economic policies are fundamentally indistinguishable from the GOP’s. They infiltrated the courts with corporate hacks so corrupt that they steal elections and sit on cases even when they’ve received contributions from litigants in the matter. They smashed labor unions at every opportunity. They drove the country deep into debt with the express purpose of making it then seem that any further social spending was no longer sustainable. They tore down even the thin veneer of campaign finance reform from the prior era. They shredded the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and have bullied any opponents with thuggish acts of verbal and other forms of personal assault. They made voting more difficult, wrongly purged masses of voters from the rolls, and used rigged machines to steal elections. They have poisoned the minds of Americans with diversionary bogeymen ranging from Saddam Hussein to marrying gays to the War on Christmas.

And so on. The complete list is extensive enough to fill the pages of this essay and several more. The upshot of the story is that there has been a concerted, multipronged attack on a system of political economy that was, when they began, already just about the least fair to working people of any in the developed world, but nevertheless a whole lot more fair than it ever had been previously. Or is now.

The purpose of all these efforts, however, was always the same, and typically had little to do with culture conflicts, endless Middle Eastern wars, or televised Hannity and Colmes style pissing matches. It was always about the money. Always. It remains about the money today.

That’s why the malignant disease better known as Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker is now doing what he is doing. He claims that the state is broke and that he has no choice but to roll back public sector salaries and benefits. Everything about that claim is a lie. The state is not nearly as far in the red as other states that are not doing what he is doing. The state could increase taxes if it wanted to solve its problem, rather than exploiting workers. In fact, the state just got done creating it’s the very deficit Walker claims to be the problem by slashing $177 million from its tax rolls. State employees are underpaid compared to equivalent private sector workers, not overpaid as he claims. And despite all this, the unions have nevertheless publicly agreed to negotiate givebacks with the Governor. And so on.

But, of course, the biggest lie of all is the biggest lie of all. That is that the premise for what he is doing is the pursuit of fiscal rectitude. Let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that, nationally, the same party that claims to be the party of fiscal responsibility is precisely the gang of folks who got us into the mess we’re in. Of the fourteen trillion dollars or so of current national debt, almost all of it was created under Republican presidents, including the saintly Ronald of Nazareth, who tripled the national debt and started the process of dismantling America’s middle class (with a jaunty smile, of course, so it felt better and was less noticeable). It is true that borrowing has gone up under Barack Obama (who, anyhow, is one of them, not one of us), but how much would that have been the case had he not inherited Bush’s wars, Bush’s ‘defense’ budget, Bush’s non-defense discretionary spending increases, Bush’s unfunded prescription drug bill, Bush’s decimation of incoming federal revenue in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy, Bush’s TARP, and Bush’s recession, the biggest since the Great Depression and therefore requiring massive stimulus spending? To answer that question, just look at what spending looked like on the day Bush was inaugurated. In fact, he inherited the greatest budget surplus in all of history.

These are the folks who bill themselves as the grownups in the room, the ones who are being responsible, the ones who are slashing social spending because we absolutely have to do so, even while further fattening a military already bloated on useless spending, even while continuing completely unabated lavish corporate welfare programs for Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Pharma and the rest, and even while slashing taxes on the wealthy down to nearly zero, transferring those liabilities to the rest of us. That’s what the Scott Walkers of this country have been doing in Washington for three decades now. But even if Governor Walker is not responsible for the lies and destruction of his party at the national level, he is practicing precisely the same behavior in Wisconsin (while, no doubt, licking his chops at his prospects for a subsequent presidential bid, based on making this name for himself at the state level). This is not about balancing the state budget, anymore than Republicans can be the party of fiscal responsibility anywhere other than in the Alice’s-Wonderland-on-steroid-laced-irradiated-hyper-concentrated-LSD that calls itself America. This is about completing the piracy mission, knocking down one of the last remaining barriers preventing the wholesale transfer of middle class wealth to the oligarchy. This initiative is entirely about breaking public sector unions.

You can tell that’s true because those provisions in the bill have absolutely zero impact on the state’s budget. Whether unions have to be recertified every year, whether their dues are collected from paychecks, and whether they can bargain over non-salary issues – none of these factors alter Wisconsin’s fiscal condition by a single penny. You can tell that’s true because the unions are willing to talk with the governor about givebacks – and thus address the problem he claims the legislation is meant to solve – if he’ll strip out the union-busting language. And you can tell that’s true because he’s not even slightly interested in their offer. By refusing to take yes for an answer from the unions on the question that he offers as a pretext for the legislation, he reveals the pretext to be just that. This is entirely about breaking public sector unions.

It is, once again, clever in its staging. Having driven the American people to the wall through the use of job-exporting trade policy, unfair taxation policy, wage-undermining private sector union-busting, and budget-busting deficit spending, the Klepto-Plutocracy has now positioned itself quite handsomely for purposes of presenting the next and near-final act in its multi-decade play. First they put economic pressure on all Americans by shipping jobs overseas. Then they enact policies that bring on massive levels of state and federal debt. Then they give us a devastating recession to ratchet up economic insecurity. Then they make sure the Democratic alternative to the Republican recession-makers is in fact no alternative at all, bringing no relief to workers whatsoever. This then clears the way, a mere two years later, for a Lazarus-like resuscitation of the nearly-dead recession-creating Republican Party. But an even worse version this time, sending tea party social spending slasher freaks to Congress and producing aggressive predatory monsters like Chris Christie and Scott Walker at the state level. Then they argue to a bunch of politically illiterate American voters the all these fat gubmint workers have got it too goddam good, what with their wages that people can sorta actually live off of an’ all. Worse, these lazy bums are not only living high on the hog, but they’re living high on your nickel, Mr. Taxpayer Moron! As storms go, that recipe is good for producing a near perfect one in order to crush public sector unions.

We’ll see if it works. There are reasons not to be hopeful. Right now, as of this writing, success for the predators requires just one of fourteen Democrats in the state Senate to come in from hiding out-of-state, giving Republicans a quorum, and sealing the deal. Moreover, Wisconsin – a state that pioneered unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, the eight hour work week, the weekend, and other triumphs of actual humane treatment for humans, appears to have taken a big deep dive into Lake Stupidity of late. Once a bastion of progressivism, more lately a purple state, in 2010 it went overwhelmingly Republican, not least by producing the nation’s single most shameful act of that election cycle, the purging of Russ Feingold from the US Senate.

But there are also reasons to be hopeful, too. It seems that this may just be the Basta! moment for middle class Wisconsinites sick of being ground into poverty. Every day, the crowds of demonstrators grow larger, at last count up to 70,000. They seem really pissed off. When was the last time we saw this?

And maybe this is the Basta! moment for the country, too. Maybe people have finally had Enough! not just in Wisconsin, but elsewhere too. Already there are similar reactions in other states, as other Republicans attempt the same fiscal coup strategy.

Altogether, it may not be hyperbolic to say that Wisconsin’s fate is the country’s fate. If the thieves win, it will empower and encourage thieves nationally. If the people win, that victory may produce a Tunisia effect, getting folks to realize, as Egyptians did, that you’re really only captive to the power of thugs for precisely as long as you believe yourself to be captive to the power of thugs.

This could be the first step of an American awakening. But even if it does occur, it will only be the first step. There is so much more to be done. Most of the initial work is purely in the domain of framing. People need to understand what Warren Buffett understands, that there has been a class war going on for three decades now, and that his team is winning. People need to understand that all the other nonsense that forms the content of American politics is diversionary bullshit. People need to understand that, yes, American exceptionalism is alive and well in 2011, only it is alive and well in how poorly the country does on almost every measure of quality of life. Especially compared to those horrid socialists in Europe and elsewhere, who suffer every day under the crushing burdens of better health, longer life, higher quality education, more equal distribution of wealth, better working conditions, less crime, less stress, less war and more happiness.

From there, once the Zeitgeist is changed, the policy changes can fall like dominos. It’s not that hard to figure what to do. We had it mostly right before the Reagan Era began. 2011 is not 1981, so some things will have to change, but most will not. You either provide Social Security or you don’t. You either protect worker safety or you don’t. You either respect unions and the environment or not. You either protect people’s civil rights or you don’t.

Things can also get better than they were thirty years ago. We never had a national health care system, and we still don’t. The one we’re slated to get in 2014 is lame, brought to us by our fake-progressive DINO corporate shill of a president. We can do lots better. Ditto on taxation, spending, industrial policy, workers rights and benefits, foreign policy and so on. The great news about the multi-headed, cataclysmic, across-the-board disaster of policymaking in the United States today is that it leaves you plenty of room for improvement. It will be a long time before we run out of ideas for how to make things better here in Ronald Reagan’s America.

I don’t know if this is finally the moment when America wakes up and turns the corner to emerge from this long national nightmare. That’s probably too much to ask when tea party Republicans dominate the Congress, a faux Democratic president, just like the last one, does the bidding of the national oligarchy, and not a single prominent political figure is out there pitching the narrative that would help Americans to understand who their real enemies are.

On the other hand, who could have imagined a month or two ago that the thirty year-old Mubarak dictatorship would be swept away over the period of a couple of weeks, and with minimal bloodshed to boot?

If that can happen, anything can happen.

Wake up, America!

On, Wisconsin.
(c) 2011 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Deputy Fuhrer Clinton,

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, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and your ability to keep a straight face while giving a speech on how we always back free speech and the right to protest, while two of your goons beat up Ray McGovern for daring to turn his back on you in protest, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Cabinet Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 04-01-2011. We salute you Frau Clinton, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

An Interview With Noam Chomsky
By Amy Goodman

AMY GOODMAN: This month is the 15th anniversary of Democracy Now! on the air, and it’s a real privilege to have MIT professor, analyst, world-renowned political dissident, linguist, Noam Chomsky with us. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, and we’ve been together for this whole 15 years, Juan. It’s really been quite an amazing journey.

As we talk about this revolution that’s rolling across the Middle East, we put out to our listeners and viewers on Facebook last night that, Noam, you were going to be in. And so, people were sending in their comments and questions. We asked, on Facebook and Twitter, to send us questions. Here is one of the questions.

RYAN ADSERIAS: Hello, Professor Chomsky. My name is Ryan Adserias, and I’m a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and also the child of a long line of working-class union folks. I don’t know if you’ve been noticing, but we’ve been holding a lot of protests and rallies here in our capital to protest Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to break collective bargaining rights that Wisconsin workers worked hard for over 50 years ago and have enjoyed ever since. We closed all the schools around here for tomorrow—today and tomorrow, actually. The teaching assistants here at the university are staging teach-outs. The undergraduates are walking out of class to show solidarity. And all of this is because our governor and governors all around the country are proposing legislation that’s going to end collective bargaining and really break the unions. I’ve also been noticing that there’s not a whole lot of national representation of our struggle and our movement, and it’s really been troubling me. So my question to you is, how exactly is it that we can get the attention of our national Democratic and progressive leaders to speak out against these measures and to help end union busting here in the United States?

AMY GOODMAN: That was a question from Ryan Adserias in Madison, Wisconsin, where more than 10,000—some say tens of thousands of people, teachers, students, are protesting in the Capitol building, schools closed, as Ryan said. So, from Manama to Madison, from Manama, Bahrain, to Madison, Wisconsin, Noam Chomsky?

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very interesting. The reason why you can’t get Democratic leaders to join is because they agree. They are also trying to destroy the unions. In fact, if you take a look at—take, say, the lame-duck session. The great achievement in the lame-duck session for which Obama is greatly praised by Democratic Party leaders is that they achieved bipartisan agreement on several measures. The most important one was the tax cut. And the issue in the tax cut—there was only one issue—should there be a tax cut for the very rich? The population was overwhelmingly against it, I think about two to one. There wasn’t even a discussion of it, they just gave it away. And the very same time, the less noticed was that Obama declared a tax increase for federal workers. Now, it wasn’t called a "tax increase"; it’s called a "freeze." But if you think for 30 seconds, a freeze on pay for a federal workers is fiscally identical to a tax increase for federal workers. And when you extend it for five years, as he said later, that means a decrease, because of population growth, inflation and so on. So he basically declared an increase in taxes for federal workers at the same time that there’s a tax decrease for the very rich.

And there’s been a wave of propaganda over the last couple of months, which is pretty impressive to watch, trying to deflect attention away from those who actually created the economic crisis, like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, their associates in the government who—Federal Reserve and others—let all this go on and helped it. There’s a—to switch attention away from them to the people really responsible for the crisis—teachers, police, firefighters, sanitation workers, their huge pensions, their incredible healthcare benefits, Cadillac healthcare benefits, and their unions, who are the real villains, the ones who are robbing the taxpayer by making sure that policemen may not starve when they retire. And this is pretty amazing, like right in the middle of the Madison affair, which is critical.

The CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, got a $12.5 million bonus, and his base pay was more than tripled. Well, that means he—the rules of corporate governments have been modified in the last 30 years by the U.S. government to allow the chief executive officer to pretty much set their own salaries. There’s various ways in which this has been done, but it’s government policy. And one of the effects of it is—people talk about inequality, but what’s a little less recognized is that although there is extreme inequality, it’s mostly because of the top tiny fraction of the population, so like a fraction of one percent of the population, their wealth has just shot through the stratosphere. You go down to the—you know, the next 10 percent are doing pretty well, but it’s not off the spectrum. And this is by design.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times coverage of Madison?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, that was very interesting. In fact, I urge people to take a look at the February 12th issue of the New York Times, the big front-page headline, you know, banner headline, "Mubarak Leaves," its kind of subheadings say, "Army Takes Over." They’re about 60 years late on that; it took over in 1952, but—and it has held power ever since.

But then if you go to an inside page—I don’t know what page it is—there’s an article on the Governor of Wisconsin. And he’s pretty clear about what he wants to do. I mean, certainly he is aware of and senses this attack on public workers, on unions and so on, and he wants to be upfront, so he announced a sharp attack on public service workers and unions, as the questioner said, to ban collective bargaining, take away their pensions. And he also said that he’d call out the National Guard if there was any disruption about this. Now, that’s happening now to Wisconsin. In Egypt, public protests have driven out the president. There’s a lot of problems about what will happen next, but an overwhelming reaction there.

And I was—it was heartening to see that there are tens of thousands of people protesting in Madison day after day, in fact. I mean, that’s the beginning, maybe, of what we really need here: a democracy uprising. Democracy has almost been eviscerated. Take a look at the front-page headlines today, this morning, Financial Times at least. They predict—the big headline, the big story—that the next election is going to break all campaign spending records, and they predict $2 billion of campaign spending. Well, you know, a couple of weeks ago, the Obama administration selected somebody to be in charge of what they call "jobs." "Jobs" is a funny word in the English language. It’s the way of pronouncing an unpronounceable word. I’ll spell it: P-R-O-F-I-T-S. You’re not allowed to say that word, so the way you pronounce that is "jobs." The person he selected to be in charge of creating jobs is Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, which has more than half their workforce overseas. And, you know, I’m sure he’s deeply interested in jobs in the United States. But what he has is deep pockets, and also, not just him, but connections to the tiny sector of the ultra-rich corporate elite, which is going to provide that billion or billion-and-a-half dollars for the campaign. Well, that’s what’s going on.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’d like to ask you about this whole issue of the assault on unions. Clearly, it has arisen in the last few months in a coordinated way. Here in New York State, all the major business people have gotten together, raised $10 million to begin an ad campaign, and they’re being supported by both the Democratic new governor, Andrew Cuomo, and as well as the Republican-Independent Mayor Bloomberg. But they seem to be going after the public sector unions after having essentially destroyed most of the private sector union movement in the United States. They realize that the public sector unions are still the only vibrant section of the American labor movement, so now they’re really going after them in particular. Yet, you’ve got these labor leaders who helped get Obama elected and who helped get Andy Cuomo elected, and they’re not yet making the stand in a strong enough way to mobilize people against these policies.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. There has been a huge attack against private sector unions. Actually, that’s been going on since the Second World War. After the Second World War, business was terrified about the radicalization of the country during the Depression and then the war, and it started right off—Taft-Hartley was 1947—huge propaganda campaigns to demonize unions. It really—and it continued until you get to the Reagan administration.

Reagan was extreme. Beginning of his administration, one of the first things was to call in scabs—hadn’t been done for a long time, and it’s illegal in most countries—in the air controller strike. Reagan essentially—by "Reagan," I mean his administration; I don’t know what he knew—but they basically told the business world that they’re not going to apply the labor laws. So, that means you can break unions any way you like. And in fact, the number of firing of union organizers, illegal firing, I think probably tripled during the Reagan years.

Then, in fact, by the early '90s, Caterpillar Corporation, first major industrial corporation, called in scabs to break a strike of industrial workers, UAW. That's—I think the only country that allowed that was South Africa. And then it spread.

When Clinton came along, he had another way of destroying unions. It’s called NAFTA. One of the predicted consequences of NAFTA, which in fact worked out, was it would be used as a way to undermine unions—illegally, of course. But when you have a criminal state, it doesn’t matter. So, there was actually a study, under NAFTA rules, that investigated illegal strike breaking organizing efforts by threats, illegal threats, to transfer to Mexico. So, if union organizers are trying to organize, you put up a sign saying, you know, "Transfer operation Mexico." In other words, you shut up, or you’re going to lose your jobs. That’s illegal. But again, if you have a criminal state, it doesn’t matter.

Well, by measures like this, private sector unions have been reduced to, I think, maybe seven percent of the workforce. Now, it’s not that workers don’t want to join unions. In fact, many studies of this, there’s a huge pool of workers who want to join unions, but they can’t. And they’re getting no support from the political system. And part of the reason, not all of it, is these $2 billion campaigns. Now, this really took off in the late '70s and the ’80s. You want to run for office, then you're going to have to dig into very deep pockets. And as the income distribution gets more and more skewed, that means you’re going to have to go after Jeffrey Immelt and Lloyd Blankfein, and so on and so forth, if you want to even be in office. Take a look at the 2008 campaign spending. Obama way outspent McCain. He was funded—his main source of funding was the financial institutions.

AMY GOODMAN: Now they’re saying he’s going to raise, Obama is going to raise $1 billion for the next campaign.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, and it’ll probably be more than that, because they’re predicting $2 billion for the whole campaign, and the incumbent usually has advantages.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, we have to break. We’re going to come right back.


AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, world-renowned political dissident. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is Noam Chomsky. He has authored over a hundred books; his latest, Hopes and Prospects, among others.

Professor Chomsky, I want to ask you about former President Ronald Reagan. A very big deal is made of him now on the hundredth anniversary of his birth. Last year President Obama signed legislation establishing a commission to mark the centennial.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: President Reagan helped, as much as any president, to restore a sense of optimism in our country, a spirit that transcended politics, that transcended even the most heated arguments of the day.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, your response?

NOAM CHOMSKY: This deification of Reagan is extremely interesting and a very—it’s scandalous, but it tells a lot about the country. I mean, when Reagan left office, he was the most unpopular living president, apart from Nixon, even below Carter. If you look at his years in office, he was not particularly popular. He was more or less average. He severely harmed the American economy. When he came into office, the United States was the world’s leading creditor. By the time he left, it was the world’s leading debtor. He was fiscally totally irresponsible—wild spending, no fiscal responsibility. Government actually grew during the Reagan years.

He was also a passionate opponent of the free market. I mean, the way he’s being presented is astonishing. He was the most protectionist president in post-war American history. He essentially virtually doubled protective barriers to try to preserve incompetent U.S. management, which was being driven out by superior Japanese production.

During his years, we had the first major fiscal crises. During the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, the New Deal regulations were still in effect, and that prevented financial crises. The financialization of the economy began to take off in the ’70s, but with the deregulation, of course you start getting crises. Reagan left office with the biggest financial crisis since the Depression: the home savings and loan.

I won’t even talk about his international behavior. I mean, it was just abominable. I mean, if we gained our optimism by killing hundreds of thousands of people in Central America and destroying any hope for democracy and freedom and supporting South Africa while it killed about a million-and-a-half people in neighboring countries, and on and on, if that’s the way we get back our optimism, we’re in bad trouble.

Well, what happened after Reagan left office is that there was the beginnings of an effort to carry out a kind of—this Reagan legacy, you know, to try to create from this really quite miserable creature some kind of deity. And amazingly, it succeeded. I mean, Kim Il-sung would have been impressed. The events that took place when Reagan died, you know, the Reagan legacy, this Obama business, you don’t get that in free societies. It would be ridiculed. What you get it is in totalitarian states. And I’m waiting to see what comes next. This morning, North Korea announced that on the birthday of the current god, a halo appeared over his birthplace. That will probably happen tomorrow over Reagan’s birthplace. But when we go in—I mean, this is connected with what we were talking about before. If you want to control a population, keep them passive, keep beating them over the head and let them look somewhere else, one way to do it is to give them a god to worship.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, you’ve written about, over the years, COINTELPRO, FBI raids. We’re seeing that today. There’s almost no attention given to what we have focused on a good deal on Democracy Now!, from Minneapolis to Chicago, the FBI raids, activists being subpoenaed to speak about in various cases.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, that’s a pretty—it’s not just—the raids are serious enough, but what’s more significant is what lies behind them. These are the first actions taken under new rulings by the Supreme Court. A very important case was six or eight months ago, I guess, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. It was initiated by the Obama administration. It was argued by Elena Kagan, Obama’s new court appointment. And they won, with the support of the far-right justices. The case is extremely significant. It’s the worst attack on freedom of speech since the Smith Act 70 years ago. The case determined that any material support to organizations that the government lists on the terrorist list is criminalized, but they interpreted "material support"—in fact, the issue at stake was speech. Humanitarian Law Project was giving advice—speech—to a group on that’s on the terrorist list, Turkish PKK. And they were also advising them on legal advice and also advising them to move towards nonviolence. That means if you and I, let’s say, talk to Hamas leaders and say, "Look, you ought to move towards nonviolent resistance," we’re giving material support to a group on the terrorist list.

Incidentally, the terrorist list is totally illegitimate. That shouldn’t exist in a free society. Terrorist list is an arbitrary list established by the executive with no basis whatsoever, by whim, for example, but no supervision. And if you take a look at the record of the terrorist list, it’s almost comical. So, take Reagan again. In 1982, the Reagan administration decided it wanted to aid their friend Saddam Hussein. He had been—Iraq had been on the terrorist list. They took it off the terrorist list. They had a gap. They had to put someone in.

AMY GOODMAN: South Africa, ANC.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Put in Cuba. They put in Cuba, and I suppose in honor of the fact that, in preceding several years Cuba had been the target of more international terrorism than the rest of the world combined. So, Saddam Hussein goes off, Cuba goes on, no review, no comment. And now, with the new Obama principle, giving—advising groups that are arbitrarily put on this group is criminal. And that was the background for those raids.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, we’re going to continue this conversation online and play it on the show again. Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
(c) 2011 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.

Cynthia McKinney Still On The Anti-Warpath
By Philippa Kennedy

Cynthia McKinney was planning to ride a bicycle from Abu Dhabi to Dubai to draw attention to a new "green" initiative. The 55-year-old American environmental activist and former Green Party US presidential candidate seldom does things in a low-key manner.

She had to be gently persuaded that it was a highly dangerous and foolhardy idea, if not illegal, but it says a great deal about the former congresswoman that she was prepared to do it. McKinney's heart is and always has been in the right place.

In the end, her first visit to Dubai was spent in a more sedate manner, in the rather more comfortable and elegant surroundings of Dubai's Desert Palm Resort, giving the keynote speech at the launch of CleanUAE, a new book designed to create awareness of the effect of high-impact lifestyles and rapid development on the UAE's environment. Hopefully, it will become an annual publication.

It's a subject close to McKinney's heart. Three years ago she turned her back on front line Democratic Party politics in the US, having served six terms as a member of the House of Representatives, in order to lend her support to the Green Party and environmental issues.

She believes that there is a major grassroots urge among ordinary Americans to redirect official government policy from military action towards funding sustainability.

"The earth is sending us a message that there's got to be a different way. Our economic and political organisation has got to change in order to accommodate that. The global community is now at risk. If we could have a more humane and more respectful policy coming out of the US, then not only would the global community be protected but the dignity of the global community is promoted," she says.

Despite the UAE having one of the biggest carbon footprints per head in the world, the environment and sustainability are high on the agenda here, McKinney says. It was one reason she was keen to visit. "Certainly it is on the minds of the leadership here with the Masdar initiative, and you have the solar desalination plant that's coming and the innovations with respect to the use of water in agriculture and creating thunderstorms in the desert," she says.

McKinney, who was the Green Party's presidential candidate in the 2008 election, is an outspoken supporter of Arab causes.

She sees a direct link between supporting the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King Jr and supporting the people of Palestine, and says she left the Democratic Party because she believed too many of her colleagues were simply toeing the party line.

"It was the right thing for me to do. I'm a child of the civil rights movement. I am a direct beneficiary of the sacrifices that black people in the US made in order to do a simple thing and that is to cast a vote, and blood was shed just for that simple right.

"The party is wrong. The party has been captured by special interests that subvert the will of the people, and one of those special interests is the pro-Israel lobby, which utilises the US Treasury and the US military for its own ends. For me it's not only that I'm an American first, it's about truth, justice. I'm a Southerner, so it's not only that I am black but I was at the epicentre of what the US was and still is going through."

The divorced mother of a 25-year-old son, McKinney, who was born in Atlanta, Georgia, is the daughter of Billy McKinney, a former policeman and civil rights activist who became a Georgia state representative. As a mother, she is well aware of the risks she takes being so outspoken. She experienced real terror when she decided to accompany a group of human rights activists delivering medical supplies to the people of Gaza two years ago. The Free Gaza Movement boat that she was on was rammed and disabled by the Israeli military.

"One of the doctors on board yelled to us all that we must prepare ourselves mentally to die and I commenced to do just that.

"I wondered how the world would view me, a divorced mother of one, who had left her son who was about to enter law school, to go off and try to save the lives of children I did not even know. And when the Israelis rammed us, it dawned on me that I didn't even know how to swim.

"All of a sudden, I became so scared - I had even put my life jacket on upside-down and inside-out. The English doctor noticed and took it off me, turned it correctly, put it back on to me, retied it, and said, 'There now'.

"I was afraid of falling into the sea, being crushed between our boat and the huge Israeli warship and afraid of what it would feel like to drown. And there was the embarrassment of being afraid of what others would say of me as a mother after I was dead."

She says it was the thought of her ancestors who had braved the slave rebellions and the civil rights movement and her father's battle against discrimination that made her pull herself together. "And then, all of a sudden, I was no longer afraid," she says simply.

She has no regrets about taking part in attempting to break the Gaza blockade, although she was criticised for being irresponsible and provocative. "The only people who say that my efforts to assert the human rights of the people of Gaza were wrong are the people who want to deny those human rights."

Her politics were learnt mostly from her father, who died last year. He would carry her on his shoulders to demonstrations and they served together in Congress representing Georgia. Her eyes fill with tears when she talks about him.

"My father had been in politics for 30 years. He was everything to me. When I was first elected to the Georgia legislature my father told me that politics is a man's world. But he also said, 'They put their pants on, just like you do'."

McKinney believes that the foundation of a strong peace lobby is the way forward in the US. "There is a way out of the policy dilemma posed by the presence and predominance of the pro-Israel lobby on US politics, the formation of a peace and dignity lobby inside the US."

In the wakes of Hurricane Katrina, the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the Pakistan floods and the earthquake in Haiti, the world needs to put environmental issues at the top of the political agenda, she says, instead of spending billions on developing nuclear power.

"How many reports do we need in order change ourselves and to demand change from our governments?", she asks. "Unfortunately, in the midst of all of this, the world's sole superpower spends more than 50 per cent of its discretionary national receipts on weapons of mass destruction and war, and cajoles other rich governments to spend inordinate amounts of their national treasure on weapons of war, death, and destruction and less on diplomacy and human and earth dignity.

"Mother Nature won't wait. Either we step up to the plate and do what is necessary or mankind loses."

© 2011 Phillipa Kennedy

The Cartoon Corner...

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

To End On A Happy Note...

Hey Stoopid
Alice Cooper

Hey, hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey stoopid

Hey bro, take it slow
You ain't livin' in a video
You're flying low with a high velocity

No doubt, you're stressin' out
That ain't what rock n' roll's about
Get off that one way trip down lonely street

Now I know you've been kicked around
You ain't alone in this ugly town
You stick a needle in your arm
You bite the dust, you buy the farm

Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey stoopid
What ya tryin' to do
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey stoopid
They win, you lose
Hey, hye, hey, hey, hey stoopid

C'mon girl, it's a better day
Get your foot out of that grave
Don't let that one love tear your world apart

C'mon babe, kick that stuff
Show the street it ain't so tough
Quit lyin' around with a crippled, broken heart

Now I know you've been seeing red
Don't put a pistol to your head
Sometimes your answer's heaven sent
Your way is so damn permanent

Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey stoopid
What ya tryin' to do
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey stoopid
They win, you lose
Hey, hye, hey, hey, hey stoopid

This ain't your daddy talkin'
You know, I know
Your story ain't so shocking
You know, I know
Blow some steam
C'mon and scream

Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey stoopid
What ya tryin' to do
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey stoopid
They win, you lose
Hey, hye, hey, hey,

Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey stoopid
What ya tryin' to do
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey stoopid
They win, you lose
Hey, hye, hey, hey, Hey Stoopid!
© 1991/2011 Alice Cooper

Have You Seen This...

Report Finds Troubling Rise In Teen Uranium Enrichment

Parting Shots...

Embarrassed Republicans Admit They've Been Thinking Of Eisenhower Whole Time They've Been Praising Reagan

WASHINGTON—At a press conference Monday, visibly embarrassed leaders of the Republican National Committee acknowledged that their nonstop, effusive praise of Ronald Reagan has been wholly unintentional, admitting they somehow managed to confuse him with Dwight D. Eisenhower for years.

The GOP's humiliating blunder was discovered last weekend by RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who realized his party had been extolling "completely the wrong guy" after he watched the History Channel special Eisenhower: An American Portrait.

"When I heard about Eisenhower's presidential accomplishments—holding down the national debt, keeping inflation in check, and fighting for balanced budgets—it hit me that we'd clearly gotten their names mixed up at some point," Priebus told reporters. "I couldn't believe we'd been associating terms like 'visionary,' 'principled,' and 'bold' with President Reagan. That wasn't him at all—that was Ike."

"We deeply regret misattributing such a distinguished and patriotic legacy to Mr. Reagan," Priebus added. "We really screwed up."

Following his discovery, Priebus directed RNC staffers to inform top Republicans of the error and explain that it was Eisenhower, not Reagan, who carefully managed the nation's prosperity, warned citizens of the military-industrial complex's growing influence, and led the country with a mix of firm resolve and humble compassion.

"Wait, you're telling me Reagan advocated that trickle-down nonsense that was debunked years ago? That was Reagan?" Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said upon hearing of the mistake. "I can't believe I've been calling for a return to Reagan's America. I feel like an asshole."

According to sources, millions of younger Republicans have spent most of their lives viewing Reagan a stalwart of conservative principles, and many were "horrified" to learn that the former president illegally sold weapons to Iran, declared amnesty for 2.9 million illegal immigrants, costarred in a movie with a chimpanzee, funneled aid to Islamic militants in Afghanistan, and suffered from severe mental problems.

In the wake of the GOP's revelation, Congress has passed bills to rename Reagan National Airport and the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier in honor of Eisenhower. A number of potential 2012 Republican presidential contenders have also rushed to reframe their agendas in terms of "Eisenhower ideals" while distancing themselves from Reagan.

"It's absolutely mortifying to suddenly realize that the man you had long credited as a champion of fiscal conservatism actually tripled the national debt and signed the largest peacetime tax hike in U.S. history," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, adding that he was ashamed to learn that the man he once called his hero stood by silently while the AIDS epidemic exploded. "Frankly, I can't even believe that fucker had the balls to call himself a conservative."

"But we must move beyond this mess and look ahead toward our country's future, a future much like the one envisioned by the great Ronald Reagan," Gingrich added. "Oh, sorry—force of habit."

The misplaced adulation of Reagan has reportedly affected more than just Republican rhetoric, and seems to have had an impact on policy. Former president George W. Bush told reporters he "honestly thought" everyone wanted him to follow in Reagan's footsteps, which led him to emulate the 40th president's out-of-control deficit spending, fealty to the super-rich, and illegal wars.

While the GOP's error has gone largely unnoticed by the American public, a number of citizens admitted to having been puzzled by Republicans' slavish celebration of Reagan during recent years.

"I never understood why everyone elevated him to the level of a party icon," said 89-year-old Nancy Reagan. "Ronnie was certainly sweet and I loved him very much, but let's face it, he was a terrible president."
© 2011 The Onion

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Iraq Deaths Estimator

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 08 (c) 02/25/2011

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