Please visit our sponsor!

Bookmark and Share
In This Edition

Cynthia McKinney with a absolute must read, "President Obama Gets His Groove Back By Attacking Africans."

Uri Avnery reviews zionazi propaganda in, "The Gold And The Stone."

David Sirota explains, "The Real Madness Of March."

Joel S. Hirschhorn calls for the revolution in, "Fight Economic Oppression, Target The Top One Percent."

Jim Hightower exclaims, "Employee Paychecks Are Soaring!"

Helen Thomas finds, "Obama Shine Dulled In Re-Election Bid."

James Donahue says, "Debris Pollution Could Wreck World Space Programs."

Sam Harris with publishing tips in, "How To Get Your Book Published In 6 (Painful) Steps."

Chris Floyd is, "Drifting Too Far From Shore."

Phil Rochstroh explores, "Hiding From Shame, Addicted To Optimism."

Paul Krugman annouces, "The President Is Missing."

Chris Hedges answers the question of, "Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System."

David Michael Green with a must read, "And Now, For The Kill."

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols discovers, "No Shutdown, But A Lot Of Sellouts."

Glenn Greenwald reports, "The Washington Post's Dependence On The Government It Covers."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Landover Baptist Church with a hearty, "Recipe For: Easter Bunny Stew!" but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "Zeus Protect Us; It's Starting All Over Again!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of R.J. Matson, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Diego Rivera, Vic Harville, Clay Bennett, John Sherffius, Bruce Beattie, Chan Lowe, Jim Morin, Jim Davis, Motivated Photos.Com, European Space Agency, 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."

Zeus Protect Us; It's Starting All Over Again!
By Ernest Stewart

“Today, we are filing papers to launch our 2012 campaign. We are doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you — with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbours, co-workers, and friends.” ~~~ President Barack Obama

“Our election system is administered by people, and some problems are bound to occur. However, our post-election canvass system is designed to identify any errors and correct them. While unofficial results reported by some counties on Election Night have proven to be incorrect, the process of election officials canvassing and certifying those results is working.

“Because of the attention on vote totals from Brookfield, I am dispatching G.A.B. staff to Waukesha County today to review the business processes and verify the reported results in the election for Supreme Court justice. I have been in close contact with Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus since her news conference on Thursday, and have directed her to make the official returns from the polling places available for public inspection. These documents are public records. I believe she is now taking steps to ensure transparency and public confidence in the official results.

“The G.A.B. will issue a report on the results of its review as soon as possible, and before certifying the statewide election results.
~~~ Kevin Kennedy ~ director and general counsel of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board ~~~

"It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Macbeth act 5, scene 5 ~~~ William Shakespeare

"Over the past few years, the Right has continued to pour tens of billions of dollars into its media infrastructure - ranging from books, magazines and newspapers to talk radio, cable news and the Internet - while the Left still resists any comparable media investment, leaving its few outlets - like Issues & Alibis - to struggle along under-funded." ~~~ Robert Parry

I see where our beloved Fuhrer Obamahood has decided to run again for Emperor come 2012 and is getting his feelers out amongst the "professional left" via Twitter and emails for financial support. Good luck with that, Barry! Oh, and in answer to your, "Are You In?" question, Mr. President: No, I Am Not In!

Yeah, we all "hoped" for "change" and change is what we got--pocket change--or, as my daddy use to call it, "white money," i.e., silver and nickel, while our corpo-rat masters took all the greenbacks home! I'm not surprised by this, are you?

After all, Barry was raised, for the most part, in a banker's home. Not just your run-of-the-mill, rip-off-the-people and destroy-the-economy bank, like Bank of America or Commerce Bank, but a CIA covert bank, imagine the complications within! Not to mention that Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, and Pretend-Dad were all CIA spooks, too!

So, when the first thing Barry did was throw a couple of trillion dollars their way (you do realize that most of the money given to the Banksters was under the table, right?), I wasn't surprised when he said "we're looking forward," so forget about prosecuting the treason and sedition of the Crime Family Bush; oh, and by the way, his treason for supporting their goals, too. You may recall when the Tele-cons committed their various and sundry acts of treason by turning over everyone's private conversations, text messages, and emails without a court order--which was in clear violation of federal laws and the Bill of Rights? You'll remember when Barry voted subsequently to make their acts of treason legal, saying that was the best deal he could get? I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs.

Barry voted for something that he was totally against because it was the best deal he could get, instead of voting against it or abstaining!

In other words, I'm totally against selling us out to the insurance goons and forcing people to buy insurance without a single payer option; but when the vote was called, I voted for it anyway. Sound impossible? Not so, as many Demoncrats did just that, including, "I wouldn't vote for that in a million years" Dennis Kucinich who, of course, voted for it, too! That's another reason Barry's going to come up short come November 2012. The fix was in, even before it was ever brought up, that there wouldn't be a public option; did I mention this was Barry's proposal and not the insurance goons? I thought I did!

Barry is not the "Cave Man" because in order to cave, you must be in opposition to begin with, and Barry was born to be a corpo-rat tool and believe me he doesn't disappoint! The list of his crimes match almost word for word with Bush's list of crimes; the main difference is Barry has gone out of his way to make Bush's treason even worse. As life, and this column is short, I won't bother to list them; but you know what they are! Wars, murders, mayhem, selling us out to the elite; and let's not forget he thinks he has the right to kill you in cold blood without rhyme or reason if it strikes his fancy. You notice the Rethuglicans haven't said anything about this self-given right, as they know if it was legal for Obama, it will someday be legal for them, too! Refresh my memory: where in the Constitution does it give the President the right to murder people?

For all his talk of change and hope, the folks that elected him got nothing put pain and misery for their trouble, and Barry couldn't care less. As I said when he was elected in slightly different words, "WE ARE SO 'SCREWED'" and we are, America! Doubly screwed if we re-elect him!

In Other News

Just when you might have thought that acts of treason and such couldn't get any worse in Wisconsin, along comes Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus to prove you wrong with an act of not only treason, but sedition, as well; we stand corrected!

Ms. Nickolaus, the well-known Rethuglican stooge and crook who has been before the county board for games of sedition in the past outdid herself this time! Not to mention Nickolaus has been involved in several state House and Senate scandals in the past, this time she's locked herself into a truly historical one! A scandal which is sure to bring in the feds to investigate her fun and games! In the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, a race that was being won by Democratic challenger Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenberg over current Justice David Prosser. Prosser, who makes no bones about being fair and balanced in the same way that Fox News is fair and balanced, is a strong supporter of Governor Hitler, er, Walker, and will rule in favor of anything that is sent his way by Walker and the boys in the back room (see Koch brothers).

Nickolaus, whose friends say she is a "arch-conservative” and “fierce right-to-lifer," is a Prosser supporter, and keeps all the voting records on her personal computer, and nowhere else, although she's been warned to not do so and to keep them where ever other county keeps theirs, i. e., in the state's system. Since the 7,500 plus votes that Nickolaus suddenly "found' in her foolproof system, just at the time when Prosser was going down to defeat, is just enough to keep the state from performing an automatic recount of the votes, thus making the challenger come up with the money to pay for a recount in three days time. Seems just a trifle suspicious, does it not? I mean, with Nickolaus' criminal record and all. Are you having deja vu, America? Do you recall when Anton (light-fingers) Scalia and his "Gang of Five" on the Extreme Court overthrew the election of President Al Gore and replaced it with a pre-selected junta of the "Crime Family Bush" which brought about the decline and fall of the American Empire by giving the Presidency to the loser and corpo-rat America? When compared to that act of treason and sedition, this newest act pales by comparison, but is nearly identical, none-the-less!

Of course, similar acts of treason and sedition are being committed all through America. Similar things have been happening in Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, New York and Ohio, as well as the Rethuglican plan to make slaves of us all, and with the help of their pals the Demoncrats, they will no doubt achieve this goal. With Americans being too lazy, uninformed and/or stupid to do anything about it. I wonder what the Sheeple will say when they're on their way to the "Happy Camps" to be sheared and turned into lamb chops? Don't you, too?

And Finally

Obamahood was off to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to present his counterplan to Paul Ryan and the Tea Baggers' bright ideas on the deficit! Paul carries on the fascist dream of getting rid of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, cancer screening, and every other thing that benefits the people, especially women! Our only "Hope" is for Barry to use his bully pulpit to rally the people against this fascist tide; we are soooooooooooo screwed, America!

Here's Obama's "Framework for Shared Prosperity and Shared Fiscal Responsibility":

* One quarter of the deficit reduction is to be achieved through tax increases, with the rest to come mostly from spending cuts.

* An end to the Bush tax cuts for the 2 percent of Americans making $250,000 or more.

* Tax reform aimed at closing loopholes that favor the rich, allowing for a lowering of overall rates, (as recommended by the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction commission).

* Cuts of $770 billion by 2023 to non-security discretionary spending, (another Bowles-Simpson recommendation).

* Cuts of $400 billion to "security spending," i.e., defense spending by 2023.

* A rejection of the Ryan budget's approach to Medicare and Medicaid, which the White House believes would unfairly shift costs to seniors and the vulnerable, while undermining both programs in the long term. Instead, Obama proposed reforms to reduce the growth of health care spending (beyond those in the overhaul last year) that would save $480 billion by 2023, and at least an additional trillion in the decade following

* Cuts to other mandatory programs--the White House listed agricultural subsidies, the federal pension insurance system, and anti-fraud measures--worth $360 billion by 2023.

* A general effort to "strengthen Social Security for the long haul," without slashing benefits for future generations

* A "debt fail-safe," to kick in by 2014. If long-term deficit projections aren't looking better by that time, the failsafe would trigger an across-the-board spending reduction (with exceptions for Social Security, low-income programs, and Medicare benefits).

* The creation of a committee chaired by Vice President Joe Biden and including members of both parties and houses of Congress, to begin meeting next month in order to "agree on a legislative framework for comprehensive deficit reduction."

While what Barry proposes is much better than the Ryan bill, it still leaves a lot to be desired in its present form. Like most Obama speeches, it was full of words, images, vague descriptions, and signified absolutely nothing. Did you see Joe Biden's reaction to the speech? ZZZZZZZZZ! What will no doubt happen in the end is we'll get Ryan's bill, plus some other goodies that Barry will throw in the pot to make it even sweeter than what the Rethuglicans want, but will no doubt take with a sneer and will immediately demand more in the next bill. I hate to sound like a broken record, but we are soooooooooooo screwed, America!

Keepin' On

We've got another must read edition this week. Our very good friend Cynthia McKinney is back in the magazine with an absolute must-read on Barry. She's leading off this week's edition with, "President Obama Gets His Groove Back By Attacking Africans." Another brilliant article is by Professer David Michael Green and is also of the must-read category, "And Now, For The Kill." "Uri Avnery does it again with another brilliant editorial, "The Gold And The Stone." Our resident poet and wordsmith, Phil Rochstroh explores, "Hiding From Shame, Addicted To Optimism." Phil, like those others, writes nothing but must-reads. What do these folks along with James Donahue and Dr. Joel S. Hirschhorn and many others have in common? I mean, other than understanding what exactly's going down and the ability to make you understand the consequences of what's happening! You probably would've never read them, or even known of them (except of course for Cynthia) except that we presented them to you for your edification!

I was the first in America, outside of college quarterlies, to publish Uri, and ten years down the line; he's everywhere. For most of the last ten years, we were the ONLY ones to publish Cynthia--telling the truth will get you banned from the mainstream media! As of late, the "Black Press" has discovered her, too! As for the rest, either we sought them out, or they sought us out, and here is about the only place you'll find many of them.

Along with them, you'll find the best columnists in the world, all brought together in one space to make it easy for you and your children to find out the truth, and hence, be able to deal with what's current and what's ahead! And for this rather expensive service we charge absolutely nothing, as it's too important to keep some people from getting at the truth because they're poor; here we're all for one and one for all! Still, the bills for this keep mounting up and since we have limited advertising and charge no fees for access we often have to come to you to keep the whole thing going which is especially important in these very trying times. Ergo, if you can, would you please send in what you can, as soon as you can! Just click on this link and follow the instructions. Keep on rockin' in the "free" world, America!


08-31-1928 ~ 04-06-2011
Thanks for the jams!

06-25-1924 ~ 04-09-2011
Thanks for the films!


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


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

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

President Obama Gets His Groove Back By Attacking Africans
By Cynthia McKinney

President Obama promised "change" to the people who voted for him. He told them to hope again and that change would come. But President Obama's change is really more of the same. Therefore, his elixir that was sold to the world was nothing more than snake oil. The most damage, of course, is being done to those whose dreams were intricately woven into his words, not realizing that words are not policy. In a most deadly treachery, those who believed in our President the most are the ones who are now suffering and dying the most.

Some people, to this day, remain tricked by the salve of words for the wounds inflicted by our President. Others have begun to sink into despair while some search for answers. But our President is adept at giving us, in the words of the late, great Fred Hampton, Chicago's other son, "answers that don't answer, explanations that don't explain, and conclusions that don't conclude." It is to those searching for answers that I refer to my previous writings compiled on the websites below and to the writings of Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford and the entire team and of Wayne Madsen whose writings can be found at

In Rosa Clemente's and my 2008 Green Party "Power to the People" Presidential campaign, I tried to warn the attentive public of what was to come under an Obama Administration: even I could not imagine that it would get this bad.

I knew that dissent would be intolerable under an Obama Administration, enforced both from the Black political consensus and from the Democratic Party wingnuts--quashing dissent even with all of the attendant special interest burdens that come with any aspect of the Democratic Party.

I knew that the Muslim world was going to be in for a shockingly rude awakening, but even I could not conceive of the carnage this President could bring to that part of the world--either by a policy that encourages Muslims to kill other Muslims, or by the dropping of bombs and the use of depleted uranium on Muslim communities. But not only that, we are seeing the murder of whole countries and the communities and cultures that gave rise to them. The President's policies are dismantling and dismembering Pakistan and Afghanistan as we watch. The U.S. Embassy in Iraq announced plans to employ a total of 16,000 people, doubling its staff, within the next two years. The only antidote to these policies is unity and I hope that the residents of these countries are able to unite and resist in a much more effective way than have "antiwar" "liberal" communities inside the United States. Of course, some individuals stand out and are leading the resistance now and I can only hope that their voices are heard and multiplied among the masses, both here and around the world.

I do believe that Henry Kissinger was onto something when he marveled at the tremendous good will that this President has around the world and I do believe that Henry Kissinger, among others, sought to use that good will for their own purposes. After all, when you buy a President, like a slave, he becomes yours. It is clear now, that the people of the United States did not buy this President and so they do not own him. There are clear winners from the policies currently being pursued, but they are not the people.

Speaking of Henry Kissinger, let me just say this about him and his minions: When I was in the Congress, I received a phone call from Alassane Ouattara from aboard Henry Kissinger's yacht. I had received many such calls from people wanting to benefit from my good reputation within the human rights and peace community in the United States and they wanted me to sell their particular potion of iniquity to people inside the United States and to the world. Usually, these people were the kind of people accustomed to buying the consciences of public persons, so my "no" resounded rather sharply to them, and I earned yet another set of crosshairs on my forehead, I guess.

Alassane Ouattara and his Zionist wife, Dominique, were seeking my assistance--or maybe my silence--in his effort to become President of Ivory Coast. I applaud Laurent Gbagbo in his efforts to stave off imperialism in Ivory Coast, one of the few African countries that has not one iota of a relationship with the U.S. military. However, Democracy Now, FOX, CNN, AP, Reuters, and all the rest didn't tell you that when they ran their many stories about Ivory Coast. While the world will celebrate "democracy" arriving in Ivory Coast once Gbagbo is gone, the exact opposite will actually be the case. Handing Ivory Coast over to Henry Kissinger and his ilk is the policy of the Obama Administration. I guess, President Obama is proving his worth: perhaps no one could have done it better.

But it doesn't stop there. Look at what President Obama's policies are in Haiti! When the devastating earthquake struck there, only the fifth in the entire history of that country, President Obama sent in the drones when the people needed food, shelter, and medical relief! How is that any different from George W. Bush and Michael Chertoff who sent men with guns into New Orleans, military and mercenaries, after Hurricane Katrina when the people really needed food? Now, because of President Obama's policies and his complete prostration before the Vicars of the Imperium--that is, the Clinton Family--who call the shots on the future of the Haitian people, Haiti can only see more struggle against domination in its future. Hillary Clinton went to Haiti to snatch self-determination from the Haitian people in the victory of Jude Celestin and to instead select a musician buffoon who once mooned his audience in a concert for Haiti's Presidency, all with the smack of legitimacy granted when one can successfully threaten the Election Commission with revocation of visas to the U.S. and control the Organization of American States and the United Nations that has troops of occupation there.

Had George H.W. or W. Bush or John McCain or any Republican done any of this there would be enough hot air to float the Hindenburg! The streets all across the United States would be aflitter! There would be animation in the Congress enough to make John Boehner cry! Instead, however, the very people who wield official power and who could stop this madness because they supposedly represent the interests of the people, silence themselves and let this happen. Unity, again is the antidote--the sand that can be thrown by a few into the gears of the machine.

But, there is also pernicious collateral damage from our President's policies right here in the United States in the African-American community that brought itself up from slavery and U.S.-styled apartheid. President Obama has hastened the collapse of Black wealth in this country even as he feeds the beast of the bankers. And, although our President can be counted on to roundly condemn Black men on Father's Day, it seems that is the only treatment for which our President actively searches out Black people--for criticism and condemnation. The so-called Black Farmer "settlement" provides money for everyone but the initial Black Farmers who stood up and filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but who now stand to lose 1.5 million acres under President Obama's watch. Under this President, Black people can be condemned, but not repaired.

As a result, sadly, Blacks are slipping back more and more into economic and cultural servitude and political irrelevancy. And Michelle Alexander's clarion call in her book entitled "The New Jim Crow," reveals the true state of Black America. Just one tidbit from Ms. Alexander: “More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.” According to a recent Economic Policy Institute report, Black family wealth has fallen to just $2,000 while that of White families rests at $94,600.

But, I have spouted these statistics for the past 20 years as they got worse and worse. I have done everything that I know to do to try and warn the next victims of what these policies all mean for them. And at a time when Japan is spewing radioactive material across the planet, our President goes to India and Chile hawking more nuclear potions while limiting the companies' liability when there is a disaster! The winners in all of our President's policies take their rewards to the bank. Woe is unto the rest of us.

Finally, I have said too many times to recall the number, that politics is not a beauty contest, nor is it a popularity contest. Politics is about power and policy. And unless we cast our votes for the candidates who represent our best policy options, then we are practicing the politics of self-abnegation. Nowhere is that more clear than in the case of the Black community where even thoughtful critique of our President is unwelcome. I want so much to change the world, but feel like Harriet Tubman must have felt when she approached slaves who did not want to be free because they didn't even know that they were enslaved!

Well, I would never think of myself as either a "mongrel" or a "mutt;" and will not accept being subjugated and my country completely decimated by one who does. After all, if that's the way he describes himself, how can our President think highly of other similarly situated people? 2011, the International Year of People of African Descent, President Obama is perfectly situated to carry out these noxious policies. I am so angry for a moment I was tempted to start cursing. I am writing this piece instead, listening to Carlos Santana Samba Pa Ti, and just like his Black Magic Woman divining a bolder way to resist.


Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.
(c) 2011 Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007.

The Gold And The Stone
By Uri Avnery

THERE IS something tragicomic about the persona of Richard Goldstone.

First there was a veritable storm of fury when the original Goldstone report was issued.

What a fiend! A Jew who claims to be a Zionist and an Israel-lover, who publishes the most abominable slanders about against our valiant soldiers, aiding and abetting the worst anti-Semites around the world! The very prototype of a self-hating Jew! Still worse, a “mosser” – a Jew who turns another Jew over to the evil Goyim, the most detested figure in Jewish folklore.

And now the turnabout. Goldstone, the Jew who has recanted. Goldstone who has publicly confessed that he was wrong all along. That the Israeli army committed no crimes in the 2009-2010 “Cast Lead” Gaza operation, On the contrary, while the Israeli army has conducted honest and meticulous investigations into all the allegations, Hamas has not investigated any of the horrendous crimes it has committed.

Goldstone, the Man of Stone, has become Goldstone, the Man of Gold. A man of conscience! A man to be admired!

It was, of course, Binyamin Netanyahu who had the final word. Goldstone’s recantation, he summarized, has confirmed once again that the IDF is the Most Moral Army in the World.

MY HEART bleeds for Judge Goldstone. From the beginning he was placed in an impossible situation.

The UN commission which appointed him to head the inquiry into the allegations of war crimes committed during the operation was acting on a seemingly logical but actually foolish calculation. Appointing to the job a good Jew, and an avowed Zionist to boot, would disarm, it was thought, any allegation of anti-Israeli bias.

Goldstone and his colleagues undoubtedly did an honest and conscientious job. They sifted the evidence laid before them and arrived at reasonable conclusions on that basis. However, almost all the evidence came from Palestinian and UN sources. The commission could not interrogate the officers and soldiers of the Israeli forces because our government, in a typical and almost routine act of folly, refused to cooperate.

Why? The basic assumption is that all the world is out to get us, not because of anything we do, but because we are Jews. We know we are right, and we know that they are out to prove us wrong. So why cooperate with these bloody anti-Semites and Jewish self-haters?

Today, almost all influential Israelis concede that this was a stupid attitude. But there is no guarantee that our leaders will behave any differently next time, especially since the army is dead set against allowing any soldiers to appear before a non-Israeli forum, or, for that matter, before an Israeli non-military forum either.

BACK TO poor Goldstone. After the publication of his commission’s report, his life became hell.

The full fury of the Jewish ghetto against traitors from its midst was turned on him. Jews objected to his attending his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. His friends turned away from him, He was ostracized by all the people he valued.

So he searched his soul and found that he had been wrong all along. His findings were one-sided. He would have found differently if he had heard the Israeli side of the story. The Israeli army has conducted honest investigations into the allegations, while the barbarous Hamas has not conducted any investigations at all into their obvious war crimes.

So when was Goldstone wrong? The first or the second time?

The answer is, alas, that he was wrong both times.

THE VERY term “war crimes” is problematic. War itself is a crime, never to be justified unless it is the only way to prevent a bigger crime – as with the war against Adolf Hitler, and now – on an incomparably smaller scale – against Muammar Qaddafi. P<> The idea of war crimes arose after the horrendous atrocities of the 30-year war, which devastated central Europe. The idea was that it is impossible to prevent brutal actions if they are needed to win a war, but that such actions are illegitimate if they are not needed for this purpose. The principle is not moral, but practical. Killing prisoners and civilians is a war crime, because it serves no effective military purpose, since both sides can do it. So is the wanton destruction of property.

In Israel this principle was embodied in the landmark judgment by Binyamin Halevy after the 1956 Kafr Qasim massacre of innocent farmers, men, women and children. The Judge ruled that a “black flag” flies over “manifestly” illegal orders – orders which even a simple person can see are illegal, without talking to a lawyer. Since then, obeying such orders has been a crime under Israeli law.

THE REAL question about Cast Lead is not whether individual soldiers did commit such crimes. They sure did – any army is composed of all types of human beings, decent youngsters with a moral conscience besides sadists, imbeciles and others suffering from moral insanity. In a war you give all of them arms and a license to kill, and the results can be foreseen. That is one reason why “war is hell.”

The problem with Lebanon War II and Cast Lead is that the basic approach – the same in both cases – makes war crimes as good as inevitable. The planners were no monsters – they just did their job. They superimposed two facts one on the other. The result was inevitable.

One consideration was the requirement to avoid casualties on our side. We have a people’s army, composed of conscripts from all walks of life (like the US army in Vietnam but not in Afghanistan.) Our public opinion judges wars according to the number of (our) soldiers killed and wounded. So the directive to the military planners is: do everything possible so the number of our casualties will be next to nil.

The other fact is the total disregard for the humanity of the other side. Years and years of the occupation have created an army for whom Palestinians, and Arabs in general, are mere objects. Not human enemies, not even human monsters, just objects.

These two mental attitudes lead necessarily to a strategic and tactical doctrine which dictates the application of lethal force to anyone and anything that can possibly menace soldiers advancing in enemy territory – liquidating them in front of the soldiers preferably from afar by artillery and air power.

When the opposition is a resistance movement operating in a densely populated area, the results can almost be calculated mathematically. In Cast Lead, at least 350 Palestinian civilians, among them hundreds of women and children, were killed, together with about 750 enemy fighters. On the Israeli side: altogether 5 (five!) Israeli soldiers were killed by enemy fire (some six more by “friendly fire”).

This result did not contradict the undeclared political aim of the operation. It was to pressure the Gaza Strip population into overthrowing the Hamas government. This result, of course, was not achieved. Rather the opposite.

The logic – and the balance of casualties - of Lebanon War II were about the same, with added huge material destruction of civilian targets.

FOLLOWING THE Goldstone report, our army did indeed conduct quite extensive investigations into individual incidents. The number is impressive, the results are not. Some 150 or so cases were investigated, two soldiers were convicted (one for theft), one officer was indicted for the killing – by mistake – of an entire extended family.

This seems to satisfy Goldstone, who this week gratefully accepted an invitation from the Israeli Minister of the Interior – perhaps the most rabid racist in the entire government, in which racists abound – to visit Israel. (When the conversation was leaked, Goldstone cancelled the matter and stated that the report would not be withdrawn.)

On the other side, Goldstone is aflame with indignation against Hamas, for launching rockets and mortar shells at civilians in Israel and conducting no investigations at all. Isn’t it rather ridiculous: using the same standards for one of the five mightiest armies in the world and a band of irregular and poorly equipped resistance fighters (alias terrorists)?

Terrorism is the weapon of the weak. (“Give me tanks and airplanes, and I promise I won’t plant bombs’” a Palestinian once said.) Since the entire military strategy of Hamas is terrorizing Israeli communities along the border in order to persuade Israel to put an end to the occupation (and, in the case of Gaza, to the ongoing blockade), Goldstone’s indignation seems a bit surprising.

Altogether, Goldstone has now paved the way for another Cast Lead operation which will be far worse.

I expect , however, that he can now pray in any synagogue he chooses.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Real Madness Of March
By David Sirota

Lowell Bergman is the rare skunk who regularly finds his way into the power elite's garden parties. As tobacco executives celebrated huge revenues in the 1990s, he was the journalist whose reporting about cancer and nicotine addiction stopped the festivities. As credit card executives toasted their holiday-season profits, his 2004 New York Times investigation humiliated the lending industry by showing how it traps unsuspecting consumers in perpetual debt. So it was no surprise that as the sports establishment concluded its perennial orgy of profit known as March Madness, Bergman was at it again, this time exposing the corruption beneath all the school spirit.

In Bergman's damning special now available on PBS's "Frontline" website, viewers are shown the side of "amateur" athletics that's almost never discussed inside the beery bubble of sports media. We see, for instance, an NCAA that makes billions off television contracts, while student athletes receive only a tiny fraction of that revenue in the form of scholarships. We see coaches making millions off long-term contracts, while players remain perpetually at risk of losing their meager financial aid. We see, in short, an Athletic-Industrial Complex that turns schools into support systems for sports — rather than the other way around.

Commenting on the perverse situation, fellow investigative journalist Michael Lewis told Bergman that the typical fan "shouldn't care unless you have some weird obsession with justice." But that's not true in the age of strapped budgets and skyrocketing tuition. Fan or not, justice fetishist or otherwise, the scandal should concern every American taxpayer because we're all paying a price.

Today, the vast majority of college athletic departments run operating deficits. In 2009 alone, that meant "about $1.8 billion in student fees and university funds went to cover gaps," according to USA Today — and much of those fees and funds are those of taxpayer-owned public universities.

These deficits are particularly stunning considering A) the NCAA is raking in so much TV cash, B) those NCAA revenues are tax exempt — i.e., tax subsidized — under higher ed's nonprofit status and C) federal taxpayers are additionally supporting athletic departments by classifying boosters' donations as tax exempt.

Some of the deficits, of course, come from schools funding non-commercial sports that are net money-losers. But many of the budget gaps come from exorbitant pay packages, as high-profile coaches regularly make six- or seven-figure salaries. Indeed, while politicians have lately demonized $40,000-per-year grade-school teachers as the education system's overpaid greedheads, college coaches are often the highest-paid government employees in our public school systems, with USA Today reporting that "among public schools in the NCAA's top-level Division I, coaches' compensation is now the biggest hit on the budget."

The NCAA champion University of Connecticut Huskies exemplify the problem. The New Haven Advocate reports that as the school continues pleading poverty to justify raising tuition on the state's residents, an audit found those student fee increases are annually backfilling $7.5 million of the athletic department's budget. That public subsidy goes to pay the $10.5 million the university spends on coaches' salaries, including basketball coach Jim Calhoun's $2.3 million annual haul. And that's on top of the millions taxpayers shelled out on the university's football complex.

As Bergman's PBS report documents, UConn's story is being replicated all over America. It's a story of unbridled avarice that gives the NCAA basketball tournament's "madness" motto a double meaning — a story you may not hear beneath the cheering throngs, a story you may not want an old-school gumshoe like Bergman to tell you about, but a story we'll continue to pay for unless we wake up and end the insanity.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Fight Economic Oppression, Target The Top One Percent
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Massive economic inequality is killing America and we the people. It has already killed American democracy. The rich have captured the political system so they could manipulate the economy and benefit unfairly. Economic freedom and opportunity are gone. Greed among the top one percent has succeeded so well that a true uprising and revolt by Americans, like that seen in Egypt, may be needed to restore America.

US society is riddled through and through with constant lies and political propaganda to keep Americans stupid and distracted. The truth is here, hidden from easy view for most citizens by an epidemic of dishonesty and irresponsibility among elected officials, corporate leaders, cowardly, corporate controlled mass media, and especially right-wing pundits, many of whom are in the top one percent. The truth, of course, is often revealed, but only in venues that relatively few people with sufficient intelligence and critical thinking skills access. Two recent articles should be required reading in every classroom and home.

First, some key numbers tell the true story about the decline of America in recent decades as revealed by acclaimed economist Joseph E. Stiglitz in Vanity Fair. Upper one percent Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s annual income and own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. The top one percent’s incomes rose 18 percent over the past decade as those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. As the recession still hurts most Americans, especially the unemployed, hungry and foreclosed, the top one percent, many of whom created the economic meltdown, keeps their tax cuts and riches.

“Most citizens are doing worse year after year,” correctly observes Stiglitz.

Also, in our delusional democracy run by a bipartisan corporate dictatorship: “Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent.” No surprise that those who poisoned the economy have not been prosecuted.

You cannot vote away this insanity by electing Republicans or Democrats, even those claiming Tea Party status, who mostly want to protect rich and corporate elites as evidenced by their disinterest in removing corporate subsidies and welfare, nor raising taxes on the rich. This behavior is brainless for non-wealthy Americans.

Stiglitz says: “The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.” In truth, they own our government.

The second article in The Nation by Robert Scheer smartly noted: “The delusion of a classless America in which opportunity is equally distributed is the most effective deception perpetrated by the moneyed elite that controls all the key levers of power in what passes for our democracy.” Mostly ignored, “the corporate rich reward themselves in direct proportion to the amount of suffering they have caused.”

Scheer referenced this: During Clinton’s presidency the income of the top one percent increased by 10.1 percent per year, while that of the other 99 percent of Americans increased by only 2.4 percent a year. From 2002 to 2006, a period in which the top one percent increased its income 11 percent annually the rest of Americans had a truly paltry gain of 1 percent per year.

What kind of population would endure all this? Submissive, stupid and sidetracked Americans refusing to see the economic oppression strangling the nation.

To be in the top one percent you need an adjusted gross income of about $400,000, most not coming from salaries or wages. And those households with less than 5 million people total have a net worth of at least $8 million each. Do you make the cut? If not, then wake up to reality. You are a victim!

The top one percent people are the enemy. THEY have stolen your financial security and opportunity. THEY have sold us out to China and other nations. YOU have been sacrificed to satisfy their greed. You have a better chance of winning a huge lottery than becoming one of them.

Abusive inequality is no accident of history. It has occurred by design. Forget morality and fairness. The wealthiest of the wealthy have ingeniously engineered the political and economic systems to get exactly what they want and screw the rest of society. They do not fear outright revolution, peaceful or violent class war.

Pause for a moment. Think in terms of an invisible corporate dictatorship run in a bipartisan way by people who know how to use their money to retain a thoroughly corrupt political system. That is the tool used to protect themselves from the wrath of a few hundred million victims of their villainy. The economic oppression by the richest one percent is far greater than that of the British which spurred the American Revolution. We desperately need a second revolution against domestic tyranny.

In addition to the two excellent recent articles, you would benefit from examining the Who Rules America? website. If you appreciate data also peruse this excellent Mother Jones article, which points out most Americans perceive wealth distribution more fairly distributed than it really is, delusional thinking.

To sum up, those not brainwashed by political propaganda should support taking down the top one percent to take back their country. Without action more and more Americans will suffer as the middle class merges into one huge lower class, especially when politicians to address the national debt and deficit cut major federal programs that nearly 50 percent of Americans depend on rather than increasing tax revenues by hitting the rich and corporate welfare.

We outnumber them. Have you had enough economic oppression? Remember, every ruling class can be brought down.
(c) 2011 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Employee Paychecks Are Soaring!

Corporate America is back! The recession is over, corporate profits rose by 47 percent last year, and these giants are now awash in cash, having some $2 trillion stashed in their vaults. So, at last, the directors of corporate America are declaring that it's time for long-suffering employees to see their paychecks catch up to pre-recession levels.

Great, huh?

Oh, I hope you didn't think they meant your paycheck. No, no, Bucko. It's the CEOs the directors are concerned about. While plain old workers did receive a two-percent boost in their wages in the past year, practically every penny of this tiny increase was gobbled up by inflation. But top executives did much, much better, enjoying a median pay hike of 27 percent more than they got the previous year. This adds up to a nice round number of $9 million in pay for each of them.

Of course, many did far better than that mid-level number. The barista-in-chief at Starbucks, for example, poured $21 million into his cup. The big cheese at Disney Inc. snapped up $28 million for his year at the helm of the Mickey Mouse empire. Black & Decker's top tool got $32 million. But the richest haul of all was made by the honcho of the media giant, Viacom – he reeled in $84 million.

Yes, I know that they point to that 47 percent rise in overall profit levels as the reason these soaring paychecks are warranted. But take a closer peek at that number. The profit performance is mostly due to eliminating the jobs of thousands of workers last year and downsizing the hours and wages of others. Real profit – derived from increased sales – edged up by only seven percent.

How's that for "shared sacrifice" in hard times? Workers get offed, which artificially inflates the bottom line of the corporations, letting CEOs cash in on middle class misery.
(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.

Obama Shine Dulled In Re-Election Bid
By Helen Thomas

President Obama is seeking re-election, so what else is new. And why not?

Unlike other presidents, he has not complained about the job - the highest office in the land - and is ready to go again.

His formal announcement for another term was so low key that it landed on page 14 in the New York Times. And he did not appear on his own video telling the world he is again a candidate. But mostly his early announcement for 2012 is all about money - an estimated $1 billion to get his re-election show on the road, compared to the $750 million he spent on his first campaign for President.

Obama is counting on deep-pocket donors this time around. In 2008, he wooed the less affluent who were eager to kick in for the big "change" and "hope" Obama was offering. The nation was ready and willing to have its first black president. Some of the Obama shine has rubbed off. Disillusionment and disappointment has set in since those glory days.

Of course to give Obama his due, there is no such thing as an instant president - unless you are Lyndon B. Johnson, who had set his sights on the presidency since his boyhood. LBJ was prepared to step into the most powerful office in the land when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Johnson had been a Texas congressman, senator, senate majority leader and Vice President. He was the "can-do" man and moved the mountain to push for his "Great Society," a boon to the nation. He knew where all the bodies were buried, and every man's price on Capitol Hill.

As a result, and on the tail wind of a grief-stricken nation, during his first two years in office, Johnson rammed through Congress Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, voting rights for blacks in the South, funding aid to education, and public housing.

Obama had no set grandiose domestic agenda. He promised "change," but has disappointed loyalists for closely adhering to his predecessor George W. Bush's foreign policy.

He has continued the two Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a time when the Arab world is waking up to fight for democracy. He had one chance to get out of Iraq the day after he took office. The country would have been grateful. So many lives would have been saved. And so many billions of dollars would have been available to care for Americans' other needs. Obama had said he would wrap up the war in Iraq fully, but he kept escalating the departure date. Now it has moved to 2014, and Iraqis are still bombing when they get the chance.

I have been asked so often, "How can we get out?" I reply, "How did we get in?"

Obama has disappointed many of his supporters who expected a big change from the policies of Republican President Bush. Instead they wondered, where is the change?

Obama did get Congress to pass his health care law, which the Republicans are now trying to tear apart. But he mostly appeased the bankers and continued Bush's biggest tax cuts for the richest people.

To reduce the deficit, Obama should have urged a tax increase for the millionaires and billionaires, but not when you have your hand out for donations, and not when you are seeking a second term. These are the facts of life.

Therefore, the very rich in this country are doing just fine, while the poor are another story. The hard strapped, who are legion, are simply trying to make ends meet.

Meantime, the Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana are trying to make up for needed revenue by destroying unions, and wiping out collective bargaining for public sector workers. They obviously felt free to undercut the working man and woman - but not the rich bankers.

At some point Obama is going to have to stop appeasing the very rich, the oligarchs who were denounced by Theodore Roosevelt.

The newly empowered GOP is trying to pick apart Medicaid and Medicare as well. Who are these people? Who do they represent? Obviously not the poor and the sick. To solve the deficit problem Obama should have raised taxes on the billionaires, and the very rich. Sorry, not in an election year.

Republicans have to decide on one candidate from an array of hopefuls, including two woman - Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. It's hard to believe former Republican Newt Gingrich is seeking the nomination, but he is back in the race again. The only GOP member who has created an exploration committee is former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Obama has a tough road ahead. He has to restore the glow he had when he first ran for the presidency, and prove to the American people he deserves a second term.
(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.

Debris Pollution Could Wreck World Space Programs
By James Donahue

Last week’s “close call” experienced by astronauts occupying the International Space Station as a piece of space junk whizzed by has not surprised people involved in the space program.

Long before China used a missile to destroy one of that country's straying weather satellites in 2007 scientists were expressing serious concern about a growing amount of space debris circling our planet. That is because every piece of junk floating in orbit around our planet is in motion and even the small pieces have the potential of blasting holes in the sides of the International Space Station, the shuttles that service it, or any future ships leaving or returning to Earth from missions to the Moon and beyond.

Collisions with larger objects would be a disaster in space. For this reason, NASA and space officials around the world have been keeping careful track of every stray particle of every ship that has blasted off into space since the Russians sent Sputnik into orbit a half century ago.

An article by Leonard David published a few years ago addressed this issue long before the China incident. David noted that there is so much junk already circling our planet that he believed future missions are at great risk of collision.

He wrote: "Earth orbit is muddled with human-made hazards from numerous nations in the form of on-duty satellites, deserted spacecraft, leftover fragments of exploded rocket upper stages, even chunks of solid rocket motor propellant down to tiny flecks of paint shedding from space hardware.

"Toss in fast-moving separation bolts, lens caps, momentum flywheels, nuclear reactor cores, clamp bands, auxiliary motors, launch vehicle fairings and adapter shrouds. At one point, there was even a toothbrush reporting zipping through the global space commons," he wrote.

At that time, David reported more than 10,000 known objects larger than four inches in diameter that were being tracked by U.S. ground surveillance equipment. An estimated 700 of them were operating satellites. The rest was discarded flotsam. Today the number of objects has been increased to over 12,500 and growing.

"In addition to this there are millions of tiny bits of material, including droplets of radioactive coolant that eked out of poorly plumbed Soviet nuclear-powered spacecraft," David added.

Since the David article appeared, there have been a rash of new rocket and satellite launches by not only new nations entering the space race, but even private companies that are launching satellites for business reasons.

This is why both Russian and US space agencies expressed alarm when China used a guided missile to destroy that weather satellite. Not only did China display to the world its ability to knock spy satellites out of the sky, it blew this particular satellite into fragments that are now circling our planet like a hail of bullets that might strike anything that gets in their way. It was a piece of that particular Chinese satellite that came close to hitting the International Space Station.

At last count officials said they were counting 525 large pieces of metal and up to 600 smaller pieces of debris already passing within a few miles of orbiting satellites. And there are a lot of orbiting satellites up there. Not only do we have spy satellites, but our telephone system, or television programming, news feeds, and sophisticated guidance systems for ships at sea and commercial and military aircraft are dependent on information received from a growing number of orbiting technical equipment in space.

If you think space is so vast that all of this stuff shouldn't matter, think again. We have had close calls with shuttle missions, one of them returning with a cracked windshield from hitting something. Something damaged the Hubble Space Telescope in the midst of its operations.

The International Space Station has been moved several times to miss large tracked objects because of a possible hit from space debris. Operators of a German satellite were once forced to fire onboard thrusters to miss oncoming debris. It is a growing problem that has been intensified as more and more rockets are fired into orbit around our planet.

To put the seriousness of just what has happened since China blew up its satellite, the Johnson Space Center notes that it is now tracking a debris cloud that extends from 125 miles to 2, 292 miles, encompassing all of low Earth orbit. The majority of the debris is hanging in mean altitudes of 528 miles above the earth, or higher, which means that it will be up there for a very long time.

The number of smaller pieces of debris from this same breakup is even higher. NASA is estimating that up to 35,000 pieces of "riff-raff" larger than one centimeter in size is out there, flying like bullets in orbit and potential danger to any ship or satellite in space.

Another growing problem is the number of large pieces of space debris that are falling back to Earth. People occasionally reported a cluster of glowing objects coming down out of the sky. People usually think they are witnessing “falling stars” or meteor showers. Instead they are pieces of space junk burning as they entered the atmosphere of the planet.

A 550-pound main propellant tank of the second stage of a Delta 2 rocket fell near Georgetown, Texas in 1997, Also a 156-pound piece of space debris fell near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2001. It is only a matter of time before someone gets killed by one of these monster objects crashing to Earth.

Oh man, what have we done to our planet and ourselves?
(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.

How To Get Your Book Published In 6 (Painful) Steps
By Sam Harris

The process of getting a nonfiction book published by a mainstream publisher—as distinct from an academic press, or a smaller, independent publisher—is quite straightforward. This is not to say that most people understand this process, or that success is likely, but there is very little uncertainty about how an aspiring author must engage the machinery of publishing. Here is the process in 6 steps:

1. Don’t write the book: Many people who ask me for publishing advice have already invested considerable time and energy in writing their book. This is almost always a mistake. There is no reason to start writing a nonfiction manuscript in earnest before you have written a book proposal. Why? Because no publisher will read your manuscript without first reading a book proposal sent to them by an agent. And no agent will read your manuscript without first reading a book proposal. So, the first step in publishing any work of nonfiction is to write a book proposal. (Note: this iron law does not apply to fiction. For fiction, the opposite iron law applies: if you want to publish a novel, you must sit down and write a novel.)

If you intend to publish a work of nonfiction with a mainstream press—like Viking, Little Brown, Knopf, Simon and Schuster, etc.—please take the following sentences to heart: If you cannot interest an agent in your book on the basis of a proposal, you will not get an agent. If your agent cannot sell your book on the basis of a proposal, it will not be published by a mainstream press. Thus, a book proposal is what you need to write, whether or not you have already spent ten years polishing your manuscript. And if you haven’t started writing the book—don’t.

2. Write a book proposal: A book proposal has a standard format that every agent and publisher expects to see executed without any surprising flourishes. You win no points for creativity in how you structure this document. Learn the format and follow it. Needless to say, there are books about how to write a nonfiction book proposal. I can’t remember which one I read before writing my proposal for The End of Faith, but any book on this subject will probably serve you well.

3. Get an agent: This could be easy, or next to impossible, depending on who you are and the nature of your project—but you must do it in any case. To my knowledge, no mainstream press will look at an unagented proposal. If you want to write an academic book for MIT Press—or Princeton, Oxford, etc.,—you don’t need an agent and can approach these publishers directly. (You will, however, need the relevant academic credentials.)

Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of luck involved in finding an agent. Do you happen to have a friend who already has one? (Call that friend.) The process generally entails sending a query letter and then a proposal to one agent after another until you find one who is willing to represent you. Some agents can afford to be very selective and will not consider taking on a first time author, unless you happen to be already famous. But less established agents will often take the trouble to discover new talent. Remember that you don’t need to find the perfect agent, you just need one who is enthusiastic about your project and eager to earn his or her 15% by selling it to a mainstream press.

4. Refine the proposal: Once you have an agent, you will plow some of his or her publishing wisdom into subsequent drafts of your book proposal. Even if these revisions do nothing but improve your proposal from your agent’s point of view, they are important. Remember, your agent is the one who has to sell this book, at least initially. The first conversations that will be had about your proposal will be between your agent and various editors. You will not be involved. So, while you shouldn’t accept any changes that embarrass you, your goal should be to arrive at a draft that your agent is enthusiastic about, understands, and is happy to sell. If you and your agent fundamentally disagree about the direction your book should take, it will be very difficult for him or her to competently represent it.

5. Go to market: Once you have a final draft of your proposal in hand, your agent will send it to every publisher he or she thinks might be interested in publishing your book. In the best case, many will be interested, and you will have a proper auction on your hands—at the end of which, you will be forced to choose between multiple offers, any one of which will allow you to live without a care in the world for a year or two while you write your book. However, given that this is your first book, this is unlikely to happen. When my proposal for The End of Faith went out to publishers, an initial chorus of enthusiasm quickly faded, and I was left will only one publisher, out of a field of sixteen, who was willing to make an offer. Thus, there was no auction, no competitive bids, and no basis to negotiate a higher advance. I was, after all, an unpublished and unknown graduate student writing on a topic that many people found offensive. I had no “platform,” and there was not yet an obvious market for a book attacking mainstream religion. Hence, it was not surprising that most publishers declined to take a risk on me. Happily, W.W. Norton was an exception.

Hopefully, at least one good publisher will make an offer on your book. If you do not get an offer at this stage, however, I do not know what you should do, beyond asking your agent what you should do. Self-publishing is, increasingly, a viable option for any author—and some authors will now tell you to go this route directly, without ever worrying about finding an agent or a mainstream publisher. While there are certain cases in which it might make economic sense to do this, for a first book, a mainstream publisher will give you credibility (whether warranted or not) that you will not get if you publish your book yourself.

6. Accept your best offer: Your best offer will generally be the one that includes the largest advance. If you only received one offer, this one is obviously your best, and you should take it—unless you awaken in the middle of the night realizing (1) what a brilliant idea it is to self-publish your first book, or (2) what a terrible idea it is to write a book in the first place. Otherwise, accept this offer knowing that the insultingly small advance you will receive, in four installments, is just that—an advance against future royalties. There is nothing preventing you from becoming the next Malcolm Gladwell and making millions on this book—except for the long odds against anyone becoming the next Malcolm Gladwell.

This is not to say, however, that an advance is meaningless from a publishing point of view. The size of an advance surely bears some relationship to a publisher’s enthusiasm for your project. So, while you might opt to accept a slightly smaller advance from a publisher/editor you especially admire, the highest advance generally wins the auction, and should win, as it is the only tangible evidence you have of a publisher’s commitment to your book.

After that, you are on your own, and I wish you the best of luck.
(c) 2011 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

Drifting Too Far From Shore
The Unresisted Rise of the Elite
By Chris Floyd

In the LRB, David Runciman provides some telling insights in a review of recent books about the “off-shoring” of the world economy into tax havens, where the hyper-elite hide their money from the taxes and regulations that ordinary citizens are subject to. The review also deals with the political machinations involved in this corrosive process, which lies behind much of our dysfunctions and discontents. You should read the whole article, which provides rich historical context, but are some excerpts, in medias res:

When officials from Delaware toured the globe in the late 1980s advertising their services (and hoping, among other things, to provide a haven for all the hot money that was expected to flow out of Hong Kong in the run-up to the handover to China), they did so under the slogan ‘Delaware can protect you from politics.’ Shaxson defines a tax haven as ‘a place that seeks to attract business by offering politically stable facilities to help people or entities get around the rules, laws and regulations of jurisdictions elsewhere’. But this is the crux: where is the politics? Why aren’t these moves more politically unstable, or at least politically contentious? In the case of Delaware, as with other goldfish bowl communities, size probably tells (for a long time Delaware politics was shaped by the influence of the Du Pont family, whose vast chemical operations dominated the local economy). What, though, about Washington, where the shift to an offshore mindset at the national level might be expected to run up against some serious political opposition? What happened to the representatives of all those people who don’t have lots of money to move around, who can’t relocate even if they wanted to, and who have an interest in a fair, open and broadly progressive tax system? Didn’t they notice what was going on?

This is the question that Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson tackle in Winner-Take-All Politics. They don’t spend much time talking about offshore, but the story they tell has striking parallels with the one laid out by Shaxson. One of the ways you can identify an offshore environment, according to Shaxson, is that local politics gets captured by financial services. In that sense, Washington has gone offshore: its politics has been captured by the interests of a narrow group of very wealthy individuals, many of whom work in finance.

For Hacker and Pierson this, more than anything else, explains why the rich have got so much richer over the last 30 years or so. And by the rich they don’t mean simply the generally wealthy; they mean the super-rich. The real beneficiaries of the explosion in income for top earners since the 1970s have been not the top 1 per cent but the top 0.1 per cent of the general population. Since 1974, the share of national income of the top 0.1 per cent of Americans has grown from 2.7 to 12.3 per cent of the total, a truly mind-boggling level of redistribution from the have-nots to the haves. Who are these people? As Hacker and Pierson note, they are ‘not, for the most part, superstars and celebrities in the arts, entertainment and sports. Nor are they rentiers, living off their accumulated wealth, as was true in the early part of the last century. A substantial majority are company executives and managers, and a growing share of these are financial company executives and managers.’

Hacker and Pierson believe that politics is responsible for this. It happened because law-makers and public officials allowed it to happen, not because international markets, or globalisation, or differentials in education or life-chances made it inevitable. It was a choice, driven by the pressure of lobbyists and other organisations to create an environment much more hospitable to the needs of the very rich. It was even so a particular kind of politics and a particular kind of choice. It wasn’t a conspiracy, because it happened in the open. But nor was it an explicit political movement, characterised by rallies, speeches and electoral triumphs. It relied in large part on what Hacker and Pierson call a process of drift: ‘systematic, prolonged failures of government to respond to the shifting realities of a dynamic economy’. More often than not the politicians were persuaded to do nothing, to let up on enforcement, to look the other way, as money moved around the globe and up to the very top of the financial chain.

As Runciman notes, Hacker and Pierson make a vital point on the true nature of the “political engagement” we see today among our partisan flag-wavers:

One of Hacker and Pierson’s complaints about the way we usually regard politics is that we miss what’s really going on by focusing on the show of elections and the competition between parties. This is the theatre of electoral politics, to set alongside the theatre of probity. Too often, they say, we reduce politics to the level of sport: ‘This is no doubt why politics as electoral spectacle is so appealing to the media: it’s exciting and it’s simple. Aficionados can memorise the stats of their favourite players or become experts on the great games of the past. Everyone, however, can enjoy the gripping spectacle of two highly motivated teams slugging it out.’

Certainly this has been borne out, to a glaring degree, by our stalwart “progressives” since the election of Barack Obama. There are mounds – mountains – mountain ranges of evidence showing “progressives” staunchly defending, or meekly countenancing, a whole raft of outrageous crimes and follies that they once decried with furious indignation ... simply because it is now the guy from “their” team commiting them, instead of that goober from the other team. And even among those progressives who do bestir themselves to sternly denounce this or that policy of the Obama administration – one of his many, many “continuities” and exacerbations of Bush’s record on military aggression, civil liberties, torture, the manipulation and overthrow of governments, the orgasmic embrace of Wall Street, the deficit hawkishness, tax cuts for the rich, etc., etc. – you will hear, almost uniformly, the anguished cry that despite all this, we must fight to re-elect Obama. Because otherwise, one of those right-wing extremists might get in and ... er ... continue all the Bush policies that ... er ... Obama is continuing.

This is a politics almost entirely without substance, based on unsifted tribal loyalties and unsupported myths – just as we see on the Right.

Runciman and the authors also make a very important point that is almost universally overlooked. The true acceleration of the brutal rule of the hyper-rich that we see today did not begin with the ascension of Ronald Reagan (however avidly he helped the process along); its true origins can found in the grand collapses of political will, the surrender to the elite’s most pernicious power blocs, under the administration of the hapless Jimmy Carter:

Elections are seductive, and these days the build-up is so protracted that they can drown out the real business of politics: the way organised groups use pressure – money, lobbying, threats – to squeeze whichever politicians happen to be in power, in order to influence the shaping of policy. Elections also suggest false historical turning points. It is easy to assume that if the rich have been winning in recent decades, the process must have started with the election of the pro-big business, anti-big government Ronald Reagan in 1980 (and concomitantly, Margaret Thatcher in Britain in 1979). But Hacker and Pierson argue that the real turning point came in 1978, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. This was the year the lobbyists and other organised groups who were pushing hard to relax the burden of tax and regulation on wealthy individuals and corporate interests discovered that no one was pushing back all that hard. Despite Democratic control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, 1978 saw the defeat of attempts to introduce progressive tax reform and to improve the legal position of trade unions. Instead, legislation was passed that reduced the tax burden on corporations and increased the burden on their employees (through a hike in the payroll tax, a regressive measure). All this happened because the politicians followed the path of least resistance – as elected politicians invariably do – and the better organised and better-funded resistance came from the representatives of big business, not organised labour.

What took place in the 1980s was therefore an extension of the Carter years, not a reversal of them. The process of deregulation and redistribution up the chain accelerated under Reagan, who was broadly sympathetic to these goals. Yet it happened not because he was sympathetic to them, but because his sympathies were allowed free rein in a political environment where the opposition was muted and the expected coalition of interests opposed to the changes never materialised. After all, as Hacker and Pierson point out, Richard Nixon, who might have been expected to share some of Reagan’s sympathies, had gone the other way in his actual policies a decade earlier, shoring up the legislative framework of the welfare state and maintaining a broadly progressive tax system. ... He acted like this because he felt he had little choice: the organised pressure ready to resist change appeared much too strong. It was only during the Carter years ... that this pressure turned out to be weaker than anyone thought. The politicians of the Reagan/ Thatcher revolution did what they did not because they were committed ideologues, determined to stick to their principles. They did it because they found they could get away with it.

This is an important point. Politicians are, with the rarest of exceptions, venal, preening, shallow-minded third-raters. Many of them are psychologically damaged, which is what draws them into the pursuit of power – of dominating other people -- in the first place. Mostly, they like the perks (material and emotional) of power. They are not figures of deep character and solid principles. Strong political resistance -- or even a great lot of noise -- can scare them out of whatever “principles” they find it expedient to hold at any given moment. The Right has triumphed because no one has resisted it. Big Money has bought off and/or subsumed almost all of the institutional forces that once offered some resistance to its iron-fisted rule. Runciman then takes up the obvious question:

So where did the resistance go? This is the real puzzle, and Hacker and Pierson take it seriously because they take democracy seriously, despite its unhealthy fixation on elections. Democracies are meant to favour the interests of the many over those of the few. As Hacker and Pierson put it, ‘Democracy may not be good at a lot of things. But one thing it is supposed to be good at is responding to problems that affect broad majorities.’ Did the majority not actually mind that they were losing out for the sake of the super-rich elite? In the American case, one common view is that the voters allowed it to happen because they minded more about other things: religion, culture, abortion, guns etc. The assumption is that many ordinary Americans have signed a kind of Faustian pact with the Republican Party, in which the rich get the money and the poor get support for the cultural values they care about. Hacker and Pierson reject this view, and not just because they don’t think the process they describe depends on there being a Republican in the White House: they see strong evidence that the American public do still want a fairer tax system and do still see it as the job of politicians to protect their interests against the interests of high finance. The problem is that the public simply don’t know what the politicians are up to. They are not properly informed about how the rules have been steadily changed to their disadvantage. ‘Americans are no less egalitarian when it comes to their vision of an ideal world,’ Hacker and Pierson write. ‘But they are much less accurate when it comes to their vision of the real world.’

Why is no one paying attention? ... Hacker and Pierson’s argument ... does not see the weakness of democracy as a matter of the voters wanting the wrong things, or not really knowing what they want. They know what they want but they don’t know how to get it. It’s because they don’t understand the world they live in that democracy isn’t working. People aren’t stupid, but when it comes to politics they are ignorant, lazy and easily satisfied with pat answers to difficult questions. Hacker and Pierson recognise that it has become bad manners to point this out even in serious political discourse. But it remains the truth. ‘Most citizens pay very little attention to politics, and it shows. To call their knowledge of even the most elementary facts about the political system shaky would be generous.’

The traditional solution to this problem was to supplement the ignorance of the voters with guidance from experts, who would reform the system in the voters’ best interests. The difficulty is that the more the experts take charge, the less incentive there is for the voters to inform themselves about what’s going on. This is what Hacker and Pierson call the catch-22 of democratic politics: in order to combat what’s taking place under the voters’ radar it’s necessary to continue the fight under the voters’ radar. The best hope is that eventually the public might wake up to what is going on and join in. But that will take time. As Hacker and Pierson admit, ‘Political reformers will need to mobilise for the long haul.’

Yet time may be one of the things that the reformers do not have on their side. As Shaxson points out in his account of the rise of the tax havens, one of the reasons for the drift towards deregulation is that politics has been too slow to resist it. This, again, is one of the traditional critiques of democracy: while decent-minded democrats are organising themselves to make the world a better place, the world has moved on. In a fast-moving financial environment, it is usually easier to assemble a coalition of interests in favour of relaxing the rules than one in favour of tightening them. Similarly, it’s easier not to enforce the rules you have than to enforce them: non-enforcement is the work of a moment – all you have to do is turn a blind eye – whereas enforcement is a slow and laborious process.

And of course, what happens in a world ruled by Big Money is that the “experts” themselves are bought off; or rather, as time goes by, the system itself breeds “experts” who do not and cannot rise in the system unless they already, naturally, unthinkingly buy into the basic premises of elitist rule. In such a world, even the “reformers” accept the underlying assumptions – and agenda – of the elite, and seek, at the very most, only the most tepid reforms. Do the hyper-rich – the 0.1 percent – now control 12 percent of the nation’s income? Why, goodness gracious, we’ve got to get that down to ... 10 percent, maybe, or even – why not shoot the moon? – 8 percent! That’ll show ‘em! Power to the people, man! But of course, to do that, we must not raise their taxes, or regulate their dodgy investment schemes, or punish them when they crash the world economy; and we must continue the valiant humanitarian interventions and assassinations for peace we are conducting in dozens and dozens of nations all over the world, at exorbitant cost year after year – campaigns which perpetuate the extremism and instability they profess to combat, and which ensure there is no money in the treasury to address the actual needs and aspirations of ordinary citizens.

There are no easy answers to this situation, no Gordian knot to cut with one bold stroke, no single doctrine or program that will answer all ills. Especially given the conundrum that Runciman identifies, between the hard, slow slog of genuine change and the rapidity with which the worst elements in society (and in ourselves) can strike. But one thing is certain: adhering blindly (or even with grudging, gritted-teeth "savvy") to organizations and leaders – such as the Democratic Party and its bloodstained standard-bearers – who have demonstrated, time and again, beyond all doubt, their willing, eager embrace of the elitist agenda will only further entrench and empower the very forces that are devouring and degrading the world.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

Hiding From Shame, Addicted To Optimism
The tyranny of our collective comfort zones
By Phil Rockstroh

The technologies that inflicted upon the world the ongoing tragedies in both the Gulf of Mexico and Japan serve a dangerous addiction, an addiction to blind optimism, a habituation of mind that allows us to dwell within provisional comfort zones but renders vast spaces of the world into deathrealms.

After each catastrophe, there ensues a scramble to contain the damage leveled, as, concurrently, the apologist of the present system explain the anomalous nature of the event. Yet, this much should be obvious: Attempting to clean up the mess, after it occurs, as oppose to altering the way of life that incurs the damage, is analogous to an addict believing a few days in detox will serve as a solution to his addiction.

In the same way drug dealers are reliant on an addict's unwillingness to reflect on the carnage created in his life, as well as, the havoc reaped in the lives of those near him, engendered by his addiction, the small group of hyper-wealthy elites who benefit from the current system rely on collective cognitive dissidence (or, as it has been termed, the fear of fear itself) to dissuade the public at large from peering deeply into the pernicious situation.

One of an addict's biggest obstacles is his optimism i.e., he is convinced he can figure out somehow, someway to use his drug of choice in a less destructive way…and, by reflex, rebels against the deepening sorrow that he must change.

When large, powerful corporations create messes beyond their ability to control the damage wrought by their institutional cupidity, those in charge spare no expense aggressively confronting the problem…that is, of course, by means of public relations blitzes aimed at the general public, while tsunami-sized waves of campaign contributions flood the coffers of elected officials.

Apropos, a school of thought has developed in which framing the perception of a catastrophe supersedes all other considerations. An after the fact casuistry, possessed of crackpot optimism, similar to the following, is affected: Dated technologies were at fault in that particular mishap, but, not to worry, in the near future, new innovations will safeguard against similar calamities.

Sure thing: The future will be bathed in the benign light of new technological wonders; our dread will be washed away by sparkling clean coal. Magical technological innovations will soon render nuclear power so safe that the only danger to the general public will be posed by the risk of being smothered by its profoundly huggable properties.

Such are the free market capitalist's versions of End Time belief systems, a variation of the type of magical thinking that induces an individual to scan the empty sky, waiting for Jesus to float earthward and redeem the ceaseless folly perpetrated by mankind.

If we are willing to accept being lulled back into our comfort zones by such fantasies (that are as craven as they are preposterous) we might as well wait around for hazmat crews of leprechauns riding flying unicorns to arrive on the scene and clean up the messes that corporate capitalist greedheads inflict on our increasingly besieged planet.

In a manner similar to how the indefatigable salesmen of the consumer state sell optimism, but, in reality, deliver anomie, the propagandist of the neo--liberal paradigm promise peace and prosperity -- yet their shock troops, comprised of the political and media elite, instead level class warfare at home and perpetual war abroad that renders landscapes blighted and mindscapes shell shocked.

Among their most pernicious contrivances has been to convince the passengers seated aboard the runaway train of the corporate state that the blur of landscape out the train's windows is caused by their own poor vision and the impending crash will be due to their negative thoughts. The implicit message imparted is: "If only you would have thought more optimistically and worked harder, you'd have been one of life's winners and you would have been cruising above the impending carnage in your private jet. How sad for you, loser. And, by the way," they lie, "did you know socialists are manning the controls of the doomed train?"

While these practitioners of the art of weasel word wizardry insist they sell hope, in reality, they sell shame.

Growing up in the deep south, being raised, as we say there -- not brought up, but raised--like corn, hogs (or Lazarus or zombies from the grave) and socialized there, shame is a subject with which I'm well acquainted; it has taken me a lifetime (and it remains an ongoing process) to sort through and shake out the shame-based sensibility acquired there.

"If you think that I am dumb, There is another universe of stupidity that I can show you!" -- comment posted on my FaceBook page when a stubborn, inconsiderate fact would not yield to his rightist umbrage.

What is the origin of such an outlandish, inadvertently self-satirizing statement?

Shame (its flip side being southern pride) arises, descends, converges and intermingles from manifold influences and multiple traumas: The bizarre-as-a-talking-serpent concept of sin passed down through Calvinistic belief systems; the legacy of degradations inflicted from being on the losing (and morally wrong) side of the Civil War; as well as, the degraded social milieu that circumscribes the lives and fates of large numbers of the permanent white underclass residing in the region.

Shame stains southern sensibilities like red clay on Sunday whites.

A large number of the blustering, willfully ignorant, southern men that I grew up around, whether they are khaki clad, country club smoothies or leather jacket-donning punk rock belligerents, were twisted inside out, kicked and stomped insensate by shaming authority figures before they shed their baby teeth. If one listens closely, one can detect the voice of shame-bearing demons hissing in their every utterance.

Yet the knowledge of the origin and source of their suffering remains buried deep within these men. To acknowledge shame (even to oneself) is considered a tacit admission of having something to be ashamed of i.e., "If you ain't got nothing to be ashamed of, you miserable peckerwood, then you wouldn't have no need to feel it." So, more or less, the line of thinking, rather train wreck of pathology, passing for thought, goes.

Accordingly, a strong impulse arises to explain it all away -- to claim the entire episode is a misunderstanding, or to dismiss their feelings as being trivial, or merely an indulgence of weak-willed, thin wrist losers, or impugn the motives of those who find grievance in the situation. This mode of mind has made multi-millionaires of the black magicians of rightwing talk shows, experts at performing emotional sleight of hand tricks that displace the shame of their listeners on a host of targets.

The cordiality of my fellow southerners is as facile as it is fragile. In southern culture, a great deal of psychic energy goes into distancing oneself from shame. Brooding beneath southern culture's superficial charm and gentility is the unspoken threat: "Be nice, now" that often translates to, "ya'll do as I say -- and there won't be any trouble."

More often than not, it is all made personal. Affronts are long remembered and resentments cultivated, and being confronted with information outside of one's realm of experience and field of reference is regarded as condescension.

Being made to feel "less than," by insults, real or imagined, can bring on a noxious cascade of shame and its concomitant host of desperate evasions and violent displacements to mitigate the feelings of unease engendered.

This is how it was explained to me on FaceBook recently by a feller named Frank who was addressing the issue of his loathing of liberal/socialist tyranny: "My facts are correct. The far left is nothing more than the new set of communists looking to take over. Just a call me a southern god fearing commie killer who cannot wait to put more notches on his weapon if the day ever arises again. I did enjoy killing them so. Your sheep I will never be. That's a fact. [R]eal Americans have better things to do that listen to your drivel. I'm out of here."

Just what kind of demented cultural circus produces these crack-brained battalions of killer clowns for Liberty? A culture with a brutal and rigidly enforced (but furiously denied) class structure that inflicts constant humiliation, yet, because of its nebulous structure, remains hidden from view.

Therein exists the allure and tenacity of neo-confederate hagiographic nonsense. Pride is held near, and clutched closely to oneself, because the corporate state has left the white underclass bereft of little else. It is painful to admit to being powerless and devoid of a means to change the trajectory of one's fate. One feels demoralized and diminished as a result.

Moreover, nationwide, under the present system, riddled with vast economic inequity, the negative repercussions for disobedience and failure are more than most people can endure, economically as well as psychologically. In a culture where success is deemed the end all/be all of all things, failure is devastating. In a corporate structure rigged to benefit a privileged few, and upward class mobility is merely a mind-fogging, cultural myth -- then failure is altogether likely.

Combine this, with the pernicious, puritanical/Calvinistic notion that failure is due to flawed character, and you have a troubled population…staggered by self-doubt, roiling in the unfocused rage of the humiliated, and primed and stoked for demagogic displacements.

While nice liberals retreat to their comfort zones, the forsaken laboring class constructs insulating walls of resentment. In the US, more and more, the criteria that forges personality and informs our condition is wrought by the calculus of enclosure: guarded gate communities; isolation in motor vehicles; the insular pixel fiefdoms of the internet; long work hours, often spent in cubicles, comprised of meaningless labor, and cut-off from both the norms of nature and resonate human contact.

These conditions create an existence as redolent of the aromas of existence as plastic covered cheese-food. In cultural terms, it is as if the people of the US have become mummified in plastic packaging wrap… have been rendered -- Body Bag People.

Of course, one yearns for the void to be filled. But with hearts and minds mortared closed, sealed off from the shock and humiliation experienced from the daily economic exploitation of a hidden, intractable class system – what penetrates these self-constructed prisons is loud, stupid, even fascistic in tone and theme e.g., violent video games; the empty spectacle of steroid-fueled professional sports hype; the exercise in Rock and Roll imperium that US militarism has become; fundamentalist sermons that long for the blood and thunder of Armageddon. In short, all the Sturm and Drang necessary to pierce protective walls, yet, at the same time, insure one remains ensconced in one's comfort zone.

Yet the sense of powerlessness is not mitigated for long, a nebulous sense of unease nettles. The world appears to bristle with threats…a low-grade hysteria is maintained and ceaseless war is both convenient and inevitable. Yet all the ramparts and fortifications of the national security state still do not create a sense of safety; instead, its siege mentality increases the interior void of the US populace, and, as a result, the vitality of life is barred entrance.

Blood sacrifices must be made to the god of the inner abyss...corpses are tossed into the void.

Over the top? Given the fact of the hundreds of thousands of corpses the US empire has lain under the native soil of nations from the Persian Gulf to Central Asia (and now North Africa) in only the past decade up to the present -- which, in combination with a government that practices and a general public that is indifferent to the use of torture -- the image limned above doesn't seem hyperbolic in the least.

At what point, does it become incumbent upon an individual to seize back his identity, to reject being defined by the exploitive, dehumanizing demands imposed (and small bribes proffered) by corporate/governmental elites?

The ongoing tragedy in Japan reveals how dangerous it can be to refuse or defer the challenge.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

The President Is Missing
By Paul Krugman

What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?

I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative.

His remarks after last week’s budget deal were a case in point.

Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid, was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions.

And bear in mind that this was just the first of several chances for Republicans to hold the budget hostage and threaten a government shutdown; by caving in so completely on the first round, Mr. Obama set a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months.

But let’s give the president the benefit of the doubt, and suppose that $38 billion in spending cuts — and a much larger cut relative to his own budget proposals — was the best deal available. Even so, did Mr. Obama have to celebrate his defeat? Did he have to praise Congress for enacting “the largest annual spending cut in our history,” as if shortsighted budget cuts in the face of high unemployment — cuts that will slow growth and increase unemployment — are actually a good idea?

Among other things, the latest budget deal more than wipes out any positive economic effects of the big prize Mr. Obama supposedly won from last December’s deal, a temporary extension of his 2009 tax cuts for working Americans. And the price of that deal, let’s remember, was a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts, at an immediate cost of $363 billion, and a potential cost that’s much larger — because it’s now looking increasingly likely that those irresponsible tax cuts will be made permanent.

More broadly, Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice!

I’m not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as “bold” and “serious” by all of Washington’s Very Serious People — includes savage cuts in Medicaid and other programs that help the neediest, which would among other things deprive 34 million Americans of health insurance. It includes a plan to privatize and defund Medicare that would leave many if not most seniors unable to afford health care. And it includes a plan to sharply cut taxes on corporations and to bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center puts the revenue loss from these tax cuts at $2.9 trillion over the next decade. House Republicans claim that the tax cuts can be made “revenue neutral” by “broadening the tax base” — that is, by closing loopholes and ending exemptions. But you’d need to close a lot of loopholes to close a $3 trillion gap; for example, even completely eliminating one of the biggest exemptions, the mortgage interest deduction, wouldn’t come close. And G.O.P. leaders have not, of course, called for anything that drastic. I haven’t seen them name any significant exemptions they would end.

You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.

What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.

But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing. 
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The governments of the present day have to deal not merely with other governments, with emperors, kings and ministers, but also with the secret societies which have everywhere their unscrupulous agents, and can at the last moment upset all the governments plans."

~~~ British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli ~ 1876 ~~~

Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System
By Chris Hedges

A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs. Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers—those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential—and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point. The No Child Left Behind program, modeled on the “Texas Miracle,” is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. But when you shut out debate these dead ideas are self-perpetuating.

Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence. This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations. They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions. They want them to serve the system. These tests produce men and women who are just literate and numerate enough to perform basic functions and service jobs. The tests elevate those with the financial means to prepare for them. They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority. Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts—those who march to the beat of their own drum—are weeded out.

“Imagine,” said a public school teacher in New York City, who asked that I not use his name, “going to work each day knowing a great deal of what you are doing is fraudulent, knowing in no way are you preparing your students for life in an ever more brutal world, knowing that if you don’t continue along your scripted test prep course and indeed get better at it you will be out of a job. Up until very recently, the principal of a school was something like the conductor of an orchestra: a person who had deep experience and knowledge of the part and place of every member and every instrument. In the past 10 years we’ve had the emergence of both [Mayor] Mike Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy and Eli Broad’s Superintendents Academy, both created exclusively to produce instant principals and superintendents who model themselves after CEOs. How is this kind of thing even legal? How are such ‘academies’ accredited? What quality of leader needs a ‘leadership academy’? What kind of society would allow such people to run their children’s schools? The high-stakes tests may be worthless as pedagogy but they are a brilliant mechanism for undermining the school systems, instilling fear and creating a rationale for corporate takeover. There is something grotesque about the fact the education reform is being led not by educators but by financers and speculators and billionaires.”

Teachers, under assault from every direction, are fleeing the profession. Even before the “reform” blitzkrieg we were losing half of all teachers within five years after they started work—and these were people who spent years in school and many thousands of dollars to become teachers. How does the country expect to retain dignified, trained professionals under the hostility of current conditions? I suspect that the hedge fund managers behind our charter schools system—whose primary concern is certainly not with education—are delighted to replace real teachers with nonunionized, poorly trained instructors. To truly teach is to instill the values and knowledge which promote the common good and protect a society from the folly of historical amnesia. The utilitarian, corporate ideology embraced by the system of standardized tests and leadership academies has no time for the nuances and moral ambiguities inherent in a liberal arts education. Corporatism is about the cult of the self. It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence. And those who do not conform are pushed aside.

“It is extremely dispiriting to realize that you are in effect lying to these kids by insinuating that this diet of corporate reading programs and standardized tests are preparing them for anything,” said this teacher, who feared he would suffer reprisals from school administrators if they knew he was speaking out. “It is even more dispiriting to know that your livelihood depends increasingly on maintaining this lie. You have to ask yourself why are hedge fund managers suddenly so interested in the education of the urban poor? The main purpose of the testing craze is not to grade the students but to grade the teacher.”

“I cannot say for certain—not with the certainty of a Bill Gates or a Mike Bloomberg who pontificate with utter certainty over a field in which they know absolutely nothing—but more and more I suspect that a major goal of the reform campaign is to make the work of a teacher so degrading and insulting that the dignified and the truly educated teachers will simply leave while they still retain a modicum of self-respect,” he added. “In less than a decade we been stripped of autonomy and are increasingly micromanaged. Students have been given the power to fire us by failing their tests. Teachers have been likened to pigs at a trough and blamed for the economic collapse of the United States. In New York, principals have been given every incentive, both financial and in terms of control, to replace experienced teachers with 22-year-old untenured rookies. They cost less. They know nothing. They are malleable and they are vulnerable to termination.”

The demonizing of teachers is another public relations feint, a way for corporations to deflect attention from the theft of some $17 billion in wages, savings and earnings among American workers and a landscape where one in six workers is without employment. The speculators on Wall Street looted the U.S. Treasury. They stymied any kind of regulation. They have avoided criminal charges. They are stripping basic social services. And now they are demanding to run our schools and universities.

“Not only have the reformers removed poverty as a factor, they’ve removed students’ aptitude and motivation as factors,” said this teacher, who is in a teachers union. “They seem to believe that students are something like plants where you just add water and place them in the sun of your teaching and everything blooms. This is a fantasy that insults both student and teacher. The reformers have come up with a variety of insidious schemes pushed as steps to professionalize the profession of teaching. As they are all businessmen who know nothing of the field, it goes without saying that you do not do this by giving teachers autonomy and respect. They use merit pay in which teachers whose students do well on bubble tests will receive more money and teachers whose students do not do so well on bubble tests will receive less money. Of course, the only way this could conceivably be fair is to have an identical group of students in each class—an impossibility. The real purposes of merit pay are to divide teachers against themselves as they scramble for the brighter and more motivated students and to further institutionalize the idiot notion of standardized tests. There is a certain diabolical intelligence at work in both of these.”

“If the Bloomberg administration can be said to have succeeded in anything,” he said, “they have succeeded in turning schools into stress factories where teachers are running around wondering if it’s possible to please their principals and if their school will be open a year from now, if their union will still be there to offer some kind of protection, if they will still have jobs next year. This is not how you run a school system. It’s how you destroy one. The reformers and their friends in the media have created a Manichean world of bad teachers and effective teachers. In this alternative universe there are no other factors. Or, all other factors—poverty, depraved parents, mental illness and malnutrition—are all excuses of the Bad Teacher that can be overcome by hard work and the Effective Teacher.”

The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business. Thought is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. They remember who we are, where we come from and where we should go. They remain eternally skeptical and distrustful of power. And they know that this moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think. Those who are endowed with a moral conscience refuse to commit crimes, even those sanctioned by the corporate state, because they do not in the end want to live with criminals—themselves.

“It is better to be at odds with the whole world than, being one, to be at odds with myself,” Socrates said.

Those who can ask the right questions are armed with the capacity to make a moral choice, to defend the good in the face of outside pressure. And this is why the philosopher Immanuel Kant puts the duties we have to ourselves before the duties we have to others. The standard for Kant is not the biblical idea of self-love—love thy neighbor as thyself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you—but self-respect. What brings us meaning and worth as human beings is our ability to stand up and pit ourselves against injustice and the vast, moral indifference of the universe. Once justice perishes, as Kant knew, life loses all meaning. Those who meekly obey laws and rules imposed from the outside—including religious laws—are not moral human beings. The fulfillment of an imposed law is morally neutral. The truly educated make their own wills serve the higher call of justice, empathy and reason. Socrates made the same argument when he said it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.

“The greatest evil perpetrated,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

As Arendt pointed out, we must trust only those who have this self-awareness. This self-awareness comes only through consciousness. It comes with the ability to look at a crime being committed and say “I can’t.” We must fear, Arendt warned, those whose moral system is built around the flimsy structure of blind obedience. We must fear those who cannot think. Unconscious civilizations become totalitarian wastelands.

“The greatest evildoers are those who don’t remember because they have never given thought to the matter, and, without remembrance, nothing can hold them back,” Arendt writes. “For human beings, thinking of past matters means moving in the dimension of depth, striking roots and thus stabilizing themselves, so as not to be swept away by whatever may occur—the Zeitgeist or History or simple temptation. The greatest evil is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots it has no limitations, it can go to unthinkable extremes and sweep over the whole world.”
(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.”

And Now, For The Kill
By David Michael Green

One of the more interesting developments in American history is something that actually didn’t happen. But if one wants to gain some appreciation of the degree to which our public sphere has deteriorated over time, it’s worth remembering this non-event.

When Dwight Eisenhower came to the presidency in 1953, it was the first time in an entire generation that a Republican had held the office. Prior to that time, the GOP had led the country into unparalleled economic destruction, refused to do anything about the nightmare they’d created, lost five presidential elections running, and sat on the sidelines while Democratic presidents guided the US through a few slightly consequential events like the Great Depression, World War II and the beginning of the Cold War.

The American Constitutional system – with its potential for divided power – isn’t so big on the notion of responsible government (as one finds in parliamentary systems), where authority, and thus responsibility for outcomes is clearly assigned to a given actor or political party. Nevertheless, we got pretty close to it in 1953, with the exhaustion of Democratic governance, the repudiation of Harry Truman, and the Republican Spring led by the grey, seemingly-above-politics new president, General Eisenhower.

What’s important here is what could have happened, but didn’t. The character of American government had changed radically – the most in the country’s history – during the two decades since Herbert Hoover had been in office. It was now much bigger in size, it did a lot more things than it used to do, and the federal government had usurped responsibility for policy domains formerly primarily in the hands of the states. Most importantly, the ethos underscoring the relationship between the American people and their government had completely changed. In the past, that relationship had been one characterized chiefly by libertarianism, on the one hand, and oligarchical corruption on the other. With the New Deal, the government was for the first time in the business of serving the public interest and providing Americans a much-needed social safety net. In short, the American welfare state was born.

These changes had been completely contrary to the politics of the Republican Party, and especially to the politics of the plutocrats in American society (for whom the GOP had long prior become an interest-serving vehicle). They saw Roosevelt as a “traitor to his class”, and they hated him so much they couldn’t even spit out his name. They actually referred to him as “that man”.

All of this is relevant and significant because the GOP had a choice to make in 1953. With their hands on the levers of power for the first time in a long time, they could have undone the New Deal. Some in the party wanted to do so. But by that time both Ike and the bulk of his party had left behind the Neanderthal tendencies of the pre-FDR days and had moved to the center-right. Eisenhower famously discussed his position – and that of others in the GOP – in a 1954 letter to his brother: “Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Ah, how very quaint such sentiments now seem in retrospect. Weren’t those just the days, back when even Republicans sorta had a heart with a detectable pulse? Now we live in a very different place. It is a place of destruction and despair. An abattoir where the little people go – all 99 percent of the country, let alone the fully dispensable “human resources” found outside our borders – to be sacrificed on the altar of unparalleled greed.

But that’s just the beginning of the story. We’d be in bad enough shape if it were only Republicans out to destroy us. Then there’s the “Democrats”, including the “socialist” leader of the party, Barack Obama. If we’re remotely honest about it, we’d have to acknowledge that today’s Obama, the former anti-war community organizer, is to the ideological right of yesterday’s Dwight Eisenhower, former five-star general, leader of the Normandy invasion, commander of NATO and head of the Republican Party. As today’s worst elements of the Republican Party (that is, almost all of them) seek to do exactly the things that Eisenhower called “stupid”, there is Obama, facilitating their efforts.

There are the Democrats, continually adding to the pile of tax giveaways for the rich, and therefore adding to the pile of debt which is now being used as a cudgel to force cuts on essential government services, programs despised by the oligarchy since the beginning. There are the Democrats, continually adding to the pile of stupid Middle Eastern wars being fought using resources so scarce that medical care must now be cut for the poor and elderly. There are the Democrats going even further than Republicans in smashing civil liberties and shredding the Bill of Rights. There are the Democrats, as absolutely unwilling as Republicans to remotely face the very real planetary peril of global warming. There are the Democrats, continuing to promulgate the failed Bush education policy of No Child Left Behind. There are the Democrats, turning yet again to corporate ‘solutions’ to health care, which enrich parasitical insurance companies but do nothing for sick people other than to deny them care. There are the Democrats (led by a black man, no less!), joining the chorus of Jesus Freak freaks in denying civil rights to gays.

I think the conservative Eisenhower would sooner have become a German storm trooper than a modern Democrat, let alone a Republican – and on far too many days I’m not sure I can see the difference.

I got a letter this week from my good friend, Barack. I call him by his first name because his note was addressed to “David” and signed “Barack”. I guess we’re old pals, though in my dotage I seem to have neglected to notice that the most powerful and prominent man on Earth somehow became my personal bud-bud. It was a letter to announce that he was launching his 2012 campaign for reelection. He seemed to be laboring under the misconception that I give a shit. He also seemed to think I hadn’t heard.

In fact, the media reported that Barack launched his campaign by announcing it over Twitter, that network of abbreviated bursts of inanity which is ground zero for our national epidemic of narcissism. I think that is totally appropriate that he would make such a momentous announcement in that fashion. Not, mind you, because he’s a cutting-edge sort of fellow, mobilizing the new social media technology for political purposes. But, rather, because that particular outlet of that medium speaks so perfectly to the impossible lightness of being that is our President Tweet.

Anyhow, Barack wrote to tell me that he wants to do a big old grass roots campaign again next year, one that doesn’t start with “expensive TV ads,” but with me – “with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends.” Now those would be some brief goddam conversations, I can tell you. “Hey neighbor, let’s do some organizing for Obama, ‘cause he capitulates so gracefully!” “Hey co-worker, would you like to pay more taxes so that rich people can contribute even less than they already do? Let’s give Barack another term!” I don’t think so.

Then he let me in on a little Team Obama secret that, “In the coming days, supporters like you will begin forging a new organization that we'll build together in cities and towns across the country. And I'll need you to help shape our plan as we create a campaign that's farther reaching, more focused, and more innovative than anything we've built before. We'll start by doing something unprecedented: coordinating millions of one-on-one conversations between supporters across every single state, reconnecting old friends, inspiring new ones to join the cause, and readying ourselves for next year's fight.”

Wow! That’s awfully flattering. The President of the United States – ol’ Potus himself – wants my help in shaping his plan to create a people-driven, grassroots campaign for “the cause” of giving him a second term. If only I didn’t have other plans for, gosh, well, the entirety of every waking minute in 2012. Looks like, for some reason, that project he has in mind is going to be a big job, too. He goes on to tell me that, “We've always known that lasting change wouldn't come quickly or easily. [Oddly, I don’t remember this campaign slogan from 2008.] It never does. But as my administration and folks across the country fight to protect the progress we've made – and make more – we also need to begin mobilizing for 2012, long before the time comes for me to begin campaigning in earnest.”

There’s that word “fight” again. Ol’ Barack, he’s a real fighter, eh?! At least now that there’s an election where something that he wants is at stake. I noticed that he didn’t really seem to fight for anything during his first two years in office, least of all for anything progressive. Even his health care legislation, which is only partially progressive on a good day, didn’t seem to inspire any spunk from the president. Did you ever get the feeling that he wanted it real bad? Do you remember him ever pushing the public to rally hard behind this national necessity, making the urgent case for how it would make the country better off, in the same way that, say, Reagan or Bush pushed hard for their beloved tax cuts, or their wars based on lies? Do you even remember Obama standing up to the insane lies told about him and his legislation, the death panels and government rationing and socialism cant, and so on? For that matter, do you remember Obama ever even defining what shape his own signature bill had to take? Single payer? Public option? Money for stethoscopes?

Predictably, a president who stood for nothing during a period of multiple crises got routed in the midterm election. Even still, did it seem to you like he cared very much about that? I’m starting to develop a new theory about Obama. In 2008 I thought he might be a progressive. Then I thought he was such a wimp that it was just easier for him to capitulate at every turn, rather than to fight for progressive values. Now I think he’s truly regressive in his politics, and is purposefully altering his operating environment to allow him to pursue those policies while still remaining the nominee of a party that’s supposed to be devoted to the people’s interests. “Golly”, he can say to stupid Democratic voters, “I really wanted to be progressive on [Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, health care, education, gay marriage, the budget, the economy, the environment, civil liberties, whatever] but those mean right-wingers won’t let me. And now there’s even more of them than there used to be! What can I do but give in even more?” It’s a perfect formula for anyone with those priorities. Regressivism begets more regressivism, under cover of the long shadow of a genuinely liberal Democratic Party, thirty years dead.

Meanwhile, the current condition of the United States is fantastical, the stuff of legend, the kind of absurdity that no one would find credible enough to buy were it presented as a work of fiction. We have genuine crises, but we ignore them. Instead we squabble about non-issues, while the ship of state rapidly sinks. And who is squabbling? The far left versus the far right? The reds against the blacks? We should be so lucky. No, it’s this faction of political whores carrying water for the oligarchy versus that almost identical faction of political whores carrying water for the oligarchy. Meanwhile, the only seemingly assured ticket to electoral success in our political system on any given day is to have enacted failed policy ideas the day before. And, most bizarre of all, no one will seek to reward the depredations of the political class more rapidly than those who are its victims. Wonderland would seem to Alice quite the paragon of rationality by comparison.

The current budget brouhaha is only the most recent and obvious example of this political pathology par excellence. Think about it. Here’s the real version of what has happened: A decade ago, the United States had the greatest budget surplus ever recorded in human history. Then the regressives came to power. They quickly slashed tax revenues, especially from the rich, borrowing like crack addicts in order to pay for their profligacy. They meanwhile spent gigantic sums on wars based on lies, on hugely increased military spending apart from the wars, on a new Medicare benefit which they insisted on setting up in a way that massively benefitted insurance and pharmaceutical corporations rather than the federal treasury, and on general pork barrel spending, thus driving the national debt up dramatically further, and creating the world’s greatest ever deficits. Let me repeat, it was the GOP who did this. Now these very same people are falsely claiming an electoral mandate to slash spending, screaming that borrowing is an urgent problem which must be addressed at all costs. At the same time, they continue each year to further slash revenues coming in to the government, massively exacerbating the very problem they claim to desperately want to solve.

Their solution is to cut spending on essentials for poor people and the middle class. They have completely taken any form of tax restoration off the table. They won’t dream of reducing military expenditures, which are bloated to an absurd degree. They cannot contemplate allowing the government to buy way cheaper drugs from Canada, or negotiating a bulk price discount for those drugs, let alone rescinding their (socialist) prescription drug benefit plan. They would never accept a reduction in the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on corporate welfare each year for agricultural or sugar or oil or other industries.

Instead, they’re right back at us again, with more of exactly the same formula. Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan continues his (only in über-Wonderland) multi-year run as a media darling, some sort of budgetary guru, some sort of brave truth-teller. He this week released a ten-year plan that is, in fact, astonishing for how cowardly and dishonest it is. It slashes almost every form of domestic spending imaginable, dramatically cuts Medicare for seniors, and turns control of Medicaid over to the fifty states, each of whom can of course then do whatever they want with it. Most amazing of all, while this entire draconian meat-axe of a budget proposal is predicated on the urgent necessity of slashing deficits, Ryan’s plan would gut revenues to the government by lopping almost 30 percent off of top individual and corporate tax rates, taking the top rate down from 35 percent to 25 percent. No wonder, then, that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has calculated that Ryan’s plan would actually increase deficits, the direct opposite of the very rationale that supposedly justifies its existence.

Perhaps most ludicrous of all is the context in which this all arrives, along with the latest budget deal slashing $38 billion in federal spending on domestic programs. The two most urgent problems facing the United States today are global warming and a crappy economy for workers that is probably never going away. But the stuff we argue about has nothing to do with the former, and only exacerbates the latter (because cutting spending will kill the demand in the economy which is precisely what is needed now to stimulate a recovery). We, as a society, could not possibly be more irrelevant to ourselves. And that’s the good news. If only it was just irrelevance.

None of this is random, however. This has been a three decade long process to produce that which our unparalleled greedy rich have craved the most, namely, a return to the good old days when they had everything and the rest of us had nothing. They have been indignant at the very notion of the slight bit of economic egalitarianism America managed to maintain for a couple of generations. They sat on their hands, gnashing their teeth, from the 1930s through the 1970s, because they had to, but now they’ve come back with a vengeance.

Exporting jobs, slashing government programs, moving tax burdens, bankrupting the government, breaking unions, coopting Democrats, creating bogus news media, dumbing down education, fabricating scary bogeymen, stealing elections. It’s all there, man.

Remember when Nixon and Kissinger decided to kill socialism (not to mention lots of people) in Chile by “making the economy scream”?

Welcome to Chile Norte, amigo.

As Scott Walker and Paul Ryan and the rest apply the finishing touches, the job is today almost complete.

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

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Grafschaft Clerk, Nickolaus,

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, your committing sedition in order to elect a judge that lost the election, 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 07-04-2011. We salute you Frau Nickolaus, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

No Shutdown, But A Lot Of Sellouts
By John Nichols

If you had asked Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman or John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson or Jimmy Carter or even Bill Clinton what Democrats would defend in a fight over the future of government, there's no real question that funding for housing, public transportation, community development programs and safe air travel would be high on the list. Yet, in order to achieve the Friday night deal that averted a government shutdiown -- for a week and, potentially, longer if an anticipated agreement is cobbled together and agreed to — all of those programs took serious hits.

The arrangement worked out Friday night averted the threatened shutdown with a two-step process. First, the House and Senate passed a one-week spending bill that addressed the immediate threat. That should give Congress and the White House time to finalize a fiscal 2011 spending deal -- on which they have agreed in principle -- before an April 15 deadline.

So who won the standoff? President Obama says the deal is good for the future, and that might make some Democrats think that he and the Democrats prevailed.

They didn't.

The one-week spending bill enacted by the House and Senate contains $2 billion in spending cuts to transportation, housing and community development programs.

A Senate Appropriations Committee review says that most of the $2 billion in cuts contained in the one-week bill come from a $1.5 billion slashing of the Federal Railroad Administration's High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program. More cuts are achieved by hacking $220 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Fund. And reserach into making air travel safer and more efficient took cuts as well.

In other words, precsiely the sort of programs that Democrats used to defend were slashed.

The Senate agreed to the one-week plan by unanimous consent.

Seventy House members opposed the bill. Of those 70 "no" votes, 42 came from Democrats. They did not want a shutdown, as some of the GOP "no" voters did. But the dissenting Democrats said the cuts went too far.

They were right.

And we will need a lot more FDR Democrats to prevent the broader deal from becoming the greatest triumph yet in the GOP campaign to end the New Deal and bend the arc of history against progress.
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

The Washington Post's Dependence On The Government It Covers
By Glenn Greenwald

The Washington Post this morning published a lengthy article detailing the fortune -- and now the trouble -- generated for its parent company, The Washington Post Co., as a result of its acquisition of Kaplan Higher Ed. While The Post continues to lose money, Kaplan -- particularly its sprawling network of for-profit "universities" which the company began building in 2000 -- generates huge profits for the company, profits on which the Post Co. depends almost completely for its sustainability.

Indeed, the newspaper has become little more than a side vanity project for the Post Co. and the Graham family which continues to dominate it; it is now, at its core, in the business of profiting off of lower-income students who pay for diplomas, often obtained via online classes. "The fate of The Post Co. has become inextricably linked with that of Kaplan, where revenue climbed to $2.9 billion in 2010, 61 percent of The Post Co.'s total," the article detailed; "the company is more dependent than ever on a single business,' [CEO Donald] Graham wrote in last year's annual report, adding that the newspaper had never accounted for as large a share of overall company revenue as Kaplan does today."

The article is largely devoted to recounting the corruption and abuses which pervade the for-profit education industry in general and Kaplan in particular (saddling poor people with debt in exchange for nothing of real value). But what I found most notable is how dependent is this industry -- including The Washington Post Co. -- on staying in the good graces of the Federal Government. Because these schools target low-income students, the vast majority of their income is derived from federal loans. Because there have been so many deceptive practices and defaults, the Federal Government has become much more aggressive about regulating these schools and now play a vital role in determining which ones can thrive and which ones fail.

Put another way, the company that owns The Washington Post is almost entirely at the mercy of the Federal Government and the Obama administration -- the entities which its newspaper ostensibly checks and holds accountable. "By the end of 2010, more than 90 percent of revenue at Kaplan’s biggest division and nearly a third of The Post Co.’s revenue overall came from the U.S. government." The Post Co.'s reliance on the Federal Government extends beyond the source of its revenue; because the industry is so heavily regulated, any animosity from the Government could single-handedly doom the Post Co.'s business -- a reality of which they are well aware:

The Post Co. realized there were risks attached to being dependent on federal dollars for revenue -- and that it could lose access to that money if it exceeded federal regulatory limits.

"It was understood that if you fell out of grace [with the Education Department], your business might go away," said Tom Might, who as chief executive of Cable One, a cable service provider that is owned by The Post Co., sat in at company-wide board meetings.

Beyond being reliant on federal money and not alienating federal regulators, the Post Co. desperately needs favorable treatment from members of Congress, and has been willing to use its newspaper to obtain it:

Graham has taken part in a fierce lobbying campaign by the for-profit education industry. He has visited key members of Congress, written an op-ed article for the Wall Street Journal and hired for The Post Co. high-powered lobbying firms including Akin Gump and Elmendorf Ryan, at a cost of $810,000 in 2010. The Post has also published an editorial opposing the new federal rules, while disclosing the interests of its parent company.

The Post is hardly alone among major media outlets in being owned by an entity which relies on the Federal Government for its continued profitability. NBC News and MSNBC were long owned by GE, and now by Comcast, both of which desperately need good relations with government officials for their profits. The same is true of CBS (owned by Viacom), ABC (owned by Disney), and CNN (owned by TimeWarner). For each of these large corporations, alienating federal government officials is about the worst possible move it could make -- something of which all of its employees, including its media division employees, are well aware. But the Post Co.'s dependence is even more overwhelming than most.

How can a company which is almost wholly dependent upon staying in the good graces of the U.S. Government possibly be expected to serve as a journalistic "watchdog" over that same Government? The very idea is absurd. The whole point of the First Amendment's free press guarantee is that adversarial journalism is possible only if journalists are independent of political power. Yet the U.S. now has exactly the opposite dynamic: most major media outlets are owned by corporations that are anything but independent of government: they are quite dependent upon political officials for their profit in countless ways. We have anything but an independent press, which is another way of saying we have anything but a free press.

If you tell journalists that they are restrained in adversarial reporting by such motivations, they will vehemently deny it and perhaps even believe their denials. Media self-censorship is rarely overt; these journalists thus do not typically receive memos instructing them to lavish political officials with favorable treatment and avoid alienating them (though sometimes that's exactly how they receive those dictates). But that's because such instructions are unnecessary. Any employees who thrive in large corporations do so by learning what's in their employer's interests and acting dutifully to promote those interests. No corporate employee can remain for long if their actions subvert their employer's core interests.

So inextricably linked are these media corporations and government officials that it's a cultural merger; the prevailing corporate ethos is that it is far better to be viewed favorably by those with political power than unfavorably. Why would any employee of these corporations -- including their journalists, editors, and producers -- possibly want to do something (such as alienating political officials) that is so plainly at odds with the financial needs of their corporate employers?

There are many well-documented reasons why the American media is so deferential to political power. Currying favor with political officials is how they secure scoops, leaks and access. Because media stars are now as wealthy and celebrated as the politically powerful whom they cover, they identify on socioeconomic and cultural grounds with these political officials; media stars are far more integrated into the halls of political power than they are outside of them. Whereas independent journalists are constitutionally inclined to scorn the powerful, employees of large corporations -- by their nature -- tend to be people who are revere institutional authority and are talented at flattering and accommodating those in power. And, as Jack Goldsmith recently argued, many establishment journalists are driven by what he bizarrely celebrated as "patriotism," by which he means fealty to American political officials and their actions.

But one crucial factor driving this decisively non-adversarial journalistic posture is that the large corporations which own these media outlets need desperately to maintain good relations with the political class. How could you possibly be a journalist at The Washington Post -- knowing that for your corporate employer "if you fell out of grace [with the Education Department], your business might go away" and that your boss is spending huge amounts of his time and money currying favor with federal officials -- and not have it affect what you write? I don't doubt that there are isolated reporters and editors who bracket out such considerations, but on the whole, the wholesale dependence of these companies on the Federal Government goes a long way toward explaining why the nation's major media outlets are so eager to please -- rather than check and expose -- those who wield the greatest political power.
(c) 2011 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ R.J. Matson ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

The Reefer Man (original lyrics)
By Cab Calloway

"Man what's the matter with that cat there?"
"Must be full of reefer"
"Full of reefer?!"
"Yeah man"
"You mean that cats high?!"
"Sailing lightly"
"Get away from here"
Man is that the reefer man?"
"That's the reefer man"
"I belive he's losing his mind"
"I think he's lost his mind!"

Oh have you ever met that funny reefer man
Reefer man?
Have you ever met that funny reefer man
Reefer man
If he said he swam to China,
And he'll sell you South Carolina
Then you know your talkin' to that reefer man

Have you ever met funny reefer man
Reefer man
Have you ever met funny reefer man
Reefer man
If he said he walks the ocean,
Any time he takes the notion
Then you know your talkin' to reefer man.

Have you ever met this funny reefer man
Reefer man
Oh baby baby baby reefer man
Reefer man
If he trades you dimes for nickles
And calls watermellons pickles
Then you know your talkin' to that reefer man

Have you ever met funny reefer man
Reefer man
Have you ever met funny reefer man
Reefer man
If he takes a sudden mania
He'll want to give you Pennsylvaina
Oh you know your talkin' to the reefer man

Have you ever met funny reefer man
Reefer man
Have you ever met funny reefer man
Reefer man
If he said one sweet is funny
Because he wont sell me atlantic
Then you know your talkin' to that reefer man
© 1932/2011 Cab Calloway

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Recipe For: Easter Bunny Stew!

Recipe by Mrs. Billy Ray ("Suzanna Beth") Simpkins
From: "Suzanna Beth's Cookin' For Jesus!" Show - Trinity Broadcasting Network
(Thursday Evenings at 7 PM)

You Godly folks out there! I mean to tell you, this is one tasty stew worth rising from the dead for! I'm gonna teach you how to prepare a traditional Southern Baptist congregation-pleasin' recipe in a snap! A snap that starts when you snap the neck of a cute little fuzzy bunny rabbit who came into this world just to distract unsaved folks from the real meaning of Easter! Friends, don't waste your time at the grocery store trying to find fresh bunny! With a stack of carrots, you can turn killing rabbits into a fun and Biblically edifying game for your children. Don't let your kids use buckshot -- or you will be picking pellets out of your gums where you used to have teeth, A-men? Instead, give each of your youngins a Louisville Slugger baseball bat and teach them to club them seal style. Or Old-Testament style, as I like to say. That's how Jesus' Daddy, would have done it! Ya'll should be hoppin' around, praisin' Jesus and pulverizing little baby bunny rabbits. This here is some real down home Christian family fellowship time! Glory to God! Your kids will be swept up in the Holy Spirit as they kill bunny rabbit after bunny rabbit, praising Jesus and laughing toward Heaven after each fuzzy white demon squeaks for mercy! Your family won't even know they are saving mommy some precious cooking prep time by actually tenderizing the bunny meat with each deadly blow.


2 large Easter Bunnies (or five little baby bunnies), clubbed and skinned

3 cups Campbell 's Fiesta Nacho Cheese Soup

1 can Red Bull

4 cans of Budweiser or other premium beer. Don't let Pastor see you buy this! And don't worry - the booze evaporates in the heat.

1/2 to 3/4 cup Kraft Mac & Cheese

1/2 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise

Carrots left over from luring bunnies to their death (cut off any little bunny teeth marks -- no one wants to see that)

2 to 3 cans of store-brand potatoes

1 medium Tombstone "Supreme" pizza, chopped

1/2 cup frozen corn kernels

1/2 cup frozen lima beans

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup of Heinz ketchup

1/2 teaspoon MSG

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 tablespoons flour mixed with an equal amount of root beer


Have your children peel off all the cute, fuzzy-wuzzy pelts of the bunnies (reserve them to make holiday-themed, furry napkin rings) and rip the flesh from the dead rabbit's brittle little bones. You Martha Stewarts out there will want to reserve the bloody bunny skeletons to make stock, but if you ask me, instant soup is a whole lot easier! In a General Electric crock-pot, combine the hunks of bunny your children have ripped off the freshly-clubbed animal and all the other ingredients. Bring to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and cook over low heat for no less than four days.

Before serving, ladle a holiday glaze over the stew (you make this by heating a brick of Velveeta cheese-product with mini-marshmallows, 2 cups of brown sugar, a Three Musketeers bar, and a can of Diet Pepsi until they are all gooey, but not boiling). Embed two handfuls of General Mill's Trix breakfast cereal into the glaze. Voila, Easter dinner is served!


If you really love the Lord, and want to take Easter back for Jesus, Please also try:

"He Has Risen!" The Passion Fruit of the Christ Souffle - by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, personal chef to Mrs. Betty Bowers
© 2011 The Landover Baptist Church

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

View my page on

Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 15 (c) 04/15/2011

Issues & Alibis is published in America every Friday. We are not affiliated with, nor do we accept funds from any political party. We are a non-profit group that is dedicated to the restoration of the American Republic. All views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of Issues & Alibis.Org.

In regards to copying anything from this site remember that everything here is copyrighted. Issues & Alibis has been given permission to publish everything on this site. When this isn't possible we rely on the "Fair Use" copyright law provisions. If you copy anything from this site to reprint make sure that you do too. We ask that you get our permission to reprint anything from this site and that you provide a link back to us. Here is the "Fair Use" provision.

"Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."