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In This Edition

Ray McGovern with a must read, "Israel's 'Bomb Iran' Timetable."

Uri Avnery explores the, "Bloody Spring."

Phil Rockstroh gets, "Beaten Down, Isolated, Angry, And Distracted."

Paul Craig Roberts warns of, "Oligarchs At The Gate."

Jim Hightower uncovers, "The People's Choice!"

Glenn Greenwald examines, "The Right's Brittle Heroes."

James Donahue wonders, "Were Humans Created To Be Slaves?"

David Swanson concludes, "What Paul Ryan Has And Obama Wants."

Ted Rall is, "Bringing A Pen To A Gunfight."

William Pfaff follows, "America Into the Political Void."

Paul Krugman reveals, "Romney/Ryan - The Real Target."

Glen Ford says, "Solidarity With Africa, Or Obama? You Can't Have Both."

Robert Reich explains, "The Ryan Choice."

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols concludes, "Paul Ryan's Got A Great Big Problem With Progressivism."

Bernie Sanders reports, "On 77th Birthday, Social Security Under Attack."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz finds, "Less Interesting Person Than Romney Found In Wisconsin" but first Uncle Ernie discovers, "Puppet Masters On Parade."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Monte Wolverton, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Clay Bennett, Mario Piperni.Com, Freaking News.Com, Chuck D, Meme Generator.Net, A.P., 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."

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Puppet Masters On Parade
By Ernest Stewart

Master of puppets
I'm pulling your strings
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
Blinded by me
You can't see a thing
Just call my name 'cause I'll hear you scream
Master Of Puppets ~~~ Metallica

"There are no stunt doubles. This is real. Real ammunition. Real explosives. Real danger." ~~~ Wesley Clark

"What seems fair enough against a squalid huckster of bad liquor may take on a different face, if used by government determined to suppress political opposition under the guise of sedition." ~~~ Learned Hand ~ US Federal Judge

"Before giving, the mind of the giver is happy; while giving, the mind of the giver is made peaceful; and having given, the mind of the giver is uplifted." ~~~ Buddha

Any doubt I had about Romney losing the November election was put to rest by "The Donald" himself, when he gave his blessing to Romney. Don Corleone never gave a kiss of death as deeply as did the "The Donald" on Willard. To add the second bullet to the back of his head was the picking as a running mate, one of the most universally-hated men in the world, as far as the liberals are concerned. Talk about a rallying point for Obama! But, I just don't get it?

Yes, Barry's dreams have come true with a Romney/Ryan ticket. The universally-hated Romney coupled with a real looney-tune -- even for the "simian collective," he's bonkers. His plan, which Willard admires, is to see that the uber-wealthy pay no taxes, coupled with a huge tax increase on the middle class. The poor, the sick, the elderly, and the hungry meet the same fate that they did in 1840s America. "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population!" You know, those good ole antebellum American daze, of a-whoppin' slaves and a sellin' cotton, and leavin' grandma on an ice flow for the polar bears to eat? Dem good ol' daze? If you're part of the homeless, the sick, the elderly, or the hungry, then don't worry, you'll soon be off for a little "regrooving" at one of our many new "Happy Camps" -- where Ryan has "a modest proposal" for the care of the children. Oh, and a word to the wise, "Stay out of that line for the showers!"

I just don't get it; is Willard committing suicide? Is this just a little ploy by Willard's and Barry's puppet masters? Had Willard really wanted to win, he would have chosen Ron Paul! All of the young Rethuglicans love Paul, and would've overlooked Romney's many faults. Not only that, but Ron would've attracted a lot of fence-sitters and even some dyed-in-the-wool Demoncrats, too -- perhaps just enough to sweep the boy-who-would-be-God into the White House, so I don't get the Ryan choice? Some have said he's attractive to the fascist base, and will rally them. Hardly needed, as those same bozos will be out in force to vote against Obamahood -- not because they don't love his policies, they do, but because he's black! So Ryan brings nothing except baggage to the ticket. Unless, of course, that was the point? Make the play interesting to the mob -- got to keep them "hypmotised" and entertained. The 2012 election is a leisure service of Koch Brothers Enterprises!

So the Presidency is Barry's to lose, or to win, depending upon the whims of the Puppet Masters.

In Other News

From our "How Low Can You Go?" department comes this strange, sad tale of just how low the corpo-rat goons at NBC will go to try and make a buck. They have a new show which I'm betting won't last six weeks, and will be an embarrassment to everyone ever associated with this trash for the rest of their lives. It's called "Stars Earn Stripes," but don't bother looking for any real stars or even any second or third tier stars. There will be no Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro or Jack Nicholson. No Hilary Duff, Reese Witherspoon, Cameron Diaz or Jennifer Lopez. Nope, not a single real star, as no real star would get involved in such a low-life gathering. Why, because NBC thinks war can be fun!

No, the losers they've assembled can be summed up by just one of them, i.e., Sarah Palin's husband Todd Palin. Todd's a big star, right? The only other "stars" that I've ever heard about is Mohamed Ali's daughter Laila Ali, whose lackluster boxing carrier is over, and former Olympian Picabo Street, whose head must have kissed a pine tree the last time that she skied. The rest I've never heard of includes Nick Lachey, Terry Crews, Dean Cain, Dolvett Quince and Eve Torres. These "stars" are teemed with military psychos, one of which brags he murdered over 160 people. Oh, and did I mention the host? Why it's former four-star general and anti-war candidate Wesley Clark, who really should have known better than to have his name forever-attached to this garbage. Wesley must have taken one in the head somewhere in his military career?

NBC describes this nightmare as "a fierce and emotionally-charged new competition show honoring America's armed forces." Their "missions" are "inspired by real military exercises. From helicopter drops to long range weapons fire -- the competitors will be tested physically and emotionally as they play to win and to earn a cash prize for military, veterans and first-responder based charities."

I sent NBC a suggestion, i.e., why not have the stars use real ammo against one another in the final episode, making the winner the last "star" standing! At least that way we could rid the world of these bozos. Or, perhaps, we could put all of their children in a house and then have a predator drone fire a couple of Hell-Fire missiles into the house, and have the stars rush in to pick up the pieces, as we do everyday to brown skinned people overseas. Yes, it's not fair to the kids; but it isn't fair to those hundreds of thousands we've murdered for Wall Street's profit margin, either. What goes around should come around, right? Still, better yet, we could use that drone to attack NBC's next board of directors meeting to show the survivors that war isn't any fun, ever!

And Finally

The people in Michigan are every bit as dumb as the folks way down yonder -- perhaps more so, as they should know better than to elect a group of fascist Koch puppets to office. From a governor who thinks he's Michigan's first emperor, to a secretary of state who thinks she can control elections by her personal whim, and with rules that even the emperor and the Rethuglican-controlled legislature turned down as they were obviously blatantly unconstitutional.

Michigan's Secretary of State Ruth Johnson told some of the voting precincts personnel that everyone voting must swear under oath that they are US citizens, and if they don't, they don't vote. I'm sure she thought that sounded reasonable; but the facts are that it isn't a requirement -- especially since you are required to swear to just that before you get your voter id card. The result was that folks who knew the law refused to do so and were refused ballots; well, they were until one of Detroit's newspapers found out about it and queried Ruth about it -- whereupon she retracted the requirement. Can anyone guess where this whim was enforced? If you said in black precincts, you may stay after class and clean the erasers!

So, you know what I did, right? I wrote Ruth a short note...

Ruth Johnson Michigan Secretary of State

Hey Ruth,

Ooops, you bad, huh? That little requirement, that wasn't a requirement, that you knew was not only not a requirement, but would be in violation of the law that you swore to uphold, but didn't, and is actually sedition, is coming back to haunt you, as it should. Once upon a time, it would have cost you everything, being drawn and quartered was the punishment for sedition; but since the legislature, the courts and Emperor Snyder are all controlled by the Koch brothers and the like, nothing is likely to happen to you until you get out of power -- tis a pity, but we the people have to deal not only with your sedition, but your party's treason, too! Just a note to let you know we're watching, Ruth. Oh, and the crime of sedition is like murder; it never expires.

But, cheer up, you've won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award, our weekly award for the biggest traitor in the country!


Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

If Ruth replies, I'll share it with you!

PS. The City of Anaheim wrote me back asking me to take a survey about their response to my question about their current police riots and murders. They really must be a glutton for punishment, huh? So I took their survey:

The song and dance I got about the police riots. The police riots that continue to this day. My only trip to Anaheim was to visit Disneyland back in the 60's, and I don't recall hundreds of Jack Booted thugs blocking the entrance to the "happiest place in the world" with rocket launchers. Do explain the need to control the peaceful protests against your police riots and police murders with rocket launchers! Needless to say, I wouldn't visit again or take in an Angels game at gunpoint. Nazi Germany comes to California; trouble is, I'm not the least bit surprised by it!
Again, if they reply I'll share it with you!

Keepin' On

Thanks to Doctor Phil and the mysterious Mr. Jack, a couple of our "regular suspects," we're still publishing! It's just like them to come to our rescue when we really needed it. For those of you who have asked from time to time if Doctor Phil and Mr. Jack are gay, the answer is no; they are, however, far stranger than that! But thank mighty Zeus for them, as once again we are having this conversation only because they stood up and gave us a helping hand. Thank you, brothers! If only more would do the same!

The results are, that we are now more than 2/3rds of the way to paying off our debts for another year. However, we still have a long way to go to raise the rest. Now several more of you wrote me to tell me that you, too, are stepping up to pay your fair share; but I have yet to see those results. Perhaps I will on Saturday, when I get to the post office?

Whether you are one of our "usual suspects," or a total newbie, please give us a hand to keep us fighting for your rights. We are not supported by any political party, because we won't be beholden to any political party; we are 100% for the people -- pure and simple. When it comes to politics, if you find the need to know the truth important, then send us what you can, when you can. In return, we will continue the fight to restore the old Republic, and make America live up to her promise of justice for all! To help us out just go here and follow the directions, and thanks!


02-18-1922 ~ 08-13-2012
Thanks for everything!

04-02-1949 ~ 08-14-2012
Thanks for the laughs!

03-12-1925 ~ 08-15-2012
Thanks for the adventures!


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) 2012 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 11 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Israel's 'Bomb Iran' Timetable
By Ray McGovern

More Washington insiders are coming to the conclusion that Israel's leaders are planning to attack Iran before the U.S. election in November in the expectation that American forces will be drawn in. There is widespread recognition that, without U.S. military involvement, an Israeli attack would be highly risky and, at best, only marginally successful.

At this point, to dissuade Israeli leaders from mounting such an attack might require a public statement by President Barack Obama warning Israel not to count on U.S. forces - not even for the "clean-up." Though Obama has done pretty much everything short of making such a public statement, he clearly wants to avoid a confrontation with Israel in the weeks before the election.

However, Obama's silence regarding a public warning speaks volumes to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The recent pilgrimages to Israel by very senior U.S. officials - including the Secretaries of State and Defense carrying identical "PLEASE DON'T BOMB IRAN JUST YET" banners - has met stony faces and stone walls.

Like the Guns of August in 1914, the dynamic for war appears inexorable. Senior U.S. and Israeli officials focus publicly on a "window of opportunity," but different ones.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney emphasized the need to allow the "most stringent sanctions ever imposed on any country time to work." That, said Carney, is the "window of opportunity to persuade Iran ... to forgo its nuclear weapons ambitions."

That same day a National Security Council spokesman dismissed Israeli claims that U.S. intelligence had received alarming new information about Iran's nuclear program. "We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon," the spokesman said.

Still, Israel's window of opportunity (what it calls the "zone of immunity" for Iran building a nuclear bomb without Israel alone being able to prevent it) is ostensibly focused on Iran's continued burrowing under mountains to render its nuclear facilities immune to Israeli air strikes, attacks that would seek to maintain Israel's regional nuclear-weapons monopoly.

But another Israeli "window" or "zone" has to do with the pre-election period of the next 12 weeks in the United States. Last week, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevi told Israeli TV viewers, "The next 12 weeks are very critical in trying to assess whether Israel will attack Iran, with or without American backup."

It would be all too understandable, given Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's experience with President Obama, that Netanyahu has come away with the impression that Obama can be bullied, particularly when he finds himself in a tight political spot.

For Netanyahu, the President's perceived need to outdistance Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the love-for-Israel department puts Obama in a box. This, I believe, is the key "window of opportunity" that is uppermost in Netanyahu's calculations.

Virtually precluded, in Netanyahu's view, is any possibility that Obama could keep U.S. military forces on the sidelines if Israel and Iran became embroiled in serious hostilities. What I believe the Israeli leader worries most about is the possibility that a second-term Obama would feel much freer not to commit U.S. forces on Israel's side. A second-term Obama also might use U.S. leverage to force Israeli concessions on thorny issues relating to Palestine.

If preventing Obama from getting that second term is also part of Netanyahu's calculation, then he also surely knows that even a minor dustup with Iran, whether it escalates or not, would drive up the price of gasoline just before the election - an unwelcome prospect for Team Obama.

It's obvious that hard-line Israeli leaders would much rather have Mitt Romney to deal with for the next four years. The former Massachusetts governor recently was given a warm reception when he traveled to Jerusalem with a number of Jewish-American financial backers in tow to express his solidarity with Netanyahu and his policies.

Against this high-stakes political background, I've personally come by some new anecdotal information that I find particularly troubling. On July 30, the Baltimore Sun posted my op-ed, "Is Israel fixing the intelligence to justify an attack on Iran?" Information acquired the very next day increased my suspicion and concern.

Former intelligence analysts and I were preparing a proposal to establish direct communications links between the U.S. and Iranian navies, in order to prevent an accident or provocation in the Persian Gulf from spiraling out of control. Learning that an official Pentagon draft paper on that same issue has been languishing in the Senate for more than a month did not make us feel any better when our own proposal was ignored. (Still, it is difficult to understand why anyone wishing to avoid escalation in the Persian Gulf would delay, or outright oppose, such fail-safe measures.)

Seeking input from other sources with insight into U.S. military preparations, I learned that, although many U.S. military moves have been announced, others, with the express purpose of preparation for hostilities with Iran, have not been made public.

One source reported that U.S. forces are on hair-trigger alert and that covert operations inside Iran (many of them acts of war, by any reasonable standard) have been increased. Bottom line: we were warned that the train had left the station; that any initiative to prevent miscalculation or provocation in the Gulf was bound to be far too late to prevent escalation into a shooting war.


A casus belli - real or contrived - would be highly desirable prior to an attack on Iran. A provocation in the Gulf would be one way to achieve this. Iran's alleged fomenting of terrorism would be another.

In my op-ed of July 30, I suggested that Netanyahu's incredibly swift blaming of Iran for the terrorist killing of five Israelis in Bulgaria on July 18 may have been intended as a pretext for attacking Iran. If so, sadly for Netanyahu, it didn't work. It seems the Obama administration didn't buy the "rock-solid evidence" Netanyahu adduced to tie Iran to the attack in Bulgaria.

If at first you don't succeed ... Here's another idea: let's say there is new reporting that shows Iran to be dangerously close to getting a nuclear weapon, and that previous estimates that Iran had stopped work on weaponization was either wrong or overtaken by new evidence.

According to recent Israeli and Western media reports, citing Western diplomats and senior Israeli officials, U.S. intelligence has acquired new information - "a bombshell" report - that shows precisely that. Imagine.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli Radio that the new report is "very close to our [Israel's] own estimates, I would say, as opposed to earlier American estimates. It transforms the Iranian situation to an even more urgent one." Washington Post neocon pundit Jennifer Rubin was quick to pick up the cue, expressing a wistful hope on Thursday that the new report on the Iranian nuclear program "would be a complete turnabout from the infamous 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that asserted that Iran had dropped its nuclear weapons program."

"Infamous?" Indeed. Rubin warned, "The 2007 NIE report stands as a tribute and warning regarding the determined obliviousness of our national intelligence apparatus," adding that "no responsible policymaker thinks the 2007 NIE is accurate."

Yet, the NIE still stands as the prevailing U.S. intelligence assessment on Iran's nuclear intentions, reaffirmed by top U.S. officials repeatedly over the past five years. Rubin's definition of "responsible" seems to apply only to U.S. policymakers who would cede control of U.S. foreign policy to Netanyahu.

The 2007 NIE reported, with "high confidence," the unanimous judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon in the fall of 2003 and had not restarted it. George W. Bush's own memoir and remarks by Dick Cheney make it clear that this honest NIE shoved a steel rod into the wheels of the juggernaut that had begun rolling off toward war on Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney administration.

The key judgments of the 2007 NIE have been re-asserted every year since by the Director of National Intelligence in formal testimony to Congress.

And, unfortunately for Rubin and others hoping to parlay the reportedly "new," more alarmist "intelligence" into an even more bellicose posture toward Iran, a National Security Council spokesman on Thursday threw cold water on the "new" information, saying that "the U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear activities had not changed."

Relying on the unconfirmed Israeli claim about "new" U.S. information regarding Iran's nuclear program, Rubin had already declared the Obama administration's Iran policy a failure, writing:

"Foreign policy experts can debate whether a sanctions strategy was flawed from its inception, incorrectly assessing the motivations of the Iranian regime, or they can debate whether the execution of sanctions policy (too slow, too porous) was to blame. But we are more than 3 1/2 years into the Obama administration, and Iran is much closer to its goal than at the start. By any reasonable measure, the Obama approach has been a failure, whatever the NIE report might say."

Pressures Will Persist

The NSC's putdown of the Israeli report does not necessarily guarantee, however, that President Obama will continue to withstand pressure from Israel and its supporters to "fix" the intelligence to "justify" supporting an attack on Iran.

Promise can be seen in Obama's refusal to buy Netanyahu's new "rock-solid evidence" on Iran's responsibility for the terrorist attack in Bulgaria. Hope can also be seen in White House reluctance so far to give credulity to the latest "evidence" on Iran's nuclear weapons plans.

An agreed-upon casus belli can be hard to create when one partner wants war within the next 12 weeks and the other does not. The pressure from Netanyahu and neocon cheerleaders like Jennifer Rubin - not to mention Mitt Romney - will increase as the election draws nearer, agreed-upon casus belli or not.

Netanyahu gives every evidence of believing that - for the next 12 weeks - he is in the catbird seat and that, if he provokes hostilities with Iran, Obama will feel compelled to jump in with both feet, i. e., selecting from the vast array of forces already assembled in the area.

Sadly, I believe Netanyahu is probably correct in that calculation. Batten down the hatches.
(c) 2012 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.

Bloody Spring
By Uri Avnery

ON A flight to London in 1961, I had a unique experience.

On the way, the plane made a stop in Athens and a group of Arabs joined us. That by itself was an experience. In those days, Israelis hardly ever met people from Arab countries.

Three young Arabs took seats in the row behind me, and I somehow managed to introduce myself and start a conversation with them. I learned that they were Syrians. I mentioned the recent breakup of the United Arab Republic, the union of Egypt and Syria under the pan-Arab leadership of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser.

My three neighbors were very happy about the split. One of them drew a passport from his bag and passed it to me. It was a shiny new document, issued by Syrian Arab Republic.

There could be no mistake about the immense pride with which this young Syrian showed me - an Israeli enemy - this evidence of Syria's new-found independence. Here was a Syrian patriot, pure and simple.

ONE OF the books which had a profound impact on me in my youth was Phillip Hitti's "A History of Syria."

Hitti, a Maronite Christian from what is now Lebanon, was educated in Ottoman Beirut and emigrated to the US, where he became the father of modern Arab studies.

His ground-breaking book was based on Syria being one country from the Sinai desert to the Turkish mountains, from the Mediterranean Sea to the borders of Iraq. This country, called Sham in Arabic, includes the present-day states of Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

Hitti recounted the history of this country from the earliest prehistoric times to the (then) present, layer upon layer, including every period and every region, such as Biblical Israel and the Petra of the Nabataeans. Everything was part of the superbly rich history of Sham.

The book changed my own geographical and cultural view of our place in the world. Even before the State of Israel was created, I argued that our schools should apply this inclusive view to the history of Palestine throughout the ages.

(This would have enraged Hitti, who denied that there was a country called Palestine. In a long public controversy with Albert Einstein, a devoted Zionist, Hitti claimed that the entity called Palestine was invented by the British in order to fix in the mind of people that Jews had a claim on it.)

FROM HITTI I learned for the first time about the many ethnic-religious groups of today's Syria and Lebanon. Muslim Sunnis and Shiites, Druze, Maronites, Melkites and many other ancient and modern Christian confessions in Lebanon; Sunnis, Alawites, Druze, Kurds, Assyrians and a dozen Christian confessions in Syria.

The European imperialist powers, Britain and France, which broke up the all-inclusive Ottoman Empire after World War I, had scant respect for the diversity of their new acquisitions. However, they both adopted the principle of "divide et impera". The French excelled in it.

Faced with a fierce nationalist opposition and an armed uprising led by the Druze, they carved up the rump Syria into small religious-ethnic-geographical statelets. They played on the animosities between Damacus and Aleppo, Muslims and Christians, Sunnis and Alawis, Kurds and Arabs, Druze and Sunnis.

Their most far-reaching venture, the division between a Christian-dominated "Greater Lebanon" and the rest of Syria, had a lasting effect. (It was called Greater Lebanon because the French included in it not only purely Christian regions, but also Muslim ones - Shiite in the South and Sunni in the port cities.)

WHEN THE French were finally kicked out of the region at the end of World War II, the question was whether and how Syria and Lebanon could survive as national states. In both there was an inbuilt contradiction between the unifying nationalism and the dividing ethnic/religious tendency. They adopted two different solutions.

In Lebanon, the answer was a delicate structure of a state based on a balance between the communities. Each person "belongs" to a community. In practice everyone is the citizen of his community, and the state is but a federation of communities.

(This is partly an inheritance from the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, but without an emperor or a sultan. It exists in Israel, too - Jews, Sunnites, Druze and Christians have their own courts for personal status affairs and cannot intermarry.)

The Lebanese system is a negation of "one person - one vote" democracy, but it has survived a vicious civil war, several massacres, a number of Israeli invasions and a shift of the Shiites from last to first place. It is more robust than might have been supposed. The Syrian solution was very different - dictatorship. A series of strongmen followed each other, until the al-Assad dynasty took over. Its surprising longevity arises from the fact that many Syrians of all communities seem to have preferred even a brutal tyrant to the breakup of the state, chaos and civil war.

NO MORE, it seems. The Syrian Spring is an offspring of the Arab Spring, but under very different conditions.

Egypt is far too different from Syria to allow a comparison. The unity of Egypt has been unquestionable for thousands of years. Egyptian national pride is almost tangible. The question raised by Israeli commentators, whether the new President is first of all a Muslim Brother or first of all an Egyptian, sounds gratuitous to an Egyptian. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is, or course, first of all Egyptian. So are Egyptian Copts, the sizable Christian minority. (Their name, like the word Egypt itself, derives from the ancient name of the country.)

The unity of Egypt, like that of Tunisia and even Libya, after the overthrow of the dictators, is evidence of the national consciousness of these peoples. This is not a given in Syria.

If the Monster of Damascus is finally removed, will Syria survive?

All over the West, and in Israel, pundits gleefully foretell that the country will break into pieces, more or less on the lines of the French colonial precedent.

This is quite possible. One of the few options left to Bashar al-Assad is to gather the Alawis in his army and retreat to the Alawi redoubt in the North-West of the country, cutting it off from the rest of Syria.

This would lead to much bloodshed. The Alawis would certainly drive out all the Sunnis from their region, and the Sunnis would drive the Alawis out of all the other regions. It could resemble the horrible events in India during the partition of the sub-continent and the creation of Pakistan, if on a much smaller scale.

The Druze in the south of Syria would then found their own state (an old dream in Israel. The Kurds in the north-east would do the same, perhaps to join the neighboring Kurdish semi-state in Iraq, a Turkish nightmare. What would be left of Syria would be the eternally competing cities of Damascus and Aleppo.

Possible, but certainly not inevitable. It would be a supreme test of Syrian nationalism. Does it exist? How strong is it? Strong enough to overcome the separatism of the communities?

I would not dare to prophesy. I can only hope. I hope that the diverse elements of the Syrian opposition unite enough to win the present brutal civil war and create a new Syria. Unlike most Israeli commentators, I am not afraid of the "Islamization" of Syria. True, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has always been more violent than the Egyptian parent organization. By their actions at the time they helped to provoke the terrible massacre in Hama perpetrated by Hafez al-Assad. But political power has a moderating effect, as we are seeing in Cairo.

FOR ME, one riddle remains. I see on the internet that many well-meaning people around the world, especially on the left, support Bashar.

This is a phenomenon that repeats itself. There seems to be a kind of leftist monsterphilia around. The same people who embraced Slobodan Milosevic, Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Qaddafi now embrace Bashar al-Assad, again loudly protesting against American imperialist designs against this public benefactor.

Frankly, this seems to me a bit looney. True, Great Power politics do influence what's happening in Syria, as they do everything else in the world. But the character and actions of Bashar, following those of his father, leave nothing to doubt. He is a monster butchering his people, and must be removed as quickly as possible, preferably under UN leadership. If that is impossible, owing to the Russian and Chinese veto - why, for God's sake?! - then the Syrian rebels must be supported as much as possible.

I HOPE with all my heart that a free, unified, democratic Syria will emerge from this turmoil, another daughter of the Arab Spring.

In sha Allah, if God wills it, as our neighbors would put it.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Beaten Down, Isolated, Angry, And Distracted
"Awake we share the world; sleeping each turns to his private world."
By Phil Rockstroh

A couple of decades ago, upon returning to Atlanta, Georgia, after spending a year abroad, I would frequent an independent bookshop that contained a small coffee shop/cafe, where I would sip tea, read books and periodicals, and engage in the nearly extinct art of long form face-to-face verbal discourse with other habituates of the cafe. To this day, I have long standing friendships with a number of people I came to know during those years.

Yet even then, I noticed how the atomization inherent to the internalization of the corporate state (the manner that the domination of commercial and work space had all but eliminated the public commons) had diminished so many people's ability to converse on all but the most superficial level.

Any invocation to deepen conversation or an assertion that arrived outside of the realm of status quo consensus caused all too many to simply go haywire. People checked out, went blank, testiness ensued...Comfort zones were mobilized for a siege. The space between people became a no man's land, stippled with a minefield of sensitivities.

In short, approaching life and one's fellows from a mode of mind evincing aspects of the human condition that existed outside the realm of workplace expediency and consumer desire had been diminished to the point of being rendered all but absent. People seemed adrift -- bereft of the ability to cohabit public space. The will towards communal engagement had atrophied.

Essential qualities -- traits that are uniquely human -- had been lost. A wasteland of fragmented discourse and inarticulate rage howled between us.

And the situation has only degraded since that time. Unless communal space can be reclaimed and our innate humanity re-established, to paraphrase Kafka: There is infinite hope but not for us.

After decades of economic decline, the loss of public commons, the emotional blowback of the militarist brutality required to sustain empire and the effects of social atomization and mass media-borne insularity -- the act of engaging in fruitful, democratic discourse, with all too many of the people of the U.S., without evoking angst, anger, and a host of demented fantasies, has become increasingly unlikely.

"Awake we share the world; sleeping each turns to his private world." -- Heraclitus

Exploitative social arrangements, throughout history, carry this circumstance in common: A citizenry too beaten down, harried, and/or prideful to recognize they have been swindled by a corrupt elite. Due to an indifference to outright hostility towards gaining awareness as to what forces create their degraded situation, the swindle will penetrate the populace to the bone; will become part of its (social and individual) DNA. To apprehend the reality of the situation would, seemingly, tear those afflicted asunder on a molecular level.

Once you have allowed the swindle to permeate your being -- taking back your life must become the driving force of your existence. If you don't recapture the landscape of your own soul, then your life will be comprised of a dance with dust and ash.

Do not underestimate the power of the seeds of awakening that sleep within you. Yet, do not be naive in regard to the knowledge that, all to often, all too many will choose not to cultivate their potential for humanity, and thus will yield a bitter harvest of pettiness, spite, cupidity, and cruelty.

At times, even in seemingly mundane moments, the air is plangent with a silent scream of terror. Yet, we go on, as if we hear nothing. We continue to make small talk. Wander to the refrigerator when not particularly hungry. Fumble for the TV remote. In reality, those are the times that try men's souls. And we are found wanting.

More often than not, the face of oppression is fronted by a facile smile and rewards you for your complicity by proffering piffling bribes.

The comfort zones of the checked-out, distracted, self-involved citizens of empire are perched upon a mountain of corpses. When the agendas of a culture are circumscribed to merely selfish agendas and empty appetites -- compulsive materialism, militarist aggression, bigotry cloaked as religious conviction -- the world seems to wend towards wasteland.

In such times, where can sanctuary be sought? Both within and by risking casting oneself towards the beating heart of the soul of life. Human beings contain deep reservoirs of empathy, a capacity for apprehending the sacred, and the ability to love. Deep wells of redemption pool beneath the wasteland. The human heart is a divining rod that helps one locate the source of the healing waters of life.

Recently, I was asked online: Where was God when seven human beings of the Sikhi faith were gunned down, on Aug. 5th, in their place of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin?

A more pertinent question might be -- as long as one possesses a desire to make inquiries into the whereabouts of invisibles -- where is the nation's collective humanity?

Will we continue to banish it by escape into distraction, denial and fantasy i.e., refusing to look deeply into ourselves and the social conditions and attendant mindsets that engender a perpetual reign of violence.

There was a god (metaphysically) present at the scene of this latest shooting rampage. The God all too many Americans revere and look to for guidance: The God of Death.

Are the people of the U.S. at this stage of the entropic decline of late empire, even capable of the type of collective introspection necessary to come to an understanding that something is fundamentally wrong with our concept of culture?

The problem of evil is far from cut and dry: both good and evil are interwoven into the souls of every person on the planet. Any attempt to wholly decimate evil would destroy what is good within us as well. The best we can do to do our utmost to discern the evil dwelling within us on an individual basis, and moment by moment, attempt to channel our actions -- by harnessing the cold, powerful, impersonal energies of evil -- towards things that are warm, personal and life-enhancing. Such acts serve as an anti-evil repellant.

Conversely, viewing life as a struggle of good versus evil is intoxicating, and, like most intoxicants, can prove addictive. Yet the essence of a human being cannot be pigeonholed, cannot be limned by labeling; within each of us, dwell multiple and manifold legacies, familial and cultural, that have imprinted our character and serve as the progenitors of our actions.

Yet the notion of pure good and pure evil grip our imaginations; the image of yellow eyed, ungulate, and glowering Satan or beatified and risen Mary, Mother of God appeal to us because their existence promises to liberate us from the mundane, to deliver us from the mire of ambiguity, from our daily servitude to implacable necessity.

An open heart is a vulnerable heart. Therefore, some prefer to fortify themselves with a bristling bulwark of self-protective, nuance-evading prejudgments. A flight of hatred can serve to mitigate the uncertainty inherent to a commitment to love. An individual can limn their life with enmity's broad, thrashing brushstrokes -- a Jackson Pollock drip/splatter of animus.

Propelling one past angst-inducing nuance and complexity, hate, masked as purity, can carry us. After a time, its monolithic shadow becomes inseparable from one's own. When one stabs at the perceived darkness of an enemy, one wounds oneself. Confused, enveloped by one's own darkness, a person can come to believe the blow was delivered by a foe. Thus, all too often, one will hate what is different, seeing that difference as being a threat. In this way, irrational, self awareness-devoid hatred threatens all near it.

The machinations of Power have entered a new phase: a full-spectrum counterfeiting of the images of the soul...that rise like a fever dream from the abysmal, group-mind of late stage capitalism.

In this age, there is no need for thronging mobs, foisting banners and carrying blazing torches through the central squares of contemporary cities, as occurred in 1930s Germany and Italy, because every sofa has become a 24/7 Nuremberg Rally; every mass media device enables an instant immersion in the mob.

Fuhrers and Generalissimos have been rendered obsolete, because we have little, virtual versions of the strutting breed on Reality Television; no need for serried ranks of jut-jawed brownshirts, when we have become storm troopers, ourselves, marching in a mindless parade of endless distraction. All as the sky burns and oceans seethe acidity.

The fact that so many U.S. citizens continue to believe that they inhabit a democratic nation, devoted to the concept of freedom of speech, of the press, and of free assembly reveals something very troubling: that the internalization of the tacit tenets of the corporatist state (a mutant strain of classic fascism) is now embedded so deeply in the collective psyche of the U.S. populace, and has rendered all too many with only a cursory, at best, understanding of what civil liberties involve.

Withal, it is not possible to grieve (or become outraged at) the loss of something one has no concept of ever having existed in the first place. How is it possible for one who has spent his entire lifetime in a windowless prison to know the grief experienced by fellow inmates who have known the beauty beheld when viewing the prismatic light of a dawning day?

Those who have encased themselves in a self-referential bubble of rationalization, by reflex, dismiss the assertion that complicity in an odious system (such as a blood-sustained, militarist empire) amounts to silent affirmation of the harm the system (although nebulous in nature) reaps.

By doing so, they unwittingly exact punishment upon themselves. Such unfortunate souls continue to exist. Yet to exist in such a manner, one must circumvent one's senses and blinker the life of the mind, thereby becoming like a caged wild animal that, as the years have passed, has forgotten what its true nature is, because its essential self has atrophied into mere mind-numbing subsistence.

What kind of a life is this, you may well ask? But you already know the answer: It is no life.

There exists one requisite trait needed to face evil: The knowledge of one's own capacity for embodying the trait. Inseparable, treachery and redemption arrive together. The human heart, capable of both cruelty and kindness, provides the arena where one's better nature might gain the upper hand against one's destructive inclinations.

And this is precisely why I eschew being a "pragmatic" predator drone-apologist liberal or a purity-swooning conservative: A compulsion towards partisanship serves to censor the disorderly dialog of the heart, and thus compels one to remain locked within an ego-fortified structure of imprisoning platitudes and self-serving rationalizations.
(c) 2012 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook

Oligarchs At The Gate
by Paul Craig Roberts

The election of the next puppet president of the "world's only superpower" is about two and one-half months off, and what are the campaign issues? There aren't any worthy of the name.

Romney won't release his tax returns, despite the fact that release is a customary and expected act. Either the non-release is a strategy to suck in Democrats to make the election issue allegations that Romney is another mega-rich guy who doesn't pay taxes, only to have the issue collapse with a late release that shows enormous taxes paid, or Romney's tax returns, as a candidate who advocates lower taxes for the rich, don't bear scrutiny.

What are Romney's issues? The candidate says that his first act will be to repeal Obamacare, a program that Romney himself first enacted as governor of Massachusetts. This will cost Romney political contributions from the insurance industry, which is thankful for the 50 million new private insurance policies that Obamacare, written not by Obama but by the private insurance companies, provides at public expense. It is not to the insurance industry's benefit to have a single payer system like other western countries.

Romney's other issue is to blame Obama for America's unemployment caused by the offshoring of the US economy by Republican corporate CEOs. In order to enhance their compensation packages, the Republican CEOs sent millions of America's best jobs to India, China and elsewhere. The lower cost of labor in these offshore sites means much higher earnings, which drives up share prices for shareholders and drives up performance bonuses for management, while wrecking US employment, GDP growth and tax base and driving up the deficit in the balance of payments.

America's main economic problem-the relocation of the US economy offshore-is not a campaign issue. Therefore, the US economy's main problem will remain unaddressed.

The real issues can nowhere be found in the campaigns or in the media. There is no mention of the Bush/Obama destruction of the US Constitution and its legal protections of citizens from arbitrary government power. Due process no longer exists for anyone who the executive branch suspects of being connected in any way to Washington's chosen enemies. US citizens can be thrown into dungeons for life on suspicion alone without any evidence ever being presented to a court, and they can be executed any place on earth, along with whoever happens to be with them at the time, on suspicion alone.

Last May federal district court judge Katherine Forrest ruled that indefinite detention of US citizens is unconstitutional and issued an injunction against the Obama regime using this police state measure in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Obama regime gave the federal judge the finger. During the week of August 6-10 the Justice (sic) Department's Brownshirt lawyers refused to tell Judge Forrest if the Obama regime is complying with the injunction. The position of the Obama regime is: "we are above the law and do not answer to federal courts." One would think that Romney would be all over this, but he isn't because he wants the power himself.

The Obama police state will shop around and find a federal appeals court dominated by Republican Brownshirt judges and get Judge Forrest's ruling overturned. All those Republican federal judges we had to have to save us from liberal Democrats will now complete our deliverance to a total police state where all power rests in an unaccountable executive branch.This is what the Republican Federalist Society has wanted for years, and they are on the verge of obtaining it.

That the United States has degenerated into a police state in the short period of ten years should be the campaign issue. Who would ever have thought such a thing possible. Yet, there is no mention of the destruction of the rule of law in the name of a hoax "war on terror."

The Bush regime created the propaganda that "they (Muslims) hate us for our freedom and democracy," but how can Muslims hate us for what does not exist? The arbitrary unaccountable power asserted by the executive branch is totally incompatible with freedom and democracy. Yet, neither Obama nor Romney makes this an issue. And neither does the media.

There is no war on terror. There is war on countries that are not Washington's puppet states. Unaccountable Washington is currently slaughtering thousands of Muslims in a variety of countries and is preparing Syria as its next holocaust. Washington, taking advantage of the splits between Sunnis and Shi'ites and between Islamists and secular Muslims, has organized a rebellion in Syria in order to overthrow a government that is not a puppet of Washington and Israel.

Among the foreigners streaming into Syria to overthrow the secular state in which Sunni and Shia Arabs have lived peacefully, are the Islamist extremists that Washington has squandered $6 trillion fighting for 11 years. The extremists are on Washington's side. They want the secular Syrian government overthrown, because it is not an Islamic government.

This suits Washington's policy, so now the taxes extracted from hard-pressed Americans are flowing to the Islamists that Americans have been fighting.

Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations on August 8, Obama's national security aid John Brennan defended the diversion of American taxpayers' money to the outside forces Washington has organized, financed and provided with military weapons to overthrow the government of Syria. John Brennan said, with a straight face, that the Obama administration is careful that the financial and military aid does not go to the rebels affiliated with al Qaeda. Brennan has to make this claim, because the Obama regime, being in cahoots with al Qaeda, is in violation of its own NDAA and is subject to arrest and indefinite detention.

Does anyone believe that Washington, determined to overthrow the Syrian government, is refusing to arm the most effective part of the fighting force that is involved? Is there anyone so naive not to know that military aid to "rebels" is fungible?

Having suffered damage to its superpower reputation by being fought to a standoff by a few thousand al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington learned that the trick was to employ al Qaeda not as an enemy but as an ally.

The test case was in Libya, where the US-al Qaeda alliance worked to overthrow the Libyan government. The advantage for Washington is that Libya is now beset by warring factions and is no longer a country that could get in Washington's way.

Libya is the roadmap for Syria.

Syria made its mistake when it thought it could pacify Washington by taking Washington's side in the first war against Iraq, thus confirming for Washington that Arabs are incapable of sticking together and thus are an easy mark to be overthrown.

If Syria falls, Washington will have murdered yet another nation. But this is not a part of the presidential debate. Both candidates agree that Washington should prevail in establishing a puppet state in Syria. Even Amnesty International has been suborned and lends its influence to the demonization of the Syrian government. Only the US is moral, indispensable, virtuous, humane, a light upon mankind. By definition, any opponent chosen by Washington is debauched, evil, sinful, a country that suppresses dissent and tortures its opponents, something Washington would never do, being, of course, the "light unto the world."

Unlike the 1957 plot by British Prime Minister Harald Macmillan and US President Dwight Eisenhower to foment an "uprising" in Syria and assassinate the Syrian leadership, the Obama administration cloaks its intervention in humanitarian language, as do the rebels while they murder and execute civilians who support the Assad government. The presstitute western media describes the mayhem and murder as "humanitarian intervention," and the brainwashed western public reposes in its moral superiority.

After Syria is destroyed, the last independent country in the region is Iran. Iran has also been weakened, not by Washington's embargo, an act of war in itself, but by Washington's financing of the "Green Revolution." Iran now has a fifth column within itself.

Iran, the second oldest country after China, is now surrounded by 40 or more US military bases and is confronted by four US fleets in its own Persian Gulf.

There is a large number of nominal Muslims interested only in money and power who are working with Washington to overthrow the Syrian and Iranian governments.

If Iran falls, with both Russia and China surrounded by US missiles and military bases, the world as we know it will enter its final stage. Will Russia and China, having sacrificed all their buffers without a fight, surrender and be content to be ruled by puppet governments, or will they resist?

Don't expect the packaged political campaign of the next couple of months to deal with any significant issue. Americans are oblivious of their fate, and so apparently is the rest of the world.

The selection of the next president of the US will depend on one thing alone-which of the two candidates financed by the ruling private oligarchy has the most effective propaganda.

Whether you vote Republican or Democrat, the oligarchs will win.
(c) 2012 Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and professor of economics in six universities. He is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House. Dr. Roberts' latest book is "Economies in Collapse: The Failure of Globalism," published in Europe, June, 2012. Seller information will be made available as soon as possible. He can be reached at:

The People's Choice!
Uh... not really. In fact, not at all.

As evidenced by Ted Cruz's recent victory in the Texas senatorial primary, the Republican party's core voters have made the leap from right-wing... to right out of their minds!

Cruz defeated a die-hard anti-government, anti-union, anti-environment extremist by running as such an uber-extremist that the die-hard guy ended up looking almost moderate. And for the mad-dog tea party faction that dominates today's Republican Party, appearing at all "moderate" (or even slightly sane) is the mark of the devil. So, Cruz not only won the primary handily but is now celebrated nationally as "the people's choice." Partisan pundits have taken to declaring that his victory proves that the American electorate clearly wants candidates for high office to hold uncompromising "tea party values."

Hog poop. In politics, the "big story" often is not the one trumpeted at us by the myopic media and political cognoscenti, but the one they don't report at all. In the Cruz case, we should step back from the hyped results, take a deep breath and look at two big, honking, neon-lit numbers that reveal a stunning truth not only about the Texas race, but also about the sad state of America's democratic process. First: 631,316. That's how small the actual vote was for Cruz and his whole kit and caboodle of far-right-wing balderdash. Many small cities across the country have more people than that. Next: 15,915,758. That's how many eligible voters there are in Texas.

Do the math (which the media failed to do), and the real story turns out to be that Cruz is the choice of no more than four percent of the voters of Texas.

This is what America's politics has become: so empty and asinine that a guy can win nomination to a U.S. senate seat with a pathetic four percent of the vote... and be hailed as the choice of "the people."
(c) 2012 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The Right's Brittle Heroes
The contrast between Paul Ryan's iconic image and his personal reality is typical of America's partisan leaders
By Glenn Greenwald

The contrast between (a) how Paul Ryan is depicted by worshipful Republicans and media figures alike - as a principled fiscal conservative and advocate of Randian self-sufficiency - and the reality of what he's done in his life is as stark as it is typical. The American Right has an amazing ability to lionize leaders whose lives are the precise antithesis of the political values that define their image.

For the last decade, conservatives transformed George Bush and Dick Cheney into the embodiments of warrior courage, even though they both scampered away from combat, letting others fight and die for them in a war they both supported. The same is true of almost every leading right-wing super-patriot tough-guy: John Bolton, Bill Kristol, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh - and Mitt Romney. Somehow, when the authoritarians on the Right search for icons of manly warrior power to venerate, they find only those who like to melodramatically play-act as such, but who ran away when it came time to actually perform. Indeed, such figures dress themselves up with extra-flamboyant trappings of faux Toughness for the same reason female impersonators have long favored over-the-top feminine costumes and gaudy make-up: the more one lacks an attribute which one wishes to project, the more extreme one must be in pretending.

Thus do we have Paul Ryan - Randian Super-Hero of Individual Self-Reliance and Working Class Warrior against government debt, waste, and intrusiveness - whose actual life is a testament to the precise opposite values. As Charles Pierce and Joan Walsh document, not only was Ryan raised in a rich family and not only has he spent his entire adult life on the public payroll, but he has relied, and continues to rely, on various forms of government help in climbing every rung on his educational and careerist ladder. His claim to fiscal conservatism is even more laughable, as he voted FOR virtually every program that has piled up debt over the past decade, including the Iraq War (not just its commencement but its limitless continuation), the Wall Street bailout, Medicare Part D, Endless War in Afghanistan, and - in the midst of all of that - Bush tax cuts.

Perhaps most ludicrous of all is the notion that he's some sort of advocate for restrained federal government power. As's John Glaser documented today, Ryan has continuously voted in favor of measures to expand all sorts of intrusive federal power, including making the PATRIOT Act permanent, enacting the Military Commissions Act to provide indefinite detention with no habeas corpus rights, implementing the Protect America Act to massively expand the U.S. Government's power to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants, supporting a federal Constitutional amendment to deny same-sex couples the right to marry along with a law banning the ability of gay couples in D.C. to adopt children and the continuation of Don't Ask/Don't Tell, a Constitutional amendment to criminalize flag burning, and almost every proposed measure to restrict abortion rights.

The ACLU - which has been continuously scathing in its criticisms of President Obama's civil liberties record - issued a report on the potential Vice Presidential nominees (including Joe Biden) entitled "A Heartbeat Away from the Presidency, Light Years from Civil Liberties," and said yesterday that Ryan has "uniformly harmful views on five key civil liberties issues including a humane immigration policy, LGBT equality, reproductive rights, torture and indefinite detention and fair voting access" (he did, however, vote against the NDAA's indefinite detention provisions, signed into law by President Obama at the end of 2011, as well as a bill to include "sexual orientation" in the list of factors that cannot be legally used in job hiring). Whatever one wants to say about Ryan's record, it is the very opposite of constraining the power of the federal government to intrude into the lives of individuals; indeed, it's a testament to massive expansion of intrusive federal government power in almost every realm.

This dynamic - in which the defining image of partisan icons is the antithesis of their personal reality - is, of course, also prevalent among Democrats: a point I note not to fulfill a both-sides-are-guilty obligation, but because it's indisputably true. Obama supporters pretended that his 2008 campaign was some sort of populist uprising even as Wall Street overwhelmingly supported his candidacy. Now, especially with the selection of Ryan, they're going to act as though his re-election is all about shielding Medicare from cuts even though, as Matt Stoller documents today (citing this), Obama already tried to cut not only Medicare but also Medicaid and Social Security, and clearly intends more of the same with a second term (along with his ongoing empowerment of America's most extreme corporatists). And, of course, the "chickenhawk" insult that was so popular among Democrats during the Bush years has completely disappeared, as they now celebrate the so-called Toughness of two political leaders - Obama and Biden - in their continuous willingness to use military force in other countries even though neither ever served in the military.

But the American Right seems to have a particular need to inflate their leaders into beacons of courage, self-sufficiency and virtue, even when their lives are completely devoid of those traits. Paul Ryan is a perfect symbol of America's political class. He is directly responsible for the large deficits and debt which America has compiled, and now seeks to exploit what he himself helped create in order to deny to others the very benefits that were responsible for almost every opportunity and success he has had in his life, with the burden falling most harshly on those who need those benefits the most to have any remnant of fair opportunity. That's the crux of the American elite: making massive mistakes and engaging in destructive behavior and then demanding that everyone - except them - bear the brunt of the consequences.
(c) 2012 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.

Were Humans Created To Be Slaves?
By James Donahue

There exists ancient Babylonian text, inscribed on clay tablets, that speaks of visitors from a planet called Nibiru who came to Earth, dug ditches that became great rivers, and spent thousands of years digging for gold.

The document, known as the Arrahasis, also tells of a decision by the Nibiru to magically change a breed of Earth primates into an intelligent species to work as slave labor in the mines. The story strongly suggests that genetic engineering was involved, which explains the sudden appearance of Homo sapiens on the planet.

Archaeologists and geologists have concluded that Homo sapiens first appeared in modern day form about 250,000 years ago in Africa, and from there, expanded in numbers until they occupied the entire planet.

The Book of Genesis offers a similar myth. The story tells of giants on the earth called Nephilim who "came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men of old, the men of renown."

Greek mythology is filled with stories about gods that came down to Earth and interfered with the affairs of mankind.

Indeed the old stories all appear to point to some kind of genetic work by an alien race that manipulated the genetic structure of a humanoid primate to produce the first remnants of modern humans. And if the Mesopotamian stories are correct, the purpose was to create slaves to work for the benefit of the "gods."

Zechariah Sitchin, David Icke and Whitney Strieber are among the writers who gained some fame with their theories about a planet called Nibiru, or Planet X, that circles our Sun at such a wide arc that it enters our solar system once every 250,000 years, and the source of these strange alien visitors called Annunaki. They have predicted that this planet would be making a close pass to Earth again, possibly this year, and that it would play a role in a major change for all of mankind.

While Sitchin, Icke and Strieber had many followers, the theories also have been scoffed at by astrologers and others who have found no evidence that such a planet exists. But when it comes to the possibility of visiting alien races, there remains a large question mark.

The old stories, the carvings found in caves, and the appearance of unexplained flying objects in our skies have all made us wonder if an alien race wasn't involved in our past, and may still be keeping watch from above.

Now a new book by Michael Tellinger, Slave Species of God, reveals the ruins of a massive metropolis that once existed in South Africa an estimated 200,000 years BC. The ruins, so far examined mostly from the air, spawn an estimated 10,000 square miles in a remote part of the southern African continent, about 150 miles from the coast. Found amid the ruins are thousands of primitive gold mines. The whole area appears to be located at the site of one of the riches sources of gold in the world.

While known to local farmers who assumed the ruins were left by indigenous people of the past, the full extent of the site was not realized until area pilot Johan Heine, who had been flying over the area for years, pointed them out to Tellinger and the two men teamed up to examine them more closely.

Tillinger wrote: "When Johan first introduced me to the ancient stone ruins of southern Africa, I had no idea of the incredible discoveries we would make in the year or two that followed. The photographs, artifacts and evidence we have accumulated points unquestionably to a lost and never before seen civilization that predates all others -- not by just a few hundred years, or a few thousand years -- but many thousands of years.

These discoveries are so staggering that they will not be easily digested by the mainstream historical and archaeological fraternity, as we have already experienced. It will require a complete paradigm shift in how we view our human history."

In his book, Tellinger thus joins a growing number of writers and researchers who are cutting away at the old religious oriented dogma that claims humans were produced by an omnipotent Creator and given dominion over the Earth and all of the living things on it. He suggests, based on the evidence found in those African ruins, that the old stories found on the Mesopotamian tablets may be closer to the truth than we dared admit . . . that we are the descendants of hibrid and manipulated primates created by alien visitors to work as slaves in those African gold mines.

While humans appear to have evolved over the thousands of years that we have existed on this planet, the haunting question remains. Has anything really changed as to our status? Have we ever risen above the role of slaves to those that control our daily lives? Instead of gold, we now slave for materialism in factories and offices, doing tasks designed to generate great wealth for the masters who allow us to work for them.

Indeed, we rose from surfs under kings and rulers who controlled the land and everything in it, to create democratic styled governments, but does this not merely cloak the same rulers behind a different disguise? Instead of ruling from castles and wearing velvet gowns and golden crowns, they now appear to us in thousand dollar suits after stepping from their limosines to the doors of their mansions where hired servants answer their beaconing call.
(c) 2012 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

What Paul Ryan Has And Obama Wants
By David Swanson

According to the Huffington Post, "President Barack Obama's reelection campaign and Democratic political groups have been eager for Romney to pick Ryan, the architect of plans to slash government spending and overhaul entitlement programs that Democrats believe are political losers." ABC agrees: "The selection of Ryan as running mate makes it far more likely that Medicare, Social Security, and dramatic spending cuts will be as central to the campaign conversation this fall as jobs and the economy. Adding some of those famed political third rails into the mix is not just a potential risk Romney is willing to take, it is also clearly a potential risk he felt he had to take."

So, cutting Medicare and Social Security are unpopular, and Obama benefits from Romney's risky move in picking a runningmate willing to cut them. That's the story.

Now, however, read this from the New York Times: "The news media have played a crucial role in Mr. Obama's career, helping to make him a national star not long after he had been an anonymous state legislator. As president, however, he has come to believe the news media have had a role in frustrating his ambitions to change the terms of the country's political discussion. He particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security, while Republicans oppose almost any tax increase to reduce the deficit."

So Obama too is willing to take the political risk of cutting the popular programs called Medicare and Social Security. In fact, what Obama wants is not to protect these programs from cuts, but rather to receive appropriate credit from the media corporations for his willingness to cut them. This, we are about to be told endlessly, is in stark contrast to Romney-Ryan's willingness to cut Medicare and Social Security. But the biggest contrast seems to be that the media gives Romney and Ryan the credit that Obama covets.

Oh no, Obama supporters will reply, there's a big difference. Romney wants to cut these programs, while Obama is willing to cut them. Romney is evil, while Obama is noble and gracious in his appeasing of evil. I'm sorry, but won't the catfood that grandma lives on taste as bitter regardless of whether her income was removed maliciously or accommodatingly?

Oh, but Romney-and-Ryan want to cut more than Obama wants to cut.

Are you sure? RR need only triple their demand for Obama to double his. The longer the debate goes on, the more old people Obama wants to starve to demonstrate his willingness to accommodate. In fact, exactly how many old people starve -- whether Iranians living under sanctions or Americans living under austerity -- is hardly relevant. The important thing is to have gone further toward meeting RR's demand than RR went toward meeting yours.

But what about the demand of the majority of the country that Social Security and Medicare be expanded rather than cut? What about the popularity of lifting the cap on payroll taxes, lowering the retirement age, and expanding Medicare to include us all? Will that agenda be advanced by cheering for a compromiser over an unapologetic crapitalist?

Of course not. What would move both of these reprehensible candidates away from deeper cuts to decent programs, and toward deeper cuts in the war machine, the fossil fuel funding, the bankster bailouts, and the "Bush" tax cuts is an independent movement that makes its minimum demand an absolute bar on any cuts to Social Security or Medicare whatsoever.

If you don't soon see progressive groups advancing that demand, expect bad times ahead, regardless of who wins the world's worst reality drama. (c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Bringing A Pen To A Gunfight
By Ted Rall

Gun Control Advocates Look Foolish, Dishonest and Weak

You know the ritual: gunman goes berserk, liberals call for gun control, regulation eventually ensues. The modern gun control movement began in 1981 after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. Press secretary James Brady, shot and paralyzed in the same incident, successfully lobbied for the passage of the Brady Law, which imposed a background check and waiting period of up to three days for gun buyers. The 1999 shooting spree at Columbine High School resulted in new laws making it illegal to buy a gun on behalf of a criminal or a child seeking to evade the Brady Law requirements. Congress funded state-run databases of the mentally ill, also prohibited under Brady, after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.

Two weeks ago, a man used multiple weapons, including a semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round magazine, to murder 12 filmgoers in Aurora, Colorado. (The clip jammed after he fired 30.) This week, a white supremacist and washed-up U.S. soldier mowed down six people attending services at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Every day, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reminded us, 34 Americans are shot to death.

So what new gun control laws can we expect?


Neither White House nor Congressional Democrats has any appetite for taking on the powerful NRA during a close election year. Polls show the public sharply split on the issue. After the shooting at the Sikh temple President Obama offered nothing more than pabulum: "terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul-searching to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence."

Soul-searching. Right.

Either you're serious about eliminating gun violence, or you're not. "Soul-searching" isn't going to block the next bullet fired by a madman-but the law, coupled with rigorous enforcement, can.

I am a pro-gun leftie. Here's why: 60 million Americans own 200 million firearms.

Who are they? Right-wingers, mostly. There are about 25 percent more gun-owning Republicans than gun-owning Democrats. Some of these conservatives send me death threats. As long as they're are allowed to buy and possess guns, I'll be damned if I let the government pass a law that stops me-from defending myself if one of them comes after me.

I trust me. You, not so much.

This is an arms race. The only way I'll turn against the Second Amendment is if the cops go door-to-door, confiscate and destroy everybody's guns. All of them. Even the tiny little lady pistols.

Even then, I'd still be nervous. Because state security apparatus would then have a monopoly on firepower. We're not there yet, but given the relentless rightward drift of our politics from democracy into police state authoritarianism toward neofascism, and given what we're already seeing-legalized torture, concentration camps, police department drone planes, a president who says he has the right to assassinate U.S. citizens without trial-one can easily foresee the day when we might be forced to fend off the jack-booted thugs of a future rogue American state.

But that's my personal, possibly paranoid, take about a possible dystopian future. As a nation, here and now, there's a valid argument to made that we've outgrown the right to bear arms. We're no longer a frontier society. We're urban and suburban, not rural; less than two percent of Americans still live on farms. 95 percent of us don't hunt; those who still hunt do it for fun, not food. We haven't had to repel a land invasion by foreign troops since 1812. Why do we need guns?

The NRA may sound hysterical-they're certainly opportunistic, having called for donations three days after Aurora-but they're right about gun control advocates. Anti-gun liberals say they favor "common-sense measures that protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens but make it harder and harder for those who should not have weapons under existing law to obtain them," as Press Secretary Jay Carney says Obama want.

Proposals to tighten controls on automatic "assault rifles" and reduce the number of bullets per clip merely nibble around the edges of a serious issue.

There are too many guns already out there (200 million!), too many legally purchased weapons that can be sold privately without being subjected to the Brady Law, for such half-measures to have any effect beyond possibly-theoretically-slightly-reducing the body count of the next group killing.

If you're serious about putting an end to America's bloody love affair with guns, you're going to have to repeal the Second Amendment. Everyone, including Democrats, knows that. But it's hard to get behind a gun ban that's only supported by 26 percent of the public. (That's a record low, down from 60 percent in 1959.) Liberal gun opponents must either embrace such a radical and unpopular measure-the only one that might stand a chance of having the desired effect-or keep proposing wimpy little changes that make them look foolish, half-assed, and intellectually dishonest.
(c) 2012 Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" and "The Anti-American Manifesto."

America Into the Political Void
By William Pfaff

Paris, August 14, 2012 - Mitt Romney' selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate for the American presidency confirms that this campaign is going to be mainly about domestic issues - barring a not-impossible Israeli attack on Iran between here and there. It is likely to count for zero that is intelligent concerning American foreign policy during the next administration. Yet foreign affairs will be the most important issue of all to address as the United States staggers forward into the void.

Instead the campaign may be expected to obsessively deal with the clashing economic and tax ideologies and shibboleths that have driven the Republican Party debate, and under Republican administrations driven the nation itself deeper into deficit and debt, ever since Ronald Reagan laid his blessing upon the teachings that ever lower taxes on the rich produce ever higher tax income for governments; that the dynamism of a nation is produced by market competition unfettered by regulation or government (or excessive attention to law), and the social needs of society are best met by private enterprises working for competitive profit advantage.

Entrepreneurs are a race of heroes and their critics are the kind of people responsible for the socialist shackles under which Americans struggled from 1932 until their liberation by Dwight Eisenhower's election to the presidency in 1953. (And even Eisenhower remains a dubious figure to believing Republicans, tainted by his formation in the socialist environment of the Old Regular Army and a professional lifetime spent dealing with foreigners and Abroad.)

Abroad will have need to look after itself if the Romney/Ryan ticket is elected, which might prove a good thing for all concerned were national debt and the daze of domestic dispute to distract a new administration from global adventure - something earlier generations of Republicans were traditionally disposed to leave to the Democrats.

However the party of national isolation from a corrupting world has in recent decades been under neo-conservative foreign policy management, and belligerent in outlook ("Don't Tread on Me!" has been the Tea Party's battle flag proclamation, borrowed from the Revolution). The party's policy leadership has been globalist, a legacy to the neo-conservatives from Trotskyist permanent revolution: the world lies open to be remade, although now by American revolutionary ideology, rather than that of Stalin's rival and victim.

Neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan seem close to the hawkish ideology that gave the United States its present military deployments in Asia and Central Asia, and now increasingly in Africa. But they seem to have no clear intellectual position at all, which is to say that they might easily become the instruments of others with aggressive ideologies of their own. Certainly the Netanyahu government in Israel counts far more on the Republicans than on Barack Obama to endorse or reinforce any Israeli attack on Iran, and Mr. Romney himself has announced that in his mind Jerusalem already belongs whole and entire to Israel.

His attention to the Arab awakening and even to civil war in Syria has been perfunctory at best. However he and his colleagues would certainly back to the hilt the spirit of militarism now in possession of the Pentagon, with the endorsement of the Obama Democrats, expressed in a January 2012 policy statement that reiterated the universal military doctrine that America must permanently be stronger than all possible American rivals combined. As Andrew Bacevich has said on the subject of American statecraft and strategy, "Washington has become an intellectual dead zone."

For his part, President Obama seems to have nominated himself strategist in chief of the new American war against bandits, highway men, kidnappers, political rebels and troublemakers in the wastes of the Sahara and the Horn of Africa, as well as the thankless task of building nations in Sudan and Somalia. In addition to personally running what amounts to a new American international Murder Incorporated, looking for bad guys to kill, of which there are all to many. Possibly there are better and more constructive tasks for him to undertake.
(c) 2012 Visit William Pfaff's website for more on his latest book, "The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy."

Romney/Ryan - The Real Target
By Paul Krugman

So, let me clarify what I believe is really going on in the choice of Paul Ryan as VP nominee. It is not about satisfying the conservative base, which was motivated anyway by Obama-hatred; it is not about refocusing on the issues, because R&R are both determined to avoid providing any of the crucial specifics about their plans. It is - as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand - about exploiting the gullibility and vanity of the news media, in much the same way that George W. Bush did in 2000.

Like Bush in 2000, Ryan has a completely undeserved reputation in the media as a bluff, honest guy, in Ryan's case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality; Ryan's much-touted plan, far from being a real solution, relies crucially on stuff that is just pulled out of thin air - huge revenue increases from closing unspecified loopholes, huge spending cuts achieved in ways not mentioned. See Matt Miller for more.

So whence comes the Ryan reputation? As I said in my last post, it's because many commentators want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good - a story in which both parties are equally at fault in our national stalemate, and in which said commentators stand above the fray. This story requires that there be good, honest, technically savvy conservative politicians, so that you can point to these politicians and say how much you admire them, even if you disagree with some of their ideas; after all, unless you lavish praise on some conservatives, you don't come across as nobly even-handed.

The trouble, of course, is that it's really really hard to find any actual conservative politicians who deserve that praise. Ryan, with his flaky numbers (and actually very hard-line stance on social issues), certainly doesn't. But a large part of the commentariat decided early on that they were going to cast Ryan in the role of Serious Honest Conservative, and have been very unwilling to reconsider that casting call in the light of evidence.

So that's the constituency Romney is targeting: not a large segment of the electorate, but a few hundred at most editors, reporters, programmers, and pundits. His hope is that Ryan's unjustified reputation for honest wonkery will transfer to the ticket as a whole.

So, a memo to the news media: you have now become players in this campaign, not just reporters. Mitt Romney isn't seeking a debate on the issues; on the contrary, he's betting that your gullibility and vanity will let him avoid a debate on the issues, including the issue of his own fitness for the presidency. I guess we'll see if it works.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"My sons are all adults and they've made decisions about their careers and they've chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard. One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."
~~~ Mitt Romney

AFRICOM in action

Solidarity With Africa, Or Obama? You Can't Have Both
By Glen Ford

A new organization has been called forth, to "break the silence" among African Americans on the unfolding sagas in North Africa and the Middle East. In a "unity statement" circulated last month, the initiative invokes the "Pan-African and Black Internationalist tradition" of support for liberation struggles worldwide in the 19th and 20th centuries, citing Black American "opposition to the US occupation of Haiti, opposition to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, supporting (and serving in) the anti-fascist struggle in the Spanish civil war, supporting the independence struggle of the Indian subcontinent and those of African former colonies in the aftermath of World War II, solidarity with the Cuban people, opposition to US involvement in Indochina, the struggle against South African apartheid and the list could go on to delineate numerous other struggles and efforts."

The statement was drawn up by former TransAfrica president Bill Fletcher; Mark Harrison, of the United Methodist Peace with Justice Program; Felicia Eaves, Co-chair of US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; and Rev. D.A. Lams.

African American opposition to U.S. foreign policy "has often come at some cost," said the conveners, "such as when Dr. Martin Luther King spoke out against US aggression in Vietnam in 1967." However, "it has largely been inconceivable for African Americans to remain silent in the face of global injustice." Blacks in this country "have a special role in speaking out against enemies of peace, justice and democracy, both foreign and domestic."

The new formation, called African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North Africa, describes the Arab Spring as "a global altering process that has unleashed forces in struggle against neo-liberalism, neo-colonialism, and despotism. It has served as an inspiration for resistance movements in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in Europe (against neo-liberal/austerity economics), and here in the USA with the Madison, Wisconsin demonstrations in early 2011 and more recently the Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Together movement."

The organizers say they are committed to "advancing the demand for a democratic foreign policy on the part of the USA that is based on mutual respect, non-intervention in the affairs of other nation-states, recognition of national self-determination and repairing the damage that it has created through its imperial foreign actions."

Bill Fletcher and his colleagues call their statement an "opening salvo" and "invite questions and principled, constructive dialogue." As of two weeks ago, 55 activists had affixed their signatures to the document, including people closely associated with Black Agenda Report and many others whose opinions we respect. Our contribution to this discussion must begin by pointing out what is painfully obvious: that Black America, including much of what in previous decades passed as the African American Left, has shamefully shirked its responsibilities to the besieged peoples of Africa and the Middle East under the Obama presidency. This is not solely a failure of traditional Black American internationalism; the Black Left has also been all but neutralized, domestically, providing no effective critique of the Obama administration's tenure. Until the advent of the First Black U.S. Presidency, it had, indeed "largely been inconceivable for African Americans to remain silent in the face of global injustice." However, the installment of a Black face in the nation's highest place has turned out to be our Achilles Heel, short-circuiting our connections to the Black radical tradition and our internationalist and Pan-African legacies.

"The Black Left has also been all but neutralized, providing no effective critique of the Obama administration's tenure."

The unprovoked war on Libya, where U.S.-backed racists massacred and "purged" Black Libyans and African migrant workers - a war that Obama told Congress was not a war at all, since no Americans were known to have died - should have provoked a clear break with the president's policies by the Black Left, as Dr. King broke with President Johnson over Vietnam, in 1967. It would "largely have been inconceivable" that Dr. King or Malcolm X - or most living Black leftists, prior to Obama's election - would have countenanced the gang-rape of Syria by the United States, Europe and the royal thieves of the Persian Gulf. Washington's response to the "Arab Spring" has been to cement its alliance with the most backward Arab regimes and to arm Salafists and jihadis on a scale rivaling the CIA's shaping of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan into a global movement in the early 1980s. It is a recipe for chaos and mass murder in the near term and an awesome "blowback" not too far in the future. Obama has made a deal with the devil - which is also the way his jihadi allies see their relationship with the U.S. Clearly, "a global altering process" is underway, involving a wholesale American assault on the most fundamental concepts of international law and national sovereignty, all in the name of "humanitarian intervention" - a Bush invention, now a full fledged Obama doctrine, his answer to the "Arab Spring."

"The U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM, has tightened its grip on the continent." If such a realization is embedded in the language committing Bill Fletcher and his colleagues to "advancing the demand for a democratic foreign policy on the part of the USA that is based on mutual respect, non-intervention in the affairs of other nation-states, recognition of national self-determination and repairing the damage that it has created through its imperial foreign actions" - then we welcome it, and would be glad to help shape future proclamations and mobilizations. We shall see.

Under President Obama, and especially since the assault on Libya, the U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM, has tightened its grip on the continent. The African Union mission in Somalia is, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, an American-run affair. AFRICOM holds routine maneuvers with almost every military in Africa. The few countries that do not have military relations with AFRICOM, notably Sudan, Eritrea and Zimbabwe, are treated as enemy states in their own neighborhoods. Although U.S. trade with Africa continues to decline relative to China, India, Brazil and other emerging powers, Washington intends to dominate the continent by force of arms - through its own growing presence, and AFRICOM's intimate local military partners, which now include most of Africa's armed forces. AFRICOM needs no formal base of operations (although it has a large permanent presence in Djibouti), because it is already embedded in African armies. The African Union has, in some ways, already been "captured" by the Americans.

This is the overarching truth of U.S.-Africa relations, today. China does not threaten or subvert any African country; the U.S. and Europe are a menace to all of them. Understanding American intentions, based on their conduct (specifically, Obama's imposition of war and chaos in Africa), how would an energized African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North Africa suggest the U.S. go about "repairing the damage that it has created through its imperial... actions" in the region?

How about: U.S. Out of Africa, Hands Off Syria?
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The Ryan Choice
By Robert Reich

Paul Ryan is the reverse of Sarah Palin. She was all right-wing flash without much substance. He's all right-wing substance without much flash.

Ryan is not a firebrand. He's not smarmy. He doesn't ooze contempt for opponents or ridicule those who disagree with him. In style and tone, he doesn't even sound like an ideologue - until you listen to what he has to say.

It's here - in Ryan's views and policy judgments - we find the true ideologue. More than any other politician today, Paul Ryan exemplifies the social Darwinism at the core of today's Republican Party: Reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves. Dog eat dog.

Ryan's views are crystallized in the budget he produced for House Republicans last March as chairman of the House Budget committee. That budget would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over the next decade. The biggest cuts would be in Medicaid, which provides healthcare for the nation's poor - forcing states to drop coverage for an estimated 14 million to 28 million low-income people, according to the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Ryan's budget would also reduce food stamps for poor families by 17 percent ($135 billion) over the decade, leading to a significant increase in hunger - particularly among children. It would also reduce housing assistance, job training, and Pell grants for college tuition.

In all, 62 percent of the budget cuts proposed by Ryan would come from low-income programs.

The Ryan plan would also turn Medicare into vouchers whose value won't possibly keep up with rising health-care costs - thereby shifting those costs on to seniors.

At the same time, Ryan would provide a substantial tax cut to the very rich - who are already taking home an almost unprecedented share of the nation's total income. Today's 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together.

Ryan's views are pure social Darwinism. As William Graham Sumner, the progenitor of social Darwinism in America, put it in the 1880s: "Civilization has a simple choice." It's either "liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest" or "not-liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members."

Is this Mitt Romney's view as well?

Some believe Romney chose Ryan solely in order to drum up enthusiasm on the right. Since most Americans have already made up their minds about whom they'll vote for, and the polls show Americans highly polarized - with an almost equal number supporting Romney as Obama - the winner will be determined by how many on either side take the trouble to vote. So in picking Ryan, Romney is motivating his rightwing base to get to the polls, and pull everyone else they can along with them.

But there's reason to believe Romney also agrees with Ryan's social Darwinism. Romney accuses President Obama of creating an "entitlement society" and thinks government shouldn't help distressed homeowners but instead let the market "hit the bottom." And although Romney has carefully avoided specifics in his own economic plan, he has said he's "very supportive" of Ryan's budget plan. "It's a bold and exciting effort, an excellent piece of work, very much needed ... very consistent with what I put out earlier."

Romney hasn't put out much but the budget he's proposed would, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, throw ten million low-income people off the benefits rolls for food stamps or cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or both.

At the same time, Romney wants to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, reduce corporate income taxes, and eliminate the estate tax. These tax reductions would increase the incomes of people earning more than $1 million a year by an average of $295,874 annually, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.

Oh, did I say that Romney and Ryan also want to repeal President Obama's healthcare law, thereby leaving fifty million Americans without health insurance?

Social Darwinism offered a moral justification for the wild inequities and social cruelties of the late nineteenth century. It allowed John D. Rockefeller, for example, to claim the fortune he accumulated through his giant Standard Oil Trust was "merely a survival of the fittest... the working out of a law of nature and of God."

The social Darwinism of that era also undermined all efforts to build a more broadly based prosperity and rescue our democracy from the tight grip of a very few at the top. It was used by the privileged and powerful to convince everyone else that government shouldn't do much of anything.

Not until the twentieth century did America reject social Darwinism. We created a large middle class that became the engine of our economy and our democracy. We built safety nets to catch Americans who fell downward, often through no fault of their own.

We designed regulations to protect against the inevitable excesses of free-market greed. We taxed the rich and invested in public goods - public schools, public universities, public transportation, public parks, public health - that made us all better off.

In short, we rejected the notion that each of us is on our own in a competitive contest for survival.

But choosing Ryan, Romney has raised for the nation the starkest of choices: Do we want to return to that earlier time, or are we willing and able to move forward - toward a democracy and an economy that works for us all?
(c) 2012 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Aubenministerin Johnson,

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 Antonin (Tony light-fingers) Scalia.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your knowing illegal rules to keep people from voting, 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 Iron Cross first class, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 09-11-2012. We salute you Frau Johnson, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Paul Ryan's Got A Great Big Problem With Progressivism
By John Nichols

Paul Ryan's return to Wisconsin on the day after his selection as Mitt Romney's choice for the Republican vice presidential nomination was billed as a "homecoming."

But Ryan did not actually go home to Janesville, the blue-collar town where he was born and raised. Janesville is a Democratic city that backed the ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden in 2008, and that might well do so again in 2012. Indeed, the headline on a news story from Janesville published Sunday read: "Residents and Officials Say Ryan Brings Welcome Attention Even if He Won't Get Their Vote."

Instead, Ryan and Romney appeared in Waukesha County, the state's Republican stronghold.

In Waukesha, Ryan announced that: "I am a Wisconsinite through and through."

"My veins run with cheese, bratwurst and a little Spotted Cow, Leines and Miller," he declared, mentioning three of the state's many beers. "I was raised on the Packers, Badgers, Bucks and Brewers. I like to hunt here, fish here, snowmobile here, and I even think ice fishing is interesting."

What Ryan did not mention was the political philosophy that underpins what is universally recognized as "the Wisconsin Idea." The vice presidential candidates's thinking was shaped by Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand and Austrian economists, not by the progressive political ideals of the first Wisconsinite to lead a national political ticket into serious competition for the White House: governor, senator and 1924 presidential candidate Robert M. La Follette.

In fact, the House Budget Committee chairman is expressly at odds with his home-state's progressive tradition.

In 2010, Ryan told conservative commentator Glenn Beck: "What I've been trying to do is indict the entire vision of progressivism because I see progressivism as the source, the intellectual source for the big government problems that are plaguing us today. And so to me it's really important to flush progressives out into the field of open debate-so people can actually see what this ideology means and where it's going to lead us and how it attacks the American idea."

"I love you!" gushed Beck.

Beck referred to progressivism as "a cancer."

"Exactly," replied Ryan. "Look, I come from-I'm calling you from Janesville, Wisconsin where I'm born and raised, where we raise our family. (It's) 35 miles from Madison. I grew up hearing about this stuff. This stuff came from these German intellectuals to Madison‑University of Wisconsin and sort of out there from the beginning of the last century. So this is something we are familiar with where I come from. It never sat right with me. And as I grew up, I learned more about the founders and reading the Austrians and others that this is really a cancer because it basically takes the notion that our rights come from God and nature and turns it on its head and says, no, no, no, no, no, they come from government, and we here in government are here to give you your rights and therefore ration, redistribute and regulate your rights. It's a complete affront of the whole idea of this country and that is to me what we as conservatives, or classical liberals if you want to get technical."

La Follette and "those first progressives," Ryan said, "tried to use populism and popular ideas as a means to getting-detaching people from the Constitution and founding principles to pave the way for the centralized bureaucratic welfare state."

O.K., we know what Ryan thinks about progressives, contemporary and historic, and about the ideals for which La Follette and the first progressives.

So what would La Follette, the true progressive, have thought of Ryan?

Well, Ryan is most identified with the conservative campaign to mangle Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, while La Follette and the Wisconsin progressives fought to establish old-age pensions and protections.

Ryan is proudly opposed to health-care reform, while La Follette (and, it should be noted, Teddy Roosevelt) began talking up national health care in the early 1900s.

Ryan wants to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, while La Follette and the Progressives declared themselves for "a taxation policy providing for immediate reductions upon moderate incomes, large increases in the inheritance tax rates upon large estates to prevent the indefinite accumulation by inheritance of great fortunes in a few hands" and "taxes upon excess profits to penalize profiteering."

While Ryan's a steady critic of government, the Progressives wanted to nationalize the railroads and utility companies. And they declared in their 1924 platform: "We demand that the power of the federal government be used to crush private monopoly, not to foster it."

Where La Follette and the progressives sought to cut federal spending on the military, Ryan has consistently sought to increase funding for the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex about which Eisenhower warned. La Follette's 1924 Progressive Party platform called for the "curtailment of the $800 million now annually expended for the Army and Navy in preparation for future wars" and "the recovery of the hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from the Treasury through fraudulent war contracts and the corrupt leasing of the public resources."

While Ryan has been a steady supporter of wars and occupations abroad, as well as Wall Street-sponsored "free trade" agreements - which have devastated his hometown of Janesville - the Progressives denounced "the mercenary system of foreign policy under recent administrations in the interests of financial imperialists, oil monopolists and international bankers, which has at times degraded our State Department from its high service as a strong and kindly intermediary of defenseless governments to a trading outpost for those interests and concession-seekers engaged in the exploitations of weaker nations, as contrary to the will of the American people, destructive of domestic development and provocative of war."

Ryan's right that the first Progressives favored referendums. They even wanted "to extend the initiative and referendum to the federal government, and to insure a popular referendum for or against war except in cases of actual invasion."

La Follette and the pioneering progressives of Wisconsin believed in democracy-political and economic. They wanted Americans to be truly empowered to shape their communities, their states, their nation and their future. It was a radical vision. Far more radical than what most contemporary "progressives" espouse.

The "first progressives" so ardently decried by Ryan challenged the crony capitalism of Wall Street and Washington. They believed the the combination of corporate capital and political power created a toxic combination that threatened to overwhelm the power of the people and render democracy meaningless.

They called the combination "the money power."

Robert M. La Follette, the greatest Wisconsinite to step onto the national political stage, fought against "the money power."

Paul Ryan, the latest Wisconsinite to step onto the national political stage, fights for "the money power."
(c) 2012 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been publshed by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

On 77th Birthday, Social Security Under Attack
By Bernie Sanders

We are now in the midst of the fiercest and best-financed attack against Social Security in our lifetimes. Instead of getting a birthday celebration for its wild success, Social Security is under direct attack by the nation's wealthiest individuals.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are now being spent to destroy Social Security and endanger the well-being of millions of Americans. We must not allow that effort to succeed.

In the years since President Franklin Roosevelt signed Social Security into law on August 14, 1935, the retirement program has been one of the nation's most successful anti-poverty programs. Before Social Security existed, about half of America's senior citizens lived in poverty. Today, less than 10 percent live in poverty. Since its inception some 77 years ago, through good economic times and bad, Social Security has paid out every penny owed to every eligible beneficiary. This is a remarkable success story.

Despite right-wing misinformation, the program that benefits 55 million seniors, disabled Americans, widows, widowers and orphans has a $2.7 trillion surplus. Social Security, which is funded by the payroll tax, has not contributed one nickel to the deficit and, according to its trustees, can pay 100 percent of all benefits owed to every eligible American for the next 21 years.

Despite Social Security's overwhelming success, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has been a proponent of privatizing the retirement program by putting seniors' savings into risky Wall Street investments. Even before tapping Ryan as his running mate, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had said he wants to begin the process of privatizing Social Security. He also would gradually increase the retirement age to 68 or 69. And he favors slowing the growth of benefits for persons with "higher incomes." Under a plan floated by Romney's allies on Capitol Hill - Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) - someone making about $45,000 a year today who retires in 2050 would receive 32 percent less in annual Social Security benefits than under the current formula. By that definition, the top 60 percent of all wage earners would be considered "higher income."

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, was a staunch defender of Social Security in his 2008 campaign. So far this year, however, Obama has refused to stand behind his four-year-old opposition to cuts. In fact, the president has signaled that he may be open to lowering benefits by changing how they are calculated. It is long past time that the president told the American people in no uncertain terms, as he did in 2008, that he will not cut Social Security on his watch.

To keep Social Security's finances sound in the future, I've introduced legislation - identical to a proposal that Obama advocated in 2008 - to apply the payroll tax on income above $250,000 a year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is among 10 cosponsors of the bill. Under current law, only earnings up to $110,100 are taxed. The Center for Economic Policy and Research has estimated that applying the Social Security payroll tax on income above $250,000 would only impact the wealthiest 1.4 percent of wage earners.

Those who would undermine Social Security have advocated a so-called "chained-CPI." That approach changes how the Consumer Price Index is calculated so that a person 65 years old today would earn $560 a year less in Social Security benefits once they turn 75. Benefits would be cut by nearly $1,000 a year once they turn 85. Instead, my sponsored legislation bases Social Security cost-of-living adjustments on a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly, a measure that would increase benefits because it would take into account the real-life impact of rising health care costs and prescription drug expenses paid by seniors.
(c) 2012 Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

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Less Interesting Person Than Romney Found In Wisconsin
By Andy Borowitz

U.S.S. WISCONSIN (The Borowitz Report)-An exhaustive manhunt that took months and spanned the country came to a dramatic end today as a less interesting person than Mitt Romney turned up in Wisconsin.

On the deck of the U.S.S. Wisconsin, officials from the Guinness Book of World Records were on hand to certify the result of the search.

"This man is in fact the least interesting person in America," one Guinness official said, adding that Mr. Romney himself had held that title since 1947.

Mr. Romney and the man made a joint appearance, after which the audience was advised not to operate heavy machinery.

The man of the hour used his brief remarks to lay out his vision of America, saying that billions of dollars could be saved by eliminating food, clothing, and shelter.

For his part, Mr. Romney sounded a theme for the fall campaign: "It's time to transform America, and the two of us are both Transformers."
(c) 2012 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 33 (c) 08/17/2012

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