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In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald with a must read, "Obama Moves to Make The 'War On Terror' Permanent."

Uri Avnery tells the tale of, "The Man With The Uzi."

Glen Ford calls, "Obama And Romney: Brothers Of The Same Imperial Lodge."

Greg Palast explores, "Mitt Romney's Bailout Bonanza."

Jim Hightower meets, "Romney's 'Farmer.'"

Dean Baker gives one reason, "Why Even President Obama Won't Champion Social Security."

James Donahue relates, "How The Celtic Holiday Samhain Became Halloween."

Mickey Z bids you, "Define 'Lesser.'"

Frank Scott explains, "Legalienate Poll Results."

Robert Drefuss warns of, "The Endless Drone Killing Program."

Paul Krugman examines, "The Secret Of Our Non-Success."

David Swanson returns with, "Now That Was A Debate."

Robert Reich sees, "Obama As Commander-In-Chief, Romney As Banal Bully."

Illinois Con-gressman Joe Walsh R/Il-8 wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols remembers, "George McGovern - Touchstone Of Liberalism."

Adam Keller introduces, "Yishai And Deri And The Eritrean Hunger Strikers."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Mrs. Betty Bower asks "Why Can't Halloween Be Both Scary And religious?" but first Uncle Ernie is, "Between To Evils."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Chris Britt, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, Keith Tucker, Mickey Z, Black Agenda Report, Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images, C Span, The FBI, 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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Between Two Evils
By Ernest Stewart

"Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before." ~~~ Mae West

"Well, naturally, we were not surprised by the inextricable connection between homosexuality and Catholicism. But we had assumed, just like the rest of the world, that there had been no homosexuality before the Roman Catholic 'church.' All the scholarly journals we had read maintained that the papists invented sodomy, and then posthumously defamed the Greeks, just to shift blame. But once we scratched below the gilded surface of this cult of fairies, we were shocked to find the converse. It seems that Roman Catholics had incorporated preexisting homosexual rituals into the Catholic traditions, like wearing dresses with fabulous, ornamental sashes and keeping catamites. Who knew?" ~~~ Mrs. Betty Bowers

"You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I've found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don't believe that the Earth's but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That's what the Bible says." ~~~ U.S. House Rep. Paul Broun R/GA-10

"Major Strasser has been shot. ... Round up the usual suspects!" ~~~ Claude Rains

Well the god-awful pretense of the de-baits are finally behind us, and the Sheeple being the Sheeple, fail to see beyond the end of their noses again -- again, not a surprise. The so-called right and left (actually the same party), both groups being far right conglomerates, continue to split hairs over their two candidates and refuse to see that they're both the same, i.e., representing the 1% and not the 99%. Some like the 1% pirate over the war criminal; and some like the war criminal over the 1% pirate; some like neither, but will vote for one or the other, saying if they don't, the other guy will destroy America; I got news for you, Sunshine; they are both 99% exactly the same; and both will do exactly as their corpo-rat masters bid them to. Hence, the majority of Americans -- the ones that can see reality -- refuse to vote!

If I hear the phrase the lesser of two evils again, I may just lose it, and get rid of at least 100 of my Facebook "friends" for being too stupid to be my friends. It's like watching Seinfeld where everybody is bizarre, like watching a traffic accident, but you just can't look away -- even though you should. You wouldn't have a single one of them as your friend in real life, but they're your TV friends. When it's on, I always root for the "Soup Nazi;" now there's a guy I'd like to "friend" on Facebook! The trouble is that America can't tell the difference between their TV friends, Barry and Willard, and reality!

What always raises my dander is, "Oh, I'd vote for one of the other parties, except they'd never win and I'd waste my vote; so I'm wasting my vote by voting for the lesser of two evils," a self-fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one. It doesn't matter that both Barry and Willard are evil and that they are both working for the same 1% masters; and if we continue this, nothing will ever change, except it will just get worse no matter which one is elected. As Ruby Tuesday the "galatic gumshoe" might sing, "Caught in a loop, caught in a loop, caught in a loop, caught in a loop!" Which is just where our corpo-rat masters want us. "Keep the Sheeple scared and stupid" has been working quite well for centuries; so nothing is going to change. Speaking of that "Change" thing, how'd that work out for you? Pity Barry didn't mention it was a change for the worse! Mind those drones flying overhead, America!

Two weeks from now I will put either Barry's or Willard's photo above my column with the very same caption, i.e., "We Are SOOOOOOO Screwed, America." While I'll be voting Green, I'm hoping for Willard to win -- talk about a comedian's dream candidate; it will be like having Smirky back in the Oval Office again, saying things that the best comedy writers couldn't write and nobody would believe if you wrote their exact quotes for a movie or in a "stand up" routine. Easy pickings, indeed! I know Bill Maher is cumming in his jeans at the thought of a Willard presidency!

Either way, the Sheeple will continue to bathe their hands daily in the blood of the innocents, just as we do today. Which one will kill more and destroy more of our country is hard to say as they are both capable of starting WWIII over a prod from Israel or one of their corpo-rat masters. As it stands today, I have no doubt that Barry will win another term for two reasons. One, is that the 1% want to keep the pretense that there is a difference and that Barry is for the people which will allow them to steal even more while hiding behind Barry, like the insurance companies and the Banksters did! The second reason is that "the Donald" backs Willard and in American politics that's the kiss of death -- even Don Corleone couldn't finish someone as easily as Don Trump can. Ergo, we are screwed America! I do believe that it's too late now to stop our self-destruction; so ya'll better get prepared to ride out the fall from being number one to being a third world country, if we're lucky; and a big hole in the ground that will glow in the dark for the next 250,000 years, if we're not! Thanks, America, for dragging me down with you, NOT!

In Other News

Someone sent me this addy:

Which seriously explains that gay folk are created by something they call contracepting, which it goes on to say is basically responsible for all the bad things in the world, especially those gays! After watching it and laughing my ass off I wrote the nuns; The Children of Mary, an Ohio order, that produced it, the following note... Dear sister Mary Elephant,

Oh, where to begin? While your video isn't quite the stupidest thing, I've ever seen it certainly must be in the top ten! Congratulations! So all those priests and nuns that molest little children are doing it because of contracepting; it must also turn the priests gay and the nuns into lesbians too, huh? What does contracepting mean, as it's in no dictionary that I can find, but is par for the course when considered with all those pretend "facts" that you present. I should have expected this song and dance from the Panzer Pope; but I'm always amazed by the followers of Yahweh. Of the 2500 gods that we've created, the three cults of followers of this Bronze Age god of wandering, barbarian, syphilitic sheepherders are the strangest cults of them all. When the three cults haven't been killing their own members, they've been killing each other, fighting tooth and nail for thousands of years, which, I will admit, is a good thing and should be encouraged.

How stupid does a person have to be to believe your silly mythology; that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father and was sired by himself and his virgin mother and can make you live forever if you symbolically eat its flesh, drink its blood and telepathically tell it that you accept it as your master. So that it can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in all humanity because a woman made out of a man's rib and some dust, was convinced by a talking snake to eat some fruit from a magical tree. And furthermore your god that loves us and will show its love by torturing us for eternity if we don't buy that bullshit.

Do they know that you've gotten out of your padded cell and straight jacket and are now on the loose? Perhaps I should sit here with you and look out for you until those nice young men in their clean white coats come along to collect you?

Just a question, are you contracepting? As your myth teaches you that we should all be having children -- why aren't you having kids? Is it because you're all lesbians? You must know that there are plenty of sperm donor clinics for lesbians that want children. Won't your god send you all to hell for not having kids? Or don't your god's laws apply to you?

Still, I must thank you and Joey Ratz for one of the funniest times I've had lately; I don't know when I've laughed so much; thanks, Ya'll!


Your Atheist pal,

You can send your thoughts to the sisters at:

Tell'em Uncle Ernie sent ya!

And Finally

You folks in the northern Chicago suburbs i.e., US congressional district 8 need to get rid of that tea-bagging bastard Joe Walsh if you know what's good for your sisters, mothers, wives, and daughters. If left to his own devices Joe will try to kill them if he can. Joe wants no exceptions for abortions. It doesn't matter to Joe if you were raped, even if you were raped by your father; oh, and one more thing, no abortions even to save the life of the mother. Nope, sorry ladies, if you get pregnant with a host of various diseases, body conditions and such, you are going to die. I guess, gals, you ought to sew up your vagina if you want to stay alive. As a couple of state house members of the female persuasion found out in Michigan, you can not you the word "Vagina" in the Republican-controlled house; cause if you do, you can be censured and sent home and kept off committees and kept from voting on ladies issues; don't worry, all those, old, white, insane males, know what's best for you, Missy. So if you're going to broach the subject amongst the likes of Joe, use the proper, respectful, official, Republican name for your vagina, ladies, viz., your naughty lady parts!

You may recall Joe said:

"This is an issue that opponents of [pro-] life throw out there to make us look unreasonable. There is no such exception as life of the mother and as far as health of the mother, same thing, with advances in science and technology, health of the mother has become a tool for abortions for any time under any reason."

Of course, this is total bullshit, Joe; and you know it; but the facts have never stopped a politician from telling lies! In fact, there are quite a variety of things that might take the woman's life if she carries through to birth. Here's just a few:

"Ectopic pregnancy, for example, affects 19.7 out of every 1,000 North American pregnancies, according to a paper published in February 2000 in the journal American Family Physician. In these cases, embryos almost always implant in the fallopian tubes, the connection between the ovaries and the uterus. The fallopian tubes aren't capable of supporting a pregnancy; a growing embryo will rupture them, which can cause uncontrollable bleeding. There is no technology available to save these pregnancies.

Some ectopic pregnancies miscarry on their own, but most require a surgical or medical abortion to prevent those life-threatening ruptures.

Preeclampsia is another pregnancy condition that stumps modern medicine. The condition usually develops after 20 weeks of gestation for reasons not fully understood. The only treatment is delivery.

Embolism (when a clot blocks a blood vessel), hemorrhage and the exacerbation of pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or heart disease are the top causes of pregnancy-related death, according to a 2003 paper published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. That study also found that pregnancy complications are not equal-opportunity killers. Black women were nearly four times as likely as white women to die because of pregnancy. Teens and women in their late 30s or older were also at higher risk of pregnancy-related deaths."

So Joe is this week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner! I bet your mama's proud, Joe!

Keepin' On

Thanks to good ole Ernie from Ontario, we are close to our goal; in fact, we're just $400 from our fund raising goal for the year! After a little checking the "Usual Suspects" have taken care of about 70% of the nearly $6000 we need to publish after our advertisers pick up a similar amount. Without the help from those ladies and gentlemen in our "Usual Suspects" group, we would have had to shut down years ago. Thanks again, Ya'll!

While $400 used to be chump change to me, today it's more than I get from social security in a month; ergo, there is no chance that I can afford to pick up what now seems to be a lot of money! Back in the daze, that $400 was part of a night's pay in a night club and about a day's pay on the radio for me -- funny how things work out, huh?

Therefore, here I am again, cap in hand, trying to raise up enough money to go on fighting the good fight against our political and corpo-rat masters. While some have said I'm just "tilting at windmills" and can accomplish nothing against our masters, I would beg to disagree! Ya'll've told me time and time again how I've changed the lives amongst your family and your friends. This is, of course, exactly what we're out to do -- to save as many of you as we can from the disasters to come. If you like what we're about and would like to help the cause, please send in what you can, whenever you can and help out the "Usual Suspects! In return, we'll keep fighting the good fight!


07-19-1922 ~ 10-21-2012
Thanks for fighting for us!

11-10-1939 ~ 10-22-2012
Thanks for the film!


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.

The National Counterterrorism Center, the site of a new bureaucracy to institutionalize the 'kill list.'

Obama Moves to Make The 'War On Terror' Permanent
Complete with a newly coined, creepy Orwellian euphemism - 'disposition matrix' - the administration institutionalizes the most extremist powers a government can claim
By Glenn Greenwald

A primary reason for opposing the acquisition of abusive powers and civil liberties erosions is that they virtually always become permanent, vested not only in current leaders one may love and trust but also future officials who seem more menacing and less benign.

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize - to make officially permanent - the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.

Based on interviews with "current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies", Miller reports that as "the United States' conventional wars are winding down," the Obama administration "expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years" (the "capture" part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the "kill" part). Specifically, "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade." As Miller puts it: "That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."

In pursuit of this goal, "White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration's approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced." All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates "the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war."

The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that "CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones", which "reflects the agency's transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence." The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:

"JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command's targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a 'national capital region' task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists."

The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: "disposition matrix". Writes Miller:

"Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the 'disposition matrix'.

"The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones."

The "disposition matrix" has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is "to augment" the "separate but overlapping kill lists" maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch's "matrix". As Miller describes it, it is "a single, continually evolving database" which includes "biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations" as well as "strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols". This analytical system that determines people's "disposition" will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was "looking forward to the government's arguments explaining why it won't release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA".

This was all motivated by Obama's refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes "a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix" as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: "We had a disposition problem."

The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed - "It is the keeper of the criteria," says one official to the Post - is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC - despite its nominal focus on terrorism - is the "massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States."

In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes "records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records" - "literally anything the government collects would be fair game." In other words, the NCTC - now vested with the power to determine the proper "disposition" of terrorist suspects - is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.

Worse still, as the ACLU's legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days - a limit which "meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans" - it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC "to collect and 'continually assess' information on innocent Americans for up to five years."

And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:

"All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI's office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President's Intelligence Oversight Board aren't notified even of 'significant' failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.

"All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11."

It doesn't require any conspiracy theorizing to see what's happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naivete, or wilful blindness, not to see it.

What has been created here - permanently institutionalized - is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a "matrix" that determines the "disposition" of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be "disposed" of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.

The Post's Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: "The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic." As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:

Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.

To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: "The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis."

The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, "officials said no clear end is in sight" when it comes to the war against "terrorists" because, said one official, "we can't possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us" but trying is "a necessary part of what we do." Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who "want to harm us". That's the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.

But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: "No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.

And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that - without hyperbole - is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a "disposition matrix" to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).

In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: "If you have a 'kill list', but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?" The answer all depends upon what the objective is.

As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power - and profit - more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue - the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:

"It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people."

In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes' question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.
(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.

The Man With The Uzi
By Uri Avnery

THERE WAS this young Israeli who was captured by cannibals. They put him in the cooking pot and were about to light the fire, when he expressed one last wish: "Please box my ears!"

When the cannibal chief obliged, the Israeli jumped up, leveled his Uzi and mowed down his captors.

"If you had the Uzi all the time, why didn't you use it before?" he was asked.

"I can't do this unless I am angry," he replied.

BARACK OBAMA's debating performance reminds me of this joke. At the first confrontation he was listless and lifeless. He just wanted the silly thing to end.

During the second debate, he was a changed man. Energetic. Aggressive. Decisive. In short: angry.

When the confrontation started, it was 3 a.m. in Israel. I could have recorded it and watched it later. But I was unable to wait. My curiosity got the better of me.

Of course, this whole performance is silly. There is no connection at all between talent as a debater and the ability to lead a nation. You can be an outstanding polemicist and unable to conduct a rational policy. Israelis have only to look at Binyamin Netanyahu. You can be a purposeful leader, and fail utterly at expressing yourself. YItzhak Rabin, for example.

Yet Americans insist that their leaders demonstrate their prowess as debaters as a condition for being elected. It somehow reminds one of the single combats of antiquity, when each side chose a champion and the two tried to kill each other, in place of mutual mass slaughter. David and Goliath spring to mind. It's certainly more humane.

THE RHETORIC was not directed at the mass of voters. As has been said before, it was aimed at the "Undecideds", a special class of people. The title is supposed to confer some kind of distinction. For me it makes more sense as an expression of contempt. If you haven't decided yet, three weeks before the gong sounds, is that something to brag about?

At this stage of the game, both candidates must be very careful not to antagonize anyone. Which means, of course, that they cannot afford to present any definite, clear cut, opinion on anything, except motherhood and apple pie - or, in Israel, Zionism and gefilte fish.

You must beware of any new idea. God forbid. New ideas create enemies. You may impress a few voters, but most likely you will drive away many more. The trick is to express generalities forcefully.

Gun ownership, for example. Guns kill. In strictest confidence, I might disclose to you that guns are produced for this very purpose. Since you are not likely to be kidnapped by cannibals, why for God's sake keep an Uzi in your cupboard? To keep the Bad Injuns away?

Yet even Obama skirted the issue. He did not dare to come out with an unqualified demand to put an end to this nuisance altogether. You don't mess with the gun lobby. Almost like the pro-Israel lobby. Mitt Romney cited his experience in bringing pro-gun and anti-gun people together to work out a compromise. Like: instead of ten children with assault rifles shooting up their schoolmates, only five per year.

I MUST admit that I didn't quite understand the bitter quarrel about the Benghazi incident. Perhaps you need an American mind to grasp it. My primitive Israeli head just doesn't get it.

Was it a simple terrorist attack, or did the terrorists use a protest gathering for cover? Why the hell does that matter? Why should the President have bothered to falsify the picture this or that way? Israelis know from long experience that after a botched rescue attempt, security services always lie. It's in their nature. No president can change that.

The idea that any country can protect its hundreds of embassies and consulates around the world against all possible types of attack is childish. Especially if you cut their security budget.

Apart from these particular issues, both candidates spoke in generalities. Drill, baby, drill! But don't forget the sun and the wind. Young people must be able to go to college. And get a well-paid job afterwards. The devious Chinese must be shown who's boss. Unemployment is bad and should be abolished. The Middle Class must be saved.

Seems the Middle Class (both in the US and in Israel) makes up the entire population. One may wonder what they are the middle of. One hardly hears of anyone lower or higher on the scale.

In short, both candidates made much of the enormous differences between them, but looked suspiciously alike.

EXCEPT FOR the color of their skin, of course. But do we dare mention that? Not if we want to be politically correct. The most obvious fact of the campaign is also its deepest secret.

I can't prove it, but my feeling is that race plays a much bigger role in these elections than anyone is ready to admit.

In the presidential debates, one cannot get away from the fact that one candidate is white and the other black. One is a WASP (are Mormons protestants?), the other is half black. The difference is even more striking with the two wives. One cannot be whiter than Ann, or blacker than Michelle.

Not mentioning these facts does not make them disappear. They are there. They surely play a role in the minds of many people, perhaps unconsciously.

One can only wonder that Barack Hussein Obama was elected in the first place. It shows the American people in the best light. But will there be a backlash this time? I don't know.

RIGHT FROM the beginning, I felt that Obama would win this debate. And win he did.

In a previous article, I mentioned that I have many misgivings about Obama. An irate reader asked me what they were. Well, Obama has been giving in to the anti-peace agenda of Netanyahu. After some feeble attempts to get Netanyahu to stop the building of settlements, Obama shut up.

Obama must take his share of the blame for the waste of four precious years, during which grievous damage, perhaps irreversible, has been done to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Settlements have been expanded at a frantic pace, the occupation has struck even deeper roots, the Two-State solution - the only one there is - has been seriously undermined.

The Arab Spring, which could so easily have been a new beginning for peace in the Middle East, has been squandered. The Arab peace initiative, which has been lying on the table for years, is still lying there, like a wilted flower.

American inactivity on this problem has deepened the despair of the Israeli peace forces on the eve of our own elections, removing the idea of peace altogether from public discourse.

On the other hand, Obama has prevented Netanyahu from starting a disastrous war. He may have saved the lives of hundreds, even thousands of human beings, Israelis and Iranians, and perhaps in the end Americans. For that alone, we must be profoundly grateful.

I HOPE that Obama wins the elections. Or, rather, that the other guy does not . As we say in Hebrew, drawing on the Book of Esther: "Not for the love of Mordecai, but for the hatred of Haman."

(I am tempted to quote again the old Jewish joke about the mean rich man in the shtetl, whom no one wanted to eulogize as required on the occasion of his death. In the end, someone stood up and said: "We all know that he was mean-spirited, vicious and avaricious, but compared to his son he was an angel.")

This is, of course, a wild exaggeration. I have a lot of real sympathy for Obama. I think that he is basically a decent, well-meaning person. I wish for his reelection, and not only because the opposing ticket is so worrisome.

IF OBAMA is elected, what will his second term look like, as far as we are concerned?

There is always the lurking hope that a President in his second term will be less subservient to the "pro-Israel" lobby - which is in effect an anti-Israel lobby, driving us on towards national disaster.

After being reelected, the second-term President will be relieved of his worry about the lobby, its voters and its money. Not entirely, of course. He will still have to worry about the mid-term congressional elections and about the fate of his party in the next presidential round.

Still, he will have much more leeway. He will be able to do much more for peace and change the face of the Middle East.

As our Arab cousins say: Inshallah - God willing.
(c) 2012 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Obama And Romney: Brothers Of The Same Imperial Lodge
By Glen Ford

Debate? What debate? What we witnessed Monday night was the total hegemony of imperial corporate ideology, served up in chocolate and vanilla flavors. On every point of substance, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are indistinguishable - not just equally evil, but identically so. On foreign policy, there is not one ray of daylight between the two.

In 2011, Obama was simultaneously waging drone and bomb wars against five countries: Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan (he's currently down to four, plus a proxy terror war in Syria). Romney applauds all of these aggressions, with the caveat that he would bring superior "leadership" to the carnage. Given these facts, how shall we rate the contenders?

If you believe that Romney - who has never caused a cruise missile to be fired in anger - is a dangerous warmonger, then what about the guy whose five actual wars Romney fully endorses? Do you prefer Obama's martial leadership qualities to Romney's? If leadership in war involves building foreign and domestic support for war-making, then Obama is your man. After all, he's neutralized most domestic anti-war sentiment while leading (and definitely not from behind) his NATO and royal Persian Gulf allies in the nine-month pulverization of Libya - great feats of imperial stewardship!

But, of course, that raises the question: should peace-loving voters, given a choice, prefer politicians who are very good at global aggression - who make war palatable to domestic and foreign audiences, as Obama does - or should peaceful folk opt for the less gifted warmonger, one so poorly endowed in leadership skills that he brings discredit to the imperial project, as did George Bush (and as seems likely under a President Romney)? Such is the nature of the choice facing those who cannot resist voting for one or the other of Monday's contenders: the wannabe destroyer of worlds, or the guy with all the bloody hash marks on his arm.

"On every point of substance, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are indistinguishable - not just equally evil, but identically so."

One can also choose one's favorite liar. Romney lies about what he has said in the past, while Obama lies about what he has done. Often, they share the same lies. The two got indignant with each over whether Romney, in Obama's words, "recently gave a speech saying that we should have 20,000 more" troops in Iraq, today, rather than pulling out last December. No doubt, Romney said it. But, throughout the summer of last year, Obama's civilian and military officials were negotiating with the Iraqi government to allow up to 10,000 U.S. troops to remain. A July 5, 2011, Associated Press story, for example, reported that "the White House has worked out options to keep between 8,500 and 10,000 active-duty troops to continue training Iraqi security forces during 2012, according to senior Obama administration and U.S. military officials." The talks continued deep into the fall. In the end, Obama had no choice but to honor the withdrawal agreement signed by George Bush, or put the U.S. in a state of war with the Iraqi government and people. But he begged and pleaded to stay. His whole narrative of having always intended a total pullout is a lie - with Romney now chiming in "me too."

Both candidates tell the same lie about Afghanistan. There are no plans, and no agreement with the Afghan government, for anything remotely resembling a total pullout in 2014. It's a game of "name change," with the remaining U.S. troops to be designated as "trainers" rather than "combat" soldiers. How many? The U.S. military is planning for 25,000 troops, including many thousands of Special Forces. When President Obama took the oath of office, there were 34,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan - so we are mainly discussing undoing Obama's own "surge" of 66,000 in additional troops. Romney endorsed the fake "pullout" - so, at least the two are lying in synch.

Obama's most noxious statement of Monday evening, on the death of Moammar Gaddafi, revealed the president's core rottenness as a human being:

"And to the governor's credit, you supported us going into Libya and the coalition that we organized. But when it came time to making sure that Gaddafi did not stay in power, that he was captured, Governor, your suggestion was that this was mission creep, that this was mission muddle."

Gaddafi was not "captured," he was murdered, a knife stuck up his rectum by U.S.-backed thugs after his convoy was disabled by what appear to have been U.S. bombers. The world saw the Libyan leader's torture on video, and heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brag, "We came, we saw, he died."

For Obama, it seems that a momentary interval between being seized by an enemy and executed, constitutes a "capture" - for which he takes credit, but not the murder. Although his choice of words may not constitute a lie, it speaks volumes to his character.

Romney's "mission creep" comment may have been a symptom of inner caution in foreign policy. But it seems that was a passing moment, and he is now gung ho on Obama's Libya adventure.

Obama failed to revel, at the debate, in having used the Libya operation to invent a new definition of war. Since no Americans were killed, there was no reason for Congress to invoke the War Powers Act, said Obama. Although thousands might be slaughtered by U.S. and allied firepower, Obama has declared that, henceforth, no state of war or even "conflict" may exist unless Americans are also harmed.

Mitt Romney seems to have no problem with the Obama war/non-war doctrine. He agrees that Syria's "Assad must go," presumably in the same manner as Gaddafi. Romney's spin on the arming of jihadis is that the U.S. should avoid it, while Obama's lie is that Washington isn't doing it. Romney wants the U.S. to draw even closer to Israel. Obama says, truthfully, that he already has "created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history." Mitt said amen to that.

Presumably, the Republican and Democratic standard bearers covered every important area of potential disagreement during the 90 minutes allotted - and found none. So, which warmongering, imperialist mad dog are you going to vote for? The one who is actually waging multiple wars and savaging international order, or the rookie?

Ain't imperial hegemony a bitch?
(c) 2012 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Mitt Romney's Bailout Bonanza
By Greg Palast

Mitt Romney's opposition to the auto bailout has haunted him on the campaign trail, especially in Rust Belt states like Ohio. There, in September, the Obama campaign launched television ads blasting Romney's November 2008 New York Times op-ed, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." But Romney has done a good job of concealing, until now, the fact that he and his wife, Ann, personally gained at least $15.3 million from the bailout-and a few of Romney's most important Wall Street donors made more than $4 billion. Their gains, and the Romneys', were astronomical-more than 3,000 percent on their investment.

It all starts with Delphi Automotive, a former General Motors subsidiary whose auto parts remain essential to GM's production lines. No bailout of GM-or Chrysler, for that matter-could have been successful without saving Delphi. So, in addition to making massive loans to automakers in 2009, the federal government sent, directly or indirectly, more than $12.9 billion to Delphi-and to the hedge funds that had gained control over it.

One of the hedge funds profiting from that bailout-$1.28 billion so far-is Elliott Management, directed by Paul Singer. According to The Wall Street Journal, Singer has given more to support GOP candidates-$2.3 million-than anyone else on Wall Street this election season. His personal giving is matched by that of his colleagues at Elliott; collectively, they have donated $3.4 million to help elect Republicans this season, while giving only $1,650 to Democrats. And Singer is influential with the GOP presidential candidate; he's not only an informal adviser but, according to the Journal, his support was critical in helping push Representative Paul Ryan onto the ticket.

Singer, whom Fortune magazine calls a "passionate defender of the 1%," has carved out a specialty investing in distressed firms and distressed nations, which he does by buying up their debt for pennies on the dollar and then demanding payment in full. This so-called "vulture investor" received $58 million on Peruvian debt that he snapped up for $11.4 million, and $90 million on Congolese debt that he bought for a mere $20 million. In the process, he's built one of the largest private equity firms in the nation, and over decades he's racked up an unusually high average return on investments of 14 percent.

Other GOP presidential hopefuls chased Singer's endorsement, but Mitt chased Singer with his own checkbook, investing at least $1 million with Elliott through Ann Romney's blind trust (it could be far more, but the Romneys have declined to disclose exactly how much). Along the way, Singer gained a reputation, according to Fortune, "for strong-arming his way to profit." That is certainly what happened at Delphi.


Delphi, once the Delco unit of General Motors, was spun off into a separate company in 1999. Alone, Delphi foundered, declaring bankruptcy in 2005, after which vulture hedge funds, led by Silver Point Capital, began to buy up the company's old debt. Later, as the nation's financial crisis accelerated, Singer's Elliott bought Delphi debt, as did John Paulson & Co. John Paulson, like Singer, is a $1 million donor to Romney. Also investing was Third Point, run by Daniel Loeb, who was once an Obama supporter but who this summer hosted a $25,000-a-plate fundraiser for Romney and personally donated about $500,000 to the GOP.

As Delphi was in bankruptcy, making few payments, the bonds were junk, considered toxic by the banks holding them. The hedge funds were able to pick up the securities for a song; most of Elliott's purchases cost just 20 cents on the dollar of their face value.

By the end of June 2009, with the bailout negotiations in full swing, the hedge funds, under Singer's lead, used their bonds to buy up a controlling interest in Delphi's stock. According to SEC filings, they paid, on average, an equivalent of only 67 cents per share.

Just two years later, in November 2011, the Singer syndicate took Delphi public at $22 a share, turning an eye-popping profit of more than 3,000 percent. Singer's fund investors scored a gain of $904 million, all courtesy of the US taxpayer. But that's not all. In the year since Delphi began trading publicly, its stock has soared 45 percent. Loeb's gains so far for Third Point: $390 million. The gains for Silver Point, headed by two Goldman Sachs alums: $894 million. John Paulson's fund, which has already sold half its holdings, has a $2.6 billion gain. And Singer's funds and partners, combining what they've sold and what they hold, have $1.29 billion in profits, about forty-four times their original investment.

Yet without taking billions in taxpayer bailout funds-and slashing worker pensions-the hedge funds' investment in Delphi would not have been worth a single dollar, according to calculations by GM and the US Treasury.

Altogether, in direct and indirect payouts, the government padded these investors' profits handsomely. The Treasury allowed GM to give Delphi at least $2.8 billion of funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to keep Delphi in business. GM also forgave $2.5 billion in debt owed to it by Delphi, and $2 billion due from Singer and company upon Delphi's exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The money GM forgave was effectively owed to the Treasury, which had by then become the majority owner of GM as a result of the bailout. Then there was the big one: the government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation took over paying all of Delphi's retiree pensions. The cost to the taxpayer: $5.6 billion. The bottom line: the hedge funds' paydays were made possible by a generous donation of $12.9 billion from US taxpayers.


One of President Obama's first acts in office, in February 2009, was to form the Auto Task Force with the goal of saving GM, Chrysler, their suppliers and, most important, auto industry jobs. Crucial to the plan was saving Delphi, which then employed more than 25,000 union workers.

Obama hired Steven Rattner, himself a millionaire hedge fund manager, to head the task force that would negotiate with the troubled firms and their creditors to avoid the collapse of the entire industry. In Rattner's memoir of the affair, Overhaul, he describes a closed-door meeting held in March 2009 to resolve Delphi's fate. He writes that Delphi, now in the possession of its hedge fund creditors, told the Treasury and GM to hand over $350 million immediately, "because if you don't, we'll shut you down." His explanation was corroborated by Delphi's chief financial officer, John Sheehan, who said in a sworn deposition in July 2009 that the hedge fund debt holders backed up their threat with "an analysis of the cost to GM if Delphi were unwilling or unable to provide supply to GM," forcing a "shutdown." It would take "years and tens of billions" for GM to replace Delphi's parts. At that bleak moment, GM had neither. The automaker had left the inventory of its steering column and other key components in Delphi's hands. If Delphi laid siege to GM's parts supply, the bailout would fail and GM would have to be liquidated or sold off-as would another Delphi dependent, Chrysler.

Rattner could not believe that Delphi's management-now effectively under the hedge funders' control-would "want to be perceived as holding GM hostage at such a precarious economic moment." One Wall Street Journal analyst suggested that Singer was treating Delphi "like a third world country." Rattner likened the subsidies demanded by Delphi's debt holders to "extortion demands by the Barbary pirates."

Romney has slammed the bailout as a payoff to the auto workers union. But that certainly wasn't true for the bailout of Delphi. Once the hedge funders, including Singer-a deep-pocketed right-wing donor and activist who serves as chair of the conservative, anti-union Manhattan Institute-took control of the firm, they rid Delphi of every single one of its 25,200 unionized workers.

Of the twenty-nine Delphi plants operating in the United States when the hedge funders began buying up control, only four remain, with not a single union production worker. Romney's "job creators" did create jobs-in China, where Delphi now produces the parts used by GM and other major automakers here and abroad. Delphi is now incorporated overseas, leaving the company with 5,000 employees in the United States (versus almost 100,000 abroad).

Third Point's Daniel Loeb, whose net worth of $1.3 billion owes much to his share in the Delphi windfall, told his fund's backers this past July that Delphi remains an excellent investment because it has "virtually no North American unionized labor" and, thanks to US taxpayers, "significantly smaller pension liabilities than almost all of its peers."


Another outcome may have been possible. In June 2009, the Treasury and GM announced a bailout deal they'd crafted over months with the cooperation of the United Auto Workers. GM would take back control of Delphi via a joint venture with Platinum Equity, a buyout firm led by billionaire Tom Gores, a self-described "Michigan man" who grew up in the shadow of Delphi's Flint plant.

The final Platinum plan, according to Delphi's official statement posted on Marketwire in June 2009, lists plants in fourteen locations slated for closing, which would have left several of Delphi's plants still in business, still unionized-and still in the United States. Crucially, the deal would have returned key Delphi operations, including the production of steering columns, directly to GM.

The hedge funders stunned Delphi by refusing to accept the Platinum plan. Harshly criticizing it as a "sweetheart deal," they demanded 45 cents on the dollar for the debt bonds they had bought on the cheap-more than double what the Treasury-brokered Platinum deal would pay.

Then the Singer-led debt holders swooped in. After the Platinum deal was announced, Elliott Management quietly tripled its holdings of Delphi bonds, purchased at just one-fifth of their face value. By joining forces with Silver Point, Paulson and Loeb, Singer now controlled Delphi's fate.

Gores, Delphi and UAW officials declined to respond to queries about the deal on the record, but the sworn deposition by Delphi CFO Sheehan (confidential then, but later posted on lets us in on the tense negotiations culminating in a twenty-hour showdown between Delphi, GM, the UAW, the Auto Task Force and the US pension agency, on the one hand, and Singer's hedge fund group, on the other. Delphi said it would dump the Platinum deal if the hedge funds would agree to terms that would take care of all stakeholders, including the following stipulation: "Agree on plan structure to maximize job preservation."

The hedge funders said no, since they had a billion-dollar ace up their sleeve. According to Sheehan, Singer and company's controlling interest allowed them to force the bankruptcy judge to hold an auction for all of Delphi's stock. The debt holders outbid the Michigan Man's team, offering $3.5 billion. But it wasn't $3.5 billion in cash: under the rules of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, debtors-in-possession may bid the face value of their bonds rather than their current market value, which at the time was significantly lower. Under the Platinum deal, Delphi would have had much more in real money for operations: $250 million in cash from Gores, another $250 million in credit, and $3.1 billion in "exit financing" from GM, all of it backed up by TARP. Still, under Chapter 11 rules, the Platinum bid was technically lower. And that's how Singer's funds-which included the Romneys' investment-came to buy Delphi for the equivalent of only 67 cents a share.

Rattner and GM, embarrassingly outmaneuvered, tried to put a good face on it. As Rattner wrote in his memoir, "In truth we didn't care who got Delphi as long as GM could extricate itself from the continual drain on its finances and assure itself of a reliable supply of parts."


Even before the hedge funds won their bid for Delphi's stock, they were already squeezing the parts supplier and its workforce. In February 2009, Delphi, claiming a cash shortage, unilaterally terminated health insurance for its nonunion pensioners. But according to Rattner, the Treasury's Task Force uncovered foggy accounting hiding the fact that the debt holders had deliberately withheld millions of dollars in cash sitting in Delphi accounts. Even after this discovery, the creditors still refused to release the funds.

The savings to the hedge fund billionaires of dropping retiree insurance was peanuts-$70 million a year-compared with the profits they later extracted from Delphi. But the harm to Delphi retirees was severe. Bruce Naylor of Kokomo, Indiana, had been forced into retirement at the age of 54 in 2006, when Delphi began to move its plants overseas. Naylor's promised pension was slashed 40 percent, and his health insurance and life insurance were canceled. Though he had thirty-six years of experience under his belt as an engineer with GM and Delphi, he couldn't find another job as an engineer-and he doesn't know a single former co-worker who has found new employment in his or her field, either. Naylor ended up getting work at a local grocery store. That job gone, he now sells cars online for commission, bringing in one-fifth of what he earned before he was laid off from Delphi.

Even with his wife Judy's income as a nurse, it hasn't been enough: the Naylors just declared bankruptcy, and their home is in foreclosure.

After the hedge fund takeover of Delphi, the squeeze on workers intensified through attacks on their pensions. During its years of economic trouble, Delphi had been chronically shorting payments to its pension funds-and by July 2009, they were underfunded by $7 billion. That month, Singer's hedge fund group won the bid for control of Delphi's stock and made clear they would neither make up the shortfall nor pay any more US worker pensions. Checkmated by the hedge funders, the government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation agreed to take over Delphi's pension payments. The PBGC would eat the shortfall.

With Delphi's new owners relieved of its healthcare and pension obligations, its debts to GM and its union contracts-
and now loaded with subsidies from GM funded by TARP-the company's market value rose from zero to approximately $10.5 billion today.


But there was still a bit of unfinished business: President Obama needed to be blamed for the pension disaster. In a television ad airing in swing states since September, one retired Delphi manager says, "The Obama administration decided to terminate my pension, and I took a 40 percent reduction in my pension."

Another retiree, Mary Miller, says, "I really struggle to pay for the basics.... I would ask President Obama why I had no rights, and he had all the rights to take my pension away-and never ever look back and say, 'Not only did I take it from Mary Miller, I took it from 20,000 other people.'"

These people are real. But it's clear that these former workers, now struggling to scrape by, were hardly in the position to put together $7 million in ad buys to publicize their plight. The ads were paid for by Let Freedom Ring, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization partially funded by Jack Templeton Jr., a billionaire evangelical whose foundation has sponsored lectures at the Manhattan Institute (the anti-union think tank whose board of directors includes not only Singer but Loeb). The ads also conveniently leave out the fact that the law sets specific ceilings on what the PBGC is allowed to pay retirees-regardless of what they were originally owed.

In June 2011, Charles and David Koch hosted a group of multimillionaires at a retreat in Vail, Colorado. In secret recordings obtained by investigator Brad Friedman, the host, Charles Koch, thanks Singer and Templeton, among others, for each donating more than $1 million to the Koch brothers' 2012 anti-Obama election war chest.

Of course, it wasn't Obama who refused to pay the Delphi pensions; it was Paul Singer and the other hedge funds controlling Delphi. The salaried workers' pensions were, after all, an obligation of Delphi's owners, not the government. Delphi's stockholders-the Romneys included-had one easy way to rectify the harm to these pensioners, much as GM did for its workers: just pay up.

Making good on the full pensions for salaried workers would cost Delphi a one-time charge of less than $1 billion. This year, Delphi was flush with $1.4 billion in cash-meaning its owners could have made the pensioners whole and still cleared a profit. Instead, in May, Delphi chose to use most of those funds to take over auto parts plants in Asia at a cost of $972 million-purchased from Bain Capital.


That leaves one final question: Exactly how much did the Romneys make off the auto bailout? Queries to the campaign and the Romneys' trustee have gone unanswered. And Romney has yet to disclose the crucial year of his tax returns, 2009. But whatever the tally, it was one sweet deal. The Romneys were invested with Elliott Management by the end of 2010, before Delphi was publicly traded. So, in effect, they got Delphi stock at Singer's initial dirt-cheap price. When Delphi's owners took the company public in November 2011, the Romneys were in-and they hit the jackpot.

In their 2011 and 2012 Federal Financial Disclosure filing, Ann Romney's trust lists "more than $1 million" invested with Elliott. This is the description for all of her big investments-the minimal disclosure required by law. (Had Romney kept the holding in his own name, he would have had to reveal if his investment with Singer had made more than $50 million.)

It is reasonable to assume that Singer treated the Romneys the same as his other investors, with a third of their portfolio invested in Delphi by the time of the 2011 initial public offering. This means that with an investment of at least $1 million, their smallest possible gain when Delphi went public would have been $10.2 million, plus another $10.2 million for each million handed to Singer-all gains made possible by the auto bailout.

But that's just the beginning. Since the November 2011 IPO, Delphi's stock has roared upward, boosting the Romneys' Delphi windfall from $10.2 million to $15.3 million for each million they invested with Singer.

But what if the Romneys invested a bit more with Singer: let's say a mere 3 percent of their reported net worth, or 
$7.5 million? (After all, ABC News reported-and Romney didn't deny-that he invested "a huge chunk of his vast wealth" with Singer.) Then their take from the auto bailout so far would reach a stunning $115 million.

The Romneys' exact gain, however, remains nearly invisible-and untaxed-because Singer cashed out only a fragment of the windfall in 2011. And the Singer-led hedge funds have been able to keep almost all of Delphi's profits untaxed by moving Delphi's incorporation from Troy, Michigan, to the Isle of Jersey, a tax haven off the coast of France.

The Romneys might insist that the funds were given to Singer, Mitt's key donor, only through Ann's blind trust. But as Mitt Romney said some years ago of Ted Kennedy, "The blind trust is an age-old ruse, if you will. Which is to say, you can always tell a blind trust what it can and cannot do." Romney, who reminds us often that he was CEO of a hedge fund, can certainly read Elliott Management's SEC statements, and he knows Ann's trust is invested heavily in a fund whose No. 1 stake is with Delphi.

Nevertheless, even if the Romneys were blind to their initial investment in Elliott, they would have known by the beginning of 2010 that they had a massive position in Delphi and would make a fortune from the bailout and TARP funds. Delphi is not a minor investment for Singer; it is his main holding. To invest in Elliott is essentially a "Delphi play": that is, investing with Singer means buying a piece of the auto bailout.

Mitt Romney may indeed have wanted to let Detroit die. But if the auto industry was going to be bailed out after all, the Romneys apparently couldn't resist getting in on a piece of 
the action.
(c) 2012 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to 's reports at. Greg will be providing investigative reports for

Romney's "Farmer"

Old Mitt Romney went to a farm, e-i-e-i-o. And on that farm he came a cropper, e-i-e-i-o!

At the time, his staff probably thought that putting Mitt on a farm was a good idea, since he was perceived as being completely out of touch with regular folks - more concerned with getting extra tax breaks for multi-millionaires than with helping families who're struggling just to make ends meet. So, what better way to show his down-to-earthiness than to go to the heartland for an "American Gothic" photo-op with one of those hard-hit farmers who're suffering from this year's devastating drought? Thus, to demonstrate his oneness with America's tillers of the soil, Romney jetted away to the Iowa farm of Lemar Koethe.

Well… he went to one of Koethe's farms. It turns out that even when Romney tries to get grassrootsy, he still prefers to do it with fellow millionaires. Koethe owns not one, two, or merely several farms, but 54 of them. And forget the Old McDonald's image, for farming is not this guy's main business - he is a real estate developer and entertainment mogul who runs his own event center.

And Koethe has something else that probably drew Romney to bond with him: a huge house with an underground garage equipped to hold multiple vehicles. It doesn't have a car elevator, as Romney's Southern California mansion does, but Koethe's garage does have its own car wash bay. And no doubt Mitt would envy Lemar's 35-foot spiral staircase that rises from the entry foyer to the main living area of his home, which is called "the spaceship house."

It probably strikes Romney as normal that a "farmer" would have 54 farms, be a millionaire real estate operator, and live in a spaceship house. E-i-e-i-o - that pretty well sums up how in-touch he is with the real world of workaday Americans.
(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.

After stock market shocks and housing bubble, social security has become an even more vital source of retirement income.

Why Even President Obama Won't Champion Social Security
Although millions of middle-class Americans strongly support social security, big bucks campaign donors hate it. That's why
By Dean Baker

It is remarkable that social security hasn't been a more prominent issue in the presidential race. After all, Governor Romney has proposed a plan that would imply cuts of more than 40% for middle-class workers just entering the labor force. Since social security is hugely popular across the political spectrum, it would seem that President Obama could gain an enormous advantage by clearly proclaiming his support for the program.

But President Obama has consistently refused to rise to the defense of social security. In fact, in the first debate, he explicitly took the issue off the table, telling the American people that there is not much difference between his position on social security and Romney's.

On its face, this is difficult to understand. In addition to being good politics, there are also solid policy grounds for defending social security. The social security system is perhaps the greatest success story of any program in US history. By providing a core retirement income, it has lifted tens of millions of retirees and their families out of poverty. It also provides disability insurance to almost the entire workforce. The amount of fraud in the system is minimal, and the administrative costs are less than one 20th as large as the costs of private-sector insurers.

In addition, the program is more necessary now than ever. The economic mismanagement of the last two decades has left the baby boomers ill-prepared for retirement - few have traditional pensions. The stock market crashes of the last 15 years have left 401(k)s depleted, and the collapse of the housing bubble destroyed much of their housing equity, which has always been the main source of wealth for middle-income families.

It would be great if we had reason to believe that the generations that followed had better retirement prospects, but we don't. Even in good times, the 401(k) system does more to enrich the financial industry than to provide a secure retirement income. Any reasonable projection indicates that social security will provide the bulk of retirement income for most middle-class retirees long into the future. In this context, the idea of cutting back benefits, even for younger workers, seems misguided.

But there is another set of economic considerations affecting the politics of social security. These considerations involve the economics of the political campaigns and the candidates running for office. The story here is a simple one: while social security may enjoy overwhelming support across the political spectrum, it does not poll nearly as well among the wealthy people - who finance political campaigns and own major news outlets. The predominant philosophy among this group is that a dollar in a workers' pocket is a dollar that could be in a rich person's pocket - and these people see social security putting lots of dollars in the pockets of people who are not rich.

Cutting back benefits could mean delays in repaying the government bonds held by the Trust Fund. The money to repay these bonds would come primarily from a relatively progressive income tax revenue. The wealthy certainly don't want to see changes like raising the cap on wages that are subject to the social security tax, which is currently just over $110,000.

For this reason, a candidate who comes out for protecting social security can expect to see a hit to their campaign contributions. They also can anticipate being beaten up in both the opinion and news sections of major media outlets. While, in principle, these are supposed to be kept strictly separate, the owners and/or top management of most news outlets feel no qualms about removing this separation when it comes to social security - and using news space to attack those who defend social security.

There is also the flip side to this story. Politicians, especially Democrats, who speak up for cuts to social security can count on lavish praise from the media. Political figures of no obvious stature, like former Louisiana Senator John Breaux or former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, were lionized in the media for their willingness to cut social security benefits. After leaving the Senate, both took lobbying positions where they were almost certainly earning well over $1m a year.

This is the fundamental economics of social security that explains why it has not figured more prominently in the presidential race. If President Obama were to rise in defense of the program, he could count on losing the financial backing of many supporters. He would also get beaten up by the Washington Post and other major news outlets for challenging their agenda.

Such are the hard economic facts with which President Obama and other politicians must contend.
(c) 2012 Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

How The Celtic Holiday Samhain Became Halloween
By James Donahue

Halloween is a contemporary version of an ancient Celtic holiday called Samhain, a celebration of the last harvest, the end of summer and for the Celts, the first day of the New Year.

The Celts celebrated the beginning of the New Year on November 1 because it was the mid-way point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.

The day also had a dark side because it marked the beginning of the long cold winter. It was a time of the year associated with human death.

The Celts believed on the night before the New Year, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. Samhain thus was a strange event that occurred on the night of October 31. The people believed it was a time that the spirits of the dead returned to earth.

The spirits were believed to damage crops and cause other troubles so the Druids built large sacred bonfires to frighten them off. During the celebration, the people wore costumes, usually consisting of animal heads and skins.

When Christianity swept Europe and reached its tentacles into Ireland and Scotland, the Celtic people not only adopted this new religion, but the church strangely absorbed the Samhain celebration. Today the fundamental Christians want no part of Halloween and proclaim it profane.

Yet the holiday persists, and it has evolved through a variety of names including Day of the Dead, All Soul's Day, All Saint's Day, Hallowtide, Hallowmass, Harvest Home, Witches New Year, All Hallow's Eve and finally Halloween.

Before Christianity arrived, the Romans conquered the Celtic territory and during the 400 years of Roman rule, the festivals of the Romans were gradually blended in with those of the Celts. The Romans brought Feralia, a day in late October when they commemorated the passing of the dead. They also celebrated Pomona, a tribute to the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. It is from this old holiday that the tradition of "bobbing" for apples on Halloween had its origin.

In the Seventh Century Pope Boniface IV declared November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It was said the pope was attempting to use the religious holiday to displace the Celtic festival of the dead. Instead of destroying it, the people of Ireland merely blended the two celebrations together, creating the All Hallows Eve. The big bonfires, costumes and tricks never ceased.

The name of the two-day holiday eventually became twisted to Hallowmas, and then Halloween.

People still practice the old Samhain traditions by dressing up as spirits on Halloween. While the adults gather for parties, the children roam from house to house, seeking treats. The practice of leaving food at the door goes back to a time when people believed it pleased the spirits and that they would be left alone during the long winter months.

So where did the other traditions of Halloween come from?

The scary face in the pumpkin, or jack-o-lantern, is the remnant of another old custom designed to ward off ghosts and witches. It was believed these evil spirits feared fire, thus the candle in the pumpkin. Originally it was said the people merely posted a candle on the top of a turnip. This evolved into the face in a pumpkin.

The name jack-o-lantern also has Irish origins. There is an old folk tale about a man named Jack that played a trick on the Devil. To get back at Jack, the Devil threw a burning coal from hell. Jack used the coal to light his "lantern" and then roamed the earth in search of a place to rest.

The black cats, skulls and witches also were part of the old Celtic story. They believed witches used skulls to communicate with the dead. They derived their power to evoke evil spirits from black cats.

The Celts believed black cats were originally humans that were transformed by the witches.
(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

Define 'Lesser'
By Mickey Z

"The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them." ~~~ Karl Marx

Whenever I'd give a talk during 2008, I'd open up by presenting what I called a "public service announcement" and dutifully offer the crowd "some of the many, many reasons why you shouldn't vote for John McCain." It went a little something like this:

"He's raised twice as much money from Wall Street as his opponent. He voted for every Iraq war appropriation bill he faced. He refused to be photographed with San Francisco's mayor for fear it'd be interpreted that he supported gay marriage. He voted against single payer health care. He supports the death penalty, the Israeli war machine, and the fence on the U.S.-Mexican border. He was asked if there was anything that happened during the Bush-Cheney years that the United States needs to apologize for in terms of foreign policy? His response: "No, I don't believe in the United States apologizing." He voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State and to reauthorize the Patriot Act. He (pause for effect)... oops. Sorry, I messed up. Those are actually some of the many, many reasons you shouldn't vote for Barack Obama. My bad... sometimes I just can't tell 'em apart."

This would be kinda funny, of course... if most of you didn't rush out and vote for Mr. Yes We Can.

Fast-forward to 2012: The Pope of Hope has completed a first term that surely has Henry Kissinger green with envy, but yet the "lesser evil" mythology endures. Thus, I have a request for those of you who challenge so much about society but can't seem to bring yourselves to recognize the two-party fraud: PLEASE DEFINE "LESSER"

#Occupy Evidence

To help you with this simple assignment, I've put together some study notes:

Romney surely did a lot of questionable shit in the past four years but he didn't, for example, sign the NDAA, wage war on Libya without congressional approval, start a covert drone war in Yemen, escalate the CIA drone war in Pakistan, maintain a presence in Iraq, sharply escalate the war in Afghanistan, and secretly deploy U.S. special forces to 75 countries.

Obama did all that so, technically, Mitt is easily the lesser of two evils.

Romney's very existence is proof positive that the dominant culture is a virus but he wasn't the one who signed the Patriot Act extension into law, deported a modern-record 1.5 million immigrants, and continued Bush's rendition program.

Once again, that would be the guy with his very own kill list and once again, that would make Mitt the lesser evil -- by a mile.

Romney makes moronic statements about binders and Big Bird. Obama makes jokes about deploying predator drones.

Mic Check: It's not Mitt who helped coordinate the federal and local assault on the Occupy movement. That was change the 1% can believe in... courtesy of Barack Hussein Obama.

So yeah, please go ahead and define "lesser" for me.

#Occupy Urgency

I could go on and on -- and on and on and on -- or merely point you to this catalog of Obamacrime -- but I know better by now.

The lesser evil crowd is still impervious to facts, immune to evidence, and unmoved by reality; the lesser evil crowd still worships JFK and makes excuses for Carter and Clinton; the lesser evil crowd still indulges in what Glen Ford calls the "psycho-babble" of intentions; and the lesser evil crowd still embraces reform (sic) because after all, change can't happen overnight.

Bearing all that in mind, I'll refrain from presenting more evidence and instead ask the only serious question that remains for those who genuinely care about the future of all life on the planet:

How much time do you think we have?
(c) 2012 Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

Legalienate Poll Results
By Frank Scott

Legalienate's polling division conducted a nation wide phone survey after both corporate party debates and arrived at some surprising results. While several people were experiencing multiple orgasms every time their favorite spoke, the great majority seemed to feel that all four candidates would have done better on American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance, which were seen as having intellectually superior judges and juries. Following are some thoughts from the poll responders.

Julius of Detroit:

I thought the white guy with the Vaseline head was ignorant and the other white guy with the tan was sleeping most of the time. I'd vote for Malcolm if he was alive.

Mary of Hollywood:

I think Bernie Madoff had more economic knowledge than either the presidential or vice presidential candidates. I like the job Biden's dentist did. His teeth looked great whenever he shut up and just smiled.

Delma of Schenectady:

Obama is the son of god. I believe he was sent to redeem us. Will I be paid for this call?

Waldo of Somewhere in Idaho:

If they try to take away my guns I will kill all four of them. Is this being taped?

Samantha of Palm Springs:

Can you get me a drink? I love Obama. He is such a great speaker. Can you send me a drink?

Tony of Trenton:

I thought the guy with the suit was pretty good but the other guys sounded stupid. They don't know nuthin about nuthin. Obama is a communist and the other one is a moron. This country went down the tubes after Reagan left.

Wilford of Cambridge:

There was a certain tone of condescension I detected on the part of the president who seemed to take naps while Romney spoke and the vice president was very rude to Ryan, often looking at him as though he were a nut case. I love our democratic system and believe implicitly in the wisdom of the rich people who own it. Will there be snacks after this?

Willa of Boston:

I didn't watch any of the debates. I have more important things to do. Have to feed the dog, pick my nose, watch some good tv, you know stuff like that. I will probably vote since I consider it a civic duty. This is a democracy and we all are responsible for acting like good citizens. But that doesn't mean I have to watch stupid debates. I'll just enter the voting booth, pick my nose, and then pick a candidate the way I always do. If the booger sticks, that's my vote. God bless america

Leopold of Chicago:

All the candidates looked and sounded really good to me. It's difficult to make a choice among such well versed and articulate men, all of them so bright and so willing to serve the people. I'll have a hard time. Almost like shopping for clothes, cars, pet foods or shampoo but with less choices, so maybe it will be easier than I think.

Elizabeth of Santa Monica:

I was insulted by all of them. Their egoism and ignorance was embarrassing. Just thinking about them makes me want to puke. I'd vote for the Three Stooges before any of these clowns. And I mean no disrespect to the Three Stooges, who were very talented men.

Legalienate interviewed Professor Dingus McNobel of the Center for the Study of Centers, a well known expert on polling and frequent analyst of what people really mean when they say what they think they mean until someone who really understands the meaning of meaning can interpret what they really say.

He had this to say about what all this meant. Or might mean. Or could mean.

"Clearly there is a serious lack of clarity among debate viewers, as among Americans in general. The widespread notion and belief in our democratic system is balanced by an equally widespread notion that we are all morons, but I believe such a sweeping generalization merely simplifies a deep and penetrating social problem that can assure employment to analysts, if few others, for quite some time to come.

In short, or long as the case may be, the nation is confused and misdirected into accepting widely disparate perspectives on what denotes politics, democracy and good entertainment, as can be seen by the curious comments of the person who thought the candidate should be on Americans Idle, a clear reference to our unemployment problem but also, and conversely, a view of the physical as opposed to mental attributes of these candidates. And when we consider the framing of these debates..."

At this point our communication satellite signal was lost.
(c) 2012 Frank Scott writes political commentary and satire which appears in print in The Independent Monitor and online at the blog Legalienate.

The Endless Drone Killing Program
By Robert Dreyfuss

Drop what you're doing and read Greg Miller's blockbuster piece in The Washington Post today on the American killing machine in what continues, sadly, to be a "Global War on Terrorism."

According to the story, US officials say that the worldwide killer-drone program is open-ended and unending, planned to last at least another ten years:

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. "We can't possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us," a senior administration official said. "It's a necessary part of what we do.... We're not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.'"

That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.

So is that the idea? That we'll kill everyone until everyone surrenders and says, "We love America"?

Miller's piece is full of chilling details about how the killing program is put together. Among its scariest points is that the drone program is now institutionalized, in a way that ensures that future presidents can utilize it at will. Says the article: "the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years."

Are there really that many targets? No. A telling exchange in the article involves a trip by Leon Panetta, then CIA director, to Pakistan. The Pakistanis ask Panetta, How long can you keep killing bad guys? Are they infinite in number? Here's then Post account:

In one instance, [Admiral Mike] Mullen, the former Joint Chiefs chairman, returned from Pakistan and recounted a heated confrontation with his counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Mullen told White House and counterterrorism officials that the Pakistani military chief had demanded an answer to a seemingly reasonable question: After hundreds of drone strikes, how could the United States possibly still be working its way through a "top 20" list? ... Panetta, the CIA director, told Kayani and others that the United States had only a handful of targets left and would be able to wind down the drone campaign.

But of course, the Top 20 list is never-ending. Like pop radio, there's always another Top 40. One US official gave the Post this comment, which sounds like an Onion satire, but it's real:

"Is the person currently Number 4 as good as the Number 4 seven years ago? Probably not. But it doesn't mean he's not dangerous."

So, let's kill the guy.

Did you know that the White House has "Terror Tuesdays," to decide who to blow to pieces? Did you know that there have been thirty-six drone strikes in Yemen, though the list of targeted individuals is only ten to fifteen people? As the Post says:

In Yemen, the number of militants on the list has ranged from 10 to 15, officials said, and is not likely to slip into the single digits anytime soon, even though there have been 36 U.S. airstrikes this year.

Is that creating more terrorists than we kill? Yes.

The article points out that President Obama and Mitt Romney both strongly support the drone program, and of course they said so in Monday's debate. Says the Post:

Targeting lists that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero.

This is truly a frightening story.
© 2012 Robert Drefuss

The Secret Of Our Non-Success
By Paul Krugman

The U.S. economy finally seems to be recovering in earnest, with housing on the rebound and job creation outpacing growth in the working-age population. But the news is good, not great - it will still take years to restore full employment - and it has been a very long time coming. Why has the slump been so protracted?

The answer - backed by overwhelming evidence - is that this is what normally happens after a severe financial crisis. But Mitt Romney's economic team rejects that evidence. And this denialism bodes ill for policy if Mr. Romney wins next month.

About the evidence: The most famous study is by Harvard's Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, who looked at past financial crises and found that such crises are typically followed by years of high unemployment and weak growth. Later work by economists at the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere confirmed this analysis: crises that followed a sharp run-up in private-sector debt, from the U.S. Panic of 1893 to the Swedish banking crisis of the early 1990s, cast long shadows over the economy's future. There was no reason to believe that this time would be different.

This isn't an after-the-fact rationalization. The Reinhart-Rogoff "aftermath" paper was released almost four years ago. And a number of other economists, including, well, me, issued similar warnings. In early 2008 I was already pointing out the distinction between recessions like 1973-5 or 1981-2, brought on by high interest rates, and "postmodern" recessions brought on by private-sector overreach. And I suggested that the recession we were then entering would be followed by a prolonged "jobless recovery" that would feel like a continuing recession.

Why is recovery from a financial crisis slow? Financial crises are preceded by credit bubbles; when those bubbles burst, many families and/or companies are left with high levels of debt, which force them to slash their spending. This slashed spending, in turn, depresses the economy as a whole.

And the usual response to recession, cutting interest rates to encourage spending, isn't adequate. Many families simply can't spend more, and interest rates can be cut only so far - namely, to zero but not below.

Does this mean that nothing can be done to avoid a protracted slump after a financial crisis? No, it just means that you have to do more than just cut interest rates. In particular, what the economy really needs after a financial crisis is a temporary increase in government spending, to sustain employment while the private sector repairs its balance sheet. And the Obama administration did some of that, blunting the severity of the financial crisis. Unfortunately, the stimulus was both too small and too short-lived, partly because of administration errors but mainly because of scorched-earth Republican obstruction.

Which brings us to the politics.

Over the past few months advisers to the Romney campaign have mounted a furious assault on the notion that financial-crisis recessions are different. For example, in July former Senator Phil Gramm and Columbia's R. Glenn Hubbard published an op-ed article claiming that we should be having a recovery comparable to the bounceback from the 1981-2 recession, while a white paper from Romney advisers argues that the only thing preventing a rip-roaring boom is the uncertainty created by President Obama.

Obviously, Republicans like claiming that it's all Mr. Obama's fault, and that electing Mr. Romney would magically make everything better. But nobody should believe them.

For one thing, these people have a track record: back in 2008, when serious students of history were already predicting a prolonged slump, Mr. Gramm was dismissing America as a "nation of whiners" experiencing a mere "mental recession." For another, if Mr. Obama is the problem, why is the United States actually doing better than most other advanced countries?

The main point, however, is that the Romney team is willfully, nakedly, distorting the record, leading Ms. Reinhart and Mr. Rogoff - who aren't affiliated with either campaign - to protest against "gross misinterpretations of the facts." And this should worry you.

Look, economics isn't as much of a science as we'd like. But when there's overwhelming evidence for an economic proposition - as there is for the proposition that financial-crisis recessions are different - we have the right to expect politicians and their advisers to respect that evidence. Otherwise, they'll end up making policy based on fantasies rather than grappling with reality.

And once politicians start refusing to acknowledge inconvenient facts, where does it stop? Why, the next thing you know Republicans will start rejecting the overwhelming evidence for man-made climate change. Oh, wait.
(c) 2012 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"It is the minorities who have made the history of this world. It is the few who have had the courage to take their places at the front; who have been true enough to themselves to speak the truth that was in them; who have dared oppose the established order of things; who have espoused the cause of the suffering, struggling poor; who have upheld without regard to personal consequences the cause of freedom and righteousness. It is they, the heroic, self-sacrificing few who have made the history of the race and who have paved the way from barbarism to civilization. The many prefer to remain upon the popular side."
~~~ Eugene Debs

Now That Was A Debate
By David Swanson

Participating were Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, Virgil Goode, and Gary Johnson. Moderating was Larry King. Larry was a bit unprepared, but his questions were far superior to those asked at any of the corporate funded debates thus far. They weren't his questions, though, as they'd been submitted through the internet and selected by Also contributing to the debate was an audience that was permitted to applaud and frequently did so. Johnson was the clear favorite of the crowd before any words were said.

The first question dealt with election reform, and Stein and Anderson made clear they would clean the money out of elections. Goode proposed to ban PACs but to let the money flow through individuals. Johnson made no proposal to limit private election spending, even though it's the primary reason most Americans have no idea he's running for president. Instead, Johnson claimed he'd like politicians to wear NASCAR suits advertising their funders. However, he was not wearing one.

Following the first question, it was pointed out to King that he'd skipped opening statements. So those were made. Stein and Anderson described a nation in crisis, suffering from expanding poverty, lack of healthcare, homelessness, and an erosion of civil liberties. Goode tackled the pressing issues of the deficit, immigration, and his desire for term limits (as he would throughout the evening). As a former constituent of Goode, I'll have you know we had to vote him out before he would leave. Johnson focused his comments on the need to end wars, including drone wars, as well as the war on drugs. He agreed with Stein and Anderson on civil liberties, proposing to repeal the PATRIOT Act and indefinite detention. But he also proposed to virtually eliminate taxes. Johnson tried to address the apparently unfamiliar topic of poverty that Stein and Anderson had raised, referring repeatedly to policies that "disparagingly" impacted the poor (he meant disproportionately).

The second question dealt with the drug war, and all but Goode proposed to end it, and to reduce incarceration. Anderson said that he would pardon all prisoners convicted of only drug crimes. Goode said he'd keep marijuana illegal but cut funding for enforcing that law. Cutting funding in his view is clearly desirable even when he approves of the funding.

The third question was whether military spending should be so incredibly high. All four agreed with the majority of the rest of us that it needs to be cut. Goode didn't specify how much he would cut, and his record suggests he would cut little or nothing. Johnson proposed cutting 43%. Stein and Anderson failed to specify but have both said elsewhere, including on their websites (which will always remain the best source of most information debates provide), that they would cut 50%. Johnson, Anderson, and Stein, listed off the wars they would end. Stein stressed that climate change is where she would move much of the money.

Tuesday's debate included a great deal of denouncing the Obama-Romney position on a range of topics, and a great deal of developing slight differences among agreeing candidates. But the fourth question brought out dramatic disagreement. Asked about the cost of college, Goode said he would cut spending on education, apparently because cutting spending is just more important than anything else. Johnson, in a slight variation, said he'd stop funding education because without student loans students would just avoid education and eventually schools would have to lower their costs. With at least one leader of the Chicago Teachers strike in the room, Stein and Anderson said they would make college free. This resulted in Johnson and Goode arguing that there is no such thing as free, that the money must come from somewhere. A flight attendant on the airplane I took out of Chicago shared their view when I asked her if the online internet was free and she rather angrily informed me that "Nothing is free, sir." But of course the porno-cancer-scans and gropes from the TSA are free. What we choose to fund collectively is often not thought of as a consumer good at all. Stein and Anderson came back with an argument that "we cannot afford NOT to invest in education." But neither of them pointed out that by cutting the military and/or taxing billionaires we could have far more money than needed. At no time in the course of the debate was the room full of libertarians (who imagine we all have an equal right to spend money) informed that 400 Americans have more money than half the country.

The fifth question dealt with the presidential power to imprison anyone forever without a charge or a trial, a power contained in the 2011 National "Defense" Authorization Act, and a power which Obama's subordinates are currently struggling in court to uphold. All four candidates, coming from very different places, agreed that this power needs to be removed, along with powers of assassination, warrantless spying, and retribution against whistleblowers. Clearly there is a broad public consensus on these issues that is derailed by lesser-evilism, with half of those who care about such things holding their nose and backing Republicans, and the other half Democrats.

A sixth and final question, before closing statements, asked the four participants for one way in which they would amend the Constitution. Goode and Johnson proposed term limits, a rather silly solution that would not fix elections but just remove one person from them, accelerating the pace of the revolving door between government and lobbyist jobs. Anderson proposed an equal rights amendment barring discrimination based on gender or sexual preference. And Stein, to huge applause, proposed an amendment clarifying that money is not speech and corporations are not people.
(c) 2012 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Obama As Commander-In-Chief, Romney As Banal Bully
By Robert Reich

I thought the third and last presidential debate was a clear win for the President. He displayed the authority of the nation's Commander-in-Chief - calm, dignified, and confident. He was assertive without being shrill, clear without being condescending. He explained to a clueless Mitt Romney the way the world actually works.

Romney seemed out of his depth. His arguments were more a series of bromides than positions - "we have to make sure arms don't get into the wrong hands," "we want a peaceful planet," "we need to stand by our principles," "we need strong allies," "we need a comprehensive strategy to move the world away from terrorism," and other banalities.

This has been Romney's problem all along, of course, but in the first debate he managed to disguise his vacuousness with a surprisingly combative, well-rehearsed performance. By the second debate, the disguise was wearing thin.

In tonight's debate, Romney seemed to wither - and wander. He often had difficulty distinguishing his approach from the President's, except to say, repeatedly, "America needs strong leadership."

On the few occasions when Romney managed to criticize the President, he called for a more assertive foreign policy - but he never specified exactly what that assertiveness would entail. He wanted "tougher economic sanctions on Iran," for example, or "stronger support for Israel" - the details of which were never revealed.

Obama's most targeted criticism of Romney, on the other hand, went to Romney's core weakness - that Romney's positions have been inconsistent, superficial, and often wrong: "Every time you've offered an opinion," said Obama, "you've been wrong."

Nonetheless, I kept wishing Obama would take more credit for one of the most successful foreign policies of any administration in decades: not only finding and killing Osama bin Laden but also ridding the world of Libya's Gaddafi without getting drawn into a war, imposing extraordinary economic hardship on Iran, isolating Syria, and navigating the treacherous waters of Arab Spring.

Obama pointed to these achievements, but I thought he could have knitted them together into an overall approach to world affairs that has been in sharp contrast to the swaggering, bombastic foreign policies of his predecessor.

Like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney has a pronounced tendency to rush to judgment - to assert America's military power too quickly, and to assume that we'll be viewed as weak if we use diplomacy and seek the cooperation of other nations (including Russia and China) before making our moves.

President Obama won tonight's debate not only because he knows more about foreign policy than does Mitt Romney, but because Obama understands how to wield the soft as well as the hard power of America. He came off as more subtle and convincing than Romney - more authoritative - because, in reality, he is.

Although tonight's topic was foreign policy, I hope Americans understand it was also about every other major challenge we face. Mitt Romney is not only a cold warrior; he's also a class warrior. And the two are closely related. Romney tries to disguise both within an amenable demeanor. But in both capacities, he's a bully.
(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 Unterfuhrer Walsh,

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 demand that abortion should be outlawed, even if it kills the mother, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Tea Bagger 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 10-30-2012. We salute you Herr Walsh, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

George McGovern - Touchstone Of Liberalism
By John Nichols

For the better part of his American century, George McGovern's was America's most prominent advocate for peace with the world and justice at home, a progressive internationalist and prairie populist from the Cold War era when he grabbed a South Dakota congressional seat from Dwight Eisenhower's Republicans to the Obama era when he prodded a young president from his own Democratic Party to bring the troops home from Afghanistan.

McGovern, who has died at the age of 90, was an uncommonly human and humane national figure. It was that aspect of the man that made his 1972 presidential campaign as the most progressive nominee ever selected by the Democratic Party less of a political endeavor than a popular crusade.

As with all crusades, the measure of defeat or victory comes not in the moment but on the arc of history that assesses the value of the vision and determines whether it will remain vibrant for generations to come.

McGovern had that perspective, impishly recalling the people who stopped him in airports and on the street after the man who won in 1972, Richard Nixon, resigned in the Watergate disgrace of 1974. They all said they had backed the Democrat two years earlier. "If they actually had," McGovern joked, "I would have been the one with the landslide."

McGovern mounted his 1972 run as established champion of liberal causes who had served in the House and Senate before he carried the banner of his friend Robert F. Kennedy's candidacy into the traumatic 1968 Democratic National Convention. And McGovern followed his 1972 defeat with another 40 years as campaigning as the elder statesman of an American left for which his name became a touchstone -- even as right-wingers made "McGovernism" the name for the politics they most feared.

Today, of course, America has accepted -- or is in the process of rapidly accepting -- basic tenets of McGovernism, from the principle that it is smarter to feed the world and treat diseases than wage wars to the premise that a broad civil rights commitment must promote the progress of women, racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and lesbians and gays. But McGovern was never satisfied; just weeks before the final illness that would take his life Sunday morning, he was traveling the country, rallying the faithful and preaching a prairie populist vision of full employment and health care for all.

I knew McGovern for nearly half of his years and almost all of mine. We met in 1971, when me parents took me to see "the peace candidate" campaigning in Racine, Wisconsin. We spent a great deal of time together over the decades after he first entertained my adolescent questions; talking politics but also contemplating our shared passion for American history and literature. I remember an afternoon in Keene, New Hampshire, when I was supposedly interviewing McGovern about his under-appreciated campaign for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination; we spent several hours trying to determine where Henry David Thoreau had stopped in the region during the week on the Concord and Merrimack rivers that would form the basis for one of the author's finest books.

McGovern was delightfully, and I dare say uncommonly, familiar with Thoreau's canon. As he was with many of the other great American writers of the American Renaissance. Though his fellow anti-war senator and presidential candidate Gene McCarthy was better known for his poetic affiliations, McGovern was no slouch when it came to the writings of Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Emily Dickinson and the Alcotts. This was a soldier-scholar who, as a decorated bomber pilot during World War II would pass time between missions reading the copy of Charles and Mary Beard's 2,000-page The Rise of American Civilization that he had lugged into combat. And it was one of the great pleasures of our acquaintance to know that, even in the most heated of political moments, George McGovern can be drawn into a reflection on American history and letters.

Perhaps if he was driven only by political ambition, McGovern's presidential campaigns of 1968, 1972 and 1984 would have been more conventionally successful. Yet it was because of McGovern's rich humanity and broad range that those who aligned themselves with his politics decades ago continued to cherish him -- not just for his position papers but for the whole of the man.

McGovern's campaigns remain definitional political experiences for millions of Americans because they were about more than politics. They were about a deep vision of the republic's past, present and future; so much so that his 1972 campaign slogan was "Come home, America." Generations of Democrats recognized McGovern as a North Star hero, just as generations of Republicans made him the face of what they fear: a politics of compassion and decency that would, in the words of one of McGovern's heroes, former Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler, "place humanity above the dollar."

McGovern took it all in with a humility that was uncommon in American political life. He was always on a mission. He appreciated accolades but did not slow down to accept them. To the last, McGovern remained engaged, still mixing politics, history, literature and humanity in ways that only a handful of American presidential contenders -- Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Eugene Victor Debs (about whom McGovern the historian wrote), Henry Wallace (for whom McGovern the young World War II vet campaigned), Adlai Stevenson and his dear friend John Kennedy -- dared attempt.

In the last recent of his many fine books, What It Means to Be a Democrat (Blue Rider Press, 2011), McGovern maintained that mix. My favorite passage notes that, "During my years in Congress and for the four decades since, I've been labeled a 'bleeding-heart liberal.' It was not meant as a compliment, but I gladly accept it. My heart does sometimes bleed for those who are hurting in my own country and abroad."

"A bleeding-heart liberal, by definition, is someone who shows enormous sympathy towards others, especially the least fortunate." he continued. "Well, we ought to be stirred, even to tears, by society's ills. And sympathy is the first step toward action. Empathy is born out of the old biblical injunction 'Love the neighbor as thyself.'"

McGovern always practiced a politics that ran deeper than what we get from most Republicans, and most Democrats. It was a purer politics, a better politics, because it was so rooted in his love of America's history, its literature and its possibility.
(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 published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Yishai And Deri And The Eritrean Hunger Strikers
By Adam Keller

This week, hundreds of members of the exile Eritrean community Israel demonstrated outside the government compound in Tel Aviv. Asylum seekers, people who at great personal risk opposed the cruel tyrannical regime in their homeland and were forced into exile and came to us by a tortuous route, they now face a grim reality and very uncertain future.

This grim reality was prepared last year. Very quietly, without any real public debate, Israel's Knesset enacted the bill presented by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, culminating in the law which makes it possible to lock up "infiltrators" without trial for up to three years. No charges, no lawyers, no judges. The signature of an unknown official at the Interior Ministry is sufficient to get men and women and children behind bars for three years. This is now the law of the land in enlightened Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. It was enacted by a large majority some days before our Prime Minister delivered one of his keynote speeches in his excellent English.

The asylum seekers did not know it when the Knesset enacted such a law. How could they, when Israeli media hardly reported it and even among Hebrew speakers it became known only to those who read the paper very carefully and noticed even the minor news items on the bottom of the page. The asylum seekers only found out when the Interior Minister's emissaries took them out of their miserable dwellings and the gates of the Sharonim Prison in the Negev closed behind them and then their captors informed them: "Get used to it, this is going to be your home for the coming three years." And at getting these news the detained Eritrean women began a hunger strike, and the men then joined them.

A hunger strike? In prison? By Eritrean women? Whoever heard of that? Those who get their news from the usual media outlets would search in vain for this piece of news. Only Sharon Livneh of the independent online paper "Megaphone" managed to hear about it and talk to one of the detained Eritreans via a mobile phone smuggled into the prison.

So far, there are still many Eritreans walking free on the streets of Tel Aviv, as are Sudanese and other asylum seekers. The Civil Rights Association went to court and got an injunction stopping the detentions, at least temporarily (but not freeing those who had already been arrested). Anyway, the Saharonim Prison is small and overcrowded and does not have cell space for all the tens of thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese and other black skinned people who are unwanted on the streets of south Tel Aviv. The "Holding Facility" is being built at an accelerated pace, over there in the Negev desert.

Indeed, some unexpected difficulties and obstacles had been placed by the government's own Ministry of Welfare. The officials there object to detainees being held in tents for the duration of their three years' detention. They demand that rigid structures be erected to house them. Don't these officious busy bodies at the Ministry of Welfare understand that it is a vital national mission to remove the black infiltrators from the streets of our cities as soon as possible, and if they have to be put in tents, then so be it?

In short, there is still a lot of Eritreans who still go free and can organize and protest and hold a demonstration in front of the government offices in Tel Aviv, together with the Israeli activists who stand by them such as the indefatigable Yigal Shtayim. "Refugees are not criminals" read the banners which were waved there, and also "Blacks are not criminals," and "No to imprisonment without trial" and "Yes to freedom, no to jail" and "We asked for asylum - and here is what we got" next to a photo of the high fences surrounding the "Holding Facility" under construction. And there was also a sign bearing a verse from the Bible, still very topical: "I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. A new heart" (Ezekiel 36:26).

Another sign addressed the press directly: "Israeli media, do not hide the truth!" Not that this admonition really helped. Reporters and photographers, focusing on the elections fever, did not show much of an interest in Eritrean protesters. On the other hand, the forensic department of the Israeli National Police did send its team which proceeded to systematically photograph the protesters' faces, one by one, to be filed away in the police computers.

But, after all, it touches the elections campaign - even if editors failed to notice the connection. It appears in the report in Yediot Ahronot of the leadership struggle in the Oriental Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. The above-mentioned Interior Minister Yishai who led the party in the past twelve years now has to share power with his predecessor Aryeh Deri, who came back after a prolonged term of imprisonment on corruption charges.

So reports the veteran correspondent Akiva Novick:

"Until Deri's return to the party fold, [[Interior Minister]] Yishai dreamed of an aggressive elections campaign focusing on his war against the African infiltrators. 'We had counted on sweeping many votes on this' a party source told this week. 'we made some checks and found that this issue holds a considerable appeal to our potential voters'. However, the arrival of Aryeh Deri reshuffled the cards. 'Aryeh shudders to even think about this' says a confidant of Deri, who already in his first day embarked on steering the party's elections campaign. 'We are not against anything. As far as Aryeh is concerned, there will not be one word against the Sudanese. Our campaign will concentrate purely on social issues."

Really, it's not fair. For more than a year, Eli Yishai had worked hard at transforming himself into yet another Israeli Le Pen, an Israeli Geert Wilders. What did he not do? Fiery speeches on the existential threat which the Africans pose to the Jewish white (sic!) State of Israel. Speaking on the Knesset floor and making proposals in the cabinet and making sure that his proposals be actually implemented and sending police and inspectors to catch Black infiltrators and coming personally to the airport to make sure they are all really placed on the aircraft to South Sudan, the men and the women and the children, to the very last. Nor did Yishai hesitate to leave his bureau and go down into the streets and meet personally with racist rabble rousers; talk to them and make speeches and inspire them to persist in the sacred task of cleansing our country of the black infiltrators.

And exactly when it's money time, when Minister Yishai wants at last to cash in on his long hard work at incitement, suddenly that bastard Deri pops up and spoils it. Really, there is no justice in the world.
(c) 2012 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Chris Britt ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Halloween always presents a problem to people who only like ghosts that egg them on into convulsing about on the floor of public buildings, gurgling saliva and screeching nonsense. But, let's face it, being Pentecostal is not everyone's cup of tea. All that unseemly "look at me! look at me!" rolling about can ruin the crease in any quality fabric (although the Lord has kindly seen fit to spare them this particular concern). But for folks who like their Ghosts Holy, Halloween is a night of danger, a holiday when Satan lures Real American (TM) children into the gateway drug of homosexuality (wearing costumes), which can lead to even more dangerous gay addictions -- musical theater and, yes, even Broadway! Each year, pint-size sugar-junkies are faced with a tricky dilemma: How do you stock up on free, bite-size Three Musketeers bars without waking up the next morning with a skip in your walk, a cheap costume pulled up over your head and the bloody remains of a Wicca pet sacrifice in your mouth?

I ask you: Why can't Halloween be both frightening AND religious?

Thanks to some deft bruise and blood make-up and paper mache rocks, our darling eight year-old daughter Prudence is going to be trick-or-treating this year as a nonvirgin wife who was brutally stoned to death by eager townsfolk with arms as strong as their faith. Where did we get such a wonderfully grotesque idea for a costume? A straight-to-DVD teen slasher movie? Goodness, no! Gals, when looking for truly pornographic gore, why resort to secular garbage when you've got a Bible right there in your Gucci purse?

But if [t]he tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die. ~~~ Deuteronomy 22:20-21

Sporting a concave skull and a look of excruciating remorse, adorable little Prudence will not only enjoy a windfall of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, she will also provide our entire fabulously landscaped and discreetly restricted neighborhood with a lesson about what God has in mind for women who wear tight clothing and don't save the hole in front for marriage. After all, if you hope to spread your wings in Heaven, you had better not go about spreading your legs on Earth.

In looking for truly terrifying costumes, do not waste time with New Testament stories that, for the most part, lack the mayhem of the more sensationalistic Old Testament. After all, Halloween is a time for vindictive wrath, not blandly turning the other cheek.

But don't limit yourself to religious lessons that appear in the Good Book! Halloween is a perfect vehicle for assailing all kinds of liberal, America-hating thinking! For example, our little Cliff once dressed as a late-term abortion. The authenticity of his costume was so wonderful that when he rang a doorbell, most neighbors simply shrieked and slammed their door in his mucous (cornstarch and vegetable shortening) and blood ("Colonial Brick" Ralph Lauren paint) covered face. While Cliff was not pleased with his lack of candy, I asked: "Which is more important? A plastic pumpkin full of mini Mounds bars and Skittles or eternal salvation?" His response was considered during a pause lengthy enough to just barely avoid a sharp slap across his aborted face. Last year, Cliff went as our Savior on the cross, a contraption his father crafted with verisimilitude that necessitated a fleeting visit to a local urgent care facility. After that vivid reenactment, Cliff said he is tired of traipsing around the cul-de-sac as someone mid-murder. So I mollified him somewhat by promising that the next year when he goes as Jesus, it will be the Jesus in Revelation, not the pacifistic wimp in the Gospels. His still bloody face lit up, as he realized that next year he won't be the one getting killed.

(c) 2012 Mrs. Betty Bowers is America's best Christian.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 12 # 43 (c) 10/26/2012

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