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In This Edition

Anthony DiMaggio warns of, "Obama's Political Suicide."

Uri Avnery with a must read on, "Instilled Memory."

David Sirota explores, "If Obama Cuts Social Security...."

David Swanson hears, "Congresspeak."

Jim Hightower finds, "Debt Ceiling Hypocrisy."

Helen Thomas wonders if we're, "Ending The Wars?"

James Donahue concludes, "Supreme Gang Of Five Making A Mockery Of U.S. Law."

Medea Benjamin reports, "By Torpedoing The Gaza Flotilla, Israel Sunk Its Own Ship."

Ralph Nader considers, "Corporate Tax Escapees And You."

Ray McGovern From Athens with, "Gaza And A Liturgy For Justice."

Paul Krugman explains, "No, We Can't? Or Won't?"

Chris Hedges with a cauntionary tale, "Carlos Montes And The Security State."

David Michael Green returns with another must read, "Stupid Republicans, Stupid Democrats."

Arizona Sin-ator Jon Kyl wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols says, "Guthrie's 'Land' Is Madison."

Glenn Greenwald returns with, "The Great Generational Threat."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst foresees the need for, "Killer Carnivorous Snails From France" but first, Uncle Ernie watches as Obama and Con-gress are, "Grabbing The Third Rail."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Ed Stein, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Toon Doo.Com, , Dees Ilustration.Com, Kirk Anderson, Jim Morin, Clay Bennett, Patriot Boy, Big Fur Hat, 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."

Grabbing The Third Rail
By Ernest Stewart

"Social Security is the third rail of American politics. Touch it, you're dead." ~~~ Kirk O'Donnell

"This report builds on our prior work by summarizing information that has since been made public about the role played by US government officials most responsible for setting interrogation and detention policies following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and analyzes them under US and international law. Based on this evidence, Human Rights Watch believes there is sufficient basis for the US government to order a broad criminal investigation into alleged crimes committed in connection with the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, the CIA secret detention program, and the rendition of detainees to torture. Such an investigation would necessarily focus on alleged criminal conduct by the following four senior officials—former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and CIA Director George Tenet." ~~~ Human Rights Watch

"What this means is a collapse of our economic system due to the cascading effect of stupidity. The people that get SS checks also feed the economy. To believe that 20 billion dollars worth of people not getting their checks isn't going to do any harm is not only ludicrous but stupid... I'm moving to Denmark." ~~~ Linda Paulson

"And, in the end,
The love you take.
Is equal to the love,
You make!
The End ~~~ The Beatles

A thought that is on many minds currently is, "Does Obama have a death wish?" He must, if he has any real intent of sacrificing the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the hungry to the Rethuglicans to extend the debt ceiling.

You'll recall that Barry and Smirky the Wonder Chimp gave away about $4 trillion dollars to the insanely rich and the banksters and spent another $4 trillion on our illegal, immoral, needless, useless war crimes throughout the world.

You'll also remember that Boner, Ryan, Kyl and Mitch (the bitch) McConnell all had no problems about raising the ceiling on the debt under Smirky -- they raised it 5 times for a little over $4 trillion dollars! Yes, they are what Tweety Bird called "hypo-twits!" And, yes, their corpo-rat string pullers have always wanted to get rid of the entitlement programs, so they could get their greedy paws on all that lovely money. They're called entitlement programs because the people are entitled to that money as they paid for those programs all their lives; they're not a gift; they're savings programs! Even Smirky didn't dare rob them as much as he wanted to, because even that brain-dead knew what would happen if he did -- swift, sure, political death! It's called the third rail of politics for that reason.

So even if Boner and company agreed to a penny's worth of tax raises on the uber-wealthy, it'd never pass in the Sin-ate, because if it did it'd mean the death of the Demoncratic party and a huge loss for the Rethuglicans, too. So what is Obamahood up to this time? Perhaps he's tired of being our beloved fuhrer and wants to take the money that he's obviously been bribed with and run, while the getting is good? Sure, it's a given that the Rethuglicans don't give a rat's ass if Granny is sleeping in a cardboard box or if little Mary Lou starves slowly to death or if little Johnny dies because he couldn't get that simple, cheap operation that would have given him a long, healthy productive life. Unless, of course, somebody was to bribe them to do so, and the Koch brothers aren't doing that! This will also mean the Demoncrats will be exposed for being just like the Rethuglicans, and will no longer be able to pretend to be one of us -- to be on our side!

Why does Barry wants his trillion dollar gifts to the elite and the Banksters to to be paid for by the poor, homeless, sick, hungry, and elderly? It's simple really! Our betters want to get rid of most of us, so they're not so crowded! Just like Hitler did before he started murdering the Gypsies, Jews, Communists, etc., he started murdering what he and Henry Ford considered the worthless, the poor, the insane, and the elderly. This is just the elite's new Eugenics programs. They're planning the deaths of about 6 and 1/2 billion of us, which will leave about 100 million of them and about 400 million people to wait on them and do their bidding. That's been their plan for 80 years. Do you understand now why they're doing nothing about climate change, forced vaccinations, Frankenfoods, endless wars, etc.?

The Earth would sustain 1/2 a billion people a whole lot better than 7 billion! As Barry dances to the same tunes as Boner and the rest, and if one looks at their actions with this knowledge in mind, one can see what's really behind Barry grabbing that third rail and daring us to do anything about it. I'm guessing that after this there'll be no need for political parties -- which are just there to keep us blinded, occupied, and entertained while they take over everything, everywhere. Soon, if you're sent to the left column, it's off to short life of slavery, to the right column and it's off to a Happy Camp! You could have stopped this; in fact, you probably still can, but you won't, will you, America? The Matrix is so comfortable, until it isn't! Until they've sucked you dry!

In Other News

Then on Tuesday there was Obamahood on TV talking to CBS newsman Scott Pelley. Scott interviewed Barry for the CBS Evening News.

Pelley: Can you tell the folks at home that no matter what happens, the Social Security checks are gonna go out on August the third? There are about $20 billion worth of Social Security checks that have to go out the day after the government is supposedly gonna go into default.

Obama: Well, this is not just a matter of Social Security checks. These are veterans' checks, these are folks on disability, and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out each month.

Pelley: Can you guarantee, as President, those checks will go out on August the third?

Obama: I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.

This, of course, is bullshit! Those programs are fully-funded, so why the lie by our fearless leader? To scare you and me into scaring our Con-gress criters and Sinators into falling in line. Even if they, do Barry and his Rethuglican allies have plans on reducing or eliminating Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? Whether or not he gets to raise taxes on the uber-wealthy, his puppet masters want those entitlement dollars to flow into their pockets, and Obamahood, being the good little puppet patsy that he is, will move Heaven and Earth to try and make that happen. So, of course, I wrote him, my two Sinators and my Con-gress critter a short and to-the-point note:

"That third rail is hot. Anyone who doubts that will find themselves looking for a new job come 2012!"

You might want to write yours a similar note, too!

And Finally

I see where Human Rights Watch just put out a 107 page report concluding that the Bush Junta was torturing people and need to be brought to justice for their torturing crimes. Imagine that, they've finally come to that conclusion! I came to that conclusion 8 years ago; I guess they were just being thorough? To be fair, they came out in 2005 with a paper that hinted at the fact that the Junta might be involved in torture, but weren't quite prepared to make conclusions and recommend that they be charged with their crimes; but, by golly, they finally have that conclusion and are calling for an investigation. So they're a day late, and a dollar shy; but, at least, they finally came to that conclusion!

Guess what? I wrote them a letter!

Dear Human Rights Watch,

So Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Rice and company were torturing people? No shit, Sherlock? Where have you been for the last ten years? Why were you the last ones to tumble to that fact? It was in all the newspapers, all around the world, including confessions, color photographs, criminal trials, I guess you were waiting for a smoking gun, huh? Still, better a decade later than never, eh? I wonder when you Einsteins will get around to our 6 current "Crimes against Humanity" that have been running since 2002? I'm guessing you'll come out with facts of war crimes in Afghanistan some time in 2020? Iraq by 2025, Pakistan by 2028 and Somalia, Yemen, and Libya sometime in the following decade? No doubt, you'll have the lowdown on all our many other black-ops wars sometime around 2050. I can hardly wait for those reports, if I'm still alive!

Sincerely yours,
Ernest Stewart
Issues & Alibis Magazine
P.S. Here's a tip, Obama is ordering the torture and the murder of American citizens, without a trial -- even as we speak!

If you'd like to express your opinion:

Phone: 1-212-290-4700

Keepin' On

Being in Limbo isn't all that it's cracked up to be! Finally got to the post office only to find nothing there. I have no dount that Ernie and Terri sent me something but neither arrived in more than the normal time it takes to arrive. I'm hoping with the late Canadian postal lockout, it's taking a bit longer due to the huge backlog of mail. However, since a friend mailed me some photographs and they arrived with the one side slit all the way down, I'm beginning to wonder if Big Brother is searching through my mail? It may be needless paranoia, but when you dare to tell the truth that Big Brother doesn't want known, a little paranoia can be a healthy thing!

Be that as it may, we're down to about two weeks when we have to pay up or shut up; ergo, we need your help now, more than ever! If you've ever wanted to be a hero, now's your chance! Step up and take a stand for truth and justice; no one else can take your place! Do it while there's still time; do it while it will make a difference; do it for no other reason than it will shut me up, and we can continue on for another year!

Just go to our donations page and follow the directions. Save not only the magazine, but the archives with all that important information, not only the news, but those vast how-to sections that tell you how to keep your family alive after it hits the fan. The "Happy Camps" sections, the U.S. Documents sections and the Forum will all disappear without the magazine to support them. It's ten years of my life down-the-drain without your help. I've been there for you; now it's your turn to be there for me and for everyone else that is as broke as I am and counts on the magazine to keep them informed!


08-08-1918 ~ 07-08-2011
Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!

10-23-1949 ~ 07-09-2011
Thanks for the jams!

11-30-1943 ~ 07-11-2011
Thanks for the jams!

11-14-1916 ~ 07-12-2011
Thanks for Gilligan, I guess?!


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


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

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

Obama's Political Suicide
By Anthony DiMaggio

The Obama administration is committing political suicide with its debt negotiations, and it's not entirely clear that there should be much of a protest from the American people. Obama's center-right attempts to "compromise" by seeking major cuts to Social Security (a program that is currently not in financial trouble, but in fact running a surplus) and Medicare (in which hundreds of billion in cuts are being sought) will inevitably harm the American middle and working classes. Obama claims that the "sacrifices" (which he will not be forced to endure) are necessary in order to come to an agreement with Republicans over deficit reduction. He is wrong. If he continues to push this agenda, we should organize around an alternative, progressive candidate for 2012.

Obama's proposed cuts concede far too much to the Republicans. He supports ending tax loopholes for the rich and reducing the Bush tax cuts (for the wealthy) in a package that would see less than $1 trillion in total revenue savings from these sources. Compare that to the additional $3 trillion in cuts he's seeking over ten years - much of which will come from popular social programs - and one begins to see that he really is "bending over backwards" to placate Republicans' elitist agenda, as he complained in his recent national address. Such cuts go far beyond the compromise supported by Democrats, in which sacrifices by the masses would equal half of the total revenue increases, and the closing of tax cuts for the wealthy would include another half. Obama's proposed cuts even go beyond those cuts pushed by Republicans, as they had not originally mentioned Social Security payment reductions as part of their demands.

Republicans have no interest in deficit reduction, as seen in their irresponsible "spend like a drunken sailor" mentality whenever they hold political power (a la the Reagan and Bush years). Debt and deficit reduction are merely a class war tactic to be used against the poor and middle class, and in favor of extending deficit increasing tax cuts for the rich. By playing the Republicans' game, Obama is risking his political future by crossing the one political constituency that disproportionately follows politics and participates regularly in national elections - the elderly. Resisting cuts to Social Security is a no-brainer for any Democrat interested in getting re-elected, which is why Democrats in Congress opposed them so ardently in 2005, and continue to do so today. Reagan and Bush learned that elementary lesson when they tried to dismantle Social Security, and it's unclear why the Obama administration is so obtuse as to have forgotten this basic political reality. Social Security has always been the third rail of American politics.

Obama is falling victim to the propaganda theme in Washington that the deficit and debt are the cause of the current economic crisis, rather than a symptom of a much larger problem of reckless speculation on Wall Street. In reality, it was the collapse of the Housing market and the subsequent implosion of the derivatives market that caused the massive hole in the economy, high unemployment, and rapidly expanding deficits under which we now suffer. Contrary to Democratic and Republican propaganda today, it was the stimulus itself, and its accompanying increase in the national debt, that prevented a full-on collapse of the U.S. economy. Debt and deficit spending (in the name of stimulus) are the reason we still have a moderately functioning economy today, rather than the cause of the problem. A forward looking, positive agenda for Democrats must focus on pushing more stimulus and deficit spending until the economy turns around, rather than removing demand from the economy, as will happen with the $4 trillion in budget cuts Obama is supporting.

But what about debt reduction? Isn't this a worthy goal in the long term, lest we are to continue with the unsustainable path of mass tax cuts for the wealthy, continuously escalating military spending, and growing costs for welfare programs such as Social Security and Medicare? At some point in the future, debt levels could become so high as to impede future government borrowing, and lead to the evisceration of popular welfare programs that America's political elites have so long sought. There are simple answers to this question for those seriously interested in deficit and debt reduction: cut military spending, increase the payroll tax (and taxes in general) for the wealthy, and rein in the worst abuses endemic in the Medicare system. The United States currently spends approximately $1.2 trillion a year on the "defense." Cutting the military budget to $800 billion a year would lead to $5 trillion in savings over the next ten years, or $1 trillion more than Obama is promising under his deficit reduction plan. Such cuts are not as radical as they sound, as they would reduce annual military spending to about $100 billion more per year than the approximately $700 billion per year spent on "defense" during the mid-1990s Clinton years - a time when permanent occupations of Middle Eastern countries was not considered the foundation of U.S. foreign policy.

Raising the payroll tax to cover the upper portions of the incomes of the wealthy would ensure the solvency of Social Security into the indefinite future. Putting an end to Congress's legal prohibition on government bargaining over pharmaceutical prices would help rein in escalating Medicare costs. Under current law, the largest purchaser of pharmaceuticals - the federal government - is not legally allowed to negotiate prices. This prohibition is a blatant violation of "free market" assumptions that companies should be forced to compete in order to provide lower priced, more effective drugs.

A second major reform that would help reduce Medicare costs entails the introduction of comparative effectiveness measures to lower costs of care, without sacrificing quality. We currently have a weak understanding of the effectiveness of competing and alternative procedures and medical treatments, as provided by doctors. Many medical procedures are far more costly than others, and no more effective. By undertaking comparative effectiveness research, we can reduce the costs of health care, while still providing superior medical services. Republicans vehemently oppose comparative effectiveness because such a reform would cost hospitals and doctors some of their excessive profits. Finally and most importantly, we should seek the introduction of a universal health care, Medicare-for-all system, which would dramatically reduce costs of health care for federal and local government employers, who are forced to pay exorbitant amounts for health care under private-sector run programs. Such a change would do much to reduce escalating health care costs and growing deficit spending.

Obama is playing with political fire by promoting a "compromise" with Republicans. Opinion polls show that Americans favor ending the Bush tax cuts over cutting social programs. The Republican Party, however, will continue to resist termination of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy - their primary political constituency. Obama should be appealing to the public, rather than Republicans, with a budget plan that includes military cuts and preservation of Medicare and Social Security (in addition to his attempts to end the Bush tax cuts). Winning public support for this agenda should not be that difficult, considering the strong public opposition to cutting Social Security and Medicare, and since the cutting military spending (instead of welfare programs) is the most popular choice of Americans whenever they are asked how to reduce the deficit and debt. This alternative approach would allow Obama and the Democrats to preserve programs that are vital in reducing poverty in a time of economic crisis, while reducing the size of a bloated, wasteful, and imperialist military industrial complex.

But what of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which macro-economic data suggest have done little to nothing to promote economic growth over the last half decade? Eliminating those cuts doesn't need to be a part of any immediate deficit plan. It's true that extending these cuts won't promote growth, as our current economic problems stem from a lack of consumer demand that is caused by growing unemployment and rising household debt, coupled with massive personal savings losses following the housing collapse. Extending tax cuts for the rich in the name of spurring investment and growth is an absurd waste of money at a time when the corporate community is hoarding $2 trillion in cash reserves and when average Americans are suffering under high unemployment and growing poverty.

By simply doing nothing on these tax cuts this year, however, Obama could allow them to expire when they are legally scheduled to end in 2012. Letting the cuts expire will not produce the dire consequences in which Republicans warn. The most optimistic supporters of the cuts - such as the reactionary Heritage Foundation - promised they would provide a mere $4,500 over ten years to the average family, or just $450 a year. Taking that estimate at face value, $450 represents less than one percent of the median family's annual income of approximately $46,000. It is entirely reasonable to expect those who already have jobs to make such a miniscule "sacrifice" in order to end the deficit-inducing, inequality increasing Bush tax cuts. These cuts are already providing Republicans leverage in demanding major cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Allowing the privatization of Medicare (as proposed under Republican Congressman Paul Ryan's plan) would cost seniors dearly. As shown in recent empirical research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ryan's Medicare-voucher-privatization plan would increase the average cost of health care for the elderly by more than 120 percent a year (or an additional $5,750 a year). This is an unacceptable price for Middle Americans to pay as they move into retirement, in exchange for a mere $450 a year in yearly rebates under the Bush tax cuts.

Eliminating the Bush tax cuts will have no effect on the already unemployed (who aren't paying income taxes), and a minimal effect on the employed, when compared to the deadly effects that the current deficit reduction talks will have if Social Security and Medicare are subjected to deep cuts. The elimination of the Bush tax cuts, however, will have a dramatic effect on the richest 5%, who secured a staggering one-half of all the Bush cuts. It is this group, rather than the other 95% of Americans, that Republicans are dedicated to protecting. Of course, allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire would likely cost Democrats support from Republicans in terms of extending unemployment insurance in the future. Obama could deal with this problem, however, by winning majority control of government for the Democrats in 2012. Simply by taking a stand against the Republican Party's draconian class war, the Democrats could secure impressive victories in the upcoming election, thereby eliminating the need to compromise on unemployment insurance.

Sadly, the progressive options discussed above are not defining the policies of the Obama administration. Those on the left who care about the future of the masses should be asking a simple question: why bother supporting a president who shows no interest in fighting for your interests? By "going public" and appealing to the American people for support against Republicans' draconian class war, Obama could win serious victories for the American people, without having to compromise with those pushing a policy agenda far out of step with the demands of the people. Compromise for the sake of compromise (or in order to protect one's "legacy" as a "centrist) is no virtue. Obama's continuation down the "Republican-lite" path should give us pause and force a re-evaluation of public support for this president. Democrats in Congress would do well to take heed, as a vote against Medicare and Social Security will come with deadly consequences in the 2012 elections. It's really a no-brainer.
(c) 2011 Anthony DiMaggio is the co-author with Paul Street of the newly released Crashing the Tea Party (Paradigm Publishers, 2011). He is also the author of When Media Goes to War (2010) and Mass Media, Mass Propaganda (2008). He has taught U.S. and Global Politics at Illinois State University, and can be reached at:

Instilled Memory
By Uri Avnery

FOR SEVERAL weeks now, our army and navy have been in a state of high alert, bravely facing a deadly threat to our very existence: ten little boats trying to reach Gaza. These vessels are carrying a dangerous gang of vicious terrorists, in the form of elderly veterans of peace campaigns.

Binyamin Netanyahu has affirmed our unshakable determination to defend our country: We shall not let anyone break the blockade to smuggle rockets to the terrorists in Gaza, who will then launch them to kill our innocent children.

This is a kind of record even for Netanyahu: not a single word is true. The flotilla is not carrying any weapons - the representatives of respected international media in the boats provide assurance of this. Also, I think we can rely on the Mossad to plant at least one agent in every boat. (After all, what am I paying my taxes for?) Hamas has not launched rockets for a long time - it has very good reasons of its own to keep the unofficial "Tahdiyeh" ("Quiet") agreement.

If the flotilla had been allowed to reach Gaza, it would have been news for a few hours, and that would have been that. Israel's total mobilization, the training of the naval commandos for capturing the boats, the acts of sabotage carried out in Greek ports, the immense political pressure exerted by Israel and the US on the poor, bankrupt Greek government - all this has kept this minor initiative in the news for weeks now, drawing attention to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

What is this blockade for? There is no ascertainable reason for it now, if there ever was one. To terrorize the Gaza people into overthrowing the Hamas government, the victor in democratic elections? Well, it didn't work, did it? To compel Hamas to change its terms for a prisoner exchange which would release Gilad Shalit? That didn't either. To prevent the smuggling of arms into the Strip? The arms are flowing freely through a hundred tunnels from Egypt, if we are to believe what our army tells us. So what purpose does the blockade serve? Nobody seems to know. But it is the rock of our existence. That much is clear.

As a result of world pressure following last year's flotilla, the blockade was eased considerably. But Gaza manufacturers are still prevented from getting their products out of the Gaza Strip - thus condemning most of the population to unemployment and abject poverty.

The same goes for the disgusting trade in human remains. Netanyahu promised to turn over the remains of 84 "terrorists" (both Fatah and Hamas) to Mahmoud Abbas as a gift. At the last moment, he reneged. His people make believe that these remains, by now hardly identifiable, may serve as bargaining chips in the game for releasing Gilad Shalit.

The same goes for the actions against yesterday's fly-in of international peace activists though Ben-Gurion airport. All they wanted was to go to Bethlehem and Gaza, which can only be reached by crossing Israeli territory. Almost a thousand police officers were mobilized to meet that threat.

All of these unthinking knee-jerk reactions: We must be strong. Everywhere there lurk mortal dangers. Israel must defend itself. Otherwise there will be a second Holocaust.

THIS IS an interesting phenomenon: people see innocent-looking elderly human-rights activists on their TV screens and believe they are seeing dangerous provocateurs, because the government and most of the media tell them so. Sinister "Arab and Muslim" individuals are hiding in the boats. An Arab American on one boat has been unmasked as somebody who has collected money for a Hamas social institution. A dangerous terrorist! How absolutely awful!

The phenomenon of people seeing something and thinking they are seeing something else has always intrigued me. How can people not believe their own eyes but believe the eyes of others?

This week I got an e-mail message from a man who remembered something from the time he was a pupil of my late wife, Rachel, in first grade.

Rachel asked him to raise his right hand. When the boy did so, Rachel said: "No, no. That is your left hand!" She turned to the other children and asked them, which hand it was. Following their teacher, they shouted in unison: "The left! The left!" Seeing this, the first boy started to waver. In the end he conceded: "Yes. It is the left hand."

"No, you were right in the first place," Rachel assured him. "Let this be a lesson to all of you: if you are sure that you are right, insist on it. Never change your view because other people say the opposite."

Quite by chance, straight after reading this testimony, I saw on TV the results of a scientific investigation by Israeli researchers into "instilled memory." Their experiments show that people who have seen something with their own eyes, but are told by everybody else that they have seen something else, start to suppress their own memory and "remember" that they saw what the others had allegedly seen. Neurological research then showed that this is can actually be seen happening in the brain: the imagined memory replaces the real. Social pressure has done its work: the instilled memory has become real memory.

I believe that this is even truer for an entire nation, which is, of course, composed of individuals. I have seen this many times.

For example, for 11 months before Lebanon War I, not a single shot was fired from Lebanon into Israel. Against all expectation, Yasser Arafat had succeeded in enforcing a total cease-fire even on his Palestinian opponents. Yet after Ariel Sharon started the war, practically all Israelis clearly "remembered" that the Palestinians had shot across the border every single day, turning life in Israel into hell.

I call this "Parkinson in reverse" - while advanced Parkinson patients do not remember things that happened, these patients do remember things which never happened.

THERE IS a mental disorder called "paranoia vera". Patients adopt a crazy assumption - e.g. "everybody hates me" - and then build an elaborate structure around it. Every bit of information which seems to support it is eagerly absorbed, every item that contradicts it is suppressed. Everything is interpreted so as to reinforce the initial assumption. The pattern is strictly logical - indeed, the more complete and the more logical the structure, the more serious is the disease.

Among the accompanying symptoms are belligerent behavior, recurrent suspicions, disconnection from the real world, conspiracy theories and narcissism.

It seems that whole nations can fall victim to this illness. Ours certainly appears to have.

The whole world is against us. Everybody is out to destroy us. Every move is a threat to our very existence. Everyone critical of Israeli policy is an anti-Semite or self-hating Jew.

Indeed, even when we do a good thing, it is turned against us.

Witness: "We left the Gaza Strip and even dismantled our settlements there, and what did we get in return? Qassam rockets!"

(Never mind that Sharon refused to turn the Strip over to any Palestinian body, leaving a void. He cut it off from the world and turned it into one big prison camp.)

Witness: "After Oslo we armed Arafat's security forces, and they turned their arms against us!"

(Never mind that we never quite fulfilled our commitments under the Oslo agreements, that the occupation got more oppressive and that the settlements on Palestinian land increased by leaps and bounds. Also, the Palestinian security services never actually acted against Israel.)

Witness: "We withdrew from South Lebanon and what did we get? Hizbollah and Lebanon War II!"

(Never mind that Hizbollah was born in reaction to our 18-year occupation there, and that we ourselves chose to launch the second Lebanon War after a minor border incident.)

IT HAS been said that paranoiacs also have real-life enemies. The trouble is that the paranoid by their offensive and distrustful behavior, create more and more real-life enemies.

The slogan "All the world is against us" may easily function as a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Israel is not the only country to suffer from this affliction. At some time, the Germans have been afflicted. So have the Serbs. So, to some extent, has the US and many others. Unfortunately, the costs of paranoia are very high.

So let us start to behave like sane people. Let the little boats go to Gaza. Let arrivals at Ben-Gurion airport go to the Palestinian territories and pick olives, if that's what they want.

Even if we do behave like a normal nation, Israel will continue to exist. Really!
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

If Obama Cuts Social Security...
The president indicates that funding for the hallmark Democratic program is on the table. Is this the last straw?
By David Sirota

Wednesday night, the Washington Post reported that on top of the big cuts to Medicare he's already proposed, President Obama is now considering endorsing cuts to Social Security. In making this announcement (which formally embraces the concept of Social Security cuts first proposed by Obama's debt commission), the White House has lost all credibility in arguing that its 2012 political problems are the result of unfair expectations, particularly on the left. At the same time, the White House has finally exposed the strategy behind what so many of its apologists insisted was deft "three dimensional chess" on behalf of old-school liberalism -- and as we see, these tactics have nothing to do with liberalism and everything to do with Orwell-ism.

To review: The Wall Street Journal reports that "across a wide range of measures -- employment growth, unemployment levels, bank lending, economic output, income growth, home prices and household expectations for financial well-being -- the economy's improvement since the recession's end in June 2009 has been the worst, or one of the worst, since the government started tracking these trends after World War II." In light of this miserable situation, it's no surprise that Gallup's Frank Newport reports that the president's job approval rating "has been hovering near the fault line between probable re-election and probable 'one-term' presidency."

For most of the president's tenure, he, his staffers and his devoted-but-dwindling army of sycophants have insisted that the political fallout from the crushing recession reflects unrealistic expectations of Obama in the wake of George W. Bush's destructive reign. It is, dare I say, an audacious claim, especially coming from a candidate who asked us all to have the "audacity of hope" -- and it's more than a little insulting. After all, much of the complaints about the president have been about campaign promises that he didn't just fail to fulfill -- but that he refused to even try to fulfill.

Indeed, when a political candidate promises to try to pass a public option to compete with private insurers, attempt to crack down on Wall Street abuse, do what he can to stop unfair trade deals, oppose extending his predecessors tax cuts and avoid initiating initiate costly new wars sans congressional approval, and then once in office works to kill a public option, refuses to prosecute Wall Street crimes, presses the rigged trade deals he opposed, supports the extension of his predecessor's tax cuts and starts a new war in Libya with no congressional authorization -- whose fault is it that he ends up in reelection trouble?

I'd say the answer is obvious -- I'd say that if such a politician wasn't in reelection trouble, it would be a sign that our democracy is in a deeper crisis than it already is.

But, then, merely citing this record brings accusations of treason, at least from Democratic staffers, pundits and activists in Washington. In an age of politics that has melded politicians with celebrity and activism with starfucking, to be a rank-and-file progressive and honestly examine a candidate's record during a reelection campaign is to risk being portrayed as a dangerous, seditious, ideologically zealous revolutionary.

After Wednesday night, though, the power of this kind of with-us-or-against-us partisanship will face it's ultimate test. Because while the intricacies of health care, Wall Street regulations and trade pacts can be muddled with esoterica and while Democratic presidents have shown a deft ability to soothe their base by conflating militarism with humanitarianism (the same trick, of course, that Republicans use for their militarist adventures), this Democratic president is aiding a new war on Social Security, the single most popular social program in American history, a program that the Democratic Party has -- both in principle and out of sheer self-interest -- long based its brand on. Whether Obama ultimately champions specific cuts or just floats the general possibility of such cuts, the larger news is that he has now legitimized them as a negotiating chip -- and importantly, he made such a move on his own, not because of circumstantial necessity.

To appreciate this reality, go back and read every Democratic Party press release during President Bush's 2005 failed assault on Social Security. Those press releases reminded us that Social Security is one of the most fiscally sound programs in American history, projected to run surpluses for the foreseeable future. Additionally, what problems it does face can be easily solved -- as just one example of a solution, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that had President Obama refused to extend the Bush tax cuts and instead worked to repeal them, that move alone would generate revenues equal to two and one-half times the entire Social Security shortfall over the next 75 years (yes, 75 years!).

And yet now, like that gruesome scene at the end of "Fargo," Social Security -- a pay-as-you-go embodiment of fiscal responsibility -- is being rammed into the grisly woodchipper of cynical debt-reduction politics. Only instead of a glowering Peter Stormare (or Mitt Romney) doing the pushing, there's a cheery President Obama insisting that cuts are really just progressive efforts to "strengthen" -- the same Obama who chastised his 2008 Republican opponent for using the same pathetic spin to shroud cuts to the same program.

This is not real politik, it is not triangulation and it isn't even Bush-ism (that is, taking unpopular positions and then just arrogantly pursuing them without regard for public will). No, we are watching a sort of Orwellian dystopia. Indeed, it is a sight to behold: a regime that believes it can say one set of things over and over and over again, and then do exactly the opposite.

Inherent in that ideology is the assumption that Americans -- and particularly Democratic voters -- are either too stupid to see the heist in process, or if they do see the heist, are too entranced by their president's power/fame/celebrity/charisma to want to do anything about it, even if what's being pilfered is Democrats' Social Security crown jewel.

The assumption, in other words, is that ignorance and fealty will permit a president to serve as an accomplice to the very grand larceny he was explicitly elected to office to oppose. Should the assumption prove true -- should Obama now be cheered on for doing to Social Security what no Republican president has ever been able to do -- the date on the calendar may say 2011, but it will really be 1984.
(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 language of impotence
By David Swanson

The House of Representatives would be better off speaking Arabic. See if you can make heads or tails of this.

The House voted down a bill to end the Libya War.

At the same time, it passed a nonbinding House-only resolution that said the President "shall not" use ground troops in Libya, the war is unauthorized, and Congress could defund the war if it wanted to. The resolution requested that all kinds of information be reported to Congress by the President, much of which has not been reported by the specified deadline.

Next, the House passed an amendment blocking any funds, beginning in October, for troops or contractors on the ground in Libya.

At the same time, the House passed an amendment requiring that when the war is completed (and presumably the U.S. has control of Tripoli), the U.S. troops on the ground there must dig up the bodies of other U.S. troops buried there during a war 206 years ago.

Also at the same time, the House defeated an amendment that would have stripped out language dramatically expanding presidents' power to launch wars -- language eventually removed by the Senate.

Then the House rejected an amendment to a Homeland Security bill blocking use of its funds for wars waged in violation of the War Powers Resolution, passed the same amendment to a Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill, and finally passed the same amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act, which kicks in in October. While that amendment may sound particularly meaningless, it might actually benefit a court case in which 10 members of Congress have sued the President to stop the war, on the grounds of its clear violation of the War Powers Resolution.

Then the House voted down an authorization of war in Libya.

At the same time, the House also voted down a proposal to limit the funding of that war to certain types of activities.

In the latest installment of this saga, the House has rejected an amendment that would have defunded the Libya War beginning in October.

At the same time, the House again has passed an amendment defunding ground troops.

At the same time, the House has passed an amendment to prohibit the use of funds for the Department of Defense to assist any group or individual (such as the Libyan rebels) not part of a country's armed forces for the purpose of assisting that group or individual in carrying out military activities in or against Libya. The author of this amendment claims to have defunded the Libya War (as of October, if the Senate agrees, if the President doesn't signing-statement it, etc.).

Also at the same time, the House has rejected an amendment that would have prohibited the use of funds to support military operations, including NATO or United Nations operations, in Libya or in Libya's airspace.

And, just to make sure this is all fully meaningless, the House also rejected an amendment that would have removed the slush fund that allows presidents to fund wars without Congress. The House then proceeded to pass, yet again, a bigger military spending bill than last year.

So, the Libya War is unauthorized and has never been funded with a dime by Congress, but Congress does not object to this -- unless perhaps it does.

Only it doesn't really. If the House (the Senate is hopeless) objected, it would simply enforce existing laws. The War Powers Resolution -- despite the President's claim that bombing people's houses is not "hostilities" -- is actually crystal clear in comparison with recent Congressional communications. That law has been violated. The House could unambiguously block funding for this illegal war or impeach its architect. Nobody currently believes it will do any more than push the envelope of pretended war opposition, even to the point of confusing people as to what it's up to.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Debt Ceiling Hypocrisy

"No," shout Republican leaders at President Obama, like pouty two-year olds. "We won't raise the government's statutory debt limit in order to avoid a national default," they cry.

Four whiney GOP congressional leaders - John Boehner and Eric Cantor in the House, Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl in the Senate - insist that it'd be the height of irresponsibility to raise America's debt ceiling without first slashing spending on programs for the poor and middle class, while simultaneously protecting Big Oil and hedge fund billionaires from any increase in the paltry tax rates they pay. What the four pious partisans don't say is that their pose of resolute fiscal responsibility is an entirely new shtick for them - and they're hoping that you won't remember the Bush years.

George W had strutted into office promising to eliminate the $6 trillion federal debt in 10 years. Instead, he rushed America into his budget-sucking Iraq escapade, handed unwarranted tax cuts to corporations and the superrich, and oversaw a devil-may-care deregulation of Wall Street that caused our economy to crash. To cover these achievements, Bush had to get Congress to jack up the federal debt ceiling - not once, but five times in eight years. Far from eliminating the national debt, he expanded it by $4 trillion!

Guess who was side-by-side with him on this joy ride? Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, and Kyl, that's who. Not only did they gleefully vote again and again for Bush's war, tax giveaways to the rich, and coddling of Wall Street greed, but also to keep raising the debt limit. Kyl voted for four of Bush's five debt-ceiling increases, while Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell had a perfect five-for-five record.

These crybabies aren't against debt, they're against Obama - and the games they're playing with the national budget are putting party politics over country.
(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.

Ending the Wars?
By Helen Thomas

President Barack Obama is finally setting goals to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. It's about time.

Americans are coming around to the futility of all that killing and dying. The timetables are admittedly loose and flexible.

Some interests would keep us in the hostile sites forever. We still have troops in Japan and Germany - thousands of soldiers are still there, so many years after World War II ended. We also have 700 military outposts around the world, some big and some small. Why?

We have yet to hear the real reason we invaded Iraq. I have heard several reasons. Haven't you?

Was it to avenge "Daddy" when Saddam Hussein allegedly put a contract on the first Bush President, George H.W. Bush? Or was it because Israel has targeted Iraq as its prime enemy until it moved onto Iran? Or was it because Iraq, at the time, had the second largest oil holdings? Why are we still asking why we invaded and killed at least a hundred thousand Iraqis, why American people were asked to kill and die? Is there no accountability? Even for history's stake?

Or was Alfred Tennyson right? Ours is not to reason why, but to do and die.

To this day, the American people have been denied an honest answer about why we invaded Iraq. We continue to toss around speculative answers. Isn't that incredible? Truth is the first casualty of war. Hussein, formidable in hiding, was hanged under our so called tutelage.

Hussein was our friend in times of recent history but the neoconservatives, always protective of Israel, marked him as the enemy. Former President George W. Bush was determined to go to war with Iraq. The United States peddled lies that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and close ties to the al-Qaida terrorist organizations. Those allegations turned out to be untrue.

Hans Blix, the former United Nations arms inspector, begged Bush to let him go back into Iraq for one more inspection. Blix knew there were no lethal weapons in Iraq. He begged Bush to let him go back into Iraq with an inspection team to prove there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Bush refused to allow further inspections. He wanted to go to war. He had said in a pre-war interview that only war Presidents are remembered in history. In his memoir, Bush now says his "only regret" is that he did not find the weapons!

Bush is now happily in retirement, and the neoconservatives are ensconced in teaching roles (God help us). Maybe someday they will tell us why they targeted Iraq.

As for pulling our troops out of Iraq, don't hold your breath. There are all kinds of official hints that our withdrawal from Iraq may take a longer time than the end of the year deadline.

James F. Jeffrey, the U.S envoy to Iraq, told reporters recently that the U.S would consider keeping some of the 40,000 troops in Iraq to provide security. Of course, some Iraqi officials who have played ball with the U.S. occupation would like us to remain in the country. But the car bombings and explosions have not stopped.

Obama has ordered the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan, the beginning of the end of the 10-year war. As for Afghanistan, we had more reason to go in (although there were neither Afghans nor Iraqis involved in 9/11).

Obama had one big chance to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan - the day after he took the oath of office. He could have saved thousands of lives and would have been called a hero by many. Instead, Obama maintained the Bush War scenario and kept the wars going.

America has to decide who we are - and why we are trying to sell democracy with guns and bombs.

The people of the Middle East and North Africa are fighting for their freedom and independence, while the dictators are using all their might to stay in power, including killing their own people.

We should try to be on the right side of these winds of change. Or, as was once said, "Someday they'll give a war and nobody will come."
(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.

Supreme Gang Of Five Making A Mockery Of U.S. Law
By James Donahue

America has had a history of unpopular rulings by the U. S. Supreme Court. The nation still stands divided over the controversial 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortions throughout the nation. While some decisions were unpopular and often decided by a split court, they were made by a panel of nine judges that we always believed to have been struggling over the correct interpretation of the Constitution as it applied to state and national laws.

There has always been a flaw in the way members of the high court have been selected, however. Vacancies on that bench are filled by presidential appointment and approved by a vote of the Congress. While the judges are supposed to remain non-partisan and balanced, the very way they are culled for the job gets extremely political. Fortunately the balance of power in the United States has been in a constant state of change, and the Supreme Court judges, who serve for life, remained somewhat politically balanced. The court's balance shifted in 2006, however, when George W. Bush succeeded in picking John Roberts to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Sam Alito to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor. Roberts and Alito have since joined Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as the "conservative gang of five" who have created a run-away right-wing and obviously corporate-owned shift in the American justice system.

Analysis of the court members shows Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas as the conservative wing with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor standing on the more liberal wing.

Justice Kennedy has been considered a "swing" member of the bench, but he has regularly joined with the conservatives to generate those scathing 5-4 decisions favoring corporate and big business interests. The ninth justice, Elena Kagan, joined the bench so recently that her position on issues is still under scrutiny. She succeeded retiring Justice Paul Stevens, long considered a stabilizing force on the court.

The first odd involvement by the Supreme Court occurred in 2000 after presidential candidates George W. Bush, Republican, and Al Gore, Democrat, became deadlocked over a final vote count in Florida. The vote was so close Gore called for a recount. There was concern over possible voter fraud, many voters in high Democratic party districts that were turned away at the polls, and paper "chards" that may have caused miscounts in voting machines in some precincts.

The issue went on for days and became so hot the matter went before the Supreme Court for what has gone down in history as an unprecedented and questionable decision that gave Bush the presidency. At the time, Chief Justice Rehnquist, a known conservative, and Justices Scalia and Thomas moved to stop the recount and give the presidency to Bush. Justices Breyer, Souter, Ginsburg and Stevens opposed the decision. The remaining members, Kennedy and O'Connor joined with Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas to create a 5-4 vote.

Professionals who have examined the make-up of the court have since suggested that there were conflicts of interests involved in the decision. Both Rehnquist and O'Connor had expressed concerns that because of political leanings their plans to retire would be delayed if Gore won the office. They wanted to retire under a Republican presidency. Justice Thomas was appointed to the bench by President George H. W. Bush, and Scalia and Kennedy were both appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

George W. Bush stacked the deck even farther to the right with the appointments of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito to the bench during his eight-year tenure.

The monkey business became shockingly obvious to the public in 2008 when the court voted 5-4 in support of an opinion written by Kennedy which, in essence, struck down laws and court rulings dating back over a century that prohibited corporations and unions from paying large amounts of money to influence the outcome of elections.

The ruling, supported by Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas, determined that corporations have the same rights as individuals to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech.

Justice John Paul Stevens, who was still on the bench and among the four dissenters, accused the majority of "judicial activism." In his opinion he wrote that "the conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court's disposition of this case."

Stevens called the decision a "radical change" in the law and warned that the ruling "threatens to undermine the integrity of eleted institutions around the nation."

Joining Stevens in voting against the ruling were Justices Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Breyer.

The effects of the ruling were quickly felt during the 2010 state and Congressional elections. The media was besieged with smear campaign ads paid for by mystery sources that maliciously attacked Democratic candidates and supported a Tea Party movement that appeared to have started as a grass roots affair, but then quickly became financed and controlled by special interests organizations. The Republicans took control of the House and nearly got a majority of seats in the Senate. The Obama Administration has remained deadlocked ever since.

The situation is set to become even worse in the 2012 campaign. The Supreme Gang of Five voted last month to severely curtail the rule of public funding in backing candidates for office. The case, McComish Vs.Bennett, involved a challenge to Arizona's public funding system. This was a provision granting "trigger funding" to participating candidates facing well-funded (i.e. corporate financed) opponents. Right on que, the high court last month voted 5-4 to declare trigger funds unconstitutional. The decision will have an impact and lead to unbalanced financing for candidates all over the nation.

What the court has helped set up is a well-financed advertising campaign that will convince a nation of angry, unemployed voters that the sitting Democratic President Barack Obama has been responsible for the mess the nation has been in since George W. Bush left office. The Republicans are obviously depending upon voters to switch parties again in a quest for the change that Obama promised but could not deliver.

If you think the court isn't now owned by big corporate interests, consider the latest controversial 5-4 ruling that banned state laws prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children, citing free speech rights. The ruling clearly favored the manufacturers and businesses that sell and distribute the video games.

And then there was the 5-4 decision against the thousands of female Wal-Mart workers who have been denied the right to join in a class action gender discrimination lawsuit against their employer. The court ruled that they are individuals working in different communities so they cannot be considered a class.

Huffington Post columnist Peter S. Goodman summed it perfectly when he wrote: "The justices supplied future historians with a brilliant symbol of how the United States has essentially become a giant gated community enjoyed by the powerful, with most of the citizens living outside and struggling to nourish themselves."
(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.

By Torpedoing The Gaza Flotilla, Israel Sunk Its Own Ship
By Medea Benjamin

Instead of high-fiving each other for their success in thwarting the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Israeli officials should be throwing overboard the propaganda hacks who catapulted the flotilla into headline news for weeks and left Israel smelling like rotten fish.

Last year, when the Israeli military killed nine aboard the Turkish ship, the incident made waves around the world. But in previous years, the same international coalition had sent boats to Gaza five times, successfully reaching their destination with a symbolic shipment of humanitarian aid. No blood, no military interception, no story. That's why the advice of many of Israel's best buddies, including the lobby group AIPAC, was to just ignore the flotilla.

But no, the Israeli government refused to listen and instead announced with great bravado that it was prepared to stop the flotilla with lethal force-including snipers and attack dogs. Smelling blood, the media frenzy began. Before even leaving home, passengers were besieged with press calls inquiring why we were willing to risk our lives and giving us a chance to talk about the plight of the people of Gaza. Worse yet from the Israeli government perspective, mainstream media began bombarding us with requests to come along. With space for only ten media on our boat, we ended up choosing reps from CNN, CBS, Al Jazeera, AP, The Nation and Democracy Now. Other boats in the flotilla also started scrambling to accommodate more press. Thanks to Israel, we were guaranteed that no matter what happened, the whole world would be watching.

The Israeli government's next blunder was a doozy. It sent a letter to foreign journalists warning them that if they participated in the flotilla, they would be denied entry into Israel for ten years and their equipment would be impounded. The outcry from journalists and media organizations worldwide was immediate. Israel's Foreign Press Association said the threat "sends a chilling message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel's commitment to freedom of the press." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to rescind the decision, blaming it on his underlings.

But the blunders continued. A YouTube video of a "gay rights activist" who claimed he was not allowed to join the flotilla because he was gay and linked the flotilla to Hamas was exposed as a hoax disseminated by employees of the Israeli Government Press Office and the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Senior Israeli defense officials told journalists that flotilla activists were intending to dump bags of sulfer on Israeli soldiers to paralyze them and/or light them on fire "like a torch." We countered by holding an open house on the boat, inviting the media to inspect every nook and cranny and meet with nurses, lawyers, musicians, writers, grandmothers and other "terrorists" on board. The Israeli government looked so silly that even cabinet ministers criticized Netanyahu's "media spin" and "public relations hysteria."

Then there was the sabotage of the Irish and Swedish boats, the frivolous lawsuits and legal complaints by the Israeli Law Center (Shurat HaDin), the strong arming of the Greek government to issue a ban on all boats traveling to Gaza, and undoubtedly more dirty tricks that will be exposed in the future.

Through it all, the Israelis helped us turn a potential non-story into a media blitz that has not ended. The passengers are now returning home to the local public spotlight. Rather than being depressed by Israeli maneuvers to prevent the flotilla from reaching its destination, they are more motivated to speak out about the siege of Gaza and bullying tactics of the Israelis. Flotilla organizers are still fighting to get their boats released by the Greek government and vow to try again.

Our modest and peaceful initiative has exposed, for the world to see, the lengths the Israeli government will go to to stop nonviolent international initiatives. We have put the plight of Gaza and the illegality of the siege once again on the radar where it was previously ignored. We have exposed the sad but ultimately unsustainable fact that the Israelis have managed to extend their vindictive siege of Gaza to the shores of Europe and have widened the gulf between the Greek government and Greek popular sentiment with regard to Palestine.

Most importantly, we have given a boost to the larger, massive, multicultural, multinational movement for Palestinian rights. This Friday, hundreds of international activists are flying to Ben Gurion airport where they plan to tell border control agents of their intent to visit Palestine. This "flytilla,"as it has been dubbed, has also aroused a hysterical response from the Netanyahu government. Here again, the world's attention will be focused on Israel's control and blockade of movement in and out of the West Bank. The Knesset is on the verge of passing a bill that will effectively outlaw boycotts, a law that will likely only strengthen the resolve and increase the size of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. And then there will be the showdown at the United Nations, when Palestinians will be calling for recognition as a state.

The Israeli government can only continue its egregious violations of human rights and torpedoing nonviolence initiatives for so long. Eventually, justice will prevail and Palestine will be free. And initiatives like the flotilla will be remembered as part of a continuous wave of resistance that helped turned the tide.
(c) 2011 Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK, which has organized seven humanitarian delegations to Gaza.

Corporate Tax Escapees And You
By Ralph Nader

The all-consuming Washington, D.C. wrangling over debts and deficits, spending and taxing is excluding a large reality of how these financial problems can sensibly and fairly be addressed. These blinders in Congress and the White House come from fact-starved ideologies--mostly from the Republicans--and fear-fed meekness--mostly from the Democrats. Both are furiously dialing for commercial campaign cash.

Take the gigantic world of corporate tax avoidance. Ronald Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986 that was designed to increase corporate tax revenues by over 30 percent. Today, President Obama wants to diminish or delete some tax loopholes (technically called tax expenditures) for large corporations, but let most of the revenues be cancelled out by lowering the corporate tax rates. How the world changes.

Obama's mild approach is unacceptable to the big business lobbies and their Republican mascots in Congress.

They want more tax breaks so they can keep trillions of more dollars over the next decade.

Lost in this whirl of vast greed and political calculation are options, which if pursued with a sense of fairness for the people of the country, would go a long way in providing revenues for public works jobs--repairing America--which in turn would generate more consumer demand by these workers.

The ultra-accurate Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) publishes precise reports on the effective taxes paid by corporations that make an utter mockery of the 35 percent statutory tax rate for corporations (see

On June 1, 2011, CTJ released a preview of its forthcoming study of Fortune 500 companies and "the taxes they paid--or failed to pay--over the 2008-2010 period." Judging by the preview, this report should silence those who say that the U.S. taxes corporations more than other industrialized nations.

What do you think the following profitable corporations paid in actual total federal income taxes in that period: American Electric Power, Boeing, Dupont, Exxon Mobil, FedEx, General Electric, Honeywell, International, IBM, United Technologies, Verizon Communications, Wells Fargo, and Yahoo? Nothing!

CTJ reports that "from 2008 through 2010, these 12 companies reported $171 billion in pretax U.S. profits. But as a group, their federal income taxes were negative: $2.5 billion."

CTJ documents that "not a single one of the companies paid anything close to the 35 percent statutory tax rate. In fact, the 'highest tax' company on our list, ExxonMobil, paid an effective three-year tax rate of only 14.2 percent...and over the past two years, Exxon Mobil's net tax on its $9.9 billion in U.S. pretax profits was a minuscule $39 million, an effective tax rate of 0.4 percent."

Next time you hear Republicans like Eric Cantor, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell repeat their statement that corporations are overtaxed and need a break, you can tell them that "had these 12 companies paid the full 35 percent corporate tax, their federal income taxes over the three years would have totaled $59.9 billion." CTJ director, Bob McIntyre noted that these 12 companies are "just the tip of an iceberg of widespread corporate tax avoidance."

Of course, most Americans suspect as much, even if they don't have the exact figures. A recent Gallup poll asked the public's opinion on where they stand on the tax cuts for the rich and the tax breaks for the corporations. By a 45% margin, they opposed tax cuts for the rich and by a 55% margin, they opposed tax cuts for corporations.

So what are Barack Obama and the Democrats waiting for? They have the undeniable facts and overwhelming public sentiment behind them. Why do they let Cantor, Boehner and McConnell continue to mouth falsehoods without rebuttals of the truth?

It's obvious. The Democrats want big time money from the executives and Political Action Committees of the Fortune 500. The Democrats are willing to let the Republicans fuzz the debate and dare to try and make Medicare and social security benefits absorb the sacrifices. Indeed last week, the Washington Post headlined Obama signaling to the Republicans that social security "is on the table."

Even the meek reporters should no longer fail to challenge the Republican's daily mantras.

Should you have any doubts that the corporate state is in firm control of your government, try this test: If you paid a single dollar in federal income tax in any of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010, you paid more than the giant General Electric (GE) company. In that period GE made $7.722 billion in U.S. profit, paid no taxes and received $4.737 billion from the IRS. As the New York Times reported on March 24, teams of GE tax lawyers and accountants are making sure they avoid taxes altogether, shifting the burden to you.

These big companies are laughing at us all the way to the taxpayer-bailed-out banks. They're even laughing at their own shareholder-owners. The non-financial companies are sitting on about $2 trillion. Inert dollars, producing nothing and earning minuscule interest are better deployed by enlarging the dividend payments to their shareholders. A mere 10% of that sum as dividend payments this year would pump $200 billion into an economy needing more consumer demand.

Reporters and columnists need to start addressing these topics at news conferences with members of Congress and White House staffers. The Washington press corps shouldn't behave like sheep! (c) 2011 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Gaza And A Liturgy For Justice
By Ray McGovern

We passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza represent a cross-section of America. Yet, if there is an emblematic trait that sets us apart from "mainstream" America, it is a common, radical determination to take risks to bring Justice for the oppressed - in this case, the 1.6 million people locked in an open-air prison on a narrow strip of land called Gaza.

While most of those calling us "radical" hurl the word as a barb, we welcome the label - but radical as derived from the underlying meaning of this word, "root." Like radishes, we are rooted in soil, the soil of Justice.

"Extremist?" Yes, we confess to that too - as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. did in his Letter From the Birmingham City Jail.

Replying to those who threw the "extremist" epithet at him, Dr. King acknowledged that he was, indeed, an extremist - "an extremist for love."

He placed this kind of extremist squarely in the tradition of the Hebrew prophet Amos ("Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream"), as well as Jesus of Nazareth, Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson ("We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal").

"So," wrote King, "the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice - or will we be extremists for the cause of justice."

A Different 'Liturgy'

Our kind of extremism can be seen as rooted in a liturgy that rejects pseudo-worship, which prophet Isaiah warned that God finds sickening:

"Trample my courts no more! ... Your incense is loathsome to me. ... Make Justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow. ... I will strengthen you ... a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring prisoners out of confinement, and from the dungeon those who live in darkness. ...

"Do not dwell on things of the past. See, I am doing something new. Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?"

And, finally, another passage from Isaiah typically read on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur, which often is observed by many secular Jews, as well.

"What is the fast God desires of you? To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, break off the handcuffs from the prisoners. ..."

Nice image, no? Breaking off the handcuffs from the prisoners. Whether literally or figuratively, that takes work.

And, as the passages from Isaiah suggest, this is central to a genuine liturgy - the DOING of Justice, not merely rhetoric about how nice it would be.

From the Greek Word For...

Even though we were able to sail only ten or so nautical miles toward Gaza, it was good to spend two weeks plus in Athens.

Being in Greece again, after more than three decades, brought memories from the ridiculous to the sublime - from the 2002 film "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" to the lines from Homer memorized during four years of studying classical Greek more than a half-century ago.

I could not find anyone old enough to try out my 2,500 year-old Greek on. But the incessantly repeated dictum of the proud Greek pater familias in the film kept coming back to me: "It comes from the Greek word for..."

To the ancient Greeks who coined the term, liturgy meant work in service to others. Leitourgia referred to the people and the root ergo "do" denoted public service.

In ancient Greece, it was de rigueur for "people of means" to use a good portion of their own assets for the common good - "to give back," as we might put it today.

Whether or not the early Christians were consciously following Isaiah's admonition against fulsome prancing in ostentatious religious displays, they also applied the word liturgy to the public work of the early church.

And a good thing too: for liturgy/worship should be the Church's central public activity - the work, the DOING which serves others, while affirming what the worshipers truly stand for and who they are.

Thus, in its purest and most faithful sense, liturgy requires a lived commitment to Justice, without which it is not true worship.

Jesus poured scorn, too, on the hypocrite religious leaders of his day: "Their words are bold but their deeds are few. ... They widen their phylacteries and wear huge tassels." (Phylacteries are small leather boxes containing scripture and worn during morning prayers).

In the view of Jesus, these well-adorned religious leaders oppressed, rather than helped, the poor. I'm sure glad that sort of hypocrisy doesn't happen any more!

Tzedakah is a Hebrew word commonly mistranslated as charity. But it is based on the Hebrew word tzedek meaning righteousness, fairness, justice.

Unlike philanthropy, which is completely voluntary, tzedakah is seen in Judaism as a religious obligation to be met by all - rich and poor.

Liturgy and the U.S. Boat

We had no tassels on the boat, nor phylacteries. But in my view, we had lots of authentic liturgy.

Even some of my boat-mate friends may be surprised to see it put that way. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists - all devoted to help bring Justice to Gaza, to break off the handcuffs and open the prison by lifting the Israeli blockade.

For those of us Christians, the spirit - if not the words - of Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, hung in the background, helping to explain why we did all we could to place ourselves "where the battle rages."

"If," wrote Martin Luther, "I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him.

"Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield except where the battle rages is mere flight and disgrace if one flinches at that point."

For me, it was a special grace of the U.S. Boat to Gaza experience to find myself in the familiar company of so many Jews from New York City - some of them fellow Bronxites.

It brought back the companionship, camaraderie, and humor that were an integral part of my first 22 years on Bainbridge Avenue and 194th Street. The comfort level was there from the start, and it was not just nostalgia.

The more aware I became of the particular courage it takes to weather the inevitable charges of being "self-hating Jews" - even from one's family and close friends - the more respect I gained for my Jewish co-travelers, many of whom gave adroit but unflinching leadership to the entire enterprise.

Whether "observant" Jews or not, they personified in a special way the prophetic Judaism that stood for the idea that only justice yields peace - the Judaism that pulses with compassion for "the orphans, widows, and the exploited poor."

What a wonderful reminder that relying on Israeli kill-power rather than Justice for the Gazans is not truly Jewish. Nor is it safe. As one of my mentors, Daniel Maguire, Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, has put it:

"A tribal 'Jewish' state that ignores the prophet Zechariah's warning that Zion cannot be built on injustice and bloodshed will, as the prophets of Israel warned, fall into the pit it is currently and frantically digging."
(c) 2011 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

No, We Can't? Or Won't?
By Paul Krugman

If you were shocked by Friday's job report, if you thought we were doing well and were taken aback by the bad news, you haven't been paying attention. The fact is, the United States economy has been stuck in a rut for a year and a half.

Yet a destructive passivity has overtaken our discourse. Turn on your TV and you'll see some self-satisfied pundit declaring that nothing much can be done about the economy's short-run problems (reminder: this "short run" is now in its fourth year), that we should focus on the long run instead.

This gets things exactly wrong. The truth is that creating jobs in a depressed economy is something government could and should be doing. Yes, there are huge political obstacles to action - notably, the fact that the House is controlled by a party that benefits from the economy's weakness. But political gridlock should not be conflated with economic reality.

Our failure to create jobs is a choice, not a necessity - a choice rationalized by an ever-shifting set of excuses.

Excuse No. 1: Just around the corner, there's a rainbow in the sky.

Remember "green shoots"? Remember the "summer of recovery"? Policy makers keep declaring that the economy is on the mend - and Lucy keeps snatching the football away. Yet these delusions of recovery have been an excuse for doing nothing as the jobs crisis festers.

Excuse No. 2: Fear the bond market.

Two years ago The Wall Street Journal declared that interest rates on United States debt would soon soar unless Washington stopped trying to fight the economic slump. Ever since, warnings about the imminent attack of the "bond vigilantes" have been used to attack any spending on job creation.

But basic economics said that rates would stay low as long as the economy was depressed - and basic economics was right. The interest rate on 10-year bonds was 3.7 percent when The Wall Street Journal issued that warning; at the end of last week it was 3.03 percent.

How have the usual suspects responded? By inventing their own reality. Last week, Representative Paul Ryan, the man behind the G.O.P. plan to dismantle Medicare, declared that we must slash government spending to "take pressure off the interest rates" - the same pressure, I suppose, that has pushed those rates to near-record lows.

Excuse No. 3: It's the workers' fault.

Unemployment soared during the financial crisis and its aftermath. So it seems bizarre to argue that the real problem lies with the workers - that the millions of Americans who were working four years ago but aren't working now somehow lack the skills the economy needs.

Yet that's what you hear from many pundits these days: high unemployment is "structural," they say, and requires long-term solutions (which means, in practice, doing nothing).

Well, if there really was a mismatch between the workers we have and the workers we need, workers who do have the right skills, and are therefore able to find jobs, should be getting big wage increases. They aren't. In fact, average wages actually fell last month.

Excuse No. 4: We tried to stimulate the economy, and it didn't work.

Everybody knows that President Obama tried to stimulate the economy with a huge increase in government spending, and that it didn't work. But what everyone knows is wrong.

Think about it: Where are the big public works projects? Where are the armies of government workers? There are actually half a million fewer government employees now than there were when Mr. Obama took office.

So what happened to the stimulus? Much of it consisted of tax cuts, not spending. Most of the rest consisted either of aid to distressed families or aid to hard-pressed state and local governments. This aid may have mitigated the slump, but it wasn't the kind of job-creation program we could and should have had. This isn't 20-20 hindsight: some of us warned from the beginning that tax cuts would be ineffective and that the proposed spending was woefully inadequate. And so it proved.

It's also worth noting that in another area where government could make a big difference - help for troubled homeowners - almost nothing has been done. The Obama administration's program of mortgage relief has gone nowhere: of $46 billion allotted to help families stay in their homes, less than $2 billion has actually been spent.

So let's summarize: The economy isn't fixing itself. Nor are there real obstacles to government action: both the bond vigilantes and structural unemployment exist only in the imaginations of pundits. And if stimulus seems to have failed, it's because it was never actually tried.

Listening to what supposedly serious people say about the economy, you'd think the problem was "no, we can't." But the reality is "no, we won't." And every pundit who reinforces that destructive passivity is part of the problem.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property - until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
~~~ Thomas Jefferson

Carlos Montes

Carlos Montes And The Security State
A Cautionary Tale
By Chris Hedges

On May 17 at 5 in the morning the Chicano activist Carlos Montes got a wake-up call at his home in California from Barack Obama's security state. The Los Angeles County sheriff's SWAT team, armed with assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests, as well as being accompanied by FBI agents, kicked down his door, burst into his house with their weapons drawn, handcuffed him in his pajamas and hauled him off to jail. Montes, one of tens of thousands of Americans who have experienced this terrifying form of military-style assault and arrest, was one of the organizers of the demonstrations outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., and he faces trial along with 23 other anti-war activists from Minnesota, as well as possible charges by a federal grand jury.

The widening use of militarized police units effectively nullifies the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the use of the armed forces for civilian policing. City police forces have in the last few decades amassed small strike forces that employ high-powered assault rifles, armored personnel carriers, tanks, elaborate command and control centers and attack helicopters. Poor urban neighborhoods, which bear the brunt of the estimated 40,000 SWAT team assaults that take place every year, have already learned what is only dimly being understood by the rest of us-in the eyes of the state we are increasingly no longer citizens with constitutional rights but enemy combatants. And that is exactly how Montes was treated. There is little daylight now between raiding a home in the middle of the night in Iraq and raiding one in Alhambra, Calif.

Montes is a longtime activist. He helped lead the student high school walkouts in East Los Angeles and anti-war protests in the 1960s and later demonstrations against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was one of the founding members of the Brown Berets, a Chicano group that in the 1960s styled itself after the Black Panthers. In the 1970s he evaded authorities while he lived in Mexico and he went on to organize garment workers in El Paso, Texas. He and the subpoenaed activists are reminders that in Barack Obama's America, being a dissident is a crime.

"It was an FBI action, as I recall," Sgt. Jim Scully told reporters of the Pasadena Star-News. "We assisted them."

Montes was arrested ostensibly because he bought a firearm although a felony conviction 42 years ago prohibited him from doing so. The 1969 felony conviction was for throwing a can of Coke at a police officer during a demonstration. The registered shotgun in his closet, bought last year at a sporting goods shop, became the excuse to ransack his home, charge him and schedule him for trial in August. It became the excuse to seize his computer, two cellphones and files and records of his activism on behalf of workers, immigrants, the Chicano community and opposition to wars. Prosecutors said Montes should have disclosed his four-decade-old felony charge when he bought the shotgun at Big 5 Sporting Goods. Because he neglected to do this he will face six felony charges. The case is to be tried in Los Angeles.

"The gun issue was clearly a pretext to investigate my political activities," he said when I reached him at his Alhambra home. "It is about my anti-war activities and my links to the RNC demonstrations. It is also about my activism denouncing the U.S. policy of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, their support for Israel and the Colombian government. I have been to Colombia twice."

"I thought someone is breaking in, somebody is trying to jack me up," he said. "I was a victim of an armed robbery in December of 2009 in my home. I do have a gun in my bedroom for self-defense. I was startled. I jumped out of bed. I saw lights coming from the front-door area. They looked like flashlights. I saw men with helmets and rifles. I gravitated towards the front door. I didn't take my gun. I could have done that. I have it there. It is a good thing I didn't pick anything up and put it in my hand."

"I yelled, 'Who is it?' " he said. "They said, 'The police. Carlos Montes, come out' or 'come forward,' something like that. I approached the entryway. They rushed in. They grabbed my hands. They turned me around. There were two police officers on each arm. They brought me out holding my arms. I have a little patio. They handcuffed me and patted me down. I am on a little hill. I looked down the street and [it was] full of sheriff's vehicles, patrol cars and two large green vans. They were bigger than vans. People could stand in there. They didn't have any logos on them. I thought it was an Army truck at first. Later on I found it was from the sheriff."

"It was kind of misty," he said. "The ground was wet. They put me in the back seat of the car. I was handcuffed. They closed the doors and the windows. I was sitting there looking around, in a state of shock, thinking is this a dream or the real thing? I tried to close my eyes for a little while to see if I could wake up from this nightmare. I always had it in the back of my mind, one day they will come and raid me. My name was on the anti-war committee FBI search warrant raid in Minnesota. People were saying 'we all got raided and your name is there.' The lawyers said, 'Beware-it could happen to you sooner or later.' They were raided on Sept. 24 last year."

Those who were raided were all issued subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. They have refused to testify. The March on the RNC organizing committee was infiltrated by an agent although the protest groups had obtained licenses to demonstrate at the Republican National Convention. The Justice Department's inspector general later released a report that criticized the FBI for invoking anti-terrorist laws to justify its investigations and harassment of peace and solidarity groups, including Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Catholic Worker.

While Montes was in the back of the police car a man in a windbreaker and a baseball cap approached the vehicle. The sheriff's deputies rolled down the right rear window. The man in the baseball cap told Montes he was from the FBI and wanted to speak with him.

"I blurted out, 'Do you have a card?'" Montes said. "He laughed and said, 'I don't have a card.' He said, 'I want to talk to you about Freedom Road Socialist Organization.' I didn't say anything. I kept quiet. And then he walked away."

Montes has written articles for the newspaper Fight Back News about Chicano immigrants' rights struggles in Los Angeles, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fight against the rise of charter schools. He said he was not a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization. The organization, a Marxist group, is reportedly being investigated by the FBI because of connections with the Colombian rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Palestinian group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, both of which have been labeled as terrorist organizations. The Sept. 24, 2010, search warrant for the anti-war committee offices in Minneapolis lists Montes' name among the group's affiliates.

Montes was taken to the Los Angeles County Jail, known as the Twin Towers, and held for 24 hours until he was able to post a $35,000 bail.

"They called my sister to secure [my] house," he said. "She called the handyman and he put a piece of plywood over my door. I did not have my wallet with me. When I got out of the county jail I did not have any phone numbers or money or an ID. I was walking around in slippers-at least they gave me slippers-and my pajamas. I got back about 5:30 the next morning. I got the door off. There were files and papers on the floor along with photograph albums of the anti-war movement, Latinos Against the War, the '92 Rebellion, my son's wedding, my daughter's birthday, scattered on my kitchen table and floor. It looked like they lined up a bunch of stuff on tables and went through it. It was the same thing with my living room table. They had a file out from 1994 when we did a campaign against police brutality when the sheriffs were going crazy killing people. In my closet I had Chicano archives going back to the 1960s and 1970s. Those were pulled out and on the floor. They went through all my political documents, including my work with the Southern California Immigration Coalition and the campaign to elect a school board member, which we won, to stop the privatization of the local high school and the charters coming in. They went through all those files. It took me a couple of weeks to clean things up. They took a bunch of stuff."

"The government sees the Chicano people as a threat," he said. "We were able to turn out millions of people in 2006. In 1994 we had hundreds of thousands. We are growing. There are millions in the Southwest. We are all over the country, but especially in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California. We are still unorganized, but if we get organized we could really demand changes. We had millions of people out in 2006 and then they came after us hard in 2007. There was a lot of police repression, especially in Los Angeles. They fear the Chicano people challenging the status quo."

"Many of the activists that were raided by the police are anti-war and solidarity activists," he went on. "And even though the anti-war movement is not massive right now, the potential is there because there is an economic crisis. There is mass disgust with this economic system. People are out of work. It is not yet like COINTELPRO [Counter Intelligence Program] started under Hoover and the FBI to carry out surveillance, infiltrate and disrupt domestic political organizations, but the situation is getting worse. That is why we have to have demonstrations to put a stop to it now."

(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."

Stupid Republicans, Stupid Democrats
By David Michael Green

There are precious few things that Republicans and Democrats can agree on, but one of them is that Barack Obama is a liberal.

That rare manifestation of consensus might ordinarily be occasion for celebration (according to conventional wisdom, at least - though certainly not mine - which celebrates consensus), except for one pesky problematic detail: the notion is utterly ludicrous.

Consider a batch of recent headlines as merely the most proximate examples of a phenomenon that's been on display since before the president was inaugurated.

Last week, the New York Times ran a front page piece, entitled "U.S. Pressing Its Crackdown Against Leaks," in which it was noted that, "The Justice Department shows no sign of rethinking its campaign to punish unauthorized disclosures to the news media, with five criminal cases so far under President Obama, compared with three under all previous presidents combined. This week, a grand jury in Virginia heard testimony in a continuing investigation of WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy group, a rare effort to prosecute those who publish secrets, rather than those who leak them." Though the article doesn't mention it, we should also note here that the Obama administration is also all but Gitmo-style torturing Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing documents to Wikileaks.

The article does allude, however, to the gross inappropriateness of the charges in many of these cases, a sentiment that is even joined by several conservative commentators and national security experts. In particular, the White House is bringing down the hammer on individuals who appear to be fully patriotic public servants, who acted as whistle-blowers in order to live up to their own patriotic standards. In other words, the secrets they were publicizing had no effect in terms of jeopardizing national security, unless one defines protecting the nation as covering up malfeasance, corruption or waste in government. No doubt some people do define it as exactly that, since, by some purely random coincidence, doing so happens to serve very well their own interests. Evidently the big liberal now in the Oval Office concurs.

In general, Obama's record on civil liberties is so flat-out abysmal that it has caused a friend of his to publicly repudiate the president for his disastrous undoing of the Constitutional protections he is sworn to uphold. This week, law professor Geoffrey Stone published a New York Times op-ed that began like this: "As a longtime supporter and colleague of Barack Obama at the University of Chicago, as well as an informal adviser to his 2008 campaign, I had high hopes that he would restore the balance between government secrecy and government transparency that had been lost under George W. Bush, and that he would follow through on his promise, as a candidate, to promote openness and public accountability in government policy making. It has not quite worked out that way. While Mr. Obama has taken certain steps, notably early in his administration, to scale back some of the Bush-era excesses, in other respects he has shown a disappointing willingness to continue in his predecessor's footsteps."

Stone goes on to detail the many ways in which the Obama administration has matched Bush/Cheney in its eagerness to shred the Bill of Rights, detailing how the great liberal in the White House has not only "followed its predecessor in aggressively cracking down on [whistle-blowers for] unauthorized leaks," but also "followed Mr. Bush in zealously applying the state secrets doctrine ... asserted the privilege in litigation involving such issues as the C.I.A.'s use of extraordinary rendition and the National Security Agency's practice of wiretapping American citizens" and, most remarkably, blocked legal recognition of a journalist-source privilege which is essential to any hope of investigating government crimes and failings: "In what seems to be a recurring theme, Senator Obama supported the Free Flow of Information Act, but President Obama does not. In 2007, he was one of the sponsors of the original Senate bill, but in 2009 he objected to the scope of the privilege envisioned by the bill and requested that the Senate revise the bill to require judges to defer to executive branch judgments."

In many ways, Stone is actually too charitable, because in many ways Obama has gone even further than the Bush administration in trampling on people's rights and very lives in pursuit of the "War on Everything" which now seems to be the modus operandi for American policy, both foreign and domestic. Obama has radically increased the number of drone strikes in Pakistan, wantonly killing civilians there, and he has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he alone deems enemies of the state.

And, oh boy, we do have a lot of enemies under Barack Obama. Liberals were sickened, as they should well have been, when Boy George lied the country into a war in Iraq that had little to do with anything beyond ameliorating his own massive and well-deserved personal insecurities, and when he promulgated a far too vague, misguided and misguiding ‘war on terrorism', which was of course in fact really a war on anyone who wouldn't play ball with corporate-controlled Washington, DC. (Truth be told, tin-pot potentates could use any tactics or weapons they wanted to, or not do so, and that was irrelevant to whether they would end up on the bad guys' list. It was all about playing ball with the money guys. Ask the once-favored Saddam. Ask Noriega.) In any case, if you put it all together, Bush had us fighting three simultaneous wars, which I'm pretty sure is a personal best, even for a country as addicted to war as America. Or, I should say, it used to be a personal best.

Not to be outdone by a mere actual Republican, Barack Obama has now fully doubled Bush's prodigious achievement. As Tom Engelhardt reports, we are now fighting "Six Wars and Counting": "With the latest news that the U.S. has launched a significant ‘intensification' of its secret air campaign against Yemeni tribesmen believed to be connected with al-Qaeda, the U.S. is now involved in no less than six wars. Count ‘em, if you don't believe me: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and what used to be called the Global War on Terror." It is, of course, a measure of the sickness of our times that we can be fighting six wars at once. But it is even worse that nobody even particularly notices. And it is truly bizarre that those on the left and those on the right would no doubt agree that liberal Barack Obama runs a much less militarist foreign policy than George W. Bush, even whilst fighting double the number of simultaneous wars. Say what?

Well, okay. Maybe Obama is just a captive of the military-industrial complex like every other American politician, and therefore has no latitude to move on any of these fronts, and blah, blah, blah... (I say that not, in the slightest way, to mock this notion of iron triangle control either in concept or in application. It's very real and very powerful. It's just that, what's the point of being president if you're not going to do the hard things?). But at least this progressive president, this socialist chief executive, can move boldly on social issues, right? I mean, we're talking about stuff where the military doesn't have a dog in the race, and - most importantly - there are no Wall Street weenies to control the national agenda so that they can purchase their eighth yacht. So, Kapow!, right? Slam! Bash! Isn't social policy where this presidential product of the civil rights movement can run hard, knees churning high, knocking over any obstacles in his way?

Try again. Here's another New York Times headline for you, from an editorial last week: "Gay Marriage: Where's Mr. Obama?" Where, indeed? Ya wanna know where he was while New York was doing something truly historic (if ridiculously overdue)? Cashing in on the issue without remotely committing to it, that's where: "On Thursday night, when same-sex marriage in New York State was teetering on a razor's edge, President Obama had a perfect opportunity to show the results of his supposed evolution on gay marriage. Unfortunately, he did not take it, keeping his own views in the shadows. The next night the Republican-led New York State Senate, of all places, proved itself more forward-thinking than the president on one of the last great civil-rights debates in this nation's history. Speaking to the Democratic Party's LGBT Leadership Council at a fund-raiser in New York, Mr. Obama ran through the many efforts he has made on behalf of gay rights, including his decision to end the government's legal support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The act should be repealed, he said, since marriage is defined by the states. Mr. Obama's legal formula suggests he is fine with the six states that now permit same-sex marriage, and fine with the more than three dozen other states that ban it. By refusing to say whether he supports it (as he did in 1996) or opposes it (as he did in 2008), he remained in a straddle that will soon strain public patience. For now, all Mr. Obama promised was a gauzy new "chapter" in the story if he is re-elected, and his views remain officially ‘evolving'".

Bold Barack. Brave Barack. He'll come speak moving words to your caucus. You know, shit about "bending the arc of history," and "we'll get there together." He'll take your money. And then, when it comes to actual policy decisions, where it counts, his position will be so lame that he'll manage to be outflanked by Republicans, even the thuggish freaks who are more or less the only kind of Republicans there are in 2011. Brilliant. And so liberal.

And about as sadly ironic as it gets. The heterosexual Obama on gay rights - unquestionably the central civil rights issue of our time - reminds me of nothing so much as the Caucasian Dwight Eisenhower or John Kennedy trying to fudge the moral imperative of the African American civil rights movement that was shoved in their faces in the Fifties and Sixties, pathetically splitting hairs, trying to placate their racist constituents while history was happening all around them, much to their chagrin. Imagine if, by some certain quirk of science fiction, that Barack Obama had been president then. What would he have done, as his own people demanded justice, prosperity, freedom and democratic rights? He would have done what he is doing to gays today. And for that matter, what he is doing for racial minorities today (which is nothing), an issue on which he has been the most silent president of my lifetime. I'm not joking about this. Even if it were his own people whose lives and fortunes and destinies were in the balance, blacks would have gotten Mr. Bigtalk at the campaign fundraiser, but Mr. Laylow in the Oval Office.

Ah, but timidity is far less the issue with Obama than sometimes seems apparent, and that interpretation of the guy's politics is a fundamental mistake made by most of those Democrats who at least once in a while have the good sense to be disappointed by their president. Think about it. When you're timid, you don't fight six foreign wars at one time. You don't claim the right to assassinate American citizens for their rhetoric. You don't shred the Constitution.

The thing about Obama that neither Democrats nor Republicans understand is that this guy is fundamentally regressive in his politics. That is the essence of his presidency, though - astonishingly - very few people get that. Look at the litany of issues addressed above. If you honestly asked yourself for each of them what, in the abstract, would a progressive president do, and what would a regressive president do, you can immediately decipher the true nature of Barack Obama. A progressive president wouldn't triple American forces in Afghanistan and launch three new wars abroad, but a regressive president would. A progressive president wouldn't out-do Dick Cheney in wrecking the Bill of Rights, but a regressive president would. A progressive president wouldn't follow behind the lead of Republicans on civil rights issues, but a regressive president would.

And that's just what this regressive president has done, all down the line. Never mind that we're just getting started here. We could go on and on with this, issue after issue. What do you think a regressive president would do about the planetary nightmare of global warming? Nothing, perhaps? Gee, does that sound familiar? How about giving out unprecedentedly gigantic oil tracts off the Atlantic coast? Or multiple rounds of additional tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy? Hey, where have I heard that before? Even Obama's signature ‘liberal' issue, his health care plan, was just dandy from the perspective of the insurance industry, with whom he cut a deal at the very beginning of the legislative process. I'm sorry, but if those guys are happy with the bill (maybe - I'm just wildly guessing here - because it forces about 35 million people to buy their expensive and useless product?), what does that tell you about the legislation, and about the president who crafted it?

Democrats are stupid about this. They still mostly like Obama, to the tune of about 75-80 percent job approval, though they might grumble here and there about this or that perceived failing of the president's. It is a measure of their abysmally low standards and our pathetic national political discourse that policies like Obama's can satisfy his base, so much so that he won't even face a primary challenger from his left. We saw the same thing with Clinton as well, who first sold out the party of the New Deal and Great Society. Idiotic Democrats still adore Clinton to this day, not realizing that he was more Reagan than Reagan when it comes to economic policy, including the deregulation of banks that created the current deluge under which so many non-elite Americans are drowning, while the rich are fatter than ever.

These attitudes are also a measure of bias as well, or what one might describe as a sort of political tribalism of the uninformed. On the rare occasion where you might hear an exasperated Republican say of Obama's supporters, "If George Bush did the exact same thing, they'd string him up for it," he or she has got it right. As clearly demonstrated above, Obama actually out-Bushes Bush in many areas - imagine, if you can do so without hurling, what a Dick "Dick" Cheney presidency might have looked like - and yet brain-dead Democrats still support their guy.

Why? I suppose some of it is because he's black. And some of it is because he's young and articulate and energetic and photogenic. Mostly, though, I think it's because he's a Democrat, and people are so tuned out from public affairs - despite what public affairs policy decisions are doing to their lives right now - that they simply go with that in-group vs. out-group rubric: "Democrat good, Republican bad." Chances are they got that from their families and communities, along with their religion and nationalism and so on. Of course, to a certain extent, one of the key functions of political parties has always been simply to serve as precisely that sort of short-hand. Don't know who Smedley Goodfinger is, the candidate for local dog catcher? That's fine, just check his party label and vote accordingly.

But there is a point at which such guiding assistance can cross a line into negligent laziness. More importantly, as in our time, there is a very real danger that today's Democrat is far from being your father's Democrat. At which point, using party labels to make otherwise blind decisions about politics becomes not just laziness or negligence, but complicity in a crime. And a crime where you're one of the victims, no less.

We have been at that point since at least 1992 - and arguably 1976 - when "New Democrats" threw the program of FDR and LBJ overboard, but continued to benefit from the inertial habits of well-trained traditional Democratic voters. Bill Clinton was, historically speaking, every bit as great a national disaster, if not greater, than Ronald Reagan. At least with Reagan you had a clearer sense of his real politics and values. What Clinton and now Obama have been successful at doing is getting Democrats to support them while nevertheless running policies that favor the same plutocratic constituencies as a Reagan or a Bush would. Let's be honest, individuals like Geithner and Summers and Rubin could have just as easily served in a Republican administration as a Democratic one, and their policies would have fit just as well. Or look at Bob Gates, who not only could have done this, but in fact did.

In short, Democratic support and defense of Barack Obama is a sad joke. This guy is no liberal. He is, in fact, using liberal votes to join the Gingriches and Cheneys and Palins of this world in the project of destroying liberalism and its great achievement of massively widening the middle class and sharing national prosperity. Hey, not a bad gig, if you don't mind the whole cynicism part, and the whole spending eternity in Hell thing.

Republican haters of Obama are every bit as guilty of negligent laziness, of course, but for them there is an added element of sickness. They could never admit it, but one simply cannot dismiss all the rhetoric of foreignness and other forms of fundamental illegitimacy they revel in when it comes to Obama. You know... He wasn't really born here. He's a secret Muslim. He's a socialist. He's going to take away our guns. He's not really an American. He bows to foreign princes. He hates America and its core values. He goes around the world apologizing for his country. He's actually really dumb, and can only sound intelligent because he uses a teleprompter. His health care bill is a nefarious plot to kill off grannies.

This shit is so stupid it's embarrassing. Or, it would be, if the folks trading in these tropes were capable of embarrassment. Beyond the fact that they, like Democrats, are unable to decipher Obama's obvious political commitments with the slightest degree of accuracy, despite the plainness of these for all the see, Republicans add to the mix their equally transparent personal insecurities when it comes to Obama. It's not just that he's black and sitting in their White House (though, now that you mention it, that's not right!), or that he's a Democrat that bothers them. What makes them go ballistic is that he is so clearly more mature and responsible in his mien. That undermines their license to be reckless and irresponsible - and to favor national policies that are the same - with impunity. That's what they loved so much about Bush, and what the codes words of "the politician you'd most like to have a beer with" really meant. It's the guy who doesn't threaten your greed and laziness and prejudice and stupidity, as Obama kinda does. It's the guy who doesn't make you think, the guy who provides political cover for your worst instincts.

I think that's the real reason why regressives hate Obama so, despite the fact that his politics are exactly their politics - yes, even including the extravagant spending, where Obama is merely replicating the crimes of Reagan and Bush, though for slightly more defensible reasons.

It's not a good sign when so many people - basically all of us - have politics which are so flat-out wrong. And if these feel like the worst of times politically in America, that is not such an exaggerated perception, notwithstanding the country's more overt crises throughout the past two or three centuries. There are significant differences now, however. One is that the national trajectory is manifestly downward, really for the first time ever in US history. Another is that our body politic is so diminished that it can no longer recognize basic political facts anymore. Nothing is more emblematic of that than the case of Barack Obama. Democrats love him for being a good old liberal Democrat. Republicans hate him for the same reason. Both are so politically dumbed-down that neither can recognize how absurdly wrong they are on such a central question as the politics of the country's chief executive.

But, of course, the biggest single problem facing the polity is that nobody is talking about the biggest single problem facing the polity. The country has been hijacked by hyper-greedy elites, who have demonstrated that there is absolutely no bottom to what they are willing to do to the rest of us, and to the country, to milk it and bilk it of every last remaining penny of value. There have always been people like that, of course, but where in the past they have been effectively countered by those with a sensible and public-oriented agenda, no such beast exists anymore, at least outside of Vermont and one or two odd congressional districts. Your choice at the ballot box today will be between a Democrat who bends you over and screws you with a smile and a modicum of foreplay first, or a Republican who dispenses with such niceties and just gets the job done, to the glee of every insecure cracker cheering from the sidelines, not realizing which end of the pelvic thrust he himself is actually on as well.

But that's not actually the worst news. If you think about it, every disaster facing the country today has been a product of insane right-wing politics deployed over the last thirty years. But, truly remarkably, every such disaster has then produced public acquiescence, if not support, for a yet more regressive response to address the mess made by the initial one (what was it that Einstein said about the literal definition of insanity?).

Keep that in mind while contemplating the fact that our current trajectory is completely unsustainable. Bad conditions are about to get much worse.

Given such a track record, which way do you think the American public will be turning when the shit really hits the fan?

Yeah, me too.
(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...

Jon gives the corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Kyl,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your refusal to raise the nation's debt; without destroying social Security Medicare and Food Stamps, something you happily did four times under Bush adding 4 trillion to the debt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 09-05-2011. We salute you Herr Kyl, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Guthrie's 'Land' Is Madison
by John Nichols

A week into the struggle to defend the working families of Wisconsin from the assault on their rights by Gov. Scott Walker and his legislative allies, a group of rockers from around the country showed up to sing in solidarity with the tens of thousands of Wisconsinites who had gathered outside the Capitol. Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, Wayne Kramer from the MC5, Mike McColgan from the Dropkick Murphys and the Street Dogs, and a band of young musicians packed the stage at the State Street entrance on a February day when it was so cold that they joked about trying to play guitars with frozen fingers.

Yet they played their way through a rousing array of labor and protest music.

The rockers finished with a song that everyone knew: Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."

Guthrie, a union man who placed his voice in the service of many a strike during the rabble-rousing years of the 1930s and 1940s, wrote some of America's finest labor songs. But "This Land Is Your Land" struck a deeper note. It was not just about the dignity of work. It was about the dignity of Americans and their right to expect more from their country than the same poverty, discrimination and neglect that he associated with the totalitarian states of Europe and the colonies of Africa and southern Asia.

"This Land Is Your Land" has become a sort of people's national anthem. In Wisconsin this year, it has been restored to its radical roots, often with the "lost verses" that Guthrie used to sing resurrected.

The original manuscript was a call to action for economic and social justice:

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, in the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

Woody Guthrie died too young, at age 55. If he were living, he would turn 99 on July 14.

As it happens, his son, Arlo, a great songwriter and singer in his own right, will celebrate in Madison on the 14th. He will play the Barrymore Theater, singing his own songs and some of his father's.

Arlo Guthrie will support the labor struggle in Wisconsin as his father did so many times during the good fights that gave rise to the modern labor movement: by donating his entire fee to the We Are Wisconsin Worker's Emergency Rights Fund - a network of religious leaders, community groups, labor union members, student groups and others who oppose the current state budget, which harms Wisconsin families.

There is something so right about a Guthrie singing "This Land Is Your Land," in all its glory, in Madison on the night of Woody's 99th birthday. For more information, contact the Barrymore online at or call 608-241-5354.
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

The Great Generational Threat
By Glenn Greenwald

In just the past two months alone (all subsequent to the killing of Osama bin Laden), the U.S. Government has taken the following steps in the name of battling the Terrorist menace: extended the Patriot Act by four years without a single reform; begun a new CIA drone attack campaign in Yemen; launched drone attacks in Somalia; slaughtered more civilians in Pakistan; attempted to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki far from any battlefield and without a whiff of due process; invoked secrecy doctrines to conceal legal memos setting forth its views of its own domestic warrantless surveillance powers; announced a "withdrawal"plan for Afghanistan that entails double the number of troops in that country as were there when Obama was inaugurated; and invoked a very expansive view of its detention powers under the 2001 AUMF by detaining an alleged member of al-Shabab on a floating prison, without charges, Miranda warnings, or access to a lawyer. That's all independent of a whole slew of drastically expanded surveillance powers seized over the past two years in the name of the same threat.

Behold the mammoth, life-altering, nation-threatening danger justifying this endless -- and ongoing -- erosion of safeguards, checks and liberties, from The Los Angeles Times (h/t Antony Loewenstein):

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared Saturday that the United States is "within reach" of "strategically defeating" Al Qaeda as a terrorist threat, but that doing so would require killing or capturing the group's 10 to 20 remaining leaders.

Heading to Afghanistan for the first time since taking office earlier this month, Panetta said that intelligence uncovered in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May showed that 10 years of U.S. operations against Al Qaeda had left it with fewer than two dozen key operatives, most of whom are in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa.

In one sense, it's commendable that Panetta is acknowledging this, though he's doing so to protect the President from political attacks in the wake of his announced withdrawal of 30,000 troops from Afghanistan. But in another, more important sense, Panetta knows that this disclosure won't even slightly impede the always-expanding National Security State and the War on Terror which justifies it -- just like the acknowledgment long ago that there were fewer than 100 Al Qaeda operatives in all of Afghanistan had no effect on our decade-long war there. That's because -- as the above-described events of the last eight weeks demonstrate -- civil liberties assaults and expansions of executive power are not what the U.S. Government does in response to some actual problem; it's what the public-private consortium composing the U.S. Government is. Terrorist villains are the pretext for, not the cause of, those policies, and they will continue irrespective of the scope or magnitude of Terrorism.

Indeed, even as he described the puny, broken, absurd state of Al Qaeda -- one that has, at most, produced a grand total of one attack on U.S. soil in the last decade and a handful of amateurish, low-level attempts thwarted by regular police powers, and kills fewer Americans each year than intestinal ailments -- Panetta claimed "that it would take "more work'"; that "now is the moment following the death of Bin Laden to put maximum pressure"; that "it was from Yemen -- not Pakistan -- that the U.S. faces the most potent threat of future terrorist attacks, from an Al Qaeda offshoot known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, where "the group has gained strength in recent months as unrest has swept through Sana, the capital, and large swaths of its rugged hinterlands, where militants are growing in strength"; and that we have to kill all the remaining operatives. In other words, he offered multiple reasons why the War on Terror and the civil liberties abuses justified in its name must not only continue but be escalated.

Of course, just in case those propagandistic claims aren't sufficient -- we must wage war in multiple countries and seize ever-expanding surveillance powers to stop this group of two dozen Terrorist masterminds -- the U.S. is doing everything possible to ensure that Terrorism remains as large as a threat as possible:

A NATO air strike has killed at least 14 civilians, including eight children, in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, local police say. . . .The deadly air raid came a day after two children were reportedly killed in a separate air strike in southwest Ghazni province.

The killing of civilians by foreign troops is a major source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers, and has soured the feelings of many ordinary Afghans towards foreign forces. . . . As violence has spread across the country, casualties have risen, and the United Nations said May was the deadliest month for civilians since they began keeping records four years earlier.

I long believed that the most patently irrational American policy -- the one that would cause future generations to look back in baffled disgust -- was the Drug War: imprisoning huge numbers of citizens for years and years for nothing more than possessing or selling banned substances to consenting adults. But now I think it's this: that the U.S. Government is able to persuade the populace to continue to support and pay for blood-spilling and liberty-destroying policies in the name of Terrorism when nothing sustains and exacerbates the threat of Terrorism more than those very policies. Just like the FBI continues to manufacture its own Terrorist plots that it then flamboyantly boasts of thwarting, the U.S. continues to generate the threat that justifies its National Security and Surveillance State.

* * * * *

In the last week alone, U.S.-allied governments have done the following to their own citizens: killed "dozens of civilians" in Yemen; beaten anti-government protesters in Baghdad while the Iraqi Prime Minister threatened "bloodshed" and "blood to the knees" if protests continued; attacked protesters in Cairo with arms; and beat opposition protesters in prison and branded them "traitors" in Bahrain. As we recently learned, the U.S. cannot and will not "stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy." What, then, can and should the U.S. do in the face of this oppression? Don't we have more of a responsibility to act when such brutality is carried out by regimes that we arm, support and prop up than by ones we don't?
(c) 2011 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Ed Stein ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Here's an exclusive, the new DJ Monkey video, "Beatnik!"
You may recall that DJ Monkey had five songs in my film, "W the Movie."

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Killer Carnivorous Snails From France
By Will Durst

You don't need me to tell you that this country is broke. Not just broke. Flat busted. Unflush. Tapped to the max. No bread or cabbage or scratch to speak of. Moolahless. Holes in our pockets. Fresh out of chump change. Sans simoleons. Hands sparkling clean of any filthy lucre. Moths flying out of our wallets. Lot of red numbers. Flinching from the whistle of the wind over our empty piggy banks. Got us a dearth of dead presidents is what we got.

So it's high time we start acting like it. As has been pointed out by pundits and politicians o'plenty, the guvmint needs to do what normal Merican families do when they run into desperate straits: pretend nothing is going on while we watch reality TV shows and drink lots of beer. No, no, no. Tried that. Didn't work.

First off, we got to stop handing over money to rogue nations that simply use it to buy guns they then turn on us. If we insist on helping these toads out, we should eliminate the middleman and furnish the guns direct. We can buy in much bigger bulk than they, procuring them cheaper, saving bundles of cash. And we taxpayers keep the kickbacks instead of the politicians. Win-win.

Secondly, we should take advantage of this Arab Spring democracy movement. Provides the perfect cover to lay off some of our under performing dictators. Isn't it about time we co-opted a new generation of despots? Since they'd be junior journeymen oppressors, they should cost less. Like major corporations lay off expensive senior executives, we'll replace our pricey aging tyrants.

But we all know it's not enough to make a few minor cuts in the budget, we also have to work on increasing revenue. And I don't mean selling off ancient public institutions like various national monuments or Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Their resale values ain't what they used to be. Although it might help to seasonally adjust the bottom line.

We need to think outside the box. Direct Research and Development to produce and sell something that every American needs. Like an anti SARS serum. The deal is, we engineer and market the antidote now, then fashion a huge penicillin-resistant SARS scare later, and have the FDA approved shot or salve or cream or clear or whatever available at your local pharmacy in time for cold and flu season? Tie-Ming. Not just a city in China.

Doesn't have to be SARS. Could be anything. If SARS is too scary for the squeamish, lay down a few well-placed rumors of rampaging mutant Killer Carnivorous Snails from France and change the product to Fast Acting Snail Repellent. Same formula. Different packaging. Then ratchet up the panic with a bunch of infomercials. You know: news stories. Fox. CNN. Bloomberg. Create an imaginary vacuum and fill it. Worked for the Tea Party.

Even if it does eventually come out the whole event was manufactured, the residual damage would be minimal. What's the worst that could happen? People lose faith in their elected leaders? Oh no. Not that. The government is already lying to us on a regular basis, the least we can do is figure out how to make some money off of it. Got to ask ourselves: What would Microsoft do?
(c) 2011 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, "The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing."

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 28 (c) 07/15/2011

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