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In This Edition

Michael Hastings returns with, "Another Runaway General."

Uri Avnery watches, "A Crazy Prophet."

David Sirota concludes, "Double Standard Points To Single Set Of Values."

Randall Amster explores, "If At First You Don’t Secede…."

Jim Hightower demands, "Someone Call Governor Walker!"

Helen Thomas discovers, "White House Wimpy On Arab Upheaval."

James Donahue reminds us that, "Less Government Can Be A Good Thing."

Amy Goodman examines, "The Battle Of The Budgets."

Chris Floyd views, "The Rosy Crucifixion."

Matthew Rothschild reports, "The New York Times Plays Into Gov. Walker’s Hands."

Paul Krugman explains, " Leaving Children Behind."

Chris Hedges sees, "No Other Way Out."

David Michael Green with an absolute must read, "The Sole Remaining Stupidpower In The World."

Ohio Governor John Kasich wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Ralph Nader finds the people, "‘Mad As Hell’ In Madison."

J. Alva Scruggs exclaims. "Libya May Use Mustard Gas On It's Citizens!"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz says, "State Department Offers Support ‘to Whoever Winds Up Winning’" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Revolution Is The Solution!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mike Keefe, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Micah Wright, Tom Tomorrow, Tony Auth, Bill Day, Adam Zyglis, B Dog 23, Monte Wolverton, Paresh Nath, Fly In Ur Eye, KNP, Cindy H Photography, The Borowitz Report, 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."











Revolution Is The Solution!
By Ernest Stewart

Look what's happening out in the streets
Got a revolution, got to revolution
Volunteers ~~~ Jefferson Airplane

"The Bible says it's a capital offense. You want someone with unrepentant criminal behavior? And it's not just that, neither should adulterers, neither should thieves, neither should a lot of things. The church is full of sinners, but we're told in 1st Corinthians it rattled off the homosexual, the adulterer, the thief, the liar, and such were some of you, but you've been washed, you've been justified and so forth. It's not what you were. You're not punishing a thought. But do you want an unrepentant drug dealer in the military? Same thing." ~~~ Bobby Franklin on homosexuality in the military.

Oh but ain't that America for you and me.
Ain't that America something to see baby
Ain't that America home of the free
Little pinks houses for you and me.
Little Pink Houses ~~~ John Mellencamp

"'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman." ~~~ Harlan Ellison

We owe Scott (Hosni) Walker and his puppet masters the Koch brothers a debt of gratitude. Not one that would interrupt their trials and executions for treason and sedition, mind you! Perhaps the hangman could place the noose to the side of their necks, instead of behind their heads? That way it would immediately break their necks, instead of slowly straggling them? Why this generosity toward these evil men? For finally getting the average American couch potatoes off of their fat asses and into the streets where they belong!

I've sat here for ten years watching, wondering, and waiting to see what it would take for Americans to stand up to our corpo-rat masters and throw off their chains! Through a half a dozen. illegal, immoral wars. The gutting of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, even the loss of habeas corpus didn't trigger any large scale revolts!' The draining of our Treasury by giving trillions of dollars to Wall Street criminals that should have faced the headsman's axe for their crimes against humanity and destruction of the worlds economy, with the bill landing squarely at the middle classes, and working classes doors. Through eight years of the Crime Family Bush's and two years of Obamahood's reign, most Americans were idle, only bitching about these things, with no real action displayed by the vast majority. Why do we call them Sheeple, indeed, why?

So when Messrs. Koch and Walker tried their union-busting ploy and the people responded by taking over the capital and clogging the streets with tens of thousands of men, women and children. When even the cops, instead of busting heads joined in the protests, I saw a spark of hope arising in Madison. Last Saturday with a crowd of over one hundred thousand coming together in Madison while hundreds of thousands of others from coast to coast joined in the protests, perhaps this old dog lost some of his sarcasm, toward the Sheeple? Not much, mind you, but a definite crack in the armor!

Whether the revolution in Madison works out like it did in Egypt or as it has so far in Libya remains to be seen. If Hosni Walker calls out the guard, it may be a turning point in American history, depending upon whether they back the Kochs or the people. As long as it stays peaceful and Walker and his inner circle of evil don't hire some Blackwater goons to start violence as they've already talked about doing, the people might actually win one, which would enliven others to put their bodies where their mouths are and take a stand for America. Only time will tell; and have no doubt, I'll be watching every move, taking names and reporting it all back to you!

In Other News

With the Rethuglicans now-a-daze coming out of the closet to destroy what is left of American civil liberties, it's not surprising that the attacks on women's rights is at the front and center of their agenda. Rethuglican State Senators and Representatives are crawling out from under their rocks and cesspools to demand that women's bodies belong not to themselves, but to the state. So far, this appears to be happening in some of our more medieval states like Georgia and South Dakota where they'd like America to return to those Antebellum daze of Kings and slaves! However, the same kinds of things are happening as you know in Wisconsin and in Michigan, neither a hot bed of fascist theorem!

For example, Georgia's favorite son, Bobby Franklin, you may recall Bobby's bright idea from last year? Bobby wanted to make rape victims not victims but accusers, with the rapist not really a rapist but the real victim! Think that over for a minute, America, but don't let it give you any brain cramps.

This year this little Nazi brain-dead came up with a ten-page bill that would criminalize miscarriages and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal. Both miscarriages and abortions would be potentially punishable by death: "any prenatal murder" in the words of the bill, including "human involvement" in a miscarriage, would be a felony and carry a penalty of life in prison or death! Under Bobby's bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was "no human involvement whatsoever in the causation" of their miscarriage. In other words, all miscarriages, which is about one quarter of all pregnancies, are suspect and it would be up to the women to prove she is innocent. Considering that most all miscarriages occur because there is something wrong with the fetus, not the mother, this is incredibly wrong on a thousand different levels. So much for assumed innocent until proven guilty; now it's "guilty until proven innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt," something that has become the standard since Ray-Guns came on the scene.

Not to be outdone by Georgia, South Dakota, once known for Mount Rushmore, now known for the lunatics that run that state, has been a busy little beaver, too! On a similar blood-thirsty note, there is a bill under consideration that would make the murder of a doctor who legally performs abortions no longer a crime of murder but justifiable homicide! This includes killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus, an idea that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. House Bill 1171 has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and was expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP dominated House of Representatives, but before that could happen the word got out and it got tabled. Perhaps it's only waiting for the outrage to die down and a better time to bring it up again for a vote?

This turkey is being sponsored by Rep. Phil Jensen, and it alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could, in theory, allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion, even if she wanted one. Oh, and did I mention that these folks aren't even tea baggers, just ordinary old run-of-the-mill conservative Rethuglicans?

Not to be discouraged by the tabling of House Bill 1171 on Tuesday, the state's House of Representatives voted 49 to 19 to approve HB 1217, a first-of-its-kind law that supporters hope will drastically restrict access to abortion in South Dakota.

This legislation would require women to visit crisis pregnancy centers or CPRs that are most often run by anti-abortion groups before obtaining an abortion. A woman would need to first consult with the doctor providing the abortion, then visit a CPC and wait 72 hours. There has been controversy at the federal level about taxpayer dollars going to support CPCs, but this would mark the first time that a state would force women to visit such a center.

CPCs are not regulated, and are generally run by anti-abortion Christian groups. They are staffed by volunteers—not doctors or nurses—with the explicit goal of discouraging women from having abortions. Considering it's about an average of a 6 hour drive to get to a clinic for most women in South Dakota, this will in effect do what their attempts to outlaw abortion in South Dakota couldn't, i.e., stop abortions! Vote slavery, America; vote Republican!

And Finally

A couple of years ago I tried a little experiment over at You Tube. A friend, who at the time, didn't know how to put up videos at You Tube used to ask me to put his videos up. Most were videos of his cats or political videos he shot for America Jr., or Issues & Alibis and one video concerned his kitten Radar. It's 42 seconds of Radar being a kitten, not a big draw, well, not until I labeled it, "Kitten Being Eaten By A Snake!" Since I put it up on January 9th 2009 it has turned out to be an eye opener and the gift that keeps on giving.

Talk about a Psych 101 experiment on your friends and neighbors! Remember these folks are out, on the loose. Maybe the guy next door who looks so normal, who's quiet and who you'd never expect to be a chain saw murderer! Perhaps the guy down the block who is approaching 40 who sits in his underwear in his parent's basement on the computer from dawn to dark? Here are some of the replies left:

Thank God you did not do what was stated in the title of the video. My blood was boiling before seeing the video. Now I see it was a trick to get traffic. Still not cool at all. LittleTruckingBozo 1 year ago 3

I am sooooooo glad the kittens okay, but a very boring video.
angeldream2 1 year ago 3

Those represent about 9% of the the replies, here are some of the 91% of the less pleasant variety. Note not only what they say but the names they have chosen for themselves!

another flag for misleading title.. cant a guy see a snake screaming for its life while being eaten by a snake? do i honestly have to buy a damn snake and feed it kittens?
CerberusFlux 4 months ago 3

wat the hell wat a ripp
MrRAZZY1234 6 hours ago

where is your snake ?
zeah337 2 days ago

man I wanted to see a fucking kitten get digested.
IceDragon714 2 days ago

@Sowff well then fuck Nam!! if thats how you want it worded. asshole
CrashOverdrive4 3 weeks ago

If this was real WHY THE HECK DIDN'T gRAB THE CAT AND RUN
SuperDarkestKiller 1 month ago

cats are the most stupid retarded animals out there i'd be happt to see the snake eat it,

Fucking asshole, you've wasted my time! I really wish you and your gay cat die from some sort of brain timor or blood disease. Shit, even AIDS would be OK for you 2 faggots.
DarkMurderer38 6 months ago

shit video, shit cat, you wasted my fucking time you CUNT.
markdangerman 6 months ago

Stupid fucking video. I just wasted 42 seconds of my life.
montananurse1 6 months ago

@Sowff fuck you i want dead kittens eaten alive bitch
TheBramful 7 months ago

@Sowff THIS VIDEOCLIP SUCKS i flagged it Innapropaite for misleading name !
socomsix19 7 months ago

Total lies... thanks arsehole i was going to enjoy that. "respect for his creative freedom"? translation - i am an attention grabbing fuckhead
minstrelfool 7 months ago

I hate cat .
geography10110125 8 months ago

It makes you proud to be an American, does it not?

Keepin' On

Like the Harlequin in Harlan Ellison's "Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" I, too, am running out of time. Also, like Harlequin, I, too, am a rebel against the system, as are you, too, or you wouldn't be reading these words. However, unlike the Harlequin I'm running out of money to keep publishing, and like the Harlequin I'm also running out of time to raise the money that I need to keep publishing!

To say that donations this year are at an all time low is a vast understatement. As it stands today, there will only be two more editions after this one before we run out of time. If you ever have considered helping us out with a donation, or if you would like to place an ad, now would be the time to do so!

There is still time to help us effect change and stop the madness that all but engulfs us, but just barely. Please send us any amount that you can in cash, a check, or a postal money order. Just go to our Donations Page and follow the directions. Ticktock, ticktock, America!

*****


09-19-1926 ~ 02-27-2011
Yer out of dere!


02-01-1901 ~ 02-27-2011
At Ease!


06-21-1921 ~ 02-28-2011
Thanks for the films!


06-28-1946 ~ 03-01-2011
Thanks for the flights!


*****

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

*****

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.











Sen. John McCain walks with Lt. Gen. William Caldwell at
Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan on January 6, 2009.



Another Runaway General
Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators
By Michael Hastings

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The Runaway General: The Rolling Stone Profile of Stanley McChrystal That Changed History

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as "information operations" at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.

"My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave," says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. "I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line."

Photos: Psy-Ops and the General

The list of targeted visitors was long, according to interviews with members of the IO team and internal documents obtained by Rolling Stone. Those singled out in the campaign included senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin; Rep. Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee; Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan; the German interior minister, and a host of influential think-tank analysts.

The incident offers an indication of just how desperate the U.S. command in Afghanistan is to spin American civilian leaders into supporting an increasingly unpopular war. According to the Defense Department’s own definition, psy-ops – the use of propaganda and psychological tactics to influence emotions and behaviors – are supposed to be used exclusively on "hostile foreign groups." Federal law forbids the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans, and each defense authorization bill comes with a "propaganda rider" that also prohibits such manipulation. "Everyone in the psy-ops, intel, and IO community knows you’re not supposed to target Americans," says a veteran member of another psy-ops team who has run operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It’s what you learn on day one."

King David's War: How Gen. Petraeus Is Doubling Down on a Failed Strategy

When Holmes and his four-man team arrived in Afghanistan in November 2009, their mission was to assess the effects of U.S. propaganda on the Taliban and the local Afghan population. But the following month, Holmes began receiving orders from Caldwell’s staff to direct his expertise on a new target: visiting Americans. At first, the orders were administered verbally. According to Holmes, who attended at least a dozen meetings with Caldwell to discuss the operation, the general wanted the IO unit to do the kind of seemingly innocuous work usually delegated to the two dozen members of his public affairs staff: compiling detailed profiles of the VIPs, including their voting records, their likes and dislikes, and their "hot-button issues." In one email to Holmes, Caldwell’s staff also wanted to know how to shape the general’s presentations to the visiting dignitaries, and how best to "refine our messaging."

Congressional delegations – known in military jargon as CODELs – are no strangers to spin. U.S. lawmakers routinely take trips to the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they receive carefully orchestrated briefings and visit local markets before posing for souvenir photos in helmets and flak jackets. Informally, the trips are a way for generals to lobby congressmen and provide first-hand updates on the war. But what Caldwell was looking for was more than the usual background briefings on senators. According to Holmes, the general wanted the IO team to provide a "deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds." The general’s chief of staff also asked Holmes how Caldwell could secretly manipulate the U.S. lawmakers without their knowledge. "How do we get these guys to give us more people?" he demanded. "What do I have to plant inside their heads?"

According to experts on intelligence policy, asking a psy-ops team to direct its expertise against visiting dignitaries would be like the president asking the CIA to put together background dossiers on congressional opponents. Holmes was even expected to sit in on Caldwell’s meetings with the senators and take notes, without divulging his background. "Putting your propaganda people in a room with senators doesn’t look good," says John Pike, a leading military analyst. "It doesn’t pass the smell test. Any decent propaganda operator would tell you that."

At a minimum, the use of the IO team against U.S. senators was a misuse of vital resources designed to combat the enemy; it cost American taxpayers roughly $6 million to deploy Holmes and his team in Afghanistan for a year. But Caldwell seemed more eager to advance his own career than to defeat the Taliban. "We called it Operation Fourth Star," says Holmes. "Caldwell seemed far more focused on the Americans and the funding stream than he was on the Afghans. We were there to teach and train the Afghans. But for the first four months it was all about the U.S. Later he even started talking about targeting the NATO populations." At one point, according to Holmes, Caldwell wanted to break up the IO team and give each general on his staff their own personal spokesperson with psy-ops training.

The Insurgent's Tale: A Soldier Reconsiders Jihad It wasn’t the first time that Caldwell had tried to tear down the wall that has historically separated public affairs and psy-ops – the distinction the military is supposed to maintain between "informing" and "influencing." After a stint as the top U.S. spokesperson in Iraq, the general pushed aggressively to expand the military’s use of information operations. During his time as a commander at Ft. Leavenworth, Caldwell argued for exploiting new technologies like blogging and Wikipedia – a move that would widen the military’s ability to influence the public, both foreign and domestic. According to sources close to the general, he also tried to rewrite the official doctrine on information operations, though that effort ultimately failed. (In recent months, the Pentagon has quietly dropped the nefarious-sounding moniker "psy-ops" in favor of the more neutral "MISO" – short for Military Information Support Operations.)

Under duress, Holmes and his team provided Caldwell with background assessments on the visiting senators, and helped prep the general for his high-profile encounters. But according to members of his unit, Holmes did his best to resist the orders. Holmes believed that using his team to target American civilians violated the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which was passed by Congress to prevent the State Department from using Soviet-style propaganda techniques on U.S. citizens. But when Holmes brought his concerns to Col. Gregory Breazile, the spokesperson for the Afghan training mission run by Caldwell, the discussion ended in a screaming match. "It’s not illegal if I say it isn’t!" Holmes recalls Breazile shouting.

In March 2010, Breazile issued a written order that "directly tasked" Holmes to conduct an IO campaign against "all DV visits" – short for "distinguished visitor." The team was also instructed to "prepare the context and develop the prep package for each visit." In case the order wasn’t clear enough, Breazile added that the new instructions were to "take priority over all other duties." Instead of fighting the Taliban, Holmes and his team were now responsible for using their training to win the hearts and minds of John McCain and Al Franken.

On March 23rd, Holmes emailed the JAG lawyer who handled information operations, saying that the order made him "nervous." The lawyer, Capt. John Scott, agreed with Holmes. "The short answer is that IO doesn’t do that," Scott replied in an email. "[Public affairs] works on the hearts and minds of our own citizens and IO works on the hearts and minds of the citizens of other nations. While the twain do occasionally intersect, such intersections, like violent contact during a soccer game, should be unintentional."

In another email, Scott advised Holmes to seek his own defense counsel. "Using IO to influence our own folks is a bad idea," the lawyer wrote, "and contrary to IO policy."

In a statement to Rolling Stone, a spokesman for Caldwell "categorically denies the assertion that the command used an Information Operations Cell to influence Distinguished Visitors." But after Scott offered his legal opinion, the order was rewritten to stipulate that the IO unit should only use publicly available records to create profiles of U.S. visitors. Based on the narrower definition of the order, Holmes and his team believed the incident was behind them.

Three weeks after the exchange, however, Holmes learned that he was the subject of an investigation, called an AR 15-6. The investigation had been ordered by Col. Joe Buche, Caldwell’s chief of staff. The 22-page report, obtained by Rolling Stone, reads like something put together by Kenneth Starr. The investigator accuses Holmes of going off base in civilian clothes without permission, improperly using his position to start a private business, consuming alcohol, using Facebook too much, and having an "inappropriate" relationship with one of his subordinates, Maj. Laural Levine. The investigator also noted a joking comment that Holmes made on his Facebook wall, in response to a jibe about Afghan men wanting to hold his hand. "Hey! I’ve been here almost five months now!" Holmes wrote. "Gimmee a break a man has needs you know."

"LTC Holmes’ comments about his sexual needs," the report concluded, "are even more distasteful in light of his status as a married man."

Both Holmes and Levine maintain that there was nothing inappropriate about their relationship, and said they were waiting until after they left Afghanistan to start their own business. They and other members of the team also say that they had been given permission to go off post in civilian clothes. As for Facebook, Caldwell’s command had aggressively encouraged its officers to the use the site as part of a social-networking initiative – and Holmes ranked only 15th among the biggest users.

Nor was Holmes the only one who wrote silly things online. Col. Breazile’s Facebook page, for example, is spotted with similar kinds of nonsense, including multiple references to drinking alcohol, and a photo of a warning inside a Port-o-John mocking Afghans – "In case any of you forgot that you are supposed to sit on the toilet and not stand on it and squat. It’s a safety issue. We don’t want you to fall in or miss your target." Breazile now serves at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he works in the office dedicated to waging a global information war for the Pentagon.

Following the investigation, both Holmes and Levine were formally reprimanded. Holmes, believing that he was being targeted for questioning the legality of waging an IO campaign against U.S. visitors, complained to the Defense Department’s inspector general. Three months later, he was informed that he was not entitled to protection as a whistleblower, because the JAG lawyer he consulted was not "designated to receive such communications."

Levine, who has a spotless record and 19 service awards after 16 years in the military, including a tour of duty in Kuwait and Iraq, fears that she has become "the collateral damage" in the military’s effort to retaliate against Holmes. "It will probably end my career," she says. "My father was an officer, and I believed officers would never act like this. I was devastated. I’ve lost my faith in the military, and I couldn’t in good conscience recommend anyone joining right now."

After being reprimanded, Holmes and his team were essentially ignored for the rest of their tours in Afghanistan. But on June 15th, the entire Afghan training mission received a surprising memo from Col. Buche, Caldwell’s chief of staff. "Effective immediately," the memo read, "the engagement in information operations by personnel assigned to the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan is strictly prohibited." From now on, the memo added, the "information operation cell" would be referred to as the "Information Engagement cell." The IE’s mission? "This cell will engage in activities for the sole purpose of informing and educating U.S., Afghan and international audiences…." The memo declared, in short, that those who had trained in psy-ops and other forms of propaganda would now officially be working as public relations experts – targeting a worldwide audience.

As for the operation targeting U.S. senators, there is no way to tell what, if any, influence it had on American policy. What is clear is that in January 2011, Caldwell’s command asked the Obama administration for another $2 billion to train an additional 70,000 Afghan troops – an initiative that will already cost U.S. taxpayers more than $11 billion this year. Among the biggest boosters in Washington to give Caldwell the additional money? Sen. Carl Levin, one of the senators whom Holmes had been ordered to target.
© 2011 Michael Hastings





A Crazy Prophet
By Uri Avnery

“WHY DON’T the masses stream to the square here, too, and throw Bibi out?” my taxi driver exclaimed when we were passing Rabin Square. The wide expanse was almost empty, with only a few mothers and their children enjoying the mild winter sun.

The masses will not stream to the square, and Binyamin Netanyahu can be thrown out only through the ballot box.

If this does not happen, Israelis can blame nobody but themselves.

If the Israeli Left is unable to bring together a serious political force, which can put Israel on the road to peace and social justice, it has only itself to blame.

We have no bloodthirsty dictator whom we can hold responsible. No crazy tyrant will order his air force to bomb us if we demand his ouster.

Once there was a story making the rounds: Ariel Sharon – then still a general in the army – assembles the officer corps and tells them: “Comrades, tonight we shall carry out a military coup!” All the assembled officers break out in thunderous laughter.

DEMOCRACY IS like air – one feels it only when it is not there. Only a person who is suffocating knows how essential it is.

The taxi driver who spoke so freely about kicking Netanyahu out did not fear that I might be an agent of the secret police, and that in the small hours of the morning there would be a knock on his door. I am writing whatever comes into my head and don’t walk around with bodyguards. And if we did decide to gather in the square, nobody would prevent us from doing so, and the police might even protect us.

(I am speaking, of course, about Israel within its sovereign borders. None of this applies to the occupied Palestinian territories.)

We live in a democracy, breathe democracy, without even being conscious of it. For us It feels natural, we take it for granted. That’s why people often give silly answers to public opinion pollsters, and these draw the dramatic conclusion that the majority of Israeli citizens despise democracy and are ready to give it up. Most of those asked have never lived under a regime in which a woman must fear that her husband will not come home from work because he made a joke about the Supreme Leader, or that her son might disappear because he drew some graffiti on the wall.

The Knesset members who were chosen in democratic elections spend their time in a game of who can draw up the most atrocious racist bill. They resemble children pulling off the wings of flies, without understanding what they are doing.

To all these I have one piece of advice: look at what is happening in Libya.

DURING THE whole week I spent every spare moment glued to Aljazeera.

One word about the station: excellent.

It need not fear comparison with any broadcaster in the world, including the BBC and CNN. Not to mention our own stations, which serve a murky brew concocted from propaganda, information and entertainment.

Much has been said about the part played by the social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, in the revolutions that are now turning the Arab world upside down. But for sheer influence, Aljazeera trumps them all. During the last decade, it has changed the Arab world beyond recognition. In the last few weeks, it has wrought miracles.

To see the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the other countries on Israeli, American or German TV is like kissing through a handkerchief. To see them on Aljazeera is to feel the real thing.

All my adult life I have advocated involved journalism. I have tried to teach generations of journalists not to become reporting robots, but human beings with a conscience who see their mission in promoting the basic human values. Aljazeera is doing just that. And how!

These last weeks, tens of millions of Arabs have depended on this station in order to find out what is happening in their own countries, indeed in their home towns – what is happening on Habib Bourguiba Boulevard in Tunis, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, in the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli.

I know that many Israelis will consider these words heretical, given Aljazeera’s staunch support of the Palestinian cause. It is seen here as the arch-enemy, no less than Osama bin Laden or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But one simply must view its broadcasts, to have any hope of understanding what is happening in the Arab world, including the occupied Palestinian territories.

When Aljazeera covers a war or a revolution in the Arab world, it covers it. Not for an hour or two, but for 24 hours around the clock. The pictures are engraved in one’s memory, the testimonies stir one’s emotions. The impact on Arab viewers is almost hypnotic.

MUAMMAR QADDAFI was shown on Aljazeera as he really is – an unbalanced megalomaniac who has lost touch with reality. Not in short news clips, but for hours and hours of continuous broadcasts, in which the rambling speech he recently gave was shown again and again, with the addition of dozens of testimonies and opinions from Libyans of all sectors – from the air force officers who defected to Malta to ordinary citizens in bombed Tripoli.

At the beginning of his speech, Qaddafi (whose name is pronounced Qazzafi, whence the slogan “Ya Qazzafi, Ya Qazzabi” – Oh Qazzafi, Oh Liar) reminded me of Nicolae Ceausescu and his famous last speech from the balcony, which was interrupted by the masses. But as the speech went on, Qaddafi reminded me more and more of Adolf Hitler in his last days, when he pored over the map with his remaining generals, maneuvering armies which had already ceased to exist and planning grandiose “operations”, with the Red Army already within a few hundred yards from his bunker.

If Qaddafi were not planning to slaughter his own people, it could have been grotesque or sad. But as it was, it was only monstrous.

While he was talking, the rebels were taking control of towns whose names are still engraved in the memories of Israelis of my generation. In World War II, these places were the arena of the British, German and Italian armies, which captured and lost them turn by turn. We followed the actions anxiously, because a British defeat would have brought the Wehrmacht to our country, with Adolf Eichmann in its wake. Names like Benghazi, Tobruk and Derna still resound in my ear – the more so because my brother fought there as a British commando, before being transferred to the Ethiopian campaign, where he lost his life.

BEFORE QADDAFI lost his mind completely, he voiced an idea that sounded crazy, but which should give us food for thought.

Under the influence of the victory of the non-violent masses in Egypt, and before the earthquake had reached him too, Qaddafi proposed putting the masses of Palestinian refugees on ships and sending them to the shores of Israel.

I would advise Binyamin Netanyahu to take this possibility very seriously. What will happen if masses of Palestinians learn from the experience of their brothers and sisters in half a dozen Arab countries and conclude that the “armed struggle” leads nowhere, and that they should adopt the tactics of non-violent mass action?

What will happen if hundreds of thousands of Palestinians march one day to the Separation Wall and pull it down? What if a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon gather on our Northern border? What if masses of people assemble in Manara Square in Ramallah and Town Hall Square in Nablus and confront the Israeli troops? All this before the cameras of Aljazeera, accompanied by Facebook and Twitter, with the entire world looking on with bated breath?

Until now, the answer was simple: if necessary, we shall use live fire, helicopter gunships and tank cannon. No more nonsense.

But now the Palestinian youth, too, has seen that it is possible to face live fire, that Qaddafi’s fighter planes did not put an end to the uprising, that Pearl Square in Bahrain did not empty when the king’s soldiers opened fire. This lesson will not be forgotten.

Perhaps this will not happen tomorrow or the day after. But it most certainly will happen – unless we make peace while we still can.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom






Double Standard Points To Single Set Of Values
By David Sirota

As the latest showdown to dominate American politics, the battle between Wisconsin's governor and public em-ployees carries many unspoken messages. It tells us, for instance, Republi-cans do not see collective bargaining as a fundamental human right. It also suggests Democrats are willing - finally - to draw a line in the sand. But most important of all, it shows what government sees as its top priority.

Recall that in recent years, we've witnessed two separate debates over two types of taxpayer-subsidized laborers. First, we saw a brief argument over how much taxpayer money should pay government-sponsored bankers on Wall Street. Now, we're having a more prolonged discussion about how much taxpayer money should pay public employees in our schools, police departments, fire departments and infrastructure agencies.

The first set of workers, underwritten by ongoing multitrillion-dollar Treasury and Federal Reserve bailouts, mostly cannibalize wealth through foreclosures and speculation. The second set of workers, by contrast, primarily create and protect wealth through educating children, preventing fires and crimes, and building public assets.

To the government-funded bankers, we've applied the notion of "you get what you pay for." Thus, our government has refrained from ending exorbitant pay packages at taxpayer-funded banks in the name of "retaining talent." That was the mantra of politicians and publicly subsidized financial executives when they weakened proposals to cap annual bank salaries at $500,000. Though an astronomical sum, one Wall Street adviser told reporters that half-a-million bucks "is not a lot of money," while others repeated a talking point from a corporate report insisting that government-sponsored banks would "experience a talent drain" if barred from paying employees millions.

Of course, this same idea of paying a premium to retain talent is nowhere in our discussion about the other set of public workers. Instead, we mostly hear politicians and media voices berating teachers, firefighters and police officers as "freeloaders" or "welfare cases." This, despite the Economic Policy Institute reporting that these nonbank public employees make 3.7 percent less than those in similar private-sector jobs.

Taken together, this might seem like a double standard, but it's actually a consistent, if abhorrent, statement of priorities in an age of avarice - an age in which financial executives can grossly outspend middle-class workers on campaign contributions.

In this corrupt system, public compensation decisions by bought-off elected officials highlight a larger corporatist ideology - one that says attracting the best and brightest to the "greed is good" financial industry is more important than attracting that work force to common-good endeavors.

In this view, $500,000 isn't nearly enough taxpayer cash to retain government-funded bankers, but $48,000 (the average teacher salary in Wisconsin) is too much to pay educators. In this view, the government is "there to serve the banks," as the new chairman of Congress' Financial Services Committee said, but police and firefighters are expected to serve the population, even as those police officers and firefighters are berated for receiving middle-class wages.

Yes, in this destructive and now-ascendant view, government exists to pad private profits but do nothing more - and that's the kind of government we should all expect to get.
(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 OpenLeft.com. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com. David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.







If At First You Don’t Secede…
By Randall Amster

Progressive eyes have been rightly transfixed on Wisconsin of late, with the en masse display of “people power” directly confronting attempts to erode public infrastructure and eviscerate the leverage of collective bargaining that so many have struggled for over the decades. Coming on the heels of popular uprisings in Egypt and across the region, and with the potential for an ensuing General Strike in the offing if austerity measures persist, the “Wisky Rebellion” has captured the imagination of workers and activists, spawning solidarity actions around America and inspiring people in other states to push back against comparable rightwing machinations. Arizona has been no exception, as hundreds gathered in Phoenix recently to show their support for protesters in Wisconsin, and to voice their displeasure at similar policies in their midst. If there’s another state in the union with a competing claim to be the frontline of reactionary politics gone haywire, it is surely Arizona. Beset by invidious legislation and a decimated economy, among other issues, the nascent “failed state” ethos that has taken hold in the desert is escalating even as the leading edge of a people’s movement begins to push back half a continent away. While Phoenix bears little overt resemblance to Madison, either geographically or politically, the national assault on sane governance compels us to explore the linkage.

For sheer temerity, the Grand Canyon State remains unparalleled in its monumental ruination. Following the international debacle that was SB 1070 and the national tragedy of the Tucson massacre, the state legislature has been hard at work to eliminate the vestiges of the public healthcare system, deny organ transplants to dying patients, cut educational spending to the bone, and pass titanic corporate tax cuts at the same time. Perhaps even more shockingly, with the Safeway shootings still fresh in the populace’s mind, the legislature is now advancing a bill to adopt an official state gun, namely the Colt Single Action Army Revolver. Nero may have famously fiddled while Rome burned, but Arizona is close to one-upping him.

As if to reinforce the audacity of hopelessness that has become the state’s nouveau calling card, Arizona’s rightwing supermajority is poised to pass Senate Bill 1433, which essentially allows the state legislature to choose which federal laws it will follow. The measure reads like a convoluted law school exam response to a question about constitutional arcana, and contains a number of thinly-veiled secessionist provisions that hark back to antebellum days — perhaps unsurprising, since Arizona was the only western territory to support the slaveholding states, and obviously has its own sordid racialized history to grapple with in the present as well.

Among SB 1433’s problematic provisions are the notion that Arizona “specifically rejects and denies any expanded authority that the federal government may attempt to enforce;”that “the Congress and the federal government are denied the power to establish laws within this state that are repugnant and obtrusive to state law and to the people in this state;” that “Congress and the federal government are denied the power to bind the states under foreign statute or case law other than those provisions duly ratified by the Congress as a treaty;” that “no authority has ever been given to the legislative branch, the executive branch or the judicial branch of the federal government to preempt state legislation;” and that “this act serves as a notice and demand to the Congress and the federal government to cease and desist all activities outside the scope of their constitutionally designated powers.”

This is, of course, driven in part by the federal government’s lawsuit to block implementation of SB 1070, which was enjoined in large measure by a federal judge last summer. The arch-conservative cadre that has been ruling Arizona like a feudal fiefdom in recent years is likewise bound up with a national effort to promote “divide and conquer” policies, anti-public and anti-worker austerity measures, and odious laws aimed at marginalized populations. What we’ve been waking up to coming out of Wisconsin is perhaps the first large-scale salvo in confronting this neo-fascistic narrative and invigorating a popular uprising against its worst abuses — many of which continue to be plied in the trial-balloon case study that is Arizona.

In an attempt to expose the disingenuousness and stem the tide of nativist separatism, an amendment to SB 1433 was offered (and of course defeated) that would have taken secession to its next logical level by allowing localities to absent themselves from being ruled by the state legislature itself, as described by the Arizona Republic:

Some southern Arizonans have had enough of the state Legislature’s efforts this year to assert its state sovereignty. Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, proposed an amendment Thursday that would have allowed Pima County to secede from the state. The amendment was attached to a Republican state sovereignty bill that would allow the Legislature to pick and choose which federal laws it will follow…. Aboud said her amendment was intended to be as ridiculous as she believes the underlying bill to be. ‘But while this is tongue-in-cheek, I can’t tell you the overwhelming support I’m getting from southern Arizona to secede,’ Aboud said. ‘We don’t want to be part of a state that continues to embarrass Arizona.’

A recent article in the Arizona Daily Star soberly reports that a group has formed specifically to promote the notion of establishing a 51st state, to be called “Baja Arizona,” comprised of over a million people within territorial boundaries larger than seven existing U.S. states:

A political committee made up of attorneys, including the former chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, has been formed to try to get Southern Arizona to secede from the rest of the state. Start Our State, which is asking other like-minded counties to join the effort, hopes to put the question before Pima County voters in 2012…. Paul Eckerstrom, co-chair of Start Our State, said it’s not a ploy and not merely a political statement. He said the state Legislature has gone too far to the right. In particular, a round of legislative measures challenging federal supremacy ‘really does border on them saying they don’t want to be part of the Union any longer,’ he said.

Against the backdrop of this political theater, we might also consider the concrete implications. Secession may have its virtues, and there are locales in America (both left and right) that resemble de facto “micro-republics” in terms of cultural, legal, or other forms of normative resistance. From the nonviolent, anti-corporate Second Vermont Republic movement to the Bay Area’s Oaksterdam district that flouts federal marijuana laws, there are a plethora of nascent initiatives aimed at reasserting more localized governance in the face of a perceived creeping authoritarianism. Many such efforts originate on the political right, and not a few are bound up with militia-type movements that promote a literal call to arms, among other aims.

While the seductive logic of “local control” may have an appeal across the political spectrum, it is equally the case that recent history has not been particularly kind to “breakaway republics,” from Chechnya to Quebec. Nation-states are notoriously territorial, and often seek to expand their domains rather than contract them. The fall of the former Soviet Union and the demise of Yugoslavia opened up the prospect of new states being created, and secessionist movements can be found on every continent and within the borders of most nations. A 2008 Zogby poll found that one-fifth of Americans surveyed were in support of the right of state secession from the federal union, but no such formal declaration has been proffered since the Civil War. Arizona’s implicit statement via SB 1433 may serve to change that in the days ahead.

A primary issue with the Arizona-style attempt to secede is its blatant hypocrisy, as the rejected Baja Arizona amendment illustrates. When SB 1070 was due to take effect, a number of cities around the state (including Tucson) voted to support lawsuits against the measure and to resist implementing its most draconian provisions. Ironically, SB 1070 contained language requiring municipalities and individuals to fully enforce the law, including among its leverage points the potential to be sued by any citizen if a given locale’s anti-immigration enforcement was deemed to be less than robust. The prospective “slippery slope” of secession — in which continually smaller units of affiliation declare their independence from larger ones — is forestalled by the apparent desire of a faction at the state level simply to consolidate their power and enjoy a “free hand” to impose apartheid policies and severe austerity measures that are immunized against contestation either from above or below.

In this sense, the real problem with secession is its ready cooptation as a tool of tyranny, akin to the “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges” rationalization of justice blithely denied. A better conception would be to shift the terms of the discussion to autonomy instead, indicating the essential notion of individuals and communities retaining the inherent power to adopt measures of self-governance particular to their scalar needs. Whereas secession can be perverted as a clandestine attempt to impose authoritarian rule on a homegrown level, autonomy as a political concept is more often associated with grassroots governance, local production, self-sufficiency, and the celebration of diversity. In essence, it is a communitarian ethic that validates the capacity of individuals to determine the conditions of their lives.

As America wakes up to the possibility of a popular uprising moving to meet the steady interposition of autocratic rule, we would do well to revisit the larger implications and burgeoning aims of such a movement as it struggles to take hold. Arizona provides us (yet again) with a cautionary tale, even as Wisconsin offers a ray of optimism and a potential blueprint for meaningful contestation. If we can manage to go one step further and view all of this through the lens of a widening global referendum on the right of “the people” to define the future — rather than swallowing the prepackaged version delivered by militarists and industrialists around the globe — we may someday look back on this as the pivotal moment when Americans were finally impelled to join the rest of the world in confronting a harsh reality from which we are often well-shielded in our relative abundance and willing pacification.

It’s morning again in America, and the alarm bell is sounding. From Madison to Phoenix, may we heed its call and rise to meet the challenge of deciding for ourselves what the day will bring.
(c) 2011 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).







Someone Call Governor Walker!

I wonder if Wisconsin's GOP governor, Scott Walker, is aware that some lunatic is dressing up like him, issuing a rash of stupid statements in his name, and making an unholy mess of his state's government?

The guy running around in Walker's suit has been mindlessly ranting about how he intends to crush the democratic rights of state workers in order to balance the budget. I know he's an impostor because no actual governor would make such patently ridiculous comments or push such an insanely destructive political agenda.

"We don't have any money," the fake governor recently cried. The real Governor Walker would avoid any mention of this embarrassment, because it was he who pooh-poohed the state's $137 million shortfall just a few weeks ago by doling our $117 million in tax giveaways to business interests.

But the bogus governor's stupidest claim is that fixing the budget problem requires him to take away the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Hello – suppressing worker rights will not cut a dime out of the budget. But it will cut the heart out of the state's historic commitment to economic fairness. A real governor would know that.

The faux "Mr. Walker" then tried to camouflage his anti-worker assault, absurdly asserting that killing collective bargaining "doesn't alter worker rights." Come on – even right-wing, corporate-hugging Republican governors know that collective bargaining is what puts some measure of democracy in America's workplace, both producing and protecting the rights of employees from autocratic executives.

The impostor really blew his charade though when he claimed that eliminating bargaining is what he was elected to do. Uh-oh, pants on fire! The real Scott Walker knows that he didn't even mention such a crazy idea in his campaign. If he had, he would not have won.
(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.








White House Wimpy On Arab Upheaval
By Helen Thomas

The Arab world is in flames with the people demanding their human rights and democracy, and what does the United States do? It casts a veto against a resolution condemning Israel for building illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

U.S. Representative to the U.N. Susan Rice raised her hand and cast the veto in a 14 - 1 vote. All of the major powers, including Britain, France, Russia and China, supported the resolution.

President Barack Obama was on the phone for one hour, begging Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw the resolution. He also reportedly threatened Abbas that the U.S. would cut off aid to Palestinians if the resolution prevailed.

Wikileaks had already revealed the concessions to Israel that Abbas had made in a series of secret negotiations with Israel, jeopardizing his position with many of the Palestinian people.

Israel is instilled with fear, having to deal with revolutionary changes in Egypt, a friend and ally, and possibly Jordan, where King Abdullah is making changes in his own cabinet to catch up with the demands for reforms.

After the U.N. veto, Rice made the rounds on the TV talk shows. She gave hypocrisy a new name when she kept insisting the U.S. was against Israeli construction of new settlements, but contended it would have hardened positions on both sides if the resolution had passed.

Clearly Rice was uncomfortable as she tried to explain the rationale for the U.S. veto. She was defending the indefensible. The U.N. charter bars annexation of occupied land. Rice should have called in sick.

Is the White House so tone-deaf to the dramatic developments and upheaval in the Mediterranean region?

With Arabs hitting the streets with demands that their autocratic leaders - from Tunisia to Libya - step down from their thrones, Abbas would have been finished if he had listened to Obama. The Palestinian leader is very conciliatory and has made many concessions in secret talks with the Israeli leaders, but he could not have gone too far without losing his own leadership position.

So far the White House has been all talk, but is said to be considering sanctions against Libya, for the violent tactics against its people. Britain, however, has taken concrete steps to halt the brutal Muammar Gaddafi by refusing to ship orders for arms and canisters of tear gas to Libya. The opposition to the Libyan leader is urging the international world to declare Libya a "no-fly zone" and bar any future commercial dealings with oil-rich Libya.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday strongly denounced the violence in Libya and declared it was "unacceptable," but neither she nor Obama have taken any stronger actions than just words. Granted, however, the U.S. has very little leverage with Libya. The two countries only resumed diplomatic relations in 2009.

In the meantime, the U.S. is keeping an eye on Yemen and Bahrain, where there have been strong outbreaks against their governments.

Obama and the U.S. Congress are dealing with a brave new Arab world. They have to get used to it. Clinton keeps urging the embattled Middle East and North African nations to hold their fire and use caution, but it is too late now. Even Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and possibly Morocco are falling to the people's will. Gadafi, in a 75-minute speech on Libyan television, vowed he would not step down and he would die a martyr.

The revolutionary Arabs have nothing to lose but their chains. And the western world has to deal with them with concrete steps, and show support for the crowds who are seeking human dignity and the rights that the American Revolutionaries fought for over 200 years ago.

The U.S. can only be happy with the revolutionary changes sweeping the Arab world. Obama made a major speech in 2009, in Cairo, urging democratic reforms, and the people have taken him up on his challenge.

Obama who campaigned for change, is certainly seeing change in the international world today. The question is, is he up to coping with it?

The change, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, has come about from the young people and social media. It was unexpected and has taken the world by surprise. So it is back to the drawing board for Obama and U.S. officials, who have been behind the curve. Now Obama must make positive moves to practice what he preached.
(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.







Less Government Can Be A Good Thing
By James Donahue

While I do not agree with the Republican/Tea Bagger plan for a bloody slashing of federal spending for programs that serve the poor and elderly, there is merit in the thought that something needs to be done to curb runaway federal spending.

Back in the days after the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson won a landslide election to office with the Democrats holding power in both houses. Johnson did two things that have had a negative impact on the nation ever since. He escalated the Vietnam War, thus feeding the already powerful industrial military complex. His “Guns and Butter” policy also generated excess spending in state and local governments.

The Johnson Administration created something called the Comprehensive Employment Training Act, or CETA, which funneled billions of federal tax dollars back into state, county and local coffers. The money was used to hire and train a battery of new government workers just to create jobs for the unemployed. Consequently many new government agencies and offices were created, and jobs were dreamed up that were not needed but still exist today.

Among the most blatant misuses of this money was the training and hiring of additional police officers. The small town where I lived had one police chief before CETA came along. That officer watched over the town every evening from the town’s one patrol car, which he generally parked in a used car lot near the main corner of the downtown business district. Since he didn’t have much to do as a police chief, this man also served as the Superintendent of Public Works during the day.

After CETA money funneled in, the same town had a team of about five police officers and two patrol cars. Because these officers still lacked any reason for their existence, they made a nuisance of themselves, harassing the local youth and ticketing every driver that happened to go through town faster than the speed limit allowed.

The same thing was happening in towns, villages and townships all over the state. I am sure it happened everywhere in the United States. It was during this time that local Drug Task Forces were created to participate in the nation’s war against the evil Marijuana weed. It was also during this time that more federal dollars came down the funnel to launch special police units to fight child abuse issues. Strangely enough, as a news reporter in that rural area, I was unaware of either problems with marijuana or child abuse until after special police units existed to fight them. Suddenly both issues became major problems. I always thought they were manufactured to give these officers a reason for their existence.

Now with the Congressional Republicans hell-bent on slashing federal spending to local communities, instead of cutting the military, the war on terrorism and filling the pockets of the wealthy CEO’s of the insurance, legal and medical corporations plus the nation’s crooked lending institutions, hard times are looming for the people on main street America.

We look for dramatic reductions in the police departments. We may see our local bus services shut off, especially in the rural areas where people rely on them most. We see other services like the local libraries, unemployment assistance, food stamps, meals on wheels for the elderly, and many of the state agencies that were created to help people deal with the complexities of filling out complex government forms.

Will anybody be out there making sure the food we buy in our grocery stores is safe to eat? Or that the local factories aren’t dumping toxic chemicals directly into local lakes and streams? Will anybody care if the fish we catch are full of mercury or other dangerous substances?

We have long agreed that cutting wasteful spending has been necessary. But the cuts need to be carefully considered, not done on an across-the-board chopping block. Sure, we can do with less police. And we can probably close some of those offices created during the Johnson years just for the purpose of creating jobs.

Most of all, we need to shut down the nation’s scandalous war on drugs, declare marijuana a legal substance and let nearly half of the people now filling our overcrowded prisons go free. We also need to stop contracting with crooked firms like Black Water and Halliburton to help fight our wars overseas. Better yet, we need to shut down those wars and bring our troops home.

We also need to start putting tariffs on products manufactured overseas and getting imported to the United States. If we did this, even for stuff manufactured by the U. S. based companies that moved their plants overseas in a quest for cheap slave labor, two things would happen. The factories will soon move back into the United States and jobs will get plentiful again.

Accomplishing these things will go a long way toward balancing the federal budget, eliminating the national debt, and putting things back in order again. It is wrong to attack to poor and elderly without just cause.
(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.






The Battle Of The Budgets
New Fronts in the Afghan and Iraq Wars
by Amy Goodman

Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Idaho ... these are the latest fronts in the battle of budgets, with the larger fight over a potential shutdown of the U.S. government looming. These fights, radiating out from the occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol building, are occurring against the backdrop of the two wars waged by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. No discussion or debate over budgets, over wages and pensions, over deficits, should happen without a clear presentation of the costs of these wars—and the incalculable benefits that ending them would bring.

First, the cost of war. The U.S. is spending about $2 billion a week in Afghanistan alone. That’s about $104 billion a year — and that is not including Iraq. Compare that with the state budget shortfalls. According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “some 45 states and the District of Columbia are projecting budget shortfalls totaling $125 billion for fiscal year 2012.” The math is simple: The money should be poured back into the states, rather than into a state of war.

President Barack Obama shows no signs that he is going to end either the occupation of Iraq or the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Quite the opposite; he campaigned with the promise to expand the war in Afghanistan, and that is one campaign promise he has kept. So how is Obama’s war going? Not well.

This has been the deadliest period for civilians in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion began in October 2001. Sixty-five civilians were reportedly killed recently in Kunar, near Pakistan, where mounting civilian casualties lead to increasing popular support for the Taliban. 2010 was the deadliest year for U.S. soldiers as well, with 711 U.S. and allied deaths in Afghanistan. Soldier deaths remain high in 2011, with the fighting expected to intensify as the weather warms.

The Washington Post recently reported that Obama’s controversial CIA-run drone program, in which unmanned aerial drones are sent over rural Pakistan to launch Hellfire missiles at “suspected militants,” has killed at least 581 people, of whom only two were on a U.S. list of people suspected of being “high-level militants.” Ample evidence exists that the drone strikes, which have increased in number dramatically under Obama’s leadership, kill civilians, not to mention Pakistani civilian support for the United States.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the democracy that the neocons in Washington expected to deliver through the barrel of a gun with their “shock and awe” may be coming finally, not with the help of the U.S., but, rather, inspired by the peaceful, popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. However, Human Rights Watch has just reported that as people protest and dissidents organize, “the rights of Iraq’s most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees, are routinely violated with impunity.”

Protests have erupted in another Tahrir Square, in Baghdad (yes, it means “liberation” in Iraq and Egypt), against corruption and demanding jobs and better public services. Iraqi government forces killed 29 people over the weekend, and 300 people, including human-rights workers and journalists, have been rounded up.

Yet, the U.S. continues to pour money and troops into these endless wars. Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings, whose reporting exposed the crass behavior of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has just exposed what he calls an illegal operation run by Lt. Gen. William Caldwell in Afghanistan, in which a U.S. Army “psy-ops” operation was mounted against U.S. senators and other visiting dignitaries in order to win support and more funding. One of Hastings’ military sources quoted Caldwell as saying: “How do we get these guys to give us more people? ... What do I have to plant inside their heads?”

The recently retired special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), Arnold Fields, just reported that $11.4 billion is at risk due to inadequate planning. Another group, the U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting, “concludes that the United States has wasted tens of billions of the nearly $200 billion that has been spent on contracts and grants since 2002 to support military, reconstruction and other U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Which brings us back to those teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters in Wisconsin. Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, told me in the Capitol rotunda in Madison why the unionized firefighters were there, even though their union was one not targeted by Gov. Scott Walker’s bill. “This is about an attack on the middle class,” Mitchell said. By shutting down the attacks on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, we can prevent these attacks on the poor and middle class here at home.
(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.







The Rosy Crucifixion
Iraqi Reality Behind the Filter
By Chris Floyd

Following up from Friday's post on dissent against the American-imposed regime in Iraq, here are some observations from As'ad AbuKhalil on how the reality of the occupied land gets transmuted through the magic seeing stones of the American media into something more rosy and benign:

First, notice that US media, especially the New York Times and Washington Post, cover Iraq with barely a mention that the country is occupied and has been occupied since 2003. Secondly, notice that every article about repression and protests in Iraq has to mention that the country is a "democracy" as if to express amazement at the willingness of Iraqis to protest against it (this is today's NYT: "Unlike protests elsewhere in the region, the crowds in this young, war-torn democracy did not call for an entirely new form of government...").

Secondly, notice that the murder and repression by Iraqi puppet forces are always justified: (in the NYT today it said that people died from "clashes": "Iraq’s “day of rage” on Friday ended with nearly 20 protesters killed in clashes with security forces.").

Thirdly, notice that any protests against the occupation and its puppet forces are instantly conflated with Al-Qa`idah terrorism (this is from today's NYT: "But on Friday, he celebrated the fact that there had been no suicide bombings. Their absence was perhaps a fluke, but it suggested that heavy security restrictions..." I mean, why should they link the protests to suicide bombings? Unless they are implying--like the sectarian puppet, Al-Maliki, that Bin Laden was behind the protests--just like Qadhdhafi has claimed in Libya).

Fourthly, there is no opportunity missed to heap praise on puppet Iraqi repression forces. (Upon learning that some 20 protesters were killed, this is what a US commander has said: "Col. Barry A. Johnson, a spokesman for the United States military, said Iraq’s security forces appeared to respond well to the volatile, sometimes violent, crowds. “The Iraqi forces’ response appeared professional and restrained,” he said in an e-mail.").

Well, at least he didn't suggest that the Iraqi victims shot themselves in order to make Americans look bad, following the logic of the Grand High Poobah of the Militarist Lodge, David Petraeus, with his recent "suggestions" that the grubby little darkies in Afghanistan were burning their own children as a PR stunt.

But really: 20 people mowed down in protests, and this is a "professional and restrained" response? Recall the cries of condemnation that rightly greeted the attack on protestors during the December elections in Belarus. There, government thugs charged unarmed demonstrators and beat them. For this, and for repressions that in no way surpassed anything seen in Iraq daily, Belarus was hit with new sanctions. Yet in Iraq, a corrupt regime shoots down 20 citizens in a blood-and-iron crackdown; and they are praised by the imperial progressives along the Potomac for their restraint.

See AbuKhalil's post for further observations.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd







The New York Times Plays Into Gov. Walker’s Hands
By Matthew Rothschild

The New York Times’s coverage of the Wisconsin protests has been horrendous—so horrendous that it earned plaudits from Gov. Scott Walker.

In his punked phone call from the pretend Koch brother, Walker said the following:

“I don’t normally tell people to read New York Times, but the front page of the New York Times has a great story, one of these unbelievable moments of true journalism, what is supposed to be objective journalism,”

The story on Feb. 22 was written by Monica Davey and A. G. Sulzberger—hmmm, that last name sounds familiar. He just happens to be the son of the paper’s publisher.

Anyway, what Walker so admired about the piece was that the reporters talked to someone who’s “been laid off twice by GM” but still says “everyone else in his town has had to sacrifice except all these public employees and it’s about damn time they do, and he supports me. . . . I mean, every stereotypical blue-collar worker type they interviewed, and the only ones that weren’t with us were people who were either a public employee or married to a public employee. It’s an unbelievable story.”

It sure is.

Now the thing about reporting and editing is that it’s all about selection. The assignment editors at the New York Times could have sent the publisher’s son and Monica Davey out to find union people who voted for Walker but now have a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

Or they could have sent them out to find people who always voted for Republicans, but won’t anymore because of Walker.

I’ve met folks in both these categories at the rallies at the capitol. They’re not hard to find.

But no, the Times didn’t choose to report these stories. Instead, it wrote a piece so favorable to the hideous governor that he now wants to reprint it.

With the exception of Steven Greenhouse’s good reporting—not a surprise, because he is, after all, their veteran labor reporter—the leading liberal paper in the country has been worse than useless on the major domestic story of the year. The headlines have focused on “budget cuts,” when in fact the issue is collective bargaining. And the headline on the Sulzberger-Davey piece was distorted, also: “Union Bonds In Wisconsin Begin to Fray.”

Actually, in my 28 years in Wisconsin, I’ve never seen the union bonds tighter than they are today.

But you sure wouldn’t know that reading the New York Times.
(c)2011 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.







Leaving Children Behind
By Pauk Krugman

Will 2011 be the year of fiscal austerity? At the federal level, it’s still not clear: Republicans are demanding draconian spending cuts, but we don’t yet know how far they’re willing to go in a showdown with President Obama. At the state and local level, however, there’s no doubt about it: big spending cuts are coming.

And who will bear the brunt of these cuts? America’s children.

Now, politicians — and especially, in my experience, conservative politicians — always claim to be deeply concerned about the nation’s children. Back during the 2000 campaign, then-candidate George W. Bush, touting the “Texas miracle” of dramatically lower dropout rates, declared that he wanted to be the “education president.” Today, advocates of big spending cuts often claim that their greatest concern is the burden of debt our children will face.

In practice, however, when advocates of lower spending get a chance to put their ideas into practice, the burden always seems to fall disproportionately on those very children they claim to hold so dear.

Consider, as a case in point, what’s happening in Texas, which more and more seems to be where America’s political future happens first.

Texas likes to portray itself as a model of small government, and indeed it is. Taxes are low, at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average). Government spending is also low. And to be fair, low taxes may be one reason for the state’s rapid population growth, although low housing prices are surely much more important.

But here’s the thing: While low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

But wait — how can graduation rates be so low when Texas had that education miracle back when former President Bush was governor? Well, a couple of years into his presidency the truth about that miracle came out: Texas school administrators achieved low reported dropout rates the old-fashioned way — they, ahem, got the numbers wrong.

It’s not a pretty picture; compassion aside, you have to wonder — and many business people in Texas do — how the state can prosper in the long run with a future work force blighted by childhood poverty, poor health and lack of education.

But things are about to get much worse.

A few months ago another Texas miracle went the way of that education miracle of the 1990s. For months, Gov. Rick Perry had boasted that his “tough conservative decisions” had kept the budget in surplus while allowing the state to weather the recession unscathed. But after Mr. Perry’s re-election, reality intruded — funny how that happens — and the state is now scrambling to close a huge budget gap. (By the way, given the current efforts to blame public-sector unions for state fiscal problems, it’s worth noting that the mess in Texas was achieved with an overwhelmingly nonunion work force.)

So how will that gap be closed? Given the already dire condition of Texas children, you might have expected the state’s leaders to focus the pain elsewhere. In particular, you might have expected high-income Texans, who pay much less in state and local taxes than the national average, to be asked to bear at least some of the burden.

But you’d be wrong. Tax increases have been ruled out of consideration; the gap will be closed solely through spending cuts. Medicaid, a program that is crucial to many of the state’s children, will take the biggest hit, with the Legislature proposing a funding cut of no less than 29 percent, including a reduction in the state’s already low payments to providers — raising fears that doctors will start refusing to see Medicaid patients. And education will also face steep cuts, with school administrators talking about as many as 100,000 layoffs.

The really striking thing about all this isn’t the cruelty — at this point you expect that — but the shortsightedness. What’s supposed to happen when today’s neglected children become tomorrow’s work force?

Anyway, the next time some self-proclaimed deficit hawk tells you how much he worries about the debt we’re leaving our children, remember what’s happening in Texas, a state whose slogan right now might as well be “Lose the future.”
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times



The Quotable Quote...



"All across the Middle East in the streets, people are demanding democracy. It's amazing. In America, the only way you get people to get worked up like that is to threaten to give them health care."
~~~ Bill Maher








No Other Way Out
By Chris Hedges

I have watched mothers and fathers keening in grief over the frail corpses of their children in hospitals in Gaza and rural villages in El Salvador, Bosnia and Kosovo. The faces of these dead children, their bodies ripped apart by iron fragments or bullets tumbling end over end through their small, delicate frames, appear to me almost daily like faint and sadly familiar ghosts. The frailty and innocence of my own children make these images difficult to bear.

A child a day dies in war-related violence in Afghanistan. Children die in roadside explosions. They die in airstrikes. They die after militants lure them to carry suicide bombs, usually without their knowledge. They die in firefights. They are executed by the Taliban after being accused, sometimes correctly, of spying for the Afghan National Army. They are tiny pawns in a futile and endless war. They are robbed of their childhood. They live in fear and surrounded by the terror of indiscriminate violence. The United Nations, whose most recent report on children in Afghanistan covered a two-year period from Sept. 1, 2008, to Aug. 30, 2010, estimates that in the first half of last year at least 176 children were killed and 389 more wounded. But the real number is probably much, much higher. There are big parts of the country where research can no longer be carried out.

We will not stop the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we will not end this slaughter of innocents, unless we are willing to rise up as have state workers in Wisconsin and citizens on the streets of Arab capitals. Repeated and sustained acts of civil disobedience are the only weapons that remain to us. Our political system is as broken and dysfunctional as that once presided over in Egypt by Hosni Mubarak. We must be willing to accept personal discomfort, to put our bodies in the way of the machine, if we hope to expose the lies of war and blunt the abuse by corporate profiteers. To do nothing, to refuse to act, to be passive, is to be an agent of injustice and to be complicit in murder. The U.N. report estimates that during the two-year period it studied almost 1,800 children were killed or injured in conflict-related violence, but numbers can never transmit the reality of such suffering.

On March 19, the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I will join a coalition of U.S. military veterans from Iraq Veterans Against the War, March Forward!, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace who will gather in Lafayette Park across from the White House. The veteran-led action will result in numerous arrests, as did a Dec. 16 protest organized by Veterans for Peace. It will seek, because it is all we have left, to use our bodies to challenge the crimes of the state.

It does not matter if this protest or any other does not work. It does not matter if we are 500, as we were in December, or 50. It does not matter if the event is covered in the press or ignored. It matters only that those of us who believe in the rule of law, who find the organized sadism of war and militarism repugnant and who seek to protect the sanctity of life rise up. If we do not defend these virtues they will be extinguished. No one in power will defend them for us. Protests are rending the fabric of the U.S.-backed dictatorships in Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt and Libya. They are flickering to life in the U.S. in states like Wisconsin. And they are beginning to convulse Iraq. Iraqis, for whom eight years of war and occupation have brought nothing but misery and death, are surrounding government buildings to denounce their puppet government. They are rising up to demand jobs, basic services including electricity, a reining in of our mercenary killers, some of whom have been used to quell restless crowds, and a right to determine their own future. These protesters are our true allies, not the hired thugs we pay to repress them.

We are wasting $700 million a day to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while our teachers, firefighters and police lose their jobs, while we slash basic assistance programs for the poor, children and the elderly, while we turn our backs on the some 3 million people being pushed from their homes by foreclosures and bank repossessions and while we do nothing to help the one in six American workers who cannot find work. These wars have taken hundreds of thousands of lives. They have pushed millions into refugee or displacement camps. They have left young men and women severely crippled and maimed. They have turned our nation into an isolated pariah, fueling the very terrorism we seek to defeat. And they cannot be won. The sooner we leave Iraq and Afghanistan the sooner we will save others and finally save ourselves.

There will be veterans in the park who carry with them physical and emotional wounds of great magnitude, who remain crippled by the dead hand of war, who never sleep well, who struggle in the black pit of depression and with post-traumatic stress disorder, and who will bear the cross that war inflicted upon them until the end of their days. They will have surmounted tremendous psychic and physical pain to make it to Lafayette Park, to defy what they know must be defied. And if they can walk their trail of tears to the White House so can you. They are our wounded healers, our disregarded prophets.

Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot who while flying saw the killings of unarmed Vietnamese civilians in what later became known as the My Lai massacre, landed in the village during the slaughter. He spotted a group of about 10 civilians, including children, running toward a homemade bomb shelter. Soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, C Company, were chasing the civilians. Thompson, dismounting from the cockpit, put himself between the civilians and the soldiers. He ordered his gunner to open fire on the Americans if they began to shoot the villagers or him. Later, Thompson, who crusaded for justice after then-Maj. Colin Powell led the official whitewash of My Lai, received death threats. Mutilated animals were tossed on his doorstep. He was unsung for decades and forgotten until shortly before his death in 2006. He exhibited real courage, moral courage, the kind of courage the state detests, the kind of courage for which they do not mint medals.

Bradley Manning, who allegedly downloaded thousands of documents and videos that confirmed war crimes by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and passed them on to WikiLeaks, is being held in a military brig in Quantico, Va. He has been kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and denied exercise, a pillow or sheets for the last nine months. His prolonged isolation is designed to break him physically and psychologically. There will be a protest outside Quantico on March 20 in support of Manning, another soldier from another war whom Thompson would have understood.

The documents published by WikiLeaks detailed for the world the widespread use of torture by Iraqi and Afghan security forces and the silent complicity of Washington. They confirmed that civilians, including children, are routinely murdered by occupation forces and that the killings are not investigated. The documents lifted the veil on our undeclared, black war in Pakistan, including drone strikes that have killed more than 900 civilians in Pakistan since Barack Obama took office. They shed light on the gross corruption, drug trafficking and crimes committed by the Afghan president as well as the reign of terror carried out by the Afghan National Army. These documents confirm that huge numbers of Iraqi civilians have been killed by U.S. troops at checkpoints, and that since the invasion tens of thousands of civilians have died as a result of the war. These documents illustrate in page after page that our government makes no effort to protect liberty, democracy or human rights, but instead prefers crude and brutal mechanisms of power.

The Obama administration, which has proved as efficient in serving the war machine and the corporate state as the Bush administration did, is attempting to destroy not only Manning but WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The state seeks to silence anyone who practices moral courage. It does not want the truth heard. It does not want the reality seen. If these forces of war and greed triumph, and we do not, there will be darkness. But if on March 19 there is at least one person willing to defy the state, to demand justice at the cost of his or her freedom, there will be a flame held to light the way for us all.
(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.”







The Sole Remaining Stupidpower In The World
By David Michael Green

I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised at the human capacity for stupidity.

I mean, after all, we live in a world where almost the entire human race believes in all-controlling magic deities from outer space. Even though they manifestly never actually control anything. And they never actually appear.

Better still, every culture has its own particular Master of the Universe, and it never occurs to these six or seven billion souls what the simple fact of this embarrassment of competing divinities might imply for the very concept of believing that their particular one is the real deal.

Best of all, though, we hominids are unsurpassed at finding new and improved ways to murder each other en masse in the name of these very same peace-bringing deities.

If the nearly the whole human race is down for that, why should anything surprise me?

Still.

You have to stand in awe at the glory that is America in the early twenty-first century, though not, er, in a good way.

You’re looking there at the richest polity ever in human history. It’s the greatest military power ever to bestride the planet. It has been endlessly innovative on the technological front, from electricity to automobiles, to aircraft, space flight, splitting the atom, sequencing the human genome, to building the first computers then shrinking those room-size behemoths down to fit in your shirt pocket – only a thousand times more powerful (plus you can call your mom with it, too). This is country that, for all its multiple stumbles and bumbles, pioneered for the world crucial advances in democracy, human rights, diversity, tolerance, class relations, social mobility, civil rights and civil liberties (not so much in our treatment of other people, though – but that’s another story). This is a country that succeeded in bringing mass prosperity to its people on a scale never seen before, creating a giant middle class where one of that proportion had never remotely existed before. Whatever else one can say about America (and, regrettably, there is a lot), its place in human history is secure. These are remarkable achievements individually, and they are astonishing collectively.

Which just makes it all the more jaw-dropping to watch such a country commit national suicide, and especially to do so for all the stupidest of reasons. And which makes it hard to imagine that the same country that can rightly boast so many great achievements is capable of such idiocy.

Well, maybe it’s not the same country anymore, and that explains it. I dunno.

What I do know is that we’ve spent the last generation or so hell-bent to self-destruct. And what I do know is that the deeper we get into our self-inflicted pit of national devastation, the more – not less – we turn to the same ideas, brought to us by the same discredited monsters, and inquire, “Thank you sir, may I have another?” The tea party troglodytes are only the most recent manifestation of that peculiar American addiction to global and self-destruction. After McCarthy we went for Nixon. After Nixon we went for Reagan. After Reagan we stooped so low we put the Caligula Kid in the White House. Twice. That little dry-drunk planetary-scale disaster of rampant personal insecurity spent almost the entirety of his last term in office with job approval ratings down around twenty-five or thirty percent. But since he didn’t commit the grave crime of getting a blow job from someone other than his wife, no one even talked about removing him from office. No, he only was asleep at the wheel for 9/11, lied us into a disastrous war, shredded the Constitution, allowed one of our major cities to drown, plunged us into debt, made the whole world hate us, polarized the country, and then left us the goodbye gift of the worst global economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. But here we are, a mere two years later, having brought back the same crowd in record-setting droves, only this time they’re even worse, as unimaginable as that seems, like a tribe of political crackhead vampire zombies, locked in mindless unrelenting pursuit of sucking dry the national blood supply.

Who votes for that, man? Huh? Who says to the wife on election day, “Honey, be sure to pull the lever for the guys who want to rape our family and leave us in the ditch, naked, jobless, impoverished and homeless!”? Who thinks to himself, “Why should I have a tiny little suburban house and a ten year-old rusted Chevy when thousands of millionaires each day suffer the humiliating stigma of not being billionaires? Let me vote for the nice people who will hand my meager earnings up to the overclass.” Who sits there and thinks, “Those guys sure messed up bad last time, but maybe if they double down on their plans it’ll get a lot better for people like me!”?Who thinks, “My unemployed, uneducated, Walmart worker 30 year-old kids are so spoiled! I want a government that won’t pamper them so much.”?

For that matter, who thinks at all? Evidently, no one in America. This country’s problem is that it continues to believe that lazy detachment is the surest way to solve our national problems. It’s the Deadbeat Dad model of politics. You spend twenty years raising your kid by maybe – maybe – checking in with him for about fifteen minutes every two or four years. You show up, tick a few boxes, sign a form, pat the kid on the head, and then disappear til the next time. “Hey man, how you been, little dude?! Yer lookin’ good. Hey, sorry, gotta run now.” Next thing you know, your child is a young adult, sitting on death row, busted for committing some heinous capital offense. What a surprise, eh? You worked so hard to raise him right. You invested so much energy in doing everything you could to watch out for his interests. How could it possibly have all gone so wrong?

That’s how we owners of American democracy treat our charge.

If you think I’m joking about how out to lunch the voting public is in this country, consider this recent revelation: Gallup just got done asking Americans to name the greatest president in American history. Guess who won? Ronald Reagan. Yeah, that Ronald Reagan. For the third time in the eight fieldings of this poll question over the last twelve years, too. He got 19 percent, to Abraham Lincoln’s 14 percent. And Old Abe just barely nudged out Bill Clinton, who pulled down 13 percent of the vote. Then came Kennedy, with George Washington fifth on the list. After him is FDR, then Barack Obama, with 5 percent of the vote. George W. Bush tied with Thomas Jefferson. Which makes perfect sense, of course, both being of such similar character, intellect and historical stature.

I think we can learn, ahem, many things from these simple data. First of all, loads of people are so ignorant of history that they can’t really even think of the names of any presidents besides the last couple clowns, and the others they see on dollar bills and the pennies they no longer throw away. That’s real ignorant. That’s just the kind of voter you want to have if you’re trying to steal somebody’s country from them.

Second, that old adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity would appear to be true. Bill Clinton, third greatest American president? Sorry, I get them all mixed up, but isn’t that the dude we just got through impeaching? George W. Bush, tenth best? Wait a sec, isn’t that the guy we just got done hating? Could he have won even thirty percent of the vote if he had run again in 2008? Now he’s ranked above Jefferson, Jackson and Eisenhower, not to mention all the cats who didn’t get named at all?!

Perhaps most important of all, what these survey results demonstrate is the power of propaganda, something the right in this country understands all too well. They know that if you keep telling people that Ronald Reagan was some sort of saintly figure, lots and lots of folks will believe it. I mean, if people are so tuned out that W can rank this highly on the list, a mere two years after his Oval Office demolition derby routine (the results of which are still hugely with us), what do they really know of that Reagan guy who left office a full generation ago, other than what his hagiographers want them to ‘know’?

P In fact, Reagan will go down in history as one of the most consequential of all American presidents, but also one of the worst. Indeed, perhaps the worst of all. Not because he tripled the national debt and began the process which has led us to the current fiscal train wreck we’re approaching. Not because he absolutely shredded the Constitution in the Iran-Contra Affair. Not because he was at times so out of it that he literally introduced himself to his own cabinet secretaries and even his own children (I’m not kidding). And certainly not because he ‘ended the Cold War’, one of the most ludicrous historical fantasies ever fabricated. (Imagine this meeting of the Soviet Politburo, circa 1984. Comrade #1: “Reagan is spending like crazy on military hardware he can’t use against us and can’t afford to buy. What should we do?” All others present, in unison: “Well, of course we’ll have to accept our defeat in the Cold War without a single shot being fired (even while we’re sitting on top of 25,000 strategic nuclear warheads), and then we must explode our country into 15 pieces. What else could we possibly do?”)

No, Reagan will earn his place in history because his crimes are worse than those of a scandal-plagued Grant administration, or a power-mad Nixon administration. What Reagan did was to begin the process of destroying the American middle class, working class and poor, in order to feed the insatiable greed of the wealthy. He began the process of changing tax and trade and regulation and privatization and labor relations policies, all for the purposes of transferring wealth from non-elites to elites, an effort which continues right down to this moment. Worst of all, he did it through the deepest forms of national deceit, which only served to legitimize his destructive ideas in the minds of far too many people who should know better. His project has been enormously successful. The man who claimed to be restoring America’s greatness was in fact facilitating its plunder, and that process is now nearly complete.

The latest chapter in the Age of Reagan is transpiring in Wisconsin right now, where public sector unions, the last vestige of middle and working class prosperity, are under lethal assault.

Somehow, the assailant Scott Walker forgot in his public defense to mention that he and other Republican governors received $1.2 million dollars from the multi-billionaire Koch brothers – the third richest family in America – to fund their races. Now that patriotic family is spending $350,000 to run ads supporting Walker’s scorched earth campaign to put the peasants back in their rightful place. Of course, the Kochs, whose industries are famous for the environmental damage they cause, surely haven’t wanted anything in return for their money, like say tax breaks or deregulation of their other great national contributions, those befouling our air, water and lands. No doubt they are just good public citizens, participating in democracy the old-fashioned way – by buying it.

The long-term plan of the oligarchy has been fairly masterful, chipping away simultaneously at all the bulwarks of American prosperity while maintaining a constant narrative that legitimates otherwise ridiculous concepts, at least for those folks who know nothing and find that whole thinking thing altogether onerous. The same people who brought you McCarthy and Nixon, who exploded the national debt, who have presided over thirty years of transfer of wealth from all of us to the rich, who told us how great and easy the Iraq invasion would be, who blew up the economy, and who have pretended that climate change is a hoax – these same people are now standing before us insisting that public sector unions (about the only kind remaining after they destroyed the others as well) have to go. Apart from the lunacy of the argument itself, my question is why are these people standing before us at all? Why aren’t they in jail? Why aren’t they at least minimally hated for their crimes? Why did they win huge in the last election cycle?

Here’s a clue from a New York Times article this week: “Rich Hahn worked at the General Motors plant here [in Wisconsin] until it closed about two years ago. He moved to Detroit to take another G.M. job while his wife and children stayed here, but then the automaker cut more jobs. So Mr. Hahn, 50, found himself back in Janesville, collecting unemployment for a time, and watching as the city’s industrial base seemed to crumble away. Among the top five employers here are the county, the schools and the city. And that was enough to make Mr. Hahn, a man who has worked at unionized factories, a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker’s sweeping proposal to cut the benefits and collective-bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin, a plan that has set off a firestorm of debate and protests at the state Capitol. He says he still believes in unions, but thinks those in the public sector lead to wasteful spending because of what he sees as lavish benefits and endless negotiations. ‘Something needs to be done,’ he said, ‘and quickly.’ Across Wisconsin, residents like Mr. Hahn have fumed in recent years as tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs have vanished, and as some of the state’s best-known corporations have pressured workers to accept benefit cuts.”

So, let me see here. Right-wing trade policies led to Mr. Hahn’s jobs going overseas. But left-wing unemployment insurance helped save him from poverty. And now he backs a right-wing plan to crush public sector unions because those are the main jobs left, after corporations exported private sector jobs to Thailand and China??? Brilliant. A true, red-blooded American.

Or take this little vignette, from the same article: “In Palmyra, a small village bounded by farmland and forests, MaryKay Horter remembered how her husband’s Chevy dealership had teetered on the brink of closing after General Motors declared bankruptcy, for which she blamed unions. Ms. Horter said she was forced to work more hours as an occupational therapist, but had not seen a raise or any retirement contributions from her employer for the last two years. All told, her family’s income has dropped by about a third. ‘I don’t get to bargain in my job, either,’ she said.”

Again, the maniacal brilliance of the scheme has been something to behold. Smash private sector unions, export jobs overseas, devastate communities, pin people to the wall economically, and then tell them that somebody else is doing better than they are. Worse, that those people are doing better and being paid for it off of your tax dollars!

But it only works for stupid people, those who cannot recognize the real culprits in this national crime, those who not only don’t think several moves ahead in a chess match, but play only checkers instead.

Hey MaryKay Horter (if that isn’t the ultimate Wisconsin name, I don’t know what is – except maybe if her middle name were Lombardi), just how do you think this ends, Darlin’? No, it’s not an episode of a TV show. Where do you think we all wind up? We devastate the public sector unions and then, and then... What? You get rich? You get a tax break? You get bratwurst? Cheese? Jesus Christ.

And what do you think happens next, MaryKay Horter? Your logic seems to be that no one should have anything that you don’t have. What are you gonna do when people without homes and without food apply that formula to you? What are you going to do when they start saying, >I?“I don’t get to eat, or live in a house, why should she?”

Wisconsin 2011 (or at least that part of it) demonstrates the sheer stupidity of the people living in the world’s only superpower, the richest country on the planet. Over and over again, it’s Jesus, war, tax cuts, Jesus, war, tax cuts. And when that formula brings us only despair, what then? Jesus, war, tax cuts.

But there is also some sign of (dare I use the term, now so debased by our current regressive president) hope. All of this raping and pillaging of the last three decades has only been possible because there has been no resistance from elites and no resistance from below. The gritty (so far) fourteen Democratic state senators in Wisconsin notwithstanding, Democrats are still as worse-than-hopeless as ever. Of course they are. That’s what it means to be a Democrat in our time.

But maybe the public has finally had enough. People are going all freakin’ Cairo on poor Scotty Walker, who is surprised to find himself locked in a fight for his political survival, one which he may lose even if he wins. This was supposed to be cake.

The future looks grim, nearly any way you slice it. Consider, to take just the most prominent example, that the ‘best’ case scenario for progressives is another six years of the near-worthless Barack O’Waffle in the White House. That’s the best case.

Looking at the Middle East today, it’s easy to be filled with hope and delight at the sight of people freeing themselves from repressive regimes. But there is also the sad reminder of how much people will put up with, and for how long, under conditions of repression and elite-induced public stupidity.

America has for some time been driving headlong into precisely the nightmare scenario that the Middle Eastern countries of the world are now desperately fighting to escape.

This moment may be our last chance, our last escape, before the black hole of regressivism sucks.
(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, www.regressiveantidote.net.





The Dead Letter Office...





John gives the corpo-rat salute!

Heil Obama,

Dear Gouverneur Kasich,

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 answering when asked, "Are government budget cuts worth it, even if they end up seriously costing a lot of jobs right now?" "The answer is yes," 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 "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with diamond clusters, 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 Herr Kasich, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama





‘Mad As Hell’ In Madison
By Ralph Nader

The large demonstrations at the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin are driven by a middle class awakening to the spectre of its destruction by the corporate reactionaries and their toady Governor Scott Walker.

For years the middle class has watched the plutocrats stomp on the poor while listening to the two parties regale the great middle class, but never mentioning the tens of millions of poor Americans. And for years, the middle class was shrinking due significantly to corporate globalization shipping good-paying jobs overseas to repressive dictatorships like China. It took Governor Walker’s legislative proposal to do away with most collective bargaining rights for most public employee unions to jolt people to hit the streets.

Republicans take rigged elections awash in corporatist campaign cash seriously. When they win, they aggressively move their corporate agenda, unlike the wishy-washy Democrats who flutter weakly after a victory. Republicans mean business. A ram rod wins against a straw all the time.

Governor Walker won his election, along with other Republicans in Wisconsin, on mass-media driven Tea Party rhetoric. His platform was deceitful enough to get the endorsement of the police, and firefighters unions, which the latter have now indignantly withdrawn.

These unions should have known better. The Walker Republicans were following the Reagan playbook. The air traffic controllers union endorsed Reagan in 1980. The next year he fired 12,000 of them during a labor dispute. (This made flying unnecessarily dangerous.)

Then Reagan pushed for tax cuts—primarily for the wealthy—which led to larger deficits to turn the screws on programs benefitting the people. Reagan, though years earlier opposed to corporate welfare, not only maintained these taxpayer subsidies but created a government deficit, over eight years, that was double that of all the accumulated deficits from George Washington to Jimmy Carter.

Maybe the unions that endorsed Walker will soon realize that not even being a “Reagan Democrat” will save them from being losers under the boot of the corporate supremacists.

The rumble of the people in Madison illustrates the following:

1. There is an ideological plan driving these corporatists. They create “useful crisis” and then hammer the unorganized people to benefit the wealthy classes. Governor Walker last year gave $140 million in tax breaks to corporations. This fiscal year's deficit is $137 million. Note this oft-repeated dynamic. President Obama caved to the Minority party Republicans in Congress last December by going along with the deficit-deepening extension of the huge dollar volume tax cuts for the rich. Now the Republicans want drastic cuts in programs that help the poor.

2. Whatever non-union or private union workers, who are giving ground or losing jobs, think of the sometimes better pay and benefits of unionized public employees, they need to close ranks without giving up their opposition to government waste. For corporate lobbyists and their corporate governments are going after all collective bargaining rights for all workers and they want to further weaken The National Labor Relations Board.

3. Whenever corporations and government want to cut workers’ incomes, the corporate tax abatements, bloated contracts, handouts and bailouts should be pulled into the public debate. What should go first?

4. For the public university students in these rallies, they might ponder their own tuition bills and high interest loans, compared to students in Western Europe, and question why they have to bear the burden of massive corporate welfare payouts—foodstamps for the rich. What should go first?

5. The bigger picture should be part of the more localized dispute. Governor Walker also wants weaker safety and environmental regulations, bargain-basement sell-outs of state public power plants and other taxpayer assets.

6. The mega-billionaire Koch brothers are in the news. They are bankrolling politicians and rump advocacy groups and funding media campaigns in Wisconsin and all over the country. Koch Industries designs and builds facilities for the natural gas industry. Neither the company nor the brothers like the publicity they deserve to get every time their role is exposed. Always put the spotlight on the backroom boys.

7. Focusing on the larger struggle between the people and the plutocracy should be part and parcel of every march, demonstration or any other kind of mass mobilization. The signs at the Madison rallies make the point, to wit—“2/3 of Wisconsin Corporations Pay No Taxes,” “Why Should Public Workers Pay For Wall Street’s Mess?”, “Corporate Greed Did the Deed.”

8. Look how little energy it took for these tens of thousands of people to sound the national alarm for hard-pressed Americans. Just showing up is democracy’s barn raiser. This should persuade people that a big start for a better America can begin with a little effort and a well-attended rally. Imagine what even more civic energy could produce!

Showing up lets people feel their potential power to subordinate corporatism to the sovereignty of the people. After all, the Constitution’s preamble begins with “We the People,” not “We the Corporations.” In fact, the founders never put the word “corporation” or “company” in our constitution which was designed for real people.

As for Governor Walker’s projected two-year $3.6 billion deficit, read what Jon Peacock of the respected nonprofit Wisconsin Budget Project writes about how to handle the state budget without adopting the draconian measures now before the legislature.
(c) 2011 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.







Libya May Use Mustard Gas On It's Citizens!
By J. Alva Scruggs

Libya is another one of America's chickens coming home to roast. The world revolts against world tyrants in the Middle East is generally a common result of citizens in countries that are supported by American money and policies that overlook the violation of human right in these nations.

Today, February 26, 2011 it is reported that Gaddafi is threatening to use the chemical weapons of Mustard Gas on his own people. The chaos in Libya has raised fears about the security of deadly mustard gas stockpiled in the country and whether Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi might use it on his own people.

Don’t be surprised to find that this Mustard Gas was supplied by the US or US Military or affiliated Corporations! In addition, some of the aircraft used to attack Libyan citizens were supplied by the US. All of the military equipment has some connection with US suppliers of the world’s war material. In addition, China is reported to have been involved in the supplying of gas to Gaddafi also.

Rumors alleged that Gadhafi is providing about $400.00 (CNN) per person to Libya citizens and $3 Billion to Republican Party to support him!! Gadhafi has taken a page out of the CEO Kock’s book, who has tried to buy some State Governors support to stop the Union (Middle Class & Poor) resistance. He wants to buy the attention of Republican leaders!

Moreover, this whole multi nation revolt in the Middle East can be traced back to the corrupt and misguided policies the American Government has accepted that is mainly to provide advantage for corporation's to exploit the resources of oil in these nations. It did not matter that these nations were not democracies and had tyrants as leaders. In fact, corporations and US Governments prefer to do business with dictators. They also preferred these leaders to be ignorant, barbaric, and cruel. Dictators are more like successful CEOs in that they are singular minded, greedy, amoral, and criminal. Collateral damage (human rights or deaths) is not an issue with a dictator.

This is Obama’s dilemma and an impossible task to resolve! As the citizen revolts in the Middle East continues the reasons for the up-heaves remain the same. Further, Obama must know that the union VS State Republican Governors such as those of Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, etc. has the same issues as these in the Middle East, The “Middle Class VS Wealth”
© 2011 Dr. J. Alva Scruggs, BS, MS, MA, EdD is an author, journalist and columnist. He looks forward to your comments.



The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Mike Keefe ~~~










To End On A Happy Note...



Universal Soldier
By Buffy Sainte-Marie

He's 5 foot 2 and he's 6 feet 4
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17.
He's been a soldier for a thousand years.

He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jain
A Buddhist, and a Baptist and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn't kill
And he knows he always will kill
You for me my friend and me for you

And He's fighting for Canada.
He's fighting for France.
He's fighting for the USA.
And he's fighting for the Russians.
And he's fighting for Japan
And he thinks we'll put an end to war this way.

And He's fighting for democracy,
He's fighting for the reds
He says it's for the peace of all.
He's the one, who must decide,
who's to live and who's to die.
And he never sees the writing on the walls.

But without him,
how would Hitler have condemned him at Dachau?
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body
as a weapon to a war.
And without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier
And he really is to blame
His orders comes from
far away no more.

They come from him.
And you and me.
And brothers can't you see.
This is not the way we put an end to war!
© 1968/2011 Buffy Sainte-Marie



Have You Seen This...




Parting Shots...




State Department Offers Support ‘to Whoever Winds Up Winning’
Promises ‘Strongest Possible Monitoring of Events from Afar’
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – As pro-democracy protests spread around the world, the US State Department today issued its strongest words to date about the situation, offering “to stand by whichever side winds up winning.”

That pro-winning-side message, articulated today by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was intended to send a clear signal that the United States is willing to put all of its power and prestige on the line as soon as matters are settled by others.

“The United States has and will always be a beacon of freedom and democracy,” Secretary Clinton said. “And in that capacity, we are vigilantly standing on the sidelines and offering the strongest possible monitoring of events from afar.”

Joining her at the State Department press conference, President Barack Obama echoed her statement, telling reporters, “I am behind Secretary Clinton’s mixed message one hundred percent.”

“To dictators who think they can get away with oppressing their people, let me say this,” President Obama continued. “The United States of America is standing by, thousands of miles away, to see how this mess turns out.”

As for any possible change in policy in the future, Secretary Clinton seemed to rule that out: “We will remain consistent in our policy of issuing meaningless statements at random intervals.”

Sec. Clinton, however, did urge dictators to resist the temptation to pass power on to their sons: “If that had happened on ‘The West Wing,’ that would have been Charlie Sheen.”
(c) 2011 Andy Borowitz




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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 09 (c) 03/04/2011


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