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In This Edition

Greg Palast studies the, "Sachs Fiend."

Uri Avnery has a, "A View From The Villa."

Matt Taibbi returns with, "Pull Your Money Out Of BOA."

Ralph Nader takes us on, "The Road To Twenty One Presidential Debates."

Jim Hightower asks, "What's In A Name?"

Helen Thomas sees the, "Dictator Day Of Reckoning."

James Donahue finds that, "The Heart Of The Nation Is Out On The Street."

Glenn Greenwald examines, "Middle East Propaganda 101."

David Swanson explains, "Occupy The Winter Of Our Discontent."

Ann Jones joins us with, "One US Citizen's Misadventure In Securityland."

Paul Krugman considers, "Bombs, Bridges And Jobs."

Chris Floyd covers the, "Oakland Police Riot."

William Rivers Pitt warns, "Then They Fight You."

Oakland Interim Chief Howard A. Jordan wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols looks into, "Herman Cain's Next Scandal."

Noam Chomsky demands we, "Occupy The Future."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst is, "Wearing My Debate Fatigues" but first Uncle Ernie sees that, "A Sleeping Giant's Awake."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Cole, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea.Com, Jess Danziger, Micah Wright, Bill Day, Steve Breen, Dan Bellini, Fish Ink.US, Clementine, Democracy Now, Weekly Dig, Charles Dharapak, Haraz N. Ghanbari, 20th Century Fox, The ACLU, 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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A Sleeping Giant Awakens
And it's pissed off
By Ernest Stewart

"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." ~~~ Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

Here come da judge
Here come da judge
Here come da judge
Here come da judge
Laugh-In ~~~ Sammy Davis Jr.

"The Israeli step is another stick in the wheels of international efforts to resume the peace process; it will further poison the atmosphere. The Palestinians are seeking recognition and it is completely unacceptable for Israel to respond to a peaceful and legal move with a completely illegal response, which is the expansion of settlements."
~~~ Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian government ~~~

Well this could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don't know. Oh no. Oh no!
The Last Time ~~~ The Rolling Stones

Like Noam, I, too, wish our old friend Howard Zinn was still alive to see this new revolution which is in its infancy, a revolution that Howard predicted and did all in his power to achieve, especially in the last two decades of his life. Because revolution is exactly what the Occupy Movement is all about -- whether they know it or not!

Unlike our first two revolutions, this one is for real, a revolution of the proletariat, and not one of the elite. This is not about a bunch of the richest men in the country rebelling against foreign competition and electing the richest man amongst them as president, or like our second one, pitting the southern elites against the northern bankers. The first revolution was won for our elites; the second one was won for the banks. The first two were violent revolutions, the third -- so far at least -- is a peaceful one. Perhaps Mahatma's and Martin's ideals about peaceful resistance is sinking in.

I don't want to throw a monkey wrench in the works, but generally, these peaceful revolutions only work against the elites when the elites want them to, and then only after the blood of patriots is spilled upon the tree of liberty as is being done by local groups of storm troopers and gestapo from sea to oily sea!

The fix that they thought was in is beginning to unravel. As I've said on many occasions, what's been so scary in the last few decades is that things that were done behind closed and locked doors began more and more to be done in the open. The Sheeple had their little Matrixes and as long as they had a job, a car, and a roof was over their heads, they could ignore all the horrible things that were going on all around them, but the last few years has began to awaken that sleeping giant that Isoroku tried to warn his staff about -- the American people. I wonder how many CEOs understand just what Admiral Yamamoto was talking about? I bet all of them do! Finally, the people are beginning to awaken and realize that they been enslaved by our corpo-rat masters, and abandoned to their fate after they were used up by both parties and are finally madder than hell! It's about time, America, get up off the couch and into the streets before you no longer have a couch or a street to call home. Do it for the children, for our future, for your peace of mind. OCCUPY, OCCUPY, OCCUPY!

In Other News

Could there be some good news coming out of Oakland California? Could be, could be?

Long before they rioted on the Occupy protestors The Oakland PD had a terrible record of unnecessary violence, extortion, and framing innocent people -- not to mention killing a few innocent folks, too! Yes, I know, that could describe any modern police department; so how is Oakland different? Well, for one thing, most police departments are not being overseen by a US federal judge!

Since 2003, the Oakland PD has, because of past abuses, been operating under the monitoring of a federal judge overseeing a consent decree. The Bay Citizen said of it about a month before the this last police riot occurred:

In a hearing that exposed the breadth of the problems facing Oakland, a federal judge blasted the Oakland Police Department Thursday for failing to make court-ordered changes designed to reduce police misconduct and abuse.

Before a courtroom full of city leaders and police department brass, U.S. District Court Judge Shelton Henderson highlighted a series of issues that "indicate to me the city and the department still don't get it."

After that report came out, the the chief of the Oakland PD resigned and the San Francisco Chronicle said of his replacement in a getting-to-know article of the new interim chief Howard A. Jordan:

Jordan has been the Police Department's top authority on bringing the force into compliance with a consent decree ordered after four officers were accused more than a decade ago of systematically beating and framing suspects.

The consent decree is the most critical issue facing the department, as a federal judge warned last week that the city faces the possibility of having its police department placed in federal receivership due to its failure to fully comply with the court order. Such a move could result in the city losing control over its police budget, its biggest general fund expense.

Jordan, as interim chief, planned and directed the police action against Occupy Oakland supporters and because of that action he is this week's "Vidkun Quisling Award" winner. Congratulations, Chief Jordan; you deserve it!

This federal consent decree is separate from the accord that the OPD was compelled to reach in 2004, which prohibited the use of potentially lethal and harmful suppression techniques against peaceful crowds, so apparently they're in violation of both! What happens next is up to US District Court Judge Henderson. By all means do kick ass and take names, dude!

And Finally

I see where the Israeli PACs scored another worldwide embarrassment for the United States. You may remember back in 1990's, when they passed legislation that banned the financing of any UN organization that accepts Palestine as a full member? This week's vote, backed by 107 countries in UNESCO, was a symbolic victory for the Palestinian drive towards statehood.

Ergo, we won't be making our $80 million payment to UNESCO that is due in November. In case you're not hip, UNESCO's stated purpose is to "contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and the human rights along with fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN Charter." No, we can't have that!

I can see why we wouldn't want to support an agency that's all about peace and security, when our job is to make war and murder millions on a pull of the puppet strings by Israel. We don't need no stinkin' peace and security. We're all about insecurity and war. Nor do we need to support education, science and culture; we want our robots to be willing and dumb!

Besides, we've kept the Palestinians slaves to Israel for the last 63 years with our veto power in the UN and have murdered millions over the years to keep the status quo, so those big bribery checks keep coming to the media, military and our politicians.

The United States also acknowledged that it would lose its right to vote in UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization if it makes no payments over the next two years, saying the Obama administration will need to consult Congress about the impact on US interests.

"We were to have made a 60 million dollar payment to UNESCO in November and we will not be making that payment," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Nuland said the Palestinian admission "triggers longstanding (US) legislative restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO."

Nuland echoed earlier remarks by the White House which said UNESCO's admission of the Palestinians as a full member was "premature" and undermined international peace efforts and hopes of direct talks on a Palestinian state.

"The vote is regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East," Nuland said.

What a crock, Victoria; you know it; I know it; and the world knows it; so who you jivin' with that "cosmic debris?" We've had since 1947 to do something, and we didn't, so our chance of doing anything positive now is all but nil! Victoria went on:

"Under UNESCO's constitution, a member state will have no vote in the general conference if it gets more than two years in arrears in its contribution. So our actual arrearage status will begin in January.

We now need to have consultations with Congress.

Not paying our dues into these organizations could severely restrict and reduce our ability to influence them, our ability to act within them, and we think this affects US interests. So we need to have conversations with Congress about what options might be available to protect our interests."

This is bad enough, but it only gets worse from here. We can veto any resolution granting statehood in the Security Council, but our veto will be quickly overridden in the General Assembly, making us look like the dirty weasel bastards that we are to the world!

Keepin' On

I don't know for sure, but this maybe the last time I beg for money until 2012? I'd like to thank Ken from Asheville for his nice donation and with what Ernie from Ontario has sent, but hasn't arrived yet, we may have finally got enough to pay the bills!

Not only that, but from what I can tell, we may have gone another $30 over what we needed. If so, I've finally made a profit off this! If so, that will pay me around one US penny per hour for this year's work! Yippie; however, if you factor in the other ten years, it comes to about one mill per hour! In case you're wondering, a mill is a unit of measurement equal to 1/20 of a cent. Ergo, notify the folks down in Indiana to run another Subaru Outback down the line for me! If it were only so!

Still, it looks like, even in this Zeus-awful economy, it's getting better. As John and Paul once sang:

"I've got to admit it's getting better
A little better all the time (It can't get no worse)"
Onward and Upward, Ya'll!


12-21-1925 ~ 10-30-2011
Thanks for the film.

06-04-1919 ~ 11-01-2011
Burn Baby Burn.


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


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

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

Sachs Fiend
Goldman Attacks Occupy Wall Street's Non-Profit Bank
By Greg Palast

Mega-bank Goldman Sachs (assets $933bn), has declared war on one of the smallest banks in New York (assets $30m), the customer-owned community bank that happens to also be the banker for Friends of Liberty Plaza, Inc, also known as Occupy Wall Street. And you thought Goldman didn't care.

The trouble began three weeks ago when the occupiers suddenly found their donation buckets filling with thousands of dollars, way more than needed for their pizza dinners. Suddenly, the anti-bank protesters needed a bank. Citibank and Chase certainly wouldn't fit. So OWS opened an account at the not-for-profit Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union. Peoples has a unique federal charter - designated to open accounts for low-income folk from all over NewYork, available to those families earning less than $38,000 per year. (Disclosure: the CEO of the Peoples bank is my dearly beloved ex. But that's another story.)

Goldman Sachs had also joined up with the Peoples bank. Goldman partners reportedly earn a bit more than $38k per annum, yet Goldman's association so far was limited to giving the credit union $5,000 toward the little bank's 25th anniversary celebration dinner. Goldman's largesse was acknowledged on the dinner invites - along with the night's honoree: Occupy Wall Street.

When a Goldman exec saw its gilded name next to Occupy Wall Street, the financial giant expressed much displeasure. In fact, my sources say, Goldman threatened legal action unless the credit union gave up the $5,000 and reprinted the invite sans the Sachs moniker. Goldman Sachs did not respond to our requests for comment on the affair.

So far, it's a cute story: tiny bank uses Goldman's money to fete some tent-dwellers who are denouncing Sachs as the Giant Vampire Squid.

But there's a lot more at stake in this battle than a $5,000 donation gone wrong. Underneath, it's a battle royal for control of tens of billions of dollars in government mandated "community reinvestment" funds.

In 2008, the US Treasury handed Goldman Sachs a check for $10bn from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (Tarp), the bailout funds given to desperate commercial banks. A few eyebrows were raised: Goldman was not desperate, and it certainly was not a commercial bank. Yet - abracadabra! - Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson transformed investment bank Goldman into a commercial bank overnight. (Paulson's prior post was chairman of Goldman Sachs. Just saying.)

But there was a catch: Goldman would have to return a chunk of the public's billions in the form of loans for low-income customers and members of its "community", as required by the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977. Problem: Goldman has, it seems, no low-income customers, nor a "community". Goldman was directed to find poor people and a community and hand over some cash.

So Goldman looked down from its riverfront tower in lower Manhattan and discovered Peoples. Over 80% of Peoples member-owners have low incomes. At least 65% are Latino.

For the big money-center banks, the CRA is good deal. They pay some blood money into community banks and offload their low-income customers. Indeed, bank branches catering to the carriage trade often hustle would-be customers from housing projects out the door with an admonition to take their undesirable business to Lower East Side Peoples.

Goldman's circuits blew when the credit union's management appeared in Zuccotti Park to endorse Occupy Wall Street's call to "Move Your Money" from commercial banks to community credit unions. Heeding Peoples' and Occupy's call, 23 protesters marched to their local Citibank branches to close their accounts - and were promptly arrested.

Peoples' Chairwoman Deyarina Del Rio tells me that Peoples sees itself in agreement and alliance with the protesters' demands to radically shift the American finance system away from profit-first to people-first banking. But not with our money, seems to be Goldman's attitude. But of course, it's not Goldman's money but our money - effectively, the tax payer dollars that were supposed to come back in the form of loans in return for the Tarp bailout.

The billions of dollars in CRA funds (Citibank alone committed $115bn over ten years) have given community banks tremendous political authority at the local level. Notably, Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez will be honored alongside Occupy Wall Street at the credit union's 3 November dinner. "We didn't mean to draw a line in the sand with Goldman," Peoples Chairman Del Rio told me, standing inside the bank's vault, the only place in the cramped back office with room to meet.

But Goldman did draw the line. And other bankers are stepping back across it, too. Capital One also pulled its name off the dinner invites.

Goldman has so far only passed out its legally-required CRA funds with an eye-dropper: the $5,000 for Peoples (now withdrawn), and a few other dabs here and there. The big cash investments from the Goldman fund are dangling, hoping to lure only those community banks and low-income funds that will dance to Goldman's tune. My sources told me that Goldman's "Urban Investment Group" representative had stated in a phone conversation that Occupy's credit union will never get another dime from any big bank, but, again, Goldman refused to speak with me to confirm or deny this.

Peoples' Del Rio dismisses such threats, but I don't. These Community Reinvestment funds ultimately come from public pockets, so why should the titans of Wall Street be allowed to bully community credit unions, which are answerable to their members, not Goldman's partners?
(c) 2011 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at.

A View From The Villa
By Uri Avnery

THE KILLING of Muammar Gaddafi and his son Muatasim was not a pretty sight. After seeing it once, I looked away when it was shown again and again on TV -literally ad nauseam.

Commercial TV exists, of course, to make money for the tycoons by appealing to the basest instincts and tastes of the masses. There seems to be an insatiable appetite for gruesome sights.

But in Israel there was another motive for showing these lynch scenes repeatedly, as the commentators made abundantly clear. These scenes proved, to their mind, the primitive, barbaric, murderous nature of the Arab peoples, and, indeed, of Islam as such.

Ehud Barak likes to describe Israel as a "villa in the middle of a jungle." By now this is accepted by the great majority of our media people. They never miss an opportunity to point out that we live in a "dangerous neighborhood" -making it clear that Israel does not really belong to this neighborhood. We are a civilized Western people, sadly surrounded by these primitive savages.

(As I have mentioned many times, this goes right back to the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, who wrote that the future Zionist state would be a part of "the wall of civilization against Asiatic barbarism.")

Since this attitude has far-reaching mental and political implications, let's have a closer look.

I AM against the death penalty, in all its forms. Executions, whether in Texas or in China, disgust me. I would have much preferred Gaddafi to be tried in a proper court.

But my first reaction to the sight was: My God, how much a people must hate its ruler if they treat him like that! Obviously, the decades of abominable terror inflicted on the Libyan people by this half-crazy despot have destroyed any remnants of mercy they may have felt. (His fanatical defenders to the last, members of his tribe, seem to be a tiny minority.)

His clownish appearance and foreign adventures diverted the attention of world opinion from the murderous aspects of his rule. From time to time, on a whim, he let loose waves of horror, torturing and killing anyone who had so much as voiced a hint of criticism, trying them in football stadiums, where the roar of the maddened crowds drowned out the pitiful pleading for mercy of the condemned. On one occasion, his thugs shot all the 1200 inmates of Abu Salim prison in Tripoli.

True, he spent some money on building schools and hospitals, but that was a tiny part of the huge amounts of oil revenue squandered on his bizarre adventures or stolen by his family. This immensely rich country has a poor population, a singe narrow road from Egypt through to Tunisia and a standard of living that is a third of ours.

You did not have to be an Arab barbarian or Muslim arch-terrorist to do what was done to him. Actually, the highly civilized Italians (Libya's former colonial masters) did exactly the same in 1945. When the partisans caught the fleeing Benito Mussolini, he pleaded piteously for his life, but they killed him on the spot together with his mistress. Their bodies were thrown into the street, kicked and spat upon by the crowd, and then hanged by their feet from meat hooks from the roof of a gas station, where the public threw stones at them for days on end. I don't remember anybody in civilized Europe protesting.

Contrary to Mussolini and Gaddafi, Adolf Hitler was not caught while ignominiously trying to escape. He chose a much more dignified exit. But during his last weeks Gaddafi rather resembled Hitler, living in a world of crazy delusion, moving nonexistent troops around on the map, sure to the end of the boundless love of his people.

Nicolae Ceausescu, another bloody tyrant, had his day -or hour -in court. It was a charade, as such trials are bound to be. The kangaroo court condemned him to death and he was shot forthwith, together with his wife.

GADDAFI'S DEMISE puts an end to the debate that started months ago.

There can be no doubt any more that the vast majority of the Libyan people detested Gaddafi and welcomed the NATO campaign that helped to remove him. It was an important contribution, but the actual heavy fighting was done by the ragtag people's army. Libya liberated itself. Even in Tripoli, it was the people who put an end to the tyranny.

I was sharply attacked by some well-meaning European leftists for blessing the awful monster called NATO. Now, in retrospect, it is quite obvious that the overwhelming -if not unanimous -opinion of the Libyans themselves welcomed the intervention.

Where did I differ from these leftists? I think that they have sewn themselves into a kind of ideological straightjacket. During the Vietnam war they arrived at a world view that was appropriate for that particular situation: there were good guys and bad guys. The good guys were the Vietnamese Communists and their allies. The bad guys were the US and its puppets. Since then, they have applied this schema to every situation around the world: South Africa, Yugoslavia, Palestine.

But every situation is different. Vietnam is not Libya, the South African problem was much more simple than ours. Great power politics may remain constant, and very unattractive at that, but there are huge differences between the various situations. I was very much against the US wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and very much in favor of the NATO campaigns in Kosovo and Libya.

For me, the starting point of every analysis is what the people concerned want and need, and only after that do I wonder how the international schema applies to them. Working from the inside out, so to speak, not from the outside in.

Also, I have never quite understood the dogma which seems to answer all questions: "it's all about oil". Gaddafi sold his oil on the world market, and so will his successors, on the same terms. International oil corporations are all the same to me. Is there much of a difference between the Russian Gazprom and the American Esso?

Some former Communists seem to have a kind of inherited attachment to Russia, almost automatically supporting its international positions, from Afghanistan to Serbia to Syria. Why? What is the similarity between Vladimir Putin and the Soviets? Putin does not subscribe to the dictatorship of the proletariat, he is quite satisfied with a dictatorship of himself.

IF GADDAFI'S savage end has reinforced all the Islamophobic obsessions in the West, the elections in Tunisia have made matters worse.

Help! The Islamists have won the elections! The Muslim Brotherhood will win the elections in Egypt! The Arab Spring will turn the whole region into one vast hotbed of Jihad! Israel and The West are in mortal danger!

This is all nonsense. And dangerous nonsense at that, because it may derail any sensible American and European policy towards the Arab world.

Sure, Islam is on the rise. Islamic parties have resisted the Arab dictatorships and were persecuted by them, and therefore are popular in the aftermath of their downfall -much as European Communists were very popular in France and Italy after the defeat of Fascism. From there on, support for these parties declined.

Islam is an important part of Arab civilization. Many Arabs are sincere believers. Islamic parties will certainly play an important role in any democratic Arab order, much as Jewish religious parties play -alas -an important role in Israeli politics. Most of these Arab parties are moderate, like the governing Islamic party in Turkey.

It is certainly desirable that these parties become a part of the democratic order, rather than turning into its enemy. They must be inside the tent, otherwise the tent may collapse. I believe that this is in the best interest of Israel, too. That's why my friends and I favor Fatah-Hamas reconciliation and advocate direct negotiations between Israel and Hamas, and not only for prisoner exchanges.

Our media are outraged: the interim Prime Minister of Libya has announced that Islamic law -the sharia -will guide the enactment of new laws in his country. It seems our journalists are ignorant of the existence of an Israeli law that says that if there are legal questions for which there are no ready answers, the religious Jewish law -the Halakha - will fill the void. Moreover, there is a new bill before the Knesset that states unequivocally that the Halakha will decide legal disputes.

The outcome of the Tunisian elections was, to my mind, very positive. As expected, the moderate Islamic party won a plurality, but not a majority. It must form a coalition with secular parties and is willing to do so. These parties, totally new and practically unknown, need time to establish their identity and structure.

To add a personal note, Rachel and I went to Tunisia many times to meet Yasser Arafat, and rather liked the people. We were especially taken by the many men we saw in the streets wearing a jasmine flower behind the ear. No wonder that such people could make an almost bloodless "jasmine revolution."

If elections in other Arab countries follow this pattern, as seems probable, it will be all for the best.

THE OBAMA administration was clever enough to jump on the bandwagon of the Arab revolutions, though at the very last moment. We Israelis did not have this sense. Our Islamophobia has caused us to miss a golden opportunity for a new image among the young Arab revolutionaries.

Instead, we contrast our goodness with the barbarism of the Libyans, who have once again shown the true nature of the jungle surrounding our villa.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Pull Your Money Out Of BOA
By Matt Taibbi

My good friend Nomi Prins has a great new piece out that I just caught on Zero Hedge, chronicling 10 reasons why depositors should pull out of Bank of America.

Obviously Goldman, Sachs has become the great symbol of investment banking corruption, and other companies like AIG and Countrywide have become poster children for problems with businesses like insurance and mortgage-lending. But when it comes to commercial banking, Bank of America is as bad as it gets.

The markets, of course, have lately come to agree, as B of A has lately been downgraded again to just above junk status. The only reason the bank is not rated even lower than that is that it is Too Big To Fail. The whole world knows that if Bank of America implodes - whether because of the vast number of fraud suits it faces for mortgage securitization practices, or because of the time bomb of toxic assets on its balance sheets - the US government will probably step in to one degree or another and save it.

The government's patronage of the bank was never clearer than in recent weeks, when B of A quietly decided to move trillions of dollars (trillions, not billions) in risky Merrill Lynch derivatives contracts off Merrill's books and onto the books of the parent/retail arm, Bank of America.

This decision was done at the behest of counterparties to those transactions, who wanted those contracts placed under the aegis of Bank of America, whose deposits are insured by the FDIC. The move was made, according to reports, so that Bank of America could avoid posting $3.3 billion in collateral to satisfy the company's creditors. In other words, Bank of America just got You the Taxpayer to co-sign as much as $53 trillion worth of dicey derivative contracts.

The FDIC wasn't pleased by the move, but the Fed apparently encouraged it. Bloomberg, citing people with "direct knowledge" of the deals, reported that,

The Fed has signaled that it favors moving the derivatives to give relief to the bank holding company, while the FDIC, which would have to pay off depositors in the event of a bank failure, is objecting, said the people. The bank doesn't believe regulatory approval is needed, said people with knowledge of its position.
So the primary regulator of the banking industry is encouraging a functionally insolvent megabank to respond to a credit downgrade by pushing its most explosively risky holdings onto the laps of the taxpayer. This is lunacy.... Remember that story about the Chinese man who had a world-record 33-pound tumor removed from his face? This would be like treating that patient by removing the tumor and surgically attaching it to the face of a new patient, in this case the US taxpayer.

A series of lawmakers on the Hill, including most notably Sherrod Brown, Carl Levin, and Bernie Sanders, are trying to figure out if there's any way to stop this transaction, but of course there is not. Upstate NY congressman Maurice Hinchey put it best. "What Bank of America is doing is perfectly legal - and that's the problem," he said. This is exactly why the Glass-Steagall Act needs to be reinstated: without a separation of Investment Banks and Commercial Banks, what we end up getting is taxpayer-guaranteed gambling. Instead of encouraging prudence and savings by insuring deposits in commercial banks, the FDIC is now being turned into a vehicle for socializing speculative losses.

So our government is not only no longer encouraging fiscal conservatism, it is doing exactly the opposite, i.e. encouraging speculation and risk-taking. That this is happening in the fever of the OWS movement, and at a time when top politicians from Barack Obama on down are paying lip service to public complaints against Wall Street, should tell you everything you need to know about whether or not we can expect this government to voluntarily enact real changes, and stop making the taxpayer eat Wall Street's pain.

Anyway, Nomi's list goes a long way toward explaining why Bank of America is the last company on earth whose $53 trillion derivatives portfolio we should be insuring. A sample of her top ten:

7. Bank of America got the most AIG money of the big depositor banks. By virtue of having acquired Merrill Lynch's AIG-related portfolio, B of A got to keep approximately $12 billion worth of federal AIG backing, too. It also received more government subsidies than any other mega-bank except Citigroup ...

In terms of overall federal subsidies (including TARP), Bank of America was second only to Citigroup ($230 billion compared to $415 billion). None of that got in the way of former B of A CEO Ken Lewis' personal take, a $63 million retirement plan, in addition to the $63 million he scored during the three years before his departure.

If you're a Bank of America customer, Nomi is right: find another bank. Try a local credit union. Keeping your money in this TBTF behemoth is very unsafe sex.

Incidentally, this kind of suggestion might prove a real help to OWS. One definite tactic that Occupy Wall Street can adopt, going forward, is educating people about the perfidy of certain financial institutions and convincing people to do what they did back in the days of apartheid, which is disinvest. If everyone were to start pulling their money out of the worst-offending banks, that would have a profound effect on the markets and may function as a great short-cut to political change.

Bank of America is a great place to start. All the TBTF banks suck equally, but as George Orwell would say, some banks are more equal than others. Withdrawals would be a great way for people to answer the Fed's decision to put depositors on the hook for Merrill Lynch's bad bets.
(c) 2011 Matt Taibbi

John McCain, left, and Barack Obama, center, shake hands with moderator
Jim Lehrer at the finish of a presidential debate at the University
of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Friday, Sept. 26, 2008.

The Road To Twenty One Presidential Debates
No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties secretly Control the Presidential Debates
By Ralph Nader

What people would not want Presidential Debates in multiple cities all over America in September and October 2012? Why, the people at the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). CPD is a private corporation created in 1987. It is controlled by the Republican and Democratic Parties and acts as the iron gatekeeper regarding the number of debates, who is chosen to ask the questions and who is excluded from most important forums for reaching millions of people interested in the presidential elections.

Powered by the television networks that transmit the debates to the public, the CPD is set in concrete when it comes to entrenching the status quo for the two party dictatorship's orchestrated bubble of exclusion and manipulation.

Citizen groups such as Open Debates have exposed the CPD's inner workings, picketed its Washington, D.C. headquarters and used federal courts to try to pry open the presidential debate process. Aside from a modest settlement and apology for one of its nasty transgressions, the Commission has emerged unchanged. After all it is a corporation that has mocked the Bill of Rights and side-stepped the Federal Election Commission and IRS rules.

Presidential campaigns are repetitious, tedious, often sterile and trivial. They narrow down to half a dozen issues many months before Election Day, ignore very important domestic and foreign subjects and public necessities by common implied consent. And they deliberately ignore local and regional matters.

Campaigns are so boring that the media jumps on silly comments and gaffes and focuses on the almost daily polling to add some spice to their monotonous campaign coverage of the "horse race."

True debates, rather than parallel interviews of the CPD model, would offer depth, variety, and unpredictability to counter the scripted nature of the candidates' political consultants.

So, why ration debates? We need twenty-one debate sites all over the country, ending this blue state-red state divide where over half of the voters never see a major Presidential campaign in their states. Republicans have not campaigned, for example, in Massachusetts, New York and California and Democrats don't bother with Texas, Alabama and Georgia.

From Maine to California and Alaska to Florida, citizens in cities and rural areas such as Appalachia and along the Rio Grande should band together to demand that the candidates crisscross the country participating in debate after debate.

In each community, mayors, labor unions, chambers of commerce, farm organizations, religious groups, non-profits, charities and advocacy organizations, neighborhood groups, good government associations and others should band together and sign letters saying: "We want you to come to Portland, Oregon or Dallas, Texas, or Los Angeles, California, Pittsburgh, Pa. Miami, Florida or Chicago, Illinois or Cleveland, Ohio or Salt Lake City, Utah or Minneapolis, Minnesota or Clairton, Pennsylvania, Worcester, Massachusetts or Mingo County, West Virginia, or New Orleans, Louisiana."

The Congressionally disenfranchised colony of the District of Columbia deserves a presidential debate for its being denied simple democracy.

Each community would select its debate format, subjects to be discussed, mode of interaction with the audience and other debate criteria to generate excitement and engagement by Americans of all ages.

Suddenly the people--where they live and work--will shift the dynamic of shaping the Presidential races and agenda to them where it belongs.

The celluloid slogans and sound bytes will be replaced by candidate preparedness for each region or else risk losing political ground.

The community brainpower behind these debates will raise the quality of these debate challenges to new heights.

Instead of the present, stifling, programmed three debates by the CPD, these twenty one debates would throw aside many of the taboos, bring the people into the process, address regional needs, excite larger voter turnout and compel the candidates to be better, more forthright candidates. Reporters will have real news to report instead of having to strain to make stories out of mind-numbing redundancies.

Fresh agendas and personas will be allowed in these debates including third-party candidates who meet reasonable criteria of ballot presence and public support. (See for the 2007 Appleseed Citizens' Task Force on Fair Debates.)

Imagine three real debates a week for seven weeks between Labor Day and mid-October. Determined coalitions in one community after another that stick together can make these candidates treat voters not as powerless spectators but in one of Thomas Jefferson's favorite words "participators."

Representing tens of millions of Americans from everywhere, these grand and historic invitations would be very hard to turn down. (For more information, see No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties secretly Control the Presidential Debates by George Farah, Seven Stories Press 2004)

To get this grand series of nationwide debates realized, all we have to realize is that it is all in our hands. Here, the people have the power. Your comments are welcome at
(c) 2011 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

What's In A Name?

The resilient Occupy Wall Street group in New York City certainly occupies the minds of the banksters who're the target of this protest against economic injustice - but the group doesn't actually "occupy" Wall Street. Instead, they're in nearby Zuccotti Park. And therein lies a story.

Ironically, this people's movement against corporate power finds itself based in a corporate-owned park. It's named for John Zuccotti, who is not some noted civic leader or public official, but the chairman of Brookfield Office Properties, a big corporate developer.

In 2006, this outfit erected a 54-story office tower across the street from what was then an open space for the public, called Liberty Plaza. In an insider deal between corporate and government officials, Brookfield was given a zoning variance by the city to build a taller structure than the building code allowed - plus, it was given possession of Liberty Plaza.

To mark its corporate property, Brookfield promptly plastered its chairman's name on the space. While Zuccotti Park technically must be kept open to the public, it is maintained by the corporation, and (most importantly) governed by rules the corporation unilaterally sets. No surprise, then, that after only three weeks of the occupation, Brookfield abruptly announced a new set of rules to prohibit camping, tents, sleeping bags, laying on the ground... and otherwise sustaining an assembly of citizens exercising their Constitutional rights.

Thanks to a loud public outcry, however, this crude corporate attempt to oust Occupy failed - at least for the time being. But Zuccotti is still a corporate park, meaning an ugly crackdown on people peacefully protesting for democracy in America remains a threat. Meanwhile, Occupy Wall Street has put its own, non-corporate brand on the space: "Liberty Square."
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Dictator Day Of Reckoning
By Helen Thomas

The world has watched historic events unfold recently in the Middle East, with dramatic effects on the future of the world. Muammar Gaddafi was hunted down and killed by his surging opponents.

Surely his fellow dictators, who are still hanging on in Syria and Yemen, are reading the writing on the wall. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is contemplating his inevitable fate.

The other immense development is the vow of President Barack Obama to pull all American troops from Iraq by the end of the year. Of course, former President George W. Bush should never have sent troops there to begin with. Too many Americans and Iraqis have been killed. Can we say in vain? Now let's hear from the highest in that White House hierarchy to finally tell us truthfully why we invaded Iraq.

Too many lies were told and sold to the American people. There were no weapons of mass destruction - no ties between killed Iraqui dictator Saddam Hussein and the Al-Qaeda network. When will Americans get mad?

The allegations against Iraq came from the devious U.S. neo-conservatives who gave Bush a flimsy excuse to invade Iraq. The aim was to attack Israel's designated enemy at the time. Israel's target now has moved to Iran. Some of Iran's nuclear scientists have been assassinated in the past couple of years.

In the meantime, no nuclear weapons have been found in Iraq, but hundreds of thousands are dead, and the wars continue to drain the American economy.

Now is the time for White House officials to tell us why we targeted Iraq. We already know the answer: It is because of falsehoods peddled shamelessly to the American people.

Have the neo-cons no decency? To quote Joseph Welch, the Boston attorney who famously delivered these words to the Wisconsin Republican Senator Joe McCarthy, "Have you no shame?!"

The neo-cons led Bush down the garden path to what was going to be a cake walk. Make no mistake, Bush wanted to be remembered as a "War President" - and apparently did not mind using fear to rally the American people in favor of war.

Most of the neo-cons are long gone, living off of monies earned from memoirs, nesting in universities as scholars at large and in our think tanks. A few remain as advisers to Obama. None, however, have paid a price as high as the victims of the "no-win" war.

Both historic events, the death of Gaddafi and the liberation of Iraq, bode well for the world.

The Arab awakening really began around 1920 when Great Britain and France instituted colonial rule in the Middle East. After World War II, fears emerged among the Arab states, that Israel would begin their land grab with the help of the Zionist movement in Britain and America. The Arab awakening was quelled by the Israeli military, who massacred one village after another as the British army packed up, and put up little resistance. Their government had already caved to the Zionists.

The horrible atrocities of Hitler toward innocent Jewish victims won the world's sympathy. Arabs had no way to contend with the Pro-Israeli movement already beginning to form. Arab rulers were called fascists - many Americans and British funded the Pro-Israel campaign, seeking what first Israeli President Golda Meir falsely called Palestine, "A land without people, a people for a land."

The Pro-Israeli lobby, using the horrors of Hitler in Europe to justify their treatment of Palestinians, has had a major impact on American sentiment. The Palestinians had no voice to explain their side - no American sympathy - that two wrongs do not make a right.

The U.S. had publicly urged Gaddafi, al-Assad, and Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. Why do these dictators believe they can survive? The Arab Awakening brought home the idea that the dictators' day is done in the Middle East, they are ready for democracy to rule.

The Syrian and Yemeni rulers can run, but they cannot hide.
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

The Heart Of The Nation Is Out On The Street
By James Donahue

A recent story by J. A. Myerson for Truthout described a system of social cooperation among the participants of the Occupy Wall Street movement occurring in downtown New York.

With thousands of people gathered for weeks and perhaps months of public demonstrations in protest of the greed and corruption shown by big banks, home lending and insurance institutions, and elected government officials that has left so many Americans jobless, homeless and lacking access to food, clothing and medical care, we might think there would be chaos in that crowd.

Not so, reports Myerson.

Liberty Plaza Park, a one-block-long strip Myerson describes as "sandwiched between Wall Street proper and the World Trade Center, has become a place of free services "where no one pays for anything."

Because of generous donations from all over, a free kitchen in the heart of the park is feeding thousands daily. There also is a medical tent which, in spite of efforts by police to shut it down, is providing free services to those in need. What has evolved in the midst of Occupy Wall Street is a robust welfare state that is providing equal access to free social services, Myerson wrote.

Volunteers are working around the clock to provide free services and hand out truckloads of donated goods that have been rolling in from all over.

As one voice in the crowd put it: "Free cigarettes? Free warm clothes? Free legal services? It should be like this everywhere."

What a contrast we find between the protesters gathered in the New York Occupy Wall Street crowd (and perhaps many others across the nation) and the power and money hungry manipulators of the nation's money who have created conditions leading to this public form of revolt.

Some politicians and even the talking heads on radio and television have pegged the protesters as "hippies," a reference to the free spirited movement that swept the nation in the 1960s. In their eyes, and perhaps in the memories of the general public, the very word "hippie" strikes a general note of non-acceptance by a society that remembers a rebellious group of young people practicing free love, drugs and communal living.

While the young people gathering in cities across the nation are not anything like the hippies of that earlier era, the fact is that they are quickly learning a form of communal living is remarkably similar. There is another underground group of American rebels known as the Rainbow People that lives in tents in the forest, raids dumpsters, sells trinkets for food, and travels with the seasons This group also has learned that communal living as a form of survival and freedom from the social pressures of the nation's harsh religious/capitalist system.

What the power figures on Wall Street and in the upper echelons of our banks, insurance companies, medical providers, oil and gas companies and other big business interests are doing is building a wall between themselves and the struggling "middle class" and poverty stricken. These are the people now referring to themselves as the 99 percent. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans are among the 99 percent.

I was a working reporter in Kalamazoo, Michigan, during the height of the hippie movement and when the great Woodstock music festival occurred. At the time my wife and I were attending church and I was employed as a music and religion writer for the Kalamazoo Gazette. Because of my position I was invited to serve on a Christian-oriented committee that operated a coffee shop designed to "witness" the Christian faith to the "wayward" hippies that might be tempted to wander in.

I met a lot of practicing hippies. Instead of judging them as "sinners" and undesirable members of society, I discovered I liked their rebellious spirit and their deep concern for the Mother Earth. Instead of winning them to Jesus, they helped win me away from the binds of the society in which I was then locked. I was a working reporter at Springerville, Arizona, in 1998 when the Rainbow organization held its summer gathering in the forested hills nearby. I was there to report the police and community concerns about "controlling" such a gathering of thousands of young "hippie-type" rebels, and going among the Rainbow people and getting their story. I discovered that I loved the spirit of the Rainbow people as much as I did the free spirit of the hippie movement.

I am retired now and lacking the resources to physically join the Occupy Wall Street movement going on in the nation, although readers of my daily stories must know that I am with them in spirit. And I am sure, from what Myerson and other writers are writing, that I would really like the spirit of the protesters on those streets.

I liked them all because there was a shared spirit of love and unity among these groups. The participants referred to one another as "brothers and sisters" and they seemed willing to share everything they had with one another. There was a spirit of common ownership. Among the hippies, even the task of caring for the children was shared. That seemed natural since the group practiced free love and it may have been difficult to determine just who fathered which child in the group. That practice, of course, met with extreme condemnation by the Christian church.

From where I have stood over the years, it appears that there has been a carefully designed propaganda campaign that has depicted the hippies, the Rainbow and now the Occupy Wall Street protesters as undesirable rebels. It appears to be a concerted effort by the power figures to paint them all in the same bad light.

It is obvious why they would want to do this with the Occupy Wall Street crowd. But why would there have been such severe attacks against the hippies and Rainbow? We believe the answer lies in the fact that all three groups are discovering and demonstrating to the nation that there is a desperate need to switch from the old capitalistic system, that currently serves only the few in control, to a socialist system designed to give everyone a more even share of the world's dwindling resources.

Notice all of the propaganda we have heard against efforts by the Democratic Party to introduce a government financed medical system that assures fair treatment for everybody. The argument by Republicans is that the Democrats are promoting socialism. They treat socialism as something evil that has no place in the American system. Yet this is not true. The Social Security and Medicare systems for the elderly are socialist programs that work very well.

Socialism is not Communism. Communism is a more radical form of socialism where the state owns everything and everybody. If handled correctly, the wealth is supposedly doled evenly among workers. Most other advanced nations of the world are employing either socialism or communism to provide for the people.

Now that the population of the world has hit seven billion and there is a growing struggle among nations for an equal share of the dwindling natural resources, there is an understanding among many that the era of capitalism must end. A socialist system, perhaps in a world-wide scale, appears to be a better way of dealing with this growing crisis.

To make it all work, however, people must learn to become like the hippies, Rainbow and Occupy crowds and agree to share all that they have. The secret to making this work well is simple. It is the four-letter word: LOVE.
(c) 2011 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shakes hands with Bahrain's Foreign
Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa after delivering a statement,
Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011, at the State Department in Washington.

Middle East Propaganda 101
By Glenn Greenwald

When it comes to American propaganda about the Middle East, this New York Times article - detailing U.S. plans to bolster its influence in the region after it "withdraws" from Iraq - is a masterpiece. Here's the crux of the new American strategy and its ostensible rationale:

With an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran, the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, the administration and the military are trying to foster a new "security architecture" for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense.
The U.S. has Iran completely encircled. It has over 100,000 troops in the nation on Iran's eastern border (Afghanistan, where, just incidentally, the U.S. continued through this year to turn over detainees to a prison notorious for torture) and has occupied the nation on Iran's western border (Iraq) for eight years, and will continue to maintain a "small army" of private contractors and CIA officials after it "withdraws." The U.S. continuously flies drone aircraft over and drops bombs on the nation on Iran's southeastern border (Pakistan). Its NATO ally (Turkey) is situated on Iran's northwestern border. The U.S. has troops stationed in multiple countries just a few hundred miles across the Persian Gulf from Iran, virtually all of which are client states. The U.S. has its Fifth Fleet stationed in a country less than 500 miles from Iran (Bahrain) containing "US warships and contingents of U.S. Marines." And the U.S. routinely arms Iran's two most virulent rivals (Israel and Saudi Arabia) with sophisticated weaponry.

But, New York Times readers were told today, the U.S. must increase its military presence still further in that region because . . . it is Iran (which has no military bases in countries bordering the U.S. or fleets stationed off its coast) that is "belligerent" and poses a "threat" (after all, they just dispatched a failed Texan used car salesman who constantly loses his own keys and can't pay his bills to hire teams of Mexican drug cartel gunmen to attack a Saudi ambassador on American soil!).

But the best proclamation in this article comes from the Secretary of State in explaining why this increased American presence is so very needed and so very noble:

"We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region, which holds such promise and should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Tajikistan after the president's announcement.
The U.S. will remain in that region to protect and defend the region's "pathway to democracy" - something it will achieve by further strengthening its "cooperative military relationships" with the tyrannical regimes in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman (White House, October 12: "the President and the King reaffirmed the strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia"). But, explained Secretary Clinton, the ultimate U.S. goal in increasing its military presence in the region is to prevent "outside interference" in the region - just as U.S. officials spent the last decade decrying "outside interference" in Iraq and Afghanistan while simultaneously invading and occupying those nations. The only conceivable assumption which can produce this sort of pronouncement is that this region is the property of the U.S., and when it increases its military presence there, that is akin to an owner fencing in his yard to prevent trespassing.

That belief - and only it - is why American officials can announce with a straight face: we're interfering further in this region in order to prevent "outside interference" in this region (from nations that are actually in that region). I don't expect Hillary Clinton to point any of that out, but perhaps the New York Times might, rather than just publishing these laughable official decrees without comment.
(c) 2011 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Occupy The Winter Of Our Discontent
By David Swanson

Can occupations survive a winter of global weirding, escalated police brutality, and the corporate media's venom? Should they?

In some parts of the country there will be no cold weather. In others, police abuses will result in larger occupations, not smaller. And it's certainly possible that for the first time in recent years an independent progressive populist campaign will survive the enmity of the corporate media.

In other cases, the cold, the communications assaults, fatigue, and the difficulties encountered by activist camps that also become homes for the homeless and the mentally ill may begin to erode the usefulness of encampments.

What to do?

Here's one activist's recommendations:

Above all: stay! Continue to hold public space! Grow, and rotate people. No single person need stay forever. But the 99% of the 99% that cheers from the sidelines needs to get into the squares and parks. We don't need emails or phone calls or checks or pizzas so much as we need live bodies!

In particular, return wherever police have sought to deprive us of our First Amendment rights. Those abuses cannot be tolerated or our rights will come under greater assault everywhere else. We must occupy precisely where we are told we cannot. The way to do this while keeping the conversation focused on what motivated us in the first place (the need to obey majority demands, to tax the rich, to prosecute the biggest criminals, to end the wars, to move the spending from the military to human needs) is this. We demand the right to petition our governments for a redress of grievances.

That is the First Amendment right that is under assault.

The strength of the Declaration of Independence was the great number of grievances against King George. We have a great number of grievances as well, and if CNN doesn't have time for them, well, it can lengthen its sound bytes. Our demands are not going to shrink except by being satisfied.

Encampments can, with some difficulty, serve as bases for nonviolent action and as community gathering places and providers of community services. If done right, aiding the homeless, the hungry, and those in need of medical care can strengthen occupations that may very well turn out to be permanent.

But the dominant focus should be on nonviolent resistance. Let's not just do theater or spectacle. Let's not just get in the way of commuters and others in the 99%. Let's get out of the streets and into the suites. Let's shut down offices.

And, while the focus on the government's funders, handlers, and lobbyists is very useful, I'd like to see more focus on government. I do not mean working with or through government. I mean resisting it, interfering with it, preventing its operations, shutting it down. The 1% is represented, and the rest of us are not. Let's put a halt to those operations and insist on representative ones.

If occupations end anywhere, they should not be ended by police or the media but by a transition to other tactics that appear more useful in that time and place, and those other tools should be up and running first before any occupation is phased out.

Here are some ideas that are being tried or could be:

Start a weekly event, ideally on a weekday, that includes a march or demonstration, a nonviolent resistance action, and a community gathering in a public space. Make this weekly action huge before considering whether to end the permanent occupation. Consider targeting warm buildings for nonviolent resistance.

Occupy empty buildings as bases for the winter. Find a building owner who wants construction work done in exchange for occupation. Or just squat in buildings that are empty. Or find one of those many people who support us but will not join us who can donate the use of a building or a house, or who can cover the rent. We need to continue building community. Our strength comes from it.

Plan bus tours from city to city, rolling occupations with big events at every stop.

Plan people's conventions, regionally and nationally and internationally. This will involve something else that's critical at the level of the local Occupy event: choosing representatives. We must figure out, as many are figuring out, how to delegate responsibilities without losing democratic control.

Plan huge events for the spring, including the start of an International Spring of Occupations.

Make plans for OccupyTampa and OccupyCharlotte for the times of the two national conventions of the two political parties of the 1%.

Do not go electoral. Do not go lobbyist. Do not divert money or time into campaigns. Do not spend your days drafting legislation or emailing congress members. Plenty of other people will do that stuff no matter what, and they will do it better if you're doing the more fundamental work of cultural change. Instead, put your skills into communications, education, outreach, inspiration, and organizing.

The best way to improve the elections is to improve the society. The best way to destroy the society is to focus too heavily on elections. The rational choice between two bums who are both worse than the two who were offered up in the previous election cannot possibly be rational.

We have larger work to do. It may take a long time. That should not affect our level of dedication. But when there is a moment of growing momentum, we must seize that moment to press forward with everything we've got.

(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

One US Citizen's Misadventure In Securityland
Me and OFAC and Ahmed the Egyptian
by Ann Jones

Where did I go wrong? Was it playing percussion with an Occupy Wall Street band in Times Square when I was in New York recently? Or was it when I returned to my peaceful new home in Oslo and deleted an email invitation to hear Newt Gingrich lecture Norwegians on the American election? (Yes, even here.)

I don't know how it happened. Or even, really, what happened. Or what it means. So I've got no point -- only a lot of anxiety. I usually write about the problems of the world, but now I've got one of my own. They evidently think I'm a terrorist.

That is, someone in the U.S. government who specializes in finding terrorists seems to have found me and laid a heavy hand on my bank account. I think this is wrong, of course, but try to tell that to a faceless, acronymic government agency.

It all started with a series of messages from my bank: Citibank. Yeah, I know, I should have moved my money long ago, but in the distant past before Citibank became Citigroup, it was my friendly little neighborhood bank, and I guess I'm in a rut. Besides, I learned when I made plans to move to Norway that if your money is in a small bank, it has to be sent to a big bank like Citibank or Chase to wire it to you when you need it, which meant I was trapped anyway.

So the first thing I noticed was that one of those wires with money I needed never arrived. When I politely inquired, Citibank told me that the transaction hadn't gone through. Why not? All my fault, they insisted, for not having provided complete information. Long story short: we went round and round for a couple of weeks, as I coughed up ever more morsels of previously unsolicited personal information. Only then did a bit of truth emerge.

The bank wasn't actually holding up the delivery of the money. The funds had, in fact, left my account weeks before, along with a wire transfer fee. The responsible party was OFAC.

Oh what? I wondered. OFAC. It rhymes with Oh-Tack, but you've got to watch how you pronounce it. Speak carelessly and the name sounds like just what you might say upon learning that you've been sucked into the ultimate top-secret bureaucratic sinkhole. It turns out, the bank informs me, that OFAC is a division of the U.S. Treasury Department that "reviews" transactions.

"Why me?" I ask. As a long-time reporter I find it a strange question, as strange as finding myself working on a story about me.

By way of an answer, the bank refers me to an Internet link that calls up a 521-page report so densely typed it looks like wallpaper. Entitled "Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons," it turns out to be a list of what seems to be every Muslim business and social organization on the planet. That's when I Google OFAC, go to its site, and find out that the acronym stands for the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Its mission description reads chillingly. It "administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States." And it turns out to be a subsidiary of something much bigger that goes by the unnerving name of "Terrorism and Financial Intelligence."

Off With Her Head

Whoa! Perhaps it doesn't help, at this moment, that I've just been reading Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, the scary new book by Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin about our multiple, overfed, overzealous, highly-classified intelligence agencies, staffed in significant part not by civil servants but by profit-making private contractors. Suddenly, I feel myself in the grip of the national post-9/11 paranoia that hatched all that new "security." (And you, too, could find yourself in my shoes fast.)

I check OFAC's list more carefully. It's in a kind of alphabetical order, but with significant incomprehensible diversions -- and if my name is there, I sure can't find it. Since I've spent most of the last decade working with international aid organizations as well as reporting from some of the more strife-ridden lands on the planet, including Afghanistan, the only thing I can imagine is that maybe all those odd visas in my fat passport raised a red flag somewhere in Washington.

Next, I search for the name of my Norwegian landlady. Did I say that the wired funds that never arrived were meant to pay her my rent? She's in India, a volunteer health-care worker with Tibetan refugees, currently helping refurbish an orphanage for 144 kids. (What could be more suspicious than that?) I can't find her name either. No Anns or Heidis at all, in fact, among the raft of Mohammads and Abduls.

Heidi is a Buddhist. I'm an atheist. Almost everybody on the list seems to be Muslim, including really dangerous-sounding guys like "Ahmed the Egyptian." But I guess that to a truly committed and well-paid terrorist hunter, we must all look alike.

I'm desperate to get the rent to Heidi so she can cover her own expenses as a volunteer; an international organization pays for the children's needs, but Heidi does the work. So I call the American Embassy in Oslo and speak to a nice young woman in the section devoted to "American Citizen Services." I tell her about me and OFAC and Ahmed the Egyptian. She says, "I've never heard of such a thing. But there are so many of these intelligence offices now, I guess I'll be hearing these stories more often." (Maybe she's been reading Top Secret America, too.)

She takes it up with her superiors and calls me back. The Embassy can't help me, citizen or not, she says, because they don't handle money matters and have nothing to do with the Treasury Department.

"What? The State Department doesn't deal with the Treasury?"

"No," she says, "I guess not."

Perhaps since I last paid attention the Treasury stopped being considered part of the government. Maybe it now belongs to Lockheed Martin.

At least the State Department has some compassion left in it. If I'm really destitute, she assures me, the Embassy might be able to give me a loan to pay for a plane ticket that would get my two cats and me back to the States. I guess it doesn't occur to her that under the circumstances I might feel more secure in Norway.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Still, all I want to do is clear up this mess, so I put my head in the lion's mouth and send an email directly to OFAC. I tell them that I'm in Norway for the year on a Fulbright grant as a researcher -- that is, as part of an international exchange program founded by a U.S. Senator and sponsored by the U.S. Government, or at least one part of the State Department part of it. Among my informal responsibilities, I add, is to be a goodwill ambassador for the United States, but I'm finding it really hard to explain to Norwegians that I can't pay my rent because a bunch of terrorist-trackers in the pay of my government have made off with the money and left nothing behind but a list of Muslim names.

Remarkably quickly OFAC itself writes back, giving me the creepy feeling that it was lurking behind the door the whole time. It is sorry that I am "frustrated." It will help me, but only if I supply a whole long list of information, mostly the same stuff I have already provided three times to the bank, the same information the bank later said wasn't the issue after all. (Still later, the bank would say that I had given not too little information, but too much.) I send the requested tidbits back to "Dear OFAC Functionary or Machine as the case may be."

Two days later comes another message from OFAC, this time signed by "Michael Z." Like Afghans, or spies, he evidently has only one name, but my hopes that he might be an actual person inexplicably rise anyway -- only to sink again when he claims OFAC needs yet more information. All this so that Michael Z., presumed person, may help me "more effectively." (More than what, I wonder?) He is, he insists, trying to locate my money with the help of my bank, which by the way is now blocking me from seeing information about my own account online.

It seems odd to me that this top-secret office of Financial Intelligence somehow can't manage to lay hands on the money it snatched from me, but what do I know? I'm just a citizen.

Then -- are you ready for this? -- comes what should be a happy ending. A message from the bank tells me that the money has slipped through after all, and sure enough there it is at last in a Norwegian bank, only a month late. I won't be evicted after all, and Heidi will make sure those Tibetan kids get some fresh fruit and brand new bright green curtains.

Still, this is not a cheery story. So I have to send my apologies to the long-dead Senator J. William Fulbright: I'm sorry indeed that certain changes in the spirit and operations of the United States have occurred since that day in 1948 when you launched your farsighted program of grants to encourage open international educational and cultural exchange. And I apologize that some of those changes may have temporarily cramped my style as a goodwill ambassador; I'll try to get back on the job if I can just figure out what hit me.

Was this all simply a mistake? A technical glitch? An error at the bank? I'd like to think so, but what about that list of "Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons"? Why was I directed to that? And what about Michael Z., who presumably is some kind of intelligence analyst at OFAC and who, when last heard from, was still seeking information and trying to find the money?

Frankly, this month-long struggle has left me mighty tired and uneasy. Right now, Senator Fulbright, I'm lying low, down here at the bottom of the rabbit hole, trying to make sense of things. (I took a last look at the "Blocked Persons" list, and just this week it's grown by another page.) So I want to tell you the truth, Senator, and I think that with your great interest in peaceable international relations, you just may understand. Strange as it may seem, since I've been hunkered down here in the rabbit hole, I've worked up some sympathy for Ahmed the Egyptian who, I have a sneaking feeling, could be down here, too. It's hard to tell when you're kept in the dark, but maybe he's just another poor sap like me, snarled in the super-secret security machine.
(c) 2011 Ann Jones is in Norway under the auspices of the Fulbright Scholar Program, researching the Norwegian economic, social, and cultural arrangements that cause it to be named consistently by the United Nations as the best place to live on earth. Visit her web site.

Bombs, Bridges And Jobs
By Paul Krugman

A few years back Representative Barney Frank coined an apt phrase for many of his colleagues: weaponized Keynesians, defined as those who believe "that the government does not create jobs when it funds the building of bridges or important research or retrains workers, but when it builds airplanes that are never going to be used in combat, that is of course economic salvation."

Right now the weaponized Keynesians are out in full force - which makes this a good time to see what's really going on in debates over economic policy.

What's bringing out the military big spenders is the approaching deadline for the so-called supercommittee to agree on a plan for deficit reduction. If no agreement is reached, this failure is supposed to trigger cuts in the defense budget.

Faced with this prospect, Republicans - who normally insist that the government can't create jobs, and who have argued that lower, not higher, federal spending is the key to recovery - have rushed to oppose any cuts in military spending. Why? Because, they say, such cuts would destroy jobs.

Thus Representative Buck McKeon, Republican of California, once attacked the Obama stimulus plan because "more spending is not what California or this country needs." But two weeks ago, writing in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. McKeon - now the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee - warned that the defense cuts that are scheduled to take place if the supercommittee fails to agree would eliminate jobs and raise the unemployment rate.

Oh, the hypocrisy! But what makes this particular form of hypocrisy so enduring?

First things first: Military spending does create jobs when the economy is depressed. Indeed, much of the evidence that Keynesian economics works comes from tracking the effects of past military buildups. Some liberals dislike this conclusion, but economics isn't a morality play: spending on things you don't like is still spending, and more spending would create more jobs.

But why would anyone prefer spending on destruction to spending on construction, prefer building weapons to building bridges?

John Maynard Keynes himself offered a partial answer 75 years ago, when he noted a curious "preference for wholly 'wasteful' forms of loan expenditure rather than for partly wasteful forms, which, because they are not wholly wasteful, tend to be judged on strict 'business' principles." Indeed. Spend money on some useful goal, like the promotion of new energy sources, and people start screaming, "Solyndra! Waste!" Spend money on a weapons system we don't need, and those voices are silent, because nobody expects F-22s to be a good business proposition.

To deal with this preference, Keynes whimsically suggested burying bottles full of cash in disused mines and letting the private sector dig them back up. In the same vein, I recently suggested that a fake threat of alien invasion, requiring vast anti-alien spending, might be just the thing to get the economy moving again.

But there are also darker motives behind weaponized Keynesianism.

For one thing, to admit that public spending on useful projects can create jobs is to admit that such spending can in fact do good, that sometimes government is the solution, not the problem. Fear that voters might reach the same conclusion is, I'd argue, the main reason the right has always seen Keynesian economics as a leftist doctrine, when it's actually nothing of the sort. However, spending on useless or, even better, destructive projects doesn't present conservatives with the same problem.

Beyond that, there's a point made long ago by the Polish economist Michael Kalecki: to admit that the government can create jobs is to reduce the perceived importance of business confidence.

Appeals to confidence have always been a key debating point for opponents of taxes and regulation; Wall Street's whining about President Obama is part of a long tradition in which wealthy businessmen and their flacks argue that any hint of populism on the part of politicians will upset people like them, and that this is bad for the economy. Once you concede that the government can act directly to create jobs, however, that whining loses much of its persuasive power - so Keynesian economics must be rejected, except in those cases where it's being used to defend lucrative contracts.

So I welcome the sudden upsurge in weaponized Keynesianism, which is revealing the reality behind our political debates. At a fundamental level, the opponents of any serious job-creation program know perfectly well that such a program would probably work, for the same reason that defense cuts would raise unemployment. But they don't want voters to know what they know, because that would hurt their larger agenda - keeping regulation and taxes on the wealthy at bay.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

". . . in America, we have achieved the Orwellian prediction - enslaved, the people have been programmed to love their bondage and are left to clutch only mirage-like images of freedom, its fables and fictions. The new slaves are linked together by vast electronic chains of television that imprison not their bodies but their minds. Their desires are programmed, their tastes manipulated, their values set for them."
~~~ Gerry Spence

Oakland Police Riot
The Imperial Boardroom Strikes Back
By Chris Floyd

I had the honor of talking with Cindy Sheehan tonight, recording an interview for her radio show, which I believe will air on Sunday. She made mention of the "police riot" -- as she aptly phrased it -- in Oakland Tuesday night, as a Democratic administration moved in with gas and other weapons of war to clear the streets of American citizens taking part in the Occupy movement.

Ms. Sheehan also noted the fact that the Occupy movement's terminology about "the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent elite" is not entirely accurate; far too many of the 99 percent are serving as willing tools of the 1 percent -- in the police forces, in the media, even in the general public, where you can always find plenty of people eagerly genuflecting to the high and mighty, even as they and their own families and communities sink deeper into the mire.

The Oakland debacle is a prime example of this, as cops -- putative public servants whose pay scales put them deep into the 99 percent -- waded into the Occupy citizens, breaking heads and driving away the very people trying to stand up for their interests.

The New York Times reports on one victim of these first strike-backs by our panicky overlords. And he is a most telling victim indeed: a military veteran, who had served two tours in the imperial war of aggression in Iraq, then turned against the War Machine and joined that stalwart band of humanity's patriots, the Iraq Veterans Against the War: (See original for links and video.)

Two veterans groups say that a protester who was badly wounded in Oakland on Tuesday night is a former marine who is now hospitalized with a fractured skull.

According to Iraq Veterans Against the War, the protester, Scott Olsen, is a member of their group who left the Marines in 2010, after serving two tours in Iraq. In a statement, the group's executive director Jose Vasquez, claimed that Mr. Olsen "sustained a skull fracture after being shot in the head with a police projectile while peacefully participating in an Occupy Oakland march," on Tuesday night. Mr. Vasquez added that Mr. Olsen, a systems network administrator in Daly, Calif. "is currently sedated at a local hospital awaiting examination by a neurosurgeon."

A series of bloody photographs that appear to show Mr. Olsen after he was wounded were posted on the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center's site, Those images show that Mr. Olsen was wearing a brown military shirt with his last name on the front. Jay Finneburgh, the photographer who shot the images of Mr. Olsen, wrote on Indybay: "This poor guy was right behind me when he was hit in the head with a police projectile. He went down hard and did not get up. The bright light in the second shot is from a flash-bang grenade that went off a few feet from us. He looks like he might be a veteran. he was eventually taken to highland hospital." ....

We will see more, much more of this. You can smell the fear in the boardrooms (and in their bought-and-paid-for extensions, the government offices) around the world, as our mighty statesfolk flail at the global economic meltdown their own policies have unleashed -- with no other answer than to keep imposing "austerity" measures, one after another, destroying the societies they've feasted upon for so long. And has there even been such a gaggle of fourth-rate poltroons, of shallow, witless, gormless goobers as the leaders of the "developed" world these days? Sarkozy, Cameron, Merkel, Berlusconi, Obama ....? It's like the last tribal council on Easter Island. All they have left are lies, delusions -- and brutality.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd


Then They Fight You
By William Rivers Pitt

Occupy Oakland protesters after their camp was destroyed by Oakland police along with ten neighboring police departments. Several hundred protesters regrouped at the intersection of 14th and Broadway where police tried dispersing the crowd with tear gas, flash bang rounds, rubber bullets and bean bag shots.

The national standoff between authorities and protesters in the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement has reached a new and dangerous level of tension and violence.

At first glance, it looked like something out of Pink Floyd's film 'The Wall': menacing images of creatures in gas masks swarming toward the camera under a dark and forbidding sky. This was no dystopian fantasy, however; these were members of the Oakland police department charging into a group of protesters behind a wall of tear gas, flash-bang bombs, rubber bullets and bean-bag projectiles. The police bull-rushed these unarmed protesters with the intention to do violence, and violence is exactly what they did.

As of this writing, one woman is known to have been seriously injured when a flash-bang grenade went off right by her head. She was seen being carried away unconscious from the scene of the police riot by other protesters. Anther known injured protester has a name, and a face, and a record of service to his country. Scott Olsen, a Marine veteran of two Iraq tours, was participating in the Occupy Oakland protest when he was shot in the head by a 'less-than-lethal' police projectile, suffered a fractured skull, and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. His condition has since been upgraded to fair.

Welcome home, Marine. Thank you for your service to your country, but since you dared to exercise your First Amendment right to peaceable assembly, here's a cracked head for your trouble. And you thought Iraq was dangerous.

According to Oakland officials, the justification for this eight-hour-long explosion of force was that the area being occupied by protesters had become unsanitary, and that people were being raped within the camp zone. This was news to those who had been peacefully occupying the space in front of Oakland's city hall. It sounded suspiciously familiar to some last-decade claims about weapons of mass destruction being justification for a different burst of violence, and smells just as bad. The extreme nature of this police action might have had more to do with the fact that the protester's camp was unofficially named Oscar Grant Plaza, after the unarmed citizen who was murdered in 2009 by BART transit police, an incident that was caught on camera and broadcast to the world. Maybe the Oakland police did not like the reminder, and so swung their truncheons with an excess of vigor.

This is not the first example of excessive violence being directed at protesters in the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement. A number of incidents directed at unarmed, non-resisting protesters in New York City have been documented in detail, and in one case, an official inquiry into one NYPD officer's use of pepper spray is ongoing. The scene that played out in Oakland could very well have taken place several days ago in New York, had Mayor Bloomberg not made the wise, last-minute decision to back down from his demand that Liberty Park be cleared of protesters so it could be "cleaned." A number of protesters were injured by police in San Francisco and Denver, as well.

What happened in Oakland in the hours between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, however, is a definite escalation of tensions between protesters and authorities, and seems to indicate those authorities are edging closer and closer towards unleashing the dogs of war on people who offer no violence and pose no threat to anyone other than the financial power-brokers who have so thoroughly ravaged this country's future.

It goes without saying that not every person participating in these national actions are docile lambs; every movement, no matter its political denomination, is going to have its share of idiots and adrenaline-junkies. Within the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement, however, these types of people make up so small a fraction of the main as to be negligible...but they do offer authorities a nice excuse to bulldoze the whole movement, and it makes you wonder how many of these so-called agitators are running around causing trouble with a badge in their back pocket. Beyond agitators, there is the simple fact that not everyone is going to react like Gandhi when they get gassed, pepper-sprayed, flash-bombed, clubbed and shot with projectiles for peacefully assembling to point out a grievous wrong.

'Occupy Wall Street' is about saying "No."

"No" to institutionalized greed of such vast width and breadth that it plunders our country even as it smiles around a mouthful of filet mignon.

"No" to the ocean of corporate cash that drowns our democracy.

"No" to rewarding the failure of frauds who proudly carry the banner of capitalism even as they enjoy the galloping socialism of the government bailout.

"No" to those who refuse to hire new employees because they want to screw over the economy and remove a president they don't like. But it is also about so much else.

The 'Occupy' movement is as diverse and multifaceted as the cities and towns where it has been happening. More often than not, local issues are at the forefront of the protester's concerns; Wall Street is local for New York City, but in Oakland, the protest has been geared more toward halting austerity measures and the closures of schools and libraries…and, yes, police violence. Yet even as every 'Occupy' community has its own set of priorities, it is all part of a single continuum, as the issues being protested all stem from the same core concerns that crashed the economy, and created the movement, in the first place.

'Occupy Wall Street' is not about getting into a public crunch with cops over whether or not tents should be allowed in a public park. Rather than react with violence to people who are sacrificing themselves to point out what has gone so terribly wrong with the America we all love, these authorities should take a step back and encompass the awesome fact that such a movement has become so very necessary in the first place.

They should remember that violence is the last refuge of the desperate, that violence directed towards these protests will only make them stronger, and will put a big, bloody underscore beneath their efforts. Every punch thrown by a police officer, every protester clubbed or gassed or bombed or shot down with a riot-control projectile, only proves the point of that protester, and invigorates the entire movement.

They should remember that this is the year 2011, and every single person gathered at these protests has a phone with a camera that will make any unnecessary or egregious act of official violence an instant media sensation. These authorities are not working in the dark, not by a long chalk. One protester with a steady hand will make an over-the-top cop famous in all the wrong ways in exactly as much time it takes to read this sentence. Enough footage like that, and matters will escalate quickly indeed. The whole world is, in fact, watching.

Every police officer dealing with these 'Occupy' protests is not a frothing mad dog, any more than every 'Occupy' protester is a brick-throwing terrorist. Police in Albany recently refused an order to clear out a group of 'Occupy' protesters, a decision that was roundly praised. But if the Battle of Oakland shows us anything, it is how quickly this can get out of hand. The protesters are not going anywhere, and if they are met with violence on the order of what took place Tuesday night, there is no telling where we will find ourselves in the end.
(c) 2011 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is available from PoliPointPress.

The Dead Letter Office...

Chief Jordan in happier days.

Heil Obama,

Dear vorubergehend Polizei Chief Jordan,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your having your storm troopers attack legal protesters and over ruling the Bill of Rights in the City of Oakland, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Police 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 11-24-2011. We salute you Herr Jordan, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Herman Cain's Next Scandal
His Smoking Campaign Manager
By John Nichols

Herman Cain's opponents may think that Mark Block, the tough guy in the weird ad that has gone viral, is just some cigarette-smoking nut. Wisconsinites who have followed the degeneration of their state's progressive political tradition know better.

Block has been all over the media in recent days, defending his current boss against allegations of sexual harassment-and claiming that Cain is a victim of an ugly political attack.

Well, it there is anyone who knows about ugly politics, it's Block.

Indeed, he was a central player in an epic 1997 campaign where Wisconsin politics turned ugly.

That was the year when Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox was seeking his first full term on the high court. A former legislator and longtime crony of then-Governor Tommy Thompson, Wilcox had been appointed to the court by Thompson five years earlier. Now, he was running for a full term.

Wilcox had been an uninspired justice, who voted in lockstep with the Thompson administration on major issues-much as Justice David Prosser now serves as a proxy for Governor Scott Walker's administration on the Supreme Court. And he was an uninspired campaigner.

When Walt Kelly, one of the most respected and dynamic lawyers in the state, announced that he would challenge Wilcox, the Thompson administration and the governor's legislative allies, led by former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, got scared.

Republican operatives took charge of the supoosedly nonpartisan Wilcox campaign and inserted a veteran political fixer as Wilcox's campaign manager. What was supposed to be a nonpartisan judicial race took on all the characteristics of a high-stakes partisan contest. Kelly was attacked relentlessly by a smear campaign that featured negative ads and mailings. The crudest attacks were mounted by a supposedly "independent" campaign that was funded with an estimated $200,000 from out-of-state interests that supported so-called "school choice" schemes.

That didn't surprise anyone, as Thompson and Jensen were big backers of "school choice" initiatives that sought to steer public money to private education projects. And they knew the high court would be ruling on their constitutionality.

What was surprising was the extent to which the Wilcox campaign and the supposedly "independent" campaign funded by the out-of-state interested seemed to be coordinated.

After Wilcox won, Kelly pressed for an investigation, as did the Madison Capital Times.

That investigation eventually led the Wisconsin Elections Board to allege that Wilcox and his campaign had violated state election law by coordinating a campaign with what was supposed to be an independent group.

Wilcox denied that he knew of the coordination, but agreed to personally pay a $10,000 fine-one of the largest forfeitures ever by a candidate for public office. The co-founder of the "independent" group also paid a fine.

But the roughest justice was dealt to Wilcox's campaign manager, who was alleged to have been at the center of the scandal. He paid a $15,000 fine and agreed to refrain from working as a political consultant in Wisconsin-or even as a volunteer on campaigns-for three years.

The campaign manager only re-entered the Wisconsin political scene years later, when the billionaire Koch brothers began pouring money into the political front group Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

The former Wilcox manager became the Wisconsin point man for AFP. In that capacity, he was accused of running one of the most ambitious voter-suppression campaigns in the country-a "vote-caging" scheme that sought to intimidate minority voters and college students by demanding information about their residency and registration status that went far beyond what was required by the state. This project, which was allegedly coordinated with the Republican Party of Wisconsin, came just in time to help Scott Walker secure the state's governorship.

AFP's man in Wisconsin also invited Herman Cain to the state to address AFP-managed "Tea pParty" rallies, forging a close relationship with the former pizza company executive.

The rest was history. Wilcox's manager and AFP's man in Wisconsin was, of course, Mark Block.

Block's now a cigarette-smoking Internet sensation. But Wisconsinites who remember when the state's politics turned ugly will tell Mitt Romney and Rick Perry: beware! This guy is trouble!

How much trouble? Even as he was trying to explain away charges of wrongdoing by Cain, Block's name surfaced in connection with another scandal.

Prosperity USA-a tax-exempt charitable group Block helped run that promoted Cain as a national figure-claims the group is owed almost $40,000 by "FOH."

Prosperity USA is a spin-off of the supposedly "independent" Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Brothers–funded group Block ran. Block spun Prosperity USA off from the Americans for Prosperity operation in Wisconsin, although the national group is now suggesting that the various organizations are legally separate.

"FOH" is short for "Friends of Herman Cain," the presidential contender's campaign organization.

According to revelations published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Block's Prosperity USA "helped the GOP presidential candidate (Cain) get his fledgling campaign off the ground by originally footing the bill for tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for such items as iPads, chartered flights and travel to Iowa and Las Vegas-something that might breach federal tax and campaign law, according to sources and documents."

Using a non-for-profit group to organize a political campaign and coordinating payments between the charitable organization and the campaign raises every kind of red flag for experts on campaign law. Tax-exempt charities aren't supposed to be forming the infrastructure for political campaigns.

"The number of questionable and possibly illegal transactions conducted on behalf of Herman Cain is staggering," says Michael Maistelman, one of Wisconsin's most prominent and broadly regarded experts on election law.

Block has been dodging questions about Prosperity USA. But that's going to get tougher.

Revelations regarding the group demand an inquiry. They also bring to mind the old scandal in which Block ran the Wilcox campaign while allegedly coordinating election activities with groups that were supposed to be "independent."
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

American flag hoisted during StudentsOccupy
march at Occupy Boston on October 10, 2011.

Occupy The Future
By Noam Chomsky

(This article is adapted from Noam Chomsky's talk at the Occupy Boston encampment on Dewey Square on Oct. 22. He spoke as part of the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series held by Occupy Boston's on-site Free University. Zinn was a historian, activist and author of "A People's History of the United States.")
Delivering a Howard Zinn lecture is a bittersweet experience for me. I regret that he's not here to take part in and invigorate a movement that would have been the dream of his life. Indeed, he laid a lot of the groundwork for it.

If the bonds and associations being established in these remarkable events can be sustained through a long, hard period ahead, victories don't come quickly, the Occupy protests could mark a significant moment in American history.

I've never seen anything quite like the Occupy movement in scale and character, here and worldwide. The Occupy outposts are trying to create cooperative communities that just might be the basis for the kinds of lasting organizations necessary to overcome the barriers ahead and the backlash that's already coming.

That the Occupy movement is unprecedented seems appropriate because this is an unprecedented era, not just at this moment but since the 1970s.

The 1970s marked a turning point for the United States. Since the country began, it had been a developing society, not always in very pretty ways, but with general progress toward industrialization and wealth.

Even in dark times, the expectation was that the progress would continue. I'm just old enough to remember the Great Depression. By the mid-1930s, even though the situation was objectively much harsher than today, the spirit was quite different.

A militant labor movement was organizing, the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) and others, and workers were staging sit-down strikes, just one step from taking over the factories and running them themselves.

Under popular pressure, New Deal legislation was passed. The prevailing sense was that we would get out of the hard times.

Now there's a sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. This is quite new in our history. During the 1930s, working people could anticipate that the jobs would come back. Today, if you're a worker in manufacturing, with unemployment practically at Depression levels, you know that those jobs may be gone forever if current policies persist.

That change in the American outlook has evolved since the 1970s. In a reversal, several centuries of industrialization turned to de-industrialization. Of course manufacturing continued, but overseas, very profitable, though harmful to the workforce.

The economy shifted to financialization. Financial institutions expanded enormously. A vicious cycle between finance and politics accelerated. Increasingly, wealth concentrated in the financial sector. Politicians, faced with the rising cost of campaigns, were driven ever deeper into the pockets of wealthy backers.

And the politicians rewarded them with policies favorable to Wall Street: deregulation, tax changes, relaxation of rules of corporate governance, which intensified the vicious cycle. Collapse was inevitable. In 2008, the government once again came to the rescue of Wall Street firms presumably too big to fail, with leaders too big to jail.

Today, for the one-tenth of 1 percent of the population who benefited most from these decades of greed and deceit, everything is fine.

In 2005, Citigroup, which, by the way, has repeatedly been saved by government bailouts, saw the wealthy as a growth opportunity. The bank released a brochure for investors that urged them to put their money into something called the Plutonomy Index, which identified stocks in companies that cater to the luxury market.

"The world is dividing into two blocs, the plutonomy and the rest," Citigroup summarized. "The U.S., U.K. and Canada are the key plutonomies, economies powered by the wealthy."

As for the non-rich, they're sometimes called the precariat, people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. The "periphery" however, has become a substantial proportion of the population in the U.S. and elsewhere.

So we have the plutonomy and the precariat: the 1 percent and the 99 percent, as Occupy sees it, not literal numbers, but the right picture.

The historic reversal in people's confidence about the future is a reflection of tendencies that could become irreversible. The Occupy protests are the first major popular reaction that could change the dynamic.

I've kept to domestic issues. But two dangerous developments in the international arena overshadow everything else.

For the first time in human history, there are real threats to the survival of the human species. Since 1945 we have had nuclear weapons, and it seems a miracle we have survived them. But policies of the Obama administration and its allies are encouraging escalation.

The other threat, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps to do something about it. The United States is taking steps backward. A propaganda system, openly acknowledged by the business community, declares that climate change is all a liberal hoax: Why pay attention to these scientists?

If this intransigence continues in the richest, most powerful country in the world, the catastrophe won't be averted.

Something must be done in a disciplined, sustained way, and soon. It won't be easy to proceed. There will be hardships and failures, it's inevitable. But unless the process that's taking place here and elsewhere in the country and around the world continues to grow and becomes a major force in society and politics, the chances for a decent future are bleak.

You can't achieve significant initiatives without a large, active, popular base. It's necessary to get out into the country and help people understand what the Occupy movement is about, what they themselves can do, and what the consequences are of not doing anything.

Organizing such a base involves education and activism. Education doesn't mean telling people what to believe, it means learning from them and with them.

Karl Marx said, "The task is not just to understand the world but to change it. A variant to keep in mind is that if you want to change the world you'd better try to understand it. That doesn't mean listening to a talk or reading a book, though that's helpful sometimes. You learn from participating. You learn from others. You learn from the people you're trying to organize. We all have to gain the understanding and the experience to formulate and implement ideas.

The most exciting aspect of the Occupy movement is the construction of the linkages that are taking place all over. If they can be sustained and expanded, Occupy can lead to dedicated efforts to set society on a more humane course.
(c) 2011 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Gaza In Crisis.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Johm Cole ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Wearing My Debate Fatigues
By Will Durst

Time to sound the alarm on an ominous political epidemic sweeping the nation today. A feverish America finds itself larynx deep in the throes of a severe case of debate fatigue. As evidenced by the most recent gathering of GOP candidates in Nevada, which by any unofficial tally should count as the 367th debate in the past four months with about 519 to go before an actual nominee is grudgingly settled upon.

Nowhere are the symptoms of this malaise more apparent than amongst the participants themselves, who have slowly shifted from irritable to ornery to downright cantankerous. And it's going to take more than a short regimen of low-grade antibiotics to kick this virulent bug.

You could say the last debate got a bit testy. You could also say that girl scouts make ineffective NFL middle linebackers. In nickel coverage. Against Aaron Rodgers. Mirroring the emotions of their constituents, the candidates are starting to get on each other's nerves like somebody else's disco music pinning the red in a bathroom with stainless steel walls.

After Rick Perry accused Mitt Romney of hiring illegal aliens to work on his lawn, the former Governor of Massachusetts put a condescending hand on the Texas Governor's shoulder and received a look that would liquefy granite. Fortunately, Mitt is made of stiffer stuff. But only the presence of TV cameras kept the two from making a date to meet under the bleachers right after school.

Perry's frustration is evident. The shine on his campaign has faded to root cellar dim partly due to an inability to form a complete sentence in public. Himself admitting, "debates aren't my strong suit." No. Not your strong suit. Weak suit. Leisure suit. Bathing suit. Or birthday suit. Face it, debates aren't your Bermuda shorts. And neither is foreign policy Herman Cain's black socks with sandals.

Michele Bachmann was confused by Libya being part of Africa, and Newt Gingrich may have scuttled his entire campaign by vowing, as nominee, to engage President Obama in a series of seven three-hour long debates. Smooth move. Like telling a man with heartburn you plan on serving nothing but jalapeno burritos for dinner the next two weeks. And the sour cream has curdled. Plenty of Tabasco, though.

The seven nominees in attendance spent the evening snapping at one another like hyenas over the last piece of zebra calf muscle. When the subject of immigration arose, they climbed across their podiums playing king of the hill on who would implement the strictest enforcement. Variously promising to utilize the National Guard, electric fences, predator drones and I think somebody mentioned alligator pits. Domestic alligators, of course.

The experts claim these things are designed to build better candidates. "His new found confidence is a direct result of being hardened in the primary debates." But where does "battle tested" end and Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome begin? Could John McCain's punch drunk staggering be attributed to the head blows he sustained over six months of these internecine conflicts four years ago?

Luckily for everybody, the next debate is more than three weeks hence. Plenty of time to grab some air and arrange a few photo-ops in stately poses such as handing out Halloween candy and voting. Not forgetting the most important presidential business of all, begging for more money. Power ties off. Knee pads on.
(c) 2011 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, "The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing."

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 43 (c) 11/04/2011

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