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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky returns with a must read, "Is the World Too Big To Fail?"

Uri Avnery envisions, "Tahrir Square, Tel Aviv."

David Sirota warns, "Beware Of Vampire Squids And Their Stadium Schemes."

Randall Amster considers, "The More Things Change…."

Jim Hightower chants, "Run, Donnie, Run."

Helen Thomas wonders, "Path To Prosperity Or Poverty?"

James Donahue quotes Jesse Ventura, "We Ain’t Got Time To Bleed!."

Phil Rockstroh goes, "Among Ciphers, Barn Burners And Confidence Artists."

Chris Floyd says, "A War for Oil? Why, Yes, It Was."

Cindy Sheehan observes, "One Wedding And Unlimited Funerals."

Paul Krugman suggests, " Let’s Take A Hike."

Chris Hedges reports, "The Corporate State Wins Again."

David Michael Green examines, "Trumps Beats All."

Doug Gellatly Executive Director of the OFSAA wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols finds, "A Responsible Republican Rejects Paul Ryan's Fiscal Folly."

Greg Palast uncovers, "BP's Secret Deepwater Blowout."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reveals, "Trump Dogged By Rumors His Hair Is Not From U.S." but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "Let Them Eat Cake."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jeff Parker, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ted McLaughlin, Ruben Bolling, Tony Auth, Tom Toles, Mario Piperni.Com, M.C. Escher, PA, W. Mears, The Borowitz Report, A.P., Cayuga Productions, 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."

Let Them Eat Cake!
By Ernest Stewart

"Let them eat cake!" ~~~ Marie Antoinette

“Fascism is capitalism plus murder.” ~~~ Upton Sinclair

"The OFSAA receives about one inquiry a year from a student seeking to dispute their eligibility, and that they’re told the rules are firm." ~~~ Doug Gellatly

Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues,
And you know it don't come easy.
It Don't Come Easy ~~~ Ringo Starr

I wonder what mischief is going on now under cover of the "royal" wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton? It's events like this that the elite like to use to do their dastardly deeds, while the mob's attention is focused elsewhere. Be it the wedding or Charlie Sheen's shenanigans or some other useless unimportant thing that the media plays up way beyond its importance to give cover for our corpo-rat masters!

You may recall what Jean-Jacques Rousseau said in his last book, "Confessions" published four years after his death in 1778:

"Finally I recalled the stopgap solution of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who responded: 'Let them eat brioche.'"

Whether or not these words were actually said by Marie Antoinette, they were used against her and cost her her head, ending the French monarchy.

Briton's lavish royal wedding of Prince Williams and his wife-to-be Kate Middleton will cost British taxpayers more than $48 million. That cost of $48-million for the royal wedding on April 29 at London's Westminster Abbey will be paid by British tax payers rather than the the Queen. Liz could easily afford it with her billion pound bankroll, but why pay when the serfs will foot the bill? Of course, actually it's the bride's family that's supposed to pick up the tab; but since mom and dad are airline stewardess and steward with a mail order company, I don't think they could afford it. Even though the $48 million sounds just a wee bit steep for a wedding, it's just a drop in the bucket for the actual costs, viz., some $9.6 billion dollars--as it's going to be a national holiday. With the British economy in the toilet and even worse than ours, it will certainly cost the little guy more than he can afford to pay for this circus. A national holiday for everyone except the Bobbies, Scotland Yard, MI5 and MI6 and the British gestapo, who will be working overtime to keep the royal couple away from the people, some of whom would like to see them hanging up-side-down from a BP petrol station! Ask Pater and his bimbo how that worked out for them last year!

Wouldn't it be funny if during the wedding or reception someone bombed the happy couple and their guests into little pieces, much like the British have done to wedding guests at weddings and receptions all over Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan?! You know, like Willie's little brother "Prince" Henry did. It was Henry's job as a "FAC" or Forward Air Controller in Afghanistan to direct jet and drone attacks on weddings, schools, churches and other high interest targets! Hey, turn about is fair play, is it not?

I see also that William wants to go overseas as soon as he can, which is strange for a newlywed, except in the case where the man can't stand being around his wife--which is what drives so many Americans to join the service--to get away from their harpies!

So I wonder what's really going on now behind closed doors? You'll recall the Guardian reported recently that long before we attacked Iraq, lap dog Tony and the boys had the oil companies in to divide up the spoils before the war had begun--about 6 months before--and that wasn't an oil war, huh, Mr. Blair? Oh, please!

In Other News

A very "teachable" moment is occurring in my home state of Michigan via Rick Snyder and his Rethuglican allies in bringing total fascism to the state under the guise of "Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act." This little act of treason gives a Snyder appointee the ability to take over a city, tear up the union contracts, get rid of or overrule all elected officials, and force public schools to be turned over to private companies, amongst other things. As in all fascist takeovers, a self-generated crisis is the reason they use to give themselves this power, thwarting the Constitution and turning the state into a dictatorship!

As you no doubt already know, this is happening all over America, and has its roots in the tax cuts and give aways to the Banksters and the uber-wealthy under the dictator Bush and President Obama, who created said financial crisis. Their ability to do so was brought about by the PENAC sponsored 9/11 attacks which we were told again and again changed everything. Even if you buy the Osama BS that he acted alone instead of in partnership with the Crime Family Bush/corpo-rat controlled CIA, which is no doubt the reality then he won, because we lost all of our remaining freedoms. You'll remember he attacked us because he was jealous of our freedoms and not because we've been on a murder/theft spree in the Middle East for the last 70 years! Even if that were true, the fascists in the corpo-rat boardrooms who pull the puppet strings of our "elected" officials were quick to take advantage of this god-sent crisis and use it to create the nightmare that we live in today.

All good fascist takeovers of the last dozen centuries have always occurred when a public disaster occurs, whether brought about by another group or homegrown like our last three occurrences in this country. Like the false flag attack on Germany's Reichstag which was done by the Nazi's but pinned on the Communists, ours in this instance was blamed on Osama when he was just a CIA spook following ze orders. You'll recall another false flag was the attack on Pearl Harbor which was orchestrated by FDR and Churchill with the aide of the Japanese who went for the bait, which allowed us entry into the war against the vast anti-war feelings of most Americans. A mothballed fleet of obsolete battleships, placed in a harbor that was only thirty-feet deep so anything sunk could be quickly raised, and that was away from the mainland. As the British had cracked the JN-25 code in March of 1941 and given it to us in April we had been reading everything they sent since then and were well aware of their intentions months in advance of the attack on Pearl Harbor--the price to become #1 in the world was a mere 2,500 American deaths and the loss of one battleship--cheap enough no doubt!

Of course, you need to have an enemy to focus the mob's attention on; in WWII for us it was the Japanese, and, reluctantly, the Germans. 9/11 had the Arabs, and today our perennial favorites--the Blacks. We've have a long list of American homegrown "enemies," stretching back centuries. First it was the centuries long battles against the Indians which went on until they were all but wiped out. Let's not forget the Germans, the Irish, the Chinese, the Catholics, the Jews, and for the last 150 years, the Blacks. Isn't it a strange coincidence that the first two cities taken over by Herr Snyder are Benton Harbor and Detroit--both cities with 90% black populations. This is just a foot in the door, so white Michigan, have no doubt you're on the hit list, too, just as soon as they get all the bugs out of the new system. Like in Washington, the attacks will be on the helpless--a favorite target of our leaders. The poor, the sick, and the elderly may soon face a final solution to their problems in legislation already passed or soon to be passed! We haven't yet come to the point of having to say Heil Snyder at the beginning and ending of every conversation, but soon baby, soon!

And Finally

In Ontario, a special athlete (autistic) is being kept from running on the track team in his senior year of High School because of a bizarre bureaucratic ruling.

(According to The Globe and Mail:

19-year-old Andrew Towle, a track star for Ottawa (Ontario) Technical Learning Centre, will not be allowed to compete throughout his senior season because of a technicality which determined that he has been enrolled in high school for too many years. The ruling stems from Andrew being enrolled at OTLC in the 2005-06 school year, despite the fact that he didn't take a single Grade 9 level course in that entire school year.

Despite the fact that Towle was a high school student between 2005 and 2007 by technicality alone, the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations ruled that his attendance in a high school building still put him in violation of the association's strict rule that limits a student athlete's eligibility to a five-year span.

"Why be this inflexible and bureaucratic with something that's so important to these student competitors?" Andrew Towle's father, Jonathan Towle, said. "It's just very unfair."

While the OFSAA might have a strong case to bar Towle if he had used up a full four years of athletic eligibility, that simply isn't the case. The 19-year-old never walked onto a track until his third year at OTLC, when he showed up at a track team practice and was suddenly motivated to improve to be more competitive with his teammates.

"Towle's improvement on the track also sparked a dramatic improvement in the classroom. A year after Towle's career was kickstarted at a random practice, the then-sophomore was winning races and finding himself well on his way to earning a spot on the OTLC honor roll!"

"At my first-ever practice race, I finished in last, and I told myself I've got to do better," Towle said. "So I pretty much kept on going and my goal every time was to improve."

Now, the senior is being deprived not only of his sports outlet, but also of a motivating factor for him to constantly improve his school work, as well. One of Towle's coaches said running is an ideal fit for athletes with autism.

"I'm no expert, all I can tell you is that they seem to thrive," Vince Fay, the coach of Towle's club team, Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, said. "Anyone who runs, you sort of go into your own world."

Another Canadian prep sports official felt that Andrew provides a unique opportunity for OFSAA to re-evaluate an eligibility rule that definitely needs reworking:

"OFSAA should determine athlete eligibility on more of a case-by-case basis," according to Jim Denison, director of the Canadian Athletics Coaching Center and a professor of physical education at the University of Alberta.

"They should have some leeway to evaluate cases as opposed to a blanket five-year rule," he said. "I totally understand why they're doing it, they're trying to do their best to … create a fair advantage for everybody, so it's a difficult situation."

I wrote Doug Gellatly Executive Director of the OFSAA a letter, you knew that I would, didn't you? Oh, and you can to, at:

Hey Doug,

Boy did you just f*ck up, eh? You realize, to the world, you come off as an evil, cruel, heartless, Nazi, son-of-a-bitch? I bet your mom's proud, huh? You also must know you just destroyed that child's life for no other reason than you're power mad. I wonder if this bright idea of yours will backfire? Gosh, I hope so. So could you please defend this outrage against this poor, autistic, child. A child whose pitiful life YOU have now destroyed. Do tell Doug, our readers would really like to know how you look into the mirror in the morning without wanting to cut your worthless throat? I see that your motto is "Education Through School Sport" and you've certainly given this kid an education in power-mad bureaucrats! I know Doug, you were only following ze orders, jawohl, and what could be wrong with that?

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis magazine
PS. This just in Doug, thorough a vote of the board of directors; congratulations, you've just won this weeks, (04-29-2011) Vidkun Quisling Award! You're the first non-American to be so honored. The award is given weekly to the biggest traitor that we can find! And your betrayal of this poor child is astounding!

As always, if I get a reply folks, I'll publish it here!

Keepin' On

Another week and another brilliant edition of Issues & Alibis! How does he do it, week after week, year after year, I hear you ask? Well, folks, you know it don't come easy. You have to be centered and tenacious. All of it is out there, you just need the time and training to find it, and understand it, when you do.

Sure, a good part of it comes directly to me from the various cartoonists and authors. However, that only happens after years of proving to them that sending in their material will be handled, written up, and displayed properly, in-other-words, trust--and trust isn't something that happens overnight. There are some serious dues that have to be paid to gain their trust, on top of some serious bills that have to be paid, too!

Ergo, if this weekly work of art pleases and informs you do lend us a hand in paying these somewhat outrageous, heavenly bills. When compared to most Internet magazines, our bills are minuscule. No one is bringing in a 6 or 7 figure salary like they get at most other ezines; in fact, I'm not making a 2 figure salary; in fact, I've never made a dime out of this, nor do I want to. For example, that $50 grand that Common Dreams just raised for their quarterly expenses, I could run this magazine for nine years with that money, not three months! That's not what this is about; it's about getting the political truth out so that everyone who can get online and wants to know it can find it and use it to protect themselves and their families from the corpo-rat goons and their political puppets that do their dastardly deeds! And to do it so the poorest of the poor are included, as we charge no fees for that use and education! Help us if you can and we'll keep it up, week after week, year after year! Rock on, Ya'll!


06-01-1935 ~ 04-22-2011
Thanks for the pro-union and feminist songs!

07-17-1952 ~ 04-26-2011
Thanks for the songs!


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?
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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.

Is the World Too Big To Fail?
The Contours of Global Order
By Noam Chomsky

The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces -- coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other U.S. cities. If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison towards defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attack.

Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place both in the decaying industrial heartland of the richest and most powerful country in human history, and in what President Dwight Eisenhower called "the most strategically important area in the world" -- "a stupendous source of strategic power" and "probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment," in the words of the State Department in the 1940s, a prize that the U.S. intended to keep for itself and its allies in the unfolding New World Order of that day.

Despite all the changes since, there is every reason to suppose that today's policy-makers basically adhere to the judgment of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s influential advisor A.A. Berle that control of the incomparable energy reserves of the Middle East would yield "substantial control of the world." And correspondingly, that loss of control would threaten the project of global dominance that was clearly articulated during World War II, and that has been sustained in the face of major changes in world order since that day.

From the outset of the war in 1939, Washington anticipated that it would end with the U.S. in a position of overwhelming power. High-level State Department officials and foreign policy specialists met through the wartime years to lay out plans for the postwar world. They delineated a "Grand Area" that the U.S. was to dominate, including the Western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British empire, with its Middle East energy resources. As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its economic core in Western Europe. Within the Grand Area, the U.S. would maintain "unquestioned power," with "military and economic supremacy," while ensuring the "limitation of any exercise of sovereignty" by states that might interfere with its global designs. The careful wartime plans were soon implemented.

It was always recognized that Europe might choose to follow an independent course. NATO was partially intended to counter this threat. As soon as the official pretext for NATO dissolved in 1989, NATO was expanded to the East in violation of verbal pledges to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It has since become a U.S.-run intervention force, with far-ranging scope, spelled out by NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who informed a NATO conference that "NATO troops have to guard pipelines that transport oil and gas that is directed for the West," and more generally to protect sea routes used by tankers and other "crucial infrastructure" of the energy system.

Grand Area doctrines clearly license military intervention at will. That conclusion was articulated clearly by the Clinton administration, which declared that the U.S. has the right to use military force to ensure "uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources," and must maintain huge military forces "forward deployed" in Europe and Asia "in order to shape people's opinions about us" and "to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security."

The same principles governed the invasion of Iraq. As the U.S. failure to impose its will in Iraq was becoming unmistakable, the actual goals of the invasion could no longer be concealed behind pretty rhetoric. In November 2007, the White House issued a Declaration of Principles demanding that U.S. forces must remain indefinitely in Iraq and committing Iraq to privilege American investors. Two months later, President Bush informed Congress that he would reject legislation that might limit the permanent stationing of U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq or "United States control of the oil resources of Iraq" -- demands that the U.S. had to abandon shortly after in the face of Iraqi resistance.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the recent popular uprisings have won impressive victories, but as the Carnegie Endowment reported, while names have changed, the regimes remain: "A change in ruling elites and system of governance is still a distant goal." The report discusses internal barriers to democracy, but ignores the external ones, which as always are significant.

The U.S. and its Western allies are sure to do whatever they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. To understand why, it is only necessary to look at the studies of Arab opinion conducted by U.S. polling agencies. Though barely reported, they are certainly known to planners. They reveal that by overwhelming majorities, Arabs regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats they face: the U.S. is so regarded by 90% of Egyptians, in the region generally by over 75%. Some Arabs regard Iran as a threat: 10%. Opposition to U.S. policy is so strong that a majority believes that security would be improved if Iran had nuclear weapons -- in Egypt, 80%. Other figures are similar. If public opinion were to influence policy, the U.S. not only would not control the region, but would be expelled from it, along with its allies, undermining fundamental principles of global dominance.

The Invisible Hand of Power

Support for democracy is the province of ideologists and propagandists. In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm. The evidence is overwhelming that democracy is supported insofar as it contributes to social and economic objectives, a conclusion reluctantly conceded by the more serious scholarship.

Elite contempt for democracy was revealed dramatically in the reaction to the WikiLeaks exposures. Those that received most attention, with euphoric commentary, were cables reporting that Arabs support the U.S. stand on Iran. The reference was to the ruling dictators. The attitudes of the public were unmentioned. The guiding principle was articulated clearly by Carnegie Endowment Middle East specialist Marwan Muasher, formerly a high official of the Jordanian government: "There is nothing wrong, everything is under control." In short, if the dictators support us, what else could matter?

The Muasher doctrine is rational and venerable. To mention just one case that is highly relevant today, in internal discussion in 1958, president Eisenhower expressed concern about "the campaign of hatred" against us in the Arab world, not by governments, but by the people. The National Security Council (NSC) explained that there is a perception in the Arab world that the U.S. supports dictatorships and blocks democracy and development so as to ensure control over the resources of the region. Furthermore, the perception is basically accurate, the NSC concluded, and that is what we should be doing, relying on the Muasher doctrine. Pentagon studies conducted after 9/11 confirmed that the same holds today.

It is normal for the victors to consign history to the trash can, and for victims to take it seriously. Perhaps a few brief observations on this important matter may be useful. Today is not the first occasion when Egypt and the U.S. are facing similar problems, and moving in opposite directions. That was also true in the early nineteenth century.

Economic historians have argued that Egypt was well-placed to undertake rapid economic development at the same time that the U.S. was. Both had rich agriculture, including cotton, the fuel of the early industrial revolution -- though unlike Egypt, the U.S. had to develop cotton production and a work force by conquest, extermination, and slavery, with consequences that are evident right now in the reservations for the survivors and the prisons that have rapidly expanded since the Reagan years to house the superfluous population left by deindustrialization.

One fundamental difference was that the U.S. had gained independence and was therefore free to ignore the prescriptions of economic theory, delivered at the time by Adam Smith in terms rather like those preached to developing societies today. Smith urged the liberated colonies to produce primary products for export and to import superior British manufactures, and certainly not to attempt to monopolize crucial goods, particularly cotton. Any other path, Smith warned, "would retard instead of accelerating the further increase in the value of their annual produce, and would obstruct instead of promoting the progress of their country towards real wealth and greatness."

Having gained their independence, the colonies were free to ignore his advice and to follow England's course of independent state-guided development, with high tariffs to protect industry from British exports, first textiles, later steel and others, and to adopt numerous other devices to accelerate industrial development. The independent Republic also sought to gain a monopoly of cotton so as to "place all other nations at our feet," particularly the British enemy, as the Jacksonian presidents announced when conquering Texas and half of Mexico.

For Egypt, a comparable course was barred by British power. Lord Palmerston declared that "no ideas of fairness [toward Egypt] ought to stand in the way of such great and paramount interests" of Britain as preserving its economic and political hegemony, expressing his "hate" for the "ignorant barbarian" Muhammed Ali who dared to seek an independent course, and deploying Britain's fleet and financial power to terminate Egypt's quest for independence and economic development.

After World War II, when the U.S. displaced Britain as global hegemon, Washington adopted the same stand, making it clear that the U.S. would provide no aid to Egypt unless it adhered to the standard rules for the weak -- which the U.S. continued to violate, imposing high tariffs to bar Egyptian cotton and causing a debilitating dollar shortage. The usual interpretation of market principles.

It is small wonder that the "campaign of hatred" against the U.S. that concerned Eisenhower was based on the recognition that the U.S. supports dictators and blocks democracy and development, as do its allies.

In Adam Smith's defense, it should be added that he recognized what would happen if Britain followed the rules of sound economics, now called "neoliberalism." He warned that if British manufacturers, merchants, and investors turned abroad, they might profit but England would suffer. But he felt that they would be guided by a home bias, so as if by an invisible hand England would be spared the ravages of economic rationality.

The passage is hard to miss. It is the one occurrence of the famous phrase "invisible hand" in The Wealth of Nations. The other leading founder of classical economics, David Ricardo, drew similar conclusions, hoping that home bias would lead men of property to "be satisfied with the low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek a more advantageous employment for their wealth in foreign nations," feelings that, he added, "I should be sorry to see weakened." Their predictions aside, the instincts of the classical economists were sound.

The Iranian and Chinese “Threats”

The democracy uprising in the Arab world is sometimes compared to Eastern Europe in 1989, but on dubious grounds. In 1989, the democracy uprising was tolerated by the Russians, and supported by western power in accord with standard doctrine: it plainly conformed to economic and strategic objectives, and was therefore a noble achievement, greatly honored, unlike the struggles at the same time "to defend the people's fundamental human rights" in Central America, in the words of the assassinated Archbishop of El Salvador, one of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the military forces armed and trained by Washington. There was no Gorbachev in the West throughout these horrendous years, and there is none today. And Western power remains hostile to democracy in the Arab world for good reasons.

Grand Area doctrines continue to apply to contemporary crises and confrontations. In Western policy-making circles and political commentary the Iranian threat is considered to pose the greatest danger to world order and hence must be the primary focus of U.S. foreign policy, with Europe trailing along politely.

What exactly is the Iranian threat? An authoritative answer is provided by the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence. Reporting on global security last year, they make it clear that the threat is not military. Iran's military spending is "relatively low compared to the rest of the region," they conclude. Its military doctrine is strictly "defensive, designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities." Iran has only "a limited capability to project force beyond its borders." With regard to the nuclear option, "Iran's nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy." All quotes.

The brutal clerical regime is doubtless a threat to its own people, though it hardly outranks U.S. allies in that regard. But the threat lies elsewhere, and is ominous indeed. One element is Iran's potential deterrent capacity, an illegitimate exercise of sovereignty that might interfere with U.S. freedom of action in the region. It is glaringly obvious why Iran would seek a deterrent capacity; a look at the military bases and nuclear forces in the region suffices to explain.

Seven years ago, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld wrote that "The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy," particularly when they are under constant threat of attack in violation of the UN Charter. Whether they are doing so remains an open question, but perhaps so.

But Iran's threat goes beyond deterrence. It is also seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence emphasize, and in this way to "destabilize" the region (in the technical terms of foreign policy discourse). The U.S. invasion and military occupation of Iran's neighbors is "stabilization." Iran's efforts to extend its influence to them are "destabilization," hence plainly illegitimate.

Such usage is routine. Thus the prominent foreign policy analyst James Chace was properly using the term "stability" in its technical sense when he explained that in order to achieve "stability" in Chile it was necessary to "destabilize" the country (by overthrowing the elected government of Salvador Allende and installing the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet). Other concerns about Iran are equally interesting to explore, but perhaps this is enough to reveal the guiding principles and their status in imperial culture. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s planners emphasized at the dawn of the contemporary world system, the U.S. cannot tolerate "any exercise of sovereignty" that interferes with its global designs.

The U.S. and Europe are united in punishing Iran for its threat to stability, but it is useful to recall how isolated they are. The nonaligned countries have vigorously supported Iran's right to enrich uranium. In the region, Arab public opinion even strongly favors Iranian nuclear weapons. The major regional power, Turkey, voted against the latest U.S.-initiated sanctions motion in the Security Council, along with Brazil, the most admired country of the South. Their disobedience led to sharp censure, not for the first time: Turkey had been bitterly condemned in 2003 when the government followed the will of 95% of the population and refused to participate in the invasion of Iraq, thus demonstrating its weak grasp of democracy, western-style.

After its Security Council misdeed last year, Turkey was warned by Obama's top diplomat on European affairs, Philip Gordon, that it must "demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West." A scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations asked, "How do we keep the Turks in their lane?" -- following orders like good democrats. Brazil's Lula was admonished in a New York Times headline that his effort with Turkey to provide a solution to the uranium enrichment issue outside of the framework of U.S. power was a "Spot on Brazilian Leader's Legacy." In brief, do what we say, or else.

An interesting sidelight, effectively suppressed, is that the Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal was approved in advance by Obama, presumably on the assumption that it would fail, providing an ideological weapon against Iran. When it succeeded, the approval turned to censure, and Washington rammed through a Security Council resolution so weak that China readily signed -- and is now chastised for living up to the letter of the resolution but not Washington's unilateral directives -- in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, for example.

While the U.S. can tolerate Turkish disobedience, though with dismay, China is harder to ignore. The press warns that "China's investors and traders are now filling a vacuum in Iran as businesses from many other nations, especially in Europe, pull out," and in particular, is expanding its dominant role in Iran's energy industries. Washington is reacting with a touch of desperation. The State Department warned China that if it wants to be accepted in the international community -- a technical term referring to the U.S. and whoever happens to agree with it -- then it must not "skirt and evade international responsibilities, [which] are clear": namely, follow U.S. orders. China is unlikely to be impressed.

There is also much concern about the growing Chinese military threat. A recent Pentagon study warned that China's military budget is approaching "one-fifth of what the Pentagon spent to operate and carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," a fraction of the U.S. military budget, of course. China's expansion of military forces might "deny the ability of American warships to operate in international waters off its coast," the New York Times added.

Off the coast of China, that is; it has yet to be proposed that the U.S. should eliminate military forces that deny the Caribbean to Chinese warships. China's lack of understanding of rules of international civility is illustrated further by its objections to plans for the advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to join naval exercises a few miles off China's coast, with alleged capacity to strike Beijing.

In contrast, the West understands that such U.S. operations are all undertaken to defend stability and its own security. The liberal New Republic expresses its concern that "China sent ten warships through international waters just off the Japanese island of Okinawa." That is indeed a provocation -- unlike the fact, unmentioned, that Washington has converted the island into a major military base in defiance of vehement protests by the people of Okinawa. That is not a provocation, on the standard principle that we own the world.

Deep-seated imperial doctrine aside, there is good reason for China's neighbors to be concerned about its growing military and commercial power. And though Arab opinion supports an Iranian nuclear weapons program, we certainly should not do so. The foreign policy literature is full of proposals as to how to counter the threat. One obvious way is rarely discussed: work to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the region. The issue arose (again) at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference at United Nations headquarters last May. Egypt, as chair of the 118 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement, called for negotiations on a Middle East NWFZ, as had been agreed by the West, including the U.S., at the 1995 review conference on the NPT.

International support is so overwhelming that Obama formally agreed. It is a fine idea, Washington informed the conference, but not now. Furthermore, the U.S. made clear that Israel must be exempted: no proposal can call for Israel's nuclear program to be placed under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency or for the release of information about "Israeli nuclear facilities and activities." So much for this method of dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.

Privatizing the Planet

While Grand Area doctrine still prevails, the capacity to implement it has declined. The peak of U.S. power was after World War II, when it had literally half the world's wealth. But that naturally declined, as other industrial economies recovered from the devastation of the war and decolonization took its agonizing course. By the early 1970s, the U.S. share of global wealth had declined to about 25%, and the industrial world had become tripolar: North America, Europe, and East Asia (then Japan-based).

There was also a sharp change in the U.S. economy in the 1970s, towards financialization and export of production. A variety of factors converged to create a vicious cycle of radical concentration of wealth, primarily in the top fraction of 1% of the population -- mostly CEOs, hedge-fund managers, and the like. That leads to the concentration of political power, hence state policies to increase economic concentration: fiscal policies, rules of corporate governance, deregulation, and much more. Meanwhile the costs of electoral campaigns skyrocketed, driving the parties into the pockets of concentrated capital, increasingly financial: the Republicans reflexively, the Democrats -- by now what used to be moderate Republicans -- not far behind.

Elections have become a charade, run by the public relations industry. After his 2008 victory, Obama won an award from the industry for the best marketing campaign of the year. Executives were euphoric. In the business press they explained that they had been marketing candidates like other commodities since Ronald Reagan, but 2008 was their greatest achievement and would change the style in corporate boardrooms. The 2012 election is expected to cost $2 billion, mostly in corporate funding. Small wonder that Obama is selecting business leaders for top positions. The public is angry and frustrated, but as long as the Muasher principle prevails, that doesn't matter.

While wealth and power have narrowly concentrated, for most of the population real incomes have stagnated and people have been getting by with increased work hours, debt, and asset inflation, regularly destroyed by the financial crises that began as the regulatory apparatus was dismantled starting in the 1980s.

None of this is problematic for the very wealthy, who benefit from a government insurance policy called "too big to fail." The banks and investment firms can make risky transactions, with rich rewards, and when the system inevitably crashes, they can run to the nanny state for a taxpayer bailout, clutching their copies of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

That has been the regular process since the Reagan years, each crisis more extreme than the last -- for the public population, that is. Right now, real unemployment is at Depression levels for much of the population, while Goldman Sachs, one of the main architects of the current crisis, is richer than ever. It has just quietly announced $17.5 billion in compensation for last year, with CEO Lloyd Blankfein receiving a $12.6 million bonus while his base salary more than triples.

It wouldn't do to focus attention on such facts as these. Accordingly, propaganda must seek to blame others, in the past few months, public sector workers, their fat salaries, exorbitant pensions, and so on: all fantasy, on the model of Reaganite imagery of black mothers being driven in their limousines to pick up welfare checks -- and other models that need not be mentioned. We all must tighten our belts; almost all, that is.

Teachers are a particularly good target, as part of the deliberate effort to destroy the public education system from kindergarten through the universities by privatization -- again, good for the wealthy, but a disaster for the population, as well as the long-term health of the economy, but that is one of the externalities that is put to the side insofar as market principles prevail.

Another fine target, always, is immigrants. That has been true throughout U.S. history, even more so at times of economic crisis, exacerbated now by a sense that our country is being taken away from us: the white population will soon become a minority. One can understand the anger of aggrieved individuals, but the cruelty of the policy is shocking.

Who are the immigrants targeted? In Eastern Massachusetts, where I live, many are Mayans fleeing genocide in the Guatemalan highlands carried out by Reagan's favorite killers. Others are Mexican victims of Clinton's NAFTA, one of those rare government agreements that managed to harm working people in all three of the participating countries. As NAFTA was rammed through Congress over popular objection in 1994, Clinton also initiated the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border, previously fairly open. It was understood that Mexican campesinos cannot compete with highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness, and that Mexican businesses would not survive competition with U.S. multinationals, which must be granted "national treatment" under the mislabeled free trade agreements, a privilege granted only to corporate persons, not those of flesh and blood. Not surprisingly, these measures led to a flood of desperate refugees, and to rising anti-immigrant hysteria by the victims of state-corporate policies at home.

Much the same appears to be happening in Europe, where racism is probably more rampant than in the U.S. One can only watch with wonder as Italy complains about the flow of refugees from Libya, the scene of the first post-World War I genocide, in the now-liberated East, at the hands of Italy's Fascist government. Or when France, still today the main protector of the brutal dictatorships in its former colonies, manages to overlook its hideous atrocities in Africa, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy warns grimly of the "flood of immigrants" and Marine Le Pen objects that he is doing nothing to prevent it. I need not mention Belgium, which may win the prize for what Adam Smith called "the savage injustice of the Europeans."

The rise of neo-fascist parties in much of Europe would be a frightening phenomenon even if we were not to recall what happened on the continent in the recent past. Just imagine the reaction if Jews were being expelled from France to misery and oppression, and then witness the non-reaction when that is happening to Roma, also victims of the Holocaust and Europe's most brutalized population.

In Hungary, the neo-fascist party Jobbik gained 17% of the vote in national elections, perhaps unsurprising when three-quarters of the population feels that they are worse off than under Communist rule. We might be relieved that in Austria the ultra-right Jörg Haider won only 10% of the vote in 2008 -- were it not for the fact that the new Freedom Party, outflanking him from the far right, won more than 17%. It is chilling to recall that, in 1928, the Nazis won less than 3% of the vote in Germany.

In England the British National Party and the English Defence League, on the ultra-racist right, are major forces. (What is happening in Holland you know all too well.) In Germany, Thilo Sarrazin's lament that immigrants are destroying the country was a runaway best-seller, while Chancellor Angela Merkel, though condemning the book, declared that multiculturalism had "utterly failed": the Turks imported to do the dirty work in Germany are failing to become blond and blue-eyed, true Aryans.

Those with a sense of irony may recall that Benjamin Franklin, one of the leading figures of the Enlightenment, warned that the newly liberated colonies should be wary of allowing Germans to immigrate, because they were too swarthy; Swedes as well. Into the twentieth century, ludicrous myths of Anglo-Saxon purity were common in the U.S., including among presidents and other leading figures. Racism in the literary culture has been a rank obscenity; far worse in practice, needless to say. It is much easier to eradicate polio than this horrifying plague, which regularly becomes more virulent in times of economic distress.

I do not want to end without mentioning another externality that is dismissed in market systems: the fate of the species. Systemic risk in the financial system can be remedied by the taxpayer, but no one will come to the rescue if the environment is destroyed. That it must be destroyed is close to an institutional imperative. Business leaders who are conducting propaganda campaigns to convince the population that anthropogenic global warming is a liberal hoax understand full well how grave is the threat, but they must maximize short-term profit and market share. If they don't, someone else will.

This vicious cycle could well turn out to be lethal. To see how grave the danger is, simply have a look at the new Congress in the U.S., propelled into power by business funding and propaganda. Almost all are climate deniers. They have already begun to cut funding for measures that might mitigate environmental catastrophe. Worse, some are true believers; for example, the new head of a subcommittee on the environment who explained that global warming cannot be a problem because God promised Noah that there will not be another flood.

If such things were happening in some small and remote country, we might laugh. Not when they are happening in the richest and most powerful country in the world. And before we laugh, we might also bear in mind that the current economic crisis is traceable in no small measure to the fanatic faith in such dogmas as the efficient market hypothesis, and in general to what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, 15 years ago, called the "religion" that markets know best -- which prevented the central bank and the economics profession from taking notice of an $8 trillion housing bubble that had no basis at all in economic fundamentals, and that devastated the economy when it burst.

All of this, and much more, can proceed as long as the Muashar doctrine prevails. As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.

This piece is adapted from a talk given in Amsterdam in March.
(c) 2011 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Gaza In Crisis.

Tahrir Square, Tel Aviv
By Uri Avnery

AMRAM MITZNA is a nice guy. He is modest and radiates credibility. He reminds one of the late Lova Eliav, the Secretary General of the Labor party who quit the party in disgust. Like Eliav, he has a lot of practical achievements to his credit – Eliav built the Lakhish area villages in South-Central Israel, Mitzna volunteered to administer the remote town of Yerucham deep in the Negev.

“Buji” Hertzog is also a good guy. He is a scion of a genuine Jewish aristocratic family, in the positive sense of the word; his grandfather was a Chief Rabbi, his father the President of Israel. A person whose deeds as Minister for Welfare speak for themselves – even though he has an unfortunate habit of running - after every action - to tell his (American) friends, as the Wikileak papers disclose. (This is an allusion to a classic Israeli joke: “Why do Israeli men finish so quickly? Because they can't wait to run and tell their friends.”)

Amir Peretz is an interesting character. His life story as an immigrant from Morocco is impressive. He made the mistake of his life when he demanded the post of Minister of Defense and made a mess of it – but people can learn from their mistakes.

Shelly Yacimovich is an assertive woman, a convinced feminist. The social misery of the destitute and downtrodden is burning in her bones, as we say in Hebrew. She believes that it is possible to have a party devoted entirely to these matters, forgetting for the time being unpopular and troublesome problems like peace. That is a mistake – he (or she) who runs away from the Palestinian question, the Palestinian question will run after him (or her). But she will learn.

All these are candidates for the leadership of the Labor Party. Any of them can, perhaps, arrest its deterioration and keep the votes it got at the last elections, and perhaps-perhaps even add two or three seats.

So what?

THE PITY is that this would change almost nothing. Power would remain in the hands of the Right. The balance between the blocs – Right and Left – would not be any different.

Those who once put their faith in the ascent of Kadima have by now learned that Kadima is not a leftist party, nor even a center party – unless the center has shifted far to the right. Kadima is Likud B, pure and simple, led by a woman who grew up in a Likud home and is lacking, so it seems, any political instincts. Her party includes, besides parliamentary zeroes, several racists whose proper place is between Likud and Lieberman, and some fugitives from Labor, whose proper place is nowhere.

The Labor Party can be rehabilitated. Some parties resemble the phoenix and can return from the grave. But Labor is an old bird without any feathers. For most of its long life it was the ruling party, and it has never recovered from that. Even in opposition it behaves and talks like a governing party from which the government has been stolen. It has no strength left to renew, rebel, storm ahead. It was and remains a federation of professional functionaries. Such a party does not make revolutions.

Under the leadership of any of these candidates, it will not fill the huge gap in the Israeli political system. It will not inspire the Israeli Tahrir Square. It will not start the revolution, without which Israel will continue to march in lockstep towards the abyss.

THE PEOPLE who gathered in Tahrir Square were not the remnants of the old parties. Sure, they were there too – the Wafdists, the last of the Nasserists, the Communists, the Muslim Brothers. But they did not provide the ardor, they did not light the flame which is brightening the sky above the entire Arab world.

In the square, completely new forces appeared out of nowhere. To this very day they have no name, except the date of the original event – January 25. But everyone knows where they came from and what they look like. For lack of a better label , they are called “the Young Generation”. They are a cluster of hopes and aspirations touching all spheres of life. They are the resolve to create “another Egypt”, entirely different from the Egypt of only yesterday.

THERE IS, of course, almost no similarity between Egypt and Israel. The Egyptian uprising can serve us, at most, as a metaphor, a symbol. But the principle is the same: the longing for “another Israel”, for the Second Israeli Republic.

The setting up of a new political movement is an act of creation. There is no recipe for it, like “Take 2 Oriental Jews, 1 Russian, half a rabbi, stir well…” It doesn’t work that way. Neither will something like “Take the remnants of the Labor Party, add a spoonful of Meretz, mix with half a glass of Kadima…”. Won’t work.

A new movement of the sort that is needed has to come from nowhere. From the vision and determination of a group of young leaders with a new world-view that suits the needs of Israel’s future. A group that thinks in a new way, sees things in a new light, speaks a new language.

That happens once in a generation, if at all. When it does, it is visible from afar.

AT THIS moment, there are at least half a dozen groups in Israel which are planning this revolution. Perhaps one of them will succeed. Perhaps not, and the spark does not catch till some later date. As the young Jewish rabbi from Nazareth said: “You will know them by their fruit.”

For any group to bring about this miracle, several things seem to me to be absolutely essential:

The new world-view must embrace all spheres of public life. Welfare without peace is nonsense, without a basic change of values peace will not come about, the immortal ideals of freedom, justice, equality and democracy must apply to everybody, in all spheres of life.

Many “pragmatists” assert that the opposite is true. God forbid mixing things. If you talk about peace, the advocates of welfare will leave. If you champion the rights of minorities, say goodbye to the people of the majority. That is true if you think about the next elections, not if you think about the next generations.

Anyone who sets out with the aim of winning the most seats in the coming elections will not make history. Sprinters will not bring back the medal we need. This demands Marathon runners. (Menachem Begin, it may be remembered, lost nine elections before he achieved the Big Change of 1977. What did Yigael Yadin or Tommy Lapid achieve with their ephemeral little triumphs.)

A movement that appears out of nowhere, a movement that carries the future in its womb, cannot speak the language of yesterday. It must bring with it a new language – a new terminology, new slogans. Such a language is not born in a public relations agency. Those who copy the language of their predecessors are condemned to continue on the path of their predecessors.

The new language must touch the minds – and, more importantly, the hearts – of all citizens. Another new Ashkenazi party will not do. The new movement must touch the depths of the soul of Jews and Arabs, Orientals and “Russians”, secular and religious (at least some of them), old-timers and new arrivals, the well-established and the poor. Anyone who gives up in advance on any of these communities is courting failure.

MANY CLEVER and experienced people will smile condescendingly. That’s utopian, they will say. Nice dreams. Won’t happen. There are no such people, no such visions, no fire in the bones. At most, good people with an eye on a seat in the next Knesset.

They may be right. But these same people would have smiled if somebody had told them, some five years ago, that American voters would elect an African-American president whose middle name is Hussein. That would have sounded wildly absurd. A black president? White voters? In the USA?

The very same people would have burst out laughing if somebody had told them, just a year ago, that a million Egyptians would gather in the central square of Cairo and change the face of their country. What? Egyptians? This lazy and passive people? A country which in all its 6000 years of recorded history has not made even half a dozen revolutions? Ridiculous!

Well, there are surprises in history. Sometimes, when the need arises, peoples can surprise themselves. It can happen here. If it does, it will not surprise those of us who believe in our people.

True, Rabin Square is not Tahrir Square. But then, neither was it.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Beware Of Vampire Squids And Their Stadium Schemes
By David Sirota

When it comes to media voyeurism and the economic insights it can provide, the ads in Vanity Fair rival Charlie Rose’s television program as the best peep show of all. Between rip-and-sniff Dolce & Gabbana pages and come-hither Gucci models, readers get to see not what the kings are selling the lowly serfs, but what the royal family is telling itself.

This is why I read Vanity Fair—its ads provide a valuable glimpse into the palace. May’s edition is no exception, thanks to Goldman Sachs—aka the investment bank at the center of Wall Street’s 2008 meltdown.

On page 123 of the glossy mag, this very same bank presents itself as the savior of one of those Middle-American cities whose averageness (and baseball bats) makes it synonymous with good ol’ fashioned Americana: Louisville, Ky.

As Goldman’s ad tells it, Louisville’s major problem was its desperate need for a new arena. That’s when the bank swooped in with a “financing strategy” to build the stadium, which then supposedly led to “a vibrant downtown scene, where new businesses are opening, existing businesses are expanding and local restaurants are hiring more employees.”

The ad exposes the bailed-out bank’s secret fears and goals. Tarnished by SEC charges of stock fraud, Senate committee allegations of misconduct and widespread revelations about its shady business practices, Goldman wants to reassure current and potential clients that it’s a straight shooter. In the Vanity Fair fable, Goldman thus casts itself as the altruistic hero, expecting readers to never Google “KFC Yum! Center,” much less visit a place like Louisville, to verify the fairy tale.

It’s a safe public relations wager—but not without risk. For if you do bother to click around the Internet, you’ll inevitably find that the Louisville metro area is anything but a “vibrant” picture of job growth. Today, it is suffering from an 11 percent unemployment rate—much higher than the national rate. It’s also facing a $22 million budget shortfall.

While those problems may not be the new stadium’s fault, it’s far from clear that the Goldman-orchestrated deal helped improve Louisville’s situation. In fact, new signs suggest the real story may be less the Vanity Fair ad’s hagiography than yet another warning about the dangers of relying on Wall Street and stadiums for municipal economic growth.

As the Lexington Herald-Leader reported in a September 2010 editorial entitled “Arena Cautionary Tale,” public revenue from the stadium “isn’t living up to expectations in terms of paying off the debt incurred in building the facility.” As a result, Louisville’s already-strapped government “may be on the hook for an extra $3.3 million beginning in 2012.”

That’s because, as Goldman admits on its website, the deal was funded by a massive commitment of public revenues from taxpayers. If the arena isn’t generating tax receipts committed to funding this $200-million-plus “Tax Incremental Financing” scheme, then taxpayers have to come up with that public money from somewhere else—most likely, from cuts to social services or from tax hikes.

This is the kind of story the Vanity Fair ad is supposed to obscure—the kind of story that got Goldman its Rolling Stone magazine billing as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” It’s a reputation the bank deserves—one that should make every local official in America hesitate the next time that squid slithers into their town.
(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.

The More Things Change…
By Randall Amster

I recently found some old writings of mine from the 1990s. When I began to look through them, I had a sudden sense of foreshadowing — or, perhaps more to the point — postshadowing. While my capacity to express certain ideas has (hopefully) evolved in the ensuing years, I was struck by how similar today’s issues remain to those uppermost in my mind in those halcyon days before 9/11, perpetual war, climatic catastrophes, economic meltdown, and the rest of the “new normal” that has taken hold in the past decade.

To illustrate, I’d like to share one of these prior pieces, this one from 1999. I’ve resisted the temptation to clean up the writing or reword things to sound more sophisticated or up-to-date, instead leaving the text as it was produced a dozen years ago.

The primary point I hope to demonstrate here is how little things change in many ways, despite a sense of rampant transformation perpetually unfolding in our midst. To be sure, the details and the challenges evolve, but the baseline issues continue in force across the decades. In this, perhaps we can actually find a strange optimism in the assurance that social and ecological justice are transcendent and timeless aims…

We live in remarkable and terrifying times. Having reached the cusp of global dominion, the living history that we are enacting — the unfolding story of mythology, culture, and ideology — stands poised on the brink of an alarming threshold in the race to conquer time, space, and even Nature herself. The coming millennium portends revolutions in genetics, biomechanics, quantum physics, the manipulation of matter, the very fabric of creation — not to mention in the mundane social control devices of the compu/phone/vision and McPharma-caffeinated varieties.

Consider the rate of change in the last 50 years, since the end of WWII, then consider the rate in just the last five, and buckle up for an exponential ride into the next eon. It’s not that we won’t care if the rainforests hold the cures for our viral plagues, or if the Zapatistas are winning the war for freedom — it’s just that it might not matter at all. The question, as they say, will be moot — mooted by distraction, medication, disinformation, surveillance, nostalgia, and perhaps even extinction. The ethical dilemmas of the next age loom as behemoths too mighty for philosophy, letters, the arts. This is a job for spirituality, karma, and divine grace — if there be such forces. Time might tell.

But for now, in the meantime, in this mean-place, we have the mighty pen, er, keyboard, ready to take aim once again in the never ending battle against futility and lassitude. Having ceased to be interested in both revolution and assimilation as worthy ends, we find ourselves at something of a loss as to the burning question: What is to be done? The metaphor of “Life Strategies on a Sinking Ship” recently came to mind; it suggests that one might: (a) join the party (that is, give in to the temptations of hedonism and denial); (b) opt out early (“man overboard!”); (c) try to right (or even write) the ship, courting martyrdom and ultimate futility; or (d) sit quietly and hope for the strength to take a leap of faith.

In more post-postmodern terms, the metaphor is “Life Strategies on the H.M.S. Domination and Globalism,” and the salient life strategies become: (a) grab a chunk of power and persona while it’s hot! (b) join a religious cult, live alone in a cabin in Montana, or buy a loaf of bread, olives, and a newspaper and blow your brains out in the bathtub on a quiet Thursday afternoon; (c) try to right (or even write) the ship, courting martyrdom, posthumous misappropriation, and ultimate futility (again); or (d) live simply and in small ways and hope for a paradigm shift in consciousness. Of course, one could also get surreal and (e) deny the existence of the ship altogether. This option offers at least some inspiration, to wit: flout the beast through feigned ignorance and righteous denial, visualize a few melting clocks, court notoriety, and die notoriously martyred, registering a minor karmic ripple. This may be as hopeful as it gets.

We are of course still bandying about the eternal question posed so succinctly by both H.G. Wells and Leo Tolstoy, the question which inevitably follows the knowledge (arduously acquired) that something is amiss in our little late-capitalist utopia, a question that we are loath to ask but desperately need answered: What is to be done? What is to be done? Rainforests, ozone depletion, Chernobyl, Bhopal, acid rain, irradiation, cloning, viruses, cancer and heart disease … it is sometimes said that this generation, X or whatever (perhaps MX is more apt), lacks a unifying cause, a galvanizing Vietnam-esque issue to unite its rebellious energy, a Woodstock sans corporate sponsorship . . . well I have a newsflash for you, my friends, sound-bitten for easy consumption:

Here’s your freakin’ Vietnam! Agent Orange, children dying, the war machine in its glory…. It’s raining chemicals out there folks! The air and water and food — and soon the entire habitat — poisoned, rendered unlivable, felled by the hands of obsessive growth and the quest to dominate nature. Apocalypse when? Could be any day now…

Blame it on whomever you want: Cain, Plato, Christianity, Thomas Hobbes, capitalism, Descartes and Newton, colonialism, industrialization, Henry Ford, Oppenheimer, Exxon — every generation’s got its own disease. Or perhaps, more accurately, every generation’s got a disease which is the logical successor of the cumulative diseases culturally accrued since the time of the first agriculturalists who decided that they were entitled to dominion “over all the earth” (Genesis 1:26) in virtue of their innate superiority as the end product of creation, the ones for whom all the rest had been made. Such dominion even applied to their darker-skinned, nomadic, tribal brothers to the south, the practitioners of the old ways of pastoralism and hunting and gathering, the uncivilized occupants of fertile lands that might otherwise be put under cultivation for the purported benefit of all.

So Cain, the tiller, murders Abel, the shepherd, in a cold-blooded jealous rage and receives from god not punishment but a mark of protection that promises to avenge him sevenfold should anyone harm him — a veritable ‘license to kill’, the father’s approval of the inevitability of Cain’s dominion. Perhaps these are the roots of the crisis, the earliest beginnings of the cultural myth that supports control of nature in the sense of “rule,” that mankind may “subdue it” (again, Genesis; see also Francis Bacon). It’s a not-so-subtle progression from a mindset of dominion, to universalism (crusades, imperialism, GATT), to science and technology (particle physics, molecular biology, the Internet), to today.

The crisis, then, as Fritjof Capra notes, is one of perception — or more precisely, misperception. A mistaken belief in human superiority and dominance, an ideology of power and globalism, the result of arrogantly believing that we know enough to decide which species live and which ones die, the misappropriation of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil despite god’s admonition to Adam (man) that “when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 1:17). Are we poised — here on the cusp of a new millennium rife with apocalyptic visions, messianic mumbo-jumbo, and mother ships on the way — to realize god’s unheeded warning?

We have reached the limit of modern ethical reasoning, and even postmodern “ethics,” having seen the horrors of universalism and the perils of relativism — and being dissatisfied in any event with all such binaries of the individual versus society ilk, including narrowly conceiving our life strategies as confined to assimilation or secession. We need a new moral vision, a certain tribal wisdom, a remnant Paleolithic consciousness that enables us to conceive the whole without losing our unique selves, a simultaneous holism and atomism that sees human existence as an interconnected part of the great cosmic dance, Shiva’s dance, in rhythm with the tides and currents of nature, subject to natural law and not exempt from it, yet still sensate and visceral, aware of our own emotions and longings, each a bearer of a brain filled with unique memories and narrative accounts. Simply put: We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden…

What is to be done? If the world needs a new vision, then I say incite to visualize. Guerrilla theater, random acts of kindness, living simply and doing it with style, drumming and dancing, utopian poetics, pamphlets and portable soap boxes, monkeywrenching, Emma Goldman’s “spirit of revolt” — anything to shake the drones out of their cryonically medicated torpor. Spread as much pagan anarchist holistic wiccan magick as you can, then set your mind in quiet moments on healing the universe from within. And hope for the best, in fact, pray for it. Doesn’t matter if anyone’s out there to hear — only that we hear each other. I know I’ll be listening.

It’s funny, sad, and hopeful to recall these plaintive words from a dozen years ago. I have a hard time picturing that pre-millennial world where few people had cell phones and the internet was still confined mostly to the workplace if you had it at all. There was no Bush-Cheney cabal, no hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, no SB 1070, no trillion-dollar bailouts, no Hurricane Katrina, no Patriot Act, and of course no 9/11. Still, the sense of looming environmental collapse, brewing geopolitical conflict, and the corporate colonization of our lives was palpable even “back in day” before such notions fully manifested in the undeniable manner that they have today.

One of the more interesting items upon reflection is the hesitatingly spiritual response to these issues that I seemed to be primarily preoccupied with back in 1999. To be sure, the coming millennial shift was rife with, well, millenarian overtones, including a burgeoning new-age spiritualism and a widespread reconsideration of the eschatological qualities of the old faiths as well. Whatever the tendencies, I can relate to that former self struggling to find “secure moorings” in a world of perpetually shifting ground. Change may be the only constant, but there are perhaps deeper lessons to be learned from the things that stay the same.
(c) 2011 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Run, Donnie, Run

This is beyond fabulous. It is exquisite. Donnie Trump – the flaming ego with feral hair – is drumming up a presidential run for himself!

Just when you thought the GOP primary couldn't get any cheesier – what with Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and others issuing sanity-curdling nonsense in a right-wing panderfest – along comes "The Donald." The TV impresario and real estate huckster says that he's The Man for 2012, because he has the background to run our government like a business.

Whoa, Donnie, it's not nice to threaten voters! It is true that he has run several businesses – right into the ground. Trump started in business right out of college with nothing but a dream, a driving ambition... and his daddy's multimillion-dollar real estate empire. He quickly turned daddy's large fortune into a small one, then he turned that into the first of his bankruptcies. But, with a real talent for hype, he was able to get enough capital from Wall Street speculators, subsidies from government, and secret settlements from financial regulators to paper over his business incompetencies and improprieties.

Just two years ago, Trump's casino operation went bankrupt, and he was tossed off its board of directors. Still, though, he has "The Apprentice," his unreal reality TV show. So, while Trump is not a successful businessman by a long shot, he does play one on television. And now, he wants you to help him take his cheesy act to the White House. How cheesy is he? The Donald has joined The Newt and Michele B in a panderfest conspiracy competition to see which one can be the most clownish in labeling Obama as a Muslim who was born in Kenya.

Trump recently declared, "I'm their worst nightmare." He was referring to the Obama campaign, but he's really America's worst nightmare.
(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.

Path To Prosperity Or Poverty?
By Helen Thomas

If the Republican budget cuts succeed, they will go down in history as the worst and most divisive in modern American history.

Is that what the Tea Partiers are all about?

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, sold fellow Republicans on reckless cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, while reducing taxes for the rich and corporations.

Who are these people who would turn America into a plutocracy?

Why does the GOP target the people who need help the most - the elderly, the disabled and the orphaned? Social Security has been an anathema to Republicans since it was enacted in 1935 during the Roosevelt administration at the height of the Great Depression.

The people who elected those heartless lawmakers will pay dearly. The lack of compassion for the suffering in this country is astonishing in its magnitude.

This past Friday, the Republican-led House passed a bill to cut the budget $4.4 trillion over the next decade.

It will be a dream come true for Republicans to end the entitlement programs they have hated over the years and yet millions of them have at one point lived off those checks.

Do the American people know who they voted for? Do they want to destroy the safety net for so many? Kill the food stamp program, and this will force many thousands into homelessness and deeper poverty. Meanwhile, the plutocrats are padding their pockets as others are driven to despair.

The rich are getting richer, and many corporations are bloated with profits enabling them to pay out big bonuses for their executives.

Is that what America is all about - solving its debt problems on the forced sacrifice of the poor people in our country?

The Republican slogan in the next election should be "greed is good."

Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican President with a heart, denounced plutocrats at a political cost.

Do we want a nation divided between the very rich - often billionaires - and the poverty stricken?

Where are the real Americans who fought for worker's rights - the workers who sat down in factories and demanded fair wages and working hours? Where are the Americans who would not tolerate injustices in the workplace?

How can the Republicans look themselves in the mirror after passing such outrageous legislation that will hurt millions of Americans? Do we want a country like that, with leadership that is so ruthless and selfish, a drastically unfair society?

Power is still in the hands of the people. The choices are very clear, and Republicans have shown their hand. It is evident that they are the takers - at any price - not the givers. "This is our defining moment," said Ryan after the House voted 235 to 193 to pass what Ryan called "The Path to Prosperity."

It should have been called the "path to further poverty," or the path to gridlock on Capitol Hill between the Republican leadership and the slight majority margin of Democrats in the Senate.

Not one Democrat in the House voted for the GOP budget bill. All but four Republicans voted for the Ryan plan in the House. The GOP hopes to end Medicare by cutting the program by more than $70 billion in the next decade.

The party also hopes to end the federal government's partnership with the states - which gives states block grants to do with the money whatever they choose.

To meet the deficit, President Obama should cut military spending, and let the current generous tax breaks for the extremely wealthy expire.

If Democrats lack talking points in the 2012 presidential race, it is because they have lost their sense of justice. How can they miss in showing the American people that Democrats do care about having a more just society? Republicans have certainly shown they couldn't care less.

Meanwhile, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly sounding the alarm on the projected cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. It's up to the Democrats to support the President in an all out fight to help the deprived people in this country. What have they got to lose?

Let's hope wiser heads will prevail. It is war, and the Democrats have the only weapons that will defend real Americans - the Americans we can be proud of.
(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.

“We Ain’t Got Time To Bleed!”
By James Donahue

Jesse Ventura, one of our favorite political personalities, has posted a challenge to all people struggling against suppression by world powers that could easily be a battle cry of the age. It reads:

"You control our world. You’ve poisoned the air we breathe, contaminated the water we drink, and copyrighted the food we eat. We fight in your wars, die for your causes, and sacrifice our freedoms to protect you. You’ve liquidated our savings, destroyed our middle class, and used our tax dollars to bailout your unending greed. We are slaves to your corporations, zombies to your airwaves, servants to your decadence. You’ve stolen our elections, assassinated our leaders, and abolished our basic rights as human beings. You own our property, shipped away our jobs, and shredded our unions. You’ve profited off of disaster, destabilized our currencies, and raised our cost of living. You’ve monopolized our freedom, stripped away our education, and have almost extinguished our flame. We are hit… we are bleeding… but we ain’t got time to bleed. We will bring the giants to their knees and you will witness our revolution!”

This cry incorporates a list of the crimes brought against the common people by those who hold the reins of power in governments all over the world. This includes the United States.

Ventura, a former underwater demolition expert for the U. S. Navy during the Vietnam War, former professional wrestler and former Governor of Minnesota, has developed a following as a radio and television personality because of his outspoken political views. And Ventura does not side with either the Republicans or the Democrats on most issues. He held office as a member of the Reform Party, and he appears to promote his political views where ever he goes.

Ventura’s popular television series, Conspiracy Theory, has challenged official government reports as to numerous controversial events ranging from the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the truth behind the 9-11 attacks. He speaks of a “secret government” that controls our elected politicians.

The Reform Party calls for an overhaul of the election process placing limits on gifts, favors and outside sources of income while in office and after leaving. It also calls for term limits of three two-year terms for House members and two six-year terms in the Senate.

The party also calls for an end to the present system of lobbying and campaign finance to “ensure that elected officials owe their allegiance to the people whom they are elected to serve,” change the composition of the Federal Election Commission to include independent and nonpartisan representatives, outlaw Political Action Committees and insure equal and free radio and television time for all candidates.

The party calls for a balanced federal budget and paying down the national debt.

Americans have become disillusioned by the actions of their elected representatives in Washington and many state governments they are demonstrating in state and federal capital lawns, protesting the decisions that strip the people of government assistance and spend the money, instead, to bail out big corporations and feed an ongoing war machine. The people want a return of good paying jobs, health benefits and guaranteed retirement benefits.

The rebellion is reflected in a web-based movement to nominate Ventura as a candidate for President in 2012. A citizen website now exists that does this very thing. Its slogan reads:

“In such troubled times the American people need an honest, brave and nonpartisan person of integrity to restore America to the vision our founding fathers had when they first sought to create this great nation.

“While the media may punish you to where you will feel like Job, abandoned by God, however know our prayers are with you and gather your strength and faith as David fighting Goliath. Your resolve and conviction will win the heart and soul of the nation in triumphing liberty over tyranny.

“We believe in you and that you have the ability to restore this nation where all will share in the blessings of freedom. As the Declaration of Independence reads: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

“We created this website because we no longer wish to lead lives of quiet desperation under the One Party Monarchy of the Democrats and Republicans. We aspire to be like you, a patriot of truth and justice and defender of our freedoms under the precious Republic.”

So can this former naval hero, wrestler, governor and pitch man live up to such a task? While he has impressed his followers with his outspoken, tough-guy image, can the colorful Jesse Ventura rise up to save a nation that is collapsing under the weight of massive corporate greed?

Everyone thought Barack Obama was the answer. Once he took office, however, something happened to Mr. Obama. We suspect that it is just as Mr. Ventura charges; there is a secret government that really runs the nation, if not the world. Can one elected man stand up against this kind of power?
(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.

Among Ciphers, Barn Burners And Confidence Artists
A comb-over treatment for declining empire
By Phil Rockstroh

Like postmodernist architecture, in which the aesthetic criteria of a structure's exterior often possesses little correlation to its interior function, media age journalistic and political style exhibits a similar disparity between facade and content: The political content aired by mass media institutions and the cant of the governmental class are the political equivalent of the useless ornamental pediments, context-devoid cupolas, and empty atriums of postmodernist architecture.

It is not a coincidence that Donald Trump has been responsible for having erected some of the gaudiest, emptiest, architecturally dishonest structures, blotting the landscape, east of the Atlantic Ocean, west of the sands of Dubai.

Citizen Trump is a human analog of these characteristics: a man possessed of an extroverted, confident public persona that serves as cover for an interior emptiness. In fact, he is possessed of an unswerving self-regard (as extreme as it is inexplicable) that seems a form of derangement.

From Sarah Palin to Barack Obama to Donald Trump, these personality types, minted and forged within the aggressive superficiality of the current era, are going to be as good as it gets. These are the varieties of ciphers, confidence artists and quislings who will front the present day corporate order of Botox Politics, the quintessence of an era that has conjoined the shallow and the grotesque in a marriage made in the witless limbo of the media hologram.

Born into wealth and privilege, Trump -- this cross-hatched haired, reality television popinjay -- is marketed as a man of the multitudes. Perhaps, he is: On one dismal level, he is the very emblem of the callow, infantilized, highchair tyrants spawned by the Viagra Capitalism of late U.S. empire.

Strange and amusing, in a grimly ironic way, unlike Trump, it is the political left, bereft of power in the structure of corporate oligarchy, who stands accused of being out of touch elitists. In a political culture as far down the rabbit hole as the one that exists, in the U.S., the surest way to be branded an elitist is to refuse to serve the elite.

All who are reading this article are, therefore, excused if the Bilderberg Group calls while you're in mid perusal of it… Rather, on second thought…let them wait; they'll just want you all the more for it.

President Obama, on the other hand, could never be accused of failing to serve his true constituents – the moneyed elite. Accordingly, insofar as coming to the aid of oppressed, suffering working people, he could be termed the anti-Tom "I'll be there” Joad. He has not been present in body nor spirit for the less-than-privileged classes of the declining nation. Rather than serving contemporary versions of the downtrodden denizens depicted in The Grapes of Wrath -- Obama has chosen to be of service to the high-flying connoisseurs of the fermented grapes of Château Mouton-Rothschild.

On almost every dispiriting occasion, Obama and the Democrats hit the mat without so much as trading punches with the Republican practitioners of the art of sucker punches and low blows.

Could the fight be rigged? I mean they work for the same corporate oligarchic bosses. One should be wary of betting on a match where a mobster owns both fighters.

Obama rah-rahs, nice liberal apple-polishers and crackpot pragmatist of the Church of Incrementalist Salvation -- I will grant you this -- the Republicans are a cult of doom. They are the two-legged, all thumbs, character-devoid embodiments of The Second Law Of Thermodynamics that arise when empires are in a death swoon. Yet Obama and the Democrats of Congress are quislings of corporate power, and thereby function as true to form characters playing out their roles within the entropy-ridden dynamics of failed states.

Have the Democrats even lifted a finger, whether in power or out, to fight corporate oligarchy? The only finger the players of the Democratic power establishment have lifted is to give the progressive left -- The Finger. I say screw you back, you soul-dead ciphers -- and the faux reform/hidden corporate class agenda Trojan Horse you rode in on.

Moreover, how have the policies of the Obama administration departed, in any real world way, from those of the Bush administration? Hence, we arrive at the painful, depressing crux of the matter and the cause of the denial befogging the minds and enervating the will of the liberal class: The dismal fact that under the present structure of corporate oligarchy, a functioning representational democracy cannot exist.

As for everyday citizens, neither going to the polls to vote, nor manning phone banks and licking envelopes at local party headquarters, nor canvassing to register new voters will change the nature of the national security state nor reform corporate hegemony nor end US imperium abroad… It just isn't going to happen.

Acknowledging to oneself the reality that under the present arrangements between the U.S. government and the corporate order -- the aforementioned acts of citizen participation are exercises in futility, and that an individual is essentially powerless -- can give rise to profound states of cognitive dissonance. In short, all the exasperation and concomitant scorn leveled by Democratic insiders and their apologists upon members of the marginalized and alienated left. ,P> When a mainstream liberal sort deigns to tell me, I need to acquire a more "positive attitude" -- which, in tone and intent, amounts to a kind of passive-aggressive douche-rocketry -- I reply: I (or anyone else for that matter) can evince all the winning qualities and uplifting attitudes in the human lexicon of emotive experience -- positive, upbeat, giddy, elated, ecstatic -- we can be as happy as a bliss-besotted idiot, with a love of all things shiny, who happens upon a cache of gleaning stainless steel cutlery -- We can become so aglow with positive energy that rays of sunshine will coruscate from out of our every orifice -- yet still, our attitudes and actions would have little to no effect on the status quo.

As far as reforming the hopelessly corporate money-compromised Democratic Party from within…that constitutes, merely, polishing the brass railings on the Titanic, because Democrats have shown, over the years and with increasing regularity, whose interests they serve.

Perhaps, instead, progressives should deploy a tactical retreat and allow the damage incurred by Disaster Capitalism (that now even includes the obscene manipulation of global food prices) to create so much pain by way of Republican rule that the toxic agendas of the oligarchs cannot be papered over by sham elections that bring (at best) "incremental" change, while the juggernaut of the corporate/national security state hurtles forward unchecked and unabated.

In the long run, it might prove propitious (in a "cruel to be kind" turn of affairs) if the nature of corporate state control shifted from the soft totalitarianism of the present to a more overt form of hardliner rule. This way, the self-serving authoritarian powers begot by big money interests will be drawn into the open…will have to reveal and define themselves and their agendas; they would no longer be able to hide (Koch Brothers style) within the loose-knit, yet proto-fascist in nature, structure of the corporate state.

Indications augur that regardless of the pain inflicted and protests proffered, the dismal criteria of this strategy will be made manifest: The berserker cult from the Chicago School of Economics will not quit until the reforms, from the Progressive and New Deal eras, responsible for creating the US middle class and affording dignity to the laboring classes, are burned to ash and blown from collective memory.

Incongruously, it is this criminal cartel who has the ear of the white underclass, while, concurrently having them by the throat…as, all the while, they ply them with the poisoned pills of Disaster Capitalism, managing to bamboozle them into calling the toxic concoction ingested the sweet fruit of liberty.

Yet, because of their privilege-engendered insularity, the Democratic Party elite are bereft of a credible counter-narrative. Moreover, President Obama, in deed and action, has governed like an alumnus in good standing of the Chicago School of Economics.

This is the modus operandi of present day U.S. duopoly: Democratic Party, corporate tools, faux reformers follow rightwing death cults. Hence, little of importance changes for the big money interests who own both major parties.

President Obama has proven he can give a stem-twister of a speech. But what he has displayed, time and time again, is the damning extent of his insincerity. Obama's job is to create pretty clouds of obscuring smoke -- while the right plays the role of crazed barn-burners -- as the oligarchs make off with more and more of the people's loot.

This is what is so pathetic about the present day Democratic Party whose political platform seems to be: We deliver nothing, but broken promises, and we continually betray our base -- but those other guys, those rightwing Republican bogeymen -- they keep their wicked promises. They are mean, ruthless and crazy. And did we mention, you should be afraid -- be very afraid...BOO!

This is the method by which mainstream Democrats work reluctant progressives into a dither. The ploy operates by the same devices Republican Party strategists game the base-born bigots of their political base, by raising the fearsome specters of child-recruiting gay pedophiles, in alliance with Islamic Caliphate plotters, all of whom, at the behest of dirty hippie socialists, have designs to redistribute their lawn furniture, outdoor grilling equipment, and pool toys to dark and dusky sorts.

What is amazing, since there is no formal plot in place, is how close and perfect to type almost all involved act out their roles. Ergo, we ordinary citizens can play our roles as extras as well; we can go to the polls and vote for either of these two wings of The Money Party who serve the kleptocratic class and military industrial/national security state, and thereby co-sign it all and give the fraud a patina of legitimacy.

This is the dim and diminished social and political milieu that gave rise to Donald Trump. Trump, son of inherited wealth, who had his own "reality" show (watched by folks who apparently have no notion of the concept) is the embodiment of our era; he mirrors the lamentable zeitgeist of the U.S.

The troubles of the U.S. are many and spreading. As a nation, our prospects at home and prestige abroad are thinning. Apropos, Donald Trump is the man of this empty hour -- just the manqué of the moment to give the problems that are besetting the nation a comb-over treatment.

Trump wears the gruesome visage of empire's end, and his style of blustering ignorance serves as perfect marching music for the country's ongoing, blind strut towards the abyss, now unnervingly close, yawning before us.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

A War for Oil? Why, Yes, It Was
By Chris Floyd

Back in the heady, heated days before the invasion of Iraq, one of the quickest ways to be relegated to the margins of the debate was to claim that the financial interests of politically connected oil companies played any role in the considerations of the great statesmen of the West as they confronted the global menace of Saddam Hussein.

Anyone who suggested such a thing was immediately declared "unserious," a "knee-jerk radical," even -- gasp! -- "a conspiracy theorist." Later protests with their "No Blood for Oil" slogans were similarly dismissed. "Serious" policy analysts followed the lead of one of the prime movers of Western policy, the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, who declared, weeks before the invasion, that "the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it."

But this week, the Independent unearthed a remarkable cache of "smoking gun" documents that confirm, yet again, the collusion of political leaders and oil barons to divvy up Iraq's oil -- months before the invasion was launched. The documents -- minutes of meetings between British ministers and senior oil executives -- paint a bald, brazen picture of politicos and plutocrats jockeying to ensure that the oil barons get what one of Blair's own ministers called -- in the Capone-like patois that our great and good use when they think no one is listening -- "a fair slice of the action" when the invaders seize control of Iraq's oil.

Needless to say, these documents were withheld from the much-ballyhooed Chilcot Inquiry into the origins of the war. That toothless investigation served chiefly as a stage for bloodstained wretches -- like Blair himself -- to regurgitate their old self-justifying deceits; the oil angle received scant mention. Likewise, the oil companies themselves have always denied, vociferously, that they had ever talked with government ministers about grabbing Iraqi oil.

It would superfluous to point out that they were all lying. As the Independent reports:

The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western governments at the time ...

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq's enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair's military commitment to US plans for regime change.

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis."

...The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq "post regime change". Its minutes state: "Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity."

After another meeting, this one in October 2002, the Foreign Office's Middle East director at the time, Edward Chaplin, noted: "Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future... We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq."

Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had "no strategic interest" in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was "more important than anything we've seen for a long time". ... BP told the Government it was willing to take "big risks" to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.

Was the game worth the candle? Or rather, were the needless deaths of a million people slaughtered in the war and the bloody strife it spawned worth it? Well, for the oil companies, it certainly has been:

The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq's reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.

Last week, Iraq raised its oil output to the highest level for almost decade, 2.7 million barrels a day – seen as especially important at the moment given the regional volatility and loss of Libyan output. Many opponents of the war suspected that one of Washington's main ambitions in invading Iraq was to secure a cheap and plentiful source of oil.

Come on: $658 million in pure gravy, year after year? What oil company wouldn't kill a million innocent people for that kind of juice? You owe it to your shareholders! And a great big reservoir of oil on tap to draw on while you are off upsetting apple carts (and oil rigs) in other parts of the region? What self-respecting Great Gamester could pass that up?

Of course, the invasion and rape of Iraq was not only about oil. It was also about war profiteering. And "projecting dominance" over world affairs. And the deliberate militarization of American society to facilitate authoritarian rule at home and endless war abroad. And the psychosexual anxieties of witless, pampered elites who crave a specious identification with "National Greatness" (expressed through vast arrays of military hardware employed to murderous effect against largely defenseless human beings) in order to fill the holes in their withered little souls.

But oil was always a prime factor in this poisonous mix. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the same kind of "conversations" revealed in the Independent are going on right now, hugger-mugger, between politically connected oil companies and the great statesmen of the West as they seek "a fair slice of the action" in Libya's oil fields.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

One Wedding And Unlimited Funerals
By Cindy Sheehan

I guess I must be a glutton for punishment because I just snapped off CiaNN in frustration and anger for about the 5000th time. Yesterday, I was treated to Candy (“I never met a warmonger I didn’t love”) Crowley fairly gushing with bloodlust over her three warmonger, kill Qaddafi, bomb the shit out of the Libyan people, guests—Republican Senators: Lindsey Graham (R-Closet); John McCain (R-Mordor) and Joseph Lieberman (R-Tel Aviv {okay, I know that Lieberman is technically an "I," but he out Republicans Ronald Reagan in every instance}). (Wow, even I got lost in that last round of parenthetical statements.)

Anyway—if one has an insatiable thirst for institutional violence on a massive and very extravagant scale—like Miss Crowley—then whom else would you have on your program to talk about the US/British/NATO war crimes in Libya? Certainly not Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney or Dennis Kucinich? Heck no, if one of us were interviewed on CiaNN, we may actually tell the truth about what’s really happening in Libya and the tiny cat’s paw of doubt may begin to creep into the minds of the average consumer of CiaNN’s “All war, All the time,” news-o-tainment.

Today, the airwaves are all atwitter about the impending ROYAL WEDDING! The CiaNN mouthpiece for everything establishment—(sorry it wasn’t Candy, but I don’t know what her name is, but does it really matter, anyway?)—was interviewing some British talking-twit who could hardly contain his spittle of excitement as he fairly swooned over the impending nuptials of William and Kate (plus 8?) and opined to the CiaNNer that, even though the “subjects” are facing “harsh austerity measures,” EVERYONE in Great Britain is salivating over the prospect of a ROYAL SPECTACLE.

Really? I remember a few months ago, Will’s dad, the sad-sack Charles, and his wife, the inconceivable, Camilla, left a Robber Class to-do on Regent (irony?) St in London, and their limo was pounced upon, rocked and stoned by a group of students protesting the steep increase in school fees after they recognized the Royal Scandals. The film of this incident shows, not a frightened Chucky and Cammie, but a highly insulted and shocked (“We are not amused”) royal couple!

England, along with Greece and France, has been ground-zero for the increasingly militant protests against the savage global austerity measures being put in place to protect the vast fortunes of people like Great Britain’s Royal Family—(give me a break—appropriate their assets and put them in public housing in Liverpool—the only thing giving them “special” status is the accident of their inbred births) while putting the rest of us into increasing income insecurity.

I am sure there are some people in Great Britain who want to see a Royal Spectacle—even those in the class that suffers directly because of the Royal Scandals—I know this because a large percentage of the population here in the US think that the Robber Class deserves their own special obscene perks. Weddings, like Princess Chelsea’s, that cost in the millions instead of the hundreds, in Vegas, like ours, are celebrated, not raided. Princess Chelsea held a $1500 a plate reception and people who could pay three months rent with one plate of Clinton swill defended this Robber Class excess!

Then there are the King and Queen of America who don’t find anything amiss with taking expensive vacations with their Subjects footing huge portions of the bill, while unemployment is at Depression-era levels, and when the Subjects, who are lucky enough to have jobs, can’t afford even a “staycation.” When the Obamas took their first $50,000/week vacation in 2009 on Martha’s Vineyard, I was incensed and expressed it (as is my custom). One male Imperial Subject asked me, “Cindy, where do you expect him to stay? A Motel 6 in Orlando, Florida?” My answer was, “Hell yeah, if it’s good enough for us, it’s good enough for them.”

Besides the fact that I will get sick to the point of vomiting over the Royal Scandals’ new Royal Spectacle this week, Great Britain and the USA are involved in three major shooting wars which are killing many people (and, ironically, being famous for dropping Hellfire missiles on Arab wedding parties) in parts of the world that are resisting being made Subjects to the collaboration of the Robber Class of these two countries.

The only coverage we will see on US Lamestream Media about Robber Class violence is existentially supportive—and I do mean “existentially,” because the Robber Class Media has every intention of lining its own pockets with the booty that war brings!

The only solution to the ills that plague us from this global bourgeoisie is a peasant’s (working-class) revolution—and the only way we will ever see one of those is if we stop being co-dependant with the very people who welcome see our extinction after our usefulness to them is used up.

If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is do a little research into worldwide attacks against education AND the elderly.

Closer to home, King Bush “misunderestimated” his “mandate” to privatize Social Security, so the US branch of the Global Robber Class had to install a more sympathetic puppet who has a “free pass” from “liberals” who think any criticism of the new King is “racist.” This meme comes mostly because of the fraudulent, yet convenient, Tea Party Society.

King Obama is getting away with far more than John McCain (R-Mordor) ever could have.

Here in my state, California, a group of us are planning to March On and Occupy Sacramento protesting the savage austerity measures being placed on our state’s most “vulnerable” beginning on Worker’s Day, May 1st.

More information can be found at Strike California!
© 2011 Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Specialist Casey A. Sheehan, who was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004. Since then, she has been an activist for peace and human rights. She has published five books, has her own Internet radio show, Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. You can learn more about Cindy at Peace of the Action.

Let’s Take A Hike
By Paul Krigman

When I listen to current discussions of the federal budget, the message I hear sounds like this: We’re in crisis! We must take drastic action immediately! And we must keep taxes low, if not actually cut them further!

You have to wonder: If things are that serious, shouldn’t we be raising taxes, not cutting them?

My description of the budget debate is in no way an exaggeration. Consider the Ryan budget proposal, which all the Very Serious People assured us was courageous and important. That proposal begins by warning that “a major debt crisis is inevitable” unless we confront the deficit. It then calls, not for tax increases, but for tax cuts, with taxes on the wealthy falling to their lowest level since 1931.

And because of those large tax cuts, the only way the Ryan proposal can even claim to reduce the deficit is through savage cuts in spending, mainly falling on the poor and vulnerable. (A realistic assessment suggests that the proposal would actually increase the deficit.)

President Obama’s proposal is a lot better. At least it calls for raising taxes on high incomes back to Clinton-era levels. But it preserves the rest of the Bush tax cuts — cuts that were originally sold as a way to dispose of a large budget surplus. And, as a result, it still relies heavily on spending cuts, even as it falls short of actually balancing the budget.

So why isn’t someone offering a proposal reflecting the reality that the Bush tax cuts were a huge mistake, and suggesting that increased revenue play a major role in deficit reduction? Actually, someone is — and I’ll get to that in a moment. First, though, let’s talk about the current state of American taxes.

From the tone of much budget discussion, you might think that we were groaning under crushing, unprecedented levels of taxation. The reality is that effective federal tax rates at every level of income have fallen significantly over the past 30 years, especially at the top. And, over all, U.S. taxes are much lower as a percentage of national income than taxes in most other wealthy nations.

The point is that we aren’t that heavily taxed, either by historical standards or in comparison with other nations. So if you’re truly horrified by the budget deficit, why not propose tax increases as part of the solution?

Wait, there’s more. The core of the Ryan proposal is a plan to privatize and defund Medicare. Yet this would do nothing to reduce the deficit over the next 10 years, which is why all the near-term deficit reduction comes from brutal reductions in aid to the needy and unspecified cuts in discretionary spending. Tax increases, by contrast, can be fast-acting remedies for red ink.

And that’s why the only major budget proposal out there offering a plausible path to balancing the budget is the one that includes significant tax increases: the “People’s Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which — unlike the Ryan plan, which was just right-wing orthodoxy with an added dose of magical thinking — is genuinely courageous because it calls for shared sacrifice.

True, it increases revenue partly by imposing substantially higher taxes on the wealthy, which is popular everywhere except inside the Beltway. But it also calls for a rise in the Social Security cap, significantly raising taxes on around 6 percent of workers. And, by rescinding many of the Bush tax cuts, not just those affecting top incomes, it would modestly raise taxes even on middle-income families.

All of this, combined with spending cuts mostly focused on defense, is projected to yield a balanced budget by 2021. And the proposal achieves this without dismantling the legacy of the New Deal, which gave us Social Security, and the Great Society, which gave us Medicare and Medicaid.

But if the progressive proposal has all these virtues, why isn’t it getting anywhere near as much attention as the much less serious Ryan proposal? It’s true that it has no chance of becoming law anytime soon. But that’s equally true of the Ryan proposal.

The answer, I’m sorry to say, is the insincerity of many if not most self-proclaimed deficit hawks. To the extent that they care about the deficit at all, it takes second place to their desire to do precisely what the People’s Budget avoids doing, namely, tear up our current social contract, turning the clock back 80 years under the guise of necessity. They don’t want to be told that such a radical turn to the right is not, in fact, necessary.

But, it isn’t, as the progressive budget proposal shows. We do need to bring the deficit down, although we aren’t facing an immediate crisis. How we go about stemming the tide of red ink is, however, a choice — and by making tax increases part of the solution, we can avoid savaging the poor and undermining the security of the middle class.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"It doesn't matter who we are underneath. It is what we do that defines us."
~~~ Batman

The Corporate State Wins Again
By Chris Hedges

When did our democracy die? When did it irrevocably transform itself into a lifeless farce and absurd political theater? When did the press, labor, universities and the Democratic Party—which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible—wither and atrophy? When did reform through electoral politics become a form of magical thinking? When did the dead hand of the corporate state become unassailable?

The body politic was mortally wounded during the long, slow strangulation of ideas and priorities during the Red Scare and the Cold War. Its bastard child, the war on terror, inherited the iconography and language of permanent war and fear. The battle against internal and external enemies became the excuse to funnel trillions in taxpayer funds and government resources to the war industry, curtail civil liberties and abandon social welfare. Skeptics, critics and dissenters were ridiculed and ignored. The FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA enforced ideological conformity. Debate over the expansion of empire became taboo. Secrecy, the anointing of specialized elites to run our affairs and the steady intrusion of the state into the private lives of citizens conditioned us to totalitarian practices. Sheldon Wolin points out in “Democracy Incorporated” that this configuration of corporate power, which he calls “inverted totalitarianism,” is not like “Mein Kampf” or “The Communist Manifesto,” the result of a premeditated plot. It grew, Wolin writes, from “a set of effects produced by actions or practices undertaken in ignorance of their lasting consequences.”

Corporate capitalism—because it was trumpeted throughout the Cold War as a bulwark against communism—expanded with fewer and fewer government regulations and legal impediments. Capitalism was seen as an unalloyed good. It was not required to be socially responsible. Any impediment to its growth, whether in the form of trust-busting, union activity or regulation, was condemned as a step toward socialism and capitulation. Every corporation is a despotic fiefdom, a mini-dictatorship. And by the end Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs had grafted their totalitarian structures onto the state.

The Cold War also bequeathed to us the species of the neoliberal. The neoliberal enthusiastically embraces “national security” as the highest good. The neoliberal—composed of the gullible and cynical careerists—parrots back the mantra of endless war and corporate capitalism as an inevitable form of human progress. Globalization, the neoliberal assures us, is the route to a worldwide utopia. Empire and war are vehicles for lofty human values. Greg Mortenson, the disgraced author of “Three Cups of Tea,” tapped into this formula. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq or Afghanistan are ignored or dismissed as the cost of progress. We are bringing democracy to Iraq, liberating and educating the women of Afghanistan, defying the evil clerics in Iran, ridding the world of terrorists and protecting Israel. Those who oppose us do not have legitimate grievances. They need to be educated. It is a fantasy. But to name our own evil is to be banished.

We continue to talk about personalities—Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama—although the heads of state or elected officials in Congress have become largely irrelevant. Lobbyists write the bills. Lobbyists get them passed. Lobbyists make sure you get the money to be elected. And lobbyists employ you when you get out of office. Those who hold actual power are the tiny elite who manage the corporations. Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, in their book “Winner-Take-All Politics,” point out that the share of national income of the top 0.1 percent of Americans since 1974 has grown from 2.7 to 12.3 percent. One in six American workers may be without a job. Some 40 million Americans may live in poverty, with tens of millions more living in a category called “near poverty.” Six million people may be forced from their homes because of foreclosures and bank repossessions. But while the masses suffer, Goldman Sachs, one of the financial firms most responsible for the evaporation of $17 trillion in wages, savings and wealth of small investors and shareholders, is giddily handing out $17.5 billion in compensation to its managers, including $12.6 million to its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.

The massive redistribution of wealth, as Hacker and Pierson write, happened because lawmakers and public officials were, in essence, hired to permit it to happen. It was not a conspiracy. The process was transparent. It did not require the formation of a new political party or movement. It was the result of inertia by our political and intellectual class, which in the face of expanding corporate power found it personally profitable to facilitate it or look the other way. The armies of lobbyists, who write the legislation, bankroll political campaigns and disseminate propaganda, have been able to short-circuit the electorate. Hacker and Pierson pinpoint the administration of Jimmy Carter as the start of our descent, but I think it began long before with Woodrow Wilson, the ideology of permanent war and the capacity by public relations to manufacture consent. Empires die over such long stretches of time that the exact moment when terminal decline becomes irreversible is probably impossible to document. That we are at the end, however, is beyond dispute.

The rhetoric of the Democratic Party and the neoliberals sustains the illusion of participatory democracy. The Democrats and their liberal apologists offer minor palliatives and a feel-your-pain language to mask the cruelty and goals of the corporate state. The reconfiguration of American society into a form of neofeudalism will be cemented into place whether it is delivered by Democrats, who are pushing us there at 60 miles an hour, or Republicans, who are barreling toward it at 100 miles an hour. Wolin writes, “By fostering an illusion among the powerless classes” that it can make their interests a priority, the Democratic Party “pacifies and thereby defines the style of an opposition party in an inverted totalitarian system.” The Democrats are always able to offer up a least-worst alternative while, in fact, doing little or nothing to thwart the march toward corporate collectivism.

The systems of information, owned or dominated by corporations, keep the public entranced with celebrity meltdowns, gossip, trivia and entertainment. There are no national news or intellectual forums for genuine political discussion and debate. The talking heads on Fox or MSNBC or CNN spin and riff on the same inane statements by Sarah Palin or Donald Trump. They give us lavish updates on the foibles of a Mel Gibson or Charlie Sheen. And they provide venues for the powerful to speak directly to the masses. It is burlesque.

It is not that the public does not want a good health care system, programs that provide employment, quality public education or an end to Wall Street’s looting of the U.S. Treasury. Most polls suggest Americans do. But it has become impossible for most citizens to find out what is happening in the centers of power. Television news celebrities dutifully present two opposing sides to every issue, although each side is usually lying. The viewer can believe whatever he or she wants to believe. Nothing is actually elucidated or explained. The sound bites by Republicans or Democrats are accepted at face value. And once the television lights are turned off, the politicians go back to the business of serving business.

We live in a fragmented society. We are ignorant of what is being done to us. We are diverted by the absurd and political theater. We are afraid of terrorism, of losing our job and of carrying out acts of dissent. We are politically demobilized and paralyzed. We do not question the state religion of patriotic virtue, the war on terror or the military and security state. We are herded like sheep through airports by Homeland Security and, once we get through the metal detectors and body scanners, spontaneously applaud our men and women in uniform. As we become more insecure and afraid, we become more anxious. We are driven by fiercer and fiercer competition. We yearn for stability and protection. This is the genius of all systems of totalitarianism. The citizen’s highest hope finally becomes to be secure and left alone.

Human history, rather than a chronicle of freedom and democracy, is characterized by ruthless domination. Our elites have done what all elites do. They have found sophisticated mechanisms to thwart popular aspirations, disenfranchise the working and increasingly the middle class, keep us passive and make us serve their interests. The brief democratic opening in our society in the early 20th century, made possible by radical movements, unions and a vigorous press, has again been shut tight. We were mesmerized by political charades, cheap consumerism and virtual hallucinations as we were ruthlessly stripped of power.

The game is over. We lost. The corporate state will continue its inexorable advance until two-thirds of the nation is locked into a desperate, permanent underclass. Most Americans will struggle to make a living while the Blankfeins and our political elites wallow in the decadence and greed of the Forbidden City and Versailles. These elites do not have a vision. They know only one word—more. They will continue to exploit the nation, the global economy and the ecosystem. And they will use their money to hide in gated compounds when it all implodes. Do not expect them to take care of us when it starts to unravel. We will have to take care of ourselves. We will have to create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves. It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and culture values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global, corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one.
(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.”

Trumps Beats All

By David Michael Green

Every once in a while you get a development that nicely symbolizes the present state of American culture (or, perhaps, “culture”).

Like Madonna, for example.

Or Jersey Shore.

Presently, it’s the rise of Donald Trump, who has lately been sitting at the top of polls conducted among Republican voters as to their presidential choice for 2012.

It’s worth remembering – as a rather not inconsequential side note – that this is a person who could be the next president of the United States. Clear thinking people scoff when I say that, as they did when I used to argue that Sarah Palin could be the next president. But in so doing, they forget three rather significant points quite to the contrary.

First, lots of Americans not only don’t think the way progressives do, they don’t think at all. Instead, they fear. Emotion – and especially fear – is their salient approach to politics.

Second, the American presidential selection process occurs in two distinct stages, and this routine creates outcomes that would not be possible under other scenarios. In the first stage, Republican voters – and only Republican voters – will select their nominee. Remember, these are people for whom both John McCain and Mitt Romney are considered too liberal. In the second stage voters (now the entire electorate) will have two – and only two – viable choices to pick from: whomever the Republicans nominate, and an incumbent president likely at that point to have haplessly presided over four years of economic disaster. However much swing independent voters might find the Republican nominee to be noxious or embarrassing, a lot of them will see Oval Office turnover of any kind as a chance worth taking given the alternative four more years of ineffectiveness and economic stasis. Kinda like... uh, well, the last election! Does the slogan “Change you can believe in” sound at all familiar?

Finally, to anyone who says “It can’t happen here,” I have two simple one-word responses: “Reagan” and “Bush.” That George W. Bush was a buffoonish character straight from slapstick central casting is incontrovertible, though the degree to which he has been left off the hook for the crime of his presidency is both nauseating and frightening. It is also as predictable as sunrise that the Ann Coulters of this world will, sufficient time having passed, seek to rehabilitate his image, just as she literally tried to do a few years ago for Joe McCarthy (yes, that Joe McCarthy, and no, I’m not kidding).

And just as has been done for decades now by a whole cottage industry on the right, which has turned another president who by conventional standards was mediocre, and by honest standards would be considered fully treasonous, into some great deity in the consciousness of the American public. No room on Rushmore? No worries, why not give Reagan his own entire mountain? Indeed, why not a whole state? Reaganland sounds so much better than South Dakota, doesn’t it? In any case, whatever Reagan has become today, people forget what a total joke he was before he won the presidency (under political and economic conditions very much like the present). I can remember, during the 1970s, when comedians could literally get a laugh just by saying the words “President Reagan”. I’m not kidding. The concept was that ludicrous.

Who is the joke on now? And, more importantly, who would be foolish enough to insist that Donald Trump or Sarah Palin – or anyone whom Republican voters are gaga enough to choose as their standard-bearer, and who would be the only viable alternative available to a nation full of really dissatisfied voters – couldn’t be president? Definitely not me.

But, more importantly, what does this say about America in the 21st century (assuming that ‘contemporary America’ isn’t too oxymoronic a notion on its very face)?

I have often noted that it isn’t like the disconnect these days between the vast majority of Americans and the elites of the political right is simply a matter of two sets of honest-to-goodness patriots who just happen to have rather different ideas about how to make America a better place. That is an extremely naive view, in its most generous form, and I am positively slayed when I hear the president articulate it, because I sometimes think he actually believes what he’s saying. In reality, the difference between these two camps is the difference between victim and criminal. It is an entirely false premise upon which to base any analysis of American politics to believe that the plutocrats and their Republican and Democratic marionettes have any interest whatsoever in the bettering of the country and its citizens. Indeed, their interests are quite to the contrary. Of course, they cannot market themselves that way, so instead do so by pretending to be hyper-patriots, and marching out a series of bogus enemies of the state du jour, whether those are Saddam or Castro or homosexuals or immigrants. Anything to keep the hoi polloi distracted from the fingers rummaging around in their pockets.

Similarly, the disconnect between the likes of Donald Trump and, say, a Mutt Romney or a Mike Huckabee represents a new sort of low for a large segment of the American body politic that had already been very much feeding off the bottom of the ocean floor. Think about who Trump is and what an astonishing commentary on that part of the country – and on the direction the rest of us may inevitably wind up taking – his popularity represents. Trump is a circus act, a blustering blowhard who regularly makes a fool of himself in that most disheartening of venues, ‘reality’ TV, a man whose hair is the perfect metaphor for his overstuffed suitcase chock full of transparent insecurities masked by faux arrogance, an overt philanderer, a serial divorcee, a bailed-out, bankrupt, gambling mogul, a likely moderate on social issues such as gay rights, an advocate for universal health care, a contributor to the campaigns of Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, a cryptic Catholic, and a New Yorker to boot. What more could there be for Billy Bob Bumpkin from the hollows of Arkansas to not like in the person of Donald Trump?

And yet he leads in the polls. How can that be? Of course, Trump offers fervent and requisite prayers to the tax cutting gods, just like any other regressive vying for the Republican nomination. And he certainly won’t be an advocate for progressive social or environmental values (whatever his actual positions on abortion or gay rights – if he has any – might be). And he’s shown himself every bit as capable of chauvinistic American jingoism as any John “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” McCain or George W. “Bring it on” Bush.

But so what? They all do the same. What’s the attraction to Trump over the other goobers in the running who do all that and more, plus have been active in Republican politics all their adult lives, which Trump has not?

The answer to that question is as obvious as it is grim. The Donald is winning the hearts of the Troglodyte set because he’s turned Obama’s supposed foreign birth into his central campaign issue.

From his perspective, of course, this is the height of cynicism. Trump no more cares about minor provisions of the Constitution than he does about fighting poverty. But what does it say about the tens of millions of Americans who like what they’re hearing from this guy, and what does it say about this country that such a segment of our society is so powerful, and probably about to get a lot more so?

It says that this is an empire in steep decline. It says that some of us – particularly those who are older, whiter and maler than the general population – liked it better the way things used to be. And it says that that group is willing to cling on to any seeming handrail they can grasp – even those that look suspiciously like the drowning bodies of other people – as the earth trembles below their feet. These are the same people for whom racism and sexism have traditionally served a similar function, that of distraction, that of dividing and conquering a potentially angry underclass. These are the folks for whom providing the perverse psychological satisfaction of a false sense of social superiority is more than adequate to facilitate their own looting.

Of course, the great irony here is that they remain among the most privileged of Americans, yet they are by far and away the most likely to bitch about their condition. Nobody is better off as a group than older white males, and nobody foams at the mouth more about how screwed up the country is. Nobody gets more assistance from government programs than those who receive Social Security and Medicare benefits, and nobody races faster to the front of the barricades to rant about the evils of socialism. Nobody receives more in transfers of wealth than deeply red states like Alaska and those of the Bible Belt, and nobody complains more about having government on their backs. Enough, already. Y’know, as somebody who pays for that evil and oppressive government, I’d be quite happy to make an exception to my rigid socialist tendencies and volunteer to remove my tax dollars from off of their backs (not to mention their very distended fronts), and stick that money back into my pocket. Hey, how about this for a new motto?: “From those according to their ability, to those according to their needs, skip those according to their ingratitude.”

The rise of Trump is surely the latest pointed indicator of the fall of Western civilization, or at least the stuff on this side of the Atlantic. Maybe I was just asleep at the switch, but the America of my misspent youth – which was a very wild and violent place in many ways, ostensibly far more so than now – seems so tame compared to the politics of our era. And so much more hopeful. We were nearly as stupid then, but there seemed much more reason to believe things could get better.

People are dumber now, certainly about politics. That’s the reason why the notion of “President Reagan” was a laugh-out-loud joke in 1975 but a source of reverence in 2005. That’s why George W. Bush is regarded as a basically benign-but-not-so-brilliant president, as opposed to a walking crime against humanity. That’s why people continue to vote for politicians who will assist them in their own looting, and who have successfully carried out the greatest transfer of wealth in all of human history, while pretending to serve the public interest instead. And that’s the reason why a Donald Trump kind of buffoon could actually lead in the polls for the presidential nomination of one of the country’s two major parties.

It isn’t so much a core civics education that is missing, though reading poll data on the public’s comprehension of the most basic facts regarding their supposedly revered system of governance will positively singe your eyeballs. (What, senators have six-year terms? No! The Bill of Rights applies to us? Get outta here!) It’s more of a kind of street smarts that’s missing. More of a sense that people don’t any longer have the ability to recognize their enemies – including, all too often, themselves.

To choose just the most obvious example, we live in a world in which unregulated private sector actors, greedily pursuing their boundlessly rapacious instincts, have crashed an entire global economy around our – not their – heads, then turned to governments in order to bail them out. And even though the whole notion of the capitalist system they so vehemently espouse is rooted in the idea of risk, they in fact came to believe retrospectively that they should take none, receiving in many cases full coverage for their obligations from the governments they so often and so vociferously deride, when their bets went south. Keep that in mind as I ask you to ponder when was the last time your heard anyone in American politics say, “Businesses should be run more like the government!”? Wouldn’t that make a whole lot of sense, given the very recent history just chronicled? I mean who screwed up royally and who didn’t? Who got bailed out and who did the bailing?

Of course that would make sense. Instead, however, you’d be more likely to locate Dick Cheney’s pulse before you’ll ever hear anyone say that. In fact, you will be constantly barraged with politicians saying just the opposite, talking about how government should be run just like businesses are. Really? Does that mean that government should take wild risks and let the public pay the bill when those risks come a cropper? Does that mean that government should pay elites at the top of the system five hundred times what the average federal worker makes? Does that mean that America should export the jobs of letter carriers and Army corporals to the nice folks sitting in Bangalore call centers? Does that mean that we should give to Social Security and education and the US military all the gifts that bringing a business ethos to medicine has bequeathed us these last three decades?

That worked out really well, didn’t it? Who wants to visit the family doctor when you’re sick, if you can now instead visit a corporation? A health maintenance organization. That is, in reality, a revenue extraction organization. A feat which is often performed precisely by not maintaining people’s health. Oh, I get it now! This is like the old Twilight Zone episode where the aliens are continually consulting their handbook entitled “To Serve Man,” which turns out to be a cookbook. Health maintenance organization means maintaining the health of the organization!

In any sane world, these ideas would be laughed off the theater stage at the conceptual level. Moreover, given the real world pain they have inflicted on the audience just in the last three years alone, a rather darker response than laughter might be expected on the basis of people’s very tangible, very proximate, empirical experience. But not in America, of course. We are going all in. More of the same. “Waiter, another round for the house, please!” Good money after bad. Trump casinos.

Truly, we are in a very bad way. But is it a devastated economy which has raised the ire of the angry regressive electorate? Is it the fear of environmental devastation caused by climate change which is animating the tea party set? Does the prospect of America’s third concurrent and endless Middle Eastern war in Libya (or is fourth, counting Pakistan? or fifth, counting Yemen?) have them so agitated that they’re screaming at members of Congress during constituent town-hall meetings?

No, no and no. Truth be told, what’s really got them upset is that things are moving a bit too fast for them, which is to say that they are moving at all. Now there is a black man in the white house. And even though this nice negro is pleasant enough, and never speaks about race, and is every bit as fully corporate-owned as his predecessor, well, that just can’t be right.

So, prolly he’s not really American. Prolly he’s the product of some 1950s Indonesian plot to take over America by infiltrating the country with sleeper presidential candidates. You know, The Jakartan Candidate. Like that. And weren’t those Indonesians (where the hell is that, by the way?) especially clever, too? Using an underprivileged black kid from Hawaii as their secret, subversive plant, somebody especially well positioned to win the presidency fifty years later.

No, this is not right. This must be stopped. We have to take our country back.

Trump 2012.
(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 Direktor Gellatly,

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 decree banning autistic children from competeing in sports, 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 "Canadian 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 Herr Gellately, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

A Responsible Republican Rejects Paul Ryan's Fiscal Folly
By John Nichols

Susan Collins slipped the knife in gracefully.

The Republican senator from Maine said that it took "courage" for House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to advance what he would have Americans believe is a deficit reduction proposal.

But, she explained Friday, "I don't happen to support Congressman Ryan's plan..."

Collins' announcement, made in an interview with a Maine television station, signals a break by a key Senate Republican with the Ryan bill, which received lockstep GOP support in the House. And Collins may not be the only senator from her side of the aisle to break ranks.

Indeed, while Collins is considered to be something of a moderate, honest conservatives should have just as much trouble with the fiscal folly that Ryan proposes.

No one who is serious about reducing deficits, responsible budgeting or the maintenance of a functional society could back Ryan's scheme -- a bait-and-switch scheme that does not even propose to balance the federal budget until 2040.

Ryan, a Washington careerist whose devotion to his party's most generous campaign contributors has always superceded any interest in fiscal responsibility (remember the leadership role he played in rounded up the Republican votes that were needed to pass the 2008 Wall Street bailout), has used the current budget debate to advance initiatives that have long been the highest priorities of the speculators: privatization of Social Security and the tranformation of Medicare and Medicaid into voucher programs.

Collins is a savvy senator who represents a state where a substantial portion of the population -- not just the elderly but many families in difficult circumstances -- rely on the Medicare and Medicaid programs Ryan seeks to gut.

She may peddle some platitudes about how: "At least Ryan had the courage to come out with a detailed plan."

But she is opposing Ryan's plan, and appropriately so if she wants to position herself as a defender of programs that are exceptionally popular in her state. There is not much doubt among reasonable observers that President Obama is right when he says that the Ryan budget plan (as passed by the Republican-controlled House) would "end Medicare as we know it and make cuts to Medicaid that would leave millions … without the care they need."

While Ryan may be determined to undermine Medicare and Medicaid -- with an eye toward clearing the way for private-sector profiteering -- Collins refers to the entitlements as "critical social programs." And she has a long record of recognizing that doing damage to them is morally irresponsible, fiscally unsound and politically dangerous.

So Collins will oppose Ryan's fiscal folly. And the Senate opposition to the most crooked scheme since Teapot Dome will be bipartisan in scope and character.
(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.

BP's Secret Deepwater Blowout
By Greg Palast

Only 17 months before BP's Deepwater Horizon rig suffered a deadly blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP deepwater oil platform also blew out.

You've heard and seen much about the Gulf disaster that killed 11 BP workers. If you have not heard about the earlier blowout, it's because BP has kept the full story under wraps. Nor did BP inform Congress or US safety regulators, and BP, along with its oil industry partners, have preferred to keep it that way.

The earlier blowout occurred in September 2008 on BP's Central Azeri platform in the Caspian Sea.

As one memo marked "secret" puts it, "Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition." The Caspian oil platform was a spark away from exploding, but luck was with the 211 rig workers.

It was eerily similar to the Gulf catastrophe as it involved BP's controversial "quick set" drilling cement.

The question we have to ask: If BP had laid out the true and full facts to Congress and regulators about the earlier blowout, would those 11 Gulf workers be alive today - and the Gulf Coast spared oil-spill poisons?

The bigger question is, why is there no clear law to require disclosure? If you bump into another car on the Los Angeles freeway, you have to report it. But there seems no clear requirement on corporations to report a disaster in which knowledge of it could save lives.

Five months prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, BP's Chief of Exploration in the Gulf, David Rainey, testified before Congress against increased safety regulation of its deepwater drilling operation. Despite the company's knowledge of the Caspian blowout a year earlier, the oil company's man told the Senate Energy Committee that BP's methods are, "both safe and protective of the environment."

Really? BP's quick-dry cement saves money, but other drillers find it too risky in deepwater. It was a key factor in the Caspian blowout. Would US regulators or Congress have permitted BP to continue to use this cement had they known? Would they have investigated before issuing permits to drill?

This is not about BP the industry Bad Boy. This is about a system that condones silence, the withholding of life-and-death information.

Even BP's oil company partners, including Chevron and Exxon, were kept in the dark. It is only through WikiLeaks that my own investigations team was able to confirm insider tips I had received about the Caspian blowout. In that same confidential memo mentioned earlier, the US Embassy in Azerbaijan complained, "At least some of BP's [Caspian] partners are similarly upset with BP's performance in this episode, as they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this event even to its [Caspian] partners."

In defense of its behavior, BP told me it did in fact report the "gas release" to the regulators of Azerbaijan. That's small comfort. This former Soviet republic is a police state dictatorship propped up by the BP group's oil royalties. A public investigation was out of the question.

In December, I traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, to investigate BP and the blowout for British television. I was arrested, though, as a foreign reporter, quickly released. But my eye witnesses got the message and all were too afraid tell their stories on camera.

BP has, in fact, never admitted a blowout occurred, though when confronted by my network, did not deny it. At the time, BP told curious press that the workers had merely been evacuated as a "precaution" due to gas bubbles "in the area of" the drilling platform, implying a benign natural gas leak from a crack in the sea floor, not a life-threatening system failure.

In its 2009 report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), BP inched closer to the full truth. Though not mentioning "blowout" or "cement," the company placed the leak "under" the platform.

This points to a cruel irony: the SEC requires full disclosure of events that might cause harm to the performance of BP's financial securities. But reporting on events that might harm humans? That's not so clear.

However, the solution is clear as could be. International corporations should be required to disclose events that threaten people and the environment, not just the price of their stock.

As radiation wafts across the Pacific from Japan, it is clear that threats to health and safety do not respect national borders. What happens in Fukushima or Baku affects lives and property in the USA.

"Regulation" has become a dirty word in US politics. Corporations have convinced the public to fear little bureaucrats with thick rulebooks. But let us remember why government began to regulate these creatures. As Andrew Jackson said, "Corporations have neither bodies to kick nor souls to damn."

Kicking and damning have no effect, but rules do. And after all, when international regulation protects profits, as in the case of patents and copyrights, corporate America is all for it.

Our regulators of resource industries must impose an affirmative requirement to tell all, especially when people, not just song lyrics or stock offerings, are in mortal danger.
(c) 2011 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at.

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Trump Dogged By Rumors His Hair Is Not From U.S.
So-called ‘Balders’ Movement Gathers Steam
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK – A threat to the fledgling presidential campaign of Donald Trump emerged today, as a group of activists charged that Mr. Trump is not eligible to hold the nation’s highest office because his hair does not originate from the U.S.

The group, who call themselves “Balders,” claim that the hair-like substance that crowns Mr. Trump’s head is from a foreign country, which would mean that the candidate is less than one hundred percent American.¯P> “Time and time again, Donald Trump has refused to produce a certificate of authenticity for his hair,” said Leeann Selwyn, a leading Balder. “This is tantamount to a comb-over of the truth.”

But if in fact Mr. Trump’s distinctive mane turns out to be of foreign origin, such a revelation need not be fatal to his presidential hopes, says Professor Davis Logsdon, who has studied the history of presidential hair at the University of Minnesota.

“Remember, several of our greatest early presidents, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, had hair that originated elsewhere,” Mr. Logsdon says. “The only thing that could kill Trump politically is if his hair turns out to be from France.”

At a GOP event in Iowa, Mr. Trump made no reference to the Balders controversy, and instead sounded an upbeat theme: “If I am given the chance to do the same magic I did for NBC, America will be the number four country in the world.”

In a piece of good news for Mr. Trump, a new poll showed a majority of likely voters agreeing with the statement, “Donald Trump being sworn in as President would be a great last scene in a Planet of the Apes remake.”
(c) 2011 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 17 (c) 04/29/2011

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