Please visit our sponsor!

Bookmark and Share
In This Edition

Robert M. Bowman returns with, "A Patriots’ Agenda."

Uri Avnery asks, "Who's Laughing?"

Ralph Nader introduces, "Bush's Friend Barack."

Dave Lindorff with some good advice, "Take Your Money and Run!"

Jim Hightower explains why they're, "Radiating, Harrassing And Molesting Flyers."

James Donahue says, "Let's Dismantle The Federal Reserve."

Joel S. Herschhorn discovers, "Americans Voted Few Incumbent Bums Out."

Greg Palast announces, "Debt Vultures Shot For Chanukah."

Chris Floyd finds, "The Downward Road Is Crowded."

Matthew Rothschild declares, "'Inside Job' Is a Must See."

Paul Krugman exclaims, "There Will Be Blood!"

Chris Hedges examines, "Power And The Tiny Acts Of Rebellion."

David Michael Green considers, "Human Trafficing As A Non-Metaphor For Our Times."

TSA Chief John Pistole wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald discusses, "Various Matters."

Ray McGovern reads, "Warmonger: Bush In His Own Words."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Bill Maher returns with this seasons last set of, "New Rules" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "No More M.A.D. Men."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bill Day, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Hurwit, Mike Luckovich, Dave Granlund, J. Powers, Kirk Anderson, Cam Cardow, Greg Palast, Home Box Office, Sony Pictures Classics 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."

No More M.A.D. Men
By Ernest Stewart

"For the first time, we've agreed to develop a missile defense capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations as well as the United States. The shield offers a role for all of our allies, it responds to the threats of our times. It shows our determination to protect our citizens from the threat of ballistic missiles. An attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.' ~~~ President Obama

I was in basic training at the time and I recall our platoon sergeant, who was an unfrocked marine. Actually, the change of service had come as quite a blow to him because it meant that he had to memorize a new serial number which took up most of his time.
It Makes A Fellow Proud To Be A Soldier ~~~ Tom Lehrer

"If the people knew what we had done they'd chase us down in the streets and lynch us." ... George H. W. Bush

"Welcome to volume 1 # 1 of our new ezine "Issues & Alibis." Our goal is to present to you on a bi-monthly basis America's best writers and political cartoonists, so that you can cut through the political bullshit and past the spin-doctors to the heart and the truth of the matter.

On the 1st and 15th of every month, no smoke and mirrors will stop us from bringing you your political reality, no matter how horrible it actually is. You can always deal with the truth no matter how bad it is, but you must know what it is. This is not an ezine for the weak of heart or for those who would rather have a sugar coating on the truth. We're going to tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may! We hope you are ready for "Issues & Alibis."
An Introduction ~~~ Vol #1 #1 February 1, 2001

Still not able to face a smirking House, Barry was off to Portugal to try and buck up the fading resolve of NATO members' desire to waste their resources and soldiers in Afghanistan. Try as he might, he couldn't bring the member states back under his thumb and under our control. Seems that they, unlike Barry, are beginning to get the message of the "Destroyer of Empires" and learn something from every one else's experiences in Afghanistan over the last 2500 years. Of course, they don't have our insatiable appetite for death and destruction brought on by our Pentagoons and the military/industrial complex.

Barry did have more success with Dubya's bright idea about a missile shield for Europe with the Iranians as the bogey men. This is a prime example about how dumb the Europeans really are. Since it would be pure suicide for Iran to attack Europe, and the Persians aren't stupid enough to launch a missile into a union that has thousands of nukes which would wipe Iran off the map in a matter of minutes, it's not hard to see what this brouhaha is really all about!

It's all about destroying M.A.D. or "Mutually Assured Destruction" with the Russians and the Chinese! That missile defense systems is to defend Europe against Russian and Chinese ICBMs. Which would make those rockets useless and allow us a first strike capability and leave the Russians and Chinese defenseless! Fortunately, for now, our anti-missile missiles couldn't hit the broad side of a barn door at point blank range! They have failed time and time again to hit missiles that were constantly broadcasting their exact locations! The bottom line is it's about spending more money on another needless arms race and enriching the military/industrial complex!

Putin didn't buy the BS from Bush, and he sure isn't going to buy it from Obama, either. All it will do is to heat up the cold war into a hot one in which everybody loses! The Russian and Chinese will be forced to build a defense system of their own and whoever finishes first will be very tempted to nuke the others while the the chance exists.

M.A.D. has worked perfectly for the last 60 years as it does today and will well into the future. Iran, if it develops nukes, won't use them against the West unless they were forced to by an Israeli or American attack, and we won't attack if it means having all our troops and our battle fleets wiped out in an instant. Ergo, why don't we just leave well enough alone, while we still can?

In Other News

I see where the Marines are going to bring a company of M1 Abrams tanks into Afghanistan to level the few remaining mud huts still standing in the southwest of the country. This signals a further escalation in our unsuccessful, much more aggressive tactics, that have been employed by American forces this fall to attack the Taliban.

You might remember that the Taliban is the Afghan equivalent of our Rethuglican party. It's a funny thing that Obama can attack their Rethuglicans but not our Rethuglicans, huh? Sure, now I'll get a hundred threatening letters for comparing the Taliban to the Rethuglicans. Does anyone know how to say "sorry, dudes" in Pashto?

Some of you may recall that the USSR, as the Russians were called back in the 80's, flooded Afghanistan with hundreds of their main battle tanks the T-72, which the locals called 'Bics" for the way they burst into flames after being hit by a RPG with a copper tip and became a death trap for everyone inside. With the improved rockets that the Taliban carry with them today the Abrams will no doubt suffer a similar fate. Ask the Israeli tankers how it went for them in their last war crime against Lebanon!

Maybe Barry is sincere about pulling the troops out by 2014 by simply killing every man, woman and child in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban has no armor or artillery to attack, the only thing the Abrams can attack are houses, which they can destroy from several miles away! If their ratio of killing is similar to our robot planes ratio of 140 innocents killed for every 1 Taliban member killed, it doesn't bode well for the Afghan people. I guess we're trying to turn the Afghanistan southwest into our own southwest after a few more years of drought, i.e., a deserted, desert, empty of all human life!

And Finally

For those of you that still hold some hope that Obama will someday, somehow, do the right thing and isn't just another "Crime Family Bush" stooge, this should remove the last lingering shadows of doubt.

Even though you know by now that the reason Barry is setting in the White House has nothing to do with him being a fighter for urban causes, which was nothing but window dressing but it's because his mother and father and maternal grandmother and grandfather were all CIA bankers, spies and stooges. And since the "Crime Family Bush" are CIA founders, heads and controllers no one should be surprised by what was just announced.

Barry has plans for awarding the nation's highest honor to the man who oversaw the Kennedy sanction and that some say did the same for Martin Luther King. Oh, and let's not forget their close personal friend of the family, John W. Hinckley Jr., who Neil Bush canceled a lunch date with the day before the hit went down on Reagan. The man who almost became president by a second presidential assassination. Yep, the head of the "Crime Family Bush," himself, George H. W. Bush is to receive the "Presidential Medal of Freedom." So why am I not surprised by this atrocity? Are you surprised by it, America?

Keepin' On

How time flies when you're having fun, huh? This edition marks our 500th full magazine. The week of 09-11-2001 we put out a half edition which was more like an update, so we don't count it. Who knew back on February 1, 2001 when we first published what the future would bring?

Surely, we would have brought the Crime Family Bush and their toadies on the Extreme court to trial and punishment for their initial acts of treason and sedition years ago, not to mention their thousand acts of treason, war crimes and crimes against humanity that they committed since. Who knew?

Actually, I knew from before the start that at most I'd be "tilting at windmills." I've said from time to time that I dropped out of school because I didn't want to teach poli-sci as I couldn't imagine a more depressing subject to teach, but it was even worse than that. I knew then that there was really nothing we could do, short of rebellion, to reclaim our country. Unfortunately, by 2000 even rebellion was no longer an option.

Folks, our masters have nukes and they'll use them, so you can forget your little training exercises on the weekends. Your paintball wars. Your AR-15s and AK-47s won't stand up against an A-bomb! Of course, that won't be their first option, they'll use microwave and noise cannons, Bradleys, Abrams, Reapers and such, but if all else fails, KER-F*CKING-BOOM! For those of you who say they would never do that, I'd like to remind you that they already did on several occasions. You'll recall that back in the 50's they used U.S. citizens as guinea pigs, not just soldiers but unknowing, trusting men, women and children all died from the terrible tumors they got from radiation poisoning! They were told that it was harmless and patriotic to play in the beautiful pink snow, and they did, and they died from it! We knew what would happen from the victims in Nagasaki and Hiroshima and yet we did it anyway! They weren't even mad at those people, imagine what they'll do when backed into a corner!

So, for a number of years, we not only brought you the news, but ran a large "How To" section on how to create clean drinking water, how to create electricity, how to garden, how to hunt, etc., all on the cheap. Those articles are still available in the archives, so when this "moving paper fantasy" comes crashing down on you and your children, you might survive the coming destruction with a little preparation and savvy.

Whether or not we will be around for another 500 editions remains to be seen, but I'll keep reporting the truth to you until the grid goes down or they take me away to a Happy Camp™ for a little re-grooving!

Oh and in case you missed this, ya'll sing along with our own Mike Adams the Health Ranger, "Don't Touch My Junk!" If you visit Mike's site you can get a free mp3 download!


08-06-1931 ~ 11-20-2010
Thanks for the thoughts!

11-23-1943 ~ 11-21-2010
Burn Baby Burn!

11-21-1937 ~ 11-23-2010
Thanks for the film!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2010 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 9 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

A Patriots’ Agenda
By Dr. Robert M. Bowman

Since we Patriots are both liberal and conservative, we won’t all agree on every policy issue. But there are core issues that devolve from our basic mission statement: “Follow the Constitution, Honor the Truth, Serve the People.” We seem to all agree that we need to restore the Constitutional rights of American citizens, enhance our national security through a return to Constitutional foreign and military policies, and rebuild our economy by providing financial security to American families. We also agree that none of these things can be accomplished so long as the giant multinational corporations, the banks and financial service companies, the insurance industry, the fossil fuel conglomerates, the weapons manufacturers, and the billionaires are running the government. Therefore our first priority has to be separating big money and political power. Once we do that, we can then accomplish the rest of our agenda.

So let’s define our core agenda as follows:

(1) End big money control of government.
(2) Restore Constitutional rights.
(3) Enhance Constitutional National Security.
(4) Rebuild Economy & family security.

Now you may note that there is nothing in there about the size of government or about raising or lowering of taxes. Those are strategies for accomplishing the agenda, and are subject to debate. My personal belief is that we need a government big enough and strong enough and (most importantly) independent enough to protect the American people from the global corporations, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Bilderbergers, the Trilateral Commission, the Federal Reserve, and the for-profit disease treatment industry. Compared to this central task, the job of protecting the American people from foreign invasion is duck soup.

Let’s now flesh out the above four core agenda items, for each one listing specific actions needed and recommending concrete pieces of legislation required.

1. End big money control of government.

1.1 End corporate “personhood”. The absolute first necessary requirement is to reverse the Supreme Court’s erroneous decision that says that corporations have a constitutional first amendment free speech right to spend as much money as they want buying up elections, voters, and legislators. To accomplish this, we must amend the Constitution, restoring its original meaning. The required amendment (which I call the “Granny D Amendment” in honor of Doris Haddock, who worked tirelessly against corporate control) reads as follows: “Corporations and other fictitious entities are not ‘persons’ under this Constitution, and shall have none of the rights and privileges thereof.”

1.2 Revise electoral system to exclude big money and empower the people. The required reforms include (1.2.1) prohibiting private money (including the candidate’s own funds) in campaigns, funding them instead with public money and free TV and radio time to qualified candidates. (1.2.2) abolition of burdensome petition requirements for independents and third parties. (1.2.3) adopting preference voting (sometimes called instant runoff voting) so that nobody is forced to choose between the lesser of two evils or risk “throwing away” their vote. (1.2.4) outlawing any method of voting that does not produce a paper ballot that can be counted, recounted, and audited as necessary. Paper ballots should be counted by hand in public. This is the only way to prevent corporate programmers or partisan hackers from stealing elections.

1.3 Reform corporate law so that boards and CEOs are not only responsible to maximize profits to shareholders, but also have responsibilities to their employees, their community, and the environment.

1.4 Mandate open, truthful, and accountable government. (1.4.1) Pass a federal sunshine law similar to that of the State of Florida, allowing the public an insight into how Congressional and administrative branch decisions are made. (1.4.2) Require identification of all those proposing “earmarks.” (1.4.3) Prohibit secret meetings such as those between Vice President Dick Cheney and oil company executives to draft energy policy. (1.4.4) Repeal and prohibit unfunded mandates to state and local governments (such as “No child left behind”). (1.4.5) Revoke presidential “Fast Track” authority and reclaim the Constitutional right and duty of Congress to regulate trade. (1.4.6) Pass a bill stating that no agreement such as the Strategic Partnership for Prosperity (SPP) or North American Union (NAU) which diminish American sovereignty or give up territory can take effect without the full participation and approval of both houses of Congress, and that no funds may be expended for studies relating to such agreements without the approval of Congress after consultation with the American people. (1.4.7) Establish truly independent investigative commissions to study controversial historical events such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the murders of soldiers like Pat Tillman and LaVena Johnson. These commissions should have significant input from those who are critical of the official stories, and should have a co-chair from among their ranks.

1.5 Re-regulate the media. Return to the pre-Reagan prohibition on ownership of multiple media outlets. Family-owned newspapers and radio and television stations will prevent corporate monopoly media from brainwashing the public and censoring facts which expose government lies.

2. Restore Constitutional Rights for Americans

2.1 Abolish the Department of Homeland Security. We don’t need an agency whose mission is to protect the government from the American people.

2.2 Repeal the misnamed “Patriot Act,” the Military Commissions Act, and any other act which attempts to take away rights guaranteed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

2.3 End the threat of martial law. The President should revoke Presidential Directives 20 and 51 which give him dictatorial powers, and should close the concentration camps Halliburton has built or refurbished around the country.

2.4 Release political prisoners like Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier, and all those being detained without charge. End torture and rendition, and prosecute those who authorized and carried out these illegal and immoral practices. Pardon all those incarcerated for possession or use of marijuana and end the failed “war on drugs.” Repeal federal laws against marijuana and hemp.

2.5 Pass a Congressional resolution stating that the separation of Church and State means that no government at any level may interfere with churches in setting requirements for receiving sacraments. Every denomination has the right to decide whether or not to grant the sacrament of matrimony to same-sex couples. At the same time, no governmental body may discriminate on the basis of gender by refusing adult couples wishing to enter into a civil union.

3. Rebuild Constitutional National Security

3.1 End the phony war on terror. Pass a resolution stating that terrorist attacks like that on 9/11 are criminal acts and will be investigated and prosecuted as such. The perpetrators do not deserve the exalted status of “warrior.”

3.2 End the illegal occupations. (3.2.1) Pass an authorization bill stating that no funds may be used for military activities in Iraq or Afghanistan, except for carrying out an orderly and rapid withdrawal. (3.2.2) Declare that it is US policy to vacate military bases in occupied nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq, and to give up oil and mineral rights and pipeline routes. If corporate entities wish to retain these rights, they must negotiate directly with the sovereign governments involved.

3.3 Return to Constitutional foreign and military policies. (3.3.1) Declare that the Armed Forces of the United States will be used only for the protection of our borders and our people, not the global financial interests of multinational corporations. The only exceptions will be for voluntary participation in UN peacekeeping forces or humanitarian missions such as natural disasters. Declare that any attack on Iran or any other country not specifically authorized by Congress with a Declaration of War is an impeachable offense. (3.3.2) Except for small Marine detachments guarding our embassies, bring home all our troops from around the world, returning all foreign bases to the host countries. (3.3.3) Cancel all contracts with mercenaries such as Blackwater (or Xe as they call themselves now). (3.3.4) Cancel all weapons development and procurement contracts not required for the Constitutional mission of national defense. Tell the contractors there must be no layoffs. If we can pay farmers not to grow crops, we can pay engineers and machinists not to build weapons. (3.3.5) Return all National Guard units to the control of the governors of the states. (3.3.6) Release Reserve units and excess personnel for transfer to alternative duties such as border patrol, disaster relief and cleanup, and rebuilding infrastructure. (There should be no forced separations.) The personnel and the budget to support them can eventually be transferred to other agencies. (3.3.7) Reorganize the Department of Defense and adjust the Defense budget to reflect the new mission. Once the transition is complete, the DoD budget should be around 20% of its current level. (3.3.8) End the embargo of Cuba and begin establishing normalized relations. (3.3.9) Terminate all covert actions and propaganda campaigns attempting to undermine other countries such as Iran and Venezuela. The fact that a country chooses not to cooperate with multinational corporations is no business of our government.

3.4 Abolish the CIA. Presidents Kennedy and Carter learned that it was impossible to get rid of the “dirty tricks” side of the CIA while retaining the intelligence gathering and analysis function. The CIA has continued to foster instability, insurrection, tyranny, torture, terrorism, murder, and war around the world, causing millions of deaths and creating millions of enemies for the United States through fear and hatred. We must drive a stake through its heart. The many good analysts may transfer to the DIA.

3.5 Honor and care for our Veterans. The fact that current and past wars are Unconstitutional, illegal, and destructive of our national security does not diminish the dedication, bravery, and sacrifices of our veterans who were lied to. They served in the belief that they were protecting our freedoms. We must see that they are cared for. The care of our soldiers wounded in action, suffering from PTSD, and poisoned by Depleted Uranium (DU) is not a discretionary expenditure to be avoided by delay, denial, and bureaucratic red tape. It is a solemn obligation of our government, and it must be met. (3.5.1) Fully fund the VA. (3.5.2) Direct the VA to recognize Gulf War Syndrome as a service-connected disability. (3.5.3) Direct the Department of Defense to root out prejudice against soldiers seeking help for PTSD, and to halt the practice of giving them drugs and returning them to service. (3.5.4) Direct the VA to halt the practice of some examiners who routinely deny benefits for PTSD claims because they “don’t believe in it.” (3.5.5) Direct the DoD and the VA to strengthen programs to ease the transition from combat to civilian life. There have been too many cases of domestic violence, murder, and suicide by veterans unable to make the transition. (3.5.6) Order a permanent halt to the use of DU munitions and armor. Destroy all existing supplies and store it as radioactive waste.

4. Rebuild Economy & Family Security

4.1 Expose the trickle-down myth. Both political parties promote the myth that the way to build the economy and jobs is to reduce taxes and regulations on businesses. The Republicans add a related myth that reducing taxes on millionaires will cause them to create jobs. All these myths are false. Neither businesses nor millionaires create jobs. CONSUMERS create jobs! Government can totally eliminate taxes on businesses and the super-wealthy, banks can offer business loans at zero interest. Yet not a single job will be created unless there are consumers willing and able to purchase the products and services offered. Businesses and millionaires will only create new jobs when the DEMAND can’t be met without them. At present, the demand isn’t there, because workers and the middle class can’t afford to buy. Those who still have jobs are afraid to buy because they may either lose their job or have unforeseen medical expenses. Job loss and medical bills are the leading causes of personal bankruptcy and home foreclosure, and most of us are subject to be impoverished by either one … or both. So we don’t spend our meager savings (if any) unless we have to, and we are afraid to go further in debt. The gap between the rich and the workers has gotten so big that there’s precious little left to pump to the top, and whatever goes to the top never trickles down. So the gap gets bigger. In spite of soaring productivity, real wages today are a third of what they were in the 1950s. This is unsustainable. Henry Ford used to pay his workers well, because he wanted them to be able to buy the cars they built. And both he and his workers thrived. He understood that economics was not trickle-down, but bubble-up. The only way to rescue the economy and guarantee jobs for those who want them is to make every American family financially secure, eliminating the worry that either the paychecks will stop or that medical bills will swamp them. Then people will buy things and businesses will hire more people to meet the demand. Everyone will prosper, including the rich, but only when every family gets an adequate, regular paycheck and health care when they need it.

It is here that those of us who are libertarian in ideology will diverge from those of us who are progressive. We will not agree on how to go about providing every family with paychecks and health care. But however we do it, it must be done. My prescription is outlined below in Sections 4.2 and 4.3. Those of us on the left and right come back together again on Banking Reform and Tax Reform, covered in 4.4 and 4.5. These are also vital to our economic development and to financial security.

4.2 Guarantee paychecks for all. (Don’t worry. I’ll discuss how to pay for all this in Section 4.5.) (4.2.1) The simplest solution would be to send every American family, rich or poor, a paycheck every month. Call it “Social Security for all.” Start with $800 for each adult and $200 for each child, with the amount indexed for inflation, just like Social Security. Like Social Security, it would be taxable after your other income rose above a certain level. (4.2.2) A more modest (perhaps interim) proposal is to extend unemployment benefits indefinitely — no maximum number of weeks, no expiration date. (4.2.3) The most satisfying way to provide paychecks, of course, is through jobs. I am convinced that if you provide the regular paychecks first, the jobs will follow (because paychecks will create demand). But there are other steps we should take as well. Until the demand creates sufficient private sector jobs, the government should offer jobs to anyone wanting one. Let the WPA live again. (4.2.4) In order to reinvigorate our manufacturing capability, the government should end subsidies to companies moving jobs out of the country and should use tariffs to level the playing field. Suspend NAFTA and all other “free trade” agreements (they are really free investment agreements) until our trade partners extend the same benefits, union rights, protections for health, safety, and the environment, and wages as we require of businesses here. It should be no cheaper to build widgets in Mexico or China and import them than to build them in Scranton or Detroit or Oshkosh. (4.2.5) Make it just as expensive for companies to hire undocumented workers as American citizens. Use a non-forgeable ID card with Social security number and status. Require non-citizen workers be given minimum wage and other protections accorded citizens. Offending employers would be jailed. (4.2.6) Index the Minimum Wage for inflation and gradually raise it to what it would have been had it been indexed for inflation when it was created at a dollar an hour. (That would currently be about $16 an hour.)

4.3 Health Care for all. (4.3.1) As a conservative, I believe that the only fiscally-responsible way to provide health care is to eliminate the profit, the overhead, the red tape, the interference between doctor and patient, and the interference in our political system of the insurance companies by kicking them out of health care altogether. We must finally join the rest of the civilized world and adopt a single-payer national health system. (4.3.2) A modest proposal to achieve such a single-payer system is Medicare For All. We can start with a bill expanding Medicare to cover pregnant women, infants up to age six, and seniors starting at age sixty. Include pre-natal care, well baby care, and preventive care with no co-pay. The bill should state that it is our policy to gradually expand and improve Medicare until it covers all Americans for medical , dental, vision, hearing, mental health, home health, and long-term care, with deductibles and co-pays limited to what is affordable to families on minimum wage. (4.3.3) Medicare Part D should be repealed, and prescription drugs should be covered as a standard part of Medicare Part B, just like x-rays or doctor visits.

4.4 Banking Reform. The banks take high-risk gambles with our money and lose. Then they go to the federal government for a bail-out. The government goes to the Federal Reserve (which is about as federal as Federal Express) to borrow the money. The Fed then creates the money out of thin air and loans it to the government (at interest which we taxpayers have to pay). The government then gives it to the banks, who are supposed to loan it to us (again at interest, so we’re paying double interest on the same money). The banks then use the money to buy up other banks (including foreign banks) and to pay themselves huge bonuses. The stockholders of the Federal Reserve make hundreds of billions of dollars on money which was never theirs in the first place. They never have a penny of their own at risk! Some sweet deal, isn’t it? But not for us. In this system, all money is created as debt. But where does the money come from to pay the interest? More loans. They can never be paid off. It is a huge pump, pumping money from workers to the ultra-wealthy who own the banks. Both conservatives and liberals agree that this must end. (4.4.1) Pass legislation abolishing the Federal Reserve and eliminating our debt to it. (4.4.2) Pass legislation ending the debt-based monetary system and returning to Congress its Constitutional responsibility for creating money … without debt. The government should print greenbacks and use it for government purposes — including building roads and bridges, caring for disabled veterans, and providing universal health care. (4.4.3) Audit the big banks and financial service companies and nationalize those who are insolvent. They can then be run as non-profit government banks, providing low-interest loans to individuals and small businesses.

4.5 Tax Reform. We have proposed significant government expenditures for guaranteed paychecks and health care for Americans. It is fair to ask where the money is going to come from. For centuries, governments have been using taxes to control behavior. They tax what they want to discourage (like smoking, for example). So why do we tax employers for providing jobs? Payroll taxes are counter-productive. They are especially burdensome on small businesses. The minute you hire one person, you have to hire another to figure out income tax withholding, FICA taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, workers comp taxes, ad infinitum. It’s no wonder most new businesses fail before they ever make a profit. Businesses should only be taxed on profits.

Similarly, we discourage those on welfare from taking a job, because we tax them so highly. If you find a job that pays the same as welfare, and you take the job and the welfare is stopped, you have in essence been taxed 100% on your new job. Even if your new job pays twice what you got on welfare, the effective tax on it is 50% — and that’s before you pay any income tax. Then there’s the FICA (Social Security) tax, the most regressive tax of all. A minimum wage earner pays about 8%. The owner of a Mom & Pop business pays 16%. But a basketball player or CEO making $40 million a year only pays 0.02%. We’re supposed to have a graduated income tax. Yet because of the tax break on unearned income (like dividends and capital gains), the wealthy pay a much smaller percentage of their income than low-wage workers. Someone once challenged corporate executives to find one who paid a higher income tax rate than their secretary. None were found. All this suggests several ways to reform the tax system. (4.5.1) Remove the cap on earnings subject to Social Security tax. This would make it a flat tax, and would keep Social Security solvent forever. Better yet, do away with the FICA tax (and all payroll taxes) completely, compensating by increasing income tax rates or with new taxes (like the tariffs and Tobin tax discussed below). (4.5.2) Restructure the income tax to incorporate a negative income tax (similar to the guaranteed paychecks discussed in 4.2.1) and slowly rising tax rates, with a top rate (probably around 70%) sufficient to make the whole thing revenue neutral. No one with an income of less than $500,000 per year would have a tax increase. (4.5.3) Remove the favored treatment of unearned income, but index the cost basis of property subject to capital gains for inflation, so that only real gains are taxed. (4.5.4) The cost of universal health care will be much less than the current cost, since the roughly 30% skimmed off by the insurance companies will be eliminated. There will be considerable savings because conflicting and overlapping coverages (like Medicaid and VA) will be eliminated. Individuals will be relieved of the expense of private insurance policies and supplements. Businesses of all sizes will be relieved of the burden of supplying health coverage for their employees and (most importantly for companies like General Motors) for their retirees. Yet the cost to the government will rise, and must be offset by taxes. An increased tax rate on corporate profit is reasonable, especially since they will benefit so much. (4.5.5) Introduce the Tobin tax on financial transactions. There is so much gambling going on in the currency markets and stock markets that the total amount of trades is truly staggering. A tax of even a tenth of one percent would bring in enough money to pay for the new programs we have proposed and (quite possibly) make the income tax unnecessary. Such a tiny tax would not deter legitimate investment, but might put a brake on some of the lightning computer trading which goes on today. So the actual revenue created will not be known until it is implemented. (4.5.6) Go back to using tariffs (one of the few types of tax authorized in the Constitution) to level the playing field with trading partners who welcome our investments, but put up barriers to the sale of our goods in their country. Tariffs can halt the flight of jobs from our country, as discussed in 4.2.4. (4.5.7) Pass legislation limiting the corporate income tax deduction for executive compensation to twenty times the salary of their lowest paid worker (legal or illegal). The ratio between CEO pay and worker pay used to be 20 to 1. It is now over 600 to 1. This is a free country. Corporations can pay their executives whatever they wish. But we don’t have to give them a tax deduction for it.

Concluding Remarks

There are countless important issues we haven’t dealt with in this Patriots’ Agenda (like education, the environment, etc.). You can see my position on every conceivable issue on the web site . What we have done here is to identify four core agenda items that are absolutely critical to our future as a nation. We’d love to see them taken up in the lame duck session this month. But I’m not holding my breath. My hope is that millions of Americans across the political spectrum (and perhaps a few Patriots in a future Congress) will take up an agenda like this and, one of these days, force our government to honestly deal with it. Until then, hang in there, keep the faith, and may God help us all.

(NOTE: This article is a slightly updated version of the Legislative Agenda I submitted to Congress when I was running for Congress in 2006. It resulted in me being invited to join the Veterans Affairs Committee “when you’re elected.” Although exit polls had me winning the election by 12 points, the electronic voting machines said otherwise.)
© 2010 Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret. is the National Commander, “The Patriots.”

Who's Laughing?
By Uri Avnery

"A DISASTER!" the courtiers of the King of Hanover cried, "Seven renowned professors at Gottingen University have published a declaration of protest against you!"

That was 173 years ago. The king had suspended the liberal constitution enacted by his predecessor.

"So what," the king replied, "Tarts, dancers and professors I can always buy."

This story was told me by Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who was himself a professor of half a dozen vastly different disciplines, from bio-chemistry to the philosophy of science. He held many of his colleagues in profound contempt.

He told me this story when we were talking about one professor in particular: Shlomo Avineri, who had just agreed to serve as Director General of the Foreign Office under Minister Yigal Alon. Alon was the author of the "Alon Plan," which provided for the annexation of wide stretches of occupied territory.

THIS WEEK, Avineri published an article under the headline "Fascism? You make me laugh!"

What made him laugh? The ridiculous (for him) argument that there exist fascist tendencies in Israel. He reminded us that fascism means the Gestapo, concentration camps and genocide. How could we forget.

Avineri is a respected professor, an expert on Hegel and Zionism. He is also a valiant warrior against "post-Zionists" and other miscreants who criticize classical Zionism.

I guess that if in 1923 somebody had told his father in the Polish town of Bielsko that in the Bavarian town of Munich an oddball with a funny little moustache was telling people about his plan to become the dictator of Germany and invade Poland, he, too, would have exclaimed: "You make me laugh!"

In those days in Germany many little "volkisch" groups were springing up with similar demands: to annul the citizenship of Jews, to drive the Jews out of their neighborhoods and to introduce oaths of allegiance to the Reich as the nation-state of the German people (including the Austrians, of course.)

At the time, these groups were laughed at. How could anyone imagine that a civilized country, the nation of Goethe, Schiller and Kant - and, indeed, Hegel - would hoist these crazies into power?

Over the next few years, many of those who had laughed found themselves in concentration camps, where they had ample time to meditate and tell themselves: if we had acted to stop the fascists in time, instead of laughing, this would not have happened.

ON THE day Avineri was struggling not to laugh, another un-funny item was published.

It reported that a delegation of "Senior Peace Now Members," led by Director-General Yariv Oppenheimer, had met with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

The occurrence of this meeting gives rise to some questions. Even more so does its aim.

Danny Ayalon captured the attention of the world when he summoned the Turkish ambassador and sat him on a low sofa, while loudly explaining to the Israeli reporters present that his intention was to humiliate Turkey.

It is difficult to probe the depth of foolishness of this infantile deed and of the man who did it. The public humiliation of a proud nation, which holds a key position in our region, set off to a long chain of events: Turkish public opinion turned against Israel, a Turkish ship sailed for Gaza and its violent interception caused a world-wide storm, Turkey is realigning itself with Iran and Syria – and the story is not over yet. True, Ayalon did not cause all this by himself, but he definitely deserves his share of the glory.

So how did it enter the minds of these "Senior Peace Now Members" to meet this man of all people, and thus bestow legitimacy on him?

And not only on him. It could be argued that Ayalon is exposed as the village idiot, so that no amount of legitimacy would stick to him. But behind Ayalon there looms the man who appointed him: the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman.

Lieberman is an international symbol of racism, a settler and defender of settlers, the principal assistant in Binyamin Netanyahu’s efforts to obstruct peace and eternalize the occupation. At this very moment he is providing Netanyahu with the pretext to object to the freeze of the settlements and torpedo the peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Dozens of foreign ministers refuse to meet with Lieberman. No Arab leader agrees to shake his hand. Egyptians loathe him, for Palestinians he is the symbol of evil. He cannot show his face in respectable international society.

So, for heaven’s sake, what caused the "Senior Peace Now Members" to legitimize this person?

THE TOPIC of the meeting is even more amazing. As reported, the Peace Now people proposed "cooperation" with the Foreign Office. It would be good for you, they told their host, to distribute Peace Now material around the world, in order to show that Israel is not only a state of occupation and settlements, but also of peaceniks. That would improve the image of the state and help the Foreign Office to silence the critics.

In other words: the "Senior Peace Now Members" are prepared to serve as fig leaves for Netanyahu’s government and for Lieberman’s Foreign Office. They offer them an alibi.

The Peace Now movement enjoys a very positive reputation all over the world. People remember them for the giant protest demonstration after the Sabra and Shatila massacre. The impression is widespread that it is the sole peace movement in Israel. The world media treat it graciously, while practically ignoring all other Israeli peace forces.

This is what makes this meeting so dangerous. Many across the world will tell themselves: if Peace Now meets with Lieberman’s people and offers them cooperation, they can’t be so bad.

Thus, Peace Now is serving Lieberman as Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak are serving Netanyahu. And as Shlomo Avineri, in his time, served Yigal Alon. The King of Hanover knew what he was talking about.

HOW DID Peace Now reach this point?

I am not against the movement. On the contrary, I appreciate very much its struggle against the settlements. True, they did not join the boycott of the products of the settlements which we started 12 years ago, but they are monitoring the construction activities in the settlements and bringing them to the attention of the world. This is an important and very laudable action.

The trouble is that the movement, which could once call hundreds of thousands onto the streets, finds it hard nowadays to mobilize even a few hundred.

This can be attributed to the general collapse of the Israeli peace movement since 2000, when Ehud Barak declared that "We Have No Partner For Peace." But the case of Peace Now merits special analysis.

The movement came into being in 1978, when it seemed that Menachem Begin was dragging his feet and was not responding positively enough to Anwar Sadat’s historic peace initiative. Begin, a lawyer by profession and character, haggled over every little detail, and there was a danger that the unique opportunity would be missed. The demonstrations of the young Peace Now helped to push Begin in the right direction.

The zenith of Peace Now's success was the "demonstration of the 400 thousand" after the Sabra and Shatila massacre in the First Lebanon War. Even though the number is exaggerated, it was a huge demonstration, unique in its way, which expressed a real uprising of Israel public opinion.

But this success had a price. On the eve of the war, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, the leaders of the Labor Party, went to see Begin and urged him to start the war. And here, lo and behold, these two appeared as the main speakers at the Peace Now protest. It was a deal: Peace Now gave the two a kosher certificate, and the Labor Party brought the (then) masses of its adherents to the square.

It reminded me of the deal made by Faust with Mephistopheles: in return for worldly success, he sold his soul.

THE STRATEGY of Peace Now was not altogether without logic.

This was explained by Tzali Reshef, who was the real leader of the movement for several decades. In 1992, when Rabin deported 415 Islamic activists to the Lebanon border, a public debate on the proper response took place in Tel Aviv. I proposed setting up protest tents opposite the Prime Minister’s office and staying there until the deportees were allowed to return. Reshef rejected this, saying frankly: "Peace Now is addressing a large public and we must not do anything that would push them away from us. Avnery can afford to say all the right things, we don’t have this luxury."

We indulged in this luxury, put up the tents and stayed there day and night in subzero temperatures. (It was in those very tents that Gush Shalom was born.) Throughout the years, Peace Now gradually adopted our positions, but always after a delay of months or years. Thus, they belatedly adopted the two-state solution, the need to talk with the PLO, the principle of two capitals in Jerusalem, etc.

This strategy would have been legitimate and even justified – had it proved effective. But in real life, the opposite happened: the masses left Peace Now, and the movement is now, like all of us, engaged in a desperate rearguard battle against the rising Rightist tide.

And unlike Professor Avineri - I feel no inclination to laugh.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Bush's Friend Barack
By Ralph Nader

After nearly two years out, I can imagine George W. Bush writing his successor the following letter:

Dear President Obama:

As you know I've been peddling my book Decision Points and while doing interviews, people ask me what I think of the job you're doing. My answer is the same: He deserves to make decisions without criticism from me. It's a tough enough job as it is. But their inquiries did prompt me to write you to privately express my continual admiration for the job you are doing. Amazing! I say "privately" because making my sentiments public would not do either of us any good, if you know what I mean.

First, I can scarcely believe my good fortune as to how your foreign and military policies-"continuity" was the word used recently by my good friend, Joe Lieberman-has protected my legacy. More than protected, you've proven yourself just as able-and I may say sometimes even more so-to "kick ass" as my Daddy used to say.

My pleasant surprise is darn near limitless. Your Justice Department has not pursued any actions against my people-not to mention Dick Cheney and I-that the civil liberties and human rights crowd keep baying for you to do.

Overseas, all I see are five stars. You are roaring in Afghanistan, dispatching our great special forces into Yemen, saying, like me, that you'll go anywhere in the world to kill those terrorists. When you said you would assassinate American citizens abroad suspected of "terrorism"-that news came over the radio during breakfast when I was eating my shredded wheat and I almost choked with amazement. You got cajones, buddy. I was hesitant about crossing the border into Pakistan-but you, man, are blasting away. Even Dick, who would never say it publically, told me he is impressed.

The Leftists are always trying to have your policies show me up negatively. Hah-they're having one hell of a tough time, aren't they?

Me state secrets, you state secrets. Me executive privilege, you executive privilege. Me stop the release of torture videos, you backed me up. Me indefinite detention, you indefinite detention. Me extraordinary rendition; you extraordinary rendition. Me sending drones, you sending tons more, flying 24/7. Me just had to look the other way on collateral damage, you doing the same and protecting our boys doing it. Me approving night time assassination raids, you're upping the ante especially since General Petraeus took over. Me beefing up Defense, you not skipping a beat. Me letting the CIA loose, you told them operate at large. Me demanding no pictures of our fallen troops, you doing the same, but allowing the families to go to Dover which I should have done.

There is one big difference. I never cracked a law book. You are a top Harvard lawyer and teacher of constitutional law. So when you do what I did, man, it's-what's the word-legitimization!

Domestically, sure you rag Wall Street, but you continued the big bail out of the bankers and their supporting cast. Sure, you're tougher with your words, but they deserve it-remember I said that the Wall Streeters "got drunk" and "got a hangover".

What I get such a kick out of is how you handled the unions and libs who backed you with dreams of Hope and Change. How smoothly you let them learn they got nowhere to go, just as we used to tell our conservative wing the same thing (though now they've been reborn as growling Tea Partiers). So, cardcheck, single payer, rolling back my Party's passage of legislation in Congress-you made them forget it!

You have been such a great president-backing me on so many things-keeping most tax cuts and shelters, support for my oil and gas buddies (my base), big loan guarantees for nukes, keeping Uncle Sam from bargaining down pharma, expanding free trade, not going tough on China (my Daddy especially liked this one), avoiding class struggle rhetoric and so on.

You want to know how confident I am about you? Even though you called waterboarding "torture," I proudly admitted approving its use to protect our country and its freedoms. Isn't that really what the Presidency is all about, along with honoring our troops and the entire national defense efforts?

Semper fi-
George W. Bush

P.S. My mother Barbara is a big fan. She calls your term so far Obamabush. Cute, aye, for someone who was never a wordsmith.
(c) 2010 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.

Take Your Money and Run!
On December 7th, Show the Banks (and Politicians) Who's Boss
By Dave Lindorff

Leave it to a soccer hero to kickstart some serious political action.

Eric Cantona, a French soccer star who finished his playing career at Manchester United and went into acting, has sparked a European, and perhaps a global uprising against the global banking industry by calling on people everywhere to simply take their money and run away from the big banks on December 7.

Cantona, in a television interview about his career, got political in a hurry, saying that demonstrations such as those that occurred last month across France in opposition to cuts in that country's retirement program, were meaningless and Accomplish nothing except to further the aims of the oppressors." He called on those same protesters, and on people everywhere, to take "effective action" by withdrawing all their savings from the banks.

His challenge has caught fire across Europe, where the action is being coordinated on Facebook and via a website called Bankrun 2010. More recently, this campaign has made its way across the Atlantic to America, where soccer's not such a big game, and where most of the economic protest action has been focussed on the reactionary anti-tax Tea Party crowd. But even here in the US, the idea of sticking it to the big banks has begun to resonate, with a website called Stopbank USA calling for a day of action by Americans on December 7.

The banking industry is clearly nervous. In France, a spokeswoman for the banking industry called the idea of an organized bank run "stupid," and warned that it would be an invitation to thieves to steal people's money.

But organizers in the US have an easy answer to that. The US movement is calling on people not to take their money out as cash, but to close their accounts at major regional or national banks and to move the money on Dec. 7 to independent community banks or--better yet--to credit unions.

Besides, it's really ironic to hear a bank spokesperson warning depositers about thieves, when it is clear that the bankers themselves are the real thieves these days--stealing peoples' homes through deceptive mortgage terms and through fraudulent foreclosures, stealing their money through deceptive fees and penalties, and stealing their retirement security by wrecking the economy while enriching the managers of the banks via undeserved massive bonus payments tallied in the billions of dollars.

Could a major run on the big banks seriously damage them? It depends on how seriously people take the idea. Let's imagine 10 million Americans pulling their worldly savings out of the banks--not just household accounts but funds invested in CDs too. We could quickly be talking about upwards of $50 billion.

Maybe not enough to bring down a Bank of America or a Goldman Sachs, but then, what if the process started to snowball, continuing on beyond Dec. 7? There's no reason why it would have to stop at one day. If people decided they were no longer going to bank at big institutions, then those banks' days would be numbered. They all depend upon the money of the so-called "small people" to give them the cash to play with in their hedging games, their structured derivative plays, etc.

It could all be a fantasy, the idea of taking down the big banks, but then, it's really a cost-free thing to attempt, and besides, as I've written earlier, everyone would be better off taking their banking business away from the greedy big banks and shifting it into credit unions. You get better service, fewer fees, lower loan interest rates, higher interest rates on your deposits, and many of the lobbies even have customer restrooms! So what are you waiting for? Get your papers in order and prepare to march down to your big bank and tell them, on December 7, "I want to close my account!"

Hopefully, you'll find yourself waiting in a long, long line.

While you're at it, if you're in any association or club, or especially if you're in a labor union, tell them to move their money out of the bank too, and put it in a credit union, or at least move it to a community bank. And don't take no for an answer.
© 2010 Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is author of Marketplace Medicine: The Rise of the For-Profit Hospital Chains (BantamBooks, 1992), and his latest book "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). All his work is available at

Radiating, Harrassing And Molesting Flyers

Hmmm. Here's a headline that us frequent fliers are not happy to see: "Pilots urged to avoid body scanning."

This refers to "Advance Imaging Technology," which our slap-happy security authorities and the scanner industry have foisted on us – all because a goofball wannabe terrorist attempted – and failed – to detonate his underwear on an airplane in 2009. "Aha," exclaimed the corporate- governmental boondoggle complex, "a new excuse to harass airline customers and soak taxpayers."

Thus, the feds are now buying and installing super-duper, super-invasive x-ray machines that peek right through our clothing to view our privates, on the assumption that we've all got bombs in our undies. But, wait – besides exposing our bodies to screeners, what are these radioactive machines doing to our bodies?

Not a thing, we're assured. Perfectly safe.

However, union leaders for the pilots of two airlines have researched the issue and now declare, "Pilots should NOT submit to AIT screening. Based on currently available medical information, [we've] determined that frequent exposure to [these] scanner devices may subject pilots to significant health risks." Another letter to thousands of pilots not only calls the scanners a potential health risk, but also a "needless privacy invasion."

Excuse me, but if pilots consider this multibillion-dollar system of body probes to be both risky and needless, why should millions of us passengers become the industry's flying guinea pigs? Yes, any traveler can avoid the scanners by requesting a physical pat-down instead. But the pilot unions warn against this alternative, too, referring to the pat downs as somewhere between demeaning and "sexual molestation."

If this is what they call security, who'll protect us from our "protectors?"
(c) 2010 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.

Let's Dismantle The Federal Reserve
By James Donahue

Americans and perhaps some of the elected representatives in Washington seem to believe that we all must depend upon the Federal Reserve to stabilize the nation’s financial system and keep the wheels of commerce running smoothly.

Indeed, we once considered Alan Greenspan, long-time chairman of the Federal Reserve, as one of the most powerful and influential figures in the world of finance. Today the bearded face of Ben Bernanke fills that void and wields as much power as Greenspan once did. But why? Writer David Quinn in an article for The Cutting Edge said most Americans erroneously believe the Federal Reserve is part of our government. It is, however, a privately held corporation owned by stockholders representing the largest banks in the land. The Federal Reserve holds its power because Americans have been led to believe that it should have it.

Quinn wrote that "if the American public understood what their (Federal Reserve) policies have done to their lives, they would be rioting in the streets.

"In less than one century the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States has destroyed our currency and has allowed bankers to gain unwarranted power over the country. They had the ability and opportunity to bring down the worldwide financial system," Quinn wrote.

The U. S. Constitution gives the power of making money to the Congress. Congress also has the power of regulating its value. The Constitution also requires that money be coined of gold or silver, and that paper bills, if used, must be backed by their printed value by gold or silver maintained in government vaults.

Thomas Jefferson, a former president and one of the framers of the Constitution, once warned that "if we turn our monetary system over to the bankers our children will wake up as slaves to the country we fought to free." Jefferson understood the power of greed that has historically emanated from the hearts of the few that rise to possess and control the wealth.

In 1913, the very thing that Jefferson warned us about happened. On Christmas Eve that year, while many members were home with their families for the holidays, a key number of congressmen met for a special session in Washington to pass the Federal Reserve Act. This is an unconstitutional act that turned over the U. S. monetary system to a few international bankers. The act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, who advocated a better system of stabilizing the monetary system.

With the banks under the control of the Federal Reserve, the rules for printing money changed. Our dollar bills once were considered a representation of their value in gold stored in places like Ford Knox, Kentucky. The old bills once stated this. Now our bills are identified as Federal Reserve notes. This means that they are loans or I.O.U.s and are no longer backed up in value by gold reserves. And that is in clear violation of the Constitution.

Did the Federal Reserve bring the stability to our monetary system as President Wilson had hoped? Indeed, it did not. By 1928 America and the world banking system was plunged into the Great Depression, largely because of the same kind of reckless banking activities and false printing of paper dollars that brought about the current world economic crisis.

While climbing out of the Great Depression and numerous "recessions" over the years, we have experienced a slow decrease in the value of the dollar, caused by the Federal Reserve's printing of more money than there have been gold reserves to back up the value. This, in turn, has been causing an inflationary spiral that has been slowly destroying the American capitalistic/industrial system.

Notice that one day after the Republicans gained control of the Congress and the promise of a stronger yoke on the nation's financial system in mid-term elections, the Federal Reserve announced a decision to print another $600 billion under the guise of propping up the big banks.

Older Americans can remember a time just after World War II when a new automobile could be purchased for $1000 and gasoline sold at the pump for 25 cents a gallon. We worked in those days for a dollar an hour and thought it was good money. A good house in 1960 could be purchased for $25,000 or less.

That was a time when jobs were plentiful. There was opportunity for advancement and if the job we had didn’t work out, we could move on to find employment elsewhere. Employers used things like health insurance benefits and paid vacation time to coax good workers to stay on the job.

We thought we were living in an era of promise and opportunity. Little did we know that the robber barons were hard at work, dismantling the monetary system that made it possible for us to enjoy that way of life.
(c) 2010 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.

Americans Voted Few Incumbent Bums Out
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

For some years a number of groups have been advocating voting out incumbents in Congress, both the House and the Senate, as a path to reform and improve the US political system. You might have thought that with this year’s incredible widespread public anger with both major parties and the remarkably low confidence level in Congress this anti-incumbency movement would have scored a huge victory. It did not happen.

Even more surprising, perhaps, because for many months before the elections there was endless media predictions that incumbents were at risk of losing their seats, which was backed up by hundreds of polls showing historical high levels of voter dissatisfaction with Congress.

Over at one of the oldest and vocal anti-incumbency groups there is this delusional chest-beating good news: "Congratulations Vote Out Incumbents voters. 15 Senate Incumbents stepped down or lost, and only 25 Senators sought reelection. 57 House incumbents lost, and 37 chose not to run again. (91 House Incumbents gone, 21.6%)."

Apparently delusion rules within this movement. First of all, no credit should be given for those members who decided not to run for reelection. What level of reelection rate should be considered a big victory? I would be impressed if that rate was 50 percent or less, because typical reelection rates have very high. For example, according to data at Open Secrets, it was 88 percent in 1992 and 94 percent for 2006 and 2008 for the House. In the Senate it was 79 percent in 2006 and 83 percent in 2008.

At the Rundown blog from the PBS Newshour a far more accurate account was given for this year's midterm elections. In the House 53 members lost their (this does not count members who quit, ran for higher office or lost their primary) in 2010. But that is still just 13 percent of House incumbents who ran for office and lost - meaning that 87 percent seeking office were reelected. Note that in 27 House races, voters had no choice because only one candidate was on the ballot.

Interestingly, this reelection result was predicted before the election by professor John Sides who found a statistically valid correlation between past reelection rates and Gallup poll results on the percentage of voters rejecting their own Representatives. Even when that dissatisfaction rate rose to 40 percent this year, a high reelection rate resulted. In fact, that correlation indicates that even if 100 percent of voters rejected incumbents, the vast majority would still be reelected!

In the Senate, where incumbent loses are more common, only four incumbent Senators running for reelection lost their seats. That produced a 90 percent reelection rate.

What do we see? The House reelection rate was down slightly from recent years while the rate in the Senate was higher. To be crystal clear, out of 435 seats, 351 incumbents will be returning to the House in January, according to one analysis. In the Senate, out of 100 seats, 77 incumbents will return in January. Does that sound like some revolution happened this year? And note how incumbent, establishment members will be running both the majorities and minorities in both the House and Senate.

I conclude that the anti-incumbency movement ought to fold up and close down; it has proved to be a totally ineffective movement and strategy to reform the abysmal US government system.

Why has the anti-incumbency movement failed? There are multiple reasons, including: the stupidity of voters who succumb to all the campaign lies and rhetoric from both major parties, the way House districts are gerrymandered to favor one party or the other, the lack of voting by the most fed up citizens, voting for lesser-evil candidates, the inability of third parties to mount really effective campaigns, enormous financial backing of incumbents by many special interests, and the decision by the Tea Party movement to back only Republican candidates rather than third party candidates.

Welcome back to the reality of America's delusional democracy where career politicians will continue to foster a corrupt, inefficient and dysfunctional government because that is what the two-party plutocracy and its supporters want for their own selfish reasons.

The first priority of all the new members of Congress will, as always, be to get reelected. And most will succeed. For a job with security, great pay, terrific health insurance, and countless perks, with no requirement for prior accomplishments doing the same work, nothing beats becoming a member of the US Congress.
(c) 2010 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Earlier this year Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, urged U.K. lawmakers to back a
bill banning vulture funds from using British courts to prey on poor countries. They complied.

Debt Vultures Shot For Chanukah
Liberia is saved, but the predators are not done.
By Greg Palast

We got’em. I can hardly believe it.

Yesterday, the financial vultures, the carcass-chewers who were preying on the dirt-poor African nation of Liberia, gave up.

Refresher: In February, for BBC Television Newsnight and In These Times, our team hunted down a predator with a Ph.D., Dr. Eric Hermann, who, for a couple pennies on the dollar, secretly bought the right to collect a $6 million debt owed by Liberia.

Hermann and his flock of vulture partners demanded Liberia pay $43 million—a devastating sum for that nation—or he would, in effect, block aid funding for that nation’s recovery from civil war. The nation was now Hermann’s economic hostage.

I was investigating the strange links between Hermann and a company named Hamsah Investments; it smelled of fraud. Tipped off that I was about to arrive with a camera crew to question Hermann about this, his giant hedge fund operation in Harrison, N.Y., unbolted the company signs from the office building wall, locked their office doors and required their staff to hide inside in silence.

I took the information to Liberia’s President Ellen Sirleaf and public worldwide via BBC. Within two days, Britain’s Parliament voted to stop vultures from using poor nations to collect in UK courts.

Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), hearing our first report on vultures in 2007, personally confronted George Bush in the Oval Office demanding he put an end to the ransom demands of the vultures—who happened to be the Republican Party’s top donors.

Bush did nothing, of course, but governments from Britain to Germany to Holland closed the courtroom doors on the vultures.

So “Hamsah”—or is that Dr. Hermann?—gave up. Hamsah and its mystery partner called “Wall Capital” are agreeing to accept about 3 percent of the $43 million they demanded, we learned this week.

Liberia is saved, but the vultures are not done. The number one donor to the Republican Party in New York, Paul Singer, is demanding $100 million from the Congo (Brazzaville); and his fellow vultures are still circling, looking for carcasses of nations devastated by war or famine or corruption.

But as this year’s Festival of Light—Chanukah—approaches, we have a true miracle to celebrate. This is a rare moment in which investigative reporting and public revulsion made a difference in this cruel.

And I am happy to report: Vulture tastes like chicken.
(c) 2010 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. Greg Palast investigated the Exxon Valdez disaster for the Chucagh Native villages of Alaska's Prince William Sound.

The Downward Road Is Crowded
By Chris Floyd

A few quick takes, as we dig out from the latest hack.

Money for Old Rope This is what $70 billion a year in whiz-bang, top-shelf "intelligence" buys you: Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor.

The United States of Insouciance

Since his return from a self-imposed hiatus, Paul Craig Roberts has been a man on fire, penning a series of riveting, ravaging articles that speak hard truth to the imperial state -- and to a society seemingly content to countenance, if not cheer, that state's worst malefactions. Roberts has done it again with his latest piece: "Insouciant Americans." Get thee hence, and read.

Mission Accomplished

It's hard to understand why all our serious commentators are writing that Barack Obama's presidency is in trouble, and offering sage advice, from right, left, and center, on what he needs to do to "get back on track." The truth, of course, is that Barack Obama's presidency is a smashing success -- indeed, a record-breaking success -- and that he is accomplishing exactly what he was put into office to do, as the New York Times reports today: Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter.

Chronicles of Corruption

My old Moscow Times comrade Matt Taibbi adds another chapter to his on-going -- and jaw-dropping -- series of stories on the deliberate evisceration of ordinary Americans by their monied and minatory betters. Taibbi has few equals when it comes to explaining the true depth and extent of American corruption -- and almost no equal when it comes to actually reporting on it from the front lines. He is creating a record of the reality of our times that future historians (yes, yes, if there are any) will find invaluable.

The Dissident Path

Chris Hedges is another incendiary voice, burning through the threadbare curtain of liberal piety and exceptionalist myth to expose the corroded heart of a nation sliding into barbarity. His latest piece at Truthdig is an excellent example, so we'll finish here with a few choice quotes:

There is no hope left for achieving significant reform or restoring our democracy through established mechanisms of power. The electoral process has been hijacked by corporations. The judiciary has been corrupted and bought. The press shuts out the most important voices in the country and feeds us the banal and the absurd. Universities prostitute themselves for corporate dollars. Labor unions are marginal and ineffectual forces. The economy is in the hands of corporate swindlers and speculators. And the public, enchanted by electronic hallucinations, remains passive and supine. We have no tools left within the power structure in our fight to halt unchecked corporate pillage.

The liberal class, which Barack Obama represents, was never endowed with much vision or courage, but it did occasionally respond when pressured by popular democratic movements. This was how we got the New Deal, civil rights legislation and the array of consumer legislation pushed through by Ralph Nader and his allies in the Democratic Party. The complete surrendering of power, however, to corporate interests means that those of us who seek nonviolent yet profound change have no one within the power elite we can trust for support. The corporate coup has ossified the structures of power. It has obliterated all checks on corporate malfeasance. It has left us stripped of the tools of mass organization that once nudged the system forward toward justice.


Our worst premonitions are becoming reality. Our intuition has proved correct. We are reaching the breaking point. An explosion, unless we halt the increased pressure, seems inevitable. And what is left for those of us who cannot embrace the contaminants of violence? If the system shuts us out how can we influence it through nonviolent mechanisms of popular protest? How can we restore a civil society? How can we battle back against those who will mobilize hatred to cement into place an American fascism?

I do not know if we can win this battle. I suspect we cannot. But I do know that if we stop resisting, if we stop rebelling, something fundamental will die within us. As the corporate vise tightens, as the vast corporate system begins to break down with fossil fuel decline, extreme climate change and the expansion of global poverty, even mundane and ordinary acts to assert our common humanity and justice will be condemned as subversive.

It is time to think of resistance in a new way, something that is no longer carried out to reform a system but as an end in itself. African-Americans understood this during the long night of slavery. German opposition leaders understood it under the Nazis. Dissidents in the former Soviet Union knew this during the nightmare of communism. Resistance in these closed systems was local and often solitary. It was done with the understanding that evil must always be defied. The tiny acts of rebellion—day after day, month after month, year after year and decade after decade—exposed to everyone who witnessed them the heartlessness, cruelty and inhumanity of the oppressor. They were acts of truth and beauty. We must take to the street. We must jam as many wrenches into the corporate system as we can. We must not make it easy for them. But we also must no longer live in self-delusion. This is a battle that will outlive us. And if we fight, even with this tragic vision, we will lead lives worth living and keep alive another way of being.

(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

'Inside Job' Is a Must See
By Matthew Rothschild

You’ve got to got see "Inside Job," the documentary about how Wall Street brought down our economy.

Written and directed by Charles Ferguson and narrated by Matt Damon, it explains, step by step, each of the reckless and swindling moves that Wall Street investment bankers made with such devastating results.

Far better than Wall Street II, which was incomprehensible as far as the scandal goes, "Inside Job" explains this complex story in a clear and easy to follow manner that most high school students could understand.

It documents how the CEOs of the largest investment banks in the country gambled on housing derivatives that they knew were highly risky, misled investors about those risks, and made out like the bandits they are with grotesque bonuses.

As Ferguson points out, no one's gone to jail. No one's had to repay those bonuses or make whole those swindled investors. The scandal just goes on and on.

Ferguson gets clips from some of the leading players (who refused to be interviewed, as he tells us) and does a terrific job skewering some of the lesser ones who do agree to be interviewed. To help provide commentary, Ferguson enlists George Soros, Eliot Spitzer, and NYU economics professor Nouriel Roubini.

Ferguson doesn't just blame the Wall Street CEOs. "Inside Job" points out how the credit rating agencies were in on the scam, and how leading economists, including Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, were asleep at their textbooks.

What's more, it shows how one President after another, from Reagan through Clinton and George W, deregulated Wall Street at enormous cost.

And how Obama has not done nearly enough in response.

Go see this movie. It’s a real eye-opener—and a stomach-turner.
(c)2010 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

There Will Be Blood!
By Paul Krugman

Former Senator Alan Simpson is a Very Serious Person. He must be — after all, President Obama appointed him as co-chairman of a special commission on deficit reduction.

So here’s what the very serious Mr. Simpson said on Friday: “I can’t wait for the blood bath in April. ... When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’ve got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give ’em a piece of meat, real meat,’ ” meaning spending cuts. “And boy, the blood bath will be extraordinary,” he continued.

Think of Mr. Simpson’s blood lust as one more piece of evidence that our nation is in much worse shape, much closer to a political breakdown, than most people realize.

Some explanation: There’s a legal limit to federal debt, which must be raised periodically if the government keeps running deficits; the limit will be reached again this spring. And since nobody, not even the hawkiest of deficit hawks, thinks the budget can be balanced immediately, the debt limit must be raised to avoid a government shutdown. But Republicans will probably try to blackmail the president into policy concessions by, in effect, holding the government hostage; they’ve done it before.

Now, you might think that the prospect of this kind of standoff, which might deny many Americans essential services, wreak havoc in financial markets and undermine America’s role in the world, would worry all men of good will. But no, Mr. Simpson “can’t wait.” And he’s what passes, these days, for a reasonable Republican.

The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming.

Elite opinion has been slow to recognize this reality. Thus on the same day that Mr. Simpson rejoiced in the prospect of chaos, Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, appealed for help in confronting mass unemployment. He asked for “a fiscal program that combines near-term measures to enhance growth with strong, confidence-inducing steps to reduce longer-term structural deficits.”

My immediate thought was, why not ask for a pony, too? After all, the G.O.P. isn’t interested in helping the economy as long as a Democrat is in the White House. Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke’s efforts, Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on trying to reduce unemployment.

And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love.

Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore.

And opposition for the sake of opposition isn’t limited to economic policy. Politics, they used to tell us, stops at the water’s edge — but that was then.

These days, national security experts are tearing their hair out over the decision of Senate Republicans to block a desperately needed new strategic arms treaty. And everyone knows that these Republicans oppose the treaty, not because of legitimate objections, but simply because it’s an Obama administration initiative; if sabotaging the president endangers the nation, so be it.

How does this end? Mr. Obama is still talking about bipartisan outreach, and maybe if he caves in sufficiently he can avoid a federal shutdown this spring. But any respite would be only temporary; again, the G.O.P. is just not interested in helping a Democrat govern.

My sense is that most Americans still don’t understand this reality. They still imagine that when push comes to shove, our politicians will come together to do what’s necessary. But that was another country.

It’s hard to see how this situation is resolved without a major crisis of some kind. Mr. Simpson may or may not get the blood bath he craves this April, but there will be blood sooner or later. And we can only hope that the nation that emerges from that blood bath is still one we recognize.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you."
~~~ Will Rogers ~~~

Power And The Tiny Acts Of Rebellion
By Chris Hedges

There is no hope left for achieving significant reform or restoring our democracy through established mechanisms of power. The electoral process has been hijacked by corporations. The judiciary has been corrupted and bought. The press shuts out the most important voices in the country and feeds us the banal and the absurd. Universities prostitute themselves for corporate dollars. Labor unions are marginal and ineffectual forces. The economy is in the hands of corporate swindlers and speculators. And the public, enchanted by electronic hallucinations, remains passive and supine. We have no tools left within the power structure in our fight to halt unchecked corporate pillage.

The liberal class, which Barack Obama represents, was never endowed with much vision or courage, but it did occasionally respond when pressured by popular democratic movements. This was how we got the New Deal, civil rights legislation and the array of consumer legislation pushed through by Ralph Nader and his allies in the Democratic Party. The complete surrendering of power, however, to corporate interests means that those of us who seek nonviolent yet profound change have no one within the power elite we can trust for support. The corporate coup has ossified the structures of power. It has obliterated all checks on corporate malfeasance. It has left us stripped of the tools of mass organization that once nudged the system forward toward justice.

Obama knows where power lies and serves these centers of power. The tragedy—if tragedy is the right word—is that Obama, after selling his soul to corporations, has been discarded. Corporate power doesn’t need brand Obama anymore. They have found new brands in the tea party, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Obama has been abandoned by those who once bundled contributions for him by the millions of dollars. Obama and the Democratic Party will, I expect, spend the next two years being even more obsequious to corporate power. Obama clearly loves the pomp and privilege of statecraft that much. But I am not sure it will work.

Reformers on the outside, while they remain militant and faithful to issues of justice, nevertheless depend on the liberal establishment to respond to public pressure. If these reformers cannot pressure the liberal class and the power elite to evoke real change, they become ineffectual. Our fate is intimately tied to the liberals who have betrayed us. We speak in the language of policies and issues. We will find it harder and harder, given our impotence, to compete with the impassioned calls for new glory, revenge and moral purity that resonate with a public beset by foreclosures, long-term unemployment, bankruptcies and a medical system that abandons them. Once any political system ossifies, once all mechanisms for reform close, the lunatic fringe of a society, as I saw in Yugoslavia, rises out of the moral swamp to take control. The reformers, however well meaning and honest, finally have nothing to offer. They are disarmed.

We have reached a point where stunted and deformed individuals, whose rapacious greed fuels the plunge of tens of millions of Americans into abject poverty and misery, determine the moral fiber of the nation. It is no more morally justifiable to kill someone for profit than it is to kill that person for religious fanaticism. And yet, from health companies to the oil and natural gas industry to private weapons contractors, individual death and the wholesale death of the ecosystem have become acceptable corporate business. The mounting human misery in the United States, which could lead to the sporadic bursts of anger we have seen on the streets of France, will be met with severe repression from the security and surveillance state, which always accompanies the rise of the corporate state. The one method left open by which we can respond—massive street protests, the destruction of corporate property and violence—will become the excuse to impose total tyranny. The intrusive pat-downs at airports may soon become a fond memory of what it was like when we still had a little freedom left.

All reform movements, from the battle for universal health care to the struggle for alternative energy and sane environmental controls to financial regulation to an end to our permanent war economy, have run into this new, terrifying configuration of power. They have confronted an awful truth. We do not count. And they have been helpless to respond as those who are most skilled in the manipulation of hate lead a confused populace to call for their own enslavement.

Dr. Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician from Maryland who volunteers for Physicians for a National Health Program, knows what it is like to challenge the corporate leviathan. She was blacklisted by the corporate media. She was locked out of the debate on health care reform by the Democratic Party and liberal organizations such as MoveOn. She was abandoned by those in Congress who had once backed calls for a rational health care policy. And when she and seven other activists demanded that the argument for universal health care be considered at the hearings held by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, they were forcibly removed from the hearing room.

“The reform process exposed how broken our system is,” Flowers said when we spoke a few days ago. “The health reform debate was never an actual debate. Those in power were very reluctant to have single-payer advocates testify or come to the table. They would not seriously consider our proposal because it was based on evidence of what works. And they did not want this evidence placed before the public. They needed the reform to be based on what they thought was politically feasible and acceptable to the industries that fund their campaigns.”

“There was nobody in the House or the Senate who held fast on universal health care,” she lamented. “Sen. [Bernie] Sanders from Vermont introduced a single-payer bill, S 703. He introduced an amendment that would have substituted S 703 for what the Senate was putting together. We had to push pretty hard to get that to the Senate floor, but in the end he was forced by the leadership to withdraw it. He was our strongest person. In the House we saw Chairman John Conyers, who is the lead sponsor for the House single-payer bill, give up pushing for single-payer very early in the process in 2009. Dennis Kucinich pushed to get an amendment that would help give states the ability to pass single-payer. He was not successful in getting that kept in the final House bill. He held out for the longest, but in the end he caved.”

“You can’t effect change from the inside,” she has concluded. “We have a huge imbalance of power. Until we have a shift in power we won’t get effective change in any area, whether financial, climate, you name it. With the wealth inequalities, with the road we are headed down, we face serious problems. Those who work and advocate for social and economic justice have to now join together. We have to be independent of political parties and the major funders. The revolution will not be funded. This is very true.”

“Those who are working for effective change are not going to get foundation dollars,” she stated. “Once a foundation or a wealthy individual agrees to give money they control how that money is used. You have to report to them how you spend that money. They control what you can and cannot do. Robert Wood Johnson [the foundation], for example, funds many public health departments. They fund groups that advocate for health care reform, but those groups are not allowed to pursue or talk about single-payer. Robert Wood Johnson only supports work that is done to create what they call public/private partnership. And we know this is totally ineffective. We tried this before. It is allowing private insurers to exist but developing programs to fill the gaps. Robert Wood Johnson actually works against a single-payer health care system. The Health Care for America Now coalition was another example. It only supported what the Democrats supported. There are a lot of activist groups controlled by the Democratic Party, including Families USA and MoveOn. MoveOn is a very good example. If you look at polls of Democrats on single-payer, about 80 percent support it. But at MoveOn meetings, which is made up mostly of Democrats, when people raised the idea of working for single-payer they were told by MoveOn leaders that the organization was not doing that. And this took place while the Democrats were busy selling out women’s rights, immigrant rights to health care and abandoning the public option. Yet all these groups continued to work for the bill. They argued, in the end, that the health care bill had to be supported because it was not really about health care. It was about the viability of President Obama and the Democratic Party. This is why, in the end, we had to pass it.”

“The Democrats and the Republicans give the illusion that there are differences between them,” said Dr. Flowers. “This keeps the public divided. It weakens opposition. We fight over whether a Democrat will get elected or a Republican will get elected. We vote for the lesser evil, but meanwhile the policies the two parties enact are not significantly different. There were no Democrats willing to hold the line on single-payer. Not one. I don’t see this changing until we radically shift the balance of power by creating a larger and broader social movement.”

The corporate control of every aspect of American life is mirrored in the corporate control of health care. And there are no barriers to prevent corporate domination of every sector of our lives.

“We are at a crisis,” Flowers said. “Health care providers, particularly those in primary care, are finding it very difficult to sustain an independent practice. We are seeing greater and greater corporatization of our health care. Practices are being taken over by these large corporations. You have absolutely no voice when it comes to dealing with the insurance company. They tell you what your reimbursements will be. They make it incredibly difficult and complex to get reimbursed. The rules are arbitrary and change frequently.”

“This new legislation [passed earlier this year] does not change any of that,” she said. “It does not make it easier for doctors. It adds more administrative complexity. We are going to continue to have a shortage of doctors. As the new law rolls out they are giving waivers as the provisions kick in because corporations like McDonald’s say they can’t comply. Insurance companies such as WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Cigna and Humana that were mandated to sell new policies to children with pre-existing conditions announced they were not going to do it. They said they were going to stop selling new policies to children. So they got waivers from the Obama administration allowing them to charge higher premiums. Health care costs are going to rise faster. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that after the legislation passed, our health care costs would rise more steeply than if we had done nothing. The Census Bureau reports that the number of uninsured in the U.S. jumped 10 percent to 51 million people in 2009. About 5.8 million were able to go on public programs, but a third of our population under the age of 65 was uninsured for some portion of 2009. The National Health Insurance Survey estimates that we now have 58 or 59 million uninsured. And the trend is toward underinsurance. These faulty insurance products leave people financially vulnerable if they have a serious accident or illness. They also have financial barriers to care. Co-pays and deductibles cause people to delay or avoid getting the care they need. And all these trends will worsen.”

In Manuel de Lope’s novel “The Wrong Blood,” set during the first rumblings that led to the Spanish Civil War, he writes “... nobody knew this at the time and those who had premonitions wouldn’t go so far as to believe them, because fear rejects what intuition accepts.”

But the signs are now so palpable that even fear is not working. Our worst premonitions are becoming reality. Our intuition has proved correct. We are reaching the breaking point. An explosion, unless we halt the increased pressure, seems inevitable. And what is left for those of us who cannot embrace the contaminants of violence? If the system shuts us out how can we influence it through nonviolent mechanisms of popular protest? How can we restore a civil society? How can we battle back against those who will mobilize hatred to cement into place an American fascism?

I do not know if we can win this battle. I suspect we cannot. But I do know that if we stop resisting, if we stop rebelling, something fundamental will die within us. As the corporate vise tightens, as the vast corporate system begins to break down with fossil fuel decline, extreme climate change and the expansion of global poverty, even mundane and ordinary acts to assert our common humanity and justice will be condemned as subversive.

It is time to think of resistance in a new way, something that is no longer carried out to reform a system but as an end in itself. African-Americans understood this during the long night of slavery. German opposition leaders understood it under the Nazis. Dissidents in the former Soviet Union knew this during the nightmare of communism. Resistance in these closed systems was local and often solitary. It was done with the understanding that evil must always be defied. The tiny acts of rebellion—day after day, month after month, year after year and decade after decade—exposed to everyone who witnessed them the heartlessness, cruelty and inhumanity of the oppressor. They were acts of truth and beauty. We must take to the street. We must jam as many wrenches into the corporate system as we can. We must not make it easy for them. But we also must no longer live in self-delusion. This is a battle that will outlive us. And if we fight, even with this tragic vision, we will lead lives worth living and keep alive another way of being.
(c) 2010 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Human Trafficing As A Non-Metaphor For Our Times
By David Michael Green

Next to genocide and war, human trafficking is about the most disgusting thing I can think of.

For those unfamiliar with the term, human trafficking refers to what is essentially slavery (and I think those who oppose such atrocities would be smart, from a marketing perspective, just to call it that), whether that refers to people trafficked as sexual objects, unpaid labor, or whatever other form of exploitation is involved.

Here we are in the twenty-first century, and this is what Wikipedia says about the extent of the problem:

Trafficking is a lucrative industry. It is now the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Globally, it is tied with the illegal arms trade, as the second largest criminal activity, following the drug trade. Human trafficking usually affects women and children. The total annual revenue for trafficking in persons is estimated to be between USD$5 billion and $9 billion. The Council of Europe states, ‘People trafficking has reached epidemic proportions over the past decade, with a global annual market of about $42.5 billion.’ The United Nations estimates nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked around the world.

How grim is that?

I’d be happy to write a column opposing the evils of human trafficking, except that it would be an awfully short piece. It’s like arguing against, well, war or genocide. Who in their right mind hasn’t already figured out the horrors of slavery? And for those who have not (and it’s sickening to contemplate the number of people who must be involved – both as buyers and sellers – in order to support a $5-9 billion ‘industry’ in slavery), what could one possibly say to change their minds (that is, to make them human), anyhow?

I trust everyone reading this has already figured out that slavery is not okay. But what most Americans do not understand today is the extent to which human trafficking is a metaphor for the American system of political economy these last decades.

And, worse, the degree to which the concept is becoming less metaphorical every day, and more directly representative of our current condition.

Exploitation is what is at the core of slavery. It is an economic relationship that represents the very height of twisted human relations conducted by predatory sociopaths, in which an arrogant few see the rest of us as mere tools for their enrichment and gratification. In their minds, we exist to be exploited no less than does the oil in the ground or the rivers into which they dump pollutants. All of us are there to serve, and we are theirs to serve. Our function is their benefit and their pleasure. Such psychologically unwell individuals find it unfathomable that others might want a life for their own purposes rather to fulfill someone else’s extravagant cravings, and find it maximally irritating when any of the rest of us are rude enough to demand being treated accordingly. Free and independent human beings seeking their own modest happiness in life? What an annoyance.

Such people have always existed, of course, but the last two centuries or so have witnessed remarkable changes in human consciousness on this question. Once fixed relationships of exploitation that had lasted for millennia have yielded to historically astonishing claims of equality and to equally unprecedented demands for respect and dignity. In the nineteenth century, slaves and non-slaves alike rose up and demanded an end to that most abhorrent practice. Over the subsequent century, industrial workers forced plutocrats to carve off enough of their riches so that the masses could work reasonable hours, under reasonable conditions, for reasonable amounts of pay. In our time, women and gays and various minority ethnic groups have forced society to treat them with far a greater respect and equality than was ever the case before.

As basic as these notions seem to the conscience of any moderately progressive (or even moderately moderate) soul today, it is well worth remembering how historically unique they are. We live in a moment unlike 99 percent of human history with regard to these concepts of equality and human rights.

But it is slipping away now, and fast.

I find it telling that over the course of the last generation ‘personnel’ departments of corporations have instead been relabeled ‘human resources’. I doubt that’s an accident. It speaks to a changed relationship between haves and have-nots. We are resources in their minds, commodities, production inputs, expense lines. The only difference between us and a bundle of ball-bearings or a bag of bauxite is that we resources that are human sometimes get a bit pesky. We require so much more handling and care than non-human resources.

But why dwell on nomenclature and symbolism, though, when we can point directly to statistical evidence, to policies and to outcomes?

It’s easily done (for now), and yet the most astonishing and frustrating thing about our time in history is that the most significant political development of the era has been completely hidden in plain sight.

What is it? The most salient political fact about the present moment is that a massive transfer of wealth is well under way, undoubtedly the greatest in all of human history. Middle class – or, increasingly now, formerly middle class – working class and poor Americans are being savaged by oligarchs and their hired-hand kleptocrats running the government on their behalf. The wealthy are vastly richer today than they were thirty years ago, and the rest of us are lucky just to have held our ground, not having improved our condition one bit from what it was in 1980. Actually, those really are the fortunate ones. Many are less lucky, and have been losing jobs and houses – and, what usually follows: marriages and health and life itself – because of this plundering.

Bill Quigley recently summarized the damage:

We now have the highest number of poor people in 51 years. One in five children in the US is poor; one in ten senior citizens is poor. Fifty million people in the US lack health insurance. Women in the US have a greater lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related conditions than women in 40 other countries. About 3.5 million people, about one-third of which are children, are homeless at some point in the year in the US. There are 49 million people in the US who live in households which eat only because they receive food stamps, visit food pantries or soup kitchens for help. Sixteen million are so poor they have skipped meals or foregone food at some point in the last year. This is the highest level since statistics have been kept. Wages have not kept up with inflation; adjusted for inflation they have lost ground over the past ten years. The cost of housing, education and health care have all increased at a much higher rate than wages and salaries. In 1967, the middle 60 percent of households received over 52% of all income. In 1998, it was down to 47%. The share going to the poor has also fallen, with the top 20% seeing their share rise. A record 2.8 million homes received a foreclosure notice in 2009, higher than both 2008 and 2007. In 2010, the rate is expected to be rise to 3 million homes. For the first time since the 1940s, the real incomes of middle-class families are lower at the end of the business cycle of the 2000s than they were at the beginning. Despite the fact that the American workforce is working harder and smarter than ever, they are sharing less and less in the benefits they are creating. The wealth of the richest 400 people in the US grew by 8% in the last year to $1.37 trillion. Income disparity in the US is now as bad as it was right before the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s. From 1979 to 2006, the richest 1% more than doubled their share of the total US income, from 10% to 23%. For the last 25 years, over 90% of the total growth in income in the US went to the top 10% earners – leaving 9% of all income to be shared by the bottom 90%. In 1973, the average US CEO was paid $27 for every dollar paid to a typical worker; by 2007 that ratio had grown to $275 to $1. Since 1992, the average tax rate on the richest 400 taxpayers in the US dropped from 26.8% to 16.62%. The US has the greatest inequality between rich and poor among all Western industrialized nations and it has been getting worse for 40 years. The US ranking of 45 in 2007 is the same as Argentina, Cameroon, and Cote d’Ivoire.

And so on. The disparities are so bad that “Rich people live an average of about five years longer than poor people in the US.” Meanwhile, Time Magazine is publishing a story on massively declining marriage rates in America, and one of their conclusions is that only the well-off can afford to get married anymore. How ‘bout them conservative family values in action, eh buddy?

It’s said that the perfect crime is one that is never even noticed. Well, that’s certainly the case here. This economic rape of 300 million people and the consequences it is having for their increasingly short, nasty and brutish lives is about as big a political phenomenon as they come, and yet hardly anyone is talking about it. But I think we can go even one better than perfect in this case. If the perfect crime is one that isn’t noticed, then the perfecter crime is one in which the victim begs for more.

Look at us. Most of us are either broken or breaking under the weight of the biggest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. Both of these disasters were brought to us by the very same people, doing the very same things, for the very same motivations. It’s bad enough that we’re such fools that we’ve condemned ourselves to repeat Gilded Age history (this time as farce) during these last thirty years of Reaganism/Bushism. But three weeks ago we came back for a third helping, electing the exact same people we had just got done throwing out of office for felonious economic depredation only two years ago. How sick is that?

Admittedly, the fact that the pathetic excuse of an alternative to the Grand Old (Bend Over ‘Cause We’re Gonna Use You For A) Party is so absolutely anemic and determinedly ineffectual didn’t help in this election. Nor did the fact that you effectively only get two choices in American politics. But, I mean, come on, man! Can American voters really be so certifiably certifiable as to have returned the Corporate Cons back to power in 2010? Already? Promising to do the very same things they did before, only more so?

Evidently they can. As we speak, the right in Washington (meaning all Republicans and nearly all Democrats, including the president and his team of Goldman Sachs scam artists running an economy of the rich, by the rich, and mos def for the rich – who pretend opposition even while already staging their cave-in) is now fulminating about the absolute necessity of maintaining full Bush era tax ‘cuts’ to the income of people after their first quarter million bucks, while demanding that the pathetic pittance of unemployment insurance payments be shut off in the middle of the economic holocaust these people created, to make sure we don’t encourage laziness amongst the indolent worker bees, doncha know. Never mind that the latter is an excellent economic stimulus and the former is lousy. Never mind that the right is supposedly outraged by deficits and their tax plan would blow another $700 billion dollar hole in the national debt. And never mind that when you are borrowing money to finance tax ‘cuts’, they aren’t tax cuts at all – they are tax burden transfers, from the rich to the rest of us, and from the old to the young. With added interest, of course.

But these are not only the policies of the old American government, they are the policies of the existing American government, and they are especially the policies of the new American government (where’s Pete Townshend when you need him?). If the perfect crime is the one that is unnoticed, and the perfecter crime is the one where victims ask for more, I guess then that the perfectest crime is one in which the victims cannot even recognize the perpetrators for what they are – enemies seeking to do them harm. If you think about it, we live in a truly breathtaking moment in American history. People have lost even the capacity to recognize friend from foe. Rapacious corporate bloodsuckers impoverish us at every turn, and we don’t even seem to notice, let alone act in our defense. Yet we increasingly hate our government, the only actor out there – short of our own revolution – that can protect us from this enemy. It is as if, on December 8, 1941, we declared war on the United States Navy rather than the Empire of Japan. Brilliant.

The story of the last three decades in America is the story of predation. It is the tale of wealthy people who demanded to be made super-wealthy instead, and decided that it was a crime against nature for nine-tenths of the population to have anything at all. It is a true crime yarn in which these aristocrats hired first Republicans and then Democrats to do their bidding in Washington, with predictable results.

And its been a huge success. On every key economic front, regressives have won the policy battles of these last thirty years.

They said tax cuts for the wealthy would bring the government increased revenues and would produce jobs for the rest of us. Progressives called these trickle-down lies nonsense, but lost the fight. Now look at our surpluses. Look at our prosperity.

They said that ‘free-trade’ treaties would be good for America and make us better off. Progressives said that NAFTA, WTO and the rest would lead to American jobs being exported abroad. Now, when an American president goes to India and China, late-night comics tell jokes about how he’s over there visiting our jobs.

They said that the economy was being hamstrung by excessive governmental regulation. Progressives tried to remind people of what had happened last time the country lacked legislation like Glass-Steagall and lacked regulation of dangerous industry. You know, stuff like Wall Street going crazy in a fit of greed, knowing that the government would back their bad bets, and crashing the global economy in the process. Stuff like BP recklessly and repeatedly endangering our lives and livelihoods in order to squeeze every penny of profit they could out of dangerous oil drilling projects.

They said that we had to slash government spending on real people because we couldn’t afford it anymore. Progressives argued that this would result in folks being thrown into abject poverty with no social safety net even to keep them barely alive. Now Bill Clinton admits that killing welfare in order to buy himself a second term as president (which he used to do precisely nothing whatsoever, above his desk or under it) may not have been the best idea, after all, whilst the country today competes with the likes of Argentina, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire to see who can produce the ugliest wealth inequalities.

They said that labor unions were hampering American competitiveness, even though the US had absolutely dominated the global economy for decades. Progressives responded that the existing laws governing labor relations were fair to both sides, and gave working people a chance for the first time ever to secure a moderate slice of economic justice. But they lost, and unions have been clobbered ever since. The share of the US workforce protected by organized labor has shrunk from about one-third to less than ten percent, and people’s incomes not surprisingly reflect that. This week, the New York Times reports that it is getting worse still:

Organized labor appears to be losing an important battle in the Great Recession. Even at manufacturing companies that are profitable, union workers are reluctantly agreeing to tiered contracts that create two levels of pay. In years past, two-tiered systems were used to drive down costs in hard times, but mainly at companies already in trouble. And those arrangements, at the insistence of the unions, were designed, in most cases, to expire in a few years. Now, the managers of some marquee companies are aiming to make this concession permanent. If they are successful, their contracts could become blueprints for other companies in other cities, extending a wage system that would be a startling retreat for labor.

Jesus Christ, we have to stop kidding ourselves about what we’re looking at here. Just as traffickers see their slaves as pure commodities that just happen to have attached arms and legs and tongues and brains, so too do the wealthy in America see the rest of us.

And, increasingly, this is no metaphor. The grand political story of our time is the story of legalized robbery, human exploitation and economic injustice. The rest of it – the Overseas Wars for Dummies, the electorally convenient coded racism, the homophobia manufactured by closeted gay GOP operatives, the whole culture wars shtick – all of it is total bullshit, intended to keep people from noticing the exquisitely manicured fingers inserting industrial grade vacuum cleaners into their every pocket.

I don’t have too much doubt that people are going to figure this out eventually and demand some meaningful change in an attempt to redress these crimes, although of course nobody ever went broke betting against the intelligence of the American public. Moreover, regressives have become so expert at framing conventional wisdom, at fear-mongering, history-erasing, outright lying and dumbing down the public that I wonder if people will be able to even imagine an alternative vision for our society. Despite the fact that they actually don’t have to imagine it at all. Not so many years ago, we lived it.

In any case, what concerns me more than the question of whether this happens is when it happens, and at what cost it comes to reclaim a stolen country.

Greedy thieves and their political puppets are unlikely to give up their booty lightly, especially when they may have to give up more than that, as did, in the end, Mussolini and Ceausescu.

What’s truly distressing, however, is the degree to which we’re not even talking about this most significant of political phenomena, even as its vortex sucks us down and drowns us dead.

It’s as if the slaves of the pre-Civil War South were actually as happy as their white masters liked to claim they were.

Or perhaps as if they were genuinely unhappy, but blamed their problems on the weather, instead of on slavery, and on those who exploited them so completely and so ruthlessly.
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

John gives the "Corporate Salute!"

Heil Obama,

Dear Deputy Fuhrer Pistole,

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, Ralph Nader, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Sonia (get whitey) Sotomayor.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and your helping us enslave the population and destroy the 4th Amendment, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Cabinet Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 12-31-2010. We salute you Herr Pistole, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Various Matters
By Glenn Greenwald

(1) With roughly 80% of my book now turned in and the final 20% to be turned in on Monday, it will be a few more days before I can return my full attention to writing here. The book's title was chosen from the reader contest I held online here a couple months ago -- With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful -- and I'll shortly dig through the comment-section suggestions to determine the identity of the winner (and reveal the glorious prize).

The book's central theme -- the legal immunity which political and financial elites have bequeathed to themselves even for egregious illegality, contrasted with the merciless system of punishment and coercion imposed on ordinary citizens -- was potently highlighted by two very recent events and necessitated substantial work to include them: (1) the mortgage/foreclosure fraud scandal and the political class's reflexive attempts to immunize the banks from the consequences of wrongdoing (see Professor Joseph Stiglitz's short article, entitled "Justice for Some," on how both the scandal and the reaction to it illustrate the death of the rule of law in America, as well as Georgetown Law Professor Adam Levitin's testimony this week that "the prime directive coming out of Treasury is ‘protect the banks’"); and (2) the DOJ's announcement that it was ending its investigation into the CIA's destruction of torture videos without any charges; that episode was one of the most flagrant acts of Bush-era lawbreaking, which is obviously saying a lot -- even the two co-Chairmen of the 9/11 Commission all but branded it "obstruction of justice" -- and the fact that there will be no prosecutions even for such blatant crimes underscores the breadth and depth of elite immunity from the rule of law.

(2) In a New York Times Op-Ed today, Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen explains why the depiction of Anwar al-Awlaki as some sort of dangerous, important Terrorist operative is pure fear-mongering fiction. "Contrary to what the Obama administration would have you believe," he writes, "in truth Mr. Awlaki is hardly significant in terms of American security." Moreover, "making a big deal of him now is backfiring."

That last part about "backfiring" appears to be true in terms of Terrorism recruitment in Yemen, but "making a big deal of him" provides an important value to the administration: that's how he's being exploited to entrench what even a Bush-43 federal judge recently described as the "extraordinary and unique" power of the President to order American citizens assassinated without due process. That false depiction of Awlaki in turn causes far too many people who should know better to continue to cheer for that lawless power because they've become convinced -- by unchecked, unscrutinized, mostly anonymous, evidence-free government leaks -- that Awlaki is some sort of Threatening Terrorist Mastermind who deserves a presidentially-imposed death penalty: the ultimate expression of acting as Judge, Jury and Executioner.

(3) Daphne Eviatar explains why the ongoing demands by former Bush official Jack Goldsmith and Brookings "scholar" Benjamin Wittes for imprisonment without charges would not only deface basic principles of justice but also subvert the very national security goals they claim to defend. And just as a reminder, here's what Barack Obama said on this topic in May of last year when he placed himself in front of the U.S. Constitution to give us a lecture on the principles and guarantees in that document:

In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man. If and when we determine that the United States must hold individuals to keep them from carrying out an act of war, we will do so within a system that involves judicial and congressional oversight.

A year-and-a-half later, "prolonged detention" is exactly that which he vowed it should not be; his official policy is that no charges are needed, and no trials or even military tribunals required, in order to imprison someone forever. Few things are less meaningful in our current political culture than the words and commitments that come out of Barack Obama's mouth. In writing my book, I re-visited the gory details of how Obama emphatically vowed in October, 2007 (when he was seeking the Democratic nomination) that -- as his spokesman put it -- he "will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies," only to turn around eight months later (once he had secured the nomination) and not only vote against the Dodd/Feingold filibuster of the FISA bill that vested retroactive telecom immunity, but also then voted for the underlying bill itself. Also: when he issued his statement "justifying" his breaking of his pledge, he vowed that once in office, he would use the power of the Presidency to fix the abuses and flaws in the eavesdropping bill he was supporting:

I do so with the firm intention -- once I'm sworn in as president -- to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.

Don't worry: it's only been two years. I'm sure he's getting to that. In retrospect, this was the pre-election event that proved to be most revealing about the type of "leader" he would be.

(4) If anyone possesses any lingering doubt that Michael Goldfarb -- aide to John McCain and Bill Kristol, among others -- is one of the most deranged individuals in our political culture, please review this message he sent out on Twitter two days ago:

Goldfarb has a long history of spouting purely authoritarian, morally repellent statements, but this one sinks just a bit lower than the rest. Murdering detainees in cold blood is the hallmark of the most monstrous regimes and deranged psychopaths in history. If one endorses that, one has sunk to the lowest levels of sociopathic sickness. But the real issue is that this will not prevent Goldfarb from being hired by some GOP presidential campaign; it likely will even enhance his prospects. That says all one needs to know about the complete collapse of norms and mores in American political culture, driven largely -- though not exclusively -- by fear-mongering over (and the malicious conflating of) Muslims and Terrorists.

(5) The Obama administration is apparently planning to lavish Israel with extremely expensive subsidies to purchase billions of dollars worth of F-35 stealth aircraft simply in exchange for a 9o-day settlement freeze. Obama officials apparently believe that this massive bribe is necessary to induce Netanyahu's cabinet to agree to the freeze. Why isn't the $30 billion aid package we give them -- and what ought to be the threat of its diminution or cessation along with termination of the countless other means of support we provide -- sufficient to induce this extremely minor concession, one which we insist is vital for our own security? And just in case you were wondering: yes, it is still true that if you question American policy toward Israel or criticize "pro-Israel advocates" in America, you will be immediately smeared as an Israel-hating anti-Semite by right-wing polemicists who strangely still appear to believe that these sad, discredited tactics will intimidate people and suppress such debate.

(6) Two relevant items about Afghanistan: first, this unsurprising survey about the perceptions of Afghans regarding our war there, and secondly, this grotesque glimpse into how some American military officials think about the side benefits of violence brought to Afghan civilians.

(7) I believe I've mentioned this before, but the ngoing series at Balloon-Juice -- in which readers provide simple testimonials of how they came to adopt/rescue their pets, typically accompanied by photographs -- offers powerful insight into why doing so is so rewarding. Read the last two -- here and here -- to see what I mean. They have also produced a calender with over 600 photos from their readers' pets, and all proceeds from the sale of those calenders -- every dime -- goes to an animal rescue organizatio
(c) 2010 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.

Warmonger: Bush In His Own Words
US Intelligence Thwarted Attack on Iran
By Ray McGovern

Why should George W. Bush have been "angry" to learn in late 2007 of the "high-confidence" unanimous judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon four years earlier? Seems to me he might have said "Hot Dog!" rather than curse under his breath.

Nowhere in his memoir, Decision Points, is Bush's bizarre relationship with truth so manifest as when he describes his dismay at learning that the intelligence community had redeemed itself for its lies about Iraq by preparing an honest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. As the Bush-book makes abundantly clear, that NIE rammed an iron rod through the wheels of the juggernaut rolling toward war.

Nowhere is Bush's abiding conviction clearer, now as then, that his role as "decider" include the option to create his own reality.

The Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) has missed that part of the book. And hundreds of Dallas "sheriffs," assembled to ensure decorum at the Bush library groundbreaking last week, kept us hoi polloi well out of presidential earshot.

But someone should ask Bush why he was not relieved, rather than angered, to learn from U.S. intelligence that Iran had had no active nuclear weapons program since 2003. And would someone dare ask why Bush thought Israel should have been "furious with the United States over the NIE?"

It seems likely that Bush actually dictated this part of the book himself. For, in setting down his reaction to the NIE on Iran, he unwittingly confirmed an insight that Dr. Justin Frank, M.D., who teaches psychiatry at George Washington University Hospital, gave us veteran intelligence officers into how Bush comes at reality - or doesn't.

"His pathology is a patchwork of false beliefs and incomplete information woven into what he asserts is the whole truth... He lies - not just to us, but to himself as well... What makes lying so easy for Bush is his contempt - for language, for law, and for anybody who dares question him.... So his words mean nothing. That is very important for people to understand."

Not Enough Sycophants

When the NIE on Iran came out in late 2007, Bush may have pined for his sycophant-in-chief, former CIA Director George Tenet and his co-conspirator deputy, John McLaughlin, who had shepherded the bogus Iraq-WMD analysis through the process in 2002 but had resigned in 2004 when their role in the deceptions became so obvious that it shamed even them.

Tenet and his CIA cronies had been expert at preparing estimates-to-go - to go to war, that is. They had proved themselves worthy rivals of the other CIA, the Culinary Institute of America, in cooking intelligence to the White House menu.

On Iraq, they had distinguished themselves by their willingness to conjure up "intelligence" that Senate Intelligence Committee chair Jay Rockefeller described as "uncorroborated, unconfirmed, and nonexistent," after a five-year review by his panel. (That finding was no news to any attentive observer, despite Herculean - and largely successful - efforts by the FCM to promote drinking the White House Kool-Aid.)

What is surprising in the case of Iran is the candor with which George W. Bush explains his chagrin at learning of the unanimous judgment of the intelligence community that Iran had not been working on a nuclear weapon since late 2003. [There is even new doubt about reports that the Iranians were working on a nuclear warhead before 2003.

The Estimate's findings were certainly not what the Israelis and their neoconservative allies in Washington had been telling the White House - and not what President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were dutifully proclaiming to the rest of us.

Shocked at Honesty

Bush lets it all hang out in Decision Points. He complains bitterly that the NIE "tied my hands on the military side." He notes that the Estimate opened with this "eye-popping" finding of the intelligence community:

"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

The former president adds, "The NIE's conclusion was so stunning that I felt it would immediately leak to the press." He writes that he authorized declassification of the key findings "so that we could shape the news stories with the facts." Facts?

The mind boggles at the thought that Bush actually thought the White House, even with de rigueur help from an ever-obliging FCM, could put a positive spin on intelligence conclusions that let a meretricious cat out of the bag-that showed that the Bush administration's case for war against Iran was as flimsy as its bogus case for invading Iraq.

How painful it was to watch the contortions the hapless Stephen Hadley, national security adviser at the time, went through in trying to square that circle. His task was the more difficult since, unlike the experience with the dishonestly edited/declassified version of what some refer to as the Whore of Babylon - the Oct. 1, 2002 NIE on WMD in Iraq, this time the managers of the Estimate made sure that the declassified version of the key judgments presented a faithful rendering of the main points in the classified Estimate.

A disappointed Bush writes, "The backlash was immediate. [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad hailed the NIE as a ‘great victory.'" Bush's apparent "logic" here is to use the widespread disdain for Ahmadinejad to discredit the NIE through association, i.e. whatever Ahmadinejad praises must be false.

But can you blame Bush for his chagrin? Alas, the NIE had knocked out the props from under the anti-Iran propaganda machine, imported duty-free from Israel and tuned up by neoconservatives here at home.

How embarrassing. Here before the world were the key judgments of an NIE, the most authoritative genre of intelligence analysis, unanimously approved "with high confidence" by 16 agencies and signed by the Director of National Intelligence, saying, in effect, that Bush and Cheney were lying about the "Iranian nuclear threat."

It is inconceivable that as the drafting of the Estimate on Iran proceeded during 2007, the intelligence community would have kept the White House in the dark about the emerging tenor of its conclusions. And yet, just a month before the Estimate was issued, Bush was claiming that the threat from Iran could lead to "World War III."

The Russians More Honest?

Ironically, Russian President Vladimir Putin, unencumbered by special pleading and faux intelligence, had come to the same conclusions as the NIE.

Putin told French President Nicolas Sarkozy in early October 2007:

"We don't have information showing that Iran is striving to produce nuclear weapons. That's why we're proceeding on the basis that Iran does not have such plans."

In a mocking tone, Putin asked what evidence the U.S. and France had for asserting that Iran intends to make nuclear weapons. And, adding insult to injury, during a visit to Tehran on Oct. 16, 2007, Putin warned: "Not only should we reject the use of force, but also the mention of force as a possibility."

This brought an interesting outburst by President Bush the next day at a press conference, a bizarre reaction complete with his famously tortured syntax:

Q. "Mr. President, I'd like to follow on Mr.--on President Putin's visit to Tehran ... about the words that Vladimir Putin said there. He issued a stern warning against potential U.S. military action against Tehran. ...Were you disappointed with [Putin's] message?"

Bush: "I -- as I say, I look forward to -- if those are, in fact, his comments, I look forward to having him clarify those ... And so I will visit with him about it."

Q. "But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon?"

Bush: "I think so long -- until they suspend and/or make it clear that they -- that their statements aren't real, yes, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it's in the world's interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that the Iranian -- if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace.

"But this is -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding world war III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously, and we'll continue to work with all nations about the seriousness of this threat."

Can't Handle the Truth

In his memoir, Bush laments: "I don't know why the NIE was written the way it was. ... Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact - and not a good one." Spelling out how the Estimate had tied his hands "on the military side," Bush included this (apparently unedited) kicker:

"But after the NIE, how could I possible explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?"

Thankfully, not even Dick Cheney could persuade Bush to repair the juggernaut and let it loose for war on Iran. The avuncular Vice President has made it clear that he was very disappointed in his protégé. On Aug. 30, 2009, he told "Fox News Sunday" that he was isolated among Bush advisers in his enthusiasm for war with Iran.

"I was probably a bigger advocate of military action than any of my colleagues," Cheney said when asked whether the Bush administration should have launched a pre-emptive attack on Iran before leaving office.

Bush briefed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before the NIE was released. Bush later said publicly that he did not agree with his own intelligence agencies.

And it is entirely possible that the Iran-war juggernaut would have been repaired and turned loose anyway, were it not for strong opposition by the top military brass who convinced Bush that Cheney, his neocon friends and Olmert had no idea of the chaos that war with Iran would unleash.

There's lots of evidence that this is precisely what Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen and then-CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon told Bush, in no uncertain terms. And it is a safe bet that these two were among those hinting broadly to Bush that the NIE was likely to "leak," if he did not himself make its key judgments public.


What About Now?

The good news is that Cheney is gone and that Adm. Mullen is still around.

The bad news is that Adm. Fallon was sacked for making it explicitly clear that, "We're not going to do Iran on my watch," and there are few flag officers with Fallon's guts and honesty. Moreover, President Barack Obama continues to show himself to be an invertebrate vis-à-vis Israel and its neocon disciples.

Meanwhile, a draft NIE update on Iran's nuclear program, completed earlier this year, is dead in its tracks, apparently because anti-Iran hawks inside the Obama administration are afraid it will leak. It is said to repeat pretty much the same conclusions as the NIE from 2007.

There are other ominous signs. The new Director of National Intelligence, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, is a subscriber to the Tenet school of malleability. It was Clapper whom former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put in charge of imagery analysis to ensure that no one would cast serious doubt on all those neocon and Iraqi "defector" reports of WMD in Iraq.

And, when no WMD caches were found, it was Clapper who blithely suggested, without a shred of good evidence, that Saddam Hussein had sent them to Syria. This was a theory also being pushed by neocons both to deflect criticism of their false assurances about WMD in Iraq and to open a new military front against another Israeli nemesis, Syria.

In these circumstances, there may be some value in keeping the NIE update bottled up. At least that way, Clapper and other malleable managers won't have the chance to play chef to another "cooked-to-order" analysis.

On the other hand, the neocons and our invertebrate President may well decide to order Clapper to "fix" the updated Estimate to fit in better with a policy of confrontation toward Iran. In that case, the new Director of National Intelligence might want to think twice. For Clapper could come a cropper. How?

The experience of 2007 showed that there are still some honest intelligence analysts around with integrity and guts-and with a strong aversion to managers who prostitute their work. This time around, such truth-tellers could opt for speedy, anonymous ways of getting the truth out-like, say, WikiLeaks.
(c) 2010 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bill Day ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Electric Funeral
By Black Sabbath

Reflex in the sky warn you you're gonna die
Storm coming, you'd better hide from the atomic tide
Flashes in the sky turns houses into sties
Turns people into clay, radiation minds decay

Robot minds of robot slaves lead them to atomic rage
Plastic flowers, melting sun, fading moon falls upon
Dying world of radiation, victims of mad frustration
Burning globe of oxy'n fire, like electric funeral pyre

Buildings crashing down to a cracking ground
Rivers turn to wood, ice melting to flood
Earth lies in death bed, clouds cry water dead
Tearing life away, here's the burning pay

Electric Funeral
Electric Funeral
Electric Funeral
Electric Funeral

And so in the sky shines the electric eye
Supernatural king takes Earth under his wing
Heaven's golden chorus sings, Hell's angels flap their wings
Evil souls fall to Hell, ever trapped in burning cells!
© 1969/2010 Black Sabbath

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

New Rules
By Bill Maher

New Rule: Massage parlors must stop offering "happy endings." You know, I'd like to get a massage, but I'm terrified that, at the end of it, the middle-aged Chinese lady is going to grab my junk with her rough, peasant hands, and work it like a piece of farm machinery. It's my back that's sore, not my penis. Besides, the whole point of hand jobs is that you can do them yourself.

New Rule: Instead of using their $10 billion atom-smashing Large Hadron Collider to recreate the Big Bang by melting atom parts in temperatures a million times hotter than the sun, scientists should not do that. I'm just saying it sounds dangerous. I mean, I'm as interested as the next guy in determining the origin of matter. But, first, couldn't we solve some simpler mystery like why smoke detector batteries always die at 4 AM?

New Rule: McDonald's has to explain why it can only bring the McRib back for a limited time. Are they afraid of spoiling us? Is there a global shortage of pork scrapings and smoke-flavored sugar sauce? Or are they afraid if they put it back on the menu permanently, their customers will die off even quicker than they already are?

And finally...

New Rule: Since every TV show needs a cliffhanger at the end of the season, and since this is our last show before we return January 14th, our cliffhanger is this: I must do a bong hit, a real one - not like that p*ssy Galafianakis...iff, by next season, someone in America hasn't given me hope that this country can sacrifice anything to get anything done. I refer specifically to this. [he produces a bag of Sun Chips] A bag of chips, which we, America, are not.

Let me tell you the tale: These are Sun Chips. You know Sun Chips, the corn-based snack you wolf down at the convenience store when you're high. Well, this year, they came out with something really cool: a biodegradable bag that won't contribute to the Texas-size swirls of plastic we now have in both the Atlantic and Pacific. And I couldn't wait to reward them with my business.

Except now I can't. They stopped making this bag because there was a problem with it. It was too LOUD! Like a porn star, it made a little too much noise when you stuck your hand in it. It crinkled in a disturbing fashion like Keith Richards' face. [he crinkles bag again] You hear that? That's the sound of tyranny. That's the sound of jack-booted eco-thugs taking away your inalienable right to be able to hear 'Ice Road Truckers' perfectly while stuffing your face!

Okay, now, I agree that is one loud motherf*ckin' bag. But, unlike plastic, this bag would decompose into dirt instead of lying around for the next 500 years to choke seagulls and destroy the ecosystem. Oh, sure, we could have made the ultimate sacrifice and, I don't know, poured the chips into a bowl. Don't even think of it.

Oh, side note: in Canada, Sun Chips is keeping the non-earth-raping bag. Because they're not a nation of crack babies. They get it that sometimes you have to give up small things in order to make the world a better place. Except in America where "Have it your way" is the rule for everything, including volume on snacks.

You think we're going to reform Social Security? There's a lot of talk since the Republicans won the midterms that the "adults are back in charge," having adult conversations about budget matters. Like they say they want to keep the parts of the healthcare bill that people like and repeal the parts that people don't like. Of course. It's the parts that people don't like that pay for the parts that they do like. Yes, isn't it great having the adults back in charge?

Now, this is America. We don't have adult conversations. We have Twitter. If you have a problem with the baby talk that serves as our national dialogue, move to Finland. Because, ultimately, it is our fault, not the politicians. They just do what we tell them to do. If you showed Mitt Romney a poll that said he could win more votes if he became a woman named "Mitteesha" he would get a weave and lop off his cock faster than you could say, "Is that thing sterilized?"

So, congratulations, America, for being the dumbest electorate ever, especially you tea-baggers! You tea-baggers, you got what you wanted: a giant tax break for me when I'm dead! So now I can leave all my money tax-free to the new Black Panthers, the Richard Dawkins Atheist Foundation, the American Federation of Pot-Smoking Socialists, the Committee to Elect Michael Moore President and my gay pet poodles, Siegfried and Roy.
(c) 2010 Bill Maher is host of HBO's, "Real Time with Bill Maher."

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

View my page on

Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 47 (c) 11/26/2010

Issues & Alibis is published in America every Friday. We are not affiliated with, nor do we accept funds from any political party. We are a non-profit group that is dedicated to the restoration of the American Republic. All views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of Issues & Alibis.Org.

In regards to copying anything from this site remember that everything here is copyrighted. Issues & Alibis has been given permission to publish everything on this site. When this isn't possible we rely on the "Fair Use" copyright law provisions. If you copy anything from this site to reprint make sure that you do too. We ask that you get our permission to reprint anything from this site and that you provide a link back to us. Here is the "Fair Use" provision.

"Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."